You just know that when Apple holds a special event, everything will be coming up roses. There’s never bad news, even when products or features vanish from the lineup.
Ahead of the new product announcements at Apple’s special event this week, among the more fascinating numbers was the one indicating that some 120 million iOS devices have been sold, with some 230,000 new activations per day. During his presentation, Steve Jobs reminded the audience that other companies deliver seemingly impressive numbers that do not only reflect new activations, but upgrades from previous products..
At the same time, despite rumors to the contrary, Apple announced the release of iOS 4.1 with the iPhone 4 proximity sensor fix, along with fixes for Bluetooth and performance issues on the iPhone 3G. The new update also adds HDR photo support, to let you take pictures with greater dynamic range, the ability to upload HD video over Wi-Fi, TV show rentals and the introduction of the promised Game Center.
The update, for the iPhone and iPod touch, will appear next week.
Apple also announced the arrival of iOS 4.2 this November, which adds the latest and greatest version 4 features for the iPad, along with wireless printing, a long-requested feature for Apple’s mobile platform. The new feature adds a standard print function in apps that require printing, such as Pages. Another new feature is AirPlay, a variation on the AirTunes feature that also supports streaming video. iOS 4.2 will also work on the iPhone and iPod touch.
But the main event was the iPod and, so far, Apple has sold 275 million of them, and this year Apple touted all-new designs for the entire lineup as sales have been on the decline. The new iPod shuffle, a tiny square device, includes buttons at long last, Playlists, Genius mixes and the existing VoiceOver capability, so the gadget reads out what it’s playing. It’s hardly larger than your thumb, comes in five colors and offers 15 hours playtime on a single charge. The price for the lone 2GB configuration is $49.
The new iPod nano is also square, as shown in some of those speculative pictures, and it’s only slightly larger than the shuffle. Now it’s virtually all screen, using a multitouch feature in place of physical buttons, except for volume. It offers 24 hours audio playback per charge. The FM radio and Nike+ features from the previous version are retained, but it appears the camcorder feature is history. It sells for $149 for the 8GB version and $179 for the 16GB version.
In the past year, according to Jobs, the iPod touch has not only become the most popular model in the lineup, it has also become the number one portable game player on the planet. It outsells Nintendo and Sony combined, says Apple, and has a 50% global market share.
Unlike the new iPhone, the touch sports a curved rather than squared case. It adds the same Retina Display used on the iPhone 4, Apple’s A4 chip, 3-axis Gyro, and front and rear cameras. The front camera supports FaceTime, whereas the rear supports HD movie recording rather than just taking snapshots. Battery life is estimated at 40 hours, and the prices remain at $229 for the 8GB version, $299 for 32GB, and $399 64GB of storage.
The new iPods will be shipping next week.
Oh and one less thing: Steve Jobs said absolutely nothing about the legacy iPod classic, although it’s still listed at Apple’s site, at least for the time being.
In announcing the arrival of iTunes 10, Jobs introduced a new logo that ditches the CD, to observe the fact that digital music downloads will exceed the sale of CDs come next year. The key new feature is Ping, described as a music-based social network that lets you follow your favorite artists and participate in discussions with your online friends, following them in much the same way you follow people with Twitter. The Ping feature is also becoming available on the iPhone and iPod touch.
In his one more thing announcement, Steve amended it to be “One more hobby,” Apple TV’s successor. Introduced in September 2006, this attempt to bring the Apple experience to the living room has never been a huge hit, nor has any competitive product. Jobs said users love them, however. Existing customers reportedly have told Apple they want movies and TV shows, especially in HD, and they want to pay lower prices for content. They also don’t want a computer on their TV; they go to their widescreen TVs for entertainment. They also don’t want to manage storage of their stuff, nor be confronted with the task of syncing on their computer, because it’s too complicated for the average user.
Unlike all the speculation that it would look like an iPhone and would be renamed iTV, it’s still Apple TV, essentially a miniaturized version of the original at one quarter scale. It has a built-in power supply, with an HDMI connector, an Ethernet port, optical audio port and also sports 802.11n Wi-Fi. A slim aluminum remote comes with the new gadget, which will be available in four weeks for $99.
As far as content is concerned, the new Apple TV offers rentals, not purchases. All movies and TV shows will be stored in the cloud, although content can also br streamed from your computer. First-run HD movies rent for $4.99, the same day they come out on DVD and Blu-ray. To rent HD TV shows, it’ll cost you 99 cents, as predicted. ABC and Fox are first to leave the starting gate. Other networks will probably be forced to join up later on. There will also be support for Netflix streaming videos as part of the package.
All and all, Apple’s announcements appear to be a huge plus for the holiday season. Left unsaid is when a new version of the iLife suite might appear, and whether Apple will ever upgrade the aging MacBook Air.
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