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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s the day that Apple release their biggest products of the year. New iPhones, new Apple Watches. Huzzah! From the keynote last week and also the reviews that have come out I’ve a few thoughts on this year’s products that are longer (almost) than a tweet or two.
The iPhone names are just bonkers to me. Everyone calls the iPhone X the iPhone X and not the iPhone 10. I’ve been that guy that corrects people too – what a twat. So this years iPhones being called iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR means even more that they will be called XS, XS Max and XR. No one is going to see XS and think that should be pronounced 10S. The names probably don’t make any dent on sales but just doesn’t make sense to me when everyone (quite rightly in my opinion) praises Apple for their marketing genius.
iPhone XS is one of the smaller S upgrades we’ve seen. Same screen, faster chip, slightly improved camera, it records in stereo, slightly tweaked colours and that’s about it? Looks the same too.
The XS Max is exactly the same as the XS apart from being a bigger screen and slightly improved battery life. Prefer this than when the Plus phones came out and it wasn’t only the best screen but also the best camera – that stung if you didn’t want. huge phone.
The XR surprised me. Expected lesser screen, last years A11 chip, last years camera etc but the only difference is a larger but less pixel dense screen but all this years goodies in the XS are in the XR apart from the dual camera’s. And the XR comes in some great colours.
The XS is the smallest phone you can buy from Apple at 5.5 inches. That’s not small and by killing the SE they will lose some customers to Android.
The new A12 chip and it’s neural engine is quite the upgrade from last years and is driving a jump in computational photography. Smart HDR looks much better than the HDR modes we’ve seen in Apple products up to now. The amount of computing that is taking place when you press the (virtual) shutter button is boggling. Google’s Pixel 2 was regarded as the best smartphone camera in the last couple of years thanks to how much computation they were doing. Apple have made some big improvements this year and in some tests so far looks better to my eyes than the Pixel 2, but in other tests the Pixel 2 produces the better image. That’s before the Pixel 3 come out next month. To read a lot more about the camera improvements I recommend reading John Grubers iPhones XS review which details a lot of the camera improvements in the XS. Apple really buried the improvements on stage.
Not iPhone related, but Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 is worth spending some time on. Apple acquired the Workflow app and team 18 months ago and Shortcuts is the result. Can get some great results from Shortcuts and really make Siri more powerful than it currently is. Many app’s have updated this week with Siri support but their features are pretty buried which is something that Apple need to help surface.
Apple Watch series 4 was the standout for me from last week’s keynote. Bigger screen, focus on health, complications, new colours, faster chip. All in all this was more exciting and a bigger leap than the phones that Apple launched this year.
Apple gaining FDA approval to market the watch as an ECG device is a big deal. It’s only one rather than 12 points that a standard ECG captures but being able to do this anytime and pass that info to a medical professional has major implications. Alongside the fall detection and some other heart notifications it’s good to see that Apple finally have clear focus on what the Apple Watch is and isn’t.
Prices go both phone and watch have creeped up this year. Buying Apple was always expensive but it’s getting ever steeper. Increasing price a way of keeping up overall sales as numbers decline in an ever saturated market? Time will tell.
No AirPower. No new AirPods. Shocker. All the rumours say AirPower is dead but it appears in the XS leaflet that people will get with their new phones. So still in development? Apple should stop previewing products that aren’t ready and get back to what they were good at – here’s a new product, buy it in a couple of days for delivery next week. Stop the bullshit.
No iPad or Mac news either so expect some press releases or an event in October. If the iPad is slimmer borders, Face ID, USB C as many rumours are stating then I can’t see that being a press release.
So did I buy anything? No new iPhone for me this year. Small update really when you look at the iPhone X that I currently have and with phones now at £1k it’s an every 2-3 year purchase like an iPad for me. I did order a new watch though. The Series 0 has done well but struggled in the last 6 months with speed and also battery life. Really looking forward to getting the Series 4 as I use the Watch for workouts, notifications etc and being able to playback music and podcasts, answer calls etc without a phone during a workout will be a real step forward for me.
If you are getting a new phone or watch today (or next month!), enjoy it. The last year with the X has been great – easily the best phone Apple has made…until now.
