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StellaService says Apple's customer service has gotten worse

Fri, 2015-08-28 11:06

A study by StellaService, which measures online customer service, indicates a decline in Apple's customer service in recent months.

The decline, as reported by Cult of Mac, mainly involves Apple’s phone, email and chat problem resolution scores. While Apple typically ranks highly in this category, this quarter the amount of time customers had to wait to chat to an Apple rep increased from 34 seconds to 63 seconds. 

Even when people do get to chat to someone, the successful chat resolution rate — referring to the questions answered satisfactorily — fell from 97 percent down to 94 percent. Customers also had to wait longer to speak to a person on the phone. Wait times increased to 121 seconds, although the resolution rate was much better, at 99 percent success.

However, as Cult of Mac notes, all the news wasn't bad for Apple. The company’s shipping fulfillment times fell from 3.1 days in 2014 to 2.6 days this year, while same-day shipping has been consistently good. Apple also scores highly on timely refunds.

Plus, Apple scores high in other customer satisfaction ratings. Apple had the highest overall customer satisfaction for tech support among more than 3,200 computer owners surveyed by Consumer Reports. And according to the J.D. Power “2015 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Satisfaction Study—Volume 1,” Apple ranks highest in overall satisfaction among wireless customers of T-Mobile (844) and Verizon Wireless (837). HTC ranks highest (841) among customers of Sprint, and Samsung ranks highest among AT&T customers (854).

Apple, other tech companies to team up with Dept. of Defense on flexible hybrid electronics

Fri, 2015-08-28 08:23

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has announced that the Obama administration has awarded a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to a consortium of 162 companies (including Apple), universities, and non-profits led by the FlexTech Alliance as part of the Department of Defense effort to partner with the private sector and academia "to ensure the United States continues to lead in the new frontiers of manufacturing."

By taking its part in the consortium, Apple puts itself at the cutting edge of 3D printing, wearables/sensor technology and artificial intelligence, according to Computerworld. The announcement follows a nationwide bid process for the seventh of nine such manufacturing institutes launched by the administration, and the fifth of six manufacturing institutes led by the Department of Defense. This is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation announced by President Obama in 2012.

The FlexTech team includes more than 160 companies, nonprofits, independent research organizations and universities. The cooperative agreement will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research laboratory (AFRL) and will receive $75 million in DoD funding over five years matched with more than US$90 million from  industry, academia, and local governments. In total, the institute will receive $171 million to invest in strengthening U.S. manufacturing.

These “stretchable electronics” will be worn by humans or wrapped around military assets to monitor structural integrity. The FlexTech Institute’s activities will purportedly benefit a wide array of markets beyond defense, including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, medical devices, health care, transportation and logistics, and agriculture. 

The FlexTech Alliance,  headquartered in San Jose, California, is devoted "to fostering the growth, profitability and success of the flexible and printed electronics supply chain, and the many application areas enabled by this new class of electronic intelligence." Flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing describes the production of electronics and sensors packaging through new techniques in electronic device handling and high precision printing on flexible, stretchable substrates. 

New rumors hint at an Apple Car unveiling on Sept. 9 (but it's not gonna happen)

Fri, 2015-08-28 07:33

A Seeking Alpha article by "Electric Phred" says there's a good chance we'll see the rumored Apple Car at Apple's Sept. 9 media event. However, if I were a betting man, I'd bet against it.

Why? Electric Phred notes a report that says: "Sidewalks on two sides of the venue are inaccessible to pedestrians. Enormous power generators are stationed on the Larkin Street side of the building, occupying a lane of parking spots."

