Saturday, March 23, 2019

Apple Could Debut a Credit Card This Monday

According to Bloomberg, Apple could be in partnership with Goldman Sachs to create a new credit card, with some extra features for Apple Pay. This credit card would be revealed this Monday, at their service-centric event.

Personally, this seems weird to me. I think most people have enough credit cards in their lives and I find it hard to believe that this credit card will be any better. The only incentive would be special features in the Wallet app, which are arbitrarily tied to one specific card. I think a better approach for Apple would be to use their good standing image of privacy, and integrate a budgeting section into the Wallet app, that works with any card in the app. Or maybe finally let us scan more types of barcodes into the app. The Wallet app could have so much potential but it's seldom used because what can be done with it is so contextual. There are opportunities to expand it but Apple isn't taking them.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Thoughts on Google Stadia

It's undeniable that gaming (and probably every other form of entertainment) is going in the way of streaming. When Google announced their entrance into the gaming front, Google Stadia, on Tuesday, I was both intrigued and skeptical. There are parts that are genuinely cool, but a lot felt like fluffed up PR talk. I felt a lot of the vibes that I get when I think of Apple's service-centric event coming this week. "You're great as a company at X, so why try going into Y, when you should be focusing more on X?" That being said, here are my thoughts.

The Good

The idea of taking the focus of gaming away from hardware and instead realizing that games can be cloud streamed is a cool premise, at least in a perfect world with no input lag. But for now, let's pretend that there are no connection issues with Stadia at all. Suddenly, your phone or low-end laptop has the graphics and rendering power of a high-end PC, because all it needs to do is stream what is essentially a video stream. The idea of this evolving without the need to upgrade hardware sounds like a dream. You can look at the same game running on a Nintendo Switch and a PS4, and the graphical capabilities are night and day, but the Switch gives up the extra power for portability. With Stadia, you get the best of both worlds, where you can have portability and great looking visuals, because all of the processing is done on one of Google's servers. The continuity features with the controller are also very Apple-esque. Some of the in-game features are also pretty cool. Share states, anti-cheating, and 4K are nice touches provided the product works as advertised.

The Bad

The main issue with this event is what we don't know. We don't know what games will be on this service, aside from a select few. We don't know how much it will cost. We don't know if this will even catch on. Aside from their grasp on the internet, what makes Google qualified to run the gaming service that is supposed to revolutionize video games? I'd rather have a company that didn't have a smartphone OS bias, so iOS users don't miss out on certain features. That's not to say I want Apple to do this by any means. Sundar Pichai began the conference stating, "I'm not actually a big gamer." But then you see the Konami code on the bottom of Google's controller, which is cringy at best. It feels like Google is stepping into the gaming arena because market research shows that it's becoming bigger by the second.

Moving on, what Google had to show at their event wasn't super impressive. I'm all for not giving me a false perception of a product, but if what they showed in their controlled environment is average performance to best case performance, I'm not looking forward to how it works on my network. I've tried PS4 Remote Play on my phone, and as cool as it is, the input lag on my local network was frustrating for any game that wasn't a button masher. So, if that didn't work on my local network, who's to say Google can pull that off with internet involved? Don't get me wrong, I'd love for them to prove me wrong. I'm sure Google invested more into Stadia than Sony into the PS4 Remote Play app. A big hurdle for Stadia is the network performance aspect.

Also, the fact that Google's controller has an always-on microphone is a turn off for me, though I'm glad they let me use my own controller.

It's hard to see Stadia being what Google hypes it up to be. It isn't like movie streaming where movies are significantly cheaper than most games. If we put games to a streaming model, I think that could set a bad precedent for game developers. I'm by no means knowledgable on how video game economics work, but here's my interpretation. If they make their money from someone clicking a play button, would developers feel as incentivized to put as much quality and content in their games? A lot of games that don't live up to the $60 price point usually go on sale pretty quickly and eventually end up in the bargain bin, but when there's no price tag attached to any specific game, there's no depreciation to be had. 

In Summary

Google Stadia could be revolutionary, or it could be the next Ouya. I can't give a full conclusion until we hear more about Stadia in a few months. I can definitely say it has captured my interest way more than this news subscription thing Apple has been drumming up these past few months. I will continue to follow Stadia up to its launch to see if they make any revolutionary announcements.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New AirPower Image Discovered

AirPower has been removed from AirPod's page after the recent refresh. However, MacRumors seems to have discovered an updated image of AirPower hidden in the source code of the Australian AirPods site. The image is similar to the old image found on the AirPods page, except it features an iPhone XS instead of an iPhone X. The battery percentages are even the exact same. We have plenty of reason to believe AirPower will be released soon, but Apple has been quiet on the matter for nearly two years now.

