movie-great-escape.jpg
Trapped during World War II in a prison camp in Germany, a group of Allied soldiers intends to leave, not only to escape, but also to lure Nazi forces away from battle, to search for the fugitives. Among those determined to escape are American Captain Virgil Hilts and British squadron leader Roger Bartlett. By cheating on their captors, they dig a tunnel for their escape.

Apple

  • New Magic Accessories and Mac Pro Graphics Cards

    Standalone Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

    Today Apple has released some upgrades. This includes a new set of “Magic” accessories and some additional upgrades for the Intel Mac Pro. Let us start with the Graphics Cards for the Intel Mac Pro

    Graphics Card

    Apple indicated that the transition from Intel to their own Silicon would take two years. We are just over halfway through those two years. One of the devices that has not been upgraded yet is the Mac Pro.

    In order to allow the Intel Mac Pro to remain relevant, Apple has added three new video card options. These are:

    • Radeon Pro W6800X MPX Module
    • Radeon Pro W6800X Duo MPX Module
    • Radeon Pro W6900X MPX Module
    Mac Pro Graphics Card - Radeon Pro W6800x

    Each of these can be configured when you order a new Intel Mac Pro. If you do add these they will cost, $2400, $4600, and $5600, respectively. If you already have a 2019 Intel Mac Pro, you can also get these as standalone for $2800, $5000, and $6000 respectively, or $400 more.

    Each of these graphics cards have 32GB of GDDR6 memory in them, so they should be plenty fast when it comes to utilization. Apple has also released an accompanying white paper that will provide performance characteristics for the graphics cards.

    New Magic Accessories

    The Mac has its own set of accessories, like keyboards, trackpads, and mice. Apple has prepended these with the word “Magic”. Therefore, they would become Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpads, and Magic Mice.

    When Apple introduced the 24-inch iMac with M1 earlier this year, they came in a range of colors and the keyboards, trackpads, and mice that you would get with the Mac would match the color of the color of the Mac.

    The 24-inch iMac did not just have a color-matched keyboard, but there were three keyboard options. These are:

    • Magic Keyboard
    • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID
    • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad
    Standalone Magic Keyboard with Touch ID with Numeric Pad

    When these were announced many wondered how long it would be before Apple would allow these to be purchased on their own. Well, today is that day. All three of these, along with the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are available to order. These are only available in silver. The standalone keyboards will cost you $99, $149, and $179 respectively. The Magic Mouse is $79 and the Magic Trackpad is $129.

    You can still purchase the older Magic Keyboard with Numeric Pad for $129.

    The Touch ID sensor that is on the Magic Keyboards with Touch ID will not work with Intel machines. They will only work with Macs with M1.

    While it is not 100% known, it would make sense that the keyboards with Touch ID will work with any Mac, but the Touch ID will not work on Intel Machines.

    Closing Thoughts

    All of these items are available to order today. The Magic accessories should arrive by Friday, if ordered today. The graphics cards will arrive August 16th to 18th, if ordered today.

    It is not known if Apple will release the Magic accessories in colors at a later date or not.

  • Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack: A Review

    MagSafe Battery Pack Box

    It may seem a bit odd that Apple released a new battery pack for the iPhones a full 10 months after introducing the devices, but that is what they have done. In fact the MagSafe Battery Pack was quietly released just over a week ago. The world is opening up a bit more and people are beginning to travel, so it may actually be the right time to release it.

    The MagSafe Battery pack is reminiscent of the older Battery Cases that Apple created for the iPhone XS in that it will provide some extra power for your iPhone. The biggest difference with the battery pack, as compared to the battery case, is that it is magnetic and does not need to be attached to your phone all of the time.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is designed to be able to change any MagSafe iPhone. This includes the entire iPhone 12 line from the iPhone 12 mini, to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack

    Magnetic side of the MagSafe Battery Pack

    The editor of my books, Barry J. Sullivan, provided a review and it is short and to the point. His review is: “The battery magnets are strong and the phone and battery aren’t going to separate easily. The battery and phone combined is heavy.”

    In reality, that is probably the best summation of the MagSafe Battery Pack. The magnets are indeed strong, and the battery pack and iPhone it is on will not separate during normal use, and the combination is indeed quite chunky.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack has only one port, a lightning adapter, to plug in the lightning cable to charge. The MagSafe Battery Pack also has a light indicating whether the MagSafe Battery Pack is charged, or charging. If it is charged it will be green, otherwise it should have an orange light.

    The MagSafe battery pack has a matte finish to it, which does provide a bit of grip. And when it is connected to the iPhone 12 mini, it will go edge to edge. However, with the iPhone 12, or iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro ax, the battery pack will be within the edges of the device.

    Even though it does not go edge to edge, it can actually be an advantage. This is because it can provide a bit of a lip so you can rest your finger underneath the battery pack while holding it.

    Using the Battery Pack

    MagSafe Battery Pack on iPhone 12 Pro Max

    If you are charging your iPhone from the MagSafe Battery Pack you will only get 5-watts of power. The reason for this is likely to minimize the heat and provide the maximum change of your device. This is because any excessive heat will cause the battery to drain faster, resulting in less of a charge overall.

    It should be noted that the MagSafe Battery Pack is not a pass-through charger, meaning that you cannot charge the phone, charge the battery pack, and then charge something else. There is no MagSafe charger on the back of the battery pack that would be needed to make this possible.

    However, if you are charging the battery pack itself, that is a different story.

    Charging the Battery Pack

    The MagSafe Battery Pack has a lightning port on it. This is designed to allow you to charge an iPhone. However, the MagSafe Battery Pack itself needs to be charged. There are two different ways of changing the MagSafe Battery Pack. One is to charge it by plugging a lightning cable into it directly. The second is to plug in an iPhone with the MagSafe Battery Pack attached.

    Either method will charge the both the iPhone and the MagSafe Battery Pack, provided that you use a 20-watt power adapter.

    When you charge the MagSafe Battery Pack through an iPhone, it is possible that your iPhone will charge to 80% before the MagSafe Battery Pack begins to charge. This is to make sure that your iPhone has enough charge before the MagSafe Battery Pack.

    When you are charging your iPhone with the MagSafe Battery Pack, it will charge at a maximum of 15 watts when plugged into a powerful enough power brick, meaning that the small 5-watt charger just is not going to cut it.

    Checking the Charge

    While the MagSafe Battery Pack does have a light to indicate whether or not it is charged, there is no way to see the percentage of charge on the battery pack itself. Instead, you will need to use your iPhone. This is done by checking the charge by using the Battery Widget on the iPhone.

    The Battery Widget will show you the charge of the MagSafe Battery Pack and whether or not it is currently charging.

    Possible Tip

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is designed to attach to the back so there is none of the battery pack showing. However, given that it is magnetic, and the magnets are strong, you can technically attach the MagSafe Battery Pack at a 90-degree angle so it sticks out one of the sides. When in this configuration, you can technically use your iPhone with one hand.

    It should be noted, that this is not the designed behavior and is likely not recommended by Apple.

    A second thing to note is that the MagSafe Battery Pack is indeed a MagSafe charger, meaning that you can charge other Qi-enabled devices, like AirPods. While the MagSafe Battery Pack is quite useful, it does have a couple of downsides.

    Downsides

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is not perfect, and it does have some flaws. The chief amongst these is that it cannot provide a full charge an iPhone 12 Pro Max. You would think that a battery pack that is designed for the entire iPhone 12 line would be Abel to provide one full charge to the entire line, but that is not the case.

    The second downside is the limited color choices. You can have any color you want, provided it is white. Do not get me wrong, if Apple is going to provide only a single color, it will absolutely be white, but it does seem like a lost opportunity to at least match the iPhone colors that are in the iPhone 12 line.

    There is one last thing that is not directly related to the MagSafe Battery Pack, but also applies to many of Apple’s other devices. On the battery pack there are the required registration markings. The problem is not that these are there, in reality, it makes sense that they are where they are, because they are hidden most of the time. The problem, as I see it, is that there is absolutely no contrast between the gray used for the battery pack and the gray used for the text is effectively non-existent. While in most cases this is not a problem, it can become one should you ever need service and you cannot read the text on the battery pack.

    Closing Thoughts

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is great idea in concept and has been executed pretty well. The fact that it only charges at 5 watts can be problematic if you just needed a quick charge. If that is the case, then you might just want to plug your iPhone in using a cable.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is primarily used to charge an iPhone, but since it is a MagSafe charger it can be used to charge other Qi-compatible devices. When charging an iPhone it will not full charge an iPhone, but it can provide enough charge to get you through the day, if you need it.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack is $99, or the equivalent in your local currency, and is available now. It is only available in one color, white.

  • Apple Releases MagSafe Battery Pack

    iPhone 12 Pro Max with MagSafe Battery Pack

    Today Apple quietly released a new MagSafe accessory called the MagSafe Battery Pack. The MagSafe Battery pack is a MagSafe accessory that attaches magnetically to your iPhone, or MagSafe Case. Therefore, it is compatible with the iPhone 12 line.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack can charge either wirelessly or with a lightning cable. It is recommended that you use a 20-watt charger, or higher, to get the maximum charging speed.

    You can order a MagSafe Battery Pack in any color you want, as long as it is white. The MagSafe Battery Pack is available to order now for $99, or the equivalent in your local currency, and it will ship in 3 to 5 business days.

    The MagSafe Battery Pack does require iOS 14.7, so be on the lookout for that to be released soon. I have ordered a MagSafe Battery Pack and will do a review of it in due time.

  • Apple Released an International Collection of Apple Watch Bands

    Apple Watch Bands International Collection 2021

    Today Apple unveiled a line of 22 different International Watch bands, along with accompanying Apple Watch faces. The International Watch Bands are Sport Loops. The list of available countries is:

    • Australia
    • Belgium
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • China
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Germany
    • Great Britain
    • Greece
    • Italy
    • Jamaica
    • Japan
    • Mexico
    • the Netherlands
    • New Zealand
    • Russia
    • South Africa
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • United States

    These Watch bands are considered limited editions, so they will only be available for a finite amount of time. Therefore, if you want to get one, you should order it soon. Each watch band costs $49, or the equivalent. And as of this writing, some are currently unavailable for purchase.

