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Apple Silicon MacBook Pro — Imaging the Ultimate Portable Powerhouse

I’m beyond super excited about the potential for a new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro — running Apple Silicon, with mini LED, Face ID, USB4, 5G, WiFI6, and much, much more.

Check out my weekly column at iMore for everything I’m hoping to see!

https://www.imore.com/apple-silicon-macbook-pro-will-be-ultimate-portable-powerhouse

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Apple is Wrong About Xbox Game Streaming

Every single time Apple’s App Store policies have been criticized or challenged, I’ve always just said — show me a game-changing app, show me an app that can exist on Google Play but not Apple’s App Store. Show me an Instagram, Uber, Netflix, TikTok, Spotify, Candy Crush, something that just becomes table-stakes for a vast majority of users, because so far, not only have all of the those worked just fine on the App Store, they’re almost always worked first and best on the App Store.

Show me that, because, if and when it happens, then the App Store will absolutely, positively, have no choice but to change.

And, year after year, for over a decade now, nothing and no one has been able to to do that, to prove the App Store definitively and decisively wrong.

Until now.

The accusation

Microsoft has accused Apple of refusing to allow their upcoming Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service onto the iPhone and iPad App Stores.

If you’re not familiar with it, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, formerly Project xCloud, promises to let you stream over 100 Xbox games to your phone or tablet for $15 a month.

Essentially, to be the Netflix or Spotify — the TV+ or Apple Music — of games. All you can play with just one monthly price to pay.

And Microsoft isn’t the only company pushing a service like this. Far from it. Google, Nvidia, Facebook — basically everyone in games is getting into or wants to get into… this game.

And Apple’s having none-of-it, not on the iOS App Store at least.

Now, there are a lot of issues facing the App Store, the app economy, the nature of apps, and the technology, but that’s a much bigger video. So, if you want to see it, hit the like button and we’ll see how his it goes.

This issue is relatively straight forward. And it’s seriously pissed off Microsoft… and a lot of iPhone and iPad users who also want them some Xbox on iOS.

Streaming

Ok, so, game Streaming services, far as I can tell, really are similar to video and music streaming services.

Apple doesn’t allow app stores on the App Store. You can’t just make a container to download and execute arbitrary code. That’s a huge security risk. A malware Pez dispenser of the highest order.

But… this also isn’t that.

This, you download a catalog app, or a reader app as they’re often called, just like you would Netflix or Disney Plus, Spotify or Tidal, and that’s the only code that’s ever installed on your device.

And the reader app is reviewed and screened just like any other app on the store.

Then, once you’ve installed it, the reader app streams video and audio from the cloud — from the company’s servers. Just like you’d stream audio and video for The Old Guard off Netflix or Folklore off Spotify.

The video and audio just happens to be for a game instead of a movie or song.

Again, to be 100% crystal clear, you’re not installing any additional apps or files, you’re literally just streaming and caching the audio and video bits. The apps and files all remain on the server, the cloud.

And sure, you need to be able to control the game, send input back and forth, but that’s really just a slightly more sophisticated version of controlling media playback.

Instead of play, pause, skip forward or back, it’s up up down down left right left right b a… Whatever.

At the end of the day, it’s still just a stream.

And while the App Store allows video and audio streaming apps on iOS, they don’t allow streaming app or game apps.

It allows Remote Desktop and VNC clients, even dedicated ones, so you can access apps and games remotely from a local box on your own network, like SteamLink ultimately had to settle for, but you cannot currently access them from the cloud, from someone else’s box.

Like Judge Dread, that is the law.

Microsoft vs. Apple

So, last week, Microsoft announced they were cutting short their TestFlight beta for Project xCloud. That’s how this all… well, not began, because this all has been an undercurrent for basically ever, but flared up again.

If you’re not familiar with it, TestFlight is a beta testing service Apple acquired a few years ago and turned into the only official way developers can let users try out their apps before they launch.

And 10,000 people were trying out the Halo: The Master Chief Collection Project xCloud beta on TestFlight when Microsoft announced they were cutting it short… and focusing on delivering the full cloud gaming experience to Android users beginning September 15.

In other words, they wouldn’t be launching on the iPhone or iPad, only Android.

And, yeah, Xbox fans and open computer platform stans alike were pissed.

Console vs. Open Computer

Now, pretty much every gadget these days is a computer. Sure, your Windows PC and Mac are computers, and your iPhone and Android phone are computers, but everything from TVs to cars to appliances to toys have chips in them and full-on or embedded operating systems running on them.

Windows PCs, Linux PCs, the Mac — these are all indeed open computer platforms. That means you can do almost anything you want on them. Install and run almost anything you want, manage them how you want to manage them, live how you want to live, dance how you want to dance, you know the bit. They’re more or less controlled by the person who owns the box. You. Me. Us.

The iPhone, iPad, Xbox, PlayStation, Oculus, Switch, infotainment units, these are all what’s more commonly called consoles, at least to varying degrees.

Xbox, PlayStation, Switch — they’re all tightly controlled by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, the company that owns the platform not the person who owns the box.

And yeah, you bought it, it’s yours, you have the atoms, but they still control the bits. They decide which ones can and can’t run on it. In others words, they decide which apps or games are available, how you can buy and download and install them, even how you can play them and whether or not you have any access or control over the data from them.

You can only play the games on Xbox that Microsoft allows, only move your data between Switches if Nintendo allows. Only install the app on your iPhone from the App Store and then only the apps Apple allows onto the App Store.

With consoles, you bought a window with a view, not a garden.

Now, I can already feel some of you rage typing into the comments — Xbox and Switch are consoles, the iPhone and iPad are NOT consoles, you gorram, frakking, Apple-headed, sassing-frassing… whatever.

And, whoa, language.

But also, yes, sure, there’s a range between open computing platform and console. With, like, Linux and Windows on one end, and Android and Mac as you get closer to the middle, then iOS, Oculus, Xbox, and Nintendo as you hit the fully controlled console side.

And it’s totally blurry because Apple lets a huge swath of traditional computer programs onto the App Store, like word processors and — shiver — spread sheets. I mean, gaming consoles often have web browsers now, but spreadsheets? Those are like VisiCalc and Lotus and Excel traditional crunchy computing.

But, since Steve Jobs announced the App Store in 2008, it’s clear Apple has viewed the iOS devices as consoles. As game and app consoles. And Apple as the console-todian. Custodian. Whatever. English is flexible. At me.

But… at me with which side of this whole general computer vs. console argument you fall on, in the comments.

Microsoft vs. Apple

So, Apple responded, saying they need to be able to review all apps individually, index all apps for search and rank on charts individually, and that Microsoft’s service simply wouldn’t allow that, so Apple simply couldn’t allow it on the iPhone and iPad.

And… yeah… immediately, everyone and their reblogger pointed out that Apple clearly doesn’t review every movie or show in Netflix or song in Spotify.

And Apple would probably respond that with very, very few Bandersnatch-ian exceptions, Netflix videos and Spotify audio isn’t interactive and so doesn’t require the same kind of review.

In point of fact, there was never an iTunes review team the way there’s been an App Store review team for over a decade now.

But, again, play and pause are interactions. And it’s not like Netflix shows or Spotify songs are in the iTunes Store search system or charts either.

Though they can present themselves for Siri search and Up Next, like Amazon Prime chooses to and Netflix just as assuredly does not.

And for those concerned about ratings, games already have parental guidance categories, so as long as they flag content appropriately, parental controls should behave appropriately.

Which is pretty much what Microsoft said in their… rather apoplectic statement.

Also: That Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.

Which is kinda all shades of shady, in that:

  1. Apple isn’t a platform. macOS and iOS/iPadOS are a few of Apple’s different platforms.
  2. macOS is indeed a general purpose platform but iOS and iPadOS, while functionally close, are philosophically a chasm apart.
  3. Microsoft knows this because they’re exactly the same, with Windows as a general purpose platform and Xbox, remarkably similar on the inside, as very much… not.

