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Facebook Removing Facial Recognition, Apple’s iOS 6 and Maps Controversy, Fresh HTC Lineup

Facebook heeding privacy needs? With all the information Facebook has, as well as power over our social strata, people fearing Facebook’s wield of power may not be in error. We’ve seen Facebook take similar steps before, and now the social networking giant is removing the facial recognition we associate with tagging our friends in photos–at least in Europe. Privacy regulators in Ireland say that the feature isn’t coming back until they agree with Facebook on the “most appropriate means” of collecting user data. Facebook is deleting all data collected on European users which was used for the service. The question in many people’s minds may be: ‘Are worries about Facebook privacy protecting freedoms or removing features?’

This week has been full of more Apple headlines. This week alone, Apple has enticed lines of customers to stores everywhere, and this week has upgraded the software on their devices everywhere. Just this week, iOS 6 came to fourth-generation iPods, iPhone 4 and 4S, as well as third-generation iPad. The news OS brings with it better integration with Facebook and Twitter, as well as new apps like Passbook and the revamped Maps app, the second of which has caused much controversy. In short, Apple has brought great turn-by-turn directions to their built-in app, but the accuracy and usefulness of the landmarks and POIs are in question. For instance, can Apple really have made the mistake of putting the Golden Gate Bridge four miles from its true location? In fairness, this is one of few falters in the new iPhone’s design, and the device reviews have also come out this week, pointing to a fantastic consumer device and hardware, if not slightly too similar software. Controversy aside, Apple has had another great week for stocks and publicity. See iPhone 5 review, iOS 6 reviewnew Maps app.

 
The glamor of iOS 6 is diluted by the similarities, but nothing to scoff at. (Left)

Siri on iPad with iOS 6

 
There are two possibilities here: 1. Apple may have made a slight mistake with the Maps app. 2. Apple predicts an apocalypse in NYC. The popular choice is the second. (Right)

HTC is shifting design and strategy. With the announcement of two new Windows Phones, HTC has also declared their confidence in their new devices. Despite many similar devices in the past, HTC has proven their ability to step out of the box with design with their new higher-end 8X and mid-range 8S. The devices feature curved glass, simplistic design, and a broad variety of colors. Along with refreshed design, CEO Peter Chou personally declared in an interview that while continuing to support Android, he is “super confident” in the new devices, as well as declaring that we can expect to see Microsoft and HTC put a new marketing focus on this design. See more of the phones.

 
This 8S has an original design like its 8X brother, and you have to give credit to HTC.

The Windows Phone 8 8S from HTC.

Sources: BBC, The Verge, UPI.com, LATimes, Mashable

Tech This Week: iPhone 5 and more Apple, Wii U gets detailed

All the greatest things in the world of technology for Thursday, September 13th.

The moment we all we all wondered, watched, and waited for: Apple’s iPhone 5 event. Only yesterday, Apple showed the world its sixth generation iPhone. This new iPhone catches up on some hardware specifications, but brings in a new design which is certainly fresh. While announcing the iPhone 5, Apple also unveiled a new line of iPod Touch and iPod Nano devices. The iPod Touch has a better camera, and not comes with Siri as well. The iPod Nano has a larger, touch-enabled screen. But now to the iPhone. The new 4″ screen has the width of a widescreen TV, and has an improved 720p Retina Display screen. The device is also lighter, despite its new dimensions. While it currently runs iOS 5, the iPhone 5 is formidable, given improved battery life (8 hours talk time on 3G) and the faster A6 processor. The device is expected to get iOS 6 very soon. Lastly, the new Apple devices will feature a new “Lightning” docking port which is slimmer and faster. Overall, the device is a certain step up from the iPhone 4S, but in my opinion is most improved in design. Original design has seemed scarce in the mobile world, and Apple has always been able to break that trend. Recently though, new devices like the Lumia 920 or Galaxy S III have challenged Apple’s title for originality. For $199 on contract, you will be able to pick up an 16 GB model on September 21st, for $299 a 32 GB and for $399 a 64 GB. Read and see more.

