Opinion: Apple’s pricing and sales experience will make or break Apple Watch

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It has a date — sort of. And it has a price — mostly. But less than three months before its release, the Apple Watch is still enigmatic in ways that the similarly pre-announced iPhone and iPad were not. Apple still hasn’t said more than one thing (“starting at $349″) about how the 34 different Watch models will be priced, and despite hiring a new team of sales executives from the fashion and watch worlds, no major changes are obvious at the Apple Stores where the watches will be sold.

What’s going to happen between now and April? 9to5Mac’s editorial team has been actively discussing the possibilities, and we’re ready to share our thinking with you today. Read on…

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Opinion: Could there be method in Apple’s apparent madness in removing freebies?

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I was extremely surprised when Apple made the decision to drop its Single of the Week, after doing the same thing with its 12 Days of Christmas promo. As I wrote then, the free single seemed a win-win-win: consumers got free music, lesser-known artists got exposure, Apple got the goodwill that stems from giving away free stuff.

But thinking more about it, perhaps there is method in Apple’s madness after all. Let’s start with the obvious point: the company is about to launch an Apple-branded Beats Music service, and it would then make sense to say that this, not iTunes freebies, is the way to discover new music.

But it’s not just music: 12 Days of Christmas was content of all types, apps included, so I think there could be a bigger picture here. Bear with me while I make that case in a slightly roundabout fashion …

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Will Apple allow ads on Apple Watch?

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With more developers and businesses taking advantage of Bluetooth beacons for advertising to nearby iPhone users, many consumers have concerns that the experience could be intrusive from an end user’s perspective. Apple Watch, scheduled for release later this year, could potentially add to that problem if Apple decides to allow iOS apps sending info to the smartwatch to also send advertising as we come in contact with beacons. It hasn’t yet, however, provided public details about what it plans for advertising on the device.

Despite the fact that there aren’t specific references to advertising in Apple’s guidelines for app developers building features for Apple Watch, a couple companies have already announced plans to deliver ads to the device. But do they know something we don’t? Or has Apple not yet made up its mind regarding what it plans for advertising policies on the Watch ahead of a launch expected in the next couple of months?

Sources at large advertising companies tell us Apple is being very cooperative, but that the company hasn’t relayed anything in the form of final guidelines. Read more

Opinion: Does the minimalist 12-inch MacBook Air design represent the future of MacBooks?

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While we’ve been expecting the 12-inch MacBook Air for quite some time and some of the details have long been rumored, the design exclusively revealed in Mark Gurman’s report has raised eyebrows throughout the tech world. Especially the most dramatic element: the reduction of the ports to just one multifunction USB-C socket, a headphone socket and a pair of microphones.

The $64,000 questions are: will this ruthlessly cut-down approach prove workable—and is this a design unique to this one machine, or does it represent the future of all MacBooks … ?

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Twitterrific 5 for Mac may become the first casualty in Twitter’s war on developers, but it won’t be the last

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If you open the Mac App Store right now and do a search for “twitter,” you’ll find results just like the ones in the image above. You may recognize the official Twitter app along with some of the most popular and prolific third-party clients. Right below Twitter for Mac you’ll find Twitterrific.

Twitterrific has been around for quite a while now, and was the very first native Twitter application ever built for Mac. It was also the first app to use the word “tweet” to refer to the posts on the network, and introduced many modern staples like conversations and replies. To this day it remains a popular choice among users and has seen many major updates and redesigns. It’s currently on its fourth major version.

In December 2012, Twitterrific 5 was released for iOS devices. The Iconfactory, Twitterrific’s developers, promised that a Mac version of the updated app was in development and would include support for the new iCloud syncing feature and an all-new design. Three days shy of a year after releasing the iPhone update, however, users were given what is currently the app’s most recent update. It included only two bug fixes. The developers have noted that the 5.0 update for Mac is facing big delays.

So what’s going on here? Why has it taken two years for any more news of the update? When will the new version finally be available?

The unfortunate truth? Not even the developers know.

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Passcode vs. Touch ID: A Legal Analysis

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[Ed. note: Jason Stern is a Criminal Defense Attorney in private practice in New York City]

8:34 am. A college professor receives a text message threatening to blow up the history building. The professor immediately contacts law enforcement, who trace the origin of the call to a student who lives off-campus.

When FBI agents arrive at the student’s residence, they arrest the student and seize his smartphone. In an attempt to search the device to recover evidence of the crime (and perhaps stop other related crimes), they find the smartphone is protected by fingerprint security measures.

