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Audiophiles, rejoice! During their WWDC keynote on Monday, Apple announced that both Dolby Atmos spatial audio and lossless audio are now integrated into Apple Music. Spatial audio is also a feature of the new and improved FaceTime in iOS 15, and coming to Apple TV/Mac in the fall.
These features are not currently offered by Apple music’s major streaming competitor, Spotify. But if you’re wondering, “what’s spatial audio, anyway?” you wouldn’t be the first. Here’s a breakdown:
Spatial audio is how Apple describes their completely immersive listening experience. It starts with the encompassing audio landscape of Dolby Atmos, and enhances it even more. So, let’s start with Dolby Atmos. Best described as a “sound-bubble”, Dolby Atmos is surround sound for headphones. It creates a multi-dimensional soundstage from which audio can be emitted, rather than the simple left/right stereo sound of ye olden days.
But spatial audio uses gyroscopes and accelerometers within AirPods Pro and Max, and places the sound based on where your head is. So if you turn your head away from your phone to the left, you’ll hear the music shift to the left side of your head. It’s as if you’re at a concert and your phone is the stage.
Only a few thousand tracks are currently mixed with Dolby Atmos spatial audio, with more arriving as artists release new music and remix select songs from their catalogs. Try out Apple Music’s playlists like “Hits in Spatial Audio”, curated to show off what the feature can do.
Spatial audio will be fun for music, no doubt. But it will likely improve FaceTime more significantly. You’ll feel as if you’re in the same room with the person on the other end of the FaceTime call.
The iPhone maker also added lossless audio to its streaming platform. “Lossless” refers to the quality of the audio. When music is compressed, the finer details and textures of the audio are lost. You can now stream crystal-clear, CD-quality audio in Apple Music. (And argue with your friends about whether or not you actually notice the difference.)
While spatial audio is limited to certain tracks, Apple’s entire library is quickly being converted to lossless. Every one of the 75 million+ songs will support it by the end of the year.
To enjoy spatial audio, you need the higher-end AirPods Pro, Max, or one of the several Beats headphone models that’s compatible.
These features now come standard with Apple Music, at no extra cost. Could they woo listeners away from Spotify, Amazon, and TIDAL? We’ll see.
The iPhone 13 Pro Lives Up to Its Legacy [Review]
In releasing new iPhones, Apple seems to follow a pattern; one big, game-changing innovation, followed by a season of incremental improvement. The iPhone 13 lineup is an incremental improvement; taking what we know and love from the iPhone 12 models, and enhancing it. But in this case, Apple made small upgrades where they count the most – a shrewd decision.
The iPhone 13 Pro comes in a lineup of four phones released simultaneously – the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. While the iPhone 13 Pro price and the iPhone 13 Pro Max price are heftier (starting at $999 and $1099 respectively), they justify the cost with quality performance that we’ve come to expect from Apple.
With a stunning camera, mind-blowing battery life, and unsurpassed performance, the iPhone 13 Pro further deepens consumer trust in Apple’s star product. And it strengthens its already prominent position in the handset game.
The iPhone 13 Pro camera captures vivid images and Cinematic Mode videos
All four iPhone 13 models include a camera that’s been upgraded from the previous generation. But the iPhone 13 Pro (and Pro Max) cameras truly stand out.
Three 12MP lenses, including a telephoto lens with 77mm focal length and 3x optical zoom, are equipped with advanced sensors that capture more light, allowing for more detail. As per Apple’s MO, the deft balance of hardware and software allow the iPhone 13 Pro to take some of the sharpest images of any smartphone.
Macro Photography is another enhancement of the Pro camera. Enabled by the iPhone 13 Pro’s ultra wide lens and autofocus, your phone can capture objects two cm away or closer with insane precision – making a butterfly’s wing look like a stained-glass window. It’s a dazzling addition, but it has a hiccup.
Macro mode turns on automatically, without giving you an option to disable it, and this can get annoying. Apple says they’ll include an on/off trigger for macro mode in a future software update. In the meantime, the pros (pun intended) of this capability outweigh the cons.
All of the iPhone 13 models also include Cinematic Mode. This feature essentially works like Portrait Mode, but for videos. Capturing 1080hp at 30fps, the iPhone’s intuitive software spots your subject and blurs out background images. But you can also shift subjects (while filming or in post), creating immersive depth of field effects.
This feature still has kinks, and you’ll get the best results in well-lit environments. But it’s a blast to use, and puts advanced videography in the palm of your hand. Watch out Scorsese, there’s a new crop of filmmakers coming up.
