Tuesday, September 21, 2021

iPad For the Week

 I figure I need a MacBook for coding.  As I continue my slow coding trek, I assumed that I need a Mac in order to do that. However, I’m still at the level where I can get away with a Mac while I use online sources and apps to beef up my coding muscles. This week is going to prove it.

I will be having a change of scenery as I am staying closer to work so we do not have to suffer the Los Angeles traffic. LA is flat and you have to drive pretty much everywhere you go. This morning, I packed my wife’s MacBook Air, I was about to put my 12” Macbook into my bag when I realized that I have been doing a lot of work on the iPad mini and the iPad Pro over the weekend. 

Over the weekend, I did the following in terms of productivity:

  • Research products
  • Sketched some artwork
  • Writing
  • Used Numbers (Apple’s spreadsheet) and Google Sheets (Google’s spreadsheet)
  • Worked on online store (Yup, starting a hobby to learn how e-commerce works.  What better way than to create an online store)
  • Coding lessons
  • Reading up on materials relating to AI, coding, and online sales
  • Edited photos and videos
  • Wrote a short story
Aside from those productive tasks, I also read a Batman comic, writing in my journal, and watched movies. All of this was on the iPad. 

In the coming week, I think I can continue to do all of the above without having to use the Macbook for any of this.  Some tasks couple be easier on the Mac but others like sketching with the Apple Pencil and reading on the go is definitely either the Macbook is not capable of or convenient. Despite the Macbook being light and mobile, I like have to use both hands while propping it up while I can hold the iPad in one hand while reading on the couch or bed.

And this is on a 2019 iPad mini. I imagine I can do pretty much the same thing if I decided to upgrade to the 2021 iPad mini or even the Pro at some point in the future. That’s another line of thought for another time, perhaps later this week. 

And with iPadOS 15, my iPad mini is even more amazing. I’ll be updating how things are with the mini.  By the way, speaking of coding, Apple is supposed to release a version of Playgrounds that lets users submit apps into the App Store.  I cannot wait to try it out. 

The question I’m faced with in the future is whether I need a Mac anymore. I am sure Apple is faced with that dilemma internally.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Safari On Windows and Even Android Will Help Apple Cast A Wider Net To Protect User Privacy and Grow Its Ad and Search Revenue

Microsoft's Edge, Google's Chrome, and Firefox are the go-to browsers for most laptop and desktop users. Perhaps, Apple should really get back into the browser market if we are to really believe that Apple cares about user privacy and not just that of users behind its various highly protected and curated gardens. And with web technology evolving and getting better all the time, web apps could make a comeback and Apple has to make sure it does not get left behind and release Safari again for Windows and even Linux. And releasing browsers for Windows and Linux with greater privacy protection and features could help Apple increase its service revenues as well as help protect users on the increasingly complicated Internet.

Also, consider Apple possibly leaving billions on the table in the search and ads market, could Apple afford to do nothing and let others make all the money in the browser business? Right, the argument would be that Apple is being paid tens of billions by Google to be the default search engine and that it would be risky for Apple to walk away from that money. 

Apple can still earn billions from Google while still getting into back into the browser market on Linux and Windows. It is the best way for Apple to expand privacy protection for users and increase its services revenue. And release browsers on competing platforms would be the best way to go about it. Would it lose money since Apple make most of its money from hardware sales and a growing service portfolio as a result of this move?

It is unlikely. Apple users will buy Macs, iOS devices, and watches (maybe even AR hardware) regardless provided it continues to produce top end devices and provide reasons for new users to hop on to its platform. That will take care of itself. And its executive team and analysts will find a safe path for Apple continues to grow its hardware and higher margin services including ad sales. After all, if Apple do release  Safari on other platforms again, as long it is growing the service revenue pie, Apple is not going to worry about where the growth is coming from. Furthermore, I think Apple has forgotten the halo effect its products have had on non-Apple users. 

If Apple does get into browser business again to grow its services business,  it is likely years away. The main reason is that Apple browser is pretty good but would have to come with its own search service. Right now, Apple search is bad and not getting better.  It is inconsistent and it does not provide adequate results. Apple need to really double and triple down on its search and AI efforts. Supposed it happens, Apple will have an opportunity to get back into the open Internet where is is largely absent.

