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Is the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 a big deal?

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Last night Apple did the tried and tested thing of announcing their new products in a packed theatre, in a quasi-religious ceremony in which they talk about "values" and show "inspirational" videos of their products improving lives. There was a very real chance that the ghost of Steve Jobs would be summoned up on the OuijaPad.

But is it worth getting excited? We saw the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2 shown off for the first time... which is quite exciting... right?

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The Case For Yes

Yes! Absolutely it is! Our prayers have been answered and the gods in Cupertino have sent down two tablets from heaven.

What's not to be excited about? The Air is packing the lightning fast A7 chip and is twice as fast as the iPad preceding it - with a graphical power that is 72 times better than the original iPad. In so little time... that's stunning in such a short time, right?

They've also managed to add in multiple-in-multiple-out wifi and a 5MP camera... and yet make it thinner than ever before. That's pretty impressive - making it both smaller and better.

The iPad Mini update was welcome too. They've added a high resolution retina display and specs on a par with the larger sibling. And they've even said that they're going to keep making the iPad 2 and original iPad Mini but charge a lower price - making iPads more accessible than ever.

The Case For No

When the original iPad was released it was an absolute game-changer. Whilst there had been attempts at making a tablet before, no one had quite managed to do so in such a neatly packaged way. A few generations later though and aren't the upgrades just a bit... tepid? Yes it's a bit faster than before but... isn't everything? Why should this be blowing our minds?

The really interesting stuff isn't actually hardware anymore, but is all in the software. For all of the horrible, horrible graphics iOS7 was certainly a big change - and brought with it a number of big new features. And we were able to install it on our old devices.

I wonder if we're reaching a point where the hardware is "good enough"? I've got an iPad 3 - which seems ancient now - but I don't feel compelled to upgrade because I know I can run the same apps that Air buyers can. This won't last forever, but the compulsion to buy the new thing, which looks nearly identical to my current thing, isn't quite as great as when I didn't own a tablet at all.

I mean - nothing was truly breathtaking. Remember when you first used an iPad and could barely comprehend how beautiful and yet functional a computing device could be? I think the reaction to the Air is likely to be more of the order of "Oh, that's nice".

And besides, isn't "space grey" just another way of saying "grey"?

And what a silly name.

On Balance

Top marks for effort, definitely. It's good to see Apple continuously improve their products - but for even the most die-hard Apple loyalist, it must surely be distracting to see all of those other devices out there momentarily catching their attention. What about those Samsung phones with the non-touch gesture technology? Or Androids that can take a front-facing and rear-facing photo simultaneously? Those would certainly be nice to have on an iPad...

Imagine if Manchester United played a game against your local pub team. If United won, their fans would cheer - but if the pub team one, then you can guarantee all of their supporters would lose their minds with excitement.

So get excited if you want to - but don't hate me if I think a Manchester United victory wasn't exactly surprising.

There's no surprise that the 3DS and PS Vita are struggling to compete with mobile gaming - why be stuck squinting when you can game on the iPad's gloriously massive 9.7" screen? There's lots of great games that are free too - and here's our pick of ten of the best.

ipad-5-dickson.jpgThere's not a moment's peace to be had for the Apple secrets police. After suffering through dozens of iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C leaks in the lead up to last night's launch, we're already getting clear-as-day alleged leaks of the new iPad 5 tablet.

And they're from a credible source, being from the camera of serial leaker Sonny Dickson. He's grabbed over 100 high resolution shots of what he claims is the new iPad, some of which place it side by side with an iPad 4.
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Looking very similar to Dickson's video leak from a few days back, the shots show an iPad notably smaller than the iPad 4, with a thinner edge bezel that seems inspired by the iPad mini design, while retaining the full-size iPad's 9.7-inch screen.

With the iPhone 5S now revealed, it'll be interesting to see which of its new features make the jump to the iPad 5. The Touch ID fingerprint scanner for instance would make a perfect fit for the tablet, though Dickson's photos do little to suggest its inclusion.

Apple's next big launch event is expected to be in October, which would likely be the showcase for new tablet tech. We'll be keeping you up to speed with all the latest rumours and leaks until then, so keep checking back for more whispers.

fingerprint-sensor-leak-iphone-5s.jpgNext Tuesday's iPhone launch is nearly upon us, and the leaks are now getting very specific indeed. Today, we have the long-rumoured iPhone 5S handset's fingerprint sensor, snapped up close, gutted from the next Cupertino smartphone.

