It’s been several weeks since the September 2017 Apple Event, where the company introduced the iPhone X, as well as the Apple Watch Series 3, the iPhone 8, and the Apple TV 4K. All of these products have been available for a while now, except for iPhone X. The iPhone X will be available for preorder on Friday, October 27 at 12:00 AM, US Pacific Time, which is 3:00 AM where I live. In years past, I’ve set an alarm for 2:55 AM, launched my Apple Store app, and preordered my phone for delivery the following week.
This time, I’ll be skipping the 3:00 AM preorder routine for two reasons:
I still really like my iPhone 7. Also, iOS 11 made my phone run (or seem to run) a little faster. Another consideration for sticking with my iPhone 7 is that I still have about $300 left to pay on my AT&T installment plan.
The iPhone X is basically a new product for Apple. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have a great track record for new products. Think about how bad the original iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch products were compared to the second iterations. The iPhone 3G, iPad 2, and the dual core Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 were all vastly superior to the first versions of the product. I expect the iPhone X hardware to be like a first-generation product, not the twelfth iteration of iPhone, although the maturity of iOS will likely mitigate some of this.
But again, this is just me. I know plenty of people that want this phone, and I certainly hope they don’t have to wait long to get their hands on one. If you are one of the hopefuls, remember to…
Download the Apple Store app for your best chance at buying the phone and getting it on launch day.
Set your alarm for a few minutes before midnight (US Pacific Time).
Launch your app at the stroke of midnight (US Pacific Time) and begin shopping. If iPhone X does not yet appear for sale, swipe-quit the app and try again.
Since I live in New York City, where Apple stores abound, I usually opt to pick up the phone at the store. Not only do I not have to pace around my apartment or office as I await a UPS or FedEx driver, I also get to experience a little of that launch day atmosphere. Plus, I can usually get the new phone as early as 8:00 AM a week after placing my preorder.
It’s been a year since Apple released the 2016 models of the current MacBook Pro and MacBook notebooks, and it looks like the new butterfly-switch keyboard suffers from a major design flaw that allows a piece of dust—or a crumb in the keyboard—to render it useless.
This is not something I’ve experienced firsthand, as I own a 2015 MacBook Pro. That was the first one to offer the new 3D Touch Trackpad, but it still used the legacy scissor-switch keyboard.
Apple blogger John Gruber has taken up this cause and rightly argues that a notebook computer keyboard should be “totally reliable. So reliable that it’s confusing when something does go wrong.” He also notes that Apple laptop keyboards have been “totally reliable” until the release of the 2016 notebooks, although I can point out a different experience with my second Apple laptop—a 15-inch Aluminum PowerBook G4, released in early 2005.
This was a great laptop, and I used it from 2005 to about 2009, when I sprung for a unibody MacBook Pro that I used for another six years. One major part of its longevity was that I was able to upgrade the RAM after a couple of years, and after running out storage, I was able to replace the hard drive with a larger one. Waiting a couple of years for these upgrades allowed the price of memory and storage to drop.
But this particular laptop did have one notable flaw: the keyboard. The keys were a bit spongy, and they lacked a satisfyingly quick “tap.” This was more or less typical of Apple keyboards before the Aluminum keyboard from the late-2000s. Another issue with this keyboard is that the key caps would break.
I experienced this on multiple occasions, but at the time, I could take my Powerbook to any Apple Store, and a Genius would replace the key cap at no charge. This took about ten minutes. As with the easy upgradability of the memory and the storage, the easy repairability of this Powerbook model made this a very long-lasting machine.
This was also true of my 2009 MacBook Pro. Because I could open the case and remove parts as needed, I was able to rescue it after I spilled seltzer on it by opening the case. And when I broke the fan cable in trying another repair, I was able to solder it back on to the logic board.
However, this is not true of the current MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup. Apparently, if a single piece of dust or a crumb gets underneath the key cap, you won’t be able to type. And removing the offending scrap of food could require replacing the entire top case.
