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Apple's taking more control of its iPhones, iPads and Macs – CNET

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Apple’s making changes to its iOS software to answer long-standing requests.


Angela Lang/CNET

The tech industry often refers to Apple’s ecosystem of devices as a “walled garden,” an idyllic world of tech where each of the company’s devices work together because Apple controls intricate details of how they work. In a few months, that wall will get a bit higher.

Sometime this fall, the tech giant will release iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and MacOS Big Sur, the software that powers its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers, respectively. The company has added new features to the software, which will be free to existing device owners, offering both convenience and an even greater pull to bring you even deeper into Apple’s world. 

The “Sign In with Apple” feature, introduced a year ago, will more closely connect with apps to allow you to create accounts, sign up for new apps and log into existing apps using your Apple ID. Apple’s also got a virtual car keys feature that creates a digital key to unlock and start your car with just your phone. And if you want, you can share those car keys with friends through Apple’s encrypted iMessage service. 

Speaking of messages, that app has new features too, making group chats more appealing by offering threaded conversations as in Facebook and Slack, as well as the ability to grab someone’s attention by writing their name.

“Today, the world is counting on all of us and on the products and experiences that we create to move forward,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday during the livestreamed keynote at his company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC for short. “We have not stopped innovating, doing the work that will enrich people’s lives for years to come.”


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Apple’s efforts to tighten the connections among its services is nothing new, but the announcements the company made Monday bring that interoperability to a level users haven’t experienced before. Apple’s efforts to control the experience on its devices has helped it to build well-regarded software to power popular devices like the Mac computers, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. But increasingly, you need to either go all-in on Apple devices, or risk missing out on many of the key benefits. 

apple-macos-bigsur-moreapps-06222020apple-macos-bigsur-moreapps-06222020

This could be your next car key.


Apple

At the same time, governments around the world have been questioning the ways the company wields that power, potentially shutting out rivals. The European Union has opened two investigations into how Apple treats outside developers. Apple also hasn’t made key popular technology, like the iMessage encrypted chat service, available to phones powered by Google’s Android software.

Apple may blunt that scrutiny a little bit by quietly opening up two key elements of its iOS software. Starting this fall, the company will allow you to change the default email and browser on your iPhone. Apple never mentioned the capability during the keynote, though, with the revelation coming in one of the presentation slides. Instead, Apple focused on all the new features its phones will have.

“Apple has always wanted to build this world that people want to live in,” said Bob O’Donnell, an analyst now at Technalysis Research. What’s unclear is whether Apple’s latest features are enough to convince people to commit to only Apple. 

The number of people who have iPhones, iPads and Mac computers is small, O’Donnell said, noting that many more people have an iPhone and a computer made by different company. But as Apple continues adding features that competitors have had for years, such as small apps known as widgets on its home screen, or threaded conversations in its messages app, more people might be wooed over to the company’s side.

“You do spend so much of your time with these devices,” he added.

Read more: iPhone’s radical new home screen changes aren’t on by default. What you need to know

Not just features

The biggest news out of Apple’s event Monday wasn’t the new features for its iPhones, but rather the changes coming to the company’s Mac computers. 

Apple said that starting in the fall, it will begin selling computers powered by chips with designs similar to those in the iPhone and iPad. These chips, the latest of which have names like A13 Bionic, initially appeared in the first iPads in 2010. Apple said its chips today are more than 100 times faster than those original chips.

Beyond that, by building its own chips for its computers, Apple is able to fine-tune its software even more to provide an optimal experience.

“Most important, this means that iOS and iPadOS applications will be able to run natively on MacOS in the future, making it easier for Apple’s 23 million developer partners to create applications across all Apple products,” Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a note to investors after the announcement Monday.

For consumers, this means the opportunity to bring some of the apps they already use on their iPhones onto Macs, giving them incentive to look at other Apple hardware. 

Mobile future

For years, industry watchers have wondered whether Apple would eventually marry its ultra-portable iPad tablet with the MacBook laptop. Apple has routinely dismissed the idea, despite positive reviews for Microsoft’s Surface laptops, which popularized the idea of a computer-tablet hybrid.

