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Why Apple killed the floppy disk and headphone jack before you were ready to give them up – CTV News

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From the floppy disk to the headphone jack, Apple has a history of removing ubiquitous technology from its gadgets before people think they’re ready to give them up.

In some cases, Apple’s changes have been about making devices faster, more functional, thinner, or less tied down by a tangle of wires. In other instances, Apple pushed industry standards for technology in a new direction.

Now, Apple could be ready to take the next big leap with a wireless iPhone.

Here are a few major examples of Apple ditching tech.

 

A wireless iPhone?

Top Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of TF International Securities, released a report earlier this month predicting that Apple will remove the lightning cable port from high-end iPhone models in 2021. That would create a wireless version of the iPhone that Kuo said would help to differentiate the more expensive iPhone models and boost sales.

Kuo’s forecast isn’t a certainty and Apple declined to comment on it. But if the predictions are borne out, it could be a sign that Apple will move toward killing the lightning charger altogether.

Apple already sells wireless charging docks that work with the iPhone 8 and later. But it’s not clear consumers are clamoring for a fully wireless iPhone just yet.

For one thing, wireless charging is just not as fast as traditional, wired charging yet. The 18-Watt wired charger was a major selling point for the iPhone 11 because of its rapid charging speed, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives. By contrast, the fastest wireless chargers offer only 7.5 watts.

There would be other challenges, too. Customers would have to toss their wired headphones and chargers and buy new ones. And many older cars enabled with CarPlay — Apple’s technology that lets users see Apple Maps, Music and other apps on their car screens — require a plug for the feature to work.

 

Death of the disk drive

With the 1998 release of the iMac, Apple did away with the floppy disk drive, leaving only a rewritable CD drive.

That lasted about 10 years, and then Apple killed the CD drive, as well.

 

The MagSafe charger

This popular charging technology disappeared from Apple laptops with the 2015 MacBook Air and 2016 MacBook Pro. It was a controversial decision — the magnetic charging cable was popular because if it was unexpectedly yanked on (say, by tripping over the cord), the charger would easily disconnect rather than pulling the laptop down to the ground.

Those Macs also did away with the traditional USB port. The USB port and MagSafe charger were replaced with a USB-C port that doubles as a charger and a way to quickly transfer data to and from the computer.

The switch allowed Apple to make a thinner, lighter computer but it meant that users who still used the larger USB drives had to buy adapters to connect them to their new computers.

 

The 30-pin charging cable

In 2012, Apple switched to the lightning cable, and Apple customers said goodbye to the larger 30-pin charging port, which had been used in iPhones, iPads and iPods for a decade.

But the company has slowly been phasing the lightning cable out of its iPad designs. And the lightning cable doesn’t plug into most Apple computers these days.

 

Goodbye, headphone jack (hello, AirPods)

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, released in 2016, got rid of the headphone jack, instead featuring just one USB-C port that could be used for headphones and charging (and requiring customers to buy new headphones or an adapter in order to use them with the new phone).

Separately, this new model also got rid of the physical home button on the front of the phone, opting instead for a virtual button with haptic feedback, which simulates the feel of pushing the home button. The home button went away entirely with the debut of the iPhone X in 2017. This year, Apple made no new iPhones with home buttons.

 

Touch ID vs. Face ID

Many users were skeptical when Apple introduced Touch ID, its fingerprint sensor unlocking technology, for iPhones in 2013. But privacy and security fears surrounding the use of biometric data didn’t stop Apple from removing Touch ID and replacing it with Face ID, facial recognition unlocking technology, with the iPhone X in 2017 (users opt-in to use the tech).

When it announced the iPhone X, the company said the new unlocking technology was significantly more secure than Touch ID — the odds of someone wrongly gaining access to a phone with Face ID is one in 1 million, Apple said, versus the one in 50,000 change with Touch ID.

 

The “butterfly” keyboard saga

But such changes have not always stuck.

The 2015 MacBook Air also came with a new kind of keyboard, called the “butterfly,” replacing the old “scissor” style keyboard. The update was another way of making its laptops thinner, and the keys require less forceful tapping in order to work.

But the butterfly keyboard has not been well received by customers, even after two redesigns. Many complained about the keys sticking or malfunctioning, and Apple publicly apologized earlier this year.

In November, Apple released a new MacBook Pro that reverted back to the old (though slightly updated) scissor keyboard. And Kuo predicted in a note earlier this year that Apple’s other computers will soon get the scissor keyboard back, too.

 

Speaking of keyboards…

This getting rid of standard technology thing dates all the way back to Apple’s very first Macintosh computer in 1985.

Unlike the early Apple 1 and Apple 2 computers — and other companies’ models at the time — the Macintosh came without arrow keys on the keyboard to train early personal computer customers how to use a mouse. It turned out, though, that people wanted both a mouse and arrow keys, so Apple reinstated the arrow keys, which have remained ever since.

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Facebook ‘planning to rebrand company’ with new name – Al Jazeera English

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at its annual conference on October 28, but it could be sooner.

Social media giant Facebook Inc is planning to rebrand itself with a new name next week, American technology blog the Verge reported on Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, the Verge reported.

In response, Facebook said it does not comment on “rumour or speculation”.

The news comes at a time when the company is facing increasing government scrutiny in the United States over its business practices.

Legislators from both parties have excoriated the company, illustrating the rising anger in Congress with Facebook.

‘A metaverse company’

The rebranding would position Facebook’s social media app as one of many products under a parent company, which will also oversee groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and more, the Verge report added.

It is not uncommon in Silicon Valley for companies to change their names as they bid to expand their services.

Google established Alphabet Inc as a holding company in 2015 to expand beyond its search and advertising businesses, to oversee various other ventures ranging from its autonomous vehicle unit and health technology to providing internet services in remote areas.

