Tag Archives: iphone

An Idle White iPhone Thought

Zoomed-in view of the iTunes "Devices" list, including an iPhone that's been highlighted. The phone is white.

It’s funny. I’ve been using this iPhone and iTunes for a long time. But this is the first time I’ve noticed that when you click on an iPhone in the iTunes’ “Devices” list, the black iPhone seems to turn into a white iPhone. You know…the one code-named “Brigadoon,” which only appears once every hundred years, or on eBay after an Apple employee quits.

I wonder if every time Steve Jobs syncs his iPhone and sees that, he gets just a tiny bit upset about the production delays, all over again. I suppose it’s like if there’s a new hit song in which the singer belts out the name of your ex-spouse over and over again.

iOS 4.2 is here! Kind of.

This is one of those things that quite rightly annoys Apple’s critics. They can make valid and productive complaints about the limitations of their hardware — particularly their iOS devices — and Apple really has no way to respond.

…Except to update the OS, which is what they’d planned all along.

Here’s the anticipated 4.2 update to the iPad’s OS. Now it multitasks and can print directly from the device. I’m certain that we can all expect a flurry of new reviews and blog posts that humbly say “I know I dismissed the iPad as a silly, trendy toy back in April. But now, obviously, I have to admit that the iPad is absolutely wonderful. After all, I only listed two real shortcomings, and now Apple’s addressed both of them.”

Which isn’t to say that the iPad only had two problems. But Lord, to hear these commentators talk you’d think that they believe we should allow the white rhino to go extinct. “They’re completely useless,” one reviewer says. “Look at the size of those horns. Don’t tell me there wasn’t any room for an SD card reader. If these animals had been created by Google, you could just customize it yourself, but nooooo. God just doesn’t get it. And still, billions of people worship Him like He’s some sort of…”

(I’m checking iTunes again. Nope, iTunes tells me there’s still an hour left to go on my download. Damn and blast.)

Multitasking on the iPad is a clear Win, though as with the iPhone most of the Win comes specifically from the speed with which you can now switch between apps, and the ability to stream music from third-party apps. “Multitasking” clearly has a different meaning in a one-screen interface.

Printing is another nice new feature, though it won’t be quite as fab as we’d hoped, nor as fab as it’ll be in a future release. The original idea was that the iPad would just find and use any available file server. Nope, that’s been delayed. iOS 4.2’s printing feature only works with devices that support the iPad’s network printing scheme. Still, as someone who recently found himself in a hotel room thinking “If I could print directly from my iPad, I wouldn’t be here trying to think of Something Clever” I’m happy to see that problem go from a No to a Maybe.

(Yes, I know there are third-party apps that promise direct printing. But they’re unreliable, and frustrating as hell. I’d much rather have a feature like AirPrint that will definitely work if you have the right printer, than a third-party app that’s supposed to be compatible with all printers but may or may not actually function when the time comes, depending on whether or not the app approves of the color of the drapes in the room.)

(39 minutes to go. Hey, cool…it jumped at least ten minutes!)

AirPlay is the response to everyone who sees a range of Apple devices in someone’s house and assumes that the owner is a brainwashed cultist. There’s a downside to investing your faith and consumer bucks in the Apple infrastructure, but it’s overwhelmed by the positive: this stuff all works together. And the new thing that comes out a year from now will also work well with all of this stuff you’ve already got. In…

…35 minutes, plus or minus, I’ll be able to stream any media I want from any notebook, desktop, iPhone, or iPad to my AppleTV. Unlike other solutions for other devices, it’ll just plain work. Why? Because the same company designed all of the hardware and controls the OS that powers ’em all, and this company is clearly on our side.

Amid iOS 4.2’s other bibs and bobs is one real drawback for iPad users. Unfathomably, the Rotation Lock switch is now a Mute switch. You need a dedicated switch like that one on a phone. You might be in the middle of a funeral and suddenly regret that you chose “Butt Shaker” as your ringtone, to name but one example.

But when you’re using an iPad, the desire to prevent the screen from rotating (again) (goddammit) is just as urgent and spontaneous. Right now, with iOS 3.x, if I’m holding it at a slightly awkward angle and the iPad keeps autorotating on me, I reach up and flip a single switch. In…

…23 minutes, I’ll have to double-tap the Home button to reveal the taskbar, swipe left to reveal the widgets, tap the Rotation Lock button, and then tap the Home button again to get back to what I was doing.

It’s utter nonsense. I predict that soon there’ll be a new System Pref that allows you to choose the function of the lock button.

But all of this is academic because I still have…

…20 minutes before the download is complete and the installation begins.

I read the announcement this morning. iOS 4.2 became available to my copy of iTunes a few hours later. For a solid thirty minutes, I kept the iPad plugged in and clicked the “Check For Updates” button every 30 seconds, waiting for a download slot to open up.

Honestly, I was like one of those pathetic losers at a casino, chain-smoking and numbly tapping the buttons on a video poker machine. The only difference was that Jay Leno wasn’t over in the next room doing his standup.

Apple Event – My Live (to tape) Blog

A frame grab from Apple's livestream. I was watching it on my iPad, via AT&T's 3G connection.

The session starts with a reminder that Skype is a piece of crap. I was supposed to be joining Leo and Alex in a special MacBreak talking about the presentation as it happens. I even had a special MacBook and iPad setup with a camera and a mic. But Skype said no ****ing way.

And Skype’s screwup cost me about $30. I paid for a day’s worth of hotel broadband solely for the Skypecast. And then when I realized that I’d need two sets of headphones (one to listen to the event on my iPad, one so I could listen to the TWiT studio on my Macbook) I ran to the corner Walgreens and bought a cheap pair of Sonys.

I repeat: Skype is just a total misery. It frustrates the hell out of me that I need to use it but can’t count on it in any way.

Anyway. So here I am in my hotel room with the MacBook on one side, with this blog post open. And the iPad is next to it, streaming the show live via AT&T.

Steve takes the stage and starts by showing off the glam new Paris Apple Store, and the new Shanghai Apple Store. New York gets a big glass cube; Shanghai gets a big glass cylinder. Coca-Cola is now in negotiations to fill it with 178,000 gallons of beverage on special occasions.

I’m not “liveblogging” this because there’s an actual livestream that people should probably watch instead. This blog post is intended for the contemplation and illumination of future generations.

Very good video quality…it ranges from “webcast” quality to “netflix streaming app” quality…depending on how much the video is moving around. Video is _slightly_ choppy…I’m guessing that I’m seeing less than a full 30 frames per second.

Interesting statistic: Apple Stores are seeing one million visitors per day. Yes, on a good day, but that’s still an interesting figure; Steve compares it to the days when Macworld Expo would be happy to see 30,000 people.

iOS is the next topic.

iOS 4.1:Bugs fixed — The wonky proximity sensor on the iPhone, Bluetooth, and iPhone 3G bugs.

New feature: HDR photos! Very cool.

HD video upload over WiFi.

TV show rentals. One rumor confirmed.

Game Center.

HDR Photography. Tap a button on the camera app and it’ll bracket the exposures and combine them into an HDR image. So instead of black shadows and blown out skies, there’ll be plenty of detail in the whole image. The Camera app writes both the “normal” and the HDR version to your photo library so you can pick the one you like.

I love HDR and use it all the time…if this works well, then the iPhone will kick the ass of many real cameras, let alone cameraphones. I wonder if they’re doing “real” HDR or doing a “smart sampling” technique to combine separate exposures? Some consumer apps do that instead of using the real HDR algorithms.

Game Center. Here’s the aggressive sell of the iPad and iPhone (and, um, iTV? [edit to add later: no, as it turns out] as a gaming platform. They’ve always had success there but this is the one where they say really put it out there.

Mike Capps from Epic Games demos new games that take advantage of Game Center. “Project Sword.”

The name seems to indicate that it should be followed by “: The Leverage Of Barjed-Sijnjen Chapter 4, ‘The Re-Brobnoning’.”

