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Apple iPhone Review

iPhone 11 Pro Max: A Review

Every year Apple releases at least one new iPhone and this year is no different. In fact they released three new models. The iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has been the case that I have purchased a new iPhone each year. I have done so again this year.

Over the course of its history, the iPhone has been available in six different screen sizes, ranging from 3.5 inches to 6.5 inches. The biggest change occurred in 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The old 4-inch screen size, introduced in 2011 with the iPhone 5, was replaced with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively. The next big change occurred in 2017 with the release of the iPhone X and its 5.8-inch edge-to-edge screen.

Last year, when I purchased an iPhone, I decided to stick with the 5.8-inch screen size. I did this because I was not sure if the 6.5-inch screen would be too large. In contrast to last year, I decided to get the iPhone 11 Pro Max. If I do not like the screen size I can always downgrade the next time I get a phone. Normally when I review a phone, I would talk about a bunch of its features. However, this year, I will focus on a few of the new features. The first of these will be how my upgrade went.

Upgrading

Having had an iPhone since 2007 and having done 12 upgrades and countless restores due to various issues, I have developed an upgrade path which has worked for me with very few problems. That upgrade path is as follows:

  1. Unpair my Apple Watch. This will create a backup of the Watch on the iPhone.
  2. Perform an encrypted backup using iTunes of the iPhone after the watch has been unpaired.
  3. Restore the new phone using the encrypted backup that was created.
  4. Pair the watch with the newly restored iPhone.

I use this procedure because it restores everything, including Health data, two factor codes, and other private data. This procedure has worked quite well. I debated on using this same procedure, but this year I decided to do something different. I used the Direct Transfer method that was introduced in iOS 12.4.

Direct Transfer

Direct Transfer is a method where you allow your old iPhone and your new iPhone to directly communicate with each other to transfer your data from your old phone to your new phone. There are a few things to understand about the process.

The first is that this will create a direct connection, using wireless between the two devices. This means that you will not be able to use wireless during the transfer.

The second is that you will not be able to use the devices while the data is transferring. This is because the transfer interface will take over the whole screen. If you have an Apple Watch paired to your iPhone, you will be able to control any audio that is playing and you can change it as well.

On the topic of the Apple Watch, if you have an Apple Watch paired it should be transferred in the process. However, for me this did not actually occur. I had to open the Apple Watch app and then it recognized the Watch and then the transfer process began.

Fourth, the last thing to realize is that it will take a while for the transfer to actually occur. For me it took approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete. This was after it failed once and the process had to be restarted. Once it was stopped there was no way to resume it, so it had to be started again. This is faster than the way I had done this before. When I upgraded my iPhone XS to the release version of iOS 13, it screwed up half way through and I had to restore it from an encrypted backup. This process took 6.5 hours, so this new process was significantly faster.

The Direct Transfer process does have some significant advantages, besides being faster. The biggest among these is that while my downloaded music did not transfer, the fact that it was downloaded on my old iPhone did transfer. So after the transfer process finished the downloaded music began re-downloading. I actually prefer the songs to re-download, as compared to just transferring over. It turns out that a large number of the songs that had been downloaded to my old iPhone were corrupt. I did not really notice until I started hearing songs that I had not heard for a while, despite them being downloaded. What it turned out to be is that

The last thing that happened after the transfer completed, and is the case with any restore, my applications downloaded. In case you are wondering, the reason that this occurs is because the apps that are downloaded from the App Store are tuned specifically for your device. This includes, but is not limited to, asset sizes and optimizations specifically for the processors in your device.

Now that we have covered the upgrade process, let us look at the biggest change and the primary reason I upgrade each year, the Cameras.

Camera and Photos

This year iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, come equipped with three cameras. These are the Wide, Telephoto, and Ultra Wide lenses. These are equivalent to a 26mm, 52mm, and 13mm lens respectively. The Ultra Wide is new on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. It has been interesting trying to figure out the best use for the Ultra Wide lens. The Ultra Wide camera does add a bit of a curvature to the image, so it can be a bit distorted when you do take a photo.