But with iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and MacOS Big Sur, Apple’s effectively married them anyway. By making its new Mac computers capable of running iPhone and iPad apps, few things are left separating the Mac from its mobile cousins. The Mac has more storage, and it’s designed to perform more advanced tasks like professional video editing and graphics design, but other than that, a touchscreen and some extra ports, they’re not that different anymore.

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Apple’s more tightly connecting its phones, computers and tablets.


Apple

Apple even made this point by rebuilding its Maps app on the Mac using its iPhone and iPad app as its base. The company did the same with its Messages app. “It’s a full-fledged Mac app that runs natively and is designed in a way that’s true to the Mac,” Apple software head Craig Federighi said during the company’s presentation.

For Apple, tying its devices even tighter together, and building that wall ever higher, is just the latest way to guarantee as good an experience as it can.

“From the very beginning, the Mac redefined the entire computer industry. The Mac has always been about innovation and boldly pushing things forward, embracing big changes to stay at the forefront of personal computing,” Cook said. “We haven’t stopped innovating.”

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Weekly poll review: iOS 14 is a solid upgrade, might even get some to switch – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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Last week’s poll shows that iOS 14 is a solid upgrade – one in four voters think it will allow them to continue happily using their current iPhone, another one in five are looking forward to upgrade to the iPhone 12 to get the OS in its best form.

Is it good enough to help Apple lure away users of premium Androids? Well, a solid 23% say that is the case. They will be able to choose from the $400 iPhone SE, the $600-700 iPhone 12 or one of the $1,000+ Pro models, depending on their needs.


New in iOS 14: App library
New in iOS 14: Enhanced privacy
New in iOS 14: iMessage improvements

New in iOS 14: Home screen widgets • App library • Enhanced privacy • iMessage improvements

Of course, Apple has no phones in the sub-$400 mid-ranger market, barring second-hand units, while Android makers offer some really impressive phones in that range. Owners of such Androids see no reason to pay a premium for iOS.

Also, many feel that iOS is still trailing Android, especially when it comes to customization. And it’s true, it took 14 versions for Apple to let you pick your browser app. So if your Android UI looks nothing like the stock installation, iOS 14 is not for you.

If you value privacy and long term software support, however, iOS has several new features that will make former Android users feel at home.

Weekly poll review: iOS 14 is a solid upgrade, for some it's good enough to switch to from Android

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I ditched Android for iPhone SE for a month — here’s the pros and cons – Tom's Guide

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When the iPhone SE (2020) debuted earlier this spring, I argued that the phone’s impressive specs and reasonable price were enough to make a longtime Android diehard sit up and take notice. For $400, Apple’s latest phone gives you a powerful processor, a gorgeous screen and a robust camera, along with helpful bells and whistles like water resistance and wireless charging. 

In effect, you get a flagship phone for half of what you’d pay for a premium device. The iPhone SE sounded better than its closest Android competitors on paper, and that got me wondering: Could it stand up to its Android rivals in real life?

Google Pixel 3a (Image credit: Future)

In my experience, no. The iPhone SE is a powerful piece of hardware at an impressive price, but I found that the iOS experience drags the whole product down several notches. If you have $400 to spend on a phone, you should buy the Google Pixel 3a (or hold out for the anticipated release of the Pixel 4a). There are many reasons why, but foremost among them is the fact that your $400 will buy you a complete product when you opt for an Android device, and not simply a foot in the door of a much larger, more expensive ecosystem.

The experiment

After I made the argument in favor of the iPhone SE back in April, my editor proposed an unusual experiment: If the iPhone SE really looked that good to me, would I be willing to use one for a whole month? After all, if the iPhone SE could really usher in a new age of midrange smartphones, who would be a better test subject than a longtime Android user? I installed my SIM card in an iPhone SE on May 15, and kept it there for the next month.

