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.
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.
One of the major benefits of iOS 8.1 is iCloud Photo Library. All your photos can now live in the cloud rather than being tied to a particular device, making them available to you regardless of which device you're using. Any change you make to a photo or video on one device is carried over to the others. And perhaps the most important benefit is that it allows you to free up space on your devices. If you enable iCloud Photo Library, you can choose to store only optimized versions of your photos and videos on your iPhone or iPad. The full-resolution versions are kept in the cloud, and versions less memory-intensive, which are perfectly suited to the size and resolution of your iPhone or iPad, are stored on your device. This can save you gigabytes of storage space. And any time you want, you can download the full resolution.
Apple has worked hard to make sure you can do everything from your iPhone and iPad without having to connect it to your desktop computer. Over-the-air system updates and backups via WiFi were a culminating step in this direction. In addition, you can also now manage your Apple ID account from your iPhone or iPad.
I like the features of Safari in iOS 8. In a previous tip I showed how to request the desktop version of a site by tapping in the address bar and then dragging down on the Favorites window that pops up. I also just learned of a quick way to add the current page to Favorites, to your reading list, or to shared links.
I like Apple's Maps app, but a number of times it's taken me to a location that simply didn't exist: an Indian restaurant, a zoo, a hotel in a small town, a Chinese restaurant. I diligently follow Siri's directions and when she says I've arrived, the establishment in question is nowhere to be seen. And in several of these cases probably never existed. If you've had similar problems and prefer maps from third parties such as Google, you can now conveniently access these maps from within Apple's Maps app.