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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

Why Apple Will Be Late to Foldable Phones (and Still Win) ↦

It looks like the display industry’s equivalent of the personal jet pack or flying car might actually be arriving from the future into the present. The flexible OLED display, long demoed but never sold, is coming to TVs (from LG) and smartphones (from Samsung, among others). In a smartphone market that has consistently gone ape for larger and larger displays, phones that double in size once they’ve left your pocket could be a game-changer.

(Or not. Until these phones exist, we won’t know if consumers are clamoring for a phone that can be expanded to be a miniature tablet—but it’s not a bad bet.)

Samsung has been the center of attention in the foldable smartphone discussion, but there’s another major player, one rarely discussed when it comes to this topic: Apple. Would Apple consider releasing an iPhone with a foldable display? And if so, under what conditions?

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Dan Moren for Macworld

What is dead may never die: Two products Apple may be looking to revive ↦

Apple’s not a company that’s ever been afraid to kill off its products. At the height of the iPod mini’s popularity, Steve Jobs famously axed it in order to introduce the iPod nano. The underperforming iPod Hi-Fi got the hook, and in recent years we’ve said goodbye to both the AirPort line and most of the iPods.

But when a product lies fallow for many years, sitting without an update, it hangs in that liminal space between life and death, leading many to wonder whether it still has a future. Is it ready to shuffle off this mortal coil or could it be rescued from the edge of the abyss? The Mac mini, MacBook Air, and even the Mac Pro have seen this kind of revival in recent months, and just in the last week, two Apple products thought to have run out of time have been the subjects of rumored returns, hinting that perhaps death isn’t what it used to be for the company.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Nike’s new self-lacing, Bluetooth-powered shoes

I think there is literally nobody more qualified on this planet to write about Nike’s new Bluetooth-connected self-lacing basketball shoes than Matthew Panzarino, who is a shoe fiend and the editor of TechCrunch. Panzer’s got the details:

Why does the world need a self-lacing shoe? Haven’t you heard of Velcro? How will you tie your shoes when the Wi-Fi is down?

That’s the gist of the instant response I got when I mentioned the new Adapt BB, a shoe from Nike with, yes, powered laces that tighten to a wearer’s foot automatically. The shoe is an evolution of the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, which is itself a commercialization of the Air Mag — a self-lacing vanity project that realized the self-lacing shoes mocked up for Back to the Future II.

The reality is that this shoe solves a problem for pro basketball players today, but it also suggests a future where your shoes tighten automatically, when you put your feet in them, monitor your movement and send data back to your smartphone or other device, and automatically adjust fit based on how you’re moving and even if your feet are swelling.

This article’s a deep dive that does a great job at explaining what this shoe is for today and what it means for the future of footwear. I expected nothing less of Matthew Panzarino.


Linked by Dan Moren

Latest data breach exposes 773 million records

Troy Hunt, who maintains the Have I Been Pwned? database, has a blog post on the latest data breach, dubbed “Collection #1”, which contains 773 million records. That makes it the largest breach after Yahoo’s two billion-level incidents.

Let’s start with the raw numbers because that’s the headline, then I’ll drill down into where it’s from and what it’s composed of. Collection #1 is a set of email addresses and passwords totalling 2,692,818,238 rows. It’s made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources.

So, that’s a lot of passwords. It’s worth checking HIBP to see if your email or password has been compromised. (Users of 1Password’s most recent version can use the Watchtower feature, which is now integrated directly with HIBP.) But chances are at least some of your older accounts are in there, so it’s a great time to 1) update your old passwords; 2) start using a password manager if you’re not already; and 3) enable two-step/two-factor authentication wherever it’s available.


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 221: It Not You, It Wi-Fi

This week, on the irreverent tech show sometimes called “Two and a Half Co-Hosts,” we run through a veritable laundry list of topics, including the huge number of iPhone battery replacements, Apple’s United business, streaming service news from NBC and Netflix, and Roku’s brief flirtation with InfoWars. Then Lex leaves and Dan and John can get down to the real business of discussing the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer.

