After I hit publish on that last article a friend asked a question that I’ve been thinking about: What do you do if you don’t want to use a phone with iOS or Android?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a good option today. WebOS from the now defunct Palm and Windows Phone from Microsoft were the only two big alternatives.
WebOS had a tremendously different design from today’s iOS and Android, but it has now changed hands between Palm, then HP, and now LG.
Windows Phone… well it looked and felt like an evolution of the Zune’s operating system, but I liked some things about that style. I had hoped that Microsoft would keep at it until they hit it out of the park with a winner, but it’s been forever since there was life in that platform.
If there were a complete mobile operating system that could compete with Android and iOS on the user experience level, and somehow had a ton of support from app and game developers, it would also need a strong hardware partner to develop an amazing pocket computer. I don’t see that happening.
Even Amazon’s Fire Phone got cancelled, and Amazon already had a strong competitor to Google’s app store.
…I now believe it more likely than not that the software giant will in fact someday sell a Surface phone.
God help us all.
Still, that was in 2016 and here we are, two years later, and Microsoft’s leadership must not feel like they have the right device or the right distance from Windows Phone’s failure to even tease a return.
I’ve obviously missed my regular Apple event day coverage for this year’s iPhone and Watch announcement (YouTube link), there was a family emergency that necessitated lots of travel. I won’t dwell on that emergency much except to say that if you enjoy reading Nuclear Monster at all I would appreciate any contributions you can make either by sharing posts you like with your friends and family, through donations, or by buying a shirt.
Thank you to everyone who has helped with that already.
Nevertheless, Apple didn’t wait around for me and has announced and released a new iPhone in two sizes, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the Apple Watch Series 4, and a third new iPhone, the iPhone XR. The XR is at first glance a “budget” device that is somehow still very expensive (starting at $750) and has odd trade offs compared to the XS line.
The new XS phones are supposed to be pronounced “ten S,” and the XR is supposed to be pronounced “ten R” I don’t think anyone is going to go out of their way to do that. Those names are extremely silly and I hope nobody is very fussy about pronouncing them “correctly,” still, the devices and prices for these phones are still interesting.
iPhone XS & iPhone XS Max: Ridiculously Named, Too Expensive
That trend kind of went out of the window with the 6, 6S, 7, and 8 phones that all looked very much alike. Apple skipped the big design changes until finally we got the iPhone X, last year. That phone finally ditched the home button on the “chin” in favor of an almost entirely edge-to-edge screen with a notch replacing the “forehead” of the phone and new swipe gestures replacing the Home button. The 8 and 8 Plus were the “new” phones released alongside the X that kept the old 6, 6S, and 7 style with a traditional home button for anyone who didn’t want to spend $1000 on a new iPhone X.
This year the XS, XS Max, and XR are all styled after the iPhone X. The iPhoneXR is a bit bigger than the XS and last year’s X with a 6.1 inch screen. The iPhoneXS is almost exactly the same size as last year’s X, but with a slightly different camera bump that knocks out some case compatibility.
The XS Max is very similar in terms of physical dimensions to the Plus phones like the iPhone 8 Plus. This year’s phones are all gesture-based, no home buttons to be found. The XS and XS Max also come in a new color, gold.
We won’t know until next September if there will be some significant external design changes that bring us back to the “big design change” year followed by the “incremental improvement to the internal hardware” year. Honestly, the external design is not as important as we approach the inevitable full-rectangles of screen with so few trade-offs for usability and style. Apple makes the most appealing designs to those rectangles and with the software of those rectangles. The next biggest change just might be losing the notch and putting those sensors behind the screen.
The XS phones are very expensive pocket computers at $1000, and $1100 for the XS Max. Reviewers are trying to understand how anyone could justify that upgrade from an iPhone X or earlier, and it is a huge upgrade from some of the older series of devices. Less so for anyone with the iPhone X, and Apple says they’re also trying to make sure these iPhones can last longer, but that doesn’t make the price right.
There used to be a sentiment that these iPhones are for everyone. If you’re the heir to a fortune in fashion, or someone working 9-5 at retail, the iPhone was the iPhone. You’d have the same one as everyone else if you bought the top of the line in any particular year. This supposedly worked the same way that everyone could buy the same coca-cola from Coke.
All that went out the window when the product started exclusively targeting a luxury market with incredibly high prices. The poorer end of the market is now targeted with the questionable “iPhone Upgrade Program” that turns an iPhone purchase into an installment plan that turns Apple Stores into Rent-A-Center.
It’s worth emphasizing — as I do every year — that normal people do not upgrade their phones after a single year. Most don’t upgrade after two years. They upgrade when their old phone breaks or gets too slow.
His conclusion for upgraders also seems spot on:
Anyone upgrading to the iPhone XS from an iPhone 7 or older is getting a great upgrade in dozens of ways, and the camera system is just one of them.
…for the people who own an iPhone X who are considering an upgrade to the XS, to my mind, the camera system is the one and only reason to do it. There are always edge cases. Someone who is a frequent international traveler might consider it worth upgrading just to get the dual SIM support. I’m sure some number of iPhone X owners will upgrade just to get the gold model. But for most people, I’m convinced the camera system is the reason to think about it.
Reviewers are focusing on those camera upgrades, rightly so. The reportedly 32% larger sensor that Gruber found out about is huge news for these tiny cameras to bring in more light and take better (or even acceptable) photos in situations that would have produced garbage with the iPhone X and earlier phones. The example galleries and reviews from both pro and amateur photographers prove the quality of these new camera systems in the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.
The Other Camera Option
If you’re willing to carry another camera with your phone, even a small point and shoot like Sony’s RX100 series cameras will have a dramatically larger sensor that might be a better value than trying to keep up with iPhone upgrades right now.
