Apple Watch Learns Runners' Strides Over Time, Becoming More Independent From iPhone

After talking with Tim Cook onstage at the March 9 "Spring Forward" media event, model Christy Turlington Burns has kept a weekly blog on Apple's official website with updates on her preparations for the London Marathon next month.

In this week's post, Burns mentions in passing that the Watch will not only learn a user's stride after a few exercises when paired with an iPhone, after a while the Watch will be able to act independently in tracking fitness-related stats without needing to be tethered to an iPhone at all (via MacObserver).

Turlington Apple Watch
Burns shows off the ease of exchanging Apple Watch bands in this week's blog post

The post, titled "The Art of Vacation Training", finds Burns on a bit of a break from her usual training regimen while on vacation with her family in the Caribbean. Still finding time to put in a 14-mile run in one day, Burns discusses how her personal Apple Watch has since learned her stride and speed, the Watch becoming less reliant on the iPhone in the fitness-tracking departments the more she uses it.
I switched up my runs between the treadmill at the hotel gym and outside. After you run with Apple Watch and your iPhone a few times, the Workout app knows more about your stride. So you can run on a treadmill or outside without your phone and still get a really accurate workout summary.
Apple's presentation of the device, ever since its reveal last September, has been of a Watch in nearly constant need of contact with an iPhone. Although Burns' blog post only appears to confirm the Watch's fitness-focused apps can sufficiently work sans iPhone, it's still an interesting piece of information, especially for users planning to use the wearable as a sole workout device.

Check out the rest of Burns' blog post, and her earlier entries, on Apple's official website.

Related roundup: Apple Watch

Twitter Launches Live-Streaming iOS App 'Periscope'

After acquiring live-streaming video service Periscope back in January, Twitter today officially launched the Periscope app, which aims to compete with newly popular apps like Meerkat in allowing users to instantly live-stream right from an iPhone (via The Verge).

In development for over a year, once a user syncs their Twitter account with Periscope, they can view a list of curated live feeds on the app's homepage and even replay streams that have since ended. Streams can be replayed up to 24 hours after ending, and broadcasters can opt-out of allowing users to view their stream after it's over.

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That replay feature could be Periscope's killer feature over Meerkat, as The Verge points out, with the ability to browse old feeds and dig through current live streams resulting in "an app that can actually be browsed." Though working in tandem with one another after being installed, the Twitter and Periscope experiences will stay separate from one another, according to Periscope co-founder Kayvon Beykpour.
You won’t be able to launch Periscope directly from the Twitter app, at least not for a while. "We don’t think we need to start there," Beykpour says. "We think this deserves to be a separate experience indefinitely." Still, there’s a reason Twitter scooped up Periscope: Twitter is a mostly live experience, and so is its new broadcasting app. "We always thought that what we were building, if successful, could be a real-time visual pulse of what’s happening around the world," Beykpour says. The vision for Twitter is much the same.
Periscope also includes a few unique social aspects to live-streaming, including the ability for viewers to tap on the stream to send hearts to the broadcaster, showing up as tiny floating emoticons on the stream's lower-right corner for everyone watching the broadcast to see.

The more hearts on a video, the higher the stream climbs on the app's "Most Loved" list found on the front-end menu. This becomes a good measure for the crowd opinion on a current stream, according to Beykpour, who hopes the accessibility of the service propels it to be used by a vast audience and not just as "a tool for very few people."

Although largely in favor of Periscope, The Verge mentions that the push notifications become "out of control" for the live-streaming service, comparing the experience to "getting a push notification each time every single person you follow on Twitter tweeted."

Those interested in Periscope [Direct Link] can download the app for free from the App Store.

PowerDrive Slim Video Review: An External Battery and Hard Drive Combo for iPhone

We went hands-on with Mazzo's PowerDrive Slim, which combines an external battery with a hard drive, to give you extra storage and extra battery life for your iPhone. There's 32GB of storage space for storing files, photos, and videos, plus a 3,000 mAh battery that translates to approximately one full charge for an iPhone 6 Plus.


Files can be transferred to the PowerDrive Slim using the accompanying PowerDrive iOS app, and at the same time, it can charge your iPhone. You'll need to supply a Lightning cable for transferring files and for charging your iPhone from the PowerDrive Slim.

Size wise, the PowerDrive Slim is thicker than an iPhone 6 Plus, but not quite as wide or tall, so it fits easily enough in a pocket. We liked the portability, and we were impressed with the app, especially when it came to the auto backup feature for photos.

