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Apple Apple TV HomeKit HomePod

HomePod Review: AirPlay, Apple TV, and Additional Thoughts

This is part two of my HomePod Review. You can read the first part that covers the Sound, Siri, and Songs.

AirPlay and Bluetooth

The HomePod does not have any physical input mechanism. This means no line-in jack, and it cannot connect via USB. The only way to get audio to the HomePod is through AirPlay, Apple’s propriety protocol. Despite AirPlay being propriety, Apple does make it available for third-party companies to use for connecting to AirPlay-enabled devices.

The HomePod does have a Bluetooth 5.0 chipset inside it, but it cannot be used as a Bluetooth speaker. The Bluetooth is only used for the initial setup and communication between iOS devices for when the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” is used. It would be a nice addition if the HomePod could just be used as a Bluetooth speaker for non-AirPlay devices, but I do not foresee this as being a feature that Apple will include at any point. If there was no AirPlay, then it would be a no-brainer, but in a world with AirPlay it is not likely to occur because this provides an advantage for Apple allows them to control the ecosystem.

HomePod and Apple TV

One of the functions of the HomePod is to act as an AirPlay destination. One possible AirPlay source is the Apple TV. Most people, when they use their Apple TV, use the speakers on their TV or if their TV is capable, a sound bar.

There are those that do use an even more involved setup, like a receiver, and surround sound speaker system. Even with this setup being an option for many, it can be complicated to setup and maintain for some. Setting the HomePod as the audio output from an Apple TV is simple.

  1. Wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Begin playing some media.
  3. Swipe down on the Siri Remote Trackpad.
  4. Select the HomePod

 

That is all it takes to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. It does not take many steps and it is possible for anyone to be able to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. There is an alternative method. You can perform the following:

  1. Wake the Apple TV.
  2. Navigate to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Video and Audio”.
  4. Click on “Video and Audio”.
  5. Scroll down to audio output.
  6. Click on “Audio Output”.
  7. Select the HomePod you want to use an an output.

This second method allows you to set the HomePod as the audio source before you begin playing audio. You can also select the output while playing music as well. This can be done by selecting the device name in the upper left, clicking, and you will get a list of all of the AirPlay destinations, including the HomePod.

HomePod and Apple TV Issues

I did notice one thing that seems to be a bit strange and does not seem right, but I do not know if there is a fix for it. Whenever I set the HomePod as the AirPlay destination for my Apple TV, I always have to turn the volume way up on the HomePod in order to be able to hear anything. This really is not a big problem, but it does seem a bit odd. This only occurs when playing video and if the HomePod is set as the output for the Apple TV. Now, if I switched the HomePod to play music, even from the Apple TV, the sound would be super loud. Just like commercials used to get on television before rules were changed so the commercials could not be louder. I know why this occurs, it is because the HomePod is playing the music natively from the HomePod and is not getting the audio from another source. The whole situation just seems strange, considering that the HomePod is receiving audio and can intuit the source, it should be able to accommodate for that and have the audio be louder.

It could be that this is just due to the current limitations of AirPlay and may be changing when AirPlay 2 arrives. In particular, because AirPlay 2 will buffer audio as fast as you can provide it, so there may be some adjustments possible there. It is also possible that this may be an enhancement that may be coming to a future, and yet unknown, version of AirPlay.

Features to Come

When Apple announced the HomePod at WWDC 2017, they indicated that multiple HomePods could be used within a single room to make the sound even better. This would be available through a protocol called, AirPlay 2. AirPlay 2 has some significant benefits over AirPlay. The biggest of the benefits is “faster than real time” audio transmission. When AirPlay 2 is available on the HomePod, this means that you will be able to use AirPlay to send long form audio to the HomePod, and it will continue to play even if the original source is no longer in range.

A second feature that is available with AirPlay 2 is the ability to use multiple HomePods as a stereo pair. This would allow even better sound because the two HomePods can work in unison to produce the best sound for the room.

Also with AirPlay 2, you can control multiple HomePods from the same device and play different audio on each, or play the same audio on all of the speakers simultaneously. Again, because the HomePods would be communicating and the audio could be synchronized across all of the HomePods.

AirPlay 2 is expected to be released later this year. I am sure that Apple had hoped to have it released when the HomePod shipped, but that was not the case. AirPlay 2 will be available through a firmware update on the HomePod, let us look at how to update the HomePod next.

Updating the HomePod

Even though there have not been any updates to the HomePod, when there is an update, it will be a straight-forward task. To see the current firmware version and check for updates, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home App.
  2. Tap the Arrow icon in the upper left corner.
  3. Scroll down to Speakers.
  4. Tap on Software Update.

