Weekly Digest

Life
Tree’s up – Christmas is here. Almost. Is it only me thats looking forward to a crazy week in politics?

Media
Venom – Load of shite. What a waste of a great cast. Better off just being an animated movie.

Red Dead 2 – 68% through story mode…closing in on the finish and still loving it.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
It’s December. Christmas is coming…can finally have a mince pie. If only this Brexit nonsense wasn’t still an issue.

Media
Rewatched Dunkirk in 4k. Stunning. Visuals are strong but it’s the audio – so impacting.

Red Dead Online – mmm. Not convinced by this so far. Feels a bit sluggish to play. Still ploughing through single player and loving it.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
Whats worse – Brexit or Black Friday? Both topics dominating the news and my inbox. Enough already.

Media
Battlefield V – more of the same in many ways but the tweaks to how your squad works makes it for me. Stunning to look at too.

Red Dead – Still ploughing through it…still loving it.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado – Not as good as the original though I loved the sound and visuals.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
Turned 45 last week. I have no words.

Early morning trip to Loch Ard today. Didn’t get the pictures I was looking for but did get some nice drone footage. Must make an effort with the video side of things – I’ve got a fair bit of good video now but can’t be arsed editing.

Media
They Shall Not Grow Old – powerful documentary from Peter Jackson. Brought home the hardships faced during WW1. The transition from B&W to colour was astounding.

Links

2018 iPad Pro

Just over a year ago I upgraded to the 10.5 iPad Pro with folio keyboard and Apple Pencil. I was convinced this iPad would do me for another 3-4 years…until Apple brought out a brand new iPad Pro design and a version 2 Apple Pencil. The message from Apple this year is the iPad Pro will make you rethink what an iPad and hence a computer is capable of. Does it?

New Design
I love the new design of the iPad Pro. Flat edges and thin across the whole iPad it feels great in the hand. I wondered if the flat edge would feel uncomfortable when holding the iPad for a while but I’ve had no issues so far. The design reminds me of the iPhone 4 & 5 which were a favourite of mine. I’d love to see a similar design introduced for next years iPhone’s.

The rounded corners are now matched with rounded screen corners. Apple have brought their Liquid Retina LCD to the iPad – Liquid Retina seems to indicate rounded corners – and it looks fantastic. Despite it not being an OLED I struggle to see the difference in playback of videos when I compare the iPad to the iPhone X. The screen still has all the new tech that was introduced last year including ProMotion and TrueTone which ensures a fantastic image at all times.

Many have said this is a borderless iPad and the screen is edge to edge…but it’s not. It’s close to the edge but there’s an undeniable border that runs around the whole screen. The difference is that it’s constant and you really can’t tell which way is up unless you look at the back and see the Apple logo. The thinner border also houses the main difference from every other iPad so far as there is no home button or Touch ID.

Face ID is now tucked into the iPad Pro (no notch!) and so far it’s been better in use than the iPhone. It works in any orientation, it’s faster than my iPhone X and if you do have your hand covering the front facing camera it will alert you with an on screen dialogue. It also feels more frictionless than Touch ID. I will be working on the iPad and when something needs to unlock like 1Password it just happens assuming camera isn’t blocked. Face ID has really speeded up my iPad usage.

The removal of Touch ID has lead to Apple tweaking both iPad Pro design’s. The smaller iPad is no longer a 10.5″ screen but moves to 11″. The larger iPad 12.9″ screen stays the same but the footprint of the iPad has now shrunk. Due to this shrinking and the overall thinning the 12.9″ now takes up 25% less volume than last years model. This lead to a tough choice. I didn’t pre-order the iPad Pro as I wanted to see the new models in the flesh. Last years 10.5″ iPad Pro was great as a consumption device and was OK as a laptop replacement but there were times when the keyboard felt small and multi-tasking two apps was a bit tight on size. Could I move to this years 12.9?

Yes. On comparing the 11″ and 12.9″ I much preferred the bigger screen and felt the compromise in weight was one I could make. In practice over the last week it’s been the right choice for me. Using the iPad with the keyboard has been far more comfortable, video watching on the larger screen has been great and general browsing and reading is a bit more clearer. Yes it’s more weighty and slightly more cumbersome but it’s not been enough to make me think about swapping back to the 11″.

Faster and Louder
Powering this years iPad Pro’s is the new A12X chip. The performance of this is pretty astounding. I’ve ran a Geekbench test against the new iPad Pro and my current 2017 iMac and iPhone.

The iMac is more than 2.5 times the cost of the iPad Pro and has a noisy fan at times when you stress it unlike the iPad Pro but the Geekbench scores are close. App’s fly on the iPad – it’s faster than last years model which was already a really good performer. It feels like Apple could replace Intel with ARM chips in Mac’s now, especially for the MacBook Air and Pro’s.