I’m (still) not going to be comparing the iPhone XS to an interchangeable lens camera because portrait mode is not a replacement for those, it’s about pulling them out less. That said, this is closest its ever been.
You’d miss out on quick social sharing, and live photos that grab a few moments of video before and after the still photo. The camera makers’ apps are all garbage, but you can import JPEGs from an SD card relatively quickly to any iOS device using Apple’s SD Card dongle.
RAW photos might still be too slow to import over the wire, but the rub there is that you can now take and edit RAW photos on iOS. So, that might work for you the other way.
Photography is important to me, it might be the thing I care about most in an iPhone after communicating with friends and family. I’m still not sure if I can even be the person that drags around a separate camera anymore, but I think it’s a legitimate option for some people who love the iOS ecosystem and aren’t interested in keeping up with iPhone camera technology. The mobile camera sensors can only be so big, the built-in processing technology is getting more impressive but I’m not sure how impressive they can get compared to almost any small camera.
Recently, I picked up my almost decade-old Nikon entry-level DSLR, the D3000, and the shots it takes are just so much better than any phone camera. They’re not the easiest to get, I’m out of touch with the camera controls and the autofocus (AF) lock-on takes forever on that old DSLR, but I could get an upgraded body of that same camera line use the same 35mm lens, and blaze on with much better AF. That D3000 has uniquely terrible auto-focus speed.
I’ve been testing iOS on old devices for six years, and I’ve never seen a release that has actually improved performance on old devices. At best, updates like iOS 6, iOS 9, and iOS 10 didn’t make things much worse; at worst, updates like iOS 7 and iOS 8 made old devices feel like old devices. Anyone using an older device can safely upgrade to iOS 12 without worrying about speed, and that’s a big deal. You’ll notice an improvement most of the time, even on newer devices (my iPad Air 2, which had started to feel its age running iOS 11, feels great with iOS 12).
The iPhone is very compelling as a camera, but the high prices for the XS models are a great time to jump ship off the upgrade schedule. If you need to stick with an iPhone for more time to try and grind out more value, there has never been a better time to try the other camera option.
AppleCare+ in 2018
I have to give up my iPhone 7 Plus this year to another family member, the 256GB iPhone XS Max I was looking at to replace my iPhone is $1500 after tax with Applecare+. That’s the $200 iPhone insurance program from Apple. I did a cartoon “rub my eyes and look again” after I saw that number.
Before this update, Applecare would help you recover from your iPhone being stolen as long as you had a police report. Now, Apple won’t let you get a new iPhone if yours is stolen unless you also have ponied up another $100 for “Theft and Loss” coverage. That would bring the total to $300, but I’ve never had an iPhone stolen or lost to the point where I can’t find it.
Apple has one more caveat to this new Theft and Loss insurance, it’s null and void unless their Find My iPhone feature is enabled.
If Wishes Were Cameras
My wish is for something less like a DSLR and more like the (relatively) huge CMOS sensor of the Sony RX100 but running iOS. That isn’t happening, Apple would probably never do that because their goal is to make a great phone that is also a great camera due to the powerful custom A-series of chips processing the image data from the biggest sensors and lenses they can fit into the size of the camera bump. It’s so important to them that they still have a bump. Even with that pimple on the back of the latest iPhones, the photos their tiny camera sensors make might still look like watercolor paintings when you zoom in on them. Cropping a photo is so disappointing with any camera phone, and this year may fix that.
The iPhone XS Max vs The Galaxy Note 9
The iPhone 6/7/8 Plus-sized iPhone XS Max is very interesting. It has the same style of the XS and X, notch and all, but in the larger form-factor giving us an incredibly huge 6.5 inch screen. The old Plus phones had a 5.5 inch screen, but the new phones aren’t any wider so the measurement is a little odd to compare.
I liked the old Plus phones’ landscape mode features. The home screen would reconfigure for landscape mode display horizontally. Unfortunately, Apple has apparently dropped this feature from the XS Max.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 has gone in the opposite direction and offered more tablet-like features in a similar size of device as Apple’s Plus and XS Max iPhones.
That Galaxy Note 9 includes a stylus, has more storage at a lower price than the iPhone XS Max, and expandable storage through Micro SD cards so you’re not locked into paying hundreds of dollars to Samsung for upgrading. It also has a 19 hour battery life according to CNET’s reviewer, Jessica Dolcourt.
I would never buy a Samsung device, they’re a scummy business with an operating system from the world’s largest advertising publisher. Their camera app sounds like complete garbage, Dolcourt says:
The AI software analyzes a scene and quickly detects if you’re shooting a flower, food, a dog, a person or something else entirely. There are 20 options, including snowflakes, cityscapes, fire — you get it. Then the camera optimizes white balance, saturation and contrast to make photos pop.
It works fine, and you’ll see some big differences when photographing your lunch for Instagram photos. But the scene optimizer often takes a beat to kick in, and you can’t dismiss the suggestions with a swipe the way you can on the Huawei P20 Pro. It’s either on, or off.
The last thing I want to do with a camera app is fight with it to decide how I want the scene to be shot and processed. Samsung’s software sounds like a complete nightmare that overrides your thinking about a scene to provide what Samsung thinks is best versus Apple (and Google’s Pixel phones) hands-off “this is what a better camera would do” approach.
This is actually a standard Android feature, where apps you need to look at (like YouTube or Google Maps) will minimize themselves into little windows in the corner when you exit them. But the Note 9 is one of the few phones where this isn’t annoying, just because there’s so much screen real estate to play with. It’s also why the Galaxy’s split-screen mode actually works—two apps running side-by-side doesn’t look terrible at this size
Murphy also wrote about Samsung’s Stylus, the S-Pen, which has interesting features in addition to being useful for drawing and taking notes:
What really makes a Note a Note (according to Samsung) is its built-in stylus, the S Pen. The new version (which comes in a striking shade of yellow on the blue version of the phone), has learned some new tricks. Tapping on its button can trigger different functions in different apps. In the camera, it can be used as a remote shutter; in PowerPoint, it can advance slides.
