Saturday, June 30, 2018

Revamping Apple Maps

Apple Maps has long been criticized for incorrect or inaccurate directions. Apple has announced that it will rebuild Apple Maps from the ground up over the next year using street-level data and satellites. Apple will become much less reliant on third parties. All of Northern California will be covered by this fall [Source: TechCrunch]. Hopefully this change is for the better and helps put Apple "back on the map."

Image Credit: TechCrunch

Friday, June 29, 2018

2018 iPhones Could Use Apple SIM

Apple SIM was released for the iPad in 2014. It let users choose their carrier and change on the fly. This was a very useful feature for iPads, which don't require long commitments in the same way smartphones do. According to 21st Century Business Herald, iPhone could adopt both an Apple SIM card and a traditional SIM card slot. How Apple executes this could be interesting, but it may be an effective way to keep stock available. Having to produce separate models for different carriers can be difficult to predict what to produce, so having one model for all major cellular networks would be a big win for Apple this fall.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Amazon Echo to Reduce Need for Power Cords

Most smart speakers are confined to a wall outlet for power. One thing that has been inconvenient with my Amazon Echo is moving it around. Or if a power outage happened overnight and the power came back on in my sleep, Alexa would wake me up with a spontaneous "Hello." Amazon plans to move away from the need for constant power from an outlet [Source: Reuters]. A special chip would be used for lower power consumption. I could see this become useful for Alexa. However, I don't see something like HomePod needing this, because "Hey, Siri" works on so many portable devices like iPhone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A New Apple Subscription

Apple is planning to create a subscription that encapsulates Apple Music, original TV shows, and news according to The Information. News would be provided in conjunction with Texture, which provides access to over 200 magazines. I've never been a fan of any of Apple's TV programming on Apple Music and I don't plan to be. If they can throw in some other shows, like Silicon Valley or something, then I'd be intrigued. The idea here is to take existing Apple Music members and incentivize them to bundle their subscription. Maybe throw in some more iCloud storage while they're at it. The sky is the limit. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

AirPods as a Wireless Charger

Today, I read one of the most intriguing rumors about wireless charging and AirPods. According to Nikkei Asian Review, AirPods with a wireless charging case will be able to wirelessly charge iPhone. In essence, it is a wireless portable battery. This would certainly add a much needed feature to the case, in addition to potentially making the transition to USB-C easier on iPhone. That being said, it would seem very difficult for this to be possible, due to the AirPods case's small battery. We'll have to wait and see if this checks out to be true. Take this is with a grain of salt.

Monday, June 25, 2018

iOS 12 Public Beta Available

iOS 12 now has a public beta available. This beta is roughly the same as the second beta given to developers. I myself do not recommend updating at this time yet, as there are bugs and compatibility issues that likely need to be worked out still. Especially, given the lack of compelling features in this update. To get the update, you can go to Apple's beta testing website. No developer account is needed for this.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

To C or Not To C?

USB-C is growing quickly in adoption. Apple has taken the most aggressive approach, as they usually do, by removing almost all instances of USB-A from their Mac lineup. However, iOS remains on Lightning. The two connectors are very similar in shape. They're both reversible. Lightning is a slight bit smaller, but USB-C has already been adopted in other thin smartphones as well. The big question on minds is if Apple will replace Lightning with USB-C. I think Apple should. The inclusion of wireless charging makes it slightly easier for iPhone 8 and iPhone X users to transition to their next phone. While there's nothing particularly wrong about Lightning, I think it's good to have iPhones on the same playing field with other smartphones when USB-C is fully mainstream. Today, you can ask someone for a charging cable, and in my experience, a vast majority of respondents pull out a Lightning cable. My friend who has an Android needed a cable but everyone had Lightning. Luckily, I had my portable wireless charger that they could use. Think how the Qi standard can be cross platform, but with a cable. I've used Windows USB-C chargers on my Mac, something that would be impossible a few years ago. Hopefully, USB-C adoption will continue to rise with the announcement of an iPhone with USB-C.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fixing a Butterfly Keyboard at the Apple Store

