Thursday, February 28, 2019

Music Streaming Leads U.S. Music Revenue

The music industry has changed vastly thanks to Apple Music and Spotify over the past few years. Digital downloads was king not too long ago, but today, streaming has generated 75% of the U.S.'s music industry revenue [Source: RIAA]. That's up 30% from last year. Physical releases are in second place with a mere 12%. It speaks volumes of the appeal of streaming and could put in question the fate of the iTunes Store.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Google Says Apple Music Not Coming to Google Home

The other day, a MacRumors reader found Apple Music references in the Google Home app, heavily suggesting that the streaming service would be making its way to Google Home speakers. Now, Google has told Bloomberg that the Apple Music reference was a result of a bug and that they have nothing to announce regarding Apple Music on Google Home. Considering how bugs work, we can safely assume that Apple Music is likely coming to Google Home. Given that Apple Music was listed under streaming service logins, with a logo and everything, most people find it unlikely that this was a bug.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander Uses Apple CarPlay In Lieu of Built-In Navigation

Built-in navigation has had its ups and downs. Some do it well, others don't. Regardless, it typically costs extra and map data usually isn't updatable without a fee. So using CarPlay picks up the slack in these areas. It has a familiar interface, it works with our phones, and it's improving. With that in mind, it's interesting to see the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander opt not to have a built-in navigation system, and choosing to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto instead [Source: MacRumors]. I think it speaks volumes of the changing technology aspect of cars as of late. Just a few short years ago, it was impossible to find a car that supported Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but now it's hard to find a new car that doesn't. Why pour money into developing a map system when people could just use their smartphones? We may even see a transition in the audio department one day as well. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Apple Music Could Be Coming to Google Home Devices

Apple Music has bridged out to multiple third-party streaming mediums now. Sonos, Amazon Echo, and Android devices. However, Apple Music could be adding their streaming to Google Home devices [Source: MacRumors]. Apple Music has been seen in a screenshot for the Google Home app, however, the sign in feature is currently disabled. It would make total sense for Apple to do this, especially with Apple Music available on Android and Amazon Echo speakers. Apple has established that they're willing to reach out to third parties to get more people to join the streaming service. It can be a smart move for people who switch from an iPhone, but don't want to go to the trouble of migrating their Apple Music library.

Image Credit: MacRumors

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Huawei Announces $2,600 Foldable Phone

The second big name foldable smartphone has been announced from Huawei. The Huawei Mate X has a different design from the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It uses a falcon wing design. It's kind of reminiscent of Palm Pilots with a folio case, mostly because of the asymmetrical design. While I'm not a fan of every aspect of the design, I do like how the hinge on the side has the USB-C port. It also has a 4,000+ mAh battery. It has a 40-megapixel wide angle lens, with three other lens, one of which won't be usable until a software update is released. The price comes in at roughly $2,600, but at least it seems that Huawei put a lot of good specs into this phone. For $1,980, Samsung's Galaxy Fold doesn't come with 5G. The 5G Galaxy Fold costs even more.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Why I Trust Amazon More Than Google

Occasionally, you hear the debate between Amazon Echo and Google Home. Which is the better smart speaker? And it eventually boils down to someone bringing up the issue of privacy. Some people say they trust Google before Amazon and others say vice versa. As in the title, I would trust Amazon with my data before Google if given the choice. With Google, it's made very clear that you are the product. Google makes way more money using your data than they ever could selling a product given their operation. Meanwhile, Amazon's operation relies heavily on selling physical products, so you have a better picture of where Amazon gets a good chunk of their income from. In addition, they run Amazon Web Services, which powers so many web-based operations around the world.

This isn't to say that Echos are completely innocent. But, I would trust my data with an Echo before a Google Home. What's the worst an Echo can do? Recommend me dog treats on Amazon after hearing mentions of a dog? Google knows every detail about you to produce a unique digital footprint across every site you go to. A microphone in your house leaves no stone unturned for Google. In short, are any of these smart speakers completely innocent? Likely not, but I believe that some can be trusted over others.

Friday, February 22, 2019

OWC's Dock Eject App

I like docking systems for laptops, especially with the advent of USB-C. I plug in my MacBook Pro and it's charging, mirroring to a display, and connects all of my peripherals. However, if you have a docking system that connects things like hard drives, then ejecting everything can prove to be a pain. OWC is well known for their wide variety of docking systems. OWC released a handy tool recently that will eject all drives connected to an OWC dock in a single click. It's called Dock Ejector, and it's free for Mac and Windows. Based on the site, it seems to only work with OWC docks, so don't plan on using it if you don't own one of their docks.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Music App Needs An Overhaul

I am a loyal Apple Music subscriber. Yes, I do have occasional gripes with the service, but for the most part, it gets the job done. I think the general rule of thumb is if you use iOS, use Apple Music. Otherwise, use Spotify. There are some key differences in the services, but most people will not notice them. The biggest difference between the two that everyone will notice is design.

