Tag Archives: iOS 9

The Year in Geek: 2015 Edition

2015 has come and (almost) gone and it’s time for the media-mandated Look Back at the Year We Just Had. [Drumroll … rimshot … clown horn noise] Noted in no particular order, here’s our list of high points, low points and things that just stood out to us here at Pop Tech Jam HQ over the course of the earth’s latest loop around the sun:

• NASA: New Horizons and Beyond.— While it wasn’t quite the Apollo 11 mojo, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a banner year with the New Horizons successful flyby of Pluto and data treasure trove that’s still trickling back from the other side of the solar system. The agency also grew lettuce, aged whiskey and ran many other experiments up at the International Space Station while its Dawn spacecraft took at look at the dwarf planet Ceres. And that Matt Damon movie was very good publicity.

Windows 10. Microsoft released its successor to the much-reviled Windows 8 this summer. Despite some major bugs and user wariness, Win10 did see relatively fast adoption rates by 8Haters, people finally upgrading from XP and those who wanted to try out the new technology as soon as they could.

• Security! Security! Security! (or Lack Thereof…). It seemed like no corporate database was safe from intrusion this year. Plenty of major companies got breached, including Anthem health insurance, the CVS Photos site, interactive toymaker VTech, the federal Office of Personal Management, the Internal Revenue Service, the Ashley Madison site for love affairs, Slack and Experian’s T-Mobile servers. Just to name, you know, A FEW OF THEM.

• Underwhelming Apple. The Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino finally released a smartwatch and a giant iPad in 2015 — just like industry types have been speculating about for years. And not only was much of the public was pretty “meh” about it all, the stock was down as well, based on fear of what comes next with iPhone sales.

• Video Streaming Goes Big. The standalone HBO Now finally arrived for Game of Thrones fans and other cord-cutters, Sling TV further chopped the coax with an over-the-top package of channels, and new voice-controlled streaming boxes from Amazon, Google, Roku, Apple and others have stepped up the battle for the living room’s big screen.

• Ad Blockers. Apple’s iOS 9 was just the latest piece of software that allows its users to block other pieces of software, namely intrusive advertising that makes reading so aggravating on mobile devices and other digital platforms. Yes, blocking ads takes money out of the content-publisher’s pocket (and may make it hard for them to keep going). But publishers and advertisers, if you don’t want people to use ad blockers, make better ads.

• E-Book Reversal. E-book sales dipped, and print titles had a slight rebound. And although some think nothing will happen, authors and publishers asked the Department of Justice to look into Amazon’s influence in the industry.

• Google, Even More Helpful But CreepyMachine-learned responses to emails, self-driving cars, Trip Bundles, parking markers, rerouted traffic navigation on the fly and the increasingly accurate predictive Google Now service that tries to guess what you want to see before you see it. Yes, the Big G had a very big year all up in your business. (But remember, you don’t have to use it.)

• Broadway Sings Social Media. Internet fan favorite and Sulu OG George Takei used Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about this new musical Allegiance, the story of Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. Meanwhile, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of the Broadway smash musical Hamilton were all over Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social outlets, not only to promote the show, but to add new views — like the short YouTube movie a cast member made about opening night from the actors’ perspective. The cast album for the show was available to stream free on the NPR site during the week before it arrived as an official download, and the recording’s devotees soon revved up the enthusiastic #Hamiltunes hashtag to quote their favorite lyrics. Smartphone videos of the weekly rapfest Ham4Ham — where the show’s actors perform short bits for fans clustered outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Manhattan’s West 46th Street — also got online play. And let’s not overlook the mash-up memes like #Force4Ham, which combined themes from both Hamilton and Star Wars. Now, about the latter…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sixteen years after The Phantom Menace and the turgid prequels, director and nostalgia reboot specialist J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with a record-smashing, uplifting return to form that served as a bridge between the old world and the new one in that galaxy far, far away. The Force is strong in that one.

Happy 2016 from Pop Tech Jam!

Duly Noted

We all have times when we need to jot down a few notes on the go. To-do list items and appointments are one thing, but notes are more:  the name of a contractor, the model number of a thing you want to buy, a story idea, a recipe or paint color at the hardware store. And it’s even cooler when you can sync up your mobile thoughts with your desktop like. Here are four multi-platform apps to consider:

evernote• Evernote is the pretty much the good standard for many a jotter — or people collaborating across different platforms on a project. Evernote works on most mobile and desktop systems and you can sync your notes and projects across them all. You can save webpages, email, audio clips, photos, charts, chats and more in your Evernote projects. It also has an extensive help section with videos, three levels of service — from free to paid to even more paid.

