Archive for Apple

Review: Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular

Posted in Products with tags on September 22, 2018 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the Apple Watch. I’ve had the Series 2, the Series 3 with GPS, the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular and today I’m bringing you the latest Apple Watch which is the Series 4 with GPS + Cellular:

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The model that you see below is the 44mm model in space grey Aluminum (a stainless steel model is also available along with a Nike+ model and so is an insanely priced Hermes model that is basically a stainless steel model with a really expensive watch band, a sport band, unique packaging, and a unique watch face). And that’s the first big change to the Apple Watch. They have new sizing which are 40mm and 44mm. But that doesn’t mean that they are bigger because they are not. The 40mm watch is the same physical size as the 38mm from the Series 3 or below. And the 44mm is the same physical size as the 42mm from the Series 3 or below. However each watch is a tad bit thinner than the Series 3 and below which means it looks a bit more sleek on the wrist. So, what does the new sizing mean? It’s a reference to the new display which depending on the model you get is going to be at least 30% bigger. Not to mention they seem brighter and sharper to me. And that is something that you will notice and appreciate right out of the gate. The new screens make the watch far easier to read. And things like notifications simply look better. Plus it allows you to use some unique watch faces to put way more info in front of you. One watch face allows nine complications for example. Thus I fully expect app developers to leverage that. It also means that you don’t necessarily need to get the biggest watch to see the screen. In my case, if I didn’t had an investment in 42mm watch bands (which fit the 44mm watch by the way just fine… 38mm watch bands fit the 40mm watch as well), I might have gone for the 40mm version.

There’s some other changes as well.

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The speaker is twice as large as last year and you can hear the difference. Especially if you are on a phone call.

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The huge red dot that let everyone on planet Earth know that you have a cellular Apple Watch is gone and replaced by a smaller more discreet ring. The crown has another hidden feature in the form of haptic feedback. That makes scrolling through stuff feel a lot more natural. The crown also acts as an electrode for an all new ECG feature. More on that in a second. The microphone which is the dot to the right of the crown is there to reduce echo during a phone call.

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The back is made entirely of black ceramic and sapphire. That’s to make it easier for the watch to connect to cellular and WiFi. The heart rate sensor is a brand new design. The rings around the heart rate sensor are the new electrical heart rate sensors, which will be use to perform ECGs once that feature rolls out later this fall in the US. Who knows when it will show up elsewhere as Apple isn’t saying.

Under the hood is a new 64 bit S4 processor which makes it almost twice as fast as the Series 3. You do notice it, but it wasn’t the dramatic jump that I observed when I went from the Series 2 to the Series 3. Still it’s a welcome jump as even the Series 3 could occasionally bog down. Nothing like that exists here. watchOS 5 which you can read about here is preinstalled and really leverages this platform. Along for the ride is the ability to detect falls. For some people like seniors, that’s a game changer as it will detect a fall, ask you if you’re okay or if you didn’t fall, and if you don’t respond quick enough phone emergency services and a contact or contacts that you define. However, when I tested it, I set it off by doing jumping jacks. And I suspect if I fall while cross country skiing which tend to be (mostly) painless falls, I may do the same thing. Thus if you have a more active lifestyle, you may want to think about whether you want to turn it on or not as it is off by default. In my case it is off but I am considering turning it back on. Finally, all Apple Watch models now

I picked this up from my local Telus store and set it up an hour later. As always, setting up an Apple Watch on the Telus network was dead easy and the total process to do that and move over everything from my previous Apple Watch was less than 45 minutes. Using this Apple Watch for the last few days has been interesting. Beyond the screen which is far easier for me to see, the only time I took a phone call on the Apple Watch the person on the other end of the phone noted that my voice was clear and easy to understand. One other thing I noted was that cellular performance was better with this Apple Watch as I was able to get notifications in my condo’s underground parking lot where getting any cellular connectivity wasn’t possible previously. Battery life is about the same as my previous Apple Watch which I have to admit is a bit of a let down as I hoped that Apple would have at least tried to move the needle on that that front.

So here’s the question that you want answered: Should you get an Apple Watch Series 4? Well, that depends on who you are:

  • If you own an original Apple Watch or a Series 0 – 2 Apple Watch, run to your local Apple Store and buy one. Do it now. You will thank me.
  • If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch, the screen is going to be the only reason why you upgrade. For those who fit in that category, they may have to think about it before they pull the trigger on the Series 4.
  • If you don’t have an Apple Watch and have been thinking of getting one, this is a no brainer as this is the Apple Watch that you have been waiting for.

