Serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, ex-cop Thomas Malone is offered a chance at freedom if he can survive a deadly game of Apex. Six hunters pay for the pleasure of hunting another human on a remote island, but once Malone arrives all hell breaks loose. Laying traps and playing mind games, Malone tries to turn the tables and fight for his life and his future.

Tag: Review

  • Magic Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review

    Magic Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review

    The iPad has changed significantly since its initial introduction in 2010. There have been new features like multitasking, multiple windows, and split view. There have also been changes in the way that iOS looks, from the skeuomorphic design to a more refined one. There has even been changes in the size of the devices from a single 9.7-inch iPad to multiple sizes, 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.2-inch, 10.5-inch, 11-inch, and 12.9-inch models. One of the things that has been true since the original iPad, with iPhone OS 3.2, is that some users want to use the iPad as a productivity tool. One way to be productive is by using a keyboard. The purpose for using a keyboard can be to write, like I do, but a keyboard can also be used for programming with applications like Swift Playgrounds, or even just to use keyboard shortcuts within apps like Photoshop for iPad. While it is possible to use the on-screen keyboard to accomplish some of these tasks, there are instances when using a physical keyboard is just a better overall experience.

    You may think that Apple has only recently made a keyboard specifically for the iPad, but Apple has had keyboards available that you could pair with the iPad since 2010. Let us look at some of those now.

    Apple’s iPad Keyboard History

    Apple has been making iPad keyboards since the original iPad was introduced in 2010. They started with a forgotten device called the “iPad Keyboard Dock”. It is so forgotten that it is not even listed on the Wikipedia page for Apple keyboards, nor on the iPad page. This was a product that had an Apple keyboard attached to an iPad 30-pin dock that was specifically designed to work with the original iPad in portrait mode.

    original iPad Keyboard Dock

    If you did not want to purchase the iPad Keyboard Dock, you could pick up an Apple wireless keyboard for $69. The difference is that the Apple Wireless keyboard was bluetooth and could work with any bluetooth device, which makes using an external keyboard more versatile.

    When I first got an iPad back in 2010, I did not get an iPad Keyboard Dock. Instead, I paired my iPad with an Apple Wireless keyboard. The ones that required 3 AA batteries to power. Once Apple introduced the updated version of the Wireless Keyboard that only required 2 AA batteries, I switched to using that model.

    The fact that the keyboards required batteries did make it a bit difficult sometimes, particularly if you need to use the keyboard but the batteries are dead. Additionally, it was likely that you needed to carry extra batteries with you in order to be able to make sure you could use the keyboard when necessary.

    In 2015, Apple introduced a completely redesigned keyboard, they called it the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard changed almost every aspect of the keyboard. Instead of requiring batteries, it switched to being rechargeable, using the included lightning cable.

    Due to the rechargeable battery the Magic Keyboard was able to have a new lower profile, which makes it much easier to carry and allowed for smaller bags and carrying cases as a result. Even though this is a much better result, it is still not ideal for some because you had to carry multiple items with you. Instead of having to carry multiple devices, it would be easier to only encompass everything into a single item. There are two different lines, depending on which iPad you own. These are called the iPad Smart Keyboard or the iPad Keyboard Folio.

    iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio

    Apple has not focused solely on external keyboards for the iPad. They have also introduced keyboards that are embedded in cases. Apple has called these the Smart Keyboard Folio.

    These are a combination of the Smart Folio, which is a case that covers both the front and back of the iPad, as well as a keyboard. The Keyboard Folio allows you to snap the Keyboard Folio onto the back of the iPad and the edge of the iPad sits on the Keyboard Folio right above the top of the keyboard. There are two positions for the iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio. The iPad Smart Keyboard allows two different angles with the keyboard in front of the iPad. The iPad Smart Keyboard has one position for the iPad on the keyboard or the keyboard can be hidden behind the iPad for when you are viewing media on your iPad.

    There is another additional difference between iPad Smart Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio. The Smart Keyboard Folio has a fabric cover on top of the keyboard. This has two functions. The first is that it protects the keyboard from any debris getting into the keyboard. The second function is to protect the iPad screen.

    The second difference is that the keys have less travel for the keys. The travel is how far you have to press down on a key in order for the key to appear on the screen and the Smart Keyboard Folio has a very short amount of travel, similar to the butterfly keyboards on the late-2015 to 2018 MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

    All of this changes with the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Before we delve into that, let us look at the design.

    Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro

    The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is three devices in one. These devices are a case, a keyboard, and a trackpad. The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro covers the entire back of the iPad and attaches to the iPad using magnets.The magnets allow the iPad Pro to be positioned properly for a few reasons. The first is so that the cutout for the camera will be positioned properly on the 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro as well as the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro.

    The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro works with the last two generations of the iPad Pro. These are the 3rd and 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 1st and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro. The latter of the two sizes has a new camera sensor that has a square design and the Magic Keyboards are designed with these iPads in mind. Therefore, on the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 1st generation 11-inch iPad Pro, you will see more of the back of the iPad. In practice, this is not a problem.

    The second reason for the magnets is so that Smart Connector will be aligned properly. The Smart connector is how the Magic Keyboard actually gets its power from the iPad Pro and does not have any battery contained within the keyboard itself.

    With the Magic Keyboard attached, the iPad Pro floats over the keyboard so that you can still hit the keys in the number row, if you need them. When you type on the keyboard, you will notice that the keyboard is backlit. This can come in handy if you are using the Magic Keyboard while in the dark. You are able to adjust the brightness of the Magic Keyboard through settings. You can go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Hardware Keyboard and you can adjust the brightness of the keyboard.

    The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has a cantilevered design. This means that you can adjust the iPad Pro’s angle to the most comfortable for you. This angle is limited though. This is due to the next item to discuss, the weight of the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

    Weight

    As you might expect, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro does have some heft to it. In fact, it weighs 1.51 pounds, or 684 grams. When you combine this with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the entire package, including an Apple Pencil, coms to 2.95 pounds, or 1,337 grams. I wonder if this weight is purely accidental, or is this was the target weight for the entire pack. When you first hear that the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Magic Keyboard comes to almost 3 pounds, it might sound like a lot. But the question is, how does this compare to other portable Apple devices.

    I only have a few devices to compare this to. These are an Early 2015 MacBook Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, and a Mid-2007 MacBook.

    The Early-2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro comes in at 3.48 pounds, or 1578.5 grams. This is approximately 20 percent heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. So this is a bit heavier. Even heavier still is a 16-inch MacBook Pro, which comes in at 4.3 pounds, or 1,950.45 grams. This makes the 16-inch MacBook Pro 45.8% heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. Lastly, the Mid-2007 Black MacBook is a hefty 5.2 pounds, or 3.45 times heavier than the MacBook.

    While the Magic Keyboard does make the iPad heavier, it is not as heavy as other portable Apple devices, even somewhat recent ones.

    Keyboard

    The big draw for purchasing the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, for me anyway, is the keyboard. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro honors its name, it is the Magic Keyboard. It has the same layout, the same key sizes, and even the same key mechanism. This means that it is a Magic Keyboard through and through. There are some differences between the standard Magic Keyboard and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

    The biggest change is that the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has one fewer rows of keys. The entire top row is not present on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This means that there is no physical escape key, nor any function keys. The lack of function keys does mean that some changes need to be made, if you are used to using another keyboard with the iPad Pro. Because of the changes, there are some things that you may have to get used to.

    The first change, and for me it is the biggest, is the lack of an escape key. There may not be that many things that I can do well, but using a computer keyboard is one of them. Since I tend to use the keyboard as much as possible, the lack of an escape key makes it super difficult for me to adjust. I use the escape key for various tasks, particularly with a terminal. It is possible to re-map keys on iOS. These keys are:

    • Caps Lock
    • Control
    • Option
    • Command
    • Globe

    So you can re-map one of these if you would like. Since I go between many devices, re-mapping one of the keys will not work for me. I really hope the second revision has a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs made with the keyboard, and I agree with them, but it makes it more difficult for me. There is another way to simulate the escape key. The key combination of command and period will perform the same function as escape, for the most part anyway.

    Next, let us look at the other item on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, the trackpad.

    Trackpad

    iOS 13.4 was specifically designed for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This is due to the addition of trackpad support within iOS. The first thing you will notice is the physical size of the trackpad. The trackpad is 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Let us see how this compares to other devices.

    • My Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 4.375 inches by 3.125 inches tall.
    • Apple stand-alone Magic Trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.5625 inches tall.
    • The Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.00 inches tall.