The 32GB PowerDrive Slim can be purchased from Amazon for $59.99. Mazzo also sells the device in higher capacities up to 128GB, which will be available for purchase in the near future.

Apple Continues to Tweak Emojis in Latest iOS 8.3 Beta

After introducing all new emoji with skin tone modifiers in iOS 8.3 beta 2, Apple continues to make minor tweaks to the emoji library in subsequent beta releases. iOS 8.3 beta 4 released through Apple's public beta testing program on Tuesday now separates default emoji from modified ones when holding them down on the keyboard, and emojis with yellow skin tone now have a matching blond or gold hair color.

Emoji iOS 8.3 Beta 4

The emoji keyboard also shows the "Recently Added" view as default again, making it easier to select from the emojis that you use most often for messaging. iOS 8.3 beta 4 also gains iMessage filtering that separates messages sent from unknown senders, removes the beta label from iCloud Photo Library and includes a number of bug fixes outlined within the MacRumors discussion forums.

We've been tracking all of the iOS 8.3 changes in our iOS 8 Features Roundup.

Related roundups: iOS 8, iOS 8 Features , Tags: iOS 8.3, emoji

Video Review: Element Case's Solace Case for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Element Case is a company known for making cases from premium materials, often with a premium price tag. We went hands-on with the company's Solace case for the iPhone 6 Plus in our latest video review, which is part of Element Case's LUXE Collection.

Priced at $99, the Solace is a three-piece case that consists of a polycarbonate body with a foam insert to protect the iPhone, an aluminum top and bottom, and aluminum buttons. It comes in several colors, including gold, white, black, and turquoise.


We thought the Solace offered good protection, but it adds a decent amount of bulk to the iPhone and it's pretty pricy for what you're getting comparative to other cases. We also weren't a fan of the mismatched colors on the gold option or the slight rattling sound the aluminum buttons make.

solacecaseiphone6
Both the Solace case for iPhone 6 and and the case for the iPhone 6 Plus are available from the ElementCase website for $99.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this video review.

Route Tracking and Screen Mirroring Shown in New Apple Patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today released a patent application filed by Apple back in January of 2013, describing a method by which an iPhone or iPad can provide specifically detailed GPS path information to another device after given proper authorization (via AppleInsider).

In the vein of Find My Friends, which allows rudimentary static location-based tracking services and slightly more in-depth parental controls, today's patent application would add another level of detail to the service. The patent suggests providing location- and path-based information accumulated by one device in the visual form of a digital route on a second device following the first.

location patent 1
Because the device receiving the information would be constantly updated with the first device's movements, it would allow users to follow someone in real time. The patent even mentions the receiving device could generate "spoken word directions", so if a user is driving a car, they wouldn't have to constantly be staring at the phone's screen.
A device in motion can record data about the path it travels and send the path data to another device. A user of the second device can then use the data to see where the first user traveled and/or travel the same path as did the first user.

For example, while the first user is driving a car, she could be running a maps application on the first device, and share the path she is travelling with the user of the second device while the second user is also driving a car. The second device could then display the path in an instance of the maps application running on the second device, or the second device could display directions the second user could use to follow the first user, or the second device could generate spoken word directions the second user could use to follow the first user, all in real time.
The patent mentions that while the program would be able to run on "a mobile communications network (e.g., 3G, LTE, WiMAX, etc.), a wireless LAN (e.g., 802.11), or another kind of wireless network", sometimes an intermediary, like iCloud, may be used as well. There's even a mode that could ignore the path sharing altogether, allowing the first device to share directions to a specific location with the second device, automatically generating a route that may be quicker than following the first device's path.

Also of note is a "mirroring mode" that shows "exactly the same view" on the second device as the user on the first device is seeing and interacting with, aiming to further assist the second device's understanding of the route.

As AppleInsider notes, the patent credits Eran Sandel, Elad Harush, and Roman Guy as its inventors. As with all other patents, today's "Sharing location information among devices" application is less of a confirmation of upcoming software by Apple and more of an intriguing look at ways the company may be looking to expand its little-used map-based features in the future.

Australian Apple TV Owners Gain Access to Netflix Channel, Service

It's March 24 in Australia and New Zealand, which means Netflix is now live in the country as promised. New Netflix subscribers in Australia and New Zealand will be able to access Netflix content on their Apple TVs, through the Netflix channel that is now available.

