The New Apple iPhone Battery Cases

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Today Apple released battery cases (in black or white) for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

It has been a long time since I used a battery case on my iPhone. (I am pretty sure my last battery case fig my iPhone 3GS.) The reason I gave up on them is that when you get a new phone, the battery case is of no further use to you.

Nevertheless, I ordered one of these. I've got a lot of travel over the next six months, and it sure would be nice to carry an extra charge when I am out of town. With the iPhone XS Max model, this new battery gives you talk time up to 37 hours, Internet use up to 20 hours and video playback of up to 25 hours. The other way I justified it is that when I ultimately hand this phone down to someone in my family, they will inevitably be less interested in charging their phone than I am. This battery will serve them well.

A nice feature of this battery is that it is Qi-certified. That way I can set it on my Qi charger and charge the battery while it is in the case. Ultimately, I expect this will be the battery I use for trips to Disneyland and trips out of town, but not my everyday case. If you are wondering, after way too much consideration, I bought the black one. I think a MacSparky sticker will look nice on the back.

The (Red) iPhone

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The new Product (Red) iPhone looks pretty nice. I like the black bezel much better than last year’s version with the white bezel. Still, a few thoughts occur to me.

1. Why is this only on iPhone 8? It seems it would have been easy to make a red glass panel for the iPhone X, right?

2. Why in April after all the true believers bought their new phones months ago? I wish they would have released this back with the initial iPhone 8/X launch.

Someday I'd like to hear the story why Apple doesn’t do more iPhone colors in general. They used to regularly sale iPods with a lot more color options than they sell the iPhone and I always thought the iPhone would eventually get there, but after ten years, I'm assuming the lack of color options is a deliberate choice.

64 and 256

I recently spent some time in the Apple Store looking at the iPhone 8. There's a lot to like about the new iPhone. It's substantially better than its predecessor, and the glass back makes more of a difference than I thought it would. It's silly but one the thing that pleased me is the memory configurations of the new iPhone. By making just two options at 64GB and 256GB, Apple is correcting what I think has been a problem for years. No longer does someone buying an entry-level iPhone get a handicapped device. For so long, Apple was selling the entry-level iPhone at 16GB, which was not enough. Apple raised the entry-level iPhone to 32GB last year, but this new dual option policy where a user can get either 64GB (which is just fine for most people) or 256GB (which is just fine for the power users) makes a lot more sense.

No longer do I have to watch somebody buying a brand new 16GB iPhone in the Apple Store and restrain myself from telling a complete stranger they're making a mistake. I'm glad Apple has made this right.

The End of the Line for Windows Phone

Microsoft’s head of mobile business, Joe Belviore recently tweeted that Windows Phone will get no new features.


I actually liked Windows Phone as a different take from the iPhone. It seems to me they were just too late to the market to ever get a foothold.

Regardless, I can’t help but think of the funeral Microsoft threw for the iPhone a few years ago. They had a hearse, pallbearers, and even bagpipes. Bagpipes! Looks like they were wrong about that.


Austin Mann's iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review

Austin Mann has been writing iPhone camera reviews for years and they're great. It's really nice seeing what a professional photographer can do with the new iPhone hardware. This year he took a trip to India and has some great examples of the new portrait features and comparisons to prior iPhone hardware. I can't wait to see what he does when he gets his hands on an iPhone X.

Austin is a very nice fellow. He guested on Mac Power Users a few years ago and shared some great iPhone photography tips.

Which iPhone for Non-Geeks?

Apple's review embargo on the iPhone 8 reviews lifted today and there are several positive reviews out concerning the new hardware. I've received several emails from listeners asking for advice about choosing between the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. If you’re reading these words, there is a good chance you are already in the iPhone X camp. However, what about all those people out there that don’t live and die by this stuff? I’ve yet to touch either device so you can take my advice with a grain of salt but from the outside, it seems to me that the iPhone 8 is the default recommendation when non-geeks ask which iPhone to buy.

Except for the addition of a glass back in lieu of aluminum, the iPhone 8 is largely the same design Apple’s used for the last four years. It's tried and tested. Moreover, the iPhone 8 has the higher speed A11 processor that you will also find the iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 camera got better than the iPhone 7 and, with that new glass back, the device now supports inductive charging. Speaking of the glass back, early reviews say it's a lot easier to hold than the prior aluminum casing. In addition to all of these improvements, the screen also got better with the true tone feature getting added.