    When you look at these the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro might seem small. However, there is one last item to compare the trackpad to, the Mid-2007 MacBook. If you measure the trackpad for the 2007 MacBook you come up with 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Hmm…this is the same size as the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Therefore, while the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may seem small, in comparison to more recent trackpads on devices, the trackpads on past devices have been the same size and we used those for years.

    Here is an life-size comparison of the various trackpads. As you can see, the sizes really do differ quite a bit depending on the device being used.

    Even though the physical size between the 2007 MacBook and the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may be the same, they do not function the same, outside of moving the cursor. The trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro supports many of the same gestures as the standard trackpads. This includes three finger swipes, pinch to zoom, and even four finger gestures, although the latter are a bit more difficult to accomplish with one hand.

    The trackpad is a great addition and combined with iOS 13.4, it is will allow some to be even more productive than before.

    Possible Drawbacks

    To use the tag line of John Siracusa’s Hypercritical podcast, “Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.” That means there are a few things that could be possible drawbacks to be aware of regarding the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. Most of these have been covered, but let us recap.

    The first issue I mentioned earlier, the lack of a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs being made. On a standard Magic Keyboard there is an additional row that has the Escape key as well as 12 function keys and an “eject” key; at least on the US English keyboard layout.

    Also mentioned earlier is the fact that command + period will replicate the escape key, and for those who use the app “vim” for terminal editing, this does work well for the escape key. Despite this, a physical escape key would be nice, even if the other top row keys where reduced to accommodate the key.

    The second possible drawback is the weight. As outlined above if you are accustomed to using the iPad on its own, the weight difference will be quite noticeable. However, if you compare it to a traditional laptop, it will be lighter and therefore more portable.

    The third possible drawback is the possible angles. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is limited in the angles that it can be tilted towards. Just as with the lack of a physical escape key, the reasons for this make sense. In the case of the limited angles is due to making sure that the keyboard is balanced.

    In fact, the keyboard is so balanced that you can perch the keyboard, complete with iPad, on the edge of a desk and it will not fall. Which cannot be said for other keyboards that are on the market. I would not recommend always living on the edge, but the keyboard is quite balanced.

    The last possible drawback, is the price, which is outlined below.

    Price

    At first glance when you look at it, the Magic Keyboard for the iPad is not an inexpensive product. The keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro is $299, and the keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $349. At first glance this may seem like a lot, and there is no denying that it is expensive. Yet, it may not be as expensive as you think. If you were to add up the cost of the three items in the Magic Keyboard for iPad, a cover, the magic keyboard, and a magic trackpad, it would be $99, $99, and $129 respectively, or a total of $327.

    Therefore, this does make the overall price for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro a bit more than buying each item separately, but for that price, you get allof them in a single package. Therefore, you do not need to worry about having three separate items. It is entirely true that you cold purchase less expensive solutions for the iPad Pro and you can be satisfied with those, but if you are looking at Apple-only solutions, then this really is comparable.

    Closing Thoughts

    I have used my 3rd Generation iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard for just about a week now. I used to use my iPad on a somewhat regular basis, but I feel as though I will be using my iPad a bit more than before. This is because I now have a device that can fill in most of the functions of my 2015 MacBook Pro. I am not sure whether or not I will end up replacing the MacBook Pro when it comes time. This is because the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard may be able to fulfill the role that my MacBook Pro has done so far, for the most part.

    There are some items that I cannot do on my iPad, as easily, even with the Magic Keyboard and trackpad. The biggest of these is web development. I use the Safari Inspector quite a bit, and it is not available at all on iPadOS. Additionally, I use BBEdit for all of my web development. The built-in SFTP and browsing has become an absolute essential for me, and without this I am not able to be as productive with my web development. If you happen to know of another tool that is comparable, definitely let me know.

    However, there are other tasks that I can do with the new setup. Chiefly among these is writing. It is my hope to be able to use the iPad to write most of the books I plan to write this summer, but time will tell. It is possible that significantly more of the books will be written using the iPad, now that there is a keyboard that makes it much easier to type on when sitting in various places.

    The combination of iPadOS 13.4 and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has capability of fundamentally changing the way that you use the iPad Pro. While it was possible to use an iPad with a keyboard, the addition of a trackpad makes the iPad like a laptop. For those who really enjoy using iPadOS as their primary operating system, but would really benefit from using a TrackPad, then you cannot go wrong with the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, even with the starting price of $299.

  • Beats Solo Pros: A Review

    Beats Solo Pros: A Review

    My work consists of a variety of things including web programming and now iOS programming. If you have ever done some programming you know that keeping background noise out is something that you will need to do. This is definitely the case for me, particularly since I work in an open office environment. In order to be able to get stuff done, I purchased a pair of Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones back in November of 2016. Since then they have served as my headphones that I used each day at work.

    I did run into a problem with them not turning on in 2017 and they were replaced under warranty. Earlier this year I began running into a problem with the right side of the headband where the plastic hinge broke. Luckily, it was able to be fixed, albeit temporarily, by using electrical tape. Sometime this summer the left side began experiencing the same issue. I could have replaced the headphones, but I decided to wait until the next version before replacing them. Luckily, for me, Apple announced the Beats Solo Pros in October. Because of my new start, I decided to buy a pair of the Beats Solo Pros.

    Physical Construction

    The Beats Solo Pros are a much more solid set of headphones, as compared to the Beats Solo 3 Wireless. The first thing you will notice is that the headband is made out of metal, and not just plastic. Similarly, the headband construction is different. With the Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, the headband is two pieces of plastic. With the Beats Solo Pros, the plastic is replaced by metal. Hopefully, this will allow the headphones to last longer and not break as easily.

    Controls

    One of the features of the Beats line of headphones is the ability to control certain aspects of the headphones. The Beats have the ability to pause, play, volume adjustment, setting the Beats for synchronization, as well as powering on the Beats. With the Beats Solo 3, the way you power them on has changed. Now, instead of having a dual-purpose power/synching button, there is only a synchronization button. This is because the way you power on the Beats Solo Pros is by a new method, simply opening them up.

    This new method makes it much easier to power on the headphones and there is no more guessing whether r not the headphones are on, because they will automatically power on for you.

    If you have used Beats Solo, the rest should be completely familiar. The remainder of the functions are the same. You can still use the left control to play, pause, adjust the volume, go to the next or previous track. There is one major difference with the Beats Solo Pros and that is the Noise Canceling.

    Noise Canceling

    The big feature of the Beats Solo Pro is its ability to enable noise canceling. There are actually three different modes for noise cancelling. These modes are “Active Noise Canceling”, “Off”, and “Transparency Mode”. Each of the modes has their own pluses and minuses.

    Active Noise Cancelling

    There are instances when you may want to be able to reduce the amount of noise from your surrounding area. This is where Active Noise Cancelling can be of assistance. When you enable Active Noise Cancelling, two microphones will be utilized. The first microphone will pull in the noise from outside the headphones, so it can be filtered out. The second microphone will listen to the sound coming out of the headphones and remove all of the excess noise.

    It should be noted, that there are some that cannot handle Active Noise Cancellation. So, you should definitely test out a pair of Beats Solo Pros, in a store, to see if the Active Noise Cancellation is something that you can handle. For me, if I am sitting still I can enable the Active Noise Cancellation. However, if there is any movement, I start to get nauseous. Due to this, I end up turning off noise cancellation most of the time.

    Transparency

    The second possible mode is called Transparency. Transparency mode is useful if you want to be able to hear the audio playing in your headphones, but still need to be able to hear the environment around you. This is very useful if you are out walking about and need to be able to hear vehicles coming.

    Off

    If you select the “Off” option, the Beats Solo Pros will act similarly to that of the Beats Solo 3. The biggest benefit of this is that the battery life of the Beats Solo Pros will be 40 hours, which is 45% more than if you have Active Noise Cancelling or Transparency Mode enabled.

    Color Options

    The Beats Solo Pros come in six colors, Dark Blue, Ivory, Gray, Red, Light Blue, and Black. I opted to go with the Black headphones, because it is the default choice, for me, when it comes to electronic devices. With the selection of colors, you should be able to find one that matches your style.

    Connectivity

    On the Beats Solo Pros there are a total of four buttons; volume up, volume down, pause, and the synchronization button. With the Beats Solo 3 Wireless you had the option of using the headphones even if there was no battery charge by connecting the headphone cable from the Beats Solo 3 headphones to your device. That is no longer possible with the Beats Solo Pros. You can only connect via bluetooth there is no analog option.

