Hoping for a small Mac mini revival

A funny thing happened to the Mac mini last week. The single Mac model that’s the most long in the tooth surpassed 1,000 days without an update. But this shouldn’t be too surprising to Mac mini fans: that update, in October 2014, was 723 days after the previous Mac mini update, in October 2012. The quad-core Mac mini released in 2012 (and discontinued in 2014) still stands as the fastest Mac mini ever made, since the 2014 models maxed out at two processor cores.

What I’m saying is, the Mac mini hasn’t been loved by Apple for a long time. And yet it lingers as an active Apple product, with no promise of a future update like the one Apple gave the Mac Pro in April. (“The Mac mini remains a product in our lineup,” said Apple SVP Phil Schiller that day, thereby confirming its existence and nothing more.)

So why does the Mac mini remain a product in Apple’s lineup?

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Apple’s risky balancing act with the next iPhone

As there always are at this time of year, there are lots of rumors out there about what the next iPhone will be. This year we’re hearing that Apple is going to release a high-priced, next-generation phone in addition to the expected iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models.

The idea that Apple might make an ultra-high-end phone with a huge price tag has rubbed many people the wrong way. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber did the math, and while this potential move makes a lot of sense, it’s also a gamble on Apple’s part. But if Apple didn’t release a next-generation phone this fall, it would also be risking the fortunes of both its brand and its most important product.

The trouble with the cutting edge

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iOS

4 ways iOS 11 will improve how you listen to podcasts

Owing to its embrace of the format back in 2005, Apple owns the most prominent position in the podcast market. Between iTunes on macOS and Windows and the Podcasts app on iOS, Apple owns the most popular podcast players in existence. And Apple Podcasts is by far the largest and most comprehensive—some would say definitive—directory for podcasts in the world.

That position gives Apple power and influence in the podcast world, even if you don’t use Apple’s apps to listen to your favorite podcasts. And with iOS 11, Apple’s making changes to the way podcasts organize and describe themselves that should make it easier to choose which podcast episodes to listen to, while giving podcasters more insight into just how people listen to podcasts.

First, a short primer on how podcasting works: Podcasts are comprised of a bunch of audio files placed on a server somewhere on the internet. What makes a podcast more than a random collection of MP3s is the podcast feed, a structured file that indicates what episodes a particular podcast has, information about each episode, and a link to the audio file for that episode. When you subscribe to a podcast, your podcast player of choice regularly checks the feed to see if a new episode has been added, and then downloads it.

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iPhone at 10: The greatness of the original iPhone

Ten years ago, after six months of hype and after waiting in very long lines around Apple and AT&T retail stores, people first got their hands on the iPhone. Time has a way of flattening our memories of events: Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone and the world changed.

But that simple sentence misses the initial fierce debate about whether the iPhone was going to be a usable product, the fact that the iPhone software wasn’t close to being done when it was announced in January, and the building of increasing excitement for a product that in some quarters was already being hailed as a game-changer. It was also the first time that I can remember where being in line at an Apple Store was an event.

At Macworld we had editors in various iPhone lines, phoning back stories, while also waiting to get our hands on a few iPhones so we could actually write about the thing. (No, we didn’t get one in advance.) I believe our editor Brian X. Chen, now the tech reporter at The New York Times, waited in a long line at Stonestown shopping center in San Francisco for the phone that would ultimately be the one I used for my review.

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Why the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a typing champ

If there’s a defining quality to the iPad Pro, it’s that the device seeks to go beyond the traditional touch interface of iOS to seek out additional ways of getting work done. For people who are comfortable with pencil, pen, and paper, the Apple Pencil brings a new dimension to using an iPad. And for those of us who are most comfortable with a keyboard beneath our fingers, the iPad Pro—with its Smart Keyboard, the first Apple keyboard designed for iOS—was a sign that Apple realizes that sometimes, even an iPad needs to behave a bit more like a laptop.

There are probably innumerable reasons why Apple decided to expand the size of the second-generation iPad Pro, replacing the old 9.7-inch model with a new 10.5 one. But one benefit of the slight expansion—the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is 10.6 millimeters wider than the old model—is more room for typing, whether it’s physical keys on the Smart Keyboard or the virtual keys of the built-in software keyboard.

A better Smart Keyboard

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The big unanswered questions from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference

And now, we wait. Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is over, and with all the announcements comes a broad understanding about where Apple is taking iOS and macOS over the next year. But there are still a few lingering questions that Apple didn’t, or couldn’t, address at WWDC.

What don’t we know about HomePod?

We’ve got six months until HomePod arrives, and plenty of questions to ponder in the meantime. Apple’s connected home speaker processes audio to route different parts of the music to its different tweeters, but how does it learn about the acoustics of the room it’s in? Are its audio settings adjustable, either by app or via Siri?

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HomePod first impressions: Lots of unknowns, but its sound is impressive

This week, we learned that Apple’s much-rumored smart speaker is real, and it’s called HomePod. Now the wait begins—six months until it ships in December. But while we’re waiting, Apple’s still tweaking the product and getting it ready to launch.

Sure, a few of us lucky souls were able to listen to a HomePod at Apple’s developer conference, but nobody outside of Apple has talked to one or picked one up. At the risk of stating the obvious, that’s because this is a product that’s not finished yet. Apple doesn’t want to publicly commit to a feature and then realize it can’t ship it; the product as the company conceives it today may not be the product that ends up in customers’ hands in December.

What we know

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