New iPad with Pencil Support

Apple: Apple Introduces New 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil Support

Chicago — Apple today updated its most popular iPad with support for Apple Pencil plus even greater performance, starting at $329. The new 9.7-inch iPad and Apple Pencil give users the ability to be even more creative and productive, from sketching ideas and jotting down handwritten notes to marking up screenshots. The new iPad is more versatile and capable than ever, features a large Retina display, the A10 Fusion chip and advanced sensors that help deliver immersive augmented reality, and provides unmatched portability, ease of use and all-day battery life.

“iPad is our vision for the future of computing and hundreds of millions of people around the world use it every day at work, in school and for play. This new 9.7-inch iPad takes everything people love about our most popular iPad and makes it even better for inspiring creativity and learning,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Product Marketing. “Our most popular and affordable iPad now includes support for Apple Pencil, bringing the advanced capabilities of one of our most creative tools to even more users. This iPad also has the power of the A10 Fusion chip, combined with the big, beautiful Retina display, advanced cameras and sensors that enable incredible AR experiences simply not possible on other devices.”

These are good updates to the iPad, but they still fall short of creating a truly compelling computing device. I can’t help but think that a Smart Connector for a first-party keyboard and support for legacy input devices (like a trackpad) would go farther into getting more iPads into classrooms and homes.

The iWork updates are nice too, and I think it makes a lot of sense to roll iBooks Author into Pages. But I’m still waiting on a couple of my wish-list items — user-defined templates and fonts. The Mac versions of the iWork apps have pretty much always supported these because of the nature of macOS. iOS sandboxing creates barriers to this, but I’m sure it’s not impossible to overcome while retaining system security.

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iOS 9 Boot Source Code Leaks

Six Colors: iOS 9 Boot Source Code Leaks

In what one writer called “the biggest leak in history,” someone posted the source code for the part of iOS that is responsible for booting the system on GitHub…

Jiminy.

Fortunately, the code is already gone at Apple’s request, and it doesn’t sound like the initial impact is terribly significant.

Security researcher Will Strafach told TechCrunch that while it gives hackers some hints about how iOS boots that might become useful vectors of attack, it probably doesn’t mean much to iPhone owners:

“In terms of end users, this doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative,” Strafach said in an email. “Apple does not use security through obscurity, so this does not contain anything risky, just an easier to read format for the boot loader code. It’s all cryptographically signed on end user devices, there is no way to really use any of the contents here maliciously or otherwise.”

I think the biggest fallout is going to happen at Apple HQ. Someone on the inside had to let this out, and I can’t imagine Tim Cook and team are going to just let that slide.

Jason Snell on iProducts

Macworld: Is It the End of the Line for the ‘i’ at Apple? Analyzing Apple’s Naming Scheme

As luck would have it, I came across this piece by Jason Snell after writing that I felt Apple is heading toward a name change for iPhone. He has some very good points against such a move at this time. Though I still think the lowercase i is going to eventually go the way of brushed metal — which Apple also took a long time to phase out.

Apple’s made no pronouncements itself about it. Yes, it seems the “i” prefix introduced with the iMac 20 years ago has fallen out of favor. (I’m reminded of the time when Steve Jobs said that the “power” prefix of the PowerBook and Power Mac had gotten tired.) And yet that same prefix continues to appear in front of some of Apple’s most popular products and platforms! Meanwhile, Apple has announced new hardware—like AirPods and the HomePod—with absolutely no sign of either the letter “i” or the Apple prefix.

Even with the departure of the “i” in front of iBooks, the Apple product catalog is still littered with i-names: iOS, iPhone, iPad, iMac, iCloud. It’s possible that Apple is biding its time and will one day rename all of those products—for several years I’ve been getting emails from people who are absolutely sure that the next iPhone will be called Apple Phone—but it seems highly unlikely to me.

The iPhone, and the iOS platform it powers, are incredibly popular and recognizable brands. The iPad, though less successful than the iPhone, is also a known quantity. I can’t see Apple ditching all of that history, success, and brand recognition for the sake of some kind of inside-baseball corporate rebranding effort.

John Gruber Reviews the HomePod

Daring Fireball: HomePod

Audio quality is what Apple is hanging HomePod’s hat on, and to my ears, they’ve nailed it. In a side-by-side comparison in a fairly representative residential room during a product briefing with Apple last week, HomePod sounded better than an Alexa-powered Sonos One ($199) or Google Home Max ($399), and so much better than a second-generation Amazon Echo ($89) that it proved only that HomePod and Echo are at opposing ends of the product category.

Apple claims two primary reasons for HomePod’s audio quality. First, an old-fashioned reason: high-quality hardware. Seven good tweeters arranged in a circle around the base, and one good woofer at the top. The second reason is decidedly, well, new-fashioned: dynamic features that adjust playback by analyzing both the music and the acoustics of the room.

During a small media tour of Apple’s audio lab in Cupertino last week, Kate Bergeron, a vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, told us that the HomePod project started “about six years ago” with the basic question: How much better could a small loudspeaker sound if an advanced A-series chip was put to use to dynamically analyze both the audio and the acoustics of the room?

