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Apple still strong at 40, but are best years behind it?

Apple turned 40 this spring, and it’s a very different company from the audacious startup that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world’s most valuable public corporation, with 100,000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open next year. But despite its astounding financials — Apple reported $53 billion in profit on $233 billion in sales last year — some critics have suggested Apple’s best years are behind it, as it has struggled to come up with new products and match the phenomenal success it has had in recent years.

Not surprisingly, longtime employees like software vice president Guy “Bud” Tribble disagree.

“We still think we’re going to change the world,” said Tribble, one of a half-dozen Apple staffers selected by the company to briefly reminisce with reporters this week. Tribble started with Apple in 1980 and worked on the original Macintosh team. He added: “We had no idea back then that Apple would grow to the size that it is.”

The company now boasts that more than 1 billion Apple devices — iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — are in regular use around the world. Those products are widely admired and imitated. But Apple depends on the iPhone for two-thirds of its revenue. And after selling a record number of iPhones last year, analysts say sales are leveling off and may even decline this year.

As it enters middle age, Apple may find it difficult to maintain its leadership in the industry. Some experts say it’s getting harder to come up with new advances to distinguish Apple’s products from those of its competitors.

“Apple is still as good as it used to be, but everyone else has gotten better than they used to be,” said James McQuivey, a tech analyst with Forrester Research.

He cited longtime rival Microsoft, once viewed as an industry laggard, but now credited with pioneering tablet computers with detachable keyboards _ a category even Apple is embracing with the business-oriented iPad Pro. By contrast, he noted, Apple’s latest iPhone is a downsized version of earlier models.

Longtime staffers said Apple still has the zeal to create revolutionary products.

“We’ve done this more times than anybody else,” said Greg Joswiak, a 30-year employee and vice president for product marketing. He listed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and the company’s online App Store, the new Apple Watch and recent initiatives to create new health-tracking and medical-research apps for the iPhone and Watch.

Apple is widely believed to be exploring new businesses, from electric cars to virtual reality, but analysts say developing products in those categories could take years.

“We want to go into new industries … and really challenge the status quo,” said Divya Nag, a former medical researcher and entrepreneur hired in 2014 to work on Apple’s health projects. Always secretive about specific plans, Apple declined to provide Nag’s job title. Her resume shows a track record of helping win FDA approval for new medical inventions.

Apple’s growth hasn’t been smooth. Jobs was forced out in 1985, leading to a revolving door for chief executives until he returned in 1997, as the company he co-founded was on the brink of collapse. “There was a time when you were worried about keeping engineers here,” said Cheryl Thomas, a vice president for software engineering who joined Apple in 1989.

And in 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst, Joswiak said Jobs refused to cut spending when competitors were tightening their belts. Joswiak said Jobs pledged to “invest in ourselves more than ever before. We then suffered through 11 straight quarters” of dismal financial returns.

Jobs’ death from cancer in 2011 led to the elevation of current CEO Tim Cook, who’s intense but softer spoken. Tribble credits Cook with maintaining Apple’s focus on quality products, even as Cook has taken his own path in running the company.

Far more than Jobs, Cook uses his prominence to speak out on social issues, from global warming to civil rights and individual privacy. He recently challenged the U.S. government in a high-stakes legal dispute over an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer. While that drew criticism from top Justice Department officials and GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, Joswiak said he was proud of Apple for taking what he considers a principled stand.

Apple remains one of the most sought-after brands. BAV Consulting, a firm that tracks brand reputation, said that after reaching a low in 2001, just before the iPod came out, Apple is now in the top 1 percent of American brands. And it’s in the top 2 percent of brands “being worth paying more for” — which means it can get away with charging more for its products, according to BAV.

Even at 40, the company hasn’t lost its passion, Thomas said. She said she wanted to work there since seeing the famous 1984 Macintosh commercial, in which a young woman hurls a hammer at the giant image of a Big Brother figure.

The idea of joining what was then a tech upstart didn’t sit well with her father, a career IBM scientist, who advised Thomas: “You need to think with your head and not your heart.”

