Apple’s Pitch to Indian Developers: Think Local, Stay Up to Date, and Aim for Design Awards

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Apple opened its App Accelerator in Bengaluru earlier this year
  • At the App Accelerator, Apple offers guidance to developers
  • Developers say they are happy with Apple’s efforts so far

India is home to one of the largest developer communities in the world, and has been attracting the attention of several global players for years.

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, along with HasGeek, Helpshift, and Thoughtworks have long been actively contributing to foster the developer community in India, holding various events and going to college campuses to find and coach talent.

One major player, however, was missing from the list for the longest time, and it was the company that thousands of developers in India were anxiously hoping to talk to, and get feedback from: Apple.

With just under half-a-million registered Apple developers in the country, India is among the most active markets when it comes to making apps for Apple’s platforms, but the iPhone-maker took its time before getting involved with the local ecosystem in a meaningful way.

Things started to change earlier this year, when Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, flew to India to officially kickstart Apple’s App Accelerator – a first-of-its-kind initiative, in namma Bengaluru.

More than three months later, the company’s efforts are starting to shape up. Gadgets 360 spoke to many developers who have signed up for the App Accelerator, and they are pleased with how things are going so far. Registration to the App Accelerator – which is capable of hosting 500 developers per week – as well as attending the sessions, is free and open to everyone.

“The experience at the App Accelerator has been really good; Apple really wants Indian developers to be part of the global players,” Alvin Varghese, founder of Swift India Developer Community, an unaffiliated group that focuses on building a vibrant community of Apple’s Swift developers, told Gadgets 360. “We are glad that Apple is doing this.”

apple app accelerator

At the App Accelerator sessions, which range between two to four hours, “evangelists” from the company are getting developers up to speed with the newest technologies, and guiding them to improve their apps and make the best out of the available resources. Developers told Gadgets 360 they get to understand what new technologies Apple specifically recommends they target, with SiriKit being one such example.

That’s a big and helpful change, developers say, because Indian companies often take long time in leveraging new features Apple introduces. Only a small number of companies have shipped any iMessages extensions, for instance, even though the company announced support for extensions in Messages last year.

“We generally take around two years on an average to integrate company’s new frameworks,” Prasad, a Bangalore-based developer tells Gadgets 360. “We typically wait to let people first get the latest iOSupdate, and only then we start working on implementing new frameworks,” he added.

These pitches are in line with Apple’s vision for the developers in the country. Speaking to Gadgets 360 at the launch of the accelerator earlier this year, Schiller said that the company wants to guide Indian developers about the latest technologies on Apple’s platforms.

“Here we give a greater opportunity for the developers in the market to learn about these innovations quicker, play with them, experiment with them, understand how they can best use them in their apps, I think that can help them to make more innovative apps, quicker than if we weren’t here,” Schiller had said.

The most crucial advice that developers have walked out of the campus with, they tell Gadgets 360, has been to reconsider their target audience. The evangelists have told them to make apps that serve to the needs of the local market, instead of focusing their energies in chasing the Western audience.

“What will work in the US or elsewhere may not work here. Don’t copy any app. Try to think of your own use case and your users’ needs. Study other apps but be original,” Mayur, a Delhi-based developer recounted Apple’s message.

To recall Schiller’s remarks from earlier, he said Apple wanted this accelerator to “help the local market create apps for customers in India that better meet the needs of our growing customer base here.”

Even as there are feedback sessions and opportunities to have one-on-one interaction with experts at the App Accelerator, the overall environment is very disciplined, five developers told Gadgets 360.

That’s not to say that they don’t make jokes. There is a running joke among many evangelists that developers should only focus on Apple’s platforms (and avoid Android, and other rival platforms). Though some developers said that the message is more than a joke, “Apple would really like if you stick to its ecosystem,” a developer said.

As Apple pushes to find its next big market in India, the company would need the help of these developers. Apps that cater to the local market, leverage new technologies, and are built with right coding practices could create the best user experience for Indians.