Apple product serial leaker Sonny Dickson got his hands on the parts, with high-resolution photos far clearer than any previous leak.

Dickson states the sensor, as expected will be embedded in a new style of home button equipped with sensors and a flex cable featuring "a remarkably different design when compared to the iPhone 5 home button - and even previous supposed 5S part leaks."

As well as the iPhone 5S news, Dickson has also reportedly leaked iPad mini 2 shell parts, revealed in a YouTube clip by user Unboxtherapy. Though said to have a Retina display, the iPad mini sequel is expected to be very similar in size to its predecessor, as shown in the below video:

"You're looking at two very comparable form factors," said YouTube's unboxtherapy.

"In fact, I think every single dimension is identical here. So no real big changes in this particular department."

Unboxtherapy's previous iPad leaks suggested that the next full-size iPad will be slimmed and trimmed down considerably, giving it a form factor similar to the iPad mini.

"The question now becomes: with the full-sized iPad getting closer in dimensions to the iPad mini [2], are you going to be as compelled to pick up the mini [2]," a pointed question asked by Unboxtherapy.

Apple's Siri scoffs at Google Glass

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siri-glass-2.pngApple's voice activated iOS personal assistant, Siri, isn't all that good at doing the things it's supposed to, like searching the web for local amenities, or understanding anyone that doesn't speak with plums in their mouth. What it has got very good at though is trash talking the competition.

The latest update to the iPhone butler has seen it become able to distinguish between "glass", the stuff that your windows are made of, and "Glass", the Google-built augmented reality headset. And boy, does it have some choice words to share on the tech-savvy spectacles.

Give Siri the Google Glass activation phrase "Okay Glass", and it'll fire back with one liners like "I think that Glass is half empty" and "Stop trying to strap me to your forehead - it won't work". It's no fluke either, with at least a dozen responses dissing the Google product.

Try it out for yourself - it'll be the most use you've got out of Siri in months.

apple-ios-7-apps.jpgJust because you can't afford to rush out and buy a new iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C after they've been officially revealed (supposedly on September 10) doesn't mean you can't enjoy some fresh Apple goodies all the same. According to an email sent to a developer from Siri developers Nuance, all older compatible iOS devices will be making the jump to iOS 7 on September 10 too, despite the fact it'll likely be a few days after that that the new Apple handsets will be going on sale.

Developer Owen Williams received the email from Nuance, which stated that "iOS 7 GA will be released on 10 September." A screengrab of the email can be found immediately below:
nuance0ios7.jpg"GA" here refers to General Avaialbliltiy, or the roll out of iOS 7 to previous generation iPhones, iPod touch models and iPads. The new OS landing alongside new iPhones isn't all that surprising, but to see it apparently confirmed for older devices before a Gold Master release (giving developers some time to work with the new SDK prior to release) is unusual, as is the case here.

If it all turns out to be accurate though, some of the most exciting new iPhone features will be available to existing iPhone owners sometime before even the latest models hit store shelves.

iPhone-5-official-06.pngFor a premium smartphone line, Apple's iPhones (and by extension their iPad tablets) are among an increasingly small group of top-end handsets not to feature NFC tech. However, a new patent filing from the Cupertino company suggests this may be set to change soon.

The patent, uncovered by Apple Insider, suggests Apple are looking to introduce a "gifting" option between iPhones and iPads. As well as detailing a system that would allow pals to give iTunes files as presents via email, the patent tellingly includes an option that would allow for the exchange to be carried out wirelessly over NFC too.

Rather than being able to freely trade items however, only locked purchases seem to be in Apple's plans, with Wi-Fi authentication needed to activate files on the recipients handset. If you're hoping that "gifting" would also include the trade of second-hand digital content, that doesn't look likely to feature, unsurprisingly.

As with all patents, there's no guarantee that the next-gen iPhone or iPad will come packing NFC, but this is a clear indication that Apple are considering it, and are already looking into unique ways to make money out of it to boot.

iPad-Mini-01.pngNew iPad and iPad mini models are on the way, according to a new report from Bloomberg. And sooner than you may think too!

The report is pencilling in the two Apple slates for a release between October and December of 2013, just in time for Christmas, giving the company some breathing space between then and the expected September 10 launch of the new iPhone models.

Bloomberg are also corroborating reports previously offered by the WSJ on the design of the two slates. As many would hope, the iPad mini is said to be getting a high resolution Retina display (the one flaw in what many consider the titchy tablet's otherwise excellent design), while the full-fat iPad will retain its Retina display but take on a slimmed down form factor and chassis not unlike the current iPad mini model, albeit a few inches bigger.