This leads him to this conclusion: "What sort of unveiling needs a 7000 seat venue, weeks of work, and likely millions of dollars? This wouldn't seem to me to be just the unveiling of the iPhone 6s or the iPad Pro (which one rumor has sporting an Intel Processor). I am betting we may see the Apple electric vehicle. Since the rental on the venue seems to stretch past September 9, perhaps it will turn into a mini Apple trade show and fans will be able to oogle and touch various types of unobtanium like the car, the iPhone 6s, the iPad Pro. Perhaps we'll see a Mac book, which some think may be equipped with the new 3DXPoint memory developed by Intel and Micron Technology. Certainly there is now a precedent of having unveiled the iWatch which was then first delivered weeks later."

Admittedly, I have no idea why Apple is holding the media event in such a big venue. Though Apple Car rumors are picking up speed, my crystal ball says there's a snowball's chance in Hell of such a vehicle being driven out on Sept. 9. (That said, I'd love to be wrong, as it would give us Apple journalists LOTS of material to write about.)

Also, I don't foresee any Macs being introduced at the event. I'm predicting new iPhones (practically a given), a next generation Apple TV, and perhaps new iPads (including the long-rumored "iPad Pro"). Apple will likely announce release dates for iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. A much longer shot is an Apple TV streaming service. 

If — and I emphasize IF — Apple is indeed planning its own vehicle, I don't think it will debut before 2020 at the earliest. And, yes, Apple announced the Apple Watch a few weeks head of availability, but I can't see the company announcing a product four years in advance.

I want all my Apple devices to have VIDITY support for 4K streaming

Fri, 2015-08-28 06:00

I'm definitely expecting the next generation Apple TV to be announced at Apple's Sept. 9 media event. I'll be disappointed if it lacks 4K support. In fact, I have a suggestion for Apple for future Apple TVs, Macs and iOS devices: add support for the VIDITY platform.

A one-time purchase and download of a 4K Ultra HD movie to a VIDITY-enabled storage device provides playback without an Internet connection needed, as well as across other a variety of devices. It's complementary to existing digital entertainment platforms.

It shouldn't be difficult for Apple to support the platform and technology. VIDITY spokesperson Chris Saito told Apple World Today that any device that adopts and licenses the company's technology can be VIDITY enabled. If Apple wanted Macs, Apple TVs and iOS devices to be compliant, it could license the technology and implement it via software updates, he said.

When you purchase a digital movie file from an authorized VIDITY retailer onto a VIDITY-enabled device, the technology lets you play the movie immediately on any of your screens in the highest quality format available. You can collect the movie locally on a hard drive or directly on your device and move your movie collection freely between your TV, smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

Of course, you'll have to purchase VIDITY compliant content from an authorized VIDITY retailer. Hmmmm. The iTunes Store could be such a retailer, could it not?A connection to the Internet is required to move content wirelessly — and, naturally, the better the connection, the faster the download.

VIDITY is a joint venture of the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA) — a consortium of movie studios such as Fox and Warner Bros.) and storage manufacturers such as Western Digital and Sandisk (alas, Apple's not a member). VIDITY General Manager David Huerta told engadget that other than just top-quality audio and video, the main feature of the platform is that it's intended to work across devices, from TVs to PCs to phones and tablets. 

Also built in is support for finding any compatible files across a network. If the movie is stored on your NAS, a personal computer, a phone or tethered hard drive, it will pop up in the menu for playback, he said.

In May the SCSA unveiled the completed VIDITY specs. Licensing started in June so compliant consumer products should be arriving soon. Let's hope Apple joins the VIDITY bandwagon.

AWT News Update: August 27, 2015

Thu, 2015-08-27 16:30

Today's news is right here, for your listening or reading pleasure:

  • Apple officially sent out those invitations for the September 9 iPhone event, and there's going to be a huge new audience to watch what transpires...
  • Instagram goes wide, Square gets an appointment app, and Workflow grabs notifications and syncing.

The text version is just below the player and button below...

Subscribe to the Podcast Text Version

Hi, I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for August 27, 2015.

In case you’re locked in a cave right now and the only information you’re getting is from this podcast, Apple has officially sent out invitations to its September 9 event where new iPhones and a redesigned Apple TV are expected to debut. We’ll have all the coverage you can stand, so be sure to keep Apple World Today dialed in on browser before, during and after the livestream.

