Apple's legacy device support

Two of the most read posts on this site were, "Why is my 2012 iPad mini so slow running iOS 8?" and another one on my iOS 8 upgrade woes. This was no coincidence as Apple has been kind of callous the last few years on supporting even a couple of year old hardware. While I am someone who is always on the latest and the greatest iPhone and have not faced this issue on my iPhone much, my iPad mini on the other hand has not been that lucky and I have heard from a boat load of my friends and relatives how widespread this problem is with iOS. Any new major update to iOS was to be installed with extreme caution as it almost made some of the older devices almost unusably sluggish. This has created a really bad reputation for Apple which likes to have all its users on the latest version of its operating systems and hence making them totally free of cost. 

While iOS 8's adoption rate is eons better than Android, it still lags behind iOS 7's adoption rate (Source: Apple.com)

While iOS 8's adoption rate is eons better than Android, it still lags behind iOS 7's adoption rate (Source: Apple.com)

Apple, yesterday at its WWDC keynote as usual touted some impressive numbers of adoption of its newest iOS, iOS 8 and compared it to Android, but while that is true, it is not the complete picture. iOS 8, while sitting impressively with 83% adoption rate in less than a year, still is lagging behind iOS 7. For reference iOS 7 reached 60% in a week, while it reached 90% in around 10 months (via BGR). iOS 8 on the other hand took almost three months to reach 60% adoption rate and after almost 10 months is still only at 83%. Also more than these numbers, Apple's iOS upgrades are at alarmingly low lever of public approval as all I can hear from non-techie people around me are how you should stay away from iOS upgrades. This is terrible PR for Apple. 

So when I first heard from (of course) Mark Gurman from 9to5mac on how iOS 9 will actually make legacy (but still officially supported) iOS devices much faster, than they run now on iOS 8 it was welcome news indeed. Now BGR confirms the same. Also as John Gruber mentioned on a recent talk show episode, this might also signal a wider change in Apple's policy of supporting older hardware as Steve Jobs' Apple was notoriously known for abandoning legacy hardware that it deemed to old to be impressive. Current Apple at its scale (almost 1 billion iOS devices sold so far - via AppleInsider) cannot afford to abandon its customers with two or three or four year old hardware and it certainly seems to be learning this lesson. 

Apple made sure that iOS 9 will be able to run on all the devices that currently support iOS 8... That means that iPhones as old as the iPhone 4S and iPads as old as the iPad 2 will be able to run iOS 9. iOS 9 should not only be faster and more responsive than iOS 8, but also take up a lot less storage space, meaning that upgrades should be even smoother for older devices.
— BGR

iOS 9 and the iPad

It is no secret that the iPad, though still the best tablet that money can buy, has been going through a rough patch as far as its sales are concerned. A lot has been said about what Apple has to do and what Apple is been planning to do to address this issue. I have blogged about it in the past and have always claimed that software, as in iOS 9 has a major part in making the iPad more than just a bigger iPhone. Today at WWDC, Apple announced some iOS 9 features specifically targeted at the iPad, to make it more productive.

iOS 9 for the iPad has an improve keyboard and a pseudo mouse mode (invoked by double tapping the keyboard) in it (Source: Apple.com)

iOS 9 for the iPad has an improve keyboard and a pseudo mouse mode (invoked by double tapping the keyboard) in it (Source: Apple.com)

Amongst these were an improved keyboard with more shortcuts like cut, copy and paste right on the keyboard, a powerful split view (similar to the one on Mac OS X El Capitan) mode and a picture in picture mode for watching videos while doing something else on the iPad (yeah it is the same feature that you have seen and fallen in love with on the Samsung Ads!). None of these alone are going to dramatically improves iPad sales numbers overnight, but all of them together and some improved hardware that is rumored to arrive very soon, might push the iPad in the right direction. 

iOS for iPad has a new multitasking mode where two Apps can work simultaneously side by side from 50-50 to 70-30 layouts (Source: Apple.com)

iOS for iPad has a new multitasking mode where two Apps can work simultaneously side by side from 50-50 to 70-30 layouts (Source: Apple.com)

Along with the keyboard improvement one interesting feature I want to try out to see its usefulness, is when you tap on the iPad keyboard with two fingers and move around, it acts like a mouse. It seems really interesting and Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, seemed to find it really easy to use during the demo. If this works well, this is the first time ever we could use a mouse with the iPad and it might be really useful for people using iPad for some serious work. The split view works similar to how it works on the Android tablets, but looks more similar to Microsoft's Metro multitasking mode (this is the second time Windows has showed up already in today's WWDC, hmmm).  

