Archive for Apple

Review: Apple MacBook Air With The M1 Processor

Posted in Products with tags on November 24, 2020 by itnerd

It has begun.

Apple has begun transitioning away from using Intel processors to their own Apple Silicon processors. And one of the first computers to make the transitions is the MacBook Air. A client of mine managed to get the base model MacBook Air and asked me to help her set it up. I did it for free in exchange for playing with it for a couple of hours. So keep that in mind as I detail what I think about it.

First of all, the M1 powered MacBook Air doesn’t look any different than an Intel powered one. Some may find that disappointing. But Apple has done this before and it makes sense. By that I mean that when Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel in the mid 2000’s, they used the existing cases and ripped out the PowerPC bits and replaced them with Intel bits. And this was done because they knew what these cases could handle in terms heat for example. In other words, it was a known target that allowed them to quickly start the transition. It was the following year that Apple rolled out new case designs. And I expect to see that with the M1 processor. But having said all of that, this case design is perfectly fine. It’s light, has a great keyboard, a great trackpad, and feels like a quality product.

One area where Apple did upgrade something was the screen. Apple has upgraded the 13″ screen to one that supports P3 wide color gamut. What does that mean in English? The screen is more color accurate which matters if your editing photos for example. And that’s a good thing because you used to have to go up to at least a 13″ MacBook Pro to get that feature. Now you can get it at lower price point. One area that Apple didn’t upgrade is the front facing webcam. It is still 720P, but Apple is taking the video and pumping it through the image signal processor that is part of the M1 chip to try and make it look better. The key word is TRY because it only looks marginally better. It’s still sub par when compared to pretty much any notebook with a 1080p camera or even Apple’s most recent iMacs with 1080p. The bottom line is that if there is one area where Apple really dropped the ball with the MacBook Air, it’s the camera. In an age where people are on Zoom all the time, you’d think Apple would have upped their game in this area. But I guess I expect too much from them.

Performance however is clearly where Apple spent most of their time when it comes to the MacBook Air. I won’t post benchmarks as YouTube based tech reviewers have done that and have found that the MacBook Air destroys anything with an Intel processor in it. But this machine is FAST. I installed the M1 version of Microsoft Office on it and putting together a PowerPoint slide deck felt smooth and fluid. For fun, I took the video that I made for my iPhone 12 Pro review and did an export of it. That took seconds. As in 5 or less seconds. I also ran Intel apps using Apple’s translation layer which is called Rosetta 2. Those apps were faster than any Intel based Mac that I have used. And what’s blows my mind about this level of performance is the fact that the MacBook Air has no fan to keep the M1 processor cool. That makes me wonder what level of performance the 13″ MacBook Pro with the M1 processor, or the Mac Mini with the M1 processor will get as those have active cooling. Speaking of cooling, I never ever felt the MacBook Air get warm. Contrast that with Intel MacBooks which get warm simply by opening Chrome.

There’s two other things of note:

  • The speakers are decent and so are the microphones.
  • I didn’t really test the battery life myself, but when I checked in with the client, she reported that she has gone three days without charging it and is at 41% battery life. That’s pretty mind blowing.

If Apple bothered to upgrade the webcam, I would say that would be the perfect notebook for people with basic needs such as word processing, surfing the net, and answering emails. But as it is, I can only say that it is almost perfect and Apple missed an opportunity here to really make a perfect notebook.

So should you get one? What I will say is this:

  • Apple’s M1 processor is their first Apple Silicon processor. Which means that future processors will be faster and better. So you may be better off waiting to see what Apple puts out because of that.
  • If you must buy now, and to be frank this machine is so fast that I wouldn’t blame you if you did, keep in mind that nothing is upgradable. Thus if you think you need 256GB of storage, buy 512GB. If you think you need 8GB of RAM, buy 16GB. Otherwise, you may regret it later.

The bottom line is that the MacBook Air is an outstanding machine save for the webcam. If this is the entry level Apple Silicon processor, I can’t wait to see what else Apple has in the pipeline. And Intel should simply feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything that can go this fast with great battery life.

