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iPad Pro 5 — Mini-LED… and More?

With the next-generation iPad Air rumored to be getting the same design and even display as the iPad Pro…

Just where exactly does that leave the next-generation iPad Pro?

Design

The iPad Pro got its modern make-over back in October of 2018. Apple not only Thanos-snapped off half the bezels, they gave it a squared-off, retro-future look right out of the iPhone 5 playbook.

The 2020 iPad Pro, released just a few months ago, kept the exact same look. Pretty much the exact same everything, when it comes to design.

And that honestly to be expected. The original 2015 iPad Pro looked like a big version of the iPad Air, which came out in 2013. The 2016 iPad Pro looking like an exact-same-sized version of the iPad Air 2. The 2017 iPads Pro, a little bigger and the same again. All until that 2018 change.

So, five years for that design, maybe five years for this one as well. At least enough time for the iPhone to catch up.

I mean, for people who use it semi-permanently on a keyboard, magic or otherwise, they may be itching for Thanos to snap again and make the bezels even smaller. Like some near 100% screen-ratio smart phones.

But very few people, at least on hour earth, have hands big enough to palm an iPad Pro, and for everyone who actually picks it up and holds it, to multitouch or to draw or write with an Apple Pencil, bezels just aren’t the enemy. Not all of them must die.

About the only thing I really, really want to see changed is for the TrueDepth camera system to move to landscape orientation.

To be clear, this has so far been rumored by no one, there have been absolutely zero in my dreams to love about it.

But it’s just so awkward in its current position, especially on the keyboards magic and otherwise, that I hope to Morpheus Apple does it anyway.

If you do as well, drop a comment and let me know.

Display

The original iPad Pro, the one Tim Cook walked out on stage with in 2015, had a 12.9-inch LCD display. And, compared to the iPad Air, it just looked so enormous, so immersive back then.

The 2016 iPad Pro, though, that had the same 9.7-inch display that Steve Jobs first introduced back in 2010. But, with DCI-P3 wide color gamut, meaning richer reds and deeper greens.

It wasn’t until 2017 that the 9.7-inch became 10.5, even as the 12.9-inch stayed the same. But, both got ProMotion, Apple’s adaptive display technology that let them ramp up to 120Hz for clarified buttery-smooth scrolling and Pencil drawing, down to 48Hz for properly cinematic movies and videos, and even 24Hz to save power for largely static images.

And even when the big redesign came in ought 18, and the 10.5 grew to fill out the bezels, to take the iPad Pro to 11, the 12.9-inch simply shed it’s own bezels instead, keeping the display precisely the same size.

And the 2020 update did nothing to change that.

The big rumor for the next-generation, though… is decidedly small: That Apple will be switching from LCD panels to mini LED panels.

There have been some OLED rumors as well but last I heard Apple still wasn’t happy with OLED at iPad scale. Brightness levels not being consistent and all that.

But mini LED offers a lot of the same benefits as OLED without having as many drawbacks.

It uses, literally, tiny LEDs, like 10,000 of them, below 200 microns in size, grouped into local dimming areas, so you can more precisely control the back light to get deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios.

So, you can get HDR, high dynamic range, without having to get OLED.

It’s not micro LED, which are self-emmiting, which generate their own light, like OLED. But without needing things like PenTile sub pixel layouts. They can use RGP stripe like all good-hearted panels.

That technology is further out, though, and will probably hit the Apple Watch first, then scale up to the iPhone. Just like OLED.

So, mini LED. Which will be terrific in terms of watching HDR content.

Especially with ProMotion, which should let it save power, show that HDR content at 48Hz like nature and Hollywood intended, and then ramp up to 120Hz for scrolling and Pencil.

Literally can’t wait.

USB 4.0

Part of the iPad Pro’s big redesign was the transformation from Lightning to USB-C. Yes, blessed USB-C.

It allowed the iPad Pro to work with a wider ranger of peripherals — Mac and PC peripherals.

But it’s not Thunderbolt, because Thunderbolt requires PCIe, and Apple has never surfaced any PCIe lanes for ports on any iOS device, not even the iPad Pro.

Now, there haven’t been any rumors about Thunderbolt coming to the iPad Pro, at least as far as I’ve seen, but… but…

Just last month Tim Cook announced the Mac was switching from Intel to Apple Silicon, similar if not the same as the systems-on-a-chip they’ve been using for the iPad for a decade.

In fact, the developer test kit is using an A12Z chipset — the same chipset that’s in the current iPad Pro.

Then, just after that, Intel announced Thunderbolt 4, and just after that, Apple sent me a statement saying they would continue to support Thunderbolt on Apple Silicon.

So, Apple is already building custom chipsets with PCIe lanes for Thunderbolt.

At the same time, USB4 is on the way. Now, USB is a standard, which means it just simply has to be super confusing, right?

To paint an ugly picture, USB letters define the plug. USB-A on older devices, USB-B on printers, mini and micro-USB on older mobile devices and headphones and, embarrassingly, still some new ones…

The number defines the speed. So USB 3 was faster than USB 2, and USB 4 is faster again than USB 3.

Again, that’s already grossly over-simplified, but to make it even simpler again — USB 4 is going to give Thunderbolt-like speeds in a cable uses the same USB-C plug. And it’s going to do that by folding in the Thunderbolt 3 spec.

And, if the USB Implementers Forum and Intel don’t screw anything up, Thunderbolt 4 as well.

I’d love to see that on both the USB-C port and the Smart Connector, so a next-generation Magic Keyboard could actually handle higher-bandwidth data well.

