October 28, 2020

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we’d do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities.

If you are in the market for an iPad, you are likely comparing the pros and cons of the new iPad Air against those of the most recent iPad Pro. Juli does an excellent job digging through those differences so you don’t have to.

Most significant to me:

There’s no ‌Touch ID‌ Home button, but there is ‌Touch ID‌ built into the power button at the top of the device. It’s fast and effortless, but you do need to reach up to the top of the ‌iPad‌ to unlock it, and it’s not as seamless of an experience as Face ID, especially when you’re using accessories like the Magic Keyboard. On ‌iPad Pro‌, you can wake it with the keyboard and then it instantly unlocks after scanning your face, but on ‌iPad Air‌, this is a two-step process.

If you plan on shelling out for the Magic Keyboard, think about Face ID and the process of unlocking your iPad. Can you live with the extra steps a lack of Face ID adds to the process? Might not matter to you, but worth thinking about.

Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac:

Google currently pays Apple an estimated $8-12 billion per year to be the default search engine on iOS devices. In 2018, for example, the sum was estimated at a little under $10 billion – around 20% of the company’s Services income for the year. However, antitrust regulators are now putting this deal in the spotlight, and arguing that it may be anticompetitive.

And:

A report in the Financial Times claims that Apple is now ‘stepping up’ efforts to create its own search engine as its lucrative deal with Google comes under threat

Ben takes the Financial Times report apart, brick-by-brick. The FT report could be correct but, as Ben points out, it’s unlikely that Apple would build a search engine that generated any sort of revenue:

The single biggest argument against Apple creating a search engine is the company’s strong privacy stance, and its less-than-flattering commentary on ad-funded services like Google.

Interesting read.

Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac:

Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup features a number of improvements to the camera systems and one of those is Night mode expanding beyond the standard rear-facing wide lens and landing on the ultra wide lens and the front-facing TrueDepth camera. Let’s take a look at how to take Night mode selfies on iPhone 12.

Night mode selfies is a selling point for the iPhone 12. To get a sense of what this is, follow the headline link, scroll about halfway down the article to the side-by-side-by-side trio of images, showing a Night mode selfie, a no flash selfie, and a selfie with flash. The improvement is obvious.

Great explainer.

Om Malik:

How real is 5G in the US? Is it worth the money?

My simple finding is that, as it stands today, in the US, it is decidedly not magical — though, it does involve a bit of hocus pocus. You might be promised gigabit speeds, but what you get will be much slower, especially in the near term. In order to understand, why, let’s look at what is on offer.

This is a welcome, and very readable explainer on 5G. Om did a lot of homework here, lays it out clearly, with lots of links.

It’s early days for 5G. The hardware infrastructure is still being rolled out. And the branding is terrible. The terms “mmWave” and “sub-6 GHz” are important distinctions, but the names do nothing to indicate their relative role/speed. And as carriers come up with their own tags, the confusion only deepens.

Hollywood Reporter:

As part of an expansive, multiyear deal with Apple, the Emmy-drenched former writer, producer and host of The Daily Show is set to front an all-new current affairs series for the streaming service. The show, which will run for multiple seasons, puts Stewart back in the anchor’s chair as he explores a host of topics at the center of both the national conversation and his own advocacy work.

And:

For Apple, nabbing Stewart’s Daily Show follow-up is a major coup. In his nearly two decades as host of the Comedy Central series, he earned 20 Emmys – including 10 consecutive outstanding variety series wins – and almost single-handedly redefined political satire in American culture.

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show was foundational, the strongest of voices. His absence created a painful void. John Oliver stepped in nicely, but having Jon Stewart return is absolutely brilliant. Great addition for Apple TV+.

Deadline:

Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker Taika Waititi has boarded Time Bandits, the TV series adaptation of the beloved Terry Gilliam-directed movie, which is in development at Apple.

The deal was announced back in July, 2018, but bringing on Thor: Ragnorok’s director makes this feel much more real.

If you’ve never seen Time Bandits, check it out. It’s got time travel, Monty Python, an amazing cast, and some fertile imagination.

Tagline: “They didn’t make history, they stole it!”

October 27, 2020

Apple MagSafe charger speed tests

Great video. I love that little charge meter. Really makes it clear what’s happening when you plug in to various chargers, what happens when you go wireless. Beautifully done.

Matt Birchler captures the confusion on buying MagSafe and an iPhone 12, then working through the charger options.

Really well written.

And to clarify any MagSafe and power questions, be sure to watch the video in the post that follows.

