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Recap of Apple’s Updated Hardware from Today’s Event in Brooklyn

Apple announced a host of updated bits of hardware at today’s event in Brooklyn. Here’s my recap on the important bits. Let’s dive right in, or jump to:

Mac Mini

Mac Mini Desktop setup display 10302018

The last update to the Mac Mini was in 2014, and it was underwhelming to say the least. Today’s announcement is a welcome refresh to those who still enjoy the small-form-factor Apple desktop computer.

Tech Specs

  • Processor: The Mac Mini comes in two main flavors, a 4-core 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 and a 6-core 3.0GHz Core i5 (with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz). Both can be upgraded to a 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz.
  • Memory: 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory is standard and both can be upgraded to 16, 32, or 64GB respectively.
  • Storage: Depending on the model, storage options start at 128GB or 256GB of PCIe SSD storage and can be upgraded to a max of 2TB.
  • Graphics: No configurability, just the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip. Definitely not for gaming.
  • Ports: This new configuration starts with saying goodbye to some ports and hello to some others on the back of the metal desk platter of a computer. From left to right, expect to see:
    • Power
    • 1x Ethernet
      • 1GBase-T or 10GBase-T
    • 4x Thunderbolt 3 (40gbps) / USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10gbps)
    • 1x HDMI 2.0
    • 2x USB-A 3.0 (5gbps)
    • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
      • below USB 3.0
  • Wireless: 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Displays: Up to 3 4K displays using a combination of Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI or one 5K and 4K display using the same port combination.

Mac Mini side ports 10302018

Pricing

The Mac Mini starts at $799 and can climb to $4199, depending on configuration. It’s available to pre-order now.


Macbook Air

MacBook Air family 10302018

We haven’t seen the MacBook Air receive a meaningful update in even more years than the Mac Mini. Until today, it rocked a 1280×800 non-retina display (and if you really want to punish yourself, you can still buy it). This version keeps the hard function keys but brings over Touch ID (and the T2) chip from the MacBook Pro line.

Here’s what’s up with the new model:

Tech Specs

  • Processor: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz.
  • Memory: 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory, upgradable to 16GB.
  • Storage: Depending on the model, storage options start at 128GB or 256GB of PCIe SSD storage and can be upgraded to a max of 1.5TB.
  • Graphics: No configurability, just the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip. Definitely not for gaming.
  • Ports:
    • 2x Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps (USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, unto 10Gbps) ports.
      • Both support charging.
    • There’s also a headphone jack.
  • Wireless: 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2.
  • Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600 Retina display without TrueTone. This is the same size and resolution as the 13″ MacBook Pro.
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours on the Web, 13 hours of movie playback, 30 days standby thanks to a 50.3 watt-hour battery and a 30-watt USB-C power adapter
  • Colors: Gold, Silver, Space Gray

MacBook Air Keyboard and Ports 10302018

Pricing

The MacBook Air starts at $1199 and can climb to $2,599, depending on configuration. It’s available to pre-order now.


iPad Pro

iPad Pro with attached Apple Pencil 2nd-generation

The 3rd-generation iPad Pro comes with a host of design changes that weren’t a surprise to anyone following the rumors. The home button is gone and in its place is an edge-to-edge display (with no notch!) and Face ID support.

  • Sizes: 11″ and 12.9″
  • Processor: Apple A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, Neural Engine, and Embedded M12 coprocessor.
    • 8-core CPU
    • 7-core GPU
  • Memory: Unknown, probably 3 or 4GB.
  • Storage: Both sizes have the same storage options:
    • 64GB
    • 256GB
    • 512GB
    • 1TB (new for the iPad Pro line)
  • Camera (rear): 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera. Looks like it’s the same as the iPhone XR.
    • Records video at up to
      • 4K resolution and 60 frames per second.
      • 1080p 30/60/120 fps.
      • 720p 30/240 fps.
  • Camera (front): 7-megapixel f/2.2.
    • Records video at 1080p resolution at 30 or 60 frames per second.
  • Ports:
    • One USB-C.
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11ac dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
    • 80MHz channel width and MIMO support.
  • (optional) Cellular:
    • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC‑HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    • Gigabit-class LTE (Models A2013 and A2014: bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 66, 71)
    • eSIM
    • Nano SIM
    • Assisted GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS
  • Display: Liquid Retina Display
    • 11″: 2388 x 1668 resolution at 264 pixels per inch
    • 12.9″ 2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch
    • P3 wide color gamut
    • TrueTone
    • 600 nits brightness
  • Battery:
  • Both models come with an 18W USB-C charger and have a reported 10 hours run time.
    • 11″: 29.37-watt-hour
    • 12.9″: 36.71-watt-hour
    • Cellular models have a reported 9-hour run time.
  • Colors: Gold, Silver, Space Gray

