TIME Apple

7 Secrets of the Apple Genius Bar Everybody Should Know

Grand Central Apple store
Christian Science Monitor—Christian Science Monitor/Getty People are trained by an Apple employee at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal, on March 14, 2013 in New York, New York.

Insider tips before your next Genius Bar appointment

The people staffing Apple’s Genius Bar, the company’s in-store customer support center, seem like an affable lot. That doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of battle stories. When I interviewed former Genius Aaron Epperson, a two-and-a-half year Apple Store veteran who left the company about a year ago, and asked what he wished customers knew before they came in for help, he had plenty of suggestions. So the next time something goes wrong with your Apple gear, keep his tips in mind:

1. Start with the “person on point”

“It’s better to look at an Apple Store more like a car dealership, due to the fact that it has a retail section where you can buy technology, but it also has a very large service department, which is what the Genius Bar really is,” says Epperson.

Regardless of whether you need help buying or fixing a computer, start with the “person on point”—especially because if you try getting assistance from another staffer, they’re just going to lead you back to one of these workers anyway. The person (or people) on point are typically positioned by the doors, have an iPad in their hands, and have their heads up as they look around for customers to help. It’s their job to direct you to the best person on the floor for your particular need.

2. Make an appointment

If it’s at all possible to make an appointment in advance, you should. By not having to sit, wait, and watch others get helped ahead of you, it helps to alleviate a major frustration of getting tech support—all the time it can take. As you might expect from Apple, there’s an art and science around how the company schedules its Genius appointments. “Each Genius, if they’re working on computers, they’re seeing an appointment every 15 minutes, and then they’re taking a mobile appointment—an iPhone or iPad problem—every 10 minutes.” says Epperson. “There’s tricks to keeping everybody on time, but really as a customer you’re shoving yourself into a system that revolves around a schedule.”

3. Always back up your data

If Epperson had just one tip, this would be it. Apple users frequently come into the store without backing up their phone or computer’s hard drives, and the only fix to the problem is factory restoring the device. In these instances, all the data on the device is lost. “To be frank, it’s not the responsibility of anyone but you to have protected your data,” he says.

Going back to the car analogy, “if you own a car, you do an oil change,” says Epperson. “If you own a computer, you need to understand what your data is, and the proper ways to keep that data, should something happen to it.” So whether it’s on an external drive by using Apple’s Time Machine backup feature or remote backup through iCloud, make sure your data is duplicated.

4. Leave your computer expert friend at home

Everybody has the boyfriend, the cousin or the uncle who knows everything about computers. Leave them at home, says Epperson. “I’ve seen this happen at the Genius Bar where a girl will come in with her boyfriend who’s all ‘I built a computer from scratch one time using a toothpick.’ And you’re like, ‘Cool story! But this is the context of the situation, and these are the tools I have.’” Ultimately, having an outside “expert” hovering overhead will just gum up the process and make your repair take longer.

5. Keep in mind that it’s a tough job

While Epperson loved his time at Apple, he says the job can be difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the biggest pressure Geniuses feel is not wanting to make a mistake or misdiagnose a repair. It not only means the problem will take longer to fix, but it also drains the resources of the team.

Secondly, keeping calm can be a challenge. “While everyone thinks of Geniuses as tech people—and they are—it’s also a super-social job,” he says. Few customers realize that Geniuses have asked “Hi, how are you? Are you having a good day?” maybe a hundred times on any given day. To decompress after his shift was over, Epperson would go home, go to his room and not talk to anyone. “You’re paid to be the face of Apple, a happy person who’s there to help people solve their problems, and that’s fun, but it’s also draining.”

6. Try these quick fixes first

Before making an appointment, first try these easy possible solutions:

Unresponsive iPhone or iPad: Hold down both the sleep/wake and menu buttons simultaneously. This will perform a “force” restart of your device. Note: It might take as long as two minutes to work.

What to do after a “thermal event”: Overheating phones are common in summertime. Once the iPhone has cooled off, use it less often for about a day. Also, shut it down for at least 30 seconds and restart it to get its processor back and working properly.

Problematic apps: Double-tap the home button and swipe the app up to quit it. If the program continues to act up, delete and reload it. (If the app or game has data, make sure to back it up using iCloud or Game Center).

