Author Archives: Seth Weintraub

Siri founder Adam Cheyer tells the story of its creation in this hour long video

While the video is at times technical and “in the weeds” it is a great overview of the creation of Siri that I hadn’t yet seen.  Mixed in are anecdotes about Apple, Steve Jobs and other players that made the technology happen.

Walking backward in time, Adam discussed the technical history of Siri as well as how the vision of virtual personal assistants evolved over time. He wowed the audience with a video from 1987 on a concept from Apple where predicted a Siri like device 24 years in the future and was only off by 2 weeks.

The talk is from the Listen 2014 Conference given last month. Cheyer left Apple in late 2012 and has started work on a new Startup


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple Inc, Cheyer, Darpa, Siri, Steve Jobs

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Best Bluetooth Speaker of the Year: JBL, Beats, Bose, UE Boom, Jawbone, more

Best-Bluetooth-speakers-2015(TL;DR: Winner, best size, best sound, runner-up best apps, best budget, best $300)

It has been a solid year and a half since our last Big “Best Portable Bluetooth speaker” competition, though we’ve done tons of updates to it in the months since.

A lot of our favorites are still around while others have been updated and new players have emerged. And what about our previous champ: the Ultimate Ears Boom? Spoiler alert: a new winner has emerged. Read on to find out who takes our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker award…

The portable Bluetooth speaker market was created by a combination of factors. A2DP Bluetooth 2.1 allowed stereo speakers to be driven wirelessly through smartphones and computers. Phones like the iPhone with the ability to play lots of music over Bluetooth started to become ubiquitous. Lithium batteries are light enough and have an energy density high enough to give those speakers and radios hours of playing time. Things started coming together in 2010

The first true portable Bluetooth speaker in the ‘modern sense’ was the Jawbone Jambox which was a hit ignited by this amazing Sandwich video in 2010. Sure, many existed previously, but no one really put it all together like Jawbone did.

The video spelled out the variety of different uses a portable Bluetooth speaker could have which is still very relevant today. The party, gaming, enjoying portable movie sound, conference calls and dinner parties are all still very relevant.

The high end ~$300+ range

This is the realm of the Bose Soundlink III, Big Jambox, Beats Pill XLMarshall StanmoreHarman Kardon Aura, Cambridge Audio Minx and Bowers and Wilkins T7. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chance at one time or another to demo all of these great speakers.

As far as portability, the only ones in this list that can truly be taken with you in a pocket or small bag are the Bose Soundlink III, Big Jambox and Beats Pill XL. The others are of course movable but not something you would take with you on a daily basis. Moving them around the house might make sense but they aren’t on-the-go portable. If you are looking for high end sound, I can easily recommend any of the three above, but I have inside knowledge on a new product that will be launched at CES that will blow these away.

Frankly, some of the lesser price models below will sound 95% as good but cost about half as much and have some other great features.If I had to choose one at this price/form factor RIGHT NOW, say for a big shopping holiday coming up, I’d go with the Beats Pill XL ($270). With Apple’s purchase of Beats, this is the flag-bearer iPod Hi-Fi speaker and with charge indicator, handle, 15 hours of battery and ability to charge USB devices and sleek design, it is a great all around speaker. But like I said before, I’d encourage most people to pick a mid-range device (keep reading) and save some money and space.


Bargain, ultraportable Bluetooth speakers under $50

This is the most treacherous area of Bluetooth speakers where tons of cheap Chinese brands lurk hoping to ensnare the bargain hunter with lower quality acoustics and substandard batteries and features. I spent a few months earlier in the year going through some of the more popular ones which I rated here. What’s most interesting is that the exact same Chinese speaker will have a few different brand names from week to week.  There are some standouts that I can recommend for under $50 however:

The OontZ Angle by Cambridge Soundworks (below) with great sound and 10 hour battery is a no-brainer for $33 shipped.


The JBL Micro is another solid, dependable good looking Bluetooth speaker you can find under $45. You can daisy chain these if you want (I never do) and they only have 5 hours of battery. But I really like the wearable design, sound is superb for such a small device, it has an AUX out for headphones or home speakers. Compare with the Boombot Rex or $24 Divoom Bean (comparisons here).