Camera

The Camera app on iOS 13 is specifically designed with the three different cameras in mind. As an example, if you select the Wide or Telephoto lens, the Camera app will actually show the view that the Ultra Wide camera can see. This can help you not only identify which lens you are using, but also assist you to determining the best shot. This is because of the extra information provided by the Ultra Wide camera will be shown behind the control areas of the Camera app’s interface.

Here are some examples of the Wide, Telephoto and Ultra Wide Photo examples from the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Night Mode

Throughout the history of all iPhones one of the more difficult times to get a good photo is when you are in a low light situation. In order to accommodate for this, Apple has introduced Night Mode. Night Mode does some machine learning to pull in as much light as possible and generate a picture that simulates daylight. Here are a couple of examples.

You can actually see the subject of the images taken with the iPhone 11 Pro, as opposed to the iPhone XS. You are not able to enable Night Moe on your own. Instead, when there is not enough light the Night Mode will automatically be enabled. You do have a couple of options with Night Mode, when it is enabled. By default the duration is 3 seconds, but this can be adjusted to be 2 or one second. Whichever setting you choose, the Camera will take a series of photos. All of these photos will be consolidated into one single image that will produce an image that will bring out the brightest colors possible. Because the image is a composite, it is possible that there may be some noise in the photos.

You should keep in mind that Night mode is not night vision. This means that Night Mode does requires some light in order to function. It is not possible for Night mode to work in a completely dark room. If you take a picture with Night Mode in a completely dark room, you will get, a black image. The Night Mode on the iPhone 11 will allow many people to take photos that they may not have been able to get otherwise. Next, let us look going back to the larger phone.

Back to the Max

In 2014, Apple did something that it had not done before. It introduced 2 new sizes of iPhones instead of just one, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. These two new size of phones were 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches respectively. In 2017, Apple changed everything again with the release of the iPhone X. As you are likely aware, the iPhone X only came in one size, a 5.8-inch screen size.

I am not entirely sure why I opted to go back to the larger size this year. I think part of me wants to see whether or not the larger phone is the right choice. Only time will ultimately be able to tell, but my initial thoughts are that the larger screen is nicer. Each year, I end up getting a case, next we will look at a case that I got.

Clear Case

Many people are willing to risk using their iPhone without a case. I can understand wanting to show off the iPhone in its unadorned site. I am not one of those people. Instead, I purchase a case with each new iPhone. This year I actually purchased two cases. I bought a Black Apple Silicone case as well as the Clear case.

The Clear case is made of acrylic and as most other acrylic super slippery. The Clear case is not designed to be removed as easily as the Silicone case is. The Clear case is more difficult to put on and take off as compared to other cases. Of course the Clear case’s biggest assets is the clear nature of the case. This allows the back of the phone, as well as the steel bands, are visible. The clear case is definitely good for showing off your phone, but it is not necessarily the best choice due to its slipperiness. The last feature that we will look at for the iPhone 11 Pro Max is the battery life.

Battery Life

The iPhone 11 Pro Max supposedly has 4 more hours of battery life over the iPhone XS Max. I did not have the Max last year, so I can only compare it to the iPhone XS. With my normal day to day usage the battery is around 75% when the day is over. Of course the amount of battery life left varies depending on what I am doing with the phone. If I play some Apple Arcade games for a while, the battery will be drained quite a bit more than if I am merely listening to music, browsing the web, or listening to audiobooks. Overall, this is significantly more battery life than I would have at the end fo the day with my iPhone XS.

I cannot say for certain, but it could be difficult for Apple to maintain this type of battery life in iPhones going forward. It will not be easy to do, particularly with any transition to 5G, where there has not been the necessary time to perform optimizations for battery life.

Benchmarks

In today’s computing world, Benchmarks do not have as much weight as they once did. This is because of the dynamic nature of processors and their power draws. What Benchmarks are good for is proving a relative measurement compared to other devices. I have run a set of benchmarks on 6 different devices, for comparison purposes.