Having Issues Reinstalling macOS Big Sur On Your New M1 Mac? Apple Posts Instructions On How To Do So

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 23, 2020 by itnerd

Shortly after the launch of Apple’s new M1 Macs, reports started to appear that attempts to restore and reinstall macOS on those machines right away could result in an installation error that would leave your Mac non-functional. The error that you got was “An error occurred preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update.”

As a result of that, Apple has posted a support document over the weekend to try and help with that. I say try because I had a look at the documentation and it doesn’t exactly look straightforward. But if it does work for you, I’d appreciate if you left a comment to let yours truly and others know that it did.

Review: Apple HomePod Mini

Posted in Products with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

When the original HomePod came out, I was blown away by the sound quality. But I was also blown away by the price of the HomePod. It was insanely expensive. And it didn’t help that Siri wasn’t the most intelligent personal assistant when compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Thus I skipped it.

Fast forward to the present day. Apple has released the HomePod Mini, and by doing that Apple has addressed a lot of the criticisms that I had about the HomePod. But let’s start with what the HomePod Mini looks like and what you get in the box:

You get the HomePod Mini which is covered in fabric like the original HomePod and has a woven fabric USB-C cable that is permanently attached to the HomePod Mini. That’s the same as the original HomePod. To the right of the HomePod Mini you get some documentation and an Apple sticker. And to the left of the HomePod Mini you get a 20W USB-C brick. The same one that Apple decided to leave out of the iPhone 12 models.

Yeah, I’m not letting the fact that Apple left charging bricks out of the box of iPhone 12 models go.

The HomePod Mini is tiny. It is 3.3 inches high by 3.9 inches wide and comes in white and space grey. I chose the latter as it isn’t going to get dirty. It’s small enough that it will fit in anywhere and maybe even go completely unnoticed. There is a touch screen on the top that allows you to trigger Siri and control the volume. Setup is laughably easy. You plug it in, and bring an iPhone next to the HomePod Mini. Then follow the prompts. In about 5 to 10 minutes, it will be live. You can also set it up to recognize the voices of others in the household so that they can use it as well.

Besides all the “Hey Siri” commands he HomePod to play music and the like, there’s a couple of things that make the HomePod unique:

  • The Apple U1 chip: Apple’s own ultra-wideband silicon found in iPhone 11’s and 12’s as well as the Apple Watch Series 6 is being used for handoff purposes with the HomePod Mini. Simply point your iPhone 12 for example at the HomePod Mini and the U1 chip is able to track the phone, recognize my intent, and pass off any audio I was listening to. Though I will admit that it wasn’t 100% perfect at doing that.
  • Thread: This is a new smart home connectivity standard that has many benefits over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. The most notable being instant response. I have a HomeKit compatible light switch that prior to the HomePod Mini arriving, it would take a couple of seconds to turn on and off. With the HomePod Mini it was instant.

That’s all great. But let’s get to the key points. Starting with how it sounds. Well, I threw the same audio torture playlists that I use to test car audio systems during car reviews. I also tested it in a couple of rooms to force the computational audio that driven by the Apple’s S5 chip to adapt to different environments. And the bad news is that the HomePod Mini is a bit lacking in bass versus the HomePod. But other than that, the audio quality is great. I seriously think that you will have no complaints while playing music and I would say it is about 70% of the audio quality of a full sized HomePod. If you got two of them, you can make a stereo pair to get true left/right audio. And it would likely sound great.

You can also use the HomePod Mini as a HomeKit bridge so that you can automate and access your home remotely. It takes almost zero effort to set that up assuming you have HomeKit compatible devices. In my case, I have a pair of HomeKit security cameras, and a HomeKit light switch. I was able to create automations that did the following with ease: When both my wife and I leave our condo which is verified by the lack of presence of either the iPhone or Apple Watch that each of us has, the cameras will turn on and have the ability to stream and detect movement. If movement is detected, the camera that is pointed at the door will record video and sound to iCloud and send a notification to both our iPhones.