Glitchy computer: Shut the system down and then hold down the “D” key while starting it up. This will launch Diagnostics mode, which can tell you a great deal about what’s going on inside your computer.

Battery issue: “Batteries are designed to be discharged and recharged,” says Epperson. He recommends you run your battery down to at least 20% each week, then fully recharging it.

7. Take your anger elsewhere

Tech can be very frustrating, but taking that out on Apple Geniuses isn’t going to help you at all. In Epperson’s experience, a lot of his fellow Geniuses truly just wanted to help solve customers’ problems. “No one was ever out for the customer,” he says. “So directing anger at the employee isn’t going to get you very far.” In fact, though he admits it sounds sappy, he’s had several experiences as a Genius that were very touching. For instance, he once helped a 74-year-old woman with her computer, and that device was the only way she could stay in touch with her children and grandchildren in the U.K.

TIME Innovation

This New Watch Lets Blind People Read Real-Time Smartphone Data in Braille

The Dot uses a moveable braille interface made of magnets and pins strapped to the wrist like a watch

Until now, visually impaired smartphone users have had to rely on Siri and other readers to find their way around the Internet and digital world, but a new device in development in South Korea may change their experience completely by instantly turning text messages and other information into braille.

The Dot, a device that straps around the wrist like a watch, uses magnets and a grid of pins to create four braille characters at a time that change at adjustable speeds, allowing users to read text messages and use apps on any device via Bluetooth.

Eric Ju Yoon Kim, co-founder and CEO of startup Dot, told Tech in Asia he hopes his company’s innovation will free blind people to interact with their devices on their own terms. “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal,” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”

That kind of technology is not groundbreaking, but transferring it to a mobile device certainly is — just like the price: computers using so-called “active Braille technology” can cost $3,000, while Kim says that when the watch arrives in the U.S. this December it will sell for less than $300.

“Ninety percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now — they lose their access to information so suddenly,” Kim told Tech in Asia. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers.”

[Tech in Asia]

TIME Google

Here’s What Google’s Secret Car Company Is Called

Google Car
Justin Sullivan—2015 Getty Images Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (R) and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt (L) get out of a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California.

It registered a subsidiary in 2011

The media has written countless words about Google’s self-driving car project for years, and the company even publicly presented a prototype last year. But few knew until Monday that Google created a limited liability company to legally operate the project.

The company registered Google Auto LLC, in 2011 when it switched from using Toyota Prius cars to Lexus SUVs, according to documents obtained by The Guardian. The LLC is listed as the manufacturer of all 23 of Google’s self-driving Lexus cars, and was used to apply for each car’s vehicle identification number (VIN).

Presumably, Google decided to register a subsidiary to protect itself — and its financial assets — in the case of trouble. The company’s Lexus cars were recently involved in crashes.

While Google Auto is registered as a passenger vehicle manufacturer in the U.S. and abroad — and was even licensed last year an automaker in California — Google said in January that it will be looking for established automakers as manufacturing partners. Google hasn’t named any such partners yet, however.

TIME Aviation

Airbus Patented a Jet Capable of Flying 4 Times the Speed of Sound

Airbus/USPTO A perspective view of an ultra-rapid air vehicle according to the invention.

Hyperloop, schyperloop

Airbus has won a patent for an “ultra-rapid air vehicle” that the aircraft maker says could travel over four times the speed of sound, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent, which was approved last month, details a hypersonic jet twice as fast as the Concorde, a supersonic jet that had previously been in commercial service. The Concorde, which was developed partly by a company now owned by Airbus, was capable of flying at about 1,300 mph (2,100 km/h), or twice the speed of sound — a feat the new invention can beat with new turbojets and a hydrogen power system, according to the patent.

Like other lofty patents, it’s unlikely that the hypersonic jet will become a reality any time soon — at least not within the one-year term for which the patent was approved. Still, some of the ideas involved with the design could make their way to real aircraft further in the future.

TIME driverless cars

Can the Car Insurance Business Survive Driverless Cars?

