Tuesday, April 5, 2022

AirPods Pro 2 - What New Features Can We Expect Or Want (Part 1)

I received a pair of AirPods Pro as a gift. Prior to that, I had avoided spending $250 on these little Bluetooth earbuds that I knew I had a good chance of losing. But after using it for more than a year now, I eagerly await the next version of the AirPods Pro and can’t wait to see how AirPods Pro 2 would be better than the original version. 

As an Apple fan, you would think that I would have been all over the AirPods when it first came out. And if not the original AirPods, then I would go for the AirPods Pro because of its new form, active noice cancellation features, water proof against sweat, and longer battery life.

But I didn’t buy it because knowing myself, there was a good chance I was going to lose it. But so far, I’ve  misplaced it many times but have not permanently lost one earbud or the whole set yet.  I’ve listed many other cheap pairs that I bought from Amazon so I have been pleasantly surprised. 

Now I know I can be remarkably responsible in this respect, I am looking forward to the next version of the AirPods Pro. Let’s start with what we know so far:

  • It will come in the second half of this year.  My guess, and probably yours, it is that’ll be here in time for the Holidays.
  • There could be features what adapt to the user - usage, ear size, etc. 
  • Price will stay at $250, the current retail price of the AirPods Pro 
  • . But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that is possible Apple might price it higher at $279 due to rising costs. And yeah we will buy it. I doubt people will grumble about it given the rate of inflation and just recently, Apple also hiked the entry price of the new iPhone SE by $30. The price was noted but few complaints. 
  • Better battery life. I am guess an hour at most. While your mileage may vary, I do want my gadgets to have longer battery life but at no time have I ran out of juice because I could put the AirPods into the case for a quick charge. Maybe one of the two did run out of battery once but I was able to continue using the other one while the other one charges. For reference, the Beats Fit Pro from Apple with ANC offers six hours. 
  • Better sound quality. I do not have discerning ears so while I appreciate any improvement Apple makes, I doubt the audio quality of my audiobooks and podcasts will sound any better. That’s what I listen to most. Having said that, Apple is all about innovations so we can expert some crazy awesome improvements. 
  • New design. Given how compact the Beats Fit Pro is, I expect the AirPods Pro 2 will looks more like the Fit than the original one. However, I am worried about audio quality from the microphone. 
  • There may be some health features but I’ll be honest about this one: so far, this sounds more like wishful thinking. If anyone is waiting to get health features on the AirPods, I recommend to just go ahead and get the Apple Watch. 
More information will leak from Asia, Apple watchers with insider info, and certain well connected analysts. Those information above are pretty sound and I expect most of that to be pretty accurate. Next, I’ll hit the features that we are all hoping to have on the AirPods Pro 2. 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Apple Silicon’s M2 Chip Is Coming. Which MacBooks and iPads Will Get It and When

When iPhone 13 was released, it seemed to everyone that the M2 chip for the Mac would be coming out soon. So far, speculations about that has continued to ramp up on nearly a daily basis. And based on the latest update from the Internet, this is where we are at with the M2 chip and it raises a lot of fun questions.

So, I’m going to sum up what I am reading right now. Let’s go through it together.

The M2 will not debut until the second half of 2022 with newly redesigned MacBooks, that may or may be called “Macbook Air”. As a long time Mac user, I do not mind the MacBook Air if the name fits the size and use. But that’s another chat entirely. 

Typically, second half means two things: Apple can introduce the M2 at its annual World Wide Developer Conference in June or at a separate event in October after Apple unveils the iPhone 14 in September. We just hit April so we will likely see more information leaked or speculated about the M2 specs itself like it’ll be based on TSMC’s new 5nm process, the number of cores (could stay the same), and how much faster the graphic cores will get (which is important as Apple no longer offers discrete GPU on the Macs). 

When the M1 came out November of 2020, Apple put them on the 13” MacBook Pro and MacBook Air and released newly designed14” and 16” MacBook Pro in October last year (2021), with the M1 Pro and M1 Max. We have to ask if Apple will follow this pattern of release. And it’s no pattern because we have only one generation of Apple Silicon. 

