Jason Snell’s MacBook Review

Review: The new 12-inch MacBook is a laptop without an ecosystem | Macworld:

But if your workflow includes lots of USB flash drives and external hard drives, if you’ve invested in Thunderbolt hard drives or displays, or if your work really does require 16GB of RAM and the very fastest processors around, the MacBook won’t be a good fit. Fortunately, Apple’s isn’t ceasing production of the MacBook Pro—and it offers all of that and more.

As a longtime user of the MacBook Air line, I look at the MacBook with a mix of excitement and trepidation. This is the future of Apple’s thin and light laptop line, as well as a warning that we’re about to enter a transition period for devices as Apple begins to embrace USB-C. And ultimately that’s the trade-off here: To get the cutting edge technology, you’ve got to deal with the incompatibilities and limitations that go with it.

As Jason says, this laptop is not for USB and external connection users – the aim is to use it similar to how an iPad is used – you charge it, leave the house and use it truly mobile by not having it plugged in like a traditional use case with laptops. It is designed for light use – ideal for students taking it to class etc. The removal of MagSafe reaffirms the view of Apple’s aim to only charge this MacBook whilst not in use but with the early reports of 6–7 hours battery life, getting closer to 10 in future models would be the aim to fully justify this vision.

Farhad Manjoo’s Week With The Apple Watch

Farhad Manjoo writing for NYTimes.com:

This idea is nice, but to get it to work, you’ve got to decide which notifications you want to get on your watch, and which you don’t. When you first set it up, the watch generally mirrors the notifications you’ve set for your phone: If you now get an iPhone alert when a friend changes her Facebook profile photo, you’ll get one on your Apple Watch. (The system is smart enough to alert you in just one place — it doesn’t buzz your watch if you’re looking at your phone.) But because the phone and the watch are such different devices, mirroring notifications between them often makes little sense.

For instance, since there’s isn’t (yet) a Facebook app for the Apple Watch, notifications for Facebook on the watch are essentially useless — your wrist buzzes with a note that your friend has changed her profile photo, but when you tap the Facebook notification, nothing happens.

So unless 3rd party developers enable Watch support for their apps, then receiving notifications is glanceable only – I did wonder about that. Also, it will be a good idea to tweak which notifications you currently receive for all apps on your iPhone currently – in preparation for the Watch you may or may not be ordering.

There is something magical about having a computer that no one notices right there on your wrist. I first experienced this magic while at lunch with a colleague. I’m usually a wreck at such meetings, because while I try to refrain from looking at my phone, my mind is constantly jonesing for the next digital hit.

Lunch today is different. My iPhone remains hidden deep in my pocket, and to all the world I am the picture of the predigital man. It is the middle of the workday, the busiest time for digital communication. Yet with the Apple Watch on my wrist, my mind remains calm, my compulsion to check the phone suddenly at bay. After spending the last few days customizing my notification settings, my watch is a hornet’s nest of activity. It buzzes every few minutes to indicate incoming email and texts, tweets or Slack messages.

The buzzes aren’t annoying. They go completely unnoticed by my colleague, while to an addict like me they’re little hits of methadone — just enough contact with the digital world to whet my appetite, but not nearly as immersive, and socially disruptive, as reaching for my phone and eyeing its screen. I not only register the watch’s buzzes, but several times while we’re chatting, I surreptitiously check its screen. I scan some incoming messages and tweets, and even flag a couple of emails for later.

At the end of the meal, I ask my colleague if she’s noticed me checking my watch. She is surprised; she hasn’t seen it.

I love, not only the concept of glancing at your wrist instead of pulling the iPhone out of your pocket but notifications only you can see, hear and feel.

Day One for Apple Watch

  

The developers behind the award-winning journal app for iOS – Day One, have teased a screenshot of their upcoming Apple Watch app that is coming soon.

What excites me about this update, is the apparent fast and simple options to auto-log your daily events from your wrist which will help to make your own journal more detailed and fulfilling and all synced across your devices. Location checking in and last photo taken are exactly the kind of things I want to record and this Watch app looks like it will make it super fast and convenient than actually using the iPhone to do the same task which can result in forgetting to record altogether.

