Sunday, December 31, 2017

Echo Spot

Amazon releases new variations of their devices so often, it's impossible to keep track of all of them. One nifty device I missed was the Echo Spot. Released just in time for the holiday season, the Echo Spot takes the functionality of Alexa and puts it into an alarm clock style. It looks great in my opinion. Its design reminds me a lot of the Nest thermostat. With the right setup, it can take the place of your home phone. I really hope this paves the way for more dedicated smart home devices. Apple once mentioned that Alexa-type devices would work better with a display, so it makes me wonder if Apple would be willing to make devices similar to the Echo Show and Echo Spot (that isn't HomePod). I would want to ask a personal assistant to control my smart devices and alarms. But I'd like that assistant to be Siri, since it's in the Apple ecosystem. Alexa has served me well, but she doesn't know some information that my phone knows. And while I could ask my phone, there's no guarantee that it will be in my room all the time. Echo Spot is available from Amazon for $129.99 [Direct Link].

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

$29 Battery Replacements Now Available

Previously, Apple stated that $29 battery replacements would be available in late January. However, they are available now. If you own an iPhone 6 or newer, then you are eligible [Source: TechCrunch]. Apple does say that supplies are limited due to this immediate availability. Check your local Apple Store for details. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Steve Jobs: The Italian Clothing Brand

Every once in a while, you come across a story like this and you have to read it twice. But then you realize, if it was possible, someone had to do it. Today, we look into how an Italian clothing brand acquired the right to use "Steve Jobs" as its name [Source: The Verge]. Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato had a clothing brand and named it "Steve Jobs" in 2012 since Apple did not have it trademarked. Interesting choice, seeing as the brand had a stunning lack of black turtle necks. But it doesn't stop there. Their logo is a "J" with a bite taken out of the side, with the signature Apple leaf on top. Apple obviously sued, but the brothers won the right to use the name and logo. Apparently, the letter "J" isn't edible. Shocking, I know. But because of that, it would not be mistaken for an apple. Personally, when I look at the Apple logo, I'm not reminded of the fruit the most of the time, just because the logo is so iconic. But that aside, when the context is Steve Jobs, I'm immediately going to think that the clothing brand has some association with Apple. At this point, how could a story that's so bad, it's good, get any better? According to Business Insider Italia, these brothers are working on selling electronics. A bit of a leap from clothing to technology. I'm sure they will be amazing. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Apple's Response to the Battery Lawsuit

Literally an hour before this news story went live, I was thinking about this whole Apple lawsuit. I was just thinking how most of the people against Apple were hoping to get some cash settlement or a new phone and were only in it for just that. But I figured Apple would just replace their batteries, since that would resolve the issue by everyone's logic. An hour later, Apple did basically that. They announced that they would replace batteries of the iPhone 6 and later for just $29 for out-of-warranty customers. That's opposed to the regular $79 fee. In addition, in early 2018, Apple will update iOS to have a battery health screen. This helps users keep track of their battery capacity. I'm certainly looking forward to this. I'm sure there are third-party apps that do this, but I would obviously prefer an Apple-made solution when dealing with my battery life. Everyone has been acting like this was one big scheme by Apple, when in reality, they've been pretty transparent about it. And by doing that, the world freaked out. This isn't some big conspiracy. If you owned any other brand of phone, your battery would drain much faster instead of a slower phone until it bricked because it can't hold enough of a charge to startup. It's the literal nature of a lithium-ion battery. One would have to buy a new phone eventually, and, to be honest, they probably would've bought one anyways. That's my take on it, but if you'd like to read Apple's statement on this, you can do so here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

iPhone X’s Side Button

iPhone X made a lot of changes, but a more subtle one is the Side Button. Previously known as the Lock Button, the Side Button is larger and acts more similarly to that of the Apple Watch. Double click it for Apple Pay. Hold it for Siri, similar to a walkie-talkie. And, of course, single click it to lock. I like how this age old button has been given a new purpose that doesn’t just turn off the phone. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Easily Zoom to 2x for iPhones with Optical Zoom

The iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X all feature optical zoom. By pinching in and out of the camera viewfinder, you can zoom precisely. You can optically zoom up to 2x. Naturally, you'd want to probably zoom to 2x often, to preserve the image while getting as much zoom as possible. To quickly zoom to exactly 2x, just tap the zoom button that says "1x" by default. This will switch the telephoto lens and change your zoom.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

