iOS 12 Preview: Audacious new proactivity meets fierce new privacy

This is a long read, with an accompanying long video. I truly don’t know how Rene Ritchie finds the time to do all this, but he does, and it’s good stuff.

I’d start off by scrolling down, just a bit, to the section titled iOS 12 In Brief. Rene breaks down his review into 12 (cause iOS 12, get it?) key takeaways. Read those, and you’ll have a good sense of what’s coming, can cherry pick your way through the rest of the piece, dive deep into the areas that interest you.

Nice job, Rene.

Apple issues first public betas of iOS 12, tvOS 12

I’m running the developer betas. My experience is that iOS 12 beta is very solid. I’ve not run into any issues that get in the way. Not crazy about the change to the camera icon in Messages (explained in this tweet), but that’s design, not a beta issue.

As always with beta software, make sure you have a solid backup (in iOS, make sure you archive the backup, so it doesn’t get overwritten) before you make the move.

Here’s the link to Apple’s beta program page.

Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

[VIDEO] This was beautifully done. If you have even the slightest of Beatles fan within, you should take the time to watch (video embedded in main Loop post).

Paul shows James Corden around Liverpool and they stop at various spots made famous in song, including that barber shop on Penny Lane where “the barber shaves another customer”.

Ah, sweet nostalgia, take me away!

iPhones and USB-C

I came across this Android Central article over the weekend, a discussion about USB-C charging:

Unless you have a Moto Z series phone, none of the cheap adapters you see for sale offer a headphone jack and charging port. None of them. They all may not work with every Moto Z model, either. My advice is to just stay away from them.

This is because of parts of the USB-C specification that are optional. Motorola offers these options, but phones like the Pixel 2 and almost all others do not. It may be possible to define some fancy logic that allows this to happen, but you won’t get it for $12 on eBay or Amazon.

A few weeks ago, a rumor surfaced that Apple would replace the iPhone Lightning port with USB-C. Color me extremely skeptical.

The Lightning spec is consistent and the hardware is reliable (for the most part).

On the USB-C side, things are a bit of a mess. From this take by Android Authority:

Even the seemingly most basic function of USB Type-C — powering devices — has become a mess of compatibility issues, conflicting proprietary standards, and a general lack of consumer information to guide purchasing decisions. The problem is that the features supported by different devices aren’t clear, yet the defining principle of the USB Type-C standard makes consumers think everything should just work.

We’ve seen this issue on the MacBook, though staying with Apple specified adapters works fine. But iPhone adapters are much more of a commodity. Who doesn’t own a 3rd party Lightning cable or adapter for their iPhone? With Lightning, you know it’s iPhone compatible and the bad cables/frauds are sussed out pretty easily.

If Apple replaced Lightning with USB-C on the iPhone, they’d have to ensure that the USB-C standard issues would not become Apple customer support issues.

The absolute best phone: Apple iPhone X

The Verge ran a review of their favorite phones. Top of the tops, the iPhone X.

Here’s what they had to say:

Apple’s latest iPhone isn’t just the most interesting iPhone in years, but it’s easily the best smartphone ever made. The iPhone X has almost everything you could think to ask for in a smartphone: blazing-fast performance, a gorgeous display, top-of-the-class cameras, loud, clear speakers, reliable battery life, and a head-turning design. In addition, the X is water resistant and can be recharged with a wireless pad. The main thing that most people will miss is a standard headphone jack.

Apple’s extensive support system, through both its own and carrier stores, is another incredibly important point in the iPhone’s favor. There’s simply no other company that provides as much support for a smartphone after you purchase it. On top of that, since it’s an iPhone, the iPhone X enjoys the broadest support of accessories and cases.

Doomed!

Amazon Fire TV Cube: The promise of a voice-controlled future not yet delivered

A few weeks ago, we posted about Amazon’s new voice controlled Fire TV Cube.

Think Apple TV married with Amazon Echo. No remote required, just ask Alexa to turn on your system, change channels, pause, jump to a specific location, all via voice.

The ultimate hands-free utopia, right?

Trevor Daugherty, 9to5Toys:

Fire TV Cube looks to cure that with an all-in-one solution centered around its Alexa voice platform. In our hands-on testing, it delivered as a means for sorting through content but fell short as an intuitive hub for home theaters. The potential is there, but don’t count on it changing the game just yet.