The report also supports the earlier September 10 date as the iPhone's unveiling.

Though iPad rumours fly our way thick and fast, to have two highly reputable sources offer very similar information is a sign that perhaps there's some truth to this latest round of whispers. Of course, we'll have the full official details once Apple loosen their fused-shut lips.

We're coming up to a full year round since the launch of the iPad 4, and all eyes are now on what Apple will do next with their full-sized world beating tablet line. With leaks beginning to trickle in, Japanese Apple blog MacOtakara have posted a video of what they claim is the casing for the new iPad 5 model.

The video (embedded above) shows what appears to be the standard 9.7-inch format favoured by Apple's larger tablets, rather than the rumours of a larger 12.9 inch device that has been rumoured.

While the video offers little to go on in terms of specs, most interesting is the apparent influence of the iPad mini in this alleged iPad 5 case's design. Look at how thin those left and right hand side bezel edges are, and how much more angular and sharp the curve around into the back plate seems.

There's also interestingly the use of a transparent Apple logo on the rear of the case, though that is likely the by-product of being a prototype model, rather than any design change.

The slim-line bezel also lines up with earlier rumours that Apple were looking to shave as much as a third off the overall weight of the iPad 4 model.

Of course, it could simply be a hoax, but given the warm reception the iPad mini garnered, and Apple's need to show off an updated design for the iPad beyond it simply being a spec boost, this slimmer look is likely the route they will take.

iPad-Mini-08.pngNine months on from the launch of the original iPad mini, all eyes are now on what Apple will bring next to the successor of their small form factor tablet. Top of the list of most-wanted features will most certainly be a high-resolution Retina display, which is now highly tipped for inclusion according to a fresh Wall Street Journal report.

If true, it could mean the full-size iPad resolution of 2048x1536 pixels will be making its way to the smaller slate, just in time to give the full HD Google Nexus 7 2 a run for its money.

The report also claims that, following in the footsteps of the iPod touch line, the iPad mini would be available in a wide range of colours, likely mirroring the iPod touch's red, green, yellow, pink, purple, silver and dark grey shades.

Of course, this being prime time for rumours, there are counter takes on the forthcoming iPad mini also circulating. According to code strings uncovered in the recent iOS 7 beta by 9to5Mac, the iPad mini will land with an upgraded processor, likely an A6-based chip, but without the Retina display.

A processor upgrade is pretty much a given we'd say - it's an important progression to keep the tablet line up to the task of running the most demanding of apps. With the Nexus 7 2 sporting a high resolution display, and rumours of the Kindle Fire HD 2 doing the same, Apple would be putting its mini tablet line in a precarious position if it didn't follow suit.

ipad-4-gen.jpgThe Wall Street Journal is the latest publication to fuel the fires surrounding rumours that Apple are looking into putting larger displays in their next-generation iPhone and iPad devices.

According to the newspaper's sources in Asia, the WSJ is claiming that Apple has a 12.9-inch iPad tablet in development, alongside a range of iPhone prototypes in a number of sizes. The latest rumour follows on from a similar report from Brightwire News, who stated that Apple had been forced to delay the release of the iPhone 5S in order to perfect work on a new 4.3-inch screen for the smartphone line. Reuters went one further, suggesting 4.7 and 5.7-inch iPhone models were in development.

Any of the above iPhone sizes would be a significant jump for the iPhone line, which currently has a 4-inch display. Though Steve Jobs had been dead-set on the mobile screen sweet-spot being 3.5-inches, he apparently acquiesced to the iPhone 5's jump to 4-inches. And with mobile screen sizes from rivals growing on average to be at least half an inch bigger than Apple's standard, for once Apple may be chasing, rather than setting the trend.

As for a larger iPad, it would have its benefits in terms of watching movies and playing games, but would sacrifice a fair bit of portability. Also, where a 5.7-inch iPhone would fit in alongside the not-much-bigger iPad mini would remain to be seen.

iPad-Mini-03.pngApple's little tablet that could, the iPad mini, may be getting a successor sooner than previously expected, according to supply chain sources.

Though the iPad mini 2, expected to be packing in Apple's Retina display technology, was thought to have been delayed due to problems manufacturing the high-resolution screen, DigiTimes are now claiming that all is well on the production line and that the tablet will be ready for an October 2013 launch. The source is even confident that shipments could hit between two to three million a month in time for the Christmas rush.