Again, there have been no rumors that I know of even hinting at USB-4 on the iPad Pro. Speculation like mine, sure. Tons. This is the internet, after all.

But as someone who’s dying to connect a super fast Samsung X5 SSD to an iPad Pro for 4k video transfer, and actually have it transfer super fast, I want it badly.

Hit that like button if you do as well.

5G

Yes, a bunch of super salty pundits wrote a bunch of super silly hot takes last year saying the iPhone 11 not having 5G was just super dumb.

And now, almost a year later, most of the world still doesn’t have functional 5G.

But, since then, Apple and Qualcomm have settled their long-running lawsuits and are actively working together on 5G modems for the iPhone 12.

Rumor has it, sub-6, maybe even sub-9 for the standard iPhone 12, and sub-6 or sub 9, and mmWave for the iPhone 12 Pro.

And that’s for sure the priority. But once that’s done, adding 5G to the iPad Pro just makes all the sense that does.

A14X

The 2018 iPad Pro had an A12X chipset. Basically the iPhone XS chipset with 7 GPU cores. But, turns out, it was 7 GPU cores because TSMC’s process wasn’t reliably turning out all 8 cores.

Flash forward to 2020, and that’s no longer the case. So, Apple starting shipping the fully operational version as the A12Z for the current iPad Pro.

Why not an A13 like the iPhone 11 or, more properly, an A13X? My guess is the 2020 iPad Pro was mainly a delivery vehicle for LiDAR testing and Apple’s silicon team was already beyond busy working on the A14 for the iPhone 12 and the new Mac Silicon that’s now on their plate as well.

But… rumor has it the next-generation iPad Pro will be getting that same A14… well, the GPU-embiggened A14X version.

It’ll be faster, because of course it will, and hopefully it’ll have more memory as well. The 2020 iPad Pro has 6 GB of RAM. 8 GB would put it on par with an entry-level Mac, though, which will really, really come in handy if and when Apple ships Final Cut, Logic, and Xcode for the iPad Pro,

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4K YouTube on Apple TV! — But what about iPhone and iPad?

The feud is over. The codec war… has ended. It’s 2020 and me, you, we — all of us! — can finally watch 4K YouTube on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Finally.

Almost. Maybe.

The Problem

Now, if you just want the answer to the problem and why it still may take a while for you to get, just use the chapter markers to jump ahead.

If you want to know who screwed up and made it such a big problem to begin with, well, just you buckle up. Because this is some high-order tech drama.

So, up until now, you just couldn’t watch 4K YouTube on any Apple device.

iTunes and Apple TV+, fine. Netflix and Disney+, no problem. Vimeo, go for it. Literally any other service, but not YouTube.

And you could watch 4K YouTube on literally any other ‘droid or Fire or streaming or casting device in the verse, just not Apple’s.

Well, almost. Chrome on the Mac was the one exception that really made the rule super beyond frustrating.

And the reason for this… is Google. But maybe not the fault. At least entirely.

It’s complicated.

See, for 720p and 1080p, what’s commonly called HD, pretty much everyone in the industry agreed to support the same standard codec — H.264.

When it came time for 2160p, or the resolutions grouped together as 4K or UHD, pretty much everyone in the industry address to support the same standard codec again — this time H.265. Also known by one of the world’s worst acronyms, HEVC or high efficiency video codec.

Except for — you guessed it — Google.

For YouTube, Google decided to go with it’s own, competing codec — VP9.

Now, because YouTube is such a big deal, a lot of other software and hardware platforms decided to just take it in the apps – I said apps! — and add in VP9 support just for YouTube.

Apple, being Apple, did not.

And so all their shared customers, all of us who just wanted to watch YouTube on Apple devices, ended up being screwed, yeah, right in those apps.

So, if you want to tell me who you blame, just do it in the comments below.

Google’s Problem

Google’s problem with H.265 — and H.264 before it — is that its a standard but not a free or open one. It’s owned by MPEG-LA, and they’ve historically been kinda super greedy about the royalties and licenses they charge for it. Although they have been pressured down over time. A lot.

With H.264 almost everyone, including Google, just grit their teeth and took it. That’s why you could play 720p and 1080p YouTube in H.264 in pretty much any player on pretty much any device.

Except… except some free and open source software. They either couldn’t financially or simply wouldn’t philosophically support a licensed, royalty-based codec.

So, Google made an alternative, which back in the HD days, was VP8.

Apple’s Problem

Now, free and open source alternatives to licensed and royalty based codecs are great. They’re terrific. At least in theory.

In practice, just because someone says their new codec is free and open source, doesn’t magically make it so. Even a company as big and bad as Google.

Patents are legal minefields, expect where the mines teleport around randomly and all you have to do is get a jury in the rocket docket to say one exploded, and you’re looking at 10s or 100s of millions of dollars in damages and penalties, if not more.

Remember Steve Jobs saying FaceTime was going to be an open standard back in 2020? Yeah, Apple’s been fighting patent suits over that pretty much ever since.

So, Apple, which has more money than some countries, would rather just pay the license and royalties in this case than risk being sued over the supposed free and open alternative.

The codec wars

When we started moving from HD to UHD, and from SDR to HDR — Stand to High Dynamic Range —and the file sizes threatened to become four times the size, we needed a better, smaller, more efficient way to compress them.

So, after a complex and borderline nightmarish set of patent pooling agreements H.265 — HEVC — was announced as the next generation replacement for ubiquitously used H.264.

Google, meanwhile, developed VP9 as the replacement for their own, then seldom used, VP8

And because, by then, they weren’t just YouTube anymore, but YouTube dammit, they decided to tell H.265 to just jog on and use their own VP9 instead.

