| MacBook Pro lineup gets Haswell CPU bump, more memory
Tuesday morning a refreshed line up for the MacBook Pro appeared on Apple’s online site. Changes include speed bumped processors utilizing recently released Haswell chips from Intel. New stock CPUs now go up to 2.5 GHz quad-core i7 in the 15-inch version and 2.8 GHz dual-core i5 in the 13-inch. The 15-inch also got upgraded to 16 GB of memory across the board.
Build to order options allow for 2.8 GHz quad-core Core i7 in the 15 inch with up to 1 TB flash storage. On the 13-inch, customers can add on a 3.0 GHz quad-core i7, 16 GB of memory, and the same 1 TB storage options.
Podcast: Walkie-talkies, iOS 8 betas, CES and much more
This week we reminisce about Walkie-talkie adventures, iOS 8 betas, lack of new Apple products, and CES.
FLIR One Thermal iPhone case goes on pre-order
The FLIR One was one of the more interesting Apple-related things I saw at this year’s CES. The product is a case for the iPhone 5/5s that adds thermal optics to the phone. It was a pretty cool demo.
The FLIR One is available now for pre-order for $349. It’s expected to ship starting August 7th. The only down side I think is the timing with a potential new iPhone. Before dropping $350 on an accessory, you might want to consider whether or not you plan to upgrade to the next iPhone, which will almost certainly have a new form factor.
New MacBook Air stickers ad
Whoever is selling MacBook stickers is probably going to have a good week.
A detailed look at Yosemite and iOS 8 Continuity features
Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica:
First, as with the phone call feature, any devices you want to use with Handoff need to be signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID, which also happens to pair them via Bluetooth.
Once you've signed in to the same iCloud account, our old friend Bluetooth 4.0 is responsible for keeping each of your devices informed about what the others are doing. Open a webpage on your iPad, and it will let any paired devices nearby know that they can open that page. Start writing an e-mail, and it will let those devices know that you're writing an e-mail.
There are a list of features, but Handoff to me is one of the most interesting. I do drift between devices depending on the situation. With Handoff I suspect I won’t have to think as much about which device to work on. Just start with whatever is at hand and if needed I can (hopefully) seamlessly jump to another.
Maroon 5, Pharrel Williams, Beck headline iTunes Festival
Apple announced Monday its 8th annual iTunes Festival in London. This year’s concert festival will feature performances by Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams, Beck, Sam Smith, Blondie, Kylie, David Guetta, 5 Seconds of Summer, Calvin Harris, Chrissie Hynde.
iTunes Festival will feature over 60 acts throughout September at the legendary Roundhouse. iTunes performances can be watched live or on-demand by millions of iOS users around the world on their iPhone®, iPad® or iPod touch and iTunes on their computer or in stunning HD with Apple TV. Tickets are free for competition winners only.
Comcast vs Ryan Block
Ryan Block, formerly of Engadget:
Please note: this conversation starts about 10 minutes in -- by this point my wife and I are both completely flustered by the oppressiveness of the rep.
It sounds like this customer service rep has a gun to his head. Comcast responded to Vice.com saying "This isn't how our customer service representatives are trained to operate."
I really doubt that rep is that crazy aggressive without fearing for his job. So, yeah, Comcast doesn't train their people to act insane, but using fear and intimidation can make people act insane. That's tactic might help make quarterly numbers, but obviously makes for awful customer service.
Apple launches Swift developer blog
This new blog will bring you a behind-the-scenes look into the design of the Swift language by the engineers who created it, in addition to the latest news and hints to turn you into a productive Swift programmer.
Apple is not know for blogging about anything, much less “behind-the-scenes” stuff. This is a pretty interesting outreach effort to get developers interested in Apple’s new programming language. The blog is a part of a larger public site on Apple’s developer website.
Swift was announced at WWDC this year as a new system for developing apps for iOS and OS X.
It will be interesting to see future posts, but I’ll guess this might be geared more towards new or casual Apple developers. From the reaction at WWDC, current developers for the most part seem eager to jump on board.
