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.

Ack.

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.


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Bluetooth 5.0 and the New iPhones


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One thing I haven’t seen much written about is the addition of Bluetooth 5.0 to iPhone 8 and iPhone X. According to the Bluetooth standards commission, the big change with version 5.0 is increased range. (The last few updates have focused on reduced battery usage.) With Bluetooth 5.0, the range is now supposed to be up to 800 feet (240 meters).

Bluetooth 5.0 also has increased bandwidth, allowing you to have a Bluetooth connection to two devices at one time. In theory you’d be able to send your music to two different Bluetooth speakers or two sets of headphones.

To me, however, the biggest deal is the increased range. Hopefully that translates to the Apple Watch and AirPods. I’m looking forward to testing this out when I get my new iPhone X.

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


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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.


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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?