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June 22 2018

20:18

Deals: CleanEmail Lifetime Subscription

I can remember a time when I used to be able to keep my email inbox organized and manageable. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Since I started working as a project manager, my inbox has been overrun with requests, quotes, schedules, POs, invoices, product announcements, and all manner of other things. And that doesn’t even get into all of the iOS and tech emails I get as the editor of this site. This used to be a battle, but I waived the white flag long ago.

If you are anything like me, and you don’t necessarily trust large corporations Google or Microsoft to organize your email for you “for free” (in exchange for reading through all of your messages), then maybe CleanMail is the perfect solution for you. CleanMail will organize 5 email accounts with no limitations by applying rules and filters to categorize and organize everything.

Our Deals site is offering a Lifetime Subscription to CleanMain for $44.99. This is 82% off the normal retail price of $249.95.


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Post tags: deals

05:06

More iPhone Rumor Flip-Flops

These days, the rumor mill is feeling like a swinging pendulum. A little over a month ago, we had the rumor that one of the new iPhones would have a plastic, multi-colored body. That one never sounded realistic, but that didn’t keep it from making the rounds. More recently, there was the story that three of the coming iPhones would have OLED displays. This went against months of reports that the 6.1″ least expensive model would have an LCD screen in the interest of keeping the cost down. That didn’t prevent it from hitting all of the big Apple blogs and many other tech sites. Now the rumor mill is flip-flopping again.

The latest report re-confirms that the 6.1″ model will, in fact, have an LCD screen. Shocker. This is the only move that makes any sense at all for Apple, as having three phone models so close to each other in size with no major differentiating factors would be beyond strange. Having OLED on all three would also force the prices of all three too close together.

Here is what’s really happening. The LCD phone didn’t leave the coming iPhone lineup and then return again. No one at Apple had a change of heart. This was an unsubstantiated rumor that everyone ran wild with, using headlines that made it sound as if the information was actually solid. It wasn’t, and that is absolutely obvious looking back.

One thing to note is that, while the Wall Street Journal gets the story right, the headline misses the mark, as it completely ignores the reality of Apple’s last quarterly results. Buyers haven’t balked at the iPhone X’s price tag, as it is still battling back and forth with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and its own little brother, the iPhone 8, for the top spot in worldwide smartphone sales. Now, the second line is right on target, as a new, less expensive model with the look of the iPhonee X and most of the same features should sell even better. That doesn’t mean that buyers are balking at the price tag of the X.

Rumors and headlines- the bottom line is that you can’t trust them. At least not this far out from the release of the new iPhones. By the end of August we should start to get some real information, and then by September, the rumors should become more consistent as people actually get their hands on real hardware. Until then, forget the grain of salt. Just ignore whatever iPhone rumors that you see that don’t come from the top two or three sources for Apple leaks.


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Post tags: iPhone 8, iphone x, LCD, OLED

June 17 2018

22:00

Will Analysts Ever Figure Apple Out?

Remember your teacher or parent’s definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Evidently, analysts and brokers need constant reminders of this when it comes to Apple and the rumors that surround the company and its products. I say that, but despite numerous examples, we keep treading over the same old ground over and over and over and………

Just a month and a half ago, everyone in the financial world except for Warren Buffet thought the iPhone X was a failure and that Apple’s Second Quarter results would be poor. Yet again, we were reminded that the supply chain is not an accurate indicator of Apple hardware sales. Apple’s May 1st Earnings Statement came as a big surprise to many, and brought about a huge rebound in their stock price, from down several percent back to new record levels. Apple’s unexpected good news was then followed by plenty of backtracking from the usual suspects.

And here were are again, less than two months later, and we have Apple’s stock falling 2% this week based on a Nikkei report that Apple is placing 20% fewer iPhone parts orders. And then several outlets latched onto the click-bait, wether they actually believe it or not. Philip Elmer-DeWitt issued his reliably accurate and deserved takedown shortly after. Seriously people, has anyone learned ANYTHING here? How many times will analysts have to publicly fall on their faces before they figure out that their normal methods don’t apply to how Apple approaches the supply chain? I just don’t get it.

Ironically, it seems that at least one analyst may have learned something back in May. Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley was one of the more outspoken of Apple’s critics, at least in the short term, before the company’s Second Quarter report. She set her target price down to $203 per share over the next year, which made some waves at the time and sent Apple’s stock down yet again.

Ms Huberty was one of the analysts who publicly backtracked and changed their pricing estimates in the wake of Apple’s Earning’s Announcement:

“Even if smartphone replacement cycles continue to lengthen, we see Apple delivering 4% revenue and 16% (earnings per share) growth over the next three years with services the primary growth engine.”

She also raised her price target up from $203 to $214 in the aftermath, but many other analysts did the same, as well.

I know that Ms Huberty is seeing things a bit differently these days because, in a report released two days ago, she questioned the negativity of the Nikkei report using “her own supply chain checks.” While she is still relying on supply chain information to draw conclusions about Apple hardware (which is still dangerous territory), it appears that she at least learned a lesson in how the company operates differently than the rest of the market. You can’t use the same old methods to get a bead on how Tim Cook handles the supply chain. You have to use context and direct comparison to Apple’s previous performance to make some sense of the raw data.

Well, at least someone learned their lesson in May. Maybe the analysts in charge of reporting on Apple for the Nikkei should give her a call. I won’t hold my breath.


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Post tags: apple stock price, Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley, nikkei

June 16 2018

18:11

Tips and Tricks: Apple Music Now Playing Navigation

One bit of frustration I have had with the Apple Music app on my iPhone is navigation. While the basics of finding music actually work fine for me, it is the process of backtracking later on where I run into problems. If I search for music, I often find myself back at the Library screen and having to perform the same search again to get back to my results.

Once this happens, I am limited to whatever is cued up in the Now Playing window.

If I scroll down, I at least have access to either the rest of whatever I searched. In this case, the reset of the album tracks are listed.

If it is a Playlist, you will have the rest of the tracks in that list. If it is a Radio Station, you get the next track. Again, this at least give you a little bit of a connection to what you started searching for and listening to.

One thing I forgot about until a recent accidental press on the screen is that you can also go back to the current artist or album. This is done by tapping on the Artist and Album scroll.

This brings up links back to either the current artist’s page or the current album. Both are very handy For instance, if you are halfway through listening to an album, only the remaining tracks appear at the bottom of the Now Playing window. If you want to get back to a previous track, this link is the fastest way to get there.

While I would love to see a link to the last Search result added, this hidden navigation element does make getting around Apple Music a little faster and easier.


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Post tags: apple music, tips

17:13

Deals: Nomad Stand for Apple Watch

After a year of just sitting my Gen 0 Apple Watch on my bedside table with its charging cable dangling about, I started to see the value of using a stand. It is just a far more organized way to charge the device in a safe and efficient manner. Let’s be honest- it also looks a lot nicer not having the charge cable and puck sitting out in the open.