So, yeah — begun these codec wars had.

Now, some people will tell you HEVC is also technically better than VP9, and others will of course argue that no, VP9 is actually technically better than HEVC, and they’ll all shake their tiny Vader fists at each other on every subreddit they can.

Since Google has it’s own ecosystem, it was trivial to build VP9 support into Android and Chrome, which is why 4K YouTube worked in Chrome on the Mac.

Because YouTube is YouTube, it also wasn’t hard to get companies who felt they really needed YouTube in 4K, like Roku and Amazon, even other browsers on the Mac, to add support for it as well.

But, again, Apple is Apple.

They’d already created custom HEVC encode and decode blocks to both their A-series chips for iPhone and iPad and T2 chip for the Mac.

That meant, not only would HEVC play back incredibly smoothly on Apple devices, it would do so without any software overhead, excessive heat, or battery drain.

Something they were really proud of and saw as adding significant value to their products… and something that just simply would not be the case with VP9.

And if you’re thinking, well, Apple could just add VP9 encode and decode blocks to the silicon as well…

One, that takes years, and two, it’s not entirely clear how workable that really is.

Here’s why — Google supports VP9 and only VP9 playback for their video service, YouTube, but they only support H.265 — yes, only HEVC — for 4K capture on their current generation phones, the Pixel 4.

Because… hardware encoders are hard.

So, that where we’ve been for the last few years. Apple not supporting VP9 and Google… er… YouTube not supporting H.265.

Until now.

tvOS 14

At WWDC 2020, Apple announced iOS 14 and tvOS 14. They spent a bunch of time showing off widgets on the Home screen and even Control Center on the big screen, but what they spent zero time on was 4K support for YouTube on all their screens.

No, that little gem was tucked away at the bottom of the Apple TV 4K page on Apple.com.

But it was there:

Watch the latest YouTube videos in their full 4K glory. Your favorite music, slo‑mo, outdoor, and vlog footage never looked better.

So, what happened? Did YouTube decide to re-encode their massive video library in H.265 for silky smooth playback on all of Apple’s devices?

No.

Did both Google and Apple decide to switch to the new Alliance for Open Media Video 1 codec — or AV1.

Also no. At least not yet. If that beautiful dream for a unified codec future is to come true, and not be bifurcated again by competing H.266, it will not be this day.

No.

Apple seems to have added software support for VP9 to tvOS 14. And maybe iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 as well.

Weirdly, because everything about this apparently has to be just so weird, it’s not showing up for everyone on the beta versions yet.

Some people now have the option on all their devices, some on a few but not all their devices, and others on none of their devices.

So, it’s possible Google is rolling it out to those devices in stages, or Apple is testing it on some installations, or some cooperative combination of the two.

It’s also possible 4K YouTube showing up on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 is just a bug from the tvOS 14 rollout and it still won’t be there come the fall.

Because increased heat and battery drain won’t be an issue on an Apple TV 4K box plugged into AC power, but it will be for an iPhone or iPad on battery.

Likewise, Apple TV 4K really benefits from 4K video where the iPhone does not, and neither do almost an of the iPads.

I mean, yes, some of us have said we’d give anything for 4K YouTube on our iPhones and iPads. But that anything is always theoretical. When it becomes practical, and touches battery life, you know it, we’ll cut you.

Since I’d rather be surprised than disappointed, I’m only going to expect it on tvOS 14. But, hopefully that’s something the big brains at Google and Apple are busy figuring it out right now.

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iPhone 12 — No 120Hz ProMotion Display?

Some tech nerds in some comment sections just keep saying if Apple doesn’t bring a high refresh display to the iPhone 12, well, then they’re not bringing the iPhone 12 home.

DED. Done. RIP.

And the other 99 out of 100 people are saying… a high what now?

The What

If you’re not familiar with 120Hz displays, if you don’t know what they are or why anyone would be talking about them, let me give you a super quick TL;DR.

Now, I’m totally going to cheat a little — ok, a lot — by not talking about the refresh rate, or how many times a second the display refreshes the pixels on it, but about something I think will resonate with more people — frames per second.

With video or animation, nothing really moves. What we see as movement is really a series of still images changing rapidly in a short period of time.

Like a flip book, if you ever made one of those as kid. Draw one picture per page, change the picture ever-so-slightly on every page, and when you flip them fast, it looks like they’re moving.

That’s basically how film work, just with 24 pictures — or frames — a second. Because, back in the day, that was enough to fool our brains into buying the illusions but not so much that it used too much more, expensive film to shoot.

Now, because we’ve gotten used to seeing 24 frames per second in film — at the cinema — it just looks… cinematic. Which is why a lot of YouTube channels, including mine, stick to 24 frames per second, even though YouTube happily supports 30… 60 even.

30 is the traditional frame rate for television in North America, which is why TV looks smoother in both good and bad ways. When done well, like a primetime show. When done badly, like a soap opera.

The iPhone has been 60 frames per second, double television, since it launched. Basically, because if it dropped even a single frame, Steve Jobs would drop it on someone’s head. Figuratively, not literally. I hope.

And for other reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

So… 120 frames per second is double again — the pixels on the display updating 120 times a second instead of 60.

And that brings with it some huge benefits… and some potential challenges if not outright problems.

The Good

So, ok, there are some real advantages when it comes to 120hz displays.

Rock solid 60 frames per second was critical to Apple when they launched the original iPhone back in 2007. Twice as fast as television, it made the interface animations, the scrolling through lists, the pinch and zoom through photos and maps, all of it, not just look buttery smooth but feel it.

