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What Apple’s products could look like without Jony Ive leading design

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It’ll truly be the end of an era when Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive walks out of the massive sliding glass doors of Apple Park to design things at his new company, LoveFrom.

Ive and his team of close-knit industrial designers have blessed the world with many iconic products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch over the last 20 years. 

These are all devices that have changed the world. But in some ways, Ive’s obsession with stripping everything down to its purest form has also been the source of much frustration for users. Instead of products that provide the best form and function, in recent years, Apple products have felt too compromised.

Though many will view Ive’s departure from Apple as a turn for the worse — “The genius of Steve Jobs and Ive will never be matched; Apple is doomed!” — I see his leave as an opportunity for the company to embrace a new chapter of more sensible devices. Devices that are familiar, but better suit the many different kinds of users that have helped grow Apple into one of the most valuable companies in the world.

It’s unlikely Apple without Ive will vomit a dizzying lineup of new devices the same way the company did in the late ’80s to early ’90s under former CEO John Sculley. And I don’t expect Ive’s influence to suddenly disappear overnight. 

However, I strongly feel Apple’s industrial designers are at inflection point where they can step out of Ive’s shadow and improve on existing products by breaking with some of the principles he was so unrelenting on.

Next-gen iPhone

A thicker iPhone with a flush camera sure would be nice.
A thicker iPhone with a flush camera sure would be nice.

A decade since the iPhone’s introduction, Apple’s most revolutionary product now faces fierce assault from every direction. The iPhone no longer has one main rival (Samsung), but myriad competition, especially from China (Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlusOppo, etc.) 

iPhone sales flatlined as prices became too high, hardware became more than good enough to last beyond two years, and Android phone alternatives have introduced irresistible mobile innovations such as notch- and hole-free displaysin-display fingerprint readers, and cameras capable of shooting ultra-wide photos and stunning night shots.

In comparison, the iPhone — as fantastic as the iPhone XR and XS/XS Max are — feel like they’re falling behind. This year’s new iPhones are expected to keep the same designs but add an ultra-wide camera inside of a big protruding bump.

New software and services, faster performance, and improved cameras are all great features, but consumers want more visible change for the iPhone.

Under Ive, the iPhone went on a diet until it became arguably too thin with the iPhone 6, which culminated in bendgate. Slowly, but surely, the iPhone has thickened with each new model going from the iPhone 6’s 6.9mm profile to 8.3mm on the iPhone XR.

I can’t speak for everyone, but anecdotally, I see more people with iPhone XRs than iPhone XS or XS Max. Not to mention almost everyone puts their iPhones in cases or carries battery packs or cases. This suggests to me people might not mind a thicker phone if the tradeoff’s for, say, a bigger battery or a camera that doesn’t jut out. It would be smart for Apple’s industrial team to take these use cases into consideration for any future iPhones.

“Consumers want more visible change for the iPhone.”

We’ve been hearing for years that the iPhone might switch to USB-C. It hasn’t happened under Ive’s watch. USB-C would mean one less proprietary cable to carry around. While it seems unlikely Apple would sever the healthy revenue it collects from third-party companies that license its Lightning tech, a thicker iPhone — even a millimeter or two — would allow physical room for USB-C to fit. USB-C would also endow the iPhone with iPad Pro-like functionality, like the ability to connect to monitors and USB-C flash drives.

A new smaller iPhone with a notch-free display and in-display Touch ID fingerprint reader could also compete with Android phones with the same features. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimsa 5.4-inch iPhone is reportedly slated for 2020 and a Credit Suisse analyst says Apple’s working on an in-display fingerprint reader, despite insisting Face ID is the better and more natural biometric system for iPhones.

I’d also love a design refresh that mirrors the iPad Pro’s straight edges and throws it back to the boxier iPhone 5/5S/SE days.

Future MacBooks and iMacs

Kill the Touch Bar, add a touchscreen, and bring back a memory card slot, please!
Kill the Touch Bar, add a touchscreen, and bring back a memory card slot, please!

