Apple


How Do I Know if the Grass Is Greener?

24th July 2021

For the past couple days I've been thinking about getting an Android phone. Not because I want to "make the switch", but becuase I've had an iPhone for over 10 years. And while I think the iPhone is a good phone, how do I really know that I don't love Android even more if I've never tried?

That, and because I think Android 12 looks really nice with the new Material You design.

And while iOS has recently gained widgets on the Home Screen, the design has largely stayed the same. Maybe that’s just a negative perspective, but after 10 years it can seem a tad boring.


But that’s when I start to think about the Apple ecosystem. How I’ve slowly built up a collection of movies, books, music, and apps that purely exist in this world. Add that to the various Apple devices I own, that each add their own weight to the locked-in feeling.

So it’s not like I’m ever going to make some major switch without truly thinking about it. But when I really think about how much I feel locked-in, I think back to my younger self, and my feelings towards technology back then. I liked the look of Apple products, but I mainly liked having endless control of my computer, I tinkered a lot, I broke things a lot, and I actually learned quite a bit along the way.

In general I preferred to be an opinionated user, rather than having an opinionated computer telling me what I could do.

While I’m not going all out attack on Apple — I use and enjoy many Apple products — but sometimes I get tired about the lock-in feeling, and start to think what it’s like on the other side.

And if I’m being truly honest, I think the best looking smartphones are the Google Pixels that come in white/black combinations, with my favourite being the Pixel 2 XL. That might sound pretty weird coming from an iPhone owner and app developer.

Maybe I need to come to terms with things and either settle for the closed ecosystem, or venture out and try new things. Because by being fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem, I’m saying to myself that I want every decision regarding my personal computing, whether it be the mobile computer, laptop computer, or the computer on my wrist, to be dependant on the ideals and decisions of one company.

The MagSafe Battery Pack

14th July 2021

Apple has just released the product that I think we've all been expecting ever since the recent addition of MagSafe in the recent iPhone lineup. It's a product that simply makes sense.

As you may expect, it's by no means the biggest battery pack you can get for your iPhone, with the capacity standing at 1460mAh, and it's not clear what this will mean in terms of actual extra use time. However, when you compare it to the iPhone 12 battery capacities, you can probably get a rough estimate:

  • iPhone 12 mini capacity: 2227 mAh
  • iPhone 12/12 Pro capacity: 2815 mAh
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max capacity: 3687 mAh

So maybe if you've got a 12 or 12 Pro you can expect somewhere near 50% extra battery life? I'd be fine with that. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Regarding charging speed, the battery pack can charge an iPhone with up to 5W of power when not plugged in, and up to 15W when plugged into a 20W or higher power source. 5W is the typical rate for a standard wireless charger, so there's no fast charging on the go. However, the benefit of MagSafe is that it simply attaches to the back of the device, so it's not as inconvenient to use online attaching it via a cable to a battery pack.

I can see this as the perfect solution for a travel charger. As when you're out and about, you have an extra punch of battery to get you through the day, but also the battery pack can serve as a wireless charger when plugged in. So I guess in that case, it's two products in one.

Another interesting part of this battery pack is that it can also be charged by the iPhone. So if you need to use a cable directly with your iPhone for whatever reason, your iPhone will then use reverse charging to charge the battery pack. This functionality was reported to possibly exist in the latest iPhones last year, but this is the first I've heard of it being used.

I'll wait until we hear more about the real-world capacity tests, and also when I'm able to travel a bit more, but it certainly looks like something I'm going to end up buying.

Check out the MagSafe Battery Pack on the Apple Store.

The M1 iPad Pro

20th April 2021

The new iPad Pro has been announced, and I've got a few thoughts on it.

Of course, the most significant part of the announcement was the addition of the M1 chip. It brings the obvious added power and increased efficiency that we've seen in M1 Macs. But I think it also signifies something bigger.

Because Apple could have easily just called the iPad chip the A14X or something similar, that's essentially what it is. But they chose to go with the marketing term, M1. And with the M1 name being associated with Macs and desktop computing, I think it shows what Apple wants the iPad Pro to be.

