A Few Thoughts Following Apple’s “Unleashed” Event Today

Today was Apple’s much anticipated “Unleashed” event. Apple delivered the goods, and I have a few thoughts:

The Opening

  • The opening Movie was fun (as always). I knew we were in good shape when they included the MagSafe connector in the movie. However, I also laughed out loud when the indie artist (working from an old garage) used a $6,000 Pro Display XDR. That probably explains why there wasn’t a car in the garage.

Apple Music Changes

  • More playlists sound great. That was the reason I subscribed to Beats Music before Apple bought them. This is one of those things where the proof is in the pudding. Let’s see.

  • The new Apple Music Voice Plan lets you subscribe to Apple Music for $5/month, but the only interface you get is your voice. It’s a mistake. To try it out, I’ve spent the whole day trying to trigger music with only my voice. Here’s a sample interaction. “Hey Siri, Play Fried Bananas by Dexter Gordon” [beep beep] “Sure things. Here’s Damage by H.E.R.” I think this service is going to make people hate Siri.

AirPods Version 3

  • Assuming they fit, the smaller stem is better in my opinion.

  • I dig Spatial Audio. So getting it in the standard AirPods is a win.

  • I’m assuming that with force sensor controls, I no longer have to walk around beating on my ears to play and stop like a crazy person.

  • 1 hour of listening time with 5 minutes of charging. Yes, thank you.

  • I have a certain degree of trepidation about the v3 AirPods. I like the way AirPods v1 and v2 fit my ears. These are different. No matter how much better they get, I’ll be stockpiling the v2 AirPods, which are still for sale, if the new ones don’t fit my ears.

  • I’ve ordered a pair. Not sure if I’ll love them or return them. You’ll find out soon.

  • Also, here’s the new AirPods feature dump slide from the presentation, just for you.

Color HomePod minis

  • Yup, They have colors.

  • Nope. Still no word on a replacement for non-mini HomePods.

  • Every time I watch one of these, I make a note to try out Siri’s Intercom feature, yet I never do. Maybe this time.

  • There now seem to be two camps about the “Apple House” that keeps showing up in HomePod-related announcements. One group thinks Apple has trapped a family like a tribe of hamsters. The other just wants to move in. Put me in that second group. Sure, one of my walls would be plexiglass, and all of you could watch me 24/7, but look at those dining room chairs!

The M1 Pro and Max

  • So there was this big whoop-de-doop at WWDC when Apple “accidentally” added an #M1X tag to the YouTube video. So many (myself included) were convinced that meant the new chip would be called M1X. Turns out the chips are named M1 Pro and M1 Max. Do you think Apple gaslighted us all?

  • The rumor guys got the rest essentially right: 10 cores (with eight performance and two efficiency cores), 16/32 graphic cores, and up to 64 Gigabytes of RAM. So you are looking at something between 2 and 4 times more powerful than the M1, which is no slouch. This is the big thing I was waiting to learn, and I think Apple silicon is crushing it.

  • Apple put up a lot of graphs. To summarize them all, this chip performs like a lion but eats power like a mouse. It’s nuts.

  • Johny Srouji is one intense dude. If I were to let anyone down, I wouldn’t want it to be Johny Srouji. Could you imagine looking into those eyes after you drop the ball?

  • It was good to see some of the most prominent video production people talking about Apple silicon without the old-school style demos. Even if they go back to live events, this is the way to bring third-party developers.

The New MacBook Pros

  • Of course, the new MacBooks Pro had to go last

  • The New Cases: A bit boxier, but it doesn’t look that much different to me. That black anodization behind the keyboard = cool.

  • The Death of the Touch Bar: There has been a lot of anger aimed at the poor Touch Bar. I learned to like it. Either way, we can all stop talking about it now.

  • Touch ID: It’s still there, on the power button.

  • If the video is accurate, it looks like the aluminum case has “MacBook Pro” embossed in the bottom. Please let that be true.

  • Color: Any color you want so long as it is silver or space gray. This stung a bit after seeing so many excellent colors for the new iMacs a few months ago. I’d have loved to get one of these new MacBook Pros in orange.

  • Feature Parity: I dig that the choice between 14 and 16 inches is just that. Whatever features you want, you can get with either size.

  • The Screen: The new screen might be just as big of a deal as the Apple silicon. 120Hz ProMotion and variable refresh rate plus the iPad-style Liquid Retina XDR mini-LEDs. I need to see it, but I think this screen will be gorgeous. 7.7 million pixels on a 16.2-inch screen. Wow.