Speaking of the livestream, there will be a whole new audience for it this time — users of Windows 10. The built-in Edge browser supports the HTTP Live Streaming technology that’s built into QuickTime and Safari, so the 75 million people who have installed Windows 10 can go crazy like the rest of us.

A few fun and important app updates today. First, the popular Instagram app has added support for showing landscape and portrait images and videos. Up until now, Instagram had one format — square. Instagram got together with Disney and Lucasfilm to show off the new formats, sending out a new mini-trailer from Star Wars: The Force Awakens in full widescreen format. Next, mobile commerce enabler Square has released an iPhone-only app called Square Appointments, letting clients book appointments and let businesses manage schedules. It’s a very handy way for service-oriented businesses to manage time and bill clients all in a single app. Finally, the popular Workflow task automation app for iPhone and iPad got a big update today. Two features were added: a Workflow widget for the Notification Center and Workflow Sync. The widget provides easy access to workflows by just pulling down the Notification Center from the top of your screen. Workflow Sync allows synchronization of workflows between devices. Workflow also added support for 1Password.

Tomorrow afternoon I won’t be available to record the AWT News Update, but we will be back on Monday. Have a great weekend.

I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.

Siri-ously, what can we expect on Sept. 9?

Thu, 2015-08-27 14:00

It's official. Apple will hold a media event on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 10 am (Pacific), at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The media invitation came with the teaser: "Hey Siri, give us a hint." I've stared into my crystal ball to see what we can expect.

Of course, we'll see new iPhones, which will have Siri support. And, hopefully, a new Apple TV with Siri support. However, Tim Cook & Company wouldn't hold the event in the massive Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco (which seats 7,000) for just those announcements, would they? Nah. So I'm expecting bigger Siri announcements. Among them….

  • An improved Siri that can understand my Tennessee accent. There'll be no more instances when I say "Call Maggiano's," that I'm told "I can't find a number for Maggie Arnold." And since Tim Cook is, like me, a Southern boy (he's from Alabama), I'm sure that he's fixed things in Siri so we can say "Hey, y'all" instead of "Hey, Siri" to summon the personal assistant.
  • Celebrity Siri voices. Protect Your Bubble recently did an iPhone survey about new features folks wanted to see. An improved 12-megapixel camera took the most votes (32 percent), but the majority of participants also think Siri’s voice should be changed to Jennifer Lopez (36 percent), followed by their own voice (24 percent), their spouse (20 percent), Antonio Banderas (12 percent) and their parent (8 percent). I also expect Siri voices to come in Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson and Peter Sellers (no kin, though I wish he was).
  • A Siri-controlled Apple Robot. Apple will announce a automaton that you can control with Siri. Not only will I be able to tell my Apple TV to "play the first episode of the X-Files," I'll also be able to tell A-Bot to "go fetch me an IBC root beer in a frosty mug."

And, finally, the biggie:

  • The ability to explain Apple Music. Yes, we will be able to have Siri explain to us exactly how to use Apple's new music service without songs vanishing, song duplicates appearing, etc. And that will be a Siri-ously great accomplishment.

View a wealth of image data with PixelMet for iPhone

Thu, 2015-08-27 13:00

Like so many apps, PixelMet (free with in-app purchase) was built to fill a specific need. "When I am on my Mac," developer Danny Wong told me, "I can view the location of my photos with the Photos app on OS X. However, I can't do the same thing on iOS to my satisfaction, and I couldn't find any third party app that did the job. I thought, why don't I build one myself?"

The result is PixelMet, which Danny calls "a companion to Apple's Photos app on iOS," akin to the "get info" function on a Mac. I've been playing with it for a few days and I've found it's a nifty little utility. Here's our look at PixlMet for iPhone.

