Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi Discuss Bloated Software Accusations, Upcoming iTunes Plans

Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi spoke with John Gruber in this week’s episode of „The Talk Show,“ where they commented on recent opinions that Apple’s software isn’t up to snuff and offered some details on a new version of iTunes coming in OS X 10.11.4.

Last week, Re/code‘s Walt Mossberg wrote a piece entitled „Apple’s Apps Need Work,“ pointing towards a „gradual degradation“ in quality in several Apple apps and services like iCloud, Mail, and Photos. iTunes for the desktop was one of the most heavily criticized apps, with Mossberg saying he „dreads“ opening it because it’s „bloated, complex, and sluggish.“

During the podcast, Gruber asked Eddy Cue about Mossberg’s opinion, prompting him to give some background on how Apple wanted the iTunes experience to work. iTunes, Cue said, was designed at a time when people synced their devices via cable, so offering a centralized place with all of a user’s content was key. With Apple Music, Apple decided on a design that would put music front and center while also integrating cloud music with hard copies purchased through iTunes.

„We decided in the short term that what we wanted to do is really make it when you’re in music and iTunes, all you see is music,“ said Cue. He went on to explain that Apple is continually re-evaluating iTunes, and there are plans to release a refreshed version alongside OS X 10.11.4 next month.

„That’s not to say we are continuing… and will continue to think about what’s the best way to architect the app and whether it makes sense to do a separate app for some of the components that are in there or all of the components that are in there. But right now, we think we’ve designed iTunes and you’ll see we’ve got a new refresh with the new version of OS X that’s coming out next month that makes it even easier to use in the music space.“

Cue and Federighi went on to talk about the issues that arise whenever Apple makes major changes to software, as there are always people who prefer not to see significant changes. According to Federighi, there’s a „tricky balancing act“ with software updates.

„People are serious about their music and their collection, and so I think we debate pretty heavily internally the right way to evolve these things. We tend to err on the side of being pretty bold, but there’s a lot of responsibility.

The two also highlighted the immense scale that Apple is working on, with more than 1 billion active devices and 782 million iCloud users. More than 200,000 iMessages per second are sent at peak times, and there are more than 750 million transactions per week in the iTunes Store and the App Store. Apple Music has grown to 11 million subscribers and more than 2.5 million errors in Maps have been fixed, a number presented as evidence that Apple is continually working on its software.

„I would say first there’s nothing we care about more,“ said Federighi, speaking on Apple’s software and services. He believes Apple’s core software quality has improved significantly over the course of the last five years, but pointed towards an ever-raising bar that pushes Apple to keep evolving and implementing new features. „Every year we realize the things we were good at last year and the techniques we were using to build the best software we can are not adequate for the next year because the bar keeps going up,“ he said.

Federighi and Cue’s full discussion with John Gruber about the state of software, the desktop version of iTunes, and Apple’s efforts to expand its public beta program, can be listed to over on the Daring Fireball website.

Tags: iTunes, Apple Music
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Nearly One-Third of iPhone Users Still Have 4-Inch Screens

The latest data from Mixpanel shows that approximately 32.22% of active iPhone users still have a 4-inch screen. That is the same screen size as the so-called „iPhone 5se“ that Apple is expected to announce at its rumored March 15 event.

Apple has released three iPhone models with 4-inch screens since 2013, including the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s, and some customers still feel these smartphones have the best screen size for pocketability and one-handed usage.

Apple’s newest 4-inch smartphone, the iPhone 5s, represented just under 20 percent of current iPhones in use, trailed by the iPhone 5 at 7.53 percent and the plastic-backed iPhone 5c at 5.66 percent. The numbers fluctuate slightly in real time.

In the company’s latest earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that 60 percent of older-generation iPhone users have yet to upgrade to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, or iPhone 6s Plus.

Right now, customers that want a 4-inch iPhone have to settle for the over two-year-old iPhone 5s’s outdated tech specs, and the smartphone also lacks many new features such as Apple Pay, 3D Touch, and Live Photos.

For that reason, the „iPhone 5se“ with a rumored 4-inch screen, Apple’s newest A9 chip, Live Photos, and purported price of around $500 may prove to be a more popular option among prospective iPhone buyers.
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How to set up all your shiny new Apple gear

This time of the year typically means gifts, both giving and receiving them. Surely some of you have gotten a brand new Macbook, iMac, iPhone or iPad (Pro, anyone?). If so, you might be looking at a lovely morning playing with your shiny new toys. But where to start? What essential tweaks, software tricks and […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


Expand the functionality of your Mac and mobile with these three apps [Deals]

Your tech has a lot of hidden potential, and sometimes unlocking it is just about getting the right app. We’ve gathered three potent productivity-enhancing applications that’ll enhance the way you talk to your computer, capture what’s on its screen, and play videos of any kind on your mobile device. Here, take a look: Dragon 5 […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


Cult of Mac Magazine: Hating on the iPhone battery case, Apple updates and much more

Apple releases a new iPhone 6 battery case and everyone hates it. Poor Apple. This week, we chronicle the beating Apple’s Smart Battery Case takes from the internet, including a look at its insides, how the internet questions Jony Ive’s sanity, and the history of ‘humped’ design at Apple. That, plus accessories just as ugly […]

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HBO Go just got even more distracting

An update to HBO Go is a direct assault on your productivity. The streaming service just added two new features that are sure to send you spiraling into a “just one more” death spin. The new features are Picture-in-Picture (for compatible devices running iOS 9) and autoplay, which is how you sit down to watch […]

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December’s Patch Tuesday addresses a number of critical security flaws for Windows

The latest batch of security patches is now out from Microsoft and a number of them address critical vulnerabilities. As such we recommend you upgrade as soon as possible to keep your machine safe. Read more…

Microsoft has tips on how to get the best heart rate readings from Band 2

Microsoft says its recently released Band 2 fitness tracker has improved heart rate tracking, and now the company is providing tips to get the best results from the device’s heart rate monitor. Read more…

Zagg Review: The Messenger Universal Keyboard for iPad Pro Is a Good Value, but Has a Few Drawbacks

When the iPad Pro launched, Zagg had a third-party keyboard ready to go for the device – the Messenger Universal, an affordable universal keyboard designed to fit a wide range of tablets as large as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

As a simple universal keyboard, it has the benefit of being readily available for purchase and it’s relatively cheap compared to other options, but there are some definite downsides to the Messenger Universal that may prevent it from being a viable option for some people.

