A tour of iOS 10.3: Checking out APFS, the Settings app, and other tweaks

Apple has just released iOS 10.3 to the general public, an update which is likely to be the last major release of iOS 10; at this point in the year, work usually begins in earnest on the next major release of iOS, which will be revealed at WWDC in June. The update is available for everything that runs iOS 10: the iPhone 5 and newer, the fourth-generation iPad and newer, the iPad Mini 2 and newer, both iPad Pros, and the sixth-generation iPod Touch.

The update has been going through the beta process for a couple of months now, and since it’s likely to be iOS 10’s last major update, we’ll spend some extra time with a few of the high-profile features. I’ve also spent a tiny bit of time with the new APFS filesystem, which won’t change much for most people but does seem to free up a small amount of local storage space.

Change is afoot… in the Settings app

Andrew Cunningham

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macOS 10.12.4 update brings Night Shift to the Mac and not much else

Apple has just released macOS 10.12.4, the fourth major update for Sierra since the operating system was released last September. In addition to the typical bug fixes and security patches, the update brings over one minor feature from iOS: Night Shift, which can subtly change your screen’s color from a cooler blue tone to warmer yellow tones in an effort to help you sleep better.

Night Shift was originally introduced in iOS 9.3 about a year ago. Since then, Google has added a similar feature to Android 7.0, and Microsoft is going to include a version of it in the imminent Windows 10 Creators Update. On Android, Windows, and macOS, the feature is arguably less necessary, since third-party apps like f.lux can fill the gap. Still, it’s convenient to have it integrated into the OS itself and officially supported by the companies, if only because it will prevent the feature from breaking when new updates come out.

The complete list of fixes, including business-specific updates, is below. For security update information, keep an eye on this page.

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Apple releases watchOS 3.2 with new Theater Mode and SiriKit

The latest update for the Apple Watch is now available. Apple is pushing out watchOS 3.2 today to bring two key features to its smartwatch: Theater Mode and SiriKit. This is the second addition since Apple released the huge watchOS 3 update back in September 2016.

Theater Mode has been talked about a lot as Apple released betas of watchOS 3.2 over the past few months. It lets you mute sounds and disable the raise-to-wake feature of the watch, meaning its screen won’t light up when it senses your wrist turning to check the time. This takes the Apple Watch’s current Silent Mode onestep further, essentially eliminating all the lights and sounds the watch would make when triggered by movements or alerts. You’ll still receive haptic feedback for incoming notifications (if you have that feature turned on), and you can still view notifications by manually waking the watch’s display. Theater Mode can be activated by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch’s display and tapping the drama-masks button. Once you turn Theater Mode off, your Apple Watch will go back to your usual settings.

WatchOS 3.2 also brings SiriKit to the Apple Watch, which is a feature previously only available on iOS devices. This expands voice commands to third-party applications, letting you ask Siri on the Watch to do more for you like make a payment, call a car, or send a message. App developers must make extensions using Apple’s Intents and Intents UI frameworks. So once third-party developers add those capabilities to their apps, you’ll be able to do more with Siri from your Watch.

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Samsung’s Note 7 recycling plan includes reselling the device in some countries

Samsung has announced a recycling plan for the Galaxy Note 7, which includes the possibility of the device hitting the market again as a refurbished product. The Note 7 was famously recalled shortly after launch due to faulty, potentially explosive batteries. After the recall, Samsung was left with an estimated 4.3 million Note 7s taking up space in a warehouse (and most likely setting fire to that warehouse). Now what?

In a blog post, Samsung laid out three “principles” for dealing with the Note 7 bodies in an “environmentally-friendly manner.”

First, devices shall be considered to be used as refurbished phones or rental phones where applicable.

Second, salvageable components shall be detached for reuse.

Third, processes such as metals extraction shall be performed using environmentally friendly methods.

