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Sneak Preview of What’s Coming from Apple This Fall

Rowena

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At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 4th, the company unveiled the first developer versions of all four of its operating systems: macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12. They won’t be available until this fall, likely in September or October, but here is a glimpse of what you can expect.

macOS 10.14 Mojave Adds Dark Mode, Enhances the Finder, and Gains Four iOS Apps

With the update to macOS, which Apple is calling “Mojave” after the southern California desert, the company is beefing up the Finder, adding visual enhancements, and bringing some familiar iOS apps to the Mac. Apple is dropping support for some older Macs, so you’ll need a Mac introduced since 2012 to run Mojave.

Productivity mavens with messy Desktops will appreciate a new Finder feature, which, when turned on, automatically gathers all the files on the Desktop into “stacks,” sorting them by file type, date, tag, or other criteria. Click a stack to expand it, much like a Dock stack today.

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Apple has replaced Cover Flow view, which combined a large preview area and a file list, with the new Gallery view. Aimed at helping you browse in a folder of images, Gallery view displays a large preview of the selected file above a row of thumbnails for other items in the folder. A right-hand sidebar in Gallery view shows more information about the current file and lets you edit or mark up the file with Quick Actions (which you can create with Automator) without opening the file in an app. Press Space bar to preview a file with Quick Look, and you can apply appropriate Quick Actions to the file as well, all from the Finder.

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If you find the white backgrounds in the Mac’s windows too bright, you’ll like Mojave’s new Dark Mode (shown above), which intelligently reverses things to display white text in a largely black interface. Additional eye candy comes from Dynamic Desktops, which change the appearance of new Apple-provided Desktop backgrounds based on the time of day.

For those who take a lot of screenshots, Apple has given the Mac’s long-standing screenshot capabilities a visible interface that simplifies taking still screenshots or recording a movie of your actions. Plus, you can preview, edit, share, or delete a screenshot or movie immediately after creating it.

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A new feature called Continuity Camera lets you use your iPhone’s camera in Mac apps, either taking a photo directly into a Mac app or scanning a document as a PDF.

Lastly, although Apple was emphatic that it won’t be replacing macOS with iOS, or merging the two, the company is working to make it easier for developers to create apps that work on both platforms. Independent developers won’t be able to do that until 2019, but Apple is testing the waters by bringing four familiar apps from iOS to the Mac: News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home. They look and work very much like their iPad counterparts, but rely on the mouse or trackpad, and use normal Mac interface elements like resizable windows.

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iOS 12 Improves Performance, Provides Time Management Tools, and More

In the WWDC keynote, Apple emphasized that one of its main goals for iOS 12 is to improve performance, especially for older devices. Unlike Mojave, iOS 12 will support all the same devices as iOS 11, so those with an iPhone 5s or original iPad Air may benefit the most from this effort.

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To address increasing concerns about how much we—and our kids—are using smartphones, Apple has made some important changes. Perhaps most important is the new Screen Time feature, which shows how often you use your iOS devices and how much time you spend in different apps. It also lets you set daily time limits for specific apps, so you can make sure you don’t spend too much time in Facebook, for instance. Even better, you can set such limits for your children’s devices via Family Sharing.

Do Not Disturb has become a more appealing feature, because you don’t need to worry about accidentally leaving it on for too long—it can now be set to turn off automatically after some time or when you leave a location, such as at the end of a class or when you leave your doctor’s office. (This feature also comes to the Apple Watch with watchOS 5.) Also new is Do Not Disturb During Bedtime, which ensures you won’t see enticing notifications on the Lock screen if you check the time on your iPhone in the middle of the night.

Getting too many notifications? Notification grouping gathers all the notifications from each app together on the Lock screen so it doesn’t fill up, but you can see them all at once when you’re ready. Plus, a new feature called Instant Tuning helps you reduce the number of notifications you see, right from the Lock screen.

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If you’ve always wanted to automate repetitive actions in iOS, you’ll love the new Siri Shortcuts feature. You can use it to string together actions in different apps—send a message to your spouse that you’re leaving work, show the traffic conditions on your commute home, and start playing a podcast app—and then invoke them all via Siri with a custom phrase.

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Other interesting changes in iOS 12 include these:

●     Apple has renovated the interfaces of several bundled apps, including iBooks (now called Apple Books), News, Stocks, and Voice Memos (which can now sync recordings with the Mac).

●     FaceTime is no longer limited to one-on-one conversations and can now include up to 32 people in a single FaceTime conversation. The Mac version of FaceTime gains this capability too.

●     Photos boasts improved searching, can unearth photos from your library in a new For You tab, and prompts you to share photos with friends who it recognizes in your photos.

●     Apple is working with colleges and universities to add Wallet support for contactless student ID cards so students can use an iPhone (or Apple Watch) for unlocking doors, paying for meals, and more.

●     CarPlay allows apps from non-Apple developers to take over the car’s screen so that you can use alternative mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze in a CarPlay-enabled car.

watchOS 5 Improves Workouts, and Adds Walkie-Talkie and Podcasts Apps

Apple has realized that the Apple Watch is popular primarily for fitness and communication, so the company focused on those areas for watchOS 5. Alas, watchOS 5 isn’t available on the original Apple Watch.