But Thomas said: “I thought with my heart.”

Review: ‘Steve Jobs’ plays man versus machine

When is someone going to open a window in Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs? Alas, wrong operating system.

Sorkin has dispensed with the traditional format of the biopic, instead framing the life of the Apple co-founder and turtle-necked tech deity in three backstage dramas ahead of major product launches: the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. In the behind-the-scenes swirl, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is visited each time by ghosts of products past: Apple engineer Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and Jobs’ daughter, Lisa (played by three actresses), whose paternity Jobs initially disputes.

It’s a scheme of three-act purity, as tightly compacted as the circuitry of an iPod, and one that few besides Sorkin would dare to attempt.

Though the script is adapted from Walter Isaacson’s book, it feels more like a play that director Danny Boyle has transferred to the screen. The stage must be the true home of Steve Jobs; no one steps outside until a pivotal moment late in the film.

Like the tightly controlled aesthetics of Jobs, himself, the movie is a closed system. Even in the first scenes, Jobs is trying to have the “Exit” signs covered for the show. Tell the fire marshals, he says, “We’re in here changing the world.”

Cloistered inside its claustrophobic casing, the movie hums with the high processing capacity of Sorkin’s dialogue. In dressing rooms and the bowels of theaters, Jobs, flanked by his right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (an excellent Kate Winslet), is the egomaniacal mind amid the media storm of his making.

He’s in virtually perpetual argument: strong-arming his engineers to get the first Mac to say “Hello” in his presentation; lamenting a Time magazine cover that dared to make the computer, not him, man of the year; sneering at PC “hobbyists” who resist the “end-to-end” control he demands for the Mac.

What does Steve Jobs do? That’s the question Wozniak (the arguably more important inventor and computer programmer), puts to him, and the one the film, itself, is an answer to. Jobs is the big-picture visionary, the bullheaded narcissist and, above all, the knowing conductor of talent and ideas. It’s not a hard metaphor to grasp by the way Sorkin, the master of multitasking, juggles Jobs in an asteroid storm of turmoil, including, oh yes, one scene set in an orchestra pit.

Every interaction bears the tension of tolerance: How much do we accept from a man of some genius? It’s not much fun being around a guy who compares himself to Julius Caesar and sees assassins all around. How to reconcile someone who can refuse to pay for his daughter’s college tuition, but who can, like magic, put a thousand songs in her pocket?

He’s as puny as he is mighty, a flawed man who made perfect machines.

Steve Jobs hangs heavily, melodramatically, on his relationship with Lisa. But as fraught as life is backstage, the thundering, foot-stopping audiences lurk outside.

Why has Sorkin, an acknowledged technology neophyte who also penned The Social Network, become the go-to for some of the greatest tech minds of our time? Perhaps because his rat-tat-tat exchanges gives us some sense of the computing power of elite minds, just as his morality tales render them in the binary codes of good and bad rather than ones and zeroes.

Boyle, whose greatest talent is in his slick manipulation of time (127 Hours, 28 Days Later…), is in firm control of the screenplay’s high-velocity rhythm. And he does his best to bring a visual component to the stagy screenplay, most notably filming each act different: first grainy 16mm, then 35mm and finally in the hard reality of high-definition digital.

The adventurous Boyle feels a little hemmed in here, as does the naturally mischievous Fassbender. But Fassbender captures the thin-skinned sensitivity and detailed obsessiveness of Jobs. In his hands, Sorkin’s dialogue crackles.

The film often does too: the Full Sorkin Treatment has electrified a well-trod subject. But it also smothers it in artifice. In Steve Jobs, Sorkin does the conducting.

Steve Jobs, a Universal Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language. Running time: 122 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Review: Documentary presents Steve Jobs’ darker side

Was Steve Jobs a brilliant visionary whose singular mind, capable of blending art, technology and commerce as never before, inspired the world to “think different” and changed the way we live?