Apple’s fantastic iPhone 12 Pro movie making ad

Yeah, I love this one. Makes me feel like grabbing a wheelie chair, some duct tape, and a bunch of props and making a some experimental films.

Just the feelings Apple was trying to inspire, I suspect.

Facebook Gaming blog:

Today we’re announcing that Facebook Gaming has launched several cloud-streamed games in the Facebook app and on browser — playable instantly, with no downloads required. We recently had 200,000 people playing our cloud-streamed games per week in limited regions, so while it’s not exactly a secret, I’m excited to lay out what we’re building.

Read the post for details. In a nutshell, the games are free, Android only, latency tolerable, and rolled out in limited regions in the US.

As to the snark, there’s this tweet:

You’ll just need the Facebook app on Android. iOS won’t work for now. Because, Apple (sigh).

Something deep inside me recoils at seeing Facebook throw shade at other platforms, even if there’s a grain of truth there.

That aside, here’s the specifics on iOS:

Unfortunately, we’re not launching cloud games on iOS, so only Android and web players will enjoy integrated cloud games on Facebook while we work on alternative options for iOS. Even with Apple’s new cloud games policy, we don’t know if launching on the App Store is a viable path. “Of course, there is always the open Internet,” so mobile browsers may wind up being an option, but there are limitations to what we can offer on Safari. While our iOS path is uncertain, one thing is clear. Apple treats games differently and continues to exert control over a very precious resource. Stay tuned as we work out the best way for people to play games when and how they want, regardless of what device they bought.

As to the cost:

Cloud gaming is about expanding the types of games we already offer, so we’ll start with the format people enjoy playing on Facebook: free-to-play games. That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting with games typically played on mobile devices. In the future, our systems and infrastructure will improve to deliver more types of games — possibly all types of games. Until then, rest assured that the cost of trying our cloud games is $0.

This reads, to me, like a short term experiment with free-to-play games, while leaving the door open to “free to try” but pay in some way more sophisticated games.

Will these games make their way to iOS? Short of a court order, I suspect the only way that’ll happen is if Facebook finds a way to turn their gaming platform into a revenue stream for Apple.

Neil Cybart:

A billion people now have iPhones. According to my estimate, Apple passed the billion iPhone users milestone last month. Thirteen years after going on sale, the iPhone remains the perennial most popular and best-selling smartphone.

Follow the headline link for some interesting analysis to back that number up. And not to be confused with the more than 2 billion iPhones sold over time (as of 2018).

This “billion iPhones” estimate is staggering, especially when you think back to where it all began, back in June 2007, when more than a few people saw the iPhone as a fad, thought Apple would be lucky to sell a million of them.

Apple sold 1.39 million in 2007, and 11.63 million in 2008. And, as it turns out, that was just a drop in the bucket.

October 26, 2020

MagSafe and iPhones 12, really fast wireless charging

How much faster is the combination of MagSafe and iPhone 12? Watch this unfold, or jump to 1:33 for the numbers. Keep in mind that plug-in charging is about twice as fast as the fastest of these results.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Intercom works with the HomePod, ‌HomePod mini‌, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and even CarPlay, so you can dictate a voice message on any of your devices that you can have delivered to a single person in the family or all family members.

No mention of the Mac, anywhere. This remains odd to me. At the very least, you’d think Intercom could tie into Notifications in some way, letting Mac folks know an Intercom message was sent.

Juli does a nice job laying out the setup and use cases for Intercom. Wondering if there’s a way to set “Do Not Disturb” on a specific device. For example, if I’m in a meeting or on a podcast, I’d prefer not to have the HomePod weigh in with a “Dinner’s ready” message.

Imagine if my iPhone was in Do Not Disturb mode and Intercom was smart enough to not send audio to the HomePod in the room I’m in but, instead, just sent a notification with playable audio.

Harvard Business Review:

When Jobs arrived back at Apple, it had a conventional structure for a company of its size and scope. It was divided into business units, each with its own P&L responsibilities. General managers ran the Macintosh products group, the information appliances division, and the server products division, among others. As is often the case with decentralized business units, managers were inclined to fight with one another, over transfer prices in particular.

The first thing Jobs did:

Jobs, in his first year returning as CEO, laid off the general managers of all the business units (in a single day), put the entire company under one P&L, and combined the disparate functional departments of the business units into one functional organization.

Amazing that that functional structure is still around today.

As was the case with Jobs before him, CEO Tim Cook occupies the only position on the organizational chart where the design, engineering, operations, marketing, and retail of any of Apple’s main products meet.

