My favorite early Apple Watch moment

David Chartier, writing about an experience at AltConf in 2015, when the Apple Watch was brand new:

It was a good keynote, but my favorite part happened in the Metreon theater. About 50 minutes in, a cacophony of Apple Watches all beeped nearly at once—according to the Activity features, it was time for us to stand.

Beautiful. A real moment in time.

Boy, 4, uses Siri to help save mum’s life

BBC:

A four-year-old boy saved his mother’s life by using her thumb to unlock her iPhone and then asking it to call 999.

Roman, who lives in Kenley, Croydon, south London, used the phone’s voice control – Siri – to call emergency services.

Police and paramedics were sent to the home and were able to give live-saving first aid to his mother.

Great story.

A crucial strategy hidden in Apple’s latest launch

Anita Balakrishnan, CNBC:

Apple said on Tuesday that Swift Playgrounds would be available in Simplified Chinese. Swift Playgrounds is an app, only available on iPads, that helps kids learn to code through games. Not only does Playgrounds help kids learn to code, but it teaches them Apple’s new coding language, Swift, released in 2014.

And:

Getting kids hooked has historically been part of Apple’s long game for the iPad — Steve Jobs once told Barack Obama that it was “absurd” that teachers still used chalkboards instead of iPads.

This is an important move that got little attention. This is Apple paying great attention to the details in opening up the iOS device market in China, paving the way via education. Smart.

Apple patents accessory that embeds your iPhone into a laptop

This is like an external keyboard case with a slot for an iPhone (or an iPad), except with this model, there’s an external display that is driven by the iOS device’s processor.

Neat idea. A bit of a missing link between iOS and macOS.

The very first arcade Easter egg and the quest to track it down

Fascinating post by Ed Fries, who led the team that created the original Xbox for Microsoft, on hearing the legend of the very first arcade Easter egg and his quest to track it down.

Great, great read with lots of detail and pictures.

The Apple Store is down, something special coming at 8:01a PT

If you head over to the Apple Store, you’ll see this oddly specific message:

This coincides with the sale of the new (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, 9.7-inch iPad, iPhone SE and iPad mini 4.

Is the shutdown purely to add these new items to the store, is there one last thing?

Reporting a problem with a Mac or iOS purchase

Have a problem with an app purchased on the Mac or iOS app store, or via iTunes? Looking for a refund?

Apple’s got a page for that. Click the link, then enter your AppleID password. You’ll see a scrolling list of all your recent purchases, with a Report a Problem link for each one.

The list includes purchase for music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books. Good to know, pass it along.

New emoji will include dinosaurs, barf, a brain, and a breastfeeding woman

I love the artwork here, glad they are still expanding the set to be ever more representational. As this set expands, we’re going to need better search tools. Scrolling through pages and pages of emoji is reaching a breaking point.

Text substitution is one solution. Keeping a page of recently used emoji (as iOS does now) is also helpful, though perhaps Apple could add in a pane of configurable favorites?

Note this, in bold letters on the Emojipedia page:

This update is not final and is subject to change.

Just something to keep in mind. And where’s that rimshot emoji?

Getting your mind around Apple’s newly purchased Workflow app

As reported yesterday, Apple bought the Workflow app and team. This could be great news, assuming this signals a move on Apple’s part to open up the black box and give users the ability to automate pretty much everything their heart desires, something they’ve long been able to do on the Mac.

Federico Viticci, MacStories:

At this stage, it’s not clear what Apple’s plans for Workflow in the long term might be. I have a few theories, but this isn’t the time to speculate. I’ll say this, though: Workflow has been the driving force behind my decision to embrace the iPad as my primary computer. Workflow is a shining example of the power of automation combined with user creativity and its underlying mission has always been clear: to allow anyone to improve how iOS can get things done for them in a better, faster, more flexible way. Workflow is the modern bicycle for the mind. There’s nothing else like it.

