Additional HomePod Availability

Apple has announced that the HomePod will go on sale in Greater China, including Hong Kong, this Friday, January 18th, 2019.

The HomePod supports AirPlay 2, which allows applications to send music to the HomePod. There are many apps available that can send their audio to the HomePod. Specifically in Greater China there are some apps available including:

  • QQ Music
  • DeDao
  • iHuman Story
  • Dragonfly FM and Penguin FM in mainland China
  • Spotify
  • KKBOX
  • JOOX
  • Podcasts (in Hong Kong)

These are just some of the apps available for use with the HomePod. Besides these audio apps, there are also China specific programs available. One is called the “New Artist of the Week”

The New Artist of the Week”. This program provides new talent with a prominent platform across greater China for their work to be discovered. Since launching in 2015, Apple Music has featured the debut releases of popular new artists coming from all over Asia, with music spanning a wide variety of genres and languages. New artists from mainland China include Corsak, Chace, Lucie Cheung, Gong, Dean Ting and Lu Xianghui. Popular playlists include The A-List International Pop, Today’s Hits, Best of the Week, The A-List Mandopop and Mandopop Replay, containing recent Mandopop hits from the past five years.

The HomePod will be available for HK$2799 or RMB 2799 and is available in both white and space gray. AppleCare+ is available for the HomePod for HK$349 or RMB 329.

HomePod is currently available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain. HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation).

Source Apple

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe: A Review

Nintendo is a company that elicits a large amount of nostalgia, in the true sense of the word, for many across the world. Nintendo is able to do this through their characters, like Mario, Luigi, and Toad. Through their existence as a gaming company, they have had some ups and downs, some systems have done well, others not so much.

The Wii was a huge success. Its successor the Wii U, not so much. However, Nintendo has hit a home run with the Nintendo Switch. One of the ways that companies help boost the number of games for their platform is by re-releasing previous games, or providing enhanced versions of previous games. Nintendo has supplied a number of games for the Nintendo Switch by creating enhanced versions of games that were available for the Wii U, including the game “Super Mario Bros. U”, with its remastered version “Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe”.

Gameplay

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe combines a couple of games, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U all into one game. I never played Super Luigi U, so this was an opportunity for me to play it. By default you play the New Super Mario Bros. U game, but you can switch to Super Luigi U by scrolling up on the selecting the “Play New Super Luigi U” button on the Main Screen.

New Super Mario Bros. U is a modern take on a traditional Mario game, with its worlds, levels, and castles. New Super Luigi U takes Super Mario Bros U and adds a twist to it. The character you select in New Super Luigi U has slightly different physics. The levels are also slightly different. They are a bit more challenging, but they are also a bit shorter.

Characters

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Characters

With the combination of the two games, you can select from a number of characters. These include Mario, Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Nabbit. Each of these characters has its own abilities. Mario, Luigi, and Toad are all just regular characters. Toadette and Nabbit have a couple of extra words with them. Toadette has “easier” and Nabbit has “easiest”. Using Toadette or Nabbit will make things a bit easier and may help you get past a particularly difficult level, so make sure to use them when appropriate. If you have little kids playing, using Toadette or Nabbit will definitely help.

There is one additional character that you can use, from time to time, but only within certain levels. That character is Yoshi. Yoshi allows you to grab enemies for points or even Apples. Once you get five apples, with one Yoshi, you will get a power-up for the level.

Areas and Levels

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Levels

The areas within Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are the same ones in Super Mario Bros. U. You have Acorn Plains, Layer0Cake Desert, Sparkling Waters, Soda Jungle, Rock-Candy Mines, Meringue Clouds, and Peach’s Castle. As with other Mario games, each of the levels gets progressively harder as you progress through the game.

Each area has a number of different levels, including castles. Throughout the levels you gather coins, once you hit 100 coins you get a 1UP. Which may be needed, particularly in later levels. Interspersed throughout the regular levels are mini castles. The castles are the only place where you can save the game, so it is best to take advantage of these when you can.

