iPhone 4 release roundup

The iPhone 4 was finally released today, capping off one of the strangest launches in Apple’s history. First, Gizmodo got a nearly-complete prototype and paraded it before the world. That site’s editor had his house raided by police, and the poor Apple employee who lost the prototype in the first place was the butt of jokes on The Late Show and offered a free trip to Germany.

Days later, more prototypes showed up in Vietnam. Eventually Steve Jobs demonstrated the thing at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, where a network glitch forced him to skip a large part of his demo.

On June 15th, Apple and AT&T processed 600,000 pre-orders, despite widespread network issues that left many would-be customers frustrated. Sales were so high 1 that shipping dates had to be adjusted and AT&T suspended pre-orders entirely.

Today, outlets like Best Buy and Radio Shack had significantly fewer iPhones than they expected (several had less than 5) and turned customers away. AT&T stores had no stock for walk-in customers at all. At Apple Stores, sales were brisk while lines were tremendously long.

An odd reception issue that seems to be unique to left-handed customers marred the experience for some while others noticed a yellow splotch on their displays. It turns out that the reception issue can be fixed with a case 2 while the smudge can be “repaired” with patience.

Finally, Apple announced that it can’t make any white iPhones for a month.

At the end of the day, people are enjoying their new iPhones, making FaceTime calls and trying out iOS 4-optimized apps. Soon we’ll forget how strange this whole ordeal was. But for now … what an odd launch.

  1. Apple’s most successful pre-order ever, and 10x the orders AT&T saw for the 3GS
  2. Or, as Steve Jobs himself said, “Avoid gripping it in the lower left corner.”

Reading on the iPad Pt. 2 – Magazines

This is the second article in my series exploring reading on the iPad. Here’s part 1, newspapers and part 3, iBooks.

People have a special, unique relationship with magazines. They’re companions. Before you get onto a plane, you grab a magazine. We bring them to the beach, the coffee shop and yes, the bathroom.

They’re forgiving. You can fold one and stuff it into a pocket, leave it in a bag or toss it in the back of the car. Did you get a coffee ring on the cover? That’s fine; it’ll dry. You say you only have a few minutes to read? No problem. Bite-sized articles abound. Magazines are inexpensive and familiar.

They’re also in trouble. Newsstand sales for the 472 consumer titles in the United States fell 9.1% in the last half of 2009 versus the same period a year earlier. With the release of the iPad, a segment of the publishing industry is looking for Apple to provide the same salvation that the music industry received from the iPod.

Can an electronic edition of your favorite mag provide the same casual comfort that you’ve come to know?

In this article, I’ll look at two magazines for iPad: WIRED and Outside. But first, let’s review the factors that determine a pleasant reading experience on the iPad.

Communication

Forget the page curls, videos and other tricks. If a magazine app fails to convey the author’s ideas and message to the reader, the rest doesn’t matter.

Navigation

Developers are free to get creative with how users move through their applications. As a result, there’s no standard. Does a given solution enhance or hinder a given app?

Feel

How does the presentation, layout, navigation and so on combine to create an overall feel? Most  importantly, does the app disappear and leave me with the story, or am I aware of the software (and hardware) the entire time?

Uniqueness

What makes a given magazine stand out?

Acquisition

How do I receive new issues or content?

Now, let’s look at some magazines.

WIRED

The first electronic release from Condé Nast1 WIRED Magazine ($4.99) sold 24,000 copies in the first 24 hours. By June 8th that number rose to 79,000 copies, and the app was set to surpass print sales for the month.

That was nearly one month ago (WIRED Magazine for iPad was released on May 26th), and it’s still the only issue available. But that doesn’t mean they’re done. “There is no finish line,” wrote Editor In Chief Chris Anderson. “WIRED will be digital from now on, designed from the start as a compelling interactive experience.” That’s great news, because this is a nice implementation that will be great after after a few changes.

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At first, navigation is a bit confusing. Pages scroll horizontally, and multi-page articles and ads scroll vertically. Swiping left and right moves you through the magazine. Unfortunately, some of the multi-page articles provide visual cues that they scroll vertically, but not all.

However, tap any page and all becomes clear. A menu bar appears that reveals a table of contents on the left and a gorgeous overview on the right. The length, synopsis and even keywords of each page is clearly presented. Let the doves descend from a sun-filled sky because this is so clear and effective it must be of supernatural origin. Well done, WIRED.

If navigation is good, the feel is great. WIRED’s bold design, colors and images are well represented in this app. It’s undeniably an issue of WIRED.

Best of all, the developers took advantage of of the medium with lots of interactive features.