Here you will have one option, “Install Updates Automatically”. By default, this option is enabled. You can turn it off, if desired. When you bring up this screen it will check for any HomePod update. If there is no update, the current version and build will be shown. As of this writing the latest firmware is 11.2.5 (15D59). This is the version that the HomePod shipped with. If there is an update, you will have an option to update the firmware.

The Physical Specs

When you look at speakers that generate good sound, it is entirely possible that the speaker would be quite large. If you happen to only look at photos of the HomePod it is possible that you might presume that the actual device is quite large. However, the HomePod is actually rather small. Specifically, it is 6.8 inches tall, and is only 5.6 inches around. Even with its diminutive size is shockingly heavy at 5.5 pounds.

When you remove the HomePod from its box, it is a lot heavier than you might think. Even though five and half pounds may not seem like much, and in reality it is not, it is a bit heavier than expected. This should not be an issue for most, since in most cases the HomePod will remain in a single place during its usage, but it is something to be cognizant of.

There is a single cable for the HomePod, that is the power cord. Unlike most other consumer devices, the cord on the HomePod is actually wrapped in a cloth. This is so the HomePod is more aesthetically pleasing and can be more easily hidden.

Feature Requests

Even with the HomePod having great sound, there is still one big feature that would be nice to have, which could be handled via software. That feature is the ability to tune the amount of bass. I love my Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, and while Beats tend to be heavy on the bass, the amount of bass coming out of the HomePod is a bit much for some songs.

You can reduce some of the bass by using the “Sound Check” feature within the HomePod settings, but this feature only makes all of the songs have the same volume, as per this Apple Support article. This can help a bit, but having finer control over the bass would be nice. I do not think that having a full blown equalizer would be beneficial, since the HomePod is dynamically tuning itself based upon the room and the song. This means that any equalizer settings that you would manually set would likely ruin, and not enhance, the sound being generated.

Trigger Phrase

I completely understand and recognize the fact that Siri is a brand that Apple wants to keep consistent across all of its products. In doing so, if you say the trigger word, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, as well as any HomePods will all hear you. Each of the devices will then have a “discussion” and one of the devices will be the one that responds to you. Which one responds is based upon a couple of different factors; how recently you used the device, and which ones are within range. Given the far-field voice recognition capabilities of the HomePod, it is likely to win more often.

While using the same trigger phrase created a consistent experience and makes it easier for those accustom to using Siri on their iOS devices, having all of your devices make sound when you say “Hey Siri”, can be bothersome. What I would like to see is the HomePod get its own trigger phrase, or at least an option for a different trigger phrase.

It could be something like “Hey HomePod”, or “Hey Speaker”, or “Hey Assistant”, or something similar. could even be based upon the current location of the HomePod. For instance, if your HomePod is in the living room, you could say something like “Hey Living Room, play this song.”

I understand that this could ultimately cause confusion for users and result in a non-optimal experience, it would provide an option for those users who decide to enable it to be able to target a specific device.

Even though I would like to see this, I honestly do not see Apple creating a distinct phrase for the HomePod, mostly because it would bifurcate the “Siri” platform. Even though it might do so, it would be better than having four different devices going off all at once when I want to ask the HomePod to do something.

Beta Request

Apple is constantly working on new features for the HomePod. It would be nice to have the HomePod be on the same version as iOS betas. The HomePod is a brand new product, so it is possible that Apple will allow the HomePod to be on beta versions. There is one potential problem with having a HomePod on a beta. It is the same issue with the Apple TV 4K.

There is no user accessible port, so if a beta installation were to fail, the only people who would be able to repair the device is Apple themselves. Apple has been pretty good with the updates, but the HomePod is the newest device and there could be some edge cases where things do not work as expected. It is entirely possible that this is already going to happen with the next version of iOS, but we are not at that point yet.

The Future of HomePod

Even though the HomePod has recently been released, there is no issue with thinking about its future. When Apple announced the HomePod back in June of 2017, they indicated that indicated that multi-speaker AirPlay would be released at the release of the HomePod.

With the HomePod having an A8 Processor, it is likely that the A8 will be the base for iOS for at least a couple more years. It is also possible that the HomePod will still be updated to the latest version of iOS even if iPhone 6/6 Plus/iPod Touch with A8 are no longer supported on the latest version of iOS.

I hope Apple is looking to make a smaller version of the HomePod, even if it does not fill a room with sound as the current HomePod does. A smaller HomePod would be great for places like kitchens, offices or other areas where sound is needed, but it does not necessarily need to be room filling, or places where the current HomePod is a bit too overpowering. The advantage to having a smart assistant in every room is one that could come in quite useful for many.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the HomePod does not have multiple speaker support, the HomePod is still a great speaker on its own. It is not the cheapest speaker on the market, but it also attempts to solve an issue that many other speakers do not; filling an entire room with sound and have it sound great in every part of the room. The HomePod accomplishes this with ease.