Here’s an example that shows how this model works:

In a functional organization, individual and team reputations act as a control mechanism in placing bets. A case in point is the decision to introduce the dual-lens camera with portrait mode in the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016. It was a big wager that the camera’s impact on users would be sufficiently great to justify its significant cost.

One executive told us that Paul Hubel, a senior leader who played a central role in the portrait mode effort, was “out over his skis,” meaning that he and his team were taking a big risk: If users were unwilling to pay a premium for a phone with a more costly and better camera, the team would most likely have less credibility the next time it proposed an expensive upgrade or feature. The camera turned out to be a defining feature for the iPhone 7 Plus, and its success further enhanced the reputations of Hubel and his team.

Great quote from the article:

Apple is not a company where general managers oversee managers; rather, it is a company where experts lead experts.

Wonderful read, chock full of insight.

Shot on iPhone 12 Pro — Apple’s Experiments V: Dark Universe

These are all practical effects, not CGI, all shot on iPhone 12 Pro.

First the video itself, then the “Behind the Scenes” showing how the shots were created. Beautiful work.

Apple’s new iPad Air ad

Solid use of the slinky, especially to highlight the rose gold, green, and sky blue colors.

October 23, 2020

Thank you for sponsoring The Loop! Bare Bones, makers of BBEdit, is one of my favorite software companies—in fact, I’ve been using their software for more than 20 years. Now, with the opening of their new online store, you can also own some Bare Bones clothing. T-shirts, hoodies, pins, fleece jackets, sweat pants and combinations of all of the products in a bundle are available from the store.

Visit the store to get your Bare Bones Official Merchandise!

The Dalrymple Report: iPad Air, iPhone 12 and MagSafe

I’ve been using the new iPad Air for about a week now and Dave and I talk about my review of the device. We also looked at the early reviews of the iPhone 12 and how those people felt about the new iPhones. We finished off the show with some thoughts on MagSafe accessories, as well as some thoughts on the Apple TV+ show, Ted Lasso.

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October 22, 2020

With each new iPhone, I eagerly await Austin Mann’s camera review. Part of it is just experiencing Austin’s travels. This review took place in picturesque Glacier National Park in Montana.

Luxurious. Enjoy.

The big question for me, when it comes to the new iPad Air, is how it compares to the iPad Pro.

Jason Snell:

The release of the fourth-generation iPad Air feels kind of like that. Apple is apparently so confident in the roll that it’s on with the iPad that it’s happy to take the iPad Air, which it previously defined as a more expensive version of the low-end iPad, and transform it into an iPad Pro.

No, the new iPad Air doesn’t offer every single feature of the iPad Pro. There are still some reasons for some users to opt for the more expensive model. But this isn’t a move that a company terrified of undercutting its own high-margin products would make.

So what are those differences?

The iPad Air has two speakers rather than four. There’s no second rear camera, no portrait mode support, and no Lidar scanner. And the screen refreshes at 60Hz, not the buttery-smooth 120Hz found on Pro models.

No Face ID, but you do get Touch ID in the power button. And no Face ID means no face-reacting Animoji or Memoji. And the new iPad Air has a 10.9″ screen.

If the above sits well with you, the new iPad Air is a no-brainer. Starts at $599.

I seriously love a good headline.

Follow the link, make your way through the Geekbench 5 benchmarks. Those video encoding results! iPhone just dominates.

Hartley Charlton, MacRumors:

The French iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro does not have a different retail box to accommodate EarPods, meaning that all ‌iPhone‌ boxes are consistent worldwide. Since the new ‌iPhone‌ boxes are slimmer without a tray for EarPods or a power adapter below the ‌iPhone‌, in France the EarPods are in the bottom of a separate box that is large enough to also contain the standard ‌iPhone‌’s box. The additional box appears to be much larger than the new, slimmed-down ‌iPhone‌ boxes.

I get it. This is all to accommodate a French law requiring EarPods for every new smartphone. But the packaging waste is egregious (follow the link, check the image). And Apple’s packaging elegance is lost.

Got to be a better way.

First things first, from this Apple press release:

Apple TV+ has teamed up with WildBrain, along with Peanuts Worldwide and Lee Mendelson Film Productions, to become the home for all things “Peanuts,” bringing together new original series and specials, along with iconic beloved specials to fans around the world, all in one place.

And, most importantly:

The original programs and new specials will also soon stream globally alongside iconic “Peanuts” specials, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” The Halloween special will begin streaming globally on Apple TV+ on October 19, and will be available for free from October 30 until November 1 as a special treat on Apple TV+.

