New photos purportedly show 4th-generation iPad mini casing with iPad Air 2-like design

 

New photos purportedly show 4th-generation iPad mini casing with iPad Air 2-like design | 9to5Mac

A new batch of photos published by French site NowhereElse may give us an idea of what the next generation of the iPad mini will look like. The images are said to be of the casing for the unannounced tablet upgrade, and seem to feature some design elements inspired by the most recent version of the larger iPad model.

While the third-generation iPad mini was simply a Touch ID-equipped version of the previous model, many Apple fans are hoping to see a redesign much like this with the next refresh.

Aside from the obvious similarities in the shape and materials, the photos and a video of the shell (which can be seen below) reveal a redesigned speaker grille that mirrors the iPad Air 2’s move away from two rows of speaker holes to just one. The new shell also indicates that the iPad mini 4 may be thinner than its predecessor, though it doesn’t seem like a big stretch to predict that.

Also carrying over from the larger model to the smaller one is the lack of a mute/rotation lock switch, which isn’t such a necessity now that both of those functions are available in software through Control Center. The shell in the images appears to be from an LTE model, as given away by the cutout at the top of the device for the cellular antenna window and the presence of a SIM card slot below the volume rockers.

Makes sense that the iPad mini would change it’s case design to match the iPad Air model but does that mean that the iPad Air 3’s shell won’t change? Last year there was outcry when the mini didn’t receive as much love as the Air so I would fully expect the mini to be nigh-on identical to the Air this year just like the 2013 revisions.

Griffin’s iTrip Bluetooth – For Cars With No Built In Bluetooth

Review: Griffin’s iTrip Bluetooth adds wireless iPhone music streaming to your car’s stereo | 9to5Mac

Twelve years have passed since Griffin released its first iTrip, a breakthrough FM transmitter that enabled iPods to send music wirelessly to car and home stereos. The original model, a glossy white housing that sat atop early iPods like a tube of Chapstick, effectively defined iPod accessories for an entire generation of early adopters. And it was fun, too: using an radio antenna and brilliant software, iTrip could flood an empty FM radio channel with iPod music, acting like a pocket-sized pirate radio station.

Everything changed when the FCC cracked down on FM transmitters, forcing reductions in broadcasting power that made iTrips (and numerous competitors) sound staticky, reducing their appeal. Around the same time, Apple and car companies transitioned to better-sounding solutions — Bluetooth and aux-in audio ports, respectively — leaving FM transmitters with fewer customers. But Griffin is rejuvenating the iTrip family with iTrip Bluetooth, aka iTrip Aux Bluetooth, which provides a different type of dead-simple wireless solution for cars. Priced at $50 but available online for $38, it has one purpose: to receive Bluetooth audio sent by your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, conveying it through an included 3.5mm audio cable to your car’s aux-in port…

Key Details:

Kit includes a 3.5mm audio cable and a Bluetooth receiver
Likely supports Bluetooth 4, with fast pairing, clean audio
Doesn’t include speakerphone support – purely for music
Clean design, requires one car power port, aux-in port

Although the iTrip name was originally synonymous with portable wireless broadcasting — use your iPod next to any home or car radio — iTrip Bluetooth is purely a car accessory. It requires a single car power outlet relatively close to the car’s 3.5mm auxiliary (aux) audio input port, as the packed-in audio cable is just over two feet long. An L-joint on one side of the cable provides strain relief.

The design and functionality are ultra-simple. Once iTrip Bluetooth is plugged in, a light on its face flashes blue until it’s paired with your iOS device — a painless one-time process — at which point the light goes solid. Re-pairing is so quick that either Bluetooth 3.0 or Bluetooth 4.0 is being used, though Griffin makes no mention of either standard on its web site, packaging, or documentation. Audio streaming is powerful, with only a little base-level noise in the signal, and iTrip Bluetooth offers proper left-right stereo separation, as well. Occasionally when switching tracks, I noticed a tiny repetition of previously-played audio, a hiccup I heard in a more pronounced way with JBL speakers and headphones a couple of years ago. It’s not a major problem here.

iTrip Bluetooth’s only big issue is its complete lack of phone call support: when calls come in, they interrupt your music and go to the handset rather than your car’s speakers. That’s because unlike the TaoTronics Bluetooth 4 Car Kit I reviewed last month, there’s no microphone or remote control unit. While this wouldn’t be a problem if iTrip Bluetooth was a lot cheaper than the TaoTronics option, it’s not — it’s actually more expensive. Griffin’s audio quality is a little better overall, particularly in the stereo separation department, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worthy of the premium.

Sounds like an ideal solution for folks who have cars that don’t have built in Bluetooth but
wish to stream music wirelessly.

Overcast Podcast App – Reviewed by The Sweet Setup Team

 

Our favorite podcast client for iOS – The Sweet Setup:

SMART SPEED

Smart Speed shortens silences without any distortion. Instead of having to do a straight-up 1.5x or 2x playback across the board, Smart Speed speeds up shows more intelligently.
From the Overcast website, Smart Speed is described as a way to “pick up extra speed without distortion.” Smart Speed “dynamically shortens silences in talk shows. Conversations still sound so natural that you’ll forget it’s on — until you see how much extra time you’ve saved.”

