Next Apple OS Revealed: Mountain Lion Coming Soon

In a spectacular quiet announcement Thursday, Apple revealed details of its upcoming operating system, Mountain Lion.  Typically, such an announcement is brought along with a huge presentation. Instead, Apple had a small gathering of media for a private event.

Their site showcases several upcoming features for Mountain Lion. Again, it looks like iOS and OSX are being brought closer together. What changes are coming?

For starters, things that people are used to with iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) are coming to OS X. These include notes, reminders, Game Center, and the notification center.

But the biggest improvement is one that was already released. Messages Beta is available for OS X Lion users to download (requires 10.7.3 patch). This is essentially an upgrade/update to iChat. Besides changing the name to Messages, an important feature has been added, one that I figured would be coming: The ability to iMessage your friends. Yes, you can chat from your Mac to someone with an iPad or iPhone. And any iMessages sent to you are automatically synced to each of your devices, so you can pick up the conversation where you left off.

I’ve already been using Messages and can say that iMessage integration is pretty cool. It isn’t perfect and is a little buggy, but by the time Mountain Lion is released this summer, I think the chat experience will be more perfected.

For a video overview of OS X Mountain Lion, watch the video below.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoR08T26IPU]

Other good articles on Mountain Lion:

MacWorld, Mashable, Gizmodo, Ars Technica, EnGadget, Today’s iPhone

iOS 5: What’s New

Apple held it’s keynote this morning at the 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference. The three big announcements were regarding OS X Lion, iOS 5, and the launch of iCloud.

Personally, the iOS 5 discussion was the best part for me. I’m always curious about the latest changes to the iPhone (and iPod Touch/iPad) software, and I feel Apple delivered with iOS 5. Here are some of the highlights:

  • New Notification Center: Did you hate getting notifications, whether from the Messages app or something else, that kept interrupting what you were doing? Well, you don’t have to worry any longer! All notifications now go in the new Notification Center. How do you get to it? Simply swipe down from the top of your screen from anywhere! All notifications will go there, too, from missed phone calls to text messages.
  • iMessages: Text messaging is great on the iPhone. However, services like Blackberry Messenging allowed for Blackberry users to message each other with an internal app. Well, Apple has come up with their own. Messages has been expanded with iMessages, allowing iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad owners to message each other in the same way that one would send a text to someone else. Finally, a great way to easily keep in touch with your iOS friends!
  • Newsstand: If iBooks was a way to manage your digital books, Newsstand is your way of handling magazine subscriptions. It looks like iBooks, probably acts like iBooks, and if you’re big into digital magazines, may be just as exciting to you as iBooks. One neat thing with this, though, is that it will automatically download the latest magazines in your subscription for you to view.
  • Reminders: How many times have you put in something important into the Calendar app just to remind yourself of something small, such as picking up something before you leave home? Well, there’s now an (Apple made) app for that! Reminders lets you create lists of things you need to do. However, it goes beyond simply reminding you on a certain day or time. It also can be triggered to remind you based on your location. Need to run to the bank before you head home? Reminders can send an alert as you leave work to remind you of that. Now that is useful!
  • Twitter Integration: Ever wish you could tweet a photo from the Photos app? Or share a cool link from Safari? Now you can! Twitter is built right in so you can tweet with most apps. Simply enter your Twitter info from Settings.
  • Camera Updates: The iPhone 4 camera is already impressive. But what happens when you need to grab a quick photo and you only have a few precious seconds to do so? By the time you unlock the phone, navigate to the page with the Camera app, and take the photo, you might have missed what you had wanted to capture. Not anymore! Apple has included an icon on the lock screen that takes you right to the Camera, so that you can quickly take the picture you wanted. The Camera also includes the ability to pinch-to-zoom feature, the ability to lock the autofocus and autoexposure, and optional grid lines on your photos to help with photo composition. Oh, and have you ever wished for a button on the iPhone to take a picture? The Volume Up button now works as that.
  • Photo Editing: You can now edit photos in the Photos app. This includes cropping, redeye removal, and photo enhancements. This makes for a quick way to touch up a photo before you Tweet it to your friends from your phone.
  • Tabbed Browsing and Reading Lists in Safari: Now, tabs are visible on the iPad in the same way they are in Sarafi for the desktop. Easily switch to the tab you want. You can also view articles with Safari Reader, which will remove ads and other “clutter” from an article you may be trying to read. Lastly, you can save items you wish to read later to a Reading List. (Sounds a bit like Instapaper, though).
  • Goodbye USB Cable: No, I’m not saying you won’t need to charge your iOS device ever again. But, you won’t need to be plugged into a PC or Mac to activate or update your device. And you can now sync your iTunes library over WiFi. It’s about time!

