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About Alex Heath

Alex Heath Alex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by places like the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too. All DMs excepted.

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Shazam can now play back full tracks with Rdio

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Shazam got a cool update today.

The song-recognition app that Apple is baking into Siri in iOS 8 can now play back full tracks thanks to a partnership with Rdio. Users with the Rdio app installed will be able to listen to a whole song tagged in Shazam without having to the leave the app.

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Ultratext is the easiest way to create and share fun GIFs on the iPhone

Ultratext gif

I only recently got into the world of animated GIF memes, and that’s mainly thanks to a group of friends that like to inundate my iMessage with random stuff 24/7. Like any good millennial, I have some of my favorite GIFs saved in my Camera Roll to whip out at an appropriate time in a conversation.

Then there’s the world of making my own GIFs, which I have never had the slightest inclination to dabble in until I stumbled onto Ultratext, a relatively new app for the iPhone. After showing it to my techie and non-techie friends alike, it’s safe to say that Ultratext is the easiest and most fun way to create GIFs and share them in a matter of seconds.

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iPhone 5s is world’s top smartphone, but phablets are on the rise

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Bigger iPhones are on the way, which is good news for Apple’s bottom line.

The iPhone 5s is the number one smartphone in 35 countries around the world, according to new research conducted by Counterpoint Technology Market Research.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 came in second followed by the S4, Note 3 phablet, and iPhone 5c at fifth place. With larger 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones on the horizon, Counterpoint notes that Apple will have another hit on its hands if it goes after the larger-screen smartphone market.

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Production issues could delay giant 5.5-inch iPhone until 2015

iPhone 6 and 6c concept

Besides a 4.7-inch model, Apple has been expected to announce an even larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 this fall. But now production issues might keep Apple from pulling the trigger on an iPhablet until winter or even 2015.

Ming-Chi Kuo of the Taiwanese firm KGI Securities, who has been a consistently reliable source of information on Apple’s plans, isn’t bullish on seeing a 5.5-inch iPhone by the end of the year. Problems with the phone’s new display and casing could result in it being pushed back until well after the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 comes out.

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Apple responds to Chinese media backlash over iPhone location tracking

Tim Cook in the crowd at a recent event with China Mobile.

Tim Cook in the crowd at a recent event with China Mobile, the largest carrier on earth.

After the Chinese media called iOS’s ability to track an iPhone’s location a “national security concern,” Apple has responded with a lengthy statement detailing its commitment to customer privacy.

Yesterday China’s state-run CCTV ran a segment heavily criticizing the “Frequent Locations” feature in iOS 7 that records where the device has been in detail on a map. The implications of the report were that Apple was sharing the data with other companies and governments.

Today Apple responded to the allegations by saying that it is “deeply committed to protecting the privacy of all our customers” and that it has never created a backdoor for any government agency.

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Sharp moves to pry iPhone display plant from Apple

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Back in 2012, Sharp’s Kameyama Plant No. 1 switched from making larger TV panels to smaller screens for smartphones. Apple became a key partner, and now the plant is at 90% capacity making displays for the iPhone 6.

You’d think that such strong business would keep Sharp happy, but that isn’t stopping the Japanese company from wanting to distance itself from Apple. The main thing Apple seems to be concerned with is that Sharp could end up doing business with Samsung instead.

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Sapphire-coated iWatch production not expected to begin until November

Apple-iWatch-01

Will Apple have iWatches ready to hit the shelves when it announces the wearable at its rumored event in October? Probably not.

Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who is undoubtedly the most accurate Apple analyst on the planet, is saying that Apple won’t begin mass production of the iWatch until November. He has also lowered his sales projections considerably because of “complications” Apple has to deal with concerning new materials like sapphire.

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iTranslate is the easiest way to translate over 80 languages on the Mac

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iTranslate has been one of the most popular language tools on iOS for a long time, and today it comes to the Mac.

With support for over 80 languages, voice output to help with pronunciation, and a clean menubar app design, this is an app definitely worth checking out.

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The new TaskRabbit wants to be like Uber for everything

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With Uber or Lyft, you can summon a car to pick you up with a tap on your iPhone. TaskRabbit makes it that easy to find someone to do your grocery shopping or even stand in line all day for the new iPhone.

Until today, TaskRabbit has operated on an auction-like bidding system for handling tasks. Not only is TaskRabbit killing that model, but it’s releasing a redesigned app with automatic Client and Tasker pairing, one-click hiring, and its own messaging platform.

After today’s changes, TaskRabbit has become a blend of two things. It’s a more evolved, mobile-friendly version of the jobs section of Craigslist, and it’s applying the on-demand aspect of Uber to just about any kind of errand or odd-job you could hire someone to do.

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Former retail chief on why Apple stores have always had free Wi-Fi

Steve Jobs and Johnson at Apple's Fifth Avenue Apple Store grand opening. (Photo by Richard Agullar)

Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson at Apple’s grand Fifth Avenue store opening in NYC. Photo: Richard Agullar

Ron Johnson was Apple’s first head of retail, and he is widely credited with the early success of what is now the most profitable retail brand on Earth.

In a recent interview at Stanford University, his alma mater, Johnson reflected on his career in retail at brands like Target, Apple and J.C. Penney. He gave some insight into the decisions behind what makes the Apple Store “experience,” including why every store has always had free Wi-Fi.

Johnson also talked about the “intimate” relationship he had with Steve Jobs and shared a pretty surprising opinion about the late CEO.

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