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Everything Announced at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference Infomercial 2022

Every year Apple starts their World Wide Developer’s Conference with a keynote, It’s been a pre-recorded infomercial with solely online sessions for the past two years. This year Apple changed it up and while most of the event was pre-recorded, some developers and journalists were invited to attend an in-person viewing of the pre-recorded video. Encouraging people to travel during a deadly pandemic is not a wise thing when hundreds of people are dying each week and thousands more are getting infected with a potentially deadly or long-term disease.

 

iOS 16

Lock Screen Customization, Notifications, Focus Mode Switching

The way iPhones look when they’re on but the screen is locked is changing in iOS 16 according to Apple’s Craig Federighi. Federighi showed off the new functionality using a portrait mode photo where his children appeared in the foreground, in front and slightly above the time on the lock screen, and the blurred background of the photo remained in the background behind everything. Pressing and holding on the screen let Federighi go into an editing mode to choose a new style or pick out other customization options like a font for the time and date or adding and removing widgets. Like with Apple Watch faces, users can store their customized iPhone lock screens to pick between them later on. Federighi also said that developers could use the WidgetKit API to add information from their apps. Given the grousing I’ve heard from developers about limitations in the current widget system, I’m curious how well that ends up working out.

Federighi also highlighted changes to the way notifications appear on the lock screen, with new notifications fanning out from the bottom of the screen and a new API called Live Activities that lets developers put information into something that sure looks a lot like a widget instead of a constant stream of notifications. Examples included a basketball game with a scoreboard replacing endless notifications about the game’s score, Uber notifications replaced by a live progress tracker, a Nike workout meter, and a music player that can expand to let the album art take up more of the lock screen.

The Focus modes introduced last year are also getting updated to include lock screen and home screen selections, and focus filters that go into apps to filter out messages, websites, mail, and calendar events according to Federighi. He said that users would be able to swipe between the lock screens to choose their focus mode.

Messages in iOS 16

Messages updates were next from Federighi with the ability to edit and undo sending messages, as well as marking messages as unread. A press release from Apple clarified that messages can only be edited or undone for 15 minutes after they’re sent and they’re recoverable for 30 days after they’re deleted. Presumably only from the sender’s side of the conversation? This feature sounds like it would be easy for people who are making mistakes to abuse it.

Federighi also said that the Shared with You feature that surfaces photos and links and other things shared in messages would get an API for developers to hook into.

SharePlay Apps and Messages

The SharePlay feature that lets users watch videos and do other stuff together during video calls is also getting updated to let users get into a SharePlay app directly from the video call screen or find more apps that support SharePlay. It’s also getting added to Apple’s Messages app so it seems like users don’t need to be on a call to watch a show together, which would be an improvement. My family has enjoyed using SharePlay when it’s available, but we would usually mute the call and turn off the camera because it wasn’t necessary to be on a call at the same time.

Dictation Improvements

Federighi had Robby Walker introduce improvements to the dictation feature on the iOS keyboard with a demonstration that showed the on-screen software keyboard remaining in-use for edits during dictation instead of being covered up by the voice interface as it is today with iOS 15. Walker demonstrated selecting text and then using their voice to replace the selected text, and dictating with automatic punctuation. Currently you have to dictate the punctuation by verbally saying “period” or “exclamation mark” to get a . or !

Walker also said there would be a new API for developers to work with SiriKit and Shortcuts called App Intents.

Live Text scraping added to Videos, Translation Improvements, Other Detection Improvements

iOS 15 got the ability for the operating system to scrape text from images, iOS 16 is adding videos. Walker said you would have to pause the video to do this and showed it working on a code sample. I wonder how well that will work as video quality degrades over slower connections and with user interface elements blocking the text. Some apps also reject Apple’s video player and I suspect those just won’t work at all.

Walker also said that it would be easier to quickly do things with text in images and videos like translations and showed an updated Translate app from Apple that lets people translate using a camera in the app.

It is can be frustrating to try and select an image instead of the text in the image in iOS 15, so I hope that gets ironed out in iOS 16.

Speaking of image selection, Walker demonstrated selecting the subject of a photo with a long press and dragging just the part of the image that shows the subject out of the photo by selecting a dog and dragging the dog without the background into a message.

Walker implied that some or all of these features would also come to Apple’s other operating systems.