Apple Music has this weird pink and white blend while Spotify has their iconic green and black design. I genuinely cannot figure out how Apple thought this design was good, nor how they haven't fixed it yet. The previous design was so much better, but was so short-lived (I think it lasted about two years). Most people have moved on to using darker primary colors with light accents. It's modern and so much easier on the eyes. I think a black and blue color scheme would work way better, blue as a subtle nod to the old iTunes logo. I would've said orange, since it references the old Music icon pre-iOS 7, but black and orange gives off a weird Halloween vibe.

Aside from this, a new Music app should revolve around a proper centralized "start screen." It should be modular, like an Apple Watch watch face (I think several apps could benefit from this idea). When I open the Music app, show me this page. It will have a row of music that I have picked myself. This row can consist of playlists, albums, artists, and so on. Think of it as a quick access area. Another row will have recently played music. Then, an audio source row. This row has all audio devices my iPhone can AirPlay to. Apple TVs, Smart TVs, HomePods, Amazon Echos, AirPods, Beats, the iPhone's speaker, and so on. This list changes based on what devices are powered on, nearby, and available. A checkmark appears on the audio source that will play music if you tap a song. Finally, a row for Apple's curated playlists. These can cycle throughout the day. Road-trip playlists, workout playlists, and so on.

You may notice some of these elements are similar to the "For You" tab in Apple Music, but that tab feels so static. It's not really "for me." It's one interface for every user. Yes, the music that appears is different, but not everyone cares about Artist Spotlights or "Heavy Rotation." The point with my idea is that it's fully customizable. You can add and remove different rows at a whim. What I described was just an example, but I would imagine there being way more rows to pick and choose from.

In short, my ideas may not be for everyone. But, I do believe that Apple Music and its users would greatly benefit from a major overhaul to the design and interface of the Music app. Hopefully, we get some news like this for iOS 13 at WWDC this year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Potential of Foldable Phones

Samsung unveiled their Galaxy Fold phone today. As the name suggests, the phone is foldable. It also starts at $2,000. I think it's funny when people called the original iPhone expensive, but now phones costing $1,000 isn't unusual. But, let's put price aside. Modular phones were hyped up, but quickly died off. Phones aren't about compromise, but about tailoring the experience around a small screen. But I do think Samsung's execution of their Galaxy Fold is a good one. In practice, I think it would be cool to use a phone-sized screen on the go, sit down, and switch to a more tablet-sized screen. It would make tasks like internet browsing, reading, and video watching more enjoyable. Of course, that all relies on making sure the apps are compatible. I feel it would work better in an iOS environment, just because Apple is really good with making their apps work on multiple screen sizes without much extra work from the developer. Will it catch on? I have no idea. I think the phone looks pretty ugly when it's folded. I also think it may be self-deprecating. Aside from being easier to fit in my pocket, why not just buy a 7-inch tablet and have cellular on it? If users find themselves only wanting the unfolded form, they'd probably just go for a phablet. Samsung does seem to be testing the waters with this phone, which is why it was announced alongside the Galaxy S10. If the Fold concept flops and people don't end up buying it, the mainline of Galaxy phones won't be affected. I am looking forward to the reviews of the Galaxy Fold when it comes out April 26.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Apple's Potential Shift That Could Satisfy Pro Users

For several years, Apple has dropped the ball when it comes to its pro user base, and Apple has acknowledged that. 2019 is supposed to be the decisive year to finally turn that around. Thanks to Ming-Chi Kuo, we have some new information that supports this. Kuo says that we can expect an all new design for the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro. In addition, Apple will ship a 31-inch 6K display for use with the Mac Pro. Apple creating a display adds up with statements Phil Schiller said a few years ago. Kuo is a very reliable source, so it's exciting to hear this kind of news. While this is a vague outline of everything these products could be, it gives us an idea of how Apple is responding to criticism of their pro products.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

