Apple Special Event October 2018 Notes

New ipad pros

Last month we had new iPhones, this time Apple has announced a new set of 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pros, a new Mac Mini, and a new Retina-blessed MacBook Air. This event was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in New York City.

Tim Cook started out the show by talking about what creative people do with the Mac. A montage played of various well-known folks starting at their Mac laptop screens, notably included were Lin Manuel-Miranda, Paul McCartney, Kermit the Frog, U2, teachers, photographers, and many other people.

The 2018 MacBook Air

Apple’s laptop situation isn’t great. Earlier this year they released new 2018 MacBook Pros that may have allieviated some of the issues with the reliability of 2016/2017 model keyboards. At the same time they also acknowledged the issue and offered extended repairs for three years for anyone who bought those devices.

Last week, the only laptop Apple sold with USB type-A ports was the MacBook Air. It was oddly placed in the product line, because it was actually heavier than some of the other laptop models and was their only device with a screen that wasn’t high-enough of a resolution to be deemed Retina.

Still, starting at $1000, the MacBook Air appeared to be something Apple wanted to keep around way past the due date. They’ve updated it over time with small updates, but Apple has never done a significant redesign of the Air’s body style since it shipped in 2009. This 2018 MacBook Air update is long overdue.

Cook introduced the new Air with this video before handing the device’s introduction off to Apple’s VP of Engineering, Laura Legros:

Finally, finally, the MacBook Air, 2018, has a Retina screen. It also has Touch ID authentication through a single dedicated spot on the keyboard (without the Pro’s Touch Bar,) two USB Type-C connectors with Thunderbolt 3, a new keyboard, Hey Siri hotword detection, and an entirely new body with much thinner bezels around the 13.3″ screen.

Legros said that this was the “greenest Mac Ever” with 100% recycled aluminum, and then introduced this video:

This Air is also more expensive, starting at $1,200 for the base model with 8GB of RAM, a paltry 128GB SSD, and a 1.6 GHz dual-core i5 that can boost to 3.6 Ghz.

If you want 16 gigs of RAM and a 512GB SSD you’re looking at an $1800 MacBook Air. There is even a 1.5TB SSD option that brings the price up to $2,600!

Yow. Legros called this “…the most affordable Retina Mac we’ve ever offered.”

My impression is that this is the laptop that Apple wants to compete with the new 2018 iPad Pro for the future of labor and entertainment.

The 2018 MacBook Air can be purchased online now, or it’ll be in stores on the 7th of November.

The 2017 Air is still for sale, if you want Type-A USB ports and a non-Retina screen at a lower $1000 price.

If I needed to replace my MacBook Pro and wasn’t onboard with the XCode-less iPad, I’d get this Air in a second.

The 2018 Mac Mini

Speaking of overdue updates, it has been four years since the Mac Mini was last updated.

Cook came back out to introduce the 2018 Mac Mini with this sci-fi trailer:

After the video Tom Boger, Apple’s head of Mac Marketing walked onstage to talk about this updated Mini.

Boger specified that the new Mini doesn’t use “mobile parts” but didn’t call the CPU a desktop processor. It’s a 3.6Ghz Quad-Core processor to start.

Spinning disk options are gone in favor of SSD’s, internally. The external design is extremely similar to the old Mac Mini except Apple in 2018 is attacking the the port situation differently. The 2018 Mac Mini has just two USB 3 type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0, four USB type-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, one ethernet port, and one”3.5 mm headphone” jack that looks particularly awkward to access between and just below the USB Type-A ports as reader basscomm points out.

Just like the Air, you can order a Mini today and they’ll be generally available on the 7th. They start at $800, the configuration I’d go with is the 3.2GHz i7 with 16 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. That configuration is $1700.

The most expensive configuration you could do is the same CPU with 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD, 10 Gigabyte ethernet instead of Gigabit, and that is $4,200!

Yow.

The cheapest iMac Pro is $800 more at $5000, but it starts with a much more reasonable 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. That is a machine that could last ten years or more.

This mini is also supposed to be made of 100% recycled aluminum.

Retail Updates

Angela Ahrendts spoke about retail Apple Stores, and specifically the Today at Apple series of classes for people to learn how to create with Apple devices. Ahrendts introduced new classes, and talked about the renewable energy resources that power the stores.

The 2018 iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″

Cook returned to talk about iPad sales, and showed this chart to demonstrate how Apple had sold more iPads in 2017 than “…the entire notebook lineup of all of the biggest notebook manufacturers.” Look at this chart, it has one notable exception missing from it:

More ipads than notebooks

Cook went on to boast that “…this makes iPad not only the most popular tablet, but the most popular computer in the world.”

