movie-star-wars-5.jpg
The adventure continues in this “Star Wars” sequel. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi master’s help will Luke survive when the dark side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).

Apple

  • The iPhone Introduction: 15 Years Later

    Original iPhone

    “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything”. When someone states something like the previous quote it is often seen as hyperbole. However, in the case of this exact quote, it was quite prophetic and not hyperbole at all. Although it would take a bit of time for it to catch on.

    This is the opening line to a keynote that introduced a device that would change the way that people use technology. The keynote was for the MacWorld San Francisco that took place 15 years ago today, on January 9th, 2007.

    I have not been lucky enough to attend any of Apple’s keynotes. Instead, I would watch them at home. I distinctly remember feeling that this would be a different one, and indeed it was. As Steve Jobs stated, “Today we are introducing three revolutionary products, A Widescreen iPod, Revolutionary mobile phone, and an internet communicator…Are you getting it, these are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we are calling it iPhone”.

    Apple introduced the iPhone well before it was to be on sale. The iPhone did not go on sale until June 29th, 2007. The rationale for announcing it so early in order to avoid any information being leaked. Jobs even stated as much in the keynote. For years there had been rumors that Apple was building a phone. In fact, Apple started by making a tablet, but they could not get the technology to scale properly, so instead they turned to making a phone.

    Was the iPhone the first Smartphone, no, that would likely go to the Palm or Blackberry. Yet, the iPhone has indisputably been one of the most popular lines of devices ever produced. The introduction of the iPhone sparked the modern cell phone revolution. Many of the paradigms and interaction methods introduced with the iPhone remain to this day, including swiping and pinch to zoom, just to name a couple of examples.

    The iPhone not only changed the way we interact with mobile devices, but it also brought a much more prevalent and larger revolution, the mobile app revolution. Again, the iPhone was not the first to have apps, but it was the device that help usher in a new digital economy. While it is entirely possible to use a mobile device using only the provided applications, it is very very likely that every smartphone user has installed at least one additional app to their phone.

    Skeptics

    At the time of its launch, there were many who did not think as though Apple could pull it off. For instance, Nokia’s Chief Strategist at the time, Anssi Vanjoki stated:

    The development of mobile phones will be similar in PCs. Even with the Mac, Apple has attracted much attention at first, but they have still remained a niche manufacturer. That will be in mobile phones as well.

    Another example is from Palm CEO Ed Colligan, he said

    We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.

    The last example is from Research in Motion’s Co-CEO of Blackberry, Jim Balsillie,

    It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers. But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.

    At the same Macworld event Steve Jobs stated that Apple was hoping to sell 10 million iPhones in all of 2008, which would have been one percent of the overall market at the time. It took Apple just over 74 days to sell their one millionth iPhone. Apple did reach their goal of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008, when they sold 6.9 million iPhones in their 4th fiscal quarter, alone, which was from July to September 2008.

    Personal Journey with iPhone

    As for my own personal journey with the iPhone, that is an easy one. I did not buy an iPhone on launch day. I actually waited until the second day, June 30th. While there was definitely less fanfare that day, it was actually probably better because I was the fourth person in line when I went to get mine. I can clearly recall the delight of being able to use a whole new type of cell phone. My Motorola Razr V3 was still a great phone, but the iPhone was different.

    Since that day, I have only had an iPhone as my preferred mobile device. While I would prefer not to give up my iPad, if I had to choose only one device between the iPhone and the iPad, I would choose the iPhone every time. My iPhone the device I use the most. It is usually not more than a few feet away from me at any point throughout the day. The iPhone has come a long way in the last 15 years. Will the iPhone last forever, no, nothing ever does. But I am sure it still has a long life left in it.

    We now have many things that were not present on the first iPhone. Things like Copy and Paste, Multitasking, and vastly superior cameras and even video recording capabilities. The original iPhone did not even have 3G capability, that would come in 2008 with the release of the iPhone 3G. It is strange to think that the iPhone that begun the entire journey of modern smart phones can no longer be used as a cell phone. Even its four successors, the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S will no longer be capable of being used more cellular connectivity as of July 1st, 2022.

    While there are many who prefer to use Android-based phones, they cannot argue that the iPhone is the device that pushed Google to create Android. I do not think that today’s modern technological landscape would be nearly where it is today if it were not for the iPhone. It was, and remains, a truly revolutionary device that has transformed an incalculable number of ways that we do things. It will be interesting to see the next 15 years of the iPhones life will be like. It is possible that the iPhone may be a secondary market and something else may take over.

    Original iPhone as compared to an iPhone 13 Pro Max
    Original iPhone as compared to an iPhone 13 Pro Max

    You can watch the full Macworld keynote on YouTube.

  • Apple Introduces ‘Self Service Repair’ Program

    Apple Self Service Repair Program

    One of the things that modern technology is that accidents can occur. The types of devices that are generally most susceptible to accidents are ones that we carry with us, like an iPhone. When an accident does occur one thing that can happen is a cracked screen. In some instances this can be ignored, at least for a while, but it is likely that at some point you will need to get it fixed.

    When you need to fix an iPhone you can take it to an Apple Store, or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, like Best Buy. There are a certain contingent of people who would rather repair their devices themselves and this was not always possible previously. There are sites like iFixit that will provide the tools, parts, and instructions, but there can be problems when you fix your own device. All of this is about to change because Apple announced a new program called the “Self Service Repair” program.

    The Self Service Repair program will allow individuals to get access to genuine Apple parts, tools, and manuals for repairing their own devices, starting in early 2022. At first you may be able to get your own parts, tools, and manuals for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 line of devices.

    The parts that you will be able to get will be limited at first. Specifically, you can get the most common parts that need to be repaired, specifically the iPhone display, battery, and camera.

    There are not a bunch of details on how the program will work. But there is a brief high-level overview within the announcement.

    To ensure a customer can safely perform a repair, it’s important they first review the Repair Manual. Then a customer will place an order for the Apple genuine parts and tools using the Apple Self Service Repair Online Store. Following the repair, customers who return their used part for recycling will receive credit toward their purchase.

    My Thoughts

    I think the Self Service Repair program will be a good one, but it is not for the faint of heart to fix an iPhone. The Self Service Repair Program is really intended for those who have experience in repairing things.

    I think there will be a fair number of people who will undertake this and for them it will be a great option. For most though, it will still be prudent to go to Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider to perform the repairs on your devices.

    It will be interesting to see how this Self Service Repair program functions as well as how many people will actually partake in it. Even though I probably could do a number of the repairs myself, I do not know if I will take advantage of the program myself. Mostly because my iPhone is usually covered by Apple Care, so it only makes sense for me to take it to Apple to fix any issues.

    Source: Apple Newsroom

  • Apple Introduces “Apple Business Essentials”

    Managing devices can be problematic for small businesses. But a new service by Apple attempts to help in this. The service is called “Apple Business Essentials”.

    Apple Business essentials is a new service that will combine device management, 24/7 Apple support, and iCloud storage into a single interface for managing all of your users, apps, backup, and devices, all from a single interface. Apple Business Essentials is designed for small businesses with companies with up to 500 employees.

    Apple’s vice president of Enterprise and Education Marketing, Susan Prescott, stated

    Small businesses are at the core of our economy, and we’re proud that Apple products play a role in helping these companies grow, Apple Business Essentials is designed to help streamline every step of employee device management within a small business — from setup, onboarding, and upgrading, to accessing fast service and prioritized support, all while keeping data backed up and secure, so companies can focus on running their business.”

    Here is a quick intro video to get you acquainted with the features.

    You can visit the “Apple Business Essentials” website which includes a brief walkthrough of what the interface might look like.

    Right now, Apple Business Essentials is in free beta, but there will be an ongoing cost once it is available in Spring of 2022. Monthly pricing will depend on the number of users, amount of storage, and AppleCare+.

    If you want to signup for the beta, you can do so at https://smb.apple.com/essentials/. It is interesting to see Apple provide this service to small businesses. The intention is to handle a lot of the problems people encounter when setting up and using their Apple devices in the workplace.

  • A Review of the 3rd Generation AirPods

    3rd Generation AirPods Box

    Today’s modern society provides a ton of different ways to be stimulated. Some of the types of things that can occupy your time can include books, podcasts, music, movies, and games. Each of these can be experienced in a variety of ways. All of them can be done using a television, an iPhone, an iPad, or a gaming console. It is quite possibly that while you are using one of these that you could be using a pair of headphones.

    Headphones allow you to enjoy your media without interrupting anyone else. Headphones come a number of different styles. There are over ear, on ear, and in-ear headphones. The type that you use depends on the style that the manufacture has chosen to provide them in. Apple has headphones that are in each of the various styles. The type that you are using depends on your current situation and which ones you own. The most commonly purchased type of headphones are in-ear headphones. The latest in-ear headphones offered by Apple are the 3rd generation AirPods, which we will get to shortly. But first, let us look a brief history of all of Apple’s in-ear headphones.


