Uber will guarantee fares upfront, but surge prices are here to stay

Posted on June 24, 2016 by Caitlin McGarry.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Everyone hates Uber’s surge-pricing, except for Uber of course. Now the crazy-making lightning bolt that indicates you’re about to spend a fortune to get home is going away, replaced by a fare guarantee that tells you exactly what you’re going to pay for the ride. But that doesn’t mean the surge is gone.

Uber’s new up-front fare feature, which is slowly rolling out for UberX rides in some U.S. cities and in India, is exactly like the pricing you already see for UberPool rides. Just put make sure your pickup location is accurate, then enter your destination and Uber will calculate your exact fare.

Uber

How it works, according to Uber: “Upfront fares are calculated using the expected time and distance of the trip and local traffic, as well as how many riders and nearby drivers are using Uber at that moment. And when fares go up due to increased demand, instead of surge lightning bolts and pop-up screens, riders are given the actual fare before they request their ride. There’s no complicated math and no surprises: passengers can just sit back and enjoy the ride.”

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

iPhone 7 rumors: Goodbye 16GB, hello 256GB and ‘Pro’ line

Now that WWDC is over, the iPhone 7 rumors are getting even louder, since its expected unveiling in September is probably the next time we’ll see Tim Cook on stage. Yes, that’s still a good while from now. To help keep track of all the scuttlebutt, we’re collecting every rumor we’ve heard so far—and every new one that crops up between now and the day Tim pulls the new iPhone out of his pocket. Then we’ll assess whether each rumor seems legit or absurd, and we’d love to hear your thoughts too. Sound off in the comments.

What's the latest?

The rumor: Pricing specs for the upcoming iPhone 7 have allegedly leaked on Weibo, according to 9to5Mac. If believed, the specs show that Apple is looking to release a 256GB model of the iPhone 7 that will be the same price as the 128GB model of the current generation iPhone 6s. Furthermore, Apple would drop the meager 16GB models, offering instead 32GB, 64GB, and 256GB for the iPhone 7 and 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB for iPhone 7 Plus. And that's not all, the rumor on Weibo has it that Apple is gearing up an iPhone 7 Pro line. This Pro model would be the only one to offer the dual-camera system that's been rumored before, and a Smart Connector for accessories similar to the iPad Pro.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

YouTube is bringing live broadcasting for all to its mobile apps

Posted on by Derek Walter.
Categories: Uncategorized.

YouTube will soon throw open the gates to live broadcasting inside its mobile apps. The mobile live streaming feature will be baked into the iPhone and Android apps, putting it in direct competition with Twitter-owned Periscope and Facebook Live.

The announcement on the YouTube Creator Blog didn't mention a specific launch date. However, the details show a service that is similar to other live platforms, with the ability to allow live chat, make the stream public, and notify subscribers.

youtube live streaming YouTube Creator Blog

Just like other live-streaming platforms, YouTube will offer live commentary and the ability to ping your subscribers.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Siri, artificial intelligence, and accessibility

Posted on by Steven Aquino.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The magic and frustration of voice assistants and artificial intelligence when it comes to accessibility.

A lot has been said recently about Apple's prospects in artificial intelligence and machine learning. One aspect of the discussion that I haven't seen considered is the accessibility ramifications of artificial intelligence in assistants like Siri. (I focus on Siri because it's the AI I have the most experience using.)

I've long been a proponent of voice-driven interfaces as assistive technology, which makes Siri's slow development all the more frustrating. This is particularly true when it comes to Siri understanding you if you have trouble speaking.

The yin and yang of Siri — its obvious accessibility benefits combined with its obvious linguistic shortcomings — has left me feeling torn about its (and AI in general) long-term utility for accessibility.

Accentuating the positive

Siri has the potential to be so much more inclusive and empowering than it is. Nonetheless, I am appreciative of what Siri is capable of presently. So it's worth giving credit where credit is due.

I find myself using Siri more often lately. I ask about the weather, sports scores, and send text messages. Using the "Hey, Siri" prompt is quicker than unlocking my phone and going to, say, the Weather app. Likewise, using only my voice saves my eyes and hands from fatigue. Thus, Siri isn't only a feature of convenience, it's an accessibility tool as well.

I think one reason I'm relying on Siri more is that Siri has gotten faster and (somewhat) more accurate at parsing and completing my requests. I don't have to wait long for Siri to tell me the weather or show me the MLB standings. Granted, these tasks are all things Siri can and should do well.

The bigger reason for using and appreciating Siri is accessibility. This is not to be taken lightly. Siri is truly useful for someone with visual and motor delays, because you can do things by using just your voice.

"Sorry, I didn't get that"

Despite my recent uptick in using Siri, I've historically avoided using it due to its inability to handle my speech impediment very well. It's hard enough for Siri to understand normal speech; the problem is exacerbated with a speech delay.

I'm a stutterer, which causes me a lot of social anxiety. It's hard at times to converse with people because of it, out of fear of judgment or shame that I inevitably will stutter. Sometimes I get so nervous that I will talk as little as possible (or avoid it altogether) because of my speech. I share these feelings not to garner pity or sympathy, but rather to explain how stuttering affects me emotionally.

Siri isn't a real person, of course, but the fact of the matter is voice-driven interfaces are built assuming normal fluency. This is to be expected: most people don't stutter, but I (and many others) do, so using Siri can be incredibly frustrating. So, while accuracy has gotten better over time, there's no getting around the fact abnormal speech patterns like mine don't mesh well with Siri. It wreaks havoc on the experience.

With this in mind, I really hope there is something Apple can do to improve its ability to understand non-standard speech. Anecdotally, I've heard from people in the past who say this is nigh impossible given the complexities of language and the limitations of software, but hope springs eternal.

I occasionally use voice search in YouTube's iOS app — YouTube being owned by Google, and Google being renowned for having great speech recognition — and it seems to do a much better job at understanding me. Again, anecdotal evidence, but it gives me hope that Apple can make Siri more adept in this regard. Until then, my only recourse is to slow down when talking while holding the Home button so I won't be interrupted mid-sentence.

A text-based mode for Siri, where you could type commands in lieu of vocalizing them, would alleviate the language barrier for me. The downside, however, is it would negate the gains you get with a hands-free experience.

The ideal scenario is one where you'd have both text input and a fluent voice component. Can Apple deliver that? I sure hope so. The whole premise of Siri is that you talk to it.

Why understanding me matters

You might be reading this article and think to yourself, "Wow, Steven's bemoaning something he said is a hard problem to solve." While it's true that programming a robot to behave more like a human is difficult, to say the least, the reason I'm so passionate about Siri and speech impediments is there are many situations where Siri could be even better at helping people with disabilities.

Consider HomeKit. Sometimes I have trouble with light switches and opening doors because of fine-motor issues caused by my cerebral palsy. While my house has no HomeKit-compatible appliances at the moment, I often think about how cool it would be to be able to tell Siri to turn on the lamp or lock the front door. It would certainly save me a lot of struggle and aggravation in finding the light switch or turning the door lock.

Now consider the new SiriKit announced as part of iOS 10. This is a much-needed (and some would argue, overdue) addition to Siri, and it will help Apple in catching up with the competition when it comes to ride booking, messaging, searching for photos, making payments, placing VoIP calls, and more.

These tasks seem trivial and mundane at first, but even the little things can prove tricky if you have disabilities.

Bottom Line

The majority of the conversation about AI lately has centered around being faster, more aware, and more integrated. Those are all worthy aspirations, but from my perspective, being faster and more integrated mean little without great accessibility. Siri today is serviceable in doing the things I want, but it needs to make a quantum leap for me to wholly embrace the supposed future of computing.

Speech delays are disabilities, too, and I strongly believe Siri's weakness in fully accommodating them is a valid concern.

Apple has said in its last couple earnings calls that services are becoming a bigger part of its business, and they continue to invest in them. In Siri's case, I hope the company has invested heavily in making it more verbally accessible. Nothing would make me happier than to see this demoed at WWDC. Any other capability would be icing on the cake.

I like Siri, I really do. I just want to be able to interact with it better, because it's been a bumpy five years. More importantly, I want Siri to reach its full potential when it comes to accessibility.

Apple’s New Differential Privacy Feature is Opt-In

Posted on by Juli Clover.
Categories: Uncategorized.
When Apple introduced iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10 at the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference, it also announced plans to implement a new technology called Differential Privacy, which helps the company gather data and usage patterns for a large number of users without compromising individual security.