One cool feature is Intercom. This allows you to use the command “Hey Siri Intercom” to record and to play an audio message on all connected HomePod speakers as well as on iPhones, Apple Watches and the like of all family members. And it works inside or outside your home including on CarPlay. It’s great when you don’t want to shout from the kitchen to someone else in another room that dinner is ready. Or that you driving up to your home to pick up the kids and you want them outside and ready to go.

So what’s the downside to the HomePod Mini? For starters, all of this is only good if you are within the Apple ecosystem. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can’t set it up. Nor can you interact with it. In other words those on Team Android need not apply. Also, Siri while improved as of late, is still miles away from the sort of functionality you get with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. By that I mean that you have to speak to Siri using very specific commands to get it to work for you. You don’t have to do that with the Google or Amazon equivalent. Though the flip side of that is that Siri doesn’t troll and mine your data the way that Amazon and Google do. So Apple has made a conscious decision to prioritize privacy over broader functionality. You’ll have to decide if that matters to you and you can live with the limitations that this decision brings to the table.

The price is the best part of the HomePod Mini, it’s $99 USD which makes it enticing to those in the Apple ecosystem. And only those in the Apple ecosystem. Siri is still only okay. The sound is great. And the price is right. Which means that it might be enough for Apple to sell a few truckloads of them.

Apple Publishes Solution To Those With MacBook Pros That Were Bricked Due To macOS Big Sur

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

Earlier this week, it came to light that the upgrade to macOS Big Sur was bricking some 13″ MacBook Pros. This was a bit of a #Fail for Apple.

But to their credit Apple published a new support article on its website confirming that some users are unable to install macOS Big Sur on 13-inch MacBook Pro models launched in 2013 and 2014. It also provides what I consider a possible fix. I say “possible” because I would love to know if this actually fixes the issue or not. Thus, if you have this issue and you try this, please let me know by leaving a comment below if this works (or not).

Is Apple Spying On You? No

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 16, 2020 by itnerd

Last week, November 12th specifically, there was a global outage of Apple’s back end systems during the release of macOS Big Sur. Besides leaving users unable to download macOS Big Sur, a large number of Mac users reported failures opening third-party apps. This issue also affected iMessage and Apple Pay, which started to behave erratically for a short period of time. The root cause of the issues was apparently, Gatekeeper which is Apple’s anti-malware system. Here’s how it works:

  • You click on an icon to start an app.
  • Your Mac pings Apple to see if it has a valid developer certificate.
  • If it does have a valid developer certificate, the app is allowed to run. If not, you get prompted for further action.

Normally this isn’t a big deal and is transparent to users. But last week it wasn’t. And when researchers began analyzing the data their computers were sending to Apple’s servers, claims that data was being sent to Apple in plain text. This was quickly debunked by Jacopo Jannone. But by then, all sorts of conspiracy theories about Apple spying on you were floating around the Internet.

That’s forced Apple to clarify things in typical Apple fashion. By that I mean that instead of making some sort of public statement, they updated a support document and let the Internet play a game of hide and seek to go find it. Which is typical for that company.

Some key take aways from the document:

  • Apple says that it doesn’t mix data from the process of checking apps for malware with any information about Apple users and doesn’t use the app notarization process to know what apps users are running.
  • Apple also says that Apple IDs and device identification have never been involved with these software security checks.

And it plans to improve this to be more secure. Which as far as I am concerned is a backhanded admission that Apple does do all of this in a manner that isn’t a secure as it could be. And that the process isn’t as resilient as it could be. Specifically:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
  • Strong protections against server failure
  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

So, here’s the bottom line:

  • Apple doesn’t spy on you.
  • They’ll do better in the future to make sure that Gatekeeper is more secure and more resilient.