Netflix plans in Australia are priced at A$8.99 for single-stream access to standard definition content, A$11.99 for two-stream high-definition access, and A$14.99 for four-stream Ultra HD access. All new Netflix subscribers in the two countries can sign up for a one-month free trial.

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At the current time, it appears that content available to Netflix subscribers in Australia and New Zealand is somewhat more limited than content available in the United States. Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, Silver Linings Playbook, World War Z, and The Croods are available on Netflix in the U.S., but are not available in Australia and New Zealand.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald Australian Netflix has several thousand fewer titles than the U.S. version of the service, but it has 693 shows that are not available in the U.S. or Canada.

Netflix has said that content available in Australia will improve in the near future as it continues to add additional shows and movies.

Apple Now Providing Apple Pay Window and Register Decals to Businesses

Apple today updated a section of its Apple Pay website aimed at businesses with a new link that allows them to order Apple Pay decals for retail stores. The new decals accompany a set of Apple Pay graphics for merchants that were added to the site a few weeks back.

applepaybusiness
Clicking the link to order decals takes merchants to a new Apple Pay Supplies website where they can sign up to receive an Apple Pay kit that contains window and register decals. In the kit, there are glass decals in two sizes, register decals in two sizes, and an application tool. Businesses can order up to five kits using the online tool, but larger decal orders require placing a phone call to Apple.

Kits are available at no cost after a company, name, email address, and shipping address are entered.

applepaydecals
Apple is encouraging businesses of all sizes to adopt Apple Pay with its new logo kits, and it has a dedicated page for merchants who are interested in accepting the payment method. Apple Pay adoption by retailers has continued at a rapid pace, and in March, several new Apple Pay partners emerged, including GameStop, Marriott International, Jamba Juice, JetBlue, Office Max, Regal Cinemas, Walt Disney World, and more.

During Apple's March 9 event, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that there are now more than 700,000 locations where Apple Pay is accepted, including vending machines. Later this year, Square will introduce a new Square reader with NFC connectivity that will expand Apple Pay availability to thousands of small business owners that use the iPhone-based payment system.

Related roundup: Apple Pay

Pioneer's Latest Aftermarket In-Dash Systems With CarPlay Support Now Available

Pioneer on Monday announced that its second-generation aftermarket systems with support for CarPlay and Android Auto are now available at select retailers in the United States. The company's refreshed lineup of Networked Entertainment eXperience (NEX) in-dash multimedia receivers, which debuted at CES 2015 in Las Vegas, are the first to offer customers the flexibility of choosing between CarPlay and Android Auto.

Pioneer CarPlay NEX
The 2015 NEX lineup includes the AVIC-8100NEX, AVIC-7100NEX and AVH-4100NEX systems with CarPlay and Android Auto support, while the AVIC-6100NEX and AVIC-5100NEX are compatible with CarPlay only. The in-dash receivers also feature advanced Bluetooth capabilities, an AppRadio mode, MirrorLink compatibility, iDatalink Maestro support, the ability to stream Pandora and SiriusXM, and FLAC file playback.

Pioneer and Alpine Electronics are the official providers of aftermarket in-dash CarPlay systems. The second-generation NEX aftermarket systems are available at authorized Pioneer resellers across the United States, ranging in price between $700 to $1,400 depending on the model. CarPlay brings Maps, Phone, Messages, Music and more to your dashboard when paired with an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.

Related roundup: CarPlay , Tags: Android Auto, Pioneer, NEX

New Report Says Display Challenges Have Cut Apple Watch Shipments in Half

Apple Watch Sport BlueA new report out of Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News [Google Translate] claims that Apple has cut the expected production and shipping targets of the Apple Watch by half due to manufacturing challenges leading up to the launch of the device. (via GforGames).

The company initially planned to manufacture between 2.5 and 3 million units of the wearable per month, following its launch on April 24. A claim by Economic Daily News now states Apple has lowered expectations to produce 1.25-1.5 million Apple Watches every month.

