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Apple Apple TV HomeKit HomePod

HomePod Review: AirPlay, Apple TV, and Additional Thoughts

This is part two of my HomePod Review. You can read the first part that covers the Sound, Siri, and Songs.

AirPlay and Bluetooth

The HomePod does not have any physical input mechanism. This means no line-in jack, and it cannot connect via USB. The only way to get audio to the HomePod is through AirPlay, Apple’s propriety protocol. Despite AirPlay being propriety, Apple does make it available for third-party companies to use for connecting to AirPlay-enabled devices.

The HomePod does have a Bluetooth 5.0 chipset inside it, but it cannot be used as a Bluetooth speaker. The Bluetooth is only used for the initial setup and communication between iOS devices for when the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” is used. It would be a nice addition if the HomePod could just be used as a Bluetooth speaker for non-AirPlay devices, but I do not foresee this as being a feature that Apple will include at any point. If there was no AirPlay, then it would be a no-brainer, but in a world with AirPlay it is not likely to occur because this provides an advantage for Apple allows them to control the ecosystem.

HomePod and Apple TV

One of the functions of the HomePod is to act as an AirPlay destination. One possible AirPlay source is the Apple TV. Most people, when they use their Apple TV, use the speakers on their TV or if their TV is capable, a sound bar.

There are those that do use an even more involved setup, like a receiver, and surround sound speaker system. Even with this setup being an option for many, it can be complicated to setup and maintain for some. Setting the HomePod as the audio output from an Apple TV is simple.

  1. Wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Begin playing some media.
  3. Swipe down on the Siri Remote Trackpad.
  4. Select the HomePod

 

That is all it takes to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. It does not take many steps and it is possible for anyone to be able to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. There is an alternative method. You can perform the following:

  1. Wake the Apple TV.
  2. Navigate to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Video and Audio”.
  4. Click on “Video and Audio”.
  5. Scroll down to audio output.
  6. Click on “Audio Output”.
  7. Select the HomePod you want to use an an output.

This second method allows you to set the HomePod as the audio source before you begin playing audio. You can also select the output while playing music as well. This can be done by selecting the device name in the upper left, clicking, and you will get a list of all of the AirPlay destinations, including the HomePod.

HomePod and Apple TV Issues

I did notice one thing that seems to be a bit strange and does not seem right, but I do not know if there is a fix for it. Whenever I set the HomePod as the AirPlay destination for my Apple TV, I always have to turn the volume way up on the HomePod in order to be able to hear anything. This really is not a big problem, but it does seem a bit odd. This only occurs when playing video and if the HomePod is set as the output for the Apple TV. Now, if I switched the HomePod to play music, even from the Apple TV, the sound would be super loud. Just like commercials used to get on television before rules were changed so the commercials could not be louder. I know why this occurs, it is because the HomePod is playing the music natively from the HomePod and is not getting the audio from another source. The whole situation just seems strange, considering that the HomePod is receiving audio and can intuit the source, it should be able to accommodate for that and have the audio be louder.

It could be that this is just due to the current limitations of AirPlay and may be changing when AirPlay 2 arrives. In particular, because AirPlay 2 will buffer audio as fast as you can provide it, so there may be some adjustments possible there. It is also possible that this may be an enhancement that may be coming to a future, and yet unknown, version of AirPlay.

Features to Come

When Apple announced the HomePod at WWDC 2017, they indicated that multiple HomePods could be used within a single room to make the sound even better. This would be available through a protocol called, AirPlay 2. AirPlay 2 has some significant benefits over AirPlay. The biggest of the benefits is “faster than real time” audio transmission. When AirPlay 2 is available on the HomePod, this means that you will be able to use AirPlay to send long form audio to the HomePod, and it will continue to play even if the original source is no longer in range.

A second feature that is available with AirPlay 2 is the ability to use multiple HomePods as a stereo pair. This would allow even better sound because the two HomePods can work in unison to produce the best sound for the room.

Also with AirPlay 2, you can control multiple HomePods from the same device and play different audio on each, or play the same audio on all of the speakers simultaneously. Again, because the HomePods would be communicating and the audio could be synchronized across all of the HomePods.

AirPlay 2 is expected to be released later this year. I am sure that Apple had hoped to have it released when the HomePod shipped, but that was not the case. AirPlay 2 will be available through a firmware update on the HomePod, let us look at how to update the HomePod next.

Updating the HomePod

Even though there have not been any updates to the HomePod, when there is an update, it will be a straight-forward task. To see the current firmware version and check for updates, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home App.
  2. Tap the Arrow icon in the upper left corner.
  3. Scroll down to Speakers.
  4. Tap on Software Update.

Here you will have one option, “Install Updates Automatically”. By default, this option is enabled. You can turn it off, if desired. When you bring up this screen it will check for any HomePod update. If there is no update, the current version and build will be shown. As of this writing the latest firmware is 11.2.5 (15D59). This is the version that the HomePod shipped with. If there is an update, you will have an option to update the firmware.

The Physical Specs

When you look at speakers that generate good sound, it is entirely possible that the speaker would be quite large. If you happen to only look at photos of the HomePod it is possible that you might presume that the actual device is quite large. However, the HomePod is actually rather small. Specifically, it is 6.8 inches tall, and is only 5.6 inches around. Even with its diminutive size is shockingly heavy at 5.5 pounds.

When you remove the HomePod from its box, it is a lot heavier than you might think. Even though five and half pounds may not seem like much, and in reality it is not, it is a bit heavier than expected. This should not be an issue for most, since in most cases the HomePod will remain in a single place during its usage, but it is something to be cognizant of.

There is a single cable for the HomePod, that is the power cord. Unlike most other consumer devices, the cord on the HomePod is actually wrapped in a cloth. This is so the HomePod is more aesthetically pleasing and can be more easily hidden.

