September 21, 2017

Tom’s Guide:

The “Bionic” part in the name of Apple’s A11 Bionic chip isn’t just marketing speak. It’s the most powerful processor ever put in a mobile phone. We’ve put this chip to the test in both synthetic benchmarks and some real-world speed trials, and it obliterates every Android phone we tested.

I think the “Bionic” part is silly marketing speak but these results, while not important to the average consumer, still point to the remarkable job Apple has done with their chip designs.

RT:

A Soviet officer who prevented a nuclear crisis between the US and the USSR and possible World War III in the 1980s has quietly passed away. He was 77. In 2010 RT spoke to Stanislav Petrov, who never considered himself a hero. We look at the life of the man who saved the world.

This is a truly terrifying story and, sadly, he never got the recognition and appreciation he deserved.

The 70 most influential visual effects films of all time

The Visual Effects Society – a professional organization of artists, producers, technologists, and more who work in the entertainment industry – polled its nearly 3,400 members and determined a ranking of the most influential visual effects movies of all time.

What an interesting list, not necessarily of good movies but of movies that had visual excellence.

If you know who Liam Gallagher is, you’ll no doubt find this both in character and, perhaps, an insightful comment on changing times. If you don’t know him, think controversial rock star (lead singer of the band Oasis).

From his Wikipedia page:

His erratic behaviour, distinctive singing style, and abrasive attitude have been the subject of commentary in the press; he remains one of the most recognisable figures in modern British music.

With that background, check out the video embedded in the tweet below [Cursing throughout].

Benjamin Klymer, Executive Editor of Hodinkee:

One of the most amusing things about doing what I do for a living – writing about and working with mechanical watches – is the reaction that other watch guys expect me, or really any other reasonable watch person, to have about the Apple Watch. They think we should hate it. I don’t hate the Apple Watch, nor should anyone else. If anything, the build quality versus price ratio on the Apple Watch is so embarrassing for the Swiss that I genuinely think it will push mechanical watchmakers to be better.

This is a thoughtful, long, and fantastic review of the Series 3 Apple Watch. More specifically, Benjamin is writing and speaking about the ceramic Edition model, which now comes in both grey and white. Don’t miss the video at the top, and the terrific collection of pictures sprinkled throughout.

There’s no way to quote out all the chewy goodness in this post, but I did find this particular point fascinating.

On the red dot on every single Apple Watch Series 3 Edition:

All Edition watches feature cellular technology so all Edition watches will feature the red dot.

And:

If Apple did want to have some visual cue to let others know you’ve copped the new hotness with that cellular bizness inside, why make it a red dot, a logo well known and loved by a brand with which many consumers of “luxury digital products” are well acquainted – Leica? Hell, Apple designers Jony Ive and Marc Newson even collaborated on a Leica for the Red Charity Auction in 2013. Again, the red dot isn’t a huge deal, but I’d love to get the background on this. Why that and why there?

To see this red dot similarity for yourself, just hop over to the Leica camera web site. That red dot is all over the place. Interesting.

[Via DF]

This is a great read, a great way to quickly get a sense of all that’s new with iOS 11. Worth a scan, pass it along.

John Gruber, commenting on the fact that the WiFi and Bluetooth buttons in Control Center no longer act as on/off switches:

This is an interesting feature, but I think it’s going to confuse and anger a lot of people. Until iOS 11, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles in Control Center worked the way it looked like they worked: they were on/off switches. Now, in iOS 11, they still look like on/off switches, but they act as disconnect switches.

Off the top of my head, I would suggest making them three-way switches: on and connected, on but disconnected, and off.

Completely agree. This setup is confusing. As John points out, when you tap the WiFi button, WiFi is left on, but you are disconnected from your current session. Tap it again, you are reconnected. The icon goes from a blue background to a grey background, and back to blue when you reconnect.

To complete the picture, there is a third icon state. Take a look at what happens when you turn on airplane mode:

The grey background with the line through it shows that Bluetooth and WiFi are now disconnected. In Airplane mode, a tap on the WiFi icon goes from disabled to connected (assuming there’s WiFi to be had), from grey with a line through it to the blue background.

Confusing. But once you get the sense of it, it’s pretty clear what’s happening.

Top iOS 11 augmented reality apps

Good video showing these apps in real world use. Many are limited functionality right now but you can see some amazing potential.