Heavily rumored, and now proven to be correct, there is a new iPad Pro in two sizes: 11″ and 12.9″. They have no lightning ports, instead there is one USB Type-C port and a new “Smart Connector” that works with a new Apple keyboard case as well as a new Pencil stylus. Here’s the video that Cook used to introduce the new iPad:

The new iPad Pro tablets have a much smaller bezel, with Face ID that works in both landscape and portrait orientations. Just like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, the home button has been replaced with gestures. The new iPad Pro still has an LCD screen, but it also has curved edges like the iPhone XR. Apple’s John Ternus reintroduced this concept, again calling it Liquid Retina.

The 11″ iPad Pro has the same physical width and height as the old 10.5″ garbage iPad Pro that can now be safely disposed of in the nearest fire before you upgrade. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is a smaller package than the old 12.9″, because of the edge-to-edge-ish design of the new Pro’s. The new 12.9″ iPad Pro is also a full millimeter thinner than the older 12.9″ design.

Both new iPad Pros have a look on the sides that resembles my favorite iPhone design, the 4S’s solid edges. They also both have an A12X system-on-a-chip instead of the A10X that last year’s design had.

The AnnX chips are supposed to focus on graphics performance, Ternus compared the new iPad to the equivilent of a portable Xbox One S.

Dropping the lightning port for USB type-C allows the iPad Pro to connect to other USB devices and external displays. No support was expressed for USB peripherals like mice, keyboards, or external storage options. Instead, it was demonstrated almost solely as a camera connector and for charging your iPhone which still ships with a type-A cable that can’t plug into any of the current generation of Apple laptops.

The Pencil stylus is particularly interesting, it magnetically anchors to the side of the iPad Pro and it also has contact charging. The 2018 Pencil has a new action accessible by double-tapping its side. The new Apple Pencil stylus is $130.

I’m curious about the usability of Apple’s new folio keyboard for the iPad Pro. They specifically called out that it could switch between two angles. One for use at a desk, and one for use on your lap. That functionality is exactly what I’ve been looking at third-party keyboards for, replacing all laptop usage scenarios. The new iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folio is $180 for the 11″ iPad Pro, and $200 for the 12.9″. That is a lot. To compare, the Brydge keyboard that turns the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″ into a clamshell-style laptop while supportting way more angles of operation is $150.

Apple showed off a free-to-play game from Ubisoft called Assassin’s Creed Rebellion and said it was at 120 frames-per-second. Then they said that it was something that “no console could deliver.” That is sort of true in the sense that the game looks like Ubisoft’s take on Fallout Shelter and TV displays don’t really exist to take advantage of higher frame-rates from consoles as far as I know.

Greg Thomas from Take Two’s 2k Sports division talked about NBA 2k Mobile on the new iPad Pro while his underling demonstrated it. Thomas said it runs at 60 fps at the full retina resolution with no upscaling, it didn’t look that great to me.

Adobe’s VP of design Jamie Myrold and Chantelle (no last name or title given) demonstrated the new version of Photoshop, they repeatedly insisted that this was “the real Photoshop” on the new iPad. It isn’t available yet, but it was clearly frustrating to work with for an on-stage demonstration. Chantelle eventually swapped the same image she was working on to an augmented reality experience with depth between the layers in a separate program they’re calling “Project Arrow.” Both products are supposed to be available in 2019.

Phil Schiller narrated this other video introducing the new iPad Pro tablets:

If I were going to swap my laptop for an iPad I would get a Mac Mini to handle the desktop computing tasks that the iPad can’t.

The new iPad Pro’s are up for order today with general availability on the 7th.

 

Guess where all the recycled aluminum for the Macs comes from? The runoff from iPads and iPhones. As a Philadelphian I will now refer to these new Macs made with recycled aluminum as “Scrapple Macs.”

Overall

I’m disappointed that the Macs on display here have 128GB SSDs by default. I believe that many people will need more storage, and then they’ll have to use an external disk.

Apple’s folks talked up the capabilities of the new MacBook Air for expansion through devices like external GPU kits to bring actual graphics acceleration capabilities, those external enclosures are expensive as-heck and they oddly didn’t mention them for the Mini.

The iMac, MacBook, and Mac Pro are now the most out of date Macs according to the Mac Rumors Buyer’s Guide at 512 days since the last update for the iMac and MacBook, and a whopping 1777 days since the Mac Pro was updated in 2013.

The iPad Mini hasn’t really been updated since 2015! It was rumored to receive an update at this event, but didn’t end up getting one. That size is still interesting to me, although now I would be more likely to use a 12.9″ iPad Pro as a laptop replacement.

These custom ARM chips that Apple is developing really make me wish for a smaller Mac single-board-computer targeted towards the hobbyists that originally made the first Apple computers. I believe that Apple’s A-series would be perfect for these applications and would outclass the competition in build quality and ease-of-use, even though they would certainly not be cheaper.

I have felt the urge to switch to an iPad for all of my photography and writing needs for some time, I sold my iPad Mini earlier this year and regretted that decision because there hasn’t been a good device to replace it with. All of these devices are great, but they are also far out of reach of everyone. I hope that more of the new iPad Pro features make their way to a new iPad Cheap next year.