    Brief History of Apple’s In-Ear Headphones

    Headphones are not a new market for Apple. In fact Apple has been making headphones for devices for twenty years, when they introduced of the original iPod in October of 2001. Since then Apple has created its own headphones steadily over the intervening years. Some of these are wired, and others have been wireless. The wired models include Apple earbuds, iPod In-Ear Headphones, Apple Earphones with Remote Mic, iPhone stereo headset, and EarPods. The wireless models have included iPhone Stereo Headset, Beats Studio Buds, PowerBeats, and PowerBeats Pro, and AirPods, including AirPods Pro.

    Each model of the Apple-branded headphones has provided its own enhancements, from the original rounded earphones that were introduced with the original iPod. The first improvement was with the iPhone Stereo Headset. This was meant to be used with the iPhone and included a microphone and a single button that could be used to control a variety of actions.

    The next change was the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. These were introduced in 2009 alongside the iPhone 3G. This improved on the previous headphones by adding two additional buttons, a volume up and volume down button. These headphones made it a much better experience when it came to using your iPhone, iPod touch, or even traditional iPod. 

    In 2012 Apple revamped the headphones again with the EarPods. The EarPods still had the same three buttons as the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic, but the shape of the EarPods was a custom shape. In order to create this Apple scanned hundreds of different ears to try and find a commonality between them. This commonality allowed them to create a shape that would fit the largest number of ears. As the introduction video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44xXQI9b9vI) states, “EarPods are intentionally designed to direct sound into the ear canal”, without providing a seal like other in-ear headphones do, and yet, they were designed to fit comfortably. 

    The next change of headphones built on the design of the EarPods, but completely removed the wires, which they  called the AirPods. 


    AirPods

    AirPods are a wireless version of the EarPods. When introduced in December of 2016, they were not universally praised. Upon first seeing them many people criticized others for getting them. These critics stated that AirPods looked like “tiny toothbrushes”, “tampons”, or “ear cigarettes”. Some even stated that it took “courage” to wear them in public. I know I was ridiculed when I was wearing them, but I have been made fun of quite a bit in my life for various things, and this was just another instance of that occurring. 

    Without the wires, the controls need to be different. Actions can be performed by tapping on the device while in the ear itself. With two individual AirPods you can set an action for each ear. These actions can include:

    • Play/Pause
    • Siri
    • Next Track
    • Previous Track
    • Off

    As mentioned, the AirPods are wireless. This means that they need some sort of way to charge. The AirPods charge via their companion case. The first generation AirPods would have a listening time of 5 hours and up to 24 hours of charging time. The AirPods were introduced at $159 for a pair.


    2nd Generation AirPods

    2nd Generation AirPods with case open
    2nd Generation AirPods with case open

    The second generation AirPods were released in March of 2019. The 2nd generation kept the same shape, but added a couple of features. The biggest of these was support for “Hey Siri”, so you can Ask Siri to do something for you or request any information, or action, that Siri can provide.. The second feature is support for announcing messages. With this feature most messages can be read to you and you can even reply to messages all without touching your iPhone.

    The 2nd Generation AirPods also added an additional option, wireless charging. This was done through a Qi-compatible wireless charging case. The AirPods could either be purchased with the case or the case could be purchased separately. If you purchased wireless charging case separately, it would cost you $79. The AirPods with lightning charging case cost the same amount as the 1st genertation, $159. The AirPods with wireless charging case cost $199. The price has since been reduced to $129 for the AirPods with lightning charging case.


    AirPods Pro

    AirPods Pro
    AirPods Pro

    The 2nd Generation AirPods were not the only AirPods to be introduced. In fact, approximately seven months after the introduction of the 2nd Generation AirPods, October 30th, 2019 to be exact, Apple introduced the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro took the features from the 2nd generation AirPods and enhanced them even further.

    The AirPods Pro mostly kept the same iconic EarPods/AirPods shape, but expanded it to include silicone tips. These tips allowed the headphones to be inserted into the ear canal. This would create a seal that provided a new feature, noise cancellation. Noise Cancellation actually works by introducing a second sound wave that cancels out the background noise so that it seems like there is no other audio except the audio you actually want to hear.

    Along with Noise Cancellation there comes another feature called Transparency Mode. Transparency Mode is the opposite of Noise Cancellation in that it amplifies the background noise so you can hear everything else that is happening around you. This is a good option if you need to be able to hear things, like traffic, but still want to be able to hear your audio.

    The AirPods Pro also added support for a new feature called Spatial Audio. Spatial Audio is a technique that, according to Apple, “brings theater-like sound from the movie or video you’re watching, so that sound seems like it’s coming from all around you”. Spatial Audio will be discussed in-depth in a bit.

    To account for the different shape of the AirPods Pro devices themselves, the case that comes with the AirPods Pro also had a different shape. This case is much wider but also shorter. Because of the advanced features, the AirPods Pro have a slightly higher price of $249. Beyond the features already discussed you did get a Qi-compatible wireless charging case included automatically.

    At their October 2021 “Unleashed” event, Apple introduced the next version of AirPods, the 3rd generation AirPods. Let us look at these next.


    3rd Generation AirPods

    3rd Generation AirPods with case open
    3rd Generation AirPods with case open

    The 3rd generation AirPods take some cues from both the AirPods, as well as the AirPods Pro, to create a more distinct  hybrid product from the two. The case for the 3rd generation AirPods has the same general shape as the AirPods Pro. Similarly, the shape of the actual AirPod is similar between the two, with the 3rd generation AirPod being a bit smaller, since they do not have the silicone in-ear tips. Furthermore, since the width is smaller, the weight of each AirPod is less, as is the overall weight of the AirPods with the case.

    There is one feature that needs to be highlighted specifically, Spatial Audio with Head Tracking.


    Spatial Audio with Head Tracking

    Spatial Audio with Head Tracking is a feature that is on the AirPods Pro, as well as the 3rd generation AirPods. Spatial Audio will automatically adjust the audio that you are listening to in a way that simulates the audio being all around you. This is much akin to the way that a surround sound system works when watching a movie, provided the speakers are placed properly around where you are seated.

    The idea with Spatial Audio is to simulate the audio as though it is coming directly from the device. Therefore, Spatial Audio with Head Tracking will automatically adjust the sound to the movement of your head, in relation to the device. if you move your head to point left, the audio will move more of the audio to the right AirPod, similarly, if you move your head to the right, the sound will move more toward the left AirPod. 

    There are actually three different modes for Spatial Audio, these are:

    • Stereo
    • Fixed
    • Head Tracking

    “Stereo” is the same experience that you would get with 2nd generation AirPods, or any other non-Spatial Audio enabled headset. 

    The “Fixed” option provides Spatial Audio, but without the head tracking. This means that if you have an audio item with Dolby Atmos you will get the Spatial Audio, but the sound will not move as you move your head. This is good if you want to be able to hear the Spatial Audio but need to do something else at the same time.


    Changing Output

    When you connect your 3rd generation AirPods to your device, Spatial Audio with Head Tracking will be enabled by default. However, you do not need to always keep Spatial Audio on. You can turn it off when you want through Control Center. This is done by performing the following steps:

    1. Swipe down from the top, or bottom, of the screen to bring up Control Center.
    2. Tap and hold on the volume slider
    3. At the bottom of the screen, tap on the “Spatial Audio” button to bring up the various options.
    4. Tap on the preferred option.

    It definitely needs to be mentioned that not every piece of audio will support Spatial Audio with Head Tracking. The audio must be mastered for Dolby Atmos. If it is not mastered for Dolby Atmos, you will only get the stereo sound option.


    Dolby Atmos on Beats vs. AirPods

    The 3rd generation AirPods are not the only headphones that support Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio. In fact, there are a number of headphones that do. The complete list includes:

    • AirPods Pro
    • AirPods Max
    • BeatsX
    • Beats Solo3 Wireless
    • Beats Studio3
    • Powerbeats3 Wireless
    • Beats Flex
    • Powerbeats Pro
    • Beats Solo Pro
    • Beats Studio Buds

    I have actually had access to Dolby Atmos since it was introduced with Apple Music back in June of 2021, through my Beats Solo Pros. Spatial Audio on the Beats Solo Pros does indeed provide spatial audio, however, The Beats Solo Pros do not support the Head Tracking feature. Instead, when using the Beats Solo Pros with Spatial Audio, it is like using the “fixed” setting.

    The 3rd Generation AirPods have the best of both. The Head Tracking but you can still turn it off if you do not want to use it, but it is also there when you want to have the full experience.

