Archive for Apple

Review: Apple 2021 MacBook Pro 16″ – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on November 3, 2021 by itnerd

If you saw the first part of my review of my new 2021 16″ MacBook Pro, I found it to be very powerful with a retro vibe to it. But how does it perform in the real world? Let’s start with battery life. This is a very individual thing based on how you use a notebook. In my case, I devised a test that fits my work pattern.

  • Disable the ability for the screen to go to sleep.
  • Connect to a VPN to maintain a constant network connection.
  • Unplug the MacBook Pro and use it as I normally would when I work from home.

This started at 8:02 AM. Except for lunch and some breaks, I was constantly using it. I watched a few videos on YouTube for mental breaks, I used the VPN to work on a client’s network. I also did my video export test. More on that later. And I did the usual surfing and answering email. At least until I got a low battery prompt at 8:17 PM.

That’s 12 hours and 15 minutes. And I likely could have got another 45 minutes to hour out of it. While this is not the 21 hours that Apple came up with in a high unrealistic and contrived video playback test, it is close to the 14 hours of web browsing that Apple promises in that highly unrealistic and contrived test. Regardless, this 100 watt-hour gives this MacBook Pro legitimate all day battery life. Or put another way, It’s a flight from Toronto to Hawaii with at least 2 hours of power left over. That was pretty impressive. So was charging. Apple claims that you can get a charge of 50% in 30 minutes. And I watched it charge that fast. That was pretty impressive as well.

Now over to that video export test. Using iMovie, I strung together two 4K 60 FPS HDR clips lasting 30 seconds with a 1080P 60 FPS clip and exported it to both Pro Res and MP4 format. Both in best quality. Here were the results:

MP4: 1:04

Pro Res: 15.97 seconds

Pro Res exports way quicker because Apple put dedicated Pro Res encoders and decoders on the M1 Pro. And if you get the M1 Max, you get two of these. Which means that if you’re a video editor and your workflow includes Pro Res, you simply should buy these machines without question. Another note, if I did this on my 2015 MacBook Pro with an Intel processor, it would have taken up to 10 minutes, and the fans would have spun up to jet engine loudness and the notebook would have gotten hot to the touch. On this M1 Pro MacBook Pro, the fans never spun up and the notebook remained cool. Actually, now that I think about it, I have never heard the fans spin up the entire time I have had this MacBook Pro.

Now over to the screen. It’s what Apple calls a Liquid Retina XDR display. The best way to describe it is that it is a scaled down version of the Pro Display XDR. It is an excellent screen and you will have a hard time running this MacBook Pro with any external monitor if you have it in clamshell mode as no monitor will measure up to this display. It also comes with ProMotion which ramps the display rate from 120 Hz down to 24 Hz depending on what you are doing. This balances having a great looking and fluid display with battery life. And it works. Switching between full screen apps to a normal desktop was insanely smooth. Scrolling web pages is smooth.

That leads me to the notch. Now when you see the notch, you’re seeing it in a 16:10 display. But if you watch video in full screen (which if it’s a HDR video will be a treat), or use a full screen app, you get a 16:9 screen with a black bar at the top. But honestly, it’s mostly a non factor as you will get used to it very quickly. I say mostly because if you have a lot of menu items or you use something like iStat Menus, there is the chance that some of the menu items will go behind the notch. Hopefully that behaviour gets fixed as I would expect things to go around the notch and not through the notch. Though if this really bugs you, there are apps that can address this. Having said that the trade off is that you get insanely thin bezels which I welcome as I get more screen real estate (16.2″ to be precise) as a result. That’s more than the previous 16″ MacBook Pro.

Inside that notch is a long overdue 1080P webcam. Thanks to the image signal processor and a new four-element lens, a and wider aperture you get much better video for your Zoom or Teams calls. Even in lower light conditions. And no, there is no Face ID. Apple claims that the fingerprint sensor is more convenient for users. But I would not at all be shocked that Face ID makes an appearance in the next year or two. Speaking of the keyboard, it’s fantastic. I love the feel and the amount of travel. And the removal of the Touch Bar, which Apple introduced and really didn’t give developers a reason to adopt, and almost no end user liked, in favour of function keys is welcome. I should note that the escape key is bigger as well. And the blacked out look is sweet.

MagSafe makes a welcome return to the MacBook Pro. It’s a connector that magnetically attaches to the laptop’s power adapter port, and it breaks away if you give it a good tug. It’s a great safety feature that I really missed, especially as someone who has tripped over the plugged-in cable more than a few times. Another nice touch is that the included USB-C to MagSafe cable is braided, so it’s a bit more durable than the regular vinyl it uses on its other cables. Though I will warn you that if you need to replace it or get a spare, it will be pricy. I should note the MacBook Pro can still charge via USB-C if that works better for you.

Next there’s the speakers. The new sound system with six speakers is currently the best system you can get in a mobile device, Period. You can enjoy a very rich and powerful sound, and only a real subwoofer would be an additional improvement. The MacBook also supports 3D audio if that’s your thing. As for that headphone jack, if you’re an audio professional you can leverage this for your high impedance headphones. And Apple nailed this as those headphones are loud. Oh yeah, Apple calls the microphones “studio quality”. I wouldn’t go that far, but they do work very well in a pinch if you don’t have a microphone or a pair of AirPods Pro handy for a Zoom call.

