Apple Campus 2 to Open

When one thinks of Silicon Valley, one aspect that they may think of that is companies often need to expand. Traditionally, when this is done, existing office buildings are purchased by companies and employees are moved in. As one might expect, Apple likes to think a bit different and wanted to not continue the practice of buying up buildings. In 2011, one of the last public presentations that former CEO Steve Jobs did was to present the Cupertino City Council in support of their new Apple Campus. Apple has given a name to their Campus 2. They have named it “Apple Park”.

In 2010/2011, Apple purchased approximately 150 acres of land. The land was previously owned by Hewlett Packard’s computer division, which is where Steve Jobs also held one of his summer jobs.

One of the features of the Campus 2 is that houses 12,000 employees all within one building. As Steve Jobs stated within his presentation to the Cupertino City Council, the traditional Office Parks that are around the Silicon Valley area are drab and just a bunch of buildings. This is not what Apple had envisioned for their new Campus.

20% of Apple’s current campus at 1 Infinite Loop is landscaping. With Apple Park, approximately 80% of the 150 acres is landscaping, including a giant courtyard in the middle of the building. The number of trees at the 1 Infinite Loop Campus is approximately 3700. With Apple Park, it will be around 9000. Some of these trees would be Apricot Trees, which used to be on the land when HP bought the land.

One of the Council members asked if the city would get “Free Wifi”, and Steve Jobs mentioned that Apple offers more than just free wifi, although if Apple would get out of paying taxes, then they would be happy to provide free wifi to Cupertino.

Apple has announced that their Apple Park will open to employees in April. One of the features of Apple Park will be the 1000 seat theater that is at one of the highest points of the campus. In honor of the legacy that Jobs had on the company, the new theater will be called the “Steve Jobs Theater”.

It is not known when Apple Park will open for the public. There is an Apple Store, cafe open to the public, and a visitor’s center. It is likely that Apple will hold a presentation at Apple Park at some point in the year.

If you have a chance to visit Apple Park when it is open, it would be a site to see.

Thoughts on Man in the High Castle

One of the upsides to the way that many shows are released these days is that you are able to consume an entire season/series of a show without having to wait for a new episode to be released every week. One of the downsides to this method is that it is as lot easier to not pick up a show after you have consumed it. For me, this has happened with a few shows.

  • Lilyhammer – stopped after season 1
  • Newsroom – stopped after season 2.
  • The Walking Dead – stopped after season 5.
  • Fear the Walking Dead – stopped after season 1.
  • House of Cards – stopped after season 3, episode 10.
  • Game of Thrones – stopped after season 3.
  • Orange is the New Black – stopped after episode 3.
  • House
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Lost
  • Sopranos

Contrast the list above with the list of TV shows that I have seen in their entirety more than once:

  • West Wing
  • M*A*S*H
  • Life
  • Alcatraz
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  • Planet Earth

There are likely more shows, but I cannot think of any more at the moment. Given the popularity of the shows above, you would think that I would finish them. However, this has not been the case. So it may be surprising to learn that I have completely finished Season 1 and Season 2 of Amazon’s Man in the High Castle. I have some thoughts and questions about the show.

NOTE: There will be spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

The Background

The series is based on the novel Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick.

Man in the High Castle is an alternate reality story. One that is based on the United States losing World War II. The country was divided up between Germany in the East, with the “Greater Reich” and Japan in the West with the “Pacific States”. There is a neutral zone that stretches between the two regions. This is where a portion of the story takes place, in particular Canon City.

No, Seriously, beyond this is spoiler territory. This is your last chance to turn back

Frank Frink

The story arc of Frank is an interesting one. In the first episode, he insists on bringing Juliana to the Police Station to turn in the film that Trudy had given her, and that she needs to tell them that she’s a loyal citizen. However, by the end of the second season Frank is right in the thick of the resistance, planning and offering to go cause major destruction to the Pacific States headquarters.

Trudy

One of the plots throughout the series is how Juliana is carrying forth what her half-sister Trudy started. Early in the series, Trudy is killed by the Japanese for trying to evade the Kempeitai and for trafficking the films. The last shocker of Season 2 is that Trudy is not actually dead. This bombshell leads to so many questions.

  1. When Juliana’s Mom says that Trudy is not dead, because she can feel that she is not. Was she right?
  2. From the ending of Season 2, it is presume that she is correct that Trudy is not dead.