    For me, I’m not sure how useful Spatial Audio with Head Tracking is when it comes to music. Spatial Audio in a fixed context is fine, but having the audio move when you’re listening to music seems like overkill. The only instance when it might make sense is if you are listening to a live concert and you want to simulate actually being there while you go on throughout your day. Then it might make sense because it might seem like you are there. The problem with this is that it is not likely that any live concerts will be mastered for Spatial Audio, so this is not all that likely to occur.

    Spatial Audio with Head Tracking makes a bit more sense when it comes to movies or possibly TV shows. Having the audio change when you move your head makes a lot more sense if you really want to immerse yourself in the media you are consuming. Of course the biggest downside is that spatial audio only works with Apple TV content, whether purchased or not. As far as I can tell there are no third-party streaming services that support spatial audio while playing media except for Apple TV+, and even then, not all content.


    2nd Generation vs. 3rd Generation

    2nd Gen and 3rd Gen AirPod cases side by side
    2nd Generation AirPods case compared to 3rd Generation AirPods case

    I have owned a number of different pairs of Apple’s in-ear headphones. The most recent type of in-ear headphones were the 2nd generation AirPods. Coming from the 2nd generation AirPods, there are some distinct differences as compared to the 3rd generation AirPods. There are two topics to cover, the fit, and force pressing compared to tapping. Let us start the fit.


    Comparing Fit

    The overall shape of the 2nd generation and 3rd generation AirPods are similar, but the 3rd generation AirPods are designed to put the sound more directly into the ear canal than even the 2nd generation; provided that your ears can fit the newer shape of the 3rd generation AirPods. 

    Even though the 3rd generation AirPods do indeed it in my ears, they do not sit as comfortably as the 2nd generation. The 2nd generation AirPods seem to just have an overall better fit where they rest easily on my ears. Meanwhile, the 3rd generation AirPods tend to stick out a bit more. The 3rd generation still fit in my ears, just not as well. As a tip, be sure to twist them forward after you have put them in your ears, this should help them fitting. 

    Your experience may vary though, depending on the shape of your ears. The fit it not the only thing that will take some time to adjust to, the controls might take some time to get accustom to as well.


    Adjusting to Force Press from Tapping

    The AirPods are small and they do not have a large surface area. Because of this AirPods are only able to support a limited set of controls. As mentioned earlier, with the 2nd generation AirPods you can only have one action that you can set. You can set one action for each AirPod. The available actions include:

    • Play/Pause
    • Next Track
    • Previous Track
    • Siri

    The 3rd generation AIrPods allow you to perform the same functions, but in a different manner. Instead of tapping you can perform presses on either of the two stems of the AirPods. The actions that you can perform are the same:

    • Play/Pause – Press Once
    • Next Track – Press Twice
    • Previous Track – Press Three times
    • Siri – Press and hold

    Having used AirPod since they were introduced in 2016, I have become quite accustomed to tapping on the AirPod in order to perform an action, so I have to keep reminding myself that I have to press on the smaller stem of the AirPod to perform any action. It is not like I do not have to press on headphones to perform an action. They exact same actions work on my Beats Solo Pros, so it is not like the actions are unfamiliar to me. I think the issue is that the stems are much smaller, so it takes a bit longer to actually perform an action, due to the smaller surface area. I am sure that I will eventually get used to it, but for now, it is still a bit cumbersome to adjust to.


    Find My

    AirPods are small and it is entirely possible that they could fall out while you are using them and they may become lost. This may not be outside of your house, but it is entirely possible that you might lose one. There is an option to be able to find any lost AirPods via the “Find My” network. This is enabled by default on your 3rd generation AirPods. 

    If you do manage to lose your AirPods, you can use the Find My app to try and find your AirPods. The Find My is similar to other Find My where it starts to find the AirPods in a general manner and as you get closer the color will change to indicate that you are getting closer to the AirPod. 

    The difference with the 3rd generation AirPods is that you can individually locate each AirPod. This can be very helpful should you only manage to misplace a single AirPod. Beyond attempting to locate your AirPods you can also play a sound so that you can more easily locate them.

    The inclusion of Find My should be quite helpful for those instances when you accidentally misplace an AirPod, no matter where it may happen to be located. There is one last item to cover about the 3rd generation AirPods, the charging case.


    Case

    3rd Generation AirPods Case
    3rd Generation AirPods Case

    AirPods are wireless, necessitating placing them in the case when they charge. I normally charge my AirPods on a Space Gray iPhone Lightning Dock. With the 1st and 2nd generation AirPods I could easily open the case and use one hand to place each of the AirPods into the case. However, with the 3rd generation in order to place the headphones in the case, for me anyway, requires two hands. For me, I need one hand to hold the case and the other to actually place the AirPods in the case. 

    I suspect that the shorter stems are the issue. The longer stems on 1st and 2nd generation AirPods allowed the AirPods to be drawn into case because the magnets on the bottom of the stems, in combination of the magnets in the bottom of the case, helping pull the AirPods into the case.

    Whenever I try to use one hand to place the 3rd generation AirPods into the case, the AirPod is drawn to the top of the case where the magnet to hold the case closed instead of the bottom. My guess is that this is happening because the magnets in the front of the AirPods case are stronger and the AirPod is attracted to closest magnet. 

    In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big problem, but it is something to be aware of, because it may be problematic for someone who has mobility issues.

    On the topic of magnets, we need to cover a feature that involves magnets. That feature is MagSafe.


    MagSafe

    3rd Generation AirPods on MagSafe charger
    3rd Generation AirPods on MagSafe charger

    As stated earlier, at the same time the 2nd generation AirPods were introduced, another accessory was also released, a wireless charging case. If you opted for a wireless charging case, it would either cost your $199 for the 2nd Generation AirPods with the wireless charging case, or you could buy the wireless charging case on its own for $80. While this was optional with the 2nd generation AirPods, there is a wireless charging case included with the 3rd generation AirPods.

    The 3rd generation comes with a wireless charging case, just like the AirPods Pro do. There is one additional enhancement with the 3rd generation case that was not on the 2nd generation wireless case, and that feature is MagSafe compatibility.

    MagSafe is Apple’s Qi-compatible charger that adds some of Apple’s own proprietary features. It is not that the 2nd generation wireless charging case would not work with a MagSafe charger, it definitely will. The MagSafe aspect comes into play when it comes to placing the AirPods case on the MagSafe charger. 

    Typically, when you place any Qi-compatible charger it is quite possible that you might misalign the device with the actual charging area. When this happens it might result in the device not actually charging, even though you think it is charging. One of the features of MagSafe is that you do not need to necessarily worry about exact placement of the MagSafe-compatible device. This is because there are a bunch of very tiny magnets in the MagSafe-compatible device. These numerous magnets will automatically align the device with the MagSafe charger so that you will always be sure that the device will charge.

    The magnets in the 3rd generation charging case are definitely stronger than any of them in the 2nd generation AirPods. This can be easily noticed by placing the 3rd generation AirPods on a MagSafe charger and picking up the charger with the AirPods case and having the MagSafe charging puck be lifted up as well. 

    Having wireless charging in the 3rd generation AirPods automatically will make it much easier for everybody, even if you do not charge your AirPods case wirelessly, there may be an instance when you need to do so and having it available will allow you to not have to worry about it, and be able to charge.


    Lightning

    3rd Generation AirPods USB-C to Lightning Cable
    3rd Generation AirPods USB-C to Lightning Cable

    The 3rd generation AirPods case needs to be charged, and if you do not charge it wirelessly you will need to plug in the charging case. All of the AirPods that require charging come equipped with a lighting cable. With past models this would have been a USB-A to Lightning cable. However, with the 3rd generation AirPods this is now a USB-C to lightning cable. 

    In most cases this is not a problem, because if you have an existing pair of AirPods and use a lightning cable, you can continue to use it. However, it does need to be noted because if you do not have another lightning cable you will need a USB-C charging brick, because one is not included in the box.


    Closing Thoughts

    If you have a pair of AirPods Pro, then the 3rd generation AirPods do not make a lot of sense for you. This is because the AirPods Pro actually have two additional features, Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode, to be exact.

    A good way to think about the 3rd generation AirPods is that they are like the iPad mini, but for AirPods. They have many of the same features of the more expensive AirPods, but they are not the top of the line, but they are still very capable and a great overall choice.

    If you do opt to get a pair of 3rd generation AirPods you will get support for Spatial Audio, up to six hours of battery life on a single charge, and even an IPX4 water and sweat resistance rating. If you do decide to get a pair of AirPods, it is possible that they might not fit as snugly as the 2nd generation AirPods, but they may be a better overall choice for you in the end.

    These are a great choice if you are looking to get something for someone for the holidays, or even just for yourself.