If so, then we should see both the Macbook and MacBook Pro get the M2 while the rest of the Pro line getting the M2 Pro and Max a year later. And perhaps, the M3 to be released around 12 months after the M2, which should be a huge upgrade. Now, we are assuming that there will be a 13” MacBook Pro this year. I’m not so sure about that. I’m going to speculate that the 13” MacBook Pro will become just a regular 13” Macbook, the redesigned MacBook Air that everyone is talking about. And Apple will top that off with a 15” Macbook. 

As for the iPad, this is the most interesting part. The iPad Pro with M1 was announced on April 20, 2021, about six months after Apple released the M1 Macs. It stands to reason that we should see the M2 iPad Pro six months after the M2 Macbook release.

Well, I am going to hold off on place such a bet until after this year’s WWDC and Apple unveils the next version of iPadOS. As it is now, I am not sure iPadOS 15 and iPad Pro with M1 really benefits greatly from having such a powerful chip. If  the next iPadOS has more Mac-like features, it would make the case for M2 iPad Pro.

Keep in mind, we are sill in the thrall of a pandemic and the potential world ending and illegal invasion of Ukraine by Putin. So, it will be difficult to pin down where things stand for Apple or any other companies for that matter.

Still, we can except exciting things when Apple releases the next Mac and iPad updates. MacBooks with M2 this fall and depending on iPadOS, iPad Pro with M2 six months later.  It is also likely that Apple will keep the M1 chip around for Mac, an entry level with a lower price point, both to recoup its R&D sources spend and make the Mac accessible to a greater computing audience. 

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Friday, April 1, 2022

No Under-Display Touch ID on iPhone 14 and Beyond. So Apple, Let's Move It To the Power Button

 Source: Tom's Guide.

Under-display Touch ID is not coming to iPhone 14. For supporters of Touch ID, it may never come to iPhones after that as well. It's a good thing. As someone who find Touch ID to be convenient a times, I would rather it return implemented a la the power button on the iPad Air. 

For years now, I am used to unlocking the iPhone with Face ID. And from time to time when I have the iPhone SE with me, like when I'm using it as an iPod, Touch ID is very convenient. And on my iPad mini, the home button. 

Here is why I am not a fan of under-display finger print scanner. I mean, it looks cools. To the engineers who has made it work on other mobile devices, great job! However, the smudges. There are enough dirt, oil, and dust that gets on there from daily use without an extra concentrated amount of all of the above around the finger print sensor under the display. 

Aside from the smudges, there is a common sense reason why we will not see Touch ID sensor under the display. According to Apple, they worked hard to put the finger print sensor on the power buttons of iPads. I suppose Apple has not implemented it on the iPhone yet because they are waiting to make the finger print sensors small enough for the iPhones. Once they have that done, we should see it on all the iPhones. And with the power button on the side of the iPhone, it is ergonomically easy to slip your thumb over the power button or the index finger on it if you’re holding the iPhone with two hands. And if you happen to be holding the iPhone with your left hand, any of your four fingers can be scanned to unlock the iPhone. 

Imagine how much better security is going to be for some devices - needing both face and fingerprint identifications. 

I said Touch ID “may never” come to the iPhone as an under-display function. You just don’t know what Apple may find beneficial to the user experience years down the road. Brain wave scans? Who knows. I am fine with using either forms of security verifications. It’s all about personal preference. I find it interesting that while Face ID is more secured, many people still prefer Touch ID.

Project “Breakout” Is Apple’s Plan To Reinforce Its Garden, Not Disrupt Banking or Wall Street

Apple’s newest push into a non-tech market is finance and this one could be the biggest ever than Apple’s move into mobile market. According to sources, Project “Breakout” is Apple’s attempt to bring more financial tools and services to its users. There are a lot of speculations as to what it can mean but looking at how and where Apple can dive into, let’s just right to it and ask: Is Apple Bank is coming to an iPhone near you?