Other highly rated low cost examples can be found from Anker (which is also a speakerphone) and the $23 Aukey.

Also, we frequently rate the most recent bargain Bluetooth speakers at 9to5Toys so keep an eye out for good deals there.

Midrange Bluetooth Sweetspot ($50-$200)

Most portable Bluetooth speaker shoppers should wind up here, and with prices starting way below $100 and reaching up to $200, there is something for a variety of budgets. Last year I gave Logitech/Ultimate Ears Boom and Mini Boom the nod as the best all around Bluetooth speakers and my feeling for most people is that they will still be extremely happy with either product. UE combines Micro-USB charging, the ability to be used as a speakerphone, great designs (colors I’m not always nuts about) and great iOS and Android apps with nearly the best sound in class. Expect a best-in-class 15 hours of battery life from the Boom as well. Smart shoppers should be able to find the Mini Boom for $70 and regular boom for $179. But before you buy, there may be some better options…

If you are looking for the smallest sized speaker that still sounds great, take a look at the Beats Pill 2 which can be found for as little as $180. It is very very pocketable and has sound that is heads and shoulders above the low end models mentioned above, and will even charge your phone with a USB-out – though for $180, I’d easily take the UE Boom sound/form factor above for sound alone.


For pure sound, I’m still going to take the Bose SoundLink Mini. I called it the best sounding portable bluetooth speaker ever in my long read review and I still stick by that. Bose of course is highly polarizing with its sound profile but across the board, people who’ve heard the Mini have been blown away.

But Bose has its downsides as well. First of all, it is almost impossible to find it less than its $199 list price. It also charges via a proprietary AC adapter rather than micro-USB standard which makes it a hassle to charge on the go – which is made more painful by its shorter 6 hour battery life. Finally, it doesn’t do speakerphone calling which hampers its accessibility and it requires a manual turn on every time it wakes from sleep.  But Ohhh that sound.


Bose recently released the $129 “Color” version of its Soundlink family and although I haven’t spent much time with these $70 cheaper, Micro-USB charged speakers, I have been very impressed with their sound. I’m not a fan of the look (it kind of looks like a change purse!) but given some more time with it, the Soundlink Color could be a top pick.


The Winner! JBL Charge 2

Speaking of top pick, my 2014 Bluetooth Speaker of the Year is also the most improved: The JBL Charge 2 is better in almost every way than the Charge that it replaced, and that was a damned good Bluetooth speaker when I reviewed it last year.

Why do I think the Charge 2 is the best? It does just about everything you can throw at it very well and additionally it costs significantly less than its competitors. (Base: $150 but sometimes as low as $120.) It charges via Micro-USB and works great as a speakerphone so it already compares well to the UE Boom which has a similar cupholder-friendly cylinder form. The Charge has a crazy long 12-hour battery life via 6000 mAh battery, but it also has a USB power out for charging your phone or tablet which the Boom lacks. IT also is a very attractive device and comes in 5 colors.

IMG_3317 JBL-Charg-2-ports JBL-Charge-2-lights JBL-Charge-2 JBL-charg-2-flip JBL charge-2

Even more importantly than the cheaper price, appearance and phone charging capability is its sound. The bass response has been improved from 150 to 75 Hz and the power output has also increased from 2 x 5 to 2 x 7.5 watts. The big thing in sound here is that the Charge 2 actually has two bass speakers that point outwards and give you real live stereo separation (the original Charge only appears to have 2 outward facing monitors). It sounds great whether you use it on a desktop, outside at the beach, in a rental car, a kitchen or at the office.

Like really great.

I’m not going to say the sound is better than the Bose Soundlink Mini here, but it is close and I’d take the sound over $30 more expensive UE Boom. It also doesn’t match the sound of the high end $300+ speakers mentioned above. but it is close enough that I’m willing to overlook as a tradeoff for portability, lower price and additional features.