When the time comes, Do not expect to call it Apple Search. It would be too boring. Call it Siri or Spotlight would make sense.

Whatever Apple call its search service, do not expect a simple search prompt on a mostly empty page like Google or DuckDuckGo. I have no idea how Apple will implement its search engine. It will be a vastly different take. This is why I think Apple will not implement it until it can really get it right. It would have to be an intelligent search service with a vastly improved Siri playing a big role. If done correctly, even if Apple choose not to show ads directly to users, it would be a showcase of its technology and privacy protection. 

Would you be excited about using Apple's Safari on Windows or Linux along with Siri and better privacy?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

New iPhone 13: The Biggest Story Is Its Battery Life

 I cannot say that Apple really surprised us today with the event that introduced new iPads, iPhones, and the Apple Watch. There was something of interest for fitness fans just after Apple introduced the Apple Watch 7 that went longer than expected but the iPhone 13 was still why people showed up. And while cinema videography was pretty awesome, it was the battery life on the iPhone 13 that really should be the headline.

Should we be surprised by Apple giving the newer iPhones better battery life? Not really.  Thinking back now, Apple has been on a tear in the last few years starting with the iPhone XR that really impressed me. And year after year, battery life has improved to the point that I complain about it every other day rather than every day.  Okay, may be not but you know what I mean. I’m no longer anxious about running out of juice the way I did with the original SE, iPhone 8, and the X.  Since the XR and 11, Apple has brining its A game to the battery fight.

Normally, the lower end iPhone do not get a lot of attention in terms of features (missing a telephoto lens for example) or battery life. However, the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 mini will get an extra 2.5 hours and 1.5 hours respectively.  That puts the iPhone 13 at 19 hours of video and the iPhone 13 mini at 17 hours. Real world use varies. Given my experience with my iPhone 12 mini, I can go through the day and have about 40% left by the time I leave world. And this is really world use. It would put me at around 50% if I use the iPhone 13 mini in th same matter.

This means streaming podcasts, some video, a couple of photos, texting and reading Twitter/news, emails, and some writing.

For the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, there is an even bigger improvement. The iPhone 13 Pro gets 22 hours of video, 5 hours more than the iPhone 12 Pro while the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets 28 hours, a whole 8 hours more than its predecessor.  

If you do not have an iPhone 12, I would seriously suggest you give the iPhone 13 models a look. Better camera, longer battery life for real world use, and just the cinematic mode for taking video is worth the upgrades.

Personally, I’m pretty happy with with my green iPhone mini. And with the green discontinued as a color for the iPhone 13 this year, I think I’ll be sitting this year out. Maybe next year, eh, Apple?

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Saving iPhone Mini: It Would Be A Mistake For Apple To Get Rid Of It So It Probably Will Not

I love my iPhone 12 mini even though I have always had a top line iPhone (except for when I use my 2016 iPhone SE as a main driver and the Pro on certain occasions). So when I went with the mini this year, I knew I could not go back. It was a bit bigger than I hope for with a 5.4" screen but I'll take it. Given the news that the mini had not being selling as well as Apple had hoped, the rumors out there suggest iPhone 13 mini would be the last mini barring a miraculous jump in sale. I think it would be a mistake for Apple to get rid of the mini.

The rumors likely have it all wrong. Apple will not be getting rid of the mini but likely will change its strategy in marketing and selling the mini. There are options Apple have to make the mini more popular with the mainstream mobile users. It all depends on how Apple's mobile business model evolves or stays the same in the years to come. Will Apple be looking to sell high end models to keep its average selling prices up or will it be find with iPhone users upgrading to the lower end or middle of the road iPhones who also spend money on apps and Apple's growing portfolio of high margin services and digital offerings.

Here are some thoughts on making the mini better and stick around longer for those like smaller form factors and how I think Apple will like keep the mini around.

  • Smaller mini - I like the mini but I can go for a 5" mini. A small mini could bring back the segment of the market that wants a small iPhone. The iPhone 5 form factor is gone. The iPhone SE last year is a compromise but I don't know if it is selling all that well. But if Apple came back with an iPhone mini that is smaller than last year's SE and bigger than the iPhone 5 form factor, it would be a hit. 
I think it would be a huge hit. I'll probably be a life-long adopter of an iPhone with a 5" screen provide it has decent battery life. It would be perfect for those on the go who do not want a brick in their pocket, the world out crowd, and folks who likes to use their iPhones with just one hand.