The site claims Apple are also on track to get the iPad 5 out and into stores by the end of the year. LG are said to be putting together the tablets' 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 Retina displays, aiming to ship 2.5 to 3 million displays for the third quarter of 2013. More than half of those will go into the new iPad 5 tablet, with the remainder used in older generation tablets or stockpiled for repairs.

Backing up previous claims, DigiTimes also state that the iPad 5 will be lighter and thinner than earlier iterations, with a single light tube in ints backlight rather than the standard two, presumably aiding battery life.

As you'd expect, there's been no word from Apple on any of this, but we'll keep you posted with any official news as we receive it.

iCade-8-Bitty-pad.jpgThis year is set to be one of the most disruptive 12 months ever for the games industry. Straight from the most fiery E3 conference for some time, we're now just a few short months away from the next generation of gaming consoles.

But, rather than being all sewn up by Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4 or Nintendo's Wii U, it's Apple who've just made the real game-changing gaming announcement.

iOS 7 for iPhone and iPad is set to introduce an official controller API.

Apple will now allow gamepads into the MFi program, which green-lights the sort of officially certified accessories you see lining the shelves of brick-and-mortar Apple Stores.

Two controller forms will be accepted: a "standard" model that offers a D-Pad, shoulder buttons and four face buttons, and an "extended" controller that adds an extra pair of trigger buttons and a pair of thumb sticks. Each can be a standalone controller that connects over AirPlay, or can act as a frame to house the iOS device, popping the controls either side of the screen.

On the surface it doesn't sound like a major deal - we've already had iOS gamepads from the likes of iCade and Ion. However, without any standardised API blueprint to work against, games developers had to put the effort in to optimising their titles for each manufacturer's unique hardware control system. For many games devs, it just wasn't worth the extra hassle to add support for a controller that only a few thousand people (at best) may own, especially when the iPhone and iPad's touch controls worked out fine. But with the introduction of a standardised API, whatever Apple-certified gamepad you buy going forward from the release of iOS 7 will adhere to a unified design, a single system that any game dev can easily add support for.
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Hardcore iGaming

For years now we've been told that the console business will die out as more and more "casual" gamers turn to the devices in their pockets for their gaming thrills instead. But this has left the "hardcore" gamer, those that prefer their adventures delivered with buttons and thumbsticks instead of swipes and taps, out in the cold.

With the introduction of a standardised controller, the iPad can now be considered a genuine portable hardcore gaming console, among its many other techy roles.

And the hardcore gaming experiences for iOS devices are now coming in thick and fast. The recently released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic port went down a storm, while the likes of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the Modern Combat series are as far removed from the likes of Angry Birds as is possible.

Again, console stalwarts will point to the fact that some of the "hardcore" titles I've highlighted here are ports of older console titles. But with the knowledge that a traditional controller is now available to work with, more console-like games will certainly make their way to Apple's devices, perhaps even day-and-date iPad editions of games that would once have been the reserve of Sony and Microsoft's consoles.

And, unlike the uncharted waters of the next generation of consoles, there's already an installed iOS userbase of well over 500 million. 500 million! Of course, iOS 7 adoption is needed to support the gamepads, and older iOS devices won't be able to run iOS 7. But if even just under half of that number update to the new version of Apple's mobile operating system, that would eclipse even the mighty PlayStation 2's 155 million owners. And in penny-pinching times, you're not asking gamers to invest hundreds of pounds on new hardware, just in an inexpensive add-on for their already-capable device.

In terms of software, games like SW:KOTOR are proving gamers are willing to pay a premium for hardcore games on iOS devices, pushing app margins higher for developers. It's a market struggling games developers can't ignore.
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Taking on the big three

Of course, this isn't quite a fair fight when you look at the hardware; the Xbox One and PS4 will be able to deliver incredibly detailed worlds, verging on the photo-real, with experiences exclusive to their platforms.

But mobile graphics are catching up rapidly. Apple's full-fat iPads already offer high resolution graphics through their Retina displays, and according to some mobile GPU vendors, the gap between mobile graphics chips and home gaming ones are shrinking.

