My rant about Apple…

Source: Reddit

I wish Apple will put USB-C connector into their iOS devices. No, this is not another rant about why Apple should adopt a universal connector that’s going to be the same across the broad and in-line with other Android devices. I have nothing against the use of proprietary lightning cable for iOS devices, in fact I have enjoyed using one since it was first introduced. However, when Apple shifted all its macOS devices to USB-C, the iOS devices got left behind and things started to get… messy.

Why Apple refused to have USB-C on iOS devices? I wonder. Well, maybe it’s because they want to prevent user from using any cable and plug into their iOS devices, which runs a risk damaging it? Perhaps Apple just want to keep lightning cable so that they can earn more money by selling you their cables at inflated price? Much of the advantages for lightning cable has present in USB-C, so why can’t we make a shift?

Why am I pondering about this? Well, take a look at Apple’s website. You’ll notice Apple is selling “Lightning to USB-A” adapter, “Lightning to SD Card” adapter, “Lightning to HDMI” adapter, “Lightning to headphone jack” adapter and so on. And at the same time, guess what are they selling for the Mac? “USB-C to USB-A” adapter, “USB-C to HDMI” adapter and so on.

Imagine if I’m using MacBook Pro and iPad, I will need to have two sets of adapter for the same function that I want to use! It doesn’t fit the minimalist idea of late Steve Jobs at all, and to me, as a user, I really cannot understand this kind of logic. How good will it be if we can use the same set of adapter across all Apple devices? I will not live in such a world that’s shaped by the broken vision of Apple. That’s part of the reason why I decided not to go for the MacBook Pro when my old one was dead. I rather spend on iMac which has all the ports I need, and keeping just a set of adapters for my iPad.

Perhaps there are some limitations behind, maybe fundamental code of iOS and macOS that simply don’t allow such integration? Or hardware limitation for iOS devices to incorporate USB-C? I have no idea, but I’m really disappointed by the execution of Apple on this. The ecosystem of Apple is still the best in class, but sadly the hardwares surrounding the ecosystem are deteriorating. They took “courage” to get rid of headphone jack on iPhone, touting wireless is the future, but the same “courage” was lost in transaction on the Mac or iPad; they said USB-C is the future and shipped their MacBook Pro with only USB-C port, but ended up selling you iPhone with USB-A cable bundled in.

What a joke, Apple. What a joke.

Anyway, for the time being I will still live with them as I still need the seamless transition between my devices. I do hope someone can create an equally good, if not better ecosystem to rival Apple. I was putting my bet on Microsoft, but sadly it doesn’t materialized. Perhaps Google is the next to look into, Chrome OS + Android maybe? Who knows, we’ll see how things unfold in the future. Till then.

Apple Watch Series 3 (Non-LTE) – My User Experience

After the “heart attack” incident in early January, I decided that I need to have a change in my lifestyle and start tracking my daily activities. I wanted a fitness tracker to assist me and was contemplating between a Fitbit or Apple Watch. After much consideration, I decided to go with the Apple Watch for a few reasons:

  1. I’m already in the ecosystem of Apple and I can assured that I’ll get the necessary support I need when required.
  2. Apple Watch allows you to run apps on it, which most Fitbit (except the newest Ionic perhaps) don’t support such feature.
  3. GPS built in for run tracking. Fitbit do have some trackers that provide GPS built in. For me I just don’t want to carry my phone with me when I go for a workout.
  4. Expansion. Apple Watch is more likely to get future expandability via software update and etc as compared to a Fitbit which probably is as-it-is out-of-the-box.
  5. Accessories are easier to obtain for Apple Watch as opposed to a Fitbit.

I didn’t consider other offerings such as Garmin, Polar and so on for various reasons. I heard a lot of good reviews on the new Apple Watch, and in the end I decided to go with the Series 3 instead of Series 1 for the additional features, performance and battery life. Since I stayed in Singapore and there was no support of e-Sim on Apple Watch at the time of my purchase, I bought the non-LTE version. Though LTE version is currently available on sale, I don’t think I’ll get that even if it’s available during that time.

The watch I bought was the Series 3 Nike+ Edition, Space Grey with 42mm case size. First of all, I’m glad that I managed to get a good fit with the band on my tiny wrist. The sport band is surprisingly comfortable, and I really like the material they used to make the band. It’s very soft, breathable, and very wearable for daily use. Pairing the watch to my phone was easy but the process was kinda lengthy. This was expected as all information was transferred via bluetooth or wifi between both devices. Once done, I made some changes to the watch face and setup some goals and rules for fitness tracking.

My first day with the watch was rather disastrous. I left everything at their default settings, which means all notifications will mirror from my phone to the watch, and all compatible apps from my phone were installed on my watch. I picked it up at 6am or so in the morning, and the watch battery just went flat by 12pm. After tinkering with the settings, I managed to squeeze more juices out from the watch.

Currently, I’m only allowing some apps to mirror their notifications, and I have only installed a few apps on my watch, and the battery can easily last me through 2 days or even 3 if I stretch it further. Not too shabby I would say. For those who have issue with battery life, changing the notification settings alone can save you a ton of battery life. For me, I only allow apps such as Google Maps, some utilities app like calendar, reminder etc to push me notifications. Social media related notifications were all switched off.