At the time, Apple said Differential Privacy would be used in iOS 10 to collect data to improve QuickType and emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep link suggestions, and Lookup Hints in Notes, and said it would be used in macOS Sierra to improve autocorrect suggestions and Lookup Hints.

emojireplacer
There's been a lot of confusion about differential privacy and what it means for end users, leading Recode to write a piece that clarifies many of the details of differential privacy.

First and foremost, as with all of Apple's data collection, there is an option to opt out of sharing data with the company. Differential data collection is entirely opt in and users can decide whether or not to send data to Apple.

Apple will start collecting data starting in iOS 10, and has not been doing so already, and it also will not use the cloud-stored photos of iOS users to bolster image recognition capabilities in the Photos app.
As for what data is being collected, Apple says that differential privacy will initially be limited to four specific use cases: New words that users add to their local dictionaries, emojis typed by the user (so that Apple can suggest emoji replacements), deep links used inside apps (provided they are marked for public indexing) and lookup hints within notes.

Apple will also continue to do a lot of its predictive work on the device, something it started with the proactive features in iOS 9. This work doesn't tap the cloud for analysis, nor is the data shared using differential privacy.
Apple's deep concern for user privacy has put its services like Siri behind competing services from other companies, but Differential Privacy gives the company a way to collect useful data without compromising the security of its customer base.

As Apple's VP of software engineering Craig Federighi explained at the WWDC keynote, Differential privacy uses hashing, subsampling, and noise injection to enable crowd-sourced learning without simultaneously gathering data on individual people.

Related Roundups: iOS 10, macOS Sierra

Discuss this article in our forums

Yahoo Mail for iPhone picks up ‘Undo send’ button and more

Posted on by Joseph Keller.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Yahoo is rolling out a new update for its Mail app, one that offers that offers a couple of interesting new capabilities. Of primary interest is 'Undo Send,' which allows you to cancel an email that you've accidentally sent, much as you can do with Gmail.

Here's what to expect with Yahoo Mail 4.5:

  • Quickly un-send emails - Instantly undo any email immediately after it has been sent.
  • Quickly find a contact's phone number and email address - When searching for a contact, their phone number and email address will appear at the top of your search results.

You'll find the updated app in the App Store right now.

Thunderbolt Display with Integrated GPU Allegedly Still in the Works

Posted on by Evan Selleck.
Categories: Uncategorized.
Apple’s Thunderbolt Display has had an interesting run recently, but talks that something even better is coming down the line continue on. Continue reading

New Thunderbolt Display With Integrated GPU Still in the Works

Posted on by Juli Clover.
Categories: Uncategorized.
Apple yesterday announced plans to discontinue the 5-year-old Thunderbolt Display, leaving it unclear if Apple's display business is coming to an end or if another model is in the works for a future release. According to BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski, Apple isn't done with Thunderbolt displays.

In a tweet shared this morning, Paczkowski said he's heard from unspecified sources that a next-generation display will feature an integrated GPU, a possibility that was first bandied about in early June, ahead of WWDC.


A Thunderbolt Display with a built-in graphics card would be able to work with almost any Mac because it would be driven by an internal graphics card rather than the machine it's connected to.

It's believed Apple has not introduced a 5K display to match the 5K iMac because there are no machines that could run it over a single stream cable, a fact that will remain true even in upcoming machines like a rumored Skylake Retina MacBook Pro.

thunderbolt_display_elcap_roundup_header
Paczkowski doesn't include other details about the display Apple has in the works, but rumors have suggested it will feature a resolution of 5120 x 2880 and it's also likely to include USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3.

Stock shortages ahead of the Worldwide Developers Conference led to speculation that Apple could refresh the Thunderbolt Display at the event, but that did not end up happening. There is no word on when Apple might release a new display, but with an integrated GPU, it would not have any specific requirements and could theoretically debut at any time.

If a new Thunderbolt Display is planned for 2016, a logical guess at a release date might be in the fall alongside rumored redesigned Retina MacBook Pros.

Related Roundup: Thunderbolt Display
Buyer's Guide: Displays (Don't Buy)

Discuss this article in our forums

New Thunderbolt Display With Integrated GPU Still in the Works

Posted on by Juli Clover.
Categories: Uncategorized.
Apple yesterday announced plans to discontinue the 5-year-old Thunderbolt Display, leaving it unclear if Apple's display business is coming to an end or if another model is in the works for a future release. According to BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski, Apple isn't done with Thunderbolt displays.

In a tweet shared this morning, Paczkowski said he's heard from unspecified sources that a next-generation display will feature an integrated GPU, a possibility that was first bandied about in early June, ahead of WWDC.


A Thunderbolt Display with a built-in graphics card would be able to work with almost any Mac because it would be driven by an internal graphics card rather than the machine it's connected to.

It's believed Apple has not introduced a 5K display to match the 5K iMac because there are no machines that could run it over a single stream cable, a fact that will remain true even in upcoming machines like a rumored Skylake Retina MacBook Pro.

thunderbolt_display_elcap_roundup_header
Paczkowski doesn't include other details about the display Apple has in the works, but rumors have suggested it will feature a resolution of 5120 x 2880 and it's also likely to include USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3.

Stock shortages ahead of the Worldwide Developers Conference led to speculation that Apple could refresh the Thunderbolt Display at the event, but that did not end up happening. There is no word on when Apple might release a new display, but with an integrated GPU, it would not have any specific requirements and could theoretically debut at any time.

If a new Thunderbolt Display is planned for 2016, a logical guess at a release date might be in the fall alongside rumored redesigned Retina MacBook Pros.

Related Roundup: Thunderbolt Display
Buyer's Guide: Displays (Don't Buy)

Discuss this article in our forums

How to remove a hard drive partition on your Mac

Posted on by Lory Gil.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Do you need to get back that extra space you gave up to partition your Mac's hard drive?

If you have previously partitioned your Mac's hard drive in order to download a beta or install Windows, but now you need that storage space back, you can remove the partition and recapture the much-needed space. Here's how.

Getting rid of a secondary partition on the Mac is a two-step process. After erasing a partition, you can then remove it from your system.

Before you start

The most important thing to do before making any changes to your hard drive is to back it up. Time Machine has the easiest way to back up your data if you don't already have a system in place.

How to erase a partition on your Mac

Make sure to restart your computer in your main partition to erase additional ones.

  1. Open Finder from your dock.
  2. Select Applications.

  3. Scroll down and open the Utilities folder.
  4. Double-click to open Disk Utility.

  5. Select the partition you wish to erase.
  6. Click Erase.
  7. Click Erase to confirm you wish to erase the partition.
  8. Click Done to continue.

How to remove a partition on your Mac

After following the steps to erase a partition, you can then remove it from your hard drive.

  1. Select your main partition, which is the first drive on the list. It might be called "Fusion" or "Macintosh HD."
  2. Click Partition.

  3. Select the partition you wish to remove from the graph.
  4. Click the minus (-) button.
  5. Click Apply.

Disk Utility will check the disk and make changes. This will take several minutes.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about how to erase and remove a partition on your Mac? Let us know in the comments and we'll help you out.

How to remove a hard drive partition on your Mac

Posted on by Lory Gil.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Do you need to get back that extra space you gave up to partition your Mac's hard drive?

If you have previously partitioned your Mac's hard drive in order to download a beta or install Windows, but now you need that storage space back, you can remove the partition and recapture the much-needed space. Here's how.

Getting rid of a secondary partition on the Mac is a two-step process. After erasing a partition, you can then remove it from your system.

Before you start

The most important thing to do before making any changes to your hard drive is to back it up. Time Machine has the easiest way to back up your data if you don't already have a system in place.

How to erase a partition on your Mac

Make sure to restart your computer in your main partition to erase additional ones.

  1. Open Finder from your dock.
  2. Select Applications.

  3. Scroll down and open the Utilities folder.
  4. Double-click to open Disk Utility.

  5. Select the partition you wish to erase.
  6. Click Erase.
  7. Click Erase to confirm you wish to erase the partition.
  8. Click Done to continue.

How to remove a partition on your Mac

After following the steps to erase a partition, you can then remove it from your hard drive.

  1. Select your main partition, which is the first drive on the list. It might be called "Fusion" or "Macintosh HD."
  2. Click Partition.

  3. Select the partition you wish to remove from the graph.
  4. Click the minus (-) button.
  5. Click Apply.

Disk Utility will check the disk and make changes. This will take several minutes.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about how to erase and remove a partition on your Mac? Let us know in the comments and we'll help you out.

New music on iTunes: The Avett Brothers, number one album discounts, and more

Posted on by Joseph Keller.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Every Friday, the iTunes Store adds new music to its lineup. This week, check out the new album from The Avett Brothers, discounts on number one albums, and pre-order ScHoolboy Q's next album.