Good demo of head to head combat over GameCenter. Also showing that gameplay can be recorded as video. I wonder about latency; are they playing via WiFi or 3G?

Game will be out soon on iPhone and iPad. Looks neat.

[Edit: demo is available as a free download.]

iOS 4.1 available next week for iPhone and iPod Touch; free download via iTunes.

Sneak peek at iOS 4.2. “It’s all about iPad.”

Brings “Everything to iPad”

Wireless Printing – brings long sustained applause. Also something called “AirPlay.” I bet this is a WiFi video sending scheme. [Edit later to say: yes, it is.]

Now there’s a “Print” tool in Pages. Select a printer, number of copies, etc. A new “Print Center” app appears in the multitasking area when a print job is in progress. You can see jobs and cancel them.

AirPlay: it’s the new name for AirTunes. You’ll be able to stream audio, video and photos, which means they need a new, vaguer name for it.

Live demo on an iPad. Steve launches Pandora. He’s got it streaming in the background as he does mail and Safari. We see the exact same multitasking interface as on the iPhone: screen slides up to reveal icons of running apps. You can switch apps and kill them.

Folders: works the exact same way on the iPad as on the iPhone. This is a reminder that “iOS” was a necessary rebranding: if you own an iPhone, you have a mini iPad; if you have an iPad, you have a big iPhone. It’s the same thing; it’s feature-identical and they all work the same on both hardware.

iOS 4.2 will be out in November for iPhone iPad and Touch.

Onward to the iPods. This is, indeed, the annual Holiday Music Event. This is what we’re expecting.

275 million iPods sold. See? This is why we wonder why Amazon hasn’t said how many Kindles they’ve sold. Also why Apple hasn’t said how many AppleTV’s they’ve sold. If you’re happy with the sales, you don’t keep them secret.

All-new designs for every model. Even the Classic? (As in “We’ve redesigned it: it’s now invisible in our product line.”)

[Edit: iPod Classic is absent from mention. So Apple officially is done with hard drive-based iPods?]

iPod Shuffle. Interesting to see how (if?) it’s important today. “People clearly missed the buttons” from the last edition (the “aluminum stick of Trident gum” design). New one has the familiar “button ring”…looks more like a slightly smaller version of the 2008 version.

It includes VoiceOver, just like the Trident model…so you can do playlists and hear names of albums and tracks Can you control it via voice as well? Must ask.

15 hours of battery life. Retail package looks like an ice cube.

$49 price! Nice. They needed to sell this CHEAP to compete with Sandisk’s cheap and excellent music/video players. Lowest iPod price ever, I think.

iPod Nano. Another one that maybe has identity problems, in light of the iPod Touch and how close it is in price.

Eliminated the clickwheel: it’s now a multitouch device. It’s a tiny square with a color screen. “Wearable” via a clip. It’s large enough for four app buttons. 46% smaller, 42% lighter. Hardware volume buttons. FM radio, Nike+ and pedometer. Works in 29 languages. Battery life of 24 hours.

Does it run apps? Other than the built-in features? It does looks like an iPod Touch crammed into a screen that can only hold a 2×2 square icon panel. [Edit to add: nope, no mention of third-party iOS apps. Must ask later.]

Nice clock app…looks like it’d make a nice watch when clipped onto an armband. Albeit a watch that only runs for X hours before you need to recharge it and probably doesn’t tell you the time until you “wake” it.

Hmm. I’m really going to need to play with this. I don’t know how useful a touch interface will be on a screen this small; your finger is covering up so much of the screen. Especially when you’re doing particularly clever things like trying to “scroll” through the alphabet and find a specific album. Even Steve appears to be operating the new Nano cautiously. On the plus side, when you and I use it, the results won’t be on a huge HD auditorium screen for the world to see,

(I’m nerdly impressed that they’ve got a hack via the dock connector that has the output from this dinky little device projected right onto that huge projector in the auditorium. No, this won’t show up in the consumer device. But I love the idea of this dinky thing being used as a video source.)

Screen rotates via touch (apparently not automatically via sensors).

Comes in seven colors including Graphite and “Product RED” editions.

What’s the capacity? $149 for 8 gigs, $179 for 16 gig version.

Still has a bit of an ID crisis. Why not pay a little extra for an iPod Touch, when it does so much more? I guess for some people, the smaller size really is that important. [Edit: I forgot how much more expensive the iPod Touch is, too.]

iPod Touch. — …Steve hears my comment here in the hotel room and acknowledges that the iPod Touch is the best-selling iPod.

More rah-rah about Apple mobile gaming: “outsells Nintendo and Sony portable players, combined.” I believe that number…but at PAX Expo it seems as though everyone had Nintendo DS systems, not iPods. I need to think about that.

The new iPod Touch. It’s even thinner. Same basic lines as the older model (not squared edges like the iPhone 4).

As expected: it has the same Retina Display as the iPhone 4 (24 bit color, 326 ppi). Same A4 chip as the iPhone 4 and iPad. Also has the 3-axis gyro.

And Facetime via a front-facing camera. New rear-facing HD camera. No light on the camera (apparently). iPhone’s iMovie app works on the iPod Touch, too.

40 hours of music playback.

8 gigs for $229, 32 gigs for $299, 64 gigs for $399. OK, so there’s the difference between the Nano. I should also remember that someone who wants a consumer music player sees a MUCH bigger difference between the extra dough than someone shopping for (say) a laptop or an ebook reader might.

All iPods will ship next week. Pre-order starts today.

Ads for the new iPods. Apple spokespeople are still trapped in The Matrix, as they’ve been for the past ten years or so. Someday the company will be doing well enough to afford a background scrim or something. Like, one of them peaceful waterfall scenes you get with your school picture or at the boudoir-photography store over at the mall.

iTunes. And now, Apple releases version 10 of the iTunes app. Time for a new app icon! The kids today don’t know what a CD even is any more. Now just musical note over a blue background.

(Please, audience: you’re applauding an icon. Do let’s preserve the Dignity of the Press, wot?)

Added a new “hybrid” view in track listings: if it senses there are bunchs of tracks from an album in a row, it’ll use extra white space to show album art. Nice little flourish; seems like something that a member of the team does for fun, and then it impresses everyone else enough to make it into the actual app.

Quick peek at the iTunes Store. I wonder if they put up a special Katy Perry album art banner so that the keynote didn’t show the “bare-assed on a cloud” art that’s been plastered on iTunes’ front page all week.

New feature for social networking of music: they’re calling it “Ping.” “A social network for music.” It’s built into iTunes. Follow favorite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading.

Ping is now in the sidebar, almost like a Device. You can see what your friends are posting and discussing. The idea is that you can click in there and check out music.

Ping will create a custom Top 10 chart of the music your friends are following.

An artist page. recent posts from Lady Gaga, her favorite songs, and concerts she’s appearing in. Click a button to Follow.

Uh-oh…for the first time, the video feed is stuttering a little. screen blacks for a quarter-second three or four times in a row. Must have been the mention of Lady Gaga. Her fans are rabid. Think about what would have happened if the stream got Biebered.

You can control your Followers: let everybody follow you, let people only follow you if you approve each person. Create “circle of friends” So it seems as though they thought hard about privacy controls.

Over 17,000 concert listings. “Ping is open to over 160,000,000 iTunes users in 23 countries immediately. We’re starting with a very large base.”

(Can you buy tickets? Must check.)

Live demo of Ping. You see a Facebook-style aggregate feed of all of the people your’e following. Shows an artist who seems to have posted a bunch of tour photos. You can leave a comment.

I wonder how useful this will be. I generally don’t care what a million fans of an artist have to say. I only care about what my friends are thinking, or a handful of critics/commentators whom I like.

You have a profile page with a photo and description, with your favorite tracks and albums. Does this work with affiliate listings? Do I get a kickback if people buy tracks based on my recommendation? iTunes does have an affiliate program. Must ask.

Oh my god: the video stuttered again…and once again it only happened WHILE LADY GAGA WAS ON THE SCREEN. Fear the Gaga! Gaga “posted a backstage video” to her own Ping stream.