IPad Pro versatility monitor 10302018

Pricing

The 3rd-generation iPad Pro starts at:

  • $799 for the 11″ model (Wi-Fi only; $949 for WiFi+Cellular; max $1,699)
  • $999 for the 12.9″ model (Wi-Fi only; $1,149 for Wi-Fi+Cellular; max $1,899)

and is available to pre-order now.


Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)

It’s cool to see the Apple Pencil get some love. As a first-generation Pencil owner, the changes they’ve made are quite welcome, but some of them aren’t noticeable unless you’re also using it with the 3rd-generation 11″ or 12.9″ iPad Pro.

  • Touch surface that supports double-tapping.
  • Magnetic attachment, charging, and pairing to 3rd-generation iPad Pro.

The 2nd-generation Apple Pencil is available to pre-order now for $129.

Busting Cloudflare Cache when Posting to WordPress via XML-RPC

I love Cloudflare. I’ll come right out and say that now. It’s a great service and makes for incredibly performant sites if used right (aggressively). I don’t feel like I’m getting the most out of it until it’s caching just about everything possible. Most of my content is static and never changes (save for the home page and each paginated set of posts thereafter). Even then, the homepage changes maybe a couple times a day. It makes a lot of sense for Cloudflare to cache them all. I use pretty aggressive Page Rule-based caching to accomplish that.

Part of my regular blogging workflow involves posting using MarsEdit. It’s a great tool and uses XML-RPC to post content. One of the problems with this workflow is that most caching-management plugins for WordPress don’t consider any kind of content changes via XML-RPC, only via the WordPress Admin UI. This means that there’s virtually no support for engaging all the cache-cleaning activities when XML-RPC events take place and thus Cloudflare is never notified for purging.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this problem. It involves a bit of duct-tape-like hooking into core WordPress, but in my testing, it’s been pretty painless, and posting doesn’t seem to be noticeably slower (XML-RPC posting takes a few seconds, anyway, adding another second isn’t a big deal, in my opinion). All we need to do is add a filter to xmlrpc_publish_post.

Sounds easy, you say? It is!

function clear_cache() {
$curl = curl_init();
curl_setopt ($curl, CURLOPT_URL, CACHE_PURGE_URL);
curl_exec ($curl); curl_close ($curl);
}

add_filter( 'xmlrpc_publish_post', 'clear_cache');

I set CACHE_PURGE_URL in wp-config.php to be a local path that when triggered with a GET request, makes a POST request that looks like the equivalent of this CURL request:

curl -X POST "https://api.cloudflare.com/client/v4/zones/YOUR_ZONE_ID/purge_cache" \
-H "X-Auth-Email: YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS" \
-H "X-Auth-Key: YOUR_API_KEY" \
-H "Content-Type: application/json" \
--data '{"purge_everything":true}'

Replace YOUR_ZONE_ID, YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS, and YOUR_API_KEY and you’re set.

By making this request after xmlrpc_publish_post using add_filter(), we’ve already established our updated content so the trigger will have Cloudflare pull the freshest and not accidentally re-pull stale bits.

Right now, it’s an entry in my theme’s functions.php. If I was to do this truly right, I’d make this a plugin. Someday!

Tim Berners-Lee’s Successor to The Internet

I hadn’t planned on posting anything of substance, today, but I came across this fresh post from Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the modern Internet as we know it, and director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and knew immediately I had to share it. He’s sharing news about his latest project, a successor to the Internet as it stands in its current form. I’ll let him explain it:

I’ve always believed the web is for everyone. That’s why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.

Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.

This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.

Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we’ve all discovered, this hasn’t been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance — by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.

