Joe Cieplinski, on how the latest iPhone lineup allowed him to choose a capable but smaller model this time round:
For at least a few hours, I was truly torn about which phone to get.
But in the end, how could I not get the mini? There are exactly two sacrifices you make when getting this phone vs the new Pro: Battery life and camera. Everything else—from 5G, to the new Ceramic Shield glass, to the A14 Bionic, to FaceID, to OLED, to MagSafe—is pretty much the same.
The iPhone 12 Pro is basically 100% aimed at photographers and videographers at this point. While I’ve never needed to get a Pro, this year I finally don’t even want to get a Pro. It took me a few hours to realize that, but now that I have, I can’t wait to get my hands on the mini.
While I wasn't looking for a smaller iPhone, I was hoping to get a "normal" sized model, that wasn't hamstrung too much by not being the biggest.
I also wanted a real colour this time, not a boring light grey or dark blue (or green like last years Pro models). But a bright colour, and those are typically only available on the non-Pro models, so you normally have to balance this choice against the tradeoffs of not getting a Pro model.
Everyones priorities when buying an iPhone will be different, and obviously not everyone will have a clear choice on which model is best for them. But this years lineup seems to be a very good fit for a lot of people.
Because, if you want a smaller iPhone, the 12 Mini is a very capable device, if you want something colourful, then the 12 is also very capable. And of course if you really want the best photography capabilities, you can go for the Pro or even Pro Max models. And that's if you want the best photography capabilities, the 12 Mini and 12 still have very good cameras.
The one extra model that I think would be good (Although, 5 models at once doesn't seem like an Apple thing to do), is a "normal" big iPhone. So in this case it would just be a 12 Max. Because I don't think wanting a big phone necessarily mean you need the Pro features.
I enjoy seeing other people’s iPhone home screens, so I thought it was probably about time I shared my own.
Mine is rather simple and it’s got to a point where it’s pretty stable, with only a few apps changing now and then. There’s a total of 20 apps, with four of them being in the dock.
In the past, I’ve crammed my home screen full of apps that I think I use a lot. But that feels too busy. So instead, I leave the bottom rows empty. Which also gives me space to put an app I need to use temporarily, or if I’m trying something new out.
All apps that aren’t stock apps will have links to their App Store pages.
Don’t worry, I’ve already thought about the wallpaper. I know from myself, that if I see someone’s home screen, I’ll probably want to know where they got their wallpaper from.
In my case, I found it on Unsplash, and it’s by a photographer named Amber Wilburn.
It’s maybe ironic that the first app on my home screen is the one that probably gets used the least. But still, I think CARROT Weather is one of the best weather apps available, and the snakiness always makes the interaction a bit funnier. And even though it doesn’t get used that often, it’s there when I need it. Which will probably after the lockdown ends and we’re allowed to go back to work.
Here’s another application that doesn’t get used too much either. It’s my calendar app of choice, Fantastical. I switched to Fantastical quite some time ago, and it was mainly due to the natural language support when creating new events, and partially because it had a nice UI.
Right now, I’m not really using my calendar that much, as I don’t have work events on my personal devices, and I prefer to use notes and a task manager to schedule my personal life. But I still use it for important events, but certainly not enough to warrant paying for the subscription, so there’s really not much keeping me loyal to Fantastical. And I can imagine me switching back to the stock calendar app sometime in the future.
I have Shortcuts on my home screen simply so I have a quick way to experiment with new actions, and to test out new ideas. I don’t run many shortcuts from the Shortcuts app on my phone, I probably do this the most on my iPad. But that’s because the main shortcuts that I use on my phone are usually ran from the share sheet, for things like saving an article for later, starting a link post, combining photos, etc.
I don’t think I need to explain my use of the clock. I’ve to wake up for work somehow.
Another that probably needs no explanation. I have all my photos in iCloud, and nowhere else. So this is where I view them.
I’m an Apple Music subscriber (that’s somehow getting student discount three years after graduating from university), and it’s the only place I play music from. I use it to play music on my phone, and also to other devices like my HomePod, and Apple TV.
In my mind, Overcast is the best podcast app available. I like the benefits of having the Smart Speed and Voice Boost effects, but they’re not the reasons why I use Overcast every day. I’ve just never seen another podcast app that feels as complete. For example, you have a lot of control about what happens with new episodes, when to delete old episode, and even advanced stuff like changing the seek back/forward times, whether to auto play next, etc.