The minute Microsoft opens Xbox up to competitive app stores and streaming services, they can yell all they want about the iPhone or iPad and how closed they are. Until then, really only Google — and maybe Facebook… I’ve lost track of how locked down Oculus is these days — but really only Google gets to point double 1960s animated Spider-Man fingers at anyone with any ounce of authenticity.

I’ll link to both statements, in full, in the description, but none of that is even really my main point here.

The money

Of course, immediately, many accuse Apple of doing all this for the money. Of not wanting a competing game service on the App Store, or anything that would eat into their contentious 30% cut of the App Store profits.

And, certainly, Apple made a big deal about services revenue over the last few years, promising to double it from 2016 to 2020 and then just last quarter proudly announcing they’d done it and with half a year to spare. And services revenue is heavily driven by App Store revenue which is heavily driven by in-app purchases which is heavily driven by fremium games.

You know, the ones we all won’t pay $5 for to buy upfront but will gladly pay $5 every week for just to get a better skin than our friends or to get back on the track faster — good old ego and instant gratification.

Which is a far cry from Steve Jobs saying if the App Store ever broke even, Apple would be happy.

But, interestingly, when Tim Cook was asked just last week if he’d make the same commitment again for the next 4 years, if he’d promise to re-double services revenue by 2024, he demurred.

Now, that simply might just be because he’s not ready to promise it yet, or because now that that original promise has been delivered, Apple is ready to rethink how it drives services growth going forward.

Because, let’s not forget, Apple does let Disney+ and Spotify on the App Store, which compete with TV+ and Apple Music.

And a subscription service isn’t a store. Though maybe there’s some concern in-app purchases will move into subscription services and out of the App Store.

But, I mean, who knows when you’ll be able to buy Billy Butcher’s jacket from the Boys with one-click and Amazon will Prime it to you door next day. Or a song from a movie, a game from a video. It’s all coming.

Even then, even if it was all about the money, Apple and Microsoft would play let’s make a deal, like they did over 365.

Apple would get somewhere between 30 and 15% over the first year and thereafter, and they have money.

Or, to delve dangerously close to fanfic, some have also suggested Apple is holding out on Game Pass to force Microsoft to license the currently OEM-only Windows on ARM for the upcoming Apple Silicon Macs.

Either way, 90% of the time when people say Apple is just doing something for the money, it’s usually way more lazy than it is accurate.

90% of the time Apple is doing it for control. And if you disagree, let me know why in the comments.

The future

Now, right at the beginning of this I said no one had ever been able to point to a single game-changing app that would work on the Google Play Store and not on the App Store and, because of that, it basically rendered all arguments about Apple’s controlling App Store nature… moot.

Not Instagram, not Uber, not Netflix, TikTok, Spotify, not Candy Crush, because those have all been available often first, often best on the App Store.

Not a single game-changing app.

Until now.

Because one of the next game-changing apps… is games. Not Xbox, not Stadia, not Nvidia, not Facebook, not any of them by themselves, but all of them. Together.

It’s inevitable.

The digital age has seen everything, all media, go from hard to get to ridiculously easy, from scarcity to abundance, from unit pricing to subscription or ad-supported. It’s happened to news, music, television, movies, comics — you can get almost all of it, all for just $10 to $15 bucks a month per service, across a host of different services.

And games — and apps in general — are just next on the list.

Apple already has Arcade, which is a noble service and a huge gift to indie, eclectic, and artisanal game developers. For my money it’s one of the best things Apple’s done with their money. But it’s really a carefully curated and funded collection of native apps made available across Apple’s platform.

It’s like… The BBC and Canadian Film Board sections on OG iTunes.

Streaming game services are going to be triple AAA franchises on demand. Like Netflix or Disney+ on iOS.

In simpler times I could see Apple just making a commercial. Picture it. Two kids in the back of a car, driving across the country, going through a cellular dead zone, the streaming kid hitting his Android phone based AF as his stream dies, while the Apple Arcade kid just flexes his downloaded game on his iPhone. And keeps right on playing.

And another ad highlighting zero latency, full native power on the iPhone vs. high latency, buffering, and stammering on the Android stream.

In simpler times I’d say, Apple should do Apple and let the best solution win.

But unless I’m reading this very, very wrong, technology and time have already shown us how this ends. We’ve seen it with news, with music, with video…

And we’re going to see it with streaming and subscriptions gaming services. Plural. On iOS.

And not just because it’s the right thing to do or what I think Apple should do, though it is an I do, but because I think Apple already knows both those things.

They have blind spots and focus can become tunnel vision. And apps and games have complexities and deep cultural value and meaning in this industry, but Apple’s a profoundly canny company and, again, unless I’m very, very wrong, this is very, very inevitable.

Apple will evolve from Arcade into their own streaming service, much like they evolved from iTunes to Apple Music and TV+.

They’ll compete with exclusives and quality content, just like they compete against Netflix and Spotify today.

And have Xbox streaming — sorry, Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — and every other game streaming service to compete with, just like they have every other video and music streaming service to compete with now, today.

Maybe even with the ability to integrate into Siri Search and up-next like those types of streams do today.

I don’t know if that means we’ll see some movement in two weeks or two months or even two years, or what other deals are in the works behind the scenes, but in the end, I think it’ll be obvious that’s where the puck is going to be… for pretty much all content types, pretty much everywhere.

And Apple’s going to not just want to be there but have to be there.

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iPhone 12 — Will it Really be Delayed?

“last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project supply to be available a few weeks later. “

Wait, what?

The statement

Ok, so, not to get all Gandalf about it, but — is an Apple product ever early or ever really late? Or does it only arrive precisely when Apple ships it?

Opinions honestly vary. Some people feel real passionate that unless and until a company announces a product and shipping date, loudly and in public, said product simply cannot be delayed.

Which… is why Apple almost never pre-announces anything. They vastly prefer to show up and ship. New iPhone, pre-orders start this Friday, in-store the next. Boom.

And on the rare occasions when they have pre-announced, like with AirPods and HomePods, they’ve been burned by very legit, very public delays. And, well, with AirPower, just straight up immolated.

Other people, though, feel just as strongly that if even internal schedules are missed, even if the products have never been so much as mentioned externally, those misses still make those products count as delayed.

The iPhone’s had its share of both over the years, and I’ll get to all of them in a second, but let me know which side of the argument you fall on in the comments.

So, this time Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, came straight out said it. It was on Apple’s quarterly financial results call, and it was in order to help set expectations for the next quarter, a quarter for which Apple is not providing any of the usual guidance, because 2020 is ridiculous, but he said what he said.

“last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project supply to be available a few weeks later. “

The reaction

As soon as Maestri said those words, said the new iPhone would be coming a few weeks later, the socials, the comments, the commentarians, they all just… exploded. Scorching, incandescent hottest of hot takes… everywhere.

iPhone 12 delayed! Seriously, Google News broke the internet harder than Kim Kardashians behind.

And this time market movers didn’t even get to plant their usual rumors with their usual big media enablers to cover their positions. It came straight from Apple. Imagine the chagrin. Short. No. Stop. Cover. Cover. Cover. Ridiculous.

Even though, the instant Apple went into lock down earlier in the spring and has since been on work-from-home, everyone and their astromech knew, just knew it would cause all shades of product delays, we just had to treat this as shocking news… and I-told-you-sos… contortionisticaly at the same time.

Bonus points, though, to the people who immediately asked what it meant for Apple Watch and iOS 14 — two things Apple didn’t feel the need to address at the same time.

Well, more on that in a minute.

The precedents

Now, the iPhone hasn’t always been announced in September and, even when it has, it hasn’t always shipped in September.

Famously, the first iPhone was announced in January, because Steve Jobs would be damned if he’d let something like FCC filings reveal it before he could. And it shipped 6-months later in June.

The next few iPhones, from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4, were announced during Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, in June and shipped shortly thereafter. Except for the white iPhone 4, which had issues with the color process messing with the sensors, and ended up shipping almost 6 months later. You want talk about your Jobs-era delays, well, there you go.