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

As car safety becomes more sophisticated, fewer drivers will need coverage

As technology inevitably advances, cars are becoming much safer. It started with airbags and antilock brakes, and soon driverless cars will become commonplace. As safety features become more sophisticated, the number of accidents on the road will significantly decrease. This is, no doubt, good news, but insurance giants are nervous about what it will mean for their companies, since drivers will need less coverage. As Warren Buffett, who owns Geico, puts it: “If you could come up with anything involved in driving that cut accidents by 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, that would be wonderful. But we would not be holding a party at our insurance company.”

Donald Light, head of the North America property and casualty practice for research firm Celent, says that in the next 15 years, as driverless cars start hitting the roads, premiums can drop as much as 60%. He tells insurers: “You have to be prepared to see that part of your business shrink, probably considerably.”

Insurance companies have already had a taste of what that will look like with the introduction of sensors that warn you if another car is too close and other similar features. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute’s 2014 study of insurance claims, bodily injury liability losses dropped by 40%, and medical payments saw a 27% drop. This will only keep getting worse for insurance companies (and better for the rest of us) as self-driving cars become the popular choice. Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2035, self-driving cars will make up about 25% of all auto sales worldwide.

Insurance companies will be forced to seek out alternate sources of revenue. Tom Wilson, CEO of Allstate, is thinking about selling coverage for other products, such as mobile phones. He’s also considering using data that the company is already collecting about its customers. For example, they track their customers’ driving behaviors so they can offer rewards for safe driving; they could also potentially use that information to send customers coupons as they drive by retailers.

Although this advancement in car safety decreases the need for driver coverage, it also opens up a market for covering the carmakers. If one of their automated features fails, they will want to be insured to cover any liability costs.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Is About to Make ‘Gears Of War’ Fans Very Happy

2014 China Joy Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference In Shanghai
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Hint: Backward Compatibility on the new Xbox One console

If you purchased all the Gears of War titles back when Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was still the latest console, fret not, it’s all going to be okay.

On Monday, the company made a two-part announcement: first, that it’s remastering the original game for the Xbox One, its newest console; and second, that players who purchase and play the new version before the end of the year will be able to play the rest of the series on the console through the upcoming Backward Compatibility feature.

This will apply for players who purchase either Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, or the Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Bundle, the company said.

Moreover, once they unlock the titles through Backward Compatibility, they’ll also have access to features such as Game DVR, Snap, and screenshots, and keep all their previously-saved files, game add-ons, achievements, and play with their friends regardless of which Xbox console they’re using.

TIME twitter

Twitter’s Stock Just Hit the Lowest Point Since its IPO

Squawk on the Street
CNBC—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Jack Dorsey, co-founder and interim CEO of Twitter and founder and CEO of Square.

Shares have plunged since company leaders said Twitter is in 'turnaround' mode

Apparently, the weekend wasn’t long enough for investors to forget about last week’s Twitter earnings call.

Shares of the social networking company plunged again on Monday, falling to their lowest point since the company went public in November 2014. Twitter’s stock was recently down roughly $2, or more than 6%, and had fallen below $30 for the first time in over a year. Twitter’s shares briefly touched a low of $28.91, which is as low as the stock has gone since pricing its IPO shares at $26 apiece (though, the company finished its first day of trading at nearly $45).

The market continues to react negatively to last week’s earnings call, where Twitter’s interim CEO, Jack Dorsey, said that Twitter has not done enough to make the platform easier to use and added that attempts to spur user growth have stalled. Chief financial officer Anthony Noto said the company is in “turnaround” and that efforts to ignite user growth could take “considerable” time.

Those remarks sent Twitter’s shares plummeting during after-hours trading last Tuesday, with the stock opening Thursday nearly $4 below where it had closed Wednesday afternoon. The drop actually followed a brief spike in Twitter’s after-hours share price that was brought about by Tuesday’s report of higher-than-expected second-quarter revenue.

Twitter reported a surprising 61% bump in second-quarter revenue last week, helped by a strong advertising business, but profitability still eludes the tech company. Meanwhile, as Fortune’s Erin Griffith pointed out last week, Twitter’s primary obstacle is sluggish user growth and the company’s leadership doesn’t sound too confident that they can wipe out that problem anytime soon.

TIME Apple

Apple Could Be Your Next Wireless Company

Apple's I Phone  : Launch at Apple Opera Store In Paris
Chesnot—Getty Images A Woman checks the iPhone 6, on the day of its launch at the Apple Store Opera on September 19, 2014, in Paris, France.