This week in new music starts with True Sadness, The Avett Brothers' latest album. Next up we have Energía, the new album from J Balvin. New Zealand duo Broods has released their album Conscious. Finally, check out Mark of the Blade, the latest album from metal group Whitechapel.

In this week's iTunes Store music deals, several number one hit albums are on sale. The collection includes efforts from artists like Panic! At the Disco, The 1975, Kendrick Lamar, and Alabama Shakes. Albums in the collection are available for $7.99.

Pre-orders this week are led by ScHoolboy Q with his latest album, Blank Face, due out July 8. Ingrid Michaelson's next album, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense, should arrive on August 26. Jake Own will release his album American Love on July 29.

Check back next week for more great music from the iTunes Store.

New music on iTunes: The Avett Brothers, number one album discounts, and more

Posted on by Joseph Keller.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Every Friday, the iTunes Store adds new music to its lineup. This week, check out the new album from The Avett Brothers, discounts on number one albums, and pre-order ScHoolboy Q's next album.

This week in new music starts with True Sadness, The Avett Brothers' latest album. Next up we have Energía, the new album from J Balvin. New Zealand duo Broods has released their album Conscious. Finally, check out Mark of the Blade, the latest album from metal group Whitechapel.

In this week's iTunes Store music deals, several number one hit albums are on sale. The collection includes efforts from artists like Panic! At the Disco, The 1975, Kendrick Lamar, and Alabama Shakes. Albums in the collection are available for $7.99.

Pre-orders this week are led by ScHoolboy Q with his latest album, Blank Face, due out July 8. Ingrid Michaelson's next album, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense, should arrive on August 26. Jake Own will release his album American Love on July 29.

Check back next week for more great music from the iTunes Store.

watchOS 3 first look: A big roll in the right direction

Posted on by Serenity Caldwell.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Opera Opera VPN is a service provided by SurfEasy, Inc., an Opera company. It allows you to block ads, smash trackers and access more of your favorite sites, apps and services. Read more about Opera VPN for iOS

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The Apple Watch comes into its own.

This fall, the Apple Watch will celebrate a strange sort of milestone: Two years prior, it was previewed before an audience of thousands inside the Flint Center — the same stage where the Macintosh made its debut.

That preview focused on three goals for Apple Watch: making it a great digital timepiece, communicator, and health tracker. Though the device wouldn't ship for another six months, these goals helped create what we now know as watchOS.

This fall, we'll see the culmination of those goals in watchOS 3. It's a rethinking of the Apple Watch's software, all while staying true to those goals: Previously prominent features have been hidden — or, in the case of the Friends circle, vanished entirely. The Apple Watch's physical buttons and touch interactions have been refactored and focused. And Health has taken an even more prominent place on your wrist.

We've still got a few months before watchOS 3 makes its official debut, but I took a first look at the new Apple Watch operating system. Here's what you have to look forward to in just a few months.

This preview is based on pre-release software. Implementations and interfaces can and will change. Unless you're a developer and need to update your apps, we don't recommend rushing out to install developer betas on your Apple Watch. Wait for the release this fall. Betas are not meant for regular daily use. Stay away, stay happy.

In brief

The Apple Watch software team has been busy: watchOS 3 is the third major operating system release in the fifteen months since the Apple Watch's debut. And while the previous two watchOS versions may not have ever had the designation "beta," they sure feel like it when compared to watchOS 3: The operating system makes my year-and-a-half-old Apple Watch feel brand new.

Though watchOS 3 doesn't have iOS 10's giant list of new features, it's still a pretty impressive improvement. Apple has listened to its customers and made substantial changes to the way users interact with the Watch.

The company's new goal is an average of two seconds or less per interaction: No more holding your wrist up while you wait for an app to open, secretly wishing you'd done more arm work in the gym.

The app carousel, heavily promoted in the first release of watchOS, is all but gone. It still exists — there's been no Home screen reinvention on any of Apple's mobile platforms — but the likelihood of ever seeing it on your Apple Watch has diminished to near-zero with watchOS 3.

Instead of the Carousel, you now launch apps from complications and the new Dock, which replaces the Friends screen and Glances in one fell swoop. You can save a number of apps inside your Dock for easy access, and the most recently launched app displays at the end of your Dock list for easy access — or Dock addition.

Apple, too, has embraced the idea that users should have more than one watch face: You can now swipe edge-to-edge between your saved watch faces, each with their own custom complications — including a new Extra-Large face and super-sized complication that may be the closest thing we get to fully-customizable watch faces until watchOS 4.

Between complication launching and Dock glances, you may find, like me, that you never press the Digital Crown to see the Carousel again.

And that's good, because apps linked to your active watch face and Dock launch the way they should have from the start. No more awkward wrist-holding while your third-party app of choice spins in a never-ending whirl before launch; apps with watchOS's new background refresh technology launch up to seven times faster than their watchOS 2 compatriots.

Several of the Apple Watch default apps have gotten facelifts, along with new apps for Reminders, Find Friends, Breathe, and Home. The latter two are entirely new to iOS and watchOS alike: Breathe helps you practice stress-relieving full breathing throughout the day, while Home gives users a button-based way of interacting with their HomeKit accessories.

Messages has the same overall app interface, but replying to a message in a notification or conversation has been drastically simplified. There are options for replying with your voice, stickers or emoji, Digital Touch, pre-written responses, or the new Scribble pad — which lets you handwrite letter-by-letter to type out a message.

Health remains a huge part of the Apple Watch ecosystem, with new Activity watch faces, condensed Workout information screens, customized workout logging, automatic pausing when movement stops during a run, and a bunch more. Apps get access to Activity rings and sensor data as well as background logging, making my dream of a roller derby-centric watch app that much closer.

Not content with focusing engineer energy on traditional workouts and training, Apple has also made huge strides in accessibility with two new wheelchair workouts and "Time to roll!" notifications, all of which take into account the types of wheelchair rolls and the terrain traversed. The company has also copied the Health app's Medical ID data to the Apple Watch, available after a quick long press of the side button and a swipe to the right. You can also swipe on the SOS toggle in this screen to immediately call the emergency services department in your country in case you've fallen or been otherwise injured.

Apple is also expanding how the Apple Watch is used in tandem with other devices. If you own a Mac, when you install watchOS 3 and macOS Sierra on your respective devices, you can bypass your computer's password screen with the company's new Auto Unlock feature. This uses time proximity, Apple Watch skin contact, and an iCloud handshake to authenticate your watch to your Mac, and unlock the latter, shortening the time you spend waiting for your Mac to wake or entering in a cumbersome password.

The same is true for Apple Pay on your Mac — you'll soon be able to use your Apple Watch to authenticate any app or website that uses the company's payment service, or even pay for items within a watch app. (Goodbye, clunky Starbucks experience.)

That's an overview of what you can expect when you see watchOS 3 in the Fall. For a more detailed first look, read on.

Reinventing the Apple Watch experience

How do you use your Apple Watch? It's a question we asked iMore readers last summer, and it's a question Apple has clearly asked its developers and customers. watchOS 3 carries on the idea of making Apple's smartwatch about information, health, and communication, but with a renewed focus on smart, quick interactions.

The new Apple Watch experience is about interacting with information through watch faces, the Dock, and Siri — and interacting with that information quickly. Apple's two-second mantra is no joke: I find myself accomplishing tasks with watchOS 3 much more quickly than its predecessors, even when using third-party apps that haven't been updated to fully take advantage of the new backgrounding tasks.

The home screen Carousel is still there, but you wouldn't know it by looking at Apple's display art and promotional material — it's all about the methods users enjoy using. I don't think anyone, myself included, can admit to enjoying tapping on a teensy app icon on the Carousel — especially if you happen to own the smaller 38mm Apple Watch variant.

On the surface, Watch faces look very similar to their watchOS 1 and 2 compatriots, with one key difference: To switch faces, you need only swipe from edge to edge. You can still press firmly on the display to customize the watch face or switch from the edit display, but it's wholly unnecessary — and given that you'll be able to much more quickly pick and customize watch faces in the Watch app, new Apple Watch users may stop using Force Touch on the watch face altogether.

I've been using multiple watch faces since the early watchOS 1 days, but being able to quickly switch them makes the experience a thousand times better: I'm much more comfortable using a minimalist face like Photo or Numerals, knowing that a complications-heavy Modular face is waiting a swipe away.