Then, issues with Siri pushed back both the announcement and release of the iPhone 4s… all the way to October. Months later than was originally hoped.

Now, prior to that, the iPod had been Apple’s big holiday moneymaker and so it’d been the star of Apple’s big September show.

The iPod was losing steam, though, and the iPhone.. well, the iPhone was becoming pure fire.

So, from version 5 on, the iPhone got the fall spotlight. And, since then, up until the current iPhone 11, you could count on Apple hosting an event and announcing a new iPhone or couple or few on or around the second Tuesday of every September. Like clock work. It was pretty much the safest bet in tech.

Announce being the key word there, because shipping still varied.

In 2017, the iPhone X was announced on September 12th but only shipped on November 3rd.

In 2018, the iPhone XR was also announced on September 12th but only shipped on October 28.

So, all this to say, an iPhone shipping later than September isn’t entirely without precedent. It’s not even usual.

But Apple telling us up front, even by way of investors… And all the iPhones… and maybe the Apple Watch and iOS?

Yeah, we need to talk.

The reality

I made a joke a few months ago that 2020 was the worst DC Extended Universe movie ever. And it just keeps getting worse and worse and, well, I don’t even want to think about what kind of Snyder-cut the next few months might be.

So, back in the spring, Apple’s product teams and manufacturing teams just couldn’t get together to test and finalize everything the way they usually do.

And now Apple’s comms and events teams just can’t hold a big September shindig the way they usually do.

Sure, in years passed, Apple had to reserve a venue like Yerba Buena or Bill Graham, and basically commit to a date way in advance, come hell or high water or, you know all this.

Since the Steve Jobs Theater opened in 2017, though, they haven’t had to worry as much about external scheduling. But they do still have to manage internal timelines.

Even if the iPhone X or iPhone XR were going to ship later, they still got announced in September. And not just because the iPhone 8 or iPhone XS would ship on time, though yes and they would, but because it’s just so much more efficient for everyone to do it that way.

All the media, all the analysts, from around the world, all at the same time, in the same place, along with all of Apple’s comms teams, executives — everyone. So, for everything from the hands-on, to setting up for reviews, to broadcast and cable TV, to doing interviews, to handling questions, it’s all just way easier and more convenient to do it all at once… For everyone.

This year, though, un-possible.

The Event

I’ll give you my guesstimated schedule in a sec, but just to set the stage… literally…

For the last few years, Apple’s held an in-person event at Steve Jobs Theater on or around the second Tuesday in September. Hands-on happened right after the event. All the first-impressions articles, podcasts, and videos went live as fast as possible.

Pre-orders happened that Friday and the first round of reviews hit the following Tuesday or thereabouts. The new version of iOS went live on Wednesday or Thursday. Then pre-orders and in-store all arrived that Friday. It’s been a 10 day cycle from new iPhone announcement to new iPhones in the hand for… pretty much everyone, pretty much every year.

And the Apple Watch has been right there, right along side it for the ride.

For the last few years. 2020 though, is not like those years. It’s like dog sipping coffee while everything is burning dot IF. And yes, the G in GIF JIF is silent. You’re welcome.

So, if there won’t be an in-person event, and the new iPhone — four new iPhones according to rumors — won’t be coming until a few weeks later, what does that mean?

Well, Apple could still do a virtual event in September. They showed with WWDC that they’re not just way ahead of every other tech company when it comes to producing those, they’re through the warp gate and in another system ahead.

But I’m not sure there’d be a point to announcing in September if they’re not shipping until a few weeks later, which if you haven’t done the calendar math yet, would be October.

See, Apple doesn’t do pre-briefings like Android vendors, where they have everyone in before the event to shoot hands-on so every blog and YouTube channel can release content just at exactly the same time the event starts so absolutely no one… no one knows whether they should be watching the event or the MKBHD or Supersaf or iJustine videos, which you just know will be 20 Ultra times more coherent than the event. And please stop doing that. Just schedule them for right after the event, so we can just keep on watching. Cool?

Anyway, my guess is that there’ll be another virtual event, like WWDC, in late September or early October, with the iPhone 12, Apple Watch 6, maybe AirTags and AirPod Studio, and a few others things, plus whatever new, hardware-specific features go with those things.

Releasing a new Apple Watch before the new iPhone that pairs with it is tough to see, even if you want to think for a hot minute that the new Apple Watch isn’t seeing the same kind of production friction the iPhone is.

iOS is a bit more of an open question. I can see Apple holding it for the event so they can show off those hardware-specific features, then dropping the gold master and release right before the new iPhone ships. You know, same playbook, just a later date.

But… but.. Apple could also put it into general release in September as they normally would, then include the new, hardware specific features in an iOS 14.1 update in October, you know, alongside the new emoji that’s the only thing 95% of the mainstream universe is really waiting on anyway.

That might even be the best strategy. Just distract everyone stewing over the lack of an iPhone event with the big new operating system launches. Keep us busy with that instead of missing on this.

And with recent rumors suggesting the regular iPhones may even come later than the Pro models, that’d certainly be a terrific way to spread everything out across the fall.

And I’m totally not just saying that as someone who vastly prefers covering a few products at a time rather than everything just hitting us all at once.

Totally not, I swear.

So, in my personal, perfect spherical world in a box, there’d be iOS 14 the third week in September or thereabouts, event the last week or first week of October, iPhones the second week, maybe some more iPhones towards the end or, like iPhone X, first week of November.

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watchOS 7 Public Beta Preview

The watchOS 7 public beta is just going live right now, so if you’re interested in test-driving the next-generation of software for Apple Watch, strap yourself in, because this is the preview for you.

Beta means beta

To get on any or all of Apple’s software testing programs, go to beta.apple.com and sign up.

Just remember that beta means beta, and that’s especially true of the Apple Watch where there’s no way for you to plug it in and restore it if and when you need to, so make sure you put it on an old or secondary Apple Watch, one you don’t depend on all day, every day.

Then have just all the fun.

Compatibility

watchOS 7 works with the Apple Watch Series 3, both the original version from 2017 and the $199 version re-released in 2019, the Series 4, and the current Series 5.

Individual features though, may vary. Like wide screen watch faces on the older, smaller design of the Series 3.

Sleep

I keep joking that when Apple first released a watch, there was like a list of things that it didn’t do. Even obvious things that we all wanted it to do. But, year after year, through new hardware and new software, Apple has been steadily checking things off that list.

Better processing, check, LTE networking, check, edge-to-edge display, check, on-device App Store, always-on-display, and now… sleep tracking. Just check, check, check.

Now, it works both better and worse than I originally hoped and feared.

Better, in that Apple’s not restricting it to any new hardware, any new watch that has a new low-power mode or new sensor. Though, full disclosure, I hope very much Apple is working on just exactly that.

But no, sleep tracking is coming to existing Apple Watch owners, which is fantastic. It subsumes what used to be the Bed Time feature — which used to be in the iPhone Clock app back in the day but with iOS 14 is in the Health app, under Sleep, and your Schedule.

You set what time you want to go to sleep and what time you want to wake up, just like you used to in Bed Time.

You need at least 30% charge on your Apple Watch any given night it to work, so if it ever dips below that during the hour before you set it to sleep, you’ll be sent a reminder to top it up so you can get through the night.

Then, when the time comes, you go into Do Not Disturb, so there are no beeps, no buzzes, nothing to disturb your slumber. And your Apple Watch goes into Sleep Lock.

That way you don’t wake the display if you move your arm. If you want to wake it while in Sleep Lock, you have to actively tap it or press the Digital Crown, and even then it’ll just give you a sleepy-time face with date, time, and alarm.

If you’re supposed to be going to sleep but you’re still faffing around, the Apple Watch will detect the movement and wait for you to actually go to bed. And if you really want to access your watch after it’s gone into Sleep Lock, you can turn the Digital Crown. Then it’ll wait for you to stop moving and go back to sleep again before locking again. Until you wake up, of course, when it automatically exists Sleep Mode.