I’ve outlined before what the death of the 12-inch MacBook could mean for future Apple laptops. Namely, this is Apple’s chance to kill its almost controversial “butterfly keyboard” and switch back to scissor-style keys with more travel. Similarly, Apple can dump the Touch Bar and bring back the row of function keys while still keeping Touch ID inside of the power button like on the MacBook Air

Like the iPhone, I wouldn’t mind if Apple made the MacBook Air and Pro marginally thicker and heavier to add in a touchscreen (gorilla arm is such a myth), higher-resolution webcam with Face ID, a memory card slot, and MagSafe. These features would put MacBooks more on par with Windows-powered alternatives such as the excellent Surface Laptop 2 and Google Pixelbook.

And while Apple’s at it making MacBooks a few hairs thicker, why not make internal components like the storage, RAM, and battery user-replaceable again? Soldering the SSD and RAM is good for making thin machines, but terrible for upgrades, repairs, and adds to e-waste.

The iMac deserves a makeover. It's been seven years since the last redesign.
The iMac deserves a makeover. It’s been seven years since the last redesign.

iMacs could also use a post-Ive revamp beyond a space gray colorway; the current design’s gone virtually unchanged since 2012. As a desktop — a computer that doesn’t move around much (if ever) — Apple has a lot more room to be bolder.

Who is the iMac for? What do people want it to do that it can’t? I imagine creatives would love an iMac that borrows from Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 and has drafting table-like capabilities. A touchscreen with multi-touch and Apple Pencil support using a tilting stand would be neat. 

Design-wise, I’d love a Retina display that reaches closer to the edges with slimmer bezels like on the upcoming Pro Display XDR and does away with the iMac’s “chin.”

Face ID login, a new Magic Mouse that corrects this horrendous can’t-use-while-charging design, and user-swappable storage and RAM, or even a screen that rotates vertically like the Pro Display XDR would reimagine the iMac as a formidable modern all-in-one computer.

Apple Watch, Apple TV, HomePod, and beyond

There’s not much that needs improving for the Apple Watch. A camera underneath the display like the one Oppo showed off in a phone for FaceTime calls would be killer.

The Apple TV could become the game console it’s always been meant to be with its own Apple-designed gamepad; it makes even more sense with the launch of Apple Arcade this fall. The Apple TV’s Siri Remote could also use tweaking — small changes so that it’s easier to know which side is up or down.

It’s hard to say how Apple could turn around the HomePod’s misfortunes. Maybe a smaller and cheaper version or one with a screen like the Google Nest Hub

The sky really is the limit for the industrial design team Ive leaves behind. I’m not saying they should run wild and pull a Samsung with future iPhones or MacBooks that use unproven technologies like foldable screens or even release the rumored AR glasses. But bumping utility — real practical needs — higher up on the priority list could help ring in a new Apple era that’s less tone deaf.

Source: https://mashable.com/article/apple-product-redesign-jony-ive/

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Trump accuses Apple of refusing to unlock criminals’ iPhones, setting the stage for a fight

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Trump just tweeted a tweet that might escalate a sticky situation into an outright showdown between Apple and the US Department of Justice — by effectively claiming that Apple is refusing to do its patriotic duty to unlock two iPhones connected to last month’s shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s the tweet:

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.122K12:36 AM – Jan 15, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy43.3K people are talking about this

Yesterday, Attorney General William Barr accused Apple of much the same thing, saying that the tech company had provided no “substantive assistance” to the FBI in unlocking the shooter’s phones. But it’s a much more nuanced matter than that.APPLE HAS ARGUED THAT UNLOCKING AN IPHONE MEANS WEAKENING ALL IPHONES

For starts, Apple claims that it has been continually assisting the FBI with the Pensacola phones, by providing data backed up from the phones to iCloud servers and account information, as we reported yesterday. Apple says it’s handed over gigabytes of data to investigators, and has been responding to each request within hours. Apple also suggested that the FBI seemed to be satisfied until just eight days ago, saying that “The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance — a month after the attack occurred.”