Wallet Stuff: ID & Keys, Tap to Pay, Apple Pay Later, Order Tracking

Corey Fugman talked about Apple’s work in putting drivers licenses and ID cards into the Wallet app, which is only in Maryland and Arizona for now but said that 11 other states are working on it. Fugman said that some apps would be able to access the ID to verify the user’s age for something like an alcohol purchase. It would only let the app know if the user was over 21 instead of their specific age.

Fugman said that Apple is trying to make digital keys a standard so that keys can be shared to other operating systems but they would be shareable between Apple users first.

Fugman talked about how iPhones can “…starting this Month…” do Apple Pay with a tap-to-pay feature without needing other hardware.

Apple Pay Later is a buy now pay later service that extends credit lending to every day purchases by spreading the cost out over a period of time with preset increments. These services are being pretty widely exploited and rightfully criticized for their usurious nature by advertising no interest but of course making their money on buyers who fail to meet the timeline of repayment and usually charging a fee to merchants for the availability of the service under the pretense of enabling customers to buy things they would otherwise be unable to afford. So instead of owing just a credit card bill every month you could owe money to dozens of lenders for smaller purchases through different apps and bills. Fugman said this feature would require no additional integration for developers.

Apple Pay Order Tracking was introduced by Fugman to track where orders are at. They’ve really got a shit sandwich here of stuffing usurious garbage into the middle of things that people might fall asleep through.

Maps Updates

Federighi said that new map features are coming to 11 more countries later this year, I still can’t get bicycling directions on O?ahu.

Maps is getting multi-stop routing according to Meg Frost. MapQuest from 1996 probably had this but it does look like Apple has thought out the feature by setting up Siri to help and being able to plan and store these routes. The Maps app will integrate more with stored digital transit payment cards and let you know how much a ride will cost or remind users if they need to reload a card before a ride.

Frost also said that developers would get better map access through MapKit and more developer stuff later this year.

Sports

Rubie Edmondson was introduced to talk about sports stuff and reiterated previously mentioned features like the live activities scoreboard and said that the Apple TV app would display those scoreboards on the lockscreen.

Edmondson also boasted about Apple TV +’s Friday Night Baseball which isn’t great because it locks baseball games that would otherwise be broadcast for free locally behind yet another paywall. If you’ve already subscribed to Major League Baseball’s MLB TV service, too bad.

The News app is getting a My Sports section with sports-specific news from your chosen teams.

Family Sharing Updates

Craig Federighi said that Apple will be making it easier to create children’s Apple ID accounts, manage their parental controls and screen time, and set up new devices.

iCloud Shared Photo Library is a new feature that Federighi said would make it easier for families to share photos. There are so many flaws with the current photo sharing systems so this could be great, especially if the photos remain at their full quality. The camera app is also getting a toggle to immediately share photos to a shared library and there’s a feature to automatically share images taken when someone else who is in the shared photo library is nearby. That seems like a potentially broken feature but sure.

Federighi said everyone who has access to the shared library can edit, remove, and add photos so get ready for a relative who thinks they’re funny to edit in cartoon faces to your important family photos. Federighi even showed an edit going from color to black and white which is a perfect example of how destructive changes like this can be. 

Safety Check

Katie Skinner introduced the Safety Check feature specifically with the idea that it would be useful for revoking access to some functionality like privacy permissions and location data when people are escaping abusive situations. It looks useful but it’s especially important to remain skeptical about Apple’s motivations and what they’re providing when they’re talking about functionality like this that is ostensibly to help people in terrible situations. I hope Safety Check does exactly what it promises.

Home & CarPlay

Corey Wang talked about Smart Home garbage like the Matter standard for home stuff to communicate with each other and showed a redesigned Home app that categorizes devices or just lets you browse through the entire list of devices in one long list separated by rooms.

Emily Schubert introduced new changes to CarPlay to add support for more screens, customizable gauge clusters, calendars, music, and widgets to the new screens, bringing truly distracted driving to a whole new level. Vehicles running this next generation version of CarPlay are to be announced late in 2023 which feels like a long way away for Apple to be announcing anything but I suppose they need the developer components in sooner which means they might have been impossible to avoid talking about. 

iOS 16 Odds & Ends

Federighi returned to talk about Spatial Audio improvements that would scan your ears to tune Spatial Audio features for you. I turn off Spatial Audio immediately because it sounds like garbage simulated surround sound to me.