• Microsoft OneNote is another established digital notes-taking app that works on most major mobile and desktop platforms. It’s free and you can save mail, webpages and photos into it, plus it has integration with other apps like WordPress, Chegg, Feedly and several scanning apps. Microsoft also just announced this week that OneNote has formed a partnership with FiftyThree to support its Paper app and Pencil stylus. (OneNote will also work with the Apple Pencil, whenever that fancy $100 stick rolls into town.)


keep• Google Keep is the notes ‘n’ lists app for Google and Android users and stores your various types of thoughts in colorful boxes within the app on screen. If inspiration strikes, you can dictate your thoughts into the app, too. It’s all tied to your Google account, so  you can get to all your kept items tucked away in the program through phone, tablet, computer or Android wearables.

• iOS 9 Notes from Apple is a major improvement over the limited notepad app that’s been in iOS since 2007. You ios9can whip up to-do lists and checklists if you want, but you can also doodle or sketch with your finger, add maps, photos, webpages and text to your notes. And if you’re hooked into iCloud, the service will sync all your notes across your Mac and other iOS devices.

Plenty of other note-taking apps are out there to consider too. No matter which one you use, odds are it’s going to be more versatile than the scraps of paper we grew up using — and often losing.

PTJ 161: Apple Watchers

Technologist Don Donofrio stops by this week with a review of the new iPhone 6s Plus and some insights on life with an Apple Watch. (And check out the articles he mentions on both the iPhone’s evolving camera and Sherry Turkle’s recent essay about face-to-face conversation in a smartphone world.) Apple put out a press release this week saying it sold 13 million new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus phones in the first three days of sales, so hopefully some people were having meaningful conversations while waiting in line at the Apple Store.

And here’s one tip, even if you still have an older phone — but upgraded to iOS 9. Many tech sites around the web suggest that you turn off the Wi-Fi Assist option in your iPhone’s settings unless you have the cherished old unlimited data plan. The setting, which is on by default and lets the phone automatically jump to a cellular network if your Wi-Fi signal is lousy, was driving up mobile data bills for many unsuspecting people with capped data plans. The Wi-Fi Assist toggle is down at the very bottom of the Cellular settings on your iPhone, and owners of cellular iPads with monthly data plans may want to flip off Wi-Fi Assist as well. If you do have the unlimited data plan — burn, baby, burn!

PTJ 160 News: Vroom Vroom

Well, well, well… According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Apple is committed to producing an electric car and aims to have it tooling down the road by 2019. So I guess we’ll pencil in that grand demo for September 10th, 2019, eh?

pencilThe stuff that Apple did announce on this past September 9th is finally starting to roll out. iOS 9 hit the download channels last Wednesday and already has a 50-percent adoption rate among users with compatible iOS devices. The second version of the Apple Watch OS also arrived this week after a short bug delay. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus begin to land in stores and delivery trucks on Friday. The 4th generation of the Apple TV is due out in late October (even though iFixit has already found one and torn it down to see how it works) and the iPad Pro with the optional $100 Pencil is due in November. Apple is also issuing the rare refund in its App Store after the creator of the $3 Peace ad-blocker for iOS had second thoughts over ethics and yanked his app .

kindleAmazon is not letting Apple grab all the TV and tablet press, though. Last week, the company announced a new gaming edition of its Fire TV box, and an update to its Fire TV box that brings 4K streaming and the Alexa voice-controlled assistant. Amazon also rolled out a version of its Fire tablet for less than $50, beefier upgraded hardware for its other Fire tablet models and well as a $100 Kindle Fire tablet for kids. Choices, there are choices.

Dot-Com Collapse II on the way, or just a little wobble? Collective discounts site Groupon announced this week that it was cutting 1,100 jobs and closing down operations in at least seven countries as part of a restructuring plan. And Oyster, the so-called Netflix-for-reading company announced it was shutting down its e-book subscription service it launched in 2012. According to Re/code, however, a number of Oyster employees are headed to Google to shore up the Google Play Books store

Speaking of Google, the company just updated its Wallet app for iOS. Like the previously released Android app, the revamped Google Wallet now emphasizes sending money to friends instead of paying for merchandise in a store.

