Category: Apple (page 1 of 25)

iPhone X and other things

There was a flurry of leaks and confirmations from Apple last week around the future of the iPhone, the Apple Watch and the Apple TV. The plan at the moment is to buy an iPhone X at the end of October…and thats it. Here’s my take on what they announced and why I’m hopefully picking up an X.

iPhone

  • iPhone 8 was more of a 7S although I liked the introduction of the glass back. The design looks much better than todays model.
  • iPhone 8 getting wireless charging and the same processor of the X was a surprise..in a good way.
  • iPhone X looks fantastic. Love the design, the screen is the big plus point, dual camera’s with OIS. Whats not to like? The future of smartphones and the best phone Apple make today. Love it.
  • The price is of course a headline grabber, but it’s my most used computer and my least used phone and in that context the price isn’t an issue (assuming my kitchen doesn’t bankrupt me).
  • Face ID in principle looks OK. In practice we’ll need to see just how good it is. Had similar concerns about Touch ID which now feels so robust despite the issues with wet/dirty fingers.
  • No home button = more screen = the way all phones are moving to. More gesturing looked hit and miss. Swiping along the button to multitask looked great. Swiping down from the top right of the screen to get to control centre looks awkward. It’s one of the things that only extended use will show if it works or not, but 10 years of muscle memory will be awkward to move from.
  • The notch. The brow. The sensor housing. It’s where we are today with technology. Look at the tech packed into the notch – it’s amazing. I saw it described as a Kinect sensor which is a great way to look at it.

    Would I prefer no screen ears either side of the notch? No. I want the whole front of my phone to be a screen. I’m happy with the compromise of the notch. In 3-4 years they will tuck behind the screen but for now it’s a compromise. Look at video playback, what would you prefer?

    Video playback with black bars all around to hide the notch

    Double tap to go full screen. Compromise with the notch, but prefer that to bars all around.

    And here’s the current iPhone looking dated.

    There’s a direction of travel and all screen, many gesture, no button smartphones are the future. Screens from MKBHD’s hands on video which is well worth a watch.

  • The camera’s and wireless charging in the X are very interesting. So much packed into a compact design and again surprised in a good way that Apple went with a global standard for charging rather than forge their own direction.
  • The overall design of the X, metal band on the edges and the glass front and back looks so good that I’ll be going careless assuming it’s not like a bar of soap in the hand. Also means I’ll be picking up AppleCare.
  • The iPhone has moved to a 24 month purchase at this price point.

Apple Watch

  • Series 3 is the same design but now comes with cellular.
  • To pack in a cellular option into that small a case design without impacting on battery boggles my mind. To be able to stream from Apple Music, make calls and texts and track walks and runs all from that little device is great.
  • Price looks to be OK, and of course you need another monthly contract to use cellular. That means EE in the UK who seem to have exclusivity but not sure for how long. £5 a month on top of your normal mobile phone bill isn’t too bad to be honest although this seems to be an initial deal.
  • As I’m not running I’ll be giving the Series 3 a miss for the moment. If I get back out and about with running or if there’s a reliable method of listening to podcasts via the Apple Watch and AirPods then I’ll consider purchasing the Series 3.

Apple TV

  • Finally a 4K version. HDR support is great too.
  • Finally an Apple TV supports gigabit ethernet.
  • Why offer 2 sizes – 32GB and 64GB? What does that bring me as a consumer? Apple should offer just one size.
  • The deal to bring 4k free to iTunes users who have purchased HD films is fantastic. I’ve bought Blade Runner on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and will no doubt pick up the 4k remaster. Paying once was a nice surprise at the event.
  • The TV app comes to the UK but looking at the slide only Channel 5 is playing ball. Pooh.
  • Fix the fecking remote. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.
  • The price still feels high but I’m sorely tempted to pick one up…maybe near Christmas.

More?
Maybe one more event this year to talk about the HomePod and iMac pro? Hope so as it’s not like they haven’t got their own theatre to show it in. Even if there’s not, I’m really looking forward to the iPhone X. New form factor, new screen tech (for Apple), removal of the home button and Face ID. Fascinated to see how it all hangs together coupled with iOS 11, AR and of course Animoji. Now if only Apple could have fixed the Apple TV remote…I guess thats next year?