I could be reading too much into this, but my opinion is that we're going to see a much more Pro-focussed strategy for the iPad Pro. And I'm hoping that kicks off with some real Pro applications announced at WWDC, especially Xcode.

The iPad Pro also now comes with more memory, with the 1TB and 2TB options coming with 16GB, and the rest with 8GB. Both options are an increase from the 2020 models, which came with 6GB. I think this will be a significant stepping stone in getting more powerful apps on the iPad.

Then there's the screen. The new 12.9" iPad Pro has a "Liquid Retina XDR" display, which means 10,000 mini LEDs, sorted into over 2500 local dimming zones (The Pro Display XDR has only 576), 1000 nits of brightness with a peak of 1600 nits, ProMotion, True Tone, HDR, P3 wide colour, etc. All of this sounds very appealing and partially confusing, to be honest.

Most of the other features, while mildly interesting, aren't exactly game-changers for me. Things like the USB -C port gaining Thunderbolt support, the curios Centre Stage feature where your camera can follow you, and of course, 5G.

One other thing did pique my curiosity, and that's the new White Magic Keyboard. While my initial reaction was that it would surely wear out quite quickly and get quite visibly dirty. I feel that the White Magic Keyboard combined with a Space Grey iPad Pro could look pretty good together. Hopefully, I can see a picture of it before they're ready to order.

However, all of this excitement also relies on enhancements to iPadOS.  The hardware has never actually been the issue when it comes to iPad. That has been steadily improving over time, and it's been pretty powerful for a while now. However, it's now time that the software matched the same level, and I mean that from both an OS perspective and Apple's app offerings. Apps like Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic surely have to be coming to the iPad in one form or another? I'm starting to see little reasons why they couldn't.

Ecosia Added to the List of Default Search Engines on Apple Devices

23rd December 2020

Apple has now added a fifth default Search engine option to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. And that new addition is Ecosia.

Ecosia is a search engine that has been produced to plant trees. Not literally, but the profit from the search ads are used to plant trees, and therefore to help the environment.

I heard about Ecosia quite a few years ago, but it didn't seem to work that well for me. I've tried it again recently, and it seems to have improved a lot. So I'm going to be setting it as default on all of my devices to really try it out. For the simple reason that if I can get reasonable search results, then there really isn't a negative, only a positive effect of trees being planted.

To be honest, although Apple added DuckDuckGo to the list of default search engines, I didn't really expect them to add any more. DuckDuckGo just seemed like a privacy-focussed alternative to Google.

I wonder how many people will switch to Ecosia, and if Apple will add even more options in the future? Maybe they will make their own?

Mac Mini Teardown Provides Real-World Look at M1 Chip on Smaller Logic Board →

18th November 2020

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

A teardown of the new Mac mini has surfaced on the forum eGPU.io (via Reddit), providing us with a real-world look at Apple's new M1 chip, which is soldered onto a much smaller logic board than the one found in the 2018 model of the computer.

There sure looks like there's a lot of empty space in there, which bodes well for the future. You can take it as more room for future even more powerful models, or that this power could be put into an even smaller chassis. Either way it's positive.

HomePod Mini First Impressions

18th November 2020

My HomePod arrived this morning, so I thought I'd give my first impressions of it. I've had an original HomePod for quite some time, and I love it, but I did always think I'd like a smaller one in my office. That's why I ordered a Mini as soon as it was available.

Turns out, it was a pretty good decision too. Because for £99, I think the HomePod Mini is much more value for money than the £279 HomePod. I'm not saying the HomePod isn't worth that amount of money, but instead, I think the Mini is so cheap for what it is.

Obviously, the main part of the HomePod is what it sounds like. The original HomePod has an incredible set of speakers and can be pretty loud. With that in mind, I was expecting a speaker the size of the Mini would sound drastically different. I mean, still Apple quality, but noticeably worse than the bigger variant. However, they're a lot closer than I imagined.

