It's that time of year when Six Colors has released their annual report card on all things Apple.
Their report card is calculated by talking to a lot of people. Mine is calculated based only on my own experience. In many ways I agree with their assessment. In others I disagree strongly (they gave HomeKit a D+, which I thought was incredibly generous given the shitshow it is).
But anyway... here we go...
Apple must be doing something right, because their latest round of MacBook Pros were sweet enough to convince me to upgrade after only one year (thanks to their trade-in problem, which is not great, but so easy and better than nothing). For most things... like email and web browsing and the like... there is virtually no difference with the new M2 MAX chip. But for the actual work I do? 15% to 20% faster is absolutely worth it. Less time waiting on renders and stuff gives me more time to do other stuff. I was a bit surprised that the iMac is still stuck at 24" and the M1 chip... and there's still no MacPro, which is getting increasingly embarrassing... but I am fairly certain all that is forthcoming with the advent of Apple's new 3nm chips, coming soon to a computer near you. Though it's kinda a bizarre flex for a desktop machine when the true miracle of dropping to 3nm is the power savings, so I'm guessing it must have one heck of a performance bump. 2022 was pretty much a stop-gap year to the Next Big Thing, and how 2023 pans out will largely depend on just how big that Next Big Thing ends up being.
If I wasn't on the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program track, I would have likely skipped the iPhone 14 Pro. It just wasn't much more significant than the 13 Pro it replaced. All the improvements were mediocre and far from sexy, which is a real head-scratcher. Maybe now that we're in 2023 Apple has something more spectacular planned... a better camera would be a great start... but I have to wonder if there's nothing but low-hanging fruit from here out. I'd like to think that the "Dynamic Island" isn't the pinnacle of iPhone innovation, but it's really starting to feel that way. If I were still with my iPhone 12 Pro, I'd likely be none-the-wiser, and that's a very bad sign for Apple. Still, their phones are really nice (and still my favorite), so grading them lower than a B seems criminal.
I love my iPad Pro, but there has been zero reason to upgrade it after three years. There's nothing going on with iPad, which is a shame, but it's still the best tablet on the market by a country mile. And, as Apple-savvy as I am, I have no fucking clue which accessories work with which model, which is an absolute disaster for a company that bills itself as the easiest and most user-friendly option.
Apple Watch: B
Another product that just doesn't seem to be going anwhere... no revolutionary new features or ideas here. At least with the base model. A very notable exception is the Apple Watch Ultra, which is amazing on every level and bumps my grade from a C to a B. Problem is that it's very narrow in focus, as big as a Buick, and has a limited audience. And yet for those who need it, the thing is a game-changer. I am still waiting for a blood glucose monitor before I upgrade again. My 3-year-old Apple Watch is just fine. Even then, my "ancient" tech is still far more appealing to me than the newest of the new when it comes to other brands.
Holy shit. What the fuck is it going to take before Apple gives us a user interface that's worth a shit? I just raged about this fairly recently, and if I start in again I may not be able to stop. Just about every other TV interface on the market that I've seen is better than this crap, and the fact that Apple does nothing about it just means I'm not investing in any more of their bullshit. I don't care how good the remote is.
I am so meh on everything Apple is doing in the Services arena that I am finding it difficult to even comment. It's all still too expensive for what you get. The plans don't have enough options so that people can get exactly what they need, so they are either paying for more or less than what they would otherwise like. Apple TV+ is okay, but I don't watch enough on it to really care (until Ted Lasso returns). I don't give a crap about the fitness stuff. I switched to Apple Music when I dumped Amazon Prime, but it's not that different and costs more than what I was paying, so I honestly don't care. I don't have time to play their games. I know Apple is making a metric shit-ton of money off Services... I wish I could say they earned it. Right now their bundles aren't worth it to me, so I am paying for iCloud Drive, AppleTV, Apple Music, and iTunes Match all separately. In order to get an Apple One bundle, I'd still have to purchase an iCloud Drive upgrade because what comes with it isn't enough. Let me build my own bundle with a calculated discount and I'd likely upgrade my score to a B. That's for flexibility, not value.
I jumped to HomeKit when Insteon folded the first time. This involved a lot of expense on my part, as most all my switches and devices had to be changed out. And what did I get for my money? A horrendously fucked up system that barely works. And it just keeps getting worse. All of a sudden half my shit will just up and stop working. HomePods will refuse to issue commands. I've woken up to find that my garage door mysteriously opened at 2am for no reason. And despite everything running on the super-speedy Thread technology now, Automations are slow as shit... when they bother to work at all! At the rate that I've had to unplug and plug back in my HomePod minis in an attempt to get things working again, you'd sure as hell think that Apple would make a plug on the mini itself so I don't have to go moving the fucking furniture every time I need to unplug to reset my network. HomeKit is HomeShit more than ever, and there's no end in sight. Just more "architecture upgrades" to slap lipstick on a pig. Fortunately most of my devices are Matter compatible, so I'll be looking into going that route. Hopefully it will allow me to use Siri since Apple is in with Matter, but things will actually work once I transfer.
Hardware Reliability: A-
Software issues and OS stupidity aside, the hardware is always on-point. Although I am dropping them from an A to A- because of the afore-mentioned wired plug on the HomePod mini. Now that the MacBook Pros offer an SD card slot and an HDMI port instead of forcing me to use dongles, I'm thrilled (a
Software Quality C+
Even with HomeKit removed from the equation, I still have numerous problems with the way Apple software functions (or doesn't function as the case may be). Apple Mail is a fucking travesty and one of the biggest piece of shit apps I have ever used. And Apple doesn't give a fuck. Features I use are stripped out of their software for no reason other than they want it that way. Bugs are rampant and pop up in the strangest places. It's almost as if nobody at Apple is using their own apps, because the same bugs never seem to go away. One day maybe Apple will start giving a shit. Until then? Still the best option, faults and all.