Over the last decade, Apple has made their laptops much harder to repair in order to shrink their size and weight. Many of these steps offered other benefits. For example, when Apple stopped making batteries that you could remove and swap with a spare battery, the life of the new built-in battery increased: from three hours to about seven. Yes, the laptop became thinner, but it offered such a dramatic improvement in battery life that no one missed carrying (and charging) a spare battery.
However, these steps have now gone too far. Apple has prioritized the lightweight and thinness of their notebooks over the repairability and upgradability. At first, they made the memory permanent. Whatever memory you have for your MacBook or MacBook Pro notebook is basically all you will ever have. Upgrading the storage is also next to impossible. But those are solid-state components, and it’s unlikely that you will need to replace those under normal circumstances. As my dad told me when I was kid, solid-state parts don’t break, but moving parts do.
Curiously, the keyboard is the only part of the MacBook and MacBook Pro that moves and it is just as important as the memory and the storage. For that reason, it needs to be both functional and serviceable. Sadly, should you be eating lunch while working on your MacBook Pro might be render the keyboard to be neither functional nor serviceable.
iOS 11 came out yesterday. iOS 11 release day is an exciting occasion for many people. Hardcore users anxiously await 10:00 AM Pacific Time after which they can download and install the update. Developers push updated versions of their apps to take advantage of new features available to iPhone and iPad users. (The feature that developers seemed most excited to utilize was drag-and-drop.) And then, the tech press gets crazy trying to find something wrong so they can write headline-grabbing warnings about some supposedly fatal flaw in the operating system.
One such iOS 11 “flaw” that has been getting some panicked attention is the Bluetooth and WiFi buttons in Control Center. In previous versions of iOS, turning off either of these radios from Control Center completely disabled these radios. However, in iOS 11, they remain active to allow connections with Apple devices and services, such as “AirDrop, AirPlay, Apple Pencil, Apple Watch, Location Services, and other features.” You can see that the Bluetooth button in Control Center does not disable Bluetooth in Settings in this video.
Writing for VICE Motherboard, Lorenzo Francheschi-Bicchierai notes that turning off WiFi or Bluetooth has a lot of utility for security reasons because it “reduces your exposure to potential attacks.” The new Bluetooth and WiFi buttons in Control Center interface will not quarantine you from such an attack.
However, none of these pieces mention that you can disable WiFi and Bluetooth with one tap: you can activate Airplane Mode.
I tested this myself when I saw that AirDrop still works when I turn off Bluetooth and WiFi in Control Center. However, AirDrop didn’t work after I turned on Airplane Mode from that Control Center button.
While turning off WiFi and Bluetooth might seem like a way to disable to radios in your phone there are at least two others that are still running, independent of WiFi or Bluetooth:
Cellular radios. You can still connect to your cellular network without WiFi or Bluetooth and those radios still operate.
GPS. I learned this when I turned off Bluetooth and WiFI on an airplane, and a photo I snapped while airborne had geolocation data. Apparently, sitting near the window was enough to receive a GPS signal.
As with Bluetooth and WiFi, you can disable these radios with a single tap of the Airplane Mode icon.
Of all the products introduced at Tuesday’s Apple Event, I’m most excited about the new Apple Watch Series 3.
After the September 2016 Apple Event, where Apple introduced the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, AirPods and other things that I already forgot about, one of my cousins went to this site looking for my opinions about the then-new iPhone 7 family. I never got around to posting anything.
But if you still care what I think a year later here are my takeaways from what Apple introduced in September 2016:
The iPhone 7 was basically an iterative improvement over the iPhone 6S, which itself was an iterative improvement over the iPhone 6. In fact, I almost wanted to call the iPhone 7 the iPhone 6SS. If you had anything older than an iPhone 6, then I hope you got an iPhone 7! In fact, in 2017, you still can.
The AirPods are really cool, no matter what you hear about them. I have been using them since March, and I really like them. They work great with Apple products, and they sound just as good as the EarPods. If you can wear EarPods and like their sound quality, you’ll never go back to your wired EarPods. I haven’t!
This year, however, I couldn’t bear to let my cousin down and wait another year to post my thoughts on the new products introduced at the September 12, 2017, event. So, cuz, here are my thoughts on the stuff Apple introduced last week.