How to follow someone in Apple Music, how to share your listening history

Had a lot of back and forth on Twitter yesterday working through how to find and follow someone on Apple Music, and the various settings that impact what the follower can see.

First things first, here’s how to find and follow someone on Apple Music:

  • Tap the Music app
  • In the tab bar at the bottom of the screen, tap the Search icon (it’s a magnifying glass, lower right corner).
  • Tap the Apple Music tab (as opposed to Your Library, the other choice).
  • Type the name of the person you want to find, or type their Apple Music nickname.

For example, to find me, you could type David Mark or my nickname, which is zzdave. Once you find them, you can tap to follow, or explore their musical tastes, etc.

I found this process a bit non-obvious, but once I figured it out, Search was clearly the right place for this to be.

As to sharing and protecting your listening history, take a read of this post from Kirk McElhearn, How to Share Your Listening History in Apple Music. Kirk takes you through the process of setting up your profile (which you’ll definitely want to do before you start following folks) and finding folks.

I find that my listening history is not updated. I’ve been listening to a ton of music that folks I’m following are listening to, and none of it is showing up on my Listening To list. A bug?

No matter, I’m enjoying this way of discovering new music.

Good walkthrough by Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog, on using Notes to scan and save documents.

I love this feature. And I find it interesting to think about edge detection at work here. Watch how the scanner detects the edges of a piece of paper laying on a table, automatically adjusts the scanning frame so you end up with a relatively rectangular result.

This object and edge detection is a hallmark of ARKit. Not certain that’s how this was done, but would not surprise me if it was.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Over the last day or two, several Mac users appear to have been locked out of their machines after hackers signed into their iCloud accounts and initiated a remote lock using Find My iPhone.

With access to an iCloud user’s username and password, Find My iPhone on iCloud.com can be used to “lock” a Mac with a passcode even with two-factor authentication turned on, and that’s what’s going on here.

This does appear to be a genuine hole in Apple’s security scheme, though iCloud itself was not hacked.

Seems like this is fixable. From the comments:

When you go to remote lock a device you enter a lock passcode and the device’s password or passcode. When that is sent to the Mac, iPhone, whatever, if the device password doesn’t match, it won’t lock the device. That way, even if a hacker guesses your Apple ID and password using hacked credentials, they still can’t lock the device without the Mac’s login.

Not sure if this is doable, since your Mac’s password is not stored in the cloud, but maybe the entered password could be encrypted, sent to the Mac, and the Mac could decrypt and compare.

September 20, 2017

Taiwan motorcycle advertisement

This is an old video but what a wonderful, poignant ad celebrating lifelong friendships and motorcycles. I’m honestly jealous of these guys.

Ars Technica:

The Qi wireless charging standard from the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is having a relatively good year. Now is a good time for a bird’s-eye view of the technology—how it works, what it’s for, and what its prospects are. This is also a good time because millions of Apple ecosystem users are about to get their first sampling of Qi when the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus launch this Friday.

Qi has appeared in phones of various stripes for more than five years, and many people are already using it. The basic tech has been used for consumer products like razors and toothbrushes for a while, plus a variety of non-consumer tools.

If wireless charging has been around for years, why has it struggled to become normal? We’ll get into that shortly. But first, for those who are just getting introduced to Qi, we’ll go into the basics of how it works.

This is another example of a technology that will take off now that Apple is supporting it.

CNET:

The camera in your pocket is about to get better. Again. Apple has always packed serious photography power inside the iPhone, and the iPhone 8 Plus is no exception. With a new 12-megapixel sensor that captures color and texture in stunning detail and dual wide-angle and telephoto lenses, the iPhone 8 Plus delivers a serious camera.

I set out on an adventure in and around San Francisco, CNET’s hometown, to capture the city’s eclectic mix of architecture, landmarks and natural beauty — testing a range of lighting conditions, photography modes and filters.

As a (supposed) professional photographer, I’m really interested in the improvements and features of the new iPhones’ cameras and the advancements Apple is making in photography. They are helping “average users” to create beautiful, compelling images.

Serenity Caldwell does a great job of explaining what’s going on with the Apple Watch connectivity problems. It also reaffirms why I didn’t experience any of these issues in my Apple Watch review—I don’t connect to these types of networks.

While writing my review of the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE capabilities, I experienced notable connectivity issues. The new Watch appeared to try to connect to unknown WiFi networks instead of connecting to cellular, when I was out and about without my phone.