 
Coming now in black and silver, the iPhone 5 focuses on a new design with a taller screen and thinner body.

iPhone 5s in two colors

After all the wait, we finally get a date and price on the Wii U. It seems to have been a long time coming, but Nintendo has recently announced that their new console would be released on November 18th (November 30th in Europe), just in time for the holiday season. Each console will come with the Wii GamePad, a tablet controller which gives players even more ways to interact with a video game, including touch, voice, and a second screen for inventory, power-ups, or other game-enhancers. The GamePad can even play some games while the TV is in use. The 8 GB model will run you $299, while the 32 GB model is $349, including a charger, a stand, and a copy of one of the launch titles, Nintendo Land. The Wii U will bring with it a variety of other games including New Super Mario Brother Wii 2, the sequel to a previous multiplayer Mario game on the Wii. The console is most importantly now supporting HD resolution gaming, so you can now enjoy all of your favorite Nintendo characters in high-definition. In the U.S. and Canada, all major cable and TV providers are said to support the Wii U’s TVii software on the GamePad, giving consumers access to DVR and TiVO options for your television. Read more.

 
The Wii U’s design is similar to its predecessor, but actually quite refreshing. It’s also equipped with a new HDMI.

Nintendo's new console.

 

Via: Engadget, USA Today

iPhone 5, Finally

The date is out that the iPhone 5 will be announced on September 12th. We’re looking at an entirely new phone this time, as we move away from the 4S, we are secretly relieved to not realize the horror of something along the lines of an iPhone 4SX. As usual, Apple isn’t set to disappoint. Surprisingly, it appears as if some reliable leaks have come out showing that the new iPhone (don’t worry, as far as we know, it’s not called that) will have some unforeseen and compelling new features.

The Short

This is the reader-friendly version of what we allegedly know about Apple’s next-gen phone:

  • taller, thinner, crisper screen even more gorgeous than Retina Display
  • new screen will be more efficient to improve battery life
  • new screen is as wide as the 4S screen, but taller so that movies and media can be viewed without black bars
  • front facing camera is now oddly centered
  • less black/white space for the button and camera areas on the front because of the long screen
  • Siri-enhancements
  • No built-in YouTube app

We also expect to see various hardware improvements, as well as LTE, but that’s currently not backed up by any strict evidence.

The Details

I’m not one for rumors, but I’ll give you the quick-take. It appears as if the parts supplier ETradeSupply has leaked photos, and a video, of a portion of the iPhone 5’s body, as well as the front glass panel. Japanese Mac website Macotakara has released detailed videos as well. While it’s not the whole phone, the details seem fully plausible. What we can gather is that the screen will move from the 4S’s 3:2 aspect ratio to a 16:9 ratio, the standard for widescreen movies, televisions, and more. This makes viewing any media in HD easier, especially when the screen’s pixel density is supposed to be far more impressive, as well.

The iPhone 4S has a retina display pixel density of 960 x 640, while the new iPhone will likely have a pixel density of WXGA 1280 x 720. I would be shocked to see it, but it is possible Apple will blow us all away and show us a 1600 x 900 resolution phone . Forbes writer Susan Kalla noted ETrade Supply’s claim that the new screen will allegedly use new LCD technology which allows for better battery life and, of course, a better screen. Anyway, it’s not set in stone yet, but of all the rumors so far, these appear the most believable.The back of the iPhone 5The front of the iPhone 5.

While it’s not backed up by evidence, let alone being confirmed, it’s only logical for Apple’s iPhone 5 to include LTE functionality as well as 1 GB of RAM. Various other hardware improvements are plausible, but these two seem like logical steps for the iDevice to keep up with the pack.

While the some of the above details may be uncertain (as Apple likes it), we are nearly certain that Apple’s iPhone 5 event will be on September 12th, and will most likely be for sale on September 21st.

Via: ZDNet, Forbes, Huffington Post, BGR, 9 to 5 Mac

Source: ETrade Supply Blog, Macotakara (Youtube)

Apple Changes Everything Again with iOS 6, OSX Mountain Lion, and Retina Macbook Pro

Apple really sounded off announcements today at the first day of their Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. We saw a variety of new products soon-to-come including a new iteration of their mobile OS and desktop OS. Though the new features and devices are impressive, we have to question whether the changes and improvements will be enough to keep Apple at the prominent position it’s in. Our prediction? Yes.

So far, Apple has announced the next version of their iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad OS, iOS 6, bringing with it a variety of new features. Also, The successor to OSX Lion is officially Mountain Lion, revealed to bring more apps, more Airplay, GameCenter, notifications, and more. There was also considerable excitement over the new expensive but premium MacBook Pro, boasting a Retina Display screen and a body thin as the Macbook Air. The iPad will also receive Siri to boot, and Siri will have a host of improvements.