Episode linkMP3 (47 minutes)


Linked by Dan Moren

Tim Cook pens op-ed on privacy regulations

Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken to the pages of Time magazine to argue for comprehensive digital privacy legislation:

Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.

Cook and Apple have, of course, made privacy one of their major selling points over the last several years, especially as data breaches and privacy intrusions have become regular occurrences. So there’s obviously a vested interest for the company to push such legislation: it’ll hurt its competitors much more than it will hurt Apple itself.

But, be that as it may, it also has the benefit of being the right thing to do. The other month I came home from vacation to find a note that my application for a credit card had been rejected—a credit card I had, of course, never applied for. 1 But what’s worse than that is that there is nothing remotely shocking about that news to anybody reading this site: we’ve all either been the victim of people trying to steal (or successfully stealing) our identity or know someone who’s been a victim, and it’s largely due to these kinds of personal data breaches.

I’d argue, to take a step further, that simply protecting our information isn’t enough. Put simply, the federal identity system needs to be overhauled. Relying on a nine-digit “secret” number—or worse, knowledge of easily obtainable information like your birth date or mother’s maiden name—to establish your identity is a dangerously outmoded concept that might have been fine in the early 20th century, but it’s far from sufficient these days. A more secure cryptographic-based system is a must in this day and age.


  1. They failed because I put freezes on all my credit accounts after the Equifax leak of 2017.  ↩


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #277: Say Hello to Your Little Friend

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that talks the tech and walks the…walk, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Shelly Brisbin and Ish ShaBazz to discuss Apple products we’d like to see revived, our favorite underdog technologies, the future tech we’re still waiting for, and Apple’s upcoming AirPower and iPhone battery cases.

Episode linkMP3 (25 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

How the iPad might influence the future of the Mac interface ↦

Much has been written—a lot of it by me, admittedly—about how Apple’s commitment to let iOS developers bring their apps to macOS in 2019 has the potential to dramatically change the Mac. But adding iOS apps to the Mac might not be where Apple stops. What if the company uses macOS 10.15 (or, dare I suggest, macOS 13?) to further unify the interfaces of its platforms?

For all the discussion about whether iOS apps running on an app can possibly live up to the platform’s interface standards, it’s entirely possible that this year, Apple will choose to redefine what it is to be Mac-like in a way that turns iOS and macOS into a continuum of interface decisions that are all, for lack of a better phrase, “Apple-like.” Longtime Mac users might chafe, but iOS users might welcome it. As someone who is both, I am not sure where I fall, but it’s worth considering just what Apple might do to make the Mac more closely resemble iOS.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Dan Moren

Our data center, which art in heaven…

Short piece from Daniel Oberhaus at Motherboard about a former church in Barcelona, Spain that is now home to a supercomputer:

From the outside, Torre Girona Chapel at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona looks like any one of the thousands of old churches that can be found throughout Spain, with a large cross mounted on the roof and a rose window perched above the entrance. Step through the chapel doors, however, and you won’t find any religious iconography or a congregation in prayer.

Instead, you’ll find the 25th most powerful supercomputer in the world: the MareNostrum 4.

Totally seems like the kind of thing that would show up in a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson book.


Linked by Jason Snell

iPhone XR/XS/XS Max Apple battery cases appear

Apple has brought back the bulge. The company is now selling battery cases for the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max models. These cases support Qi charging and it’s the first time Apple has made a battery case for larger phones. As Juli Clover at MacRumors reports:

Available in black or white, each Smart Battery Case is priced at $129 and is designed to add extra battery life to the iPhone. The cases are similar in design to the past battery case option Apple offered for the iPhone 7, with a bump at the back to house a battery pack.

If you desperately need more battery life out of your iPhone, these may be the cases to get. The previous models, released for the iPhone 6 and 7, were generally considered a cut above other battery cases because of secret software sauce added by Apple.