But it’s also not an easy matter to simply “unlock” an iPhone for the feds — even if Apple has refused to do so in this case, which isn’t yet clear. We learned this in 2016 when Apple actually did publicly refuse to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino shooters, leading to a protracted legal fight that ended embarrassingly for the federal government when it turned out the feds didn’t need Apple’s help after all — partly because it paid a third-party for a tool to break into that iPhone, and partly because investigators were able to find the password on their own.

I digress: what Apple claimed in 2016 was that it didn’t actually have the existing ability to unlock a customers’ iPhone for the feds, even if they were an alleged killer, and that Apple wasn’t willing to build a backdoor into every iPhone just to make that happen — because it could potentially create a dangerous loophole that hackers could take advantage of as well.

That said, a poll at the time suggested that most Americans believed Apple should comply with the FBI’s demands, even though a majority understood it might make their personal data less secure. Those are the sympathies that Trump is attempting to draw on now.

According to The New York Times, Apple is quietly preparing for a brand-new legal fight over the iPhone’s encryption standards and the government’s desire for a backdoor, but is also internally frustrated that the Justice Department hasn’t spent more time trying to unlock the shooter’s iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7 Plus — devices lacking Apple’s most sophisticated encryption — with third-party tools. According to security experts who spoke to both the NYT and Bloomberg, third-party cell phone unlocking tools should be able to break into the Pensacola phones as well. Both phones were damaged in apparent attempts to destroy them, but the FBI managed to get both devices to turn on.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a statement in support of Apple and the need for strong encryption on personal devices in the US and abroad.THE GOVERNMENT’S DEMAND IS DANGEROUS AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL

”The government’s demand is dangerous and unconstitutional, and would weaken the security of millions of iPhones,” said the ACLU’s Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel Jennifer Granick. “Strong encryption enables religious minorities facing genocide, like the Uyghurs in China, and journalists investigating powerful drug cartels in Mexico, to communicate safely with each other, knowledgeable sources, and the outside world. There is simply no way for Apple, or any other company, to provide the FBI access to encrypted communications without also providing it to authoritarian foreign governments and weakening our defenses against criminals and hackers.”

Apple may have even more at stake now than it did in 2016: increasingly, Apple has repositioned itself as a “privacy” company, as if it’s the only tech company you can trust. You may have seen the ads. And while Apple has stumbled a few times already on privacy, that’s the image it wants to send.

It is true that Apple has benefited from a relationship with Trump, by the way, but not necessarily around trade — unless Trump’s saying that Apple is why his proposed tariffs on phones and laptops keep getting delayed.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.

Source:
https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/14/21066270/trump-accuses-apple-refuse-unlock-iphone-barr-pensacola-base-attack-tweet

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Samsung claims 5G lead after 6.7 million shipments

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Samsung has claimed to be leading the way for 5G device shipments at the close of 2019 after selling two million devices at IFA in September last year. Samsung seemingly romped through the final three months with a total of 6.7 million 5G device shipments for 2019. The figure eclipses the four million target the firm set itself, though as its main Android competitor (Huawei) is being stifled by political friction, it is hardly surprising Samsung has stormed into the lead.

According to estimates from Counterpoint Research, Samsung’s sales up to the end of November give it a global market share for 5G devices of 53.9 per cent.

6.7 million devices is simply a drop in the ocean of potential and could be dwarfed by an aggressive campaign by Apple in the US or Huawei in China. As Counterpoint’s Neil Shah notes, Apple could gain instant scale with a launch to turn these figures around. That said, you cannot argue with the figures; in the absence of main competitors, Samsung is maintaining its leadership position in the 5G segment as well as 4G.

“Consumers can’t wait to experience 5G and we are proud to offer a diverse portfolio of devices that deliver the best 5G experience possible,” said TM Roh, President of the IT & Mobile Communications Division.

“For Samsung, 2020 will be the year of Galaxy 5G and we are excited to bring 5G to even more device categories and introduce people to mobile experiences they never thought possible.”

