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Microsoft Goes Smaller And Cheaper With Surface Go

In a move that surprises almost no one, Microsoft introduced a new, cheaper, Surface computer. Called Surface Go, Microsoft’s 10-inch tablet is aiming to get in front of price-aware purchasers and shoves a full-fledged PC into a smaller form factor. The Surface Go starts at $399, but doesn’t include the keyboard, which arguably helps define Surface computers.

Microsoft has been a maker of tablets and personal computers longer than almost any other company. It had Windows running on a tablet before Apple, and yet, it’s Apple’s iPad that comes to mind when people think of a tablet. The Surface Go is Microsoft’s attempt to have a cheaper and more portable offering.

Surface computers has been very popular to-date in the Windows market. It only makes sense then that Microsoft continue to expand that line of devices to offer different sizes and price points. The interesting consideration, however, is that Chromebooks and the basic iPad are not in danger of being cannibalized. The Surface Go is more of a full laptop, just in a smaller size.

The real play for this new addition to the Surface line, I think, is the cheaper introduction price for people who wanted to buy a Surface all along, but couldn’t. Even with the keyboard and upgraded specs, you’re looking at a computer that starts around $650, rather than $800 as the Pro does. It might not seem like a big price difference, but if an office has a $700 cap on new Windows computers to purchase employees, it can make the difference on whether they choose a Surface or not.

After all, the tag line Microsoft is using on its website for the new product is, “Surface Go for business.”

Is this computer tempting for you?

 

 

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This Is How Apple And Spotify Should Improve Their Streaming Music Services

There are a lot of things Apple and Spotify can do to improve their streaming music services, but trying to encourage more discovery is the most salient.

The biggest “problem” with both Apple Music and Spotify remains discoverability. How do you take the world’s collection of music, and boil it down so that people don’t feel overwhelmed? After all, people are paying for 30 million+ songs, they want to move beyond just the handful of albums they listen to regularly.

Listen to more music

There’s curated playlists (think Spotify’s Discover Weekly) or dedicated radio (think Beats 1 internet radio station), but still, people need more help finding new music to listen to–especially in certain moments.

The answer is to continually let people know when artists they’ve liked in the past, do new things in the future. From there, you can branch people out to similar artists and bring in music around activities. First, though, you have to create the habit in people to want new music–and look for it.

If you’ve added an artist, album, or song to your library there’s a 99-percent chance you want to know when that artist puts out new music. This should be very obvious to everyone, but it’s not quite yet.

Apple does have this feature buried in the “For You” section of its music app, but it’s still limited. Record Bird is a good example of an app that already does this and do it really well too. Record Bird will let you know when artists you follow put out music videos, do interviews, or release new music.

Advanced options

Beyond some of those simpler items, it would be great to see more sophisticated algorithms as well. Keeping track of artists you’ve listened to more than once, but never included in your library. Or, artists your friends have listened to, which are similar to artists you do have in your library.

Once a streaming music service has covered all the items it can guarantee you’ll like, it can move on to more educated guesses about things it’s not sure about. Since streaming music services make their money from recurring revenue, it’s important to keep providing that recurring value to customers. Increasing discoverability is probably the easiest thing a service can do.

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Apple News vs Google News: Which Is The Better App?

news

How do you get your news currently? Because both Apple and Google are coming for you with their revamped news reading apps.

Apple News and Google News are going head-to-head in the news category trying to become dominant players before apps from China like Toutiao make their way to the U.S. market. It’s not just news though, each will also be serving up your favorite blog posts and salacious gossip stories as well.

Let’s lay out the differences between the two apps and name our favorite of the two.

The foundation is similar

Apple News is only available on iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch), but Google News is available on Android and iOS.

While both of the apps have their unique taste and flair for how news is gathered and presented, each follows a similar pattern. You tell it what publications and topics you like and the app will learn what stories it should show you.

The name of the game isn’t just random stories with these apps. Each wants to personalize the reading experience to keep you coming back often, throughout the day.

Apple News – a practical approach to news

Apple News is broken into five sections along the bottom: For You, Spotlight, Following, Search, and Saved.