Dig through Trevor’s review. While some of the issues raised are easy to get past, many of them are enough to spoil the value of the experience. Judge for yourself but, if you are even considering a purchase, read the whole article to learn what you are in for.

Apple News launches 2018 midterm elections section

From the Apple press release:

The 2018 Midterm Elections section helps readers follow the latest on the elections with breaking news, exclusive highlights and analysis from reliable sources selected by Apple News’ team of experienced editors. Readers can quickly get up to speed on the most relevant topics and candidates by accessing the new section in the Apple News app from a banner across the top of the For You tab, as well as through Top Stories and the Spotlight tab.

Curated. That’s key. The question is, can the curation team do their work in an unbiased, balanced fashion?

Best performance of Highway to Hell I’ve ever seen

Not sure what it is about this click I found so amazing, but it really clicked for me. Maybe all the color, or perhaps the terrific camera work and vivid photography. No matter, see for yourself (embedded in the main Loop post).

Don’t use your iPhone’s Markup highlighter to censor screenshot info

From this John Wickham tweet:

https://www.twitter.com/thejohnwickham/status/1009525745864134656

Check the pic on the left and on the right. See the difference in the blocked text?

My followup to John asked how he got from one to the other. In other words, how did he reveal what’s under the marker.

His response:

In the Photos app, tap Edit, then open the levels (dial icon in the toolbar). Tap the disclosure arrow for Light, then crank the Brightness slider all the way up.

Yup. This is really good to know. I believe a filled rectangle will work. Nice find, John!

How to recover deleted Safari history on Mac

In a nutshell, this article talks you through the process of using Time Machine to fetch an old copy of your history file.

Take a look, file away for that future need. Good stuff.

Google Home enables “continued conversation”

Google blog:

We’ve heard from a lot of people that adding “Hey Google” before each follow-up question for the Assistant doesn’t feel as natural as they’d like. We announced Continued Conversation at I/O as an optional setting which lets you have a natural back-and-forth conversation with the Assistant without repeating “Hey Google” for each follow-up request. The new feature is starting to roll out today, and you can turn it on in the Google Assistant app by going to Settings → Preferences → Continued Conversation and hitting the toggle.

Basically, Google assistant will keep listening (for about 8 seconds) after the end of a “Hey Google” back and forth. No need for a follow-up “Hey Google”.

Wondering if Siri will follow this approach, or perhaps develop a more complex protocol for handling continued conversation.

What is browser fingerprinting and how does it work?

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

When a site you visit uses browser fingerprinting, it can learn enough information about your browser to uniquely distinguish you from all the other visitors to that site. Browser fingerprinting can be used to track users just as cookies do, but using much more subtle and hard-to-control techniques.

And:

By using browser fingerprinting to piece together information about your browser and your actions online, trackers can covertly identify users over time, track them across websites, and build an advertising profile of them. The information that browser fingerprinting reveals typically includes a mixture of HTTP headers (which are delivered as a normal part of every web request) and properties that can be learned about the browser using JavaScript code: your time zone, system fonts, screen resolution, which plugins you have installed, and what platform your browser is running on.

And:

When stitched together, these individual properties tell a unique story about your browser and the details of your browsing interactions. For instance, yours is likely the only browser on central European time with cookies enabled that has exactly your set of system fonts, screen resolution, plugins, and graphics card.

The linked/quoted article is long and detailed, an enlightening read. But the bits about browser fingerprinting are incredibly important. And this is as good an explanation as I’ve seen.

At WWDC, Apple declared war on browser fingerprinting and related techniques. From Apple’s Mojave press release:

As with all Apple software updates, enhanced privacy and security remain a top priority in macOS Mojave. In Safari, enhanced Intelligent Tracking Prevention helps block social media “Like” or “Share” buttons and comment widgets from tracking users without permission. Safari now also presents simplified system information when users browse the web, preventing them from being tracked based on their system configuration.

And that’s a good thing.

Robert Plant watching that 8-year-old drumming along to Led Zeppelin

First things first, if you have not yet watched the original video, jump over to our original post from last week and check it out.

With that in mind, watch Led Zeppelin’s own Robert Plant seeing 8-year-old Yoyoka Soma do her thing for the first time in the video embedded in the main Loop post. Wonderful.

And I think he was offering her a job. Please, oh please get in the same room with her!

Why Apple’s AirPower wireless charger is taking so long to make

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple said in September that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 could be charged wirelessly. It recommended charging hubs from Mophie and Belkin, an unusual move for the consumer-hardware specialist. Apple also announced its own AirPower charger, but said it wouldn’t be released until 2018.