  • Apple Watch Series 7: A Review

    Back of the Aluminum Apple Watch Series 7

    Much like the iPhone, the Apple Watch sees a new model being introduced every year, usually at the same event as the iPhone, but if not, then sometime very close to it.  Some years the Apple Watch will bring new capabilities through sensors, while other years there are other changes, like screen size. This year is one of the years where the latter has occurred.

    There are only a couple of new features to cover, the screen and color choices. We will get to those in due course, but let us look at the order process first.

    Order Process

    I think it is safe to say that this year’s Apple Watch Series 7 launch was bungled. The order process worked for me, and I did not have any hiccups, but it seems like the overall launch was bungled. The reason for this is quite simple, no details prior to pre-order day.

    Unlike in previous years there was no gallery to see the possible combinations there might be, nor was there any sort of pricing, at least not prior to the beginning of the pre-order time. I can completely understand not having a pre-order system like they did for iPhone 13 models, but the minimum benchmark should be having the possible color combinations and pricing available before pre-orders go live. This would have allowed many to determine what they were hoping to order once pre-orders did begin.

    Apple Watch Series 7 Midnight Box and Midnight Sport Band Box
    Apple Watch Series 7 Midnight Box and Midnight Sport Band Box

    With not having any time to look at models beforehand, anyone who might have wanted to get their Apple Watches as soon as possible had to frantically choose their watch case, color, and band as quickly as possible. Luckily, for me anyway, I was able to get the Midnight Sport model with Midnight sport band. The reason I chose this is because it was available for pickup at my local Apple Store on October 15th. I opted for pickup because, like the iPhone, I did not want to wait all day for it to arrive. I was able to get a 10am pickup time, so I could be one of the first in the store to pickup my order.

    Next, let us jump onto the into color choices available.

    Color Options

    The Apple Watch has always come in a variety of colors. Which colors are available depend on the case material you choose. The Series 7 is the first time that Apple has not offered either a Space Gray or Silver as an option for the aluminum model. For the Series 7 aluminum models the available options are Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, and PRODUCT(RED).

    Lack of Neutrality

    As you likely surmised, there is no Space Gray or Silver color option for the aluminum models. For many they opt for the Silver because silver can generally go with anything. Starlight looks to be silver, but more of a gold-tinted Silver. For many, this is acceptable, however it is not likely to be as neutral as a Silver model would be.

    Midnight 

    Midnight Sport Band in its box opened up.
    Midnight Sport Band in its box opened up.

    As mentioned, I opted for the 45mm Midnight Apple Watch with the Midnight band. When you first look at the ‘Midnight’ watch case you may think that it is a black. But there does seem to be a tint of blue in the case. If you compare the Apple Watch Series 6 Space Gray  to the Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight, you will notice that the Midnight is definitely darker than the Space Gray and that the Midnight might be a better overall “go with anything” type of watch.

    While the Midnight case is darker, the pairing of the the Midnight watch band do not match. The Midnight band is more of a blue and it does work okay with the Midnight watch, but it is not the best pairing.

    This is not all that uncommon, because often the Space Gray watch bands do not match the paired black bands. At the same time the Midnight watch band does not seem to be a good match with the Midnight watch. The case of the Midnight Watch is more of a black than the blue-black of the Midnight watch band.

    Midnight Sport Band and Black Sport Band
    Midnight Sport band on the left and a Black Sport Band on the right
    Apple Watch Series 6 in Space Gray and Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight
    Apple Watch Series 6 in Space Gray on top and Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight on the bottom

    The ‘Midnight’ Apple Watch is not the only device with an accessory that comes in “Midnight”. There is also a MagSafe case for the the iPhone 13 line that comes in “Midnight”. At least when it comes to the “Midnight” color of the Midnight iPhone 13 Pro Max case and the Midnight Apple Watch Band, they are the exact same color. Therefore, if you are looking to match your Apple Watch band and your iPhone 13 case you can be assured that these two will match perfectly.

    Midnight Aluminum Sport Band and iPhone 13 Pro Max Midnight Case

    Now that we have covered the coloring, let us look at the actual setup of the Apple Watch.

    Setup

    If you are setting up a new Apple Watch and you have never owned an Apple Watch the setup process is pretty straight-forward because you do not have any existing settings or configuration to worry about. However, if you have a previously paired Apple Watch and you want to transfer its setting to your new Apple Watch it may be a bit cumbersome and require jumping through some hoops.

    Apple Watch 45mm Series 7 in Midnight with Midnight Sport Band
    Apple Watch 45mm Series 7 in Midnight with Midnight Sport Band

    The reason that it may be problematic is because if the version of watchOS on your old Apple Watch is newer than the version on the new Apple Watch you will not be able to transfer your current watch to your new watch. There is a workaround though. You can use the following steps to get your old Apple Watch settings onto your new Apple Watch.

    1. Begin Pairing new Apple Watch
    2. Setup as a new watch.
    3. Complete Setup of the Apple Watch
    4. Open Settings -> Software Update
    5. Update Apple Watch to latest version
    6. Unpair Apple Watch
    7. Begin pairing of the Apple Watch
    8. Use your current watch’s settings. It will have the text “(Current Watch)” next to your current watch. It will be similar to the image below.

    For most people setting up an Apple Watch as new may not be too much of a problem. This is because things like cards added to Apple Pay will all need to be added again anyway. This is because each card added to Apple Pay has its own unique device specific identifier and those cannot be transferred between devices. 

    It is important to make sure that you choose the proper device since there will also be a backup of your recently unpaired Apple Watch.

    Now that the Apple Watch is setup, let us see the most notable change with the Apple Watch Series 7, the screen size.

    Screen Size

    The screen sizes of the Apple Watches has only increased by a single millimeter, or about 0.04 inches. However, the screen resolution has increased from 368×448 to 396×484, which is a 16.3% increase in screen resolution. This increase in screen resolution is absolutely noticeable, no matter which previous model you had, including the Series 6. You will also see some slightly higher percentages for the 41mm Series 7 as well when upgrading from a 40mm or 38mm model.

    Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch Series 7
    44mm Series 6 on the left and 45mm Series 7 on the right

    The first screen size change for the Apple Watch was with the Series 4, when the sizes went from 38mm and 42mm to 40mm and 44mm. This screen size change was an increase of 35.5%. If you are going from an Apple Watch Series 3, or earlier, to a Series 7, you will see an increase of 57.5% increase in screen resolution, which will absolutely be noticeable. 

    42mm Series 3, 44mm Series 6, and 45mm Series 7 Apple Watch
    42mm Series 3, 44mm Series 6, and 45mm Series 7 Apple Watch

    When it comes to the Apple Watch any increase in screen size is welcome. This is because a watch cannot be nearly as large even the smallest iPhone and therefore the larger the screen size, the more easily you can see the time as well as the complications. This screen size increase has also allowed for one new feature, a full QWERTY keyboard.

    Keyboard

    The manner in which you are able to enter in text on an Apple Watch can vary, depending on the current context. You can use Scribble, emoji, Animoji, or even voice entry. With the new 41mm and 45mm screen sizes you can have the option of entering text in via a keyboard. 

    One thing I have noticed while doing this is that I am so accustomed to the standard iOS keyboard that I forget that the backspace button is in the upper right corner. The backspace key is the same place as with the previous Apple Watches when using Scribble. The full keyboard is in the same place where Scribble was previously.

    Apple Watch full QWERTY keyboard
    Apple Watch full QWERTY keyboard

    By default, Scribble is replaced by the full keyboard. This makes some sense given that you can be much quicker with the full keyboard than with Scribble. With the keyboard you can either tap on the individual characters or even use swiping between characters to enter in the text. When you use Swipe the Apple Watch will use predictive text to try and provide the correct word.

    Scribble is still available if you want to use it. This is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch to bring up the option of using Scribble or the full keyboard (Thanks to Michael @bearsfan34 on twitter for pointing me in the right direction). You can easily switch between the two depending on your preferred input method. 

    Series 7 Only

    Not having a full keyboard on the 38, 40, and 42mm makes sense given that the screens would be too small. Having the 41mm support a full keyboard does make sense given that the screen is more edge to edge. Yet, what seems odd is that the the full keyboard is not supported on the 44mm screen. Sure, it would be a slightly more cramped, but it would still likely be quite useable. My guess is that the full keyboard is designed to be exclusive to the Series 7 Apple Watch as a differentiating factor for the Watches.

    Personally, I do not know how often I will end up using the full keyboard, but it is inevitable that having a full keyboard on the Apple Watch Series 7 will come in handy at some point. Let us now look at the new watch faces on the Series 7 Apple Watches.

