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HomePod first look
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Apple’s smart speaker has finally arrived.
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Random Apple Memory HomePod's predecessor: the iPod Hi-Fi.
Working together Apple’s eagerly-awaited HomePod has arrived, and we have a first look at it in this issue. Its audio quality is all you’d expect from a premium speaker, but it is shipping without key features — notably AirPlay 2, meaning no multi-room audio or intelligent stereo balancing. What’s more, Bluetooth is not supported, and there’s a question mark over whether it’ll work with the likes of Spotify rather than Apple Music. For now at least, HomePod seems to work exclusively within the Apple “ecosystem.” This got us thinking. This integrated “ecosystem” has actually long been one of Apple’s strengths. In 1997, one of the first changes Steve Jobs made when he returned as Apple’s interim CEO was to radically cut back the range of products the company was producing. They were admittedly different times and Apple was in a very different place, but now its product line is becoming fragmented again. As a rule, Apple’s products still work together beautifully — but there are four distinct operating systems: macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Even within some of these, the range is becoming more diverse: Some MacBook Pro models have a Touch Bar, some don’t; iMac Pro looks like another iMac but is radically different inside. Most significant are the divergences between different models of iOS device — those with or without a Home button, or 3D Touch… If you switch to an iPhone X, even if you’ve used an iPhone for years, you have to learn a new vocabulary of gestures and controls. You may say this diversity is a good thing. It gives you choices, and it means there isn’t just a monolithic “Apple way.” But are the recent security scares a sign that Apple may be spreading its resources too thin? Sure, it’s a huge company with plenty of resources, and it continues to produce magnificent products like the iPhone X and iMac Pro (the jury’s still out on the HomePod). But as Apple products become increasingly less like one another, is the company at risk of diluting the simplicity and consistency that were its “unique selling points,” its identity, and ultimately the reasons for choosing to buy and use Apple products?
Matt Smith Art Editor Matt’s excited about the new dragon animoji, but will never lose the fox.
Rosie Hilder Operations Editor Rosie has been merrily customizing all her WhatsApp backgrounds.
J.R. Bookwalter Contributor After testing Sickweather on his Watch, J.R. hasn’t dared leave his house.
Alan Stonebridge, Editor Twitter: @maclife
maclife.com Apr 2018 5
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Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA, UK Future US, Inc. One Lombard Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94111 EDITORIAL Editor Alan Stonebridge ARt editor Matt Smith operations EDITOR Rosie Hilder with thanks to everyone who stepped up to pinch-hit! CONTRIBUTORS Adam Banks, Norman Bean, Alex Blake, Matt Bolton, J.R. Bookwalter, Ryan Butt, Jamie Carter, David Chartier, David Crookes, Tom Gorham, Dan Grabham, Craig Grannell, Kate Gray, Tim Hardwick, Kenny Hemphill, Cliff Joseph, Andy Kelly, Carrie Marshall, Shaun McGill, Howard Oakley, Nick Peers, Christopher Phin, Jennifer Phin, Dave Stevenson, Alex Summersby Art contributors Apple Digital edition ARt editor Chris Hedley Digital edition Sub Rob Mead-Green BUSINESS vice president sales Stacy Gaines, email@example.com Vice President Strategic Partnerships Isaac Ugay, firstname.lastname@example.org East coast account director Brandie Rushing, email@example.com East coast account director Michael Plump, firstname.lastname@example.org mid west account director Jessica Reinert, email@example.com west coast account director Austin Park, firstname.lastname@example.org west coast account director Brandon Wong, email@example.com west coast account director Tad Perez, firstname.lastname@example.org Director of Integrated Marketing & Custom Solutions Robbie Montinola director, client services Tracy Lam Director, retail sales Bill Shewey MANAGEMENT Managing Director Aaron Asadi Editorial Director Paul Newman Art & Design Director Ross Andrews Head of Art & Design Rodney Dive Commercial Finance Director Dan Jotcham PRINT & PRODUCTION HEAD OF PRODUCTION UK & US Mark Constance Production Project Manager Clare Scott Advertising Production Manager Joanne Crosby Digital Editions Controller Jason Hudson PRODUCTION manager Frances Twentyman We are committed to using only magazine paper derived from responsibly managed, certified forestry and chlorine-free manufacture. The paper in this magazine was sourced and produced from sustainable managed forests, conforming to strict environmental and socioeconomic standards. The manufacturing paper mill holds full FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification and accreditation.
