TO EN­COUR­AGE MORE USE, IN­STA­GRAM TO AL­LOW SHAR­ING WITH FEWER

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Keep your friends close ... and your close friends closer?

In­sta­gram is adding a fea­ture to make it eas­ier to share pho­tos and videos with fewer folks.

Called Close Friends, the new fea­ture lets users share Sto­ries — pho­tos and videos that dis­ap­pear af­ter 24 hours — with peo­ple they put on a spe­cial list. The idea is peo­ple may feel more com­fort­able shar­ing some things with just close friends, rather than all fol­low­ers.

Reg­u­lar posts would still ap­pear to ev­ery­one, though users have the op­tion of pre-ap­prov­ing fol­low­ers. Face­book al­ready lets peo­ple nar­row au­di­ences for in­di­vid­ual posts, but the Face­book-owned In­sta­gram hasn’t.

So­cial-me­dia com­pa­nies are quickly learn­ing that big­ger au­di­ence sizes for users can mean a re­luc­tance to share more per­sonal stuff. So, they are adding ways to com­mu­ni­cate with smaller groups. This is why Face­book is beef­ing up its Groups fea­ture, and why mes­sag­ing apps are so pop­u­lar.

Robby Stein, prod­uct di­rec­tor at In­sta­gram, said the fea­ture took more than a year to com­plete. It starts rolling out to users.

To use it, first cre­ate a list of close friends by go­ing to your pro­file and tap­ping the icon with three hor­i­zon­tal lines. In­sta­gram will sug­gest peo­ple to add based on how of­ten you in­ter­act with them, or you can pick your own.

Once that’s done, you can cre­ate a story just for those peo­ple. Friends aren’t no­ti­fied when you add them to the list, or if you re­move them later, and they can’t re­quest to be added. But they’ll even­tu­ally know: Sto­ries they get this way will have a green cir­cle around them, rather than the usual pink.

You can cre­ate just one Close Friends group, though, rather than sep­a­rate ones for fam­i­lies, friends and other cir­cles, as you can on the main Face­book ser­vice. Stein said In­sta­gram wanted to keep things sim­ple and ob­served that when there are mul­ti­ple lists, peo­ple don’t tend to use them.

In­sta­gram copied the Sto­ries fea­ture from Snapchat years ago and now has more than 400 mil­lion peo­ple us­ing the fea­ture each day. That’s more than twice the num­ber us­ing Snapchat — not just its Sto­ries fea­ture — each day.

OUR AP­PLE 2019 WISH­LIST

There’s no deny­ing that 2018 has been a stel­lar year for Ap­ple. Re­leas­ing a trio of new iPhones, a new iPad Pro, Ap­ple Watch, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini, vir­tu­ally ev­ery prod­uct in the lineup has been re­freshed, but we al­ways want more. In this week’s is­sue, we lift the cur­tain on our 2019 wish­list, re­veal­ing which prod­ucts we’d like to see given some love next.

ALL-NEW iMAC

Last year’s iMac Pro was a treat for power users, of­fer­ing next-level per­for­mance and style in a gor­geous new Space Gray cas­ing. Re­views were over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, too, de­spite the Pro’s $4,999 price tag. Whilst the Pro will con­tinue to serve its pur­pose at the higher end of the mar­ket, it’s the orig­i­nal iMac line-up we’d like to see given an over­haul. Hav­ing sported the same all glass and alu­minum de­sign for more than ten years, per­haps it’s time to give the desk­top com­puter a new look to bring it in line with the rest of the Mac fam­ily? Thin­ner bezels, more screen real es­tate, and a fin­ger­print un­lock on the wire­less key­board would bring the iMac up to speed.

If Ap­ple re­ally wanted to take the iMac to the next level, then it could bow to pres­sure from the pub­lic and bring touch-screen func­tion­al­ity to the Mac. Ap­ple has al­ready out­lined plans to port iOS apps to the Mac and vice versa to fur­ther align the op­er­at­ing sys­tems, so the next log­i­cal step would be to cre­ate an iMac/ iPad cross­over. A stun­ning ‘MacPad Pro’ mockup from ikon­cept brings that idea to life, with two edge-to-edge screens that can be folded in

ei­ther di­rec­tion, al­low­ing you to turn your iMac into a lap­top, and your lap­top back into a desk­sized ph­ablet de­vice. Is this the fu­ture?

Along­side a new iMac, a new 5K Ap­ple mon­i­tor is long over­due. The com­pany dis­con­tin­ued its Thun­der­bolt Dis­play mon­i­tor more than two years ago, which means con­sumers want­ing to use Mac minis or add a sec­ond dis­play to their setup would need to rely on third-party mon­i­tors. Of course, mon­i­tors have come a long way in re­cent years, with new curved dis­plays and tablet-style con­fig­u­ra­tions giv­ing con­sumers more control over their dis­play, but surely Ap­ple could en­ter the game and cre­ate a new high-end mon­i­tor that of­fers style and func­tion­al­ity for work, gam­ing, and en­ter­tain­ment?

EV­ERY­DAY HOMEPOD

With more than 57.8 mil­lion Amer­i­cans now own­ing a smart speaker in their home, there has never been a more im­por­tant time for Ap­ple to up its HomePod game. Ama­zon Echo and Google Home are dom­i­nat­ing the mar­ket (com­bined, the pair have sold 60 mil­lion units in the United States and count­ing), so Ap­ple must do more if it wants to com­pete and be­come a key player in the smart home and as­sis­tant fields. With Siri of­ten crit­i­cized for its lack­lus­ter per­for­mance when com­pared with Google As­sis­tant, it’s clear that Ap­ple must bring its tech up to speed if it wants to make a dent in com­peti­tors’ sales.

HomePod is re­ported to have sold just 1.5 mil­lion units in the United States since its launch last year, which is in part be­cause of its price tag. The HomePod re­tails for $349 -

ex­pen­sive when you com­pare the de­vice to an Ama­zon Echo, which re­tails for as lit­tle as $19 dur­ing pro­mo­tions. Of course, the tech­nol­ogy and per­for­mance of the HomePod, and its abil­ity to in­te­grate with iOS and HomeKit, sets it apart from the com­pe­ti­tion, but many con­sider the price to be sim­ply too high for a smart speaker.

With Ap­ple set to launch a Net­flix-style stream­ing ser­vice next year, the in­tro­duc­tion of a new low-cost smart speaker, or per­haps even a Chrome­cast-in­spired don­gle, would go down well. Ac­cord­ing to one re­port from Ap­pleIn­sider, Cu­per­tino de­vel­op­ers are cur­rently con­duct­ing in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions about a new smart as­sis­tant and stream­ing stick, so a cheaper way to ac­cess Siri could be on its way.

MACBOOK RE­FRESH

Mac mini and MacBook Air were both over­hauled as part of this year’s Oc­to­ber event, whilst the MacBook Pro was also handed a pro­ces­sor boost in July. The 12-inch MacBook, on the other hand, is in need of some TLC. Last up­dated in June of 2017, the de­vice is avail­able in Ap­ple’s three sig­na­ture col­ors - Space Gray, Sil­ver, and Gold - and fea­tures In­tel Kaby Lake chips. Upon re­lease, the re­views were mixed, but buy­ers crit­i­cized the de­vice for its in­abil­ity to han­dle CPU-in­ten­sive tasks. De­spite its smaller struc­ture and pro­ces­sors, the en­try-level MacBook model comes in at $1,299 - the same price as a 2.3GHz Dual-Core Pro­ces­sor MacBook Pro. Ap­ple will no doubt re­fresh the line in 2019, and we’d like to see the firm bring down the price of the notebook, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that the lat­est MacBook Air also tops the $1,000 price tag. A cheap, ac­ces­si­ble MacBook would give con­sumers more choice when choos­ing a new com­puter, and add some more bal­ance back to the MacBook lineup, which cur­rently feels over­priced.

GOOD­BYE TO THE HOME BUT­TON

Ap­ple waved good­bye to the Home But­ton on the iPhone this year when it dropped three new phones - the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. Of course, the com­pany will con­tinue to sell the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 whilst stocks re­main, but its 2018 Spe­cial Event was the clear­est sign yet that the fu­ture of hard­ware was but­ton­less.

That trans­lated into iPad, when Ap­ple un­veiled an all-new iPad Pro in Oc­to­ber, sport­ing a new de­sign with­out a Home But­ton, and the in­tro­duc­tion of the USB-C port for charg­ing and con­nect­ing ac­ces­sories. In 2019, we’d like to see all iPads given the same Pro treat­ment, re­mov­ing Home But­tons, and adding USB-C to the en­try-level iPad mini and 9.7” iPad. Not only would this stan­dard­ize the lineup, but it would give con­sumers greater flex­i­bil­ity in charg­ing and us­ing ac­ces­sories like the Ap­ple Pen­cil and sup­ported pe­riph­er­als like cam­eras and print­ers.

EN­TRY-LEVEL iPHONES

Be­fore the launch of the iPhone XR in Septem­ber, many ex­pected Ap­ple to in­tro­duce a suc­ces­sor to the iPhone SE, ar­guably one of the most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated iPhones ever to have ex­isted. In­deed, an iPhone SE 2 was ru­mored to sport a pocket-sized four-inch dis­play and wire­less charg­ing, and even come with Face ID. Hope was lost, how­ever, when Ap­ple in­stead un­veiled the iPhone XR. Re­views of the ‘low end’ iPhone have been pos­i­tive - af­ter all, the model is cheaper than the iPhone XS and in­cludes most of the same func­tion­al­ity, bar Force Touch and a sec­ondary SIM card slot - but many crit­i­cized Ap­ple for the XR’s pric­ing, which cur­rently starts at $749 in the US.

In­deed, an en­try-level iPhone would al­low the firm to sell more de­vices to price-sen­si­tive con­sumers, who have ef­fec­tively been priced out of the mar­ket now iPhones top the $1,000 mark. Tim Cook re­sponded to crit­i­cism dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on Good Morn­ing Amer­ica, telling jour­nal­ists that the thou­sand-dol­lar XS was “the most ad­vanced iPhone we’ve ever done” and that “the prod­uct is re­ally im­por­tant. And we’ve found that peo­ple want to have the most in­no­va­tive prod­uct avail­able and with that, it’s not cheap to do.” A cheaper iPhone, how­ever, would in­crease adop­tion rates, bring more peo­ple to iOS, and al­low Ap­ple to claw back mar­ket share in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, where the iPhone XS Max’s $1,449 price tag can be as much as a year’s salary in some nations. Not only would a cheaper iPhone bridge the gap, but it’d give soft­ware de­vel­op­ers more op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand their busi­nesses.

iOS was last given an over­haul with iOS 7 in 2013, but a great deal has changed since then. Ap­ple moved away from skeuo­mor­phism and cre­ated a cleaner, flat­ter user in­ter­face, and whilst the op­er­at­ing sys­tem has stood the test of time, a re­freshed Ap­ple-like de­sign and new fea­tures could help to set it apart from An­droid.

Sev­eral mock-ups, from de­sign­ers such as Ja­cob Ren­d­ina and Jack­son Sworsk have al­ready given us food for thought and show what the fu­ture of iOS look like, and now we’re hun­gry for more.

A guest mode, app bar, quick app switcher, non-in­tru­sive call alerts, dark mode, par­al­lax sim­u­lated-per­spec­tive, the abil­ity to lock in­di­vid­ual apps, and 3D live pho­tos are all heav­ily re­quested fea­tures - all of which Ap­ple could add to iOS with fu­ture up­dates. In­te­gra­tion with macOS and watchOS, on the other hand, will al­low for a more stream­lined tech ex­pe­ri­ence.

THE FU­TURE IS COM­ING

Ap­ple has shown this year, and in­deed in years prior, that they know what con­sumers want, even if we don’t know we want it yet. From mighty new hard­ware to em­pow­er­ing soft­ware, the Cu­per­tino firm is head and shoul­ders above its com­pe­ti­tion - with more new in­no­va­tions on the way. From Ap­ple Glasses that of­fer a next-gen­er­a­tion rev­o­lu­tion­ary user in­ter­face, a bil­lion-dol­lar en­ter­tain­ment stream­ing ser­vice with shows from names like Oprah and Jen­nifer An­nis­ton, and the long-awaited Ap­ple Car, which will be self-driv­ing and bat­tery pow­ered, the fu­ture has never been so ex­cit­ing for Ap­ple fans. We’re ready for 2019 - and be­yond!

Im­age: Sergei Savostyanov

iOS Con­cept - iOS 13

Im­age: Jack­son Sworski

Im­age: Martin Ha­jek

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