When I first got the HomePod I moved it from room to room, but it has now found its home in the master bedroom where I consume most of my media. This has had a couple of different consequences. The first is now that the HomePod creates great sound, I want to use it with everything. I already use it all the time with the Apple TV. I use the Apple TV to consume most of my media, so connecting it to the Apple TV is not an issue. This does result in not wanting to watch DVDs or Blu-rays, since my Xbox One, which is my Blu-ray/DVD player, does not connect to the HomePod. This has resulted in either converting my physical media, or buying a digital copy. I do not do this for all titles, but those I really want to watch I do.

The HomePod is capable of being more than just a speaker, it also includes Apple’s Smart assistant Siri. Siri can perform many of the same tasks for you as your iPhone or iPad. You can ask Siri the weather, current news, what song is playing, what movies are playing, or even control you HomeKit enabled devices, and much more. The reduction of the audio when Siri is active is a nice touch. If you have multiple iOS devices, they will communicate and decide who will handle your request, which can be rather annoying after a while. Another option for a trigger phrase would be nice, but it is not likely to occur.

There are many hidden options and features to the HomePod that are exposed through the Home app. These include who can access your HomePod, whether or not to require a password, and an option to setup the HomePod as a Home Hub.

If you are thinking of getting a HomePod, you have to be content with its current capabilities and not what it necessarily could do in the future. When the HomePod was announced, Apple indicated that it would be available by the end of 2017, but this did not occur. It is not due to the hardware, but instead the software. Currently, the HomePod does not support HomePods configured in stereo. The HomePod supports Apple Music, and any other audio that can be transmitted via Apple’s AirPlay protocol. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, and really want a good quality speaker for music, you cannot go wrong with the HomePod.

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Apple Apple TV

Apple Increases tvOS App Downloads

When Apple unveiled tvOS in October of 2015, they indicated that tvOS applications could only have an initial size of 200MB, but could download additional assets up to 2GB. This functionality was done through a method called “On-Demand Resources”, or ODR. The reason this was done was to allow the application to download quickly but still provide a way for tvOS applications to be more complex. For games, a prime example would be providing the first few levels of a game, and then downloading the remaining levels in the background.

Apple has changed the initial size of the application. Instead of previously being 200MB, it is now possible to have an initial application size of 4GB. These tvOS apps are still able to download additional resources, up to 20GB worth of resources.

Possible Reasons for the Change

There are likely a few reasons why Apple would do this. The first is likely due to many developers indicating that the limitation of 200MB is not enough. This could be due to users who have slower connections not being able to download all of the assets in enough time without having to wait anyway. Many users are accustom to having to wait for applications to download.

Alongside this, the increase may allow for a varying of application types to be developed for tvOS. The 200MB limitation may have deterred some developers from creating tvOS apps due to the limitation; despite On-Demand Resources being a viable option.

There is another possible reason. That reason might be to keep both tvOS and iOS in line, in terms of initial download size and the size limitation of On-Demand Resources. This is the more likely reason, given that iOS applications have a maximum size of 4GB, but can download additional On-Demand Resources.

Speculation

The last possible reason for this change is a wild one, but Apple could be attempting to begin to position the Apple TV as a gaming console. Not primarily as a gaming console, but angling it more as one. The motivation behind this thinking is that with tvOS 10, Apple has now allowed developers to require a gaming controller for their games. A possible side effect of this is that future Apple TV models may have larger options for storage.

With the size increase, the number of applications that can stored on a 32GB 4th Generation Apple TV would be reduced. If a user has six applications that are 4GB, the user’s Apple Tv would be nearly out of space.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the motivations of the size change, it will be a nice change for some users to be able to download larger applications and may ultimately lead to more tvOS applications being available, which would be a good thing for Apple.

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Apple iPad Pro iPhone

Apple March 21st, 2016 Event Roundup

Apple breaks up the year into three different parts of the year; Early, Mid, and Late. Each part is four months. Apple generally has one event in each of these parts. Apple has held their early 2016 event; dubbed “Let us loop you in”.

Apple has unveiled a bunch of new products. Let us look at each of the announced products.

Apple TV

Apple.TV

Last Fall Apple unveiled the 4th generation Apple TV. There is no new hardware, but there is the new release of tvOS 9.2. A few of the new features of tvOS 9.2 include: Folder Support, additional Siri dictation, including passwords, conference room display mode, bluetooth keyboard support, and now iCloud Photo Library with Live Photo support.