The iPhone X. Is it the future of smartphones, an expensive rehash of the iPhone 8 or is Apple playing catch-up? I’ve spent a few weeks with the new iPhone X and I have a few thoughts.
Unboxing and Setup
The first time you switch on an iPhone X the screen just hits you. Bright colours, deep blacks and a phone that really is all screen…apart from the notch.
Setting up FaceID was painless. Scanned my face a couple of times and I was good to go. As for the rest of the setup, Apple has done a lot to make the process easier than ever. Out of the box the iPhone X came with iOS 11.01 and not the recently released 11.1 which I needed so I could restore from backup. I had toyed with the idea of starting fresh with the new phone but impatience got the better of me. Anyway, instead of having to manually connect to WiFi and iCloud on the new device you can now easily transfer usernames and passwords from another iOS device. In less than a minute I was online and downloading the update.
Restoring from backup, encrypted of course so all passwords are saved, also brought a new surprise. My Apple Watch was unpaired from the old device and setup for the new phone. Another small step to make the swap to the new device a little more painless. And with that it was time to finally use the iPhone X.
So What’s New?
The iPhones move to all screen means saying goodbye to the Home button, a staple of the iPhone and every iOS device for the last 10 years. The first couple of days were pretty rough as muscle memory found me reaching for the old faithful, but the new gestures for the iPhone X more than made up for it. In fact after a few days the gestures now feel more fluid and faster to use than relying on the Home button. Swiping to multi-task or move to another app is so much quicker via a gesture compared to using the button.
Embracing the notch is the mantra from Apple and in practice I just don’t notice it. The screen is gorgeous and if the price to pay is having a small notch in landscape video’s then it’s a price worth paying. Above are three of the app’s taking advantage of the larger screen. Halide was already a great camera app but the iPhone X update has placed extra information in the two horns (what else do you call them?) at the top leaving more room to focus on controls and the image.
Overcast has included a pure black mode like many other app’s. This looks so good on the OLED screen and also helps with battery life. Finally Netflix which again looks great on the X’s screen especially during playback of HDR content.
FaceID was met with a lot of questions in the run up to the launch. Will it work, is it fast, can it be hacked, will it be awkward and can it really replace TouchID? At first it felt a bit slower as I was waiting for FaceID to work then swiping to unlock the phone but I was “doing it wrong”. Instead of waiting just swipe, and the phone will unlock as if by magic. Most app’s are now updated replacing TouchID with FaceID so unlocking 1Password or Day One are done just by looking. Buying via Apple Pay is also easy, just double tap the side button and look at the phone to pay. Simple. Accessing sites in Safari and using FaceID to fill in a password is awesome. Slightly slower but more secure, and if you aren’t worried about someone logging in using a password in Safari as only you can only unlock the phone you can always disable FaceID for Safari passwords.
I had early issues with unlocking overnight and early morning. I think it was because I wasn’t aligned with the camera properly and also holding the phone to close to my face but since those first couple of days I’ve been trouble free. Face ID also trains when you unlock with a pin code after it’s failed so whether it’s me that’s got more used to it, or the system itself has better aligned to my face I’ll never know. It’s not like TouchID wasn’t without issue. Wet or dirty fingers failed and I certainly had to re-add a finger or thumb over time to make it more reliable.
Tap to Wake is another iPhone X only feature. While it works as advertised, the limited angle offered by the camera means it won’t always unlock unless the iPhone is directly in front of you, or on an angled stand on your desk. Handy when raise to wake doesn’t fire or seems to time out, but not the best when on a flat surface.
Also new are the camera’s. I’ve not had an iPhone with a dual lens so was looking forward to trying the new system and I’ve not been disappointed. Both lenses have taken great pictures and Portrait mode does take some great photo’s. Yes it’s false and some pics can look a bit wonky compared to using a grown up camera with some nice glass, but it’s a phone lens producing some fantastic photos in the right conditions so it’s hard to knock it. The video is also super smooth and if you switch to slo-mo you get 240fps which looks great.
