Sunday, March 31, 2019

3D Printed Homes

Every once in a while, you hear a really cool story that you just have to share. As a heads up, I found this story on Digital Trends, so check out their article to learn more. Here's the gist. Startup Icon teamed up with nonprofit New Story to create 3D printed homes. Starting development in El Salvador, these homes are created in hopes to create more affordable housing. The houses are printed on site using a special, supersized 3D printer and their custom material, called Lavacrete. The houses are printed where they will stand and are structurally sound. Check out the video below to see it in action. It is truly amazing to see.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

What's Next for Wireless Charging?

With AirPower officially cancelled, it leaves us with a question: What is next for Apple in terms of wireless charging? Apple probably wants to eliminate all ports on the iPhone eventually, and wireless charging will play a large part in that. But Apple currently has no wireless charging solution. You have to buy a third-party Qi wireless charger in order to take advantage of wireless charging. I think Apple may release smaller wireless chargers that only charge one device at a time. When charging, there could be a screen showing any of your other devices that are charging and their percentages. That's not too far off from AirPower and certainly not impossible. I also think Apple should find a way to fully enable Qi wireless charging on Apple Watch. There are a lot of directions Apple could go with this, but for now, I don't expect to see anything any time soon.

Friday, March 29, 2019

AirPower Officially Cancelled

AirPower hasn't been talked about by Apple since late 2017. It's been so long, I've forgotten the bulk of its features at times. Rumors have circulated bringing conflicting reports of AirPower entering production or AirPower having severe development problems. It seems we finally have an answer today. A representative from Apple had the following to say to TechCrunch:
"After much effort, we've concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward."
I've never seen Apple really do something like this before. The good is that many got so tired of waiting, they stopped caring. Also, Apple likely cancelled AirPower due to heat and safety issues, which would be bad PR if they were released in that state. The bad is those who waited almost two years for AirPower just to be told it's not happening.

This also leaves the wireless charging feature of the Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 half-useless. These Apple Watches only charge on certain wireless chargers, but it's unclear as to which ones. However, we knew it would work with AirPower for sure. In addition, if you bought the wireless charging case for AirPods, it has AirPower depicted on the box. Some people may have bought the wireless charging case just for AirPower capabilities. With all the rumors circulating, this came as a shock to many.

Personally, I'd rather AirPower get cancelled than something like AirPods. AirPods suffered some hiccups before getting to market as well and AirPower never appealed to me that much. AirPower was undeniably a great companion to an Apple enthusiast who travels a lot. Hopefully, we see AirPower's spirit in a future Apple product.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Apple Card Setup Explained

With most credit cards, you usually have to call a phone number in order to activate it. However, the Apple Card has a much more modern approach to activation [Source: TechCrunch]. To activate the physical Apple Card, you simply have to tap the card to your iPhone. It will have a similar process to setting up a pair of AirPods. This is a great idea and is a great way to not only make Apple Card stick out among a sea of credit cards, but it makes me wonder why we still call numbers to activate other cards. We have credit card apps that could easily accomplish the same thing. Apple Card is by far the coolest thing announced this week and totally proved me wrong. Apple seems to innovate best when they take a device or product that is outdated and gives us a modern take on it. They did it with AirPods and how we use Bluetooth headphones, and it looks like they're doing it with the credit card now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

AirPods 2 Now Compatible with Apple Watch

watchOS 5.2 was released today, giving users AirPods 2 support. Apple often advertises Apple Watch and AirPods as the perfect combination, so it's nice to see AirPods 2 get support. watchOS 5.2 also brings the long-awaited support of ECG readings to more countries. These include Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and 18 other European countries. Before this, ECG was restricted to the United States due to pending approval in other countries. The update is available from the Apple Watch app on your paired iPhone.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

AirPods 2 Now Available

The new AirPods have been available for pre-order for some time now, but they are now out in the wild, which means you can find them at your local Apple Store. Some of the first impressions mention improved sound quality, which is always welcome. On important note is that the new AirPods will not work with your Apple Watch until it is updated to watchOS 5.2, which has not been released yet. It's unfortunate to see how quickly and harshly AirPods' battery can degrade considering the small size and constant charging, so hopefully this model can get more use out of it. I'm personally holding off on upgrading until the next model of AirPods, which will hopefully release in 2020. I'm hoping for a black color option (the white case can get so dirty) and health features. There's also rumors of noise cancelling too.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Apple's 'It's Showtime' Event

Apple today announced a slew of services. They announced Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple Card, and Apple TV+. I don't have the time nor energy to talk about every little thing about the event, but, in short, I was underwhelmed. This was genuinely the worst Apple keynote I have seen yet. There was nothing interesting for the people who usually watched these keynotes, with a few exceptions. This presentation basically sums up how different Apple is now then from 5-10 years ago. The most interesting thing for me was the Apple Card, which adds features to iOS while staying true to Apple's commitment to privacy. Apple Arcade seems like a slap in the face to macOS users and a quick excuse to get Apple in the conversation about gaming. Apple News+ and Apple TV+ aren't for me. I'm sure someone is excited for these services, and more power to you if you are. That's all I'll say on that matter.