  3. Did Juliana actually see Trudy in the market?
  4. Again, from the end of the Second Season, it may be that she actually did see Trudy in the market.

Joe Blake

One of the primary characters is Joe Blake. Joe is also one of the first characters introduced. The character of Joe Blake is an interesting one. Joe’s allegiances vary throughout the show. At first he is working for Obergruppenführer John Smith. His first assignment was to bring a shipment of coffee makers to the neutral zone, from New York City. During this long haul, Joe get suspicious and begins looking at the truck and realizes that something does not seem right. So, right from the start, Joe questions his loyalty.

In Episode One, Joe states “I want my country back”, when he getting the job from Mr. Warren, and insists he is not a spy. However, as the series progresses, it turns out that he is indeed working for the Greater Reich. He is a spy for the Greater Reich. It is not entirely clear where his actually allegiances lies.

A fact that comes in Season 2, is that Joe is actually leibensborn, or part of a German program to create a superior race of germans.

The Films

The biggest thread through the series is the films. These films, as one can surmise, show a different world. Some of these films are ones that depict what actually occurred in World War II. Within the Pacific States of America and the Greater Reich, owing a film is considered treasonous and punishable by instant death, as Frank tries to tell Juliana in episode one.

The entire story behind the films is not fully flushed out. The theory is that the Man in the High Castle is the one manufacturing these films, but very little is know about the Man in the High Castle.

The Man in the High Castle indicated that all of the films end up with San Francisco being annihilated by a bomb, except for the one that Julianna gave to Joe Blake, that was subsequently given to Adolf Hitler. It can be presumed that this is the most important film of them all since it may show the only way to not have the entire world destroyed.

Obviously Hitler wants the films destroyed, as is stated in episode one. However, obviously there is a huge cache of them as discovered by Obergruppenfuhrer Smith at the end of Season 2.

The Trade Minister

One of the main Japanese characters is Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi. One of the ways that the Japanese divine answers to things, and anticipate what will occur, is through a 5,000 year old book, called the “Oracle”.

You may not understand this. I live by a 5,000 year old book. I ask it questions as if it were alive. It is alive. It tells me you have a purpose. It says superior person in an inferior position, accepting a task graciously brings good fortune to all.

One aspect to Tagomi’s story is that he goes back to the house that he and his deceased wife owned, or would have owned that part is unclear. When he returns his wife is on her way out, and he finds that she has filed for divorce; or one presumes that. As I do not read Japanese I cannot say for sure.

At this point, Tagomi’s story takes us into an alternate reality. Tagomi’s alternate history takes place in the timeline where the United States wins the War. During these sequences he sees his son. In this version, his son marries Juliana, and they have a child. It is presumed that in this timeline that there is a strain within his family. He is still on decent speaking terms with his son, and Juliana, but less so with his wife. With this timeline, I am presuming that he is an alcoholic because his son mentions his father’s “benders”. It is presumed that in this alternate timeline, Tagomi is an alcoholic.

Upon the second viewing, when Tagomi is repairing the broken cup, it symbolizes his attempt to repair his relationship with his family; at least in the alternate timeline. It may seem like a small gesture, but Nori does put it in the baby’s room and allow Tagomi to enter the room and hold his grandchild, so it is a powerful gesture. This, I believe, allows Tagomi to do what comes next.

In this timeline, Juliana is having a get together at Tagomi’s house where they are creating “Ban the Bomb” signs to protest the Nuclear bomb. During this time, she shows a video of a Hydrogen Bomb test that was conducted on the Pacific Atoll. After showing this film, Tagomi tells his wife: “There is something that I must do.” Her reply, “Safe Journey.” Right after this, Tagomi asks Juliana for the film. The following dialog takes place amongst some Cherry Blossoms.

Juliana: “Why do you want this?”
Tagomi: “Proof, that something like this should never happen again.”
Juliana: “I don’t understand.”
Tagomi: “You have all made me happy. Happier than nI have been in a very long time. There are somethings that are more important than happiness. I have duties elsewhere tat I can no longer neglect.”
Juliana: “Are you leaving?”
Tagomi: “We will see each other again. Of that, I am sure.”
Juliana: “Ok, don’t go, I’ll be right back.”

Here is where Juliana begins to leave, she pauses, and when she turns around Tagomi is gone. In the next scene we see Tagomi back at his desk. This is the location where my questions begin.

