Category Archives: Apple

MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina Display Review

MacBook Pro 15″ Review: 7 Things I Like

  • It’s a portable workhorse – I use it for video, primarily
  • The display is everything I’d want it to be
  • The screen sits firmly in place – not much wobble in use
  • It processes videos faster with every Final Cut Pro X revision
  • Keyboard is same as wireless keyboard – muscle memory
  • Plenty of accessible ports for me
  • A logo isn’t screaming at me when I use it

MacBook Pro 15″ Review: 7 Things I Don’t Like

  • UI rendering isn’t as snappy as I’d like it in OS X Yosemite
  • The chassis gets dirty easily
  • The screen gets inexplicably crapped-up regularly
  • The built in FaceTime camera is only 720p, horrid low light perf
  • The built-in mic picks up fan noise
  • The HDMI port is output only, not input
  • Clean design, but not readily (or easily) upgraded

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review: 7 Things I Like

  • Every detail is sharper, even when zoomed in a bit or scaled up
  • Future-proofed with 4Ghz Intel Core i7, 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3, AMD Radeon R9 M295X
  • The 1TB SSD is ample for my needs
  • Plenty of space on the screen to eliminate need for second monitor
  • Clean design: front, back, side – all around, well done
  • Ability to run Windows side-by-side (or within, thanks to Parallels)
  • For my average needs, it’s just as powerful as a Mac Pro
  • Giving one away at http://deals.lockergnome.com/

iMac with Retina 5K Display Review: 7 Things I Don’t Like

  • Speed bump over Mac Pro 2008, hardly perceivable in software yet
  • Apple logo in front – I know it’s an iMac, you put your logo on the back
  • The 720p webcam seems to be in radical need of an update
  • The fan kicks in quickly when watching video, especially in Chrome or Flash
  • USB 3.0 ports already seem outdated with USB Type C around the corner
  • Unless something changes, this is my primary Mac desktop for another 4 years
  • I still feel a need to plug in an external mic for all recordings
  • Giving one away at http://deals.lockergnome.com/

iPad is Not Failing

iPad sales are flat, but just because more and more people aren’t buying a new iPad is not indicative of a failure on Apple’s part.

Quite the opposite.

People seem to be quite content with their old(er) iPads. They’re likely not seeing the value in buying a new one if the old one is serving their needs. In many ways, users may be treating iPad like it’s a classic PC – not expecting to upgrade this computer until it breaks.

People continue to use iPad as a PC replacement, too – including buying items through Apple and generating revenue for the company in tow.

How is that anywhere near a failure?

Yes, the onus is still on Apple to drive value (and revenue) through hardware improvements, but even when it can’t sell a user the latest iteration… at least that person is probably happy with their current iPad.

I don’t think a happy user could be categorized in the “failure” column. If anything, Apple needs to further adjust its expectations and create more value in services, software, and ecosystem to compensate accordingly.

If It’s Not an iPhone, It’s Not an iPhone

Apple’s new iPhone ad is making waves – some like it, some don’t.

I guess I’m ambivalent?

They’re telling the truth.

Which, I suppose, is rather outlandish for an ad.

At least, that’s what we’ve come to expect from ads: lies, overgeneralization, mistruths.

They’re speaking less about the iPhone and more about the phones that have been iPhone’esque. If you want an iPhone experience, get the iPhone.

In 2001, I remember being pulled into one of the first Pocket PCs I held. It was everything my Palm device was not. I wound up getting pulled away, however, when I found a third-party Palm OS device that offered “more” than my current Pocket PC. I spent every waking moment trying to get that Palm OS device to work more like my previous Pocket PC.

Then I realized: if I want this Palm OS device to be more like a Pocket PC (or something more like Windows Mobile), why wasn’t I just using a Pocket PC outright (or something running Windows Mobile)?

So, I went back to the world of Microsoft and was happier for it – until the first iPhone was released, that is.

Apple does offer something that other players do not – a value that (I’ve argued) continues to help make it stand out in the field. Most users don’t know why that’s valuable outright, and Apple is trying to communicate that clearly with the “part” language used in this commercial.

This commercial doesn’t mean squat to someone who already gets it – but it’s going to get someone like my parents thinking differently instead of assuming that an iPhone is exactly like the unending array of Android devices available today.