Geekbench 4 Single Core Multi-Core
iPod Touch 6th Gen 1302 2314
iPad Air 2 1848 4512
iPod touch 7th Gen 2719 4541
Mid 2014 iMac 3072 5556
Mid 2011 iMac 3504 8750
Early 2015 MacBook Pro 3766 7031
iPhone XS 4840 10496
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Gen) 5017 17879
iPhone 11 Pro 5489 13863
Mid 2017 27-inch iMac 5680 19651
Geekbench 5 Single Core Multi-Core
iPad Air 2 384 1071
iPod Touch 6th Gen 384 1071
iPod Touch 7th Gen 529 929
Mid 2014 iMac 652 1278
Mid 2014 iMac 720 1934
Early 2015 MacBook Pro 709 1636
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Gen) 1111 4613
iPhone XS 1114 2766
Mid 2017 27-inch iMac 1214 4664
iPhone 11 Pro 1337 3494

As you can see from the results, the iPhone 11 Pro is one of the fastest, in terms of single core. My 2017 iMac and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are still faster in terms of multi-core performance.

As a note, the Geekbench 4 scores are calibrated using a Microsoft Surface Book with an Intel Core i7-6600U processor as a baseline with a score of 4,000 points.

Similarly, the Geekbench 5 CPU scores are calibrated using an Intel Core i3-8100 processor as a baseline. Geekbench 5 measures the performance of your device by performing tests that are representative of real-world tasks and applications. Higher scores are better, with double the score indicating double the performance.

Both of these statements are from the Geekbench knowledge base.

Closing Thoughts

The iPhone 11 Pro Max, and by extension its younger sibling the iPhone 11 Pro is a solid phone. This is particularly true if you use your iPhone as your primary camera. The screen of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is definitely a plus. Yet, at the same time, the size can definitely be unwieldy and a bit bulky. I must have forgotten what it was like having a larger phone after owning the iPhone X and the iPhone XS for the last two years. It has been a re-adjustment. The battery life is absolutely incredible and you can easily use an iPhone 11 Pro Max all day without any issues.

If you are updating from an iPhone X or any earlier model, this will be a great upgrade. The speed increase that you see will be significant and the inclusion of night mode will make the photos that you take in low light that much better. If you are in the market for a new phone, then the iPhone 11 Pro Max could be the phone for you.

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Games Review

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A Review

It is not often that a brand new open world action game series is unveiled, and subsequently takes the gaming community by storm. But that seems to be what happened in 2016 with a new game by Electronic Arts titled Tom Clancy’s The Division. The sequel to the best selling game has been released and having played it for a while, I thought I would give it a review. Note: There may be spoilers for the game with this review.

The Story

The basis of the Division series is an interesting one, at least to me it is interesting. To quote Wikipedia:

On Black Friday 2015, a smallpox epidemic, transmitted by a virus planted on banknotes, sweeps through New York City. The disease, known as “Green Poison” or “The Dollar Flu”, causes widespread chaos, and Manhattan is placed under quarantine. The U.S. Government activates sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division, or simply “the Division”, to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. In Brooklyn, the protagonist, a Division agent, assists the JTF before planning to depart for the Quarantine zone with fellow agent Faye Lau.

In the first game you are a Division agent tasked with finding the source of the epidemic. During your travails you need to clear out different factions whom are trying to exploit the chaos and take control of New York City. The Division 2 takes place seven months after the release of the Green Poison from the first game. This time the game is focused on Washington, D.C.

Seven months after the Green Poison outbreak, several Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) agents are defending a civilian settlement from a bandit attack when the SHD Network, the system controlling their advanced technology and communications, suddenly shuts down and they receive a Division distress call from Washington D.C. The player’s Agent makes their way to the city where the Division and the remains of the local Joint Task Force have set up their base of operations in the White House. After defeating an attack on the White House shortly after arriving in the city, the Agent is briefed on the general situation by Manny Ortega, the Division controller for D.C.

There is a lot more to the story, but you will have to play the game to learn more.

