Tablets

Apple pulls WatchOS 5.1 update after it bricked some Apple Watches

PSA: If you’re an Apple Watch owner who is having trouble finding the shiny new WatchOS 5.1 update that Apple just shipped, it isn’t quite ready yet. Apple initially shipped the update on Tuesday alongside iOS 12.1, but it quickly pulled it hours later following reports that it bricked some Series 4 watches. A number of customers affected took to Reddit and Twitter to warn of the issues, which were first reported by 9to5Mac and caused some watches to be stuck on the loading screen. The update is no longer available, but Apple told those who did download it and now have bricked a watch that it is working on a fix that’ll ship as soon as possible. “Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we’ve pulled back the software update as a precaution,” it said in a statement. “Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update.” The Watch drama comes less than 24 hours after Apple unveiled a new and larger version of the iPad Pro and a revamped MacBook Air model at an event in New York. Other goodies revealed included a new Mac Mini, a magnetic Apple Pencil and an expansion to its ‘Today at Apple’ program. Next up is the company’s earnings on Thursday, although affected Watch owners will hope that the patched WatchOS update arrives sooner. Update: The original version of this article has been updated because this is WatchOS 5.1 not 4.1. Thanks to everyone who wrote in, I’m clearly living in the past — apologies for any confusion.

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Apple pulls WatchOS 4.1 update after it bricked some Apple Watches

PSA: If you’re an Apple Watch owner who is having trouble finding the shiny new WatchOS 4.1 update that Apple just shipped, it isn’t quite ready yet. Apple initially shipped the update on Tuesday alongside iOS 12.1, but it quickly pulled it hours later following reports that it bricked some Series 4 watches. A number of customers affected took to Reddit and Twitter to warn of the issues, which were first reported by 9to5Mac and caused some watches to be stuck on the loading screen. The update is no longer available, but Apple told those who did download it and now have bricked a watch that it is working on a fix that’ll ship as soon as possible. “Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we’ve pulled back the software update as a precaution,” it said in a statement. “Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update.” The Watch drama comes less than 24 hours after Apple unveiled a new and larger version of the iPad Pro and a revamped MacBook Air model at an event in New York. Other goodies revealed included a new Mac Mini, a magnetic Apple Pencil and an expansion to its ‘Today at Apple’ program. Next up is the company’s earnings on Thursday, although affected Watch owners will hope that the patched WatchOS update arrives sooner.

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Apple’s new iPads delete the home button for good

Apple drove the final nails in the home button’s coffin on Tuesday, removing the once ubiquitous feature from its new line of iPad devices. The new iPad Pro devices, revealed at Tuesday’s Apple event in New York, no longer have a home button. The design move, which is meant to make room for a bigger, more compelling display, follows the home button’s removal on the iPhone. Apple also dropped the Lightning port with the new iPad Pro and moved to the USB-C. The new iPad Pro, which comes in two sizes, is now unlocked with face ID. It’s been redesigned to work in any direction too, so there’s no “wrong way” to unlock it. Once the device is unlocked, users will be able to perform actions using on-screen gesture controls to access the feature they need. For instance, users can swipe down from the upper right hand corner to get to the control center, or swipe up from the bottom to access to the dock. In short, it’s going to be the same kind of gestures used for the new iPhone 10. Apple started phasing out the home button in 2017, beginning with its premium iPhone X handset. It kept the physical home buttons on cheaper iPhones. But we all knew their time would come. That hammer dropped in 2018 and Apple cleared the home button from its new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or iPhone XR.

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A fully loaded iPad Pro will cost you $2,227