Feature Requests

Even with the HomePod having great sound, there is still one big feature that would be nice to have, which could be handled via software. That feature is the ability to tune the amount of bass. I love my Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, and while Beats tend to be heavy on the bass, the amount of bass coming out of the HomePod is a bit much for some songs.

You can reduce some of the bass by using the “Sound Check” feature within the HomePod settings, but this feature only makes all of the songs have the same volume, as per this Apple Support article. This can help a bit, but having finer control over the bass would be nice. I do not think that having a full blown equalizer would be beneficial, since the HomePod is dynamically tuning itself based upon the room and the song. This means that any equalizer settings that you would manually set would likely ruin, and not enhance, the sound being generated.

Trigger Phrase

I completely understand and recognize the fact that Siri is a brand that Apple wants to keep consistent across all of its products. In doing so, if you say the trigger word, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, as well as any HomePods will all hear you. Each of the devices will then have a “discussion” and one of the devices will be the one that responds to you. Which one responds is based upon a couple of different factors; how recently you used the device, and which ones are within range. Given the far-field voice recognition capabilities of the HomePod, it is likely to win more often.

While using the same trigger phrase created a consistent experience and makes it easier for those accustom to using Siri on their iOS devices, having all of your devices make sound when you say “Hey Siri”, can be bothersome. What I would like to see is the HomePod get its own trigger phrase, or at least an option for a different trigger phrase.

It could be something like “Hey HomePod”, or “Hey Speaker”, or “Hey Assistant”, or something similar. could even be based upon the current location of the HomePod. For instance, if your HomePod is in the living room, you could say something like “Hey Living Room, play this song.”

I understand that this could ultimately cause confusion for users and result in a non-optimal experience, it would provide an option for those users who decide to enable it to be able to target a specific device.

Even though I would like to see this, I honestly do not see Apple creating a distinct phrase for the HomePod, mostly because it would bifurcate the “Siri” platform. Even though it might do so, it would be better than having four different devices going off all at once when I want to ask the HomePod to do something.

Beta Request

Apple is constantly working on new features for the HomePod. It would be nice to have the HomePod be on the same version as iOS betas. The HomePod is a brand new product, so it is possible that Apple will allow the HomePod to be on beta versions. There is one potential problem with having a HomePod on a beta. It is the same issue with the Apple TV 4K.

There is no user accessible port, so if a beta installation were to fail, the only people who would be able to repair the device is Apple themselves. Apple has been pretty good with the updates, but the HomePod is the newest device and there could be some edge cases where things do not work as expected. It is entirely possible that this is already going to happen with the next version of iOS, but we are not at that point yet.

The Future of HomePod

Even though the HomePod has recently been released, there is no issue with thinking about its future. When Apple announced the HomePod back in June of 2017, they indicated that indicated that multi-speaker AirPlay would be released at the release of the HomePod.

With the HomePod having an A8 Processor, it is likely that the A8 will be the base for iOS for at least a couple more years. It is also possible that the HomePod will still be updated to the latest version of iOS even if iPhone 6/6 Plus/iPod Touch with A8 are no longer supported on the latest version of iOS.

I hope Apple is looking to make a smaller version of the HomePod, even if it does not fill a room with sound as the current HomePod does. A smaller HomePod would be great for places like kitchens, offices or other areas where sound is needed, but it does not necessarily need to be room filling, or places where the current HomePod is a bit too overpowering. The advantage to having a smart assistant in every room is one that could come in quite useful for many.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the HomePod does not have multiple speaker support, the HomePod is still a great speaker on its own. It is not the cheapest speaker on the market, but it also attempts to solve an issue that many other speakers do not; filling an entire room with sound and have it sound great in every part of the room. The HomePod accomplishes this with ease.

When I first got the HomePod I moved it from room to room, but it has now found its home in the master bedroom where I consume most of my media. This has had a couple of different consequences. The first is now that the HomePod creates great sound, I want to use it with everything. I already use it all the time with the Apple TV. I use the Apple TV to consume most of my media, so connecting it to the Apple TV is not an issue. This does result in not wanting to watch DVDs or Blu-rays, since my Xbox One, which is my Blu-ray/DVD player, does not connect to the HomePod. This has resulted in either converting my physical media, or buying a digital copy. I do not do this for all titles, but those I really want to watch I do.

The HomePod is capable of being more than just a speaker, it also includes Apple’s Smart assistant Siri. Siri can perform many of the same tasks for you as your iPhone or iPad. You can ask Siri the weather, current news, what song is playing, what movies are playing, or even control you HomeKit enabled devices, and much more. The reduction of the audio when Siri is active is a nice touch. If you have multiple iOS devices, they will communicate and decide who will handle your request, which can be rather annoying after a while. Another option for a trigger phrase would be nice, but it is not likely to occur.

There are many hidden options and features to the HomePod that are exposed through the Home app. These include who can access your HomePod, whether or not to require a password, and an option to setup the HomePod as a Home Hub.

If you are thinking of getting a HomePod, you have to be content with its current capabilities and not what it necessarily could do in the future. When the HomePod was announced, Apple indicated that it would be available by the end of 2017, but this did not occur. It is not due to the hardware, but instead the software. Currently, the HomePod does not support HomePods configured in stereo. The HomePod supports Apple Music, and any other audio that can be transmitted via Apple’s AirPlay protocol. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, and really want a good quality speaker for music, you cannot go wrong with the HomePod.

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Apple HomePod Review

HomePod Review: The Sound, Siri, and Songs

If you were to ask someone back in 2001, what type of products “Apple” made, they would likely say computers. Apple still makes computes, but today they are not primarily known for their computers. That is not to say that their computers are not iconic, and often sought after, but it is not their defining product. Instead, they are known for their consumer electronics, primarily the iPhone. Apple’s latest product is also a consumer electronic, but it is not portable. The new product is called the HomePod.