When it comes to display, iPhone 13 Pro stuns with ProMotion
The iPhone 13 Pro sports a 120Hz OLED display. And for the first time, your iPhone can automatically adjust the refresh rate, depending on what you need out of it. It’s what Apple calls ProMotion. That means for everything from graphics-heavy gaming to Instagram feeds, the screen looks crisp and responsive.
It feels amazing to use; powered by the A15 Bionic chip, this phone seems to run seamlessly. It’s also pretty darn bright! At one thousand nits, your phone can finally be useful outside on a sunny day.
Apple also made some noise about narrowing the notch at the top of the display. It’s 20% smaller. While it’s still there, and still annoying to look at, the notch is necessary for the iPhone’s TrueDepth front-facing camera. It’s not only important for FaceTime and selfies, but necessary to unlock your phone via facial recognition. Which raises another point…
Many of us hoped that Apple would bring back some form of fingerprint unlocking, as it’s been difficult to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. But the folks at Apple aren’t ones to go backwards. A feature that came on iOS 14.5 allows a paired Apple Watch to unlock your phone, but it just doesn’t prove as helpful as we hoped. So it looks like mask-wearers will have to use passcode entry for now.
The iPhone 13 Pro has drastically improved battery life – it’s no joke
Long-lasting battery is right at the top of everyone’s list of things they want from their smartphone. Designers added a bigger battery and focused on efficiency to deliver a considerable battery life improvement to the iPhone 13 Pro.
According to Apple, it lasts an hour and a half longer than the 12 Pro, but you can get as much as three bonus hours. That’s especially impressive considering the power needed to run the iPhone 13 Pro’s display and 5G connectivity. (The Pro Max offers an even longer battery life.)
Unfortunately, the iPhone 13 Pro is still laggy when it comes to charging speeds. Only topping out at 20W when plugged in, you’re gonna need some time if you want to charge this thing all the way up. It’s a bit of a bummer, considering how fast competing devices can charge.
The iPhone 13 Pro performance is blazing fast, thanks to the A15 Bionic
Apple is very proud to have the fastest chip in a smartphone. Their A15 Bionic leaves Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 in the dust, and reaffirms that those geeks out in Cupertino have legit silicone skills. So it’s no surprise that the iPhone 13 Pro’s performance is second-to-none. This phone can handle gaming, multi-tasking, and 5G network speeds. It’s powerful.
With minor, but meaningful adjustments, iPhone continues to keep an edge on the competition. Living up to its legacy, the iPhone 13 Pro is one of the best smartphones we’ve ever seen.
The Best New iOS 15 Features You Should Know About
iOS 15 packs quite a punch. When it comes to added features, this software update is loaded! So much so, that it can be a lot to process (for you, not your phone). For help navigating through some of the coolest new things your iPhone can do from Maps to FaceTime, keep reading!
For starters, you need an iPhone 6s or newer to install iOS 15. Some of these features require an iPhone XS or newer, and others require an iPhone 12 or newer. If you’ve been wondering whether to install the update, buy a younger generation iPhone, or both, these features might convince you.
Focus Mode helps you tune out distractions and pay attention to the task at hand
The iPhone is a culturally revolutionary device. As a society, we’ve become extremely addicted to these small computers we carry around with us. Apple acknowledges the tech-absorbed little monsters they’ve created. And what’s more, they’ve taken steps to help us control our obsession, and use it for good. How generous, right?
Focus is a new feature of the iOS 15 update that allows you to customize notifications based on location, time of day, and even more personalized factors. By creating and customizing Focus Modes, you can allow notifications from certain contacts or apps, while blocking others. So you won’t get a notification from your Dungeons and Dragons group while you’re at work. Find out how to set up a Focus Mode and get… focused!
FaceTime in iOS 15 now includes Shareplay, grid view, Portrait Mode, and more
Finally, FaceTime has caught up with Zoom. iOS 15 makes it more convenient than ever to stay within the Apple ecosystem when video conferencing. Whether watching Ted Lasso with friends over FaceTime or video-chatting your entire family crowded around a single phone, the updated FaceTime enhances your experience with the app. New features include:
- Compatibility with non-Apple users
- Screen sharing
- Portrait Mode
- Voice Isolation & Wide Spectrum
The ability to FaceTime with anyone, whether or not they have an iPhone is an update for which countless FaceTimers have long been asking Apple. And with Shareplay, you can listen to your favorite music or watch your favorite show with fellow fans, even if they’re not physically with you. Find out how to use these new iOS 15 FaceTime features to one-up your video-calls.