This is a public service announcement. The latest and greatest iPad, namely the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, will cost you $2,227 to buy in its best configuration and with the basic accessories that make it worth having in the first place. Plus tax, of course. I’m not making a value judgment here, just stating the facts. Tablets are getting pretty damn expensive. To be clear, here’s what you’d be getting for that price. iPad Pro base cost $999 Upgrade from 64GB to 1TB storage: $750 (!) Cellular chip: $150 New Apple Pencil: $129 Smart Keyboard Folio: $199 Tax varies. Shipping’s free, at least. To me the cost of the base device is actually not bad, though I wouldn’t buy it. It really does look like a fine device, if you can get over the curved screen edges and minuscule bezels that will probably make you drop it. I can really see how the 12.9-inch iPad Pro could be a great tool for some artists, assuming they’re already successful enough to afford it. Good stylus surfaces are expensive and the iPad has proven itself to be at the very least competitive. The storage is, as always, the eye-wateringly expensive upgrade that doesn’t really jive with the cost of the actual components. Good flash storage isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t $750 a terabyte. A good M.2 drive of that capacity and speed is perhaps $150, and that’s including the interface and so on. Apple charging an arm and a leg for upgraded storage is nothing new, but they somehow manage to make it just as shocking every time. The cellular is another upsell that probably isn’t worth it, considering it also incurs a monthly cost. If it was a low-speed Amazon-style free service, I’d do it in a heartbeat to keep my notes and saved articles up to date. But it’s going to run you $150 up front and probably almost that every year as an added device to your plan. (Could be a nice option to have if you travel a lot, though.) The accessories are expensive but that new stylus and its snap-on charging (hardly an Apple innovation but nice to have) sure do look nice. You’ll need a keyboard if you’re going to do anything but sketch and read comics on this thing. Tablet computer or computer tablet? And adding the keyboard is really where you start to blur the line between tablet and “real” computer. Of course the Microsoft Surface, bless its heart and its tiny sales numbers (unflatteringly called out by Apple on stage), is the one that has made strides here over the last few years and Apple is merely drafting it. That’s fine — it’s been the other way around plenty of times. But the difference when you start looking at the apps and features is pretty serious. The iPad Pro is certainly the most productive and professional tablet out there, but as soon as you add a keyboard and sit it down on your lap, it starts competing with laptops. And the Surface lineup, while it may lack some of the polish of the iPad, is arguably more powerful both in specs (hard to compare Intel’s chips to Apple’s directly in this case) and certainly in software capability. I suppose that last point is arguable as well but let’s try to be honest with ourselves. A Windows computer can do more than an iPad. Microsoft’s device, after all, is a full-blown computer that acts like a tablet when you want it to, not vice versa. That’s important. If I was going to spend $2,000 on a daily driver (though honestly, there’s no need to), I sure as hell wouldn’t pick the one with all kinds of weird, half-formed multitasking gestures, semi-functional cross-app compatibility, and app features and selection highly curated and restricted by the people who own the store. And this is coming from someone who likes Macs and iPads! For the same price as the iPad Pro discussed above, you could get a Surface Pro 6 with 16 gigs of RAM (Apple doesn’t specify how much the iPad Pro has, and if it doesn’t crow about it, that usually means it’s nothing to crow about), a better processor (Intel Core i7, same generation), and… well, if you want that terabyte of storage you’re still going to pay through the nose. Maxing it out (including accessories) costs you a couple hundred more than the best iPad you can get, but I think you’d be getting much more value for your dollar. Plus the Surface has a headphone jack. That said, there’s no reason to go all-out on either of these things. That’s the real trap that both companies want you to fall into. Save money and buy last year’s model or the year before, save yourself a thousand bucks, and take a vacation instead. You deserve it.

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Apple introduces a new magnetic Apple Pencil

Apple is borrowing some ideas from the competition with the second-generation Apple Pencil. The most exciting thing is that you won’t lose it in your backpack anymore as it uses magnets just like your smart cover. You can attach it to the tablet and it won’t get in the way if you’re using it in landscape. Even better, you no longer need to remove a cap to plug it to the Lightning port. The Apple Pencil charges when it’s attached to the iPad. It works pretty much like a regular wireless charger. When you first attach it to your iPad, it automatically pairs with the iPad. Finally, Apple added a gesture on the Pencil so that you can change the color or the shape of your strokes. You just need to tap twice with your finger. Tapping the screen with the Pencil lets you wake up the iPad as well. The new Pencil seems to work only with the new iPad Pro given that it requires magnetic edges. It will be available for $129. The new Smart Keyboard Folio will cost $179 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $199 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

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The new iPad Pro features less bezel and larger screens

Here it is, the latest iPad Pro. A refreshed version of Apple’s highest-end tablet is, as anticipated, the centerpiece for today’s big event in Brooklyn. The new tablet marks what is arguable the most radical departure for the line from a design perspective, since the line rolled out some eight and a half years ago. The “all new” iPad takes more than a few design cues from the iPhone line, continuing Apple’s single-minded focus of eliminating the world’s bezels. To achieve this, the company has dropped the home button, leaving only room for the front-facing camera along the top. Like the iPhone, the new Pro logs you in via FaceID using the depth-sensing, front-facing camera.