The HomePod is first, and foremost, a music speaker. The HomePod is not just any music speaker, it has smarts. The smarts that is within the HomePod are two-fold. The first bit of smarts within the HomePod is computational in nature. The HomePod has an A8 processor to do its calculations. This is the same processor that is in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and sixth-generation iPod Touch. This is a ton of processing power, particularly just for within a Music Speaker. The A8 is capable of handling all of the processing necessary to be able to create the best sound possible. The second bit of smarts, is Apple’s assistant, Siri. The latter will be covered in a bit. First let us look at how the HomePod sounds.

The Sound

I am no audio engineer, nor do I ever espouse to being one. The only qualifications I have for being a sound engineer is adjusting the volume on my headphones or my HomePod. Along with not being an audio engineer, it is not easy to describe how a speaker sounds using text. I could do an audio clip, but the fidelity that I would be able to provide is nothing like hearing it in person. Even with all of those caveats, I will attempt to describe, as best as I can via text, how the HomePod sounds.

One of the areas in which the HomePod differs from traditional speakers is when it comes to the way the output sounds. With traditional speakers, depending on where you place them, you will not get sound all throughout the room. This is because most speakers are directional in nature, and while you can hear some sound from the sides, or behind, the speaker, it will likely be distorted. This is not the case with the HomePod.

The HomePod is capable of producing sound that can be clearly heard from nearly all parts of a room. This is possible through the computational audio mechanisms as well as the arrangement of the tweeters, since they go all around the HomePod. The ability to have clear sound throughout an entire room means that if you are having a party, everyone should be able to hear the music without any issue, which is always a good thing.

To me the HomePod produces great sound. It is by no means perfect, but it is the best speaker that I have heard. The sound is generated the one woofer, which points up from the top of the HomePod. The woofer works with the seven tweeters, which are located towards the bottom of the HomePod. The tweeters point outwards, which allows the sound to fill a room.

The HomePod is not your typical speaker. This is because the A8 Processor uses “computational audio”. Computational audio is best used with the faster than real-time streaming to analyze the audio to create a better sound. Along with analyzing the sound, the HomePod also listens to the reverberation from the current audio to adjust the output with the feedback that it hears. The HomePod uses the response time to determine how close objects are to the HomePod. The HomePod will do its best to fill the entire room with sound. With control over the tweeters, the HomePod can reduce the echo that other speakers may produce by tuning the sound coming out of each of the tweeters to be able to reduce the echo, which only adds to better sound.

Siri

While the HomePod is primarily a speaker, there are some smarts within it. The smarts are provided by Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. While Siri is available on all of Apple’s iOS devices, as well as macOS, Siri on the HomePod has a smaller subset of functions of all of Siri’s capabilities. In particular, you can ask the HomePod to play music, add items to notes, and you can even send messages to individuals, if you opt to do so.

When you ask Siri to do something on an iOS device, you have to be in close proximity of the device for Siri to hear you. This is definitely not the case with the HomePod. The HomePod has six far-field microphones that are designed to hear you no matter how loud the audio that is playing out of the HomePod actually is. During my testing, I was actually two rooms away and HomePod heard me without any difficulty and I did not have to raise my voice too much to get it to hear me. This is absolutely crucial for any smart speaker to be useful.

When you do use the trigger phrase, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, and the HomePod, will have a very quick conversation to determine which one of your devices will handle your request. One thing that must be done for this to occur, as anticipated, is to have Bluetooth enabled on all of your iOS devices. For those with an Apple Watch, it is likely that Bluetooth would already be enabled on your iPhone. However, if you have another iOS device, like an iPod or iPod Touch, it is possible that you do not need Bluetooth so it will be off.

Siri Commands

There are a lot of things you can do with Siri on the HomePod, but a new one has been added. You can say “Hey Siri, play some news”. The HomePod will then begin to play NPR News. There are a few other options for news. You can get news from CNN, the Washington Post, or even Fox News; depending on your preference.

Siri can perform many of the same queries as other iOS-based devices, but there are some that the HomePod cannot do. One of these is ride booking, or identifying the currently playing movie.

HomePod and HomeKit

The HomePod is a HomeKit Hub, which allows anyone within your home to control any of your HomeKit-enabled accessories that are configured in the Home app. and due to its stationary nature may actually be the ideal HomeKit Hub. This is because the HomePod can provide auditory feedback to any request that you give.

There are a couple of limitations to using Siri to adjust your HomeKit accessories. If you have things like a garage door opener or smart lock configured, you can use the HomePod to close or engage the locking mechanism. However, you cannot do the opposite, at least not without confirmation on an iPhone. This is a security mechanism because Apple does not think it should be possible for anyone to come up to your door and say “Hey Siri and have the garage door open.

I only have a couple of lights configured within HomeKit, so my testing on this is limited. However, during my testing it does seem as though the HomePod responds much faster than when the Apple TV was the primary Home Hub, and when I would request Siri turn off my lights from my iPhone or Apple Watch.

HomeKit Hubs

There is a simple way to find all of the HomeKit Hubs that are in your home. Although the steps are simple, it can be somewhat hidden. To find all of your HomeKit hubs, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home app on your iOS device
  2. Tap on the arrow icon in the upper left corner. You should see a list of Home Hubs

There are only two steps, but finding it is not super easy. Once you do click on the arrow, it should list all of your HomeKit Hubs. The photo below shows the three that I have, my HomePod, which is the “connected” one and the two standby hubs, which are both Apple TVs. One is my Apple TV 4K and the other is my development Apple TV.

The HomePod will automatically be the primary HomeKit hub, if there are more than one hubs in a home. I cannot say for certain, but my guess as to why this is the case is because the HomePod can provide audio feedback and is constantly powered. Any other home hubs you have can still be used, but will say “Standby”.

While using Siri on the HomePod is very helpful and useful, the best thing to play on the HomePod is music. Let us look at that now.