Here in Canada the Apple Watch Series 4 with GPS starts at $519 CDN. The model that you see above which is GPS and Cellular starts at $649 and in either case they go up from there. Minus the lack of increase to the battery life, Apple has a winner with this version of the Apple Watch as they’ve managed to come out with a package that is well thought through and a coherent package.

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Review: Apple watchOS 5

Posted in Products with tags on September 20, 2018 by itnerd

Apple dominates the wearables market with the Apple Watch. A big reason for that is this dominance is the operating system that runs the Apple Watch which is watchOS. In the fifth iteration of this operating system, it’s been refined to not only provide a much better user experience. That starts with Siri. You can now invoke Siri by raising the Apple Watch and speaking to it without saying “hey Siri”. It takes some practise to get it right, but once you figure it out it is a handy feature. Though I have to admit that it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world to say “hey Siri” to get her to do something. But at least you have a choice as to how to invoke Siri for the first time.

If you run third party audio apps on your Apple Watch, they can run in the background and they also have access to the digital crown to allow you to control the volume. That’s neat and will be welcomed by users. Another welcome addition is a new podcasts app that supports automatic syncing of podcasts. That will likely be a feature that is welcomed by those with the LTE version of the Apple Watch as that has twice the memory as the WiFi only version.

watchOS 5 also builds on the solid fitness foundation that watchOS has with activity competitions where you can challenge your friends and win awards, expanded Workout types such as hiking and yoga, automatic workout detection which means that if the Watch thinks your running it will offer to start a workout, and advanced running statistics such as target pace. Though as my wife pointed out, you can’t configure multiple paces among other things. Which means you still have to find an Apple Watch app with those capabilities. But I’m pretty sure that these additions will motivate people to be more active. But one thing that I do have to say is that if I start a long walk, the Watch can be a bit too eager to offer to start a workout when all I am doing is walking to the local corner store down the block.

One feature that I wasn’t able to test was the new Walkie Talkie feature. This feature will allow you to send short audio messages to someone else. As long as you both have an Apple Watch running watchOS 5 and you’ve both added each other to Walkie Talkie. It sounds like a gimmick. But I think that Apple might be on to something here as I can see that this might be a niche use case for some users of the Apple Watch. Families for example as this method of communication may be less obtrusive than a phone call. Especially for a quick message such as “I’m on my way” or “I just got here.”

One big addition that most people will care about is that watchOS 5 now has the ability to allow you to connect to any WiFi access point which will give you a reason to not tote your iPhone around the office for example. Especially for those who have the WiFi version of the Apple Watch. That is as long as it is not a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, or it is a captive network or some sort. But assuming that you fit this use case, it works. Mostly. By that I mean that if you have a simple WiFi network with password authentication, it will work just fine based on my testing. But if you try to connect to a WiFi network that is more sophisticated such as an 802.1x network that requires a username and password and requires a certificate to be downloaded to the Apple Watch, your mileage may vary. In my tests of that scenario, it worked maybe 25 percent of the time. The rest of the time it failed to connect and claimed that my password was wrong which. But it wasn’t. That implies that Apple may have some work to do on this front. Another thing to note is that Apple requires you to use the scribble feature to enter the password. That can be frustrating if you have never done that before. But once you get the hang of scribble, it’s really not a big deal.

Another big addition is that the Mail app finally displays HTML content. That way you don’t have to fish out your phone to read an email. Which in turn enhances the fact that you can leave your phone behind and just rely on the Apple Watch.

Gripes? Well, I have noted that the user interface is kind of buggy. For example there is the odd occasion where I try to respond to a text message in Messages and when I use a canned response, Messages disappears and I simply hear the sound that indicates that I have sent the message. But because I am not 100% sure that I have used the right canned response, I have to go back into messages to check to make sure. But that is minor in the grand scheme of things as this is a solid iteration of Apple’s wearable OS. If you have an Apple Watch, you should download this and install this ASAP as it is a major step forward for Apple Watch owners.

 

 

EXCLUSIVE: Is Apple Pay Cash Coming To Canada?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 19, 2018 by itnerd

I’ve been doing testing of watchOS 5 in so that I can write a detailed review of Apple’s OS for their insanely successful wearable devices. In the process of that I came across something interesting. I went to respond to a text message yesterday and found this which I promptly posted to Twitter:

There’s a Apple Pay icon that wasn’t present before. And an erase and reinstall of watchOS 5 does nothing to make it go away. Thus I have to assume that this is one of three things:

  1. This is a mistake by Apple where Apple screwed up and made this visible to Canadians. I say that because they have made this sort of mistake before. But whatever feature that they accidentally made visible disappears a few days later. That has not happened in this case (so far).
  2. This is by design. As in the button is present but not active unless turned on in that country.
  3. Apple Pay Cash is coming to Canada.