The iPhone XS Max has gone in a completely different direction. Apple doesn’t have a stylus that works at this scale, and they’re rejecting the notion that you should use any iPhone as a small tablet, even at the XS Max’s enormous 6.5 inch screen size.
The Max’s 6.5? screen cries out for stylus support. At least it does for me and others who would benefit from this capability It is definitely big enough, and the resolution is plenty high. It would be the perfect portable wireless notepad, a use case which the current iPad Pro sizes aren’t really cut out for.
Apple isn’t doing enough to take advantage of all the extra space. The Max just feels like a blown-up iPhone, when it could be a new sort of computer. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Note or even Apple’s iPad, you can’t place apps side by side or float a video in the corner.
If they have the same value in their own store then there is no excuse to not include the faster, better, adapter.
Just include the twelve watt adapter, Apple.
All of Apple’s modern laptops, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, only have USB-C ports. You can’t charge or connect any iPhone to them with the included USB-to-Lightning cable, it has a type-A plug on the end. Apple charges $19 for a USB-C-to-Lightning cable.
No Apple product discussion would be complete talking about iCloud storage pricing. The iPhone uses this storage to back itself up at night, back up your apps, and most importantly to back up your photos.
iCloud’s free tier is still only a paltry 5 gigabytes. That is nothing. For a dollar a month they will give you 50 gigs and there are people who will never pay that twelve dollars a year just because they’re too cheap or can’t understand why they need it until they see an ad from Google that tells them exactly what they’re missing out on because their iPhone can’t offload any more photos and videos to the cloud to free up space on the device to take new photos and videos.
The worst scenario of all is when someone walks into an Apple store with a broken phone and wants to know where their photos of their family and friends are and the person supporting them has to tell them that the photos were lost when their phone died. That’s an awful experience to pawn off on retail employees because $12 dollars a year is more important to Apple’s bottom line.
Pennies Down the Line
When there’s no more free-space on an iPhone, you can’t load more apps and games, take more photos or videos, and the device’s performance might suffer. Upgrades become difficult. Even with all the app-thinning that Apple’s done to make older iPhones with less storage more useful, I think it’s absolutely rotten that today’s XS line doesn’t include expandable storage. Today’s 64 gigs might be tomorrow’s 16GB, rendering the iPhone you want to give to your family useless even if it was the top-of-the-line for the day.
For the past day or so I’ve been trying to use a five-year-old 16GB iPhone 5S in 2018. It’s not a good experience. iOS 12 has made these old iPhones snappy and responsive, which is fantastic. You just can’t load…anything onto the phone. I’ve run out of space almost instantly for the apps I need to do everything. Apps that include giant hundred-megabyte frameworks to operate can’t fit.
The iPhone helpfully offloads as many apps as possible to free-up space but there is only so much it can do. I don’t recommend that experience to anyone. If Apple truly wants to start making their iPhones last longer, they need to introduce expandable storage.
It’s clear that Apple put a lot of thought and work into these new devices, I haven’t even talked about the better OLED screens with 120hz touch detection, or the improved FaceID system, but I’m also very concerned about iPhone prices.
Yet to be reviewed is the iPhone XR, which has the same great wide angle camera as the iPhone XS, the same A12 system-on-a-chip, better battery life, and an almost edge-to-edge screen that unfortunately has a lower resolution than my iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone XR is also missing 3D Touch and the telephoto camera from the iPhone XS.
Unless you have money to burn, I would suggest that anyone on an iPhone 8 or iPhone X wait until next September at the earliest. The iPhone XS Max is a new size in the iPhone 6/7/8 Plus physical range, and if you hated how small the iPhone X was that would be the only good reason to upgrade to this year’s Max.
For people like me, with an iPhone 7 Plus, the 6.1 inch iPhone XR might be the right device. I’m very curious to read those reviews when that embargo lifts before they’re released on the 26th of October. Like I said above, the XR has better battery life, but the same wide-angle camera, processor, and a similar notched design like the XS and XS Max. However, it also has less RAM, 3 gigs, to the 4 gigs of the XS and XS Max. That means that web pages may need to be reloaded when you navigate away from them, apps might unload sooner when you switch to another one.
The XR might not support as many versions of iOS down the line. The iPhone 5S is 5 years old, and is the oldest iPhone that is getting iOS12. The 5S was also released alongside the 5C, and the XR picks a note of the 5C up and gets a lot of color options.
The XR also has an oddly lower resolution than the 7 Plus despite having a larger screen, it’s a very strange product.
Anyone who has stuck with the iPhone 5S or 6 and 6 Plus due to price should wait until reviews are out for the iPhone XR.
These high prices really made me understand why Apple has stopped selling last year’s iPhone X entirely. The X is still a great mobile camera upgrade from any older series of iPhone, still a good processor upgrade, and anyone who got a cheaper iPhone X could use another camera for great photos if they have one laying around.
When I bought my iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 it was $870 for the 128GB tier and $1000 after AppleCare+. That insurance was $130. That was a lot. $1250 for the equivalent tier of iPhone XS Max and about $1500 including AppleCare+ and tax in 2018 is ridiculous.
The XR is also $50 more at $750 than last year’s 8.
Maybe I’m getting old, but do you remember how computers were supposed to be less expensive to purchase as time went on?
The materials Apple are using are premium in these X-series of devices, but maybe they’re too premium if they’re what is jacking up the price of an equivalent tier of phone by $380 and the insurance by 70 bucks over the course of two years.