Developer Relations N/A
As I am not currently in the Apple Developer Program, I don't really have room to comment. Except to say that the World Wide Developer Conference always seems like a fantastic step in keeping things right with those developers on their platform. As a consumer, however, I can say that their App Store is a pile of shit. Which is a mystery because they get a cut of every sale. You'd think they would want it to be a top-tier experience. But instead apps you are looking for are hard to find, update options are weird, AND THERE'S NO FUCKING WAY TO FIND ONLY GAMES THAT DON'T REQUIRE IN-APP PURCHASES! And speaking of in-app purchases... maybe they wouldn't be as annoying if they weren't so damn expensive, but since Apple takes such a huge, huge cut of the money, expensive they will remain. This is such a problem that it's entirely likely Apple will be forced to allow customers to "side-load" apps and bypass the App Store. This would be a disaster because affordable apps wouldn't come with protections. And it's all on Apple and their greed.
Societal and Society Impact B
They are one of the most accessible platforms in existence, and trying to make sure that anybody can use them regardless of any physical or mental challenges is pretty incredible. Where they fail is with their employees. And it's some pretty heinous failures. They need to do better.
Customer Service B+
This is a category I added on my own after my heinous experience with the iPhone Upgrade Program (I returned my old iPhone at an Apple Store... Apple said I never returned it... and I spent TWO MONTHS trying to get it straightened out). I have to say... exchanging my iPhone in the mail? Flawless. The trade-in experience with my MacBook Pros? Flawless. Actually getting support? Not so flawless. Apple makes it incredibly difficult to get the help you need, instead letting you use Google for support (see: HomeKit). That being said, they did exchange my faulty keyboard with hardly any trouble, so hardware is not the issue it used to be, so there's that.
Overall, Apple is still doing more right than wrong. It's why I'm so loyal, because other brands are pretty awful. And yet there's always room for improvement, and Apple has more than a few things that need improving, so here's hoping.
I've always ignored the whole MagSafe scenario because I didn't think it would be very practical. Room for three cards? THREE?!? What am I supposed to do with that? Especially considering that Washington State legislators are more concerned with raising taxes and running for re-election than actually getting shit done so we can have digital licenses. Other states are hopping on board. But not Washington! Patty Murray is too busy sucking Big Pharma dick to have ten fucking minutes to tell her staff to instruct the Department of Licensing to do jack shit. So one of those three precious card slots will be devoted to my physical license, leaving me with two left (thank you shitty USA health care system!).
Now, given that one of those has to be for my health insurance card means I'm left with one slot left.
And even though ApplePay is finally rolling out to most stores now-a-days, that should probably go to my primary credit card for places it doesn't work.
And that's all she wrote.
But would it be enough? I tested it out by rubber-banding the three cards together and sticking them in my front pocket while my wallet with the rest of my junk goes in my back pocket. I would keep track of how many times I had to reach for my wallet in a month and see if MagSafe Wallet was even possible.
Surprisingly? Turns out it was. So I orderd the orange one to go on my Project RED case on my Deep Purple iPhone...
Now... I originally wasn't going to go with the Apple wallet because I didn't want to buy leather anything. Faux leather was fine. But Apple MagSafe Wallets are the only ones that have "Find My" technology which will let you know when your wallet was last attached to your iPhone. Since I was genuinely concerned with the wallet falling off, this seemed a handy feature to have, so I went with Apple's cruelty-enabled option.
Turns out that the magnets on this wallet are actually pretty good, I've been using it for over a month and it's never fallen off once, even when sliding it in my pocket.
The only problem I have with the magnetic attachment is that it doesn't snap to alignment, and oftentimes I have to twist it a bit so that it pops into place. Kind of a huge flaw in Apple's design, but not a dealbreaker.
The only other difficulty is getting the cards in and out. There's a thumb-hole on the back which allows you to push the cards out one-by-one. But sometimes they come out easier than others. I've taken to having my credit card be in the back since that's by far the card I use most (Home Depot and other stores don't allow ApplePay).
Other than that? Kinda great, actually. I love not having to lug around a huge wallet, and the three slots are all I really need (though hopefully one day Patty Murray will be forced out of office and be replaced by somebody who will give Washingtonians digital driver's licenses, because I'd rather add my Health Savings card in its place).
If you rarely use cash like me... and don't need a ton of cards on you, then this is actually a pretty good investment.
Oh look! Today was yet another Apple Event!
Tim Cook started things off with Dear Apple... which is dramatic readings of people who have written to him saying how much Apple has improved their lives... and saved their lives! It's like, okay, we get it, and it's probably smart to focus on this (thanks for at least trying to be clever about it), but this is kinda a weird way to kick off excitement for new products, isn't it?
Let's get to it, shall we?
Here's the thing. I love my Apple Watch. It helps me monitor my sleep and can do some handy things so I don't have to grab my iPhone as much.
Here's the promo...
One of my biggest complaints from Series 6 is still here! I just checked... Apple still doesn't allow me to "customize it your way" the way I want to customize it. This is so damn stupid. Maybe if I go to an actually Apple Store they could help me? I want a Project RED case with a Black Solo Loop. The only way to do this online? Buy a Project RED watch with a band I don't want and won't use... then pay another $50 to get the Black Solo Loop...
Pretty crappy, Apple.
