For a holiday week there was quite a bit of news in the mobile industry. Here’s what I found interesting with my commentary.
There were lots of Apple stories this week. Some good, some not so good.
Corrupted apps in the App Store
Apps submitted to Apple this week may have had corrupted binaries placed in the App Store which causes them to crash upon startup when run on an iDevice. The problem apparently was with the “Fairplay” DRM system Apple uses to encrypt the app binaries. As of July 6 Apple announced the problem is fixed. If you experienced newly downloaded apps crashing immediately, you should delete and re-download them.
This issue became a problem for developers. Instapaper’s author, Marco Arment, first sounded the alarm about the issue when his users started complaining by giving his app a 1 star rating. I was glad to hear Apple has agreed to remove poor ratings that were a result of this problem.
Malware app pulled from App Store
In other bad news for Apple, a malware app called “Find and Call” was discovered in the app store. The app uploads the user’s contact list to a spammer who sends ads via SMS and email to each contact. The app has since been pulled, but the damage is done for anyone who used the app. Hopefully Apple is reviewing its acceptance procedures to make sure this kind of thing does not happen again.
Android fans who think it is funny that this app got through Apple’s review should note that the same app was also in the Google Play store. Google has since removed it.
iPad mini rumors
In the wake of Google’s Nexus 7 announcement, rumors an “iPad mini” shipping this fall have restarted. Both Bloomberg and WSJ reported the 7.85″ tablet would go into production soon to ship this fall.
My Take The interesting thing about the “iPad mini” rumors is that the 7.85″ screen size. At that size, a 1024×768 display would have the same pixel density as the iPhone 3GS. This would be advantageous for Apple for two reasons. First, Apple is already making these types screens for the iPhone 3GS so it would be easy to manufacture the larger panels without retooling. Second, at 1024×768 all existing iPad software will work unmodified and developers will not need to do anything different to support it in the future.
A graphic illustrating the screen sizes of the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, “iPad Mini” and iPad can be found here.
Small iPad or big iPod? I wonder if instead of this being called an “iPad mini”, this it becomes the replacement for the iPod Touch and is named as such. The iPod touch sells for $199 now, and if that is the price point they want for a 7″ tablet, why sell a 3.5″ device at the same price? Who would buy a 3.5″ device for $199 when they can get a 7″ device for the same amount of money? The iPod touch has not been updated for two years, so Apple can use the introduction of the 7″ tablet to phase out the old device.
No NFC in next iPhone?
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Apple will not include NFC in the next iPhone. Apparently there was a good deal of debate in the company going up to the highest ranks before the decision was made. Concerns included:
- Adverse battery performance to add a new radio and antenna
- Low adoption of NFC at retailers
- Complexities of supporting existing payment systems or building their won.
My Take: Apple sitting out on NFC payments for another year will set back mobile payment adoption. I’m not sure I buy the argument about battery performance as NFC is low power and it doesn’t seem to be a problem with other phones. Even if they don’t want to use it for payments, NFC could be applied to other uses such transferring information between phones like Android devices do now.
I can believe that Apple is not ready or willing to build their own payment network. That is no small task. I can also believe that before endorsing a third party network (such as Isis) they would want to wait for a clear leader to emerge.
It does appear that the Passbook app in iOS6 was going to be the center of payments but it has that functionality removed and the app has been scaled down.
Apple often waits for new new technologies to mature before adopting them. For example, the first iPhone did not support 3G and no iPhone yet has supported LTE. NFC appears to be another technology Apple is continuing to take a wait and see approach.
iPhone turns 5
This week marks five years since the iPhone first went on sale. People waited days on line outside of Apple stores to pay $599 for the 8GB phone which did not have apps and did not support 3G. The touch friendly user experience did however change the way we interact with phones and computers. Whether you like the iPhone or Apple or not, you have to recognize that the iPhone has changed not only the phone industry but the whole information industry in a remarkably short amount of time.