It's good for a tree to grow and branch out, but it's pointless if your trunk being chopped with an axe. I can't take Apple seriously if they're going to make services like these while their software is notoriously buggy and hardware is outdated. My Apple Watch crashed and restarted without explanation in the time it took me to write the last paragraph. I know that different teams work on different things, but what matters in the end is where Apple puts their resources and focus. We wait for so long for updates with a laundry list of problems, only to have a small fraction of them checked off every few months, with new problems constantly being added. It's frustrating and I know Apple can do better. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Apple Teases Tomorrow's Event Via Livestream

Apple has an interesting livestream to promote tomorrow's service-centric event. The stream shows the stage of the Steve Jobs Theater. It's still streaming as of this post. You may find someone sweeping the stage from time to time, but more interestingly, something may appear on the screen. A call from actor Chris Evans appeared at one point and an iMessage conversation between Tim Cook and NBA player Kevin Durant. Apple's event is tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. PDT and can be live-streamed from Apple's website.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Apple Could Debut a Credit Card This Monday

According to Bloomberg, Apple could be in partnership with Goldman Sachs to create a new credit card, with some extra features for Apple Pay. This credit card would be revealed this Monday, at their service-centric event.

Personally, this seems weird to me. I think most people have enough credit cards in their lives and I find it hard to believe that this credit card will be any better. The only incentive would be special features in the Wallet app, which are arbitrarily tied to one specific card. I think a better approach for Apple would be to use their good standing image of privacy, and integrate a budgeting section into the Wallet app, that works with any card in the app. Or maybe finally let us scan more types of barcodes into the app. The Wallet app could have so much potential but it's seldom used because what can be done with it is so contextual. There are opportunities to expand it but Apple isn't taking them.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Thoughts on Google Stadia

It's undeniable that gaming (and probably every other form of entertainment) is going in the way of streaming. When Google announced their entrance into the gaming front, Google Stadia, on Tuesday, I was both intrigued and skeptical. There are parts that are genuinely cool, but a lot felt like fluffed up PR talk. I felt a lot of the vibes that I get when I think of Apple's service-centric event coming this week. "You're great as a company at X, so why try going into Y, when you should be focusing more on X?" That being said, here are my thoughts.

The Good

The idea of taking the focus of gaming away from hardware and instead realizing that games can be cloud streamed is a cool premise, at least in a perfect world with no input lag. But for now, let's pretend that there are no connection issues with Stadia at all. Suddenly, your phone or low-end laptop has the graphics and rendering power of a high-end PC, because all it needs to do is stream what is essentially a video stream. The idea of this evolving without the need to upgrade hardware sounds like a dream. You can look at the same game running on a Nintendo Switch and a PS4, and the graphical capabilities are night and day, but the Switch gives up the extra power for portability. With Stadia, you get the best of both worlds, where you can have portability and great looking visuals, because all of the processing is done on one of Google's servers. The continuity features with the controller are also very Apple-esque. Some of the in-game features are also pretty cool. Share states, anti-cheating, and 4K are nice touches provided the product works as advertised.

The Bad

The main issue with this event is what we don't know. We don't know what games will be on this service, aside from a select few. We don't know how much it will cost. We don't know if this will even catch on. Aside from their grasp on the internet, what makes Google qualified to run the gaming service that is supposed to revolutionize video games? I'd rather have a company that didn't have a smartphone OS bias, so iOS users don't miss out on certain features. That's not to say I want Apple to do this by any means. Sundar Pichai began the conference stating, "I'm not actually a big gamer." But then you see the Konami code on the bottom of Google's controller, which is cringy at best. It feels like Google is stepping into the gaming arena because market research shows that it's becoming bigger by the second.

Moving on, what Google had to show at their event wasn't super impressive. I'm all for not giving me a false perception of a product, but if what they showed in their controlled environment is average performance to best case performance, I'm not looking forward to how it works on my network. I've tried PS4 Remote Play on my phone, and as cool as it is, the input lag on my local network was frustrating for any game that wasn't a button masher. So, if that didn't work on my local network, who's to say Google can pull that off with internet involved? Don't get me wrong, I'd love for them to prove me wrong. I'm sure Google invested more into Stadia than Sony into the PS4 Remote Play app. A big hurdle for Stadia is the network performance aspect.