    New Watch Faces

    Add Watch Faces - New Watch Faces
    Add Watch Faces – New Watch Faces option

    The biggest aspect of the Apple Watch is the ability to customize the faces of the Apple Watch. All watch faces, regardless of them being digital or analog watches, have a thing called complications. Complications can display a number of things, like the current date, a calendar, or even the phase of the moon. Complications on an analog watch, as the name indicates, makes the watch more complicated to create. 

    Similarly on the Apple Watch complications allow you to show items on the face of the Apple Watch. There are a number of different complication sizes, small, medium, large. Apple has a set of built-in complications, but third-party applications can also provide their own complications for people to use.

    Apple adds new watch faces periodically. There are generally two instances when Apple adds new watch faces, either with a new version of watchOS or a when there is a new Apple Watch screen size. watchOS 8 includes two new watch faces, called “Portraits” and “World Time”. These watch faces are available to any Apple Watch that can support watchOS 8, meaning anything introduced after the Apple Watch Series 3.

    As mentioned, the second possible instance for a new watch face is with a change in screen size. When there is a new screen size it is likely that new watch faces are introduced, or existing watch faces are modified, to take full advantage of the new screen size. The Apple Watch Series 7 has a couple new watch faces that are designed for the new screen sizes. Let us look at each one individually.

    Contour

    Contour watch face
    Contour watch face with color dial

    The Contour watch face is an interesting one. The Contour watch face is an analog watch face that has the hours around the outside edge of the watch face. As the name suggests the hours contour to the screen while the analog watch hands move around the watch face to provide the current time.

    The Contour watch face allows you to set a specific color as well as add two sub-dial complications. One small complication that is towards the bottom of the screen as well a personalization complication. The personalization complication can be one of the following items:

    • Today’s Date (default)
    • Monogram
    • Stopwatch
    • Digital Time
    • Timer

    There are some other options that you can set, including the style as well as the dial color. There are two style options, “Regular” and “Rounded”. These watch face are different, but only subtly. The “Rounded” style takes the bottom portion of the hours and rounds them out so that the edges of each hour will be rounded. This is a very subtle difference. The easiest number to notice the difference is the “10”, but other numbers also change.

    There is one last option called “Dial Color”. The “Dial Color” option will allow you to set the entire dial to your selected color or even a multi-color. Let us look at the other new watch face, Module Duo.

    Modular Duo

    Apple Watch Modular Duo watch face
    Apple Watch Modular Duo watch face with Activity rings at the top, Weather in the middle, and Now Playing at the bottom

    One of the watch faces that has been available since the original Apple Watch running watchOS 1 has been the Modular face. The Modular face allows you to choose the complications that will appear on the watch face. You can choose up to six complications, four small, one large, and an optional date in the upper right corner. On the Modular face there are three complications on the bottom row, the large complication in the middle, and one more small complication in the upper left corner. 

    The Modular Duo face allows you the choice of three complications. There are two large complications and one small complication. The large complications take up the bottom two thirds of the Apple Watch face and the small complication is in the upper left corner. 

    The Modular Duo watch face is a decent face that will help you quickly see information if you only have two large items and one small item you want to be able to see at a glance.

    While I like the Modular Duo watch face, I think I am going to stick with my Infograph Modular watch face which was introduced with the Series 4. It provides me with the most number of complications so I can quickly get the information that I need. If you need only a couple of large complications, then the Modular Duo is a great choice.

    Both of these new watch faces work well with the new 45mm Apple Watch Series 7 screen. There is one last feature to cover and that is around charging.

    Fast charging

    Apple Watch charger with metal base
    Apple Watch charger with Metal Base that supports Fast Charging

    All of the Apple Watches have been capable of getting a decent level of charge fairly quickly. How quickly you can get an 80% charge, as well as a full charge, depends on the model. For the Apple Watch Series 3 you can get an 80% charge in about 90 minutes with a full charge in about 120 minutes. The Apple Watch SE takes about 90 minutes for an 80% charge and 150 minutes for a full charge. These charge times also similar for the other models as well. 

    The Apple Watch Series 7 is different. It is capable of charging to 80% in 45 minutes and a full charge in 75 minutes. This means that you can charge the Apple Watch in half the time. This is great particularly if you do not have a lot of time to charge your watch, but you want to make sure it has enough charge. There are some limitations to this though.

    First, you need a Fast Charge Apple Watch charger. This part is taken care of, because one is included in the box of your Apple Watch Series 7, so that will not cost you anything extra. The Apple Watch chargers that support fast charging can be easily identified because they have band of metal around the charging puck as well as around the USB-C plug.

    The second thing you need is a USB-C charger capable of supporting USB Power Delivery, or USB-PD. This will need to be 5-watts or higher. This does not need to be an Apple USB-C adapter, but some of those are supported as well. The list of Apple power adapters that is supported include: 18W, 20W, 29W, 30W, 61W, 87W, and 96W USB-C adapters. If you have one of these adapters it will work. 

    You can still use your other Apple Watch chargers, they just will not allow for fast charging. Therefore, if you have a favorite charger, you can continue to use it. You can replace them when the time is right for you.

    Fast charging is a great addition to the Apple Watch given that there are no new sensors on the Apple Watch Series 7.

    Closing Thoughts

    If you currently have an Apple Watch Series 5 or Series 6, I am not sure how much of an upgrade you would notice. There are no new “must have” features that most users would notice, outside of the screen and full keyboard. However, if you upgrading from a Series 4, or as one person I talked to at the Apple Store, a Series 2, this will be a fantastic upgrade.

    The increase in screen size will be very welcome and noticeable right away. The faster charging may not be immediately noticeable, but if you need to get a charge of 80%, it will take half the time, provided you use a compatible adapter that support USB Power Delivery, also known as USB-PD.

    If you are in the market for a new Apple Watch the Series 7 is a great choice, whether you go with the 41mm or 45mm, you cannot go wrong. As of this writing there are many models that have a delivery date of early December, so you should order an Apple Watch sooner rather than later, if you are intending to order from Apple in time for the holidays. If you are new to the Apple Watch you will not be disappointed.

  • Apple ‘Unleashed’ Event Predictions Results

    Apple Unleashed Event Header

    Apple held their ‘Unleashed’ event earlier this week and like every other event, I made a set of predictions for the event. Here is what I predicted as well as the results.

    New 14-inch Mac Book Pro/New 16-inch MacBook Pro

    I got these two predictions correct. I am combining these two into one because Apple did announce two new MacBook Pros, a 14-inch and a 16-inch. The reason that these are being combined is because they are effectively the same except in a couple of small ways.

    There is a new 14.2-inch MacBook Pro and a 16.2-inch MacBook Pro. These both have either an M1 Pro or an M1 Max that can be configured up to 64GB of unified memory and up to 8TB of storage. You can order one of the new MacBook Pros today, the 14-inch model starts at $1999 and the 16-inch model starts at $2499.

    Higher-End Mac mini

    Unfortunately, I did not get this one correct because there was no new higher-end Mac mini announced at today’s event.

    New AirPods

    I got this one correct as well. There are a new pair of 3rd generation AirPods that have a new contour shape that supports spatial audio, wireless charging via Qi or MagSafe. The 3rd generation AirPods cost $179, you can order them today for delivery next week.

    macOS Monterey release date

    This one is a tough one because Apple did not actually announce a release date at the event, but there is a release date for macOS Monterey. That date is next Monday, October 25th. It will be a free download for all users.

    Recap

    Overall, out of the five predictions I made, I got four of them correct, 80% is not a bad percentage for a results. You can read more about all of the announcements at the ‘Unleashed’ event in my event recap post.

  • Apple ‘Unleashed’ Event Announcements

    Apple Unleashed Event Header

    Today Apple held their ‘Unleashed’ streaming event. Given that it was only 50 minutes, it was packed with a number of announcements. As anticipated it was an event that focused on two areas, Music and Macs. Let us go in order discussed with the event, starting with Apple Music.

    Apple Music Voice

    Apple Music Voice with AirPods, HomePod, and iPhone

    Apple announced their streaming service back in at WWDC 2015. At the time they indicated it would be available in July. Since the initial announcement there have been two plans, an individual plan for $9.99 a month and a family plan for $14.99. If you have an Apple One plan, it is included. Today Apple announced a whole new plan called the “Voice” for $4.99

    The Voice Plan will allow you to use only your voice and ask Siri to play a playlist, an artist, or any song from the catalog of 90 million songs and even the playlists that Apple Music has to offer. 

    Apple Music Voice is limited in what it offers. For instance, you do not get Spatial Audio, Lossless Audio, Lyrics, or Music Videos. These require the Individual or Family plan.

    Users can subscribe to the Apple Music Voice Plan through Siri by saying “Hey Siri, start my Apple Music Voice trial,” or by signing up through the Apple Music app. Once subscribed to Apple Music Voice, users can request music be played across all of their Siri-enabled devices, including HomePod mini, AirPods, iPhone, or any other Apple device, and when using CarPlay.

