Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Uber's Apple Maps Integration Has Disappeared

iOS 10 brought third party integration for Apple Maps. For example, getting directions would offer you ride sharing options. Uber and Lyft were the two that were featured typically. In addition, Siri would be able to book a ride for you. However, Uber's latest update removes this [Source: MacRumors]. Is this intentional? Was this Apple's or Uber's decision? Will Lyft follow? There's a lot of confusion right now as to why this happened. Hopefully, we get an official statement eventually.

Image Credit: MacRumors

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

HomePod Updates Will Be Installed Through Home App

Because there currently isn't a formal "homeOS," HomePod will be updated through an iOS device and the Home app. HomePod runs a flavor of iOS, which isn't too crazy [Source: 9to5Mac]. Apple TV ran iOS at one point, and it's now tvOS. What's interesting is if we'll get yearly updates at WWDC regarding HomePod's software. Maybe at one point, they'll merge tvOS and HomePod's software to create homeOS.

Image Credit: 9to5Mac

Monday, January 29, 2018

Apple Cutting iPhone X Production

The iPhone that was underproduced in 2017 is now being overproduced in 2018. Apple is apparently cutting its 40 million units per three months goal in half [Source: Nikkei Asian Review]. There's no denying that the holiday season had a large factor in the iPhone X's sales. However, the high price of the device is deterring to many, leaving the device to be overproduced. Hopefully, the 2018 iPhone lineup will allow the iPhone to be more accessible.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Miitomo Shutting Down and the Future of Miis

Nintendo's first venture into mobile gaming was Miitomo, an app where you could answer a variety of questions and learn strange facts about your friends. It had a weird premise, but introduced new ways to customize your Mii character, which I found the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, Miitomo will no longer function after May 9, 2018, about two years after its launch. I was really hoping that this app would have some integration with the Nintendo Switch. For example, changing your Mii's clothes in Miitomo would change their clothes in the games your Mii was in. This never came to be. In addition, Nintendo seems to be leaving Miis behind. While Miis are technically present on the Nintendo Switch, they are optional and serve little purpose, possibly to leave the "Wii" name in the past. It's the end of an era for many, but I'm sure society will go on without them.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

watchOS 4.3 Brings Back iPhone Music Library

To me, the Apple Watch is an extension of the iPhone. Apple tried taking a step towards making it independent of the iPhone by adding cellular to the Series 3 and adding some features for that. One of which was making the Apple Watch library separate from the iPhone's. In other words, if you played music on your iPhone, you couldn't control it on your Apple Watch. This was frustrating to me and many others, so Apple is bringing that back in watchOS 4.3. This is still in beta, but the feature has returned. watchOS 4.3 will likely release with iOS 11.3 whenever it comes out. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

iOS 11.3

iOS 11.3 will be very exciting. It brings iMessage Business Chat, iMessage in iCloud, new Animoji, AirPlay 2, Health Records, and more. iMessage Business Chat hopes to replace those calls to a store with simple text messages and embeds. This makes it much easier and faster to connect with support for different businesses. No more hold music! iMessage finally makes its way to iCloud, which doesn't mean much for the average consumer, but just means your messages are no longer solely stored on local devices, but also in the cloud. There are now dragon, bear, skeleton, and lion Animoji. ARKit receives some improvements as well. AirPlay 2 will finally be implemented, but is missing a lot of functionality in the current beta, so we don't have all the details we'd like to know about how it works. Very exciting is the new Health Records. These existed in the Health app before, but they weren't presented well and required an XML file. Now in testing at participating medical centers, the new Health Records will help you keep track of your health appointments and what you need to do moving on. Additionally, we will get that whole battery tracking feature in iOS 11.3, which will let you choose if you want your battery to die faster or phone to go slower. iBooks is expected to have a major redesign, with parts of it inspired by the new App Store. It will be renamed to just "Books." So, yeah. iOS 11.3 is very exciting an has a lot of substance to it. Hopefully, it comes out within February or early March.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

How to Make HomePod Compete with Alexa

Tim Cook has been cited to say that Apple welcomes competition and that HomePod has some features that differentiate itself from the competition. Which, to some subjective sense, is true. But I wouldn't say they make me buy a $349 HomePod versus a $149 Echo Plus. So here are some ideas that would make HomePod different than the competition. HomePod is in the Apple ecosystem and Apple is all about continuity. Apple should implement a NFC sensor in the HomePod, so if I want to handoff my audio from my iPhone to my HomePod. Obviously, Bluetooth would still be a connection option, but being able to quickly switch audio with a physical tap would be nice. Building on that, if the HomePod could wirelessly charge my iPhone, Apple Watch, or AirPods, that would make it a nice smart hub centerpiece to any house. Finally, iBeacon is a technology Apple created a few years ago to help determine indoor location. If Apple could implement iBeacon to help determine which room I'm in, Apple has a lot of potential. I could have automations go off by walking into a room. I could ask Siri to turn on "the fan" or "the light." It would know which fan I'm referring to because it knows what room I'm in. If I had multiple HomePods or Apple TVs, it would know the best way to stream audio or video and where to listen for "Hey, Siri." I think these ideas would set HomePod apart from the competition.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Dimminishing Need for Anti-Virus