I do like the activity app, I have been using it to keep track of my daily activity level and ensure I’m hitting my target as much as possible on daily basis. The heart rate monitor is decent, but I would prefer Apple to allow constant tracking for every 5-10 second or so, just like how Fitbit is doing it. This way, I’ll be able to monitor my heart rate more accurately as I’m having some concerns on my irregular heartbeat. I’m willing to sacrifice some battery life in order to achieve this.

Apple also needs to really work on the apps for the watch. The apps currently available on the app store are just… sad. Most of them are just too similar and some are even pointless to have in the very first place. Hopefully with more users and developers, things will get better in the future. Using the Apple Watch also solved one of my long standing problem… which is using Apple Pay. It’s common for me to run into issue authorising Apple Pay with my finger print on my iPhone because I have sweaty and greasy fingers. With Apple Watch, I just need to double tap and pay. Also, I can now easily control my music without using my phone.

There are some other nifty features that makes the whole “ecosystem experience” that much better, such as automatically unlock my Mac when I’m wearing the watch and using the Mac. I can store some workout songs on my watch and play it while I go for a run, all without the need for me to bring my phone with me. Speaking of not bringing your phone with you, that’s perhaps what Apple has envisioned when adding the LTE function into Apple Watch, but there’s still a long way to go to make it useable.

What else can be improved? Well, first of all, the battery life. Even though I have no issue with battery life at the moment, but to unlock all features and the battery just lasted for half a day is simply… a joke. Besides that, more apps (and useful apps please) should be added to the watch app store, also more nice looking watch face please. Currently the watch faces designed by Apple are just ugly. The future Apple Watch would certainly benefit from additional sensors and features, perhaps measuring body temperature and other vital data? And like what I had mentioned earlier, more frequent heart rate tracking and also a prompt to user when the watch failed to capture the heart rate would be nice.

All in all, I’m happy with what I had spent. Did Apple Watch motivates me to be healthier? Well, yes and no. I do get more conscious in closing the activity ring, reading through the stats collected and so on. I would say it is a good catalyst for me to live healthier. I don’t want to make my spending a waste down the drain at the end of the day. Do I recommend people to buy one? It really depends. Currently smart watches are good in collecting data, sending notification to user from time to time, nudging you, motivating you and so on. But when comes to really running apps on the watch, it’s still a far cry from being useful. You really need to ensure that you will use those features currently available before you make the purchase.

That’s all for now. Till then.

12 Things About the Apple AirPod

1.Does it drop out of your ears?

Yes and no. My left ear fits very well, but not my right ear. Though, after some adjustments it seems to be able to hold it in for daily use. I survived daily commute of bus and train, squeezing in the crowd, rushing through the shutting gate, climbing up and down the staircase and so on.

2.How does it sounds?

Good. Much better than my expectation. Clarity is there, bass is not too heavy, very balance sound overall, which is what I like from a piece of earphone. However, that sound quality can be appreciated if and only if… you are able to hear what its playing… which brings me to the next point of…

3.How’s the noise isolation?

Poor. Up the volume, that’s all you can do.

4.Does it make you look like an idiot while wearing it?

Yes.

5.How’s the battery life?

So far I would rate it as superb, especially coupled with the dental floss charging case. Easily last me over a week of use per charge. I use it mainly during daily commute listening to songs and sometimes at home when watching videos.

6.But it got no physical buttons?

Yes, after new software update, you can choose what action to be performed when tapping on the left and right AirPod. I set mine to play/pause on the left, next song on the right. Good enough for my use except volume adjustment need to be done via iPhone. How about Siri you ask? You mean you use Siri? Really?

7.Does the call quality sounds good?

It’s okay. Not to say good or bad, but fairly acceptable and that’s about it.

8.Does it drop its wireless and bluetooth connection?

So far I have no issue yet. I saw some early adopters have issue with bluetooth disconnected occasionally, but so far mine was working okay. Seems better than my previous Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, which can get interference from other wireless devices at times and disconnect.

9.You are on your way to become Apple Fanboy?

No. I don’t like everything that Apple produced. The new MacBook Pro sucks. Apple Watch still sucks in everything other than fitness tracking. I enjoy a complete ecosystem for all my gadgets. I was hoping Microsoft Surface Pro and the rumoured Surface Phone will be the saving grace for me to leave Apple, but too bad everything was flushed down into the drain. Goodbye Microsoft. Hello Apple.

10.Should I buy it?

Probably no, unless you are heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem and would like to have the seamless experience across all devices.

11.Then why you bought it?

  • I’m running an iMac at home, iPad Pro on the go, iPhone for everything else. The seamless transition using the same pair of earphone will be a plus point for me.
  • My current wireless earphone, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, has a wire connecting both earpieces, and the rattling sound it produced when the wire brushes over my clothes is annoying.
  • Looking at other market offerings and all the reviews, the AirPod is likely to give me less trouble overall, and perhaps the best balance between sound quality, usability, appearance, functionality and so on.
  • It surely isn’t the perfect earphone, but I made my decision after considering and weighing all the options and requirements, pros and cons. Hopefully this will be a right decision for me moving forward.