    Source: Apple

  • Apple WWDC21 Keynote Recap

    Today Apple held its World Wide Developer Conference where they provide information about what is coming in the next version of their operating systems, and Apple announced a lot of things including new features iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS 12. Let us start where Apple started, with FaceTime.

    FaceTime

    FaceTime is Apple’s audio and video calling software that will allow you to communicate with others and it is getting a bunch of changes. 

    FaceTime will now allow you to choose how much background noise to let onto the call. You can either use “Voice Isolation”, which will reduce background nose through machine learning, or you can use “Wide Spectrum” which will include your voice and everything in the background. You will be able to easily switch between the two.

    While on a FaceTime call audio will be improved as well through Spatial Audio. Spatial Audio will automatically have audio seem as though it is directional. This means that if someone is on the right side of the screen, the audio will seem as though it is coming to your right, just as if you were in the same room.

    While you are on a video call, you can turn on a new grid view. Grid view will provide everyone with the same size tiles and the active speaker will have an outline around their tile.

    FaceTime has always been an Apple device-only feature, and it will largely remain that way, at least with native apps. There is a new feature called FaceTime links that will allow you to generate a FaceTime link and share it anywhere, including to those who may be on Android and Windows, through their browser. This will be a great way of getting everyone together so everyone uses the same platform, and it will remain end-to-end encrypted.

    SharePlay

    iOS 15 SharePlay in FaceTime

    FaceTime is a good way of being able to communicate with others, but when you want to be able to consume the same media, it may not always be easy to do. This is where SharePlay comes in handy.

    SharePlay is a new way of being able to, as the name implies, share and play things simultaneously. This could be something like listening to Apple Music or watching a movie on Apple TV. It is not limited to just Apple services, third-party apps can support it as well. Some third-parties are already working on integrating SharePlay into their apps, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, Twitch, TikTok and others.

    If you use a streaming app, all of the audio and video will be synchronized, so you can all be at the same spot. When you use SharePlay you will be able to share your screen, you will be able to show someone what you see, which makes it great for tech support and being able to help someone through a problem spot.

    Next, let us look at another item used for communication, Messages.

    Messages

    Messages is one of the primary communication tools used on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. People share all sorts of things within Messages, like links, pictures, articles, and more. Right now, there is no easy way to gather all of this information together. 

    Now, with the latest operating systems, media that is shared with you will be able to be found in the appropriate app. Photos will appear in the Photos app, any articles will appear in News, and podcasts will appear in Podcasts. 

    When you are ready to consume that, you can, and you can even jump right back into the conversation to discuss it once you ready to do so.

    Focus

    Focus on iOS 15

    Life is full of distractions and constant interruptions. With the ever increasing remote work happening for a certain segment of the population you may want ways to be able to concentrate on certain tasks during specific periods through the day. There is a way feature called Focus that lets you do just that.

    Focus will allow you to create different homepages on your devices for certain times throughout the day so you can focus on the task at hand.

    On device machine learning will help identify which apps are used throughout the day and suggest them for during those times. The same can be said for notifications and messages. Of course you will be able to override suggestions and even create your own custom Focus sessions.

    The biggest feature though is that all of the focus sessions will synchronize across all of your devices, so you can have the same consistency no matter what device you use.

    Maps

    Apple is expanding maps to include more detailed maps so that they include things like marinas, buildings, and they can indicate elevation. Along with this, there is are new road colors and labels that will help you determine which lane to get in during your trip. Maps will also make it easier to identify things like turn lanes, bike lanes, taxi and bus lanes, and crosswalks so you can be aware while driving.

    These features will be coming to some countries this year and more in the future. 

    If you enjoy using maps at night, there is a new Nighttime mode, which will change the look with a moonlit mode.

    For those who use public transit, there are some features for you like nearby stations, the ability to pin your favorites, and this will work with the Apple Watch so you will be able to know which stop you need to take to get to your destination.

    iPadOS

    iPadOS 15 Home Screen with widgets

    The iPad is seeing some major changes, including getting Widgets on the home screen like iOS got with iOS 14. This includes a specialized Extra Large widget specifically designed for use on the iPad. 

    There are some new widgets coming as well including widgets for FindMy, Contacts, Game Center, and a redesigned Files widget. Along with this the App Library is now on iPadOS, and is available in the Dock at all times, so you can quickly access any app. Beyond this though, you can also use the App Library to quickly move entire pages of applications, or hide them, all with a few quick gestures.

    Multitasking has gotten some great updates, including the ability to always access Split View and Slide Over, right from any app. You simply tap on the three buttons at the top of the app and the controls will appear. Simply tapping on one of the buttons will switch it. And if you are using only one app at the moment, it will bring up the home screen so you can select the app you want to use in split view or slide over.

    There is a new Shelf feature that will allow you to easily temporarily move windows so they can be accessed more easily later on. 

    Notes

    One of the big uses of iOS and macOS is the ability to takes notes. There is a new feature called QuickNote that will let you start a new note from anywhere. These are not just basic notes, but instead they are fully functional notes that you can either enter text via a keyboard or you can use the Apple Pencil to write in. 

    Notes now also has a new feature called Tags, so you can easily organize your notices and find them within search. If you want to share a note with someone, you simply have to mention them in the note and they will get a notification that a note was shared.

    Swift Playgrounds 

    Swift Playgrounds 4 on iPadOS 15

    One of the most requested features is the ability to not only run, but develop apps directly on the iPad. That is now possible with Swift Playgrounds. The new version of Swift Playgrounds will allow you to build, run, and submit apps directly to the App Store. These will be limited to SwiftUI apps, but even this is a HUGE step forward. This is one feature that I will definitely be testing.

    Safari

    Safari is getting an overhaul. There is a new feature called Tab Groups. Tab Groups allow you to organize different sets of tabs together. These can be accessed together as a group and opened up as a group. These synchronize across all of your devices so you can access them on your iPad, iPhone, and Mac. If you add or remove a tab from the group, it will be automatically synchronized between them.

    Along with this, the tab bar is redesigned so the tabs are at the top and the tab bar will adopt the color of the website, so it all looks like its a single page.

    iCloud

    iCloud is seeing some new features as well. This includes new account recovery options, digital legacy, and some privacy additions. 

    It is inevitable that at some point someone is going to lose access to their iCloud account. However, there are some new account recovery options that will allow you to add trusted individuals who can receive a code to allow you to login, should you somehow lose access to your account.

    There are two inevitable things in life, death and taxes. While Apple cannot help with the second one, they can with the first, with the new Digital Legacy program. This program will allow the important information to be passed down to family members, so others will have it when you are no longer around. 

    iCloud is getting some additional features called iCloud+.

    iCloud+

    iCloud includes a feature to allows you to store HomeKit video. This is limited to five cameras. That will no longer be the case, once you upgrade to iCloud+. You will be able to have unlimited cameras connected, and they will not count against your iCloud storage limit.

    Privacy is an important aspect in today’s modern society. Many companies will use whatever information they can to track you across websites. This information can include IP address, so they can obtain a general location. 

    When you go to sign up for a service you may not want to give away your email address, so there is a new feature called “Hide My Email”. This feature will generate a randomly generated email address that you can provide to the company and it will forward to your main email account. 

    There is an option to allow your data to be sent through two different relays so that the services cannot ascertain your location and they cannot track you. In reality, this sounds like an Apple VPN and is similar to the Mozilla VPN service.

    Next, let us turn to macOS.

    macOS

    macOS Monterey on a MacBook Pro

    macOS 12 is Apple’s next version of macOS. Each version of macOS has its own name, and this year’s is macOS Monterey. 

    macOS gets a bunch of features that have already been discussed, including SharePlay, Spatial Audio, the microphone modes, grid view, and macOS Monterey supports FaceTime links.

    Just like FaceTime, the features in QuickNotes are supported on macOS, including tags. Any Focus configurations will be supported on macOS as well, which is great for productivity.  Maps gets all of the same features including Globe Mode, the new transit features, and the new landmarks, and Night mode.

    There are three new features coming only to macOS. These are AirPlay, Shortcuts, and Universal Control.

    AirPlay

    macOS has long been able to send what is playing from a Mac to another device. However, you have not been able to send things to a Mac. This changes with macOS Monterey, provided you have a supported Mac. 

    Shortcuts

    Apple introduced the Shortcuts app with iOS 12 in 2018 and built in the app with iOS 13 in 2019. Shortcuts is a way of being able to automate iOS. This is now coming to macOS. Apple indicated that this is going to be the platform going forward, but it will be a mull-year transition to Shortcuts, but AppleScript is still supported.

    Universal Control

    macOS Monterey Universal Control

    There are a number of users who use multiple devices, like an iPad and a Mac. Many users would like to be able to easily move between their Mac and their iPad. There are some third-party apps and hardware that allow you to do this, but it is not built into the system. But with macOS Monterey it is, provided you have supported Macs and iPads.

    When you use Universal Control you can use your Mac to move between your iPad and the Mac, using the trackpad on your Mac. This is not limited to just being used between a Mac and an iPad, but you can use it between two Macs as well.

    There are some limitations, like both devices need to be on the same iCloud account, within 30 feet, have two factor authentication enabled and not sharing an internet connection.

    This will be a great way to enhance productivity if you need to easily move between Macs and iPads.

    Closing Thoughts

    This is just a sampling of what Apple has announced with today’s WWDC keynote. There are more things related to Health, the Home, and I did not even cover watchOS, which has some stuff like a mindfulness app, respiration rate tracking, and two new workout types Tai Chi and Pilates.

    There are so many new features that can be found within the operating systems. You can see previews for macOS Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS, and watchOS.

    All of these changes will be coming later this year with the release of the various operating systems. 

  • Apple WWDC 21 Wish List

    Typically when Apple has an event, I typically end up doing a post about my predictions for what the event will hold. For most of Apple’s events, I think it makes sense, yet for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, called WWDC, keynote it does not make as much sense to do so.

    WWDC is where Apple provides information about the next versions of their operating systems. On the first day of WWDC there are two keynotes, one aimed towards the general user and a second one called the “State of the Union”. The State of the Union is the keynote for developers that can get a bit more technical.