Finally, this MacBook Pro feels solid and while it is heavier than some of its competition, it’s not a deal breaker. It’s also a bit bulky, but that too isn’t a deal breaker.

So let’s get to the bottom line. Who is this MacBook Pro for? Well, should you be able to utilize the additional performance for video editing or anything that graphics heavy, this is the notebook to get. And if you need even more performance, there’s always the M1 Max processor. If however if you simply check your email and surf the Internet, this machine is total overkill for you. It is a really impressive laptop, despite some minor quirks and issues. And the fact that you can get it in a 14″ model as well as the 16″ model that I have really gives it a lot of flexibility. The 14″ model starts at $2499 CDN. the 16″ model starts at $3149. My 16″ MacBook Pro with 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and an M1 Pro processor comes in at $3899. And you should get AppleCare as repairs to this MacBook Pro will likely not be inexpensive. It’s not cheap, but if you can fully utilize what it is capable of, it’s worth it.

Review: Apple 2021 MacBook Pro 16″ – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on November 2, 2021 by itnerd

October 27 2016 is a day that will live in infamy for many Mac users. That’s the day that Apple announced the 2016 MacBook Pro. That would be the one that ditched things like the HDMI port and SD card slot for USB-C everything. Forcing everyone to buy a dongle for every function that they needed. It was also the one that introduced the butterfly keyboard. The one that was horrifically unreliable. And it introduced the TouchBar, and deleted real function keys. Those along with other changes made Apple users irate. Some even abandoned the platform for Windows laptops that gave them what they wanted. And it seemed that Apple didn’t care as they kept sticking with all of these changes. Though they eventually did back away slowly from the butterfly keyboard in 2019 when the costs of failed keyboards and class action lawsuits from ticked off Apple users started to add up. It also likely didn’t help that people like me kept their 2015 MacBook Pros that didn’t have these flaws and also said 2015 MacBook Pros increased in value because it was thought of as the last good Apple MacBook Pro. That must have cost Apple a few bucks over the years.

That changed earlier this month when Apple released the 2021 MacBook Pro. You might call this the apology MacBook Pro as it is the closest thing that you will get to Apple apologizing for angering pro users. But there’s more than that. It’s also a MacBook Pro that kills anything with an Intel processor.

Now this review will be split up into two parts. Today, I’ll be looking at the design and feature set of the MacBook Pro, along with doing some benchmarking. Part 2 of this review will have some observations after using it for a few days, and some final thoughts. But first let’s get to the MacBook Pro that I have. The MacBook Pro comes in two screen sizes. 14″ and 16″. It also comes with two processors. The M1 Pro and the M1 Max. I explain the differences between the two processors here. But with that framing the discussion, here’s what I ordered less than ten minutes after the end of the Apple event that announced these machines:

  • 16” MacBook Pro
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 1TB storage
  • 32GB of RAM

Why did I go with this configuration? There’s a handful of reasons why I went this rout: 

  • Both the M1 Pro and the M1 Max utterly destroy almost anything with an Intel processor. More on that in a bit. But I don’t have a reason to use the power that the M1 Max is capable of. Specifically, video editing in ProRes. Nor do I render graphics on a regular basis. So I went with the M1 Pro.
  • I have 512 GB of storage in my Intel MacBook Pro. And I have only filled 55% of it. So 1TB is more than enough for me. 
  • I have 16GB of RAM in my Intel MacBook Pro. Thus 32GB of RAM is more than enough for me.

And Apple made the unboxing experience interesting:

The UPS guy dropped of this box to me. There’s a pull tab in the middle which you have yank on:

From there the box unfolds to reveal your rather expensive purchase:

Now this is where I start to criticize Apple. It’s wrapped up in plastic. For a company that claims to care about the environment, and made a big deal of removing the plastic from the packaging of the iPhone 13, why wrap this MacBook Pro in plastic? Surely they could have come up with some other way to seal the box? It really makes their environmental efforts look like greenwashing.

End of rant.

Pull the tab at the top of the box to easily remove the plastic wrapping that will be in a landfill site shortly. You can then open the box to see this:

You get to see your new MacBook Pro wrapped in some sort of wax paper like wrapping. I’m going to put that to the side for a second so that you can see what else in the box.

At the top you get your usual books. To quote Flossy Carter, pluck them and file them to the side, but not before getting these out:

Black Apple stickers instead of white ones that are usually included. I guess nothing says pro like black Apple stickers.

There’s a 140W GaN charger that can be used to charge the 100 watt-hour battery (Fun fact: It’s the largest battery that you can put in a notebook and legally take onto an airplane) to 50% in 30 minutes.