10.5″ iPad Pro

My iPad Air was getting long in the tooth. Over three years old it was slow to launch apps and didn’t fully support running two apps at the same time. During that period Apple had launched the 12.9” Pro which was tempting but just a bit too big for my needs. The 9.7” Pro was also launched but just felt like more of the same. I really wanted something in between. So when Apple announced a 10.5” iPad Pro I decided to go all in and order one to not only replace my current iPad but also my MacBook Air which was 5 years old. It’s been a few weeks since the iPad was delivered so I’ve had plenty time to form some opinions.

Design & Hardware
The 10.5” iPad Pro is slightly taller than the existing 9.5” but not by much. The screen however is 20% bigger and the bezels have been reduced. They aren’t invisible and there’s certainly still a chin and forehead but I really like the size/screen ratio and for me it’s a better size than the 12.9”. It’s portable, light and easy to use in the hand when reading but big enough for real work whether that’s writing this review, using Office or photo retouching. Running apps side by side is also much more comfortable than the 9.5” but I’ll talk more about that later.

iPad Pro 10.5″ with Keyboard

The biggest new feature is the screen. For me it’s the best screen I’ve seen or used on any device. Colours pop, text is smooth and video looks superb. Reading the Guardian, surfing via Safari, reviewing PDF’s in Documents or catching up on articles via Pinner is a joy. It’s responsive too and a real step up from previous iPad’s and any other tablets I’ve used over the years.

The reason is something Apple call ProMotion. The screen can run up to 120Hz but does this adaptively so when you don’t need that refresh rate it drops to preserve battery life. Apple also ensure you don’t have any frame rate issues when watching videos. The Pencil is also silky smooth with almost zero lag in most apps.

The new Pro has 4 speakers and is notably louder and clearer than previous versions. It makes for an amazing consumption device. Watching YouTube or Netflix, not only do the visuals pop but it sounds great too.

One other notable spec bump – the camera. I know, who wants to look a tit taking photo’s on an iPad but the best camera is the one you have with you and the iPad shares the same sensor and lens as the iPhone 7 so that’s a 12 MP camera that can capture 4K video. You also get a small bump on the back of the iPad and while it’s not got in the way in my use the design would look so much better without it. The size of the iPad gives you a bit more stability as well, so forget how daft you look, just use it.

Learn to love the bump

Performance
This years iPad Pro has the A10X chip inside. Apple have been designing their own mobile chips for a few years now and yet again the performance of the A10X is staggering. Every app I’ve tried has been fast including more intensive apps like video or photo editors. If anything it’s overpowered for today’s software on the iPad which is great for the longevity of the device but also should give confidence to iOS developers that they can push their apps.

Another jump is the RAM which sits at 4GB. This in combination with the chip delivers some great benchmark scores, similar to a low end MacBook Pro. When swapping between apps there is zero lag even for apps that were opened a while ago. Apps launch quickly, it feels like you are resuming from wherever you’ve left out without delay and it really is a joy to use.

Gorgeous screen, scrolling text easily readable

Couple of other performance notes. The Touch ID sensor has been updated and is as quick to use as the iPhone and the lightning port has been upped to USB 3 speeds which makes for faster charging and speedier data transfers. Overall the iPad Pro is, right now, an untapped beast.

Accessories
Considering the price of the iPad the lack of in the box accessories is a tad disappointing, especially given that the charger supplied is not the larger 29W power adapter which costs £49 and comes with no cable. However the accessories released by Apple are really nice if again pricey.

The Smart Keyboard for the 10.5” is a good size. The slightly smaller iPad felt a little crampt when typing but I’ve had no issue with the 10.5. You don’t need to power it either as it draws everything it needs from the Smart Connector. The keys are comfortable, don’t feel too shallow and I can use it for extended periods without issue. The only thing it lacks is backlit keys which I miss. The only real negative is the price at £159…and the reality that it could do with being ever so slightly bigger.

The Apple Pencil has seen no changes this year but the more responsive screen makes the Pencil feel even better than when I tried it on last years iPad Pro. Comfy to use, the charge lasts well and if it does run out it doesn’t take long to get a workable charge into the Pencil. £99 doesn’t feel pricey as it’s such a quality piece of kit. One issue though – where to store it?

