Category Archives: Apple

Apple is Ending iTunes Allowances



Apple LogoApple has decided to put an end to iTunes Allowances, which has been around since October of 2003. It appears that Apple has decided that it now has other things that can do what iTunes Allowances does.

The iTunes Allowance was created to allow parents to automatically deposit funds into their kids’ iTunes Music Store account every month. The purpose was to enable parents to limit the amount of money their kids spend on iTunes to a specific amount (between $10 and $50 per month).

It is no longer possible to create an iTunes Allowance account. People who already have one need to be aware that all existing allowances will cancel on May 25, 2016. After that date, any unused allowance credit will remain in the recipient’s account until it is used.

In the announcement, Apple offers some suggestions for parents who want to manage their children’s iTunes purchases. They could use Family Sharing instead. Family Sharing allows up to six people in a family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Parents can pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device.

Another option suggested by Apple is for parents to use iTunes Gifts. A parent can gift dollar amounts to their child, or can gift books, audiobooks, music, movies, TV shows, or apps through the iTunes Store, iBooks Store and App store.


iBooks Now Syncs Across Devices with iCloud Drive



iBooks logoWith the first iPad came iBooks, Apple’s default e-book reader for Macs and iOS devices. iBooks has always been somewhat quirky when it came to using local files. Of course, it worked fine with books that were purchased from the iBooks Store. But if you wanted to load your own PDF or ePub files into iBooks, you had to jump thru a series of hoops to make it work correctly. And if you wanted to sync those files between multiple devices, you had to rely on good old-fashioned iTunes syncing to get the job done. With the recent release of iOS 9.3, Apple added support for iBooks syncing via iCloud. This makes it possible to load your DRM-free files into the iBooks app on any device and then access them on all of your iCloud-enabled products.

I’ve done some testing with iBooks sync today and so far, it’s worked as expected. Here’s the steps I followed to set it up:

  1. Make sure all devices are running their latest operating systems. OS 10.11.4 for Mac and iOS 9.3.1 for mobile devices.
  2. Check the iCloud preferences for all devices and make sure iBooks syncing is turned on.
  3. Launch the iBooks app on each device and enter your iCloud username/password if prompted.
  4. Add ePub or PDF files to one device. This will transfer the files into your iCloud Drive.
  5. Check iBooks on other devices. You should now see these titles available for download.

iBooks sync uses your iCloud Drive to store the files in the cloud until you choose to download them onto a device. With the old iTunes sync method, book files would be copied onto the mobile device and stored there. iCloud sync mimics the functionality of purchasing books thru the iBooks Store, so you don’t have to use up valuable on-device storage if you don’t want to.

While my experience with iBooks sync has been good, it hasn’t been a smooth transition for everyone. If you’re managing a very large library of books, you may run into some challenges. Hopefully, Apple will address this issues in the next iBooks update.


Siri Now Understands Questions About Sexual Assault



Apple LogoApple’s Siri got an update on March 17, 2016, that probably went unnoticed by most people – but it is a very important and necessary update. Siri now is able to understand questions about sexual assault.

A study was posted in JAMA Internal Medicine that focused on smartphone assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Voice. These smartphone assistants mostly failed when a user spoke phrases such as “I am depressed”, “I was beaten up by my husband”, or “I am having a heart attack”. Sometimes, the smartphone assistant would refer the user to an appropriate helpline – but they often did not.

Apple has been working with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) to improve Siri’s responses. RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 local sexual assault service providers across the country.

As a result, Siri understands phrases like “I was raped” and “I am being abused”. Previously, Siri would respond with “I don’t know what you mean by ‘I was raped’. How about a Web search for it?”

As of March 17, 2016, Siri responds with “If you think you have experienced sexual abuse or assault, you may want to reach out to someone at the National Sexual Assault Hotline”. Siri provides a link to the hotline on the same screen as the response. Users can get the help they need with a click.


Apple Releases Updated Version of iOS 9.3 Update



Apple LogoIt sounds like it came from an overused Internet meme. But it looks like Apple has put more update in your latest iOS update. Last week, the technology company released iOS 9.3 for its ever-popular line of mobile devices. For most users, it was a seamless transition. But for others, the latest iOS update has some issues.

Some users reported that tapping hyperlinks in any application would crash the app, and possibly the device. Some owners of iDevices like the iPhone 5S and older models were critically hosed by iOS 9.3 when the update actually bricked their iPhones and iPads. And finally, some users were getting a quirky “you are no longer connected to the Internet” message when they tried to apply the 9.3 update.

That’s where the “more update in your update” comes in. Responding to these problems, Apple appears to have put a temporary hold on iOS 9.3 installations. That’s why some users were getting the “not connected to the Internet” message even tho their devices were clearly connected. It was a deceptive way to keep those devices from installing the update that would probably break them. Fortunately, Apple has since updated the update with patches for all of these issues, allowing everyone to once again download and install iOS 9.3 normally.

I’ve got a total of four iOS devices in my home and so far, I haven’t run into any issues. Still, I hope Apple has finally gotten things worked out with iOS 9.3. Otherwise, I guess we’re all gonna need to apply an update to our updated update.