MacBook Pro Batteries

In 2016, Apple released the first MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, and one of the biggest issues consumers had with the device was the poor battery life. Eventually, Apple pushed a software update that supposedly fixed the poor battery life. And while it did improve battery life, Apple also removed the estimated time remaining indicator for battery life. With Apple supposedly less confident in the laptop's battery performance, all MacBooks were affected by this and now no one can get an estimate of how much longer a battery will last. From here, there hasn't been much news on these models. I use my 2016 MacBook Pro for virtually everything I do and in the past few months, the battery has been depleting more and more quickly. My previous MacBook Pro didn't get this bad after four years, so it's disappointing to see my new MacBook Pro get this bad after just over two years. Now, macOS warns me that I need to service my battery soon and something tells me that we may hear more about this in the news soon. I would hope Apple had a replacement program for these models, because it's fairly common knowledge to owners of these laptops that the battery performance is very subpar, especially for a MacBook Pro.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Minor AirPods Update Coming in Spring

According to the Economic Daily News, there may be a new AirPods update coming soon. This isn't AirPods 2, but it's welcomed regardless. These AirPods will have a better coating so they don't slide on surfaces, wireless charging, and a black color. This rumor actually makes sense because it would line up with a potential release for AirPower. I would guess a March or April release for these AirPods. I'm sure many people have been holding out for a new model.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Apple Music Subscribers Getting Referral Links to Send to Friends

The Apple Music social features have been something Apple has been pushing lately. And I'm sure that Apple wants to attract potential subscribers to the service, so it seems only natural Apple would want to do something like this. Apple is sending notifications to Apple Music subscribers asking them to send a referral link to one of their friends who doesn't have Apple Music yet. It's a one month free trial of the service. Because Apple Music has a three month free trial to new subscribers, this bumps it up to four free months (only if the three month trial hasn't been used yet). If the three month trial has been used already, it's just a one month free trial. Apple seems to be rolling this out, so if you're a subscriber and haven't gotten the notification yet, it may come in the next few days.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Advertising Icon Lee Clow Retires

Lee Clow, creator of iconic advertisements like the 1984 Macintosh ad, the "Get a Mac" campaign, and of course, "Yo Quiero Taco Bell." An unsung hero of culture, Clow has shaped how products and brands can communicate so much feeling and evoke emotions. Today, at 76 years old, Clow announced his retirement from the advertising industry. While his presence in the industry will be missed, it's good to see that he's ready to move on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Issue with Subscriptions

I do believe there are legitimate pros to having subscriptions to video streaming services. A few years ago, you'd have to actually buy entire seasons of TV shows to get the same experience we do today with streaming the same show. And the fact that many networks partner with cable companies to include on-demand video is great. But it gets annoying when so many companies keep asking for $10+/month. This isn't limited to just video. Adobe Creative Cloud is a prime example of this. Day One, a journaling app, now has a paid subscription model. Newton Mail, a mail client, now has a $50/year price point. Have you ever thought to yourself, "I would be willing to pay $50/year for a journaling app or a mail app?" No, because that's ridiculous. They could be the be the best journaling or mail client apps on the market, but I wouldn't pay that price for them. I understand that the buy once, own forever model doesn't make nearly as much money, but I will probably begin losing sanity the next time an app like one of these requires me to buy a subscription. I think it would be nice if there was one universal subscription that split the earnings amongst providers based on percentage of use. With news that Apple will soon have a TV streaming service and news subscription, the public perception of subscription-based products may change.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Current State of Apple's Self-Driving Car

It's a weird thought to think that Apple could one day sell cars, cars that drive themselves no less. And I think the first thing anyone thinks of when thinking of an Apple Car is how expensive it would be. But for that price, you'd hope it would be top of the line and safe. However, thanks to The Last Driver License Holder, we have a report from the DMV of the disengagement rate of self-driving cars that are being tested in California. A disengagement occurs when the car requires a human to take over. The data we have is across many brands and ordered. Apple currently ranks last with roughly one disengagement per every 1.1 miles. In comparison, Google's Waymo is in first with one disengagement every 11,154 miles. That is a striking contrast. While there are plenty of competitors that are far off from Waymo's disengagement rate, if a user has to intervene about every mile, why buy a self-driving car at that point? Hopefully, Apple can improve and figure out how to make the disengagements less frequent. To see the full report, please check out The Last Driver License Holder's post on the topic.

Monday, February 11, 2019

On-Ear Headphones

To anyone looking to buy the Beats Solo³ headphones or any on-ear headphones, I think there is an important point to consider before you finalize your purchase. There are three main types of headphones: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear. AirPods are in-ear, Beats Solos are on-ear, and Beats Studios are over-ear. The issue with on-ear is that for some, myself included, the headphones can cause your ears to become sore after about 30 minutes of listening. It can become irritating and can force the user to take breaks from listening to music. Over-ear headphones typically provide crisp sound without any pain to the ears. In-ear headphones are another great alternative, however they typically don't have as good of quality and can be prone to falling out of your ear. In short, if you have the opportunity, find a way to try on-ear headphones for a while before you buy them. You might find the investment in a pair of over-ear headphones to be more worth it.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Memoji and Avatars

Memoji is Apple's first attempt at having avatars represent the user. Memoji currently are in use for iMessage and FaceTime. Animoji and Memoji are largely considered boring and gimmicky, which I agree with. So, why does Apple try to push these so much? Could Apple be trying to make Memoji have the same glory as Nintendo's Miis? If so, let's see the divide between the two.