Before you raise your pitchforks, I’m not suggesting you delete your anti-virus software. I’m just stating that it’s less important now than it was 10 years ago. When McAfee reigned supreme, the biggest worry was having your computer hit with some form of virus. However, the computer evolved and society did with it. Our important stuff is in the cloud, not on local drives. Everything important is with us, but only protected by a username and password. That’s why people are getting more worried about hacks on our internet accounts and not about viruses these days. It’s also why I try to limit how many accounts I’ve created, although at this point, it doesn’t matter for me, since they’re inevitable. If I use the same combination on a site that could easily be hacked, it’s easy to gain access to a site that wouldn’t be easy to hack. That’s why we need to have two-factor authentication on as many sites as possible. That’s what anti-virus has evolved into. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

HomePod Release Details

HomePod finally has a release date. You can pre-order it this Friday, and expect it to come February 9. The recent iOS 11.2.5 update adds HomePod support. However, AirPlay 2 is not available and won't be until later this year. A bit of a shame, but at least we've finally gotten some details about this device. In my opinion, it seems a bit unfinished. It just focuses on sound, but not on the experience, which is what Apple should do to set them apart from most high fidelity speakers. Siri isn't smart enough to compete with Alexa. Apple needs to focus on getting Siri on track to provide a strong framework for their smart speaker.

Monday, January 22, 2018

iPhone X Will Be Discontinued for Next iPhone Lineup

One of the biggest complaints about the iPhone X is its price. The main culprit is that gorgeous OLED display, which Samsung has a monopoly over. $1,000 is not practical for everyone, which is why the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus exist. Regardless, according to KGI Securities, Apple would discontinue the iPhone X this year come September and replace it with the following lineup. A 6.1" LCD iPhone X (a budget iPhone X), a 5.8" OLED iPhone 11, and a 6.5" OLED iPhone 11. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Next iOS 11 Version Will Likely Launch with HomePod

With the launch of HomePod imminent, the next version of iOS 11 is also imminent. Currently, the beta of iOS 11.2.5 is nearing release, likely this week. It seems doubtful that HomePod support and the AirPlay 2 protocol would be quickly patched into a minor update. I’m speculating that iOS 11.3 could be released for HomePod support, alongside a new tvOS version for AirPlay 2 support. The only question left is when the HomePod will release. Apple will likely silently release it and sell out quickly. Probably within a few weeks. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tim Cook Will Deliver 2018 Commencement Speech for Duke

Tim Cook, who is a Duke graduate, will be delivering a commencement speech this May to Duke graduates. While he has done commencement speeches before, I do like this video that was put together for the announcement. It's very Apple-like. It's a bit cheesy, but still enjoyable.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Instagram Can Show When You Were Last Active

Instagram really knows how to make amazing features for their users. First, we had adding recommended photos to feeds. To some extent, I understood this change, but it was still annoying. But now, we have Instagram telling your friends when you were last active on Instagram. This is only visible those who direct messaged you. But why? Why did Instagram feel the need to enable this by default? Who would benefit from this? Regardless, you can disable this by going to your Account Settings and switching off "Show Activity Status."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Amazon Dash Buttons Have Taken Over Your Home

Remember in 2015, Amazon announced Dash Buttons? Those little buttons that can reorder products from Amazon. Amazon has taken these buttons and integrated it into their ecosystem very cleverly. Regardless of whether you own a physical button or not, a Dash Button in one form or another is likely in your house. Studies show that about 1 in 6 adults own a smart speaker, with Amazon leading the herd. Every Echo Dot can function as a Dash Button, in that you can ask Alexa to reorder any product. Okay, so maybe that's stretching the definition of a Dash Button. However, look at the Echo Show, an Echo with a display. Ask Alexa to show you your Dash Buttons and if you've set it up, you'll be presented with an array of your favorite brands in digital button form. And this is how Amazon's Echo ecosystem comes full circle. Soon, these digital buttons may be implemented in your smart fridge, as Amazon has released an API allowing for this. By making their Echo brand be at the heart of your home, the Echo and Echo Show are your home's hub. Play some music, change the temperature, and order some products off of Amazon while you're at it. As a non-partisan device between Apple and Android phones, most Americans can look to an Amazon device to cater to their every need.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

