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Category: iOS

CES 2012: Ford's Sync AppLink adds NPR, Slacker Radio to lineup [Video]

As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system -- which does just that and launched about a year ago.

Ford Sync Destinations

When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.

Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.

To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.

Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.

Just as with GM's in-car-app systems -- Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE -- AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.

For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford

Apple iOS 5.1 beta code hints at quad-core iPad, iPhone

Apple iPad displays an ebook.

Rumors of a new quad-core "A6" processor for Apple's next iPad and iPhone have been circulating for months, and on Friday a bit of information came to light that will fuel the speculation.

The code for Apple's iOS 5.1 beta operating system, which developers can access for testing before the software is released to the public, hints at compatibility with quad-core CPUs, according to a report on the website 9to5Mac.

The report -- by Mark Gurman, who has also delved into a bit of iOS app development -- says iOS 5.1 beta describes three different processor variations, making reference to "/cores/core.3," as well as "/cores/core.0," which identifies a single-core CPU, and "/cores/core.1," which identifies a dual-core processor.

Based on Apple's naming convention so far, Gurman says, ".cores/core.3" would refer to a quad-core chip. The speculation is that such a quad-core processor would be called the A6 and be used in the expected iPad 3, following Apple's dual-core A5 (used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) and single-core A4 (used in the first-generation iPad and the iPhone 4).

"Apple leaving references to quad-core chips in the iOS 5.1 beta is notable because iOS 5.1 is the software currently being tested against the third-generation iPad," Gurman wrote. "We cannot conclude that due to iOS 5.1 including quad-core processor references, Apple's next-generation iPad and iPhone will include a quad-core chip, but it seems reasonable based on Apple starting with a single-core chip in 2010 and moving to dual-core in 2011. A quad-core chip in 2012 would fit the pattern."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Reading on a first-generation Apple iPad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

iPhone 4S goes to China; Siri to start speaking Chinese in 2012

A Beijing couple check out an iPhone.

Siri, how do you say profit in Chinese?

One answer Apple's digital assistant might consider giving is: start selling the iPhone 4S in China. And starting on Jan. 13th, Apple will do just that.

The company said Wednesday that China will be among 22 countries that soon will get the newest iPhone, one of Apple's hottest-selling yet.  The iPhone now accounts for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, and some analysts believe it earns the company more than 60% of its profits.

China is one of the world's largest mobile device markets, with close to a billion cellphone users by some estimates. Apple currently partners with China Unicom, one of the larger carriers with close to 200 million cellular subscribers.

Apple said Wednesday it had no current plans to announce a partnership with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with more than 630 million subscribers (a user base that, somewhat amazingly, is more than twice the size of the U.S. population).  But for months now Apple has been rumored to be nailing down a deal with China Mobile, and millions of the carriers' customers are already using the iPhone by modifying the device to work on their network.

Will Siri actually be able to speak and understand Mandarin?  Eventually, yes.  An Apple spokesman said the company plans to add official language support in 2012 — and that will include Chinese.  But Siri won't yet be multilingual when the phone hits Chinese stores this month.

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— David Sarno

Photo: A couple look at an iPhone in Beijing in November.  Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA

Obama 2012 campaign joins Instagram on eve of Iowa caucuses

Barack Obama's first photo on Instagram

As Republicans focused on the Iowa caucuses and President Barack Obama made a pitch to Iowans of his own over streaming video on Tuesday, the Obama 2012 reelection campaign took its message to Instagram.

The president's campaign staff, which is also looking to reach voters on Tumblr and Google+ (along with a few Republican rivals), has posted two photos thus far, both of the president speaking with Iowa's caucus voters via video chat, making his case for another term in the White House.

Although Instagram — a photo-sharing app known for retro filters that allows people to share photos with one another from their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads — is new territory for Obama, the move by his 2012 campaign shouldn't come as a surprise.

In the 2008 election, Obama's team was so well known for its use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging to help build up an overwhelming amount of support that the Technology blog described Obama as "the first social media President." And over the last four years, the White House has made great use of the photo-sharing site Flickr.

Instagram, which has seen its more than 5-million users share more than 150-million photos, said in a company blog post that it is "excited to welcome President Barack Obama to Instagram" and that it looks "forward to seeing how President Obama uses Instagram to give folks a visual sense of what happens in the everyday life of the President of the United States."

The Obama 2012 campaign is also looking for supporters to share their photos with the @BarackObama Instagram account by tagging their photos with "#obama2012," Instagram said.

