As crucial deadline approaches, Apple finally explains how Apple Music works


Apple Music
Apple is finally getting serious about explaining Apple Music to the masses.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

With just days to go before free Apple Music trials start to expire, Cupertino is finally getting serious about explaining exactly how its streaming music service works.

A new wave of “guided tour” videos demystifies Apple Music’s functionality and features — but will this marketing and educational push be too little, too late to stop a wave of defectors from leaving the fledgeling service at a critical time?

Is this Apple exec poking fun at Project Titan sleuths?


Apple car concept art side doors
If Apple really is working on an electric car, DJ Novotney has one heck of a sense of humor.
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

An Apple exec reportedly working on the company’s secret car project might be playing mind games with the Apple Kremlinologists searching for clues.

Is it the tech world’s biggest insider joke, or a sly hint that Apple’s automotive ambitions are real?

UE Boom 2 speaker brings more of everything (except for screws)


The UE Boom 2 is pretty on the inside, too.
The UE Boom 2 is pretty on the inside, too.
Photo: Ultimate Ears

SAN FRANCISCO — Ultimate Ears could have borrowed the iPhone 6s tag line to market its new UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speakers.

Like Apple’s latest smartphones, which Cupertino hypes with the clever catchphrase “the only thing that’s changed is everything,” UE’s second-generation Bluetooth speaker is almost indistinguishable from its tubular predecessor — at least on the outside. But upgraded specs and a few pleasant surprises give the Boom 2 a welcome boost.

“There’s something magic about this design,” said Diego Gabathuler, head of brand and global marketing for Ultimate Ears, as he showed off the Boom 2 during a demo at the Cult of Mac offices. “It would have been a shame to take that magic away.”

Jot Dash is the iPad stylus you never knew you needed


The new Jot Dash stylus works anywhere your finger does.
The new Jot Dash stylus works anywhere your finger does.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — You’d think stylus maker Adonit would be terrified by rumors that Apple is about to release a plus-size iPad Pro with its very own writing accessory, but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Ian Shirey, Adonit’s chief strategy officer, facing competition from Apple would be the sweetest vindication of all for his company’s devices. “For Apple to tell the world a stylus is OK would be great,” Shirey said during a visit to the Cult of Mac offices to show off Adonit’s latest creation, the Jot Dash, an midrange stylus that works with iOS and Android devices.

Lust List: Go-to gear for life’s little challenges



Lust List: September 2015

Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that makes it so we can't feel our faces. This time around we're loving hot music machines, cool photo accessories and more.

S1-A Bicycle Jersey by Search and State

Earlier this summer, Search and State released its version of the ugly-ass Hawaiian shirt in the form of a bicycle jersey. I stared at it for weeks wondering if I could pull off the look while riding in the Oakland hills. While I contemplated my fashion boldness, Search and State apparently sold every last one of those jerseys. I decided I need to get my hands on one of the company's tamer garments to see what the Midtown Manhattan manufacturers have going on.

What they are doing is making beautiful bicycle attire in the heart of what was once New York's garment center. The $140 S1-A bicycle jersey is impeccably sewn and has an understated appearance even the most fashion-challenged can deal with. Nice choice on the zipper, too. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Search and State

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Kinivo 5-port HDMI switch

Apparently, I'm extremely lazy. I know this because I was probably a bit too pumped about this HDMI switch's ability to automatically pick up on which device I'd powered up and change the input automatically.

The Kinivo 5-port HDMI switch also comes with a small remote, so the company clearly knows who its customers are. We have games to play and movies to watch, and we don't have time for this "input" business. At $59.99 list, this hub is also really cheap, so it appeals to my frugal side. Kinivo truly thought of everything. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

iRig Mic Studio

No matter how talented you are, crappy recording tools can ruin your music or podcast. Conversely, a good condenser microphone can capture all the nuance and brilliance of any performance, from an acoustic guitar to spoken word.

The iRig Mic Studio by IK Multimedia is an amazing condenser mic that will give you the pro results you're looking for in an affordable, portable package. It boasts a 1-inch back electret condenser capsule with a 24-bit audio converter that samples your sound source at 44.1/48Khz. It's got a built-in preamp for quieter passages and an integrated headphone port to monitor what you're recording without having to mess with software settings on your Mac or iOS device. It connects to your laptop, tablet or smartphone with its included cables, and has two physical knobs (one for gain, the other for headphone sound level).