The goal, to summarize those four paragraphs, is to create a more decentralized Internet where ones data isn’t kept hostage by a service provider. The owner of data is the individual and it’s up to you to allow services to access it.

On the surface, this sounds like nothing more than the next decentralized fad. I almost started laughing when I read the article because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to put in the time to set this up for themselves when easier alternatives already exist.

Let me explain.

Stride defines a way for an individual to set up a “pod” that contains their data. These pods can be hosted in a variety of different places, provided the hosting provider supports it. If you’re more technically inclined, you’re likely to host your pod on your own.

On the surface, that all sounds great, but there are a few fundamental problems to this:

  1. What is there to stop a hosting provider from wanting to monetize this pod of data? Say Google started offering this service… you can imagine they’d go nuts trying to figure out a way to get ads in your face that have something to do with the data of yours they’re keeping. And at this point, how is this any different than the current scenario? Ok, so mainstream providers are out.
  2. Smaller joints could just as well provide pod hosting support. How are you going to vet them, and make sure they don’t go fuck it up? Are you comfortable trusting any random name to host what would eventually become a treasure trove of personal data, photos, emails, etc? Maybe that’s not a great idea, either.
  3. Ok, so host it yourself. That’s hilarious. No one’s going to want to do that, except for the nerd super-minority.

So we have some issues. Adoption is either difficult or looks closely like the current situation. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that mainstream providers people will actually recognize will agree to let ones data travel to and fro off their servers. I don’t describing a web host, really, but that’s a term that would make a lot of folks’ eyes glaze over.

Not to mention the security implications. What Tim is proposing is a giant cache of everything a hacker would get so excited over, they’d need to change their pants. There isn’t any obvious explanations as to how this new standard would be secured.

One of the advertised benefits of Solid POD is the owner controls who can interact with the data therein. This is ripe for abuse, just as android apps can ask for permission (on older OSes) to touch anything and everything and there’s not a damned thing you, the user, can do about it.

As far as using it for identity is concerned, I would not be surprised if this goes so far as to be a form of identification on the Internet or financial transactions. See my “a hacker’s dream” comment from earlier.

A Solid POD server is Node.js-based so react to that information as you will.

My goal in picking this apart is that these things would be talked about, clarified, discussed. I love the idea of this type of information exchange. I would likely be the kind of person to host my own POD server for my family, but I can’t imagine many would be in that boat.

One of the biggest hurdles above all else will be overcoming the challenge of “how is this better/easier” than what I do, now? If it even remotely smells of more complication, people will drop the idea like a bad habit. If no one they know is doing it, they’ll pretend it doesn’t exist. The key is finding a way to establish mainstream support. The Internet as we know it now had a lot of these same challenges but with one major difference… there wasn’t an already mainstream high tech way of sharing information, cat photos, videos, memes, status updates, and the like, in real time with everyone someone cared about in an instant.

Solid has a massive uphill battle and I look forward to seeing how it progresses. If it can’t tackle the mainstream problem, though, Solid will end up relegating itself to yet another nerd corner of the Internet and eventually die out. Someone might even tweet abodut it.

College and the Fear of Change

An Internet friend of mine, John Saddington, created a blog post about College that really got me thinking. The purpose of this post is to share some of those thoughts.

I spent 8 years, off-and-on getting my Bachelor of Science degree. I hopped around a few schools and could never really find my groove until 2013 when I landed at Western Governor’s University. Looking back on it, I wish I had done things a lot differently. Namely, just getting a basic Associates degree and transferring would have saved me a lot of time and money.

Getting my degree from an online not-for-profit, I feel like I missed out on some of the interactivity and community-building. You hear stories about how someone spent time in a fraternity/sorority, was a part of X, Y, and Z clubs, and did all these cool things with people they shared dorm buildings with. Would I have been super active in all that? Probably not, but there’s a definite networking aspect to college that one might not ever get by taking alternative paths, depending on the alternative path they take. As much as we don’t want this to be the case, some recruiters and hiring managers see degrees as an indicator that this person was able to complete a long-term project/commitment successfully.

Putting all the fluffy parts aside, there’s a part I still struggle with when thinking about the amount of time I spent on my education. I can’t help but wonder if it’ll make a difference at this point. My degree is in Information Technology. It came with a handful of industry certifications that say on pieces of paper that I know enough about a list of topics to qualify for said pieces of paper. I learned most of that information not from my college studies, but from the real world. Learning as I went. Doing. Getting things wrong. Fixing them. Getting things right. Repeat.

