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RIP YouTube iPhone App, 2007-2012 — Why You Won’t Be Missed

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Back when the iPhone first launched, there was a joke about the YouTube app on it. One nerd, or tech reviewer, would describe it as a “dumbed-down YouTube experience.” To which another would shoot back: “is that even possible?”

Well, here we are, five years later. YouTube the service has gotten a whole lot stronger and smarter in so many ways (as well as a whole lot dumber in some of its corners — something which turns out to be exceedingly and eternally possible).

But the iPhone app, even transplanted to the iPad, has stayed exactly as dumb as it always was. It’ll find the YouTube content you want a third of the time, if you’re lucky. They should call it YouRoulette, because you never know what a search might bring.

No wonder iPhone users in the know long ago switched to simply going to m.youtube.com on Safari, where a lot more stuff is available. When I heard about that fix, I was mad as hell at myself for all the wasted time on the app.

And from whom did I hear it? From YouTube staffers themselves. Even they didn’t believe in the thing.

So it’s really not such a bummer to hear Monday’s news — Apple has dumped the YouTube app from the next iPhone/iPad operating system, iOS 6. It’s ostensibly because “our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended,” according to an Apple spokesperson.

I’m sure it has, but I’m also sure Apple couldn’t be more relieved about that. This is a company that cares about great design, about stuff that just works, and the YouTube app was never that. It was so hobbled, it reminded me of the awful old WAP mobile web browsers that Apple effectively destroyed with the iPhone.

I’m also sure it’s just a coincidence that Apple is distancing itself from Google in general, for example replacing the Google Maps app in iOS6 with its own (called, confusingly enough, Maps). If you want the Google Maps iPhone app, chances are you’ll have to download it again — though what we don’t know is whether you’ll be able to make it the default for maps.

We do know that Google is working on a new YouTube app, according to the same Apple source. We’re still waiting for confirmation from YouTube.

Regardless, we’ll soon see the end of an app experience so poor, it couldn’t have made the iPhone look worse if the Android team had planted it there.

You’ll notice it’s one of the few original apps you can’t actually delete on your iPhone? Consider it deleted now, and good riddance.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/06/rip-youtube-iphone-app-2007-2012-why-you-wont-be-missed/

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It’s the Software, Stupid.

I bought my phone almost two years ago. Today, it does things it didn’t do back then, like shooting cinemagraphs, wirelessly syncing with my computer and beaming stuff up to my TV. My first Xbox 360 didn’t play Netflix or Hulu when I bought it back in 2007. Now it does. My Kindle turns pages faster now than it did when I pulled it out of the box. The weird part isn’t that these things have new powers that they didn’t once upon time—it’s that I’d actually be upset if they didn’t. I expect my phone to be better today than it was yesterday, better tomorrow than it is today.

That wasn’t always the case. When Sony shipped a Walkman, TPS-L2, it stayed the same. Four or ten or 15 years later, the play button worked just like it did the day it left the factory. (Unless you broke it.) A TV was a TV was a TV. The hands on a watch turned. And turned. And turned. Until they didn’t. Once they were given form in plastic or metal or glass, gadgets weren’t malleable objects. Form was function, forever.

What changed? It’s the software, stupid.

Gadgets aren’t just hardware anymore. Hardware is, more and more, just a delivery mechanism for software, toast under the jam. Consider the iPhone or iPad: They’re blank slates. A screen with a battery bolted on the back fitted together by a glass or aluminum shell. Inside of them are basically the same guts, the same silicon as the shitty $99 Android tablet I wouldn’t inflict on even the most loathsome human being (except maybe Chris Brown, fuck that guy) or the Windows Phone you’ve never heard of. More and more, it’s the software that makes a gadget different or special, or even more simply, good or bad. A beautiful piece of technology running garbage software is just beautiful garbage.

We’ve crossed a point in which basically every gadget is a computer of sorts. Partly because we wanted them to be smarter and connected and because the world is simply a digital place now—there’s no such thing as an analog mp3 player—but the ability to remake our listening devices and televisions in a computer’s image has been driven by the fact that computing power and sensors got dirt cheap, and are getting cheaper everyday. The secret behind Microsoft’s $150 Kinect is sensor technology that cost $10,000 before Microsoft got its hands on it. Your phone is stuffed with an array sensors: gyros, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, multiple mics, a camera. So of course all of your gadgets are tiny computers. Why wouldn’t they be? And when everything’s a computer, it’s the software that counts.

