WWDC 2021

Tomorrow see’s the start of the Apple year – WWDC. I always look forward to the event as it sets out the direction for all of Apple’s platforms and hints at future hardware. We are 9 months into the transition to Apple silicon so lots of hardware rumours, iOS is mature so what will be new this year and will we see anything hardware related with AR/VR?

What I expect to see:

  • New MacBook Pro’s with faster Apple chips.
  • iPadOS will surely see some improvements. The new IPad’s have so much power and the platform is let down by the software. Question is what? Hopefully a widget system that matches iOS as last year it was strangely hampered compared to the new powerful widgets you could use on the iPhone. Productivity improvements? Windowing? Better external display support? Some more borrowing/sharing features between MacOS? Not sure but if there’s not a focus on iPadOS that will be a major disappointment.
  • iOS – improved customisation after last years widget hit. So widgets improved, more flexibility across the whole of iOS as well. Expect to see improvements to Messages and FaceTime as well as they’ve been used so heavily through the pandemic.
  • watchOS – improved customisation perhaps? More around complications rather than full custom watch faces. That feels like a dream that will never land. Also expect to see more on health although that may need new hardware later in the year.
  • macOS – the first WWDC with Apple Silicon in the wild so what improvements will we see here? I’m hoping Control Centre will see further work including letting third parties use it. Maybe Shortcuts will make an appearance to further blur iOS and macOS?
  • Music – still think there’s more to come around audio. Apple made their lossless announcement but listen back options are limited. So surely there’s a part 2?

What I want to see:

  • New Mac Mini and the larger iMac. I’m plotting to upgrade to Apple Silicon this year from Intel so I’d like to see my options rather than plump for a device and then have regrets. However with iMac’s only recently being released I can’t see the bigger one launching.
  • Apple Monitor – one that isn’t > £5k
  • Let me customise Apple One and pick the services in the low to middle tier
  • iCloud – backup my Mac and also increase the storage limits without increasing cost – feels very tight when Apple is the richest company in the world
  • Apple Card in the UK
  • Apple address developer discontent and drop App Store charges…and throws them a bone around payment services
  • homeOS – lots of rumours around this and it’s something Apple could really do with improving. But what’s it for? HomePod’s? Apple TV? New devices?
  • A glimpse at the AR/VR hardware

24 hours from now we’ll have all the answers. Can’t wait.

Covid Jag

I’ve been jagged. On Friday I drove out to Milngavie and got my first dose of the Covid vaccine. No waiting, slick process and didn’t even feel the needle. I got the Pfizer vaccine although I’d have no problem getting any version. Science is getting us out of this covid mess and I couldn’t wait to get my jag. Big thanks to the NHS staff and all the helpers – what a difference they are making.

So far the only side effect is I’ve been slightly more tired than normal but I’ve not needed to head to bed or anything. I also had a slight sore head on the afternoon of the jag but a walk and some fresh air soon cleared that…and I get sore heads at the best of time so I’ve no idea if it’s related.

Role on May 21st when my body will have built up more immunity and mid August when I’ll have had the second jag and be as immune as I can be without actually getting covid.

The biggest question though…jag or jab? I’m in the jag camp.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats was written by Dr. Edward de Bono. “Six Thinking Hats” and the associated idea parallel thinking provide a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively.

Although this can be used in groups to aid thinking assigning each person a role has felt restrictive for me. Better example – group assumes all roles at the same time so you move through the different hats together. Also find it useful if going through thinking on my own and avoids falling into favouring your own idea and focussing on yellow and blue hats while missing the others.

Done

202o was quite the year. Let’s be honest – it sucked. Even at the start of March I didn’t expect to spend more than three quarters of the year working from home but there you go. Also surprising considering how many looked at home working (in my current job/industry at least) as a duvet day or being not as productive…..I’ve never been busier or achieved as much as I’ve done in the last 9 months. And with no whiteboard!

