WWDC 2017: The Hardware Barrage of iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and HomePods

WWDC 2017: The Hardware Barrage of iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and HomePods

Make no mistake, WWDC is Apple’s developers conference. Its primary mission is announcing what’s coming next to Apple’s operating system line up. That said, hardware is not out of the question. This year’s keynote had an unusually large amount of hardware across 5 different product categories. Three of those were completely new or radically redesigned. With as Mac focused as it was, we’ll start there.

MacBook


The big redesign updates to Apple’s notebook range happened in 2015 and 2016. 2017 is spec upgrade to Intel’s latest 7th Generation Kaby Lake Core CPUs. The 12-inch MacBook remains the only Mac in Apple’s lineup to use USB-C only instead of USB-C + Thunderbolt 3. Its price also remains the same. However, its specs are now worthy of its price tag with a very useable 8GB of memory and a 256GB hard drive. Unlike the 11” MacBook Air, this can be your everyday computer.

The low end model comes with 256GB of SSD storage and a 1.2ghz dual core Core m3 for $1299 while the high end model has a 1.3ghz Core i5, and 512GB of storage. Both have 8GB of Low Profile DDR3 memory and Intel HD 615 Graphics. Both models are now shipping.

MacBook Pro


Like its little brother, the 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros got an upgrade to Kaby Lake. With the exception of a new 13” 128GB model to effectively replace the low end 13” MacBook Air, there is not a whole lot different from the 2016 models except for CPUs and graphics. Same configurations, same price points, same storage options, same upper limit of 16GB DDR3. For 2017 the 13” models come with Iris Plus 640 and 650 integrated graphics while the 15” models get your choice of a 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 555 or 4GB Radeon Pro 560.

The Non-Touch Bar 13” has a 2.3ghz Dual Core i5 CPU and gives you your choice of 128GB of storage for $1299 or $256 for $1499. The Touch Bar 13” comes with 3.1ghz Core i5 in $1799 for 256gb or $1999 for 512GB. The 15” model comes in at $2399 for a 2.8ghz Quad core i7, 256GB of storage, and the 2GB Radeon Pro 555. The higher end model comes with a 2.9ghz CPU, the Pro 560, and 512GB of storage. Addition options are available BTO. They ship today.

iMac


All ranges of the iMac got their first big update in quite a while. Like the MacBooks, they get Kaby Lake, albeit of the desktop variety. They come in 3 Different models: 21.5” Full HD, 21.5” 4K, and 27” 5k. All models of the iMac have been upgraded with modern I/O. No matter what model you choose, you get 4 USB 3.1 Type-A connectors and two Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as a SDXC slot, Gigabit ether, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. With the exception of the Full HD model which has the Intel Iris Plus 640, all iMacs for 2017 come with dedicated Radeon Pro 500-series graphics. The 21.5” 4K model gives you the choose of the Radeon Pro 555 or 560; the 27” 5K offers the Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580. The displays are 43% brighter than previous models and display up to 1 billion colors.

The new iMacs are shipping now. The Full HD model starts at a very affordable $1099 while $200 more gets you the entry level 4k iMac. The 27” 5K starts at $1799, BTO options give you up to 32GB of storage and 1TB of SSD storage or 2TB of fusion drive storage.

iMac Pro


If you want the Trash Can Mac Pro in an iMac, your wish has been granted in the iMac Pro. This Space Gray Beauty shares its screen and looks with the 27” 5k iMac, but that’s all it shares. Internally, its pure workstation. The iMac Pro gives you the option of 8, 10, or even 18-core Xeon CPUs. Ram has a very tower-like 128GB maximum of 2666mhz DDR4 error correcting memory. Storage is all SSD with up to 4TB. Graphics are provided by workstation class Radeon Vega-series chips with up to 16GB of video memory. While the normal iMac had 2 Thunderbolt Ports, the Pro doubles it to 4. Those four can drive up to two additional 5K displays in addition to its own. To top it off, the iMac Pro comes standard with 10 gig-E ethernet.

In short, this is not an iMac pretending to be a workstation. Quite the opposite, its a workstation trying to pose as an iMac. When shipping it also has a workstation level starting price: $4999. It’ll come in December. Make no mistake, this is the fastest and most advanced computer Apple has ever made.

iPad Pro


The iMac Pro wasn’t the only Pro model Apple’s introduce today. The iPad Pro got an update as well. Both models were upgraded with the 6-Core A10X fusion system on chip with 12-core GPU and high end displays with ProMotion technology for an an active refresh rate up to 120hz. the iPad Pro comes in two sizes: the 12.9” starting at a familiar $799 and a 10.5” model replacing the 9.7” for $649. The larger display on the smaller model allows for a full size on screen keyboard and distances itself from the consumer model. Like pretty much everything else, you can get your hands on them now.

HomePod


Rumors of Apple’s competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home proved to be true in the form of the Apple HomePod. As expected, the HomePod is based around Apple Music, Siri, and HomeKit functionality.