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Your opinions, rants & raves
Recently, I purchased a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I have added a Duola Bluetooth keyboard, which works wonderfully with my iPad and gives me “near MacBook” capability. Now, if Microsoft would just come out with Office Home & Business 2016 for the iPad, I could use my iPad for all my daily work needs. I know that 365 is available, but I am just not a 365 fan. Robert Conley
No, not a MacBook, but a keyboard case.
While you’re waiting, have you tried using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote? All three can open Microsoft Office files, and save to Office formats for sharing with work colleagues. See this issue’s iWork tips feature for much more.
Thoughts on HomePod I’ve been using a Sonos speaker set for the home theater and a spare room’s speaker. I also use an Amazon Alexa in the kitchen. So I’m already familiar with the utility and enjoyment, like many of my friends. Even then, I was really curious about the Home Pod and whether it was going to be something special enough to get. The jury is still out. Learning that two can’t even cooperate with each other makes me doubtful. Staying on the fence. Ken Johnson See our Start pages this issue for more comments from our readers about HomePod.
Web link woes
Would you forgo animoji for a stable bare-bones version of iOS?
I tried accessing a couple of the bit.ly web addresses in the Ask pages of January’s Mac|Life but they didn’t work. Am I missing something or doing something incorrectly? Nick Troise You’re not the first to mention this, but our sans-serif font is
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misleading you: the shortened web addresses begin not MI, as you’ve been typing, but ML (as in “Mac|Life”), only lowercase. So what you should be typing is bit.ly/mlrecovery and bit.ly/mlsafemode.
workstation until file management is improved and easy external storage is a reality. Let’s face it, file management is, to be generous, very cumbersome. One needs to be able to easily locate, create, move, copy, modify, transfer, or otherwise manipulate files at will. And, I need to be able to do this without relying on the Cloud, because when I travel I often can’t sign in to the net. If you need to handle volumes of data, you require external storage, and without being a digital contortionist. The iPad Pro is a small step for mankind. But without easy file handling and straightforward connection to external storage, to me, it is mostly an entertainment center. Harald Dogliani
iOS wish list What would I like to see in the next iOS version? The option of a stable, secure, bare-bones version. You know, one without AR or animated emoji… but with more effort put into security. Neal Greenfield I’d love it if the music for my alarm started playing gradually instead of at full volume. Bob Manwaring Us, we’re still waiting for an analog clockface option on our iPhone Lock screen...
Not going full iPad I am not ready to “Go Full iPad.” Yes, the iPad can allow one to perform routine light work. But it won’t replace my laptop or
File management in iOS: too cumbersome for everyday use?
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Start FEED YOUR MIND. FEAST YOUR EYES.
