Apple today announced that it has awarded $390 million to Texas-based Finisar. The award is to boost the companies capacity to create vertical-cavity-surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) tech that's used in Apple's products for features such as the iPhone X TrueDepth camera and AirPods proximity sensing.
As a result of Apple's commitment, Finisar will transform a long-shuttered, 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, into the high-tech VCSEL capital of the US. Apple's award will create more than 500 high-skill jobs at the Sherman facility, including engineers, technicians and maintenance teams. When combined with the company's nearby plant in Allen, Texas, Finisar's payroll in Northern Texas is expected to be $65 million. Hiring, capital equipment planning and infrastructure upgrades are already underway at the Sherman facility, which is expected to begin shipping in the second half of 2018.
The funding comes from Apple's $1 billion domestic manufacturing fund. The intent is to bolster the capacity of key suppliers. In the past, Apple funds companies to develop technology and increase capacity to manufacture components. In turn, Apple establishes a supply for critical parts, which can be a competitive advantage for consumer electronics which tend to be commoditized.
Apple offering coding resources for 500,000 Chicago students
Apple announced plans to expand its Everyone Can Code program for nearly half a million students. The announcement is in partnership with the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago and local business and non-profits.
Starting this spring, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago will expand Everyone Can Code curriculum and materials to reach students citywide. For the first time, City Colleges of Chicago will offer the innovative App Development with Swift curriculum, helping students build skills around coding and app development.
Swift Playgrounds for iPad is a fun, interactive way for students to learn the fundamentals of coding with Swift.
Chicago Public Schools will also offer new Swift Coding Clubs, which bring coding education to after-school programs. Swift Coding Clubs guide students through key coding concepts, introduce them to Swift and walk them through an app design and prototyping project.
iMac Pro going on sale this week
On Thursday, Apple will begin taking orders for the iMac Pro. Last summer, Apple announced the iMac Pro would ship in December.
The iMac Pro is an Intel Xeon-based Mac with 8, 10 or 18 core process. The iMac Pro will ship with a Radeon Pro Vega graphics processor with 8 GB of HBM2 memory and optionally up to 16 GB of memory. The GPU drives a built-in 27-inch 5K display. Memory configurations start at 32 GB and is configurable up to 128 GB. It also ships with 1 TB SSD with up to a 4 TB option is available.
No pricing is listed yet for the various options, but Apple previously announced it will start at $5000.
The challenge for me is this is a really expensive non-upgradable computer. We'll have to see if there are any upgrades available, but it seems unlikely in the iMac format. The old silver Mac Pros were very expensive, but its expandability and upgradability gave and continues to give them long productive lives.
App Store now offers pre-order
Now you can make your new apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. Customers can see your product page and order your app before it's released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device. For paid apps, customers will be charged before download.
The pre-orders can be set up to 90-days into the future and at least two out.
Nice feature that may help with launch timing or just trying to build awareness of an upcoming app.
Apple acquiring Shazam
Apple's statement to the Verge:
"We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple," an Apple spokesperson told The Verge. "Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users. We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today's agreement."
It's speculated the company is worth $400 million, but the details are unknown.
Speculation on iPhone performance vs battery wear
A Reddit thread has some interesting observations on apparent performance degradation on some iPhones as the battery capacity decreases. This issue may be a means to extend battery life by reducing performance. If, however, an iPhone's battery is worn and holding a reduced charge, this could affect most of the time.
So, I did some research, and decided to replace my battery. Wear level was somewhere around 20% on my old battery. I did a Geekbench score, and found I was getting 1466 Single and 2512 Multi. This did not change wether I had low power mode on or off. After changing my battery, I did another test to check if it was just a placebo. Nope. 2526 Single and 4456 Multi. From what I can tell, Apple slows down phones when their battery gets too low, so you can still have a full days charge. This also means your phone might be very slow for no discernible reason. Check your Geekbench scores and see what you get if your phone is still slow!
Report: Jony Ive returning to day-to-day responsibilities
Apple chief design officer Jony Ive is returning to directly managing his team. The change is after two years when he reportedly was managing Apple's new campus construction.
Ive, 50, was named Apple's chief design officer in 2015 and subsequently handed off some day-to-day management responsibility while the iPhone maker was building its new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California. "With the completion of Apple Park, Apple's design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design," Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.
Apple spotlights the best content of 2017
Apple rounded up the most popular content for apps, movies, music, TV, podcasts, and books. Each category has a selection.
For apps, Apple broke down content into four trends in addition to naming specific apps.
App Store editors identify four breakout trends in app culture for 2017: the introduction of AR (augmented reality) apps and games, the rise of real-time competitive gaming, apps focused on mental health and mindfulness and apps transforming storytelling and reading.
Amazon Prime Video launches on Apple TV
Today, Amazon Prime Video is available for download on the Apple TV. The app can be downloaded from the App Store and provides access to Amazon's library of video content.
It's been a long journey between the companies. in 2015 Amazon pulled the Apple TV and other streaming devices that did not support its own video services. There was no technical reason for the lack of app, so the issue was most likely around content purchasing terms.
Comparing iPhone X/iPhone 8 charging options
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X introduced new charging options for wireless/inductive charging and also fast charging with USB-C. MacRumors has a nice comparison of the various options to charge one of these devices, including the existing 5-watt and 12-watt options.
The results were on an iPhone X, but results should be similar to the iPhone 8/8 Plus.
Interestingly, there isn't a significant difference between the 12W and 18W USB-C options, although USB-C is faster. Or at least not enough to really be worth the expense if you need to buy one. They also compared third-party power adapters and didn't find an advantage over Apple's