LEGO Fusion looks pretty neat
LEGO is coming out with four new Fusion kits that are designed to work with iOS devices. Basically using the special blocks, you can capture your creation using the camera on an iPhone or iPad. The LEGO app will then translate your creation into an interactive digital form. Sounds pretty cool. Expected to ship in August or September.
Below is a teaser video. Note that it’s stuffed with misleading “simulated graphics” but you get can an idea of how it works with some device shots.
Tim Cook’s leadership and innovation
Tim Cook and Apple are very private and we’re left to piece together clues on how Apple’s culture is changing with Cook as CEO.
Daisuke Wakabayashi for WSJ:
Inside Apple, Mr. Cook is less hands-on when it comes to product development, according to people familiar with the matter. Presented with a list of product ideas, Mr. Jobs quickly dismissed most with an expletive, said people who worked with both men. Mr. Cook tends to encourage staffers with comments like "let's push that forward" or "let's see what we can do with that" in his Southern drawl, a remnant of his Alabama upbringing.
Mr. Jobs's repudiations bruised feelings while making sure the company stayed focused on a few projects. Under Mr. Cook, current and former employees say Apple may be spreading itself too thin, pursuing too many ideas and compromising the "laser focus" that Mr. Jobs used to create the iMac, iPhone and iPad.
"It was Steve's job to say no," one of these people said. "Tim is not as comfortable doing that."
Jobs famously had good instincts and his personality was such he could push people to excel. Some of that was a cult of personality, but also fear of disappointing Steve and getting in the crosshairs of his turret. That’s not typically a conducive culture for innovation and risks, but Apple and Jobs made it work. Jobs is credited for a lot of that success using his unique skills, experiences, and personality.
In this situation, a downside was Jobs was the safety net at Apple. Employees could present ideas knowing Jobs would kill it if it wasn’t good or force them to go back if it wasn’t good enough. It sounds like Cook instead empowers employees to make more of these decisions. It also seems widely accepted that this is a weakness when it’s not. Certainly that’s going to result to some stumbles as the teams at Apple learn to fly without Jobs as a safety net. I think, however, it has the potential to make Apple even better without Jobs.
Either way, it certainly would be better than if someone other than Jobs tried to be Steve Jobs.
Detailed look at iOS 8 Privacy
I’ve gathered this information by watching over 17 hours of WWDC 2014 sessions and carefully reviewing, analyzing what was said, and writing a huge number of notes on Security, Privacy, UX and other areas which I will be publishing here in the coming weeks.
This came across the Twitters and is a great effort. It's was posted last month and incomplete, but what's there is pretty interesting stuff. Hopefully Luis will finish the project.
IBM's Watson in the kitchen
Developed by IBM, Chef Watson is a complex piece of software that essentially discovers and invents dishes, using what it’s learned from Bon Appétit‘s 9,000-odd recipes, plus its own understanding of which chemical flavor compounds go together (and which don’t). Through a Web app, Chef Watson had asked Perry for some basic inputs—a specific ingredient to use, a type of dish to create, a theme—and returned her a dizzying array of ingredient lists for her Fourth of July menu..
That's pretty cool. The version discussed here just give a list of ingredients and the cook needed to figure out how to assemble. Sort of like a version of the TV show Chopped. Apparently a newer version includes cooking instruction for the ingredients.
Apple rolls out Back to School Promo
Apple's Back to School promo is a summer tradition. As Educators, students, and student's families prep for fall classes Apple offers a special promotion. This year Apple is offering $100 Apple Store gift cards on computers and $50 on iPad and iPhones. This is a little different than previous years where Apple dished out iTunes credits or earlier an iPod touch.
The promo is on top of modest educational discounts. The promotion runs from July 1 through September 9, 2014.
Apple may be rolling out two-factor verification for iCloud
AppleInsider was able to confirm the new iCloud security feature is indeed Apple's normal two-factor authentication service, though it is unclear if the feature is in testing or nearing rollout. Certain Apple ID accounts we tested required the second verification, while though others did not.
