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Hands-On With the Collapsible Magnetic 'TextBlade...

Today, 12:57 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
Back in January, WayTools, a company known for its high-quality NextEngine 3D laser scanner, surprised the world with a collapsible, magnetic keyboard unlike anything we had seen before. Called the TextBlade, the keyboard garnered a significant amount of attention from the media and from prospective buyers who were intrigued with its unique design.

Commenters here on MacRumors and across the Internet were immediately curious about the TextBlade, and had several questions. How does it work? How easy is it to use? What's the learning curve? How does it feel?

Today we're going to answer all of those questions and more. Yesterday, WayTools invited MacRumors to visit its headquarters in Santa Monica to get an exclusive hands-on first look at the TextBlade. We met with WayTools CEO Mark Knighton, and a group of engineers who helped develop the product to get details on how it works and to try it out for ourselves.

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Design

The first thing that's important to know about the TextBlade is that its design, which is the culmination of years of work and experimentation, has been engineered to be completely different from any keyboard that's on the market today.

According to Knighton, the company did not set out to develop a keyboard for the iPhone or the iPad, they set out to develop a keyboard that's a better experience, overall, than any available keyboard, mobile or desktop.

Portability is one of the key qualities that dictated the design of the TextBlade. The team at WayTools firmly believes that an accessory designed for the iPad or the iPhone should be smaller than the device itself. The TextBlade is approximately 1/3 of the size of an iPhone and it weighs an ounce and a half, so it's barely noticeable in a shirt or pants pocket.

The company adopted an 80/20 philosophy with the TextBlade: 80 percent of the time, most users don't need a keyboard for their iOS devices, but 20 percent of the time, it can be an invaluable accessory. For typing a quick text message, you can use the built-in keyboard, but it is nice to have something when you need to sit down and reply to 20 emails. For that reason, a keyboard should be hidden away and unobtrusive when it's not in use, but small enough to always carry and easy to pull out and set up when it's needed.

textbladelineup-800x533.jpgCollapsed TextBlade keyboards
Another major factor that influenced the development of the TextBlade is the hands. The WayTools team looked at the way that people use keyboards, how they hold their hands when typing, and deconstructed that to develop the optimal key spacing, keyboard size, letter placement, and more. According to Knighton:

You start with this very humble principle -- the hands are the king of this. What is good for your hands, what feels good for your hands, must dictate this design.

Assume you can do magic. What would you most want to do? You would want to have keys that are designed for your fingers.

There are four components to the TextBlade -- a stand that holds an iPhone or an iPad, two blades that have a total of eight keys combined, and a space bar that houses the device's battery and 10 LEDs for notifications. Each of the eight keys supports several different features, a function that WayTools refers to as MultiLayering.

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For example, one of the keys houses the W, the S, and the X, but with a combination of button presses, users can also access numbers and symbols, such as "2" and "@", all from the same key. Combining multiple functions into a single set of keys means a user's finger has to travel less across the keyboard, translating into faster, more intuitive typing. A combination of magnets, sensing zones, and custom hardware inside each key allows the TextBlade to determine which letter is being pressed.

There are also deeper editing tools and features built into the TextBlade. Holding down on "D" and "F" simultaneously enters an editing mode that lets users move the cursor by word, line, or letter via arrow keys to make edits entirely on the keyboard. Cut and paste tools are built in, as are undo/redo features that make changing and rearranging text a simple process.

Activating the keyboard is done by clicking the two key blades together and then connecting them to the space bar, which turns on Bluetooth. With Bluetooth on, pairing with an iOS device is done like any other accessory, from the Bluetooth settings menu. Once paired, every time the TextBlade is snapped together, it will connect to the computer or iOS device it's paired with.

When not in use, the TextBlade folds up onto itself, with each piece snapping together via magnets. The stand slides over the whole package, for a completely portable keyboard that's similar in size to a couple of packs of gum.

textbladekeyscollapsing-800x731.jpgThe TextBlade's keys collapse down for a tight fit between all three pieces

Technology

Each component of the TextBlade has a built-in computer chip to power the MultiKey and MultiLayer features. The computer chips are networked and connected by magnets, which is what allows the TextBlade to function without any cords or circuits that bridge the different pieces together.

Rare earth magnets are built into every key of the TextBlade and all of the magnets perform different functions, from allowing the pieces of the TextBlade to snap easily together to charging to facilitating communication between each piece. There are 23 magnets in the space bar alone, for example.