  1. Was that whole sub-plot just wishful thinking on Tagomi’s part?
  2. We can presume that he thinks of Juliana as a daughter figure, first by providing her a job when she refuses to “perform special tasks” for the general, but through this sub-plot. In particular, when Tagomi tells his son that he is proud to call her his daughter.

  3. Did Tagomi actually travel to the alternative timeline?
  4. It is easy for one to infer that this may be the case, since we see Tagomi back at his desk with the film in hand. Maybe I missed it, but I do not recall him getting this by any other means. At least not that film.

    I have some theories about it all.

The Smiths

Of the entire Smith family, the one character that we are exposed to most is Obergruppenführer John Smith. The Smiths are based in New York City. With the Reich taking over the Eastern United States, it appears that John Smith is the most powerful person in the Reich

The plot with Thomas, which includes Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, is an intriguing one. In Episode 6 of Season 1, Thomas reveals that he wants to make his country proud, and that there are many places that he would like to go. The statement of wanting to make his country proud. In his eyes, this is exactly what he does at the end of Season 2 in one of the last scenes of the season. In this scene Thomas turns himself into the Greater Reich Hospital because he is a “degenerate” due to his neurological condition.

It should be no surprise that Smith would take the doctor out of the equation, given that there are only three people who actually know of Thomas’ condition. The doctor, Smith, and his wife Helen. The means of which he kills the doctor was one that some could predict. It does show two different sides to Smith. The first being a father that would do anything for his family. Yet, Smith is willing to do what it takes to protect the Reich, and has no problem using people for his own personal reasons, like Joe Blake.

In order to save Thomas, or so they think, John decides to make a ruse and had a letter sent to Thomas indicating that he was picked to go on an expedition. At first Helen is reluctant, since she knows about his condition. She confronts John, at work, and John informs Helen of the entire plan. Ultimately, she decides it is for the best and informs Thomas that he will be going to South America.

Thomas: So you’re letting me go?
Helen: We’re letting you go.

This double meaning has so many implications for the Smiths, and Helen in particular. The way that Helen states it, most would pick up on; but Thomas, both being excited, and only a teenager, does not pick up on the subtly and double-meaning of the sentence.

Even though John Smith is a loyal Senior Officer for the Reich, he disobeys a direct order by acting Chancellor Heusmann and leaves New York to unveil a conspiracy that killed the Crown Prince of Japan a well as Adolf Hitler. Also, he hides all evidence of Thomas’ illness. This includes killing Dr. Adler, as well as confiscating the tapes that implicate that his son has a defect.

It is clear that when John is at the Reich Headquarter in Berlin, and is being praised within the volkshalle for his heroism in saving the Reich, that he is quite uncomfortable. Short of Himmler, John is probably the second most powerful person in the Reich, after Heusmann and his co-conspirtors are removed. This is likely due to his betrayal with his son and hiding his defect.

The Bombing

One of the main plot points is that there is a resistance that is trying to actively work against the Japanese in the Pacific States of America. The bombing happened late in Season 2, and was intended to cause confusion. One question I have is whether Sara and Frank made it out, just like the Inspector Kido managed to. My gut is no, but it would not be surprising if they did, given the unveiling at the end of Season 2. More on this a little later.

Theories

This is my theory on the whole story; thus far anyway. It involves the ability for certain individuals; Those who study the 5000 year old book, and follow what it says, have the ability to enter into, and bring items back with them, from the alternate reality. This theory fits quite well with how the Reich was obsessed with the occult. This would also mean that the Man in the High Castle follows what the 5,000 year old book says as well; hence how he is able to bring Trudy back from the dead. This is similar to how Tagomi can bring the film back with him when he leaves the alternate 1962.

The ability for certain individuals to travel between the timelines is why Hitler wants the films. Given that there are so few individuals who can do this traveling, it is imperative that Hitler gets the films.

This is reaffirmed when Tagomi is talking to Kotomichi, and realizes that Kotomichi is not of the 1962 that exists within the story, but from the alternate 1962. Kotomichi has burns from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Furthermore, It is possible that Abendsen is able to travel between the two worlds, at will. This is how he is able to get the films, destroy them whenever he wants, and yet can always end up having more films, even after they are burned.

The films complicate any rational idea behind the storyline. The best theory that I have is that there are multiple simultaneous timelines. The evidence for this is that how the Trade Minister obtains the film with the bomb testing on the atoll. In particular, since he disappeared when Juliana turned around, after giving him the film.

