AirPods Review

The iPhone 7 is half of a vision for a future without wires.

Apple’s AirPods are the other half of that vision.

It’s a future where headphones are no-longer tangled up in your pocket, and are instead a three piece system of two earbuds and a charging case that has its own battery and keeps them topped off throughout the day.

You connect the AirPods to your iOS 10 device by opening up the charging case while it is nearby. A dialog pops up that asks if you want to connect them and once connected they become available via Apple’s iCloud to every other iOS 10 device and Mac you own.


Each earbud is smart enough to know if they’re in your ear or not and pause your music accordingly when removed. When you pop only one earbud in and hit the play button, the device is intelligent enough to downmix both stereo channels into one monaural channel.

They’re the pinnacle of convenience, but there are some significant drawbacks with the first generation of AirPods.

The AirPods are yet another thing that needs charging. It’s less frequent charging than a phone because they come in a special case, but about once a week or every few days, depending on how much you’re listening, you’ll need to charge the case the ear buds rest in.

The earbuds themselves last about five hours and according to Apple they get three hours of charging in 15 minutes resting in the case.
My old Bluetooth headphones lasted just about forever on a charge, but required me to dig out the specific kind of USB cable to charge them. The AirPods charging case uses a USB-A to Lightning adapter. It’s kind of odd that for $159 you don’t get an AC adapter, although you do get the cable in the box.

Each AirPod earbud is comparable to the regular Apple EarPod earbuds in terms of style, but a bit longer in length of the stem that extends out of the bit that goes in your ear. This extra room is where the battery hides inside the AirPods.

There are more little spots on the AirPods than the EarPods had for sensors to know when they’re in or out of your ears.

This elongated EarPod design kind of falls apart for me when you get to the tip of the stem. At that point, furthest out of your ears, is a shiny spot that holds the microphone you can use for talking to Siri or making phone calls.

The shiny microphone spots at the bottom of the AirPods look kind of like earrings or other ear-mounted jewelry, which look kind of goofy to me.

The AirPods are a bit less goofy than the old giant Bluetooth devices we all used for hands-free talking but might get you some funny looks until people get used to them. They’re also not as large as some competing earbud headphones that have large rectangular dinguses sticking horizontally out of your ears and floating there like little matchbooks.
The microphone works well enough for my usage when talking to Siri or on calls, I just wish Apple had styled the tip differently.

I’ve had a few times where when I was listening to a podcast or some music with just one earbud, and put the second one in, the new earbud took a few moments longer than I would like to start working. There have also been moments where I’ve accidentally triggered the sensors that tell the AirPods they’re in my ear when I was picking them up or putting them down.

Without a connecting cable to your devices, the AirPods lost the control module on other headphones that lets you change volume, play or pause whatever you’re listening to, or do extra nerdy commands via tap codes on that button like skipping songs.

Photographers also used that module to trigger the camera shutter without introducing minute vibrations to the phone that could cause pictures to be a little blurrier.

A tiny Bluetooth controller might be nice to replace that functionality, or these controls could be on the AirPods charging case. I’ve been getting out my iPhone or using my Apple Watch to control volume and whatever program I’m listening to.



Siri
is available at any time by double tapping the side of the earbud. She can raise or lower the volume and pause or resume playback. It feels kind of weird to do this, and I’ve heard complaints that the double-tap is an uncomfortable gesture for some people. Roughly equivalent to getting old wired earbuds yanked out of your ear when the cord gets caught on something. If you really hate the gesture, the “Hey Siri” vocal gesture (which is normally disabled when using the speaker) is enabled while using the AirPods. I didn’t feel any discomfort while using the double-tap gesture, but thought it was worth mentioning that other people might have a problem with it.

You can change the double-tap gesture to be a play/pause control in your iOS device’s Bluetooth settings if you prefer that over Siri. I just took one earbud out and used that to pause my music but it might be better to have the gesture if you want to pause while cooking or cleaning without digging out another device or speaking with Siri.

As far as fit, I have huge ears and the AirPods get nestled in there about as well as the EarPods did. Though the AirPods do feel a little bit looser than I would like, I’m glad they don’t make a complete seal so I am not entirely obvious to what is going on around me. Apple has a 14-day return policy if they don’t fit you, I’ve also heard that you can try them on in some stores.