It also comes with a woven detachable cable that has USB-C at one end and MagSafe at the other. Yes, this comes with MagSafe. While you can charge via USB-C, which was the only charging option on the 2016 MacBook Pro, MagSafe which is a magnetic connection that detaches under force allows you to charge and protect yourself from tripping over the cable. Which in turn would send your notebook flying. That’s the first part of Apple walking back changes that angered it’s user base. Here’s another:

Apple brought back the HDMI port as well as the SD card slot. And you get a USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 port. But I will point out that the HDMI port is HDMI 2.0 which maxes out at 4K 60 FPS instead of HDMI 2.1 which support 8K 120 FPS or higher. And the SD card slot is a UHS-II slot with a theoretical maximum transfer speed up to 312MB/s and not the faster UHS-III with a theoretical maximum transfer speed up to 624MB/s. So are you getting cutting edge stuff? No. But it is more than serviceable.

On the other side you get two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. The MagSafe connector, and a high impedance headphone port which you can use with high quality headsets that are often used by audio engineers. I’ll give Apple points for that.

One other thing that I’d like to point out. During the Apple event where this MacBook Pro was announced, Apple said this:

The only reason why this MacBook Pro has the most advanced connectivity in a Mac notebook ever is because Apple took all the ports away from users in 2016 forcing them to live “the dongle life” only to put those ports back now.

Yes I am still salty about that. I bet so are many others. But I digress.

Here’s what the MacBook Pro looks like fully set up:

I’ll cover some quick items here:

  • About that notch. I noticed it when I first powered it on and then stopped caring after about an hour. It’s a total non factor for me.
  • The screen is outstanding as it is bright when playing back HDR content, it’s sharp, and everything looks stunning. You can thank the mini LED display which Apple calls a “Liquid Retina XDR” display. In short, it’s basically a scaled down version of the Pro Display XDR which you might remember as Apple’s $5000 USD monitor with a $1000 stand. It also comes with a ProMotion 120Hz display which is buttery smooth. Once you notice how smooth this display is, you won’t go back to a 60Hz display.
  • The Magic Keyboard is fantastic! As someone who learned to type on a typewriter back in the Stone Age, I love the tactile feedback that it provides. Not to mention that I get full sized function keys and a larger escape key instead of that Touch Bar that really was not useful to anyone. The backlighting of the keys is totally on point as it has the right brightness regardless of the lighting conditions in the room.
  • The Force Touch trackpad is the usual Apple feel and size and the haptics (seeing as the keypad doesn’t actually move) are top shelf, so no complaints there.
  • The speakers are simply the best speakers that I have ever heard in a notebook. Windows, Mac, anything. Any piece of music that I tossed at it sounded crisp, clear, well balanced without any distortion.
  • A lot has been made about the weight. I don’t find this to be heavy as it’s not any heavier than my 2015 MacBook Pro. Though if you have newer MacBook Pro, I can see how you would find this to be heavier that you are used to.
  • The venting that this MacBook Pro has is insane. Besides a vent on each side, there’s a massive vent below the screen. There’s seriously no excuse for this notebook not to keep cool. The large feet also help with keeping the MacBook Pro cool. And so far, I have not heard the fans. But I haven’t really pushed this machine yet.
  • The aluminum chassis being squared off really gives off a early MacBook Pro or even perhaps a PowerBook vibe to it.
  • I haven’t fully tested the 1080p webcam which replaces the rather craptastic 720p webcam that Apple had been including for years. But early tests show that the quality is great.

I’ll refine those items for part two of this review, but the real question that you have is how fast is this machine? Let’s head over to Geekbench and find out:

Well, those are some interesting numbers, but what do they mean relative to other Macs. Here’s a list of the fastest single-core scores that Geekbench has recorded:

In single core performance, it’s the fastest Mac out there. Which means for simple tasks like checking your email or surfing the web, this machine is going to be fast. And here’s a list of the fastest multi-core scores that Geekbench has recorded:

Well, this MacBook Pro plays in the same space as iMac Pro and MacPro models. That’s not bad company to be in. Which means that if your job involves doing things that require a fast machine, the MacBook Pro is up to it. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s the graphics performance in OpenCL to be considered:

And here’s how that score stacks up to the fastest graphics cards around:

Okay. At the top end of the food chain, the MacBook Pro isn’t in the same league. But if you compare it to cards that have a similar score, you’ll notice something:

A lot of these cards have been used in Macs before. So while the MacBook Pro is not the out and out fastest, it isn’t too shabby either. Now here’s the disk performance via BlackMagic’s disk speed test:

The disk read and write speeds are insane. What this means is that any disk intensive operations such as editing 4K or 8K video is a total non-issue.

At this point, the next thing for me is to use this MacBook Pro for a few days so I can get a feel for overall feel, battery life, and the like. Then I can provide my final thoughts about this new MacBook Pro. Stay tuned for that.

macOS Monterey Seems To Be Leaking Memory

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 2, 2021 by itnerd

Normally I don’t upgrade to the latest version of macOS as I tend to wait until all the bugs are ironed out. But that’s not an option as I am currently using a new MacBook Pro that comes with macOS Monterey out of the box. And sure enough, there is a major problem with macOS Monterey. It seems to be leaking memory.