Or was he a ruthless businessman who treated co-workers callously, took credit for the work of others, and often acted out of jealousy and spite?

Documentarian Alex Gibney is known for pulling no punches when it comes to his subjects, most famously Scientology in his recent Going Clear. And so it should come as little surprise that in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, he comes down heavily on that second, darker image of the Apple CEO. Even if you haven’t read much of the copious material out there on Jobs, who died in 2011, you’ll know some of this, especially his early attempt to dispute his paternity of his first child Lisa, even as he was raking in millions. But though Gibney doesn’t seem to come up with anything truly groundbreaking, there’s surely more negative stuff here — and lots more detail —than you’ve encountered before.

With this, Gibney, a skilled filmmaker, has little trouble holding our attention for more than two hours. But he raises another tantalizing question without really answering it: What does our collective adulation of Jobs and his creations say about US? Perhaps it was all too much for one movie.

The film begins, wisely, with the stunning reaction to Jobs’ death of pancreatic cancer, similar to the grief that erupted with the passing of John Lennon — only expressed in 2011 technology. We see the makeshift shrines outside Apple stores, and the ubiquitous hashtag #iSad. A young boy explains, incredulously: “He made EVERYTHING!” On the news, Diane Sawyer speaks of “a global wake.”

How to explain this impact? Gibney gathers footage both of the brash young Jobs with long hair, proclaiming how the computer, once bulky and scary, will change people’s lives, and famously giving the finger to IBM; and the older Jobs, in his second stint with Apple, pacing the stage in his black turtleneck and delighting fans with those much-awaited product launches.

And there are much less flattering elements, in interviews with people who worked with (or loved) Jobs: for example, Bob Belleville, who came over from Xerox in the ‘80s. “How bad could this be?” Belleville recounts thinking beforehand. “I didn’t realize how bad it could be.” The memories cause him to weep.

We hear how Steve Wozniak, the eventual Apple co-founder who began his journey with Jobs in a garage, did much of the work on a video game the duo sold to Atari, but was iced out of most of the money by his friend. And there’s school buddy and Apple employee Daniel Kottke, wondering succinctly: “How much of an asshole do you have to be to be successful?”

Chrisann Brennan, mother of Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Jobs’ daughter did not cooperate with the film — nor did his widow, Laurene Powell, or Apple itself), describes telling Jobs she was pregnant and watching him clench his jaw and slam the door.

There’s also sobering detail on working conditions (and suicide rates) at the Chinese factories where Apple products are made; on a scandal involving Apple stock options; and on Jobs’ zealous pursuit of the tech bloggers who wrote about an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left in a bar. We’re also told how, contrary to Bill Gates and his huge philanthropy, Jobs ended Apple’s charitable gifts.

Yet there’s admiration, too, for Jobs’ creative mind, specifically the crucial connection he was able to make between a piece of machinery and the human experience it could provide. As the film says of the iPod: “It wasn’t a machine FOR you. It was you.”

And it’s Gibney himself who best describes the lure of a shiny Apple phone.

“I had to have an iPhone,” he says. “My hand was drawn to it like Frodo’s hand to the ring.”

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a Magnolia release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language.” Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Top Apps for iPhone, iPad

Top Paid iPhone Apps: 1. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Mojang. 2. Heads Up!, Warner Bros. 3. Five Nights at Freddys 4, Scott Cawthon. 4. VHS Camcorder, Rarevision. 5. Geometry Dash, RobTop Games AB. 6. Lara Croft GO, SQUARE ENIX INC. 7. Akinator the Genie, Elokence. 8. Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations. 9. Ski Safari 2, Sleepy Z Studios Pty Ltd. 10. 7 Minute Workout Challenge, Fitness Guide Inc.

