iPad 3rd Generation

There’s a misnomer out there that the new iPad has no “support name”. Per Apple Store’s shopping cart it’s “3rd Generation”. The product name is:

iPad with [Connectivity] [Capacity]GB - [Black|White] (3rd generation)

For example:

MD366LL/A - iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G LTE for AT&T 16GB - Black (3rd generation)

For marketing purposes however it’s just “iPad”. This makes sense and follows the scheme used for other Apple products. For example with MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iPod lines we don’t refer to them as “MacBook Pro 6”. It’s just “MacBook Pro” but for support purposes it’s “MacBook Pro Spring 2010”, or just “MacBook Pro 2010”. Some nomenclature will include processor and CPU. For example “MacBook Pro 15″ i7 Spring 2010”. Apple just made the iPad fit the standard model of seamless product naming. I expect they may do the same with iPhones.

It pretty much met my expectations. Retina means “individual pixels not distinguishable at average distance from eyes”. Obviously the iPad that’s slightly further given the way you hold the device. Apple had to give on girth slightly to up the battery and keep battery life the same. They managed to keep that mostly under control.

A5X CPU sounds about what I’d expect. I doubt the performance is really 4X however. Just having 4 cores doesn’t mean you get 4X the performance. That only works if you have enough things going in parallel to use all 4 cores efficiently. If that were the case SLI or CrossFire would double the performance of any PC game. It’s very complicated to do this from a programming perspective. X-Plane developer Ben Supnik wrote about SLI and CrossFire a few months ago. Most of that applies. It’s not out of the box performance. Unless iOS 5.1 has some magic (unlikely).

Apple Store has been hobbling along all afternoon. Clearly someone is buying it. Tech press will always be disappointed. Even if the iPad cured cancer and produced kittens playing with puppies.


On The iOS-ification Of Mac OS X

Tim Cook spoke at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Everyone was paying attention to information about Apple’s cash, and labor issues. They overlooked this juicy nugget of information:

Still, Cook doesn’t think the iPad will lead to the death of the personal computer as we’ve known it for the past 25 years or so. “I don’t predict the demise of the PC industry, I don’t subscribe to that,” he said, although admitting that tablet sales were eating into Mac sales and were likely having the same effect on the PC industry, which is essentially stagnant. It seems pretty clear that Cook thinks of the iPad as a different product from the PC/Mac, unlike some industry observers who would prefer to lump the two together.

While everyone is insisting Mac OS X is just going to merge into iOS and talking about iOS-fication of Mac OS X, clearly Tim Cook at least for now sees it differently.

I don’t think Apple would benefit by cannibalizing the desktop/laptop market. It’s somewhat high margin and eventually the tablet margin will drop as competition ramps up. Tim Cook knows that. Apple’s PC market share was never huge, but it was enough to grow the company for many years, and has been quietly gaining strength, even in the corporate world.

PC’s are still much more flexible and capable than any mobile product. Keep in mind almost nobody can take a photo they took on an iPhone and put it on paper without a desktop. Printing had been figured out by the time the IBM 5150 shipped. It’s worth noting however that this is likely at least in part due to patent wars and not really a technical limitation.

Apple Security

Path’s Privacy Folly Proves Shift In Privacy Views

Path uploaded address book data from its users in order to provide “social” functionality. After this became public they deleted all address data and apologized.

Everyone is ignoring the worst part of this. While very bad, it’s not that Path actually uploaded their address book (I’d venture most store it in “the cloud” already, so true privacy is out the window). The worst part is that Path didn’t even think this would be a problem until it became news. Even 2 years ago I don’t think there was anyone other than malware developers who would think uploading an entire address book of contacts without an explicit approval would be an OK practice. That is a huge cultural shift.

If Path were a desktop app in 2010, they would be competing with AntiVirus and Spyware blockers who would be racing to provide protection to their users.

In just a short time, a practice that would be reserved for illegal and dubious software was adopted by what seems like a mainstream startup. It’s electronic moral decay.

Apple doesn’t get a free pass either. Why in iOS 5 a sandboxed app can access an address book without alerting the user is beyond me. Addresses, calendar data, geolocation, and the ability to make a call are sacred API’s and should have obvious UI and/or warnings. Geolocation does have an interstitial alert. Phone calls have an obvious UI. Address and calendar data need to have an alert before the app is granted access.

Apple Internet


It has come to my attention that work is being done (3rd party) to bring SPDY to iOS. Awesome!

However, I can’t help but think that Apple is already working to bring SPDY to iOS perhaps as soon as iOS 6. I say this simply because it would bring a speed improvement without involving more Tx/Rx or upping CPU power consumption. It just improves network utilization. In fact since it improves utilization it possibly could improve battery life by reducing the radio usage.

I’d also like to see the Nitro JavaScript engine available outside of Safari so UIWebView implementations could take advantage. Supposedly that’s a WebKit2 thing, but I’ve heard/seen little of WebKit2. I suspect SPDY will happen first.