Similarities

As with any game series, many aspects of each game will be familiar. This is the case with the Division series as well. As with the first game you are a Division agent who needs to clear out factions attempting to take over Washington D.C. The game mechanics are that you need to complete missions as well as side missions to clear out the factions and take back sections of the city. Throughout the game the enemies you face various levels of enemies.

Each section has a variety of side missions, including Control Point takeovers, target training, hostage rescue, and more.

Just as with the first game, within each area there is a Safe House that must be located. Safe Houses allow you to restock your ammo, health, and armor. Located in each Safe House is your stash, where you can put equipment that you cannot carry but might want to hold on to while storing away the items you may want later.

With both of the Division games you level up your character by completing missions, side missions, finding loot, and eliminating the enemy. Some enemies will drop items upon their death. These items can include weapons, ammo, or crafting materials.

Differences

While the two games are similar in many ways, there are also some differences that create a slightly different game play with the Division 2.

As you progress through the game you earn experience points, gain Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) tech points to gain skills. Skills allow you to employ different items to assist in your quest. These were present in the original Division, but they have been changed around.

With the first game there were three broad categories, Medical, Tech, and Security skills. Now with the Division 2, there are no categories, but there are different options within each skill that can be used. You can equip two skills. Each of these skills can be one of 8 different types of skills. Instead of being a category, these are objects. These objects are:

  • Drone
  • Firefly
  • Hive
  • Launcher
  • Pulse
  • Seeker Mine
  • Shield
  • Turret

There are variants of each of these skills that have different assets. You can select the ones that best match your play style. These unlock as as you play through the game and collect SHD tech.

Specializations

Once you have reached level 30, you will have the option of adding a “Signature Weapon”. A specialty is an additional weapon that will help you in missions. A Signature Weapon is a double-edged sword. With a Specialty, each weapon is extremely powerful, more powerful than standard weapons even with mods. However, with that extra power, your ammunition is quite limited. So it is best to use the Specialized weapon only when it is most needed.

There are three different Specializations to choose from, and each has its own weapon. The Specializations are:

  • Demolitionist has a grenade launcher
  • Sharpshooter has a powerful rifle
  • Survivalist has a crossbow with explosive bolts

Each of the specializations has its own attribute tree that can be unlocked. . You can only employ one specialization at a time, however you can easily swap between them at the Quartermaster within the Base of Operations.

You earn additional specialization points by finishing some missions, after you have completed level 30. You can use these points to unlock different attributes for each specialization.

There is an area of game play that also exists in the Division 2, the Dark Zone. Let us look at that one separately.

The Dark Zone

The Dark Zone is one of the areas of the first Division game that really excited players. The Dark Zone is a separate area than the main game play map. The Dark Zone is a mix of Player vs. Player (PvP), and Player vs. Enemy (PvE). Within the Dark Zone of the Division 2, you try to capture landmarks that are being held by hostile enemies.

Unlike with the first game, there is not a single solitary Dark Zone. Instead there are actually three of them. East, South, and West. Each of them have a minimum level you need before entering each Dark Zone. Each of the zones has a different type of play style.

Just like with the first game, some items that are dropped are “contaminated”. This means that they must be extracted via helicopter. If items are successfully extracted they are delivered to your stash.

There has been a slight addition to the Dark Zone, there are no exploration missions. These are missions that help you explore each of the Dark Zone areas. These provide a way to level up in the Dark Zone.

There are 50 levels for a user in the Dark Zone. This progression occurs much faster than in the main game, and it can help you earn perks that will help in the main game.

One of the differences with the Dark Zone in the Division 2 is the way that you learn about the Dark Zone. With the Division 2, there is a quick walkthrough that helps you explore each of the areas. This allows you to get familiar with the zones and provides you an easy way to gain levels.

Rogue Agents

One of the areas of the Division that some players enjoy is the aspect of “going rogue”. In the first game this was done by attacking other players, stealing their extracted loot, or by other nefarious methods. This could occur both in the primary world or within the Dark Zone. While it occurred in the main mission area, it was definitely more prevalent in the Dark Zone.