The website cites sources within Apple's supply chain, pointing towards production snafus on the manufacturing of the Apple Watch's AMOLED display as the main culprit behind the tempered production expectations. Although it has yet to be confirmed by Apple itself, Economic Daily News claims the introduction of a new type of display used in Apple's manufacturing processes - unlike the traditional LCD screens of iPhones - has resulted in a slower production rate on the Apple Watch leading up to the device's launch.
One of the reasons for this change in plans apparently lies in manufacturing issues with the display (which is being produced by LG), leading to 30-40% yield capacity. Plastic OLED panels use PET (polyethylene terephthalate) instead of a glass substrate, thus giving them flexibility and lightweight. The only problem however, is that manufacturing plastic OLEDs requires a different method of creating a vacuum between the OLED panel and the plastic substrate, other than the traditional water jet vacuum pumps. And because PETs are very sensitive to humidity it looks like manufacturing the Watch’s display is a more complicated process than initially expected.
The source also points to slow production lines thanks to manufacturer Quanta, who has more experience in laptop manufacturing than in smaller devices like the Watch. According to Economic Daily News, Apple is already looking at expanding manufacturing options by involving Foxconn in the wearable's production process in the future.

Similar production-related stories have circulated before the launch of other Apple-related products in the past. Due to the high volume of such reports leading up to a device's launch, and no official word from Apple, today's report out of Economic Daily News remains sketchy at best.

Related roundup: Apple Watch , Tag: udn.com

TrackR Bravo Review: Hands-On With a Coin-Sized Bluetooth Tracker for Lost Items

Launched as an Indiegogo project in the middle of last year, the TrackR Bravo is a follow up product to the StickR TrackR, a small coin-sized Bluetooth-enabled device designed to attach to valuable items so they can be located using the TrackR app.

As of today, the TrackR Bravo, which is smaller and lighter than the company's previous-generation products, has begun shipping out to customers. Like the original TrackR products, the TrackR Bravo attaches to items and gives out alerts via an iPhone app when an item is misplaced, preventing keys, cameras, and other small objects from being lost.


Ahead of the product's launch, TrackR sent MacRumors a TrackR Bravo to review, so read on to see how it works and what we thought of it.

Design


The TrackR Bravo is slightly larger than a quarter, and approximately as large as two quarters stacked on top of each other. It is circular in shape, with a small loop at the top that allows it to be attached to a keyring for fastening to keys, pet collars, and more.

trackrbravo
It has a colorful anodized aluminum housing, and it's small enough to fit comfortably in a purse, wallet, or camera bag.

How it Works


The TrackR Bravo has built-in Bluetooth 4.0, with a 100 foot range. It works in conjunction with the TrackR app, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store.

After registering for a TrackR account within the app, the TrackR Bravo can be activated by choosing "Add a New Device" and pressing the Bluetooth activation button on the TrackR. The app supports 10 different TrackR Bravo devices, so multiple items can be tracked at the same time.

Click here to read more...

Fitbit Adds Multi-Device Support and Extensive Bike-Tracking Analytics

Fitbit today announced a two-pronged update to its popular line of fitness trackers, adding support for in-depth bike-tracking on the Fitbit Surge and allowing users to easily switch between multiple Fitbit models with "Multi-Tracker Support."

The company says the added support will grant customers more ease-of-use in switching amongst Fitbit devices throughout the day, or week, allowing them to choose "the right tracker for any occasion." The update lets any one user pair up to six Fitbit trackers - the maximum amount of Fitbit variants on the market - to their Fitbit account.

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After the initial pairing stage, Fitbit will automatically notice when a user switches trackers without needing to enter the Fitbit app. The company notes that as a user transitions amongst trackers throughout the day, for example wearing a "Fitbit One to work, Fitbit Surge for a run, or Tory Burch for Fitbit for a night on the town," the Fitbit app never pauses or hiccups in curating the usual array of steps and calories burnt as a single statistic across every device.

Also announced today is an update specifically to Fitbit Surge, using GPS and "other advanced sensors" to provide a comprehensive overview of various bike riding statistics, including: distance, duration, average speed, heart rate, and calories burned. Already the beefiest Fitbit, with a 7-day battery life and on-board GPS tracking sensors, the company hopes to broaden its fitness-friendly device with the new cycling-specific features.
“Our users are passionate about fitness and have consistently requested a way to track their outdoor cycling activity. We are delivering this feature on Fitbit Surge for active consumers looking to track and better understand performance during rides, in addition to their other workouts,” said Tim Roberts, VP of Interactive, Fitbit. “Our goal is to provide users with the tools it takes to track their exercise and reward them for doing the activities they love to do most – like biking and running.”
Fitbit noted that while the Multi-Tracker Support is slated to hit later this week, the bike-tracking features won't roll out in North America until sometime in April, "with global availability coming soon." The nebulous April launch window for the cycling-focused update sees the company beefing up the features of the Fitbit Surge, the tracker most in direct competition with the Apple Watch, which at $249 is still $100 cheaper than the 38mm Apple Watch Sport.