Facebook Portal to become Echo competitor

Alex Heath writing for Cheddar:

Facebook is about to jump into the consumer hardware business in a big way with a video chat device named “Portal,” which will put it in direct competition with Amazon’s hugely popular line of Echo voice-controlled devices, Cheddar has learned.

The device is designed to work in the home and represents Facebook’s first serious foray into selling consumer hardware, people familiar with the matter said. Rather than position the device as a smart assistant akin to Amazon’s Echo speakers, Facebook intends to pitch Portal as a way for families and friends to stay connected through video chatting and other social features.

I’m sure people, especially in Germany, will have some feelings about Facebook selling a device with a camera and phone for your home. Then again, people are for some reason buying Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. Despite being around one of the Echo devices and watching people interact with it on a daily basis, I still fail to see why I’d want one of these.

99% of the things they are used for can even be done with Siri on your wrist or phone. Free bonus: you won’t become the product in the process.

Temporarily fix the macOS High Sierra bug that gives full admin access

Using macOS High Sierra? Make sure to give your root user a password, because of this serious security issue:

Update: Check the Mac App Store for Apple’s official fix. It’s being automatically pushed to your Mac as well.

Comparing the dual lens system on iPhone X and iPhone 7 Plus

Dan Provost compared the camera systems in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X:

I created a test to hopefully get a rough idea of how much light is required before an iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X decide to switch to their respective telephoto lenses in 2X mode. I placed an object (in this case, an old Rolleiflex camera) on a white backdrop, and flanked it on both sides with two LED studio lights. I set up the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X on tripods (using the Glif, natch) and positioned them to keep the framing as similar as possible. Then, starting from a completely dark room, I slowly raised the light levels and observed when the lens switched on each camera.

Dan shows the comparison of the two devices in a short video.

The limitations of Face ID

Rene Ritchie put together a list of things Face ID currently has issues with:

There’s been so much effusion and so much FUD written about Face ID, Apple’s new biometric facial identity sensor — for iPhone X that it’s been hard to sort fact from fiction. Apple did a pretty good job setting expectations at the September event but there’s never enough time to cover everything.

Using gestures in Apple Maps to zoom in and out

Dave Mark writing for The Loop:

I love this tip. Here’s how to do it:
– Bring up Apple Maps.
– Double-tap in the map, but on the second tap, don’t lift your finger. So tap-lift-tap-leave.
– Now [with the finger still down] slide up or down to zoom in and out.

As Dave notes Google Maps supports the same gesture. It actually has supported this for ages and I always found myself trying to do this in Apple Maps. With iOS 11 I was happy to find out it finally works the same. Well, I should rather say works similar, because the directions are flipped on Google Maps: move your finger up to zoom out and down to zoom in.

Backup and Restore: Fusion Drive and the macOS High Sierra Beta

If you’ve been using the macOS High Sierra Beta on a Mac with a Fusion Drive you’ll want to pay attention to Apple’s announcement and instructions:

Beta versions of macOS High Sierra made a change in the disk format of systems by converting them to use the new Apple File System. The initial release of macOS High Sierra will provide support for the new Apple File System as the default boot filesystem on Mac systems with all-Flash built-in storage. If you installed a beta version of macOS High Sierra, the Fusion Drive in your Mac may have been converted to Apple File System. Because this configuration is not supported in the initial release of macOS High Sierra, we recommend that you follow the steps below to revert back to the previous disk format.

In other words, you’ll have to back up your Mac, format your drive, reinstall the final version of High Sierra and restore your data.

Apple plans to release a cellular Apple Watch

Mark Gurman writing for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Adding to this is John Gruber:

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be. No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

New Apple Watch in a new design and at least one model with a cellular connection. I guess T-Mobile’s old 200 MB for lifetime plan would be a good match for this – if it still was around for new customers. Although I’m not sure how much data you’d need on a Watch? I guess streaming Apple Music to the wrist is a feature that could potentially require a lot of data. Let’s hope more carriers will offer pools of data with existing device plans.

I assume, given the limited space, that Apple will ship it with an embedded, non-removable SIM. Which means that at least AT&T customers should be aware that their carrier might decide to permanently bind that SIM to themselves, just like they did on iPads with Apple SIM.

Apples 10,5″ iPad in numbers

Dan Provost on why Apple would release a 10.5″ iPad:

This new 10.5″ iPad would have the exact same resolution as the 12.9″ iPad Pro (2732 x 2048), but the same pixel density of the iPad mini (326 ppi instead of 264 ppi). Crunch the numbers, do a little Pythagorean Theorem, and you end up with a screen 10.5″ diagonal (10.47″ to be precise, but none of Apple’s stated screen sizes are exact). In terms of physcial dimensions, the width of this 10.5″ screen would be exactly the same as the height of the iPad mini screen.

MacBook Pro battery life: Apple responds to Consumer Reports

Apple responded to iMore after finding some issues with their battery test setup:

„We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results,” Apple told iMore. „We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro.”