The HomePod has an expected much higher level of bass, but the Mini still has a decent amount. I've complained in the past that the HomePod has too much bass, so I wasn't going to complain if there was a little less. It can also be pretty loud. I have it around 50% right now and it's certainly enough. I had them working together at one point, and it was amazing, so I'll probably end up getting another Mini at some point.

I tried sending music between the Mini and my iPhone 12 a few times, and it's definitely faster than before. But I have to be honest and say that it wasn't as fast as I've seen in reviews, so maybe I need to find the sweet spot?

One side-note I have about the Mini is that the cable it comes with is what all future Apple cables should be made out of. It's a braided cable, similar to the bigger HomePod, but the thickness of a typical cable.

While the HomePod will always have the size advantage over the Mini, the difference in sound quality doesn't seem to match the difference in size. The Mini is a great speaker. I think that this is the product that will Apple to compete with other devices from Amazon and Google. I don't think that they will ever match the price points or ubiquity of either two, but I can imagine a lot more people are going to be thinking about a HomePod now.

Apple Reduces App Store Commissions to 15% for Small Businesses Starting Next Year →

18th November 2020

John Voorhees, writing at MacStories:

Today, Apple announced a reduction in App Store commissions that will substantially benefit a large part of the developer community. Starting January 1, 2021, developers who earn up to $1 million per year from their apps will have the commission paid to Apple cut in half, reducing it from 30% to 15%. Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the new App Store Small Business Program in an Apple press release:

Small businesses are the backbone of our global economy and the beating heart of innovation and opportunity in communities around the world. We’re launching this program to help small business owners write the next chapter of creativity and prosperity on the App Store, and to build the kind of quality apps our customers love.

Cook continued:

The App Store has been an engine of economic growth like none other, creating millions of new jobs and a pathway to entrepreneurship accessible to anyone with a great idea. Our new program carries that progress forward — helping developers fund their small businesses, take risks on new ideas, expand their teams, and continue to make apps that enrich people’s lives.

Such a great decision, and one that a lot of people have been wanting for quite some time. The $1m a year limit is certainly going to disappoint some people, since it will cut out a lot of developers/companies. But I don't think Apple are wrong to at least focus on the small businesses first. I'm sure a lot smarter people will argue the case for or against the cap, but right now I'm just looking forward to applying for this myself.

Apple Responds to Gatekeeper Issue With Upcoming Fixes →

16th November 2020

Romain Dillet, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple  has updated a documentation page detailing the company’s next steps to prevent last week’s Gatekeeper bug from happening again, as Rene Ritchie spotted. The company plans to implement the fixes over the next year.

Apple had a difficult launch day last week. The company released macOS Big Sur, a major update for macOS. Apple then suffered from server-side issues.

Third-party apps failed to launch as your Mac couldn't check the developer certificate of the app. That feature, called Gatekeeper, makes sure that you didn't download a malware app that disguises itself as a legit app. If the certificate doesn’t match, macOS prevents the app launch.

A pretty embarrassing bug for such a big day.

The M1 Chip

11th November 2020

So Apple has finally announced the first Macs that will run on Apple Silicon. To be specific, there is a new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13", and a new Mac Mini. And they all have the new M1.

This is still early on, and there's bound to be more information as time goes on, and as people eventually receive their machines. But, it leaves me with some questions regarding the M1, Apple's idea behind the Mac lineup, and Apple Silicon in general.

Is an M1 always an M1?

With all three new Macs having the M1 chip, I assumed that the only difference in power would be related to how much power it uses, and the thermal capacity of the machine. As in the Mac Mini is plugged in constantly, so it can draw more power. And the MacBook Air doesn't have a fan, so it needs to maintain a lower temperature.

But while it appears that the M1 is the same across the models, there is one machine which has a slight variant. The cheapest MacBook Air for some reason has an M1 with a 7-core GPU. And all of the other machines have an 8-core GPU.

So are all M1 chips the same? Does the "7-core GPU" variant actually have 8-cores, but one's switched off? Or did they literally make two options of the same chip, with 1 GPU core being the difference? If they are physically different, is does M1 represent a chip family?

