Thursday, May 24, 2018

Alexa Sends Private Conversation to Random Contact

The main story that's been constantly running the headlines today is how what Amazon calls a series of unfortunate coincidences caused a woman's private conversation to be sent to one of her contacts [Source: Kiro7 News]. A family had Amazon Echos put in each room of her house (don't do that). A woman had a conversation with someone about hardwood floors. She got a phone call from one of her husband's employees explaining how he just heard her conversation. Amazon told Ars Technica what caused this.
"Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa." Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?" At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name], right?" Alexa then interpreted background conversation as "right." As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely."
Is this true? Possibly. I doubt any hack took place and I can't imagine why Amazon would intentionally put this in. We'll see if this has any effect on the public's perception of smart speakers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The State of tvOS

tvOS takes up a very small portion of WWDC each year. It makes some sense. tvOS isn't the most integral product in Apple's lineup. However, I think if Apple is going to put more focus in fixing bugs in iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, we should see more tvOS features to compensate. I always forget that tvOS exists until the update pops up on the device. Then, I see about three notable features that I'll never use. Amazon Prime TV is not a feature, it's an app developed by Amazon. That should not be one of the biggest "features" of tvOS 11. While I don't have any feature suggestions at the moment, I think it's time for Apple to finally wow us with what the Apple TV is capable of.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Apple's Data and Privacy Website

As rumored, Apple has launched their Data and Privacy website, which allows users to download all information associated with their Apple ID that is stored on Apple's servers. This is literally everything Apple has of you. While not everything about you is stored on Apple's servers, you'll find more obscure information like your AppleCare support history or GameCenter statistics. Because this is for a new privacy law for the European Union, it isn't available in the U.S. yet, but it will be coming in a few months worldwide. In addition, you can contact Apple directly for a copy of your data.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Beats HomePod

According to Sina, Apple is planning a budget HomePod to be released under the Beats brand. This speaker would cost $199, compared to the $329 current HomePod. This is a pretty sketchy report. I honestly doubt this, but it could be true. The idea of saying the Beats brand is the budget brand doesn't feel right. That's not to say Apple's is the budget brand either, but Apple has done a good job thus far having the two brands co-exist without fighting each other. I fully believe we are getting a budget HomePod, but probably not under the Beats brand.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Apple Maps in Japan

Japan's heavy use of public transit can be very confusing to tourists. However, Apple Maps makes navigating Japanese public transit a breeze. Simply input your destination into Apple Maps and select Transit. You'll be given a route with the amount it will cost. In addition, all of the train lines are clearly depicted with their appropriate symbols and departing times. Exits are also labeled. This is definitely one of the best ways to use Apple Maps. In addition, with the rumors of using ARKit for indoor navigation, we could see train station navigation improve soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Samsung's 'iPhone 6' Ad

Samsung released an ad the other day mostly about the iPhone 6 of all things. The ad basically shows a woman going throughout her day and why her life is horrible because she still has an iPhone 6. Lag is the main issue that is shown, likely an homage to the whole "old iPhones lag to conserve battery" thing. It's typical Samsung mudslinging. It may be somewhat effective to the regular consumer, due to their potential lack of knowledge on the subject. They may not even realize it's an iPhone 6 and not a newer model. My take is there's nothing saying why I should pick Samsung. If I'm going to have to buy a new phone, why not stay in my ecosystem? Especially considering that the Samsung flagship phone equivalent of the iPhone 6 is the Samsung Galaxy Note5 (both released in late 2015) cannot run Android Oreo, Android's latest software, while the iPhone 6 is. In addition, iPhone 6 users can get their worn-out lithium-ion batteries replaced for just $30. Overall, the ad is very flawed when taking an analytical look at it, but that's expected of Samsung ads these days. I'm not saying all Apple ads are perfect either. In fact, I really don't like a lot of the recent Apple advertisements that I've seen lately, even if most of them don't bash other companies. All phones are very similar these days and I think it's more important to highlight your own features and capabilities rather than bash on others.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tidal Behind on Royalty Payments

According to Dagens Næringsliv, Tidal is months behind on royalty payments to record labels. As a music streaming service, Tidal markets itself as a high-fidelity music streaming service. I always felt that Tidal was this unnecessary, awkward service that nudged itself into the market. People who want high-fidelity audio likely don't want a streaming service. Most people are fine with normal streaming quality as well. Tidal's smaller user base is likely what will be its demise in the end, and these late royalties are what we are seeing right now. I always hear about Tidal once every few months, and that might end soon. In the end, Tidal will have to step out of the ring and let Apple Music and Spotify duke it out.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Developers Union

Right before WWDC, some App Store developers have formed what they call The Developers Union. Essentially, it's a band of developers who are voicing developer's wishes to Apple. They're asking Apple for better revenue cuts and free trials in the App Store. I think it's definitely important for the App Store developer community to have a voice. Whether Apple listens to them is mostly up to them and how much of an impact The Developers Union has. It's definitely interesting. Arbitrary things, like better revenue cuts, I don't really have a say in, mostly because this kind of thing boils to luck with innovation and popularity. However, I would definitely be interested in hear their responses to what happens at WWDC this year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Amazon Prime + Whole Foods

Whole Foods, which is now owned by Amazon, is giving Prime members in Florida a special deal. Prime members will be able to take 10% off sale items at Whole Foods. In addition, they'll receive weekly deals. This will be rolling out to the rest of the United States this summer. Users will just need to scan their Prime Barcode in the Whole Foods app at checkout.