By telling the truth.

Imagine that.

Who Watches the Apple Watchers?

My experience with the Apple Watch has been both good and bad.

Being someone who is overly critical of both UI and UX, I simply haven’t found anything in hardware or software to be either confusing or an eye sore. I’m a bit disappointed in raw performance and data accuracy, but those are separate issues that can and should be addressed.

The first iteration is unnecessary and “expensive” for people who do not wish to actively track their personal data – and I expect that with the addition of more sensors, the Apple Watch is going to become more valuable.

Slagging the Apple Watch wholesale because it’s not perfect seems to be the thing to do, but I’m not going to do it. Mind you, it’s still not perfect.

Like Jim Dalyrimple, the Apple Watch has given me personal motivation to do something about my health. It’s not that there was a lack of personal health trackers before the Apple Watch (just the opposite) – it’s that there was a lack of usable personal health trackers that worked well enough for me to wear past a week.

I have to trust that every part of the Activity tracker is accurate – though it’s not always able to catch my pulse, you have to choose the most appropriate exercise in the Workout app for it to record properly, and it always reminds me to stand at 10 ’til even if I’ve been walking around the house for the preceding 20 minutes and having just sat down.

So, even if the stats aren’t 100% perfect – I’m now aware of just how much my heart rate goes up when I do my daily live tech videos for patrons, and I’m back on the glider for 30-45 minutes a day. Months before the Apple Watch was released, I mentioned several times over that I hoped it would help motivate me to lose the weight that I had re-gained over the years.

I’ve struggled with weight gain and loss several times over, promising myself that once I’d lost the fat I’d keep it lost. Obviously, I keep breaking that promise.

Prompting and motivating me to modify my lifestyle is enough for me to consider the Apple Watch a success. Why would I want to return to not knowing, not doing anything (even though I know I needed to do something)?

I’m now able to look at data that I was generating, anyway – and actually take action on that data (or lack thereof).

Will I take the Apple Watch off after I feel I’m back to where I should be in terms of weight? No.

Even before the Apple Watch was a possibility, I thought about using live, interactive video streaming to motivate me to workout daily – but that option was wholly impractical before Meerkat or Periscope were (recently) on the scene.

So, now, with the Apple Watch and Periscope, I’m now streaming my gliding sessions – pushing my heart rate slightly higher by interacting with those who tune in and gathering questions for the day’s AMA video and podcast. Not only does the chat help time fly, but I use it to gather intelligence for the other things I have to do that day.

Thanks to a very imperfect Apple Watch and its companion phone that allows me to get work done while I workout, I’m hoping that this recent change will become a permanent one.

Only time will tell.

How to Circumvent Apple Music UX Nightmares

TL;DR: use Siri.

A lot has been written about UX issues with Apple Music. Sadly, this has become par for the course.

It’s not an issue of disliking Apple – it’s an issue of disliking how Apple has seemingly thrown the quality control baby overboard.

And to discuss major UX oversights with people who simply don’t see the difference between 15fps and 60fps is like trying to explain the difference between “there” and “they’re” to a toddler.

While I’ve subscribed to a variety of music subscription services over the years (darn near every one of ’em since they first became available), I’ve never really been one to build playlists or any other semblance of organization. Even being a light user, I have been dumbfounded with just how much of a hack job Apple Music seems to be at this time.

Does Apple Music work? Yes. Does it work well enough? Yes. Does this mean Apple did an amazing job with it? No.

I’m using Apple Music, and plan on using Apple Music indefinitely – but I have not bothered to launch the app directly since I tried it for the first time.

My primary way of circumventing the dead ends and confusing experience is to use Apple Music by way of Siri (which, by the way, I’ve never truly been impressed with). “Play” is a powerful command, and can usually get me what I want at a moment’s notice without having to trip through a mess of overkill in the Music app directly.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only one who sees that Apple’s cracks are getting wider and wider with every software release that makes a mediocre experience even worse. But I’m not the only one.

Apple can do better – if they understand that they haven’t been doing better. Releasing a sloppy experience is worse than not releasing an experience at all. I still can’t explain why iOS 7 was one step forward and two steps back – but that, to me, seems to be Apple’s modus operandi for every product revision.

Apple Watch Review

As always, my patrons got the inside scoop early (plus other intelligence).