This is further evidenced by the fact that the Trade Minister has the visions of his deceased wife as well as his son. We know that his wife is deceased since Juliana brought it up during one of her meetings with Tagomi.

The idea of being able to bring the films back, may also extend to being able to bring individuals between the two timelines as well. This may be how Abendsen was able to bring show Juliana that Trudy was not in-fact dead. This is how Juliana’s mother felt that Trudy was not dead and why Juliana saw Trudy in the market; because while the “true” 1962 Trudy was indeed dead, the alternate timeline Trudy was brought back.

Season 3 Plot Ideas

I do not think that both Frank and Sara are dead, even though they appear to be so. It is possible that one of them was killed in the blast. If I had to put money on it, it would be that Sarah is dead. However, a more unforeseen option would be to have Sara survive and Frank not.

If Frank is indeed dead, it would not be surprising if Ed and Juliana ended up getting together. This theory is based upon Season 2, Episode 9, where there is the flashback to when Ed first meets Juliana. It is clear that she is flirting, at least to some extent, with Ed while Frank is off getting the glasses.

I think in Season 3, Juliana will learn that she also has the power to travel between the timelines, or at least the existence of the ability to travel between the timelines.

Other Thoughts

  • I love the little touches that show the alternate reality, like “Ranger Reich” instead of Ranger Rick. Along this, the signs like “U-Bahn” for Subway, while within the Greater Reich.
  • While Stephen Root (Milton from Office Space) does a really good job as the Man in the High Castle. If he were still alive I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman would have made an even better Man in the High Castle.
  • Given that the year is 1962, the Concorde is still flying and super fast travel is still attainable. Having the capability of fast travel like that would be nice to have, even today, but only if it were financially practical for people.
  • I do like the quasi refrigerator that the Smiths have. I honestly would not mind having one similar myself.
  • Can I have a few of the cars that are shown in the show?

Final Thoughts

It is not often that I end up watching an entire series of a show. I have now watched the entire series twice and enjoyed it even more the second time around. You may miss things the first time you watch it, but that is typically how things happen when you watch any sort of media.

There are a breadth of characters, both primary characters and secondary characters. It is easy to get lost within the story, which is why it is best to really pay attention to everything. It is too bad that Season 3 will not premiere until the end of 2017. It would be nice to have it sooner, but I like the quality thus far.

If you enjoy alternative-reality stories, then Man in the High Castle would be right up your alley. It may start off slow, but it will be well worth seeing it in the end.

Apple Announces WWDC 2017

One of the events that Apple hosts every year is its World Wide Developer Conference. Apple has announced that its 2017 World Wide Developer Conference will take place between June 5th and June 8th, 2017. Typically, the announcement of this event occurs on average, 58.8 days before the beginning of the World Wide Developer Conference, for 2007 to 2016. The shortest number of days is 41 in 2010 and the largest number was 89 in 2008.

Year Announcement Date WWDC Day 1 Days Between
2007 May 1st June 11th 42
2008 March 13th June 9th 89
2009 March 26th June 8th 75
2010 April 28th June 7th 41
2011 March 28th June 6th 71
2012 April 25th June 11th 48
2013 April 24th June 10th 48
2014 April 3rd June 2nd 61
2015 April 14th June 8th 56
2016 April 18th June 13th 57
2017 February 16th June 5th 110

If we add in 2017’s information. The numbers have changed slightly. The shortest number of days is from 2010 with 41 days. But 2017 is the earliest that Apple has announced the event, with 110 days. This means that the new average number of days is 64.5 days before the event.

From 2003 until 2016, Apple held the conference at Moscone West in San Francisco. For 2017, the location has changed. It will be held at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose. The 2017 Conference is not the first time that WWDC will be held in San Jose. From 1989 until 2002, the event was held at the same venue. At that time it was called the “San Jose Convention Center”.

There my be a few reasons for the change. The first is that Moscone West will be undergoing some construction over the summer. This means that it may not be possible to host the WWDC Conference for the dates that Apple wanted. The amount of time to get from Apple’s Headquarters in Cupertino, to Moscone West is approximately an hour. The fact that Moscone West is undergoing construction is the primary reason. However, the choice for using McEnery Convention Center is its proximity to the Apple Campus. McEnery is approximately a 15 minute drive from both Apple’s current campus, 1 Infinite Loop, as well as their new Apple Campus 2 location. This short drive means two things. The first thing it means is that there may be more access to Apple’s engineers. This access would be not be only for the presentations, but also for the hands-on labs that Apple has for developers.