With this being the case, looks matter when it comes to Apple Watch stands. There is no shortage of options, either, from wood, to plastic, to metal, from retro to modern, stands come in all shapes and sizes. On the sleek and modern side stands the Nomad Stand pictured above. A simple aluminum design with a copper alloy base, this simple but elegant stand hides your Apple Watch charge cable and holds your Apple Watch without any danger of tipping over.

Our Deals site is offering the Nomad Stand for Apple Watch for $29.95. This is 40% off the normal retail price.


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Post tags: Apple Watch, deals

15:14

Maps is Back Up, But Yesterday’s Outage Shows That Apple Still Has Work To Do

There has been a lot of talk about Apple’s growing suite of Services over the last year, and the fact that they, rather than hardware, may be the future profit center of the company. However, yesterday’s Apple Maps search and directions outage was a wake-up call that the company’s cloud offerings aren’t quite there yet.

Reports of the outage started surfacing yesterday morning here in the US, and lasted until the early afternoon. A quick search of Twitter showed lots of comments, and several users who specifically mentioned downloading Google Maps to pick up the slack. Ouch. That is exactly what Apple doesn’t want its loyal iOS users doing. Many iOS users stick with the default Apple Maps because it is included out of the box and it dovetails with all of Apple’s other apps and the popular Apple Watch. Unfortunately, an event like this is the kind of thing that gets those users to consider using an alternative.

Another issue for Apple is that their Support page that shows the status of their various cloud services is often hours behind the actual outage events. Yesterday was no exception, as the problem was almost resolved by the time the page showed it. This caused additional confusion among users, as many commented on the fact that page showed Maps search and directions status as up, while they were getting nothing from their phones, tablets, and watches.

Amazon had notable Web Services outages in 2015 and 2017 and Google also had a big one last year, as well. It is rare for the “big boys,” but it does occur. They both claim 99%+ uptime, and that does actually reflect reality, but the 1% is real and a royal pain when it hits. One big difference I see between Apple and Google, Amazon, and other cloud heavyweights in this regard is their up-front response acknowledging outages and the more real-time nature of their status monitoring. These businesses are absolutely dependent on their subscribers, or in the case of Amazon, the many businesses that use their infrastructure to serve their users, so they have to do this. The stability and uptime of their cloud services is the linchpin of their businesses. That is not the case for Apple, and unfortunately for them, it showed yesterday.

We already know that Apple does not have the cloud infrastructure that some of their competitors do. Up until recently, they really didn’t need it. Before iCloud, there really wasn’t a compelling reason for Apple to bother with data centers. It wasn’t until after the unveiling of iCloud that Apple built and opened up its first data center in North Carolina in 2009. Apple is now planning to build a second data center at that site, and also has other centers in Oregon, California, and Nevada. They are also planning a new Data Center in Iowa, as well as multiple facilities overseas. However, despite all of this spending and growth, Apple is still not even close to Google or Amazon in terms of capacity or infrastructure. That isn’t a problem for them yet, but for their Services business to grow enough to become what some analysts are predicting it will be, they can’t stop here. However, a big key for Apple needs to be insuring that stability and better status monitoring for those who depend on their services comes with that growth.

Apple may be behind, but they are growing fast and have committed to spending what it takes to meet their growing cloud computing demands. That is great, as it should insure stability and give the company the potential to continue to grow its Services business. However, yesterday’s outage should be a lesson to to the company- for all the spending and rapid growth, they aren’t there yet. Not only do they need to spend on infrastructure, but also on capable personnel, solid software solutions, and better traffic and status monitoring. Infrastructure alone won’t prevent poisonous downtime, and it won’t keep their customers updated on system status in real time, either. Hopefully Apple will take a lesson from yesterday and address these issues, as they become more of a player in cloud computing over the next few years.


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Post tags: apple maps, Apple services, cloud computing, data centers, iCloud

June 14 2018

03:43

Deals: DxO One Digital Connected Camera for iPhone and iPad

While smartphone camera have come light years since the first iPhone, there is still a gap between them and larger lens DSLR cameras. If you are looking to step up your photo game, but still want to maintain the versatility of using your phone to store and edit your pictures, then well-know mobile camera brand DxO has just thing.

The DxO One Digital Connected Camera for iPhone and iPad isn’t a toy. Not by any stretch. This is a serious photographic tool that has a fast f/1.8-f11 lens, shutter speeds ranging from 1/20000 of a second to 30 seconds, and the ability to generate true RAW images for enhanced editing. Add this to the ability to quickly edit and send out or post images from your phone and you have a pretty compelling combo for the aspiring mobile photographer.

Our Deals site is offering the DxO One Digital Connected Camera for iPhone and iPad for $379.99. This is 24% off the normal retail price of $499.99.


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Post tags: camera, deals

June 10 2018

21:44

Hits and Misses from WWDC- The Misses

Almost a week out from the WWDC Keynote, the reviews of Apple’s new software features and improvements are overwhelmingly positive. Their focus on performance and small details will benefit all users, not just those with the latest devices. Siri got what could turn out to be a huge boost from the new Shortcuts feature, which will be opened up for developers to finally get real access to Apple’s digital assistant. Apple also focused some well-deserved attention on macOS to round out a Keynote full of new goodies.

However, despite all of the welcomed additions, there were several things that people were ether hoping or expecting to see that we didn’t get on Monday. Let’s take a look back and some of the misses from WWDC.

No Texture Announcement

I know Apple often waits up to a year to put product or subscription offers together, but I expected Apple to at least mention this important acquisition. It is potentially a big one that could shape the future of the News app. Apple did spend some time talking about News, especially the fact that there is a new native app for the Mac and that News content has been added to the Stocks app. However, that and some small new features were about it. It looks like we will be waiting until next year for a subscription service for magazine content, though.

No Hardware…at all

Not only were there no new hardware releases, or pre-announcements of coming hardware, there was barely any mention of anything relating to hardware at all. Even though WWDC is a developer event, because of Apple’s continuous focus on their own hardware, it seemed strange that they consciously avoided the topic. Even the missing in action AirPower was nowhere to be found..

We will definitely get an iPhone release in three to four months, and will likely get new iPad Pros and a new Watch on either side of that, so there is still plenty of Apple hardware news to come. Who knows, maybe there will a new MacBook or MacBook Pro with an updated keyboard in 2018. I did wonder going in if Apple would take the high profile opportunity to address all of the issues people are having with their butterfly-style keyboards, but it was not to be.

No Significant iCloud Changes

Knowing that there would be a big focus on software and services going into this event, I am surprised that Apple didn’t announce any changes to iCloud or iCloud.com. No boosted free storage. No deals. No price reductions. No feature enhancements to iWork or iWork in the Cloud. Radio silence. I personally think this was a missed opportunity. Apple’s cloud-based software needs to be updated, and they just don’t seem to be interested in bothering with it.

No 3rd Party Watchfaces for the Apple Watch

I really don’t expect Apple to ever open up Watchface editing on the Apple Watch, but it is probably the number one request from tech bloggers and Apple fans, alike. It was on a lot of people’s lists for this year, along with a native Podcast app. 1 out of 2 ain’t bad, I guess.