7 Reasons I Like the Apple Watch

  • Elegant design – software & hardware
  • Works well with all my other Apple products
  • I no longer need to inconvenience myself to pull out a phone
  • Battery lasts all day – and then some
  • Appreciate being able to collect data on myself
  • Often catch notifications I otherwise would’ve missed
  • UX is very intuitive, easy to use.

7 Reasons I Don’t Like the Apple Watch

  • Severe lack of usable third-party apps
  • Notifications are often incomplete, pushing you to iPhone
  • Seems to frequently lose my voice messages / replies to others
  • The extreme lack of diversity in Sport bands
  • Quite slow by today’s tech standards
  • Several functions are redundant or gimmicky
  • Pricey for a souped-up fitness tracker

Who is this for?

  • Someone who wears a watch daily
  • Someone who loves tracking data
  • Someone who loves checking their wrist obsessively
  • Someone who has money to burn (read: an early adopter)

Who is this not for?

  • Someone who doesn’t have an iPhone
  • Someone who doesn’t care about fitness
  • Someone who gets wet frequently
  • Someone who is waiting for a perfect product

Old iPhones Die Hard

If Apple makes a substantial amount of revenue from selling new hardware, why support a legacy iPhone 4s with iOS 9? This was a question inspired by last Friday’s AMA thread.

iPhone 4s is a phone that’s four years old, and it’s about to be updated to the latest OS – albeit, with performance-minded restrictions.

Still, for a company to provide OS-level updates to hardware that would have been considered “vintage” last year is more than impressive. That’s rare.

And if you don’t think there are people out there who still use iPhone 4s models… you don’t know my parents. Every year, they tell me that they’re thinking about upgrading to the latest iPhone. They’ve been telling me this for four years and it’s (obviously) yet to happen.

I’m not pushing them to the latest hardware because they don’t need to be on the latest hardware if they have the latest software. Yes, there’s a lot more a device can do if it has the latest OS (security issues notwithstanding) – and, yes, newer devices would certainly be substantially faster than what they’re currently on.

Or would they?

Yes, by the numbers, newer devices with updated “everything” tend to perform better than older devices. But what if there’s a law of diminishing returns for those who just don’t see the difference – enough to justify the cost of upgrading?

Apple has the same “problem” when it comes to iPad.

But is Apple truly hurting if it maintains customer satisfaction, allows its users to benefit from the latest OS-level advancements, and keeps them purchasing apps and services well within the boundaries of their ecosystem?

While I’ve not yet seen iOS 9 on an iPhone 4s, I’m interested to see how my parents feel about it when the update ultimately ships. Despite any restrictions due to hardware limitations in relation to what the OS can do on modern hardware, I believe they’ll be just as happy with their iPhones as they have been to this point.

Forget the technical clap-trap for a moment.

They’re certainly happy enough not to feel the need to switch to an alternative platform.

Perhaps the cost of having a user switch away from your platform is far greater than the cost of continuing to support an older device (especially if the code will work well enough on it)?

That’s what I’d assume – but I’m not an actuary who works for Apple.

When they’re finally ready to upgrade, will my parents be more inclined to upgrade to something that’s familiar to them (not just in brand, but in general software operation and appearance)? In knowing that my parents freak out when their web browser’s start page changes, the answer is: “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Apple only generates revenue if you stay with Apple – so, it’s in their best interest to keep a customer happy even if they don’t happen to upgrade to every new model that’s released. Yes, this is true for every other OEM on the planet – but Apple is an anomaly, given that its entire business model is predicated upon actively developing both hardware and software platforms.

A person is more likely to switch between one Windows OEM and another (or one Android OEM and another) if it’s perceived that the experience will be similar. To have a similar Apple experience, you can only look to Apple.

Why would Apple (or any company) want to willingly abandon customers who are still satisfied with their experience – or, perhaps worse, engender a feeling of abandonment in the user? Since Apple controls the hardware and the software, it’s reasonable to expect that they can (and do) enable certain software features for certain capable models.

In essence, Apple can continue to improve upon a device that’s four years old and improve customer satisfaction in tow. That customer satisfaction will more than likely lead to future hardware purchases (or continued software / in-app purchases).

Where Apple makes its money.