The front camera also supports Portrait mode and has an extra trick up it’s sleeve. Rather than using a dual lens, the front camera uses the TrueDepth camera that powers FaceID to deliver a slightly better/different Porttrait mode effect. This can be best seen using an app like Focos which allows you to visualise the depth map that was captured using Portrait mode. Video above shows Focos in action.
Final notable addition is Animoji. This feature relies on the front facing camera and TrueDepth sensor to animate your face in real-time with a variety of different emoji’s. It’s a great demo of what the hardware can do but it’s a shame you can only access it in the Messages app unless you get creative. Surely Apple will open this up over time via a standalone app?
I’ve deliberately left out wireless charging as I don’t have a charger and it’s not something I’m interested in at the moment. I’ve charge cables everywhere I go and don’t want to replace them with a wireless system where charging is slower. No doubt that will change over the coming months but for now this is something I happy to pass on.
Day to Day with the X
One of the biggest surprises has been battery life. I moved from a year old iPhone 7 and the battery life on the X is much better. Even on heavier than normal days I still have around 30% battery life and typically have around 50% which is fantastic. Not sure if it’s the OLED screen or the bigger battery but it’s something I didn’t expect.
The screen is something I’ve really gotten used to along with gestures and no home button. Moving back to my work device (iPhone Plus) and it feels a bit alien now. It’s amazing how quickly the new becomes the norm and what was once normal now feels dated. The X is physically smaller than the Plus but the screen is bigger and the X is easier to handle.
I vowed before getting the phone that I’d go caseless. It feels great in the hand and looks amazing. However the night before it arrived I ordered a case and I’m glad I did.
iPhone X on the nightstand, caseless. Dog wakes me up this morning, bumps into nightstand, iPhone drops. This is the result 😔
(Genius Bar appointment tomorrow. I have AppleCare. That’ll teach me not to use a case and leave my iPhone close to the edge.) pic.twitter.com/vdfyEtUGoF
Ouch. Accidents happen and with a glass back that costs over £500 to replace it’s just not worth the risk even with Applecare. The X felt pretty slippy and my hands are dry which doesn’t help. The case is a pretty cheap clear one but I’ll upgrade in a few weeks once most case manufacturers have their decent cases out. Challenge with the X is getting a case that doesn’t interfere with the gestures.
As ever with a new device there are a few niggles. On the iPhone X the swipe up gesture unlocks the phone so how do you get to control centre? Swipe down from the top right. It’s awkward and not ideal. iOS 11.2 has seen a slight change in the addition of a bar under the top right horn highlighting you can swipe. Really Apple? That’s it? You also end up fighting the gesture when moving between devices. I’m hoping Apple will change that how to trigger control centre before iOS 12.
I’m also hearing glitches on the AirPods since moving to the X. Every couple of tracks I’d hear a slight playback glitch but thankfully since iOS 11.2 was released earlier this week this seems to have been resolved.
So is it worth it?
The iPhone X is expensive. It cost over £1000 but the iPhone X has left me in no doubt…this is a fantastic device and it really ages the previous generation iPhones. They look dated and feel even more so when using them. This is a real jump in function and feel. FaceID just works and it reduces TouchID to yesterdays news. It’s also as close as we are going to get to an all screen device until the tech in the notch can be tucked behind the screen. No doubt that’s only 2-3 years away, but once you get used to this much screen without the borders it’s hard to use anything else without it feeling old. Gestures also make using the iPhone X a far more fluid experience helped by FaceID.
Apple have been accused of being stagnant regarding the iPhone despite the hardware inside being best of breed however with the iPhone X they have reimagined what a smartphone personal computer looks like in 2017. This feels like the start of a new generation of smartphones from Apple and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I recently wrote about being 10 years on a Mac. It’s been a remarkably stable time with access to a lot of great software and hardware. However there’s no getting away from it – Apple have been stagnating when it comes to Mac’s.
Going back 10 years and there was a marked difference between buying a Mac and buying a PC. Apple owned the software and hardware process and there were very few product lines compared to the hundreds of PC’s available and the crapware that afflicted every PC from Dell to HP, Dan to Acer. They all did it and it stunk. No virus or malware issues either. And for me the difference in how the hardware was designed was massive.