Gamers are already turning against the Xbox One for what many feel are draconian anti-piracy measures. By encouraging digital downloads and licensed "ownership", Microsoft are effectively chasing the model set by Apple's revolutionary App Store. The difference of course is that people have accepted the App Store model, even if they can't trade the items they purchase through it. In the App Store, Apple delivered a disruptive platform through disruptive devices - the iPad and iPhone. The Xbox One is looking to introduce disruptive ownership systems in a traditional console market, and the two just don't gel together well in consumer's minds. Apple's App Store has succeeded, and with the 50 billionth app download confirmed on Monday, the Cupertino company are reaping the rewards. As are developers, who've pocketed $10 billion in the process.

But what of Nintendo's Wii U, selling so poorly that games publishing powerhouse EA look to be ceasing development for it altogether, and that many developers feel is hamstrung by its relatively low specs? The API announcement is arguably the final nail in the Wii U's coffin - with an integrated high resolution touchscreen and the addition of physical controls, what's the iPad but a more powerful Wii U gamepad, minus a certain moustachioed plumber? If the console fails and Nintendo are forced begrudgingly to license their properties out to mobile platforms, Apple will be first in line to pick up the pieces, possibly signing up their own valuable exclusives, and Nintendo will finally have a D-Pad to guide Mario around with.

The big sell

The stickler of course will be pricing and marketing. A £50 iPad controller isn't going to sell. A line of £10-£15 controllers though from multiple manufacturers, with Apple's in-store marketing magic behind it? Bundled in with an iPad or iPhone (however unlikely that particular scenario seems)? Now you're cooking with fire.

And then of course there's the Apple TV - with this announcement you're just a step away from pairing a controller with that and calling it the iGame.

Though a quiet announcement, Apple are now taking gaming seriously. And gamers should be taking Apple seriously now too.

ios-7-apple-top.pngBoasting sales of 365 million mobile devices, Apple today revealed iOS 7, their latest mobile software build.

"The team at Apple has been working incredibly hard on the latest version of iOS, and today it's a great thrill to announce iOS 7" said CEO Tim Cook.

"iOS 7 is the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of iPhone. It's packed with amazing new features and a stunning new user interface."

Featuring all new typography and redesigned icons, it's got Jony Ive written all over it, who made it clear he would be removing many elements of skeuomorphism after taking over the head software role from Scot Forstall.

Translucent effects feature heavily, with a home screen that reacts in a 3D way to a tilting phone, letting you see "behind" each icon.

Improved multitasking looks set to feature, letting you jump between apps in a similar fashion to fullscreen apps on a Mac OS X machine, while a new lockscreen features an upwards - rather than sidewards - swiping gesture.

All core Apple apps get a new look, refined and "flat" compared to older versions. Even the wireless mobile signal bar gets updated, now represented by 5 dots rather than rising bars.

Folders can now spread over multiple pages, giving clean-freaks increased control over the layout of their apps.
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iOS 7: The key new features

Control Center

Control Center is accessed from a swipe up from the bottom of the screen and gives quick access to controls including Wi-Fi, brightness and Airplane mode, as well as enabling AirPlay among others. It's much like many Android reskinning's settings bars, accessed from downward swipes on those devices, but here complete with Apple's refined design sensibilities, finished with a translucent look.

Multitasking

Multitasking across all apps will be introduced, with the OS monitoring you usage habits and making sure they're ready to go as soon as you fire your phone up. Twitter and Facebook feeds for instance, will be automatically updated when firing your phone up. Double clicking the Home button brings up a pane-style view of each app, not unlike webOS cards, unlocking multitasking capabilities.

SafarI improvements

Safari now features a "Smart" search field that brings up favourites when its tapped, as well as featuring iCloud Keychain integration for accessing passwords and logins automatically. That search filed is smart like Chrome's Omnitoolbar too, pulling in pages from bookmarks, history and previous searches too. Tabs are no longer limited to just 8 either, though Apple didn't give a specific figure.

AirDrop

AirDrop will allow users to share photos wirelessly by tapping on faces of pals in your snaps. Photos in will also be subject to new integrated filters if you so desire, while photo sets will be organised into "Moments" categorised by date and location. Here's hoping Apple's Maps tech is up to the task. iCloud Photo Streams can now also have multiple editors, letting you and your pals put together photo albums together.

Siri updates

Siri now comes with a whole new female voice, and the option of a male voice in the US. French and German languages are now supported by the voice-activated assistant, with Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing services integrated into what it's commands can control and search. Hands-free Siri integration will also be integrated into dashboard screens of 16 major automotive manufacturers.
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New improved App Store

A new version of the App Store will be introduced that automatically updates apps as a new version becomes available, as well as showing you the most popular apps of fellow iOS users in your local vicinity.

iTunes Radio

Apple's long-awaited music streaming service, iTunes Radio, also made an appearance. Integrated directly into the music player app as a "music discovery service", it makes use of a list of featured stations that you can swipe though. Tapping the station name plays it, and stations seem to be based around individual artists as well as genres and curated offerings.