Hi all! Just wanted to do a quick post to wish you all a Merry Christmas! If you got any new Apple products this season, look for some tips in the near future. I’m also hoping to give some impressions of accessories I’ve seen or bought recently. Until then, enjoy the rest of the holiday season!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Future Apple Watch May Have EKG Monitor

According to Bloomberg, Apple may be working on implementing an EKG monitor into a future Apple Watch. With Apple's focus on making Apple Watch a health device, an EKG would provide better readings of heart rate. This would be very useful to the Apple Heart Study, which is a voluntary study that collects heart data to help detect irregular heart rhythms. I would love to see this implemented into a future Apple Watch.

P.S. Have a merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Struggle for a Good iPhone X Screen Protector

The iPhone X is a beautiful phone. Every aspect of its design makes it feel like a luxury phone. Yet, despite that, I always feel the need to take the safe route and apply the screen protector, just in case. I looked on Apple's site to find Belkin's screen protector. However, it had terrible reviews of easily cracking under normal usage. It got so bad that Belkin halted sales of it. It was a shame because I typically trusted Belkin to provide a quality screen protector for the right price. I resorted to Amazon, where the validity of any brand has more questionability. I purchased Syde's screen protector for iPhone X for $9.99 [Direct Link]. It fits well and all, but left bubbles near the notch. I was told by a representative that all iPhone X screen protectors seem to suffer from this and it takes some time to fully go away. I've tolerated this for two weeks with no sign of it disappearing. Regardless of brand, keeping the screen protector as minimally invasive is key to being able to enjoy your phone to it's fullest potential. I'm still in the market to finding the perfect protector and I'll be sure to write about it if I find one.

Friday, December 22, 2017

On Apple’s Battery Lawsuit

Currently, Apple is being sued for throttling speeds of older iPhone models in an effort to get these users to upgrade to new phones. Apple has responded by stating that as lithium-ion battery health declines, it is harder to efficiently do more demanding tasks. Apple comphensates by slowing down the phone. This was met with outcry of many saying that this is unethical. My response to this is that if Apple didn’t do this, people’s batteries would be draining way quicker. At the same time, people wouldn’t have a case if this happened. Apple shouldn’t be at fault, but probably will be because they were transparent. This case is ridiculous, but it will probably be a slap on the wrist for Apple in the end. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

College Apple Watch Bands

Apple Watch has a large market for watch bands. Now, you can represent your college with a college Apple Watch band. There's a variety of selection at College Jewelry, where they have an entire section dedicated to Apple Watch bands. It appears they're modeled after the Sport Band and come in both 38mm and 42mm sizes. It appears they're cheaper than the $50 price point of Apple's Sport Bands. Plus, there is free shipping on every order.

This site is not associated with College Jewelry in anyway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

True Continuity Coming to App Store Next Year

If you buy an iOS app, the macOS app may come at an additional charge. This causes macOS apps to be less maintained, especially considering the current state of the Mac App Store. The next major releases of iOS and macOS may see a merger between the iOS and macOS App Stores [Source: Bloomberg News]. This sounds exciting. While I don’t think it will save the Mac App Store, I think it’s a step in the right direction. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pricing for Cellular on Apple Watch

Apple originally advertised cellular pricing for Apple Watch to be an additional $10/month [Source: MacRumors]. Most carriers will charge additional fees, bumping the monthly price to just shy of $15 typically. What's worse is that you can't choose which months you'd like to have the service active without fees. For example, if you'd like to just activate the cellular for a month, you'd pay the normal rate, plus an activation fee. Most carriers will charge about $25 for that. I can understand that cellular on a watch benefits people like long-distance runners who wouldn't want to carry around a phone, but the amount to pay for that convenience is very demanding. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Next-Day iPnone X Delivery

For those looking for an iPhone X for the holidays, Apple is offering free next-day delivery for the iPhone X and select other products in the Apple Online Store. This applies to the U.S. and the U.K. If you still need one for the holidays, I recommend picking one up. You must order by 3:00 p.m. local time for next-day delivery. Good luck!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

AirPods Sold Out Until Next Year

The Apple Store app will gladly list AirPods as one of their "last-minute gifts." Unfortunately, it seems like that won't be the case. The site shows that they will not be available to ship until January. There may be some still available in retail stores and third party retailers, so not all hope is lost, but with a week until Christmas, stock is sure to go fast.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Face ID's Hidden Easter Egg

Face ID is really convenient to use on the iPhone X for a variety of purposes. With each time you use it, you'll be greeted by the face below. However, I believe this face is a reference to the macOS face. You'll see this in the Finder app and the startup icon for the original Macintosh. I think it's a nice touch that goes overlooked, despite how often it is shown.

