Apple iPhone & Watch Event Follow-up

After the recent Apple event ended I wanted to follow-up on a few points about the new iPhones as well as the cellular stuff for the Watch.

First of all, there’s the size comparison between the X and the 8 Plus.

It’s clear after watching this Apple developer video about making apps for the X that the X’s screen really isn’t as wide as the 8 Plus. This makes the X more of a taller 4.7-inch non-Plussed iPhone. You can see the width in this screenshot of that video below and the height in the one above:

This means that the X won’t get the same layout for display as apps on the Plus phones. These measurements are in points, abbreviated as pt, because they’re a more reliable indicator when developing for high DPI (Retina) screens and devices like the iPhone. The baked-in rounded corners of the display, the area at the bottom of the screen for the on-screen home-swipe indicator, and the status bar accommodations, are all going to trim the total pixels of the display available to apps.

Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee has a great hands-on video demonstrating the X in motion. I strongly recommend watching it to anyone considering that device over the 8 or 8 Plus:

The notch for the front-facing camera and other sensors, and the “ears” on the right and left side of the iPhone X, are going to take some getting used to. I suspect that Apple can’t wait to get rid of it as soon as possible. In the video you can see MKBHD watching a movie trailer or clip and it’s shocking to see the X displaying in “full” mode with the movie partially occluded by the notch.

The naming of these devices is also bonkers this year. By calling one device the X, and pronouncing that as 10, this is going to be confusing as hell for people who want to compare it to the 8.  They should have called one of these phones something else in order to distinguish the X line of devices as high-end if they’re set on continuing this practice into the future.

I wonder what this means for the future of the iPhone. Is Apple going to have three phones announced in September 2018? Maybe they’ll update the SE in the first half of the year as well. I would expect them to bring this edge-to-edge screen to all of their handheld devices eventually, but that might take a while. I’ll look forward to an iPhone Plus device with that screen, or one with even less bezel, hopefully next year.

The supposition I’ve heard from other writers about the higher cost of the iPhone X is that it gives Apple the ability to make a smaller batch of devices with different parts that they might not be able to source at the scale they need for a typical iPhone launch. If that’s true, well, I don’t give a shit about Apple’s supply issues, neither will anyone else so it’s good that Apple didn’t make a big deal out of that during the event and simply presented the X as a futuristic device available today.

The one distinguishing physical feature of the iPhone 8 versus the 7 is the glass back. I haven’t seen the back of my iPhone since the last time I changed the case. I don’t think most people use their phones without a case unless they don’t mind replacing them often.

With the Series 3 Watch there’s that cellular plan to think about. If you get a Series 3 Watch with LTE you don’t have to activate a plan at all. It’s optional. If you do, It turns out that it’ll be ten bucks a month to bring it online and tie it to your iPhone’s cellular plan according to iMore who also have more details rounded up. Although they’re missing Sprint’s information that attaching the Watch to their network will cost the same $10. The Watch also won’t roam onto other networks even if your iPhone can.

The more expensive Series 3 with cellular also has twice as much internal storage, iMore guesses that this is due to the Apple Music support. It’s also gonna have worse battery life if you want to use it to replace your iPhone and remain on LTE all day. And since you have to have an iPhone on your carrier’s plan to use the Watch on a cellular network it can’t be a real replacement for an iPhone today.

Apple Special Event September 2017 Notes

Apple held their first iPhone event at their new Steve Jobs Theater on their UFO campus in California today. The event opened with Tim Cook memorializing Jobs. Then he discussed disaster relief projects and encouraged donations. Finally Cook talked about Apple’s new campus. No mentions of offices for the engineers, who have complained that the new campus is almost entirely an open space.

Angela Ahrendts talked about their stores before Cook came back out to start announcing devices and software.

Here’s what they announced.