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The computer chips power sensing zones behind each key, allowing the TextBlade to accurately determine what letter you're pressing. A lot of data is collected with each key press -- in the screenshot below, an app shows the data that determines the press of the letter, the "U."

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While most keyboards use a scissor mechanism underneath keys to link a keycap to a plunger, WayTools uses a butterfly-like plastic piece that makes each key more stable. Combined with magnets and sensing zones powered by the aforementioned computer chips, the TextBlade is able to determine which letter or symbol is being pressed with extremely high accuracy, which is what allows one key to house multiple letters.

Every component of the TextBlade, from the magnets, to the plastic butterflies, to the molds to form the batteries were developed from scratch by WayTools. There's no element of the design that uses pre-manufactured parts -- it's a completely custom build that's allowed the company to file for dozens of new patents while creating the TextBlade.

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Two of the blades of the TextBlade house keys, while the third component is the space bar. The space bar is home to a thin, non-replaceable lithium polymer battery and a set of 10 LEDs that are designed to give users immediate feedback on what they're doing at all times. LEDs let you know how much charge is left on the TextBlade and they let you know what mode you're in or what you're going to get next when you type. Two LEDs, for example, denotes "edit" mode, where the cursor can be moved around on the screen, and one lets you know shift is on.


Hands-On With the TextBlade

So, the answer to the biggest question people have on the TextBlade: Am I going to have to learn to use a keyboard all over again?

The quick answer is no, but the longer answer is that there's a definite acclimatization period. The TextBlade is a QWERTY keyboard, so the design is immediately familiar, and the horizontal spacing is equal to or better than a full-sized keyboard at 19 to 20mm, but vertical spacing has been cut down to reduce the distance you need to reach to hit each key, so it's a different feel when typing.

It also takes time to get used to the layered keys. We're used to raising our fingers up to hit numbers and symbols, and the motion to insert a number or a symbol is very different on the TextBlade, with a lot less finger movement. Some of the keys have been moved to provide a better typing experience, which also takes some getting used to. For example, the apostrophe has been moved closer because it's a key people use a lot.

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There's very little to learn because the general location of the keys is familiar, and there's no training to go through, but you have to get used to a different feel and you have to adjust your muscle memory. As described by WayTools engineer Pete DeLaurentis, the amount of time it takes people to get used to the TextBlade will vary depending on how they type.

It depends a lot on whether they float or use home row. What you'll find with a lot of programmers, for example, is they'll float with their right hand because if you're a programmer, you have a lot of symbols you need to get to. You can't get them all with your pinky, so most programmers float with their right hand.

I had this thing where the left hand I got right away but the right hand took me a while because I usually kept my right hand hovering above the keyboard. You have to have a much better sense of the map in your head when you float. For people who just traditionally touch type from home row, it's very fast.

During the time that we had with the TextBlade, we were not able to pick it up and type at full speed because of the need to get used to the movements, but over the course of a half an hour of typing, our speed and familiarity with the keyboard did noticeably improve. In our estimation, a day or two of regular typing with the TextBlade would give users enough familiarity with the design to type at a reasonable speed.

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According to Knighton, there are two milestones with the TextBlade -- typing faster than you can type on an iOS device and typing faster than you can on a traditional keyboard. Most people, he says, can reach that first milestone in days.

Watching the employees at WayTools type on the TextBlade was fascinating, because it gave a look at what's possible when one becomes familiar with the layout of the keys. Their fingers hardly moved on the keyboard -- there was no reaching or flailing about to hit symbols or numbers. There was very little hand movement, but we watched them type as quickly as they could on a regular keyboard.

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Though there are only eight keys on the TextBlade keyboard, it's easy to distinguish between each letter because of the generous spacing (which matches a desktop keyboard) and the TextBlade did not have trouble determining which letter or symbol we were typing. The spacing was suitable for all hand sizes -- we didn't have an issue reaching any of the keys, and WayTools tested with a variety of hand sizes from large to small.

textbladecomparedtoapplespacing-800x533.Spacing on TextBlade keyboard compared to Apple keyboard spacing
As for key feel, this is an area where the TextBlade excels. Keys felt solid and had a good amount of give when pressed. There's a solid "thunk" when pressing down on a key that's very satisfying thanks to a 2.0mm stroke, and the feel is similar to high-end mechanical desktop keyboards. Most keyboards have an actuation force of 55 grams to register a key press, as does the TextBlade. With the space bar, people prefer slightly less force, so it has an actuation force of 45 grams. The amount of force that is required to press a key can be updated at any time by TextBlade, to meet customer demand.