It created the illusion of direct manipulation, that it was locked onto your fingers when you touched it, just instantly responsive. Like when you moved your fingers, you were moving the pixels.

Then, in 2017, Apple announced ProMotion for the iPad Pro.

Now, ProMotion wasn’t high frame rate. Not exactly. It was adaptive frame rate. But, it could boost up to 120 frames per second to make scrolling, pinching, zooming, all even smoother and Apple Pencil feel even more like a real pencil.

In other words, even smoother than butter. Like Ghee.

It’s legit terrific for anything like interfaces, animations, and gaming. People were psyched when Fortnite shipped 60 fps on the iPhone XR and iPhone XS a couple years ago, so even the idea of double that on the iPhone 12 has people, well, double psyched.

Also, for people like me, who watch videos far more than we game, the best thing about adaptive 120hz refresh is the adaptive part — it quintuples perfectly down to 24 frames per second, so it shows everything from YouTube videos like this to Hollywood movies just as nature and cinema intended.

So, yeah, I’m a total display nerd and I want it badly. And if you want it badly as well, hit that like button.

But… I don’t know that any of us want it… badly.

The bad

So, there are some issues with 120hz displays that very few people, especially nerds, will tell you up front but you’ll hear all about, loudly and repeatedly if you just stick around and listen.

First, they’re way easier to do on LCD than OLED. Which is why the iPad Pro’s had it since 2017 and the iPhone hasn’t… since it switched to OLED in 2017.

OLED is just such a complicated technology with a ton of good characteristics and a ton of bad ones that require serious mitigations to overcome. I’ve explained those in a bunch of previous videos, so, seriously, hit that subscribe bell and button and check them all out.

Now, other companies have been doing both 90hz and 120hz on OLED and with varying degrees of success for a while already. Even Samsung, who’s OLED process and panels a lot of these companies use.

Some of them do it… some of the time. And it either switches automatically when, like a cloud goes across the sun outside and the ambient brightness in your living room changes and you can just see the refresh rate downshift in the middle of a game, and just nothing in the world makes sense any more.

Others do it manually, and you can choose between lower resolutions with higher refresh rates and higher resolutions with lower refresh rates and as you switch you can literally see the white point change and it makes you hate your own eyes for a hot minute.

And some of them have been getting software updates to try and fix at least some of that, because these are the kinds of downsides we’re still dealing with even in 2020.

120Hz OLED panels, at least so far, haven’t been great when it comes to color management, low brightness levels — not, like, inky blacks, but like you’re in a dark room and you want to lower the brightness of your phone, and battery life.

Because the display is one of the most power-hungry parts of the device and having it refresh twice as much uses… wait for it, significantly more power.

Now, Apple designs their own displays, sometimes with their own material requirements, and has Samsung fab them on their OLED process. Apple also makes their own display controllers and has functionality for that built in at the silicon level.

But Apple also has a complete DCI-P3 wide gamut pipeline, with device-level calibration at the factory, and complete color management all the way through. From taking a photo to showing that photo.

It’s why a RGB and DCI-P3 image displayed side by side on a webpage on an iPhone look fine, and why an LCD iPhone 11 so closely matches an OLED iPhone 11 Pro, even though they’re completely different display technologies.

But 120Hz will still screw with all of that.

So…

The reality

Apple may well ship 120Hz with the iPhone 12, quite possibly just the iPhone 12 Pro.

Like maybe they’re good. They’ve figured it out and have got all of this just handled.

Or, if the color is off, the low brightness is problematic, or the power drain is just too much, Apple may do what they’ve done with a bunch of other technologies and just decide to wait.

Remember, this is the same Apple that waited until 2017 and the iPhone X before they decided 60Hz OLED was good enough for them. On the iPhone. They’re still not happy enough with things like consistent brightness levels to use it on the iPad at scale.

Even today, they still ship LCD on the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, the two most popular single phones of the last two years.

Or, maybe Apple is just going to wait for production capacity on LTPO OLED panels big enough for the iPhone so, like the Apple Watch, they won’t just boost up to 120Hz for high frame rate, but down to 1 for super low frame rate, like for an always-on lock screen display.

Hey, a nerd can dream. And if you’re dreaming of the same thing, let me know in the comments.

The market

Now, if Apple ships 120Hz display on the iPhone 12 Pro, it’ll make a lot of display nerds like me super happy. Just like shipping HDR on the iPhone X made us and me super happy. But, it also made most of the world just go… what now?

And that’s the thing. If you ask a bunch of nerds like me on tech Twitter or tech YouTube if we want 120Hz refresh on the next iPhone — nay, if we insist on it, we’ll say yeah. Hell yeah. Why wasn’t it there last year? Nokia had it back in 1812!

Just like if you ask us if we wanted cake, we’d say hell yeah to that as well.

But if you tell us that cake is going to cost $100… well, then we stop and think.

Same way when you add context to 120Hz, even tech nerds like me stop and think.

Would you still want 120hz if it messed with low brightness levels… Ah, maybe. If it screwed up color management? What, no… If it trashed battery life. I’ll cut you!

And that’s just us nerds. If you ask the other 99% of the market, they’d say… 120 what now?

Seriously, this is the same market where… some people… double facepalm thumbnailed so hard at the iPhone XR not-even-1080p in 2018…

And it clowned them not only becoming the best seller that year, but by being followed up by the same display on the iPhone 11 being the best seller repeat in 2019.

Now, you could argue that the iPhone 12 going OLED across the line means Apple will need some other form of differentiation or segmentation between the standard and Pro versions this year, and 120Hz is a good one.