Not that I’m complaining. I consider myself really lucky that I can work effectively from home and carry out my role remotely while reducing covid risk as much as possible. What that did mean was a bit of investment in the home office.

My updated home office – ultra wide FTW

I really need to get a blog post done on the new gaming PC 😎

Despite the pandemic I did focus on 2 things this year that were on the to-do list for 2020. Finally got the bathroom upgraded in January and I’m putting a lot more effort on paying off the mortgage. Other things like photography took a total back seat. Travel restrictions didn’t help in March and April but I lost all my photo mojo. Hopefully next year I’ll get back on the photography saddle.

Also lost the blog bug and with that the weekly updates went into hibernation as so much news was dominated by the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and politics. Found myself needing to switch off more from social media as it was all pretty relentlessly bleak. What I did fall back on was gaming and TV. New consoles helped and also games like Flight Simulator which is really just a world simulator and a pretty fantastic game. As for TV, I enjoyed in amongst everything else:

Industry is 2020’s version of This Life and the soundtrack for it and Normal People are well worth a listen. Surprise hit (for me anyway) of the year was Ted Lasso. Looked to be a pretty average but it really hit the spot with some feel good comedy which worked well in this miserable 2020.

Thanks to covid I’ve also enjoyed the years best meme played out live on Twitter – Room Rater.

So onwards to 2021. A couple of theme’s/goals but no resolutions and a hope that the year sucks less than 2020 despite the mess the UK is in thanks to Covid, Brexit and an incompetent Westminster government.

Xbox Series X

It’s new console’s season. First up is Microsoft’s Xbox Series X launched on Nov 10th. I got mine the day after (thanks Amazon!) and so the following are my impressions after a few weeks. So in no particular order:

Xbox Series X
  • The console was really easy to setup. Plugged it in and used the iOS app to setup and transfer settings from the One X. Within a few minutes I was logged in and downloading games.
  • Front end is fast but exactly the same as the dash released in October for the One X. Takes away some of the new when it looks and feels the same.
  • I had games on an external hard drive ready to transfer so copied a couple over to test the console. Sea of Thieves was much much quicker to load. It was also much smoother – 60fps and in 4K. 
  • Foran Horizon 4 was a bit more complex as it needed an 80GB update – new textures clearly leads to a download of the whole game? Like Thieves the game loaded more quickly and throughout the game you saw the speed of the Series X SSD. The game now runs at 60fps at 4K and looks really good. Sharp and much better textures…but when you are racing around the countryside some of the improvements are hard to pick out.
  • Downloaded Dirt 5 as I wanted to play an actual new game. Certainly a great looker and some nice touches in single player but…pop up in surprising places and the multiplayer is really weak. Hopefully updates will rescue this from mediocracy. 
  • The Series X is whisper quiet – really impressive. Under load you can hear it slightly but compared to other consoles it’s nothing. However it’s a great room heater…this will be interesting in the summer.
  • The internal SSD really does deliver on 2 fronts – quick loading of games and quick resume. The loading isn’t really a surprise if you’ve upgraded your Mac or PC from HDD to SDD but the quick resume is surprisingly good. Across old and new games it only takes a few seconds to resume a game, no loading menus – straight back to where you left off.
  • I really like the design of the Series X. I have it standing next to the TV rather than underneath on it’s side. Yes it’s big…until you stand a PS5 next to it which makes it look svelte.
  • I also loved the packaging from Microsoft. Easy open stickers, a premium box and it added to the new console experience. However I’ll never see that box again until I replace/sell it.
  • The controller has seen little change. A share/capture button and a slight sculpting here and there. It was always preferred over the DualShock but I use an Elite now so nothing really lost….but Microsoft played safe with the controller and it’s now behind the Sony counterpart.
  • I’ve had no lock-ups or crashes but I did get a strange load once where it booted in 640×480. It said my TV didn’t support anything higher too…which was weird as I’m using a new LG CX Oled which supports all the new consoles features. No matter what I did I couldn’t get it to work…until I switched it to a different HDMI port and all was well. Swapped back and again all was well so I’ll put it down to a weird HDMI handshaking issue.
  • Back to the dash – again it feels like Microsoft have played safe compared to PS5. There’s nothing much new in the dash, just a tweak to how games and apps are listed. PS5 has a concept of shortcuts which is an interesting way of getting to game content more quickly.
  • Much has been made of the power of the Series X but some of the initial third party games have seen stutter and frame drops. Rumours of tooling getting to dev’s late and a rush to meet console release but I’ve seen none of it as the TV I have has VRR – Variable Refresh Rate – which masks/hides the issues. I wonder how many dev’s are going to assume that users have VRR as standard going forward?
  • In low power mode (console’s off but will do updates and downloads) the fan is always on. You can’t hear it until you put your ear to the console but put your hand over the top of the console and you’ll feel a constant cool flow of air. Wonder if the noise will increase over time due to dust/wear?
  • New first party games are an issue. Halo being put back to Fall 2021 has meant there is little new from Microsoft on the Series X. However Game Pass is such good value for money that there is plenty to play on the console including Destiny 2 which has just been updated for the Series X.
  • Old games really do fly though – Halo 5 is silky smooth and I’m loving diving back into multiplayer.

