Unveiled: The iDog & Bone 11 and 11 Pro

It’s that time of year where tech journalists and Apple fans crowd around their devices or TV sets (hooked up to an Apple TV, of course) to watch Tim Cook and chums sell you a new gadget.

Apple Watch Series 5

Nothing mentioned about the internals, so presumably using the same processor and storage as the Series 4. But we now have an always-on display and a new material – titanium. Ceramic makes a come back at an eye-watering starting price of £1,299. For a device that you’ll replace every few years – this for people with very deep pockets.

For me, I’m very happy with the Series 4. No need to replace it for at least another year.

iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max

Both good looking phones with some decent improvements – the biggest of which is the camera system. New image sensors, more computational photography improvements. New ultra-wide lens. The iPhone 11 Pro retains its telephoto lens and gains a third, ultra-wide lens. New Smart Display XDR tech on the Pro means a brighter image. And apparently an extra 5 hours of battery life beyond that of the current iPhone XS Max Pro.

Watching the presentation, it appears that Apple has made significant strides in picture quality. I thought the XS Max image quality was decent, but looking at the sample pictures shows very little to no distortion or noise. And the video quality looks to have been bumped up significantly too. I’ve always complained that the video compression applied to the videos produced by the XS Max was too heavy-handed. Watching the demo video shot – it looked perfect. So for us budding phone photographers and videographers – it looks Apple may have reclaimed the crown. For now.

I should, in theory, be able to upgrade on the 25th of this month – so we’ll see what options my phone provider offers me. The phone costs the same as last year, so there shouldn’t be any big differences in price.

Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade

Apple is playing the long game in the current streaming TV wars. $5/month for a family subscription means they’re undercutting all other services – for some (Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) significantly. The number of original shows is significantly smaller to start off with, but with new additions each month, their back catalogue should be pretty decent in time. With the news that all new iPhone and iPad users will be getting a free year’s subscription to Apple TV+, this can only bolster viewing figures significantly.

Apple Arcade is a subscription service that offers a variety of games that can be played across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac. Again, $5 is very reasonable. Both services just under $10 a month, along with Apple Music, makes for a decent range of services. Apple has priced it just right.

iOS 13, iPadOS13 and MacOS Catalina

Wasn’t announced during the keynote, but it turns out that these are going to be staggered releases.

  • iOS 13: September 19th
  • iPadOS 13: September 30th
  • MacOS Catalina: Sometime in October

I was going to post about the state of Apple Music in 2019 after its appalling launch which was besieged with technical problems. I tried to find some images from a previous version of this blog, but instead found these odd photos:

Apple is a strange company. It has come up with some rather lovely designs during its history. The Apple Magic Mouse 2 isn’t one of them. It’s a mish-mash of superb usability and horrible ergonomics combined with very decent battery life. I’ve been using them pretty much ever since I’ve had a Macintosh.

The Space Grey version of the Apple Magic Mouse 2 is very shiny!

I have been tempted by other Bluetooth mice before, and indeed earlier this year I bought a couple of Logitech MX Master 2S wireless mice. They’re ergonomic, chunky and feel great in the hand. My only complaint has been the scroll wheel has always felt either too loose in quiet mode, or when the ratchet mode is on, too noisy. Whereas the Apple Magic Mouse 2 has a surface area which acts like a touchpad which makes scrolling pretty much flawless. Plus the Apple mouse can scroll sideways much more easily.

The Logitech MX Master 2S – which can be used when charging

The MX Master 2S can also be charged whilst it’s being used, whereas with the Apple mouse you’ll need to turn it upside down in order to plug in the Lightning cable – thus it’s incapacitated whilst it is charging. This is made up, however, by a much better battery in the Magic Mouse. The Logitech MX Master 2S only seems to last 2 days before the battery runs out whereas the Magic Mouse lasts several weeks. Well, I’d say that my home MX Master 2S only lasts a couple of days – my work MX Master 2S does tend to last a couple of weeks, and both tend to get the same kind of use.

But I’ve had to go back to using a Magic Mouse 2 again because Apple do NOT make it easy if you ever need to reset your Mac’s PRAM, or go into recovery mode with non-standard Apple kit. The following image demonstrates:

Cables, dongles and non-Apple kit – oh my!

I wanted to reset my work 2018 Mac Mini’s PRAM as the USB-C (acting as a DisplayPort cable) to HDMI connected monitors tend to play Russian Roulette every time I switch the Mac on. Sometimes the Mac remembers the right order, and other days it doesn’t. Or sometimes the Mac doesn’t send the signal to the right monitor, necessitating cable fiddling. A PRAM reset might fix that, I thought.