Because they don’t form a total seal of the ear canal, like in-ear monitors or rubberized earbuds would, bass isn’t perfect and sound quality is almost exactly the same as the EarPods. You can tell how much work the little porting cutouts are doing by pressing your finger over one on the back of the earbud and listening as your music suddenly changes from high-quality FM to tinny AM.

The charging case is a simple white rounded rectangle box with the single button I mentioned above for pairing with non-Apple Bluetooth devices. There is a tiny, shiny metal, hinge that folds open the top of the case up very easily when you want to retrieve the earbuds or put them back. Tiny magnets grab the earbuds and hold them in or guide their safe return. A small light gives you an indication of charging status when the lid is open and also helps to see inside when it’s dark.

It would be nice if the case were thinner, but it’s a small price to pay for about 24-hours of additional listening via the case’s internal battery. I’ll note that I haven’t rigorously tested Apple’s battery life claims, some people have reported that the charging case had been rapidly discharging. I wasn’t able to reproduce that issue, but Apple replaced the charging case for the one incident I heard of.

I’ve been wanting truly wireless earbuds like this for a long time and other Bluetooth earbuds I’ve read about have been disappointing enough with technical hazards that I haven’t bothered trying them.

At $159 these are the most expensive headphones I have right now, but they’re cheaper than other comparable Bluetooth earbuds without cables and have more intelligence to them. If you lose one AirPod then Apple will sell you a replacement for $69. The case itself is replaceable for $59.

Despite the look, the extra dingus to charge, and the loss of the wired control module, I very much prefer going totally wireless with the AirPods over using regular earbuds or my other Bluetooth headsets.

It’s that good to not have to manage untangling a wire from your pocket, or dealing with traditional Bluetooth syncing, or having headphones yanked out of your ear when they get caught on something or grabbed by a kid. Of course since the iPhone 7 can’t charge and use wired headphones at the same time, there’s also the benefit of being able to listen to something on headphones while charging my pocket computer.

I hope that competition brings the price of all truly wireless headphones down and iteration might find new ways to resolve the other issues.

If you travelled back in time about 20 years and showed these to me I wouldn’t believe they could exist. As the first version of this device they’re not perfect, but I am onboard for the wireless future.

Notes From Apple’s October 2016 Event

new-macbooks
Macbook Pro photo by Apple

Apple held an event today at their Town Hall in Cupertino to announce new Macs. Here’s what got announced.

Accessibility

Apple opened with a video produced using their accessibility features, and announced a new accessibility website demonstrating them. As I get older I find myself using more of these features, so I am glad they are there for everyone. We will all need to use accessibility features eventually.

Apple TV

Tim Cook announced Minecraft coming to the Apple TV before the end of the year.

The big Apple TV announcement was a new app simply called TV. Apple’s Jen Folse demonstrated the new app that gathers together all of the shows and movies you are watching from any source (iTunes, Showtime, CBS, etc) in one place. It’ll keep track of what you’re watching, and let you know when a new episode is available. Or offer new suggestions from whatever apps support the feature.

The TV app will also keep track of your television service authentication. So, if you’ve  signed into your brother’s Comcast account, you shouldn’t need to re-authenticate into every new app that supports that login.

Folse also demonstrated viewing live programming via Siri. Tuning into the news or football worked smoothly, but It is kind of strange that live TV isn’t part of the TV app.

TV will be available for Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad, this December.

Touch Bar & New Macs

new-macbook-overhead
Macbook Pro photo by Apple

Tim Cook introduced a video featuring their new MacBook Pro with a touchscreen bar at the top of the keyboard that dynamically changes to suit whatever applications you’re using. It’ll replace the row of function keys. Phil Schiller was on stage to introduce the new Macs and explain Apple’s reasoning behind the change. The marketing name for the touchscreen bar is Touch Bar. That sounds like a place I wouldn’t like to drink.

Schiller’s reasoning for this change was that the function keys are 45 years old, and that Apple had been replacing them by default for years with various overlaid functions like laptop brightness, multimedia keys for playback and volume, and other functions specific to macOS.

These overlays on the function key strip have changed to accommodate new features in macOS over the years, and it was always strange if you had a laptop that didn’t have the most current function-key overlay to launch features like expose that gave you an overview of all your open application windows.

The function keys are still available by holding down the function-key (fn) modifier on the keyboard, but the Touch Bar is split into a few sections.