No Discussion of Improvements to Siri’s Voice Features

Siri got what should be a big boost with the new Shortcuts feature. However, that new feature has more to do with the AI and machine learning features of Siri that are baked into iOS. What about the problems that Siri has with basic voice recognition? How about improving how Siri recognizes context between multiple queries? The release of the HomePod underlined Siri’s shortcomings in this area, and it was a surprise to me that Apple didn’t take the opportunity of the WWDC Keynote to address what they are doing to address them. Speaking of the HomePod…

No Mention of new HomePod Features in iOS 12

The HomePod runs a version of iOS, and it shipped missing several features that the competition has down pat. It is also missing some basic functionality that Siri is capable of handling on an iPhone or iPad. Despite this, there was barely any mention of the HomePod, at all. It makes me wonder if we won’t see any new features added to the device until the HomePod 2.0, which seems off. If you recall, the Apple Watch got 2 OS revisions, one of them a major overhaul, in the span of a year. I thought Apple would take the same aggressive improvement approach with the HomePod, but that does not appear to be the case at this point.

That’s about it for WWDC 2018. There were a few items that came out of the State of the Union and the developer sessions that I will cover in a future article, but other than those little details, it’s time to move on and focus on iOS 12 and watchOS 5. I usually wait for Beta 2 before I upgrade my personal hardware, but that should only be a week from tomorrow. Between now and then, there are several new items and features to talk about. Until then, if you have any questions about any of Apple’s new upgrades or features, feel free to ask.


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Post tags: Apple Watch, iOS 12, watchOS 5, WWDC

21:06

Normal X-Rays and Real Cases

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  2. Normal X-Rays: a collection of high-resolution normal x-rays (aka plain films). With 600+ studies, this collection has examples from paediatric x-rays to seniors. It covers all regions of the bodies with countless examples to compare to.
  3. (new) Cases: the recent introduction of Cases has added a whole new depth to the app. Cases cover pathologies from fractures to pneumonia with detailed descriptions of the initial report, to diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. The growing set of real cases show x-rays of the patient on day 0 and follow-up x-rays until the patient has recovered.

The app is designed for clinical usage so it’s fast, reliable, detailed, and easy to navigate.

The reference X-rays you want.

 

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Post tags: iPad app, iPhone App

June 09 2018

13:24

Deals: Merry Go Round Wireless Charger

Wireless chargers are all the rage these days. Sorry Android fans, but all it takes for an accessory category to achieve mainstream success is for Apple to join the party. That’s just how it is.

If you are looking for a wireless charger for your iPhone, you don’t have to settle for a plain, old mat or a boring generic puck. Accessory makers are continually stepping up their game and making their devices more flexible, and this charger is a perfect example. The Merry Go Round Wireless Charger gets its name from the fact that it has 6 USB ports built in around the base. Not only does the charger wirelessly charge your iPhone, but it can also charge all the rest of your electronic and mobile devices, as well.

Our Deals site is offering the Merry Go Round Wireless Charger for only $24.99. This is a whopping 74% off the normal retail price of $99.95.


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Post tags: deals, Qi, wireless charging

June 05 2018

06:05

Hits and Misses from the WWDC Keynote

Yesterday’s WWDC Keynote certainly wasn’t as exciting and feature packed as last year’s, especially thanks to the lack of new hardware announcements. However, it did bring us a pretty solid set of new software features and improvements. There were also some things that were oddly missing in action, but for this segment, I’m going to focus on the positives. Let’s take a quick look back at the Keynote.

The Hits

Focus on iOS Performance

I think it’s a good thing that Apple is taking a step back and not only fixing bugs, but also working to optimize the performance of iOS. There is still untapped potential in the many millions of A-Series processors out there, and making users with older devices happier is a good thing. This is especially true after the battery issues that have plagued many of those same users over the last two years. Also of note is the fact that all devices that supported iOS 11 will also be getting iOS 12. If it delivers the advertised performance, that should make users across the Apple ecosystem happy.

AR and ARKit Improvements

It is still early days for AR, and Apple knows it. They have jumped out into an early lead in this category by capitalizing on things that today’s devices can handle well. That practical approach to AR is smart, because if they can get developers centered using iOS for AR work now, they will be in a leading position when real headset hardware is ready to take off. For this year, I like that Apple is making it easier to use AR content formats not just in games, but throughout the OS. Also, multiplayer support was the logical next step for AR in iOS gaming, and it looks solid and stable. This should help to move AR from tech demo slowly toward a usable and even fun experience on iOS.

Photos Improvements

The changes were modest, but I like how Apple has centered all of its recent improvements to the Photos app on using AI and machine learning to help with organization and recommendations. The more Apple pushes these features internally, the more proficient they will become at implementing them.

Siri

Siri makes both the good and bad lists for me today. On the good side, Suggestions and Shortcuts are smart ways to extend the usefulness of Siri as it stands right now. The service struggles with some areas of voice recognition and with answering questions, but it is actually pretty good at making basic suggestions and associations inside of iOS. These new features amplify that strength, and extend it into what feels like an unexpected direction for Apple. The possibilities that Shortcuts can open up for user and third-party customization are very interesting.

Apple is Doing Something Useful With Workflow!

Siri Shortcuts shows us that Apple has a plan for Workflow beyond just remaining a stand-alone task automation app. Hopefully we will see the Shortcuts grow into a powerful built-in customization and automation interface. I’m interested to see what it can do paired up with Siri.

The Stocks App? Really?

The Stocks app is one of the originals. It’s been with us since the beginning, but for many of us, Stocks is one of the first apps to get tossed into the Default Apps folder a few screens deep. I know this is the case for me, and to be honest, today likely won’t change that. However, I think Apple was sneaky smart to integrate Apple News into the app, with its focus on “trusted sources” and curated content. The iPhone and iOS are the mobile platform of choice in the American financial community. If Apple can gain traction with News among these wealthy and influential users, it could have a trickle-down affect in other areas. I really didn’t expect to be impressed by the Stocks app coming into today.

Screen Time, App Limits, and Parental Controls

After years of leading the way in on-device parental controls, Apple needed to play catch-up here. They delivered. The available usage reporting is very detailed, and the new flexible parental controls can be handled right from the parent’s phone through Family Sharing. The new Do Not Disturb and Notification features look like they will be more practical, as well.

Notification Improvements

While Apple didn’t pull even with Google in handling notifications, it did make a solid step forward. The new Grouped Notifications and more granular controls will help with managing larger numbers of notifications and make them more useful.