And I’d agree. To a point. Again, outside of tech nerds, the vast majority of the market just doesn’t make purchasing decisions based on display techs or specs. Some just get the best or biggest version every year, because they’re on an annual update program, and others just buy it every time they upgrade, however long that is.

And for people picking and choosing, typically things like cameras and battery life are the key drivers.

Which is why if 120Hz hurts battery life, most people won’t be happy about having it. They’ll be mad.

Which, T-B-H, I still kinda wish was the case with mmWave 5G. But that’s a very different marketing spend.. and video.

Even design details, like the colors, finishes, stainless steel antenna, all of that will likely drive more mainstream purchasing decisions than 120 vs. 60hz, XDR vs. HDR, even, god help us all, notch size.

At least for the vast majority of buyers.

And, again, I’m someone who really, really wants to 120hz all the things.

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Marc Levoy Leaving the Google Pixel Camera Team Works Out Great For iPhone Users

David Imel, writing on Twitter

https://twitter.com/DurvidImel/status/1285275333327978498

Just got word that Marc Levoy, who previously led Computational Photography at Google has just joined @Adobe as a VP and fellow to work on CP initiatives, as well as a "Universal Adobe Camera App" 👀

This seems like a huge win for iOS users.

Google chose to never share the Pixel Camera app with other Android phones, let alone iPhone. (Yes, every company places limits on 'openness', usually right around where it starts making them money.)

iOS has a consistent, well-abstracted set of Camera API, as apps like FOCOS, Halide, Obscura, etc. have shown over the years.

So… Adobe Camera on iPhone could end up being far better supported than on any other phone.

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No, Samsung, You Don’t Get to Brand the ‘Next Normal’

I appreciate the press release, Samsung, but can we just not brand… all this… as the “Next Normal”?

Can we not brand it at all, and not try to "normalize" any of it?

https://news.samsung.com/us/tm-roh-steering-mobile-industry-through-the-next-normal-unpacked/

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Why Apple is Still Making Intel Macs

So, after my last two videos on what Apple Silicon really is and what it really means, I got a bunch of questions from you all asking where that left Intel Macs, especially since Apple was still going to be releasing more of them.

Timelines

At the exact same time Tim Cook announced that the first Apple Silicon Mac would be shipping this year, he also announced that they still had some new Intel Macs in the pipeline that they were really excited about.

Because, Apple Silicon is going to take some time to rollout. When Tim Cook said we’d get the first system by the end of the year, he said first system SINGULAR. As in one system.

Sure, it could be more, but we can’t expect any more.

He also said the full transition would take two years. As in, it could be two years before the specific Mac you want gets released with an Apple Silicon system-on-a-chip.

Sure, Steve Jobs said it would take two years for the PowerPC to Intel transition back in 2005 and it ended up taking less than one year, but past isn’t always predicate. Things could go just as well this time, or Tim Cook could be far more accurate about the time.

Either way, if you need a new Mac now, now, now, you may simply be in no position to wait for the Apple Silicon version later this year, next year, or seriously, in as much as two years.

And should know my standard advice by now anyway — wait as long as you can to buy, buy when you absolutely have to, buy the best you can afford at the time, and then have zero regrets because there will always be something next.

So, if you need a Mac now, and you can’t wait, don’t feel at all bad about getting an Intel Mac now. It’ll see to your immediate needs and when the time comes for your next next Mac, even better Apple Silicon models will be on the market.

And, especially if you are a high-order-bit Pro, where time is literally money, new systems are paid off by the studio, a single client, or a single gig, getting a new Intel 10th generation iMac or 16-inch MacBook Pro, with next-generation RDNA graphics from AMD, now could be well more than worth it to you even if you plan on getting an Apple Silicon Mac whenever they arrive as well.

If that’s your plan, jump down and tell me which one you’re waiting.

Rev A boards

I have this friend whose like a nerds nerd. He’s written software that’s literally been used by billions of people. On every platform. And there’s two things he doesn’t do — beta and buy rev A boards.

What he means by that is simple: He has to work, he has to produce, and he has absolutely zero time for anything that will slow him down or hinder him for doing that in any way. Which is what cutting edge, never mind bleeding edge, software and hardware will do.

So, he’s always a point version or two behind on his operating system and software updates and a generation or two behind on his computers and cards.

And that’s totally legit. Totally valid as computing choices go.

For some people, having the best and last of the old is just a much smarter, safer, more predictable, more practical position than having the first and least known of the new.

That’s why, while I’m here waiting and just totally obviously salivating over whatever Apple Silicon Macs we get first and soonest, and if you are as well, hit that like button and lets see how how it can go.

But him, he’s just sitting there, laughing, and more than happy for me to be the beta tester, the guinea pig, on all of that for the next year or several.

Just sitting there waiting to see how that family of Apple SoC’s really perform. How that Intel platter really, really gets served by the Apple Silicon’s sandwich.

How Apple scales up from ultra-lights to pro laptops, to desktops, to workstations. How those storm-based CPU cores really compare to Intel’s… endless Lakes. How the custom GPU face off againt Intel embedded and AMD dedicated, never mind Nvidia… How universal memory works compared to the PCI buses. What the RAM and storage stories end up being, the specialized silicon vs. general purpose computing plays.

Just laughing, waiting to spend his money on that 10th Gen, RDNA iMac or MacBook Pro…

And maybe some or many of you are as well. Let me know in the comments.

The software story

Now, as much as Apple loves to hold an event, show off a new product, and say orders start today or this week and they’ll be in the store or at your door immediately if not within a week or two…

When it comes to really new products, as in new category products, Apple typically announces them way earlier than when they ship, sometimes a month, sometimes several.