One of the neatest things about the TextBlade is that because you don't need to move your fingers across the keyboard as much, a person can potentially type even faster than they're able to with a standard keyboard. A second benefit is that it feels more comfortable on the wrists because there's no angling upwards to reach keys.

Some people have wondered about the angled design of the TextBlade when it snaps together. According to WayTools, this was done for ergonomic reasons. It's designed to match the rest position that people use when resting their arms on a table. When placing our arms on a table, most of us angle our elbows outwards rather than holding our arms straight. In this angled position, the TextBlade was very comfortable to type on.

A video of the TextBlade in use
Most keyboards use weight to provide a solid, unmovable typing experience, but the bottom of the TextBlade is coated in an elastomer that gives it a solid grip on a desk or surface despite its light weight. It did not shift or move around on the table when typing, and the bottom of the stand is coated in the same material to ensure that an iOS device stays in place.

One of the things we were impressed by was the TextBlade's light weight compared to its durability and build quality. The keyboard weighs just over an ounce and folds down to fit into a pocket, but the build quality was solid and it felt like a keyboard that should be priced much higher than $99. Because it's so light, it's also durable -- there's nothing that's going to break when it's dropped on the floor.

textbladecomparedtologitech-800x533.jpgA collapsed TextBlade compared to the Logitech Keys To Go keyboard
Another neat TextBlade feature we want to highlight is the way that it charges. If you tap the spacebar against your wrist, a little card (much like a SIM card) pops out, which plugs directly into a USB port or USB charger. There's no micro-USB cord or cable to forget -- everything you need is built in. The aforementioned LEDs let you know when you need to charge, and the battery lasts for a month without needing to be charged.

chargingthetextblade-800x800.jpgSteps to charge the TextBlade

Customization Options

WayTools is planning to release an app, MultiMap, that will allow customers to customize the TextBlade. Users will be able to remap keys, create macros for frequently used expressions or logins, change the language, and more.

With the TextBlade, WayTools can deliver over-the-air updates to keep firmware up to date, something that's not possible with most keyboards. The TextBlade will have more functions six months after it's released than it does today. For example, one upcoming update will add multi-device support, and that update is coming a few weeks after launch.


Bottom Line

You're probably not going to be able to pick up the TextBlade keyboard and type 100 words per minute during your first 10 minutes with it. It will take some time to get used to, and that amount of time will vary by person and by how often the TextBlade is used.

For people who are looking for an all together new typing experience that has the potential to be superior to even a desktop typing experience, spending the amount of time that needs to be invested to learn to type on the TextBlade will be a worthwhile endeavor.

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An impressive amount of engineering and research went into the development of the TextBlade, and it's going to be the smallest, lightest, most portable iOS keyboard available on the market, so people who are looking for the ultimate in portability will also want to take a serious look at the TextBlade.

Price wise, the TextBlade's price point is comparable to or cheaper than some of the premium keyboard options on the market, so if you're in need of a portable option and you're willing to to put in a bit of time to overcome existing muscle memory, the TextBlade is a worthwhile purchase.


Compatibility

The TextBlade works with any device that supports Bluetooth 4.0, from mobile devices to computers. The device's stand is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Air 2. The company is developing an XL stand for heavier devices like the older iPads, but the stand is not a necessary component of the TextBlade -- users can just as easily use an existing stand or cover to prop up an iPad or iPhone.


Release Date

The TextBlade is in production and many of the components are ready to go. The company has made some last minute changes to tweak the butterflies underneath each key to provide an even better, more precise key feel, and once that component upgrade is ready, the TextBlade will ship out to those who have pre-ordered.

WayTools is hosting meet ups next week to give some of its customers who pre-ordered a chance to give the TextBlade a try for themselves before the device ships, so additional opinions and reviews on the device should be available at that time.

WayTools wants to make sure that early adopters of its technology have the absolute best experience with the product. For that reason, if the company makes any changes to the design of the TextBlade in the first year, it will ship out a new version of the device to all previous buyers. Early adopters are also receiving the company's MultiMap customization software for free -- later buyers will need to purchase that separately.


How to Buy

The TextBlade can be pre-ordered from the WayTools website for $99.mf.gif


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Game developers seek Apple Watch event spotlight as major...

