For the first time in several years, Apple is changing up its annual iOS and OS X upgrade cycle by limiting new feature additions in favor of a “big focus on quality,” according to multiple sources familiar with the company’s operating system development plans. We first reported in February that iOS 9, codenamed “Monarch,” would heavily feature under-the-hood optimizations, and we’ve now learned that Apple is taking the same approach with OS X 10.11, codenamed “Gala.” Sources have revealed additional new details on how Apple will optimize the new operating systems for improved stability and performance, add several new security features, and make important changes to its Swift programming tools for developers…
According to sources within Apple’s software development departments, Apple engineers have been pushing executives for a Snow Leopard-style stability focus in 2015, following numerous bugs that clouded the launches of both iOS and OS X. Apple directors reportedly opposed a complete pause on new features, but agreed to focus on quality assurance by holding back some features that were initially planned for the latest operating system launches. One source explained, “I wouldn’t say there’s nothing new for consumers, but the feature lists are more stripped down than the initial plans called for.”
New Features For iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
Apple’s broader and deeper quality assurance testing includes stricter stability and polish guarantees before new features are officially added to iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. We reported that iOS 9 is expected to include the Apple Watch’s new San Francisco typeface as its system-wide font, while a new Home application for managing HomeKit devices, split-screen iPad app views, and an upgraded Apple Maps application with mass transit directions are also in the cards. As for OS X 10.11, we are told that Apple has realized that annually adding new features to the mature Mac operating system is more challenging than with iOS, so 10.11’s upgrade list may be slimmer than iOS 9’s.
But that does not mean OS X 10.11 will be feature-less: we’re told that the new operating system will have system-wide interface tweaks to continue the work done in OS X Yosemite, as well as the San Francisco font from the Apple Watch and iOS 9. Additionally, Control Center has been planned for inclusion in OS X 10.11, after appearing in some early beta seeds of last year’s OS X Yosemite, only to be left out of the final release. Control Center moves many of the controls from the Mac’s Menu Bar to a pane that slides out from the left side of the Mac’s display, adding on-screen music controls and other iOS-influenced features. However, Control Center reportedly has been in flux during development, and could be pushed back again.
Security Upgrades – Rootless, iCloud Drive + Trusted Wi-Fi
Marquee features aside, Apple has been working on significant enhancements to the security fundamentals of both operating systems, ranging from a major new initiative called “Rootless,” re-architected Apple apps with iCloud Drive file encryption, and a new feature called “Trusted Wi-Fi.”
Sources within Apple are particularly enthusiastic about a new security system called Rootless, which is being described internally as a “huge,” kernel-level feature for both OS X and iOS. To prevent malware, increase the safety of extensions, and preserve the security of sensitive data, Rootless will prevent even administrative-level users from being able to access certain protected files on Apple devices. Sources say that Rootless will be a heavy blow to the jailbreak community on iOS, though it can supposedly be disabled on OS X. Even with this Rootless feature coming to OS X, sources say that the standard Finder-based file system is not going away this year.
In order to make its syncing apps more secure for consumers, Apple is in the process of converting many of its core applications to an iCloud Drive back end. Currently, Apple applications such as Notes, Reminders, and Calendar utilize an IMAP-based back end for syncing content across devices, whether you’re using an iCloud, Gmail, or Yahoo account.
With iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, Apple plans to transition this sync process to iCloud Drive, which offers better end-to-end encryption and faster syncing than traditional IMAP servers. As an example of how this will work, when a user launches Notes in either of the new Apple operating systems, a splash page offering to move content from the IMAP server over to iCloud Drive will appear, making the transition easy for users.
The promotion of iCloud Drive will also likely pull some users away from competitors, and move them over to Apple’s cloud services. According to sources, Apple is also upgrading its iCloud Drive and CloudKit servers to sustain the expected uptick in usage when more core applications move to a pure iCloud foundation. A dedicated iCloud Drive app to view files has also been developed, but it may remain for internal use only.
Last on the security front, we are told that a new feature dubbed “Trusted Wi-Fi” is in development for release as soon as later this year, but that it could be pushed back to next year’s iOS and OS X releases. Trusted Wi-Fi would allow Macs and iOS devices to connect to authorized wireless routers without additional security measures, but would instate a more heavily encrypted wireless connection for non-trusted routers. Apple has been testing its own apps and third-party apps to ensure that they will still work over various wireless networks with this feature enabled.
Older Device Optimization – Good News for iPhone 4S + iPad mini
While some users of older iOS devices have speculated that Apple’s recent operating systems were built to encourage the purchase of new phones and tablets, the company has actually been working on ways to make legacy iPhones and iPads more efficient while running the upcoming iOS 9.