The Apple Leather Sleeve is a gorgeous case for the iPad Pro that solves the storage issue. The Pencil slots in at the top and the iPad and Keyboard fit snuggly in the case. The case is a soft leather and really does complete the iPad. The issue? Price again as it’s £149.

I picked up all three accessories and while it’s a fantastic combination the overall cost was £1116. Eek!

Eleven Heaven?
It can be argued that I picked the iPad Pro up early as it came with iOS 10 and iOS 11 brings a number of iPad specific updates that promise a step change for users. I skipped the first developer beta’s but jumped in with the public beta and I’m glad I did as it’s a more complete environment for iPad users than we’ve seen in the past.

The biggest change is the dock, which allows for a larger number of apps that you can launch from any screen than the six you could have before. You also see the last three app’s you’ve opened or iOS chooses to display thanks to handover. The dock can be seen on the home screen or by swiping up when you are in any app. Reminds me of the dock on macOS but crucially iOS 11 has changed multitasking and the dock is a key component.

You no longer swipe from the right and select an app to run in split view. Instead you drag an app from the dock and can leave it hovering on top of the main app or you can enter into split view, and this can now be left or right – you aren’t restricted as you were in iOS 10. However iOS 11 introduces the concept of app pairs, so you pair Tweetbot with Safari and can select them again when you swipe up from the dock. But you can’t pair Tweetbot with another app. If you only use a handful of apps, the dock method works great. If you regularly use more then multitasking feels awkward, slow to use and the best method is to use spotlight but that feels like a hack when you do it. It’s only a beta so things may get a bit smoother, but this feels a bit clunky.

You also get a files app in iOS 11 (finder!) and drag and drop between apps is great but only Apple apps support it and we need to wait until September to see third party releases with these features. Overall iOS 11 delivers a much better experience for iPad users and hopefully we’ll see some tweaks to multitasking to make it a bit smoother to use day to day.

Verdict
It will be of no surprise that I love the iPad Pro. The 10.5” is the perfect size for me – still portable but large enough to be useable. In the weeks I’ve used it I’ve not touched my MacBook Air once. Something the new iPads have reignited is the age old question – can the iPad replace your Mac or PC?

It’s a bogus question. Whether it totally works for you depends on what you do. For me I still use an iMac for certain tasks but there’s no doubt I lean on iOS more than ever. For other users the iPad is all you need. In fact for many the iPad will be by far the best option compared to a Mac or PC. It’s all down to what works for you especially considering the iPad isn’t cheap. The cheapest MacBook or MacBook Pro is £1249 compared to the £1116 I’ve spent on the iPad Pro. You certainly spend less if you buy the iPad on it’s own but it’s so much better with the keyboard and pencil.

I’ve also seen some reviews that says the iPad Pro needs iOS 11. Bullshit. With iOS 11 you get a better experience, but the hardware upgrade alone makes it a great purchase…iOS 11 add’s a bit more as will future iOS updates.

Overall the iPad Pro 10.5″ is a fantastic device with potential to last for years. There’s no better tablet on the market.

WWDC

Two days from now and we’ll have just sat through the WWDC 2017 keynote. WWDC is predominantly a software event with focus on new iOS and macOS releases but Apple’s hardware has been stagnating so expectations for Monday are high. What do I hope/expect?

  • iOS improvements especially for iPad. My iPad is 3 1/2 years old and I want to see a jump in functionality for iPad users.
  • A new iPad! I’d like to pick up one along with a keyboard and pen. I’m not sure what to expect from new hardware although the rumours of an in-between size of the two current pro’s and more glass/less bezel sounds pretty compelling.
  • macOS – hope Apple can show the Mac a little love. I like the idea of going to macOS 11 and linking numbering to iOS but doubt it will happen. Hopefully there’s something on the software front as I expect any Mac hardware updates will be CPU only. How about killing iTunes which has been on many people’s wish list for years? Fingers crossed.
  • Photo’s. Really needs some love after a promising start especially when compared to Google Photos.
  • One more thing…Siri speaker? I’d prefer a 4k Apple TV at a reasonable price to be honest.