WatchOS 4
Tim Cook talked about their success then played a video featuring letters from users about how the watch has helped them. Here’s that video:

Jeff Williams reiterated WatchOS 4 updates with better coaching, a redesigned workout app, features for swimmers, and integration with gym equipment. The new OS also gets a new heart rate app and a heart rate complication for the watch faces. The watch will now alert you to an unusually high heart rate when it thinks you’re not active. It’ll also monitor for arrhythmias in a study with Stanford Medicine and the FDA later this year.

WatchOS 4 will be out on September 19th.

Apple Watch Series 3
Here’s their ad for the new Series 3 watch:

It’s a cellular device that takes calls with your regular iPhone’s phone number. Of course it’ll also have data capabilities and will stream music from Apple Music.

There’s a new faster processor and Siri finally speaks on the watch if you want to hear them instead of reading a response. The device also has a barometric altimeter built-in.

The Series 3 Apple Watch retains the form factor of the previous watches. Cellular models of the Series 3 have a red dot on the crown so that you can feel special.

Williams made a very awful joke during this presentation about a potential device with all of this functionality looking like a house arrest bracelet. Not funny.

Obviously Apple is very focused on this being an activity monitoring device. I’m not very active but I still appreciate mine as a device for triaging notifications.

Series 2 watches are getting dropped. The Series 1 will remain in the lineup at $250. The base series 3 watch will be $330 and the Series 3 with cellular capabilities will be $400.

No word on the cost for the cellular plan to go with it, but Williams said they have a special deal worked out with some carriers.

The new Series 3 watches will be available to pre-order on September 15th, they’ll be generally available on September 22nd.

I don’t see much reason to upgrade from my Series 0, but I’m glad they’re continuing to work on improvements.

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV is one of the most expensive devices you can buy to put under your TV, and it has been a long time since Apple made any changes to the hardware. Eddy Cue’s pitch for this upgrade talked about how the new device also includes support for HDR standards. It also has an A10X Fusion chip, Eddy reminds us that it’s same one as in the iPad Pro. He boasted that it’s twice as fast at general computing tasks — and four times as fast on the GPU side — as the current 1080p 4th generation Apple TV.

Apple’s Aerial screensaver that displays high-resolution footage of interesting places to look at is getting updated with 4K footage.

4K movies will cost the same from Apple’s iTunes store as they currently charge for HD films. Any movies people currently own in HD that have 4K versions will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free.

Cue also said that Netflix and Amazon are on-board for the 4K update. Cue didn’t mention that the Amazon Prime Video app still isn’t available on the Apple TV even though Apple said they had a deal worked out with Amazon earlier this year.

Live news and sports are coming to the TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices.

That Game Company’s Jenova Chen demoed a new game called Sky for the Apple TV. It’s a fun multiplayer game that has a similar style as their previous games like Journey. It’s temporarily exclusive to the Apple TV and iOS devices and will be out this winter. I didn’t hear anyone mention if the game runs in 4K.

Here’s a trailer for it:

The Apple TV lineup will now be:

  • Old Apple TV 32GB at $150.
  • Apple TV 4K 32GB $180
  • Apple TV 4K 64GB $200

It’ll be up for pre-orders on the 15th and have general availability on the 22nd.

Unfortunately there were no updates to the Apple TV Siri Remote announced, which is a shame because it’s not great for gaming and has some other design issues. Especially regarding picking up the remote and accidentally pressing the wrong button because it’s not easy to tell which orientation you’re holding it in without looking at it.

iPhone 8, 8 Plus

The rumors and leaks were accurate , there were three new iPhones announced today instead of two. An iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.

Here’s the iPhone 8 ad:

Phil Schiller did his bit to sell the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. As rumored it has a glass back as well the front. It’ll be in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. They assure that the glass is reinforced with steel and the “most durable ever” glass.

The display has been updated. It now has the True Tone technology from the iPad Pro that adjusts the display’s color temperature to look correct in different lighting conditions. The iPad Pro still doesn’t have the iPhone’s 3D Touch feature and that makes writing on it a little bit more frustrating when I switch back and forth between my iPhone and iPad.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus speakers are louder and more accurate.