Today, 12:30 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Hundreds of iOS developers have been working with Apple in secret Cupertino-based sessions on apps for the Apple Watch, and now we’ve learned that this list includes game developers. According to two sources, multiple “mass market, casual” game developers have been in the running to show off light games on stage during Monday’s “Spring Forward” event in San Francisco. While Apple could end up not showcasing games next week, we’re still told that they are championing the idea of light weight gaming on the Apple Watch. As one source said, “the iOS gaming ecosystem will be well represented on the Apple Watch despite [the simplicity] of the Software Development Kit (SDK)…

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These light weight games are said to be extensions of the full experience on the iPhone, while other games act more like powerful, wrist-worn displays to showcase additional content. For example, we are told that Electronic Arts is working on a WatchKit application for their popular racing game Real Racing 3. The application works in tandem with the iPhone app to display race track progress, competition information, rankings, race results, and countdown timing until the required virtual car repairs during races. EA, notably, demonstrated a racing game at the first iPad event…

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Mailbox for Apple Watch Dribble Concept

In addition to games, we are told that several major developers are working on Watch apps for debut as soon as next week. We’re specifically told that Uber has been working on an app to track the driving progress of their incoming Uber car pickup. People familiar with upcoming applications also say that Mailbox, a popular Dropbox-owned email app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is working to have an Apple Watch app ready for the hardware’s launch. Dating apps for the Apple Watch, like one from Match.com, are also in development. We recently reported that Panera Bread, Salesforce.com, and major hotel chains have WatchKit apps in the wings.

Workflow, a popular task automation app for the iPhone is also coming soon to the Watch, while Things from Cultured Code is in development, as was announced earlier this week. Working with iOS Maps APIs, third-party apps for transit directions are also said to be coming. Of course, as showcased at the Apple Watch event in September, Facebook and Twitter applications for the Apple Watch will also be ready to go. Unsurprisingly, Apple partner-Nike is working on a fitness application for the Apple Watch that works with its offerings on the iPhone. 1800Contacts is finishing up an app that allows users to order new lenses from their wrist.

Earlier today we revealed additional details about the Apple Watch, including a new Heart Rate Glance feature, an enhancement for reserving battery power, and new details about the device’s customizability. Apple will discuss more details about the Apple Watch’s capabilities, pricing, and launch information on Monday. Apple has been seeking full control of the WatchKit app message, so it’s likely that apps will be a focal point of the keynote. We’ll have full coverage of the 10 AM PST/1 PM EST event, so stay tuned.


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'Reserve Strap' Plans to Charge the Apple Watch o...

Yesterday, 11:03 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
Following an afternoon of discussion on the recharge rate and battery life of the Apple Watch, third-party developers Lane Musgrave and John Arrow today revealed the "Reserve Strap", which will allow users to charge their Apple Watch while wearing it on their wrist.

The device consists of a silicone band with embedded lithium polymer cells and an inductive charging cradle that will hold the Apple Watch, resulting in a 125 percent battery life increase over the basic life of the Apple Watch, according to the company.

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The Reserve Band will charge the Watch "similar to the new MagSafe wall charger for the Apple Watch", thanks to a few batteries embedded within the device using magnetic inductive charging. Musgrave notes that while they "don’t have hard numbers yet", their current testing leaves them to believe their claim to a 125 percent increase in battery is close to the mark.

The case looks slickly designed, especially considering the amount of power the two are saying hides within the silicone band, but perhaps the biggest cause for concern lies in the possibility for obstruction of the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor.

Recent news only underlines the sensor's extreme importance in making contact with a user's skin, but Musgrave remains optimistic that their product will meet all the standard expectations when using the Apple Watch in conjunction with their new device.


Since we haven't been able to test anything on the actual device, it's really hard to say whether we'll be able to prevent interference with the sensors on the back. We won't be able to know for sure until we're able to test on the real thing but it's certainly a priority for our product.

Although it's not yet up and running, a Kickstarter is planned for the Reserve Strap. Those interested in pre-ordering the accessory now can do so for $249.99 from Reserve Strap's official website, though no official release date has been set. Musgrave and Arrow reiterate on their website that the first shipment of bands will be "extremely limited" due to the funding of the nascent project coming entirely out of their own pockets.mf.gif


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Apple Retail looks to get a better understanding of its c...

