Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reddit audiophile largely impressed with HomePod →

Judging from my analytics, this post on HomePod’s technology is proving particularly popular over the last week as launch nears. In similar vein, WinterCharm from Reddit’s audiophile community had an hour with HomePod and has great things to say. Here’s a few of his notable thoughts.

On the HomePod’s size:

Fucking hell this thing is TINY. It’s really surprising to see it in person. Hefting it is odd, too. The fabric is soft but firm. It was also lighter than I was expecting. It’s also very pretty. Aside from the single cord coming out the back, there is no idication that it has a particular side/front. It’s built to blend into whatever space it’s in, rather than stand out.

On the sound:

Having heard it side by side with The Sonos Play One and Google Home Max, A single HomePod is already much better than both in terms of sound quality. I would say the Sonos Play One was 80% of the way there, but it just lacked the clarity of bass and wide soundstage. The Home Max was consistent with the Sonos Play One.

And:

I started out with “Hotel California” by The Eagles. The first impression was the neutrality of the speaker. The HomePods are tuned for an as-true-to-recording sound. When the song calls for it, there is bass. When the song turns to crystal clear highs, they are reproduced faithfully. What really was interesting is the instrument separation in the room. At about 45% volume, the HomePod FILLED the room I was in with some great sound. When you walked away from it, the sound gets quieter, but not as quickly as you’d expect. All the details were still there, just softer. there was no feeling of walking out of the sweet spot that you get with a normal speaker. And that’s when it hit me… Apple really has done it.

Conclusions:

  1. Significantly better audio than Sonos Play One or Google Home Max.

  2. Walk around in the room you never feel like you’re leaving the sweet spot. An impressive feat.

  3. Volume is more than adequate. The speakers sound accurate, never introducing extra bass when the song didn’t call for it. 40% was fine for me. Pushing them to 80% was really fun.

  4. Highs are great, but I expect that they’ll become crystal clear with a second HomePod.

  5. For a speaker so TINY, these are fucking AMAZING.

  6. The bass is really clean, and well controlled. Build is solid.

There are other reviews out there, but this is the feedback that matters to me most — a real audiophile’s review. I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile per se, but I really value high-quality audio. This makes me even more excited to fire up my HomePod on February 9.

Reports suggest Apple to focus on performance and reliability in this year’s iOS and macOS releases →

Ina Fried for Axios:

Apple has shaken up its iOS software plans for 2018, delaying some features to next year in an effort to put more focus on addressing performance and quality issues, Axios has learned.

On cut features:

On the cutting board: Pushed into 2019 are a number of features including a refresh of the home screen and in-car user interfaces, improvements to core apps like mail and updates to the picture-taking, photo editing and sharing experiences.

I’ve been wondering when Apple would spruce up the home screen with something more modern. If this report is true, it’s too bad we’ll have to wait for their vision of what that looks like. Also sad about CarPlay. It definitely could use some work.

On new features still slated for release:

What made it: There will be some new features, of course, including improvements in augmented reality, digital health and parental controls. In addition, Apple is prioritizing work to make iPhones more responsive and less prone to cause customer support issues.

Mark Gurman from Bloomberg also reported a smaller scale-back of new features is in the works for macOS while watchOS and tvOS chart a normal course.

There are multiple outlets corroborating this story, so I’m inclined to believe the context. However, as these rumors go, there’s no telling to what exact degree they are true until the WWDC keynote is over.

I don’t see this is a bad thing, but more of an unfortunate necessity after the string of bugs and security issues caused by lack of oversight. Not to mention the bad press Apple received as a result thereof. Hypothetically, this could mean iOS 12.x and macOS 10.14.x releases may be more substantial updates down the line — especially for iOS and new iPhone models, which typically have a few unique features.

Also, if Gurman is right, this could allow more time for Apple to focus on watchOS and tvOS. watchOS received a relatively small update last year in the form of watchOS 4. For a device still in its infancy, it has started to hit its groove, but adjustments are still in order. This is especially true when it comes to opening up the SDK even more for developers (e.g. new APIs for audio to allow for podcast apps).