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

While Apple admittedly isn’t my cup of tea, I resolved to go into this experiment with an open mind. I’ve reviewed Apple gadgets before, and I think I’ve always evaluated their strengths and weaknesses fairly. I’m also not a hardcore smartphone user by any means. I use my phone for calls, texts, e-mail, social media and the occasional mobile game. I don’t have a ton of apps, and I’d almost always rather use a computer, game console, tablet or e-reader. As such, I figured that anything I could do on an Android phone, I could probably do on an iPhone just as well.My hypothesis turned out to be about half-right. 

What I liked about the iPhone SE

I found some things to like about the iPhone SE, and the Apple experience in general. First, I was able to download new interface and security updates the second they became available, rather than months down the line, whenever my wireless carrier deemed fit. The iPhone SE will continue getting vital security updates for years, rather than petering out after a year and a half, or less. Android really, really needs to step up its game in this department.

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

I also thought the pictures it took were just gorgeous. Even indoors, the color balance was spot-on, and the phone did a fantastic job of distinguishing between people and objects, foregrounds and backgrounds. I don’t think it’s considerably better than the Pixel 3a’s camera, but it’s definitely better than what most mid-range phones offer.

I also liked everything that the iPhone SE’s excellent hardware facilitated. The screen was bright, vivid and sharp, particularly since it crams a lot of resolution into a small space. Navigation felt snappy and immediate, whether I was playing a demanding 3D game or simply scrolling through my photo library. The phone never hangs or chugs; it just loads everything almost instantly. Going back to my aging Moto Z3 felt downright sluggish in comparison. The iPhone SE’s wireless charging was also cool, as I’ve never owned a phone with this capability before.

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

My very favorite part of the iOS experience, however, was Apple Arcade. For those who haven’t tried it, Apple Arcade is a $5-per-month subscription service that gives you unlimited access to a variety of high-quality games that aren’t available anywhere on Android. (They’re often available on Steam or Switch, to be fair.)

These games avoid the worst excesses of free-to-play mobile games, as not a single one allows in-app purchases. You get complete experiences that you can play for as long as you like without paying anything on top of the subscription fee. I wish that Android had a similar service.

What I didn’t like about iPhone SE

The first thing I noticed was that iOS doesn’t have a unified back button. This may seem like a small complaint, but on Android, returning to the previous screen in any app is crystal-clear. In iOS, every app has a different back button, and there’s no consistency about where it’s located. You might have to scroll to the top-left in one app, or the bottom-right in another, so learning how to exit your current screen by muscle memory is impossible. 

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

My second big realization was that there was no way to access my text messages on a PC. Thanks to Google Messages, I’ve become extremely used to using my PC to answer texts as long as I’m at home — which, these days, is most of the time. I know that iMessage is available on Macs, but Google Messages is available on both PCs and Macs, which seems like a much fairer arrangement.

Then, there was the feature that started driving me out of my mind on Day 1 and didn’t let up until Day 30: There is no comma or period on the iOS keyboard’s main screen. Instead, if you want to punctuate your thoughts, you have to go into a secondary menu. Although Android doesn’t have every punctuation mark on its default keyboard, either, you can press and hold the period button to get what you need. Fortunately, you can double tap the space bar in iOS to enter periods and also download third-party keyboards with more options.

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

I ran into a number of other little annoyances during my time with an iPhone. There’s no unified app menu, so you have to scroll through pages of apps or else organize everything into folders manually. Apple seems to acknowledge that this is a problem, as iOS 14 will finally include a unified apps menu and a new App Library feature that automatically organizes your apps for you.

No iPhone model includes a microSD card slot, meaning you’re stuck with whatever amount of internal storage you buy — and that storage can get very expensive, as jumping from one capacity to another can add anywhere from $50 to $100 to the cost of your phone. The iPhone uses a proprietary charger rather than a USB-C, like every other modern phone in the world.

iPhone SE 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

I also couldn’t stand the fact that iOS doesn’t let you simply drag and drop media files onto the system. You need to install iTunes on a computer, create a library, convert a bunch of files and sync everything manually, which is as time-consuming as it is tedious. You can’t create your own ringtones, you can’t install apps from non-Apple sources, you can’t access anything on an iPhone through Windows Explorer, and so forth. It’s an old argument, but it’s still true: iOS feels very restrictive if you’ve been with Android since the beginning.