This is not what Apple will likely do but this is a wishful thinking on my part and I want to get it out of the way first. If there is ever a 5" iPhone mini or SE, you only have to look to the current iPhone SE to see how it will perform in the real world.  

  • This is what Apple will most likely do with the iPhone mini. Renaming the mini and branding it as the iPhone SE. And when it does, what happens?  Touch ID either goes to the power button like the iPad Air and eventually migrate into the screen itself a few years down the line. There will be a price cut as well. The mini and SE starts at $699 and $399 respectively. that is a big price difference but Apple will find a way to get the cost down for the mini into the SE price range. After all the SE used to be an iPhone 7 or 8 and both the 7 and 8 started at $699.
  • Lowering the price of the mini but still calling it the mini. It would be a hit but I don't like this idea. Apple already has a lot of SKU and it's confusing to consumers. I would rather see the mini become the SE. However, Apple might keep the mini around for couple of years starting $599 to recoup some of the R&D costs and then drop it down to $499 as an SE. By that time, most of the margin will be most profit as costs of the iPhone mini is much cheaper in 3-4 years than what it is today.
With the screen size as low as 5.4" (I'm hoping for 5") all the way up to 6.7", Apple would continue to have every segment of the mobile market covered and prices starting at $399 and up. With the mini around, it gives Apple much more appeal to cost conscious buyers and fans of smaller form factor.

Expect some sacrifices though. The iPhone SE has only a low end camera that has been around for years. iPhone mini as an SE would be no different. We might still see the same camera design as the current iPhone 12 but I think Apple is going to do SE fans any favors with telephoto lens or much more upgraded camera feature. I can see Apple still to a single camera design that has a wide-angle feature to keep costs down.

Another sacrifice to expect with a mini as an SE is the battery life. I do not expect it to be worse than the current mini but I do not see Apple increasing the battery life in any measurable sense.  The current SE and mini comes in at 13 hours and 15 hours of streaming respectively. It is not that big of a difference in terms of real world use between the two models. So expect about the same battery life for future iPhone SE/mini. What I care about is real world use and I can tell you the mini is fine as a mobile device of a vast majority of users for day-to-day uses.

So, we will know in a day or two what Apple has planned for the iPhone 13 mini. And next year, we will know what Apple has planned for the SE. No matter what the rumors are saying about mini's demise or disappointing sales, Apple is not going to simply make it go away. The mini has a future in the iPhone lineup regardless of what you call it, mini or SE.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Satellite Services on the iPhone - The Possibilities Are Endless for Apple

T-Mobile's gross profit for 2020 was $40 billion. And that is a lot of money no matter how anyone, including Wall Street looks at it. Now, consider the yet to be announced feature on the iPhone 13 that allows users to use satellite services to connect in the event of an emergency and slowly over years, Apple begin to offer its own satellite services, possibly bypassing the mobile companies and keep billions in profit and revenue, it would be a business that provides high margins (seems like Wall Street is very concerned about profit margin for all publicly traded companies). 

According to reliable sources, the iPhone 13 will allow users who are outdoor to use the iPhone to connect to satellites to transmit short messages in case of emergencies. For the moment, the iPhone will not become a satellite phone. Rather, the emergency satellite service will be limited in usage as well as limited in the number of markets available.