First of all, the Magic Keyboard 2 wasn’t able to get the bloody Mac into PRAM reset mode wirelessly – not without physically attaching the keyboard to the machine via a Lightning to USB-A cable (thankfully the Mac Mini has two USB-A ports). That seemed to work. Then I needed to go into recovery mode to sort out something, but the MX Master 2S mouse wouldn’t work. As you can see above, the Mac’s firmware wanted me to connect an Apple wireless mouse. Any Bluetooth mouse that’s Bluetooth capable (and not an Apple mouse) and has been paired with the Mac beforehand will not work in recovery mode. I had to hook up the MX Master via a micro-USB cable to USB-A to get anything done.

So it’s a mix of battery life, being able to scroll properly on a Magic Mouse 2, and being able to move the mouse pointer effortlessly in Mac’s firmware/recovery mode that’s brought me back to the Magic Mouse.

Now, before anybody says anything – I’ve done a bit of research about using it, especially about allowing it to submit my photos to their cloud service for processing.

I’m relatively happy with the way the app deals with data – nothing unusual and nothing that other apps have done before.

So here are a few scary images to frighten people:

I also played with the de-ageing filter and the result is too horrible to post here.

First, it was Good Omens. Now it’s The Boys. Amazon Prime Video has been available on Apple TV devices for a while now. Not long, but long enough. I bought the 4K version of the Apple TV because I have a 4K TV.

I have the Amazon Prime Video app on my LG 4K TV, but I don’t tend to use the built-in apps for the TV because the TV is getting old now and the app and WebOS updates are few and far between. An Apple TV device should continue to receive OS and app updates regularly for many years to come – and one only has to replace one component when Apple stops supporting that device, rather than having to replace an otherwise good working TV. This is why I despise the “smart” in Smart TV.

Amazon’s 21st century equivalent of adjusting a TV aerial

Amazon, like Netflix, has been commissioning original TV shows in UHD (4K). With Netflix and the right subscription, you’ll get the highest resolution out the box without any fuss. If it’s 4K, you’ll get 4K. If it’s HD only, you’ll get HD only. With Amazon, you’re relying on them to put the 4K version of the title on the home page. Except they rarely do. No, with Amazon, you have to dig deep to find the bugger and then add it to your wishlist so that you don’t lose it again.

I had tremendous difficulties playing Good Omens in 4K when it was first released. Error galore. And I had even more difficulty trying to find the link to get help with Amazon (though it turns out when you do find the help page, the contact us section is bottom left-hand side – it’s not as obvious as you think it is when you’re trying to look for it). We then spent about an hour going through a scripted support process before the case was escalated to Amazon Prime Video’s specialist support team.

The thing is, the LG TV could play the 4K version of Good Omens just fine. Yet the newer Apple TV running Amazon’ s own app couldn’t. Eventually, Amazon managed to fix it, but it left a bit of a bad taste.

And now we have a new Amazon series called The Boys. It’s a very good black comedy about a world where superheroes are vile and managed by a massive agency who look after their PR, which comes in handy whenever collateral damage from a superhero rescue comes into play. It’s an exceptional series, but again, I can’t play it in 4K on the Apple TV.

Here are things I’ve tried:

  • Signed out of Amazon, then signed back in again
  • Restarted the Apple TV
  • Signed out of Amazon, deleted the Amazon Prime Video app, restarted the Apple TV, downloaded the Amazon Prime Video app, and then signed in again
  • Sacrificed a small goat to the tech god, “Sodslaw”
  • Admired the extremely impressive Apple TV 4K screensavers when attempting to escalate the issue with Amazon

The reason I got angry about this in the first place was that the TV app on Apple TV made it clear it was a 4K show. But when you clicked on the link to open it, an error from Amazon’s Prime Video app popped up.

I tried to search for The Boys within the app. No joy. And I tried on the web site – again no joy – until today (one day after the release). I added it to the Watchlist so that I wouldn’t lose it again.

I’ve been in touch with Amazon, and I think they’re escalating this – but they also wanted me to restart my router. I said that I didn’t think that was going to be necessary, but they insisted. And that’s when I lost my temper and left the chat.

Some thoughts:

  • Apple and Amazon need to work more closely together
  • Amazon needs to put more developers onto the tvOS app
  • Amazon needs better QA testers for the tvOS app

If these so-called “cord-cutting” services are to succeed, they need to work flawlessly across the many platforms that they’re on. And support for these services needs to be beefed up. Streaming is only going to get more complex – especially if 8K is around the corner (my prediction: won’t see anything serious for the next 2-3 years and even then we’ll still be struggling with 4K like we are right now).