An iPad Cheap for 2018

Apple announced an updated iPad Cheap today.

IPad 9 7 inch Pencil Slider 32718

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 iPad Mini 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
    • A10 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 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
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 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)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector
    • 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)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($800) 512GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($930) 512GB ($1130) with cellular

Since I last revisited the table of confusing iPad decisions, Apple bumped up the price of some storage tiers.

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.

The Best iPad

Before this year’s WWDC, and especially before the iPad Cheap was revealed, Apple’s lineup of iPads was super confusing. Which was the “best” depending very much on which iPad features you valued more than others, but it wasn’t clear at all if you went down the lineup.

New readers may notice that I round the prices of each iPad up because they are deceptively priced a dollar lower than the actual pre-tax cost. Apple is nice enough to not do the penny-lower scam ($1.99) that almost everyone else does with their pricing, It would be good if Apple would also drop this bullshit that a $399 object is closer to $300 than $400, so I’ve gone ahead and fixed that for you.

Here were your options if you were trying to pick out an iPad in January:

  • iPad Air 2 at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128 GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 2 at 7.9″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A8 processor
    • 1GB RAM
    • 32GB ($270)  wifi only
    • 32GB ($400) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 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)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

There were other differences between the 9.7″ and 12.9 inch iPads that made the 12.9″ seem outdated as well. It was that true tone and wide color gamut that made the 9.7″ preferable in many respects to the 12.9. Except the 12.9″ also had twice as much memory as the 9.7″. Then, in March, Apple introduced the new iPad Cheap and eliminated the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, and a few memory configurations, from the lineup. This made the situation a little less confusing for the non-Pro models but was the first to do away with the notion that a bigger screen is more expensive.

Here’s the iPad lineup on March 31st:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • 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)
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

Anyone that bought a 12.9″ iPad Pro would have ended up with something missing features unless they waited until June for WWDC 2017 when the 9.7″ iPad Pro was discontinued in favor of an upgraded 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 12.9″ finally got display technology feature parity.

Here’s the roster of iPads today, post-WWDC:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 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)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($800) 256GB ($900) wifi only 512GB ($1100)
    • 64GB ($930) 256GB ($1030) and 512GB ($1230) 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)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($750) 512GB ($950) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($880) 512GB ($1080) with cellular

All of the 32GB options were dismissed in the Pro line. Apple added 64GB and 512GB options to replace 32GB and 128GB, respectively. Prices were raised for the 10.5″ memory storage tiers versus the old 9.7″ iPad Pro. The final Pro storage tier jump goes from $100 to $200.

The 9.7″ iPad Pro also had half the RAM of the 10.5″ and 12.9″ models. The 12.9″ also had USB 3.0 transfer speeds over the lightning connector if you had the right adapter. The 10.5″ finally got that feature as well as the fast charging option from the 29 watt power adapter that is designed for USB-C MacBook laptops.

Both Pro’s also got upgraded A10X processors and that new ProMotion display technology that should be familiar to any gamer as Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s Freesync variable framerate technologies to reduce tearing in games. Tearing is when you’re playing a game with fast motion and you see the image split with a horizontal line for a very brief period of time because the computer couldn’t render the game fast enough. In Apple’s case these variable framerates now mean that movies look better in motion, animations throughout the operating system and apps are smoother and clearer, and drawing with Apple’s Pencil stylus can now get the display up to 120Hz, which should be super responsive. Apple is typically not very interested in appealing to game players or developers, and it still isn’t clear to me yet if there is any benefit to games with Apple’s ProMotion variable framerate solution.

If a regular person had been trying to figure out which iPad to purchase, and was trying to follow along with the news, they might have been extremely confused until after WWDC.

At this point it should be clear that the Pro line is “the best” in terms of computing power and display technology, and if you’re interested in replacing a laptop then you know to get a Pro.

One final issue that might put someone over the edge to the Pro is that both models have four speakers instead of the two on the iPad Cheap and Mini. Otherwise, it’s not as confusing anymore to pick a model of iPad out unless you’re interested in the iPad Cheap or the Mini 4. The Mini hasn’t been updated with new technology since 2015.

The good news, for almost every iPad that can run it, is that iOS 11 is going to be a huge update with big multitasking features for anyone trying to get work done.

I’m increasingly curious about how those new features will translate to my old 2nd generation iPad Mini, I suspect the answer will be almost not at all since it didn’t receive many of the split-view features that newer iPads have.

The New iPad Cheap

Photo via Apple

If you want to buy an iPad today, which is the best one to get?

If you want to replace a laptop, there’s the 12.9″ iPad Pro, that’s the one that hasn’t been updated since 2015. It has really outdated cameras front and back. The 12.9″ also has the largest screen, but it is missing features like true tone and the wide color gamut from the 9.7″ iPad Pro.