First, let me explain what a memory leak is. This is a scenario in which a specific process or application consumes abnormally high amounts of memory or RAM if left running for a very long time. And that’s what I am seeing. Here’s a screen shot from iStat Menus after running my new MacBook Pro for about a day:

If you look under processes, Control Center is consuming a lot of memory. And that’s not normal based on comparing it to a Mac running an earlier versions of macOS. Other users are also sharing similar experiences on the MacRumors Forums and Reddit. Including YouTuber Gregory McFadden:

On top of that, users have seen a pop up that says an application has “run out of application memory”. Clearly this is a huge problem and Apple needs to fix this ASAP as this is not trivial and will become a major problem for many.

Are You Confused About The New MacBook Pro Models? Let Me Help You With That….

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 19, 2021 by itnerd

Yesterday, Apple released new 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pros. But I’ve been flooded with questions as to which one people should get. Well, the answer is really simpler than you think. Let’s start with the processor. Both of them come with M1 Pro processors with the option of the M1 Max processor. Here’s the differences between the two:

M1 Pro chip

  • Up to 10-core CPU with 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores
  • Up to 16-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 200GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
  • Video decode engine 
  • Video encode engine 
  • ProRes encode and decode engine

M1 Max chip

  • 10-core CPU with 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores
  • Up to 32-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 400GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
  • Video decode engine
  • Two video encode engines
  • Two ProRes encode and decode engines

Now you will note in the M1 Pro chip, it says “Up to 10-core CPU” and “Up to 16-core GPU”. That’s because apple has a 14″ model that has a 8-core CPU and a 14-core GPU. So if you’re in the market for a 14″ model, and if you aren’t a power user, or you need to save some cash, that’s the one you should get. Otherwise, I would suggest that you skip that model and go straight to the 10-core CPU model with 16-GPU cores.

Another thing to point out is that these new MacBook Pros max out at 64 GB of RAM. But only if you go with the M1 Max processor. For most people 16GB or 32GB of RAM will do you fine. One thing that is super important to point out is that you cannot upgrade the RAM later. So if you think you need 16GB of RAM, consider getting 32GB. If you think you need 32GB, consider getting 64GB. It’s better to have too much RAM rather than outgrow the machine because you don’t have enough RAM.

Finally, the M1 Max processor is clearly aimed at people who edit video or do GPU intensive tasks. I say that because it has the following:

  • Up to 32-core GPU
  • Two video encode engines
  • Two ProRes encode and decode engines

That will make editing ProRes video in an app like Final Cut insanely fast. If that’s not you, stick with the M1 Pro processor.

Other than that, the rest of it is the same. Mostly. Here’s what is the same, starting with the display:

  • mini-LED backlit display with ProMotion 120Hz and HDR support
  • Up to 1000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness, 1600 nits peak brightness
  • Wide colour (P3)
  • True Tone
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera with advanced image signal processor with computational video

So when it comes to the display, you’re really only choosing between 14″ and 16″ screen sizes. You get the same speakers, ports, speakers, 802.11 ax/WiFi-6, and the rest of it. Where you start to see a difference is the battery and power adapters. For the 14″:

  • 70-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • 67W USB-C Power Adapter (included with M1 Pro with 8-core CPU) 
  • 96W USB-C Power Adapter (included with M1 Pro with 10-core CPU or M1 Max, configurable with M1 Pro with 8-core CPU)

For the 16″:

  • 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • 140W USB-C Power Adapter

You can’t really do much of anything in terms of configuring what power adapter and battery you get. The choice of CPU governs what battery and power adapter that you get.

Now let’s talk about storage. You can configure these MacBook Pros with up to 8TB of storage. That’s total overkill. Most people don’t need anything more than 2TB, typically 1TB.

Apple included an HDMI port. But it is an HDMI 2.0 port instead of an HDMI 2.1 port. Why does that matter? The HDMI 2.0 port supports a single 4K display with a resolution of up to 60Hz. HDMI 2.1 technology would have allowed the port to run a 4K display with a 120Hz refresh rate. But Apple didn’t go there for reasons I don’t understand. Also you should note the display connectivity options depending on which processor you go with:

  • You can connect up to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV with the M1 Max.
  • You can connect up to two Pro Display XDRs with the M1 Pro.

If you need the ability to connect a lot of monitors, choose accordingly. And plan on using Thunderbolt for your advanced display needs.

Finally, if you look at the weight of the 16″ MacBook Pro, the weight of the M1 Pro model is 0.1 Kg lighter than the weight of the M1 Max model. No clue why that is. I am guessing that it is related to thermals in the form of different fans for the M1 Max model. But I guess I’ll have to wait until iFixit takes them apart to find out.

So, I did order a MacBook Pro seconds after the Apple Event ended on Monday. Here’s what I got:

  • 16” MacBook Pro
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 1TB storage
  • 32GB of RAM

Why did I go with this configuration? There’s a handful of reasons:

  • Both the M1 Pro and the M1 Max utterly destroy almost anything with an Intel processor when it comes to speed while sucking less power. But I don’t have a reason to use the power that the M1 Max is capable of. So I went with the M1 Pro as it will run circles around the Intel based MacBook Pro that I presently own.
  • I have 512 GB of storage in my current MacBook Pro. And I have only filled 55% of it. So 1TB is more than enough for me.
  • I have 16GB of RAM in my current MacBook Pro. Thus 32GB of RAM is more than enough for me.
  • I only connect one display/projector to my MacBook.