On the fitness side, the Apple Watch can now start many workout types automatically when it detects that you’re exercising, and end a workout automatically when it sees that you’ve stopped. It even provides retroactive credit for what you did before the workout was detected. Apple has added new Yoga and Hiking workouts, each with their own metrics, and the running and walking workouts now measure cadence (steps per minute).

For those running outside, the Workout app can also display the rolling mile pace—the pace for the last mile—and can sound an alarm if you’re going slower or faster than a specified pace. And for those who do better with social motivation, watchOS 5 provides 7-day activity competitions.

In terms of communication, watchOS 5’s marquee feature is the new Walkie-Talkie app. Once you and a friend have set it up, you can tap a big yellow button to talk to your friend—and they can reply—just as though you were using old-school walkie-talkies. It works over both Wi-Fi and cellular.

Apple is bringing the Podcasts app to watchOS 5, so you’ll be able to listen to podcasts from your wrist, assuming you have AirPods or a Bluetooth headset. Plus, watchOS 5 makes it possible for other audio apps to store audio on the watch, so it should get easier to listen to audiobooks and the like even when you don’t have your iPhone with you.

Other welcome changes in watchOS 5 include:

●     The Siri watch face has new options, including sports scores, heart-rate readings after workouts, and commuting times from Maps. Independent apps will also be able to contribute bits of data to appear in the Siri face.

●     Notifications can be interactive, so you could tap on your wrist to check in for a flight, confirm a restaurant reservation, or extend parking time. As with iOS 12, multiple notifications from the same app will be grouped.

●     Web links in Messages or email can be previewed on the Apple Watch.

●     When you raise your wrist to talk to Siri, you no longer have to say “Hey, Siri.

tvOS 12 Gains Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-on, and a New Aerial Screensaver

Although the Apple TV often receives less attention than Apple’s other platforms, it still gains new capabilities with tvOS 12. Most notable among these is support—on the Apple TV 4K only—for Dolby Atmos audio, which makes audio sound more realistic by going beyond the simple right and left channels to provide 3D sound. You’ll need an Atmos-capable soundbar too, along with Atmos-compliant video content, but Apple will automatically upgrade anything you’ve bought from the iTunes Store to the Atmos version once it’s out.

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Two other new features work on both the Apple TV 4K and the fourth-generation Apple TV but require support from both apps and TV providers: Zero Sign-on and Cloud DVR. Zero Sign-on figures out your Internet provider, and if it’s the same as your TV service, automatically detects apps that need authentication and logs you in to them. It will work only with Charter Spectrum at launch, but Apple is negotiating with more providers. Similarly, the new Cloud DVR feature lets you watch TV you’ve recorded via the Apple TV, if your TV provider supports it. In the U.S., that again means Charter Spectrum to start.

Apple put some work into the Apple TV’s gorgeous aerial screensaver, introducing a new view from space using imagery taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. Also, you can tap the Siri Remote touchpad while a screensaver is showing to see where it was taken.

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Finally, in conjunction with iOS 12, tvOS can autofill passwords saved on your iOS devices so you don’t have to type them on the awkward onscreen keyboard. And if iOS 12 detects an Apple TV, it automatically adds an Apple TV Remote button to Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. (You can do that now, but you have to add the button manually in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.)

Getting Ready for These OS Releases

Apple usually makes new versions of its operating systems available in September or October, in conjunction with new iPhones. That doesn’t mean you should upgrade immediately, and we always recommend that you hold off on upgrades until Apple had had a chance to address the inevitable bugs that come with the initial release of any major upgrade. So sit tight, and we’ll tell you more when the time is right.

That said, if these features sound enticing and you have a pre-2012 Mac, an iPhone 5 or earlier, an iPad that predates the iPad Air, or an original Apple Watch, some new hardware may be in your future.

New MacBook Pros Provide More Speed and RAM, plus a Quieter Keyboard and Hey Siri

Rowena

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As students prepare to head off to college, Apple has updated the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro line to provide even more powerful options for students and professionals alike. The changes are primarily under the hood, focusing on faster performance, more RAM, and larger SSD-based storage, but there are a few modest physical changes too, including a quieter keyboard and a True Tone display.

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Despite these improvements, pricing remains the same as for last year’s models.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro that has function keys instead of a Touch Bar remains the same, as do the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air.

Performance Boosts

The new MacBook Pros move to Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7 and Core i9 processors. Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro used dual-core CPUs, but they now get quad-core chips. And the 15-inch models jump from quad-core chips to processors sporting 6 cores. More cores are better because more tasks can be split up between them, preventing one processor-intensive task from bogging down others.

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Processing power is just one aspect of overall performance. If your Mac doesn’t have enough RAM for the apps you’re using, it has to fall back on much slower virtual memory. For those who use memory-intensive apps, the new 15-inch MacBook can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, up from a maximum of 16 GB. RAM in the 15-inch models is also DDR4, which is faster and uses less power than the DDR3 RAM used before.