This $179.99 microphone is equally at home capturing your voice in a soundproof room or recording your band at the local club. It even comes with a tiny tripod and a velour carrying bag to keep everything together. It's the one mic you'll want with you at all times. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: IK Multimedia, Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Foldio 2

Every time I have to take a picture of a product I'm reviewing, it turns into this whole ordeal of lighting, background, filters, and cold sweats. That's why the Foldio 2 was an easy $75 purchase: This self-contained photo studio folds almost completely flat when you're not using it and assembles in seconds, thanks to some cleverly integrated magnets.

You can use your iPhone camera -- or any other camera, really -- but the Foldio's app makes taking your pictures incredibly easy. An onscreen guide helps you get everything centered, and you can adjust your color temperature and preview before you snap the pic. The kit also comes with a green background that works with the app's onboard chroma-key function. Creator Orangemonkie also gives you the exact dimensions of the backdrops so you can stop by the scrapbook or fabric store and pick up any color or texture you want and be sure it will fit.

This is the newer and larger model; the original Foldio sells for about $50. But for a bigger box (15 inches versus the original model's 10), two LED light strips, and a few more background options, it's worth it to spring for the new model.

It's a really handy device, and if you sell items online or want to take really nice pictures of your stuff, it's a solid buy. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Photojojo

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

Boa saddle bag by Booq

At first glance, Booq's Boa saddle bag doesn't seem all that remarkable. It's black and made of ballistic nylon, like so many other messenger bags. It's only upon closer inspection that the true quality of the briefcase-style Boa saddle begins to stand out.

High-end rubberized zippers and lightweight aluminum buckles guarantee this bag will keep your things secure for years to come. An indispensable luggage strap lets you slide the saddle atop your carry-on for airplane trips; a Terralinq lost-and-found number can help you get your bag back if you accidentally leave it somewhere.

The inside of this $195 bag is completely amazing, too, with a ton of cloth pockets, zippers and extra compartments for just about anything you can think of, plus a plush-lined section that fits up to a 15-inch Macbook Pro with ease. I was able to get all my usual kit -- MacBook, iPhone, iPad, paperback, notepads, pens, water bottle, external hard drive, power cables and more -- into the Boa saddle with no problem (and some room left over). This is a high-quality, last-forever, fit-all-your-stuff kind of serious-business bag. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Booq

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Fluance Fi50 Bluetooth speaker

The premium components and audiophile-grade wood cabinet of this medium-size Bluetooth speaker are impressive enough, but that's not all the Fluance Fi50 is packing. Pairing my devices to this baby was frictionless, and the USB charging port in back makes 12-hour parties or listening a reality without impacting my iPhone or iPad.

The Fi50 has two 5-inch woofers, ultra-crisp-sounding tweeters, and a strong 40-watt amplifier that can handle anything I send at it. Classical music sounds thrilling and full-bodied, hip-hop gets punchy and bass-o-licious, and power pop beneftis from just the right amount of midrange frequency support without getting muddy. Pointed feet, which minimize resonance on any surface where you plop down the standalone speaker, are just another detail that brings a touch of class to an already fantastic audio device.

For $199, you get this gorgeous, handcrafted speaker that looks gorgeous in any setting and will fill your room with audio that sounds like a surprisingly much bigger and pricier stereo. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Fluance, Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

CapturePro Camera clip by Peak Designs

The iPhone is my go-to camera, mostly because it's just so much easier to access (in my pocket) than my DSLR (packed away in my bag). Peak Designs has solved that problem with the CapturePro camera clip that allows you to mount your heavy DSLR to your backpack strap or waist belt, so you won't miss the perfect shot while hassling with your gear.

Using a CapturePro lets you bust out your camera quicker than an Old West gunslinger. Just press the red release button, slide your camera out and snap away. Once you're done, slide it back into place and the clip keeps your bulky camera securely in place.

The clip itself is incredibly well-made and feels solid. It also works with tripod mounts, so you don't have to fiddle with extra attachments. I've been using it with a Nikon D610 with a 27-70 mm lens, which is a fairly heavy setup, but the clip handles the weight with no problem, and manages to keep the camera out of my way until I actually need it. At $80 it may seem a bit pricey, but it's worth it when you capture those memorable snappies that you normally would've missed while digging through your camera bag. — ;Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Peak Designs