Also, the fact that Google's controller has an always-on microphone is a turn off for me, though I'm glad they let me use my own controller.

It's hard to see Stadia being what Google hypes it up to be. It isn't like movie streaming where movies are significantly cheaper than most games. If we put games to a streaming model, I think that could set a bad precedent for game developers. I'm by no means knowledgable on how video game economics work, but here's my interpretation. If they make their money from someone clicking a play button, would developers feel as incentivized to put as much quality and content in their games? A lot of games that don't live up to the $60 price point usually go on sale pretty quickly and eventually end up in the bargain bin, but when there's no price tag attached to any specific game, there's no depreciation to be had. 

In Summary

Google Stadia could be revolutionary, or it could be the next Ouya. I can't give a full conclusion until we hear more about Stadia in a few months. I can definitely say it has captured my interest way more than this news subscription thing Apple has been drumming up these past few months. I will continue to follow Stadia up to its launch to see if they make any revolutionary announcements.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New AirPower Image Discovered

AirPower has been removed from AirPod's page after the recent refresh. However, MacRumors seems to have discovered an updated image of AirPower hidden in the source code of the Australian AirPods site. The image is similar to the old image found on the AirPods page, except it features an iPhone XS instead of an iPhone X. The battery percentages are even the exact same. We have plenty of reason to believe AirPower will be released soon, but Apple has been quiet on the matter for nearly two years now.

Image Credit: MacRumors

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Apple Releases New AirPods

Over two years after their initial release, AirPods has finally received an update. These AirPods have a new H1 chip, which allows for "Hey, Siri" functionality in the AirPods. They also have better battery life, which most users will be happy about. You can also engrave the AirPods case now if you order through Apple's website. Apple is releasing the AirPods Wireless Charging Case. You can buy the new AirPods with the new case ($199), or with the normal case ($159). While I wish we would've had some more features, like gesture commands (i.e. volume slide up), an AirPods update is always welcome. There are still rumors of an iPod Touch or AirPower being announced later this week as well, so we'll have to wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

iMac Refresh and New iPod Touch Announcement Imminent

Following updated iPads yesterday, Apple has announced this morning that the iMac and iMac Pro lineup will be getting a minor refresh. The new iMacs have new Intel processors, while the iMac Pro can now have up to a whopping 256 GB of RAM. Ahead of their service-based event next week, Apple seems to be quietly announcing new products this week. Thanks to MacRumors, we now have reason to believe that Apple will announce a new iPod Touch as early as tomorrow. The iPod Touch has been long untouched by Apple, not being updated since mid-2015, so an update is welcome. To see the features I want in a new iPod Touch, check out my post on it. While I would like the new iPod Touch to have an edge-to-edge display, I wouldn't get my hopes up. Apple will likely update it for the sake of keeping the device series alive.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Apple Announces New iPad Mini and 10.5" iPad Air

Apple has updated two iPad models today: the iPad mini and the iPad Air. The new iPad mini is the fifth iteration of the small tablet with Apple Pencil support and the A12 chip. The new iPad Air replaces the 10.5" iPad Pro, simultaneously simplifying and confusing the iPad lineup. It made sense to get rid of the 10.5" iPad Pro, as it conflicted with the new iPad Pros. But it is confusing because the iPad Air brand has been absent for several years, and the regular iPad branding is still on the 9.7-inch iPad. The iPad and iPad Air have no major weight differences, so it's unclear why they've created inconsistent branding. Regardless, the new iPad Air gives up ProMotion and quad-speakers for a cheaper price point. It still has Apple Pencil support. Aside from the branding, this was a good choice by Apple. The main gripe from consumers is that the prices could've been a bit lower, but that's not to say they're super overpriced. The iPad Air and iPad mini start at $499 and $399 respectively.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Apple Music Now Available on Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV is the Amazon Echo's less-popular TV counterpart. Now, Apple Music subscribers can ask Alexa on their Amazon Fire TVs to play music from Apple Music [Source: CNBC]. Three months ago, Apple also allowed Apple Music to be streamed through Amazon Echo devices, so users of both will get the benefits of Apple Music on both devices. If you own an Amazon Echo with Apple Music set up, there is no need to do any additional setup for it to work with Amazon Fire TV. With all of the additional Alexa devices being created, maybe Alexa could be expanded to those as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