Miis were released with the Nintendo Wii in late 2006, before the original iPhone was released. As a very quick synopsis, they served a simple purpose, to represent the player in a game and to bring personality to the console. It makes sense for a game console to do something like this, but for a phone to do this seems weird.

Phones don't really need to have a representation of the user in them, especially when it can take photos of the user. The most representation of a user a phone usually gives is through a contact photo or a wallpaper. These are two elements that are explicitly determined by the user. Seeing a contact's photo when you receive a call is meant to feel natural and as an augmentation of reality. Let's say Apple makes it so the caller's Memoji appears making random facial expressions when you receive a call. It definitely doesn't feel natural. Sometimes it's better to leave things more simple.

I think timing could also be a major factor in the perception of Memoji. Miis came out in a time where superimposing a face on a player was a big deal. In addition, emoji weren't even a mainstream thing yet. Today, we've been oversaturated with emoji, to the point where some people can find it cringey at times. It's completely hypothetical if Apple decides to integrate Memoji into iOS further this year, but many will agree that the focus of iOS 13 should be put into any number of other areas. I don't think there would be riots in the streets if we went a year without any new emoji-related features.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

First Wireless CarPlay Car

Apple teased wireless CarPlay years ago, however, no cars actually have support for it yet. However, that could finally change. Volkswagen has announced that their 2020 Passat will support wireless CarPlay. Wireless is a huge step up for CarPlay, especially with the potential move to USB-C. Imagine placing an iPhone on a wireless charger in your car, and having CarPlay work automatically. With Volkswagen leading the way, hopefully we can expect more car brands adding wireless CarPlay to their vehicles. The only catch with this is that the announcement is that it is intended for its European market, so this feature may vary by region.

Friday, February 8, 2019

How iOS 7 Changed UI Design

When iOS 7 first released, there was controversy to say the least. Changing the design of something as big as iOS at the time was unprecedented. All of the iconic icons we had grown used to would be replaced with flat imagery. Yet, despite the criticism, every piece of software eventually changed to the flatter design. Today, users seem to like flat, unrealistic assets and design choices, which isn't inherently a bad thing. I personally like the flat vector design when it's done right. The design was an important step for software design.

The unrealistic design makes the software feel like an augmentation of reality, rather than blending with it. Imagine if smart watches attempted to look realistic, instead of using flat graphics. It would look like an eyesore, because it's trying to be something it's not. When design embraces its limitations, rather than mask them, something new and fresh can be brought to the table.

It also brought focus to color and accents. With no more gradients and just solid colors, developers could show off their brand in each app, while keeping a cohesive experience throughout the device. It's the little things like this that bring personality to each app. The sky blue and white of Twitter are perfect examples of color branding done well.

Was iOS 7's design choice better than the previous? That's entirely subjective. But being able to try something new despite our natural fear of change is a risk that can be applauded. Not every company can do that. And thinking of design this way will be important when the next big design change comes. With the increasing popularity of dark mode and less bright design choices, how operating systems will adapt to this will be an interesting story.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Apple Releases iOS 12.1.4 With FaceTime Privacy Fix

As we all know by now, there was a bug discovered in FaceTime where an un-consenting user could have their conversation listened to. After a bit of delay, iOS 12.1.4 was released today, which contains "important security updates." That being said, you will have to update in order to use group FaceTime again. Group FaceTime has been disabled for all iOS versions prior to this update. Be sure to update if you plan to use group FaceTime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Ask Websites Not to Track Me

In the latest beta of Safari, for both iOS and macOS, a setting labeled "Ask Websites Not to Track Me" was removed. This setting has been around since 2011, but there's an interesting story as to what this actually does. The FTC proposed a setting that would request websites to not track the client browser. The only problem was that websites and its advertisers did not have to comply with this request. This setting is actually more of a security threat than anything in today's world, which is why it is being removed. Because advertisers can build a digital profile of you based on browser settings and other variables, this one setting could be used to add to that digital profile. A massively simplified example would be if Facebook noticed that a browser was searching for dog videos, and that browser was based in Anytown, USA, with macOS 10.11.3 and is requesting websites not to track them. It's that much easier to guess a person's digital identity through browser variables alone. It's truly ironic that this mechanism meant to prevent tracking only facilitated it even more.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

