As The Summer of 2019 winds down, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss (among other things) the buzz around Apple’s annual fall iPhone event, Twitter’s account security issue with one of its major users, Facebook’s latest attempts at transparency in political advertising and Amazon’s growing video-surveillance network. And, as nerds, we used to always run after the shiny new gadget to have the latest and greatest gear — but have we gotten over that particular fear of missing out? Spin up PTJ 316 to hear it all!
It’s September and you know what that means: Apple will hold forth a mighty media event in San Francisco to formally reveal its fall lineup of hardware and software. As today is Apple Event Eve, we here at Pop Tech Jam thought we’d pass the time with technologist Don Donofrio to speculate about what tomorrow’s announcements will bring. And on next week’s show, we’ll regroup to see how many things we guessed correctly. Feel free to play along at home, Jammers! And for those of you who care not for the Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino, we have news on Samsung’s exchange program for the overly combustible Galaxy Note 7 and the end of the Rosetta mission to good ol’ Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
We haven’t had a good robot sailboat story in a while — if ever — but here’s one now. The New York Times reports that a company called Saildrone has remote-controlled vessels busily counting fish and monitoring seals in the Bering Straight off the coast of Alaska while their operators are 2,500 miles away in California.
But Apple was in the spotlight for other reasons as well this week. A story on the front page of The New York Times highlighted the company’s national security tussle with the United States government over encryption and data access with software like iMessage, a program Apple says it can’t decrypt itself.
Comcast is testing a new form of data plan in south Florida. While the company normally imposes a 300-gigabytes-a-month limit, customers can now pay an extra $30 for the Unlimited Data Option. It’s just like those old unlimited broadband plans of yore, except more expensive!
Verizon announced its new Go90 mobile streaming TV service this week. The service will be ad-supported and show programs young people want to watch.
NASA said late last week that it has begun its intensive data downlink phase to grab the massive amount of data the New Horizons spacecraft collected during its Pluto flyby in July. The agency also announced that engineers at a facility in New Orleans have welded together the first two segments of the Orion crew module that will be used in a test flight to the far side of the moon in preparation for an eventual manned journey to Mars.
That noise you heard Monday was not an F5 tornado — it was just the sound of Apple inhaling all the press as it held a Major Media Event to officially announce the price and availability of the Apple Watch. If you’re interested in the Watch, check out the full specs but in a nutshell, the app-driven, sensor-laden wrist computer/fitness tracker will be available for preorders on April 10th and officially released April 24th. Prices start at $349 for the smallest of the sporty versions and go far north of $10,000 for the fancy digital luxury Rolex-wannabes with the shiny 18-karat gold bits and bobs.
People who run and do a lot of fitness activities may be especially interested in the Apple Watch, as well as those with a huge pile of disposable income and a yen for fancy tech. But check out the tiny print on the Apple Watch splash page:
Yes, to use the Watch, you also need an iPhone 5 or later. This requirement led The Verge site to note that the main function of the timepiece is to spare you from taking out your phone every few minutes to check on your world when you can just glance at your wrist more discreetly. Forbes also observed that the Apple Watch seems to be in the Nice to Have category instead of the Must Have so far. However, most industry watchers are keeping an eye on those sales figures next month.
The long-awaited high-tech wristwatch was not the only thing Apple brought forth. The company also announced an exclusive three-month deal for the new standalone cable-free HBO NOW service. Subscribers will be able to stream HBO content for $15 a month when the service launches next month in time for the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 5, and there’s a free 30-day trial period for new customers who sign up through Apple. To sweeten the deal even more, Apple also knocked $30 off the price of its Apple TV set-top box that brings high-def streams of HBO and other participating providers right to your TV screen.
The MacBook also got a major refresh, as Apple unveiled its latest version of the popular notebook computer. The new models weigh just two pounds, come with a 12-inch screen, a full-size keyboard, revamped battery and a Force Touch trackpad. The new MacBook is barely 13 millimeters thick, a feat that was achieved in part by lack of external ports. The new MacBook has a headphone jack and just one other port – a new USB Type C jack that handles charging, data transfer, device connection and video-out all on its own. (Need to do more than one of these activities at once? There’s a $79 Apple adapter in your future purchase plans.) The new MacBook will be out later this spring. Apple also beefed up the processors and various other components in its other laptops as well.
Reactions to Apple’s announcements from other companies ranged from “meh” to cheeky. Executives at Pebble, which announced a new addition to its own smartwatch line late last month, took to Twitter during Apple’s grand event to provide a little commentary on the proceedings:
The official Pebble Twitter account did point out, however, that everyone loves Game of Thrones. Hey, the Apple Watch may be out of the price range for a lot of people, but at least HBO is now more affordable.
The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more. J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado are your hosts. It's an Internet Radio revolution!