(Also, my j key is fixed now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Apple's Butterfly Keyboard

I like the Butterfly Keyboard on the newer MacBooks. I really do. The click, the responsiveness. I've liked it since day one. I know not everyone's on the same level with that though. It is subjective. But remember when I said I liked the Butterfly Keyboard on the newer MacBooks? Yeah, my opinion just changed. That's because whenever I type the letter j, the key is awkwardly stuck. I can't stand it. Every other key feels crisp and tactile with every stroke. But then I hit that one key and I'm taken out of it. It feels like the experience is ruined. At least it's not as common as other letters. Whether or not this issue is related to the new lawsuit going on with the keyboard, I'm not sure. I experience the symptoms, so I'm willing to hop on board. I just need a repair soon. It's starting to drive me crazy.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Retro iPhone X Cases

As mentioned earlier, the iMac is now 20 years old. Spigen is celebrating with some iMac-themed cases for the iPhone X. They're candy colored, just like the original iMacs. They look stunning, with lots of detail put into them. There are five colors total. You can order them on Indiegogo starting at $25 with free shipping.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

USB-C Adoption in Japan

One interesting thing I've noticed in Japan is the quicker adoption of USB-C. While this is just my perspective, I've found that in my few days here, USB-C is more popular here than in America. There are a lot of off-brand products that use it. My LTE hotspot that I'm renting uses it. The 100 yen store here sells them as well. It's interesting to see how USB-C fares in different parts of the world.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Using Suica Cards with Apple Pay

Suica cards are one of the standard cards used for Japanese transit. At most stations and even some restaurants, you can use your Suica card to pay. Usually, people use their physical Suica card, which uses NFC to quickly pay for transit. However, you can actually use your iPhone or Apple Watch. To do this, your device's region must be first set to Japan (Settings > General > Language & Region). By going to Wallet and adding a card, you can see a new option for a Suica card is available. Simply add your card and hold the device close to your physical card. After this, the physical card is no longer useable. In addition, the Suica card can only be on one device at a time. For example, if it is on your Apple Watch, it will not be on your iPhone and vise versa. From here, you can use your device as your Suica card, and it does not need to be woken up to be used.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Apple Watch Saves Another Life

Apple Watch is continuously proving to become a miracle device with its amazing heart capabilities. From the South China Morning Post, Gaston D'Aquino was sitting at church when he got a notification about an elevated heart rate. He went to a local hospital to inquiry about it.

"I told the doctor I don't know why I'm here, but my watch tells me I have an elevated heart rate. He says, 'Are you feeling anything?' I said no, I feel fine, I'm feeling all right, nothing's wrong."

An electrocardiograph reflected his watch's notification and doctors discovered that two of his three coronary arteries were completely blocked. His remaining one was 90 percent blocked, which could potentially cause a fatal heart attack. He had an angioplasty performed on him and had a new lease on life. He hopes to share this story so others may consider having a medical professional check on them if they are experiencing elevated heart rate notifications from their Apple Watch.

(Don't worry. Japan stories coming soon.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Technology in Japan

Today, I am traveling to Japan on a study abroad trip. My hope is to post less news and more things about Japan and technology. This is a short post because my plane’s WiFi didn’t work and I want to get this out before midnight.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

iOS 11.4 Finds Slight Workaround for GrayKey

Found by Elcomsoft, the iOS 11.4 beta has an interesting workaround for GrayKey, the box that can unlock an iPhone. After seven days of not being unlocked or being connected to a paired computer, the iOS device will limit its Lightning port's capabilities. It will only be able to charge, with no data through the port being allowed until the iOS device is charged. This puts a time limit on how long GrayKey has to unlock the iOS device. This is a clever workaround. I think seven days is a bit generous given how often people use their phones. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Apple Heart Study

I felt like I never went over this, so here it is now. The Apple Heart Study is a new study conducted by Apple and Stanford medicine to help accelerate discovery in heart science. This is achieved by monitoring heart rates of consenting participants wearing Apple Watches. That's a lot of data from a lot of people. Mainly, it can detect irregular heart rates and notify users. Early detection can help a lot. The more people who join, the more data, and thus, the more potential for new discoveries or early detections. You must be 22 years old or older, be a U.S. citizen, have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later (with watchOS 4 or later), and have an iPhone 5s or later (with iOS 11 or later). You can join by downloading the Apple Heart Study app [Direct Link].

Monday, May 7, 2018

iPhone X App Support

Apple is informing developers that all app updates submitted after July 2018 (no specific date was given) must be built with the iOS 11 SDK and support the iPhone X's larger display. Recently, all new apps submitted had to be built for the iPhone X, but this date only applies to updates. This is normal, and ensures that developers are taking advantage of the latest technologies. For those who use outdated apps on their iPhone X, hopefully this enforcement will either update or get rid of any apps that aren't optimized.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Twenty Years of iMac

The iMac revolutionized desktop computing. It was an all-in-one computer for just about everyone. And today, even with the popularity of laptops and mobile devices, it still acts as one of the best desktops one can get. Today, the iMac line of desktops turned twenty years old. Tim Cook tweeted about the anniversary to commemorate it. The embedded video is definitely worth a watch.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

iPhone X was the World's Most Popular Phone

According to Strategy Analytics, the iPhone X was the world's most popular smartphone last quarter. This comes after news that the iPhone X underwhelmed Apple. If this is accurate, that's great news for Apple. Despite this, I still think the price needs to go down, which I'm fairly confident it will. I see more and more iPhone X models in the wild. Hopefully this also encourages developers to ensure their apps work well on the iPhone X.