iPhone X: new Apple smartphone dumps home button for all-screen design

New model with 3 November release date promises better cameras, facial recognition, animated emojis, longer battery life and wireless charging

Apple has unveiled the iPhone X, its new radically redesigned smartphone that drops the traditional home button for an all-screen design, as well as new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models.

Apples senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage of the companys new Steve Jobs Theater situated within the brand new Apple Park spaceship headquarters to unveil the new iPhones.

The new $999 (999 there is dollar-to-pound parity on the new range of Apple products) iPhone X will come with the companys new iOS 11 software featuring new on-screen buttons and gestures to replace the standard physical home button, which has been a mainstay of iPhones since the lines launch in 2007, plus new animated emoji called Animoji.

The iPhone X, pronounced 10, will come in two colours, space grey and silver, and is available for pre-order on 27 October, and shipping by 3 November. A 256GB storage option will also be available for 1,149.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: This is the iPhone X. Its the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.

Instead of pressing a button, users swipe up from the bottom to get to the home screen and swipe and hold to go into multitasking. To wake the device users just tap the screen or lift the iPhone, while the control centre is now accessed by swiping down from top right corner of the phone.

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The iPhone X has a new OLED screen. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The front of the device features a cutout at the top of the new OLED Super Retina display housing a new True Depth camera system for the Face ID facial recognition system and for taking selfies with Apples Portrait Mode. Apple says Face ID is capable of identifying the phones owner from a 3D scan of the face in order to unlock the device, authenticate payments and input saved passwords into login screens as well as integrate into third-party apps.

Similar systems have been used by Microsoft for its Windows Hello-capable Surface computer line, but no one has yet cracked the technology on a smartphone. Apple said the system was capable of operating even when the user was wearing glasses, and only unlocks the phone when the user is actively looking at it.

The iPhone X does not include Apples Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which was introduced in 2013 under the home button with the iPhone 5S.

But Apple said that its Face ID was more secure than Touch ID by a factor of 20, capable of discerning between the users real face and photographs and even Hollywood-level replica masks using the True Depth camera system, which projects an IR dot map on to the face to map it. It even works in the dark.

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The back of the iPhone X is glass. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The rest of the device is made from stainless steel and glass, harking back to the design of the iPhone 4, and mirroring that of rival Samsungs Galaxy S8 but without a curved screen. It marks a striking contrast to recent all-metal iPhone models, and remains to be seen whether it suffers from a similar level of fragility as rival glass-and-metal sandwich smartphones. Apple said the glass was the most durable ever fitted to a smartphone with metal reinforcement. The headphone jack is still gone too.

The iPhone X will have Apples latest processor, the A11 Bionic that comes with an integrated Neural Engine for face recognition and now has six cores, up from last years A10 with four cores. Apple said that the A11 had 30% faster graphics and was an up to 70% faster processor than the A10, while extending battery life by two hours over the iPhone 7 a pain point for the majority of current iPhone users.

Apple also introduced Qi wireless charging to the iPhone line for the first time, which uses a a plate within the back of the phone to accept an inductive charge from a pad or a piece of furniture with wireless charging built in. Its a feature thats been standard in Samsungs Galaxy S line of smartphones for the last three years and available with several other rivals, and removes the need to fiddle with a power cable to charge your smartphone.

The back of the iPhone X has Apples now familiar dual camera system, which debuted on 2016s iPhone 7 Plus with one wide-angle camera and one telephoto camera capable of giving the phone a two-times optical zoom, but oriented vertically rather than horizontally. Both cameras have new 12-megapixel sensors, optical image stabilisation and Apple said that it had improved its computational photography system to produce better, more detailed images.

Part of the improved system is a new version of the companys Portrait Mode, which allows users to artificially blur the background to create a shallow depth of field, similar to that created by dSLR cameras, and change the lighting effects across the subjects face. Rivals Samsung and others have also shipped similar features, with inherent flaws around fine detail such as hair. It remains to be seen whether Apples system can fix those problems.

Apple also unveiled new animated emoji characters it calls animoji, which allow users to map facial expressions on to little characters, such as a robot, fox, unicorn, or anthropomorphised poo using the iPhone Xs facial recognition system. The animoji can only be sent to other Apple users through the companys Messages app.

Ben Wood, chief of research for CCS Insight said: The iPhone X is the blueprint for the iPhones new hardware direction. An OLED display and the new design is likely to [be] standard on future iPhone models, but Apple must first tackle the challenge of obtaining sufficient supply.