There’s a new A11 Bionic chip with six cores inside the iPhone 8. It’s supposedly 25% faster than the A10. Two of the six A11 cores are tuned for performance, and four of the cores are set up for tasks that can run efficiently and don’t require as much performance so that the device can save you some battery life. Those four low-power cores are supposedly 70% faster than the ones in the A10 chip.

The GPU on the 8 is the first one Apple has developed, it’s supposed to be 30% faster than last year’s A10 while taking half the power.

There’s a new image processing engine in the A11 that Schiller says will deliver faster autofocus in low-light conditions among other improvements that should make photos taken with the 8 look sharper and have less noise.

The cameras still shoot 12 megapixels, but Apple says that the sensor is larger and lets in more light. The Plus still has the exclusive on the dual camera setup versus the regular iPhone 8.

Apple’s photos captured with the 8 and 8 Plus’ cameras look fantastic, but they are just demonstrating the difference between an experienced photographer shooting for demonstration purposes and someone taking snapshots. Of course these camera improvements will help with either type of scenario, but they’re not going to turn Frank G. iPhoneOwner into a pro photographer unless they’re interested enough to edit their photos and think about what they’re doing before taking the photo.

Schiller says that there will be a new feature called Portrait Lighting in beta for the iPhone 8 Plus. He promises that this feature will be more than a filter, it’ll present you with different lighting choices for your subject in Portrait Mode within Apple’s Camera app. You’ll be able to edit those photos and choose different lighting scenarios after the fact.

Phil Schiller also promised that these phones have better video quality. You’ll be able to record 4K videos at 60 frames-per-second and if you like slo-mo you’ll be able to record 1080p video at 240 FPS.

Schiller says that the cameras and the A11 are also configured for augmented reality. The demos I have seen for AR on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are impressive, it could be useful to have a focus on AR in the hardware as well. Schiller played pre-recorded AR demos of a Warhammer game, an MLB overlay on a live game at a stadium, and an astronomy app called Sky Guide overlaying star charts directly on the sky as viewed through an iPhone.

Directive Games’ Atli Mar demoed their AR game, The Machines. It looked a little bit like an RTS but overlaid on a table. Mar said that there was a strategic advantage to being able to move the game’s camera around by moving the physical phone, but I’m not sure if that lines up with reality. It looked almost as awkward as the AR demo from WWDC but it is very difficult to play a game for an audience and line up your view to present something cinematic, especially in front of a live audience.

The iPhone 8 also has “wireless charging” which is just contact charging, it isn’t truly wireless. It’ll use the Qi charging standard that is already widely supported. It’s good that Apple didn’t make another standard, but they aren’t including a contact charging device in the box.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be up for pre-order on September 15th and available in-stores on September 22nd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

iPhone 8

  • 64 GB for $700
  • 256 GB for $850

iPhone 8 Plus

  • 64GB for $800
  • 256GB for $950

iOS 11 will be out on September 19th.

iPhone X

Apple’s surprise of the iPhone X was spoiled by leaks and rumors, I was pretty disgusted with some journalists who took umbrage with the person who leaked the information. It’s only in Apple’s promotional interests to keep these things a secret and they aren’t going to affect our national security.

Here’s the iPhone X ad:

 

Phil Schiller called it “the iPhone 10,” skipping 9, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not at first, but then they continued it and I guess this is just what it is now.

The X’s OLED display is 5.8 inches diagonally and continues the journey to a rounded rectangular slab that is all display without any border. It’s almost there, there’s just a notch at the top of the phone for the front-facing camera, earpiece, and other sensors. Apple calls this new display a “Super Retina Display” at 2436×1125 pixels and  It’s 458 pixels-per-inch. So you’re getting a display that’s larger than the Plus and has more resolution in a smaller package. It’s also got an HDR standard for films and Apple’s True Tone tech.