In both price and feature set, this a more high end device. The HomePod features a 7 tweeter array with custom woofer for 360° sound. For listening, there is a similar array of 6 microphones. Apple is targeting at those who want the high end sound of a Sonos system with the functionality of an Echo. Basically if you’ve used one of those or Siri at all, you know how to use a HomePod, the big difference is security. Apple doesn’t monetize data, so they submit yours anonymously.

To accomplish this, its smart. Really smart. HomePod is able to sense the room and its position in it then modify its sound output to give optimal sound for the room. Its even able to work with other HomePods to optimize sound. To achieve this, its based around the same A8 chip that you find in older iPhones and the AppleTV.

I hinted at a premium price, I wasn’t joking. At $349, its double of the price of an Echo. It’ll ship in December.

WWDC 2017: iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and other Software News

Today was Apple’s annual WWDC conference. As expected they had some major… and minor news for their big 4 platforms: macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Let’s take a look at what was announced.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Yes, I’m going go get this out front: yes, Apple made a weed joke about macOS High Sierra being full baked. Its not only mildly funny, its also accurate. Like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion before it, High Sierra’s major changes are under the hood where the end user doesn’t seem them. There are big changes to the file system, graphics, and more.

APFS

High Sierra marks the end of the line for the Hierarchical File System (HFS). It was introduced back in 1985 with the Mac System 2.1. It has been upgraded in the form of HFS+ and has held up surprisingly compared to its contemporary FAT. That said, it wasn’t designed for modern flash based storage. It first saw the light of data with iOS 10 and now is the standard file system for the Mac. I won’t go into the nuts and bolts as file systems aren’t sexy to the end user, but it will be a beneficial change that will hopefully underpin Apple for the next 22 years.

H.265 HEVC

Video files are huge. Not just in terms of popularity, but in terms of file size. H.265 uses compression technology that shrinks down file size by up to 40%. For the end user, that means that streaming 4K uses less bandwidth and less of your data cap for both mobile and broadband connection. It also means that downloaded movies will use up significantly less storage space. Essentially HVEC brings 4K to the masses. Expect to hear more in the next few months.

Metal 2 and VR

Apple’s history with graphics technology has been less than stellar. OpenGL was routinely years behind and poorly implemented. As a result, the Mac suffered on gaming and other graphics intensive programs. Metal was a major step in the right direction. The developers who ported their apps to it say major performance gains over OpenGL. However, too few took advantage. Apple is going all in with Metal 2 and making improvements and optimizations that will improve speed and hopefully make Metal the graphics system for developers going forward.

Metal 2 coincides with the addition of system-level hardware support for two types devices users have been asking for. First, High Sierra will officially support external graphics solutions via Thunderbolt 3. There are no shortage of manufacturers out there making PCIe to Thunderbolt boxes out there and they allow any Mac with Thunderbolt 3 access to even Nvidia and AMD’s most high graphics cards. Also announced was support for VR. Valve SteamVR and HTC Vive are specifically mentioned and VR development tools are coming as well. Apple is also adding a patch to FCPX for VR video output.

Apple is also launching a developer Kit for external graphics which includes a PCI-E chassis and Radeon RX 580 8GB card as well as a USB-C hub for $599. Considering the price of both external enclosures and the RX580 cards, That’s actually a pretty competitive price for what you get.

Everything Else

The system apps are getting some minor changes as well. The biggest and probably most welcome is with the Photos apps which allows editing apps like Pixelmator or Photoshop to launch within Photos and work with your library, There are also minor updates to Safari, Mail, iCloud Drive, and more.

Availability:

Look, we aren’t even going to talk pricing here because you know damn well its a free upgrade. The final version will ship this fall with the public beta launching later in June.

Source: [Apple}(https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/06/macos-high-sierra-delivers-advanced-technologies-for-storage-video-and-graphics/)

iOS 11

iOS is now Apple’s most popular and flagship product. Its also the one with the most growth opportunity as mobile’s not as mature a market as computers. Apple has continued to drop a wealth of new features with iOS 11.

The iPad

There has been talk that the last few years have been iPhone-centric when it comes to the iPad and there is some truth to that. For 2017, the iPac is back in force. The Dock and app switcher have been redesigned to make them more powerful and a lot more like macOS and there’s a new files app that combines iCloud Drive as well as DropBox and other cloud platforms into a system level storage apparatus. Files that were once locked down by iOS are now wide open while still being safe. The Apple Pencil app is now full baked into the OS and Notes are usable from the lock screen. This makes the iPad the paper notebook replacement it was meant to be.

Control Center and Lock Screen

iOS 10 introduced a new 3-pane lock screen giving you Home and Music access without ever having to get into your phone. iOS 11 brings this back to a single pane, but keeps the expanded functionality. It uses 3D Touch to allow users to expand what each pane grouping can do beyond basic controls.. 3D Touch is limited to the 6S and 7-series devices so, for owners of the 6, 5S, and SE, there may be a degraded capability depending on how they handle it. On iPads, they use the expanded screen real estate to get the full functionality.