Image Credit: OS X Daily

Friday, December 15, 2017

iTunes Not Coming to Windows Store in 2017

Microsoft announced earlier this year that iTunes would be coming to their Windows Store in 2017. With the year wrapping up, an Apple spokesperson told ZDNet that they need more time to get it right. This isn’t relevant to most people, but I just found it interesting because Apple already offers iTunes for the PC on their website, so it leads me to wonder what the hold up is. Maybe they just forgot. I like to think that’s what happened. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Space Gray Accessories are iMac Pro Exclusive

The iMac Pro introduced the Magic Mouse, Magic Keynoard, and Magic Trackpad in Space Gray. Many Apple enthusiasts were hoping to snag these color variants, however, Apple confirmed that these aren’t available for separate purchase. If you were buying an iMac Pro just for the color scheme, that’s an expensive way to do so. Hopefully, we’ll see separate releases in the future.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Microsoft Mixed Reality Demo: My Terrible Experience

I went to a Microsoft Store today because one of my professors told me that a VR demo was available. I've had my fair share of VR demos before, but I heard you could play Superhot VR, so I was eager to try it out. When I went to try it out, I was met with a form I had to sign on a Surface. Microsoft Edge stopped working as I filled it out, so another Surface had to be brought in. When I had finished that, I tried on the "Mixed Reality" headset. About 10 seconds into the demo, the application had to be restarted due to some malfunction. When it restarted, the entire screen was blurry. It became more clear if I looked up, but the person at the station told me not to do that, so I was almost blind. They also accidentally chose the game for me when showing me where the buttons were, so I got stuck with "Free the Night." I was met with some voiceover and a starry night sky. No amount of button presses or movements progressed me, so I was under the impression that this was it. While this is apparently a fully fledged game, there was no indication of what I was supposed to do. I ended my demo early on account of the fact that I was bored, unimpressed, and felt that I had wasted roughly ten minutes of my time. I don't like to have to rant like this, but after trying so many VR platforms, Mixed Reality just feels like one of the worst out there. I've had more inviting experiences with Google Cardboard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

iMac Pro To Be Available December 14

After its announcement at WWDC, we finally have a release date for the iMac Pro. It will be available to order December 14. This will start at $4,999. Already, we are seeing that this computer is a very powerful one, with reviews citing lack of upgradability as its downfall. Full pricing details are not available yet.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Apple Allowing Pre-Orders for Apps

Apple is letting developers allow pre-orders for their apps [Source: MacStories]. When a user pre-orders an app, it will be automatically downloaded when the app is officially released. If the app costs money, the charge will be made at the time of download, not pre-order. It's a small, but important feature for the new App Store.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Face ID Impressions

I've used Face ID these past few days and I have gotten time to get used to it. It's very convenient. I can slide up on the lock screen almost immediately and my phone is unlocked by then. It's how unlocking a phone should feel. It's even better in apps like 1Password or Day One. If my fingerprint was dirty, I would often find myself using a password. Now, I just have to look at my phone, which I'm already doing. One thing I'm not as much of a fan of is using it while docked. I put my iPhone on an iHome speaker dock at night, and I have to move my head quite a bit to be in range, instead of just putting my hand on a home button. This isn't a big deal, as I would have to move a bit or undock the phone if I was going to be using the phone in this state anyways (if that made any sense). 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Apple May Acquire Shazam

Apple and Shazam have been very close for years. I first heard of Shazam from an old iPhone ad, probably from the 3GS era. In iOS 8, Shazam was integrated into Siri. It would be very interesting to see Apple acquire Shazam [Source: TechCrunch].  They could announce this Monday if all goes well in the deal. I personally hope it goes well. I see Shazam as the forefront in machine learning-based music recognition.