An application area to the left displays functions relevant to the currently running application, like a photo carousel to swipe through. Craig Federighi demonstrated a series of functions for Mail that give quick access to replying to a message and then once you’re typing the Touch Bar will display suggestions similar to an iPhone’s predictive suggestions. While typing up these impressions and switching between the Notes app on my Mac and iPhone I noticed how much more annoying it is to have to reach into the right-click menu on the Mac, which is full of options, just to get the most important ones like replacing a spelling mistake with a suggested word.

As someone who is frequently in the terminal, I appreciated that Apple demonstrated a set of touch bar keys for their Terminal application. That is particularly handy for getting back an escape key even if it is virtual. While macOS is going to offer a setting to use caps-lock as the escape key, I would probably still prefer a permanent physical escape key on the keyboard over a virtual one.

To the right of that, in about a third of the Touch Bar area is the control strip that gives you access to all of the features that were previously overlaid on the function-key area like volume control. Since macOS Sierra introduced Siri to the Mac, there’s a button to access Siri in the Control Strip and that is a feature you might have previously expected to replace a physical key on the keyboard.

Each of these first two sections, the application area and the control strip, are customizable to display the controls you want.

Many of the new virtual controls on the Touch Bar will offer functionality that was previously only available through keyboard shortcuts, but will now be surfaced to anyone who jumps into an application on one of these MacBook Pro laptops.

All of the way to the right of the Touch Bar is a Touch ID sensor as seen on the iPhone. In addition to replacing the power button, this fingerprint reader logs you into your Mac and authorizes Apple Pay purchases through websites that support the functionality. Users can also switch to their desktop by scanning their fingerprint.

The new MacBook Pro laptops have a T1 chip which includes a version of what Apple calls the Secure Enclave that stores your fingerprints and protects them from being accessed by malicious software.

This is the first major MacBook Pro redesign in a long time and both the 13 and 15 inch versions are thinner and weigh less than the previous versions of the MacBook Pro. The new design is more in-line with the MacBook. New color options for the finish are silver and space gray.

Unfortunately these new MacBook Pro’s are losing the MagSafe connector. Before it was introduced, I had broken at least two laptops by tripping over the power cord and pulling my MacBook off a table like an idiot. The magnetic connector of MagSafe was one of the most important quality of life improvements to Mac laptops and a feature that I can’t ever recall a Windows laptop successfully cloning.

Replacing the MagSafe power connector, and all of the older USB options, are four USB 3.1 Gen 2 type-C ports. Intel and Apple call these  Thunderbolt 3 ports. Any of the USB-C connections can be your power adapter port. Apple demonstrated them alongside a new 5K monitor from LG that also charges the laptop. It’s called the LG UltraFine 5K display, it is also a signal that Apple is unlikely to be in the monitor business in the foreseeable future.

Although both laptops are faster than their previous-generation counterparts, the 13 inch MacBook Pro only has integrated graphics while Apple has chosen AMD’s Polaris architecture chips for the 15 inch MacBook instead of Nvidia’s 10-series.

There is also a new 13 inch MacBook Pro without some of the new improvements like the Touch Bar. It’s designed to be a step up from the regular MacBook and MacBook Air. The Air is now the thickest laptop Apple sells, which is kind of ridiculous given the name.

All of the new MacBook Pro laptops have a base configuration with 256 gigabyte SSDs, the 13 inch models have 8 gigabytes of RAM. The 15 inch has 16 gigs.

They’re all available from Apple to order today, although the 13 and 15 inch models with the Touch Bar won’t ship for a few weeks.

The new 15 inch MacBook Pro looks like a great laptop to replace my late 2013 15 inch MacBook Pro some day, but it has been 742 days since the Mac Mini was updated, and 1,044 days since the Mac Pro was updated. Apple sells a lot of laptops, but I’m disappointed that desktop Macs without integrated screens are dying and Apple did not address users looking for those options during this event.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

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

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

Headphones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water resistant, not waterproof.

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

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

Cameras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Et Cetera.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I buy these?

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

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

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

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

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

September 7th is Going to be a Busy Day

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

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

Previously, previously, previously.

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

Apple’s WWDC 2016 Keynote Notes

Here’s what Apple announced at their WWDC 2016 Keynote, or you can just watch the video.