Everything I’ve seen about HomePod says the same thing: the audio quality is great, and the other features are mediocre. This is Apple’s approach to new hardware. Pick a differentiating feature, and refine that one thing to perfection; then iterate the rest. The early Mac was all about the interface. iPod was all about ease-of-use. iPhone was all about the touchscreen. iPhone X was all about a better screen. AirPods were all about easy wireless, and HomePod is all about sound.

The challenge is that the market is not as patient as it once was. When the original iPhone didn’t have third-party apps, it was only an inconvenience. No other phone had a heathy app ecosystem either. In contrast, HomePod is entering an already saturated market with Sonos, Google Home, and Alexa. I feel that HomePod will initially sell well, but continued sales will hinge on how quickly Apple can iterate and add features. For example, I find it somewhat unbelievable the HomePod can’t fall back to simply being a great Bluetooth speaker for those not in Apple’s ecosystem.

I highly recommend reading the rest of John’s review. He’s extremely thorough and is very honest about the capabilities and limitations of HomePod.

The Supposed iPhone X Death Sentence

Engadget: Apple isn’t really killing the iPhone X

When KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo pens a research note, it’s not just his clients who tear into the results — the tech community does too, because of his almost uncanny track record with Apple predictions. A recent note of his begat a series of unfortunate headlines though. Depending on who you read, the iPhone X could be scrapped or killed or cancelled suddenly, as though Apple — utterly disheartened by theoretically lackluster sales — simply decided to call it quits.

These headlines feel needlessly sensational, but they speak to a market reality rooted in rationality. Aside from a handful of analyst estimates, we don’t know how many iPhone Xs Apple has sold. The company doesn’t break out sales by iPhone model, though we’ll learn more about iPhone sales overall in its earnings report next week. The general consensus is that the X sales, while not terrible, fell short of expectations. Let’s put these sales forecasts aside — what’s done is done. If Apple does discontinue the existing iPhone X (which seems more than possible), it’ll have more to do with future sales than past ones.

The most recent knells of doom have been painting iPhone X as some kind of disaster for Apple (despite Apple’s own claims that it has been the best selling iPhone model since its introduction). The most recent evidence of this failure come in the form of reports that Apple will be discontinuing iPhone X after one year — something they’ve never done before! Except for the original iPhone, the iPhone 5C, various iPod models, and more. Some of those unexpectedly discontinued products were even quite successful.

If I were to make some unsubstantiated guesses, I’d largely agree with this Engadget article. Here’s where I think Apple may be going and why.

iPhone X Lives On Without the Name

The iPhone X will be discontinued but its features will live on. If indeed iPhone X is the future of iPhone and its features move to other models next year, there’s no need for iPhone X to continue unless Apple plans to keep it as the “experimental” phone. But do we need a new experiment every year? I believe the iPhone X name will go away, but only because most of Apple’s phones next year will essentially be iPhone Xs.

iPhones Get Rebranded

I suspect a branding change is coming for iPhone. Last year, Apple introduced iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and that X is pronounced ten. The current models are versions 8 and 10, so what do you call this year’s phones? iPhone 9 sounds like a step back, and iPhone 11 leaves Apple in the weird predicament of simply skipping a number. iPhone 9 and iPhone X-2? Now we’re getting into Final Fantasy numbering.

Instead, I expect this year’s phones will follow iPad naming conventions and drop the numbers entirely, or Apple may announce they are dropping the iPhone name in favor of Apple Phone, which would align with other recent products. Where Apple’s hardware used to be brimming with lowercase i‘s, now iPhone, iPad, and iMac are the holdouts. (There’s also the neglected iPod touch, but that seems largely abandoned.)

Conclusion

When iPhone X came out, I tweeted that I didn’t expect it to sell as well as iPhone 8, and I was obviously wrong. But I believe my reasoning behind the tweet is still valid. Apple never looked at iPhone X as a long-term product. They set it next to their traditional iPhone lineup instead of in it. iPhone X was never meant to last as a product, but it is supposed to last as a foundation for iPhones to come. It’s a long-term strategy embodied in a short-term product.

iPhone X changed what we expect from Apple’s phones. Its mere existence gets Apple’s customers ready for a change in how they interact with their devices. Regardless of how many iPhone X units sell, the device has succeeded. The only way iPhone X fails is if Apple’s new phones reject the progress it represents. iPhone X may get discontinued as a product and a name, but its influence will live on.

 

iOS 11.3 Preview

Apple Newsroom: Apple previews iOS 11.3

Usually, Apple only previews major system releases. The point releases just happen. However, some of the features coming to iOS 11.3 seem like they would usually be part of a major release.

On ARKit:

In addition to horizontal surfaces like tables and chairs, ARKit can now recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls and doors, and can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables. Using advanced computer vision techniques to find and recognize the position of 2D images such as signs, posters, and artwork, ARKit can integrate these real world images into AR experiences such as filling a museum with interactive exhibits or bringing a movie poster to life. The view of the real world through the camera now has 50 percent greater resolution and supports auto-focus for an even sharper perspective.