Playing Music

One of the most common functions on the HomePod, and what the HomePod is designed for, is to play music. The HomePod works best if you subscribe to Apple Music. If you do subscribe to Apple Music, you can play any of the 45 million songs available on Apple Music. You can specify an artist, an album, or even a playlist. Playlists are not limited to just those provided by Apple. Playlists can be from your own music library. Your playlists are available because by subscribing to Apple Music the music from your iTunes Library is automatically matched or, if it is not in the Apple Music catalog, it is uploaded to Apple’s servers so it is available from any of your devices.

While third-party audio services are not natively supported on the HomePod, you can use Apple’s AirPlay protocol to send any audio from your iOS devices, or Mac, to the HomePod. There will be more on that in a bit.

I tested the ability to play anything from your library. I have a playlist titled “Elton John”. I asked the HomePod to play this and it was able to find this without any issues and it played the songs on that playlist. I also tested playing something that it is not in the Apple Music Library. I have a recording of a The Ted Talk $8 Billion iPod, by Rob Reid. I attempted to play it by saying “Hey Sir, Play $8 Billion iPod”. It did not play initially. This is because the actual title in my library is “$8 Billion iPod (Copyright Math)”. Once I gave the entire title, it worked as I initially expected. Despite these successes, there were a couple of times when things did not work as expected.

Specifically, I asked the HomePod to play “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves. The HomePod replied, “I couldn’t find ‘Golden Hour’ on Apple Music or in your library”. This is a bit odd, considering that I have been playing a couple of the songs from the album on repeat for the last few days, so I knew it was available.

During my testing the album “Golden Hour” was only available for pre-order, and there is a song by the name of “Golden Hour” on the album. I tried the same thing on my iPhone and got the following response:

I suspect that this is what Siri on the HomePod was also transcribing it to. Since there is no way to see what the HomePod is interpreting requests as, it make it heard to determine. If I said “Hey Siri, play the Golden Hour album by Kacey Musgraves”, it got it without a problem. I am thinking that the reason it was able to get it was because I specified “Kacey Musgraves” and it was able to translate “gold an hour” to “Golden Hour”. But this is simply a guess. Now, let us move on to other ways you can control music on the HomePod.

Controlling Music

The primary interaction method for the HomePod is your voice. You can use the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” to adjust the volume, amongst other things. While asking Siri to do things from time to time is fine. But, if you are really enjoying the music using Siri might not be the best experience. Luckily, there is an option for using your iOS device to control the HomePod. There are two locations that you can control the HomePod. The first is in Control Center, and the second is in the Music app.

In order to control a HomePod using Control Center, perform the following:

  1. Bring up Control Center
  2. Tap and hold on the “Now Playing” section
  3. Scroll down to the HomePod you want to control
  4. Tap on the HomePod you want to control.

Here you can adjust the volume, play and pause, and jump forward or backwards. In order to control the HomePod via the Music app perform the following:

  1. Open the Music app
  2. Tap on the “AirPlay” icon
  3. Scroll to the HomePod
  4. Tap on the HomePod to connect it
  5. Tap in the background to close the AirPlay selection window

With the Music app, you can control using the same functions as within Control Center, but you can also choose any song from your music library and you can play any of the songs that you want. Additionally, you can also put any songs in the “up next” queue, so you can create the perfect playlist for your HomePod. This is perfect for parties, or in any situation where you want to play a list of music without having to constantly adjust it.

 

Once you have performed the steps above, you can now play just about anything to the HomePod. When you do this, you are not using AirPlay to send the music over, instead the HomePod is playing the music directly, and the Music app is acting just like a remote.

There is one specific thing to remember when trying to control music via your iOS device, you cannot connect to the Ho,prod without being on the same wireless network. Having Bluetooth enabled is not enough. You can control who is able to connect to you HomrPod. This is done via the home app. To set limitations on the HomePod perform the following steps:

  1. Open the home app.
  2. Tap on the arrow in the upper left corner.
  3. Under speakers, select “Allow Speaker Access”.

Here you can choose what type of access to allow. The options are, “Everyone”, “Anyone On The Same Network” or “Only People Sharing This Home”. You can also require a password to be able to connect to the HomePod. Enabling a password provides a second layer of authentication. Enabling a password will allow anyone to see the speaker, but they would need the password to connect to it. The password option is only available with the first two options, “Everyone” and “Anyone On The Same Network”.

Even though the Music app is controlling music, you can play any other audio on your iOS device. When you do this, the new audio will take over for the music that was previously playing on the HomePod.

Stay Tuned

This concludes the first half of my HomePod review. Keep your eye out for the second half, which will cover the HomePod and Apple TV, upcoming features, updating the HomePod, and feature requests.

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Apple iPhone

iPhone X Review: Closing Thoughts

Throughout my iPhone X Review series, many topics have been covered including the screen, wireless charging, the camera and sensors, the processor, Face ID, Animoji, and even some developer concerns. In this final article for my iPhone X review, we will look at my overall thoughts on the iPhone X.

I do not think that I had as much delight in using a product as I have with the iPhone X. The delight that I feel is the same as it was with the original iPhone, and that was a whole new product category at the time. Do not get me wrong, I was excited to get a new phone every year, and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Yet the iPhone X had a different feel to it. Each iPhone brings its own features to the product and the iPhone X is no different in this manner.

There have been four iPhones that I have been extra excited to use. They are, in order of release, the original iPhone, the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 Plus, and the iPhone X. Each of these had their own significance. The original iPhone, because it was the basis for all future iPhones and it was a wholly new product that had not been seen before. The iPhone 4 because it was the first Retina iPhone and seeing just how sharp an iPhone screen could be was a real treat. The iPhone 5s due to ToucH ID, which would become instrumental and a fundamental interaction point with that and future iPhones. The iPhone 6 Plus due to the all new form factor and possibilities with the landscape view. Finally, the iPhone X because of its radical rethinking of an iPhone.

As much as I have enjoyed each iPhone that I have owned, which is all but the 5c and the 8 Plus, the iPhone X is wholly different. The iPhone X is one of the more exciting phones that I have owned. The physical size of the iPhone X allows it to fit more comfortably into a pocket and Face ID is a fundamental change in biometric authentication and works in almost all situations. There have been a few where it has not.