Safari gets a facelift, and Tab Groups just might change your life
Safari has a nifty new design. And while some folks are taking a minute to warm up to the revamped look, it’s got some cool new tricks. One of the most notable is Tab Groups. Using Tab Groups, you’re able to organize your tabs into folders. Here’s how it works:
- Tap the the tabs icon in the bottom right corner (two overlapping boxes)
- The middle of the tab bar at the bottom of the screen will announce how many tabs are open, with a downward arrow – tap it
- Tap one of the “+” buttons to either create an new empty tab, or create one from the current open tabs
- Name your group and save!
Your new tab group will show up whenever you press the tab icon. You can add new pages to it, and delete it if you no longer need it later on. These groups work across your devices, so you can have the same tab groups when using Safari on your Mac.
(P.S. Another great new trick on Safari is simply swiping down on a page to refresh it. You’re welcome!)
The iPhone, a Brief History
In the iPhone 13 reveal that Apple called “California Streaming”, CEO Tim Cook declared that “iPhone has forever changed the world.” Way to go big, Tim. And in truth, it’s not all hyperbole. The iPhone revolutionized mobile phones, and shaped the global perception of what a smartphone looks like.
Making many small upgrades and a few large-scale innovations over the years, the iPhone has held its place as a trend-setting, industry leading smartphone. It accounts for well over half of Apple’s revenue, making the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant the most valuable company in the world. And it all began with the iPhone in 2007…
The iPhone – the third revolutionary product in Apple’s history
Steve Jobs announced the iPhone at Macworld conference in January of 2007. Smart phones like the Blackberry were already beginning to catch on, and rumors had circulated that Apple would get in on the smartphone game. Master marketer that he was, Jobs artfully communicated the iPhone’s features to a room full of Apple heads beside themselves with excitement. The giddiness was palpable.
He explained that Apple had been fortunate enough to release three revolutionary products in its time: the Macintosh, the iPod, and now the iPhone. He wasn’t wrong. iPhone boldly ditched mini keyboards, opting for a state-of-the-art touch interface. It included a camera, turning everyone into a photographer. It also put the internet in everyone’s pockets, arresting the attention of smartphone-owners for generations to come. After the iPhone, everyone was trying to catch up to Apple.
3G, the App Store, selfies, FaceTime & Siri – what’s not to love?
The iPhone 3G brought the App Store, busting down the door for millions of apps, not to mention the advent of social media. The iPhone 4 gave us that front-facing camera, so everyone from the President to your great aunt could take selfies. We became instantly and utterly obsessed. FaceTime came at the same time, cementing video chat into Apple’s ecosystem.
Today, we take Siri for granted. But this friendly voice-assistant was a giant breakthrough in its time. Included in the iPhone 4S, Siri arrived in 2011 (Alexa wouldn’t come for three more years). And who could forget the first time they learned that Siri could tell a joke?
Going from a curved, to straight-edged, back to curved, and back to straight-edged design, the iPhone’s style has always kept us on our toes. And we have Apple’s ever-savvy marketing and cult-like following to thank. Moving the headphone jack from the top to the bottom then taking it away altogether made big waves too.
The iPhone 6/6 Plus generation broke sales records and remains the best-selling touchscreen phone to this day. It was also the first generation that included two models of the same phone release, a trend that Apple has continued and even built upon.
iPhone X sets the standard for the modern iPhone
iPhone went straight from generation 8 to the iPhone X (aka iPhone 10). So I guess seven really did eat nine. iPhone X reimagined the smartphone once again. As Android competitors began to rival Apple in both quality and innovation, Apple undertook an ambitious new project that would future-proof the iPhone. Released in 2017, the iPhone X was a giant leap forward.
Apple had consistently asserted that it envisioned a device that was all display. Ditching the home button altogether, the entire iPhone X was one big beautiful screen. Its camera captured better quality images than anyone thought you could get out of a phone camera. It introduced OLED to iPhone hardware. And it also unapologetically asked a hefty $999. Apple had always been known for pricey stuff, but a grand?! The X’s indefatigable performance indeed justified the price.
The iPhone 11, 12, and (now) 13 models have all basically built upon the X’s breakthrough design. The cameras have only gotten better. The chips inside have only gotten more powerful. And they continue to fly off the shelves. The iPhone remains a torchbearer for elegant form, dynamic function, and marketing phenomenon.