office16Also revamped and updated: Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. It’s available to Office 365 subscribers who are paying $100 or $70 a year after the free trial period. The Home & Student edition is also available as a one-time purchase for a price of $150. Microsoft is also making its Office 2016 for Mac available for a one-time purchase. (Some people, however, prefer LibreOffice, iWork for iCloud, Google Docs or even Office Online.)

beretIn legal news, the French government agency that regulates data has rejected Google’s appeal in the right-to-be-forgotten. At this stage of the process in the French legal system, Google has no legal possibility to appeal the order and may have to pay a fine if it doesn’t comply. Russia is also mad at Google and accused the company of violating Russian anti-monopoly laws earlier this month. Penalties may ensue there as well.

vinylPandora is having a better time of it with legal matters. The music-streaming service said it was pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office agreed that Pandora’s agreement with Merlin Network, a global rights agency for independent musicians, was admissible as a benchmark in royalty proceedings. A panel of three judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board has been working on setting royalties for Internet radio and is expected to have a decision in mid-December. (Also in the music world, the Recording Industry Association of America reports that while total revenue was essentially flat for the first half of 2015. Vinyl sales were rising, though!)

And finally, the Onion humor site, which started the ClickHole spin-off for goofy viral video, is having a go at the countless celebrity gossip sites online. The Onion’s new site is called StarWipe. Decked out with hot pink and bright blue accents, Star Wipe currently features such headlines as “Emmys Photos We Can’t Stop Staring At Even Though We’re Supposed To Be Controlling Air Traffic” and “Rihanna Says She And Taylor Swift Have Different Fan Bases, Has Clearly Never Been To University Of Missouri Party.” StarWipe is just starting out and still has a way to go to top some of ClickHole’s triumphs like “Yes! Ham Goes Up an Escalator.” Oh, let’s watch that one again shall we?

New News Apps

The official arrival of Apple News last week brought a reminder that there are tons of customizable news-gathering apps out there. Some even serve like RSS readers to collect the top stories on topics you actually care  about. Yes, Flipboard and its ilk are still around, but here are a few news apps to consider if you don’t use one already.

  • applenewsApple News for iOS 9. Fresh out into the open, Apple’s elegant news reader invites you to tap through a series of tiles representing your favorite newspapers, magazines, blogs and other information sources — plus your favorite general topics — and set up your own personalized current-events feed. Once you create your news preferences, you can tap the For You button to see the headlines and the stories behind them. The Favorites area lets you select a specific news source, or topic like The Atlantic or Gadgets. Tap the Explore button to see suggested topics and channels. You can also search and save stories. Some news outlets have even said they’ll release exclusive content for Apple News.
  • GoogleNWGoogle News & Weather for Android and iOS. If you love Google News on the web, this standalone app takes you right to your personalized feed without having to dig through menus in the Google Mobile app or web site. The app pulls in news from 65,000 sources around the world. Once you select a story, you can tap it to drill down into other sources, opinion pieces, videos and more about that topic. You can easily swipe through your favorite news subjects and add them. Oh, get your local weather, too, if you let Google News pick up your location settings.
  • NuzzelNuzzel for Android and iOS. Unlike an app that gathers news using its own algorithms to crawl across the World Wide Web, the Nuzzel app grabs its headlines from what your friends are posting about on Facebook and Twitter. You do have to give the app permission to see your followers and friends lists, but it does help you keep up with what everybody else is talking about. So that could be helpful, especially when people are all up about momentary distractions like Pizza Rat.
  • BBCOthers. If you want a straight up news service app, there’s the Associated Press’s AP Mobile app for Android, iOS and even Windows Phone. Likewise the Reuters news starwarsapp works on all three of those platforms and has a version for the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, too. The BBC News mobile app (shown above) got redesigned earlier this summer. In addition to online stories created by BBC journalists, you also get a live stream of BBC World News Radio. The app is available for Android and iOS and you can set up your own list of personal topics of interest. And one of those topics can be Star Wars, but if you want all Star Wars news, just get the Star Wars app. Seriously.

PTJ 158 News: Fall Harvest

Oh, look! It’s September again and Apple has announced a bunch of new stuff this week, including:

• An update to the Apple Watch operating system,  new watchbands and the “Hermès Collection
• The iPad Maxi, er, iPad Pro with fancy optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil and a flexible Smart Keyboard
• The long-awaited hardware update to the Apple TV with Siri-powered remote and games
• The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
• The arrival of iOS 9 on September 16th

Oh, and rose gold is apparently a thing.