Maybe we don’t need a glass back on a phone. Even though Apple claims the iPhone XS’ back is more durable than last year’s iPhone X, it still breaks easier than the equivalent metal. Joanna Stern’s review unit broke within a week!
Apple’s answer to general economic concerns is that they’re still selling the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and iPhone 8, 8 Plus for lower prices. This really speaks to how great those devices are with iOS 12
The iPhone X doesn’t exist anymore and you can’t buy the iPhone X new or used from Apple. It’s pretty clear that Apple isn’t sure a person in the store would be able to understand the differences between the XS and X.
Keeping old devices around past their regular shelf-life is Tim Cook’s schtick. If you can, keeping your devices useful for yourself or giving them to a friend or family member is the best thing to do today.
Apple announced that they’re killing the affiliate program, citing the improved discovery offered by the new App Store. (Music, books, movies, and TV remain.) It’s hard to read this in any other way than “We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third party editorial to, we now see no value.” I genuinely have no idea what TouchArcade is going to do. Through thick and thin, and every curveball the industry threw at us, we always had App Store affiliate revenue- Which makes a lot of sense as we drive a ton of purchases for Apple. I don’t know how the takeaway from this move can be seen as anything other than Apple extending a massive middle finger to sites like TouchArcade, AppShopper, and many others who have spent the last decade evangelizing the App Store and iOS gaming- Particularly on the same day they announced record breaking earnings of $53.3 billion and a net quarterly profit of $11.5 billion.
Affiliate marketing is the financial driver behind sites like Wirecutter, TouchArcade, and most likely as important to all of the journalistic enterprises that you see with daily deal roundups like Kotaku and 9to5Mac. The largest sites are able to separate all advertising and affiliate marketing business away from their editorial staff so that they can remain independent and firewalled from the business as much as possible. Sites with single-digit numbers of writers and editors aren’t able to maintain a firewall, but I think their readers understand the situation.
Affiliate marketing would be better if Amazon, Wal-Mart, and other companies’ employees were unionized. Collective bargaining seems like a foreign idea to most of the younger retail workers I’ve talked to and Amazon these companies treat their employees as infinitely replaceable. If employees hear anything about collective bargaining, it’s from training videos that companies like Best Buy force their employees to watch. These videos lie about union behavior and repudiate the power employees could have if they were bargaining as a group. The videos say that employees are better off negotiating as individuals, one-on-one with management. As if managers weren’t trained to exploit their employees, and empowered by the entire corporate management apparatus to do so. One-on-one is more like a thousand managers versus the one employee.
Traditional display advertising isn’t valuable enough to pay bills. I run an ad blocker, we all get the prompts to stop doing it, and we choose not to. Ad payloads slow our reading by wasting bandwidth, and the advertising publishing industry doesn’t give a fuck about our privacy or do anything to stop malicious payloads from being delivered to us.
Ongoing subscription donations, or Patreon support, are nice if you can get them, but it is a difficult thing to maintain on the ground. Any time you publish an update (to any kind of subscription service) there is an opportunity that subscribers will retract ongoing pledges and unsubscribe. Every payment processor and middleman would love it for all of us to spend our entire lives begging for money, but it’s difficult to find time to write and work if you’re spending all of your time on maintaining a subscription pledge system like Patreon.
Apple has been absorbing writers for a few years in order to create curated articles on their App Store, but those articles lack any sort of attribution as to who wrote them. Maybe dozens of hands touch each one, who knows. That byline situation is a choice, but by business need there is almost certainly no editorial independence for those writers at Apple. Without editorial independence and a byline those writers may have a difficult time finding work once they tire of working there with nothing to show in their portfolio, or when Apple decides to stop curating their app store to this degree and there aren’t any sites left to write for.
There just isn’t a good solution for independent writers and sites like TouchArcade within capitalism today unless they have a massive wave of popularity supporting them on Patreon or incredibly small operating costs like Daring Fireball with exactly one writer. I’ve enjoyed reading TouchArcade and hope Hodapp finds a path forward without any kind of affiliate marketing.
Apple invited some journalists to see new MacBook Pro laptops, they have newer and faster chipsets and processors with more RAM as an option, but didn’t talk about reliability. Dieter Bohn:
…it’s just hard to trust a keyboard after so many reports that it can be rendered inoperable by a grain of sand and that is incredibly difficult and expensive to repair or replace. This new third-generation keyboard wasn’t designed to solve those issues, Apple says. In fact, company representatives strenuously insisted that the keyboard issues have only affected a tiny, tiny fraction of its user base. (There’s now a four-year repair program for the keyboard in case it fails.)
While the repair and replacement program covers costs and notes that Apple will repair both single keys as well as whole keyboards when necessary, it doesn’t note whether the replacements will be a different, improved design that will prevent the problem from happening again (and again, and again). Having become a one-woman clearinghouse for people complaining about these keyboards since I broke this story, I feel justified in saying that keyboard failures – dead keys, sticking keys, double-spacing spacebars – appear to happen early and often, and repairs do not permanently fix the issue. I also feel justified in saying that the design on offer as recently as February still presented the exact same issues as the design I purchased in the fall of 2016.
Of course, that means nobody should be buying Apple’s modern* laptops until there’s some kind of hardware revision to stop the problems with minuscule grains of nothing destroying these delicate keyboard keys. It’ll be better when I have a reason to stop pining for an iPad with XCode,gcc, an officialTerminal.app, and a clamshell keyboard case from Apple.
*Apple will still sell you the 2015 MacBook Pro in various configurations online if you want more standard ports and a keyboard that won’t quit on you if a butterfly flaps its wings within the surrounding 200 miles.