Apple’s Phil Schiller on why HomePod was late, and more p16
HomePod is here Apple’s smart speaker has finally arrived… but is it too little, too late? By Alex Summersby
Apple’s HomePod is now shipping. The $349 wireless smart speaker stands just over 7 inches high, and is available in space gray or white. It works with an Apple Music subscription, offering a catalog of 45 million songs ad-free, as well as playing the tracks in your own iTunes library. You can control it from your iPhone, or by tapping the top of the speaker itself, or using your voice, thanks to Siri, Apple’s “intelligent assistant” — six built-in microphones pick out your voice even when loud music is playing. On top of premium audio quality, HomePod has some advanced features. It automatically adjusts the sound 8 Apr 2018 maclife.com
balance for the ambient acoustics, so that, for example, if it’s positioned in a corner it will bounce the bass backing off the walls but fire the vocals directly into the room. With integral support for Apple HomeKit, HomePod can control hundreds of compatible home accessories, so you can simply ask Siri to turn on the lights, close the shades, adjust the temperature, and so on, or even activate a “scene” — a preset configuration of a number of different accessories at the same time. You can also ask Siri to send messages (using third-party apps such as WhatsApp if you wish), set timers and reminders, check the weather or the traffic, and play podcasts. The latest news and sports updates stream direct to HomePod from CNN, ESPN, and other sources. HomePod can also serve as a speakerphone for your iPhone. When first announced, HomePod was promised for December 2017, but its release was delayed, with Apple saying it didn’t want to ship the product until it was finished. It still doesn’t seem finished, though — it’s shipping without AirPlay 2 support, which is needed if you want to add multiple HomePods in different rooms and play your music on all of them or listen to different songs in different rooms. On initial release, two HomePods in the same room can’t even communicate
Feed your mind. Feast your eyes.
with each other in order to create a balanced stereo soundstage. Apple has promised that multiroom audio and intelligent stereo capabilities are “coming this year” in a free software update. But right now, not only is Apple late to the smart speaker party — more than three years behind Amazon’s Alexa — but, without these features, what it’s bringing still falls short. Not quite ready A straw poll of subscribers to the Mac|Life newsletter found that the vast majority were skeptical: > “Alexa has been working fine for me for quite some time, and the sound is quite good. Apple is too late and too expensive.” — Charlotte Ballard > “We currently have nine Amazon devices throughout our home. I simply don’t have a need for the HomePod now. Sorry, Apple, you’re too late. Plus, we use Spotify, not Apple Music.” — Dottie West > “Too much money. I have Alexa and it works great — paid only $99.00 when it first came out. I have all Apple products but I think they dropped the ball on this one.” — Dave Watson > “No, not getting one. Disappointed. This misses the mark because it seems like they focused on the wrong feature. Great speaker is nice, but functionality is what we were all waiting for. Chalk one up for Amazon.” — John Gilberts > “I am excited. It won’t be perfect on first release but the software upgrade should follow on soon. There is a true need for more sophisticated voice-activated functions in the aging population. There is a huge opportunity from both a human and a commercial perspective.” — Eldon Amoroso
Hands-on with HomePod Speaker that talks the talk Using a HomePod is… well, so Apple. Like with the AirPods, simply hold your iPhone near the unit and it sends over your Apple ID, Apple Music preferences, and Wi-Fi logins. All this, and it sounds pretty good… as you’d expect at this price. Vocals are all very clear, with heavy bass. This thing is loud, too, with impressive sound quality at higher volume. The controls are at the top. The volume + and – buttons light up when pressed, and the “glow” in the middle appears when the speaker is in use. The touch controls are fairly responsive, although it would be nice to have haptic feedback when you tap. Double-tapping to skip tracks or triple-tapping to skip back is fine. Simply saying “Hey Siri” to the speaker will activate Siri — even if you’re listening to a song at high volume. That was impressive. You can ask Siri to turn down the
BY Gareth Beavis
music, play another playlist, or read a review of the album being played — but to us, the robotic voice reading out felt a bit weird. As a smart home controller, it’s pretty comprehensive and picks up voices well. Saying “Good morning!” opened the “Morning Scene”, which turned on the lights, raised the blinds, and started the kettle boiling. All this requires serious investment in your smart home, though. The HomePod is late to the game, but it does what it set out to do: offer a premium listening experience that combines very well with Siri. It’s more expensive than equivalent rivals, though, and lacks things like Bluetooth playback or the ability to interact with many services outside the Apple ecosystem, so it’s really for those who have a Mac, iPhone, and Apple Watch and want highclass sound to go with them.
Apple-designed A8 chip High-excursion woofer
Seamless mesh fabric Seven-tweeter array
maclife.com Apr 2018 9
>>> Start Feed your mind. Feast your eyes.
