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Dr. Touch #17 – “This Changes Everything, Again”

What the Stevenote means for us developers.

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The Show Notes aka Script after the break

This episode of the Dr. Touch Podcast is brought to you by Applyzer. Being a Developer I often check up on the ranks of my apps and Applyzer is constantly adding new features to make it even easier to keep track of my apps. They recently added automatic review downloading and now you get notfied if you log in if there are any new reviews. That’s killer! Applyzer also pioneered Top 1000 rankings in all categories. Other sites only give you a couple of 100. Only with Applyzer you get the full picture. www.applyzer.com should be your choice too.

So this years WWDC keynote is done. Let’s have a look at what interesting things there where for us developers.

The new iPhone will be named “iPhone 4″ and not HD or 4G. Which is logical, because to call it 4G it would have had to be a UTMS LTE phone, which is not rolled out yet. And HD is too much used recently. iPhone 4 is simple and to the point, it’s the fourth iphone.

Next we have a new name for iPhone OS. Because there are more and more devices without a phone part they are dropping that. The new name from now on is iOS 4. There was no mention about additional or surprising new hardware. I was hoping until the end to see an iOS-based AppleTV, but that’s not here yet.

So these are the two pieces of news that you need to be aware if you don’t want to embarrass yourself. iPhone 4 and iOS 4.

Let’s briefly go over the technical specification that Apple published within minutes of the end of the keynote.

It has HSDPA and HSUPA where it has been rolled out, in all all 4 relevant frequencies, as well as EDGE and GSM in the 4 frequencies there. Wireless b, g, and n. 16 or 32 GB flash drive, comes in white or black.

960-by-640 pixel IPS display with 326 pixels per inch resolution. They call it the “Retina Display”, because that’s the amount of PPI that the Retina can resolve at a distance of 10 inches. This is way better than the OLED screens you have on Android devices because of the color representation and everything looks incredibly sharp.

They totally revamped the camera system so that besides bumping the chip from 3 megapixels to 5 they get way more quality. Usually if manufacturers increase the megapixels they do so by shrinking the pixels which in turn introduces more artifacts. Apple left the sensor pixels at the same size, but increased the size of the chip. Also the CCD sits directly on the chip to eliminate extra wiring. There an LED that you use for flash and video light and a second front-facing camera. What really excites me is the capability of finally being able to record 720p video with this. Ah, and there’s auto focus for video now as well. This is really great news for everybody who is thinking about buying a HD video camera to record stuff for YouTube. If I wait for – say – two months then I can get that included with my new phone and I don’t need to spend extra money on it.

A second microphone adds noise cancellation which is extremely useful to improve audio quality in noise environments. One thing also really excites me as I did not dare to hope for it. iPhone 4 finally brings gyroscopic sensors to the iphone. With the 3GS you could use the compass to do simple Augmented Reality. One of the components I am selling on the Dr. Touch’s Parts Store is one that takes the video signal as it comes through a UIImagePicker and overlays anything you like. Thereby the compass tells me which direction your iphone is facing into. The problem with this is that there’s a slight lag and the compass is only so accurate.

Now with the gyroscopes it’s possible that the iPhone and your app knows exactly if the iPhone is turning and how much. Another app of mine was iFR Cockpit. Some of the customers where complaining that it’s not usable in a plane because there the accelerometer delivers a wrong gravity vector if you are flying in a curve. On the iPhone 4 it should be possible to integrate compass, accelerometer and gyroscope into a real inertial navigation system. In the least there are many more fine-grained 3D applications for this technology. Steve Jobs showed it off on stage by playing a game of Jenga where he would look at the wooden blocks from different angles. Bloggers reported the rotation of the 3D objects to be incredibly responsive.

Everybody has to admit that Apple put some incredible innovative engineering into this new hardware. The case is made of stainless steal and gone is the compromise of earlier iPhones where they had to have a plastic back for letting through the radios’ signal. With the iPhone 4 they use the frame as an added antenna.That’s why there are black lines on the side, that’s there the antenna begins and starts, it’s wrapped around the corners. So it’s basically a metal band on the side with the front and back made of glass. Yes, you heard right, even the back. I have this information from the official presentation video.

After a lots of hardware bashing recently by people having the latest Android devices I think Apple has reasserted their leading position in hardware design for at least the next year. iPhone 4 is beautiful, I’ll get it as soon as I can. September or August if I’m not mistaken for my country.

So what does the above mentioned improvements mean for us developers? Amongst the 1500 new things in iOS 4 we have to learn a couple of new APIs to directly access the raw camera data and the gyroscopes if we want to do something that’s cutting edge.