Last year we lost the headphone TRSS jack and the home button was replaced with a simulation that I’ve grown accustomed to. This year the home button is just gone. You can wake the phone up by tapping on the display when it is in sleep mode.

iOS has other changes to accommodate the lack of a home button, of course. To get to the home screen from a “locked” iPhone X you now just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. It’s the same gesture when you’re in an app. Pausing mid-swipe, instead of raising your hand off the screen to complete the gesture, will bring up the multitasking switcher to choose from your recent apps.

I’m curious how that will work out with games. This overloading of gestures is a lot for users to take in.

The iPhone X’s sleep/wake switch is larger and can also be used to activate Siri.

Without a home button there isn’t room for a sensor to read your fingerprint for TouchID, so the iPhone X will have a face recognition system that Apple calls FaceID. Phil Schiller assures us that new sensors at the top of the phone in the notch will securely detect your face, even in the dark, to authorize your iPhone to be unlocked or in other places where you use TouchID. Including with Apple Pay.

Phil Schiller’s pitch for FaceID included a terrifying image of a wall of fake faces that Apple’s engineers used to test the face unlocking feature.

Apple are making an API available to developers for accessing the kinect-style data from the sensors on the front of the iPhone. They’re using the sensors internally to make 12 animated emojis that respond to your face and can be recorded along with audio messages to send over iMessage. Snapchat was demonstrated with it for face masking as well. They had a pretty impressive Ultimate Warrior style mask.

Craig Federighi demonstrated the iPhone X and showed that you can access the new iOS 11 Control Center by swiping down from the upper right corner where the connection status indicators are.

Phil Schiller boasted about the iPhone X cameras, they’re even better than the ones in the iPhone 8 Plus with optical image stabilization on both cameras. The front-facing camera is supposed to be better for selfies as well.

The iPhone X is supposed to get 2 more hours of battery life over the base iPhone 7, and have the same Qi charging as the 8.

The iPhone X will be up for pre-order on October 27th and shipping on November 3rd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

  • 64GB for $1000
  • 256GB for $1150

AirPower & Updated AirPods

Apple also has a new oval Qi charging mat coming out next year that will charge the iPhone 8 and X, as well as their Apple Watch and a new case for the AirPods that Phil Schiller said was “optional.” I’m not sure yet if “optional” means a more expensive set of AirPods or a separate purchase after the fact or both. I’d hope I could upgrade my current AirPods with a one-time purchase.

Overall:
I’m kind of disappointed with the pitch for the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone X. I don’t think I would personally want the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus when there’s an iPhone X available. Although I’m sure the iPhone X will not be available in as large a quantity as the 8. I also am not looking forward to an upgrade to the AirPods already. They don’t seem like something that should change as often, but I guess it might end up being similar to the Watch where there are updates but they seem less necessary than the phone.

I’m very disappointed that Apple is calling contact charging “wireless” when there are wires involved and you can’t just hold your iPhone five feet from the AirPower dingus to charge it.

Apple Releases Clips App

It’s the Ken Burns effect but for millennials. Joanna Stern has a guide to Clips on the WSJ:

Hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps, or just cleaning your dryer’s lint tray? Either way, the titans of tech want you to record a snippet of it. Then they want you to slap on some emojis and text. Then they want you to share it with the world.

Snapchat started it. Instagram copied it. Facebook really copied it. Even Microsoft’s doing it. And now… Apple. Available Thursday for the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s Clips app lets you shoot, edit and share mobile-friendly mini-movies. If you have iOS 10.3 (the latest version), you can download it from the App Store.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Apple held an event at the Bill Graham Auditorium at just about the regular time as they’ve done for years to announce their new iPhones.

Here’s a brief summary of what’s changed in this year’s phones.

Headphones.

As was rumored, the iPhones 7 have dropped the headphone jack. It was generally used as a single-purpose port based on an ancient design from the 1800s whose time had come.

In retrospect it seems amazing how this change was leaked early. Tech people were prepared for the change by the leaked information, and although they grumbled about it still they were more ready for the change after the leak as it became increasingly apparent that it was going to happen.