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Live from Apple’s iPad event

In the words of three of our greatest philosophers, “no sleep ’til Brooklyn.” That goes double for all of you West Coasters, because today’s Apple event is kicking off bright and early at 10AM ET/7AM PT. It’s been just over a month since the last big Apple hardware event, but it seems the company still has plenty to announce ahead of the holidays. Expect today’s big event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House to focus primarily on all things iPad and Mac. Here’s a quick breakdown of all of the things we expect to see. Of course, this being an Apple event, there’s sure to be plenty of surprises as well. As ever, we’ll be on-site, bringing you the news as it breaks. We’ll also be liveblogging the event right here on this very page. Stay tuned to this spot to see everything Apple has up its sleeve (or watch the live stream).

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Adobe is bringing Photoshop CC to the iPad 

It’s no secret that Adobe is currently in the process of modernizing its Creative Cloud apps and bringing them to every major platform. Today, the company is using its Max conference in Los Angeles today to officially announce Photoshop CC for the iPad. Sadly, you won’t be able to try it today, but come 2019, you’ll be able to retouch all of your images right on the iPad. And while it won’t feature ever feature of the desktop from the get-go, the company promises that it’ll add them over time. As with all of Adobe’s releases, Photoshop for iPad will play nicely with all other versions of Photoshop and sync all the changes you make to PSD files across devices. Unsurprisingly, the user experience has been rethought from the ground up and redesigned for touch. It’ll feature most of the standard Photoshop image editing tools and the layers panel. Of course, it’ll also support your digital stylus. Adobe says the iPad version shares the same code base as Photoshop for the desktop, “so there’s no compromises on power and performance or editing results.” For now, though, that’s pretty much all we know about Photoshop CC on the iPad. For more, we’ll have to wait until 2019. In a way though, that’s probably all you need to know. Adobe has long said that it wants to enable its users to do their work wherever they are. Early on, that meant lots of smaller specialized apps that synced with the larger Creative Cloud ecosystem, but now it looks as if the company is moving toward bringing full versions of its larger monoliths like Photoshop to mobile, too.

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The Surface Go is the laptop of the year

As a nearly constant traveler I’ve been looking for something like the Surface Go all my life. I’ve lugged around everything from massive ThinkPads to iPad Pros and I’ve always found myself stuck in one of two situations – the laptops that made the most sense were too heavy to be comfortably portable and the tablets and ultraportables I used, including the Surface Pro, offered too much of a performance trade-off to warrant swapping from a full desktop device. I tried a number of other laptops over the past year including my daily driver, the TouchBar-powered MacBook Pro, as well as a Lenovo’s oddly designed YogaBooks. Nothing quite clicked. The trade offs were always drastic. Wanted power? Sacrifice weight. Wanted thin and light? Sacrifice the keyboard. Want battery life and compatibility? Sacrifice the desktop experience. So when the Surface Go came out I wasn’t too excited. Now I am. When Brian Heater first reviewed the device he found them lacking. “And the Surface Go isn’t a bad little device, at the end of the day. At $400, it’s on the pricier side for a tablet, and certain sacrifices have been made for the sake of keeping the price down versus the souped up Surface Pro,” he wrote. “And unlike other Surface devices, the Go is less about pioneering a category for Windows 10 than it is simply adding a lower-cost, portable alternative to the mix. As such, the product hits the market with a fair bit of competition. Acer and Lenovo have a couple, for starters, most of which fall below the Go’s asking price.” He’s right. There are thin and lights available for far less, and the Surface Go, with its 6-hour battery life and mid-range specs, is no hard core gaming machine. However, the user experience of the Go when matched with a keyboard cover have blown other contenders out of the water. Why? Because, like Google’s Pixel line, Microsoft knows how to tune its hardware to its software. The Surface Go easily replaced by MacBook for most activities including light photo editing, writing, and communications. The Go ships with Windows 10 in S mode, a performance improving mode that reduces the total number of available apps available but, thanks to a certification process, ensures the apps will be more performant. It is trivial to turn off S Mode and install any other app you want and most people will do this, realizing that while noble, S Mode just doesn’t fly if you’re trying to use the whole breadth of the Windows universe. Once I turned off S Mode I could install Scrivener and a few other tools and even got some games running, although the tablet gets a little hot. That’s the real benefit of the Surface Go – you don’t compromise on apps, performance, or size and all of it is specially tuned to the software it runs. If you’re thinking of exploring the Surface Go you’ll find it’s not the cheapest ultraportable on the market. At $399 for the entry level model – I regret not splurging on the $150 upgrade – and $99 for the keyboard cover – it’s still more expensive than similarly appointed devices from Asus and Lenovo . That said none of those manufacturers could hit on all of the sweet spots that Microsoft hit. In terms of design and ease-of-use the Surface Go wins and in terms of price you’re basically paying a little more for more compatibility and performance. So if you’re looking for a portable, usable, and fun device that beats many other current laptops hands down, it might be time to turn your gaze on Microsoft. As someone who got sciatica from lugging around too many heavy laptops, your buttocks will thank you.