Messaging and FaceTime Improvements

Tongue detection? Memoji? Well, they aren’t for me, but they will be for a lot of people. I do think Apple’s customization options for Memoji keep it from being as cheesy as it could be. Considering the meh reviews, Apple should be able to best Samsung at a feature they tried to stake out with the Galaxy Note 8. As for FaceTime, Apple going from one person at a time to a max of 32 is pretty insane, and potentially very useful. Merging Animoji and Memoji into FaceTime was also a smart move.

watchOS is Growing Up Fast

Is it just me, or is the Apple Watch the center of innovation for Apple these days? I know there is more room for watchOS to grow, but it is definitely moving ahead fast. The improved interactive notifications, automatic Workout detection, and addition of WebKit to display embedded web content show how the platform is maturing and becoming more of a stand-alone product. The Podcasts app was a timely addition to pair with the Apple Music integration we got last year. Even the Siri Watch Face got access to third party notifications and Shortcuts, making it far more useful. Closing out, the Walkie-Talkie app seems like a smart reboot of the clunky implementation of Voice Messages on the Watch. The Watch is a perfect platform for fast voice messaging.

The Mac Gets Some Much Deserved Love

I’m not a Mac user, but I’m jealous of the Dark Mode. It really does look sharp. However, the improvements in Mojave were more than just skin deep. Users got the several new native apps, a Mac App Store refresh, CoreML Improvements, and Phase 1 of the rumored Marzipan, with assurance that devs will get their hands on the the feature next year. We also got an emphatic answer to question of whether macOS and iOS are merging- NO!!! It seemed like a solid confirmation that macOS still has a future, at least for the next decade or so.

Nothing on this list stands out as extraordinary, because no single item on it is. However, all of these features are things that either have been needed or are creative and fun, and they will be appreciated by Apple users. Most of all, the speed enhancements and stability improvements that we have been assured are coming with them make the lack of any new true flagship features bearable. It wasn’t a super-exciting WWDC Keynote, but it was still satisfying.

I’ll be back later with some of the misses from WWDC. Until then, enjoy the positives, because there was definitely more good news than bad at the WWDC Keynote.


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Post tags: iOS 12, macOS Mojave, watchOS 5, WWDC

June 04 2018

03:40

The WWDC Keynote is Just Hours Away. Here’s How to Follow the Action

When

The WWDC Keynote starts at 10 AM Pacific on Monday, June 4th. That translates to 11 AM Mountain, 12 PM Central, and 1 PM Eastern Times.

How to Watch

Streaming via the Web

If you are using a Mac or iOS device, you can livestream the video using Safari. Just go to this address and check it out live. It may also be possible to watch the stream on other platforms using a recent version of Firefox or Chrome. If you are running Windows 10, you can definitely use Microsoft Edge to get your live view.

Streaming via the WWDC app

If you prefer native apps to Safari on your iOS device, just download the free WWDC app in advance of the event, and the livestream will be available for you to stream.

Apple TV

If you have an Apple TV, the livestream of the Keynote will be available via the Events app.

Liveblogs

While live-blogging was necessary to follow Apple events  before we had access to live video, they still remain quite popular. Many tech sites and Apple blogs still do this because there are plenty of Apple users who prefer the sense of community direct interaction you get with the live information and opinion from experts on site.

Here are a few notable liveblogs for your viewing pleasure:

Engadget

Ars Technica

The Verge

Fast Company

CNET

The Mac Observer

AppleInsider


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Post tags: WWDC, WWDC Keynote

June 03 2018

19:41

WWDC Wishlist Part Six- Best of the Rest

The WWDC Keynote is tomorrow, and predictions are everywhere. Although, just like mine, most seem to be nothing more than guesses. Some may be more educated than others, but it feels like there is even less solid information out there this year than last, and that’s saying something. Apple may struggle keeping hardware a secret, but they seem to have the software side down on lockdown.

I’ve covered predictions relating to Siri, the iPad Pro, the Apple Watch, iOS 12, and Services over the last three weeks. Now, as we enter the final stretch toward the big event, here are some of the best of the rest that I hope we will see tomorrow.

MacBook Air

While there have been plenty of reports that the release of a new, lower cost MacBook Air has been delayed, that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see it or hear about it at WWDC. If its release will fall between now and the Fall release of the iPhone, then WWDC will be the perfect time to take the wraps off of it in advance.

While it is possible that such a refresh won’t warrant an event-level announcement, I think this could be more important than a simple refresh to a value laptop option. If Apple is lowering the price of the Air to a more attainable level, I think they will want to talk about that publicly.

MacBook and MacBook Pro Keyboard Issues

This issue has been building for a while now among the Apple tech press. The fact that the issues and failures that affect the low profile butterfly-style keys have hit several notable Apple fans and bloggers (most recently Rene Ritchie of iMore) means that it is no joke or trivial matter for the company. Just like their mea culpa on how they approach pro products and pro-level customers last year, I think they will address the problems with these keyboards this year. I think it’s just a matter of how they frame the discussion. Hopefully, it will come in the form of an announcement of an improved keyboard design to be used on all future MacBooks.

Where are they now- WWDC Edition

AirPower was announced a year ago, and we are still waiting for its arrival. There is also the rumored refresh to the iPhone SE. It would make sense for that model to be released at a different time than the rest of the iPhone lineup in the Fall. Will we hear about either at WWDC?

Workflow

Apple acquired the Workflow app just a little over a year ago, but we haven’t heard much form the company about it since. The one year mark after an acquisition is usually when Apple expands and offers new features based on them. TouchID, Face ID, Siri, etc- all of them came to Apple devices one year or more after Apple got their hands on them. Is this the year that Apple takes Workflow to s different level? Being a software product that developers can put hooks in their products to use with it, WWDC is the time to make any Workflow upgrade or expansion announcements.

Beats Decade

While the Beats Decade series has already been released for sale, I would expect to see this talked about on stage. Beats reaching the decade mark is a big deal, and it remains a big selling product line for Apple. It should at least get a mention.

New AirPods and Headphones

There have been rumors of a new, updated set of AirPods floating around all year, but this may not be when we hear about them. The originals were announced along with the iPhone 7 in the Fall, so this year’s may come at the same time. However, talking about some quality listening hardware is a great way to supplement conversation about Apple Music. With Apple’s focus on Services, that is a virtual guarantee, so maybe the nw AirPods do make an appearance.

Another rumor from earlier this year that has fallen off the radar is that Apple will be releasing a high quality pair of wireless headphones that will, like the AirPods, feature Apple branding rather than Beats. Is WWDC the right time for Apple to take the wraps off a completely new piece of hardware. One thing is certain, either product would get more attention at this event than they will next to three new iPhones in the Fall. Even if they release later, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a preview of one or both.

Mac Pro Preview

We already know that the new Mac Pro isn’t coming until next year. However, Apple has been fine with early announcements lately, and this product will get a lot of attention from the tech press and Apple blogs and podcasts. I think it just comes down to how late in the year Apple intends to release it next year. If they are aiming for the first quarter, then this year’s WWDC is a good time. If it will be later, they may wait for next year. However, since the cat is already out of the bag and everyone knows the Mac Pro is coming, a small preview seems like a sure thing.