With the suspect in handcuffs, the agent swipes the student’s finger across the phone to access his call history and messages. Once the FBI swipes the suspect’s finger and bypasses the biometric security, the phone asks for the student’s passcode. The FBI agent asks for his password but the student refuses to speak. How can the FBI agent access the phone? Whereas a fictional Federal Agent like Jack Bauer would simply pull out his gun, jam it in the suspect’s mouth and scream, “WHERE IS THE BOMB?”, in our example, the FBI agent would hit the proverbial brick wall.

Yes, the phone could be brought back to the lab for analysis and hacking by forensics personnel, but the suspect in this case could not be forced to disclose the password on the phone… Read more

iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 compared: is Google’s bigger display really that much of an advantage?

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TechCrunch went hands-on with Google’s newest smartphone, the Nexus 6, and took some time to compare it to the iPhone 6 Plus. In the photo above, you’ll see that the two phones share near identical dimensions, though the Nexus still manages to pack a larger 6.22-inch display space into the same body.

The Nexus is actually a bit bigger than it looks in the photo, though the perspective makes it a little hard to tell. When compared spec-for-spec, the Nexus comes in at 6mm taller, 5mm wider, and 3mm thicker than the iPhone. It’s not a huge difference, but the Nexus display is still noticeably bigger than the iPhone 5.5-inch screen. How?

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Opinion: Why the iPhone 6 bends and why it wouldn’t be an issue if Apple addressed it properly

Last week, #BendGate took the Internet by storm. I’m sure you’re all familiar with it by now, but if not, BendGate was created from an alleged bending issue with Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. There’s a specific weak point on the inside of the chassis right beneath the volume buttons that allows it to bend very easily with pressure added in the right place. To most, it may seem like a non-issue, but a single video sparked one of the biggest viral moments this year in tech… Read more

Opinion: It’s time for Apple to deliver on its Lightning cable’s ‘improved durability’

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When you think about easily damaged Apple products, a smashed iPhone display with a screen like a spider web probably first comes to mind. While I’ve never cracked my own iPhone screen in my four years of carrying one virtually everywhere and mostly without a case, I have had to replace the charging cable required to keep the iPhone juiced up more than enough times.

The classic 30-pin cable used on the iPhone 4s and prior certainly wasn’t the most durable cable I’ve ever owned, but the Lightning cable introduced alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012 has proved one of the least forgiving accessories I’ve ever needed to use, and that’s despite Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller touting Lightning’s “improved durability” when he introduced it.

You may not have the same experience, but there’s even a Tumblr dedicated to venting over broken Lightning cables, and that just shouldn’t be the case.

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Android Wear gives us a glimpse at what home automation with an iWatch should look like

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Home automation, a category more broadly referred to as the “internet of things,” is almost surely going to be a large and growing market in the coming years. And while Apple’s recently announced entry is the forthcoming HomeKit platform, Google has yet to announce anything exactly equivalent. At I/O 2014, however, Google did announce its plan for Nest, and shed much more light on its Android Wear smartwatch operating system.

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Opinion: Why the new $50 iPod pricing tiers probably won’t make it to Apple’s lucrative iPhones and iPads

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Earlier today Apple made a significant change to the iPod touch lineup. Aside from a few small hardware improvements to the lowest-end model, the company has—for the first time—started to close the price gap between storage tiers.

When the iPod touch first launched, there was a $70 gap between the 8 GB and 16 GB models. Jumping from 16 GB to 32 GB would cost an extra $100. However, with the launch of the second-generation iPod touch, the gap between the lowest two tiers increased to $100, and it’s stayed there ever since.

Until today, that is. Now, for the first time since the debut of the first iPhone in 2007, there is a mere $50 gap between all three capacities of an iOS device. Is this a sign that Apple is ready to give in and drop the ridiculous $100 pricing tiers on future big ticket premium devices when the actual Flash storage and controllers only cost Apple a few bucks? Or will we continue to see a $100 price gap between iPhones when the next-gen model is revealed this fall?

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Opinion: Has Apple finally promoted iCloud from a hobby to a serious service?

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I wrote a piece last month arguing that it was time for Apple to up its iCloud game, showing that the company is serious about cloud storage by focusing more on fast, reliable syncing, and by matching the functionality, storage capacities, and pricing of Google Drive.

In the WWDC keynote, Apple did exactly that. MobileMe may not, in Steve Jobs’ words, have been Apple’s finest hour, but it did at least include iDisk – an online drive we could access directly to store anything we liked – not just documents created in Apple’s own apps. It’s been a long time coming, but iDisk is finally back in the form of iCloud Drive.

The new iCloud pricing, too, looks set to be exactly what I asked for – comparable to Google Drive…  Read more