Opinion: As Nintendo ponders iOS, it’s time for Mac console game emulators to shine

mariogalaxyemu

When Nintendo announced last week that it will collaborate with DeNA to release iPhone and iPad games, gamers split into two camps: people intrigued by the promise of brand new Nintendo titles designed for mobile devices, and others — including myself — who expect Nintendo to release shallow mobile minigames, mostly to promote console titles. Nintendo hasn’t actually committed to bringing the Super Mario games people love into the App Store; instead, it’s saying only that its characters will appear in new titles that won’t require complex controls. The implication is that only Nintendo consoles are capable of playing Nintendo’s console games.

I disagree with that. For years, Macs and PCs have been able to run thousands of classic console and arcade games, including Nintendo’s best-known titles, using emulators. These free programs let discontinued, often HDTV-incompatible games play on computers — in many cases, with noticeably better graphics than you remember. Freed from the fuzzy, low-contrast televisions people used to own, classic games can look pixel-sharp on Retina displays, and some emulators actually improve the edges and textures of 3-D objects. Nintendo may not want you to play its prior console games on your favorite Apple device’s screen, but thanks to emulators, it’s possible today. The picture above? That’s Super Mario Galaxy, running on a Retina MacBook Pro…

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10 reasons why Apple is to blame for the decline of iPad sales

KGI

It has been a tough slough for Apple’s iPad since the height of its popularity in 2013. Facing its second straight year of negative growth, there isn’t a consensus on why iPad sales have declined. I believe the slump is attributable to a combination of factors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called the declining iPad sales a “speed bump” last year before the launch of the 2014 models, but we haven’t seen what Apple plans to do to rejuvenate the product. From my point of view, Apple itself has done more to hurt iPad sales than any external factor, such as Microsoft or Google.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here’s a full explanation of my theory…

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Opinion: My cable subscription woes and the appeal of an ‘Apple Cable’ service

Apple TV HBO Now

My cable provider is pretty terrible. I don’t need to name any names because this likely applies to your cable provider as well. They are all horrible. I often experience drops on popular channels, get bonus filler channels that no one wants, and see indiscriminate additional subscription fees and charges without any real reason. This Onion article, though it is satire, doesn’t stray too far from the truth.

For a very casual TV watcher, it’s not a great experience – to put it mildly.

So the prospect of an Apple web TV service with a price tag of around $40, as the WSJ and others reported last night, is highly appealing to me if it means I can catch the few shows I watch now without the hassle of my cable subscription. I’ll still be tied to the monopolies for Internet service which isn’t terrific, but the theoretical ‘Apple Cable’ service has the potential to fix a number of problems for me.

Apple started off its March event with the announcement that HBO Now, the premium network’s new $15/month web service, will be available with 3-month exclusivity on the App Store and Apple TV at launch next month. While we’ve heard for quite some time that Apple is developing a web TV service, and the upcoming HBO Now channel seems to be the best taste of what that could offer. I’m hopeful that the potential ‘Apple Cable’ can solve my cable subscription woes. Here’s how:

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Opinion: Don’t hold your breath for real Nintendo games on your iPhone or iPad

marioipad

My feelings for Nintendo are complicated. I’ve loved its games ever since the original Donkey Kong, owned every Nintendo console (including the Virtual Boy), and recommended the Wii U as the best game console for families and kids. But if I was mildly displeased with Nintendo as a company during its haughtiest years — the time when most of its key third-party developers walked away — I’m downright angry with it today. At a press conference in Japan this morning, Nintendo announced its second collaboration with a mobile game publisher in two months, the headline from which was what millions of people have been waiting years to read:

“Nintendo to start making iPhone games, including first-party IP like Mario.”