Tapping a star next to a track lets the service know to play more songs that are similar, add it to an iTunes download wishlist, or remove the song from ever playing on iTunes Radio ever again. The "Nickleback button" if you like.

Free with ads, it's completely free to iTunes Match subscribers, coming totally ad-free to those folks. No separate subscription plan then will give Apple a big boosts here, though there was no word of offline playlists either, suggesting the company are still trying to get people to splash the cash on tune downloads through iTunes. Rolling out in the US first, it'll be available through iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and also works in iTunes on the Mac and AppleTV.

Activation Lock

A new security feature, Activation Lock will prevent theives from re-activating a device is it's been wiped remotely with the Find My Phone feature. A user will need to sign in again with their Apple ID in order for the phone to be useable again. Thieves will be stealing a brick, in other words, making for a great deterrent.

iOS 7 Availability

Developers will be able to get their hands on a beta version of iOS 7 from today, with an iPad beta rolling out in the coming weeks. The final version available to all iPod touch, iPhone and iPad users will be available "from the fall". That's the Autumn for UK readers, making a September/October launch date likely in time for a new iPhone release. However, only more recent devices will be supported, as follows: iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and the 5th gen iPod touch.

"This major effort is only possible because of the incredible collaboration between Jony and his amazing design team and Craig and his amazing engineering team," said an obviously pleased Cook, with iOS 7 enjoying the most applause from the collected developers at the event.

"Our goal at Apple is to make amazing products that our customers love. Really great products that enrich peoples' lives. The words you saw at the beginning of the show are more than just words to us. They are the values we live by. They drive us. You've seen them reflected in our products over the years. You'll continue to see them reflected in the products we make in the future."

So what do you think of the new iOS 7 update? Has Jony Ive nailed it? We're looking forward to getting our hands on the new mobile OS, and will bring you our full verdict once we've got our hands on it!

iOS7-leak-01-top.jpgAs with all Apple keynote conferences, tonight's WWDC 2013 opening event is shrouded in mystery. Though the Cupertino firm have given no indication what to expect, safe money is on Jony Ive's new-look iOS 7 software being previewed, at the very least. And now, thanks to 9to5Mac, we've got our first decent indication of what the overhaul may look like.

One thing to note though - the screenshots in this post are the Photoshopping work of the 9to5Mac team. They claim to have been shown a beta preview build of the software, but for fear of dropping their source into trouble with watermarked screenshots, they've made these approximations of what they've been shown.

As expected, it's a cleaner look than iOS headed by Scott Forstall. Each Apple app icon is simplified, employing more white space, and in the cases of the Photos and Game Center icons, look completely different. The font too is lighter, losing its shadow effect along with the shadows of the app icons.

Looking at the mobile signal status bar, it's also now changed, here represented by five dots rather than rising bars - something that's a little more difficult to read in our opinion.

Of course, it's hard to judge the accuracy of the screenshots at the moment, but at the very least they chime in well with what we've been told to expect from the new-look mobile software. With the WWDC keynote set to kick off at 6pm GMT, it's unlikely we'll have to wait much longer to verify their accuracy.

Scroll down for a look at the app icons as they'd appear if laid out on an iPhone screen:
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ibooks-author.jpgTech Digest eBook Self Publishing Season - How to self-publish an eBook with Apple iBooks

Tablets and smartphones make for great reading devices, and you don't get better tablets or smartphones than Apple's iPad and iPhone. Through Apple's iBooks store, self publishing authors have a great market through which to tout their wares, and this guide will walk you through how to get your work onto the platform.

Note: This guide assumes that you've already written your book, at least as a draft. We won't be giving you advice on how to tie up that plot hole or name your main wizard character!

What is Apple iBooks?

iBooks is Apple's own eReader platform, and the name of its associated digital storefront. Available exclusively to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users, it offers a slick touch based interface for readers to use and an easily navigable eBook store to browse. Thanks to the quality of the Apple devices' colour screens and processors, books published to the iBook store can take full advantage of multimedia features including colour images and videos.

Why publish through Apple iBooks?