I don't know if saving $150 for a lighter feature set would be the best choice for me... but it's nice that Apple is at least trying to be a little sensitive to the fact that people don't have shitloads of money laying around. From what I can tell you lose always-on display, edge-to-edge display, Blood Oxygen and ECG reading, and "fast charge." So... not a lot, actually. A smart choice if you want a more basic watch that still have a lot to offer.
Apple's long-rumored "super watch" is actually pretty compelling. If it weren't so darn HUGE it might be something I'd consider (if I had $799 to spare).
Ultimately, I really like this watch. I just could not deal with how astoundingly big it is (SERIOUSLY! JUST LOOK AT IT IN THE AD WHERE IT'S SHOWN ON PEOPLE'S WRISTS! HOLY CRAP!). Even for the features you get. I have to say... the advertisement that they came up with for the watch is unintentionally hilarious with its overly-dramatic overtones...
I mean, come on... adventure can be fun too! It's not always so dire!
I used my Airpods to death when I was traveling constantly. And the "Pro" pods were my favorite travel pods I've ever used. Not only did they not fall out constantly like the old model version, but they had that spatial sound mode that was brilliant. But now that I'm not traveling? Rarely use them. I prefer my Beats. The new "Pro" AirPods that got released today are said to improve sound quality, but I sincerely doubt it's going to be groundbreaking compared to the ones I have now. The enhanced noise cancelation, better battery life, and adaptive transparency mode would be pretty sweet though. And how awesome is the swipe volume control?
Since I've bought the "Pro" version all the way back to the iPhone X, I'm not sure about what features are improved compared to the iPhone 13. But it sure can't be much.
All-in-all... this is a pretty good bargain when it comes to iPhones.
And here we go (boy is Tim Cook excited! Must be great!)...
The promo video is pretty good at hitting all the sweet spots...
Like I said... the camera makes it all worthwhile to me, so I'll be using my option in the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program to upgrade. Probably in Purple. Maybe in Black. BUT DEFINITELY NOT IN PRODUCT RED, HUH APPLE?!???
So... no real surprises, I guess. Just incremental improvements with no revolutionary innovations. Again. One day there is going to be some paradigm-altering new feature at one of these things. The question being... will it have come from Apple first?
Sad video flashback time.
Back in the day, I preferred Windows Phone over iPhone (shocking, I know). I personally never bought one, but received them for development and spent a lot of time with them. Interestingly enough, all the GUI work I did... for four separate Windows Phones apps... never went anywhere because the apps were never released.
There are still things about Windows Phone that I wish Apple & Android would adopt. Windows Phone is weird in that Microsoft was both behind and ahead of their time...
Interesting to think about what it would take for a new mobile OS to break the strangelhold that Apple iOS and Google Android OS has on the market. I honestly think it can't be done. It's going to take some huge technological leap to get there.
Assuming we're still using phones instead of some kind of chip implanted in our head.
Monday was the annual World Wide Developer Conference, and here's my thoughts on what came from that.
I'm putting this first because it's something that took me completely by surprise in the best possible way. Having to keep track of dipshit passwords in the year 2022 is absurdly stupid, and it's been more than a little shocking that nobody has thought to do anything about it. Sure Apple has made things better by having TouchID and FaceID auto-fill your passwords for you, but it's still stupid. For one thing, there's still a password floating around out there that can be compromised by a company with lax security. Apple wants to ditch passwords in favor of biometric handshaking. Finally. And because they want to get this up-and-running quickly, they're working with Google and Microsoft to make it happen. Can't happen soon enough.
Up until now, CarPlay has been a curious diversion to me. It doesn't really do anything beyond what my iPhone can do when slapped on my car vent holder. Certainly nothing that makes me want to run out and buy a CarPlay stereo or a CarPlay-enabled car. But now? Apple has gone and made CarPlay take over the entire dash, and it's just phenomenally cool...
My complete and total loathing of Apple's Smart Home standard, HomeKit, has not abated since it debuted in 2014 and was actually viable in 2016. It's the most absurdly stupid thing which works with nothing and what it does work with... works badly. I tried to get started with it twice and ended up hating it more after each go. Apple has now started over from scratch, which is about the best thing they could do. The new HomeKit will be built upon the new Matter standard, which is backed by everybody who's anybody in tech, which means that even if Apple shits the bed AGAIN, there will be other options so you're not trapped. I am 1000% looking forward to Matter, which means that I will be a part of HomeKit and not care.
MACBOOK AIR M2
This thing is sexy as hell with its four color options and beautiful design. But that's not even the best part... it's got Apple's shiny new M2 chip inside! If you don't need the power and ports of a MacBook Pro, this is a no-brainer ($1,000 for an M1 chip model, $1,200 for an M2 chip model).
MACBOOK PRO 13 M2
I am beyond confused by this machine. It's $100 more than the Air, has the same chip, a slightly smaller screen... and the only difference I can see is that the screen is OLED on the Pro. Not that it makes any difference to me... I need a 16" model, which this is not.
This update feels mostly cosmetic, allowing you to create custom lock-screens and switch between them like faces on an Apple Watch. The only part of this upgrade which excites me is that you can have "Live Activities" which update on your lock screen in real time, so you don't have to unlock your phone and navigate to the app to track progress on something. Also in this update is improvements to the Photos app (mostly to do with sharing) and the Messages app (you can edit and delete messages, which seems nice on the surface, but could be a nightmare for those being bullied or stalked via text who need evidence) and the Mail app (better search and the ability to undo a send, when supported by the recipient). There's also better dictation abilities (you can use the keyboard while dictating something by voice!) and some intriguing tech which allows hearing-impaired persons to have voices transcribed for them in real-time, which is all kinds of cool (the fact that iOS 16 is finally compatible with Nintendo Switch controllers after waiting for this for years is just icing on the cake).