It’s not surprising how many people reject change, and although there are some not-so-great effects to this change, I feel like it is ultimately a positive one.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve caught a headphone cable on a door knob and had my headphones violently ripped out of my ears, or found earbuds tangled up in my pocket and given up trying to untangle them. Once, I even foolishly spent more than $100 on a set of earbuds only to have them break, and then the replacement from the company broke within a month. These cables break devices, they are the failure points in headphones, they get tangled and the port itself is often faulty. Pocket crud fills it up and causes random issues with the jack dropping one stereo channel or the other.

There are true negatives to the change, accessibility devices used that port. So do a number of other accessories that couldn’t afford to pay Apple’s certification fees for their Lightning port or where it was just the best mechanism to connect. I’ve got apps that process guitar audio and the only way to connect my guitar the hardware accessory for a long time was via the TRRS jack.

Fortunately Apple has solutions for almost everyone. An adapter ships in the box alongside a pair of their EarPod earbuds that use a lightning cable. The adapter will also be available separately for $9 which is pretty cheap.

I wonder if all of the accessories that have connected through that port over the past 9 years of iPhones will work with whatever hardware is in the adapter. It isn’t clear yet if it moves the digital audio converter outside of the phone yet or not and what capabilities it has. So I won’t know if this will work with my guitar kit.

Apple has also introduced their own wireless AirPod earbuds. All wireless headphones have tiny computers in them, the AirPods have a new system on a chip they call the W1. These look just like the regular EarPods but without a cable, and you’ll notice metal at the ends for the new microphone. They’re smart, they detect if one is pulled out because you want to hear something or someone in your vicinity and pause whatever you’re listening to. Pairing regular Bluetooth headphones can be a pain, but the AirPods begin the pairing process with your nearby Apple devices when you open their case. That case is pretty smart, too. It charges the AirPods whenever you put them away.

Since you can use just one AirPod you could swap between them for hours and hours of listening. I use one earbud all the time to keep a better ear to my surroundings when I’m listening to podcasts. These have the advantage of being smart enough to switch to monaural output when you press play after removing one.

Most Bluetooth earbuds have a cable between the left and the right sides in order to just have the one tiny computer and battery. I’ve got a Motorola set from years ago that do this, they’re tough to kill and have great battery life although they’ve finally lost the little dingus that keeps the cables organized and attached to the part that goes around my collar. That’s where they get thick and have their battery and computer. Otherwise, the earbuds themselves are just dumb cheap earbuds like most.

People complain about the price of the AirPods at $170, which is kind of ridiculous considering that Bluetooth earbuds without cables have a computer and battery in both ears in order to communicate with each other and whatever device they’re connecting to. Most of those sets are also way more expensive. A set of truly wireless earbuds that were originally crowdfunded and looked very interesting Bragi’s Dash, go for $300 and lose their connection between each earbud while in-use causing all kinds of issues. The AirPods will be available next month so we’ll find out then if they’re better, they should be.

There are other changes, but the headphone issue is front and center for most people. It’s reasonable to be upset about it, but wireless audio connections are pretty damn good already so I expect most people will be very happy to move to those headsets.

I’d still understand if this issue would make people hesitant to get these phones at first, but I think that the change is inevitable at this point. Where Apple goes, the rest of the phone and tiny computer in your pocket industry follow. There will be some holdouts, and the transition will not be fun, just as there were with hardware keyboards, flip phones, floppy drives, disc drives, but I’m excited for fewer wires. Finally.

Water resistant, not waterproof.

Moving on to other improvements. The iPhones are now water (and dust) resistant. For up to 30 minutes and 3.3 feet (1 meter), the iPhones 7 can remain in water. So a quick dunk in a toilet or pool shouldn’t be an issue, don’t make a habit of it or try to charge your phone for 5 hours after getting out. Apple won’t cover water damage to the phone under warranty, which makes sense. How do they know if it was in water for less than 31 minutes or 3.3 feet?

