The MacStories iOS 17 Review

Today Federico Viticci published his now legendary annual iOS and iPadOS review. Something that a lot of folks don’t realize is that over the years, Federico has gotten a lot better at this. Specifically, in the early years, Federico’s opus felt like it was written for developers. Now it’s written for users (at least to my eyes).

I find these reviews more informative and enjoyable each year. This year is no different.

Early Vision Pro Feedback

Several journalists got to strap into the new Apple Vision Pro headset. Three of my favorite reads are from Matthew Panzarino, Jason Snell, and Chance Miller. I’ve also spoken to several others here in Cupertino that got the demo. Every person I’ve spoken to that got to try Vision Pro praises the technology. This truly is one of those “only Apple” products. There is no other company with the hardware and software expertise to pull it off. The 12-millisecond latency is something that particularly stands out.

The question that we’ll be asking ourselves is how this technology can change our lives. Looking back at the Apple Watch, Apple initially leaned into it as a fashion product but eventually came around to the idea that it is primarily a health and fitness device. I think for the Vision Pro, the killer use case will be even more stratified. Some people will want them to consume content. Imagine having an IMAX-equivalent screen you can strap on your head or watching your favorite sport virtually on the field next to your favorite players. I love the idea of creating virtual workspaces where I could journal in the middle of Yosemite or do some work while enjoying the view from Machu Picchu. I also like the idea of a seemingly 40-foot whiteboard that I could use in my 14-foot office.

The answer to how we’d use this is going to be “it depends on the person.” Can Apple continue to nail and improve upon this technology? Likely. Will this technology reach critical mass as it gets more affordable? That depends on whether there are enough good reasons for it.

A Brief Review of the Orange Nomad Sport Band

I’ve been leaning into the orange bands with the Apple Watch Ultra. They look great, particularly with that big orange button on the side. The problem is that my Apple Orange Alpine Loop is getting filthy. I wanted an orange band appropriate for working in the yard and whatnot so I ordered the Nomad Orange Sport Band.
It arrived a few days ago, and I’m digging it. The material is “Premium” fluoroelastomer. It feels good on my wrist and the abundance of holes makes it comfortable, even when I’m working outside and sweating. It feels secure and looks easy to clean. If you’ve got the orange watch band bug, this is one to check out.

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack

A few weeks ago, Apple released the MagSafe Battery Pack. The device itself is a small bit of matte rubber covering a 1,460mAh battery that transfers at 5W and the MagSafe-aligned magnets for it to snap on the back of your iPhone.

I bought one thinking I’d try it out, remaining mindful of the two-week return calendar. I ended up keeping it and thought I’d report a few findings here.

The Short Version of this Review

The MagSafe Battery Pack is overpriced but super convenient.

The Killer Feature: Convenience

The only reason to buy the MagSafe Battery Pack is convenience. It is smaller than nearly all battery packs you can buy, and it easily fits in your pocket. It’s also convenient because it uses MagSafe to charge, so you don’t have to fiddle with a cable. My primary use case for this battery is day trips to Disneyland.

If you haven’t been to Disneyland lately, the entire experience now runs off an app. In addition to using the app for your admission ticket, you also use it to make ride reservations, order food, interact with the park, and just about everything else. That’s in addition to the inevitable picture-taking, media-sharing, and messaging that comes with visiting Disneyland. So the park puts more drain on your battery now than it ever has in the past.

Historically, I’d plug my phone into a charger while I sat and ate, or (in a jam) do that thing where you’ve got the battery in one pocket or in your backpack and snaking a cable to the phone somewhere on your person, which in addition to making you look like a dork, is also a pain in the neck when the cable gets snagged while you are moving around.

So I bought the battery for convenience. I want to snap it on my phone around 2 pm and then snap it off a few hours later, knowing I’ll have sufficient charge to continue using my phone throughout the day. The MagSafe Battery Pack does that. I’ve now taken a few trips to Disneyland, and the MagSafe Battery Pack was easy to carry, juice up my phone, and then get out of the way. I no longer need to remember to charge while I eat or deal with the random cable issue.