Like the Apple ID security, two-factor verification sends a PIN to a smartphone to unlock the account in addition to the standard login credentials. On iOS, the PIN can come as either a text message or system notification.
I tried with a couple of my accounts and I didn’t get prompted. So I’d guess either Apple is rolling this out in phases or it is just a test. Either way, it would seem safe to assume that at some point Apple looks to implement the security feature.
Apple revamps iTunes U for better iPad integration
The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork®, iBooks® Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.
Students using iPad and enrolled in private iTunes U courses will now have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers. With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.
The new features will be rolled out next week starting July 8th. It appears to be a big push to help teachers create and manage classrooms with iPads. Sounds cool.
Apple ends Aperture
“With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture. When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X,” reads a statement Apple released to Macworld.
This seemed like a Friday garage dump announcement. The move isn’t very surprising. Adobe Lightroom is a fine product and when I was looking for a tool to manage photo libraries beyond the capabilities of iPhoto, Lightroom was my choice. While a pain for users, ultimately it’s better to end a product than to allow it to gimp along with minimal support. That is if Apple doesn’t feel a product warrants major development resources, which is the case with Aperture.
Interestingly, Apple Friday also pushed out updates to Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Compressor, it’s line of professional video tools. Coincidence or do you think Apple might be trying to assure other professional customers?
New Parenthood iPhone 5s ad features apps with kids
I'm getting the brushing teeth app.
Apple updates lowest end iPod touch, trims prices
Thursday Apple announced it’s replacing the 16 GB iPod touch to match the rest of the iPod touch lineup. The 16 GB version was essentially the previous generation model selling for $199. Now the 16 GB is the same generation as the 32 GB and 64 GB. This means the 16 GB now comes in the full range of colors as the rest of the line and also features an 5 MP iSight camera and A5 CPU. Apple has said that the iPod touch will run iOS 8, although some features may be missing. The old 16 GB model may not fall under that statement, and now it should.
Apple also lowered pricing on the other models. The 32 GB now sells for $249 and the 64 GB is $299.
Apple’s focus on the customer
John Moltz for Macworld
To hear Tim Cook talk about it, Apple takes customer satisfaction very seriously, far more seriously than its competitors. But that may not quite be it: The difference between Apple and its competitors is that Apple’s customers and end-users are one and the same.
By now you’ve heard the adage that if you’re not paying for a product then you are the product; hence, Google’s true customers are advertisers. Microsoft’s situation is more muddled: Many of Microsoft’s customers are corporations that care more about cheap licensing and centralized management than user experience. When Microsoft sells a license to an OEM, the OEM is kind of a customer, as is the end user. I doubt OEMs would give Microsoft high customer satisfaction ratings, but maybe advertisers would give Google high marks.
There are some good thoughts here, but Moltz is just touching the surface. I think you can’t argue Microsoft, Google, and HP aren’t customer-driven. They are, but as Moltz points out Apple is in a unique position to better deliver for the consumer. That’s one advantage, but when thinking of Apple and its focus on customers it’s probably minor. The biggest advantage I think is Tim Cook.
While Apple may struggle to push innovation through the product line as well as it did with Steve Jobs, I think Apple is going to be more customer driven under Cook. I wouldn’t be surprised if this proves to boost Apple further than the latest new gadget or feature.
I called AppleCare for the first time in a while. I’m just the type of person who will bang my head against the wall trying to figure out a problem rather than ask for help. Same with driving and direction. I had an issue though where iOS 8 beta wiped out my audio books. PSA: You can’t re-download audio books like the rest of iTunes purchases. You need to actually sync those purchased to a computer — something I haven’t done since iTunes Match launched.
