New MacBook Announced

MacBookApple have announced a stealth revision to the 12” MacBook today, with the major new enhancements being an upgrade to the new Skylake chip architecture, minimum of 8GB RAM plus an hours extra battery life. Oh, and you can now get it in Rose Gold if you want.

There is no change to the camera and no structural changes to the design. It’s not really surprising that there is no major design changes as the original MacBook was only released 12 months ago, so this should be seen as a limited performance boost on the original design.

The single USB-C port remains, again, no real surprise – it supports USB 3.1but I’m a little disappointed that Thunderbolt 3 support was not included. Looks like Thunderbolt 3 is being reserved for the next MacBook Pro update.

It has been a while since the MacBook Pro has had a design refresh, so I would expect to see multiple USB-C ports including support for Thunderbolt 3 in the Summer.

So will I be trading in my current MacBook for one of the new ones?

Unlikely as the update isn’t really significant enough to make me want to upgrade. The performance of the current MacBook is perfectly adequate for me in it’s current role – that of an all purpose travel Mac.

First 24 Hours with 9.7” iPad Pro

Just some initial observations…

It’s fast and the screen is beautiful – the colours really pop.

I’m not fully convinced on the “True Tone” technology. Sitting at my desk, it makes the screen seem warmer, almost as if I’d switched the Night Shift option on. It is a little distracting when comparing to my other devices and desktop monitors that don’t have True Tone capabilities. However, trying the smaller iPad Pro compared to a normal iPad Air 2 in direct sunlight, the iPad Pro does look better and more natural. The iPad Air 2 seems more washed out and has a definite blue colour whilst the iPad Pro looks more natural. I’ll experiment further.

I’ve become accustomed to the luxury of the larger iPad Pro when couch surfing. I tried the smaller iPad Pro and it felt too small. The smaller form factor means that you tend to have to hold it to position it correctly, but the larger iPad Pro just seems to sit more easily on your lap. If you’ve never used the larger iPad Pro, this won’t be a problem for you, but sitting in front of the TV, I had to put the smaller version down and go back to the larger size. When it comes to travelling, the smaller size of the new iPad Pro will win out.

I’ve used Split View but again, the size of the small iPad Pro gives you the equivalent of two iPad minis side by side, whereas the larger iPad Pro is like two iPad Airs side by side. Might not be a deal breaker for some people, but with my eyesight, I definitely prefer the larger size.

Not yet had chance to play with the Camera.

The Apple Pencil works just fine as you might expect, and swapping it between both devices is just a matter of plugging it into the device you want to use it with for a few seconds.

I mentioned yesterday about my dissatisfaction with Apple’s pricing of accessories – I’d stumped up £55 for the Silicone Case but thought I’d be able to use one of my existing Smart Covers with the new iPad Pro.

Wrong!

It transpires that you need to buy an iPad Pro specific Smart Cover, the older iPad Smart covers don’t work as the magnet positioning is different. I’ll give Apple the benefit of the doubt here, in that due to the new Smart Connectors on the side of the iPad Pro, it probably wasn’t possible to support the older iPad Smart Covers. The older Smart Cover won’t attach to the side of the new iPad Pro.

The question is now do I stump up an extra £39 for the iPad Pro Smart Cover, or £129 for the Smart Keyboard.

I already have both a Smart Cover and a Smart Keyboard for the larger iPad Pro, and I much prefer carrying it around with just the Smart Cover – the Smart Keyboard adds considerable bulk to the larger iPad Pro.

As an aside, the larger Smart Keyboard works just fine with the smaller iPad Pro if you remove the Silicone Case, but that’s not really practical.

Small iPad Pro on larger Smart Keyboard

9.7″ iPad Pro on a large Smart Keyboard!

As I’ll be using the smaller iPad Pro mainly whilst travelling, and I’ll usually have my MacBook with me, I’ll probably stick with just the Smart Cover for now.

My general feeling is that if you’re used to using a standard iPad, the upgrade to the 9.7” iPad Pro is a no brainer. If you’re already used to the larger size, you may not want to downsize.

Unless you do a lot of travelling that is, the smaller iPad Pro is much more portable!

Ouch! How much?

IMG 1580

 

So this morning, I swanned off to my not so local Apple store to pick up a new 9.7” iPad Pro – I had to, it’s my job!

I was intrigued by the new “True Tone” technology built into the display, but I also wanted to check out the audio quality and performance. And the camera – I wanted to check out the camera too seeing as how it’s the first iPad with support for 4K video.