And no, not to give Tim Cook time to personally come to your house and baseball bat your old Mac so you’ll just have to buy the new one. It’s still not safe for him to travel.

But, no. Seriously no. To give developers time to get their apps ready.

For Apple Silicon specifically, there are a couple ways apps will be able to run.

First, existing Mac apps will run using Rosetta 2, which basically emulates Intel on Apple Silicon. It does a lot of smart things, including translating on download, install, and dynamical as needed, and it will probably run way, way better than anyone is assuming right now, but it’ll still be emulation.

Second is Universal Binaries 2, where developers have the existing Intel version, make a specific version for Apple Silicon, bundle them up, and you just get the right version for your system when you hit download.

Many, if not most developers, especially Indies who really care about the performance of their software are going to jump on that, like Mario on a super mushroom.

But many if not most is not all. Just like not all 32-bit plugins and apps got moved to 64-bit in time to survive the Red Upgrade that was Catalina, not all Intel apps will get moved over to Apple Silicon.

Sometimes it’s because they’re older apps and the people who developed them are just no longer around, and sometimes it’s because they see the Mac as just a niche market and t think they can justify the effort and costs, and sometimes it’s because their own internal resources and priorities and politics make it so it’s going to take them a bunch of months or a year or more to do it.

You know, like Google with iOS apps.

But, if that app happens to be a bleeding edge game or, far more critically, a high-performance audio or video tool, or 3D or scientific modeler that you depend on for your work, than Rosetta 2 just isn’t going to be much comfort… or much help…

And if that app or game doesn’t even exist on macOS to begin with, and you’ve been using Bootcamp to run Windows on your Intel Mac… well… Bootcamp isn’t even going to exist on Apple Silicon Macs either.

That’s all end of line.

So, if you need Windows, like good old-fashioned Windows on Intel, then you’re going to need an Intel Mac for a good long while still.

Which is why Apple is still closing them out, even with delays in the roadmap and shipping chips, and issues with lock-downs and shelter-in-place, and just… everything.

Getting the Mac lineup all good and all updated on the latest Intel and AMD chipsets, and promising to support them with new operating systems for years to come… that just creates the best and strongest foundation for everyone before everything that comes next.

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Apple Silicon Macs — Not ARM

Apple isn’t moving the Mac to ARM. Not exactly. And it isn’t about speed. It isn’t even about battery life. Not really. No. Most people are just getting all of this wrong, wrong, wrong.

And I’m going to explain to you exactly why… in my iMore column this week!

https://www.imore.com/mac-moving-apple-silicon-not-arm

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Stalman Podcast: Next-gen Cameras and Computers

Not only is Tyler Stalman an incredibly talented photographer and videographer, he's been beyond generous when it comes to sharing his knowledge and wisdom.

Oh, and his podcast is snappy as well!

Talking to Rene Ritchie about the Canon's huge new camera announcements, the transition to Apple Silicon, and our wishlists for Final Cut Pro X.

https://www.stalmanpodcast.com/90

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Why Apple Silicon Macs Will Be Better

Moving the Mac to Apple Silicon is exciting but, honestly, Apple Silicon isn’t even the most exciting thing about it. It’s the features that Apple Silicon will enable.

I’ll get to the specific Macs and features in a minute but, for years, Apple’s been able to deliver experiences on iOS devices, on the iPhone and iPad, that simply haven’t been practical or or even possible on the Mac.

Why? Because on the iPhone and the iPad, Apple’s owned everything from the hardware to the software to the interface, including the silicon.

And, on the Mac, they’ve been dependent on Intel.

And.. working around Intel.

For example, when Intel failed to support the 5K displays Apple wanted for the Retina iMac, Apple built their own custom timing controller. We all lost target display mode, but they fused the bandwidth together to support pushing that many pixels, if only internally.

When Intel failed to deliver HEVC — H.265 — support, and shunting it off to the GPU just wasn’t good enough, Apple used custom encode/decode blocks on their own T2 chips, essentially a variant of the A10 in the iPhone 7, to handle it instead.

Same with the Secure Enclave for Touch ID and Apple Pay, the always-on processor for voice activated Siri, the storage controller and real-time data encryption, and the list goes on and on.

But, building that much scaffolding is just… inefficient and, I imagine, exhausting. Especially when you’re still with Intel’s increasingly hot, increasingly power hungry CPUs continuously trying to just burst out of the bead-blasted unibody enclosures you’re trying to fit them into.

And every YouTuber is just face-palm thumbnail fire emoji fire emoji fire emoji.

And… just none of that happens with the iPad.

So, the Mac is moving to Apple Silicon, and we should start to see features more in line with, and more on pace, with the iPad.

We’re even seeing some of them already.

Apple’s shown the new restore system, which will let you recover your Mac using a hidden container, and the new full and reduced security modes for casual and hobbies users respectively, things that weren’t possible before Apple Silicon.

Likewise, hypervisor acceleration for virtual machines built into the Silicon, and all of it just showing that, now fully in control of their destiny, Apple pretty much can and will design the chips specifically to support and accelerate the features they’re putting into the operating systems.

So, when you take the features Apple’s already been able to deliver on the iPhone and iPad, the workaround they’ve already provided for the Mac, and the new stuff they’ve hinted at for the new silicon, it sets up just a huge amount of potential for the next generation systems.

Of course, Apple hasn’t said what’s coming or when. And it’s fair to assume things will start off more conservatively, more slowly, just to keep the transition as rock-solid as possible, but over the next few years, I have a really strong feeling the sky really is the limit.

For example…

MacBook Air

Apple announced the 12-inch MacBook the same year they the announced the iPad Pro.

