Upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone 11 Pro Max

Leading to the September 10 Apple Keynote Event announcing the next generation of iPhones, I had little intention of upgrading for the simple fact that I purchased the 512GB iPhone XS Max six months earlier. I planned on using the XS Max and wait for the 2020 iPhone. However, I had a reservation that, based on enhancements, i.e. the camera, battery life, I will make considerations on whether to upgrade.

In true Apple fashion, as expected, the incremental updates on the iPhone were the main selling point during the keynote presentation. The two improvements that steered me towards upgrading were indeed the battery life and camera. I regard these improvements as the most significant upgrades they've received on the iPhone since its inception. Having long wished for an increase in battery capacity and battery life especially, I wasted little time in preparing for an upgrade following the keynote. I pre-ordered for the very first time, downsizing to the 256GB iPhone 11 Pro Max in Space Grey.

Reasons being; six months of using the 512GB, I used only 82GB of that storage space. I have a habit of triaging my photos and videos, uploading the majority of them to iCloud Drive via the Files app in organised folders, and leaving only a handful of my favourites stored on the phone. I had less than 5000 songs downloaded from Apple Music for offline listening and downloaded podcasts set for deletion after I finished listening to them, so phone storage hasn't been an issue for me and made sense to go for the 256GB model. I went with the Space Grey because I have always been a fan, despite Apples various visual representations of Space Grey over the years, and my iPad Pro and Apple Watch are both of the same colour. I continued the Max (Previously Plus) tradition because I prefer the larger screen and portability has never been an issue. I'm quite happy wielding this behemoth around.

Battery

My procedure with new iPhones straight out of the box is to set up as new and not restore from backups, and while doing this, drain whatever remaining battery level from the factory, then recharge from 0 to 100%. For the first time, the battery-draining process took longer, I had finished setting up the phone, and went about my day with normal usage without pushing too hard for the battery to drain. Usually, at this point on previous iPhones, the battery would've been depleted, this was when I started noticing the battery performance in the new iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Off charge 7:31am with 100% battery. Depleted 9pm with 0%.

A couple of days later with the Pro Max, I decided to test and see how the battery performs on a full working day without charge with a slight change in my usual setup; increasing brightness, leaving a higher number of location and background app refresh features on, turning off screen auto-lock, streaming Apple Music and Podcasts instead of downloading them first. The result was beyond belief. In my hands, an iPhone with a battery life that serves me on a full working day without charge. My charging habits have dramatically changed now. As a result, I do not think or worry about the battery level on my iPhone. I happily leave the house now with less than 30% battery level and not fret.

InsaneIncredibleAstounding, and a plethora of other adjectives have been used to describe the highly improved battery life on the new iPhone 11 Pro by owners. And they're not wrong. Of course, how well battery performance continues to remain stable in the long run is also down to how the user manages and care for their iPhone battery.

Thanks to the increase in capacity and continuous battery optimisations on the software side, the iPhone 11 Pro Max battery life so far, has been phenomenal, and worthy of upgrading to either iPhone 11 Pro models if you're heavily dependent on your iPhone and want to eradicate anxieties about battery levels.

CAMERA

Apple is targeting the Pro photography and cinematography market, as demoed with the makers of FiLMiC Pro during the live event, showing off the new iPhone camera capabilities and how the multi-cam setup can be effectively utilised. This part of the keynote presentation impressed me the most and whetted my appetite to venture into videography now that you can quickly edit videos from the Photos app on the iPhone.

It's been a while since I have been overly excited by the iPhone camera - not that I've ever devalued the iPhone camera by any measure, however, the multi-lens setup on the Pro Max coupled with software enhancements has given the iPhone camera a genuine claim to being one of the best, if not the best camera on a smartphone currently. The joy and fun derived from using the various redesigned camera experiences on the Pro max, especially the Ultra Wide and Night Mode (look out for Deep Fusion) have been truly delightful.

With my planned photo walks, I'm creating a section on the site to share my mobile photography and videos shot and edited entirely on the Pro Max and upcoming iPhones.

A few sample shots with left, Night Mode Off, flash on and right, Night Mode On.

Overall, upgrading my six-month-old XS Max to the iPhone 11 Pro Max has been worth it for the improved battery life and camera enhancements alone. If you place value in battery life and the camera, upgrading will be worth it for you too.

Apple News+ Launches in the UK

Apple News+ presents the best and most relevant publications to meet any range of interests from renowned British publications such as The Times and The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan UK, Elle UK, Esquire UK, FourFourTwo, Empire, Hello!, Cyclist and Grazia, as well as several US newspapers, magazines and digital outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Vox and more.

Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News:

Apple News+ offers hundreds of the world’s most popular publications, all discoverable through personalised and curated recommendations. The quality of the journalism, the beautiful photography, the stunning live covers and custom-designed articles in this collection are second to none. We think readers in the UK will be delighted with the offering, and we are proud to support the work of our newest publisher partners.

