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June 15 2017


Initial Thoughts on the New 10.5″ iPad Pro

Source- Apple.com

Life has been mostly lemons around my house the last two days, but I’m going to make a little lemonade right here and FINALLY turn my attention to the new iPad Pros. I got the 10.5″ model yesterday, and I just got my hands on the new 12.9″, which arrived late this afternoon and is currently restoring with my apps and data. I’ll defer my remarks on the 12.9″ until I’ve actually had some time with it tomorrow, but I’ve had enough with the 10.5 to at least form some early opinions:

ProMotion is REAL, but you have to see it in person to appreciate it

For anyone who has questions about whether this feature is a meaningful feature, go to your nearest Apple Store or Best Buy and start scrolling because seeing this feature in video really won’t tell you anything. If you’ve used an iPad extensively, you’ll notice a difference even just moving between Home screens. Pick up an Pencil and open Notes and you’ll notice it even more.

ProMotion is SUCH an Apple kind of feature. It’s wrapped up in eye candy, but at its core, it adds a practical benefit to the most essential and immediate aspect of the tablet interface- touch. ProMotion may not be as radical a step as the first Retina screens were for Apple, but it is reminiscent of it in that it effects the entire user experience of the device.

A half pound of weight makes a BIG difference

For someone who has used a 12.9″ Pro for a chunk of the last two years and carried it in a case for 99.9% of that time, the weight of the 10.5″ model doesn’t go unnoticed. In fact, today I actually double-checked the bag I carried the 10.5 in to be sure the iPad was really in there. That got my attention. Combined with the smaller size, this is a big positive that also plays into the next point…

0.8″ of screen real estate feels bigger than you might think

After using the 12.9″ iPad Pro for a while, all 9.7″ models felt too small to me. I was keenly aware of this when I tested the new low-end iPad earlier this year. It just felt like I could never be comfortable going back to that size again after using the multitasking interface on a larger screen.

However, the 10.5″ Pro really feels different to me. That extra bit of width in landscape orientation does make an impact. The interface feels less constrained, and the on-screen keyboard is easier to use. If you are currently a 12.9″ Pro user who doesn’t require the full iPad interface in Split View or the additional screen real estate, then you may find the 10.5 hits more of a sweet spot than the 9.7 did.

Hands-On time makes a big difference

As with ProMotion and TrueColor, pictures and video don’t do this form factor justice. It has an impact that you can only appreciate when you put your hands on it and use it. If you have any interest in this device, or find yourself torn in any way, do yourself a favor and go to an Apple Store or Best Buy and try one out side-by-side with other devices. Using one will tell you all you need to know.

Apple’s iPad lineup FINALLY has clarity

There was so much unnecessary confusion in the iPad lineup before this Spring. You had the Air 2, which was too close to the 9.7″ Pro in terms of specs and price, and then two Pro devices with differing feature sets. Now, Apple has a perfect delineation between consumer and Pro in every respect- price, size, and specs. They also have feature parity in both Pro models now. This presents a much clearer sales and marketing message to potential buyers. The only remaining outlier is the iPad Mini 4, but it doesn’t seem long for this world.

I already know that I’ll be sticking with the 12.9″ Pro long-term. That has more to do with how I use it and being able to get the full iPad interface for apps in Split View, rather than any shortcoming of the 10.5″ model. Where I was often dismissive of the usefulness of the previous 9.7″ model when talking to others about the iPad Pro, I won’t take that approach in regards to the 10.5. It really is a better “sweet spot” device at the Pro level than the original form factor was. I applaud Apple for being able to think outside the box and move beyond several years of intertia to make this change for the better. The difference in size may be subtle, but it isn’t trivial in any way.

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Post tags: 1.5, 12.9, 9.7, iPad, iPad Pro, promotion, truecolor


Deals: PDF Expert 2.2 for Mac

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PDF Expert is able to handle all the basics, such as editing text, images, links, and outlines and annotating. It also allows you to fill out forms, merge, sign and password protect documents, as well. PDF Expert 2.2 is an Apple Editor’s Choice, 2015 App of the Year Runner Up in the Mac App Store, and a Top Paid App in the Mac App Store.

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Post tags: pdf, readdle

June 13 2017


The Early iPad Pro Reviews Are In, and They Are Very Positive

For riff-raff like myself, the process of reviewing the new iPad Pro models will begin tomorrow. However, today was the day for the lucky few in the tech media who got an early look at Apple’s latest goodies. I’m not jealous at all.

That aside, there are several insightful and thoughtful reviews that range from glowing to conservatively positive that hit the web today. The only complaints mentioned were price and practicality, and those are legitimate concerns considering the recent sales struggles of the iPad line. However, as for the hardware itself, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Most are also very upbeat about the iPad’s future thanks to the changes coming in iOS 11.

Here are some of my favorite of the early reviews:

Rene Ritchie- iMore

One thing I respect about Mr RItchie is that, even though he is an unabashed Apple fanboy, he still keeps a very level head about things, and isn’t afraid to call Apple on the carpet when it’s warranted. He is also one of the few well-known tech writers who avoids click-bait like the plague. However, those issues don’t come into play here because of how good these new devices are.

Mr Ritchie’s reviews are some of the most comprehensive you will find, but in a good way. He really covers all the bases here is a detailed way. Also, while the review is glowing, he starts out telling you who the new iPad Pros are made for, and who likely won’t be interested.

Serenity Caldwell- iMore

Ms Caldwell’s review is far shorter and more subjective than her counterpart’s. However, it is also done from the practical perspective of a digital artist, which is obviously a huge focus of the iPad Pros paired with the Apple Pencil.

Dieter Bohn- The Verge

Where Rene Ritchie’s review is glowing, Bohn’s is more understated while actually saying many of the same things. He flat out says that the new iPad Pros are basically Apple showing off, because there are no other tablets in the same class. However, that automatically means that the iPad Pro is now even more of a laptop competitor. As such, Mr Bohn’s major concern is price, and the fact that most people expect a premium laptop, or that level of features, for that amount of money. He recommends anyone who isn’t sure about whether that will work for them wait until iOS 11 is out to make up their minds.

Mr Bohn’s take is far more lukewarm than most, even while taking a very positive view of the hardware. That’s why I included his review here. It’s good to take in differing viewpoints.

Andrew Cunningham- Ars Technica

The focus here is on the lovely screen and the promise of iOS 11 when it arrives in full.

David Pierce- Wired

Mr Pierce focuses a good bit on the amount of improvement in the new iPad Pros over their predecessors. He does also raise the point that the improvements in the hardware don’t mean as much until iOS 11 is released, and doesn’t recommend that existing users run out and buy one until time runs out on their current model.

John Gruber- Daring Fireball

What compendium of Apple reviews would be complete without hearing from Mr Gruber? His review is the one of the shorter of the group, but in a good way. He hits the highlights and gets right to the point. One place where he does provide some intriguing details is on processor performance, where he breaks down how well the iPad stacks up against the MacBook Pro in pure performance.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my first takes on both new iPad Pro models. As always, if you have any questions or requests while I am looking at Apple’s latest hardware, you can let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

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Post tags: 10.5, 12.9, iPad Pro, reviews

June 11 2017


Deals: Earhoox 2.0 for Apple EarPods and AirPods

Do you ever feel like your Apple EarPods or AirPods are just going to fall right out of your ears? Or DO they actually fall out on you? I’ve never had this issue, but my wife does, and I have heard from plenty of other users who have problems with this design, as well.

If you are one of the ones who Apple didn’t account for in their current earbud design, the Earhoox 2.0 may just be the solution for you. These simple and inexpensive silicone attachments give you the added security of an earhook, and come with two sizes in every pack to insure the best fit possible. The Earhoox 2.0 also come in your choice of white, black, or blue, in case you want to change the look of your all-white Apple buds up a bit.

The Earhoox 2.0 from Earhoox are available from our Deals site for only $14.99.

The Apple EarPods or AirPods you get with a new phone are all well and good – there’s a reason you’re still using them – but their major flaw is that they fall out from time to time when you move around too much. That’s why Earhoox were made. These simple silicone attachments were specifically designed for Apple EarPods and AirPods to create a more snug fit in your ears that will stand pat no matter how much you bob to the music. 

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Post tags: Airpods, earhoox, Earpods

June 09 2017


Apple Slices- WWDC Delivered the Goods

What a week it has been. Apple has definitely made the most of its time in the spotlight, grabbing the media’s attention and showing us that they can still innovate, be aggressive, and even listen to what users are asking for from time to time. While all may not be perfect, and there are still questions to answer, iOS 11 looks REALLY good, and the new iPad Pro features are a huge upgrade. As for the HomePod, let’s reserve judgement until we at lease see it in a closer to final form.

Beyond all the great software and hardware announcements, which I will get into in greater depth soon, there is other Apple news of note to look into. Let’s get to it.

Apple Updated Their iCloud Storage Tiers

Apple adjusted their iCloud storage plans, doing away with their 1 TB storage tier, which used to cost $9.99 per month. The 2 TB plan, which used to cost $19.99, has been moved down into the $9.99 slot to take its place. More importantly, however, is the fact that Apple finally allows the 200 GB and 2 TB plans to be shared via Family Sharing. This should encourage greater adoption of the higher storage tiers, and will bring the overall price per GB down for large families with multiple devices. Good move, Apple!!

Push Email for Gmail is Fixed for the Stock Mail App in iOS 11

I was happy to see this little nugget coming out from early adopters of the iOS 11 beta. I went back to the stock Mail app earlier this year, which works great with my work Exchange and personal iCloud accounts. My main personal account, however, is a Gmail account, which has been a bit of an issue. Emails show up every 15 minutes or so, but that still isn’t exactly ideal, especially if you are used to a third-party option like Outlook that DOES have push. Now, all of us Gmail users can take full advantage of the great features in Mail and get messages right as they roll in.

Apple is Getting Serious About HomeKit

One of the biggest complaints vendors have had about HomeKit was its onerous terms. They had to get MFi certification even for test devices, and all production devices had to have a dedicated authentication chip. During WWDC, Apple announced that it is taking some of the restraints off, which will allow a lot more creative freedom, not just for devs, but also for hobbyists.

First of all, Apple has opened up the testing of devices to anyone with a developer account. That takes a LOT of the restrictions off makers and designers in getting a concept ready to turn into a real product. Final sale products still have to be MFi, but this move will still enable faster development. Apple has also removed the requirement for an authentication chip. The security and licensing are now handled in software, meaning that existing devices may have the capability to add HomeKit compatibility if they are field-upgradeable. These are both very positive steps for the platform.

Even more interesting, however, is just how open Apple is allowing HomeKit to become. For hobbyists who want to create solutions HomeKit-enabled devices for themselves, all they need is a developer account. Apple is allowing the use of devices such as the Raspberry PI and the Arduino to prototype and create on, which is really cool. For those who care less about selling, and just want to create, this opens the door to a lot of possibilities. I can’t wait to see what comes of this, and I think I just might pick up a new PI and dabble a bit myself.

Apple’s New iMac’s are Upgradeable. Well, kind of.

Something is better than nothing, right? Apple has moved on from the practice of soldering memory in place and making processors more permanent in their new iMacs. Thanks to iFixit’s teardown of the new machine, we know that both the memory and the processor are now installed in standard sockets, meaning that they are upgradeable. Now, you have to open up your iMac (very carefully) and void your warranty in the process, but at least the potential to update these machines is now cheaper and easier for those who want to.

Apple’s Offload Apps Feature Allows Users to Remove Apps Without Losing Data

I’ve bees asking for this feature for a LONG time. In iOS 11, users can now manually “Offload” apps that they aren’t using to save space, or enable iOS to do this automatically for apps it detects aren’t being used at all. Your data will still be intact, so if you re-download the app, you will be right back where you were. Between their photo and video optimizations, iMessage’s new iCloud Sync capability that can store old conversations in the cloud and this new feature, Apple has really shown a commitment to giving users better control over their storage space.

The Wall Street Journal Pulls the Curtain Back on Apple’s Problems with Siri

It isn’t pretty, but it is good reading. The WSJ’s article, entitled I’m Not Sure I Understand- How Apple’s Siri Lost Her Mojo has sourced quotes and information from many named and un-named sources with inside knowledge of the issues and struggles with leadership and vision that have surrounded Siri. It paints a picture of missed opportunity, and in some ways, outright mismanagement.

Where the Siri team is and how they feel at this moment isn’t really conveyed here. We know that Apple has pushed forward on machine learning and AI initiatives to strengthen Siri. However, the article certainly gives us a good idea of why Apple is scrambling to play catch-up.

Required Watching- 9to5Mac Has an Excellent Video Showing ALL of iOS 11’s New Features

Jeff Benjamin of 9to5Mac did a fabulous job running down 100 changes and features in iOS 11 across both the iPhone and iPad. The video clocks in at almost 28 minutes, which is substantial. However, he really does a great job of showing off how a lot of the new features work, so it is worth the time to take it all in. And, if you have only seen the Keynote, you will likely be impressed with several nice iOS 11 features that didn’t make the stage. This year’s update feels a lot more substantial once you see all of the changes and features like this.

A Couple of the Usual Suspects Got to Take a Listen to the HomePod

Both Jason Snell and Jim Dalrymple posted write-ups detailing their experience hearing the HomePod for the first time. Both offer very good takes on it. Neither gentleman was allowed to touch it or use Siri, but they were able to listen and get a feel for how it adjusts sound to a room and processes for the space that it’s in. There are still unanswered questions on the HomePod, but for now, it’s good to hear that it is capable of producing high-quality audio.

Apple is Full Steam Ahead on Health, Hires Executive Director of Stanford’s Center for Digital Health

Apple has hired Sumbul Desai, the Executive Director of Stanford University’s Center for Digital Health. While she will still maintain some duties at Stanford, Ms Desai will serve in what is termed a “senior role” at Apple. She is no stranger to Apple products, as according to CNBC, she headed up a project involving the Apple Watch at the Center for Digital Health. This sounds like yet another great hire for Apple, and a sign that they are very serious about the areas of health and fitness.

This is by NO MEANS all of the Apple news at the moment, but these were some of the more interesting stories and features that are trickling out of the developer portions of WWDC and elsewhere around the web. Expect a steady stream of more news and analysis over the weekend and everyone tries to digest what has been a jam-packed week of Apple Everything.

Also, stay tuned next week for new iPad Pro reviews. I have a 10.5 on order, and it should be in my hands by the middle of next week. Like I’ve been doing with the AirPods, I will likely do more short write-ups of my impressions of the device and its stand-out features. And as always, if anyone has any specific questions or requests, I will be happy to oblige.

Happy Friday everyone!

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Post tags: Gmail, homekit, homepod, iCloud, imac, ios 11, siri, sumbul densai, wsj

June 08 2017


Apple is Doubling Down on Music, and Spotify Should Take Notice

Source: Apple.com

This has been building since Apple’s acquisition of Beats in 2014, but after WWDC, I think things are starting to come into clearer focus. Apple is now transitioning from dominating the declining business of purchasing music to dominating multiple areas in the field. But it goes deeper than that. They are building toward something. I think they are currently moving their chess pieces across the board to set up a final checkmate on the big-label recording industry, which will in turn, squeeze competitors like Spotify in ways they will have difficulty combating.