If you want to go small, there’s the 4th generation iPad Mini. Like it’s giant brother, the Mini hasn’t been updated in two years and has an A8 chip in it. I’ve got the 2nd generation Mini with an A7, so I don’t feel like that A8 would be an upgrade. At least it’s extremely portable, perfect for reading a virtual book or getting a little bit more work done than on an iPhone.

Maybe you’re looking for something sized in-between 12.9″ Pro and the 7.9″ Mini. Well that choice just got more confusing, too. Apple introduced a new 9.7″ iPad today.

Neither an Air nor a Pro, this model is slightly thicker than the last Air model (that it replaces) and the 9.7″ Pro (that isn’t going away). It will also have a brand-new outdated processor when it ships with an A9 system-on-a-chip next week. That’s two-bumps older than the iPhone 7‘s processor, and one step better than the iPad Air 2. The iPad Pro’s both have A9x chips which are a step up.

The new iPad display is going to be a bit worse off than the iPad Pros and the iPad Air 2, as well. Still missing true tone and other features, it is at least a little bit brighter than the old Air 2.

What else? The Pro models are still the only ones with the smart connector for accessories like keyboards (so they don’t need to do a bluetooth pairing dance) and support for Apple’s stylus, the Pencil.

So what on earth could justify this half-step model of iPad?

The price.

The new iPad minus Air and minus Pro is now $329 for the 32GB 9.7 inch base-model. That’s $70 less than yesterday’s base model of iPad Air 2.

To get 128GB on the new iPad you have to go up to $429. Yesterday’s 128GB iPad Air 2 was $499.

It gets more expensive if you’re interested in cellular data connectivity. On the new iPad, it’s $459 for cellular data and 32GB of storage, or $559 for a 128GB cellular iPad.

The 4th generation Pad Mini was also updated today with more storage (128GB vs 32GB) for the same $399 price it had yesterday. Yesterday you could get a 32GB gen 2 Mini (the first one with a retina screen) for $269. That option is gone.

One thing this price shuffling does is open up Apple to possibly update the iPad Mini later this year or next and charge more for a truly updated version of it than the new 9.7 iPad. It used to be that the price scaled down with the size of the device, this feels like Apple is telling us that was a mistake and is changing to meet the demand people have for smaller iPads.

This is the most confusing time to buy an iPad unless you are reasonably price sensitive, in which case it is now the best time to buy an iPad.

Pre-orders go up on Friday with general availability next week.

Goodbye iPad Air, hello iPad Cheap.

It’s an SE, As You May Have Heard

These were the hidden images of the Macintosh SE dev team hidden on the ROM

Here’s what happened in the final 1 infinite loop Apple Town Hall today, before everything moves to the new UFO campus next year:

Ufocampus

Apple opened with a short video about the 40th birthday of the company coming up on the 1st. Tim Cook Briefly spoke about the FBI’s misguided attempt at defeating personal security for everyone who uses an iPhone everywhere. Then moved on to former US EPA chief, now Apple enviro director, Lisa Jackson.

After discussing efforts to power stores and server farms with solar and wind farms, Jackson moved on to Apple’s upcycled recycling initiatives. Electronics recycling is great when people are actually motivated to do it. The new program is called Apple Renew and they’ll even help you ship your old devices in for free. Here’s where you can find it online. I love these exploded views:

Recycling

The FBI’s recycling initiative always seems to take a little bit longer while they lock themselves out of your phone for some reason that even they don’t quite seem to understand.

Jeff Williams spoke about Apple’s health initiatives which are fortunately missing  exploded views. Last year they released ResearchKit for people to participate in research studies. This year’s CareKit is a new tool for sharing information about your personal health issues with your doctor and your family through apps created with CareKit.

Nylon watch bands

Tim Cook came back to drop The Apple Watch starting price to $300 from $350. Some stores have been dancing around that price on sale for the past few months on and off. The Watch also got new a few new bands, the nylon ones look pretty cool but they’re almost not NATO-y enough. It also receives WatchOS 2.2 today, which is mainly about internationalization improvements and an update to Apple’s Maps on the device for finding nearby things like restaurants. Here’s what it looks like:

Nearby

Moving on to tvOS 9.2 software update available for the 4th generation Apple TV today. Split-screen NCAA march madness basketball so you can finally watch four teams at once get the least amount of education their basketball institutions can provide under bullshit NCAA rules. You can now enter usernames and passwords for logging into services with Siri dictation and (finally) bluetooth keyboards which had been supported in previous Apple TV generations. I like mine, just wish it were easier to side-load emulators without having to hook it up to Xcode on my laptop. 