I went to an Apple Store today to see if I could get my "b" key on my MacBook Pro fixed, which has been doing repeat inputs lately. Since Apple just launched their Butterfly Keyboard repair program, consumers have been able to get their keyboards fixed through a variety of methods. I made an appointment beforehand using the Apple Support app. A Genius took my MacBook and inspected the key in question by typing it many times. He also ran diagnostics. He noticed the issue and said I could either have my MacBook sent in to have all the keys replaced for 3-5 days, which wasn't an option for me, or he could just replace the key in the back. I had my repair done on the spot and went in and out in under 45 minutes. Now, my keyboard is fixed and I can come in for repairs until 4 years after the purchase date of my MacBook Pro, in 2020.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Apple Launches Butterfly Keyboard Repair Program

Apple has launched a special repair program for MacBooks and MacBook Pros that have faulty butterfly keyboards. Symptoms are described by Apple as "letters or characters repeat unexpectedly, letters or characters do not appear, and key(s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent manner." I know that my "b" key constantly does repeat inputs and my "j" key for a while was messed up. In short, Apple will replace keys or the entire keyboard after their examination for free. Check the official program to check for eligibility.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

AirPower Could Release by September

Apple has not mentioned AirPower in almost a year. With no word on it, when could we expect to see it released? According to Mark Gurman, Apple could release AirPower before or during September. Apparently the delay is coming from the fact that AirPower uses an iOS-based chip to distribute power and because it's iOS-based, it's super buggy. That wasn't a joke by the way, that's supposedly the reason. There have also been a few overheating issues, which is definitely not something we want upon launch. Hopefully AirPower releases as a full, safe product.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Using iPhone to Unlock a Car

The Car Connectivity Consortium has released the specification for Digital Key Release 1.0. This is a standardized way to allow smartphones to unlock cars using NFC. In addition, Apple is part of the Car Connectivity Consortium, so we can expect this feature in iPhones. You would also be able to lock and start the engine of the car securely from your phone. A second release of the specification is due in the first quarter of 2019 as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus

The Deco M9 Plus (great naming guys) is the Wi-Fi system I’ve dreamed of. While their description is meant to sell me on it, it sounds like the perfect solution for the smart home. I’ve mentioned how we need a standard for smart home bridges. Just buy one bridge and get the actual appliances for cheaper. For example, to get a Phillips Hue system to work, you need a special Hue bridge that will run you at least $100 and a light bulb that could be as cheap as $12. Imagine skipping the bridge for each individual brand so you aren’t stuck with that brand until you buy a new bridge. This device is a mesh Wi-Fi system with a smart home hub. This is specifically designed to help keep more devices connected at once, which has been an issue with many smart home setups. The Deco M9 Plus costs $299.99 in a 2-pack and $179.99 in a 1-pack.

Monday, June 18, 2018

iOS 12 and 911 Calls

Apple announced that iOS 12 will allow iPhones to automatically share location data with first responders through 911 calls. Apple is using a technology that estimated a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and GPS. This will allow for quicker response times when it’s needed most. Only the 911 center will have access to your location during the call. This is another nice feature not talked about at WWDC that I think is very useful, even if you don’t necessarily want to be put in the situation where you need to use it. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Aging Original Apple Watch

I was always a watch person. I've worn a watch as long as I can remember. So when Apple announced the Apple Watch, I was intrigued. Not having to change my watch for daylight savings time ever again was a major plus. Having workouts and apps were the main selling point for me though. Apple heavily relied on advertising apps on the Apple Watch for its marketing. Upon receiving my Apple Watch, I noticed that each app had a bit of lag to it. Coupled with the small screen, most apps were not worth my time when I could get a richer experience from my iPhone. watchOS 2 promised snappier app load times, which did next to nothing for the original Apple Watch. Today, apps are practically unusable. Many developers have pulled their watchOS apps. My app screen is flooded with apps I never use. While newer models may handle them better, the original Apple Watch didn't live up anywhere close to what Apple advertised it as. (Now there's a class-action lawsuit I could get behind.) My workouts app freezes for a solid minute or two after launching. It takes just shy of five minutes to fully power on the device. Siri randomly activates and doesn't generate an answer for over thirty seconds. It really does make you wonder how Apple let Apple Watch out when it has the processor of a potato. With the original Apple Watch being swept into unsupported territory, it seems owners like me will be left with no choice but to either upgrade or be stuck with older software. I was genuinely hoping for this watch to last five to six years, something most Apple products can easily attain. While my Apple Watch is certainly still usable, it's unfortunate that it won't support watchOS 5. For the time being, I don't have plans to upgrade, but it is frustrating that Apple left us in the dust on this one.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