New HomePod Features

This should be the surest thing of all. Apple finally delivered on their promise of AirPlay 2, stereo pairing, and multi-room support for the HomePod with iOS 11.4. Now its time to see what’s next. Apple definitely won’t miss this opportunity to show off new capabilities and software features. Most of them will probably be catch-up with more mature intelligent speaker products, such as Amazon’s Echos and Google’s Home devices. However, Apple has to start somewhere, and WWDC is the perfect time to show the world that they are committed to this product category and that they will move fast to catch the competition.

I think that about wraps it up. Like all Apple fans, I am looking forward to tomorrow’s Keynote and the new goodies it brings us. Hopefully a lot of the things I have mentioned in this series will make an appearance tomorrow, but I also hope there are some new features and surprises that I and others haven’t thought of yet. No matter what, the waiting’s almost over.


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Post tags: Airpods, beats, homepod, mac pro, macbook, MacBook Air, WWDC

June 01 2018

03:13

WWDC Wishlist Part Five- Services

The WWDC Keynote is closing fast now, and its time to bring this series toward a conclusion. In this next to last segment, it’s time to talk about one of the fastest-growing sources of revenue for Apple- Services. Just a few years ago, this segment was nothing but a trickle of profit from iCloud and the App Store. Now, thanks to the increased usage of iCloud from Drive and Photo Library and Apple Music, this trickle has become a rising tide.

With so much focus on Apple’s Services, you can bet they will feature prominently in the Keynote next week. Here are a few things I hope we will see on Monday:

Increased iCloud Storage

I’m not even going to ask for more free storage, although that would be nice. I understand that Apple is making that money with Services right now, but they could stand to be a little more generous with how much storage you get for the price. They need to adjust the pricing plans from time to time, and their recent gesture of giving users a free month for signing up for higher storage tiers fell very flat with the tech press. Bumping the limits to keep pace with the competition will go over much better.

More Control Over iCloud Storage

While I have the iCloud app for Windows installed on my laptop, I don’t use it much at all. One of the big reasons is that I have a TON of pictures stored in my iCloud Photo Library, and there is currently no way to limit how much of the contents of your account syncs over to a computer. This is something that Dropbox, Box and cloud storage services already handle without issue, and it’s an area where Apple could stand to catch up. If they want iOS users, especially those of us who use Windows on the desktop, to use iCloud more for file storage and synchronization, this would be a great feature to add.

More iWork Improvements

Apple gave Pages a rare but needed facelift and feature bump at their Education Event earlier this year. Now the app is more capable as a design tool that works with the Apple Pencil, which is a welcome feature. However, the iWork apps still need work to keep pace with the competition, and the cloud-based versions are even further off the mark. A better iWork in the Cloud suite is a solid incentive to get users to do more with iCloud.

Texture and Apple News Announcement

Apple’s acquisition of magazine app Texture earlier this year made big news, and WWDC is the perfect stage (pun intended) for Apple to tell us more about their plans. The most likely result will be yet another subscription service that will integrate all of Texture’s magazine content and features directly into the Apple News app.

While an announcement regarding Texture is a no-brainer, what is unknown is how Apple plans to handle the integration of News and Texture, how much the subscription will cost, and whether the original app and cross-platform service will remain available. While Apple Music is cross-platform, Apple News conspicuously isn’t. Will Apple lock Texture down to its own ecosystem, or will they go as far as opening up Apple News to be cross-platform? The truth will very likely be somewhere in between, but who knows.

Make it Easier to Post to Apple News

I mentioned this in my iOS 12 article, but it is worth mentioning here, as well. If Apple wants more content posted in Apple News, they could stand to make it a little easier to do so. A good start would be to revamp and improve the bare-bones web-based publishing interface available from iCloud’s News Publisher. This would be a great way to encourage more original content from independent outlets and individuals to the service. Even if that content is segregated into a separate section of Apple News, it would still add additional value. Just look at the success of Medium. Curated content from independent sources could play a valuable secondary role for Apple News.

Apple is Getting Into Music Publishing. Are They Going Further?

The world just learned that Apple is dipping a toe deeper into the music business pool. Will they go further than just publishing? A more appropriate question is probably when will they go further?

Getting into publishing seems like the perfect first move for Apple before starting their own label and going direct to the public with music. Will that actually happen, and if so, when? I expect this new publishing venture to be mentioned on stage, but it will be worth noting how the discussion is framed. That should tell us a lot about Apple’s future plans.

Add Real, Honest to Goodness, Easy to Use EQ to Apple Music

This NEEDS TO HAPPEN. It is so overdue that 99% of Apple fans have given up, moved on, and completely forgotten about this topic. However, the growth of Apple Music and the release of the AirPods and more recently, the awesome sounding HomePod, underlines the need for some user-facing music controls. Not all music is ripped, recorded, or created equally, so the ability to tune that sound right from the player is key. All of the processing and acoustic smarts of the HomePod can’t completely replace EQ. And this isn’t just important for iOS, either. I mention this in talking about Services, because this feature needs to be rolled out across all of Apple Music.

Apple Video Service Preview

Most projections have the majority of Apple’s video content arriving next year. However, the news is out there. We know about the deals and the name involved. As such, I wonder if Apple will make some kind of announcement about what’s coming now. I don’t expect a high level of detail, but I wouldn’t be surprised with a small preview that speaks to their overall ambitions for original video content, gives a detailed overview of the free content that is coming this year, and also sets the stage for next year.

An Apple Unified Services Announcement

This has GOT to be in the works. As with the video prediction above, I may be a year early here, but Apple would be wise to figure out a way to bundle all of its services for its fans who want it all. Speaking for myself, there is no way I would add both a news and video subscription to the iCloud and Apple Music subs that I already have. However, if Apple rolled out a compelling unified Services subscription, I would be all over it. Make it simple, Apple.

The second part of this is far less likely, but boy would I love to see Apple expand the iPhone Upgrade Program to cover more of their hardware. Even if it just covered iOS and watchOS, a single plan that offered a new iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch per year with AppleCare+ (all of which I already buy yearly), would hook me and MANY other Apple fans immediately. Again, I think this is unlikely, but I would LOVE to be surprised on Monday.

It’s almost here. The WWDC Keynote is so close we Apple fans can almost taste it. Rest assured that you will be hearing a lot about Apple’s Services during the event, and expect to hear about plenty of new features, as well. What do you think? WIll we get any of the items listed above this year? Do you have any others you expect Apple to unveil? Give me a shout and let me know what you think.


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01:57

Deals: ZeroLemon Fast Wireless Car Charger

Using your phone while driving can be a dangerous proposition. However, there are features, such as GPS and mapping, that can still be extremely beneficial to us on the road. It’s all about using them safely. One easy way to do this is to securely mount your smartphone while you’re behind the wheel, and there is no shortage of ways to do it.

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Our Deals site is offering the ZeroLemon Fast Wireless Car Charger for $25.99. This is 30% off the normal retail price of $39.99.