Iphonese

Greg Jozwiak introduced the iPhone SE. Apple made four inches great again as was widely rumored with this exact name. I believe this is the first SE Apple product since the Macintosh SE when SE stood for System Expansion. This time the iPhone SE is not getting 3D touch and there is no announced initialism or other meaning behind the name. 3D Touch is the biggest feature of the 6s and 6s Plus missing in the iPhone SE. It still retains more of the squared-circle shape of the 4 and 5 series iPhones it is replacing, and that is honestly a design I preferred in my hand. It’ll be $400 for 16GB. Which is a capacity that very much still needs to go away. $500 for 64GB. Pre-orders are up on the 24th, it ships on the 31st.

After announcing the new 4 inch phone, Jozwiak moved on to reiterating new features of iOS 9.3 which is also out today but were announced in January. Night Shift is f.lux for iOS and is the most important new feature in there. I’ve been waiting for that so I don’t do as much damage to my eyes at night. Great update, wish they had credited or bought out the f.lux people who really popularized the notion.

The truetone display of the new 10 inch iPad Pro

Phil Schiller came up to introduce the new 10 inch iPad Pro that replaces the iPad Air for anyone interested in that size of device. Huge screen improvements compared to the Air, and it even has sensors to adjust the display so that the color balance and brightness of the display’s white balance adjusts based on the lighting of the environment you’re currently in. It’ll also have the speakers, pencil and keyboard add-ons, and other improvements that already work with the iPad Pro. Though the 13 inch Pro lacks some of the updates seen in the new 10 inch Pro, the 13 inch version still sounds preferable to me. The camera gets a big upgrade to iPhone quality , recognizing that many people are goofily taking pictures with huge tablets so why not.

Schiller calls the new 10 inch iPad Pro a PC replacement, I’m still waiting for Xcode for iPad to cede that. $600 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, $899 for the new 256GB tier on Wifi. Pre-orders go up on the 24th and it ships on the 31st. The 13 inch iPad gets the new 256GB model at the new high end wifi-only price of $1,100.

iOS 9 Out; Go Block Ads

iOS 9 is out today for your iPhones and iPads. It is fine, I’ve been running the public betas for a long time now, you could read Federico Viticci’s 23 page review for a second opinion. My favorite feature is that you can now block advertisements and tracking sites (they know what you do and decide to advertise socks to you if you visit a shopping site that sells socks, or just sell your browsing data) using any of a huge list of content blocker apps. I will be using Marco Arment’s Peace, which seems to have the best options and defaults. Unfortunately this will only work in Safari and the mini-browser you see within apps. It won’t work inside Facebook or other apps that have advertising within them, for example.

“Would you buy the new Apple devices?”

This is the other question I get asked after new products are announced at an Apple event. Here’s the answer.

iPhone 6s/6s Plus tl;dr Yes.
The new upgrades are actually more significant than usual for an “s” release. 3D Touch, twice the RAM, Live Photos, and more.   

3D Touch is extremely compelling to anyone who wants fast access to functions of their iPhone directly from the home screen or in apps. It’s a convenient set of shortcuts not too dissimilar to hotkey shortcuts on desktops.

Right now it is difficult to say without going hands-on if 3D touch is implemented well, it’s possible (but unlikely) that we’ll constantly be accidentally triggering these new gestures if the implementation is poor. However, everything I’ve heard so far indicates that the “peek” and “pop” gestures, light and harder presses that are different from the taps we do today, and their associated haptic feedback that inform your fingers when they have succeeded in their task, are all working great.

I hope we eventually get improvements to the software keyboard that include haptics through this 3D Touch feature, even the low-quality vibration some Android devices do on tapping a keyboard key is a useful form of haptic feedback and has been missing from the iPhone. One keyboard improvement we did get the ability to switch it into a touchpad mode to move the text cursor a bit easier than before.

There are improvements to the GPU and CPU. The graph is very impressive. But these upgrades have been a non-issue since the 5s. Games and apps are of course going to run great and load slightly quicker. It is crazy that we are at the point where performance improvements are mundane in mobile devices, but here we are and performance has been fine for years.

Even though there is a slightly smaller battery in the 6s, and both of the new iPhones are very slightly thicker than their predecessors due to (rumored) enhanced sturdiness in the case design, battery life will be consistent with the previous generation due to improvements in power consumption in iOS and the system on a chip.

RAM gets a big bump from 1GB to 2GB. Apple doesn’t like to talk about RAM, it is another boring spec that is almost irrelevant to most people buying these devices. 2GB is a huge increase.

Currently when you switch between apps on iOS it is fairly likely that you will come back to one to find that your place in a web browser is lost or an app just has to relaunch itself because it was killed by a timer or because of low memory conditions. More RAM means that will happen less often and although 2GB seems paltry compared to what is in our desktops and laptops it is quite a lot for today’s mobile devices.

The M7 and M8 coproessors on previous iPhones gave these devices the ability to track the number of steps taken in a day and other sensor data with minimal impact on the device while it is otherwise occupied or asleep. An upgrade to the M9 coprocessor enables it to have an (optional) always-on “Hey Siri” functionality for accepting voice commands. Previously this was only available while the iPhone was plugged-in to charge. With iOS 9 the new iPhones will also be able to train on your specific voice for the “Hey Siri” command.