Since the first Super Mario Bros 3. game, released in February of 1990, some of the Mario games have been some opportunities for extra items from Toad. Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has these opportunities as well, but they are deluxe versions. These waypoints will provide you with power ups that might help you during some levels. You can only have 10 extra items at one time. When you get an additional item, and you already have 10 items, you will have to discard an item. This can be the one that is to be added to your inventory, if you want.

Within each level there is a checkpoint flag. This flag will allow you to return to the flag if your character dies during the second half of the level, which makes it much easier to finish the second time around since you do not need to go through the entire level again.

Each area has its own type of environment and each has a different set of challenges. It may take some time to figure out the best way to approach a level, but that is all part of the fun.

Large Coins

Each one of the levels have three large coins that you need to collect. These are not always in the obvious spot. Some of these coins are easier with certain characters. Each time you get a large coin, you will be awarded 4000 points for each one, including ones that you have already gotten while playing back through a level.

Tips

There are some tips that might help you through the game play. There are chances to use enemies, like turtle shells, to get rid of a large number of other enemies. When these opportunities arrive, try and take them. This is because each enemy you hit in succession doubles the number of points you are awarded. But, once you hit eight enemies in a row you will be awarded a 1 UP, or extra life.

On the topic of 1 UPs, you can actually have a maximum of 99 lives. These lives are per character. This means that you can have 99 lives for Mario, another 99 lives for Luigi, another 99 for Toadette, and another 99 for Nabbit.

You may find yourself having issues getting through a level. After you have died a number of times, either five or six, you will get a special box. This box will show you how to get through the level. In fact, it will actually do the level for you. You can exit the play through at any point and continue the level for yourself from that point. This can be a way to get through a level if you are having trouble making it through.

Closing Thoughts

It is always better to have more games for a platform than not have enough, as the case was with the Wii U. Some may feel as though it is easy money to just re-issue remastered versions of games, but in the case of Nintendo it is actually a way to extend their existing investment considering that the Wii U was not as successful as they had anticipated.

If you have never played either of the games, but you enjoy playing Mario games and you have a Nintendo Switch, you cannot go wrong with Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. It is a fun game and well worth your time. Even after you finished the game, there is more playability by trying to get all of the large coins.

Overall, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a great game, and with the ability to play with multiple people can be a great game for families to play. Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is available physically or digitally, depending on your preference. There is definitely more playability even after you have finished all of the levels.

AirPlay 2 and iTunes Movies Coming to Smart TVs

At CES 2019, Samsung announced something that nobody quite expected, Apple’s Siri, AirPlay 2, and iTunes movies will be available on Samsung’s Smart TVs.

[Samsung] will offer iTunes Movies and TV Shows and Apple AirPlay 2 support on 2019 Samsung Smart TV models beginning this spring. Support on 2018 Samsung Smart TVs will be made available via firmware update.

With Samsung Smart TVs getting support for AirPlay 2, users will be able to play their videos, movies, music, podcasts, and show photos on their Samsung Smart TVs without needing any additional hardware.

Also from the Samsung press release

iTunes Movies and TV Shows app will debut only on Samsung Smart TVs in more than 100 countries. AirPlay 2 support will be available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries worldwide.

Apple has also updated their ≤a href=”https://www.apple.com/airplay”>AirPlay page with some additional information.

AirPlay 2–enabled TVs. Now that’s smart.

Leading TV manufacturers are integrating AirPlay 2 directly into their TVs, so now you can effortlessly share or mirror almost anything from your iOS device or Mac directly to your AirPlay 2–enabled smart TV. You can even play music on the TV and sync it with other AirPlay 2–compatible speakers anywhere in your home.

Control it all with a tap.

Use the remote that’s always with you — your iPhone. Convenient built-in controls appear in apps, on the Lock screen, and in Control Center. So you can easily play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and adjust the volume on your TV.

Put Siri in charge of your TV.

With AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, you can use Siri on your iPhone to send a video to your TV.1 Better yet, ask Siri to play a specific show in a specific room.

It should be no surprise that Apple’s Remote app will work with Smart TVs for controlling the software. It should be noted that the Samsung TVs will be apps on the TV. If users already have an existing iTunes library, they will be able to browse their collection, rent, and purchase iTunes movies right from the iTunes Movies and TV Shows app on their Samsung TV.