HomePod Releasing in Three New Countries Monday

Apple will finally be bringing the HomePod to Canada, France, and Germany this Monday. HomePod was previously only available in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Despite this, HomePod has not changed much since launch, aside from AirPlay 2. Many critics, including myself, have made note of Siri’s disappointing abilities. Given how popular smart speakers are in America, we’ll see how HomePod fares in other countries. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mac Hardware in 2018

Quentin Carnicelli, creator of many popular Mac apps like Loopback, has written a piece about the current state of Mac hardware. It has been 375 days since the last update to any Mac model. The Mac Mini hasn’t had an update for 1,338 days. As a Mac developer, Carnicelli finds it hard to recommend Macs to other people and finds it worrisome from a developer standpoint. I definitely understand the frustration, as it seems Apple has a difficult time balancing their different platforms and what they want to focus on. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Verizon “Above Unlimited”

Verizon’s third unlimited plan has been launched. It comes with 75 GB of LTE data, 20 GB of hotspot data, 720p video streaming, and more. It’s called Above Unlimited. Ironically, it still has an LTE data cap. It has more data than Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited. If this naming already confused people, Above Unlimited only adds to the fray. Upgrading to Above Unlimited will add $10 to each line if you’re currently on Beyond Unlimited. Verizon often boasts being the only carrier that has “true unlimited” despite the limitations. We’ll see if anything tops this plan in the future. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

iOS 12 Essentially Disables GrayKey Box

iOS 12 May be the final nail in the coffin for GrayKey Box, the tool used by some law enforcement agencies to get into a locked iPhone. In the beta of iOS 12, a new security feature shows how USB accessories can be disabled if the iPhone has not been unlocked in the past hour. GrayKey Box usually takes several hours to unlock an iPhone. We’ll see if this makes it into the public release of iOS 12.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2019 iPhones and USB-C

According to DigiTimes, the 2019 iPhone will have USB-C support. It's hard to say whether this is true with rumors of the iPhone eventually removing the charging port all together. I would personally like USB-C support, but we're taking too long to transition.
"Apple is redesigning chargers and related interface for its next-generation iPhone and iPad devices, and will likely have its 2019 series of iPhones come with USB Type-C support, according to sources at analog IC vendors."

Monday, June 11, 2018

watchOS 5 Beta Available

watchOS 5 is now available to developers, one week after being announced. This is abnormal as some people who updated last week reported having their watches bricked. iOS 12, macOS Mojave, and tvOS 12 have all been available for a week now. If you're a developer, hopefully this beta works out better. Better yet, just simulate it for now if possible. watchOS 5 brings some nice developer features like adding custom information to the Siri watch face.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

iOS 12 to Simplify Sharing Passwords

When sharing passwords, it's a bit difficult because of how much we rely on them for security. Apple is looking to simplify this. You will be able to discretely share passwords using AirDrop. Using iOS 12's password management system, you can AirDrop passwords and logins to someone else and have them use AutoFill to fill in a login window. This is opposed to sharing a password via iMessage in plain text. Go to Settings, Website & App Passwords, and hold on the password. Tap AirDrop to share. Hopefully this helps the process of sharing passwords for many.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Apple Watch Series 4 May Have Haptic Buttons

According to Fast Company, we could see haptic buttons on the next Apple Watch. This would line up similarly to how MacBook Pros and iPhones now have haptic trackpads and buttons. I could totally see this happening. It feels pretty seemless from my experience. I notice that the stainless steel Apple Watch's buttons feel more sturdy than the buttons of the aluminum model. I wonder how this will translate for the Apple Watch. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Yahoo Messenger To Be Discontinued