Yesterday, 10:25 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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In order to further personalize the Apple Watch sales experience, Apple is positioning its retail employees to learn more about its customers in order to help them make an even better Apple Watch purchasing decision. Apple today sent a memo to retail employees that summarizes feedback from 16 retail store employees who helped show off the Watch during Paris Fashion Week at Parisian boutique Colette in September 2014. The most notable piece of advice:

 Helping customers buy a watch means you need to understand them more. You need to know about their life, their activities, and [needs]… Be prepared to ask permission to interact closely with people.

While this statement may seem like Apple wants its employees to get overly personal with potential Apple Watch customers, some of these questions are appropriate in light of the Apple Watch’s feature set. Depending on these answers, employees will be able to better steer customers toward different Apple Watch collections. For example, a person focused on outdoor activities may want the Sport version, while someone constantly at high-profile events may want a stainless steel or gold model…

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This advice to all retail employees from those with hands on Apple Watch sales experience falls in-line with our reporting on Apple’s official Apple Watch sales materials from earlier this month. According to our earlier report, Apple retail employees will ask customers about strap preferences, upgrading to newer iPhone models, and about where they intend to use/wear the Apple Watch.

Among the other words of advice in the memo, Apple is preparing staff to answer questions on Apple Pay, device compatibility, the Taptic Engine, and various technical specifications. Earlier today, we revealed several yet-to-be-announced Apple Watch features such as more details on battery life management, a new health feature for determining the user’s heart rate, and more information about daily usage details. 

We can expect to hear a lot more about the Apple Watch’s third-party applications, pricing, availability and more at Apple’s Spring Forward event on Monday, but until then you can check out our round up of what we expect Apple to announce.


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Apple Watch battery life will be better than expected

Yesterday, 10:23 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
Apple has been very quiet about the Apple Watch’s battery life since the device’s unveiling in September. Reports that the wearable might run out of juice after just 2.5 hours of heavy use have worried many Apple fans, but according<span class="ellipsis">…</span><div class="read-more"><a href="http://www.cultofmac...expected/">Readmore ›</a></div><img width='1' height='1' src='http://cultofmac.com.feedsportal.com/c/33797/f/606249/s/44202dd8/sc/23/mf.gif' border='0'/><br clear='all'/><br/><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/1/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/1/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/2/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/2/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/3/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/rc/3/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/a2.htm"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/a2.img" border="0"/></a><img width="1" height="1" src="http://pi.feedsportal.com/r/222166903773/u/3/f/606249/c/33797/s/44202dd8/sc/23/a2t.img" border="0"/>

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Apple Watch Takes Two Hours to Charge, Only Delivers Noti...

Yesterday, 08:42 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
notifications_large-250x230.jpgApple Watch will take approximately two hours to fully charge and deliver all-day battery life with normal on-and-off usage, according to TechCrunch. Those estimates corroborate a previous report that also claimed the Apple Watch will deliver all-day battery life and support up to five hours of heavy usage per charge.

The report also claims that the Apple Watch will only deliver notifications while worn on the wrist. The smartwatch will not ping you for notifications without being in contact with skin so that the device is not disruptive at unnecessary times. Apple Watch will also stop delivering notifications when the battery reaches 10% or lower in an effort to conserve the remaining power.

"Here’s a tidbit you might not know — in order to receive notifications from apps, the Watch must be on your wrist and locked. They require contact with your skin. There will be no in-app dropdown notifications or constant pinging while it’s off your wrist. Push notifications also cease when the battery reaches 10 percent. Those decisions speak to the care with which Apple is handling notifications."

Apple continues to tweak Digital Crown on the Apple Watch, giving the button a "weightier, higher-end feel." Pressing and holding down the Digital Crown activates Siri, which the report claims works well and can be used for labeling, directions and commands using a paired iPhone. The goal of the Apple Watch, the report describes, is to return some of your attention away from your smartphone by allowing you to communicate from your wrist on the go.

While both reports this afternoon have provided a closer look at the Apple Watch, there are still several question marks surrounding the wrist-worn device. That will change in less than three days, when Apple provides more details about the Apple Watch at its highly-anticipated "Spring Forward" media event in San Francisco. The keynote begins on Monday at 10 AM Pacific and MacRumors will be providing live coverage of the event.mf.gif


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Apple Watch pricing, availability, surprises & more,...