Drop the Beat

Source: Apple.com

Beats was the first dominoe to fall, but so far Apple hasn’t radically re-invented the company. Yet. We have actually seen a few more Beats products that garner positive reviews over the past two years, and there is now some obvious cross-pollination between the Apple and Beats brands, with the same W1 chip in the AirPods showing up in the BeatsX, Beats Solo3, and Powerbeats3. I think we will continue to see this kind of parallel development, with Apple covering multiple bases, branding and tuning devices suited to different kinds of users, and hitting different price points.

However, the most important thing that came with the Beats acquisition was even more industry credibility, especially with artists. Case in point, HBO is running a commercial right now for a new four-part documentary called The Defiant Ones, which is all about Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre. Now that’s the right kind of publicity. Apple didn’t just buy a speaker and headphone company with a fledgling streaming music service in Beats. Apple bought the influence that these two guys have thoughout not just the world of music, but also popular culture at large. The artist lineup for this documentary includes Bono, Eminem, Nas, Ice Cube, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Snoop Dogg and Bruce Springsteen. Think about the breadth that this group spans in terms of both time and music styles. That’s just the tip of the iceburg of musical giants who these two have worked with. At the end of the day, it all comes back to Iovine. He had the foresight to back Dre early on in his career, and the two teamed up to forge a $3 billion empire. Apple bought THAT.

It’s Not Just About the Music

Apple Music was the absolute worst kept secret in the industry before it arrived. As soon as Apple acquired Beats, everyone KNEW a streaming service was coming. Despite some first-year growing pains and confusion over how Apple’s various music products work together, they came through with solid early growth. After last year’s complete revamp of the app, Apple Music really hit its stride. The app is much easier to use, music is easy to search for and access, and Beats’ specialties, their curated playlists and Beats One Radio, are easy to find and use. I use it, and I’m very happy with it.

Despite Apple Music’s fast improvement, implementation across Apple’s popular platforms, and relatively fast rise to second place in streaming music, they are still WELL behind Spotify. According to this article from Business Insider, they have a little more than half as many subscribers as Spotify as of today. On the surface, this could be seen as a problem. Even though Apple Music is generally well-reviewed now, its subscription rates are very similar, and its music catalog just as big, they aren’t catching up in this two horse race.

If I am right about what Apple is up to, this numbers disparity won’t matter in the end. The important thing for Apple was to become number two in streaming in short order, and they accomplished that goal very quickly. No other music subscription service is really within striking distance at this point, and only Amazon through their popular Prime service, is likely capable of mounting some kind of assault on them. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon can all afford to keep services that don’t make a lot of money or have a ton of subscribers around because of how big they are, but everyone else in the streaming business but Spotify is headed off a cliff in the near future. Based on the numbers in this excellent article from Christina Warren, SoundCloud may be first, and it may not be long.

Hit them Where They Aren’t

How do you battle an opponent that has an overwhelming advantage in one area? You don’t fight them head-on there. You take the battle elsewhere, and give yourself a better chance to win by dictating the terms of the engagement. For all of Spotify’s subscribers and popularity, they have some glaring weaknesses. First of all, they have no other business but music streaming. Secondly, their only real leverage is their subscriber base. The recording industry doesn’t like them, and they aren’t the behemoth that Apple is, so they don’t have as much weight to combat that ill will. Artists dislike them even more because they are currently the big face of the music streaming industry that doesn’t pay them enough for their music.

Lastly, and most importantly, they don’t make money. Even with over 50 million subscribers, Spotify isn’t profitable yet. When you are taking on literally the most sucessful company in the history of capitalism, that could become a problem. Spotify is exposed until they can prove to investors that they have a long and profitable future, and the fact that they keep delaying their coming IPO has raised eyebrows as to why. The point here is this- without solid profits, Spotify doesn’t have the ability to grow and expand into other parallel ventures to strengthen their core business. Right now, they are dependent on the labels, on the artists not revolting against them, and on Google and Amazon continuing to give them the equal footing on their devices that Apple doesn’t.

Apple is Hitting its Stride in Wearables

This is should concern Spotify and others like them if they are forward-thinking. Apple has already done to other smartwatches and fitness bands what it did to tablets with the iPad. It moved in and took over with ruthless efficiency. Other products will always exist, but Apple OWNS both of these spaces.

Source: Apple.com

So, what does this have to do with Music? I might have asked the same thing until the AirPods came along. Actually, I would have kept saying it until I actually GOT my AirPods, because many of us don’t understand the allure until we actually use them. I was like that. I wasn’t sure that I would be keeping them when I ordered them, but after a few weeks, I am totally sold. I use them ALL THE TIME. I have them with me in my pocket EVERY DAY. I just finished listening to music for three hours straight with them while writing. They are just so damn easy to use, and they actually do sound good. Trust me, while they aren’t perfect, they are a LOT better than the EarPods they resemble.

So Apple has a slow-burn hit smartwatch that is selling better than anyone expected after dismissing it at launch, and now they have a product that looks like a bona fide hit that they can’t keep in stock after several months on the market. How do these things fit together? What did Apple do on stage during the watchOS portion of the Keynote? They started talking about how well the Watch and the AirPods work together. Why? What is the number one purpose of wearables- fitness. What do people do while they are working out? They listen to MUSIC. What does the Watch now do inside of the Workouts app? It serves up playlists and music to fit your workout from within the app- using Apple Music.

Apple just has two major wearable products so far, but they are already linking them together in the minds of customers. I can tell you from experience that, aside from the on-stage sales pitch and coming features in watchOS 4, the iPhone, Watch, AirPods, and Apple Music already form a really nice, tight little ecosystem. They already work together almost seamlessly. I typically use my Watch to control my music while using my AirPods because I can use either Hey Siri or the Music App on the Watch without interrupting my listening at all. My iPhone stays in my pocket while I’m at the store or up moving around, and it all “just works.” Even Siri works well with the Watch and the AirPods, thanks to their mics, at least for music control.

Apple is still early on in this game, and they already have something compelling growing here. However, I think they are playing this pretty smart right now. They aren’t actively overselling any of it yet. They are letting it all come together, piece by piece. Users like me and others are singing the praises of how these gadgets and services work together, but other than a few bits here and there at the Keynote, they aren’t overplaying their hand yet. They are letting the success, reviews, and sales of all three do the talking right now.

However, that will eventually change. Apple is eventually going to expand this lineup of wearables, and if subsequent products are as good and as successful as the first two, it is going to become a problem for other companies. Wearables aren’t unattainably expensive, and they are EXCELLENT gateway drugs into a ecosystem. In Apple’s case, a proprietary ecosystem. Many tech fans tend to frown heavily on anything proprietary, but this has its advantages. Proprietary systems are far easier to tightly integrate, and that is what Apple is doing right now. When everyday users see that kind of ease of use, it sells.

The Home Front

Source: Apple.com

In an article I wrote about Siri yesterday, I expressed skepticism about how Apple positioned the HomePod during its announcement. They went to such lengths to position the device as a high-end wireless speaker and really downplayed the intelligent aspects of Siri as a home-based voice assistant. Only the HomeKit integration seemed to be touted in terms of what Siri can do beyond being an amazing voice remote and “Musicologist.”

However, after thinking about what Apple is doing with music right now, my opinion has been altered a bit. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the marketing of the HomePod has more to do with Apple strengthening its music lineup than covering for Siri’s weaknesses. Think back to what Tim Cook said right before he unveiled the name. He made a direct link between the iPhone and AirPods as a portable music system and the HomePod and Apple Music as an in-home system.

There are a lot of first-take articles out there with a negative view of the HomePod’s chances to gain ground against against Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home. They mostly hammer away on two points- that it only works with Apple Music (at least for now), and it’s $329 price tag. While $329 is quite a bit more expensive than any of Amazon or Google’s assistant products, that price is very much in line with prices of similar speaker products. As for the Apple Music limitation, I think we all know that’s by design.

It all comes down to whether Apple can deliver on both the sound quality they sold us at WWDC, and whether Siri can hold up her end of the bargain. This all remains to be seen, and nothing is guaranteed to Apple here. However, I can also remember reading MANY negative opinions from writers who saw the AirPods as too ugly, and figured they would sound like wireless EarPods that cost $150 right after Apple showed them off. Then they were delayed, and I think a lot of people just wrote them off. Sight unseen, they were fairly easy to dismiss. I did. Considering that, I’m going to keep an open mind on the HomePod until I can try it and buy it. If it provides an experience anything close to the experience that the AirPods do, then it will sell. The important thing about that is every Spotify users who buys one is switching to Apple Music when they do.

Watch, AirPod, and HomePod sales aren’t going to relieve Spotify of masses of users. However, they are going to take SOME. And they will do it in such a way that Spotify has no real defense for. They will never have the capital to play in these spaces, and they are reliant on others to keep them viable in the home. If Apple can start to chip away at these areas through their large music ecosystem, then the Apple and Spotify’s subscriber numbers should start growing towards each other, rather than apart.

The Final Battle

In my opinion, Apple is building up their arsenal for a war against the music industry as we know it. This is the real battle that’s coming, and Spotify will only be one part of it. Beats, Apple Music, the iPhone, the Watch, the AirPods, HomePod- all together these are convincing weapons, and I don’t think Apple is done building up their warchest yet, either. But at the head of this buildup are the two gentlemen who are about to star in a show on HBO. They are the ones who will lead this fight.

Take a look at what Apple is doing in video right now. Other than Planet of the Apps (which is still drawing negative reviews right and left) ALL of the other content they are buying and creating has one focus- music. Carpool Karaoke. Artist Documentaries. Dr Dre’s Vital Signs. Clive Davis’ Documentary. Also, think about where the content lives right now. Not in the TV or Videos app. It’s in Apple Music.

This is not an accident. Apple is reaching out to artists and people in the industry and showcasing them with video content. Music is already a stronghold for Apple, so it makes sense that they would start dabbling in video content there. However, I don’t think this is the only reason for what Apple is doing. Keep watching, because there’s going to be a steadily growing stream of these kinds of shows from Apple. Will they be massive hits? Probably not. But you know who this will have an impact on- Artists and influencers. Apple is positioning to become THE company that showcases artists and takes care of them. This is what Jimmy Iovine DOES, and he does it better than anyone.

Why is this important? Because when Apple decides to cut the legs out from under the records labels and starts going direct to major artists, and I believe that they will in the next 3-5 years, it will be the relationships that they build and the credibility that they have that will win out. A lot of people in both the tech and music industries also think that this is where Apple is currently headed. If they can take major artists away from labels, then it could change the landscape of the music industry even more than iTunes did. It could be a complete reset of how the business works.

If Apple has success doing this, then all of the major tech players will follow suit. It will be open season on the labels. They can’t compete with Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, and I would bet that all of the above would be snapping up music talent right and left once the dam starts to crack. However, none of them will have quite the package that Apple will. Their focus on music right now is going to pay off when this goes down, and they stand the best chance of coming out on top when it all shakes out.

You know who loses this war? The record labels, Spotify, and anyone else not listed above. If this were to occur, both Spotify and the labels’ best chances for survival would be finding a dance partner listed above. They depend on a business model that could cease to exist just as quickly as Spotify became the most popular music streaming service. The old music business model already has visible cracks, and Apple already had to come in and prop up with iTunes and the iPod years ago. But the equilibrium that Apple brought to the industry has been destroyed by streaming. Across the board, artists generally aren’t happy with the current state of the music industry, and with what they get paid for streaming music. The entire music industry is ripe for a shake-up, and if Apple has its way, it will be one for the books.

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Post tags: apple music, homepod, siri, spotify


Deals- Adonis Switch 2-in-1 Stylus & Pen and 2 BIG Giveaways Ending Very Soon!

I love my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but let’s face it, neither is exactly inexpensive, and not everyone needs or wants this setup. For those with a different model of iPad or an iPhone who would still like to take advantage of a stylus, the Adonit Switch is a superb choice. It is versatile, inexpensive, and far more precise than most standard capacitive styli.

You know the kind I’m talking about. The plastic or metal stick with a kindergarten crayon tip on the end that’s absolutely useless. The Switch’s Precision Disk creates an exact contact point, giving you the same level of precision as a Bluetooth or Active Capactitive Stylus, without the much higher price tag.

Oh, and the Adonit Switch also happens to have a built-in ballpoint pen, making it a writing instrument for all occasions. Sporting a sleek aluminum body and compatibility with all capacitive screen phones or tablets, including all Android devices, this is a perfect companion for any mobile device user.

The Adonit Switch 2-in-1 Stylus and Pen is available from our Deals site for a low $19.99 in either Black or Silver.

Our Deals site also has two HUGE Giveaways that are about to wrap up. First off, ending in less than five hours is the Binge Watchers Giveaway, which includes a 50″ VIZIO SmartCast UHD TV and an Apple TV. Don’t delay. Jump on this one right away.

Ending tomorrow is our Deals Site’s Nintendo Switch Giveaway. This sleeper hit gaming console is still incredibly hard to find, and based on some recent stories about Nintendo having to compete with Apple and other phone manufacturers for components, it may continue to be for a LONG time to come. Why not take a shot a winning one and save yourself the time, money, and trouble?

What do you have to lose? Enter both Giveaways to win RIGHT NOW!!

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Post tags: adonit, Apple TV, nintendo switch, stylus, switch, VIZIO

June 07 2017


proKeyboard, New app for Professional iPad Users


Prokeyboard it’s a complete multilingual typing keyboard. It has many features designed specifically for iPad intensive professional users like:

– Advanced gestures for faster typing.
– Thesaurus to improve your writing.
– A complete math keyboard with symbols, a big numpad, subscripts, superscripts and Greek alphabet.
– Embedded calendar.
– Editable common phrases panel.
– Emoji toolbar.
– Editable user lexicon.
– 9 vibrant styles and two different layouts.
– Split layout.

Apart from the previous features, one of the most interesting characteristic is the physical keyboard layout, with numbers on the top row, and an ALT key to access to special characters and the keyboard functions.

For people with big hands there is also an upgraded ios-like layout with al the man features, the alt key, and a quick access to the #+= symbols.

Let’s now describe with more detail some of the main features of this keyboard.

First, the layout, it’s amazing how many thing can fit in this keyboard without looking overloaded. With one click, you have access to numbers, your favorite emojis, and all the symbols you are used to with your windows or mac desktop keyboard.

If you need it you can also have cursor arrows just by swiping over the alt key … But I Prefer to have the keyboard more clean and usually have them hidden.

The multilingual typing feature it’s very impressive, it accept six simultaneous languages. Sometimes it works even better than the apple multilingual typing feature.

With this features activated, and the emojis toolbar, you don’t really need to have activated more keyboard on iOS settings panel. One of the things I didn’t liked of the iOS keyboard is that, if you have more than one language, you have to go thought all of the keyboards to show the emoji keyboard.