It's incredibly easy for a writer to get their work onto iBooks, without ever having to deal with agents or publishers, while retaining 100% of the rights to the contents of their eBooks. In terms of royalties, Apple take a standard 30% cut of all profits. You claim all the rest, though you need to use an aggregating service to help with the publishing process, as Apple don't accept submissions from individuals. They too will take a cut of the 70% you're left with. It's by far the simplest way of getting your work on the store though as otherwise you'll need the backing of a traditional publisher, even if the aggregators take a cut of the profits too.

A new area of the iBooks store dedicated to promoting self published authors has also recently been introduced to Apple's iBooks. Called Breakout Books, it's an editorially curated section of the store picking out the very best from up-and-coming self published authors. Get your book on there and sales quickly go through the roof.

Apple also offer the iBooks Author publishing tool. It's a free piece of software for Mac that lets you make rich, multimedia-filled eBooks, complete with multi-touch touchscreen controls. It's as simple as dragging and dropping content onto a page, allowing you to easily make interactive texts. It's particularly useful for those looking to self-publish educational text books, and even has built-in tools for getting the books on sale in the Apple iBooks store.

Also, unlike Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform, you can offer your books for free through iBooks without limitations. This can be an incredibly valuable marketing tool, especially for authors working on an ongoing series - lure readers in with a gripping first novel, then charge them for the subsequent adventures in the franchise.

Limitations of publishing through Apple iBooks

There's an obvious one to begin with - publishing to the iBooks store only puts your novel in front of iPad, iPhone or iPod touch owners, as iBooks is exclusive to iOS devices. That's a user base far smaller than publishing to Kindle, seeing as Kindle eBooks are available across Android and iOS devices through the Kindle apps, alongside PC and Mac versions, as well as on Kindle eReaders. For the most part that shouldn't be a problem though, as Apple are pretty liberal in allowing self-publishing authors to sell their wares through other stores too.

However, there's also the fact that, if you make a book using iBooks Author that is sold through the iBooks store as a .ibooks file rather than given away for free, you will be unable to sell it elsewhere. That's obviously not a problem if you're not using the powerful iBooks Author tool, or using it to output in .pdf or .epub rather than the proprietary .ibooks format, but should definitely be taken into consideration if you do. What you gain in ease of creation through it you may lose in potential sales elsewhere.

Getting Started

First of all, you'll need to have that mind-blowing book written.

Finished? Great! That's the hard part done!

Before your would-be bestseller can be published, you'll need to make sure it's well edited and properly formatted. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow:


  • Make sure you've added a Table of Contents for the document, which is easily done using Word's and Page's built-in tools.

  • Insert page breaks after every chapter. It'll avoid inserting unnecessary stretches of white space when your final eBook is ready.

  • Make sure your cover image is added as a .JPG file, or it won't work properly. It'll need to be rectangular in shape and at least 600 pixels tall, and cannot contain hyperlinks or website addresses, nor any nudity.

  • Keep a check on your spelling and grammar if you don't have an editor. Have multiple grammar pedants read and re-read your text if possible to scan it for errors.

  • There's an upload limit of 2GB for the iBooks store, so make sure your eBook is smaller than that. That may be tough if you're using lots of multimedia content, so consider either cutting some, shortening some, or lowering the quality of audio, video and image files.

  • Apple will not publish materials that include erotica involving underage people, nor any texts that promote intolerance or discrimination. And rightly so.

Make sure your finished manuscript is in ePub format. There are plenty of free apps that will do this for you. We recommend Calibre, which is free and can output in a number of formats, and doubles up as an excellent eBook management application.

Aggregators

There are a number of companies that will go through the hassle of putting your book together in a form that Apple finds acceptable for submission. Which is great, as Apple won't accept submissions from individuals regardless. Either way, it's very useful to employ one of the aggregators - they'll go through the hassle of putting your book together in an attractive form, assign your book an ISBN number (as is required by Apple - a service that can cost a pretty penny even separately), and many will also help push your book out onto the Kindle, Nook and other digital stores alongside Apple's iBooks too. Pricing of the aggregators varies - some will take a cut of the sale price of every eBook sold, others will accept an up-front fee that covers lifetime sales of the book (which usually works out cheaper providing your books sells in reasonably significant numbers).

Click here for a list of services that can help.

Finding a Cover

Can you judge a book by its cover? Totally! The importance of great cover design is perhaps even greater for eBooks than traditional printed books, as they have to be attractive in a number of sizes, sometimes appearing tiny on mobile device store browsing lists. With just the image to work with, you can't employ any of the eye catching tricks that different materials provide to designers of physical books either.

