FCC Chairman wants Apple to enable FM in iPhones for emergencies (update)

You might think of radio as an archaic form of listening to music, but it’s still one of the more effective ways to get information to people, especially when cell networks go down. Most smartphones already have an FM chip baked right into the chipset, but they tend to be inaccessible, especially in the US. Now FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is asking Apple to activate these FM chips already in iPhones. “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted (activating the chips),” said Pai in a statement. “But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.”

This isn’t a new push by Pai to get FM enabled in smartphones, either. “In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States,” he said. “And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so.” In his first public speech as FCC chairman, Pai notes, he said that “you could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.”

As The Verge notes, many companies, including Motorola, LG and Samsung (among others), have allowed for FM access in their smartphones. Many are on the list of supported devices provided by NextRadio, a smartphone app that provides FM broadcasts to smartphones. AT&T already asks manufacturers of Android phones to enable the FM systems, too. “I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones,” said Pai.

Update: Apple has responded to Pai’s request with the statement below, claiming that its most recent models don’t actually have FM capability which exec Phil Schiller also noted in a tweet. The company didn’t mention older models, but according to John Gruber of Daring Fireball, he’s heard that while they may contain an FM radio chip it isn’t connected or available to be enabled by a software update.

Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.


Source: FCC

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AccuWeather’s iPhone app may track you even if you opt out (update)

AccuWeather on iOS might be deceiving users and violating Apple’s developer terms of service, security expert Will Strafach has discovered. If you deny it access to location info, the popular app reportedly still sends WiFi data, namely your router name and BSSID, to a third-party ad firm called Reveal Mobile. Furthermore, the app can even track you when it’s not open by using Bluetooth beacon data.

Strafach, well known for his early iOS jailbreak hacks, notes that he was actually researching a separate security problem on Accuweather’s iOS app. However, during testing he discovered that the app sent data 16 times to Reveal Mobile, installed as a third-party SDK on AccuWeather. According to the company’s own PR, it works as a way “to help app publishers and media companies extract the maximum value from their location data.” That can generate a lot of money both for Reveal Mobile and AccuWeather, he notes.

Furthermore, Reveal Mobile’s SDK may also collect user location data via Bluetooth beacons, Strafach believes. According to Reveal Mobile’s own product description, when you’re near one, it can figure out your location and turn the info into data it can sell. “While traditional lat/long audiences require the app to be open and running, detecting or ‘bumping’ beacons can occur when apps are not in use,” the company writes. “This allows Reveal Mobile to build larger, and more accurate, location-based audiences.”

Obviously, the company can generate more revenue if an app collects data even when users opt out. However, that “violate[s] user trust,” Strafach notes, and seemingly Apple’s developer agreement as well.

You may not track an end-user’s WiFi network usage to determine their location if they have disabled location services for your application. –Apple developer agreement.

Though tracking WiFi BSSID names may seem innocuous, the FTC is investigating a company called InMobi about that same thing, he adds. “By collecting the BSSID (i.e., a unique identifier) of the WiFi networks that a consumer’s device connected to or was in-range of, and feeding this information into its geocoder database, InMobi could then infer the consumer’s location,” the FTC says, adding that InMobi also did this when users opted out of geolocalization.

On Twitter, Strafach replied to users who say that app tracking is expected nowadays. “Most app analytics are usually quite tame … this case goes further than what most apps do.” Tracking such information doesn’t appear to be possible on Android, as Google has been aware of the potential for WiFi tracking abuse for a while now. Since version 6.0 (Marshmallow), applications must obtain user permission before they can access a network’s BSSID. We’ve reached out to Apple and AccuWeather for more information.

Update: Reveal has provided an emailed statement to Engadget and said that it “honors all operating system level ‘limit ad tracking’ and ‘do not track’ permissions.” At the same time, it said that “in looking at our current SDK’s behavior, we see how that can be misconstrued.” Its full statement to Engadget is below, and they expanded on it in a blog post. On Twitter, Strafach noted the statement and said “I do not personally agree with their logic, but feel free to read and decide.”