The emoji toolbar it’s also very useful. It has 60 emojis accessible by one click and it’s completely customizable. Just press slightly the emoji and a new big panel will open with all the emojis for you to select.

If you need uncommon emoji, you can always show the complete emoji panel by swiping up on the favorites toolbar, or by click on alt+o.

Another interesting feature are the gestures. All the keyboard it’s flooded with them. The most used it’s the “swipe down to delete the last word”. Once you use this gesture for more than two days it become completely natural, to the point that I can’t use no more the default iOS keyboard. Another helpful gestures are swipe left to delete last sentence, swipe left to undo, press during 0.5 second on any key to see special characters like subscription or superscript of the key, swipe left on the alt key to show/hide cursor arrows, swipe down no any toolbar to hide… And many more.

If you want to insert a date, or simply need to see the calendar, you can open the calendar panel by tapping alt+m. Once opened the panel you tap on the day you want and the keyboard will insert the date. To select the date format simply press during 1 second the day and it will show you four different formats.

PROKEYBOARD has many more features, a good settings panel, and works without “full access” so you don’t have to worry about privacy.

In short, PRO KEYBOARD is one of the best keyboard available on the apple store. It’s clear that it has been designed with care and with professional users in mind. It’s very complete, yet really easy to use. It’s definitely a good buy.

Personal Bio

I’m a civil engineer from Spain working in Westinghouse Nuclear. During my free time I’ve been developing this keyboard. I started this app by necessity. I write very fast and hated a new feature of the ios keyboard. When you type with two fingers, all the sentence is selected, and if you write very quick you type the next letter without nothing it and delete the complete phrase .. Very frustrating.

Raul Monterroso Cabello
Madrid (Spain)

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What We Didn’t Get at WWDC

As wonderful as it was to get all of the goodies that Apple sent our way on Monday, there are always a few items left off the list, and rumors that don’t come true. The following is a list of some of the more prominent items that Apple didn’t mention during the WWDC Keynote.

Home Screen Upgrades

This is the last remaining vestige of the original iPhone OS. The static Home Screen made up of stationary icons is simultaneously a trademark of iOS and a stone around its neck. How does Apple reimagine or reinvent the Home Screen without seriously altering a piece of their prime OS’s identity? It’s not a problem I would want to have to tackle, but unfortunately, no one at Apple seems willing to, either.

It looks as if Apple currently sees 3D Touch as a way to breathe new life into the Home Screen, but almost three years after its release, it still isn’t available on a large number of Apple’s mobile devices. That, combined with the fact that TouchID can be easy to miss and easy to forget keeps the iOS Home Screen at the top of every features wishlist.

3D Touch on iPad

I think many of us Apple bloggers have given up on this possible feature at this point. The iPad Pros already come with a big price tag, so Apple adding their Taptic technology to a bigger screen would probably cost more than it would be worth. However, this also begs the question- if Apple sees 3D Touch as the future of the iOS Home Screen, what does that mean for the iPad?

We may have actually gotten the beginnings of an answer yesterday. The user interface of the iPad is beginning to diverge away from the iPhone in a very obvious and meaningful way. If that continues, then the issue of no 3D Touch on the iPad could just fade away. At some point, Apple may take the Home Screens of each device category in unique and different directions. In fact, that probably makes a lot more sense in the long term. So, while this often gets mentioned as a missing feature of iOS, we may see it drop off lists like this one in the future.

Taptic Home Button on iPad

While 3D Touch on the iPad may not be realistic, I’m legitimately surprised that Apple didn’t make the easier move to make the iPad’s Home Button equivalent to the latest iPhones. This likely wouldn’t have been as expensive or difficult of an add, but it also isn’t a a make or break feature. The best thing about the solid state Home Button is its inherent durability, but thanks to all of the gesture and motion additions to iOS on the iPad over the last couple of versions, the Home Button doesn’t take as much wear here as to does on the iPhone.

Smart Keyboard Re-Design

I’m on the record about my dislike of Apple’s Smart Keyboard. However, I know many users are fond of it because of its slim profile and ease of use. However, at over two years old with the release of a new and improved iPad Pro, I was thinking Apple might at least spruce the design up a bit, if not make more sweeping changes. I guess this will have to wait for next year. Thankfully, third-parties will be there to fill the void for us in the meantime.

Full iOS Control Center Customization

While the changes to Control Center look like a big step in the right direction, Apple still hasn’t completely handed over the keys, quite yet. While it wasn’t discussed in detail on stage, you can set up shortcuts for the following apps and settings in Control Center:

  • Accessibility Shortcuts
  • Alarm
  • Apple TV Remote
  • Calculator
  • Camera
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving
  • Flashlight
  • Guided Access
  • Home
  • Low Power Mode
  • Magnifier
  • Notes
  • Screen Recording
  • Stopwatch
  • Text Size
  • Timer
  • Voice Memo
  • Wallet

While this is a fairly impressive list, and is big improvement, Control Center still isn’t the completely customizeable solution that many have asked for over the last three years. We don’t have complete choice of the apps and settings that can be shown quite yet, and we can’t manually arrange all of the elements in Control Center yet, either. However, I don’t think we can complain too much about what we got here.

No Notification Center Updates

Apple started down the road of making Notification Center more usable in iOS 10, but we didn’t get any real updates this year. Apple merged Notification Center and the Lock Screen, but that’s about it. While last years updates were a solid improvement, Apple is definitely behind Google when it comes to managing notifications, so this will need to be a focus again in iOS 12.

No Mac Pro Discussion

We got the iMac Pro, which looks to be a wickedly bad machine, and in the best way possible. However, after Apple’s out of character mea culpa on the Mac Pro’s design and lack of updates a couple of months ago, I expected them to give a sneak peek on where they are taking the next version at WWDC. Since the iMac Pro looks like a more than adequate stop-gap until Apple is ready to show us something, I have no complaints. However, there are pro users out there who would rather go with a machine that has a modular design, and I’m sure they would like to hear something sooner, rather than later.

Split-Screen Multitasking on the Plus iPhones

Here is another feature that most of us probably don’t expect Apple to give us, but still shows up on a lot of feature wishlists. As a Plus user the last three years, I for one would LOVE to see split-screen multitasking come to the iPhont 7 Plus. This is another one of those features is widely available on Android, that Apple would be smart to adopt. Like Apple Pencil support for the iPhone, this is a feature that might show up when the iPhone 8 is released as an iPhone-specific power feature. Apple always holds a couple of those in reserve.

Apple Watch Watchface Customization

Apple keeps spoon-feeding us new Watchfaces at each event, but would giving users a little freedom to create their own from the ground up be such a bad thing? If that is a bridge too far for Apple, a great compromise would be for them to open up Watchface creation to developers, and curate them in the App Store to insure that they are up to the their high standards. I think a lot of users would be very happy with this as a way to further customize their Watches.

Full Siri Text Query Support

We heard rumors that this feature was coming in iOS 11, and there were also patent filings relating to the use of iMessage to send queries to Siri via text. Either or both may appear at a later date, but for now Apple has stopped short of this, adding Text to Siri as an Accessibility feature only. If the feature is turned on in the Accessibility Settings, then Siri voice queries are completely disabled in favor of a text entry box that appears when Siri is triggered.

First off, I am not complaining about this Accessibility feature. In fact, kudos to Apple for their ever-present focus on making iOS a friendly environment for users with all kinds of special needs. However, I personally think that the ability to enter text queries to Siri should be an ever-present part of iOS. There are plenty of instances where voice queries are either not appropriate or not allowed. Rather than have this feature controlled by a Settings toggle, I hope Apple will fully bake this capability into iOS soon.

I’m sure there are other features that also didn’t make the cut, but these are just some of the biggest. Just like an NCAA Basketball Tournament, where there are always teams on the bubble that get left out, this is just how it goes. Apple can’t do it all. However, this a great way to start talking about what we will want to see when iOS 12 comes around a year from now. Until then, if you have a feature that was left out of this year’s WWDC, feel free to let me know in the Comments, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

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Post tags: 3d touch, control center, imac pro, ios 11, mac pro, notification center, WWDC

June 06 2017


So is Siri Actually Better Now?

In my recent article Taking Siri Seriously, I made the comment that if Apple was releasing a Siri-equipped speaker product into the world, then it would surely be a sign that all is now right with the world’s first mobile digital assistant. They wouldn’t make another “Maps” error. They wouldn’t blindly release another product like that into the world. As the afterglow of yesterday’s WWDC Keynote fades and the reality-distortion dissipates, now I’m not as convinced.

Apple’s massive 2 1/2 hour data dump certainty accomplished goal one of flipping the media’s script yesterday. ALL of the talk today is about what Apple is doing and how they are doing it. They absolutely NAILED that. However, at the end of the day, what did we really learn about Siri in iOS 11?

Razzle Dazzle

I can’t help but think back to Richard Gere’s performance in the movie Chicago right now. “Give’em the old Razzle Dazzle….” Is that what happened yesterday? I just re-watched that segment of the Keynote and went back over my notes, and here is what we actually learned about Siri yesterday:

  • Siri is available in 21 languages in 36 countries. This is already one of Siri’s few advantages, so it makes sense to point it out.
  • Siri has a new voice, in male and female versions. They do sound better.
  • Siri can now translate (In Beta)- Sounds like they are leveraging the point above. Google already does this, but its good to see Apple using one of its advantages to catch up a bit.
  • The visual interface goes deeper and offers additional information. It has follow-up questions and can provide multiple answers. This was glossed over very quickly, so we don’t yet know if this is something significant, or Apple stretching to fill a slide and some time.
  • SiriKit in iOS 11- It sounds like more apps can make use of Siri now, but other than a few specific mentions, we don’t know very much about how far Siri has been opened up yet. OmniFocus 2, Citi Mobile, Evernote, Things 3, and WeChat were specifically mentioned, but can ANY app integrate with Siri now? If so, I’m surprised Apple didn’t make a bigger deal of it.
  • Apple specifically mentioned that processing is done on device, and touted their commitment to privacy. If Siri improves, this will be a strength. Until then, it’s still just a talking point.
  • Siri is now synced across devices, so like iMessages, Photos, and some Machine Learning tasks, even though the processing is done on-device, all devices share in what they others have been doing. This actually is a legitimate improvement that should make the experience between the iPhone, iPad, and Mac more uniform.

As soon as the Siri portion of the iOS 11 presentation ended, I wrote in my notes, “I hope that isn’t it.” Well, not completely. Siri also showed up a few other places during the presentation:

  • The new Siri Watchface in watchOS 4.
  • Siri is now going to serve up apps and detail in the Watch’s re-designed Dock.
  • Siri and Machine Learning were often used together or interchangeably, as in the discussions about Photos and Memories, and also those on surfacing info through the OS when you need it. This is a positive, but doesn’t really help to fix anything to do with Siri’s own interface and query responses, though.
  • Siri got a lot of stage time during the HomePod presentation. Evidently Siri knows a ton about music now, so there’s that. We’ll get to this in a bit.

Ok, I’ll admit that Apple has definitely done some work on Siri and added new features. It is now more of a noticeable component in Apple’s Machine Learning and AI efforts, as well. That’s all well and good…….however…..

Has Siri Actually Improved?

Only one of the new features discussed has the potential to make Siri’s core functionality as a voice assistant better in the short term, and at no time during the 2 1/2 hours on stage were Siri’s weaknesses mentioned. There were no admissions. No assurances of real improvement where users really want it. It was the elephant on the stage, and again like Richard Gere in Chicago, Craig Federighi artfully tapdanced around it.

Unfortunately for Apple, all the new features in the world can’t fix Siri not understanding you when you need it to. They can’t even out the experience between the AirPods and Apple Watch and other devices that don’t have mics that are tuned to work with voice queries. They can’t make Siri’s contextual awareness consistent, and they definitely can’t help it deliver a straight (and correct) answer instead of a wall of text. These are the very well documented weaknesses of Siri that Apple hasn’t adequately addressed since its release six years ago. In my opinion, Apple gave us no indication on that stage that any major changes that would affect the issues above are in store.

So What Happens to HomePod?

The Siri discussion during the HomePod presentation was kind of strange. First, Apple went to GREAT lengths to let us know this device is about music delivery first and foremost. The first mention of Siri as a “Musicologist” kind of cemented that for me. I mean, sure, it’s great that Siri now knows a lot more about music. I love the fact that it will be able to give us real answers about musical questions and, and thanks to all of the information that Apple can gather from Apple Music, the answers should actually be correct. On my second watch of the Keynote, I also noticed the nice dig Phil Schiller got on Amazon Alexa, specifically pointing out that you don’t have to memorize specific queries or commands. Get them where you can, Apple.

Things kind of went off the rails for me after that. Home Assistant was literally the last item on the list of HomePod features, and it was framed in such a way as to make it sound like an afterthought. The list of available “domains” also made it clear that Apple is putting heavy restrictions on what Siri can do through the HomePod. This is somewhere between what’s available via Siri on the Apple TV, and what you can do on the iPhone. Search and asking questions outside of core competencies such as News and Sports are not included. I guess this is smart, since we know how today’s Siri would perform if it’s full feature set was available. However, this is a glaring weakness next to Google Home, and one that won’t go unnoticed.

Mountains or Mole Hills?

Am I reading too much into all this? Maybe. I honestly hope so. No one wants Siri to work better more than I do. I am on the go all the time, and I still use it a fair amount. However, even though I have stuck with it all this time, and even though it works better with my AirPods, I still don’t trust it. I haven’t in a long time. Does anyone still trust Siri at this point?

The issue I have with Apple’s presentation is that they spent part of their time gleefully raising general expectations that Siri is getting better and that Machine Learning will save the day, and the rest dancing around the problems and subtly lowering expectations and limiting exposure. NONE of this makes a statement that Apple accepts that Siri still has major shortcomings, that they own that, and that they are actively and aggressively being addressed.

I have been under the assumption that Apple would never repeat the mistake of Apple Maps. I thought that there is no way they could have enough hubris to go down that road again. However, they didn’t see the negative press bonanza that was the new MacBook Pro and Touch Bar coming ahead of time, either. That was obvious, and the real embarrassment of it was that some of their biggest fans and most known power users were the ones calling them out. Sometimes I worry that, if the guys underneath Tim Cook can’t see the rocks ahead, maybe some of them don’t have the vision to be involved in steering the company.

Again, I could be wrong. I may be overreacting. Be sure that this is NOT an “Apple is Doomed!!!!!” diatribe. So much of what Apple presented at WWDC was very strong, and showed that they can still be aggressive, and that they do have vision beyond the iPhone and the Mac. Their focus on AR and Machine Learning was clear, and I think it will pay off big time for them in the years to come. Apple taking the reigns off the iPad also shows that some parts of the company ARE listening to what users want.

