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New iPhones! What does this mean for mobile?

5C-5SI, along with the iOS faithful, waited with bated breath yesterday to hear all about the new iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. Considering that the last time I upgraded my phone was for the 4S, I was looking forward to seeing what my upgrade options (that were not Windows or Android-based) were.

I was excited for both models, as I could see these as upgrades. Part of the big upgrade for both will be iOS7, as it is promising to be a more streamlined user experience. While we’ve known about this new upgrade to the OS for a few months, now that it’s close to its release, the excitement can really build up.  There will be more accessibility to the Cloud, more multi-tasking features, easier ability to share data, and a better camera functionality, among other updates. Siri searches are even improved, as it draws more data from Wikipedia and social media now. Maps are improved. Just the OS update alone will make things better for mobile sharing of information. The iWork suite is going to be free, available on the Cloud as well. This is a big boost to creating and editing content, whether it be text, graphics, spreadsheets or video.  My first reaction to this was, “Gee, I spent some good money on getting all those apps a while ago. Do I get a refund now?” I’m sure I don’t, but thinking about this from an educational perspective, this is a big boost. I did use the cloud-based iWork to work on some items while it was available via beta, and I found it to be a great solution for me to work on various documents on both my iDevices and my laptop–and my laptop is Windows-based! I could access it via my iCloud account on my browser, and then work on it later on my iPad or iPhone. It’s a great boost, and I’m sure it’ll help some classroom situations save some money. 

But these new tools–because that’s what these new phones are, new tools–look awesome.  The iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S do open up some new doors to not only use this new OS to the maximum, but they offer new opportunities for mobile learning.

While the iPhone 5C has all the pretty colors now available, the new structure of using a polycarbonate plastic foundation is going to make a big difference. First of all, I’m sure some people are thinking, “Oh my gosh, that thing will crack so easily because it’s plastic, even if it has that silicone case around it.” If you don’t know much about polycarbonate plastics, then you’d need to learn, because you would be wrong. Polycarbonate plastics are often used for children’s eyeglasses because of their strength and rigidity. The same plastic is used for sports goggles and sports eyewear for the same reason. (Being a mom who has a child with glasses, and I own a pair of prescription swimming goggles, I know this.) This plastic is safe enough to protect one’s eyes, even in extreme conditions, as they don’t break easily nor do they scratch easily. So if it’s safe for your kids’ eyes, it’s probably going to be safe for your phone. It’s reinforced with the steel frame that doubles as an antenna, so I think one shouldn’t have any worries if the device is properly cared for, in general.

iphone5c-groupThe 5C will take advantage of all the new functionality of iOS7, which is good, but I think the biggest part of all of it will be its price point. The 16 GB model–it’s “smallest” storage model–will be US$99. For a brand new phone with this kind of functionality, that’s pretty cheap! And because of that price point, people who were buying Android and Windows phones as alternatives because of the price points of those other brands might now be able to afford an iPhone now.  iPhone is known for its customer services, its ease of use, and its ability to have access to more apps than imaginable, so this accessibility will allow it to become a more dominant player in the mobile phone game. I can imagine schools being more apt to buy some of these smartphones or encouraging or subsidizing these phones around the world, because the price point is half of what the “fancy” model is worth, but it still packs a punch.

The 5S device, however, has more bells and whistles. While it does have new colors to its line-up, it’s more about how powerful the device is. It’s really a true microcomputer in the palm of your hand. The 5S is the first smartphone to have a 64-bit processor. How long ago was it that we had 64-bit desktops and laptops? That’s amazing! The CPU performance is now twice as fast as the iPhone 5, including super faster graphics. There is also a second processor in the 5S known as the M7, which is a motion co-processor. It  works more accurately with the compass, accelerometer and gyroscope, so it’s going to spawn more use for health and fitness apps. Who ever thought you might use your iPhone for gym class? All this data can help assess the user’s surroundings more. Imagine using those features for a science class or history class?  The 5S also has an upgraded camera called the iSight camera with a dual-LCD flash with better sensors. In combination with the iOS7 software, it will allow for more accurate photography. There is also a slow-motion video feature and a burst mode on the camera (taking 10 frames per second on the shutter).  The camera alone is pretty cool!

5SThe other big feature is the TouchID, which is a fingerprint scanner on the home button. It’s done for security purposes, but I could see this taken to a higher level, in time, for personalization for access. You know how one can use separate user names and passwords to access a shared device? The TouchID uses a fingerprint to identify a person, and multiple fingerprints can be approved and saved. What if that was used for personalized learning? So, one student would swipe his/her fingerprint, and only certain apps or information would appear. Another student would do the same, and different apps or information would appear. This could work beyond security, and again, I see this as something that could be a money saver for schools. A device could be numbered, and Bobby and Susie could share Device #8 of 10 in a classroom during different periods, and yet have access to different information. The software might not be quite there yet, but that might be the next step, and it’s a feature that could be on future iPads as well.

I think these are great innovations moving forward with both phones.