People can see that you’ve purchased a song. Hmm. Do I have control on a song-by-song basis? I wouldn’t want to just automatically publish my whole buying history. “I only bought that ABBA song because I wanted to make fun of it in a blog post…I swear!”

Ping also is on the iPhone. Checking activity and making posts, etc.

iTunes 10 available today. I immediately check Apple.com but they’ve still got the iTunes 9 download link up.

One More Thing…

One more Hobby, Steve says, getting applause. Yes, it’s time for AppleTV or iTV.

Introduced 2006 and not a big hit. “Users love them,” but Apple has never said how many they’ve sold.

Apple asked users what they want. They want hollywood movies and TV shows whenever they want. “They don’t want Amateur Hour.” And they want HD. And lower prices for content.

They don’t want a computer on their TV…

Did Steve just mention Lady Gaga again? Now the stream has frozen completely: static screen. Had to restart it.

Back a few minutes later.

All HD, All rentals, no purchases. No storage because you don’t store anything on the device. Rental prices are so cheap that it’s still less expensive than buying, even with multiple views.

No syncing required. Seems like he’s saying that Apple’s done a better job, solving problems by making it more like a Roku box than a “hotplate Mac.”

$4.99 first-run HD movies, rented the day and date that the DVD is released. And they get cheaper after first-run.

Renting an HD TV show is now 99 cents. And it’s commercial-free.

They’ve got ABC and Fox on board; “we think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us.”

Awesome: you can also stream Netflix. That immediately makes it relevant.

Also support for YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe, all in HD. And stream music photos and video from Mac or PC.

UI is simple, looks like the last-generation AppleTV (the “infinite corridor” of scrolling movie posters). Also includes the TomatoMeter! RottenTomatoes.com is unquestionably a powerhouse of the online film community.

What the hell? Now the theater is empty. The stream jump-cut to…what? Is it people entering, or people having left?

Refresh the stream again. Stream picks up roughly whee it dropped. Steve is now renting a movie. I’s skipping around a bit. I think it’s speeding things up to get me caught up to the “live” end of the movie. Iron Man 2, btw.

TV. Nice twist: it keeps track of your favorite shows and tells you about shows you’ve missed. So I could check and see that last week’s “Simpsons” was a new ep, not a repeat, and watch it for 99 cents.

Netflix. It seems to have the same features as what you’d see on a Roku (queue, suggestions, New Arrivals, searches, genres).

Finds your iTunes and photo libraries. I mnight have missed something: dunno if it finds it just on the local net or anywhere in the world via MobileMe. I bet it just works on your local network.

Slideshow looks a little like an Apple commercial. Yes, your kids and wife are in The Matrix again. Very pretty, though.

“Now let me show you something else that’s really cool.”

Yes, you can stream content from an iOS device to an AppleTV. Streaming “Up” from iPad to TV. Tap a button in the iOS 4.2 video player app to choose where you want to stream it to. Will stream it to the TV via WiFi.

(Makes me wonder what they did this time to “clean” the room and make sure that other WiFi signals wouldn’t screw up the demo hardware’s connection!)

(It also forces me to reflect upon the fact that if you buy a copy of “Up” from the iTunes Store, you can connect your iPad to your HDTV and watch it via a special network box and a WiFi network, but not via a $29 cable that Apple sells to connect the iPad to an external monitor. This is thanks to the DRM embedded in video purchases.)

AppleTV used to be $229 — another stumbling block to its success. New price is just $99.

Another huge step forward: $99 is the consumers’ “Sure, what the hell?” price. AppleTV available in 4 weeks.

“We started doing this music stuff for simple reason: we really love music.” Oboy! There’s going to be some live music!

“This group has had four albums so far…” OK, so it’s not Ringo and Paul. It’s U2. I mean, Coldplay.

Chris Martin, ladies and gentlemen…Chris Martin.

Is he going to play the special custom guitar with the Apple soundhole?

“I wish the rest of the band were here…but they’re too lazy,” he said, sitting at the piano.

Here the stream stops and then stops again, after a restart. I leave it alone.

The iPad Keyboard Dock works with the iPhone 3GS! (*)

Mostly.

Kinda-sorta.

The fact is, if you upgrade your iPhone 3GS to iOS 4.0 and then slap it into an iPad Keyboard Dock, the keyboard (well, I’ll be damned) actually works. You can write emails and notes with it; it works everywhere I’ve tried it.

There are just two little hitches with this:

1) The iPhone 3GS’s rounded base has a tendency to wiggle up from the dock, causing Unexpected Things to sometimes happen. Sometimes I’d experience “stuck” keys. I also suspect that another potential Unexpected Thing might be that your iPhone’s dock connector could get cracked if you keep trying to scrunch it in there.

2) This is only a practical solution to the problem someone betting you $10 that it can’t be done. The iPad Keyboard Dock isn’t even a practical travel dock for the iPad, for God’s sake. If you want to use a physical keyboard with the iPhone, just get a Bluetooth one…Bluetooth keyboards are supported “for real” right within iOS 4. Apple’s Wireless keyboard is slim, trim, affordable, and it works great. Other Bluetooth keyboards are even smaller.

Still, it’s an interesting little quirk and I suppose we can all enjoy this until Apple decides to smack it off the table.

Yes? A question at the back?

Ah. Of course. “Does this mean that you can use USB keyboards with the iPhone 3GS as well.” Obviously you’re an iPad owner and know about the trick of using the USB adapter in the iPad Camera Connection Kit with keyboards and microphones and headsets. Alas, no such luck with the iPhone 3GS. You get the dreaded “Who the hell told you that it was OK to plug this, of all things, into the iPhone?” message from the OS and that’s the end of the adventure.

Speaking of adventure, wish me well on yet another week in which I need to bash the hell out of an OS and a piece of hardware and write another Old Testament-style review. This must be the fifth or sixth of the past couple of months. I’m definitely lining up the rest of my summer so that I only have to review things like Windows task managers and novelty USB key drives.

 

Apple WWDC 2010 Keynote Liveblog

11:37:08 AM
Number 8: iAds.

“We’re doing it to help our developers to make money so they continue to make affordable and free apps.”

(Interesting: positioning it as both a dev bonus and a user bonus. Smart.)

He pitches it to devs as a way to keep the user inside your app instead of “hijacking [user] out of your app.”

(Lists the high-end brands that are advertising in iAds. No ads for shady home-refinancers or “we pay pennies on the dollar for the scrap-metal value of your heirloom gold antiques”tfits. Let’s see what the experience is like in practice. I’m annoyed AS HELL by these sort of fleecey ads on TV. These ads on my iPhone would actually hurt my iPhone/iPad experience.)

Demo: iAd for Nissan Leaf. Very slick, very entertaining. But again I ask: how soon until cartoon leprechauns are farting clouds of dollar signs to get me to sign up for a payday loan at 500% interest?

Brands have bought 60M in iAds for second half of this year.

(Journo to my left shows me a news item: AT&T has already issued a press release to say that Steve’s Internet problems during the keynote weren’t their fault.)

One More Thing…

“Are your WiFI Devices off? I really want them off.”

Stage lights up with spots that ring the entire front of the stage.

“I’d like to call Jony Ive right now…”

“FaceTime,” says the iPhone. Yes, it’s video chat on the iPhone. He seemed to have just placed a call.”

Video freezes for a half a second. Jobs chides audience for not leaving the WiFi devices off.

But it seems to work great. Looks like it’s reduced framerate — maybe 12 FPS? but very clean and clear.

“We call this ‘FaceTime Video calling’.”

iPhone 4 to iPhone 4, anywhere there’s WiFi, no extra charges or setup. Just dial and it works.

(So it doesn’t work via 3G?)

Workd with front or rear camera, portrait and landscape.

“WiFi only in 2010, “we need to work with providers to make it happen over 3G”

Will ship “10’s of millions of FaceTime devices in 2010.”

(Inteersting: “Facetime Devices”? There’s more coming?)