That’s not to say the education I received would not have been valuable to someone. I know for a fact that some find it entirely useful, though I imagine that’s more because of the material than how it was delivered. There’s nothing unique about the delivery method. Alternative forms of education exist and should be encouraged. The idea that a college is the only way to learn a certain set of skills is a tired one, even considering hands-on training.

This thought process creates a very fine line, though. No one paid close enough attention and “schools” like DeVry and ITT Tech popped up, promising quality educations. Most of the time, the only thing that happened was the student ended up being out of way too much money for an education that didn’t mean anything.

How do we find a solution to this that involves both breaking the mold and maintaining quality, trustable educational pathways?

Are coding bootcamps the answer? Probably not. There’s no good set of standards for ensuring it’s not just a $10 Udemy course wrapped in a $14,000 tuition price tag. We just trust that because they have a building and teachers and dedicated learning times that it’ll be something that just works. We’re trading one set of problems for another.

Most of this got John and I talking about the hard requirement aspect of some careers. Right now, in order to become a lawyer, you have to go to school, take a test, go to another school, and become a member of the Bar Association. Without that, no lawyering for you. Are we sure that’s still the best way to make such a career happen for someone? Obviously everything up to the Bar Association admission is useless without said admission if the goal is to be lawyering your way around a court room, so what if we could change some of that? Why is it important for someone to go to Harvard if they want to work for a quality firm? (This is part rhetorical, part genuine question).

Technology has the power to change the way we learn and establish ourselves. There’s nothing that says the way things are will stay the same forever–literally all of society is a great example of that. Innovation and disruption are a required component of moving forward as a society and sometimes (a lot of times) it also comes with some discomfort. There are always individuals who wish to keep the status quo. It’s a comfortable position to take. I’m guilty of this sometimes, too.

There isn’t one right answer, here, and whatever form this disruption takes, my generation won’t likely be around to see it. I hope my children are offered more unique and high quality opportunities than I had. In fact, if they exist, I want to encourage them. One should be able to do whatever they so desire and establish themselves along the way in the manner and format they see fit. If that means spending time in a classroom, learning from pre-defined sets of materials in a certain order or if that means a virtual environment that includes hands-on training at an affiliated location, it all sounds good to me. If 100% of it was real-world, apprenticeship-style learning right next to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that’s also fantastic!

I say yes to all of it! Put those who wish to excel in business next to those who have actually excelled in business, not just in a classroom. if someone wants to become an expert in animal husbandry, they should learn from the experts themselves.

Education is education and education is valuable. We should be finding as many ways to enhance that value as possible.

All the iPhone XS and XS Max Reviews in One Place

Launch day for the iPhone XS is tomorrow. While we wait, it seems only pertinent to round up all the reviews for the iPhone XS and share them in one page. 

Note: I didn’t bother splitting them out by XS and XS Max. There is no need. Both phones are the same except for their size. It doesn’t make sense to differentiate them just as little as it makes sense to review two different sizes of the same model television. 

Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s Event

Yesterday, John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show fame posted a dissemination of the goings on from Apple’s iPhone XS/XS Max/XR and Watch Series 4 event last Tuesday. I read the whole thing and a few things absolutely jumped out at me and I wanted to cover them, here. 

The space

Last year, John talked about the new Steve Jobs theater. This year, he reminisced on the entire idea of having these kinds of events at such an exclusive location:

[W]hat the Steve Jobs Theater provides that no venue in San Francisco ever could is seclusion. Apple Park really feels like it is its own world. Putting “Park” in the complex’s name was exactly right. In terms of sight lines and feeling like you’re isolated from the rest of the world, the effect is very similar to being in one of the theme parks at Walt Disney World. As you walk the pathway uphill from the Visitor Center to the theater, ambient music plays from hidden speakers. The only thing man-made you can see from the pavilion atop the Steve Jobs Theater is Apple Park’s Ring building, seemingly on the horizon.

