All posts in “Apple Watch”

Apple Watch users could have access to a whole suite of new faces soon

Until now, Apple's kept full control over its Watch faces.
Until now, Apple’s kept full control over its Watch faces.

Image: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Gone through all the Apple Watch faces? Apple could be finally opening up the floor to third-party developers for Watch faces, hints a tiny line of code.

Apple has long maintained control over available faces for its Apple Watch, only allowing official partners like Disney and Pixar to release special editions. Customisation for users is currently limited to modifying “complications” on official watch faces, where there’s an ability to pull information from third-party sources.

But a tiny line of code could suggest the company is gearing up to loosen this exclusivity, a clue picked up by 9to5Mac.

According to the publisher, who did some serious digging, Apple Watch faces are created using something called the NanoTimeKit framework. A component of this connects to a developer tools server that, as 9to5Mac pointed out, might work with Xcode, Apple’s macOS and watchOS developer tool. Take a breath.

Within one particular log, the publisher noticed a line of code on the watchOS 4.3.1. that reads, “this is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen.” Oooh.

So, if this line of code is indeed referencing third-party developed faces, it seems to be a planned activity down the track. Apple has kept a close hold on its Watch faces as a means to control the user experience, but this little tidbit could mean it’s at an end.

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Apple Watch gets new bands for spring

Apple has unveiled new Apple Watch bands for spring.

Bands include Woven Nylon bands direct from Apple, Nike bands, and Hermès bands. Long story short, there are a bunch of new colors and styles.

The Woven Nylon bands focus on stripes, alternating white with another color (Black Stripe, Blue Stripe, Gray Stripe and Pink Stripe). Meanwhile, the Sport band is coming out in Denim Blue, Lemonade, and Red Raspberry, while the Sport Loop comes in Flash Light, Hot Pink, Marine Green and Tahoe Blue. And then there’s Classic Buckle, which comes in Spring Yellow, Electric Blue, and Soft Pink.

Meanwhile, The Nike Sport Loop will now be sold separately, coming in Black/Pure Platinum, Bright Crimson/Black, Cargo Khaki, Midnight Fog, and Pearl Pink, while the Nike Sport will come in Barely Rose/Pearl Pink, Black/White and Cargo Khaki/Black.

Finally, Hermès will be revealing new Apple Watch bands with an accent color. The 38mm Double Tour will come in Indigo or Blanc with rouge H polished edge and contrasted loop, and the 42mm Single Tour Rallye will offer the same colors.

Apple sold more than 18 million Apple Watch units last year.

One Apple repair center has dialed 911 around 1,600 times and no one knows why

An Apple repair and refurbishment center called 911 about 1,600 times over the past four months. But not because they’re plagued with emergencies.

Rather, the calls are all accidents, as reported by CBS13 in Sacramento (via The Washington Post). 

The facility in question is the Apple repair center in Elk Grove, Calif., and the calls are usually fielded by the Elk Grove police station. The Sacramento County sheriff’s department has also received these calls – about 47 since the beginning of the year. 

Typically, there is no one on the other line. Sometimes, dispatchers hear what sound like Apple technicians working in the background. 

The exact reason for this flood of false-alarm calls is unclear. As Mac Rumors points out, the wave of accidental calls seems to have begun around the same time that Apple rolled out the Emergency SOS feature for iOS 11.

Emergency SOS allows users to call 911 simply by pressing and holding the side buttons (for iPhone 8 and iPhone X) or pressing the side button five times in rapid succession (for iPhone 7 or earlier). 

However, the exact reason that about 20 calls a day are going out from Apple’s Elk Grove facility remains unclear.

Apple has issued a statement saying it is “aware” of the issue. “We take this seriously and we are working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn’t continue,” the statement read.

The false alarms are more than an annoyance. Emergency services deal with situations where every second counts, and these calls take up precious moments that could have been spent helping people in actual need.