A staggered introduction of OLED technology and the new design enables Apple to steadily ramp up scale in its supply chain and maximise profits. The relatively high prices of the iPhone X are a necessary and important mechanism to control demand in the near term.

iPhone 8

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The iPhone 8, which will start at $699/699. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Alongside the iPhone X, Apple also unveiled two other new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are essentially updated versions of 2016s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which were themselves updates of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S lines from 2014 and 2015 respectively.

On the outside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus has glass on the front and back, with a colour-matched aluminium band around the outside. Apple said that the glass on the back was the most durable glass on any smartphone, attempting to assuage fears that the new iPhone would be less durable than the iPhone 7.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both have Apples new A11 Bionic chip, but without the Neural Engine of that fitted to the iPhone X, and come with improved screens with the companys True Tone feature and improved speakers while keeping its current form with a home button with Touch ID 2 fingerprint scanner. But they lack facial recognition and an all-screen design of the iPhone X.

Schiller said: This is the first iPhone created for AR. The cameras are individually calibrated in the factory which makes a huge difference for AR, plus AR benefits from the new A11 Bionic chip.

Apple also added wireless Qi charging like the iPhone X and the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which is expected to become widely used in the next year for headphones and other peripherals.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will come in three colours and start at $699/699 and $799/799 respectively with 64GB of storage, available for pre-order from 15 September and shipping by 22 September. A 256GB storage option will also available.

Wood said: The iPhone X and iPhone 8 models are very strong additions to Apples portfolio that address increasing competition from Samsung and others. Rivals will be watching how quickly Apple can meet demand for the iPhone X and begin to build margins on a new design with new components.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/12/iphone-x-release-date-apple-home-button-screen

Apple unveils HomePod speaker to take on Amazon Echo and Google Home

Smart speaker announced along with new iMac Pro coming in December while iMacs and MacBook Pros get immediate spec bumps

Apple is launching a smart home speaker called HomePod to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, the company revealed at its annual worldwide developer conference.

The Cupertino company described the 7in device, which comes in white and space grey, as a breakthrough home speaker designed to rock the house. This means that Apple has placed an emphasis on audio quality, packing the speaker with an array of seven tweeters and a woofer as well as spatial awareness that detects its location in a room and adapts the output automatically.

In announcing the HomePod, Apple CEO Tim Cook said there were many companies making products for enjoying music in the home but none have nailed it yet. He mentioned wireless speaker systems such as Sonos that sound good but are not smart and other smart speakers (presumably a reference to Amazon Echo and Google Home) that dont sound great.

We want to combine this all, he said.

HomePod is controlled using Siri, the companys voice-activated personal assistant, which has, according to Apple, been trained to be better at answering questions about music such as Hey Siri, whos the drummer in this?

Apple reinvented portable music with iPod, and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes, said Philip Schiller, Apples senior vice-president of worldwide marketing.

The device can also be used to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather and control smart home devices connected using Apples HomeKit.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the Homepod. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At $349, it will be more expensive than Google Home ($109) and Amazon Echo ($179) but cheaper than the Sonos Play 5 ($499). The product will launch in the US, UK and Australia in December 2017 and in other markets in 2018.

I think its a very Apple-esque product in that it seeks to stake out the high end of a market with its technology, price and positioning, said analyst Paul Erickson from IHS Markit.

However, Erickson described the price point as aspirational given that consumer expectations have been set by cheaper competitors, although Apple has done a great job of being extremely profitable without having to cater to the mainstream, and they will drop their price over time, he said.

Besides the HomePod, Apple unveiled a collection of new and upgraded products, including a new computer, the $4,999 iMac Pro. The more powerful iMac is intended to address concerns of creative professionals who had been limited to much less powerful iMacs or the much-loved Mac Pro, which hasnt been updated since 2013.

There was also a new 10.5in version of the iPad Pro, the tablet for professional users, which can support a full-sized keyboard cover. The device has a better display, is faster, and comes with 64GB of memory. The device will start at $649 and start shipping next week. Theres also a 12.9in version that starts at $799.

Weve been pushing the boundary of iPads, and today, were going to push them further than we ever have before, Cook said.

Just as Google and Facebook did at their developer conferences this year, Apple announced an augmented reality platform called ARKit to allow developers to more easily create augmented reality apps, such as Pokmon Go, which overlay digital objects on to the real world.