Complications get more attention in watchOS 3, too: The minimalist faces each get two, and Extra Large gets a gigantic complication option that third-party developers will undoubtedly use to create pseudo-watch faces for their apps.

This is in part due to Apple's background refresh APIs, which not only guarantee complications 50 information pushes throughout the day (roughly two per hour), but let developers customize when those pushes get sent to the user. (If you have a complication for a Red Sox app, for instance, the developer could push minute-by-minute updates during a game, but leave it static on non-game days.) Complications on active watch faces also get to keep their companion app in memory, which means tapping on an app complication should launch an app near-instantly — no more spinning wheel.

This is also true of apps inside the new Dock, which subsumes the Glances feature launched alongside the Watch to provide something far more functional. It lives behind a press of the Side button (RIP, Friends interface), and displays your favorite apps and most recently-opened app in scrollable cards, identified by their names and icons along the top of the screen.

Cards are similar to a Glances in that they can include live-updating information; that information is smaller, however, and the Dock's interface is far superior. You can quickly scroll through items using the Digital Crown or a fast swipe; and because the interface and gestures are familiar to those who have used an iPhone or Apple TV before, they're easier to learn. (You can long press on a card to move it, for example, or swipe up to remove it from the Dock.)

By relegating glanceable information to the Side button, watchOS also frees up the bottom watch face gesture to Control Center-type functions. It helps unify the iOS/watchOS experience, sure, but it also frees Control Center from the "single card, no scrolling" Glances layout, allowing it to add new buttons for battery life and screen lock.

Siri, too, is smarter about interactions. After you push in the Digital Crown (or hail it with "Hey, Siri") and speak a command, Siri makes an immediate calculation: If the digital assistant can't instantly connect to your iPhone and transcribe your request, you can drop your wrist and get a haptic tap when your command has finished executing. (It's a small watchOS tweak in the grand scheme of things, but a much appreciated one.)

There are a few other nice tweaks to the Apple Watch experience, including more customization in the iPhone app; you can turn off the Apple Watch's Screenshots function, for instance, if you find that your watch tends to snap pictures of its screen when you're not paying attention. There's also a long-awaited "Find My Apple Watch" button which links your watch to the Find My iPhone app — hallelujah.

A better timepiece

With new complication options, new watch faces, and new ways of creating those faces, the Apple Watch screen feels more customizable than ever. We may not be able to download custom watch faces just yet, but there are enough options that it doesn't really matter.

The two-complication addition to the Photo face alone does a lot of good: If you want your Superman watch (looking at Rene, here), it's yours — with a Modular face of launchable complications just a swipe away.

Apple has also added two new Activity-based faces, a minimalist Numerals face, and new Minnie Mouse designs to the former Mickey-only face. All of these can be browsed and configured through the Apple Watch app, or rearranged once they've been added.

Interactions, not applications

From the beginning, "apps" on the Apple Watch have felt like a misnomer: I spend hours in apps on my iPhone. I don't want to spend hours holding up my wrist. The molasses-slow launching of both native apps and third-party properties in earlier versions of watchOS certainly felt like hours, and made me very unlikely to use apps beyond those with smart complications.

With watchOS 3, however, Apple is aiming to improve how both the company and third-party developers create applications by focusing on specific interactions.

The new apps exemplify this. Reminders was a Siri-only task until watchOS 3, and in a way, still is: The app is solely for looking at your lists and checking off reminders. There's no way to add reminders, or new lists; the only interactions you have are tapping lists, completing reminders, or a Force Touch to see completed tasks.

But it's kind of beautiful that way. I'm never going to go into the Reminders watch app to add a new task via dictation when I can just as easily add it via Siri. But I've checked off reminders several times through the app, and it's done what no iOS version of the app has done before: I actually use Reminders on a regular basis.

Watch apps don't need to do everything — in fact, they shouldn't. But if they can focus in on doing one or two tasks well, that's going to be far more valuable than a bloated, buggy app that tries to do too much, especially now that Dock apps and active complications launch almost instantly.

Despite this missive, third-party developers do have quite a bit more to play with in watchOS 3: They can incorporate the Digital Crown, touch events, speaker audio, inline video, iCloud storage, Game Center, and even SpriteKit and SceneKit.

I'm a bit skeptical about those last three: I've played precisely one game (the phenomenal Lifeline) on the Apple Watch, and have no real desire to spend a lot of time messing around with games on my already battery-constrained watch. Perhaps Apple hopes game developers will embrace the idea of two-second turns, and incorporate games that only require a quick glance to go back and forth with friends. We'll see.

Since we're speaking about battery constraints, a note: Those speedy-launching apps use the Apple Watch's memory stores to achieve such quick load times, which means you're going to be putting a bigger strain on your Apple Watch's battery. I'm reserving judgement on battery tests until the fall, because betas are often heavy drains due to bugs, but I haven't seen drastically different numbers on watchOS 3 vs watchOS 2. The 38mm watch is always going to struggle when compared to its bigger cousin; it simply doesn't have the raw space for the 42mm's capacity.

I do find, however, that I'm using the watch a lot more often on watchOS 3 than before, and that tends to bring the battery lower by the end of the day. Where I would previously run a workout and maybe glance at the complications screen a few times over the course of a day, I'm now frequently using the watch to mark off Reminders, talk to Siri, swipe between watch faces, and launch apps like Authy from the Dock.

A great communications device

Friends groups, sketches, and heartbeats were nice ideas. Who doesn't want to send cute wrist-based messages to their buddies and family? But they failed.

They failed because sketching is difficult on a tiny device. They failed because the Friends interface was cumbersome and required other friends with Apple Watches. And they failed because users didn't want a separate app to message friends.

The Messages app of watchOS 3 acknowledges all these problems and attempts to rise above them. Sketching, taps, and heartbeats now all live in a single button under a Messages conversation or notification, and once sent, they'll show up inline within your Messages conversation — no more separate (often-broken) notification service, and non-Apple Watch users can see your messages.

The terrifying Messages emoji aren't gone, but now they're hidden behind an emoji picker button; Apple has chosen to giantify its current emoji set rather than continue to develop its 3D monstrosities, unifying the watch app with Messages on iOS 10. It's a welcome change, though I do hope the tap targets on the emoji categories get bigger for 38mm watch-wearers.

Apple Watch wearers will also get to take advantage of some of iOS 10's new messaging features, but it's not clear to what extent just yet. You can view recent stickers to send under the emoji button, but there's no way to browse other sticker sets — or other third-party Messages app extensions — from your watch. Similarly, while the Apple website has implied that the message bubble animations will at least show up on your Apple Watch, there's no way currently to instigate those animations from the wearable.

That's likely for the best: You shouldn't be spending lots of time replying to a message on your watch. That thought carries through into text-based interactions, too.

As with prior versions of watchOS, Messages offers its Quick Reply buttons and dictation option, but it adds a new feature to the mix: Scribble. Rather than implement an impossibly-tiny keyboard for weird non-dictatable phrases, as other manufacturers have done, Apple has chosen to take a Palm- and Newton-like approach, letting you handwrite each letter. It's impressively accurate, and surprisingly fun to do. I'm hoping that in future versions of watchOS we might even see a combination between this feature and dictation, rather than having each one separately in a silo.

Taking care of your health

It may have started small — a logging app here, a step-tracker there — but Health has become an internal part of Apple's longterm goals. The Apple Watch is perhaps the clearest physical representation of those goals: It launched with a huge focus on helping others with healthy living, and has drastically expanded that mission statement throughout the last year and a half without ever having to improve the original hardware.

watchOS 3 continues this expansion. It brings two new Activity-based watch faces, which put your Move, Exercise, and Stand goals front and center. There's a new Workout complication that begins workouts faster, and workouts themselves are easier to keep an eye on, thanks to a single screen of training metrics. (No more swiping!) You'll even be able to customize what you see on that screen on a per-workout basis within the Apple Watch app.

Perhaps my favorite exercise-related feature is this: If you're one of the many Apple Watch users who regularly logs "Other" workouts, those can be tagged with any of the Health app's specific activities, and and that adds them to your list of workouts. It's a smart first step from the company to expand that list: Their engineers may not have the time or resources to figure out how the Apple Watch should track roller derby, weight training, or yoga, but you do. As you do your favorite activities, your watch can track that data and learn how your body reacts to each, rather than lumping all your non-running or cycling activities into one category.

The watch is also getting smarter when it comes to running-based tasks, too: The Workout app will automatically pause and restart if it accelerometer movement stops, and it now keeps track of outside weather conditions, too.

Third-party apps can also tap into background workout processes in watchOS 3, including heart rate data, gyroscope information, and the accelerometer; theoretically, that means third-party exercise apps will have more control over displaying and rendering your health data, though I have yet to try any betas implementing these features.