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Post tags: deals, wireless charging

May 31 2018

04:00

Beware of Early iPhone Rumors

Turn back the clock a year. We had all kinds of rumors about what the new iPhone would look like and the technology it would include. Remember when we were all sure that under-screen TouchID was coming? Then there were the crazy reports that Apple would put a TouchID sensor on the back of the phone, as if that would have ever happened. How about the fact that we were all sure the new iPhone would be called the iPhone 8? It seemed reasonable until the X moniker started making the rounds right before the iPhone 8 and X announcement last Fall.

This week, we have fresh rumors heading off into crazy-land again. This one may be easy to dismiss, but there is a report from TechnoCodex that Apple will go back to the bright colors of the iPhone 5C.

Photo Source: TechnoCodex

This may sound interesting, and these pictures may very well be of a device that Apple has prototyped and tested. However, I wouldn’t rate the chances of Apple reprising the look of one of its least successful iPhones as very high. Maybe I am wrong, but I think the odds are in my favor on this one. Don’t bank on getting an iPhone in green or purple, at least not based on a rumor this far out.

There have also been numerous reports this week that Apple will be moving away from LCD screens completely in favor of OLED this year. This would mean that the rumored lower-cost 6.1″ iPhone we have been hearing about since late last year wouldn’t be so low cost after all. If that phone has an OLED screen instead of LCD, then it will be quite a bit more expensive. And that is assuming it turns out to exist at all. The truth is, we just don’t know. In fact, it seems less likely that there would be three new OLED iPhones with screen sizes so close together (5.8″, 6.1″, and 6.5″).

The fact is, we don’t know anything concrete about the coming iPhones yet. No matter who these reports come from and how reliable they are, they can’t be counted on until closer to the iPhone’s release. We got a lesson in blindly trusting the supply chain just a month ago during Apple’s last earnings call. While the reasons may be different, the information is still just as unreliable at this point. iPhone hardware that people see now and tip the press off about may be test devices. They may be prototypes. They may be related to future releases. If the past has told us anything, it is that what we will see now may not translate to what we are actually getting this Fall.

We won’t see really solid and consistent intel coming out of the supply chain until later this Summer, so don’t freak out about any of the reports you see for the next month or so. While the devices described may be close, there is no way to trust that they are the real deal until this year’s version of the iPhone goes into production. Who knows, maybe we will get a low cost iPhone with an LCD screen, after all.


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Post tags: iPhone 8, iphone x

May 30 2018

01:47

Deals: CyberGhost VPN- Lifetime Subscription

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Post tags: deals, VPN

May 28 2018

15:22

WWDC Wishlist Part Four- iOS 12

We are now one week out from the WWDC Keynote, so the rumors should start to pick up a little in the coming days. As with all of the recent editions of this event, iOS is expected to be the star of the show. However, it’s a little harder to say how far the improvements will reach after Mark Gurman reported earlier this year that the bulk of new features have been pushed off until iOS 13, and that iOS 12 will be more centered on fixing bugs and increasing stability. According to this report, Apple will now focus on the next two years of iOS development at a time, rather than force-marching its engineers to meet constant and sometimes unrealistic one-year features delivery deadlines.

This move is disappointing in a way, because the report made reference to some BIG improvements that may have been on the roadmap for iOS 12 before Craig Federighi stepped in, including redesigned Home Screens for iPhone and the iPad. I’ve been wanting to see this for the last three years, so it was disappointing to see how close we were to finally getting them. However, in the long term, this is probably the right decision, and it should deliver us a consistently better and more stable iOS. So with this news from February fresh in our minds, what can we expect to see next week?

Let’s start off with some things we are likely to get in iOS 12:

Enhanced Parental Controls

Back in January, Apple responded to requests for them to address concerns with dependence on technology, and the possible negative impacts on public health, especially in regards to children. The following response appeared in the Wall Street Journal: “We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them…We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”

For several years, Apple’s iOS had the best parental controls in the industry, and it really wasn’t even close. They were the gold standard in smartphones and tablets. However, that can’t be said today. Amazon pushed ahead of Apple with some very sophisticated parental controls for its Fire tablets a couple of years ago. Even Google has finally recognized the value of controls and usage reporting, as they took the wraps off of new well-being centered features coming to Android later this year.

With Apple’s existing Parental Controls now a step behind, it’s time for a substantial upgrade. Considering that Apple made a statement saying that changes are coming, this seems like a sure thing. For parents who want to limit their children’s exposure to the darker sides of the Internet and gain a better understanding of how much time they spend on their devices, this should be welcome news.

Notification Center Improvements

This NEEDS to be addressed starting in iOS 12. Apple made some small improvements over the last two years, making notifications actionable and a little easier to dispense with. However, it is past time to make this system that is so often overwhelmed with clutter usable again. This is an area where Google’s Android has had an edge for a long time, and they continue to push ahead with improvements in intelligently prioritizing and categorizing your notifications for you. Apple needs to introduce similar improvements, because Notification Center can’t keep up with the load currently placed on it.

There are plenty of ways that Apple can approach this, but AI and machine learning will be essential in the process. For all the high profile struggles that Siri has, Apple has implemented some useful AI and machine learning elements in iOS, such as app suggestions based on time of day and location, and the ability for the OS to recognize items like addresses or phone number, and to serve up options based on them. A logical next step is to apply these features to how notifications are presented. The way that Apple implements AI and machine learning, they should be able to handle such tasks on-device, and in a way that preserves user privacy.

The issues with Notification Center may not be solved in one update, but it is important for Apple to start the process this year.

Animoji Expansion

Here’s another no-brainer. While this unique and fun feature is currently limited to use on the iPhone X, I still expect to see Apple demo wider use and adoption in iOS 12. With more iPhones with Face ID coming this Fall and new iPad Pros with the technology also likely on the way, WWDC is still the perfect time to show off what’s in store to a larger audience. Mark Gurman has already mentioned that Animoji may be coming to FaceTime. However, based on the popularity of screen recordings made using them, I would expect to see Animoji accessible in the Camera and/or the Clips app this year. I think that would be a big hit seen all over social media.

Horizontal Face ID

This is more important than you might think. First of all, if an iPad Pro with Face ID and no more Home Button or TouchID is coming, then being able to unlock the tablet in landscape orientation is essential. Many iPad owners such as myself use the device in landscape the vast majority of the time, making Face ID a real logistical issue. Having to have to turn the tablet every time you want to unlock it just isn’t practical.

Maybe that seems like a trivial complaint, but if you use a keyboard case like I do, it would make Face ID more of a problem than a solution. With a larger-screen iPhone also likely coming this Fall, there is even more than one reason that Face ID needs to grow up and take the next step.

ARKit Enhancements

Apple turned expectations about augmented reality on their heads last year when it unveiled ARKit. In one day, Apple took control of the fledgling AR market and became the world’s largest usable platform for developers. However, while ARKit made for a great on-stage demo, it was definitely still in its infancy. Apple rolled out gradual improvements over the course of the last year, but I think it is safe to say that Apple will want to prove to developers that its interest in AR isn’t fleeting. I think we will see a lot of new features added, chief among them being multi-player support for games.