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Happy anniversary, Android

It’s been 10 years since Google took the wraps off the G1, the first Android phone. Since that time the OS has grown from buggy, nerdy iPhone alternative to arguably the most popular (or at least populous) computing platform in the world. But it sure as heck didn’t get there without hitting a few bumps along the road. Join us for a brief retrospective on the last decade of Android devices: the good, the bad, and the Nexus Q. HTC G1 (2008) This is the one that started it all, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the old thing. Also known as the HTC Dream — this was back when we had an HTC, you see — the G1 was about as inauspicious a debut as you can imagine. Its full keyboard, trackball, slightly janky slide-up screen (crooked even in official photos), and considerable girth marked it from the outset as a phone only a real geek could love. Compared to the iPhone, it was like a poorly dressed whale. But in time its half-baked software matured and its idiosyncrasies became apparent for the smart touches they were. To this day I occasionally long for a trackball or full keyboard, and while the G1 wasn’t pretty, it was tough as hell. Moto Droid (2009) Of course, most people didn’t give Android a second look until Moto came out with the Droid, a slicker, thinner device from the maker of the famed RAZR. In retrospect, the Droid wasn’t that much better or different than the G1, but it was thinner, had a better screen, and had the benefit of an enormous marketing push from Motorola and Verizon. (Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch, but this doesn’t affect our coverage in any way.) For many, the Droid and its immediate descendants were the first Android phones they had — something new and interesting that blew the likes of Palm out of the water, but also happened to be a lot cheaper than an iPhone. HTC/Google Nexus One (2010) This was the fruit of the continued collaboration between Google and HTC, and the first phone Google branded and sold itself. The Nexus One was meant to be the slick, high-quality device that would finally compete toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It ditched the keyboard, got a cool new OLED screen, and had a lovely smooth design. Unfortunately it ran into two problems. First, the Android ecosystem was beginning to get crowded. People had lots of choices and could pick up phones for cheap that would do the basics. Why lay the cash out for a fancy new one? And second, Apple would shortly release the iPhone 4, which — and I was an Android fanboy at the time — objectively blew the Nexus One and everything else out of the water. Apple had brought a gun to a knife fight. HTC Evo 4G (2010) Another HTC? Well, this was prime time for the now-defunct company. They were taking risks no one else would, and the Evo 4G was no exception. It was, for the time, huge: the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and most Android devices weren’t much bigger, if they weren’t smaller. HTC is gone The Evo 4G somehow survived our criticism (our alarm now seems extremely quaint, given the size of the average phone now) and was a reasonably popular phone, but ultimately is notable not for breaking sales records but breaking the seal on the idea that a phone could be big and still make sense. (Honorable mention goes to the Droid X.) Samsung Galaxy S (2010) Samsung’s big debut made a hell of a splash, with custom versions of the phone appearing in the stores of practically every carrier, each with their own name and design: the AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. As if the Android lineup wasn’t confusing enough already at the time! Though the S was a solid phone, it wasn’t without its flaws, and the iPhone 4 made for very tough competition. But strong sales reinforced Samsung’s commitment to the platform, and the Galaxy series is still going strong today. Motorola Xoom (2011) This was an era in which Android devices were responding to Apple, and not vice versa as we find today. So it’s no surprise that hot on the heels of the original iPad we found Google pushing a tablet-focused version of Android with its partner Motorola, which volunteered to be the guinea pig with its short-lived Xoom tablet. Although there are still Android tablets on sale today, the Xoom represented a dead end in development — an attempt to carve a piece out of a market Apple had essentially invented and soon dominated. Android tablets from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others were rarely anything more than adequate, though they sold well enough for a while. This illustrated the impossibility of “leading from behind” and prompted device makers to specialize rather than participate in a commodity hardware melee. Amazon Kindle Fire (2011) And who better to illustrate than Amazon? Its contribution to the Android world was the Fire series of tablets, which differentiated themselves from the rest by being extremely cheap and directly focused on consuming digital media. Just $200 at launch and far less later, the Fire devices catered to the regular Amazon customer whose kids were pestering them about getting a tablet