Apple's take on picture-in-picture on iOS 9 for iPad (Source: Apple.com)

Apple's take on picture-in-picture on iOS 9 for iPad (Source: Apple.com)

Apple's Flipboard take

How many of us remember the Newsstand App that Apple introduced a few years back? Not a lot of us I am sure and justifiably so, it was half-baked App that never felt right. Also as someone who keeps myself abreast of all Apple news (and news in general), I have almost fifty sources in my RSS reader (Feedly) and I use Pocket to read the articles I save for later. But both of these, while perfectly work the way promised, don't deliver the one stop Applesque solution to my news reading habits. You might wonder why I haven't mentioned Flipboard yet. That is because Flipboard is an App that I would love to use but have always found it hard to manage it both as a RSS feed manager and as just an article reader. The App is gorgeous (almost as if Apple designed it!) but not complete for my needs. So today I was excited when Apple announced its take on News or its Newsstand (hopefully) done right, called "News".

Apple's new news App called "News" (Source: Apple.com)

Apple's new news App called "News" (Source: Apple.com)

The App looks and feels almost exactly like Flipboard and has some apparently intelligent way of aggregating news articles tuned to the readers' news habits. It will be available along with iOS 9 release and content providers can work with Apple to add their news sites to the lineup. 

Apple's new news App called "News" looks very similar to Flipboard (Source: Apple.com)

Apple's new news App called "News" looks very similar to Flipboard (Source: Apple.com)

Mac OS X El Capitan!

Apple today at its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) announced a slew of updates to all three of its major operating systems, starting with its Mac OS X. Mark Gurman in John Gruber's last episode of the Talk Show predicted with awesome accuracy that Apple might call its next Mac OS X OS, the El Cap as it is expected to be a moderate update to the previous huge revision, Mac OS X Yosemite (El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in the Yosemite national park - Wikipedia) and his prediction turned out to be 100% accurate (like most of his recent predictions/scoops). Apple's new Mac OS X version will be free and be available in the Fall and will be called Mac OS X El Capitan. 

Apple posted a webpage for its new OS, here and has highlighted some of its most important features. From improved Mission Control to more powerful Spotlight and some nifty feature additions to Safari, there are some nice improvements to look for in this version of OS X. For a more comprehensive list of features that Apple did not showcase in today's Keynote, head over to 9to5mac.com

But I was mostly curious about two features, one called the Split View to easily affix open windows to either half of your computer screen, to work with two windows simultaneously. This is definitely not something new and Windows has had this feature of cascading open windows automatically to fixed layout locations on the desktop, since a long time ago, I think from Windows 7 onwards. And this feature on Windows has been polished even further with its Windows 8 as well. Having to work with a Windows laptop for my day Job, I have a lot of experience with Windows and though most of the times, I hate using my Dell laptop with Windows on it, of the very few occasions I wish that my Mac had a Windows feature, this split screen mode was one. It is indeed very useful for a lot of scenarios mainly working with multiple monitors at the same time. So I am glad that Apple decided to borrow this one from Windows, though it is long overdue. 

The new Split View feature on Mac OS X El Capitan (Source: Apple.com)

The new Split View feature on Mac OS X El Capitan (Source: Apple.com)

The second nifty little Safari add on is a volume mute button specifically for Safari tabs. A volume symbol on the Safari address bar shows which of the active tabs are the source of the sound and allows you to mute any one or more importantly all of them. This is one of those occasions where as a user, you feel that Apple just read your mind and fixed an annoyance that was so bothersome to you. It also kind of reassures you that you are not alone with this problem as for Apple to fix it, it must be quite widespread. Another awesome add on and to my knowledge, the first of its kind to be natively built into a web browser. 

A nifty little Safari add on to mute tabs on Mac OS X El Capitan (Source: Apple.com)

A nifty little Safari add on to mute tabs on Mac OS X El Capitan (Source: Apple.com)


Blog Update

For anyone who has been wondering why I have been missing from action here at thefrustum.com, it was because, we had our first baby three months back and he has been keeping us really busy the last few months. But now that we have settled in to a reasonable rhythm, I am good to get back to blogging. So thanks for waiting all this while and I will kickstart posting on this blog very soon, starting with the Apple's WWDC 2015 keynote news. 

Where is the smartphone heading towards?