11:18:48 AM
“This month we will sell our 100 millionth iOS device…there is DEFINITELY A MARKET for your applications.”

iOS was #6.

Number 7: iBooks.

“We’re bringing it to the iPhone with iOS 4.” Says it’s the same features, same bookshelf, same PDF support, everything. You can get a PDF in a mail message and it goes into iBooks on the bookshelf; “you can have it, store it, flip through it whenever you like.”

“We’ll have iBooks on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. What can we do with all of these products together? [These are are wireless devices]”

1) Purchase and download a book.

2) Download the same book to all of your devices at no extra charge. iBooks will automatically and wirelessly sync your current place, bookmarks, and notes across all of your devices.

11:15:00 AM
“You’ll be able to buy this [iMovie 4] for $4.99…if we approve it,” Steve says, getting a laugh.

“Our guys have been running around like crazy. We’ve there are 500 WiFi base stations operating in this room. We have two choices. I have more demos to show you. We either turn them off, or I show you the demos. WHich do you want?”

(Applause)

“Please turn off all of your MiFis, turn off your aptops, put them on the floor.”

Wow! Only Steve could make this happen.

Renaming iPhone OS 4 to iOS 4.

“And we’re going to give it some metal,” and the logo transitions to chrome.

1500 new developer APIs.

(I’ve turned off my MiFi and turned off the WiFi radio on my MacBook. Only because I don’t want to be Shamed…plus my battery is now at 35% and I think there’s another half an hour to go.)

100 new user features.

“Software running in the background, that sort of exhausts the battery qwuickly” — Larry Page, May 18.

Added folders, “a whole bunch of other things” that were shown a few months ago.

Demos a few things.

Launches Pandora. Music keeps playing.

“Now I’ll launch a web browser and see if everybody really DID turn off their WiFi devices…”

Annnnd it loads in INSTANTLY. Behold the power of Jobs (and having 570 MiFis in one room (according to Steve and the guys backstage)

Swipes, and the controls for Pandora playback (a standardized audio control) appears.

Unified Inbox, with threading…tap one message and you can read the whole conversation. Lots of applause for this.

Folders. Words as we’ve seen: drag an icon onto another icon, and a new folder is created that contains those items. You can rename it, drag more in, etc. Can even drag folders into the Dock. Very slick little interface. Uses the “slide the current view up a little to reveal a bank of buttons” behavior.

“Multitasking. Folders, Retina display integration (“We’ve enhanced all of your apps for you”). Mail, enhanced camera and photos apps. Deeper enterprise support. New features everywhere.”

Enterprise — Better data protection mobile device managhement, wireless ap distribution, multiple exc accounts, ex server 2010, SSL VPN support.

Bing is now a third option for search…Googler is still the default. “Each takes a unique approach to how they find and present their results.”

“Microsoft has done a great jonb on this; it’s an HTML5 presentation.”

Golden Master Candidate of iOS 4 in developers’ hands today (cheers from crowd). “It will be out [for users] soon.”

11:03:36 AM
Ken Burns effect on photos. Music from iTunes library. Titles. Recording video straigt into the timeline or using clips from the library and timeline.

A theme that even incorporates geolocation. This really feels like a desktop app…very full featured, yet slick and simple.

Export 360p to 720p.

Shows a movie in SF created completely one phone. It really is a WOW presentation, notjh vifdeo qwuality and the quality of these edits, titles and effects. I wonder who shot that video…it seems to have neemn done by someone who really knows how to do a shoot, getting the right shots.

(Wonder if it does image stabilization, too?)

AWESOME demo.

10:58:26 AM
(I’m very excited to see how developers exploit it. It seems like it really proves itself in the app.)

This iPhone has sensors out the wazoo…light sensor, proximity sensor, compass, accelerometer, 3-axis gyro.

Fourth thing: “A whole new camera system.”

“We tend to ask the question ‘How do we make better pictures?'” rather than megapixels. “Its about capturing photons and low-light photography.”

Gone from 3-megapixel to 5 mega.

Added a backside-illuminated sensor (“which is used in many cameras”). “We’ve gone to 5 mp but stayed with 1.75 micron pixels; we haven’t made them smaller.”

Shows off some pictures taken right from iPhone 4 — they all look incredible on this big screen. Possibly a kick-ass feature; I’ve tried two 8 MP phones and none of them took great photos.

Camera also records HD video. 720p at 30 FPS.

5x digital zoom in app, and LED flash. Tap-to-focus now works in video, too. LED flash will illuminate video.

(If these specs hold up in testing, this is going to be one of the best capture phone out there.)

iMovie for iPhone! Applause!

Randy Ubillos, chief architect video appliocations comes up to demo.

10:52:38 AM
“We think it’s maybe the most important single component of the hardware…it’s the best window on the planet.”

Third up: the iPhone 4 is powered by the A4 chip. Same chip as in the iPad.

Take the back off. “First thing you notice is that the iPhone 4 is packed to the gills. “Biggest single component is the battery. We were able to make it a little bigger.”

“We were able to imprive the battery management. 7 hours of 3G talk, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 WiFi, 10 hours of videio, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby.”

“Arsenic free, BFR-free, mercury-free, and glass and stainless steel are very recyclable.”

Up to 32 GB of storage, Quad band HSDPA/HSUPA, 7.2 mb down, 5.8 up (“Not everyone supports it now”) Dual-mic noise suppression.

Fourth up: “We’re adding a gyroscope.” (Cheers!)

A three-axis gyrop, pirch roll and yaw, rotation about gravity, Gyro and accelerometer prives 6-axis motion sensing.

New CoreMotion APIs to get precise positioning info.

“It’s perfect fot gaming; one becaue you know it’s built into every iPhone 4.”

“And because this demo does not require the network…I should be OK.”

Demos a Jenga game. Stage rotates in three dimensions. WIth accelerometer. Switches on hyro. and suddenly becomes way more precise as he rotates in place. Gets absorbed in game.

10:46:23 AM
“Scott, you got any suggestions?”

“Switch to Verion!” someons shouts. “Oh, no, you DI-INT!” laughs audience.

“Actually, I’m on WiFi.”

He moves on. Good.

800:1 contrast ratio — 4x better.

Retina Display has 78% of the pixels of an iPad. (Good, but is that just “iPhone screen, higher def” or “more screen real estate”?

iPhone audomatically renders all text and controls at higher rez; developers get that for free.

“But if you do a little more work, and add higher-rez artwork, apps are stunning. So we suggest that you do that.”

10:43:23 AM
Second thing: “Retina Display.”

Four times as many pixels in the same amount of space. Uses fonts as an example of the advantage of this.

(OK, but is “Retina Display” your way of saying “the iPhone 4 has a higher-definition display than the old one”? I was braced for “The front camera does eye tracking.

Display has 326 pixes per inch. WHooooaaaahhhs from audience and applause. (Wow, that’s higher than the original LaserWriter printer…the one that invented desktop publighing.

“This is at the human limit of the eye’s ability to differentiate pixels. 300 is the limit. We’re over it. It’s extraordinary.”

Puts side by side examples of the difference in resolution, which frankly doesn’t really come across.

Makes the point that it’s particularly a big win with Kanji and other picto languages.

Photo side by sides: colors look way more natural on the iPhone 4.

“I have an iPhone 3GS which has a widely-praised display, and an iPhone 4.”

Hmm! Yes, I do see the difference. “We had to get special projectors because the ordinary kinds can’t show you the difference with the pixel display.”

This is nice; not just sharper (I think) but also more subtle color and shading, which really comes across in Springboard. But remember I’m just looking at a projector.

Embarrassing: he loads up NYTimes website, and it’s SLOOWWW loading in.

Says “You could help us out if you turned off your WiFi” (like the Google guys) but I _think_ he was kidding.

Announces that he’s going to switch to a backup.

Embarrassing! 4G says “Could not activate…you are not subscribed to a data network”

“I’m afraid that I have a problem and I can’t show you very much here today.”