The app always opens to the news for you. It refreshes automatically in the background so each time you open it, throughout the day, it’s ready with the latest information. First with the most important and slowly fading to the more benign, grouping articles by publication or topic.

The Spotlight section changes depending on the time of day, so, if you open it in the late afternoon it could say, evening digest, or something else. This section spotlights one story at the top, curated by humans. This section is meant to be the most important or best story of the day, unlike the For You section which dumps an endless list of stories around your interests.

Since everything is personalized, the Digest story also won’t necessarily be the same one for everyone.

Under Following it will show the channels and topics you’re following as well as new suggestions it gets from your web browsing and stories you’ve previously read.

Search and Saved are both obvious and straightforward. It’s a little peculiar that there’s a dedicated search button when you can search in the Following section as well. Saved will show both stories you wanted to read later as well as read history for quick access to past stories.

Swiping left on a story throughout the app will give you the options to save, share, or love it, while swiping right will let you dislike or report it.

There’s not much about Apple News that can be classified as bad because it gets to the heart of what you’re there for and strips the rest away. However, some may count its default notification settings – which can be a little aggressive – as bothersome.

Beyond those few extra sliding controls, Apple News is, pretty much, what you see is what you get. It has plenty of polish, but it’s on the minimal side, getting out of the way for the content you’re interested in consuming.

Google News – a news app with layers

On the flipside, Google News is a little more clever and comprehensive about the news and stories it provides to the reader. It has a more depth, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.

Google News also starts with a For You section on the bottom left, but as part of that section it also shows the current weather in the top right of the screen and breaks down what it thinks are the five most important stories for you.

Under the five defined stories, it continues to break out more stories it thinks you’d like and groups multiple publications around one story. When there’s something noteworthy you can swipe left to see how other publications are telling the same story.

The other three sections across the bottom are: Headlines, Favorites, and Newstand. There is a persistent search icon in the top left if you do need that function.

Headlines will give you more freedom in the stories you see as it breaks out different sections like business, technology, and entertainment, among others.

Favorites not only holds your saved stories, but will show locations, sources, and topics that you can follow, or that it has found for you.

One thing about Google News that gives it a little more depth is the use of moving imagery and videos. Google is trying to pull in more multimedia than Apple is by default and it likely will lead to more consumption.

Newsstand breaks out possible topics, categories, and publications you may be interested in, but aren’t currently following.

In the settings you can have Google News email you the daily news once in the morning. You can also change the push notifications you are seeing, similar to Apple News.

And the winner is…

Apple News is a good app, and may be convenient with its prominent place on iPhones, but I’ve seen Google News surface more relevant content, more often, after living with both for several weeks. And, ultimately, isn’t that what you want out of a news app?

It helps that Google News works on a wide range of devices and that it delights with little touches like the current weather when you open the app. Neither is a slouch, but Google News edges out Apple News just slightly as of now.

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When You Should And Should NOT Install Your Own Screen Protector

Installing a screen protector on your phone is a cheap and simple way to keep the screen from being scratched to death or potentially shattering. But how hard are they to actually put on yourself?

The material of screen protector will likely determine whether you should attempt to install it yourself or have a store do it for you “professionally.”

TPU – plastic film (more like a clear sticker)

TPU is an incredibly durable plastic film which can protect against scratches. It’s usually advertised as “self healing” because of its ability to absorb minor abrasions. Just because you scratch the screen protector doesn’t mean it will continually look scratched up.

Pros:

  • Can wrap around curved screens (like Samsung’s Galaxy S line)
  • Can fit more generic phones which don’t have screen protectors specifically made for
  • Generally less expensive

Tempered glass – rigid compounded glass (like a second screen)

Tempered glass is quickly becoming the most popular option for protecting screens because it not only keeps scratches away, but, in a lot of situations, it can absorb a small impact better than TPU and save you from a cracked screen.

Pros:

  • Can protect from screen shattering
  • Easier to install
  • Looks and feels better

Can I install one myself?

Screen protectors are made for consumers to be able to install themselves, but, that doesn’t mean everyone should. TPU protectors, ones that are a plastic, flexible film and involve a wet application are, for example, an exercise in frustration.

