Will the Next iPhone Be a Never-Before-Seen Design?

I can’t help but wonder if tomorrow Steve Jobs will reach into his pocket to unveil the next iPhone and reveal something that looks NOTHING like this:

Gizmodo Secret iPhone

What if the 4th generation iPhone is totally different from anything we’ve ever seen?

Gizmodo Secret iPhone

Maybe the likelihood of a completely new iPhone design is slim, but if any company were to pull such a stunt, it would be Apple.

“You thought you had us figured out? Muhahaha!” — Steve Jobs, before he sprints off the WWDC stage into a cloud of smoke

Just sayin’. Would it surprise you?

Sign the Petition for an Open App Store on iPhone [Video]

Apple has removed countless apps from the App Store. Satire, sensuality and simplicity have all been purged from the listings at one time or another. The App Store is a walled garden that is becoming increasingly difficult to penetrate. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Join the Movement

Would you like to help improve the iPhone? Sign the petition below to let Apple know you want an App Store free of arbitrary rules and regulations.

(If you don’t see the petition below, go here to sign it directly.)

Do you agree with Apple’s heavy-handed approach to App Store regulation? Or do you want a more open App Store? Feel free to add your two cents to the comments.

The Most Memorable iPhone Moments of 2009

iPhone 2009

A lot happened with the world’s most revolutionary mobile device in 2009. Here is my attempt to sum it all up.

A timeline of the most notable iPhone events of the year:

January 2009

  • Steve Jobs

    January 14: Following a year of unprecedented success for iPhone and Apple, CEO Steve Jobs announces he will take a six-month leave of absence from Apple to focus on his health. Much speculation ensues over Jobs’ health and how his absence will affect the future of the company.

  • Hudson Plane crash on iPhone

    January 15: A plane crashes on the Hudson River. The first photo of the incident is captured not by the mainstream media, but by a citizen with an iPhone who posts the picture on Twitter.

February 2009

  • Windows Marketplace

    February 16: Six months after the launch of the iPhone App Store, Microsoft announces a new strategy that includes launching a Windows Marketplace for Windows Mobile phones. Once the dominant player in the PC and mobile spaces, Microsoft is now lagging behind Apple in the race for smartphone marketshare.

  • February 27: iPhone reaches 1 million sales in the UK.

March 2009

  • March 1: A report by web metrics firm Net Applications reveals that Apple dominates mobile search, with a “commanding lead” over other mobile devices.
  • iPhone 3.0

    March 17: Apple announces iPhone 3.0, a much-awaited software update that finally adds copy and paste, push notifications, Spotlight Search and other features to the iPhone.

April 2009

  • iPhone App Store

    April 10: Apple celebrates 1 billion downloads in the iPhone App Store.

  • April 20: AT&T doubles the downlink capacity of its 3G network in the US, in response to complaints of sluggish speeds on the network. The iPhone’s heavy data diet is to blame.
  • April 23: Bolstered by a wildly successful iPhone, Apple reports a 15 percent profit surge despite a weak economy.

May 2009

  • Nine Inch Nails

    May 7: Nine Inch Nails has its app rejected from the App Store because of obscenities in a podcast linked to in the app. The incident marks the beginning of a series of high-profile App Store rejections by Apple.

June 2009

  • iPorn

    June 8: Girls from the adult site iPorn crash Apple’s WWDC conference, determined to convince Apple execs to end the moratorium on adult iPhone apps in the App Store.

  • iPhone 3GS

    June 19: Apple starts selling the iPhone 3GS, the fastest, most powerful iPhone to date.

  • June 29: Steve Jobs returns to work at Apple two years after the launch of the first iPhone.

July 2009

  • UF iPhone

    July 3: The University of Florida announces it will require its pharmacy students to purchase iPhones or iPod Touches for use in the curriculum. The new policy highlights iPhone’s growing ubiquity in the United States.

  • iPhone death: Sun Danyong

    July 22: Foxconn worker Sun Danyong in China commits suicide after a secret iPhone prototype goes missing. One blogger said the story illustrates “how Apple’s secretive ways send extreme pressure all the way down the company’s international supply chain.”

  • Google Voice for iPhone

    July 28: Google Voice is rejected from the App Store. The move sparks an uproar about Apple’s App Store approval process.

August 2009

  • iPhone on Flickr

    August 18: iPhone becomes the most popular camera on Flickr. Apple’s device has surpassed the Canon Digital Rebel XTI on the photo sharing site, which is home to a range of iPhone photos (some quite stunning).