The news came from Bloomberg. However, I feel Bloomberg should have done a deeper dive into this information from its sources at Apple or at least ask for clarity on the project. Immediately after the news came out, some fintech stocks dropped. However, I wonder if they should have been the ones to worry about Apple’s encroachment into the financial services market.

Any time Apple moves into a new market, in this case, the financial services market, it takes years for Apple’s impact to be felt. And it is never felt in a jolt at felt throughout the market. It’s more of a roll and before you know it, it’s a big, big wave.

Apple Pay was first introduced 7 years ago in October of 2014. It has taken that long for mobile payment to be ubiquitously accepted. There was a time when many were not sure Apple Pay would have a chance. Even now, Apple Pay is not accepted at the largest retailer in the world, Walmart, and as most gas stations I go to (I rather use Apple Pay than use my card because potential for skimming devices). 

In these seven years, there has not be a major change to Apple Pay or new services from Apple except its expanded use with some public transposition systems. 

So, how big of an impact will Breakout be? We just have to wait and see. So far, there is no talk about banking. The likely services could be related to the news about hardware subscription that Apple may push out in the near future. And by near future, in the next year or two. And with Apple, it’s never guaranteed that it’s coming until Apple announces it publicly.

Here are the potential services from Breakout:
  • Increase Apple Pay. Recently, Apple unveiled Tap to Pay on the iPhone allowing merchants to accept payments. Apple has opened this up to other payment systems. It’s a good move since the government is likely going to be watching this closely for anti-trust and monopolistic practices.
  • Apple users can already buy Apple hardware in installments so I’m very curious what value Apple’s hardware subscription will really bring to users. However, Apple could be looking to finance the subscription with its bazillion dollars in the bank. I’m not a financial person so I don’t know how Apple will benefit financially. It will be “selling” hardware and likely bundle services along with the subscription fee. I watched a CNBC segment about this when this was announced and Wall Street seems to like it a lot since it means Apple will have a predictable revenue stream on an annual basis and the dependence on iPhone upgrade cycles will reduce market anxiety. Despite having a market capitalization of nearly three trillion dollars, there those who still think Apple will be bankrupt for some weird reasons. 
  • The idea that Apple is looking to bring financial services in-house as Bloomberg suggests instead of working out another bank or partner means that Apple is comfortable with disrupting the financial market. It could be a big deal over time. Instead of working with a financing company, Apple will handle everything relating to the subscription - credit checks, lending (see below what else Apple can lend to), fraud and risk analysis, and, of course, payments.
  • Apple credit card could be just the next step. Bloomberg has made it clear that current deals and partnerships will continue. Consider Apple Card. Apple works with Goldman Sachs. This is just in the United States. What about the rest of the world? Could Apple Pay and new financial functions serve as Apple’s version of the credit card everywhere else in the world? 
  • Apple Cash - I currently have less than $50 in my Apple Cash. I really have no idea where that money is sitting other than that it’s there on my iPhone. Like Apple Card, this is only available in the US. Consider possible international expansions. Wow.
  • How about banking? Could Breakout involve retail banking? Savings account? CD? Issue debts to Apple users? I’m not hopeful about this. It’s possible but if Apple does get into banking, it will not feel like traditional banking we currently know it as.
  • Lending - Apple will mostly allow lending limited to Apple products - iPhones, iPads, Macs, and sales from the Apple Store. Wait, one more thing: Apple Financing for Apple’s own car. And recently, Tesla launched a Tesla subscription. Prior to Breakout, Apple would work with a partner to finance purchase of its hardware. In a couple of years, lending from Apple will be much more mature. And when Apple’s car does hit the market, it will be ready to finance it all on its own.
I’m not suggesting at all that Apple will become your bank. I honestly don’t know if Apple is interested in doing that as we know it. Can you imagine Siri as your bank teller? No way! Siri still has no idea what I am asking it. However, when it comes to getting users to buy or subscribe to its products and services, it makes sense for Apple to control everything from end to end, even when Apple starts sell a car.