A lot of what the desktop is getting is the same stuff as what's happening in iOS. But there are a few perks that are unique here. First of all, you can now use handoff with FaceTime calls. So if I've started a FaceTime on my iPhone I can sit down at my Mac and transfer the call there with a click. That's very slick and useful. Likewise, you can use the superior camera on your iPhone as the webcam for your Mac and be able to use it as a Center Stage camera if your monitor doesn't have that ability (see above). And there are MagSafe adapters on the way to affix your iPhone to your Mac, which is a nice touch. Even nicer? An attempt has been made to make managing large numbers of Finder windows easier and for task switching not suck. Something called "Desk View" which allows you to use your iPhone camera to look down at your desk while still having a separate view on your face. This will be incredibly useful to me... it looks like Zoom will adopt the ability, which I truly hope happens since that's where most of my video calls happen. In addition to this stuff... games are faster... there's a lot of minor improvements all over the place, and there's now a shareable online whiteboard for collaboration called Freeform which is cool... but I don't know if it is cross-platform with Windows users? I missed it if this is possible.
iPad OS 16
Ever since iPad broke away from iOS, I keep waiting for this quantum leap change that's going to make it all worthwhile. A pretty big change was multi-tasking for using multiple apps at the same time... but then things kinda just... stalled. Of course iPads are getting all the new stuff from iOS (and the nice app-switcher from macOS Ventura), but all the coolest new stuff is only available for iPads with an M1 chip, which leaves me out. Of course, the thing that I most want from an iPad is a model with a much larger screen for drawing, which hasn't materialized yet.
And that was it. Since none of the OS stuff will be officially released until September (unless you like the idea of playing with the public betas which drop next month).
Until then... I guess I'm good.
AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM THE HEAVENS TO BESTOW UPON THE WORLD NEW APPLE PRODUCTS, AND IT WAS GOOD!
Or not. I haven't quite decided. But there was indeed an Apple Event™ today, and Tim Cook did indeed drop a bunch of stuff on an undeserving world. As usual, I just can't seem to shut my mouth about it, so here we go. If you want to watch the actual Apple Event™ before reading my commentary (or watch as you read) then here you go...
Some of the forthcoming movies and shows look interesting to me. The addition of Friday Night Baseball is an intriguing idea, but the only way I would want to watch it would be if they're showing a Red Sox game, so who knows how useful this will be to me. I'm not quite understanding where Apple is going with all this. Television series (like my beloved Ted Lasso) and movies (like the wonderful CODA) make sense. But baseball? I don't get it. This is not a big missing piece that is filling a hole in Apple's lineup to attract subscribers.
Whoop-dee-doo. A new green shade for iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. It kinda makes me upset that A) Apple adds colors after you've already bought the latest model... and B) the Pro models always get "sophisticated" (i.e. boring) colors. Let me know what I can have when a product is released. And, for the love of God, give the Pro users cool bright colors like the non-Pro models get. I want my (PRODUCT)RED iPhone Pro, dammit.
iPhone 13 SE
This is the "budget" model iPhone that's not exactly "budget." But it is a more affordable option for people wanting a newer, faster iPhone with a better camera and 5G. What's surprising is that the SE is actually more bang for your buck than what you get with a standard model iPhone 13. Because with the exception of FaceID (which I love) this is a pretty sweet feature-packed mobile phone for $430.
iPad Air 2022
Yada yada yada... better, faster, stronger than the last model. This means nothing to me, because what I want is a 17-inch iPad Pro. That's all I want. Until they offer one that's sized for graphic artists, there's no need for me to upgrade from my iPad Pro 12.9-inch model. But for somebody wanting an iPad that slays? This is for you. This is the model I would have bought for my mom. In purple. At $600 it ain't cheap, but there's a lot of bang for your buck in that price tag. Inexplicably, by adding the M1 chip, Apple pushes this into "Pro" territory, which makes me wonder why they have "Pro" models at all. Unless there's new "Pro" models around the corner which will leapfrog this new Air? M2 perhaps?
And here we go. Pro users want to upgrade their machines faster than the average iMac user. But it's always a waste because the 27-inch display on the iMac Pro is integrated with computer, so getting rid of one means you're getting rid of both. And the trade-in value ain't that great. So separating the computer from the display makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, doing so means that you have to pay more to get what you need (even though upgrading will be cheaper because you can hang on to the monitor (and this monitor is really sweet, featuring 5K, great sound, and a very good camera)...
My MacBook Pro with M1 Max is the ideal laptop because it redefines power computing on the go... all while getting sublime battery life. I couldn't be happier with it. Finally an actual Pro laptop! The new Mac Studio allows you to choose between this very capable chip... or the shiny new M1 Ultra. This beast of a processor is essentially "ultra-fusing" two M1 Max chips together into a single processing unit that's more powerful and efficient than using two separate chips that are soldered to the motherboard. Plus the system sees it as a single chip, so developers don't have to do anything special to take advantage of its power. Naturally, I covet a computer using one of these chips... but, even with the intensive work I do, it's likely overkill. Hopefully my office will spring for one of the cheaper models for me, because my 8 year old iMac is dying and takes forever to do simple tasks.
The $2,000 and $4,000 price tag is a lot of cash. But when compared to equivalent high-end PCs it's actually a pretty fair price. And compared to the iMac Pro it's replacing (at $5000) it's a hot bargain. Then there's the Mac Pro, which is still for sale on Apple's website and still using Intel chips. They start at $6000. I'd rather max out a Mac Studio for that kind of money. At least until Apple upgrades the Mac Studio to whatever ungodly powerful chips they're developing.