    The method of charging has changed, instead of using micro-USB for connectivity, the Beats Solo Pros use Apple’s lightning technology for charging the headphones. This makes it easier for those with an iPhone to charge using the same cable. A black lightning cable is included with the Beats Solo Pros.

    I tested connecting the Beats Solo Pros to my iPad Pro using a USB-C to Lightning adapter, but it did not connect to audio. However, when I did connect the cable, the iPad Pro did charge the headphones. This can be helpful if you are in a pinch and need to charge your Beats Solo Pro headphones and you happen to have a USB-C to lightning cable with you.

    Closing Thoughts

    The Beats Solo Pros are the natural progression in the Beats wireless headphone line. The addition of Noise Cancelling, with its three modes, is a significant benefit for those who want to use it. The Beats Solo Pros are of a more solid construction with the metal on the sides of the headband, which should help the headphones last a bit longer than the Beats Solo 3 model.

    If you want a set of on ear headphones that support noise cancelling, you cannot go wrong with the Beats Solo Pros. You can purchase a pair of Beats Solo Pros for $299.95 from Apple or another retailer. You can also add Apple Care+ for $29 as well.

  • Apple Watch Series 5: A Review

    Apple Watch Series 5: A Review

    It is strange to think that only five years ago Apple introduced a whole new product line, the Apple Watch. While it was introduced in September of 2014, it was not actually available for purchase until April of 2015.

    In the past almost five years, both the Apple Watch hardware, as well the accompanying software, watchOS, has seen some significant upgrades. If you owned an original Apple Watch, retroactively dubbed the Series 0, you knew that it was not exactly the fastest piece of hardware around. Besides the hardware being slow, all of the interactions relied upon the paired iPhone for communications.

    If it was merely a matter of having slow hardware and slow software, it may have been tolerable, given that it was a first-generation product. However, to add even more third-party applications were very limited in what they could do even on the watch. The overall experience for the first Apple Watch was, in a word, limited.

    Apple recognized this limitation by creating the Series 1 Apple Watch, which was effectively a Series 0 watch, but had double the processing power. This upgrade vastly improved the functionality. At the same time, the Apple Watch Series 2 was released. The improvements with the Series 2 included water resistance, GPS, a brighter screen, and Nike+ Editions.

    The next big upgrade was with the Apple Watch Series 3 when Apple introduced a cellular option for the Apple Watch, Blush Gold, and a barometric altimeter. Last year’s Series 4 Apple Watch included a new ECG sensor, with a companion digital sensor, a whole new set of sizes, 40mm and 44mm, and a gyroscope.

    Series 5

    The Apple Watch Series 5 does not have nearly as many new hardware specific features that the Series 4 watch did, However, there are a couple of very welcome improvements. The improvements with the Series 5 watch include an Always On Display, a Compass, and additional storage. Let us look at each of these.

    Always On Display

    One of the features that traditional watches have is the ability to always see the time. This has not been available on the Apple Watch, until the Series 5. The Always On Display, is, as the name states, always on. The Always On Display was definitely not possible on the original Apple Watch, the Series 1 nor the Series 2 Apple Watch. The battery life on the Series 4 could have handled it, but it likely was not ready with the Series 4.

    When you have the “Always On” display enabled a few things will happen. First, the display will always be on. Secondly, any complications that have “sensitive” data will be hidden when your wrist is down. Sensitive Data is defined as health, calendar appointments, mail, and heart rate. The reason for this is to make sure that your private information is not shown to others. In the case of Activity data, all of the rings are turned black, so the data cannot be seen.

    Additionally, when your wrist is down, the size of the screen will shrink a bit and the display will dim. This allows you an easy way to recognize that the display is off. Furthermore, when your wrist is down, you are not able to take screenshots. Again, this is to protect your data.

    You can disable the Always On display, if you so choose to do so. To disable the Always On display perform the following steps:

    1. On the Apple Watch,, or use the Watch app on an iPhone,. open the Settings app.
    2. Scroll down “Display & Brightness”.
    3. Tap on “Display & Brightness” to open the setting.
    4. Tap on “Always On” to open the Always On setting.
    5. Tap on the “Always On” toggle to disable the “Always On” display.

    If you disable the Always On display, your Apple Watch will work similarly to the Series 4, and earlier models, and the display will only be turned on when you raise your wrist.

    The last change with the Always On Display, while your wrist is down, is that the screen will refresh much slower than the Series 4. In fact, the screen refresh rate may be reduced to as low as 1 Hertz. This means that the screen will refresh once per second, which should, in theory, significantly improve battery life. On the topic of battery life, let us look at that next.

    Battery Life

    With each subsequent version of a product, it is quite likely for the battery life to improve. This is typically done by improving efficiency, increasing battery size, or both. In the case of the Series 5, the size of the battery has increased, but not for the 44mm watch, just the 40mm one.

    As alluded to above, the battery life on the Series 4 Apple Watch was absolutely tremendous. I could easily go all day without needing worry about the battery running low. Most days the battery would be at above 50%. That has not my experience with the Series 5.

    While I would suspect the Series 5 to have slightly worse battery life, due to the Always On Display, my battery life has been significantly worse than the Series 4. There are some days that my 44mm Series 5 Apple Watch is down to 25% when I put it on the charger. I have not been using the Series 5 in any different manner than I did with the Series 4.

    To me, this is not acceptable. Yes, there is technically enough battery life to get through the day, that is only with approximately 30 minutes of exercise. If I end up doing a longer workout this results in even less battery life remaining. If I had been running a beta, I might have expected this, but this is the release version of watchOS, so it is not that. Hopefully, Apple will be able to improve the battery life with a subsequent update. Let us look at the another new feature, the Compass.

    Compass

    The Compass is a brand new feature of the Series 5 Apple Watch. The Compass allows you to determine your current heading; just as a handheld compass would do. The digital compass provides more than just the current heading. You can also see the current degree of inline, elevation, latitude and longitude. Even though this is a great feature, there may be some possible issues with it.

    Possible Issues

    The compass is not foolproof. This is because the Compass in the Apple Watch Series 5 can be affected by any magnet. This includes magnets within Watch Bands.

    Per Apple’s support page for the Compass:

    The presence of magnets can affect the accuracy of any compass sensor. Apple’s Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that might interfere with the Apple Watch compass. The compass isn’t affected by Sport Loop bands introduced in September 2019, or any version of the Sport Band.

    What this means is that if you have a Milanese Loop, a Leather Loop, and older Apple Watch Sport Loop, and possibly even third-party watch bands, they may interfere with the Compass on the Apple Watch. It is not guaranteed to do so, but it might cause a problem. This is something to be aware of, in case you need to rely on the Compass.

    Storage

    The storage for the Apple Watch has steadily increased since the original Apple Watch. For the first three generations you had 8GB of storage on the Apple Watch. If you had a Series 3 Cellular model, this was doubled to 16GB. The Series 4 made 16GB standard, and the Series 5 Apple Watch has 32GB of storage standard.

    This rapid increase in storage has is great if you want to store additional media, like voice memos, music, and photos. I do not see Apple adding additional storage beyond 32GB, unless there is a significant reason to add storage. There is one last thing to cover, the included watch band.

    Purchasing Experience

    Apple has done something different when you purchase an Apple Watch. With the release of the Series 4 Apple Watch, you had to choose one of the pre-defined Apple Watch and Watch Band. Even if you did this, the two items would come in separate boxes. That is not the case with the Series 5. You can now pair any Apple Watch with any Apple Watch band.

    This has a couple of different benefits. The first is that you can get the exact pairing that you want. This means that you can get the exact pairing of Apple Watch and band that meets your style. Additionally, this also means that you will not need to have a band that you will not end up using. This is not only good for your wallet, but also for the environment, because Apple does not have to produce an additional watch band that may just end up in the landfill. Next, let us look at the Sport Loop.

    Sport Loop

    I will not do a whole review of the Apple Watch Sport Loop, because I did one in 2018. Instead, I want to comment on the design of the 2019 Sport Loops.

    This year Apple has gone with a two-tone color scheme for the sport loops. The sport loop that I chose this year is the Anchor Gray. In the picture this looks like a black and gray band, however when you look at it in person, it is actually two different shades of gray. The darker of the two colors is on the outside while the lighter of the two is on the inside of the band.

    This is a nice look overall and I think the two-tone color scheme has a second utility, besides new colors. I think it is related to the Compass feature and allows Apple employees to easily identify the band as one that does not interfere with the Compass feature on the Series 5 Apple Watch.