In short, it’s still a significant jump in performance despite the fact that I didn’t get the fully spec’ed model.

Hopefully this article helps you out. If you still need help choosing a new MacBook Pro, drop me a note or leave a comment and I will help you out as best as I can.

UPDATE: Reading the fine print some more, I noted that to use the fast charge feature that charges the battery to 50% in 30 minutes REQUIRES a 96W or higher charger. So if you want that feature on the 14″ MacBook Pro, you either need to upgrade to the 96W charger, or you need to not buy the base model, or you need to upgrade the RAM, CPU, or SSD and you will get the 96W charger thrown into the deal.

Which Apple Watch Should You Buy? Deciding Between The Series 3, SE, or Series 7.

Posted in Tips with tags on October 13, 2021 by itnerd

This Friday marks the release of the Apple Watch Series 7. That has sparked a number of inquiries into my inbox as to which Apple Watch that one should get. Hopefully this article can help you in deciding which one you should get.

Let’s start at the top. Apple has three Apple Watches on offer: 

  • The Apple Watch Series 7
  • The Apple Watch SE
  • The Apple Watch Series 3

Buying the Apple Watch Series 3 is a complete waste of your money if you are in the market for an Apple Watch. Why you ask? Here’s the reasons why I would avoid it like it is radioactive:

  • It has an S3 processor which is a 32-bit processor. It’s also the last 32-bit processor that Apple supports. Which means it’s not long for this world. It is entirely likely that in the next year or two that Apple will drop support for it. After all, they dropped support for anything below the Series 3 in watchOS 7. 
  • Not only that, the Series 3 is not all that fast. Though I will admit that if you have never had an Apple Watch, you won’t know what you’re missing.
  • The Series 3 doesn’t support Apple’s Family Sharing feature. That’s the feature that allows you to activate and manage an Apple Watch without the person on the receiving end of that Apple Watch needing an iPhone. As long as the Apple Watch in question is a cellular model.
  • The Series 3 lacks ECG functionality and fall detection functionality that is found in the SE and Series 7, and the blood oxygen monitoring that is exclusive to the Series 7.

For those reasons, I’d avoid the Series 3. That leaves the SE and Series 7. Here’s what I think of those two options:

  • If you’re price sensitive and you don’t care about the always on display and you don’t care about blood oxygen monitoring, the SE is for you.
  • The SE is also a great choice to give a child or a parent or grandparent an Apple Watch as you can leverage the Family Sharing feature at a lower price point.
  • If however you want “the new hotness” of the most recent Apple Watch, or you want the option of getting a titanium or stainless steel case which the SE does not offer, or the 20% bigger screen versus the SE interests you, then the Apple Watch Series 7 is for you. Not to mention that the Series 7 is also noticeably faster than the SE.

You can’t really go wrong either way as both options will be supported for Apple for years to come. It’s just a matter of deciding what features you want and how much you’re willing to spend to get them.

Hopefully that helps you to decide what Apple Watch to get. But if you’re still having a hard time deciding, drop me a note or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Review: iPhone 13

Posted in Products with tags on October 12, 2021 by itnerd

My wife got a new iPhone 13 to replace her iPhone XR. Now my wife doesn’t usually replace tech unless she is forced to. So I did the forcing by buying her the iPhone 13 as an early Christmas present. And after having her spend two weeks with it, I have some interesting observations to report.

In the box you get a USB-C to Lightning cable, SIM ejector tool, paperwork, and a single Apple sticker. I should note that it is not color matched with the phone. And for the second year in a row there’s no AC adapter in the box. There’s no use complaining about that now as clearly Apple is making you buy their adapter so that they can line their pockets with more cash. But that’s the cynic in me talking. And if you do need an adapter, there are other options like this one that you can get instead. You also get no plastic wrap around the box. Now the lack of a plastic wrap and the lack of an AC adapter in the box are according to Apple in the name protecting the environment. But seeing as that the iPhone 13 is not only not easy to repair, and the fact that Apple has attempted to dissuade repairs outright by making parts swaps impossible for non-Apple repair shops, on top of the fact that Apple is hyper aggressive about fighting right to repair laws, it’s hard to take their environmental claims seriously. In fact, I would call what Apple is doing “greenwashing”. But I digress. Back to the iPhone 13.

Here’s a look at the phone itself:

This is the Product Red version. My wife calls it a “proper” red because it not only is a deep red, but it aligns with her cultural values as to what red should look like. You’ll note that it still looks like an iPhone 12 and it still has a Lightning port. Everything else is pretty much the same. Though I would note that it is a bit thicker, a bit heavier, the buttons have been shifted slightly, and the camera bump is bigger. All of this is enough that your iPhone 12 case won’t work with it. The chassis is a glass front and back, with a aluminum band around the side. The screen has Apple’s “Ceramic Shield” tech on it to stop it from shattering if dropped. Though that should not stop you from putting a screen protector on it like this one as it will protect the screen from scratches at the very least as “Ceramic Shield” won’t help you with that as shatter resistance is inversely proportional to scratch resistance. Nor should it stop you from putting it in a case like this one as there is no “Ceramic Shield” on the back which means that the back will shatter if you drop it.