This is a nice upgrade that adds in some features that users had requested.

Apple Watch

Apple.Watch.Nylon

Last year at the March event Apple provided details for the availability of the Apple Watch. Some may have anticipated that the Apple Watch would be a product that is released yearly. If you were hoping for that, Apple has dashed those hopes.

Apple has positioned the Watch as a fashion product. While they may not be able to release new hardware every season, they are able to provide new personalization options by releasing additional bands.

The Apple Watch now has a new type of band, the Nylon Band. The Nylon Band is available in seven different color combinations; Black, Gold and Red, Gold and Royal Blue, Pearl, Pink, Royal Blue, and Scuba Blue. These bands come in both 38mm and 42mm varieties and are $49 each.

Along with the new Nylon Bands, there are three additional Sport Band colors: Apricot, Royal Blue, and Yellow; Two Classic Buckle bands Red and Marine Blue. Two Modern Buckles, Blue Jay and Marigold.The last new bands are the leather loops, Storm Gray and White.

The last change to the Apple Watch is one that will temp more to purchase the Apple Watch, a price drop. The new price for the Apple Watch is $299 for the 38mm and $349 for the 42MM Sport versions.

iPad

While it may not have been the first tablet on the market, the iPad can be considered the one that put the idea of a tablet front and center in the mindshare of the public. Even though it is not at its peak and has fallen, it has not deterred Apple from continuing to innovate the iPad.

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 received a single change, a $100 price drop. This means that the iPad Air 2 is now priced at $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 64GB models respectively. There is still the Wi-Fi + Cellular models available at $529 and $629 for the 16GB and 64GB model.

iPad Pro

9.7-inch-iPadPro

Back in September Apple unveiled the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple has now released the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This is the spiritual successor of the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2, but is also very closely related to the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is similar to the larger model. The 9.7-inch model supports the Apple Pencil and also has a Smart Connector. With a Smart Connector comes a new Smart Keyboard as well.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has the same A9X Processor and M9 Co-processor as the larger iPad Pro. There are also the same four speakers within the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. This means that as you rotate the iPad Pro, the speakers are able to automatically adjust the sound.

This is about where the similarities between the iPad Pros end. There are some other improvements that have been made to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a brand new display that Apple is calling True Tone. The display utilizes the same color gamut as the Late 2015 iMac, the DCI-P3. This means that the colors will be truer to life. This is not the only difference between the two iPads.

One of the features that many have question about the iPad is the camera. The camera on the 9.7-inch iPad is a vast improvement over the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s camera. The camera

The last difference is the colors. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is available in four colors; Silver, Gold, Rose-Gold and Space Gray.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro still comes in the 32GB and 128GB models. Along with this, it is also available in a 256GB model. This comes in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The price of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is $599, $749, and $899 for the Wi-Fi models only. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models are $729, $879, and $1029 respectively.

12.9-inch iPad Pro

While the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was the primary iPad shown off, it was not the only one that got some additional options. While there are no change to the form-factor of the larger iPad, there are a couple of additions options.

The 12.9-inch iPad is now also available in 256GB models of both Wifi-only and Wifi + Cellular. Along with this, a clarification has been made that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can now utilize the lightning to USB-C cable and the 29-watt USB C power adapter. This combination will allow for super-fast charging of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

This method is not possible with the 9.7-inch iPad. This is due to that product only having USB 2.0 controller.

iPhone

Apple’s best selling product the iPhone continues to sell really well. Apple is known to not divulge the breakdown of models that are sold. Even so, Apple did mention that they sold 30 Million iPhone 5s phones last year. This is a lot of phones that were sold based on 2013 technology. There are many reasons why some might prefer a smaller form-factor phone. They could range from pocket size, better fit in one’s hands, or even just as Apple stated, cost. While using an iPhone 5s would be able to use some of the latest software features, you cannot easily upgrade the hardware inside of the phone. Apple has provided a significant update to the 4-inch form factor. That update is named the iPhone SE.

iPhone SE

iphoneSE_spacegray

The iPhone SE the successor of the iPhone 5s, Apple’s 4-inch iPhone. The iPhone SE has the same case as the iPhone 5s, except instead of glossy chamfers, they are matte. The outside of the phone looks the same as the iPhone 5s, except for the colors. The iPhone SE comes in the standard four colors, Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

The innards of the iPhone SE are the same of the iPhone 6s with an A9 processor and the M9 co-processor. Along with the processors, there is a secure enclave and first-generation Touch ID sensor. This is the same Touch-ID Sensor that has been in the iPhones, prior to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The rear camera is the same ƒ/2.2 aperture, Five‑element lens that is in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, minus the optical stabilization. Just like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus you are able to record 4k video at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 or 60fps.