To its credit, the iPhone SE let me do everything I normally do with a phone. But everything was just a little harder than it needed to be, for no real reason.

Accessorizing fashionably

When I let Apple know that I was planning to write this article, a spokesman suggested I complement the device with AirPods and an Apple Watch Series 5. Since the iPhone SE came out, customers have been buying the three gadgets together, since you can build a mini-Apple ecosystem for less than the cost of a flagship phone.

Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: Future)

However, neither the Apple Watch nor the AirPods added much to the experience overall. I found the AirPods profoundly uncomfortable, and always on the verge of falling out. (The sound quality was excellent, to be fair.) 

Seeing notifications on my wrist with the Apple Watch was kind of helpful, but it didn’t streamline my digital activities in any meaningful sense. Granted, I’d probably have similar complaints about a Wear OS device, but the point is that having two expensive Apple accessories didn’t do much to elevate a very average phone experience.

Back to Android

With an iPhone SE, I was still able to browse the Web, check my email, read books, play games, watch videos and so forth. My day-to-day activities were nearly the same as on Android. But I still experienced a profound feeling of relief when I booted up my old Moto Z3 again. The back button made navigation a snap and the open file format meant I could add anything media I wanted with a simple drag and drop.

Having given iOS a fair shot, I can honestly say that it’s not for me. And yet, there were a few things that I wish Android would learn from its competitor. Security and interface updates are vital, and need to happen ASAP, not whenever a carrier feels like it. Flagship processors belong in midrange phones. Mobile gaming doesn’t have to be a cesspit, if you can attract proven developers with unique ideas.

Ultimately, when it’s time to choose a new phone, you’re going to have to research both systems, then trust your gut. My gut will lead me back to a more open OS.

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Serious Warning Issued For Millions Of Google Gmail Users – Forbes

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07/04 Update below. This post was originally published on July 2

While Google has dropped some Chrome bombshells in recent weeks, Gmail users have had a tougher time. And it just got a lot worse. 

MORE FROM FORBESGoogle’s New Tab Groups Reinvigorate Chrome Browser

Picked up by the always-excellent Android Police, Gmail appears to be suffering from a widespread problem with its email filters which is causing potentially dangerous, exploitative and NSFW messages to be sent directly to users’ inboxes. Furthermore, while Google has recently recognized Gmail problems “affecting a significant subset of users” it now lists the service as fully operational, when one look at Reddit or Twitter makes it clear this is far from the case. 

“Why did the gmail spam filters break?!” – source

“Did gmail’s spam filter and category function just completely shut down for anyone else? Everything’s now going straight to the primary inbox.” – source

“Are @gmail’s spam filters broken? I’ve had a sudden influx of some crazy #NSFW spam in my inbox! What’s going on #Gmail?” – source

“It is a strangely comforting thing that I can just search for “gmail” and immediately Twitter provides me with evidence that yes, others are getting weirdly hit with spam right now” – source

07/04 Update: Google has responded to my inquiry and acknowledged the problem, surprisingly pointing out that the spam flaw was actually part of a bigger issue which caused Gmail emails to be delayed, both when sent and received. The consequence of this was “some messages were delayed enough that they resulted in delivery without all spam checks completing.” Most importantly, Google states that “During this time, scans to filter malware and the most egregious spam and harmful content remained fully operational.” Google says the issue has now been resolved. That said, it is worth noting that some users are still reporting spam problems in Gmail (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc) so you should remain cautious, both when opening unfamiliar new email and going through older messages that may have arrived during the main outage.

For the tech savvy, a flurry of spam hitting your inbox is something which can be navigated. But everyday users could be caught out by some of the more sophisticated malware and exploitation strategies these emails can contain. After all, there’s a reason Gmail (usually) works so hard to keep these messages from your inbox. 

I have contacted Google about this and will update the post when I know more.  

___

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More On Forbes

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Google Chrome Has Spectacular MacBook Problems, Apple Silent

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