Apple is expected to reveal new details about the Apple Watch on Monday, March 9.
But it still has problems to be fixed before it's released
All I wanted to do was save a few videos onto my iPad for a presentation.
But, already, I’m getting ahead of myself. A few days ago, I downloaded the Mac OS X 10.10.3 Beta, Apple’s not-yet-ready for launch operating system. It packs many improvements, the most noteworthy being an entirely revamped photo managing interface. Gone is Apple’s multi-prong photo solution that included Aperture for the experts and iPhoto for the rest of us. In its place is a new Photos app, which takes many a nod from its iOS counterpart.
Upon first glance, the new Mac Photos app is an enormous improvement when it comes to handling massive amounts of images. And let’s face it, after six generations of iPhones, with high-quality DSLRs and action-cams aplenty, most of us have more pictures than we’ll ever need, let alone look at again. I personally have more than 15,000 in my library.
This app makes you fall in love with your forgotten photos all over again. Using the Mac’s touchpad, you can pinch and spread your fingers to zoom out and in on your images, respectively, just as you would if you were browsing your photos on an iOS device. The most impressive part of the interface is how it renders your pictures instantly, turning icon-sized images into full-fledged photos in a snap.
But as with any update, I had this nagging feeling that Photos somehow didn’t have all my pictures in it. I couldn’t think of anything I was necessarily missing (and truth be told, I had excised a chunk of about seven years from my cache), though it didn’t seem possible that Photos could be this good at displaying, reordering, and resizing all 15,000 of my memories at once. But without any specific photo missing, I just shrugged and moved on.
Fast forward to a couple of days later, and I’m trying to save a few Dropcam videos onto my iPad to show during a presentation. While these movies can be viewed within the Dropcam app, it’s never safe to assume there will be functional Wi-Fi when you’re giving a presentation, so I decided to save them to my device. But that wasn’t possible through the Dropcam app, so I had to save them using Safari on my Mac. Then I figured I’d import them onto my iPad using Photos. (Dropcam engineers: Note, while it’s possible to share these videos and download them on other devices, it’s not possible to save them direct to an iOS device. Please fix this.)
It was at this point when I noticed the current pitfalls of Apple’s new Photos app. With my iPad plugged into my Mac, I scrolled through my photos, realizing these were not the photos on my iPad. In fact, there was no mention of my tablet on the user interface. I clicked on the app’s various tabs, and finally came across my iPad’s library when I clicked on the “Import” button. But the only thing that would let me do was copy the images on my iPad onto my computer — so that’s what I did, requesting they be deleted from the device once uploaded. That actually never happened; my iPad still has the images on it, even though they were imported to my Mac’s photo library.
I clicked on Photo’s “help” menu, and navigated down to the “Photos Quick Tour” option, only to discover that it’s “coming soon.” This is understandable for a beta app, if still disappointing. And it was then that I realized what was missing between Photos and iPhoto: a sidebar.
One reason Photos seems so slick and fluid is that it looks like an iOS app: simple, single-screened, and singularly focused on displaying your images. iPhoto, for all its clunky faults, had a file manager-like sidebar that allowed users to make albums, drag-to-copy photos, and quickly navigate to file formats like videos or the last batch imported. As Photos’ first glance turned into stone-cold reality, it seemed like the new app had forsaken all of these crucial features.
After a few more seconds of poking through the app’s menus, I was relieved to see that Apple included a sidebar after all — it’s just turned off by default. Relieved, and ready to love Photos again, I dragged my videos onto the iPad icon only to — wait, this can’t be! — the app wouldn’t copy my video onto my iPad.
More web-based troubleshooting ensued, and I discovered that to save a video onto your iPad, you have to use iTunes, Apple’s music app which is mostly used for buying songs, apps and movies. Think about that sentence for a moment, and maybe give it another read if you need to. And what’s worse, once you’re in iTunes, you select your iPad and then the Photos setting to import your video. (Also, once videos are copied to the tablet, they don’t appear in the Videos app — they are placed into the Photos app, mixed in with your pictures.)
It’s so disheartening to be critical of Apple’s new Photos app, especially when iPhoto is so outmoded that it needed to go to pasture years ago. But this experience, while mixed, shows how much further Apple has to go before it untangles the knot introduced by its two distinct operating systems. Technologies like Yosemite’s Continuity show the potential of a realm in which all Apple devices work in harmony, but the reality, once you start using it, is still a lot of discord. Hopefully Apple’s Photos app will be more polished when it’s released to the public, expected to happen in the next few months.
Silicon Valley, meet the Sermon on the Mount.
A new app lets people share inspirational images online, but instead of trending hashtags they can peg them to their favorite Bible verses.
Instead, users sign into a virtual fellowship, uploading their own photos and videos and tagging them with related verses, searching Scripture to see other users’ photos and sharing stories in small groups or on their own news feeds.