Notifications and the lock screen are now one and the same and you get the same exact functionality here, complete with widget and camera access no matter if you device is locked or not.

Camera

The biggest changes in Camera with iOS 11 are in file formats. Video now uses the HEVC that was talked about on the Mac. There is a still picture counterpart called the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF). The question with HEIF and HVEC is compatibility with other platforms and services as well as older devices. Live photos get an upgrade allowing for. Loop and Bounce effects to create GIF-like images. You’re also able to now choose any frame within the live photo as the still picture . Lastly, there is a new form of automatic movies called Memories created from similar content on your phone.

ARKit

Just as VR is being integrated into the Mac, ARKit brings system level Augmented reality onto iOS allowing full access to hardware. This allows developers to make a far better AR experience than iOS currently enjoys.

##Siri
Siri was the original system level personal assistant and it keeps a major update for Apple’s platforms this time around. The voices have been overhauled for a more natural and less robotic tone. Like Cortana and Alex, the new Siri employs machine learning to tailor responses based on usage. Unlike the competition, Apple has no design to monetize this and keeps your results secure on device. SiriKit expands the tasks that Siri can perform. The Machine Learning that powers the new Siri is also available to developers in the form of CoreML.

Home and Music.

Home Automation and Music may seem like strange bedfellows, but in iOS 11 they are very much intertwined. Airplay2 integrates into HomeKit and the Home app giving you multi-room audio with Siri support. HomeKit also adds additional device types and functions to the mix and makes it easier for developers to integrate existing devices and get them certified.

Apple Music has new social media functions allowing people to share music. There’s also a new API called MusicKit allow the full power of Apple music in third party applications. There would no longer need any reader to go outside of your workout app or game to access your full AppleMusic catalog. This basically replaces an older and more limited iTunes integration.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay expands person to person in iOS 11. If you want to know how this works, use Vemo or Square Cash because its pretty much the same thing. In fact, the name of the place you receive is called your “Apple Pay Cash Account”, You can use funds added to this account for payment or you can send it back to your bank account. There’s even a Messages widget that automatically determines if you need to pay someone and suggests itself. There is also Siri support.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

This might not be the most popular feature in iOS 11, but I would argue its the most necessary. DND while Driving detects while your in a car through several methods and shuts down your notifications while you drive. The screen even goes black and gives you the option to send an auto message to tell your contacts that you’ll text them back. If you are a passenger, there is a button to say I’m not driving, but please take a hint and don’t use this while driving you’ll be putting somebody else’s life at risk.

App Store and Others

The App Store gets a major makeover based on the design of Apple Music. Apps and Games are now separate panes and its easier to get to in-app purchases for Apps your already have. The App Store for Messages as also had a redesign.

Rounding things out are indoor maps for major shopping centers, airports, and lane guidance. Apple News is now personalized using machine learning. There has also been updates to the keyboard

Availability

As with macOS High Sierra, iOS 11 will be free and ship this fall. There is also a public beta coming at the end of the month.

Source: Apple

watchOS 4

watchOS 4 continues to refine and enhance the Core functions of the Apple Watch. This year’s improvements make it an ever increasingly useful accessory to your iPhone.

Fitness and Health

The biggest improvements in watchOS 4 have to do with health and fitness. Chiefly is communication with outside devices. Introduced with the new OS is GymKit which uses the NFC to pair and provide two-way communication with exercise equipment computers. The equipment gets your Apple Watches’s sensors and the Watch gets the data from the equipment allowing for a single dataset. Apple already has support from several major exercise equipment companies. There is also enhanced compatibility with connected health devices, like continuous glucose meters.

The Workout and Activity apps have received upgrades to better switch between workouts on a single session. The Activity App also has personalized goal messages very reminiscent of the fitness app Human.

Watch Faces and Siri

The biggest news about watch faces is what watchOS still does not have: any ability to add third-party faces. For a device that is supposed to be highly personalized, the lack of a FaceKit seems out of place. If you want something different, you’re stuck with Nike or Hermes editions.

For the faces that we actually have to choose from, there are three new types. The most interesting one is the proactive Siri Face that uses the same machine learning as on iOS 11 to constantly update you with relevant data. You automatically get reminds, calendar events, location/ time specific items like boarding passes, traffic info, or HomeKit scenes. If that’s not your scenes, there are Toy Story themed character faces in the form of Woody, Buzz, and Jessie. There’s also a colorful kaleidoscope face. All faces get new access to complications for Now Playing and Apple News

Availability

watchOS 4 comes will come out later in 2011. Unlike iOS and macOS, there will not be a public beta.

Source: Apple

tvOS

There is a reason tvOS is last. It was basically a giant IOU. Apple announced two things: That Amazon was thankfully and finally releasing their Prime Video platform on tv and that sometime later, presumably in the fall, they would be talking about tvOS. That would presumably come with new hardware. Until then, it’s business as usual.

