Categories
General Technology

Low Hanging Fruits: Apple in 2016 and Beyond

Between the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S, the new Apple TV, and Apple Music, by all accounts 2015 was a banner year for Apple Inc.

Apple is a company of patterns and progression. As a former retail employee we often knew what was coming next, not due to any insider knowledge, but just due to patterns and understanding how Apple works.

Of course we’ll also get new iPads (spring), iPhones (fall), and Macs (throughout) at some point but I figured those are foregone conclusions.  Sometimes the company will throw a throw a curveball, but based on the way things are going currently here are some things I expect to see from Apple in 2016 and beyond.

Beats by Apple

The first product Beats launched after the Apple purchase was the Beats Solo 2 Wireless, but they were clearly well into development before the purchase took place. Shortly after that Apple began launching new colors of everything to match their iOS devices.

The Beats Pill+ however is different, it seems it’s the first true hardware child of this merger. It still has the look of the Beats brand, but taken to another level of polish that looks to be quite Apple-like. This should be unsurprising since Apple ended the company’s relationship with Ammunition, the design agency responsible for their headphones and the original Beats Pill. There should be little doubt that this product was industrially designed in house by Apple’s teams. Right down to the Lighting port. Little surprise that it’s only available in black and white (for now.)

Expect this trend to continue with new headphone designs in 2016.

Lightning Everywhere

Lighting ports are not just for iOS devices anymore. Almost as an afterthought Apple launched new peripherals before the end of the year. The Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Keyboard. Each of these devices is equipped with an internal rechargeable battery and charges via USB via Lightning cables.  However these were not the first new devices to pull this trick. The new Beats Pill+ speaker launched quietly a few weeks earlier with this feature already in place.

Expect this to continue throughout Apple’s product lines and pop up in some surprising places we haven’t though of yet, like new Beats headphones.  Most of their products today include Micro-USB charging, no doubt Apple will do everything it can to phase that out over the next year.

Refined Apple Watch

To some this may be a foregone conclusion, but there are those who have their doubts. While how much of a success the Apple Watch has been is up for debate, make no mistake, this is no iPod Hi-Fi.  Apple is committed to the Apple Watch and by association the fashion world.

Apple Watch users tend to tell people how much they love theirs (myself included) however many of us like it for different reasons. When people ask about why we love the Watch it’s hard to point to one thing. It’s a platform without a killer app, which makes it hard to sell. Expect Apple work on to changing that both through marketing and through iteration.

I anticipate that by the roll out spring fashion lines Apple will announce a revised Apple Watch. It won’t be radically different, but it will be noticeably more responsive for third party apps and will likely contain new sensors to track health and fitness.

Smarter Maps

Apple took a beating when it launched new Maps in iOS 6 without transit directions. Now Apple has a lot of trust to regain in this field. If the company wishes to succeed in this area it needs to iterate rapidly. The company’s health and fitness focus will likely help it here as well as its ‘proactive’ initiatives. Something we could see is more accurate time estimations on walks from place to place based on our own pacing.

Another area of focus could include bike directions in Apple Maps, which will be especially handy for Apple Watch users who will be able to accurately navigate to their destination via haptics alone without looking at their screen.

New Transit Innovations

Apple wants to be much more involved in how you get from place to place. Sure we’ve all heard rumors about a car, but if that is coming, it’s not going to be in the short term.

The expansion of ApplePay, and with it NFC chips, raises some interesting possibilities about how you get around town. Chicago, Tokyo, London and other cities already use some form of radio frequencies for mass transit payment systems and the movement is towards NFC. New York City is planning to switch to a similar system as well. This is good news for all involved.

Expect Apple to start making deals, especially if it designs its own radio chips, that allows the company to make future iPhones and Apple Watches that work as your monthly transit pass. Coming that much closer to fulfilling the digital wallet ideal.

I can’t say I expect all of these things to happen in 2016 but I do believe they’re all inevitable. I look forward to what the future has in store.

Categories
Technology

Steve Jobs on Speech Technology as Transcribed by an iPhone 4S

In 2003 Steve Jobs sat down with Walt Mossberg at the first ever D: All Things Digital conference. The end of the session included a rare open Q&A with Jobs by audience members in which the following question was asked:

“You talk about handwriting and keyboard, how about speech as a human interface?”