Here are other services that I would like Apple to offer (perhaps as a rate they can charge):
  • Mapping. I would love to be able to download maps in areas where mobile connectivity are not available. I have gone on hikes miles in the mountains and barely made it out before dark. To suggest that I was panicking the last couple of hours and especially when I took the wrong turn and realized I had to backtrack 2-3 miles (and was not sure going back was the right decision) and looking an extra hour of sunlight would be a great understatement. 
  • Video and data connection. 5G is fast. Maybe it is. I would not really know at this point because it seems like I get it 5G in my mom's kitchen but nowhere else I know. I'm writing this in downtown Los Angeles and I'm only getting LTE albeit at full 5 bars.  I would not mind paying for faster Internet on top of what I pay T-Mobile via satellite, either as a backup or for faster download/upload rates, if it means I have added mobile connectivity should one or the other go down. This can be part of the iCloud services that Apple can eventually offer. It would be a wonderful addition for Apple TV, augmented reality, or iCloud storage.
  • Video communication. If a research teams in the Amazon or on an excavation in Southeast Asia, remote jungles/deserts of Africa, or the poles of the planet need to communicate with home, all they need are iPhones, iPads, or Macs with satellite modems.
Some would suggest that Apple may upset a lot of carriers if not all them should it appears like Apple is infringing on their markets. Sure. Apple has to do what it has to if it wants to keep bringing top notch services to its customers and that includes providing connection for the iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch for the users. 

And let's face the facts - no mobile company is going to build cell towers in the Amazon, Sahara, or even the mountains deep in the national parks around North America. And eventually, a plethora of satellite companies are going to be offering Internet services to complete with the cable, telecoms, and mobile companies like T-Mobile that offers home Internet through cellular services. It makes sense for Apple to get into this market.

Of course, this is years if not a decade or more away. Apple is very good at playing the kind of the long game. They offer one small service at a time (isn't GPS already a satellite service) and over time build out its services. In 10 years, Apple may have a valuable service that it offers to its customers that is both needed and profitable or other companies could step in and fill the needs of the market and Apple would decide against offering its own satellite services.  

No matter how you look at it, it is good to see Apple get into this realm, pulling other companies right along with it. And perhaps, it could be Apple's way of getting to space.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Apple Suprises - Apple Is Finally Listening to the Public (CSAM And Future Features and Products)

Apple surprised pretty much everyone when it announced that it would scan photos for evidence of sexual child abuse. The first thought, I am sure it is the same for most other Apple followers, is that it seems like a bad one, one that would quickly be followed by "the road to hell was paved with good intentions". Now, another surprise: Apple has backdown from following through, for now. It shows that Apple has finally learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps, Apple could have implemented the scan photos for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). 

Last month, Apple made the announcement of an upcoming feature to scan photos stored on iPhones for sexual abuse of children.  You likely have seen CSAM all over the news and on the Internet. It really has not been talked about enough in the context of what it could offer users in general. For something like this, it means that Apple has developed algorithms that can recognize certain elements in photos that is beyond identifying people, objects, and places. 

For many, I suppose it can be a great feature to have. I have gone through my photo library based on people or places that I have visited over the years. Not once has it dawned on me that Apple may will know more about me that I expected but not to the point where Google knows more about me than even I know about myself. Given Apple's stance on privacy, I still think that Apple has kept certain doors closed to itself about us.

What remains true about that is that it is Apple who still holds the keys to the privacy door. Not the user and at any time, whether through corporate needs, decrees by government, or anything else that could compel Apple to change its policy or view on privacy, that door will be opened. Perhaps a little at a time.

Apple's about-face here shows that it is listening to users. What we do not know is why.  Has Apple decided it is a feature they’re still hashing out and need more time to think through or bring it back at a later time when all the uproar has died down?

How about other features and products that Apple makes? Will Apple now be more receptive to what the public wants to a point? It will be interesting to see. There are times when it seems that Apple figures it knows what is best for the consumers and will not add a feature that many are request if ever or comes after years of waiting. One example is being able to chat with multiple users on FaceTime. It took years for Apple to finally implement that.

And the MacBook with the keyboard debacle around 2016-2018. Apple finally gave up on the butterfly keyboards and moved on to give users what they want -  you know, keys that actually can be typed on. Then there is the ports or lack of on the MacBooks. Not only did Apple take away ports but it affected critical workflow for professional users that have come to depend on them.

That Apple finally came around on CSAM should not be surprising. Apple under Tim Cook has always charted a course to avoid controversy whether in the US or even places like China. I believe Apple does think it is doing good with CSAM. I think it just needs to take public opinion into account and really make sure the feature is fully baked. 

iPad and WWDC Prediction: Apple Will Upgrade Siri And Users Will Not Be Able to Choose Between ChatGPT or Gemini

At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple is set to unveil major upgrades to its virtual assistant Siri. These enhanc...