Yesterday, 08:33 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
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Apple’s “Spring Forward” event is scheduled for Monday, March 9th and we’re already getting prepared to bring you live coverage and last minute leaks leading up to the event. What can you expect at the event? Below we’ve put together our list of likely announcements including some unannounced Apple Watch features and possible surprises…

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Watch Pricing & Availability |

Get your credit cards ready, Apple will likely give us more on pricing and availability for the Apple Watch and could even give details on preorders.

applewatch-1.jpg?w=704&h=284The biggest question on everyone’s mind: How much will the 18k gold Apple Watch Edition cost? We know the Apple Watch lineup will start at $349, and most expect that represents pricing for the Sport model, but otherwise we’ve yet to get anything official on pricing beyond that.

A poll of 9to5Mac readersshowed nearly 80% of people think Apple’s 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition will cost under $4500, while only 16% expect it to cost between $5000-$10,000, and 3.8% expect a price tag over $10,000. The jewelry experts are expecting a price tag slightly higher than the $4500 mark. 

Apple might also give us some info on changes it’s making to the retail experience for Apple Watch and how customers will be able to try on the device in stores and purchase online. It’s possible some models might be harder to find than others and there have been rumors that the gold model could have its own special sales/buying experience.

New Watch features |

There are a lot of Apple Watch features, both software and hardware, that Apple hasn’t yet highlighted in detail. We just told you about a few of them: Power Reserve mode, storage capacity, Heart Rate Glance, and more.

applewatchbattery.jpg?w=704&h=375

You can expect Apple to talk about some of these features with Power Reserve features likely a given due to worries of poor battery life for the device. We’d also hope to get more on final hardware specs and a look at apps from partners. Apple just started asking developers to not share their app announcements, so it’s likely Apple has some time allotted for showing off third-party apps.

Watch Accessories |

We reported that Apple plans to sell its own straps separately alongside the Apple Watch, so it’s more than possible Apple will give some stage time for Watch accessory announcements.

apple-watch-strap-011.png?w=704&h=375

We don’t know if Apple plans anything for third-party accessories or anything beyond just basic straps, but its event Monday will certainly be a good place to show off anything it might have planned for launch. There has been speculation regarding the possibility of a smart straps platform similar to what Pebble just announced with its new wearable.

iOS 8.2 |

We’ll likely hear a mention of iOS 8.2, the software update to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, as it’s on track to be released next week after several beta builds.

iphone6_pf_spgry_5-up_ios8-print.png?w=7

The Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or higher, and iOS 8.2 adds support to the iPhone for pairing and communicating with the Apple Watch. iOS 8.2 also introduces WatchKit, the framework used to add Apple Watch apps to existing iPhone apps.

Because the Apple Watch will require the iPhone to have this software version, Apple will likely want to distribute the update without any issues well before the Apple Watch goes on sale.

The update also adds new and previously available information to the existing Health app on iOS 8. A minor update to the Apple TV 3 software has also been in testing.

Companion + Fitness Apps |

In addition enhancing the built-in Health app on iOS 8, we may see a couple of new apps show up next week.

companion-1.jpg?w=79&h=130companion-0.jpg?w=76&h=130

As we reported earlier this year, a Companion app on the iPhone that we previously revealed is used to manage many of the settings on the Apple Watch. The Companion app features controls for accessibility options and different Watch behaviors, and an unannounced monogram feature allows you to create a customized watch face with your initials.

screen-shot-2015-03-06-at-1-52-33-pm.png

While Apple has not yet shown off the Companion app that we highlighted, it did reveal another iPhone app when it first demoed the Apple Watch. A new app called Fitness will interface with the Apple Watch’s own Fitness app and functionality to provide an overview of your activity and workout routines.

Apple Pay |

Apple Pay officially launched in October and has steadily expanded in the US, but with the feature a perfect way of highlighting the convenience of Apple Watch, it won’t be surprising if Apple gives us an update on the payments service. Apple just updated its Apple Pay website to further highlight Apple Watch integration.

screen-shot-2015-02-17-at-2-25-24-pm.png

Tim Cook said Apple Watch would be available outside of the US in April, so an expansion of Apple Pay would also make a lot of sense. We reported back in January that Canadian partners were prepping for an Apple Pay launch that could happen as early as March and other reports said Apple was targeting a similar timeframe to launch in the UK and other countries.

At the very least Tim Cook has a lot of Apple Pay growth to mention if he runs over his usual company stats: As of this month the company is now at over 100 banks and credit unions in the US and growing.