    Closing Thoughts

    The Apple Watch Series 5 is a decent upgrade, particularly with the Always On display. While the battery life has been significantly degraded, it still does make it though the day. The battery life may improve with a software upgrade, but only time will tell on that.

    The new Compass is a nice feature, particularly since it provides you with the current latitude and longitude. The new 2019 Sport Loops will not interfere with the compass, but some other bands may interfere. The additional storage that is available should come in handy if you want to load up your Apple Watch with any type of media.

    If you have an original Apple Watch, a Series 1, or even a Series 2, the Apple Watch Series 5 will be a great upgrade. If you have a Series 4, it may not be necessary to upgrade, unless you absolutely must have the Always On display.

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max: A 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.

  • Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A 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.

  • Second Generation AirPods: A Review

    Second Generation AirPods: A Review

    Technology affords various things to occur, instant communication, in-depth research, and personalization. This last one has become expected by many users. Instead of getting the same experience as everyone else, users have come to expect that their experience will be different than most others. With that customization comes the need to be able to partake in that personalized service apart from others. One way that this is possible is through the use of headphones. There are a large number of headphones from different manufacturers available. These headphones also come at various price points.

    Somewhere on the higher end is Apple’s wireless earbuds, the AirPods. Apple’s first AirPods were announced in September of 2016 and were released in December of the same year. In the more than two years of availability the AirPods have gained popularity and have become more and more common.

    Apple released the second-generation of their popular wireless earbuds on March 20th. You could place an order for the second-generation AirPods, with or without the wireless charging case, for delivery between March 27th and the 29th. When I found out there was a new pair, I immediately ordered a set, with the Wireless Charging case. My delivery date was between March 27th and March 29th. However, it seems like I am destined to have issues with my first pair of AirPods for each generation. At least that has been the case for my first generation as well as this generation.

    The Issue

    As I mentioned above, I ordered the AirPods on March 20th, for delivery on the 27th. UPS attempted to deliver them on the 27th, but I was not home at the time. I was notified that they it could not be delivered and would try again the next day. I knew that I would not be home on the 28th either. So I asked to have it delivered to a UPS store, so I could pick it up from the store.

    I went to the UPS Store on the 28th, and they indicated that they did not have it. One of the UPS employees called corporate support to make sure that the package would be delivered on the 29th. This took about 15 minutes on the phone with them. The support person indicated that the package should be there on the 29th. The UPS Staff member who helped me indicated that they typically receive packages around 11:00 am. I figure, okay, I can pick them up then. So I go back to the UPS store on the 29th, again no package. While I was at the store a UPS truck drove up, and a staff member asked if they had any packages for delivery, but they did not. At that point the UPS Store staff indicated that I had to contact customer services and start a claim for a lost package.

    So I drove home and then called UPS customer support. After explaining the situation the representative and the story, the representative indicated that the package is considered “lost” and that I could not initiate an investigation, the shipper had to do that, so I would have to call them.

    I called Apple and explained the situation. The Apple representative needed to get some information to start the investigation. When Apple initiates an investigation, they refund the money and then handle the issue with UPS. So I got my money back, which is fine, however I did not have a pair of AirPods. To go with this, the second-generation AirPods, at that time, would take 2 to 3 weeks before they should ship.

    I looked to see if I could a pair and pick them up from the Apple Store, but no nearby Apple Stores had the AirPods with Wireless Charging case. However, my local Apple Store did have the AirPods and Wireless Charging case separately, for “Pickup Today”. This is the route I ended up going. It cost more, but I was able to get them sooner.

    I am disappointed in that UPS manage to lose a package, I know things happen and that the number of packages that end up lost is probably way less than 1, given the number of packages that they deliver. I recognize that it was just my turn to have this happen, but it seems like it should not have disappeared given that it arrived back to the depot. Now, onto the actual review.

    Second-Generation AirPods

    If you were given a pair of first-generation AirPods as well as second generation AirPods and you were asked to tell the difference just by looking at them, you would not be able to do so. That is because there is no physical difference between the two generations. All of the changes have been inside the AirPods themselves.

    I do not use my AirPods the entire day while I am at work. However, whenever I am at home I generally am using them. The second-generation AirPods have an all new wireless chip, called the H1, which is specifically designed for headphones. This replaces the W1 wireless chip present in the first generation.

    The benefits of the H1 over the W1 start off with offering 30 percent lower latency and is Bluetooth 5.0, instead of Bluetooth 4.2 with the first generation. This directly translates into one of the most noticeable benefits of the second generation AirPods, faster switching between devices.

    It is not often that I switch devices, however there are instances when it does happen. With the first-generation AirPods it seemed like it would take an awfully long time to have the headphones switch. During my testing it is approximately 7 seconds for the switch to occur between two iOS devices. When switching from an iOS device to a Mac, it is a bit longer, closer to nine or ten seconds. In reality this is not a long time, but in today’s fast-paced world it can seem slow.

    With the second-generation AirPods, the switching has been significantly improved. When going between iOS devices the amount of time is less than half, at about 3 seconds. When switching between an iOS device and ac Mac it is about half at five seconds. This is a significant improvement and a very welcome one.

    The H1 chip also enables an additional feature, Siri.

    Hey Siri

    Siri is Apple’s digital assistant and now Siri can be with you in your ears. This is the case with other earbuds as well, but only if an iOS device is nearby. With Siri in the second-generation AirPods, your phone does not need to be near by in order to use the digital assistant. That is not the case with the second-generation AirPods.

    When you activate “Hey Siri” on the second-generation AirPods, Siri will be activated on the device that the AirPods are connected to and it will use that device to process the Siri interactions.

    If you have multiple iOS-based devices and say “Hey Siri, all of them might light up but only one will respond. The devices will determine who has precedence and that device will handle the request. If you are a household that has a HomePod, it will typically be the HomePod that will handle the request. The second-generation AirPods will now also participate in the determining precedence of devices. Specifically, the AirPods will take precedence over all devices, including the HomePod.

    This order makes sense given that if you are using the AirPods and want to use Siri you likely want to use the AirPods to handle the request. You can still manually trigger Siri on a specific device if you want that one to handle the request. What would be even better is if you were able to set different trigger phrases for different devices. This could be a selection from a pre-defined list.

    Charging

    The first-generation AirPods created an interesting take on charging headphones. Whereas most wireless headphones require you to plug in a cable to charge them, the AirPods used the case as the charger. The AirPods themselves charge via induction while in the case. The case itself would have to be charged via a lightning cable.

    For the second-generation AirPods, this changes, but not necessarily for everyone. With the second-generation AirPods you have the option of purchasing them with or without a wireless charging case.

    The wireless charging case is a Qi-compatible charging case. This means that you can use any Qi-compatible pad to charge your AirPods case. Having a wireless charging case does change things a bit. The case itself is a bit heavier as well as bit bulkier. The differences ar slight, and may not be noticeable.

    There is one other change with the case. In order to know the status of case and the earbuds, the AirPods case has an indicator light on it. For the first-generation AirPods this was under the top and in between the two AirPods. With the non-wireless charging case you could connect a lightning cable to the case and then flip the case open. If you did this, the indicator light would stay on indefinitely. This is not a scenario that would occur for most users, however it would occur for some.

    The location of this indicator light has changed with the Wireless Charging Case. The light is now on the front of the case. This is necessary in order to be able to quickly see the status when the Wireless Charging case is on a Qi-compatible charging pad.

    You might think that with the light being on all the time would be a problem. But Apple has anticipated this and the light will turn off after about 10 seconds. This is the case for either wireless charging or when you plug in the Wireless Charging case to a lightning cable.

    Closing Thoughts

    If you already own a pair of first-generation AirPods, then it may not necessarily be worthwhile upgrading to the second generation. There are of course some exceptions to this. If you purchased the AirPods when they were first available the battery is not likely as strong as when you first got them, so purchasing the second-generation may be a sound investment.

    Right now, if you want to purchase a pair of second-generation AirPods with the Wireless Charging case, you will have to wait for a bit. The second generation AirPods with Wireless Charging case will currently ship in 3-4 weeks, when ordering from Apple, although they may be available for pickup from your local Apple store sooner than that.

    As a side note, as of this writing, UPS is still trying to locate the package. You would think that given that their entire business is built on package delivery and tracking that they would be able to find the package, but it does not seem to be the case.

  • AirBuddy: A 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.