One hundred percent. I can imagine the level of detail Apple went into to create a space that didn’t feel like _just an ordinary event venue_. Anyone can hold a press conference at a hotel, expo/convention center, or stadium. Apple has to do it their own way. In these reveals, Apple strives for intimacy, to make you feel like it’s just you and Tim, Phil, and the gang. There’s no way they could pull off that range of emotions in a place like Moscone.

John goes on to mention that they hold but a couple events there a year. From Apple’s perspective, that’s absolutely acceptable. This space wasn’t meant to be a place where something is discussed every six weeks. I can imagine the company doesn’t even hold much in the way of internal events there. The Steve Jobs Theater is an architectural expression of Steve Jobs himself.

The Watch

Both John and I agree the Watch stole the show. Hands down the Watch quickly became the biggest deal this year. A reduction yet increase in size (thickness versus screen dimensions and pixels), ECG, improved cellular (thanks to the ceramic back), new faces that took complication display to the next level, and probably the single coolest feature of all: the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up mode. Fall and stay still for one minute and the Watch will summon either emergency services or an emergency contact. How freaking cool is that? It seems like a no brainer, but detecting a fall reliably is hard… calling is easy.

The Series 4 displays take up so much more of the face of the watches that the new 40mm watch’s display is larger than the display on the old 42 mm models — the new small watch has a larger display than the old large watch.

This is actually a struggle for me, now. I know for a fact that I want one of these, but because of the size changes… I don’t know which one. I’ll have to wait patiently and see how they fit in the store starting this upcoming Friday the 21st. If I could manage to work my way into a 40mm, instead, I’d be extremely happy. The 44mm is a not insignificant amount more expensive than the 42mm of the same configuration was. 

I’m a little bummed to see no Edition this year. The white ceramic Edition looked super clean. I pictured it with a white link band, too, and almost caved. I’m glad I didn’t though because resell values for Editions are trash. Still, I can admire from a distance.

The iPhones

It should be plainly clear by now that Apple has no interest in updating their budget phone line. Each of the new models all slot into the formerly-premium and really premium categories. The iPhone XR is the most interesting, though I wish they would have chosen to make it smaller, more like the iPhone 8. I’d be curious to see how many people end up with one compared to an iPhone 8 now, or one of the lesser iPhone XSes. 

Oh, that name? What the hell were they thinking?

A Roman numeral is hard enough. But to put two alphabetic characters next to each other and expect people to treat one as a Roman numeral and the other as a letter is too much. They look like ex-arr and ex-ess so people are naturally going to see them and say them as ex-arr and ex-ess.

Yes. Yes. Yes. A year later, I still have people asking me how to pronounce it. They know I’ll know because I’m the “Apple guy,” but they shouldn’t have to. No one actually knows where the X = ten naming scheme originated (OS X) so how are they supposed to draw the conclusion that Apple opted to name the iPhone similarly? 

Hell, I even have a hard time just saying the words “iPhone Ten Ess Max” out loud without having to repeat myself; more often than not I get tongue-tied or end up saying something like Ten Ex Max. I hope that marketing person was fired.

Naming aside, the internals of the XS and XS Max are pretty dang good. I love to see steady incremental improvements to hardware and Apple seems to know how to deliver on that front (at least from the perspective of mobile devices… let’s not discuss the MacBook line). This–and because I wanted the gray model this time–is why I went for it. 

Also important: AirPower

I had almost entirely forgotten about it. AirPower was supposed to drop this year and while the year isn’t over, it seems Apple has just about nothing to say at this point:

I wrote about AirPower’s absence earlier this week. What I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies, is that AirPower really is well and truly fucked.

Not surprising. The idea that one would have several heat-generating power exchanges in such a small space really blew my mind. My single iPhone gets hot when charging on its mat. If it gets bumped out of alignment, it gets fucken hot and doesn’t even charge. Who knows what the hell is going on on the inside but it can’t be good. 

Now imagine that being a possible scenario on a single pad, one that’s also supposed to charge an Apple Watch using whatever proprietary method it charges, now.

The result? 

Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces.

Oh well. It was a nice idea. Maybe someday? I’d still like Qi-capable AirPods, though. I’d go for that. 

 

I glossed over a lot of Gruber’s discussion so go check out the the rest of his piece. It’s informative and definitely worth reading. 

