Weekend Roundup: Apple iOS Updates, Amazon’s Carbon

It was a busy week in tech (seriously, is it ever not a busy week in tech?), with some of the biggest companies (including Apple and Amazon) making big announcements. Let’s jump right in!

iOS 13 Rolls Out… Along with Apple Arcade

Hot on the heels of unveiling its new iPhones (including the iPhone 11 Pro, which… is it really pro, bro?), Apple is rolling out iOS 13, the latest version of its mobile operating system, to users around the world. Among the new features: dark mode, swipe-to-type, some upgrades to Apple’s already-stringent privacy practices, and a couple of Apple Maps improvements. In other words, a bunch of tweaks—which makes us a little hungry for the iOS releases of yesteryear, when Apple would sometimes roll out an app that was big and new and totally different. Maybe 2020 and iOS 14 will offer something along those lines…

This week also saw the debut of Apple Arcade, Apple’s streaming games service. For $4.99 per month, users have unlimited access to 100 games—and none of those games will have the kinds of in-game purchases (i.e., loot boxes and upgrades) that have driven gamers so crazy lately. Apple Arcade will go head-to-head with Google Stadia, another streaming service that isn’t including a huge portfolio of games at the outset, but is nonetheless trying to position itself as a Chrome-powered “Netflix for streaming gaming.”

Will hardcore gamers gravitate toward Apple Arcade? Will “casual gamers”? That’s a huge and pressing question for Apple, which is betting its future on people signing up for its growing portfolio of services. In the meantime, iOS 13’s dark mode may help save your eyesight, so we have that going for us.

Facebook Really Wants to Become a Hardware Player

Last year, Facebook launched Portal, its competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. According to CNBC’s Salvador Rodriguez, that effort didn’t exactly pan out: analyst firm IDC estimates that only 54,000 units shipped, a pittance compared to rival hardware.  When you consider the widespread concerns over Facebook’s privacy policy and use of data, that failure is perhaps no surprise—many folks are no doubt leery at the prospect of inviting Facebook-built cameras and sensors into their homes.

But Facebook remains intent on breaking into this market, because this week it rolled out an updated version of the Portal, along with a device called “Portal TV” that plugs directly into your television, turning the biggest screen in your home into a spying device. Whoops! We meant it’s another screen you can use to communicate with family and friends. Yep, Facebook clearly has no intention of data-mining this new, video-focused channel to death. 

Amazon Going Carbon Neutral

Amazon has promised to go carbon-neutral in its relentless quest to deliver that useless doohickey to your door less than 24 hours after you forgot you ordered it. That environmental effort will reportedly involve the company ordering 100,000 electric delivery trucks; presumably, it will also follow the example of other tech companies and use renewable energy sources to power its enormous datacenters.

Amazon announced its decision a day before 1,500 employees pledged to walk off the job to protest global warming. However, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that his company will continue to supply cloud services to the oil and gas industry. “We’re going to work hard for energy companies, and in our view we’re going to work very hard to make sure that as they transition that they have the best tools possible,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Have a great weekend!