  • Third Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review

    Third Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review
    iPad Pro size comparisons, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 3rd Gen, iPad Pro 2nd Gen

    It is now well known that before the iPhone, Apple was working on a tablet. While the iPhone was released first, a tablet did eventually get introduced. Since its first introduction in 2010, the iPad has seen some transformations. The original iPad had a screen that measured 9.7-inches, diagonally. In 2013, Apple unveiled the iPad Mini, which had a 7.9-inch screen. It was not until November of 2015 when the direction of the iPad changed again with the first generation iPad Pro.

    The iPad Pro, as the name suggests, is intended for professionals; however you want to define the word “professional”. The iPad Pro brought a few new features. The first was a larger screen size, 12.9-inches to be exact. The screen size also brought the ability to use two applications simultaneously, with each app taking a portion of the screen. The apps can take up 33%, 50%, or 66% of the screen. This change allowed users to be more productive on iOS, than they had been previously.

    In lieu of using multiple apps simultaneously, the iPad Pro also brought the ability for users to just glance quickly at some information., you could also use another feature, Slide Over, to have an application hover over another application. This could be used temporarily, or a longer term basis; depending on need.

    Even with the advancements of the iPad, and its software, the ultimately question is though, what does the 2018 iPad bring to enhance the iPad line? Quite a bit actually. Let us start with the physical size of the iPad Pro.

    Physical Size

    The biggest change with the iPad Pro is the bezels around the screen. The actual screen size has not changed, it is still 12.9-inches. However, the physical size of the iPad Pro has been reduced, because the bezels around the iPad are now the same around all sides. This means that the height has been reduced by an entire inch vertically. On the sides, it has been reduced by about half an inch total.

    After having become accustomed to the 2018 iPad Pro, I held the `d Generation model again and noticed that the weight of the older device seemed much heavier than as compared to the third-generation. Even though the actual weight difference being 59 grams, or 0.13 pounds, it seems like it is actually more than that. I can only attribute this to the physical size difference.

    2nd and 3rd Generation iPad Pro Depth comparison

    With the new size of the device, Apple has also adjusted the depth of the iPad Pro to be a consistent size, instead of being tapered as it was before. This change does make it easier to grip the iPad Pro. The reduced physical size also means that the iPad Pro has been reduced in weight. This reduction makes it nicer to hold for longer. Even though holding the iPad Pro is much easier to hold, it is likely that you will not always be holding it. For these instances, and as a means of protecting the iPad Pro, Apple has created a new case for the iPad Pro, the Smart Folio.

    Smart Folio

    The iPad Pro has had a cover since the original iPad. With the release of the iPad 2, Apple brought out a new cover, the Smart Cover. The difference with the Smart Cover is that it utilized built-in magnets within the iPad 2 and connected the cover to the iPad itself. The Smart Cover protected the screen and put the iPad to sleep when closed, or woke it up when the cover is opened. This has been a Smart Cover available for each subsequent iPad as well. The Smart cover provided more than just a protective cover. It also doubled a stand. With the stand you could put it into a few different positions.

    This is possible through the folds that are along the cover. They allow you to change the position of the iPad to best suit your needs. You can prop the iPad up almost vertically or you can lay it down so it a bit flatter.

    The original iPad Pro had a cover designed for it. It encompassed the entire device, the front as well as the back. However, there were no smarts within the cover, it was merely a protective mechanism. The 2018 iPad Pro also has a Smart Cover, but it does more than just cover the screen. It also covers the entire back of the iPad Pro. This is a combination of the original iPad cover as well as a Smart Cover. Since it is neither a case nor a Smart Cover, it has a new name, it is called the Smart Folio.

    The Smart Folio allows you to position the iPad Pro as you would with any other Smart Cover, but it encompasses the entire back by using magnets to attach the back of the Smart Folio to the back of the iPad.

    There is one additional change, which is a nice touch. When you used a Smart Cover for previous iPads, if you wanted to use the camera on the iPad you would have to hold the cover back the entire time you needed to use the camera. However, with the Smart Folio, and the magnets, the back of the Smart Folio will stick to the back of the iPad Pro, which makes using the camera on iPad Pro much better. On the topic of the camera, let us briefly turn to it.

    Camera

    When you think of the major uses of an iPad, using it as a camera may not be the first ing that comes to mind. The reason for this, for long time iPad users, is because when the iPad was first introduced, it did not contain a camera that most would consider a first-rate camera. They have been functional, but not the best quality.

    Through the iPad’s history, it took a while before Apple starting putting better cameras into the iPad. While the rear cameras steadily improved, however the Face Time camera did not really get much of an upgrade, until the first-generation iPad Pro.

    The camera on the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a completely redesigned lens, even though the specs are the same as the previous generation. The quality, on the other hand, is improved.

    Here are some examples of the same photo taken with different devices. You can clearly see the improved quality between the second-generation iPad Pro, and the third-generation. The improvement is even more prevalant when you compare the third-generation iPad Pro with the iPad Air 2.

    The rear camera is not the only one on the third-generation iPad Pro. There is also the front camera assembly, including the Face ID camera.

    Face ID

    As mentioned earlier, the third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro has consistent bezels around all of the edges of the iPad. Housed within the top edge of the iPad Pro is the Face ID sensor array. The iPad Pro’s Face ID is slightly different than the Face ID found on the iPhone X, iPhone XS, or the iPhone XR. The difference is that the iPad Pro can be used in any orientation. This can be in either portrait or landscape, upside down or right-side up.

    With the ability to use any orientation, it is possible that you will be using the IPad Pro in landscape and holding either of the sides. If this occurs, your hand will likely be covering the Face ID camera. If this does happen, a message will be shown indicating that the camera is covered. The message will indicate where the camera is located, so you can uncover it.

    Having a consistent experience between an iPad and iPhone is very nice. Instead of having to try and remember that I am using an iPad and that I have to use Touch ID, I can just use Face ID. Just as with the iPhone, it is much more convenient to use Face ID. Just by looking at the iPad Pro, which I am likely already doing, any authentication that needs to occur, can do so automatically.

    It would be nice to see Face ID on the iPhone get the same treatment as the iPad, meaning that it can work in any orientation. It is understandable as to why it has come to the iPad Pro first. The primary reason for this is likely due to the iPad being used in landscape orientation significantly more than the iPhone is.

    With the iPad Pro, Apple introduced a new connector, the Smart Connector. The Smart Connector is designed to allow devices to be attached to the keyboard, but not over Bluetooth or Wifi. The connector allows devices to draw power from the iPad, which means that they do not need to contain any batteries in order to work. The connector has only been used for one accessory, keyboards.

    Keyboards

    Apple does have a Smart Folio Keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro, but I did not purchase one. This is because I prefer to use the Magic Keyboard 2 for my keyboard needs with the iPad. I would like to see a wireless version of the Magic Keyboard 2 in Space Gray, so that it would more closely match the iPad Pro, but unfortunately there is not one available.

    I have been using an Apple Keyboard with the iPad since the original iPad. There has consistently been one issue with the iPad Pro and the Apple Keyboards. That issue is temporary loss of bluetooth connectivity. If you have been using the iPad Pro with a keyboard for a while, and if you do not touch the keyboard, the keyboard seems to disconnect. It will reconnect, but you need to hit at least three keys before any keystrokes are recognized. This happens in all applications, Apple apps as well as third-party applications. When it does occur, it usually results in missing letters, so that the word that you were expecting to type does not actually get put onto the screen. The errors can be corrected but it is quite inconvenient and it is not something that should occur, but alas, it does.

    I completely get that Apple might be aggressive in saving battery life, in order to provide the longest battery. But this is not the way to save battery. Maybe it is just me, but in a vast majority of cases if you have a keyboard connected it means that you intend to use it; Hence, the keyboard should not disconnect so quickly, or at all. This has been happening intermittently since at least the first generation iPad Pro. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to this, but it can be problematic.

    One of the other things that the iPad Pro introduced was a new input method, this time it is with a stylus. Apple calls their stylus the Apple Pencil. Let us look at that next.

    The Apple Pencil

    The 2018 iPad Pro brought with it a refinement to the Apple Pencil, the second generation Apple Pencil. Apple missed an excellent naming opportunity with the new Apple Pencil, they should have called it the “No. 2 Pencil”, but alas, they did not. But it does not stop me from doing so, and I will.

    The No. 2 Pencil has been completely redesigned. It now sports a flat surface on one edge. The edge now helps prevent the Apple Pencil from rolling off the desk when it is put down. The previous Apple Pencil was completely round and would easily roll off a desk. The flat edge actually serves a second function. The second purpose is how the No 2. Apple Pencil is charged. The Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to one edge of the iPad Pro. This is a big difference over the previous Apple Pencil.

