Obviously they are trying to sell the game with that statement. As far as I can tell regarding City Specialization:
Mining, Drilling, Trading, Electronics - These all lead to bad ground pollution which could be considered changing the "look" of your city. But they do not lead to residential changes from what I can spot.
Culture - Will bring in tourists but won't change the look of buildings.
Gambling - Will lead to crime but won't change the look of buildings. With enough crime the businesses would abandon thus changing the "look". Kind of a vague stretch of their description I guess.
Regarding the solar panels and educated populace, it does seem to change based on education level. Scanning my city, there is a varied number of solar panels on each of my buildings based on their respective education level.