End of the year and the last weekly update which has as most other posts at this time a reflective feel to it. Been a good break and now looking forward to 2017.
Festive TV has been in general pretty poor. Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe was an exception and I’ve got high hopes for Sherlock tomorrow. Caught up on Star Trek Beyond and it was OK but felt like an extended TV episode rather than a movie event. Maybe one for the Star Trek fans?
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.
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.
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.
Finished work for the year last week so I’ve got 20 days off until returning on Jan 4th. Plenty of present buying completed…and I’ve got AirPods on the way too.
Two films in the last few days which couldn’t be more contrasting.
Rogue One – Enjoyed it and it ticked some of the Stars Wars boxes but also did things differently with a sombre tone at times. Looked stunning and considering everyone knew what was going to happen they did well to keep the story interesting. Still not sold on CGI actors and I’d love to know why some scenes from the early trailers never made the final cut. Also loved bitter droid. Need a BB-8 and K-2SO buddy movie.
Suicide Squad – A travesty of a movie. Imagine 20-30 music videos played back to back, with a seemingly connected story, but each one shot by a different director and written by a different writer. In fact that would have delivered a better movie than Suicide Squad. Crap dialogue, a focus on ass shots from the director, a terrible plot and a truly awful joker. Complete shite.
Business trip to Portsmouth last week. Gorgeous day but long and left me tired and playing catchup for the rest of the week. Good news with my camera – there was a dead/white pixel on it but shop I bought it from fixed it and I have it back in my hands. Christmas shopping continues…still quite a bit to do.
Can’t wait for the last episode of Westworld. Such a great show. Watched Suicide Squad – pile of shit. Picked up Tomb Raider for the PS4 and the 4k graphics are very nice indeed.
Busy this week capped by slipping yesterday morning on an icy step. Old duffer. No lasting damage but a scraped arm and bashed leg. Lucky. Also lucky that I didn’t smash my camera and it was the tripod plate that took the impact which gouged a chunk of metal out of it. Shows how easy it can be to have a nasty fall.
Still enjoying Battlefield 1 although some of the rounds can be just brutal. Also spun up Halo to play some old map remakes…wish I could say it was fun but. No.
Started watching Atlanta – very good. Also enjoyed the first episode of The Grand Tour, more so because of the 4K HDR cars than Clarkson and his merry men. It was just a more expensive Top Gear. If thats your thing, great. If you were getting jaded of the old format then there isn’t much different here.
The Reverse of the Halo Effect – Three days before the Apple news regarding the router team came out I moved to Netgear routers in the house replacing my ageing Apple kit. Faster and more capable, wish I had done it sooner. Not got me thinking…what next?
Back to work but just over three weeks until I stop for the Christmas break so not too bad. Had a checkup at the hospital on Wednesday to rule out anything around the heart being an issue with my health. An ECG, ultrasound and 17 minutes on a treadmill and the heart got a thumbs up which is great news. Doctor concurs with others that it is a viral infection and I need to keep fighting and it will eventually pass. Fingers crossed.
2 similar but different shows this week. Westworld is really hitting it’s stride and the last 2 episodes have been terrific. Also excelling in its second season is Humans on Ch4. Good to have some intelligent sci-fi on the TV.
Good week off work and another year older as it was my birthday yesterday. It was also a week for new toys. Finally got a working Samsung 4k TV and the picture is gorgeous. Also picked up a PS4 Pro (cheers Shak) and you can certainly see an upgrade in performance. Titanfall 2 looked great and the HDR/4k on The Last of Us is stunning. If you are interested on my old PS4 then take a look here.
Titanfall 2 is a very good game. It now has a single player story which so far has been excellent, multiplayer as good as the original and a promise that all future map and mode’s delivered for the game will be free. Bravo and highly recommended.
An American Tragedy – Like most folk this weeks events in America will take a long time to come to terms with and digest.
In Sight, Yet Elusive – And with Trump already restricting media access this is setting a dangerous precedent.
Be Unfailingly Kind – An older post but it popped up in my twitter feed this week and it’s a beauty. All about leadership and good behaviours and as I read it there was so much I don’t/can’t do. Lots to learn.
August 19th 1993 saw the launch of Edge Magazine. An adult look at the future of games and I loved it from day one. 23 years later and they’ve just launched the 300th edition…and I still have all of them. I almost ditched the collection when I moved house over 10 years ago but I’m glad I held on to them. I scanned the covers a few years ago and every year update it with the latest covers. All 300 Edge Magazine covers can be found in this Flickr album.
Issue 300’s cover pays homage to issue 1 but is fairly dull compared to someoftheirbettercovers. Edge over the years focussed on design and substance unlike so many of their competitors. Arrogant, controversial but always pretty bang on from my perspective.
What’s caused most debate is the game reviews. Edge score out of 10 and over the years there have been precious few 10’s awarded.
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Edge have also awarded some retrospective 10’s over the years as well.
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One of the repeated debates has been on publishing a score. How many people don’t buy a game because it got a 7 but it was still a great game? I’ll hold my hand up and say a 6 or 7 has put me off a game or three despite reading the review and thinking thats sounds great. I’ve also played and really enjoyed lots of games that got a 6 or 7 proving the text is more important than the score. Despite Edge talking about removing the scores they still publish them while other gaming sites now no longer put a score on a game and the reviews are better for it.
Despite online being the place to get up to date info and paper magazines always being behind, Edge interviews, features and their unique perspective on the industry still make for a must read. Hopefully they can maintain an audience going forward and they are around for a few more years…I need my monthly Edge fix.
Jury service came to nothing – wasn’t called, service passed hopefully for another few years. Picked up a new 4k TV which has….some issues. Replacement coming this week, hopefully this one works. Yes, it is a Samsung! Got this week off work so chance for a bit of relaxation and the start of Christmas shopping?
Planet Earth II was stunning last night especially the drama around the racer snakes. Who needs CGI! Dear BBC, please release a 4k version on iPlayer. Thanks.
T2 Trainspotting Official Trailer – Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose your future. Choose reality TV, slutshaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work. Choose the same for your kids only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen. And then take a deep breath. You were an addict so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else instead. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.