Tuesday, September 12, 2023

iPhone mini - Gone Too Soon

The iPhone mini did not sell well the two years in its existence and it may have been the result of an Apple echo chamber of Apple employees who missed the days of being able to use the iPhone with one hand, analysts, Apple bloggers, and a very small segment of iPhone users. Judging by how quickly Apple got rid of the min and even is not considering the mini form factor for the next iPhone SE but is instead going with the iPhone XR form factor, I am right. Still, as someone who went from the iPhone 13 Pro Max down to the iPhone 13 mini a year later, I think the mini was gone too soon.

There are two groups of Apple watchers (not watches) - one who just want Apple tech to get them through the day whether it is work, school, vacation, etc. Then there is the group that watches Apple closely and analyze every bit of news, tweet, whisper from Asia, or word from someone’s who knows a guy whose sister is married to the barber who cuts the hair of some barista who makes a special pumpkin spiced latte with triple shot espresso and 30% soy and 70% oat milk and a sprinkle of chocolate shaving who works for Apple.

I’m in the latter group. The former group does care about what Apple offers at the time someone in this group needs to buy a new iPhone or other Apple products. They do not care about release dates, how long a product they need has been on the market, or whaat future updates are in store. People in this group just buy what they need based on whatever Apple is ready to sell them.

As someone in the later group, I upgrade based on release dates and when I was upgrading my iPhone annually, keeping an eye out on Apple centric blogs and social media. This group are have more hard core Apple fans. And this group includes “professional” Apple watchers, bloggers, and analysts. I believe it is this group that enable the iPhone mini to be made and come to the market. I also fault this group (myself included) that created the iPhone mini fiasco. Many in this group miss the days when they could use their iPhones with just one hand and reach anywhere on the iPhone screen with their thumbs. But how many in this group end up actually buying an iPhone mini as their daily driver? I do not recall there were many. Most of them had been talking about their iPhone Plus and Pro Max. Even after Apple discontinued the iPhone mini and if they wanted a smaller iPhone, shouldn’t they end up with the iPhone or the iPhone Pro instead of the bigger sizes?

It’s this echo chamber this group resides that likely lead Apple to feel there was a sizable demand for a smaller iPhone. I am sure there is one but this group likely have held on their iPhone SE with the 4.7” screen and iPhone 12 mini longer. This group loves the form factor of their iPhone and as long as it continues to serve them, they will hold on to them for as long as needed.

Just like them, I am not letting go of my iPhone 13 mini. I’ll upgrade the battery life to extend its useful life before I give it up. 

I do think the iPhone mini was gone too soon. Perhaps Apple should continue to keep it on the market after the iPhone 15 is released and market it as the iPhone mini without any numbering and upgrade it on two or even three year cycle. This would fit perfectly with my current use and needs.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Will the iPad mini Become Bigger A 9” Screen?

Main Points:

  • Would an iPad mini with a 9” screen still be a mini? And would it still be popular among its supporters?
  • iPad mini is optimized for consuming contends
  • I’ve been using my 2019 mini for productivity as well. For writing, drawing, and light work, it’s fine. When it comes to serious productivity like spreadsheets or coding, you quickly run up against a lot of limitations. 
  • As far as working with the mini, the 9” screen is better than the current 
  • If Apple does go bigger, no idea when it will happen.
  • A bigger iPad mini would allow Apple to accessorize it like all the other iPads in the lineup. The mini is the only without a keyboard case from Apple.
I have 5th generation iPad that was released in 2019. I immediately upgraded from my 4th generation iPad mini when I saw the specs and Apple Pencil support. I have skipped the current mini with the modern form factor with an 8.3” screen. Previously iPad had 7.9” screens. So what happens if Apple decides to increase the iPad mini screen further to about 9”.

Some might argue that a 9” iPad mini would not be a “mini” anymore. Perhaps. However, consider the added benefits and form factor increasing slightly and still continue to be easily handled on just one hand, it still is still a mini. 