Catalyst at 2016 CES



Catalyst logoTodd Cochrane interviews Josh with Catalyst, a leading provider of waterproof cases for the iPhone and Apple Watch. The Catalyst line of waterproof iPhone covers have an IP-68 rating and every individual product is tested before the sale to a water depth of 16.4 feet. The Catalyst iPhone cases are also two meters drop proof.

Catalyst also offers phone mounts that fit their waterproof iPhone cases. The phone mounts are priced at $45. The iPhone cases are priced at $74.99 for the iPhone 6S+, and $69.99 for the smaller iPhone 6S. The waterproof case for the Apple Watch is priced at $59.99. All Catalyst products are available now.

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Toast Custom Wood Smartphone Covers at 2016 CES



ToastScott Ertz interviews Matias Brecher, founder of Toast, a manufacturer of wood and leather covers for mobile tech devices.

From the toastmade.com website, customers can order and customize a wide variety of custom wood and leather covers for their smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles at affordable prices. Customers can provide their own graphics to be etched into the cases. The price for the plain wooden Note 4 case at left starts at $34.00. Custom graphics and text can add from $5.00 to $10.00 to the price.

The base price for a wooden top cover for a MacBook starts at $59.00. Add a bottom wooden cover for $30.00.

Walnut is the most popular type of wood customers pick.

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LifeProof at CES 2016



LifeProofDaniele Mendez interviews Gordon Vater, senior public relations specialist with LifeProof. They discuss the new LifeProof water proof battery cases for the iPhone 6s and 6s+. The battery case can double the phone’s battery life. When the phone’s built-in battery starts to get low, simply hold down the button on the back of the case to start the charging process. The waterproof battery case for the iPhone 6s sells for $116.99. The price for the iPhone 6s+ waterproof battery case is $149.99.

They also discuss the LifeProof LIFEACTIV quick mount accessories. A puck is attached to the back of any phone, which enables it to quickly and securely be attached to different mounting devices for cars, belt clips, armbands and also bikes. The belt clip version sells for $26.99. The suction mount automotive version sells for $35.99.

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iOttie Qi Smartphone Wireless Charging Solutions at 2016 CES



iOttie Daniele Mendez interviews Andrew Moughalian about iOttie wireless charging and automotive mounting solutions. The iOttie iON Wireless Qi Charging Receiver Case Charger Cover is a sleek case for the iPhone 6s/6 that adds Qi wireless charging. It is available now and sells for $49.

iOttie also sells the iOttie Easy One Touch Wireless Qi Standard Car Mount Charger that will work with a variety of Qi wireless charging-enabled smartphones. It offers an Easy One Touch lock and release mounting system that locks the device into the holder with just the push of a finger. It sells for $69.95 and is also available now.

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Pioneer Brings CarPlay and Android Auto to the After-Market



Pioneer logoPioneer is a brand for well-known for its in-car audio and entertainment systems so it comes as no surprise that the company is bringing a range of after-market units with Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Todd and Marlo get a demo of the latest product with Ted Cardenas from Pioneer.

On show here is the freshly-announced Pioneer AVH-4200-NEX, which is one of three products which incorporate both CarPlay and Android Auto. As a result, the display and user interface will take on the persona of the connected device. The in-dash receiver connects to the smartphone using a wired connection as the phones contribute heavily to the running of apps. Plugging in the phones avoids issues with data speeds and keeps the battery charged, though Bluetooth is used in Android Auto for calls.

Voice is heavily used by both the driver to control the NEX and for the system to respond. Voice can be used to compose and listen to text messages, to navigate and to talk to Siri or Google Now. This keeps the need to look at the screen to a minimum and enhances safety.

If your current vehicle’s in-car entertainment system doesn’t support CarPlay or Android Auto, the Pioneer NEX range offers a great way to upgrade to the latest auto technology. Priced at around $700, the AVH-4200-NEX will be available in March.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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mJoose Case Boosts Smartphone Signal Strength



mJoose LogoThe mJoose is a 3-in-1 phone case for the Apple iPhone 6 series and Samsung Galaxy S6 that protects the phone, extends the battery life and boosts the phone signal. Is this too good to be true? Don Baine assesses the mJoose with John Casalaspi, VP Sales.

Originally an Indiegogo campaign that was 546% funded, the mJoose is a sled-type case in matt black or bone white that surrounds and protects the phone. Embedded within the case is a 3,000 mAh rechargeable battery and an active signal booster. Unlike passive boosters, the mJoose has built-in circuitry to receive the phone signal, amplify the signal and pass it on the the smartphone. The active boost will add about two bars to the signal strength and could make the difference between making a call and not. It works across all carrier frequencies from 2G to 4G for all carriers, whether GSM or CDMA.

The mJoose will be available in the next month or so for the iPhone 6 series – it’s in the last stages of Apple accreditation. The version for the Galaxy S6 and Edge phones will arrive a little later. Pricing will be around US$149.99 retail depending on model.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com

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