We’ll see how true this is eventually. A lot can happen between now and June.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Apple previews iOS 11.3, including Messages in iCloud and more →

Hot on the heels of iOS 11.2.5’s release yesterday, Apple previewed major features for the next major version of iOS this morning: iOS 11.3.

Highlights

  • New AR Experiences. 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.
  • New Animoji. 1 iOS 11.3 introduces four new Animoji, giving iPhone X users the ability to express themselves as a lion, bear, dragon or skull.
  • 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.
  • Batteries and Performance. iOS 11.3 adds new features to show battery health and recommend if a battery needs to be serviced. These can be found in Settings -> Battery and are available for iPhone 6 and later.
  • Health Records in Health App. 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.
  • HomeKit software authentication. HomeKit software authentication provides a great new way for developers to add HomeKit support to existing accessories while protecting privacy and security.

Pretty cool stuff. There are a couple more features, so check out the preview page.

I’m most excited about the ARKit upgrades. Being able to use AR on vertical surfaces is a no-brainer for further implementations. Glad to see Apple added it.

Also, being in Healthcare IT, implementing Health Records in the Health app must be no easy feat. I can’t wait for the day when this is the norm for all healthcare systems.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) missing from this list is a feature originally intended to launch with iOS 11.0 — Messages in iCloud. Similar to iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library, Messages in iCloud stores your messages in iCloud, which are then retrieved by your Apple devices (instead of the awful syncing mechanism in place now). Apple said they needed more time to perfect the feature, so it was removed from early iOS 11 betas.

As it turns out, the first iOS 11.3 developer beta went live just a few minutes ago, and Federico Viticci discovered Messages in iCloud is indeed included. Upon discovery, I was a little surprised Apple didn’t include this on their preview page. Either they still aren’t confident in their ability to perfect the feature for iOS 11.3, or realized it’s not a super-sexy feature to market to the masses like … Animoji. I’m hoping its the latter.



  1. Remember Animoji? 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

No, Apple doesn’t need to be at CES →

Jeremy Horwitz for Venturebeat on Apple’s CES presence:

My position: Apple’s 2009 withdrawal from trade shows may have been justifiable back then, but the overall impact has been negative. Additionally, Apple’s related decision to move most of its product launches to a single quarter each year has damaged the brand, despite the strength of Apple’s sales and stock. However, unless certain highly improbable changes are made at CES, this particular trade show is not the right venue for Apple. Instead, the company should leverage its incredible retail infrastructure to do something different.

Not sure how it has damaged the brand, specifically. He goes on to address Apple’s ‘boring calendar’:

On a highly related note, Apple never formally said that it was going to stop staggering major new product releases across the year, but that’s effectively what happened: Since Tim Cook took over, Apple has announced almost nothing of significance until WWDC in June, and the vast majority of new products are released during a narrow window from mid-September to early November.

And:

Some people have suggested that fewer events are the natural result of maturing products — version 1 deserves a splashy event whenever, but no one will care to show up for the “special” debut of a slightly slimmer version 2, or a waterproof version 3, which could arrive via press release. That’s Apple’s problem to remedy, partially with more breakthrough products, and partially with developer engagement and marketing to show how seemingly small changes — say, adding a game controller and games to the Apple TV — could disrupt an entire industry.

Alright, here we go. Products are ready when they are ready, even if they are delayed (e.g. Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod). Furthermore, Apple isn’t the same company it was ten years ago, where they could release more throughout the year at a much smaller scale. Everything they make now has to be produced in massive quantities. Care and precision is key and extremely difficult, as we’re seeing by delayed products.

Jeremy’s proposal on changing things up:

Perhaps Apple’s “goodbye, Macworld” press release had the best idea of them all: Since Apple’s retail stores see millions of visits per week, why not bring them all together once or twice a year for global-scale special events?

Live from Apple Park’s Steve Jobs Theater, the company could simultaneously broadcast a keynote to all of its retail stores, complete with a window of limited hands-on time with new products for press and customers. Imagine the lines and the local media coverage; they would be off the charts, and diversify the voices offering perspectives on new Apple products.