The last possible reason, which is purely speculation, is that the close proximity would allow the media to tour the new Apple Campus, if they are not given a look prior to WWDC.

Registration to get a tickets to WWDC 2017 will be on Monday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Similar to the last few years, the process of getting a WWDC ticket will be made by random selection. As one might expect, you must be a registered Apple Developer, with either a personal account or an enterprise account. As with previous years, Apple will also be announcing the process for applying for a scholarship in the future.

It is anticipated that Apple will discuss both iOS 11, tvOS 11, watchOS 4, and macOS 10.13 at the WWDC 2017 keynote. The keynote should take place on June 5th, 2017 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, if tradition is anything to go by.

WWDC 2017 will be a good conference for those developers who are able to get a ticket to attend.

Vizio Fined by Federal Trade Commission

I normally do not report on technology stories outside of Apple, but the recent story of Vizio being fined by the Federal Trace Commission (FTC) is one that I determined warranted some coverage.

Backstory

The FTC has fined Vizio $2.2 Million for their behaviors. The backstory is that in 2014 Vizio began tracking what viewers were watching. This was done by capturing a set of pixels on the screen, sending this information, along with other information, to their servers. Through the use of machine learning, Vizio was able to match those pixels to a vast catalog of shows. This gathering occurred on a second-by-second basis. The information gathered was then aggregated and sold to third-party advertisers. This information that was obtained included demographics, location, and viewing habits. If it was merely a mechanism for gathering what was watched, it may not be considered too bad, but it was more. Despite how bad this was, it was not just TVs that were made after 2014, but that Vizio went back and proactively enabled this on TVs as far back as 2011. The primary complaint was that Vizio did not get a viewer’s consent before performing this action.

Problems with this

The biggest issue that I have with this, besides the fact that this was being done without the knowledge of users, is that Vizio has been the only one who has been caught doing this. Does this mean that they are the only company that is performing in this behavior? I highly doubt it. It is very likely that many other manufacturers are also performing this action.

Bandwidth Usage

One aspect that is not always readily recognized in today’s technology-laden world is the amount of bandwidth being used. While the information may have been sent in batches, it still uses some bandwidth of every user. Depending on how much the TV was used, this could easily add up. Take this with consideration that many users now fall into data caps and this uses up that bandwidth.

Mitigations that can be done now

There are a few ways to not have this occur. The first is disconnect the TV from your network. If the TV is connected via a physical ethernet cable (which is unlikely for most users), you can simply unplug it. However, if it is connected via Wireless, you will need to disconnect it from the Wireless, and if possible, set the TV to completely “forget” the network, so it cannot reconnect on its own.

The downside to do this though, is that since it is a “Smart TV”, if you use any of the built-in services, like Netflix, you may not be able to use them. This could likely include not being able to watch Netflix in 4K.

Streaming Boxes

Another possible solution is to use an external 3rd party box, like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, or even an Roku, in conjunction with disconnecting the TV from the network. While some of these devices may also be tracking what you watch, it is more likely that it is for their own purposes and not to sell to third-parties. However, you will want to read the agreements before saying anything definitive.

Long-term Fixes

There is no simple fix that can be made for this. The fix has to come either through governmental regulation or through industry regulations. The other option, which is not likely, is for people to tell the industry with their dollar. This is likely due to the limited availability for “dumb” TVs on the market. There is a small contingent of people who would be willing to pay a bit more for a TV that did not have any “smart” capabilities. I know I would be one of those people.

Final Thoughts

The solution for this problem is not an easy one to determine. It may take some pushback from consumers to demand that privacy regulations be created so that the consumer is in charge of how their information is used. This must come with regulation. The fine of Vizio is designed to let all manufacturers know that they must now get explicit, not implicit, permission from users before gathering the information. The damage, from the existing gathering and selling of information, is already done. Being required to get permissions from users will undoubtedly ultimately hurt the bottom line of the television manufacturers, since fewer users will agree to the collection, thus, they will not be able to sell as much information to advertisers.

It would behove the government to begin lobbying even larger fines for any company that performs in the same manner as Vizio. If the government is truly intent on curbing this type of abuse, as well as others, making it hurt financially may be an effective way of doing just that.

