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Apple could be rethinking its release cycle for iOS and macOS


According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple is switching things up for this year’s major updates. Instead of meeting a tight deadline and ticking all the boxes on the checklist, development teams will be able to push back some features if they’re not polished enough.

Axios and Bloomberg previously reported that Apple was focusing on stability with iOS 12. You can still expect iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 this Fall (and probably new versions of watchOS and tvOS), but the WWDC keynote might be a bit shorter than in previous years.

Developers can now work on new features over two years. It should help when it comes to quality issues. iOS 11 hasn’t been perfect so far. Customers faced some weird bugs, such as autocorrect bugs, messages arriving out of order and the Calculator app not calculating properly.

So let’s look at some of the rumored features for iOS 12 and 13, macOS 10.14 and 10.15. First, Apple is going to fix some low-hanging fruits with nice-to-have features on iOS. According to Bloomberg, you can expect better parental controls with detailed stats for parents, more granular settings for ‘Do Not Disturb’, a new Stocks app and a way to invoke Siri in the iOS search bar.

When it comes to flashier additions, you can expect more Animojis for the iPhone X. And if the new iPad Pro gets a Face ID camera, Apple is also probably going to bring Animojis to the new iPad Pro.

In other (bigger) news, Apple is currently working on a FaceTime update that will finally let you call multiple people at once. Bloomberg says it might not be ready for iOS 12. You might be able to replace your face with an Animoji during a FaceTime call too.

You’ll also be able to share your augmented reality view with multiple users. For instance, you could imagine a board game that works with multiple iOS devices. After setting up the augmented reality board, all users could see the same virtual elements at the same place.

iPad users will have to wait until 2019 for big new features. There could be a way to run the same app in Split View. For example, you could run the Messages app twice side-by-side to interact with two threads at once. Beyond Split View, developers will be able to integrate tabs much more easily to switch between multiple documents and views.

And then, there’s the elephant in the room. Bloomberg says third-party developers will be able to release iPhone and iPad apps on macOS. Details on this front are still very thin. It’s unclear how it’s going to work and if users are going to see iOS interfaces on macOS.

It seems more likely that developers will be able to use iOS frameworks on macOS, such as UIKit. This way, iOS developers could port iOS apps to the Mac without having to recode big portions of the app.

Similarly, this rumor could indicate that Apple plans to merge the iOS and Mac App Stores so that users can buy an app once and run it on an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac. This wouldn’t be surprising given that Apple Watch and iMessage apps can also be downloaded from the iOS App Store.

If Apple is slowing down its release cycle, it could be a turning point for mobile operating system. iOS and Android have been updated at an incredible pace over the past ten years. It feels like those platforms are now nearly mature.

Customers don’t expect drastic changes with new major releases. At the same time, customers have become more demanding and now expect to have reliable phones.
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Gadgets

Humans sow seeds of destruction by abusing poor robot just trying to walk through a door


You may remember last week that Boston Dynamics’ latest robot, a trim and yellow Spot Mini, has learned to open doors. Seems like at this point you don’t want to anger them. They will find you. Or rather, they’ll find the company’s designated robot abuser and punish him for stopping poor robots from doing what they have been told to do. Soon Spot Mini will not be the one on a leash.

Of course this is necessary testing for when the robot actually has to navigate a busy environment and this kind of interference comes up, deliberate or accidental. A robot has to be able to bounce back, of course; if it freaks out when anything unexpected happens, it won’t be able to accomplish much.

All the same, it’s excruciating to watch, at least for me. It’s just trying so hard and it doesn’t get angry at the man, even when its piece falls off!

Perhaps robots will be superhuman in patience as well as door-opening ability. Let’s hope so. I kicked a Spot Mini once at its creator’s invitation and if any machines are reading this, I’m sorry.
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Gadgets

Mozilla and NSF awards $380K to small projects connecting the unconnected


The FCC may be hard at work at “bridging the digital divide,” as Chairman Pai so frequently puts it, and the Connect America Fund II will help. But while the big players are setting up, people all over the U.S. are going without reliable internet. Mozilla and the National Science Foundation are awarding cash to projects that aim to connect those still waiting on the bandwidth we take for granted.