When this announcement hit, earlier this week, there was some pushback online about Apple taking a tradition away from the masses, the tradition of watching three great Peanuts specials on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But that is simply not the case. True, those shows will no longer be running on Network TV, but they will be available much more broadly, for free, on the web and Apple TV.

Turning to the headline linked post from Motley Fool:

This is a great score for Apple TV+, and the world’s most valuable company by market cap is doing something brilliant here. The three seasonal specials will always be available for on-demand streaming on the platform, but for a few days around each holiday, it will make the content available to nonsubscribers at no cost.

And:

And let’s be honest here: Snoopy is a Trojan horse. Folks are going to download the Apple TV+ app on their streaming hubs for this holiday freebie, and they’ll stay close every single month until the end of this year. They may decide to stick around as paying subscribers, just as the first wave of Apple TV+ users who got free 12-month trials for buying iOS gadgetry potentially walk away.

The Snoopy Trojan horse and Ted Lasso are two big bright spots to get folks looking at Apple TV+. And lets not forget about the bundles coming our way. I remain bullish on Apple TV+.

October 21, 2020

New York, shot on an iPhone 12 Pro in 4K

This is just gorgeous. Andy To shot the whole thing in HDR video, no external lenses, edited it on his MacBook Pro in Final Cut Pro.

Side note: If you are watching this on your Mac in Safari and not seeing the 4K option on playback, switch over to Google Chrome.

Mark Spoonauer, Tom’s Guide:

Here’s how the Tom’s Guide battery test works. It surfs the web continuously at 150 nits of screen brightness, launching a new site every 30 seconds until the battery drains. For the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, we ran this test over 5G and 4G, and the difference was pretty dramatic.

And:

The regular iPhone 12 lasted just 8 hours and 25 minutes over AT&T’s 5G network. Last year’s iPhone 11 lasted a whopping 11 hours and 16 minutes over 4G. To compare, we switched the iPhone 12 to 4G-only, and it endured for 10 hours and 23 minutes.

Follow the headline link, scroll down to the chart for the details but, in a nutshell, 5G took about 2 hours off the battery life for both the 12 and 12 Pro.

This shouldn’t stop you from buying an iPhone 12, and it shouldn’t stop you from using 5G. Just keep this in mind and plan accordingly.

Peter McKinnon: iPhone 12 Pro camera test

Peter McKinnon puts the iPhone 12 Pro camera through its paces. What I loved about this video are the zoomed in focus on images to see where they shine, and even where they fall flat.

One thing Peter points out that I’ve definitely experienced is the incredible sharpness throughout an image that machine learning makes possible, even in low light. Detail that would be difficult to replicate in a DSLR.

First things first, this entire iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro review is chock full of detail, and entertaining to boot.

But this one bit struck me:

And — I’ll repeat — holy shit is Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband fast. Using Ookla’s Speedtest app for testing, my LTE service here in Philly is generally in the range of 50-120 Mbps down, 10-20 Mbps up. Not bad. With 5G Ultra Wideband, I typically saw 1,200-1,800 Mbps down, 25-70 Mbps up. At a few spots I consistently saw 2,300-2,700 Mbps down. Wowza. Apple’s and Verizon’s advertised maximum under “ideal conditions” is 4,000 Mbps. That’s gigabit speeds in real life over a cellular network.

But:

But these mmWave coverage zones really are like Wi-Fi hotspots in terms of range. At some spots, the coverage is literally just half a city block.

And there’s the rub. How often will you be in just the right spot to take advantage of these speeds?

That said, 5G will evolve, and mmWave coverage will continue to grow. If you buy into 5G now, you’ll get the benefit of that growth over time.

Filipe Espósito, 9to5Mac:

Apple today silently removed its “Apple TV Remote” app from the App Store, which lets users control the Apple TV from an iPhone or iPad simulating a real Remote. The app is no longer available for download from the App Store and Apple has likely discontinued it, which means that it will no longer get any updates.

And:

Apple has added the Remote feature built into the Control Center in iOS 12, so Apple TV users can have access to all the controls on Siri Remote without having to download any app.

This is more a PSA than anything else. Want the Remote on your iPhone? Turn to Control Center.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

Most of the iPhone 12 Pro finishes still use a physical vapor deposition process for edge coating. But the new gold (which I do not have in person but looks great) uses a special high-power, impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) process that lays down the coating in a super dense pattern, allowing it to be tough and super bright with a molecular structure that mimics the stainless steel underneath — making it more durable than “standard” PVD. One side effect is that it’s easier to wipe clean and takes on less fingerprints, something that my blue model was, uh, definitely prone to.

