Review: blueLounge’s Portiko + Pixi bring elegance to Mac / iOS / Apple Watch charging + cable management

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blueLounge isn’t a typical Apple accessory maker. If you look through its 15-year backcatalog of releases, you’ll notice that its products are markedly different from somewhat overlapping alternatives produced by rivals — intensely practical and cleanly-designed, yet sometimes so conceptually minor that they’re hard to review. Take CableDrop and CableDrop Mini, for instance, circular adhesive pads that each do nothing more than hold one cord in a fixed position wherever you want it. I use CableDrop Mini every day with my MacBook Pro’s power cable, but can’t justify a full review of something so utterly basic.

The simultaneous release of two new blueLounge accessories — Portiko ($25) and Pixi ($10) — gives me the rare opportunity to cover one of the company’s minor but practical items alongside one that’s more gadget-like. Portiko (shown above) is a wall- or table-mountable power source attractive enough to put on display between the four devices it can charge at once. It has enough USB and AC power outlets to handle a MacBook, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch at the same time, or other combinations of devices. Pixi is blueLounge’s latest cable management solution, a set of elegantly-built elastic and plastic bands that wrap around bunches of cables, tidying up your desk. Read on for more details and pictures…

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Developers hack Apple Watch to run real UIKit-backed native apps

Well-known developers Steve Troughton-Smith, Saurik and Adam Bell have managed to hack the Apple Watch on watchOS 2 to run truly native apps on the device. Although Apple is advertising native apps with watchOS 2, it isn’t as ‘native’ as some developers wanted or expected. The logic code now runs on the watch, but raw access to the user interface is still not allowed on watchOS 2.

This means frameworks like UIKit cannot be used to draw truly custom UI. Instead developers must rely on the same techniques employed with current WatchKit apps that revolve around image sequences to create more interesting effects.

In the demo, video embedded below, the team managed to get a fully interactive 3D object running on the Apple Watch powered by Apple’s SceneKit framework.

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Foxconn is planning to build iPhones in India for the first time

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According to government officials, iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is planning to open operations including 10-12 factories and data centers by 2020 in India for the first time. Foxconn producing iPhones and iPads in India could result in lower prices on Apple’s hardware in the country where Apple’s hardware is sold at a price higher than many of its competitors.  Read more

iOS 9 adds cellular Continuity feature, T-Mobile first to send home iPhone calls to office iPad & Mac

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Although Apple originally debuted Continuity in iOS 8, enabling iPhone calls and SMS messages to be received and answered on Macs or iPads, the feature only worked when the iPhone, Macs, and iPads were on the same Wi-Fi network. Today, T-Mobile announced that it is “the only mobile network operator in the world” with support for a new and previously unannounced iOS 9 feature: Continuity support has been added to T-Mobile’s cellular network, so a Mac or iPad can receive an iOS 9 iPhone’s calls even when the iPhone isn’t on the same Wi-Fi network.

This means that “T-Mobile customers will be able to answer that important text message or call on your Mac or iPad even if you left your phone at home,” explained T-Mobile, so “you can leave your phone on your desk and just take your tablet or your Mac to your meeting and never worry about missing anything.” Implicitly, the iPad or Mac would need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network for calls and SMS messages to come through. The feature is active as of the iOS 9 beta, so “customers will need the iOS 9 beta to use the new feature, and it will be available to every T-Mobile customer with an iOS device later this year when iOS 9 is publicly available.” And there’s more…

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Xcode 7 allows anyone to download, build and ‘sideload’ iOS apps for free

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Apple has changed its policy regarding permissions required to build and run apps on devices. Until now, Apple required users to pay $99/year to become a member of Apple’s Developer Program in order to run code on physical iPhone and iPads. As part of the new Developer Program, this is no longer required. Apps can be tested on devices, no purchase necessary.

However, this technically means that developers will be able to release apps outside of the App Store as long as they are open-sourced. Interested users could then open the code in Xcode, compile and run it on their own devices — avoiding the App Store completely.