Refurbishing the phone is the most interesting option. Samsung says that refurbishing applicability is “dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand. The markets and release dates will be determined accordingly.” A Samsung representative gave a bit more info to The Verge, saying, “Samsung will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note 7 devices for rent or sale in the US.” When a refurb does happen, “the product details including the name, technical specification, and price range will be announced when the device is available,” according to the company. So it seems everything is on the table right now, including giving the Note 7s a new name and tweaking the specs.

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Intel’s first Optane SSD for regular PCs is a small but super-fast cache

Intel

Intel is positioning its new Optane technology as the next big advancement in computer storage after SSDs, and today it’s announcing the first consumer product based on the technology. The “Intel Optane Memory” drives are 16GB and 32GB M.2 sticks that can be paired with a larger SSD or HDD to speed up total system performance. Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology allows your PC to see the two drives as one storage volume, and the software automatically caches important data to the faster drive.

The Optane Memory drives will be available to order on April 24th. A 16GB drive costs $44 while a 32GB drive costs $77.

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Fitbit Alta HR review: $150 for a true all-day, all-night fitness tracker

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Making an accurate wristband heart rate monitor, let alone one that’s also comfortable and stylish, is challenging. Fitbit’s latest attempt to strike that balance is the $150 Alta HR. A near mirror-image of the original Alta, the Alta HR is an updated model with slight design differences, improved sleep-tracking features, and a tiny optical heart-rate monitor inside of it.

The Alta HR is quite similar to Fitbit’s currently available Charge 2, but the Alta HR places more emphasis on the combination of a slim design and an accurate heart-rate monitor. Fitbit is banking on that combination encouraging users to wear a device all day and all night long. The Alta HR is proof that you can have a device that works as hard as you do without being ostentatious and without much sacrifice.

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Google reportedly removing SMS texting from Hangouts on May 22

Google continues to shake up its messaging tools with the upcoming removal of a popular feature from Hangouts. According to an email sent to GSuite administrators and subsequently posted to Reddit, Google will remove the SMS messaging feature from Hangouts on May 22. Anyone using Hangouts as both a Google messaging app and their primary text messaging app won’t be able to send SMS texts after that date.

Hangouts users will be notified of this change via an in-app message starting March 27. You’ll be prompted to select a new default messaging app from your list of downloaded apps. If you don’t have anything other than Hangouts, you’ll be directed to the Google Play Store to download another messaging app. All of your existing SMS messages will not be affected and they will be available in your new default messaging app.

Google Voice users will also be affected, but not as much as Hangouts-only users. The rule only applies to messages sent and received with your carrier phone number—all SMS messages sent with your Google Voice number will remain unaffected. “For SMS users using Google Voice on Hangouts on Android Google Voice users who also send carrier SMS messages will need to choose another default messaging app. Their Google Voice messages will be unaffected and will still be available in Google Hangouts,” the email states. “For Google Voice users on Hangouts on Android Google Voice users who do not use carrier SMS text messaging will not be affected and no notification will be shown.”

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Review: The $229 Moto G5 Plus stands as the king of budget Android (for now)

We’ve documented the decline of Motorola under Lenovo extensively. We still liked the phones, which had probably been developed mostly under Google’s ownership anyway, but in 2015 we started to see slower updates and shorter support lifecycles. Last year was when the wheels really started to come off. Not only did the company mostly ruin its flagship phone by swapping the inexpensive and competent Moto X for the expensive and weird Moto Z, but Lenovo issued several contradictory statements about software updates that made it unclear whether the Z or the fourth-generation Moto G would be receiving regular updates at all.

It’s not all bad. The Moto G4, especially the G4 Plus configuration, was still a solid midrange phone that offered good-enough performance, a nice big 1080p screen, and a fingerprint reader for $250. Unlike the Moto Z, it at least understood and respected the intent behind the original 2013 Moto G: an affordable phone with clean, unskinned Android and no-to-low-frills hardware that got the job done. Its lack of updates over the last nine months has been disappointing, but that’s the norm in the Android world rather than the exception.

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