MacBook |

Rumors of early 2015 updates to the MacBook Air have persisted for months, and based on a seemingly authentic spec leak for an updated 13″ model, it’s quite possible that Apple will update the Air with improved Intel Broadwell CPUs, graphics, and battery life either during or shortly after the Monday event. An as-of-yet-unconfirmed report from Japan has suggested that Apple may also update the 13″ MacBook Pro with Broadwell CPUs at the same time.

macbook-air-gallery1-2014-e1417799911850

Similarly, reports have differed on whether Apple will debut the radically thinner 12″ MacBook Air exclusively profiled by 9to5Mac during this event. The Wall Street Journal suggests that it could be announced as early as Monday, but the announcement could take place closer to the middle of 2015.

A Muse performance?

Word around the Muse fan blog world is a possible performance at Apple’s event on Monday, which wouldn’t be a huge shocker given Apple often hosts big name rock bands at its event. U2 was a big hit with everyone last time around.

muse-rumor-apple-01.png?w=704&h=263

The rumor seems to originate with the image tweet pictured above from Muse frontman Matt Bellamy. It could just be a nice send off for BBC DJ Zane Lowe, who just accepted a new gig at Apple. But some think the hint at meeting with Jimmy Iovine could mean Muse is on their way to the Apple event in California.

Check out the latest 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast to hear  more on our predictions for Monday’s event.
Filed under: AAPL Company, Apple Watch, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: Accessories, Apple pay, Apple watch, availability, livestream, March 9, Muse, pricing, Spring forward 368140 368140 368140 368140 368140 368140 368140 b.gif?host=9to5mac.com&blog=22754319&pos

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Apple planning iPad in education improvements, removing A...

Yesterday, 08:06 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

kids-steve-jobs-school-ipad-01.jpg?w=704

Update: Here’s the full letter, which we received following the original report and confirmed is legit. It appears to be an email sent out to Apple’s education partners:

In iPad one-to-one environments, schools are seeing more engaged students, better attendance, and higher test results. You can see this happening in districts and schools like Prince George’s County, and Essa Academy.

We understand that some schools are not able to give every student an iPad and are sharing devices across classes and students. We want to make learning with a shared iPad a great experience for these students as well as their teachers and administrators.  We are already at work on significant changes to App distribution, Apple ID, and Apple Deployment Programs that we are planning to deliver next year to make using iPad in the classroom even better.

To simplify large deployments, including one-to-one and shared use, we want to make app distribution even easier. Today, Apple IDs are required in order to deliver apps and books to students. We are working to change this in the fall by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID. As currently planned, this will greatly reduce the number of steps needed to setup a device.

This change should eliminate the need to create generic Apple IDs solely for the purposes of getting content onto iPad. Schools will also have the option to prevent students from making personal purchases without approval.

We realize the complexity of obtaining parental consent for Apple ID for students under 13 can be a challenge, especially in large districts. We are working to change the Apple ID for Students program in 2016 – during the upcoming school year. With these planned changes schools will have the ability to create and manage Apple IDs on behalf of students that can be configured to access iCloud. It will also allow system administrators to reset student passwords. And, the new approach will still meet COPPA requirements.

We are improving the Apple Deployment Programs by unifying individual services into one program, simplifying the administrator experience. This will make it far easier to enroll, manage, and support a large deployment—and reduce many of the steps schools have to go through to get setup.

Today iPad is engaging students in their learning in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Alongside inspiring leaders, innovative teachers and engaged communities, we believe iPad is the best device for any student, grade and level. We will work to make it easy to get iPads into the hands of all students and teachers. The feedback we receive helps guide what we need to do to get there.

Apple is reportedly planning to improve the process of loading apps onto iPads for its education customers by allowing students to install software without using an Apple ID, according to MacRumors.

Below is a snippet of an email allegedly sent by Apple:

To simplify large deployments, including one-to-one and shared use, we want to make app distribution even easier. Today, Apple IDs are required in order to deliver apps and books to students. We are working to change this in the fall by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID. As currently planned, this will greatly reduce the number of steps needed to setup a device. This change should eliminate the need to create generic Apple IDs solely for the purposes of getting content onto iPad. Schools will also have the option to prevent students from making personal purchases without approval.

Other changes on the way for education customers according to the report: Apple will allow educators to create Apple IDs for students to allow access to iCloud and as well as unify parts of the program to improve the experience.