Wow, this is unprecedented, practically. Jobs is now showing photos as people kill themselves backstage using awesome Jonny Ive-designed sepuuku knives.

10:36:14 AM
24% thinner than iPhone 3GS. “Thinnest smartphone on the planet.”

Buttons: bol up, vol down, and mute.

Yes, a front-facing camera.

Micro SIM tray (light boos)

Camera and an LED flash.

Bottom: Mic, 30-pin connector and speaker.

Top: Headset, a second mic for noise cancellation and a sleep-wake button.

“Because there’s been a few phoeot around, people have asked “What’s this?””

Points to “lines” at bottom, says “Many people jhave said “This isn’t very Apple.”

There isn’t jsut one, there’s three. The stainless-steel band is part of the structural element of the phone. Those three slits are part of the engineering that uses the band as part of the antenna.

Bluetooth, wifi GPS is the smaller band; larger part is UMTS and GSM. “This has never been done before.”

“Uses stainless steel for strength. Uses glass for optical quality and scratch resistance; integrated antennas; extraordinary build quality.”

10:33:01 AM
Back to Steve.

“We just crossed 5 billion downloads from the App Store. This is my favorite stat from the whole show.”

How much have we paid developers? Here comes an animated graphic: “A few days ago, we’ve crossed a BILLION dollars.”

(Again: carefully curating the message. “The app store is the most vibrant app community on the Internet. It’s a healthy ecosystem not just for users, but for developers.)

“And now, I’d like to talk about the iPhone.”

(Applause!)

“I’d like to give you two pieces of data so you can make upyour own mind about market share:”

Neilsen says US smartphone share of iPhojne is 28%, behind RIM, in Q1 of 2010. Says that iPhone share is 3x Android.

Mobile browser usage in US, iPhone us 58.2%, more than 2x Android at 22.7%, says Jobs quoting Nielsen.

Presents timetable:

2007: iPhone reinvents the phone.

2008: iPhone 3G and the App Store.

2009: iPhone 3GS is twice as fast.

2010 “the biggest leap since the original iPhone.”

WHOOPS and HOLLERS in audience!

Reveal: iPhone 4 (official name).

“This is really hot. There are well over 100 new features. I get to cover 8 of them.”

1) All new design.

“Stop me if you’ve already seen this…”

(applause, laughter, hoots)

“Believe me, you ain’t seen it.

“Glass on the front and the rear and stainless steel all around…its closest kin is a beautiful old Leica camera.”

10:26:32 AM
Cute: on the iPhone edition of Farmville, you can acquire Snow Leopards as farm animals. I wonder how the chickens and the pigs and hell, the farmers are going to feel about that?

“No way!” a media person behind me says, as they demonstrate how the tractor works. Um…really?

Next up: Activision. Guitar Hero! Karthik Bala, Senior VP takes the stage.

“Brand new GH experience for iPhone and iPod touch”

Interesting: GH in a vertical orientation. Tapping mechanics, but also fdelivers a richer guitar mechanics: strumming, with multitouch with stuff like bends and slides.

(Looks interesting. Wonder why they didn’t just replicate the neck. A little hard to get a sense of gameplay.)

Available now in App Store.

10:20:32 AM
Next up: Zynga. Steve starts to explain it, but then says, er, let me allow Mark Puncus, Zynga CEO to handle that. Must have been a prepared line but yeah, a tech company with a made-up name like that typically lasts about three months past its VC angel funding.

(But seriously, folks: yes, it’s the company that does online gaming communities.)

Introduces Farmville for the iPhone. Troubling to me that this got more of a response than Netflix!

10:18:36 AM
Quotes eBay CEO, says eBay app did $500M in its first year and will do 1.5 to 2 billion next year.

Brings up the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings to talk about Netflix for iPhone.

(This is how you keynote: talk about YOUR strengths, not your competitor’s weaknesses. They’re hammering the point: iPhone and iPad is where the money and the stability and the “heat” is.)

Free Netflix app for the iPhone coming this summer. (Hmm, expected some applause. Glad to see that people are a little calmer at this keynote than at others. Or maybe they’re just too busy blogging.)

Demo of Netflix app. Nice, but I wonder how much fun this will be with AT&T’s 2 gig data cap?

10:15:09 AM
Onward to App Store.

“We support two platforms,” says Steve. Starts talking about HTML 5, descrtibing it as a gfully open uncontrolled platform forged b widelu respected standards bodies.

“It’s fully open. Anybody can write HTML5 apps and put them on the iPad, the iPhone and the Mac.”

Describes the App Store as Apple’s “Curated platform.” Interesting positioning; smart move, I think.

Talks about the approvals process. Wow, no boos!

15,000 apps submitted every week, in up to 30 different languages.

“Guess what? 95% of apps are approved within 7 days. What about the 5% that aren’t?”

Lists three top reasons:

1) App doesn’t function as advertised by the developer.

2) Use of private APIs. “We’re very clear on this…because when we change the OS, the app will break and we’ll have an unhappy customer.”

3) “Because they crash.”

10:11:26 AM
“I was sitting in a cafe with my iPad and it got a girl interested in me. Now that’s what I call a magical device!” — Email to Steve. Man (or woman) probably slightly mortified.

iPad in 10 countries, will be in 19 by the end of July. Video montage of newspeople of the entire world getting all excited about the iPad. Sort of like the end of “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” when Wyld Stallyns’ music is heard by the entire world and ushers in a new era of peace and prosperity for the entire planet.

8500 native apps in iPad store. 35M downloads.

Whows off Pulse, Walla, WebMD, eBay, Iron Man, Avatar, newspapers and magazines,

“I earned more 0nsales of The ELements for iPad in the first day than from the past 4 years of Google ads on periodictable.com” — Theo Gray, Wolfram Associates. Whee! Let’s see if this turns into a Google catfight (I hope note but it’s fun to watch).

iBookstore. Downloaded 5M books, 2.5 books per iPad. 5 of 6 publishers, they report that iBooks has 22% of all eBook sales.

(Nice, but doesn’t that mean that people have new iPads and want to play with them by buying books? Let’s see how that holds up once the novelty wears off).

New iBooks feature: you can make notes. New control to add a visual bookmark. TOC lists all pages that are bookmarked and all pages that have been highlighted.

(Whoops, we’ve moved on to “new iPad features.”

Now has native viewer for PDFs in iBooks. PDFs have their own separate bookshelf. This gets applause; it’s hard to appreciate just how many people live their info lives around PDFs. Big plus.

Update up later this month.

10:02:26 AM
Cheers from the back of the room. Their giant video screen is getting different things from our giant video screen (the one on the stage.

Lights dim, and here’s The Man.

It’s hard to tell the difference between a standing ovation and just 1000 nerds trying to get their cameras above everybody else’s heads.

“We love you, Steve!” someone shouts.

“Thanks…I think.”

9:49:52 AM
Am seated in Moscone West and listening to Louis Armstrong.

Every big industry keynote makes me grateful that I’m credentialed media. Huge crowds — not lines, crowds — of people on the sidewalks around Moscone. The marshaling area on the second floor was packed with humanity and developers. I worry, before discovering that I can just motor right to the top and take a seat.

I’m a bit late — T minus 45 — so instead of taking a middle seat up front I grab an aisle in the second cluster. I’d love to sit with my pals at Macworld and Ars, but you can’t even have two people liveblogging side by side, let alone seven!

Already a small bit of tsurris. I’m seated next to the forest of video cameras. A producer failed to snag an aisle seat and she truly needs one; she needs to keep running information between her cameraperson and her journo. Well, I need elbow room. After promising me up and down that she’s barely going to be in the seat, I do the courteous thing.

Attendees are wearing athletic-style WWDC 10 letterman jackets. I think there’s a risk that this might create battlefield stress disorder reactions in other attendees. Some nerds see hordes of people in identical team jackets and have flashbacks to pantsing, wedgies, swirlies, and such. I’m bracing for shrieks and freakouts.