Deprecations and Removed APIs
Periodically, Apple adds deprecation macros to APIs to indicate that those APIs should no longer be used in active development. When a deprecation occurs, it’s not an immediate end of life for the specified API. Instead, it is the beginning of a grace period for transitioning from that API and to newer and more modern replacements. Deprecated APIs typically remain present and usable in the system for a reasonable time past the release in which they were deprecated. However, active development on them ceases, and the APIs receive only minor changes to accommodate security patches or to fix other critical bugs. Deprecated APIs may be removed entirely from a future version of the operating system.
As a developer, avoid using deprecated APIs in your code as soon as possible. At a minimum, new code you write should never use deprecated APIs. And if your existing code uses deprecated APIs, update that code as soon as possible.
Deprecation of OpenGL and OpenCL
Apps built using OpenGL and OpenCL will continue to run in macOS 10.14, but these legacy technologies are deprecated in macOS 10.14. Games and graphics-intensive apps that use OpenGL should now adopt Metal. Similarly, apps that use OpenCL for computational tasks should now adopt Metal and Metal Performance Shaders.
Metal is designed from the ground up to provide the best access to the modern GPUs on iOS, macOS, and tvOS devices. Metal avoids the overhead inherent in legacy technologies and exposes the latest graphics processing functionality. Unified support for graphics and compute in Metal lets your apps efficiently utilize the latest rendering techniques. For information about developing apps and games using Metal, see the developer documentation for Metal, Metal Performance Shaders, and MetalKit. For information about migrating OpenGL code to Metal, see Mixing Metal and OpenGL Rendering in a View.
I was brought in to talk about the needs of games in general, but I made it my mission to get Apple to adopt OpenGL as their 3D graphics API. I had a lot of arguments with Steve.
Part of his method, at least with me, was to deride contemporary options and dare me to tell him differently. They might be pragmatic, but couldn’t actually be good. “I have Pixar. We will make something [an API] that is actually good.”
It was often frustrating, because he could talk, with complete confidence, about things he was just plain wrong about, like the price of memory for video cards and the amount of system bandwidth exploitable by the AltiVec extensions.
But when I knew what I was talking about, I would stand my ground against anyone.
When Steve did make up his mind, he was decisive about it. Dictates were made, companies were acquired, keynotes were scheduled, and the reality distortion field kicked in, making everything else that was previously considered into obviously terrible ideas.
I consider this one of the biggest indirect impacts on the industry that I have had. OpenGL never seriously threatened D3D on PC, but it was critical at Apple, and that meant that it remained enough of a going concern to be the clear choice when mobile devices started getting GPUs. While long in the tooth now, it was so much better than what we would have gotten if half a dozen SoC vendors rolled their own API back at the dawn of the mobile age.
While OpenGL isn’t going away immediately in macOS Mojave, when it is finally gone there will be many fewer games on macOS, it has been the only portable graphics API available for developers to bring their games to Linux and macOS, as well as other platforms, for decades.
Without OpenGL on macOS the Mac and Linux will both suffer, as will new platforms. They’ll have a harder time getting games and other software when bigger platforms are locked to vendor-specific APIs like Metal instead of cross-platform ones like Vulkan and OpenGL.
If I had to guess, I would hope that Valve will ship an intermediary layer to translate OpenGL calls for games on Steam, and hopefully they will make this software available for everyone else. There are already some other projects to translate OpenGL to platform-specific calls but it’s not going to be easy for games to support them. It’d be better if these projects had something to handle the translation on-the-fly. It’s also entirely possible that Valve will just give up on older games supporting modern versions of macOS after Apple fully deprecates OpenGL.
I don’t envy anyone trying to support old software and write good OpenGL drivers like Apple has (even when they don’t update their OpenGL support for years), but the deprecation of OpenGL is a real “Fuck You” to game developers and players unlike any other. Games getting updated from 32-bit to 64-bit, as well as going through the process of having any kind of graphics portability layer added on top, seems unlikely. Thousands of games are going to be lost to time when OpenGL dies off. Competition with popular hardware and software platforms will be even more difficult. I understand the desire to get rid of technical debt, but this is bad.
iOS 12 Craig Federighi boasted about iOS 11 being available on iOS devices from 2013, and that the majority of their users are on 11 versus the 6% they claim are on the latest Android update. According to Google, the percentage of Android users running their latest operating system (Android 8.1) is 0.8%, ouch. I would guess that Apple based their estimate on the percentage of devices that are capable of running 8.0 or 8.1, which is 4.9% and 0.8% respectively. The majority of Android users (25.5%) appear to still be in the stone age on Android 6.0.
According to Federighi the primary focus of iOS 12 will be performance, specifically he said that older devices would perform better. Using an iPhone 6 Plus as an example, Federighi claimed that apps would launch 40% faster, the keyboard would display 50% faster, the camera would open 70% faster.
Adobe’s CTO Abhay Parasnis announced that their products would support the new format and that Apple’s developer State of the Union would have some kind of demo of this integration.
Measure Federighi announced a new app for augmented reality, Measure, which will presumably replace everyone’s first ARKit app by giving you measurements for real-world objects. The app can detect some shapes and automatically provide measurements for those, but you’ll need to tap at the ends or corners of most real-world objects to get the app to measure them.
Apple’s USDZ Demos Federighi showed off a USDZ 3D scene of a fish embedded in their Apple News app, and then customized a guitar on Fender’s web store only to display it on the stage through an iPad’s AR viewfinder.
ARKit 2 Federighi said that iOS 12 would include a new version of their ARKit API for developers to create augmented reality experiences. The flagship feature for ARKit 2, shared experiences, allows multiple devices to view and interact with the same scene. A slide depicted a pre-recorded video of people playing a multiplayer AR game where both participants and an observer could see and interact.