Washington Post

Summing Up a Presidency

With today being the inauguration of President Trump, I thought it would be befitting to sum up the Presidency of Barack Obama. Words alone will not suffice, so instead, here are some pictures from President Obama’s time in Office.

President Obama fist bumping.
President Obama standing on a Scale
President Obama with Prince William and Prince Charles, future Kings of England.
Situation Room when President Obama was working on finding Osama Bin Laden
President Obama reacting to being caught in Spiderman’s Web
President Obama giving Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Biden
President Obama with Olympian McKayla Maroney
President Obama visiting with a outgoing Secret Service Member
Obamas and Bidens
 

The last thing is this short video from the White House Correspondence Dinner in 2016:

Thank you President Obama for your service.

Apple Increases tvOS App Downloads

When Apple unveiled tvOS in October of 2015, they indicated that tvOS applications could only have an initial size of 200MB, but could download additional assets up to 2GB. This functionality was done through a method called “On-Demand Resources”, or ODR. The reason this was done was to allow the application to download quickly but still provide a way for tvOS applications to be more complex. For games, a prime example would be providing the first few levels of a game, and then downloading the remaining levels in the background.

Apple has changed the initial size of the application. Instead of previously being 200MB, it is now possible to have an initial application size of 4GB. These tvOS apps are still able to download additional resources, up to 20GB worth of resources.

Possible Reasons for the Change

There are likely a few reasons why Apple would do this. The first is likely due to many developers indicating that the limitation of 200MB is not enough. This could be due to users who have slower connections not being able to download all of the assets in enough time without having to wait anyway. Many users are accustom to having to wait for applications to download.

Alongside this, the increase may allow for a varying of application types to be developed for tvOS. The 200MB limitation may have deterred some developers from creating tvOS apps due to the limitation; despite On-Demand Resources being a viable option.

There is another possible reason. That reason might be to keep both tvOS and iOS in line, in terms of initial download size and the size limitation of On-Demand Resources. This is the more likely reason, given that iOS applications have a maximum size of 4GB, but can download additional On-Demand Resources.

Speculation

The last possible reason for this change is a wild one, but Apple could be attempting to begin to position the Apple TV as a gaming console. Not primarily as a gaming console, but angling it more as one. The motivation behind this thinking is that with tvOS 10, Apple has now allowed developers to require a gaming controller for their games. A possible side effect of this is that future Apple TV models may have larger options for storage.

With the size increase, the number of applications that can stored on a 32GB 4th Generation Apple TV would be reduced. If a user has six applications that are 4GB, the user’s Apple Tv would be nearly out of space.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the motivations of the size change, it will be a nice change for some users to be able to download larger applications and may ultimately lead to more tvOS applications being available, which would be a good thing for Apple.

AirPods: A Review

I, like many people, am constantly using my iPhone. The most common thing that I am doing with my phone is listening to audio. I can be listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or even just music. If you encounter me out and about, there is a 90% chance that I will have headphones in my ears. Headphones are one of the things that I will most likely have on me at all times. This has been the case since around 2005 when I got my first iPod; the iPod Mini.

That is not to say that I did not use headphones before, far from it. I used to listen to cassettes as well as CDs, and I even had a 32MB, yes, 32MB, Diamond Rio MP3 player. Since cassettes, CDs, and the Diamond Rio MP3 player were all around well before smart phones, I had to use wired headphones in order to listen to my music. Given that I am constantly listening to something, a good and comfortable set of headphones is an absolute must for me.

I should go without saying that I have had a slew of different headphones over the years. This does include a couple of bluetooth headphones as well. As with many people, once I find a pair of headphones I like, I will continue to buy them until they are no longer available. Luckily, my headphones of choice are Apple’s EarPods. Even though I have always had a phone that has AppleCare with it, I have not always gotten my headphones replaced under the warranty and instead opted to buy additional pairs.

History

One of the items that almost any Smart Phone needs is a way to listen to audio. All Smart Phones have at least one speaker in order to provide audio feedback. Most Smart Phones include a pair of wired headphones in with the phone. Apple’s iPhone is no exception. Apple has been including headphones with some of their products since 2001 with the introduction of the first iPod. Apple has modified their headphones in the intervening 16 years.

The second set of headphones that had a different shape were the Apple In-Ear Headphones that were introduced in September of 2008. The In-Ear Headphones consisted of three different size inserts that would allow the user to determine the best fit. The In-Ear headphones differ from the Earbuds by being ones that provide a seal inside the ear.