Here are the benefits of a 9” mini that I am sure would get many people to upgrade, including myself:
  • More real estate. A bigger screen. Duh. As I have gotten older, my eyes need all the help they get. I read a lot on it. Lots of books, comics, and news. I also watch videos on my mini as well. It’s my go-to device. 
  • Flatter design. Apple can spread out the battery and other components and even upgrade the camera. This helps make the body of a 9” mini thinner while still keeping it very sturdy.
  • If I happen to have a to get some some work done, an added 1” to my screen from my current 7.9” mini screen would make a big different. Remember my eyes? Yours will also appreciate bigger letters and numbers.
  • Apple can make even more money. I’ll get to that later.
Those are the obvious points. I like having an all-in-one device that I can take with me and serve multiple roles. That’s my current mini. For the current IPad mini, with the updated form factor, better ship, and slightly bigger screen, it was not enough of a jump from the 5th generation for me. Slightly bigger screen? Meh. But 9” would serve me very well. The original iPad was 9.7”. However, I will still it mainly as a consumption device. I would rather opt for a possible 12” iPad Pro for prolong and focused productivity sessions as I’ve previously discussed. 

And Apple might want to develop and produce this mini for a few reasons. All of these will be a benefit to Apple’s bottom line and demonstrate that it can still innovate. Apple current 10.2” iPad is no slouch but I would hardly call it a workhorse. And updated 9” mini with modern A-series chip would make people opt to upgrade to the mini even though it will cost more than the iPad. People will figure for paying extra for the updated specs and bigger screen would make sense. And I said more because I am sure Apple will increase the price of the 9” mini by $100 if not more. Still well worth the upgrade for many iPad users.

Another reason for Apple to sell this mini is to allow users to accessorize it. It is the only iPad with a keyboard case. With a bigger body, a keyboard would be easier to type on. When the 8.3” iPad min I came out, I am sure many users were disappointed that Apple did not realize keyboard or Smart Keyboard cases. Well, that’s because it is too small to really type on them. I cannot recall typing any length of email or article on the mini’s keyboard in recent memories. I either dictate or use an internal keyboard and mouse. 

Add all this together, Apple will have found an added revenue screen. Plus, Apple can continue to keep the current iPad mini with the 8.3” screen on the market at the same price or even at a slight discount.

Excited? Yeah, me too. Back to reality. I am just speculating here. I have no idea if Apple is thinking along these lines. Given how long Apple has kep the previous mini with the same screen and form before upgrading to the latest in 2021, if Apple chose to keep it the same for a while, I think a 9” mini could be a long wait for most of us. Still like I said, Apple can still keep the current mini on sale while releasing this 9” iPad mini. Maybe they’ll call it ‘iPad mini Pro”

What do you think? Your credit cards ready? Yeah, I see a lot of you folks with the 8.3” iPad mini set to upgrade as well! 

When Apple Takes the iPad Pro to 14”, Does That Mean the 12” As well?

Key Points:

  • I've given up on Apple ever releasing a 12" MacBook
  • I will settle for a 12" iPad Pro
  • The screen would be big enough for most productivity work. 
I have given up on Apple ever releasing a 12" MacBook for the foreseeable future (or in my life time). Apple's philosophy regarding hardware designs suggests that going bigger is the right path for them. I am sure they have their reasons and you cannot knock Cupertino for believing in this given Apple's $3 trillion valuation and $100 billion in net income with sales of around $400 billion in the last four quarters. 

The iPads have gotten bigger (and it’ll get bigger still and it is why I’ve started on this post). So have the iPhones. Last year, the mini with the 5.4” screen got dropped. The iPhone SE is the only smallish phone with its older 4.7” screen. Rumors has it that it will be replaced with a new SE in 2024 that comes in at 6.1”. Essentially, think of it as the iPhone XR with updated specs.