IKEA and Sonos Team Up to Make Speakers

IKEA and Sonos will be partnering to create a speaker that combines light and sound in some way. They have announced that the Symfonisk collection will be formally revealed in early April. Sonos seems like a good fit for IKEA, as strange as that may sound. You don't want to divide your consumer base between iOS and Android users, and Sonos has done a great job at being the universal speaker that supports almost any streaming service. IKEA and Sonos could make the next big step towards a connected home next month.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Apple Announces WWDC 2019

It's that time of year again. Apple has announced WWDC 2019, which means the software speculation levels are through the roof once more. It will take place from June 3 to June 7 in San Jose. The big rumor is to expect a new Mac Pro after almost 6 years of waiting for an update. In addition, I wouldn't be surprised if we finally got Dark Mode in iOS 13. It would make sense after we got it in macOS Mojave. WWDC is always an exciting event to look forward to, so hopefully we get great announcements to match the anticipation.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Apple Releases New Privacy Ad

Apple released a new ad today regarding privacy. It's definitely one of their better ads in my opinion. It goes through a variety of scenarios of privacy in real life. It ends with the statement: "If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on." Apple's strong point has been privacy for some time. When privacy is being questioned more than ever today, this is the kind of ad Apple needs to be promoting. Animoji won't get anyone to switch to an iPhone, but privacy values can be seen as fundamental to a company. Until Apple can get a new iPhone with features that knock the competition out of the park, we need more ads like this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rolando Makes a Return to the App Store

For my tenth birthday, I got an iPod Touch, and I have so many fond memories of it. So many apps I owned then are no longer available today. Super Monkey Ball, We Rule, and countless others. They just haven't been maintained for the most part. And the other day, I was thinking of one of my favorite games, Rolando. Rolando was a game heavily advertised by Apple in the early years of the iPhone. It was a fun platforming puzzle game that demonstrated the accelerometer feature of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Rolando: Royal Edition will be returning to bring back some of the nostalgia of the early days of the App Store. It is a remaster of the original game. It is available for pre-order for $1.99, which is 60% off the full price [Direct Link].

This does beg the question of whether other apps and games could do the same. Rolando comes from a time where you would buy a game and you owned it. Today, it's hard to find apps that cost more than 99¢. It's all about in-app purchases or mining your personal data or processing power today. I think it would be cool to see a return to form for some part of the App Store. It's not going to happen just because that's not how money works, but I do long for those days sometimes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The World Wide Web Turns 30

The wealth of information we take for granted today can be largely attributed to the World Wide Web. It dates back to 1989. A few days ago, plus thirty years, the World Wide Web was proposed. Different than the internet, the World Wide Web harnessed the tools we use everyday, like URLs and HTML. It made the internet much more accessible. It's something we don't think of much today, but use so often. In 2037, it will be interesting to look back on 30 years of smartphones, and so on. The World Wide Web served as a grand foundation, and we continue to build upon it to this day.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Apple Hosting 'It's Show Time' Event on March 25

Apple will be hosting a special event on March 25 in the Steve Jobs Theater. It will take place at 10 a.m. The event has been rumored to focus on services, and will likely have no new hardware announced. The event will be streamable but it's definitely not for everyone. The event is expected to reveal Apple's new service for streamlining news for $9.99 a month. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Apple Promotes iTunes Credit Reload Feature with 10% Bonus

Apple is offering a deal to compete with the constant sale of iTunes gift cards available at retailers. If you reload your credit using Apple's interface, you will receive a 10% bonus to whatever you reload. You can receive up to $20 for a $200 reload. It should be noted that you can often find 15-20% discounts on iTunes Gift cards at certain retailers, so take this offer with a grain of salt. To take advantage of this offer, go to Settings, tap your name, tap the iTunes and App Store section, select your Apple ID, and finally tap "Add Funds to Apple ID."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Apple's AR Glasses

Whenever Apple announces a new genre of product these days, we usually hear about them years in advance. Take the Apple Watch. The long-rumored "iWatch" had a lot building up to it. The same goes for the AR headset that Apple has been working on for some time now. It's no secret that Apple sees a lot of future in AR, and these glasses would be the perfect medium for AR-based apps. Apple would probably be the best company to do it considering how many resources they've put into AR, in addition to Apple's stance on privacy. Ming-Chi Kuo is now saying that these glasses could be releasing in 2020, which feels relatively close. Whether this will be an actual trend or just another Google Glass will likely be up to timing.