HomePod May Be Released Soon

HomePod was delayed until "early 2018." Coming from Apple, that's code for anytime between the start of the year and April. However, thanks to Taipei Times, we have some indication that we will see the HomePod in the very near future. A Taiwanese company has begun shipments of the HomePod. However, just like AirPods, the shipment is small and will likely cause the product to have a shortage. Oh boy, I just can't wait to see what kind of delay AirPower will have. This age of Apple is very strange. Paying an arm and a leg for a product, but waiting weeks to months to get it. I'm not saying it's the worst thing to happen to technology, because it isn't, but I feel there could've been some better decisions made in the announcement and execution of products like these. Apple likely announced HomePod at WWDC 2017 just to get it in people's minds. When it didn't come out for Christmas, they were probably hoping that Apple consumers wouldn't buy a competitor because they knew Apple would release HomePod next year. Despite this, the smart speaker market grew immensely this last quarter. Amazon sold their Echo Dots for just $29 during the holiday season. Apple's at a huge disadvantage and the only thing they have going for their product is sound quality and integration with the Apple ecosystem.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Apple and TV Shows

I'm really tired of hearing news about Apple trying to acquire various TV shows. I could be totally wrong, but as far as I can tell, they won't do much for Apple. There wasn't much hype surrounding Carpool Karaoke after Apple Music acquired it. Apple has delayed the HomePod and I'm anxiously waiting for news about AirPower and the next iPhone SE, but my feed is filled with news of Apple trying to expand their media content. I think they need to focus on making the products and services that play media, instead of trying to produce it themselves.

Monday, January 15, 2018

iPod Touch: Refresh or Discontinue?

The iPod Touch is very old at this point. It has gone too long without a refresh that would bring it up to today’s standards. Apple makes an effort to shadow the device with Apple Music and AirPods. They even show the device running older versions of iOS in the promo art, despite the device being capable of iOS 11. It’s $199 for 32 GB is cheap, but given how outdated it is, it may be on its last legs. With kids getting phones at younger ages these days and the advent of tablets, there doesn’t appear to be significant demand for the iPod Touch. If Apple could refresh this up to the iPhone 8 design and keep the price reasonable, they may find a market. But at this point, there is little reason to keep it around. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mobile Displays in 2018

The iPad Pro has been heavily rumored to have a similar display to that of the iPhone X. If this ends up being true, this will be a big push for having edge to edge displays in a larger array of products. The iPad would have the best use for displaying more content wherever possible. Hopefully, these rumors stay true and we see more of these displays throughout 2018. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Visa Dropping Signature Requirement for Apple Pay

When Apple Pay was first announced, one of its major draws was simplifying the payment process. Part of this was removing the need for a signature, since you use your fingerprint, face, or passcode as verification. This will soon be true for Visa users. If your purchase exceeds $25, you'd normally be asked for a signature, where the cashier is "supposed" to compare it to the one one on the back of your card. Very effective idea guys. Now, this pointless security measure is finally gone. Or, will be gone in April at least. In addition, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express are also removing this requirement. Imagine a world where we don't have to sign receipts anymore. We'll look back at this as a very primitive method of security soon. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Written on MacBook Air

According to The Wall Street Journal, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was written entirely on an air-gapped MacBook Air by Rian Johnson. An air-gapped device is never connected to the internet as a security measure. It’s important to note that the MacBook Air is Apple’s least expensive and most outdated notebook in their current Mac lineup. It was locked in a safe. Johnson stated that his producer was fearful of him leaving it in a coffee shop. For keeping the computer air-gapped, I was surprised he would even think of bringing it outside. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

iPhone 6 Plus Batteries Delayed

iPhone 6 Plus batteries at the reduced price of $29 will be delayed by a few months. Until late March or early February. That’s quite a wait. iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus batteries are at a two week delay, nowhere close to this time range. It seems that the larger battery is a bit harder to produce, and it’s in high demand. Good luck to those who need this battery.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Strange macOS Password Bypass

There is a very minor and non-threatening security flaw in the latest version of macOS that Apple let slip. If you go to System Preferences, find App Store, and attempt to unlock to make changes, you can type any password into the password field. Anything. Thank goodness this is just contained in this section. While it's a security flaw, I should note that the most you can do here is change if apps are updated automatically and how long until an App Store password is required after typing in a password. For many, you probably had to re-lock the padlock to test this out.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Colgate and Apple ResearchKit

Apple ResearchKit is paving the way to help researchers understand human health habits and problems through mass amounts of data. Colgate is joining this by announcing their first app-enabled toothbrush, the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1 with Artificial Intelligence. This toothbrush keeps track of people's brushing habits for "faster future innovation." The Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1 with Artificial Intelligence is available from the Apple Online Store and some Apple Retail Stores for $99.95.