The trick with TPU and the wet application process isn’t necessarily skill, it’s regular practice. Someone at a store like Best Buy who does this regularly will be familiar with what causes application problems.

Frankly, a lot of people are nervous to take their new phone out of the box and spray it with liquid to get that screen protector on. The sales person doesn’t have the same attachment and can leave emotion out of it.

As far as installing tempered glass protectors, they don’t succumb to the same hardships of the sticker-like ones–with ugly air bubbles. In that case, they instantly become easier for more people to attempt the installation. I.e.: You can probably install a tempered glass protector yourself.

Lining up the top portion still requires a certain amount of skill and patience, but tempered glass protectors make this much simpler.

Pro tip

Even if you’re not lazy, there are plenty of reasons to pay someone to install a screen protector for you. Don’t sweat it. But, if you do have a store install a screen protector for you, just make sure you ask this question before proceeding:

Can you approve the installation before you pay, OR, if you do pay prior, will they keep installing a new one until you’re satisfied?

Making sure you get the final say essentially guarantees you get a perfect looking screen protector, which makes the small fee well worth it.

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All The Things Apple Just Announced At WWDC 2018

wwdc 2018

Apple just announced a bunch of new software features for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and the Mac. There was no new iPads or laptops, just a bunch of coming software features. While there was quite a few items Apple talked about, a lot of it can be skipped over. Here’s what you need-to-know, along with all the rest if you’re curious.

Here’s what’s new and cool

iOS 12

  • Group FaceTime – talk and see to up to 32 people in a single group video call, working across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can also put a live-moving emoji over your face during the video call.
  • Siri Shortcuts app – a new way to easily automate multiple tasks. For example, you can say “heading home,” and it will pull up directions, send a ETA text message to someone, play a radio station, and turn on a Homekit connected fan or home device, all with a single voice phrase.
  • Animoji/Memojitongue’s will be detected in Animoji, so it will track more of your face. Plus, there will be new Memoji which you can make personalized emoji that track your face–think Bitmoji from Apple.

 

Apple Watch

  • Walkie-Talkie app – connect with a specific person, tap and hold to talk, let go and the audio message is sent to them. It’s a mix of audio and text messaging, made super quick directly from the watch.

Apple TV

  • Screensavers – although minor, aerial screensavers have long been a loved part of Apple TV. They soon will gain titles so you know the location, and there will be photos taken directly from the International Space Station. 

Mac computers

  • macOS Mojave – there will be a dark mode which will ight mode

Here’s what’s boring

As a quick disclaimer, these things may still be neat, useful, or crucially important for cool things in the future, but as of right now, we’re counting them as snoozers compared to the other announcements.

iOS 12

  • Photos improvements – new search suggestions, a new For You section with smarter recommendations for sharing, as well as surfacing old photos. 
  • Siri improvements  – new shortcuts with quick actions to Siri, from your custom phrases.
  • Updated old apps – Apple News refreshed, Stocks refreshed, Voice Memos coming to iPad, and iBooks becoming Books with both audio books and ebooks.
  • Do Not Disturb improvements – it can be turned on based on location or calendar event so your phone will be muted just during a meeting.
  • App limits – set a usage limit for a certain app and then once the limit is reached, it deters you from using the app.
  • ARKit 2.0 – more ways to use augmented reality, like being able to see the same thing through your phone that other people see through theirs.
  • Performance – iOS 12 will focus on making older phones and iPads feel faster and work better.

Apple Watch

  • Workouts – more functionality for workouts, including tracking Yoga.
  • Better notification – enhanced notifications, including web content formatted for your wrist.

Apple TV

  • *crickets* – there wasn’t a whole lot new here…. Did we mention screensavers?

Mac computers

  • Camera continuity – just like you can click over to bring up web pages or messages on your Mac that you’re currently browsing on your phone, you’ll be able to use your phone’s camera to instantly capture photos for your computer–like adding photos to a presentation, for example.
  • iPhone and iPad apps coming to the Mac in 2019 – this was a sneak peek, but developers will be able to more easily bring their phone apps to macOS, which means you’ll have more app choices in the next few years.
  • New apps – Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home, are all coming to the Mac

When is this stuff coming?

