Earlier this week Jason Snell published his 2021 Apple Report Card. His annual report is a great read for anyone in or around the Apple ecosystem.
The scores don’t highlight any surprises but the comments from those surveyed do highlight a few issues. iPad is hampered by it’s operating system, not the hardware which is industry leading and matches much of the new Mac’s. Apple TV is the biggest rise year on year and thats thanks to the new remote. Its still too expensive and limiting for what it is. As for HomeKit it feels like it’s been abandoned.
Apple’s hardware is in a great place…but it’s software is letting it down.
The iPhone 13 may have been out for a few months but this review from Sebastiaan de With goes deep on what’s good and not so good about the current camera’s, and software, in the iPhone. The images he captures shows how far todays phones have come and that photography is the reason for upgrading your device.
Like most things with the blog, I’m late to my 2021 wrap up post. Last year was deja-vu from 2020. Still mostly working from home, covid still dominating and much of the focus was on staying healthy and following the rules with the big difference being covid vaccines and hopefully a path to living with covid thats a bit more normal than what we’ve had for the last two years.
I’d no big plan for 2021 apart from keeping my daily walks going while working from home. Thanks to Chris doing a virtual Lands End to John o’ Groats walk through the year I thought I could up my walks to do a little bit more each day/week.
Around the end of August I realised that if I’d been a bit more ambitious I could hit 2000km for the year so I upped the distance and also the pace.
Boom – 2000km hit by mid December. I find the walking essential as it clears my head, gets me out of the house and also helps with the ever constant weight battle – more on that next. Would love to get back to running but thats not an option at the moment. As for 2021, more of the same. Want to make 2000km again and maintain the pace.
As well as following covid rules and getting vaccinated as soon as it was available one issue I had was my weight. Through 2020 and then the first half of 2021 my weight was slowly creeping up. A weird weight loss at the end of 2019 had masked the gradual weight increase but hitting 91kg in July from a maintained low of around 83-84kg was the kick up the arse I needed.
Over the last 6 months I cut out some of the extra’s (bread!) I was having and coupled with the walking + pace increase has seen the weight drop back down to 83-84kg. Really pleased to get back down into that range. 2021 aim – maintain!
Not so good was sleep towards the end of the year. Through November and December I ended up averaging 4-5 hours sleep per night which is nowhere near enough and miles away from my normal of 7 hours. Can’t really call out a strong reason why although suspect work pressures/stress were the major contributor. Frustratingly the year ended badly with a real flair up of the chest illness I had a few years ago. So I’m back at the doctors and awaiting blood test results. It’s not stopped the walks although I have had to drop the pace a little but one by product is I can sleep all the hours. I wonder if the lack of sleep has ended up causing a relapse? Time will tell.
Thanks in part to covid and also the massive amount of money being invested due to streaming, TV now dominates film for me. There’s just too much TV to watch although I had a good go through the year in watching it all.
Surprising was how much the BBC and Ch4 dominates my watch time although many of the other networks you could lump together as Sky in the UK. Some shows that I watched and enjoyed through the year were:
Ted Lasso – season 2 was never going to live up to the season 1 hype but was still an enjoyable watch
The Expanse – season 5 and most of season 6….only one more episode left before it comes to an end! One of the best shows out there.
Line of Duty – another show that was never going to live up to the hype but still enjoyed it
Cobra Kai – a really easy but enjoyable watch
For All Mankind – best show on Apple TV+ – season 2 was excellent and a step up on the first
Vigil – enjoyed it especially the location spotting in Glasgow and the West Coast
Wandavision – outstanding – loved it
Loki – like a good season of Doctor Who with a bigger budget although the end underwhelmed
Great British Bake Off – classic season although still maintain Jürgen was robbed
The White Lotus – great to watch although not sure it landed the ending
This Way Up – cracking comedy/drama on Ch4
Showtrial – Another beeb drama that kept the suspense going week to week
It’s a Sin – stunning. If you watch only one thing from 2021 make it this. Joyous and sad at the same time.
Succession – essential, even just to hear another Fuck Off
Also binged Halt and Catch Fire from a few years back and highly recommend it. Next on the list of classics for me to tackle – The Soprano’s or The American’s…but I’ve got a few things from last year to finish off first.
As for films, Zack Snyders Justice League was surprisingly good, No Time To Die was a great end to Daniel Craigs Bond run and Dune was stunning…roll on part 2.
Games had a better year. Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite came out in the last couple of months and have been excellent. Most surprised by Halo after the delay in 2020 and the worries around the graphics and the studio. Returnal on the PS5 is a pretty stunning game to look at although I do struggle with the gameplay. I’ve got Metroid Dread to play plus a couple of PC and Xbox games but I’d say 2021 has been one of the best years for games in a long time…and 2022 is looking just as strong if not more so.
And finally a shout out to a simple game thats taken the internet, and Twitter, by storm – Wordle. A daily word puzzle that has no ad’s, no multiplayer, no in app purchase. I love it especially the sharing on twitter by fellow players and trying to work out their opening words/moves.
My effort from today:
Wordle 204 3/6
🟩🟨🟨⬜⬜ 🟩🟩🟩🟨⬜ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
A strange year of virtually no tech purchases. Thanks to a power cut at home I needed to buy a new printer, and I hate everything to do with home printers so that was a real grudge purchase. Mid December and my iMac failed which turned out to be a failed logic board (maybe power cut related???) so that was an expensive fix too. The only notable new tech this year was the Oculus Quest 2 which I picked up late December. Not used it much but surprised by how good the visuals are and how easy it is to use untethered from a PC.
One area I did invest in was upgrading my NAS, not by buying a new one, but upgrading the RAM and replacing all the drives as I had virtually no capacity left. My Synology is almost 7 years old but still supports the latest software releases and with the extra RAM and faster drives, Plex and also a couple of docker images are running better than ever.
2021 saw no new Apple purchases – so still using the iMac from 2017, iPad from 2018, Apple Watch from 2018 and the iPhone from 2020. 2022 will be different though. Really want to move to a new Mac with an Apple processor and leave the Intel to PC’s. Will wait for iMac and Mac Mini updates in 2022 before making a decision but leaning towards the Mac Mini and another monitor rather than heading down the iMac route again. Also expect to pick up a new Apple Watch in September/October but still undecided on the iPad as it’s still doing everything I need it to do so might squeeze out one more year.
As for other tech, if I could lay my hands on a new PC graphics card I could be tempted into an upgrade. A new camera to replace my Fuji XT-2 is also on the radar as I’m a couple of generations behind…but thats an expensive 2022!
As before I don’t do resolutions but look for overall area’s to improve or focus on. One that stands out is simplifying both in and out of work. Juggling a lot and need to focus on the things that matter and drop the rest. Second area is on health and focussing a bit more on understanding me, my body and also my diet. That’s a challenge but the biggest improvement would be to have a more positive and normal year. Fingers crossed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.