And that was all she wrote.
And speaking of "she"... interesting to note that all the developers interviewed when talking about the M1 Ultra were women. Appropriate as we celebrate "International Women's Day," I guess. Hopefully all these women are getting equal pay for their work... because that would be something to really celebrate.
Here's the Apple product matrix as it currently stands...
So... inconsistent and all over the map then. Steve Jobs must be turning over in his grave.
Though Steve was innovating in a different, simpler age. Tim Cook seems to be more interested in filling needs than filling boxes, which is probably how it should be. No, it's not simpler than having a neat matrix with clearly-defined labels... but it does make sure that people will get devices that are a good fit for what they are wanting to do with it and how much money they have to spend. And that's probably a better approach.
All I do know is that I wish money was not an option, because I would just buy the biggest, baddest, most expensive model of everything Apple makes every time they release it.
Fantasyland is so much nicer than Reality.
I have many times sang the praises* of the iPhone Upgrade Program. It allows you to make monthly interest-free payments on the iPhone of your choice... then you can either trade it in after a year and upgrade to a new model... or you can finish out your two years of payments and keep it. This really is the best of both worlds. When the next model iPhone comes out, you get to decide whether or not it's worth it to start all over with two years of payments or skip a year and own your phone.I just like that the program means I can afford a top-of-the-line model. Maybe you have $1,100 laying around to go buy one, but I sure don't, so this is the only way I was getting an iPhone 13 Pro MAX.
Today was the day I prepped my old iPhone 12 Pro MAX for return to Apple.
It's been a good phone, I've gotten a lot of use out of it, and I've enjoyed having it, so I'm a little bit sentimental about having to part with Tomato (the name I gave him because of his tomato-red case). Back when I first used the program to upgrade, I Googled to find out what happens to returned iPhones. I found a YouTube video (since removed) which explained that more recent models in good condition have components replaced to get refurbished, then get sold. If your iPhone is too old or too busted to be refurbished, Apple takes it apart and salvages what materials they can so they can turn them into more modern parts for newer models. Pretty slick. And a good investment for Apple, since they can continue to make money off of phones that were already purchased!
My iPhones get slapped into cases the minute I unbox them, so they get returned in prestine like-new condition. I'm relatively confident that they get refurbished and resold, which means somebody is getting a terrific phone at a discounted price. Which is far better than chucking the thing in a cabinet with the rest of my old iPhones to collect dust.
My return box arrives tomorrow. At which time it will be buh bye Tomato.
Hopefully your new owner likes you as much as I did.
*WARNING: DO NOT GO TO THE APPLE STORE TO TRADE IN YOUR iPHONE! ABSOLUTELY 100% DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. WHEN I DID THIS, THEY DIDN'T LOG MY PHONE AS HAVING BEEN RETURNED SO APPLE SAID THEY WERE GOING TO BILL ME FOR BOTH PHONES SINCE I DECIDED TO KEEP IT. THIS TOOK *MONTHS* TO GET STRAIGHTENED OUT. MONTHS!!! HOURS OF WASTED TIME TALKING TO APPLE SUPPORT... AND GETTING HUNG UP ON. HOURS OF WASTED TIME TRYING TO TALK TO THE APPLE STORE. HOURS OF SENDING EMAILS. IT WAS HANDS-DOWN ONE OF THE WORST EXPERIENCES I'VE HAD WITH ANY COMPANY EVER! SO UNTIL APPLE STARTS HANDING OUT RECEIPTS FOR TRADE-INS AT THE APPLE STORE, HAVE YOUR NEW PHONE DELIVERED SO THEY CAN SEND YOU A RETURN BOX WITH A TRACKING NUMBER! DO *NOT* MAKE THE MISTAKE I DID!
When I ordered my new iPhone way back on October 9th I was told that it would be arriving between November 10th and 17th. A month away. But, unlike when I ordered my new MacBook Pro, I wasn't dying to get my hands on it. The only reason I was getting a new iPhone was because the camera improvements seemed worth a look, and it seemed silly to not take advantage of The iPhone Upgrade Program which allows me to afford these things in the first place. That's it.
Imagine my surprise when I got a notice telling me that my iPhone had shipped a whole week early! Well, shipped from China, naturally, but it still only took two days to arrive. I sure hope my new MacBook is sent early like this!
So let's take a look at things, shall we?
Other than a bigger camera bump on the back, you'll be forgiven if you don't think the 13 Pro MAX is different than the 12 Pro MAX at first glance. I legit thought that they had accidentally sent me an iPhone 12 Pro MAX by mistake until I turned it over and saw the slightly larger camera bump and bigger lenses. My phone is the "Sierra Blue" model, which is nice. The color is a little more subtle than what you see in the photos on the website... it looks almost white if you have any light on it. But the sides of the phone are absolutely gorgeous. A shiny steel blue color that looks so sharp. I love it but, if I'm being completely honest, I prefer the darker blue from last year (and, if I'm being even more honest, I prefer the dark green from the year before that)...
If you look very close, you can see the ear speaker has moved to the very top in the new model.
The deeper color just has a different "feel" to it that I prefer.
The weight is definitely a bit heavier, and I noticed it the minute I picked it up. It's even more noticeable when switching between hold my old and new phones. It's not going to be an issue. If I really stare at it on-edge I can see that it's a tiny bit thicker, but not in a way that I'm going to be noticing.
