Friday, September 29, 2017

Clearing up the iPhone ‘FM Radio’ situation →

Rene Ritchie for iMore:

In the wake of the devastation wrought by recent hurricanes and earthquakes, politicians in the U.S. are calling for Apple and other manufacturers to turn on the FM radios that they presume are lying dormant in iPhones and other phones. I really wish — and I suspect Apple and other manufacturers really wish — it was that as simple. But it’s not. And, unfortunately, politicians aren’t often well versed in technology, and they often don’t ask before they soundbite.

Statement from Apple provided to Rene:

“Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products,” Apple told iMore. “Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.”

Rene on older iPhones and other phones:

For older iPhones and other phones, even if it was possible to just “flip a switch” and enable FM on the chipset, significant additional roadblocks remain. Those chips may not be connected in a way that makes FM radio even possible. Assuming they were, changes would likely require an update to the wireless chipset firmware (Apple rolls its own, other manufacturers would need to request updates from Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, or whichever company manufactured the chip).

It’s a nice sentiment, but politicians don’t know what the hell they are talking about in regards to technology. What else is new, right? I’m increasingly convinced we need way more technology-minded folks in office.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fatherboard Episode 004: Appearing Out Of Thin Air

Summary

Join us for discussion of iPhone 8 reviews and thoughts, more on iPhone X, and a recap of Lance’s Watch Series 3 review (spoiler alert: it’s the best Watch yet).

Topics

  • iPhone X Follow-Up
  • iPhone 8 review coverage
    • More on the A11 Bionic chip
    • Lack of lines at Apple Stores
    • Glass-back design
  • iPhone X
    • Launch production quantity reportedly hovering around 12M units.
    • Space Gray vs. White/Silver
  • Digressions about music.
  • Lance’s Apple Watch Series 3 Review
  • Waiting on more HomePod and iMac Pro info

How to Listen

Contact/Follow Us

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Apple Watch Series 3 Review: A Coming Of Age Story

When Apple Watch was announced in 2014, many were complaining the company was late yet again to another emerging market. Fast-forward only three years and Apple Watch is purportedly the top-selling watch in the world by revenue (according to Apple). Yes, the top-selling watch, surpassing even Rolex. Just yesterday, Horace Dediu published fascinating analysis of Apple Watch sales which seems to corroborate Apple’s claim.

As you will glean from my review, Apple Watch Series 3 is the epitome of the original. It accomplishes everything the first one set out to do and takes it one step further with the addition of a cellular radio. Think of Series 3 as a high school graduate. It’s not truly independent from iPhone, but it has moved out of the house and is living above the iPhone’s garage. It still needs the iPhone for the foreseeable future, but just took its first big step towards being a grownup.

Read on

Monday, September 25, 2017

Apple switches Siri and Spotlight Search provider from Bing to Google →

Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

Apple is switching the default provider of its web searches from Siri, Search inside iOS (formerly called Spotlight) and Spotlight on the Mac. So, for instance, if Siri falls back to a web search on iOS when you ask it a question, you’re now going to get Google results instead of Bing.

Consistency is Apple’s main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft’s Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used.

On privacy:

As is expected with Apple now, searches and results are all encrypted and anonymized and cannot be attributed to any individual user. Once you click on the ‘Show Google results’ link, of course, you’re off to Google and its standard tracking will apply. Clicking directly on a website result will take you straight there, not through Google.

This is surprising. I tried out a couple searches with Siri on my iPad (see below). Sure enough, it’s already serving Google results including YouTube videos.

This is an interesting move, and I can’t say I’ve ever cared much for Bing search. While Google has always been accurate for me, I don’t really agree with their privacy and tracking perspectives. I would have liked to see Apple team up with DuckDuckGo (already a Safari search option). If you care about search privacy, check them out.

Siri Google search.
Siri Google search.
Siri YouTube search.
Siri YouTube search.