    Instead of doing purely a predictions post, I am going to do more of a wish list post. With that, here is what I would like to see from Apple.

    Music

    Apple likes to say that “Music is part of Apple’s DNA”. Recently, Apple announced that there will be lossless audio available on Apple Music as well as Dolby Atmos enabled tracks. There have been a number of changes over the years for the Music app, but there are a couple of things I would like to see.

    The first is that I would like to be able to zoom in on artwork within the Music app. I cannot see why there is any reason why this has not been something that we can do.

    The second item that I would like to see related to music is the ability to create Smart Playlists from the Music app. The Music app on macOS, previously iTunes, has long allowed you to create playlists based on certain criteria. These playlists can be uploaded to one’s iCloud Music Library and then view them on an iPhone or iPad. My question is why can this not be done on an iPhone or iPad. The interface would need to be built, but the devices definitely can handle the need. It may even be that the songs for these are only updated once a day, or only when a device is on a charger. This would be nice to see.

    iCloud

    Apple is all about services and one of the services is iCloud. Ever since its introduction in 2008, as the replacement of MobileMe, the amount of free storage has been 5GB. To me, this is not only woefully inadequate, but it makes Apple look really stingy. I understand that Apple has billions of customers and that it is a lot of data that could need to be stored. However, Apple has the money to make this happen. I think the minimum should be at least 10GB. Yes, additional storage can be purchased, but the minimum should be something that users can actually use.

    The second iCloud related item, is that there should be a place where one can see all of their iCloud Shared folders. To me, this should already be in the system, but it is not. This should be available in the Files app, in Finder on macOS, and available on iCloud.com. This would be a small feature that would go a long way.

    Apple Watch

    There are two things that I would like to see for the Apple Watch. One of these relates to charging and the other to watch faces.

    When you charge an Apple Watch once the Watch is fully charged a notification will be sent to the paired iPhone. What I would like to see is this enhanced a bit so that the notification will be sent to other nearby devices, like a Mac or an iPad, provided that the devices are logged into the same iCloud account. Like the listing of shared iCloud folders, this is a small feature that would add a nice touch.

    The second change is third-party custom watch faces. I think allowing developers to create custom watch faces, and having users install them, is sorely needed. The Apple Watch has a wide variety of watch faces, however, even with all of the customizations that are available, not all watch faces suit the needs of all users. I am not sure if Apple will ever do this, but I am sure that there is a market for this.

    Widgets

    Widgets were introduced with iOS 14 and have been very popular. When they were introduced there were two limitations, minimal interaction and iOS only. I would like to see some updates to these limitations.

    Currently with Widgets you are limited to opening a deep link into an app. I think adding some interactivity is needed. It completely makes sense to limit the feature set for the first release, but adding more features as time goes on makes sense. It would be nice to be able to have additional interaction options.

    Along with enhanced interactions, I would like to see Widgets come to the iPad. Right now, Widgets are limited to the left side of the first page on the iPad, whereas the iPhone allows widgets on the home screen. I know this would make my iPad usage experience a bit nicer.

    To coincide with widgets on iPad, I would like to see additional sizes. Right now there are three sizes, called “small”, “medium”, and “large”. A small widget is a two columns by two rows, a medium widget is two rows tall by four columns wide, and a large widget is four columns by four rows. The additional sizes could be “extra small”, which would be a one two columns by one row. Additionally, it would be handy to have a vertical “extra small”, where it would be one column by two rows. Furthermore, a “extra small wide” version, which is one row by four columns, as well as the vertical variant, would also be an option.

    Barry Sullivan’s Ideas

    Barry Sullivan, friend of mine and editor my books, has some ideas on what it might be good for Apple to as well. “for Apple to unleash the iPad Pro with the M1 ‘desktop class’ processor that should allow: Widgets all over the place not just the left side of the screen, a real file system to move files and data around, a mail system that allows “nested folders” that a user can open and close (just like on the Mac), more choices for icon size (think small, medium, and large – like you can in widgets)”.

    Barry also added “For me the mail nested folders thing would make my life easier since I track bill pay for me, [and my relatives]. And if the iOS mail world would tie in better with the Mac imap world I would be able to work across devices, after all it is 2021.”

    Barry is right, the Mail app on iOS and iPadOS has remained mostly unchanged for the last decade.

    iPad

    On the topic of the iPad, the new 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 3rd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro includes an M1 processor. What we do not know is why Apple has in store for the device. There needs to be some big changes for the iPad, beyond getting feature parity, like widgets, with the iPhone. If the iPad is truly going to be its own device, then it needs the software to catch up to the hardware.

    There have been those who have speculated that the M1 iPad may be able to run virtual machines or docker installations. It is possible that Apple will do this, but I am not sure, but anything is possible. No matter what, there needs to be a significant improvement in iPadOS, otherwise what is the point of having the iPad because it is effectively a giant iPhone.

    The hardware of the iPad has long outstripped the software, and it is beyond time for the software to catch up. It would be great to see iPadOS push the M1 iPad to its limits, possibly with some features only being available on the iPad with the M1 system on a chip. This would not be unprecedented in the history of the iPad, so it would be prudent for Apple to show that they are indeed putting functionality into the iPad and iPadOS.

    tvOS and HomePod

    There is one prediction that I am going to make. That prediction is that tvOS will be renamed to homeOS. homeOS will be a combination of the Apple TV and the HomePod. The reason that I think this is that the HomePod has been running the same software as tvOS for a couple of years. With the Apple TV and HomePod both being home-based items, it would make sense. Furthermore, with an Apple TV and HomePod both being capable of being a HomeKit Hub, renaming it would make sense.

    A couple of job postings have hinted at this. Both of the job postings listed homeOS. Once this was discovered, one was changed to tvOS and the other now says “HomePod”. This is why I think these two will be combined into tvOS.

    App Management

    There are a couple of things that I would like to see related to the management of apps. These are around data and availability.

    All apps contain at least some data. One thing that I would like to see is the ability to backup and restore an individual app’s data without needing to go through Xcode. While many apps sync their data via the cloud, there may be aspects of an app that are local and being able to backup and restore this individually would be a nice thing to have.

    Availability of apps is an important one. As much as I would like this next feature I highly doubt that Apple would make it happen, and that feature is side-loading. I would like to see iOS and iPadOS app side-loading similar to that macOS. This would allow for some apps that would not be available otherwise. However, given how much control Apple wants to keep on iOS and iPadOS, I do not see this happening.

    Closing Thoughts

    Apple’s WWDC keynote, as well as the State of the Union, will be streamed on Monday at 10am pacific time, and 2:30pm pacific time respectively. While the main keynote is great for most users and the media, the State of the Union is geared towards developers and is where we will more likely learn about the nitty gritty details.

    As is the case with all of Apple’s keynotes, I will have a recap post after the event has ended. So check back then to see what Apple actually announces.

  • A Review of the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

    5th Generation iPad Pro in Box

    It is odd to think that the iPad has been around just over 11 years now. In the intervening time, the capabilities of the iPad have significantly improved. Not every iteration of the iPad hardware has been a giant leap, but they have all had some sort of improvement. It is now well known that Apple began working on the iPad before the iPhone. However, that project was put on hold because the technology was not yet ready. Once ready, Apple decided to show it to the world. 

    Unlike the iPhone, I have not personally owned every new model of the iPad. I have owned seven iPads. Here are  models that I have owned:

    • 32GB Original iPad – Wi-Fi Only
    • 32GB iPad 2nd Generation – Wi-Fi Only
    • 32GB iPad 3rd Generation – Wi-Fi Only
    • 64GB iPad Air 2 – Wi-Fi + Cellular
    • 128GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1st Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
    • 256GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2nd Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
    • 256GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular

    As you can see, as time has gone on I have increased the amount of storage that I have purchased as well as including cellular on the later models. Some of this comes with the amount of storage increasing over time. Apple has not always provided the ideal amount of storage for the base models. This is, of course, by design. Apple tries to generate additional revenue by using the “good, better, best” approach to pricing, where you provide a variety of price points. For some, the base model is sufficient, while most will buy the “better” model, and those who want the most will go for the “best” model. The way that Apple typically does this is by providing different storage sizes. 

    The storage is not the only way that can provide choices for users. A second way is by providing options for cellular. Cellular models always have an additional cost to them, but being able to use your iPad anywhere, can be a major benefit for some users. While I do not use cellular that often, it is a nice to be able to use cellular in those cases when internet goes out at home or if I am out and about and want to use the iPad for something.

    As you may have also noticed, while I have owned a fair number of iPads, I have not purchased one for each generation. In particular, I did not buy a 4th Generation iPad Pro. The reason for this is because the upgrade was not enough of an upgrade to justify buying one. I also did not upgrade to the 4th generation iPad when Apple released the that in September of 2011. In that instance, while it would’ve been a bigger upgrade, I had just purchased the 3rd generation in March of 2011, and I could not justify spending the money to purchase another iPad so soon.

    With Apple releasing a new iPad Pro, I have decided to upgrade my iPad to a 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. As mentioned earlier, I do not go with the base model. The same continues this time around as well. The last two iPads that I have purchased have had 256GB of storage. On my 3rd generation iPad, I have about 78 GB free, so I am not really in need of a larger iPad. 

    However, I did buy a 512GB 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro to replace my 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The reason I went for the larger size was for future proofing. While I may not need additional storage now, I might need it in the future and I would rather spend a bit more on the extra storage now instead of replacing the iPad or having to manage the storage. Before we dive into my thoughts and information about the latest iPad Pro, we need to look at a short history of the iPad.

    Brief History of iPad

    The first iPad was announced in January of 2010 and released three months later in 2010. Prior to the release of the iPad, there was speculation on the price of the iPad. At the time, many suspected it would cost $999. However, Apple shocked everyone with a price of $499. By today’s standards the original iPad was woefully underpowered, yet at the time, the iPad worked quite well and did exactly what it said. 

    The second generation iPad, released in March of 2011, improved a bit on the original, mostly in design. Gone was the hump in the back. In its place, a flat back and a faster processor. The first significant change was the 3rd generation iPad. Besides being slightly faster, it had a significant improvement, a Retina screen. The Retina screen allowed for higher fidelity of video as well as better graphics for the system and apps.