More AI and Machine Learning Enhancements

Apple has done a nice job of adding AI and machine learning features to iOS gradually. The ones that I use, such as Siri App Suggestions, actually work very well, and make getting to certain things faster and easier. However, its time for Apple to pick up the pace and add more automation and more preference and usage-based shortcuts and enhancements throughout iOS.

Here are a few “strong maybe” features we may see during the keynote:

Split-View in Larger iPhones

This is another feature that may not be fully realized until new devices hit the market. However, with plenty of Plus-sized iPhones already in circulation from four years of sales, there are still plenty of user out there who would benefit. Again, the big stage of WWDC is a great time to unveil such as feature, with even more attention coming with the release of an even larger iPhone later this year.

While this feature will make for a great demo during the iOS 12 Public Beta, it becomes almost essential once a 6.5″ iPhone hits the market. That device needs to completely fill the role now held by the aging iPad Mini. The current Mini is capable of the same split-screen features that have been available since the release of the first iPad Pro, but it hasn’t been updated in a while and is likely to be phased out in the near future. To fully step into that role, the new iPhone most be capable of delivering the same feature set.

Considering the improvements in iOS multitasking and the powerhouse A-series processors that power its devices, it shouldn’t be hard for Apple to implement iPhone split-screen at this point. Also, adding split-screen to its larger iPhones will give them another differentiating feature to set them apart. Add split-screen to potential Apple Pencil support, and you have a real advantage that will bring users who previously had no other choices beyond the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Easy to Use Dark Mode

Prior to the release of iOS 11, it was rumored that Apple was working on a “Dark Mode” for users who prefer that look and feel. The existing mode under the Accessibility features would reverse everything, including pictures, giving it limited appeal beyond whose who have no choice. Unfortunately, while Apple did address that shortcoming in Accessibility settings, it didn’t create a Dark Mode that was easy to access. The new mode simply left picture untouched, and was still an Accessibility-based feature.

Based on the excitement that surrounded the potential for this feature to arrive last year, and the disappointment when it didn’t, Apple would be smart to go ahead and make it easier to access and use in iOS 12.

Improvements to the Stocks and iBooks Apps

Every year Apple seems to invest a little time and effort into one or two of its stock iOS apps, adding new features and revamping the interface. Mark Gurman previously mentioned that the Stocks app may be on the agenda for iOS 12. There were also rumors that iBooks may be due for a big update before Apple’s Education Event earlier this year. These two are pretty long in the tooth, so a fresh coat of paint makes sense. Based on Gurman’s comments, I would definitely expect big changes to the Stocks app.

Longer odds, but a couple of features I hope we get in iOS 12:

Voice Memos Added into Notes

Apple has added some significant enhancements to the stock Notes apps over the last few years. This included several iPad-specific additions last year with iOS 11. However, one addition that still eludes us is the ability to record voice notes within a note. Considering that text and digital ink are treated equally in Notes, and that so many third-party note taking apps include this feature, this is an odd omission. It is even more puzzling since the Voice Memos app is still just as barebones and limited as it has always been. The marriage of these two apps seems inevitable, but the question is when.

Apple News Editor App

Apple opened up access to Apple News a while ago, and it is fairly easy to automatically publish news content generated elsewhere to the service. However, publishers are currently limited to a barebones editor that is only available from within iCloud.com to publish original content directly to Apple News. Ironically, this editor can’t even be accessed directly from an iPad. That is less than idea for someone such as myself, who does as much writing as possible from an iPad Pro. I currently have to ether get out a laptop or use a Remote Desktop app on my iPad to publish to Apple News.

It is clear from their purchase of Texture that Apple still has very big plans to expand News beyond its current form. While a paid subscription for magazine content is a great way for Apple to do this, there are other directions they can take it, as well. Making it easier for certified developers to publish content directly and independently to News will bring more free and open content to the service, helping it to expand in both the paid and free directions.

The easiest way to do this is to make it easier to publish content to the service directly from iOS devices. Removing the friction of requiring a computer to publish to Apple News would lower a barrier to entry. Either creating an iOS app for publishing to to Apple News, or just adding the capability to the existing Pages app, would allow Apple to create a much more feature-rich experience than publishers currently have with their web interface.

Multi-User Support for the iPad

I’ve been begging for this one for years, but it just doesn’t seem like Apple is interested. There is a system for multi-user support for iPads used in education, but it requires a remote server and the accounts are actually managed there, rather than on the device. For families that share devices, it certainly would be a major improvement to have basic user support, even if it was just centered on children. Couple this with the likely improvements coming to parental controls, and you would have a great way to manage kids usage of Apple’s tablets.

This list of potential features for iOS 12 isn’t exhaustive, nor do I have any inside information of any kind. I’m sure we won’t get them all, and I’m certain there will be several other enhancements that I didn’t predict or ask for shown on stage. However, I think the items on this list are all worthwhile features and apps that should ALL be addressed by Apple at some point. Whether these features will come this year or further in the future is anyone’s guess today, but I look forward to finding out more one week from today!


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Post tags: Apple News. Parental Controls, ios 11, iOS 12, Notes, siri, WWDC

May 27 2018

04:02

Apple Stiff-Arms Steam, But the Reasons Aren’t Hard to Figure Out

In case you haven’t already heard, earlier this week Apple reversed an earlier approval of Steam’s Steam Link app for iOS and tvOS, and has now rejected it based on what was initially termed as “business conflicts with app guidelines.” Well, whoever in marketing or PR at Apple dropped that line should think before they speak, because most of the controversy surrounding this decision is based on that poorly-worded quote.

Despite the protests from Steam, I don’t think there is any real mystery in this decision from Apple. When you look below the surface, this situation is similar to other high profile issues with App Store rejections. It is very clear that this app violates several App Store guidelines that should be all too familiar to the tech world by now. I mean, if Apple won’t let mighty Amazon and Google sidestep the rule book, they certainly won’t make an exception for Steam.

According to Phil Schiller, who weighed in on this issue earlier today on Reddit, the rejection of Steam Link did come down to the app violating what he termed “a number of guidelines around user generated content, in-app purchases, content codes, etc.” These are all familiar areas of App Store restrictions that are geared toward keeping content safe for younger users and keeping a certain level of objectionable content at bay. Like it or not, these rules aren’t anything new, and you can be absolutely certain that the developers at Steam are fully aware of them.

It appears that Steam tried to sidestep these rules using a unique approach. They tried to portray Steam Link simply as a Remote Desktop app, which was smart since there are plenty of these kinds of apps in the App Store. Using this approach would have given the app pretty much free reign once it connected to a remote service and another machine. It worked well enough that whoever looked at the app the first time approved it. The problem is that the vast majority of these apps are general purpose in nature, where the Steam Link app serves one very specific purpose. It is very clear that the app was designed to side step these App Store restrictions, rather than work through them.

Here’s the thing- there is no reason that Steam can’t figure out how to comply with the rules to the point where Link will be allowed into the App Store. Amazon figured it out. A version of Minecraft without the ability to add user-generated mods has been available for iOS for years now. Google and Apple even managed to get on the same page about Google Voice, which only existed as a web app on iOS for a few years. It can be done. It’s just a matter of Steam being willing to take the time and make the effort to comply.