There is one downside which I wasn’t able to replicate. Some forums members and Amazon reviewers report that at lower volume, listening to voice-heavy sound, there is bass interference. I can only imagine this was an early manufacturing defect because I haven’t been able to replicate it with my recent review unit and most other reviews don’t mention it. If you get a bad unit, return it for a better one.

One last fun feature: It has a social button which allows 3 people to hook in to the Bluetooth simultaneously. I didn’t try this because my music is the best.

Just like UE did last year, JBL Charge 2 has taken a product category that the Jambox invented and outdone the pioneer. I still like Jamboxes but their price/sound ratio is too high!

That’s our wrap up. I hope this review of the Bluetooth speaker field helps you make an informed choice when picking out that next Bluetooth speaker as a gift or personal gadget. For me, Bluetooth speakers are the #1 personal iPhone accessory and comparisons like this have become something of a hobby/obsession.

Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Bluetooth, Bluetooth profile, Bose, Charge 2, iPad, iPhone, JBL, micro-usb, SoundLink, UE, UE BOOM, UE Mini Boom

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LifeProof Fre case for iPhone 6 — Waterproof, strong, and thinner than ever


LifeProof pioneered the waterproof, shockproof iPhone case in 2011 when the original LifeProof protected the iPhone 4/s from dropping it on the ground, smothering it in ketchup, mustard, and dirt only to successfully rinse it off in a fish tank. We were had then and watched as the company grew into an iPhone case powerhouse which drew copycats and eventually an acquisition by OtterBox last year.

I’ve had LifeProof’s new Fre iPhone 6 case since it debuted last month and have put it through all kinds of torture tests, most notably my three-year-old who likes to watch Ben and Holly in the bath tub and six-year-old who sees no problem sled riding and skiing with a smartphone (Read: GPS tracking device).

The bottom line?  It continues to protect from everything. Lots of drops, dirt, water, snow. Pretty much anything…

A reader even left her Lifeproof-ed iPhone 5 on top her car, drove off and heard it slide down the back of her car and onto the road at highway speeds. She almost didn’t go back for it knowing it was totally destroyed. When she did find it, it was working perfectly. Sure, the Lifeproof case was a mess, but the iPhone was almost entirely unscathed.

We hear stories like this all the time about LifeProof cases which back up the credo “Complete confidence — total freedom” – a set it and forget it type of case for your expensive iPhone investment.

lifeproof-iphone-6 IMG_3322 IMG_3320 IMG_3321

That said, this case does have a few shortcomings. One, it doesn’t feel quite as elegant as other iPhone cases including LifeProof’s own Nuud line (available for iPhone 5/s as low as $30, coming to iPhone 6/Plus next year) in the front especially. The waterproof plastic is a step down from the glass you are used to and the sound from the top speaker is muffled slightly. It also has narrow input ports for the headphone jack and Lightning connector. Apple gear works great but if you have an iPhone 6 dock or third party cable, you might need to thin it out a little bit first.

I do like that the screw plug for the headphones is attached to the side and volume/mute buttons are guarded. Overall, this case is well thought out. Even taking it off and putting it back together has improved from previous/competing models which often take a lot of pressure and time to put on properly. The Fre was on my phone within a minute of getting the box and comes off in seconds.

Overall, it is simply the best waterproof, shockproof case available for iPhone 6 out there. 2015 will bring the Nuud case which I’m expecting to like more as well as Griffin’s survivor, Otterbox Preserver and many more.


  • Thinner than ever (with the help of the thinner iPhone 6 obv.)
  • Totally waterproof to 6 feet for 1 hour. Very shock resistant. Dust? Snow? No problem.
  • Camera, volume and Touch ID work fine.


  • Headphone and Lightning charging ports often require specialized smaller cables
  • Plastic front looks cheaper and smears easier than I’d like…

You can pick up the LifeProof Fre at Lifeproof for $80 or at Amazon where it is available in 3 colors. 