And while the iPod was a better music device than my Creative Zen because it was more beautiful and the jog wheel and interface was less stupid and iTunes made me want to scatter my brains across my screen slightly less than whatever demon software Creative had shipped to siphon your music onto it, now that nearly everything is a touchscreen, we’re in a place where, at least with most of our gadgets, there is nothing for designers to do but subtract, stripping and cutting and reducing, leaving as little as possible but a naked screen. Which means there’s nothing left but software. An iPhone is easier to use than the average Android device not because its volume button is in a different place or shaped differently, but because an army of designers and coders hacked together a bunch of bits and graphics that are easier to use than the guys at Samsung did. It’s sort of QED, particularly as guys who’ve spent many decades in the consumer electronics business—the Panasonics and Samsungs and Sonys of the world—try to make gadgets the way they used to, or worse, try pretend they’re a software company when they’re really not, and put out things that make VCR jokes look like the good old days.

The thing about bits is that you can change them whenever you want. Say, if you’re Apple, and there’s a massive privacy controversy over the way you allow developers access to people’s entire address book willy-nilly. You just push out an update. Problem solved! If Sony had shipped a Walkman that ate toddlers’ hands, well, it would eat their hands until it was recalled. There was no pushing an update. Which is great, when say, Microsoft wants to make my Xbox do new, cool things. But the downside is that we now live in a permanent beta culture. Companies ship products before they’re ready because they know they can fix them later. I literally cannot count how many times I reviewed a product at Gizmodo that was buggy, slow or otherwise crap, only to be met with the earnest-but-cheerful response, “We’re about to do an update! It’ll fix everything!” It very rarely does.

I’m not trying to say that good hardware design or adequately strong guts don’t matter anymore—I wouldn’t want a deathly slow iPad that was three inches thick and weighed 2 pounds—just that software is the soul of technology now. (I guess you could make a quip about a homely person with a lovely soul, but when it comes to things I want, I want it all.) Which is why the best stuff, more and more is made by software companies who are just serious enough about their software to make the hardware too. In other words, I hope you love Apple, Microsoft and Google, because you’re going to be buying a lot from them.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/mattbuchanan/its-the-software-stupid

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Martian’s Smartphone Watch Will Make You Feel Like James Bond [HANDS-ON]

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Apple, It’s Time to Make Something New

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Something truly astonishing happened in San Francisco Wednesday. And it had nothing to do with the iPhone 5 launch.

In the blue above the city, three skywriting jets hired by an artist and a design company wrote the first 10,000 numbers of Pi — yes, 3.14159 and 9,994 more — in dot-matrix numerals a quarter-mile high.

Carefully coordinating each plane to write every third character, they looped the number-string 150 miles around the Bay Area, a feat that made geeks everywhere gasp and think of three more characters: O, M and G.

Meanwhile, down on the ground, a technology company released a phone that was a little bit taller.

I don’t mean to begrudge Apple‘s big day. The launch event was a lot of fun. The iPhone 5 is a superior gadget with plenty of under-the-hood incremental innovations, and seems certain to become the world’s bestselling smartphone. The LTE battery life thing is a cool achievement. We get it. If I were on the iPhone 4 two-year upgrade cycle, rather than being halfway through my 4S contract, I’d probably be lining up for one come Sept. 21.

But the “Pi in the Sky” project served as a timely reminder of how much technology can awe and inspire, and that technology companies should try hard to make new things that push the boundaries of that. In fact, it put me in mind of Sergey Brin’s fantastic aerial display at Google I/O.

At that launch event, the Google co-founder bounded on to stage, in an unscripted moment that would make Tim Cook blanche, and asked us if we would like to see a demonstration of his mysterious experimental glasses-with-a-tiny-screen project, Google Glass. Why yes, Sergey, yes we would.

We were rewarded with a jaw-dropping live stream from the glasses of skydivers in a Zeppelin, one of the world’s only three Zeppelins, which happened to be flying right over our heads. The skydivers parachuted onto our roof, jumped on bikes, did tricks, then zoomed into the hall to deliver the glasses. And the crowd went wild.

A stunt? Certainly. But it spoke of the daring risk that Google is taking with Project Glass, an entirely new kind of user interface. The kind of roll of the innovation dice that it’s unfortunately hard to imagine Apple making under its current leadership.

The world’s most valuable company has chosen to play it very safe indeed, throwing all its engineering know-how into microscopic levels of innovation in a handful of hardware products. What’s the only new Apple gadget on the horizon for sure right now? A smaller iPad.

And that’s great. More power to them. I can’t wait to see the iPad Mini either. But at some point soon, Apple might have to look around and admit it has ceded the title of Silicon Valley’s most innovative and inspiring company to Google.