This was also the time of the Mac vs PC adverts that went on for a few years. How times have changed.
This week saw Microsoft and Apple launch new desktop and laptop products. The difference between then couldn’t be more stark and shows that Microsoft have got their mojo back…and Apple are looking a little lost.
The problem for Apple is iOS. It’s a great problem to have, but Mac and iOS are two very different platforms that share quite a bit in common. iOS is the rising platform, dominant in sales and very much the future of computing. Mac is much loved amongst the Apple community but sales in the desktop and laptop market are going down. Global PC sales have declined for eight consecutive quarters. End users aren’t upgrading their PC’s as often – my desktop and laptop are over 5 and 4 years old respectively and still going strong.
However iOS is Apple’s touch driven environment and Mac’s have been left behind in that regards. Is it the right approach? Well Microsoft don’t think so and having messed up so much in the past on mobile they’ve bet on having a unified operating system. So Windows 10 works anywhere, mouse or touch driven, so you can take advantage of your hardware depending on the situation you are in. They are also hitting their stride when it comes to hardware. A few years ago the Surface Pro was a nice device but version 4 is great and with the Surface Book and now the Surface Studio there’s a real wow around Microsoft’s hardware from a design perspective.
Microsoft are courting creatives. IBM have rolled out Macs across the enterprise. Microsofts new devices are not cheap unlike Windows products of the past. Good design costs money and the small creative market are willing to pay to get the best devices. Software is not really locked to platforms. Adobe allow you to work on Mac or PC and the experience on both is pretty much identical. The Mac App Store hasn’t done the Mac platform any favours. Equally the emerging VR market is a Windows exclusive right now. Apple hardware isn’t powerful enough to drive any of the VR platforms and they’ve yet to show their hand when it comes to AR or VR apart from Tim Cook verbally favouring AR.
Whats frustrating for me is that Apple look to be slowing down. Stagnating. The Mac market is getting smaller so is the ideal market to innovate in. In contrast last weeks announcements were pretty snooze worthy. Pricey laptops, confusing naming strategy coupled with a lovely new Touch Bar. The laptops aren’t using the latest chips and the RAM looks stingy. Add to that a greater than three years old Mac Pro, and ageing iMac and Mini. What’s going on?
Worse for us in the UK is that all Mac prices rose last week thanks to Brexit. While I can understand the rise for the new MacBook Pro’s and the iMac’s, it’s a disgrace that the ancient Mac pro rose by £500. Poor decision Apple or don’t you care? Seeing as the Mac Pro website still references Aperture, a product that Apple killed over 12 months ago, I’m thinking they don’t care.
Or has Apple got too big? The video above from Steve Jobs is prophetic and could describe todays Apple. This years iPhone is undoubtedly a great phone but it’s safe. Compare it to the Xiaomi Mi Mix which is a gorgeous new Android device and shows some true innovation with regards design and materials.
Apple for me right now feels conservative. Undoubtedly making bundles of cash but hedging bets and not as exciting as they once were. However the likes of Microsoft, Google and Samsung have some great products out there. As a tech lover I’m spoiled for choice. Earlier in the week a colleague said they were worried at Apples approach. I’m personally not worried as it’s easy to move platform so I’ll always have access to the best hardware and software…but that should give cause for concern for Apple. Over time if people start to move away, especially developers and creatives, then it could be the start of a slow decline. Hopefully Apple will prove me wrong in 2017. They need to find their mojo again.
Hard to believe but it’s 10 years since I moved from PC to Mac. 10 years! I’d been using an iPod for a few years when in 2006 Apple moved to Intel processors and updated their iMac design. It was all too tempting so I said farewell to viruses, tara to malware and hello to hassle free Mac computing. That was the plan and for the most part it’s been true. Here’s some thoughts on my Mac/Apple journey inspired by this post from Elaine Giles earlier in the year.