If you're not one content to keep your workout prowess to yourself, watchOS 3 has a nice new feature for you: Activity Sharing. It uses iCloud to connect you with fellow watch-wearers; you can see their Activity Ring data along with step and distance tracking, and even send along a little friendly smack talk to keep competition going. As someone who thrives off competition, it's already been somewhat encouraging to watch my friends log 308% goal workouts; it's certainly good motivation to get a little extra movement so my logs aren't quite so depressing.

Apple isn't just interested in physical workouts, however: The company is exploring what else the Apple Watch can do for you. Enter Breathe, which helps you, well, breathe. The app uses a pulsing icon and eerie haptics (which feel much like an expanding rib cage) to help you monitor and pace your breathing. As with Stand notifications, it bugs you every four hours to take a moment or two and just focus on your breathing.

Nowhere in Breathe's marketing will you find the words "meditation," but the app is clearly designed with that mindset: A meditation app for the folks who have written off meditation. And despite being someone who thoroughly enjoys yoga, that includes me.

I would have never sought out an app like Breathe from third party developers, but I'm thoroughly grateful it's being packaged with watchOS 3. In my brief tests, it's already made a noticeable difference in my overall stress level and my ability to draw deep breaths. (It's even helped with playing roller derby, a sport that requires smart breath control.)

HomeKit, Auto Unlock and Apple Pay

The improvements coming in watchOS 3 go beyond the Apple Watch: There are new ways to interact with HomeKit, unlock your Mac, and pay for items in your own home — no NFC terminal necessary.

The Apple Watch gets a Home app with watchOS 3 — a companion to iOS 10's app of the same name. Where once you were limited to Siri interactions when controlling your smart lights or door lock, the Home app offers virtual buttons and sliders for all your gadgets. (It also offers one-tap Scene settings, though there's no way to create new ones from your watch.)

Auto Unlock and web-based Apple Pay both require macOS Sierra to function; they use skin contact, proximity, and iCloud authentication to let your Apple Watch interact with your Mac. Auto Unlock will let you unlock your Mac just by sitting down next to it, while the new Apple Pay feature has you complete a web-based Apple Pay transaction by authenticating with your watch.

There's another Apple Pay feature coming to the watch itself: In-app Apple Pay. This has the potential to be great for a number of third-party app interactions, but I'm thinking specifically about the one I use the most: Starbucks. The coffee company hasn't incorporated NFC-based Apple Pay in its stores; instead, it has a rewards-based QR card that you can reload via Apple Pay — a task previously restricted to the iPhone. But once watchOS 3 hits in the fall (and Starbucks updates its app), I should theoretically be able to pay for my sweet sweet iced tea addiction right from my wrist.

Accessibility

It's another topic near and dear to Apple's core, and watchOS 3 is making new strides forward — or, more accurately, "rolls" forward.

Alongside the other new Health improvements, Apple is introducing wheelchair-based workouts and activity reminders for those restricted to wheel-based mobility. The company reportedly did some serious research to make this happen, including looking at different wheelchair push techniques and incorporating terrain and weather. The result: two new workouts for wheelchair users — one at a "walk" pace, and one at a "run" — and a "Time to Roll!" notification in lieu of a stand alert. It's an impressive gesture from the company, and one I hope will genuinely aid wheelchair users going forward.

Also new to accessibility in watchOS 3 are systemwide options for an SOS call and Medical ID display. Pressing and holding the Side button will get you the Power Off screen, per usual, but it also presents an option for Medical ID and (presumably, though it's not yet active) SOS. Medical ID will replace the screen contents of your Apple Watch with a card that details your name, age, weight, height, allergies, emergency contact, and whether you're an organ donor, along with when the information was last updated. SOS, once engaged, will automatically connect you to the emergency service in your area for quick medical attention.

Bottom line

We're still a few months out from watchOS 3's release, but even in this early state, there's a lot to like about the new watch operating system. Apple has made some smart calls on what works for the watch and what doesn't; as a result, watchOS 3 feels like the start of a much more refined era for the company's wearables. Gestures make sense. Hidden interactions have been removed. And your most important information is closer to front and center.

After only a first look, it's pepped up my aging 38mm Sport and made it feel like a new, more mature piece of technology. I'm now using my watch more than ever before, which is great for pretty much everything (except for, perhaps, my battery life). Fall can't come soon enough.

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watchOS 3 first look: A big roll in the right direction

Posted on by Serenity Caldwell.
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The Apple Watch comes into its own.

This fall, the Apple Watch will celebrate a strange sort of milestone: Two years prior, it was previewed before an audience of thousands inside the Flint Center — the same stage where the Macintosh made its debut.

That preview focused on three goals for Apple Watch: making it a great digital timepiece, communicator, and health tracker. Though the device wouldn't ship for another six months, these goals helped create what we now know as watchOS.

This fall, we'll see the culmination of those goals in watchOS 3. It's a rethinking of the Apple Watch's software, all while staying true to those goals: Previously prominent features have been hidden — or, in the case of the Friends circle, vanished entirely. The Apple Watch's physical buttons and touch interactions have been refactored and focused. And Health has taken an even more prominent place on your wrist.

We've still got a few months before watchOS 3 makes its official debut, but I took a first look at the new Apple Watch operating system. Here's what you have to look forward to in just a few months.

This preview is based on pre-release software. Implementations and interfaces can and will change. Unless you're a developer and need to update your apps, we don't recommend rushing out to install developer betas on your Apple Watch. Wait for the release this fall. Betas are not meant for regular daily use. Stay away, stay happy.

In brief

The Apple Watch software team has been busy: watchOS 3 is the third major operating system release in the fifteen months since the Apple Watch's debut. And while the previous two watchOS versions may not have ever had the designation "beta," they sure feel like it when compared to watchOS 3: The operating system makes my year-and-a-half-old Apple Watch feel brand new.

Though watchOS 3 doesn't have iOS 10's giant list of new features, it's still a pretty impressive improvement. Apple has listened to its customers and made substantial changes to the way users interact with the Watch.

The company's new goal is an average of two seconds or less per interaction: No more holding your wrist up while you wait for an app to open, secretly wishing you'd done more arm work in the gym.

The app carousel, heavily promoted in the first release of watchOS, is all but gone. It still exists — there's been no Home screen reinvention on any of Apple's mobile platforms — but the likelihood of ever seeing it on your Apple Watch has diminished to near-zero with watchOS 3.

Instead of the Carousel, you now launch apps from complications and the new Dock, which replaces the Friends screen and Glances in one fell swoop. You can save a number of apps inside your Dock for easy access, and the most recently launched app displays at the end of your Dock list for easy access — or Dock addition.

Apple, too, has embraced the idea that users should have more than one watch face: You can now swipe edge-to-edge between your saved watch faces, each with their own custom complications — including a new Extra-Large face and super-sized complication that may be the closest thing we get to fully-customizable watch faces until watchOS 4.

Between complication launching and Dock glances, you may find, like me, that you never press the Digital Crown to see the Carousel again.

And that's good, because apps linked to your active watch face and Dock launch the way they should have from the start. No more awkward wrist-holding while your third-party app of choice spins in a never-ending whirl before launch; apps with watchOS's new background refresh technology launch up to seven times faster than their watchOS 2 compatriots.

Several of the Apple Watch default apps have gotten facelifts, along with new apps for Reminders, Find Friends, Breathe, and Home. The latter two are entirely new to iOS and watchOS alike: Breathe helps you practice stress-relieving full breathing throughout the day, while Home gives users a button-based way of interacting with their HomeKit accessories.

Messages has the same overall app interface, but replying to a message in a notification or conversation has been drastically simplified. There are options for replying with your voice, stickers or emoji, Digital Touch, pre-written responses, or the new Scribble pad — which lets you handwrite letter-by-letter to type out a message.

Health remains a huge part of the Apple Watch ecosystem, with new Activity watch faces, condensed Workout information screens, customized workout logging, automatic pausing when movement stops during a run, and a bunch more. Apps get access to Activity rings and sensor data as well as background logging, making my dream of a roller derby-centric watch app that much closer.

Not content with focusing engineer energy on traditional workouts and training, Apple has also made huge strides in accessibility with two new wheelchair workouts and "Time to roll!" notifications, all of which take into account the types of wheelchair rolls and the terrain traversed. The company has also copied the Health app's Medical ID data to the Apple Watch, available after a quick long press of the side button and a swipe to the right. You can also swipe on the SOS toggle in this screen to immediately call the emergency services department in your country in case you've fallen or been otherwise injured.