We don’t attempt to reverse engineer a device’s location if someone opts out of location services, regardless of the data signal it comes from. In looking at our current SDK’s behavior, we see how that can be misconstrued. In response to that, we’re releasing a new version of our SDK today which will no longer send any data points which could be used to infer location when someone opts out of location sharing.

Via: 9 to 5 Mac

Source: Will Strafach (Medium)

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OnePlus 3T review: A satisfying update to a fairly new phone

Remember the OnePlus 3? It came out barely six months ago and was the best phone you could get for $ 400. Well, it’s about to be replaced by a faster, slightly more expensive version of itself that the company is calling the OnePlus 3T. (The T doesn’t stand for anything; it’s a cheeky take on the typical “S” suffix denoting many flagship sequels.) The new $ 439 device uses the latest Snapdragon 821 processor to achieve even faster speeds, and packs a beefier battery and sharper front camera — improvements in areas where the original sort of fell short. I say “sort of” because other than battery life, the OnePlus 3 didn’t need much improving. But OnePlus made it better anyway, and now it’s one of the best phones on the market, especially at this price.

Hardware

There isn’t much of a difference, at least externally, between the OnePlus 3T and its predecessor. Indeed, a lot of what I’m going to describe here was covered in greater detail in our review of the original. The most obvious physical change is the new “gunmetal” color, which is a slightly darker shade of gray-silver than the OnePlus 3. A “soft gold” option is also available, just like with the original.

Color aside, the 3T looks exactly the same as its predecessor, which itself is impressive, given that it has a larger battery. It sports the same 5.5-inch full HD Optic AMOLED display, which was sharp and bright enough to watch videos on indoors and outdoors. It also has the same single speaker at the bottom that was loud enough to fill my living room with sound, although it got tinny at top volume.

You’ll find the same fingerprint sensor, USB-C charging port and physical mute switch here as on the OnePlus 3. Just like the previous version, the OnePlus 3T has a dual nano SIM card slot, but no room for a microSD reader. Those who want more storage will have to opt for a new 128GB option, which costs $ 479. Neither phone meets widely accepted water-resistance standards, though the company says the handsets will survive wet weather. It didn’t rain during my review period, so I unfortunately wasn’t able to test that claim.

Software

You probably won’t notice many differences between the OnePlus 3’s version of OxygenOS and its successor’s; the changes here are very subtle. The company resized its app icons so they’re consistent across the home, all apps and Shelf pages, and added some new gestures, such as three-finger screenshots and flip-to-mute, to make the phone more convenient to use.

The OnePlus 3T also gets new apps for weather and voice recording, and allows you to lock specific apps with your fingerprint. It also features a quick-settings panel that’s more similar to what you’ll find on Android Nougat. The changes here aren’t major, but they do make getting around the system slightly easier.

Cameras

I don’t generally need an excuse to go on a selfie-taking binge, but I did appreciate having “testing the OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel front camera” as a reason to do so. The new setup is much sharper than the one on the OnePlus 3, which the company says makes for better low-light performance.

This was indeed true when I casually snapped dozens of portraits while traipsing around Manhattan one night, and the camera delivered several crisp images, despite all the motion. Not only were they sharp, but the pictures were also bright and relatively noise-free. I had to take a picture in a dark, poorly lit warehouse before I started to see any graininess. The one thing I wish the OnePlus 3T’s front camera had was some form of flash, for taking clear shots in near-darkness.

Just because they have the same megapixel count, though, doesn’t mean that the front and rear cameras are the same. They differ quite vastly on color quality, thanks to their different sensors and pixel size. The same scenes shot with the front camera looked washed-out and pale compared with those taken with the rear camera, which generally captured vibrant, richly colored images. OnePlus 3T also added a layer of sapphire glass to the back camera to protect it from scratches that could forever mar your shots.

As we mentioned in our review of the OnePlus 3, the rear camera is capable in most lighting conditions, but won’t impress the way the iPhone 7 Plus or many other smartphone cameras would. It delivered sharp, accurately colored exterior shots on sunny days, and rendered a respectable amount of detail in low light, but images looked flat indoors. Still, it’s perfectly adequate, and that front camera will please selfie fans like myself.

