iPhone 15 Pro Max: Finally worthy of the Pro name…

Particularly if you use your phone as a video camera.

I’ve replaced every camera I’ve owned over the years with an iPhone because they’re getting good enough now for most situations.

When I got my first film camera, it was a 110 film-based point and click system. They were long and quite thin and used 110-type film cartridges which were far easier to insert and remove than traditional 35mm film cameras. It Just Worked(tm). I never really moved up to 35mm cameras as I found them too fiddly. And when I got my first DSLR camera many years ago, I found it a pain carrying everything and having to change lenses. When I did upgrade from the 110 systems, I moved to APS film which was just as easy to use.

The very first digital camera I owned (around 1998/1999) was a Sony Cybershot DSC-S70 and it was chunky thing. It only took 3 megapixel photos, but the results were surprisingly good. A few examples from around 2000 to 2001:

When I was married, we bought a second-hand Canon Powershot G5 which was a truly great all-rounder. It was practically impossible to take bad photos with it. Some sample shots from Cambodia:

This was eventually replaced with a Sony DSC-S930, which despite being a budget camera, took some really rather wonderful shots when we were in Kenya…

The last two proper cameras were the Sony RX100m3 and the RX100m5. I like the Sony brand, and have tried to stick with it for as much as I can – I have a PS5, a Sony Bravia TV, earphones, headphones, etc. Sony and Apple – you can’t go too far wrong 🙂

RX100m3 (Vancouver, Canada and Oregon, USA):

RX100m5 (Iceland):

With the iPhones, the sensors keep getting larger every year, and improvements with Smart HDR and other computational photography features mean that taking photos (and video) with the iPhone – something that I always cary with me – is a no-brainer. But I’ll admit that I still miss the Sonys and the Powershot G5.

This year, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max feature updated Smart HDR and better low-light photography. The Po Max now has 5x optical zoom. And with the release of iOS 17, the 48-megapixel main camera combines images from the other lenses to form a new 24-megapixel default. But images from the telephoto and ultrawide – both remain 12Mp sensors for now – will still come out as 12Mp.

iPhone 15 Pro Max:

With the replacement of the Lightning port with USB-C, it is now possible to record video in Apple ProRes 4K 60fps to an external device. Watching sample footage from the phone, even with the limitations of the lenses and sensor, the iPhone Pro range is now a legitimately a genuinely powerful video recording tool. USB-C and the USB 3.1 protocol makes it 20 times faster to transfer any local files on the iPhone to a desktop computer. So we NOW have a phone that’s worth of the Pro moniker. But it be more “Pro-er” if it offered Thunderbolt 4 or USB-4 speeds. Maybe next year or the year after?

But speaking of speeds – the Qualcomm Snapdragon X70 modem in the iPhone 15 range provides a significant 5G and Wi-Fi boost. On my home WI-Fi 6 network, I am now able to go beyond 1Gbs on my iPhone 15 Pro Max whereas the iPhone 14 Pro Max would only go up as a high of 935Mbs. During my tests at a Premier Inn, I got significantly higher 4G/5G performance from subsequent visits, and they’re not got the best reception either.

Next year I hope that Apple manages to upgrade the telephoto and ultrawide sensors to 48Mp too – providing 24Mp images across all three lenses. Some more work on reducing lens flare too would be nice – I’ve seen fewer flares with the 15 Pro Max, but it hasn’t gone entirely based on what I’ve seen of others photos/footage.

It’s ironic that a camera manufacturer (Red) who tried to join the mobile revolution by producing a smartphone that tied into the Red camera system failed in their attempt, but Apple (which doesn’t make any professional camera equipment) is able to outdo them in every way.

Smartphones continue to amaze me in what they can do. Even incremental, evolutionary updates can bring small amounts of joy and improve the overall experience. But the real progress here, I think, is with iOS which in it’s 17th release, has made massive improvements to not just the iPhone 15 range, but previous generation iPhones too.

Breaking Bad.. Surrey Edition

As I lost one of my AirPods Pro gen 2 AirPods, I decided to go for the new USB-C AirPods Pro gen 2 from Sky Mobile who were doing them for a good deal (I will eventually get around to sorting out the missing AirPod, that way I’ll have a spare). When the DPD driver turned up, he took this photo as proof of delivery, and it makes me look like some form of drug addict waiting to get his fix.

“You ain’t seen me, right?”

The USB-C AirPods Pro gen 2 should have really been given a gen 3 label, as they are different (other than the USB-C port) – the H2 chip within the AirPods can now use the 5Ghz wireless bandwidth to incorporate lossless audio which, apparently, is intended for Apple’s new Vision Pro headset. Not that I intend buying one given that it costs more than my 16″ MacBook Pro. But I do wonder if Apple will enable it on the iPhone and iPad.

