Sunday, October 15, 2017

Apple Cash

I am excited about Apple Pay Cash is getting closer to release. There are several competing services like Venmo, Square Cash and PayPal though the trouble is always making sure two parties are all on the same system (i.e. Apples to Apples). Given the iPhone install base I am hoping that Apple Pay Cash can help provide a single system that is simple to setup. (Also, there will hopefully be no social feature like Venmo; not everything needs to be social.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Apple Season Begins to Fall

Announcement: As Apple recently had their September announcement and then the most recent version(s) of the their operating systems dropped for the general public so I have been thinking about where Apple stands this year as a company. I like to watch the Apple Keynotes and see what is new in the pipeline and have been watching them since Apple has been streaming them/launching them as a podcast. This year’s keynote proved as well polished as the prior iterations though with the added bonus of being the first event in the Steve Jobs theater on the new Apple campus. I think there was further emphasis on this year’s session as it marks the iPhone’s ten-year anniversary, which propelled the smartphone into the public conciseness. Since that fateful keynote the Apple users/watchers (like myself), pundits, financiers, and technologists have watch Apple march itself to the record levels of cash reserves and the most valuable brand in the world.

I thought the announcement for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X was inline with the steady choreography we’ve seen for the iPhone in recent years. They have integrated the chips and storage to create a better, faster model, and improved the camera with the iPhone X showing further evolution with FaceID and the Home buttons removal. The iPhone X changes the functionality around how users interact with their phone though it doesn’t revolutionize the phone experience at a high level. For anyone looking for an announcement akin to the first iPhone it would be disappointing, though I wasn’t expecting that level of announcement (at-least not for the phone).

The new Apple Watch series 3 was the natural next progression in the design with the inclusion of an LTE chip making it less of a direct halo product for the phone and more a standalone product. If it was not clear before it seems crystal clear now that Apple is positioning the watch as their next vertical product. It also explains why Apple didn’t follow a similar product rollout as the iPod with the iPhone (i.e., they create a model for every price point from the iPod touch down to the iPod shuffle so they slowly pulled the gravity in the entire vertical to their product line). Conceivably, someone who needed a simple phone (akin to a flip phone back in the day) could look at the series 3 Apple watch and it is being positioned as both a fashion accessory as well as functional tech. The mobile phone has become deeply personal (the D&D nerd in me looks at it akin to a wizard looks at their familiar) and the watch is just the next iteration on technology assuming such a personal role in our lives.

I can remember when the Apple TV was classified as a hobby (back in prehistoric times in tech years). Since then the living room hub has become a larger focus for the industry (re: post-pc era/internet of things). I don’t own an Apple TV as my family has bought heavily into the Amazon ecosystem and that content has been absence from the Apple TV (though that is changing in the near future so who knows Apple needs to be in this space and it makes sense to push forward with 4K video.

iOS 11 and High Sierra: When the new iOS version dropped I downloaded it for my iPhone 7. The download went smoothly and I had only a single issue with an app breaking (Facebook Messenger), which has since resolved itself. My phone has felt a little buggy at times with some other random app crashes and also odd UI breakdowns (keyboards not springing up, odd quirks around message fields) though overall it has been a fine release. I am not a huge fan of the changes in Control Center. I like how the they have leverage force touch to allow for expanded access to settings like Wifi, Bluetooth etc though I find the change in the buttons functionality disappointing. Now when you toggle the wifi and bluetooth buttons it disconnects to you rather than actually turning off the service (See this Verge article on the basics and then the Apple support page for the specifics. This is an unfortunate UI choice as it diverts entirely from the prior functionality, which causes confusion. Not fully turning these services leads to further battery drain at best and potential vectors for nefarious actors at worst. If Apple wants to change this functionality it should be as an option in settings rather than hard switch. My personal hope is that they will implement this option (or simply revert to prior functionality) via a software update as they drawn criticism from many quarters including the EFF. I don’t have an iPad new enough to run iOS 11 though from the reviews it seems like the iPad is the real benefactor of the upgrade. (I do LOVE the markup tools, which are fantastic and make taking screenshots so much better.)

My MacBook Pro is a dinosaur and barely has specs to run High Sierra so I haven’t upgraded yet. I am on the fence as I don’t have an SSD drive though I use Photos as my main photo manager so the increased functionality is tempting (increased editing options, third-party plugins etc). I have heard that many pundits draw the comparison between High Sierra and Snow Leopard; an update that is more about refinements than new features. I think that is apt description from what I’ve heard though I won’t know for certain till I install.

Pixelation: I would be remiss if I did not mention Googles recent announcements on the Google Pixel 2 and Pixelbook, which Google had launched at their recent Pixel event. The Google flagship phones have long been Google’s Android answer to the iPhone and the specs in the Pixel 2 make it a contender. Also interesting is that they’ve removed the headphone jack and made it so that the Pixel auto-tethers with the Pixelbook creating a halo affect between the two products. Apple has long made the “ecosystem” part of its selling point and it seems like Google is following Apple’s strategy. Apples continues leverage on their hardware and software synergy with Microsoft and now Google trying to build their own device ecosystem.

Final Thoughts: Apple continues iterate on their hardware though they have not announced anything that is completely game changing. I don’t think I will go for an iPhone X when I upgrade as the iPhone 8 has every feature I could need though frankly my iPhone 7 is still fantastic. I still haven’t tried High Sierra and I will have to see if I decide to install it on my machine (if I do will let you know). I am now looking forward to the next WWDC.