Both were ultra-thin, ultra-light, and ultra-silent with not a fan in sight, but while the iPad Pro was also ultra-powerful, the 12-inch MacBook was… most decidedly not.

And that came down to the differences between Intel’s anemic CoreM Y-Series and imbedded graphics and Apple’s increasingly performant A-series system-on-a-chip.

So, now, imagine something in between that 12-inch MacBook and the MacBook Air today, but instead of CoreM, it’s got one of Apple’s new family of Mac SoC’s.

You’d have something every bit as powerful as a current iPad Pro — more, even, if the SoC is on the new ARMv9 instruction set and 5 nanometer process like the A14 series might just be this fall, and its not as constrained by the size and power envelope of the iPad.

10 hours of battery life maybe? More if Apple decides to prioritize it over weight?

And, like the iPad Pro, maybe a smaller one at 12-inches, edge-to-edge, and a bigger one at 14-inches.

With more than the iPad Pro’s current limit of 6GB of RAM, and the traditional clamshell form factor traditional laptop users know and love…

It wouldn’t be a workstation, wouldn’t be meant to be anything even in the same universe as a workstation, but if you have a workstation at home or in the studio and want to travel with an ultra-light, Apple could build in acceleration for Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro and Xcode, and for 3rd party pro apps, beyond anything Intel has been capable of to date.

Remember, that 12-inch MacBook on Intel choked on a single stream of 4K while the iPad Pro could handle multiple streams like a boss. And that was 3 to 5 years ago.

Another option the iPad Pro’s had… forever… that the MacBook’s just never gotten at all is cellular networking.

It’s 4G LTE right now but expected to go to 5G Sub-6, maybe Sub-9 at the low end and mmWave at the high end this fall, when Apple’s… renewed partnership with Qualcomm kicks back in… after they take care of the much higher priority iPhone of course.

Apple could have added a cellular modem to the MacBook at any time. They’d have to figure out the antennas and give macOS the far more data-efficient features iOS has enjoyed for basically ever. But it costs a freaking fortune to license the modems and IP.

In other words, Qualcomm is famous for demanding a hefty share of the profits. The iPad option is already $120 and based on MacBook prices, it could go even higher.

Now, other companies are doing it, of course. Sure, it means paying for an additional cellular plan, with some 5G versions being just painfully expensive and other being truly excruciating. And 5G service still being largely mythical in most parts, but they’re doing it.

And that’s where Apple Silicon comes in. See, Apple didn’t just agree to buy Qualcomm chips, they agreed to license the technology. And then they bought Intel’s modem business, basically what they used to make iPhone modems before this new agreement with Qualcomm.

So, it’s also possible Apple could just wait a couple or few years until they’re ready to ship their own, custom, modems integrated right into the Apple Silicon.

Both for iOS devices and, who knows, maybe the Mac as well.

Would you want a cellular Mac? Let me know in the comments below.

MacBook Pro

Now, of course, with a MacBook or MacBook Air, you’re looking at an ultra-light device very much like the iPad. For a MacBook Pro, you’re looking at something quite a bit more…

Well, something… with a fan.

Given the bigger chassis, the better cooling, and the higher power draw that allows… Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what that kind of Apple Silicon SoC can really deliver.

Especially in terms of graphics where they’ll be trading in the dedicated AMD chips for integrated Apple chips… and even more dedicated accelerators and controllers.

Not just for hypervisors either, but for absolutely any feature Apple wants to make as absolutely high performance as possible. Whatever it takes to make the pro tools and pro workflows teams happy. And, yeah, us.

The goal should be every ounce of power Intel’s delivered to date, and more, with nothing like the power draw or thermal constraints.

Apple Silicon also houses Apple’s own, custom display controllers.

When it comes to displays, everyone pretty much has access to all the same panels from all the same same processes, whatever they’re willing and able to pay for.

But Apple has been demanding not just their own panel specs for years already on the iPhone and iPad, but building their own display controllers as well. Things that enable the 120hz adaptive refresh rates of ProMotion on the iPad Pro, and handles all the performance and mitigations of OLED on the iPhone.

Apple’s display team has already brought their DCI-P3 wide gamut pipeline to the Mac, their TrueTone dynamic color temperature adjustments, even adjustable refresh between 48 and 60 on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

But there’s still more they can do. Maybe not with OLED, because of its quirkiness, but with miniLED that tries to better balance out some of those good characteristics, like deeper blacks and higher contrast, with less of the bad ones, like color shifting and sometimes less than consistent brightness levels across larger panels.

And, of course, if Apple ever decides to un-nope multitouch or Apple Pencil support for the Mac, all of that is already built to just work with all of this as well.

Drop a like below if those are things you want to see on the Mac.

Mac mini

With all of these next-generation systems, Apple’s going to be able to decide if they want to use the far greater efficiency of custom silicon to keep the same performance at even smaller weights and sizes, or boost performance at the same weights and sizes.

For something like the MacBook Air, portability is going to beat out absolute performance. For something like the MacBook Pro, the reverse is hopefully true.

But what about the desktops?

Apple could take the current Mac mini design and just power it up to perfect home server levels. Basically the all-in-the-box for anyone who doesn’t want a built-in display or a big old cheesegrator tower.

Though I’m sure I’m by far not the only Mac nerd still just begging for an expandable mini tower as well.

But, my fanfic budget for today goes only so far…

Now, Apple could also go the other way — maintain current performance levels, and just carve away so much casing the mini becomes more of an Apple TV-sized Mac… nano.

I mean, with an SoC, as long as you have the ports, you don’t really need much in the way of a box.