For instance, the “Invaders from Mars” feature presents an image of the red planet and the man-made machines that have paid it a visit. Slowly swiping across the image rotates it, revealing a photo and brief history of each mission. The illusion of “spinning” the planet is very well done and kind of addictive (you’ll find yourself whirling the planet around even after you’ve read all of the text).

Some articles, like “Riverboat Resurrection,” let you toggle between related photos without leaving the article. A great example of this explains what goes into Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce. As you tap between the numbered steps, a new ingredient is revealed. Others include a clip of related audio or video. It feels like a webpage, so it’s familiar, but it’s much faster, so it’s more satisfying.

I spent 10 minutes playing with Worcestershire Sauce. Not even Worcestershire Sauce, but an article about what goes into Worcestershire Sauce. Now that’s engaging content.

I don’t know if other publications would be able to pull this off. As a tech-y magazine for geeks, this type of flash just “fits” into WIRED. I can’t imagine Vogue, for example, using the same tricks without seeming gimmicky. WIRED for iPad is unique in very good way.

Acquisition is a mystery as only 1 issue has been released, so we’re left to talk about communication. WIRED for iPad is successful in this regard for one simple reason: It’s fun.

It’s fun two spin Mars around, to look at pictures of Pixar and explore how a frame is assembled. I’m pulled into the experience and as a result riveted to the content.

The app has its faults, of course. The price is too high ($5 per issue at this point), it’s huge at nearly 1/2 a gig and there are a LOT of ads. But what’s good about this app is so good that I’m willing to overlook the bad.

Outside

I was thrilled to see long-time favorite Outside ($2.99, universal) hit the iPad. The photography and the gear/gadget reviews have had me hooked for years. The iPad edition mostly works for me.

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The navigation is instantly usable to anyone who’s browsed the web within the last 5 years. To begin, swipe through the covers of issues you’ve downloaded. Once you’ve tapped a selection, a toolbar displays icons for each section, and an overview screen presents what’s available from each department. Best of all, there’s a tutorial on “how to navigate.” Nice!

Acquisition is simple if a bit time-consuming. The app checks for new content at every launch. It only takes a moment and, if it does find something, it asks before beginning the download. My suggestion is to accept when you aren’t really in the mood to read, as the downloads take a while.

What’s unique about this app is its gallery. It pulls all the photos from every article and displays them together. You can easily flick through the pictures without seeing a lick of text. Before you scoff (“The whole point is reading, Dave”) consider how many times you’ve flipped through the pages of a magazine, looking at the pictures without reading a single syllable. See?

Feel is where Outside for the iPad loses me. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking it with me to EMS to show a salesperson exactly what I want. Yes, I could do that with the iPad but I probably won’t for fear of  A.) looking like a tool and B.) dropping or misplacing the thing. Extracting a crumpled magazine from a cargo pocket is one thing. Flinging a $500 computer around a store — especially for a scratch-0-phobe — is another.

That’s not the app’s fault but it does speak to the core of magazines on an iPad. Like I said, people think of magazines as their rough-and-tumble companions. They’re the Jeeps of the publishing world: utilitarian and ready for duty. Even with a case, the iPad is, well, a delicate computer. I’m not going to hand it to Janie the Sales Clerk in hopes that she can find the Tevas I’m after.

That’s where the disconnect will be for many. Not the implantation. The teams behind WIRED and Outside have pulled off their projects spectacularly well. How many will be comfortable brining the iPads on the planes, beaches and bathrooms of the world for a quick read?

Would you?

  1. Just this week, Condé Nast confirmed that it will bring The New Yorker to the iPad

White iPhone delayed until late July

From Apple:

“White models of Apple’s new iPhone 4 have proven more challenging to manufacture than expected, and as a result they will not be available until the second half of July. The availability of the more popular iPhone 4 black models is not affected.”

I knew something was up when leaked Best Buy inventory reports showed not one single white iPhone. Apple has produced white iPhones in the past, of course, but never white glass. The rear cases have always been plastic. It will be interesting to see where the manufacturing glitch is.

I’m reminded of Henry Ford: “The public can have any color it wants, as long as it’s black.”

A-list iPhone 4 reviews appear [Updated]

The dons of technical writing have published their iPhone 4 reviews. Apple has charmed them all, including Uncle Walt. Calling the iPhone 4 “…a major leap over its already-excellent predecessor,” Mossberg’s review was largely positive. From All Things D:

“I’d say that Apple has built a beautiful smartphone that works well, adds impressive new features and is still, overall, the best device in its class.”

The downside? AT&T. Mossberg:

“Just as with its predecessors, I can’t recommend this new iPhone for voice calling for people who experience poor AT&T reception, unless they are willing to carry a second phone on a network that works better for them.”

