Siri, Savants and What’s the Opposite of a Swan Song?

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Apple Pay Later starts its slow roll, the OS beta train is already moving again, and the curtain is finally up on Apple Music Classical.

Apple Pay Later Begins Slow Rollout

Apple Pay Later is slowly making its way out. Originally announced in June of last year, Apple says the service lets users “split purchases into four payments, spread over six weeks with no interest and no fees.” 

No one will ever say what took so long, but the service is finally drawing breath — albeit haltingly. The Cupertino-company issued a press release Tuesday saying that the service is available (ish) in the US. Starting on March 28, Apple said it would:

…begin inviting select users to access a prerelease version of Apple Pay Later, with plans to offer it to all eligible users in the coming months.

Once it’s open, the release says users will be able to track, manage, and repay their loans through Apple Wallet. That is also where they can apply for loans for as little as $50 to as much as $1,000. Those can then be used for purchases online or in-app on an iPhone or iPad with no special work on the seller’s end. Enabled through the Mastercard Installments program, Apple says:

…merchants that accept Apple Pay do not need to do anything to implement Apple Pay Later for their customers. When a merchant accepts Apple Pay, Apple Pay Later will be an option for their customers during checkout online and in apps on iPhone and iPad. 

Chinese Government Official Urges Apple to Strengthen Privacy and Security

Remember Monday when China’s commerce minister seemed incredibly accommodating to Apple CEO Tim Cook? I told you that the two “met to discuss Apple’s continued ‘development in China,’” and that an official statement had the ministry saying:

China will unswervingly promote high-level opening-up, steadily promote rules, regulations, management, standards and other institutional opening-up…

I know. That wording is weird, but you must admit — it did sound accommodating. On Monday. Then came Tuesday’s report about Apple CEO Tim Cook meeting with China’s Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission Zheng Shanjie. When they met Monday, a piece from AppleInsider says “Cook was apparently urged by the chairman to strengthen Apple’s data security and personal privacy protection.” 

And that is all anyone has said about that. Well, anyone official that is. For its part, AppleInsider says:

The comment is baffling, given Apple’s actual track record when it comes to privacy. For the most part, its use of encryption and a privacy-focused approach [have] led to it becoming one of the most secure organizations of its kind.

Whatever the case, the Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission does not sound nearly as accommodating as the commerce minister. 

CWA Files Charges with NLRB Over Alleged Anti-Union Actions from Apple

Charges of seriously anti-union activity has been leveled against Apple. Engadget says:

The Communications Workers of America union (CWA) has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asserting that Apple illegally intimidated and fired workers at Houston and Kansas City, Missouri stores in retaliation for their labor organization efforts.

Folks in KC were reportedly fired for being “slightly late, calling out from work or even making typos in timesheets…” Once let go though, they were reportedly forced to sign a “release of all claims” in order to get their severance pay. Signing the release basically meant they couldn’t go after Apple for any sort of unfair treatment because they’d signed a thing saying they wouldn’t so they could get the money that was coming to them. “In Houston,” the piece says:

…Apple allegedly questioned workers individually about their union support and offered improved conditions if they dropped their labor support. Those that persisted in pro-union activity were disciplined and threatened with deteriorating conditions, the CWA claims.

No word in the piece on next steps between the parties. 

More Developer Betas Already?!?

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about the latest operating system releases from Apple. That’s mostly because it was yesterday. We talked Tuesday about Apple on Monday releasing iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS 16.4, HomePod and Studio Display software 16.4, macOS 13.3, and watchOS 9.4. 

No rest for the wicked — where “wicked” equals developers and people who talk about these things. Pieces from AppleInsider say the Cupertino-company on Tuesday released the first developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 16.5, macOS Ventura 13.4, watchOS 9.5, and tvOS 16.5

Giving Siri More to Do

While it seems too early to talk about the new features in the relatively distant operating systems, it is apparently not. MacRumors has word of two features upcoming in the upcoming iOS 16.5 update. 

Working to make its virtual assistant smarter, one piece from MacRumors has Apple giving Siri a new ability. According to that report, iOS 16.5 beta 1 gives the assistant the ability to start a screen recording with a voice command. It sounds as easy as it sounds. Basically you say, “Hey Siri, start a screen recording,” and it does. You’ve gotta be careful, though. MacRumors says if you tell the virtual assistant to “take a screen recording,” it takes a screenshot. 