So, yeah, it’s a kind and gentle system and not all like Samual L. Jackson style go the fuck to sleep.

If you want, you can include a Wind Down experience, which can include listening to white noise, guided meditation from your favorite app, HomeKit scenes, Siri Shortcuts, basically whatever you need to sleep you.

When you wake up, you have the same options as the old Bedtime system on the iPhone, only now on your Apple Watch. So, the same sounds, only now with haptics on your wrist to go with them. And if you get up a little early and your Apple Watch detects you moving within 30 minutes of your alarm, it’ll ask you if you want to kill that alarm just to watch it die. Which I always do.

Either way, you’ll get the wake up screen, which shows you your Apple Watch’s battery level, so you remember to put it on the charger while you hydrate, brush your teeth, put the coffee on, or otherwise go through your daily ablutions. And when it reaches 100%, it’ll also send you a notification so you don’t forget to put it back on before you begin your morning workout or just your morning work day.

If and when you want your sleep stats, those are all available in the Health app on the iPhone for you as well. And, this is where we get into the worse part — maybe.

See, the stats include sleep goals and times, heart rate summary, lots of good stuff. But, unlike some other sleep apps, don’t break down light and deep sleep or REM sleep.

Now, it’s possible Apple doesn’t believe stats like that are possible to accurately represent at this point in time, and are maybe waiting on more hardware sensors in future Apple Watches before offering them. It’s also possible Apple is doing what Apple often does when it brings 3rd party features into the operating system — only providing the base level feature, so 3rd parties can be sustained by both the increased awareness and the more advanced features.

You know, get some Moriarty level revenger for that Sherlock. Like Fantastical, Omnifocus, Halide, and so many other, way-better-than-stock apps continue to do.

But, personally, I’m going to have to wait and see what happens this fall and over the next year to really figure out how I feel about it.

You can let me know right now in the comments, of course.

Handwashing

So, I kinda all-caps love the new Handwaching feature in watchOS 7. Now, I’ll preface that by saying I’m the type of person who leaves the stand notifications on and someone who’s smart enough to be truly concerned about the spread of COVID-19, so this feature was just made for me.

Apple has said they’ve been working on it for a while too, but it’s hard not to believe it got fast forwarded once hand washing became so important to stopping all the spreads and flattening all the curves, and I low key wish Apple would have back ported it to watchOS 6 and pushed it out in a point-release back in June.

It’s that good and that critical. Especially in North America where we don’t seem to have the self-preservational sense god or the universe gave the common housefly.

An-ee-way.

Here’s how Handwashing works: If it detects you’re coming home, it’ll notify you to wash your hands. When it detects you’re washing you hands, based on the movement of the watch on your wrist, and the sound of running water and squishing soap, it’ll start a 20-second count down for you.

When you’re done, you’ll get some haptic feedback to let you know and a little visual hurrah for your efforts.

You can also see all your hand washing tracked in the Health app, which I’m honestly not as concerned about. It’s the present, not the past, that’s so important here.

And the real-time is, like I said, terrific. I’ve been using it multiple times a day, every day, since it was announced, and it’s been working great. And I seriously hope Apple brings this tech to more things, like teeth brushing as well.

Hell, I want the iPhone to remind me to put my mask on when I leave the house and Face ID to yell at me if I’ve left and try to unlock without one on.

Workouts

I legit didn’t see this coming.

Ok, so, one of the funnest things for me every year during the watchOS unveiling at WWDC is figuring out which new workouts we’ll be getting. And I’m always surprised. Always.

Wheelchair workouts. Yoga. Skiing. Just the amount of testing and modeling that team does is always beyond ridiculous in the best possible way.

But, this year, it’s the most excited I’ve been since wheelchair — that’s right. Dance. Dance. Dance. Unce, unce, once.

Apple used what they’re calling advanced sensor fusion to combine inputs from the accelerometer and gyroscope to figure out asynchronous arm and leg movement, and they validated against the four most popular styles of dance. No, not Fortnite, TikTok, Beat Saber, and Elaine from Seinfeld. Latin, Bollywood, Hip Hop, and Cardio. But it should understand and credit any type of two step or hot step you do.

There’s also functional strength training, for every day activities like family sports, carrying things around the house — basically the work from home workout from home stuff.

Also Core training and cool down.

Still no snow shoveling or Taiji though. Maybe next year!

Fitness

The Activity app on the iPhone has now been renamed Fitness, because the scope of what you can do is just way more than activity aggregation. It’s also been redesigned to improve the information density and glaceability of your data.

watchOS 7 also provides mobility metrics for functional capacity, which uses the Watch’s motion sensors and algorithms to measure low range acid fitness, walking speed, stair speed, and in combination with iOS 14 on the iPhone, step length, double support time, and asymmetry measurements.

This, apparently, is stuff that required medical labs in the past and is once again an example of why Apple says their biggest contribution to society will one day be measured by health features, and why I keep saying the Watch is the most important product Apple has ever made. Because it saves lives. Deliberately. By design.

You’ll be able to check all of that out the health app, and medical professionals can build for it with new HealthKit features.

Watch Faces

New to Watch Faces this year… no, it isn’t Watch Face apps in the Watch App Store. That’s one that’s still on the list.

It’s a couple or few newly updated Watch faces. First is X-Large, which is getting an X-Large complication. Just super big, boom, right in middle below the time.

Second is Chronograph Pro, which has a tachymeter for people who like to go really fast in cars and planes. It’ll compute speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed. So, yeah, zoom zoom.

Third is Photo Filters for the photo face, which basically let you colorize the image on the watch face to match your mood or band.

Like I’ve said over and over again for the last few years, though, I still wish Photos had much better, richer complication support. Not just because I want to make a Detective Pikachu face, though because that and I do, but so that it would serve as a next-closest neighbor for custom watch faces.

Face Sharing

My favorite feature after hand washing has gotta be face sharing. Not… not literal face sharing. I’m not John Travolta over here. But the ability to craft just the perfect watch face for anything I do, like work, working out, hiking, biking, yoga, meditation, anything… and then share it with other people.

And not just me, anyone can do it, any person, any developer, any company even.

It’s especially cool because, with watchOS 7, there’s a new Multiple Complications API — application programming interface — so a single app can take over several, even all the slots on a given watch face.

You’ll be able to download Watch Faces from the App Store, where the Editorial Team will offer some curated suggestions, and it’ll guide you through the process, making sure any and all apps you may need for those faces are downloaded and installed as well.

But, you’ll also be able to get them off web pages and social media. So your favorite magazines, blogs, podcasters, YouTubers, celebrities, whatever, will be able to share their favorite watch faces with you.

Yeah, matte black all the watch faces.

You can also share any of your watch faces right from the watch face gallery in the watch app on the iPhone. Just choose the face, hit share, choose who you want to share it with, and how — Message, AirDrop, or Mail.

From the Apple Watch, just long press on the face you want to share, tap the share icon, select the contact, and it’ll message away.

And, yeah, I said long press. Just like Apple has gone away from 3D Touch on the iPhone, they’re now going away from Force Touch on the Apple Watch as well.

I guess, like bell bottoms and hanglider collars, force press had it’s time in the sun but nature has ultimately chosen it for exitinction.

And, honestly, I’m going to miss it. Long press is better because it works simply, consistently across all devices. But force press is just way faster and more physically satisfying.

So, I’m just hoping Apple adds better machine learning to long press, to Haptic Touch in general, so we get all the benefits of the simplicity and consistency while mitigating the drawbacks.

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New iMac (2020) Review — The Last Best Intel Ever

The new iMac is here and I’ve got so many first impressions to share. So if you’re just itching to decide if you should order now, now, now, and you want answers, you want the truth, well… it’s literally my job to give you all you can handle.

These are the decisions Apple made with this iMac, what I think about them, and how it all looks.