To further incentivise the developers, Apple tells them that it wishes to see an Indian developer win at Apple Design Awards (ADA), the annual WWDC fixture that recognises the best and most innovative iOS and Mac apps. So far, these awards have been mostly won by developers in the US and Europe.

“They are looking to mentor Indian devolopers so that even we make great apps for India,” Paul, a Bangalore-based developer who has enrolled at the App Accelerator told Gadgets 360.

 

Apple’s About to Get A Second Bite at the iPhone

 

Apple’s “services” revenue could get a bump from folks who are buying second-hand iPhones. ILLUSTRATION: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

There’s a good deal of pressure on the iPhone 8.

After disappointing upgrade cycles following the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 launches, there are a lot of old phones out there. Investors are hoping that this fall’s new models will prompt a “supercycle” of upgrades, especially because some could cost more than $1,000.

Of the 715 million iPhones currently in use — the number of phones making up Apple’s “installed base” — 31% will have gone “un-upgraded” for more than two years by the time the new iPhone comes out in September, according to BMO Capital Markets. That’s up from 25% at the time of the iPhone 7 launch.

 Apple’s “services” revenue could get a bump from folks who are buying second-hand iPhones.

The flagship iPhone 8 is rumored to have an edge-to-edge screen, meaning no physical home button, and it might have more available screen space than the current iPhone 7 Plus does. Changes to the look and feel of the iPhone are what drove a big upgrade wave in 2014, when the larger screen iPhone 6 was launched.

New device sales aren’t the only way Apple gets more users. When people get new phones, they’re being increasingly encouraged to trade in their old devices, and those can be wiped and re-sold, often by third-party retailers. The number of second-hand iPhones might increase to 300 million in 2018 from 228 million at the end of 2016, BMO analyst Tim Long predicts, as people switch from “mass-market Android phones.”

Of course, Apple doesn’t usually get money upfront when this happens, but it does increase the number of users who could spend money on its “services” — things like iCloud and the App Store. And when it comes to “services,” it doesn’t matter so much what model of iPhone people use.

Big Picture: Wall Street is focused on predicting iPhone 8 sales, but sales of second-hand iPhones could also help Apple in a way, according to one analyst.

 

Apple’s Clips app is iMovie for the next generation

 

When I opened up Apple’s new Clips app yesterday, as I’ve been doing for the past few days, I was greeted with the same photo-capture screen that’s prioritized in all the social “story” apps. Take a picture! Capture video! Share! Share everything! they scream at you. I added some text overlays and emoji, and fumbled my way through Live Titles, the feature that’s distinctive to Apple Clips. And eventually, I shared my Clips. But it took a while. Because Clips take a while.

After Apple first announced its Clips video-making app a couple weeks ago, a lot of people — including me — wondered whether this was the company’s attempt to grab some of the attention that’s been siphoned by social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. After using the new Clips app for the past five days, it’s become clear to me that this is not Apple’s attempt at a “social” app, at least, not in the way that social networks work.

Instead, it’s a video-making app that borrows some features from other apps. It’s an app that requires some thought and a little more work than a Snap or tweet or ‘gram does. These days, it’s possible to use those apps in public and with friends in a way that doesn’t feel terribly rude, whether it’s because everyone else is doing it or because the point is to share something quick and raw. With Clips, prepare to spend at least a few minutes making something share-worthy.

But that’s not a bad thing: it’s a distinctly Apple-like approach to mobile video. Parts of the app are also fun to use. There’s at least one element of the app that feels like it could use a whole redesign, and the question still remains as to whether this app is one that iPhone (and iPad) users will feel compelled to use before they use their favorite social apps. But overall, this is a kind of next-generation iMovie that I’m willing to bet a healthy portion of Apple’s user base will be happy to use.

If you ever said, “I wish iMovie was less about dissolves and transitions and more about adding cool filters and text,” then you are in luck.

Clips is free to download, and it’s available on iOS only. I wrote previously about its core features, but to summarize: you can shoot new photos or videos from within the app, or you can pull from your existing iPhone library. From there, you can add text, filters, overlays, emoji, and something Apple is calling “posters,” which are opaque transition cards. You can also add music, pulling either from your iTunes library or a selection of other instrumental music tracks curated just for the Clips app.