HomePod in 2019

From the very beginning, we all had a hunch that HomePod wasn't going to do well. It's an over-priced speaker that can't compete with the functionality of other smart speakers. That being said, it's almost been a year since HomePod came out, and Apple's stance on HomePod seems to have taken quite the turn. In December, Alexa began supporting Apple Music, basically eliminating any reason to buy HomePod other than a few small features. In January, Apple began supporting third-party TV manufacturers to integrate AirPlay 2 into them, which can effectively replace HomePod and Apple TV. There are occasional murmurs about Apple creating a better follow up to the HomePod, but putting resources into that seems like a waste at the moment. A better solution would be to crank Siri R&D up to 11, as Siri is often seen as a joke compared to Google Home and Alexa. If Siri gets smarter, current HomePod owners will have more functionality. When Siri is made better, HomePod can have a better reputation and a next-generation HomePod could stand a chance in the smart speaker market.

Monday, February 4, 2019

What is AT&T's 5G E?

In the era of the iPhone 4S, AT&T began rolling out 4G bands to consumers. Instead of 3G at the top of the screen, iPhone would display 4G. Despite this, it wasn't anything different than 3G in terms of speed. 4G LTE was the actual 4G consumers were looking for. Now, with 5G on the way, AT&T has done something similar today. They are currently rolling out 5G E to iOS 12.2 [Source: MacRumors]. "E" stands for Evolution, which is a marketing term designed to mislead consumers. No commercial smartphone can use 5G yet. 5G E has the same speeds as 4G LTE and any differences are changes made on AT&T's side. In short, if you are on AT&T, don't get too excited when you see you've been "upgraded" to 5G E.

Image Credit: pizzzle via MacRumors

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Watch the Big Game on Apple TV

Today is the Super Bowl, and streaming it is easier than ever in 2019. If you go to the TV app on Apple TV, you may find small promotional icons for the game. However, the game is front and center in the Sports tab. Simply click on any icon relating to the Super Bowl and you should be given the appropriate redirection to the CBS app. Alternatively, you should be able to stream the game through PlayStation Vue if you have an active subscription. The CBS app does require an active subscription, but if you haven't used your free trial yet, this may be the time to use it. Enjoy the game!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

iOS 13 Rumors

With WWDC coming up in a few months, a new rumor regarding iOS 13 has popped up. Bloomberg reports that iOS 13 will include dark mode, a feature that's been highly anticipated. Given that macOS Mojave introduced this last year, it would only be natural for iOS to get dark mode this year. iPad will be getting its own slew of features, along with a new home screen. A tabbed interface for apps is also expected. We will see how these rumors hold up when WWDC 2019 goes live, likely in early June.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Growing Problem with Apple's Buggy Software

With the news of the infamous FaceTime bug this week, it feels like habit where we hear of an Apple bug every so often. Enter Darren Eastman, an ex-Apple engineer. In an interview with The Mercury News in 2018, he claims that Apple product updates are often untested, "sometimes rendering applications or basic functionality to be completely unusable until another update fixes the regression." It's this "fix it later" ideology that is ruining Apple today.

When we find out that Apple was made aware of the FaceTime security bug about a week before it started making news, that's where we have to take a step back. In my opinion, disabling group FaceTime with some form of "bug fix" reason would have been the best option for Apple. This way, Apple takes minimal PR damage and protects their users' privacy. However, we don't know what actually happened on the inside, but the damage has been done.

And here's the thing, this only matters because it made headlines. If I had a nickel for every individual bug I encounter in iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS, I'd be rich. The difference between this bug and any other bug was the impact it had. It could disclose private information. And that's why it will be fixed the soonest. But that shouldn't excuse all of the other bugs in these operating systems. iOS and macOS are constantly buggy, tvOS feels flawed and unnatural, and watchOS is slow and rarely works as advertised.

Take Apple Music. Playlists and songs sometimes are "un-downloaded" without notice or reason. Custom playlist art frequently doesn't sync properly. In iOS, sometimes the "Now Playing" section just shows "Not Playing" when the section shouldn't be there at all.

I only say this because I want the best for Apple and I want Apple to be better than this. And I know they can be better. But to do this, they have to get past this awkward era of constant bugs and lackluster updates. We are supposed to live in the best era for technology but sometimes it feels like for every step we take forward, we also take two steps back. iOS 12 was supposed to be the "under the hood" update that focused more on bug squashing than features, but we're still not there yet. That being said, I am always hopeful for the next update and I legitimately hope that Apple can prove me wrong with a strong software and hardware lineup this year.