on which to play Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds, but who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad. Turns out this was a wise strategy, and of course one Amazon was uniquely positioned to do with its huge presence in online retail and the ability to subsidize the price out of the reach of competition. Fire tablets were never particularly good, but they were good enough, and for the price you paid, that was kind of a miracle. Xperia Play (2011) Sony has always had a hard time with Android. Its Xperia line of phones for years were considered competent — I owned a few myself — and arguably industry-leading in the camera department. But no one bought them. And the one they bought the least of, or at least proportional to the hype it got, has to be the Xperia Play. This thing was supposed to be a mobile gaming platform, and the idea of a slide-out keyboard is great — but the whole thing basically cratered. What Sony had illustrated was that you couldn’t just piggyback on the popularity and diversity of Android and launch whatever the hell you wanted. Phones didn’t sell themselves, and although the idea of playing Playstation games on your phone might have sounded cool to a few nerds, it was never going to be enough to make it a million-seller. And increasingly that’s what phones needed to be. Samsung Galaxy Note (2012) As a sort of natural climax to the swelling phone trend, Samsung went all out with the first true “phablet,” and despite groans of protest the phone not only sold well but became a staple of the Galaxy series. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before Apple would follow on and produce a Plus-sized phone of its own. The Note also represented a step towards using a phone for serious productivity, not just everyday smartphone stuff. It wasn’t entirely successful — Android just wasn’t ready to be highly productive — but in retrospect it was forward thinking of Samsung to make a go at it and begin to establish productivity as a core competence of the Galaxy series. Google Nexus Q (2012) This abortive effort by Google to spread Android out into a platform was part of a number of ill-considered choices at the time. No one really knew, apparently at Google or anywhere elsewhere in the world, what this thing was supposed to do. I still don’t. As we wrote at the time: Here’s the problem with the Nexus Q: it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of hardware that’s being let down by the software that’s supposed to control it. It was made, or rather nearly made in the USA, though, so it had that going for it. HTC First — “The Facebook Phone” (2013) The First got dealt a bad hand. The phone itself was a lovely piece of hardware with an understated design and bold colors that stuck out. But its default launcher, the doomed Facebook Home, was hopelessly bad. How bad? Announced in April, discontinued in May. I remember visiting an AT&T store during that brief period and even then the staff had been instructed in how to disable Facebook’s launcher and reveal the perfectly good phone beneath. The good news was that there were so few of these phones sold new that the entire stock started selling for peanuts on Ebay and the like. I bought two and used them for my early experiments in ROMs. No regrets. HTC One/M8 (2014) This was the beginning of the end for HTC, but their last few years saw them update their design language to something that actually rivaled Apple. The One and its successors were good phones, though HTC oversold the “Ultrapixel” camera, which turned out to not be that good, let alone iPhone-beating. As Samsung increasingly dominated, Sony plugged away, and LG and Chinese companies increasingly entered the fray, HTC was under assault and even a solid phone series like the One couldn’t compete. 2014 was a transition period with old manufacturers dying out and the dominant ones taking over, eventually leading to the market we have today. Google/LG Nexus 5S and 6P (2015) This was the line that brought Google into the hardware race in earnest. After the bungled Nexus Q launch, Google needed to come out swinging, and they did that by marrying their more pedestrian hardware with some software that truly zinged. Android 5 was a dream to use, Marshmallow had features that we loved … and the phones became objects that we adored. We called the 6P “the crown jewel of Android devices”. This was when Google took its phones to the next level and never looked back. Pixel If the Nexus was, in earnest, the starting gun for Google’s entry into the hardware race, the Pixel line could be its victory lap. It’s an honest-to-god competitor to the Apple phone. Gone are the days when Google is playing catch-up on features to Apple, instead, Google’s a contender in its own right. The phone’s camera is amazing. The software works relatively seamlessly (bring back guest mode!), and phone’s size and power are everything anyone could ask for. The sticker price, like Apple’s newest iPhones, is still a bit of a shock, but this phone is the teleological endpoint in the Android quest to rival its famous, fruitful, contender. Let’s see what the next ten years bring.

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