There is still the ability to go rogue, if you desire, particularly in the Dark Zone, but it is not something that I have seen as much of as in the first game. I am not sure why this is the case. It could be because there are not as many players, or it could be because going Rogue is not as interesting as in the last game.

Downsides

There have been some changes that are not necessarily for the better, at least in my opinion. The biggest of these is the way that the world tiers work in the Division 2. Once you level up to a World Tier there is no way to go back to a lower tier. You can only go up in tier. This makes it a bit more difficult should you want to do some scavenging or to complete projects.

It is still possible to do the side missions and projects, but significantly harder once you go up a tier due to the increased difficulty.

Even though there have been some changes to the game overall, they are not all downsides. With that through all of my playing I have compiled some tips that might be helpful for any Division Agent.

Tips

There are a few tips that I have learned by playing the game.

Tip 1: While most missions can be done on a solo basis, some missions cannot be completed by yourself. Do not hesitate to use match making to get additional agents involved to help with a mission. You may only be in the group for the one mission, but they can be quite helpful in completing it.

Tip 2: When taking over control points, be sure to make sure you are well stocked with ammo. Some control points will not be easy to take over. Be sure to make sure there are some allies in the area trying to take over the control point in case you die and need to get back to the control point. The allies will keep the enemies busy while you get back. At some control points there are stationary guns. These will definitely utilize these as well.

Tip 3: Use grenades near clustered enemies. If your grenade is powerful enough you could take out a group of enemies with just one grenade. This can save on ammunition should you be running low.

Tip 4: Use Fast Travel. You can fast travel between safe houses, control points, the base of operations, and settlements.

Tip 5: Do as much exploration as you want before you tackle the last mission, which is the Level 30 Stronghold on the east side of the map. Once you complete this, you will be entered into Tier 1, which as mentioned earlier, you cannot undo once done.

Tip 6: Be prepared for anything when going into the Dark Zone.

Tip 7: Use the shooting range to test out different weapons, mods, and difficulties. This will be helpful in finding out what works best with which type of enemy.

Tip 8: Make sure to listen to the audio collectibles, they fill in some of the story.

Closing Thoughts

There is a lot to do within Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. The sequel takes the best parts of the first game and expand upon them. The new Dark Zone exploration missions are nice additions. While there is still player vs. player available, it does not seem to be as prevalent as it was in the first game.

The inclusion of “Signature Weapons” adds to the game play in some interesting ways. Using one of the Signature Weapon can be a game changer at a crucial point.

If you enjoy in-depth games, you cannot go wrong with The Division 2. There are hours upon hours of game play, even after you have finished the main missions of the game, there is still more to do. If you include all of this with the expansions on the horizon, it is not likely that you will have nothing to do in the game. If you enjoyed playing the first Division game, then there it is quite likely that you will enjoy the second one.

There are multiple versions of the game, Standard, Gold, Ultimate, and Gold Steelbook editions. The first three are available physically or digitally, with the Steelbook edition only being available physically. You can buy The Division 2 today for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

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Apps Review

AirBuddy: A Review

AirBuddy Icon

When Apple unveiled a new product in September of 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, it was something that users were not necessarily expecting. The product was the AirPods. During the announcement Apple let us know that there was some very custom silicon in the earbuds. This chip was a wireless chip that they dubbed the “W1”.

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

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

Apple has made this entirely seamless when switching between iOS devices. And it is somewhat seamless on the Mac as well. However, unlike iOS there is no nice interface on the Mac for connecting to the AirPods. In order to connect to your AirPods, or Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, you have to select the headphones either within an app or from the Bluetooth menu. This is where AirBuddy can come in handy and makes things a bit easier.