As a loyal Apple user who can’t bear to imagine Android fans getting that smug, I implore Tim Cook: Please don’t let that happen.

Tim Cook’s Walter White Moment

If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you know this recent and resonant scene (spoiler alert) where Skylar White drags her husband to a storage locker. Here she’s been keeping his surplus cash, spraying it for silverfish, unable to count it because each bundle is stuffed with too many denominations. Skylar turns to Walt and asks: Is this, finally, enough?

(Not quite a spoiler alert:) It does the trick.

I’d like to think that at some point Tim Cook will be taken to a storage locker, or rather an aircraft hangar, and shown the entire pile of Apple’s cash on hand. The company had $100 billion just sitting around in early 2012, and that could grow to $200 billion in 2013.

Apple has grudgingly announced it will start to give $45 billion of that to shareholders, in the form of dividends and stock buybacks (the latter is more an investment for Apple than a giveaway). For the rest, it won’t account.

You can look at this all sorts of ways, but economists tend to get very frustrated at the fact that Apple simply refuses to reinvest this money in the economy — take chances, grow the company, design lots of new things, hire lots and lots of people to make and sell them.

That’s the way money is supposed to work. That’s the way it has worked, historically, in America. And when the world’s most valuable corporations choose to sit on their hoards like feudal lords — especially at a time of high unemployment — the economy suffers. People suffer. And Apple itself suffers, because it’s leaving even greater growth on the table.

It makes sense that Tim Cook would want to keep a healthy hedge against the future, a rainy day fund. Like Walter White, he’s been burned. The scars of 1997 and ’98, when the company was teetering on the edge of going out of business, are still there.

Cook was the inventory guy Steve Jobs hired to fix that problem, and he became the master of delivering just a few products in massive quantities very quickly. This was what part of what took Apple from zero to $100 billion in 14 years.

But the other half was innovation. Specifically, a leader who worshipped it. Who invented entirely new product categories. Who would constantly pepper Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, with product proposals that began: “Hey Jony, here’s a dumb idea.”

Jobs was a restless innovator. Toward the end of his life, he was not only coming up with supposed breakthrough ideas for a television — the still-rumored iTV — he was sketching out designs for planes and boats that outshone those of his billionaire pal Larry Ellison.

The “just a few products” limitation was something Jobs imposed on the company reluctantly, as a way to make it focus, to get out of its rut. But he always wanted to stretch the limits of what technology could do — such as saving the music industry from itself.

Cook has earned the right to run the company the way he wants. And for all we know, Jobs-like innovations at the macro level continue quietly in the most secret bowels of Apple. (They’d have to be a whole lot more secret than the iPhone 5 features.)

But the signs don’t point to that. They point to a company that is spending just 2% of its revenue on R&D, is focused on exquisite tiny details (those shiny diamond-cut edges!) at the expense of big ideas, and is satisfied with being ever more dominant in a few categories with reiterated products.

Jobs’s comeback was Apple’s second act. Now comes its third, in which the old rules and careful constraints don’t apply. An act in which the company has to decide in what way to expand, now that it has so much cash it could build more than 50 Space Shuttles.

So here’s hoping we’ll see some moonshot product launches, ones that surprise and even risk making us laugh (remember how we joked about the iPad name?). Here’s hoping Apple gets what SpaceShipOne builder Burt Rutan once told me. “If you don’t have a consensus that it’s nonsense, you don’t have a breakthrough.”

Here’s hoping, even though — especially when — it’s pie in the sky.

BONUS: A Look at the iPhone 5

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iPhone Case Doubles as a Stun Gun

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Looking to ward off attackers? Well, there’s no app for that, but there is this.

A couple of inventors in Baton Rouge, La., are offering limited-edition Yellow Jacket iPhone cases that double as stun guns.

The case will emit 650K volts, which is enough to take down an attacker. Not only that, but it will add 20 hours of battery life and come in three colors — black, white and pink. Prices start at $85 and there’s even a Family Pack of four for $380. However, you can only get those deals if you contribute at least $1 to Yellow Jacket’s Kickstarter-like funding program. The inventors — Seth Froom and Sean Simone — are trying to raise $100,000. So far, they’re about 5% of the way there. (And yes, an Android version is in the works.)

Before you rush to buy one, though, you might want to take note of your state’s laws regarding stun guns. The company provides a list of the states that prohibit the weapons when you order.