I loved that first iMac and picked up an 80Gb iPod at the same time. The first three months was so good that at Christmas I bought a MacBook Pro. What a great laptop that was. Fast, quiet, quick to boot and the design was to die for. 2007 saw the release of the iPhone but it just wasn’t for me. No 3G, no app’s. It was a lovely first phone but not enough to make me move. So I stuck with my Sony Ericson, remember them, and waited for Apple to update their Jesus phone.
2008 saw Apple release the iPhone 3G, iOS 2.0 and the App Store. I jumped in and picked up a 16GB iPhone 3G and bought far too many app’s on day 1. Super Monkey Ball, MotionX Poker and Twitterrific were all stand out app’s even in those early days. The iPhone and success of the App Store started a shift in focus for Apple, developers and consumers.
Subsequent iPhones increased in power and performance and I lapped them up. The 3GS, the 4 and 5 all followed and unlike other phones they kept their value in the second hand market remarkably well.
In 2010 Steve Jobs revealed the iPad. I still remember myself and Shak both dismissing it as a big iPhone…and then a few weeks later queuing for one at the Apple store in Glasgow. For me it was definitely a consumption device. Magazines, books and comics all worked really well on the iPad especially the retina model which came out in 2012. At the end of 2013 I moved to an iPad Air which I still use today.
I tried a couple of keyboards during the various iPad’s I’ve owned and went through a few different styluses but none really stuck. I did do a few work related tasks on them but the iPad remained mostly a media consumption device. When the iPad Pro’s came out I was close to picking one up but stuck with the Air mostly due to the cost and initially being unsure of the 12″ iPad Pro.
2014 saw me move to the iPhone 6 and this year I picked up an iPhone 7. It’s a fantastic phone but it feels the end of the line with a redesign likely next year. Competitors are using better components and catching up on the camera front…and many feel their phone camera’s are now better than the iPhone’s but at least the iPhone doesn’t explode.
Back to the Mac
So iPhone and iOS has become the focus for Apple but I still love the Mac. May 2011 and I upgraded to a new iMac. This was a great machine – 27″ screen, SSD and really fast processor. In fact it was so good (after a 16GB RAM upgrade) that over 5 years later I’m still using it. It still copes with most things I throw at it although there are two main shortfalls. It really struggles to process 4k video which both the camera and drone support and secondly it’s not a retina device.
This is also true for the MacBook Air I picked up in 2012. Non retina and not in any way a powerhouse but it does the job for me in a few key area’s that the iPad Air doesn’t. So apart from the iPhone my other Apple products are all getting long in the tooth. I almost forgot – 2015 and the Apple Watch. It’s been OK and Watch OS 3 makes a big difference but I’ve not moved on to the latest version until I see some app’s that will make a difference. I don’t need a faster CPU to get a notification more quickly.
The main reason I haven’t updated the Mac’s is mostly thanks to the slow progress that Apple have made with Mac hardware. Certainly the move to retina is great but if I look at the current Mac platforms, they are all old. Buy a Retina MacBook Pro today, which is probably their flagship Mac platform, and the hardware is over 500 days old. That’s shocking. How many people are buying a Retina MacBook Pro today not knowing that the inner hardware is that old. Same for the MacBook Air although I’m assuming sales of the Air are now very small – the bezel looks dated and it’s a non-retina screen.
The Mac platform is clearly secondary for Apple. The Mac App store is a mess in comparison to the iOS version. The latest Mac release, Sierra, has very little for Mac users. Compare Messages in iOS which saw a massive upgrade in iOS 10 to the Messages in Sierra. Crickets. And where is the hardware from Apple that would support any sort of VR headset? If you are in any way interested in the Oculus or Vive platforms then a Windows PC is the only option.
Over the next 18 months I’ll be replacing my iPad, MacBook Air and iMac…and probably my iPhone too! With iOS and iPhone I have no complaints and I love the platform. My current thinking is that I’ll replace the iPad and MacBook Air with an iPad Pro. No idea on size, but the keyboard and Pencil support of both Pro models will leave me needing only one device to replace the current iPad and Air.