The actual design of the iPhone X is fantastic. After I get an iPhone, I do the initial setup and the immediately put the case, which invariably arrives days before the iPhone, onto the iPhone. I do this not only for protection, but also to keep my phones in really condition. When I take the case off, the actual design of the iPhone X feels great in the hands. The all glass front and back, along with the corners, makes it a nice and smooth band around the edge. It is not only reminiscent of the original iPhone, but also more akin to the iPhone 4 with its glass front and back and the chamfered edges.

Face ID works a lot better, faster, and in many more situations than most might anticipate. The limitation of registering only face for Face ID will be a limiting factor for many individuals, but it is merely a first generation release.

When you use the iPhone X on a day-to-day basis, the notch becomes a non-issue. Sure, you will notice it at first but since your eyes are elsewhere, I know I do not even really notice it, unless I am purposely looking at it. s is because you are generally looking at the screen and with the iPhone X, it is all screen. The OLED screen really does make a difference when you are viewing anything with a black background on it. I did a brief comparison between my old iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone X and when both were at full brightness, and not using night shift mode, I looked at the same picture on both phones. When I did this, you could see the black area to the sides. On the iPhone 7 Plus it appears a blueish gray, whereas on the iPhone X, it is a true black.

If there is an application that has not yet been updated with either a dark mode, or to support the iPhone X, be sure to contact the developer and request that they include a dark mode and update their app to support the iPhone X. Ultimately, it will be a better experience once most applications are updated.

The Future

No one knows 100% sure what the future of the iPhone will hold, nor how long it will be the dominate smartphone on the market. One day the iPhone will be supplanted by another device. Whether it is a smart phone, or another device time will tell.

The iPhone X resets the baseline for all future iPhones. As Apple has stated, the iPhone X is “Tomorrow’s iPhone, today”. It is not easy to put into words, just how going back to an iPhone 7 Plus feels like it is the wrong direction for phones to go. I get that not everyone can afford an iPhone X right now, but Apple’s introduction iPhone X is nearly indicating that this form factor is the way of the future for iPhones. While it will certainly take time for this form factor to trickle down the line, it will eventually be the primary form factor for phones. It will be interesting to see whether Apple releases an even larger version of the iPhone X, with an even larger screen at some point in the future.

Final Thoughts

The iPhone X is Apple’s flagship phone and a luxury to boot. The iPhone X is the direction that Apple is taking its most profitable and most popular product. Even with its $999 price tag, it does pack in a significant amount of technology in a small package. The iPhone X is much closer in size to the iPhone 8 than the iPhone 8 Plus. Hence, if you thought a “Plus” sized phone was just too big, the size of the iPhone X may be a good fit.

The iPhone X has the best set of cameras on any iPhone. The wide-angle lens on the iPhone X is the same as the one on the iPhone 8, but the telephoto lens is just a bit better due to the optical image stabilization on both lenses. This allows better videos and pictures, because the pictures and videos will not shake as much.

The inclusion of safe areas also opens up the opportunity for Apple to create other distinct interface designs in the future without having to worry about developers being able to support these new interface designs. It may not be likely that this will occur, but it is a possibility to be aware of.

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, Dan Riccio, indicated that the iPhone X was originally slated for release 2018. Yet, releasing the iPhone X in 2017 really does mean that we have tomorrow’s technology in our hands today. The iPhone X seems to take all of the best physical features of the previous iPhones and puts them all into one package and yet it brings its own flair and style to the iPhone Line. To be honest the it really is a delight to use the iPhone X. If you are due for an upgrade, and have the monetary means, it really is worth looking at getting the iPhone X. I do not think that you will be disappointed.

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Apple iPhone

iPhone X Review: Plus to iPhone X

The sixth article in my iPhone X review series is a bit of an oddity, as compared to the other ones written. This one will cover my personal experience about going from an iPhone 7 Plus to the iPhone X along with some other transitions from the past, like going from the iPhone 5s to the iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhone has now had a total of five different screen sizes in its ten year life. For the first seven years of its life, there had only been two; a 3.5-inch screen on the the first five iPhone models, original iPhone through the iPhone 4s, and the 4-inch model on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. In 2014 Apple eschewed the tradition of releasing a single iPhone model and instead released two different sizes of phone; the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The Plus Phones

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus, I knew I would end up getting that model. Besides being a significantly larger screen, 5.5 inches compared to 4.7 for the iPhone 6, and the 4-inch screen that I had at the time, there were some aspects about the iPhone 6 Plus that were not on the other models. The most notable feature is the two-column view, while in landscape.

The two column view could allow developers to present more information to their users. However, this was only available when the 6 Plus was in landscape mode and not in portrait mode. Alongside the two column view, the iPhone 6 Plus had the largest screen available on an iPhone, to that point the largest screen available was the 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s.

The last differentiating aspect was the second camera on the iPhone 6 Plus. This second camera allowed photos to be taken with optical 2x lens. This would allow for more a wider variety of pictures as well as zoomed in picture to be a bit clearer. Given that the iPhone has always been my primary camera, having the best camera available was definitely an incentive.

5s to 6 Plus

Let us take a quick detour back to 2014 when I got my iPhone 6 Plus. You can about read my thoughts on the iPhone 6 Plus after about 10 days of usage. Side note, why did I do my review after 10 days? That just seems a bit strange now that I think about it. How much usage could I really have in 10 days? Anyways, one of the things that I did not mention in that post was that when I initially got the iPhone 6 Plus I actually thought the size might have been the wrong one to get. The extra inch and a half of screen size was a significant jump. The iPhone 6 Plus took a bit to get used to. However, after a couple of hours of usage I went back to my iPhone 5s and began to think that the 4-inch screen was just too small. The bigger screen real estate was just to compelling and you can quickly adjust to having the extra screen real estate than you had than before. Now, let us look at going the other direction, from a 7 Plus to the iPhone X.