Apple is also expanding how the Apple Watch is used in tandem with other devices. If you own a Mac, when you install watchOS 3 and macOS Sierra on your respective devices, you can bypass your computer's password screen with the company's new Auto Unlock feature. This uses time proximity, Apple Watch skin contact, and an iCloud handshake to authenticate your watch to your Mac, and unlock the latter, shortening the time you spend waiting for your Mac to wake or entering in a cumbersome password.

The same is true for Apple Pay on your Mac — you'll soon be able to use your Apple Watch to authenticate any app or website that uses the company's payment service, or even pay for items within a watch app. (Goodbye, clunky Starbucks experience.)

That's an overview of what you can expect when you see watchOS 3 in the Fall. For a more detailed first look, read on.

Reinventing the Apple Watch experience

How do you use your Apple Watch? It's a question we asked iMore readers last summer, and it's a question Apple has clearly asked its developers and customers. watchOS 3 carries on the idea of making Apple's smartwatch about information, health, and communication, but with a renewed focus on smart, quick interactions.

The new Apple Watch experience is about interacting with information through watch faces, the Dock, and Siri — and interacting with that information quickly. Apple's two-second mantra is no joke: I find myself accomplishing tasks with watchOS 3 much more quickly than its predecessors, even when using third-party apps that haven't been updated to fully take advantage of the new backgrounding tasks.

The home screen Carousel is still there, but you wouldn't know it by looking at Apple's display art and promotional material — it's all about the methods users enjoy using. I don't think anyone, myself included, can admit to enjoying tapping on a teensy app icon on the Carousel — especially if you happen to own the smaller 38mm Apple Watch variant.

On the surface, Watch faces look very similar to their watchOS 1 and 2 compatriots, with one key difference: To switch faces, you need only swipe from edge to edge. You can still press firmly on the display to customize the watch face or switch from the edit display, but it's wholly unnecessary — and given that you'll be able to much more quickly pick and customize watch faces in the Watch app, new Apple Watch users may stop using Force Touch on the watch face altogether.

I've been using multiple watch faces since the early watchOS 1 days, but being able to quickly switch them makes the experience a thousand times better: I'm much more comfortable using a minimalist face like Photo or Numerals, knowing that a complications-heavy Modular face is waiting a swipe away.

Complications get more attention in watchOS 3, too: The minimalist faces each get two, and Extra Large gets a gigantic complication option that third-party developers will undoubtedly use to create pseudo-watch faces for their apps.

This is in part due to Apple's background refresh APIs, which not only guarantee complications 50 information pushes throughout the day (roughly two per hour), but let developers customize when those pushes get sent to the user. (If you have a complication for a Red Sox app, for instance, the developer could push minute-by-minute updates during a game, but leave it static on non-game days.) Complications on active watch faces also get to keep their companion app in memory, which means tapping on an app complication should launch an app near-instantly — no more spinning wheel.

This is also true of apps inside the new Dock, which subsumes the Glances feature launched alongside the Watch to provide something far more functional. It lives behind a press of the Side button (RIP, Friends interface), and displays your favorite apps and most recently-opened app in scrollable cards, identified by their names and icons along the top of the screen.

Cards are similar to a Glances in that they can include live-updating information; that information is smaller, however, and the Dock's interface is far superior. You can quickly scroll through items using the Digital Crown or a fast swipe; and because the interface and gestures are familiar to those who have used an iPhone or Apple TV before, they're easier to learn. (You can long press on a card to move it, for example, or swipe up to remove it from the Dock.)

By relegating glanceable information to the Side button, watchOS also frees up the bottom watch face gesture to Control Center-type functions. It helps unify the iOS/watchOS experience, sure, but it also frees Control Center from the "single card, no scrolling" Glances layout, allowing it to add new buttons for battery life and screen lock.

Siri, too, is smarter about interactions. After you push in the Digital Crown (or hail it with "Hey, Siri") and speak a command, Siri makes an immediate calculation: If the digital assistant can't instantly connect to your iPhone and transcribe your request, you can drop your wrist and get a haptic tap when your command has finished executing. (It's a small watchOS tweak in the grand scheme of things, but a much appreciated one.)

There are a few other nice tweaks to the Apple Watch experience, including more customization in the iPhone app; you can turn off the Apple Watch's Screenshots function, for instance, if you find that your watch tends to snap pictures of its screen when you're not paying attention. There's also a long-awaited "Find My Apple Watch" button which links your watch to the Find My iPhone app — hallelujah.

A better timepiece

With new complication options, new watch faces, and new ways of creating those faces, the Apple Watch screen feels more customizable than ever. We may not be able to download custom watch faces just yet, but there are enough options that it doesn't really matter.

The two-complication addition to the Photo face alone does a lot of good: If you want your Superman watch (looking at Rene, here), it's yours — with a Modular face of launchable complications just a swipe away.

Apple has also added two new Activity-based faces, a minimalist Numerals face, and new Minnie Mouse designs to the former Mickey-only face. All of these can be browsed and configured through the Apple Watch app, or rearranged once they've been added.

Interactions, not applications

From the beginning, "apps" on the Apple Watch have felt like a misnomer: I spend hours in apps on my iPhone. I don't want to spend hours holding up my wrist. The molasses-slow launching of both native apps and third-party properties in earlier versions of watchOS certainly felt like hours, and made me very unlikely to use apps beyond those with smart complications.

With watchOS 3, however, Apple is aiming to improve how both the company and third-party developers create applications by focusing on specific interactions.

The new apps exemplify this. Reminders was a Siri-only task until watchOS 3, and in a way, still is: The app is solely for looking at your lists and checking off reminders. There's no way to add reminders, or new lists; the only interactions you have are tapping lists, completing reminders, or a Force Touch to see completed tasks.

But it's kind of beautiful that way. I'm never going to go into the Reminders watch app to add a new task via dictation when I can just as easily add it via Siri. But I've checked off reminders several times through the app, and it's done what no iOS version of the app has done before: I actually use Reminders on a regular basis.

Watch apps don't need to do everything — in fact, they shouldn't. But if they can focus in on doing one or two tasks well, that's going to be far more valuable than a bloated, buggy app that tries to do too much, especially now that Dock apps and active complications launch almost instantly.

Despite this missive, third-party developers do have quite a bit more to play with in watchOS 3: They can incorporate the Digital Crown, touch events, speaker audio, inline video, iCloud storage, Game Center, and even SpriteKit and SceneKit.

I'm a bit skeptical about those last three: I've played precisely one game (the phenomenal Lifeline) on the Apple Watch, and have no real desire to spend a lot of time messing around with games on my already battery-constrained watch. Perhaps Apple hopes game developers will embrace the idea of two-second turns, and incorporate games that only require a quick glance to go back and forth with friends. We'll see.

Since we're speaking about battery constraints, a note: Those speedy-launching apps use the Apple Watch's memory stores to achieve such quick load times, which means you're going to be putting a bigger strain on your Apple Watch's battery. I'm reserving judgement on battery tests until the fall, because betas are often heavy drains due to bugs, but I haven't seen drastically different numbers on watchOS 3 vs watchOS 2. The 38mm watch is always going to struggle when compared to its bigger cousin; it simply doesn't have the raw space for the 42mm's capacity.

I do find, however, that I'm using the watch a lot more often on watchOS 3 than before, and that tends to bring the battery lower by the end of the day. Where I would previously run a workout and maybe glance at the complications screen a few times over the course of a day, I'm now frequently using the watch to mark off Reminders, talk to Siri, swipe between watch faces, and launch apps like Authy from the Dock.

A great communications device

Friends groups, sketches, and heartbeats were nice ideas. Who doesn't want to send cute wrist-based messages to their buddies and family? But they failed.

They failed because sketching is difficult on a tiny device. They failed because the Friends interface was cumbersome and required other friends with Apple Watches. And they failed because users didn't want a separate app to message friends.

The Messages app of watchOS 3 acknowledges all these problems and attempts to rise above them. Sketching, taps, and heartbeats now all live in a single button under a Messages conversation or notification, and once sent, they'll show up inline within your Messages conversation — no more separate (often-broken) notification service, and non-Apple Watch users can see your messages.

The terrifying Messages emoji aren't gone, but now they're hidden behind an emoji picker button; Apple has chosen to giantify its current emoji set rather than continue to develop its 3D monstrosities, unifying the watch app with Messages on iOS 10. It's a welcome change, though I do hope the tap targets on the emoji categories get bigger for 38mm watch-wearers.