    Apple Music Voice plan will be available later this fall in 17 countries. It will cost $4.99 per month. If you do sign up for an Apple Music Voice Plan you will need something to play it on, say a HomePod mini. That is the next item on the agenda.

    Source: Apple Newsroom

    HomePod Mini

    The HomePod mini is a great device for being able to listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts. The HomePod mini can also be used 

    When introduced there were only two colors available, White and Space Gray. There are three new colors, Blue, Orange, and Yellow. These are functionally the same as the existing Space Gray and White HomePod mini, but these can add some additional pop and color to match your existing palette or style.

    These HomePod minis will be available in November for $99 each. Next, is something else you can use to listen to music, AirPods.

    HomePod mini 2021

    Source: Apple Newsroom

    AirPods

    3rd Generation AirPods

    Apple has been in the headphones market a long time, ever since the original iPod introduced 20 years ago in October of 2001. Apple’s first pair of Wireless headphones was the AirPods introduced in December of 2016. Two and a half years later the 2nd generation AirPods were introduced in March of 2019. Today, the 3rd generation of AirPods have been introduced.

    The third generation AirPods have an all new design similar to those of the AirPods Pro with shorter stems. They also have force touch support on the stems instead of having to tap on your ear. There are two big changes for the 3rd generation AirPods, support for Spatial Audio, improved battery, and wireless charging.

    The third-generation AirPods support Spatial audio, so you can be immersed in whatever audio you are listening to, whether it be a song, music, or a podcast. If you are watching a video that support spatial audio you will also become immersed in the audio. This is possible through  a new contour design on the AirPods that allow the Spatial audio to be directed right towards your ear. 

    The battery life has improved to 6 hours on a single charge with the case being able to five full charges for a total of 30 hours of charge. When you need to charge the 3rd generation AirPods you have three options, wired, using the USB-C to lightning cable, using a Qi-compatible charger, or using MagSafe.

    The last item to cover is the MacBook Pro.

    Source: Apple Newsroom

    MacBook Pro

    The MacBook Pro is the laptop designed for Pro Mac users and it just got a whole lot more pro. There are two all-new designed MacBook Pros, a 14-inch and a 16-inch. These are identical in their capabilities. We will get to those in a moment, but first we need to cover the chips that power these machines. These are the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

    M1 Pro and M1 Max

    M1 Pro and M1 Max Chip logos

    The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips take the features of the M1 and crank them up. The M1 Pro ranges from an 8 cores CPU and 14-Core GPU, to a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU. The M1 Pro has a memory bandwidth of 200 Gigabytes per second. The M1 Pro has a hardware video decode engine, a dedicated video encode engine, and a dedicated ProRees encode and decode engine built right into the chip. The maximum amount of memory on the M1 Pro is 32GB.

    Meanwhile, the M1 Max comes in a 10-core CPU and 24-core GPU or a 10-Core CPU and 32-Core GPU configuration. The M1 Max has double the memory bandwidth to 400 gigabytes per second, and also doubles the number of video encode engines and the number of ProRes encode and decode engines. The M1 Max can have up to 64GB of memory.

    The M1 is a system on a chip and has a unified memory architecture. This means that the memory is shared, resulting in up to 64GB of video memory when you have an M1 Max with 64GB of memory. These chips also have a dedicated display engine. This display engine allows the M1 Pro to have up to two Pro Display XDRs connected at the same time. The M1 Max can support three Pro Display XDRs and 4K tv at the same time. 

    According to Apple, these chips are up 2x faster in CPU performance, and 4x faster in GPU performance than the standard M1. Apple states that the M1 Max uses 40% less power than a comparable Pro PC with laptop graphics, while using up to 100 watts less power. 

    Source: Apple Newsroom

    14-Inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros

    14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro

    The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are entirely new designs that have a bunch of new features. These features includes new displays, new connectivity, and a new camera. 

    Display

    The displays on the new MacBook Pros are 14.2-inch and 16.2 inch respectively. This is possible because the area around the screen has been reduced to 3.5mm on all sides. These displays use the Mini-LED technology from the iPad Pro to create super thin, but bright displays with up to 1000 nits of standard brightness and a peak of 1600 nits. The new display provides a new resolution of 3024×1964 on the 14-inch, and 3456×2244 on the 16-inch.

    Since these are the same technology as the iPad Pro displays, this means that the new MacBook Pros now also feature ProMotion, which can be up to 120Hz refresh. This should make everything super smooth when using macOS. While this adaptive refresh rate is on by default, it can be set if you need a specific refresh rate for what you are working on.

    Connectivity

    The MacBook Pros have a slew of connectivity. When the 2016 MacBook Pros were introduced they switched entirely to USB-C for everything. This mean that you would need a dongle to connect to have access to any port beside USB-C. That changes with these new models. 

    Both models feature 3 thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones, a dedicated SD card slot, a dedicated HDMI port, and, the best part of all, the return of MagSafe. MagSafe 3 also allows fast charging, meaning that you can get a 50% charge in 30 minutes. Battery life in the 14-inch is up to 17 hours, and the 16-inch will get you up to 21-hours of usage. 

    Camera

    The FaceTime camera on the MacBook Pro is in a notch and has been upgraded to a 1080p camera with an f/2.0 lens, which means that it has even better low-light performance. macOS handles the notch by extending the Menu Bar and keeping all of your content visible.

    Other Specs

    The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 for a machine with an M1 Pro that has an 8-Core CPU, 14-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, and 512GB SSD Storage. There is a slightly better model that is $2499, and comes with a 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB of Unified Memory, and 1TB SSD Storage. 

    The MacBook Pro no longer has a TouchBar. In its place are the standard function keys. Physical function keys are generally more usable for professionals as opposed to the Touch Bar. There is still the Touch ID sensor in upper right corner of the keyboard.

    With either model you can configure up to 64GB of unified memory and up to 8TB of storage. There is also Apple Care available. There is a new option for Apple Care, an Annual payment for $149 or three years of coverage for $399. You can choose between Space Gray and Silver cases options.

    The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are available to order today with delivery starting next week. As of this writing, which is only a couple hours after the end of the end of the announcement, delivery dates have already slipped to early November for many configurations, and for some M1 Max models it is early December.

    Source: Apple Newsroom

    Closing Thoughts

    The things announced today are a definite improvement. The new Apple Music Voice plan is great for those who may only have a HomePod mini or only want to stream music without having to spend a lot. 

    The new colors of the HomePod mini can definitely spruce up ones place and the addition of colors is great to see. I hope to keep seeing new color options in the future.

    The 3rd generation AirPods are a bit more at $179, instead of the $159 price of the 2nd generation, but they now include the wireless charging case and support for spacial audio. They should be a good improvement over the 2nd generation. I have purchased a pair of these for myself and will have a review of them sometime after I get them. The 2nd generation AirPods is still around at a new price of $129. You can order the 3rd generation AirPods today and they will begin delivery next week.

    The star of the show are the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. These chips provide significant performance increases over the standard M1 and even more improvement over the previous Intel versions. The new Mini-LED displays allow for even better performance due to the capabilities of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, but also due to the addition of ProMotion. The battery life has significantly improved to 17 hours for the 14-inch model and up to 21 hours on the 16-inch model. You can order these starting today and they will begin shipping next week.

  • Apple ‘Unleased’ Event Predictions

    While it is quite common, it is not 100% certain that Apple will hold an October event. However, they tend to hole one more often than not. Since 2008 they have held an October event every year except for 2009, 2010,  2015, and 2017. So, 69.2% of the time they do hold an October event.

    September is generally reserved for iPhones, the is particular true for 2012 going forward. The October 2011 event was when they introduced the iPhone 4s, but the fact that the iPhone was not going to be available in June was announced in June of that year, at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. 

    The October event can usually include updates on the iPad and the Mac. Last year was an anomaly due to everything related to COVID. Apple had three fall events last year, the September event was iPads, October’s event focused on the iPhone, and the November event was the introduction of the first Apple Silicon Macs. 

    Since we have already had the iPhone and iPad event, this event will likely focus on Macs. We have already seen some Macs with Apple Silicon. These are the 24-inch iMac, 13-inch MacBook Air, lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac mini. I think that this event will focus on Macs and there will be some Macs announced. Here are my predictions for the event, starting with the Higher-End MacBook Pro.

    Higher-end MacBook Pro

    Prior to Apple Silicon there was no simple differentiation that you could point to say one device is considered more of a “pro” machine. However, I think there will be a 14-inch MacBook Pro as that will be the higher-end MacBook Pro. Along with this I think there will be a replacement for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I think that both of these models will be aimed at professionals.