Design

The 2020 27-inch iMac looks like… a 27-inch iMac. It has the exact same design as the previous model and all previous models going back to 2014 when Apple introduced the first 5K iMac, and a similar if wider design going back even further to the 2002 OG chin-on-stand that was the iMac G5.

To be clear, this was totally expected. With new Apple Silicon Macs on the way, pairing the new characteristics with new designs those characteristics make possible, makes something else as well — the kind of sense that does.

Just like it makes sense to let the now classic Mac silicon architecture get one last hurrah on the now classic Mac all-in-one design.

A solid slab of glass with a bead blasted aluminum chin, cleft by the Apple logo, perched on a ridiculously thin piece of angled metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for what’s next, but Apple finishing up on what’s now is just… perfect.

Display

The iMac already had a phenomenal display. Retina density and P3 gamut, which means everything looks crips, rich, and deep.

Now, with this 2020 refresh, it’s layering on two more pretty big improvements.

The first is TrueTone. That’s Apple’s dynamic color temperature matching technology. It debuted with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro back in 2016 and it works now the way it worked then — multi-channel sensors determines how much florescent vs. incandescent vs. sunlight is around you, and adjust the display so whites don’t look too warm and yellow or cool and blue, just well balanced, paper-like white.

This is the biggest display Apple has ever implemented TrueTone on and it seems to work well enough. Of course, if you’re in a studio setting with perfect light and you’re doing precise color editing on photos or video, by all means turn it off. Otherwise, leave it on and enjoy.

The second is a nano-textured glass. That’s Apple’s new glare reduction technology. It debuted last year on the Pro Display XDR. And, the way it works, is instead of adding a matte coating to the glass that scatters light to diffuse, which reduces glare but also contrast, Apple’s etching a nano structure into the glass itself. That lowers reflectivity while preserving more of the contrast.

Now, it does increase the price tag by U.S.$500, and requires you to be a bit more careful about how hard and often clean it. Basically use the cloth that comes with it or a microfiber and use water or your display cleaner… Don’t be shy, just don’t be a belt sander.

It’s not XDR, or extreme dynamic range, like the Pro Display, but that costs as much as a well-decked out iMac itself. But it is EDR, or extended dynamic range. What that means is, basically, it doesn’t have the sustained or peak brightness levels for HDR, high dynamic range, but the color, detail, just everything about it looks so much better than just the panel itself has any right to.

For photos, video, games, just anything with this color, at this size, with this pixel density, at this viewing distance. I just want to live inside this world.

And, if you’re curious, yeah, there’s still no target display mode. Long story short, Apple had to work around Intel’s lack of support for 5K displays by building a custom timing controller to prevent things like pixel tearing down the middle, and that’s still what they use in the iMac today, and that’s always why it still can’t pretend to be a regular display.

Intel 10th Gen

Remember when Tim Cook announced that the Mac was being transitioned to Apple Silicon back in June at WWDC? And remember how right after that he mentioned that Apple would still be releasing new Intel Macs.

Well, this new 27-inch iMac is one of those. May the one.

It’s been updated to 10th-generation ‘Comet Lake’ CPUs. Now, real talk: Comet Lake is still on Intel’s 14 nanometer process. Try as they might — or might not, turns out silicon drama is every bit as present as YouTube drama, so you decide you — they haven’t been able to bring these desktop chips down to their 10 nanometer process, which is closer the 7 nanometer TSMC process Apple’s currently using for the A-series in the iPhone and iPad, much less their 7nm process, which has just been delayed again, even as Apple and TSMC get ready to go their similar 5 nanometer process.

Yeah, they don’t use matching numbers for their process marketing, did I mention silicon drama?

So, to make up for the lack of process shrink, Intel is once again throwing cores at us to increase performance. In this case, 6-, 8-, and 10-cores, all hyper-threaded for the new iMac. Yup, 10-cores in a consumer iMac.

Can an iMac chassis that was designed for Intel actually meeting its dye shrink goals handle more cores on those same dyes?

Well, Intel will tell you that they only guarantee base frequencies and any turbo boost you get is going to ramp down hard as temperatures ramp up. So, if you have a lot of what burst-based workloads, like launching apps and opening web browsers, you’ll get better bursts of speed. Especially across multiple cores. But if you’re doing anything sustained, you might just want to go with slower, cooler cores.

Could Apple have gone with AMD here to get better performance in a smaller package at a lower cost? Potentially but not practically.

It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience to just say things like “shoulda used AMD!” on the internet. But Apple has a long-term partnership with Intel measured in volumes of purchases, deep integration of engineering resources and software and silicon features, and it’s the end of the line for x86 anyway.

IRL, in terms of resources and product, it makes zero sense to switch before… the switch.

So, Intel. And while there’s not much improvement core-for-core between 9th and 10th gen, the ability to have those extra cores can make a significant difference for any workload that exploits them, which includes music and video production, 3D rendering, software builds, scientific modeling, and more.

Apple claims up to 65% improvement between top of the last line and top of this one. That’s for Logic Pro plug ins. 25% for WebKit compiles. For me, for Final Cut Pro rendering, they’re claiming 40% on pro-res transcode.

I don’t have the older iMac to compare it to, but I’m sure we’ll see I ton of real-world benchmarks pop up over the next few weeks.

Here’s what I’m getting for pure video export between the i9, 9th-gen 16-inch MacBook Pro and this 10th Gen, 10-core iMac.

Critically for some people, Intel is Intel, and that means you get to Bootcamp or virtual machine your way into Windows for anything you still want or need to do on Windows.

I mean, there’s a reason the Mac is moving to Apple Silicon, but there’s also a reason Apple is getting the iMac fully decked out in the latest Intel silicon before they do.

For the people who still need it for the next few or many years to come.

AMD Radeon Pro 5000

For graphics on the newly updated iMac, Apple’s gone with the AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series. It’s built on AMD’s RDNA architecture and fabricated on TSMC’s 7 nanometer process, same as Apple’s A-series chips in iPhones and iPads.

It’s not Nvidia, no matter how much some people want them some CUDA cores, because Nvidia and Apple are currently at cross-purposes. Nvidia wants to commoditize computers so it doesn’t matter what box runs those CUDA cores. Only Nvidia matters.

Apple wants to abstract away the silicon, so it doesn’t matter which GPU is running beneath their Metal frameworks on the Mac. Only the Mac matters.

And it’s hard to see that changing any time in the near future, especially with the Mac moving to Apple GPUs along with the rest of its silicon.

Now, AMD has been focusing their attention and budget on CPUs for the last while but, recently, they’ve been shifting gears towards amping up their GPUs as well.

These are the beginning of that.

Apple claims up to 55% improvement. That’s for Cinema 4D. 50% for the Unity fly-though demo. Specific to my interests, up to 30% faster timeline rendering in Final Cut Pro X.

And again, here’s what I got for an export, which to me is the real metric that matters.

Synthetic benchmarks are fun to watch, sure. But how long it takes me to get a specific piece of work done, and how much faster a new machine makes that — literally time to output… that’s everything.

Apple T2

Apple’s T2-chip is new to the regular iMac but not the Mac in general. The iMac Pro has had it since 2017. Why did it take so long to come to the regular iMac? If I had to guess, T2 has an SSD controller built in and, until now, some iMacs still had HDDs. So… If you’re not familiar with T2, it’s basically a variant of the A10 Fusion from the iPhone 7. Apple calls it a security chip because it handles secure boot and real-time encryption on the Mac, as well as Touch ID on the MacBooks.

But it’s really a full-on co-processor that also handles everything from system controllers to accelerators. Everything from the image signal processor for the camera to the audio signal processor for the speakers, to always-on processing for voice-activated Siri, to H.265 encode and decode blocks, to the performance controller that figures out how and when to dispatch just all of that.

It’s probably just not marketed as a co-processor because Intel. But it’s what makes Apple to non-Apple comparisons so bananas.