A fairly modest list of wants really. It will be interesting to see what’s shown that hasn’t been predicted or talked about, and also how they stack up against Google and Facebook and the industry in general which is focussing on AI and AR. Changing of the guard, my tastes changing or the appeal of something new? All I know is Apple isn’t delivering for me like they used to. Roll on Monday.

10 Years of iPhone

9th January 2007. I’d been an iPod user for many years and a Mac user for six months and really enjoyed Apple’s keynotes at the time even if it was watching on the live blogs rather than on a video stream. Apple never attended CES but always used to dominate the show with an announcement of a new product or updates to an existing line but the announcement of the iPhone was special.

It’s still great to watch it now. Steve Jobs in his prime, a product that was a game changer compared to everything else on the market and by far the best tech announcement in my lifetime so far. When re-watching the announcement a few things stand out:

  • Steve starts with such confidence and in just over three minutes has already announced the iPhone name and has the audience eating out of his hand.
  • Slide to unlock demo is the first hint at the innovation to come and what the touch interface will bring.
  • Demo of the iPod and the build up to how will you select an artist…the first demo of touch scrolling and the gasps from the audience. So good.
  • Amazing to see the first mention of the camera and photo’s was in the phone section rather than internet communicator. Total contrast to today’s demo’s and the focus on photos.
  • Pinch to zoom – another gasp.
  • How slow Safari was to load pages.
  • Let me bring Dr Eric Schmidt onto the stage. How times have changed as back in 2007 Schmidt was on the board and Google was a big part of the demo.
  • Totally forgot that a bluetooth headset was announced alongside the iPhone.
  • Near the end of the launch Steve said the iPhone is like having your life in your pocket, the ultimate digital device. How true.
  • He then finished with a quote – I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been from Wayne Gretzky. Hard to look at todays Apple and feel the same could be said in 2017.

When you look at what the iPhone launched against at the time it really was a jump forward and offered some game changing features that we now take for granted. Swiping, pinch, large touchscreen and literally no buttons. Yet I didn’t buy the first one – no 3G was a deal breaker for me and sure enough only a few months after launch Apple announced a new version that had 3G and more importantly removed reliance on web apps and brought with it the App Store. For more on the history of the iPhone, this post from the Internet History Podcast is well worth a read.

The version 1 iPhone is the best product launch I’ve seen. Now we carry computers in our pockets and for the majority of people it’s the only device they need. What will the next 10 years bring? Hard to tell but I can’t wait to find out.

Apple AirPods

7th September seems an awfully long time ago. Apple announced the iPhone 7, removed the headphone port but also heralded a wireless future…October will see the release of Apple’s AirPods which will make you totally forget about wired headphones. Except October came and went with no AirPods released. Last week they announced availability online and also in store from December 19th. I’d had no big inclination to buy them but I was keen to get rid of the wires, EarPods had suited my ears up to now and I was keen to play with a new toy – what is there to lose? I’ve used them for four days now, in and around the house and also on a couple of longish walks so felt that was enough time to share some views.

Design
The AirPods aren’t just wireless earphones. The case they come in is also a charging and storage device. When you first unbox the AirPods and open and close the case it just feels right. There’s a nice weight to the case and the lid has a nice magnetic close – it’s great for fidgeters.

When you first unbox the AirPods the case has some charge as do the AirPods but it looks like the amount of charge varies looking at posts on Twitter. The AirPods battery life is around 5 hours and a fully charged case + AirPods will provide around 24 hours of battery life. Popping the AirPods in the case for 15 minutes will provide around three hours of charge so if you do run out of juice it doesn’t take long to get back up and listening. The case is charged via a lightning port on it’s base and before you throw out or store your AirPods box remember to take out the charging cable.

One of the slams against the AirPods is that you’ll lose them – I just don’t get that. You’ll use the case to carry them around and unless you are a total klutz I just don’t see them being lost. If you do lose one of the AirPods a replacement will cost £69 from Apple. The case however is easily pocketable and really makes for a great carrying and charging solution. Switching on the AirPods is also really easy – just remove them from the case. To switch them off place them in the case…which also uses magnets to snap the AirPods back into place. Something I have found with the AirPods is that they are on the slippy side. They are small and I find it a little bit awkward getting them in and out of the case and into my ears. Potentially I can see this getting worse over time as they get a bit greasy from use so maybe the replacement from Apple will be a thing, not for lost AirPods but for broken ones as I’ve dropped mine a couple of times already.

