#CES2016: Ford & Fiat-Chrysler Get on CarPlay, Android Auto Bandwagons

I’m not going to lie, the rollout of mobile car connectivity platforms Apple Carplay and Android Auto have been slower than I expected. They’ve been given a major shot in the arm for 2016 as the Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have both announced support for both platforms as part of their in-car entertainment systems. Both automakers had been long-term holdouts to the platforms. Let’s take a look at the details starting with Ford.

Ford’s implementation of Carplay and Android Auto will be part of their new QNX-based Sync 3 ecosystem. It will come standard on the 2017 version of Sync 3 with an update to 2016 MY vehicles coming later during 2016. Ford will take full advantage of Carplay enhancements in iOS 9 with not only touch control, but the vehicle’s physical buttons able to control the Carplay interface. The platforms are joined by additions to Ford’s own AppLink platform including a AAA app and in-car LTE internet support.

Not very long after Ford’s announcement, Fiat Chrysler announced its fourth generation of its Uconnect system. The new Uconnect will feature a 8.4-inch touch screen and also have Carplay and Android Auto support. The system will be available in the company’s Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and Ram vehicles. Unlike rival Ford, FCA did not announce an upgrade path for older vehicles. They did, however, announce a special 12.1″ version of the Uconnect for first responders. The extra large version will be available on the Dodge Charger Pursuit police package and feature a resolution of 1024×768 compared to the 640×480 resolution of the 8.4″ version.

With Ford and FCA, almost every automaker will have both Carplay and Android Auto in their 2017 model year lineups.

Source: Ford, FCA

Samsung, Motorola, Asus, and Huawei Announce New Smartwatches

For the most part, 2015 has been the year of the Apple Watch with some Pebble sprinkled in. That may change with this week’s announcements with a trio of new Android Wear Watch families from Motorola, Asus,and Huawei and a new Tizen-based entry from Samsung. The announcements coincide with another announcement that Android Wear devices would be gaining compatibility with the iPhone. Let’s take a look at the new watches.

samsung-gear-s2

Samsung Gear S2

The Gear S2 is Samsung’s latest entry into the wearable space. Unlike other members of the gear family, the S2 features a round body which is very watch-like. It comes in two flavors, the S2 with a more modern flair and the S2 Classic for those who want traditional watch styling. Whatever flavor you choose, the features and specs are the same. It runs Samsung’s Tizen OS giving them more control over the platform than allowed under Android Wear. It also allows tighter integration with the Korean device giant’s skinned Android phones.

The AMOLED screen is 1.2 inches and round with a 360 x 360 resolution. That equates to a near-Retina 302 PPI. The CPU is 1.0ghz and dual core. If you were looking for smaller version for more petite individuals, you will not find it here. Its one size fits all, with the exception of whether you want 3G connectivity or not. There is 512mb of memory and 4GB of RAM. All in all, its pretty standard for a mainstream smartwatch.

What sets it apart is its integration with Samsung’s services including Samsung Pay with the watch’s NFC chip. If you’re more invested in Samsung than Android or iOS, this is a strong contender. If not, the next family of watches may be for you.

2015-moto-360

A Family of 4 Moto 360s

For all intents and purposes, the 2014 edition of the Moto 360 was the Android Wear device by which all others were judged. This year’s model looks to carry on this tradition. The 2015 Moto 360 comes in two sizes: 46mm and 42mm with the 42mm coming in both Men’s and Women’s versions. The previous version only came in the 46mm variant. The new Moto 360 is slightly thinner at 11.4″, but not by much. The original Moto 360 had a 320 x 290 pixel display and this has been given a small boost in resolution to 360 x 330 in the 46mm version and 360 x 325 in the smaller size. The single core Cortex A8 SoC has been replaced by a Quad-Core Snapdragon 400. The battery is bigger and Moto promises 2 days battery life. Overall, its a fairly hefty upgrade over 2015. The 2015 Moto 360 is also fully customizable in Moto Maker for a custom watch designed for the wearer.

There’s also a second Moto 360, the 360 Sport. Also running wear, the 360 Sport is designed for those with active outdoor lifestyles. It features a rugged enclosure that will definitely not be welcomed in a black tie affair, but feels right at home in a Kayak. The sport has it own built-in GPS and associated software allowing the wearer to know exactly where he or she is. It display is very interesting being designed to reflect direct sunlight to make the display more visible than a traditional LCD display.