The other significant change is in the connector – lightning has been dropped for USB C. USB C is more capable than lightning, it can supply more power for example. There are also thousands of USB C peripherals out there but at the moment it’s trial and error if the iPad Pro supports it thanks to iOS.

Worse is the limitations around files. Plug in a camera or an SD card via an adaptor and it will be recognised and allow photos or videos to be imported. Anything else however is ignored. Plug in a flash drive with a Word or Pages file – ignored. Zip file – ignored. Music files – ignored. Support for browsing of external drives seems trivial to add to iOS especially with the Files app that arrived with iOS 12. This shouldn’t need to wait until iOS 13 – why not a 12.2 or 12.3 feature? It would bolster Apple’s claims about rethinking what an iPad can do and would have silenced a lot of negativity if it had came alongside the iPad Pro release.

Always the butt of jokes, the camera’s have seen some upgrades too. The rear camera is new and unique to the iPad, isn’t as good as the new iPhones but does take a good picture and is also great for scan’s. The camera bump is pretty large but doesn’t cause the iPad to rock when placed flat. The front facing camera is the same as the XS and XR (thanks Face ID) so unlike the rear supports portrait mode.

Something that has been dropped is the headphone jack. This feels mean especially for something advertised as a Pro machine. Yes you can buy USB C adapters (and unlike the phones no adapter was included with the iPad Pro) but it feels like a mistake to me. However the 4 speakers are improved over last year. Louder and clearer the sound on the new iPad is excellent for something so thin.

Final point is on battery life. Apple change each year how they define battery life. 10 hours, full day etc. I’ve found the battery life to be much the same as previous iPad’s. Long lasting especially when compared to a laptop, so a full day of work is easy to achieve.

Folio Keyboard
So far, so positive. The new Folio Keyboard has also seen some design changes. There is a new smart connector for the keyboard and rather than attach at the side of the iPad the new folio covers the entire back. In fact the back of the iPad plays an important role in aligning the keyboard via magnets. On the back of the iPad Pro there are over 100 magnets used to align the folio when connecting. This works so well. Easy to take the keyboard off an on and no worry about whether it’s on and aligned properly.

The outside material of the folio feels a little different to the last model. It feels a bit softer but it also picks up fluff and dirt easily which is annoying. It’s also a shame that the new iPad is then wrapped in a solid flat grey case – there’s not even an Apple logo on show. In some ways it matches the industrial design of the iPad but it is bland compared to the naked iPad.

The folio is far more comfortable to type on my lap. Little movement, and the wider keyboard is far more comfortable than the older 10.5. The majority of this post was written using the new keyboard and it’s far less cramped than the 10.5 version. However the keyboard itself feels a missed opportunity. There are still no backlit keys – not even a caps lock indicator. There are also no media or shortcut keys which seems lacking for a Pro device.

They new folio allows for two positions, desk and lap. It’s nice to have two options but it’s nowhere near as flexible as something like the Surface Pro. I’ve had no major issues with the angles provided but I’ve seen others complain about neck strain as neither angle is exactly right.

While the keyboard is more stable in general the iPad on the folio seems to flex more than with the last design. The image below shows the 2017 iPad Pro 10.5″. There’s a bit of movement when you poke the screen.

The second image shows the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″. There’s much more movement including the keyboard itself. Not sure if that’s a symptom of the new design, it’s due to the bigger iPad or just that the keyboard is new and needs time to settle.

So the folio keyboard isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. Worse – it costs £200. Like most Apple products this year they’ve all went up by around 20%. I can justify that to myself when I see new features or technology but there is nothing in this keyboard that shouts new…or Pro. I felt a bit wronged when buying the folio and I’m looking forward to seeing some third party options appear in the coming months that address the folio’s shortfalls.

Apple Pencil
Unlike the folio, the new Apple Pencil has been totally redesigned and address’s all the issues with the first version. The first difference is the matte finish. It feels much more comfortable in the hand aided by the second noticeable change. Instead of being totally round the pencil now has a flat edge that serves two purposes – it magnetically connects to the edge of the iPad and it also stops the pencil from rolling. I also find it more comfortable to hold.

While magnetically connected to the iPad the pencil wirelessly charges. This means unlike the older pencil which you could never find and if you did it was usually not charged, the new pencil is always to hand and charged and ready for action. The wireless charging means there’s no more awkward charging via a port and the pencil is slightly shorter, feeling more balanced in hand.

The final change is a button. An Apple product with a button? Don’t be daft, it’s a double tap in the lower third of the pencil that activates an alternate function which is set per app. So in Notes you are drawing with the pencil and a double tap swaps to the eraser. I’ve found it a bit awkward to use but easier the more I do it.