It’s really hard for anyone outside Anandtech, and even inside, to truly measure what’s hitting CPU vs. T2, and why a Mac with the same set of specs as a PC can achieve very different performance levels, especially when you’re using software like Final Cut Pro X that’s aware and optimized for it.

Capacity

We now live in a world where the 13-inch MacBook Pro maxes out at 32GB of RAM, the 16-inch maxes out at 64GB, and the 27-inch iMac as of right now, maxes out at 128GB. Yeah, up to 128GB in the iMac non-Pro.

It still starts at 8GB, which is too low for me. Even though macOS does a good job at memory compression and the custom storage controller is so fast it can effectively smoke-and-mirrors swap as memory, I’d still recommend 16GB for most people. But, since the memory in the 27-inch remans user-accessible and upgradeable, you can certainly start with 8GB from Apple and then source your own higher-capacity sticks if and when you need them.

Apple has also gone entirely SSD across the 27-inch iMac lineup, with up to 3.4GB/s sequential read and write speeds.

You can start with 256GB if you only really want an internal boot volume and plan to hang all your main storage externally off the back. But you can also go all the way up to 8TB now as well, which is absolutely terrific if you do want to store at least your primary, working media on your main internal drive.

I recommend 1 to 2 TB for most people, because it gives you space you may well need and it’s easy to find even fast external drives to back up to or clone.

Connectivity

For that external storage, or for any other peripherals you want, the iMac has kept all the same ports:

Four USB-A for your old school connects. Two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 for your latest and greatest — and that includes the ability to add up to Pro Display XDR’s if the mood and budget strikes you.

A couple of those ports have been upgraded though.

The SDXC is now USH-II, so it’s faster. And I appreciate it still being there, unlike the MacBook Pro… even though I’ve since moved on to CFast Express… Type B on Canon, not Type A like Sony, because the card world is still terrible and we will never know a dongle-free life.

You can also now upgrade the gigabit ethernet to 10 gigabit Ethernet as well.

Bluetooth is 5.0 and Wi-Fi remains at 5 or 802.11ac. It looks like Apple just never intended to go to Wi-Fi 6 on Intel silicon. Which, given some of the issues WiFi6 has had, probably worked out timing wise anyway.

Keyboard and Mouse

You get the same Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse with this new iMac as you’ve gotten with the last many. You can choose whether you want it with numeric keypad for an extra $30, or with a Magic Trackpad instead of Magic Mouse for an extra $50.

Which I do in a heartbeat because I, personally, subjectively, vastly prefer the trackpad.

The Magic Mouse is still in need of a complete redesign so charging it isn’t ridiculous and so you can run it while connected if you have any radio issues or just prefer it that way. Same as you’ve always been able to do with the trackpad or keyboard.

And, yeah, there’s no Touch ID on the Magic Keyboard. That probably has nothing to do with Apple not being able to secure remote Touch ID — you’ve been able to authenticate on Mac using Touch ID iPhones for years — and more to do with the cost of putting Touch ID tech into the keyboard.

I think, practically, Face ID on future iMacs make a ton more sense, since it will let Apple Silicon just handle all that, all in one SoC place.

Audio/Video

I saved the best for last. Instead of a tiny, potato-of-a-webcam, the new 27-inch iMac comes with a full on 1080p webcam. The sensor is back illuminated instead of front illuminated, so the hardware itself is just much better. And, thanks to the T2-chip and it’s iPhone 7-level image signal processor, you get really good processing as well, with face detection, white balance, tonal mapping, and more.

It’s way better than even the $200 Logitech 4K Brio I’ve been using for the last many months.

Ok, so, speaking of those speakers, they’re also leaning on the T2 chip for better audio. Basically, variable EQ so sound… sounds better no matter if you’re turning the volume down or way up.

Sadly, there’s no new hardware like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, though I hope that’s a trend that continues as well, because they’re the current high bar in my opinion, but they’re richer and more detailed than before. And because the iMac is much wider than any MacBook, they already had terrific separation.

Now, Apple is claiming the mics are studio quality, like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which means about USB mic level. There are two mics in the chin and one on the back, mainly for noise cancellation. And they work great. I used them for a couple meetings and a live stream podcast and everyone listening seemed genuinely shocked at how good they sounded.

Nowhere nearly the same as the XLR mics and higher-end interfaces I usually use, but way better than an iMac previously had a right to.

Here’s my full run of modern Macs, with some iOS devices thrown in for comparison, and this new iMac added to the stack.

So, yeah, progress!

Who’s this for?

So, with Apple Silicon Macs on the way, and presumably an Apple Silicon iMac one day, at least in a year or two, it’s perfectly fair to ask who should or even would still buy an Intel iMac today?

And I think there are four answers to that.

One, if you want or need the ability to run Intel Windows on Bootcamp for via virtual machine, you’re going to need an Intel Mac.

Two, if you use specific, high-end production software that barely supports Intel Mac as it is, and worry it will take a long time or simply never support Apple Silicon Macs, you’re going to need an Intel Mac.

Three, if you hate the idea of buying rev-a boards, and what I mean by that is first-generation products, and you want to wait and see how it performs for others, what issues and tradeoffs there may be, then you’re going to want to stick with an Intel Mac for now.

And Four, if you just need a new iMac now, now, now and really don’t care what kind of silicon is inside it as long as you have it and can use it now.

All of those are perfectly valid reasons for getting an Intel Mac even now, today, and exactly the reason Apple is releasing it now, this week.

So there’s a latest, greatest Intel iMac for everyone who does want and need it, so they can have it and use it and it will last them for as long as possible until they’re willing and able to take that next leap.

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macOS Big Sur Public Beta Preview

The macOS Big Sur public beta is live and I have a complete preview for you up on iMore!

https://www.imore.com/macos-big-sur-review

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New iMac (2020) is Here — Tech Reviewer Reacts!

I just hit record, opened up the Apple Newsroom post, and started reacting…

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iPhone 12 — Making Sense of the 5G Mess

Rumor has it the upcoming iPhone 12 will finally — markdown double asterisk finally — have 5G radios. Sub 6, maybe even Sub 9 on the mini and regular 12, and mmWave on the Pro and Max.

But, what does all of that jargon even mean? In general… and for the vast majority of people in the real world thinking of buying and using it?

5G NR

Ok, so, I’ll get to the problems with 5G in a hot minute but, if you’re not sure what 5G is… well… broadly speaking it’s just the 5th generation of cellular networking. In other words, radio networks that are divided up into small, regional “cells” that are served by cell towers.

The original iPhone was 2G. GSM and EDGE data only. AT&T almost exclusively. Seriously, Verizon took a hard pass. Right at the beginning.

The second one was 3G — said so right in the name. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4 that we got a CDMA/EVDO variant to work on Verizon and their slower but wider coverage network.

And for a couple years there you had to figure out, depending on your carrier, whether you should by the GSM or CDMA iPhone. Basically, if you ever needed to use it on Verizon or not.

The iPhone 5 was 4G, also known as LTE or Long Term Evolution. It improved speeds with aggregation and multi-in-multi-out. But it was also a great unification of sorts — anyone could buy the world phone version and use it, at least functionally… in most major markets. And, while Apple eventually ended up splitting the enormous amount of LTE bands across a few different models, knowing what kind of network you’re on just hasn’t been something most people have had to worry about for a few years now.

But, the iPhone 12 is widely expected to be 5G NR, or New Radio.

If you even have 5G in your area drop a comment below and let me know where and what kind because, yeah, 5G is just… well, it’s just a bit of thing again.

Frequency Range 1

So, there are a few of different flavors of 5G.

There’s fake 5G. What AT&T in the U.S. calls 5Ge, which is actually really fast 4G LTE, but it’s not 5G. So, yeah, shame. Shame. Shame.

But really, first is Frequency Range 1, which is the low to mid-band flavor of 5G.

It’s sometimes referred to as Sub-6, because it was generally assumed it would stick below 6GHz. Now though, it may end up going to Sub-7, Sub-8, maybe even Sub-9 depending on where and who you talk to.