And here’s how Marco Arment recently described Smart Speed:

I see Smart Speed as getting one more notch on the speed meter for free. Whatever your preferred speed setting is for other reasons (pace, sound quality, intelligibility), Smart Speed tends to get you roughly the actual speed of the next highest one.

Evan Pederson ran a side-by-side test, comparing a podcast running in Overcast’s Smart Speed to the same one running in real time, and he found the time savings to average between 1.2x and 1.4x for shows that often have frequent pauses. Other shows, such as Roman Mars’s 99% Invisible, which are tightly edited, didn’t benefit as much from the Smart Speed because there were less gaps and breaks to cut out.

For those who want to save some time listening to certain podcasts yet who don’t want the distortion that comes with 1.5x or even 2x speeds, Smart Speed is a happy medium. All of your shows will be shorter, but you likely won’t be able to tell any difference in listening quality. This feature is especially helpful for FM radio based shows where there is often silence from callers and other random pauses.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Smart Speed has saved the Sweet Setup team more than a cumulative 100 extra hours of listening time, beyond just standard speed adjustments alone.

VOICE BOOST

Voice Boost is a feature that aims to normalize the volume and make shows easier to listen to when in noisy situations (like your car). It uses a technique of dynamic compression equalization, which compensates quiet and overly loud audio to a more enjoyable, consistent volume. For shows with less-than-ideal editing, Voice Boost can be a ear-saver.

Easily the best podcast app available on iOS or anywhere else for that matter. The 2 features listed above are currently exclusive to Overcast. The developer Marco Arment, also has a Apple Watch app ready to go as well. Hopefully, he’ll do a Mac app to complete the lineup along side the iPad version which will delight me.

Tidal Longevity

 

Helienne writing for The Guardian on why she thinks Lily Allen is wrong about Tidal:

Over Easter, Lily Allen took to Twitter to critique Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal. She’s not the the first person to oppose the opulence of its star-studded launch event last week, or to voice pessimism about its mantra of doing right by artists, but as a fellow songwriter – who, unlike Allen, is not a performer – I think she’s wrong in a number of ways.

First, Allen fears that not having an unlimited free tier “will send people back to pirate/torrent sites”. However, a major label executive recently told me that their statistics showed that if a user of the free version of Spotify hasn’t signed up for the paid-for tier within three months, they never will. The ad-funded version pays about the same as YouTube (ie next to nothing), so losing those users to YouTube isn’t much of a loss.

I’d rather have my music on a service that is majority-owned by music creators, rather than owned by venture capitalists looking for a quick turnaround on their investment, hoping to be able to cash out with a big IPO payday.

You only need to look at the major record labels, who now have to answer to shareholders wanting a quick return on their investments, to see what happens when it’s all about share value. It’s anathema to creativity and the kind of risk-taking that is required to invest in music people don’t yet know they want to listen to.

It’s no surprise that Jay Z is close to and has links to Beyonce, Kanye, Alicia Keys etc to be able to easily convince them to have exclusives of their work on Tidal before anywhere else, especially with the promise of higher cuts of the royalties back to them over services like Spotify, but at the end of the day subscribers will determine the long term popularity of switching their music platform of choice over from what they are used to – Even Rihanna had a difficult start yesterday. Jay Z and Tidal will have to compete with Spotify and Apple to ensure uptake in the service and that will be the key to all of this.

iOS 8.3 Released

 

Josh Centers Writing for TidBITS: iOS 8.3 Triggers an Avalanche of Improvements:

In addition to the new emoji, you might also notice a bit of a speed boost, particularly in these areas that Apple calls out:

  • App launching
  • App responsiveness
  • Messages
  • Wi-Fi
  • Control Center
  • Safari tabs
  • Third-party keyboards
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Simplified Chinese Keyboard

The release notes also boast of improved stability in Phone, Mail, Bluetooth, Photos, Settings, Weather, and Genius Playlists in Music.

I haven’t noticed significant changes on my iPhone 6, however switching between keyboards is now much faster, and scrolling through Safari tabs seems smoother.

iOS 8.3 includes a few Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fixes, addressing issues like being continuously prompted for login credentials, devices randomly disconnecting from Wi-Fi networks, hands-free calls spontaneously disconnecting, and an issue where audio playback could stop working with some Bluetooth speakers.

The update fixes a number of orientation quirks, including a fix for stuck orientations, a fix for upside-down orientations on the iPhone 6 Plus, and an issue that prevented apps from rotating. Apple also claims that orientation rotation performance has been improved (and we’ve noticed that Safari seems to maintain scroll position when changing rotation in Reader View, which wasn’t reliable before).

Messages sees some welcome improvements, such as a fix for group messages that sometimes split, an issue that prevented messages from being forwarded or deleted, and an issue that prevented photo previews from displaying.