Martin Sanders, the Director of Innovation at Lego, demonstrated the new object detection features of ARKit along with shared experiences by scanning a physical Lego set and then awkwardly holding two iPads around it with someone else from the Lego company. The iPads showed a city being built around the town square Lego set with some limited interactivity to place vehicles and minifigures. It looked like it could be fun, but this kind of AR scanning will probably be limited to sets that Lego produces, not the modifications people make to them. Sanders said that the Lego AR experience app would ship later this year.
Photos Search & For You Federighi said that Photos would improve in iOS 12. He highlighted the search functionality that would offer suggestions and other improvements to help you find photos you’re looking for. The app will also get a new tab, For You, that offers suggestions of photos you might like to see or ways you could change them to make them more appealing. It seemed like the editing suggestions were limited to ones that involve Apple’s features like looping a live photo or making some specific change to a portrait photo.
The For You tab will also suggest sharing photos with people who appear in them. He said that they would be shared at full resolution, which is an improvement because photos shared today aren’t at the original resolution. Federighi also said that the recipient of shared photos would be prompted to share photos from the same event so that everyone ends up with the entire set.
Siri Shortcuts Federighi mentioned a new feature called shortcuts that would let Siri easily start functions of other apps. The first example was “I lost my keys” which would have Siri open part of the Tile app’s functionality within Siri and look for them. Apps in iOS 12 would make suggestions of shortcuts to add to Siri. The iOS 12 lock screen and search will make suggestions of things to do like re-ordering coffee or turning on Do Not Disturb when you’re at a movie theater.
Federighi said that you’d be able to make your own shortcuts in a new “Shortcuts Editor” app.
Apple’s Kim Beverett demonstrated the shortcuts functionality with a few examples. One of which was adjusting a shortcut she made in the Shortcut Editor. Beverett’s Heading Home shortcut would compress a bunch of steps into one action. It lets her roommate know how long it’ll take her to get home, set her thermostat to 70 degrees and turns on a fan, and opens maps with the course home preconfigured. Beverett quickly used the editor to play a radio program she wanted to listen to every time she goes home whenever she uses the shortcut. This Shortcut Editor is clearly the Workflow app that Apple acquired last year.
Other App Updates Apple’s Susan Prescott demonstrated a few other iOS 12 app updates. Apple News is going from a 5 tab interface to 3 tabs with a new tab called Browse to handle the functionality from the current Search and Following tabs.
The Stocks app is completely rebuilt, and has business news built-in and new charts. The app will also be on the iPad.
Voice Memos is “even easier to use” and is also on the iPad, it’ll also use iCloud for file synchronization.
iBooks is getting refurbished with a new name and interface, it’s just Apple Books on iOS 12.
CarPlay is going to support 3rd party navigation apps.
Do Not Disturb Federighi returned to show us how iOS’ Do Not Disturb will be updated with a new feature called Do Not Disturb During Bedtime. It will hide notifications so you won’t be “barraged” with them if you wake up in the middle of the night and just want to see what time it is. You can also granularly enable Do Not Disturb until you leave a location or for a certain amount of time.
Notification Updates & The Screen Time App You’ll be able to change the way notifications are delivered, or turn them off entirely, directly from the lock screen. You’ll also get suggestions to disable them for specific apps when you rarely interact with them.
Notifications will also be grouped together by what app sent them.
The Screen Time app will give you a weekly report of how you’re wasting your life on your devices. It’ll also let you set time limits for each app. You’ll get reminders about that limit when you’re about to reach it, or you can set limits for the apps your kids use by category or by picking each specific app.
Animoji & MeMoji Animoji are getting updated to let you stick out your tongue with your 3D avatar, they’re also getting four new characters. The ghost, koala, tiger, and t-rex. You can also make a character based on your own face, Apple calls that a “MeMoji.”
Kelsey Peterson demonstrated these effects on stage, and the selfie camera can now display the characters over your real face.
Facetime Facetime can now have up to 32 people on a group video chat. It can be launched directly from a group text message chat in Messages. The different camera effects, like Animoji, are also available on Facetime.
WatchOS 5 Apple’s Kevin Lynch talked about new improvements for fitness and communications.
WatchOS 5 is getting improvements to compete with your friends in exercise. The Workouts app is getting a Yoga workout type, hiking, running gets a rolling pace measurement, pace alerts, and cadence measurements. WatchOS 5 will also automatically detect when you’ve started some types of workouts, it’ll retroactively credit you with the workout if you tell the Apple Watch to start the workout late.
There’s a Walkie-Talkie app for WatchOS 5 that goes over cellular or wifi connections.
The Siri watch face is getting information about sports, map information, and your heart rate. Siri Shortcuts will be on that Watch Face, as well as third-party apps.
Raising your wrist will let you talk to Siri right away, you won’t need to use the “Hey Siri” hotword.
Notifications can also be more interactive, like on the phone. One example was getting a notification from Yelp about a dinner reservation
Apple’s WebKit embedded browser will be available for some web links on the Apple Watch.
The Podcasts app is going to work on the watch, it’ll sync full episodes from your phone.
Apple’s Julz demonstrated these new features while riding an exercise bike, which was pretty impressive.
Kevin Lynch returned to tell us about Student ID Cards coming to the watch, it’ll work with just 6 universities to start, but it includes Temple University in Philadelphia.
Lynch also introduced a new rainbow watch band and watch face for Pride month. The watch face is supposed to be available today.
Apple TV 4K Apple’s Jen Folse talked about how the Apple TV 4K from last year is getting Dolby Atmos in the next version of tvOS, she also talked about how movies will get free upgrades to support the new audio format.
Folse reiterated Apple’s support for live TV and sports.
Folse also said that various cable providers are letting their users replace their cable boxes with the Apple TV, and use a new “Zero Sign-On” instead of the single sign-on system from last year.
The Aerial screensaver on the Apple TV is going to tell you what you’re looking at, finally. It’ll also get a new view from the International Space Station of the Earth.
macOS Mojave Craig Federighi returned to talk about the new features in macOS Mojave.