  • The New Camera: I laughed when Apple explained the new 1080 lens was double the prior camera. When 1080 is double, that means the old camera was garbage. (And it was.) A more accurate explanation would be, “Now we all know the old cameras sucked. These new cameras are okay and definitely don’t suck.”

  • MagSafe: Did you see the little green light is back? I loved that light. With a glance, you knew if your Mac was charged or not. Also, the cable is no longer fixed to the power brick. It’s USB-C on the other end, making it much easier to use with other chargers. This makes MagSafe even more convenient.

  • I/O: We got everything we wanted. MagSafe, HDMI, SD Card, high-impedance headphone jack, and three Thunderbolt ports. The works.

  • The Notch: I’m already reading people freaking out about the addition of a notch. I don’t think it is that big a deal, provided my menu bars will go around it and not under it. (I typically run a lot of menu bar apps.) I also think the size of the notch makes it a placeholder for Face ID in future iterations.

  • Pricing: I was curious about how they’d price the new MacBook Pros. They are no longer paying for Intel’s markup, but they also spent piles of money developing these custom chips. In the end, the pricing was about what I expected. These new MacBook Pros are incredibly powerful. You’ll pay a premium for that power, but the price doesn’t feel entirely out of whack to me. They must have got something right; ship times are already slipping to late December.

  • And here’s the feature dump slide for the new MacBook Pros.

Missing in Action

  • M1 Pro Mac mini: I expected to see one today but didn’t. If you are waiting for one though, I don’t think you’ll have to wait long. Now that the chip is out of the bag, I’d not be surprised for Apple to release an M1 Pro/Max mini with just a press release. There are rumors, however, of a new case design. That could mean they’ll wait until the new M1 Pro/Max iMacs are ready.

  • Consumer Grade External Monitor: I had to laugh at one point when they had one of the new MacBook Pros hooked up to three Pro XDR monitors. That was $18,000 of pixels connected to that Mac. If I had Tim Cook’s desk, I’d be pressing to get a more affordable Apple-branded monitor out the door ASAP.

The Video Keynote Format

  • It’s interesting how quickly these pre-canned Apple event videos have turned into the norm. I do have to wonder if they’ll ever go back to live events. If I was Apple, I’d probably not. These events are faster, and there are never any gaffes. The downside is that with no media present, you can’t have a hands-on area. But I’m not convinced Apple views that as a downside.

Cleaning AirPods and Memory Foam Replacements

I’ve been meaning to write up how to clean dirty AirPods and AirPod cases for over a year. Now 9to5 Mac has done it for me. All the techniques recommended by Michael Potuck are good ones. I’ll just add a few more:

  • A slightly damp cotton swab is a great way to clean gunk out of the AirPod case rim and rim lid. It’s amazing how much dirt I can clear out with that step alone.

  • +1 on the Blu Tack. You’ll find so many uses for that stuff.

  • Make sure to check the lightning charging port. I thought my AirPods died, and it was just lint from my pocket in the charging port.

Related to AirPods Pro, I bought a pair of memory foam replacements for the rubber inserts, and now they work much better with my ears. Your mileage may vary.

WaterField AirPods Max Shield Case

Waterfield AirPods Max Case

WaterField has come out with an AirPods Max Shield Case. Apple blew it by not including a travel-friendly case and Waterfield stepped up.

They’ve designed a leather shield case. There’s one layer of ultra-plush lining backed with soft foam to cradle my AirPods Max and prevent them from getting scratched. Then there’s a top and bottom layer of closed-cell foam to disperse external forces and resist compression—no mooshing of AirPodsMax. All covered in a ballistic nylon or waxed canvas paired with full-grain leather and waterproof zippers to protect my precious AirPods Max against the elements. And the special and ingenious elements by WaterField is the in-case charging and a Magnetic Leather Butterfly that acts as a buffer between the ear cups and triggers the AirPods Max into low-power mode. If you’ve got some AirPods Max, you should check these out.

Some Thoughts After a Few Days with the AirPods Max

I did it. I bought a pair of headphones that cost more than my first car. I’ve never been embarrassed about spending so much money on something silly but I told my wife to call it my Christmas present and that helped. Getting over the sticker shock, I’ve been enjoying the AirPods Max for the last few days. My desk, thanks to COVID, is centrally located in our home so having noise cancelling is a must. Also, having it so everyone can see I’m obviously wearing headphones also helps. But AirPods Max for this job, really? Here are some thoughts:

  • The build quality is amazing. I’ve never had a pair of expensive headphones. Even the ones I use for podcasting are low-budget plastic. These things feel like something to come out of a secret government rocket factory.