The move to rebrand will also reflect Facebook’s focus on building the so-called metaverse, an online world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment, according to the report.

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and intends to connect its nearly three billion users through several devices and apps. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to create 10,000 jobs in the European Union over the next five years to help build the metaverse.

Zuckerberg has been talking up metaverse since July when he said that the key to Facebook’s future lies with the metaverse concept – the idea that users will live, work and exercise inside a virtual universe. The company’s Oculus virtual reality headsets and service are an instrumental part of realizing that vision.

“In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “In many ways, the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.”

The buzzy word, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft.

The Verge report said a possible name for the company could have something to do with Horizon. Recently, Facebook renamed its in-development VR gaming platform named ‘Horizon’’to “Horizon Worlds”.

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Apple's voice-only Music subscription could boost Siri's accent understanding – TechCrunch

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Apple had a slew of interesting announcements at its event on Monday. But one that stood out to me — and I feel didn’t get as much attention — is the new pricing tier of Apple Music. A new “Voice” tier will offer the entire Apple Music library to subscribers at a reduced rate of just $5 per month: The catch is you have to use Siri to access it, eschewing the standard Apple Music visual and typing-friendly in-app user interface.

Apple didn’t share why it is launching this plan, but I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the iPhone-maker is lowering the price barrier and persuading more people to use Siri because it wants to gather more voice data to train and improve its voice assistant.

“We’re excited that even more people will be able to enjoy Apple Music simply with their voice,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said at the event.

I can’t imagine any other compelling reason why the Apple Music Voice plan exists, especially since Apple is likely offering the new service with much lower margins than the standard plan, as the licensing agreements with labels remain the same to offer up the entire Apple Music catalog.

Again, this is just speculation, but I think given the stiff competition between Apple and Spotify, if the Swedish firm could offer its streaming service at $7-8 a month to beat Apple Music at price, it would. And Apple is taking some loss with the new subscription tier because it really wants to gather vast amounts of data. When I tweeted this theory, my colleague Alex wondered aloud why wouldn’t Apple just make the subscription free? I suppose Apple, a $2.5 trillion company, can technically swallow that much of a hit on the balance sheet, but it doesn’t want to attract more criticism from standalone music streaming firms such as Spotify. It’s already facing scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior on a number of fronts.

Tech firms feed their AI models with vast amounts of data to improve the services’ capabilities. Even as Siri has considerably improved over the years, the general consensus among many people who work in tech and the masses alike is that Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are far superior.

It’s likely that Apple has already been gleaning such voice data from existing Apple Music users, but as a friend suggested, “the point is this — this feature always existed. It’s just that they’d put a high paywall. They’ve lowered that wall now.” In addition to lowering the barrier to entry, making Music voice-only via the new plan means people have to engage with Siri to make use of it; Siri is a feature for standard Apple Music subscribers, but it’s highly likely that most users primarily or exclusively access the content via the app’s UI.

If you want an example of what can happen to voice-powered assistants when you require that users treat it as a voice-first or voice-only service, look at Amazon’s Alexa. Out of the gate, Alexa had to be accessed by voice. This allowed Amazon to not only collect massive amounts of training data for its Alexa algorithms, but also helped train users about how to use it to maximum effect.

Understanding accents and dialects

Another reason why I think my theory works is the markets where Apple plans to offer this new subscription tier first: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Having India, Spain, Ireland and France in the first wave of nations suggests that Apple is looking to amass a wide-range of dialects and accents from across the globe. On a side note, voice search is very popular in many markets, including developing nations such as India, and in markets like China and Japan where text input can sometimes be unnecessarily complex versus spoken word. (A Google executive told me once that the surprising mass adoption of voice searches in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market and where Android commands about 98% of the pie, helped the company improve Google Assistant and prompted more aggressive approach to innovate on the voice front.)

Siri is often framed as a bit of a laggard in terms of its competence versus the rest of the voice assistant competition, and Apple’s latest move in services could be an attempt to help it close the perceived gap, while offering customers a discounted way to onboard to its music streaming service.

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PSA: the MacBook Pro 14-inch’s $20 power brick upsell is probably worth it – The Verge

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If you’re looking at buying the $1,999 base model MacBook Pro 14-inch, there’s one upgrade that you may really want to make — the $20 one that gets you the 96W power adapter instead of the 67W included power adapter. That’s because, according to some wording on Apple’s MacBook Pro configuration page (spotted by MacRumors), you’ll need the more powerful charger if you want to take advantage of the computer’s fast charging feature, which can charge the laptop up to 50 percent in half an hour.

Is it ridiculous that Apple is basically taxing the people who want to buy its least expensive (but still very pricey!) new MacBook Pro? Yes, absolutely — but you should still probably pay it if you want to charge your laptop up quickly. The exception is if you already have a charging brick capable of 100W USB-PD power delivery: Apple tells The Verge that you can fast charge via Thunderbolt as long as your power brick provides enough power. If you already have a beefy power brick, you can skip the upsell.

I know it probably doesn’t feel great to encourage Apple’s nickel-and-diming, but if you want fast charging, this will likely be the best way to get it. There may be, somewhere in the world, a 100W USB-PD charging brick that sells for $20, but there’s no way I would trust it enough to charge a very expensive computer. (If it was $20, I might not even trust it not to burn down my house). I’d pick the upsell.

The one silver lining is that this is only a problem on the base 8 CPU core / 14 GPU core model — if you do any processor upgrades, you’ll get the 96W brick for “free.” Please note, though, that upgrading just the RAM and/or storage on the base MacBook Pro won’t get you that upgrade, but if you’re in the configuration screen anyways, you should absolutely check that box unless you hate fast charging.

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