Facing the Apple Music

Indie Label Beggars Group Expresses Apple Music Concerns:

Beggars Group, like many of the unsigned independent labels, are especially apprehensive about Apple Music’s three-month free preview offer to users, a period in which artists will not be compensated for what is streamed on the service.

That’s incredibly reasonable.

As far as music is concerned, I’m just a listener (and general supporter of artists who have talents that appeal to my ear).

If this accusation is true, it seems to me that there’d be one quick fix that should make everybody happy (Apple Music users included): let labels or artists opt out of being included in the three month trial of Apple Music, but toggle their inclusion once a listener begins to pay for the Apple Music service.

The artists can still be a part of the greater (full, non-trial) Apple Music service, Apple can let the labels control the level of inclusion, and listeners still have a chance to try the Apple Music service and hear their favorite artists when they start to pay for it.

If a listener is upset that they can’t hear their favorite artists under a free trial, I’d question just how much of a “favorite” an artist truly is to the listener. The listener doesn’t need to hear their favorite music again to claim the music as a favorite.

There’s even more reason for a user to pay for a full Apple Music service if certain labels (and artists) are held back during the trial. There’d be more incentive to pay, which I can’t imagine would disappoint anybody apart from people looking for a free ride.

Obviously, this indie label isn’t concerned about discoverability. I’d imagine they’d be happy to be a part of the full Apple Music experience, but not if that means that the artists won’t be compensated fairly (whatever “fairly” is).

But, as I said, I’m just a listener.

And I’m a listener who has supported his favorite artists over the years.

Who Needs a Larger iPad?

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Let’s do our best to avoid rumors and look to what’s in the code. In fact, if such spelunking did not happen, I would have hesitated to pen this post outright (because I do not like lending attention to rumors). Still, here we have it:

https://twitter.com/stroughtonsmith/status/610395503898034176

https://twitter.com/hirakujira/status/610472096523665409

Both tweets were surfaced by 9to5mac in separate posts.

So, for argument’s sake, who would want an iPad screen that was physically larger (and capable of rendering more pixels) than iPad Air? I can think of a few rather largely-represented groups.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of would-be users, but without knowing too much more about what appears to be a new iPad family member, it is impossible to apply the value of a larger-screen iPad beyond what we know it to be (an iOS device that carries with it a larger resolution that would scale to 263ppi on a 12.9″ screen – or 2x what the current iPad Air pushes).

Who benefits?

  • Gamers: smaller screens are more portable, but with the rise of mobile gaming (which, I’d say, includes any game developed with iPad in mind), I’d expect that great gameplay will look greater on larger surfaces. Even myopic platformist stalwarts could not refuse a larger playing area on any device.
  • Students: with the ability to run two (or more?) apps on iOS, research and documentation will be streamlined on a single device.
  • Casuals: I’ll stop short of saying “older people” (if only because I’m slightly north of youth myself), but for someone who wants to both view and explore personal media, surf social and the general Internet, plus get a little bit of necessary work done, larger screens on a trusted platform may certainly outweigh the alternative. Or, in other words, “smaller” iPad screens could have dissuaded casual users from getting iPad over a traditional Windows PC or MacBook to meet their exact needs.

Out of these three, I’d be inclined to believe that Apple would target the latter (with the formers in tow as a bonus). Many features in the next version of iOS seemingly have Windows holdouts in their crosshairs. These changes are coming around a time when Microsoft is set to release its next vision of what Windows can be. Users may very well find iOS more viable, but without “larger” hardware that gives these people the opportunity to replace their aging laptop or desktop, the updates are moot.

I’ve long suggested that the average user is already using their iPad as a primary computing device – but whatever Apple can do to further blur those lines will be perceived as an advantage.

We’re not in a post-PC era so much as we’re in an era when the PC still has its place but is largely outmoded by friendlier hardware, software, and service models for most consumers.

Niche markets (like gaming or production) notwithstanding.

Why Does it Take Apple so Long to Approve an App?

Marc asked:

Why does it take so long for an app to be approved for the App Store?

The company takes its sweet time to approve apps, yes. However, there’s a reason for that. The employees must be sure that the apps don’t contain spyware or malware. They need to be sure there are no significant bugs and doesn’t have a poor UI.

They verify that the apps do what you say they’re going to do and that there are no private APIs being used. They are careful to check that the apps don’t crash all of the time. And, of course, they have to be sure that there’s nothing embedded that is disallowed by Apple.