Performance and battery life

Most flagship phones released this year use the Snapdragon 820 processor, rather than the newer 821 chip that Qualcomm started offering later in the year. So, only the Google Pixel and LeEco Le Pro3 have it, which makes the OnePlus 3 slightly less competitive on specs (the LePro 3 costs the same as the OnePlus 3). I imagine this is one of the biggest reasons OnePlus decided to drop a new flagship so soon after unveiling its previous one, but still, it’s a smart move.

OnePlus 3T OnePlus 3 LeEco Le Pro3 Google Pixel
AndEBench Pro 14,399 13,841 13,354 14,941
Vellamo 3.0 6,144 5,202 6,559 5,343
3DMark IS Unlimited 31,691 30,058 31,753 28,645
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 50 48 30 46
CF-Bench 51,262 41,653 42,572 30,997

The Snapdragon 821 processor makes the OnePlus 3T faster than the original, which was already pretty speedy. It’s hard to tell the difference in day-to-day performance, because I’m not a robot and can’t detect minute differences in app-launch times, but overall the 3T was very responsive. Its Vellamo score of 6,144 beat the OnePlus 3, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, while its AndEBench result trumped the OnePlus 3 and the Galaxy S7 but fell short of the Pixel phones and HTC 10. The OnePlus 3T also bested the field in graphics-performance tests.

This means you’re mostly going to see similar speeds across these phones. Considering the Pixels use the same chip (albeit with less RAM) but cost hundreds of dollars more, the OnePlus 3T really delivers on value here.

The OnePlus 3T has the same 6GB of RAM as the original, which makes for swift multitasking. OnePlus says it also improved the launch speed for large apps and games, so you won’t have to wait quite as long to open these programs. I also found call quality to be perfectly adequate. I called a friend who was in Queens (on T-Mobile’s network), and he was able to accurately repeat a string of numbers that I recited, despite his dog barking in the background, which I heard as well. Unfortunately, as with previous OnePlus handsets, the 3T works only on GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

One area where the company says it received the most negative feedback about the OnePlus 3 was battery life. In addition to simply bumping up the battery capacity to 3,400mAh from 3,000mAh, OnePlus tuned the power efficiency of the CPU so that despite its faster speed, it sips power at the same rate as the previous handset.

I was expecting a slight increment on endurance and wasn’t quite prepared for the 3T’s epic stamina. It lasted 16 hours and seven minutes on Engadget’s battery test, which involves looping an HD video with the screen set to 50 percent brightness until the device conks out. That’s almost six hours more than the OnePlus 3’s runtime, and two hours longer than the Google Pixel XL, which has a 3,450mAh bank.

When the phone does eventually run out of juice, it charges back up to offer what the company says is a day’s worth of power in 30 minutes. After the OnePlus 3T finally died on Engadget’s battery test, I plugged it in and was able to take it on a quick video shoot just 15 minutes after, because it already got back up to 20 percent in that time. Not only is this fast, but that’s enough juice to last at least two hours.

The competition

The OnePlus 3T faces direct competition from the LeEco Le Pro3, which uses the same processor with less RAM for $ 400. But the Le Pro3 suffers from unintuitive software, has a less vibrant display and doesn’t last as long as the 3T.

Google’s Pixel phones also use the same processors, offering similar (if not better) performance in a premium frame. These handsets have better cameras and run the latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat), offering a cleaner interface and helpful new features like Google Assistant. But the Pixel lineup starts at $ 800, which is nearly twice the OnePlus 3T’s asking price. Indeed, the latest OnePlus handset is probably the best handset you’re going to find for around $ 440.

Wrap-up

The OnePlus 3T improves things about the original that were slightly lacking, such as battery life, and amps up on performance and software, making it a strong option for power users. I particularly love the sharper front camera for its solid performance in low light. I’d also argue that the boost in endurance alone is worth the $ 39 price hike, but the previous iteration offered enough stamina for the average user who may not want to shell out for a few extra hours of juice. As a replacement for an existing flagship, the OnePlus 3T is a refinement that not only feels timely, but also well-planned and executed. You’d have a hard time finding a better phone for the price.