WatchOS 3

Kevin Lynch spoke about the changes coming in WatchOS 3.

Apps, that you pick, update in the background and launch faster as a result.

The long button below the crown will no-longer launch your VIP contact list. It’ll now launch the dock app switcher. The dock displays a live view of the applications so that you can see updated information even without entering one.

Glances are gone, replaced by control center when you swipe up on the watch face.

Messages immediately give you options to reply, instead of having to choose that you want to reply first.

When a message comes in you can scroll down to get a list of suggested replies.

WatchOS 3 will have a new input interface called Scribble. You draw out letters one at a time with the whole word appearing above the input interface. This supports both English and Chinese characters.

In addition to the Micky Mouse watch face you can now choose Minnie Mouse with different outfit color options.

There is a new watch face called Activity that more prominently features the activity rings which monitor your steps and other exercises throughout your day. They’ll be larger and displayed behind an analog style of watch hands if you choose this face, or in chronograph and digital variations.

Kevin Lynch isn’t done with new watch faces yet, Numerals is another. This one displays only analog watch hands and a prominent digit or digits in many different fonts for the current hour.

Another change to the watch face. You can now swipe to switch between them and choose which you would like available.

More complications are available on more watch faces.

Stacy Lysik gave a demo of WatchOS 3. She shows the audience how Apple’s watch apps have been updated for quicker interactions. The timer gives you a few preset timing options to launch, for example. This should allow my son to more quickly set timers that confuse me when they go off because he loves to grab my watch and mess with it while I am holding him.

Kevin Lynch returned to tell us about the SOS feature that can call your regional version of 911 and alert your emergency contacts with your location after the call. It’ll be activated in WatchOS 3 by holding down the side button and it’ll display a countdown before calling emergency services. Interestingly, Lynch mentioned that it’ll work either via bluetooth to your phone or over wifi if your Apple Watch is on a known network.

I wonder about the usefulness of an emergency call where your watch is broadcasting that call publicly on a speaker instead of through your phone’s earpiece.

Jay Blahnik appeared on stage to introduce a new fitness related improvements, starting with activity sharing as a competitive feature. With it you’ll be able to see your friends and family member’s activity rings and data like steps and calories burned. If your friends use third party apps and devices, it sounds like those will work with this feature as well as long as they use Apple’s HealthKit as a data intermediary.

When you view a friend’s activity information you’ll be able to send them suggested encouraging or competitive messages about their progress.

Jay Blahnik continued on to introduce new technology to recognize activity information for wheelchair users. He talked about how they have adjusted different notifications and other information if the wheelchair setting is enabled. For example, the Apple Watch can optionally remind you to stand for a minute once an hour. For wheelchair users the watch will remind you to take a break and push around a little. Some of the workouts will be specifically for wheelchair users.

Finally, Blahnik introduced an app called Breathe to remind people to take stress reducing breaks. It’ll have different kinds of optional reminders and will be able to guide you through a session with visuals or haptic feedback.

Lynch returned to the stage to discuss how WatchOS 3 will be improved for developers to enable integration with those new features and improvements.

Apps on the watch will be able to use Apple Pay. Fitness apps will be able to run in the background during workouts and have access to more data that will enable new kinds of workout apps on the watch according to Lynch.

There are many more improvements and new APIs to the SDK for the watch including SpriteKit and more. Games should be much better though it’ll still be a tough sell to keep your wrist raised up for a while. I’d still expect it to be really only for quicker interactions.

Eddie Cue came on stage to talk about tvOS for the 4th generation Apple TV. He spoke about new apps like Sling, Fox Sports Go, the French TV service Molotov and a few games like NBA 2k, Minecraft Story Mode, and Sketch Party.

Cue then introduced improvements to the Remote app for iPhone which has all of the features of the physical 4th generation Apple TV Remote.

Siri for the Apple TV will be able to find shows and movies by topic. Cue searched for high school comedy movies from the 80’s and got Ferris Bueller’s day off and other options.

Siri will be able to load into live channels. MLB was notably absent.

Logins with cable providers will be reduced to a single sign-on. The App Store will let you know what apps/channels you have access to once you sign in.

The Apple TV will have a dark mode, and will automatically download available apps if you download them to another device.

Cue finished the tvOS talk by briefly mentioning some of the improvements for the developer kit and mentioned that the new version will be released publicly this Fall.