Rather than taking advantage of the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro, the Messenger Universal connects over Bluetooth like any traditional Bluetooth keyboard, pairing via the Settings app on the iPad Pro. I had no problems with setup and there were no loss-of-connection issues during my time testing the keyboard.

The Messenger Universal consists of a magnetic Smart Cover-style flap that props up the iPad and an accompanying full-sized keyboard. It doesn’t double as a case or a cover for the iPad like the Logitech CREATE or Apple’s own Smart Keyboard – it’s strictly a keyboard and a stand. Because it’s made for a range of different devices, the Messenger Universal can be paired with other tablets and smartphones in addition to the iPad Pro.

When not in use, the keyboard folds up folio style with the cover portion protecting the keys, so it’s fairly compact for travel. It is as wide as the iPad Pro at 12 inches, so it’s going to take up a fair amount of space in a bag or backpack, and it’s also just over a half an inch thick. The outside cover of the keyboard is a soft water-resistant material that’ll protect the keyboard from rain and spills, and the keyboard itself is made from a lightweight plastic.

The Messenger Universal is positioned as a budget keyboard, so don’t expect premium materials or bells and whistles – it feels like a keyboard that costs $70. It’s not flimsy and it doesn’t feel like a product that’s going to fall apart, but its build quality doesn’t measure up to some of the other iPad Pro keyboards available on the market.

My biggest issue with the Zagg Messenger Universal is the angle at which it holds the iPad Pro. Compared to other keyboards, the viewing angle when typing is positioned too far back. I don’t know how other people angle their screens when typing, but mine is not so far back as to be almost hard to see. I found the angle of the Zagg Messenger Universal to be uncomfortable for me, which was a deal breaker.

Zagg Messenger Universal angle

With most Bluetooth keyboards there are multiple angles to work with to meet different needs and preferences, but the Zagg Messenger Universal only has one. The cover can be folded in two ways, but both angles are essentially the same. The iPad Pro can, however, be positioned in landscape or portrait mode on the Messenger Universal’s built-in stand.

Apple Smart Keyboard angle

Because the iPad Pro is held in place with just the folded cover of the Messenger Universal, it’s not sturdy. The stand and keyboard worked fine on a flat surface, but in my lap, it was unstable. I wouldn’t recommend this as a keyboard to use on the couch or in other areas where you don’t have a flat surface to work with – there’s too much wobbling.

Typing experience is one of the most important factors with any iPad keyboard, and this is an area where I had no complaints. There’s a full sized keyboard that’s as easy to type on as a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro keyboard, and I had no problems transitioning from a MacBook to the Messenger Universal. My typing speed remained the same and the keys had enough travel that each press felt satisfying under my fingers. Because the keyboard is made of plastic it’s louder and more „clicky“ than some other iPad keyboards, but overall, it offers a typing experience that most MacBook users will be satisfied with.

As with most third-party iPad keyboards, there is a row of special function keys included that do things like go to the Home screen, lock the iPad, open the app switcher, open a search, take a screenshot, and control sound and media playback. The dedicated screenshot key is a nifty feature that’s not on a lot of iPad keyboards, but it does come at the expense of dedicated buttons for controlling screen brightness.

The Zagg Messenger Universal is battery powered and will require charging every few months using an included micro-USB cable. Power can be turned off using a button at the side, but the keyboard will also go to sleep when its cover is closed.

Bottom Line

At $70, the Zagg Messenger Universal is a lot less expensive than more sophisticated iPad Pro keyboards like the Smart Keyboard or the Logitech Create, but it’s also a basic entry-level option that has a few downsides. While the keyboard itself offers a solid typing experience, the single oddly tilted viewing angle may be unappealing to some users and the cover that holds the iPad Pro in place can be unstable at times, especially in a lap.

As just a keyboard, it doesn’t offer any additional protection for the iPad Pro like other options, and since it’s the same size as the iPad Pro, it doesn’t offer benefits like superior portability. It’s essentially on par with many third-party standalone Bluetooth keyboards, some of which are less expensive. A slim standalone keyboard paired with an iPad Pro case or Smart Cover is an option that’s just as viable as the Zagg Messenger Universal.

Zagg has another iPad Pro keyboard coming out in the near future, which is tailored specifically for Apple’s larger tablet and could be worth waiting for. Right now, there are limited options for iPad Pro keyboard solutions, but over the next few months, available products should expand quite a bit.

Pros:

Light weight

Affordable

Good key feel

Works with all iPads/iPhones

Cons:

Single viewing angle

Viewing angle is too far back

No backlighting

Cover stand isn’t sturdy for lap use

How to Buy

The Messenger Universal can be purchased from the Zagg website for $69.99.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.

Tags: review, Zagg, Zagg Messenger Universal
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Apple’s Swift programming language goes open source

Swift, the fast growing computer programming language created by Apple, is officially going open source starting today. Apple unveiled Swift at WWDC in 2014 with a promise to make it open source in the future. Now that the language has become one of the fastest adopted languages in history, the company announced this morning that the […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)