In my mind, no one has embraced and written about Workflow quite as much as Federico. If you are interested in learning more about Workflow, download it here (it’s free), then dig into this archive of Federico’s Workflow articles.

iOS gets 2nd rev of Super Mario Run while Android finally gets their 1st

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

Following its release on Android today, Nintendo has also updated Super Mario Run on iOS. The update adds a host of new features and bug fixes and brings the app to version 2.0. The update comes months after the app’s initial release.

Headlining the update are new playable characters. Nintendo says the update adds different color versions of Yoshi. If you play with a certain color of Yoshi during Toad Rally, you can unlock more toads of that color.

Additionally, the update makes more of the game available for free. Nintendo says that by completing one of Bowser’s challenges, you can unlock the previously locked courses 1-4 and battle with Bowser. Furthermore, Nintendo says that if you “clear course 1-4,” you’ll get new courses to play in Toad Rally.

If you love the game, there’s just more to love. Me, I find the interface a bit of a mess. Lots to love, lots of frustrating design to go along with it.

On a side note, Android users finally got their first taste of Mario yesterday afternoon:

https://twitter.com/NintendoAmerica/status/844663256614649858

The initial release, back on December 15th, 2016, was an iOS exclusive. I suspect this refresh was to revive the wave, give Android folks a reason to buy.

Robot’s delight

[VIDEO] I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip, hip hop, and you don’t stop.

Hope over to the main Loop post for an update to this update to The Sugar Hill Gang’s seminal Rapper’s Delight.

Marriott testing Siri and Alexa to decide which will control devices in its hotel rooms

Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc.’s battle with Apple Inc. over digital assistants is moving to a new venue: hotel rooms, where Alexa and Siri are both vying to be the voice-controlled platform of choice for travelers.

Marriott International Inc., the world’s biggest lodging company, is testing devices from the two tech giants at its Aloft hotel in Boston’s Seaport district to determine which is best to let guests turn on lights, close drapes, control room temperature and change television channels via voice command. In December, Wynn Resorts Ltd. became the first hotel company to install Alexa-powered Echo devices, starting with suites at its flagship Wynn Las Vegas property.

This is a fascinating business conflict. Let’s say Marriott chooses Alexa and Hilton chooses Siri. Will Apple folks shift their staying habits, choosing to stay at a Siri friendly hotel? Is this forced choice good business? Is there a way to support both? I see a business opportunity for an Echo-like device that supports multiple personalities, translating requests into the appropriate format with an exposed setting that lets you pick your favorite.

Apple adds multiscreen movie rentals, brings back playlist windows with iTunes 12.6 update

Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider:

Introduced as part of iTunes 12.6, which is rolling out to users as of this writing, the “rent once, watch anywhere” feature lets customers watch content rentals on any iPhone or iPad running iOS 10.3 or Apple TVs running tvOS 10.2. Those operating system versions have yet to move out of beta, suggesting a launch in the next few days.

Prior to the change, rented movies were largely relegated to the device on which they were purchased. For example, a film rented on an iPad or Apple TV could not be transported to iPhone, or vice versa.

Huzzah. The one rental, one device model was painfully archaic. Long overdue.

Kirk McElhearn, in a Kirkville post:

Remember how you liked having playlists in their own windows? Well, it’s back in the latest iTunes update. Right-click on a playlist and choose Open Playlist in New Window.

Two good things in a single update. Nice.

Kindle for iOS finally gets the “Send to Kindle” feature, challenging Pocket and Instapaper

Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch:

Amazon has quietly rolled out the “Send to Kindle” feature to its Kindle for iOS application that allows you to save to the app articles and documents found on the web. That means your Kindle device or app can replace your preferred “read it later” application — like Pocket or Instapaper, for example — apps where regular web readers often store the longer news articles, features or profiles they want to dig into at a later date.

Not sure of the impact of this move. I use the Kindle app to read books. And that’s it. Not sure the ability to “Send to Kindle” will even get an experimental look. Where’s the value? I can share everything to an app designed from the ground up for article or PDF reading. Why shift that workflow to run through Kindle?