Here’s the feature breakdown:

iOS 6 – New features are interesting but somewhat uninspired.

  • New Maps app with “Flyover”, allowing users to see an aerial view with real images
  • GameCenter gets challenges
  • Deeper Facebook “integration” to accompany that of Twitter
  • “Do Not Disturb” disables ringer during specified hours
  • “Passbook” app unifies gift cards, coupons, tickets, and more

Mountain Lion –  Receives very iOS-like features.

  • All-new Safari with iCloud-syncing tabs to OSX and iOS devices
  • GameCenter support
  • iCloud with support for Documents
  • Voice-to-text
  • Notification Center
  • AirPlay (1080p streaming)

Siri – Can do stuff we thought she already could.

  • Launch apps
  • Give team, league, and player stats, scores, and standings
  • Give movie showtimes and read reviews along with actor information
  • Yelp business reviews
  • OpenTable reservations
  • “Eyes Free” feature coming with future car integration

It’s expected that we’ll see a couple other things at this year’s WWDC–and we should. We expect an Apple TV SDK as well as refreshes of the iMac and Mac Pro with Retina Displays. Despite the near overload of Apple’s announcements, we still have four days remaining of the WWDC conference. The question is: how much more can Apple change everything?

Sources: BGR, Apple.com

Can Smartphone Companies Keep Up With the Market?

How can you tell when a market is moving quickly? It’s a sure sign when some companies are falling behind, and worse–they don’t recognize it. Whether it be the hardware, the software, the tablet or phone, the market in cellular and mobile devices is growing at a very fast pace and becoming even more profitable than ever before.

As of early May, we can tell that its likely that about half of everyone in the U.S. who pays regularly for a phone has a smartphone. This is up from about 29% in October 2010. The growth of the smartphone industry has followed, growing significantly as well.

Here’s a severely obvious statement: The entire market in mobile is growing and has grown a lot. Facebook is continuing its unprecedented social network expansion, and Apple is continuing to set precedents with pioneer technology. They’re are growing rapidly, to put it mildly. Maybe a better example is Verizon, which has seen only further growth this quarter, as it has more than the past year. AT&T has exceeded profit expectations with record smartphone sales both 2011’s Q4 (4th Quarter) and Q1 this year. And that’s just in the US.

What’s new, then? Companies in the line of phone making, selling, and supporting are doing great with more smartphones, right? Not necessarily. It seems to be the strategy of many Android OEMs to pump out phones every month or two. But as we saw back in December, HTC was the first to discover that this hit-people-with-everything-you’ve-got method isn’t the most effective. As we go back to Economics 101, the demand, though growing rapidly, isn’t meeting that volume of supply. Without saying anything specifically about HTC’s future, balancing constantly improving and innovating in devices and getting that on shelves and making sure it actually get bought (or that there is sufficient demand) is difficult.

We’ve seen a lot of executive stepping up and stepping down recently anywhere from RIM to Best Buy. HP is reportedly cutting as many as 25,000 jobs as of Thursday. RIM got their new CEO Thornston Heins not too long ago, and is said to be adopting two new executive staff members from Light Squared and Sony. Best Buy has lost its chairman Richard Schulze and CEO Brain Dunn in a scandal, and is in need of a replacement CEO–along with a new strategy. They’re hoping to start this off by cutting 50-some stores, but while already looking at huge losses in revenue. And there are more examples of major rethinking in companies dealing with mobile products, and which are effecting companies’ strategies in the mobile market. The question for these companies and others is ‘Are the changes they’re making to adapt to this market enough?’.

The precedents that have been set recently with fast advancing technology such as quad-core CPU phones and LTE mean that consumers are continuing to expect greater things from manufacturers and developers. Apple could be argued to have largely brought on this age of smartphones, but the personal precedents they set raise the bar for everyone, themselves included. This means consumers expect them to deliver outstanding results as well. Because of these expectations, it’s more than a difficult market. New devices are coming out by the dozen, month-to-month, and companies have to continuously perfect products to keep up, let alone get ahead. If that wasn’t hard enough, companies have to juggle pleasing shareholders, which is far from an easy task. The strategies that companies have directly effect both their end product and end user, and the experience the user gets (UE or UX) can, overt time, come to directly reflect the share values of a company.