Craig Federighi was introduced to discuss the improvements to OS X, now renamed to macOS. The new version will be macOS Sierra.

Sierra will introduce new features cribbed from third parties such as unlocking your Mac when you have your Apple Watch close to it.

Another new feature borrowed from a third party, Tapbot’s Pastebot in this case, is Universal Clipboard. You’ll be able to copy and paste text, images, video and more between Macs and iOS devices.

iCloud Drive will now include your files in the desktop folder and sync those between Macs as well as making them available via the iCloud Drive app on iOS.

If you are running out of space on your Mac’s hard drive, Sierra can attempt to offload older files to iCloud and remove other kinds of files that users don’t typically need like old application caches. There will be a new GUI specifically for doing all of these functions.

Apple Pay will now work on macOS Sierra through websites that support it. You’ll authenticate it on your iPhone with the Touch ID finger print reader or Apple Watch.

Craig announced another Sierra improvement, tabbing application windows like web browser tabs. Developers won’t need to do anything to support this functionality.

Videos will be able to go into a picture-in-picture mode from websites. You can drag to move or resize this always-on-top window which also persists across full screen application virtual desktops.

Finally, Siri will be available in macOS Sierra. She made a few jokes with Craig during a demo. Siri will be able to understand new questions that are more appropriate for a Mac. For example, Craig asked about files from a specific time period and location, and then did a follow up question to further refine the search. It is unusual for Siri to understand context.

Results from Siri can be pinned to the macOS Notification Center. Image results can be dragged directly into applications from Siri, or copied and pasted from an iOS device.

Sierra will be supported on these models of Mac:
Late 2009 & later
MacBook
iMac

2010 & later
MacBook Air
MacBook Pro
Mac mini
Mac Pro

Craig moved on to iOS 10 and discussed 10 new features.

First off the bat, user experience improvements.

The lock screen has been redesigned. You’ll be able to raise your phone and it’ll wake up, bypassing the issue with newer Touch ID sensors that are so fast you never see the lock screen if you press a finger to the home button.

Notifications on the lock screen are more interactive and designed for 3D Touch to display more contextual information. Craig demoed 3D touching a calendar invite and seeing more details about it, before accepting it.

The next example that Craig demonstrated was a more interactive iMessage conversation where he could see more of the context of the conversation and also get images in it without leaving the lock screen notification.

If you use the illegal taxi service, Uber, their updated notifications showed you the location of your incoming car with an unvetted driver that is probably making less than minimum wage after all is said and done.

Notification Center now lets you clear all of your notification with a 3D Touch gesture that reveals a clear all button.

Control Center was simplified in its initial display, but it also has another page you can swipe to with more bigger buttons for music control and an album art display.

It’ll be easier to get to the camera from the lock screen, you can now slide from right to left to open the camera application.

Sliding from left to right displays a new widget view. The demo broke when Craig tapped on his calendar widget to “show more” of his day. An engineer was immediately brought on stage to answer for this failure.

There are more 3D Touch improvements to apps on the home screen. The email application can now display a widgetized list of contacts and a count of unread messages from them. The activity application on the iPhone can also display your activity rings in a widget that appears when you 3D Touch on that from the home screen.

These widgets can also display live video through third party applications like ESPN.

Craig moved on to iOS 10’s improvements in Siri.

Developers will have access to Siri in IOS 10. Though it appears to be limited to certain categories of apps like messaging apps. Craig mentioned Slack, Whatsapp, and WeChat.

Siri will hail illegal taxi cabs through third party apps Uber, Lyft, and Didi. Search photos in Pinterest, IM and Shutterfly. Start and stop workouts with MapMyRun, Runtastic, and Runkeeper. Send payments with Number 26, Square Cash, and Alipay. Set up VoIP calls with Cisco Spark, Vonage, and Skype.

CarPlay will also work with third-party apps for messaging and VoIP.

The keyboard suggestions, QuickType, will be improved and understand the context of the conversation. Craig’s example, is that it’ll understand the difference between playing in the park versus the Orioles playing in the playoffs. If you’re asked “where are you?” in iMessage, QuickType suggestions will give you a big suggestion to give your current location on a map. If you’re asked for contact information, QuickType will suggest sending the contact. The calendar event suggestions that you’d see if you tapped on text like “Sunday at 2PM” before will now be more context-aware and understand that you’ve been talking about a certain type of food and a street address that get included in the calendar event suggestion.