Source: Apple Newsroom

The iPhone 11 Pro Camera

Camera improvements on the iPhone have always been a focal point, and this year is no different. To date, the camera enhancements on the iPhone 11 Pro is the best I've seen on an iPhone. I've always been a fan of the iPhone camera and the plethora of photo taking and editing apps. Photography apps dominate my App Store library by a considerable margin.

When Instagram exclusively launched on iOS in 2010, as a photo-sharing platform, which helped fuel the rise of iPhone photography, commonly known as iPhoneography, I was intensely active with photo walks.

Although my photo walk activities and sharing snaps online waned over the years, I continued to use the iPhone camera to snap unmissable photo opportunities actively. The new camera enhancements on the iPhone 11 Pro have whetted my appetite to start photo walks again. With that in my mind, I went out on a short photo walk to see how well the new ultra-wide camera lens handles and captures vast areas. I was not disappointed. I, later on, went out for another walk to capture the night scene with the new Night Mode, I was in awe.

In a strongly contested world of mobile photography, the iPhone camera has once again positioned itself to be the undisputed champion of mobile photography.

Enjoy.

Night Mode

Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide.

Apple Music Beta Comes to the Web

Apple Music is continuing its expansion to reach a broader audience in its pursuit of Spotify with the launch of Apple Music Beta on web browsers

The Verge reports:

The beta site will be missing some features, including the flagship Beats 1 live broadcast, some of Apple’s original music video content, and smart playlists. But Apple says it’ll continue to build out the website over time. Additionally, you’ll eventually be able to sign up for Apple Music directly from the web, although that won’t be available in this version of the beta.

Apple Music Beta on Mobile Safari

Apple Music subscribers can now access and stream the entire Apple Music catalogue including their personalised libraries from their preferred web browsers on mobile and desktop, including iOS 13 desktop-class Safari on the iPad.

Apple to Expand Authorised Repair Service Network to Meet Customer Needs

Image Credit: Apple Support

Image Credit: Apple Support

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

One of the first lessons I learnt about third-party repairs happened a decade ago when I dropped and smashed my iPhone 3GS' LCD and the touchscreen digitiser to smithereens. The ensuing experience putting my faith in a third-party repair shop instead of the certified Genius Bar technicians at an Apple store is one that shaped my approach to repairs ever since. To cut a long story short, the iPhone came back worse with more damages than it went in with following the 'repairs'; issues with the front-facing camera and speaker, unresponsive touchscreen and Home button to name but a few. The lack of robust training know-how and the use of low-quality parts were unquestionably apparent in this repair saga.

Following that experience, my default process has been Apple support, book a Genius Bar appointment, take the device to my nearest Apple Store - lucky to have two stores both within a 25-30 minutes drive - even though there a few Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs) within the same footprint. My full trust lies with Apple and the Apple Store experience, despite costs of repairs.

To better meet our customers' needs, we're making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorised Service Provider network," said Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer. "When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.

Despite the usual brouhaha with increasing accusations of making life difficult for anyone but Apple to carry out repairs on some, if not all of the devices in its portfolio, Apple continually upholds its safety-first approach regarding consumers right to repairs using third-party providers.

I have had reservations trusting most vendors beyond Apple for a very long time when it comes to repairs. Over the years, the quality of repairs with some independent repair shops - small and large - slowly began to gain my trust, based on evidence from friends and family members who have had their devices repaired by third-party. However, my faith in such establishments using high-quality Apple certified parts and specifically the safety of battery replacements remained the biggest reasons why I cannot fully entrust them. No responsible human should entrust the repair and installation of a new device battery from an untrained, uncertified independent repair service. It is too high a risk to take.

I have long wished to be able to walk into any shopping centre repair kiosk or shops on the High street, confidently hand over my iOS device for repairs knowing they are fully certified with the same training, using the same tools and genuine Apple parts as existing AASPs and the Apple store itself.

Apple expanding its authorised service network, with the provision of a free independent repair program certification to qualifying repair businesses, goes a long way in confirming their firm believe they have the safety of its users in mind, amongst other reasons.

I will still throw caution to the wind and continue to visit the Apple Store while the program expansion in the UK solidifies its reputation.

Upcoming Changes to Siri Privacy Protection

Siri.jpeg

We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading. We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.

Following the suspension of using human contractors to listen to Siri audio snippets for its Siri grading program to improve Siri's effectiveness in providing accurate responses to queries, Apple have now temporarily terminated the program and offered its apologies for failing to live up to their high ideals and upholding the level of privacy its users are accustom to.

However, the practice will resume in-house when upcoming software updates are released, and a few evaluation process changes have been made:

First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.

Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.

Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.

I'm glad to see Apple continue to take ownership of its responsibilities in addressing the situation, offering its apologies, and putting forth changes that align with their strong privacy stance and the respect it has for its users. I will be sure to opt-in to help with improving Siri.

Source: Apple Newsroom.

