Friday, September 09, 2016

Apple Stuff

So Apple had their big event on Wed. They announced new iPhones and Apple Watches both of which were pretty expected evolutions. The biggest surprises were that Nintendo is bringing a Mario game to the iPhone and that Pokemon Go is coming to the Watch. Also iWork adds some real-time collaboration to be more competitive with Google Docs. None of those really interests me.

The iPhone 7 is getting a lot of flak for eliminating the 3.5mm audio jack, even though it was widely rumored. I heard a number of news outlets yesterday mistakenly report that they're requiring you to buy their new wireless AirBuds for $159 which just isn't true. Just like all previous iPhones, the 7 will come with wired EarBuds bundled, it's just that these plug into the lightning port and not into a analog port. And of course there's an adaptor thingy if you need to plugin in your existing headphones and unexpectedly Apple is including one with every iPhone and charging just $9 for additional ones. Usually they charge $29 for adaptors. People keep talking about losing them but I don't get it. Just keep the adaptor connected to your headphones and then you're just as likely to loose it as you are your headphones. And learn not to lose things. People are also just whining about this going away but Apple is doing good things with the change. The phone is more water resistant (up to 30 mins in a meter of water) and I'm sure will continue to get moreso. It also has longer batter life then the old model. An extra 2 hours on average for the 7 vs the 6S and 1 hour on average for the 7+ vs the 6S+. All whiners about battery life should be happy. Oh and they finally increased the minimum storage size from a measly 16GB to a reasonable 32GB, plenty of people should now be able to save $100 not having to upgrade to 128GB.

Otherwise the updates are pretty conventional. Better camera (the 7+ has two cameras and some special software to let the two work together to take better pictures), faster processor, better sound, etc. I don't think I need to update from my 6 (it will be two years in Dec for me), but if my phone broke, I'd be happy getting the 7. The biggest complaints I've heard from people at the event who played with them is that the new taptic feedback home button feels weird. Ars seems to have a good article, Hands on with the iPhone 7: A brief peek at the wireless future.

I've been holding out on getting an Apple Watch on the "never buy the first version of Apple hardware" theory. watchOS 3 promises to fix a lot of annoyances people had. The new hardware I'm not sure about. The 50m WR is definitely an improvement, but I don't swim that often (and when I do most of my watches are 200m WR). I'm sure some will appreciate the built in GPS, but I'm not a runner and almost always have my phone with me anyway. The new watch is also 0.9mm thicker and the sport is 4.2g heavier (not sure about the stainless steel). At 11.4mm it's thinner than many of my watches, but it's the wrong direction for this product to move in, especially with no increase in battery life. The big advantage for me for the series 2 seems to be that the screen is twice as bright. That should definitely help daytime use.

I'm still not sure what model I'd get. Definitely the 42mm. I like the stainless look and think the sapphire crystal is a good upgrade since it's far less likely to scratch and I've been known to scratch watch crystals. But that's a big price difference from say a series 1 (with upgraded chip) at $300 to an aluminum series 2 at $400 to stainless steel one starting at $600. And I don't love the sport bands. For an aluminum series 1 it only comes with a sport band so I'd probably get a nylon for $50 more, for a total of $350. That's cheap and I won't feel too bad about upgrading in a year or two. The aluminum series 2 I can get it with nylon and perhaps buy a leather one for $150, totaling $550. If I go stainless it doesn't come in nylon so I'd buy a watch with a leather band for $700 and perhaps add a nylon one for $50. $750 is enough I won't want to upgrade for a while. Though of course future upgrades will probably support the same bands I have so I'd just have to pay for the watch (with a sport band).

Decisions, decisions.


Richard said...

I saw the adapter, I see that it would be fine for my current headphones and car.

Dumb question: How do I charge the phone and listen to music in my car through the non-existent headphone jack at the same time?

I love apple products, but I hope they fall flat on their face on this one. The headphone adapter is so universal (and I think universally needed) that it is ridiculous to remove it, "courage" notwithstanding. Having made this choice they can never go back because of face or reputation. Unless I hear fantastic things, my last iPhone is likely the SE I will buy when I replace my current 5S sometime long from now, because I take too good a care of my phones.

