The WSJ's Daisuke Wakabayashi interviewed Greg Christie, one of the original iPhone engineers, about the creation of the device that launched seven years ago.

In late 2004, Mr. Christie was working on software for Apple's Macintosh computers when Scott Forstall, a senior member of the company's software team, walked into his office, closed the door and asked if he wanted to work on a secret project, codenamed “purple.” The team would develop a phone with an integrated music player, operated by a touch screen.

There are some new anecdotes to me in the interview, as well as a photo of a system Apple created to test the iPhone software in 2006 (it's big and clunky as you imagine). You can read the interview here.

See also: Andy Grignon's story.

I was surprised when Apple announced that iOS 7 would run on 2010's iPhone 4, mostly because the OS seemed to make use of graphical effects, transitions, and animations that looked like great candidates for poor performance and hiccups. Indeed, iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 (and to an extend, the iPad 3) was, in my experience, insufferable: animations were slow, scrolling would often drop frames and stutter, and everything felt generally sluggish.

Ars Technica's Andew Cunningham has run tests to measure the speed improvements of iOS 7.1 on the iPhone 4. The changes are noticeable, but, more importantly, the update makes the OS fluid and snappy – usable, at least. iOS 7.1 cuts the execution time of animations on all iOS devices, but the difference for the iPhone 4 is even more apparent.

It is a good thing that Apple is still supporting a four year-old device with the latest version of iOS (albeit with missing features), and I'm glad that iOS 7's possibly one and only major update focused on making performance acceptable on older devices for the future.

Craig Karmin, reporting for the WSJ:

Guests arriving at the Aloft Hotel in Manhattan or one in Silicon Valley will soon be able to do something hotels have dreamed about offering for years: walk past the check-in desk and enter their rooms by using a smartphone as a room key.
[…]
Guests at these properties will receive a message on a Starwood app containing a virtual key, which will unlock the door with a tap or twist of their phone through the use of Bluetooth technology. The company says the iPhone 4s or newer models and the Android phones running 4.3 or newer will be compatible.

Personally, I still enjoy the interaction with staff members when I check in, which is also the reason why I always go talk to an employee when I need to buy something at my local Apple store (I tried Apple's EasyPay feature, and it felt odd).

This is where the future is going, though, and there are several elements worth considering. Bluetooth LE has stolen the spotlight from NFC for low-power, peer-to-peer wireless transfers, and there are obvious security concerns over solutions like this, as well as home products like the Lockitron. It's an exciting time to watch pocket computers reshape our world.

Ben Kuchera of Polygon puts into words what I’ve been trying to say all along.

From Draw Something to Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja to Cut the Rope, the biggest names in mobile gaming got that way because they used the touchscreen in novel ways. The lack of physical buttons isn’t a hindrance to game design, it’s a feature that smart developers have been using to their benefit for years. The developer of Ridiculous Fishing, a game which won an Apple Design award for 2013, didn’t worry about not being able to use buttons; they created a game that used the hardware in fun ways.

Dec
30
2013

Must-Have iPhone Apps 2013

For the past three years, I’ve been running a series called “My Must-Have Mac Apps” that, once a year, would list the apps that I found indispensable on my Mac. This year, considering the changes that I went through from a workflow perspective, I thought it would be appropriate to start focusing on iOS as well. The first installment was about the iPad; then, I covered the Mac; today, I’m going to conclude this year’s series with the iPhone.

Like many others, I don’t use the “phone” part of the iPhone much. The iPhone is my portable computer. And I have lots of apps on it.

My workflow has changed a lot over the years. I used to have a MacBook Pro and I later got an iMac and replaced the MacBook Pro with a MacBook Air. I thought that I’d always need the Air but then I was forced to work from an iPad and I didn’t like it. As I kept trying, I ended up liking my iPad setup so much that I turned it into a tool more versatile than my Mac and wrote a book on it. But the way I use my iPhone has never changed: the iPhone is the computer that’s always with me. If anything, the software that runs on it has evolved through the years, with apps getting more powerful, inter-connected, and, in some cases, “desktop class”. And then, earlier this year, iOS 7 happened.

As expected, iOS 7 provided a fantastic opportunity for developers to reimagine and redesign their apps to take advantage of Apple’s new OS features and design language. Three months into iOS 7, I think that the developer response has been remarkable, but the results are very much still in flux. For the apps that I use on a daily basis, I’ve seen a few major relaunches of apps rebuilt from the ground-up for iOS 7, apps that still have to be optimized for it, and a lot of “compatibility redesigns” that brought lighter color schemes and translucencies without substantially altering the way an app works or is structured for iOS 7. As Apple itself is still trying to fully understand their own new design language, I think it’s fair to assume that third-party developers will need more time to really “get” iOS 7.

As I thought about the apps I wanted to include in this year’s last installment of the Must-Have Apps series, I realized that there was a good mixture of software that was built before and after iOS 7. As usual, my goal was to mention apps that I consider must-haves for my daily workflow, and for this reason you’ll find a mix of brand new iOS 7 apps, minor iOS 7 design updates, and a few pre-iOS 7 apps too. When it comes to having the best tool for the job, I value utility over fashion, and I cherish an old app if it still is the best for me.

The list below includes my 50 top picks and is organized in four sections: Main, for apps that I use several times every day; News, for discovering links and staying on top of RSS; Entertainment, for media consumption; and Utilities, for single-purpose apps that I use often but not heavily every day. Each app is listed with its App Store link and, at the end of the article, you’ll find my iPhone app of the year.

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I'm a big fan of Kirby Ferguson's old Everything Is A Remix series and I can't wait to see what he's been working on. This case study on the iPhone does a good job at pointing out how the iPhone was really a revolution and what happened after it.

There was less they could do to make sure the phone calls Jobs planned to make from the stage went through. Grignon and his team could only ensure a good signal, and then pray. They had AT&T, the iPhone’s wireless carrier, bring in a portable cell tower, so they knew reception would be strong. Then, with Jobs’s approval, they preprogrammed the phone’s display to always show five bars of signal strength regardless of its true strength. The chances of the radio’s crashing during the few minutes that Jobs would use it to make a call were small, but the chances of its crashing at some point during the 90-minute presentation were high. “If the radio crashed and restarted, as we suspected it might, we didn’t want people in the audience to see that,” Grignon says. “So we just hard-coded it to always show five bars.”

There are many good stories about the creation of the iPhone, but Fred Vogelstein's article for The New York Times is something else. Vogelstein, who is working on a book to be released in November, talked to various former Apple engineers such as Andy Grignon and Tony Fadell and assembled a fantastic collection of anecdotes, memories, and details of Steve Jobs' legendary iPhone keynote at Macworld 2007.

If you read one thing today, make it this one. Personally, I found it more entertaining (and possibly accurate) than several sections of Walter Isaacson's book. Make sure to read what happened to Forstall's chief of staff.

Sep
10
2013

Today’s iPhone event was short and to the point. Instead of introducing handfuls of new products and apps, we were presented with a quick iOS 7 overview of what was already announced at WWDC, some iWork and app updates (more on that in a second), and then the iPhones themselves alongside accompanying cases. Honestly, this made for one of the most satisfying iPhone events in ages.

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Sep
10
2013

During today’s media event at the Apple Campus in Cupertino, California, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, took the stage to announce the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5c is Apple’s first plastic-bodied phone with a 4-inch screen, is shaped like the iPod touch, and is also Apple’s first iPhone that’s available in an array of bright colors. The 16 GB iPhone 5c starts at $99 on contract.

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