The only item not improved is the FaceTime camera. On the iPhone SE, it is still the same 1.2 Megapixel camera that was in the iPhone 5s. The likely reason for this is due to the lack of physical space within the physical case. There is one slight improvement, the addition of Retina Flash.

In case you are not aware, Retina Flash is the ability for the screen to light up to produce enough light that makes it easier to light up your face and surrounding area when taking a selfie.

The wireless connection on the iPhone SE has been upgraded to include 802.11AC. This means that the iPhone now supports 802.11A/B/G/N/AC. Unlike the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, the iPhone SE does to include the MIMO technology.

The iPhone SE comes in two sizes, the 16GB version and a 64GB version. It comes in the same standard four colors, Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

You can order an iPhone SE today for $399 for the 16GB model and $499 for the 64GB model. The iPhone SE begins shipping on March 31st.

Final Thoughts

The events that Apple has held early in the year are not normally ones where brand new, completely unknown products from Apple are released, and this is the case with this year’s event. Even so, Apple has released a solid set of updates.

The product with the least number of changes is the Apple TV, since it received only an upgrade to the software. The software is a minor upgrade, but provides a couple of key features that some users have been hoping would be added.

While the Apple Watch Hardware has remained unchanged, the addition of the new Nylon bands, as well as the new Sport bands and Modern Buckles will provide even more customization options for users. The reduction of the price for the Apple Watch may entice even more people to give the Apple Watch a try.

The release of the 4-inch iPhone SE continues to provide the smaller form-factor that many want and yet only minimally compromises on features, with the lack of 3D Touch and 2nd generation Touch ID sensor, being the only trade offs.

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a great successor to the iPad Air 2. The 9.7-inch size is what most would consider the “standard” iPad size. The new True Tone screen will make an even better experience for iPad users. The addition of the Smart Connector and ability to use the Apple Pencil will allow the iPad to be even more of a PC replacement.

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Apple Apple Watch Siri

Apple’s Epic Keynote: Part 2

Yesterday was Apple’s September event. Given the length of Apple’s keynote, I opted to break up the two into articles. Yesterday’s <a href=‘https://www.waynedixon.com/2015/09/09/apples-epic-keynote-part-1/’>article covers the first two products, Apple Watch and iPad. This article will provide information about the last two items, Apple TV and iPhone.

Apple TV

It is not like Apple to show off new products too often. This was done in September of 2006 when then CEO Steve Jobs showed off a new product that they were calling “iTV”. By the time it was shown off again in January of 2007, name was changed to Apple TV. The Apple TV was originally based on a slimmed down version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. At the time, the Apple TV was called a “hobby”. This hobby got an upgrade.

The second generation Apple TV was shown off in September of 2010. This iteration was a big change. The box was about 75% smaller, fanless, and was based on iOS. This model had no hard drive and only had 8GB of internal storage for caching. Apple has a curated “channel” list of approved HTML5 applications that could stream content to the Apple TV. This was not the last version.

The Third generation Apple TV was introduced in March of 2012. This model was identical to the second generation in physical appearance but could handle 1080p content and sported a single-core A5 processor. There was a minor revision to this model in January of 2013, but the box was effectively the same.

Fast forward 30 months to September 9th, 2015 and Apple has unveiled their fourth generation Apple TV. This one, is a big change.

Hardware

apple.tv

The 4th Generation Apple TV has the same general shape as the the previous two generations. Physically, it is still the same width and depth as the previous two generations, but it is 43% taller at 1.3 inches. This change is needed to accommodate some of the new internals.

The new Apple TV sports an A8 Processor, the same as was in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and 6th generation iPod Touch. The new Apple TV also has bluetooth 4.0 support, 802.11A/B/G/N/AC with MIMO technology, an IR Receiver, HDMI 1.4, a USB-C port for service and support, and, disappointedly, 10/100Base-T Ethernet.

There was one thing removed from the 4th Generation Apple TV that was in the 2nd and 3rd generations, the digital optical out. This may be a problem for some, but for most it should not be an issue. That about covers the hardware changes, excluding one, the new remote.

Siri Remote

siri.remote

The new Apple TV sports a new bluetooth remote, named the Siri Remote. The Siri Remote has a couple of features to it. The first is that it has a Touch surface at the top. This area allows for multi-directional navigation, the ability to click anywhere in the touch area, and even allows for precision when it comes to scrubbing a video.