Plus to iPhone X

When I first began using the iPhone X, I immediately noticed the difference in size. The physical size of the iPhone X is much closer to the iPhone 6, 6s, 7, or 8 than it is the plus-sized models. After using the Plus phones for 3 years, it took quite a bit to adjust to the different ergonomics of the iPhone X. This did include a bit of time to get used to typing on the smaller keyboard.

Even a month after using the iPhone X, I still cannot type properly on the keyboard. There are often times that I end up hitting the period instead of the space bar. Depending on what I am doing it can be quite frustrating. If you are very efficient with the iPhone Plus sized keyboard, it may be a bigger problem going to the smaller size. I am not sure whether some of the issue is due to some of the machine learning within iOS 11, or if it is just me. Apple is using some neural networks to predict what your next keypress might be and is expanding the touch area for that key to make it a bit easier to tap that key without needing to be 100% precise. For most users this may be a great thing, although it may not be the best for some users.

During my tenure with using the Plus sized screened iPhones, some changes in habit had to be made in order to accommodate the larger phone. One of the downsides of the Plus-sized phones, is actually the physical size. As an example, during the summer the size of the Plus-sized phone was not generally an issue. This is because I normally wear cargo shorts, and no I do not care if they are not “fashionable”, they are useful when you need to carry all sorts of stuff around. However, as the weather grew cooler a change of clothing was in order. Typically this would consist of a sweatshirt of some sort, or hoodie, along with a t-shirt and jeans.

The iPhone 7 did not always fit comfortably within my jeans. I would prefer to keep the iPhone in my front left pocket, with my keys. Yes, I know it is not the best, but it is what is the most comfortable. I do not wear skinny jeans, so that is not the issue. The Plus phones do not fit well in the front pocket, and therefore I always ended up taking my phone out of my pocket and placing it nearby. If I knew I would be walking around for a bit, the phone would either end up in the pocket of my hoodie, or in the back pocket of my jeans. This arrangement meant that I ended up having to take the Plus-sized phone out of my back pocket before sitting down.

This changes a bit with the iPhone X. The physical size of the iPhone X allows it to fit quite comfortably in the front pocket of my jeans. Even with this, I still end up removing the iPhone X from my pocket and placing it nearby. This is because, like many others, I am constantly using my iPhone for all sorts of things and having to constantly pull out my iPhone X from my pocket would become bothersome, particularly if you are sitting down.Even though the iPhone X is my primary phone, there are those times that I end up going back to my iPhone 7 Plus.

iPhone X Back to Plus

Every once in a while I end up going back to my iPhone 7 Plus. When this happens and I look at its design, it appears, to me, to be old technology. In particular, the bezels on the top and bottom of the iPhone 7 Plus seem a bit out of place. The larger physical size take some re-adjusting to get used to it again. I have become quite used to and accustom to the edge-to-edge screen design and it is what I would consider to be “normal” now, and exactly what an iPhone should look like. They do not seem like they should be there. It appears as though the phone is not really an iPhone, at least not to me. I know that people can adjust quickly to technology, and this is a prime example for me.

I do not think the notch is the item in particular, but the rounded corners of the screen on the iPhone X. When I look back at the iPhone 7 Plus, the squared off corner that feel the most out of place, right after the large bezels.

The same does not appear to be the case when I switch between my 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the iPhone X. I do not know if this is due to the iPad Pro being so much larger than the iPhone and the fact that I am not usually not looking at every aspect of the screen all the time, or if it is some other aspect. I will say that when I really look at the iPad, the bezels, even though they are larger than on the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPad Pro’s bezels do not seem as stark of a contrast.

The only rationale I have for this is that the bezels on the iPad Pro are a bit closer in size. The side bezels are approximately 1/2 an inch, and the top and bottom bezels are approximately an inch. This is a difference of about 1/2 of an inch. Contrast this with the the iPhone 7 Plus’, where the bezels are a bit more disproportional. The top and bottom bezels are approximately 9/10 an inch and the side bezels are approximately 1/6 of an inch. The side bezels on the iPhone 7 Plus are a lot more noticeable and I think this really is the reasoning behind the difference in opinion between the two devices. With the iPad Pro being closer in size, the bezels appear more as a frame for the iPad Pro screen than the iPhone Plus does.

When you first look see an iPhone X you notice the notch. It is the most iconic aspect to the iPhone X. Yet, in every day practice it is hardly noticeable and does not not normally get in the way of what you are doing. This is because Apple allows developers to keep their content within “safe areas”. Only once you double-tap to zoom into a video and make it full screen will any part of the content be hidden. When you do this the video will fill up the sides of the notch, but most of the time, this is not an issue. So if you are worried about the notch, do not be, it really is not a big problem.

One of the more difficult things to go back to, with the iPhone 7 Plus, is not being able to swipe up from the bottom to unlock the screen. I have quickly become used to just swiping up to get to the home screen. I understand why Apple makes this gesture unique to the iPhone X, but it really would be nice to have on the other platforms. Particularly if you have already unlocked the iPhone 7 Plus, or iPad Pro for that fact, with Touch ID. It sometimes takes me a second to realize, oh wait, swiping up does not work on this device. I get that it is what it is, but it is easy to get into a habit.

