I'd been wanting to start smartening up my home, so when I received an email offering a free sample of smart light bulbs from Connected By TCP, I jumped at the opportunity. And I couldn't be more pleased with them. During these dark winter months, it can be pretty dreary arriving home in the evening after dark. In the past I'd sometimes turn on my porch light when I left home in the afternoon, knowing that I'd be arriving home in the dark and could avoid fumbling to get the key in the door. But it always seemed a waste to have the light on for hours.
There are many new features available to you in iOS 8 in the Photos and Camera apps. When you're viewing an individual photo, one nice new feature is the ability to designate it as a favorite. Then those photos that you've identified as favorites are automatically collected into an album titled Favorites.
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.
If you find it more convenient to listen to some text on your iPhone or iPad rather than read it, you can easily enable that capability. You might, for example, want your device to read a web page or ebook or other document to you as you drive. While this feature has been available for some time, note that iOS 8 gives a convenient new option for invoking speech.
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."
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.