First, it didn’t work like I expected. I was hoping to have apps on my wrist that would in many cases replace the need for my iPhone. However, the first-generation, which nerds mockingly refer to as the “Series 0,” Apple Watch is too darn slow for that. The recent improvements in watchOS made it a little better, but it’s maddeningly slow to open an app and get the information I need.
Second, while I found only a limited amount of utility with Apple Watch, I can’t go a day without wearing it. Part of this is because it tells time, and, it turns out, that I find that glancing at my wrist to check the time to be very useful. Also, some apps work really well as complications. For example, Dark Sky gives me the current temperature and the likelihood for rain. Also, Fantistical has a really cool complication that tells me about my current or upcoming appointments. And because I color-code my calendars, I can tell what kind of event it is: red for teaching, green for softball and cycling, blue for leisure and cultural events, yellow for travel, etc.
Third, like many others, I’ve enjoyed using Apple Watch for fitness, even if I loathe the idea of self-tracking. Apple Watch has been cool for tracking my physical activity, especially to compare my active days to my inactive days.
However, the new Series 3 watches look like really compelling upgrades. Not only does the improved processor sound like a worthwhile upgrade, perhaps making Apple Watch work like the app watch I always wanted, having a real GPS and an altimeter would be cool for outdoor adventures. The only question I have is whether I would care to spend an extra $70, plus $10 each month, for LTE.
Yes! I’m going to upgrade from my current, first-generation Series 0 to a Series 3, but I might wait until I can get a refurbished one… or one as a Christmas gift (hint, hint).
Apple TV 4K
I don’t have a 4K TV, and I already have an Apple TV that I got “free” when I signed up for DirecTV Now last year. Nonetheless, $179 seems like a lot to spend on a streaming box, even if it’s a premium one from Apple.
No. If you have a 4K TV and can get a good deal on a Apple TV 4K down the line, this might be something for you. But at the moment, it’s not for me.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
Note: I’m not in the market for a new iPhone so I don’t have much to say about this or the iPhone X.
If the iPhone 7 was really the iPhone 6SS, as I quipped earlier, the iPhone 8 is certainly more than an iPhone 7S (or if you prefer, the iPhone 6SSS). However, there are some nifty new features that you can’t deny:
True Tone display.
All-glass body, kind of like the iPhone 4, which was my favorite of all the iPhone designs.
A better camera, as you expect from a new iPhone each year
The A11 Bionic chip that might not excite many people, but the idea of six cores working together—instead of just two or four—will make this phone scream in terms of performance.
The new, really cool Gold color!
Certainly, these are all great improvements, and I like the new storage tiers: 64 and 256 GB are great. Power users will appreciate having a quarter-terabyte in their hand, and casual users will be fine with only 64 GB. It’s hard to believe that the original iPhone could only store 4 and 8 GB!
However, as I am still really happy with my iPhone 7, and the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 lacks the dual-camera to power the computational photography features of the iPhone 8 Plus, I’m saving my money for another year.
No. The iPhone 8 represents the maturation of the 6-6S-7 form factor. But that does not warrant me to upgrade my iPhone 7. In fact, I would pause before upgrading even an iPhone 6S, unless that phone feels especially sluggish to you.
Finally, there’s the iPhone X. If you notice, I didn’t consider the Plus-sized phones. That’s because I don’t like the 5.5-inch phones. They’re too big, and I derisively call them “Dad Phones,” to associate them with “dad jokes” and “dad jeans.”
That’s why I like that Apple brought the features and the display of the big, 5.5-inch phone to smaller, 4.7-inch form factor. The bezel-less design looks great. Face ID is a pretty significant technological breakthrough, and I am confident that someday we will see this is in every Apple product—like we did with Retina Displays and with Touch ID.
Although I’m very impressed with all the engineering that went into making iPhone X possible, there are two things I don’t like about this phone:
That unsightly notch! I understand that the notch is where the camera, speakers and microphone live, but it looks ugly. It makes the display look like a dog-eared file folder, which seems like a strange design metaphor to use for a “future” phone.