Overall I’m really happy with the Series X. Hardware, power and design are all top notch and easily beat the old console. However stock seems to be an issue and as there’s no must play Series X game I’d say wait for stock levels to get better and don’t pay over the odds for it. When you do pick one up though you’ll be rewarded with a cracking console, a Game Pass stocked with games and a pretty full looking first party games list coming out over the next 2 years. However those first party games really need to deliver and show there’s more outside of Forza, Halo and Gears of War.

A Week with the iPhone 12 Pro

I’ve had the iPhone X for just under 3 years. At the time Apple said it was the future of the iPhone and looking back they were right. It aged really well and is still fast, the screen is great with no burn in and the only area it’s started to lag is in the camera. But I’d planned for a while that 2020 was an upgrade year, mostly due to the incremental nature in phone changes and also that an iPhone Pro is a four figure purchase. 

So last Friday I picked up an iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue and since then I’ve given it a good kicking…here’s my one week thoughts on the new device.

Design

Since the iPad Pro came out in 2018 I’ve wanted an iPhone with a similar design. I’ve always considered the iPhone 4 and 5 as classics and high points of iPhone design over the last 10 years. The iPhone 12 Pro references the 4 and 5 in adopting the iPad Pro industrial design. Squared stainless steel edges, glass back and a great range of colours.

iPhone 12 Pro Pacific Blue

I went for the Pacific Blue – it looks gorgeous in the flesh and for me is one of the best designed phones from Apple in years. The frosted back also doesn’t pick up fingerprints like previous years models.

The square edge means it can stand on it’s own
Love the screen

The screen is also slightly bigger than last years Pro’s at 6.1”. However thanks to the design and the ever narrowing bezels its not too much bigger in the hand than the iPhone X. The screen itself is HDR, looks great and is also featuring the strongest finish yet – Ceramic Shield glass. Hopefully I’ll never find out if it is stronger but if it reduce screen smashes then great. 

No hiding the fingerprints on the Pro

While I love the design the stainless steel band is a finger print magnet. It’s also quite slippy but with the squared off edges I find it pretty easy to hold case less if that’s how you want to role. If I’m honest I prefer the look of the iPhone 12 aluminium band over the stainless steel but much prefer the 12 Pro’s frosted back….you can’t win them all.

5G

Apple spent a long time in their advert keynote talking about 5G, 5G, 5G, 5G, Verizon, 5G, 5G, Verizon. I’m with EE in the UK so wasn’t sure what to expect. I only upgraded my contract in the last couple of days and results in my parts of Glasgow are mixed.