I hoped the antenna-as-casing would improve reception for those of us who struggle with reliability. I’ll have to test it in my own neighborhood, of course, but this is disappointing to hear.

Joshua Topolsky wrote Engadget’s extremely thorough iPhone 4 review, complete with HTML5 videos that play on the iPhone and iPad. Not only does Topolsky offer the best representation of the Retina Display’s clarity that I’ve seen yet, he also contradicts Mossberg’s assessment of  the phone’s call reception:

“…in our testing, we had far, far fewer dropped calls than we experienced on our 3GS. Let’s just say that again: yes, the iPhone 4 does seem to alleviate the dropped call issue.”

David Pogue’s piece for the New York Times is also out. One of my favorite bits confirms my assertions about Apple:

“It’s not the first phone with both a front and back camera. It’s not even the first one to make video calls. But the iPhone 4 is the first phone to make good video calls, reliably, with no sign-up or setup, with a single tap.”

David’s experience with iPhone 4’s “killer app” — making calls — was similar to Joshua’s:

“The new phone is also better at choosing the best channel for connecting with the cell tower, even if’s not technically the strongest one … Does any of this mean no more dropped calls in New York and San Francisco? No. But there do seem to be fewer of them.”

I’m still waiting on Andy Ihnatko.

iOS naming conventions [Update]

Now that the iPhone OS has officially been re-branded as “iOS,” I was wondering how to refer to older versions. For example, should I say “iOS 3.1.3” or “iPhone OS 3.1.3?”

The Macintosh operating system was referred to as “system” thorough version 7.5. Version 7.5.1 used “OS” in the startup splash screen, and the name formally acquired the “OS” with “Mac OS 7.6” as a response to the clone program. If writing about an older Mac, I’d use “system 7.0” or “OS 9.1” for example.

In this case, the operating system has expanded to run iPods, iPhones and the iPad. Consider that “The iTunes Music Store” became “iTunes” when Apple started selling movies, TV shows, audio books and so on.

In the App Store today I noticed that Apple is indeed using “iOS” to refer to older versions of the system; the iBooks page notes that the app works with “…iOS 3.2 or later.”

“iOS” it is then.

Update: John Gruber confirms that iOS 3.2, currently running on the iPad, is a separate fork from iOS 4. I always assumed that wasn’t the case.

Apple sells three million iPads in 80 days

Steve jobs, from Apple’s press release:

“We’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more people around the world, including those in nine more countries next month.”

The first million units sold within 28 days, and Apple reached the 2 million mark in “less than 60 days.” Let’s assume the second million sold within 59 days. That means the 3rd million sold in exactly three weeks.

International sales introduced a huge pool of potential new customers, of course, but still.

Bloodbath.

The iPhone early delivery email

Many customers who ordered an iPhone on June 15th received an email overnight stating that it would arrive on the 23rd, not the 24th as originally promised.

There’s a grammatical error in the 2nd paragraph which reads, “…you can check the FedEx website the morning of the June 23rd,” followed by a link. It’s probably an honest mistake, but that’s unlike Apple. I’d check http://store.apple.com instead of the link in the message, just to be safe.

iOS 4’s small changes [Updated]

Apple’s software engineers constantly make small improvements that enhance the overall experience. Half of the fun of an update is finding the changes that aren’t mentioned during the keynotes. Here’s what I found while exploring iOS 4.

The “End Call” button now simply says “End,” which makes perfect sense as the “call” was redundant. Of course you’re ending the call; there’s no need to name it.

There’s a new swap transition in Mail1. When clicking a web link in a Mail message, iOS 4 switches from Mail to Safari with the swap transition from Keynote. It’s much better than the sudden blackout that used to precede Safari’s opening.

The pinpoint feature in the Maps application is now an arrow instead of a crosshair. It’s in the menu bar, too.

When closing an unsent message in Mail, you’re prompted to “Delete Draft,” “Save Draft” or “Cancel.” I’m pretty sure the option to save topped the list before iOS 4, and the delete button wasn’t red 2.

The Photos app remembers the last picture you were looking at and displays it the next time its launched.

Album view in the iPod app now includes album cover art and a shuffle button.

Have you found any that I missed? Let me know and I’ll update the post.

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Update: I don’t know if this one’s new, but I never noticed it before. If you pull down on the bookshelf in iBooks 1.1, you’ll find a hidden Apple logo.

  1. The transition I noticed between Mail and Safari is a function of fast app switching, and not unique to Mail. I also noticed it when switching between 3rd-party apps from the Tray, and while adding a PDF to iBooks from Mail. Thanks to reader Matt for pointing this out.
  2. Reader Holger Frohloff sent me this screenshot confirming my memory of how the old buttons were colored and arranged.