As for the iPhone 15 Pro Max – well, again, Sky has had a very good deal on them for the handset only (I also note that EE, Sky and Vodafone now all let you pay the handset off separately for up to 36 months after which you’re just paying for the airtime – so everybody is now following in the wake of O2 which has been doing this for ages now). I’m on an older EE contract which will still charge me full rate even when I’ve finished paying off the handset, so I’ll be changing to SIM only once that’s up next year.

Now, I’ve said that I’m slowing down/stopping my tech spending as of now – and I am – but I do feel that the iPhone is a very personal and important device that for my line of work (especially the iPhone 15 Pro’s ray tracing capabilities for games) and as a hobby. I feel the need to switch out handsets each year so that I can be familiar with the new features and whether it’ll impact stuff at work (for example, some of the newer privacy features in the iPhone affected Wi-Fi connectivity back in my old job – took me a while to figure out what was happening). After all, a smartphone these days is my personal assistant, camera, wallet, ID, phone, portable entertainment centre (music and video), gaming device, bus pass, train pass (though there’s going to be a whole blog post about that soon), loyalty cards, messaging service, taxi ordering service, maps, delivery tracking, and so much more.

The only problem is that on the day of pre-ordering, pretty much every single service provider (and even Apple’s own site) had significant problems keeping up on demand. I had problems with Sky but managed to get a pre-order in, and received an email to confirm that I’d get the unit on Friday 22nd but, ALAS, “due to a technical error” (yeah, more like logistical error) that was wrong. Hopefully should find out next week when I should be receiving the device, but indicators point until the end of October. Analysts have stated that there has been a significantly higher demand for the iPhone 15 Pro (and especially with Max edition with the 5x telephoto lens) than anticipated.

The only real problem is that I was due to send the iPhone 14 Pro Max to be sold and the very generous offer for it is about to expire on Tuesday. Nevertheless, even if miss the deadline, even with a reduced offer it’ll still hold a much better value than an Android device. We go through this rigmarole almost every year, though this year has been particularly bad with delivery delays.

You should see the Sky forums about the Pro Max delivery days – many people claiming Sky mislead them. Alas, I wish people would see reason because this practically happens every year during pre-ordering. Apple has an initial finite stock that has been split between the various telecoms companies and themselves. There is much higher pressure this year because of the change to USB-C for data and charging, and the new camera system in the Pro Max. Many people have been waiting to upgrade from the iPhone 12 or 13 to the 15 – and if there was going to be one year that they’d do it, it’s this year.

At the end of the day, people will get their phones – it just requires a bit more patience – although a legitimate criticism has been that Sky hasn’t communicated the delays very well. A lot of us have either been on holiday or working from home when the phone was originally due to be delivered and it means that now we’ll have to organise another day to be home to take delivery – but as to when? Whenever Apple has more stock, and whether your order takes priority within the next stock release.

Technology, eh? Got to love it. It’s expensive AND it drives us insane.

P.S. – The Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn’t worth upgrading to – I’m perfectly happy with my Ultra 1. Don’t need the extra 1,000 nits of brightness or the speedier processor. Nice to haves, but not essential. The Ultra 1 has been a great trooper so far and it really is one of Apple’s finest products to date (along with the AirPods Pro) and it’s even better now with the release of WatchOS 10 (I love the new Modular Ultra watch face in particular).

Finally back on fibre broadband..

.. and better than ever thanks to an upgraded Virgin Media Hub (I had the 4 before it got destroyed in a power outage; now I have the Hub 5 with Wi-Fi 6 and a 2.5Gbs ethernet port). Combined with my Nighthawk RAX1200 router’s configurable WAN port, I’ve chosen to use the 2.5Gbs port directly to the Hub’s. I can now achieve full download speed whereas it was limited to around 930Mbs before:

And via fast.com:

This post was written by A.I.

First up, the £30/month per user Google Duet – only found on the expensive end of Google Workspace. Any enterprise that considers adding Google Duet AI to their account now and pays for it has more money than sense. This thing really needs to mature first.

Here’s what it produced (after falling over twice, telling me it couldn’t do it):

The Dangers of AI Assisted Writing

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the world, and the field of writing is no exception. AI-assisted writing tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and they are being used by businesses, students, and individuals alike. However, there are also some dangers associated with AI assisted writing.

One of the biggest dangers of AI assisted writing is that it can be used to create fake news and propaganda. AI-generated text can be very convincing, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between human-generated and AI-generated text. This makes it possible for people to create fake news stories and spread propaganda without being detected.

Another danger of AI assisted writing is that it can lead to job losses. As AI-assisted writing tools become more sophisticated, they will be able to do more and more of the work that is currently done by human writers. This could lead to job losses in the writing industry, as well as in other industries that rely on writing, such as journalism and marketing.

Finally, AI assisted writing can also lead to a decline in the quality of writing. AI-generated text is often not as well-written as human-generated text. This is because AI-assisted writing tools are not able to understand the nuances of language in the same way that humans do. As a result, AI-generated text can be full of errors and inaccuracies.