So, I’m just going to call it FR1.

This is the type of 5G that the base model iPhones 12, the less-expensive 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch non-Pro models, are supposed to be getting. At least in the markets where it’s already up and running.

Frequency Range 2

The second is Frequency Range 2, which is the high-band flavor of 5G.

It’s sometimes referred to as mmWave, basically because the wave-lengths are so short they can be measured in millimeters. And carriers seem to just love the way that name sounds.

So, again, I’m just going to call it FR2.

And this is the type of 5G that the Pro model iPhone 12, the 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch Max models, are supposed to be getting in addition to FR1. At least in the few markets where that’s up and running.

So, what’s the difference between the two?

FR1 vs. FR2

The best.. and worst… way to think about cellular networking is speed and capacity vs. range and penetration.

Back in the 3G days, AT&T had faster speeds but Verizon had the bigger network. The reason for that was because CDMA wasn’t as fast but had a much further range, so Verizon could serve the same area with fewer towers, or more areas with the same amount of towers. There were other technological tradeoffs as well, like simultaneous voice and data, but that’s the important bit for our purposes right now.

FR1 is similar to that. It doesn’t have anywhere nearly the speed of FR2 but it can serve a much, much, much — did I say the appropriate amount of much-es yet? — much… bigger area using traditional cellular networking type towers.

It’s only like 20% or so faster than LTE and only at the upper, mid-band portion of the frequency range, but by virtue of the 5G protocols — how everything is packetized and beam-formed and sliced and massively multi’d — it has much better capacity than LTE.

So, as my friend and former colleague Daniel Bader of Android Central likes to say, FR1 should finally deliver on the promise of LTE… for everyone. Everyone outside the big cities, especially in more rural areas, who just never got anywhere near decent reception or data speeds. Those people, should start getting just exactly that.

Which means, at best, you’ll get moderately better than LTE speeds, with far less congestion, and in places that never got anywhere nearly LTE speeds before.

And, at worst, you’ll get similar-to-LTE speeds or just literally fall back on or still be on LTE in places where there still isn’t 5G. Which will be a lot but be fewer and fewer in the months and years to come.

FR2 is the opposite. It has monstrous capacity and is just blazingly fast. Like tap-on-your-2GB-movie-whao-it’s-already-downloaded fast. But… the range and penetration is just… awful. Like, oh-damn-it’s-raining-my-movie-download-dropped awful.

You can think of it like the Holtzman shield in Dune, where a slow dagger could get through but not ballistics, or even water where if you jump in from low enough, you dive, high enough, you bounce… and splat.

FR2 requires new clusters of tiny towers, and basically requires them everywhere. And that’s just to get signal on the outside. In direct line-of-sight.

So, at best, you’ll be sitting alone on or just across from a set of micro 5G access points, and you’ll get speeds the likes of which you’d never have thoughts possible on a phone or mobile device before. Exponentially faster than LTE.

At worst, you’ll walk a few steps, or turn around, or go inside, or pass behind a tree or leaf or whatever and the mmWave connection will be blocked faster than a trash-talker on Twitter, and you’ll fall back on a slower but more reliable connection.

And maybe that’ll also change in the months and years ahead, but… well, one more thing before I get into that.

Backhaul

In order to benefit from better, faster, stronger signals, we’re also going to need better, faster, stronger backhaul. Normally, fiber optics. And lots of it.

Think of it like this — your home Wi-Fi router is the tower, and the cable from your ISP or internet service provider, is the backhaul.

It doesn’t really matter how fast and furious your new, shiny WiFi 6 router is if you’re plugging it into a string and tin can on the other end.

So, in order to make use of all these fancy new phones with 5G modems, they not only have to connect to 5G towers, those 5G towers need a ton of fast fiber backhaul to serve all those connections. Though, now, some carriers are testing FR2 as a wireless backhaul for FR1. Our world, it is hilarious.

That’s why there’s really two other, very different, but far more practical kinds of 5G:

The beautiful dream kind finance and marketing people are trying to sell us to gin up demand and kickstart new business opportunities.

And… the for real kind technical and engineering people will tell us is still mostly just a beautiful dream.

Future of 5G

Now, a lot of people have bought 5G phones already because a lot of Android phones have supported 5G for a year or more already. Some of them inarguably as a gimmick to the point of providing terrible customer experiences just for the chance to yell FIRST !! 1 in the equivalent of a comment section.

But not a lot of people have the ability to use those phones on full-on 5G networks.

Especially not FR2 networks. Which, quite frankly, I’m still not sure will ever become a real consumer-facing technology.

Like, maybe it’ll be deployed in stadiums, when we can go back to stadiums, to handle tons of high-density, line of sight connections.

But we’ll have to wait and see.

And carriers are being all shades of dodgy about 5G still as well. Talking about which cities it’s in but making you dig deep to see just how few parts of those cities. Or just saying 5G because it’s almost all FR1 and they don’t want you to know it doesn’t have the speed they’ve been bragging about, which comes with FR2.

For now, it is legitimately a good sign Apple is going to 5G on the iPhone 12 and for a couple of reasons.

One, it shows the carriers are confident enough to allow a hundred thousand plus new 5G connections onto their networks. Which, given how the iPhone sales cycle works, isn’t something they typically don’t do until they’re fairly confident. And yeah, it’s not just Apple being conservative when it comes to how long they wait on new cellular networks. It’s quite often the networks themselves that are pleading — can you not yet?

Anyone who had an LTE phone the day before and the day after the iPhone 5 launch knows of the freight train of which I speak.

And, two, it shows that Apple is fairly confident whatever generation of Qualcomm 5G modem they’ll be using, be it the current X55 or next-generation X60, will at least be efficient enough not to melt the glass casing or burn down the battery or otherwise force Joanna Stern to pack it into her cooler like the first-ten ones did.

5G Realities

So, yeah, the iPhone 12 will have 5G… Most likely RF1 in the base models, which will be great in areas that have thus far been underserved by LTE, when and if the networks deliver on it.

Then, RF1 + RF2 in the Pro models, which will do that, plus offer way better speeds in major cities with dense populations, willing to hang out their windows to hang on to the signal. Kidding. Kinda. Maybe.

And yeah, those FR2 models will probably be limited to the very, very few countries that have FR2 networks.

Like, my network in Canada has just started rolling out low band, promises mid-band in the near future, and high band… one day. Because Canada still hasn’t held its 5G auctions to make the spectrum available and won’t now until mid-2021.

But, for most people in most of the world, who don’t have good 5G or any 5G yet, the iPhone 12 will still fallback just fine on LTE networks as well. Probably even better than the last couple of generations since the modems are from Qualcomm again.

For a lot of people, that reason alone will be reason enough to get it.

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Should You Buy an iPhone SE Now or Wait for the iPhone 12 ‘mini’ in October?

If you need a new iPhone now, should you get the iPhone SE right now, or should you try and hold out for the rumored smaller iPhone 12 coming later this fall?

And… how much later this year might that be exactly?

Check out my weekly column on iMore for the answers!

https://www.imore.com/should-you-get-iphone-se-now-or-wait-iphone-12-mini

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Why YouTube is Still Broken on iOS 14

Last week, I made a video about 4K YouTube finally coming to the Apple TV… and the iPhone and iPad as well. Kinda. Maybe…

And… it prompted a ton of other questions about why YouTube is just so damn quirky on Apple products… and in general.

Everything from how links open… or don’t, why picture in picture works in Safari but not the app, and just how it all works… and doesn’t.

So, let’s answer all that.

4K

I talked in-depth about 4K YouTube coming to Apple TV and maybe the iPhone and iPad as well in previous video. Link in the description.

And, as of the latest beta versions of tvOS, iOS, and iPadOS, it’s still all shades of wonky.

Some people are still seeing 4K YouTube on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad, some on one or two of those and not the others, and some still on none of them.