The keyboard will now support multilingual typing, I won’t have to switch between German and English anymore!

Photos will now display your photos pinned on a map, and will run facial recognition to understand who is in what pictures. I hope it works better than iPhoto did at that. Photos will also now detect objects and scenes in pictures so that you can search for these better. Craig displayed an example picture of someone riding a horse by a lake with a mountain, and said it would understand the mountain and horse and the scenery if you search for those. I wonder if we’ll see progress bars scanning all of our photos the first time we open the new Photos app in iOS 10 as this occurs. I suspect that this will be done offline due to privacy concerns.

Photos will also group together different trips, people, groups, and topics like “on the water” or “at the beach” into a new interface. Craig demonstrated the new “Memories” tab in Photos on iOS 10 that shows the product of this computer vision work. It’ll even create a short video of different events with Ken Burns style zooms of different photos and videos as well as music layered on top. Craig assures us this will pick the right music, but he demonstrates overriding the music choice and how Photos will re-edit the “memory movie” to match the music change. These changes will also come to macOS Sierra.

Craig takes a break as Eddie Cue returns to show us updates to maps. iOS 10 Maps will offer you some suggestions based on calendars and where you commonly go at different times of day. If you search for restaurants it’ll display a horizontal list of cuisines and restaurant styles you can pick from, and adjust its suggestions based on which you select. Navigtaion is also improved. Eddie shows us how the view is more dynamic, zooming in and out intelligently based on where your next turn is and other information. Maps will give you suggestions for things along the route, and tell you how long it’ll take to reach your destination if you stop at these suggestions. There’s also a Maps extensions API, Eddie’s example is booking a table at a restaurant with an OpenTable restaurant, hailing an illegal taxi cab with Uber, and paying for it all inside Maps. Cool.

Apple Music is also getting updated with an “all-new redesign.” I don’t see the connect tab anymore. Bozoma Saint John went on stage to give a demo. The Music app looks to be streamlined without that connect tab, and pretty different. Lyrics are displayed right below the controls for the music if you scroll down. Very nice. Bozoma tried to get the audience to rap along with Rapper’s Delight, the audience cam showed us various Apple folks attempting to do so, it was extremely embarrassing. The new Apple Music interface looks great, though.

Eddie Cue comes back to discuss Apple News improvements. You can already read this site on there so they’ve done a bit of extra cleanup to improve the rest of the app. For example, they’ve added subscriptions and breaking news notifications.

Craig is back to discuss Homekit improvements. New categories of supported IoT devices have been added. A dedicated Home app is going to be available to control all of your homes. I’m sure monocles are popping out everywhere. Preset scenes will be available to adjust several devices at once. Siri can control these scenes and devices. If you swipe over on Control Center you’ll be able to control devices from there. Notifications will be able to interact with HomeKit devices and display live video from a doorbell device, for example. Apple TV will act as the hub for your HomeKit devices so that you can access them remotely when you’re away from home.

The Phone app will be updated to transcribe voicemails, though this functionality is in beta. An extension API will let other applications interact with the Phone app, in an example slide an extension from Tencent identifies an incoming caller that isn’t in your contacts as a possible spam caller.

When VoIP calls ring through, they’ll integrate into the lockscreen and the phone app just like regular calls. Contacts will be updated to display the options you have to call someone through multiple services. They’ve worked with Cisco to let you get your work calls through your iPhone.

The Messages app has been updated to provide previews of links inline. Videos and photos will display right in Messages. The camera will display a minified camera app inside of messages when you tap that button. Emoji are now three times larger. If you tap the emoji button after typing up a message, but before sending it, it will highlight words that can be replaced with emoji. Message bubbles can now have effects like shrinking or growing to emphasize emotion behind words. Messages can be hidden for a recipient to reveal with a swipe over the text or an image. They’ve also added a short series of icons to send a thumbs up, or a laugh to someone. Apparently we don’t have enough time to select the appropriate emoji now. This demo slide broke and displayed the thumbs-up above the message that it was replying to. You can also send “handwritten messages,” it isn’t clear if these are keyboard input being turned into a generated font with some ink physics or brushed on with a touch, but you can also send “digital touch” messages like drawing a smiley face on the Apple Watch. You can also draw on video or photos with digital touch. There are also fullscreen effects that appear behind the messaging transcript. A slide shows us some fireworks behind the chat bubbles after you send “Happy New Year!”