September 2009

  • September 9: Apple releases the iPhone 3.1 update, which adds a Genius-like recommendation system for iPhone apps.
  • iPhone MMS

    September 25: AT&T finally enables the much-awaited multimedia messaging service (MMS) for iPhone, a feature available on even the most rudimentary phones which lets users send photos and/or videos via text message.

October 2009

  • Augmented Reality on iPhone

    October 3: Augmented reality iPhone apps begin trickling into the App Store after the feature, which allows applications to impose a virtual data layer over a camera view of the real world, was enabled in iPhone 3.1. The technology promises to unveil a plethora of new possibilities for iPhone apps.

  • October 19: Apple reports soaring iPhone sales, 7.4 million in the previous quarter.
  • Nokia Apple Suit

    October 23: Nokia sues Apple, claiming the iPhone maker has infringed on no fewer than 10 Nokia patents “relating to GSM, UMTS and WLAN technologies.”

November 2009

  • November 4: Apple announces 100,000 apps, 2 billion downloads in the App Store.
  • Droid

    November 6: Verizon launches the Droid phone, which is powered by Google’s Android mobile operating system. The phone enjoys strong sales. Droid, along with other Android phones (some yet to arrive), contributes to the “Android Army” phenomenon that promises to steal marketshare from iPhone.

  • Rick Astley

    November 8: The first ever iPhone worm begins to spread across iPhones. Although not malicious, the virus “rickrolls” iPhones that have undergone a Jailbreak by plastering a photo of 80s pop singer Rick Astley on iPhone wallpapers. The virus raises questions about the security of Jailbreak, an unauthorized hack that enables a slew of custom iPhone modifications.

  • Joe Hewitt

    November 12: Facebook iPhone app developer Joe Hewitt quits the iPhone project, citing his concerns over an overly-stringent App Store approval process.

December 2009

  • December 1: A reference to the next-gen iPhone is spotted in usage logs by an iPhone app developer, suggesting that a new iPhone prototype is already in use by the folks at Apple.
  • December 11: Following Nokia’s suit against Apple in October, Apple files a countersuit against Nokia, alleging the company infringed on 13 of its iPhone patents.
  • Google Nexus One

    December 12: Google sources say the search giant is working on a mobile phone of its own, dubbed the Nexus One, which will run on the Android operating system and be sold online. Time will tell whether the official Google phone will emerge as a strong competitor to the iPhone.

  • Fake Steve Jobs

    December 14: To promote an anti-AT&T action dubbed “Operation Chokehold,” Newsweek blogger Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) circulates a memo encouraging US iPhone owners to simultaneously run data-heavy apps for one hour in order to cripple AT&T’s network and draw attention to much-needed infrastructure improvements. AT&T responds, calling the move “irresponsible.”

  • Ford App Store

    December 18: No doubt influenced by the success of the iPhone App Store, Ford announces it will launch an automotive app store for its vehicles.

It has been a busy year for Apple’s iPhone team, and for the mobile sphere in general. While iPhone held the spotlight in 2008, Android emerged in ’09 as a serious competitor. Nevertheless, the iPhone App Store remains firmly in the lead.

In two and a half years, the iPhone has changed how we organize our lives, how we communicate, and literally — with augmented reality — how we view the world. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

What do you think?

Which were the most memorable iPhone moments of 2009? Have I left any out? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Michelle Obama Search Controversy & What Apple Could Learn From Google

Michelle Obama Google Image

News broke yesterday about a controversial image that turns up at the top of Google’s search results when you type in the name of the First Lady of the United States. The image in question is a caricature of Michelle Obama that is crude and disrespectful, to say the least. However, what is more notable than the image itself is the way Google has handled the situation, and how Apple could learn from the search giant with regards to controversial content in the iTunes App Store.

Google Says ‘No’ to Censorship

Google will not remove the offensive image from its search results. Why? “It’s offensive to many people, but that alone is not a reason to remove it from our search index,” Google Inc. spokesman Scott Rubin said Tuesday, according to the LA Times.

That’s right. Google recognizes that it cannot police the Internet, so it will not remove the distasteful image of Michelle Obama, or any other distasteful image, unless it is illegal, against Google guidelines, or a threat to someone’s life or safety. Instead, Google has placed a house advertisement above the search results for the image and explained their position in a letter.

“We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google [but] … we have, in general, a bias toward free speech.”

What Could Apple Learn from Google?