I’ve seen other podcasts apps that I can live with, them being Castro and Cosmicast. But Overcast is the only one I think that could actually pass as a stock app. Which is something I like a lot.
Apart from Netflix and YouTube, I use the TV app for all of my video entertainment. It has films that I’ve purchased from iTunes, Apple TV+ shows, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. So it’s actually packed full of content.
I also really like the TV app, because it ties into the other apps/services, so I don’t always have to start videos from the TV app for the data to be visible. For example, keeping track of what episode I’m on in a series is something I don’t really want to think about. And the TV app makes it effortless.
This certainly follows a trend of using stock apps. I’ve tried various other third-party email apps, but never something just simple and clean like Mail. It’s not an app I want myself to spend too much time inside, so I think by using the most basic option, it helps me to just do the tasks I need to do and leave.
Twitter is my most-used social network. I use it to share links to things I find interesting, my blog posts, and just to ramble about a subject. But I also use Twitter to keep up with people I’m interested in, the general news, and of course, football news.
I found myself a while ago with Tweetbot that I had a hard time being able to not read every tweet. But now I’ve switched to the official app, I find that the algorithm actually works well for me. I get to quickly read tweets that I’m interested in, and I don’t feel like there’s a fixed end that I need to reach before leaving. I’m sure many people would have the opposite behaviour, in that you can always find more tweets on the official Twitter app, so you may spend more time on Twitter accidentally. But I don’t seem to suffer from that. Or at least on Twitter, that usually happens to me on Instagram.
To be honest, I don’t read as many books as I would like to. That’s usually because I’m too lazy to start ready something worthwhile and end up just reading something like Harry Potter. So I have the Books app on my home screen just to reduce the friction of starting/resuming a book whenever I’m in the mood.
It’s a technique I’ve used a few times before, where if I want to start using an app more, then I’ll put it on my home screen, and hope it triggers me to use it. But after a while, fix it hasn’t worked, it usually gets relegated to a folder or deleted. A recent app that didn’t work out was News. Turns out I don’t actually care that much about it. Or at least the publications that seemed to be appearing in the News app.
My writing app of choice is iA Writer, and it has been for a while. I’ve previously used Ulysses but came back to iA Writer because I like to see the Markdown as I write it. But not only that, I like how iA Writer works off a folder in iCloud Drive, so I can access my writing in other applications.
It’s also got great apps on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, so it allows me to have the same experience, no matter where I’m writing.
There are loads of advanced features in iA Writer, but I’m not really making use of them. I just like a simple Markdown editor, with a good interface, that exposes the raw files, and has support for all the platforms. And iA Writer certainly fits that criteria.
This is my main way of communicating with friends and family, as most of them have an iPhone. For the people that don’t, I have WhatsApp installed, and hidden in a folder on the second page.
I’ve used quite a few third-party camera apps like Obscura and Halide, but for whatever reason, I come back to the stock camera app nearly straight away. Although I take a lot of photos on my phone, I’m not actually fussed about various filters, effects, or anything other than a basic camera. So that’s why I’m using the Camera app!
I’ve tried getting rid of Instagram from my home screen and from my phone entirely a few times, but I can never stick with it. I enjoy keeping up with friends, family, football, and random people. I probably look at the Explore page way too much, and get carried away with football rumours, but oh well.
What can I say, I find TikTok videos funny! And it’s certainly a good place to sink some time into if you’re bored and don’t plan on getting anything important done.
Now for the apps that I have in my dock. I have four of them, like most people. And I try to put apps here that I want to access very regularly. Files may not fit that criteria perfectly, but I see Files similar to the Finder app on macOS. So I always want that available.
I’ve been making proper use of my local storage on my devices ever since iPadOS 13 came out, as I started downloading more files on my iPad, and in general, using my iPad more. Which led to similar behaviour on my iPhone.
Now I use the Files app to quickly look at saved documents, check my downloads, and also keep track of projects that require more than just a single app. For example, I’m working on a long-form piece at the moment, and that requires mind maps, various notes, and the actual file that I’m writing in iA Writer. And I find it super helpful that there’s now a proper way to manage file on iOS. It’s hard to believe it didn’t have a “Files app” for that much time.
