Apple will be unveilingnew iPhones and new iOS next week, and perhaps a new Apple Watch. A new report, however, says there's still stuff in store for the Mac and iPad.
Bloomberg is reporting Apple is looking to refresh most of its Mac lineup yet this year. The iMac and MacBook Air reportedly will see refresh, in addition to the already rumored larger update to the MacBook Pro. In addition, a new 5K stand-alone cinema display is expected based on LG designs. I'd guess the display will be tied to updated laptops line to support the higher resolutions.
The iPad looks to get some attention too with new features in iOS 10 and new hardware early next year. The report says to look for greater Pencil integration and faster performance. Apple lately has been pushing the iPad Pro to creative and business professionals.
Apple event scheduled for September 7
The annual fall iPhone event will be September 7. Apple sent out media invites for what is widely expected to be the iPhone 7 on the 7th of the month.
The event will take place at 10 AM Pacific at the Bill Graham Civil Auditorium in San Francisco.
The next iPhone is widely rumored to be the same physical design as the iPhone 6/6s models with upgraded cameras and a new home button. Most likely the new iPhone will also lose the analog headphone jack in favor of wireless and Lightning adapters.
In addition to the iPhone, we can expect details on the release of iOS 10. Often Apple holds back some features tied to, but not always exclusive to, the next iPhone. In addition, Apple Music will be getting a significant reboot.
Apple is also expected to announced the next Apple Watch and new Macs this fall. It's possible additional hardware may be seen.
Fitbit announces Charge 2, Flex 2
Fitbit Monday announced updates to two of its popular fitness devices.
Fitbit Charge 2: The most popular fitness wristband from Fitbit just got better. In addition to PurePulse heart rate tracking, it now features an enhanced exercise experience, new health and fitness tools, the smart notifications you need most, and a new design with a larger display and interchangeable bands that easily let you go from a workout to a night out.
Fitbit Flex 2: Fitbit's ultra-slim, first-ever swim-proof fitness wristband features a removable tracker that transforms with classic bands, elegant bangles or pendants, allowing you to effortlessly track all-day activity, exercise and sleep in a style that's all your own.
PurePulse is an improved continuous heart rate tracking. The feature promises better tracking of calorie burn and health. Also new is the Charge 2's ability to estimate your VO2 Max level, which should offer a benchmark for your fitness. The Charge 2 also features a larger display that's about 4 times the size of the Charge HR. The added screen size is intended to provide better display for smartphone alerts.
The Flex 2 is now waterproof, so it can now track swimming exercise. The device is automatically detect your workout activities after 15 minutes of use.
Both the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 are available now. Prices are $149.95 and $99.95, respectively.
Music exclusives and video games
This year's string of high profile, platform-exclusive online album releases is beginning to condition everyday consumers to this new reality, but for many, the concept remains confusing, if not frustrating. You mean I have to sign up for a $10 per month subscription just to hear this new album? Why? This is a bit like telling N'Sync fans in 2002: Sorry kids, this one is only available at Tower Records. You might live near a Best Buy or prefer Sam Goody, but it doesn't matter. For now, this music you and millions of others have been waiting for is a Tower Records exclusive.
It reminds me more of video game early exclusives. Sometimes Xbox or Playstation will get something early, usually purchased expansion packs. If you're not willing to own both systems, pay for both services, and buy games based on the exclusive deal of the moment, you just wait a few weeks. It's not customer friendly, but it's also not the end of the world.
Spotify reportedly retaliating against artists doing exclusives
The New York Times:
Executives at two major record labels said that in recent weeks Spotify, which has resisted exclusives, had told them that it had instituted a policy that music that had benefited from such deals on other services would not receive the same level of promotion once it arrived on Spotify; such music may not be as prominently featured or included in as many playlists, said these executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private negotiations.
That's probably not going to win them many friends. Spotify is obviously very popular and carries clout, but bullying artists probably isn't going to help their standing. Even worse when Apple is seemingly bending over backwards to collaborate.
Report: Apple wants to try social again by taking on Snapchat
Now Apple is starting to develop a video sharing app that allows users to record video, apply filters and drawings to the media -- much like Snapchat does -- and send it to contacts or via existing social networks such as Twitter Inc., according to the people familiar with its development. The software is currently being designed to be used mostly with one hand and with the intention that video could be shot, edited, and uploaded in less than 1 minute, the people said. At least one of the prototype designs for the app would shoot video in an Instagram-like square shape, one of the people said.