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iOS update fixes your iPhone’s missing Health data

The iOS 10.1 update addressed a lot of initial gripes with Apple’s latest mobile operating system. However, it also introduced a glaring bug for some users: the Health app might not show your data, which is more than a little troublesome if you’re a fitness maven or need those stats for medical reasons. Don’t fret, though. Apple has released an iOS 10.1.1 update for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that makes sure you can see Health info. This is a relatively tiny update (the over-the-air fix is well under 100MB for many iPhone users), but it’ll matter a lot if you’re tracking step counts or calories with your Apple gear.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Apple

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Apple will finally update its Mac lineup on October 27th

It’s been a very, very long time since Apple has updated its Mac lineup — the new Macbook is the only computer that Apple has seen fit to upgrade in 2016. That should all change next week, though: We just received an invite to an event in Cupertino on Thursday, October 27th. With the yearly iPhone refresh in the rearview mirror and macOS Sierra out in the wild, it’s time — well past time, in fact — for some new Mac computers. The event’s tagline — “Hello again” — is a pretty clear nod to the Mac, which debuted with a big old “hello” on its screen way back in 1984.

Headlining the event should be a totally redesigned MacBook Pro, which has existed in its current form for a good four years now. Rumors point to a touch-capable OLED strip on the keyboard above the number row that can adapt to whatever app you’re using. Touch ID might be making its way to the Mac for the first time, as well. Of course, the computers will likely be thinner and lighter and will probably see many of the innovations Apple first rolled out in the MacBook in 2015. The butterfly keyboard mechanism, tiered battery design and reliance on USB-C all seem likely to come on board at this point. We’re hoping the MacBook Pro will be available in a variety of colors for the first time, too.

Beyond that, spec bumps for the iMac and MacBook Air seem like good bets, as does the inclusion of USB-C on those models as well. Looking beyond the Mac line, it’s also possible the iPad will get some love. The iPad Air 2, while still a very capable tablet, is now two years old. And the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is just about a year old and lags behind the smaller iPad Pro in a few key ways. It wouldn’t surprise us to see both of those devices get some updates.

Whatever Apple has to show off, we’ll be there live to bring you all the news as it happens when the event starts at 10AM PT.

Source: Apple

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iPhone 7 update fixes your Verizon connection problems

If you recently snagged an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and depend on Verizon for service, you’ll want to check for a software update. Apple has released an iOS 10.0.3 upgrade that that fixes a weeks-long problem where some iPhone 7 and 7 Plus users (particularly Verizon customers) would temporarily lose their cellular connections. If you were affected, your LTE connection would unexpectedly drop out and revert you to pokey 3G speeds. There are no other real improvements, but this could make a big difference if your initial iPhone 7 experience has been defined by flaky access.

Source: Apple

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iOS 10.0.2 update fixes bugs in headphones, Photos

Even if you’ve already updated to iOS 10, Apple has released its first official update for its mobile/TV operating system. Bugs that could shut down the Photos app when turning on iCloud Photo Library and disable app extensions have ben smushed, but folks with the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus may want it for another reason.

Some users complained about the new Lightning-connected EarPods timing out, which would stop their in-line playback controls from working to adjust the volume, answer calls or use Siri. This update fixes the problem, making things just like they were when your phone had a headphone jack. Of course, you’re probably beta testing iOS 10.1 already, looking forward to new features instead of stable builds with bugfixes . Either way, the current update should be accessible via your Settings menu now.

Via: 9to5Mac, MacRumors

Source: Apple

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The iOS Portrait Mode update is live in public beta

Apple just launched iOS 10 last week, but it’s already working full throttle on the next update. Today, Apple made iOS 10.1 available in its public beta program, just one day after launching it for developers. The latest update adds Portrait Mode to the iPhone 7 Plus, allowing owners to take professional-looking photos that artfully blur out the background to better focus on the main object. Portrait Mode requires two photos to create a depth map, which is one reason it’s limited to the iPhone 7 Plus — only the Plus has a dual-camera system.

With iOS 10, Apple opened up the iPhone ecosystem, allowing third-party developers to create programs that work in iMessage and other previously closed apps. This is at odds with the hardware side of things: Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, effectively walling off the devices from the broader tech world.