You can download the app here in preparation for the Apple Watch release.

Microsoft Apps – A Better Experience on iOS

Paul Thurrott:

Long story short, iPhone is a great platform for apps, as we all know. But it’s also a great platform for Microsoft apps—it’s arguably the best mobile platform for Microsoft apps—as well. And that makes it a lot more interesting. And a lot more useful.

It is surprising that you get a better experience of Microsoft’s own apps on iOS but that could lend the possibility to not just the popularity, but the ease of development due to software constraints and fragmentation on other developing platforms. With Google not exactly supporting Windows Phone anymore, it would appear Microsoft supporting Android is due to necessity. Even with Microsoft being the 3rd in the top players, they still maintain their class of putting users first – would Google do the same in their position? I doubt it.

Current Limitations of Watch Apps

Rene Ritchie on Understanding the first generation of Apple Watch apps:

I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few Apple Watch apps on the Apple Watch and several of them not only impressed me — they delighted me.

I’m not deluding myself. There will be times when they’re slow or fail to update, when they don’t work the way I expect them to, or when I’m forced to work around them instead of with them. That still happens with phone, tablet, and computer software sometimes, of course, but I’m expecting it to happen more with the Apple Watch because it’s so new. Because we’re all — Apple, developers, and customers — going to need to learn what it really is and what it means.

Native apps will come, maybe extended or third-party watch faces, maybe with other things we’ve only begun to discuss. And one day the Apple Watch will go iPhone-free the way the iPhone went PC-free with iOS 5. (Yes, it took five years.)

For now, the apps that are on the Apple Watch – specifically 3rd party apps – are not client apps in the traditional sense. Where as the apps you have on your iPhone and iPad are developed specifically for that device, there are not currently any native Apple Watch apps. The 3rd party apps that are being discussed, shown and advertised are projections of the app from their iPhone counterpart. Developers have been given access to WatchKit – a framework from Apple that allows developers to code their iPhone apps so they can have a working extension of their app on the Apple’s newest device. There are going to be some limitations in current versions of Apple Watch apps but when Apple release an SDK for native Watch apps later this year, then Watch apps will then have the potential to be more powerful and delightful.

Mark Wilson writing for FastCoDesign:

Apple is launching their watch conservatively, limiting the capabilities of the hardware for any number of reasons we can only speculate about—including battery life, software stability, or even their desire to train users and developers in best UX practices before enabling more options.

But the Apple Watch that will ship on day one won’t be the Apple Watch of fanboy mythos. It’s a severely limited piece of technology with UI that will feel dated. And there’s nothing that the world of developers can do to improve the platform or create some paradigm shift until Apple lets them.

With Apple announcing the date for this year’s upcoming annual WWDC conference, news of this native SDK for Apple Watch could well be announced then.

Twitter’s New Periscope App

Rhiannon Williams With a Smart Take on Twitter’s new Periscope app:

What is Periscope?

Periscope is Twitter’s new live-streaming video app, not to be confused with the recently launched Meerkat, also a live-streaming app. It allows you to watch and broadcast live video from all across the globe, meaning you could switch from watching a peaceful wander across the beaches of Cornwall to a protest in Egypt.

One of the key differences between the two is that Periscope saves the video streams once you are finished, so that anyone can view them for up to 24 hours; Meerkat’s live video disappears once you choose to end the broadcast.

Both Meerkat and Periscope are pre-dated by other attempts at live-streaming apps, all of which fell by the wayside. But now, with more open Wi-Fi networks and faster 4G mobile networks than ever before, live streaming looks set to become as regular a part of our lives as Googling and Snapchatting.

How does it work?

Periscope’s live feeds can be shot from iPhones and iPads and watched through smartphones, desktops or laptops either through the app or on Twitter’s site. You can watch back recent broadcasts or browse live streams by pressing the TV icon on the bottom left of the screen.

I am liking this app and it seems such a simple idea. Just this week I checked in with MacSparky who live-streamed his Apple Watch try on and the Apple Store. Family events, newsworthy events etc. – the potential is huge. You can download the app here and try for yourself.