Apple Introduces Red iPhone, New iPad, and Clip Video App

Apple Introduces Red iPhone, New iPad, and Clip Video App

There has been a rumor going round the last few days that Apple would do a soft update of some products today. That rumor turned out true, though not entirely in the same scope rumored. Instead of a massively updated iPad Pro line, Apple went a bit more mainstream with a new color to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, a new low end iPad, and a new social media app called clips. Let’s take a look.

(PRODUCT) RED iPhone 7 & 7 Plus

Apple has had a long relationship supporting the retail initiative to support HIV/ AIDS research and care. That relationship has involved iPods, cases, headphones, and accessories is now going to the iPhone in the form of special edition (PRODUCT) RED iPhone 7s and 7 Pluses. The special edition (PRODUCT) RED version represents the 6th color choice available for the iPhone 7 series joining Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Matte Black, and Jet Back.

The new phones will be available both online and in stores starting on March 24th starting at $749 for the 4.7” iPhone and $869 for the 5.5” iPhone 7 Plus in 128 and 256GB variants. There will not be an entry level 32GB version in (PRODUCT) RED.

Also getting a bit of love is Apple’s smallest and most affordable iPhone, the iPhone SE. While its not getting a replacement, the SE has had its storage doubled from 16 to 32GB in the entry level and from 64gb to 128gb in the next step up. Prices stay the same starting at $399 starting on March 24.

iPad

While we were expecting iPad Pro updates, Apple went in the other direction and made the 9.7” model more affordable. The new model is simply called iPad. It feature the A9 SoC from the iPhone 6 Plus and is a replacement in the lineup for the A8X powered iPad Air 2. The new iPad is lightly thicker featuring the 7.5mm thickness of the original iPad Air rather than the 6.1mm of the iPad Air 2 and 9.7” iPad Pro. That doesn’t mean the new iPad in losing any features as it still has Touch ID, 8MM rear and 1.2mp front cameras, and stereo speakers.

The iPad will ship on February 24th in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold. It will come in 32 and 128GB versions. Pricing may be the new iPad’s killer feature starting at $329, $70 less than the Air 2, for Wi-Fi and $459 for cellular. The 128GB models add $100 to both of those prices.

Clips

The Most surprising announcement was an app called Clips. Clips is Apple’s take on the multi-clip videos that have become popular on Snapchat and Instagram, only platform agnostic. What makes Clips unique is that the app can add captions and titles in realtime using only their voice. Clips of courses also features the filters and animations that have made these videos popular.

Clips will be a free download from the iOS Apple Store in April and be compatible with iPhones, iPods, and iPads using the 64-bit A7 SoC and later.

Apple allows you to share clips privately with your friends messages or post the finished product to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Vimeo.

Source: Apple 1, 2, 3

Apple Releases iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2

Its been a year since the iPhone was last updated and considerably more than that for the Apple Watch. Both have been highly anticipated and speculated about and for the most part the rumor mill was correct. Apple released a pair of new iPhones: the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and a pair of series of new Apple watches: Series one and two. For an even that wasn’t expected to have, much we got a lot. And these “boring” products are nothing of the sort.

iPhone-7-hero

iPhone 7

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus mark one of the largest leaps forward of any iPhone I’ve seen and I’ve seen them all. Anyone who says this was lackluster must have been watching something else. Yes, there is some carryover from the 6 and 6S lines. The new phones are roughly the same size as their predecessors, have the same screen sizes, and the same screen resolutions. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. Every other component has been upgraded and in some cases, drastically so.

What’s Old is New

The “same resolution screen” now has a cinema type P3 Wide color gamut and is 25% brighter. As someone who has owned the iPhone 6 Plus for almost two years, that’s improving on an already fantastic screen. The Touch ID button is no more, its been replaced with a version of the Taptic Engine that was introduced with the Apple Watch and then migrated to the MacBook line. It does a fantastic job of simulating a click depression on a flat surface. Also, did I mention it also meets the same IP67 rating as the Apple Watch for both dust and water protection. If it starts to rain or you hit by a wave on a boat ride, you no longer have to worry about your iPhone. For Japanese customers, there’s also an update to the NFC system for Apple Pay. The newest iPhones are compatible with Japan’s widely used FeliCa standard. It also means that Apple Pay will be coming to Japan.