Am I reassured? I suppose, but that’s not the real problem. At least not if you work at Apple Park. Privacy is a big deal for Apple as they use it as a cornerstone of their marketing. This whole incident has cast a bit of a negative light on Apple when it comes to privacy. And whatever the actual facts are, people have already taken a side. That’s a problem for Apple as they push to sell as many iPhones, MacBooks and the like this holiday season. I suspect that this is far from over and Apple will have to do something that they don’t like doing, which is to step out into the light and explain this in detail.

macOS Big Sur Bricks Some Older MacBooks While Installing…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 16, 2020 by itnerd

If you haven’t updated your Mac to macOS Big Sur yet, you might want to sit on the sidelines for a bit because Engadget is reporting that Apple’s latest and greatest OS is literally bricking older MacBooks:

macOS Big Sur hasn’t been a pleasant update for some users. According to MacRumors, users on Apple’s forums and Reddit are stuck with a black screen when trying to update their late 2013 or mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro models to Big Sur. Nothing appears to solve the issue, including shortcuts to reset the NVRAM and SMC.

What’s really bad about this situation is that all these Macs are out of warranty and AppleCare. Which means if you need to get back up and running, affected users may have to buy a new computer, or face costly repairs. And I am going to go out on a limb and say Apple won’t cover either even though this is clearly their fault unless they get sued.

This is a prime reason why you should never dive into a brand new OS and instead wait to see what happens to the “early adopters”. For example, I have not upgraded any of my Macs to Big Sur. And based on this I won’t be anytime soon. Apple hasn’t commented on this, but if this is as wide spread as it appears to be, they’ll have to do something.

If a solution to this appears, I’ll post an update.

Fortnite To Return To iPhones via Nvidia Cloud Gaming Service

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 5, 2020 by itnerd

Here’s a plot twist in the Fortnite vs Apple fight. Owners of iPhones and iPads will soon be able to play Fortnite again, via a cloud service, the BBC has discovered

Nvidia has developed a version of its GeForce cloud gaming service that runs in the mobile web browser Safari. Apple will not get a cut of virtual items sold within the battle royale fighting title when played this way. Apple is embroiled in a legal fight with Fortnite’s developer Epic, which led the iPhone-maker to remove the game from its iOS App Store. Epic has claimed that the 30% commission Apple charges on in-app gaming purchases is anti-competitive. But Apple has accused Epic of wanting a “free ride”. The case is due to go to trial in May and could take years to be resolved. Papers filed in the case indicate that Fortnite had 116 million users on iOS, 73 million of whom only played it via Apple’s operating system. Unlike Android, Apple does not allow games or other apps to be loaded on to its phones or tablets via app stores other than its own. But it does not restrict which third-party services can run within Safari or other web browsers available via its store.

Well this is interesting. I wonder if Apple will try to stop this in some way seeing as Apple doesn’t like game streaming services. And as a bonus, they aren’t fans of Nvidia either. This will be interesting to watch as I don’t expect Apple to stand idly by.

Review: iPhone 12 Pro

Posted in Products with tags on October 30, 2020 by itnerd

Grab some snacks and a drink. This will be a long review.

I’ve got the new iPhone 12 Pro. Graphite to be precise. It’s replacing my iPhone XS. This is the first major redesign since the iPhone X, and I am not just talking about the physical design. All the iPhone 12 models have 5G and a lot of new camera hardware. Not to mention they are all OLED screens across the board capable of HDR playback. And there’s the A14 processor that is supposed to crush anything in the Android space. That’s a lot of change. Let’s dive in. Starting with the unboxing. Here’s what you get inside the box once you remove the phone:

You get a USB-C to Lightning cable, SIM ejector tool, paperwork, and a single Apple Sticker down from two Apple stickers that were in the box last year. There’s no AC adapter in the box. And if you don’t have one that is USB-C lying around, you’re shelling out $25 CDN for one from Apple. Apple says that they are trying to protect the environment by doing this. But I call BS on that because unlike the Apple Watch Series 6 which comes with a USB-A cable which enables you to recycle any Apple power adapter that you have lying around, you can’t do that with the iPhone 12 Pro without springing for a USB-C power adapter. To me this is a bit of a cash grab. Which isn’t cool given how much this phone costs.The net result is that this move is guaranteed to get some people upset. Specifically new users and those who think that spending four digits on a phone should get you a power adapter in the box.

Oh by the way, Apple is also not including the wired ear phones this time around. They sounded horrible so there’s no great loss there. Which likely explains why nobody seems to care about that. Though the cynic in me says that this was a move to make people more likely to buy AirPods.