Apple Watch Selling Out For Initial Supply

Almost all Apple Watch models sold out, AppleCare+ pricing revealed | 9to5Mac

Whether due to high demand or low supply, all models of Apple Watch have now almost entirely sold out with many slipping delivery date estimates in mere minutes of preorders opening. In the US, the 38 mm Stainless Steel Case with Black Classic Buckle is the only model still on offer with a ‘April 24th – May 8th’ shipping date.

Shipping dates now say 4–6 weeks on some models and June for others.

On the subject of iPhone 6 Plus #mykewasright

Myke Hurley from Relay.fm has been the subject of light hearted discussions recently in regard to trying to convince his colleagues and friends that the bigger of the two new iPhones – the 6 Plus is the better iPhone to go for due to its superior screen, battery life etc.

I found two recent responses from Marco Arment and Jason Snell to be interesting.

Marco Arment writing on his site:

What’s better about the 6 Plus

  • Battery life: In my use, I’d estimate that it lasted about 50–75% longer than the iPhone 6, which is usually the difference between sometimes needing to charge it mid-day and reliably being able to last all day even in heavy usage.
  • Camera: The 6 Plus’ image stabilizer is a minor difference outdoors, but a noticeable difference indoors when it can select a lower ISO, resulting in less noise.
  • Typing: For whatever reason, the keyboard size on the 6 Plus (in portrait orientation) fits me better than the 6, resulting in far fewer errors. I’m already typing more accurately on the 6 Plus than I ever could on the 6.
  • Screen space: It’s nice when reading books, reading web pages, and showing photos. But the additional screen space is a relatively minor benefit to me overall, as most iPhone software doesn’t make good use of it.

I think we can all agree with these above points but you would expect that from a physically larger device.

Being accustomed to the iPhone 6, the 6 Plus doesn’t feel as huge as it did when it first launched and we were all accustomed to the 4-inch iPhone 5/5S. It stopped feeling huge in my hands within the first few hours of use.
The 6 Plus is indeed worse than the 6 for one-handed use, but not by nearly as much as I expected — both are poorly suited to it.
The 6 Plus also shares the 6’s unfortunate sleep/wake-button placement opposite the volume-up button, which I presume is a victory of visual symmetry over usability. Many months into ownership, I still sometimes accidentally hit both buttons.

I too still find myself suffering from muscle memory of when the sleep/wake button was at the top on the previous models.

Grip is about the same, too. Both lack side-grippability and feel precariously slippery when used without a case, even though I’ve never needed a case for any previous iPhones. The case-edge design (on both models) is so poor that I was very uncomfortable using the iPhone 6 until I got Apple’s leather case a few weeks later. Unsurprisingly, I have the exact same opinion about the 6 Plus: it’s too slippery without a case, but feels great with the Apple leather case.

I don’t find the iPhone 6 design slippery at all but I agree that a case would make it a better grip in the hand. I don’t agree that the case-edge design is poor – industrial design at its best – smoother, thinner, less jarring.

A common theme among other reviews is that the 6 Plus is a “different kind of device” that inspires a different usage pattern, more like a tiny iPad than a large iPhone, with more two-handed and/or landscape-orientation usage. I haven’t found this to be the case. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been a heavy iPad user, but the 6 Plus doesn’t feel like an iPad or a new kind of device at all to me — it just feels like a huge iPhone.
In fact, the iPad-crossover enhancements mostly annoy me, and I’d disable them if I could. The iPad-style treatment of split-view apps and slide-up modal views in landscape orientation feels cramped and hacky at best — it just feels like a too-small iPad, rather than a too-large iPhone. I’m also constantly rotating the home screen unintentionally, requiring me to use portrait lock regularly for the first time.

Much like Jason Snell alluded to last year, you shouldn’t expect to come close to replicating the iPad experience on the 6 Plus – it’s a good idea but it has not been executed throughly enough to take advantage of the 6 Plus’s bigger screen yet – maybe iOS 9 will see some refinement in this area.

Marco finishes his article by suggesting he will move to the 6 Plus to take advantage of the bigger features even though he laments the current design of both models.