Source: MacRumors

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macOS Sierra review: Mac users get a modest update this year

This is almost like part two of my macOS Sierra review. I had a chance to test Apple’s newest desktop operating system at the beginning of the summer, just before it was released in a public beta. The software hasn’t changed much since, but a few of the headline features were missing from that earlier build; Apple said they wouldn’t be available until the final version shipped in the fall. As it happens, Sierra arrives today as a free upgrade, so I’m picking up right where I left off. What follows is my full review of Sierra, though if you read my earlier preview, or have been using the software yourself, you won’t find many big surprises here.

Getting started

Sierra will work on Macs up to seven years old. (If your computer is older than that, it’s probably time to replace it anyway.) To be precise, it’ll run on MacBooks and iMacs from as far back as late 2009. If it’s any other kind of Mac — an Air, Pro, Mini or Pro desktop — your machine needs to be from 2010 or later. As you’ll see too, there are some features that simply won’t work without an iOS device. Think: an Apple Pay device for Apple Pay, a Touch ID–enabled device for Auto Unlock, and an iOS 10 device to use Universal Clipboard, Memories or the new Messages on the go.

As for setup times, downloading Sierra onto a recent iMac over my office’s usually fast WiFi network took about 20 minutes, while installing it took a little more than half an hour. As always, your mileage may vary. Suffice to say, though, if this is the only computer available to you, I suggest not upgrading in the middle of a workday — you’re going to be without a desktop for a while.

Features that are finally ready to use

Auto Unlock

Until now, iPhones and iPads have had Touch ID; Macs have had passwords. Which is fine, but certainly not as convenient. There’s still no fingerprint sensor on the MacBook or Magic Trackpad, but a new feature promises to be similarly convenient: using your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac when you’re in close proximity. To turn on Auto Unlock, as the feature is called, go into your Mac’s Security & Privacy settings and check off the box that says “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” It’d be pretty troubling if this feature were enabled by default.

So it’s easy to set up — or so you’d think. When I first tried to use this feature, I would wake my sleeping Mac and see the message “Unlocking with Apple Watch,” only to be forced to enter my password anyway. Apple says you need two-factor authorization enabled on your iCloud account in order for Auto Unlock to work. But I already had that in place. What could be the problem, then? I still am not sure. What I do know is that after I signed into appleid.apple.com and reset my iCloud password, I was able to log into my machine using Auto Unlock.

Apple Pay on the web

If you already use Apple Pay on your iPhone or Apple Watch, now you can do it from your Mac too. Starting today, some 300,000 websites are expected to add an Apple Pay button, according to a company spokesperson. To actually use it, you’ll need to have the site open in Safari specifically (because of course), and you’ll also need a mobile device that supports Apple Pay — either an Apple Watch or a recent iPhone. The reason for this is that although you’ll hit “pay” from the Safari page, you’ll need to either use Touch ID or a passcode on your iPhone or double-click your (authenticated) Apple Watch to complete the transaction.

Aside from being convenient, this has security benefits, according to Apple. For starters, not having to type in your address or credit card number could feel like a blessing should the retailer ever suffer a data breach. Additionally, all transactions are encrypted, and your credit or debit card number won’t be stored on your device or Apple’s servers, or be shared with retailers. Instead, you’re assigned a unique Device Account Number that’s stored on the so-called Secure Element of your device. Lastly, Apple Pay doesn’t keep a history of your transactions, though you can choose to keep your most recent purchase details in Wallet if you prefer.

During my pre-launch testing, five sites had already added the Apple Pay button: Indiegogo, Lululemon, Spring, Warby Parker and Instacart. To test it out, I found the least expensive thing in Lululemon’s (very expensive) lineup, added it to my cart, and then had my choice of two buttons: “Add to Bag” or “Apple Pay.” Because Apple Pay already had my credit card and address stored, clicking that button meant I jumped straight to a summary box, where all I would have had to do was click another button to confirm the purchase on my watch. It was super-easy, but it also scares me how quickly I could have purchased a $ 12 headband I didn’t need. In real life, you’d have but one chance to reconsider that impulse purchase before pulling the trigger.