As for the iMac, that’s a more tricky decision. My gut feel is I’ll update to the latest Retina iMac and sufficiently future proof it with fast CPU, SSD and lots of RAM. However I don’t think I can ignore Windows for much longer so I can see me also picking up a 4K second monitor (to replace the current non retina 27″ ASUS) for the iMac and plug in a Windows gaming PC that will allow me to play with one of the VR platforms. That purchase will wait for one of them to be seen as leading as at the moment it’s early days in the VR space.
I depend on my Mac, more than the iOS devices, and it’s where I get most of my work done. Unless iOS devices and iOS itself see’s some significant changes I won’t be able to shift to being iOS only so I do hope that Apple release updates to Mac’s soon – the platform needs some love! Despite my negativity I won’t be leaving the Mac though. Even some stale hardware and unloved Mac updates are better than Windows 10 and it’s woes. Here’s to the next 10 years with Apple.
I’ve long been frustrated with Apple and it’s ‘hobby’, the Apple TV. While Amazon and Roku brought out devices that supported app’s and allowed you to install whatever you wanted Apple stuck with old hardware and annoyingly limited software. The announcement earlier this year of a new Apple TV with better hardware, a touch driven remote and more importantly an App Store and tvOS was the shot in the arm the platform needed. I couldn’t resist a purchase and it came through last Friday. Some thoughts follow on the first couple of days.
The hardware is the same footprint as the older Apple TV, just a little taller. It’s a shame that the optical out has been dropped but only a few will miss it I guess.
Setup was straightforward by using the iPhone to pair/setup the Apple TV.
Inputting a password is p a i n f u l. Especially in this day and age of long and strong passwords. You can’t use a bluetooth keyboard or any other iOS device to input the password. Ouch.
The new remote feels quite cheap for an Apple product. The touch/swipe is fine and it has more buttons than expected but the click feels…cheap. Strange.
The remote has been reliable in use though as a remote and also as a controller for apps and games. It’s bluetooth as well so no line of sight worries.
Siri does work well as an input method and the universal searching support is impressive. Can’t wait for Apple to open up the API for this…but fear it could be a long time for some app’s like Plex.
On first launch the Apple TV feels a bit empty compared to the old model which came preinstalled with lots of apps/channels. To the App Store!
The App Store is easy to browse and install app’s and there’s lots of titles on day one, a few hundred by the looks of it. However discoverability is awful. No categories, no charts so you are left with Apple’s picks on the front page or searching for apps. It feels rushed and incomplete. Unless you search for Youtube you wouldn’t know the app existed. Shocker.
So much hidden functionality with the Apple TV so it’s well worth reading through the user guide.
The UK has very little video content at launch. No BBC, no ITV, no Channel 4, 5 or Sky apart from Sky News. Surprising but I expect that to pick up over the coming weeks and months – BBC have already confirmed iPlayer is coming.
Games are very much iPhone and iPad staples but some play very well on the big screen. Crossy Road and Geometry Wars are really good.
No Amazon Video which is a shame. Is this Amazon playing hardball and saying to customers pick up a Fire if you want to view video on your TV? You can Airplay from an iOS device but it’s not as convenient.
Surprised the Remote app for iOS hasn’t been updated to support the new Apple TV.
Another issue – Siri can’t be used for Apple Music. Seriously, WTF? It’s coming next year according to Apple but again it feels like Apple have released the Apple TV ahead of when it really should have been and the software has suffered. Siri is also quite dumb compared to Siri on iOS. Weird.
The Apple Music app is pretty bad by the way. So much great content hidden by a clunky app.
The Apple TV front end looks really nice and it’s easy to navigate around quickly. You can put your most used app’s in the top bar too, not just Apple’s own ones which is good to see.
No Plex on day one. Sad face. It’s coming soon though, just a victim of the app review process.
The Apple TV has great potential but it will need a software update to unlock it. I still can’t believe that a company with so much experience of App Stores has dropped the ball so badly. The discoverability is that bad. Same with Siri and Apple Music. I guess holiday sales are important after all.
If you are in no rush then wait six months for the updates to drop and hopefully resolve some of the obvious issues. For me it’s a great step up on the previous Apple TV and it will soon be my platform of choice for Plex, streaming video and probably quite a few casual games. Is it the future of TV? Maybe but not yet.