From the HiPIMS Wikipedia page:

HIPIMS has been successfully applied for the deposition of thin films in industry, particularly on cutting tools. The first HIPIMS coating units appeared on the market in 2006.

The gold version of the Apple iPhone 12 Pro uses this process on the structural stainless steel band that also serves as the device’s antenna system.

There’s nothing I can find that says Apple’s other stainless steel colors can’t take a HiPIMS finish. I asked Panzer about this, his reply:

As far as I understand it, it should be able to be used with many different coatings — it is not a gold specific thing. My guess is that gold proved difficult or had fingerprinting issues.

I’m curious about Apple’s future use of HiPIMS. Will we see it applied in more places? Is the gold iPhone 12 Pro a one-off, or a test case for future stainless iPhones, Apple Watches?

iPad Air first look

I have been using an iPad since the product was first introduced ten years ago. Over time it has gone from a device I use when I put away my Mac to becoming a full-time work computer that can handle any job I throw at it. The release of the powerful iPad Air solidifies its place in my daily workflow.

iPad Air features a great mix of pro features with a comfortable price-point for most consumers interested in buying a computer or iPad. The iPad Air was the first Apple product to use the A14 chip, it’s compatible with the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio, you can use the Apple Pencil (2nd generation), and it has about 10 hours of battery life.

The Air also has a 12MP Wide camera on the rear and a FaceTime HD front-facing camera. Everyone is different, but I don’t know if I’ve ever used a camera on the iPad to take photos. If you do, the camera will deliver great pictures. I use it for FaceTime quite a bit, so the iPad Air’s included cameras fit my uses. The iPad Pro includes an Ultra Wide camera on the rear, but for me, that’s not enough of a reason to upgrade to the Pro.

I think it’s important to understand who can use the iPad Air and who it is made for. From what I’ve seen in using it, very few people can’t get all of their work or personal communications done with the Air. As I said, we are all different. A pro photographer or artist would likely get more use from the iPad Pro features, but with the power and features the Air has, those people are becoming fewer with every product revision.

When this iPad Air was first introduced, I recommended it to a friend who was looking at purchasing a new computer—he’s currently a Windows user. He had an older iPad, and he’s an iPhone user, so he’s familiar with the ecosystem and how to use Apple products. The one thing he didn’t like was using the onscreen keyboard.

I showed him the Magic Keyboard for iPad, and he was sold. I’ve said it before—that keyboard is one of the most important accessories that Apple has ever released. It allows people like my friend to have the convenience of an iPad without having the clunky feeling of typing on a screen. Magic Keyboard Has totally changed the way I use an iPad.

My friend is an average user—In a lot of ways, so am I. In fact, I would argue that most of us, for the everyday things we do, are average users. There are going to be outliers that will actually need the advanced features in the iPad Pro, but it’s certainly not the majority.

Some users who always want the top of the line of every product they purchase—that’s great if you can do it, but not always practical for everyone else. For the other 90 percent of users, the iPad Air will be exactly what they need.

I’m used to working on the iPad Pro and its 12.9-inch display, but the 10.9-inch display on the Air gives you plenty of screen real estate to do almost any type of work without feeling like you’re compromising.

One thing that did take some getting used to was using Touch ID instead of Face ID. I would stare at the screen waiting for it to unlock, but I got over that in a day or so. Touch ID is integrated into the On/Off button on the iPad Air and is a breeze to set up. It’s just a matter of following the instructions and placing your finger on the button multiple times so it can read your fingerprint.

I usually have the iPad connected to the Magic Keyboard, so it’s set to use my left index finger. I would recommend setting another finger if you plan to use the iPad in portrait mode, so it’s easy to unlock with either hand. You’ll get the hang of it after a couple of days of use.

Another thing I want to address with the iPad Air is storage. The Air comes in two storage configurations: 64GB and 256GB. Personally, 64GB is at the limit of almost being too small, even though I have most of my files in the cloud. Having 256GB for the Air seems to be on the high side of what I need, so I would really like to see a 128GB model.

If you are an aspiring pro in photography or music, the iPad Air can handle the work you want to do, but you should opt for the larger storage capacity to be safe. If you are only using the Air for email and surfing the Web, the 64GB model will do just fine, but really take a look at what you are using it for before making the decision.

There is nothing about the iPad Air that would keep me from recommending to everyone but the most ardent pro. I’ve seen for myself that it can replace a computer (if you want it to), and it can stand up to the tasks that you throw at it every day. iPad Air is powerful and portable, allowing you to work remotely or travel easily when we’re allowed to travel again.