Quick Note is also coming to iOS. when it was previously only available on macOS and iPadOS. It still works very differently in both operating systems and is pretty inconsistent. I am glad to see Quick Note getting improved instead of being dumped into the pile of “marketing named feature we once talked about and then never updated.”

watchOS 9

Kevin Lynch appeared in a fitness studio to talk about new features coming to WatchOS 9. Lynch brought up “…four new watch faces” and then showed off a remade Astronomy watch face (are remakes new?), a Lunar calendar watch face, a bizarre watch face called Play Time by an artist named Joi Fulton that has odd characters for numerals, and Metropolitan another weird watch face with a font for the numerals that stretches if you turn the crown. Why is it version 9 of WatchOS and developers still cannot ship their own watch faces? Lynch went on to say that more of the older watch faces are getting “rich complications” which is Apple speak for updating the older software to match current functionality.

Using Siri will no-longer takes up the whole Watch screen with that interface, there will be banner notifications, and active apps get pinned in the app switcher.

The Podcasts app on WatchOS 9 is getting discoverability functionality to find and subscribe to new podcasts as well as letting kids use the app when their parents permit it.

Developers are getting new APIs for the share sheet (the thing that pops up when you tap on a box with an arrow pointing up and out of it) and the photo picker that lets users select images. Callkit will let developers manage VoIP calls on the Apple Watch.

Craig Bolton showed off new metrics and custom workout modes on the Apple Watch to help runners and other exercise types. Routes will be automatically saved for repeat comparisons and there are new workout types for automatically switching between cycling, swimming, and running for example.

Remarkably, Apple’s Fitness app has been locked out for everyone who doesn’t have an Apple Watch, Bolton said that with iOS 16 users could finally use the Fitness app without an Apple Watch to see stuff that iPhones can track without other hardware accessories and the results from other fitness apps. I’ve been pretty annoyed that the health benefits of the Apple Watch are unavailable to anyone who can’t afford it. I know that sounds ridiculous, but health should not be a luxury and it’s good more people could benefit from some of these features.

Dr. Sumbol Ahmad Desai announced updates to Apple’s Sleep app in watchOS 9. Desai said that the updated app would monitor which stage of sleep users are in and said users could optionally plug this data into a research study that Apple is running to help better understand sleep.

Desai also talked about heart health and atrial fibrillation and said that watchOS 9 would track that data over time.

Finally, Desai said that watchOS 9 and the Health app in iOS 16 would include medication tracking and warn users about potential drug interactions through manual medication entry and scanning labels.

M2

Johny Srouji introduced the M2 second generation of Apple’s processors, re-emphasized Apple’s focus on energy efficiency alongside performance and went over the specs of the base M2 chip. A “second-generation 5 nanometer” process, 20 billion transistors 25% more transistors than the base model of M1, a memory controller that supposedly has 100 gigs per second of bandwidth (50% more than the M1) and up to 24 GB of memory alongside the M2 chip when the M1 was limited to 16 GB. Surprisingly, Srouji admits that the M2 base chip still has less performance than the biggest mobile chips from Intel (without mentioning them by name) but promises “almost 90%” (the chart shows 87%) of the peak performance at less power. The graphs Apple are showing are ridiculous with “Relative performance” on the vertical y axis and “Power consumption” on the x axis. What is “Relative performance”? Who knows! I don’t doubt that these are powerful, efficient chips, but they need better graphs. The one good part of this graph is that Apple says what the competitor’s laptop is in the fine print, it’s the MSI Laptop Prestige 14Evo with Core i7-1260P and 16 GB of memory.

Srouji said that the base model of M2 could have two more GPU cores to make 10, two more than the M1, for a claimed 35% more GPU performance. Once again we got a silly “Relative performance” chart comparing GPU performance against Intel’s integrated graphics processing, very strange.

New versions of the secure enclave and neural engine, and more video performance for 8K rounds out the M2 package.