Howard said...

So that's the definitely the biggest complaint I've heard about the situation. I mostly thought of it in an office setting and didn't think it was too bad; in a car does seem more annoying. I have seen some dongles already that connect to the lightning port and allow two cables to connect, an audio jack and another lightning cable for charging. It's ugly but probably not so bad in a car if you can tuck the cables into some storage bin. I'm sure there will be more offered soon.

That being said, my car is now two years old and I thought I was the last person to have bluetooth in my car to make the the connection easier. My previous car lasted 14 years and I was using a cassette tape adaptor. Also my new car has a usb port that allows charging and audio pass thru as "iPod". I use that for any long trips. I assume there are car stereos and adaptor kits available to add such things. Personally, I'd just use a bluetooth speaker in the car if needed. I love my UE Roll.

Richard said...

My car connects the phone for bluetooth calls, but not for audio for the music. I insisted that it have the headphone input 8 years ago when I got it so I could plug in my Treo (I feel like I am talking about cuneiform!).

Do you agree with them for the case for removing the 3.5mm jack? Yes there are a lot of ways to get around that reduced functionality, but why reduce it on the first place. Aren't there other phones that are waterproof and have the jacks. Is the removal of that jack really worth the space it gives back in the phone, from a balancing product development and serving customer needs?

I have been in product development meetings where teams convinced themselves of some pretty wild things. Other where the team wanted the customer to do something differently, "if only they would use the product right...", and then we were surprised when sales didn't materialize. I know Apple is the archetype for great product aesthetics and product development yet I wonder if this is a step too far. I suppose time will tell.

Howard said...

Hard to know. It's clear it's using valuable volume in the device for a single function that can be done in other ways. I don't know what the waterproofing requirements are or how this affects it, I would think it's significant. This might be a step on a path to a waterproof iPhone, they managed to make the speakers in the watch waterproof, no reason to think they won't move that to the iPhone. I've always been impressed with their road mapping with regards to OS X (excuse me macOS). Adding filesystem metadata in one release and then using that to add Spotlight and then Time Machine in the next releases, solving the problem that customers don't backup their data.

I'm sure Apple knew this would be controversial and I'm sure they didn't do it just to screw their customers (including lightning ear buds and an adapter proves this). They have always been willing to try to move the market in deprecating old technologies (floppies, serial ports, optical drives, etc) and adopting new ones (bluetooth) and sometimes sticking with their own choices that don't catch on (firewire and now maybe thunderbolt). They're also late to some things, wireless charging is one. They're dipping their toe in it with the watch and now the AirPods, I'm sure they're thinking of how to move it to other devices. I don't know how well it works on other phones (is it fast enough? does it affect recharge cycles? are the case materials Apple uses a problem?). I'm sure they'd still support some connector for a while and the lightning seems a good one and it supports power and data so wireless charging would need extra room on top of the lightning connector.

I do think they're a little obsessed with thin, I'd trade a little thicker to have a bigger battery (and a flat back with no bulge for the camera), but I also don't know all the details. On the iMac I think they're stingy with USB ports and I like a number pad so I'm using one for their wired keyboard because they don't make a wireless keyboard with a number pad. Annoying, but I'm managing. Their last big flap was changing the 30 pin connector for a lightning port in iPhone 5. People whined but it worked it. The new one is clearly better (smaller and works with either side up) and I think people have gotten over it.

So I think they probably have a good reason to move away from the 3.5mm jack and it's probably not clear what it is at this point. I think they made a good faith effort to make the transition easy for most cases (the included ear bud and adapter) and they probably missed a few that third parties will solve in a hacky way (you'll find an adapter to solve your problem).

Howard said...


Richard said...

Thanks for the thoughtful answers (and the link). It will be interesting to see how it goes for them. I can seem me going with it given the correct adaptors. I used to complain about the 30pin to lightning change but I am good with it now. This change will be one to study in industrial design, whether as a good choice or a not so good one, time will tell.

Howard said...

Ok, the Wirecutter provides all the current answers and I bet they'll keep updating it.

Richard said...

Thanks for that link too.