“What we want for the Bible is to turn it back into a big table where everyone feels like they can be welcome,” co-founder Andrew Breitenberg says. “If you are a human being, you qualify—you don’t have to be a Christian to read the Bible.”
Breitenberg founded Parallel with his brother Chris. The brothers who grew up in Princeton, N.J., and who now live in Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C. Andrew, 36, is a graduate of Swarthmore and spent the last six years doing street art and graffiti in Cape Town. Chris, 33, is a graduate of Davidson and has worked at a peace-building nonprofit and spent time traveling Asia.
Both have explored evangelical and Eastern Christian traditions, and their spiritual influences include French mystic and activist Simone Weil, American Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, and the British theologian C.S. Lewis, beloved by evangelicals worldwide. For the past six months, Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, has been their mentor.
Their core idea is the theological principle that the Bible is inherently more than a book, it is a shared experience. Biblical texts began as oral traditions, and only became bound in one cohesive, written form after hundreds of years. The modern idea that the Bible is a just book with a beginning, middle and end, misses the diverse cultural contexts that it contains, as well as the way that people have interacted with those stories over the centuries and the participation that is possible in the Bible’s stories today.
“Ultimately faith is not individual but communal with God and the people around you,” says Chris. “We are just shortening that leap.”
Parallel Bible is currently free. The Breitenberg brothers do not believe in putting ads or commercials in the middle of the Bible, and their goal is to create the new community first and monetize later. That strategy, they say, has so far not deterred investors. Their team is small—right now they have just one developer—and their startup budget for the past two years was about $100,000. It is currently only available for iTunes (an Android version is in the works) and they have had about 1,000 downloads. But, as Andrew says, this is just the beginning. “You can’t build something that looks like Instagram overnight.”
Beyond the development process however, the app signals a new evangelism, the communal sharing of stories rather than overt proselytization. And the founders are thinking big. “It literally could be the next Bible that the world uses,” says Andrew.
Apple is holding an event in San Francisco on Monday, March 9 at 10 a.m. PT, likely to deliver new details about its upcoming Watch. While Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch late last year, it left plenty unsaid. Here are five questions we still have about the Apple Watch that should be answered during Monday’s event:
What does it do?
We know the Apple Watch tells the time, syncs up with your iPhone, gives you directions and more. But the Apple Watch was unveiled well before third-party developers had time to make new apps for it. With the Watch’s release date drawing nearer, more developers should be ready to show off apps that add new functionality to the Apple Watch—like the ability to pay for sandwiches for example.
How much will it cost?
Apple says the entry-level Apple Watch Sport will start at $349. But we still don’t know anything about the cost of the other models, which could range from the somewhat affordable to the downright pricey (especially for the all-gold Apple Watch Edition). Expect Apple to put a clearer price tag on the Apple Watch come Monday.
(Read more: Hands-On With the Apple Watch)
When can we buy one?
At first, Apple only said the Apple Watch would be available sometime in “early 2015.” In late January, Apple CEO Tim Cook narrowed that window down to “April.” But there still isn’t a firm release date for the Apple Watch—expect Apple to give us one Monday, and then set your calendars accordingly.
How will we buy one?
The Apple Watch comes in three base models (Sport, Regular, Edition), two sizes (42mm and 38mm), six colors (from “stainless steel” to “18-karat yellow gold”), and six different kinds of bands, some with different colors of their own. While you might not be able to mix and match to your heart’s consent, that’s still a boatload more options than you get with anything else Apple sells.
All those customization options mean you might buy the Apple Watch differently than you buy an iPad or MacBook. Early rumors pointed to an in-store concierge experience, while Apple could produce some kind of interactive online tool to help you make the perfect Apple Watch.
How long will the battery last?
Battery life could make or break the Apple Watch — if the watch can’t make it through an average work day, it could very well be a flop. Cook has already said he expects people will have to charge the Apple Watch every night, and Apple is reportedly working on a “Power Reserve” mode.
But how will the battery hold up exactly? Apple might give us some better numbers on Monday, but it’ll take some real-world testing before we’re really sure how the Apple Watch does.
Apple is hosting a live Apple Watch event on Monday, March 9th at 10am PT in Cupertino, Calif., and fans of the company are already buzzing about what CEO Tim Cook will have to say.
Watch #KnowRightNow for a preview of what you can expect from the big event.
New game-streaming hardware, virtual reality headsets and more
The Game Developers Conference currently transpiring in San Francisco wraps up Friday, meaning all the major announcements have already dropped. If you missed the show or didn’t catch all the news, here’s a recap of the highlights.
Valve showed Steam Link, a $50 box that’ll stream your PC gaming library to any TV
Steam Link, due in November, was arguably the show’s biggest tech revelation — especially if you’re a PC gamer, because it means that for a trifling $50, you can pipe games from Valve’s Steam library to any screen in your house essentially lag-free.