However, the problems with and weaknesses of Siri still remain today. Will they be gone by December? Did anything in the Keynote make you think that they will? Like they did with Maps, Apple is striking out into new and occupied territory with the HomePod. Despite how they position it as a speaker first, if the assistant features don’t work, users will move on to Amazon and Google. Siri already has one or two strikes with a LOT of Apple users. If they roll out the HomePod and Siri doesn’t get the job done yet again, these people aren’t coming back. This wouldn’t spell doom for Apple by any means, but it would be an unnecessary and very unfortunate self-inflicted wound.

What do you think about Siri? Did the WWDC Keynote satisfy you that Siri is improving, and that Apple has it on the right track, or do you feel more like me? Let me know in the Comments below, on Flipboard, our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

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Post tags: home assistant, homepod, machine learing, siri, WWDC


Some of the Major Themes of Yesterday’s WWDC Keynote

It’s a Good Day to be an iPad User!

The iPad has been at a crossroads for a couple of years now. Since the original iPad Pro didn’t move the sales needle, it has felt a little like Apple has been marking time while they came up with a Plan B on how to jumpstart things. Part one came with the release of the rolled back, but less expensive iPad this Spring. While it was a solid device that fit a need in Apple’s tablet lineup, it was hard to tell too much based on such a modest start down a different path.

That all changed when Apple pulled back the curtain on the new master plan yesterday, however. Right after the release of the iPad Pro, they tried to position it as a laptop replacement, then more recently they cast it as something different, but better. Now we finally see some real vision, and more importantly, ACTION behind the words. With the addition of greatly enhanced multitasking, app switching and grouping, drag and drop, and a real file system, the iPad Pro is now poised to REALLY get to work. Combine these new features with deeper Apple Pencil integration and some serious power, and Apple now has a much different machine to take to market.

How receptive the market is to these changes remains to be seen, but after today there can be no doubt that Apple still sees that iPad as a large part of its future plans. I think this also proves that the restraints are off the iOS team in terms of blurring the lines between macOS and iOS, at least on the iPad.

Apple is Embracing Reality

The virtual and augmented kinds. Today was the first mention of VR that I can remember at an Apple event. It wasn’t just mentioned, either. Apple drove the point home that their platforms now have the power to handle both using it and developing for it. That is a key point, because that ability had been brought into question as the first wave of VR Headsets hit the market. They very clearly are interested in positioning the Mac as a legitimate development platform in that space, which wouldn’t have even been a consideration for devs a few months ago.

The AR presentation was even more important. It is incredibly clear now that Apple sees Augmented Reality as one of their core technologies going forward. The smartest thing they did was getting ARKit put together now and in developers’ hands, rather than waiting for the Fall or even later. Now, when the new iPhones come out, there will be games and other apps that harness AR available day one.

While they are really just setting the table for developers, rather than taking the bull by the horns themselves right now, I think Apple believes that AR will provide the shot in the arm that the App Store needs. If it works, they will also benefit from learning how both users and devs use and work with AR, which can inform their later AR-centric hardware decisions. I like how pro-active this move was, rather than waiting longer and being more reactive to the market.

Machine Learning was a Constant Theme

I was wondering if Apple would have a segment discussing their Machine Learning initiatives at WWDC. However, rather than give a single presentation on what they’re up to, Apple’s presenters touched on Machine Learning SEVERAL times throughout the entire event. Machine Learning is part of their updates to Siri and key to the new ways it will be used, such as the new Siri Watchface on Apple Watch and the new watchOS Dock. Machine Learning also featured prominently in the presentations of macOS Safari tracking prevention, Photos, the iPhone Camera, Apple News, Maps, iMessage App surfacing, and spelling suggestions, just to name a few.

As positive as it is hear Apple name-drop Machine Learning all over the place, the more important announcement was that they are opening up Machine Learning APIs to developers using Core ML. They went all out on this, touting hardware and on-device speed advantages of the iPhone 7 over the Google Pixel, as well as Apple’s concern about preserving user privacy in this space. It remains to be seen if or how quickly devs will tap into Apple’s Machine Learning capabilities, but if they do, it will bring Apple a new flow of raw data that they’ve never had before.

Depending on how these APIs work, this could give Apple’s AI initiatives a big boost, and be a win-win-win for them, developers, and users. Opening up their Machine Learning to devs certainly won’t get them close to the level of data that Google and Microsoft have, but it is a way that they can close the gap and improve their services over the long term.

Apple is Waging War on Device Storage Space Limitations

This was more subtle, but Apple made two announcements that pertain to cutting down on wasted storage space on your iOS devices in iOS 11. First of all, in moving iMessage fully to the cloud and syncing to your devices from a single source, they now have the ability to store older conversations there, keeping them off your devices. If you use photos, stickers, and effects heavily, this will be a welcomed change. I usually stick to text, myself, but I still currently have 522 MB of space on my iPhone devoted to iMessage. I’m sure I sit at the low end of the spectrum, but that’s still a lot of space devoted to texts. It’s great to see Apple finding solutions to small problems like these, rather than just throwing more on-device memory at it.

The other announcement was that Apple is switching iOS Camera video to the HEVC file format, and photos to HEIF. Both of these formats offer far better compression, with HEIF evidently cutting photo sizes in half. This is a very smart move, as even with great options like their own iCloud Photo Library and Google Photos available to sync and store your libraries in the cloud, people still want to keep a lot of their recent and favorite content locally. As you can see in the screenshot above, even with iCloud Phot Library’s Optimized Photo Storage feature turned on, I still have 42.37 GB of photo and video on my iPhone. That’s a LOT of space. By cutting the file sizes without sacrificing quality, Apple is again finding solid solutions rather than just trying to spec away the problem.

Apple Sherlocked Venmo and Sonos Today

Apple Pay direct payments has been rumored for a few months, so Venmo has had time to prepare. They knew this was coming. However, Apple positioning the new HomePod intelligent speaker so aggressively as a high-end, whole home audio system may have come as more of surprise to Sonos. They have integrated tightly with Apple devices for years and their products are sold in Apple Retail Stores….for now.

Apple hedged a bit on the intelligent assistant capabilities of Siri and the HomePod, focusing much more on the pair’s collaboration to bring your high quality audio. There was also a good bit said about HomeKit integration and the HomePod’s capability as a Home Automation hub. However, this presentation clearly wasn’t the shot across the bow of Amazon or Google, as much as it was Sonos’. If Apple delivers on the audio claims of the device, Sonos may be in real trouble, especially with a very reasonable price of $329.

These were some of the major themes and software and developer-focused announcements I noticed during yesterday’s presentation. I’ll be back later with a new Apple Slices devoted to all of the hardware announcements from the WWDC Keynote. Until then, if you have any thoughts or comments about these or any other items from WWDC, feel free to let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

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Post tags: apple pay direct, homepod, ios 11, iPad Pro, machine learning, siri, WWDC

June 05 2017


WWDC Liveblog

This is just a run-on list of all features and announcements at WWDC today. I will go back later and flesh some of the ideas and statements out, but for now, this is just a text flow of what’s happening in the live feed. If you want a quick and easy list of what was discussed, this should do the job.

If you have questions, hit me up @iPadInsightBlog on Twitter. 


  1. And I’m off to a poor start on my predictions right out of the gate. Apple is on stage talking about tvOS, which I predicted they would avoid yesterday.
  2. Ok, maybe not so bad. All they talked about was Amazon coming to Apple TV!
  3. This was front-loaded so it would be forgotten. 

watchOS 4

1. Watch faces

  • A new Siri Watchface with intelligent information and suggestions. 
  • Uses machine learning to adapt to your routines. 
  • This could be interesting IF….IF it works well. 
  • New Kailedesope Face
  • New Toy Story Character faces. This shows a nice, tight relationship with Disney.

2. New Fitness Notifications and Coaching

3. Workout App Enhancements

  • Easier to launch a workout.
  • Swimming tracking enhancements.
  • High Intensity Interval Training workouts added.
  • Multiple workouts in a single session.
  • 2 Way Real-Time data exchange with certain gym equipment- Really cool depending on how much it will be supported. Sounds good, at least. 

      4. Apple Music

      • Auto sync of music based on your preferences. 
      • Made to work well with AirPods. SMART MOVE!!
      • Can pair playlists with preferred workouts. You can also control the music from within the workout. Spotify can do some if this, but Apple’s ecosystem will allow them to go further. 

      5. New watchOS Dock

      6. The Siri Watchface integrates with Apple News to serve stories you are interested in. This is another smart addition. 

      7. Bluetooth integrations- Separate Glucose monitoring accessory specifically mentioned. Geared toward developers for integration to apps right now. No mention of any products that Apple is currently developing themselves.

      Very much what I expected. Nothing reveloutionary, but very positive and solid fitness-focuses additions. The Siri Watchface could be interesting if Apple delivers on improvements there.

      macOS- High Sierra 

      1. Safari

      • Enhanced JavaScript performance
      • Auto play blocking in Safari
      • Intelligent tracking prevention- Machine Learning again

      2. Mail

      • Improved search
      • Uses Spotlight
      • Split view for the compose menu
      • Uses less disk space

      3. Photos

      • Easier filtering
      • Better auto face detection
      • Face detection and definitions is now synced between devices
      • New editing tools- curve, color, and edits synced from photo tools back to Photos
      • Direct print services integrated into the OS.

      4. File System

      • File system improvements- Apple File System (APFS) is now default

      5. Video

      • 4K encoding support and hardware acceleration

      6. Graphics

      • Metal 2
      • Up to 10x improvement 
      • Improved debugging
      • Metal is being used for Machine Learning. Interesting.
      • Metal is opened up for external graphics through Thunderbolt 3.

      7. Pro Content Creation

      • Metal for VR. Interesting. The first time Apple has really mentioned VR at an event. 
      • Steam VR SDK is coming to Mac
      • Unreal Engine is coming to Mac for VR, as well. 
      • It’s interesting to see that Apple is now paying attention to VR.

      As always, the update will be free.

      Mac Hardware Updates

      1. Display

      • 500 nit display. 10-bit dithering with 1 billion colors. This 5K display was already best in class, so its just getting a little bump up here.

      2. Kaby Lake Processors

      3. Twice the memory as previous models.

      4. Fusion Drives standard.

      5. Graphics

      • Making a big deal about graphic improvements.
      • Base model is 80% faster than previous.
      • Discrete Radeon graphics cards on all 4K models. 
      • The high-end 27″ model is now geared toward VR creation.
      • John Knoll from Industrial Light and Magic on stage now.
      • The demo definitely looked good.
      • 4K 21.5″ iMac starts at $1299.

      MacBook and MacBook Pro

      1. Moving to Kaby Lake.

      2. That’s pretty much it. No other big announcements other than the processor bump.

      Sneak Peak of the iMac Pro

      • Looks great in Space Gray
      • Ships with an 8 Core Zeon Processor.
      • Also available it’s 10 or 18 Cores!
      • AMD Radeon Vega Graphics
      • 11 teraflops
      • Up to 22 teraflops of half precision computing.
      • Up to 128 GB of RAM
      • Up to 4 TB of SSD
      • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
      • Built in 10 Gigabit Ethernet
      • This is a significant update to the 27″ iMac. It is a legitimate pro machine to fill the vacuum until the new Mac Pro becomes available. 
      • Available in December
      • Clocks in a $4999. 

      iOS 11

      1. Lead-off

      • 86% of compatible iOS devices are running iOS 10, compared to 7% on the latest version of Android. No surprise here.
      • This Keynote was so packed that there was no time for fluff or bragging about numbers. 

      2. iMessage

      • Stickers and iMessage apps are more discoverable. This was a MUST.
      • iMessages synced via iCloud across all devices. Includes deletes. Optimizes device storage!!! This is a sneaky good feature. 
      • Still end to end encrypted

      3. Apple Pay

      • Available in 50% of the retailers in the US by end of year.
      • Direct person to person payments, as predicted. Added through an iMessage app. Smart. 
      • Venmo has officially been Sherlocked.
      • Money is stored on a virtual Apple Pay “card.” Money can be spent using Apple Pay, or transferred to banks, so it won’t be “stuck.” Smart move there. 

      4. Siri- Here we go

      • 21 languages in 36 countries
      • New voice for Siri. Male and female versions. The voices definitely sound clearer and more realistic. 
      • Still cracks jokes.
      • The visual interface now goes deeper, for additional answers and queries.
      • Siri now offers translation. Good ideal to leverage all those languages.
      • SiriKit in iOS 11- Opened up to more types of apps, but no details yet.
      • More predictive notifications via machine learning
      • ON DEVICE learning specifically mentioned. Apple is still making the privacy a cornerstone of the AI and Machine Learning efforts. 
      • Nothing revolutionary here. Just extensions of what they are already doing.
      • Siri is now synced across devices. I believe that is new. 
      • I hope that isn’t it.
      • Apple did add full text query capability to Siri. This wasn’t mentioned, but it made the yearly “all the stuff we didn’t mention” slide at the end of the iOS presentation. I mentioned this in my Taking Siri Seriously article, and think it is very important. Evidently Apple doesn’t, but at least it is included!

      5. Camera

      • HEVC file format for better video compression
      • HEIF file format is replacing JPEG image capture. Half the size.
      • You can share in JPEGs.
      • New depth API for Portrait Mode for developers
      • Memories in Photos
      • Machine learning to identify more types of events.
      • Watch Memories in portrait or landscape. You can switch on the fly.
      • Live Photos- Trim and mark the key photo in the group

      6. Control Center

      • Broken up into many sections across an entire page.
      • 3D Touch adds more levels of control
      • Get to Music without having to swipe to a different screen
      • No mention of customization capability. 

      7. Notification Center and the Lock Screen have been merged.

      • Widgets and the Camera are still on separate pages to the left and right.

      8. Photos

      • Set Key Photos for Live Photos and Videos
      • Looping Live Photos
      • Long Exposure effect is interesting.

      9. Machine Learning

      • More mention of Machine Learning and Siri in regards to Memories.
      • Siri will start to surface information in different places, like News, based on Photos or Safari.
      • Spelling suggestions, iMessage app surfacing, etc.
      • Machine Learning is ALL OVER this Keynote. 

      9. Maps

      • Mall interior directions
      • Airport interior directions and mapping, as well.
      • Local speed limits shown
      • Lane Guidance- Finally
      • Do Not Disturb While Driving added for use if CarPlay isn’t available in your vehicle.
      • Apple will detect via Bluetooth or WiFi Doppler
      • It is a suggestion, not forced.
      • It disables most phone capabilities. 
      • Can send an automatic response to texts.

      10. HomeKit

      • Speaker configuration now available.
      • AirPlay 2- Adds multi-room audio control.
      • Apple Music has an added Shared Up Next that others can add to dynamically.
      • Apple TV can be played to as an AirPlay 2 Speaker.

      11. Apple Music

      • 27 million users- still well below Spotify, but growing. 
      • Friends’ listening will now be surfaced and shared, if they make their use public.
      • MusicKit gives devs full access to Apple Music’s catalogue in apps. Smart.