The company is reportedly in talks with carriers

Apple is reportedly in talks with telecom companies in the U.S. and Europe to let customers pay the Cupertino-based tech giant for wireless service directly, rather than going through firms like AT&T or Verizon.

The company is conducting private trials of the service in the U.S. and has engaged in discussions with European companies to offer a similar service there, Business Insider reports.

If such a deal were to materialize, Apple would pay a wireless carrier to lease access to its network, then resell that access to customers. It’s a popular model already in use by wireless providers like Republic Wireless, which relies on Sprint’s network when Wi-Fi isn’t available. There are reportedly more than 80 such wireless providers in the U.S.

Talks of Apple entering the carrier arena have persisted since 2006, when Apple filed a patent application for a such a service. The biggest benefit for Apple would be control, as it could provide Apple-branded wireless options to its iPhone and iPad customers.

The timing of this news comes after Google unveiled “Project Fi” in April, that company’s own wireless service that relies on a combination of Wi-Fi as well as Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

TIME Security

This Apple Computer Bug Sounds Incredibly Nasty

Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's
Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images Chinese customers are experiencing and choosing Apple's products in an Apple store beside West lake in Hangzhou, which is the biggest Apple store in Asia.

Security researchers wanted to prove Macs are vulnerable, too

If you think Apple computers are safer than their Windows-powered cousins, think again.

Security researchers say they’ve crafted a computer worm that can burrow deep inside Mac computers, beyond the scrutiny of anti-virus scanners. From there, it can spread between devices that are not networked by hitching a ride on a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, writing itself into a machine’s firmware and remaining undetected.

The vicious worm, dubbed Thunderstrike 2, can even evade a whole system reboot.

“For most users that’s really a throw-your-machine-away kind of situation,” said Xeno Kovah, the head of security startup LegbaCore, who discovered the vulnerabilities and helped create the proof-of-concept worm, in an interview with Wired. “Most people and organizations don’t have the wherewithal to physically open up their machine and electrically reprogram the chip.”

The research builds on work that Kovah and his associate Corey Kallenberg undertook last year. At the time, the team identified several vulnerabilities in the firmware of Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and HP PCs.

In the latest probe, Kovah partnered with Trammell Hudson, a security engineer at investment management firm Two Sigma Investments. They found five-in-six of those previously uncovered bugs applied to Macs as well. The flaws are more pervasive than previously thought since many hardware makers share firmware code.

Unnervingly, the worm can be transmitted via unassuming computer accessories, like the aforementioned Ethernet adapter. That makes this attack a potential vector for compromising air-gapped computers, which are usually considered more secure.

“People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware,” Kovah said. “If people don’t have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they’re going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system.”

According to Wired, most of the bugs remain unfixed. Apple has “fully patched one and partially patched the other. But three of the vulnerabilities remain unpatched,” writes Wired’s Kim Zetter. Apple did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.

The team plans to present its research at the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences in Las Vegas this week. You can watch a video preview of the attack below, or read the rest on Wired.

TIME innovations

It Just Got Way Easier to Drink Soylent

Soylent
Soylent Soylent 2.0

Soylent 2.0 goes on sale in October

Alternative food company Soylent announced on Monday the upcoming release of Soylent 2.0, which will come pre-bottled when it’s available in October at the price of $29 for a 12-pack.

Soylent says the new meal replacement product contains all the essential nutrients a human body needs. According to Soylent’s website, each ingredient plays a specific nutritional role: Soy protein keeps you full and improves digestion; algal oil provides energy and essential fatty acids; isomaltulose is a slow-metabolizing sugar that provides similar sustained energy as refined sugar without inconvenient spikes and crashes.

Soylent 2.0 is the company’s first pre-bottled product, with each bottle containing 20% of all the essential vitamins and minerals you should be consuming each day. It doesn’t require any preparation and can remain unrefrigerated for a full year.

The company’s mission is to replace less sustainable food sources like animal farms while making it easier for consumers to get the nutrition their bodies need with minimal effort. Soylent 2.0 is 100% vegan, with half of its fat energy coming from farm-free algae sources. However, the drink is controversial among health experts, many of whom have expressed skepticism over Soylent.

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