The screen is a 6.1″ OLED screen which significant upgrade over the LCD screen that was on my wife’s iPhone XR and even last year’s iPhone 12. It’s 2,532-by-1,170-pixel with a wide color gamut and Apple’s True Tone color management. Typical brightness is now 800cd/m2 as compared with 625cd/m2 on the iPhone 12. One of the differences between this iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro models is that the 13 has a 60Hz display, while the Pro phones have 120Hz displays. If you’ve never experienced a 120Hz display, this won’t be a big deal. In the case of my wife, she’s never had a 120Hz screen before. So the fact that this is a 60Hz screen is a total non issue for her. And Apple has tended to make the most fluid and smooth 60Hz phones around. So I suspect that this screen will be fine for most.

The new iPhones has a notch at the top that is 20% smaller from side to side. But a bit wider. Sadly, Apple didn’t see fit to add any additional information at the top of the screen seeing as they had more real estate to play with. Would it have killed them to add a battery indicator for example? I don’t think so. This is a missed opportunity as far as I am concerned.

The display is very easy to read in most lighting conditions including bright sunlight. The iPhone 13 is capable of HDR playback. And the test videos that I played on it looked stunning. If that’s not enough, the iPhone 13 is also capable of recording Dolby Vision HDR in 4k60, which is mind blowing considering that this is a phone and not a cinema quality video camera. To illustrate this, I recorded a pair of videos. One on my iPhone 12 Pro and one on my wife’s iPhone 13. Here’s the iPhone 12 Pro video:

Now here’s the iPhone 13 video:

There’s very little in it between the two iPhones. But I think that the iPhone 13 is a bit smoother despite all the shaking. That’s like due to the fact that the iPhone 13 has in body image stabilization from the iPhone 12 Pro Max from last year. I also think that the contrast is slightly better in the iPhone 13 video. Likely due to the improvements in the camera system.

Speaking of cameras, the iPhone 13 has two 12-megapixel cameras on the back:

  • A main f/1.6 camera
  • A 120-degree ultra-wide f/2.4 lens.
  • On the front, there’s a 12-megapixel camera with depth mapping sensors for Face ID and augmented reality.

The main place you will notice the difference is low light or at night. Take for example this iPhone 12 Pro shot:

Note the flaring in a couple of places. Notably the building on the left and the light in the center of the picture. That is a common occurrence on the iPhone 12 Pro. Compare that with the iPhone 13 shot:

Because the iPhone 13 cameras let in more light because their bigger lenses (relative to the iPhone 12), you get a much better photo at night or in low light. The same thing is true for more favorable lighting conditions. Take this photo that was taken with the iPhone 12 Pro:

There’s noting wrong with this picture per se. But compare it with the same shot with the iPhone 13:

There’s a lot more contrast in this picture and the picture “pops” a lot more. Even in ideal lighting conditions, this is true. Again, this is the iPhone 12 Pro:

And this is the iPhone 13

In short, Apple has made the cameras much better. Especially if you are coming from an older iPhone or perhaps even one from last year in this case. Thus if you want a great camera system outside of the iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max which has a telephoto lens and other camera tweaks, this is it.

In terms of speed, the iPhone 13 gets the A15 Bionic processor. Benchmark tests say it is up to 20% faster. You won’t notice the difference unless you are coming from a much older phone like the XR. But it does power a bunch of new features that the iPhone 13 introduces. Specifically two. The first is Photographic Styles which are basically like iPhone photo preferences that are baked into the photos that you take. Which put another way, once you take the photo you can’t change it after the fact. So it’s not a filter but a preferred look that you want your photos to have. You can adjust the tone and warmth of each style to suit your preferences and tastes. These stylistic effects won’t affect the skin tones of people in your photos. There are four preset Photographic Styles:

  • Rich Contrast
  • Vibrant
  • Warm
  • Cool.

And you can also create your own. I suspect that most people won’t touch this feature unless they want to tweak their photos to look like what you get with a Samsung or Pixel phone for example.

The last new feature is Cinematic Mode. Cinematic Mode is designed to act like a virtual focus puller. This is someone who might work alongside a camera operator, ensuring that the right parts of the picture are in focus, and perfectly sharp. Except that the iPhone itself is able to focus on faces and blur out the rest of the background. If there are multiple people in the shot, it will focus on the closest person. If that person looks away, it will focus on the next closest person. And you can edit this effect after the fact, but only if you use Apple made editing software just in case the iPhone gets it wrong. For me this is a bit of a party trick that is likely to be used once, but never to be used again. But in the interest of science, I tested it and here’s the video proof.

Because the figurine was the only thing in the shot, it was basically video portrait mode. And it’s limited to 1080p and not 4K. While it’s better than the attempt that Samsung made at doing this a couple of years back, It’s far from a must use feature for my wife and I personally consider it to be version 1.0 of this feature. Maybe it will be different in a few years and a few revisions from now.