Image Credit: MacRumors

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Apple Releases New AirPods

Over two years after their initial release, AirPods has finally received an update. These AirPods have a new H1 chip, which allows for "Hey, Siri" functionality in the AirPods. They also have better battery life, which most users will be happy about. You can also engrave the AirPods case now if you order through Apple's website. Apple is releasing the AirPods Wireless Charging Case. You can buy the new AirPods with the new case ($199), or with the normal case ($159). While I wish we would've had some more features, like gesture commands (i.e. volume slide up), an AirPods update is always welcome. There are still rumors of an iPod Touch or AirPower being announced later this week as well, so we'll have to wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

iMac Refresh and New iPod Touch Announcement Imminent

Following updated iPads yesterday, Apple has announced this morning that the iMac and iMac Pro lineup will be getting a minor refresh. The new iMacs have new Intel processors, while the iMac Pro can now have up to a whopping 256 GB of RAM. Ahead of their service-based event next week, Apple seems to be quietly announcing new products this week. Thanks to MacRumors, we now have reason to believe that Apple will announce a new iPod Touch as early as tomorrow. The iPod Touch has been long untouched by Apple, not being updated since mid-2015, so an update is welcome. To see the features I want in a new iPod Touch, check out my post on it. While I would like the new iPod Touch to have an edge-to-edge display, I wouldn't get my hopes up. Apple will likely update it for the sake of keeping the device series alive.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Apple Announces New iPad Mini and 10.5" iPad Air

Apple has updated two iPad models today: the iPad mini and the iPad Air. The new iPad mini is the fifth iteration of the small tablet with Apple Pencil support and the A12 chip. The new iPad Air replaces the 10.5" iPad Pro, simultaneously simplifying and confusing the iPad lineup. It made sense to get rid of the 10.5" iPad Pro, as it conflicted with the new iPad Pros. But it is confusing because the iPad Air brand has been absent for several years, and the regular iPad branding is still on the 9.7-inch iPad. The iPad and iPad Air have no major weight differences, so it's unclear why they've created inconsistent branding. Regardless, the new iPad Air gives up ProMotion and quad-speakers for a cheaper price point. It still has Apple Pencil support. Aside from the branding, this was a good choice by Apple. The main gripe from consumers is that the prices could've been a bit lower, but that's not to say they're super overpriced. The iPad Air and iPad mini start at $499 and $399 respectively.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Apple Music Now Available on Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV is the Amazon Echo's less-popular TV counterpart. Now, Apple Music subscribers can ask Alexa on their Amazon Fire TVs to play music from Apple Music [Source: CNBC]. Three months ago, Apple also allowed Apple Music to be streamed through Amazon Echo devices, so users of both will get the benefits of Apple Music on both devices. If you own an Amazon Echo with Apple Music set up, there is no need to do any additional setup for it to work with Amazon Fire TV. With all of the additional Alexa devices being created, maybe Alexa could be expanded to those as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

IKEA and Sonos Team Up to Make Speakers

IKEA and Sonos will be partnering to create a speaker that combines light and sound in some way. They have announced that the Symfonisk collection will be formally revealed in early April. Sonos seems like a good fit for IKEA, as strange as that may sound. You don't want to divide your consumer base between iOS and Android users, and Sonos has done a great job at being the universal speaker that supports almost any streaming service. IKEA and Sonos could make the next big step towards a connected home next month.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Apple Announces WWDC 2019

It's that time of year again. Apple has announced WWDC 2019, which means the software speculation levels are through the roof once more. It will take place from June 3 to June 7 in San Jose. The big rumor is to expect a new Mac Pro after almost 6 years of waiting for an update. In addition, I wouldn't be surprised if we finally got Dark Mode in iOS 13. It would make sense after we got it in macOS Mojave. WWDC is always an exciting event to look forward to, so hopefully we get great announcements to match the anticipation.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Apple Releases New Privacy Ad

Apple released a new ad today regarding privacy. It's definitely one of their better ads in my opinion. It goes through a variety of scenarios of privacy in real life. It ends with the statement: "If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on." Apple's strong point has been privacy for some time. When privacy is being questioned more than ever today, this is the kind of ad Apple needs to be promoting. Animoji won't get anyone to switch to an iPhone, but privacy values can be seen as fundamental to a company. Until Apple can get a new iPhone with features that knock the competition out of the park, we need more ads like this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rolando Makes a Return to the App Store

For my tenth birthday, I got an iPod Touch, and I have so many fond memories of it. So many apps I owned then are no longer available today. Super Monkey Ball, We Rule, and countless others. They just haven't been maintained for the most part. And the other day, I was thinking of one of my favorite games, Rolando. Rolando was a game heavily advertised by Apple in the early years of the iPhone. It was a fun platforming puzzle game that demonstrated the accelerometer feature of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Rolando: Royal Edition will be returning to bring back some of the nostalgia of the early days of the App Store. It is a remaster of the original game. It is available for pre-order for $1.99, which is 60% off the full price [Direct Link].