Every year when iFixit tears these devices apart I’m kind of surprised at what is inside besides electronics. If you build a computer you know there are gaskets and seals, but glue? An adhesive is what makes up much of the sealing around the device’s screen. It clearly works, they’ve used adhesives for years to keep small mobile computers like iPhones together, but it feels strange to me to buy something held together with glue even if it is in addition to screws.

Cameras.

The cameras on the iPhone are all improved, and there is one more of them if you get the larger Plus phone.

The front-facing camera people use for FaceTime video chat and selfies is now 7 megapickles and can record video at 1080p compared to the 5 megapickles of last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The front-facing camera on my current iPhone, the 6 Plus, is just 1.2 megapickles. People love selfies, it’s how I take most of the pictures of my son and I together, this is a great improvement.

Previous big iPhone Pluses had a camera feature called optical image stabilization (OIS) that was exclusive to them. Both iPhones now have OIS in their primary camera on the rear of the device, which is great because it makes low-light shots much better as it physically moves the camera system to help keep the shutter open longer and let in more light. Hold out something in your hand and try to keep it steady. That is why we all need OIS.

I called it the primary camera because the Plus now has an additional camera on the back. The regular camera is wide-angle, as it always has been and needs to be in order to let in so much light. The new camera has the trade-off of letting in less light but giving you way more zoom. Apple calls it a telephoto lens, but it’s more like a regular lens in contrast to the wide-angle of the primary camera.

Unless your phone has a camera lens that physically protrudes and can change it’s length, it can only have digital zoom with the typical camera sensor and lens fixture. Digital zoom is complete garbage. All it does is crop whatever picture you get out of the regular sensor. You get less picture data and less of a digital thing means you’re getting crap. Images from phone cameras tend to look like impressionist watercolor paintings when you get in real close via a tight crop or “digital zoom.” This second camera gets you a real, physical, 2x zoom and cropping from that point will be much better than cropping from the wide-angle lens and sensor.

On the iPhone 7 Plus both cameras also work together to improve every photo you take. If you’re outdoors and taking a photo the image processors on the phone will try to get data from both sensors in order to make your pictures better. If you’re indoors and the telephoto camera can’t get enough light to take a good picture, the image processors will dump the data from that sensor. Brilliant.

Both of the cameras on the rear of the phone shoot 12 megapickles.

Adding in another camera is a bizarre but frankly necessary solution, and it’s impressive that Apple recognizes the necessity of making the hump on the back of the phones that contains the lenses and sensors larger in order to include this secondary camera system. Most people think of them as a company that puts form behind function in their designs, this is clearly the opposite. That hump is hideous, and makes the phone slightly more unwieldy because it can’t lay flat on a table. I think Apple recognizes that most people use cases, and cases easily make the hump a non-issue.

Et Cetera.

The iPhones 7 are, of course, faster. They have a new processor with the marketing name, A10 Fusion. The numbers are kind of not important, benchmarks show that they’re faster than their Android cousins, but you should use whatever device you’re comfortable with.

More important than the processor improvements are the fact that instead of going quad-core like other smartphones, the new iPhones are quadcore with a twist. The two other processor cores are slower. What, why? Because then less important tasks take less battery. Smart.

The display on the iPhone has improved, it now has a wide color gamut. This means that reds and greens are supposed to be more correct to life. The cameras are set up to capture this new detail, but that does mean most older photos won’t have the additional colors. It also means that we can’t see these improvements on regular phones and computers, so you and I won’t know what the wide color gamut looks like until we see a new iPhone in person while it is displaying something that has more color data in it.

It’s a little disappointing that the iPhone didn’t receive the true-tone display improvements of this year’s 9.7 inch iPad Pro. That feature detects the lighting conditions in a room or outside and makes a white background look like a sheet of paper would in the same room.

The home button will no-longer physically move. Instead, the phone will attempt to trick you into thinking it moved with haptic feedback. That same haptic feedback will be used throughout the operating system to make the virtual interfaces more physically responsive. I’ve had the home button on a few iPhones fail in the past, so this is a welcome improvement although I’m sure it will take some getting used to.

