When it rains, it pours. And when the sun shines, particularly in North Carolina, it powers Apple's data centers. As Apple increasingly relies on such data centers for iCloud, Siri, and more, they are also increasingly relying on the sun to power those data centers. And now Apple has struck a deal with Claremont City Council in North Carolina to setup a 100-acre solar farm, and spend up to $55 million to build it. This is in addition to the other solar powered Apple data centers in Maiden, NC.
I still remember a poem from French class, 30-plus years ago, that includes the line "Je plie, et ne romps pas" which translates to "I bend, and do not break." It is the sentiment of a tree that survives by bending with the wind rather than trying to maintain its posture and thus lasts longer than a larger tree. Apple is trying to make screens that bend but do not break, and the key to that may be their new sapphire factories which is expected to replace Corning's Gorilla Glass, which had been used in all iPhones to date.
I just got back from CE Week and I always try to travel light. Instead of carrying a battery pack and a USB charger as I wandered around the tradeshow floor and around New York City, I tried something new, namely TYLT's Energi 2K Travel Charger. This compact "block" has 2,000 mAh of battery life, a USB port, and a flip-down prong for charging via the wall. This eliminates the need to carry two separate devices and made my life a lot easier. Combined with a retractable Lightning cable, I was able to keep my iPhone charged and recharge the Energi back whenever I was near a wall outlet.
The first Apple devices were handmade by Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and a few others in Jobs' family garage. They've come a long way since then. While most Apple devices are now made in China, via subcontractors like Foxconn, there are still a few devices made in America. The new version of the $3,000-plus Mac Pro is made in the U.S., where the higher price can offset any costs due to Americans demanding a living wage and not polluting the environment. Foxconn has had their own problems with worker suicides leading to the installation of netting around buildings. Yet workers still flock to Foxconn factories because the working conditions are often better than the alternatives.
Apple has made some interesting personnel moves lately, starting with Angela Ahrendts, previously CEO of Burberry. To leave the top job at a prestigious fashion firm for a non-CEO job might be puzzling, but it demonstrates Apple's own prestige. At Apple, Ahrendts has a chance to make an impact on the consumer electronics scene at one of the most well respected firms. And given the trend toward wearables, it could be nice to combine her fashion expertise with Apple's technology savvy.
Every day brings us closer to the iPhone 6, and all signs point to September for the announcement and availability. In fact the specific dates may be narrowing, according to a Chinese source, as reported by Apple Insider. September 19 or 25 are being discussed as potential dates customers could get their hands on the 4.7" device. A 5.5" version is expected to be announced but possibly later this year. Now we are learning that the larger unit may be dubbed the iPhone Air. This is counterintuitive, as the MacBook Air represents the lighter, smaller MacBook compared to the Pro, but the iPad mini vs iPad Air may set a new precedent, with Air representing the handheld device with the largest screen. Perhaps the better naming convention would be to make the 4.7" model the iPhone Air and the 5.5" version the iPhone Pro while keeping the current iPhone 5s as the basic iPhone.
A recent interview by Apple's CEO Tim Cook suggests that voice may be more important to an iWatch than previously thought. I've used a number of smartwatches, from Pebble, Martian Watches and others. While the Pebble offers the best battery life, the Martian Watch offers the most promise precisely because of its Siri button. In addition to acting as a Bluetooth Speakerphone, there is a button that can be pressed to activate Siri. This is similar to CarPlay, where an audio-only interface is used to access Siri's functions, so there's no touchscreen to distract the driver.
With Beats becoming part of Apple, there's room for an independent high-end headphone vendor and SMS wants to earn that spot. I've reviewed their Star Wars licensed line by 50 Cent and been impressed. Now they are pivoting (pun intended) in another direction, namely athletic earbuds and on-ear headphones, with help from NBA star Carmelo Anthony.
With all of the hubbub around iOS 8, it's worth remembering that iOS 7 is still around and still being maintained by Apple. In fact, this week Apple rolled out an update, iOS 7.1.2, which offers bug fixes and security updates. Many of the fixes are related to barcode scanning and iBeacon. The 23.1 Megabyte update can be installed wirelessly, which helps contribute to Apple's record-setting adoption rates. I've been using Android devices a lot lately, and it's frustrating how out of date they get. Industry tracker Chitika Research reports that iOS 7 adoption rates are around 90 percent and that was three weeks ago.
As much as my kids and college professor wife would like to forget, it's almost Back-to-School time, and Apple is making it a little easier with their Back-to-School promotion. College-bound students (and their parents) as well as teachers can save year round with Educational pricing, but now Apple sweetens the pot. The annual promotion covers most Macs, iPads, and since 2013, iPhones.