Linked by Dan Moren

An ER trip with an Apple Watch

IT consultant (and Six Colors member) Tom Bridge shares this story about how his Apple Watch’s ECG feature helped his doctors diagnose a condition:

As soon as the tele-doc came on screen, the nurse rotated my phone and put it up to the camera to show the doctor the rapid rhythm from half an hour earlier.

“Oh, that’s an SVT,” he said immediately.

I didn’t see what it had to do with Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, but he clarified that he meant Supraventricular Tachycardia. They wanted to make sure labs were taken, and that nothing abnormal in my blood work showed a more troubling cause. But the diagnosis was there in an instant, thanks to my wrist watch.

There’s been some hemming and hawing about the health features of the Series 4 Apple Watch, with some concerned that it leads to people seeking costly medical attention when they don’t need it, but this also isn’t the first story I’ve heard about someone whose Apple Watch actually helped them capture important data.

Having the ability to deploy this kind of technology to people everywhere is a hugely powerful tool, and there’s a reason that Apple is pushing health as one of their big growth areas.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple rebuffed when trying to buy Qualcomm chips

The details in the ongoing Apple-Qualcomm spat continue to amaze. This, via Shara Tibken of CNET:

Apple wanted to use Qualcomm’s 4G LTE processors in its newest iPhones, but the chipmaker wouldn’t sell to it, Apple’s operating chief testified Monday… [Jeff Williams] said he contacted Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf to get him to sell chips to Apple. When Qualcomm refused, Apple had to call Intel’s CEO at the time, Brian Krzanich, to ask him to supply all modems needed for the iPhone instead of only half the volume.

Think about it. As fierce competitors with outstanding patent lawsuits against one another, Apple and Samsung continued to work together as partners on other fronts. This Apple-Qualcomm situation seems several levels more poisonous. And Apple will get to 5G later than other major phone-makers as a result. 1


  1. 5G roll-outs are going to be slow, so in the end it probably won’t be a huge functional loss for iPhone buyers, but it’s a major marketing loss for Apple at a time when scrutiny of iPhone sales will be at an all-time high. ↩


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #228: The Proof is In the Dust Tray

This week we officially open 2019 iPhone Rumors season, as the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple may be adding more cameras to the back of this year’s high-end iPhone. Will this restore bragging rights to the members of the Max Club? Also, it was a smart-devices Christmas at the Snell house, as Jason took delivery of a smart lock and a Roomba.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 17 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

We owe Apple Notes an apology

Back in 2016 I, er, noted that people sure use screenshots from the Notes app a lot when posting long items on Twitter. That observation let me weirdly fulfill a lifelong dream by getting me quoted in Sports Illustrated.

Anyway, Twitter’s got 280 characters now and it doesn’t really matter—Notes is still king, as Lindsey Weber notes in the New York Times:

Notes, a free app that is preloaded onto Apple devices for the purpose of storing personal memories and to-do lists. In recent years… it has become the medium of choice for celebrity mass communication.

I love that people work around text limitations by finding stock apps and using the built-in screen shot feature to avoid Twitter’s intentional limitations. Users will find ways around limitations. They’re very clever! 1

When the iPhone was first released it didn’t have a screen-shot feature. Who needs that feature other than tech journalists, right? Turns out it’s everyone. For unexpected reasons.


  1. As I noted in 2016, screen shots aren’t accessible, which is bad and you shouldn’t do it. Twitter has had years to address this problem and still hasn’t bothered. ↩


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #276: That’s Not a Place You Want Cameras

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that always knows what year it is, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Quinn Rose and Aleen Simms to discuss the smart home gadgets we want, what platforms could replace YouTube, Apple’s opportunity in Services, and AirPlay 2 and iTunes on third-party TVs.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 220: Timsplaining

This week on the irreverent tech show that occasionally takes a week off, the team is reassembled once again for the first episode of 2019. And there’s been a surprising amount of Apple news so far, from an iPhone sales shortfall to deals with smart TV manufacturers. Not that that’s going to stop us from talking about the big news: the year of Linux on the iPad.