The Apple Pencil has also seen a 20% increase in price which for me is more justifiable compared to the old design as it includes gesture support and wireless charging. However Apple no longer supply a spare tip with the pencil. That’s tight.

In the last week I’ve used the pencil far more regularly. Comments on a PDF, signature on a doc, editing photo’s in Lightroom and just general navigation. A fantastic update.

Elephant in the Room
Apple want to class the iPad as a computer and given the power it has that’s no surprise. However reviews to date have identified one major flaw – iOS – and I have to agree. I use my iPad every day and it replaced the MacBook Air that I had. However I couldn’t give up on my Mac as iOS doesn’t let me do what I can easily do on the Mac. There are also tasks that despite the improvement in iOS 11 and 12 are faster and easier on the Mac either down to the maturity and flexibility that macOS offers or the support of things like a mouse, trackpad or large monitors.

I’d like to see iOS improve in a number of area’s:

  • Let me pick default apps. There are great mail, calendar, task management and browsers in the App Store all hampered by the fact that you can’t make them the system default.
  • Let me browse attached storage. Seems a no brainier to add and soon.
  • Make better use of the large tablet interface. An 11″ or 12.9″ screen should let me do far more than the default iOS springboard currently does. It really is just a bigger iPhone.
  • Mobile Safari doesn’t cut it anymore. Give us the same functionality and power as desktop Safari…or let me default to Chrome.
  • Multi user? I don’t need it but the iPad has everything from a hardware perspective that would allow multi user support and it seems more important to add with the price of the devices now.

Will we see any of this in iOS 13? No idea and undoubtedly won’t see them all if any. If you are picking up an iPad Pro hoping that these features come in the next 12 months then prepare for some disappointment. One last ding on Apple and software – where are the pro apps? They paraded Adobe at the iPad Pro launch and talked up Autodesk but where’s Logic? Where’s Final Cut? Pro users need Pro software and not seeing Apple’s Pro app’s on the iPad is a real negative.

Verdict
I love the new iPad Pro. The design is great – a thin all screen slab that is also a really fast computer. It feels more like the device Jobs promised in 2010 when he showed the iPad for the first time. The screen increase to 11″ and shrinking of the 12.9″ body will lead to more moving to the larger iPad. The keyboard is a kludge but the gen 2 Apple Pencil is a fantastic step up and improves in every area.

Will it replace you current computer?

Maybe.

It totally depends on what you use your current computer for. I fallback often to the iMac and I couldn’t move to being iPad only right now not due to the hardware but solely down to iOS. 2019 is a big year for software on the iPad. Real Photoshop from Adobe will land and there will be much speculation on what iOS 13 will deliver for the iPad. For too long the iPad has seen little attention to differentiate it from the iPhone. Apple, it’s time to unlock the iPads potential.

Weekly Digest

Life
Week off work ahead as I turn another year older. It’s just a number, right? Picked up a new iPad Pro which so far has been a joy to use. More on that later in the week.

Media
Outlaw King – a poor man’s Game of Thrones. Bit dull although Scotland shone throughout.

The Walking Dead – This season has been a bit of a return to form. This weeks was doing pretty well…but then they dropped the ball. Shame.

Links

Apple Watch Series 4

I’ve been an Apple Watch user sine it first came out in 2015. It was no surprise as I love my Apple products and I’ve been interested in wearables for years importing the very first Fitbit to track my steps.

However I resisted upgrading from the original Series 0 waiting for a bit of a redesign which the Series 4 finally delivered. I’ve been using the new watch for just over a month so how has it performed?

Hardware
The new watch comes in a slightly bigger size along with a far bigger screen. It’s not quite edge to edge but the bigger screen makes for a far more readable display. I plumped for the 44mm and it’s really comfortable on my wrist. Now that I’ve seen both sizes I prefer it over the 40mm.

It also feels comfy to wear. Like all smartwatches it’s pretty thick but not ridiculousy so. I went for the Cellular version this time and thankfully the red crown has been replaced with a small red line around the crown instead which is far more pleasing on the eye.

Cellular has worked well. I’ve streamed music and podcasts while out and about around Glasgow listening via AirPods and without the phone. Speeds are good, easy to select content and calls have come through with clear audio.

Speaking of speed, the Series 4 is really quick. Apps launch quickly, taps are recognised without a pause…it makes for such a different experience compared with the older watch.

Couple of other points. Battery life is excellent. I use the watch all day, keep it on overnight for sleep tracking and charge it for an hour while getting ready for work. Around once a week I need to do a top up at night but I’m fine with that. For an overnight trip I no longer need to pack a charger.

The crown – it’s digital but the haptic feedback is so good. The sport loop straps are more comfortable than the sport bands…although there are far too many colour choices. Damn you Apple.