The speaker on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is now in stereo and can be twice as loud thanks to the speaker in the earpiece gaining new capabilities. If you watch shows or movies on your phone, this is great. If you ride public transit, I’m sorry for your loss.

One of the most important upgrades I’ve saved for last, and this has carried over to every other iOS device Apple sells, is that the 16GB models are finally dead. You cannot buy an iPhone with too little storage. The only options are 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. These upgrades still cost too much at $100 for each storage bump, but I felt a small pain whenever a friend or family member bought a 16GB iPhone or iPad. It would have been nice if the base model were 64GB, that’s what I have in my current iPhone 6 Plus, it’s plenty, but 32GB goes a long way to making things better. It should have happened way sooner.

My biggest disappointment with these phones is that the design is largely unchanged from the past two years of iPhone. It’s becoming difficult to differentiate one rounded rectangle with a screen from another, and although Apple has replaced one color (Space Gray) with two others (Jet Black and a matte Black), I wish there were more physical improvements. The rumor mill says that these big design changes are coming next year, which will be the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone.

Would I buy these?

I like these improvements, but my initial plan was to keep using my iPhone 6 Plus until at least next year. It does what I need it to, in general, and these feel like a second “s year” for the iPhone. However, the resale value of that iPhone 6 Plus became almost nothing after this year’s lot were announced. Then along came T-Mobile with a deal to get people locked into two years of service. In exchange for trading in their iPhone 6 and 6s’, people could receive a severely discounted iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. It’s like if you were driving an older Honda and the gas station offered you an almost free new model if you keep buying their gas.

One of the reasons I love the iPhone is that I don’t usually have to deal with a carrier and their terrible service policies and retail stores directly. Attempting to upgrade my iPhone through this T-Mobile deal has proven why I hate doing business with cell phone carriers.

T-Mobile screwed up so badly they had to completely cancel the upgrade order I put in on the first day the phone became available and I’m still not sure if a phone is actually going to come in the mail and if they will actually honor their deal.

I would still recommend that most people save up and buy their phone outright from Apple in order to not have to deal with these carriers directly. Carriers are all scum.

Carrier issues aside, these new iPhones 7 are otherwise fine upgrades if you aren’t going to be very upset about the loss of the headphone jack and I would recommend upgrading to anyone on an iPhone 5 or older device. If you have an iPhone 6 or 6s, you probably shouldn’t do what I did unless you get that good of an upgrade deal. Next year’s iPhone may be an amazing improvement in appearance when this year’s was more about functional improvements to an existing design that is good.

September 7th is Going to be a Busy Day

Now we know where Patrick Klepek went. In a post for Vice Gaming, with fellow Giant Bomb alumnus Austin Walker, Klepek confirms that the rumored variation of the Playstation 4 with improved horsepower would be announced on a very busy September 7th:

Sony will reveal the first details on an upgraded PlayStation 4 at a September 7 event in New York, French gaming website Gameblog reported today. VICE Gaming can confirm that it’s heard the same information from multiple sources familiar with the planned rollout for the new machine. These sources chose to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Sony’s plans.

Previously, previously, previously.

That’s not the only announcement that is rumored to occur on the 7th, the iPhone 7 should be announced on the same day.

This is Not Android on the iPhone

Wait, what?

Nick Lee:

Finally, Android on the iPhone
You heard me. The holy war is over, brethren. At Tendigi, we’ve designed and built a case that allows iPhone devotees to sample the best Mountain View has to offer. Join me as I outline the steps taken to achieve this feat, as well as the numerous pitfalls encountered along the way.

Okay, that sounds interesting. I’d love some straightforward method of being able to try out modern versions of Android without having buy Android hardware.

It must have been extremely complicated to get this done in software!