If there's one thing that Apple has down to a science, it's setting up their devices. Mostly (this was not the case for me, which we'll get to). It's especially simple if you have an older Apple device. When I turned on my new phone, my old phone immediately lit up and was ready to transfer everything. I was given the option of either setting up the new iPhone from iCloud, which would allow me to use it in about 15 minutes because the non-essentials would be gradually downloaded after the essentials had been transferred... or I could transfer directly from my old iPhone and have absolutely everything set up exactly as before which takes about an hour. I wasn't in a hurry, so I opted to do the direct iPhone transfer. Also? I didn't want to risk the internet cutting out half-way through and screwing up the transfer.
Alas, the transfer was not all smooth sailing. Apps kept starting and stopping during the download, which meant it took a lot longer than an hour to complete (even though I could use what was loaded after about 45 minutes). The re-pairing with my Apple Watch failed spectacularly and was a total bitch to get fixed (read more at the end). And while the transfer initially seemed to go well, my old iPhone was stuck on "Time remaining 6 minutes" for at least a half-hour... probably longer. After everything was transferred and complete, I had to force-reset my old phone because it STILL was stuck on six minutes! I don't know why in the hell I should have these problems when Apple has clearly designed the process so people don't have any issues... but here we are.
Stuck on six minutes... FOR ETERNITY!!!
The irony is not lost that the first shopping app to load was Apple's own!
And nothing I did would work. Time to factory reset the Apple Watch... AGAIN!
The size and resolution of the Super-Retina OLED display is the same as last year (2778 × 1284 pixels). The difference being that the newer model has a ProMotion 120hz refresh rate, meaning that scrolling is buttery-smooth and there's no tearing when there's rapid movement being displayed. This is not something that a lot of people will notice right away when upgrading. I barely did. Until I went back to my old iPhone! Then it becomes much more obvious and now I never want to go back! Scrolling is positively glorious now. Running at 120hz sucks more battery power, which is why Apple has delayed using it while other manufacturers were switching to it. Apple didn't want to sacrifice battery life, which is something that far more people would notice. Why we are getting 120hz now is that they figured out how to make it be adaptable. The screen runs at 120hz when there's fast-moving things to view... but drops down to a far slower refresh rate when there's not. The result is a superior display that doesn't hit your battery. That's pretty sweet.
Maybe it's because I just don't use my phone as much as other people, but I haven't had my iPhone run out of battery for years. On the contrary, there were many times that I wouldn't even bother to charge the 12 Pro MAX at night because my battery had barely moved. And now Apple as gone and improved the battery life again. In the day I've been using the phone, it's still at 40%... and that includes the setup, which had to be a battery-sucking procedure! Once I'm done using it constantly as I have been, it will be using even less battery. This is a long way from the days that I had to carry a battery pack with me so I could watch movies on a plane-ride!
When I first unwrapped the charging cable, I got very excited. "ZOMG! IT'S USB-C!!" But then I looked at the other end, and nope! Apple is still sticking with that stupid fucking "Lightning" port instead of moving to USB-C like they have with their iPads and computers. This is just mind-bogglingly ridiculous, and I cannot wrap my head around why Apple keeps dragging their feet. They claim it's because there are so many iPhone devices which still use Lightning and they don't want their users with many devices to have to re-buy them. To which I can only say "Where was this concern when you dropped the headphone jack?!?" The simple truth is that Apple will probably drop the port completely before switching to USB-C. So maybe their concern is valid. Don't make your users re-buy stuff that they'll just have to throw out in a year or two. Let's look at the math here... they've already got MagSafe for charging, WiFi 6 for transferring data, and the battery life is so good that quick-charging isn't as critical to have... so why keep the port at all? The day is definitely coming, because that would free up some room inside for new gadgets. I'm guessing that Apple's "concern" over customers with Lightning devices will mysteriously vanish then. Probably. All I know is that I'd like to travel with ONE charger and ONE cable before that day arrives. And wouldn't it be nice if Apple would just have one MagSafe standard for everything? Dare to dream.
I don't shoot a lot of video footage. When I do, it's usually for work. I prefer photography for my personal stuff. But there was something new with the iPhone 13 Pro MAX that had me intrigued... the ability to shoot Native Apple ProRes video. Apple ProRes is a codec (encoding/decoding file format) which many professionals use because it offers very good quality at a semi-decent file size. Problem is that you have to purchase a camera to record in it. My Sony Pro DSLRs record in AVCHD. Previous iPhones shot M4V. The iPhone Pro 13 series is my first chance to go with ProRes, so I leapt on it. I was so excited at the prospect that I actually upgraded the storage to 256GB, because that's what's required to shoot ProRes 4K at 30 frames per second (with the base 128GB model, you can only shoot 1080p maximum). Since I edit video in Apple Final Cut Pro (which is built around the ProRes codec) I already knew I could edit the format easily. But then Apple announced the M1-PRO and M1-MAX chips used in the new MacBook Pro would have special onboard hardware to support ProRes video! Which is to say that now I had even more incentive to play around with video on my iPhone. I'll probably post some footage once I've had a chance to play around with it a bit more.
Way back in 2016, Apple introduced "Portrait Mode" for photography which would put the focus on people and pets by blurring the background. This is what larger DSLR camera lenses can do naturally, and it's nice because your subject "pops" out of the photo. Given the iPhone's tiny lenses, it was a nifty trick, but didn't always look that great. The edges around people would be blurry or weird. And forget about using it for pets because it just looked so bad. But then over the next few years "Portrait Mode" just kept getting better and better. And the fact that you can adjust the blurriness of the background after you've taken the photo is just icing on the cake. I don't use it a lot (I am mostly fine with the blurriness you get direct from the lens), but boy am I glad to have it available!