In the past, Apple has attempted to improve its iPad for Education programby allowing special Apple IDs for students under 13-years-old and adding remote configuration options for IT administrators.

Apple also participates in the ConnectED education program offering a combination of Macs, iPads, and Apple TVs to over 100 schools across the United States.


Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS Devices Tagged: iPad, iPad in education 368153 368153 368153 368153 368153 368153 368153 b.gif?host=9to5mac.com&blog=22754319&pos

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MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Pad & Quill Messenger Bag [...

Yesterday, 08:03 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
For our second giveaway here at MacRumors, we've partnered with <a href="http://www.padandquill.com">Pad& Quill</a>, the maker of premium MacBook, iPhone, and iPad cases along with other accessories. Pad & Quill is graciously offering <a href="http://www.padandquill.com/the-messenger-bag.html">The Messenger Bag</a> as our prize for this giveaway. <br/> <br/> The Messenger Bag is made of leather and waxed canvas and features a padded laptop pocket that will fit a 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina and a 25-year leather warranty. The Messenger Bag retails for $369. <br/> <br/> <img src="http://cdn.macrumors.com/article-new/2015/03/padandquill-messenger-800x561.jpeg" alt="padandquill-messenger" width="800" height="561" class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-441106" /> <br/> <br/> To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below. You can also earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, following MacRumors on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page. You must be <strong>age 18 or older and located in the United States</strong> to enter. <br/> <br/> <a class="rcptr" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/32e385013/" rel="nofollow" data-raflid="32e385013" data-theme="classic" data-template="54da49a5b58b3718156e1a65" id="rcwidget_w0sm8ugs">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a> <br/> <script src="//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js"></script> <br/> <br/> This contest will run from today (March 6) at 12:00 pm Pacific time through 12:00 pm Pacific time on March 13. The winner will be chosen randomly on March 13 and will be contacted by email. The winner has 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address. The Messenger Bag will be shipped to the winner for free. <br/> <br/> <a href="http://www.padandquill.com">Pad & Quill</a> is also offering a coupon code to MacRumors readers that will take 10% off all orders through Pad & Quill's site for a limited time. MacRumors readers should enter coupon code <strong>MRM15</strong> at checkout to get the discount.<img width='1' height='1' src='http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/35070/f/648326/s/441f8d78/sc/4/mf.gif' border='0'/><br clear='all'/><br/><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/1/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/1/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/2/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/2/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/3/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/rc/3/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/a2.htm"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/a2.img" border="0"/></a><img width="1" height="1" src="http://pi.feedsportal.com/r/222166908501/u/49/f/648326/c/35070/s/441f8d78/sc/4/a2t.img" border="0"/><div class="feedflare">
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Apple Overhauling iPad for Education Program to Simplify...

Yesterday, 07:30 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
Apple will be making significant changes to iPad deployment for education during the upcoming school year that should eliminate some of the hurdles that school districts face when adopting iPads for use in the classroom. In an email obtained by MacRumors, the company outlines plans to make app distribution easier by eliminating the need for an Apple ID to load apps, tweaking the Apple ID for Students program and unifying several deployment programs into one.

iPad-Education.jpg
Apple plans to simplify app distribution by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID this fall, reducing the number of steps needed to set up an iPad. Schools will no longer be required to create generic Apple IDs solely to load content on the tablet, and teachers and administrators will have the option to block students from making personal purchases without approval.

"To simplify large deployments, including one-to-one and shared use, we want to make app distribution even easier. Today, Apple IDs are required in order to deliver apps and books to students. We are working to change this in the fall by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID. As currently planned, this will greatly reduce the number of steps needed to setup a device. This change should eliminate the need to create generic Apple IDs solely for the purposes of getting content onto iPad. Schools will also have the option to prevent students from making personal purchases without approval."

The email also outlines changes to the Apple ID for Students program to roll out during 2016, including schools gaining the ability to create and manage Apple IDs for students that can be used to access iCloud. System administrators will also be able to reset student passwords. The new approach will continue to meet COPPA requirements for children's online privacy in the United States.

Apple will also be improving its Apple Deployment Programs by unifying several programs into one for a simplified administrative experience, making it easier for school districts to enroll, manage, and support large iPad deployments. Apple hopes the changes will continue to result in increased student engagement, better attendance and higher test results at all grades and levels of education.mf.gif


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