Faster With Better Battery Life

Every iteration of the iPhone has been faster than the last and the iPhone 7 is no exception. The A10 is so much of an upgrade, it even has a codename: fusion. The A10 Fusion is Apple’s first quad-core CPU, but in a high-low configuration that ARM and Qualcomm have used in their chips. The A10’s primary cores are for anything CPU intensive. For menial tasks, like email, the chip also has a pair of efficient cores. In all, this adds two hours to the iPhone 7 and one hour for the iPhone 6 Plus over the preceding models. The A10 also includes a 6-core CPU. All in all, you have a chip that is impressively both twice as fast as 2014’s A8 equipped iPhone 6, but also less power hungry. The LTE chip has been upgraded to support 18 different FDD LTE bands and another 4 of the TDD variety. If there is another LTE band out there in use that the new iPhones don’t support, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Audio

Audio has been upgraded, but also with a subtraction. The rumors are true, the 3.5mm analog audio jack has been removed. Let’s be honest, Apple is not the first to do this, Lenovo did it with its newest Moto series phones earlier this year. They won’t be the last to do so either. The analog output’s place place is a second speaker that not only allows stereo sound, but also louder sound than any previous iPhone. To replace the 3.5mm jack, apple has three solutions, two of which are in box. First, there is a new generation of EarPods which use the Lightning connector’s digital audio capability. If there is any controversy with this move, it’s that Apple is is still using its own Lightning connector over the similar USB Type-C. The second solution is a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. The third option, and what people are increasingly choosing is Bluetooth. There Apple made a splash.

AirPods

Announced right along side the iPhone 7 was the AirPods In-Ear Headphones. These are the most Apple headphones you will ever find. They are over-engineered in a wonderful way. The AirPods are packed with technology. Rather than being connected by any chords, the right and left AirPods are their own separate, but connected entities that resemble a matching pair of in-ear headsets. Rather then buttons, each AirPod has a pair of IR sensors and accelerometer to detect that you’re wearing them and activating beam forming mics when you’re talking. Setup is a breeze. Rather than the standard Bluetooth pairing, the custom W1 wireless chip will connect with your iCloud account and automatically connect the AirPods too all your devices, not the just once and then switch between them. If that wasn’t enough, the AirPod’s case is also their charger. At $150, they might not be cheap, but they are very, very Apple.

Apple’s subsidiary Beats also got in on that W1 chip announcing the BeatsX earphones, Powerbeats 3 Wireless, and Solo 3 Wireless. All these 3 will take the easy connect of the AirPods and bring it to those who want a more traditional form factor.

Cameras

There was one aspect of the iPhone 7 series series that you may think I was forgetting. Au Contraire, I was saving the cameras for last. The new front camera is 7mp with an improved color gamut. Out back is where its at though. The iPhone 7 gains optical image stabilization, and a new six-element f/1.8 28mm wide angle lens. The new camera sensor is bigger and there’s an all new dedicated Image Signal Processor in the A10 Fusion. The flash has gone from Dual-LED to a Quad-LED that is 50% brighter. While this is a definite upgrade, the real winner is the camera on the 7 Plus. The larger iPhone gains a second 12mp telephoto camera to go with the wide angle. The two are used in tandem combined with the ISP to create a 2x optical zoom effect. It can also do digital zoom up to 10x. What’s more, Apple is working on a software update to create a Depth of Field Boca effect.

Pricing and Availability

Both models are available for pre-order this Friday September 9th with release in Tier 1 countries on September 15th. Available colors include Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Black Replacing Space Grey, and a Jet Black. Storage is doubled at all price points with storage now available as 32, 128, or 256GB. The iPhone 7 keeps the same $649, $749, ad $849 price points at the iPhone 6 and 6S before it, while the iPhone 7 Plus gets a modest $10 Price increase to $769, $869, and $969.

apple-watch-series-2 template

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch family got its first major upgrades in both price and features. While keeping the same form factor, the Apple Watch got both cheaper and more advanced models while adding and updating some third party partnerships.

Apple Watch Series 1

If there is one aspect where the original Apple watch and its S1 system on chip failed, it was in power. The chip didn’t have the muscle it needed to run watchOS 1.0 or 2.0 and the platform suffered. While there are tricks to remedy this in watchOS 3.0, its still clear that the watch need more power.

More power is exactly what it gets in the Series 1. They are exactly the same as the original Apple Watch Sport, but with the new dual core S1P giving it a bit 50% more juice. Price points are also more friendly, starting at just $269 for the 38mm version and $299 for the 42mm. Its available in the original Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Grey finishes.

Series 2

Where the Series 2 Apple Watch may look the same, its completely different and better inside. The new screen is twice as bright as the original for better performance in sunlight. The Series 2 also back the faster S2 chip. Where it really differs is in two features. First, its now rated for 50m dive performance instead of being just water resistant. As part of the water proofing, the redesigned speaker spits out water. For those who want to use their watch while leaving their iPhone at home, the Series two also includes a GPS chip.

Pricing for Series 2 is $100 more expensive than the Series 1 starting at $369 for the regular models, and $1249 for the new Apple Watch Edition in a new ultra-hard white ceramic that replaces the gold plated models.

The new Apple Watch Hermes has also been updated for Series 2 with new custom faces, new and updated bands, and in new colors. Hermes Apple Watches start at $1149 for kits and $339 for the new Single Tour Band.