There are a few things worth noting about this situation. First off, everyone originally assumed that this rejection was based solely on Steam pushing a competing App Store. While this definitely isn’t allowed in the App Store, according to AppleInsider, Steam actually put some restrictions on the ability to buy games through the Link app. Also, it’s interesting that Schiller didn’t mention anything about access to an alternative App Store in his list of issues with Link’s compliance issues. In other words, it is very possible that Apple knee-capping competitors or demanding its 30% of all in-app purchases may have nothing to do with this, and that all of the initial accusations about Apple’s motivations may be off base. Of course, it is also possible that Apple is just trying to re-frame the conversation surrounding this event.

It is also interesting that this it the first time in a while that there has been a high profile app approval reversal from Apple. These kinds of issues used to be pretty common in the earlier days of the App Store. Apple appeared to almost be winging it, at times, and just making the rules up as they went along. Of course, it is their popular platform, and they can do that. But it does risk the goodwill of the developers who help to make the platform so popular if they abuse that power. In this particular case, it just looks like whoever first looked at this app didn’t do a thorough job and missed the intent of the app. It isn’t a good look, but isolated incidents are going to happen, on occasion.

At the end of the day, the ball is still in Steam’s court, and they have options. They can play the victim card, but other companies in similar situations have been held to the same App Store rules. Those companies did what they needed to do to comply and moved on. If Steam wants to make Link available to its users who prefer iOS, then Mr Schiller’s comments lead me to believe that the door is still wide open. They just need to do what it takes to walk through it.


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Post tags: App Store, Steam

May 26 2018

20:25

Should We Be Surprised Apple Knew the iPhone 6 Was Susceptible to Bending?

I’ll start off by saying that I’m not writing this article to make any excuses for Apple. By being far less than transparent in how they handled the iPhone 6 Plus “bendgate” when it occurred in 2014, they set themselves up for PR problems now that details of what they knew in advance have been made public. They made their bed, and now they will take a few deserved lumps for it. I just don’t understand why people are surprised by what they did and why.

I guess I just don’t buy into the notion that Silicon Valley companies all work off of exceptions to the rules that govern the actions of publicly-traded companies in other industries. While Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, Amazon and the like may look and often act differently than their non-tech contemporaries in many ways, at their cores, they still play by most of the same rules. When it comes to the business side, they really aren’t that different from other Fortune 500s. Risk management is one such area, and we have plenty of examples of how Apple handles such issues on a very public stage before.

In case you aren’t aware of the details, new information about the 2014 release of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus came to light this week because of a lawsuit against Apple alleging that the touchscreen failure of many iPhone 6s is related to the phone’s susceptibility to bending. According to The Verge, internal Apple documents that were revealed as part of the discovery process show that they knew that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend than an iPhone 5S, and that the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely. The suit alleges that the bending of phones are to blame for touchscreen failures, although it still remains to be seen if these issues are exclusively tied together. What we do know is that Apple responded to the issues that were revealed after the release of these phones by making changes to the iPhones 6S and 6S Plus that made them far more durable.

To be honest, I am not even remotely interested in the merits of this lawsuit. I’ll leave it to the engineers to decide if bending or some other issue contributed to touchscreen problems in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, for those who don’t pay attention to how companies operate, the information that has come out of this lawsuit provides a good example of how they look at risk management. Again, we have seen this before with Apple in the case of the iPhone 4. Apple came up with a unique and very innovative smartphone design that for all of its strengths and advantages, had one flaw. We saw Steve Jobs defend that design publicly with all the defiance and indignation he could muster.

However, we also saw Apple cave to pressure over complaints about the ability to short two of the wireless antennas with a finger placed in the “wrong” spot. While they didn’t recall or spontaneously redesign the iPhone 4, they did give us all free bumpers or cases, and the tempest in a teapot subsided. Then Apple quietly redesigned the antenna setup with the release of the Verizon iPhone 4 early the next year, and then those same improvements made their way to the iPhone 4S. This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Remember the flaking paint on the black iPhone 5? Remember how black went away the next year, replaced with Space Gray? Now we have complaints over the design of Apple’s butterfly keyboard and how susceptible it is to failure due to any debris intrusion coming to head in advance of WWDC. Of course, if you want real examples of how companies handle design issues, go research how often car manufacturers are sued over faults in their designs, and how common these are after a new vehicle design is released. These guys have risk management down to a science.

Of course, we all remember Samsung’s incredible misfortune with the Note 7’s battery problems, which were so severe that a full recall had to be carried out. Many Apple bloggers and super fans took aim and fired at will on their favorite company’s chief competitor, and I certainly took my shots, as well. However, while this is more of an extreme example, the way it played out is another interesting window into how companies approach risk and design shortcomings. I guess what I am saying is that, despite all of our comments to the contrary a couple of years ago, Apple and Samsung are more alike when it comes to handling risk than they are different. Remember that Samsung tried everything possible to prevent a full recall until it was the only option that remained. Sound familiar?

Why do companies behave this way? I think that is the really simple part. It’s all about money. When a problem is revealed, companies turn to the tried and true actuarial tables to determine the next step. Risk managers will figure out what each potential solution will cost, what the estimated PR impact will be, both positive and negative, and which solution ultimately offers the best balance of the lowest cost with the least PR damage and exposure to lawsuits. Obviously, companies don’t always handle this process well, and they often settle on solutions that hurt more than they help. Apple is no exception, as their initial response to questions about their handling of battery issues through software throttling caused a much bigger backlash than they would have faced with more transparency.

Again, I am not defending Apple’s actions here. Based on the documents that were revealed this week, they knew more about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’ susceptibility to bending than they admitted publicly in 2014. Did they deem that 3.3 and 7.2 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5S was acceptable? Considering that the iPhone 5S is a smaller and very solid design, that may be possible. However, I think it is far more likely that Apple discovered this susceptibility to bending far enough into the design process that they would have major delay issues getting the new phones out the door, and in response, they determined that the risk of just replacing bent phones without question and riding out the inevitable PR hit was easier than reworking the design. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, most other large companies would likely make the same call today.

I don’t think any of this should be a surprise to anyone who has their eyes open. This is how large companies conduct business. Samsung pushed the limits on battery designed and literally got burned. Do you really think they didn’t have any information on the potential risk of the Note 7’s tightly-packed design before release? Google released a Pixel 2 phone with a very poor screen and terrible color calibration. What was their initial response? They tried to explain and excuse the problems away. But do you think no one at Google realized that burn-in and ghosting were not just possible, but likely to happen before they sent out review units? Does anyone out there really believe that no one at Apple who held the iPhone 4 before release figured out that its new antenna design had an issue? After looking back at the many examples of how tech companies handle design problems and risk, if you still they they are somehow different from the rest of the corporate world, then I don’t know what else to tell you.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: bendgate, iPhone 4, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Note 7

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