All the stuff we covered earlier

Siri

Among all the new features in Sierra, this ranks as one of the most notable: Siri finally has a home on the desktop. And it’s hard to miss: There’s a Siri button both in the system tray in the upper-right corner and in the app dock at the bottom of the screen. Additionally, there’s a keyboard shortcut you can use: command-space-hold. As it happens, this is actually one of the few things that’s changed since I tested that pre-beta build. The command used to be Fn-spacebar. Now it’s command-spacebar and hold, which is similar to the existing Spotlight search shortcut (command-spacebar). That’s good, I think; may as well tap into Mac users’ muscle memory.

Just like on iOS, you can use Apple’s virtual assistant to search the web, draft emails and texts, create calendar events, set reminders, search the web and check things like the weather, stocks and sports scores. Siri has some Mac-specific tricks too, including searching your files, adjusting your system settings and giving you information about your computer, like how much local storage you have available. Throughout, you can pin Siri’s search results, as well as copy or drag and drop them into other parts of the OS.

Ultimately, Siri on the Mac is no smarter than it is on mobile. Which is to say, Siri can handle a diverse range of requests, and understands natural language, to a point (e.g., “Show me Snowden movie times”). Over time, though, Siri’s limitations become more obvious, and you learn not to bother asking it certain things. Siri might be able to show me local Snowden showtimes, for instance, but forget about narrowing the results to evening shows, or locations in a particular neighborhood.

Universal Clipboard

Apple already has a lot of so-called Continuity features that allow you to jump between apps on iOS and macOS, picking up on one platform where you left off on the other. Now, in addition to, say, having your notes and web history synced across devices, you can copy and paste between them too. So if you spot something on your Sierra Mac, you can copy and paste into iOS 10, and vice versa. (This also works from Mac to Mac, and from one iOS device to another.)

It’s really, really easy to use too. You just have to be signed into the same iCloud account on both devices, which need to be running Sierra and/or iOS 10 specifically. Then, just copy something and it’ll appear on the clipboard across all your connected devices. To use an oft-repeated Appleism: It just works.

So far I haven’t needed this feature often, but when I do, it’s handy. In one case, for instance, I had a lengthy App Store download code waiting for me in my email, which I had access to on my iPhone but not on my test machine. (I was logged out at the time.) Obviously, without Universal Clipboard I would have had other options, including logging into my email on the laptop or dropping the code into the Notes app, which I use on both platforms. But being able to copy and paste directly is far more efficient.

Picture in Picture

New to both iTunes and Safari is a Picture in Picture view that lets you pop out video into a floating stay-on-top window, which you can then resize and drag around the screen. Apple has a developer API for this, so over time you should see the little pop-out icon appear on more websites. For now, it works on iTunes and a select few sites, including Vimeo. (I successfully tried Picture in Picture on ESPN during my earlier round of testing, but didn’t see the pop-out button there while testing the final build.)

When the pop-out button is available, the feature works well, and I particularly like that the floating window closes automatically once the video is finished. Still, it’s a shame that when viewing in Picture in Picture mode, you can’t jump forward or a back to a different point in the video.

Apple Music makeover

Speaking of iTunes, Apple Music has received a major redesign on both mobile and desktop. In the case of desktop (that would be the iTunes app), you’ll see three major sections: “For You,” “Browse” and “Radio.” Those last two need no explanation, but in the case of “For You,” it includes a mix of personalized recommendations and playlists, as well as updates from whatever artists you might be following. Throughout, the look is much cleaner, with large headers and oversize album art. Make no mistake: iTunes itself still feels like a bloated mess, but at least Apple Music now feels streamlined.

iCloud Desktop and Documents

If you like, you can now have your entire Desktop and your Documents folder sync directly to iCloud so that you don’t have to cherry-pick specific files for upload. Basically, then, Sierra works a lot more like Dropbox (or OneDrive, Google Drive or any other cloud storage service that allows you to automatically back up folders wholesale). As ever, you’ll find Desktop and Documents in Finder’s left-hand pane; now, though, they’re listed under “iCloud.”

Obviously, it’s up to you whether you want to take advantage of this feature (it’s not turned on by default), but personally I’ve found it very useful. Because I have an iMac on my office desk and a MacBook that I take home and into conference rooms, it’s nice to be able to quickly retrieve things like TextEdit files and know my progress was saved across devices.