But "Portrait Mode" has never been available for video.
Until now. And Apple calls it "Cinematic Mode." It adaptively focuses on subjects to blur out the backgrounds and can even track when somebody looks away to automatically focus on what they're looking at. It's incredibly slick. And you can override the focus point after you've shot the video which is amazing.
Not surprisingly, this new tech not terribly great right out of the gate. But I'm guessing that this new "Cinematic Mode" will improve for video just like "Portrait Mode" did for photos. I've only shot a few videos using it just to see what's going on, but am not so impressed that I am using it by default. It has its uses, but I don't use my phone like that very often. Maybe I will when it gets to be as good as "Portrait Mode" is now?
Ever since the iPhone 11 Pro, I've not felt the need to lug my Sony DSLRs around everywhere. The camera on my phone had become so good that there just wasn't a need. Especially for travel, where not having to carry around anything additional was such a blessing. I still use my DSLRs for serious photo shoots where I require high-quality lenses to get what I need... but the way Apple has managed to use on-phone processing to mimic DSLR quality with such tiny lenses is pretty phenomenal, so I use actual cameras less and less. Now we're two generations later and the photography you can get out of the iPhone 13 Pro MAX is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
First of all, the telephoto lens has gone from 2.5× to a full 3×, allowing you to shoot better long-range photos because it's coming off the lens instead of being digitally zoomed. Second of all, whereas only the main lens had optical image stabilization in the iPhone 12 Pro models, the iPhone 13 Pro models have it for all three lenses. This allows you to shoot better photos while moving and much better photos in low-light. And speaking of low-light, Apple has improved that once again as well. The apertures are smaller so the lens can let in more light. The image sensors are larger which allows them to capture more light. Put these two improvements together, and your ability to capture very good night shots is pretty great. I went into my closet with no lights on, just ambient light from the hallway. The iPhone wants you to make a timed exposure for 2 seconds, so I did that...
Then I turned timed exposure off...
This is a 2 second timed exposure.
This is an untimed exposure.
Given how little light is here, both of these are pretty remarkable shots. The image stabilization keeps the 2 second shot crisp and gives pretty good color representation. The shadows are very deep though. The untimed exposure is a little dead-looking with drab colors, but the fact that you can see colors at all is impressive. A couple seconds in adjustments and you could salvage it fairly well if you don't mind a little grain...
This is a an untimed exposure, with adjustments.
If anything, that's the more realistic option of the three, and pretty much what it would look like if I turned the lights on.
And then there's the ability to shoot macro. This allows you to get as close as 2cm to shoot some really cool close-ups...
This is a full-width image crop.
This is a 100% crop of the original image.
If this were Summer, I'd have some vibrant shots to take. But, alas, everything is dying, so that's what I got. Still... just about anything can be cool when you shoot it close-up!
As mentioned above, Apple uses computational photography to go beyond what such small camera lenses are capable. The iPhone is so fast and powerful that Apple can shoot multiple images, analyze them, then assemble the parts to create a far better image (kinda a super-HDR, as it were). This is especially useful in getting good detail out of a shot...
Something new to the native Apple iPhone photo app (but available from other iPhone apps) is the idea of filters. If you like your photos to have more contrast, there's a filter for that. If you want deeper, more saturated colors, there's a filter for that. Want a warmer or cooler look? There's filters for that too. But Apple isn't just applying a filter over the images when you do this. Instead, Apple is selectively applying them locally. Which means that if you want more vivid color in your images and turn on the "vibrant" filter, any human skin in your shot isn't pushed to weird places, but instead preserved a bit and made less vivid so it still looks like human skin. It's a nifty trick.
GOING NEXT-LEVEL BIONIC
The new A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 Pro has a lot more speed and power than the previous A14, but you'll hardly notice in your day-to-day use. Apps work pretty much the same. But there are some exceptions. The computational photography abilities and Cinematic Mode video are things that are only possible because of the new chip. And then there's some apps which definitely benefit. FaceID, for example, which was near instantaneous is 100% instant now.
A CASE FOR CASES
You can't really tell from the below photo, but the new Project RED case is a richer red. Less tomato-like. I absolutely love it. At first I thought that my old case looked less rich because it had faded, but I'm pretty sure that's not the situation because I remarked more than once that I wish I had a deeper red color. The the inside was never exposed to light, and you can really tell there. So... wish granted, I suppose. Though it's a bit of a nightmare to pay $50 for this thing...
Newer, deeper red case is on the left... old tomato case on the right.
Newer, deeper red case is on the RIGHT this time... old tomato case on the left.
Camera features aide, this isn't an essential upgrade. I probably wouldn't have bothered if I weren't in the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. That being said, the new cameras are pretty sweet. Not a revolutionary change... but an incremental step that's worth taking if you're serious about mobile phone photography.
But before we go...
ABOUT THAT APPLE WATCH PAIRING FIASCO
Same thing that happened last year. My new iPhone recognizes that I have an Apple Watch. It asks me if I'd like to pair it. I start the process by pointing the camera at my watch face while dots swim around it. A few minutes later I get an error message saying that my watch can't be paired. Then I go to the Watch app on my old phone to unpair the watch only to find out that the old phone can't find the watch to unpair it. Then I have to physically factory reset my watch entirely so I can start all over from scratch, which sucks copious amounts of ass because then I lose all my settings and credit cards and have to start all over again. This is so fucking stupid. Apple maintains the illusion that upgrading your phone is this simple, easy process... which it appear to be. Until it's not. God it's infuriating. Such a monumentally stupid, frustrating experience from start to finish, and it gets to the point where I'm ready to set my fucking watch on fire rather than have to deal with this shit. For the second year in a row! Next time I upgrade I'll try unpairing before transferring. If that works, I'm just going to be even more mad that Apple doesn't tell you to do that in the first place. But shouldn't they really find a way to make this work as designed? And isn't it absurdly embarrassing that it doesn't work as designed in the first place?