    A mere six months after the release of the 3rd generation iPad, Apple released the 4th generation iPad. The changes were better graphics processor, because many complained about the jittery scrolling when using graphics heavy apps and games. The bigger change was the connector. Gone was the 30-pin connector and in its place was the new connector. A smaller and reversible connector that Apple called Lightning. 

    For the first three versions of the iPad, they all had the same screen size of 9.7 inches. At the same event where Apple announced the 4th generation iPad, they also made another change, a new device, the iPad mini. The iPad mini used the same internals as the 4th generation iPad, but in a smaller size of 7.9 inches, and it was still a retina screen.

    In 2013, Apple decided to append a suffix to the name of the regular 9.7-inch iPad. They called it the iPad Air. The iPad Air was named such because the weight of the device was significantly reduced, by 25%. This made it the lightest and easiest iPad to hold and use. 

    The iPad Air’s successor, the iPad Air 2, was released in October of 2014. The device maintained the same light design, but was even thinner than its predecessor. The original iPad Air was 7.5 mm, or 0.3 inches, thick whereas the iPad Air 2 was 12% thinner at 6.1 mm or 0.24 inches thick. Despite being introduced in 2014, the iPad Air 2 is still supported by the latest version of iOS, as of this writing, iOS 14. 

    Apple unveils the newest version of the operating systems at their World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC. At the WWDC following the release of the iPad Air 2, Apple unveiled iOS 9. The biggest change with iOS 9 was two new way of interacting, called SplitView and Slide-over. These two interactions allowed you to run multiple applications at a single time. 

    Throughout its 4 year life, the iPad was primarily a consumption device. However, the additional of Slide-over and SplitView allowed the iPad to be used for even more of a creation device. As much as the iPad Air 2 was capable of being a creation device, the device for which iOS 9 was created was released in November of 2015. That device, was a whole new iPad, called the iPad Pro.

    iPad Pro (1st Generation)

    1st Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

    The iPad Pro was a significant improvement over the iPad Air 2. The first of these was the size of the screen. The iPad Pro has a 33% larger screen at 12.9-inch. This sized screen allowed for two full-size iPad apps to run side-by-side, and a third with SlideOver. Being able to use multiple applications at a single time is great, you can definitely be more productive. However, there is one addition to the iPad Pro that allowed you to be even more productive and create even more on the iPad Pro. That item was a new iPad Pro accessory called the Apple Pencil.

    The Apple Pencil is a Bluetooth device that allows for precision drawing including pressure sensitivity and it can even sense which angle the pencil is being held at and adjust accordingly. Six months after the release of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple released another iPad Pro, this one was the same size as the original iPad, at 9.7-inches. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro had the same internals as the 12.9-inch version, and supported the Apple Pencil. The main difference is that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro could support two full-size iPad apps, but only in landscape.

    iPad Pro (2nd Generation)

    The iPad Pro was followed up by the 2nd Generation iPad Pro. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro was released approximately 18 months after the first iPad Pro, specifically June 2017. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro improved on the original iPad Pro, just like the 2nd generation iPad improved on the original. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro kept the same screen size, but the device was thinner. The 2nd generation iPad Pro also came with another iPad Pro, but not with a 9.7-inch screen. In order to differentiate the iPad Pro from other iPads, it had a 10.5-inch screen. Along with the different size, there was a new screen technology called Pro Motion. Pro Motion is a 120 Hz screen that provides even smoother motion and allowed for improved Apple Pencil support. 

    iPad Pro (3rd Generation)

    3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

    The 3rd Generation iPad Pro was been the biggest change to the iPad Pro line. Apple unveiled the 3rd Generation iPad Pro in November of 2018, approximately 18 months after the 2nd Generation model. The 3rd Generation iPad Pro was not a small update. The first change with the 3rd Generation iPad Pro was that it has a much smaller bezel. The screen used a new edge-to-edge display. 

    The smaller bezel allowed a consistent edge around all of the edges. With the bezels being smaller, and consistent, the home button was removed. In its place is the Face ID sensor. The Face ID sensor was first introduced with the iPhone X in 2017. 

    The new bezels also supported a new shape. The 3rd Generation iPad Pro took its design cues from the iPhone 5. By this, the sides of the device are square, as opposed to tapered as the previous models had. This allowed for a few other changes. 

    The chief amongst these is a revision to the Apple Pencil, the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). This version of the Apple Pencil still connects via Bluetooth, but there is no connector on the Apple Pencil. Instead, it charges via magnets that are on one of the edges of the iPad Pro. Placing the Apple Pencil on the top of the iPad would perform two things. First is that it would pair the Apple Pencil to the iPad Pro, and it would begin charging of the Apple Pencil.

    The next change is the type of connector. With the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad Pro, the lightning connector was removed and replaced with a USB-C connector. This connector allows for faster connectivity and also allows for additional devices to be connected directly to the iPad. 

    The last change was that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro was no more. In its place was an 11-inch model. This had the same exact features as the 12.9-inch model, just smaller. 

    iPad Pro (4th Generation)

    The 4th Generation iPad Pro, as well as the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro, were more minor upgrades. These were introduced in March of 2020. There were only two changes with this model. The first is that the processor was slightly upgraded from an A12X in the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro to an A12Z in the 4th Generation model. The difference with the processor was that there was one additional graphical processing unit core, 8 in the A12Z as opposed to the 7 in the A12X.

    The second change was a bit more of a change. This one is around the camera. There is a whole new camera system. This one includes a LiDAR Scanner. Over the last few years Apple has been pushing augmented reality, and the LiDAR scanner allows for faster calculations and object detection. The LiDAR camera system appeared in the iPad Pro before coming to the iPhone 12 line.

    Now that we have covered the history of the iPad Pro line, it is time to discuss the latest in the line, the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

    5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

    5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

    The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro was introduced at Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event. Many suspected that Apple would introduce a new iPad Pro, and they most certainly did. The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro has made a significant set of improvements to the iPad. Some of these include, the internals, the screen, and connectivity changes. It is difficult to decide which upgrade is the biggest change to the iPad Pro, but let us start with the screen.

    Screen

    5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro Liquid Retina XDR Display

    There are a variety of different ways to interact with an iPad. You can use the Apple Pencil, a Magic Keyboard, or even Siri. Each of these has its own positives and negatives. The primary interaction surface for almost any iPad is the screen. The screen on the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a whole new display technology. Apple calls this display the “Liquid Retina XDR display”. 

    The Liquid Retina XDR display is currently exclusive to the 12.9-inch iPad and uses a newer technology called Mini-LED. mini-LED. Mini-LED is a newer technology that takes standard LEDs and shrinks them. On the 12.9-inch iPad there are 120x smaller than previous LEDs. The iPad Pro has 10,384 individual LEDs that are grouped into 2,596 local dimming zones. 

    These dimming zones allow the iPad to provide even more precise color control. In fact, the screen has a standard brightness of 600 nits, which is the same as the previous models. However, the full brightness is 1000 nits when the screen is at full brightness. If you add in the High Dynamic Range capabilities, the maximum brightness of 1600 nits. This is the exact same specs as Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR monitor. 

    What this results in is that people can have the same XDR experience across all of their devices. No longer will you need to use an XDR device only at the end, in order to fix any color differences. Instead, you can use the iPad Pro to get the proper coloring throughout your entire workflow. The Liquid Retina XDR display will still support Pro Motion and run at 120Hz, as well as True Tone and the P3 Color gamut. 

    It is not easy to articular in words the differences between the new screen and the old screen. It is much easier to show in pictures. So, here is a picture of the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro as compared to the 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

    3rd Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 5th Gen iPad Pro Screen comparison
    Comparison of the screens between the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Left) and the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (right)
    3rd Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 5th Gen iPad Pro Screen comparison
    Comparison of the screens between the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Left) and the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (right)

    The screen is a significant improvement over the previous models. There is another item that is an improvement, but may not be as noticeable to many users, and that is changes to the connectivity.

    Connectivity

    There are a few different types of connectivity on the iPad Pro. This includes a physical connector, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and if you opt to get it, Cellular. Let us start with Wi-Fi and Cellular.

    Wi-Fi and Cellular

    Each model since the first iPad back in 2010 has had the option of either purchasing an iPad with Wi-Fi only or with Wi-Fi + Cellular. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Generations of iPad all had 802.11 a/b/g/n and optional 3G connectivity in either CDMA or GSM models.

    Starting in 2013, with the iPad mini 2, the cellular models came with support for LTE, which provided even faster cellular connectivity over the 4G connectivity.

    The original 12.9-inch iPad Pro brought 802.11AC connectivity, which would allow for faster connections over Wi-Fi. Each subsequent iPad has has the same, until the 4th Generation iPad Pro. The Wi-Fi connectivity was upgraded to Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11AX. The benefit of Wi-Fi 6 is that you can connect wireless connectivity speeds up to 3.5Gbps, in ideal conditions. This is accomplished by aggregating multiple connections to the same base station. 

    The 5th generation iPad Pro has improved the cellular connectivity beyond LTE. The cellular models now support 5G connectivity, just like the iPhone 12 line. The 5G connectivity can, again in ideal conditions, provide a maximum speed of up to 1Gbps. If you connect to a millimeter wave, or mmWave, service then you are more likely to get faster speeds.

    While you may not see much difference in speeds between LTE and 5G in many places, it is likely over the next few years that 5G will become even faster and more ubiquitous. Given that iPads generally last longer and are kept longer, investing in 5G now could pay off down the road.

    Physical Connectivity

    No iOS or iPadOS device has ever had more than two physical ports. These have been a headphone jack and the power connector. Starting with the 3rd Generation iPad Pro, the headphone jack was removed and the lightning connector was replaced with a USB-C connection.

    Even though there is as physical connection on the iPad Pro, a vast majority of users will almost never physically connect anything to their iPad. However, the iPad Pro, as the name implies, is aimed at professional users. Professional users are one group who might actually connect items to their iPad Pro. The 3rd and 4th Generation iPad Pros had USB-C connectors. 

    On the 3rd and 4th Generation iPad Pros you were able to connect a variety of items via the USB-C connection. This could include thumb drives, card readers, and cameras. Furthermore, you could also connect a powered, or non-powered, USB Hub that has a USB-C connection, so that you could connect multiple drives at the same time. 