The 2nd Gen Moto 360 will start at $299 and go up from there. It’ll ship later in September. The price and release date for the Sport is TBA.

zen-watch-2

Zen Watch 2.

Also coming in on the sequel path is the Zen Watch 2. This new watch may be the best overall value in Android Wear watches. The Zen Watch 2 is square in design and comes in a pair of sizes. You can add 3 colors: silver, gold, and gunmetal grey and several watch bands. The Zen Watch aims to bring traditional watch styling into the 21st century and like the Apple Watch, it makes use of the crown for the interactive experience.

The Zen Watch 2 comes with 1.63″ and 1.45″ screens with a 320 x 320 resolution.. Specs are similar to the Moto 360 with a Snapdragon 400 CPU, 512mb of RAM, and 4GB of storage. Those are roughly standard for an Android Wear Watch. What isn’t is the price. The Zen Watch 2 starts at an insanely low $129.

huawei-watch

Huawei Watch

Huawei is not known for being a premium watch in the west, but the Huawei Watch may change this. The Huawei Watch tends towards the more premium end of Android Wear watches. It has a 400 x 400 1.4″ AMOLED display. The Hauwei watch has very traditional watch styling and comes in 6 distinct variants. However, non of them in a smaller size.

The base Huawei watch starts at $349 and goes up to $799 for a gold plated version.

Source: Samsung, Google
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Apple Releases Apple Music, iOS 8.4, and OS X 10.10 UPDATED

Updated To Provide Additional Information on, iTunes, iBooks Author, and Garageband

The day we’ve been waiting for since WWDC is here, Apple Music is here. Its brought some OS updates in tow, iOS 8.4 and OS X 10.10.4. What does the new service and updates offer, let’s take a look.

Apple Music

Apple Music is Apple’s take on Spotify or Rdio based on Beats DNA. Instead of being its own service, it’s baked into the iOS Music and OS X/ Windows iTunes Apps. The iOS app came with iOS 8.4, but an updated iTunes had yet to show its face at the time of publication. Apple Music will also be showing its face on your AppleTV and on Android devices later this fall.

Apple Music is based upon 3 main sections of content: Streaming music, Radio, and Connect. Streaming music is much like Spotify where you get unlimited streaming access to a large collection of songs. You also get offline access to Apple’s music and iCloud access to yours. This includes not only large national acts, but after also a good deal of up and coming or lesser known bands. The second area is Radio which includes a live Radio station called Beats 1 with DJs and shows. There are also much improved and curated Pandora-like Radio stations based on artists and genres. Lastly, you have Connect which, is half artist-blog and half social network. I won’t lie, I’m a bit skeptical about this part.

Apple Music is $9.99 for individuals or $14.99 for families via iCloud family. Either way, you have 3 free months on Apple’s dime to figure out if you want to pay for it. Since Apple Music is replacing its Beats counterpart, there was some question about what will happen to Beats. Beats Music will stay open for a few more months during the changeover. If you don’t have an Android device and want to move over right now, Apple Music will incorporate a user’s Beats Music playlists and settings.

Update: iTunes 12.2 for the Mac has been released. iTunes for Windows still shows version 12.1.2 with 12.2 listed as “coming soon”.

iOS 8.4 and iBooks

iOS 8.4 isn’t just about music. iBooks also received a fairly substantial update. The biggest is the ability to find and play audiobooks. For digital books, you can discover books by their series and pre-order them. Lastly, iPhones can now view iBook author-designed books. They could previously be only accessed on iPads.

There are a couple other fixes as well like fixing the unicode crash, a bug fix for Apple Watch apps reinstalling themselves, and better compatibility with GPS accessories.

Update: To help better create books that work on the iPhone, an update to iBooks author for the Mac has also been released.

OS X 10.10.4

OS X 10.10.4 can be summed up in one word: reliability. The update fixes issues with networking, migration assistant, support for external displays, and syncing photos both with iCloud and the now replaced Aperture and iPhoto. As part of the changes for networking Apple has removed the discoveryd process that was introduced in Yosemite and has been a bit of a nightmare.

Overall though, 10.10.4 is a very much a bug fix release with no real updated features.

GarageBand

GarageBand for the Mac has been updated to version 10.1 with support for sharing to Apple Music’s Connect. The Mac version also gains Force Touch trackpad Support for use on the new 12″ MacBook and 13/15″ Macbook Pros. For fans of EDM, Hip Hop, and a few other styles, there are over 100 new synth patches, 10 new drummers, and 1000 loops added to the GarageBand library. The synth patches also support TransformPad sound morphing technology almost certainly based on technology from Camel Audio which Apple bought earlier this year.