Another thing you might want to keep in mind is the possibility that the case may accidentally stun you while you’re making a call. The site offers some reassurance: “If used properly, the Yellow Jacket should not come in contact with any part of your body while on a phone call. Because stun guns have to essentially make contact with the skin in order to shock a human we designed the device to face up and away not down and in. The safety cover should also prevent unintentional shocks from occurring. There are always exceptions that we cannot account for. Please be mindful that this is not a traditional iPhone case!”

So, use with caution.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/12/iphone-case-stun-gun/

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Spixi Power Cord Untangles Your Life

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It’s always the case. You reach into your bag for a single charger only to pull out a tangled set of cords. Your earbuds merged with your phone’s charger that also wrapped around your computer charger.

There are solutions. Aftermarket two-way retractable chargers have been around for years. You know, the ones that feel cheap, usually break and jam? This experience in frustration is about to change thanks to a nearly successful Kickstarter campaign.

Spixi is a one-way retractable charger from the mobile device accessories maker Escargot. Marketed as “a better way to charge and sync your iPhone and Android,” the charger was born out of the familiar frustration of tangled cords. Spixi is built from polycarbonate, what Macbook chargers are made from, and a thermoplastic elastomer cable that is sturdier and more eco-friendly than standard polyvinyl chloride. At two feet in length, you can connect the USB charger to your computer and still talk as you charge.

The proposed Spixi is about the width of an iPhone 4 screen at 2.25″ and the project has raised $28,403 of their pledged $30,000. The charger will be available for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4/S and Micro-USB powered phones.

How often are you untangling cords? Is Spixi a charger you’d likely use? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/08/spixi-power-cord/

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Everything You Need to Know About the New Twitter

Twitter rolled out on Tuesday a series of design updates aimed to add more personality to member pages. Photos have been brought to the forefront and room has been made for Facebook Timeline-like cover images.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo first unveiled the updates during morning news program The Today Show — an unlikely stage for a tech company that is continually introducing new features and designs. Since the announcement was coupled with a short segment about Twitter’s growth and success, it was likely part of an effort to introduce the platform to a greater audience not yet using the site.

“Today’s changes are all about bringing that personality forward. More media forward, more photos forward,” Costolo said on the show. “So it’s much easier to see these media experiences and flip through them.”

The company also announced new apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.

Behind the Header Photo

Member profile photos have been moved from the top left to a spot in the center of the page. Users can upload a long horizontal “header” image that resembles the cover photo concept currently used on Facebook and Google+. Existing profile pictures are embedded in the center of the header.

Twitter-Design-Profile-Lance

“The page itself has been reoriented to play up other visuals as well: Your avatar is no longer tucked in the corner, but will display front and center,” Twitter said in a statement. “The photo stream, too, has been moved up, and will now be accessible on the apps.”

How to Add a Header

First, visit your profile — the page that’s labeled “Me,” not your homepage — either on Twitter.com or via your mobile app. To add a header photo, visit Twitter.com/Settings/Design and select a photo from your existing library or port in a new one. To upload a header photo from a mobile app, visit to the “Me” tab, click the settings button (gear), tap “Edit profile” and then “Header.”

Note: After selecting a picture, you’ll need to scale it to size. The original image size can’t surpass 1252×626 pixels (with a max file size of five megabytes) and anything less than 640 pixels won’t look great.

App Upgrades

The iPhone app looks similar to what we’ve seen in the past, particularly in regards to the news feed and navigation. The “Me” section has been optimized for a header photo, however.

Meanwhile, the iPad app received a whole new user interface. In addition to highlighting a header photo and giving uploaded photos a bigger display area, you no longer have to swipe to reveal the sidebar. It also gives greater prominence to media — images now appear full-screen and links show up within the tweets when expanded. The company called the iPad app more than just an upgrade.

“We’ve rebuilt the app from the ground up to make it fast, beautiful and easy to use,” Twitter said in a statement.

Twitter also noted that the news represents “our mobile-first strategy.”

User Reaction

Mashable conducted a poll after the news was announced to gauge user feedback, and 47% said they loved the emphasis on photos and the new header. About 27% said cover pictures are “so 2011,” while 25% said they were indifferent.

Header Inspiration

While you think about how you want your new header to look, check out our gallery of early adopters.

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How Blind People Use The iPhone

Smart phones have revolutionized the world, but what about the seeing impaired? Can they take advantage of this great technology?

Our favorite blind film critic  shows us that, yes, blind people can use a smart phone. In his latest video, he gives us a blind tour of how he uses his Apple iPhone 4s.

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/04/11/how-blind-people-use-the-iphone/