Soundbyte 349 – March 2024

ChristopherNews, SoundByte

Welcome to Soundbyte!

In this issue:

March meeting

Join LMUG this Monday, March 11 at 7:00pm (GMT), for our March meeting. This month we will consider legacy planning. What will happen to your computers and data if you die; how can you prepare for the unexpected? We will start as usual with NewsByte. Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link. We have also posted the link in our Slack General Channel. 

Follow the London Mac User Group on…Mastodon🐘! If you are not familiar with Mastodon, have a look at TidBit’s explainer here. Note: join us next month for our Annual General Meeting.

Future Visions

It seems clear now that the Apple Vision Pro was not designed for the mainstream market. Apple gave us some pretty good clues about this when they named the product “Pro” rather than just “Vision” and priced it over $3,000. A number of mainstream YouTuber reviews have come out now that praise the potential of the platform, but conclude that there are enough trade-offs and inconveniences to prevent the Vision Pro being used as a day-to-day computing device.

What was the purpose of releasing the Vision Pro now? I think its likely to be combination of Vision OS becoming viable, the dramatic advances in AI, and what could be the upcoming battle for AI hardware.

This disruption in the market could be a flash in the pan but the money is on it changing everything. Do we need the 2D computer screens like we see in the Mac/iPad productivity apps on Vision OS or does AI enable something completely different? AI still feels to me like lego bricks waiting for someone to find the right combination to build something transformational. I could imagine scanning food/barcodes in the supermarket and AI giving you a wellness score based on your personal health and adding it to your shopping bill without you needing to juggle an iPhone while holding a basket. I think the software potential, rather than the hardware compromises, is what makes the Vision Pro introduction similar to the iPhone. Have a look this round-table below from the app start-up experts, Y-Combinator:

If the future is going to be AI and some kind of optical based operating system, this doesn’t preclude the possibility that the consumer version (Vision not Pro) is some form of glasses. Again I think releasing Vision Pro now (to non-mainstream early adopters), could be a strategy to understand what parts of Vision OS are the most important to take forward while we wait for glasses technology. Is it just a screen hovering in space? Is it AI? Is it 3D apps? Is it immersive experiences? In the last few Soundbytes we have seen smart glasses technology being developed. Tech Altar below has reviewed the state of technology:

As Marton explains above, we’re not quite there yet despite rapid advances being made. Also the glasses announced so far have had to trade-off either looking good, or having the most advanced technology. Without killer use-cases being worked out, most of the products are little more than demos with ugly hardware e.g.

And this is before we remember that AI means artificial, not accurate or honest. The Noa Glasses I was excited about last month (actually still excited if subdued) is mostly a development platform with AI that might not always give the best answers. Apparently Apple is hard at work developing their own AI infrastructure. Introducing an AI that is useful, truthful and has transformative use-cases could be the story of 2024’s WWDC.

MacBook Air Updated

Gone are the years between Apple updating Mac products. With the most popular Macs it seems we can expect small updates almost every year. And so we have an update to the MacBook Air which gains the M3 chip. This new chip provides a useful increase in performance especially in graphics but with the same price as last year’s laptop. It is amazing how far the Mac has come since the original Apple computers, lets hope Apple matches its technical advances with sustainability and repairability in future.

Good tips for iPads

Apple’s choices for Apple Pencils have become quite confusing, with different pencils working only with particular iPads. iPad users are not, however, limited to Apple Pencils and you might be surprised how many alternatives exist. MobileReviewsEh has done the hard work to review all of them below:

Apple cans the car

Apple has unofficially cancelled their unofficial car project. The reason (unviable profitability) is the same reason Dyson gave for cancelling their car project. This cancelation came after reports of Apple Car secrets being stolen. I suspect another reason is the unviability so far of self-driving cars. The technology for computer assisted driving has been coming for decades but it still isn’t here in fully automated control. The employees have been transferred to work on Apple’s other AI efforts.

Maybe the next best thing to an Apple car would be to get one with Apple audio or more specifically Beats Audio (which is owned by Apple). Beats Audio is in cars from different manufacturers and if combined with Car Play, how different would it really be from an Apple Car? Especially if the car has some nice design aesthetics and a cool brand. One example might the new electric Smart Brabus cars. Have a look at this first look with Norwegian YouTuber Bjorn Nyland (see 11:45 for the interior and audio):

App market comes to iPhone

The European Union has forced Apple to allow independent Apps markets onto the iPhone to improve competition. The first and most obvious competitor is Epic who have announced a gaming App Store. This freedom only exists within the European Union for now, and was activated in iOS 17.4, but we can expect other regulators to be watching closely.

In a round-up of other iPhone news (for the rest of us), you might remember not to sleep on your charging cables. Apple now has guidance about liquid detection alerts here – in short, don’t put it in a bag of rice or other home-grown remedies. Stay alert for any suspicious behaviour, there’s a new iPhone trojan out there in some countries. Apple has avoided a massive fraud on itself – read more here, and Apple has developed a more advanced form of encryption for iMessage, coming soon to an iPhone near you? Finally, enjoy this retrospective on where some of the best aspects of modern iOS have come from…

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