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How-To: Prepare your iPhone, iPad or Mac for iOS 9 + OS X El Capitan public betas

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Up until recently, unfinished “beta” versions of iOS and OS X were only officially available to registered Apple developers, enabling companies to make their apps compatible before the operating systems were publicly released. But to increase openness and expand its pool of beta testers, Apple decided to offer “public betas” of both iOS and OS X to interested users, starting with iOS 8.4 and OS X Yosemite. Very soon, both iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan will become available as public betas under the Apple Beta Software Program, which you can sign up for here.

Should you install these new and unstable betas on your iPad, iPhone, or Mac? What can you really expect after doing so? Below, I’ll provide you with some guidance so you can make an informed decision to participate in the public betas, or hold off…

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iOS 9 code hints 1080p, 240fps, flash coming to iPhone FaceTime cameras

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Code found in the first iOS 9 developer betas reveals that Apple is planning to support some significant camera features and upgrades with the new software version. Presumably planned for the next iPhone hardware version, developer Hamza Sood has discovered code in iOS 9 that reveals support for long-awaited changes to the front-facing FaceTime camera. According to the code, iOS 9 adds support for a FaceTime camera with 1080p video capture, up from the current 720p camera on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus… Read more

iOS 9 lets app developers make ad blockers for Safari

Ad blocking extensions have been possible on Safari for Mac for a long time, but plugin architecture for Safari on iOS is much more limited. With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.

The inclusion of such a feature at this time is interesting. Apple is also pushing its own news solution in iOS 9 with the News app, which will include ads but not be affected by the content blocking extensions as they only apply to Safari. There is also clearly the potential for Safari ad blockers to hurt Google, which seems to be a common trend with Apple’s announcements recently…

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iOS 9 follows OS X in dropping discoveryd for mDNSResponder to improve network stability

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Xcode listing running processes on an iOS 9 iPhone.

When OS X 10.10.4 betas dropped discoveryd a couple of weeks ago before iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 were announced, there was some speculation about whether it was just a temporary intermediate fix until Apple reworks discoveryd for the next generation operating systems. Using Xcode’s Instruments developer tools for iOS and Activity Monitor on the Mac, we can confirm that Apple has also dropped discoveryd on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

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With iOS 9, Apple lets developers cutoff support for older iOS devices without 64-bit CPUs

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With iOS 9, developers can cutoff younger devices in a way that was not previously possible. Although iOS 9 runs on every device that runs iOS 8, app developers are free to specify more restrictive compatibility requirements.

In fact, with iOS 9, developers can choose to make their apps exclude any non-64 bit architecture. This means all iPod touch models, all iPhones before the iPhone 5s and all iPads before the iPad Air will not be able to install apps where developers have required 64-bit CPUs.

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Opinion: These were the 10 game-changing WWDC 2015 announcements

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There were so many announcements during the WWDC keynote yesterday that even people who follow Apple for a living (and expected most of the details) were overwhelmed. New versions of iOS, OS X, and watchOS were only three of the biggies, alongside the official debut of Apple Music and a lot of small but interesting new details.

Since the keynote ended, I’ve been sorting through all of the stories, as well as all three new operating systems. What follows are my picks for the ten most game-changing WWDC 2015 announcements, some of them requiring more explanation than others. They’re not in rank order, but there’s definitely one that I thought was the biggest of the bunch. Share your picks in the comments section below…

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All major banks support Apple Pay in the UK apart from Barclays, says negotiations ongoing

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UK bank Barclays is the only major holdout from the launch of Apple Pay in the UK. From next month, users with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch in the United Kingdom will be able to use the NFC mobile payments chip inside their iPhone to use Apple Pay.

Apple announced yesterday a whole swathe of partners, including Santander, HSBC and Lloyds. The notable omission from the ‘big four’ British banks is Barclays. Barclays’ Twitter support has come under fire in the aftermath from customers and has issued the following statement, which shows that all hope is not lost for Apple Pay for iPhone users who bank with Barclays.

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