Apple products are renowned for their world-class sleek design and intuitive operation that seems to work just as you would want it to. For over a decade, Apple has created magical devices we didn’t know we needed and couldn’t live without. But Apple does have one bad rap that is really hard to beat. Apple products are expensive.
Whether you are shopping for a laptop, tablet or smartphone, you can always find less-capable competitors for half the price of Apple’s least expensive models. Yet throngs happily line up with open wallets every time Apple releases the next latest and greatest. That’s probably one big reason that Apple is among the most valuable corporations of all time. The company is obviously doing something right.
But today, you can give your credit card a well-deserved rest. Apple is giving its users some huge gifts, and best of all, this time they are free. Follow along and I’ll explain.
Thousands of software engineers who create apps and programs for iPhones and Macs are gathered with Apple in San Francisco this week. It’s all part of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference with the software industry, giving them a heads-up about Apple’s plans and projects. Later, when the company reveals the next new Apple gadgets, you’ll find apps and programs ready to run on them from day one thanks to the information engineers received at WWDC.
During this week’s WWDC, Apple showed off three big projects that will have huge impacts on your Apple gadgets. While these announcements are not as profound as the first iPod, iPhone or iPad, nevertheless they will give your Apple gear more capabilities and functions. If they perform as well in the real world as they did during Apple’s demonstrations, I think they are worth your serious consideration. But don’t delay because one of these new products is for a limited time only starting this month.
Mac users are getting a new operating system, dubbed OS X El Capitan. Apple demonstrated a flurry of handy improvements in line with the company’s philosophy of “it just works.” There are a host of improvements from the obvious to the obscure buried deep inside the heart of the system.
The outward changes will make it easier and more intuitive to use. The big changes under the hood will speed up your Mac and help the battery last longer. Both efforts will be very welcomed.
As our computers fill up with more stuff, such as photos, emails, documents, forms - you name it - quickly finding the exact thing you are looking for becomes even more important. Apple calls the search function on Macs “Spotlight.” It’s that little magnifying glass icon in the far upper right corner of your Mac screen. In El Capitan, Spotlight is smarter and more intuitive. Using the new Spotlight should give you better, more relevant results. Plus, Apple has designed Spotlight to better understand your natural language. For instance, you could ask for something like “mail I ignored from Bill,” and Spotlight will try to find unread messages from Bill in your mailbox.
Little things are important to me, like when I can’t find my cursor on my busy computer screen. If this happens to you while using El Capitan, all you need to do is jiggle your mouse and the cursor pops up 10 times bigger than normal so you can quickly find your place and continue working. When working with multiple apps, El Capitan easily manages split-screen views so you never lose a window behind another, or have to keep switching back and forth between apps.
There are some big changes in Apple’s Web browser, Safari. When you get busy on your Mac, do you end up with a ton of open browser tabs? Or do you like to keep certain tabs open every time you use your computer? You’re not the only one! Apple showed off some handy new tab tools designed for the way people are actually using browsers these days.
Tell me if this nuisance ever bugs you: While working with a bunch of open tabs, audio from a video ad or song suddenly blares through your speakers. Quick, which tab is it? Safari instantly shows you the offending tab, allowing you to mute just that tab. That’s great, especially if there’s audio you do want from another tab or application.
OS X El Capitan will be a free upgrade available to Mac users this fall.
But Mac computers are just a portion of Apple’s business and its big announcements this week. Have an iPhone or iPad? See what’s new for you.
iOS is the software brain that runs your iPhone and iPad. Last fall, Apple suffered a disastrous launch of the latest upgrade at the time, iOS 8. The new system crashed many gadgets, plus the software was so big that many users didn’t have enough room to install on their gear. Still reeling from that sting, Apple is being very careful with the next big upgrade, iOS 9. Apple assures users that the installation will be a very manageable 1.3GB and will work even better than iOS 8 on older models including the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad mini and iPod touch 5th generation.
OK, so assuming iOS 9 doesn’t crash your gadget, it offers a number of nice improvements. Number one on my list is longer battery life. By tweaking the internal demands, Apple predicts an extra hour of battery life on iPhone 6. That could be a welcome improvement when struggling to get through an entire day of use.
The next big improvement is multitasking. For the first time, iOS users can have two app windows open simultaneously. The company only showed this feature on an iPad Air 2 but says other iOS 9 gadgets will finally be able to view and run apps side by side. This could seriously undercut Microsoft’s multitasking competitive advantage it has advertised for its Surface line of tablets.
One of the most obvious additions is News. Apple says News learns which topics interest you and will scour the Internet to bring you information most relevant to you. News tracks a list of a million topics worldwide. The more you read, the more personalized the News app becomes, refining the selection of stories delivered to your iPhone or iPad.
Siri also got a big intelligence boost on both iPhones and iPads. The voice command system is now “proactive,” meaning that she will anticipate your needs before you even ask. Weather, traffic and other location and habit-based information is given to you on Siri’s homepage. Platforms like Google and Microsoft already have voice command systems like this but now it’s Apple’s turn to try it out.
iOS 9 will be a free upgrade this fall.
Steve Jobs and Apple turned the music industry upside down with the iPod in 2001 and later with iTunes. In the chaotic world of illegal MP3 downloads, Apple provided a way for fans to legally buy nearly any song for just 99¢. The idea of carrying 1,000 songs in your pocket was unbelievable in a time dominated by CDs and cassette tapes. Now, Apple hopes lightning will strike twice as it attempts a new revolution in online music.
When Apple bought out Beats by Dre last year for $3 billion (yes that’s billion with a B), everyone waited eagerly to see Apple they would do with it. After all of the waiting, Apple revealed Music on Monday morning.
Music is a media-streaming program similar to Spotify and Pandora. In addition to the ability to stream any music you want, you can also create radio stations based on your music preferences. Like the Beats app before it, Music has a launched 24/7, human-created and DJ’d radio station called Beats1. There will be other DJ’d stations by the time Music officially rolls out, but Apple is keeping those details under wraps so far.
The other piece of Music for which the jury is still out is the ability to suggest music you will like. Will that be enough of a competitive advantage over well-established Spotify and Pandora? The company also says that Music will let independent artists launch their work and that fans can interact with artists.
Music will initially be available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and PC. The company says an Android version will be available soon after.
Apple Music doesn’t seem to have a free version like its counterpart, Spotify, and a regular subscription will run you about $10 a month. There is also a family subscription option that costs $15 a month and allows up to six users.
However, Apple Music will be available for free starting June 30 for three months. Will a three-month trial be enough to convince the Apple loyal to pay $120 per year for Music? We shall see.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.