|This week we looked at new phones and games, considered the endless possibilities for Facebook's new search tool and wondered whether Apple will release another "big new product" this year. Here's what you need to know about the week in Tech:|
1) Has Apple's innovation machine stalled?
It seems like everyone has an iPhone, an iPad or a Mac these days. Apple products are everywhere — but that may not necessarily be a good thing, as some experts worry that the company has reached its saturation point.
Apple stocks slumped on Monday after The Wall Street Journal reported the company decreased orders for parts of the iPhone 5.
USA TODAY's Scott Martin took a look at a few more signs of impending trouble for the company:
• Loss of the "wow" factor — Apple hasn't had an "industry-changing invention" since the release of the first iPad three years ago.
• Where's the Apple TV? — Rumors abound that the company is going to release a TV set, but studios and providers have said they don't want to work with Apple.
• Stock market slump — Apple's stock has dropped about 29% since September, and the company needs to either sell more existing products or introduce a dynamic new product to boost their stock prices.
Apple has to think fast and go big before whispers that Apple has "lost its magic" become widespread opinion.
2) Facebook announces Graph Search feature
Facebook is poised to give Google some serious competition with the launch of a new search tool designed to connect users based on common interests. The new search feature brings together likes and dislikes posted by your Facebook friends and others in your network. Graph Search could, for instance, give you a list of friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter, or it could tell you what Mexican restaurants your friends have visited.
Graph Search also has the potential to make a few love connections, just in time for Valentine's Day. The search will allow single users to explore the interests of not just friends but also friends of friends.
But what about privacy? Facebook said it is aware about privacy concerns that could come up with Graph Search, and the search engine will only cull from a user's Facebook "Likes" for now.
Experts told USA TODAY's Jon Swartz that Graph Search could give Facebook a serious edge over dating sites such as Match.com, location services like Foursquare and the world's most popular search engine, Google.
3) Baig: Amplified phone uses tablet display for captioning
Patient grandkids with hearing-impaired grandmothers, take note: The new Ensemble cord phone from Clarity makes it easier than ever to have a conversation with those who are hard of hearing.
The phone amplifies sound up to 50 decibels and comes with a built-in touchscreen that displays real-time captioning for phone conversations.
You might be skeptical of this service if you've ever seen mistranslated closed captioning on a TV show or movie. But don't worry: When you make or receive a call, your conversation is transcribed and captioned by a real person, not a machine.
USA TODAY's Ed Baig took a test run on the Ensemble phone and said the device is not without its flaws. The phone's transcript is "decent but imperfect," and the set doesn't come with a speakerphone. But Baig said the Ensemble is overall a good pick for members of its target audience: "My elderly mom, after trying it out on a few calls, told me that she thinks Ensemble is 'a very good idea.' Like any good son, I agree."
4) NASA: Mars rover ready to start drilling.
The quest for signs of life on Mars continues! NASA announced on Tuesday that the Curiosity rover is ready to start drilling rock layers at the "Yellowknife Bay" basin in the Gale Crater. The basin is lined with veined, flat rocks that reveal the paths that water currents once made.
To say that NASA staffers are excited to start drilling is an understatement: Richard Cook of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said of their latest discovery, "We've let the scientists into a candy store."
5) Temple Run sequel hits App Store!
The popular iOS mobile game Temple Runis back with a new sequel that promises to be a "bigger, better, more awesome and beautiful version" of the popular game, according to Keith Shepherd of Imangi Studios.
USA TODAY's Mike Snider said Temple Run 2 ups the stakes by making players swing on zip lines, steer a mine cart and other adventures more perilous than the simple running and jumping of the first game. Users can collect coins as they run through the game, and they can buy add-ons to upgrade the game.
If you want to check out the game for yourself, it's available on the iTunes store for free.