Within the first couple days of experiencing this, Apple replaced my first review unit with a second one, but that one proved to be problematic, too.

Eventually, the company issued an official statement, acknowledging the issue. “We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular,” an Apple spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I never had this issue with my Apple Watch. Every time I tried to do something, it worked just fine.

Perhaps Gruber explained it:

I suspect one reason I haven’t run into this is that I generally avoid using unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks. They’re a security risk, and at least in my experience they generally offer slower, less reliable connectivity than LTE.

I don’t do that either, so that could be it. Whatever the reason, Apple needs to get it fixed and they will.

Austin Mann:

I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

I’m a big fan of Austin’s photography and his reviews. He knows his craft and does a great job showing off iPhone 8 Plus camera.

Farhad Manjoo:

What does one say about a new iPhone? At this point, a decade after the first one sent the earth spinning in directions both magical and ghastly, it can be difficult to summon any fresh wonder when appraising the familiar little slab of digital horror and delight.

I’ma stop you right there. Why does the New York Times do this? Why ghastly? Why digital horror?

But I digress:

The 8s look almost identical to the iPhones 7, 6S and 6, a model first introduced back when Donald Trump was still hosting a reality TV show. To make matters worse, both are overshadowed by the $1,000 all-screen iPhone X, which Apple considers the foundation for the next iteration of the iPhone. That model ships in November, and reviewers have not yet had a chance to use it.

To make matters worse? This prose is jarring, especially when compared to the “worthy refinement” in the headline. But onward, people:

Most of Apple’s improvements over the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are minor, but if you have an older model, either of the 8s will feel like a solid upgrade. And if you are considering upgrading from an Android phone, there’s one area where the new iPhones still rank head and shoulders above their competition — the processor, the engine that runs the entire device, where Apple is so far ahead that it almost feels unfair.

OK, I feel the tone shifting. What follows is a highly positive review, especially when compared to Android phones. For example:

The fastest Android phones, though, are almost painfully behind. With a Geekbench score of around 1,900, Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S8 is not just half the speed of the iPhone 8, but it’s actually slower than last year’s iPhone 7, and even slower than the iPhone 6S, released in 2015.

Helps when you custom design your own processors.

And my favorite part of the iPhone, the camera:

Most images were astounding, and given the iPhone 8’s advantages in size, convenience and usability, I predict that my camera will be spending a lot more time in the drawer. In particular, I fell hard for the 8 Plus’s “Portrait Lighting” feature, which uses data from a depth sensor to mimic the blurred-background “bokeh” effect you get when taking portrait photos with expensive cameras. That feature made its debut last year on the iPhone 7 Plus, but in the 8 Plus, it’s been further refined to let you adjust the lighting of each shot, making for breathtaking portraits that you’ll be surprised came from a mere phone.

Pretty, pretty good.

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Control Center in iOS 11 is different. Really different. And when you upgrade from iOS 10, it will take some getting used to. But as someone who has been using it for a few months now, let me declare: It’s better. The new Control Center is simultaneously simpler and more powerful. And best of all, you can customize it to do what you want —— and hide most of what you don’t care about.

I agree with Jason. I think the new Control Center does take getting used to. But Jason solves that problem. His walkthrough makes things pretty clear.

Visual Codes is a bit hard to describe. It basically makes it easy to turn a chunk of data (like a URL) into a QR code, and makes it easy to store and retrieve those codes. You can even use Siri to display your codes on your iPhone screen.

Here’s an example that might explain the value here:

You can use Visual Codes to create a QR code that connects to your home WiFi. You could print that QR code (Visual Codes knows how to print, too) and put it on the wall in your house. When someone comes to visit, they point their camera to the QR code poster (iOS knows how to interpret QR codes, knows this particular one is to connect to WiFi) and they are connected.

If you prefer a more private, controlled setting, you could ask Siri to bring up your home WiFi QR code, then have your guest point their camera to the QR code on your iPhone screen. Same result. No password changing hands, and they are in.

This is just one use case. Of many. And the app is FREE. Printing requires an in-app purchase of $1.99 that unlocks all additional features, but the free version is usable. No reason not to grab it. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Details on the Visual Codes web site.

This is a fascinating read. There’s the story of how Gabriel Weinberg got started. And the story of how he figured out his core mission, that of privacy.