Sure, the official Nintendo press release actually says “smart devices” including phones and tablets, but iPhones and iPads are a safe bet. The press release also says “gaming applications” rather than games, but a press release from Nintendo’s new mobile partner DeNA confirms that the companies will indeed produce mobile games together. Just think about it: Super Mario World on the iPad! Donkey Kong Country on the iPhone! That’s just what everyone has wanted! But there’s a catch…

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Opinion: Do we need to use the Apple Watch to know whether we want one?

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I’m a self-confessed smartwatch skeptic. Early attempts like the original Pebble just seemed to me an extremely ugly solution in search of a problem. Some of the later models, like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R (as well as the rather familiar-looking latest Pebble), overcame the ‘ugly’ part, but I still couldn’t see a reason to want one. I haven’t worn a watch for more than a decade, and smartwatches weren’t showing me any reason to change that.

Then along came the Apple Watch. It’s far and away the best smartwatch I’ve seen to date, and for someone deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, it would also be the most logical smartwatch to go for if I were to go for one at all. Yet I’m still not seeing a compelling user case–and as Benjamin observed in his own recent opinion piece, Apple doesn’t appear to be doing much to help me.

However, I’m not ready to join the ranks of those dismissing it, and there’s one very good reason for that …  Read more

Opinion: Understanding the extended period between the Apple Watch event and next month’s launch

Christy Turlington Burns & Tim Cook

Apple has shown off the Apple Watch at a special event now on two occasions: first after the iPhone 6 last September, then after the new 12-inch MacBook last week. We know how the Apple Watch will look, how much it will cost, when we can buy it and for how much. Many developers are ready to ship apps for the Apple Watch, and we’re already seeing an accessory market for Apple’s wearable.

Since last week’s event, I’ve been thinking about why Apple might have chosen to have its second Apple Watch unveiling more than a month before people can actually buy the device. My conclusion? It’s complicated, but mostly necessary considering the complexity of actually buying the right watch.

Apple’s motivation is to ensure that you have an iPhone 5 or later before next month, and that you have the answer to a number of questions including how many millimeters your wrist measures if you plan to pre-order before trying on an Apple Watch. And because we know how major iPhone launches go with getting the exact model you want, pre-ordering will be the first opportunity to secure the Apple Watch of your choice or risk waiting even longer. Read more

Opinion: Are we bidding farewell to MagSafe, and does it matter?

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When Apple unveiled the new 12-inch MacBook with just a single port (plus a headphone socket), it was doing not just one radical thing, but two. Reducing a machine to just one port was the first; dropping MagSafe was the second.

MagSafe has been one of the key features of MacBooks since it was first introduced by Apple in 2006. It is still highlighted on Apple’s website as one of the key design features of both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

MacBook Air offers innovations you won’t find anywhere else — like the MagSafe 2 power connector, which breaks cleanly away from the notebook if you accidentally trip over the power cord.

The magnetic power cord attaches securely and detaches cleanly.

It’s one of the features that even the most die-hard opponents of Macs tend to grudgingly admit is a good idea. And yet that (very) shiny new MacBook aimed at the largest slice of the MacBook Air market doesn’t have it. Is this a one-off move for a single model, or will we see USB C power replacing MagSafe across the entire MacBook range … ?  Read more

Opinion: Apple TV should get these 10 updates at next week’s event, but probably won’t

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Nearly eight years have passed since Apple released the first-generation Apple TV, a product originally hyped as “something really special” but quickly demoted to a “hobby” after initial sales fizzled. The second-generation version arrived with much less fanfare in late 2010, and the modestly tweaked third-generation model got a mere five-minute launch at a March event three years ago. Since then, there’s been plenty of evidence that Apple was working on updated hardware, a major partnership with cable companies, and major new content deals, but apart from the quiet addition of new channels, nothing’s actually happened.