The shape of Apple’s earbuds remained the same from 2001 until September 2012, when they introduced the EarPods. The EarPods were developed by scanning thousands of ears and creating what is a shape that would fit the largest number of ears. It does not fit every year, but they do fit most.

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple introduced a new connector, the Lightning connector. This connector is the one that is still on the iPhone, as well as the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano. With the release of the iPhone 7, Apple announced a radical change, the removal of the headphone jack; a staple that had been there since the release of the original iPhone in 2007. Headphones are still included in the box, as they have been since 2007. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus now include EarPods that have a lightning connector instead of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

AirPods

At the same event as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus introduction, Apple also introduced their first Apple-branded wireless headphones, the AirPods. The AirPods have the same shape as the EarPods, just without the wires. This is actually a bit of an understatement, the AirPods are actually much more than just a simple pair of wireless headphones.

Wireless

Traditionally, when one thinks of wireless headphones, they picture a set of headphones that do not connect directly to a device with wires, but still have a wire connecting the two different earbuds. That is not the case with the AirPods. Many headphone manufacturers provide Bluetooth headphones, but they have a wire connecting the two ear pieces together. This is not the case with the AirPods. There is not even a charging cable that connects to the AirPods. The AirPods are truly wireless.

The Wireless aspects to the AirPods are provided by a custom chip that Apple has designed; the W1.

W1 chip

The AirPods incorporate some proprietary hardware, Apple’s W1 chip. The W1 chip, as I explained in my review of the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones:

The W1 chip is an Apple designed chip that is specifically for being able to quickly pair with any iOS 10 or macOS Sierra device. The W1 chip also enables is the syncing of the pairing information between all of the devices using the same iCloud account.

The synchronization with iCloud is designed to allow your devices to automatically switch, without having to go through the tedious, “un-pair”, “re-pair” dance that is typical of Bluetooth enabled devices.

And this is entirely the case for the AirPods as well. Both the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones and AirPods use the same W1 chip; as does the Power Beats 3, and the Beats X will as well, when they are released. As mentioned, the W1 chip is more than just a standard Bluetooth chip. The W1 provides some new functionality; particularly the ability to more easily switch between devices.

The W1 Chip does more than just provide easy syncing. The W1 Chip is also able to relay to an iOS device how much battery power is left on each individual AirPod.

The W1 Chip is responsible for the ability to take an AirPod out and have the audio that you are listening to pause. This functionality is not possible if using the AirPods as a traditional set of Bluetooth headphones. However, the double-tapping of Play/Pause does work while using the AirPods as traditional Bluetooth headphones.

The AirPods are still traditional Bluetooth headphones and can be used with devices that are not running iOS 10 or macOS Sierra. As a matter of fact, they can connect to anything that supports Bluetooth. In order to sync with a non-iOS 10 or macOS Sierra device, perform the following steps:

  1. Enable Bluetooth on the device.
  2. Open the lid on the AirPods case.
  3. Press the synchronize button on the back of the case.
  4. On your device tap on the AirPods.
  5. The AirPods should connect to your device.

The Case

One of the things that is most needed for any pair of wireless headphones is the ability to charge. How would you charge a pair of wireless headphones? With the AirPods, they are charged within their own case. The AirPods case provides more than just charging. It is also the mechanism for synchronizing the AirPods with your device.

The synchronizing of the AirPods with your device. The pairing process is simple.

  1. Place the case within a few inches of the device
  2. Open the lid of the case.
  3. Wait a few seconds, a popup will appear. The AirPods are now paired

The pairing is really that simple. The pairing information for the AirPods is synchronized to all iOS 10 and macOS Sierra devices that are attached to the original paired device.

There is one thing to note, the case itself is not enough to be able to check the charge of the AirPods. At least one AirPod must be in the case for the charge of the battery case to be visible. This is true whether the AirPods are connected to an iOS device or a macOS device.

The AirPods case has a few magnets inside of it. Two of them are to pull the individual AirPods into the case to allow for charging of the AirPods. The second magnet is on the front of the case and is used to close the case, and doubly secure the AirPods inside of it. When you snap shut the case, it makes a satisfying click.

Battery Life

Besides being the pairing mechanism, the case is also how you recharge the AirPods. The headphones have up to five hours of charge. The headphones can be used independently. Once the AirPods reach 10% of battery power left, they will chime to indicate that they are low on power. When they are low on power, you can put the headphones in their case for fifteen minutes. When this is done, the AirPods will get another three hours of charge time.