As Apple leaked, the next version of macOS is getting a dark mode. Previously you could dim the menu bar dock in their settings, but this is a system-wide feature that is more complete.
Desktop Stacks is another new feature that organizes the crap that gets scattered all over your desktop into stacks of documents matched by type, or date, or by tags. It’ll automatically keep those stacks organized as new files are added to the desktop.
Finder gets a new Gallery View that appears to replace the Cover Flow view with thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and a quick look type of view at the top.
The Finder is also getting a detail side bar with shortcuts to different actions you might like to take on the file, Federighi specifically mentioned adding customized automator actions to the side bar for certain types of files like watermarking files with one that was put together earlier.
The quick look utility is enhanced to let you do more from it, Federighi demonstrated trimming a video without opening a separate editor and signing a PDF document.
Screenshots are enhanced to be similar to the iOS functionality but with more powerful functionality that you’d expect on a computer. You can also capture video directly from that utility now.
The Continuity Camera feature was demonstrated by Federighi to take a photo from his phone and pop it directly into a Keynote slide. It can also scan in documents from your phone directly into a Mac app.
A few iOS apps are hitting the Mac. Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home for using HomeKit devices.
Privacy Mojave will have better privacy enhancements to prevent other apps from getting access to your personal data unless you want them to do so.
Safari on Mojave and iOS 12 will prevent advertising publishers from tracking you based on sharing functions and comment fields. Mojave and iOS 12 will also hide more of your information from being fingerprinted by websites and advertising publishers.
Mac App Store The Mac App Store is finally getting updated, it hasn’t had many changes since 2011. Apple’s Ann Thai showed off a redesigned UI that takes a lot from their iOSApp Store. It looks much better.
Metal & Core ML on iOS and macOS Federighi returned to talk about Apple’s Metal graphics and computation API and external GPUs. He boasted about the speedups that Macs can get from up to four GPUs. It’s kind of crazy that the only GPUs that Apple supports for external GPUs are from AMD.
Apple’s machine learning API, Core ML, is getting updated with a 2nd version. It’s supposed to be 30% faster with a 75% reduction in the model size.
UIKit on the Mac As has been rumored, Apple is making it easier to bring iOS apps to macOS. No specific name was given for this technology, but Federighi says they’re using it internally with apps like Apple News and promises that it’ll be available for 3rd-party developers next year.
Release Dates for iOS 12 and macOS Mojave “This fall”
Overall I’m very happy that macOS is getting updated with a new Mac App Store, it’s been way too long and developers have been abandoning it for independent distribution systems. I like having apps bundled into one store, but it’s also good that Apple finally wants to compete with independent distribution.
It’s a little disappointing that the iPad Pro didn’t get updated with this event, but perhaps they’re moving the majority of hardware updates to the Fall event.
I’m very happy to see that Workflow is still getting updated, and it looks like it is even more useful after Apple has updated it under the Siri banner. I wish that it were on the Mac as an alternative to Automator.
Perhaps you’re like me, you’ve been using it for years and didn’t realize that it has left gigabytes of detritus on your local drive, I certainly didn’t until someone in the homebrew IRC channel mentioned the brew cleanup command, and now I have 21.3 gigs of disk back.
Apple announced a new iPad with a bunch of backslapping about how much they love education today at their event held at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. It’s an updated version of last year’s iPad Cheap with an A10 system-on-a-chip that also works with their stylus, the Pencil. The 2018 iPad Cheap is still missing a ton from the more expensive iPad Pro line, like more modern display technology with a variable framerate. The iPadMini still hasn’t been updated in almost 3 years despite Apple charging $400 for the iPad Mini 4 versus $330 for this new iPad Cheap.
As usual, I round numbers up to the nearest whole dollar because I don’t care for deceptive pricing.
Here’s an updated rundown of their iPad lineup:
2018 iPad Cheap at 9.7
non-laminated (thicker) display
Supports the ($100) Apple Pencil.
Old ass 1st generation Touch ID.
32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
iPad Mini 4 at 7.9
laminated (thinner) display
128GB ($400) wifi only
128GB ($530) with cellular
iPad Pro at 12.9
laminated (thinner) display
Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
ProMotion (variable frame rate)
64GB ($800) 256GB ($950) wifi only 512GB ($1150)
64GB ($930) 256GB ($1080) and 512GB ($1280) with cellular
iPad Pro at 10.5
laminated (thinner) display
Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
ProMotion (variable frame rate)
64GB ($650) 256GB ($800) 512GB ($1000) wifi only
64GB ($780) 256GB ($930) 512GB ($1130) with cellular
Apple also updated their free iWork office utilities today with new features like smart annotation. Additionally, they announced other software for educators, students, and developers who want to work with the new ClassKit API.
New hardware was announced from Logitech, including a cut-down $50 version of Apple’s Pencil, called the Crayon that lacks pressure sensitivity but has a better external design for normal human beings. It appears that this device will only be sold through educational sales channels.
One good thing that Apple announced is that students and teachers get 200GB of iCloud storage as long as the Apple ID they use is managed through their organization. Regular iCloud accounts have a tiny 5GB of storage for all their photos and other data. Apple typically charges $3 per month for 200GB of iCloud storage.
Apple’s extended warranty program with accidental damage insurance was dropped in price to $70 for this iPad Cheap as well as the Mini.
Overall, I don’t think that this new iPad Cheap is at all an approachable device for many educators who are still scrounging for basic materials like paper and pencils, while their students are dealing with hunger and homelessness. The $30 discount offered for schools who want to buy this new iPad Cheap is probably meaningful with large purchases, but it won’t mean anything for the poorest schools and students.