Apples senior vice-president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated the companys AR capabilities by placing a virtual coffee cup, lamp and vase onto a real table. Given that it is already supported by millions of iPads and iPhones it will, Federighi said, be the largest AR platform in the world.

There were also a couple of updates to Apples web browser, Safari, including a speed boost that makes it, according to Apple, the fastest ever desktop browser. It also introduced autoplay blocking, which stops music and video from playing automatically without your permission on websites as well as intelligent tracking prevention, which stops ads from following you around the web.

Read more about Apples announcements from WWDC on the Guardians liveblog.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/05/apple-homepod-speaker-amazon-echo-google-home

Is it time to swap your Mac for a Windows laptop?

Over a decade ago Alex Hern switched from PC to Mac and never looked back. But the new MacBook Pros very expensive so could he finally be tempted to switch again?

Ive been an Apple user for over a decade, ever since I picked up a refurbished 17in PowerBook back in 2005 to replace my ailing Windows XP box. But last month, after Apple announced its most expensive new MacBook Pros in almost 15 years, I reconsidered my decision for the first time and, for the past few weeks, Ive been back on a Windows PC.

I wasnt always a Mac user. My first three computers were PCs, although the house I grew up in had an ailing, hated Power Mac Performa. My reasons for switching in my teens were fairly simple: Id been playing fewer and fewer PC games, and spending increasing amounts of time using my computer to manage the music library linked to my iPod. I was one of those switchers, surprised by the elegance of Apples music player and convinced to take the plunge into their full desktop operating system.

The laptop wasnt cheap, but it made shuttling between my separated parents houses much easier. And while I missed being able to play the full library of PC games Id built up over the years, it was an exciting time to be moving to the Mac OS world. Plus, World of Warcraft was cross-platform, which was all the gaming I needed for a good while.

Ten years on, Im a fairly default Apple user. Im on my sixth iPhone, second iPad and third Mac; I have an Apple TV at home, Apple branded keyboard on my desktop, and even an Apple AA battery charger, from the days when they made them.

But the twin punches of a Brexit-led depreciation of the pound, and Apple releasing a new range of MacBook Pros with the least bang-for-your-buck in recent memory, made me think twice. The cheapest Mac that would be sufficient for my needs, a 13in MacBook Pro with 512GB of storage space and 16GB of ram, comes in at well over 2,000, yet is barely more powerful than the machine its replacing, a 15in retina MacBook Pro from four years ago that cost just over 1,500 at the time.

So I switched back. For the past month, Ive been using the Surface Book, the top-of-the-line laptop sold by, of all people, Microsoft.

Its been an experience.

Great-ish expectations

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Microsoft Surface Book Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

My expectations going in were uncertain. I know Windows has evolved radically since I last used it, back in the XP era, and has even changed since the last time I used it in anger, shortly after the launch of Windows 8.1. The current latest version of the operating system, Windows 10 (confusingly, only one version later than 8.1; the story goes that too many developers wrote code referring to Windows 95 and 98 as 9*, meaning an actual Windows 9 would break compatibility), is generally considered a good thing. It meshes the new Windows experience of version 8 with an old-style desktop more elegantly than previous versions, while consigning ever more of the cruft deep into nested menus and offering a slick experience for first-time users.

I was also given hope by the machine. After an awkward start with the first version of the Surface back in 2012, then pitched as an iPad competitor, Microsoft has become one of the best manufacturers of Windows PCs there is. The Surface Book is a delicious machine, masquerading as a MacBook Pro-class laptop but with a fully detachable touchscreen that opens it up to a whole new range of uses.

The quality of the Surface machines has caused problems when it comes to Microsofts relationships with its hardware partners, who tended to expect Microsoft to be content raking in millions with the licensing fees for Windows, rather than competing with them directly for profit from hardware manufacturing. But for now, the company has been content to sit on the edge of the market, making niche devices for the power user.

Despite all of that, I had a fair amount of trepidation. Memories of blue screens of death, of driver conflicts, of cleaning out my registry and restoring the system after a malware infection, are hard to shake, as is the general hangover from my youth of Microsoft as the Great Satan of the tech world. As Zuckerberg is to the 2010s, Gates was to the 1990s: ever-present, professionally amoral, and incredibly, unflappably, successful.

But Gates is gone, as is Ballmer. This is Satya Nadellas company now, and the Microsoft of this generation is everything the Microsoft of the 90s or the Facebook of today isnt: humble, quiet, content with success where it can win and partnerships where it cant, and as proud of working with competitors as Gates was of crushing them. In short, its a Microsoft that I could consider being friends with. It couldnt be that bad.