One particular highlight that struck me:

It was 2011 when Gabriel Weinberg started to experiment off-line advertising with a billboard, which said “Google tracks you. We don’t.”

According to Wired, that campaign cost was $7,000 for four weeks, and it started “in tech-heavy SOMA district, along the highway dumping cars off the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.”

This is not literature, but there’s lots of detail, and a terrific underdog story.

Droid Life:

When Google takes the stage on October 4 at a phone-related event in San Francisco, most of us expect there to be non-phone related product announcements too. We’ve heard rumors about a Google Home “mini” possibly being on the way and today we can confirm that it exists, how much it costs, and the colors it’ll be available in.

The home assistant market is evolving, and all before Apple’s HomePod has an official release date. Amazon’s Echo Dot is priced at $49.99 and now it looks like Google is playing in the same space at the same price.

Begs the question: Will Apple roll out a HomePod Mini to compete with the Dot and Home Mini?

The Dot has a speaker, but is not designed to play music. A HomePod Mini could offer remote, always on Siri queries, and fire up music on the HomePod.

That said, is there a need for a HomePod Mini in a home that likely already has iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches? Gonna be interesting to watch this market unfold.

Review: Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular

When Apple released the Apple Watch Series 3 at its event last week, it added a few really big new features, including cellular capabilities to the device. I’ve been testing out a cellular model with an iPhone 8 for about a week.

It’s hard for me to express how much I love the Apple Watch. It helped me get healthier, lose a lot of weight, and with its notifications, it changed the way I use my iPhone. With the addition of cellular, that is going to change even more.

Even after the demonstration that Jeff Williams did on stage when he called a colleague on an Apple Watch paddling in the middle of a lake, I was skeptical. I was impressed, but I was skeptical because it sounded so good.

The only thing to do was test it myself.

I went to the financial district of San Francisco with my father. I left my iPhone at home, so all I had was my Apple Watch. He walked one way and I walked the other. A couple of minutes later, he called and I picked up the call on my Apple Watch.

I had the watch about chest high when I was speaking, but he said he could hear me “clear as day.” I could also hear him clearly from the Apple Watch speaker.

Next, I dropped my arm and started walking, but continued my conversation with him. He said he could still hear me just fine, even though my arm was down by my side and I was walking at a normal pace. To be honest, I wanted to see what I could do so that he couldn’t hear me, but he kept saying it sounded fine.

There was some traffic in the area, but it wasn’t incredibly busy with horns blasting when we were doing the tests. However, San Francisco is a busy spot around mid-morning on a weekday, so it was a good place to test the cellular capabilities.

Finally, I tried a phone call using my AirPods and the Apple Watch and he said that was the best—the sound was incredible at that point. Of course, that makes sense.

With technology so prevalent these days, we never want to miss out on anything that happens. We all carry our iPhones everywhere we go and check them nonstop—many would say too much.

In the past week, I’ve gone out multiple times without my iPhone and still received messages, emails, and phone calls. I was still in touch with people, but I felt a little free not having my iPhone with me.

If I left my iPhone behind accidentally, I’d be freaking out and need to get home to get it in case something happened—I didn’t feel that with the Apple Watch Series 3. I had everything I needed on my wrist.

Originally, I loved the notifications on the Apple Watch because it allowed me to see what was going on without having to pick up my iPhone. Every time I picked up the phone, I would get stuck going down a rabbit hole of checking everything that came in. With Apple Watch, I can look at a notification and decide if it’s something that needs to be dealt with or not.

What’s interesting about the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular is how it chooses to connect to a network.

The first thing the Apple Watch will try to do is connect to your iPhone. If your iPhone is off or not around, it will try to find a known Wi-Fi network, whether you’re at home or not. If it finds one, it will connect to make and receive phone calls. If it can’t find a Wi-Fi network, it will then connect to the cellular network.

It knows the Wi-Fi networks that it should connect to because it is paired with your iPhone. Whatever networks are on there, will be on the watch too.

You can check to see where your Apple Watch is connected by swiping up on the Watch screen. It will show a picture of an iPhone, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection.

The only time you will see any kind of indication on the watch face screen is when it’s connected to a cellular network—it will show the green dots. That can be confusing because you may think you don’t have a connection at all, but you could be connected to the phone or Wi-Fi. I wish Apple would change that—perhaps change the color of the dots to indicate what type of connection you have.