Our advice? Make sure your cover communicates clearly what your book is about, and do it in an obvious rather than evocative way. If your book is about vampires, pop a good-looking blood sucker drooling the red stuff on the front, and then those looking for the latest Twilight rip-off will get all swoony. Hire a designer if possible - it's their natural habitat, and they'll know all the tricks to make your book leap out to a potential buyer.

And with all that, you should now be done! With much of the Apple iBooks submission process taken out of your hands by aggregators as a mandatory requirement, it's arguably even simpler than publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing.

Congratulations!

Click here for more from Tech Digest eBook Self Publishing Season - Guides, Interviews and More on How To Get Your Work Read

Star-Wars-Knights-of-the-Old-Republic-20-1280x960.jpgIn a somewhat surprising move, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, first released in 2003, is set to swoop down onto Apple's iPad.

One of the greatest role-playing games ever made, and certainly the best Star Wars title, it was developed by a pre-Mass Effect Bioware churning out some of the best games of their careers.

Set many thousands of years before the events of George Lucas's films, it charts the rise of an evil Sith lord, with a superb twist-heavy story and the chance to shape your character any which way you choose.

IGN have been given early access to the app (which has yet to appear on the UK iTunes store), praising just how well the game stands up today. The site also praises the port's tap-to-target combat (with the turn-based pause system well suited to mobile play), but admitted to struggling at times with the drag-to-walk movement controls.

If you've never played the game before, definitely give it a go on iPad, as it's a bone-fide classic, even with the slightly dodgy movement according to IGN.

No word on UK pricing or release yet, but it seems only a matter of days, if not hours away.

Whether or not you buy Microsoft's message here that their Windows 8 tablet platform is better than Apple's iPad, you've gotta hand it to Microsoft's ad department here - this is pretty funny.

Using (an admittedly voice-overed) Siri against Apple's own tablet, Microsoft hammer home Windows 8's multi-tasking capabilities and office document creation smarts. If this advert was to be believed, you'd think all the iPad was good for was playing chopsticks on a digital piano, and playing it badly.

Buuuuuuuuurn.

ipad-3-details-revealed-apple-15.jpgApple's next-generation iPad may be the company's thinnest and lightest yet, according to a new report from supply chain sources.

Speaking to DigiTimes, Taiwanese supply chain sources are claiming that the iPad 5 will weight 33% less than the current top-spec iPad 4 model.

To hit the new target weight of 437g, Apple are said to be employing a new manufacturing technique that uses a thinner 0.2mm piece of glass for the screen and one LED light bar for backlighting, allowing them to shave a few grams off the overall weight while still retaining the 2048 x 1536 Retina display resolution.

That's compared to the current gen iPad 4's 0.25mm glass substrate and two LED light bars.

Other areas where the tablet will go on a diet will include the tablet's bezel, which will be thinner around the edges and closer to how the iPad Mini looks. Display panels will be sourced from numerous manufacturers (including LG, Samsung and Sharp) to help ease any potential shortage issues too.

If DigiTimes sources are to be believed, the iPad 5 will enter production in July, ready to ship between 2 and 3 million units in time for a September launch.

Thumbnail image for AppleiPad2.jpgA little-known issue with the iPad and its magnetic Smart Covers that can affect pacemakers has been brought to light by a fourteen-year old US school kid.

Gianna Chien discovered that the magnets in the tablet and its cover can inadvertently shut off the defibrillators keeping people alive.

Pacemakers use magnets as a safety measure to switch off the internal devices. Though an iPad's magnets are too small to affect a user when held at a reading distance, if the magnets get too close to the user's chest (the example being given if a user falls asleep with the tablet resting on their chest), the unit can be affected.

Chien's study found that 30% of patients that placed the iPads on their chests had problems with their pacemakers for a short time afterwards. And while most pacemakers will automatically kick back in once the magnets have been put to a distance, some need to be re-activated manually, leading to a potentially life-threatening situation.

Chien's findings didn't earn her first place at the science fair that she entered them into, but has lead to perhaps an even greater prize - she will be presenting her findings to 8,000 doctors at a meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society in Denver.

Despite bringing it to the attention of the masses, it's not quite Chien's lone discovery. Apple acknowledge in the documentation for the iPad that the magnets can have an adverse effect on pacemakers. However, it's a danger that's been more-or-less tucked under the carpet by Apple, and one that certainly needs more widespread highlighting.

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