Nike+

While Apple partnered with Hermes for fashion, they are also partnering with Nike for Fitness. The Apple Watch Nike+ is based on the Series 2 aluminum models in Black and Flat Silver. The watches come with perforated watch bands in two-tone colors. The Nike edition also includes the Nike+ Run Club app pre-installed and exclusive fitness-oriented watch faces.

The Apple Watch Nike+ is exactly the same price as the normal Series two at $369 for 38mm and $399 for 42mm.

Operating Systems Release

Apple also announced the release dates for its OS updates. iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are coming September 15th. macOS 10.12 Sierra will launch a week later on September 20th.

Nokia is Dead. Long Live Nokia!

It’s been an interesting 7 days when it comes to Nokia’s phone legacy. Last Wednesday, the 18th, Nokia announced it was going to license its name and IP to a new company called HMD to make Android phones together with Microsoft giving a similar deal for feature phones. Microsoft also announced they were selling the logistics side of the Nokia feature phone business to HMD’s manufacturing partner Foxconn. Then today, came the bad news that everybody saw coming. Microsoft is putting an end to the Lumia Windows Phone division it bought from Nokia just a couple of years back. We’ll talk about that first.

Under Nokia, the Lumia line was one of the most regarded lines of cell phones out there. Those who had one loved them and the there was a lot to love about Windows phone 7, 8, and 10. However, they never gained commercial success and Nokia agreed to sell its phone business to Microsoft for just over $7 billion in September of 2013. It only got worse from there with Windows Phone effectively a non-player. In 2015, Microsoft cut 7,800 jobs mostly related to the former Nokia properties and took a $7.6 billion write-off. Now they’re going for the rest. With another 1,800 jobs lost, 1,350 of those in Finland, and another write-off at just shy of $1 billion. It was Steve Ballmer’s last major move as CEO and to say it backfired is putting it mildly.

However, as I said in the opening paragraph, Nokia’s phone legacy doesn’t end with the death of the Lumia line. HMD will be designing phones and tablets under the Nokia name. Like Blackberry’s rebirth, the new Nokia’s will be powered by Android. The phones themselves will built by Foxconn. Nokia will not own a stake in HMD, but will has a presence in the company to ensure the devices coming out of the new venture reflect the Nokia brand.

There is no firm timeline when we will see the first HMD-designed Nokia device or whether they plan to enter the North American market. What is known that that Nokia branded phones will go on. At least for now.

source: Nokia, The Verge

Apple Refreshes Retina MacBook

Last year, Apple announced the 12″ Retina MacBook ultraportable. Today, the machine got its first update. There’s a lot of things you’d expect and others that are a little surprising. Let’s take a look at what the 2016 model brings.

The 12″ is based around a 2304 x 1440 Retina display. This doesn’t change neither does the casing itself the difference is what’s inside. The Broadwell Core-M has been traded out for its updated Skylake Core M3 counterparts. The new CPUs share the same clock speed, but are a bit more powerful. According to Apple, the new Intel Integrated HD 515 graphics are a not insignificant 25% more powerful than the HD 5300 of last year. The chips are also more efficient offering an additional hour of run time now between 10 and 11 hours. The flash storage has been upgraded to a faster PCI-E standard and system memory is now 1866mhz.

For I/O, you still have two options: a 3.5mm headphones jack and a one-size fits all USB 3.1 Type-C jack. Many, including myself expected this port to be upgraded to Thunderbolt 3 with Skylake. That will presumably happen with updated MacBook Pros later this year. However, given the tasks this Core M-powered machine is expected to perform, one could argue that Type-C was good enough.

Pricing and configurations for the 2016 MacBook are the same as the 2015 models starting at $1299 for the base model. You can still order your MacBook in silver, space gray, and gold with fan favorite Rose Gold adding the fray for 2016. The MacBook’s predecessor, the MacBook Air also received a minor refresh with all 13″ models now coming standard with 8GB of memory.

Source: Apple

Amazon Launches Prime Subscriptions

Amazon’s Prime service is one of the e-tailer’s more compelling offerings. It offers not only free two-day shipping or same-day if you have a fulfillment center in your city, but access to their Prime Video service, access to eBooks & Music, and early access to some deals. However, not everyone is completely sold on buying a year at a time for $99. That price is not going away anytime soon, but it’s being joined with some other options. First, Amazon is offering Prime Video on its own for the first time at a competitive rate of $8.99 monthly. That’s a little bit less than rivals Netflix and Hulu. There’s also available options to add Starz, Showtime, and quite a few others for additional fees. For that price, you get Amazon’s full catalog of content including their own shows and exclusives like BBC America’s Orphan Black and Doctor Who. For $2 more a month at $10.99, a full subscription to Prime is also available. While these are available monthly, Amazon does make clear that the original $99 one time early subscription will save you money.