The Siri Remote, also has a dedicated button for accessing Siri. With the Siri button, you are able to ask Siri to perform many actions. These actions include “Who directed this film?”, “Show me James Bond Films”, and even phrases like “What did she say?”. These phrases are contextually aware. When you ask who directed the film, an overlay will appear on top of the video with additional information about the film.

If you use the phrase “Show me James Bond Films”, you will receive a list of all James Bond films. You can say, “Only the ones with Daniel Craig”, and Siri will have the Apple TV reduce the list to the ones that show Daniel Craig.

The phrase “What did she/he say” will skip the video back 15 seconds and temporarily turn on captions, so you will be able to see exactly what was said.

Siri on the Apple TV also has the capability of searching multiple sources for content. The initial group includes iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime. These are just the initial list of sources and Apple will be adding more as time goes on.

The power behind this is the all new operating system, tvOS.

tvOS

tvOS

tvOS is Apple’s name for the operating system that underlies the new Apple TV. tvOS is still based on iOS, but it is running a variant of the latest version, iOS 9. tvOS is designed to be more powerful update to the existing Apple TV Operating system.

tvOS includes the familiar Movies, tv shows, photos, and music. tvOS even includes the new Apple Music subscription service. These all received a nice new and fresh look that is brighter than the previous versions.

There is even a new feature on Movie Posters, parallaxing. Parallaxing is the concept of moving a picture slightly to make it appear as though it is three dimensional. It is an interesting effect when seen.

A new operating system and a snazzy new remote are nice and all, but how does one utilize all of that power? Simple, allow developers access. tvOS is designed to be used with 3rd party applications.

tvOS is designed to allow developers to build applications. These could be shopping applications, like Gilt (which was shown off during the keynote), or even Amazon. With a powerful box and touch-based remote, one could easily see other possible uses, like games. This is one of the major functions that Apple has in mind for the 4th generation Apple TV.

Gaming

When you have a piece of hardware that has the same capabilities of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, it should not be surprising that gaming could come to mind. Being able to play games on an 9.7-inch iPad is good, but only having 9.7 inches of screen real estate does not work well if you have a number of people who want to watch and participate. This is where the Apple TV will shine.

There are many iOS games, like Crossy Road, Pac-Man256, and Ball Jump, are enjoyed by many people on the iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. Even with this personal enjoyment, there are times when being able to play against others is more enjoyable on a larger screen. The Apple TV is the platform for this.

Developers will be able to create Universal applications that will work across all iOS devices. Even with these universal applications, developers will be able to create unique gaming experiences that are tuned specifically for the Apple TV. This experience may be with a game controller.

The ability to use either game controllers or other iOS devices will allow developers to provide gamers the ability to have fun while playing multiplayer games.

Pricing

The new Apple TV comes in two models, 32GB for $149 and 64GB for $149. Both Models will be available starting in late October.

Final Thoughts on Apple TV

The Apple TV has received the long-awaited upgrade. The refreshed interface, with the new tvOS will allow more individuals to experience a whole new way of watching TV. The interactions enabled by the Siri Remote will allow for in-depth functionality and allow viewers to get more information about what they are watching. The integration of Siri also allows the searching of multiple sources, which means that users do not need to know which application has the content they want to watch, they can now just search for it and begin watching. tvOS will allow developers to create new and innovative experiences with all sorts of applications, but more importantly, games.

iPhone

Apple’s biggest business is the iPhone. At each September event since the iPhone 5 in 2011, Apple has been released new iPhones. This remains the case for this September event.

New iPhones

iphone6s.plus.space.grey

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were two of Apple’s best selling phones. They have now been moved down the rung and replaced by the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The two new models run Apple’s custom A9 processor, a sibling of the A9x in the iPad Pro. According to Apple, this is 70% faster in CPU performance and 90% faster in graphics performance over their A7 chip.

With the release of the iPhone 5s, Apple included a motion co-processor, the M7. With the M7 and M8, the co-processor was in a separate chip outside of the CPU. With the A9, this changes. The M9 co-processor is now inside of the CPU. This means that the “Hey Siri” feature, can now be accessed anytime, due to the M9 getting constant power.

There are a few consistent aspects to the new iPhones. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus still come in the same storage configurations of 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB. Along with storage, the screen sizes remain at 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively. They hold the same resolutions of 1334 by 750 pixels, and 1920 by 1080 pixels.

The Retina HD screens remain, but have been enhanced by a new feature called 3D Touch.

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As the iPhone has progressed in its life, the screen and the touch surface have become ever increasingly one piece. This has proven to be beneficial with the new feature of 3D Touch. The ability for Apple to bring these two pieces closer has led the ability to add to the backlight of the Retina HD screen to accommodate for 3D Touch. 3D Touch will detect the microscopic changes

3D Touch is the ability to press into the surface of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to perform additional functions. These functions are ultimately “deep links” in iOS 9 and allow direct access to the most common functions of an application.