      12. App Store

      • Hmmmm. Big News? Interesting.
      • Phil Schiller is up. This ought to be good.
      • Brief, but obligatory bragging over big numbers, as expected.
      • Phased releases added for devs
      • App Store being completely redesigned.
      • Looks very much like the Apple Music and News re-designs from last year.
      • Making Apps more discoverable up front. 
      • More Feature pages, rather than just raw lists.
      • It looks a lot better. It’s all about how it WORKS. We won’t know that for a little while. 
      • The ability to surface manuals or How-Tos is a welcomed addition.

      13. Core Technologies- Machine Learning

      • Machine Learning again. Glad to see so much focus on it.
      • Core ML
      • Adds Machine Learning capability to devs and apps. 
      • Vision API adds face detection.
      • Touted that the iPhone is 6X faster than the Google Pixel using CoreML. Interesting tidbit, considering how aggressive Google is on VR.
      • Also touting their privacy combined with Machine Learning.

      14. Augmented Reality

      • ARKit- This is GOOD!! Getting it in devs hands NOW, rather than waiting for a specific device.
      • Looks like there are classes and a test lesson at WWDC covering this. 
      • The demo looks impressive.
      • Touting how the power of the hardware makes AR useful on iOS.
      • They think iOS will be the largest AR platform in the world very quickly. That actually sounds realistic once iOS and the next iPhone roll out.
      • Showing off a version of Pokémon Go WITH AR KIT. It looks a LOT better. Much more realistic looking. 
      • Wing Nut AR Demo
      • Uses Unreal Engine 4 and real-time rendering. Very impressive demo.
      • It looks like Apple is going all in on AR right now.
      • Making a big deal about Chinese-specific iOS features again.

      That’s it for iOS. No Home Screen improvements.

      iPad Pro- Gets its own segment. This is good.

      1. 9.7″ model is the more popular version.

      2. No mention of the 12.9″. I don’t like that. (False alarm. The 12.9 is still here and has been updated. The 9.7 is going away)

      3. Here comes the 10.5!

      • Still just 1 pound.
      • Can display a full size on-screen keyboard like the 12.9″.
      • Can support a full size Smart Keyboard, as well.
      • True tone on both Pro models now!
      • 600 nit brightness. HDR Video on both Pros now.

      4. ProMotion

      • Enhances the display.
      • Doubles the max refresh rate from 60 to 120 Hz.
      • All on-screen motion will be much smoother.
      • Higher refresh also enhances the Pencil.
      • 20 ms latency
      • First mobile displays that can dynamically adjust display rates. Helps with battery life.

      5. Performance

      • A10X, not 11. Oh well. Still sounds pretty powerful. 
      • 12 core GPU.
      • 30% faster over the A9X and 40% faster graphics. 
      • Affinity Photo App Demo
      • Wow. Renders faster than an Intel i7 processor Windows machine according to the developer.
      • Instant live previews of all edits and additions. 
      • Uses Apple Pencil to control edits.
      • Doing refined selections down to the individual hair strand level to cut and crop images with the Pencil. Very cool.
      • App is available today.
      • Both models still have 10 hr batt life.

      6. Cameras

      • Same as the iPhone 7, front and back
      • 4K video capture

      7. Accessories

      • Fast charging through USB C
      • New SmartCovers. Leather is back.

      8. Specs

      • Starts at 64 GB of Memory, up from 32 GB.
      • $649 for the base 64 GB 10.5″. Can order today!!

      More iOS 11 on iPad

      1. The Dock

      • Now holds a HUGE amount of apps.
      • Summon the dock from anywhere to help switch apps
      • Pull an app out of the dock into SlideOver. SO MUCH BETTER.
      • This is a huge productivity enhancement.

      2. App Switcher is much more flexible

      • Remembers app pairings. Kind of a Spaces-like setup.

      3. Drag and Drop

      • Images
      • Text
      • URLs
      • It looks very flexible in the demo. You can easily move content between apps, even across the App Switcher.

      4. New App- Files

      • A full file manager
      • Similar look and feel to the new App Store
      • Includes cloud services in the same app
      • Works just how you would expect a file manager to. Cut, paste, drag and drop, multi-select, etc
      • Easy to set up favorites in the sidebar.
      • Easy to get to recently used files.

      We are two hours in and they are still talking ultra-freakin-fast. AHHHHRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!

      5. Apple Pencil

      • Pencil integrated deeply into Notes. 
      • Searchable ink! This is a solid new feature. 
      • Inline drawings with text. Finally.
      • Notes has a doc scanner built-in, with Pencil markup built in. 
      • Markup is also included in Mail.
      • Tapping on the Lock Screen with the Pencil goes right to Notes.
      • There is a new Screenshot editor, which is a very nice addition. Works well with the Pencil.

      iOS 11 Public Beta available at the end of the month. Out for Devs Today.

      Music- The New Speaker

      1. Music gets a little spotlight separate from what was discussed with iOS.

      2. Ahhh. Looks like the Speaker is here. 

      3. Apple is positioning this as re-inventing Home Music, in juxtaposition to iOS and the AirPods for mobile.

      4. The speaker needs to have the necessary volume, spatially aware, be fun to use, and give you assistance (Siri).


      1. Lukewarm applause on the name. Meh. I understand cashing in on the old iPod name, though.

      2. Volume

      • 7 array beam-form tweeter pack on the bottom with directional control.
      • 4″ woofer
      • Sound is dynamically balanced
      • Has an A8 chip- This is one powerful speaker. 

      3. Spatial Awareness

      • It detects the space and models the sound on it. 
      • Similar to what Sonos does. I’m sure they’re thrilled to be Sherlocked.
      • Can use the beam-forming to direct the sound.

      4. Musicologist?

      • Designed to work specifically with Apple Music
      • It sounds like the speaker can work with Apple Music without any device via Siri.
      • The Siri capability described is expressly directed at Music only (so far).
      • I understand what Apple is doing focusing on music first, but this isn’t going to play well (not the case so far, actually. Media reception has been positive).
      • The Siri assistant capabilities were literally mentioned as an afterthought. That is very concerning. 
      • You can control HomeKit devices using the HomePod.
      • The assistant capability is there. It is just being downplayed.
      • HomeKit is built in, so you can control remotely, just ,Ike if you have an Apple TV.
      • Your data is anonymous and encrypted.
      • Price- $349. Not bad at ALL. Could have been higher with those specs.
      • Comes in White and Space Gray
      • Ships in December.

      Wow. Apple got Michelle Obama lined up for WWDC. That’s pretty impressive. 

      That’s all the news the news that’s fit to print from the WWDC Keynote. It was a LONG one, at almost 2 1/2 hours. They certainly covered a lot of ground. I’ll be back later to start breaking it all down. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything, feel free to comment below, or find me on our Facebook page or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: WWDC

      June 04 2017


      WWDC Predictions…Sort Of

      I have been anticipating writing an article of final predictions for what we will see at WWDC for a few weeks now. However, as sit here on the eve of Christmas for Apple fans, I find little point in doing so. Not only has every tech site and every Apple blog weighed in on this topic at this point, but pretty much every national medial outlet, as well. What’s the point in one more drop in a very full bucket?

      Rather than go the path well travelled, I’m going to take a different look at WWDC and get into more of the “how” than the “what”. Allow me to explain myself. One of the recurring themes I see, especially in several of the articles from larger medial outlets, is a negative slant towards Apple’s current position. Despite their incredible stock performance and profitability, the emergence of new sources of revenue in wearables and services, and the coming release of a sure-fire hit in the next iPhone, the “what’s wrong with Apple” storyline is as reliable as the taxman coming to collect lately.

      The reason isn’t complicated. Apple stories are easier to hype and get more hits at the extremes. Without a runaway product hit lately, many media outlets are milking any negative angle they can find to pull in all the clicks that they can. The fact that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all have critically acclaimed products that are see as equal or better than Apple’s offerings does add a pinch of legitimacy, but the tone of many of these article goes far beyond reason. The most prominent positive stories lately have to do with Apple’s stock price, and some of them still have a twinge on impending doom thrown in for good measure.

      It’s unfortunate, but the collective effect of all the negativity has a real impact on the public’s perception of Apple. Because of where WWDC falls on the calendar, after both Google’s I/O and Microsoft’s developer events, they do get the last word before we head toward major hardware releases in the second half of the year. However, because of their profitability and the market leadership that comes with it, there is also incredible pressure on Apple to match or exceed everything that their competitors announce leading up to their own keynote.

      In my opinion, this pressure combined with the current public perception and performance of their different OSs and product categories have a huge impact on the tone of the proceedings. If you think back to previous events, the feel is never the same throughout, but rather ebbs and flows depending on these and other factors. So rather than predict WHAT Apple will announce tomorrow, I am going to focus on HOW Apple will approach the presentations for each of their product categories. Let’s get started:

      Mac OS- Conciliatory and Reserved

      Apple is usually pretty upbeat in their Mac presentations, but I think this year is going to be very different. First of all, the refresh of the MacBook Pro and the addition of the Touch Bar did NOT go as planned. The critical response was lukewarm to downright hostile, and reportedly users have spoken with slow early sales of Touch Bar models. There were also many complaints about Apple’s wholesale change to USB-C, making multiple dongles necessary for many users, and the change to the MacBook-style keyboard, with its very shallow key travel and different response. All of this combined with long-running complaints about the lack of updates to the Mac Pro have lead to a steady drumbeat of “Apple doesn’t care about professionals anymore.”

      A couple of months ago, Apple came out a made an extremely uncharacteristic public statement explaining how they went wrong with the unique design of the Mac Pro a few years ago, and how they hadn’t forgotten pro users of the Mac platform. The same statement revealed that new Macs (likely iMacs) geared toward pro users would come later this year, but that the Pro was also being re-designed from the ground up for re-release in a year or two. This news was largely seen as late in coming, but still positive by most of the tech media.

      I predict that Apple is going to try and build off of that statement, and show a renewed commitment to professional users. I don’t think that they are going to suddenly switch course and abandon the Touch Bar, but I think they will be VERY careful not to oversell its capabilities this time out. There likely won’t be any bombast or bragging. Apple knows it has bridges to repair here, so I am betting that the presenters will tread lightly, and do whatever they can to set pros at ease again.

      iOS on iPhone- Positive and Upbeat

      Apple still has a lot to be upbeat about when it comes to the iPhone. They KNOW that this next device is going to be a massive seller. Everyone knows it. I think they also know that many of the pieces are in place to take iOS to the next level on the phone. From iOS 7 to iOS 10, Apple has put a lot of time and effort into revamping pretty much every facet of the OS other than the Home Screen. There is still PLENTY of room for innovation, but I think refinement and improvement of what they already have will go a long way toward improving the experience of users. For example, there are useful features like Widgets, 3D Touch, and iMessage apps that are either easy to overlook or aren’t intuitive, If Apple feels like they have made progress here, I expect a very upbeat presentation.

      Another thing to consider is that little to nothing about iOS 11 features has leaked ahead of tomorrow. If Apple feels like it has some big new features or interface improvements, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go over the top with it. In case everyone has forgotten, no one was predicting how big of an update iOS 7 turned out to be. There were rumors of changes to the look and feel of the OS leading up to that year’s keynote, but no one knew how deep the changes actually went beforehand. The information vacuum right now reminds me of the leadup to iOS 7, and if there are big changes coming tomorrow, you bet that iOS on the iPhone will see a large share of them.

      iOS on iPad- Defiant

      I honestly expect someone to take the stage spitting fire talking about the iPad Pro tomorrow. If the early sales numbers of the new iPad are strong (and they have been rumored to be), then I expect that to be mentioned to lead things off. However, I am betting that the presentation takes on more of an edge after that. The media has been killing Apple over the slumping sales of the iPad category, while simultaneously fawning over Microsoft’s cool but very expensive Surface lineup. The iPad Pro may not have reversed the product line’s overall downward sales trend yet, but it still absolutely runs rings around the Surface in total sales numbers and in revenue generated, which no media outlet outside of Apple blogs ever mentions.

      I expect Apple to make this sales distinction very clear in a pointed way tomorrow. The iPad is by far and away the most popular tablet in the market, to the point where it has become THE brand name associated with the category. It wasn’t an accident that MS started calling the new Surface Pro a computer recently, rather than a tablet. That wasn’t an arbitrary shift. Apple knows it, and they are going to hammer away with numbers and figures that are to their advantage.

      The really interesting thing will be how far iOS 11 goes in making the iPad Pro more “Pro.” We all know about the rumors of the 10.5″ iPad being announced at the event tomorrow. What I am wondering is if that will be the only big news, or if there will be important new OS features to go with it. Either way, I think this will be the most aggressive part of the WWDC presentation, but if there are significant OS enhancements, look for Apple to really go all out talking about them.

      Apple Watch and watchOS- Confident and Somewhat Aggressive

      I think Apple will come out feeling like it has something to prove with the iPad. Not so with the Apple Watch. They have already swamped the competition and taken over the wearables space. You can bet we will hear about that. Apple made VERY smart changes to watchOS and to the marketing and focus of the Apple Watch last year, and it evidently worked beautifully. As a Watch user since the initial release, I was very impressed with how quickly they innovated and how they paid attention to what critics and users had to say. I still love my Watch, and I wear and use it everyday.

      I don’t think there will be near as many changes this year, but I think we will see Apple touting refinements and new features that are laser-focused on fitness. Who knows if we will see anything new, but whether we do or not, Apple will be confident as they talk about a growing segment that seems to be doing better than many in the media were predicting a year ago.

      The wild cards here are whether Tim Cook finally reveals any sales numbers and whether there will be any discussion of Apple’s other big selling wearable- the AirPods. Considering that both are likely very positive and in Apple’s favor, I wouldn’t be surprised. Since Apple hasn’t released any Watch sales figures to this point, a big number would make headlines. As for the AirPods, its more of a matter of categorization. Does Apple group them with the Watch, with Beats audio products, or in a category all to themselves? When they are mentioned tomorrow should let us know where Apple feels that they fit among their hardware.

      Apple TV and tvOS- No Stage Presentation at All

      Where exactly does the Apple TV fit in Apple’s product lineup? It’s hard to know when I don’t even think that they do. Well, it might be more accurate to say that Apple knows what they would LIKE Apple TV to be- a gateway to an Apple service that is a full cable/satellite television replacement. They just have no realistic pathway to get there, so the whole thing just seems to be stuck in neutral.

      I was excited about the possibility of the App Store coming to the television when the current hardware was announced, but Apple just completely blew that opportunity. I don’t say that often, but in this case it’s true. They were too late, waiting until the iOS App Gold Rush had already slowed. The implementation of the store was sloppy and disorganized. The worst decisions, however, were requiring devs to use their touch-based remote for all apps, and not including a solid game controller in the box. These decisions insured the Apple TV’s failure as an in inexpensive gaming platform. Ugh. What could have been.

      All that said, with the prospects for this product category frankly so bleak in the near term, I have no idea how Apple will approach it if it makes the presentation. A hardware refresh with 4K capability is already overdue, but there haven’t been many rumors of that coming tomorrow. Is it possible that Apple will just bypass mentioning the Apple TV and tvOS altogether? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. If they do talk about it, I can’t imagine anything beyond feigned optimism.

