New Truly Wireless Beats Powerbeats Pro Leak in iOS 12.2

After reports last week suggest Apple may be working on a Beats branded pair of truly wireless earbuds, new images discovered in today’s iOS 12.2 update give us a first look at the upcoming product. The images, which were first discovered by 9to5mac, are strikingly similar to the current Powerbeats model with the wire between each ear removed.

Powerbeats Pro iOS pairing animation, discovered by 9to5mac.

Other images in the release of iOS 12.2 show the Siri setup process, as well as the charging case. The case, which is a cross between Apple’s AirPods case and the soft touch shell case for other Beats headphones, would in theory serve to charge the hook-style ear buds when not in use.

The current Powerbeats are a very popular alternative to Apple’s AirPods, offering a more secure fit, thanks to over-ear hooks and adjustable ear tips. They also provide better noise isolation from sounds, making them more functional in louder environments than Apple’s minimal buds.

The previous rumor about the truly wireless earbuds suggested the new product could be released as soon as next month. Given the timing and the update to AirPods last week, it’s quite possible the new Beats would contain Apple’s H1 chip and support the “Hey Siri” feature, as well. According to another on-screen graphics discovered by 9to5mac, “Hey Siri” support is a lock for the Powerbeats Pro, which would support the previous rumor.

Obviously, there’s no details on pricing at this point, since these images were discovered in iOS software, but with the current Powerbeats 3 starting at $200, it seems plausible that these new, fully wireless earbuds, could fetch $250-300. It would also create a pricing shelf between the $160 entry price of AirPods and a more expensive Beats earbud.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Did Fortnite Celeb Ninja Just Hint at Apple Gaming Platform?

Rumors seem to be swirling about what we might expect at Apple’s “It’s Show Time” event on Monday. Today, reports of a possible Apple gaming service turned up again, with the possibility of the service launching as soon as tomorrow.

At the same time, Fortnite celebrity gamer/streamer Ninja tweeted something rather curious.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The similarities between the Pear in the image and Apple’s logo are obvious. So similar, in fact, that Nickelodeon has used a similar logo to imply Apple products in the show iCarly.

The tweet, which is incredibly vague, suggests that on Monday at noon (eastern), Ninja has something to reveal. The timing is slightly at conflict with Apple’s event, though, which isn’t scheduled to start until an hour later.

More curious is Ninja’s lack of usual streaming this evening. After promising followers on Twitter that he’d stream tonight, he ducked out to “potato”.

Perhaps he just wasn’t feeling it this evening, or maybe he’s busy getting a sneak peek at Apple’s gaming service. If the later is the case, the bid reveal tomorrow could simply be his presence at Apple Park.

Perhaps we’re just trying to read tea leaves that don’t tell the story. It all seems a little too suspicious to ignore, especially given the rumors this weekend about Apple’s possible “Netflix for Games”.

For now, we anxiously await seeing Apples next move, and how this wide-reaching services event plays out. It could be one heck of a show.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Apple Teases Us With Steve Jobs Theater Live Stream

Apple has gotten extremely proficient at live streaming their events over the past few years. Now, in the lead-up for their “It’s Show Time” event, Apple is playing coy with its fans.

For the last few hours, Apple has been “live streaming” the stage of the Steve Jobs theater. According to the Verge, the video is actually a loop, which contains clips of someone cleaning the stage, clips of videos, and even an incoming call from actor Chris Evans.

When viewed closely, it’s clear that the style is inspired by old-school television sets. Additionally, some of the various clips seem to point to television or video content. This all-but confirms that Apple will be showing off some sort of TV/video streaming platform.

Another tip that this isn’t truly live is that the theater has been devoid of any foot traffic or audience. As Steven Troughton-Smith pointed out on Twitter:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

We’re not sure how much longer the video loop will be up, or what other Easter eggs might be hidden as the evening progresses. For now, you can drop in on the stream over on Apple’s site and get a very curated behind-the-scenes experience .

Apple will take the stage of the Steve Jobs theater Monday, March 25, at 10:00AM Pacific (1:00PM Eastern). As usual, Mactrast will have coverage of all the happenings after the event.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Music Discovery Just Got Easier with Apple Music’s ‘Browse’ Update

It’s been over 3 years since the introduction of Apple Music, and in that time, the look and feel has seen dramatic changes, as well as smaller updates. In the early days of the service, many of the most desired sections were relegated to small lists, redundant menus, or buried several taps deep into the UI.

