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Thin is in: The 2015 MacBook hands-on review

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

No USB, no problem. The new 2015 MacBook rocks. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Imagine an iPad Air sliced in half. The top half peels up to reveal a pin-sharp high-res screen. The other half has a full-size keyboard that’s almost flat.

This is the new MacBook; Apple’s latest crazy thin laptop that, as usual, is dividing the tech punditsphere.

With no ports but one, some think this machine is too radical, too new. It’s been called a glorified Netbook — short on features, and, to really rub it in, high on price.

But I’m smitten. We have one in here at the Cult of Mac offices, and I’ve been putting it through its paces. Here’s what I found:

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Early phone’s bizarre mechanism had dialing pegged

This primitive dial phone was built by Western Electric in 1902 for communities too small for a fulltime operator service. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

This primitive dial phone was built by Western Electric in 1902 for communities too small for a full-time operator service. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

This week’s ode to a technological marvel of the past would be a better read on an iPhone 6. How else to fully appreciate the design of the device in your hand than to read about when function and form first met on the telephone?

Early phone’s bizarre mechanism had dialing pegged Among the many items found in my aunt’s home when she died last year in a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula were two telephones that are examples of the first dial phone.

If the once-common rotary dial phone seems strange today, behold the calling function on this 10-pound candlestick phone. On a circular base are 100 numbers. In communities too small to have a full-time operator, each home was assigned a number.

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Gold Apple Watch looks great on my wrist. If only I could turn it on.

The $10,000 gold Apple Watch Edition, the first and only time I will probably ever wear an expensive time piece. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The $10,000 gold Apple Watch Edition, the first and only time I will probably ever wear an expensive time piece. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

CHICAGO — I grabbed the black suit jacket I was married in because I wasn’t sure how to dress for a private appointment to try on a $10,000 gold watch.

My look is challenging to class up. The clean-shaven head, long goatee and ample belly blend in better at a biker bar. But I felt halfway respectable-looking when I walked into the Apple Store in Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood for a Saturday morning hands-on showing of the Apple Watch Edition.

Not many Apple Stores are scheduling appointments for the 18-karat gold Edition, but the ones that do provide extra-special attention. I had a friendly guide, two floor supervisors who came by to shake my hand and thank me for my patience, and a couple of hawk-eyed security guards.

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How App Store reviews can help indie developers

The NASAViz Universal app. Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flicker CC

Five-star reviews are great, but there’s another type of App Store review that’s truly stellar. Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flicker CC

Customer reviews on the App Store are good for business. It’s not just that good reviews can improve your app’s ranking. Reviews have also helped me build a better app.

But with all the fake reviews and haters out there, it’s sometimes hard to see the wood from the trees. The trick is to know exactly which reviews to pay attention to — and the secret is all in your stars.

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Apple Watch Edition is totally untouchable in 38 states

Apple Watch Edition

Coming soon to a wrist near you? Photo: Apple

Want to try on the super-fancy $10,000 Apple Watch Edition? You might have to do a bit of driving, because in a whopping 75 percent of the United States, it’s totally impossible to demo the solid gold Apple smartwatch.

Only 12 states (and the District of Columbia) have Apple Stores taking appointments to check out the Apple Watch Edition. That leaves 38 states that are apparently not fancy or fashionable enough to offer demos of the schmanciest Apple Watch of all. To see if you live in one of them, check out Cult of Mac’s handy map below, but be prepared to weep.

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How an in-store Apple Watch demo will make you a believer

04_10_2015_Apple_Store_Watch_Express_preview_try_ons - 1 (1)

Apple is offering in-store Watch fittings to help customers figure out what watch to buy. We highly recommend it. There’s a few surprises. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Like a lot of people, I took the midnight plunge and bought an Apple Watch before I’d even tried it on.

But today, I got to see the device I bought last night. I went down to the flagship Apple Store in San Francisco and tried on a range of watches.

I wish I’d done this before, because I might have ordered differently.

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The definitive guide to preordering an Apple Watch

Photo: Apple

Want to be among the first to strap on an Apple Watch? These tips will help. Photo: Apple

The Apple Watch launch might be Cupertino’s most innovative — and complicated — product rollout ever. Usually you just pick between a colors and tech specs, but for Apple’s “most personal device yet,” things aren’t so straightforward.

Even the actual purchasing process is different: Lining up at the store a couple days early isn’t going to help you this time, but this guide to buying an Apple Watch definitely will. It’s loaded with tips for beating the odds and wrapping an Apple Watch around your wrist on launch day.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to preorder and buy an Apple Watch.

(Editor’s note: This post has been updated and stickied to the top of Cult of Mac’s homepage. You’ll find fresh Apple news by scrolling down the page.)

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Even more essential Mac keyboard shortcuts

So many shortcuts, save a little time. Photo: DeclanTM/Flickr CC

So many shortcuts, save a little time. Photo: DeclanTM/Flickr CC

There are a ton of Mac keyboard shortcuts to make your digital life easier and more productive. Last week, we showed you 10 of the best shortcuts to keep in mind when using your Mac, and you responded with even more.

Here are Cult of Mac readers’ suggestions for even more fantastic Mac keyboard shortcuts.

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How a sarcastic AI taskmaster came to rule the App Store

HAL 9000 is the spiritual antecedent of CARROT. Photo:

HAL 9000 is the spiritual antecedent of CARROT. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Most apps are way too nice to us. “Don’t worry that you missed your 10,000 steps today,” they say. “There’s always tomorrow.”

CARROT apps are different. Whether you’re using a CARROT calorie counter or a CARROT weather forecaster, all the apps in the growing line have one thing in common: an hilariously sadistic AI character that serves as your in-app guide, dishing out harsh punishments if you miss your targets.

“So many of the apps out there are just cloyingly sweet, CARROT creator Brian Mueller tells Cult of Mac. “They’re always telling you that you’re doing a good job, no matter what you’re doing. I wondered what would happen if you did the opposite and created a sarcastic, irreverent personality who would yell at you if you don’t get stuff done. And, to my surprise, people really, really responded to it.”

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What Snapchat’s confusing new friend emojis mean

Photo: Snapchat

Selfie time! Photo: Snapchat

Snapchat used to have a “Best Friends” list that showed you who each of your friends snapped with the most. It was a weird, slightly stalkerish part of the app that was removed last year.

Now Snapchat has brought back a way to see top friends, but in a more fun way that relies totally on emojis (and won’t destroy your relationships). Here’s how to decode what the new Snapchat emojis mean.

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