So far I have no indication of which of the three this is. But I am trying to dig to see if I can get some answers. For example, I tried to go to wallet on my iPhone 7 Plus running iOS 12 to see if I could activate Apple Pay Cash. But no luck there. Having said that, you can help me to figure out what is going on. If you have an Apple Watch running watchOS 5 and you are outside the US, can you tell me if you see something similar to the picture above by leaving a comment. I’d really appreciate it.

In the meantime, I live in hope that Apple Pay Cash is coming to Canada as this country is also still waiting for Apple News, and will likely be waiting for a while for the ECG function that is part of the Apple Watch Series 4. While I understand that it can take time for stuff to appear in Canada, it often takes an absurdly long time for features to appear here from an Apple perspective.

Review: Apple iOS 12

Posted in Products with tags on September 18, 2018 by itnerd

Last year’s iOS 11 was far from Apple’s best effort to say the least. It also had multiple security issues. It wasn’t Apple’s best moment. Thus you’d think that iOS 12 would have to be substantially better. At best, it is only marginally better.

Here’s the good first before I get to the bad. The big news is that Apple promised that this update would make your iPhone feel faster. For the most part they’ve delivered on that as this is the first iOS update that didn’t feel slower than the last update. And so far, I am only noticing a slight hit on battery life. By that I mean that the battery drain that this enhanced performance causes is so slight that it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Notifications are now grouped together and easier to manage. That way they are far less overwhelming. This is another welcome change that users will appreciate. Users will also appreciate  the new features in the Do Not Disturb functionality. Specifically the ability to set a specific hour for bedtime and calls, texts, and notifications will be silenced until whatever time you set to wake up. While I still wish for a option to program weekday and weekend Do Not Disturb times, this is a welcome addition. Screen Time is an option that is meant to curb smartphone addition by tracking and even limiting your smartphone usage. I won’t be using this feature personally, but there are many who will.

Siri got some love in this update via Siri Shortcuts which will allow you to create complex actions and trigger them using Siri. For example turning on your HomeKit enabled security system when you leave the house via a Siri command. And the love continues in Siri Suggestions which can tell you to call someone back if you have missed a call for example. The built in apps have been nipped and tucked, and there’s a new one called Measure. This app not only acts as a tape measure and a level, it also shows off Apple’s ARKit 2.0 functionality. Photos is another app that is worth mentioning as the tweaks that it got makes finding and organizing photos easier. Finally, CarPlay will finally allow you to use Waze or Google Maps instead of Apple Maps. At least you’ll be able to use them once updated versions of those apps ship.

So now to the bad. It’s like iOS 11 still shockingly buggy. Let’s start with CarPlay where the Mail notification sound is no longer suppressed in CarPlay. That in my business is called a regression which is a situation where something worked and then broke. It’s also a sign that Apple’s QA didn’t do their job. I’ve also noted user interface bugs in Mail which have been present since iOS 11 where you can go through a list of messages until there’s nothing that is marked as being unread, but you will still see that a message is unread. And browsing the Internet indicates that others have tripped over other iOS 12 bugs as well. Now based on past history, Apple is likely to come out with a quick update to squash bugs in the original release of iOS 12 in the next week or two. But frankly, stuff like this should have never made it out the door and it highlights how far Apple has slipped when it comes to their software quality.

So, should you update to iOS 12? Maybe after the first bug fix comes out you should because even with all the enhancements that Apple has done, I’m finding it difficult to say that you should dive right in given the negatives that I have outlined above. Once they are (hopefully) addressed, then give it a shot.

Which New iPhone Should You Get? I Say Wait For The iPhone XR

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 17, 2018 by itnerd

On Friday pre-orders for two of the three new iPhones began. And early indications have the iPhone XS Max being the clear favorite of those who are pre-ordering. But is that the iPhone that you should go for? I say no. Your best bet might be to wait for the iPhone XR as I think that’s the best value for money. Here’s why I feel that way:

  1. It has most of the features of the other iPhones: While it uses an LCD display (or as Apple calls it a Liquid Retina display) rather than an OLED display, and the back camera is a single lens camera rather than a dual lens camera (but the all the cameras work exactly the same way with the same feature set), and it maxes out at 256GB of storage (the iPhone XS and XS Max top out at 512GB), the insides are pretty much the same. Which means that the power and speed that is on tap is similar or the same as well. Which means that you are not giving up anything much by going with the XR.
  2. The LCD display (or as Apple calls it a Liquid Retina display) is larger than the iPhone XS at 6.1″ while at the same time it is physically smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus by a wee bit.
  3. It has better battery life than the iPhone XS and it might be competitive with the iPhone XS Max as well.
  4. You get more color choices with the iPhone XR so that you can express your individuality.
  5. The thing that tops it all off is the fact that the iPhone XR is cheaper than the XS or XS Max. That makes it much better value for money. Which Apple would prefer that you didn’t notice.