Top Free iPhone Apps:

1. Happy Wheels, Jim Bonacci

2. Messenger, Facebook, Inc.

3. The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, Scopely

4. Facebook, Facebook, Inc.

5. Instagram, Instagram, Inc.

6. YouTube, Google, Inc.

7. Layout from Instagram, Instagram, Inc.

8. Snapchat, Snapchat, Inc.

9. PAC-MAN 256 – Endless Arcade Maze, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe

10. Pandora Radio, Pandora Media, Inc.

Top Paid iPad Apps:

1. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Mojang

2. Notability, Ginger Labs

3. Five Nights at Freddys 4, Scott Cawthon

4. Explore Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, PBS KIDS

5. Lara Croft GO, SQUARE ENIX INC

6. Geometry Dash, RobTop Games AB

7. Doc McStuffins Pet Vet, Disney

8. Terraria, 505 Games (US), Inc.

9. Ski Safari 2, Sleepy Z Studios Pty Ltd

10. RotoWire Fantasy Football Draft Kit 2015, Roto Sports, Inc.

Top Free iPad Apps:

1. Happy Wheels, Jim Bonacci

2. PAC-MAN 256 – Endless Arcade Maze, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe

3. YouTube, Google, Inc.

4. Netflix, Netflix, Inc.

5. Calculator for iPad Free, International Travel Weather Calculator

6. Messenger, Facebook, Inc.

7. Google Docs, Google, Inc.

8. Google Drive – free online storage from Google, Google, Inc.

9. Facebook, Facebook, Inc.

10. The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, Scopely

From quirky to revolutionary, the CES show has them all

Sure, the International CES show was chock full of connected cars, smart home sensors, music gear and computer gadgets, as you’d expect.

There were even drones buzzing the 160,000-plus people that tromped across the 2.2 million square feet of exhibit space along the Las Vegas Strip. But if you didn’t get to see some of these goodies, well, you just haven’t lived.

Of the tons of products on display, here are a few that inspired, brought a chuckle, or made you just say, hmmm, yeah, I definitely need that. (Wink.)

STOP, OR I’LL TAKE OUT MY IPAD

The gun holsters of old-timey detectives, hidden under an arm and concealed under a coat, have inspired a holder of something else entirely.

Tech Slinger’s holster features a pocket large enough for a tablet on one side and a smartphone and accessories on the other. When worn, devices hang below each arm. Think of it as a storage device for Inspector Gadget.

The company says the holster will prevent people from leaving their devices in a cab or the seat-back pocket of a plane. The devices stay with you but won’t weigh on a shoulder like a backpack or satchel might.

This year, Tech Slinger introduced a new “side order” sling to go around a person’s waist — great for restaurant staffers who carry tablets to take orders.

The company sells the holsters for $70 to $75.

FLATBREAD FIX

The smell of baking flatbread wafted through the air as a Silicon Valley startup demonstrated a robotic kitchen device.

The Rotimatic uses sensors, software and electric motors to make the Indian staple “roti,” or unleavened flatbread, at about one per minute — faster than the half-hour or more it takes to mix, knead and cook by hand. Just add flour, water and oil. The Rotimatic measures the ingredients, kneads and flattens the dough. It even adjusts the dough and cooking temperature for any spices or herbs added for variety.

What to pay for something that makes only one kind of bread? $599.

ABLE TO WALK AGAIN

One touching moment came when Shane Mosko stood up and walked with the aid of a robotic exoskeleton.

Mosko, who has partial leg paralysis from a spinal cord injury, usually needs a wheelchair. The robotic aide from Ekso Bionic now allows him to walk about 500 steps before tiring. The system includes mechanized leg braces, a battery backpack and a walking cane with controls to operate the system. Software and weight sensors are used to adjust the mechanized gait to the ability of each user.

“I think half of what this brings to the table is the psychological aspect of looking people in the eyes,” says Mosko. “You don’t think about it, but being in a wheelchair, you are down low, you’re in your own world.”

Ekso cofounder Russ Angold said the Ekso GT has been used by about 3,500 patients recovering from stroke and spinal injuries since it was first sold in 2012.

“It gives you so much hope that spinal cord injuries are going to be a thing of the past someday,” says Mosko.

BIKERS BEWARE

Volvo wants cyclists to know when a car is coming.