Here is Steve’s answer transcribed by an iPhone 4S using iOS 5’s Dictation feature:

“You know that the last part of that question is is exactly right I I I’ve been almost 30 years and it’s speech is always been five years away because I’m trying to completions
But it went most of the really smart people of speech I know have gotten out of Beelitz it’s like nuclear fusion a lot of bright people went into it and and and people now think it’s a ways away you can do what you can do adequate speech today to meet your correcting a lot of stuff if you just have to know even 1% area try cannot as it turns out you can speak a lot of words in a few terrible so it’s got to be very accurate and so far no one’s come up with the technology Apple’s got a very we got to speak working on stuff Microsoft has a group you want GreatWorks be done in academia but it doesn’t look like it’s been a be real anytime soon I wish it was different”

Here is what he actually said:

“Ya know, the last part of that question is exactly right. I’ve been in this industry almost 30 years and speech has always been five years away. It’s been constant time to completion, just moving along 5 years away. Most of the really smart people in speech I know have gotten out of the field. It’s like nuclear fusion a lot of bright people went into it and people now think it’s a ways away. You can do you can do adequate speech today but it means you’re correcting a lot of stuff. If you just have even 1% error it drives you nuts. Because it turns out you can speak a lot of words in a five minute interval. So, it’s gotta be very accurate and so far no ones come up with the technology. Apple’s got a speech group working on stuff. Microsoft has a group. A lot of great work is being done in academia but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be real any time soon. I wish it was different.”

Looks like Steve was right.

Categories
General Pop Culture Technology

Thoughts on Steve

On April 1st, 2011, I walked out the doors of The North Michigan Avenue Apple store as an employee for the last time.

My fellow employees were lined up from the glass staircase to the doorway leaving me no choice but to walk down the middle between them. As I approached they began to clap and cheer at full intensity. I had been a part of this ritual countless times in my six and a half years with the company so I knew it was coming. Still it took every fiber of my being to stay composed. I bolted for the door and when I finally got there I turned around, looked back at my friends and threw my arms in the air to wave goodbye one last time.

Seconds later I turned the corner. Once I knew I was out of the view of my colleagues I let loose and full on wept.

I couldn’t hold it back. Working for Apple was more than job, Apple was a family. Apple still is my family. I have met some of the most important people in my life through Apple. Mentors, friends, lovers… you name it.

Apple allowed me to put my creative energies to use. It enabled me to move halfway across the country to start over; and it inspired me to strike out on my own.

I learned more working for Apple than I did through all of college and high school combined. I grew more as a person than I could have possibly imagined. Apple filled me with memories and experiences that I will cherish until I die. All of that, those people and memories are a part of me, many of them mean more than anything else ever will. I wouldn’t trade any of it, the good or the bad, for anything.

This morning I woke up in a hostel in Bruges and heard the news. I looked at Twitter and it was filled with loving, thoughtful comments and not a single one in poor taste. I then looked through Instagram and it was flooded with photo tributes. Every news site was filled with articles and comments regarding his passing.

And I wept.

I never met the man, I never even saw him in person (though I apparently stood right next to him and didn’t know it), and yet there I was standing on a picturesque bridge in the middle of Bruges on a dreary, cold day openly weeping.

My friend Nick today posted on his Facebook regarding Steve’s death. He mused on how people feel like they know someone in the public eye when really they don’t know their internal person and said that he hopes Jobs was as good in person as we all like to think he was. I would like to counter that point.

That one man who Nick claims I didn’t know, whom I never met and who probably didn’t even know I existed, profoundly changed my life for the better. For that I am eternally grateful.

When I heard of his retirement I did something that I swore as an employee I’d never do.

I emailed him.

It was just a simple thank you, basically saying a lot of the things I’m saying here. I have no idea if he read it and I never will. And thats okay. I didn’t need anything from him. I didn’t need to know him personally. The Steve I knew… the Apple I knew gave me more than enough.

Thank you Steve.

Categories
Photography Travels

Into the great wide open.

Open on FlickrA week ago I had my final day at Apple Inc.

