Google To Release iOS Maps

It sounds like it’s going to become a reality in a few hours: Google Maps for iOS 6.

My experience so far with Apple maps hasn’t been terrible. Data quality issues never actually affected me. I have missed the lack of public transit. That is the primary reason I plan to switch over. Public transit integration is critical in NYC.

I’m hoping it’s just a refreshed UI of what was in iOS 5 with as lean of a UI or leaner.

Recharge Your Phone With Fire

BioLite iPhone Charger - Charging With Fire

BioLite CampStove isn’t cheap at $130, but it’s a neat way to charge a gadget when you don’t have power handy. Given the way the past few weeks have been here in the north east this thing is actually getting some attention. I personally keep a generic USB battery pack in my bag for emergency charges. I think that’s still more useful in general since I’m often places where I could use a boost but an open flame would be inappropriate or more likely: illegal.

Silent Circle Finally Bringing Security To Mobile?

Silent Circle is a pretty interesting sounding app:

It’s a model for the nested cryptography of Silent Circle. The “safe room” is the iPhone processor, where all the encryption happens. By the time your text leaves the phone, it’s been completely encrypted, unrecoverable without the key. To keep the key safe, Silent Circle uses the ZRTP protocol, a dance of data drops and verifications that’s every bit as intricate as the Southern Command’s network of swipes and codes. At the end of each call, the keys are erased, so nothing can be decrypted after the fact.

This sounds like security done right. Why this is newsworthy in 2012 is what saddens me. This should be the standard, not the exception. Regardless, kudos to these folks for shedding light on what so many others are doing wrong.

iPhone 5 Thoughts

iPhone 5

Some thoughts on the iPhone 5:

  • Design – The black model is a bit of a departure having finally removed the metal ring that’s framed the iPhones of the past. It looks more subtle in white. Otherwise it’s the classic iPhone design, just longer.
  • Dimensions – The larger screen will be nice, I suspect they’ve held the line in dimensions with the 4S to avoid fragmenting the ecosystem too much and upsetting developers (see: Android). Letterboxing makes old apps usable. It’s hardly perfect but a respectable long term move. Unlike many other phones it still seems usable with one hand.
  • Camera – In my opinion one of the bigger features is the improved camera. “The best camera is the one you have on you”. For more and more people it’s their phone. It will never replace an SLR, sheer physics and properties of light limit that. It however is substantially better than previous incarnations. Sapphire Crystal lens is pretty cool too. My lens scratched once before and it cost $30 to swap out the back panel. This means that won’t be likely to happen again. Backside ilumination sensor and large aperture mean better night photos. Something just about every mobile phone stinks at.
  • Panorama – Lots of apps already offer this feature. Apple did mention there’s new “image processing chip”. Curious if some of the algorithms to do panorama’s are accelerated for performance. That would make it a huge win. Also potentially better quality for the time it takes to process.
  • LTE – About time. I suspect they’ve been playing with LTE for ages, but opted against it because of power consumption. Apple held the line with power consumption. Seems like a win.
  • Dual band WiFi – I’m assuming both the iPhone 5 and Kindle HD include 5 GHz because the chipset offers it. While 5 GHz is fast, it’s got pretty limited range, and isn’t really necessary on a mobile device, especially one that can only process so much data at a time. You’re not pushing 300 Mbps to the iPhone 5. Marketing hype, but it’s not a bad thing to have.
  • New Display – Integrated touch is pretty neat. Rather than 2 layers to the screen it’s now one. Given the previous one generation was glued, this doesn’t really make repairs any more expensive. You had to replace the whole thing anyway. Apple mentions it makes things brighter. I’m betting that means they need less power per pixel to light the screen meaning it’s more energy efficient and thus cuts power needs despite the larger size or at least offsets it.
  • Lightning – New cable isn’t terribly surprising. It sounds like an active cable, but it doesn’t seem 100% certain. I’m betting it will be difficult or impossible to see cheap 3rd party cables like we did in the past if that’s the case. The adapter is ugly, and I’ll likely be using those for a while to keep my old stuff working with it. Budget for a few cables and at least one adapter. Eventually we’ll forget about that migration.
  • New earbuds – I’ll hold judgement. The original ear buds were actually decent sound wise, however it was virtually impossible properly position them in your ear to appreciate it. I ditched the Apple ones long ago for something more comfortable.