So, I think it’s too premature for fintech, Wall Street, and local banks to start packing it in. The markets as those are too low and Apple is not quite ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel for changes to increase its profits. Apple wants to augment its garden, nothing more.

Dual Screen iPhone or Folding iPad - Which Would Mobile Warriors Prefer

I recently upgraded to a green iPhone 13 Pro Max mainly because I have grown more accustomed to writing, articles and coding, on a smallish screen compared to the iPad and the Macbook (I have also have a habit of coding/writing during minutes of down times that I have over the day insteading of firing up Twitter or Apple News to catch up on headlines) and I'll be traveling more so I wanted a better camera to take videos and photos. It's a heavy device going from the iPhone 12 mini and it got me wondering if a dual screen or folding iPhone with eight to nine inches of screen is going to make sense. Witht the iPhone Pro Max weighing in at 8.46 ounces or a little more than half a pound (240 grams), it got me thinking about the weight of what a dual screen iPhone would weigh and if it makes sense in the context of what's on the market.

When we think of folding phones, we think of the Samsung offerings. And of course, we also have Microsoft's Surface Duo which I like a lot. Both devices are attempt to push the bounds of a mobile device that you can fit into your pocket.

Let's start with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. The screen is 7.3 inches weighing in at 9.56 oz (0.6 pounds, 271 grams). It has also has a 6.1 inch screen on the outside. Given the size of this outside screen, it makes sense to compare this to the iPhone Pro because it also has a 6.1" screen and weighs in at 7.19 ounces (204 grams). We can lazily double up on the weight of a dual screen iPhone and suggest it would come in at 14 ounces or so. Even the iPad mini only comes in at 10.56 oz or almost 300 grams.

The Surface Duo has the following specs: 8.1" screen with a hinge in between and 8.82 oz or 0.55 pounds (250 grams). It's only a tad heavier than the Pro Max but the real use specs are nowhere near what you get out of the iPhone. You only have to look at the reviews to realize that. However, between the Fold 3 and the Duo, I'd get  the Duo without question. If I really had to.

I'm going to guess that Apple's dual screen or folding screen effort, which we will likely not see until after 2025 or beyond, is going to weigh closer to Samsung's Fold 3. And at that weight, does it make sense for Apple's first folding screen device to be an iPhone with dual screens or a foldable iPad? 

My money is on foldable iPad with 9 to 10 inches screen. And that is exactly what Apple watchers are suggesting. According the Macrumors, Apple is testing just such a device with a 9" screen. Another reason why Apple will likely have a folding iPad before an folding iPhone is because of the MacBooks. There is a lot of working being done behind the scenes on a dual screen MacBook. Go ahead and search the Internet and you will see Apple has been working on this for years. And yeah, it'll be years before it sees the light of day but that's a post for another day.

Now, I'm only talking about size and weight and use case becomes very important. After upgrading to the Pro Max, I rarely reach for it unless I am in an outdoor setting and I know I will use the camera a lot and I won't have my messenger bag for which I can carry my iPad mini in. Last week, I went to the Hungtington Library to take photos of the beginning of the rose season. It was the first time in the two weeks since I got the Max that I used it the whole day. If it was any other trip to the Huntington, I might have taken my iPad mini to read or sketch there. 

And this is why I also think it makes sense for Apple to release a foldable iPad than an iPhone. Maybe at some point, Apple will release an iPhone that can fold in half. I don't know. It would have to justify a very important utility, thin, and weighs a lot less than the Fold 3. Maybe a flip phone form factor?

So choosing between the two, I would want Apple to give me a foldable iPad than an iPhone. No one knows what it will look like and how the folding scheme will work (it's not working for the Fold 3 I can tell you that) or if it will have dual screens like the Surface Duo, which I do not mind. However, going by the size and weight, it makes the most sense to me.

How about for you? Foldable iPhone or iPad?

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them.  First, let's a...