CARRIER UPGRADE FEE
Despite the fact that T-Mobile didn't have to do a fucking thing when I transferred to a new phone, they still charge an activation fee (despite it being completely automated). It's a cash grab that all the carriers do, and it's rage-inducing. I don't know what the fee is (I think T-Mobile charges $30... AT&T charged me $50) but anything more than $0 is too much. I know for a fact that I will be screaming "FUCK YOU, YOU ASSHOLES!" at my bill when I get it. Hopefully I remember to go out to my car so I don't scare the cats.
See ya when my new MacBook Pro MAX arrives, fellow Apple whores!
It's my iPhone Upgrade Program anniversary date!
And you know what that means... I have the option to trade in my iPhone 12 Pro MAX for a brand new model! Something that I've ended up doing ever since I got into the program. But will I do it this year? Ah the dilemma...
Here we go then...
To upgrade or not?
Since the only way I can afford these very expensive iPhones is through the iPhone Upgrade Program and their monthly payment deal, I am faced with a bit of a tough choice every time a new model comes out. Do I upgrade after one year and keep paying for something I don't own? Or do I skip a year, pay out the phone after the two year term, and end up owning a phone that actually belongs to me? A phone that I can then trade in for a discount on the iPhone 14 Pro? That would be $500 in the bank... which is quite a lot of money. The problem is that it means I'm without the latest and greatest camera for an entire year, which is something I really, really use. Like a lot. A lot a lot. I likely don't use it $500 worth... but I do enjoy it $500 worth. And so... here I go upgrading early again.
Pro or Pro MAX?
When the iPhone Pro 12 was introduced last year, the only way to get the best camera that Apple offered was to go with the MAX (gigantic) version. And I really, really struggled with that. The iPhone I had already felt too big... do I really want to go even bigger? In the end, I decided to go for it. If I didn't like it, I could always return it, right?
At first I hated it. Too big. Too difficult to type with one hand. Too clumsy. Not at all a nice experience compared to the smaller iPhone I was accustomed to...
Ya kinda get used to it. I especially got used to it for viewing videos and photos. And playing games, of course. That bigger screen makes a world of difference. And so I kept the iPhone 12 Pro MAX, better camera and all.
It's different this time around. The iPhone Pro 13 and iPhone Pro 13 MAX both have the superior camera. So do I stick with the Pro MAX version? Or go back to the "regular" size that I prefer. Because, seriously, I do miss being able to operate my iPhone with one hand. Sure the MAX has the ability to shift the keyboard towards the edge, but that only works to type. You can't reach much of the screen because it's just so darn huge. Even with my large hands.
But viewing photos on that big screen tho...
Yeah, I'm sticking with the Pro MAX. I may hate some things about it, but the benefits of that big, glorious display outweigh any foibles of having to deal with the larger size. Besides, I'm used to it.
I got the minimum memory 128GB model last year. I barely use over half that. So I really don't need more than 128GB in a phone. Except... in order to shoot the best video quality (something I am anxious to try) Apple requires a minimum of 256GB. That adds $100 more to the already outrageous price tag. But... wouldn't it be worth it to be able to shot the absolute best movies possible on the phone? Well, $100 spread out over the two years of my Apple Upgrade program is just an extra $4.17 more on my monthly payment, so it kinda seems like a no-brainer. Except on those months where I could really use $4.17, which is most months since I got a mortgage. Oh well. If things go sideways I guess I could always sell my house to keep my iPhone!
I want me a Product RED iPhone, dammit! But, once again, that isn't an option on Apple's flagship Pro iPhones. My choices are Graphite, Gold, Silver, and Sierra Blue...
The Gold and Silver can be removed immediately. I'm not interested in either. So the question becomes... will Graphite or Sierra Blue look best in my Product RED iPhone case?
In all honesty, I think that the Graphite looks better. But it also looks pretty basic. The Sierra Blue, on the other hand, looks cooler and more interesting, so let's go with that. Seriously though... can Apple PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE bring Product RED to the Pro models next time? It's frustrating that the lesser phones always get the cooler colors. I mean...
Like I said. Frustrating.
As usual, Apple makes ordering your shiny new iPhone a simple experience. I go to the upgrade program site, click on the options for the iPhone I want, then click the purchase button. My order is added to the queue and they'll send me a box to return my old phone when the new one ships. Simple.
EXCEPT... Look at this!
So... yeah. Simple. The waiting for a month, however? Not so simple.
When T-Mobile was rolling out their "new and improved" 5G Ultra Capacity Network, I thought for sure that it would be at least 2025 before it arrived in my podunk little redneck town. BUT NOPE! I got an email that said my area now has it and, sure enough, I gots a new 5GUC logo on my iPhone...
The T-Mobile 5G here was already fast, so I'm not sure of the speed difference... but it's definitely feels zippy. I guess it's supposed to help more when lots of people are using the network at the same time? I dunno. All I DO know is that T-Mobile really blew past my minimal expectations for a mobile carrier, so good on them for that.
Happy hump day, everybody...
@xiongmaosh This year's autumn rain is better than summer rain#panda #eat #lovely ♬ 原聲 - xiongmaosh
I have no idea why I think a panda eating needs to be here, but it really does.