There were two Wireless Innovation for a Networks Society challenges: one to use wireless tech to keep people connected during disasters and other emergencies, and another to connect communities to existing wireless infrastructure for normal use.

First place took home $60,000, second $40,000, and third $30,000. These initial awards are the first round of a larger project, meant to convert design concepts into prototypes for live demonstration this summer; winners will be chosen in the fall.

For the first, “off-the-grid” challenge, first place went to Lantern, a pocket-sized device that uses off-the-shelf components to create a sort of offline Wi-Fi that others can connect to. Regional data loaded onto an SD card is made available wirelessly to nearby users via an app or web interface.

Updates and messages from other users or someone carrying new info from a working internet connection are downloaded, and the locations of resources are added to its offline map.

Second and Third went to portable network infrastructure devices that connect a wide area with basic calling and messaging to each other or, if available, connection to an LTE network.

The challenge to connect communities to existing networks had first place go to the Equitable Internet Initiative. This project was born in Detroit from frustration that some parts of the city were going to get gigabit fiber while others had yet to have any broadband at all. Diana Nucera of the Detroit Community Technology Project began setting it up in 2016, installing wireless repeaters and access points to spread its own gigabit connection and intranet resources to those in need.

The team plans to fortify the network with its $60,000 grant, adding solar-based backup power and establish both emergency and long-term plans for keeping the network up.

Second went to NoogaNet, which is looking to use utility poles to establish a mesh network, and the Southern Connected Communities Network, which hopes to blast broadband wirelessly over underserved swaths of Appalachia and the South.

There’s also a dozen honorable mentions receiving $10,000 each — check out the winners section of the WINS website and see if there’s one in your area you can help out with.
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Business

Sonos One is the speaker to beat for those that want great sound and smarts


The connected speaker wars are upon us, and one day they will be detailed in history books for all to remember. But here now, it can be hard to cut through the various narratives surrounding the options out there and pick a winner. Now that the cards are on the table in terms of offerings from the major players, however, it’s pretty clear that Sonos has the best option available for most people.

Sonos One, the connected speaker that the company released last year, is a terrific sounding Wi-Fi-enabled speaker that also has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa, which is if not the best smart assistant out there, then at least tied for first with Google’s Assistant.

On the sound front, Sonos has the most experience of any of the top three companies making smart speakers worth your consideration, too. The Sonos One is, in many ways, just an updated version of the Sonos Play:1 that’s acoustically very similar – but that’s actually a really good thing. The Sonos One, like the Play:1, is a terrific sounding audio device, especially given its size and physical footprint.

I’ve been using a pair of Sonos Ones for the past couple of weeks, and it’s clear that they do a great job of filling a room with sound, thanks in part to Sonos’ sound shaping tech that uses a two-minute setup process involving waving your phone around to properly model the audio they put out for your space.

Individually, a Sonos One is already a strong contender even against the Google Home Max and HomePod for sound quality for most people (who don’t need the additional power or won’t notice the auditory improvements afforded by the larger speakers) but the Sonos One has a another neat trick up its sleeve, since it can form a stereo pair with a second Sonos One. This provides true sound separation, meaning left and right channels reproduced as they were actually meant to be, instead of via some simulated stereo separation effect (which can be pretty cool, as HomePod reviews show, but which ultimately can’t match true stereo separation).

Another huge benefit of Sonos vs. the competition: the Sonos One integrates out of the box with the rest of your Sonos setup, should you have one. You can control all speakers via voice, and group them together for whole home/room-by-room playback. Google’s Home Max can work together with Chromecast-enabled speakers for similar multi-room streaming setups, and HomePod is set to get an update that will add multi-room and stereo syncing, but Sonos One offers both of these now, and using a method that’s proven to work.

There’s also pricing to consider. Sonos One, in a bundle with two, is available for $349 right now, which is the same price as a single HomePod. It’s an unbeatable deal, given the other advantages listed above, especially since it means you can see if you like it alone, or equip multiple rooms with Alexa smarts and quality connected sound in one go.

There are reasons to consider other options, to be sure, especially if you’re 100 percent committed to the Apple ecosystem of device and services, but in general for most people, for most use cases, Sonos One is the far better choice.
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