But this is like any other market, right? On the contrary, the vicious pace we’re seeing is more than just business competition. The competition for the best smartphone has been speeding forward at a pace which would cause many businesses strain. At this point, its nearly impossible for smaller companies to enter the game unless they have something which can make consumers think twice about their iPhone. We have seen some heads turned with Nokia’s new Windows Phone Lumia line, and considering the company has only reentered the US smartphone game a relative few months ago, the accomplishment is notable. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, Nokia, Sony, RIM, and others, all keep enough of a trusting and trusted userbase to keep on trucking. Can so many companies really keep up?

The answer, however, is difficult. On one hand, the heavy competition and difficulty in pleasing everyone could be a destructive burden that eventually beats out software and hardware giants alike. Yet at the same time, as the market grows, there should be room for more products.

In terms of shares, Apple currently appears to be greatly leading in its industry, to no one’s surprise, with share prices still climbing. Microsoft has been on a downward trend for years, but has had a small trend upwards very recently, though its shares are far below in value. It’s heyday was right around the turn of the century. Google looks tentatively to be trending upwards, growing rapidly, and though perhaps not at the pace of Apple, its share prices are far closer to Apple’s than Microsoft’s. That all said, Google and Apple have under 1 billion shares, while Microsoft has more than 8 billion, meaning that the company’s value could still be equal or higher. Ultimately, its difficult to tell who’s really on top. At least, right now.

Sources: Google Finance, Bits on NYTimes, Bloomberg Businessweek, BGR, Nielsen Wire, WPCentral, Forbes

Fall Update Overload: iPhone 5, Windows 8, Jelly Bean, And More

There’s a lot of stuff happening this fall. The updates, news, hardware, and tantalizing prospects of the future in consumer technology we’re all looking for are going to come “en masse” this late summer and fall. There are a number of updates and promises and rumors that we should see coming all around this time. Software from Apple, Microsoft, and Google–the big three, of course–are all launching new versions of their mobile OSs. This means not only devices to current phones we love and behold, but a whole new fresh round of devices. From everyone, hopefully. This unified release could lead to some serious competition. When everyone has their latest and greatest on the field, it will be even more crucial to get the public eye, to compete, and to win the individual’s checkbook. Here’s a look at a few of the things which we’re heading into.

  • iPhone 5. This phone may have been the most rumored device in history. This extremely-long-awaited phone could have some difficulty in competing in hardware to some Android devices like the HTC One X or Galaxy S III. The amount of time that Apple has made consumers wait for this phone will also mean the expectations will be extremely high. Larger screen? LTE? 1 GB RAM? Quad-core? Full HD screen? 20 MP camera? Built-in keyboard projector? … Apple released the iPhone 4 in June of 2010, but rumors do seem to be pointing to later fall. We’re just going to have to wait.
  • Windows 8.The only computer OS which is getting a major update is getting the most major update it’s seen in years. Microsoft is bringing its revamped and reinspired OS to tablets, PCs, and everything in-between. The shear number of products that should come with this release will probably be overwhelming.
  • Jelly Bean. The next iteration of Android is rumored to be coming this fall, but hasn’t truly been confirmed. (We should get more details this summer.) Supposedly, we’ll be looking at more tablet-friendly interfaces and some potential Jelly Bean notebooks. There was also word of a dual-operating system feature with Chrome, allegedly allowing you to dual-boot without having to reboot. Stay a little hesitant there.
  • Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 “Tango” should be just around the corner for many users, if their carrier is willing to give it to them. New devices, however, have been limited by the hardware limitations of the current Windows Phone version. Windows Phone 8 is rumored to be a complete rebuilding of the OS, and will likely unify the experience with Windows 8 even futher, while allowing for more impressive hardware specifications.
  • iOS 6. If Apple continues to follow their pattern of releases, it is likely we’ll see a new version of Apple’s operating system, which should make way for the iPad following the 3rd generation iPad, and likely also the iPhone 5. Given that Apple has waited so long for the iPhone 5, it’s possible we’ll see something big with this update. The OS has been around for a long time now, looking practically the same. The features of iOS 5 enliven the experience, but a whole new homescreen redesign may be in order. Surprise us, Apple.

We’ve got a lot coming to us, but we should get peeks and leaks before we get our hands on anything. It’s going to be a wild ride this fall. Stay tuned.

via: AndroidCentral, Technorati

Also: Windows 8 Overview , Windows 8 Gallery

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