The first beta version of iOS 5 has only been out for about a week, but it's already clear that no other pre-release version of iOS has ever seen a wider release than this one. It's hard to pinpoint why this is the case, but there are clearly enough users who either paid $99 per year to become part of Apple's developer program or who paid a rogue activation service a few dollars to get access to the beta that way. As iOS developer Malcom Barclay notes, this wide release has some interesting consequences for developers: some users are now leaving negative iTunes reviews for apps that don't work on iOS 5 yet.
Theoretically, only developers currently have access to the latest version of Apple's iOS 5 software for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. In reality, however, getting access to beta versions of iOS has never been easier for non-developers. Getting the software (which is easily available if you know how to use Google), is just one part of the process, though. Your phone's UDID also has to be registered with Apple. The easiest way to do that is to get a $99 developer account, but for most people, that's a lot of money just to try out some beta software. Because of this, a large market for rogue iOS activations that allows virtually anyone who is wiling to risk $5 to $10 is currently flourishing. Some of these services have been around for a while, though most started around the time of the lengthy iOS 4 beta test.
In what, as far as I know, is an unprecedented move for Apple, the company this morning announced what it plans to announce during its keynote at the company’s Wordwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. Typically, these events are shrouded in mystery and the days ahead of the conference are ripe with rumors and speculations as to what will be announced and who will announce it. Not so this year. Apple didn’t just announce the obvious – that we will see a preview of iOS5 and OS X Lion, but also that it will indeed launch a new suite of cloud-based services under the rumored iCloud name. While the Apple Kremlinologists will continue to speculate whether the fact that Apple announced that its “CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off” the event means that Steve Jobs is coming back from his medical leave or not, the fact that Apple pre-announced Jobs’ presence at the event is also unprecedented.
Starting today, the mobile version of Google Maps that runs in the browser is getting virtually all of the features the desktop version currently offers. There are clickable icons for businesses and transit stations, biking directions and layers, integration with places most of the other features you’ve gotten accustomed to on the desktop.
As more information about the “secret” location-data file on Apple’s iPhone 4s and iPad 3Gs becomes available, the story surrounding this discovery is becoming more about the people involved than the location data itself. As it turn out, Alex Levinson, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, had long discovered this file in his research and work with forensic firm Katana Forensics. Katana Forensics produces a tool called Lantern, which can extract this data and map it in Google Earth’s KMZ format.
The iPhone location scandal dominated the tech news today. While early reports seemed to indicate that all iPhone 4s and 3G-enabled iPads were keeping precise logs of everybody’s location over time, the reality that emerged over the course of the day is a bit more complicated. Atlanta-based tech blogger Will Clarke took a closer look at the data tonight and argues that Apple is decidedly not keeping a log of the phone’s location in this secret file, but is only storing the location of cell towers.
All the way back in 2009, I reviewed the Notifications app for ReadWriteWeb and wondered if it was going to be the best push notifications service for the iPhone yet. At that time, it had more features than Boxcar, which was still in its infancy. It was also one of the first apps of its kind to use PubSubHubbub to speed up notifications of updated news feeds. over time, Boxcar ended up trumping Notifications in terms of features and the difference in speed became negligible. Now, however, Notifications is is back as Push 4.0 for both the iPhone and iPad ($0.99 - iTunes link) and while its feature set hasn't changed much from the early days (Twitter, email, RSS), the developer Fabien Penso has worked hard on making it the fastest push app out there - and, I'm happy to say, he succeeded.
When Twitter launched the latest version of its iPhone app a few days ago, most users were more than happy to get auto-completion for names and hashtags, among many other improvements. The fact that Twitter now prominently featured the top trending topics in its app - including the promoted trends that Twitter gets paid for - was, according to many users, a major negative of this version and was seen as a sneaky way to push ads to users without delivering any additional value. Some, including the intrepid Apple-watcher John Gruber, even went as far as reverting back to an older backup of their iPhone to get the old version back.
While Apple's penchant for secrecy contributes to its mystique, it's also responsible for a kind of 21st century Kremlinology where every one of Steve Jobs' words is carefully analyzed for hidden meanings. At times, Jobs will bypass the regular PR channels and respond to email himself.Generally, these emails clear the air when there is some confusion and with regards to Apple's new in-app subscription program, there seems to be plenty of that going around. Just a few days ago, Apple denied an iPhone app from time-shifted reading service Readability because it offered a third-party subscription service without offering Apple's own service at the same time - a restriction of Apple's in-app subscription program that ensures that Apple will get a 30% cut of all subscriptions.
I'm a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft's HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.