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What to expect at Apple’s March 21st “Loop” Event

The invitations have been sent out for Apple’s March 21st event! The tagline reading “Let us loop you in“. So that all said here’s a look at what you can expect announcement wise both hardware & software. The event itself will take place at 10:00 AM as most Apple events do, being held at the Apple Town Hall auditorium.

The two major announcements will be that of a new phone & iPad. Accompanied by of course sales numbers & progress, possible mac upgrades, and new Apple Watch accessories.

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE is either a step back or just so depending on how you look at it. The aim of the SE is to upgrade the former iPhone 5S device to current hardware specs. While maintaining the design for the most important part & with a 4-inch screen size. No your eyes do not deceive you, a phone company looking to go smaller rather than bigger with the screen. Seeing as not everyone is a fan of the big screen movement or new design this phone is meant to target those who preferred the compact 5S. (Compact by todays standards)

It’ll be updated as far as CPU & GPU goes, camera, and some other internal changes along with the external color schemes of current iPhones.

iPad Air 3 or Pro?

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It’s due time for an iPad update & no doubt Apple will be pushing the specs of the devices such as the A9X chip, four speaker system, and possible name change. The rumors as of now is that Apple will unify the iPad line into an iPad Pro series. An iPad Pro 9.7 versus iPad Air 3 while the newly released iPad Pro would be the 12 inch model.

Other than that we’re not expected to see any major changes. As of now it’s doubtful Apple would integrate Force Touch into this edition seeing as the current iPad Pro lacks it. However we’ll probably see support for the new accessories like the Apple Pencil on said device.

Apple Watch Bands

space-black-milanese-loop-band-800x284Now it’s unknown whether Apple is alluding to their newly built HQ in the whole “Loop” message or rather their new bands set to come to the Apple Watch. One pretty much confirmed rumor is the Milanese loop band which comes in silver is set to receive a black edition for Apple Watch users. Other band said to be released are new sports band colors, possible NATO straps, and partnered promotions such as the previous Hermes straps.

This would be a bit before we’re set to hear about the possible Apple Watch 2 announcement in September. So if you were thinking about getting one, you may want to hold off.

Software Side

On the software end this area could be up for grabs seeing as it isn’t quite WWDC. However we may hear of update across the line of products such as iOS 9.3 features, Watch OS 2.2, TV OS 9.2, OS X 10.11.4 and possible iTunes update (please please please be true).

These would simply be glimpses at new features & things to give the customers, press, and stockholders a look at what’s to come. WWDC would be a good time to further dive into such topics so we’re likely to see a few of the above addressed.

What About the Macs?

Now while it isn’t outside the realm of possibility though less likely, the mac lineup. If we do hear about any mac refreshes at all it’ll surely be in that of the laptop department. Namely the Macbook Pro. We’ll probably see Apple start to lean towards the USB C movement across their laptop lineup & not just the latest Macbook. Of course this will also mean new CPU’s going into their Macs & other changes, possibly even a design one. However this isn’t guaranteed or even as solid as the previous rumors. It’s bound to happen as the upgrades are long overdue so if your waiting on a new mac & it’s not an iMac hang tight.

The event while at a much more smaller venue will be live streamed via their website. I’ll as always be covering said event & following up with an overview & my thoughts. So stay tuned!

 

Google’s Own Cellular Network “Project Fi”

Alright so it’s technically not Google’s cellular network rather they’ll be piggybacking off of giants like T-Mobile & Sprint but packaging it in their own fashion. Google’s Project Fi is meant to offer a easy & seamless cell phone carrier plan.

As of now you can sign up for Project Fi here as long as you have one of the following phones:

Nexus 6

Nexus 6P

Nexus 5X

How the Plan Works:

The aim is to offer a simple & straight forward plan.

$20 a month for Project Fi Basics which includes

Our plan starts with the Fi Basics for $20 per month, which includes: unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, ability to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and coverage in 120+ countries.

$10 per GB of Data USED

To see how much you’d save switching over see their plan page

 

Is it their own Network?