It is both amazing what technology can do and what technology can get wrong. 

Checking the Virtual Sports Page

The other new feature is less aspirational. More for the punters, if you will. Another piece from MacRumors says the Apple News app in the iOS 16.5 beta comes with a Sports tab. According to the report:

Apple has positioned the Sports tab in ‌Apple News‌ right in the middle of the bottom navigation bar, putting it between Today and News+ on the left, and Audio and Following on the right.

I really hope that that means taking sports out of the news feed. If I want to see what’s happening in sports, I’ll turn to the Sports page. Or tab. 


Apple Reactivates Upgrades to New Home Architecture

Speaking of turning — let’s turn back to the OS updates we got this week. Another piece from MacRumors says with the arrivals of iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, and macOS 13.3, Apple has reactivated upgrades to the new Home architecture. The piece has Apple indicating that that “brings faster, more reliable performance, especially for smart homes with a lot of smart accessories installed.” 

Fingers crossed that that’s the case this time. Apple made the new architecture available last October then pulled the upgrade last December. MacRumors says that happened:

…after users reported issues such as HomeKit devices becoming stuck in an “updating” or “configuring” status, devices going missing entirely, invitations to share the Home with other users failing, HomeKit Secure Video recording not working, and more.

Fingers crossed. Godspeed.

Jessica Chastain to Lead, Produce Apple TV+ Series ‘The Savant’

Apple TV+ has announced a new show in the works, about which it is being needlessly cryptic. The Cupertino-company issued a press release this week announcing the eight-episode limited drama series “The Savant.” Starring and set to be produced by multiple award winning actress Jessica Chastain (among others), Apple’s release says:

Inspired by a true story published by Cosmopolitan, the storyline and character details are being kept under wraps for “The Savant…”

But it was published in Cosmopolitan. A piece from TechCrunch says the story the show is based on is about “a woman who infiltrates online hate groups…” 

Was that so hard Apple? You need to be cagey about that? Seriously?

No word on when the series will hit the stream. 

Apple Music Classical (Finally) Released

And finally today, the music experience a year-and-a-half in the unmaking and remaking: Apple Music Classical is finally out to the masses. Boiling the app down, a piece from MacRumors says:

The new ‌Apple Music‌ Classical app offers ‌Apple Music‌ and Apple One subscribers access to over five million classical music tracks, including new high-quality releases, in addition to thousands of exclusive albums, and other features like composer bios and deep dives on key works.

Users can look up works a number of ways, including by composer, by title, by conductor, and by catalog number. And if you have no idea what you’re looking or listening for, the service is said to have you covered there as well. Quoting MacRumors again:

Over 700 playlists are available to guide listeners through 800 years of music, with more to be added, according to Apple. Beginners can start with The Story of Classical audio guides, which blend expert commentary and selected works to introduce key composers, periods, instruments, and classical terminology.

You had me at whatever I just said. 

Sounds great, but what does the lead guitarist of one of the world’s most influential yet enigmatic rock bands think of the service? A piece from The Independent out of the UK has film composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood singing hosannas and heyzannas to Apple Music Classical. The paper had the music maker saying:

What I’m encouraged by is that so many people who listen to the kind of music that Radiohead make also have a deep interest in classical music. But until now, it can be quite off-putting trying to discover more about composers. I just think there’s a whole market of people who are interested in artists like (US composer) Steve Reich, for example, and think of them as all being quite similar. But until now, when you look for Steve Reich on Apple Music it’s quite off-putting, and it’s quite limitless, the amount of recordings and pieces. And the clarity that it’s going to give to people when they want to actually step into this amazing world of music is going to be a huge help, I think.

Of course, it is the 20-somethingth-century. What’s audio without accompanying video? The company has produced a dramatic, 30-second ad for the service. You can catch that now on YouTube

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber — jump in. Available in Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, the Apple Music Classical app is available now in the App Store — China, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, and Turkey not included.

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Apple’s making it harder for non-developers to get developer betas of its latest software. TMO writer Nick deCourville brings us the story. Plus — I’m worried that changes in Apple Podcasts are reducing discoverability for independent podcasts. I will confess, I mix up the terms “network” and “channels,” though the questions are still sound. Hear what I mean on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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