Since the introduction, much has changed, but one section remained trapped between the old and new Apple Music experiences. Today, that changed. A server-side update last night, which is slowly rolling out to users around the world, brings the more curated, highly visual design to the apps “Browse” tab.

The emphasis of the update is on making it faster and easier to start exploring the latest or hottest music. Some of the update is geared toward simplified discovery, with a variety of sections for top songs, themed playlists, new music, and hot tracks.

The curation is another key feature to the updated browse section. Much like the curated experience of the “For You” section, “Browse” now also surfaces a larger collection of playlists and has rearranged some of the sections for more clear discovery.

When Apple Music was introduced in 2015, it was presented as a human curated steaming service, making music discovery better than the competitors. After a rocky start, the service really started to hit its stride with discovery in 2016, adding some personalization to the “For You” section.

Since then, Apple has quietly made occasional server-side updates to the platform, enhancing the look and feel or introducing new sections. Todays update to the Browse section is another example of Apple quietly working to improve the service for users.

With Apple’s ever prevalent push into services, it’s good to see them continuing to improve the experience of their existing products. The updates to the Browse section can be seen on iOS and macOS. We have not been able to confirm the changes on tvOS, but expect the updates will be visible there as well.

We’ll likely hear more about Apple Music on Monday, as Cook and company takes the stage of the Steve Jobs Theater to discuss their anticipated news and tv subscription services. It’s also likely that we’ll also see updates to the design and experience of the TV app, which most agree is in need to some attention.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Comcast Announces “Streaming TV Service” Ahead of Apple Event

Apple’s first event of the year is just a mere days away. With all the rumors and speculation surrounding the highly anticipated streaming video service, everyone’s favorite cable provider decided to hop in on the news cycle.

Comcast, today, announced their upcoming streaming TV service “Xfinity Flex.” The service, which is scheduled to officially launch on 26 March, is targeted at non-cable customers of Comcast/Xfinity. For $5/month, subscribers will get an Xfinity-branded set-top box (preloaded with Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Prime Video), and the Xfinity X1 remote.

According to Comcast, there are a couple key selling points of Flex, aside from it’s low price tag. First is that it offers 4K streaming of available 4K content. Secondly is that users will have a centralized guide that can show them content from all of their streaming platforms, as well as from Comcast’s library of on-demand programming, and a selection of live streaming channels.

While Flex is an interesting concept, it’s nothing like the streaming set-top boxes we’ve grown used to with Apple TV, Roku, or Fire TV. There are no other streaming TV apps like SlingTV or YouTube TV, and there’s no App Store to add to the available content. Instead, the Flex streaming box is more like a traditional cable box without the cable snaking into the back.

It’s also worth noting that the $5/month fee is strictly for access to the Xfinity on-demand streaming catalog of 10,000+ shows and the rental of the Flex hardware. Subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and the rest will still be required to use those features.

The Flex hardware is also limited by the Xfinity router in your home, requiring the xFi Gateway to provide the service. This means Comcast customers with older routers or customer-owned equipment won’t be able to use the product. Customers of other internet providers are also excluded. Comcast has also confirmed that any streaming done on Flex is count toward your monthly data allotment.

If Comcast’s hope was to take on Apple TV and any kind of upcoming “Video” streaming service, they’ve sent the most rudimentary version into the ring. For $60/year (on top of your internet package), the product offers very little that can’t be done on offerings from nearly every streaming set-top box maker.

Apple is expected to launch their streaming TV subscription service on Monday. Rumors indicate the service may launch with a strong line-up of curated and original programming, as well as some key partnerships with other television networks and providers. Comcast’s service launches the following day, if Apple’s offering turns out to be a bust.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Rumor Has It AirPower Production Began Earlier This Year

It’s been 18 months since Apple first teased us with their take on wireless charging. The AirPower wireless charging mat, which promised to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods has since been one of the most elusive products in Apple’s history.

With today’s introduction of second-generation AirPods, complete with wireless charging case, it seems that the release of AirPower may finally be imminent. Back in September of 2017, Apple introduced the product, promising it in "early 2018."

Now that things seems to be lining up for the release, a report from the Wall Street Journal suggest the wireless charging mat was approved for production earlier this year. Assuming production started in the the past month or two, Apple would likely have sufficient supply built up to release the product as soon as this week.

Earlier reports suggested that Apple encountered numerous development challenges with the multi-coil wireless charging mat. If those rumors were true, and production has begun, it seems Apple has engineered themselves out of a tough spot.