Optimized Storage

While we’re on the subject of iCloud, Sierra does a bunch of things to help you better manage your large iCloud library. If you head into iCloud settings, you’ll see an option for “Optimize Mac Storage” that enables not just one feature, but a whole series of background processes that help free up space on your local drive.

By default, your whole iCloud library will be available on your machine if you have the space, but if you don’t, older files will automatically be uploaded to the cloud. Optimized Storage also moves seldom-used files and already watched iTunes videos off your local disk. You can also store Mail attachments on the server until you choose to download them. Ditto for things like dictionaries, instructional videos and special fonts, which are now available on demand instead of on the system itself.

Other low-hanging fruit include items that have been in the trash 30 days — Sierra can automatically erase that, as well as clear your cache and logs. Additionally, it flags duplicate downloads in Safari and reminds you of used application installers. Lastly, the macOS installer itself is smaller than in years past, meaning you have slightly more free space after upgrading than you might have had otherwise.

Photos

If you’re an iPhone or iPad owner, you’ve presumably updated to iOS 10, which, among other things, brings a redesigned Photos app. The new Photos makes an appearance here on Sierra too, albeit with a more sprawling, desktop-friendly design. As on iOS, Photos now uses artificial intelligence to analyze your pictures, identifying places, faces and various objects, like dogs and beaches. The app then takes all that information and puts together so-called Memories — automatically generated albums showcasing what Apple’s AI thinks are the highlights.

Though you might not always agree with the particulars (surely there was a better version of a shot Apple could have chosen?), this is a convenient way to look back on good times without having to go take on the chore of sorting and curating your photos. Scroll down and you’ll see that Apple includes “Related Memories” below the Memory you’re looking at. Be warned: This can be addictive.

Aside from Memories, you’ll also find dedicated People and Places albums. When it comes to people, Apple’s AI gets smarter over time as you tag more and more faces. To make this easier, Photos surfaces faces with a prompt to fill in that person’s name. Once you get a good backlog, you’ll notice that the People album sorts faces in descending order according to how frequently they appear in photos. That said, if you add someone as a favorite, they’ll always float to the top regardless of their ranking.

There are some UI changes here as well. There’s a search bar that can bring up pictures based on keywords — say, “cats,” “snow” or whatever else might be in the shot. As mentioned, Siri can find your photos too (try asking for photos from a certain year, or with a certain person taken at a certain place). The Albums view looks a little different as well, with rounded tiles and a view counter on videos. Also, if you’re viewing one big photo on the screen, you’ll notice that the scrubber on the bottom looks a lot like the one on iOS. (Pick “Show Thumbnails” from the View menu to make the scrubber appear in the 1-up layout.)

Lastly, Photos on Sierra ushers in some new editing tools. Among them: “Brilliance,” which applies region-specific adjustments to brighten dark areas, and “Markup” for adding text, shapes and signatures to images. You can also edit Live Photos (both stills and video), and Apple has released an API allowing third-party developers to incorporate this feature into their own image-editing apps.

Messages

Messages is yet another app that received updates on both Sierra and iOS 10. New features include larger emoji (three times bigger than before), inline previews of videos and websites, and so-called Tapbacks, which let you respond to a message by adding a thumbs-up, heart or other pictorial reaction by tapping rather than hit ‘reply.’ The fact that your reaction appears on top of the message bubble means less clutter as you scroll through a message thread.

Unfortunately, some of the most addictive new features in Messages for iOS didn’t make it into the desktop version. On mobile, for instance, you can send messages with stickers, handwriting, flashy screen backgrounds and animated text effects (think: “slam” for emphasis). Not on Sierra, though. If it’s any comfort, you can at least view these effects on the desktop when your friends send wacky messages from their iOS 10 devices. You just won’t be able to respond in kind.

Tabs

It’s not just Safari anymore — many Mac apps, including Mail, TextEdit, Maps and the iWork suite also now support tabs. So if you open a new window in Maps, you’ll see not a new window, exactly, but a neat little tab. This will automatically work across many third-party document-based apps too, without any tweaks required on the part of developers. The only apps where this won’t work are ones that didn’t already have a multi-window option. That’s why you’ll see tabs in Maps, for instance, but not FaceTime.

