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.
This year’s WWDC keynote was packed to the gills with a slew of announcements relating to upcoming software features in Apple’s range of products, including the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Additionally, the company also announced a whole new redesign of the Mac Pro, a new high-end monitor, and $1,000 monitor stand (I kid you not).
Apple has a rebranding/versioning problem
The iPad is getting a whole new slew of feature enhancements that won’t be found on the iPhone, to the extent that Apple is now referring to the version of iOS for iPad as iPadOS. This now gives us the following OS derivatives based on the Mach kernel/FreeBSD from which OS X originally came from:
MacOS – for Mac desktop and laptop operating systems
iPadOS – for iPads
WatchOS – for the Apple Watch
tvOS – for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K
iOS – for iPhones
So why doesn’t Apple rename iOS to iPhoneOS to identify the operating system specifically for iPhones? I don’t know. I’m assuming iPadOS will be referred to version 13, the same as iOS rather than iPadOS 1. If Apple did change iOS to iPhoneOS, it’d still be version 13 too. Only WatchOS has had significant changes to the version number since it was first released. We’re currently on major version 5, but for iOS and tvOS it’s version 12. For MacOS it’s 10.14. Even I’m finding it difficult to keep up.
Goodbye iTunes – so long, and thanks for all the fish
I’ve been a heavy iTunes user since.. well .. since Winamp died. I migrated over to the iTunes platform on Windows initially long before I had my first Mac, and haven’t looked back since. I’ve tried to leave the iTunes ecosystem a few times, but quite frankly it’s very difficult – particularly because the integration and feature set is very good. The downside is that iTunes has been enormously clunky for quite some time.
So Apple is splitting out music, video and podcasts into three separate applications for the next release of MacOS (called Catalina). This makes sense. I’m an Apple Music subscriber and find that the iCloud Music Library to be extremely useful to sync my own tracks across my iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch series 4. The iTunes store will still be there if I do want to purchase tracks or albums, or movies or TV shows.
The Mac to get 4K movie playback
Apple TV on the Mac will also play 4K content (since many modern iMacs will have 4K or 5K displays) and Dolby Atmos content. It’s no longer limited to Apple TV HD/4K devices. However, my biggest disappointment with Apple in this regard is that iTunes is still not offering 4K television shows for sale. Or TV shows with iTunes Extras content. I feel that Apple’s upcoming video streaming service, Apple TV+, may have had an effect on that. If UHD Blu-Ray content is on the way out, we need a better alternative to just streaming services. People want to buy, download and keep. And they want the extras that come with physical discs.
Apple to stop BASHing MacOS and wants to zig-a-zig-zsh
Apple is, for whatever reason, not a fan of GNU v3 General Public License. As such, the version of the bash interpreter included with MacOS is a little out of date. The zsh shell is more modern, largely backwards compatible with bash and is, in theory, a better option. That said, a good amount of what I do involves bash, so I doubt I’ll be changing over anytime soon.
You’ll be able to use your iPad as a second screen with MacOS Catalina
Something that I look forward to using. The new version of MacOS Catalina will allow users with a modern iPad or iPad Pro as a second screen – with the added bonus that if you have an Apple Pencil, you can use something like Photoshop to sketch on the iPad and it’ll appear on your Mac.
iPadOS will make the iPad more computer-like like never before
Apple has been pushing the iPad and iPad Pro as fully fledged computers. The problem with that is that even with a physical keyboard, key features of the operating system are still incredibly limited.
As well as a new home screen with access to widgets in horizontal view, the icons are now more tightly packed together – allowing more icons per screen. There are new gestures to make it easier to select, copy and paste text – and the cursor should be much easier to reposition.
And you’ll finally be allowed to use a mouse with an iPad! Though it forms part of the accessibility features and effectively emulates fingers – thus it won’t be the same as if you were using MacOS. But I think the new gestures and cursor control should help a bit.
The biggest change is that you’ll be able to plug in a USB hard drive or thumb drive and copy data to and from the iPad like any other file. It’s been mentioned that Apple formatted HPFS+ volumes don’t yet work (which would be silly if you also have a Mac), but may change during the beta/development process.
The iPad will also be able to connect to network shares as well – also offering a way of pulling data into and out of the iPad over the network.
Access to files via USB drive or network drive makes me wonder what would happen if the iPhone XI models ship with USB-C ports instead of lightning ports. It would be a tremendous benefit to have USB-C on the iPhone, but it did, would the Files app also support the use of hard drives and thumb drives as well? And are the other features sufficient to rename iOS on the iPad as iPadOS in that case?
Safari, the default web browser on iPadOS, will be able to use the desktop versions of web sites. Previously this was not possible as Safari always identified itself as a mobile browser, and the web site/app would deliver a mobile-friendly version. It’s not clear whether this will be the default option, or if other browsers such as Chrome will follow suit as it will mean changing the browser identification string. Something I’ll need to bear in mind for work!
