More Black Friday deals are coming to light, most recently from Staples, as reported by iDownloadBlog. The deals include the 16 GB WiFi iPad Air for $319, 16 GB iPad mini 2 (retina display) for $239, and the 16 GB iPad 4 (the model prior to the iPad Air) for $279. These prices represent discounts in the range of $30–40. Staples is also offering the Apple TV for $79. And they're giving you 15 percent off on any iTunes gift card worth $50 or more. And finally, they're offering a 10 percent discount on all Beats headphones.
There's a security alert going around about "Masque" attacks, which poses a potential threat to iOS users but, according to Apple, has not resulted in any problems so far. Masque takes advantage of Apple's iOS Enterprise Developer program which bypasses the official App Store to let businesses install apps on their employees' iOS devices.
According to the Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, which has fairly good sources but isn't always reliable, production of the custom-designed chip for the forthcoming Apple Watch is about to begin. This is a good sign, suggesting that this new accessory from Apple is on track for an early 2015 release. Some recent rumors have slated it for February 14, though an internal company video suggested it would arrive in the spring.
Apple is scaling their product line, both bigger and smaller. Apple simultaneously introduced a bigger 4.7-inch iPhone and an even bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and the 1.5 to 1.65-inch Apple Watch. While that Apple Watch won't ship until early Spring, there have been rumors of a larger iPad, potentially dubbed the iPad Pro, with a 12.9-inch screen. Apple did indeed introduce new iPads a month after the iPhone and Apple Watch, but they kept the same screen sizes.
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.
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