This was just an overview of the features announced by Apple during today’s keynote at WWDC.

Posts regarding iCloud and OSX Lion will come soon, as well.

What do you think about these updates? Comment below!

Making an iPhone Ringtone in iTunes

So, you’re the owner of an iPhone and you want a nice ringtone. All you see, though, are ones you have to pay for. What about making your own? After all, you have all of your music to choose from!

Well, it’s actually a fairly simple process. All you need is iTunes.  Here’s how to do it:

  1. First, we need our audio clip. Presumably, you have an audio track in iTunes already that you would like to use. I’ll be using a song by Chameleon Circuit for my example.
  2. Now, you can use a whole song as a ringtone. Likely, though, you will only hear a few seconds of it. For this song, I only want to hear the first few seconds before it repeats. So, I go into the song’s info window and choose the “Options” tab. There, I’m able to set when the song stops playing.
  3. Once you’ve made those changes, right click on the song and choose “Create AAC Version”. This will create a duplicate listing in your iTunes library. However, you’ll notice that the new item will only be as long as the selection you had made.
  4. Take this new item and export it from iTunes. The easiest way to do this is to simply drag the song from iTunes onto your desktop.
  5. Now navigate to the file on your desktop. You’ll notice that it has a file extension of .m4a. Rename your file so that it now uses a .m4r extension.
  6. Once you have changed the extension, simply drag the newly renamed file from its current location into iTunes. iTunes will import the ringtone into your library, where you can now sync it with your iPhone.

Simple enough? I think so! Feel free to try it yourself and leave some comments and feedback about this post.

Review: iOS 4.2 Changes [PHOTOS]

Although iOS 4.2 4.2.1 has been out for over two weeks, I figured I would share some of the changes that are included in this release. Some of them are subtle, while some might find a few of these changes to be very important.

The simplest of changes is the color of the Voice Memo icon. It is now blue (formerly red). Other than that, the default home screen remains unchanged.

One of the major updates is the ability to print. Now, there are some finer points about this that prevent some printers from operating right now. However, the option to print will pop up in some familiar places.

For instance, what if you had an email that you wanted to print out? Clicking on the icon used for replying to an email now provides one other option: “Print”. This is also true with Safari, as well. The button that brings up your bookmark options now includes the print option.

Some small UI changes have come, as well, to bring the iPhone and iPad closer together. As introduced in iOS 4, double-tapping the home button will bring up the multi-task bar. Swiping to the left still displays the orientation lock button, as well as the music player controls. However, swiping over to the left reveals a volume slider, allowing for the easy adjustment of the volume level.

Other changes include the ability to change the text-tone for each contact, much like you can change a contact’s ring tone. Restriction settings now include the ability to prevent someone from deleting apps (as a separate option from installing them). The Safari search, as well, as been expanded to allow for the searching of a term within a web page itself. This feature, something many use on their desktops or laptops, now makes it easier to locate certain information within a web page.

For a full list of changes, see Apple’s Knowledgebase article.