Summarize, Mr. Data

PixelMet's provides a lot of information on your photos. Once you've given the app permission to access your photos, just tap anyone to make your selection. From there you're taking to a very clean and well laid-out information screen.

Basic information displayed includes: Device and lens used Image size and dimension ISO Focal length White balance Aperture Shutter speed Flash status

You can also view the image's creation date, modification date and location, represented by a pin on a map.

The app's handling of location data offers two nice features. Tap on the map to reveal two options: Open in Map and Share Location. For the cost of the $0.99 premium feature, you can have PixelMet open that location in a mapping app on your phone. Additionally, you can opt to share the location via Twitter, Facebook, email...on and on.

Ah, but what if you want to share an image without any of its metadata, including location information? No problem. Just tap the share button and select Share Photo without Metadata.

All of the data

Once you're itching for more data, tap Details. A new screen appears with a lot of information, including camera info, EXIF info and detailed GPS data like latitude, longitude, time stamp, altitude and more.

PixelMet won't be a must-have app for everyone but it does its job very well, providing a wealth of information on your iOS photos. It's a fantastic effort from a developer who learned to code entirely just to build PixelMat:

"I am a self-taught iOS developer. My day job is IT Capacity Planner, which has nothing to do with programming. PixlMet is the first app that I developed during my free time after work."

Well done, Danny! PixelMet is available in the App Store now.

Building AWT: Advertising

Thu, 2015-08-27 12:00

Over the past day, you've probably noticed some little "Advertise Here" banners show up on the site, replacing the in-house ad spots we had produced in hopes of doing our own ad sales. That didn't work too well, so we've hitched our fortunes to a well-known online advertising firm called BuySellAds. 

We feel that BuySellAds is a good fit for Apple World Today. We get full control over which ads run, so you won't be inundated with the "1 Weird Trick To Reduce Belly Fat" ads you see on other Apple sites. This also opens us up to a larger pool of potential advertisers than what we have had in the past, which can help us to increase our revenues. If you're an advertiser, just click one of those little banners to see the rate sheet. 

We have some ideas in store for our Patreon patrons as well, so expect new goals and spiffs for those of you who make it all possible. 

PayAnywhere, Apple to offer Apple Pay-ready mobile credit card reader

Thu, 2015-08-27 10:56

Apple is teaming up with American Bancard's PayAnywhere to introduce a new version of its PayAnywhere Mobile credit card reader, which will be ready for Apple Pay. The NFC card reader will be available exclusively in U.S. Apple Stores and at Apple's online store next month.

PayAnywhere is a go-to mobile credit card reader for businesses and individuals who want to accept Apple Pay. Available for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, this new PayAnywhere Mobile reader accepts Apple's payment system, other contactless NFC payments, traditional magnetic stripe credit cards and is EMV-capable. PayAnywhere is also offering merchants US$5,000 free in Apple Pay transaction processing with a new PayAnywhere account.

The PayAnywhere device will retail for US$39.95. The PayAnywhere Mobile app is free at the Apple App Store.

Apple announced Apple Pay in September 2014, describing it as “a new category of service designed to transform mobile payments with an easy, secure and private way to pay.” It works with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus through a NFC antenna design, a dedicated chip called the Secure Element, and Touch ID.

Official: Apple event on Sept. 9

Thu, 2015-08-27 10:24

Apple will hold a press event on September 9 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco (as rumored), starting at 10:00 AM Pacific.

What's going to happen? The invitation simply reads, "Hey Siri, give us a hint." We'll have your coverage so be sure to check back then!

BlueLounge Kosta Apple Watch charging coaster: An Apple World Today Top Pick

Thu, 2015-08-27 10:00

BlueLounge Kosta. Photo ©2015, Steven Sande. All Rights Reserved.

Here's a riddle for you: What's both a coaster and an Apple Watch charger? Well, you won't want to use it as a coaster once you've tried it as an Apple Watch charger, but the BlueLounge Kosta (US$14.95) is a stylish and functional little stand that is pure design genius.