However, I did see commentary on some social media outlets by some that they were disappointed by the new phones, stating that the new phones were not “innovative” enough. RJ Jacquez was definitely very vocal on his Facebook page, stating, “Absolutely NOTHING innovative from Apple at today’s event. Disappointing! Google is now clearly in control of the Mobile Revolution!”

But I think there were two comments to his Facebook posting in response that caught my eye that I think summarizes these upgrades well. (Yes, I asked their permission first before posting.)

Stefan Gentz, who is a well-known technical communications speaker, responded to a naysayer by replying,

Hey, they just introduced the first 64 bit smartphone in the world! It has a fingerprint sensor that opens up a whole new level of online shopping convenience and security, a new global LTE chip with a whopping 13 LTE bands (which is especially great for continent hoppers) and a superb camera with an aperture of ƒ/2.2 which is even dramatically better than my professional Sony digicam (3.5), even better than most professional DSLR and it can still take 10 pics/sec. And the new motion chip M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Not to mention the new iOS7. And this all in a 7.6 mm, 112 g sexy, high-precision case.”

Stefan followed up by stating that all these features don’t add up to nothing!

Paulo Castro, another technical communicator, followed up on Stefan’s comment with the following:

Innovation is not the only thing that matters in a new product. Sometimes you just have to take what you have and make it better, stronger, faster, more reliable, etc. Stefan (above comment) makes a good point in terms of new features.As long as nobody else comes up with something significantly better in terms of new hardware, software, or OS, then Apple may still have a good standing in this competitive market.

I, too, wish we could see an eye-opening product everytime Apple announces something, but the truth I would prefer to have an extremely efficient device at a good price, with high reliability, security, and functionality, rather than a new gizmo with stuff I don’t even need.

I have to agree with both gentlemen. There’s a lot going on with the upgrade of the device itself, as Stefan said. Even Lance Ulanoff of Mashable said of the 5S, “Its new look combined with this more powerful phone and some of the landmark features –- iSight camera, Touch ID –- should make the iPhone 5S feel less like an upgrade and more like a reboot.” But I think Paulo makes a great point as well, which is that in the end, I, too, would prefer to have an extremely reliable and efficient device.  The 5S that I plan to buy will be the third iPhone that I’ve chosen to purchase. I could’ve easily upgraded to a Windows or Android-based phone a while ago, but I chose not to do so.  I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time my son or my husband had to forego using their Android phones, and we relied on my iPhone for something. I’ve never had my phone crash, and I can only think of once when I had to reset the phone and start all over again. Once in about five years, and it was probably five years ago when I was getting adjusted to it? That’s pretty good.

When it comes to mobile devices, there’s no question that I favor iDevices. The new iPhones have a lot to offer, and I can’t wait to order mine!

PS – In case anybody cares to know, I would love to have Lance Ulanoff’s job, or something a lot like it.  Doing social media coverage and blogging about events like this and the tech scene would be a dream come true! 😉

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My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

Recently, due to the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Surface machine, RJ Jacquez released two blog posts promoting the idea that tablets, in time, will indeed replace the PC as we know it, and that Microsoft is going in the wrong direction with this Surface device. Between his post titled, “For the sake of ‘Mobile’ I hope Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet fall short” and Tablets Will Replace PCs, But Not In The Way You Think, he says that he feels that Surface is not taking us forward because it embraces the idea of adapting our devices to old software, instead of moving forward with mobile devices and rethinking how to create new productivity software for these new tablets that can make users more productive.  After paraphrasing several articles that have been out in the press that claim that productivity apps such as Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro (to name a few) are items that need to be addressed by the tablet industry, he counter argues,

Personally I think that most of these articles miss the bigger point, namely the fact that most people think that Tablets replacing our PCs will require a 1:1 task-replacement approach. I don’t buy this argument….In other words, we are currently shaping our mobile tools and soon these amazing devices, along with the incredibly creative apps that accompany them, will shape us and redefine every single task we do from here on out, including learning design, image editing, web design and yes every productivity task as well.”

I understand what he’s saying. If I’m interpreting him correctly, his argument is that devices like Surface should not be adapted to run bloated “power” software that needs the extra storage and peripherals to work, thus making the devices less mobile, but rather software should be streamlined to become more efficient so it can run in a tablet like an iPad which doesn’t need extra storage because it relies on the Cloud nor does it need any other peripherals to function. Some of the other “power” apps that RJ mentioned that critics think would need PC power include Photoshop, Microsoft OneNote and Avid Studio.

Well, I do have to agree with RJ insofar as I think that mobile is the future, and it is forcing us to really look at software and its limitations, and it’s making us think about how to streamline processes and our needs. mLearning is in the midst of a huge revolution due to that mindset right now. And actually, there are tablet versions of Photoshop, MS OneNote, and Avid Studio available for tablets that cover most of what users need. So it’s not like these kinds of software can’t be adapted for most people’s uses.  The average user does not use Word or Excel or Photoshop or other apps the same way as a power user, so streamlined apps are fine.