When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Steve Jobs clearly outlines the issues with the then smartphones, like the so called internet, wasted space for physical keyboards, etc. But as I was reading this article from MacWorld, I was wondering what would have Steve Jobs done if he saw the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus today and what would he change in it (assuming he never created the iPhone) to make a better smartphone? I have no clue, not even a hint.. 

The iPhone has homogenized the lineup to the point where the denominators are so common, you practically have to study the tech specs to find a difference: a few more megahertz here, an extra megapixel there. The smartphone war has become a battle of inches and millimeters, and while there are plenty of choices, when you pit the Galaxy S6 against the HTC One M9, or the iPhone 6 Plus against the Galaxy Note 4, the differences between them are getting a lot less obvious.
— MacWorld
Probably the most cliched/used picture in the modern smartphone era...

Probably the most cliched/used picture in the modern smartphone era...

I totally agree with the premise of this story and this feeling is not something new or recent. I think this trend started as early as a few years ago, when no major innovations were taking place in the smartphones. Yes there are features like Touch ID and Apple Pay, but they are more extensions than redesigns. But what would you change in the iPhone 6 other than making it much faster, have more RAM, better battery life, etc? I for one cannot think of anything from the top of my mind. Computers faced a similar fate, the modern laptops haven't changed in almost a decade. Look at the Apple PowerBook G4 that was released in 2001 and now look at the 2015 MacBook Pro, that are 14 years apart. Yes the current model is thinner, more shinier, more faster, made of aluminum, but it has a clear close resemblance to the 2001 one and one can strongly argue that the basic form factor of a laptop has not changed. These two laptops don't differ as much as the first generation iPhone differed from say a Blackberry smartphone in 2007. Hence in summary I think we are going to be stuck with these "iPhone like smartphones" for a while and that might not be such a bad idea!

Apple PowerBook G4 released in 2001 (Source: Apple.com)

Apple PowerBook G4 released in 2001 (Source: Apple.com)

Apple MacBook Pro 15", 2015 model (Source: Apple.com)

Apple MacBook Pro 15", 2015 model (Source: Apple.com)

Google's Apple business

Its no secret that Google makes a lot of money from Apple (in 2012 Google was making four or five times money from iOS than Android). But how much exactly are we talking about here? Google apparently makes almost 10% of its revenue from Apple, in fact just from iOS according to  UBS (via AppleInsider)! Its just a staggering number that goes to show how dependent Google is on Apple and I am not so sure if the vice versa is so true. 

Agreed that Gmail is one of the best email services out there and Google search has unprecedented popularity on the Internet, but both Apple and its customers seem to care more and more with every passing day about privacy and security of their information. And how much ever Google tries to defend itself, its business model (at least as of today) needs it to look into consumers data (which the consumers want to keep private most of the times). So Google and Apple customers are drifting farther apart in philosophy constantly. It is only a matter of time that something gives way here. One such thing could be the non-renewal of the Google Search in iOS, deal by Apple, that could cost Google a significant amount of revenue (in billions) on a yearly basis. The article notes the possible alternatives as Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuck Go, but will any of them qualify as a worthy replacement to Google to be the default Search on iOS? 

An existing search deal is due to expire this year, and Google investors are reportedly worried that Apple will reject a new one. In a research note to investors obtained by AppleInsider, UBS estimates that Google will generate $7.8 billion in revenue from its iOS deal this year, or about 10 percent of gross revenue... Assuming a 50 percent “switchback” rate, that would roughly halve the impact on gross revenue, and reduce the net revenue hit to 3 percent, in part because Google would no longer be paying Apple a lump sum.
— UBS via AppleInsider

Apple Watch's Sales Predictions

With March 9th, when Apple is supposed to announcing the Apple Watch for the second time with final set of features and complete details about pricing, coming closer and even with Apple's CEO Tim Cook going on a rampage of sorts promoting the Apple Watch all over the world (via 9to5mac), one thing no one seems to be able to predict is how popular Apple's newest gadget will turn out to be! 

When we asked analysts last September to estimate how many Apple Watches the company would sell in calendar 2015, the average was 22.6 million... We surveyed our analysts again today, seven days before Apple’s Spring Forward event, and got nearly the same average — 22.47 million.
— Fortune

This scenario reminds me very much of the the days prior to the original iPhone's launch in 2007; yes there was this great new gadget from Apple that looked cool and seemed to work flawlessly, but why does anyone need it? The same thing pretty much happened around to the iPad launch as well (remember the "its just a bigger iPhone" thing). Hence it looks like the Apple Watch is following suit in the right direction of its predecessors in ensuring to be a hit! 