In partnership with Ericsson and sports gear maker POC, Volvo demonstrated how its car would get a signal from a nearby cyclist’s phone GPS. Meanwhile, the cyclist’s helmet would flash a series of lights and vibrate if that person’s phone senses that a Volvo is nearby and on a collision course.

Volvo says the connected helmet still needs more testing before it can be sold.

LOOK SEGWAY, NO HANDS

Zipping around as if he were floating, hands in his pockets, Kazar Beilerian of Montebello did effortless circles, literally, around the journalists walking from one press conference to the next.

He was riding his company’s IO Hawk. The forward-facing auto-balancing board just needed a little pressure from the toes to start moving.

Leaning forward too much, though, could sometimes send a person backward.

The device costs $1,800 and has a rival: Inventist’s Hovertrax.

HIGH-TECH SEWING

Cameras aren’t limited to smartphones anymore. A new sewing machine from Brother has one — and a scanner, too. You can scan a pattern and edit it on the sewing machine’s LCD screen. The machine will then embroider the pattern for you (though you can’t step away for long, as you need to manually change spools of thread to change colors).

As for that camera? Sorry, it’s not for selfies. The camera works with lasers to ensure you’re sewing straight.

The Dream Machine sells for $15,000.

ILLUMINATED SONGS

Sony’s Symphonic Light Speaker looks like a clear cylinder of glass that surrounds an LED light bulb. The glass itself vibrates imperceptibly to act as a speaker to play music from a smartphone or other device.

“It fills your room with music while obviously lighting up your daily life,” says Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai.

Perhaps totally unnecessary, yet cool.

Sony didn’t announce a price or release date.

TOMORROW’S GADGETS

A new smartwatch from Samsung has a glass interface to appear transparent, while a new phone has a hologram interface with fingerprint security. There’s also a Bluetooth earpiece with a metallic frame for combat-ready durability.

Where can you buy them? Sorry, they exist only in Hollywood. They were custom-made by Samsung for the upcoming “Avengers” movie from Marvel. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The props were on display at a private event at CES. There are no current plans to make even fake versions for fans.

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Who is taking Apple Pay?

More than 200,000 payment locations in the United States are equipped to accept so-called contactless payments, including Apple Pay. Smaller merchants tend to be among the several millions that don’t have the required equipment yet.

Apple said it has worked with several retailers to make sure most of their stores, if not all of them, were ready at the launch on Oct. 20: Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Babies R Us, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, Chevron and Texaco retail stores including ExtraMile, Disney Store, Duane Reade, Footaction, Foot Locker, House of Hoops by Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Nike, Office Depot, Panera Bread, Petco, RadioShack, RUN by Foot Locker, SIX:02, Sports Authority, Subway, Toys R Us, Unleashed by Petco, Walgreens, Wegmans and Whole Foods Market.

Apple also said that the following merchants plan to add support by the end of the year: Anthropologie, Free People, Sephora, Staples, Urban Outfitters and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

For online payments, Apple said the following merchants have apps ready for Apple Pay: Chairish, Fancy, Groupon, HotelTonight, Houzz, Instacart, Lyft, OpenTable, Panera Bread, Spring, Staples, Target and Uber.

Others expected by year’s end include: Airbnb, Disney Store, Eventbrite, JackThreads, Levi’s Stadium by VenueNext, Sephora, Starbucks, StubHub, Ticketmaster and Tickets.com.

Of course, Apple’s retail stores and the Apple Store app take Apple Pay.

Apple Pay launched in the U.S. on Oct. 20 and requires an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus with iOS 8.1 for in-store and in-app payments. The iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 out this week will be able to make in-app payments only.

About time: Apple debuts the Apple Watch

Apple unveiled its long-anticipated smartwatch on Sept. 9, introducing a device that transplants the features of an iPhone onto a smaller screen that’s never more than an arm’s length away.

Dubbed the Apple Watch, the gadget marks the technology trend-setter’s attempt to usher in an era of wearable computing and lift its sales with another revolutionary product.