AirBuddy

AirBuddy is an app that Apple should have created for macOS. Since they have not, macOS and iOS spelunker Guilherme Rambo, has written it. AirBuddy takes the look and feel of the iOS card that appears when you open your AirPods and it brings that to the Mac. The app uses the same services and graphics as on iOS and mimics the look and feel. The screenshots below show the comparison


Prerequisites

There are some requirements to be able to use AirBuddy. These include a Mac running macOS Mojave, and signed into the same iCloud account that your AirPods or Beats Solo 3s are on. The second requirement is that you will need a Mac that supports Bluetooth Low Energy, also known as BTLE. If your Mac supports Handoff and continuity it is quite likely that it will support AirBuddy.

Preferences

As with any good Mac app there are a few things that you can tweak. There are only two options. These are “Enable for AirPods” and “Enable for other W1 headsets”. By default “Enable for AirPods” is checked and “Enable for other W1 headsets” is unchecked. This is because most users of the app have AirPods, but may not have a pair of Beats Solo 3, or newer headphones.

Today Widget

There are different interaction methods on the Mac, including via the Today section of the Notification Center. With the Today Widget enabled you can not only view the battery levels for all of the bluetooth connected devices, but you can also click on a device that you want to connect and it should connect to your Mac.

AirBuddy Today Widget

Pricing

AirBuddy has a slightly differentiated pricing model than most other apps. For many apps an author will provide a price and you can either agree to pay or not pay it. AirBuddy has this same idea, with a price of $5.00. However, if you so choose, you can actually pay more than the minimum. To quote Office Space:

“Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to [pay] more and we encourage that, okay?”

When I bought the app, I paid more than the minimum. This was for two reasons. The first is to support an indie developer and the second is because any native Mac app that is produced brings even more to the ecosystem. You can purchase AirBuddy at Gumroad.com starting at $5.00.

Closing Thoughts

AirBuddy is an app that cannot live on the Mac App Store. This is because it uses some system frameworks that will not allow it to be in the store. Even though it is a side project for Mr. Rambo, he does intend to provide meaningful updates and bug fixes, as time permits. If you use any W1 enabled headphones on your Mac AirBuddy can help make things easier. While it is a minimalist application, it does what you expect an all in a nice clean interface. AirBuddy is worth the entry fee, whatever you decide that fee is.

Categories
Apple Review

Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone XS: A Review

iPhone XS Smart Battery Case packaging.

It is not often that Apple enters into a new accessory category of products, but it does happen from time to time. One area that people might not have expected Apple get into was the battery case market, but Apple did get into the market. They did so back in 2015.

Smart Battery History

Back in December of 2015 Apple unveiled a brand new product specifically for the iPhone. At the time the iPhone was the iPhone 6s. They called it the “Smart Battery Case”. The Smart Battery Case would provide additional battery for the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6s. The case came in two colors, Charcoal Gray and White. The case had a 1877 milliamp hour battery. This more than doubled the battery on the iPhone 6s. It would provide up to 25 hours of talk time, 18 hours of internets use on LTE, and up to 20 hours of video playback.

With the release of the iPhone 7, Apple unveiled a version that would work with the iPhone 7. The case contained an even bigger battery, 2365 mAh, which is 26% bigger. With this bigger battery it provided even more usage, including up to 26 hours of talk time, up to 22 hours of internet usage on LTE, and up to 24 hours of playback. The iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case came in three colors; Black, White, and (PRODUCT)RED.

Apple did not release a smart battery case for the iPhone 8, nor have they released a smart battery case for any of the Plus-sized phones. Apple has released a Smart Battery Case for their latest iPhones.

New Smart Battery Cases

iPhone XS Smart Battery Case in box.

As mentioned in my post about the release, Apple has released some new Smart Battery Cases. Apple has done something a bit different. This year they released new Battery Cases for all of the iPhone models, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. This is a first for the larger iPhone sizes getting a Smart Battery Case.

When I received my case, it shipped with no charge. This is likely due to standalone battery shipping restrictions. First, they can only be shipped via ground shipping and are not eligible for shipping via air. The second reason that they ship without any charge is to reduce any fire hazard. The lack of charge means that you will need to charge the device before usage. This is different from most of Apple’s other devices, which usually ship with at least some charge in them.