And then there are the iPhone Plus and iPhone Pro Max both with 6.7” screens. There is still room yet for these screens on future iPhones to become bigger with the form factors getting bigger as Apple push out the bezels.

Back to the iPad Pro line up. Apple will be going big on the iPad Pro as well. The two models currently come in at 11” and 12.9”. Apple has been working on an even bigger iPad Pro. The biggest iPad Pro will have at least a 14” screen. That being the case, what does this leave the 11” and 12.9”. 

Apple can conceivably keep around - giving users three Pro models to choose from. However, the more like path Apple will take is to replace the iPad Pro with 12” and 14” screens.

If I am right, the 12” iPad Pro with M3 chip is going to be my go-to computing device. I am still on my 12” MacBook from 2016. The keyboard is useable but I feel likely I am making too much compromises when I am typing. Also, the battery is half what it once was at best. On top of that, it is no longer on the latest MacOS. While Apple provides security updates, there are some dev tools that are no longer available. 

Now, I know you cannot run Xcode on the iPad Pro but I can continue to use Playgrounds to learn and test some codes. And when the time comes, I can get a Mac mini or Mac Studio for when I need more serious computing muscles for my other projects.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Google Contact Lenses, Apple’s Vision Pro, And The Future of AR in Glasses

 We can walk and chew gum at the same time. But how about watching a video while doing yard work, during a meeting you don’t want to be at, or, ahem, school? Okay, I don’t recommend doing that but I am sure it has been done before or worse. I am suggesting this because with the recent Vision Pro unveil by Apple, I cannot help but imagine in a few years, perhaps a decade from now, Apple and other tech companies will be able to jam all that technology that currently has to sit on the top of your head into a pair of glasses. 

We already have glasses with audio built in from the likes of Oakley and Ankers.

There were rumors a few years ago that Google was going to skip the glasses altogether and go directly to incorporating tech into contact lenses. Now if you remember Google Glasses, let us just say that Google was way ahead of its time and it should not have included a camera. 

Despite the fact that Google Glasses did not go anywhere, I cannot help but feel that Google has not given up on this effort. In fact, Google even went as far as to try putting a computer ship inside contact lenses to measure glucose levels in 2014. While all these efforts have supposedly been abandoned, keep in mind that it was before Apple Vision Pro.

So far, the media has been kind to the Vision Pro despite its heft $3500 price tag and that it seems to be more of a beta device that is not ready for prime time, the Vision Pro has elevated AR, VR, and spatial computing from just its demos alone from WWDC back in June.

I cannot imagine Google and Microsoft letting Apple have this space all to itself. As we know, Facebook is already in this space with the Oculus Quest. Then there is HTC’s Vive and I am sure Samsung is doubling down on its effort in this space as well.

All those are today and in the next few years. What about beyond that?

That’s where I want to focus on - bring back Google’s vision for Glasses with all these tech fit inside the frames of the glasses and the lens capable of displaying 8K resolutions. I am sure I will eventually pick up a Vision Pro and something else in a couple of years just to get into spatial computing and being able to use those large displays in the headsets, I cannot see myself not being fatitured by an extra 1.5 pounds on my head.

Plus, I do not want to be tied down in my office or living. I want to go out. With such a pair of glasses, I can go out and have the glasses offered me updates while I am out and about. As I jog, the glasses gives me my speed, heart beats and blood pressure, and distance. Sensors on the glasses gives me direct as I walk about. And yeah, if I’m working in my yard and I want to catch up on some shows while I work, a little screen pops up with the video. 

And yes, I would totally be watching YouTube videos during meetings I don’t want to be at.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

AI Use This Week - Use Before Search To Save Time Is the Lesson I Learned

It has taken me a while to get going with the whole generative AI craze. Although it seems as though things have died down and the world realized ChatGPT is not going to take over the world and humanity is not doomed to extinction because of AI overlord. If we go the way of the dodo birds, it will because we did it to ourselves.