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.

lgtvThe fall tech bounty does not begin nor end with the Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino, however. The annual IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin just ended this week and like the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas each January, companies preview many products and tech journalists look for trends. Meanwhile, LG Electronics did some fun stuff with flat televisions, like making a  double-sided 4K OLED set (shown here, and probably just a prototype). And if you like a lot of pixels, Canon announced that it’s developed a 250-megapixel sensor that’s still small enough to fit inside a DSLR camera.

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.

A 7-inch display for the Raspberry Pi barebones computer went on sale this week for $60. Here’s what you can do with it:

The publishing industry and Amazon had a very public spat last year over e-book pricing, which eventually led to new distribution deals with the under mega-everything store. But while several publishers got to charge more for their e-books and lose less income to Amazon’s deep discounts, recent sales reports show that their e-book revenue declined overall in the last quarter.

EdgeMicrosoft really, really, really wants you to use its new Edge browser and has even employed its Bing search engine to steer you away from the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. If you happed to search for an alternative browser with Bing on Edge, you see a little box at the top of your search results declaring that Microsoft Edge is really the best browser for Windows 10 and click this here link to learn why. However, the browser does not actually stop you from stepping off the Edge.

A writer over at BuzzFeed is disputing the recent PageFair study that estimated ad-blocking software would make sites lose $21 billion in ad revenue this year, bit even squishy numbers do not soothe The Interactive Advertising Bureau. According to Advertising Age, the trade group met this summer to discuss what to do, including filing lawsuits against companies that make ad-blocking software, but nothing major has been decided yet. The IAB did vote to move away from Adobe Flash and make HTML5 its new standard for online ads. And in related news AdBlock Plus just announced its first official ad-blocking app for iOS and than it was back in the Google Play store for Android.

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.

stormtroopersAnd finally, September 4th last week was Force Friday, the day retailers unleashed a giant wave of new officially licensed Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise into stores around the world. Global celebration events included midnight sales and twerking stormtroopers in Times Square. And as the BBC has noted, all of these merch sales could make this seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise “the biggest film ever.” December 18th, folks — or even earlier, if you happen to live in popular parts of Europe. Okay, who’s checking mid-December airfare to France now?

PTJ 158: No, the “Apple Pencil” is Not a Joke

In this special double-sized episode, we look at this week’s Apple product announcement and feature a bountiful late summer harvest of tech news.

512CyThiA2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Also on the show, are technobabble, jargon and buzzwords ruining our ability to write clearly — and get the point across with our colleagues? Author Phil Simon joins us to discuss the general state of professional  correspondence in this high-tech world of ours. Phil’s latest book, Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It, is out now and here’s its trailer:

Message Not Received – Book Trailer from Phil Simon on Vimeo.

Android 6.0 vs. iOS 9

AndroidMarshSo what’s the difference between Android and iOS anymore? While the two systems used to be more divergent, but the feature gap is closing  fast, especially with this fall’s arrival of Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and iOS 9.

For example, both systems are upping the ante for their personal assistant software, trying ios9to get ahead of Microsoft’s Cortana. As shown below, Google Now is getting tweaked, partly to provide more location-relevant suggestions and information and make it more helpful-but-creepy than ever. (“Hey what are you doing? Google Now is here for you, NOW!”) Apple’s faithful  Siri assistant is getting some location-and contextual improvements to make her more useful as well. She’ll be able to remind you to do things in certain places, find photos from specific events and look up answers in more places online.


Google and Apple continue to “borrow” features from each other. Like iOS,  Android Marshmallow  will support a standard fingerprint ID — something Apple’s devices  had for a few years in the form of Touch ID — but a feature that was a little more random across all the various Android handsets out there from different manufacturers. Of course, having a fingerprint scanner makes it easier for users to work mobile payment systems into their lives, and now Android Pay is here as the green-bot alternative to Apple Pay. Also like iOS, Android 6.0 will offer tighter control over app permissions.

Android Lollipop already has a Battery Saver mode, and  Marshmallow is adding the Doze feature to slow down battery burn even more. Finally, iOS 9 is adding a low-power mode so iPhone users can more easily put the brakes on battery drain without having to go in and start turning off functions one by one to conserve juice.

Google Maps (also available as a third-party app on iOS) has long owned the mobile mapping space, but iOS 9 will try to gain some ground with the new version of Apple Maps (shown here) that comes with better mass-transit information. However, people who do not live in urban areas and do not need mass-transit schedules — or those who drive everywhere anyway — may not care so much.