The watch’s debut also heralds a turning point in Tim Cook’s three-year reign as Apple CEO. Although the company has thrived under Cook’s leadership, it had only released upgrades to the iPhone, iPad and other products hatched before his predecessor, Steve Jobs, died in October 2011. The lack of totally new devices raised questions about whether Apple had run out of ideas without the visionary Jobs.

Now Apple is betting on a gadget that seems like something James Bond might wear. The Apple Watch’s top-of-the-line edition comes in a casing made of 18-karat gold, with an array of elegant bands available for most models. The watch can serve as a walkie-talkie, a drawing pad, pulse monitor, calorie counter and activity tracker.

“It is amazing what you can do from your wrist,” Cook said.

Apple is a late arrival to the still-nascent market for wearable technology. Several other companies already sell smartwatches that have been greeted with widespread indifference.

But Apple has a reputation for igniting dormant markets. Other music players, smartphones and tablet computers were first to market, but the devices did not enthrall consumers until Apple imbued them with its magic touch.

The smartwatch “might not only be a game changer for Apple, but for the entire industry,” says FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives. “A lot of major technology players around the globe are taking notes on what Apple is trying to do here.”

Investors appeared lukewarm about the unveiling. Apple’s stock dipped 37 cents to close at $97.99, but the shares had been surging for months ahead of Tuesday’s show. The stock has gained 22 percent so far this year and hit an all-time high earlier this month.

It will take months to gauge the popularity of the Apple Watch. The $349 device won’t go on sale until early next year.

Cook hailed it as the most “personal device we have ever created.”

The watch is “the first product we have seen with Tim’s fingerprints all over it,” said Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin, who has been following Apple through most of its 38-year history.

The watch will tie into a new payment system designed to enable people to store all their credit card information in a digital locker so merchandise can be bought with a tap on a sensor at a checkout stand or a press of the button.

The watch must be used with one of the iPhone models released in the past two years – the 5, 5S, 5C or the latest versions scheduled to go on sale Sept. 19 in the U.S. and nine other countries.

Here’s a closer look at what Apple has in store:

LARGER iPHONES

The iPhone 6 will feature a 4.7-inch screen, up from the 4-inch screen on the models released in each of the previous two years. The iPhone 6 Plus will have a 5.5-inch screen and other improvements, including longer battery life, that will cost an additional $100.

App developers will have new tools to rearrange their content to take advantage of that larger screen.

The new phones are not as big as Samsung’s latest flagship phones – 5.1 inches for the Galaxy S5 and 5.7 inches for the Note 4 – but they will be large enough to neutralize a key advantage Samsung and other Android manufacturers have had.

The iPhone 6 will also have a barometer to estimate how much users climb stairs, not just how far they walk or run.

Apple is improving a slow-motion video feature by allowing even slower shots on the iPhone 6. The camera will be able to take 240 frames per second, double the rate of last year’s iPhone 5s. Normally, video is at 60 frames per second.

Starting prices for the new iPhones will be comparable to those in the past – $199 with a two-year contract for the iPhone 6 with 16 gigabytes of storage.

However, the step-up models will have double the memory as before – $299 for 64 gigabytes and $399 for 128 gigabytes. The iPhone 6 Plus phones will cost $100 more at each configuration.

MOBILE PAYMENTS

Apple is calling its new payment system Apple Pay.

Consumers will be able to use their phone cameras to capture a photo of their cards. Apple will verify it behind the scenes and add it to the phone’s Passbook account so people can make payments at a retailer. Apple announced several merchants that will accept this system, including Macy’s, Whole Foods, Walgreens and Disney stores. American Express, Visa and MasterCard all are cooperating with Apple, too, as well as most major banks.

For security, the card number is stored only on the device. Each time you pay, a one-time card number is created to make the transaction.

SMARTWATCH

Cook says Apple had to invent a new interface for the watch because simply shrinking a phone would not work. Much of the interaction will be through the dial on the watch, which Apple calls the digital crown. It’s used to zoom in and out of a map, for instance.

