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

magsafe

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

appletv3

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…

Read more

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

battery-life-phil-schiller

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.

Read more

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…

Read more

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

applewatch-7

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

rinspeed

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

Opinion: Five reasons why Apple Car is happening, and five big issues to consider

Apple Car The Onion

Unless you’re Seth Weintraub, the idea that Apple would more likely develop a car than a search engine would have been controversial — as shown above, even The Onion-level comical — two weeks ago. That’s changed. Following public sightings of Apple-leased vans that looked a lot like street view mappers, numerous reports have substantially confirmed that Apple’s working on an electric car, quite possibly a self-driving car. Blessed with great insight (and sources), Seth already highlighted some of the big picture reasons Apple would get into the automotive industry before most people had accepted it as reality.

Now that the dust has settled, and even non-believers are acknowledging that an Apple Car could be coming in the not-too-distant future, it’s time to look at the big picture for Apple and the automotive industry. Below, you’ll find five big reasons the Apple Car is happening, as well as five big potential issues worth considering. Read more

Opinion: Apple Pay is easier than swiping a card … until it’s not

apple-pay

Apple unveiled its mobile payment service Apple Pay last September alongside the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch later rolling it out to new iPhone users in October through the free iOS 8.1 software update. Dozens of banks and credit unions have flipped the switch on Apple Pay since then as more merchants have announced support or plans to accept the new payment method.

Apple Pay, which allows users to securely pay in stores using the latest models of the iPhone simply by placing the smartphone near a special terminal, uses your existing credit or debit card without revealing personal information like your name or card number to merchants.

In practice, Apple Pay is a real delight to use as a payment method as it feels a bit like you’re skipping the payment process altogether; I imagine moving from cash and checks to debit and credit cards years ago felt similar. There’s still a social oddity about paying with your phone in many parts of the United States in 2015, though, which I’m not sure happened with the transition to using cards. Read more

Opinion: Could Apple’s Pinterest profile be an early step toward properly-curated apps?

pinterest-main

iOS and Android are completely different worlds when it comes to apps. Android is pretty much the wild west, with little control over quality or even safety (malware is commonplace). iOS, on a non-jailbroken device, is a walled garden, where Apple decides what apps can and can’t do, and which ones get approved for sale.

Yet despite that carefully-controlled approach, the App Store can still feel like a bit of a jungle. Which is why I wonder whether the Pinterest tie-in announced yesterday may offer hope for the future.

But let’s start with the problem I think needs to be solved, and that problem begins with search. Results may vary by country, and you can try the searches for yourself to compare your results with mine, but here’s what I get for a few obvious app searches …  Read more

Opinion: Could Apple’s integrated streaming music service decimate the competition?

Image: Forbes

Image: Forbes

When Apple enters a new business, you know it’s not going to do so in a half-hearted, small way. When it launches its Apple-branded Beats Music service later this year, it’s a no-brainer to predict that it’s going to be a big deal for the music industry. With Apple’s deep integration of Beats into its existing iOS/iTunes ecosystem exclusively revealed by Mark Gurman added into the mix, I wonder whether the unique selling points being notched up by Apple could be enough to leave existing big-name players like Spotify, Google Play and Rdio dead in the water?

That’s rather a grand idea, of course. As of last month, Spotify reached 15 million paid subscribers–up 50% in the last six months alone. Beats Music had only a little over 100,000 subscribers at the time Apple bought the company, and is rumored to have only 2-3 times as many now. But an Apple-ified Beats Music service has four things going for it …  Read more

Apple’s new Photos app means big future changes for free photo storage

Photos for Mac

Apple yesterday released a preview of its upcoming all-new Photos app for Mac, which replaces iPhoto and Aperture with a simpler all-in-one photo editor and library manager. Most of the discussion of Photos focused on the huge number of changes from iPhoto and Aperture, burying one very important detail: Apple is changing the way it handles cloud-based photo storage.

Before Photos, Apple offered free storage of photos with limitations in a feature called Photo Stream, which didn’t count against iCloud storage. But the new Photos app uses Apple’s beta iCloud Photo Library feature, which was recently added in iOS 8.1. iCloud Photo Library promises to let you synchronize your entire photo collection including edits and albums across all of your devices… but you have to share your iCloud storage with photos, and album syncing and edits don’t apply to the free 1,000 – 25,000 image storage of Photo Stream.

As most long-time iOS users know, the free 5GB of iCloud storage Apple offers is often not enough to store much more than a single device backup, and for many that will mean no spare room for a photo collection. Consequently, Apple is suggesting that users should buy additional iCloud storage, paying monthly fees to store and sync their photos. As the Photos app is rolling out, Apple is allowing users to stick with the old Photo Stream feature and continue using the new Photos app without turning on the iCloud Photo Library. But it remains to be seen if that will be an option long-term once Photos is released publicly and how users will respond when they find out their free 5GB iCloud storage isn’t cutting it for their photo collection…

Read more

Opinion: Square Enix’s flip-flop on iOS 8 support spotlights App Store ambiguities, risks

worldendswithyou

Square Enix’s The World Ends With You

 

Buying an app from the App Store is designed to be as easy as possible. A large button with a price tag sits as close to the app’s icon and name as possible, while additional details linger below. You’re not supposed to think or worry too much about each purchase — the transaction is impulse-driven when the price is low — and the implication is that the app will work when you get it, and keep working for a long time thereafter.

But what happens when an app — marketed as compatible with current iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches — is never updated for the latest version of iOS, and either stops working after an iOS upgrade, or never works at all on new devices? That’s the situation buyers of Square Enix’s $18 The World Ends with You: Solo Remix (and $20 iPad version) have found themselves in since iOS 8 was released. The game’s description claims that it “requires iOS 4.3 or later” and is compatible with devices that shipped with iOS 8, but it wasn’t actually iOS 8-compatible. Yesterday, Square Enix publicly flip-flopped on whether it would leave the game unplayable or fix it. Before changing its tune, the company told customers that they’d need to continue to keep using iOS 7 in order to play the game — an unrealistic alternative, though one that’s faced by users of numerous iOS apps that aren’t being updated by their developers.

By considering abandonment of the 69% of iOS users who are currently on iOS 8, Square Enix wasn’t just making a business choice; it was also spotlighting the risk App Store customers take every time they purchase an app. And it also revealed how long-unsolved App Store listing ambiguities are subjecting users, developers, and Apple itself to unnecessary problems.

Read more