Finally, it is going to be a lot easier to get your hands on an iPhone 8 than iPhone X. Telling a non-geek they need to be awake, online, with credit card ready at some point in the dead of night to get their phone simply verbalizes the insanity that us geeks live in every day. I think getting your hands on your own iPhone X is going to be difficult for the foreseeable future.

If the iPhone X didn't exist, I'd be perfectly happy with an upgrade to an iPhone 8 this year. I, however, am a geek and the fact that something even newer and shinier exists would drive me nuts if I went with an iPhone 8 instead of an iPhone X.

My non-geek sister, however, could care less. She has a two-year-old phone and just wants a great iPhone. She's never heard the term edge-to-edge and would not want to deal with the inevitable issues that will arise from the iPhone X's new design and new user interface implementations, all of which will most likely be better in the second (or third) iteration anyway. That's why when she asked me which phone to buy a few days ago, I told her to get an iPhone 8.

The $1,000 iPhone

Because I’m such a geek, I often hear from my non-geek friends following a big Apple announcement. I would like to think my friends are generally pretty smart people. However, rarely have they actually watch the event. Instead, they’ve seen a headline or two or seen a joke on late-night TV somewhere and I’m always curious to see what these generally smart people actually take away at the end of all those filters.

By far, the most feedback I have received from friends on this week’s announcement is their outrage over price. Many are under the impression that the iPhone now starts at $1,000. I can see how they get that impression reading the headlines. I gently tell them that while there is a new $1,000 iPhone, there is a less expensive update that is still very nice. That usually quells the outrage.

Either way, it got me thinking. Apple may have a messaging problem on its hands. If everyone believes that all new iPhones start at $1,000, there is a non-zero number of people who won’t even go into the store to find out that is not true. I will be curious to see if they somehow cover pricing in any of their advertising around the iPhone 8.

The A11 Bionic Chip


As part of Apple’s announcements on Tuesday, they spent considerable time talking about the silicon in the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X. It’s called the A11 Bionic. While there have been lots of chips in the A series from Apple, I'm not aware of them ever giving one a moniker, like “Bionic”. For someone of my age, the term bionic has a very particular cultural reference

One thing is for sure, with six cores and all its other bells and whistles, the A11 is a screamer. Geekbench scores show it matching (more or less) the processing speed of the currently shipping 13-Inch MacBook Pro. That’s crazy.

I don’t think this means we’re going to see the A11 driving a Mac but I do think it is worth noting the crazy-fast processing speed these pocket computers are achieving. I also think this fast chip is really the foundation of many of the new features in the iPhone. So many of the new features, from photo processing to FaceID, all wouldn’t work without the A11.

iPhone (Pro?) Size Comparisons and Naming

Redmond Pie took a mock-up iPhone (Pro/Edition/8) and compared it to existing and past iPhones. Most interesting to me is the picture below pitting it against a 7 Plus.


For existing plus-sized customers, the phone would get smaller and have fewer pixels. However, with the edge-to-edge display, it appears you’ll get more vertical space, which is what I want most anyway. This product hasn’t even been announced yet and I’m already lusting for one.

While on the topic of the fancy new iPhone, I’d like to weigh in on its name. I’m against giving it a new number. For example, giving the upgrades to last year's phones the names “iPhone 7” and “iPhone 7 Plus” while naming the fancy new iPhone “iPhone 8”. I think that does a disservice to the existing iPhone upgraded models, which will account for most of the sales. I would rather they all have the same number but different descriptors. For instance, “iPhone 8”, “iPhone 8 Plus”, and “iPhone 8 Pro”. As for descriptors, it seems like the two big options are either “Pro” or “Edition”. If I had my way, it would be “Pro”. “Edition” feels a little too elitist to me and reminds me of $20,000 watches. 

There are going to be so many rumors over the next few days before the Apple event. My recommendation is to not get too hung up on any of them and when Tuesday arrives, enjoy the show.


Apple Leaks Concerning the New iPhone

While I usually stand clear of rumors around here, there’s a bit of news concerning the new iPhone that would be hard to ignore. If you like surprises on Keynote day, you may want to stop right here.

Steve Troughton-Smith is well known for spelunking Apple Code and over the last few days he’s found a doozy. Apple is working on the HomePod and put a firmware download for the yet-unreleased product on a public server. The software was meant for public distribution later in this year so it had a lot of code inside about the new iPhone, assuming that the new iPhones would have already been released.