    The first generation Apple Pencil required you to charge it over lightning, with the ability to charge it in the lightning port of the first, or second, generation iPad Pro. If you did not want to charge it with the iPad Pro, you could use the adapter that was included with the first Apple Pencil and a standard lightning cable. Many iPad Pro users who had purchased a pencil often found that when they wanted to use the Apple Pencil it was not charged, due to lack of usage. I often found this to be the case for myself as well.

    The Apple Pencil has had the ability to quickly charge, and it still does. But with the Apple Pencil being able to charge while magnetically connected, it is more likely that when you want to use the Apple Pencil, that it will already be charged. This has been my experience with the Apple Pencil and the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Because the Apple Pencil has always been charged, I find myself using it more often than before. Additionally, since it is always connected, I actually think about it, and end up using it, way more often than I did with the previous iPad Pros. In order for the Apple Pencil to work, or charge, Bluetooth must be enabled on the iPad Pro.

    While the No. 2 Apple Pencil has only one edge can connect, the direction of the point of the pencil tip does not make a difference. It can be facing either left or right. The tip of the No 2. Apple Pencil is the same as the previous generation, which means that if you had the previous Apple Pencil and had the spare tip that came with it, and/or bought some extra tips, you can use those previously purchased ones with the new Apple Pencil.

    When you do connect the Apple Pencil to the iPad Pro, you will see a notification on the screen indicating that the Apple Pencil is connected, as well as how much battery power is left. It will be similar to the example below.

    I use the Apple Pencil for a variety of things. These include, navigating the interface, using it to interact with items on the screen, scrolling through my twitter timeline, and even playing games, like Plants vs. Zombies, or Dissembler.

    There is one more feature with Apple’s No. 2 Pencil, that will make some interactions much easier. In the lower third of the No 2. Apple Pencil, the third closest to the tip of the Apple Pencil, you can double-tap anywhere in the area and you will have the ability to switch actions. These actions can be defined by the application. For instance, with the Notes application it will switch between a pencil and an eraser. Developers are encouraged to provide the different interaction options within their app’s settings.

    Overall, the Apple Pencil is a fantastic update, even though it cannot be used with any device, except the 11-inch or third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The fact that it is almost always charged because it can be connected directly to the iPad means that it will always be available when you need it to be available. The flat edge does prevent it from rolling, and there is no longer a cap to lose, like on the last model. If you were a heavy Apple Pencil user with the previous iPads and you plan on getting a third-generation 12.9-inch, or an 11-inch, iPad Pro, you cannot go wrong with the No 2. Apple Pencil.

    My Overall Usage

    I cannot say for sure that my iPad usage has changed all that much from a month ago. What I can say is that I have tended to use my iPad more than my MacBook Pro. There are still times when I use my MacBook Pro instead of my iPad Pro. These times are typically when I need to do some development work, but also when I want to watch something on the TV.

    I am not that artistic, so using the Apple Pencil for drawing is not something that I tend to do. Although using it for navigation is quite handy, as well as for playing some games.

    This entire review, including uploading pictures, and editing all took place on the third-generation iPad Pro. There is one thing that did not take place on the iPad Pro was the stripping of the exif data from the photos. That was done on my Mac.

    Price

    There is one area that has not yet been tackled, the price of the new iPads. The new iPads are significantly more expensive than previous models. In fact, they are $220 more than the previous models, which is 20% higher. If you include Apple Care, that is an additional $30, or 30% higher. The Apple Pencil, likewise is $30 more, and also 30% higher. This means, that just to get the new iPad Pro, with Apple Care, and an Apple Pencil, you are going to spend $280 more, which is about 22% higher overall.

    The increase in price though, is somewhat justified not just by the advances in technology, but also because the devices that are built now last significantly longer than in previous generations. In addition to this, the need to significantly improve with each generation is slightly diminished. It is not that each generation will not bring improvements, they will, but the need to upgrade to the new version with each release is not necessary. Besides not needing to update each to each new revision, the increased price is likely a deterrent for many. Next, let us briefly look at software on the iPad Pro.

    Software

    No matter how intricate a piece of hardware is, it does depend on software to operate. The iPad Pro absolutely depends on software, in particular iOS, for any operation.

    Current Software

    With the new iPad Pro and the new bezels, software will need to be recompiled before they will take full advantage of the new sizes. Software that has not been updated will show a black ring on all sides, both while using the software as well as when looking at all open applications.

    Additionally, if you are using two applications in split view mode, and one of the applications has not been updated, then both will have black borders. This is because iOS cannot intuit the expected behavior of the previously compiled application. It will likely take a while for applications to be updated to take advantage of the new screen sizes. You can see a couple of examples below of how it will look if applications are not updated.

    Future Software

    Many people may use the idea of future software improvements as justifications for purchasing an iPad Pro. I would recommend against doing this, not just for the iPad, but for any piece of hardware. You cannot know the direction that software will take. It is best to make purchasing decisions based upon what the device can do now, and if the software does improve significantly, then its merely a bonus. That is not to say that software will not get improved, it will. But it should not be a primary motivation in a purchase decision.

    Closing Thoughts

    The third Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a solid update to the iPad Pro line. If you have a first generation iPad Pro and like the physical screen size, or if you are looking to upgrade from a 9.7-inch screen, you cannot go wrong with the third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

    If you do upgrade, you will enjoy the reduced physical size as well as the consistent bezels. The inclusion of Face ID does bring with it consistency between iOS devices, and signals that Touch ID is legacy and will eventually be phased out, likely within the next few years.

    If you need a way to protect your new iPad Pro, the Smart Folio by Apple is not a bad way to go, particularly since it will cover the back of the iPad as well as the screen. The large number of magnets within the iPad, as well as the Smart Folio allows the cover to adhere to the iPad Pro without worrying about it sliding off.

    The third-generation iPad Pro is a solid update. If you are coming from a first-generation iPad Pro, or earlier, you will really enjoy the speed as well the new features available. Pairing the iPad Pro with a No. 2 Apple Pencil will create a great portable computing environment that may be just what you need.

  • A Review of the Apple Watch Series 4

    A Review of the Apple Watch Series 4

    The Apple Watch is Apple’s first foray into a wearable product. When it was introduced in September of 2014 it was intended to be capable of replacing many of the functions of the iPhone. However, as the Apple Watch got into users hands, and after getting feedback Apple has reduced the overall scope of the Apple Watch to be more narrowed. watchOS now focuses on two major areas, Notifications and Health.

    I have owned an Apple Watch since the beginning and have used each generation of the Apple Watch, including the latest, the Series 4 Apple Watch. Here are my thoughts on the Apple Watch after about two weeks of usage.

    Size

    The Apple Watch Series 4 is the biggest redesign of the Apple Watch since the original, retroactively dubbed the Series 0. These changes somewhat mimic the redesign of the iPhone. The iPhone also saw its first radical redesign with its fourth release, the iPhone 4. The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two sizes, a 40mm screen and a 44mm screen. These screen sizes are larger than the 38mm and 42mm options, which have been the sizes for all previous Apple Watches.

    I opted to go with the 44mm version, and I am glad I did. The way I determined which one to go with was by using the Apple Store app. Within the app there are actual sizes for the watches. You can get to these two sizes by performing the following steps:

    • Open the Apple Store app<.
    • Tap on “Apple Watch”.
    • Tap on an Apple Watch model, it does not matter which one.
    • Tap on “Compare Sizes” directly underneath the two sizes.

    Here you can actually place some paper on top of your iOS device and you can trace around the Apple Watch sizes and then you can place these on your wrist to see how well each size would fit on your wrist. This is the approach I used in order to determine which model I would buy. Ultimately, the 44mm was the right choice, for me. Here are the two Apple Watch sizes. Next let us look at the actual size differences.

    Screen Size

    When you think of the difference in size, 42mm vs. 44mm you would think that it is not a lot of space. However, the 44mm Apple Watch Series 4 screen is actually 32% larger than the 42mm version. The difference is not just noticeable, but quite welcome. Having al larger screen size makes everything easier to do, from tapping buttons to just being able to quickly glance at information. It really does make a difference with the larger screen.

    With a difference in screen size you might think that it would be a bit odd having a larger screen than before on your first, but you quickly become accustom to the size difference.