Reports, going back to last fall, have suggested that AirPower was set to finally ship in the first quarter of 2019. Earlier this week, iOS developer, code spelunker, and 9to5mac contributor Guilherme Rambo spotted code changes in a beta release of iOS 12.2 that pointed to AirPower support.

If Apple keeps pace with their daily product releases to close out the week, we could finally see AirPower make its debut before their March 25 event. Updated iPod touch are also expected this spring, with reports indicating it could happen this week.

So far this week, Apple has updated the iPad Air, iPad mini, iMac, AirPods, and released the new spring collection of cases, covers, and watch bands. Another 2 days of releases could add to the already massive buzz around the Cupertino company leading into their subscription services event next Monday.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Updated iPod Touch Could Drop Tomorrow

This week has already been Christmas in March for Apple fans. The company has launched a new iPad Air, iPad mini, and iMac machines. According to MacRumors, the next product in the line-up to potentially see an update is the iPod touch.

According to rumors earlier this year, the refresh is expected to upgrade the internals of the iPod touch to a more modern processor. If the update follows suit with the iPad mini, we could see an A12 processor, as well as a bump in the minimum storage capacity.

The latest rumors don’t suggest any update in the design of the product, though an update in screen size and materials (something akin to the iPhone 8) could provide a more modern feel. It’s unlikely that the product would see the addition of FaceID or the iPhone X design, likely retaining the current “chin and forehead” bezels and home button

The current iPod touch was last updated in 2015 with an A8 processor and a non-TouchID home button. To remain modern enough to receive Apple’s iOS updates and support the company’s continued focus on security, the iPod touch is would need to move to an A10 processor and would likely gain TouchID.

The market for the iPod touch, in its current state, is quite small. Most applications are for kids, developers (as a testing device), and in enterprise and commerce applications (like many in-store payment systems). In a dwindling market or users, it’s not likely that Apple would put large amounts engineering or innovation into the product.

If the rumors are true, Apple will have all major hardware updates taken care of before their event next Monday. That would work to set the stage for a services-only event focused on both a subscription News and TV service. It’s also possible that Apple could surprise us with updated AirPods and AirPower later this week, offering us an jam-packed events worth of hardware without a hardware event.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Apple Watch Projected to Lead Wearable Growth

Wearables are the next frontier for technology, and Apple Watch appears to be leading the charge. Last fall, for example, IDC reported that Apple sold 4.7 million Apple Watches and claiming 17% of the wearable market. In their 5-year projections, IDC is now estimating that “WatchOS will account for 27.5% of all watches in 2023.”

The wearables report (including watches, wristbands, earwear, and clothing) suggests that the wearables market is expected to grow, on average, 9.7% annually through 2023. Some of that growth is expected to be in the increased adoption of smart assistants (like Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa). According to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers,

Though still in its infancy, the integration of these assistants with wearables opens up new use cases, from allowing these devices to tie into the smart home to making the devices more proactive at urging users to live healthier or more productive lives.

Also expected to drive the increase in wearables are the healthcare and enterprise markets. Apple Watch has already been attributed to improving people’s health and saving lives, so it’s no surprise that the product would continue to play a key role in digital health. In enterprises, the Apple Watch (and other wearables) could provide increased efficiency in communicating and completing tasks faster.

Earwear (ear-worn devices like AirPods and other Bluetooth audio devices) are also projected to see large increases in adoption to the tune of 12.3% annually. The largest drivers of increased marketshare for the earwear category are biometric sensors and smart assistant features.

The category to see the largest percentage growth, according to the report, is in connected clothing. While the overall anticipated shipments (8.5 million by 2023) will likely pale in comparison to watches (131.3 million by 2023) and earwear (86.5 million by 2023), the category is project to see 30.2% annual growth. Currently connected clothing applications consist mostly of shoes with embedded pedometers, but enterprise could see adoption in the category for monitoring employees in potentially hazardous situations.

Overall, IDC is projecting an average 8.9% annual growth in the wearables market over the next 5 years, with Apple playing a pivotal role in at least 2 categories already (Apple Watch and AirPods). With those being the largest growth areas, it appears Apple is well positioned for continued success in wearables.

It is worth noting that absent from the report was any insight on the potential to see the eyewear category emerge. Currently, the wearable “smart glasses” market is limited to beta tested devices like Google Glass and concept/vaporware products like Microsoft’s Hololens. Rumors suggest Apple could be working on form of connected glasses, but at this point, there aren’t any signs that such a product is coming any time soon.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast