It's unlikely that Apple had much role in designing the new Beats headphones that were released today, given the product design lifecycle, but they are the first Beats products announced since Apple acquired the firm for $3 billion this summer. The Solo2 Wireless headphones operate via Bluetooth and offer 12 hours of battery life. A RemoteTalk cable can be used to turn the wireless headphones into wired ones, complete with an inline microphone. This is useful if the battery dies runs out, or for Airplane Mode use.
Black Friday deals are coming soon, and websites are beginning to post the details. AppleInsider has all the info on Walmart's deals, which include an iPhone 6 for $179 plus a $75 gift card, meaning that your final price is effectively $104. They also have iPad deals, such as the first-generation 16 GB iPad Air for $397 with a $100 gift card.
The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are only about a month old, yet you can snag some serious discounts this Black Friday, thanks to Best Buy and Target. If you don't want to join the crowds the day after Thanksgiving, or even Thanksgiving evening, you might be able to get the same deal using their websites.
One of the great features of iOS 8 is the opportunity to use third-party keyboards instead of Apple's onscreen keyboard. Swype (free until 11/14/14) had long been extremely popular in the Android world, and many users rejoiced when it became available on the iPhone and iPad. It greatly speeds text entry. Instead of tapping individual characters, you simply make a continuous swipe around the keyboard. In addition, the more you use it, the more it becomes familiar with the words you use — and anticipates the words you're entering. Whether you swipe or type, your text entry will likely be faster.
The release of iOS 8 (and subsequent updates through iOS 8.1 so far) brought about the usual dilemma for owners of older iOS devices. Should they upgrade or stay at iOS 7 (and even iOS 6 in some cases) and only run iOS 8 on any newly acquired devices? Personally, I've chosen the latter, and running iOS 8 on my new iPhone 6, but running iOS 7 on my iPad Air. Today, that changed. It wasn't by choice, but rather necessity, as I had to do a Keynote presentation which had been created on my MacBook Pro running Mac OS Yosemite. That required upgrading the iPad Air to the latest version of Keynote for iOS, which also required iOS 8.
When Apple announced the iPhone 5s, with gold as one of the color choices, and the many colors of the iPhone 5c, many naysayers commented that when you resort to color choices to differentiate your product, you've lost. Still, demand for the gold model outstripped supply, and sales of the iPhone 5c, while not as popular as the iPhone 5s, would be the envy of most Android handset makers. So it's interesting to see what LG has announced to differentiate their latest Android phone.
If you're so devoted to your iPhone that you know you'll never ever use a different platform, then you don't need to read this post. But if, someday, you were to forsake your iPhone and switch to Android, then Apple's new web tool will be of interest to you. It's intended to address a problem that arises when one makes the switch. What had been happening is that when people switch to another platform, when their contacts who still use iPhones send them a text message, it automatically gets sent as an iMessage. Because iMessages can only be read on iOS devices, a text message sent to the new Android user doesn't get through.
Microsoft is having a hard time getting mind share for their Surface tablet, which has really struggled in the marketplace. In order to change that, they did a deal with the NFL for all the teams to use Surface tablets as their playbook. (Something that some teams had already been doing on iPads.) Unfortunately, it backfired somewhat, when announcers kept referring to the tablets as iPads.
Last Wednesday, Google announced a new version of Google Maps (free) that gives it a new design and a more intuitive interface. Google refers to the new style as their "Material Design" with brighter colors, bolder textures, the use of surfaces and shadows to emulate the real world. Their announcement says that "layers and buttons come to life so you know just where to touch to get directions, recommendations, and imagery."
Amazon may have stumbled with the Kindle Fire Phone, due to pricing missteps and other issues, but they're not done innovating and working on integrating their technology into our daily lives. Today, Amazon preannounced the Echo, an unassuming speaker that does a lot more than play music. The cylindrical device sits in your home and is always listening for verbal commands. Similar to Siri, you can ask Echo for weather reports, to play music, etc. The gadget has omni-directional speakers and microphones that can listen to commands even if they come from far away.
Last spring Microsoft brought their Office suite to the iPad, but unless you paid for a subscription for a Microsoft home or office product, the apps could only read files, not edit them. That has now changed. This week Microsoft released a new version of their Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) that includes editing capabilities in the free versions. In addition, the suite is also now available on the iPhone. Plus, the apps now support Dropbox. This is a welcome change. However, if you want the full feature set, you'll still need an annual subscription.