Outdoors I’m seeing much better download and upload speeds but worse pings. Indoors is much worse. So much for the speed upgrade! Cellular speeds are affected by so many factors though so will need to spend a bit of time understanding if it makes any difference in practice and also how the 5G rollout across the UK matures over time. At the moment though it’s unclear as to what benefit 5G is really delivering although my new contract has more data for less. Win!

Camera

There’s very little difference between the 11 and 12 Pro…but for me moving from the iPhone X there is significant difference in the camera’s. There’s an extra lens, the telephoto and the sensors and lens themselves are much improved. 

Thanks Sky for playing ball – no edits on this photo
The ultrawide delivered some great shots
Again, straight out of the phone – love the Autumnal colours

Pixel peeking on similar photos show quite the upgrade. Apple also look to be adding more pop to their photo’s. None of the photos here have been edited – straight out the phone. The ultra wide also performs far better than I expected. The following shots are from the same position with each of the lens.

Telephoto
Wide
Ultrawide

Night mode is also…amazing. I know this is old news for 11 owners but the difference is massive over the X. So little noise in a night mode photo and it defies belief in the few times I’ve tried it so far. As well as taking cracking photos the 12 allows you to record in Dolby Vision HDR. Looks great on the iPhone and on screens that support HDR and feels like another important future proofing feature in this phone.

Video straight out of the iPhone

Final new features is Lidar. I’ve not noticed a difference when taking photos but it’s pretty amazing that you can 3D scan an object or room with your phone with ease. My only niggle – I’d have loved the improved camera features in the iPhone 12 Pro Max to have featured in the iPhone 12 Pro. Looks a significant step up but we’ll know for sure in a couple of weeks.

Speed

This iPhone flies. I’m coming from a few generations back and an A11 but apps are just so much snappier than the iPhone X. I’m also finding that apps remain loaded in memory far more than what I was seeing with the X recently. There’s more RAM in the iPhone 12 Pro at 6GB but noticed more with iOS 14 that apps would need to restart more quickly than I’d seen in the past.

Misc

Speakers – considerably louder and clearer than the iPhone X. Not sure if its better than the 11 Pro but it was a nice surprise.

Case – usually pick up the Apple Leather case but that isn’t available. Picked up the synthetic case and pretty disappointed with it. Total fluff magnet, and it has a lip all the way around the screen unlike the leather which is lipless at the bottom. It’s also £50 probably due to the MagSafe additions…but when you put the phone in the case it knows its a blue case. Mmm.

I really can’t recommend the silicon case – overpriced and a fluff gatherer

MagSafe – I’m staying away from MagSafe. The wireless charging takes twice as long and costs more and the magnet strength is pretty weak.

No plug/EarPods – The size of the box is pretty surprising at first. Small and you can see the difference the plug makes. While Apple can tout greener credentials its money that’s driving this decision. I picked up an Anker power supply and cable – cheaper and better than what Apple sells.

Migration process – usually pretty painless, this year my apps, data and settings migrated over without passwords so I had a lot of setting up to do. 

Pick up – due to ordering taking longer than expected delivery had slipped by a couple of weeks so I opted for in store pickup. Kudos to Apple Braehead for a safe and quick in store experience.

Wrap Up

It’s only a week but I’m loving the iPhone 12 Pro. The design is a step up on previous models and the increased performance and features compared to my old iPhone X are significant. I really do love the design language of the iPhones and iPads from Apple right now.

However there isn’t much to choose between the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro – a telephoto lens, 6GB vs 4GB, different finishes and the capacity – the 12 starts at 64GB vs the Pro at 128GB. So while I heartily recommend the iPhone 12 Pro, look carefully at what you really use the phone for as there isn’t much to choose between phones right now from Apple. And if you value the camera over everything else the iPhone 12 Pro Max is probably for you. For me I value my pockets and usability over the camera so the 12 Pro was the one for me.