It's made out of silicone in dark grey, light grey, or green. It's about 3.25 inches (8.25 cm) in diameter, and only about .5 inch (1.27 cm) in height. There's even a little rim around the top of the Kosta, which you might think is a design nod to catching condensation from a cold glass. 

BlueLounge Kosta. Photo ©2015, Steven Sande. All Rights Reserved

But the Kosta is not a drink coaster; it's a charging coaster. Grab your Apple Watch charging cable (as with most chargers, it's not included), snake the puck end through a small slot on the top of the Kosta and place the charging puck on the magnetic center of the Kosta. Next, snake the cable through the bottom of the Kosta and out a side hole. That's it.

When it's time to charge your Apple Watch, you'll place it on the Kosta with the buttons pointed up and the strap closed. Grab the puck from the center of Kosta and apply it to the back of your Watch, and you're charging.

It's inexpensive, it's functional, and it looks good. Plus, if you ever sell your Apple Watch, you can always use the Kosta as a drink coaster. It's so light that it's perfect for travel, and the soft surface will keep your Apple Watch safe from scratches. Kosta is designed to work with watchOS 2.0's Night Stand mode. I can find nothing wrong with the amazing little product, which is why I'm giving it an Apple World Today Top Pick rating as the best Apple Watch charging product of 2015. 

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★

Buy a Kosta from Amazon and help support Apple World Today at the same time.

An Apple event on September 9 is looking more likely every day

Thu, 2015-08-27 09:00

Photo by Brittany Hopkins/Hoodline

It appears that September 9, 2015 will be the date that Apple holds a press event to release the newest iPhones and possibly a new Apple TV. Rumors had been flying about a "reservation" made by an unknown company for a "trade show" to be held at the 7000-seat Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco between September 4 - 10. 

San Francisco neighborhood news source Hoodline heard from a "trusted source" that activity has begun already at the site and that it is indeed Apple that's behind the arrival of heavy equipment and security personnel. 

Whatever Apple's planning, they're also going to shut down traffic on a few streets. Grove Street in front of auditorium will close down to traffic at 6 PM on Tuesday, Sept. 8, reopening at 11:59 PM on Thursday Sept. 10. Fulton Street then be closed on the planned event date -- Sept. 9 -- between 4 AM and 11:59 PM. Hoodline notes that the block of Fulton Street in question is often used for staging of film crews and equipment, most recently during filming of the Steve Jobs movie coming out in October.

So what's likely to come from Apple? There's a high certainty that new iPhones are on the agenda, as they're always released this time of year. The new Apple TV is expected as well. Less likely are the large-screen iPad Pro or an inexpensive iPhone 6c. 

The newest iPhones -- tentatively known as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus -- are rumored to come with a Force Touch display providing shortcuts to common iOS commands, improved cameras (possibly supporting 4K videography), and even such features as animated wallpaper. 

Whether or not Apple World Today attends the event, we'll be providing our readers with the breaking news as it happens.


Here's another optical disc format that Apple will probably ignore

Thu, 2015-08-27 08:30

Sony and Panasonic's "Archival Disc," which is described as "a new standard for professional-use, next-generation optical discs, are due in the second half of the year. The objective is to "expand the market for long-term digital data storage." Will Apple support it?

Optical discs have excellent properties to protect themselves against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored. They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. 

Recognizing that optical discs will need to accommodate much larger volumes of storage going forward, particularly given the anticipated future growth in the archive market, Sony and Panasonic have been engaged in the joint development of a standard for professional-use next-generation optical discs. The result is the Archival Disc.

The optical disc has the same dimensions as a Blu-ray disc, is write-once, double-sided, triple-layered, and can store up to a record breaking 1TB of storage. Three capacities are planned for release — 300GB, 500 GB and 1TB — in summer 2015.

Apple has phased out optical drives on almost all its Macs. If you need one, you'll need to buy a US$79 USB SuperDrive. Perhaps Apple will support the Archival Disc with a SuperDuperDrive — though I doubt it. Oh well, we can aways hope for third party drives.