Unlike the usual rumor cycle for a forthcoming iPhone, in which the details are unknown, the Apple Watch rumor cycle is different, since we know many of the details and exactly how it will look. What's unknown is when it will arrive and how much the various models will cost. So let the Apple Watch rumor cycle begin, with blog posts on Tuesday repeating information from a French website about cost and arrival date. According to a post on AppleInsider, the website iGen (which had accurately reported the dimensions for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus before their release) has reported that the 18-karat gold Apple Watch will sell for between $4,000 and $5,000. The steel model will come in at $500, and the Sport model will be the one that will start at $349 — the price Apple gave during their announcement. In addition, the website reported that Apple is targeting February 14 for the release date.
According to AppleInsider, a leaked Sam's Club flyer shows that they'll be offering the iPhone 6 starting at $99 (with a 2-year contract) for one day only on November 15. Not only will it be a limited-time promotion, but also each location will be limited to selling 40–50 units. The sale pricing will only be available in-store. AppleInsider says that Sam's Club will also be offering $100 off the iPad Air (first generation) — both in-store and online.
This is one rumor I hope isn't true. I gave away my original iPad mini early this fall, assuming I'd buy the new model when it came out in October. But I was so disappointed that the iPad mini 3 was basically the same as last year's model, I've held off. I still want an iPad mini to go along with my iPad Air, and I had been hoping Apple would come out with a significant upgrade early next year, as had been rumored. However, on Monday all the blogs were passing a long a rumor from a Taiwanese website that Apple would be killing the iPad mini line. In addition, the website said that Apple would be replacing the mini with a new 12.2-inch iPad Pro (which is a bit smaller than the 12.9-inch iPad that had been rumored earlier).
When Apple announced the Apple Watch, they said it would be available in early 2015 — but didn't say anything more specific than that. And they still haven't. However, in an internal video memo, a transcript of which was leaked to 9To5Mac, Angela Ahrendts said in passing that the Apple Watch will be coming out in the "spring." In addition, she said that it would be coming after the Chinese New Year, which is February 19.
I attended Stan Lee's Comikaze convention this weekend, in Los Angeles, and Mr. Lee has already made some news. In partnership with Madefire, Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment will be creating new characters and stories for Madefire's Motion Books interactive multimedia platform. Stan Lee is the co-creator of just about every character in the Marvel Universe, most notably Spider-Man. He's also made appearances in the assortment of Marvel movies made over the past decade and those cameos are one of the things I look forward to with each movie.
As I was preparing for an article on the future of iOS gaming (for the current issue of iPhone Life magazine), I had the pleasure of interviewing Tino Soelberg, Chief Technology Officer of gaming peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries.
While all the attention in the smartwatch arena was on Apple, Microsoft snuck in a wearable that looks more like a fitness band, but offers some smart tricks. Most notably, while the Microsoft Band works (best) with Windows Phone, it also works with Android and iOS. When you're in third place, you have to acknowledge the leaders, and Microsoft made sure their wearable worked with the top two platforms. However, Cortana, Microsoft's answer (and some might say a superior one) to Siri is the only voice command option. This could be a Trojan horse to get people to try the band and then migrate to a Windows Phone to take full advantage. But the Apple Watch should be out soon enough.
When Apple preannounced their Apple Watch, some naysayers complained that the watch doesn't work as a standalone device. It requires an iPhone to be fully functional. But those critics should be careful what they wish for. There are competing smartwatches that can accept a SIM card and access the Internet directly via a cellular carrier, but those wearables may require a data contract, and that can cost as much as a phone or tablet would cost.
Recently, I wrote about how some retailers like CVS and Rite-Aid are blocking Apple Pay, even though they already had the equipment in place to accept it. They are favoring their own digital payment system, CurrentC, developed by a consortium of retailers. Even though CurrentC is in beta and uses inferior technology (QR Codes vs NFC) and requires linking to your bank account or a gift card (causing customers to forgo credit card protection and benefits like points), these retailers are sticking to their guns. And CurrentC is getting hammered in App Store reviews. And it's already been hacked, leaving many users worried.
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