Author’s Thoughts

Apple Music looks like it’s going to be a good one. The library is huge and the radio function so far is great. Expect a full review from the Tech Hangout in the next week or two.

WWDC 2015: Everything Announced

Apple’s WWDC 2015 keynote has came in went.  It was very evolutionary in word, but that’s not a bad thing after some major changes in both OS X and iOS.  In many ways, it was very similar to Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion where they took what they had and made it better.  WWDC also marked the introduction of WatchOS as a native development platform.  This year’s WWDC was a pure developer’s conference devoid of any hardware announcements.  Apple ended the day debuting Apple Music, the subscription service born out of the Beats Acquisition.

Apple TV or the Lack Thereof

Given the shape of the invitation, I hoped for AppleTV as a development platform along with a new version of the streaming device.  It was not to be as the AppleTV got nary a mention.  Whether the device was bumped last minute as Brian X. Chen’s source said or they just didn’t put any extra effort into the device, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we’re stuck with what we have for the time being.  That’ll only change when and if Apple announces something.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Sorry for the bad pun, but Apple is once again climbing the mountain with OS X 10.11 El Capitan.  Its named after a monolith peak in Yosemite park.  El Capitan takes what they were doing with OS X Yosemite and brings some new features.  Some of these are borrowed from iOS while others gain inspiration from competing platforms.  El Captain has a lot of under the hood tweaks to make the OS faster.

El Capitan features a redesigned version of Mission Control that makes it easy to add apps to their own desktop by simply dragging them to the top right of the screen.  A subset of this is Split View allowing you to easily drag two apps unto the screen and let them share screen real estate.  If this seems familiar, Windows has done something since Windows 7.  However, Windows 10 added something very close to mission control, so its all fair.  In the not very flashy, but useful category, the curse will supersize when you wake up your Mac to make it easier to find.  Safari adds a really cool feature called pinned tabs and allow you easily find and mute tabbed audio.  Mail adds swipe support from iOS plus natural language support not just in Spotlight, but systemwide.  Photos now works with extensions similar to the ones on iOS.  Lastly, Notes has been given a major update to make it a little closer to One Note or Evernote.  Mostly tweaks, but useful tweaks.

Like I said, most of El Capitan is under the hood with speed gains of 1.4 to 4x depending on the process.  Nowhere is that more evident with Metal coming over from iOS to take the spot currently held by OpenGL and OpenCL.  Apple’s implementations of these have been less than ideal, so Metal is very welcome.  Metal takes out most of the overhead in found in OpenGL and OpenCL and gives a  lot more access to the GPU itself.  Hence, the name taking it down to bare metal.  It also allows the GPU to work better with the system’s CPU  This should give some hefty improvements in Mac graphics performance in both gaming and professional applications like AutoCAD or Maya.  If you’re not excited, you should be.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan will ship this fall, but a public beta will be program will launch in July.

iOS 9

iOS 9 is Siri’s big coming out party.  With proactive search and for the first time an API for third parties, Siri can do a whole lot more.  Proactive search gives it access to your past and likely search results.  if this sounds familiar, it’s a lot like what Google Now and Cortana do.  Siri will learn your preferences and give you suggestions and if you ask it to save something for later it’ll remember.  Proactive will automatically launch certain tasks like bringing up music if you plug in headphones.  It seems to be what we all hoped Siri would be a couple years back.

iOS 9 is great for mobile users with a new lower mode to keep you holding if you start to run low.  It also has tweaks to improve battery life in general.  Apple says up to an hour.  Homekit has been enhanced with support for security systems, additional sensor types, and motorized blinds.  HelathKit has some new measurements like support for reproductive health sensors and UV exposure.  There’s also general speed improvements similar to OS X.  Gaming gets three new APIs GamePlayKit, Model I/O, and ReplayKit for exporting your video to Twitch like services.  For developers, the Swift 2 programming language has been made open source

Most of the apps have modest feature gains, but Notes gets everything that its OS X cousin gained plus drawing support.  News Stand may or may not be replaced with an app called news.  Its a lot like Pulse.  It takes print articles like you’d see in a reading app and adds in video and audio support.  I have my reservations, but I’ll give it a shot.  For Android switchers, there’s a Move to iOS app to transfer your data from your Android device.  It also helps to find iOS versions of all your Android apps.