We didn’t ask for an average selling price, but among those who offered one, the mean ASP was $416.
— Fortune

But an ASP or $416 for a premium smartwatch that starts at $349 does sound terribly shortsighted, but knowing most of these analysts, they seem to have no clue when it comes to predicting Apple or AAPL anyways, so were we actually expecting any better from them? 

Vesper for iPad

Vesper is a popular, simple but effective note taking App for the iPhone created by John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame and his buddies. Recently they introduced Vesper for the iPad and in almost first of its kind move, they raised the price of their universal App, to $9.99 from less than $5 before. This is really against all tide of the race to the bottom approach that has plagued the App store for a while now and that has been heavily criticized by one and all. 

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.
— John Gruber
Vesper for iOS

Vesper for iOS

Vesper for iOS

Vesper for iOS

Though the motive of this move is obviously not all altruistic from the creators, as Jason Snell put it in SixColors, the creators hope to start a more healthier trend starting with their App where users start paying what the creators think their App is worth or against the race to bottom and/or in-App purchase plague that is casting a dark spell on the App store. I think there is a lot of heartfelt truth and honesty to their approach and we all can only hope that more developers choose their way over the other way! 

The basic problem is that casual App Store users go for free apps first, and go for chart-toppers after that. And the only way to top the best-selling charts is with super-low prices. And the super-low prices don’t generate enough revenue to cover the cost of developing the app... Instead, we want to embrace the users who are looking for the best app, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it if they think Vesper might be it. Going low didn’t work; we lose nothing by trying to go high.
— John Gruber via SixColors


iOS v/s Android

There is nothing more obvious than the fact that iOS and Android are competitors and are pretty much the only ones in the smartphone market as it stands today. Though iOS had a few years of head start to Android, Android soon caught up to iOS and eventually beat it in the market share by a huge margin, globally. Most recent data (via BusinessInsider) suggests that the trend that has been valid in terms of market share when it comes to smartphones has not changed much in the last couple of years. That is Android has close to 75 to 80% while iOS has close to 18 to 20% of the global smartphone market. 

iOS v/s Android smartphone market share as of Feb 2015 (source: BusinessInsider)

iOS v/s Android smartphone market share as of Feb 2015 (source: BusinessInsider)

Everyone in the Apple blogosphere (including me) has always argued that the market share alone is not the complete story and it is only wise to compare the profit share as well in the smartphone market as Apple doesn't typically play in all the smartphone markets that Google does. In terms of profit share, Apple has trounced Google (by a bigger margin than Google has trounced Apple in marketshare) for quite a while now. The recent data (via AppleInsider) on the profit share of iOS v/s Android in the smartphone market suggests the same trend holds true. Apple makes almost 9 times more money that Google from its mobile devices. 

iOS v/s Android smartphone profit share as of Feb 2015 (via AppleInsider)

iOS v/s Android smartphone profit share as of Feb 2015 (via AppleInsider)

But just like how, concluding that Google is winning the smartphone race based on the market share data, is absurd, it is equally absurd to conclude that Apple is winning this race based on the profit share data. The missing parameter in this context is the objective of each of the two companies for their mobile operating systems. Apple's is a product company and its objective is to make the best products (according to it) and the boat load of profits it makes is just a by product or a confirmation that its doing its job. Google's objective with Android is to be omnipresent or be installed in the most number of devices as possible across the globe, to increase is install base for its ads and other related businesses. So based on these, shouldn't we conclude that both companies have succeeded in their respective missions? I think so and this statement is true at least as of today. But the biggest loser in this race is and has always been Microsoft. It doesn't even feature in some of the tables and plots above with a non-zero value! 

But just like how, concluding that Google is winning the smartphone race based on the market share data, is absurd, it is equally absurd to conclude that Apple is winning this race based on the profit share data.

Note: It might be wise to look at micro markets for a more apt comparison of these two mobile strategies. Like how Apple is gaining and maintaining a strong foothold with its iOS devices in the Enterprise market (via VentrueBeat) or how Google is paving itself a nice niche over taking Apple in the educational market (via BusinessInsider) with its Chrome books (I still think Chrome OS is the future of Android by the way).

Apple still rules the mobile enterprise space and is extending its lead. iOS gained another 4 percentage points, growing to 73 percent of global device activations in Q4 2014. Android device activations, meanwhile, dropped the same amount to 25 percent of total activations last quarter.
— via VentureBeat