Clips are created in a square format, and are added to a basic timeline at the bottom of the screen. You can add individual video clips up to 30 minutes long to this timeline; and the total run time of a finished Clips video can be as long as 60 minutes. It’s also created and shared in 1080p HD, if your source video is HD. This is the kind of stuff that makes it much more of a video creation app than a Snapchat competitor.

And then there’s Live Titles. Live Titles is the app’s big differentiator, and utilizes voice recognition technology in a way that’s both clever and confusing. Rather than punch in text or scribble it on the phone’s touchscreen display, with Clips you’re supposed to narrate your thoughts out loud. You can opt to have those words included as audio, text, or both. This option was partly driven by the way people are watching video online now — text only, no audio — which makes sense. Unfortunately, the way the feature is designed doesn’t make as much sense.

After selecting a Live Titles style, you’re then supposed to hold down the record button and speak. If you want to mute your voice in a video, you have to tap a mic button. This isn’t exactly intuitive; most times you’re tapping a microphone icon to start recording your voice. While you’re speaking, the text doesn’t appear on the Clip; it’s processed after the fact. If you want to undo Live Titles, you don’t unselect the Live Titles icon; you have to go into the Live Titles options and select “None.”

You also just can’t simply type in text to start from Live Titles; you have to go to the Overlays tab for that. So yeah, it’s complicated.

Considering that Apple plans to include a Help section in the app when it goes live, I’m guessing I’m not the only person who has given early feedback that it’s the most confusing part of the app. It’s a cool concept, but I really hope Apple considers seriously simplifying this.

Despite that, making Clips is easy, especially if you ignore Live Titles. I’ve made Clips videos of my cat (of course), a bowl of pho, a recent vacation, and California-esque things I’ve done in a single day. The comic filter is cool, and it renders the effect on photos and videos as you’re capturing them, not after the fact. Individually, the features are reminiscent of the features in other apps — sepia-toned filters, location and time stamps — but combined, it all feels distinctly Apple. Example: one of the text overlays is a familiar blue iMessage bubble.

When you tap the share button — assuming you want to share your Clips when you’re done, unless you just like to make videos to look at all by yourself, which is possible — all of the usual suspects are there, from Vimeo to Facebook to YouTube to Mail. And iMessage is supposed to be slightly optimized for this. The app will use facial recognition technology to determine who is in your clips videos and prioritize those contacts in the share function; although, I haven’t tested that much, since I was using the app in advance of its official release and couldn’t share the videos to all of my contacts.

So while Clips isn’t Apple’s answer to Snapchat, or Instagram, or Facebook Stories, or Prisma, or the ill-fated Qwiki, there is still an element that’s inherently shareable. Which is to say, after making Clips this week, I actually wanted to share them. In a way, Apple has again renounced the responsibility of being a social network while also encouraging a kind of network-exclusive interaction. Just like the blue bubbles of iMessage will give you away, so will some of the features of this app.

Just don’t try to make a fancy Clips video to share while you’re out in social settings. It takes too darn long, at least at first.

 

Apple’s 2017 Roadmap Leaked by ‘Foxconn Insiders’; Includes Siri Speaker and AR Glasses

 

HIGHLIGHTS
iPhone 8 has been tipped to come with 3GB of RAM
iPhone 7s is expected to come with aluminium body
MacBook Air has been tipped to be discontinued
It is not a new thing for an Apple product to be leaked ahead of launch but if a newly surfaced leak turns out to be legitimate, we might already have information about several upcoming products from the Cupertino-based company. Alleged Foxconn insiders have reportedly leaked information about company’s plans about augmented reality, upcoming smartphones, laptops, and a voice-activated speaker.

In a Reddit thread, ‘foxconninsider’ has revealed that a 32GB RAM variant will be introduced to the 15-inch MacBook Pro lineup and that MacBook Air laptop will be discontinued by the company, as pointed out in a report by AppleInsider. However, the source didn’t respond to a query seeking the timeline for the addition of the new RAM variant.

