The Accessibility features of iOS are useful to those who are visually impaired, but they can also be useful to others, such as those occasions when it might be more convenient to have your iPhone or iPad read to you. In an earlier tip, I showed how you can use the Speech setting in Accessibility to have your device read text to you. A reader pointed out to me that there's yet another way to do so: the VoiceOver feature. And once you get the hang of it, this approach may be the more convenient.
I wish I were at CES, but must be content with reading the news reports. One that caught my eye was an announcement by Philips of noise-canceling headphones that plug into the Lightning connector port and that don't need batteries. They're powered by the port itself. As you likely know, noise-canceling headphones use microphones to listen to ambient sounds and then generate sound waves to destructively interfere with the sound waves in the environment. The result is silence, giving you the full pleasure of hearing what's coming from your iPhone or iPad. The Fidelio NC1L headphones use Philips' own 24-bit digital-to-analog converter rather than the converter built into your iPhone or iPad. You can read a hands-on review and see a video on Digital Trends.
Amazing that it's now been eight years since Apple founder Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in January, 2007. You can watch a four-minute video of the introduction on YouTube and see embedded below. He rightly refers to it as yet another revolutionary device from Apple, and that Apple is reinventing the phone. He introduces it by saying it's three devices in one: an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communication device. And he emphasizes its ease of use.
Users of Android devices have long had the option of using external memory to expand storage on other devices, and now that option has come to the iPhone and iPad. The iBridge Mobile Memory, made by Leef, is a thumb drive that plugs into the Lightning port and offers up to 256 GB of storage. As can be seen in the photo, the iBridge conveniently curls around the back of your device. It has a Lightning connector on one end and a USB connector on the other so that you can also connect it to your desktop computer. Prices range from $59.99 for 16 GB to $399.99 for 256 GB.
Much is known about the Apple Watch — except for the date of its arrival. And we'll likely be seeing many rumors in that regard. On Tuesday 9To5Mac passed along the rumor that the Apple Watch will go on sale in March, with staff training scheduled for mid-February. Citing sources familiar with the Apple Watch's development, 9To5Mac said that representatives from Apple Stores across the US will be sent for training Feb 9–16 to familiarize them with the new watch. Prior to the release, these employees will then train other Apple Store personnel. At least that's the plan. Apple itself probably hasn't yet pinned down a date when it will go on sale, since it all depends on how smoothly production goes.
Despite Apple's best efforts to line up a streaming TV offering and disrupt the cable TV industry, Dish has succeeded where Apple has failed, announcing their new Sling TV service that will cost $20 per month. Their bundle of 12 channels will initially include ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TBS, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, and Cartoon Network. More are expected to be added. Plus, for $10 per month one can purchase add-on packages of special-interest channels, such as news and children's programming. This is the sort of low-cost, à la carte offering that many had been hoping for. The web-based service can be streamed to one's computer, smart TV, and mobile devices. There's no contract, no installation fee, no special equipment, and no credit check.
Spotlight has long been a great feature of iOS, and is especially useful at helping you find apps that are buried away in a folder on your device. Since iOS 7 you invoke this handy search tool by simply swiping down on any home screen. (But keep in mind that if you swipe down from the very top of the display you'll get Notification Center instead.) In iOS 8, introduced last fall, Apple greatly expanded what Spotlight can do. In addition to finding apps and text strings in apps such as Mail and Notes, it also now searches the web, searches Wikipedia, finds related apps in the App Store, finds related movies, and even brings up results in Maps if you search on a location.
Apple began selling unlocked iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models on Tuesday that can be used with carriers around the world, as well as with with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S. An unlocked iPhone 6 with 16GB costs $649 and 6 Plus $749. Apple had already been selling an unlocked model, but it came with a T-Mobile SIM card.
The New York Times has a helpful article that narrates writer Mike Isaac's spending a day using Apple Pay. His experience varied widely, going off without a hitch at some businesses and causing a bit of confusion at others. His best experience was at Whole Foods, where the clerk estimated that three out of every 20 customers use Apple Pay. At Babies "R" Us he never did get it to work after waving his iPhone four times. At some places the clerks were familiar with Apple Pay, at others they just gave him a blank look. Overall, he feels that there's room for improvement among the retailers.
But what really caught my attention in this article were two comments that were posted explaining that the newer "chip-and-PIN" credit card terminals apparently accept Apple Pay by default. One person posting a comment said that these terminals are universal in Europe and that he was able to use Apple Pay a number of times there. He just waved his iPhone and it worked.
As 2014 comes to a close, we're seeing lots of predictions related to Apple for the coming year. And many enthusiasts (and some market analysts) are expecting great things. It seems a safe bet that we'll see a 12.9-inch iPad in 2015. Lots of rumors have been circulating, and Apple's partnership with IBM is giving Apple's iOS devices more of a presence in the enterprise — which would be a prime market for a larger iPad. Of course, 2015 will also see the launch of the Apple Watch, with estimates suggesting Apple could sell some 30 million. Not only will the new watch make a huge splash in the wearables market, it will finally help bring out some of the potential of Apple's Health app and the HealthKit platform. Both were introduced with much fanfare, but haven't made much of an impression since the introduction of iOS 8 in September. The Apple Watch will likely change that, with its ability to feed data to the iPhone's Health app.