Switching pains

The worst thing about switching, it turns out, is switching.

Im not trying to be tautological. But the bulk of the unpleasantness Ive experienced actually making this change hasnt been inherent to Windows, but has either come about because of the differences between the two operating systems, or even just the difficulties in actually getting up and running from day one.

Some of the problems are as simple, but nonetheless infuriating, as different keyboard shortcuts. A lifetime of muscle memory has told me that Command-Space brings up Spotlight, which is the main way I opened programmes on my Mac. The same shortcut on Windows 10 is to simply hit the Windows key, which invokes Cortana, Microsofts AI assistant, and then typing in the name of the programme you want to open.

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Its just all so … blue. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

Similar mismatches appear in areas like window management, alt-tab behaviour, and programme installation. Its a push to say which is better (though I maintain that running an installer is less elegant than just dragging an app into the Apps folder), but whichever youre used to, the other will be worse until you re-educate yourself.

Thats not to say I didnt have plenty to complain about, though.

That Spotlight/Cortana mismatch, for instance? It wouldnt have been so bad, except that Windows maps the alt key to the location of the command key on Macs, and alt-space is the Windows shortcut for switching languages, so every time I failed to invoke Spotlight, I would accidentally switch the language my computer was set up in, resetting my keyboard to a US English layout.

That was an annoying problem. Worse was that I didnt actually have two languages set up on the Surface Book in the first place. And yet, hovering in the bottom right, permanently, was a little box showing whether I was running in UK English or US English, with no option in sight to remove it.

In the end, I had to turn to Twitter for troubleshooting advice. We determined that there was no option to remove the US English language because there was no US English language set up. So to remove it, all I had to do was go into a language menu, add English (United States) as an option, and then remove English (United States) as an option. I know. But it worked, so who am I to complain.

Im also firmly aware that a critical eye on Mac OS will reveal many similar bugs. Mac users, particularly long-term, slightly jaundiced, Mac users, have long become familiar with the hollow laugh and invocation of Apples erstwhile marketing slogan It Just Works as something emphatically continues to not Just Work. In fact, that phrase has been uttered in irony so many times that its easy to forget that it really does come from a place of competitive advantage for Apple.

That advantage has largely been eroded over the years, as Microsoft has cottoned on to the joys of vertical integration, plug and play accessories, and standards-compliant behaviour.

But not entirely. Plugging in an external mouse (an utterly standard Microsoft-made laser mouse), I was annoyed to find that I couldnt reverse the scrolling behaviour on the scroll wheel to match that of the in-built trackpad. Its one thing to have to relearn behaviours when you switch machines, its another to have to re-learn them every time you plug in a peripheral.

About an hour of fruitless Googling later including several suggestions to install obsolete utilities, hack the registry, or roll back to an earlier version of Windows and I discovered the way to do what I wanted. I had to download drivers for my mouse.

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It just works Steve Jobs with the MacBook Pro in 2008. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If youre young, a Mac user, or not particularly technical, that might not mean much. Drivers are the small pieces of software that tell the operating system how to work with hardware, from complex components like graphics cards to simple accessories like this mouse. But the necessity, or not, of drivers for accessories was a big part of that competitive push by Apple, which made a point of ensuring out-of-the-box support for many of the most commonly used peripherals like printers, cameras and mice. When Steve Jobs said it just works, this is the sort of thing he was referring to: the ability to plug in a mouse and have it Just Work.

Installing drivers for a mouse to enable a niche behaviour is no great hardship, but it still left me moderately concerned. Microsoft made both the mouse and the laptop, yet the two werent able to play nicely together without my intervention. This digging in the nuts and bolts of the machine was not something I had missed.

Touching the void

The Microsoft of 2016 has a split personality. In many ways, the split is the same that its had for the past 20 years, between its desire for continuity and its desire for reinvention and technological leadership. Where the company is successful today is where that latter desire is ascendant, and the Surface Book is the best example of a forward-looking Microsoft you can find.

Its a fantastic machine. Small and powerful, with a long battery life, it impresses as a laptop, but its real strengths are revealed when you undock the screen from its base. Being able to carry my laptop around the kitchen when doing the weekly shop, before docking it back and typing up some recipes, was genuinely cool.