While Amazon has not offically announced the change via a press release, the new monthly plans are live on Amazon’s website

Source: Amazon

HTC 10: It Looks Like the Best Android Smartphone Yet

HTC’s flagship line has been know as the One series. You’ve had the HTC One M7, HTC M8, and HTC One M9. Today, that title is getting shorted and the product title is simply know as the HTC 10. The title change kinda sums up the HTC in general, a flagship phone which dispatches a lot of bloat while adding useful features. Let’s take a look.

HTC 10 Specs

The HTC 10 is exactly what you’d expect from a flagship Android phone is 2016. The Display is 5.2 inches, a little bit bigger than the M8 and M9, and finally makes the jump from 1920 x 1080 Full HD to 2560 x 1440 Quad HD. Like Apple, HTC is still using a LCD variant, called Super LCD5, in lieu of AMOLED technology. At this point, LCD screens still have a few advantages over AMOLED, but that gap is narrowing every year. The larger display makes for a phone that nominally taller and wider, but its also thinner than the M9 and has a comfortable curved design.

The system on chip is the Snapdragon 820. Unlike the 810 used in last year’s flagships, the 820 is not a repackaged ARM reference design. The core is based around a quad-core Kryo CPU. Like the Krait in the Snapdragon 800 series, the Kyro is completely a Qualcomm design. It finally gives Android the power to hang with Apple’s latest A-series CPUs. The GPU, the Adreno 530, is also much improved.

The camera is 12mp with laser autofocus and OIS. That’s on par with its main competition, the Galaxy S7. The front is 5MP and also has OIS. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this may be the first time a front camera has been stabilized. The aperture both front and back is f/1.8. For video, the front camera is 1080 while the rear is 4k. If you’re looking to shoot video or photos, this looks like one really interesting device.

Rounding out the hardware specs, there’s about a dozen LTE bands, so it should be at home on any carrier. The LTE is also class 9 capable for speeds up to 450Mbps. I/O is what you’d expect with dual band AC wireless, bluetooth 4.2, NFC and a bunch of sensors. Physical connections are through USB Type-C at full USB 3.1 speeds. The SD Card slot stays and and take cards up to 2TB. Wirelessly, it supports not only the expected HTC connect, Google Cast, and Miracast, but very surprisingly Apple Airplay as well. That should be a great feature in if you’re an Android user in an Apple Household. Rounding out the spec sheet is a further Improvement on the front-facing Boomsound speakers called Boomsound Hi-Fi. Its also got a 24-bit headphone amp, so high end audio aficionados should be pleased.

Software Less is More

Android’s biggest weaknesses have been fragmentation and bloatware. Honestly, it’s just confused and angered customers who, for the most part, have just used Google’s apps. HTC and its Sense launcher have been among the worse. For the 10, HTC has gotten rid of many of its own apps except when it adds to the feature set, like the camera. It makes for a much cleaner Android experience. However, it does offer an interesting new launcher layout called Freestyle. This phone puts the user first, make no mistake.

There’s also some software level improvements that give the phone up to 30% more battery life. With hardware and software improvements, HTC is advertising up to two full days of charge.

Pricing and Availability

The HTC 10 is available starting at $699 with pre-orders starting today. The phone itself will be released in May. There will be be versions for most carriers as well as an unlocked version.

Final Word

The HTC One-series was never lacking on design, but never managed to full catch on. That is also the question here. HTC has designed one hell of a phone, they did their job. Their marketing department has their work cut out of them and if they fail there may not be a HTC 11. If any device can unseat Samsung, its this one.

Source: HTC

#CES2016: Harman’s JBL Launches, Most Afford CarPlay and Android Auto Car Receiver Yet

Harman, one of the leading audio companies in the world, has released a new and very interesting car receiver: The JBL Legend CP100. The CP100 is built around a 6.75″ Capacitive Touch screen and is compatible with both Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Its powered by a iMX6 ARM CPU. It doesn’t have a CD or DVD player, but it has everything you’d expect in an entry level smartphone connected car stereo including USB inputs, bluetooth, a Mic, a rear camera jack, and steering wheel control input. Its not anything that you wouldn’t find on the Pioneer App Radio 4 or Alpine ILX-007, well, with the exception of Android Auto.

Where the CP100 excels is at price. It’s able to offer a competitive feature set at $399. A full $200 less than the competition. It makes having a connected stereo much more affordable. We’ll find out if this is as an amazing buy as it seems when it hits stores in a couple months.

Source: Harman

#CES2016: The Year of USB Type-C

USB Type-C debuted in the year world with the iPad-eque Nokia N1 in November of 2014 in its USB 2.0 variety, but the one port to rule them all really came onto the scene with on March 9, 2015 with the unveiling of the ultra-slim MacBook. It was the only port the little notebook needed with USB 3.1, Displayport & HDMI, and up to 100 watts of power mixed into one port barely larger than Lightning or Micro USB. It didn’t take long to understand that this lone port was the future. That was further solidified with Intel with them making Thunderbolt 3 essentially a supercharged version of Type-C with direct access to the PCI-E bus and 40Gbps speeds instead of 480Mbps of the USB 2.0 variant or 5-10mbps of the USB 3.1. It would take a while to get going for sure, but if CES has shown anything it’s that while legacy ports aren’t gone, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are here to stay with a barrage of products.