For instance, in the Music app, you are able to Play Beats1, Search your library, and even bring up the last item playing. With the camera app, you can quickly take a Selfie, Record Video, or even record a Slo Motion video.

The last example is with Mail. When you press down on the Mail App with 3D Touch, you are able to compose a new message, search your mail, view VIP mail, and even jump right to your inbox.

There are two concepts with 3D Touch, peek and pop. When you press lightly down on an object, you will be able to look at an item in context. If you press harder, that item will pop to fill the entire screen. A good example of this is within the Mail app. Within Mail you can lightly press down on a message and see a quick look of the message. If you continue to press down, the message will take over the entire screen. Another example is if you’re in the Contacts app and when you lightly press on a contact, you are able to can message them, call them, or even send them an email.

3D Touch will add another level of interaction between applications and the users of those applications. 3D Touch is just one change to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, another is the Camera.

3D.Touch

Camera

There is a common phrase, “The best camera you have is the one you have with you”. Apple tries to make this possible with all of their iPhones. One of the aspects of the iPhone that Apple prides themselves on is the camera. Even the original iPhone in 2007 had a camera. Over the intervening eight years, Apple has improved the camera and its capabilities. Some of these include High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos, the ability to capture movies at 30, 60, and 120 frames per second, the ability to take panorama photos, and much more.

The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus cameras have received some major updates. The iPhone 4 was the first iPhone to have an 8MP camera. The benchmark of 8 megapixels has remained constant through the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. With the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, this is no longer the case. The camera has received an upgrade.

The new camera is a 12 megapixel camera. You may think, “The megapixel wars are over”, and they likely are. But the new Camera is capable of taking pictures with less noise. This is due to the 1.22 micron pixels in the camera, and the technology to keep the colors separated with deep trench isolation.

The 12MP camera also brings an enhancement to video recording. The capability of recording 4K video that is 3840 by 2160 at 30 frames per second. This new capability also allows for taking 8 megapixel images while recording 4K video, which is a feat in itself.

4K Video recording is not the only change to cameras, the front-facing camera has also received a nice upgrade from 1.2 megapixels to a 5 megapixel camera. This camera will now allow clearer and better pictures. To put this in perspective, this is the same number of pixels that was in the rear facing camera on the iPhone 4 and there was more space in the iPhone 4 for that camera.

There is one more feature for the front facing camera, a flash, but it not a traditional flash. The front facing camera uses the Retina HD screen as its flash. The entire screen will flash momentarily when the flash is needed. This will be great for those low-light selfie shots that people need to get.

Colors

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus still come in the Silver, Space Grey, and Gold options. However, there is now one additional option, Rose Gold. The Rose Gold iPhone is only available on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

iPhone6.Backs

Pricing

The market for phones is changing in the United States. It is now better reflecting how the rest of the world handles their phones. If your carrier still allows contracts, you can get the new phones on contract for $199 for a 16GB iPhone 6s and $299 for a 16GB iPhone 6s Plus. You can also purchase your phone at full price starting at $649 and $749 respectively. Each storage increase will increase the price by $100, up to $949 for a 128GB iPhone 6s Plus.

There is one other pricing model, the financing model. This is done by carriers and you pay a premium on your cell phone plan until you pay off your phone. With these plans, you are eligible for an upgrade after a certain number of payments. The fewer payments, the more per month your phone will cost. Apple is getting into this game with it’s Annual Upgrade Program.

Upgrade Program

Apple has unveiled a new program that allows customers to get a new iPhone every year from Apple. They must finance their iPhone purchase through Apple. With this, they will receive a new iPhone every year. The iPhone they select will be unlocked and include AppleCare+ for their monthly fee.

What is not clear is what happens when you upgrade. Does the remaining balance continue to accrue, or does the difference in cost get absorbed by Apple. It remains to be seen how this will pan out for users, but it is another option.

AppleCare+

There has been an additional change with the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus; the cost of AppleCare+. In previous years, the cost of Apple’s extended warranty has stood at $99. This time it has gone up to $129. It is presumed that the 3D Touch sensor, as well as the Taptic engine has added to the increase in price.

Other iPhones

As occurs every year, last year’s flagship models remain in the lineup. This is still the case with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus this year. There have been a couple of changes with this line-up. The first is that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus no longer come in 128GB models. They only come in 16GB and 64GB models. The second change is that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are no longer available in Gold. As expected, the price of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have dropped a bit in price. They now start at $549 for the 16GB iPhone 6 and $649 for the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 5s is now “free” on contact, or can be purchased without contract starting at $450.