Charging

One of the features of the Smart Battery cases for this year’s phones is the fact that the case can be charged on a Qi charger. You might expect that if the case is charging the iPhone would not be. This is not the way the Smart Battery Case is designed. It can in fact charge both the iPhone charges simultaneously with the case.

If you have a Qi charger and it can support fast charging, which is 7.5 watts. The Smart Battery Case is capable of handling fast charging. The order of which items charges first depends on how much power you provide the case and iPhone. If you use the 5-watt charger that comes with the iPhone it will likely charge the iPhone and may not end up charging the case. If you increase this to 7.5-watts, the iPhone will be be charged first and then the Smart Battery Case. If you use a 10-watt or higher charger then both of the devices should charge simultaneously.

Design and Feel

The Smart Battery Case feels very similar to the iPhone Silicone case. The Smart Battery Case is made of the same material so this is to be expected. The interior of the Smart Battery Case is a soft microfiber lining. This is designed to help protect the back of the iPhone from scratching.

The design of the Smart Battery Case has been tweaked from the previous ones for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6/6s. On the previous models the battery was approximately in the middle of the case with an equal amount of space on the top and bottom. The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case has the battery at the bottom. The edges of the battery at the bottom are rounded and the round edges also extend to both sides of the case. The top of the battery extends to between the volume buttons. This is where the hinge of the case is. The hinge allows you to put the phone into the case as well as remove it when necessary.

I am not sure how many times the hinge can be pulled back before it breaks, and I am not about to test it to find out. With the new rounded design. the Smart Battery Case is great to hold. The Smart Battery Case does add some weight, and one might expect, given that it contains a battery.

Usage

When you connect the Smart Battery Case to an iPhone, the iPhone will show both the iPhone’s battery as well the Smart Battery Case’s current level right on the notification screen. Just as with other accessories, if either the Smart Battery Case or the iPhone is currently charging, it will have a small lightning bolt next to the device to indicate that it is charging. After I put my iPhone XS into the Smart Battery Case. I noticed that the iPhone is constantly be charged. At least that is what I have noticed during my usage of the case. The specifications indicate that you will get up to an additional 13 hours of talk time, an additional 7 hours of internet usage, or an additional 11 hours of Video playback with the Smart Battery Case. I cannot verify this information as I generally do not let my iPhone or the case get that low. I did let the battery pack get close to zero, but never all the way down to zero.

I have yet to remove the Smart Battery Case from my iPhone XS except to remove some dust from the top of the screen. I am not sure if I really even need the battery case, but having it on there may come in handy if I am away from a charger for more than 24 hours.

Closing Thoughts

The Smart Battery Case from Apple will definitely allow your iPhone to last longer. While it is not an inexpensive item, nor is it for everyone, if you are one who could benefit from the use of a battery case, it may be a worthwhile investment. The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case is possible solution. While it does add bulk, it does not feel awkward to hold. I do not yet know if I will end up keeping the case on the iPhone XS when spring and summer come around. Right now keeping it in a hoodie or coat pocket is not a big problem right now. I can only speculate how well it will work in the summer, but I guess we will find out. The Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are available now for $129.

Categories
Review

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe: A Review

Nintendo is a company that elicits a large amount of nostalgia, in the true sense of the word, for many across the world. Nintendo is able to do this through their characters, like Mario, Luigi, and Toad. Through their existence as a gaming company, they have had some ups and downs, some systems have done well, others not so much.

The Wii was a huge success. Its successor the Wii U, not so much. However, Nintendo has hit a home run with the Nintendo Switch. One of the ways that companies help boost the number of games for their platform is by re-releasing previous games, or providing enhanced versions of previous games. Nintendo has supplied a number of games for the Nintendo Switch by creating enhanced versions of games that were available for the Wii U, including the game “Super Mario Bros. U”, with its remastered version “Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe”.

Gameplay

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe combines a couple of games, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U all into one game. I never played Super Luigi U, so this was an opportunity for me to play it. By default you play the New Super Mario Bros. U game, but you can switch to Super Luigi U by scrolling up on the selecting the “Play New Super Luigi U” button on the Main Screen.