And:

Company engineers have been toiling away to address problems. One challenge is making sure the charger doesn’t overheat. Another is the complexity of the circuitry, according to people familiar with the device’s development.

And:

Unlike wireless chargers on the market today, the AirPower is designed to charge three devices simultaneously: an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods with a still-to-be-released wireless charging case.

And, the point I think is the heart of the problem:

Apple also wants users to be able to place any of their devices anywhere on the charging mat to begin a charge. That ambitious goal requires the company to pack the AirPower with multiple charging sensors, a process that has proven difficult, the people said.

If you take apart a Qi wireless charger, you’ll find a coil of fabric-coated wire, the induction coil behind the physics of wireless charging. That coil is always round, and the chargers you buy are typically round as well, keeping the case design at its smallest form factor.

Here’s a video showing a tear-down of a Samsung Qi charger. Jump to about 3:58 in to see the coil.

Apple’s AirPower charger is oblong, not the same shape of the existing, circular Qi chargers. Some physics to solve for there. There’s also the complexity of a number of objects placed in unpredictable proximity on the oblong coil and it seems understandable that this is a tricky problem to solve.

Add to that:

The AirPower charger is also more advanced than the current competition because it includes a custom Apple chip running a stripped down version of the iOS mobile operating system to conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices. Apple engineers have also been working to squash bugs related to the on-board firmware, according to the people familiar.

This is a complex piece of engineering.

UPDATE: Interesting tweet from Jeff Guilfoyle, with a picture of overlapping coils. The idea being the controlling circuitry would switch between coils as needed. Interesting.

Apple wants to replace your car keys with an iPhone

Mikey Campbell, Apple Insider:

The Car Connectivity Consortium, which counts Apple among its charter members, on Wednesday announced the publication of new “digital key” standard that allows drivers to actuate vehicle systems like door locks and the engine via an NFC-enabled smartphone.

And:

With its technology, aptly dubbed the Digital Key Release 1.0 specification, the CCC aims to bring automotive manufacturers and mobile device makers together to create an interoperable digital key standard.

The system operates in much the same way as first-party digital keys currently available from a handful of vehicle OEMs. Users with authenticated smart devices are able to lock, unlock, start the engine of and share access to a specific car. Unlike some remote control solutions that leverage Wi-Fi or Bluetooth communications, however, Release 1.0 appears intrinsically tied to short-range technology like NFC.

Here’s the consortium press release with all the details.

Apple is figuring out what’s next

Neil Cybart rolls out a smart, detailed look at where Apple has its future focus. Lots of interesting bits here. A few highlights:

While Apple management will never admit it, the company has been thinking and looking beyond iPhone for years. The Apple Watch’s ongoing march to iPhone independency is clear evidence of this post-iPhone thinking.

And:

Management isn’t driven by the goal to come up with something that is more profitable than iPhone. Instead, the focus is on coming up with something that makes technology more personal and handling new workflows that were never able to be handled by iPhone.

And:

While AR makes for a cool on-stage demo, having to hold an iPhone or iPad up as an AR viewfinder for long periods of time isn’t ideal. Items like Siri Shortcuts and Siri Suggestions are interesting on iPhone and iPad although they are incredibly more appealing on mobile displays worn on our bodies. ML applications on iPhone and iPad are useful, but the predictive and proactive nature of the technology can work wonders when combined with mobile cameras and screens that we don’t have to hold. Apple is announcing new technologies that make more sense on form factors that currently don’t exist.

And:

It’s easy to think that Apple may simply be biding its time until the world is ready for AR glasses. However, WWDC gave us a glimpse of how Apple is busy behind the scenes, preparing for what comes next. With ARKit, Apple is using hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPads to inspire 20 million developers with the potentials found with AR. A similar dynamic is at play in getting customers comfortable with items like Animoji and Memoji – items that will likely one day be available via a pair of smart glasses.

This is a wonderful exploration of where Apple is heading, their strategy for getting there. Don’t miss the chart in the middle of the post, specifically that yellow line showing Apple Watch growth.

Apple inks partnership with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street

Wall Street Journal:

Under the terms of the contract, Apple has ordered multiple series from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and educational platform best known for the long-running show “Sesame Street.” Shows will be live-action, animated as well as one featuring puppets, according to a person close to Apple.