While I applaud the decision to get rid of the home button, I am skeptical how great the phone will work without it. The new swipe gesture to go home and to switch apps appears to be a great solution because it relies on the decade-long muscle memory we’ve developed for pressing that button. However, that feature only seems to work when the phone is awake, much like it does on the Apple Watch. That might pose a problem: Raise to Wake doesn’t reliably work for me so pressing the screen, as I do on Apple Watch, will have to be the new default gesture. Or maybe Raise to Wake will work 100% of the time now… who knows?
These are admittedly minor quibbles. But then again the advantages of this particular phone also appear similarly trivial. It’s cool, but I still don’t see this as a fully baked product, as I do see with Apple Watch Series 3 or with iPhone 7 and 8.
No… Not yet. We all know this will not be the only bezel-less iPhone Apple will ever make. I certainly look forward to what they will introduce in the coming years because while we’ve seen the evolution of the iPhone mature in the 6-6s-7-8 and series, iPhone X looks to be beginning of a revolution for Apple’s smartphone.
That’s not to say that you won’t get anything new from Apple without spending money this fall. Every Apple product noted above, and even ones not mentioned such as the Mac and iPad lines, are due to receive really compelling software upgrades.
But, dear Cousin, I should offer this warning first: between download time and the painfully long amount of time it takes to update the software on Apple Watch, you might spend a good part of the day doing these upgrades.
Once these upgrades are done, however, it might feel like you got all-new devices. Or they might start running slow and make you wish you bought new ones.
Their conclusion is based on two claims. Unfortunately, both are wrong.
“Because AirPods use Bluetooth, and Bluetooth ‘Is Terrible,’ Thus AirPods Sound Terrible”
First, they claim that AirPods will produce terrible audio because they use Bluetooth, and Bluetooth produces terrible audio. In both theory and in practice, sending an audio signal over a wire is much better than sending one over a wireless connection. As the article notes, “Audiophiles have long been repulsed by Bluetooth audio. The frequency range is limited, the sounds are distorted, connecting can be a nightmare and audio can stutter or stop mid-stream.” But Apple might have overcome many of these challenges, not by sending a raw audio signal over the wire, but instead sending a digital audio stream that is decoded by the new W1 chip.
In practice, these standard criticisms against Bluetooth headphones aren’t there with the AirPods. The quality of the audio is about the same as what you get with the wired EarPods. I wouldn’t have expected any less (or any more) than that. However, there are some issues with audio dropping out from time-to-time. I notice this mostly when I’m streaming audio in busy areas, such as Union Square in Manhattan, for example. I’m not sure if this is because my iPhone can’t stream the audio, using the cellular radio, and send the digital audio signal to both AirPods, in a crowded area with a lot of radio interference.
Also, while it is true that pairing a Bluetooth audio device, such as headphones or a speaker, can indeed be difficult, connecting these AirPods take no time. I opened the case with one hand while I had my iPhone in the other, and after one tap to connect my AirPods, I was listening to them in a matter of seconds. This process also invisibly paired my AirPods with my other devices: my iPad, my Apple Watch, and my MacBook Pro. This was the ultimate Apple experience: It Just Works.
In short, compared to the wired EarPods, AirPods sound just as good, and they work almost as well for keeping an audio stream going. However, there’s one difference between AirPods and EarPods: there’s no tangled wire that becomes a white bird’s nest in your hand.
“AirPods Require a Wired Connection for Charging”
Second, they claim that although AirPods are wireless, they require a charging case that is wired. They write, AirPods “have an internal lithium ion battery that works for a whopping 5 hours (so like, maybe a couple days), and then when they die, you need to put them into their special ‘charging case,’ which then needs to be plugged into a power source via a cable.”
This misrepresents how one charges AirPods. While it is true that you have to use the case to charge the AirPods, the case itself has its own battery. The charging case itself does not have to be connected to anything to charge the AirPods. However, because the case has a battery, which does become depleted after about five AirPods-charging cycles, it does need to be connected to a Lightning cable and a USB power source. You can use the same charging cable as the one you have for your phone. Moreover, charging the case takes a very short amount of time, less than an hour.