      Apple Music- Upbeat on Music and Subscription Sales. Sales-Pitchy on new Video Initiatives

      As with the Watch and watchOS, Apple did a very good job with its sophomore version of Apple Music. The app’s re-design was a big improvement, making the service far more intuitive and easier to use. They have drawn much more positive reviews for the changes that they’ve made, and have seen very respectable adoption of the service, easily pulling into second place beyond Spotify. I think the presenters will be very upbeat and positive about the service’s numbers and adoption.

      On the other hand, Apple has taken a lot of shots in the media for their early, somewhat scattershot efforts in video content. Any mention of Planet of the Apps draws immediate derision, and even the popular Carpool Karaoke has drawn only lukewarm praise. A lot of the criticism of Apple is directed at the fact that, to this point, there is no clear vision as to what they are going to do in this space. The media sees Netflix and Amazon way out in front in terms of original video content, which is true, but conveniently forgets that they also started small with forgettable shows like Lillyhammer and Alpha House, respectively.

      Still, it is no secret that Apple is going to add their video content to the Apple Music app, and that those changes will be detailed tomorrow. I look for the presenters to try their best to sell not only the changes to the app, but some kind of vision for what Apple is doing with video. No matter what, I think the media’s response will be negative, but I look for this part of the presentation to be geared toward tempering the both the negativity and the early expectations.

      Siri- A Carefully-Worded Sales Pitch (Watch for Tempering of Expectations)

      Apple knows this is what everyone will be watching for going into the event. We have the rumors of a Siri Speaker being announced, and some rumors of updates/upgrades to the service as a whole. Considering that Siri has tangibly fallen far behind Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana in many ways, and that it is barely equal to Amazon’s relatively new Alexa, Apple knows that they will take a media beatdown if they don’t play tomorrow just right.

      It is easier to get a feel for how confident Apple may or may not be in some other areas, but there is really no way to know in advance how they are feeling about Siri. They know they have to sell users and the media on what they are going with the service, both in the short or long term, so that’s why I predict that the presenters will lay on a heavy sales pitch. What I don’t know is how they will do it. Will they play it safe and try and cover up and avoid potential pitfalls? If so, then Siri still isn’t where it needs to be and they know how that will play. If the pitch is conservative, they are trying to minimize the negative press coverage on how they are still falling behind. If they come out sounding confident, that could mean that real progress has finally been made in improving Siri.

      The most interesting part of this segment will be how Apple positions the Siri Speaker (assuming the rumors are true). If they are aggressive and positive in how they tout the use of Siri and its assistant features, then it will really underline that they are confident that the service will be up to the task. If they are conservative in their approach, temper expectations, or tout the music playback/speaker quality aspects of the device over Siri, then that will indicate that Apple knows they still have a lot of ground to make up. If the latter occurs, it could be a negative media bloodbath.

      AI Initiatives- No Clue

      Before I start, I know that Siri kind of goes hand-in-hand with AI, but with Siri currently under fire and with a piece of hardware likely tied to whatever is presented, I think that any discussion of Apple’s current work in AI will be separate from Siri.

      I have absolutely no clue what Apple will have to say about AI, or how they will say it. A lot of what they presented last year seemed like it was forced because of how much Google focused on it at I/O. Apple showed that they were working in the space, but a lot of what they talked about, like differential privacy, was more informational or proof-of-concept, with very little in terms of actual features. Apple needs to go further than that tomorrow, but are they ready?

      The tone of the AI presentation last year was positive, but the presenters were careful not to oversell. If we see more of the same tomorrow, then Apple frankly isn’t making progress fast enough, and they know it. If that happens, they will be called out on it, too. However, if they have some real steak to go with the sizzle this year, then a more optimistic tone may point to some real progress in AI over the last year. The tone of this part of the presentation will tell us a lot about how the current Apple leadership prioritizes AI, as well.

      Services- Very Positive

      The growing sales numbers of Apple’s Services business are definitely reason for optimism. I’m sure we will hear plenty about that when this broad category comes up. I’m not sure how many new features Apple will have to tell us about, though. If they do have new goodies for iCloud, Maps, Photos, etc, then expect the presenters to make a big deal about them and sell how this is now an area of strength for the company. If there aren’t a lot of new features in Services, I expect the optimism to center on the sales and user adoption figures.

      Tomorrow is a Really Big Day for Apple

      I don’t buy into all of the negative press that has swirled around Apple over the last couple of years. However, I do think that tomorrow’s WWDC comes at critical juncture for the company. Perception has a way of becoming reality, and that is definitely true in this case. On several occasions over the last year, everyday iOS users who know I keep up with all things Apple asked me questions like, “What’s wrong with Apple?,” or “Why is Apple so far behind everyone else?” It isn’t as if the company doesn’t have any issues or challenges at the moment, but most of these people are genuinely surprised when I tell them that Apple is currently the most profitable company in the history of capitalism. All of the negativity in the media has a way of making people who don’t keep up with the tech world think that Apple is legitimately in trouble as a company right now.

      Apple’s best chance to flip this script and to change the current media narrative that surrounds them comes at tomorrow’s keynote. If they come out with announcements that equal the impact of the iOS 7 event, the tone of their coverage will change for a while. If you recall, the narrative going into that WWDC was that iOS was stale and that Apple had fallen so far behind Android that users would soon abandon the iPhone and iOS in droves. To be honest, iOS 6 WAS stale, and it had fallen behind Google’s pace. However, after showing off the compete revamp that was iOS 7, all of that talk immediately disappeared. The coverage immediately changed from a focus on what Apple wasn’t doing to what they actually WERE.

      The issues that face Apple today are more widespread than they were in 2013, so it will take more than a refresh in one area to have the same effect as that keynote. However, even if it is just in some of the areas of weakness touched on above, Apple has an opportunity to get the focus taken off the negative comparisons with rivals, and put onto progress they are making, and the priorities they are setting. This will only happen if they’ve done their homework over the last year and made strides in areas of critical need, such as Siri and AI. Personally, I don’t think Apple will pull this off across the board, but I do expect them to pick up a few key wins that the media will embrace after the event.

      Whatever happens, events like these are so carefully staged and rehearsed for a reason. Apple has a message that they want to come through, and in the end, it’s really all just a big sales pitch. In my opinion, the most reliable way to see through that and tell how Apple’s leadership and the presenter really feels about the things they discus tomorrow is their tone and delivery. If you watch the livestream tomorrow, open up your eyes and ears and pay attention to HOW the presenters deliver the goods, rather than just what they are talking about. This will tell you as much about how the Apple leadership perceives what is being discussed as anything that is actually said or shown.

      What do you think about the WWDC Keynote tomorrow? How do you think Apple will deliver the good on Siri, AI, iOS, or other products? Have any predictions of your own? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.           

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: ai, ios 11, Keynote, siri, siri speaker, tim cook, WWDC

      June 03 2017


      Apple Slices- The Calm Before the Storm

      Apple news has been fast and furious the last two weeks, but this week things seem to have gone into neutral. There is no shortage of WWDC Keynote predictions, and there are the obligatory “Apple is Doomed!!!!” articles, as usual this time of year. I will have none of that here, so I will keep it brief this week and stick to actual news.

      Apple Updates Swift Playgrounds to Control Lego Robots and More

      I have to hand it to Apple, because this is a smart move. If their goal is to get kids coding using Swift Playgrounds, then making the process pay off with some real-world fun is brilliant. Apple has partnered with Lego, Sphero, Parrot, Ubtech, Wonder Workshop, and others to bring robots, drones, and other objects under users’ control with code. Apple has designed lessons to go along with these new capabilities, and some of the partners have chipped in, as well. Lego has evidently designed 10 hours of lessons teaching how to use their gear in Swift Playgrounds.

      Apple needed to make a move like this. They have been under assault in the education space lately, with Google’s inexpensive Chromebooks gaining a big foothold, and Microsoft getting more serious with Windows 10 S. This update to Swift Playgrounds looks like it is a direct response to Microsoft’s educations initiatives that leverage the ever-popular Minecraft to teach coding.

      Nintendo is Having a Tough Time Getting Enough Parts for its Switch Thanks to Apple

      I think the design of Nintendo’s Switch was just about perfect. After such a promising start, gaming on iOS and Android has devolved to touch-based fremium affairs over the last two to three years, leaving room for a more powerful mobile gaming experience once again. I think Nintendo was very smart to basically merge their home and mobile businesses into one versatile console that players can use wherever they go.

      Unfortunately, this move has brought Nintendo into direct competition with Apple, Samsung, and other phone manufacturers for parts and components. The older Nintendo DS designs all had resistive screens for use with a stylus and lesser internal components. By going to a large capacitive screen and more modern internals, manufacturing at scale has become an issue. That is unfortunate, because the Switch is selling more like the Wii than the Wii U, with units selling out when and wherever they become available. With a Samsung Note and Apple’s much-hyped next iPhone still on the way, this situation isn’t going to get better for Nintendo anytime soon. However…

      Nintendo’s New Online Service for the Switch Includes In-Game Chat via iPhone App

      Nintendo doesn’t seem to be taking the Switch component shortages too personally. Rather than developing a voice-chat solution from the ground up that is built into their coming online service, Nintendo is making another smart decision here. They will develop smartphone phone apps, including one for iOS, that connect to the Switch and handle the in-game chat using your cellular data plan. Considering that the Switch doesn’t have a built-in cellular connection and is meant to be a mobile gaming platform, this was shrewd move that insures gamers will have chat available anytime they want to use it.

      Apple is Using Freelance Labor to Help Improve Apple Maps

      Apple has reportedly been using subcontractors to hire paid freelancers in France to improve the information in Apple Maps there. Using a web interface, workers check the information generated by search queries, and Apple aggregates their answers to make changes to its mapping information. The freelancers are paid $.54 per task, and can perform up to 600 tasks per week. No one will make a living doing this, but this seems like a great way for both Apple to gather local data and for workers to make a little extra side money.

      I love that Apple is doing some different things to improve Maps, This strikes me as a smart, out of the box solution to bring in more data, check existing data, and improve the service, overall. If an opportunity to do this ever became available in my local area, my son (who is now 16 and can drive) an I would be ALL OVER IT.

      Supposed Foxconn Leaker is Spilling the Beans All Over Reddit

      Take this one with a grain of salt, but it was still an interesting read. There is a self-professed leaker from Foxconn with direct knowledge of Apple recent prototypes and upcoming products for the next one to two years who did an AMA on Reddit. This leaker has supposedly been vetted by the mods of the Apple sub-Reddit, so take that for whatever it’s worth. It should be noted that some legitimate leaks have made their way to this board before, including the original Apple Watch design 24 hours before its first announcement.

      If you are interested, take a look at the thread here. The basic rundown is that the iPhone 8 will be similar to the 7 with thinner bezels. He makes it sound like underscreen fingerprint sensing had very poor yields, but also said that the TouchID sensor on the back was deliberate misinformation. What that all means for the final shipping product is anyone’s guest. The Siri Speaker is supposed to have the Mac Pro-like trash can design that has been previously rumored. He also believes that the release has been pushed to later in the year.

      More interesting are the tidbits that this leaker drops about a couple of products that are a little further out. He claims that the vitural keyboard Mac designs that have popped up here and there in patent filings are real, and may be coming as soon as next year. He also has a lot to say about a pair of AR Glasses that Apple is developing. These glasses would be compatible with perscription lenses, have bone conduction modules, multiple mics, a capacitive panel on the side for control, and a prism to reflect information onto the lenses. He claims that these are in testing, that the specs and details are still in flux, and that they likely wouldn’t be released until 2019. He also drops a target price of $600 based on the current bill of material vs Apple’s usual markup. Considering what Google Glass cost for prototype-level hardware a few years ago, this would be a actually be a great price for such a device.

      Time will tell whether any of this is legitimate or not. No matter what, it’s definitely interesting to read.

      Apple Has Work to do With Siri. Killed by Google Assistant and Cortana, Barely Beats Out Alexa in Recent Research Study

      Philip Elmer DeWitt at Apple 3.0 has a great article on recent study on Smart Assistants by Stone Temple. The results of this survey sound a lot like what I was predicting and expecting in my article on Siri earlier this week. Google and Microsoft both have a huge edge in providing direct answers because of their ownership of the world’s two biggest search engines, and Apple and Amazon will always be at a disadvantage if they can’t find a way to help balance the scales a bit. While Siri did manage to edge out Alexa, it also lead the four digital assistants in answers that were “simply wrong.”

      Ouch. Siri may understand what I am saying a lot better and dictate more accurately when I use my Apple AirPods, but understanding a question doesn’t really matter if the service isn’t capable of delivering a reasonable answer. I don’t envy Apple’s position, as I don’t know how they can make up the data gap between them and Google and Microsoft. However, they don’t have the option of retreating at this point, so it will be interesting to see what they try to improve on these results. If a Siri Speaker is forthcoming, this gap needs to be closed in a meaningful way, or such a product could do more harm than good.

      Apple Hires VP of Engineering Away From Qualcomm

      The battle between Apple and Qualcomm may end up uglier than their battle with Samsung when all is said and done. The shots back and forth have been plentiful, Apple is making moves away from using their cellular radios in upcoming devices, which will be a blow to Qualcomm’s bottom line, and now this. According to Cult of Mac, the hiring of Esin Terzioglu is a strong indicator that Apple will be looking produce its own cellular radios in the future, as it now does with the A line of processors and likely will do soon with its graphics and power management chips. The more Apple can integrate its custom chips with iOS, the more advantages it gains on the rest of the field in terms of both power and battery efficiency.

      So now all of Appledom moves on to a total focus on the upcoming WWDC Keynote. Considering we have made it this far without any realistic-sounding leaks of major iOS 11 features, we are likely in for some actual surprises this year. It’s been a while since we knew this little about the coming updates this close to the keynote, which makes things a little more exciting this time around. Look for a special post-WWDC Apple Slices next week with a brief rundown of all the major features and announcements that Apple covers. Until then, have a great rest of the weekend!

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: apple maps, foxconn, Lego, nintendo, Parrot, qualcomm, reddit, Sphero, switch, Ubtech, Wonder Workshop


      Deals: G-DROP Submersible Bluetooth Speaker

      Summer is upon us and the weather is heating up. It’s the time of year to get out there and swim, hike, bike, play sports, get the grill going, and just generally live outside. The G-DROP Submersible Bluetooth Speaker is the perfect Summer music accessory, as it can go wherever you go and keep up with whatever you are doing.

      As the name suggests, this speaker is made for use in the water. The G-DROP has an IPX7 waterproof rating and the ability to float in water, so this is the perfect speaker, not just for poolside, but in the pool as well. It is also capable of being submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, so it is made to withstand whatever your friends or family can throw at it.

      The G-Drop Submersible was named a Top 10 Best Outdoor & Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker by Heavy and iLounge’s 2015 Best Budget Speaker. You can make it your number one speaker for Summer fun for $44.99 thanks to our Deals site.