Photo A Day 2011

Project 365 Week 41


iOS 5 And iMessage vs. The World

I’ve generally refrained from comment on iOS 5 because there are only two features I really cared about and I wanted to see them in a final release form that I could play with. The first was notifications, which I loved since the first screenshots I saw. The second was iMessage simply because it intrigued me.

iMessage despite some claims isn’t the end of SMS, but it the beginning. To summarize how it works, it essentially abstracts the Messenger/SMS client so that to the user its protocol antagonistic. If it can use Apple’s network it does so, if not it uses SMS. The user does nothing but send messages like they always have. Apple does the magic. No app to download, no username to select and distribute, no new phone number. Just use it. Typical Apple brilliance.

Of course this poses a threat to carriers who make immense profits selling SMS packages which cost them almost nothing. I still wouldn’t be surprised it they find some vaguely worded patent and a patent war erupts to try and stop Apple. It’s a very real possibility.

However this alternative network only works between Apple iOS users… for now. Apple has three potential tricks up it’s sleeve to completely upset the market.

The App Route

This is the most obvious route. Release apps for BlackBerry and Android. As people adopt smart phones this becomes more awesome. Desktop clients will also satisfy since millions spend their day in front of a computer at work. Integrate into iChat and make an XMPP service for those using Adium or a third-party client on Windows. Release a Windows client. Get Meebo to make that a simple thing to add to your account. They could get it everywhere pretty quickly.

Third Party Integration

Apple could eventually open up an API to allow for third-party app integration. Allow me to explain how this would work:

Your Apple account right now contains two key identifiers: You’re phone number (duh) and email address. What Apple could do is let third parties like Facebook, Google Voice, etc. become alternative carriers with a higher priority than SMS. So if Facebook Messenger was an option, it would use that. Otherwise it would use Google Voice, Kik, or perhaps even BBM to send the message. Last ditch effort would be regular SMS.

The Telco Route

This is an interesting option, but not really unique. Google actually does some of this already via Google Voice. Skype offers similar functionality to a degree. What Apple would do is rather than use the carrier SMS, give the option of sending via iMessage which sends the text to anywhere in the US on your behalf. Again, Google and several other companies are already doing this. The caller ID can be spoofed legally, and replies would come back via a regular SMS, effectively making you a recipient only. In the client this is seamless. This would further disrupt carriers model by cutting texting in half asymmetrically.

Any of these methods has a major advantage for Apple by making iOS the center of people’s communication universe. They could route to other iOS devices, Apple TV, your computer etc. It’s what Google Voice is striving to be, but for text.

Of course Apple could, and likely will eventually make this service more than text only. Voice and video are obvious companions and likely to be added as iChat, FaceTime integrate. Apple could even add a pro service like SMS and voice to other countries for a fraction of what wireless providers charge putting them in competition with Skype or Google Voice.

The backside of this however is that wireless providers are likely to raise mobile data rates and add new charges to make up for SMS.


iPhone 4S Thoughts

iPhone 4S

Apple today announced the iPhone 4S. It’s pretty much what I expected to see, however many seem to view it as a disappointment due to anticipation of a mythical “iPhone 5”. I’m sure an iPhone 5 is in development, but I don’t really understand why people expected to see it today. Maybe 1% of Apple rumors, likely much less are actually true. Generally they are an attempt by a blog to generate buzz and publicity. Pay little attention to them. Launching the new phone later isn’t indicative of a “major upgrade”, especially given what we knew:

  • iOS 5 is taking a while – iOS 5 wasn’t developed in complete secrecy. 100k developers have been seeded developer builds (number comes from the Apple presentation). It hasn’t been GM ready. It’s been a work in progress. It didn’t seem to be waiting for hardware.
  • Apple was launching in parallel with iCloud – Apple established it was going to roll out an OS upgrade and iCloud together. Obviously any new hardware was not coming before that. iCloud was just getting tested. Again, it didn’t seem to be waiting for hardware.
  • Supply Chain – Slightly weaker, but thanks to the quake in Japan, there’s been a some more difficulty in obtaining materials and parts for many electronics. Moving the iPhone launch out makes sense when you’re shipping in such volume and already have a popular tablet shipping.

Some Analysis

In my opinion the iPhone 4S met my expectations.

Regarding the iPhone 4S being a “world phone”, this was obvious. The “Verizon iPhone” was a hack. The iPhone 4 for Verizon used a Qualcomm MDM6600 as discovered by iFixit. That chip supports CDMA/EVDO and GSM/UMTS. It however didn’t ship with a SIM slot effectively preventing on the hardware level support for GSM/UMTS. Apparently the antenna was tweaked too making is sub-optimal for GSM/UMTS. Unifying the hardware means Apple can ship just one device and simplify it’s supply/distribution chain. Remember, the majority of Apple sales will still be to GSM/UMTS networks. Only the US is a major CDMA/EVDO market as it’s hard for an iPhone to compete in Japan the other major market.

Not supporting LTE is also obvious. LTE deployment is just starting. LTE chipsets today still use more power. I don’t think anyone is using LTE 100% yet, only data meaning in usage these chips will be doing both LTE and a legacy technology for voice. Given such a small percentage of users would ever even see LTE in the 2 years they have their phone, opting for improved battery life (another new feature) was the ideal choice. I suspect next revision there’s a 75% chance we’ll see LTE. It will happen when power consumption gets down to where Apple wants it. It’s just a matter of time.