If you really love this feature, you can choose to always turn new windows in these apps into tabs. (That’s what I opted to do.) There are other options, though. You can elect instead to have this happen in full-screen mode only.

Odds and ends

And finally, some other miscellaneous changes that might (or might not) be of interest:

  • The ability to share notes from the Notes app.
  • You can now find Safari browser extensions in the Mac App Store.
  • Safari automatically plays HTML5 video if the website you’re looking at supports it. If a plug-in is required to view video, you can opt to enable it just once or on an ongoing basis.
  • A filter button in Mail allows you to see just unread or flagged emails, messages that are addressed to you or ones you’re copied on, or messages sent with attachments. It’s also possible to apply more than one of these criteria at a time.
  • Push email support and calendar updates for Exchange accounts.
  • Send read receipts for individual conversations in Messages.
  • “Coordinated alerts” mean that notifications make a sound only on the device you happen to be using.
  • Spotlight Search now finds files you’ve created, printed, shared, emailed, messaged and sent via AirDrop, or posted to Twitter or Facebook.
  • The keyboard settings menu now has an “auto-capitalization” option.
  • A new keyboard shortcut (not enabled by default) allows you to add a period by hitting the spacebar twice.
  • Apple says Sierra’s autocorrect algorithm is generally smarter than it was in last year’s OS.
  • Sierra adds a few new dictionaries, including Traditional Chinese and Danish. There are also two new bilingual dictionaries: Italian-English and Dutch-English.
  • Japanese users are getting transit directions in Apple Maps. This includes major train, subway, ferry and national and local bus lines in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.
  • Right-to-left support for Arabic and Hebrew.
  • Time Machine now supports the SMB protocol, making it compatible with third-party network-attached storage devices.

Wrap-up

There’s little reason to ever skip a macOS update (in fact, there are lots of reasons that’s a bad idea). But as far as annual releases go, Sierra is a fairly minor one. You probably won’t appreciate Siri on the desktop unless you already use it on mobile, and even then, Apple’s virtual assistant isn’t always as smart as we’d like. Auto Unlock is useful, but difficult to set up, and you need an Apple Watch, which many folks don’t have. Apple Pay is convenient but also conducive to impulse purchases, which is probably better news for retailers than shoppers.

Take all that away and some of the most useful features are actually the least showy. Think: Optimized Storage and the ability to automatically back up your Desktop and Documents folder to iCloud. Many people will use these features, myself included. Are these updates exciting, though? I think even the most loyal of Mac users would have to say no.

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Pebble’s latest update adds quick views and more shortcuts

When Pebble announced its latest Pebble 2 and Time 2 watches earlier this year, it also revealed several software improvements that would roll out not just to the new models, but to most other existing Pebble hardware. Today, the company is finally releasing that update. Now even old-school Pebble users can get Quick View peeks, shortcut buttons, a revamped Health app plus more email features for iOS users.

Available only to the latest Time edition devices, you can now press down on the watchface to check out upcoming events thanks to a new Quick View peek that takes up just a small sliver of the display. Tap it for more info or hit the Back button to dismiss it. There’s also a new Launcher menu — press Select to see it — plus an App Glances feature that gives you a preview of info without having to open the app.

The update also adds 4-button Quick Launch, which essentially lets you map the side buttons to specific shortcuts — you trigger them by long-pressing each key. You could do this before the Up and Down buttons but now you can do so with the Back and Select keys as well.

Seeing as Pebble is a lot more fitness-focused these days, it also took the opportunity to redesign its Health app. Now you’re able to quickly glance at weekly charts to get a better idea of your progress toward your step or sleep goals. You can also just press the up button on the watchface to access the Health app that much quicker. Pebble Health settings are also now in the main settings area instead of the Apps tab.

Last but not least, Pebble is also giving iOS users a bit more email functionality for those with Google accounts. At long last, iPhone fans can reply, delete and archive email directly from Pebble notifications, be it from Inbox, Gmail or the Mail app.

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