    The USB-C connection on the 3rd and 4th generation iPad Pro utilizes USB 3.1 Gen 2. This protocol has a maximum speed up to 10 Gbps. In most cases, this is sufficient in terms of speed. However, if you are working on 4K video and want to be able to do work on a large video directly from a drive, it may not be sufficient. 

    The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad changes this arrangement up a bit. The device still has a USB-C connection, however it is no longer strictly USB. Instead, it is a combination Thunderbolt/USB4 connection. The connector is till the same USB-C type of connector and you can still connect the same USB devices as before. 

    The speed that these will be able to connect at depends on the connection type. Most current devices are USB 3.1 Gen 2, or earlier, so these devices will have a maximum speed of 10Gbps. If they are USB4 devices, then you will be able to connect at speeds up to 40 Gbps. 

    The fact that the port supports Thunderbolt means that you can connect any thunderbolt device, provided it can connect using a USB-C connector.  When you do connect a Thunderbolt device, you ill be able to have connectivity of up to 40 Gbps. This is a significant speed increase over most USB devices.

    You might think it is a bit odd to have an iPad with Thunderbolt, because why would Apple want to include Thunderbolt on the iPad. It is possible that Apple wanted to further differentiate the iPad Pro from the iPad Air, but Apple was able to provide it because of the bigger change to the iPad, the processor.

    Processor

    Each of the previous iPads has had an A-Series processor. The original iPad had an A4, and the 4th generation iPad Pro had an A12Z. You could not be faulted if you were to suspect that the iPad Pro would use the slight variant of the processor as the latest iPhones. The iPhone 12 uses the A14, so it would make sense that Apple would include an A14X. However, Apple did not do that. Apple decided to go a different direction.

    At their World Wide Developer Conference in 2020 Apple announced that were creating their own processors for the Mac. Apple was able to take what they learned from developing the iPhone and iPad to be able to tailor the processor to provide an overall experience. In November of 2020, Apple announced the first devices to use their new Apple Silicon processor. Apple called the processor the M1. The M1 is a faster processor compared to almost anything else on the market, and significantly faster than the Intel processors that were used in the Macs. 

    The M1 is not just a processor. Instead it is a System on a Chip, or SoC. The M1 is not Apple’s first custom SoC. In fact all iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices that have been equipped with an Apple A-series chip have been an SoC. This is also the case for the Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePods.

    For the M1, the SoC consists of more than just the central processor. In fact it includes the processor, graphics, and a 16-core Neural Engine. Along with this, comes the Unified Memory Architecture, or UMA. In traditional computer configurations, you have memory that is a separated from the rest of the system and on their own dedicated chips that connect to the system on the motherboard. A Unified Memory Architecture is one where the the processor, graphics, and in Apple’s case, neural engine, all share the same memory. 

    In a traditional computer, each subsystem would have its own memory. For instance, there is the main system memory, which is accessed by the central processing unit, or CPU. The graphical processing unit, or GPU, has its own dedicated memory. There are some tasks that are better suited for a graphics chip while others that are better suited for the CPU. In order to be the most efficient and process things most efficiently, different segments of the memory need to be transferred between the two processors. This transfer, while it takes very little time in reality, it can still take some time.

    With the M1, this processor, graphics processor, and neural engine all share the same memory pool. What this means is that there is no delay in switching between using the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. This results in the system processing items significantly faster.

    The M1 chip is an 8-core chip, with four performance cores and four high efficiency cores. When you do not need top performance the efficiency cores will be utilized. However, when you need speed those processors will be used. This is beneficial for all Macs running the M1, but there is a specific benefit for portable systems. While this is not the case with the iPad, it still has the same “all day” battery life, which is approximately 10 hours, it is absolutely the case for the Macs running an M1 processor.

    As of right now, I have not really noticed any significant difference in the overall speed of the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as compared to the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, in every day usage, at least how I use the iPad Pro. That may change as time goes on, depending on the advances in iPadOS.

    Physical Size

    The physical measurements of the iPad Pro are almost the same as the 3rd and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. The have the same height of 11.04 inches, or 280.6mm, and a width of 8.46 inches, or 214.9mm. There is a slight difference in the depth. The older iPad Pro models had a depth of 0.23 inches or 5.9mm; whereas the 5th Generation iPad Pro is 0.25 inches or 6.4mm. 

    The 0.5mm difference is needed to accommodate the new Mini-LED screen and the 2596 local dimming zones. It is likely that future models will possibly be thinner again, but it cannot be guaranteed.

    This is a slight difference, which most users will not notice in day to day usage. However, for certain accessories this will become a problem. For example take the Kensington StudioDock that was just released in January of 2021. This device allows you to connect your iPad and also charge your other devices, like the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods using the base of the device. Due to the thickness change the new 5th Generation iPad Pro is not compatible with the StudioDock.

    The Kensington dock is not the only accessory that might have this issue. Apple’s own Magic Keyboard, which was just released a year go, in May of 2020, also has the same issue. If you try to put the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro into the 2020 Magic Keyboard, it will fit. However, the Magic Keyboard will not close all the way. Trying to force the Magic Keyboard to close will likely cause either the Magic Keyboard to break, or it will cause damage to the iPad Pro.

    2nd Generation 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard

    Neither of these devices is cheap. The Magic Keyboard is $349 and spending an additional $349 when you just bought one last year might be a bit much for some people to spend. The StudioDock is is not an inexpensive accessory either.. For the 12.9-inch Model, the Kensington StudioDock is $399. 

    I am a bit irritated by this. I understand that the increased thickness is a limit of the current technology, but with Apple knowing that this might have happened, the first generation Magic Keyboard could have been a bit thicker to accommodate future products, but that is not the way of Apple.

    Storage

    Apple offers the iPad at various price points. There could be a variety of ways to differentiate prices for an iPad. Unlike the Mac, the iPad only has one processor option. Apple uses storage size as a differentiation in their pricing. Over time Apple has added additional size options. Each generation of iPad Pro Apple seems to make a change to the storage options available. 

    The 1st Generation iPad Pro had three storage options, 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. The 2nd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro kept the same number of storage options, but they were doubled to 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. The 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro  added a fourth option, a 1TB option. 

    The 1TB option in the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro came with more RAM than the other models. It had 6GB instead of the standard 4GB. The additional RAM was needed to accommodate the larger file system tables needed by the 1TB SSD. 

    The 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro doubled the base storage again to 128GB. The options were 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. One additional change was that all of the 12.9-inch models came with 6GB of RAM. This additional memory was needed to accommodate the LiDAR sensor and its processing.

    Staying with the previous trends, the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has added yet another storage tier bringing the total to five. These options are:

    • 128GB
    • 256GB
    • 512GB
    • 1TB
    • 2TB

    There is one thing that Apple does not generally do when announcing iPhones, iPod touches, or iPads and that is provide the amount of RAM within the devices. The reason provided is that the amount of RAM does not need to be known to end-users. For the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro Apple did not specify the RAM, instead users went looking and found out it had 6GB of RAM. 

    While this has not been the case in the past, this actually changes with the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple has actually provided the amount of memory in each iPad. The 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models each have 8GB of RAM, while the 1TB and 2TB options each have 16GB.

    There is a lot of speculation as to why the difference. My guess is that the additional memory is needed on the larger sizes. My speculation is that additional memory is needed for the same reason to accommodate the additional file system table for 1TB and 2TB models. The reason that it is 16GB instead of say 12GB is because Apple is already manufacturing M1 processors with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, so instead of created a wholly separate processor just for the iPad, it is probably cheaper, and simpler, to use the existing processors that they are already making.

    Pricing

    When the original iPad was released, it was widely rumored that the cost would be $999. Apple surprised the world by having the base model cost $499. Since then, there have been various price points for various models. 

    The original iPad Pro, introduced in 2015, had a price of $799 and would have a maximum price of $1299. While the base price has remained the same, this is for the 11-inch iPad Pro, and not the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Over the years, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro has increased to a starting price of $1099.

    One thing that has remained consistent is that the Wi-Fi + Cellular models have cost more. This is because there is a cost for the cellular modem. While this has typically been $130, that has changed with this latest iPad. Instead, the cellular models now cost $200 more.

    Here is the breakdown for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro based on storage size, and Wi-Fi only compared to Wi-Fi + Cellular:

    Size Wi-Fi Only Wi-Fi + Cellular
    128GB $1099 $1299
    256GB $1199 $1399
    512GB $1399 $1599
    1TB $1799 $1999
    2TB $2199 $2399

    As you can see, there is a wide range of pricing. Once you get above 256GB there is a $200 additional cost to go to the next tier of storage. 

    These are the most expensive iPad Pros that Apple has ever produced. However, it may be justifiable due to the inclusion of the M1 and the new and  improved screen, yet it might be a lot for someone to spend on an iPad. 

    This is particularly noticeable if you were to compare it to the MacBook Air. A MacBook Air with the same specs of 16GB of memory and 2TB of storage is $2049. This means that the largest iPad Pro with 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory is $150 more expensive. 

    Issues

    I did run into some small issues, specifically with one of Apple’s Arcade games, Sping. The graphics for this game seems to stutter a bit. The problem with this is that the game requires precise tapping in order to gather the gems and bounce the collection gems. I presume that the game isn’t optimized for the M1 iPad and that is the cause of the stuttering. I presume that there will be additional games that are in the same state. Beyond Sping, I also noticed the same issue with MobilityWare’s Solitaire app with the animations.

    The second issue that I experienced had to with the backlight on the iPad Pro. Specifically, at some points the screen would dim, but once I touched a key, or tapped the screen, the screen would not come back to the expected brightness. Even adjusting the actual brightness would not return. 

    It should be noted that this did not happen all the time, nor even consistently enough to be able to say what was the cause. There was a simple enough to fix though. Once I put the iPad to sleep and then woke it up again, it went back to normal. I am sure that I am not the only one experiencing this, and it will likely be fixed in an update.