I ended up having to port (or outright build) the following components for Android:

[…]

screenstreamer: A daemon I wrote that connects to the usbmuxd service, transmitting the screen’s contents to the iPhone and emulating touch events on the Android side. This is where the magic happens. While there are many ways to capture the screen on Android, I achieved the best performance by connecting to the SurfaceFlinger service and reading screenshots from it. For more information, see this header file and this presentation. The droidVncServer repository on GitHub also contains some helpful pointers.

Are you kidding me? This is the equivalent of VNC streaming a Windows 10 desktop to an Android phone and saying that you got Windows 10 to run on an Android phone. The “Final product” image is a thick ass backpack that contains off-the-shelf Android hardware strapped onto an iPhone and looks like crap. If this were from a 14 year old at a school science fair that would be incredible.

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.

Peel iPhone Case Review

A Peel

There’s this iPhone case called the Peel. Apple… Peel, get it?

Here’s what the makers of this case promise for your $25:

This Peel case lets you protect your phone while keeping the same form factor. Other cases add bulk and weight to your iPhone but Peel cases are almost invisible.

That’s all true and it sounds awesome compared to other third party cases. The other ones all look ridiculous with huge logos, and bizarre contortions in their designs to make their cases look distinctive instead of getting out of the way of the iPhone design and just protecting the phone.

My last case, the Speck CandyShell Grip had their logo that looks like Kurt Vonnegut’s asterisk on the back and is ribbed for grip. It was great at protecting my phone from short falls without being as bulky as your typical Otterbox case. Even though it looked like a novelty condom for a robot, it was the Wirecutter’s top iPhone case pick for a while and I appreciated their recommendation. Then the thin strip of rubbery material on the Grip above the iPhone’s lightning port broke. Oh well. For a few months I tolerated the break while keeping my eyes open for an alternative when someone mentioned the Peel on Twitter and their pitch worked.

The Peel feels like the opposite of every other third-party case. Instead of being thick, it’s thin. Instead of having a distinctive look, it gets out of the way so that you can see the design of the $600+ phone you purchased instead of your $20 robot condom. 

Unfortunately the Peel is so thin and papery, immediately after receiving it in the mail I wondered aloud, “this costs $25?”

Putting the case on my 6+ was a little bit more reassuring. The first thing the space-gray case made me think of was a stocking on my space-gray 6+. The Peel feels perfectly formed to the iPhone that it is protecting. There’s an anecdote on the product page about Apple’s in-store repair techs replacing an iPhone and forgetting to take off the Peel because they didn’t know it was there. I’m not sure I believe that, one look at the back or sides of the phone and you’ll see it, but the transparent case does get out of the way except for the raised area around the protruding camera of the 6+.

Where the Peel goes from slightly too expensive and ineffectual to WTF is in resolving the largest issue with the iPhone 6 and 6+’s survivability, grip. It’s a slippery phone and despite the FAQ page that suggests it enhances the phone’s grip if anything, the Peel sometimes feels even more slippery than a bare iPhone.

The front with the peel

The Peel will still protect your phone case from scratches and short falls, but not the screen. The Speck CandyShell Grip had a bit of a bumper around the edges to protect the iPhone from drops that land on the front. The cost of the Peel being perfectly form-fitting to the iPhone is that there is no protection on the screen. Of course, the people who made this case also sell a screen protector that is even more expensive at $30.

There is an advantage to being form-fitting in not ruining the design of your $600+ phone and in not blocking access to ports. My last few cases required adapters to fit headphone and auxiliary audio cables. The Peel requires no adapter for any port and the various buttons and switches on your device are left unencumbered.

That isn’t enough of an advantage to justify the usability and price of this almost paper-thin case.

If it had more of a grip, if it protected the screen with even a tiny amount of a lip around the edges of the iPhone, if it were cheaper, I might be more likely to recommend the Peel. Instead, it’s too expensive, doesn’t offer enough protection, and makes your iPhone even more slippery. Don’t be fooled by the svelte form-factor (0.35mm) and the unbranded and unobtrusive visual aesthetic. Get a hideous robot condom if you want to protect your phone.

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.