Also in the convenience category is how it works with the iPhone OS to display the battery and phone charge levels. Third-party batteries will never get hooks into the operating system. Apple batteries will.

The Downside

If the above-listed conveniences aren’t blowing your hair back, you should not buy a MagSafe Battery Pack. There are alternative battery packs on the market (even MagSafe ones!) that are cheaper and have more capacity. Indeed, I’m not aware of any other battery on the market that gives you so little bang for so much buck.

It’s really simple here. Either you are willing to pay for the conveniences of the MagSafe Battery Pack, or you are not. Neither decision is wrong. Imagine if, instead, we were talking about refrigerators. You can spend anywhere between $300 and $10,000 on a new refrigerator, all of which are perfectly capable of keeping your food cold. It comes down to what features you want. When buying a new refrigerator, I avoid the more expensive conveniences. However, when it comes to my iPhone, I’m willing to pay. That’s why I’m keeping the MagSafe Battery Pack. Also, I try not to think of the fact that for the cost of three of these batteries, I could get a new refrigerator.

Waterfield’s Sutter Tech Sling

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While I generally prefer backpacks when carrying a lot of gear, over the past year, my load-out has got a lot smaller. The iPad Pro, with its relatively light weight, is as powerful as a MacBook Pro and I don’t have a laptop anymore. Often I want to head out to Starbucks (or Disneyland) with an iPad and a few odds and ends. The gang at WaterField bags were kind enough to send me their new Sutter Tech Sling to try out for just this purpose.

The Sutter Tech Sling is, as the name implies, a sling-style bag that can be adjusted to go over your left or right shoulder. It does this with a D-ring on the top of the bag and two separate mounting points at the bottom. On long days, it takes just seconds to move the strap and switch shoulders. Also related, the strap has a cam lock buckle that is easy to adjust while you are wearing the bag and there is a built-in shoulder pad to give you more comfort. Like other Waterfield bags, the back of the bag has a mesh padding to keep your back from getting sweaty on a hot day.

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The Sutter Tech Sling comes in either brown waxed canvas and brown leather (my preference) or black ballistic nylon and black leather trim. There are two sizes: Standard (11.5″ x 8″ x 3″ with 4.5 liters of volume) and Full (14″ x 9.5″ x 3″ with 6.5 liters of volume). I have the Full size, which is required to carry a 12.9″ iPad but even the Full-size Sutter Tech Sling is the smallest bag I’ve used in some time. The bag has a main compartment that contains a separate padded sections that I use for holding my iPad. There’s also a front pocket compartment for holding incidentals.

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On longer outings I’ve got the bag stuffed with my iPad, external battery, a rolled up jacket, small umbrella, water bottle, paper notebook and pens (they sell a matching pen case), and the other bits I normally carry with no problem. The bag has side zippers on both left and right sides for the front pouch and long zippers that go to the side on its main compartment, so it is easy to slide the bag forward onto your stomach without taking it off and access your gear. I often use the Sutter Tech Sling while biking. Being able to access my sunglasses in this fashion is great.

The thing I like about Waterfield bags most is the way they sweat the small stuff. The Sutter Tech Sling is no different in this regard. The clip on the key fob has a high tension spring, so I don’t have to worry about losing my keys. The three pen holders are big enough to hold my larger pens (or Apple Pencil) but also tight enough to keep them from falling out in the bag. The aglets on the end of zipper pulls aren’t cheap plastic but metal barrels that look like tiny lightsaber hilts. The interior is lined with gold fabric, making it easier to find stuff in the bag. The zippers are inset and waterproof. We’ve (thankfully) had a lot of rain in southern California this winter and I’ve been riding my bike in the rain with this bag a lot. At no point did I see any evidence of water getting inside the bag.