      • Play & skip tracks wirelessly w/ buttons right on the speaker
      • Microphone lets you take calls wirelessly so your phone is kept out of harm’s way
      • Fully submersible for up to 30 minutes under up to 3′ of water
      • Built-in metal loop lets you hang it from a tree branch, backpack, or roof rack
      • Line-in to connect any device w/ a headphone jack w/ an audio cable
      • Easily chargeable w/ a standard USB port or phone charger

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: bluetooth, gdrop, speaker, waterproof

      May 31 2017


      Apple AirPods- Take Two

      I’ve been using my Apple AirPods for around two weeks now, so I have gotten a pretty good feel for how they work at this point, and have figured out more of their strengths and weaknesses. All things considered, the experience has still been very good overall.

      • The AirPods are by far the best interface for Siri and Dictation

      Based on all of the devices that I have tested Siri and Dictation on over the last six years, I can assure you that this race isn’t even close. The AirPods are more accurate than the Apple Watch, which in turn is easily superior to the iPhone or iPad in terms of pure recognition accuracy. You can tell that these buds were designed with voice input in mind. As awkward as the mic extensions look, they certainly do their job well.

      One of the big advantages that the AirPods have over the watch is that they can also do longform dictation using the microphone on the iOS keyboard. As good as the Watch is for basic queries and simple answers to text messages and emails, if you’re really looking for a better way to use Siri and dictation on the go, the AirPods are the answer to that question. I actually dictated the majority of the draft of this article, and they did a really good job. So much so, that I plan to start using them to draft and get ideas taken down while I am on the go more often.

      Another strength of using Siri with the AirPods is that, when you trigger it with a double-tap on the side of one of the buds, the response is always fast. The iPhone picks up with no delay and sounds the familiar Siri tone almost immediately. If Apple can make some key improvements to Siri’s reliability and ability to answer questions, the AirPods could be just the thing to take Apple’s voice assistant to the next level.

      • Managing battery life takes getting used to

      I think the battery life of the AirPods is fine when you consider the features and performance they deliver, and the fact that they are first generation hardware. However, if like me, you are used to a traditional Bluetooth headset, getting the AirPods to last an entire day takes getting used to. If you keep both in your ears, even sitting idle, they will not last close to a full 8 hour workday. You will either need to rotate them every few hours, or top both off occasionally to make it to the end. Again, if you are coming from a traditional headset, this just takes a little getting used to. Once you get a routine down, it’s not a big deal.

      • I ran into a known issue over the holiday weekend. The AirPods can be susceptible to uneven battery drain

      No device is perfect, right? This first gen hardware is no exception. I had some outpatient surgery last Friday, and was laid up a good bit over the holiday weekend. I spent several hours of my downtime using the AirPods to relax and listen to music. One thing I started to notice was that the left AirPod was draining much faster than the right.

      While using both, it hit zero while the right bud was still over 40%. Thankfully, this is a very easy bug to fix. All I had to do was fully discharge both AirPods, and then put them back in the case to recharge fully. They have stayed right together while I have used them since then.

      • As I feared, the AirPods case is a bit of a scuff magnet

      Unfortunately, the bright white of the AirPods case brings back memories in more ways than one. Not only does it look like a lot of the white Apple gear of the early-to-mid 2000s, it scuffs like some of it too.

      Again, when the AirPods come out in black, I’m trading up.

      • Apple still has some kinks to work out when it comes to using Siri across multiple devices while wearing your AirPods

      One of the biggest complaints expressed about the AirPods is the fact that you have to use Siri for local control of your music. While I find that using Siri with the AirPods works great, you do have to interrupt your listening to use it, which is a little irritating.

      That gave me an idea. I decided to use my Apple Watch to start controlling the music via Siri while it was playing on my AirPods. I can use “Hey Siri” there without interrupting what’s happening on my AirPods. Play and Pause work. Skip to the Next Track and Play the Previous Track also respond well. However, for some curious reason, volume control via Siri does not work.

      The strange thing is, Siri responds on the watch and says that the action of raising or lowering the volume has been done, but nothing happens on my iPhone.

      There are still ways you can use the Apple Watch to control your music’s volume, though. I found that if I opened the Music app on the Watch, I was able to raise and lower the volume on my AirPods using the digital crown without any issues. That indicates to me that the issue with Siri changing the volume using the Watch is likely just a bug that Apple hasn’t squashed yet.

      Even though this is a very small thing, it’s something I would like to see Apple address by the time we get our hands on iOS 11. They need to really reinforce the idea of how well everything in the Apple ecosystem works together, and that owning and using more of their devices makes the experience even better. Working out all the remaining little kinks like this volume issue, and being able to show off how everything meshes perfectly can be a great promotional tool for Apple.

      • I find myself listening to music more throughout the day because of the convenience of my AirPods

      I still have the IFROGZ Bluetooth Headphones that I reviewed earlier this year and usually have them with me in my laptop bag everyday. They sound good, have great battery life, and do a nice job of isolating outside noise. However, they are also fairly large and not something I am going to have with me at all times. I pull them out when I am at my desk at work, or sitting at Starbucks, but they aren’t quite as convenient to use when I am on the go.

      The same cannot be said of my AirPods. They are small enough to take everywhere, and thanks to the charging case, are fully juiced up and ready to go at a moments notice. Because they are always with me and so convenient and easy to use, I find myself pulling them out often and using them at times when I wouldn’t have listened to music or podcasts in the past.

      This is one of the best features of the AirPods, in my opinion. The convenience and ease of use reduces “friction,” which makes owners likely to use them more often. That has been the case with me, as whenever I find myself doing a task that doesn’t require listening or talking to someone, I take them out, pop them in, and start listening to something. The AirPods hearken back to the old Steve Jobs phrase, “It just works.”

      That’s it for take two. I’ll come back and follow up with some more observations on the AirPods sometime after WWDC is behind us. Until then, if anyone has any questions or comments on Apple’s AirPods, let me know in the Comments below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: Airpods, airpods case, siri


      Deals: iKlips miReader 4K

      Between trying to expand the memory of your iOS devices, handle and organize your photos and videos between cameras and other devices, and keep your iPhone and/or iPad charged, you can end up with a pile of dongles and adapters if you aren’t careful. The iKlips miReader from Adam Elements can take the place of all them in one small, easy to use accessory.

      The iKlips miReader has a male Lightning adapter, allowing you to plug into any current iOS device. There is a microSD card slot, allowing you to add up to 256 GB of memory to your device. This also allows you to take a memory card from your camera and make it instantly accessible to your iOS device. The miReader also has a female micro USB port that allows you to connect to computers and other devices for file transfers, as well as allowing pass-through charging of your iOS device. It is fully MFi-certified, so you can rest assured that it will sync and charge properly with your Apple gear.

      Through the use of the free iKlips app, you can manage all file transfers to and from the miReader. This device really is a complete package for extending the memory of your iOS device, but is also flexible enough to share files between your Mac or Windows computers and other devices, as well.

      The iKlips miReaser 4K from Adam Elements is available from our Deals site for $46.99.

      Flash drives are so 20th century. The iKlips miReader 4K revolutionizes the way we transfer and carry data, incorporating a Lightning connector, a micro USB, and a micro SD slot to share files between Mac, Windows, cloud drives, and expand your device’s memory. The miReader even works with your GoPro, micro drone, dash cam, or DSLR camera to instantly transfer all of your 4K video to an iPhone or iPad Pro for playing and editing on the go. Recording something on your iPhone but running low on memory? Plug in the miReader before recording and you can instantly store video there, bypassing your phone’s memory.

      • Store, view, & edit your personal 4K videos, .raw DSLR shots, & GoPro action clips right on the miReader
      • Expand your device’s memory by up to 256GB by inserting a micro SD card
      • Manage files between iPhones, iPads, & Mac computers easily
      • Use the iKlips app for macOS & Windows to easily lock or unlock files no matter the platform
      • Keep your case on while transferring – it’s compatible w/ any case
      • Perform transfers at lightning-fast speeds
      • Transfer & charge at the same time w/ Lightning, micro USB, & microSD slots all on the same device
      • Record 4K video directly to your iKlips, expanding your device’s storage
      • Backup, view, transfer, capture, & manage all your photos, music, videos, & documents in one easy to use app
      • Make transfers without worrying about files sizes – exFAT means there’s no limit on individual file sizes
      • Use a password or Touch ID to protect files, folders, albums, or even the entire device

      Note: Micro SD card is not included

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: iklips, lightning flash drive, lightning micro sd

      May 29 2017


      iOS 11 Wishlist- Taking Siri Seriously

      When Apple bought SRI International in 2010 and subsequently integrated the technology from their app Siri into iOS 5 in 2011, they took an early lead in the race to provide advanced voice assistance on mobile devices. However, as has been the case many other times when Apple took a step forward in the smartphone space, the competition quickly closed the gap. They caught up to the capacitive screen, the multi-touch interface, the Retina display, and eventually Siri,  as well.

      This isn’t to say that Apple can’t keep up in areas where they feel the need to do so, or that they have fallen far enough behind in any aspect to have problems selling iPhones. However, there are times when Apple’s pace feels less innovative and more glacial. No place in iOS is this approach more evident than Siri. Apple moved very slowly and deliberately over the three years following is appearance in iOS 5, adding only very tightly controlled features and few new data partnerships. This allowed an opening for Google, Microsoft, and now even Amazon to catch up and gain an advantage.

      Recent Progress

      Apple certainly hasn’t abandoned Siri, as the last two years have seen them finally pick up the pace a bit and show some increased initiative. They added proactive assistance, which serves up data from your personal information, contacts, and calendar based on what you are typing, assists in app searches, and serves up other information based on time of day and your usage patterns. Apple also beefed up their “Hey Siri” feature, defaulting it to enabled and adding individual user voice training as part of every initial iOS device setup.

      However, the biggest step came last year when Apple opened up Siri to work with third-party apps via their new SiriKit API. However, in typical Apple fashion, this rollout was initially restricted to only certain classes of apps, and had to be manually enabled in Settings. This addition definitely had the feel of a soft-launch, much like with “Hey Siri” a couple of years before.

      (Re)Building From Strength

      If you find yourself behind in a category, a great way to move forward is to build around areas where you still have strength. As much criticism as Apple may get for Siri’s relative stagnation, there are still areas where it has advantages that they can rally around. The biggest is multi-language support, where Siri still leads the way among digital assistants in many respects. Siri currently supports at least 21 individual languages, many of which can also be customized by region. Siri can even understand some mixed language requests, which is pretty impressive and shows just how good Apple is in this category. In comparison, Amazon’s Alexa isn’t even available in Canada, much less in multiple languages yet.

      Another advantage Siri has is the way that it’s designed to be contextually aware and conversational. This is another area where Apple has an advantage on Amazon’s Alexa, which requires users to perform queries for its “skills” with set syntax. However, while Apple at one time had an advantage on Google when it came to conversational assistance, their AI and machine learning initiatives have allowed their various voice search and assistant services to surpass Siri. Even though Apple has lost a step on Google and also Microsoft in this area, it is well worth Apple digging in and improving it using their own AI initiatives. A little refinement and consistency in how Siri determines context across apps would go a long way in closing this gap and making it a strength once more.

      An advantage that no other major player in the voice assistant category has is complete control of a comprehensive set of hardware. Amazon and Google have their own hardware lineups, and both have in-home speaker products that Apple doesn’t at the moment. However, it is no secret at this point that Apple will be announcing a competing Siri-enabled speaker next week. On the other hand, Amazon has no phone or computer offerings, and Google’s own phones never sell at any scale and they don’t offer a smart watch of their own at this time. Microsoft has its Surface line, but they still generate only modest sales, and it seems they have finally given up on mobile phones. In comparison, Apple has a complete and comprehensive set of hardware, including computers, phones, tablets, smart watches, a set top box, and now AirPods, all of which are designed to take advantage of Siri in different ways.

      Of course, there is always the advantage of Siri being the built-in default voice assistant for all Apple products. Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa are all available on iOS, but there will always be things that they aren’t able to do because Apple doesn’t allow for the replacement of their default apps at the system level. This barrier will always give Apple a certain advantage, but it is one they should cease to lean on so heavily. As with their Maps app, Apple needs to deliver an experience that is good enough to make the majority of their users who don’t want to look elsewhere for a voice assistant happy. Maps obviously had a bumpy start, but Apple has put a lot of work into making it into a solid product. It would be nice to see more outward evidence of this kind of work on Siri.

      What Can Apple Change to Improve Siri?

      Beyond sweeping new features, there are several smaller, more practical changes that Apple can make that can greatly improve the Siri experience.

      • Consistency

      In my opinion, this is a huge drawback of using Siri right now. It works differently on the iPhone and iPad than on the Watch or the Mac, and the version you get on the Apple TV isn’t even close to what Apple provides elsewhere. With a new speaker product likely arriving very soon, now is the time for Apple to unify Siri as much as they can across all of their platforms. I picked on Alexa a bit earlier, but this is one area that is really working for Amazon right now. While you may have to learn how to do certain tasks and skills with it, once you do, they work the same across all of their devices and apps. Apple should take note a how fast third-parties have adopted Alexa as their primary Home Automation interface because of this.

      • Open the Doors to Developers Completely

      Apple started this process last year, but they need to take what they have learned and go the rest of the way. Amazon has already gotten out in front of Apple’s HomeKit in terms of third-party support his year because of their platform’s relative openness and ease of implementation. It’s time for Apple to take the reigns off and end the restrictions on the types of apps that can integrate with Siri. If done right, this could be the biggest difference maker out of all possible improvements to Siri.

      • Improve on-board mics, or add ones designed specifically for voice queries

      This may not seem like a big priority to many users, but one of the biggest complaints about Siri is that it often fails to recognize or interpret voice queries correctly. When you think about where and how most people are using Siri, it is often in a crowded or noisy space, and usually on a device that isn’t specifically designed for that type of voice interaction. In contrast, I have found Siri voice queries to be more accurate using Apple Watch, and FAR more accurate using Apple’s AirPods. In both cases, it seems that these products were designed with taking Siri voice queries in mind.

      Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, with their multiple beam-forming microphones, do an even better job of correctly interpreting voice queries regardless of conditions. If Apple really wants to move Siri forward and improve their users’ perception of it, voice queries need to work more consistently, regardless of where they are made and on what device they are made on. They need to get serious about making Siri work better on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and they DEFINITELY need to knock it out of the park with their coming speaker.

      • Make Siri even more conversational

      We all know that Siri is quick with a joke, and can rattle off things like the weather, sports scores, iMessages, emails, and your calendar and reminders without issue. These conversational interactions were new and exciting when Siri was first released. However, Apple has never been able bring the same level of interaction to queries that fall back on any kind of web search. Unfortunately for them, this has quickly become one of the major uses of voice assistants. This puts Apple at a distinct disadvantage against Google and Microsoft due to the fact they run the world’s two major search engines, and thanks to that, have access to massive amounts of user data to feed their machine learning initiatives. They both have an upper hand in delivering the right answer directly, rather than just a web search that the user has to actively read through.