The choice of an A5 dual core processor was a giveaway from the iPad. What we still don’t know is if it’s the same speed or underclocked for the iPhone. That will be discovered soon enough.

Camera upgrade is also obvious as another year has went by and cameras have improved. Going to 8MP and 1080P was a given. The iPhone 4’s camera is likely already 1080P capable at least at the sensor level (assumed to be a OmniVision OV5642). However the iPhone 4 likely wasn’t fast enough to handle that data rate hence it was limited to 720P. That’s also why you don’t see RAW support. The sensor itself converts to JPEG.

I’m inclined to think Siri could run on the iPhone 4, though slightly slower if Apple really wanted. That’s pure conjecture however.

Fragmented Ecosystem

It’s worth noting that Apple is now shipping the iPhone 4S as their flagship phone, the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 3GS as their entry level phone. This is an unprecedented (for Apple) 3 revisions in production. This makes me believe the iPhone 3GS will at least get security patches for the next 2, most likely 3 years. I do suspect it will be cut off from future major OS releases before that time, or get a reduced feature set. For Apple this is unique. I don’t think any phone vendor is doing something like this right now. On the Android front phones upgrades are notoriously finicky thanks to different vendors.

It’s also worth nothing that despite the iPhone 4S being a much faster device, it’s unlikely many apps will take advantage of it anywhere in the near future. Most users for quite a while will be on the iPhone 4 and 3GS. Designing for iPhone 4S and iPad 2 performance means you’re cutting off most of your users. With a 2 year upgrade cycle and these phones still being sold… well you get the idea. That’s not to say you won’t get anything from the added speed. Just don’t expect everything to be designed to take advantage of it very quickly. The target platform is still the 3GS if you want the full iOS audience.

iPhone 5

I expect we’ll see an iPhone 5, sometime next year. Quite possibly summer. I wouldn’t even rule out doing so a little earlier if market conditions warrant Apple pulling out the big guns sooner. Updated form factor, LTE, NFC chip, more performance tweaks all likely candidates. I could see Apple going for a software “home” button to make the screen larger without having to make the device so much larger.

Worth an Upgrade?

If you haven an iPhone 4, I think waiting for iPhone 5 is just fine. I don’t think this device is amazingly better than the iPhone 4. That’s why they didn’t bump the version to 5. For older iPhone’s, this upgrade is just another step further away. The iPhone 4 is still a very solid phone. See above for my analysis on a more fragmented ecosystem.


iPhone 4S is nice, pretty much what people should have expected and will likely hold things over until next year when the iPhone 5 ships. Don’t expect apps to take advantage of this speed because most iOS users are running slower hardware and will for some time. If you have an iPhone 4, likely not much to persuade you to upgrade early.

Apple Security

On Apple’s Location Tracking

The controversy over Apple’s “Location Tracking” is quite interesting. It’s worth making clear that the nodes stored in the database are approximations of cell phone towers and WiFi hotspots you’re likely to encounter rather than your location(s) at any given point in time. It’s a way to “prime the well” when doing a GPS lookup to improve performance.

Apple notably failed in a few key ways which should serve as a lesson to others:

  1. Always disclose what you’re doing. – Never just assume what you’re doing with someone’s information is cool. Apple could have mitigated a lot of this had they disclosed what the phone was actually doing from day 1. Never transmit anonymous or personal information without letting the user know first.
  2. Never store more than you need – I can’t believe how many companies mess this up. Storing user information is a liability. A good business limits it’s liabilities to only what’s necessary to conduct business. Storing so much data, and not expunging was a very bad move and amplified the situation. On top of not letting users know what was going on, there was no way to purge information. This just made things much worse. Apple went as far as backing up what should be an expendable cache.
  3. Always be paranoid with information – Apple states “The local cache is protected with iOS security features, but it is not encrypted. Beginning with the next major release of iOS, the operating system will encrypt any local cache of the hotspot and cell tower location information.” in the response to Edward J. Markey. This should have been encrypted since day 1. Various tools existed for a few years that could read this data in the surveillance community. Apple undoubtedly knew people were using this data sometimes for illicit purposes. No company has gotten in trouble for being to secure with customer information with anyone other than the NSA or FBI.

It’s worth noting that their software update in response to this controversy is actually pretty good and pretty thorough. I’m surprised they couldn’t quickly shim some encryption around it. The iOS is loaded with enough DRM and crypto.

On another note, I fully expect some court cases to be reopened now that “cell phone records” are not quite as accurate as they were falsely billed to be. Also companies who marketed software are capable of showing a users location history may be liable as this wasn’t accurately vetted. If they did good testing they would have seen the extent of it’s “tracking”. It seems inevitable.

Lastly, I wonder how much battery life, and how much bandwidth this was utilizing. Some customers are on metered WiFi (especially some hotspots). To geo-tag one must turn on GPS, meaning battery life was being drained behind the scenes.

Apple’s full response can be found on Congressman Ed Markey’s website (copied here for perpetuity).