Friday, September 22, 2017

How Apple Prepares for iPhone Day

Nicole Nguyen from Buzzfeed went behind the scenes with Apple’s SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts to get a glimpse of how Apple handles pre-orders and launch day for iPhone.

This is pretty cool, and it’s great to see Angela have a more public presence. You can tell she is really engrossed in Apple’s vision by the way she talks. I got some strong ‘Tim Cook’ vibes from her.

The video shows Apple’s War Room, used to coordinate pre-order go lives. I have often wondered what this situation looked like — as it turns out, sort of like a small-scale NASA mission control.

Despite Apple’s big hype push today, many Apple Stores are seeing less and less people in line for iPhone 8 this morning. I can confirm this, as I picked up my Apple Watch Series 3 at my local Apple Store today. Last year when I picked up the iPhone 7, there were easily over 100 people in line at 8am. This year, there were only about 20 waiting for iPhone 8 (even less when I left around 8:30). As I saw this, I thought to myself, “Wait … this can’t be right. You mean to tell me there are loads of people that do want the $1,000+ iPhone X? Honestly, who could have seen that coming?” It’s a mystery.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review Roundup: iPhones 8 and Apple TV 4K

Reviews for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and Apple TV 4K are in (and largely positive). Here are a few that caught my eye.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

Just know that the iPhones 8 are fast as hell thanks to the A11 Bionic chip. Now, here are some other interesting points.

Nilay Patel for The Verge on the iPhone 8’s stagnant design:

[…] And that’s really the problem — while competitors like Samsung and LG have pushed phone hardware design far forward, the iPhone has basically stood still for four years. The iPhone 8 might be the most polished iteration of this basic design Apple’s ever made, but compared to the Galaxy S8 and other Android flagships like the LG V30, it’s just extremely dated. Apple’s true competitor to those devices is the iPhone X, but the company tells us that the 8 is also a flagship phone, and those huge bezels and surfboard dimensions just don’t cut it at the top end of the market anymore.

I somewhat agree with Nilay. There is nothing exciting about the design of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Sure, the glass back looks nice, but it’s practically the same overall design of the iPhone 6. That said, I think it’s out of necessity. Apple obviously wants all iPhones to look and function like the iPhone X one day, but the manufacturing scale just isn’t there yet. Until then, simply changing the design of the phone for design’s sake wouldn’t be productive.

John Gruber for Daring Fireball on the A11 Bionic chip’s name:

I asked Apple last week what exactly was “bionic” about the A11 chip system. The answer, translated from Apple marketing-speak to plain English, is that The Bionic Man and Woman were cool, and the A11 chip is very cool. I think they’ve started giving these chips names in addition to numbers (last year’s was the A10 Fusion) because the numbers alone belie the true nature of how significant the improvements in these chips are. Going from A10 to A11 is like going from 10 to 11 mathematically, which implies a 10 percent improvement. That’s not the case at all here — the A11 is way more than a 10 percent improvement over the A10. So they’ve given it a name like “Bionic” to emphasize just how powerful it is.

TL;DR: marketing. I get it. Still don’t agree with Bionic, though. By comparison, A10X Fusion is much better.

On Qi “wireless” charging:

I’m glad Apple decided to support the Qi (pronounced “chee”) standard, which several Android handsets already support. This is an area where Apple has been behind its competition. You know how like 10 years ago, hotels started buying bedside alarm clocks with built-in 30-pin iPod docks? And then they were rendered useless when the iPhone switched to Lightning? And how those Lightning docks are utterly useless to Android users? If they start switching to Qi charging pads, it’ll just work for everyone, and that’s a good thing.

This is a nice addition. I suspect Qi pervasiveness is going to skyrocket due to it simply being supported by iPhone.