Jason Snell writing for Six Colors:

I really did appreciate the iPhone 6 Plus’s longer battery life. The longer life is noticeable, and was much appreciated as I was wandering around London. And I got used to the size of the device in my pocket in no time, but beyond that, I have to say I’m hard pressed to find anything I prefer about the iPhone 6 Plus over my iPhone 6. Yes, the screen is larger, but I didn’t ever feel that I was seeing more of the world by viewing an extra tweet in Twitterrific or a little bit more territory in Maps.

The extra screen is clearly going to be an advantage in apps that show video, photos or games – there will be a clear benefit there but I agree some apps like Twitter or Maps won’t be advantageous.

When I returned to my iPhone 6 upon landing back in the U.S., I felt instantly more comfortable when holding the smaller phone. During my two weeks with the 6 Plus, I had taken to cradling it with two hands whenever possible. I use my iPhone 6 with a single hand all the time, but that’s much harder for me to do with the 6 Plus—I could barely stretch my thumb across the 6 Plus screen to the bottom right corner, let alone reach items at the top of the screen. And I kept feeling like I was about to drop the phone as I continually moved it in my hand in order to tap the right part of the screen
People with large hands (or who rely less on one-handed operation) might have a very different experience, but for me it was just too big a device, with not enough functional gain elsewhere. I’m back to the iPhone 6 now and not missing the big guy at all. I don’t disapprove of people who prefer the 6 Plus to the 6—and I know a bunch of my colleagues are definitely rethinking their choices—but I’m afraid I won’t be joining the club.

For a pocket device which is where the iPhone is targeted at, one handed use is essential for me. In my tests with the 6 Plus, for all the good of reachability – it’s definitely a two-handed device. Each device whether it’s the Watch, iPad, iPhone, MacBook – no matter how portable these devices are, I believe they are still designed for a typical use case within the mobile category so the iPhone will always be the quick pocketable device to be used one handed and that is where the iPhone 6 and not the iPhone 6 Plus excels.

Myke’s Relay.fm colleague Stephen Hackett recently wrote on his site that what helped him sway towards the 6 Plus was the notion of purchasing the Apple Watch so he wouldn’t have to rely on pulling the 6 Plus out of his pocket for most of the time. Although I see some logic to this I am odds with this when I think off the dependency of having to carry a paired iPhone with the Apple Watch on you and perhaps not fully knowing through experience of exactly how our iPhone use will decrease if at all. Once we have spent some time carrying the iPhone and Apple Watch together will we know if the 6 Plus’s larger size be an issue.

New photos purportedly show 4th-generation iPad mini casing with iPad Air 2-like design

 

New photos purportedly show 4th-generation iPad mini casing with iPad Air 2-like design | 9to5Mac

A new batch of photos published by French site NowhereElse may give us an idea of what the next generation of the iPad mini will look like. The images are said to be of the casing for the unannounced tablet upgrade, and seem to feature some design elements inspired by the most recent version of the larger iPad model.

While the third-generation iPad mini was simply a Touch ID-equipped version of the previous model, many Apple fans are hoping to see a redesign much like this with the next refresh.

Aside from the obvious similarities in the shape and materials, the photos and a video of the shell (which can be seen below) reveal a redesigned speaker grille that mirrors the iPad Air 2’s move away from two rows of speaker holes to just one. The new shell also indicates that the iPad mini 4 may be thinner than its predecessor, though it doesn’t seem like a big stretch to predict that.

Also carrying over from the larger model to the smaller one is the lack of a mute/rotation lock switch, which isn’t such a necessity now that both of those functions are available in software through Control Center. The shell in the images appears to be from an LTE model, as given away by the cutout at the top of the device for the cellular antenna window and the presence of a SIM card slot below the volume rockers.

Makes sense that the iPad mini would change it’s case design to match the iPad Air model but does that mean that the iPad Air 3’s shell won’t change? Last year there was outcry when the mini didn’t receive as much love as the Air so I would fully expect the mini to be nigh-on identical to the Air this year just like the 2013 revisions.