In what will come as a surprise to many people, our sources note that even A5-based Apple devices, including the original iPad mini and discontinued iPhone 4S, will be able to run iOS 9. In order to avoid the sluggishness and bugginess that was most notably seen in iOS 7 for the iPhone 4, Apple has restructured its software engineering process to better support older hardware.
Instead of developing a feature-complete version of iOS 9 for older hardware and then removing a handful of features that do not perform well during testing, Apple is now building a core version of iOS 9 that runs efficiently on older A5 devices, then enabling each properly performing feature one-by-one. Thanks to this new approach, an entire generation (or two) of iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches will be iOS 9-compatible rather than reaching the end of the iOS line.
Swift 2.0 + Smaller App Sizes
Besides re-organizing its development process to improve older iOS hardware, Apple is preparing a major upgrade to its Swift programming language. Swift was first introduced at the 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, and the new version will benefit both developers and users.
Since Swift is still evolving as a development language, Apple previously did not include Swift programming “code libraries” within iOS. For this reason, developers who choose to write App Store apps with Swift must include the code libraries inside each of their apps. Consequently, App Store applications written in Swift carry approximately 8MB of additional code, and the more Swift apps you have, the more storage space you lose to code library copies.
With iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, we are told that this will change: Swift is planned to reach what is known as “Application Binary Interface (ABI) stability,” and its code libraries will therefore be pre-installed within the new iOS and Mac operating systems. This means that Swift applications updated for iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 will require less space and consume less data when downloaded over a cellular connection. Users with lower-capacity iPhones and iPads or non-unlimited cellular data plans will see at least small improvements over time.
While Swift is planned to reach ABI stability in version 2.0 at WWDC 2015, Apple will apparently not ship Swift versions of its own iOS and OS X applications this year. Instead, we are told that Apple currently plans to convert its own apps over to Swift in 2016 via iOS 10 and OS X 10.12, unless unforeseen roadblocks emerge over the next year.
Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: iCloud Drive, iOS 9, OS X 10.11, Rootless, Swift, Trusted Wi-Fi
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Now you can start playing 9to5Mac’s Happy Hour podcast from your Apple Watch
Watch OS 1.0 (and 1.0.1) decidedly omits certain iPhone apps like Podcasts and Reminders from the Apple Watch, leaving third-party apps to fill these spaces for users. Today a new version of Instacast for iPhone was released, adding an Apple Watch app with a Now Playing Glance, playback from notifications, and more as a free addition in the update.
While it doesn’t bring iTunes-based podcast management and playback to the Apple Watch, the alternative podcast player does support syncing between iPhone, iPad, and Mac versions of Instacast. Now you can control iPhone podcast playback from Apple Watch with these features:
+ Now Playing Glance
+ Grey progress bar means app is not running or audio is not loaded
+ White progress bar means app is running and audio is loaded
+ Play/Pause, Skip Backward, Skip Forward
+ ‘Unplayed’ episode list (can be reconfigured on the Phone)
+ Switch episodes from ‘Unplayed’ list
+ Force touch to get chapter list and skip chapters
+ Also force touch to get to Speed and Timer playback options
Instacast on Apple Watch has been one of the apps I spend a lot of time with as you can see in my review earlier this week with a beta version of the app present.
While you can’t yet download podcasts to Apple Watch for playback with Bluetooth headphones or speakers (WatchKit-based apps don’t allow this, maybe in the future with a real SDK), the ability to start playing a podcast on my iPhone from a notification on Apple Watch is really convenient.
Overcast is another popular podcast client with an Apple Watch app, but its current lack of streaming in favor of smart speed features prevents adding a play button on the alert. You can also start a podcast from Apple’s built-in Podcasts app on iPhone, then control playback from the Now Playing Glance on Apple Watch, but you won’t be able to navigate to other episodes or play from a notification.
Instacast for iPhone is available for free on the App Storewith 99¢ in-app purchases for both search and dark mode features, now with Apple Watch support added for free.
Filed under: Apple Watch, Apps Tagged: Apple watch, Instacast, Podcasts
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Daily Apple Watch order estimates in U.S. (first-day orders of nearly 1.5 million omitted)
As Quartz points out, the Apple Watch saw a notable rise in order interest on April 24, the day most initial Apple Watch pre-orders that weren't high in demand, like the Leather Loop or Black Sport band, began arriving to customers. Social media posts and word of mouth that day no doubt helped Apple receieve a few extra orders, and it reaches back up to around 40,000 on a few days in April and May, but otherwise Apple's new wearable has seen a steady decline in order numbers since its launch date, according to the e-commerce shopping firm.