My well-loved Sutter Tech Sling. Click to enlarge.

Here’s my Sutter Tech Sling after two months of abuse through rain and sun. If anything, it looks even better now than it did when it was new.

The Sutter Tech Sling has become my go-to bag. I love the compact size and the easy carry over either shoulder. Because I can switch shoulders, I am able to carry this bag with a full load through a whole day. I’ve received numerous compliments on the bag from strangers, and I’m not surprised. It’s a great looking and highly functional bag. If you are looking for a sling, this is the one.

The Waterfield Air Porter

My Air Porter on my last trip.

My Air Porter on my last trip.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travel lately for fancy lawyer-related business. Usually I just take a backpack on trips, but it doesn’t really look good in the business meetings where I have to wear a suit. So, of course, that gave me an excuse to get a new bag. I ended up with the WaterField Air Porter Carry-On Bag, and I’m quite happy with it.

The Air Porter is a leather and canvas bag from WaterField, the same team that makes most of the bags I buy. They are based out of San Francisco, and they always nail the little details. The Air Porter is no different. In this case, WaterField actively solicited customer input while they were designing the bag, and the result is something that makes travel easier. By combining WaterField’s ability to make a bag with active customer feedback, we get a really nice travel bag.

The Air Porter has two zippered compartments. The large compartment has lots of space and pockets. The smaller compartment is for storing a laptop or tablet (or both) and features an extended zipper that makes it easier to deal with airport security. A nice small touch here is the way the laptop pocket dips on each side, making it easy to plug your Mac in for a charge while it is still in the bag.

There is a separate zipper for the main compartment that feels pretty roomy, considering the size of the bag. It has several pockets and space for files, books, and even the Air Caddy (explained below).

All of the WaterField bags use gold fabric on the inside, which makes finding things a lot easier compared to the standard black interiors found in most bags. I own several WaterField bags, and it baffles me that other manufacturers don’t do this. It’s so obvious once you try it. Finally, there is a flap for an accessible slot on one side good for holding things you need quick access to in the airport, and the other side has a fabric panel that will attach your AirPorter to your carry-on luggage handle. There’s also a padded strap so you can put it over your shoulder.

The bag’s size, 15 x 10.25 x 4.5 inches, is travel-friendly. The bag easily stands and its height upright (10.25 inches) fits perfectly under the seat in front you and, because it is standing, your feet can still fit under the seat. That alone is a huge improvement over traveling with a backpack.

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One of my favorite things about the Air Porter is that it is actually two bags. For $20 more you also get the Air Caddy. The Air Caddy is a zippered pouch made to hold an iPad (10.5 inches or smaller) and a few other bits, such your mid-flight granola bar. The Air Caddy fits in the main cargo area of the Air Porter, but when you board your plane, the power move is to slip it out and drop it in the seat pouch. The combination of the Air Porter and the Air Caddy makes boarding a plane much easier. Just slip out the Air Caddy, put it in the seat pocket, then slide the Air Porter under the seat, and you’re good. I like this system so much that I’m going to be using the Air Caddy when I travel with my backpack instead of the Air Porter. The Air Caddy is also useful for other things. For instance, I’ve taken to using it to carry my iPad, journal, a few pens, and snacks and throwing it in my bicycle pannier on days that I’m getting around by pedal power.

I like the Air Porter so much that I’ve been using it for the day job even when not traveling to the airport. It looks classy and efficiently holds my stuff. I also like its relatively compact size on a day full of meetings.

The Air Porter comes in a few looks including ballistic nylon, leather, or canvas, and options in shades of brown and black. It’s a great bag. You should check it out.

The WaterField MacBook SleeveCase Review

For a few weeks last month I was a world traveler. While it is fun getting stamps on your passport and embarrassing your children while you try to converse with people in other languages, one concern I had for the trip was getting around with my technology.