I did some research and figured out I was stuck and needed to call for help. I’ve had good experiences with AppleCare in the past and I fully expected they would fix my issue. In fact, I had to do something like this once a long time again after a data loss. I had asked if there was a way I could restore my some lost purchases. When I called I got a lecture on backing up my purchases and how this was a one time deal to help me out. I was grateful for gods of Cupertino to show me mercy. In retrospect, that was pretty bad customer service, even though they helped me. It really wasn’t my fault Apple’s system wouldn’t let me re-download purchases nor that Apple didn’t provide a backup solution that worked for customers, like we have now. I assume, like now, the issue with re-downloads is licensing mumbo jumbo. That’s not a customer problem. When I called this time, the CSR apologized profusely and fixed my problem enthusiastically. The experience to the similar problem from a years back night and day different. Beyond that, overall the rep was better than what I considered already great service.
Remember “you’re holding it wrong” and the iPhone 4 antenna defect? That was all Steve Jobs and the opposite of customer focused. That’s no longer Apple under Tim Cook and that has nothing to do with building the whole widget. That’s fundamental shift that’s great for Apple and its customers.
Dropbox app looks to streamline desktop setup
Reorder your Favorites list with a simple touch and hold
• Set up Dropbox on your computer using your camera
• Dropbox now remembers recent locations when importing files
• Accessibility improvements
• Support for additional languages: Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Thai
• Lots of bug fixes and usability improvements
The new setup feature is neat, but not what I was expecting. Basically if you have Dropbox on your smart device, you can go to the app and click to Link a Computer. Then you go to a Dropbox connect webpage on the desktop and show the Dropbox-like QR code to the app. It automatically logs you into the website and begins downloading the desktop client. That’s really slick.
The thing is though, I wish it worked the other way around. Putting in passwords for me is a pain on iOS. It would be cool if I could log into the Dropbox site, or just use the desktop client, and then pass my credentials to the iOS app using the same QR code idea. Maybe in the future. Anyway, this is pretty nifty, in addition to some other features.
Apple TV adds on ABC News, PBS Kids, AOL On
Disney has expanded its Apple TV content with a new ABC News channel. It offers on-demand video, and some local content from nine major markets. Also new is a PBS Kids, AOL On, and Willow sports channel.
Apple has really been ramping up content for the Apple TV. The increasing pace of additions would seem to be more news worthy than the actual channels being added. It seems clear Apple is working hard on the former hobby.
A look inside Dropbox's new HQ
This is one of those lame slide shows, but there's some neat stuff. Beyond the typical Silicon Valley start-up amenities, there are some interesting ideas.
They have a vending machine for hardware accessories. So rather than putting in a purchase request or bugging IT, employees and just grab a keyboard or earbuds with their badge. Another neat idea is interns and new employees have balloons at their desk of the Dropbox check mark. Silver is an intern and green is a employee. That's a good way to introduce new employees and also identify their role.
Apple TV and HomeKit possibilities
Chris Breen looks into the possibilities of Apple’s announced HomeKit home automation platform. Apple is inviting developers to park their wares on iOS, but he makes an interesting observation with the Apple TV:
Wouldn’t it be better if each home had a small, power-efficient, always-on, platform-agnostic, Wi-Fi-enabled computer that could talk to your devices both remotely and over a local network?
If you haven’t yet glanced over at your Apple TV, now’s the time. Beneath its rounded-rectangular shell is a computer running a form of iOS. One of the beauties of iOS (and its sibling OS X) is that it’s modular. If you need it to take on a different kind of chore, just add a new software component.
Perhaps this device's big brother could serve as the gateway to our smart appliances.
T-Mobile offers unlimited iTunes Radio streaming
As a Simple Choice™ Plan customer, you can now automatically stream unlimited songs from many of our most popular services to your smartphone—without using any of your monthly high-speed data on our network. That’s right, you can use your phone to listen to music as much as you want and never touch your monthly data allowance.
The feature also includes other streaming music providers such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Spotify and Slacker.
T-Mobile has been making some impressive customer-friendly moves. The biggest issue with T-Mobile I think is just the nature of the industry. An area’s original incumbent provider tends to have the best coverage and spectrum availability, and that’s usually not T-Mobile. The company is currently in talks to be purchased by Sprint. If the deal goes through, I hope they keep T-Mobile’s refreshing focus on customers.
Podcast: Low end iMac, Podcast App, Amazon Phone + More
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