IDC: the Apple Watch is now number two in the global wearables market

Thu, 2015-08-27 07:16

In its first appearance in the wearables market, Apple finds itself within striking distance of the established market leader, Fitbit. According to the International Data Corporation, Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units in the second quarter of 2015 (2Q15), just 0.8 million units behind Fitbit's 4.4 million units. Total shipment volume for the quarter came to 18.1 million units, up 223.2% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 2Q14.

"Anytime Apple enters a new market, not only does it draw attention to itself, but to the market as a whole," says Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Wearables team. " … Now that Apple is officially a part of the wearables market, everyone will be watching to see what other wearable devices it decides to launch, such as smart glasses or hearables."

Apple's arrival had the greatest impact on the smart wearables category, or those devices capable of running third party applications. About two of every three smart wearables shipped this quarter was an Apple Watch, according to IDC.

"Apple has clearly garnered an impressive lead in this space and its dominance is expected to continue," says Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "And, although Fitbit outshipped Apple, it's worth noting that Fitbit only sells basic wearables – a category that is expected to lose share over the next few years, leaving Apple poised to become the next market leader for all wearables."

The company is just getting started with the Apple Watch, having reached just 16 geographic markets to date and starting agreements with third-party retailers. However, what's most important is the continued development of the watchOS platform, says IDC. At its WWDC in June, Apple announced that the next version of watchOS will allow for native applications, which could have a similar effect that iPhones enjoyed when native apps became available.

iPhone sales down in Japan, but Apple remains the top phone vendor

Thu, 2015-08-27 07:09

Cell phone shipments in Japan fell 1.9% year-over-year to 7.23 million units in the second quarter of 2015 (April to June), according to a study by IDC Japan. However, Apple remains the top seller of phones in the country.

The decrease (as noted by, a global investment newswire) was attributed to feature phones. Smartphone shipments rose 23.6% year-over-year to 6.08 million, and accounted for 84% of the total.

Apple's share of the shipments fell six percentage points to 32.9%, but remains the top-selling brand. Sharp was second with a 14% share. Kyocera had a 10.5% share and Samsung had a 10.1% share.

IDC Japan predicts that current feature phone users may again purchase the new generation of feature phones before 2017. The research group says that vendors need to "greatly" reduce service fees to attract users to switch to smartphones.

Apple working on ways to implement better privacy in AirPlay

Thu, 2015-08-27 06:50

Apple's AirPlay lets you wirelessly stream what’s on your iOS devices and Macs to an HDTV and speakers. The company has filed for a patent (number 20150242062) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for "selectively broadcasting audio and video content" that would involve changes in the technology, especially long the lines of privacy.

The patent mention, among other things, techniques that let you create one or more "broadcast profiles," where each broadcast profile, when applied on your iOS or OS X device, that lets you stream content without exposing personal data. 

In the patent filing, Apple says that portable computing devices such as Mac laptops and iPhones are commonly being used to broadcast content to auxiliary displays (e.g., projectors and televisions). A common use-case scenario involves a user loading a slideshow presentation onto his or her iOS or OS X device,  connecting the portable computing device to an auxiliary display, and then causing the device to output the slideshow presentation to the auxiliary display. 

Various interfaces can be used to connect portable computing devices to auxiliary displays, including Digital Visual Interface (DVI) cables and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables. More recently, however, network-based interfaces are being implemented and enable users to share their content on nearby auxiliary displays through local networks (such as a WiFi network). One example of a network-based interface is AirPlay.

Apple says that, although these approaches provide a convenient mechanism for individuals to share their content with others, privacy concerns continue to be a problem. For example, when you "mirrors" your iPhone to an auxiliary display, the entire user interface displayed on the iPhone is replicated at the auxiliary display and can be seen by others. 