Having said all of that, the box that the iPhone 12 Pro comes in is way thinner:

The black box is the iPhone 12 Pro. The white box is the iPhone XS. I guess you can ship way more iPhones in a plane since they each take up way less real estate. That is good for the environment.

Now onto the phone itself:

The design reminds me of the iPhone 4 & 5 which as far as I was concerned were the best looking iPhones ever due to the flat sides. But unlike those iPhones, the display is flush with the rest of the iPhone. And it’s comfortable to hold without a case. The sides are made of surgical grade stainless steel, and they are a major fingerprint magnet. The back is matte glass, and is not a fingerprint magnet. If fingerprints bother you, I’d advise getting a case. This is the graphite color which is apparently the new space grey. I chose it to match my space grey Apple Watch. They do have a four color choices in case graphite doesn’t do it for you.

As for the screen, it’s an OLED screen capable of HDR playback. To me, it seems a bit warmer than my iPhone XS, somewhat brighter, and the bezels are thinner than before. It’s a 6.1″ screen but it doesn’t really take up that more real estate than the XS which I appreciate. Apple has a new feature called the “ceramic shield” that makes the display 4x more shatter resistant. Should you believe that? Well, EveryingApplePro and MobileReviewsEh tested these screens in different ways and found them to be more durable than they expected. But if I were you, I’d put a tempered screen protector on it to be safe. Because even if it is more shatter resistant, it’s not going to be scratch resistant just like the iPhone 11 wasn’t all that scratch resistant. That’s because scratch resistance is inversely proportional to shatter resistance 100% of the time. Or put another way, if you want shatter resistance, you can’t have scratch resistance. And early reports from iPhone 12/ 12 Pro owners who didn’t use screen protectors along with a test from JerryRigEverything appears to confirm that. The display support’s Apple’s True Tone feature which adjusts the screen to ensure that colors are accurate regardless of the lighting conditions as well as P3 wide color for accurate color reproduction. You also get 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio as well as 800 nits max brightness and 1200 nits max brightness when watching HDR content. The screen has a resolution of 2532‑by‑1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi. One downside to the screen is that Apple has yet again gone to Haptic Touch or long presses rather than 3D Touch which was a much better user interface for facilitating extra functionality within apps. I know that Apple has been ripping out 3D touch out of all their products to make all their products behave the same. But I really think that this is a mistake by Apple as it really throws those who have had 3D touch iPhones and Apple Watches for a loop when interacting with the phone.

Since we’re talking about the screen, let’s get to elephant in the room. The display is a 60 Hz refresh rate display. A lot of Android phones come with 90 Hz, 120 Hz, and a few even have 144 Hz refresh rate displays. And even Apple has the iPad Pro with a 120 Hz variable refresh rate display. So why doesn’t the iPhone 12 Pro have a display with a refresh rate above 60 Hz? I’m guessing that they couldn’t get the OLED screens that they wanted to have a high refresh rate display they way they wanted to. Or they wanted to persevere battery life as high refresh rate displays tend to obliterate battery life. But here’s the reality. Go try one. You’ll see that it is insanely smooth when scrolling and I seriously doubt that you’ll miss not having a high refresh rate display. That makes this a non-issue in my mind. At least for this year. Next year might be different if the iPhone 13 or whatever it is called doesn’t show up with a high refresh rate for those who really care.

The display is very easy to read in most lighting conditions including bright sunlight. The iPhone 12 Pro is capable of HDR playback. And the test videos that I played on it looked stunning. If that’s not enough, the iPhone 12 Pro is also capable of recording Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k60, which is mind blowing considering that this is a phone and not a cinema quality video camera. I should note that only the pro models are capable of recording in Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k60. The non pro models can “only” record Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 video in 4k30. And no other phone currently does Dolby Vision HDR recording of any sort. To test this, I recorded a 40 second video of a hike that my wife and I did north of Barrie last weekend. If you can, view this on a device that does 4K HDR playback or turn on HDR on your browser and set the resolution to 4K:

Besides the stereo separation for the audio, the color reproduction is simply amazing. I do notice that the video has some sort of auto-focus issue. I’m not sure if that’s due to what the phone has to do stabilize the image or the phone is simply hunting for an object to focus on. But other than that, the video quality is very good. Now if you want better image stabilization, the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro Max has a In-body image stabilization (IBIS)  system that stabilizes the entire image sensor rather than just the optics which may lead to better quality video. That’s on top of having a bigger sensor to start with. Now I suspect that once these phones get out there, and videos recorded in these format start to appear en masse, it will force YouTube to support Dolby Vision HDR and companies that make TVs will have to do exactly the same thing.