A few other things

Apple Watch Series 3 comes with an S3 dual-core processor that Apple says is up to 70 percent faster. This increased processing power allowed Apple to do things like enable Siri to speak on the watch.

I actually use Siri on my watch more than my iPhone. I set timers and simple things like that. I also tell Siri what music to play from my watch while I’m driving.

A new barometric altimeter allows Apple Watch to track the number of flights climbed in a day and you will get more credit for exercises going uphill. You will also see the elevation gain in your workout summary.

Speaking of workouts, that app received some updates too. The new workout app now supports HIIT by using custom motion and heart rate algorithms to accurately measure active and total calorie burn. You can also do multiple workouts in the new app by simply adding it—no need to stop one workout and start another.

One thing that Apple said during the launch that surprised me was that the watch was the most used heart rate monitor in the world. That’s incredible. With the new heart rate app, Apple Watch can even send you a notification if your heart rate is above a certain threshold during an inactive period of 10 minutes.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t try out Apple Music streaming on my Apple Watch—it will be available in about a month with a software update. However, Apple intelligently adds a couple of your most listened to playlists to the watch so you always have some music with you, even if you leave your iPhone at home. I use this a lot. You can choose different playlists if you want using the watch app on your iPhone.

Wrapping Up

I have a deep appreciation for the Apple Watch and the teams that work on all of this technology. It has changed my life and it continues to get better with every version. If you don’t have an Apple Watch and are thinking about getting healthier, do yourself a favor and get one.

For those of you that want to take a break away from your iPhone, even for a few hours, but are afraid you’ll miss something—meet Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular.

September 19, 2017

The iOS 11 reviews are rolling in, here’s a live list

Apple officially released iOS 11 today and, as you’d expect, the reviews are rolling in. I’m accumulating a list of reviews below and will add more as I encounter them.

See a comprehensive review that I’ve missed? Please send a link my way and I’ll add it.

This is a little hard to explain, so take a moment to jump to the AtF Spark web site. Their examples make the concept quite clear.

In a nutshell, you download a font that lets you use a simple markup to embed cool little charts in your text. Terrific idea.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Demand for Apple’s high-end flagship iPhone X is “very likely” to cannibalize iPhone 8 pre-orders, predicts KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a note sent out to investors this morning.

iPhone pre-orders traditionally sell out in September due to high demand, but this year, many models of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus were available for launch day delivery through the weekend, and continue to remain readily available for launch day pickup in Apple retail stores.

And:

As for the Apple Watch Series 3, Kuo says demand for the LTE version of the device was “significantly stronger” than expected, perhaps due to the “low premium of $70” over the non-LTE version of the watch.

Both are believable. The iPhone X is compelling, no matter how you feel about the notch.

And the low premium over non-LTE Apple Watch models is a small price to pay for the future-proofing it offers. Pay an extra $70, you’ll be able to turn LTE on if you decide you have the need. If I had the chance to pay $70 and get a WiFi+cellular iPad instead of WiFi-only, I’d make that choice every time.

Reuters:

Sprint Corp said on Monday it will offer Apple Inc’s new iPhone 8 for free with a qualifying phone trade-in, following AT&T Inc’s buy one, get one free promotion on Friday for DirecTV and U-verse TV customers.

And:

Both new and existing customers who enroll in the Sprint Flex leasing program will get a free 64GB iPhone 8 if they trade in newer iPhone and Samsung models, Sprint said on Monday.

AT&T’s video customers could buy a new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, add a line and receive a $699 credit for a second device beginning with pre-orders on Friday.

Carrier wars. Competition that is good for consumers.

Wall Street Journal:

Thorstein Veblen was a cranky economist of Norwegian descent who coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” and theorized that certain products could defy the economic laws of gravity by stoking more demand with superhigh prices.

And:

Typically, raising the price of a good lowers demand for it. If beef becomes too expensive, people will buy more chicken.

Mr. Veblen’s theory posits that some consumers want a product even more when the price rises because the expense broadcasts status, taste and wealth.

And:

By unveiling the new iPhone X last week with a price of $1,000, Apple Inc. is pushing the envelope even further than Samsung Electronics Co., which unveiled the $950 Note 8 phone this year. Rather than trying to attract consumers with cheaper prices, the companies are fighting for customers with expensive price tags.