I could do all this in store of course, but it’s so much better to spend a couple of days with a new device to understand fully how it handles, and how it compares to other devices. As I’m not on Apple’s list of approved bloggers, I don’t get review units. So if I want to try one, I have to buy one.

I especially wanted to compare the smaller form factor and enhanced features to the larger iPad Pro in day to day usage. The larger iPad Pro is an awesome device and I love the larger size, but it is big!

Stonkingly big in fact – just a bit too big to be a truly portable device, especially when it’s not your primary device. I still prefer a Mac as my primary computing device.

So I’ll test it out over the next week or so, and post a comparative review between the smaller and larger iPad Pros.

In case you’re wondering, I went with the 9.7” iPad Pro, Space Grey, 128GB, Wifi Model. As with the larger iPad Pro, I felt uncomfortable having such a slender, vulnerable bit of kit without a case,  so I also went with the Apple iPad Pro Silicone Case in Charcoal.

Which leads me to a particular bugbear of mine…

I know the iPad Pro is not cheap, but I can appreciate why it attracts a premium price. Once you take into account the cost of research & development, the cost of materials, the cost of assembly, the cost of marketing and the costs associated with herculean efforts that Apple go to to bring these premium products to market across multiple countries, you can understand why they are priced the way they are. Premium pricing for premium products.

I get that, and I’m happy to pay a premium to get the latest and greatest.

However, what I don’t appreciate and what I think gives Apple a really bad name, is the disgraceful cost of the Apple accessories, brought home today with pricing of the 9.7″ iPad Pro Silicone Case – £55 including VAT for a single piece of silicone rubber with a soft lining – that’s almost $80 inc tax. Basically a single piece moulding that covers the back of the iPad Pro. No components, no electronics, probably minimal assembly.

I know Apple has to make a profit (they are quite good at that), but I do think £55 is, shall we say, a little excessive. It doesn’t even include the Smart Cover which is another £39 on top!

Yes, I could wait a couple of weeks for a much cheaper third party case, but that means using the iPad Pro for a couple of weeks without protection, and I’m not happy to do that.

It’s no wonder some people have such a dim view of Apple products, and leave us Apple customers open to criticism.

Just wanted to get that off my chest!

Apple Watch and Apps

Just listened to a segment of The Talk Show with John Gruber and Jason Snell and found myself nodding aggressively about the current status of the Apple Watch and Apps.

I love my Apple Watch and I wear it each and everyday.

It’s the first thing I put on every morning and the last thing I take off before I go to bed.

But I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I love it’s usefulness and form factor.

It’s really handy to have access to notifications and mainly time related information. There’s the time (obviously) but also alarms and timers – I use them constantly.

App notifications are extremely useful.

There there’s the Maps App – when you’re in a city with available information about public transport, it’s truly amazing. Unfortunately, I’ve only had that experience once (in Berlin), but it was a game changer.

It’s really useful to find your misplaced iPhone too!

The things I hate – Apps and Siri.

One of the reasons I haven’t covered the Apple Watch on ScreenCastsOnline as much as I thought I would is because I’ve pretty much stopped using Apps.

I’ve covered the built in Apps fairly extensively, and will feature the occasional Apple Watch extension if an iPhone App supports it, but I’ve no real enthusiasm for the current Apple Watch apps.

I just don’t use them.

In fairness, it’s not the developers fault, it’s Apple.

Either the hardware or the software is too slow (or both) and the UI and control mechanisms of the Apple Watch are badly thought out.

I fully agree with John and Jason (and with Ben Thompson who said the same thing on the Exponent Podcast back in September), that Apple should never have released Apps for the Apple Watch – Third party apps that is.

The Apple Apps are fine and I tend to use these 99.9% of the time, along with Notifications.

Apple should have followed the same course as they did with the iPhone. Launch with just well written, optimized native apps and leave third party app development until people had a clearer idea of how the Apple Watch would be used. Once they had a clearer idea of how the Apple Watch would be used (not forgetting this was a brand new class or device), they could develop the platform along those lines.

Hopefully, Apple have learnt from their mistakes and this is all under consideration when planning watchOS v3 and the new Apple Watch hardware. Perhaps we’ll see some major updates at WWDC and when the revised Apple Watch V2 is released, presumably later this year or early next year.

In the meantime, I’ll still use my Apple Watch everyday and I’m confident that Apple will rectify this mis-step.

I just hope that App developers will still have the inclination and enthusiasm to develop for the Apple Watch. The device has huge potential.