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.
At this point, it’s easy to get lost in the endless stream of iOS photo apps that basically offer variations on the expected themes of color tinting, vignetting, posterization, and other usual suspects. While lots of them are nice, it all gets a bit repetitive and predictable. Every now and then, something unique and different pokes through the pack, and Tangled FX is exactly the kind of app we love to see. It might seem a little limited in scope, but it’s a darned good gag with enough flexibility to make it compelling, plus a look that is like nothing else we’ve ever seen.
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.
You may have read the rumor that Apple is building a new iPhone model to compete in the low-cost, contract-free market that Samsung pretty much dominates. There are loads of these phones on the market, with lame specs and flimsy enclosures, and it's hard to believe that Apple would ever stoop so low as to make one. But Apple's build quality had less to do with the materials it chooses and more to do with its tremendous attention to detail, even if it means struggling to meet demand.
Despite what you may have read in the press, Apple's influence on the tech world is just as strong as it's ever been. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 released last month is clearly aimed at the iPad mini, and its Wallet app, let's just say, is inspired by Passbook. Amazon's recent TV ad directly pits its 1900x1200 Kindle Fire HD against the iPad's retina screen (and price). And Blackberry is so tweaked by Apple, at least one of its executives can't even bring himself to speak his competitor's name in public. But no matter how hard they try, no matter how much time Apple gives them to catch up, there's one thing none of them can seem to get right: the art of the product reveal.
We've been reading a lot about wearable computers these days. From Google Glass to Pebble to Apple's rumored iWatch, it seems like everyone is developing some kind of high-tech fashion accessory, with the singular goal of making it easier to access the data on the devices we use each day. But as far as I can tell, only one company is making a bona fide wearable computer — that is, a full desktop operating system we can wear on our wrists.