How your Apple Watch could save your life Apple and third-party providers turn an accessory into a medical marvel By Becca Caddy & staff reporters
Apple confirms that iOS 11.3, currently in beta testing, will be able to send your location to the emergency services automatically. But your Watch is already fast becoming an important diagnostic aid. Thanks to advances in sensors, new accessories, and improved deep-learning software, our wearables could soon become as important as our doctors. We spoke to Rachael Fisher, a Customer Service Adviser for recycling company Bywaters, who last year had her life potentially saved by her Apple Watch. “I decided to randomly check my heartbeat to see what my resting BPM was using the Apple Watch. To my shock it was showing it was 140/150bpm (the average is between 70 to 100bpm),” Fisher told us. “As the weeks progressed into months, I realized that my heart was never slowing down. Because of this, I had a blood test and it became clear that I have an overactive thyroid, so severe that my doctor said I could have had a heart attack at any moment. I am now on beta blockers and other medication which is slowing my heart down, thankfully.” Just in time Fisher is not alone. In October, New York podcast producer and reporter James Green’s Apple Watch prompted him to seek urgent medical attention after it noticed a spike in his resting heart rate. He found out it was due to a blood clot in his lungs. These might be rare incidents, but recent studies have found that the heart rate data collected from devices like the Apple Watch is nearly as accurate as a medical grade electrocardiogram test. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared AliveCor’s KardiaBand, a watch strap that’s a portable electrocardiogram (ECG) reader, making it the first true medical accessory for the Apple Watch. Plus, several companies have been working on additional apps and deep-learning software that make the data collected from sensors more useful. For example, the team behind the Cardiogram app, working with the American Heart Association, found 10 Apr 2018 maclife.com
that, using a deep neural network called DeepHeart, data from Fitbit and Apple Watch devices could be used to detect both hypertension and sleep apnea. “This study is one of the first showing that AI can be trained to perform a task doctors can’t do — analyzing a week’s worth of ordinary wearable data and discerning subtle patterns associated with hypertension and sleep apnea, which are invisible to the naked eye,” Cardiogram’s co-founder Brandon Ballinger said. “This lets both artificial and human intelligence play to their strengths: AI sifting through large data sets to discern hidden patterns, and humans delivering care with empathy and nuance.” These examples are just the beginning. Apple has announced plans to partner with Stanford Medicine to collect heart rate data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation. According to the New York Times, Apple could also be working on a non-invasive blood glucose monitoring system for a future version of the Watch. However, the story also cited industry experts as believing this technology was still a few years away. Find out more in TechRadar’s in-depth report at bit.ly/ml139news-watch
>The shift After a slow start, says David Chartier, Apple’s HomeKit technology finally looks to be on course to make our homes smarter
ontrolling your home with the mere sound of your voice has always looked cool on screen, but felt far away. Until recently, most “smart” tech gadgets were anything but. That might finally change soon, thanks to Apple’s HomeKit technology. After a mixed launch and a slow start, the platform is shaping up to put the “art” in “smart home.” Apple launched HomeKit in 2014 as a platform for smart home appliances. The idea was to make it easier for companies to build smart gadgets, from doorbells to dishwashers, and HomeKit would make it easy for us to integrate and control it all with Siri and apps on our iPhone and iPad. I have some HomeKit-friendly LED lights, a home security camera, and a doorbell I plan to install soon. Everything works together pretty well, but HomeKit had some stumbling blocks at first. Apple had high security requirements
and long review times (sometimes up to five months), hampering adoption by manufacturers. They had to buy a custom authentication chip from Apple, and users never had a place to go learn about and try HomeKit devices. Finally, there was no single dashboard to set up and manage your HomeKit stuff. This left us to the whims of thirdparty manufacturers, who are often bad at building quality apps to manage their gadgets. In the last few years, HomeKit has made big strides. In iOS 10 in 2016, Apple debuted its Home app — a unified dashboard all certified HomeKit devices must support. It was a strong step towards showing us regular folks the what, why, and how of HomeKit’s potential. With iOS 11 last year, Apple slashed both the cost of building HomeKit devices and its review time for certification, while still maintaining its high standards of security and privacy. Industry
reaction was great, and a variety of companies like IKEA, Netamo, LIFX, and Logitech were quick to announce HomeKit adoption in new products, and occasionally in existing ones (through a free firmware update). The 2017 holiday season saw HomeKit devices “suddenly booming,” to quote The Verge, and January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw its fair share of HomeKit debuts. Perhaps key to HomeKit’s future success is Apple walking the walk in its own stores: A renovated layout for existing stores and new ones includes a dedicated HomeKit section with working demo units, products for sale, and staff trained on the ecosystem. Add it all up, and the next year or two are shaping up very well for HomeKit. With both the industry and Apple throwing more weight behind this matured, accessible ecosystem, you may finally be able to make your house a HomeKit.