Especially considering, after Intel released the Thunderbolt 4 news last week, Apple sent me a statement, I shared on twitter, re-affirming their commitment to the technology, and that they’ll continue to support it with their custom silicon.

That’s something beyond what Apple does now with the iPad Pro, where there’s USB-C out, but no extra PCIe lanes, so no Thunderbolt out.

With USB 4 on the way, which keeps the the USB-C connector and basically supersets Thunderbolt, it could end up finally, finally delivering on the promise of one interconnect to integrate them all. Across the whole Mac lineup.

iMac

With the iMac, I think what’s exciting people the most is the rumors of a redesign. I did a whole video on that already, so, seriously, make sure you hit that subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss out.

Beyond having a more iPad Pro-like design and a potentially a mini-LED display, Apple Silicon also opens up the potential for technologies like Face ID.

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both have Touch ID. The first generation was essentially an Apple Watch system-in-package and display controller buried next to the Touch Bar. The current one is like an A10 chip buried under it.

But Apple has just never pushed the technology to the desktop Macs. Not even the keyboards included with the iMac Pro or Mac Pro.

It’s not a security issue. Apple figured out how to transit Touch ID authentication on the iPhone to the Mac years ago. Same with Apple Watch unlock. They even use time of flight to prevent relay attacks. It’s super cool tech.

But it’s expensive. They’d have to put a system-in-package or system-on-a-chip inside the keyboard, and that would bump up costs considerably.

Modern Apple Silicon, though, has the ANE, the Apple Neural Engine built in, and that’s what powers Face ID.

Sure, putting a True Depth camera system in an iMac would be expensive as well, but like Touch ID on the MacBook Pro, the expense would be in the computer, not a standalone keyboard.

Now, maybe no Face ID in the Pro Display XDR means its just not a technology Apple’s interested in shipping with the Mac, but I think that would be a huge missed opportunity.

Not just because having Face ID on the iMac, and all the MacBooks, frankly, would be incredibly convenient, not just because having a True Depth camera would finally bring the Mac at least partially into the world of Apple’s next big thing — augmented reality, but because it would also high-key help solve the ongoing embarrassment that is the potato cam problem on almost all current Macs.

Even if all some of you want to hear from me right now is Apple Pencil support and drawing board mode for an iMac Studio.

But that’s less about silicon and more about philosophy. Still, let me know your preference in the comments.

Mac Pro

It seems… odd that Apple would release a Mac Pro last year and then a Mac to Apple transition plan this year.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Intel Macs won’t just remain useful for years to come, for pros specifically, who struggle to get the software they need supported even on Macs with Intel, they’ll likely remain table-stakes for years to come.

But, in a system-on-a-chip world, where does the ultimate system-spread-out-across-a-tower Mac even fit in?

And this is where my speculation really goes full-on fanfic.

But, Apple knew about the Intel transition when they were building this new Mac Pro. When they were spending those two or three long years in the desert with the Pro Workflows team figuring out what a modern, modular Mac really meant, really needed to be, and it’s hard to imagine the Intel to Apple Silicon transition wasn’t something they considered a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

Sure, it’s possible this was a last hurrah, the end of big iron, and the Mac Pro will be sent off to sit in a rocking chair next to the Xserve, Elvis, and Bruce Lee, and Bubba Hotep.

But it’s also possible the Mac Pro will just transition to Apple Silicon along with the rest of the lineup. Just, in its heart, instead of Xeon cores, it’ll have the monster of all SoC.

And maybe Metal and the various performance and machine learning controllers, which Apple designed to abstract away the hodgepodge of silicon that’s always lurked below the surface, the different CPUs, custom chips, and GPUs in any given Mac, any given year, will still enable a variety of options.

See, the dirty little secret about why there’s no Nvidia in modern Macs, I mean beyond the feuds of the past, is that they’re at absolute cross-purposes with Apple.

Nvidia wants to be the most important part of any machine, and totally commoditize the PC around it. Doesn’t matter what you buy or build, it just has to have Nvidia and CUDA cores and you’re set.

Apple, on the other hand, wants the most important part to be the machine, and totally commoditize the components inside. Doesn’t matter if one year it’s Nvidia, the next AMD, and the future, Apple Graphics. Just buy the Mac and you’re set.

And they’re both powerful and successful enough they neither sees any need to budge. AMD, though, seems happy to do whatever Apple needs.

So, maybe AMD can still exist in a post Apple Silicon world, abstracted away behind Metal as just another compute resource.

Or maybe Apple, with a bank even bigger than Nvidia, decides to spend the few years it takes to spin graphics chips every bit as good, maybe even better.

I mean, who would have thought 5 years ago we’d be seeing what’s happened to Intel?

Or, maybe it’s something entirely new and Apple sticks to the SoC but has a bunch of accelerator and expander cards available, re-programmable ASICs like Afterburner, but not just for ProRes, but for a wide variety of different needs, and like the storage expander, but not just for storage, for memory as well.

Maybe that’s what the next generation of massively modular Mac really means, and was really designed to be?

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iOS 14 Siri Shortcuts — Explained!

Siri Shortcuts. One of the biggest, nerdiest, and most awesome updates to iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 this year, and… they barely got any attention at the WWDC 2020 keynote.

But… I can fix that! Joining me for this video is Matthew Cassinelli, who, long story short, was one of the original members of the Workflow team, brought into Apple, but who left just before they became Shortcuts, so he could share his expertise with all of the rest of us on the outside

Matthew on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattcassinelli
Matthew on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/matthewcassinelli
Matthew on the Web: http://matthewcassinelli.com