The problem is that it ended up on a public Apple server. So Steve downloaded the code and started exploring and learned quite a bit about the new iPhones and the HomePod including the following.

* The new iPhone will have infra-red face unlock as a biometric verification system. This may mean TouchID goes away entirely on the high-end phone and it unlocks merely by looking at your face.
* The face unlock can work in the light or the dark.
* There was an icon showing there will be no bezel and a little black notch at the top for the camera and other sensors.
* There’s an LED matrix on top of the HomePod for display of shapes and symbols.

I'm sure now that Steve has pointed the way, even more people are digging through this code looking for nuggets. For a company as obsessed with secrecy as Apple, the leak of all this information has got to hurt. While all of the above is nice to know, I'm very interested in hearing Apple’s story about how all this fits together. We’ve all grown to trust TouchID (although it still makes me mad when it won’t unlock because I’ve washed my hands in the last 10 minutes). If they are going to replace it with face identification, it needs to be pretty impressive. The next month is going to be interesting.

10 Years with iPhone

I did some traveling this week and that gave me an opportunity to observe a lot of people making their way through airports. Travel is just one more thing that has been revolutionized by the iPhone. When Apple released a touch screen computer that fits in your pocket, they changed the world.

I think a bit of this story that people miss is that it really took Apple to make this work. Apple’s engineering talent and user interface designers built a transformative bit of electronic gadgetry that I don’t think anyone else could have made and changed ... well ... everything.

I went back and read my comically bad review of the original iPhone from 2007. Most interesting for me was that I’d forgotten about several of my problems with the original iPhone. The device was limited and missing a lot of the features in phones of the day. I think the reason I didn’t remember so many of those original problems is because the iPhone was so good at the limited features it had. I vividly remember sliding to unlock, sending emails and viewing attachments on that screen, looking at maps on my phone, and … best of all … using Safari. If you’d ever attempted to access the Internet with any mobile phone made before the iPhone, you’d understand exactly how special the original iPhone was.

I don’t know if Apple will ever have another world-changing product like the iPhone. Indeed, I don’t know if any consumer electronic company will make something that changes the wold as much as the iPhone did. 10 years can feel like a lot of time. It also can feel like the blink of an eye. The iPhone has come so far in the past 10 years. Can you imagine what it will be like 10 years from now?

The New Glif

I backed the new Glif iPhone tripod mount and mine showed up a few weeks ago. Studio Neat has come a long way with this product. The newest Glif is spring loaded and pulls back easily around your phone (any size, in a case or not). You then just press down the quick release lever and you’ve attached three tripod mounting points to your phone. The whole thing easily fits in your jeans’ pocket. Quick. Secure. Portable.

If you want to go crazy, Studio Neat also sells a wooden grip with a tripod screw on top and wrist strap. You can combine this with the Glif to have a nice comfortable handle for your phone. I used it in this configuration recently at Disneyland while walking in a crowd. Combined with the iPhone camera stabilization, it took some great video for something I just pulled out of my pocket. As an aside, you’ll see some cranes in the background at the end of the video. You’ll never guess what those are for.

This third iteration of the product is so good that I'm not sure where they can go next. If you have any desire to put your iPhone on a tripod, look no further.

iPhone 8 Speculation

Later this year we're going to get the next iPhone. There's been a lot of rumors about this new one with talk of an edge-to-edge (possibly OLED) screen, embedded touch IT, and even maybe wireless charging. Chance Miller at 9to5 Mac did a nice job pulling together the current rumors. Personally, I'd be surprised if the next iPhone has all of the rumored features. The iPhone is nearly the whole story when it comes to Apple revenue and for every new iPhone they have to build millions of the things reliably and quickly. Too many big changes in one generation increases the possibility of delays for specific parts or, worse yet, defects in the phone. If I had to pick just one feature I'd like in a new iPhone, it would be that edge-to-edge screen. It looks pretty great in 9to5 Mac's mock up photos in the above linked article.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

The latest iOS 10.1 beta includes the promised portrait mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. I think everyone was pretty surprised how quickly this feature made it into the betas. Several people have published example photos including Matthew Panzarino and MacRumors. My favorite example is Jason Snell's cat. Jason posted an image that rotates between a standard and portrait enhanced picture of his cat. This shows off the strengths (and limitations) of this software feature. Pay particular attention to the cat hair along the edges.