Valve’s Steam is the de facto way to play games on a PC, with a digital library of nearly 4,000 titles and membership topping 100 million. The company—otherwise known for first-person blockbusters like Portal, Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike—has been making a protracted bid to capture a more substantial share of a pie traditionally dominated by console-makers like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. And for another $50, you can add the company’s forthcoming PC-Steam Controller (also due in November) to the party.
Nvidia unveiled its first set-top media box, the Shield
Not to be confused with the $250 Shield Portable, a gamepad with a flip-screen that Nvidia launched mid-2013, Nvidia’s Shield hopes to fill a gap somewhere between a Roku or Apple TV and a high-end games console or PC.
It’ll output 4K video content (when/where available), play last-gen console games like Crysis 3 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel natively, stream upcoming triple-A games from Nvidia’s GRID service and let you stream games locally from your PC just like Valve’s Steam Link.
The only catch: it’ll cost $200, which means Nvidia has to lure a demographic that may or may not exist or materialize once the Shield arrives this May.
HTC and Valve announced a virtual reality headset
I know, “Not another one.” But that’s where we are with virtual reality in 2015: everyone’s jockeying for air time. HTC and Valve’s take is called the HTC Vive (HTC leading, Valve consulting), and pairs wand-like, handheld controllers with a fairly standard-looking, fully wraparound headset that plugs into your PC and outputs 1080p visuals to each eye.
The wrinkle: the headset tracks where you are in a much larger space, so you can move around instead of standing in place, assuming they figure out how to make the headset wireless (and, you know, put you in a room without trip hazards). Will the Vive include a little speaker that goes “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” like the warning system in a vehicle when you get too close to a wall?
Sony’s Project Morpheus is coming…by mid-2016
Sony’s take on virtual reality was kind-of-sort-of supposed to arrive in 2015 (chalk that up more to wishful thinking on the part of the press). Thus there was some predictable sighing and hand-wringing when the company announced Project Morpheus, a VR headset for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, will now arrive in the first half of 2016.
Hey, at least Morpheus has a release timeframe. That’s more than Facebook/Oculus (Oculus VR), HTC/Valve (HTC Vive) and Razer (OSVR) can say (to be fair, the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR is reportedly coming by the end of 2015).
Sony’s PlayStation 4 has sold over 20 million units
At last check (in early January), Sony said it sold 18.5 million units through December 2014. At GDC this week, it bumped that figure to 20 million units sold through February 2015, still shy of the PlayStation 4’s one-and-a-half year anniversary. Rebutting gloomy analyst predictions about this generation of console gaming, the PS4 is the fastest selling video games console in history.
See how much you can save on your next phone
Buying a phone already involves tons of choices: Apple vs. Samsung, black vs. gray, 16GB vs. 32GB. But there’s another category you might also want to consider: Used vs. new.
Most people buy used phones to replace broken devices or upgrade to newer models. But a good chunk of consumers are purchasing used phones to save money in other ways, according to data from Gazelle.com, a site for trading in and buying pre-owned phones.
According to Gazelle, 17% of the site’s used phone buyers this year purchased the devices for their children, who might not need the latest and greatest devices. If your kids only need a phone for emergencies, for instance, it could be far cheaper to get them a used phone on a month-to-month plan rather than a shiny new device on an expensive two-year contract.
Meanwhile, about one-fifth of Gazelle’s used phone customers were buying their first-ever smartphone often to avoid two-year contracts that they don’t need or can’t afford, the company says. Another one-third of used phone customers were upgrading to a better model — though not always the latest model.
If you’re thinking about buying a used phone, here’s a look at just how much you can save on some of the most popular smartphones around:
The company's first wearable can do much more than the average smartwatch
(Read more: 5 Things to Expect from Apple’s Watch Event)
"Why is it so hard to see black and blue?"
The Salvation Army has used the internet’s biggest meme to bring awareness to domestic abuse.
The South African branch of the charity tweeted a public service announcement on Friday, featuring an image of the battered woman in a white and gold version of the now-famous dress, with a caption that reads, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”
The dress is an obvious reference to the image of a dress that went viral at the end of February, driving millions of pages views and sparking many real-life conversations, as people debated the color of the dress. Due to an optical illusion, some saw the dress as white and gold and others saw black and blue. The phenomenon captivated worldwide attention, and #TheDress soon became an internet phenomenon.
While many brands were quick to try to co-opt the meme’s viral power, the Salvation Army’s use of #TheDress may be the most powerful yet. By using the meme in its PSA, the Salvation Army has turned a fun and bizarre optical illusion that everyone has seen, into an indictment against a society that routinely turns its back on the many women who suffer from domestic abuse.