Apple Watch wearers will also get to take advantage of some of iOS 10's new messaging features, but it's not clear to what extent just yet. You can view recent stickers to send under the emoji button, but there's no way to browse other sticker sets — or other third-party Messages app extensions — from your watch. Similarly, while the Apple website has implied that the message bubble animations will at least show up on your Apple Watch, there's no way currently to instigate those animations from the wearable.

That's likely for the best: You shouldn't be spending lots of time replying to a message on your watch. That thought carries through into text-based interactions, too.

As with prior versions of watchOS, Messages offers its Quick Reply buttons and dictation option, but it adds a new feature to the mix: Scribble. Rather than implement an impossibly-tiny keyboard for weird non-dictatable phrases, as other manufacturers have done, Apple has chosen to take a Palm- and Newton-like approach, letting you handwrite each letter. It's impressively accurate, and surprisingly fun to do. I'm hoping that in future versions of watchOS we might even see a combination between this feature and dictation, rather than having each one separately in a silo.

Taking care of your health

It may have started small — a logging app here, a step-tracker there — but Health has become an internal part of Apple's longterm goals. The Apple Watch is perhaps the clearest physical representation of those goals: It launched with a huge focus on helping others with healthy living, and has drastically expanded that mission statement throughout the last year and a half without ever having to improve the original hardware.

watchOS 3 continues this expansion. It brings two new Activity-based watch faces, which put your Move, Exercise, and Stand goals front and center. There's a new Workout complication that begins workouts faster, and workouts themselves are easier to keep an eye on, thanks to a single screen of training metrics. (No more swiping!) You'll even be able to customize what you see on that screen on a per-workout basis within the Apple Watch app.

Perhaps my favorite exercise-related feature is this: If you're one of the many Apple Watch users who regularly logs "Other" workouts, those can be tagged with any of the Health app's specific activities, and and that adds them to your list of workouts. It's a smart first step from the company to expand that list: Their engineers may not have the time or resources to figure out how the Apple Watch should track roller derby, weight training, or yoga, but you do. As you do your favorite activities, your watch can track that data and learn how your body reacts to each, rather than lumping all your non-running or cycling activities into one category.

The watch is also getting smarter when it comes to running-based tasks, too: The Workout app will automatically pause and restart if it accelerometer movement stops, and it now keeps track of outside weather conditions, too.

Third-party apps can also tap into background workout processes in watchOS 3, including heart rate data, gyroscope information, and the accelerometer; theoretically, that means third-party exercise apps will have more control over displaying and rendering your health data, though I have yet to try any betas implementing these features.

If you're not one content to keep your workout prowess to yourself, watchOS 3 has a nice new feature for you: Activity Sharing. It uses iCloud to connect you with fellow watch-wearers; you can see their Activity Ring data along with step and distance tracking, and even send along a little friendly smack talk to keep competition going. As someone who thrives off competition, it's already been somewhat encouraging to watch my friends log 308% goal workouts; it's certainly good motivation to get a little extra movement so my logs aren't quite so depressing.

Apple isn't just interested in physical workouts, however: The company is exploring what else the Apple Watch can do for you. Enter Breathe, which helps you, well, breathe. The app uses a pulsing icon and eerie haptics (which feel much like an expanding rib cage) to help you monitor and pace your breathing. As with Stand notifications, it bugs you every four hours to take a moment or two and just focus on your breathing.

Nowhere in Breathe's marketing will you find the words "meditation," but the app is clearly designed with that mindset: A meditation app for the folks who have written off meditation. And despite being someone who thoroughly enjoys yoga, that includes me.

I would have never sought out an app like Breathe from third party developers, but I'm thoroughly grateful it's being packaged with watchOS 3. In my brief tests, it's already made a noticeable difference in my overall stress level and my ability to draw deep breaths. (It's even helped with playing roller derby, a sport that requires smart breath control.)

HomeKit, Auto Unlock and Apple Pay

The improvements coming in watchOS 3 go beyond the Apple Watch: There are new ways to interact with HomeKit, unlock your Mac, and pay for items in your own home — no NFC terminal necessary.

The Apple Watch gets a Home app with watchOS 3 — a companion to iOS 10's app of the same name. Where once you were limited to Siri interactions when controlling your smart lights or door lock, the Home app offers virtual buttons and sliders for all your gadgets. (It also offers one-tap Scene settings, though there's no way to create new ones from your watch.)

Auto Unlock and web-based Apple Pay both require macOS Sierra to function; they use skin contact, proximity, and iCloud authentication to let your Apple Watch interact with your Mac. Auto Unlock will let you unlock your Mac just by sitting down next to it, while the new Apple Pay feature has you complete a web-based Apple Pay transaction by authenticating with your watch.

There's another Apple Pay feature coming to the watch itself: In-app Apple Pay. This has the potential to be great for a number of third-party app interactions, but I'm thinking specifically about the one I use the most: Starbucks. The coffee company hasn't incorporated NFC-based Apple Pay in its stores; instead, it has a rewards-based QR card that you can reload via Apple Pay — a task previously restricted to the iPhone. But once watchOS 3 hits in the fall (and Starbucks updates its app), I should theoretically be able to pay for my sweet sweet iced tea addiction right from my wrist.

Accessibility

It's another topic near and dear to Apple's core, and watchOS 3 is making new strides forward — or, more accurately, "rolls" forward.

Alongside the other new Health improvements, Apple is introducing wheelchair-based workouts and activity reminders for those restricted to wheel-based mobility. The company reportedly did some serious research to make this happen, including looking at different wheelchair push techniques and incorporating terrain and weather. The result: two new workouts for wheelchair users — one at a "walk" pace, and one at a "run" — and a "Time to Roll!" notification in lieu of a stand alert. It's an impressive gesture from the company, and one I hope will genuinely aid wheelchair users going forward.

Also new to accessibility in watchOS 3 are systemwide options for an SOS call and Medical ID display. Pressing and holding the Side button will get you the Power Off screen, per usual, but it also presents an option for Medical ID and (presumably, though it's not yet active) SOS. Medical ID will replace the screen contents of your Apple Watch with a card that details your name, age, weight, height, allergies, emergency contact, and whether you're an organ donor, along with when the information was last updated. SOS, once engaged, will automatically connect you to the emergency service in your area for quick medical attention.

Bottom line

We're still a few months out from watchOS 3's release, but even in this early state, there's a lot to like about the new watch operating system. Apple has made some smart calls on what works for the watch and what doesn't; as a result, watchOS 3 feels like the start of a much more refined era for the company's wearables. Gestures make sense. Hidden interactions have been removed. And your most important information is closer to front and center.

After only a first look, it's pepped up my aging 38mm Sport and made it feel like a new, more mature piece of technology. I'm now using my watch more than ever before, which is great for pretty much everything (except for, perhaps, my battery life). Fall can't come soon enough.

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SanDisk iXpand Memory Case lets you add more storage, battery life to your iPhone

Posted on by Mark Guim.
Categories: Uncategorized.

If you regret not opting for the iPhone with more storage, you can upgrade your phone with the SanDisk iXpand Memory Case. It lets you add up to 128GB of extra storage to your iPhone 6 or 6S, so you can take more photos, watch more videos, or listen to more music. Extra memory is great, but the case also lets you attach a 1,900mAh battery pack to boost your phone's battery life. Watch our hands-on video for a closer look.

The SanDisk iXpand Memory Case can also help protect your iPhone. It is designed with a hard plastic outside and soft rubber inside for protection.

The iXpand Case App is the companion app to the iXpand Case that allows you to access and manage your content stored in your case. The app automatically organizes and arranges all the content into photos, videos, music. You can also set up an automatic transfer of all your photos and videos directly to the case.

The SanDisk iXpand Memory Case is available now in Blue, Grey, Red, and Teal with memory options for 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. The case starts at $59.99 while the external battery pack will sell for $39.99.

See at Amazon

SanDisk iXpand Memory Case lets you add more storage, battery life to your iPhone

Posted on by Mark Guim.
Categories: Uncategorized.

If you regret not opting for the iPhone with more storage, you can upgrade your phone with the SanDisk iXpand Memory Case. It lets you add up to 128GB of extra storage to your iPhone 6 or 6S, so you can take more photos, watch more videos, or listen to more music. Extra memory is great, but the case also lets you attach a 1,900mAh battery pack to boost your phone's battery life. Watch our hands-on video for a closer look.

The SanDisk iXpand Memory Case can also help protect your iPhone. It is designed with a hard plastic outside and soft rubber inside for protection.