There are also improvements with Family Sharing, with increased reliability for Ask to Buy notifications, a fix for a bug that prevented family members from downloading free apps, and a fix for a bug that would prevent apps from launching or updating.

iOS 8.3 includes many more tweaks than we can list here, including improvements to CarPlay, enterprise connectivity, accessibility, and various miscellaneous fixes. They aren’t available online yet, though you can see them before you update.

Check Software Update in Settings on your iPhone or iPad now to get it.

The Verge’s Review Of The Apple Watch

Nilay Patel writing for The Verge:

It’s well after lunch. I’ve had this thing on my wrist for something like six hours now, and the truth is that I’ve barely used it. That’s by design: again, you’re only supposed to interact with the Apple Watch for 10–15 seconds at a time and then get back to your life. On one level, that all makes perfect sense: my regular watch has had a dead battery for over a year. I don’t exactly use it for anything except looking cool. How much am I really supposed to use the Apple Watch to make it worth whatever price I’ve paid for it?

On another level, everything about the watch is designed to reinforce the idea that you have some sort of real life to return to once you’re done using technology — that you’re not just sitting at a desk in your office with your laptop and your phone, getting work done.

That’s the situation I’m in most afternoons — meetings have wrapped up, decisions have been made, and I’m catching up on email, editing, reading the site, and generally setting up the next set of things I have to do. I’m as plugged into the internet as I can possibly be, using my phone and my laptop for slightly different variations of the same task: communicating with people.

This is where the Watch’s lack of speed comes to the forefront — there’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time. It’s not just the small screen or the quick in-and-out interaction design, it’s actual slowness, particularly when it comes to loading data off the phone.

Third-party apps are the main issue: Apple says it’s still working on making them faster ahead of the April 24th launch, but it’s clear that loading an app requires the watch to pull a tremendous amount of data from the phone, and there’s nothing fast about it. I sat through a number of interminable loading screens for apps like CNN, Twitter, The New York Times, and others. Apps that need to pull location data fare even worse: the Uber app takes so long to figure out where you are that you’re better off walking home before someone notices you staring at your $700 watch and makes a move.

Fantastic detailed review from Nilay from a day-in-the-life point of view. As expected from a 1.0 version release, there will be issues relating to bugs they haven’t had time to squash or that extra amount of polish to be applied to the software. I would expect the 1.xx version of the software to fix any lag and stuttering issues.

This however, will take some getting use to make sure an acceptable etiquette is handled – perhaps with the adjustment to the amount of notifications:

After the gym, I head to Betony for drinks with Eater managing editor Sonia Chopra so we can talk about a future of food series for later in the year. So far I’ve mostly used the watch either alone or in an office environment, but it’s really different to have a smartwatch in a bar: here, even small distractions make you seem like a jerk. Sonia’s trying to describe the project to me and find ways to work together, but I keep glancing at my wrist to see extremely unimportant emails fly by.

It turns out that checking your watch over and over again is a gesture that carries a lot of cultural weight. Eventually, Sonia asks me if I need to be somewhere else. We’re both embarrassed, and I’ve mostly just ignored everyone. This is a little too much future all at once.

Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes

 

Entire Star Wars saga headed to iTunes this Friday with tons of new bonus material, pre-orders now available | 9to5Mac

Disney announced today that the entire Star Wars saga will finally be available for digital HD download later this week, marking the first time ever that the films have been offered in this format.

As confirmed in the TV spot above and the iTunes tweet below, the entire collection will be available to purchase from the iTunes Store this Friday. Pre-orders are already up and running, with each movie coming in at $19.99 for both SD and HD versions.

They are the ‘Special Editions’ apparently but still great to see Disney bringing the Star Wars universe to iTunes – finally.

Video of John Gruber Meeting ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ Authors

  

‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ – Meet the Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli at SoHo Apple Store | 9to5Mac

Apple is clearly a fan of the new Becoming Steve Jobs book (review) by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli ($12+Amazon, $13 iBooks, Free Audible). Apple execs including Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue and PR head Steve Dowling have all praised it and it is has headlined the iBookstore for over a week.  Its latest promo of the book is a 49-minute iTunes Podcast video of the authors getting interviewed at the SoHo New York Apple Store.

I watched the video and Gruber was engaging as always plus some fascinating insights – definitely worth a watcher listen. Both the 49-minute video and audio are available here.

Great New Upgrade To SmartThings Hub

  

From the SmartThings Blog:

As we’ve announced, the new SmartThings Hub will come equipped with “AppEngine” functionality. This means that much of the processing that has previously existed in the cloud (ie: SmartApps and device types) can now automatically occur locally in the Hub. Circumventing the cloud will result in a much faster response time with automations.

It will also mean that certain automations (SmartApps; Hello, Home actions, etc.) driven by ZigBee, Z-Wave, or LAN-connected devices will continue to work even if you lose your Internet connection. And because the new Hub contains battery backup capability, certain automations can continue to work for awhile even without power.

Sounds like a fantastic upgrade of the SmartThings hub – having the individual programs work locally via the hub rather than in the cloud will definitely improve the speed and reliability of lights and appliances.