Smart Apple
Opening the case near your iPhone pops up a pairing screen. Click on the Connect button and the AirPods are paired, renamed and the pairing information is sync’d across your devices via iCloud. The AirPods are at their heart just a set of bluetooth headphones but Apple have added a series of touches that make them the easiest bluetooth headphones to use. To see the current battery levels, open the case near the phone and up will pop the current charging level of the case and the AirPods. Pop an AirPod into your ear and you hear a small chime letting you know that the AirPods are on and connected. A duller chime will tell you the battery is almost dead.

Another nice feature is removing one AirPod will cause the audio to pause. Replacing it will cause it to resume. This in many ways makes up for the lack of controls but not totally as you need to rely on Siri – more on that later. At work if someone approaches or I want to answer a call I need to pause and take out my headphones or just let them play and move back through the song or podcast. Now I just remove an AirPod, carry out a conversation, then place it back and the playback resumes. You can also just use one AirPod if you are making telephone calls. Each AirPod has a built in mic and you only need one for making and receiving calls. I’ve had no issues on a couple of calls so far with the AirPods although they weren’t outside so I’m not sure how they perform in windy conditions.

So…Siri. I don’t get on that well with Siri and if there’s a major downside to the AirPods so far is their reliance on Siri to carry out commands. To invoke Siri you double tap on the AirPod and then ask Siri to change volume, skip track etc. It’s clumsy. It’s slow compared to a physical button. It’s weird, especially in public. It’s also not always accurate which a physical button usually is. It’s the biggest miss for me compared to wired headphones that have some form of clicker.

You can visit the bluetooth settings in your iPhone to change the double tap behaviour from Siri to play/pause or just switch it off. It’s a shame there isn’t some more options here. Why can’t I configure a single or triple click? Why can’t I configure the double click to skip tracks? Why can’t I configure each AirPod to act differently to a tap?

Another thing thats weird is that if you have no internet connection…then no Siri…and no changing the volume via Siri – it just fails. Very un-Apple like and kills the experience. I’ll rely on using the phone or watch to make volume changes or skip tracks as it’s far easier and quicker.

Sound and Fit
Headphones are no use if they don’t sound good and are comfortable to wear. Lets deal with the sound first. At work or out walking I listen to a mixture of podcasts and music. The sound quality of the AirPods to my ears is better than the EarPods but clearly isn’t the best out there. For me the quality is good enough. Audio is clear and plenty loud for my needs apart from on the underground. They aren’t noise cancelling so for airplanes there are better options. Flipping between AirPods and EarPods there is slightly more bass with the AirPods but I’ve some older in ear buds that sound much better. At work though I don’t want to be totally isolated from whats going on so the AirPods are good for me…I know others think differently or work in scenarios which mean they don’t want any distractions. If thats the case then the AirPods aren’t for you.

Fit is more tricky. When I was running I had real difficulty getting in ears that would stay in my ear without having to fix them every minute. However the EarPods stuck in my ears no matter how sweaty, windy, wet it was. The AirPods are a slightly different shape to the EarPods but again they fit perfectly for me. They are comfortable, never feel like they are going to come out and I’ve worn then for hours and you forget they are even there. I did a shake test which shows they don’t come out for me. However I know others for whom the AirPods just don’t fit. They slip out easily or are really uncomfortable.

So the fit is fine but there’s one last niggle – do AirPods look weird? I don’t think there’s much difference between AirPods and EarPods but they do look…odder. Longer and they stick out slightly. The design is where we are with batteries right now and how much can be packed into such a small volume. I’m fine with it and I’d rather walk around with AirPods than a large over the ear type device.

Should You Buy?
AirPods aren’t cheap at £159 and that will put off a lot of buyers. For the price you can definitely get better sounding wireless headphones but for me the upgrade over the EarPods and the move to wireless are well worth the asking price especially as they work so well with other Apple products. If EarPods haven’t been an issue for you and their sound quality has been good enough then the AirPods are a great purchase. It’s Apple’s most delightful product in years.

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