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Custom Shortcuts: The Most Useful Unannounced iOS 5 Feature

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Apple’s forthcoming iOS 5 release includes one nifty new feature that the company hasn’t talked about, but that will likely change the way you use your phone to write anything from text messages to emails: custom keyboard shortcuts. Tools like Typinator, TextExpander (App Store Link) on the Mac and PhraseExpress on Windows have made this concept popular among those who have to write a lot on the desktop. iOS’s closed architecture makes it hard for developer to create system-wide tools like this, however. While TextExpander offers an iPhone app, for example, that tool only works in the 100 apps that support its service. Apple’s own shortcuts work system-wide. (more…)



10:33 pm


iOS 5 Beta: So Widely Available Already, Users Leave Negative iTunes Reviews When Apps Crash

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The first developer-only 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 beyond the developer community 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.

Ios 5 crashed please fix

Will Apple Crack Down on Fake Developer Accounts and Activation Resellers?

Few companies keep their betas under tighter wraps than Apple and the $99 developer fee has generally kept regular users from just installing a beta out of curiosity. Now, however, the rogue beta activation market continues to grow and even a $99 fee isn’t much of a deterrent anymore for those who really want to get the latest and greatest from Apple a few weeks early. Sadly, it seems some of these users don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘beta’ anymore.

It will be interesting to see if Apple will try to crack down on rogue installs when it’s ready to test the next major version of iOS. There’s little the company can do about those who want to pay $99, but we may see higher fees for developers who want to activate additional UDIDs (currently, every developer account comes with 100 additional activations for beta tests – a loophole that resellers then exploit).

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10:51 pm


Rogue Activation Services Let You Try iOS 5 Today

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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 their phone and $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.

There is, of course, also a well-known way to bypass the activation process altogether by performing a number of well-timed clicks and swipes, but that method leaves the phone part of your iPhone unusable. Using the paid rogue activation method leaves you with a fully functioning device without having to pay $99 for an Apple developer account.

How do these services work? Apple allows every developer to activate a set number of additional iPhones. These rogue activation services simply set up a developer account and then activate as many phones as they can (you have to send them your UDID when you request your activation).

Consider the Risks

There are obviously some risks involved here. Clearly you’re sending money to somebody who may or may not perform the service you requested. I hesitate to link to any of these services here, but if you decide to go this route, make sure to check what others are saying about them on the Web and on Twitter. Besides losing your money (generally between $5 and $10), you also run the risk of bricking your phone (at least temporarily until you can find somebody else who will activate your UDID on his developer account) as you can’t know for sure that your phone’s UDID was activated until you have installed the beta software. Most of these services will email you once they have activated your account, but you have to take them at their word that this is indeed the case.  

As usual, use common sense and proceed at your own risk.

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1:45 am


Safari’s New Reading Lists Are Glorified Bookmarks – Not Instapaper Killers

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When Apple announced iOS 5 earlier this week, a lot of the discussion after the announcement was about the third-party tools Apple may have killed by copying a good part of their functionality. One of the most obvious candidates for this death row was Instapaper, the popular tool that allows its users to easily save articles for later and then displays them in a pleasant, text-centric view without ads or widgets. With Safari’s new Reading List feature, which also allows users to bookmark stories, sync them between computers and then read them later, it did indeed look as if Apple was going to put a stake through Instapaper’s heart. After spending some time with Safari on iOS, though, I can’t help but feel that Apple’s tool is far too limited to pose a real challenge to Instapaper.

Reading Lists: Just Specialized Bookmarks

safari_cant_openApple’s Reading Lists are basically just glorified bookmarks. While Instapaper lets you save articles in its easy to read text-only view, Reading Lists don’t make use of Reader, Apple’s new text-only mode for Safari at all. Reading Lists just take you to the original article and then you have to click the Reader button – Instapaper already formats the story for easy reading. Even if you add an article to your Reading List while you’re using Safari’s Reader feature, you will still just get a bookmark to the original page.