Apple TV 4K

Nilay Patel for The Verge on Dolby Vision HDR and content deals:

Now, you do get a lot for that $179: the Apple TV is currently the only standalone box that supports the Dolby Vision HDR standard, which is a big deal. (The $69 Chromecast Ultra supports it, but it’s spotty and it lacks its own interface.) Apple’s worked deals with most major studios to price 4K HDR movies at a cheaper $19.99 instead of the usual $29.99 Vudu and Google Play charge, which is terrific. And every HD movie you’ve already bought on iTunes will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free as they get remastered. Several of my movies have already been upgraded, which is very nice, especially because Apple’s encoding is much better than other services. If you have a large existing iTunes library or you buy a lot of movies, you might come out way ahead by investing in an Apple TV 4K.

On its limitations:

But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great.

I’m going to explain why these limitations exist, but you’ll have to bear with me. […]

Nilay’s review is extremely detailed. If you’re a TV spec buff, you’ll want to read this one.

Devindra Hardawar for Engadget on video quality:

So how do the 4K films actually look? Simply put: stunning. Kong: Skull Island started playing within a second, and it was sharp from the get-go, with no need for buffering. It’s a film with plenty of explosions, gorgeous natural imagery and giant monsters, all of which made it the perfect 4K/Dolby Vision demo. When Kong stands in front of the bright tropical sun, I had to shield my eyes a bit — it was almost as if I was looking at actual daylight. And since there are plenty of dusk and night scenes, the film really shows off HDR’s ability to add more detail to darker scenes.

Marshall Honorof for Tom’s Guide on internet speed requirements:

You’ll need a pretty powerful Internet connection to stream 4K HDR content (you need at least 25 Mbps down, which is more than what we got on a standard home Wi-Fi network), but content loads quickly and smoothly. Streams usually took just a few seconds to buffer before reaching full 1080p HD, and perhaps an additional 5 seconds before 4K HDR kicked in. This will vary depending on the strength of your internet connection, but if you have the requisite speed, the Apple TV 4K will leverage it.

It sounds like the Apple TV 4K is great, but not without its share of caveats. For someone who doesn’t care enough about 4K yet, the Apple TV needed to get faster performance-wise. The 4th generation Apple TVs are nice, but can be sluggish at times when navigating the UI. I’ve only read anecdotally that the new Apple TV 4K is better in this regard due to the A10X Fusion chip, which makes sense in theory. Also, it’s about damn time this product has a Gigabit Ethernet jack.

3D Touch App Switcher gesture to return in future iOS 11 update →

Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi in an email reply to a MacRumors user:

Hi Adam,

We regretfully had to temporarily drop support for this gesture due to a technical constraint. We will be bringing it back in an upcoming iOS 11.x update.

Thanks (and sorry for the inconvenience)!

I’m glad to see this coming back, but I wonder what the technical constraint was. Maybe something to do with iPhone X? Speaking of which, I wonder if it will even be enabled on iPhone X; it’s much less needed there due to the new navigation gestures. Either way, I’ll enjoy seeing it return to the iPhone 7 I use for work.

One other thing they need to bring back is quick access to Spotlight Search from Notification Center. I’m not talking about the existing one in the Today/widgets view, but the one where you could pull the Notification Center shade down just a little bit, release, and get to Spotlight Search. I used this so much to quickly get into another app.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review Roundup: Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch Series 3 reviews are in from around the web. While largely positive, an embarrassing bug affecting the Watch’s data connection has been discovered and acknowledged by Apple. I know I’ve been saying Apple Watch Series 3 could be the ‘iPhone 4’ of its line, but I also wrote that I hope it would come without the controversy (antennagate). Oops. At least it didn’t get lost in a bar?

Let’s start with the reviews first.

Featured Reviews

John Gruber for Daring Fireball on Siri:

Siri sounds great on the watch, too: crisp and clear. The hardware performance improvements surely help here — the S3 dual core CPU is “up to 70 percent” faster, and the new W2 chip for wireless improves Wi-Fi performance “up to 85 percent”. (The W2 also makes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth more energy efficient, and, it seems obvious, is one of the reasons that cellular networking is possible at all.) The effect of these performance improvements isn’t that it makes Apple Watch Series 3 feel fast, but that it makes it feel not slow. When you dictate a text message to Siri and it just works, without delay, it just feels like it should.