On Business Chat:

Business Chat is a new way for users to communicate directly with businesses right within Messages. This feature will launch in Beta with the public availability of iOS 11.3 this spring, with the support of select businesses including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. With Business Chat, it’s easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app. Business Chat doesn’t share the user’s contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time.

On the expected battery updates:

Additionally, users can now see if the power management feature that dynamically manages maximum performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns, first introduced in iOS 10.2.1, is on and can choose to turn it off. This feature can be found in Settings -> Battery and is available for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

I think this is the first time Apple have publicly acknowledged plans to allow users to enable or disable this feature. In the past, they have only said people would be able to see if their batteries were triggering performance throttling.

On Health Records, which seems big:

The new Health Records feature brings together hospitals, clinics and the existing Health app to make it easy for consumers to see their available medical data from multiple providers, whenever they choose. Patients from participating medical institutions will have information from various institutions organized into one view and receive regular notifications for their lab results, medications, conditions and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode.

Finally, on AML:

Support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) to automatically send a user’s current location when making a call to emergency services in countries where AML is supported.

Apple’s communication is improving in fits and starts. I hope this is the beginning of a trend where Apple are more transparent and upfront about their upcoming software updates.

Changes to macOS Server

Apple: Prepare for changes to macOS Server

macOS Server is changing to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network. As a result, some changes are coming in how Server works. A number of services will be deprecated, and will be hidden on new installations of an update to macOS Server coming in spring 2018. If you’ve already configured one of these services, you’ll still be able to use it in the spring 2018 macOS Server update.

These deprecated services will be removed in a future release of macOS Server, so those depending on them should consider alternatives, including hosted services. Deprecated services are listed below. Links to potential replacements are provided underneath each deprecated service.

I’ve never used macOS server, but this is rough for those that do. It is nice, however, that Apple provides links to alternatives for the services going away.

via 512 pixels

Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

Fortune: Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

If your friends and family are anything like my friends and family, you’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about Apple design recently. In fact, enumerating the ways Apple design fails consumers seems to have become an international pastime. Google “Apple design sucks,” and you’ll find a never-ending litany of the seemingly infinite ways that this ostensible paragon of design excellence misses the mark: The Watch isn’t out-of-the-box intuitive; the latest keyboards are annoying and fragile; Apple Pencils are easy to lose; the iPhone has been flawed ever since Apple introduced that camera lens that juts out on the back, and things have gotten worse with the “notch” on the screen of the iPhone X. Belittling headlines abound: “The Myth of Apple’s Great Design” (The Atlantic), “What Happened to Apple’s Faultless Design?” (The Verge), and “Apple Is Really Bad at Design” (The Outline), a recent screed that generated a lot of online chatter.

Highly respected developers and designers have weighed in with damning criticism. Tumblr cofounder Marco Arment admires most Apple design, but says, “Apple designs in the post-Steve era have been a little off-balance. The balance seems too much on the aesthetic, and too little on the functional.” Don Norman, a former member of the Apple design team (1993–1996) who now heads the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, beats the drum that Apple has abandoned user-centered design principles. “They have sacrificed understandability for aesthetic beauty,” he says.

As this article correctly points out, the thinking that Apple has somehow lost its way post-Jobs in terms of design clearly looks at the past through rose colored lenses. Apple has always had a struggle finding the perfect balance between usability and aesthetic. Look no further than the original iMac mouse for evidence.

Usually, though, the pendulum begins to swing after an iteration or two. They never get to the point of the utilitarianism that still pervades much of the tech industry, but Apple historically learns from their mistakes. It’s just that their mistakes now affect millions of more people than those of the Jobs era.

10 Years of the MacBook Air

The Verge: Steve Jobs Changed the Future of Laptops 10 Years Ago Today

“It’s the world’s thinnest notebook,” said Steve Jobs as he introduced the MacBook Air 10 years ago today. Apple’s Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft. Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was. We’d never seen a laptop quite like it, and it immediately changed the future of laptops.

At the time, rivals had thin and light laptops on the market, but they were all around an inch thick, weighed 3 pounds, and had 8- or 11-inch displays. Most didn’t even have full-size keyboards, but Apple managed to create a MacBook Air with a wedge shape so that the thickest part was still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ Series — one of the thinnest laptops back in 2008. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, and it signaled a new era for laptops.

Our MacBook Air is easily the best computer we’ve owned. We picked it up in 2011 as an emergency replacement, and it’s still going strong.

Apple’s Response to the Battery Controversy

Apple: A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.

I’m a little late to the game here, but I have two thoughts. The first is that this whole communication is a great response to a terrible situation. It’s humble, solution-oriented, and straight to the point. The second is that it’s too little too late. Apple needed to have been upfront about this. Since they weren’t, they’ve eroded trust with their customers and have given ammunition to their critics.

I sincerely hope Apple learns from these events.