Ecosystem… Good or Bad?

I am rooted into Apple’s ecosystem, though I wouldn’t say I’m deeply rooted in it. I don’t have Apple TV, I don’t use Siri, but I do have the “basics” of iMac, Apple Watch and iPhone (I still have an iPad but I don’t use it that often anymore).

I enjoyed using them, they may not be the best device individually (and there will never be “the best”), but the fact that all devices I use on daily basis can interact and linked with each other closely, work seamlessly across each other really makes a whole lot of difference. Apple has refined and pushed the envelope on ecosystem more than anyone else, and that is something which I valued, and I understand not everyone will value the same.

Being able to send a message from my iMac without the need to grab my phone, opening a tab on my iPad and have the same tab shown on my iPhone if I want to, copy from one device and paste your from your clipboard to another device are just a few of the features proved useful when you are being tied down to an ecosystem. Not to mention the seamless connectivity of AirPods to any Apple devices has shown what kind of efficiency a locked down ecosystem can actually deliver.

Well, depends on how you look at it, it could be a curse or a blessing. There was once I felt concern for tying myself down and be in the mercy of one company. I made a switch back to Android, I was waiting patiently for the Surface Phone to arrive (which promised Apple-like integration with Windows), but in the end, none of them turned out to be a viable option or materialized. Ever since Surface Phone was dead, Microsoft promised better integration with Android will arrive, but we have yet to see it until today.

In the end, I’m back to the Apple’s ecosystem and been happy to stay there ever since. One may argue you don’t need to have your phone to be in-sync with your other devices, well, it may not mean anything to you, but it meant a lot for those who are really using it. I value the convenience, and I’m willing to even pay a premium for it.

Of course it’s not all good and rosy for the Apple ecosystem at the moment. There are many other things they can do to improve further. Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to work, app experience across platform (iOS, iPadOS and macOS) could still be better and so on. But I believe some of this will sure get iron out in the future.

So is ecosystem a good thing or a bad thing? You be your own judge.

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.

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.