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Apple Announces October 27 Event

As first reported yesterday by Ina Fried at Recode, Apple announced a media event for October 27 at 10 AM San Francisco time. The event will be held at Apple's campus in Cupertino. As shared by Jason Snell at Six Colors, the invitation simply reads "hello again".

Recode's article and other recent speculation suggests that this media event will be primarily dedicated to unveiling new Mac products, many of which are well overdue for an update. In particular it is expected that the MacBook Pro laptop line will receive a significant update with a new touch screen strip that replaces the function keys, a thinner design, improved performance, and potentially Touch ID.

It is also expected that the iMac line will be refreshed. Less likely, but still plausible, are updates to the Mac Pro (last updated in December 2013), MacBook Air (last updated March 2015), and Mac Mini (last updated October 2014).

It is also possible that Apple may announce a ship date for the new wireless AirPods that were announced last month at Apple's iPhone 7 keynote. At the time, Apple said that the AirPods would be available in "late October". The iPhone 7 Plus' new Portrait mode, which creates a depth-of-field effect, has been in a public beta of iOS 10.1 since late September and its official release date could also be announced at this event.

Gboard Adds 3D Touch Cursor Movement, Contacts Integration

Google released a nice update to their iOS keyboard, Gboard, earlier today.

Cursor control can now be activated with 3D Touch, which is consistent with the behavior of Apple's keyboard. Gboard can't move the cursor freely on the screen like the system keyboard, though, which makes it more limited when it comes to swiping across multiple lines of text. Also, Google didn't implement haptic feedback when switching between contextual keyboard menus (such as holding down on the dash key), which is another detail that I appreciate in Apple's keyboard on the iPhone 7.

Similarly, Gboard now features Contacts integration to look up a person's contact card directly from the keyboard – but it's not as tightly integrated as QuickType suggestions in iOS 10. However, I prefer the presentation of contact cards in Gboard and I think Google's is a sweet solution as well.

Gboard is shaping up nicely, but I continue to wish Google paid more attention to the iPad layout and built true multilingual support for international users.


Apple and Homebuilders Work to Spread HomeKit Adoption

Apple has begun working with large US-based home builders, like Lennar and KB Home, to incorporate HomeKit-enabled systems into newly-constructed homes. HomeKit was introduced with iOS 8. Makers of home automation equipment were initially slow to adopt HomeKit, but it has begun to gain momentum in recent months.

With device manufacturers embracing HomeKit in greater numbers, Bloomberg reports that Apple has turned to large homebuilders to help get those devices into homes. One drag on home automation adoption is cost. As Bloomberg points out, a touchscreen deadbolt lock costs $200 compared to $32 for a traditional lock. Another issue is incorporating smart devices into older homes that were not designed with them in mind. To address both problems, Apple is focusing on new homes:

’We want to bring home automation to the mainstream,’ said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of product marketing. ‘The best place to start is at the beginning, when a house is just being created.’

By focusing on new construction, the cost of smart devices can be rolled into a homeowner’s mortgage at the time of purchase, making the cost easier to rationalize. New construction also has the advantage that it is easier to design devices into a home when it is built than to retro-fit existing homes.


Connected, Episode 113: Here is Smart Phone

This week, Myke goes to the Apple Store, the group reads Pixel reviews and Federico brings back Weekly Picks.

A fun episode of Connected this week, with a brief discussion of Google's new Pixel phone and the return of weekly app picks. You can listen here.

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Kickstarting Season 3 of Welcome to Macintosh

Mark Bramhill, the creator of Welcome to Macintosh: a Tiny Show About a Big Fruit Company, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Season 3 of his highly-regarded podcast about Apple and the community that surrounds it. Bramhill’s show seemingly came out of nowhere in early 2015. In a sea of Apple-themed podcasts, Welcome Macintosh set itself apart by being short and tightly edited. Each episode of seasons one and two focused on a single story or theme from Apple history like skeuomorphism and the time Song a Day Mann made Steve Jobs dance onto stage at the antenna-gate Apple event.

Bramhill previews some of what he has planned if the Kickstarter succeeds:

In one episode, I pitch an emoji for adoption in the international Unicode standard, following it all the way from a concept through the bureaucracy of the emoji-industrial complex. In another, I trace the surprisingly dramatic past of an app that was on the forefront of the MP3 revolution. And there are a whole bunch of others. Beginning next summer: eight brand new episodes for Season 3.

The kind of show that Bramhill produces is time consuming, hard work, and it takes money. So for Season 3, Bramhill has launched a Kickstarter. He is trying to raise $10,000 to cover everything from file hosting, to travel expenses. The campaign is off to a good start and includes some nice perks for backers like vinyl stickers and t-shirts. Mark is a natural storyteller. Check out the past episodes of Welcome to Macintosh and the short episodes he will be releasing during the Kickstarter campaign. I bet if you do, you’ll find yourself on his Kickstarter page backing Season 3.


Daylite: A Business Productivity App for Mac and iOS [Sponsor]

Daylite is a business productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

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Always have your business info no matter where you go. Daylite is a native app so you can access your information on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Read how businesses all over the world are becoming more efficient with Daylite.

Our thanks to Daylite for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Siri and the Suspension of Disbelief

Julian Lepinski has a thoughtful response to last week's story by Walt Mossberg on Siri's failures and inconsistencies. In particular, about the way Siri handles failed queries:

Apple’s high-level goal here should be to include responses that increase your faith in Siri’s ability to parse and respond to your question, even when that isn’t immediately possible. Google Search accomplishes this by explaining what they’re showing you, and asking you questions like “_Did you mean ‘when is the debate’?_” when they think you’ve made an error. Beyond increasing your trust in Siri, including questions like this in the responses would also generate a torrent of incredible data to help Apple tune the responses that Siri gives.

Apple has a bias towards failing silently when errors occur, which can be effective when the error rate is low. With Siri, however, this error rate is still quite high and the approach is far less appropriate. When Siri fails, there’s no path to success short of restarting and trying again (the brute force approach).

The comparison between conversational assistants and iOS' original user interface feels particularly apt. It'd be helpful to know what else to try when Siri doesn't understand a question.


Remaster, Episode 20: The PlayStation VR Review

The PlayStation VR is finally out. Federico, Myke, and Shahid share their views on the hardware, the experience, and the launch lineup.

Sony's PlayStation VR platform launched earlier this week, and we've been playing with several launch titles for the past few days. On the latest Remaster, we discuss our impressions of the hardware, the gaming experience, and its future potential. You can listen here.

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