While many analysts do not share Samsung’s belief that the consumer is clawing at the walls for 5G connectivity, there are likely to be more sales across the year. Firstly, geographical coverage will improve to whet the appetite, and secondly, 5G will come as standard on device; device shipments will most likely organically increase.

What will be worth keeping an eye on is the choices made by device manufacturers over the coming months as flagship models are pumped and hyped at industry conferences. Perhaps the most interesting element will be the ways and means by which the OEMs work with Qualcomm.

It has become widely accepted that the latest Qualcomm chipset features in the majority of flagship smartphone devices throughout the year. However, this year some OEMs will have a choice to make; to integrate or not to integrate?

Over the next few months Qualcomm will begin shipping both the Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 765 chipsets. The Snapdragon 865 is more powerful, though 5G is on a separate modem, potentially decreasing the power efficiency of devices. The Snapdragon 765 has 5G connectivity integrated, though is notably less powerful. Whichever chipset OEMs elect for, there will be a trade-off to stomach.

Looking at the rumours spreading through the press, it does appear many of the smartphone manufacturers are electing for the Snapdragon 865 and a paired 5G modem in the device. Samsung’s Galaxy S11, Sony Xperia 2 and the Google Pixel 5 are only some of the launches suggested to feature the Snapdragon 865 as opposed to its 5G integrated sister chipset.

5G might not have gotten off to the blistering start some in the industry would have been hoping for, but there is still plenty to come. With Mobile World Congress kicking-off in just over two months, there is amble opportunity for new devices to be launched prior, during and just after the event, while the iLifers will have all eyes cast towards September for Apple’s launch.

Source:
https://www.sunnewsonline.com/samsung-claims-5g-lead-after-6-7-million-shipments/

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Sony apparently can’t keep up with demand for its image sensors

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If there’s one common denominator among most devices this year is that they all have multiple cameras. And we’re not just talking about just dual cameras: OEMs ranging from OnePlus, Nokia, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and even Apple have come out with phones that have triple, quad, or even penta camera setups. More cameras don’t necessarily correlate to a better camera experience, but it does unlock more features and versatility that is normally impossible for one single camera to pull off correctly. This versatility is what has prompted OEMs to pack in multiple cameras, increasing the demand for different image sensors. Because of this, Sony’s semiconductor division is quite literally hot on their heels — so much that they can’t seem to keep up with the ever-rising demand.

Mr. Terushi Shimizu, head of Sony’s semiconductor division, says that “judging by the way things are going, even after all that investment in expanding capacity, it might still not be enough” when it comes to manufacturing capacity for their camera sensors, and that “we are having to apologize to customers because we just can’t make enough”, as reported by Bloomberg. The reason? The demand for their cameras as well as the number of smartphones being manufactured in mass with multiple sensor arrays. Sony is the main camera sensor provider for most smartphone manufacturers, and most devices we use nowadays have at least one Sony-made sensor. So even though the demand for smartphones has plateaued on a global scale, the demand for image sensors has steadily increased. Sony is even working around the clock to manufacture its in-demand image sensors, running its chip factories constantly through the holidays to keep up with the demand. But even 24-hour operations are said to be insufficient. The demand has grown so much that semiconductors are now Sony’s second most profitable business, only surpassed by PlayStation.

Sony is the manufacturer behind the 48MP IMX586 sensor which was, very easily, the most popular flagship camera sensor this year, featuring on several devices including several Xiaomi phones (Redmi Note 7/7 Pro, Redmi Note 8, Xiaomi Mi 9 line, Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro, Xiaomi Mi A3), the OnePlus 7/7T lineup, as well as on devices from Huawei, Oppo, Realme, Asus, Vivo, Motorola, et al. Its successor, the IMX686, will compete with Samsung’s 108MP behemoth head-on featuring a 64MP resolution and will be featured on 2020 phones such as the Redmi K30. Sony claims to have a 51% market share as of May 2019, and its share is expected to have increased by a few percentage points in the intervening months.

Source:
https://www.xda-developers.com/sony-demand-smartphone-camera-image-sensors/

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