As mentioned earlier Google is piggybacking off of T-Mobile & Sprint   & of course wi-fi networks. The idea is that your phone will always switch to the best case network in your given area whether thats a wi-fi connection at home, 4G LTE while your out & about, or even 3G.  This theoretically means you’ll have optimal performance wherever you are. Given that Sprint & T-Mobile offer decent coverage you’re more than likely to always have some sort of stable connection.

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As of now obviously this is only limited to Nexus users so anybody can’t switch over to it. However they are doing promotions if you buy a Nexus under Project Fi such as the Nexus 5X at $200. This isn’t for everyone but it is a great option for those who want to go with an alternative off contract carrier & if Sprint & T-Mobile offer great coverage in your are then it’s a win win situation. Now for others their current carriers may be just fine as you don’t get any benefits that independent carriers offer such as T-Mobile’s unlimited data & Binge service. So ultimately in the end it comes to weighing out what your plan & carrier offer at whatever price you pay. This is a very early project but one that can definitely see some potential given that Google is moving to do more of their things in-house from the phones now to the service.

Amazon’s Tap & Echo Dot “The Portable Alexa’s”

Amazon announced a two new devices in the Echo lineup the “Echo Dot” & “Amazon Tap“. The dot aims to be a semi-portable Alexa allowing you have Alexa in any room you can carry a small hockey puck like device & plug it in to get Alexa. The Dot packs the Alexa assistant in it with a small portable speaker but also allows for bluetooth & wired connection to other speakers. This means you can easily connect the Dot to existing speakers in any room be it the kitchen, living room office or of course use the built in one.Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 2.52.16 PM

While the Tap is essentially a portable bluetooth speaker meets Alexa. For the on the go traveler who wants the ability to play music from a mobile speaker. The Tap powers off of a battery that lasts up to 9-hours and can of course be recharged via it’s docking station. Tap coming from the microphone button which the user can easily press to input any voice commands such as play music, what’s the news, and so on.

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The catch being the only way to currently order the Dot is through an existing Alexa device scubas the Echo or Fire TV, while the Tap can be pre-ordered. Essentially you need to have Amazon Echo in order to buy the Dot. The Dot will be retailing at $90 while the Tap pre-orders at $130. Amazon has stated however the ordering process will be available for all customers soon. There have been a few workarounds posted on the web if you really are anxious to get one.

Alexa Amazon’s assistant built into echo allows you to do various things such as stream music, order new items, ask various questions (weather, basic arithmetic, etc),  and even place order for third party services like Uber. The current Echo offers a base station solution that while convenient isn’t at portable. It’s meant more for a central location where in the Dot is cheaper can be connected to other speakers & be taken room to room as needed.

As of now the ordering process for the dot is exclusive while the Tap can be pre-ordered. This expands Amazon line of Echo devices making everyday tasks more convenient and automated through Alexa.

Apple’s iPhone SE

It’s been rumored that Apple has been set to update the iPhone 5S to a newer model in the 4-inch display space. This would be a phone for those who preferred the smaller footprint phone while still getting all the new specs. It was reported that this phone would be labeled the iPhone 5SE.

iphone_screen_sizes

Credit: MacRumors

Until recent new revealed Apple will be dropping “5” and be calling it the iPhone SE. That being said here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s upcoming iPhone SE.

What is it?

As noted the iPhone SE will be an upgrade of Apple’s 2013 iPhone 5S. Rather than going with an iPhone 6C this year Apple will release the SE to cater to the crowd that prefers the smaller screen size devices, despite the move to bigger screens across smartphones. The SE will feature upgrades & support for current generation hardware such as the A9 processor,  M9 Chip, upgraded 8 megapixel camera and more.

What will it look like?

There have been many renderings & concept pieces of what the SE will look like. More than likely it’ll be identical to the 5S with some curved additions to the screen & edges. Some reports say that the new SE may even be able to share certain accessories with it’s previous 5S model. It’s also said to receive the new Rose Gold color limited to that of the 6S.