After AOL Instant Messenger was discontinued, Yahoo Messenger is being discontinued. It seems like it's the end of an era for instant messengers. Yahoo Messenger has been around for 20 years now. The service will be discontinued on July 17, 2018. You will be able to download chat history for a limited time. More information is available from their website. It's also worth noting that both Yahoo! and AOL are owned by Oath.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

iOS 12's Password Management System

iOS 12 has a neat feature that had no screen time at WWDC. There's a new password management system. This will allow apps like 1Password to send passwords to Apple's native password system. For example, when logging into an account on a website, 1Password can suggest credentials in the native AutoFill keychain area. In addition, whenever you are texted a security code, your keyboard will suggest the code for you so you don't have to switch apps or copy and paste a code. These are two nice features Apple should've talked about more at WWDC.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

watchOS 5 Does Not Support Original Apple Watch

The original Apple Watch launched in 2015. Watches are typically accessories that can last a long time. However, Apple has just defined a typical Apple Watch’s lifespan. While an iPhone 5s (about five years old) is still being supported in iOS 12, the original Apple Watch (not the Series 1) will no longer be supported in watchOS 5. To be fair, the original Apple Watch is ridiculously underpowered, so it may be the right time to stop supporting it. Hopefully other models last longer. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

GitHub Acquired by Microsoft

GitHub, the popular repository hosting service for developers, is being acquired by Microsoft. You know, Microsoft. The same company that made Visual Studio Code. The agreement will close by the end of the year. GitHub is often seen as the gold standard for sharing code and creating open-source code. It is also used by many to create their own portfolio. Microsoft also owns LinkedIn, which may lead to some tie-ins between the services, maybe? Hopefully Microsoft doesn't toy with GitHub too much.

Monday, June 4, 2018

WWDC 2018 Impressions: iOS 12

I think it’s not too outlandish to say this year’s WWDC was underwhelming. I set my expectations low, so I’m not too surprised. This was a two hour presentation with very little substance. Let’s start from the very beginning.

The intro video is always something I look forward to. This year, we saw a nature documentary about developers going to WWDC. It was pretty lackluster. There were a few moments that were funny, but we’ve seen way better in previous years. One of my favorites was a Google I/O intro from a few years ago with the actors from Silicon Valley watching the presentation. This year’s intro video just made me not want to attend WWDC. Maybe it’s just me, but watching a bunch of introverted people crowding into a building, awkwardly socializing, grabbing at food, and then trying to get seats isn’t what I’d like to associate WWDC with. I know it’s just a joke, but previous years had much better wit and creativity.

The theme of the presentation was putting the customer at the center. The use of the term “customer” felt really strange coming from Apple. Apple usually refers to the consumer as their users. They like to make us forget that we’re shelling out a lot of money for their products so using this term a lot was weird. I get that this presentation is for developers, but even then, customer is not the best choice. (Also, this presentation has very little substance for developers.)

iOS 12’s first feature was performance improvements, which I really hope is pseudo language for bug fixes. I can’t send three iMessages to my friends without the order of the bubbles getting mixed up. So much of iOS has become unacceptable at release and should’ve been fixed. Moving on, many of the features were either things that already exist or attempts to get certain apps used more.

ARKit looks nice, but had way too much demo time. I could see ARKit table tennis, where people would just need their phones and a table to play. The Measure app is a nice utility, but already exists in the App Store from other developers. Hopefully the measurements are as accurate as advertised.

FaceTime got a long overdue update. Up to 32 people can FaceTime at once now. I don’t use FaceTime very often, but I do use FaceTime Audio. I’ve been waiting for group FaceTime Audio forever, so I’m a fan of this. I also like having FaceTime calls in iMessage. I think that’s a nice touch.

Memoji is literally just Apple copying Bitmoji. The customization looks robust, and gives hope for more frequent Animoji updates, but they put way too much emphasis on this. I don’t want to use these things in a FaceTime call. This just looks like Apple copying Snapchat. If I wanted this, I would probably use Snapchat, especially considering Snapchat is cross-platform and doesn’t require an iPhone X. Of all things, I’m actually happy they added tongue tracking. Of the few times I did use Animoji, it was weird having everything but my tongue line up. That sounds weird, but when you’re playing around making exaggerated facial expressions at your phone, you notice it quick.

I’m really tired of these “use your phone less” updates. Google did it last month and Apple is doing it too. I can see it as a parental control feature, but not for adults. Phones and tablets are so essential today that the monitoring feature is a bit redundant. I’m glad they didn’t add that “turn your screen black and white so you don’t use your phone” feature that Android has. I do really like the idea of having Do Not Disturb automatically disable based on location or calendar events. That’s perfect.

Notifications are finally grouped. They also will have some interactive uses that a total of five apps will take advantage of most likely. For example, you can quickly add another seat to a reservation from the lock screen. I like features like this, but the use is so specific, very few developers hop on. And the apps that are perfect for this will likely never add it.