Apple worked with app developers to create new functionality. Users will be able to unlock room doors at some Starwood hotels or remind themselves where they parked with a BMW app.

The new watch will come in a variety of styles, with a choice of two sizes.

NEW SOFTWARE

Though much of the attention has been on new gadgets, the software powering those gadgets is getting its annual refresh. Apple considers iOS 8 to be its biggest update since the introduction of the app store in 2008.

Existing iPhone and iPad users will be eligible for the free upgrade, too.

Among other things, iOS 8 will let devices work better in sync. For instance, it will be possible to start a message on an iPhone and finish it on an iPad. With an upcoming Mac upgrade called Yosemite, it will be possible to continue working on that same message on a Mac computer. These handoff features will extend to the Apple Watch.

The new software will be available to existing users on Sept. 17.

WigWIRED: Add an app

Popular portraiture apps for smartphones and tablets:

• CamMe: Take photos using hand gestures. Can take several photos sequentially, like the old photo booths. Enhance photos with cutouts. Easy sharing options. 

• Aviary: Touch up with red-eye removal. Add or remove color with splash. Add drama with sharpen. Stylize with filters and stickers.

• Mextures: Apply film grain, textures, light leaks and gradients to images — from landscapes to portraits.

• Facetune: Touch up portraits Hollywood-style. Remove blemishes. Even out skin tone. Brighten teeth. Color gray hair. Change eye color.

• Instagram: Apply filters. Easy share options. Front and back camera support. Add depth of field.

• Frontback: Shoot from the front and the back of the camera at the same time for the full story.

• Slingshot: From Facebook. Allows users to send photos, to friends, who must reciprocate before
viewing the photo. 

Coming from Apple in the fall …

Apple’s Mac operating system will have easier ways to share and search, while the iOS software for iPhones and iPads is getting new features for keeping tabs on your health and controlling home devices.

Apple executive Craig Federighi said data from various fitness-related devices now live in silos, so you can’t get a comprehensive picture of your health. He said that will change with HealthKit in iOS 8. Apple is also working with the Mayo Clinic to make sure your weight, calorie intake and other health metrics are within healthy ranges.

Apple is also making it easier for various devices to work together, even though the Mac and mobile systems are separate. You can share songs, movies and books you purchase with your entire family, and you can sync photos more easily across several devices. Macs and mobile gadgets will share more features, and you can exchange files between the two more easily and even make phone calls from your Mac.

The free updates will come this fall, though app developers get a test version Monday as the company opened its 25th annual developers conference in San Francisco.

Here are the highlights:

CHANGES TO MAC COMPUTERS:

– The next Mac system will be called Yosemite, after the national park, now that Apple is naming it after California locales rather than cats.

– You’ll be able to search for content on the computer and on the Internet at once, similar to a feature available with Microsoft’s Windows 8.

– Apple is expanding its iCloud storage service so that you can store and sync files of any type, not just the ones designed specifically for iCloud. It’s similar to how other services such as Dropbox let you work with the same files on multiple devices more easily.

– A Mail Drop feature will make it easier to send large files. Instead of pushing the entire file by email and overloading mail servers, the Mac will create a link that the recipient can click for the full file.

– The Mac’s Safari Web browser will have more privacy controls and ways to share links more easily.

CHANGES TO IPHONES AND IPADS:

– Like the new Mac OS, the iOS 8 system will have a universal search tool to cover both your device and the Internet. It will also get the iCloud Drive service.

– The new software will sport interactive notifications, so you can respond to a message without having to leave another app. It will have new gestures, such as double tapping to see a list of frequent contacts.

– A QuickType keyboard promises predictive typing suggestions. For example, if you start typing, “Do you want to go to,” the phone will suggest “dinner” or “movie” as the next word. Currently, the suggestions are limited to spelling corrections.

– IOS 8 will have a built-in health-management tool to help people track their vital signs, diet and sleeping habits. Apple’s chief rival, Samsung Electronics Co., incorporated fitness-related features in its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, and announced plans last week for similar management tools.