Photography is one of the most important functions of a smartphone today with the rise of Instagram and the truism that the best camera is the one you have with you, your phone needs to have a good quality camera sensor behind lenses. It seems like most people don’t consider the quality Smartphone camera quality and functionality is constantly undervalued . People seem to value cheapness over quality or do not even consider the camera as a feature to be evaluated when picking out a phone.

The megapickle improvements to the camera are surprising and good if it was truly done without sacrificing picture quality. I know that seems like an impossibility. How could the specification of the jump from 8-12 megapickles lower image quality? Easy. Look at any cheap point and shoot camera. They’ve been increasing the megapickles without increasing the physical size of the actual tiny little sensor in the camera and the photos that come out of them are awful. The smaller the sensor the less surface area there is to catch light. The less light the lower the image quality. The higher megapickles must be accompanied by a larger sensor. This is why the iPhone camera has been 8 megapickles for so long. It is really very difficult to stuff a good camera sensor into a compact form factor like a smartphone without either compromising on the quality of the sensor or on the design of the device by stuffing a giant bulging lump of lens and sensor on the back of the device and even then it still won’t guarantee pictures of a higher quality. Apple barely gets away with the tiny extra bulge on the back of the 6 and 6s and that did not go away with this revision.

The front-facing camera also gets a huge bump from 1.1 megapickles to 5 megapickles. Selfies are going to look much better with that and the live photo feature that (optionally) records a few seconds of video and audio around every photo looks compelling but is difficult to judge without seeing how people use it in person. With TimeDoctor Junior on the way I’m very interested in this feature as an intermediary step between regular photos and going through the trouble of recording and editing a full video. However, there are also privacy implications that people may not understand at first with Live Photos. What happens when you take out the camera, pan away from something embarrassing or private that you don’t want recorded and take a photo? You might accidentally share more than you thought.

I still want to see test photos from the new iPhones taken by people who don’t have perfect lighting conditions (all Apple photos demonstrated at the event on Wednesday were, of course, hand picked photos taken in optimal conditions.) But it is still true that no other smartphone manufacturer is as focused on camera quality as Apple, and that also shows in the other spec bump to 4K video. Good luck recording any of that on a 16GB device. Even with improvements to the OS which in iOS 9 requires less storage at upgrade time, app thinning to make download sizes smaller, and TK app content segregation that 16GB capacity option still needs to go away. It is insulting to Apple’s customers and an embarrassment to Apple that has stuck around like a nail sticking out of playground equipment waiting for anyone who doesn’t know better to come along and step on it.

There is no new 4 inch device this year, the 5c is gone from the lineup, the 6 and 6s are 4.7 inches, and the 6s Plus is still a whopping 5.5 inches. Optical image stabilization remains an exclusive to the 6s Plus and 6 Plus. People want bigger devices, I wrote the majority of this article on a 6+, and it will be interesting to see how long the 5s sticks around in the smaller and free-on-contract slot but I know that some people will miss small phones.

Touch ID is supposed to be improved and faster on the new iPhones, it’s a great feature for security that I miss when I go back to the iPad Mini 2 and I don’t know how it can get any better than it already is.

The wireless radios are improved in the 6s and 6s Plus, supposedly this means that we’ll get better signal indoors using LTE Advanced, a new upgrade to our regular LTE service. My understanding is that T-Mobile will be the only carrier to support this standard at the launch of the new iPhones.

Overall, these are great upgrades and I would gladly recommend either of them to anyone who is still on a 5s or older device. Although the upgrades are very significant for an s-year upgrade I’ve got the 6 and will be staying put until at least the iPhone 7 unless this site starts getting Daring Fireball levels of traffic and success overnight. Anyone who is still using subsidy phone discounts is getting screwed by their carrier and should very much consider paying for the device outright if possible or going to one of the new installment plans offered via Apple (which include Applecare+) or their carrier (which don’t, but are cheaper.) Just don’t buy the 16GB model, there is no excusing why it stuck around again this year.

The new iPads tl;dr Maybe
The iPad Air 2 did not get a sequel. Apple might phase out the Air’s 10 inch form factor in favor of the iPad Mini for regular users, which did receive an update to get the iPad Air 2 guts. The iPad Pro is extremely compelling for people who want to make things, but might be lacking pro-level apps at launch.

This will eventually leave just the mini’s small form factor for reading, watching TV, games and taking notes. The iPad Pro will be the device for anyone who wants to attach a keyboard for writing, or drawing and other kinds of document markup with the new stylus, or reading large format files like comics newspaper, magazines, and reference books that benefit from the enormous screen. More custom pro-level apps will become available for this iPad, but as a first-generation device there isn’t much available for it yet.