This does beg the question of whether other apps and games could do the same. Rolando comes from a time where you would buy a game and you owned it. Today, it's hard to find apps that cost more than 99¢. It's all about in-app purchases or mining your personal data or processing power today. I think it would be cool to see a return to form for some part of the App Store. It's not going to happen just because that's not how money works, but I do long for those days sometimes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The World Wide Web Turns 30

The wealth of information we take for granted today can be largely attributed to the World Wide Web. It dates back to 1989. A few days ago, plus thirty years, the World Wide Web was proposed. Different than the internet, the World Wide Web harnessed the tools we use everyday, like URLs and HTML. It made the internet much more accessible. It's something we don't think of much today, but use so often. In 2037, it will be interesting to look back on 30 years of smartphones, and so on. The World Wide Web served as a grand foundation, and we continue to build upon it to this day.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Apple Hosting 'It's Show Time' Event on March 25

Apple will be hosting a special event on March 25 in the Steve Jobs Theater. It will take place at 10 a.m. The event has been rumored to focus on services, and will likely have no new hardware announced. The event will be streamable but it's definitely not for everyone. The event is expected to reveal Apple's new service for streamlining news for $9.99 a month. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Apple Promotes iTunes Credit Reload Feature with 10% Bonus

Apple is offering a deal to compete with the constant sale of iTunes gift cards available at retailers. If you reload your credit using Apple's interface, you will receive a 10% bonus to whatever you reload. You can receive up to $20 for a $200 reload. It should be noted that you can often find 15-20% discounts on iTunes Gift cards at certain retailers, so take this offer with a grain of salt. To take advantage of this offer, go to Settings, tap your name, tap the iTunes and App Store section, select your Apple ID, and finally tap "Add Funds to Apple ID."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Apple's AR Glasses

Whenever Apple announces a new genre of product these days, we usually hear about them years in advance. Take the Apple Watch. The long-rumored "iWatch" had a lot building up to it. The same goes for the AR headset that Apple has been working on for some time now. It's no secret that Apple sees a lot of future in AR, and these glasses would be the perfect medium for AR-based apps. Apple would probably be the best company to do it considering how many resources they've put into AR, in addition to Apple's stance on privacy. Ming-Chi Kuo is now saying that these glasses could be releasing in 2020, which feels relatively close. Whether this will be an actual trend or just another Google Glass will likely be up to timing.

Friday, March 8, 2019

My MacBook Pro Repair Experience

This past week was one of the hardest for me because I had to make do without my laptop. It was having its battery replaced. I got it back today and found that the logic board was replaced and several USB-C ports were fixed, so the cables would snap into the port better, in addition to the battery replacement. My keyboard was also fully replaced. My hard drive was wiped and the software was reset to macOS Sierra, which came out about two years ago. I had to setup my Mac and update the software before I could restore from my backup, which took a considerable amount of time. The thing to take away from this is that Apple may perform additional repairs on your Mac, so make sure you do a backup no matter what. I figured only my battery would be replaced, but I took a backup just in case. I'm glad I did.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Use Your PS4 on Your Phone

Sony released an app called Remote Play today for iOS that allows you to stream the video output of your PS4 console to your smartphone. Not only that, but you can also control the console using your iPhone's touch controls. So, you essentially have a portable PS4 on your smartphone. While there are some compromises, a good connection usually provides negligible latency for most games. Turn-based games or button mashers should be no problem for this app. It also works on local networks or networks away from the console. A compatible controller can also be connected. While this is by no means the best way to play PS4 games, it offers a portable spin on a great home console. Remote Play is available from the Apple App Store for free [Direct Link].

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

New iPhone Features Page

Apple has released a new site for iPhone designed to show existing users some features about the iPhone. This site is very useful for those who don't know every nook and cranny of the their iPhone. If I could change one thing, it would be to put the Measure app closer to the top. This app is genuinely one of the most underrated utilities on the iPhone. Think of when people realized they could use their iPhone as a flashlight. I get similar vibes with the Measure app. Overall, this page is a nice tips page for iPhone users, but I wouldn't suggest it for an Android user considering switching to an iPhone, as it mostly touches on features that aren't mind blowing and can make iOS seem dull without any context.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

iPhones with Third-Party Batteries Can Now Be Repaired By Apple

Apple has long been unable to repair iPhones with third-party batteries due to their policy. The repair didn't even have to have anything to do with the battery. However, that seems to have changed finally [Source: iGeneration]. Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers are now allowed to repair iPhones regardless of the battery inside the phone. If the battery is directly related to the repair, the service provider can now replace the battery at the standard fee. This is useful for those who like to buy batteries from iFixit and replace the battery themselves. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Apple Looking to Social Media to Improve Siri

Siri is notorious for its constant mistakes when compared to other smartphone assistants. Siri’s goof ups are perfect material for a short tweet. Now, Apple has posted a job listing that will check how Siri is perceived by the world on the internet. This would effectively be finding issues that are common on the internet and reporting them to the team that works on Siri. Most people are finding this as either the world’s slowest knee jerk reaction or as job that shouldn’t exist. Siri has so many issues, it’s hard to believe hiring someone to look up issues on Twitter would do much. Siri needs improvement, that’s for sure. How to get that improvement is up to Apple, but it needs to be effective and fast.