Overall the announcement met my expectations. I didn’t expect an all new phone, just a ton of revisions. It makes sense Apple didn’t include NFC. If Apple wants to go the payment route I’d expect them to do so via a Pay with Square like geofencing scheme.

Lastly, it appears AT&T will grandfather existing unlimited data customers even with LTE. Not so for Verizon customers.

iPhone Too Secure From Law Enforcement?

According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) the iPhone is largely uncrackable at this point:

“I can tell you from the Department of Justice perspective, if that drive is encrypted, you’re done,” Ovie Carroll, director of the cyber-crime lab for the CCIPS division of the Department of Justice, said earlier this month during his presentation at DFRWS. “When conducting criminal investigations, if you pull the power on a drive that is whole-disk encrypted you have lost any chance of recovering that data.”

Of course there are a fair number of tools out there for iOS 4 and below including UFED Ultimate and XRY. There is a lack of iOS 5 tools, at least that are being publicly advertised.

However, there’s arguably little need for such a tool anymore. As users put data on in “the cloud”, law enforcement doesn’t even need the physical phone, they can just send a request to Apple (or Google) for the data they want. I suspect this is at least part of what Steve Wozniak was talking about when he mentioned “horrible problems” in the next five years. It’s worth noting Apple has almost zero transparency regarding law enforcement requests and how they are vetted. It’s not even clear a warrant is necessary to request data. The law certainly isn’t clear in that regard.

If anything, I think it’s becoming easier for law enforcement, not harder.

iOS 6 Adds Wi-Fi Plus Cellular

A nice little scoop from Apple Insider about iOS 6 shipping with a new setting. Wi-Fi Plus Cellular it will allow your phone to fall back to cellular when a Wi-Fi access point is slow. A rather nice little enhancement.

I’d actually love to see Wi-Fi be geofenced, so that it will automatically enable itself in certain locations. I don’t need Wi-Fi on all the times, but there are certain locations where iOS devices could utilize it. Why should I need to toggle it myself if the device knows where it is? I’d love if my phone knew it had access to Wi-Fi at home and could switch automatically when I’m home. It seems like this would be simple enough to do right. Apple does all the pieces already, it’s just a matter of doing it together.

Inside Apple’s iPhone Charger

Ken Shirriff did an amazing teardown of an Apple iPhone Charger. If you’re like me and enjoy reading in detail about how electronics are engineered, you’ll really enjoy this one. Citations and all.

The real takeaway is that it’s a very high quality product both in terms of build quality and design. That’s pretty typical of most Apple products. Ken goes on to note that it only costs a tiny bit more yet Apple charges substantially more than the competition. However the cost analysis only covers parts, not manufacturing, R&D and patent licensing which is generally substantial, especially when you have a highly customized and well engineered solution.

Built In FM Radio Support For Next iPhone?

Broadcom BCM4330The most interesting thing in the iFixIt iPad 3 teardown is the discovery of the new BCM4330 chip. This chip is specifically a: 802.11a/b/g/n MAC/Baseband/Radio with Integrated Bluetooth 4.0+HS & FM Transceiver. That’s a mouthful.

Apple likes to keep things in sync. It’s a reasonable bet this is part of the next-gen platform for the iPhone. It’s assumed the next iPhone will have a similar if not identical LTE chipset as the new iPad. This gives a little hint of what might be to come. 802.11/a/b/g/n is a given. Same with Bluetooth 4.0+HS. A FM Transceiver on board is a new one.

This is a pretty interesting find. Specifically it receives and transmits FM. I’m guessing this is part of the next iPhone platform. No feature on the iPad so far supports this. While it’s possible Apple will never use it, I suspect they will. The iPod nano already has an FM receiver. This would be a feature parody against an entry-level product. Carriers will obviously love the idea of users getting music in a method that doesn’t need data connectivity (just like they favor WiFi). You’re locked into a data plan for 2 years anyway.

Even more interesting is the transmit ability. This could be the basis of a built-in iTrip car adapter in every iPhone. Just press a button and set your radio to the corresponding FM station. One less adapter, one less thing to fuss around with. Your iOS device now connects to any audio device with an FM receiver. Sure the quality won’t be perfect, but it’s a huge step towards your iOS device being your media solution everywhere.

This is of course a theory, but I think it’s at least plausible.