Messages in iOS 10 is a significant overhaul to win over users who prefer to use various other chat apps. While all these apps are popular on iOS, their portability makes it easy to switch to Android. On the other hand, if people's network primarily use iOS Messages, people will probably be more likely to stick with iOS.
Whether a stand-alone app or more Messages features make sense given Apple's big push to improve Messages.
On Apple's AI efforts
A really interesting column by Steven Levy. Apple gave him exclusive look at its machine learning efforts in Siri and beyond.
This story of Siri's transformation, revealed for the first time here, might raise an eyebrow in much of the artificial intelligence world. Not that neural nets improved the system -- of course they would do that -- but that Apple was so quietly adept at doing it. Until recently, when Apple's hiring in the AI field has stepped up and the company has made a few high-profile acquisitions, observers have viewed Apple as a laggard in what is shaping up as the most heated competition in the industry: the race to best use those powerful AI tools. Because Apple has always been so tight-lipped about what goes on behind badged doors, the AI cognoscenti didn't know what Apple was up to in machine learning. "It's not part of the community," says Jerry Kaplan, who teaches a course at Stanford on the history of artificial intelligence. "Apple is the NSA of AI." But AI's Brahmins figured that if Apple's efforts were as significant as Google's or Facebook's, they would have heard that.
Last few months it seems Apple has really pulled back the curtain. Future products and plans are still secret as ever, of course, but Apple has been sharing much more in a series of recent features.
This feature appears to address sharp criticized with its AI efforts. People have assumed Apple fell behind because nothing very significant was apparent with Siri. A lot of attention was on this year's Apple developer conference and Apple announced some small stuff, but no major AI initiatives. Microsoft, Google, and Facebook on the other hand have been making public grand plans.
Strategically, I think it's in Apple's interest to talk more about this stuff just from an HR perspective. It must be harder to attract and retain key talent if no one knows anything about what you're doing.
Spotify is trying to renegotiate streaming contracts
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Spotify has been on month-to-month contract extensions with the major music labels for nearly a year. The company is trying to negotiate new long-term deals as it prepares for an IPO next year. The problem is Spotify is trying to pay less while the labels want them to more.
Spotify, which saw its net loss increase to roughly $200 million last year even as revenue doubled to more than $2 billion, wants to pay a smaller share than the nearly 55% of its revenue that it currently pays to record labels and artists, according to people familiar with the matter.
It pays roughly an additional 15% to music publishers and songwriters.
But some major label executives want Spotify to pay them as much as 58% of revenue from both its free and paid tiers. That is what Apple Inc. pays for Apple Music subscribers who aren't on free trials, people familiar with the matter said. Apple has more than 5 million users on free trials, they said.
Reportedly the labels may make compromises if Spotify is willing to put limitations on its free tier. Specifically the labels want the ability to offer new music only to paid subscribers, among other things.
Apple has been ramping up Apple Music. A major refresh of the service is due this fall to address complaints over user friendliness. Apple has also been aggressively seeking exclusive content and developing its own original content to help drive subscriptions.
So called Touch Disease may be a problem for iPhone 6 Plus
iFixit is tracking an issue with the previous generation iPhone's screens. The issue, which they dub Touch Disease, affects the iPhone 6/6 Plus. The problem may be primarily with the larger iPhone 6 Plus.
Essentially the top of the screen goes dead with no display and an unresponsive touch screen. The issue appears to go further than a bad screen and have something to do with the logic board or embedded chips.
After fixing hundreds of broken iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses, many pros have developed theories about what causes Touch Disease in these two specific models. One microsoldering pro I spoke to speculated that the U2402 Meson chip--one of the two Touch IC chips on the board--has a manufacturing defect. But the most popular theory I heard is that Touch Disease is the unanticipated, long-term consequence of a structural design flaw: Bendgate.
Back when the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were first released, some owners discovered that the large, wide phones had a nasty habit of molding themselves to the shape of your rump if left too long in a back pocket. The phenomenon, known as Bendgate, was ostensibly put to bed when Apple apparently strengthened weak points in the rear case of the iPhone 6s.
Apple and the NSA breach
ACLU Principal Technologist:
Apple: If we're forced to build a tool to hack iPhones, someone will steal it.
Russia: We just published NSA's hacking tools
This tweet was a part of a Business Insider article looking at the recent NSA hack. The tweet summarizes well how backdoor tools can go wrong. It's bad enough when exploits and vulnerabilities are hoarded in secret, but a designed backdoor that everyone knows is there should be very tempting. Once it's out, every user is at-risk until patched. In the case of a recent Microsoft mistake, a patch may not always be possible.