Episode linkMP3 (37 minutes)


By Jason Snell

Yale Assure SL review, or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the Smart Lock

This house is accessed by keypad (or iPhone) now.

The moment we were headed down the freeway toward the Golden Gate Bridge and began to wonder if we’d remembered to lock our front door, I resolved to buy a Smart Lock. I’d been skeptical about replacing our front-door deadbolt with an Internet-connected gadget since I’d first heard of the Smart Lock category a few years ago, but in that moment I saw the perfect use case. By the time we got home, I’d ordered one.

My front door has a deadbolt and a separate door latch—one that doesn’t lock, which means every time we’ve come and gone since we got the door six years ago, we’ve had to manually lock the deadbolt. (Our previous door had a deadbolt and a knob that you could set to lock when closed. That backstop saved us from a lot of second-guessing.)

The lock I bought is the $300 Yale Assure SL YRD256, which works with HomeKit and other smart-home tech via the bundled Connected by August module and gateway. (It’s also the current Wirecutter pick.) It was an easy swap-out replacement for my existing deadbolt. I did the replacement in less than half an hour, using nothing more than a screwdriver.

yale-lock-vertical
The smart lock has more lock hardware, but it’s not ridiculously large.

Gone was the old traditional key lock above my door latch on the outside; instead, there’s now a black glass keypad. On the inside of the door, there’s now a small box attached to the door with a manual deadbolt control (i.e., you turn it and the lock slides open or closed) at the bottom. It’s bigger than what was there before, but isn’t overwhelming.

Out of the box, the lock works using Bluetooth LE. To attach it to a local network for HomeKit and Alexa integration, you need to add an extra piece—the August Connect adapter, which plugs into an electrical outlet and needs to be positioned within Bluetooth range of the lock as well as in range of your home Wi-Fi network. I spent an extra 30 minutes trying to find the ideal place for the adapter, as my closest outlet to the door didn’t seem to be picking up its Bluetooth signal. In the end I rebooted the lock (rebooting my front door lock is apparently something I can do now) and everything started working fine.

On its own, you can unlock your door by entering a number on the touchscreen, whether you have a phone or not. I was able to configure the lock via the August app on my iPhone, generating a guest code to give to my mother when she visited us.

But entering in a multi-digit code to get in your front door is hardly the 21st-century convenience I’m looking for. So the Yale lock cleverly takes advantage of Bluetooth LE to automatically unlock the door when I return home. In order to avoid unlocking my front door every time I walk past it, the auto-unlock system uses your iPhone’s location services to pay attention to when you leave the immediate area around your house. Once you leave the vicinity and then return, the lock looks for the presence of your iPhone via Bluetooth, and the moment it sees it, it unlocks the door.

In theory this is a magical process that makes your front door unlock for you as you walk up to it. That happens to me probably a majority of the time, but other times I’ll stand at the door for a couple of seconds before it opens. It’s still better than getting out my keys and unlocking the door—especially if you drive a car with a keyless ignition, because you won’t have your keys in your hands.

One quirk I’ve noticed is that when my wife and I both return home together, we’ll often enter the house and lock the door behind us, only to have the door unlock a moment later. It seems like the lock recognizes one of us first, unlocks the door, and a few moments later (after we’ve come inside) detects the second person’s phone and thinks they’re separately returning home. The software really should be smarter than that.

Then again, even if the door unlocks a second time, it’s not that big a deal. The lock will automatically lock itself after a configurable delay that I’ve set to two minutes. (This solves the issue of not remembering if you locked the door before leaving the house. You can also put a few fingers on the glass pad when you’re leaving and the door will lock itself immediately.)

august-app
The activity log on the August app.