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Computers

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Apple should be very flattered. Just as the MacBook Air became the inspiration of a generation of Ultrabooks, there’s a lot of insanely thin fanless 12″ laptops this year wearing little more than a Core-M and a USB-C port. There’s plenty of options from HP, Dell, Samsung, and LG. Yeah, apparently LG makes laptops now. The creme of this crop seems to be the HP Elitebook Folio with high-end construction and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. There might actually be more devices announced with USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 than not.

Likewise, the full power of Thunderbolt is fully realized this year. Acer has introduced its 12.5″ Aspire Blade Switch 12 S 2-in-1. This tablet/ laptop hybrid features Full HD and 4K Ultra HD displays and an Intel Core M CPU with HD515 graphics. This can be enhanced by an external Thunderbolt 3 graphics card in the Acer Graphics dock. Gaming accessory maker Razer takes this concept further with the Razer Blade Stealth. This ultrabook also features a 12.5″ FHD or UHD screen but includes a Intel Core i7 6500 with Intel 520HD graphics. Its external graphics solution is much more extreme. The Razer Core features a 500 watt power supply with 375 watts reserved for graphics, 4 USB 3.0 ports, gigabit ethernet, and a full-length double-slot PCI express slot for a graphics card of your choice. That includes even the most high-end extreme graphics cards on the market. Of course it can also take professional Quadro or FirePro graphics turning it from a Mini gaming monster to a tiny workstation.

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Displays

I fell in love with my AOC 15″ portable display despite some issues with DisplayLink and relatively low quality displays. With USB-C, DisplayLink is no longer needed as USB monitors can natively use DisplayPort and have access to more power. The first USB-C display in the form of ASUS’s MB169C+, a further evolution of the company MB168B+ USB 3.0 DisplayLink monitor. The new version also replaces the 1080 TN panel of the previous version with a much higher quality IPS display. I don’t think this will be the last either.

A lone portable display is far from USB Type-C’s only appearance at CES. It turns out a single connector for video, power, and USB was a bit popular in the medium-to high end range. Acer’s 2016 version of the H7-series comes in 25 and 27-inch Quad HD (2560×1440)flavors and features USB-C, HDMI 2.0, a pair of full size USB 3.0 ports, and a MacBook-friendly gold finish. Lenovo is offering pair of displays in the 24″ Full-HD Thinkvision x24 Pro and the 27″ 4K Ultra HD Thinkvision X1. LG also added a 27″ 4k entry in the 27UD88-W.

Dell However, took first in class when it came to USB-C compatible Displays with the New UltraSharp 30 OLED. As the name gives away, this display eschews traditional In-Plane Switching LCD technology for Organic Light Emitting Diode displays. While OLED technology has become affordable in mobile screens, it is still expensive with larger panels and this Dell is no exception at just a hair under $5 grand. However, it might also be the best 30-inch display on the market. If there is one thing Dell knows, it is professional displays. Dell is also offering a dock in regular USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 variants for use with legacy displays.

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Storage

Seagate’s stylish and Mac-Friendly subsidiary LaCie hit USB-C hard this year offering products from the affordable and portable LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive and its desktop brother to the high end Chrome. Samsung is also in the game with the portable SSD T3 with solid state capacities up to 2TB.

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Accessories

I Could list every USB Type-C accessory that was announced, but honestly, that might take the rest of my life so I’ll talk about the one that stands out: Griffin’s BreakSafe Charing Cable for the MacBook, Google Chromebook Pixel, and other lightweight USB-C powered laptops. This power only cable has a magnetic break near the connector much like Apple’s MagSafe connectors. In other words, the cord reversibly splits in two instead of sending your computer flying. Why couldn’t have Apple and Google have done this in box?

Other than that, you have a bevy of docks, hubs, and cables from the usual high-class suspects like Griffin, Belkin, Satechi, and Incipio.

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The Elephant in The Room

The one company that didn’t announce anything at CES might be the company most looked at for USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3: Apple. They effectively ushered in the USB-C era just under a year ago and have spearheaded convergence of ports through Thunderbolt 1 & 2. In other words, the industry might be getting on it big time, but its effectively Apple’s train.

We won’t be waiting long to find out. The MacBook is nearly a year old and is due for its Silverlake update. Given the amount of similar machines with Thunderbolt 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original MacBook is the first and last Mac with just plain USB Type-C. The top of Apple’s line, the Retina MacBook Pro is also due for an update. It was well ahead of its time in 2012, but the Industry has changed a lot. It also uses traditional USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 2. Both are due for replacement by Thunderbolt 3. I’d expect more a complete design than a mere update this go around with the Retina form factor being around for 4 iterations.

While it could drag on into March, I suspect we’ll see the first Thunderbolt 3 Macs by the end of spring.