Photos features always bug me. Mostly because Apple pretends that every photo we take is perfect. I like the iPhone’s camera a lot, but I don’t like Memories. The new For You tab is Memories times ten. It picks random irrelevant photos I never asked for and shoves them in my feed. When I want to view specific photos, I view said specific photos. Apple can’t predict what photos I want to see and they shouldn’t try. Also, sharing photos with friends is still super fragmented.

Shortcuts was both awesome and scary at the same time. Apple actually did something with Workflow, which they acquired a while back. I get that regulating so many commands for so many apps will be a huge undertaking for Siri, but we needed better third-party support for Siri. I’ll have to wait and see how useful some of these new features are, but I like being able to create automations for Siri. Workflow wasn’t super user-friendly and I didn’t like how certain automations didn’t work as expected, but maybe Apple making it will improve upon these issues. It bugged me that the demo didn’t use phrases for the commands, instead using basic words that were just commands. It took away from using Siri as a proactive assistant and just makes Siri look like something you have to tediously setup to get it to do what you want. Also, they way overplayed the “Siri can tell your boss if you’re running late” feature. It’s cool, but they made it sound like it could do more than just that. Maybe it can, but I’m not sure. You can’t even edit the prewritten response it seems.

They had this little section some of about iOS’s “most popular apps.” Those apps were iBooks, Voice Memos, Stocks, and Apple News. Apple Books looks okay. Yeah, okay. Sure. They didn’t show off much. There’s a better design at least. Voice Memos looks terrible. It has long-overdue iCloud support but the ruined the design, and that’s saying a lot. The previous version was nothing to brag about either. Granted, we didn’t see much of this, so maybe it’s easier to navigate. Stocks and Apple News merged. Apple News looks way worse on the iPad with the sidebar. There was probably a better way to design that. Apple News on the iPad should look like a newspaper, not a website or whatever they made here. The new Stocks is fitting I guess, but I’ll have to get used to it. I think they just merged it so people will finally use Apple News.

Student ID cards. Where was this last year? My dorm used contactless ID cards for entry and I would’ve loved using my phone to unlock it. Unfortunately, most uses of ID cards require the card to slides through the reader, which isn’t possible with iPhone. Still, maybe it can be used as a form of identification. It’s also only available at a few select universities, so maybe adoption will pick up, but likely not anytime soon.

All in all, iOS 12 needs to make strides to fix a ton of bugs above all. A lot of the features iOS 12 boasts are either not necessary or things we should've had forever ago. Hopefully bugs will be dramatically reduced moving forward.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

WWDC 2018 Details

Tomorrow, WWDC will kick off with a keynote detailing Apple's software suite. There have been leaks, but I am not going to be discussing them until they are revealed. You can watch the presentation tomorrow at 10 a.m. PDT. The presentation can be viewed by going to Apple's website. In addition, it can be watched on Apple TV with the Apple Events app.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

No Hardware at WWDC?

A report from Bloomberg makes a bold claim that there will be no hardware announcements at WWDC. While we may see some update about AirPower, the report claims we likely won't hear about a new iPad Pro or iPhone SE 2. This comes after months of speculation of a possible unveiling at WWDC. He expects any hardware announcements to be reserved for later in the year. WWDC 2016 did introduce the iPad Pros we have today, but the iPad Pro line has a reputation for not having a regular refresh cycle.

Friday, June 1, 2018

ARKit 2.0

ARKit 2.0 is expected to make its debut at WWDC. We are currently at ARKit 1.5, so seeing version 2.0 won't be too much of a surprise. ARKit 2.0 will likely allow for "multiplayer AR" [Source: Reuters]. Basically, it lets two users see the same object when they point their iPhones at the same spot. Keep in mind, that you'd be able to have both people move around and view the object from their own angles and the object would render appropriately on their screens. ARKit has been used in more apps than it may seem. A lot of apps use ARKit in subtle ways, like App in the Air, which uses it to display a globe of where you've flown and traveled in front of you. Imagine where we could eventually get a function that would let us share things like this in a universal app. For example, I could have App in the Air and "project" my globe onto a table and another person would use something like the stock Camera app to view it. I would like to see things go in that direction.