If you’re going to have a great display, you need quality speakers to go with them. I found that they are loud and clear. Music sounds good with clear bass and treble.

Storage options start with 128GB, then go to 256GB and then 512GB. I got the 256GB model. It’s IP68 rated to a maximum of 6 metres for up to 30 minutes instead of 4 metres for 30 minutes like the iPhone 11 from last year. You still get a Lightning connector on the bottom instead of USB-C for data transfer and charging, and it has one new party trick. Apple has resurrected the MagSafe name to use it for a bunch of magnetic accessories that attach to the back of the iPhone. The MagSafe charger for example offers 15W fast wireless chargers. Though if you’re not using a MagSafe charger, you’re stuck at 7.5w for wireless charging. I personally am not interested in this feature as when I charge it’s either in my car, or on a wireless charger next to my bed at night. But it’s clear that this is the first step in killing the Lightning port in favor of a port-less iPhone in the future. That also likely explains why Apple still hasn’t gone to USB-C in this iPhone.

5G is the big feature for the iPhone 12 Pro. But what is equally as big is the fact that Apple has finally dumped the horrible Intel LTE modems that have been used by Apple for years (and Apple now owns by the way) for Qualcomm modems which are now available to Apple now that Apple and Qualcomm have stopped suing each other. This allows the iPhone 12 to be way faster than I am used to on the TELUS network. Here’s an LTE score taken in Etobicoke Ontario:

This is about 100Mbps higher versus what I was able to get on the iPhone XS on LTE. That’s quick and basically says that you will have better LTE speeds if 5G isn’t available in your area. But 5G is available in my area and this is what I got:

Now while this isn’t the 1.7 Gbps peak speeds that TELUS claims as their theoretical maximum speed, it’s not slow. I suspect that if I go to other areas of Toronto, I’d get faster speeds. I’ll be doing that and I’ll let you know what I get in a future story. To stop you from chewing through your battery life, Apple has a feature that will switch between LTE and 5G depending on your data needs to save power.

Another point. Since I am in Canada, the version of 5G that I am getting is the “Sub-6” version of 5G which gives you a bit of a speed increase and has better signal coverage and better building penetration. Americans get a US only version of the iPhone 12 which gets support for “Sub-6” and the “millimeter wave” version of 5G which has neither of those things in exchange for super fast speeds if you are in the right area and you are pointed in the right direction. If you prefer to save your mobile data, you get WiFi 6 as part of the deal, which is very fast as well if you have a WiFi 6 router like I do.

Inside you get the A14 Bionic processor which according to benchmarks is yet again the fastest processor in a mobile phone. It is 20% faster than the A13 Bionic that was in the iPhone 11. And to be frank, it’s complete overkill for an iPhone as it is faster than some of Apple’s macOS desktops and laptops. But we should take it as it’s really fast while being power efficient. Win/win. Now if you pair the A14 Bionic with 6GB of RAM which is up from the 4GB in the non pro models, and it’s also up from any other earlier iPhone model. This is going to help with running multiple apps and muti-tasking. But it also helps with all the computational photography that the iPhone 12 Pro is capable of. And I suspect that this is the reason why Apple’s upcoming (via a software update presumably) ProRaw format where you can get a highly detailed picture with all of the computational photography info included is only available on the pro models. Meaning that for those who want to take a photo and make it beyond perfect in Photoshop, the is the phone for you. Not to mention doing 4k60 video which as mentioned earlier is another pro only feature. But here’s the real reason why you should care that this phone comes with the A14 Bionic and 6GB of RAM. When iOS 18 comes out in four years time, this phone will still feel fast. Speaking of iOS, it comes out of the box with iOS 14.1 which is pretty stable and does what you expect iOS to do.