Overall, there are a number of dangers associated with AI assisted writing. It is important to be aware of these dangers so that we can use AI-assisted writing tools in a responsible way.

How to use AI assisted writing tools responsibly

If you are going to use AI assisted writing tools, it is important to do so responsibly. Here are a few tips:

  • Be aware of the dangers of AI assisted writing, such as the potential for fake news and propaganda, job losses, and a decline in the quality of writing.
  • Use AI assisted writing tools for their intended purpose. For example, don’t use them to create fake news stories or to spread propaganda.
  • Use AI assisted writing tools in conjunction with human writers. This will help to ensure that the quality of the writing is high.
  • Be transparent about the use of AI assisted writing tools. Let your readers know when you have used an AI assisted writing tool to create content.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that AI assisted writing tools are used in a responsible way.

And here’s the completely free ChatGPT version, which did it its thing first time without any complaints:

Title: The Double-Edged Quill: Navigating the Dangers of A.I. Assisted Writing

In an era defined by technological marvels, the rise of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has permeated every facet of our lives. From self-driving cars to personalized recommendations, A.I. is revolutionizing the way we interact with the world around us. One area where its impact is keenly felt is in the realm of writing. A.I. assisted writing tools offer unparalleled convenience and efficiency, but as with any powerful tool, there are inherent dangers that demand our attention.

The Promise of A.I. Assisted Writing:

A.I. assisted writing tools have certainly made their mark on the writing landscape. These tools, often utilizing Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms, can generate content, suggest improvements, and even mimic specific writing styles. They promise increased productivity, reduced writer’s block, and a way to instantly refine drafts. Content creators, students, and professionals have flocked to these tools, reaping the benefits of their capabilities.

The Dangers We Must Acknowledge:

  1. Homogenization of Voice: A significant danger lies in the potential homogenization of writing voices. A.I. tools, though proficient, lack the human touch and unique perspectives that make writing truly engaging. Relying too heavily on A.I. could lead to a sea of content that sounds eerily similar, devoid of the rich diversity of thought and expression that human writers bring.
  2. Diminished Critical Thinking: A.I. assisted writing can inadvertently erode critical thinking skills. When ideas are automatically generated and polished, the process of grappling with complex concepts and refining them through personal understanding can be lost. This could hinder the development of intellectual rigor and thoughtful analysis.
  3. Ethical Quandaries: A.I. generated content raises ethical questions about authorship and plagiarism. As A.I. tools become more sophisticated, distinguishing between original human work and A.I. generated content might become a daunting task. Crediting authors accurately and upholding the principles of integrity could become increasingly challenging.
  4. Loss of Skill Development: Writing is an art that improves with practice. A reliance on A.I. tools might discourage writers from honing their craft through consistent effort. The process of trial and error, which is vital for growth, could be stunted if writers become overly dependent on A.I. for all aspects of composition.
  5. Unintended Biases: A.I. models learn from existing data, which can inadvertently perpetuate biases present in the training data. If unchecked, A.I. assisted writing tools might unwittingly propagate biased or discriminatory content, potentially amplifying societal prejudices.

Navigating the A.I. Assisted Writing Landscape:

While the dangers of A.I. assisted writing are real, they are not insurmountable. It’s crucial to approach these tools with a balanced perspective:

  1. Supplement, Don’t Substitute: Use A.I. tools as aids, not replacements. Leverage their efficiency but retain your unique voice and creative process. Strive for a symbiotic relationship between human creativity and machine assistance.
  2. Prioritize Learning: Keep investing in your writing skills. Practice critical thinking, engage in self-editing, and challenge yourself to explore new writing styles. A.I. tools should be a means to augment your abilities, not replace the need for growth.
  3. Ethical Awareness: Be diligent about giving proper credit when using A.I. generated content. As consumers of content, we have a responsibility to maintain ethical standards and protect the integrity of original authorship.
  4. Bias Mitigation: Be aware of potential biases in A.I. generated content. As a conscientious creator, it’s your responsibility to review and, if necessary, revise the output to ensure it aligns with your values.

Final Thoughts:

A.I. assisted writing undeniably offers a world of possibilities. However, as we embrace this technology, we must be vigilant about its pitfalls. By approaching these tools with awareness, critical thinking, and a commitment to preserving the essence of human creativity, we can harness the power of A.I. while safeguarding the authenticity and diversity that make writing a truly remarkable endeavor.

Quite frankly, in my tests with Google Duet A.I., it is not worth paying the £30/month until Google gets its act together and provides better value for money. While it integrates within the main Google Workspace applications, it’s certainly not as clever as it makes out and you’ll find better value in other A.I. systems such as ChatGPT. Google ought to reduce the price until £30/month is worth the asking price. Look elsewhere for now.