8:37:11 AM
One last test before I pack up the MacBook. The new MarsEdit has a little bit of a twist in it. It’s not enough to mess up my scripts but enough that I want to remind myself how everything needs to go.

Let’s also see what happens when the text hasn’t been converted to HTML by MarsEdit 3 before I trigger the script.

Push the button, Frank…

8:25:33 AM

Hello, sensation-seekers!

So let’s give this a shot: one-man liveblogs can fail unexpectedly for any number of technical reasons (up to and including “Oh, ****…I forgot to turn down the screen brightness. Steve’s only just finished talking about the new Apple Store in Kyzyl and my battery’s already at 28%.”

As I write this, I’m still in my hotel room. MarsEdit appears to be working. The liveblogging script I wrote for the Oscars seems to be working. The MiFi seems to be working, and because it has nothing to do with the AT&T network, I’m pretty sure that it’ll <em>keep</em> working.

But who knows what’ll happen at 10 AM.

Just in case this is the first and last post to the liveblog: Steve talked about stuff. He released some new stuff. Apple’s making money. Google sucks, but you had to work out that this was actually the subtext of these three specific announcements. HTML5 good, Flash bad. The engineer who lost the iPhone 4 is still working for Apple, but now has a curiously-fresh stump in place of his right thumb.

Onward.

The (Increasingly Plausible) Miraculous Engadget (and Gizmodo) iPhone 4G

Okey-doke. I wish to call your attention to my final comment on the supposed iPhone 4G that someone found in a bar in the San Francisco Bay area:

“Who the hell knows? Maybe this really is the next iPhone.”

There have been three developments since I posted that piece late Saturday night:

1) Engadget triumphantly pointed to a blurry partial shape located way off in the corner of a blurry photo of a prototype iPad they published well before the latter’s release. They offered it as conclusive proof that their supposed iPhone 4G was the real deal, and not an Asian knockoff.

I think the only thing it proves is that Engadget was starting to feel the heat and were very, very (VERY) hopeful that they hadn’t just embarrassed themselves.

2) Over on Daring Fireball, John Gruber threw his cautious support behind this prototype, saying that he made a few phone calls and implying that he was able to get information that something like this phone had recently gone rogue in some way or the other.

And this got my full attention. I don’t know Gruber to be desperate for pageviews, nor in my experience has he been the type to be so eager to be “the guy” with a certain story that he wouldn’t perform necessary diligence.

Also — and this bit will become key in a moment — he acknowledges fuzzy areas in the story and tries to fill those gaps by explaining his reasoning, and provided at least a little bit of background on how he reached those conclusions. So this Daring Fireball post carried a lot of weight with me.

Finally,

3) Today, Gizmodo posted a hands-on feature article about this same iPhone 4G.

They claim to have had it for a full week. They weren’t able to boot it past the familiar “Connect to iTunes” screen (which is what you’d see if you’d found an iPhone that had been remote-wiped). They claim that this screen, at least, shows a super-higher-res display. The list of specifications (front-facing camera and better display) is in line with what we’d expect from a new iPhone.

Then they took it apart, and confirmed that it’s filled with Apple components.

Okey-doke. Given that they didn’t say “It has the same guts as an iPhone 3GS,” we have to conclude that this is indeed a rogue Apple iPhone prototype.

Interesting. On a number of levels.

Well, you now know about as much about this device as I do. The only thing I can add to the discussion is the complicated topic of “What are a journalist’s responsibilities with a story like this?”

I didn’t even really bother to look into Engadget’s story. I spent all day Sunday at the MIT Flea Market and frankly, I had better things to do than fire off emails and make a bunch of late-night phone calls to check into a story that looked like every other vague “ZOMG!!!! TOP-SECRET HARDWARE PROTOTYPE!!!!!!!” piece I’ve ever seen.

Instead, I wrote about what I thought about the story…chiefly because the phone looked like a knockoff and the story gave me the chance to get out my own counterfeit iPhone and talk about that subject for a bit.

My final opinion was incorrect but my thinking was spot-on. There’s a difference between a counterfeit (like my fake iPhone 3G) and a mere knockoff. A knockoff isn’t sold with the intent that it’ll survive side-by-side scrutiny. It’s there to fulfill someone’s desire to have something like the real thing. It’s aimed at the classic globalization fanboy: it’s not the features that they want…it’s the logo.

And this Apple prototype does indeed look like a knockoff. Remember what I said about the “design brief” of a knockoff? Every design choice is the answer to the question “How can we redesign this to make it way, way less expensive to manufacture?” This prototype is full of flat surfaces — easy as pie to fabricate — and studded with round switches that can be installed without any custom tooling.

The innards of this prototype appear to be genuine, based on Gizmodo’s dissection. But I still have some doubts about the case. This could be just a “carrying around” design, built to give the innards shape and form for human testing. It’s possible that Apple never had any intention of using it as the design of the actual consumer product. “We just need to slap this in an iPhone-like case so that we can test the electronics” is another reason to choose an “easy and cheap to build” design.

(Admittedly, “What changes can we make to increase Apple’s profits?” is another reason for “easy and cheap to build.”)

So what would I have done if this device had fallen into my hands and I were convinced it was genuine?

Honestly, I have no idea. I have obligations to my readers. I also have obligations to the concept of fair play.

I think the driving element for my decision would have been the fact that I’ve never really been interested in breaking a news story. The payoff for the reader is minimal with a story like this. Despite getting their hands on the phone months ahead of schedule, Gizmodo’s story is merely “Apple’s new phone will have a radical redesign and its big features are a front-facing camera and a vastly-improved screen. Which we all pretty much knew anyway.

But how well does all of this work? What are the tradeoffs of these new features? Is it worth the money for the upgrade? Does it change the nature of the device?

Et cetera. That’s what drives me. “Get there first” sites like Gizmodo and Engadget are doing important work, too; I’m not denigrating what they do. It just happens to be work that doesn’t particularly interest me.

Plus, I’d be gravely concerned about how I’d come into possession of this phone. Gizmodo’s story is very, very fishy and they need to be far more open about the provenance of the device.

Right now, they’re sticking to the story that

Step One: This phone was lost in a Redwood City bar;

Step Two: (nervous cough);

Step Three: They got it last week.

They need to fill us in about Step Two. A reader isn’t going to assume that it turned up in the mail one day in a padded mailer with no return address accompanied by an unsigned note reading “Big fan of the site, thought you’d be interested in this” printed in Comic Sans.

Did Gizmodo pay somebody for this phone?

Was this phone actually found in a bar? Or was it stolen from the Apple campus?

The second-most-serious question: did somebody steal it from the Apple campus with the intent of selling it to a news site?

The single most serious question: was Gizmodo in any way responsible for the theft of an Apple prototype?

These are all reasonable questions. Gizmodo really needs to address them.

What about Engadget’s piece on Saturday? I dunno. It doesn’t seem unlikely that they got wind of Gizmodo’s Monday feature story and decided to translate the thin information they had into pageviews while their photos still had some commercial value. The fact that they had clean, clear photos also invites me to wonder if the — let’s call him “The Lucky Bar Patron Who Found The Phone” — set up a little bidding war, and the photos were merely the overture to a financial battle that Engadget ultimately lost.)

I’m a little bit immune from this sort of stuff. Like I said, I’m not in the Shocking Breaking News business. In the end, I try to do what’s best for my readers. I once asked a VP an innocent series of questions that gave me a suspicion; a single leading follow-up question inspired him to blab that his software company was about to be bought by a Well-Known Industry Titan. Have you seen a face literally go ashen before? We were on the record and we both knew instantly that he’d just ****ed himself and his company.

But it wasn’t information that was going to be useful to my readers. Moreover, the collateral damage to this man and his company would have been major, and I have a conscience. So I reproached him a little and told him that I was retroactively taking that statement off the record. Which is technically not something journalists are supposed to do, but what the hell.

(This is why there’s often a third party in the room at all times during a briefing or a Q&A. Smart agents can flash a warning to the client before they say something they shouldn’t…and if it gets out anyway, they can start doing damage control immediately.)