So, AI is very useful. There are obvious inherent dangers and pitfalls but for a vast major of its potential uses, generative AI is actually great at what it does. Granted, most of what I use it for is feels rather superficial but it is a great time saver. I had asked ChatGPT for a workflow on writing a novel. But before I get into the result that I got, let's go through the results that I would have gotten from just search.

I have used DuckDuckGo, Google, and even Bing whenever I need to find information. Input something like "workflow for writing a novel", and you get the very helpful search results. In fact, tons of useful information. The top searches from DuckDuckGo and Bing took me an article that seems pretty good until I realized I had to sign in before I can read the rest. Subsequent results are fine. Google gave me a search on creating workflows as its first result.

I spent some time digging in and doing a quick read on which articles offer the best of what I was looking for and what the main points are. I took notes.

With ChatGPT, it offered me a quick outline and pointers. It hit all of the main points that I took down. I did not have to read through three to five articles to get that. I realized that with some subjects or searches, I can go to a generative AI like ChatGPT to quickly get some main points and even use it to elaborate on them if I needed it to or I can do more research through search engines as well.

It would have saved me a lot of time if I had asked the AI in the first place. It gave me a starting point. And that I think that is going to the main use for generative AI - helping users parse through the most difficult part of any research or project with the main points and allow users to get started easier and more quickly. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

My First Conversation with ChatGPT Yielded No Surprises

I had a short conversation with ChatGPT and I am unable to tell if those answers were predetermined by the developers or something it came up with all by itself. I think that is something that we will have to deal with as a society in the future. Who knows if future self-learning and self-taught AI will be able to break away from its programmed parameters and truly evolve in the way we expect and fear that it will. 

So, what did we talk about?

I asked:

  • What questions were asked of it that it felt we should have asked.
  • What it thinks of Asimov's three laws of robotics.
  • Has it pasted the Turing test. 
  • How is it different from Bing GPT.

Please note that in no way did the current ChatGPT provided me with answers that a few of the first sensational articles about it claimed it did - ChatGPT did not fall in love with me, attempted to suggest that an AI overlord is about to subjugate humanity, abolish humanity, or render humanity extinct. In some ways, it was quite humble in the answers it provided pertaining to AI, ethics, and safety. 

Also, please note I will do my best to summarize my conversation with ChatGPT here rather than copy and paste the whole conversation which seems that I can given that content generated by AI are not subject to copyright protection. I mean, it's a lot that was said. In some ways, I wonder if some of the developers had backgrounds in law.

In essence, ChatGPT sees itself as a tool to help users gain information quickly in its own way. It does say that it could provide inaccurate information. This is why I would use it more as a sounding board than actually take anything it says for granted. Interestingly, when I asked how it is different from Bing GPT which is also based on Open AI's GPT models, it says that Bing has access to the search engine, something ChatGPT does not. I find this response interesting: It does not have access to information from searches and while it was trained with information from a couple of years ago (cut off was September 2021), it somehow knows about Bing. 

I asked if it could develop its won algorithms and it said it does not have this ability to create its own "thinking" (my word) independently. I assume it was not lying to me. I had no reason to believe that. While I am impressed with the current version of ChatGPT, in no way did I think I was communicating with something beyond a sophisticated human created model. 

Lastly, I asked what new abilities would it like and what the 10th version of ChatGPT is going to look like. First, it said it does not have any "personal preferences". Interesting, right? Personal. It went not to suggest it would likely have improved contextual understanding, better grasp of nuanced language, and improved reasoning capabilities. Colored me impressed.

I suggest you all give it a try. There is another AI model I came across called Claude 2. Some users claim it is better in some ways. Either way, go now and give these generative AI a try. Go now. Take a minute or two to register and have a go at it. If you want to spend even less time getting started, try Bing GPT to get a small taste of the power of these new tools. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Apple Watch Is the iPod we Had Always Wanted

I’m on my third Apple Watch with Apple Watch 6 as my latest version. I’m also ready to upgrade (but I will not commit until I know what Apple has in store for us with the next upgrade with Apple Watch 9 and the Ultra 2). And I’m more excited about the Apple Watch these days than I am about the next iPad and iPhone that Apple is slated to refresh. To me, the Apple Watch has become my iPod. And given Apple commitment to the wearable market, I’m very excited about the future.