Happy iPhone day to everyone getting their new handset. (Mine is still about a week away.) Today YouTube is lit up with people doing things like dunking their iPhone 7 in coffee and taking it in the pool (3.5 feet deep!) and the phones are still working. My favorite is the iFixit ongoing stress test. As I write this, iFixit's iPhone has been underwater for 4 hours and is still working fine. This doesn't mean the new phone is an underwater camera so much as the next time you fall in the pool or drop it in water, you're probably fine.

John Gruber on iPhones 7

I always enjoy John Gruber's insight (and brevity) when it comes to reviewing Apple products. Today he released his review of the iPhones 7 and doesn't disappoint. One of the most interesting tidbits is that the "zoom" lens on the iPhone 7 Plus has a smaller aperture than the standard lens. That means you'll want to take your indoor and low-light photography with the standard lens, not the zoom.

About that Missing Headphone Port

As expected, the iPhone 7 removed the headphone port. I thought the explanation on stage yesterday was pretty good about why they did it. Although I wouldn't have called it "courageous". People at Apple have done courageous things. Removing the headphone port, however, does not raise to that level.

BuzzFeed got an exclusive interview with the Apple team where they address the removal of the headphone port more thoroughly and, in my mind, better.

The combined promise of sound quality, a steady Bluetooth connection, the battery life, the voice control, and ease of pairing across devices, all free of wires — if it all works, these things do seem to provide value an order of magnitude greater than even the priciest wired buds. But it’s also up to Apple to sell these things, to convince people that they want them. That’s harder, but not impossible.
— John Paczkowski for BuzzFeed

If you want to understand Apple's argument (and spin) on this issue, I'd read the entire article. I do think including the adapter in the box was smart. It doesn't solve all the problems (you still can't simultaneously charge and listen to wired headphones) but it solves most of them. I'm starting to think the removal of the headphone port isn't going to turn into the public blood-bath I originally thought it would.

iPhone 7 Rumors and Pre-Announcemnt Thoughts

Next week, on September 7, Apple is having its fall event where it announces, among other things, the new iPhone. That makes it silly season right now in the Apple-rumor business. If you want to impress your friends with your “inside” knowledge, I’d recommend MacRumors iPhone 7 rumor round-up.

As a result of the sheer volume of phones Apple has to build every year, I suspect there will be very few hardware related surprises next week. I’ve got a few pre-announcement thoughts on some of the new features.

Farewell 16GB?

According to the rumor mill, this year will see the long-overdue death of the 16 GB iPhone in favor of 32GB for the entry model. I sure hope that’s true.

The Dual Lens Camera

I am really looking forward to seeing how well the dual lens camera system works. There’s a lot of ways to implement a dual lens camera system and while the hardware manufacturing business is leaky, Apple’s software team is not. At this point, I don’t think anyone outside Apple has any idea what they’re going do with those two lenses and I can’t wait to find out. While I'll most likely be a fan of the dual lens camara, I don't like the bulging metal around the lip of the camera lenses in the leaked photos. Unfortunately, even Apple must obey the laws of physics.

Sans Headphone Port

The other big news will be the removal of the headphone jack. Apple is going to take a ton of heat over this. The fact that the headphone jack is being removed is well known enough at this point that everyone who wants to write go after Apple on this has been sharpening their knives for weeks.

As for me, I think the removal of the headphone port is a bad idea unless they can demonstrate a really good reason for doing so. Just last night I walked into my daughter’s room and saw her listening to her iPhone with the headphones plugged in while the lightning port was being used to charge the phone. I know I sound like a grumpy old man but it seems like everyone in my life under the age of 20 prefers to keep their phone constantly at 15% charge. For those people, the ability to simultaneously charge and listen to music through headphones is something they do every day and removal of the headphone port makes that harder.

Also, my wife uses the auxiliary port in her car to plug into her iPhone, which means we’ll probably have to buy several of the inevitably required Lightning-to-headphone adapters. Like I said, I hope they’ve got a good reason. (Water resistance is my guess.)

All that said, I got on the Bluetooth bandwagon a few years ago and rarely plug headphones into my iPhone so other than helping my family cope, it won’t bother me with respect to my own phone.

Part of me is just curious on an intellectual level as to how Apple will go about justifying the removal of the headphone port and how their public relations department will handle the inevitable backlash. Strap in, gang.

We’ll be recording a Mac Power Users episode immediately following the September 7 event so expect more on this topic.