At some point, yes, charging AirPods requires a wired connection. But this is similar to what you have to do with just about any mobile device but less often. If you have an iPad, you normally don’t have to charge it on a nightly basis like you have to do with your phone. This is similar to what you do with the AirPods charging case. An occasional wired charge will suffice. But otherwise, using and charging AirPods is a wholly wireless experience.
This is the danger is writing a review of a product before it is released. Having used AirPods for a little more than two months, I can tell you that this is the best new Apple product the company has released in a long time. The audio is comparable to what you get with wired EarPods. Apple has produced wireless, Bluetooth earphones that sound as good as the wired ones. No doubt, EarPods provide a more reliable connection, but the convenience of going wireless outweighs those occasional connection issues.
Ultimately, consumer goods succeed not just on quality but on convenience. CDs provide superior audio fidelity than MP3/AAC files, but carrying around CDs is inherently inconvenient. And if you don’t believe that Bluetooth can succeed in the consumer space, I will admit my early skepticism about WiFi nearly twenty years ago: “isn’t Ethernet more reliable?” It is, but imagine what a smartphone would be like if we were tethered to a network router, untangling bird’s nests of Cat-6 cables.
And, no, they don’t fall out of your ears.
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That last one comes about a week too late for me. I did take an MTA Metro North train after Thanksgiving, returning from an short bike ride to Tarrytown, but this offer didn’t take effect until December 1.
Also, the offer expires on January 1, which is a shame. I would have appreciated a discount on the $36 round-trip fare to Greenport or Montauk when cycling season begins anew next year.
I have been slowly catching up with the tenth season of the X-Files, otherwise known as the thing that Fox needed to air after the NFC Championship Game wrapped up in late-January.
The fifth and penultimate episode of the tenth season, “Babylon”, bears an uncanny resemblance to the recent events in San Bernadino and the aftermath of gathering information from one of the terrorists. In the episode, a couple of young Muslim men detonate a bomb an art gallery in Texas, exhibiting a painting that depicts Allah “sitting on a toilet defecating radical Islamists.” One of the suicide bombers barely survives the attack. The FBI is interested if he has any information about a larger terrorist cell or a possible future attack, but because he is in a persistent vegetative state and imminently close to death, he is not talking. To gather any possibly useful intel, Mulder and Scully each separately try to “listen” to his thoughts to uncover any useful information.
This reminded me of the FBI and Apple.
I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a stretch to relate this to the protracted battle between the FBI and Apple. In both the real-life and the X-Files cases, the FBI is seeking information from a “dead” terrorist. The real FBI is asking Apple to defeat its own security protocols to unlock his phone, while the TV FBI tries two different methods to read the bomber’s mind. To no one’s surprise, Mulder’s method seemed a lot more fun than Scully’s: we see a few familiar faces during “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Mulder.”
I won’t spoil how they try to get the information or whether they succeed, but I wonder what kind of software can the FBI compel someone to write to read someone’s thoughts. Is that covered under the “All Writs Act,” too?
Yesterday, a court in California ordered Apple to assist the FBI with bypassing the iPhone’s encryption and security features to recover the data stored on an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino gunmen. The court order requires Apple to write and install a special software file.
This software file, which one astute observer labelled as FBiOS, would enable the FBI to…
bypass the auto-erase (“poison pill”) feature that kicks in after ten incorrect password attempts;
enter a series of passcodes electronically, without doing so by hand on the iPhone touchscreen;
eliminate the delay that the iPhone introduces after more than four incorrect attempts.
iFixit’s solution to fixing “Error 53” is to remove the old Touch ID cable from the old display and transplant it to the replacement display assembly.
Did you catch that?
After showing us how simple it is to regain access to your iPhone by matching the Touch ID sensor to its cable, the iFixers insist that Apple needs to hear our voices and to write a “simple software tool”:
The request is simple. What we need is a software tool that allows you to re-authenticate your…new Touch ID cable and the Touch ID sensor with the Phone. If they make that simple software tool available, it will un-brick these thousands of phones…
Presumably, iFixit’s request for Apple to write a software tool to bypass security will have to wait until Apple finishes dealing with the FBI’s request for Apple to write a software tool to bypass security.