Even with the steep decline following the start of pre-orders, Apple Watch sales are easily outpacing early sales of the iPod and iPhone, and slightly topping those of the iPad, although Apple's continually increasing user base since the debut of those devices gives the company momentum for each subsequent product family launch.
Slice Intelligence's Apple Watch update today comes a few weeks after providing a break down of initial pre-orders for the wearable, which pegged 62 percent of customers as having pre-ordered the Apple Watch Sport and an unexpected popularity of the Space Gray case and Black Sport band. As with that data, a few factors should be taken into account when looking at Slice Intelligence's order estimates, including its data being limited to the United States and the relatively small pool of customer receipts examined.
Today's report also falls in line with KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's prediction of the Apple Watch order demand beginning to slow down following a high launch period. Although Apple has yet to announced any sales numbers for the Apple Watch and doesn't plan to break the device out into its own reporting segment in financial results, the Apple Watch's entry into the company's upcoming brick-and-mortar retail locations in June could help boost the wearable's sales figures.
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Slice Intelligence, which monitors purchase receipts in the email inboxes of a panel of two million online shoppers, has published a chart showing that the majority of Apple Watch orders were placed on the first day of pre-orders, and have since fallen to far smaller numbers than some analysts have predicted.
Quartz tech editor Dan Frommer notes that while the company’s data shows that almost 1.5 million U.S. orders were placed on day one (up from its initial estimate of one million), subsequent orders have typically been running at under 30,000 per day – compared to the 100,000 per day globally needed to meet some predictions …
It could even be said that Apple Watch sales fell dramatically after the first hour, a separate chart posted by the company on its own website showing that 800,000 orders – more than half of the first day’s total – were placed within an hour of online presales opening.
KGI significantly lowered its own sales forecast a couple of days ago, cutting its estimates by 20-30% to 5-6 million units in the third quarter. Slice did not reveal model breakdowns, but our own unscientific poll of more than 17,000 readers showed the Sport in Space Gray to be the most popular model, accounting for 40% of sales, followed by the Apple Watch in silver, the Sport in silver and the Apple Watch in Space Black.
There are, though, a number of things to note here. First, Slice’s data represents U.S. sales only, while the watch is on sale in eight other countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan.
Second, as Frommer notes, Apple appears to have sold more than two million Apple Watches in one country in less than a month, compared to several months to sell as many iPhones and more than two years to sell two million units of the product that changed Apple’s fortunes: the iPod. This is a successful product launch by any standard.
Also likely significant is the fact that you can’t yet walk into an Apple retail store and buy a watch. While the type of tech enthusiasts who were waiting impatiently for Apple to release the watch may have been happy to order online, sight unseen, that isn’t going to be true of most ordinary people. And this product, more than any other that Apple has ever made, has been targeted at the mass market, with coverage in fashion magazines and product placement with celebrities.
But Apple, more than most companies, sees its performance judged not by any rational measure of success, but by comparison with sometimes hyped expectations. Don’t be surprised to read a few ‘Apple is doomed’ posts based on these numbers …
Filed under: AAPL Company, Apple Watch Tagged: Apple watch, Apple Watch sales, iPhone, iPod, Slice Intelligence
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The timing for the launch of Apple’s planned web-based TV service may depend on if and when the company can secure the rights to include content from local TV stations, Re/code reports. While Apple has been believed to be working on service that bundles access to a handful of channels delivered over the Internet, the new report claims that Apple wants to include live local programming from TV stations to both broaden the appeal of the service — especially with cord cutters — and satisfy industry executives…
Earlier this week, we reported that Apple is readying its TVKit SDK that will allow developers to create apps for the upcoming Apple TV for the first time without requiring direct cooperation from Apple. Apple TV as a platform for new apps is believed to debut alongside new Apple TV hardware for the first time in several years, including a redesigned remote controland Siri integration with the set-top box as we’ve reported.
We also mentioned in our earlier report this week that the new Apple TV hardware will likely debut without the rumored web TV service in place while earlier reports have suggested the service bundle could be announced in June ahead of a September launch.
Today’s report, however, claims that Apple’s TV service may not be ready in time for even a fall launch, and that ” industry executives” believe no deals have yet been signed, making an announcement next month unlikely. As we recently reported, the new Apple TV hardware is expected to ship with the current content model.
That current model includes local programming from certain channels like ABC in select markets for cable subscribers, but access isn’t nearly as universal as it is through traditional cable without using Apple’s box.
Apple’s WWDC kicks off next month on June 8th where the Apple TV is expected to take part of the spotlight, and we’ll have extensive coverage of the news out of the event.
Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple TV, local channels, TV service, web tv, WWDC
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