All of that makes the iPhone XR the iPhone to get. So unless you really want an OLED display or a 6.5″ display, you should wait until mid October to get your hands on an iPhone XR.

Do you agree with me, or do you think that I have this completely wrong? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

 

So…. What Did Apple Announce At Their Fall Keynote?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 12, 2018 by itnerd

Well, if you want to see the entire keynote, you can click here to see the entire keynote. But if you’re someone who wants to see the highlights, here they are:

  • Apple Watch Series 4: Available in 40mm and 44mm sizes, it has a number of next-generation medical heart detection features approved by the FDA. That will give users in the US to start with ECG functionality, the ability to detect low heart rhythm with background detection for atrial fibrillation, and low heart rate monitoring to detect very low blood flow from the heart. It has a digital crown with haptic feedback, a bigger and louder speaker, and improved microphone placement. Battery life is better as well, and it comes with a 64 bit processor and fall detection. GPS and GPS + Cellular versions are available. Pre orders start on Friday, September 14, with availability beginning Friday, September 21.
  • watchOS 5 will be available on Monday, September 17 along with iOS 12 and tvOS 12.
  • macOS Mojave will be available on Monday September 24.
  • iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max: Both models have an edge-to-edge OLED display, greatly reduced bezels, and a “notch” that houses the front-facing TrueDepth Camera system. The Xs is 5.8″ and the Xs Max is 6.5″. It has an A12 Bionic chip that makes everything from Face ID faster to giving the new dual 12MP camera incredible capabilities. It uses LTE Advanced for faster download speeds and introduces Dual SIM through the combined use of a nano-SIM and digital eSIM. Better battery life and it comes in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB sizes. You can pre order them on Friday, September 14 and get them in store on Friday, September 21.
  • iPhone Xr: Featuring an edge-to-edge “Liquid Retina” LCD 6.1″ display with wide color and True Tone support. It uses LTE Advanced for faster download speeds and introduces Dual SIM through the combined use of a nano-SIM and digital eSIM. It uses the same A12 Bionic processor as the iPhone Xs and Xs Max and features many of the same features. It will be available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB sizes and be available for preorder on Friday, October 19 and in stores beginning Friday, October 26.

Apple also usually quietly adds or discontinues items as well. I’ll be watching for what those are and I will update this page accordingly. Right now, I can see that the iPhone X and iPhone 6s has been discontinued. But I am sure there will be more to come.

UPDATE: The Apple HomePod will also get an update that will give it new functionality and languages. Expect to see it on Monday, September 17th.

UPDATE #2: It now seems that AppleCare+ for iPhone has added a new theft and loss option along with monthly payments. The Apple Watch lineup drops the ceramic Edition models. The Series 3 is still around and it drops in price.

UPDATE #3Apple’s AirPods site has seen significant changes. The mention of AirPods with a wireless charging case has been changed to “currently unavailable”. What’s also weird is that any attempt to search for AirPower which is Apple’s wireless charging mat that was promised a year ago will come up empty. Apple didn’t mention it in the keynote today and it appears that Apple is trying to rewrite history by erasing it from their website.

“Trend Micro” Mac Apps Caught Stealing Your Browser History Too…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 9, 2018 by itnerd

Hot on the heels of this app being caught stealing your browser history come another report via the Malwarebytes forum of the same behavior being done by a Mac Apps by “Trend Micro Inc.” called Dr. Unarchiver, Dr. Cleaner and others by the same company. Now this is the same Trend Micro that is best known for putting out antivirus apps for consumer and corporate uses. Which makes this a big bloody deal for reasons that I will get to in a second.

Now after the initial report of this, another report soon surfaced. Other researchers confirmed this as well. The key is that you have to give the app in question permission for it to access your home directory as that’s required for the app to snatch your browser history. That’s because the design of macOS doesn’t allow the app access to that directly unless you explicitly give it permission. So if you see an app try and ask you for permission to do so, don’t.

Now it’s a safe bet that now that this is public, Apple will ban these apps just like they banned the other apps that I reported on a couple of days ago. But here’s the big question that people should be asking. Actually two of them. The first is, is Apple asleep at the switch here when it comes to having stuff like this slip past the goalposts?

Second, this “Trend Micro Inc.” is the same one that puts out consumer and commercial anti virus apps, you have to wonder how widespread their theft of private info from computers is? If I were a customer of there’s I’d be asking that question while yanking their stuff off my computers. And I would expect a detailed and robust answer from them along with a plan to address this so that private info is not at risk. EVER.

UPDATE: These apps have been removed from the App Store