– Apple announced new technology for controlling garage doors, thermostats and other home systems, although the company didn’t say how all the pieces will be linked together through what it calls HomeKit.

– For developers, Apple announced the ability to sell app bundles at discounted prices. The fingerprint security system on the iPhone 5s also will be accessible to apps written by outside parties, not just Apple functions such as unlocking the phone and verifying iTunes purchases.

WORKING TOGETHER:

– Apple’s AirDrop feature, which has let you share files with other devices of the same type, will now let iPhones and Macs share directly with each other.

– A new Handoff feature will let you switch devices more easily, so you can start writing an email on a phone and finish on a Mac. And when your iPhone gets a call, you can answer it using the Mac as a speakerphone.

– The iMessage chat service will be broadened to work better with Android and other competing phones.

ANNOUNCED EARLIER:

– Last week, Apple announced a deal to pay $3 billion for Beats Electronics, a headphone and music streaming specialist. The deal brings rapper Dr. Dre and recording impresario Jimmy Iovine to undetermined roles at Apple. During a demo Monday, Federighi placed a call to Dr. Dre to welcome him to Apple.

COMING SOON:

– Apple typically announces new iPhones in September and new iPads soon after that. Many analysts also believe the company will release an Internet-connected watch as part of Apple’s expansion into wearable technology.

SILENT:

– Despite speculation, Apple didn’t say anything about a long-awaited digital wallet that enables Apple to process payments on iPhones and iPads.

– Apple didn’t provide an update on CarPlay, its project for embedding automobiles with some of the iPhone’s main applications. But Apple did say it’ll be possible to tap the Siri virtual assistant without pressing a button. Cars with built-in CarPlay services and radios that are compatible with CarPlay are both expected this year.

Top apps for the iPhone, iPad

Top Paid iPhone Apps:

1. Sleep Cycle alarm clock, Northcube AB

2 Bridge Constructor, Headup Games GmbH & Co KG

3 Minecraft – Pocket Edition, Mojang

4 Heads Up!, Warner Bros.

5 Afterlight, Simon Filip

6 Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations

7 Papa’s Freezeria To Go!, Flipline Studios

8 Threes!, Sirvo LLC

9 Card Wars – Adventure Time, Cartoon Network

10 Free Music Download Pro – Mp3 Downloader, ASPS Apps

Top Free iPhone Apps:

1 Smash Hit, Mediocre AB

2 Red Bit Escape, redBit games

3 Crazy Taxi, SEGA

4 Don’t step the white tile, Ayumu Kinoshita

5 Darklings, MildMania

6 Snapchat, Snapchat, Inc.

7 Facebook, Facebook, Inc.

8 YouTube, Google, Inc.

9 Instagram, Instagram, Inc.

10 Flappy Fall, Balloon Island

Top Paid iPad Apps:

1 Minecraft – Pocket Edition, Mojang

2 Calling All Mixels, Cartoon Network

3 Card Wars – Adventure Time, Cartoon Network

4 Survivalcraft, Igor Kalicinski

5 Bridge Constructor, Headup Games GmbH & Co KG

6 SSkyblock – Survival Game Mission Flying Island, Violet Games

7 Hide N Seek : Mini Game With Worldwide Multiplayer, wang wei

8 Surgeon Simulator, Bossa Studios Ltd

9 Block Fortress: War, Foursaken Media

10 Plants vs. Zombies HD, PopCap

Top Free iPad Apps:

1 Smash Hit, Mediocre AB

2 Darklings, MildMania

3 Farm Heroes, SagaKing.com Limited

4 Crazy Taxi, SEGA

5 Red Bit Escape, redBit games

6 Flappy Wings – FREE, Green Chili Games UG (haftungsbeschrankt)

7 Frontline Commando 2, Glu Games Inc.

8 Jenga HD, NaturalMotion

9 Little Hand Doctor – kids games, George CL

10 Flappy Fall, Balloon Island