      This is likely going to be the most difficult area for Apple to catch up in because of their disadvantages in search. However, Amazon has shown that it is quite possible to build an effective voice-first assistant platform without owning your own search engine. Apple would be wise to take a page out of their playbook, and work on getting Siri to deliver the answers that it can more directly. It would also be wise to explore an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” partnership with Microsoft against Google to bolster their ability to acquire useful search data.

      If a Siri Speaker project is forthcoming, then improving Siri’s ability to deliver full voice responses to queries is absolutely essential, no matter how great the difficulty. Apple will be directly invading territory already well staked out by both Amazon and Google. If they don’t deliver right out of the box, it could be a negative PR nightmare. That said, I don’t think Apple will ever make the mistake of allowing another Maps-like product rollout. If a Siri Speaker is about to be annonuced, it is because these issues have already been worked out behind the scenes.

      • Less Reliance on Voice Input

      It may sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth after my comments on how Siri needs to be even more conversational. However, this has more to do with the consistency of use I was referring to earlier. One of the improvements that Apple made to Siri recently was to add some of its search capabilities to iOS’ Spotlight Search via typed queries. This was a welcomed addition, but unfortunately, it still doesn’t provide access to all of Siri’s Assistant features. While voice is a great way to interact with a device, there are plenty of situations where it either isn’t ideal or isn’t allowed, so a more complete alternative will be a welcomed addition. The good news is that, thanks to a recent Apple patent award spilling the beans, we know they are already working on this kind of functionality using iMessage. Now it’s likely just a matter of how soon we see it.

      iOS was originally designed around the concept of interacting with individual, sandboxed apps. We have already seen a shifting away from this philosophy, as more and more app functionality is made available through alternative means. We have voice interaction via Siri. We have app extensibility and share sheets that allow pieces of apps to work within other apps. We have Widgets and 3D Touch interactions, which allows us to see certain data and trigger some actions outside of the app. We also have Notification Center, which provides us another way to work with specific app data. However, none of these methods currently gives users a complete way to work with all app data and functions, all of the time. Assuming that Apple opens up Siri to all developers in iOS 11, if they will also add full text query capability to Siri, then it truly becomes the complete package- A digital assistant that can work with any data, anywhere, anytime. There will always be a need to work within apps, but the more users can accomplish quickly without having to open them, the more versatile and flexible iOS becomes.

      The Future of Siri

      This year’s WWDC should shed more light on how Apple looks at Siri, and how they plan to position it for the future. If you take a look at Google’s Assitant, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa, you can already see a clear direction, focus, and purpose. In comparison, Siri is, as I said earlier, far more inconsistent. Is it an assistant for setting appointments and reminders, and making voice calls sending text messages? Is it a voice search tool? It is the AI engine for iOS? All of the above? Again, one of the most important steps Apple can make at WWDC this year is to clarify EXACTLY what Siri is, what it does, and where it does it.

      Another subject that Apple would be wise to shed more light on is their AI initiatives, and how they will dovetail with Siri. I was happy to hear something about their ongoing work in AI and machine learning during the WWDC Keynote last year, but that honestly felt somewhat forced. Google had really gotten out in front of them in a big way at I/O a couple of weeks prior, and it seemed like Apple had to show off something to put power users and the press at ease that they weren’t being caught with their pants down. It was more of a proof of concept than anything meaningful feature-wise, though. With a full year under their belts since then, a couple of interesting hires and acquisitions, and a new Siri-specific product likely to be announced, next week’s Keynote will be the perfect time for Apple to lay out their vision of how AI and Machine Learning will directly benefit iOS users, both in iOS 11, and especially going forward into the future.

      I have always had a love/hate relationship with Siri. When it works, it can be very useful, but when it doesn’t at the moment that you need it to, it can make you want to smash your iPhone. It really doesn’t take a high failure rate at all to get users to lose trust in a product’s reliability. Unfortunately, Siri has burned enough users enough times over the last six years that it’s hard to find many people who still have a high level of confidence in it at this point. If Apple wants to change the way people think of Siri, the time is now. If Apple wants its virtual assistant to be viewed as equal to or better than Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa, it will definitely be an uphill battle that will take time, money, and even more important, commitment.

      As with Maps, Apple has entered ground with Siri that it absolutely cannot abandon. They have no choice but to apply the money and manpower necessary to see things through and make Siri a viable competitor in this space. Despite my issues with it, I have a feeling of optimism that I honestly didn’t going into last year’s Keynote. I am confident that Apple knows that they have to make an impact a week from today, and that they are going to deliver the biggest improvements and additions to Siri that we’ve seen since its release.

      So what do you think of Siri? Love it? Hate it? A little of both? What do you think Apple needs to do to improve it? What do you think is coming next Monday? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: ios 11, siri

      May 28 2017


      Deals: GorillaPower 5-Port USB & Power Dock

      A world of computers and gadgets has one unpleasant side-effect- a world of cables cluttering up your life. All of those devices have to have power and be charged. The price of wireless accessories is that now, even our keyboards, mice, headphones, and headsets have to be charged, as well. I know my office desk is overrun with cables on a daily basis for this very reason.

      The GorillaPower 5-Port USB & Power Dock from mbeat is a great solution to help solve some of that cable clutter. This dock has 5 slots to hold tablets, phones, or other devices. Each slot has an associated USB port that outputs 5 Amps and 60 Watts of power. The other side of the dock has 2 5 Amp, 1200 Watt AC power sockets, giving you the ability to charge your laptop and plug in a secondary monitor. With the GorillaPower, 1 wall socket can help you to power 7 devices with surge protection and in an organized way.

      Our Deals site is offering the GorillaPower 5-Port USB & Power Dock for $59.99.

      Power up your desk with the GorillaPower 5-Port USB & Power Dock, packing five 60W USB ports and two two-way AC power sockets into one conveniently sized dock. Charge up to five devices at once with the USB ports, and even power a computer or small electrical appliance right from the dock. No more low battery excuses! 

      • Charge your devices fast w/ 60W charging power from each of the USB ports
      • Power computers or small electrical appliances w/ the 1200W two-way power sockets
      • Protect your devices from surges & overheating thanks to built-in security measures

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: dock, gorillapower

      May 27 2017


      Apple Slices- Apple News and Rumors Abound as We Near WWDC

      Apple’s WWDC Keynote is a little over a week away, and the rumors and stories regarding upcoming devices are coming fast and furious. Apple is also actively hiring and working on some exciting new technologies that we will see in future devices. Let’s jump right into some of the best news of the last week.

      Nokia and Apple Settle Up, Become Partners

      Despite plenty of saber rattling by Apple in regards to this case early on, they have now settled with Nokia after being sued over several patents. Apple is now licensing these patents, and the two companies will work together on some key technologies going forward. Apple will resume offering Nokia-owned Withings health devices in their brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, which had been removed during the lawsuit. According to an article from PCMag, Nokia’s Chief Legal Officer Maria Varsellona referred to the settlement as a “meaningful agreement.” The two companies are also planning “future collaboration in digital health initiatives.” With legal and FTC issues with Qualcomm still looming, it was a smart move on Apple’s part to get this situation with Nokia cleared up.

      Apple Already Testing 5G Cellular Technology

      The FCC has approved an Apple permit application to start testing next-generation “millimeter wave” wireless technology. This is the same technology that wireless carriers will start rolling out over the next few years, so we won’t be seeing this in a production iPhone for a while. This is likely just Apple getting out ahead of the game, but that alone is significant. Apple has typically slow-played new wireless technologies, as they were later than the competition to roll out both 3G and LTE. Maybe we will see 5G come to the iPhone a little sooner thanks to this early testing. And while we’re on the subject of testing newer technologies….

      Apple is Reportedly Testing New microLED Screen Technology

      According to Digitimes, Apple has made a small test batch order of microLED displays. This is presumably for testing in different devices as a follow-up screen technology to OLED. Apple currently uses OLED screens on the Apple Watch, and is rumored to be replacing its current LCD screens with them on this year’s iPhones. However, Digitimes has already reported a rumor that Apple will be switching the Apple Watch to a microLED screen late this year or next year, which makes sense considering that they already debuted OLED on the smaller device two years ago. If these reports are true, we may get our eager hands on this new technology sooner, rather than later.

      Apple’s iPhone SE Tops ACSI Smartphone Satisfaction Survey

      Apple broke with industry norms a year ago when they released a smaller form-factor phone with the same specs as their premium devices. The trend among Android competitors has always been toward larger flagship phones, with all smaller offerings having more mid-range specs. Even Apple used to be content with simply lowering the price of the previous year’s model (with the previous year’s specs). The only time they deviated from this course was with the iPhone 5C, which had a different form factor, but year-old specs upon release. The 5C didn’t work out as Apple had hoped, but it seems that they learned from that experience and used that to make the SE the success that it is.

      Overall, Apple and Samsung absolutely dominate the ACSI survey, with 21 out of 23 spots going to the pair. Motorola and LG were the only others to place, and they come in at 21 and 22, respectively. Ouch.

      Apple Has a New Ad Campaign Targeted at Android Users

      Apple execs always make a big deal about getting Android users to switch to the iPhone and iOS. Now Apple has a new online ad campaign focused on telling potential switchers how “Life is Easier on the iPhone.” As an Apple fan and longtime iOS user, I certainly won’t disagree. While such ads won’t have any impact on hardcore Google and Android fans, It could influence passive users, who buy phones based on price or whatever is being pushed by their carrier. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these ads make their way over to television and streaming services as we get closer to the release of new iPhones to more easily reach these potential buyers.

      Apple Develops App Development Curriculum Geared Toward High School and Community College Students

      Apple released a new app development curriculum covering the Swift programming language this week. The class materials are available for free in Apple’s iBooks, and cover an entire year of directed coursework. The class covers learning to code in Swift and design fully-functional apps and is meant to be a comprehensive start into the world of iOS app development.

      Rather than just releasing this out into the world, Apple is actually working with six community college systems, including both California and Alabama, to offer this class to their students. According to Apple, there will be mentoring and internships available for students as some campuses. The course will also be offered by some select high schools, as well.

      Apple Watch is Tops at Measuring Heart Rate, Calorie Counting….Not So Much

      A study from Stanford University looked at the accuracy of several health and activity trackers in tracking heart rate and calorie counting. The study included the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn, and Samsung Gear S2. The Apple Watch came out on top in measuring heart rate and energy expenditure. However, none of the devices had better than a 20% error rate in tracking calories, which demonstrates how difficult it is for a device to take all factors such as age, sex, size, and individual metabolism into account. The Apple Watch scored in the middle of the pack with an error rate of 40%. I have been using my Watch to track daily activity and work toward losing some weight, so this came as a wake-up call to take those calorie readings with a grain of salt.

      Apple Hires Lauren Kern away from New York Magazine to be Editor-In-Chief of Apple News

      Apple News got off to a rocky start when Apple first rolled it out, but they have shown the same kind of commitment to it that we saw as they made Apple Maps usable, and worked through first-year growing pains with Apple Music and watchOS 1 and 2. They have opened the platform up to anyone who wants to use it (per Apple approval), and have streamlined and improved the look and feel of the app to make the experience much better.

      Now we see even more evidence that Apple is very serious about making Apple News stronger. Just read the comments of her former employer in his announcement of her departure to take this job. It is clear that Ms Kern was highly respected in her time at New York Magazine, and will bring increased credibility and more focus to Apple News as Editor-In-Chief.

      Readdle Releases Split Screen Drag-and-Drop Functionality For its Apps on the iPad Pro

      Here is an example of a savvy app developer showing the way, not only for other devs, but for Apple, as well. Now, you can drag and drop content from one Readdle app to another using multi-tasking on the iPad Pro. This is one of those features that power users have been asking Apple for across iOS, and would go a log way toward adding the level of flexibility to the device to make it more of a computer replacement, rather than just a great tablet. Readdle’s own Vice President of Marketing, Denys Zhadanov, is on record saying that he would love to see Apple get inspired by their creation and build split screen drag and drop into iOS. Here’s hoping.

      iPhone 8 Screen May Be a Big Improvement Over the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

      A Digitimes report claims that the iPhone 8’s screen will be on par with Android competitors from Samsung and LG. It will supposedly have a pixel density of 521 per inch, and an aspect ratio greater than the iPhone’s current 16:9. The LG G6 is 18:9 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 is 18.5:9, so it is likely that the iPhone screen will match one or the other. For comparison, the iPhone 7’s LCD display has a 326 ppi density, with the 7 Plus at 401 ppi. This increased screen resolution could be key as Apple looks to get into the worlds of virtual and augmented reality.

      Did TSMC Spill the Beans On Apple’s Success with Screen Embedded Fingerprint Technology?

      There has been constant back and forth on whether Apple will or won’t be able to get their fingerprint recognition technology to work effectively embedded in the screen. It’s no secret at this point that they want to get rid of the Home Button in favor of a top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge screen that serves all functions. When Samsung tried and failed to get embedded fingerprint technology to work reliably, they moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the S8. There have been several leaked supposed prototypes of the iPhone 8 that have showed variations of the same. However, conflicting prototype designs are to be expected, as Apple always tests several potential designs before settling on a final version much closer to release.

      Employees of TSMC, one of Apple’s chip fabricators, evidently revealed that Apple has gotten their embedded fingerprint technology perfected to the point that it will be included in the iPhone 8. This occurred at TSMC’s 2017 NA Technology Symposium in Taipei. If true, it will be a feature that should help to differentiate the iPhone 8 from the competition, if only until the next Samsung device is released.

      Apple is Testing a New Neural Engine Processor dedicated to On-Device AI Processing

      Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported this week that Apple is working on a new dedicated chip to power on-device AI processing. This falls in line with others in the industry, as Google just announced their new “Tensor Processing Unit” AI processor and Qualcomm included an AI module on their most recent Snapdragon processor. Much like with their M Series Motion Coprocessors, which offload motion and health tracking from the main processor to a lower power device, Apple developing a separate chip for on-device AI will enable both faster and more efficient processing for AI tasks in the future.

      There has been a lot said about how behind Apple is in AI and machine learning technology, but if this report is true, it shows that Apple is getting more serious about strengthening Siri and their other offerings. Considering what they have accomplished in creating their own optimized and OS-integrated mobile chip designs, Apple is in position to do something special with such an AI processor. What we don’t know is if this chip is headed for inclusion in the iPhone 8, or a later device. Based on the tone of this rumor, this is probably coming a year or two down the road.

      Will the Real iPhone 8 Please Stand Up?

      If you missed it earlier this week, Brett Williams from Mashable posted a GREAT article calling out all of the crazy leaks and rumors, and taking a very level-headed approach to them. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a look.

      iPhone 9 Rumors????

      Seriously? I’m not even dignifying these with a response. Apple phone rumors are completely out of control this year.

      Do you have any thoughts on this week’s news? If so, you can post them in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.

      © jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2017. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
      Post tags: 5G network, apple watch calorie tracking, fcc, iphone 8 rumors, iphone 9 rumors, iphone se, lauren kern, microLED, nokia, readdle, tsmc

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