Will Trump be good for Apple? [Friday Night Fights]

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How will Apple fare in the Trump era?
How will Apple fare in the Trump era?
Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac. Original photo: Michael Vadon/Flickr CC

In case you hadn’t noticed, the United States has a new leader — and President Donald Trump has a bone to pick with Apple. Several, actually.

Will Trump’s “America first” stance and pro-business policies help Apple or give Tim Cook a series of premium headaches? Cult of Mac editors Leander Kahney and Lewis Wallace come out swinging in this week’s edition of “Friday Night Fights.”

How the MacBook Pro’s Magic Toolbar can cast a spell on the world

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MacBook Pro
The Magic Toolbar will change depending on the app being used.
Illustration: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple faces a serious challenge when it rolls out the rumored OLED “Magic Toolbar” on new MacBook Pros tomorrow: It must convince the world that the new adaptive touchpad is more than a gimmick.

Offering customizable function keys that work in different ways depending on which apps are running, the Magic Toolbar could make the new MacBook Pro one of Apple’s most exciting laptops in years.

But to be more than a gimmick, the Magic Toolbar needs to improve the way we interact with our Macs, not simply add another confusing control element to the laptops. The Magic Toolbar needs to make it easier to perform tasks that we now do using keyboard shortcuts or on-screen toolbars. If it can’t do that, the Magic Toolbar will go down in the history books as a failure.

Luckily, there’s one simple step Apple can take to ensure that the Magic Toolbar becomes a success.

Forget the Galaxy Note 7 and buy an iPhone 7 Plus

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Galaxy Note 7
R.I.P., Galaxy Note 7.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Still thinking about making the Galaxy Note 7 your next smartphone? Forget about it.

I gave Samsung’s latest flagship a glowing review last month. But amid reports that supposedly “safe” replacement devices are overheating and exploding, there’s no good reason to buy a Galaxy Note 7 anymore.

Do yourself a favor and get the iPhone 7 Plus instead.

The future is AI, and Google just showed Apple how it’s done

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Under CEO Sundar Pichai, Google is betting big on AI.
Under CEO Sundar Pichai, Google is betting big on AI.
Photo: Google

After decades of showing us the best ways to interact with computers, Apple is lagging on the UI of the future — voice controls powered by smart, conversational AI.

Google, on the other hand, is placing artificial intelligence, in the form of Google Assistant, at the center of its new Pixel smartphones and Google Home smart speaker.

Cupertino’s mastery of the user interface is legendary: Macs, iPods and iPhones made the GUI, the mouse, the scroll wheel and multitouch mainstream. But Apple needs to get into the AI conversation if it’s serious about securing a place in our gabby future.

Is Siri still steps behind Google’s virtual assistants? [Friday Night Fights]

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v2
Which virtual assistant gets your vote?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has taken big strides to make Siri even greater in recent years, like bringing it to Apple TV and macOS, and opening it up to third-party developers. In that time, Apple’s virtual assistant has also gotten more accurate and more reliable.

Friday Night Fights bug But some might say third-party alternatives — particularly those from Google — are still a step ahead, with greater features and more flexibility. So, is Apple doing enough to make Siri just as stellar as Google Now and the new Google Assistant?

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight as we go head-to-head over virtual assistants.

Why Apple is the new NASA

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Apple Watch swimming app
Apple analyzed the performance of 700 swimmers to develop new Workout app routines.
Photo: Apple

Thirty minutes into Apple’s special event last week, one tidbit of information blew my mind.

Onstage, Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams was talking about the Workout app on the new “swim-proof” Apple Watch Series 2 and the effort the company put into advancing the software that makes the fitness device tick. The amount of research deployed, all in the pursuit of updating a segment of an app many Apple Watch wearers will never use, offers a peek into the enormous resources that Apple R&D commands.

It paints Apple, with its enduring emphasis on developing new materials, manufacturing processes and sophisticated software, as a scientific force to be reckoned with — a new NASA for the 21st century.

Apple’s secret strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver

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iPhone 7 colors
Why the critics are wrong who think Apple's lost its touch.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s always been the company that promised us the world. Steve Jobs’ genius was his ability to convince us that every single thing Apple did shifted the Earth on its axis.

Recently, that feeling of magical futurism has faded. Apple events have been preceded by a feeling of “been there, done that.”

Forget the “wireless future” that Apple talked up at yesterday’s iPhone 7 event as it tried to convince us that we really want AirPods and a dongle rather than a headphone jack. If Apple has a strategy in 2016, it’s underpromise and overdeliver.

And it’s working great!

Why Tim Cook’s open letter about taxes struggles to paint Apple as the underdog

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Apple-BigBrother-1984
Who is Big Brother and who's the rebel freedom fighter?
Photo: Apple

With his open letter defending Apple’s Irish tax strategy, Tim Cook positions his company as a sledgehammer-tossing freedom fighter at battle with Big Brother-style EU bureaucracy.

But unlike Cook’s previous missives on LGBT rights and the importance of privacy, this open letter seems unlikely to be met with near-unanimous support. While railing against the EU’s massive assessment of €13 billion euros in back taxes owed by Apple, Cook ignores the facts of the matter — and seems tone-deaf about painting the world’s biggest company as an underdog.

4 lessons Apple Car should learn from Tesla

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Tesla is siphoning engineering talent from Apple.
If Apple really is making a car, it should take some cues from Tesla.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

With all the recent rumors that Apple will build an electric car within the next few years, obviously Cupertino is going to be compared to the big electric car company of the moment, Tesla Motors.

Tesla sold more than 50,000 model S sedans in 2015, so I’m taking a look at four Apple Car lessons that Tim Cook and Jony Ive should learn from Tesla.

Check out the video below.

How watchOS 3 could fix Apple Watch and end ‘wrist rage’

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Does your Apple Watch give you wrist-rage?
Does your Apple Watch give you wrist rage? If so, watchOS 3 might help.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

My biggest gripe with my Apple Watch is not the sluggish hardware, the lack of GPS nor the dependance on my iPhone. These are all problems to be sure. But it is the bad user interface design that often drives me so mad that my force-taps turn into force-thumps of frustration.

With an update to the Apple Watch operating system expected at the Worldwide Developers Conference next month, here’s my top 10 list of interface improvements I’d like to see in the upcoming watchOS 3. These essential changes would spare my wrist from future incidents of wrist rage.