Despite all that’s great about the hardware it’s hard to avoid the obvious miss – the always on screen. Will come one day but still feels a few years away which is a shame. Can never truly call it a watch until it’s always on and you don’t need to flick your wrist to trigger the screen.

It’s also a shame that that ECG feature isn’t available anywhere yet and hasn’t been cleared for UK use. It’s that breakthrough that made this watch so appealing.

Software
While the hardware delivers I can’t say the same for the software. The most noticeable addition is the new watch faces in particular Infograph and Infograph Modular. Infograph is the face seen in most of the adverts for the new watch as it shows of the increase in the size of the screen. You can customise the hell out of this face and can show up to 8 complications.

My current Infograph face

New in Series 4 are complications around the edge of the clock face. Some of the new ones are great like weather showing upper, lower and current temperatures or the activity rings that show the individual totals as you progress through the day. We are also seeing more and more third party complications that can take advantage of the new display.

However it’s hard to get an Infograph setup that looks clean and elegant. It’s informationally dense but you can’t say it looks nice. There’s also a lot of complications that you can’t use on other faces like Utility or if you can they look out of place.
Other new faces like Fire and Water are nice but you’ll use them once and then swap back to something more useful. Series 4 has more watch faces available than before but the choice in some ways feels more limiting. With the extra hardware and complications you want to be able to do more not less. The watch is your most personal device but Apple really limit what you can do.

I’d expected Apple to open up watch faces to developers by now. You can on Android and it feels an obvious step for them to take, but when? Others are impatient as well – see this post from Marco Arment and some watch face fakery from Steve Troughton-Smith.

It feels like there’s a really small team working on watch faces at Apple. Each new release has a new watch face or two with the others hardly touched and worse it will be almost a year until we see Watch OS6 assuming Apple do address these issues in the next update.

Other improvements – workouts auto detects activity and offers to start or stop monitoring. Walkie Talkie is now there which is basically an always on audio chat. Works well but be warned that if you have one enabled with someone and they send you a message it will play automatically – be careful who’s listening.

Siri hasn’t changed much in this release but you can now ask it things without saying ‘Hey Siri’. I’ve found it really hit and miss to work though. When it works it’s great – fast and sometimes reliable answers but it is Siri so what do you expect. However there’s too many times where I’ve had to try 2 or 3 times before it triggers and that unreliability stops me from using it at all.

There’s also some issues elsewhere in Watch OS5.

I use the watch as an alarm – when it’s on the wrist the alarm appears like the screen on the left. When it’s on the charger it appears like the screen on the right. Why are stop and snooze the opposite way round on each screen?

I’ve also has some days where complications just don’t update until you click on them and the app is launched. Worse, I’ve clicked on an alert or notification and the watch resets showing only the Apple logo for a minute until it has rebooted. Hopping the 5.1 update that came out last week addresses some of the instability.

Verdict
Was this a good upgrade? Yes. Watch OS5 isn’t supported on Series 0 and the faster hardware coupled with much better battery life has delivered a fantastic platform – I’ve finally given up on the Fitbit too.

However the watch feels like some other Apple products right now. The hardware is far better than the software allows it to be. Here’s hoping that Apple are listening to their community.

Weekly Digest

Life
Last weeks Apple event was very interesting. Thinking about a new iPad and maybe the larger one…will try it at the store later this week. It was also good to see some Mac updates especially the Mini. Finally!

Next 3 months are the worst. Dark nights arriving at work, dark nights leaving. Makes the lunchtime walks all the more important.

Media
Red Dead Redemption 2 – believe the hype. Taking my time and doing a lot more side missions than I expected to.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
A busy and tiring last fortnight. Made the most of the Autumn weather and had a couple of trips out to Perthshire. Both were glorious and really pleased with the camera and drone shots like the one below.

Also enjoying the new Apple Watch although I do have some niggles. Hope to get a post up later this week on the last 4 weeks of use.

Media
Forza Horizon 4 is just fantastic. A blip last week stopped multiplayer working smoothly but it’s a realy fun game with loads to do and enjoy. However, it won’t get much playtime over the coming weeks…

Red Dead Redemption 2 came out Friday and it looks stunning on the Xbox One X. Proper 4k and HDR and so far it looks and plays really well. I’ve only put around 6 hours in and it does get off to a slow start but the game soon starts to unveil more depth and suddenly there is tons to do but all at your own pace.

Links

Weekly Digest

Life
Good weekend. Tickled a couple of websites, bit of DIY, out with the camera this evening and actually got some sleep unlike most of last week.

Media
Forza Horizon is just fantastic.

Holedown on iOS and Android is well worth playing. One of the best mobile games this year – so addictive.

Doctor Who – looked fantastic tonight. Well done all.

Links