In the past I have toyed with the iPad as a device for editing and managing photos but it hasn’t handled RAW files well and the limited capacity for photo storage has also been an issue. iCloud photo sharing is fine for JPEGs but I’m doing all of my real work in Lightroom still. Professional photographers won’t be doing much with this besides maybe showing off their portfolio of finished JPEGs.

There was an accidental leak from Adobe on their website that indicated this new iPad Pro is getting an upgrade to 4 GB of RAM, this is a huge increase. That RAM is essential in order for the iPad Pro to be the multitasking powerhouse with big creative apps.

It’s interesting that 3D Touch did not come to the iPad Pro. I don’t know why this pro device was held back from the 3D Touch features when they would be so useful for iPad Pro. Similarly, the stylus could be just as useful on the Mini or Air. I would expect that functionality to eventually trickle-down to those devices like when Touch ID came up to the iPad from the iPhone.

The new Apple Pencil stylus and Smart Keyboard keyboard cover look great for writers and artists but I don’t think that it makes sense to buy the first generation of this iPad Pro if you’re not a writer who hates laptops or an artist who is using the iPad and Apple Pencil as a secondary device with something like Astropad to turn the iPad into a Mac version of the Cintiq. There just aren’t that many compelling use-cases for regular people with this device yet. I’m glad Apple is making it, I believe that iOS will be the future of computing as it continues to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop with devices like this, but this device really isn’t for many people yet. I would personally get the iPad Pro if I had the opportunity, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else today. Even developers are left out as you can’t code on the iPad Pro in Xcode. However, The iPad Mini 4 is a great choice for anyone who wants to upgrade from a previous generation or get their first iPad.

The New Apple TV tl;dr Yes
Apps are the future of streaming television, and although I’ve been happy with the current line-up of Apple TV channels they aren’t really apps and there is no app store for them to be distributed. It’s been years since we saw a real update to the Apple TV and tvOS with an app store, universal search, and a new remote is just is just what the doctor called for.

Even if Apple didn’t work with anyone else to add support for it, the new search that lets you check if a program is available through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, and other services with one search instead of several is already great today.

About the only thing that doesn’t make sense with the new Apple TVs are why we need different capacities for a device that streams video from the internet instead of downloading and supposedly won’t let apps store more than 200MB of data at a time.

Although it will require developers to work on a new control scheme to support the Siri Remote’s swipe-able case, many already do that for other platforms and third-party controllers. Being able to talk to your TV is going to be cool if it works well, and even if it doesn’t we’ll still have a better device with more control over it through this remote compared to the traditional four-way directional pad and select button device that spends most of its time lost between my couch cushions.

Games will be fun on the New Apple TV, developers will work around the storage limitations, and I believe this will be a fantastic device after all is said and done. I wouldn’t hesitate it to recommend to anyone who is thinking about getting rid of cable television or is already getting their television a-la-carte through services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. I just wish I could run older emulators on it without having to jailbreak it.

Apple Watch tl;dr No

The only change to the Apple Watch at this event were new colors and bands. Wait for next year.

“What Happened in the Apple Event Today?”

Get Psyched

That’s a question I get asked, here’s the answer:

  • Apple Watch OS 2 got a release date, September 16th. That’s the one with the native apps instead of the apps running on the iPhone and displaying on the Apple Watch.
  • There are two new colors of Apple Watch, gold and rose gold.
  • The big iPad is real, it’s called iPad Pro, 12.9 inch screen, 2732×2048 resolution. 5.6 million pickles. New system-on-a-chip, A9X. 10 hours of battery life and Apple usually underestimates that figure. I can’t wait to draw and read comics on this thing. Better sound quality with four speakers, more volume. Weighs a little more than the original iPad despite being several inches larger across the screen. Silver, Gold, Space Grey. Price starts at $800. 32GB base model, thank goodness. Ships in November. $950 for the 128GB model. $1080 for 128GB with a cellular data radio built-in.
  • Keyboard cover for iPad Pro, looks a lot like the Surface’s. New connector for it, three pins on the side of the iPad Pro. $170. Ships in November. No mouse/trackpad input.
  • Apple Pencil, it’s the stylus. I really can’t wait to draw with this. Funny, I already have a stylus called the Pencil. Using the new stylus causes the iPad to go into some kind of faster-update mode. It has a lightning connector so that you can charge it in the iPad Pro. You can annotate documents directly in Mail with this. They even have a Microsoft employee on stage telling us how well it works in their Office programs. An Adobe employee came up to tell us how well it’ll work in their Photoshop programs. People are going to quote Jobs on the stylus, this won’t be the first time Apple has walked back a prior statement because they’ve finally figured out how to do a feature justice. $100. Ships in November.
  • iPad Mini 4, $399. iPad Air 2 guts. No new hardware to replace the iPad Air 2.
  • New Apple TV. Uses Siri for interaction as well as a new swipeable Siri remote. System-wide search across iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime and more apps supporting it later on. Mark Gurman is right again. New screensavers with high-definition video of famous places, they actually look pretty great. Another detail that most of the bargain-basement TV sticks and boxes would ignore. Really smart search keywording with Siri, “What did she say?” skips back 15 seconds.
    “Show me that episode of Modern Family with Edward Norton.” does what you would expect.
    “Who stars in this?” displays the actors with icons.
    Other queries you’d expect like ones about weather with custom views that you can swipe up on the new remote and will pause whatever video is playing behind them.
  • New OS for the Apple TV, tvOS. Looks like this was really meant to be announced at WWDC earlier this year.
  • Games are coming to the Apple TV. Console games like Disney Infinity in addition to your mobile games like Crossy Road. Which now has multiplayer, other players use the iPhone or iPad. Harmonix folks come up to tell us about Beat Sports, a game for the Apple TV which has motion (wiimote-style) controls. Four players in this as well with other iOS devices. Third-party controllers will work, too.
  • Capitalism in its most traditional form of exchanging money for physical goods, Gilt is on the Apple TV so that you can shop at home. Where’s the knife show app?
  • MLB At Bat app has 60hz/FPS video, which they couldn’t do before, and the Mets are still the most terrible team in America next to the dispicable Yankees.
  • Apps are universal, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV. A8 system-on-a-chip. Siri remote is bluetooth. Controls your TV’s volume. Switches inputs via HDMI CEC. Lighting port on the remote for charging. 32GB Apple TV for $150. 64GB for $200. Death to 16GB! tvOS is available to developers today.
  • The old 1080p 3rd gen Apple TV is sticking around at $70.
  • New iPhone. 6s and 6s+. Rose gold option added to silver and space gray. A9 system-on-a-chip. New cases and docks available from Apple.
  • 3D Touch on the new iPhones is similar to Force Touch on the watch. Works on the home screen to show you shortcuts. Does all kinds of other cool things like letting you peek into an app to see some information with a gentle touch, or onto a link in a chat to look at a map without going to the maps app. Where’s my wireless 3D Touchpad for the Mac?
  • OS X El Capitan ships September 20th. This was hidden in a super-secret e-mail displayed on the big screen during the event.
  • You can go into the multi-tasking switcher from the side of the iPhone screen with 3D Touch instead of hitting the home button twice in quick succession.
  • Warhammer 40k: Warblade demo shows the improvements with the new A9 and 3D Touch. Framerate looks good.
  • Camera improvements in the 6s and 6s+. 12 megapickles on the back camera. 4k video recording. Panoramas are 63 megapickles. The front-facing Facetime camera is 5 megapickles and now uses the front-facing screen as a flash. That’s a pretty cool re-use of the stuff that was already there.
  • Live Photos. A 3D touch long-press changes your photos into short 1 or 2 second vine-style videos that capture just before and after your press. It’s the default now, but still toggle-able.
  • Up to 866 Mbps Wi-Fi in addition to LTE Advanced and other networking improvements.
  • New Android app helps you switch to the iPhone.
  • iPhone prices are the same. 5s is the new free phone on contract. 6 is $100 on contract. 16GB is sticking around on the iPhone 6s and 6s+ for a bit longer, boo.
  • New iPhone Upgrade program at Apple stores, unlocked phone, starts at $32/month for people who want to get away from subsidies.
  • iCloud storage prices are way, way, down and actually competitive with other storage services. 50GB for $1/month, 200GB for $3/month, 1TB for $10/month.
  • iOS 9 comes out on the 16th of September. New iPhones come out on September 25th. Pre-order goes up this saturday on the 12th.

Game Dev Story Review

Game Dev Story is a business simulation about choices.

What genre, what platform, and what theme do you want for your game?

Is the game cute and simple or realistic and innovative?

Do you want to use an in-house art, story, and audio folks or outsource assets and writing?

There are quite a few choices and you’ve got the freedom to make larger decisions about advertising campaigns and which development path to focus on.

Nothing is free, you’ve got to pay platform holders for devkits, employees their salaries, and fees for everything and everyone in the studio. Game developers won’t choose to grow on their own, you’ve got to prod them forward with research data gathered during development. Once they’re more talented their salary has to rise too. Though at least the game doesn’t simulate headhunters to recruit your developers out from under you. Continue reading “Game Dev Story Review”

How the App Store was won

[Various points of data showing how iPhone OS app, iTeleport generates a ton of revenue despite being priced at $25 snipped…]

We also hope this demonstrates that you can build a business on the App Store.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that you’ll automatically make more money if you raise your price, or that every app should be priced at $25.  It’s just another perspective, albeit one that we haven’t heard in all the discussions of the iPhone developer ecosystem.  This may be because we’re the only ones, but we don’t believe that’s the case.  And we’d like to encourage others to add their voices to the chorus, in the hope that we can change the perception of the App Store.

via Quality over Quantity: How We Built iTeleport into a Profitable Business on the App Store – The iTeleport Blog.