The biggest changes in iOS 9 come for the iPad which gains additional capability compared to iPhones.  The new split screen multitasking is very similar to what you’ll see in some Android and Windows Tablets.  As part of that, there’s picture in picture for video.  You no longer have to stop watching your movie or stop your Facetime call to check sometime on your iPad.  There’s also a slightly redesigned keyboard.  It hasn’t changed much visually, but there’s a two-finger drag that adds as a cursor.  There’s also improvements for physical keyboard support.

Like El-Captian, iOS 9 will ship in the fall with a public beta in July.

Apple Pay and Wallet

Since its debut last fall, Apple Pay has brought mobile NFC payments to a level not seen before in the US with 2500 different banks and nearly 1 million retail locations with many more coming this year.  Apple Pay has been compatible with Visa, MasterCard, and American express, but is also adding the fourth major U.S. credit card issuer Discover in the fall.  They’re not standing pat.  With iOS 9, Apple Pay adds proprietary store credit and debit cards to the mix.  If you have a JC Penney or Kohls card, you’ll be able to use it in the fall.  I have my fingers crossed for Target’s Red Card.  Apple Pay is also going to integrate with store loyalty programs in stores like Walgreens, Dunkin Donuts, and even Delta Airlines.  These are run through the app current known as Passbook which is being rechristened as Wallet.

Apple Pay is expanding outside the US for the first time to the UK in July.  Apple Pay will be offered by 8 of the leading British banks and in 250,000 retail locations.  For those in London town, their public transit system will allow you to pay with your iPhone.

For anyone who wants to use Apple Pay and doesn’t have a quite have the need for a full Point of Sale system, Apple announced that it was working with Square on a new wireless Square Reader that supports not only NFC payments including Apple Pay, but also traditional magnetic stripe cards and EMV chip cards.  The new reader is $49.99, but its price is refundable by transactions within the first month.  Apple (and Android) Pay will literally be almost everywhere this fall.

Car Play

CarPlay has two big, but somewhat understated improvements.  First, it gains bluetooth connectivity.  That means you can keep your phone in your pocket or wherever else you want it.  It also means you might not have to channel a lightning cable from where you dock your iPhone to your head.  For aftermarket heads, this could make installation a lot cheaper.  It also adds support for more screen sizes than it previously had.

CarPlay also has much greater integration with your car itself.  Your physical knobs can be used to control functions in CarPlay.  There’s options also options for car manufacturers to build their own apps to control car functions.  You may never have to leave CarPlay in the not too distant future.

Maps

This version of Maps might be the big update we’ve waited for.  First it finally adds support for mass transit support, albeit in a very limited number of cities.  In the North America, there are map directions for NYC, San Francisco, DC, Baltimore, Toronto, and Mexico City.  In Europe, there’s only London and Berlin.  In China, the transit is… a lot better than everywhere else.  I’m hoping there’s an easy way for mass transit agencies to add their routes (like in Google maps) so this expands rapidly.  Support in 4 cities really isn’t support.

One feature that will effect everyone is nearby.  It allows you to quickly find food, attractions, shops, and even grocery stores.  Entries for these retailers will let you know not only the information, but whether they support Apple Pay.

These features will not only show up on iOS, but on the Mac and Apple Watch as well.  There was no mentioned of a rumored iCloud version of Maps during the keynote.

WatchOS 2.0

The Apple Watch was just released and still isn’t quite available in stores due the large about of pre-orders, but there was no time like the present to talk about its future.  Watch OS 2 will bring native development to the watch which should speed things up considerably.  Developers will have access to just about everything in the Apple Watch including watch face complications, the taptic feedback engine, digital crown, the mic, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and so on.  The original version of WatchKit allowed devs to quickly create apps, the version with WatchOS 2 allows them to make something more substantial.

The changes just aren’t for developers.  There’s time-lapse watch faces of New York, Shanghai, and London that change the picture with the time.  Third-party fitness apps will now count towards your goals and Siri commands can now trigger the start of workouts.  Siri can trigger glances and write voice replys to emails.  There was some discussion about how easy the Apple Watch would be to steal and that is put to rest with an AppleID tied activation lock.  You can have multiple friends lists now and there’s color controls for the emoji.  There’s even an alarm lock mode for when its docked on your nightstand.  It also integrates the changes in Maps and Apple Pay.
WatchOS 2 will ship this fall.