The iXpand Case App is the companion app to the iXpand Case that allows you to access and manage your content stored in your case. The app automatically organizes and arranges all the content into photos, videos, music. You can also set up an automatic transfer of all your photos and videos directly to the case.

The SanDisk iXpand Memory Case is available now in Blue, Grey, Red, and Teal with memory options for 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. The case starts at $59.99 while the external battery pack will sell for $39.99.

See at Amazon

Apple Watch Rumored to Switch to Micro-LED Display Starting in 2017

Posted on by Evan Selleck.
Categories: Uncategorized.
Right now, Apple’s OLED products include the Apple Watch lineup, but that could be changing. Continue reading

Best 4K monitors for Mac

Posted on by Mike Tanasychuk.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Display in 4K 'cause it's the way… of the future.

Your Mac or MacBook's display is already gorgeous. If you're in the market for a second display or something larger than what you have, you want to maintain a similar level of definition. A 4K monitor is a huge step in the right direction.

Which Macs support 4K monitors?

Not all Macs and MacBooks will support 4K and not all of those that do will support it in the same way. As of this writing, the Macs and MacBooks that support 4K are as follows:

  • MacBook Pro (Retina, Late 2013) and later
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013) and later
  • iMac (27-inch, Late 2013) and later
  • Mac mini (Late 2014) and later
  • MacBook Air (Early 2015) and later
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015) and later

You'll first want to make sure your Mac or MacBook is running OSX Mavericks version 10.9.3 or later. Anything earlier and text will not look its best and other finer details may not be represented very well.

As mentioned, not all Macs support 4K the same. 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros and Mac Minis support 4K via HDMI 1.4, which is limited to 24Hz or 30Hz on all Macs when displaying 4K content. 24Hz and 32Hz refer to the refresh rate of a monitor, which is the number of framers a monitor can support, per second. Computer monitors and TVs are like lightbulbs in that they're not constantly on, rather they're flickering so fast that the human eye can't detect it.

That's fine if you're just watching 4K movies or other media, but if you're using the 4K display as a second monitor all day, you'll probably want 60Hz instead. It'll look more crisp, there will be less mouse lag, if any, and you'll notice far less eye strain.

If you're in the market for a 60Hz monitor, then you're going to need a late 2013 or later Mac Pro, a late 2013 or later 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, or a Retina iMac.

If you're at all unsure about your particular Mac, just double-check what it can support before shelling out hundreds of dollars for a new display that might not work for you.

You can find much more information, as well as a list of compatible displays on Apple's site.

All that being said, if you have any of the above Macs, you can certainly find a 4K monitor that'll fit your needs. Here are our favorites.

Samsung U28E590D 28-Inch UHD LED-lit monitor

Samsung's usually one of the first names that comes to mind when shopping for a TV and in the case of monitors, it should be no different. The U28E590D series is a powerful 28-inch monitor that offers a resolution of up to 3840x2160 (4K).

To make things more comfortable on your eyes, Samsung's monitor features Flicker-Free and Eye Saver modes, as well as a 1ms response time, which means no lag when executing commands. Response is the time it takes for you to perform an action and see it on the screen. Can you even count one millisecond? Go ahead, try it. I'll wait a millisecond.

Samsung's UHD TV's are well-known for their color-depth, and the U28E590D carries on that tradition, displaying more than a billion colors. Granted, you won't be able to pick out even a fraction of those, but hey, it's gonna look pretty as all get-out.

The U28E590D has two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

If you're after a monitor that's incredibly quick, made by a trusted brand, and downright gorgeous, then Samsung's likely right up your alley.

See at Amazon

Dell Ultra HD P2715Q 27-Inch LED-lit monitor

Dell's P2715Q is as beautiful as it is functional. It can tilt and swivel to your desired height and viewing angle and can even pivot from landscape to portrait mode.

If you end up having to swivel your monitors to fit on your desk, then the Dell P2715Q is ideal for you, since it features an IPS (in-plane-switching) panel. Whereas classic LCD monitors had the liquid crystal molecules oriented vertically, IPS panels orient them horizontally, giving you superior color reproduction and much better side-angle viewing.

When it comes to monitors, response time refers to the time it takes between performing an action and see it on the screen, e.g. clicking to open a Finder window. With a 9ms response time, this monitor isn't the fastest on this list, but so long as you're not doing a lot of heavy gaming you'll be fine.

The P2715Q features four USB 3.0 Type A ports, a USB 3.0 Type B port, an MHL/HDMI port, a DisplayPort, a mini DisplayPort, a DisplayPort output port, and an audio line out. You want connectivity? You got it in spades.

If you're after a monitor with excellent side-angle viewing and great versatility in its orientation and compatibility with other devices, check out the Dell P2715Q.

See at Dell

Samsung U32D970Q 32-inch LED-lit monitor

If your professional life depends on a powerful and fast 4K monitor, then the Samsung U32D970Q is for you. It starts at around $1,255, but it's worth every penny (well, almost every penny).

Ideal for photo and video editors, the U32D970Q features 11 color space calibration options so that the display is always as accurate as possible for the room you're in. It also features quad-screen, split-screen, and picture-in-picture options so that you can easily work on multiple projects at once.

If you're working with any color critical applications, then go with the U32D970Q, since it has White Balance Correction, which automatically recognizes the exact white balance needed and "corrects the temperature for a more vivid picture quality."

The U32D970Q has one HDMI port, one USB port, and 2 DisplayPorts.

If you're in need of a 4K monitor for professional purposes, then Samsung's U32D970Q should be the monitor you choose.

See at Amazon

Acer S277HK wmidpp 27-inch LED-lit monitor

Acer's S277HK is a beautifully designed monitor, featuring an almost frameless front with a tiny bezel so the 4K beauty stands entirely on its own.

With a 4ms response time and a 60Hz refresh rate, you'll notice next to no mouse lag or motion blur, making this monitor ideal for working with video and animation. It's even got a decent rear speaker, just in case you forget your headphones.

The only real downside to the S277HK wmidpp is that it does not swivel nor does it feature adjustable height. It does, however, tilt from -5 to 15 degrees.

The S277HK wmidpp features one HDMI port, a DisplayPort, a DVI port, and the aforementioned integrated speakers.

If you're looking for a great-performing monitor that features HDMI 2.0 for 60Hz 4K capabilities, then Acer's monitor is your best bet.

See at Amazon

ASUS PB287Q UHD 28-inch LED-lit monitor

ASUS' PB287Q is another incredibly powerful 4K monitor with a 1ms response time and a refresh rate up to 60Hz. It also features ASUS Eye Care technology with Flicker-Free mode to promote less eye fatigue.

It's designed with versatility in mind, with the ability to tilt, swivel, pivot, and adjust its height, so you're always viewing comfortably.

Fascinatingly, the ASUS PB287Q features built-in picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture, which allows you to view content from two sources simultaneously. This is definitely one of the best monitors you can get for under $500.

The PB287Q has one HMDI port, an MHL/HDMI port, a DisplayPort, a 3.5mm PC audio-in jack, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is for the HDMI and DisplayPort only.

If you're looking for a versatile 4K monitor with excellent display features, like picture-in-picture, then check out the ASUS PB287Q.

See at Amazon

What do you use?

Are we missing out on a sweet 4K monitor that's not in the list? Sound off in the comments below.

Official Twitter app will now show tweet feeds from specific locations

Posted on by Rich Edmonds.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Twitter is quietly rolling out a feature to its iPhone and iPad app that will allow those who wish to easily read tweets from a specific location to do so. Whether you happen to be at a sports stadium, music festival or even a business HQ. The data is being made available for tweets thanks to a partnership formed between the micro-blogging platform and Foursquare.

When looking at tweet with a tagged location (it can even be a city, reports TechCrunch), you will be provided with a dedicated feed for said locations when tapping on them from view. Tagged tweets will have a "- at [tagged location]" attached to said listings. There's even a handy map displayed way up top too. Unfortunately, it's not entirely seamless yet, as detailed in TechCrunch's report:

"Getting to these location feeds can be a bit tricky. City-level location, which many users leave on all the time, isn't shown on tweets in the main timeline or profiles. You have to click into a tweet's detail view to see it, then click on the city name to see its feed."

Not only that, but there's no convenient way to browse through location feeds using the platform's own search system. It's noted that Twitter could show featured locations within results, much like it does already with named accounts it recommends you should follow. A similar approach could be taken for places too. It will aid folk in reading through tweets from those who are actually there, as opposed to those jumping onto hashtags.

It'll be interesting to see how the company expands on this new feature. Twitter informed TechCurnch that location tagging and viewing will arrive on other platforms soon.