And:

The biggest spikes came for iPhones that were the most visibly distinct, such as 2014’s iPhone 6, the model in which Apple changed the shape, enlarged the device and raised prices by $100.

Big lesson learned for Apple with the iPhone 6. I hear a ton of discussion of the pros and cons of the iPhone X, with many opinions on the notch and its distinctive look. Can’t help but think of this as a bit of a badge for Apple, another play towards uniqueness that will mark the iPhone X as the new must-have shiny.

I have a very short list of absolutely essential 3rd party Mac software. Tops on that list? Keyboard Maestro.

If you use a Mac and are not familiar with Keyboard Maestro, go here and watch the video, read through the list of things it can do. I use it every single day. My highest recommend.

Review: iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus

Apple introduced the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus during a special event at its new Apple Park campus last week. While many people were focused on the launch of the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 is an incredible piece of hardware that features many improvements over its predecessor. I’ve been testing both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus for about a week.

The iPhone 8 has the same physical layout as the iPhone 7, so the accessories you purchased for the previous generation, like cases, will still work with the new iPhone. That’s a great bit of news for those that purchase a lot of extras for their devices.

Like most of Apple’s updates, that’s where the comparisons stop with the previous generation—Apple has made some big changes to the iPhone 8.

The Experience

For some people, the iPhone experience starts after they have it all set up and they are ready to use the device. For me, it starts as soon as I open the box. Setting up the iPhone 8 was a delight that even I was surprised with.

Usually when you set up a new iPhone, you type in your Apple ID and password to get started, but Apple has changed that if you are setting up a device and have another one nearby.

After I turned it on, the iPhone 8 asked me to pick up my iPhone 7 and use it for setup. When I did, I saw this message.

I clicked continue and saw this.

And then this.

The iPhone 8 asked me if I wanted to restore from my latest iPhone 7 backup—it already knew which was the latest one in iCloud because it used my Apple ID to sign-in. I could also chose to update the current backup and use that to restore to my new iPhone or set up as a new phone. I chose to update the backup.

When it was done, it restored and it started downloading the apps from the App Store as it normally does after you do a restore. The entire process was absolutely painless and very intuitive.

I have not seen any device that was as easy to setup out of the box as this iPhone 8.

True Tone Display

I tweeted a couple of weeks ago that if Apple only added True Tone technology to the iPhone 8, I would be happy. Well, they added it to both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. This is a massive feature, especially if you use your iPhone outside in the sun—we all do that.

Here’s how Apple describes True Tone:

True Tone technology automatically adjusts white balance to match the light around you. For a better viewing experience in all kinds of environments.

So in practical terms, what does that really mean?

It means that the iPhone is continuously adjusting the screen, using a four-channel ambient light sensor, to match the color temperature of the light around you. To put it even simpler: you can read your iPhone in direct sunlight.

First introduced in the iPad, True Tone is a very subtle technology—you won’t see the screen change, it just will. All you will notice is that no matter where you are, you can see the screen better.

This is much different from auto-brightness. That feature simply adjusts the screen brightness—True Tone takes it many steps further by recognizing the lighting conditions around you and adjusting the screen for those conditions.

This is a technology that you truly have to use to appreciate, and I love it.

iPhone 8 also features a wide color gamut, giving it even better color accuracy on the new Retina HD display.

Wireless Charging

One of the design changes Apple made with the iPhone 8 is to add a glass back and wireless charging system to the device. I’ve been testing my iPhones with a Mophie Wireless Charging Base.

I usually charge my iPhone using a fast charging adapter, so it’s very quick. If I have 45 minutes before I’m heading out, I can plug in my phone and get a great charge before I leave.

That’s not what wireless charging does on an iPhone 8—it provides a slower charge, equal to that of the 5W USB Power Adapter that Apple provides with the iPhone. That will increase slightly later this year with a software update from Apple, but for now, that’s what you get.

I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed with it at first, but then I realized that wireless charging is more about convenience than getting that quick full charge.

I had the wireless charger beside me where I work. When I sat down, I just put the iPhone 8 on the charger, instead of putting it on the desk. Basically, the iPhone was getting a charge whenever I sat down to work.

This negated the need to do any type of quick charge, because the iPhone was always getting charged.

I asked Apple if there was any worry of wearing down the battery from continuously charging and they said it wasn’t a concern. You can continually update the battery using the wireless charger, so your phone is always topped up.