12.What can be improved?

  • Perhaps Apple should release an in-ear version with better noise isolation and fit. Maybe under the Beats branding as its geared towards a more sporty style.
  • Allow swiping motion for volume adjustment on AirPod.
  • Auto volume adjustment based on ambient noise level. If AirPod will adjust the volume automatically when I’m in crowded and noisy area, it will certainly be brilliant and I no longer need to fiddle with the volume myself.
  • Limited edition or special edition AirPod can milk more cash for Apple in the future.

From 7 to 8

First and foremost, I was using an iPhone 7 and yes, I watched the Apple keynote announcement and was not particularly excited about the new iPhones. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, same design, improved specifications and that’s about it. The iPhone X on the other hand was the limelight for the show.

In many ways, the iPhone X is the iPhone that I had always dreamt about. I had always wanted Apple to reduce the bezels and size of the iPhone, a phone that houses a screen of around 5” size is ideal for me (4.7” can be a little small at times). I’m probably the few people who applaud Apple for getting rid of the home button. I have sweaty palm and greasy fingers, so Touch ID doesn’t work well for me at times. All in all, it ticks all the boxes for me. But sadly, I am not getting one this time.

As great as Face ID looks, I am skeptical and reserved about its effectiveness. The phone design does look a little ugly, but I can probably get used to it. The OLED panel used is sub-standard compared to others. Ditching the home button means Apple needs to engineer a new way to interact with the phone. From the demo showed, those swiping and pausing actions doesn’t seem fluent to me at all. I’m one of those who want maximum speed and fluency in navigating through my phone and apps, so I’ll probably wait out for the next generation until all the tiny bits of issues are ironed out.

Anyway, Apple has its fair share of history in releasing subpar first generation product. The first generation MacBook Pro with Retina display had so many issues especially on its screen (and I’m one of the victims). First generation Apple Watch was equally flop with painfully slow performance. And Apple has also screwed the first generation iPad Pro 9.7” user big time by introducing a much improved version while discontinuing it altogether.

So, just as I had decided to wait for next year, my Telco strikes me with a hit by increasing my monthly charges because my current contract with them has already expired. Damn. Anyway, so happened that my mom is looking to replace her iPhone as well, so I decided to pass her my old iPhone and re-contract with the iPhone 8 Plus instead. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this phone, it must be since its almost identical with the 7 Plus right? But I was wrong…

This piece of heavy and bulky glass-metal… object is much more than what I thought. Performance wise, you won’t feel a big difference between the 7 and 8 despite what the benchmarks figure suggested. Perhaps some apps will launch a fraction seconds faster and that’s about it. What makes the experience in using the 8 different lies on other stuffs.

For instant, the camera is a step up from 7, and its noticeable, really. Especially low light and high dynamic range scene, the 8 really shines with Apple’s “deeper pixels”. Focusing is also much snappier, and now there’s a little haptic feedback when you press the shutter button, which is pretty neat. The portrait mode is better according to others, but I have not used it as I didn’t owned the 7 Plus so no comment. The portrait lighting effect though… seriously what the hell is Apple doing to even include it in… perhaps they just run out of “selling point” to sell their iPhones… Video capabilities on the other hand received some big upgrades by giving 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps slow-mo. I didn’t spent too much time on videos all along, so I can’t comment much here but it’s all good on paper. Slow sync flash is also an awesome addition if you do use the flash a lot on the iPhone.

Next, wireless charging. I can’t believe I’m actually kinda “clicked” with it. I have always commented that it is useless because technically you still need to place your phone there to charge. But after playing with it myself, I can see the potential for it. Well, if you use a charging pad separately, it is indeed not really “wireless”, but what I can see is in future, more and more furnitures and appliances will incorporate wireless charging into them, and it will eventually be very convenient indeed. For example, your office desk has a corner where you can charge your phone by just laying it there, the side table lamp in your room which also charge your phone and so on. The charging speed is still the bottleneck for this technology, and hopefully this will be addressed in the future. Another “plus” point is that you will now be able to use the lightning earphone while charging your phone wirelessly.

Another seemingly big upgrade to the new iPhones are the AR capability. Although the old iPhones that run iOS 11 should also support AR, but it is said that the new hardware will give a better experience. I can see some use of AR such as the Ikea app that scale the furniture and fit virtually into your space and some measurement app that measures and map room size in real life. However, beyond education and such uses, I really don’t see AR as a big hit yet. I don’t see why it’s fun to game in AR (other than Pokemon), and why one want to add some fake object into your picture or video. Sony has been pushing such AR in their phone all along and it’s just crap.

All in all, as many reviewers have said, if you are coming from iPhone 7, the upgrade is not huge, but I would still say it’s noticeable. For those who came from 6 or 6s, it’s worth to grab the 8, unless you want to save some money by getting the 7. Let’s see how the iPhone X performs when it’s released, and we’ll see what Apple has to offer for next year’s iPhone lineup. Till then.