Category Archives: Apple

iOS 10 To Come With HomeKit Controller App



HomeKit LogoThe so-called Internet of Things is bringing more and more connected devices into our lives. And as the market for these smart gadgets continues to expand, one question seems to be on everyones minds; How will all of these different products communicate with each other? Some manufacturers have developed their own proprietary products and tools to ensure their own devices will play nicely together. But what if you want smart lightbulbs made by Company X and a smart security system made by Company Y? Will it be necessary to have one “command center” on your network just for each company’s products?

Many companies have stepped into this arena to try and bridge the landscape of connected things. Apple announced its own solution, HomeKit, a few years ago. But there hasn’t been much movement on the HomeKit front since that announcement. Now, it looks like Apple may ship its first HomeKit controller app with the release of iOS 10 later this year. Curiously, this information was discovered in a comment left as part of an Amazon product review:

Word of the new app came from an Apple marketing employee commenting in Amazon product reviews. MacRumors verified the commenter’s identity, and that they were responsible for the comments.

“As I work in marketing for Apple, we test many Smart Home devices, especially for iOS HomeKit integration,” the person said. “The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone ‘HomeKit’ app as well.”

No word yet on how HomeKit will actually work but it’s good to know that real progress is (apparently) being made on the system.


Disney Infinity Dropped From Apple TV



Disney Infinity LogoWhen Apple released the latest version of its set-top AppleTV box, much hype was focused on the device’s ability to run third-party apps. This development was a departure from the closed-off nature of previous iterations of the Apple TV. The addition of third-party app support meant that Apple TV could now be used as more than just a media-consumption box. It could also be used to play games. Many game developers have taken advantage of the opportunity and ported existing games to the platform. Of course, the diminutive Apple TV doesn’t have the internal horsepower of a major modern gaming console like Xbox One or Playstation 4. And that lack of muscle may cause the device some issues in the long run, as game developers focus on those other platforms for their big titles.

That was exactly the case when Disney dropped support for its popular Disney Infinity title from Apple TV. Disney Infinity is an “open-world” style game that allows users to unlock playable characters by purchasing real-world figurines that come with in-game unlock codes. Disney Infinity has been around for a few years and its current iteration (Disney Infinity 3.0) is compatible with Playstation 3, 4 and PSVita, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, Windows-based PC’s, and Steam.

No word has come from Disney as to whether or not Infinity may return to Apple TV. But losing a title like this may cause Apple to reconsider the role of Apple TV as a media consumption device, and give it enough power to run more complex apps like these types of games.


Apple Watch: Now with… Windows 95?



Win95 logoIf the most-often used question when it comes to technology is simply, “Why?,” then the most common answer has to be, “Why not?” That’s what one developer must’ve been thinking when he figured out how to run Windows 95, Microsoft’s cutting-edge mid-90’s operating system, on an Apple Watch.

For those too young to remember, Windows 95 was Microsoft’s much-hyped successor to the ever-popular Windows 3.1. Windows 95 was a break from tradition in a few ways for Microsoft. It was the first time the company moved away from its standard numbering system. Instead of calling its newest Windows build simply “Windows 4.0,” Microsoft chose to brand the software package with the year of release. Thus beginning a cycle that would be repeated with Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. (That trend was ended with the release of Windows 7.) Windows 95 introduced a few things that became centerpieces of the OS, most notably the beloved Start Button.

Most PC’s running Windows 95 at the time of its release were big, beige desktop units that definitely didn’t fit over your wrist. Perhaps that’s a testament to the computing horsepower of modern devices. Even something as small as an Apple Watch has enough power to emulate an entire operating system that used to require (for its time) lots of disk space and RAM. One drawback of this emulation is that it apparently takes about an hour for the OS to be fully usable on an Apple Watch. So, it might not be the best way to relive your fond memories of playing Solitaire and surfing the web on Netscape 3.0. To see the emulation in action, check out this time-lapse video.


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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