Since total Apple TV sales remain soft by comparison with Apple’s other product lines, next week’s fashion-focused and celebrity-packed Apple Watch special event would be a great opportunity to launch an updated Apple TV to a broader audience. The current-generation Apple TV is older than its predecessor was when Apple replaced it, and there are at least 10 software and hardware tweaks that could fundamentally improve the Apple TV experience. Here’s our list of 5 features Apple TV really needs, and 5 features it would really benefit from having…

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Results: 60% want Apple to thicken the next iPhone to improve battery life

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A recent poll of over 3,100 9to5Mac readers indicates that most are not satisfied with current-generation iPhone battery life. Over 90% of respondents said that they want to see Apple improve iPhone battery life, versus less than 7% saying that “iPhone battery life and battery cases are good enough as-is.”

The split in responses interestingly suggests that Apple can safely stop prioritizing thinness over superior battery performance. A solid majority of over 60% of respondents said that Apple should thicken the next iPhone to improve its battery life, which is especially noteworthy given that there were other poll options. Over 31% said that Apple should achieve whatever battery improvements it can by improving the iPhone’s chips, while just under 2% said that Apple should instead focus on improving battery cases.

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Opinion: Should Apple improve iPhone battery life, or just battery cases?

energislidingpowercase-7

As this photo of the original Mophie Juice Pack and Tylt’s Energi for iPhone 6 shows, iPhone battery cases haven’t changed much over the years. They’ve existed for almost as long as iPhones, and remained ubiquitous due to Apple’s continued focus on thinness over longevity. That hasn’t been great for consumers: as 9to5’s Seth Weintraub put it, people are more impacted by their phones’ battery life than an extra 2mm of thinness.

It took until 2014 for Apple to offer one iPhone model — the iPhone 6 Plus — with all-day battery life, though you have to be willing to accept a much larger footprint to get that. By comparison, the smaller and reportedly more popular iPhone 6 improved only around 7% upon the iPhone 5s in run time, so the typical iPhone user isn’t seeing much of an improvement over prior models.

With a variety of alternatives at Apple’s disposal, including some major chip improvements that are just around the corner, we wanted to pose two questions to our readership. Should Apple take a break from slimming down iPhones to focus on improving battery life? Or should it instead focus its efforts on making battery cases better? Read on for our thoughts, and share yours in the comments section below…

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Opinion: If any Apple Watch will cost thousands of dollars, Apple needs to start telling that story

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Here’s a thought: Assume that the 18k gold Apple Watch Edition is several thousand dollars, as some people are currently predicting. How will Apple deliver that piece of news — which hasn’t officially been confirmed before, and remains the subject of increasingly wild speculation — to the public?

Depending on your perspective, a high price won’t be bad news for people who expect their jewelry to carry four- or five-digit price tags. But it’s going to be hard to explain why the Apple Watch Edition is priced so far apart from the entry level Apple Watch Sport… or most of Apple’s other products for that matter. Fake gold or not, golden iPhones starts at $99, and iPads at $399 or $499, just like non-gold ones.

While Apple has already started telling the story of what the Apple Watch will do for people that wear it, it has barely told the story on its own of how much it will cost and why. I believe that detail alone is worthy of a second Apple Watch event led by Tim Cook before the Watch hits the market in April. Read more

Opinion: What we can expect from an Apple Car if it really goes on sale in 2020

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What a difference a couple of weeks can make. We knew on February 5th that Apple was offering quarter-million dollar signing bonuses to Tesla engineers to persuade them to jump ship, but the idea that the company planned to make a car was just a vague rumor. Fast-forward a fortnight and it’s now being treated as established fact.

Our own exclusive reporting on the sheer range of automotive hires by Apple makes it clear that the company is, at the very least, seriously investigating the possibility, with a 1,000-strong team reportedly approved by Tim Cook. And while we need to bear in mind the cautionary note in Seth Weintraub’s piece that there’s a big difference between an R&D project and a real, live product, at this stage an Apple car seems more likely than not.

But if Bloomberg is right that Apple plans to launch a car by 2020, I think it’s important to recognize what form that car will and won’t take (spoiler: it won’t look like the above) …  Read more