2022 MacBook Air

Kristin White introduced a redesigned M2-based MacBook Air for 2022 which dumps the wedge shape in favor for thinness and the big round feet from last year’s MacBook Pro lineup, gets a MagSafe plug that is interestingly color-matched to the four colors of MacBook Air (last year’s MacBook Pro’s MagSafe plugs are all silver), only has two thunderbolt ports, but keeps the audio jack. White claims the new 13.6” display to be Liquid Retina and it has a notch for the webcam which is 1080p and Apple says it has twice the resolution and twice the performance in low light as the previous Air. The performance Apple demonstrates with this webcam is literally unbelievable because it is a professionally lit shot with natural seeming light that does not at all match what I’ve seen from the same camera on the 2021 MacBook Pro. These webcams Apple ships aren’t terrible for laptop webcams but they are garbage compared to the cameras on the iPhone lineup.

White also said that speaker quality is improved and this I am willing to believe, Apple’s audio quality from their recent laptops has been surprisingly good. The microphone, well there are limits to how good they can get but at least fan noise won’t be a problem because there are no fans in the 2022 MacBook Air.

White showed off a smaller power adapter that has two USB-C ports, a separately available 67 watt power adapter could also fast-charge the new MacBook Air. White claimed this would bring the Air up to 50% capacity in thirty minutes.

$1200 for the lowest priced MacBook Air with 256 GB of disk space, 8 cores of CPU and GPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 30 watt USB-C power adapter.

$1500 for the step up that has 512 GB of disk space, 2 bonus unbroken GPU cores for 10 total and a 35 watt dual USB-C port charger.

Interestingly, the M1 MacBook Air is still hanging on with the old design and 256 GB of disk space at $1000 on Apple’s website, for now.

2022 MacBook Pro 13″

No redesign for the 13” MacBook Pro which differentiates itself from the Air by costing a little more, having fans and the old Touch Bar OLED replacing the F-Row, and a little more battery life.

$1300 for the base model of 13” MacBook Pro that has 256 GB of disk space, 8 Cores of CPU and 10 Cores of GPU, 8 GB of RAM, and nothing else to write home about.

$1500 for the step up model that just ups the disk space to 512 GB.

I have no idea why this 13” model of MacBook Pro exists, except to make up for the fact that the 14” MacBook Pro models start at $2000.

What a strange situation.

macOS Ventura Stage Manager & Spotlight

Craig Federighi demonstrated new features coming to macOS Ventura like Stage Manager that seems to replace fullscreen windows with a centered window and puts other windows off to the side. Federighi said this would help manage situations where there are a lot of applications with open windows. Apps could also be grouped together in the demo with a few visible windows stacked and overlapping in the center of the screen. Finally, Fererighi demonstrated accessing files by clicking on the desktop to hide the currently active application and dragging the files into one of the open app windows on the left side.

Spotlight on the Mac is also getting updates to quickly glance at the contents of search results by using the quick look feature of macOS with the space key, and search for images in the photo library, files, and on the web or search the contents of images using the live text feature. Federighi showed off starting a timer and running Apple’s Shortcuts scripts from Spotlight and showed how informational search results about shows, music, and other topics, would be improved in Ventura with more detail. Federighi said that these new Spotlight features were also coming to iOS and iPadOS with Spotlight on iOS 16 being accessible by tapping on the dots at the bottom of the home screen.

Mail in macOS Ventura, iOS 16, iPadOS 16

Mail is mercifully, finally, getting an undo send option for a few “moments” after hitting send when your brain finally processes the typo it made, according to Darin Adler who also introduced other new features in Mail. Scheduled sending. Follow-up suggestions looks awesome, it suggests replying to emails if you haven’t gotten a response. Remind me does what it should do and reminds you to check in on a thread later on. Adler also said that search is improved in basic ways by checking for typos in the search query, search suggestions, and other improvements.

Safari on macOS Ventura

Shared Tab Groups will let friends and family share groups of browser tabs and collaborate on them. I love tab groups but they are one of the least reliable features in the current versions of macOS. I routinely have trouble opening new tabs where they are instantly closed and renaming tab groups is often impossible. There seem to be a lot of others with the same issues online.

Passkeys

Adler introduced the Passkeys feature that replaces passwords with crytpographic data that is encoded with Touch ID or Face ID and synchronized across Apple devices. There has been a bit of talk about this lately under the “Fido alliance”  that Adler said includes Google and Microsoft so that Passkeys work on Android and Windows. Adler admitted that the “…transition away from passwords will be a journey.” which is an understatement but I hope it works because passwords are impossible for most people to manage safely and there are so many situations where passworded accounts are the ideal method right now due to sharing logins among teams or family members. 2 factor seemed great, until so many companies went towards text messages as the second factor which are easy to compromise due to telecom companies being completely garbage at security.