So let’s get to the cameras. You get three cameras at 12 megapixels:

  • Ultra Wide – ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view
  • Wide – ƒ/1.6 aperture
  • Telephoto cameras – ƒ/2.0 aperture 

What does that look like? Here’s the telephoto camera:

And the wide camera:

And finally ultra wide:

And check this out. My wife and I took a photo side by side in the same marginally dark forest. Her using her iPhone XR. And yours truly on the iPhone 12 Pro. First the iPhone XR:

And here’s the iPhone 12 Pro:

Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro picture looks brighter than the iPhone XR picture. It also has a bit more detail. You can likely thank the computational photography on the iPhone 12 Pro for that. And that computational photography works on all the lenses unlike last year’s iPhones.

I am going to focus on the telephoto lens for a moment. The detail that you get from this camera is great for macro shots as evidenced here:

New to the iPhone 12 Pro is a LIDAR sensor. This sensor has great promise in the future for things like AR applications (though in the here and now, you can use the measure app to accurately measure humans and other objects). But at present, it is being best used for better portrait mode photos because it can not only perform amazing levels of depth perception, but it can make the auto focus from the rear cameras insanely good. Especially at night for both of those items as evidenced by this picture which also took advantage of Apple’s Night Mode tech to give you better pictures in low light situations:

I don’t have a need for doing night selfies. In fact I rarely take selfies at all. But Night Mode selfies may be a thing for some and based on this photo, they would be pretty good:

But I think the best example of Night Mode is to see what the same shot looks like without it. So My wife and I took identical pictures on our balcony. One was on my wife’s iPhone XR and one was on the iPhone 12 Pro.

First the iPhone XR:

Then the iPhone 12 Pro:

The grassy area is the key reason that the Night Mode photo wins. You can actually see it in a good amount of detail.

By the way, Night Mode works on all the lenses for the first time. Ditto for Apple’s Deep Fusion feature which makes your photos look sharper with better colors.

Finally there’s battery life. As I am typing this, I’ve had this phone for a week. But I will give you my last three days.

Here’s Monday where I was working from my home office all day on WiFi 6:

Here’s Tuesday where I went out a couple of times for a couple of hours and I was on 5G and WiFi 6:

This is Wednesday where I mostly worked at home. But I made a trip out to UPS to ship something out:

On each one of those days, I ended the day at or just below 50%. And I was using the phone to check email, surf, and use Reddit among other things. In other words, I was not using this phone lightly. So if I can get this sort of performance out of the iPhone 12 Pro, you should be able to do that well or better.

There’s one other other item. The iPhone 12 has a U1 chip to allow you to unlock a car that is compatible with it. Which at this point is any BMW made after July of this year. It will also work with the new HomePod Mini to precisely position you in your home. And it will work with the much rumored AirTags product which is a Tile like tracker. That’s great for the future, but in the here and now, they will help you to AirDrop files better.

So, should you buy the iPhone 12 Pro? Well, I think it comes down to this:

  • If you want better photo quality than the iPhone 12, then it’s worth it.
  • If you want to leverage the upcoming ProRaw format from Apple, then it’s worth it.
  • If having the extra 2GB of RAM is worth it to you, then buy the iPhone 12 Pro.
  • If you are coming from an iPhone X, XR, or XS or earlier, then you are in the target market for the iPhone 12 Pro.

There is one other thing to consider. If photo quality matters to you, then it may even be worth waiting for the iPhone 12 Pro Max which gives you even better camera optics including In-body image stabilization (IBIS) which may give you better pictures than the iPhone 12 Pro. Not to mention that the iPhone 12 Pro Max will have a bigger battery due to the fact that it is a physically bigger phone. With a bigger price tag to match. But if photos aren’t top of mind, then the iPhone 12 would be the way to go. You’ll give up some of the photo quality of the iPhone 12 Pro and save $200 CDN in the process seeing as the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $1399 CDN with 128GB. Of course that assumes that you get the iPhone 12 with 128GB as well. Which if you fit the use case for an iPhone 12 you should as it’s only $70 over the base price of $1129 CDN with 64GB of RAM.