What’s more, the August app can show you, from anywhere in the world, the current status of your door—whether it’s open or closed (via a small sensor you screw into the doorframe near the lock) and whether it’s locked or unlocked. (There’s also an activity log, so you can see every time someone comes in or out of your house—and who it is, if they’ve used a personalized keycode or device. One morning I expressed to my daughter how impressed I was by the fact that she got home at precisely her curfew time—as revealed by a peek at the front-door activity log.)

Because this is a HomeKit device, I can lock or unlock the door manually via the Home app or Home button in Control Center, or even via Siri. (I’ve disabled the ability to unlock the door via Alexa or my HomePod because theoretically that would allow someone to stand outside and shout “Hey Assistant, unlock the front door!”, which is not a good idea.) I haven’t yet tied locking or unlocking events to other HomeKit functions, but the option is there—if you want to set a light to turn on or off when the door is locked or unlocked, for example.

Beyond no longer worrying about if our door is locked or unlocked, the biggest change in my family’s life since the new lock was installed is the removal of our front door keys from our keychains. I used to bring a key with me when I went for a run or took the dog for a walk, but it’s not necessary anymore. If we’ve got our iPhones, the lock will sense our presence and open, and if we don’t, we can still punch in our keycodes and enter that way.

The lock is powered by AA batteries which apparently take a very long time to run down, and if you end up locked out of a house with a dead battery, there’s a little spot at the bottom you can use to jump-start the whole thing with a nine-volt battery. (We have a back and side door that we can use in emergencies, which feels like a better fallback than stashing a nine-volt battery in your Hide-A-Key.)

Is a Smart Lock necessary? Certainly not. But after resisting the entire category for a long time, one moment of clarity pushed me over the edge from a Smart Lock skeptic into a Smart Lock owner. I have to admit I still chuckle every time I walk up to my front door and hear it unlocking itself before I get there. But the peace of mind in knowing that our front door is locked—whether we remembered to lock it or not—made it worth it for my family in the end.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple’s 4K TV deals show how the company’s business strategy is evolving ↦

Apple doesn’t officially participate in the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but this year it’s all over the show. That’s because Apple has been cutting deals with major TV manufacturers to embed support for AirPlay 2 (and in at least one case, the iTunes movie and TV stores) in their 4K HDR televisions, and CES is when TV manufacturers make big announcements.

I’ve heard from some people who are baffled about why Apple would make it so that people aren’t forced to buy an Apple TV in order to get access to Apple’s video content. Those people are, quite frankly, thinking about an Apple that no longer exists, namely one that’s committed to making money on high-margin hardware sales.

For the last three years, ever since Apple turned the spotlight on its Services revenue line in January 2016, Apple has been gearing up to offset slowing iPhone growth with a new category that can bring the kind of revenue growth that pleases Wall Street. Services is Apple’s fastest growing revenue category, on a constant upward trajectory that is unmatched by any other part of its business.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

Using BBEdit and Excel to revive a dead podcast feed

This podcast feed was created in BBEdit and Excel.

When people ask me what features of BBEdit I use, I can mention Markdown tools and syntax support, which I use for writing stories like this one. But the other thing I use BBEdit for is a bit more esoteric and hard to describe—something I call “text munging”, for lack of a better word.

Text munging takes many forms, but generally it happens when you’ve got a bunch of text in one format and you need to get it into a different format. I’ve used BBEdit to transform the source pages of websites, to format a mailing list properly, and more. Today I used it to generate a podcast feed out of a chunk of HTML. And while I realize that’s not a task most people will do, perhaps this article can serve as a little bit of inspiration for some future moment when you find yourself in desperate need of a fast way out of an intractable text situation.

Continue Reading "Using BBEdit and Excel to revive a dead podcast feed"


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #227: Twenty Nine TeeVee

The new year starts with a bang, as Apple misses its iPhone sales forecast and announces surprising partnerships with Samsung and other TV makers in advance of the launch of its new video service. We discuss these earth-shattering issues in detail, not to mention Jason’s world-exclusive trial of a new iPad Pro keyboard.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 38 minutes)