What's more, when being mirrored, the iPhone continues to receive and display personal data (e.g., text messages), which can be problematic for the user (e.g., when sharing a slideshow presentation with his or her colleagues at work), says Apple. One approach commonly taken by users to reduce privacy exposure involves manually closing applications and disabling notifications prior to broadcasting content to auxiliary displays, but this is a cumbersome and inefficient process. 

However, having a large number of apps on your device can make it difficult for you to cover all potential avenues of privacy exposure. Apple wants to make this process easier.

Apple looks to improve wireless headsets for iOS, OS X devices

Thu, 2015-08-27 06:30

Apple is considering advanced bone conduction technology that would improve voice communications in a wireless earphone system. The company has filed for a patent (20150245129) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a "system and method of improving voice quality in a wireless headset with untethered earbuds of a mobile device."

The invention would determine which of the earbuds should transmit the acoustic signal and the inertial sensor output to the mobile device. The determination could be based on a noise and wind level captured by the microphones in each earbud, the inertial sensor output from the inertial sensors in each earbud, the battery level of each earbud, and the position of the earbuds. 

Apple says that, currently, a number of consumer electronic devices are adapted to receive speech via microphone ports or headsets. While the typical example is an iPhone, with the advent of Voice over IP (VoIP), desktop computers, laptop computers (such as MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros) and tablet computers (iPads, obviously) may also be used to perform voice communications. 

When using these electronic devices, you have the option of using the speakerphone mode or a wired headset to receive your speech. However, Apple says that a common complaint with these hands-free modes of operation is that the speech captured by the microphone port or the headset includes environmental noise such as secondary speakers in the background or other background noises. This environmental noise often renders the user's speech unintelligible and thus, degrades the quality of the voice communication. 

Another hands-free option includes wireless headsets to receive user's speech as well as perform playback to the user. However, the current wireless headsets also suffer from environmental noise, battery constraints, and uplink and downlink bandwidth limitations. Apple's invention is intended to overcome these limitations.

Consumer wearable market report bodes well for the Apple Watch

Thu, 2015-08-27 06:17

The wearables market in the U.S. from 2014 through the first half of 2015 has shown fast growth in year-over-year volume of consumer feedback. Hhowever after peaking post-holidays in January 2015, demand growth has slowed significantly, according to a new report from Argus Insights. However, things look good for the Apple Watch.

Over the last 18 months, the wearables market has started to mature and has grown considerably with new players entering the market with numerous products such as fitness bands, smartwatches, smart glasses, and other sensor-enabled devices, according to the research group. Using data compiled from approximately 328,000 consumer reviews since January 2014, the Argus Insights report reveals that after the holiday season of 2013, consumers briefly lost interest in wearables before steadily increasing demand reached its high point in January of this year where it was four times the level of a year earlier.  Since then demand has slowed. 

According to the report, the Apple Watch stole consumer interest from Fitbit and other wearables at the time of its announcement in September 2014, as potential buyers waited to determine whether they wanted the Apple Watch. Interest in Fitbit devices resumed and grew once the Apple Watch details were announced, as Fitbit and other wearable manufacturers saw a strong 2014 holiday period, according to Argus. Since their IPO, Fitbit has continued to gain mindshare with consumers.

Consumer delight, measured from the volume and the content of consumer reviews, showed that Fitbit was achieving a very high level of buzz, though the satisfaction of their consumers is dropping while Apple is "quickly gaining in delight," says John Feland, CEO and founder, Argus Insights. Other surprising insights include high consumer delight scores for smartwatch manufacturers Motorola and LG, as consumers are reporting more satisfaction from smartwatches than from fitness bands..

“Our analysis of review volume for the wearables market correlates directly with unit sales volume, and we have seen a significant slowing in consumer demand for both wearables in general and fitness bands in particular,” says Feland. “Consumers expect their wearables to do more than simply count steps, just as they expect to do more than just make phone calls with their handsets.  It is clear that as the Apple Watch ,the Moto 360, and the LG Watch Urbane out perform fitness bands in the hearts of consumers. Fitbit and others in this category will need to add more to their offerings to keep consumers engaged and coming back for more.”