Gaming

Craig Federighi boasted about Apple’s gaming performance which is incredible because from the perspective of myself and other game developers I speak with, Apple does just about everything they can to push away game developers.

Metal Improvements

Jeremy Sandmel introduced new features to Apple’s Metal rendering API in Metal 3. Did you know that Nvidia and AMD both have upscaling pipelines that are becoming more widely adopted? Apple has heard about that too and Sandmel introduced MetalFX Upscaling. No Man’s Sky was demonstrated and Sandmel said it is coming to the Mac “later this year.”

Sandmel then introduced a Fast resource loading API that Apple didn’t waste any time creating a marketing name for. “This really is a new day for gaming on the Mac.” says Sandmel. The Apple Silicon transition started two years ago and Steam still doesn’t have a native version of the desktop client. Why hasn’t a dump truck full of money and engineers backed up to Valve’s headquarters to make it happen? Why isn’t there a reasonable gaming computer available from Apple? Apple doesn’t care about gaming on the Mac.

The next game Sandmel said was coming to the Mac is Resident Evil Village. It’s great but it came out last year. No Man’s Sky is six years old. A Capcom representative took over to say that the MacBook Air manages at 1080p and the Mac Studio does well at 4K.

Continuity

Federighi returned to talk about the Continuity features of Apple’s operating systems handing off FaceTime calls between devices, which is good, before introducing Continuity Camera to let Macs use the iPhone’s better camera systems. Federighi demonstrated the feature with Johnnie Manzari and Manzari showed how Continuity Camera includes a bunch of features to blur the background and do other tricks but the one that was the most impressive was a desk view that added in a second camera perspective using the ultra-wide camera on the iPhone to give an overhead view of Manzari’s desk. I use software from Elgato called Epoc Cam to use my iPhone’s cameras with the Mac and it is terrible software that crashes and only runs at 30fps. There are a bunch of other competitors out there that also do this and I honestly hope Apple’s version works well because some of the popular competitors have impressive business models like Reincubate’s Camo that’s either $5 a month, $40 a year, or $80 for a “Lifetime license” all of those prices are ridiculous.

Belkin is supposed to be offering stands to hold iPhones above Macs later this year.

iPadOS 16

Federighi reiterated all of the previously announced features in iPadOS 16 before mentioning that Apple is finally shipping their stock Weather app on iPad OS. It took them 12 years.

After acquiring and starting to sunset the fantastic DarkSky weather app and it’s API, Federighi also mentioned an API for developers called WeatherKit.

Federighi demonstrated new collaboration features with a team working on a document at the same time and discussing it with shared tabs over a video call. The features are also promised to come to Apple’s other platforms.

Freeform for iPadOS, macOS, and iOS

Elizabeth Reid showed off an upcoming app called Freeform that looks a lot like Apple’s Notes app and the semi-defunct Paper app from Fiftythree, except focused on collaboration and creative thinking for diagramming and sharing ideas on an ever-expanding canvas.

The Return of the Return of Game Center

Federighi talked about gaming features again like a revamped Game Center interface which has been stuck inside of the Settings app for a long time now and SharePlay gaming to let you play with friends with something that looks a little bit like streaming the game. It wasn’t clear what was going on in the short background video.

Desktop-class apps on iPadOS 16

Federighi said that apps on iPadOS are getting more features from their macOS counterparts like customizable toolbars and new APIs for developers.

Display Scaling on iPadOS 16

A higher resolution option for apps to show more stuff? Great.

Stage Manager & External Display Support on iPadOS 16

Fedrerighi demonstrated iPadOS 16 with overlapping windows managed by Stage Manager on an iPad and on an external monitor. Federighi said that with an iPad and an external monitor there can be eight apps running simultaneously on the iPad.

Overall

I’m pretty happy with most of these updates. It’s great that the iPad might finally be a little closer to a real computer with overlapping windows but that improvement is as impressive as the usurious work to add buy now pay later functionality to Apple Pay is disgusting. I cannot imagine any good outcomes that could come from setting up people for failure like that except for potentially doing it in a less evil way than companies like Klarna and Afterpay and that isn’t worth doing. Buy now pay later services should be regulated out of existence.