Galaxy Nexus sales banned
Apple’s patent fight against Android took a new casualty; the Galaxy Nexus. Apple won an injunction against the sale of the flagship Android 4.0 device forcing Google to stop selling it on Google Play. The patent at issue concerns the search box in the Nexus. Apple owns a patent for using one search box to search the web and content on the device. Google has said that they are going to start selling the device again next week with Android 4.1 with modifications to the search box to only search the web get around the patent issue. Before they could do that, Google had the injunction lifted allowing them to sell the device.
My Take: Personally I find it disappointing that Apple is resorting to these tactics. Does the feature protected in this patent really influence or confuse buyers who are considering the Nexus and iPhone? And what did Apple get for this? They pulled one model phone off the market for one week in the middle of summer. Was that worth all this fuss? Other than lawyers, who benefited from these tactics? This is just the latest example of how the patent system is running out of control. I’d much prefer that Apple try to beat Google in the marketplace, not in a courtroom.
Nexus 7 getting good press
The Nexus 7 has not shipped yet, but the press have gotten their hands on the device and are impressed with what they see. Despite the low $199 price, the tablet is up to snuff with high build quality and impressive software. Google’s biggest challenges with the Nexus 7 will be supplying enough content to be competitive with Apple and Amazon and convincing developers to write tablet apps for it. If they sell enough of them, the latter problem may take care of itself.
My Take: I’ve only heard good things about the Nexus 7. I have reservations about the usefulness of a 7 inch tablet in general, but it seems like Asus and Google did a great job to get a quality product into more users hands. We’ll have to wait a couple of months for the honeymoon period to be over to see if people keep using them or put them in a drawer but I’m optimistic this device can help expand the tablet market.
I haven’t heard many Amazon rumors recently, but this week there were two of interest.
Is an Amazon phone in the works?
Amazon fueled rumors that it is going to create and sell its own phone by buying mapping company UpNext. (See Reuters) While Amazon’s content ecosystem is very rich, one piece missing from Amazon’s holdings that would be necessary for a phone is a mapping solution.
Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon is already working with Foxconn to build the device. Amazon has some patent issues it has to deal with (as any smartphone maker does these days) before they could sell the device.
My Take: Could a very cheap Amazon smartphone shake up the phone market the way the Fire did the tablet market? One important difference is that phones are already subsidized by carriers where tablets are not. Very inexpensive or even free phones are already available. Can Amazon sell a phone for no margin, compete with subsidized phones and make money? It appears they think so.
New Kindle Fire coming soon?
Also rumored is that Amazon will announce the Kindle Fire 2 in July with a release in August. This makes sense as the Fire is getting long in the tooth (it is 8 months old) and there is new competition from Google. No specifics have leaked about the tablet, but I would expect the device to be similar in specs to the Nexus 7.
My Take: The biggest unknown about the new device is what operating system it will be running. Whereas the Nexus 7 is running the newest version of Android, we do not know if Amazon has forked a new version of Android or if they will continue to use their version of 2.3 released with the Fire last fall.
In the wake of their terrible quarterly report and delay of BB10 on June 28, RIM went into damage control with CEO Thorsten Heins talking on Canadian radio and writing an editorial in “the Globe and Mail” in which he begs people to “not count BlackBerry out” and points out that RIM is in a transition, not the end.
To show how important BB10 is to the company, RIM employees are being asked to cut summer vacations and work 6 day weeks to get BB10. I’m not sure this is to ensure quality or just to get the thing done by Q1 2013.
My Take It used to be good sport to make fun of RIM but it really isn’t anymore. Thousands of people are losing their jobs and there’s nothing funny about that. The company that was once the technology leader that popularized the smartphone has become a textbook example of what happens when you try to protect your product lines instead of keeping up with technology.
Personally, I still doubt that BB10 devices will ever ship. I think the company will be broken up by then and they will abandon the handset market. Even if it does ship, it will be a 1.0 release of a platform competing against platforms that are several versions old. It is doubtful that RIM’s product and ecosystem will hold up against established platforms such as iOS and Android. Even Windows Phone will have released its second major update to the platform by then.
And that’s the news. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.