It’s all about user experience. This is the reason so many people prefer to have an iPhone or iPad over an Android device… the quality of the apps. Before anyone screams at me – I know there are great apps available for Android devices, as well. However, overall… the App Store is simply superior when it comes to making sure that you’re getting exactly what you’re promised.

Why Does it Take Apple so Long to Approve an App?

Is Apple Still Innovating?

Patron Joey Bianco is curious about my thoughts on Apple. You, too, can become a Patron and receive priority answers to your questions!

What is your opinion on the idea that apple has been slipping in their ingenuity of products since the loss of Steve Jobs? Do you think they have what it takes to create more groundbreaking cohesive hardware/software as they once did?

I think they’ve done their best, but that their best is also yet to come.

They have what it takes: a good brand with a loyal following and tons of cash + cash cows.

I hated all of the “Can Tim Cook Replace Steve Jobs?” posts that went out at the beginning. No… he can’t. No one can replace anyone, in my opinion. Tim isn’t a carbon-copy of Steve, and definitely never wanted to be. Tim brings his own style and ideas to the table. Will those things pan out as well as Steve’s did back in the day? That’s the question that remains to be answered. I don’t think it’s fair to judge him just yet. After all, it took Steve just a *couple* of years to get to a place where he was hugely successful and hailed as a groundbreaker.

Cut Apple – and Tim – a little slack for now. Let’s see what happens over the next few years before we condemn the entire company.

Is Apple Still Innovating?

Which Mobile Battery Booster Are You Using?

Just after I recorded TLDR last night, Patron Jenny Propis sent this to me in an email. Don’t forget: you can become a Patron and get priority answers to your questions either here in my blog or in a video!

I just wanted to tell you that today’s TDLR was great! I especially like when you unbox new items, even though you said you don’t like to. I was wondering if you could put links to those items in your description box of your vlogs? Reason being, is my brother always seems to call me when his cell phone battery is low, and then has to hang up before I’m finished talking with him. So I wanted to send him a link to that small battery booster you had on your phone. Honestly, I think its just an excuse to get off the phone with me! :(

Thanks for asking, Jenny! The “battery booster” that I featured yesterday is the Phonesuit Battery Case for iPhone 5. This was recently sent to me by the company to try out — and try it out I am! I’m on the go a lot and I need extra go-go juice! (NOTE: this is totally not the same thing as unboxing juice!) You’ll find this little baby packs a 2100 mAh battery inside to charge your iPhone, which has given some users an additional 120% on their battery life. That’s a huge increase!

In reading reviews for this case on Amazon, many people are claiming that the “marketing hype” on Phonesuit’s website for this product is absolutely accurate. How often do we see that these days?

I’m sorry I can’t put the link to the product in the video description anymore, so I hope this will suffice! (Yes, I will put this link in the description!) YouTube no longer allows us to do that with Amazon affiliate links, so boooo!

Do You Use Siri?

Darren Doolan asked:

I just got an iPhone 5S and never use Siri, do you ever actually USE Siri? And if so, what for?

As I’ve mentioned countless times in TLDR episodes over the years, the only thing I really use Siri for is on-device assistance – as in, creating a calendar appointment or setting an alarm.

Siri remains unreliable for me, either because the network connection consistently fails or I don’t give my command in such a way that Siri can translate with success.

Siri is not a value-add for me, nor would Google’s Siri or Microsoft’s Siri. Yeah, they’re not Siri – but, c’mon… for the most part, they’re Siri.

I gotta admit, though: she’s fun to play with at times!

Do You Use Siri?

How Could iOS 8 Blow Us Away?

Darren Doolan asked:

What can Apple do in iOS 8 that would blow everyone away?

Include a feature that we didn’t realize we couldn’t live without.

Seriously. Nobody knows what that’s going to be or an entity would have created it by now (in the right way, mind you). It’s not the idea, it’s the implementation. If Apple – or ANY company – plans to blow us away in their next mobile iteration, it has to be by including something we had no idea we desperately needed!

And, let me assure you… there’s a lot of “proper” implementation needing to be done in respect to operating systems that we all rely on (iOS or otherwise).

What do all of YOU think? What would blow you away in iOS 8?