    14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros

    The most professional MacBook Pro that Apple has is the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is designed to be the best machine that Apple has to offer and also provide the greatest flexibility. If you were to get a laptop that could be a desktop replacement  the you get a 16-inch MacBook Pro.

    As an example, you can configure up to 8TB of storage and up to 64GB of memory. With the 16-inch MacBook Pro you can do just about everything. I think that this will continue to be the case. However, even though the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the highest of the high end, it is not always the most portable. Because of this, I think there will be a smaller 14-inch model.

    I do not think that the two models will have many differences, excluding battery, screen, and weight differences. There are many rumors about what might be in these higher-end MacBook Pros.

    The most notable of these rumors if the return of some ports, like an HDMI and an SD Card slot. I am not sure if we will actually see both of these. I could see the HDMI making a return, or even the SD Card slot. This would make the devices more similar to what many consider the “best” MacBook Pros, the models introduced before the butterfly keyboard.

    I do not think the MacBook Pros are the only Macs to be introduced. I think there will also be a higher-end Mac mini.

    Higher-end Mac mini

    When Apple introduced the first devices with the Apple Silicon chip called the M1, the included the lower-end Mac mini. Even when they introduced the M1 Mac mini they kept the Intel version in the line up. If they were looking to have only model of Mac mini they would have removed the Intel version. Since they have not, I think as though there is still a newer Mac mini model left to be introduced. 

    I think it will use the same processor as the MacBook Pros. I think this Mac mini will have two additional USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, bringing the total to four. If the MacBook Pros have an SD Card slot, my guess is the Mac mini will as well.

    Macs require an operating system to run and that operating system will be macOS Monterey.

    macOS Monterey

    Given that this is likely to be a Mac-focused event, I think that Apple will announce the date for macOS Monterey at this event. It is already halfway through October and it is likely that macOS Monterey will be released later this month. Possibly on the 20th, 26th, or 27th. It is possible that macOS Monterey will not be released until November as well, given that macOS Big Sur was not released until November 12th. 

    There is one last possibility of a topic and that would be the AirPods.

    AirPods

    It is possible that we might see some new AirPods being released, if they are ready and available in enough quantities. I would not be surprised if Apple wanted to have them out last month with the new line of iPhone 13s but they may not have been ready yet. 

    If they do introduced these, I think these will be more in the style of the AirPods Pro, but not have the noise cancelling features nor the silicone tips that insert into the ear canal. Instead, I think these will be like the second-generation AirPods and have less of a stem on each individual AirPod.

    Prediction Recap

    Here is a recap of what I think we will see at the “Unleashed” event.

    Prediction
    New 14-inch MacBook Pro
    New 16-inch MacBook Pro
    New higher-end Mac mini
    New AirPods
    macOS Monterey release date

    Overall I think

    Apple’s “Unleashed” event streams on Monday, October 18th, 2021 at 10am pacific time. As always, I will have a recap of what was announced as well as a prediction results post later in the week.

  • Apple Announces ‘Unleashed’ Event

    Today Apple announced that they will be holding an event on Monday, October 18th, 2021 at 10 a.m. Pacific time. The theme for this event is ‘Unleashed’. Just like many of the recent Apple events, if you go to the Apple Events page on your phone, you can tap on the icon and see an augmented reality presentation.

    As is the case with all of Apple’s events, I will post my predictions for the event prior to the event.

  • 6th Generation iPad mini: A Review

    iPad mini 6th Generation

    Everyone has their own approaches to working, communicating, and ways of relaxing in their off time. Some people prefer to watch TV shows or movies, while others prefer video games, and yet others prefer to read. Of course this all depends on the mood that one is in and what other obligations they may have. 

    One of the things that happens when someone watches a TV show or a movie is they tend to have a device with them, I know I am one of those people. As I write this I am watching an episode of a mini-series. What device I use depends on what I am doing at the time. If I am re-playing a video game, I typically have a podcast or audiobook going while I am playing. If I am re-watching a TV show, or watching a TV show that does not require all of my attention, say a show like House Hunters International, I might be using my MacBook Pro or iPhone. If I am using my MacBook Pro I am likely writing a blog post, writing a review, or just browsing social media. If I am not using my MacBook Pro, it is entirely possible that I am using my iPad Pro to perform some of the same tasks, or even possibly playing a game like Sudoku.

    At their “California Streaming” event Apple announced an update to the iPad mini. When it was announced I had not initially planned on buying one. The reasons why are two fold. First, I bought a new iPad Pro back in May when they were announced. Secondly, I was not sure where an iPad mini would fit into the things that I do. 

    I have owned a few iPads since the introduction of the original 9.7-inch iPad in 2010, I have owned four 9.7-inch iPads and four 12.9-inch iPad Pros, but I have never actually owned an iPad mini. I went back and forth on whether or not to buy one. In the end I did decide to purchase one. Specifically, I decided to get a 64GB Space Gray Wi-Fi only iPad mini.

    6th Generation iPad mini box
    6th Generation iPad mini box

    My decision for getting an iPad mini is two-fold. Firstly, having a device that is mostly dedicated to development of my app, wwriteLIte, could be quite handy. With this, the iPad mini has its own challenges when it comes to developing for the device. Secondly, when I am writing my books, it would be nice to have a device that can be on the previous version of iPadOS. Normally when Apple announces a new version of iOS, I install it on my iPad Pro, iPhone, and MacBook Pro on day one. I do this so I can get used to the operating system and its features and then I can write about all of the new features with actual experience. 

    When I have written my books in the past, including my latest book, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, tvOS 15, and watchOS 8 for Users, Administrators, and Developers, I have had access to multiple iPhones which has allowed me to easily compare between previous versions of iOS and the latest version. However, I have not had the same access for iPadOS. Having this iPad mini can help me with this.

    There are a number of specific items to cover in this iPad mini review, including the Size, Touch ID, Connectivity, and the Smart Folio case, but first, let us look at some specs.

    Specs

    When I do a review, I normally do not write about the specs that a device has. The reason for this is because in many respects it does not have a significant effect on the overall experience. The only exception to this is the amount of storage on a device, because the more storage space, the more you can have on a device. I will not go into depth about all of the specs, but I think it is a good idea to list do a comparison between the 5th Generation iPad mini and the new 64th generation iPad mini. The items listed are only the items that have changed.

      5th Gen 6th Gen
    Processor A12 Bionic A15 Bionic
    Screen 7.9-inches 8.3-inches
    Resolution 2048×1536 2266×1448
    Camera 8 MP ƒ/2.4 aperture 12 MP ƒ/1.8 aperture
    Digital Zoom 5x
    Flash Quad-LED True Tone
    Panorama 43 Megapixels 63 Megapixels
    Video (Maximum) 1080p @ 30fps 4K @ 24, 25, 30, 60fps
    FaceTime 7MP ƒ/2.2 12MP, ƒ/2.4
    Apple Pencil 1st generation 2nd generation

    The iPad mini is not updated nearly as often as the other iPad models, so when it does receive an update, it is usually a pretty big one. That is the case with the upgrade from the 5th generation iPad mini to the 6th generation iPad mini.

    Size

    The iPad mini, as the name indicates, is a smaller iPad than the standard iPad. It is actually the smallest iPad. The physical dimensions of the 6th generation iPad mini are 7.69 inches, or 195.4mm, tall, by 5.3 inches, or 134.8mm, wide, and 0.25 inches, or 6.3mm, thin. The 6th generation iPad mini is slightly shorter than the previous versions, which were 8 inches tall.

    The bezels around the iPad mini, just the like iPad Pro, are equal on each of the four sides. This has allowed for a different screen size. The first five iterations of the iPad mini had a screen size of 7.9-inches. Due to the change in bezels, this has resulted in a change to the size of the screen. The new screen size, with the change in dimensions of the device, and the new equal width bezels results in a new screen size of 8.3-inches. More screen real estate in a similar form factor is always welcome.

    5th Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 6th Generation iPad mini, and iPhone 13 Pro Max stacked on one another.
    5th Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 6th Generation iPad mini, and iPhone 13 Pro Max stacked on one another.

    The equally sized bezels has resulted in another change, the home button has been removed. With the 5th generation iPad mini and earlier models, the home button also included the Touch ID sensor. Let us look at Touch ID.

    Touch ID

    Apple devices have always been able to be secured with a passcode or passphrase. This security is needed to be able to protect the data on your device. If you use a simple passcode, unlocking your device does not take too much effort. However, if you use a long passphrase it can become cumbersome to have to continually enter in your passphrase. One thing that would be much easier would be to use some sort of biometric authentication on your device. This is exactly what Touch ID is intended to do.