Sesame Street itself isn’t part of the deal. This jibes with what Jim and I were discussing on the latest Dalrymple Report (should pop up later today). We were discussing Apple’s stated aim of focusing on family-friendly programming, avoiding edgier, R-rated stuff.

Intel announces resignation of CEO Brian Krzanich

Intel press release:

Intel Corporation today announced the resignation of Brian Krzanich as CEO and a member of the board of directors. The board has named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan interim chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel’s values and adhere to the company’s code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich’s resignation.

Well that’s a bit of a bombshell. Certainly a headache that Intel didn’t need.

Jony Ive’s favorite color is orange

[VIDEO] Before I watched this video (embedded in the main Loop post), I was skeptical, could only think of a few cases of orange used in a modern Apple product design. But wow, there really is a lot of it.

The end of owning music: how CDs and downloads died

Rolling Stone:

As streaming gives the music industry its biggest profits in a decade, the CD business continues to plunge. CD sales have fallen 80 percent in the past decade, from roughly 450 million to 89 million.

And:

Since Tesla began manufacturing cars without CD players, other companies like Ford and Toyota have recently followed. Downloads – once seen as the CD’s replacement – have plummeted 58 percent since peaking in 2012, their profits now even smaller than physical sales.

And:

Artists have taken note; Bruce Springsteen released his latest box set, The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996, exclusively on vinyl, with no CD option, unlike 2014’s Vol. 1.

So the music world is evolving to streaming and vinyl. CDs are still there, but that world is clearly shrinking.

Fascinating to see vinyl continue to take hold. That’s becoming the way to own music. And, clearly, there are people who still value that.

Walkie-Talkie on Apple Watch (watchOS 5 beta 2)

[VIDEO] When I saw the watchOS 5 Walkie-Talkie announcement in the WWDC keynote, I got a little excited, had a little nostalgia buzz full of campouts and whispered late night push-to-talk conversations.

The video, embedded in the main Loop post, is Jeff Benjamin doing what he does best, taking you on a tour through the latest shiny, in this case, a step-by-step on the watchOS 5 Walkie-Talkie app.

Is this purely for fun? Or is there a use case? The performance seemed just a bit laggy, clearly laggier than the real world walkie-talkies which had no A-to-D conversions, were straight real-time radio transmission.

If the answer is, don’t be grumpy, just have fun with it, cool. Just want to be sure I’m not missing the value here.

More ARKit 2.0 with image tracking

First check out the video in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/osfalmer/status/1008736572185903105

The concept is familiar, a business card, a real world object, that expands when seen through an augmented reality lens, tracking to the original object, but adding views and controls that enhance the original object.

To me, there’s no question that this approach has tremendous potential. Imagine picking up an item in the grocery store and having a pane appear with buttons like “find best value” or “find cheapest” and having arrows appear on nearby shelves marked with appropriate alternatives.

Or a “convert” button that translates the price into a common format. For example, if you buy paper towels, it might show you cents per foot, so you can compare differently priced products, which range from $/roll to $/package to cents/sheet (with different sheet sizes).

I can definitely see the advantage of wearing a pair of glasses when immersed in an AR environment. It would get old constantly having to hold my phone up as a lens as I walk through a store. I wear glasses, so it’d be interesting to see how Apple will deal with the corrective lens issue. Will we someday see AR glasses that automatically correct my vision as well as offering an AR overlay?

The machine fired me

This is an unbelievable story. A true story, not some futuristic SciFi darkness, but a thing that actually happened. Top of the front page on Hacker News this morning.

This reads like the screenplay from Brazil.

Mission Impossible theft of Apple gear from Best Buy

WSB Atlanta:

Dunwoody police said burglars took a page out of the movie ‘Mission Impossible’ when they stole more than $100k worth of Apple products from a Best Buy Store.

Police said the thieves rappelled through a hole in the ceiling at the store on Hammond Drive.

Reading this story, I can’t help but picture this scene.

A look at the iPad-specific features in iOS 12

[VIDEO] Have an iPad? This is a terrific walk through what’s coming in iOS 12, a chance to wrap your head around the new gestures before you are plunked square in the middle of them with time pressures and work to do. Per usual, the video is embedded in the main Loop post.

What you need to do when you inherit a Mac

Glenn Fleishman weighs in with some excellent advice on what to do if you inherit or buy a Mac, to make sure you don’t end up with an unusable doorstop down the line. Worth a scan, just to get the gist of the issue, and a more detailed read if you are in that situation.