I am SO excited about this. I try to use Siri as much as possible on my original Apple Watch, but it’s way too damn slow.

David Pierce for Wired on connection logistics:

If your phone’s nearby, your Watch connects to it through Bluetooth and uses the phone as a modem. If you’re away from your phone, it looks for Wi-Fi, and as a last resort, jumps on LTE. I never noticed a difference between LTE and Wi-Fi, and in a week of testing didn’t experience any issues switching around. Others had a much harder time, though, and Apple has fessed up to problems switching to unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity.” So proceed with caution.

This is exactly how I figured they’d do it, as discussed on Fatherboard Episode 002. The Watch only uses its built-in LTE radio when there is no other option. This makes sense to conserve battery life, but as is being discovered, Apple bungled a distinct aspect of connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Brian Chen for The New York Times on how the Apple Watch is coming into its own:

Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).

Important features like the stopwatch, calendar and Siri work quickly and reliably. And unlike its predecessors, the watch has impressive battery life — on average, I had more than 40 percent battery remaining after a full day of use.

So the final verdict? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first sign that wearable computers are maturing and may eventually become a staple in consumer electronics.

Wi-Fi Bug

Lauren Goode for The Verge on her extreme connection issues:

Where do I start with the connectivity issues with this Watch? It became apparent after my first full day using the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE that something wasn’t right. My review Watch was paired with an iPhone 8 and was on an AT&T wireless plan. In one of my initial tests, I went for a walk with the phone on airplane mode, and tried to send text messages and use Siri to initiate phone calls through the Watch. Those didn’t work. I tried asking Siri basic questions. That didn’t work. Siri also wasn’t “talking back” to me, something that’s supposed to be a new feature on the Series 3 Watch.

Sadly, Lauren experienced so many issues that she couldn’t even experience the Watch’s full potential. While most reviewers didn’t experience the issue described by Lauren, Serenity Caldwell may have figured out the underlying cause.

Serenity Caldwell for iMore:

Essentially, the Series 3 GPS + Cellular watch tries to save battery life at all times by using your iPhone’s connection, or failing that, a Wi-Fi network. What’s happening here is that the watch is attempting to jump on a so-called “captive” network — a public network with an interstitial login prompt or terms and conditions agreement. (You’ve probably seen these at a Starbucks, McDonalds, or Panera.)

In theory, the Apple Watch shouldn’t be allowed to connect to captive networks at all, because there’s no way for it to get through that interstitial layer. Unfortunately, watchOS 4 has a bug where captive networks are being recognized identically to normal saved Wi-Fi networks — so while you’re technically “connected” to a network, you won’t be able to connect to the internet; nor will you be able to go to cellular, because the Watch’s auto-switching prevents you from connecting.

This makes perfect sense, and I would hope it’s really a bug versus Apple not taking captive portals into account at all. Either way, it’s incredibly sloppy. I would expect this kind of launch bug from Samsung or others, but not Apple.

Apple has promised a fix in ‘a future update’, but that doesn’t sound nearly urgent enough. I hope they can fix the bug accurately for release this Friday, or a ton of people may be in for a surprise. Come to think of it, a lot of Apple Stores are in malls, usually surrounded by a few captive portals…

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

iOS 11 Review: Most Meaningful Features

Introduction

iOS 11 is out today, beginning at 10AM Pacific. I’ve been using it exclusively on my iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Pro 10.5-inch since the developer beta was released back in June. I have to say, this is probably the most jam-packed iOS release Apple has ever published. There are so many features, but I’m going to give you my thoughts on the ones I believe are most meaningful and important after using them day in and day out.

Read on