Interestingly, earlier reports have suggested that Apple will be introducing the 32GB RAM variant of the 15-inch MacBook Pro on Monday at its WWDC 2017 event. Further, the leaks have suggested that Apple will be refreshing its MacBook Air laptop at its event, contradicting the new information.

While foxconninsider says that new designs have been tested including “more glass and dark black body,” the glowing Apple logo is also expected to be reintroduced to the lineup. A MacBook with dynamic E-Ink keyboard, rumoured since last year, is apparently in the pipeline for 2018 as well.

Moving to the iPad, the alleged insiders have suggested that a new size variant is expected to be launched but said that they don’t have access to the tablet, as pointed out in a report by The Verge. Apple is currently expected to launch two iPad Pro tablets – one with a 10.5-inch display and the other with a 12.9-inch display.Apple's 2017 Roadmap Leaked by 'Foxconn Insiders'; Includes Siri Speaker and AR Glasses

Apple is already expected to announce its Siri-powered speaker at WWDC 2017, and foxconninsider says that Foxconn lost out to another contract manufacturer for its production. Calling it the Apple home speaker, the tipsters added that its availability will be delayed until late-2017. The tipsters also said the speaker has a similar shape to Mac Pro, adding that it hadn’t been seen in a while. The Siri-powered speaker has been tipped to come with a modified A9 chip, as pointed out by The Verge.
Coming to the information leaked regarding iPhone 8 aka iPhone X, the design of the smartphone has been described as “more like an iPhone 7 with glass and without the AuthenTec’s capacitive touch module.” The design on the smartphone has been described by foxconninsider as closest to a leaked image that shows a vertical dual camera setup with glass back.

The source said that some units with glass back and fingerprint sensor beneath the glass were tested as well but the yields were not found to be “not good”. The iPhone X has been said to feature facial detection as well as a retina scanner that will be “included in the front facing camera modules,” as pointed out by The Verge. The foxconninsider says that the iPhone X will pack 3GB of RAM. The glass has been said to be included to enable wireless charging and USB Type-C has been tipped to be removed from the phone altogether. As a result, the iPhone X is also expected to be water resistant as well. On the other hand, iPhone 7s, the rumoured refresh for the iPhone 7 has been tipped to come with aluminium unibody and not feature wireless charging.

Notably, the augmented reality glasses from the company, which have been in leaks, were also discussed in the Reddit session. As per foxconninsider, the project for augmented reality glasses has been termed Project Mirrorshades and is being designed to bring AR to a larger audience, as pointed out by The Verge.

The Apple AR glasses, termed Apple Smart Glasses, have been tipped to come with “Kopin NED Acetate frame, Polarisized or prescription lens with Zeiss smart optics, Bone induction modules Microphones (noise cancellation), Light sensor Accelerometer for step tracking and head movement, app navigation Magnetometer for navigation, Capacitive Pavel Ceramic battery, Apple chipset, Charging circuit BL5 Induction module.”

The cost of the materials used for these glasses have been estimated to be around $150 (roughly Rs.), and would eventually place the retail price around $600, as per the information made available by foxconninsider. However, the entire project can even be cancelled with the source claiming that there is 65 percent chance of cancellation.

While some of the information might be proved correct or be disproved at company’s WWDC event, we might have to wait a little longer for information on other products. Till that time, we would advise you to keep grain of salt by your side.

 

Apple’s iPhone 8 Might Have a Fingerprint Reader Problem

Apple has been rumored for months to be working on a new, virtual version of its iPhone fingerprint sensor. But now it’s working against the clock to get the feature to work.

Speaking to sources within Apple’s supply chain, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves told investors on Monday that Apple is still having trouble getting its fingerprint sensor to work inside the upcoming iPhone 8’s display. According to the analyst, whose comments were earlier reported on by Barron’s, Apple has just a few weeks to fix the problem or face the possibility of an iPhone delay.