Another problem with Apple’s tool is that there doesn’t seem to be an offline mode. iOS 5 is obviously still in beta and this could change, but for now, you can’t save a few articles before you leave and then read them on the plane. That leaves Instapaper or its close competitors Read It Later and Readability as the only real option for those who want convenient offline reading.

This, combined with the fact that you will have to use Safari on the desktop to make use of this feature, makes me think that Instapaper can only profit from Apple’s efforts. As users get frustrated with the limitations of Apple’s Reader and Reading List, they will likely look to Instapaper and Co. as alternatives.



9:18 pm


All of Apple’s WWDC Announcements: iCloud, iOS 5 and OS X Lion

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Apple today announced iCloud, iOS5 and OS X Lion at its annual WWDC developer conference in San Francisco this morning. The event lasted for two hours and was packed with major announcements, including iTunes in the cloud, new features for iOS (including over-the-air updates) and a recap of what’s new in the forthcoming OS X Lion release, which will retail in Apple’s Mac App Store for just $29.

iCloud

Just as Apple announced last week, a large part of today’s presentation focused on the iCloud. Steve Jobs himself explained how this new feature will work. At its core, iCloud will take care of syncing data between all your iOS devices. iCloud, said Apple, “stores your content, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. It just all works.”

iCloud replaces all of the current MobileMe apps (Mail, Calendar (with shared calendars) and Contacts). Jobs specifically stressed how iCloud ensures easy syncing between all your devices. iCloud will include 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup.

Pricing: MobileMe/iCloud is now available for free.

iTunes in the Cloud: This was probably the most anticipated part of iCloud. With iTunes in the cloud, you can download all the songs you already bought on iTunes to your iOS devices with just one click and all the songs you buy in the future will be automatically synced to up to 10 devices as well. iTunes syncing will be available for iOS 4.3 users today.

iTunes Match: Apple now lets users sync all their ripped songs for $25 per year by matching songs to its existing library and allowing users to redownload songs to your iOS device. 

Documents in the Cloud: This feature ensures document syncing between all your devices. Developers will be able to include these features in their own apps through a new API. The syncing features will work on iOS devices, Macs and PCs.

Photo Stream: This feature allows users to sync photos between apps wirelessly. It will be build into the Photo apps on iOS and iPhoto on the desktop. On PCs, photos will be synced to the Pictures folder. Apple TV users will also get access to their pictures as well.

As photos take up a lot of space, only the latest 1,000 pictures will be synced to iOS devices.

Apple will store these photos on its servers for 30 days. This, according to Jobs, is more than enough time to ensure that user have synced their photos to other devices.

Also in iCloud: App Store and iBookstore Syncing, Backup

iCloud now also syncs all your app purchases and books between devices. As for the backup feature, Apple will now automatically back up all your information to the cloud once per day.


iOS 5

According to Apple’s own data, it has now sold over 200 million iOS devices. Today, Apple demoed the next version of iOS, but also provided some updates around iTunes and the iBookstore. Apple has now sold over 40 billion apps, as well as 15 billion songs and 130 million books. In total, Apple has paid out more than $2.5 billion to developers.

 

A developer version of iOS 5 is launching today. For the rest of us, Apple plans to launch iOS 5 in the Fall, but didn’t announce a specific date yet.

The next version of iOS 5 will include 1,500 new APIs for developers and over 200 new features for tools. Here are the ones Apple highlighted today:

PC-Free: This is likely the biggest announcement on the iOS front today: iOS users will now be able to use their devices without every connecting them to a PC. Activation can happen on the device itself. Software updates are now delivered over the air, too. For those who use a desktop, iOS will now also sync with iTunes over WiFi.

Notifications: “We heard from our users that they want a new UI to get to their notifications. And we heard them.” iOS 5 will include a Notifications Center – a single place that brings together all the notifications that come to your phone. In addition, Apple is also updating the lock screen and adding a better overview of the notifications you may have missed there.