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Not being an illustrator, a graphic designer, or even a graphic thinker, the ability to pop out my laptop and write on it with a stylus was never that useful. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Unfortunately, cool is all it was for me. The ability to pop out my laptop and write on it with a (very accurate) stylus was never that useful. If anything, it served to underscore how efficient the keyboard-and-touchpad combo is for a lot of hefty tasks.

I had a similar experience with the ability to use the touchscreen while the Surface Book was in laptop mode. I simply didnt do it much, and most of the time when I did, it was just to see if I could.

Occasionally, the touchscreen was actively bad. My first time opening Windows Mail, I was greeted with a helpful popover showing that I could swipe mails to the left to archive them. But I couldnt work out how: click and drag? Two-fingered swipe on the touchpad? The answer, of course, is to reach up to the screen, and swipe that way. A shortcut it is not, particularly if the screen is up on a dock and youre already using a keyboard and mouse.

Incidentally, unlike many hybrid laptops, the base isnt just a keyboard: it also contains a second battery, and a number of hardware components including a discrete GPU. (One downside of that setup: if you let the screen run out of battery while undocked, you cant re-dock it until youve charged it separately, even if the base still has some power left).

PCs are from Mars

If this sounds like a long list of nitpicks, its because … well, it is. For all the existential battles that have been fought over Windows versus Mac, theres little to distinguish the two on any important level. The platforms have converged on everything but aesthetics and personal preferences. Both have a locked-down store which power users ignore; both are fighting for relevance in a world of web apps and mobile-first design; both feel the weight of versions past sitting on their shoulders.

If you asked me to explain why, despite it all, Ive put my money down for a MacBook Pro rather than buying the Surface Book from Microsoft (which loaned the device for this trial), I can give you some reasons that feel solid enough for me.

I was shocked by the amount of advertising and cross-promotion riddled throughout the OS, from adverts for apps in the start menu, to a persistent pop-up offering a free trial of Office 365.

I was surprised by the paucity of solid third-party apps in general, and particularly by the lack of any good consumer productivity suite. When the most common recommendation, for services from photo storage to calendaring, is just use Googles web apps, theres a hole waiting to be filled (though maybe thats just my dislike of web apps in general). It feels like the Mac dev scene is full of teams making fully featured apps that compete with the big companies, while Windows devs are more content to make niche utilities which serve particular needs without needing to start a war.

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The MacBook Pro is up to 1,000 more expensive than the Surface Book. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

I disliked the lack of a smart sleep mode, meaning my computer would often be flat when I opened it up in the morning because some utility had been running in the background.

I hated the difficulty in typing special characters, from foreign accents to ellipses and em-dashes. I hated the lack of a universal paste-as-plain-text shortcut, and I mourned the loss of iMessage access on the desktop for texting my girlfriend.

Most of all, though, I couldnt stand the small irritations, from the failure of Chrome windows to correctly adapt when dragged from a high-res screen to a low-res one, to the trackpads inability to accurately click when I used it with my thumb rather than my finger.

I dont pretend that those irritations are unique to Windows, or even that they arent things I couldnt have fixed with time, effort or re-education. But the problem is, fixing them isnt worth it: the difference just isnt there.

Thats true whichever way youre thinking of switching. If youre a Windows user nodding along with my problems, I can guarantee you that within a month of switching to Mac, youll have a list just as long. Maybe one day, one or other platform will have a commanding lead. For some use-cases, thats already happened: gamers have Windows, while iOS developers have Mac, to state two obvious examples. But for now, for the vast majority, its hard to say theres anything in it.

Except, of course, for price.

Because these problems are minor, and a price difference of up to 1,000 isnt. The Surface Book is around the same price as the new MacBook Pro, but many other high-quality laptops arent: youll easily find models like Dells XPS range or Lenovos Thinkpads for hundreds of pounds less than a comparably-specced MacBook.

For me, with four years of saving for a new Mac, good credit, and risk-aversion to digital irritation, its worth paying through the nose to stick with what I know. But it might not be the case for you.

Switching isnt a panacea, and theres no silver bullet out there no Windows computer that will be anything better than a bit annoying for former Mac users but before you get too complacent, I have a feeling the same is true the other way round. Ultimately, the question comes down to how much youre prepared to pay to keep things the same as they have been. For me, it turns out that figures quite high.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/07/mac-windows-pc-macbook-pro-microsoft-surface-book

AirPods: Apple says it needs ‘more time’ before selling new wireless earbuds

Apple showed off what it calls AirPods last month during a launch event for the iPhone 7, but now the company isnt saying when theyll be released

Apple says it needs a little more time before it starts selling the new wireless ear buds that are designed to work with its newest iPhones the ones that dont come with a dedicated headphone jack.