During my usage, I was able to get about four and half hours of listening time out of the AirPods before needing to recharge. Since I keep the charging case with me at all times, it is not an issue to be able to quickly charge them up.

The total time need to fully charge the AirPods is approximately an hour. The case is capable of charging the AirPods for a full 24-hours of listening time on a single charge of the case. If the AirPods are inside the case when charging the case, the AirPods will also be charged at the same time.

At any point, you can check the charge of your AirPods. On your iOS device, simply use the battery widget to see the current charge. On a device running macOS, you go to the Bluetooth settings in System Preferences, or the menu bar if you have Bluetooth in the menu bar, and the charge should be visible.

Alternatively, if you have an Apple Watch, you can also check the battery levels of the AirPods with your Apple Watch. If you have the Battery complication and if the AirPods are connected to a paired iPhone, you can tap on the Battery complication and the AirPod battery life should be shown.

Switching Devices

In order to switch devices with the AirPods, you simply go to the Bluetooth menu, and select the AirPods, they should connect. During all of my usage, there were a few times that the AirPods did switch between devices. This includes going between an iPhone 7 Plus, 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 2016 MacBook Pro, and 2011 iMac. The only time that the AirPods did not switch was trying to connect to my Apple Watch Series 2.

It should be noted that you do not have to pair the AirPods to other iOS and macOS Sierra devices, provided all of the devices are on the same iCloud account. Once they are paired, the AirPods should be available on your devices.

Controls

One of the aspects of the AirPods is that they have no wires. The lack of wires means that you have limited control. There is actually only one function; double-tapping on one of the individual AirPods. With an iOS 10-enabled device, you can set what action the double-tap gesture performs. To select which action the gesture initiates perform the following:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap on to Bluetooth.
  3. Click the information button next to the paired set of AirPods to open the settings.

Here you have a few options that you can set.
You can set the name, the double-tap gesture, enable or disable the automatic ear detection, and you can set some microphone options.

For the double-tap gesture you have three options:

  • Siri
  • Play/Pause
  • Off

The default action is to use Siri, but if you want to change the double-tap gesture, simply tap on the one that you want to use.

The Automatic Ear Detection is an option that allows the AirPods to automatically pause when they are removed and resume playing when they are put back into your ears. The play/pause functionality of ear detection can be triggered by removing just one AirPod. The microphone settings are the last option. On this screen you can choose which AirPod is used for the microphone. The default option is “Automatically Switch AirPods”. You can also choose to always use the left or right AirPod, depending on your preference.

Issues

As mentioned above, my experiences with the AirPods has not been 100% perfect. I have experienced a few issues with them. The biggest has been that they will not, no matter what I do, pair with the AirPods. After messing around with the AirPods for a while, I was able to the AirPods to Connect. The only way I was be able to do this was by disconnecting the AirPods from every device and then pairing with the Apple Watch Series 2. At this point, they were finally able to connect.

The most common issue that I have experienced has been the few times that the sound has cut out entirely. This happens for no explicable reason. I was listening to some music when out of the blue, the AirPods disconnected. They were not low on power, they had plenty of charge left.

While listening to a variety of audio, I sometimes get distortions in the audio. During these times, I am not more than a few feet away from my iPhone when this happens.

Feature Requests

There are a couple of things that I would like to see for a future software or hardware upgrade of the AirPods.

Additional gestures. Besides the current double-tap, a triple-tap gesture could be implemented. The only possible downside is that sometimes the current double-tap gesture is not always recognized.

This request is one that could be implemented a bit more easily; Next track. This could be added as an additional option, even with the existing double-tap gesture. Some might wonder what would happen with the Play/Pause option. Well, the Play/Pause function is already taken care of by removing an AirPod. This option could be easily added with just a software update.

Final Thoughts

The AirPods have actually made listening to audio much easier. Instead of having to worry about getting wires tangled wherever I am, I am able to leave my iPhone in one place, and walk all over the house without needing to have my iPhone on me.

Overall, the AirPods are the best earbuds that I have ever used and easily the best Bluetooth-enabled earbuds as well. I have not compared them to the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones yet; that may be another comparison post in the future. If you have any mobile device that can support Bluetooth, the AirPods will work. You will not get some of the benefits, but they are still some of the best wireless headphones that you can buy.