Apple is rumored to be planning a major new handset release this year, believed to be known as the iPhone 8. The device will reportedly come with an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen and a revamped, all-glass design. It could sit alongside modest updates to last year’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus handsets, rumored to be known as the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus.

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If Apple indeed releases the iPhone 8 this year, it would be the first handset ever released by the company to offer OLED screen technology. What’s more, Apple is rumored to be planning a design that would eliminate the iPhone 8’s physical home button and instead cover the smartphone’s face with the OLED display.Image result for Apple’s iPhone 8 Might Have a Fingerprint Reader Problem

Several reports have said that Apple (AAPL, +0.32%) wants to move the “Touch ID” fingerprint sensor from the physical home button to inside the screen. Users would then hold their fingers on the display to unlock it and authorize payments through the company’s mobile-payment platform Apple Pay. No physical button would be required.

Apple rival Samsung (SSNLF, +4.00%) said earlier this year that it was testing virtual fingerprint technology, but ultimately couldn’t get it to work in its flagship handset, the Galaxy S8. Samsung was rumored to be planning the feature for this summer’s Galaxy Note 8, but again, reportedly couldn’t get it to work properly.

If Hargreaves’ sources are correct, Apple might be suffering from the same problems with the iPhone 8. And he says that the company will need to get it working by August to ensure its suppliers have enough time to get enough units ready for an iPhone 8 release sometime in October or November.

If Apple can’t fix the problem, the analyst wrote, Apple could be forced to push back the iPhone 8’s launch or ditch a fingerprint sensor altogether—something the company wouldn’t want to do. Apple would replace it with a facial-scanning feature that would authenticate users before they can access the smartphone’s software.

“This option appears increasingly likely as time passes, but is far from ideal,” Hargreaves wrote to investors, according to Barron’s. “We believe Apple’s facial recognition solution should work from many angles and in low-light environments. However, it would not work without clear line of sight to the user’s face.”

Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 8 at a press event in September. It’s now becoming increasingly unlikely the smartphone will be available to consumers anytime before October.

HTC says more Developers will be Inspired to Develop for VIVE VR Headsets due to Apple’s Participation

 

It’s now a known fact that HTC is gaining powerful support to accelerate the development of its VR (virtual reality) business, as it has newly collaborated Apple and Google to develop VR devices and applications, respectively.

As we learned during Apple’s WWDC 2017 Keynote at the top of the month, Apple’s macOS High Sierra operating system launching this fall will support HTC’s VIVE VR headsets and Raymond Pao, vice president of HTC’s VR New Technology Department couldn’t be more pleased about that move.1AF X99 HTC JPEG

Pao further noted that the usability of HTC VIVE devices will be greatly boosted, while more content developers, inspired by Apple’s support, are expected to join forces to bolster the development of the VR industry.

HTC officials stressed that the company has introduced many new technologies required for the development of next-generation technologies and applications. Among them, the most influential one will be the technology that can integrate high-speed wireless connection, VR and artificial intelligence (AI) to create new applications.

 

MacBook 2017 review: Apple’s updated ultraportable laptop comes at a price

 

Trying to figure out which of Apple’s MacBooks you should buy can be a confusing experience. For years, we were presented with a simple, binary choice: the MacBook Air for those who wanted a cheaper, more portable option, and the MacBook Pro for those who needed firepower.

In 2015, Apple made things a little less simple. In came the “MacBook”, a 12-inch super-portable laptop with a long battery, a new shallower keyboard, the high-definition retina screen, and, controversially, only one port – the USB-C connection used for connecting to peripherals, displays and charging.

A year later, the MacBook Pro got a lightweight overhaul that borrowed many of these features and introduced the touchscreen “Touch Bar” above the keyboard on some models. The MacBook Air remained on sale but lacked a retina screen and looked a little outdated by comparison.

Then last month, Apple updated its entire laptop range. All models, even the MacBook Air, received a speed boost and the MacBook Pro got a new cheaper model. The MacBook itself also received a few tweaks, including an improved keyboard design. Following a mini update last year, this is technically the third iteration of the laptop since its release in 2015.