Bethany and Emron are introduced for a demo. They’re engineering and human interface design team leads. Bethany demonstrated sending and receiving some diffferent message types, Emron received a link to some music that you could play right inside Messages.

iMessage will now support developer-created apps that are launched from an “app drawer” for things like stickers. Craig tells us that some types of apps won’t even require code. Artists can make them a sticker app without coding, but you could also integrate other iOS functionality like the camera. Square Cash will work inside of Messages as well.

Craig started a demo. He demonstrates sending a sticker, and then applying some animated stickers to a photo message. The next demonstration is a group ordering food together through DoorDash, right inside of Messages. Each person selects the food they want from the restaurant (or food truck in this demonstration).

The Mac and Apple Watch will be able to receive these conversations, so it sounds like they won’t be able to work with messaging apps to create messages using them, which makes sense.

Here’s a video they showed to feature the new features in Messages:

Craig finishes up by blitzing through some other improvements to iOS 10. Live editing collaboration in the Notes app. Conversation view in Mail displays messages in a better threaded format. Live photos can be edited and they have stabilization now. Safari on iPad finally lets you use split view to display two websites at the same time. Previously you had to use third-party apps to do that. He also reminds us that many of these new features work for third-party developers.

Finally he re-emphasizes how all of this information that involves computer learning, the memories functionality in Photos for example, will be run on the device. The information that is sent to Apple’s servers will also be kept private by them not building profiles of users. Obviously this is a dig at Google who mines all of your data with no regard for your privacy if it’ll enable their advertisers to have better targeting.

Tim Cook comes back on stage to close things out and emphasize Apple’s commitment to developers. He discusses how great Swift is. He’s talking about how it’s the #1 language project on Github since the source was released. Cook also reiterates how important Swift is as a first language by releasing a new app called Swift Playgrounds for iPad.

Tim invites Cheryl Thomas on stage to demonstrate Swift Playgrounds. The app’s front door screen has lessons and challenges. QuickType suggestions are offered inside of lessons with code suggestions. There’s a simple turtle-style demo of moving a character on the screen with code like moveForward() and collectGem(). Cheryl demonstrates wrapping a for loop around some pre-existing code. This looks like it could give Codeacademy a run for its money, though obviously it’ll be limited to Swift many of the lessons could apply to other languages. We need XCode for iPad.

Cheryl opens a more advanced playground with a new coding keyboard to add new code to the playground.

Tim returns again to announce that Swift Playgrounds will be free, of course. Another video:

That could have been incredibly hokey, but I think they did a great job.

Tim Cook goes back over everything we’ve seen, and closes out the keynote.

It’s an SE, As You May Have Heard

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

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

Ufocampus

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

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

Recycling

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

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

Nylon watch bands

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

Nearby

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

Iphonese

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

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

The truetone display of the new 10 inch iPad Pro

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

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

iOS 9 Out; Go Block Ads

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

“Would you buy the new Apple devices?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Watch tl;dr No

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

“What Happened in the Apple Event Today?”

Get Psyched

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

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

Cmd-Number Shortcuts For Safari 9

Daniel Jalkut:

If you’re a Safari user and you’ve updated to the Safari 9 or OS X 10.11 beta, you may have noticed a minor change in the default keyboard shortcuts for the app.

In Safari 8 and earlier, keyboard shortcuts combining the Command key and a number, e.g. Cmd-1, Cmd-2, Cmd-3, would open the corresponding bookmark bar item. So if you arranged your most-frequently-visited sites in the first few bookmark bar slots, you could easily jump to those pages by muscle memory thanks to these shortcuts.

In Safari 9, these shortcuts now switch to any open tabs you have in a Safari window. This will come as a surprise to folks who have gotten used to e.g. using Cmd-1 to quickly jump to e.g. Google News, or Yahoo Stocks.

I was happy to read that Safari is finally going to let you swap tabs with the same hotkey shorts as every other browser. It’s been a frustration for years to swap tabs in a different way from every other browser.

Now Firefox just needs top to drop the cmd/control+shift+P shortcut for private browsing, because you might not want to accidentally print out whatever you’re attempting to privately browse.