The iPhone 6 covered with LifeProof Fre compared to Galaxy S5 Active waterproof:

water-proof-iPhone 6 next to Galaxy S sport

IMG_3325 IMG_3327

Filed under: Reviews Tagged: cases, iPhone 6, LifeProof, Lifeproof Fre, waterproof

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Panic’s Transmit App no longer allowed to ‘send’ files to other services, developers request reprieve

Panic-transmit-send-app-storeIn a blog post today, Mac/iOS developer Panic explained why a recent version of its venerable Transmit FTP/File transfer app no longer uploads to iCloud, and it turns out, other services:

Transmit iOS 1.1.1 is out, fixing a few bugs in our surprisingly powerful file management app for your iPhone or iPad.

Also, at Apple’s request, we had to remove the ability to “Send” files to other services, including iCloud Drive.

In short, we’re told that while Transmit iOS can download content from iCloud Drive, we cannot upload content to iCloud Drive unless the content was created in the app itself. Apple says this use would violate 2.23 — “Apps must follow the iOS Data Storage Guidelines or they will be rejected” — but oddly that page says nothing about iCloud Drive or appropriate uses for iCloud Drive.

If the issue is just iCloud Drive, why did we remove the other destinations? We had no choice. iCloud Drive exists in this sheet.

The developers are taking their case public a few days after the app update was released in an effort to persuade Apple to change their minds in this case.  Seems like a no-brainer. What say you Apple?

Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: App Store (iOS), Apple Inc, Apple iPhone 5C, Apple iPhone 5S, Apple Software Update, icloud, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iWork

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Tim Cook nominated Time Person of the Year finalist after huge product introductions/coming out publicly

Tim-cook-time-person of the year

Time has posted its Finalists for Person of the Year today and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook it on the list. Time credits the Alabama native for introducing a number of new products as well as coming out as the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO.

Tim Cook, who introduced Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay this year, and whose decision to come out made him the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO.

Other nominees (that don’t necessarily conform to “person” moniker) include:

  • The Ferguson protesters, who took to the streets in August following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer, and again in November when a grand jury declined to indict the officer in the killing.
  • The Ebola caregivers, who are still fighting the biggest Ebola outbreak in history, that has so far taken the lives of nearly7,000 people in West Africa.
  • Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has remained in the headlines throughout this year, from his country’s stewardship of the Winter Olympics in Sochi to its annexation of Crimea, and its role in the ongoing civil strife in eastern Ukraine.
  • Taylor Swift, one of the world’s top-selling pop artists, who this year shook up the music industry by pulling her music from streaming service Spotify, which she believes should compensate artists more.
  • Jack Ma, an English teacher turned founder and CEO of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant which debuted a $25 billion IPO.
  • Masoud Barzani, the acting president of the Iraqi Kurdish Region since 2005, who has deftly threaded the region’s push for independence with the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
  • Roger Goodell, the National Football League commissioner whose leadership has been under great scrutiny this year as the league dealt with public incidents of domestic abuse by players such as Ray Rice, among other controversies.

Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: 2014 Winter Olympics, Adolf Hitler, Apple Inc, Black Sea, iPhone, Russia, Russian language, Saint Petersburg, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Time Person of the Year, Vladimir Putin

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Former Apple Global Supply Manager Paul Devine sentenced to a year in prison and $4.5M fine


A former Apple Global Supply Manager was sentenced in a San Jose federal court earlier this week nearly 3 years after being convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in relation to selling Apple iPhone and component secrets to Apple’s suppliers. AP notes that Paul Shin Devine was up to no good:

The scheme funneled millions in kickbacks to Devine for passing along confidential information to Apple Inc. suppliers and manufacturers who used the secrets to negotiate more favorable deals.

When the case was tried in 2010, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, “Apple is committed to the highest ethical standards in the way we do business. We have zero tolerance for dishonest behavior inside or outside the company.”