Newsstand: Apple is bringing a central hub for magazine and newspaper content to iOS. Among the launch partners are National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, the New Yorker, Golf Digest and more. New content will be downloaded in the background. It’s not clear how this will work together with existing news apps.

iMessage:  With iOS 5, Apple will launch its own messaging app that allows iOS users to basically bypass SMS to send messages to other iOS users. Users can send text, photos, videos and contact information. You can also optionally get read receipts and, just like in a chat app, see if your contact is currently typing.

Twitter Integration: iOS now includes a single sign-on for Twitter. Apple has also integrated Twitter into some of its own apps, including the photo app and Safari.

Safari: According to Apple, about 2/3rd of all mobile browsing is now done through Safari.

The mobile version now includes a Safari Reader feature that is basically Readability for the mobile browser. This will be available on both the iPhone and iPad. In addition, Apple is also bringing a reading list feature to iOS that will compete directly with Instapaper and sync between Macs and iOS devices.

The next version of Safari will also feature tabs – just like the desktop browser.

Reminders: This looks like a very simple list app for grocery lists, but it does have some nifty features, including location support and integration with iCal.

Camera: The new Camera app is a lot faster than the previews version. In addition, there is now an icon on the lockscreen that immediately takes you to the Camera app and Apple finally allows you to set the volume button to take pictures. The app now also lets you pinch to zoom and includes some basic editing features (cropping, red-eye reduction and rotating).

Mail: Mail now allows for rich-text editing and the ability to control indentations.

Game Center: Apple announced that Game Center now has 50 million users (more than Xbox Live). New features for Game Center include support for turn-base games and the ability to get friend and game recommendations.

New Keyboard for thumb-typers

OS X Lion

os x lion logoApple’s Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi demoed the new version of Apple’s desktop operating system OS X during today’s keynote today.Lion will be distributed through the Mac App store. Users who buy the upgrade will be able to use it on all the authorized machines that they have linked to their accounts. The price will be $29 and it will be available in July.

Most of today’s announcement was a recap of what we already knew about Lion, but here are the new features Apple focused on today:

Fullscreen applications: Schiller specifically demoed Safari, iCal and other apps developed by Apple itself.

Mission Control: This is basically Apple’s new version of Expose. Schiller described it as a “bird-eye view of everything that is running on your system.” Mission Control brings together features of Expose and Spaces, which should make handling multiple apps and windows a lot easier for OS X users.

Built-in Multitouch: The fact that Lion has built-in support for multitouch isn’t a secret. What’s nice (but not surprising either) is that Apple also demoed how this works in in the company’s own apps like Safari and iPhoto.

App Store: Schiller described it as the “best way to buy software.” Indeed, according to Apple, the Mac Apps Store is now the #1 channel for buying desktop software across all platforms (ahead of Best Buy, Walmart and Office Depot). As we already knew, the App Store will be deeply integrated into OS X Lion.

Launchpad: Launchpad is basically an iOS homescreen for your Mac. You manage icons just like on OS X (including support for folders). You can launch the Launchpad screen both through clicking on an icon or by using a four-finger pinch gesture.

Resume: This feature, once supported by developers, will bring all your apps back into the state they were before you shut down your computer.

Auto-Save and Versions: The idea here is similar to the new resume feature. Auto-save regularly ensures that the documents you are working on are saved in the background and Versions allows you to go back to earlier versions of your documents. Apple demoed this feature with its own Pages text editor, but it’s not quite clear what developers will have to do to enable this for their own apps.

AirDrop: See other OS X users around you and send them files with just one click.

Mail: The new version of mail looks a lot like the iOS email client. I wrote up a more detailed early look at the application here. The two most important new features here, besides the new look, are better and faster search features and a “conversation view.”

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4:42 pm