All of these features are coming soon. The fact that Apple is partnering with a television manufacturer does support that Apple is trying to become a services company. Along with this, it may also indicate that the video strategy for Apple will be shifting to offering video on more than just its own hardware. We do not know this for sure, but time will tell.

If you are in the market for a new television and you want to be able to integrate your existing AirPlay 2 items with your TV, the new Samsung TVs may be worth looking at.

Sources Apple and Samsung.

Apple Provides Q1 2019 Guidance Revision

Today Tim Cook sent a letter to investors. The letter contains some adjustment to their first quarter guidance for 2019. At the last investor call, in October, Apple issued guidance of $89 to $93 billion in revenue and grow margins of between 38 and 38.5 percent. This has been reduced to $84 billion in revenue, with gross margins of approximately 38 percent.

The adjustment is $5 billion less than the low end of their projection, and a full $9 billion below the high-end of their estimate. This range is 5.6% to 9.6% less than the overall guidance. There is no doubt about it, it is bad news. How bad this will ultimately be, will only be told in time.

This is not the first time that Apple has issued this type of guidance, but it is not done often. The last time this type of guidance was given was in June 2002.

In 2002, Apple’s reduction was given at $1.4 billion to $1.45 billion. This was down from $1.6 billion. This was a reduction of 9.38% to 12.5%. So, on the bright side, this year’s revenue reduction is actually better, even though the revenue is more than 50 times greater. Let us look at the reasons for this decline.

The Reasons

Apple provided a few reasons as to why they believe their initial guidance was off.

Staggered iPhone Launches

The iPhone X came out later than the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, so Apple indicates that it was difficult to determine how much of an impact this would have on quarterly revenue.

Foreign Exchange rates

A stronger U.S. Dollar means that devices purchases are more expensive in other countries, which will impact revenue.

The larger number of new products

Apple has indicated that the larger number products to sell lead to supply constraints for some products, like the Apple Watch Series 4 and the iPad Pro. Along with these, the AirPods and MacBook Air were also constrained. A supply constraint means that Apple could not sell more of the products, because they could not manufacture enough to meet demand. These supply constraints were throughout the quarter. The AirPods and Apple Watch are still supply constrained.

Emerging Market Sales

According to Apple, this is the biggest factor. In particular, revenue Greater China. To quote the letter

In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.

In Q1 2018, revenue was $88.3 Billion. The revised guidance given is $84 billion in revenue. The difference between these two is $4.3 billion. So the statement above, to me, reads that Apple lost more than $4.3 billion in revenue in Greater China. The reasons provided are that China’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, has had its lowest growth in quite a while.

Positives

Not all of the information in the investor note is doom and gloom. The install base of Apple devices is 100 million more than in 2018, meaning it is currently 1.4 billion devices, because the install base in Q1 2018 was 1.3 billion.

Another positive is that revenue outside of iPhone is up 19%, which is definitely a good thing as Apple tries to become a services company. Speaking of services, services alone generated $10.8 billion in revenue, and all regions saw growth. Wearable revenue grew 50%. This is fueled by Apple Watch and AirPods.

Closing Thoughts

There will likely be a lot of takes from this investor note. It is not surprising that Apple would add some positivity to the note, in addition to the reduced guidance provided. A single quarter where guidance is reduced will not break Apple. Apple has over $130 billion of cash on hand, so Apple will be fine overall.

There is one thing to keep in mind. As stated within the letter,

While it will be a number of weeks before we complete and report our final results, we wanted to get some preliminary information to you now. Our final results may differ somewhat from these preliminary estimates.

This means that we could see better, or worse, results when Apple provides its final results at their quarterly conference call. The conference call will be on January 29th, 2019. As one last note, starting with this quarter, Apple will not be providing unit numbers for any of their products.

Source: apple.com

iOS 12 and macOS Mojave e-book sale

In celebration of the holidays my two latest e-books, iOS 12, tvOS 12, and watchOS 5 for Users and Developers, and macOS Mojave for Users, Administrators, and Developers are on sale in the Apple Books store. Each title is $2.99. The titles are on sale until 12/31/2018. The books make a great companion to those who might be getting an iOS device or a new Mac for the holidays.