The education theme of the event is an extension of the ongoing co-option of public resources by private businesses. Just like NASA ceding their public work and research to private industries, using expensive closed platforms for public schools is not a good look. One Apple presenter even referenced JFK’s “We Choose to go to The Moon” speech.
Apple spend a large part of the presentation advocating for the iPad as a device for creation, but also for coding software. To treat the iPad as a replacement for the modern computer in creative endeavors, or a device for coding, is especially ridiculous when you realize that you can’t ship a game or app for Apple’s app store without using a Mac. iPads don’t have Xcode.
For anyone else who wants an iPad with support for Apple’s Pencil stylus, almost as much processing power as the current Pro models, but is OK giving up enhanced display technologies and half the RAM, the 2018 iPad Cheap is a fine choice and a decent upgrade to last year’s model. It’s available today and I would expect more updates to the iPad line later this year.
All of this means the HomePod sounds noticeably richer and fuller than almost every other speaker we’ve tested. You get a surprisingly impressive amount of bass out of it, but you can still hear all of the details in the midrange and the bass never overwhelms the music. And it’s immediately, obviously noticeable: set in a corner of my kitchen, the HomePod sounded so much better than everything else that our video director Phil Esposito went from thinking the whole thing was kind of dumb to actively pointing out that other speakers sounded bad in comparison.
Compared to the HomePod, the Sonos One sounds a little empty and the Google Home Max is a bass-heavy mess — even though Google also does real-time room tuning. The Echo and smaller Google Home aren’t even in the same league. The only comparable speaker that came close in my testing was the Sonos Play:5, which could match the detail and power of the HomePod in some rooms when tuned with Sonos’ TruePlay system. But it also costs more, is larger, and doesn’t have any smart features at all.
The Apple engineers I talked to were very proud of how the HomePod sounds, and for good reason: Apple’s audio engineering team did something really clever and new with the HomePod, and it really works. I’m not sure there’s anything out there that sounds better for the price, or even several times the price.
What most reviewers also say is that Siri isn’t as hot as the virtual assistant competition in “OK, Google” and Amazon’s Alexa.
Stumping Siri wasn’t as easy as it has been—it knew state capitals, kitchen measurements and the year “Friends” premiered. But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, “Who is the prime minister of England?” they both correctly named Theresa May. On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”
There are other problems I won’t shut up about: Many people will put a HomePod in the kitchen, yet it can’t set two simultaneous cooking timers. It can’t wake me up to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” either. Echo and Google Home can do both. Apple says it is improving Siri all the time.
Of course the “Who is the prime minister of England?” question no-longer stumps Siri, Apple read that review and fixed the glitch, but they’d do that for whatever trivia a reviewer points out. More fundamental issues like the one with multiple timers have been a thorn in the side of anyone who uses iOS’ built-in timer for the past decade, and every Homepod reviewer seems to have taken the time to (rightly) dig into Apple on it.
Siri on the HomePod also fails at understanding multiple users. This is a real issue because it won’t lock other people out of your messages and other personalized features. So, unless you live alone and never have guests, it would never make sense to turn on the personalized features option in the HomePod’s settings.
The other downside is that the device only works out of the box with Apple Music and other music in Apple’s ecosystem through iTunes Match or purchased in iTunes.
I wish that there were a cheaper HomePod Jr. that was cheaper than $350, and that Siri had worked better on the device today. It will get better over time, and I know that for many people that want a smart speaker they’re going to choose the Amazon or Google options, but I wouldn’t ever buy a box running Amazon or Google’s assistants for one reason: Trust.
Google is an advertising publisher, they are fantastic at search, but that’s how they make their money. So, their assistant-in-a-box is not something I would ever trust to keep in my home. I don’t even use their browser, Chrome.
Amazon is a weird business that wants to put something in your home so that you will buy things through it and it can learn more about you to sell you more things. Amazon is more focused on being user-friendly than Google, but the ultimate goal is still so that you’ll be used to ordering paper towels or whatever through their assistant. They also have abhorrent labor practices.
Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.
During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.
An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an “unsafe environment” after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor’s report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.
Apple, in theory, wants to sell you a good product that does a thing that you will hopefully find delightful. I believe that their engineers take privacy seriously, and genuinely try to treat their workers well even though the executives fuck up like clockwork, I haven’t seen anything as galling as what happens with Amazon and Google.
The Apple engineers, at least, try to do as much as possible with processing our data on our devices instead of shipping your data off to their server farms to analyze it. Siri does require shipping your voice data off, but I would bet $100 that some of Siri’s limitations are down to the security restrictions Apple has in-place to protect our privacy.
It’s wrong to personify any company, but this is the only company I would trust to have a microphone in my home all day. I also like Apple Music, I’ve been using it daily since 2015 and I still love it.
That’s why I’d be good with trusting the HomePod with what it offers today, and would recommend it to someone who wants to listen to music, podcasts, or other audio sent over Apple’s AirPlay to the dingus. I just have no idea where it would even fit into my life.
I use a cheap bluetooth speaker in the bathroom to listen to music and the news while I take a shower or give my kid a bath. I bring an even cheaper bluetooth speaker with us to the playground so that we can listen to music and baseball games. The HomePod can’t replace the bluetooth speaker in either of those scenarios.
When I want to listen to music in my house I can turn on the Apple TV box, TV, and audio/video receiver with one tap of the remote. The speakers inside the HomePod sound great, but they aren’t going to beat a real stereo set. The HomePod doesn’t have a physical line-in, so it can’t replace my AVR and speakers.
So, I don’t really know where the HomePod is supposed to fit in, for me and my family. It’s not a soundbar, it’s only a bluetooth speaker replacement when you don’t need portability, and obviously don’t need it to work with non-Apple devices since the HomePod only supports Apple’s AirPlay. Maybe if you live an extremely minimal life it’d fit in for you. What a strange device.