    Next, let us look at the software that runs the iPad Pro, iPadOS.

    iPadOS

    The iPad needs an operating system to power the iPad. Throughout the life of the iPad, there have been instances when it seemed like Apple knew which direction to take the iPad. this was particularly true in 2010 when the iPad was first released, and then again in 2015 with the release of the iPad Pro. However, it does seem as though the iPad has not always received the attention that it deserves.

    The hardware for the iPad Pro has outstripped the software since 2018, with the release of the 3rd generation iPad Pro. Apple hinted at big changes at their WWDC 2015 with Split Screen and Slide Over. These features were supported on the iPad Air 2, which was the latest iPad at the time, but were designed for the iPad Pro, released in 2015.

    I am writing this review just a couple weeks before Apple unveils iOS 15, and iPadOS 15. While I am hopeful that Apple has a lot in store the M1 iPad Pro in iPadOS 15, I cannot guarantee that it will provide any meaningful improvements. Because of this, it is not a good idea to buy a product based upon its future usage, but what it is capable of, at the current moment. 

    Benchmarks

    No review is complete without a bunch of obligatory benchmarks. For previous reviews, it was straight forward to compare the current model with the previous model. However, in this case it is not so simple. The reason it is not simple is because there is a significant processor change. Even with this significant processor change, the benchmarks below will still show comparisons to as many different machines, and devices, that I have access to.

    Device Single Core Multi-Core
    12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 1718 7272
    12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1104 4619
    iPhone 12 Pro Max 1299 2295
    iPhone 7 Plus 778 1408
    iPod touch (7th Gen) 559 1016
    Mac Mini (M1 Late 2020) 8GB 1748 7696
    27-inch iMac (Mid-2017) 4.2GHz Quad-Core Core i7 24GB 1124 4703
    16-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2019) 2.6GHz 6-Core Core i7 1059 5442
    13.3-inch MacBook Pro (Mid-2015) 661 1420
    Mac mini (Late 2018) 8GB 3GHz 6-Core Intel Core i5 973 4469
    iPod touch (6th Gen) 661 1420

    The best comparison is the 5th Generation iPad Pro and the Mac mini that I have. The reason this is best is because they are both an M1 with 8GB of RAM. The only difference is that the 5th Generation iPad has more storage. Outside of that, all of the other specifications are the same between the two devices.

    It is quite interesting to see how the Intel Macs compare to the M1. As I said in my review of the M1 Mac mini “In Single Core performance, the M1 mac mini is 8.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max, 54% faster than my iPad Pro, and a whopping 62.8% faster than my 2017 iMac.  Even crazier though, is the multi-core benchmarks. The M1 Mac mini is 57.4% faster than my iPad Pro, 68.2% faster than my 2017 iMac, and 71.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max. This difference is absolutely noticeable.” This is still accurate. Every time I use my Mac mini I notice the difference with the iMac.

    While the scores that were recorded on the 5th generation iPad Pro are a bit lower, therefore the percentages are a bit lower, there is still a significant performance difference between the two devices.

    CoreML Scores

    Geekbench has a newer app strictly testing machine learning. The settings used for the results below are TensorFlow Lite and using Core ML.

    Device CoreML CPU GPU
    12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 2609 1018 2841
    iPhone 12 Pro Max 1939 719 1389
    12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1349 692 1906
    iPhone 7 Plus 411 407 707
    iPod touch (7th Gen) 295 337 555

    Geekbench ML is only available for iOS and not yet available on macOS, so the results are strictly for those supported iOS devices.

    Closing Thoughts

    If you have 3rd generation, and particularly a 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the upgrade may not be worthwhile, depending on your needs. The biggest reason to upgrade to the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, at least at this time, would be for the screen. However, if you have a 2nd generation iPad Pro, or even the original iPad Pro, this would be a fantastic upgrade, even just for the speed increases alone.

    The fact that the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro now an M1 processor is a huge step because this is the same processor that is in latest Macs. The iPad is an ideal device to use the processor, given that the iM1 is a power efficient processor that is capable of handling much more than the previous iPad Pro.

    While the M1 processor may be the biggest change, it is not the only change to the 5th generation iPad Pro. There is an entirely new screen system. The new screen is a mini-LED. Mini-LED technology provides a lot more dimmable zones, 2,596 as compared to the 72 on the previous model. This means that the 12.9-inch iPad can more accurately make certain areas of the screen brighter than others. This results in darker areas being darker and lighter areas being lighter. The screen makes watching High Dynamic Range movies a better experience. 

    Beyond the screen, there are some additional hardware changes including an updated Thunderbolt/USB 4 connector, so you can connect thunderbolt devices directly to your iPad Pro. For many, this will not be all that useful, but for those who do need it, it can be a lifesaver.

    While most may not use thunderbolt, it is possible that they will need to connect while on the go. If you need to connect while out and about, you can use cellular data, if you purchase a cellular model of the iPad. If you do opt for the iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular model, it will have 5G connectivity.

    As mentioned above, it not necessarily wise to purchase a device for its possible future uses, however, it is more prudent to buy a device for what it can do today. As I write this, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 21 is just over a week away, and it is likely that there will be some improvement to iPadOS, even if it is not exclusive to the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there will likely be something that the next version of iPadOS will bring to the iPad. 

    If you are looking to get a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there will be a bit of a wait. As of this writing there is a six to eight week wait to receive a 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. If you really need one sooner, you can try looking at a local Apple Store, or even a an Apple authorized third-party reseller. If you opt for one, I doubt you will be disappointed regardless of which model you purchase.

  • Review of the Apple TV 4K (2021)

    Apple TV 4K 6th Generation Contents

    In today’s modern world there are infinite ways of spending free time. You can go for a walk, bike ride, take a hike, or play a sport. If you are more inclined towards a more laid back experience idea you can spend your time chatting via social media using sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Clubhouse, and Twitter. Alternatively, you can play games on your iPhone, iPad, or a dedicated gaming console like the Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo Switch. 

    Each of the activities listed above is one that typically requires active participation. In today’s “go go go” world, there is the need to take a more passive approach. For these times, you sit down watch a movie or tv show. 

    There are a number of different methods of doing just that. While you could use an iPhone or iPad, and many people do, yet there are those times when you want to minimize digital distractions and just focus on the show or movie. 

    Almost every television sold today is a Smart TV and in this case “smart” means that it is capable of running applications. For most people, this is an adequate solution. However, there may be those who want a bit more of a nice experience. For those individuals, there are dedicated devices. These can include a Roku Box, an Amazon Fire Stick, or a Google Chromecast stick. Apple has its own solution for this called the Apple TV.

    History of Apple TV

    Original Apple TV, 1st generation

    Back in September of 2006, at its iPod event Apple provided a preview of a brand new product code-named iTV. This product was a modified Mac mini that ran an Intel processor and had an HDMI output as well as component cables. This Mac mini ran a modified version of macOS, at the time named Mac OS X. Having had one of these it did do what it was intended do. When it was introduced, in February of 2007, it was officially named the Apple TV.

    The fact that the original Apple TV was introduced at the iPod event was quite appropriate. The original Apple TV was effectively a large iPod. The device had a 4200 RPM hard drive that came in 40GB or 160GB options. Given that the Apple TV was effectively a giant iPod, it was handled just like an iPod. You would connect it to iTunes on your Mac, or PC, and you could then watch your movies and TV shows.

    No streaming box is complete without a way of controlling the device. The original Apple TV included a white infrared remote, the same one that was included with the Macs. This remote included a volume up, volume down, fast forward, rewind, a play/pause, in a d-pad configuration, and a menu button directly below that. The remote layout was very reminiscent of the iPod click wheel, although there was no touch surface on it. 

    The original Apple TV was not a one and done product, it has definitely had some successors.

    2nd Generation Apple TV

    2nd Generation Apple TV

    It was approximately three years after the release of the original Apple TV when Apple released a new and improved Apple TV, the 2nd Generation Apple TV. This would be a compete rethinking of not only the hardware, but the software. 

    The biggest change was that you no longer synchronize media. Instead all media would be streamed. This could be streamed from a computer, or using one of the apps. The operating system also changed from running a version of macOS to running a custom operating system, called Apple TV Software.

    The 2nd generation Apple TV switched from the Intel Pentium M processor to a custom Apple processor, the same one that was in the original iPad, the A4. This processor changed a few other things. The size of the Apple TV box shrank from 7.7 inches square, and 1.1 inches high, to 3.9 inches square and 0.9 inches tall. The physical size change required a change from a standard hard drive to a solid state drive.

    The second generation Apple TV was a vast improvement over the first generation and set the stage for future Apple TVs. The remote that came with the 2nd Generation Apple TV also changed. It was very similar to the white remote, but it was made of aluminum. It was a bit taller, yet still very functional. 

    3rd Generation Apple TV

    The 3rd Generation Apple TV was released in 2012, approximately two years after the release of the 2nd generation. The 3rd generation Apple TV was a slight improvement over the previous model. Hardware wise, the processor was swapped to a single-core A5 and twice as much RAM at 512MB. The other change for the hardware was that it supported 1080p, whereas the previous models supported 720p.The physical size of the box remained the same, at 3.9 inches square by 0.9 inches high. The aluminum remote was included with the 3rd generation Apple TV.

    4th Generation Apple TV

    Apple TV 4K, 5th Generation

    In 2015, Apple unveiled the 4th Generation Apple TV was a major shift in not only hardware, but also in software. Let us start with the hardware. 

    The first change is the physical size. The Apple TV remained 3.9 inches square, but it was a bit taller, half an inch to be exact, to 1.4 inches high. The internals also changed to use an Apple A8 processor. The A8 process provided a significant improvement over the A5. 

    Sometimes it is easier to let benchmarks provide the data. The data is from Geekbench 3:

      A5 A8
    Single Core 218 1623
    Multi-Core 415 2910
    AES Single Core 14,800 Mbps 993,000 mbps
    Overall 784 1678

    The processor, as well as the solid state storage, was needed to be able to run the software for the device. It was not the standard Apple TV software, it was a new operating system that Apple calls tvOS.

    tvOS

    tvOS Interface

    Previous versions of the Apple TV software was somewhat limited. Not necessarily in its capabilities, but in the fact that the entire experience was controlled by Apple. New apps could not be installed by end users and instead were pushed by Apple. This approach made it a bit easier to add new services as they became available, because it could be pushed form Apple’s servers. The downside to this though, is that there was no control by end users, nor any way for third-parties to add new services.

    tvOS changed all of this. Built with the knowledge Apple gained over the years of building iOS, Apple was able to take this knowledge and put all of it into an operating system designed for the largest screen in most homes. 

    tvOS is capable of running applications, just like on iOS and watchOS, but these apps are designed to provide games, video service, or other application. The first version of tVOS, tvOS 9, provided an opportunity for third-party application developers to provide their own applications. 