The iPhone 13 has better 5G connectivity versus the iPhone 13 thanks to updated tech from Qualcomm. My wife and I tested this by running a few Speedtest.net tests from our balcony on the TELUS network. Here’s my iPhone 12 Pro:

And here’s the iPhone 13:

While the downstream speed is somewhat slower on the iPhone 13, the upstream speed is somewhat faster. This was a repeatable result and I am guessing that Apple is trying to balance downstream and upstream speed to give you a more consistent 5G experience. 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 that they ported over from the iPhone 12 series.

Speaking of Battery life, it’s insane according to my wife. Here’s a few examples of her usage over a few days:

On this day she got almost 8 hours of battery life and didn’t even use 50% of her battery.

On this day she had just over 7 hours of battery life using just over 50% of her battery.

She also used the phone on 7 hours on this day with roughly 50% of the battery life used. These examples pretty much destroy the battery life on her previous iPhone XR. So when Apple said that they improved battery life, they meant it. You will get much better battery life by going to the iPhone 13 versus any older iPhone.

So, should you buy the iPhone 13? Well, let’s start with why you might want to consider the iPhone 13 Pro instead: 

  • If you want better photo quality because of the telephoto lens and other camera enhancements found in the iPhone 13 Pro, then the iPhone 13 Pro would be worth it. 
  • If you want to leverage the upcoming ProRes video format from Apple, then the iPhone 13 Pro is worth it.
  • If having 2GB extra RAM over the iPhone 13 which comes with 4GB of RAM is worth it to you, then buy the iPhone 13 Pro. 
  • If you want a bigger screen, then the iPhone 13 Pro Max is your only choice.

However, if you want pretty good photos, and you are coming from an older iPhone like a iPhone X, XR, or XS or earlier, then this iPhone 13 is the one to go with. Here in Canada the iPhone starts at $1099 CDN with 128GB. My wife 256GB version was $1239 CDN, but if you can get 512GB for $1509. My recommendation would be to choose 128GB or 256GB as those are the best values. I’d also recommend AppleCare+ which is $199 CDN as fixing any iPhone out of warranty is not cheap.

The iPhone 13 is a great iPhone which is a great upgrade from last year’s iPhone 12, and one that I would recommend to most people. Just make sure that your bank account can support the purchase as it isn’t cheap.

Apple Wants A Flawless Victory In The Epic Games Fight

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 11, 2021 by itnerd

The title was a reference to the video game Mortal Kombat where if you beat an opponent without getting hit once, you earn a “flawless victory.” That’s now what Apple is looking for as it seems like it wasn’t enough that Apple largely won the lawsuit against Epic games. It wants a “flawless victory”:

On Friday night, Apple announced it would ask for a stay on a judge’s September order saying Apple would have to allow apps to direct customers to external websites. That ruling would let app businesses circumvent Apple’s requirement to facilitate payments only inside of apps, where Apple takes up to a 30% cut. Apple is also appealing the ruling. Because Epic Games is also appealing the nine counts it lost, it could take years before the case is resolved and Apple is forced to make any changes to iOS, the operating system for iPhones, as the two companies wrangle through the appeals process in court. The judge is expected to rule on Apple’s request for a stay next month.

Apple’s move is a surprising turnaround from its tone following the decision in September. While the company always left open the possibility of an appeal, it portrayed the judge’s ruling as a resounding legal win for its App Store business model, which has come under fire from technology rivals, international regulators and members of the U.S. Congress. “We are very pleased with the Court’s ruling and we consider this a huge win for Apple,” Kate Adams, Apple’s lawyer, said in September following the ruling. The Friday night announcement inspired a torrent of commentary from Apple critics. They pointed out the move would preserve Apple’s App Store profits by preventing apps from using alternative payment systems. One company announced last week that it was already working on a cheaper, web-based alternative to Apple’s app payments — a move made possible only by the ruling that Apple is now appealing.

Keep in mind that Apple lost one count in the Epic Games lawsuit and it was insanely trivial. Epic Games on the other hand got destroyed and it’s little wonder that they almost instantly appealed.

Having said that. though I am not a lawyer Apple raises some very interesting legal points. It seems to me a big part of the Apple argument is based on a legal principle that a court can only resolve an issue brought before it. In this case, the injured party which is Epic Games must show a harm to be remedied. Epic Games did not establish the harm that the judge’s ruling specifically addresses. So Apple is asking the trial judge to reconsider. But more importantly, I’d expect Apple to raise the same arguments much more strongly in the appeal that will ultimately be filed.

iOS 15.0.1 Has A Storage Related Bug…. Just After Apple Claims They Claimed They Fixed ANOTHER Storage Related Bug

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 1, 2021 by itnerd

In the lead up to releasing iOS 15 as well as after its public release, many people complained that their iPhones running iOS 15 were misreporting the amount of storage that their iPhones had. Specifically it would mis-report the amount of free storage that you had. Specially it would claim that you were out of storage when you actually weren’t. The good news is that this was fixed in an iOS 15 update that was released today.