We don’t have to immediately worry about having to add any new technology to our existing apps. Steve said that all existing apps will automatically look better on the new display. Not just because they get pixel-doubled like on the iPad, but instead some things get automatically rendered better. UI Controls and text are automatically shown in higher resolution even if you don’t change anything. But if you add higher resolution artwork, then your app will look even more gorgeous. So one thing to take away is: keep your Photoshop or Illustrator files and draw them at a resolution high enough for iPad, then you will be fine for iPhone 4 as well.

If you draw in code then it has been always smart to not hard-code resolutions and number of pixels, but to use the view sizes during runtime and calculate the widths of everything then. That’s what I prefer to do myself whenever I am coding a new component. If you make it resolution independent, then you can reuse it everywhere.

Another bit of news is that there will be iMovie on the iPhone. This might be a bit of a problem for all developers who where making something like this for existing iPhones because Apple’s solution – as usual – looks incredible. And most likely it will be hardware-accelerated. 3GS and iPhone 4 have an h264 accelerator inside and I think only Apple software will be able to access this.

Now about iAds. While this is causing massive yawning on all fronts Steve made a point about the fact that they have lined up about HALF of what is estimated to go into mobile advertising for the second half of this year. 60 MILLION Dollars. So that’s BIG money and Apple promises to pay out 60% to us developers. I’m not sure, but I think I read somewhere that iAds also pay for just displaying ads, not just click throughs. If this is the case I’m definitely looking into adding some iAds to some of my apps. And then sell the option via InAppPurchase to get rid of them.

I have one app that earns me about 100 Dollars a month from AdMob. It might be worth added a similar one to see if iAd would earn the same or even more for the same number of downloads. Apple says that one of their main interests is to keep adding new way to allow developers make enough money to keep a low price tag. So if they can get iAds flying then this is a big thing. What do you think? Will you switch to iAds?

Another group of developers who will be unhappy with todays announcements when it comes to making PDF reading apps for iPad. Apple today announced that you will be able to read PDFs in an updating iBooks app which will come to iPad and all other iOS devices. You will be able to put the PDF into your iTunes and synch it to your device just like Books in ePub format. And the best thing, somehow your iBooks app will synch the bookmarks and notes wirelessly between your devices.

One more thing: front facing camera. Now Apple is selling something they call “Facetime” as the next big selling proposition. Imagine you are in a phone call and incidentally you’re on a WiFi network. With the push of a button you are suddenly in a video conversation. This whole technique is supposedly based entirely on open standards, so there is a certain likelyhood that Apple will be able to commoditize video calling for the masses. Unlike 3G video telephony which is only possible between supporting handsets and extremely expensive. Facetime would be at no extra cost from your cellular provider. It’s only Wifi for the time being, but Steve hinted that they will be seeking to work with cellular providers to enabled it on 3G as well. They probably need to put a server similiar to visual voicemail into the provider’s data center so that they can coordinate all those SIP sessions. Video is H.264 btw.

Since as a developer you’ll be able to use both the back and the front camera to get the raw video data I foresee quite a few interesting use cases. Besides some more immersive AR, I predict that there will be apps that let you virtually “try on” clothes before you buy them. The biggest new category in early Fall will probably be mirror apps. I swear, I’m going to make one if nobody else is. The iPhone Lipstick Mirror. How does that sound? Or iShavingMirror? Note that if you use any of these names or this idea you have to share with me part of your royalties!

There where no other hardware announcements. We’ve been hoping for an updated and cheap AppleTV that is able to run iPhone apps. Boy that would have been great. New Macs? There even is a rumor about a trackpad looking similar to the aluminum wireless keyboard. I’d love that on my desk. But we have to wait a bit more for these.

Apple focussed entirely on the iPhone for this keynote, who can blame them. This is their main cash cow now and the WWDC is mostly focussing on iOS as well. I’ve saved up a bit of money, but it was not enough to enter the WWDC and live at the same time. But I’ll definitely be getting the session videos as soon as they become available, should be a couple of hundred dollars.

Ah, and one other interesting thing. Supposedly we developers are getting the Gold Master of iOS 4 today or very soon, the public availability will be July 26th. And most importantly it will be a free upgrade also for the iPod touches. I guess so that they can get iAds as well…

Now that all of this is almost out of the back I’m looking forward to restart my podcasting and be able to report on topics that interest us developers. Now back to coding my friends, you have two weeks for your first iOS 4 apps.


Categories: Podcast

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