Friday, December 8, 2017

I Got The iPhone X

My generous grandparents were kind enough to get me an early Christmas present, the iPhone X. This is actually perfect timing, as I'm off to see Apple Park tomorrow as part of my Winter Break. It's a beautiful phone. Every screen feels fresh and amazing with the new screen. I just wanted to thank my grandparents publicly to show my appreciation for them. Thank you very much!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Apple Fixes Major HomeKit Vulnerability

According to 9to5Mac, Apple has fixed a major vulnerability in HomeKit, which would allow unauthorized access to devices. This vulnerability was introduced in iOS 11.2. This is temporarily disabling shared access to HomeKit accessories, but access will be restored early next week. As we move into a world where our lightbulbs need security updates, it's a scary thought how unauthorized access can become a real issue for consumers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Amazon Prime Video Released for Apple TV

Six months after its first announcement, Amazon Prime Video is finally out for the Apple TV. Amazon has become a large competitor in the video streaming field due to the large adoption of Amazon Prime, so this is great to see on Apple TV. Apple TV 4K supports streaming from Amazon Prime Video in 4K HDR, which is a huge plus. It also integrates with the TV app. Amazon Prime Video is available for free from the tvOS App Store.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reversed Emoji

The Unicode Consortium has made new guidelines that propose reversible emoji. These would make it easy to an emoji to point or face one way versus the other. This would help a lot for conveying new messages. Below is a mockup by Emojipedia explaining this concept pretty well. We could potentially see them in the coming years.

Image Credit: Emojipedia

Monday, December 4, 2017

Apple Pay Cash Now Available

Apple Pay Cash, which was not activated in yesterday's update, is now officially live. Going to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay and switching on Apple Pay Cash will guide you through the setup process. After the setup, you'll have a nifty new card your Wallet app with a holographic design based on your phone's gyroscope. With this, you can add a debit card to add funds and send money to friends and family. With credit on the Apple Pay Cash card, you can use it like you would at Apple Pay accepting locations or choose to add the funds to your bank account. I'm sure Apple will eventually have some incentives to use Apple Pay Cash in the future as well.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Critique of Apple's New User Interface

Below is an image provided by Apple Developer's design guidelines. This style, where the page name is in large text near the top of the screen, has become a staple in iOS 11. This was actually originally confined to the Music app in iOS 10 if I remember correctly. While I'm somewhat glad they made it consistent across system apps and not just an odd one out in the Music app, I can't say I'm happy with this design choice. First off, with all of this screen space available with the iPhone X, putting "Favorites" in text that big seems like a waste. "Woah, I'm in the favorites screen. I would've never guessed." We don't need such extravagant text for every single screen. The screen will be better used and more aesthetically pleasing if the title text was shrinked and center-aligned between the "+" and "Edit" buttons. Now you can't un-see it. Look at all of that blank space! What justifies that? It looks like the UI designer made a mistake and let it slide into the golden master build. This works in some situations, especially on tvOS, where large titles are necessary to understanding where you are in the system. However, it's unnecessary on an phone, where screen space is limited and basic design principles keep users from getting confused or lost (which is basically every app except Snapchat and YouTube).

Saturday, December 2, 2017

iOS 11.2 Released

iOS 11.2 was released today and it brings some important updates. First off, we have Apple Pay Cash. This lets you make peer-to-peer payments through Apple Pay and iMessage. It's being rolled out currently, so it may not be available right away. Next is faster wireless charging. iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X now support 7.5W wireless charging, which is faster than the 5W power brick included with the phones. It also adds a Sports section to the TV app, where you can keep track of your favorite sports teams. This also fixes the "I.T" keyboard bug.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fight Dementia with Sea Hero Quest

Dementia is a terrible disease that affects tens of millions of people today. Scientists are working to eradicate it but this often takes a lot of data and research. However, we can all help with Sea Hero Quest, a game that uses crowd sourced data to help researchers of dementia. Navigational skills are first to go with dementia, and because scientists don't have an idea of what normal navigation skills are, a lot of data is required. We can all contribute with this game, which gives a lot of data as you navigate mazes of waters in your ship. Sea Hero Quest is available from the Apple App Store for free [Direct Link].