Where it Lacks:

The SE isn’t meant to be spec for spec with the newer 6S devices rather and upgraded generation of an already “S” based device thus the SE title. That said it’ll most likely only come in 16GB & 64GB variations and limited to 1GB of memory/RAM. This may however make it a more cost affordable options for those looking to get an iPhone for family members or for those who just prefer the 4-inch form factor.

Apple made a similar move with the iPhone 5C at first release it was a phone featuring a plastic body to appeal to a certain user base. Given the move to bigger screen sizes however both on iOS & Android devices this is an unlikely move. Only sales numbers will determine the reaction to said device. Until then we have to await the announcement of the SE at Apple’s March 15th event that will also feature other hardware releases/upgrades.

Apple vs. FBI & The Need for Encryption

Tim Cook released a letter publicly via the Apple website today titled “A Message to Our Customers”. In it Cook goes into detail regarding the US Government request for Apple to essentially create a backdoor to obtain information from an iPhone from a suspect in the terrible terrorist attack in San Bernardino last December.

This is major & important news regardless if you understand every minute detail of the request. Hell in all honesty even I don’t understand every technical aspect. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand it’s importance however. In essence our devices iPhones, iPads, iPod’s are protected so that our data be it messages, photos, or what have you are unavailable to unwanted eyes. As with any company customer protection is of utmost importance. Even more so with that of technology companies, Apple in this case is no exception & have stood firm on their encryption stance.

Thus far Apple has provided help to the authorities that are within their limits. However the FBI now wants them to circumvent the very security they setup in order to get more information from the suspects device. This is where the backlash on Apple’s end begins & in turn Tim Cook’s letter.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The bigger argument here being if Apple was forced to succumb to such requests that this wouldn’t be a one off thing. No matter how much the government or others will try to convince you. Once this backdoor is created there is no stopping the use of it in the future. It compromises the very principles of encryption.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

Now of course the other half argues in defense of said request. That it’s for the greater good & at times for the overall safety we have to break some rules. There’s no denying that the act in which led to such requests was a violent & inhumane one. An act of terrorism that no one including Apple stands by or supports. However in this case it’s a company standing for it’s principles & more importantly customers against a government that despite it’s best intentions are asking Apple to do something that they technologically cannot even do currently.

You can play the ignorant card certainly in a situation like this. As your data isn’t the one currently at stake. I say currently as in many cases like these it isn’t & won’t be the first. Until something like this happens to you be i the iCloud leaks or a government order it’s something that can’t be simply ignored. Because if a company like Apple is forced into such acts our rights & data is at stake if not now in the future.

Apple’s First Original TV Series “Vital Signs” to Star Dr.Dre

It isn’t new news that Apple has been working on their own TV network/service for quite some time. The service would allow Apple to host multiple providers content in a packaged deal while also offering their own exclusive content similar to what Netflix, Hulu, and other networks do already.

Vital Signs is reported to be Apple’s first original series that will be a six part look at famous producer, artist, and business mogul Dr.Dre. Since the acquisition of Beats & adoption of their music streaming service Dr.Dre has been heavily involved in all things Apple. They’re looking to skip the wait on getting their network off the ground & go straight to distribution via their platform Apple Music. So it isn’t per say TV but will be offered exclusively to their members similar to that of their Taylor Swift 1989 world tour documentary. In this case however it’ll all be produced & handled by Apple.

The show itself will be led by music video director Paul Hunter & reportedly star Dr.Dre himself along with other talent & co-stars. It was only a matter of time till we saw a company like Apple not just offer & distribute the content but create it. With the popularity of Netflix Originals lately it’s no question that its a step in the right direction. More updates to come.

iOS 9 To Get Night Shift Feature

Apple released a preview of iOS 9.3 today outlining some of the new features. One of them being what they call “Night Shift” mode. This is similar to the popular tool known as F.lux for mobile & desktop users. F.lux adjusts screen color to allow for a warmer tone & easier on the eyes experience. For those who use their computers for prolong uses of time should definitely check out the tool. Recently F.lux was made available to iOS users through a xcode workaround. However now Apple is implementing their own solution right into their OS.