    Apps are not the only function that the Apple TV with tvOS is capable of doing.

    Home Hub

    With so much power in the Apple TV, there may be some extra power available for other tasks. One of these is that the Apple TV can do is be a Home Hub. A Home Hub is a home-based device that can control your HomeKit-enabled devices. The Apple TV is able to function a a central spot for controlling all of your HomeKit devices. The purpose of a HomeKit hub is to make controlling your Smart devices faster.

    In order to control the Apple TV you need some sort of way to control the Apple TV. Apple did not include the standard remote with the Apple TV, at least in most markets.  Instead, this new Apple TV required a new remote. Apple called this new remote the Siri Remote.

    Siri Remote

    The Siri Remote is a remote that is more than just a standard remote. The top third of the Siri Remote is a touch pad, below this are the buttons. There are six, the Menu button, a TV button, a microphone button, a play/pause button, volume up, and volume down. 

    The Microphone button is a dedicated button for Siri. Given that tvOS is built on iOS, that means that tvOS has access to Siri. This means that you can ask Siri questions, to find movies or tv shows, and even to control aspects of the Apple TV, like jumping ahead or backwards, or even control your HomeKit-enabled devices. 

    The 4th Generation Apple TV was not the last Apple TV model.

    Apple TV 4K (5th Generation)

    Apple TV 4K, 5th Generation

    The 4th Generation Apple TV is a decent set of hardware. However, there was one feature that many users would really like, and that was the ability to watch 4K movies and 4K TV shows. The 5th Generation Apple TV did just this, and Apple named the product the Apple TV 4K. 

    The Apple TV 4K was released in September of 2017, just a couple of years after the release of the 4th generation Apple TV. In order to be able to display 4K properly, the processor was upgraded to the A10 Fusion processor. While this did not provide as much of an improvement as from the 3rd generation to the 4th generation, it was still an improvement. 

    When the Apple TV 4K was released, the 4th Generation Apple TV remained on sale. This model was retroactively renamed to be the Apple TV HD. This was done in order to more easily differentiate the two models.

    Users of the Apple TV HD did have some issues with the Siri Remote. One of the bigger complaints was that the remote was not able to be easily recognize the orientation. In order to help users easily identify the orientation, Apple added a white ring around the Menu button. While this would help, in some respects, it did not appease all users.

    At the April 2021 “Spring Loaded” Apple unveiled a new Apple TV 4K, let us look at that now.

    Apple TV 4K (6th Generation)

    Apple TV 4K 6th Generation Box

    The 6th Generation Apple TV 4K improves upon the 5th generation Apple TV. The 6th Generation Apple TV is a minor update, compared to the previous upgrade. The Apple TV 4K keeps the same physical size of 3.7 inches square, by 1.4 inches high. 

    What has changed is the internals. The Apple TV 4K now has an A12 Bionic processor.  While it may seem as though a jump of two processor generations, the improvement is quite a bit. For starters the A12 has a total of six cores, two performance cores and four high efficiency cores. This is an increase of two efficiency cores over the A10 Fusion.

    While the processor is a significant improvement, that is not the only aspect that has seen improvement. There has also been an improvement to the wireless chipset. Specifically, the new Apple TV 4K supports W-Fi 6, also known as 802.11AX. Wi-Fi 6 can provide even faster connectivity for devices, provided your network is compatible. Even if you do not have a Wi-Fi 6 network, the Apple TV 4K will still be able to connect to other 802.11 networks.

    HomeKit Hub

    One of the functions of the Apple TV is to act as a HomeKit Hub. As with any new technology, there come competing standards. Some of these are Zigbee and Z-Wave.  These two standards each have their own positives and negatives. One of the requirements of Zigbee and Z-wave is that require a hub in order to communicate with devices. These hubs are needed to connect between a network and the devices. Typically, this is done with a hard-wired ethernet connection.

    There is a newer smart device standard that is implemented in the Apple TV 4K, called “Thread”.

    Thread 

    Thread is a mesh-based protocol that allows for direct connections between the Thread Hub, in this case the Apple TV 4K, to the end devices. This eliminates the need for a second hub, like those you would see with the Hue lights. This will not only free up spots in a power strip, but it will also allow a wider range of devices. With Thread, no longer will you need to worry about which protocol a device uses. 

    Beyond this, Thread also has an additional benefit, it uses a mesh network for connecting all of the devices. This allows the devices to connect to each other, meaning that if one device cannot be found, other devices can pick up the slack and take over and relay communications, if necessary.

    Having Thread embedded right in the Apple TV should make connecting smart home devices even easier than before. Yet, this is not the last of the hardware changes within the new Apple TV 4K.

    The Apple TV 4K also includes support for HDMI 2.1. In most cases, this will not have much of an impact. However, HDMI 2.1 is needed for a new feature called High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range.

    High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range

    High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range, or High Frame Rate HDR, is a technology that will allow playback of video at 60 frames per second, for video that includes High Dynamic Range. There are not many videos that shot in 60 frames per second with High Dynamic Range. If you have a capable iPhone you can watch any of your 60 frame per second videos with high dynamic range.

    High Dynamic Range HDR should make any video that you watch even better. Beyond fast-moving video, this should also help with things like gaming. 

    Gaming on the Apple TV

    Lego Battles on Apple TV

    On the topic of gaming, the Apple TV 4K also supports game controllers, like the Playstation 5 controller as well as the Xbox Series X|S controller. For those who want to play games with a controller, this is great addition.

    Since the release of the 4th generation Apple TV in 2015, Apple has positioned the Apple TV hardware as a viable gaming box. When the Apple TV was first released, Apple had a requirement that all games support the Siri Remote, but could also support a gaming controller. 

    It did not take long before Apple changed this requirement. The reason this was changed is because not all games can be played effectively with only the Siri Remote. 

    However, controllers are not the only way to control items on the new Apple TV 4K. There is another way, and the one that is primarily used, the Siri Remote. With the 6th Generation Apple TV this has received a huge change, a complete redesign.

    Siri Remote (2nd Generation)

    Each of the remotes included with each Apple TV oldest on the left and newest on the right.

    As mentioned above, each Apple TV included a remote. The original had the white Apple remote, while the second and third generation Apple TVs included the aluminum remote. The fourth generation had the original Siri Remote, and the fifth generation Apple TV included the Siri Remote with the white ring around the menu button.

    When the Siri Remote first got into people’s hands, it quickly became divisive. Some people, like myself, do not have any problem with the Siri Remote. Yes, it did take some time to get accustom to, but eventually got used to using the remote and navigating the tvOS interface with the touch sensitive remote.

    Even though some had no problem with the remote, there is a contingent of users who do not think the Siri Remote is a good remote and that the remote was a mistake. Many expected Apple to change up the Siri Remote with the Apple TV 4K, but they only did a minor upgrade. With the 6th Generation Apple TV 4K, there is a new Siri Remote.

    The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a complete redesign of the Siri Remote. The remote harkens back to 2nd generation Apple TV remote in that it is aluminum. The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a different size than the first Siri Remote. 

    However, the differences are only slight. The height of the Siri Remote is 5.44 inches, or 136mm, the width is 1.4 inches, or 35mm. The first generation Siri Remote was 4.88 inches, or 124mm, in height and 1.5 inches, or 38mm, wide. These are slight differences, but noticeable. 

    Button Layout

    The biggest change to the Siri remote, besides the build materials, is the button layout. There are seven buttons and a five way touch surface. There are still a volume up and volume down button, as well as the TV button and the play/pause button. 

    There are a couple of new buttons though. The “Menu” button has been placed by a left arrow button. This button still behaves the same as the Menu button, but better represents its overall function. The Back button functions the exact same way as the Menu button did. The back button is concave, which should help you orient the remote when you pick it up.. This covers the existing buttons. However, this is only five buttons, which means that there are two new buttons. 

    The two new buttons are ones that will make many users very happy. These are a dedicated mute/unmute button and a dedicated power button.

    The mute/unmute button is a great addition because there are those times when you want to be able to mute the audio but not necessarily pause what is playing; which was the behavior with the first generation Siri remote, but no longer.

    Power Button

    There is a similar thing when it comes to powering off the Apple TV. With the 1st generation Siri Remote the way that you would power off the Apple TV would be to hold down the TV button to bring up the Sidebar, and then scroll down to the Sleep button to put the Apple TV into sleep mode.

    With the 2nd Generation Siri Remote you now hold down the power button to turn off the Apple TV, as well as your TV, provided your TV supports HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, or HDMI-CEC. Now, with the dedicated power button you are able to turn off both your television as well as the Apple TV all with one button. This is a huge improvement and a much welcome one. 

    Five-Way Directional Pad

    The last change is that the top of the Siri remote it is that the top of the Siri remote has changed. With the previous Siri Remote, the entire top portion was a touch surface. This is no longer the case. In place of the touch surface is five-way directional pad that has a touch surface.

    The directional pad has four directional buttons, up, left, down, and right. The directional pad is circular and with the entire directional pad supporting touch means that you can use the outside ring as a jog wheel. 

    With the outside circle you can quickly scrub through video, or to move between items on the screen. Additionally, you can use the button clicks to quickly move jump forward and backward. 

    Siri

    In order for the Siri Remote to live up to its name, it needs to be able to access Siri. On the 2nd Generation Siri Remote there is a dedicated button, like on the previous version. However, the placement of the button has moved. Instead of being on the face of the remote, it is now on the side. You can bring up Siri just like you would on an iPhone. You can simply hold down the Siri button and it will appear on the Apple TV as you would expect. 

    Now that we have covered all of the new buttons, let us see which devices the 2nd Generation Siri Remote is compatible with.