The technology company showed off what it calls AirPods last month during a launch event for the iPhone 7 smartphones. The iPhones went on sale in late September, and Apple had said the AirPods would go on sale in late October. But now the Cupertino, California company isnt saying when theyll be released, or why it needs more time.

iPhone users can still listen to audio on the new iPhones by using other wireless headsets or plugging into the phones charging port, although older headsets may need a plug adapter.

At launch, Apples senior vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller declared the headphone jack to be ancient technology and promised that the earpods would deliver a magical experience.

It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices, he said, discretely acknowledging criticism at the removal of the headphone port by saying that it took courage for Apple to move on to do something that betters all of us.

Apples decision was widely debated by users, many of whom felt that wireless headphones were less convenient and practical than their wired counterparts. Wireless headphones need regular charging and the tiny AirPods could fall out and, without the wire as a lifeline, easily get lost.

At the same time, those wanting to continue to use their old headphones can do so using a free adapter that plugs into the iPhones Lightning port, although that does mean the user cant listen to music or podcasts while the device is charging.

Tech analyst Paul Erickson at IHS Technology suggested that the decision to remove the headphone jack was motivated by money. It should be noted that wireless models are the highest revenue-generating products within the headphone market, he told the Financial Times.

The decision to delay the launch of the magical $159 wireless headphones comes the day after Apple reported its first decline in annual sales and profit in 15 years.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/26/apple-airpods-wireless-earbuds-delay-launch

Upcoming App Store purge could see hundreds of thousands of apps deleted

Apples recently announced promise to clean up its App Store by removingold, outdated and non-compliantapplications could see hundreds of thousands of apps getting booted from the mobile application marketplace, according to new data about the number of abandoned apps live on the storefront today. Apple, of course, didnt specifically detail its criteriafor kicking out older apps saying only that apps that no longer function as intended, follow current review guidelines, or havent been supported with compatibility updates for a long time, could be removed.

That latter item, however a long time is where theres room for speculation on the impact this purge will have on the App Store. How long is long, after all? Thats unclear.

Still, its fairly surprising how many apps have been released, but not maintained, when you dig into the numbers.

Top, active app developers update their apps at least every month or two, if not more frequently. In fact, a report from last year found that the top iOS developers averaged 45 days in between updates on average. Smaller and indie developers may not have the resources to maintain quite as fast-paced a schedule. But its still reasonable to think that an actively maintained app would at least be updated annually, as a minimum, or when a new iOS operating system was released or new hardware arrives.

Most apps arent, though.

There are 2.1 million active apps on the App Store worldwide today. But,according to data from Adjust, a business intelligence firm for app marketers, 50 percent of all apps have been abandoned by developers since May 2015. With half the App Store potentially up for deeper examination, Apples marketplace could soon look a lot different, following the upcoming purge.

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In addition,a quarter (25.6 percent) of all iOS apps havent been updated since November 2013, Adjust says. And only 20 percent of apps have been updated in the last three months. This gives you an idea of how few apps are maintained after their App Store debut.

 

Meanwhile, onegroup of apps thats likely to get kicked out of the App Store are those which were never updated to support the larger screen of the iPhone 5 (and subsequent models). Adjust says 11.4 percent of all apps fit this description, and 10 percent of all iOS apps havent been touched by their developers since the days of the iPhone 4.

Another way of looking at the situation is to count how many apps are truly ancient and abandoned. According to data from another app intelligence firm, Sensor Tower, 328,000 iOS apps havent been updated in three or more years. It wouldnt be surprising to see all of those put on notice. Meanwhile, Sensor Towersays that roughly 40 percent of apps were updated in the last three months, according to its data, and 7.5 percent dont support the iPhone 6 or newer.

Well soon know how Apple decides which apps it will remove, as it plans to begin reviewing and removing applications from the App Store starting tomorrow the same day asits iPhone 7 event. Those that crash upon launch will be removed immediately, the company says, while other affected developers will have 30 days after receiving a requestfrom Apple to submit an update, otherwise their app will be removed.

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Though Applesactions will likely remove a great number of mobile applications, those that disappear largely wont be missed. Having non-maintained apps that dont work or even dont look and feel current contributes to a poor user experience, and it makes finding newer, quality apps more difficult for end users.