Even with this all of this, long term iOS users really should be able to switch between various iOS devices without too much difficulty. It will take time for other iOS devices to get the same gestures as the iPhone X and by the time that everyone is comfortable with the iPhone X gestures, Apple will change it again.

iPhone X to iPod Touch

Back in 2015, I bought a sixth generation iPod Touch right when they were released. I did this as a way to have a reference device that was running iOS 8. I still have not yet updated the iPod Touch beyond iOS 8. So I do end up having to reference it from time to time. This mostly occurs when I am writing my iOS e-book during the summer, but I do use it from time to time. When I do have to use it, it feels even more cramped than I thought. Similar to going back to the iPhone 7 Plus from the iPhone X, going back to the iPod Touch feels a bit odd. Strangely though, I do not get the same “this feels completely out of place” with the iPod Touch as I do with the iPhone 7 Plus. I do not know if it is because to me the iPod is not a “front of mind” product when it comes to Apple. Just as with the Mac Mini, the iPod Touch is not a product that receives regular attention, it is not known how soon, or if, the iPod Touch will see an update. It would be nice, it may also be nice to see two different sizes, a 4-inch model and maybe a 4.7-inch model, or even a 5.5-inch model.

Final Thoughts

Even though I do not typically have to go between my iPhone X and my iPhone 7 Plus, there are those times when it will be necessary. The likely time that it will be when I am doing development of my apps, I may be working on wwrite or just working on my own utility apps. I completely get that having to go between different types of iOS devices and having to deal with their different gestures is a very first-world problem. Even though the bifurcation of gestures between iOS devices is minimal, it may end up confusing some users. With the iPhone X being the future, it is only a matter of time before all iOS devices use the game gestures, within limits.

If you are on the fence between a Plus-sized Phone and the iPhone X, I would recommend going to a store and comparing both models side by side. You may find that the Plus-sized phone is what you are looking for, however you may also find the the iPhone X is a better fit for your needs.

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Apple iPhone

iPhone X Review: Wireless Charging

The sixth article is my iPhone X Review focuses on a new feature that is not only on the iPhone X, but also on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus; That feature is Wireless Charging.

When you look at all of the new features of the iPhone X, one that might not stand out is wireless charging, given all of the other “shiny” features of the iPhone X. Features like Face ID, the OLED screen, and Animoji. There are those technologies that Apple includes in their devices that when they are initially introduced seem like an “oh, that is nice to have”, but it is just a gimmick. When you first look at these type of features, what you do not realize just how fundamental of a shift it can be.

At first glance Wireless Charging may fall into that category, yet I think it will become a primary mechanism and absolute necessity for iPhones going forward. The fact that it is included with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus means that Apple is making a huge bet on the technology. Although with Apple putting into their latest iPhones, it will end up trickling down the line and eventually be ubiquitous. As with many other things, but it has not always been the case, when Apple implements a technology it quickly becomes a must have in other devices. I think that Wireless Charging may become that type of technology.

History of Power on iPhone

Unlike many other aspects of the iPhone, the ways that it has been powered have remained largely stable. This is likely because changing the connector cable causes uproar amongst the community. In fact, Apple has only changed the power cable once in the ten year history of the iPhone. That began with the iPhone 5 in 2012. Prior to that, the 30-pin dock connector was used. Although, you could use either Firewire or USB with the original iPhone. Firewire support was dropped with the iPhone 3G, but it still utilized the same cable.

Since 2012, all iPhones that have shipped have utilized the lightning cable as their only mechanism for charging. With the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X this changes. These iPhones still support the lightning cable, but it is not the only charging method. You can now use wireless charging to charge your iPhone X.

What is Wireless Charging

When people say “wireless charging” two different images can be conjured in ones mind. The first, and least common, is one where power would both figuratively and literally being transferred through the air, similar to how some images of Nikola Tesla’s laboratory have been shown. These images have electricity flowing across the entire picture. This is not really what people mean. The second possible image, and one that most users mean, is actually what is actually known as inductive charging. To make it easier on everyone, I will use the two terms, wireless charging and inductive charging, interchangeably.

The concept of inductive charging is not new, not by a long shot. Inductive charging is used in a variety of different products. Some of these include motorized toothbrushes, razors, and even some batteries. It has been in use by phones since 2009 when the Palm Pre was introduced. Manufacturers of Android phones have been including wireless charging for quite a while.

For wireless charging there are actually two competing standards. The first is the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) or as it is more commonly called, the AirFuel Alliance. The second standard is the Wireless Power Consortium standard, Qi, pronounced “chi”. Apple has gone with the latter of the two standards for its wireless charging.

The first inductive charging product that Apple released was the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch has never had any other type of charger. The Apple Watch uses a slightly different inductive charging mechanism versus other devices using inductive charging. The difference with the Apple Watch is that it uses magnets to get a secure connection to the charger.

The iPhone X also includes inductive charging. Unlike with the Apple Watch, the iPhone X does not include a wireless charging pad with the iPhone X. The iPhone X, as well as the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, uses a wireless charging standard known as Qi, pronounced “chi”. However, given the wide variety of existing Qi chargers, you will not need to spend a lot of money to be able to purchase an inductive charger for the iPhone X.

The iPhone X, with iOS 11.0 or 11.1 has a limited charging speed of 5 watts. This is the exact same wattage that comes with the little power brick that has been included with every iPhone sold since 2007. This changes with iOS 11.2, which should be available now. iOS 11.2 increases the maximum output via the wireless charging coil to 7.5 watts. While the actual difference seems small, this is a 50% increase in power.

Right now Apple only advertises two Qi chargers for the iPhone X, and iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. These are the Mophie Wireless Charging Base and the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad. I picked up the Mophie one the same time I purchased my iPhone X.

Mophie Charger

The Mophie Wireless Charger is a 24.7 watt charging pad, well beyond the 7.5 watts allowed by the iPhone X. The Mophie charging pad comes with its own 24.7 watt power brick. The charging pad brick is not USB. Instead it is a standard electronic plug, one that you would find on many other products. The one benefit of this plug, though, is that it is reversible and symmetrical, so you can plug it in either way and it will work. This is very similar to how lightning cables are, which ultimately means that you do not have to do the “USB Dance” like you might with USB A cables.

The physical size of the Mophie charging pad is approximately 3.75 inches in diameter, so it is not a big device. The pad itself is black and has a bit of grip to it thanks to the rubber that encases the entire device. When you place an iPhone on the Mophie pad the gripping rubber minimizes the movement of the iPhone. One downside to some third-party wireless chargers is that if you receive a message and your phone vibrates, it could vibrate off of the charging pad. This does not happen with the iPhone X and the Mophie Wireless Charger.