However, I think there may be a need–at least for a little while longer–for PCs to still exist for other kinds of “power” uses. The first thing that comes to mind are apps that are not as mainstream as the ones mentioned so far. Tech comm apps like Framemaker, RoboHelp and Flare are the first ones that come to mind. Now I know that Adobe is working to put just about all of their major software products on the cloud, so that’s a move in the right direction. I have no idea if Flare or the other leading tech comm productivity software packages are moving that way as well. The same thing with e-learning software…again, Captivate is part of Adobe’s cloud-based Technical Communications Suite 4 right now, but what about Lectora or Articulate or other instructional design software packages?  These are all software programs that aren’t quite ready for tablet use yet, but for the sake of mobile productivity, it might not be a bad idea to move in that direction. But for now, staying as desktop apps is probably fine.

There’s an app called Cloud On that has the right idea. It’s an app that’s available for both iOS and Android use, and essentially it provides a means of accessing full versions of Microsoft Office on tablet devices, and then saving documents in a Dropbox, Box or Google Drive account. No short cuts here! Full functionality of the software, on the go!

So, why aren’t the all the big software companies jumping onto the bandwagon with this? Apple already has by creating tablet versions of their iWork and iLife apps, but what others? Some companies have taken baby steps, or are working on it, and others…well, I think they are not keeping up, or are in denial that having a lean version of their software is needed.

I can say, as I mentioned, that I’ve used Cloud On, but I’ve also used my iPad’s Notes app. I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPad heavily last year during grad school, as I would start my homework assignment on my iPad during my lunch hour, and then sync it in my SkyDrive account so I could access it from my laptop at home to finish an assignment. I recently used Photoshop Touch on my iPad when I was too lazy to power up my laptop one night to fix a photo for a friend.  When I’ve made movies or did any digital photography projects, they’ve been done more on my iPad than on my laptop due to more affordable choices that meet my basic needs for editing.

So, my answer to RJ’s question is that I feel there will still be some apps that will need a PC to do much bigger jobs. Desktops and laptops are our workhorses right now, and you wouldn’t ask a pony to do the work of a Clydesdale horse. The PC isn’t going away anytime soon, and it will remain the hub of business and other work for some time to come. But, I agree with what RJ said, that in looking forward to the future, we need to continue to think mobile and how we can make it work so that much of these workhorse products can be made more lithe and flexible to our needs.

One last thought to put the mobile/tablet point in perspective–if you are a Star Trek fan like I am, you will have noticed that everyone carries portable devices–the size of a tablet, e-book or smartphone– to access huge databases and information, and to do much of the “heavy” information lifting for anyone aboard a starship. This was depicted on the shows well as much as 25 years ago, before the advent of tablet devices and smartphones. Think about how the various characters on the show used their devices. They would tap into a main computer device on the ship–much like we would access a network or the Cloud–to obtain information and make various calculations as needed.

It would seem to me that we are getting closer to that kind of scenario in reality, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close, though!

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Um, that’s nice but…

Apple made it known to users of iWork.com that their documents would no longer be saved there in favor of iCloud.  You can read more about it here.

Okay, I have no problem with that. It makes sense that Apple is pushing iCloud hard, and has been since the release of the iPad two and the iOS5 that came out. Fine.

But there’s a problem.

If you are using the iWork apps in iPad or iPhone (I can’t speak for Macs, since I don’t have one), if you try to utilize the “Share and Print” feature, you can’t save it to the iCloud. Oh no, you can’t.  Well, I speak only for the “Pages” app, which is the only one I’ve downloaded for my iPad. I’ve updated it as far as it can be updated, but that little feature hasn’t changed. It can share to iWork.com, or to iDisk, but there is no feature to go to the iCloud. Now, you’d think that perhaps the iWork.com option would reroute to the iCloud, but noooOOOOOOOooooo. It doesn’t.  Now, I’ve set up an iWork/iCloud account, and so, naturally, I would think that I could try to save my docs there. They do save when I sync my iPad with the iCloud, but I don’t think they save to my iCloud/iWork account at all. It’s frustrating.

One of the big things that is important and a hot issue with mobile technology right now is the ability to be able to have a singular experience between your mobile apps and your…non-mobile apps (like your desktop/laptop). This was a big issue for RJ Jacquez on his blog very recently in the post named, “The Importance of Having a Singular Computing Experience for Mobile Learning,” noting Amazon’s Whispersync and Dropbox as examples of those who have it right.  So obviously, this has been on my radar recently,  and often is since I try to be the mobile grad student, working off both my laptop and my iPad, depending on where I am at the moment.

Since Apple tends to be a leader in mobile technology these days, wouldn’t you think that they would’ve added another option to the iCloud in the Pages app if they are trying to push users in that direction? It seems so obvious, yet they haven’t done it. They can always take out the “Share with iWork.com” option out in an update release once the site is completely blocked.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Am I missing something?