Monday, January 8, 2018

iOS and macOS Updates Issued for Spectre Exploit

If you have the chance tonight, I highly recommend updating your phones for a crucial security fix for the Spectre and Meltdown exploits. These can manipulate the CPU and potentially expose sensitive data. This is iOS 11.2.2 and macOS 10.13.2. While I don't believe everyone is at risk, it's better safe than sorry. For iOS, it's a simple 70 MB download, so it should install fairly quickly. For iOS, just go to Settings > General > System Update and for macOS, open the App Store and find the Updates tab.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Belkin Finally Releasing Wemo Bridge

Over a half of a year ago, we saw Wemo's first official steps toward HomeKit. The Wemo Bridge was the solution. It was slated for a fall 2017 release. We haven't had word on it, until today. Belkin is finally releasing this, allowing Wemo users new and old take advantage of HomeKit and their line of smart devices. It costs $39.99 and will be available from a variety of retailers on January 8.

Update: It is now available from Amazon for $39.99 with Prime [Direct Link].

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

If USB-C Replaced HDMI...

Something I had the idea of the other day was if HDMI was replaced with USB-C. Why would this be beneficial? Here's my idea of what we could see. The first thing to understand is that with a new port comes a new standard that all adapters would have to comply with. This is a huge opportunity. First, we could have this standard have output devices create a name by default. Usually with TVs, you see ports say "HDMI 1" and so on. You can often customize these later, but they aren't dynamic when you change the device. This way, if you change ports, the TV will recognize it as the device name. Second, USB-C might allow there to be more ports. It's smaller form factor would allow for quite more ports. In addition, because it's reversible, it's easier to plug cables in. This is important because it's frustrating plugging in cables behind a TV when you can't easily see. The ports could also be powered. USB-C is capable of powering while transferring data. Reducing cable clutter behind a TV would be amazing. The TV could tether power, ethernet, data (keyboard and mouse?) and video with just one USB-C cable. Finally, with computers transitioning to USB-C, this would make it easy to connect to any TV. This relied on HDMI for some time, but staying with HDMI on laptops will keep them from getting thinner. While I enjoy HDMI, speaking long-term, I believe we will have to move on eventually. And when we do, I want it to work with all of our devices in a complementary piece of this connection puzzle.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Belkin Wireless Chargers

Belkin is one of the wireless chargers endorsed by Apple, alongside Mophie. Just before CES 2018, Belkin has announced some new chargers. First off, there are new colors of the Belkin Boost Up Charging Pad, now called the Belkin Boost Up Bold Charging Pad. This version features a better design (in my opinion) and different color options. There's also a version of this that keeps your phone upright, one that uses a suction cup for your car's windshield, and a two-in-one version for charging two devices at once. Most excitingly for me, is their line for businesses. These chargers fit into desks and tables, often meant to be put into hotels, airports, cafes, and more. Hopefully we see more wireless chargers available to the public for free use.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Move to 5G

Anyone who has had to use 3G in 2017 definitely notices the extreme slowdown, especially considering how much data we constantly consume. However, we may soon look at LTE in the same way. AT&T has announced they will likely be the first carrier to deploy 5G in a dozen markets. This isn't their knockoff LTE either. From what I can tell, this is actual 5G. Now, we would still need a phone that supports 5G, so we'll have to keep an eye on how the iPhone responds.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Embedded Smart Outlets

One of the most annoying parts of smart outlets it how bulky they are. Typically, they take up way too much space. However, ConnectSense is debuting a new HomeKit enabled smart outlet. It’s called the Smart In-Wall Outlet. You can replace a normal outlet with this, so there’s less space taken up. Each outlet is controlled independently. They both have power usage statistics and know when something is plugged in. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a while. The only real downside is that it’s pretty much permanent. I use a smart outlet for a Christmas tree and I move the outlet to another appliance for the rest of the year. Despite that, this may be an important device for the new smart home market, where home builders build a house with these devices in mind. The Smart In-Wall Outlet will be available later in 2018.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Older iPhone Battery Replacements

Apple is offering $29 battery replacements for the iPhone 6 and later. However, what if you own a device that’s older? If the device is still supported, it will cost you $79. I figured that was worth noting to clarify that Apple can still repair these models. iFixit will sell these kits for $29 or less, but shipping is charged and you have to do it yourself. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Benefit of HEIF and HEVC

Apple quietly introduced HEIF and HEVC, which essentially cut the amount of storage photos and videos take up without quality loss. HEIF stands for high efficiency image format, and replaces JPEG. HEVC stands for high efficiency video coding. Before these formats, I found loading iCloud videos in my library took forever. Usually, my phone would timeout before loading. Now, they load nearly instantly. I believe this feature is only avaliable when you have an iPhone 8 or later attached to your iCloud account. It’s subtle, but very useful for getting media from the cloud.