I knew I needed to bring the MacBook. My problem was I didn’t have a bag for it. Before leaving, I picked up a WaterField MacBook SleeveCase. As computer cases go, this is fairly minimal. The bag is waxed canvas (they also have a version in ballistic nylon) with a nice padded pocket to hold your MacBook and a leather flap that velcros down to keep your Mac solidly in place. I chose the waxed canvas SleeveCase with leather reinforcements. I’m pretty sure it is the same one Indiana Jones would carry if he needed such a thing.

I opted for the additional side clips and strap so I could wear it over my shoulder. I’m glad I did because I ended up carrying this computer bag everywhere.

The MacBook SleeveCases are designed to fit around the specific Apple laptop computers. They make them for all of the MacBooks ranging from the 12-inch MacBook to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. You can order the SleeveCase in either vertical or horizontal orientation. The bag is TSA approved, and I was able to put it through airport security without removing it from the SleeveCase.

The WaterField SleeveCase does not hold much except your computer and whatever you can fit in the side pocket. There is an optional piggyback case that lets you store more accessories and attaches to the case.

The thing I liked most about the WaterField SleeveCase is that it served two purposes. It’s robust enough with the strap that you can carry it around for the day with your Mac inside. However, if I needed to carry a backpack with more gear, the case is thin enough that I could slide it into my backpack where it served as a protective sleeve for the MacBook inside the backpack. WaterField makes laptop bags with more onboard storage, like the Staad Attaché and the Outback Solo, but I needed something that could either be worn independently or easily fit in my backpack when needed. It was this dual purpose that attracted me to the SleeveCase in the first place.

Like all other WaterField products, the SleeveCase is gorgeous. At one point during the trip my teenage daughter said to me, “Dad, I like your computer bag.” That’s right. The bag received a compliment …  from a teenager! Somewhere at that moment an angel received its wings.

All WaterField products are made in San Francisco and built to last. I’ve been buying products from them for ten years, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. 

The New Dash iPad Sleeve

I’ve been sporting this new 10.5” iPad for awhile (that I love) but I’ve not shared any details about my case. For several years now I’ve been using Waterfield bags and cases. It’s a San Francisco-based company that locally manufactures excellent bags for your Apple gear. With my prior iPad I used a one of their Dash sleeves and for this new one I went again with the Dash iPad Sleeves.

However, since I bought the last Dash sleeve, they’ve updated the design. The new Dash 2.0 design is pretty great. The sleeve is made just big enough to hold your iPad (or your iPad plus a Smart Keyboard). The iPad slides in to a soft fabric with foam backing to protect you iPad. The exterior is either ballistic nylon or a rugged textile. I’ve been romping around Hawaii this week where it rains often and I discovered the fabric is water resistant. The Dash Sleeve comes in several colors including black ballistic nylon and blue, green, grey, and red fabric.

Like the prior Dash sleeve, there is a simple bit of elastic on one side that you can pull over the top to secure your iPad in the sleeve. New to version 2.0 is a zippered pocket to securely add a few accessories. The pocket is tall enough to hold an Apple Pencil and there’s even a little slot inside the zippered compartment to hold the Pencil. Once you stow your Pencil in the slot and zip up the compartment, it’s not going anywhere. The compartment is also big enough to hold my plus-sized iPhone

I really like the updated Waterfield Dash 2.0 iPad Sleeve. It’s both attractive and protective enough to carry your iPad around without any other case. I often use it as my sole case as I move around my day living the iPad lifestyle. At the same time, the Dash Sleeve is small enough that it easily fits in my breifcase or backpack so I can throw my Dash-protected iPad in with other gear without worrying about it getting damaged.

I was first attracted to the Waterfield products when I saw friends carrying them at Macworld Expo years ago. Their products are great looking but also built to last. Waterfield bags I bought years ago are still in great condition and getting used everyday. I expect this new Dash Sleeve will be no different and taking care of my iPad Pro for a long time to come.