New Super Mario Bros. U is a modern take on a traditional Mario game, with its worlds, levels, and castles. New Super Luigi U takes Super Mario Bros U and adds a twist to it. The character you select in New Super Luigi U has slightly different physics. The levels are also slightly different. They are a bit more challenging, but they are also a bit shorter.

Characters

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Characters

With the combination of the two games, you can select from a number of characters. These include Mario, Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Nabbit. Each of these characters has its own abilities. Mario, Luigi, and Toad are all just regular characters. Toadette and Nabbit have a couple of extra words with them. Toadette has “easier” and Nabbit has “easiest”. Using Toadette or Nabbit will make things a bit easier and may help you get past a particularly difficult level, so make sure to use them when appropriate. If you have little kids playing, using Toadette or Nabbit will definitely help.

There is one additional character that you can use, from time to time, but only within certain levels. That character is Yoshi. Yoshi allows you to grab enemies for points or even Apples. Once you get five apples, with one Yoshi, you will get a power-up for the level.

Areas and Levels

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Levels

The areas within Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are the same ones in Super Mario Bros. U. You have Acorn Plains, Layer0Cake Desert, Sparkling Waters, Soda Jungle, Rock-Candy Mines, Meringue Clouds, and Peach’s Castle. As with other Mario games, each of the levels gets progressively harder as you progress through the game.

Each area has a number of different levels, including castles. Throughout the levels you gather coins, once you hit 100 coins you get a 1UP. Which may be needed, particularly in later levels. Interspersed throughout the regular levels are mini castles. The castles are the only place where you can save the game, so it is best to take advantage of these when you can.

Since the first Super Mario Bros 3. game, released in February of 1990, some of the Mario games have been some opportunities for extra items from Toad. Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has these opportunities as well, but they are deluxe versions. These waypoints will provide you with power ups that might help you during some levels. You can only have 10 extra items at one time. When you get an additional item, and you already have 10 items, you will have to discard an item. This can be the one that is to be added to your inventory, if you want.

Within each level there is a checkpoint flag. This flag will allow you to return to the flag if your character dies during the second half of the level, which makes it much easier to finish the second time around since you do not need to go through the entire level again.

Each area has its own type of environment and each has a different set of challenges. It may take some time to figure out the best way to approach a level, but that is all part of the fun.

Large Coins

Each one of the levels have three large coins that you need to collect. These are not always in the obvious spot. Some of these coins are easier with certain characters. Each time you get a large coin, you will be awarded 4000 points for each one, including ones that you have already gotten while playing back through a level.

Tips

There are some tips that might help you through the game play. There are chances to use enemies, like turtle shells, to get rid of a large number of other enemies. When these opportunities arrive, try and take them. This is because each enemy you hit in succession doubles the number of points you are awarded. But, once you hit eight enemies in a row you will be awarded a 1 UP, or extra life.

On the topic of 1 UPs, you can actually have a maximum of 99 lives. These lives are per character. This means that you can have 99 lives for Mario, another 99 lives for Luigi, another 99 for Toadette, and another 99 for Nabbit.

You may find yourself having issues getting through a level. After you have died a number of times, either five or six, you will get a special box. This box will show you how to get through the level. In fact, it will actually do the level for you. You can exit the play through at any point and continue the level for yourself from that point. This can be a way to get through a level if you are having trouble making it through.

Closing Thoughts

It is always better to have more games for a platform than not have enough, as the case was with the Wii U. Some may feel as though it is easy money to just re-issue remastered versions of games, but in the case of Nintendo it is actually a way to extend their existing investment considering that the Wii U was not as successful as they had anticipated.

If you have never played either of the games, but you enjoy playing Mario games and you have a Nintendo Switch, you cannot go wrong with Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. It is a fun game and well worth your time. Even after you finished the game, there is more playability by trying to get all of the large coins.

Overall, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a great game, and with the ability to play with multiple people can be a great game for families to play. Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is available physically or digitally, depending on your preference. There is definitely more playability even after you have finished all of the levels.