Beyond the idea of not wanting to harm people needlessly, there’s also the ever-present worry that I’ve just become a pawn in a complicated game of internal company politics.

Oh, yes, I have stories about that as well. During Apple’s dark ages before Steve Jobs’ return, infighting and backstabbing inside Apple had reached telenovela levels. I frequently received anonymous leaks about how a certain Apple product was way behind schedule, or how a much-touted software strategy was losing currency inside the company and was probably going to be abandoned. I’d investigate this tip independently and would sometimes discover that the source of the leak was an Apple manager who wanted another manager out of their way, or who wanted to absorb that other project’s budget and personnel.

And then there are the leaks that are so flashy that I immediately suspect a Canary Trap. If you suspect that one of your employees is a blabbermouth, you hand him exclusive and eye-catching disinformation and swear him to secrecy. You fire him the moment you Google for “Dell is getting into the cybernetic laser attack duck business” and get more than zero hits.

Canary Traps are easier to spot, though: they fall apart as soon as you perform a little diligent legwork to confirm the details on your own.

Let’s get back to my original question: what would I have done?

We’ll never know for sure. But I suspect that I would have thought very hard and then gone with my first impulse: return the phone to Apple. If it’s been stolen, then Apple is the victim of a crime and the ethical answer is to side with the victim.

(Given that this is a new smartphone and not a mechanism for electrocuting any iPhone user who attempts to jailbreak their device.)

If I was told that this phone had been found in a bar…I would have assumed that it had been stolen from Apple. Same result.

And if the “finder” wanted some sort of fee for this device, then I would have brought law enforcement into the discussion. That kind of situation is so shady that no journalist with an ounce of sense would come anywhere near it. Even if you could get past the professional ethical dilemma and your ethical dilemma as a human being…look, smart people aren’t confused about how to react when someone tries to hand them a knife wrapped in a torn and bloody UPS uniform and asks them to hide it for a couple of weeks. I don’t mind these problems that you have to discuss with your editor. But I try to avoid the sort of problems that result in a conversation with a criminal defense attorney.

So. I say once again that Gizmodo has a lot of explaining to do. Even if they’re completely innocent of any wrongdoing, they need to resolve this part of the story.

The Miraculous Mysterious Engadget iPhone 4G

Either way, this is a great story that illustrates what journalism is like here in the jetboot age. A few hours ago, Engadget posted pictures of…well, something curious. It appears to be an iPhone of a design nobody’s ever seen before.

The thready story accompanying these photos claims that it was found in a bar in San Jose inside an iPhone 3G case. Supposedly it booted up at some point in this little opera but it’s now dark.

Hmm.

Well, there are two possible explanations for why nobody’s ever seen this kind of iPhone before.

Possibility A: It’s either an engineering sample or an actual production sample of a future iPhone…possibly the model that everybody’s expecting Apple to announce this summer. Someone was lucky enough to have their hands on one and was stupid enough to lose it in a bar.

Possibility B: It’s a Chinese counterfeit. It looks enough like an iPhone to pass, but like heavily-accented English, it really looks nothing like the proper original.

I have to get behind the second theory. I can’t believe that anyone this close to the development cycle would be this careless with an unannounced iPhone. I can’t believe that Apple would even let one of these outside of the building. I could believe that someone was able to sneak a photo of such a beast and get it out of the campus. But I can’t believe that such a phone would be completely naked of any sort of paper labels or other tags to identify precisely who would need to be drawn, quartered, and forced to use a Palm Pre for the rest of their lives as punishment for such a breach. I’ve seen plenty of sample hardware months before its release and whether it was a phone, a notebook, or an ebook reader it never looks 100% like a consumer-ready product. Even if the physical design has been finalized, there’s always some sort of paper label or hard engraving somewhere to make it clear that this thing didn’t come from no Best Buy.

And does this even look like an Apple product? Every Apple mobile device — from MacBooks to iPods, with iPhones and iPads in between — belongs to the same style family. To borrow a phrase you sometimes hear from patient art dealers on “Antiques Roadshow” when presented with a $5 thrift-shop Jackson Pollock: either the artist in question used a style, an eye, and materials that he’d never used before in any of his dozens of well-documented works…or else this is a knockoff.

But the big source of my doubt comes from my trip to China last summer. I had only wanted to bring home one specific souvenir: a counterfeit iPhone. I knew that China was the cradle of brilliant forgeries and I managed to pick up something brilliant.

My Chinese iPhone knockoff is on the left. My real iPhone is on the right.

I can point out that the counterfeit is ballsy enough to reproduce the Apple logo and all of the FCC boilerplate you’d find on a real iPhone…so the similar boilerplate on the Engadget phone means nothing.

But it was the experience of shopping for this thing that makes me think this phone is a fake rather than something more exciting. It just looks very, very familiar.

I met two new friends — expats who’d been living in the city for years — who knew precisely where to go and who had the language skills necessary for the negotiations. A fifteen-minute cab ride from my hotel near the Forbidden City took us to the Ladies’ Market; a discreet sign pointed us to a door that led to a vast room that looked like a big permanent flea market.

Name a phone and you could find a counterfeit for sale there. And iPhones were everywhere. Some of them were absolutely perfect. You could even turn it on and get fairly deep into the user interface before your “iPhone” got all open-sourcey on you. It was certainly good enough to fool someone who wasn’t at all experienced with the genuine article.

Many of the phones I saw weren’t nearly as good as the one I eventually bought. It was Heavily Accented Apple. The logo was right, the buttons were right…but it was a flip phone, complete with a very cool MacBook-style illuminated Apple logo. Or the Home button was squared instead of round. Or the back was flat instead of rounded.

I didn’t see anything quite like the “iPhone” that Engadget is showing off. But it looks like the kind of thing I saw there in Beijing.

Toss a genuine iPhone onto the desk of a Chinese electronics manufacturer and say “Build me one of these.” He’ll be thoroughly unimpressed by the sexy curves and buttons. “This would be cheaper to make if it was flat,” he’d say. “And I have some stock switches that won’t require any custom case tooling.” With an eye on the bottom line, plans would move ahead to make something that’s 90% an iPhone, at just 20% of the cost.

That said…well, who the hell knows? Maybe this really is the next iPhone. But I think it’s more likely that the man who lost this “iPhone” might have been Major William Martin of the Royal Marines and not anyone associated with Apple.

A “Sneak peek into the future of the iPhone OS”?!?

Greetings from the Conference On World Affairs in Boulder, where I’ll be holed up all week.

But I wish I were free on Thursday. I just got an invite for a special event on the Apple campus on Thursday. Topic: the future of the iPhone OS. Image: the long shadow of a number “4.”

No way in hell thAt I can make it but I’ll be watching closely. We’ve all known that iPhone OS 4.0 was coming in the near future, I assumed that Apple would show it off during the Worldwide Developers Conference in the summer.

The timing here is interesting. There are two upsides to demoing 4.0 this early:

1) It can put a halo around the iPad. As far as i can tell, reviewers and the public have dinged the iPad over one serious issue: multitasking. That’s rumored to be a feature of 4.0. If Apple is in a position to commit to a date when that limitation will be eliminated, it’ll move a lot of people forward from the “maybe” pile.

(assuming that iPhone OS 4.0 implies an imminent iPad OS 4.0.)

2) Apple usually shows off new iPhones in the summer. If these phones are going to ship with 4.0, and the new os delivers a bunch of new, basic features (like, say, multitasking) then they’ll need to get the new tools in the developers’ hands ASAP. Showing their cards to consumers allows Apple to release all of 4.0’s information, tools, and training materials to the developer community and hit the ground running.

One question that’s uniquely relevant to the iPad: will an os update that adds new features to the iPad be a free download? Or will it be an App Store purchase?

[EDITED: Yes, the next os update for the ipad will be free. Thanks for the reminder, folks.]