Apple Music

Two years back, Apple took on Pandora with iTunes Radio.  The results have been mixed at best.  Not just because the service has a few issues, but because another service came along more consistent with what consumers wanted, Spotify.  Spotify is now a cross-platform force that many users are using to stream music because its all you can eat nature.

Apple Music may have been the real reason that Apple bought Beats, not the headphones.  Jimmy Iovine was the president of Interscope records in his past life and brings valuable knowledge and connections in the recording industry.  Beats also brought musicians into the fold with Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor.

Beats music consists of three parts.  First the subscription music service.  You can access not only songs in your account, anywhere, but the entire iTunes library of over 30 million songs.  Its not just the US, Apple Music is launching in over 100 countries.  Its basically Apple’s version of Spotify except for the free ad-supported version, but it has the ace in the hole of expertly curated playlists.

The second part is radio.  Apple has an actual radio station now.  Beats 1 has hired known DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga to stream from LA, NYC, and London the “best” music out there 24/7.  It’ll also offer other content just like a true radio station.  In addition to Beats 1, there will be new radio stations, also expertly curated, based on genre.  This will effectively replace iTunes Radio

The last is Connect.  Its kind of a blog/ social media apparatus for artists.  It offers exclusive access and content, though I don’t see it offering much that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram don’t already give you.  Time will tell if its a useful tool for artists or Ping 2.0.

Apple Music will launch June 30th and cost $9.99 a month for an individual subscription or $14.99 for a family.  Like iTunes Radio before it, Apple Music will live inside the Music app for iOS and the iTunes Apps for Mac and Windows.  It’ll come to AppleTV and Android in the fall.

Source: Apple
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Tech Hangout #70 – Apple iPad Event Recap & Quarterly Earnings

Introduction

  • Andrew Rouch
  • Hal Sherman
  • Ricardo Garza
  • Patrice Brend’amour
  • Ben Roethig (Host)

Topic

Apple Releases OS X Yosemite, iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay

Apple releases New iPad Air and old iPad Mini with Touch ID

iPad 27” with Retina and Mac Mini see updates

Macs Beat iPads in quarterly sales

Picks

Tech Hangout #67 – About Bend Phones and Botched Updates

Introduction

  • Andrew Rouch
  • Hal Sherman
  • Paul Gans
  • Patrice Brend’amour
  • Ben Roethig (Host)
  • Ricardo Garza
  • Eric Schuetz

Topics

IOS 8.01 is available

And then it wasn’t

Blackberry Passport

Don’t bend your phone

Hard Drive Reliability

Picks

Tech Hangout #51 – A lot of smoke

Introduction

  • Andrew Rouch
  • Hal Sherman
  • Patrice Brend’amour
  • Ricardo Garza
  • Ben Roethig

iMessage-gate

Still no Google Voice love for Android users

Nest recalls 440,000 smoke detectors

145 million user records from Ebay fall prey to hackers

Mac OS X 10.9.3 released, improves 4k video support

Safari security update available for Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks

Will Apple acquire Beats? (Rumor)

Picks

Tech Hangout #44 – iOS 7.1 and Nexus news

Introduction

  • Andrew Rouch
  • Hal Sherman
  • Paul Gans
  • Patrice Brend’amour
  • Ben Roethig (Host)
  • Ricardo Garza
  • Steve ‘Kinetic’ Roberts

Verizon sells Nexus 7 for $50

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/device/tablet/nexus-7

iOS 7.1

http://geekbeat.tv/apple-releases-ios-7-1/

Paul… I mean the CIA to infect your computer with Malware

http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/12/report-nsa-has-plans-to-infect-millions-of-computers-with-malware/

Apple drops iPhone return policy to 14 days (from 30)

http://www.engadget.com/2014/03/12/apple-drops-iphone-return-policy-back-to-14-days-m-carriers/

Nexus gaming console?

http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/12/googles-acquisition-of-green-throttle-games-could-signal-better-native-android-gaming/

Picks

Tech Hangout #37 – The good and the bad of Ben’s Android experiment

Introduction

  • Andrew Rouch
  • Benjamin Roethig (Host)
  • Paul Gans
  • Ricardo Garza
  • Patrice Brend’amour

Ben’s Android experiment

The good and the bad when switching from an iPhone to an Android phone

T-Mobile Wants to be your bank

http://geekbeat.tv/t-mobile-launches-mobile-money/

Windows 7 is Back!

http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/20/5326844/hp-brings-back-windows-7-by-popular-demand

Picks