The improved Notes app and the new News app give iOS 9 users some new software to explore. The new version of Android will offer USB-C support, the same all-in-one port Apple touted for its MacBook laptops earlier this year.

But it just may be iPad users may get the most out of iOS 9. For the larger devices. Apple is adding a better keyboard for the bigger screen, split-screen multitasking with apps (shown below)  and a picture-in-picture window so you can FaceTime while also looking at apps. People rocking Android Marshmallow tablets can look forward to the multi-window mode and the spilt-keyboard function that’s been in iOS the past few versions.


With all this feature parity, it won’t be long at all until both systems feel almost the same. With that, it all comes down to the two other factors that drive our mobile choices: hardware and ecosystem, which means you just need to pick how many megapixels you want in your phone’s camera  and where you want to download your missed episodes of Minority Report — in case, of course, you forgot to have Google Now or Siri remind you to watch in the first place.

PTJ 154 News: Salad Days

Google isn’t taking much of a summer vacation and instead, set up a whole new corporate operating structure this week.  In a blog post on the company site, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced a new business entity called Alphabet that will now oversee  a collection of companies underneath it, including Google. Other members of Alphabet include Nest and Google Fiber. The new structure is said to give all the companies more room to grow and embody the Google Philosophy. However, there was one little glitch with setting up the new mega-company: German automaker BMW actually owns the trademark and domain of the now-overloaded alphabet.com.  Google has abc.xyz instead, and a cheeky little Silicon Valley joke in the mix, too.

Verizon Wireless is also changing things up. Following in the steps of T-Mobile, Verizon announced late last week that it was getting rid of that whole two-year contract commitment when you buy a new cellphone and has new service plans outlined in the Verizon press release “Simplified Data Choices Match Customer Lifestyles.”  If you blow past your monthly allowance, that’ll cost you $15 per gigabyte. (On that note, Snapchat has introduced a new Travel Mode in its Android and iOS apps that stops automatic Snaps, Stories and Discovery updates on cellular connections unless the user requests it to help save data-plan bytes.)

stopA new report by Adobe and PageFair estimates that ad-blocking software will cause a $22 billion dollar loss of revenue for advertisers this year, and that could affect jobs. Advertisers worry that ad-squashing software is even starting to stifle those expensive video ads everyone’s rolling out. Many users counter those arguments by pointing out that online ads can stalk and collect data on the user, hog bandwidth and are often infected with malware. So that’s why they use software like Adblock Plus — and will do so on mobile platforms as more blocker apps arrive.

Speaking of blocking, the Internet Watch Foundation is stepping up the fight against images of child pornography online. By using hashes, also known as digital fingerprints of specific images, and compiling these hashes into a lengthy list for sites and service providers, the group hopes to prevent uploading or speed up the takedown of the illegal content.

The Internet of Things is gaining ground and a world of automated appliances and household systems looms, but the Online Trust Alliance is trying to stop it all from turning into Skynet: The Home Edition. The OTA group has proposed a set of privacy and security standards for smart devices, and released a draft of its Internet of Things Trust Framework this week.  For those who like to participate, there’s a call for public comments on the document.

Meanwhile, up in space, the crew on the International Space Station got together, harvested and ate lettuce actually grown on the station. It’s all part of NASA’s research on fresh food grown in microgravity. If we’re sending humans to Mars, after all, we’re gonna need to pack some sustainable food resources.


While most of the crew was enjoying delicious space salad, two cosmonauts from the Russian Federation Space Agency went on a five-hour spacewalk to install new equipment, clean the windows and inspect the exterior of the station.

Mozilla has released Firefox version 40 with a new look for Windows 10 and more built-on security to guard against rogue third-party browser add-ons. Mozilla also seemed to be settling a score with Microsoft for setting its own Edge browser as the default in the Windows 10 express setup. Cortana searches in the new version of Firefox don’t have to use Microsoft’s Bing browser.

Since it’s mid-August,  the Applesauce rumor mill is beginning to grind faster ahead of the traditional September Apple Product Announcement and Media Lovefest. The 9to5Mac is among those guessing that the event will be on Wednesday, September 9th. The blogs are expecting Apple to reveal this year’s iPhone model with Force Touch feedback, iOS 9 and a new iOS-based Apple TV. The mythical, larger 12.9-inch iPad has also been rumored for fall.

And finally, Facebook just published a study about how the world expresses laughter online and found that the once-dominant chatroom standard LOL has become passé, giving way to chortling emojis, hehe and  hahaNelson Muntz, your time is now.