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Apple’s Anxiety-Inducing MacBook Pro Keyboard Situation Update

Remember how Apple released a MacBook Air last year that might have had a more reliable update to their butterfly keyboard mechanism? Joanna Stern wrote about how it wasn’t fixed for the Wall Street Journal and put the nail in that coffin.

Here’s one I missed, Casey Johnston also had an update on our long national keyboard nightmare and bought a 2018 MacBook Air. Surprise, her Air’s keyboard broke as well.

Today. May 22, 2019. Apple has a press release speed-bump for the MacBook Pro accompanied by this headline: Apple introduces first 8-core MacBook Pro, the fastest Mac notebook ever

Congratulations Apple, any updates on that keyboard business?

“Phrase not found” Uh-oh.
Ol’ Jack is starting to worry here that maybe Apple isn’t getting around to fixing this one properly

Here’s the “good news.” Apple has extended their keyboard warranty program for their laptops to include all MacBooks with this butterfly mechanism.

“But wait,” you’d say, “haven’t they done anything to possibly fix this issue in these models?” Apple has told it’s spokespersons to say, on-background (with conditions), that these updated MacBook Pro computers have:

…a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards.

That is John Gruber’s interpretation of the message. I also completely disagree with Gruber’s supposition that these keyboards “…can’t be worse and are likely better.” The new keyboards can definitely be worse, and it’s clear that Apple’s judgement on this issue is poor. Apple has shipped the same bad keyboard design for 4 years.

I’m glad that Apple is trying to fix this keyboard design, and is updating their Macs on a regular basis again. Supposedly if you bring in a 2018 model of MBP or Air for repair you’ll get the 2019 keyboard material. I’m disappointed that if my ancient MacBook Pro fails I would not choose an Apple laptop to replace it. This 4-year extended warranty program doesn’t inspire confidence when it is immediately applied to their latest iteration of this butterfly key switch design.

What happens if the keyboard dies on the first day of the fifth year you own one of these laptops? You’ve got to beg Apple to fix it, or pay them to fix it.

How long can you go without your laptop? If you don’t care, then maybe you should get an iPad Pro. Apple’s keyboard for that is more reliable.

Would you recommend, sell, or give, one of these laptops in good conscious to a friend or family member, knowing that the warranty won’t last and the keyboard is likely to fail before the rest of the computer? I wouldn’t!

After all of this. Even if, or when, Apple’s designers make a new laptop that has a new keyboard design, would you trust it? I wouldn’t.

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Jason Snell’s 2018 MacBook Air and Mac Mini Reviews

Jason Snell has reviewed the 2018 Mac Mini:

Apple has witnessed how the Mac mini has gone from being the best Mac it could build for $499 to one that’s a vital tool for professional and home users in a variety of contexts. And so, after a long time in the wilderness, the Mac mini has at last been updated—the right way. The last time the Mac mini got updated, Apple took away the highest-end configurations. This time, the Mac mini has been built with those many niche uses in mind.

and the 2018 MacBook Air:

Just when we thought it was dead, after several years of essentially no updates, the MacBook Air has returned with a new version that’s clearly inspired by the classic design. It’s been so long since the last major MacBook Air update, in fact, that most of the “new” features on this device are simply a recap of all the changes Apple has made to other Macs the past few years, finally rolled into this one: a new keyboard, Retina display, Force Touch trackpad, Apple-designed T2 processor, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, “Hey Siri”, and Touch ID.

Surprise! The definitive Mac of the 2010s is going to survive this decade. And while this MacBook Air is dramatically different from previous models in many ways, it’s also got a bunch of familiar touches that make it undeniably a MacBook Air. Like its predecessors, it’s not the computer for everyone… but it will probably be the most popular laptop among the (count ‘em) six models Apple currently offers.

He also has video reviews of both, and it sounds like they’re both good computers, even if they miss out on some features of older models like MagSafe which has saved my laptops many times.

There’s reason to think that Apple’s custom ARM processors, which now outperform many of their Mac computers in some benchmarks, are coming to replace Intel’s chips. These models, and any speed bumps they get in the next few years, might be some of the last Intel-based Apple updates.

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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.