>>> David Chartier is a content strategist and writer with vast experience analyzing the tech world. He runs the website Finer Things in Tech (finerthings.in) and hosts its podcast, The Finer Things In.
maclife.com Apr 2018 11
>>> Start Feed your mind. Feast your eyes.
“Text bomb” scare iPhone-crashing ChaiOS bug disclosed... but still only potential, for now BY Alex Summersby
Hard on the heels of recent Apple security scares comes a new bug called a “text bomb,” an iMessage that can crash your iPhone, even if you don’t tap the link it contains. The problem was disclosed by software developer Abraham Masri, who discovered that embedding a particular link in an iMessage can cause an iPhone to crash, or in some cases restart, apparently because it tries to auto-load the linked content, which overloads it. This bug is said to affect Safari/ WebKit on the Mac as well as iOS, but there are no reports of actual exploits yet. (There may well be some to come — Masri posted the code that performs this trick on the developer site GitHub, and although he’s since removed it, it’s not impossible that some malicious individual might get hold of it and implement it.) Apple is reported as saying a forthcoming security update will address the problem soon. In the meantime, security expert Graham Cluley has said that the bug, even if it appears in the wild, is not anything to be particularly worried about: “Something about the so-called ChaiOS bug’s code gives your Apple device a brainstorm. Ashamed about the mess it gets itself in, Messages decides the least embarrassing thing to do is to crash. Nasty. But, thankfully, more of a nuisance than something that 12 Apr 2018 maclife.com
will lead to data being stolen from your computer or a malicious hacker being able to access your files.” The ChaiOS code does no lasting harm, and in Messages, once you’ve restarted at any rate, the fix would seem to be straightforward: delete the offending message without opening it. (To do this, swipe left on the relevant conversation on the main Messages screen, then tap the red Delete button.) It’s not yet clear how to remedy a similar problem in macOS if someone were to exploit it. For now, since Apple seems to be on top of the situation, installing the latest security updates looks to be your best protection.
News in brief Apple news in bite-size chunks > Long-range charging? According to a recent patent application, Apple may be working on a long-range wireless charger. The radio-frequency-based system has a few tricks up its sleeve, too: The charger could gather usage information from your iPhone and Apple account, use this to predict your usage patterns, then distribute power accordingly. That is, the charger could send enough power to your iPhone to get it through the day, based on how you use it, then automatically switch to charging your iPad. RF-based remote charging gets weaker the further your device is from the charger, so Apple’s application details a way to efficiently manage and prioritize charging devices. As always, there’s no way of knowing when or if this tech might become a reality. > Microsoft Office for Mac gets a major update Microsoft has released a new version of Office 2016 for Mac, introducing new online features that bring it closer in line with the cloud-first Office 365. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint now feature automatic saving for documents stored in the cloud — which could stop you losing hours of work if you accidentally close a window or suffer a crash. All three apps also now offer live previews when you’re working on a shared document, with flag icons showing where others are working (much as in Google Docs). Office’s upgraded Version History tool shows a list of changes and lets you roll back to an earlier version.
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