Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Landscape mode makes netbook tablet based upon iPhone OS X more likely

In today's preview of iPhone 3.0, Apple showed off their new landscape mode. What's particularly interesting here is that it's indicative of a more towards resolution independence, since all the key apps must now be capable of re-laying out to a wider format.

Maybe it's just the cool-aid talking, but I'm starting to believe this netbook tablet rumor.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

iPhone 3.0 to introduce notification screen?

On Tuesday 17th, Apple have promised us a preview of the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software release, which is presumably what the next generation iPhone, expected in June, will ship with. (And we'd better hope it will be a free update for existing iPhone users or there will be blood).

But what can we expect from the next version of a product that's already almost perfect? Most likely, Apple will finally introduce cut and paste, a feature that's been sorely missed, and has become the number one pet-peeve for most iPhone users. But this alone would hardly justify a media event - so what else can we expect to see?

The most obvious candidate is support for Apple's new iPod headphones with volume control. The new shuffle also suggests that we can expect the introduction of VoiceOver to iPhone - perhaps with genuine text-to-speech, rather than the more limited functionality offered on the shuffle, which is actually handled by iTunes 8.1.

But here's what MacPredictions thinks the big news will be:

Notification Screen (pictured above)
Many pundits are suggesting that Apple may be re-thinking their plans for push notification services. Apple may be thinking more broadly about how to present messages from background processes in the UI. The answer is surely some kind of notification dashboard, or status display, that acts as a home screen when you turn on the phone (with a button allowing you to toggle (spin) between this and the app launcher). This should be configurable, to allow the user to decide what apps appear, and what messages an app can present. At a glance, this screen would display missed calls, SMS messages, upcoming appointments and optionally messages from 3rd party apps as well.

Spotlight Search
Even the original Palm Pilot allowed you to search contacts, appointments and notes from a single search query. And yet, search was missed off altogether on the original iPhone, and even now, it's only available in selected apps. The Mac OS X Spotlight model is the obvious solution - a dedicated search app, with a modular API that enables both Apple and 3rd party apps to expose their data for indexing. So that when Steve Jobs does a search for Bono on his iPhone, he'll get all his latest e-mail correspondence bitching about the RIM deal, together with a quick link to U2's new album.

File Browser
Providing user-access to a shared file system for iPhone 3.0 files, with iDisk integration and Back to My Mac.

Safari Top Site's Screen
The new Safari 4 Beta for Mac OS X introduced the oddly concave "Top Sites" screen, which provides a handy launcher for your favorite sites. It's an obvious feature to introduce to the mobile version of Safari.

'nuff said.

Update: Just found this MacRumors post from last year, concerning a patent application from Apple for a feature not dissimilar to that pictured above.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

New shuffle doesn't have text-to-speech

It turns out that the new iPod Shuffle doesn't have text-to-speech functionality. It appears that the text-to-speech is handled by iTunes, which transfers the spoken song titles and play list titles to the iPod shuffle as audio files. (Evidence for this is to be found in the demo video, which reveals that the voice sounds different is you sync with a PC rather than a Mac).

This is perhaps not surprising, since it would be hard to jam sufficient computational power into the tiny Shuffle enclosure to support this. It does indicate that it will be a more complex task to add this functionality to the Touch and the iPhone, where tracks may be bought over the air, and text-to-speech will presumably be required.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Does the new shuffle mean that the iPhone will finally find it's voice?

It seems that Apple have really pulled one of of the bag with this new iPod Shuffle. Eliminating the controls, halving the size, and adding VoiceOver is inspired. In retrospect, all the clues where there. I'm just kicking myself for not having predicted it. Whilst I'm still fond of MacPrediction's previous shuffle idea (pictured above), this looks unlikely to see the light of day now.

The interesting question now is, of course, when will VoiceOver be added to the iPhone and iPod Touch? It's surely a little odd to have this feature only on the shuffle. It seems likely we will see it as part of the next iPhone OS update. And that's something that this blog has been predicting for years.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

QuickTime X Player UI Problems

Screengrabs of the new QuickTime X player in Snow Leopard are doing the rounds. Check them out before Apple's legal team does a clean-up.

Sad to say, Apple is once again moving away from the consistent UI principles that they introduced in Leopard. The new QuickTime Player sports a translucence black menu bar that appears superimposed over the video. I can't think of anything more daft than a menu bar that appears on top of the content that it frames. The menu bar then disappears when you move your mouse off the window, leaving the video playing, apparently outside of a window.

Problems? Where to start:
  • it is inconsistent with every other app in Mac OS X (even though it's an core app)
  • you can't see the close/maximise/minimise buttons, unless you roll over
  • it breaks the spatial window metaphor
  • it looks confusing if you have multiple movies open
  • it obscures the content
  • it echoes the style of QuickLook windows, which were supposed to look different to regular application windows
...and that's before we get onto the problem that all the QuickTime Pro functionality appears to be removed.

Coming so soon Safari 4 UI transgressions, it seems something's up with Apple's HCI team.