New features for the iPod Touch typically come at a nominal price. Apple says it’s due to the sort of complicated bookkeeping that makes sense to people who are about 72% silicon; if they add value to product still in inventory, then that inventory becomes more valuable, and then Apple needs to…somethingsomethingsomething. They sidestep this issue by making the “new features” a separate product.

(Please don’t ask me why this doesn’t apply to the iPhone, which gets it’s updates for free. I’m in Boulder. It’s a mile up. There’s like nine oxygen molecules floating around and everybody has to share them.)

So IF there’s an iPad OS update, AND it adds something hugely useful like multitasking, AND it costs twenty bucks…how will folks react? Will they feel validated they they own a vibrant and flourishing platform where the hits just keep on coming? Or will they feel as though they’re being nickel and dimes just three months after making such a major purchase?

Screw it. If I can listen to Pandora while I work, I’ll be the happiest boy in all of Puppetland.

The Seven Words You Can’t Say In A Dragon iPhone App

Late yesterday, Nuance released an iPhone edition of their Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. What wonderful news! Dragon is the gold standard in text-to-speech. You say it, Dragon turns it into text.

Having it on the iPhone seems like a strong win. I’ve no complaints about the iPhone’s virtual keyboard. I can type faster on my iPhone than I can with any physical mobile keyboard. All the same, the fantasy of dictating a lengthy email to a speech-to-text utility instead of tapping the whole thing out sent me rocketing over to the App Store to download my free copy.

Minutes later, after I’d installed the app and given it a few quick sentences, I was impressed. The software only seems to have a few drawbacks:

1) It only works in short bursts of text. You can get in about two sentences before the app has to stop listening and start transmogrifying what you’ve said. But you can then go ahead and speak the next bit, and then the next bit, and so on until your entire thought has been converted from synpatic traffic to readable text.

2) Its user interface and feature set are a bit spartan. You can edit what’s been transcribed and then you can dump the text to an email, SMS, or the clipboard. But that’s about it.

3) Dragon Dictation For iPhone is not a Keebler cookie: the elfin magic is not baked right in. Instead, what you say is transmitted to Nuance’s server, converted via remote software, and then sent back down to the app. So you’ll need a WiFi or mobile internet connection.

It was a good start. But then I tried it out with something a little more ambitious. When I read it the first page of one of my favorite books I uncovered a fourth, and truly dealbreaking, drawback:

4) It censors what you’ve said.

Oops.

The harmless page in question was from “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.” Dragon calmly and nimbly transmogrified the bits about the drugs and the huge bats and the “Holy Jesus.” But the final two words of the opening graf had become “g*ddamn animals.”

Well.

Of course you know what famous piece of literature I had to try next:

iPhone Dragon seven dirty words

Friends, this screenshot represents my g*ddamned best effort to get the Dragon app to properly parse the spotlight lines from George Carlin’s “Seven Words” routine. The seven naughty words appear twice in this passage. In the final sentence, I simply read them naturally. But when I spoke them in the second sentence, I spoke with the measured tones and eloquent baritone of Frasier Crane, enunciating carefully and confidently, over and over again, one word at a time, coaxing the Dragon to do the right thing and giving the software the best chance possible. What you see there in the second sentence is the very best I could do to get Dragon Dictation to correctly transcribe some extremely naughty dictation.

I was relentless and determined. I was filthy and repetitive. It was if I had wanted to make sure that I’d never be asked to take care of a friend’s expensive pet parrot ever again.

“P***, comma.” I soothed.

“Test,” the Dragon replied.

“Puh-ISSsssss, comma.” I said.

“Test,” agreed the Dragon.

I angled my iPhone so that my “P”s and “S”s woudn’t overwhelm the microphone.

“Test,” said the Dragon, who seemed to be getting a little bit bored with all of this.

My triumph with “C*********” was entirely accidental. I had over-Frasiered the word, pronouncing it as though it was the name of a new model of Mercedes sedan and I was recording a voice-over for an ad that was going to air during the Masters tournament. Apparently, Dragon is perfectly fine with the concept of sucking (the Mets do it all the time, and most of those guys are millionaires). It’s also willing to give me the benefit of the doubt regarding a word that often describes roosters and what you must do with a revolver before you keep the little feathery bastard from ever waking you up before dawn ever again. But when you put those two words together, the Dragon collapses into the nearest fainting couch.

As for the word that refers to a lady’s…ladyparts, I repeated that one so many times that I am now confident that my home has not been bugged by any federal agency. I hope that if any member of law enforcement should ever hear a single man say that word so frequently or attentively in a single 90-second period, they won’t bother coming in through the door. Standard procedure should be to send teams crashing in straight through windows and walls.

And what the hell is the matter with those people at Dragon? They’ll censor the f-word when it appears all by itself. But when this popular verb is maternally compounded…it’s “Mother” that they have a problem with? Really? Oh, dear. Freud has just manifested himself physically. After I get done explaining to him what an iPhone is, and explained why he’s going to have to put out the cigar before he steps onto a public sidewalk, he’s going to want to have a lonnng talk with the good folks at Nuance.

I haven’t spoken to Nuance so I don’t know for a fact why Dragon Dictation is censoring the output of this app. I can take an educated guess that they did it to get the app through Apple’s iTunes Store approval process. Apple presents an image of themselves as John Lithgow in “Third Rock From The Sun,” brilliant and eccentric and fun and free. When it comes to moving apps through the approval process, they’re more like the John Lithgow who banned dancing in his community and tried to get Kevin Bacon run out of town for immoral use of a Foreigner album.

“Hypocrite!” you might shout. “You’ve censored all of these same naughty words from your own blog post!!!”

Indeed I did. I was raised in a humble Puritan fishing colony on the Massachusetts Bay and there are many words that I simply don’t like to use if I can avoid them. I’m also aware that if I use certain words here, I could seriously foxtrot uniform charlie kilo my site’s standing with various “net nanny” services.

Maybe I’m wrong to censor my stuff. But it’s my censorship of my blog post, and my decision to make. I’m perfectly entitled. But an app — even a free one — hasn’t earned that right. Less than an hour after I installed Dragon Dictation, I ship candidate.

Damn, I had the TV on while I dictated that. Let me try again:

I shipped can do it.

Damn. Okay, well, it’s no longer on my iPhone, anyway.

I’ll tell you one thing, though. Motorola is a fool if they don’t use this in an upcoming Droid ad. On the iPhone, you can’t even use the word. But a phone that runs the Android OS approves so strongly of the concept that it’ll even help you find it in the nearby vicinity.

Google Books for iPhone

Oh, well, yes, I suppose it’s also for Android phones. I’ll happily plug Google’s phone platform too. Actually, I’ll happily drive to Google’s house and clean the dead leaves out of their gutters. Google is officially The Coolest Company On The Planet.

Why? Today they’ve released Google Books for Mobile. Plug http://books.google.com/m into your mobile browser and look what happens:

 

Google Books for Mobile: Top page

Google Books for Mobile: Top page

Yes, all 1.5 million public-domain texts in the Google Books project are now available to mobile users, behind a fairly awesome, slick interface. I’m in the mood for some PG Wodehouse, I think:

 

PG Wodehouse, on a whim.

PG Wodehouse, on a whim.

And I scroll down a bit and find many titles of interest. I give one of ’em a tap, and soon I’m looking at a very credible little mobile book reader:

 

The reader. Basic, but hey, a reader ought to be clean.

The reader. Basic, but hey, a reader ought to be clean.

And the reader isn’t bare-bones. If I zoom to the top I can go to specific pages or search within the text. It doesn’t seem to “bookmark” your place automatically but you can use the browser’s built-in bookmark tool to mark that specific vague section of the book (the “hunk” that Google has just downloaded and is displaying).

Good golly. If Google is evil, then they’re a Doctor Doom sort of evil. What’s a little evil, when the totalitarian dictator takes such wonderful, indulgent care of his subjects?

Huge, hulking, armed Googlebots may suddenly appear on every street corner one morning but I’ll be inclined to think “Well, yes, that’s annoying, I won’t lie. But I do get to keep Google Books for Mobile, right?”