Finally, if you don’t have enough fast SSD storage in a MacBook Pro, you may be forced to store large items like your Photos library and Parallels Desktop virtual machines on a slow external hard disk. The new MacBook Pros can have a lot more built-in SSD storage, but it’s pricey. The 13-inch models max out at 2 TB, which will add $1400 to your bill, and the 15-inch models can go to 4 TB, assuming you have $3400 to spare. The 512 GB ($200) and 1 TB ($600) upgrades are more reasonably priced.

Physical Changes

Apple continues to tweak the controversial butterfly-switch keyboard. Some people haven’t liked the shallow key travel and how much noise it makes, and its keys have a tendency to stick. The new MacBook Pros feature a keyboard that’s quieter and hopefully more reliable.

You’ll also notice the new Retina displays with True Tone. First introduced with the iPad Pro and added to the iPhone in 2017, True Tone adjusts the white balance of the screen based on ambient light to make the screen more comfortable to view. It should be particularly appreciated by students working late into the night.

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Other Improvements

You know how you can issue commands to Apple’s virtual assistant on your iPhone or iPad by saying “Hey Siri”? That’s possible in the new MacBook Pros also, thanks to the inclusion of Apple’s new T2 chip. The T2 also manages the Touch Bar, facilitates a secure boot feature, and encrypts files on the fly to increase security.

These MacBook Pros are the first to support Bluetooth 5.0, which is backward compatible with Bluetooth 4.2. As Bluetooth 5.0 peripherals become more widespread, they’ll be able to communicate with the MacBook Pro at higher data rates and longer ranges—think of Bluetooth working across your entire house, rather than being limited to a single room.

Price and Availability

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1799, and the 15-inch model at $2399. With both models, you can choose between silver and space gray, and they’re available now.

Our take is that, like most of Apple’s speed-bump upgrades, these new MacBook Pros are simply better than the previous models—who turns down better performance for the same price? The True Tone display is also welcome, as is the quieter keyboard. And it’s nice that we can finally talk to Siri without having to hold down a key or click a button.

Apple Pay Is Faster, Easier, More Secure, and More Private Than Using Credit Cards

Rowena

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     or contactless payment logo)

You’ve probably heard of Apple Pay, but have you set it up so you can use it to pay for purchases at checkout? If not, give it a try, since it’s one of those living-in-the future Apple technologies that feels like science fiction every time you use it. Simply put your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch within an inch or so of a compatible payment terminal (look for an Apple Pay or contactless payment logo), put your finger on the Home button to use Touch ID (or double-press the iPhone X’s side button and authenticate via Face ID, or double-press the Apple Watch’s side button), and you’re done. The entire transaction takes less time than opening your wallet, although you may still need to sign a receipt.

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What happens behind the scenes when you use Apple Pay? The good news is that Apple Pay is significantly more secure than a magnetic-strip credit card and has advantages over chip-embedded cards too. First, theft prevention is baked in. A typical thief can’t use Apple Pay from your device because they can’t get past Touch ID or Face ID, or provide your Apple Watch passcode.

 

Also, the store where you shop gets no data about you—they don’t know who you are, where you live, what your card number is, or anything else unless you showed a rewards card or provided your phone number. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about your credit card number being jotted down, scanned, or skimmed.

 

How does this seemingly magical process work? When you set up Apple Pay, the Wallet app sends your encrypted credit card details to Apple, after which they’re passed along to your card’s payment network. What comes back is an encrypted Device Account Number—a long number that’s stored in the Secure Enclave chip on your device. That chip is protected by a digital moat, keeping it isolated from nearly all activity on your device. The Device Account Number is unique to your device and card, so nobody else can use it.

 

When you pay with Apple Pay, the Secure Enclave chip transmits the Device Account Number, along with a few other details, including a one-time transaction code. Everything is encrypted, so even if an attacker were listening to the traffic, no transaction details would be revealed. The information remains encrypted until it reaches the appropriate party, at which point, if all goes well, your transaction is approved and processed.

 

Millions of payment terminals in the United States accept Apple Pay, including those found in most major national chains, so you shouldn’t have to look far to find one. You can also use Apple Pay in some iOS apps and some Web-based shopping carts when checking out in Safari.

 

To set up Apple Pay, on your iPhone or iPad, tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Add Credit or Debit Card and follow the easy instructions—it’s fine to let the device scan your card so that you don’t have to type your credit card number; the image is discarded immediately after setup.

 

After adding a card, find it in the Wallet app and tap the card’s info button at the lower right to explore the Info and Transactions screens. Notice that four digits from the card’s Digital Account Number appear on the Info screen—if you want to return an Apple Pay purchase, you’ll give these digits to the merchant instead of sharing your credit card number.

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Finally, starting in iOS 11.2, Apple introduced Apple Pay Cash, which lets you make person-to-person payments within the Messages app. It’s great for splitting restaurant checks!

 

The bottom line is that Apple Pay is easy to use, preserves your privacy, and enhances your financial security. And you get to feel like you’re living in the future!