What a week it has been. Apple has definitely made the most of its time in the spotlight, grabbing the media’s attention and showing us that they can still innovate, be aggressive, and even listen to what users are asking for from time to time. While all may not be perfect, and there are still questions to answer, iOS 11 looks REALLY good, and the new iPad Pro features are a huge upgrade. As for the HomePod, let’s reserve judgement until we at lease see it in a closer to final form.
Beyond all the great software and hardware announcements, which I will get into in greater depth soon, there is other Apple news of note to look into. Let’s get to it.
Apple Updated Their iCloud Storage Tiers
Apple adjusted their iCloud storage plans, doing away with their 1 TB storage tier, which used to cost $9.99 per month. The 2 TB plan, which used to cost $19.99, has been moved down into the $9.99 slot to take its place. More importantly, however, is the fact that Apple finally allows the 200 GB and 2 TB plans to be shared via Family Sharing. This should encourage greater adoption of the higher storage tiers, and will bring the overall price per GB down for large families with multiple devices. Good move, Apple!!
Push Email for Gmail is Fixed for the Stock Mail App in iOS 11
I was happy to see this little nugget coming out from early adopters of the iOS 11 beta. I went back to the stock Mail app earlier this year, which works great with my work Exchange and personal iCloud accounts. My main personal account, however, is a Gmail account, which has been a bit of an issue. Emails show up every 15 minutes or so, but that still isn’t exactly ideal, especially if you are used to a third-party option like Outlook that DOES have push. Now, all of us Gmail users can take full advantage of the great features in Mail and get messages right as they roll in.
Apple is Getting Serious About HomeKit
One of the biggest complaints vendors have had about HomeKit was its onerous terms. They had to get MFi certification even for test devices, and all production devices had to have a dedicated authentication chip. During WWDC, Apple announced that it is taking some of the restraints off, which will allow a lot more creative freedom, not just for devs, but also for hobbyists.
First of all, Apple has opened up the testing of devices to anyone with a developer account. That takes a LOT of the restrictions off makers and designers in getting a concept ready to turn into a real product. Final sale products still have to be MFi, but this move will still enable faster development. Apple has also removed the requirement for an authentication chip. The security and licensing are now handled in software, meaning that existing devices may have the capability to add HomeKit compatibility if they are field-upgradeable. These are both very positive steps for the platform.
Even more interesting, however, is just how open Apple is allowing HomeKit to become. For hobbyists who want to create solutions HomeKit-enabled devices for themselves, all they need is a developer account. Apple is allowing the use of devices such as the Raspberry PI and the Arduino to prototype and create on, which is really cool. For those who care less about selling, and just want to create, this opens the door to a lot of possibilities. I can’t wait to see what comes of this, and I think I just might pick up a new PI and dabble a bit myself.
Apple’s New iMac’s are Upgradeable. Well, kind of.
Something is better than nothing, right? Apple has moved on from the practice of soldering memory in place and making processors more permanent in their new iMacs. Thanks to iFixit’s teardown of the new machine, we know that both the memory and the processor are now installed in standard sockets, meaning that they are upgradeable. Now, you have to open up your iMac (very carefully) and void your warranty in the process, but at least the potential to update these machines is now cheaper and easier for those who want to.
Apple’s Offload Apps Feature Allows Users to Remove Apps Without Losing Data
I’ve bees asking for this feature for a LONG time. In iOS 11, users can now manually “Offload” apps that they aren’t using to save space, or enable iOS to do this automatically for apps it detects aren’t being used at all. Your data will still be intact, so if you re-download the app, you will be right back where you were. Between their photo and video optimizations, iMessage’s new iCloud Sync capability that can store old conversations in the cloud and this new feature, Apple has really shown a commitment to giving users better control over their storage space.
The Wall Street Journal Pulls the Curtain Back on Apple’s Problems with Siri
It isn’t pretty, but it is good reading. The WSJ’s article, entitled I’m Not Sure I Understand- How Apple’s Siri Lost Her Mojo, has sourced quotes and information from many named and un-named sources with inside knowledge of the issues and struggles with leadership and vision that have surrounded Siri. It paints a picture of missed opportunity, and in some ways, outright mismanagement.
Where the Siri team is and how they feel at this moment isn’t really conveyed here. We know that Apple has pushed forward on machine learning and AI initiatives to strengthen Siri. However, the article certainly gives us a good idea of why Apple is scrambling to play catch-up.
Required Watching- 9to5Mac Has an Excellent Video Showing ALL of iOS 11’s New Features
Jeff Benjamin of 9to5Mac did a fabulous job running down 100 changes and features in iOS 11 across both the iPhone and iPad. The video clocks in at almost 28 minutes, which is substantial. However, he really does a great job of showing off how a lot of the new features work, so it is worth the time to take it all in. And, if you have only seen the Keynote, you will likely be impressed with several nice iOS 11 features that didn’t make the stage. This year’s update feels a lot more substantial once you see all of the changes and features like this.
A Couple of the Usual Suspects Got to Take a Listen to the HomePod
Both Jason Snell and Jim Dalrymple posted write-ups detailing their experience hearing the HomePod for the first time. Both offer very good takes on it. Neither gentleman was allowed to touch it or use Siri, but they were able to listen and get a feel for how it adjusts sound to a room and processes for the space that it’s in. There are still unanswered questions on the HomePod, but for now, it’s good to hear that it is capable of producing high-quality audio.
Apple is Full Steam Ahead on Health, Hires Executive Director of Stanford’s Center for Digital Health
Apple has hired Sumbul Desai, the Executive Director of Stanford University’s Center for Digital Health. While she will still maintain some duties at Stanford, Ms Desai will serve in what is termed a “senior role” at Apple. She is no stranger to Apple products, as according to CNBC, she headed up a project involving the Apple Watch at the Center for Digital Health. This sounds like yet another great hire for Apple, and a sign that they are very serious about the areas of health and fitness.
This is by NO MEANS all of the Apple news at the moment, but these were some of the more interesting stories and features that are trickling out of the developer portions of WWDC and elsewhere around the web. Expect a steady stream of more news and analysis over the weekend and everyone tries to digest what has been a jam-packed week of Apple Everything.
Also, stay tuned next week for new iPad Pro reviews. I have a 10.5 on order, and it should be in my hands by the middle of next week. Like I’ve been doing with the AirPods, I will likely do more short write-ups of my impressions of the device and its stand-out features. And as always, if anyone has any specific questions or requests, I will be happy to oblige.
Happy Friday everyone!