As I was following the stream of Google I/O updates on my Twitter timeline last week, one thought kept popping into my head: Apple could never get away with this.
I'm not saying it wasn't interesting. Over the course of three hours, Google showcased its new Hangouts app and Google Play Music All Access service, some exciting developer tools and major updates to Maps, Chrome and Now, but anyone expecting a repeat of last year's show was sorely disappointed.
Despite the fact that its expected announcement is still nearly a month away, speculation around iOS 7 is already at a fevered pitch. For the first time since iPhone OS 1 introduced us to the home screen, there's a lot riding on this year's release; usually we're just waiting to see what new tricks Apple has up its sleeve with the hopes for "one more thing," but this WWDC is different. Since Jony Ive took over as human interface chief, we're all expecting the first honest-to-goodness redesign of iOS, and frankly, anything less will be disappointing.
We all have a vision of what iOS will become. But Philip Joyce, art director at Simply Zesty, took his idea one step further: He actually made it.
There's something of an innovation lull in smartphone design. While certainly a nice improvement over the 4S, the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen and panoramic camera are hardly breaking any new ground. The Samsung Galaxy S4 learned a few new parlor tricks, but for the most part it's just a faster and slightly larger S3. And for all its accolades, the HTC One's claim to fame is that it's not made of plastic.
Nearly four months into 2013, Apple finally designed something new and interesting. And as usual, people can't stop staring at it. The Worldwide Developers Conference logo isn't usually something to get too excited about, but this year is a little different. Not only has WWDC become Apple's biggest event of the year, in all likelihood, this year's keynote is going to bring the first bona fide update to Apple.com since last October.
Generally speaking, hybrids are good. Hybrid cars save us money on gas and help the environment. Genetic hybrids produce delicious fruits like the grapefruit and tangelo. Without hybrid experimentation in music, we wouldn't have such brilliant, groundbreaking records from Miles Davis and the Beastie Boys.
But hybrid PCs are another story. There are plenty of them out there — powerful tablets that connect to full-sized keyboards; laptops with screens that spin around or detach — but none are really making any noise. It's not for a lack of design; some of these machines are so, um, inspired by the MacBook Air, you'd think they were designed in Cupertino, but still, they come and go without much fanfare.
A lot of critics out there seem to think Apple has an iPhone problem. Apparently, sales of the trendsetting, outrageously profitable handset are poised to fall off a cliff sometime this year, when the new iPhone disappoints and everyone rushes to get an HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4.
As far as I can tell, Apple doesn't have an iPhone problem — it has a numbering problem. Since last year brought a redesign, everyone with an opinion expects the 2013 model to be a letdown, a predictable, mid-cycle refresh with minor internal upgrades and few new bells or whistles. Based on little more than its name, you'd think the new iPhone is doomed to fail.
After years of skins, themes and tweaks, Facebook brought some uniformity to Android last week with its Home interface. It may have been launched alongside a companion handset, but it doesn't really matter if it's running on an HTC First, Samsung Galaxy or — shudder — an iPhone; Facebook Home is selling one of the most important things in the mobile industry: a complete experience.
Apple understands this better than any other smartphone vendor (though Google has definitely got the message). Since the early days of iPhone, the experience has less to do with a gorgeous piece of hardware and more to do with the speed and simplicity of iOS. And that starts with the lock screen.
Tabzu is the first case I've used that actually enhances my iPad experience. It doesn't add any functionality per se, but its unique design completely eliminates the awkwardness I have when using the iPad away from a table. The brainchild of Leo Garza and Martin Meunier, Tabzu is what happens when two of the special effects whizzes responsible for such masterpieces as Indiana Jones, Coraline and The Lord of the Rings turn their attention to tablet accessories.
Apple last week released an update to its much-reviled Podcasts app, which brings a host of long-overdue features, including custom stations, iCloud syncing, and On-the-Go playlists. But perhaps most appreciated is the removal of one of Apple's signature pieces of skeuomorphism, the reel-to-reel tape machine. Clearly this is the work of Jony Ive, a known critic of the design style. When he was given free rein over Apple's human interfaces after Scott Forstall stepped down last October, we expected some changes would be made to iOS, which incorporates many of these type of real-world mimicry. But by dumping the tape deck — certainly one of the more intricate elements Apple has designed — it seems as though he's taking a stand, not just for Podcasts, but for all future versions of iOS.
It's that time of year again: The birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. And your co-workers are frantically pinching and tapping their phones to see if their bracket has been busted by the latest upset. In March, the NCAA Tournament is big business. Pools are plentiful, and everyone needs to know exactly where they stand at all times. Our iPhones may be great to check scores and match-ups, but the tiny screen isn't exactly ideal for viewing a 64-team bracket. Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of Studio Neat saw this as more than a minor inconvenience. It was a problem, and they set out to solve it.