The App Store purge is one of several, radical changes Apple has been rolling outto its App Stores in recent months, following the installation of Phil Schiller as the head of the App Store in December. The company also announced the introduction of search ads, new auto-renewable subscriptions with a more favorable rev share for developers, more pricing flexibility for subscriptions, a more personalized App Store which recommends apps users dont already have installed, and more.

Alongside the App Store purge, Apple also said itplans to limit the way developers canuse app names for better App Store SEO that is, names cant be longer than 50 characters, so developers cant cram a bunch of keywords into their apps title anymore.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/06/upcoming-app-store-purge-could-see-hundreds-of-thousands-of-apps-deleted/

Apple unfurls more millennial-friendly texting tools including ’emoji prediction’

At its annual developer event, CEO Tim Cook led a silence for victims in Orlando, before revealing updates to iOS and Siri, its voice-controlled AI

Apple, known for its steady stream of slick consumer electronic devices, used its annual developer conference in San Francisco to roll out a collection of millennial-friendly texting tools to enhance emojis, improve image sharing and add animations to messages.

Among a two-hour stream of product announcements at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) event, Apple engineers demonstrated the latest update of Apples smartphone software iOS, which will now let iPhone users add larger emojis, see photos and videos appear in a stream of text messages, add animated effects and emojify messages by converting typed words into emojis.

Opening the event with a moment of silence for the victims of the weekends shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Apples CEO, Tim Cook who has become a leader on gay rights issues since talking about his own sexuality in 2014 called the attacks a senseless, unconscionable act of terrorism and hate aimed at dividing and destroying.

Cook then set about laying out his vision for a future in which Apples software forms the central hub of its customers lives, helping track their fitness, send love notes, navigate the road and trade pictures of cute dogs.

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Tim Cook lays out his vision for Apples future. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images


More playful messages

Apple is clearly responding to the voice of the consumer; Messages is the most popular app on iOS, and the new features are designed to offer more playful options that replicate some successful third-party messaging apps.

Were providing emoji predictions as you type, said Craig Federighi, Apples senior vice-president of software engineering. When you tap on the emoji button, well highlight all the emoji-fiable words.

Federighi also went slightly off script, joking that the children of tomorrow will have no understanding of the English language. Clicking on the camera icon in Messages will immediately show the camera live, and the demonstration showed some shots that appeared slightly more perfect than real life. It was a rare moment of candor in an otherwise characteristically veneered Apple presentation. Someone in marketing thought that was what youd see if you saw through the camera … such an incongruous set of images.

Digital assistant

The iPhone maker is also betting heavily on winning a multi-front battle with Google, Facebook and Amazon to create a market-defining digital assistant that helps people make tiny decisions or suggests relevant information throughout the day, such as which emoji to use, which family member to tag in a photo, or the best time in your diary to get to the gym.

Apple plans to add machine-learning smarts to its messaging app, better predicting the content of texts between any two people communicating with iPhones.

At the same time, it announced it would open the technical innards of its Siri virtual assistant to outside developers who can make other intelligent apps.Consumers could just ask Siri how long it would take for a Lyft or Uber to show up, rather than opening an app.

Siri also will begin working on Apples desktop and laptop computers. In one demonstration, Federighi showed how he could ask Siri to gather up all emails from a certain co-worker about a certain topic.

Apples desire to get more people to use Siri comes as other Silicon Valley giants release their own digital butlers. Amazon.com has Alexa, which will query the internet and adjust the lights in a room for users; Facebook has M; and Google announced its own Google Assistant in May.

Privacy features

Apple did, however, break with the larger technology industry over at least one issue: privacy. As Silicon Valley tries to offer more products that analyze vast amounts of consumer data to better predict how people will make decisions, it often requires users to forgo certain modern privacy tools, such as strong encryption. Thats because the companies usually can only analyze consumer behavior by monitoring their messages, scanning their photos and tracking their movements. These computations are done by running all of this data through corporate servers.

Apple
Apple says its Messages app will continue to offer end-to-end encryption by default. Photograph: Tony Avelar/AP

In May, Google announced that Allo, its new messaging app, would only offer digital assistant features if users dont turn on an optional strong encryption feature. Facebook will also make its new encryption technology on its Messenger app optional for similar reasons, people familiar with the project said.