In the meantime, the Elk Grove Police Department is hoping for a quick resolution. “911 is a lifeline for everyone in our community, so having these lines open and available is paramount,” said spokesperson Jason Jimenez. “At this point, public safety is not in danger and we are working with Apple to resolve the issue.”

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Apple said to debut voice-activated Siri AirPods in 2018, water-resistant model in 2019

Apple is preparing a couple of updating models of AirPods, according to Bloomberg. The popular fully wireless earbud-style headphones that Apple introduced last year are currently on track for a refresh in 2018 with the addition of a new version of the “W” line of chips that Apple created specifically to manage and improve Bluetooth-based connections between gadgets.

The 2018 hardware refresh would include not only an improved W chip (possibly the W2 added to the Apple Watch last year, or perhaps even a W3) but also the ability to activate Siri just by voice, rather than by physically tapping the AirPod in your ear, as is the case currently.

Like with Amazon’s Echo devices or the iPhone, a user would be able to trigger the virtual assistant simply by saying the wake word aloud – “Hey Siri,” in this case. That would indeed to a step-up in terms of shifting AirPods to a voice-first interface device.

As for the successor currently planned for 2019 (though Bloomberg notes those plans could easily change between now and then), it will add a new level of water-resistance, which Bloomberg reports will be designed to protect against “splashes of water and rain,” rather than full submersion like the current Apple Watch.

AirPods are doing well by all accounts, so putting them on an update cycle similar to the iPhone and other of Apple’s high-demand products seems fairly logical. It’ll be interesting to see if customers choose to upgrade in the same way they do with Apple’s other high selling devices, and what other updates might be in store (please made variable fit tip design, Apple, so that I can finally wear these things without requiring a little foam sleeve).

Apple and Android are destroying the Swiss Watch industry

In Q4 2017 – essentially during the last holiday season – market research firm Canalys found that more people bought Apple watches than Swiss watches. Two million more, to be exact. Brian Heater has more data but this news is quite problematic for the folks eating Coquilles St-Jacques on the slopes of the Jura mountains.

The numbers are estimates based on market data but they still point to a trend. In Q1 2016 Apple shipped 1.5 million watches to Switzerland’s 5.9 million. The intervening quarters were about the same until the launch of the Apple Watch 3 in September 2017, just in time for holiday shopping. The boost of a new phone and a new watch at the same time meant a perfect storm for upgraders, driving the total number of Apple Watches sold past the Swiss watch sales numbers.

This switch does not mean Apple will maintain that lead – they have one product while Switzerland has thousands – but comparing a single company’s output to an entire industry’s in this case is telling.

Wearing watches is, as we all remind each other, is passé.

“I check the time on my phone,” we said for almost a decade as phones became more ubiquitous. Meanwhile watch manufacturers abandoned the low end and began selling to the high end consumer, the connoisseur.

Take a look at this chart:

Sales of low- to mid-tier watches – and a mid-tier watch can range in price between $500 and $3,000 (and I would even lump many $10,000 watches in the mid-tier category) – were stagnant while the true cash cows, the expensive watches for the ultra-rich, fell slowly from a high in 2014. This coincides with falling purchases in China as what amounted to sumptuary laws reduced the number of expensive gifts given to corrupt officials. Sales are up as December 2017 but don’t expect much of a bump past the current slide.

As a lover of all things mechanical – I did ruin a few years of my life writing a book about a watch – I look at these trends with dismay and a bit of Schadenfreude. As I’ve said again and again the Swiss Watch industry brought this on itself. While they claim great numbers and great success year after year the small manufacturers are eating each other up while nearly every major watch brand is snooping around for outside buyers. There is no money in churning out mechanical timepieces to an increasingly disinterested public.

As time ticks ever forward things will change. The once mighty Swiss houses will sink under the weight of their accreted laurel-resting and Apple will move on to embedded brain implants and leave watches behind. The result, after a battle that raged for more than four decades, will be a dead Swiss industry catering to a world that has moved on.