At the same time, Apple is pushing its iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, with the release of a new 10.5-inch model and an iOS software update featuring a host of PC-like functions.

So who is the MacBook for?

The 2016 price hike following the Brexit vote saw the MacBook lifted to £1,249, at the dear end for a laptop, twice the price of equivalently specced Windows laptops, and significantly more than a new MacBook Air.

While the 2017 model is no more expensive, Apple recently dropped the price of the entry-level MacBook Pro, so for the same £1,249 price you can get a more powerful machine, a bigger screen and an extra USB-C port. Both claim a 10-hour battery life, although when it comes to video playback, the MacBook can stretch that out an extra couple of hours longer than the Pro.

Where the 12-inch MacBook excels is in portability and, to a lesser extent, design. At 0.93kg, it is two-thirds the weight of Apple’s other laptops (and less than half that of my ageing 2010 MacBook Pro). It is envelope-thin, small enough to fit in any backpack and many handbags. If you spend a lot of time carrying your laptop around like I do it’s a godsend not to feel like you’re lugging a sack of bricks from place to place, and it’s dinky enough to sit on your lap or the cosiest coffee shop table.

MacBook Pro
Apple’s MacBook Pro contains extra power

None of that has changed from last year, of course, but other updates made this year mean you’re not sacrificing portability for performance.

The most significant upgrade is to the keyboard

One of the MacBook’s little niggles since it first launched is that it is so thin that the keys have very little depth, making typing feel more like hammering away at a set of small tiles than at computer keys. The new keyboard mechanism, first introduced on last year’s MacBook Pro, makes keys feel a lot more responsive even if they’re not actually moving very much.

It’s a reassuring change, especially if you do a lot of typing. The flatness of the keys take a little adjusting to, but you’ll find your fingers gliding across them after a while. Apple has decided to not port over the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, and I can’t say it’s a feature I’m desperately asking for on this.

The other change of note is to the MacBook’s innards. It has been updated with Intel’s new seventh-generation Kaby Lake chips as well as 50pc faster memory, which gives it a hefty speed boost. Geekbench scores peg it as being around a third faster than last year’s model

This is plenty unless you’re going to be doing any photo or video editing, or if you share my unfortunate habit of keeping dozens of tabs open in Chrome. For an extra £90 you can pick up a model with an Intel i5 processor, which I would say is worth the cash to future-proof your MacBook.

Most people’s biggest complaint about the MacBook hasn’t been fixed

There’s just one USB-C port on the left-hand side, which is used for powering the laptop as well as connecting any peripherals. This is a result of its slim design (the headphone jack is on the other side), and to be honest, I haven’t found myself in a position where I’ve needed two ports.

The MacBook’s battery is long enough to last a day, so you can simply plug it in to charge overnight as you would a phone, and I’m rarely plugging peripherals into my laptop.

But batteries degrade over time, and I can see myself in situations where it becomes annoying: if you want to charge your laptop and connect to a screen you’ll need a dongle, if you want to charge your iPhone (the standard cable still uses USB-A) you’ll need a dongle; if you want to take photos off an SD card you’ll need a dongle.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Verdict

If you carry your computer around a lot, the MacBook is the ideal laptop – as with previous models, it’s ridiculously thin and light. The keyboard and power boosts also mean it’s more capable of becoming your full-time computer. But I’m struggling to justify it at that price.

For the same amount, you get a perfectly portable MacBook Pro with more power, an inch more of screen and, crucially, two ports (albeit at 128GB, half the storage). If your laptop is going to spend most of the time on its desk, there’s little reason not to go for the Pro.

There’s also a lot of cheaper premium competition out there, from Microsoft’s very nice new Surface Laptop to Apple’s own recently-upgraded MacBook Air, which will match it for power and battery life, albeit without the retina display or the MacBook’s looks. There’s no doubt that the MacBook’s sleek design and extreme portability makes it a superior machine – if you’re willing to stretch to it.