I agree with Google on this one. Although the caricature of Michelle is tasteless, Google is not in any position to judge its appropriateness. Google knows it is not the moral police, so it leaves search engine rankings up to its algorithms. They take the same approach to the Android Market, which they do not police either.

Now, compare Google to Apple in a similar situation: When a tasteless or offensive iPhone app turns up on the App Store waiting list, what does Apple do? They reject it.

As a result, iPhone developers and users are left infuriated with heinous App Store approval policies. We point out the hypocrisy of rejecting one app, but including a similar one. We accuse Apple of censorship and overbearing behavior. We abandon Apple’s iPhone and adopt Google’s Android.

There are many compelling reasons for Apple to reform its App Store approval process and do away with content policing. As more and more apps flood the App Store, determining which are inappropriate will become increasingly difficult, and increasingly expensive. App Store reform is in the best interests of iPhone users, iPhone developers, and Apple.

Do You Agree?

Was Google right to leave the controversial First Lady caricature in place? Should Apple learn from the search engine and adopt a similar, hands-off approach to the App Store? What do you think?

Update: The offensive image has been removed, not by Google, but by the website that had hosted it.

Will iPhone Get a Stylus? Apple Patents “Digital Ink Recognition”

Apple has filed a patent for some sort of “digital ink recognition” technology.

The ink manager collects separate ink strokes, determines when a whole phrase has been entered and passes that phrase to a handwriting recognition engine.

Whether you were going to get upset or get excited about the idea of a stylus for your iPhone, don’t do either… yet.

The patent suggests the technology is for “pen-based computers,” especially for entering data into forms, and the word “tablet” is mentioned 58 times in the application.

Although the patent refers to a “tablet” specifically, I could definitely see Apple deploying this technology on a future iPhone model if it worked out on their forthcoming tablet.

Think about it. Apple is going to have to seriously focus on hardware now that App Store developers do most of the work creating apps. We finally have copy & paste on our iPhones. We finally have a video camera. What are they going to woo us with next? Well, what about “digital ink recognition” technology?

But a Stylus for iPhone?

If you recall, one of the selling points Steve Jobs pitched to the public when the iPhone was revealed at Macworld in January 2007 was that it was a multitouch interface with no stylus.

Will this patent make a stylus-based iPhone more appealing? Do you want a stylus for filling out forms on your iPhone? What do you think?

4 Ways for Apple to Fix the App Store Approval Process

Mashable reports that Apple is fixing the App Store approval process by adding “the ability to track the status of apps submitted to Apple’s store.”

It’s good to know Apple is giving developers some insight into the App Store approval process by providing status updates, but Apple needs to do more to embrace developers, who have been a crucial part of the iPhone’s success.

Here are 4 changes we need to see in the App Store approval process:

  1. Shorten the approval time for trusted developers. I remember waiting weeks between when Facebook submitted their Facebook 3.0 app to the App Store and its actual arrival to the App Store. Must Apple continue to make trusted companies wait weeks before their apps are approved (or rejected) in the App Store? If anything, Apple could appoint more employees to the approval committee to make it a more pleasant process for the people who keep the App Store afloat, developers. Update: Facebook’s iPhone app developer has quit, citing his discomfort over the App Store approval process.
  2. Stop rejecting apps that criticize public figures. Apple recently rejected Bobble Tap because it contained caricatures of politicians that were not even objectionable. The developer said the app was in good taste, just an informational database. Judging by the screenshots of the app, I agree. Apple, lighten up and let people express themselves however they want. If apps are threatening or illegal, we have the government to deal with that. We don’t need you to police the App Store. Update: Apple has reversed its decision about the Bobble Tap app.

    Bobble Tap iPhone app

  3. Don’t diss Google. Apple rejected the Google Voice app, claiming that the app “duplicates features that come with the iPhone.” But plenty of apps duplicate native iPhone features. Look at how many apps in the App Store record voice, display weather and even send text messages. Apple, if you continue to ignore Google they are going to ignore you, and you don’t want that, especially considering the Android army that is about to be unleashed. Play nice, boys.
  4. Allow adult content. It’s called “Parental Controls,” Apple. It changed television by allowing parents to block objectionable content from children. It could change the iPhone, too. Just add an “18+” Restriction to the Settings and we’re all set. Apple, stop trying to play Mom and Pop and let adults be adults.

These solutions are good for Apple, these solutions are good for developers. As far as I’m concerned, if it places Apple in a good light with iPhone developers, it’s a smart business decision. You don’t want all your App Store developers flocking to Android, do you Apple?