Conclusion

Apple’s keynote was just about two and a half hours long after all four announcements and a musical number of One Republic. Apple’s newest product line, the Apple Watch received a nice update with watchOS 2. The new Hermes collection and the new watch bands will allow Apple Watch users to create new combinations. The new Rose Gold Aluminum Apple Watch will allow a new choice for users who want to have Rose Gold, but cannot afford the luxury price.

Apple’s newly introduced iPad Pro will big a big boon for users who can use the larger screen. The capabilities with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard can make it a replacement device for a number of individuals.

The revamped Apple TV with its new application-based platform is something that has been requested by users for a long time. The ability to pair a game controller with the Apple TV will allow games to have new experiences. Universal applications will allow developers to create experiences that span a range of screens to include the largest one of all, the Television. tvOS is a great new basis for developers to bring even more to the Apple TV.

The flagship product line of the iPhones has received a significant upgrade with the A9 Processors with the M9 built in, along with the new 3D Touch technology will provide iPhone owners with new interactions and provide quick access to common features. The upgraded 12 megapixel camera with 4K video recording is one of the biggest differentiating factors of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s.

Overall, Apple has outdone themselves again and released a plethora of new products and updates to appeal to a large number of individuals.

Categories
Apple Siri

Apple September 9th Event

Apple has officially announced their September 9th event for 10AM Pacific at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The tagline is “Hey Siri, give us a hint”. More on the tagline in a bit. But first, the rumors.

Rumors

I have been reading the rumors of what will be announced. It is widely expected that new iPhones will be announced. They are presumed to be the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. This would not be a stretch to expect these two items to be released. Some of the items rumored for this new phone is Force Touch. Force Touch is currently found on the Apple Watch as well as the trackpad in the 2015 MacBook Pros and the 2015 MacBook.

There seems to be a number of people who question what benefit Force Touch would bring to a phone. While others have touted potential benefits, it would seem that Apple would want to bring the technology to all of their devices. This could possibly come to fruition when paired with the rumored new Magic Mouse and keyboard. There has been no mention of a standalone trackpad, but one could easily see that coming in the future.

The second feature is a better camera, in particular a 12 Megapixel camera. The camera is one of the main features that many users, including myself, use to determine which iPhone to purchase. For me, since the iPhone is my primary camera, I want the best one possible. The second rumored feature for the camera is that it may be capable of shooting 4K video. 4K Video would absolutely be a benefit for the iPhone. While it would not be the first phone to be able to shoot 4K video, it would be the first iOS device to have this capability. Having the capability of shooting 4K video would mean that users would need a way to not only process the 4K video on a Mac, but also be able to show off the 4K video. A new Apple TV would be ideal for this task.

Apple TV

The second possibility for a new product is a new Apple TV. It was rumored that Apple would release a new Apple TV, completed with an App Store and Software Development Kit (SDK) for developers, at its 2015 World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), which was held in June. This did not happen. The rumored features, besides an App Store and SDK, for the Apple TV has been 4K playback and a refreshed User Interface.

While 4K has been rumored, others have quashed the idea that a new Apple TV would be capable of playing back 4K Video. However, if the rumors of 4K video on an iPhone are true, then it would only make sense to have an Apple TV capable of displaying 4K content. Even if it only a user’s own generated 4K content. If Apple does not release an Apple TV with 4K display capabilities, it may limit the allure of being able to shoot 4K video on an iPhone, for most individuals.

There will definitely be a segment of the population that would shoot 4K video on an iPhone and then process it and use it for more than just showing off to friends and family. I could easily see a show like House of Cards using an iPhone Video shot in 4K in one of their episodes as a plot point. Even if the video was only to make sure it was not grainy when streaming in 4K.

4K iMac

It is not likely that Apple will announce a 21.5″ iMac that has a 4K monitor at the September 9th event. Instead, that could be announced at an October Event with the iPad. However, there are rumors that a 21.5″ iMac with a 4K monitor will be released. To go with the idea of releasing 4K capabilities on a number of Apple’s devices.

Siri

The tagline of “Hey Siri, give us a hint”. Is a good one. It is possible that Apple may unveil the capabilities for Siri to do more with iOS 9. Even if Siri does not do a lot more, they are using it to get some to use Siri on their iOS device and ask “Hey Siri, give us a hint”. When you do this, you may get a range of responses. Below are some of the ones that I have received.

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Siri.Hint.03

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Overall

Regardless of what Apple announces on September 9th, it will be something. Once we know, we will have all of the details. Until then, we will just keep speculating.