In short – iPadOS has more features in it to make an iPad last a good many years as a laptop computer. It’ll always be a locked system, but Apple have opened it up a little more in what it can do that will make it a more attractive option to those on the move.
iPhone users also have a few tweaks to look forward to
I’m so looking forward to disabling limits on the size of app downloads. I have a very generous data allowance with my phone provider, and few humongous apps. But that’s not all – it’s said that apps will launch twice as fast and be half the size. Some serious optimisation work going on there!
I’m definitely looking forward to the new dark mode, and even more so – I like the look of the new Photos app. I use Photos and the iCloud Photo Library a lot across all my Apple devices, so it’ll be interesting to play around with the new features there. Already loving the new layout and can’t wait to start using it.
Pro Macs and Displays
With potential costs of up to $35,000 for a fully tricked out Mac Pro, and the displays costing around $6k including the monitor stand, the new Mac Pro is going to be something for companies or individuals with very deep pockets. The performance will be phenomenal, but it will require substantial effort from developers to make use of those performance enhancements.
VFX, for example, has generally relied heavily on NVIDIA graphics technology – as has anything with big computational needs. That said, when I was working back in VFX, Macs were primarily used for 2D Photoshop work (working with giant size textures).
I think the Apple ProDisplay will do much better in terms of sales – the specifications alone are going to be very tempting for anybody that requires great colour accuracy. And cost point of those monitors – even with the stand – is considerably cheaper than other manufacturers.
Another question that I have is that if Apple is intending to switch from Intel to their own ARM silicon in the future – how far ahead is this, and what about people who have spent tens of thousands of pounds/dollars on these systems only to find that we’re going to be in the middle of another architecture change in 2-3 years time. That’s a very difficult question to answer right now, but I believe Apple *will* do it at some point. Given the number of speculative vulnerabilities that are cropping up in Intel CPUs, people (and Apple) are going to be fed up with Intel.
(*) From the Adult Sim cartoon series, Rick & Morty. “Wubba lubba dub dub” was Rick’s catchphrase.
It’s almost everybody’s New Year resolution to get fit. Stay off the booze, eat more healthily, etc. etc. But in my case, it’s truly a resolution that I intend to keep.
For most of my adult life I’ve always been quite “bulky”, but over the past few years I’ve been putting on the pounds. And it has been worrying me.
This wasn’t always the way. When I was working for my last employer, they very kindly provided an electric pushbike that I used extensively during the time we were based in Guildford. I lost a lot of weight and was much slimmer than I am now – and before that too.
But in the remaining year or so at my last employer, and the first year and a half at my current employer, I must admit I haven’t been looking after myself as much as I should be doing. Though the weight hasn’t been that much of a change, I have gone up several sizes in T-shirts and trousers.
So towards the end of last year, a work colleague prompted me (and others) to start getting into shape. We started a 5K club. The 5K being steps, not mileage. The aim is to walk at least 5k steps at lunchtime – preferably at a fast pace. We had a couple of sessions and I must admit I found it a bit of struggle at first.
So this prompted to make additional changes – I’ve completely cut out soda. I’ve been a long term drinker of Diet Coke and Pepsi Max. Rarely drunk tea. Drunk lots of Starbucks and Costa Coffee daily. I gave up regular coffee shop drinking long ago (when I added up how much I was spending!), though I will admit to having one or two very infrequently. I now stick with tea, regular shop bought coffee (and even then, it’s occasional), and water. Fizzy spring water is acting as a go-between while I readjust to non-sparking spring water.
As the work 5K club has gone on, we’re supporting each other more. Another work colleague has recommended Berocca (or the Boots equivalent, Revive) which provides a bit of an energy boost as well as providing vitamins and minerals. It comes in tablet form and dissoves into water. So I’ve had that every day for a week now. I also take cod liver oil tablets and Glucosamine Sulphate for joints.
This along with walking up a steep hill every day, along with getting out and about more has really been helping. I’ve been feeling great over the past few days and hope to keep it up. In terms of meals, I’ve cut potatoes out as much as possible and have increased things like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. I’ve also added baked beans into my diet more too. I have two meat dishes per week, with the rest of the meals using meat substitutes. I also have rice, often from an Uncle Ben’s packet. Breakfast is usually Chocolate Shreddies (yes, I know) and lunch is home made sandwiches (ham, roast chicken, Quorn chicken slices or similar) along with a couple of satsumas for deserts.
This is quite the far cry from takeaways of the past (one of the 5K club members has had similar experiences). On-call is such that it isn’t too much of a problem anymore. I work from home one day a week.
I monitor my progress through my Apple Watch series 4 watch which records the steps and calories. My Withings Body smart scales record weight and send it through to Apple Health so I have a complete record of activity throughout the day.
Hopefully we’ll start to see improvements over the next few weeks and months. My colleague has already said that she’s seen an improvement in me since we started, so I must be doing something right! I’m aiming to get a pedal exerciser or even an exercise bike so that I can do some workouts at home (and at work – pedal exercisers are cheap and portable).
At the age of 42, staying fit and healthy is now a priority if I’m likely to see 43, 44, 45, 46 and so on. I can only see now that it doesn’t have to be terrible – and having a support network around you only boosts and helps you get better at it.