The company also made sure to point out that political coverage on Instagram has been on the rise over the last year as the 2012 presidential election gets closer.

"News organizations such as NBC News, ABC World News and the Washington Post have been sharing behind-the-scenes photos at debates and town hall meetings across the country, offering a unique look into the 2012 elections," Instagram said.

Among the most interesting photos shared so far by news organizations covering the election on Instagram would have to be Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker's shot of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney typing on his Apple iPad in an airport.

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— Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of President Barack Obama's first Instagram photo. Credit: Obama 2012 / Instagram

Apple design master Jonathan Ive awarded British knighthood

IveThat's Sir Jony Ive to you.

As of the new year Apple's head of design, Jonathan Ive, will be a knight of the British Empire. The London-born engineer has been the lead designer at Apple for more than 15 years and grew to become the "spiritual partner" of the company late co-founder Steve Jobs, according to Jobs himself.

The two collaborated on creating the look and feel of Apple's many successful consumer electronics products.

Reached by the BBC about the honor, Ive reportedly said it was "absolutely thrilling."

"I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the U.K. of designing and making," he said. "I discovered at an early age that all I've ever wanted to do is design."

As described in a Times profile earlier this year, Ive is responsible for the look of Apple's iPod music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, all blockbuster products in their own categories.

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-- David Sarno

Photo: Jonathan Ive of Apple in Cupertino, Calif., in 2008.  Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Nearly 7 million Apple, Android devices light up on Christmas Day

Flurry_DeviceActivations_Xmas_vs_Dec1-20_Total-resized-600

Apple and Android mobile devices lit up like Christmas lights on Dec. 25 as people the world over pulled a smartphone from their stocking.

People fired up 6.8 million Apple and Android devices on Christmas Day, more than doubling the 2.5 million that they activated on the same day last year, according to Flurry Analytics, a mobile metrics firm that tracks activity from 140,000 apps. 

On the days leading up to Christmas, people activated about 1.5 million Apple and Android smartphones and tablets each day.

But on Christmas itself, activations shot up more than 350%, to 6.8 million.  (The report does not disclose whether Apple or Google-powered devices accounted for a larger share of that number). 

Perhaps a bit predictably, Christmas Day app downloads began to rocket up around 6 a.m., and remained high throughout the day until they hit a peak around 8 p.m. -- that is, after dinner, when sated revelers can play with their new toys in earnest.  More than 15 million apps were downloaded between 7 and 9 p.m. alone, if you line up all the world's time zones.

The Flurry report notes that app downloads have shot up in 2011, with Apple users downloading close to 10 billion this year, as many as in the previous three years combined.  Google's Android devices have seen similarly rapid growth.

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-- David Sarno

Five ways to get started with your new iPhone

Apple iPhone 4S

Got an Apple iPhone this Christmas? Well, you're doing pretty well for yourself. It may or may not be Santa Claus' smartphone of choice and you successfully avoided waiting in long lines as many Apple fanatics do once a year when a new iPhone launches.

But marketing and hype aside, the iPhone is one of the best smartphone lines on the market and each of the devices currently available -- the 3GS, the 4 and the 4S -- run iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. With that in mind, here are five places to get started if you're a first time iPhone owner.

1. Photography apps: Apple's App Store (the only place you can get iPhone apps), with more than 140,000 apps available, is a major bragging right for the iPhone versus its competitors, but not all apps are created equal. However, no other smartphone platform can currently match the iPhone for slick apps that produce fun and artistic photos. The best place to start is likely Instagram, which combines a solid selection of filters to make photos look like they were shot on vintage film cameras and a social network of other users so you can see the world through other lenses. Hipstamatic is another popular choice, which takes the vintage filter approach to another level with the ability to mix and match digital lenses, flashes and film choices to create a more customized look than in Instagram. Another app, called SwankoLab, allows you to alter photos already taken using a simulated dark room.

2. Games: The iPhone is also arguably the best gaming smartphone out there and the choices here are plentiful. Angry Birds is one of the most popular games available on smartphones and is a good place to start. But other choices such as Robo Surf, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Bumpy Road and Kosmo Spin are worth checking out too -- each combining unique art styles, enchanting soundtracks and simple touch screen controls. For those looking for a bit more of a gaming challenge, the third-person shooter Minigore and puzzle game Scribblenauts impress. The sword fighting games Infiniti Blade and Infiniti Blade II show what the iPhone is capable of with detailed 3-D graphics and fast-paced action.