As their preview page describes the feature:

Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep. Night Shift uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings. Pleasant dreams.

Soon enough we’ll see this pushed out to iOS after developers & users have had time to test it & Apple irons out any bugs. Given the amount we use our devices nowadays in some cases more than our computers this is a very welcomed feature.

You can read more about iOS 9.3 beta features here.

Apple’s All New Smart Battery Case

In a quiet update Apple unveiled their all new accessory for iPhone 6 & 6S devices, the smart battery case. This is Apple’s first official battery case that will compete directly with 3rd party cases. The case itself is made of the same silicone soft touch material they use in their other cases. While being lined with a microfiber material to protect the phone & make it easy to slide in & out. Unlike traditional battery cases this won’t come apart rather you slip your phone into the case docking it on the built in lightning connector.

 

All ports will remain accessible & the case itself will provide up to 25 hours of extended usage. This will of course vary on how you use your device but nonetheless you can guarantee all day battery life  & then some while sporting said case.

Price wise it’s retailing for $100 USD in a white & charcoal gray color scheme. That all said the design of the smart battery case is odd to say the least. While it’s simple in its colors & aesthetic the battery is housed in a hump behind the case that adds a weird bump to your phone. Needless to say at first glance I thought this was a joke. Given Apple’s recentdesign decisions with the Magic Mouse 2 for example, this is definitely an odd product approval for a company that puts an emphasis on design.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 7.20.12 PMThe case by all means is useful like any battery case you sacrifice a bit of added weight & size for convenience of having your device last longer. Eliminating the need to carry cables or an external battery pack around. Companies like Mophie for example have led the way in such category. The Apple Smart Battery Case while useful just doesn’t sit right for me as far as design & look/feel goes.

They are available for order today & will be dispatched starting December 10th.

Dropbox to Shutdown Mailbox & Carousel

Awhile back Dropbox aquired the mail application “Mailbox” fro around $100 million. I remember the waite queue the application had to even get access to it. Filled with swipes & gestures the objective was to get to inbox zero.

In an announcement today Dropbox announced they’ll be shutting down the email client alongside their photo tool Carousel. The official shut down date for Mailbox will be Feburary 26th, 2016 & Carousel shut down in March 31st, 2016. This is a move to center Dropbox’s focus of their staff & mission. As they put it in their official statement

Building new products is about learning as much as it’s about making. It’s also about tough choices. Over the past few months, we’ve increased our team’s focus on collaboration and simplifying the way people work together. In light of that, we’ve made the difficult decision to shut down Carousel and Mailbox.

The blogs for Mailbox & Carousel will feature FAQ & some information on how to make the transition seamless as possible.

As far as alternatives go here’s a list of some great mail applications to try out on iOS.

Microsoft Outlook

Google Inbox

Spark

Samsung Agrees to Pay $548 million to Apple Over Patent Infringement

It’s been 5 years since Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung over patent infringements. As in typical corporation lawsuit fashion it was dragged out over the years.

Samsung has recently agreed to pay the $548 million damage claim fee. While it’s a big amount by any means it’s a significant cut from the previous $2+ billion dollar request. However here comes the catch, Samsung reserves the right to be reimbursed in full if the court appeals the decision. Though Apple disputes their dispute, which surely will drag this out longer.

The lawsuit began over Apple’s claim that Samsung had infringed on multiple patents from tap-to-zoom & other gestures that the iPhone/Apple held. Samsung has come out saying that they’ll pay in full if Apple invoices them before December 14th, 2015. Side note but I’d like to be the one to either prepare & or see an invoice of that amount.

As with most of these cases we’ll see appeals from both sides & a back & forth battle. Samsung already has requested for a Supreme Court review in the upcoming summer. However until then Apple has a pretty big check heading their way.