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June 2017 Apple Announcements

Yesterday Apple announced some new hardware and software. Here are the highlights. First the hardware:

HomePod

Apple’s first truly new piece of hardware in a while (other than the AirPods), the HomePod is a wireless speaker that is 7” tall and can play all your Apple Music; it also has Siri built in to answer questions. So it’s kind of a cross between Sonos and Amazon Echo yet supposedly with way better sound. Available December for $349 each. (You can even buy 2 and set them up to work together.)

This could be fantastic if the sound is as great as they say, plus what a great idea to be able to set up 2 in a room for stereo sound. Siri has never worked well on the phone so I have low expectations for Siri in a speaker…

iPad Pro

The smaller iPad Pro is now bigger than it used to be, at 10.5”. That allows for a full-size onscreen keyboard, and of course it’s faster, brighter, with better camera, more storage, and so on. Plus they finally have a new sleeve that holds the iPad and the Pencil. It ships next week. The 12.9” iPad Pro has also been enhanced. The 10.5” model starts at $649. Not sure what the market is for this, and now there are 4 sizes of iPad for extra confusion?

iMac Pro

Apple’s new, most powerful Mac has a 27” screen and a Retina 5K display, along with four Thunderbolt 3 and four “standard” USB 3 ports, plus 10Gb Ethernet. If you max it out, it has an 18-core processor, 128GB of memory, and a 4TB SSD for storage. Available December. It starts at $5000 and I can’t imagine how much the maxed-out version will be. This is really for video professionals and other super power users only. This would seem to signal the death knell for the 2013 Mac Pro “tower,” but they’re still selling it for the time being.

Other Macs

More powerful, brighter, faster iMacs and laptops, all shipping today. The iMac now gets two Thunderbolt 3 ports, in addition to keeping its 4 “standard” USB ports. For best performance, you should continue to avoid models that ship with a 1 TB hard drive or 1 TB Fusion drive. The 2-pound MacBook got a lot better, with faster CPU’s and a 16 GB memory option. (The MacBook Air 13” remains in the product line as the cheapest model, despite no longer being the smallest and lightest Mac.)

And now the new software:

MacOS High Sierra

Yes this is the name. Could they not find any more interesting California names to use instead? Some of the highlights:

  • A new file system called APFS (Apple File System) which is designed for security and performance
  • Safari automatically blocks video ads from playing, and stops advertisers from tracking you
  • HEVC for video that plays better while taking up less space
  • Photos has more editing capabilities

Available as a free upgrade this fall.

iOS 11

Yes, Tim Cook made the joke that now it goes to 11. What’s new:

  • Messages are in your iCloud account, so they sync across devices, like mail does (hallelujah)
  • Apple Pay can now be used for person-to-person payments, like Venmo
  • Siri supposedly supposedly more capable, and translates from English into 5 languages, and works with more 3rd-party apps
  • Control Center has more controls on a single page
  • Maps now includes floor plans of malls and airports, plus, most importantly, it has “Do Not Disturb while Driving,” which silences your phone while moving faster than a certain speed, and automatically sends a reply to incoming text messages that you’re driving
  • Apple Music can tell you what your friends are listening to, and 3rd-party apps can now have access to it

There are some things that are new in iOS 11 just for iPad, including:

  • Dock for switching apps, just like on the Mac
  • Drag and drop text, images between apps
  • Notes has a built-in document scanner, plus handwritten text is now searchable
  • A Files app allows you to browse files on your iPad just like you do on your Mac

App Store redesign

Can you believe the app store has had 180 billion downloads since it launched 9 years ago? Or that it has 500 million weekly visitors? They’re doing a redesign, mostly to give more space to games by giving that category its own tab (after all, games is where most of the money comes in), but also to provide daily app news. I guess people were getting overwhelmed by the number of apps to wade through, so now Apple will provide daily editorial content and app suggestions.

 

(June 2017)

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