3. Music: Apple's iTunes allows for easy music buying, but there are plenty of other music related apps worth checking out as well. Shazam can listen to and then identify thousands of songs. Band of the Day is a great way to discover new music. Soundtracking is a unique social networking app that allows you to share what you're listening to with others, as well as check out what tunes they like. And if you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, the Spotify app is a must.

4. Built-in Twitter: If you're a big Twitter user, as I am, or even if you're new to Twitter, you're likely going to appreciate that the social network is baked into iOS 5. Checking out a website you care to share in the iPhone's Safari web browser? You can tweet that directly from Safari without having to go and open up a Twitter app. Same goes for photos, videos and locations in the maps app.

5. Ask a friend: As always, talking to a buddy can generate suggestions that may line up with your interests on just about anything -- same goes here. Ask a friend who uses an iPhone what they like about the phone or available apps and you're bound to find something you may enjoy too.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A newly purchased iPhone 4S smartphone outside an Apple Store in New York. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images

Amazon Kindle Fire software and Kindle iOS apps updated

Amazon Kindle Fire software updated
Amazon updated its Kindle Fire software and iPhone and iPad apps this week, adding new features all around.

For the Kindle Fire, Amazon's first tablet and a hot-selling item, the update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.

However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.

Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items -- books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited -- in their carousel.

The ability to remove items from the carousel was a highly requested feature and in this case, Amazon was pretty quick to deliver -- the Fire was released Nov. 14.

The iOS Kindle app updates the user interface for periodicals and text books, with access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Fire, Amazon said in a statement.

For the first time, Amazon is also offering "print replica textbooks" to iOS Kindle app users, which allow for full-color pages and the ability to zoom in and out or take notes as needed, the company said.

And the update also now makes the Kindle iOS app a PDF reader as well, Amazon said, which will allow users to view their own documents -- a feature offered by iBooks for some time now.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Satellite images: Samsung's Apple factory in Austin?

Samsung-austin

Samsung Electronics is making Apple chips in Texas.

That's according to a Reuters report noting that, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the Korean electronics giant --  also a major smartphone rival of Apple -- is producing the sophisticated A5 processing chip that lies at the heart of Apple's iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices.

The factory complex in Austin, called Samsung Austin Semiconductor, is pictured above and in the Google map below. It's the largest foreign investment in Texas, according to Reuters. Construction of the complex, which lies along Samsung Boulevard in Austin, started in 1996, and the first semiconducter fabrication facility began operating in 1998. It builds high-precision microchips -- chips such as Apple's A5.

The company opened a second wafer factory in Austin in 2008 to build NAND flash chips, the fast memory storage elements that work in computers and mobile devices.

Reuters notes that the Austin facility is located there in part because it's close to the University of Texas' engineering school. The two factories employ about 3,500 total workers, according to Reuters.



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-- David Sarno

Twitter.com/dsarno

Image: A satellite photo shows a Samsung factory in Austin, Texas. Credit:  Google Maps

Apple's Mac App Store hits 100 million downloads in year

App-store

Apple has hit 100 million downloads from its online software shop, the Mac App Store. 

When the company opened the digital shop in January of this year, its goal was to put an end to the old days of PC software on a box -- the kind users bought from brick and mortar stores like Best Buy or Fry's, or Babbage's, or Software Etc., or Egghead Software, or the Softwarehouse, or CompUSA. (Am I missing any obvious ones?)

After all, the logic goes, software is just 1's and 0's -- so why would you need to drive somewhere to pick up a shrink-wrapped package full of it?

So far, the approach appears to be working. The store is averaging 8 million downloads per month this year. That includes the summer launch of Lion, the latest version of its Macintosh operating system, which sold more than 1 million digital copies in its first day, far outpacing sales of any previous OS X release. 

What the company did not say is how many of the 100 million apps downloaded were, specifically, its operating system -- or how many of them were counted from the many free apps available on the store. 

However, some companies do approach online software sales by offering free and paid apps.  Autodesk Inc. offers a simpler, free version of its AutoCAD software through the store, and its $900 AutoCAD LT version for pros (or amateurs that get hooked).

Apple also said its iPhone and iPad-based App Store hit 18 billion total downloads. That store went online for the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2008.

-- David Sarno (@dsarno)

Image: Graphic of Mac App Store Logo.  Credit: Rob Boudon / Flickr

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