Most of these new features will be coming in the fall when iOS and macOS are released to the pubic. In a few months you’ll be able to take advantage of all these things mentioned here.

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The Latest Apple Rumors And What New Things You Can Expect From WWDC

apple wwdc

Here comes Apple season. Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is approaching on June 4th and news from the company will soon dominate the internet.

Why should you care? It’s here that Apple lays out its software plans for the coming year, meaning: we find out about all new features that your current phone will gain in the near future.

But it’s not just fancy new software, Apple has announced new hardware products in the past, and could this year as well. What will we see announced on June 4th? Here are our best predictions…

Likely

  • iOS 12 – There will be a new operating system for iPhones and iPads announced. The focus of this release is thought to be mostly bug fixes–said in a fun marketing way of course. (But that’s big, people don’t like glitches and stuff not working.)

    So far, a lot of the features will revolve around augmented reality, digital wellness, and group FaceTime calls. The latest reports indicate that FaceTime and Face ID will gain new horizontal orientations.

    Google targeted digital wellness at its conference in May and introduced things like App Timer, Wind Down, and an enhanced usage dashboard.
  • AirPods and AirPower – AirPods are everywhere. People love them. A new wireless charging case was teased alongside the AirPower charging mat in 2017, but we still haven’t seen either of those items in the last nine months. We have to see these at WWDC, right?
  • Apple Watch – There’s a new Apple Watch coming this year, the question is whether its in June or later in the fall. Almost certainly, though, we’ll see new software and features for the watch. There’s nearly 100% chance that those new features focus around health and fitness, which is great, but can we get some new watch faces too?

Possible

  • HomePod – The HomePod is fresh off its February launch, so it’s almost impossible that we see a new speaker, but, hopefully, we see new features and capabilities which would show that Apple is serious about competing with Amazon’s Echo. “Hey Siri, can you add add calendar events from HomePod yet?”
  • New Laptops – The latest iterations of Apple’s MacBook Pros have been the best selling, but have not been the best received. There’s a (presumably small) group of people not happy with the build quality of the latest keyboard version. It’s very likely we see a new generation of MacBook Pro laptops make a debut and iterate on the keyboard quality and feel–in addition to general computer speed increases.

No Way

Whenever we do hear, though, it will be exciting. Just imagine being able to use your iPhone apps (appropriately sized and nice looking) on your Mac.

Even if all these items get announced at WWDC, does that make a satisfying keynote event? Are there any other wildcard announcements? The only other plausible thing is brand new, bezel-less, iPhone X-like, iPad Pros, but most likely we won’t see those until the fall.

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The Best Podcast App Includes This One Amazing Feature

podcast app

There are a dozen decent apps that you can use to listen to podcasts across Android and iOS; but they’ve become so similar that the biggest difference is how they look.

Podcast apps like Castro and Apple’s default podcast app are fine and provide plenty of functionality, but, after venturing out and trying some new ones, I found it nearly impossible to switch away from the podcast app Overcast, for one simple reason:

Overcast includes a feature called Smart Speed.

overcast podcast app

Smart Speed shortens the silence gaps between people speaking and helps you get through podcast episodes quicker, without having to listen to the whole thing at an unnatural speed.

Typically, if you want to listen to something faster, you play the whole thing at 1.25x or 1.5x the original speed. Speeding the whole thing up doesn’t sound great and can make listening harder. Dynamically shortening the silence between talking, moves things along without making people sound funny.

Smart Speed sounds neat, but is making the short time between people speaking really saving that much time? Yes. After two years, Smart Speed has trimmed 77 hours off the podcasts I’ve listened to inside Overcast.

Put another way, I’ve saved more than 3 days of listening time.

smart speed overcast

In addition to Smart Speed, another feature called Smart Resume now intelligently resumes playing a few seconds earlier than when the episode was paused or stopped (without starting in the middle of a word). A less significant feature, but equally as nice to have.

Overall, Overcast is a fantastic podcast playing app and well worth trying out–especially because it’s the only app to have a Smart Speed type of feature. It’s available for iPhones and iPads in the App Store.