The bad news is that iOS 15.0.1 which is the update in question seems to have introduced a new bug where the amount of used storage would be massively under reported. Let me illustrate this:

Supposedly I have used 1.7 GB of storage. But that makes zero sense seeing as I have 10 GB of music on my iPhone. Not to mention that I have other stuff that is taking up gigabytes of space. The funny thing is that Apple in their release notes had this to say about the original storage bug in the second of the three bullet points:

My guess is that Apple either didn’t fix that bug properly, or they did fix it and introduce a new bug in the process. Either way, Apple’s shoddy QA department strikes again.

I reported this to Apple via Twitter:

To Apple’s credit, they did respond and asked me to reboot the phone and see if the behavior changed. It didn’t. So they set up a troubleshooting session tomorrow at 9AM EST. Which I think will be a waste of time for me as this is clearly a bug that their tech support people aren’t going to be able to solve. But it won’t be a waste of time for them as they’ll be able to pull all sorts of diagnostic information off my phone to hopefully figure this out in time for iOS 15.0.2 or perhaps 15.1 which is in beta at the moment. I’ll update this story as to what happens.

And to underline the fact that this is a bug, I got a response on Twitter illustrating that I am not alone in seeing this:

Now this is a low impact bug, but it underscores just how bad Apple’s ability to put out reasonably solid software has been for a while now. Just look at these stories that I’ve written over the last few years about how their QA department lets them down. And in this case, if they can’t get the small stuff right, how can you trust Apple to get the big stuff right? Tim Cook needs to focus less on buying mansions with celebrity neighbors and start smacking heads so that Apple puts out better code. Because right now it’s just downright embarrassing.

UPDATE: Much as I thought, speaking to Apple this morning was a waste of time. They told me that the fix to this is to erase the phone and set up as new. In short, this isn’t a bug that their front line support either knows about, or will admit to. I’m not going to do that as that was the suggestion for people who had the unlock with Apple Watch issue and they fixed that in this update that hit the streets yesterday. So I fully expect Apple to come out another update to try and fix this issue.

On a related topic, you have to wonder if Apple is really paying attention to the world outside their “reality distortion field”? I say that because it took me about 30 seconds of browsing on Twitter to find these two examples that support that this is a bug:

If I could find this, Apple should be able to find this and figure out that something is wrong with iOS 15.0.1. But either they can’t or they simply are ignoring it. Which reflects poorly on Apple.

UPDATE #2: I had someone reach out to me on Twitter to say that the advice that Apple Support gave to me didn’t work:

Apple really needs to get their act together.

UPDATE: iOS 15.1 just dropped. It fixes this issue for some (like me). But it’s not a fix for others. So expect Apple to kick out another attempt at a fix.

If You’re Not Receiving Mail Notification Sounds On Your iPhone/iPad After Upgrading To iOS 15, Here’s The “Fix”

Posted in Tips with tags on October 1, 2021 by itnerd

After installing iOS 15, the emails that come through on my phone were silent even though I have sounds associated with him either default or custom sounds. I went through the usual troubleshooting which was as follows:

  • I have power cycled my iPhone 12 Pro no change.
  • I did a hard reset. No change.
  • I changed the sound but there’s still no sound notification when emails come in.

I started to dig around and it appears that Apple made a change that isn’t inherently clear to users who were used to the behavior in iOS 15. If you go Settings –> Mail –> Notifications –> Customize Notifications, you’ll see this:

Note the Customize Notifications option. If you click on that, and choose an email account on the next screen, you then see this:

Chances are, this is turned off, turn on alerts and make sure that a sound is selected. In other words, it should look like this:

Now if you have an Apple Watch, you need to do some extra work. Specifically:

  • Go to the Watch App on your iPhone
  • Go to Mail
  • Change “Mirror my iPhone” to “Custom”
  • Select “Send to Notification Centre”

That way, unless it’s a VIP I won’t get a notification on my Apple Watch.

By doing all of this, it roughly approximates the behavior that was present in iOS 14 and earlier. I say approximates because this does not fully fix this problem which I am certain is a bug. One that I hope will be fixed in a future iOS update.

Has this helped you? I would appreciate it if you could provide some feedback and let me know.

Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch’ Bug With Mask Unlocking Fixed In iOS 15.1 Beta 2

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 28, 2021 by itnerd

Apple on Sunday said that this bug which was plaguing iPhone 13 owners with Apple Watches would be fixed in “in an upcoming software update”. The bug in question stopped these owners from unlocking their iPhones using Face ID while using a mask. Which is kind of important seeing as the planet is in a global pandemic.

Today numerous outlets are reporting that this issue is fixed in iOS 15.1 beta 2. Seeing as this is just the second beta, it is highly probable that you won’t actually see a release for at least a few weeks. Though if Apple were smart, they would polish this as much as possible and release it this week to make this rather embarrassing issue go away. But like I said earlier, I don’t see that happening. And if you are thinking of installing the public beta when that appears to fix this issue, I would advise against that. It is a beta for a reason and unless you’re installing it on a secondary device, you’re taking a risk.

At least there’s a light at the end of this tunnel for iPhone 13 owners who also own an Apple Watch.

UPDATE: There is the possibility that Apple could port this fix into a 15.0.1 release and get it out the door quicker. They have done that in the past and it could happen in this case. But I would not be surprised if they didn’t do that this time around.