Apple, by contrast, said such machine-learning computations will be done on users devices, rather than company servers. Because of this, the company says its Messages app will continue to offer end-to-end encryption by default.

Other updates

Apple is also renaming its operating system, the latest version of which is called macOS Sierra. Updates include a shared clipboard, so that content and links can be shared between connected iPhones, iPads and Macs, a feature that will free up disk space by backing up less-used content on iCloud, and its payment service Apple Pay, which can now be used on desktop sites.

Apples latest watch software, WatchOS 3, speeds up changes between apps, adds text input by typing individual letters on screen and allows users to unlock their desktops with the presence of their watch, saving the effort of typing a password.

WWDC comes as Apple faces a challenging future. In April, Apple reported its first sales decline in 13 years. The company, while still massively successful, appears to be reaching a saturation point with its popular products, such as the iPhone and iPad. Its latest piece of hardware, Apple Watch, has faced consistently mixed reviews.

Apples annual developer conference isnt normally the site of sweeping product announcements. The audience is full of coders and Apple tends to focus on minor tweaks that may only elicit applause from an enthralled audience deep in the weeds of app design.

When Federighi announced the shared clipboard, there was an audible gasp. At another point, Bozoma Saint John, head of consumer marketing for Apple Music, boldly tried to show off a new lyrics feature by getting the audience to rap along to Sugarhill Gangs classic Rappers Delight.

She quickly gave up after declaring the audience was not, as the song instructs, rapping to the beat.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/13/apple-messages-wwdc-new-features-emoji-prediction

Apple Music is being overhauled? Good – here’s what it needs to do

The first incarnation of Apples Music service missed some key features. After bust ups with beats staff and even criticism from Taylor Swift, can it do better?

When Apple debuted its Music subscription service at its June 2015 worldwide developers conference, it did so in grand style with appearances by music impresario Jimmy Iovine and a performance by Drake.

Apple Music was brimming with features: access to a library of 30m tunes, a 24/7 Beats One radio station, curated playlists and integration with your existing library of music downloads. With Apple Music, the company was hoping to shore up sagging iTunes revenues and drown out rival streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Tidal.

Apple even gave subscribers three months to fall in love with the new service; within a few weeks more than 11 million users signed up for the free trial. But before it was even half over, some 48% had decided to cancel before the $10 monthly fee kicked in, according to a survey by analytics firm MusicWatch.

Music fans werent exactly holding their lighters over their heads, screaming for more. Problems ranged from a cluttered and confusing interface, a royalties program that angered popular artists (most famously Taylor Swift), and upgrades that thoroughly bollixed subscribers existing iTunes libraries. Since then, key executives with Apples Beats subsidiary have left the company. Even iTunes international VP Oliver Schusser admitted the service had a bit of homework to do.

Nearly a year after Apple Musics debut, however, the company wants to take another crack at it. According to a report by Bloomberg, the company plans to launch an improved version of the music service at its WWDC next month, along with another massive marketing push. (Apple declined to confirm the news to Bloomberg.)

The report was short on details on how Apple intends to pump up the service. But assuming its true, we have a few unsolicited suggestions.

Make it simpler, stupid. Apple Musics interface totally lacks the simplicity that has been the hallmark of great Apple products. Fewer options, especially on such a small screen, would be welcome.

More free radio stations. In January, Apple restricted access to its ad-supported iTunes radio stations to paying subscribers, leaving Beats One the sole free radio option. If Apple wants to convince skeptics its service is worth $120 a year, it needs to offer more than the limited tastes of Beats DJs.

A free ad-supported version. It works for Spotify, which has 55 million free users (and 20 million paid). Why not Apple?

A downvote option. You can heart your favorite songs, but you cant tell Apple to stop suggesting artists you dont like. Apple Music needs to make better personalized music suggestions, and adding a Pandora-like thumbs-down option (the anti-Drake button, as I call it) would help.

Lose Connect. Apple Musics Connect service was supposed to bridge the gap between artists and their fans, offering them exclusive photos, videos and music. But many artists have ignored it, and it mostly seems like another attempt to sell more stuff. I doubt anyone would even notice it was gone.

Better desktop and web clients. If you want to listen to Apple Music on your computer, you need to run the resource-hogging and overly complicated iTunes software. Would a simple web client be too much to ask? Or even just a stripped-down desktop app?

If Apple wants a whole lotta love for Apple Music 2.0, it needs to make sure the song does not remain the same.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/04/apple-music-wwdc-taylor-swift