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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I’ll start with the fact that I’ve not been the Apple Watch’s biggest fan for a while. I’ve used a Series 0 and Series 3, but for quite a few months I’ve been watch free.
In my ideal scenario, I’d like Apple to offer a smart band instead of a full watch. But I’ve come to terms that it’s probably not going to happen any time soon. And in a weird U-turn, I ended up ordering a Series 6 yesterday in size 101.
The watch I ordered was a 44mm Space Grey Aluminium one with a Charcoal Braided Solo Loop. And it was because of a few reasons:
The new blood oxygen sensor. Maybe not impressive on its own, but I think having that and the heart rate monitor, the health/fitness capabilities will increase massively.
watchOS 7. I haven’t had a good look at watchOS 7 before this event, and I was really surprised to see how good it was. Especially the new watch faces. (Matt Birchler has a great review on watchOS 7).
Going back to work. A big reason why I stopped wearing the watch was because of the lockdown, and that I was no longer commuting to work anymore. Well, I’m going to have to start again soon, and I used my watch a ton while on the way or at work.
The new straps. The new Loop and Braided Loop straps are really nice. I found it really annoying that the buckle of the Sports Loop always dug into my wrist, so that’s definitely a good thing.
It’s a decent upgrade. As my last watch was the Series 3, the changes over the past three years have added up to become quite a large improvement. So I’m just generally interested in what an Apple Watch can do for me now.
A lot of people have been crying out for a single Apple subscription for quite some time now, and we’ve finally got one. It’s totally the right time for such a bundle. Especially with the new Fitness+ service coming soon. As Apple have been able to create three different plans with up to six different services.
I think the way they’ve split the plans make sense. One for the user that wants the fundamental services of music, television, and games. The same but for families. And one big plan for people that simply want everything. And they’re all topped off with different amounts of iCloud storage.
The iCloud storage probably won’t be one that draws people in, but I think people will definitely see the benefit of the extra storage once they use it.
I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing myself regarding Apple One. Because right now I pay for Apple Music, tv+, and 200 GB of iCloud storage. The 200 GB costs £2.49 a month, tv+ costs £4.99 a month, and I still somehow get student discount, so I pay only £4.99 for Apple Music. A total of £12.47. Less than any of the Apple One plans.
Maybe if I lose the Apple Music discount, then it would make sense. But I’d also have to pay extra for higher iCloud storage. I was hoping that I could use a bundle to try out News+, but £29.95 seems a bit much for my usage. Because I certainly won’t be using Fitness+, and I’ve already cancelled my Apple Arcade subscription because I wasn’t playing any of the games.
The new Apple Watch Series 6 is here (I’ve already ordered mine). But before I write up my thoughts on everything that was announced, I thought I’d play around with the sizes for the new watch straps, seeing as the new Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop come in 9 sizes (Although the size guide has 12?). Mainly because I wanted to see if I see any interesting trends, but also, why not?
So it turns out that it’s not as simple as having a representative “Apple” size for a range of measurements. Instead, there are ranges for every strap size, and also one specific millimetre-precise measurement for every strap size that has two “fits”. A precise fit, which they say is for active lifestyles, and a relaxed fit for everyday use. They always recommend the precise fit.
Here are how wrist sizes relate to the new strap size:
Wrist Size (cm)
12.6 ≦ 13.1
Precise (Recommended): 1 Relaxed: 2
13.3 ≦ 13.7
Precise (Recommended): 2 Relaxed: 3
13.9 ≦ 14.3
Precise (Recommended): 3 Relaxed: 4
14.5 ≦ 14.9
Precise (Recommended): 4 Relaxed: 5
15.1 ≦ 15.6
Precise (Recommended): 5 Relaxed: 6
15.8 ≦ 16.3
Precise (Recommended): 6 Relaxed: 7
16.5 ≦ 17
Precise (Recommended): 7 Relaxed: 8
17.2 ≦ 17.7
Precise (Recommended): 8 Relaxed: 9
17.9 ≦ 18.4
Precise (Recommended): 9 Relaxed: 10
18.6 ≦ 19.1
Precise (Recommended): 10 Relaxed: 11
19.3 ≦ 19.8
Precise (Recommended): 11 Relaxed: 12
20 ≦ 20.6
As you can see the sizes span from 12.6 cm to 20.6 cm. But the Loop Solo and Braided Loop Solo only come in sizes 3 to 12, so the sizes are actually from 13.9 cm to 20.6 cm. If your wrist is smaller or bigger, you’re going to have to find another strap.