    Compatibility

    There are a few different ways that Apple Watch users can personalize their Apple Watch. The first is through the choice of watch band. In the last 3 1/2 years many users have amassed a number of different watch bands. The Apple Watch Series 4 allows existing watch bands work with the new watch, with a bit of a caveat. In particular the 38mm bands work with the 40mm watch. Similarly, the 42mm bands work with the 44mm Series 4 Watch. This means that all of your existing bands will work, provided you upgrade to the corresponding size. This is important to note because Apple’s site only shows 40mm and 44mm options and third-party sites like Amazon may have 38mm and 42mm sizes listed.

    Watch Faces

    The second way that users can make an Apple Watch their own is through the watch face that they choose, and there have been some additional options for watch faces. Let us look at some changes around watch faces now. watchOS 5 brings a number of new watch faces, four in total. These new faces are Fire & Watch, Liquid Metal, Infograph, and Infograph Modular. These are broken down into two groups, Materials and Infograph. Let us look at these two groups in turn, starting with the Materials.

    Materials

    The Fire & Water watch face and Liquid watch faces share some traits. The first is that there are different colors to choose from in each watch face. For Fire & Water you can choose between two materials, fire and water. With Liquid Metal there are three colors, Silver, Gold, and Black. These colors match the available colors for the Watch as well as the iPhone XS. Also with both the Fire & Water and Liquid Metal faces you can select if you want to rotate between the options or just stick with a single option. Besides the color selection you can also choose whether to use a Full Screen or Circular watch face. If you opt for Full Screen, you cannot set any complications. With the Circular faces you have three complication options, upper left corner, upper right corner, and the bottom. The two upper complications are circular while the bottom complication is one off the new rounded complications that typically include a line of text.

    These two watch faces are great if you want to use a watch face that only tells time, yet can take advantage of the smart aspects to the Apple Watch to provide a bit of animation. Let us now look at the other new watch faces. These two faces are “Infograph” and “Infograph Modular” and with these even more information can be shown. Let us start with Infograph.

    Infograph

    The Infograph watch face is an analog watch face, with hour, minute, and second hands. The Infograph watch face allows you to customize the color with over 50 choices, including using a white watch face. Besides the color you can customize up to eight different complications. There are the four corners which provide curved complications, and the four inner complications, called “sub-dial” complications. The sub-dial complications are the standard circular complications that most apps contain. You can use all of none of them. There are a lot of built-in complication options available. The entire list of available complications include: Activity, Air Quality, Alarm, Battery, Breathe, Calendar, Date, Digital Time, Earth, Favorite Contacts, Heart Rate, Monogram, Moon, Music, Reminders, Solar, Solar System, Stocks, Stopwatch, Sunrise/Sunset, Timer, UV Index, Walkie-Talkie, Weather, Weather Conditions, Wind, Workout, and World Clock.

    One of the unique aspects to the Infograph watch face is that the complications in the corner can be curved to follow the watch face itself. These curved complications are not limited to the Apple native complications, but they are available for third-party applications to use as well. With the ability to set up to eight different complications, the choices can quickly become overwhelming. If you opt to use the Infograph watch face, start with only one or two complications and then add more as you need more information. Let us now look at the Modular version of Infograph.

    Infograph Modular

    There is one watch face that many would consider the definitive “Smart Watch” and that would be the Modular watch face. The reason is because all of the information that you can see at a glance. The Infograph Modular face is very similar to the regular Modular face. The Infograph Modular face also shows a lot of information. You can have up to six complications on the Infograph Modular face. The available complications are: Activity, Air Quality, Battery, Breathe, Calendar, Date, Earth, Favorite Contacts, Heart Rate, Moon, Music, Solar, Solar System, Stocks, Timer, UV Index, Walkie-Talkie, Weather, Weather Conditions, Wind, Workout, and World Clock.

    With the Infograph Modular face the upper right complication can only be the current date or off. Just like the traditional Modular watch face, the time cannot be changed and is in one spot. Just to the left of the time is one of the four icon-sized complication areas available. The other three are at the bottom of the screen. The last complication area is reserved for large complications. The available options for this area are: Activity, Calendar, Heart Rate, Stocks, and Weather conditions.

    Missing Complication

    There are a number of complications that is available on the standard Modular watch face that is not available on the Infograph variant. Some of these make sense, while others do not. The one that seems like it is missing, to me anyway, is the “Now Playing” complication.

    The Now Playing complication allows you to see the currently playing audio. With this complication enabled, if you tap on the currently playing audio you will be brought to an interface that will allow you to adjust the volume, skip to the next or previous item, as well as play and pause the audio.

    I know for me this is a deal breaker with using the Infograph Modular watch face. This is only because when I am at work, I am typically listening to music. While I can often know which song is playing, there are times that I do not know. Hence, I need to be able to quickly glance and see which song is playing and the Now Playing complication on the Apple Watch is best at doing this. Alternatively, I could tap on the iPhone XS screen and see the current song, however that is not possible if the iPhone is not nearby.

    It would be really convenient to have an option for the Now Playing complication to be used on the Infograph Modular face. There is a handy guide for the Watch Faces and which ones are available at https://support.apple.com/guide/watch/faces-and-features-apd6ce85daf4/watchos. Now that we have covered the new watch faces, let us turn to another piece of the Apple Watch that has been updated, the Digital Crown.

    Digital Crown

    The Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 4 is entirely different from the Series 3 and earlier models. The Digital Crown has two new distinct features. The first is that the Digital Crown now provides haptic feedback. This is most present when scrolling long lists of items, such as your app list, music, or adjusting the volume. This is quite helpful for allowing you to know the you get to the top or bottom of a list of items. Along with this, it is useful for accessibility for those to be able to know when an action is occurring.

    ECG

    The second new feature that the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 4 is that it can be used as the mens for completing the circuit for the included Electrocardiogram. The way that this works is by creating a circuit between the Crystal electrode on the back and the electrode on the Digital Crown.

    The ECG sensor is designed to possibly detect the appearance of Atrial Fibrillation, more commonly known as Afib. There is a great explainer about the health aspects and an explainer about Afib over at Tidbits. This explainer is by a paramedic and well worth the read.

    The fact that there is a way to detect Afib using a device that is right on your wrist will definitely help save lives of many individuals, beyond the ones that have numerous accounts of how the Apple Watch has saved lives.

    Currently the feature is not available, but Apple states it will be “available later this year”. It would not be a surprise to see additional health features come to future versions of the Apple Watch.

    Fall Detection

    The Apple Watch Series 4 has a brand new feature, Fall Detection. By default it is not enabled, unless you are 65 or older. Fall Detection will automatically contact emergency services, as well as the Emergency contacts that you have defined in the Health app should the Apple Watch detect a fall, and you do not move for over a minute. When you enable Fall Detection you will receive a popup that states:

    “The more physically active you are, the more likely you are to trigger Fall Detection due to high impact activity that can appear to be a fall.”

    So, you should take note when enabling Fall Detection, particularly if you do some high-intensity workouts.

    Pricing

    Unlike the iPhone X, the Apple Watch Series 4 is more expensive than its predecessors. The 40mm GPS Model starts at $399, while the GPS + Cellular model is $499. The 44mm prices are $429 and $529 respectively. Similarly, the price of Apple Care has also increased, from $49 to $79. This means that the overall cost has increased $100, if you include Apple Care. This increase will definitely mean more revenue for Apple.

    Other Tidbits

    There are just a couple of other tidbits that should be noted. Apple has never really discussed the amount of storage available on the Apple Watch, but with the release of the Series 3 GPS + Cellular model, the storage was 16GB, while the GPS-only model was a mere 8GB. With the Apple Watch Series 4, all models now have 16GB of storage. The Apple Watch has been used by many for water sports, well before it was advertised as being water resistant. The Apple Watch Series 4 is now rated as IP 68, which means it will be able to submerged in 2 meters of water for 30 minutes, this is up from IP 67, which is 1 meter for 30 minutes.

    The Wireless within the Apple Watch is still 802.11b/g/n at 2.4GHz, but the Bluetooth connectivity is now Bluetooth 5.0, instead of Bluetooth 4.2. The Apple-proprietary wireless connectivity uses the W3 chip, the next generation of their wireless chipset that was introduced with the AirPods.

    The next tidbit is that the Apple Watch Series 4 can detect low blood pressure. It will provide a notification if your heart rate falls below 50 beats per minute for 10 minutes, in addition to the existing high blood pressure, which is 120 beats per minute for 10 minutes, without being in workout mode.

    The last tidbit is that the red dot that indicated that a model was Wireless has been reduced to a red ring, this is because of the need for good connectivity for the ECG sensor.