A lot of you are asking about 4K YouTube in the Safari web browser for Mac as well, because you prefer it over Chrome and it’s higher battery drain.

No final word on that yet either but I will point out that part of Safari’s battery life advantage is that it uses hardware acceleration for the H.265 codec, built into Apple’s custom T2 chip. That wouldn’t work for YouTube’s VP9 codec. So, even if we do get 4K YouTube in Safari for Mac it’ll still hit the battery harder. Not as hard as using Chrome, but harder than watching H.265 4K would.

Because the codec world is terrible and the next-generation, hopefully once-again universal, AV1 codec just can’t come fast enough.

Picture-in-Picture

Apple introduced picture-in-picture for the iPad back in 2015 with iOS 9. The idea is, you open a video app, start a video, leave the app, and have the video continue to play in a small, floating window on top of the Home screen or over other apps. Also, move it around, hide it, kill it, go back full screen, all that good stuff.

It works automatically in Safari or any app that uses Apple’s built-in media playback controller, but developers can add the feature to their own, customer playback controller as well.

Something YouTube has chosen not to do, not in the last 5 years, not at all.

You can still watch in picture-in-picture by opening Safari, going to YouTube.com, playing the video, going full screen, and then exiting the app. Yeah, like an animal.

My guess is it’s because YouTube decided background audio should be a Premium, subscriber-only feature and picture-in-picture would just totally negate that.

But, since picture-in-picture does negate it, and you can always do it in Safari, I wish YouTube would reconsider, come up with some other premium perk, and just add it to the app. Because the best experience should always be in the app.

Especially since Apple’s adding picture-in-picture to the iPhone with iOS 14 now as well. And it will work — or feel broken — in exactly the same way as the iPad.

If you want it to change as much as I do, drop a like below.

Universal links

Universal links and deep links were introduced in 2015 as part of iOS 9 as well. They’re supposed to be a way for content to open in an app instead of on the web, and not just open the app’s start page, but go to an exact place within the app.

In this case, tap a YouTube video and instead of opening the video on YouTube.com, it should open the YouTube app, skip the YouTube home page, and take you directly to the video you tapped on.

Apple even makes it secure, so only YouTube.com can redirect links to the YouTube app and no one can try to hijack you into a scam app or anything.

And even though that type of universal and deep linking has been available for 4 years, they often seem like they don’t exit… like at all.

The reason for that, most times, is that you’re tapping the YouTube link inside a Twitter app, or Instagram, or something similar that embeds its own browser using the Safari View controller.

Now, that’s meant to be a convenience, so if you see an article or something on Twitter and tap it, the interface just slides over and you can read the article, then tap ‘done’ and slide right back, right where you were in Twitter. You know, instead of getting booted into Safari and then having to manually swipe or tap your way back, also like an animal.

But, it means when you tap a YouTube link, you’re being kicked into that same embedded web browser instead of the YouTube app.

Now, some people prefer that. Some people hate the idea of being kicked into the YouTube app. Even the idea of apps for websites in general. Just let the web be the web, they say. To those people, I say delete the YouTube app so you can’t be kicked into it and let the rest of us enjoy our Inception.

Staying in the embedded web browser would also be better if we still kept our login credentials from Safari proper and be in our actual YouTube account. But, for security-over-convenience reasons, Apple locked that down after a few sites tried to steal those credentials. Which is why we can’t ever have nice internet things and have to log in separately now. Like… I’m not saying it again.

Of course, the real only acceptable solution would be for iOS to pop up a requester the first time you tapped on a link asking you if you wanted the web browser or the app, let you pick between them, and also let you pick the app you want to go to, and set that as your default, and change those preferences at any time in Settings

Apple is only starting to introduce default apps with email clients and web browsers in iOS 14 though, so baby steps.

But if you want that too, let me know in the comments below.

Hand-off

Apple introduced Continuity and Hand-off back in 2015 as part of iOS 8. With it, you could sync not just data between devices but the actual state of an app.

So, for example, you could start writing a message on your iPhone, walk over to your Mac, have the Messages app pop up for you, and if you click on it, be taken straight to that message, and just keep on writing exactly where you left off.

The same should work for a video. Start watching YouTube on your Mac, get up to leave, swipe up on your iPhone, tap the YouTube banner, get taken straight to the YouTube app, to that video, and continue watching exactly where you left off.

But… you guessed it, YouTube hasn’t implemented Hand-off either.

Like Picture-in-Picture, you can work around it using Safari and YouTube.com, and it works up until the most important part — it takes you to the video, it just doesn’t take you to where you were watching. It starts over.

Now, Apple has also almost completely failed to implement media hand-off across most of their apps as well, so while YouTube should absolutely feel Game of Thrones level shame here. There’s plenty of that shame to go around.

Notifications

One of the questions I get asked the most is why YouTube notifications don’t work. For my videos specifically and for all videos in general.

And the horrible, terrible, soul-chilling answer is that they do work — exactly the way YouTube wants them to.

Let me explain. No… there is to much. Let me sum up.

Once-upon-a-time you could get a subscriber and count on YouTube showing that subscriber every new video you uploaded to your channel, always.

But over time, YouTube realized most people didn’t actually watch every new video from every channel they subscribed to. Especially on channels that had a wider variety of content.

Maybe you saw a terrific Ferrari video so you subscribed to the channel, but the next video was on the F150 and the one after that on the new Lambo. Maybe you only like super car videos so you only watched two out of the three. Maybe you only like Ferrari, so you only watched that one.

Now, YouTube is an advertising platform. They make money by showing ads. If you don’t watch, they can’t show ads, which means they can’t make money.

So, if you subscribe but don’t watch every video, YouTube slows and eventually stops showing you those videos. Yes, even if you still subscribe.

Now, a lot of you good-hearted nerds will say this isn’t a problem. Nothing goes over your head. Your reflexes are too good. You catch them.

By which I mean, you live in your subscription tab and so you may skip the ones that don’t really interest you, but you never miss them.

And that’s true. For you and very, very small percentage of other good-hearted nerds. But the vast majority of people don’t do that. The vast majority of people only go to the home page or see what’s in suggested.

See, we nerds, like any incredibly active and vocal minority, often mistake ourselves for a majority, no matter how much evidence there is always is to the contrary.

I mean, just ask any YouTuber and they’ll tell you YouTube analytics proves this out every damn day.

I get about 30-40% of my views from subscribers on any given video, and most videos never get seen by every subscriber. Just look at the subscriber number then the view counts.

Some people average about 10% and have an enormous disparity between subscribers and average views. Even and sometimes especially old, huge channels.

And that’s because YouTube learned to show people not what they said they wanted, but what their behavior proved they wanted. Not what they subscribed to, but what they clicked on.

Kinda. YouTube also discovered that the more outlandish the content, the more people watch. So if you look up one science video on the Megalodon, it’ll suggest 900 deep water conspiracy theory videos for you instead of the next video on the iPhone or Mac from a channel you’ve watched 900 times.

It’s also why you hear people talk about “niching down”. In other words, making videos on the same, not different topics. Because if someone subscribed for the Ferrari video, chances are they’ll watch another Ferrari video, and not, say, a gaming or cooking video. Hell, maybe not even a F150 video.

Now, some of you will quickly point out that iJustine or MKBHD or Peter McKinnon or another giant YouTuber can upload whatever they want. Which, also true. But when you have 10 million subscribers and personalities like that, the regular rules just don’t apply.

And even then they kind do. If you look over any huge channel, you’ll see off-topic videos, and also things like Q&A, BTS, that type of stuff, typically get way less attention the content that made them famous.

And that’s why you typically hear creators asking you not just to subscribe but to turn on the bell, and not just the bell, but the ‘all’ option under the bell, because that’s really the only way to make sure YouTube even tries to notify you when a new video gets uploaded.

So, long story already way too long, if you want to make sure you get reliable, consistent, rock-solid notifications from YouTube on your iPhone or iPad or at all, hit the subscribe button and set the bell to “all”.