On Deciding to Buy the Next iPhone

For those who aren’t aware, I own an iPhone X 256GB in White (it’s more like a dishwater-white, but that’s another story). When the iPhone Xs was announced, at first I reacted with “I have to have this”, followed up with “I think I’ll find it useful.” 

This is the first year in the years I’ve owned iPhones that I haven’t been able to come up with a laundry list of reasons why I’d want the next iPhone. To be clear, I’m still buying it (and in fact, I did–I bought an iPhone Xs 256GB space gray), but I had to think about it a bit more.

I’m ok with this, overall. It’s entirely healthy to question such a large purchase and outside of “having the latest and greatest just because”, not opting to dive in right away is a smart move. In the end, I could only come up with a few reasons why I wanted this year’s model, and really these were enough to get me to bite the bullet:

  • Change out the dishwater-white for space gray. I might regret this color choice if it turns out the white is now white-white.
  • Photo processing capabilities. I was entertained and convinced by the new photo capability the iPhone Xs will have, I assume thanks to software and its updated A12 Bionic chip with the faster Neural Engines.
  • Better sensor. The pixels are closer together by way of being larger (the sensor itself is the same size) and they’re “deeper,” whatever that means. I can appreciate the former, for sure. 
  • The A12 chip in general. I can always get behind the idea of a faster processor. 

After this phone has spent a year in my possession, unless Apple announces something riveting or presents unique new features, I’m not sure I’ll stick to the yearly upgrade cycle. 

This goes for the Watch, too. I plan on buying the Series 4 Cellular, but I don’t know which size, yet. Given the cases are different–I wear a 42mm now–I don’t know if the 44mm will be too big or if the 40mm will be too small. Technically, the 40mm screen size is larger than the 42mm, so that’s something to sway me in that direction–and toward a cheaper watch. I’ve longed for more at-a-glance-capable data on my watch face and that’s about it. My battery life is pretty dang good–I can go two days easily without charging, three if I use Power Reserve mode at night. Unless the Series 5 is fundamentally different as well, I can’t see myself grabbing one. Then again, if they make the steel case cheaper–I want one now, but turned off by the price–that might be enough. 

I am an Apple sheep, as some would say, and I’m okay with that. I also know that when there’s no net new value to be had in a device I’m buying, I’m likely to hold off. That’s not to say I won’t buy one ever… maybe just not on launch day.

Review of Today’s Apple iPhone and Watch Announcements

Apple’s two-hour event didn’t disappoint, though there was little surprise when it came to the design. Here’s some of the most important points to take away from today’s event.

 

Apple Watch

  • The Series 4 will come in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm. This measures the case size, which lines up with Apple’s explanation that the screen is 32% and 35% larger, respectively, while also being a bit thinner.
  • Battery life appears to be roughly the same as the previous generation.
  • Series 3 will fall into the slot of the low-end Watch offering.
  • All existing watch bands will fit the Series 4.
  • Watch faces will be more highly customizable with complications from both Apple and 3rd-party developers. Some faces will feature more extensive complication arrangements, too.
  • The Watch will be able to more closely track heart behaviors and optionally notify emergency services if a fall event occurs where medical attention is required.
  • Pricing will break down as follows (all US dollars; 40mm/44mm; sport bands):
    • Aluminum GPS: $399 / $429; GPS + Cellular: $499 / $529
    • Stainless Steel GPS + Cellular: $699 / $749 (no GPS-only option available)
  • Availability: pre-order starting September 14th, Available starting September 21st.

Apple iPhone

Three iPhones were discussed during today’s Apple event: the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and the iPhone Xr.

 

iPhone Xs

The replacement for Apple’s prior flagship phone, the iPhone Xs will ship with the same dimensions and a whole host of improvements:

  • Face ID will be quicker to respond and unlock, though they did not explain how much faster.
  • A third color option, gold, will join the white and space grey options being carried forward.
  • 5.8″ Super Retina screen at 2436×1125 pixels and 458 pixels per inch (ppi), the highest density of any smartphone currently on the market; wide color gamut (P3).
  • Weight: 6.24 ounces (177 grams)
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 5.65 in (143.6mm) x 2.79 in (70.9mm) x 0.30 in (7.7mm)
  • New A12 bionic chip with:
    • 6-core processor with
      • 4 high-efficiency cores that are up to 50% more energy efficient
      • 2 high-performance cores that are up to 15% faster than the A11 Bionic)
    • 4-core GPU that’s up to 50% faster than the A11 Bionic
    • 8-core 5 Trillion ops/second Neural Engine that performs up to 9x faster than the A11 Bionic
  • Updated camera with better edge detection and image capture for Smart HDR and after-the-fact adjustable depth-of-field, as well as stereo audio capture for video recordings.
  • IP68-rated splash, dust, water resistance (up to 2 meters for up to 30 minutes)
  • 12MP wide-angle f/1.8 aperture and telephoto f/2.4 aperture cameras
  • 7MP front-facing f/2.2 aperture camera
  • Support for FDD-LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 66, 71, and TD-LTE bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46
  • Gigabit-class LTE with 4×4 MIMO and LAA
  • 802.11ac WiFi with 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC with reader mode
  • Battery life extension of up to 30 minutes over the iPhone X which amounts to:
    • 20 hours talk time
    • 12 hours Internet use
    • 14 hours video (wireless)
    • 60 hours audio (wireless)
  • Dual SIM support (1 physical sim, 1 e-SIM; dual physical SIM for the Chinese market only)
  • Pricing:
    • 64GB: $999
    • 256GB: $1,149
    • 512GB: $1,349
  • Availability: pre-order starting September 14th, available starting September 21st.

 

iPhone Xs Max

A new, larger variant of the iPhone Xs, it’ll ship with everything the iPhone Xs does along with:

  • 6.5″ Super Retina Screen at 2688×1242 pixels and the same 458 pixels-per-inch (ppt) depth.
  • Weight: 7.34 ounces (208 grams)
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 6.20 in (157.5mm) x 3.05 in (77.4mm) x 0.30 in (7.7mm)
  • Battery life extension of up to 1.5 hours compared to the iPhone X (not the iPhone 8 Plus) which amounts to:
    • 25 hours talk time
    • 13 hours Internet use
    • 15 hours video (wireless)
    • 65 hours audio (wireless)
  • Pricing:
    • 64GB: $1,099
    • 256GB: $1,249
    • 512GB: $1,449
  • Availability: same as iPhone Xs

 

iPhone Xr

The new entry in the iPhone X lineup. Some features will be the same as the iPhone Xs/Xs Max. Here’s what’s different or new:

  • 6.1″ Liquid Retina display with a wide color gamut (P3) and true-tone support, 1792×828 pixel resolution at 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi; Retina)
  • Six colors:
    • (PRODUCT)RED
    • Yellow
    • White
    • Coral
    • Black
    • Blue
  • Weight: 6.84 ounces (194 grams)
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 5.94in (150.9mm) x 2.98 in (75.7mm) x 0.33 in (8.3mm)
  • IP67-rated splash, dust, water resistance (up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes)
  • 12MP wide-angle f/1.8 aperture rear camera
  • 7MP front-facing f/2.2 aperture  front camera
  • Support for FDD-LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 66, 71, and TD-LTE bands 34, 38, 39, 40, 41
  • LTE Advanced support
  • Battery life extension of up to 1.5 hours more than the iPhone 8 Plus
    • 25 hours talk time
    • 15 hours Internet
    • 16 hours video (wireless)
    • 65 hours audio (wireless)
  • Wireless charging (Qi)
  • Single SIM
  • Pricing:
    • 64GB: $749
    • 128GB: $799
    • 256GB: $899
  • Availability: pre-order October 19th, available starting October 26th

Other things

  • The iPhone 6s/SE have been discontinued. The new previous-generation low-end phone is now the iPhone 7. The iPhones 7 and 8 received price reductions to starting points of $499 and $599, respectively.

A Potential Solution to Our Social Network Problem

I haven’t spent much time publicly discussing the idea of alternatives to social networks. Luckily, Manton Reece did which served as a great jumping off point for this post. I won’t re-hash too much of Manton’s discussion because it’s entirely worth reading on its own but he did mention a couple things that I feel like is worth mentioning here.

Manton broke down what it would take for us, as a collective to free ourselves from the monolithic nature of our current social network landscape. He’s been on this train for a while and with good reason. Micro.blog, the microblogging community/platform is his doing and exists because at the end of the day, we should spend more time crafting our content using less-specific and more ambitious platforms. To those who travel in the own-your-own-content circles, this is known as POSSE. 