Overall, the wireless charging worked very well and it’s a feature I’ll be using a lot, probably with multiple charging stations around the house.

Camera

I’ve said it before, but I really suck at taking pictures. The good news for people like me is that Apple keeps making its camera technology better.

The iPhone 8 has a 12MP camera with a larger, faster sensor. The new sensor allows for video stabilization and higher video frame rates. It also provides a level of stabilization to reduce motion blur and handshake in low-light photos and videos.

The new iPhone features an Apple-designed image signal processor that analyzes a scene and detects motion, people, and lighting, even before you take a photo. This seems amazing to me—the camera has already detected what’s going on before I even hit the button to snap a picture.

One of the features I used the most with my camera is Portrait Mode and it just got better in the iPhone 8 Plus. The Plus has two cameras on the back—one wide angle and one telephoto, allowing even the most amateur photographer to take great pictures.

If you haven’t seen Portrait Mode, it blurs the background of your photo and focuses the attention on the subject. It’s a really beautiful depth-of-field effect that used to be something you would only see from professional photographers.

The new Portrait Mode improves background blurring and performance in low light to make those photos even better. Not only that, Apple has added a new portrait feature to the iPhone 8 Plus: Portrait Lighting.

Portrait Lighting uses facial landmarking and depth maps to create photos that are unbelievable—and quite honestly photos that were unattainable to people like me before using this iPhone.

Here are the options for Portrait Lighting:

  • Natural Light: Your subject’s face in sharp focus against a blurred background. Studio Light. A clean look with your subject’s face brightly lit.
  • Contour Light: Dramatic shadows with highlights and lowlights.
  • Stage Light: Your subject’s face spotlit against a deep black background.
  • Stage Light Mono: Like Stage, but in classic black-and-white.

When you take a portrait, the lighting option appears on the bottom of the screen—you choose the one you want and take the picture. Here’s the best part—you can change the lighting option after the picture has been taken. If you go into your photo library and tap on the picture, all of the Portrait Lighting options pop up on the screen.

The depth maps are so accurate that when you change the lighting to Stage Light, it can accurately isolate the subject of the photo and completely remove the background. It is truly remarkable to see in action.

That old saying: “The best camera is the one you have with you,” just got a lot bolder when you’re carrying around an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus.

Stereo Speakers

If there is one thing about the new iPhones that surprised me the most, it would be the stereo speakers—they are loud.

Apple says the speakers are about 25 percent louder than before and that sounds about right to me. In fact, I had to turn the speakers down a bit when I was listening to music on the iPhone 8.

I know this may sound strange to some, but I listen to music from my iPhone quite a bit when I work. I could use my Mac or even AirPods, but I always use my iPhone. I’ve been doing this for years, so now it’s just habit for me to turn on music while I work.

If you like listening to music on your iPhone, you’re going to love these speakers.

Augmented Reality

I’m an AR newbie for sure, but I’ve had some fun using the new iPhones with a few AR apps. I’ve been using The Machines AR by Directive Games, IKEA, and Sky Guide by Fifth Star Labs.

AR is much easier to use than I thought it would be and all of these companies have a great job of making the apps work with an iPhone that was designed with AR in mind.

I must admit, being a bit of a stargazer, I really enjoyed looking at the planets and stars with Sky Guide. It’s fascinating.

iOS 11

There has been thousands of words written about iOS 11 in the past several months, so I won’t go into that here. I will say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the new main features that Apple has introduced in the operating system and would strongly recommend upgrading.

There is one feature that I would like to call out though: App Store.

I love the new App Store in iOS 11. I basically stopped visiting the App Store because it wasn’t very helpful to me, as a user. The apps were all games, and not being a gamer, going to the App Store was a waste of my time. I would download an app that friends recommended, but that was about it.

The new App Store is a breath of fresh air from Apple. It gives me recommendations, and while some are games, it doesn’t feel like they are completely taking over the experience.

There are stories, videos, and collections to help you find apps that you may like or use. I’ve even read stories about cooking apps and I can’t cook at all.

I’ve also downloaded more apps in the past few weeks than I had in the months before using the new App Store.

The App Store team did a great job with that.

Wrapping Up

There is nothing I didn’t like about the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus. It’s more powerful, has better cameras, Portrait Lighting, better Portrait Mode, Wireless charging, a better display, True Tone, and iOS 11.

These are just great devices that I would not hesitate to recommend.