    Closing Thoughts

    Overall the Apple Watch Series 4 is a worthwhile upgrade, provided you have an Original Apple Watch, a Series 1 or even Series 2 Apple Watch. The larger screen sizes will make interactions easier as well as provided more information on screen. Even with the larger screen, the overall depth of the Series 4 Apple Watch is thinner and it is noticeably so. If you are upgrading, you will be able to use your existing Apple Watch bands, from your 38mm watch, if you go to the 40mm version, or your 42mm bands, if you go to the 44mm Apple Watch.

    If you have considered getting a Smart Watch and you have an iPhone, you cannot go wrong with the Apple Watch Series 4. Whether you choose the GPS-only model, or the GPS + Cellular model, you will be able to use all of the new features while on the go.

  • iPhone XS: A Review

    iPhone XS: A Review

    While it may seem as though the iPhone X has been around a long time, it was introduced just last year. In fact, it has only been available for about 11 months. The iPhone X has radically changed the iPhone line. The biggest changes were the edge to edge screen, which necessitated the removal of the home button. With the home button gone, Touch ID is also gone. In place of Touch ID came gestures for navigation and the all new Face ID.

    Face ID takes an infrared scan using a random pattern of infrared dots on your face. This pattern is unique to every iPhone. If the points taken match the same pattern as expected, Face ID will unlock the iPhone. Face ID also brought with it more security. Excluding having a twin, it is very unlikely that someone else will be able to unlock your phone. In fact, 1 in a million chances with Face ID versus one in a 50,000 chance while using Touch ID.

    As you might expect, the successor to the iPhone X has been released, the iPhone XS. Here are my thoughts on the iPhone XS after having used it for just about 9 days. You may not think it would be enough time, but given the updates over the iPhone X, it is enough time. Let us look start with speed improvements.

    Speed

    Every year, Apple increases the speed of new devices. This is typically done through the inclusion of new processors. The iPhone XS has a new A12 Bionic processor. The processor itself is may not seem that much faster than the A11 Bionic, however it is much faster. There are a couple of features that do actually make it faster. The first is the storage speed. Similar to how the latest MacBook Pros have faster storage, the new iPhone XS has similarly fast storage. This increase in speed allows for faster reading and writing, which should make all applications faster.

    The processor itself is up to 15% faster than the A11 Bionic. This is possible because the A12 Bionic has six-cores instead of the previous four cores. The processor includes two performance cores, which 15% faster, but consume 40% less power. The second aspect to the CPU are the four efficiency cores. These handle the less intensive tasks and even these cores consume 50% less energy.

    iPhone X Speed Benchmark
    iPhone XS Speed Benchmark
    iPad Pro 2nd Generation Speed
    iPad Pro 2nd Generation Speed Benchmark

    Along with the CPU is the companion graphics processor unit, or GPU. This is the first Apple-designed GPU. The A12 Bionic GPU comes with four cores, and is 50% faster than the A11 Bionic. This will allow experiences like multiplayer Augmented Reality gaming to be even better. Let us turn to one of the larger improvements to the A12 Bionic, the Neural Engine.

    Neural Engine

    The biggest is change for the A12 is the inclusion of a “next generation” Neural Engine. The Neural Engine is a specialized processor that is used to handle machine learning. The Neural Engine in the A12 is able to do 5 trillion operations per second. That is 8.3 times as many operations per second than the A11; which was able to handle 600 billion operations per second. That is a significant increase. The next generation Neural Engine is used for processing machine learning algorithms including Face ID, Animoji, and some camera algorithms. The camera will be covered in a bit, but first let us look at the speakers and microphones.

    Speakers and Microphones

    The iPhone XS still consists of the stereo speakers that have been present since the release of the iPhone 7 in 2016. They also located in the same place, at the bottom right and in the true depth camera sensor housing. During my test of the speakers, they are actually louder than my second-generation iPad Pro at the same volume location on the slider. I do not use the speakers that often on my iPhone, as any audio is usually going through headphones, but it will be nice to have overall.

    The iPhone XS has four microphones. These microphones are used for a couple of different functions. The first is to pickup voice and sound that you want. The second function is for noise cancellation, which should eliminate unwanted noise. The additional microphones allow for a new feature with the iPhone XS, the ability to record video in stereo sound. This will make it your videos that much better. Let us look at the most popular feature of any iPhone, the Camera.

    Camera

    One of the biggest reasons that users upgrade their smartphone is due to improvements with the Camera. For a vast majority o people their smartphone is their primary camera, myself included. While it was not clearly explained by Apple in its unveiling of the iPhone XS, the camera is a substantial improvement over the iPhone X. There are a couple of overall reasons for this. The first is that the camera itself is actually over 30% larger. It goes from a 4mm lens to a 4.25mm lens. While 0.25mm does sound like a lot, it actually is quite a bit in practice. The larger sensor means that the lens can pull in more light, which will make things brighter in low light situations, and your images look better in all situations. The biggest reason for this is that the camera has a new improved processing system, called Smart HDR.

    iPhone X Low Light Non-HDR Photo
    iPhone X Low Light Non-HDR Photo
    iPhone XS Low Light Example
    iPhone XS Low Light Non-HDR Example

    Smart HDR

    With the iPhone XS Apple is employing the use of a new technology they are calling “Smart HDR”. HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range”. High Dynamic Range is a technique that takes multiple pictures at different exposure levels and then processing combines them into the best overall picture. This is how HDR has worked for all iOS devices until the iPhone XS. What is different with Smart HDR is that it is not just one picture that is being taken, in fact it is a total of nine photos.

    Four of the images are being taken simultaneously so that any movement in the subject of the photo can be minimized. The second set of four images are inter-frames that are taken between the first four images so that the details can be highlighted. The second set of two images use a different exposure level, which allows the details to be brought out. The last photo take is a long exposure which is used to gather all of the shadow detail. All of these photos are then passed off to the Neural Engine.

    The Neural Engine and processor then take the best of all of the photos that were taken to create the best photo it possibly can. The result of the processing is the photo that you see when you snap a picture.

    The capabilities of the Smart HDR system are all thanks to the new Neural Engine. As mentioned above, the Neural Engine is able to handle 1 trillion operations per second, which is how all of the Smart HDR is able to take and process photos so quickly. There is one new feature that comes with the camera that will allow you to get just the right look that you want and that revolves around the Depth of Field.

    Editing Depth of Field

    The camera system on the iPhone XS now allows you to do something you could not do before, you can edit the Depth of Field on a Portrait photo to be able to get the best background bokeh effect possible. In order to do this you can perform the following steps:

    • Open Photos.
    • Locate the Portrait Mode photo you want to adjust.
    • Tap on the Edit button.
    • Adjust the “Depth” slider at the bottom to your liking.
    • Tap the “Save” button to save the changes.

    The slider for the Depth of Field can go from ƒ1.4 to ƒ16. The higher the ƒ-stop the clearer the background. Because the depth information is separated from the rest of the photo, it can be adjusted as often as you would like, which is helpful to be able to get just the proper look you want. Here are some examples of the different depth effects on a portrait photo.

    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/1.4 Selected
    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/1.4 Selected
    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/4.5 Selected
    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/4.5 Selected
    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/16 Selected
    iPhone XS Depth Editing with ƒ/16 Selected

    Examples from the Camera

    The best way to show the power of the camera, in comparison to the iPhone X is to show a set of photos.

    Closing Thoughts

    Overall, the iPhone XS is a fairly minor update, but it is still a solid upgrade. It is typical of what we have come to expect for an “s” year for an iPhone. While the processor changes may not show substantial daily usage improvements, for specialized cases they will be substantial. The biggest change is with the Neural Engine. The Neural Engine will help process the machine learning algorithms that developers deploy. Apple has its own algorithms. One of which is the processing of images. The new Smart HDR algorithms will allow your iPhone XS to be able to take the best picture possible. This all done through the use of Smart HDR, which is enabled by default. You can disable it, if you so choose, but a vast majority of the time this is not needed.

    If you have an iPhone X or an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, it may not be a worthwhile upgrade, unless you are on the iPhone Upgrade Program, or if you take a lot of pictures. The iPhone XS comes in two screen sizes. The first is the same 5.8-inch screen as the iPhone X and the second size is a larger 6.5-inch screen, called the iPhone XS Max. The storage sizes are 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB, depending on your storage needs. The prices for the iPhone XS range from $999 to $1349 and for the iPhone XS Max it is $1099 to $1449.