Friday, March 8, 2019

My MacBook Pro Repair Experience

This past week was one of the hardest for me because I had to make do without my laptop. It was having its battery replaced. I got it back today and found that the logic board was replaced and several USB-C ports were fixed, so the cables would snap into the port better, in addition to the battery replacement. My keyboard was also fully replaced. My hard drive was wiped and the software was reset to macOS Sierra, which came out about two years ago. I had to setup my Mac and update the software before I could restore from my backup, which took a considerable amount of time. The thing to take away from this is that Apple may perform additional repairs on your Mac, so make sure you do a backup no matter what. I figured only my battery would be replaced, but I took a backup just in case. I'm glad I did.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Use Your PS4 on Your Phone

Sony released an app called Remote Play today for iOS that allows you to stream the video output of your PS4 console to your smartphone. Not only that, but you can also control the console using your iPhone's touch controls. So, you essentially have a portable PS4 on your smartphone. While there are some compromises, a good connection usually provides negligible latency for most games. Turn-based games or button mashers should be no problem for this app. It also works on local networks or networks away from the console. A compatible controller can also be connected. While this is by no means the best way to play PS4 games, it offers a portable spin on a great home console. Remote Play is available from the Apple App Store for free [Direct Link].

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

New iPhone Features Page

Apple has released a new site for iPhone designed to show existing users some features about the iPhone. This site is very useful for those who don't know every nook and cranny of the their iPhone. If I could change one thing, it would be to put the Measure app closer to the top. This app is genuinely one of the most underrated utilities on the iPhone. Think of when people realized they could use their iPhone as a flashlight. I get similar vibes with the Measure app. Overall, this page is a nice tips page for iPhone users, but I wouldn't suggest it for an Android user considering switching to an iPhone, as it mostly touches on features that aren't mind blowing and can make iOS seem dull without any context.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

iPhones with Third-Party Batteries Can Now Be Repaired By Apple

Apple has long been unable to repair iPhones with third-party batteries due to their policy. The repair didn't even have to have anything to do with the battery. However, that seems to have changed finally [Source: iGeneration]. Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers are now allowed to repair iPhones regardless of the battery inside the phone. If the battery is directly related to the repair, the service provider can now replace the battery at the standard fee. This is useful for those who like to buy batteries from iFixit and replace the battery themselves. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Apple Looking to Social Media to Improve Siri

Siri is notorious for its constant mistakes when compared to other smartphone assistants. Siri’s goof ups are perfect material for a short tweet. Now, Apple has posted a job listing that will check how Siri is perceived by the world on the internet. This would effectively be finding issues that are common on the internet and reporting them to the team that works on Siri. Most people are finding this as either the world’s slowest knee jerk reaction or as job that shouldn’t exist. Siri has so many issues, it’s hard to believe hiring someone to look up issues on Twitter would do much. Siri needs improvement, that’s for sure. How to get that improvement is up to Apple, but it needs to be effective and fast. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Apple Looking for More Software Jobs Than Hardware Jobs

For the first time since early 2016, Apple is looking for more software engineers than hardware engineers [Source: Thinknum]. This could signal a shift in Apple's direction as a company. Currently, we are expecting a subscription service coming soon revolving around digital magazines and newspapers. In addition, CarPlay is being added to more and more cars, while the Apple self-driving car project had a considerable amount of layoffs recently. And while the HomePod struggles to sell, Apple has put Apple Music on the Amazon Echo, and may soon add it to Google Home speakers.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Servicing My MacBook's Battery

My 2016 MacBook Pro has been losing charge very quickly in the past few months. In a 75 minute lecture, with just a few, low-power apps open, my MacBook Pro will go from 100 percent to between 40 and 60 percent. After the Service Battery notification popped up, I finally got the chance to bring it into an Apple Store. While iPhone battery replacements often take about an hour, a MacBook Pro battery replacement seems to take between 3 to 5 days. In addition, it will end up costing me about $200. The 2016 MacBook Pro batteries were flawed from the start, resulting in Consumer Reports being unable to recommend the laptop temporarily. These batteries also caused macOS to stop estimating the time left in one charge, because Apple no longer felt confident in the estimate. I can only hope that the replacements are of better quality than the batteries that shipped with the laptop.

Friday, March 1, 2019

New AirPods Could Release This Month

As we enter March, we're met with a drought of new Apple products. This year has brought seemingly more questions than answers for what Apple has planned for this year, but a sketchy rumor has an interesting story to tell. According to Applesfera, Apple could release a new version of AirPods on March 28. There are some holes in this rumor, as the source seems to confuse AirPods having the end of life on March 28 with AirPods having a stock replenishment on March 28. Regardless, with a heavily rumored service-orientated keynote this month, there have been questions of surprise new product releases. Users have been waiting a long time for an AirPods update, but news is few and far between.