In information technology, there’s almost always a tradeoff between security and convenience. The more convenient something is to use, the less secure it is. Otherwise, you could leave your front door unlocked, leave your car running, and have 123456 be your password for everything. However, as you know, that is far from secure. You need to lock your front door, you need to turn off the ignition, and you need to have unique, strong passwords for each of your online accounts. This inconvenience yields some measure of security.
The Guardian reported last week about a “fury” from iPhone users against Apple for bricking iPhones that have had their screens replaced by an unauthorized, third-party repair outfit, which inadvertently tampered with the Touch ID sensors during the repair process. Thereafter, the phones stopped working altogether.
If I were to open a repair shop, such as this one, I would call it “Error 53.”
According to various users quoted in the article, an iPhone 6 or later will report an “Error 53” and not function if a third-party repair person has replaced the screen or the home button and if the user has upgraded the phone’s operating system to iOS 9. The issue is prevalent enough that iFixit reports over 180,000 queries to their user forums about “Error 53.” The maligned users and Miles Brignall, the Guardian author who reported on the “fury,” all but accuse Apple of bricking these repaired iPhones in order to force users to only repair their phones through Apple or to buy a new replacement.
Could Apple’s move, which appears to be designed to squeeze out independent repairers, contravene competition rules? Car manufacturers, for example, are not allowed to insist that buyers only get their car serviced by them. Apple charges £236 for a repair to the home button on an iPhone 6 in the UK, while an independent repairer would demand a fraction of that.
Pointing to an economic motive is all too simplistic. Although Apple is certainly concerned with being profitable, these accusations always surface when Apple does something to “brick” someone’s computing device or peripheral. It happened when Apple…
replaced the serial port with USB and rendered a lot of printers obsolete,
eliminated the floppy disk drive in favor of optical drives on the iMac,
replaced SCSI with FireWire,
eliminated swappable batteries in their notebooks,
and, most recently, replaced the 30-pin connector with Lightning.
Instead, these are moves to destined improve the product and the experience. USB and FireWire were far superior to the serial port, ADB, and SCSI, as Lightning has been over the previous 2001-era iPod connector. Similarly, the only reason anyone ever needed a swappable notebook battery was to work longer than two hours, and the built-in batteries in the newer notebooks far exceeded that runtime, making toting those bulky batteries obsolete.
In this case, “Error 53” is to protect the security of the device. An Apple spokeswomen, quoted in the article, says as much:
We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.
However, Brignall scoffs at this explanation, labelling it overloaded with “jargon.”
But, to any reasonable technologically competent person, this explanation is certainly sound. Apple’s own philosophy is that iPhone users store all kinds of private information on their devices, and that is Apple’s responsibility to prioritize the security of that device, even at the expense of user’s going to the corner repair shop to fix a cracked screen.
My first Apple Watch Sport, in all its Space Black glory.
After kvetching about its purpose, my need for one, and its place in the personal computing ecosystem, I recognized that having an Apple Watch could serve a very important purpose: it would free me from retrieving my iPhone in specific situations, such as when riding a bicycle. Like other commenters, I saw its primary function as the computer-you-have-on-you so you can stay off your computer.
The smartphone exploded because, like its built-in camera, it was always with you, and because it was always there, you used even more than a computer and in ways you never used a personal computer. The watch isn’t there yet, and who knows if it will ever approach that level of utility. But in the last four weeks, I’ve really appreciated some of the things Apple Watch does that a smartphone, such as my iPhone, does not do.
The following are not revolutionary differences, but instead are minor tweaks to my own personal computing.
Home | TripMode | Your mobile data savior.2017/03/01 MacSparky suggested this to help you save data transfer when tethering. Looks reasonable for those of us considering switching to an unlimited plan with tethering.
The Jobs Americans Do - NYTimes.com2017/02/24 An enlightening set of portrayals of nine job Americans do now. An old college chum, Eric Steuer, penned on of the portraits in the series.
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