FaceTime Beta for Mac Now Available

One of the things Steve Jobs just announced at the “Back to the Mac” event was the release of FaceTime Beta for Mac OSX. That’s right! You can now engage in FaceTime video chats with your friends that may have an iPod Touch or iPhone 4!

If you’re a Mac user running Snow Leopard OS X 10.6.4 or later, then go here and check it out: http://www.apple.com/mac/facetime/

Apple’s iPad is Here! Thoughts?

It was less than just over an hour ago when Steve Jobs officially announced the iPad, Apple’s tablet PC. For anyone that hasn’t heard rumors about this device, where have you been?!

So, what is this tablet all about? Think of it as a large iPod Touch.  It has a 9.7″ touchscreen, 1GHz processor, and the same simplistic design that can be found with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

This item has been rumored for so long, yet with it here now, what kind of work could it be used for?

Given its size and the fact that it is roughly 1.5 lbs., such a device could see various portable uses. And with the same accelerometers and most of the capabilities of the iPhone, I can see this being a household item. It even has a 10 hour battery life (and a month of standby battery life?! That’s insane!). Plus, the presentation today showed a few interesting things.

First, all current iPhone apps will work on iPad as they are now. They can either run in the current size or in full screen. I personally find this to be impressive, especially given all of the apps in the app store (over 140K now!) that can help with productivity and other tasks.  That’s a large assortment of applications that users will be able to use right away on their iPad!

Second, they launched a service called iBooks, which essentially will let you buy and read books right on the iPad. Were you ever interested in the Kindle? Well, I’d save up for an iPad, instead! You can read books right in the palm of your hand. You can even flick the pages to go from page to page. Cool!

Third, with the larger screen, it looks like Apple has versions of iWork now available for this device. Personally, I’m a fan of Open Office, but if iWork can do it, why can’t Open Office? This definitely can be a productive tool in the office!

So, how does one manage the device? Apparently, you sync it up with iTunes, just like your iPhones and iPods. The device also has built in wifi, and it there is also an option to get a 3G data plan through AT&T for either $15 or $30 per month (depending on if you want a 250 MB plan or unlimited, respectively). And with it having a micro-SIM slot, I don’t see why you can’t use this on other networks, too. So long as you have the proper data plan, that is…

Price wise, these devices seemed to blow me away! Then again, seeing how they’re more like an iPod Touch than a mini-Mac, the prices made sense. The prices don’t seem bad, either.  They come in two flavors: one is purely WiFi enabled, the second also includes 3G support.  The 16GB WiFi model starts at $499, 32GB is $599, and the 64GB at $699. The 3G models are $130 more (for each size). So, for a 3G 64GB iPad, you’d be looking at spending $829.  That is much cheaper than the rumored $1000 price!

We’re also seeing a few accessories coming from Apple with this release. The first obviously makes sense. If you’re releasing an item with a 9.7″ touchscreen, you’ll have people that definitely would want a real keyboard to use instead of the touchscreen. So, here’s the Dock. It makes perfect sense as an accessory to offer right from the start.

I think that accessory alone will interest people in the iPad. You can dock up the device and type away on a report, an article, on anything you need to type up, and then just undock the device and bring it with you. That’s brilliant!

So, what do I think about it?

I think it is a very neat device. I personally don’t see an immediate need for such a device, but with all that you can do with an iPhone now, it makes sense to up the design to something that people could use for much more. Anything you could do online, whether it is getting a map, reading a news paper, reading a book, playing Sudoku, solving a crossword puzzle, paying your bills, watching a movie, downloading music, all of it will be much easier to do on the go, anywhere in your house or otherwise, in your hands with iPad.

And I think I missed so many details in this post. If you really want to get the full news about this, visit the new site Apple has set up for the iPad, or check out the full video presentation on iTunes. (I’ll post the link once it goes live).

What do you think of the iPad? Share your comments!

(Thanks to GDGT, Gizmodo, and EnGadget for their live blogs!)