    Touch ID was first introduced with the iPhone 5s in 2013. iPads have had Touch ID since 2014 when it was introduced with they iPad Air 2. This means that the first iPad mini to get Touch ID was the iPad mini 3rd generation which was released in 2015. The 6th generation iPad mini no longer has a home button, but it does not have Face ID either, yet it still supports Touch ID authentication. But now instead of being a dedicated button it is now integrated directly the Sleep/Wake button, just like the iPad Air.

    Having Touch ID in the sleep/wake button is convenient enough. But, I would be lying if I said that I sometimes forget that I have to actually have to place my finger on the Touch ID sensor. The reason for this is because I have become very accustomed to having Face ID on my devices. Face ID was introduced with the iPhone X in 2017 and made its way to the iPad Pros in 2018 with the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad Pro. 

    If you are used to using Face ID to unlock your iPhone or iPad Pro, you may end up having to retrain your brain to actually use the Touch ID button on the top of the iPad mini to unlock it, authorize payments, or other tasks. You can, of course, still enter in your passcode if you forget about Touch ID, but this may not be nearly as convenient if you have a longer passphrase.

    Now, let us look at how you can make connections with the iPad mini.

    Connectivity

    As mentioned earlier, the iPad mini is a similar form factor as the iPad Air, and in many ways can be thought of as such. One of the changes with the 6th generation iPad mini is that it no longer has a lightning connection. Instead, it now uses a USB-C connection. 

    Th USB-C connection can be used for charging, or connecting to devices. The USB-C to USB-C included in the box is a USB-C to USB-C cable, as well as a 20-watt USB-C power brick. As is the case with the iPad Air and iPad Pro, you can use the USB-C port on the iPad mini to plug in external drives, like the thumb drives, external hard drives, or any other mass storage device. You can also use any other device, like a Mac or iPad Pro to charge an iPad mii.

    No modern device is without the ability to connect via Wi-Fi. The iPad mini is able to connect to via 802.11AX, or more commonly known as Wi-Fi 6. This is the latest Wi-Fi standard available. I did not get a cellular model, but if you do opt for a cellular model you will get 5G connectivity, so you can use your 5G connection on the go if you need to.

    Being able to connect using Wi-Fi, which is a necessity, while using the USB-C connection for connecting to a Mac or iPad, or using it to connect to external devices, could be useful for those who need to do so. Next, let us take a look at the Camera.

    Camera

    One area where the iPad mini has significantly improved is the camera. As outlined above in the specs table, the camera has gone from an 8 Megapixel ƒ/2.4 aperture to a 12 Megapixel  12 Megapixel ƒ/1.8 aperture camera. In terms of cameras, the lower the aperture the more light that can enter into the lens. The more light that can enter the lenses the better the quality due to less noise being within the pictures.

    Is the iPad mini camera as good as an iPhone, actually yes, albeit it is not as good as the latest iPhone Pro Max, but the iPad mini camera has the same specs as the Wide-Angle camera on the iPhone X, so it can take decent pictures.

    Low light photo taken with a 6th generation iPad mini
    Low light photo taken with a 6th Generation iPad mini
    Low light photo taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max
    Low light photo taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max
    Low light photo taken with an iPhone 7 Plus
    Low light photo taken with an iPhone 7 Plus

    The rear camera can take 4K video, at 24, 25, 30, or 60 frames per second. This means that you can use the iPad mini to take some decent video. The fact that it can handle 24 frames per second means that you can shoot movie quality video on the device. 

    There is no optical zoom on the iPad mini, but none of the iPad mini models have had optical zoom. Instead, there is a 5X digital zoom on the 6th Generation iPad mini, which is good in a pinch, but given that it is a digital zoom it will introduce significant noise and distortion when you attempt to take a picture.

    Let us now turn to one option for a case for the iPad mini, the Smart Folio.

    Smart Folio

    The iPad mini does not need a case, but I like to protect the devices I purchase. So I picked up a Smart Folio for the iPad mini. Much like how I typically go for black, space gray, or graphite for an iPhone. I would normally go with a similar color for a case or cover as Its the iPad mini. However, the Smart Folio from Apple was backordered by two weeks. Instead I had to order one from Amazon. They only had two colors in stock, White and Electric Orange. Knowing that the White one would likely get dirty fairly quickly, as well as wanting to make sure I had a cover for it, I opted to get the Electric Orange.

    Electric Orange 6th Generation iPad mini Smart Folio
    Electric Orange 6th Generation iPad mini Smart Folio

    Purchasing a brightly colored accessory, whether it be a cover, case, or watch band is definitely out character for me. The color combination of the Electric Orange with the Space Gray is a decent combination. It is definitely not possible for me to mistake the iPad mini with its bright Electric Orange color with any other device I have.

    The Smart Folio attaches to the iPad mini via magnets along the back of the iPad mini. The Smart Folio cover is divided into three sections. The division of the Smart Folio allows you to position the iPad in two different positions. You can fold the Smart Folio on itself to  create a stand. You can either have the iPad standing at a slight angle or you can have it laying down. Which direction you want to have it depends on what you are doing at the moment. 

    There is one additional feature option with the Smart Folio. If you fold the Smart Folio into a stand, you can use the Smart Folio as a way to hold the iPad mini. And given that the iPad mini is very light so you can comfortably hold it with the Smart Folio for a while.

    Lastly, you can also fold the Smart Folio back on itself so it can be held or placed on a surface and used while playing a game, reading, or watching a tv show or movie.

    Other Thoughts

    A lot of features of the iPad mini have been covered, but there are a couple of other quick thoughts on some other aspects of the iPad mini.

    Typing on the iPad mini

    One thing that can be difficult on the iPad mini is typing. At least this is the case if you are used to typing on a normal size keyboard. When you are using the iPad mini in landscape mode, the keyboard takes up half the screen. While this does make the keyboard larger, I do not know if it makes it easier to type on. 

    However, if you hold the iPad mini in portrait view, you can more easily type with your thumbs. Even with this though, it is definitely not like typing on an iPhone, at least not when it comes to typing at the same speed. With an iPhone, including the iPhone Pro Max, I can type very easily. With the iPad mini I have to stretch my thumbs in order to hit the keys in the middle of the keyboard, like T, Y, G, H, B, and N.

    Apple Pencil

    The 5th Generation iPad mini line introduced support for the 1st generation Apple Pencil. The 6th Generation iPad mini still supports the Apple Pencil, but now it is the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. This brings some great functionality, like not needing to have a separate charger or remembering to keep your Apple Pencil charged. This is because the Apple Pencil will charge magnetically while connected to the iPad mini. This ultimately means that the Apple Pencil will always be ready to go.

    The Apple Pencil takes up the entire height of the iPad mini, which necessitated the volume up and down buttons being moved, and subsequently being placed on the same side as the Power/Touch ID button.

    Benchmarks

    Even though specifications do not necessarily means a whole lot due to such a variety of usages. Even so, it is good to have a comparison to other similar products and the best way to do that is provide benchmarks.

    These benchmarks were done using the latest version of Geekbench 5.

    Device Single Core Multi Core Geekbench ML
    M1 Mac Mini (Late 2020) 1753 7758 N/A
    iPhone 13 Pro Max 1739 4691 2744
    12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 1703 7316 2700
    iPad mini (6th Gen) 1603 4543 2543
    iPhone 12 Pro Max 1593 3726 2469
    iPhone X 930 2445 446
    iPhone 7 Plus 768 1397 419
    iPod Touch (7th Gen) 565 1077 308
    iPod Touch (6th Gen) 278 533 N/A
    iPhone 5s 259 498 N/A

    Now that we have covered the major things that I wanted to cover, there are a few other small things that I want to mention.

    Overall Thoughts

    The iPad mini is an interesting device. It is a small and compact device, but it is not small on performance. The A15 Bionic is the latest in Apple’s processor line up, so it can handle almost anything you throw at it. Even though the cameras do not match the quality of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it is not a problem because it is still quite capable for a variety of needs.

    The fact that can pair it with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, you can use it with QuickNote or just to draw on the iPad mini. And since it supports the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, you can simply attach it to the iPad and it will both pair and charge.

    The physical size of the iPad mini is a great one for both size and weight. You can easily hold it in one hand, with or without a Smart Folio cover, for extended periods of time. The physical size of the iPad mini is really nice and the 5% larger screen in the approximate same size as the previous iPad minis.

    The integration of Touch ID in the power button has been an adjustment for me coming from devices that have Face ID. I have become so accustomed to turning on a device and having Face ID authorize, that I sometimes think the iPad mini is broken until I remember that I have to unlock it myself.

    Even though the iPad mini is small, it is still a great device that might be a good fit for your usage, particularly if you want to use it for reading or even browsing the internet. The combination of the size and weight make it a light and easily portable device. Overall, you cannot go wrong with the iPad mini.

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