The original indictment described a scheme in which Devine used his position at Apple to obtain confidential information, which he transmitted to Apple suppliers, including Ang. In return, the suppliers and manufacturers paid Devine kickbacks, which he shared with Ang. The information enabled the suppliers to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple, according to the indictment. The companies were not named in the indictment, but they were described as suppliers of materials designed for Apple’s iPhone and iPod products. They are located in “various countries in Asia,” the indictment said, including China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

At the time Apple was hoping to recover $1 million from Devine, so it isn’t clear why the amount rose so significantly in the 3 years since the conviction. It also isn’t certain why Devine’s sentencing took so long or was so much shorter that the 20 years he faced.

We can speculate that he probably helped convict some of the people who bribed him and were sentenced last week. During those investigations, the bribery amount was probably found to be much higher than originally reported.

Devine’s LinkedIn account still lists himself an Apple employee. 

Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple Inc, California, Confidentiality, Mail and wire fraud, Money laundering, Plea, San Jose, United States Attorney

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Apple’s new ‘Change is in the Air’ ads show novel uses for the iPad Air 2


Apple released a new iPad Air 2 campaign during Sunday football today showcasing various unique physical and software applications for the iPad Air 2.

Featuring the song “Who Needs You” by The Orwells [iTunes Store, Youtube], the ad is a departure from last year’s iPad Air which were focused on a single user.

iPad Air 2 isn’t just the thinnest and lightest iPad we’ve ever created. It’s the most powerful. From the studio to the classroom, the field to the garage, it’s helping people discover new and better ways to do the things they love. Imagine what you’ll do with it.

Microsite embedded below:

Explore the game-changing apps from the film.

These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of apps waiting for you in the App Store — apps that makeiPad Air 2 capable of even more amazing things.

Adobe Lightroom

A simple yet powerful way to organize, edit, and enhance all the photos from all your devices.

View in the App Store

Athla Velocity: Ultimate

Turn your iPad into a personal hands-free radar gun and measure the speed of a serve, kick, or pitch.

View in the App Store


Who says coding is hard or boring? Now you can learn to code by making fun games and simulations.

View in the App Store

HM Tracker Design

Calculate the most effective angle for solar panels to catch even more rays.

View in the App Store

Garden Plan Pro

Design the perfect plan for a garden and track its growth for the best harvest. Green thumb not required.

View in the App Store

iRhino 3D

View or share a 3D design as easily as if you were holding the actual piece in your hands.

View in the App Store


Bring blueprints to the field or job site, share notes, and keep your crew on the same page.

View in the App Store

Speedometer Speed Box

Gauge your need for speed. Measure the speed of moving cars, motorcycles, and more within a tenth of a mile per hour.

View in the App Store


Move out from behind the mixing board and control your Behringer X32 console with iPad from any seat in the house.

View in the App Store


Never get caught in the rain again with crowdsourced weather reports and hyperlocal updates.

View in the App Store

Whale Alert

Fatal strikes between ships and whales are being dramatically reduced by this crowdsourced whale notification app.

View in the App Store

Homestyler Interior Design

Visualize how that midcentury modern credenza will look in your pad, from your iPad.

View in the App Store

Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders

Invite your wingman to a dogfight with this immersive, motion-controlled air combat game.

View in the App Store

SketchUp Mobile Viewer

3D sketches are a powerful way to see before you do. Now you can easily view your designs from every angle before making them a reality.

View in the App Store

Touchgrind Skate 2

Land an ollie lip slide with the flick of a finger in this irresistible skateboarding game.

View in the App Store

Traktor DJ

Get the party started with pro DJ tools and effects that let anyone create killer mixes in seconds.

View in the App Store

123D Catch

Capture life, in all its dimensions, and create 3D models of anyone or anything that you can even 3D print.

View in the App Store

Paper by FiftyThree

Learn to love the blank canvas. Sketch, draw, paint, and get creative without tricky settings or distractions.

View in the App Store

The Human Body by Tinybop

See what you’re made of. Study the human body by watching how it works from the inside out.

View in the App Store


You’ll be amazed at how great a photographer you can be with the redesigned iSight camera and its incredible new features like HD time-lapse, slo-mo, and burst modes.

Learn more

Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: App Store (iOS), Apple Inc, IBooks, iPhone, iPod, IPod Nano, IPod Touch, iTunes, ITunes Store, Mac App Store

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