While that data is interesting (and maybe useful), I wondered if I could find anything else from the data. So I flipped the columns and simplified the data to represent a precise fit as being inclusive in the relevant sizes.
Wrist Size (cm)
12.6 ≦ 13.2
13.3 ≦ 13.8
13.9 ≦ 14.4
14.5 ≦ 15.0
15.1 ≦ 15.7
15.8 ≦ 16.4
16.5 ≦ 17.1
17.2 ≦ 17.8
17.9 ≦ 18.5
18.6 ≦ 19.2
19.3 ≦ 19.9
20 ≦ 20.6
To be honest, I didn’t see anything useful here. But I did work out that the first two sizes have a range of 0.7 cm, the next 3 sizes have a range of 0.6 cm, and the latter 7 have a range of 0.7 cm. I had a theory that the bigger the strap is, it makes sense that it would be able to stretch to a larger size. But I was expecting to see a higher variability.
Apple’s next event is just around the corner and seeing as it’s very much expected that the event will focus on the Apple Watch. Which, alongside journalists, is suggested by the name of the event, ‘Time Flies’.
The Apple Watch has certainly been a strange product for me. I had the very first model, and absolutely loved it. I eventually bought a series 3, and I was certainly still enjoying using it. But that all changed at the start of this year, when I stopped wearing it completely. I tried to start wearing it again recently, this time with no notifications, or third-party apps, but it still wasn’t a product that I wanted in my life anymore.
But for a while now, there has been a similar product that I’ve had in mind, that I would like from Apple. And that would be a smart band. Not a smartwatch. There are tons of smart bands available now, and they all have their own collection of features, whether it’s fitness tracking, receiving phone calls, listening to music, etc. But I want one from Apple. Partially because I’m a big fan of Apple products, but also because I’m heavily invested in the ecosystem. And any other smart band might have the features I want in principle, but it probably won’t ever be as integrated as something that Apple could make themselves.
Essentially, I want an Apple Watch, but without nearly everything that comes with the Apple Watch. I don’t want a big screen, third-party apps, notifications, or ability to make phone calls. Ideally, the benefit of this product would be that it wouldn’t be directly used. I want a device that acts as a constant health and fitness sensor, and feeds that data back to my other devices, whether it’s directly to my iPhone, or even with its own connect to iCloud.
In total, these are the features that I want this ideal product to have:
Takes form as a strap/bracelet, that’s around the same size as a typical smart band.
A small display used to show time, date, and maybe a few small health metrics such as heart rate.
Ability to upload data via nearby devices, or via a WiFi connection.
Long battery life.
It could be that this product is so “basic”, that there’s no reason why Apple would create such a device. But there’s certainly a market for it. Call it the Apple Watch Mini, or the Apple Watch Strap for all I care. I just want a smart band, that’s designed and built by Apple, that works perfectly with my other Apple devices.
Apart from that dream device. I can’t say I’m that excited about anything else from the event. Unless they give hints about the next iPhone or do something unexpected of course. There’s a lot of rumours regarding a new iPad, but my mind is set on a new iPad Pro, so I assume I’ll have to wait a little longer for that.
Simply, I want Apple to allow third party payments in apps. This does not have to turn the App Store into some sort of hellscape where card details are stolen on the regular and no one wants to buy anything anymore because it’s so bad.
E-commerce has grown a ton over the last decade, and it’s grown almost as much in the past 6 months all over again. People buy things online all the time, and modern tools allow merchants to collect that data securely. I’d love to see that come to the App Store, but in ways that only Apple can do.
I like everything he proposes here, especially a “PaymentKit” API, which would allow some form of conformity to a standard, while offering a greater level of freedom to app developers. Mainly because other payment platforms would be able to offer their own options as SDKs to app developers, giving them and the end customers more choice.
Just adding this framework wouldn’t mean an immediate fix to the issue regarding payments inside apps. However, it would lay the groundwork needed for a more competitive marketplace. And with more competition, there will be an incentive to offer a better solution for developers and customers.