  • The stainless piston-style adjustment is nice. My “click adjust” podcast cans never quite fit right. These can be fine tuned to exactly your head.

  • My ears fit comfortably in the ear cups. I’ve worn them for four-hour sessions without discomfort. That’s another first for me. All prior can-style headphones made my ears sore.

  • The sound quality is the best I’ve ever heard through headphones. That would make sense considering these cost 5X any headphone I’ve ever purchased, but still good to know.

  • A lot of people are making a big deal over the weight. It really hasn’t been a factor for me. However, I’m only really using them while seated at my desk. I don’t imagine I’ll ever take these fancy cans on the road or on a plane. The AirPods Pro are good enough for travel and they fit in my pocket. Also, these headphones are so clearly over the top. I think I’d be embarrassed to wear them in public.

  • Battery life as well hasn’t been a problem. I charged them before using them the first time and I’ve been using them a lot over the last few days and then just hanging them on a hook under my desk at the end of the day. I’m going on day three and there is still gas in the tank from that day one charge. I’ll charge them again today.

  • All the Apple bits are nice too. The Digital Crown and button are great for an interface that you can’t see when using (since it is stuck to your ear). Also, I’ve made several calls with them and nobody noticed anything unusual.

  • Noise cancelling on the AirPods Max is clearly superior to the AirPods Pro, which only makes sense with those big cans over your ears.

  • So much has already been said and written about the cover/case thingy. It does feel cheap compared to the rest of the AirPods Max. I’d be super curious to see if they don’t improve on that with a future iteration. I haven’t used my cover since pulling it out of the box.

  • At this price point, it’s just silly that they didn’t include a cable for me to plug the AirPods Max into an audio jack while they simultaneously sell that very cable for $35.

  • If you’re curious, I bought the silver model.

Overall, these headphones tick so many of the Apple checkboxes. They’re beautifully engineered and very good at the intended job of delivering music to your ears. But also they are a little over the top and over priced. That said, I bought these with the idea that I would send them back if I didn’t love them, and I’m keeping them.

The New AirPods

Apple has now released a second set of AirPods. These include several additional features:

  • Rubber tips so you can make them fit your ears better.

  • More water resistant. (Really … sweat and light rain resistant)

  • Noise cancellation

I think all three features are important but noise cancellation is the one I’d be most intested in. Interestingly, it has a pass through mode for when you are using it when noise cancelling is not worth it, or even dangerous. These aren’t meant to be a replacement product to the existing AirPods but a premium product.

I don’t care for use of the “Pro” moniker, but I like the look of the new AirPods. I’ll be reporting back when mine show up.

AirPods, G2


Today Apple released the second generation AirPods. (I thought that may happen.) Big differences:

  • Two Price Points: $159 and $199. If you want a Qi charging case, it will cost you an extra $40.

  • New Chip: H1 replaces the W1. It connects faster, has less latency, and gives more phone talk time. I never noticed any problem with connection speed or latency with the G1 AirPods. I will, however, gladly take more talk time. I want all the talk time. No sharing.

  • “Hey Siri” Support: No more tapping your ear, assuming this features delivers as promised.

I ordered a pair immediately. I spend a lot of time on the phone and I’ve had my G1 AirPods in daily use since I first bought them. I use them so much that I killed the battery in the right one and now the left one is acting up. I don’t feel bad about buying the product twice. I don’t see that I really have any choice until battery technologies improve.

AirBuddy for Using AirPods on Your Mac

Guilherme Rambo, the gent who keeps finding scoops for 9to5Mac with some very clever sleuthing, recently published a simple app to make using AirPods with your Mac easier called AirBuddy. Once installed, it keeps an eye out for your AirPods. When you open them AirPods case you get a little animation that looks very familiar to what you see on iOS.

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AirBuddy can also add a widget to your Mac’s sidebar that will give you easy access to battery status.

(It’s a good thing my iMac has a 100% battery.)

(It’s a good thing my iMac has a 100% battery.)

That’s really about it. Guillermo is using a choose your own price model with a recommended price of $5. That makes it an easy purchase.