    Compatibility

    Typically, when you have a new accessory it is only compatible with the device that it comes with, or new devices. However, that is not the case with the 2nd Generation Siri Remote. In fact, it is actually compatible with both the 4th Generation Apple TV as well as the 5th Generation Apple TV. This means that you can create a consistent experience between all of your Apple TVs. 

    Weight and Feel

    Every generation of a device is likely to have different characteristics from the generation before. The Siri Remote is no exception. The 2nd generation Siri Remote is actually heavier than the 1st generation. In some respects this makes sense, given that the entire 2nd generation remote is made of aluminum. 

    Even though the Siri remote is heavier, it still has a good feel to it. When you are holding the remote, it has a natural fit in your hand. The slightly rounded back feels a bit more natural than the straight back of the previous generation of Siri Remote.

    Missing Features and Issues

    It should be noted that the Siri Remote does not have a U1 chip. The U1 chip is used to  help you locate the exact position of a device. It seems a bit strange that the 2nd Generation Siri remote does not have at least some method of being able to locate the remote. While it is possible that some do not lose their remotes, there are probably more than a few who will lose one from time to time. There are various reasons why a Siri remote may go missing, but the remote being misplaced by someone, including kids, is quite possible. 

    I would hope that there might eventually be a revision of the Siri Remote to include at least a speaker that can be used to have the remote make noise so it can be found. However, if there is going to be a revision, a U1 chip, as well as a speaker, similar to an  AirTag. This would allow a user to use an iPhone to locate the Siri Remote.

    I did run into an issue while using the Siri Remote. This is not an issue with the remote itself, per se. The issue I ran into was the fact that I kept hitting the mute button instead of the play/pause button. This is because the mute button is in the same place as the previous play/pause button. I am sure it will take some time to retrain my brain, and muscle memory, but eventually I should stop hitting the mute button instead of play/pause, but even a week on, it is still a problem.

    I have a 5th generation Apple TV 4K, and I have not had any issues going between the two Siri Remotes. I know there are some that have opted to replace all of their Apple TV remote with the 2nd generation Siri Remote. I have not ruled out doing this in the future, but I have not ordered any additional Siri Remotes yet.

    Apple TV and Siri Remote Pricing

    The 6th Generation Apple TV is available in two different storage sizes, 32GB and 64GB. The 32GB model is $179, and the 64GB model is $199. Both of these are available to order today, and ship within a week or so.

    The Siri Remote is available on its own for $59. It is available to order today. This also has the same shipping time frame of a week or so for shipping, at least as of this writing.

    Closing Thoughts

    The 6th Generation Apple TV 4K is not a huge change, externally, there are no changes at all. Instead, all of the changes have been made on the internals. There is a new processor, the A12, which is the same processor that is in the iPhone XS. This is a two generation jump from the previous A10. The A12 processor provides the ability to display High Frame Rate video. High Frame Rate Video is 60 frame per second video that has High Dynamic Range.

    The biggest change with the new Apple TV 4K is the 2nd Generation Siri Remote. The new Siri Remote is a complete redesign of the remote. The new remote is aluminum and the top portion is no longer a full touchpad. Instead, there is a circular touch pad, with directional buttons. The directional pad allows you to navigate up, down, left, or right. The ring around the touch pad will allow you to navigate as well as scrub video, or navigate through the interface. 

    The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a big heavier than the 1st generation model, but I suspect that many people will prefer the newer remote over the older one. Even if you do not purchase a new Apple TV 4K, you can use the Siri Remote with the 5th Generation Apple TV, as well as the 4th Generation Apple TV. it may take some adjustment given the difference in the button layouts as compared to the previous Siri Remote, but the second generation is a significant improvement.

    Both the new Apple TV 4K and the Siri Remote are both available today. The Apple TV 4K is available in two sizes, 32GB and 64GB. These cost $179 and $199 respectively. The Siri Remote is available for $59. 

    If you have a 4K TV and you want a standalone box from Apple, you cannot go wrong with the Apple TV 4K.

  • Apple’s New Accessibility Initiatives

    Apple has announced that they are providing even more features for those with disabilities. There are a couple of things to highlight including SignTime, Assistive Touch, eye-tracking hardware support, support for bi-directional hearing aids, and improved voiceover support.

    SignTime

    SignTime is a new service, available starting today, May 20th, 2021 which will allow users to communicate with Apple Retail and Customer Care representatives through a Sign Language interpreter. This is accessible right from within the browser. If a customer is in an Apple Store and needs an interpreter, they will be able to use SignTime to communicate as necessary. There are three different languages available for users, American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, and French Sign Language (LSF) in France.

    There is another new feature, for those with limited mobility called AssistiveTouch.

    AssistiveTouch

    AssistiveTouch is a feature for the Apple Watch that will detect subtle differences for the Apple Watch that will allow users to be able to interact with the Apple Watch. This is done by the Apple Watch detecting differences in muscle movements and tendon activity to be able to sense the intension. 

    This will be a significant leap in terms of inclusivity for those who may have limb differences so that they can be able to use the Apple Watch, the same as anybody else.

    Those who have limb differences are not the only ones seeing some improvement. 

    Eye-Tracking Support for iPad

    There are those who may have motor issues and these issues would still want to be able to control an iPad. Later this year the iPad will support hardware eye-tracking devices through the Made for iPad, or MFI, program.

    With the Eye-Tracking support users will be able to move the point on the iPad, solely use the eye-tracking hardware. This, like AssistiveTouch, will allow users with limited mobility to use an iPad, just like other users.

    Bi-Directional Hearing Aids

    There are different types of people throughout the world. There are some users who may have difficulty hearing certain things. Apple has provided some features, like “Listening Mode”, which allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a way to increase volume.

    While this may work for some users, there are those users who need other types of auditory assistance. Those users may need hearing aids. Apple has updated their MFi program to support bi-directional hearing aids. According to Apple, “The microphones in these new hearing aids enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations”.

    This will be a great way of allowing those with hearing issues to have Hearing Aids that will allow them to natively use their phone hands-free and participate in FaceTime conversations. 

    Exploring Images with VoiceOver

    Over the last few years Apple has been improving their object detection through machine learning. While this has been great for object detection, facial recognition, and much more. One benefit that all of this work has is a new feature that Apple will be releasing is the ability to explore images with VoiceOver. 

    For those who are visually impaired, you will be able to use VoiceOver to detect objects within an image. This goes beyond what users have experienced thus far by being able to describe details about people, like their position with a photo. Beyond this, for things like receipt VoiceOver will be able to go column by column, row by row. This includes being able to provide header information. 

    Closing Thoughts

    These new initiatives for Apple will be great additions to be more inclusive of additional people who may mobility, hearing, and movement issues. It is good to see Apple add this, but I hope that Apple adds more assistive technologies over time.

    Source: Apple

  • Apple Announces Changes to Apple Music Service

    Today Apple announced that a new music service will be coming to the Apple ecosystem in June, one that provides a couple of new features. These features are Spatial Audio and Lossless encoding.

    Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos

    The way that recorded audio sounds is dependent on a number of factors. For most of the last century the primary factor has been the source of the audio. Typically, the more speakers, the better sound can be handled between all of the speakers and the more immersive and realistic it can sound. However, Apple developed a feature called “Spatial Audio”. Spatial Audio can computationally change the audio coming out of an iOS device so that it seems more life-like.

    According to Apple, “By default, Apple Music will automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, as well as the built-in speakers in the latest versions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac.”

    This means that if you have some modern Apple headphones, you will be able to take advantage of Spatial Audio, when it is available. In terms of availability, not all tracks in Apple Music will support Spatial Audio. Initially, “[t] housands of tracks will be available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at launch, with more added regularly.”

    Apple has announced some of the artists that will have Spatial Audio. Some of the artists include:

    •  J Balvin
    • Gustavo Dudamel
    • Ariana Grande
    • Maroon 5
    • Kacey Musgraves
    • The Weeknd

    Apple will be curating a set of playlists that include tracks that support Spatial Audio so people can know which tracks will support the feature. Spatial Audio is not the only thing being added, there is also a new Hi-Resolution Lossless audio option coming.

    Lossless Audio

    Most music that you listen to is compressed. This means that not all of the fidelity of the audio is within the file. This is generally needed to preserve space, this was particularly true in the early days of the modern internet when bandwidth was limited to 56kbps, or in most cases, less. In order to be able to get your music, you would need to wait to download the song. At the time it could easily take 5 or 10 minutes to download a song. In order to make the downloads as quick as possible, compression was needed.

    Imagine having to download a 100 megabyte file at 56 kilobits per second. It would easily take days to finish downloading the entire fire. For many, internet speeds have improved and we can now download 100 megabyte in a matter of moments, even while connected only to cellular data.

    All audio needs a codec, and Apple will be using the Apple Lossless Audio Codec, or ALAC. Lossless audio will come to all 75 million songs on Apple Music. You will be able to specify the quality of music that is streamed, or downloaded, separately for Wi-Fi and Cellular. You will have a few options. These will be:

    • CD Quality – 16 bit at 44.1 kHz (kilohertz)
    • High Quality – 24 bit at 48 kHz
    • Lossless – 24 bit at 192 kHz.

    This will all be customizable within by going to Settings > Music > Audio Quality on your iOS devices. Per Apple’s press release:

    Due to the large file sizes and bandwidth needed for Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless Audio, subscribers will need to opt in to the experience. Hi-Res Lossless also requires external equipment, such as a USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC).”

    The requirement for a digital-to-analog converter will mean that not everyone will be able to listen to the Hi-Res lossless audio, but for those who will invest in the equipment, it should be a good upgrade to their audio fidelity.

    Pricing

    You might be curious as to the price for this service. It would not be unreasonable to expect an additional tier of music to be created. However, the price remains the same at $9.99 for an individual subscription, and $14.99 for a family subscription. This will also apply to those who have an Apple One subscription. So, if you subscribe to Apple Music today, you will get this new service for free.

    The new higher quality Apple Music service, including both Spatial Audio and Lossless, will be released in June with iOS 14.6.

    Closing Thoughts

    Overall, I think both of these will be a great addition. More people will be able to hear the Spatial Audio tracks as compared to the number of people who will be listening to the Hi-Res lossless tracks. The best part is that it is not going to cost any extra to get these features.

    Source: Apple