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September 17, 2018

Additional Details About What Happened to AirPower

Writing on his blog, Sonny Dickson says:

According to our sources, the broad feeling of many working the project at Apple is that the device may be doomed to failure, and may not be viable at all unless significant advancements can be made.

I brought up AirPower yesterday in the recap of John Gruber’s post about the most recent Apple event. This post just further solidifies the rumors that AirPower has entered a state where it’s not likely to ever be completed. Sonny’s post goes into pretty great detail about the specific issues the development team is facing. I can’t imagine it’s uncommon for projects to face substantial setbacks like this, but what blows my mind (and many an Apple pundit, alike) is that they announced this so soon.

As someone that has several wireless charging mats and an iPhone X, Watch, and AirPods, I would have liked to see AirPower come to be. Right now, one gets a mat, one gets a wireless-cable mix, and the third gets a regular USB-A to Lightning cable. 

The Apple of just a few years ago wouldn’t have announced AirPower until it was close to if not entirely ready for shipping. Last year they mentioned it, said nothing, then all but eliminated reference to it. I can’t say it’s over–there’s a chance it’ll make its way out into the daylight–but odds aren’t good. 

MacStories’ iOS 12 Review

iOS 12 released to the public, today. If you’re like me, you downloaded and upgraded, already. If not, MacStories’ iOS 12 review will set you straight. 

iOS 12, available today for the same range of devices that supported iOS 11, feels like a reaction to changes that have occurred around Apple and consumer technology over the past year.

While iOS 11 may go down in Apple software history as the touchstone of the iPad’s maturity, it will also be remembered as one of the company’s most taxing releases for its users. You don’t have to look far into the iOS 11 cycle for headlines lamenting its poor stability on older hardware, plethora of design inconsistencies (which were noted time and time again), and general sense of sluggishness – issues that may have contributed to a slower adoption rate than 2016’s iOS 10.

Written by none other than iOS aficionado Federico Viticci, It comes in eBook format if you’re a MacStories club member and an audiobook option (narrated by Mike Hurley from the Relay.fm podcast network) for $9.99. You’ll find a plethora of large, beautiful animations and screenshots taking you through every nook and cranny of iOS 12. 

Spend an afternoon reading (or listening). You’ll be glad you did. 

September 16, 2018

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. 

ArsTechnica’s Least Favorite Subjects to Cover

Ars Technica:

You might think being a science writer is a dream job, one that means spending all day learning new things about a seemingly endless sweep of interesting fields. And, to an extent, you’d be right. But in other ways, it’s also a place where dreams go to die. Things you think should be fascinating—things that, in some cases, you’ve dreamed about knowing more about for much of your life—turn out to be staggeringly dull.

Their list is surprising. I would assume talking about all these things would be awesome. Turns out, not so much.

September 15, 2018

Are Technica’s Android 9 Mega Review

Rom Amadeo writing in his 19,000(!) word Android 9 review:

Android 9 includes an experimental gesture navigation system and built-in notch support. There’s also a new screenshot editor, lots of improvements for text selection, and changes to the way rotation works.

Under the hood, more changes have come, too, with AI-powered battery usage controls, new rules for Play Store developers, and changes to how apps get distributed.

I think it’s pretty fair to say the “notch” that everyone made fun of Apple for doing is now a mainstream thing. Such is the punishment of being first. 

Om Malik’s Takeaways from the Apple Event

Om Malik has a good list of what should be considered the most important things Apple talked about at their event last Tuesday. Specifically, I enjoyed his subtle jab at Bloomberg:

When it comes to the new iPhones, many including some members of media are participating in a collective shrug. Bloomberg was impressed by the “pricing” and not the technology? When I read that, I went really? I mean that new shiny new A12 Bionic chip with more cores in its neural engine, ability to do way more with its GPU and CPU isn’t enough technology? I mean seriously — this is the most impressive work. Steve Jobs would be so proud! I mean, this is some chip nerd nirvana.

Bloomberg is a financial publication, so money is all they really care about, deep down, even if they claim to be focused on other aspects of technology reporting… like the technology.

September 14, 2018

You can’t say anything anymore! You can’t even make jokes!

Anil:

There’s a constant complaint from people in positions of power, mostly men, who keep making the ridiculous assertion that they’re not able to speak in public. What they actually mean is they no longer understand the basis of the criticisms they face.

Being a comedian means having to say things that an audience finds funny; if an audience doesn’t find old, hackneyed, abusive jokes funny anymore, then that comedian has to do more work. And what we find is, the comedians with the most privilege resent having to keep working for a living.

I’m glad someone is able to approach this from such a neutral perspective. I’ve had very similar thoughts for quite a while but don’t have the verbal dexterity to put it out there in such a way that doesn’t make me sound like an ass or a rambling fool.

Dual-SIM Support Available Sometime After iOS 12 Release

A newly posted Apple support document details how to set up a 2nd SIM within an iPhone Xs or Xs Max. The process seems pretty straight forward but there’s one specific caveat to the current arrangement. When the iPhone Xs releases with iOS 12 next week, support won’t quite yet be available. Apple says the feature will be available “with an update to iOS 12 coming later this year.”

Beside that, there are a couple extra notes that everyone should pay attention to:

  • In order to set up the second number/plan/SIM, you need to use a QR code from the carrier or their app
  • Using two different carrier requires the phone to be unlocked. If you’re on Verizon, this is likely to be a non-issue as all 4G phones from them are unlocked, already.
  • If one of the carriers is of the CDMA variety (in the U.S. that’s Verizon and Sprint), the 2nd cannot be of the CDMA variety. This means one cannot have two Verizon SIMs, two Sprint SIMs, or a Verizon and Sprint SIM. 
  • The eSIM can be made the primary.
  • Enterprise/corporate plans may not support this feature.

All of this seems pretty straightforward. It’s not clear why dual CDMA won’t work, though I imagine this has more to do with CDMA as a technology than anything else. 

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.

September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence Smashes into the East Coast of the United States

From The Washington Post:

The outer bands of Hurricane Florence, a large and dangerous Category 2 storm, landed on the North Carolina coast Thursday morning. Winds were already gusting to 70 mph and sea water was surging ashore along the Outer Banks, washing over roads. It marks the beginning of a prolonged assault from wind and water, which — by the time it’s over — is likely to bring devastating damage and flooding to millions of people in the Southeast.

Conditions will deteriorate through Thursday: Starting along the coast, winds will accelerate, the rain will intensify, and the angry, agitated ocean will surge ashore.

The storm’s center is expected to make landfall Friday in southeast North Carolina, which will coincide with the most severe effects. Storm surge, the rise in seawater above normally dry land at the coast, could rise a story high. On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain — 20 inches, possibly even as many as 40 — is expected to fall.

Flooding from both the storm surge and rainfall could be “catastrophic,” the National Hurricane Center warned.

Stay safe out there.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
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