The full list of reasons why this would never happen is a big one, so I’ll cut it down to a top few:

  1. Apple would never allow just anyone who shows up to have hands-on time with unreleased products, whether they be hardware or software. It’s a huge part of their M.O. — one that I don’t see ever changing. Allowing first-look experiences for YouTubers in a controlled environment is as close as we’ll ever get to this idea.
  2. Just imagine the damning press and social media calamity if someone were to record a device failing, malfunctioning, or worse.
  3. Having these events would send a confusing message to the uninitiated, perhaps encouraging the idea that all announced products will be available for purchase immediately following the keynote.
  4. Shutting down a large portion of the store, if not all for approximately two hours is a terrible idea for the world’s top retailer in sales per square foot.

Apple doesn’t need to be at CES and they don’t need streamed events to their own stores. Here’s what they really need to do:

  1. Keep making exceptional products.

That’s it. There are definitely areas of improvement that will get them there, such as:

  1. Making better hardware for pros. This includes fixing the host of concerns with MacBook Pros. They are already on the right track with iMac Pro, to be followed by a new Mac Pro.
  2. Dialing in the supply chain for increasingly-complex components. Notice how fast iPhone X caught up with demand? Good sign of improvement, wouldn’t you say?
  3. Increasing software Q.A. efforts to cut down on bugs and security holes.

As long as Apple continues to focus on making the best products for their customers, something tells me they’ll be alright with skipping a trade show.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

High Sierra App Store preferences can be accessed with any password →

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

A bug report submitted on Open Radar this week reveals a security vulnerability in the current version of macOS High Sierra that allows the App Store menu in System Preferences to be unlocked with any password.

And:

As mentioned in the radar, System Preferences does not accept an incorrect password with a non-administrator account. We also weren’t able to unlock any other System Preferences menus with an incorrect password.

We’re unable to reproduce the issue on the third or fourth betas of macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, suggesting Apple has fixed the security vulnerability in the upcoming release. However, the update currently remains in testing.

Apple has really been dropping the ball with these breaches lately. Though App Store preferences are not as concerning as say, access to the whole system, the reality is still unacceptable.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

AirPods 2 Wishlist

I love AirPods, as you may be able to glean from my official review. They are a product everyone expected Apple to make, but their astounding quality and value took everyone by surprise (yours truly included). So much so that Apple can’t make them fast enough, being virtually out of stock since launching in December 2016. Shipping time was finally down to a few days recently, only to be pushed out again do to the holiday shopping season. Suffice it to say, AirPods have been a massive sleeper hit.

I’m still blown away by how amazing these little things are. That said, here’s how I think Apple can iterate for AirPods 2.

Read on

Friday, January 5, 2018

Panic to cease development, sales of iOS file transfer app Transmit →

Cabel Sasser on the Panic Blog:

Transmit for iOS always felt like an obvious addition to our lineup, but we never thought it made a ton of sense in the tightly-restricted world of iOS until Apple announced the “Share Sheet” for iOS 8. Finally, we thought, in addition to using Transmit iOS to upload/download whatever you need, you could easily (?) get data out of apps and send it to your favorite servers. So, in 2014, we built it!

On lack of sustainability:

Transmit iOS made about $35k in revenue in the last year, representing a minuscule fraction of our overall 2017 app revenue. That’s not enough to cover even a half-time developer working on the app. And the app needs full-time work […]

On the future of iPad productivity apps:

My optimistic take: we hope that as iOS matures, and more and more pro users begin to seriously consider the iPad as a legitimate part of their daily work routines, Transmit iOS can one day return and triumph like it does on the Mac.

The idea of this needing to happen really sucks, but it’s not Panic’s fault. Apple has only recently begun to capitalize on the form factor and power of iPad. The latest iPad Pro models in conjunction with iOS 11 are huge stepping stones for real productivity when it comes to the tablet as a form factor. As I’ve said before, I use mine to wholly write and publish this blog.

I have been a long-time user of Transmit on iOS, and while it won’t disappear if you already bought it, it’s sad to see development and sales end. I really wish they could have stuck it out longer, as I think iPad is going to have its watershed moment for productivity in the next two years (perhaps with the adoption of an iPhone X-esque edge-to-edge screen, TrueDepth Camera, and Face ID).