As much as I deeply love Apple it was one of those things where it was just time for me to move on. The constraints of working a retail job have been a challenge to my personal creative pursuits for some time so after six and a half year I’ve decided to move on (for now at least).

Today marks the beginning of something else entirely. Today I am leaving on what I hope to be the first of many road trips across the United States, during which my goal will be to write and publish a photo set daily from the road.

On this trip I will be accompanied by the always awesome and always funky fresh James Vest. The two of us will be exploring our way down to New Orleans and back over the course of 8 days.

We’ll be reaching out on Twitter to crowd-source the things we do in each city and others are welcome to meet up with us if they so choose.

I have to cut this short as I still have a few things to take care of before hitting the road. Expect another blog later today but in the meantime here is how you can follow us:

John
Twitter | Flickr | FourSquare | Gowalla

James
Twitter

Categories
Focal Points Photography

The Photographer’s Holiday Gift Guide 2010

Friends, Black Friday is upon us and if you’re like me you would prefer to avoid the stores altogether and shop online. With that in mind I thought I’d give you some ideas for hot holiday gifts for the photographers in your life, be they hobbyist or pro. Many of these I own myself and use nearly every day but if I didn’t have these I’d likely be asking for them myself.

Canon 50mm f1.8 Lens
To start with we have the “nifty 50” a great lens at a great price. The Canon 50mm f1.8 Lens is a phenomenal prime lines for less than $100. This is the #1 lens I recommend to people who are looking to be a photographer and really want to learn how to use their camera. It’s what we call a prime lens. Which means it doesn’t zoom. It has a very shallow depth of field making it great for beginner portraits and amazing in low light. You can see some shots using this lens on Flickr.

If you want to spend a little bit more ($300ish) you can step up to the Canon 50mm f1.4 Lens which is not only faster, but made of metal (instead of plastic) making it quieter and more durable than the 1.8. I’ve owned both of these lenses and cannot speak highly enough about them.

Nikon shooters can find comparable lenses for around the same prices. Here is the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 and their Nikkor 50mm f1.4. I’m not a Nikon shooter but I hear great things about them.

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8gb
Flash memory is a must have for every shooter. With that in mind the coolest memory cards on the market right now have got to be the Eye-Fi Pro X2. Fro around $100 it’s an 8gb memory card that will mark the location all of your photos as you shoot them and show them to you on a map on both Mac and PC. Not just that it allows you to wirelessly upload your photos to many different sites and your computer! I use an older model of this myself for my day to day shooting and it’s amazing.

Thing is about the Eye-Fi is they only come in the SD Card format but that’s okay, there is a company called Digigear who make a SD to Compact Flash adaptor so that you can use this in professional level cameras as well. Best part? It’s only $16. I have not tried this myself however it’s reviews say it works great with the Eye-Fi.

Panasonic Lumix GF1
In the market for a new camera? The Panasonic Lumix GF1 is my personal best-buy. With interchangeable lenses a 12mp sensor and the ability to shoot beautiful HD video you can’t go wrong. I shoot with this myself here on Focal Points and it’s probably my favorite camera I have ever owned.

It should be noted that Panasonic has just announced the Lumix GF2 which is smaller and shoots “True HD” however it gives up the traditional dials in favor of an integrated touch screen. No American release date has been announced yet. That said I still recommend the GF1 as the announcement of the GF2 has caused it to dramatically drop in price (from around $900 to around $600) and it really offers better control despite the advancements of the GF2.

Gorillapod SLR-Zoom
Next up we have the GorillaPod SLR-Zoom by Joby. For a little more than $30 this little tripod is extremely flexible and can go with you just about anywhere and work in any environment. Seriously, I’ve attached my camera to signs and fences with it. It’s amazing.

Lastly we have my favorite toy and an accessory for it.

iPad Camera Connection Kit
The Apple iPad has caused me and Oprah to agree on something for the first time in a while. This is absolutely my favorite thing ever. The battery life is amazing and with the abundance of apps available I find myself using this now than I do my laptop. Combine it with the iPad Camera Connection kit and it’s the perfect tool for the photographer in your life.

Good luck everyone and enjoy your turkey sandwiches!