One of the more common places for a wireless charging base might be in the bedroom. One thing that humans are not good at is sleeping with the light on. Many electronic manufacturers intend to dazzle their customers with a lot of lights, and one of the potential downsides of any charger is the light that it emits. When there are a lot of lights on a charger, they are likely LED and typically very bright. The Mophie charger does not have this problem. There is one single light that is on the bottom of the charging pad and you are not likely to see it unless you are really looking for it. This is a huge plus, particularly if you intend to use a wireless charging where you sleep.

In my own usage, I have to actively look for the light in order to find it, so it should not be too much of a problem. However, if the light is a problem there is a universal fix for it. You can place some black electrical tape over the light. The benefit of this, is that it will match the rest of the Mophie Charger. Even though the Mophie Charger is pretty good, there is still one improvement, or option, I would like to see.

Wishlist

The one thing I would like to see is the power brick and cord be either a lightning or USB-C cable. I completely understand why they went with the propriety power brick and connector, but it would still be nice to have the option for using a USB-C cable to charge. This would need a 29 watt charging brick, but for those of use who already have that, it would not require another charger since we may already have the necessary equipment. There is another wireless charger that I looked at.

Yootech Wireless Charger

After using the Mophie Wireless Charger for a couple of weeks, I decided to buy a less expensive one to use at work.
I opted to go with a cheaper model at work for a couple of reasons. The exact model that I bought is the Yootech RC100 It is called the “Yootech Wireless Charger”. I opted to go with this model, because it was only $12.99 from Amazon. What I did not know when I ordered it was whether or not if this model had a large number of bright LED lights on it. If it did, it would not bother me at work to have them shining, whereas at home, it most certainly would.

The RC100 does indeed have a lot of LEDs, however they are only on for 30 seconds when you place the iPhone X onto the charging pad. During the day this may not be an issue, nor when you first go to sleep. But if you place your iPhone X on the pad after picking it up in the middle of the night, the lights can be distracting. For my purposes, though, it should not be an issue.

The Yootech Wireless Charger is a much thinner, and much cheaper, wireless charger. It is also a bit smaller compared to the Mophie Wireless Charger. The size of the Yootech charger has an approximate diameter of 3.5 inches, or 90mm. In terms of thickness, it is approximately 1/3 of an inch thick, or 8.4mm. In contrast, the Mophie measures in at 3.82 inches at its diameter, by 0.45 inches, or 11.5mm. The Mophie is 33% thicker than the YooTech.

With its cheaper price, the Yootech does not include a power adapter. It does include a standard micro USB to USB A cable. This means that you can use the power adapter that comes with the iPhone X to power the Yootech charger.

The biggest downside to the Yootech Wireless charger is that it can take 7.5 watts in, but only its maximum output is 5 watts. This means that the Yootech wireless charger does not support fast charging. Just like the LED lights, for my purposes this is not an issue. However, if you are looking to have a Qi charger that will charge your iPhone X, the Yootech wireless charger is a viable option, albeit a basic one.

Actual Usage

I got the Yootech charger on a Friday and I used it around the house over the weekend. I brought it to work on Monday and guess what, I have not actually used it while at work. This is because even with my heavy usage of my iPhone, the battery does not drain like my iPhone 7 Plus did. Granted, as of this writing my iPhone is only four weeks old, but the bigger physical size has allowed for a larger battery. Apple does indicate that the battery on the iPhone X should get you two more hours of usage. Even though it has not yet been an issue, we shall see what happens when the iOS 12 first developer beta is released. First developer betas are notoriously bad for battery life and it may be nice to have the wireless charger when that time comes around.

Downsides

There is a single downside to all of the current wireless chargers. That downside is that you have to place your iPhone X squarely on the middle of the charging pads. With the Mophie charging pad, there is a bit of leeway since the charging pad is wider than the charging area of the iPhone X. Out of all of the times that I have placed my iPhone X on the charging pad, there has only been a couple of time that I missed the charging area the first time. In reality, it should not be too much of an issue.

Future of Wireless Charging

If I am being honest, I know the Mophie Wireless Charger and Yootech RC100 are just stop gaps until Apple releases their Air Power mat in 2018. The Air Power mat will be able to charge the Apple Watch Series 3, iPhone X, and the AirPods, with a new case, all on the same mat. Once the Air Power mat is released, I will likely be purchasing one in order to be able to just place my items down without having to worry. At that point, the Mophie Charger will likely move to another spot throughout my house.

It is possible that Apple could include wireless charging on other devices, and likely will in future iPhones. As for other Apple products getting wireless charging, I do not know it would make sense for other products. Wireless charging requires a coil inside the product, and would make the device heavier. Apple only has a limited number of portable product that could benefit from wireless charging, but these products all have, or soon will have, wireless charging capabilities.

Final Thoughts

When you first think about wireless charging you may think, “how convenient will that really be?”. Surprisingly, it is very convenient. Having the ability to just place your phone on a charging pad and then have it charge, all without having to mess with a cable is an experience that you may not think would be that convenient, but it truly is. I am not going to attempt to say that Apple came up with wireless charging because, as mentioned above, it is not a new technology at all.

If you own an iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or any phone with wireless charging you may seriously want to look at getting a wireless charging pad for you phone. It can completely change the convenience factor for charging your phone. And was wireless charging pads become more ubiquitous you will soon be able to charge your phone at many other places. This is particularly true if you have a number of chargers placed where you are the most.

Also as mentioned above, it does not have to be an expensive proposition to buy a wireless charger. There is another Yootech charger for $11, a Choetech charger for $16, or even a standing model by ElleSye for about $21. If you have an iPhone X, it behoves you to take a look at wireless charging and how well it might be able to fit into your life.