I mentioned my recent switch to Reminders the other day, but essentially I have very minimal needs when it comes to a task manager. And Reminders gives me everything I want and need, without charging me more for it or even sacrificing any of the benefits that Reminders gets from by default from being tied into the system so much.
Agenda is the newest app to be placed on my home screen, and I made a conscious decision to replace Mail in the dock since I think it’s an app that I’m going to want to access a lot.
I recently started using Agenda to help bring various notes and reminders together into a single place, where I can keep track of any ideas I have, or simply to provide more context to a task.
One big task I’m using Agenda for is to manage my blog, which can be split into four things:
- Keeping track of articles that I want to link to.
- Ideas for articles that I want to write (along with any necessary notes).
- Keeping track of what I’m currently working on.
- Making a schedule for when I want to finish/publish each post. (More on this in a future article)
I’ve seen Agenda mentioned before on Twitter, and blogs, mainly focussing on how it connects notes, reminders, and a calendar together. But I didn’t realise how much it made sense to me until I started using it.
I use Safari everywhere. And it’s not going to change anytime soon.
I’m not sure if my home screen is in any way spectacular or innovative. But in the same way, I appreciate looking at others for ideas, maybe it can do the same for others.
In recent years, the expected battery life of new iPhones have always been given in relative values. I saw this as a challenge to try and calculate what the raw number is.
The first place I went to was the technical specifications pages for the three new phones, the 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. They all had relative values based on the previous generation. Of course, my next step was to look at those values. Again, they were relative.
So I followed the chain until I came to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Their technical specifications no relative or fixed estimates for the battery life. There were estimates for audio playback, video playback, internet usage, etc. But I just wanted a single figure for an estimated use. As that’s what I expect the relative values on recent iPhones to be based on.
As far as I can tell, Apple didn’t talk about the battery life of the 6s generation iPhones when they were first announced. Therefore, I’m going to be basing these on overall estimates that I’ve found online. The numbers I found from various tests were around 8 hours for the 6s, and 10 hours for the 6s Plus.
Using these numbers, I calculated the estimated battery life for the 11 iPhones that were released since.
Here are the numbers (all amounts in hours):
||6s + 2
||6s Plus + 1
||7 + 2
||8 Plus + 1.5
||X + 0.5
||X + 1.5
||XR + 1
||XS + 4
|11 Pro Max
||XS Max + 5
One thing to point out is that the XR and XS batteries seem to last the same amount of time-based on the 6s/6s Plus estimated values, and then following Apple’s information. It was widely reported that the XR has superior battery life, which makes the numbers seem a bit odd.
But then again, we don’t know what type of data Apple is using for their estimates. Are they going on values that they have for a brand new iPhone when it was announced? Or are they based on the previous generation, but running the most up to date version of iOS? A lot of these things can skew the results.
While I would have preferred if along the chain there was at least one fixed overall value I could have used for a base. However, I do find the data to be interesting. Even if you just look at the relative differences between them. For example, we don’t know the official estimates for the 6s/6s Plus, but we do know that the 11 Pro Max supposedly lasts 8.5 hours longer than the 6s Plus. So a rough 2 hours increase in battery length every year.
To help visualise the data, here are two charts. The first using only the relative values that Apple provide, and the second including the estimate base values for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
As usual, Apple can’t seem to keep things secret anymore. Leaks are now emerging of the new iPhone XS that will be announced at the event on the 12th September.
I have completely mixed feeling about it this time. It’s a real shame that some of the surprise from the event has been somewhat spoiled. I don’t mind a few bits of information being leaked, but when it’s marketing images of a new product, it feels like someone has really screwed up.
Some people will surely point the blame at the people like 9To5Mac that make these things public, but that’s their job, to release interesting news. And it will certainly interest a lot of people.
I’ve read one article from 9To5Mac which includes an image of the iPhone XS, with new sizes and colour, and I’ve seen a few photos of a new Watch face, but I’m going to try and stay away from anything else. It will be pretty hard, seeing as I follow a lot of blogs that will cover it, and it will be all over Twitter, but I’ll manage.
Guilherme Rambo, the main investigator of Apple related leaks nowadays, said that a lot of information is coming from some test streams that Apple clearly didn’t think people were watching:
Apple just can’t seem to keep it in their pants anymore.
I would like to note that I won’t be writing about these leaks, or sharing other links to anything else that may come out. I don’t hold anything against anyone that reads, shares, or does anything with the information. I’ll just try and wait until the official announcement.