Apple’s new Clips app, and its potential as a Snap and Facebook competitor

Nick Heer, Pixel Envy:

I’m not convinced, though, that Clips is a serious competitor. I think it’s a perfectly fine app; the Live Titles feature — which makes onscreen captions based on what’s being said — is especially cool. But Clips is separate from Messages, so there are more steps between starting to capture a moment and showing it off.

Time will tell if Clips gains traction. One thing Apple has done is add more importance to Messages, complementing the addition of stickers and the Messages app store.

Apple’s drops AIDS charity branding for its red iPhone in China

Jon Russell, TechCrunch:

The (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition iPhone 7 is the first time that Apple has supported the charity through its flagship phone, — previous (PRODUCT)RED editions have included Beats headphones and Apple accessories — so it is sure to heighten international awareness and generate additional funds since each purchase includes a contribution to the charity. The limited edition iPhone will go up for sale in over 40 parts of the world starting this Friday, but one market where the charitable tie-in will go unnoticed is China, the world’s largest country based on population.

Despite the potential for sales in China — where iPhones are status symbols, and a unique color can make a limited edition release particularly desirable — the red iPhone is not being promoted using the (PRODUCT)RED branding.

And:

Apple, which has been caught in the political crosshairs in China over its purported use of location data and President Trump’s aggressive trade policies, is likely steering clear of controversy here by decoupling the device’s association with [Red]. That applies to both authorities and consumers, too.

A difficult situation for Apple. Clearly, this is a cause in which they believe, no question. But compromise won out here, in deference to the need to build their business in China. Tough call.

Apple Store reopens, Apple announces iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition

From Apple’s press release:

Apple today announced iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition in a vibrant red aluminum finish, in recognition of more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). This gives customers an unprecedented way to contribute to the Global Fund and bring the world a step closer to an AIDS-free generation. The special edition (PRODUCT)RED iPhone will be available to order online worldwide and in stores beginning Friday, March 24.

I have to say, those are some gorgeous looking iPhones.

Apple Store site is down. New product coming, or simply maintenance?

If you make your way over to the Apple Store site this morning, you’ll see something like this:

According to Apple’s System Status page, the site went down for maintenance at 3a PT (early Tuesday morning). There are no media events scheduled for today, so this could be a site update.

But conjecture abounds, with most of the focus being on speed bump updates of the existing iPad line. Though there are some who suggest an updated iPhone SE, a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro, and a few other goodies.

Keep your eyes peeled, folks. My bet? This ain’t just maintenance.

Want a Mac Pro? Build a Hackintosh, way faster

Have your heart set on a speedy new Mac Pro? Given that nothing appears to be on the horizon from Apple, your best bet is to build your own Hackintosh. For about $2,000 you can have a tower machine that will run macOS, Windows, and Linux, with benchmarks way faster than the fastest Mac Pro Apple currently sells.

[Read More…]

Apple’s next big thing: Augmented Reality

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

Investors impatient for Apple’s next breakthrough will be happy to know that Cook is very serious about AR. People with knowledge of the company’s plans say Apple has embarked on an ambitious bid to bring the technology to the masses—an effort Cook and his team see as the best way for the company to dominate the next generation of gadgetry and keep people wedded to its ecosystem.

Apple has built a team combining the strengths of its hardware and software veterans with the expertise of talented outsiders, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal strategy. Run by a former Dolby Laboratories executive, the group includes engineers who worked on the Oculus and HoloLens virtual reality headsets sold by Facebook and Microsoft as well as digital-effects wizards from Hollywood. Apple has also acquired several small firms with knowledge of AR hardware, 3D gaming and virtual reality software.

And:

Building a successful AR product will be no easy task, even for a company known for slim, sturdy devices. The current crop of AR glasses are either under-powered and flimsy or powerful and overwhelmingly large. Apple, the king of thin and light, will have to leapfrog current products by launching something small and powerful.