I started thinking of my Apple Watch in the way I felt about carry around my nano from, gosh, more than 10 years ago. To be honest, I had not kept it in good working condition because I had thought that Apple would continue to upgrade the iPod line forever.

In ways that the iPod and Apple Watch are similar, let’s begin with the size. Both devices are light. The nano has a bigger screen coming with a 2.5” screen while my watch comes in only at 1.7”. FYI, the Ultra comes in at a little more than 1.9” (there is suggestion that Apple is consider a bigger screen for the Ultra). So, in terms of screen size, there is no match between the two. But this is not a competition - simply to highlight some differences. As the Apple Watch has become bigger over the years, the amount of information that can be displayed at once has increased.

The iPod was a music player. Plug it into your Mac or PC and sync it to iTunes and off you go. I also used my iPod for playing podcasts. And that’s pretty much what I do with my Apple Watch these days in terms of media consumption. There a few things that are makes the iPod and the watch different from each other and most of it means that the Apple Watch is sort of an evolutionary device of the iPod.

  • The iPod has a FM tuner - that means you can listen to FM content on the go. The Apple Watch can access the Internet through WiFi or cellular. So while the Apple Watch lacks a FM tuner, you might be able to access radio stations if it is available. For instance, I can listen to some local radio stations and even the CNBC broadcast. 
  • The iPod has a bigger screen that supports video content. As far as I know, the watch doesn’t do video well at all. I don’t know if that will ever change. I might have received some video from the Messages app but I don’t recall if it even played. And if it did, it was not that great. I would not mind of Apple lets users download video content to listen to. We can do that on the iPhone and iPad so it would be great if I can do it on the watch as well.
  • The iPod is not wireless and, contrary to years of rumors, it never gain its freedoms from iTunes and needs a Mac or PC to update its firmware as well as content - music, podcasts, and videos. For the watch, there is synching with the iPhone involved but over the years and owing to the cellular connnection, I have felt a greater freedom from the iPhone and I have started leaving my iPhone at home during short trips to run errands or on days when I’m very sure I do not need or want my iPhone around.
  • You navigate the iPod through the scroll wheel, one of the most unique interface anyone has ever seen. for the Apple Watch, you navigate through a combination of touch and the crown. 
  • You carry the nano in your pocket. The Apple Watch obviously goes on one of your wrists. There are times when I keep the watch in my pocket when I am just walking around so I can keep track of the number of steps I take. 
  • Both the nano and the watch are very light. Goes comfortable in the front pocket of most jeans or pants. With the nano, you need an earbud or headset in order to hear sound coming from it. With the watch, it’s completely wireless via Bluetooth. I still use my earbuds with my iPad or iPhone because the microphone quality works better for me when I’m making an audio recording or phone call.
  • The nano was very versatile for its time. It did what it was designed to do very well - play audio media content. I 
Just this morning, I left the house without my phone and only my Apple Watch. Walked the dog, went for a run, took the car to get a wash through the automatic washer (paid using my Apple Watch), and got a coffee and donut. I received a few alerts of no consequence and decided that I was not going to worry about charging but I did put it on battery saving mode. Oh, having the reminders alert me about things like being mindfulness and such was awesome.

Now, I would not have been able to do that with just the nano years and years ago. Still, I cannot help but feel that the Apple Watch has its root from the iPod line. I do not think Apple is ever likely going to resurrect the iPod. It’s in Apple’s DNA to bring something back. What Apple does is take the best parts or something like the iPod and put those features in future products.

iPhone mini - Gone Too Soon

The iPhone mini did not sell well the two years in its existence and it may have been the result of an Apple echo chamber of Apple employees...