The iPhone 12 Pro is an impressive smartphone package thanks to its worthwhile camera upgrades. But it is going to face some tough competition from the iPhone 12. You can’t really go wrong either way. But for me, the iPhone 12 Pro is the choice for me. And I think it may be the choice for many.

Proof That Apple’s T2 Security Chip Is Pwnable Has Surfaced…. Apple Now Has A SERIOUS Problem

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 13, 2020 by itnerd

Yesterday I posted a story on news that Apple’s T2 Security chip that is used in a lot of Macs is vulnerable to attacks, and the issues are “unfixable”. Apple hasn’t commented on this, but I think they will have no choice but to comment now seeing as proof of a zero interaction attack has surfaced. A group calling itself the T2 Exploit Team has demonstrated a way to do so without user intervention using a modified USB-C cable:

A second video proves that it succeeded by modifying the Apple logo seen during startup.

You can read the blog post here that has additional details. But this is now a very serious problem for Apple. The fact that they can pwn a Mac without user intervention, and that info is basically available means that no Mac using a T2 chip is safe. Apple needs to respond to this to detail how they are going to protect their Mac user base from this attack as Apple’s usual strategy of silence isn’t going to work this time.

Apple’s T2 Security Chip Has An “Unfixable” Flaw That Can Lead To Pwnage

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 12, 2020 by itnerd

A recently released tool is letting anyone exploit an unusual Mac vulnerability to bypass Apple’s trusted T2 security chip and gain deep system access. The flaw is one researchers have also been using for more than a year to jailbreak older models of iPhones. But the fact that the T2 chip is vulnerable in the same way creates a new host of potential threats. Worst of all, while Apple may be able to slow down potential hackers, the flaw is ultimately “unfixable” in every Mac that has a T2 inside. 

In general, the jailbreak community haven’t paid as much attention to macOS and OS X as it has iOS, because they don’t have the same restrictions and walled gardens that are built into Apple’s mobile ecosystem. But the T2 chip, launched in 2017, created some limitations and mysteries. Apple added the chip as a trusted mechanism for securing high-value features like encrypted data storage, Touch ID, and Activation Lock, which works with Apple’s “Find My” services. But the T2 also contains a vulnerability, known as Checkm8, that jailbreakers have already been exploiting in Apple’s A5 through A11 (2011 to 2017) mobile chipsets. Now Checkra1n, the same group that developed the tool for iOS, has released support for T2 bypass.

On Macs, the jailbreak allows researchers to probe the T2 chip and explore its security features. It can even be used to run Linux on the T2 or play Doom on a MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. The jailbreak could also be weaponized by malicious hackers, though, to disable macOS security features like System Integrity Protection and Secure Boot and install malware. Combined with another T2 vulnerability that was publicly disclosed in July by the Chinese security research and jailbreaking group Pangu Team, the jailbreak could also potentially be used to obtain FileVault encryption keys and to decrypt user data. The vulnerability is unpatchable, because the flaw is in low-level, unchangeable code for hardware. “The T2 is meant to be this little secure black box in Macs — a computer inside your computer, handling things like Lost Mode enforcement, integrity checking, and other privileged duties,” says Will Strafach, a longtime iOS researcher and creator of the Guardian Firewall app for iOS. “So the significance is that this chip was supposed to be harder to compromise — but now it’s been done.”

Now let me point out one key thing. You have to have physical access to a USB port on the Mac in question. Which means that the way to avoid this is to not let anyone touch your Mac. But that might be a problem in a environment like customs at an airport. Especially in countries that isn’t exactly known for respecting human rights.

It will be interesting to see Apple’s response to this as the T2 chip is a big marketing point in terms of advancing the narrative that Macs are secure. And that’s key for enterprise customers that Apple wants to attract. In my mind, Apple needs to respond to this report and speak to what if anything they are going to do about it.