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Indie productivity app Alfred refuses to let Apple steal its thunder

Photo: Alfred

A new companion app called Alfred Remote makes it easy to control your Mac from an iOS device. Photo: Alfred

Well, there goes Alfred.

That’s the first thought I had when I saw the new Spotlight in OS X Yosemite. I feared Apple had basically made my favorite little app launcher obsolete (we nerds call it “sherlocked”).

I was wrong.

It’s six months later, and Alfred is doing just fine, thanks largely to a vibrant community built around its power features, or workflows. Spotlight may be able to quickly launch an app from anywhere, but Alfred can tell the weather, eject attached hard drives, and control your Nest thermostat.

And now, after five years on the Mac, Alfred is making the leap to iOS with a new companion app called Alfred Remote. Released today, it’s not going to be useful for most people, but serious Alfred users will love it. If anything, it’s evidence that you can still build a great app and community around core features offered by Apple.

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Mysterious dwarf planet gets NASA and space geeks buzzing

An illustration of Dawn reaching the dwarf planet Ceres. Illustration: NASA

An artist’s concept shows Dawn reaching the dwarf planet Ceres. Illustration: NASA

The dwarf planet named after the Roman goddess of motherly relationships will soon have a new friend. And scientists and space-exploration geeks here on Earth can’t wait for that friend, the space probe Dawn, to start dishing.

Dawn, launched in 2007 to visit two bodies within the asteroid belt past Mars, is scheduled to enter an orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres on March 6. Ceres is the largest mass in the asteroid belt and has an icy mantle that may harbor an internal ocean of water under its surface. Talk of water on a planetary body always leads to questions of life.

Ceres has long been a curiosity to astronomers and space observers, and its status — is it an asteroid? a dwarf planet? — has been hotly debated ever since its discovery in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi.

Never mind all that. What’s that white spot?

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Snapchat Discover wants to change the way you find news


Snapchat is taking Stories, its concept that lets you see the world through your friends’ perspectives, to a new level today. By collaborating with the likes of Vice, Comedy Central, Yahoo News, and National Geographic, Snapchat’s new Discover feature brings you the news in the form of a story.

The ephemeral social network says it’s taking aim at social media companies who “tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular” (like Facebook).

Discover stories are created by editorial teams and refreshed every 24 hours. Unlike Stories, Discover content also supports long form journalism, making it a huge threat to Facebook and Twitter as the top place to find and read your news.

Here’s how to use Discover:

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Apple is top smartphone maker in China for first time ever

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

iPhone 6 is #1 in China. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple took the top spot for smartphone sales in China last quarter for the first time in the company’s history, reports financial research firm Canalys.

To accomplish the stunning feat, Apple leapfrogged Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi, thanks to the sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple is also selling more iPhones in China now than it is in the United States, even though the iPhone costs nearly double its nearest competitor. Canalys credits this to Apple tapping into trends like larger screens and LTE.

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7th heaven: iPhone 7 concept is everything you’re wishing for


A possible glimpse of the future? Photo: Oval Picture

Four months down the line, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus still feel like new devices, but that’s not stopping enthusiastic, design-minded techies from creating concept showing how they hope Apple’s next generation iPhone will look.

This concept, created by Netherlands-based graphic designer Yasser Farahi, shows a sleeker iPhone with thinner bezel and profile, and a few of the less popular design features of the iPhone 6 taken out. Most enticing of all is Farahi’s dream of wireless charging: a technology which has been often rumored over the years, but not as of yet implemented by Apple.

Given that Farahi has chosen to name it the iPhone 7, this particular model would likely arrive in 2016, since this year will probably see the iPhone 6s, with the majority of changes being under the hood. Personally, I’m not mad keen on some of Farahi’s subdued color choices, but it’s still a tantalizing glimpse at what we could have to look forward to next year.

Check out more pictures, and a video, after the jump.

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eBay raids Apple for payment talent to work on possible Apple Pay rival

Apple Pay is setting the gold standard for mobile payments. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple Pay is setting the gold standard for mobile payments. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Post-Apple Pay, everyone is looking to Cupertino when it comes to innovation in the mobile payment sector. eBay is no different — with the online auction company starting up a new division, designed especially to develop payment-related technology.

And wouldn’t you know it? It’s filling it with ex-Apple folk.

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iPad haters’ initial complaints seem ridiculous 5 years on

The dream to give ever student in the L.A. schools district an iPad has officially come to an end. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The iPad is one of Apple’s greatest inventions, but at launch, people couldn’t stop complaining. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Five years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. A giant screen with one button, the iPad represented possibly the purest distillation of Jobs’ tech dreams. Yet at the time it was met with derision. “I got about 800 messages in the last 24 hours,” Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. “Most of them are complaining…. It knocks you back a bit.”

Half a decade and multiple iterations on, the iPad is an established part of Apple’s ecosystem. While it’s had its ups and downs, nobody’s flooding Apple’s inbox with iPad-related hate mail anymore.

So what were people complaining about? We hopped in our time machine to take a look at the original criticisms — and what, if anything, Apple’s done about them in the years since.

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Game on: Apple patents snap-on iOS gamepad

The Wikipad GameVice will strap to the sides of your iPad mini for buttons with your large screen. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Apple’s patent cover a Wikipad GameVice-style accessory capable of attaching to your iOS device. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

What is it with Apple and the gaming-related patents as of late?

Just weeks after the publishing of an Apple patent showing a concealed gaming joystick capable of being hidden in future iPhones, today the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office has revealed another Apple invention related to a snap-on gaming controller for iOS devices.

As with the joystick patent, the idea here is to allow gamers to fully capitalize on the present golden age of iOS gaming, without having to block parts of the screen using their fingers for multitouch controls.

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Apple Pay actually makes it really easy to commit credit card fraud

Loading a stolen credit card on Apple Pay is too easy. Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

Loading a stolen credit card on Apple Pay is too easy. Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

When Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay last year, the company hailed it as a simple contactless payment solution that also brings extra security to credit cards. Except according to one report, Apple Pay is actually making it easier for scammers to commit credit fraud.

Apple Pay’s security problem has nothing to do with Touch ID, NFC, Apple’s secure element, or stolen iPhones. All of that is locked down as tightly as Apple advertised. The problem, according to an unconfirmed report from DropLabs, is that Apple Pay is so easy to use, fraudsters don’t even have to create a physical fake card anymore.

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Happy birthday: The iPad turns five today

They grow up so fast!

They grow up so fast!

Five years ago today, on January 27 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco — giving the world its first glimpse of the so-called “Jesus tablet.”

Although not Apple’s first venture into the tablet market (that would be 1993’s Newton MessagePad 100), the iPad was the first tablet Apple had released while Jobs was running the show. And, boy, was it great!

When looking at the iPad, at first the temptation was to think of it as a giant iPhone. That’s not the case, however. In reality, Apple began work on its tablet before its now-iconic smartphone. For Jobs, the idea went back to 2002 and a conversation he had with a boastful Microsoft engineer, who bragged about a stylus-based tablet computer. A patent application from Apple followed in March 2004, with Jobs and Jony Ive as two of the inventors named.

Things have come a long way since then, but it’s worth re-watching Jobs’ original iPad introduction — just for a reminder of how much Apple’s revolutionary device has meant in the half-decade since.

Check out the video after the jump:

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