That’s not the topic of this post, though he does touch upon that. The biggest takeaway I have from this post is that our social networks should be smaller, not larger. It’s a tough idea to wrap one’s head around when you think about why people end up on the networks the do in the first place and you have a pretty large hurdle.

Looking back on how I joined MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, there was always some sort of motivation based on a friend or other people I knew. I frankly can’t remember how I came to learn about MySpace, but I know I joined Facebook because people I knew were joining Facebook. There wasn’t anything particularly appealing about the platform at all. What I knew was that my friends were there and that’s where I wanted to be. 

A lot of folks do not care about the nuances of social networks and said networks know this all too well. 

When we present the idea of smaller social networks (in contrast to the idea of having just a handful of very large ones), this is the challenge to beat them all. Most folks just won’t care. All they’ll find important is if the platform can get them access to their friends. 

Conversely, some will ignore this notion. My fiancée doesn’t use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., even though I’m sure a not insignificant amount of her friends on also available there. She’s found what she needs to stay in contact with the right people on Facebook and that’s that. 

If I told her that XYZ was the coolest new social network and she should join because they care about things like privacy, ads, etc., all that would happen is the information would enter her head and disappear. She would fall into the category of desiring function over form. 

I land somewhere in the middle. I’m all for more communities of people that mean something, but it’s a very fine line to walk. Twitter and Facebook already become an echo chamber quite easily if you’re not careful. Smaller communities are even more prone to such a concept. 

Wisely, though, Manton’s overall focus is on content ownership. If Facebook died tomorrow, I’d probably lose a not insignificant amount of photos, but the ones that matter most are already in other places (iCloud backups, for example). Not everyone is so lucky. There could be years of vacation photos that by one way or another only exist on Facebook. 

In his last paragraph, Manton accurately describes a solution to social media frustration is blogging more. I entirely agree. Even if not many people read it, or you only find yourself writing once a week, take the time writing there about topics you care about, instead of retweeting everything you see (guilty!). Turn those re-tweets into posts. Expand your thoughts. If nothing else, it’ll help you form a better opinion about why you like that thing you found. 

If you’re keeping a close eye, you’ll notice that this post in itself is exactly the kind of idea Manton is describing. Taking time to write down thoughts and share them with the world on a platform you control and then share them with the world. 

Blogging will always be something I enjoy. I’ve had periods of time where I failed to discover anything meaningful I wanted to say–this happens to everyone–but even in down periods, I had topics on the brain. The easy way out is to just write a tweet. The satisfying way out is to blog. 

Medium as a Blogging Platform

All I could do was shake my head when I saw the post from John Gruber that mentioned Medium no longer allowing folks to use custom domains for their Medium-hosted publications (read: blogs). The alternative solution is to resort to a medium.com/publication URL. That sounds fantastic. /s

It seems like only yesterday that I posted about Medium supporting custom domains, though it was really over three years ago.

While old URLs will continue to work, this flies in the face of anyone expecting any kind of long-term stability and consistency from the service and company. This change reminded me of a post from a friend of mine about how self-hosting is the most safe and sustainable option. A couple years later, that’s still the case.

Gruber sums it up well:

There is tremendous strength in independence and decentralization.

and Rafat Ali takes Medium to task (and rightfully so):

Seeing Medium take this course–into blanket depersonalization of authors and content–makes me a bit sad. I have always loved their editor and I knew they were doing something right when WordPress introduced a similarly-behaving editorial experience.

Dave Winer:

The problem isn’t cost, or the tech — it’s users. Medium has momentum, still, as the place-of-record for web writing, much as YouTube is it for video. It’s a shaky foundation. No business model, huge money already invested. Not a good situation.

Without a definite revenue stream (being a Paywall as a Service doesn’t count), I wonder where Medium plans on heading next. Maybe they’ll limit word counts? Maybe most articles will cost money–a la Wall Street Journal? Or better still… good old-fashioned ads? Who am I kidding old-fashioned ads aren’t in style, anymore. these ads will have a cargo ship’s worth of tracking tech baked in.

I joke… but it’s probably coming.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography