TO ENCOURAGE MORE USE, INSTAGRAM TO ALLOW SHARING WITH FEWER
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.
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?
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.
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.
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