It's not Game Over yet
By now, we know the “consoles are dead” narrative was overblown. The PS4 has sold tens of millions, the Xbox One isn’t far behind, and the Wii U has climbed from “disastrous” to only “mildly disappointing.”
Lately, however, consoles have become the ugly duckling of the video game world, less popular than the smartphone and less attractive than the all-powerful PC. They’re too expensive, too niche, and too geeky—or so the criticisms go.
But the console still has some long-term advantages that people tend to forget.
1. Reliable software quality, unlike the smartphone
Spend five minutes browsing the App Store or Google Play Store, and you’ll be overwhelmed by an avalanche of games, many of them garbage. For every smash hit (e.g. Angry Birds, Candy Crush), there are countless bug-ridden, unplayable imitators. Yes, the best-selling lists can at least highlight a few up-and-comers (ex: Trivia Crack, Crossy Road), but hundreds of other great games will end up buried beneath all the rubbish.
For developers, there’s far more incentive to game the system with in-app purchases and fake user reviews than to build something creative. After all, most of the good stuff gets lost in the crowd anyway—a consequence of mobile’s race-to-the-bottom, volume-beats-quality marketplace.
Compare that to the world of console gaming, where each platform has a stable, annual parade of triple-A titles, each of which are almost guaranteed to be hits, year after year. The PlayStation boasts exclusives like Uncharted, LitteBigPlanet, and the latest Metal Gear games. The Xbox brings Halo, Titanfall, and Forza. And then there’s Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, FIFA, Madden, and Elder Scrolls, series that owners of either console can trust to deliver, sequel after sequel. Nintendo offers a different lineup, but between Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Zelda, Pokemon and Donkey Kong, you’ve got a similar roster of predictably excellent games.
2. Accessibility, unlike the PC
Let’s face it: among serious gamers, the PC has rapidly become the best choice for gaming. A modern gaming PC will feature the best graphics of any system, and the whole gamut of software, from multi-million-dollar blockbusters to avant-garde indie experiments.
But getting the best out of PC gaming also means owning a pricey, powerful gaming PC, which is a tough sell for the general public. You’re looking at $1,000-2,000 just to get started—potentially over triple the price of a gaming console. Savvy PC owners will point out that the purchase pays off in the long run, especially considering PCs are more easily upgradable.
But how many everyday consumers will be willing to take that price hit up front? If the smartphone market has taught us anything, it’s that people prefer to spread their costs over several years, rather than pay everything right away.
In this way, the console market mirrors the smartphone model. Customers start by paying around $400 for the console (or phone) itself, then $40-60 for each additional game (or month of service). It’s a proven pricing scheme that consumers have accepted for decades.
Then you factor in user experience. From the day you buy a new console, every game will work as advertised. Compare that to the corresponding experience on a PC, where the specific graphics card and performance specifications of your machine will determine every aspect of the user experience. Video card outdated? Your brand new PC game will lurch along at low frame rates. Geeks might get a kick out of keeping their gaming rigs up to speed, but the rest of the market just wants to know that the latest Call of Duty will work straight out of the box.
3. Social appeal
It’s the most controversial point on the list, but an important one: consoles connect people—in person—better than any other gaming system. Yes, smartphones and PCs bring a greater volume of players together, and both deserve credit for the impressive gaming networks they’ve assembled. But when was the last time you physically visited a friends’ house to play Words With Friends? Or lugged your PC to a buddy’s place for drinks, cigars and a session of World of Warcraft? Only the console consistently brings people into the same room. If smartphones and PCs are social networks, the console is the digital equivalent of Monopoly or Risk—a 2015 version of board game night.
Some will say that such classic “couch multiplayer” is dying, and it’s true that far more people play Halo over the web than over a coffee table. But living room gaming still scratches a very human itch, one that will likely stick around—even in its reduced state—for decades to come.
4. Disappearing stigma
The final barrier for console gaming has been the stigma—that is, the sense that only teenage boys play console games. Sure, games like Cut the Rope (mobile) or The Sims 4 (PC) are casual and mainstream enough for anyone, but who—besides those male high schoolers—are actually settling in for three-hour rounds of FIFA on Xbox?
The answer: people of both genders and all ages. According to a 2014 study by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the average age for video game players in the US is 31 years, a number that’s been climbing for a decade. Today, 48% of game players are female. And we’re not just talking about smartphone game players. In the ESA’s study, 68% of respondents reported that they play games on a console, next to only 53% on a smartphone.
So the old teenage boy stigma is simply inaccurate. As each year passes, more and more people feel comfortable admitting to late-night sessions of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed. And that comfort will likely breed even more console gamers.
The Bottom Line
The console is here to stay, even if the future details remain a little murky. Will virtual reality finally break through? Will Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo still be the biggest players in 10 years time? Who knows. But the basic console recipe—consistent quality, a simple experience, social appeal, and societal approval—ensure that the medium will last. Just like with Mario, the game is never really over.