Is CPU configuration now dead?

With the new M1s being the same, apart from the weird MacBook Air situation, there is now one less thing you can configure when purchasing a Mac.

Sure, you have the option of a 7-core or 8-core GPU on your MacBook Air, but this is not configurable in the same way that memory and storage are.

Maybe from now on, the chip will determine the model. And if Apple does start to separate Mac models by chip variants, will we ever be told more about them apart from the number of cores and the iteration?

What chip will be in the next tier of Macs?

Even if we class the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook 13" models as being transitioned to Apple Silicon, there are still four more models that run exclusively on Intel chips, the MacBook Pro 16", iMac, iMac Pro, and the Mac Pro.

I think they will obviously feature higher performant chips than the current M1 chips that are available. But I wonder how far they will go, and at what rate. Because although the MacBook Pro 16" is a laptop, it's the high-end model, and will therefore need to be much more powerful than the 13".

But when it comes to the other three models, they all have one benefit over the laptops, in that they have a constant power source. And the Mac Pro can go even further due to it's larger size.

Apple said they wanted to transition the whole Mac platform to Apple Silicon in around 2 years. But I wonder if this means only having Apple Silicon Macs available, or just by having an Apple Silicon option of every Mac, while still selling various Intel variants.

How many chip variants will Apple sell at once?

This isn't exactly a major question, but it will be interesting to see how many Apple Silicon chips will be available to buy at a single time.

When the whole platform has transitioned, I wonder if at one point they will all run the same M class chip with variants on certain models. And at what rate are they upgraded?

The iPhone chips are updated every year, so it will be good to see the same behaviour for M chips. Although would that mean every Mac gets updated every year? Or just certain models?

Is the memory limit a problem?

The Macs that have the M1 chip are all limited to a maximum 16GB memory. That doesn't seem great to me, since the Intel MacBook Pro 13" supports up to 32GB memory, double its replacement.

Maybe this is a technical limitation? I thought initially that it was a limitation from the M1 chip, but I've also seen suggestions that it's due to the type of memory, or even due to the heat generated from larger amounts of memory. So it could even be a product decision.

And although the limit is pretty small, will it actually be a problem? iPhones have much less ram than Android phones, and they're by no means slow. So maybe the tight integration of Apple Silicon and macOS will create the same benefit, and memory will go further on Apple Silicon than an Intel equivalent.

These are the questions I have right now, and I bet there's a load more that others want to be answered too. We'll simply have to wait and see what happens.

What's the Deal With Apple and Power Adapters

9th November 2020

I'm not sure what has gotten into Apple recently, but they seem to have developed an aversion for including power adapters with products that require power adapters.

The reason for not including it in the new iPhones is supposed to be environmental. I don't fully believe that, but I'll let that one slide for now.

The fact they remove the power adapter from already existing products, without altering the price, tells you that it's not fully environmental reasons.

But when you think that one of the biggest features of the new iPhones is MagSafe, you would expect that a lot of people will be purchasing a MagSafe cable. That MagSafe cable costs £39. It also doesn't come with the required 20W power adapter. That comes separately at a cost of £19. So, £58 for a cable and power adapter which is meant to be the new way of charging your phone.

When looking into the Watch charging options, I came across the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock, which I had completely forgotten about. Released in 2015, it's essentially the charging disc of the Watch charger, but at a 90° angle, on top of a small circular base. And that will set you back £75. It requires the old 5W power adapter, and that will cost you another £19. So all together, it costs £94 for an Apple branded Apple Watch charging dock.

Coming soon is the MagSafe Duo charger, a small foldable case which contains a typical MagSafe wireless charger, and a magnetic Watch charger. To use this charger, you use a single Lightning to USB C cable, plugged into the 20W power adapter. Except again, the power adapter doesn't come in the box. Alongside the £129 it costs for the charger, you will again need to spend another £19 on the power adapter, bringing this solution to £148.

I'm not sure if Apple is trying to make this a new normal, where products that require power adapters simply do not come with them. But to me, it seems absolutely ridiculous.

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