AWT News Update: August 26, 2015

Wed, 2015-08-26 16:30

Universal Pictures

Here are some of the top stories from the world of Apple today:

  • Third-party Apple Watch accessories are starting to appear in Apple Stores
  • The first promotional poster for the upcoming movie Steve Jobs is out. Steve might approve...
  • A patent troll gets slapped down for trying lawsuits over older technology in new products
  • Pocket gets an upgrade and recommendations
Subscribe to the Podcast Text Version

Hi, I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for August 26, 2015.

Here’s a surprise: Third-party Apple Watch accessories are beginning to appear at some Apple Stores. The first is the NightStand from Elevation Labs, which is a charging dock that will be compatible with watchOS 2’s Nightstand Mode when the upgrade launches this fall. The NightStand is packaged in Apple’s new minimalist packaging so that it will fit in with the way that the company will be marketing third-party accessories in its stores.

The first promotional poster for the upcoming Steve Jobs movie has appeared in the wild. The poster would probably have been appreciated by Jobs; it’s all done in lower-case gray Helvetica type, with the name of the film in black and the release date — coming soon — in red. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for the film which stars Michael Fassbender as Jobs. He appears in the lower right corner of the poster, head bowed in thought. The movie is expected to debut on October 9th.

A US magistrate judge shut down a patent troll that was seeking to relaunch lawsuits against Apple, Amazon, and Sony covering 4G patents. Patent aggregation company Acacia and its subsidiary Adaptix have basically been told to stop filing lawsuits over new products launched by Apple et al using the same technology and to be happy with existing lawsuit results and patent agreements. Let’s hope that this kind of action continues in US courts.

iOS reader app Pocket has been updated to version 6.0, bringing with it a new Recommendations tab. That tab scans your activity in the app and then presents the user with new stories and other content that might be appealing. When recommended, a story can be tapped to view it immediately, or saved for reading later — which is what Pocket is all about. The Pocket team noted in a blog post why its app is better than services like Twitter, saying that on those services “What’s good is constantly pushed down by what’s simply new.”

I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.

The small and powerful Inateck 2-port Rapid Car Charger

Wed, 2015-08-26 13:30

Inateck 2-Port Rapid Car Charger. Photo ©2015, Steven Sande

Size isn't everything (ask Mighty Mouse or Ant-Man if you don't believe me). The Inateck 2-port Rapid Car Charger (US$49.99 MSRP, available on Amazon (affiliate link) for $19.99) is a perfect example of an iOS accessory that doesn't take up a lot of space, but provides a ton of power.

The specs for the 2-port Rapid Car Charger are impressive: 6.6A of current, 33W of power, with a pair of 2.1A 5V USB ports you can plug iPads or other power-hungry devices into. But those two ports only eat up 4.2A of current -- where does the other 2.4A go? 

Easy answer: there's also a 3-foot (1 meter) MFi-compliant Lightning cable for charging your favorite iPhone or iPad. Yes, you could theoretically charge three iPads at the same time with the 2-Port Rapid Car Charger. There are other devices in the world, though, and Inateck thoughtfully provides a 4-foot (1.2 meter) USB to micro-USB cable for charging those items as well. Yes, you can throw the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 into the back seat for charging, where it belongs...

It comes in two colors -- black or white. Inateck put a nice grippy material around the top of the charger so that it's easy to pull it out of the car charging port if you need to switch it between cars. 

Unlike some car chargers that glow like a radioactive lump when you plug them in, the Rapid Car Charger just provides a nice blue LED to give you the indication that it is ready to work. 

Inexpensive, well-designed, and ready to deliver lots of power. Inateck's 2-port Rapid Car Charger is getting a thumbs-up from me. 

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★

Buy one on Amazon for just $19.99 and help support Apple World Today