Adding AR features to the iPhone isn’t a giant leap. Building glasses will be harder. Like the Watch, they’ll probably be tethered to the iPhone.

And:

In 2015, Apple recruited Mike Rockwell, who previously ran the hardware and new technologies groups at Dolby, the iconic company known for its audio and video technology. Rockwell also advised Meta, a small firm that makes $950 AR glasses and counts Dolby as an investor.

Rockwell now runs the main AR team at Apple, reporting to Dan Riccio, who’s in charge of the iPhone and iPad hardware engineering groups.

Read the whole thing. I can’t wait for Apple’s take on AR. This is a gigantic problem, combining the difficulties of crafting brand new, power hungry hardware with sophisticated, layered, ground-breaking software. To me, this is way bigger than the Apple Watch, a much harder nut to crack.

Will Apple start with vertical applications, designed for a specific space like, say, construction, or home design? Or will they try to craft a killer AR app usable by the masses?

Will Apple bring Siri into the mix? If so, how deeply? And, if so, how will they leverage Susan Bennett’s voice? At some point, doesn’t Siri need some backup talent in case Susan is unavailable?

Netflix is testing a button for skipping the opening credits

Why not? This is just the tip of the iceberg. Why not add in tech that lets us speed up a video, dropping duplicated frames when a camera shot stays in place for an extended period, or when a transition from scene to scene is overly slow? How about a smart button that lets us jump from scene to scene to more accurately find a specific spot in a movie?

For purists, this is anathema. I get it. But the beauty of adding tech like this is, you can easily just ignore it. It’s not the same as the difference between a director’s cut and one cut for commercial TV. Those are different as night and day and there’s nothing you can do to convert the cut up version to the original.

I applaud the layering of AI in this space. Bring it on. Just be sure I can disable any add-ons and watch the content in its original form.

Nine accessories for charging Apple devices

Julio Ojeda-Zapata, writing for TidBITS, digs into the morass of charging accessories for Apple laptops, tablets, phones and watches, presenting nine that made the cut. Spend a few minutes scanning through these, see if any fill a need for you. Good stuff.

Jean-Louis Gassée on Swatch’s decision to roll its own Watch OS

Swatch is a major player in the watch space. To give a sense of their size, The Swatch Group employs about 36,000 people. Jean-Louis Gassée writes about the Swatch’s move into the smart watch space and their decision to avoid Android Wear and roll their own solution from scratch.

I found the whole read interesting, but wanted to highlight this bit about how Swatch was born:

Lebanese-born and Europe-schooled, Nicolas Hayek père was a genius.

In 1983, two venerable but mortally ailing Swiss watch industry companies, ASUAG and SSIH, called Hayek to their bedside to perform the last rites and liquidations. The companies had been unable to withstand competition from Japanese quartz watch manufacturers such as Seiko, Casio and Citizen. It was the humane thing to do.

But rather than pull the plug, Hayek demonstrated his unique combination of management, technology, and marketing savvy by making a counter-intuitive decision: In the middle of the “quartz crisis”, Hayek refused to give up on traditional mechanical designs. He merged the two entities and adopted a project from subsidiary ETA SA, whose CEO, Ernst Thomke, and two engineers, Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller, had come up with a simplified mechanical design that used only 51 pieces when 150 was considered the minimum.

As an aside, the name Swatch was built from Second Watch, not Swiss Watch (as I was told as a kid).

And spoiler, Jean-Louis thinks this move by Swatch will not help it compete against Apple Watch.

Watch Beats 1 Creative Director Zane Lowe give SXSW music keynote

[VIDEO] Zane Lowe is the creative force behind Beats 1 Radio. Watch the video embedded in the main Loop post for his SXSW 2017 keynote. If nothing else, click to about 5:48 in to hear Zane talk about his father and his role bringing rock to New Zealand.