Dark Noise: A Refined White Noise App with a Liquid Smooth Design

Dark Noise for iPad and iPhone

I am new to the world of utilising White noise as a medium to emulate specific types of background noise to help sleep, relax or focus when writing even though I am aware of its existence. Music is the only tried and trusted medium I have used up until now. I had the chance to help Beta test the development of Dark Noise by iOS developer Charlie Chapman, which also prompted me to further look into the whole world of using White noise for relaxation and focus as an alternative to listening to music. I can safely say Dark Noise has introduced an incredibly reliable tool that reenacts the effects of noise to enter a calm, relaxed or focused state.

The App Store currently has a significant amount of White noise apps, but having been on the Dark Noise Beta since version 1.0 - if memory serves me right - and watching the app evolve to what it is now has had an unexpected magnetic effect that draws me towards it every time I think about exploring other apps of that ilk from the App Store. The simple reason being the incredibly beautiful design, simplicity, functionality and realism of the sounds in the app.

Noises

Dark Noise currently has a sound library of over 30+ noises with categories ranging from Water, Nature, Urban, Appliances, Fire, and for any unique users who like the sound of snoring, the Human category has you covered. Noises, crafted from a mixture of available royalty-free public domain sounds with enhancements for suitability with Dark Noise for better realism and what impresses me the most; the developers own original recordings of sounds. Touching on the noise authenticity, the combination of the HomePod audio technology with its all-encompassing sense of space and the realism of the sounds from Dark Noise fills the room replicating a true to form sense of being in the environment the noises are emulating, especially when listening to the Office and Coffee Shop noises in my case.

My one feature wish is to have the functionality to create noise playlists, where noises can be queued and automatically play after a set amount of time.

Design

You know you've got the app design right when a fellow respected developer of a White noise app tweets you about how impressed he is with your app and would probably recommend it above his.

Designed with simplicity in mind; the simplicity and functionality are what I value the most. Not a single part of the app setup or interaction is trivial and require instructions. It has a clear set of general and advanced options for the user to personalise the experience of how they want the app to function interactively; haptic feedback, auto-play on open option and visually; selection of crafted themes including Dark and Light mode, app icons (If you're into tech podcasts you'll love the choices), and glorious noise icon animations with motion graphics that makes me wish for an Apple TV app. Watching the noise icon animations on the TV with background themes automatically switching will be a delight and adds to the relaxation effect.

The Play user interface screen consists of carefully selected and easily reachable set of controls that are tucked low level on the bottom half of the screen on the iPhone, with the play button just above them allowing the noise icon to take center stage with its delightful motion graphics for that particular noise. As the Steve Jobs saying goes: "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works", this is undoubtedly true for Dark Noise, no complicated interactions whatsoever. Simple and straight to the point in as few taps as possible, right from the first time launching the app to configuring your preferences in settings.

The ease of which to invoke play of your favourite noises is remarkable, Dark Noise supports the use of customisable widget which can display favourite noises or recently played noise to activate with a single tap, users can also force touch on the app icon to play noise with a selection of other functions or activate the option to 'Auto-Play on Open' from settings, which enables the app to automatically start playing from launch. If you are in a position that restricts activation of a noise physically, you can use Siri shortcuts automation to start playing a noise. The noises can be played directly on the device or use AirPlay to play the noise on an Apple TV or HomePod.

I haven't yet utilised Dark Noise app to help me sleep, planning to do so soon. Its effectiveness in helping me focus has been tremendous, and it has dethroned my use of music for such situations.

You can hear more about the development and plans for Dark Noise on The Outpost Show podcast where the developer discussed the process and evolution of the app from a little ‘learning project' to what could now potentially be the best app of its kind on iOS.

Dark Noise is a universal app available to download from the iOS App Store.

iPadOS Reignites My Love for iPad

Apple 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 Beta.

In January 2010, Steve Jobs revealed to the world the iPad, the device Apple believed to be the answer to fill the gap between the smartphone and a laptop. Having converted to using an iPhone two years earlier in 2008, I was definitely in that camp; the need for real screen estate portable touch device that allows me to perform the majority of basic tasks I used a laptop and desktop computer for at the time, such as; web browsing, email, reading and media consumption etc. Nothing trivial. 

Iteration after iteration, I continued to enjoy using the iPad, but my dependence on the iPad to perform the tasks mentioned above started to reduce significantly. This shift can be attributed mainly to the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus with a considerably bigger screen - for the simple reason the iPhone was the device always at hand, and both ran the same OS. I started to develop an undying need for an iPad with a completely independent identity, something that differentiates it from the iPhone in terms of software to help you do more without the need of employing extreme life hack solutions using third-party software.

The iPad needed an injection of life beyond hardware changes; it needed an OS that makes it stand on its own with iPad exclusive features that bring it closer to a more powerful utility and productive tool. The lack of such accommodating built-in features saw me continue to rely on the iPad for one purpose; taking advantage of the bigger screen, which gave me little reason to purchase the 2018 iPad Pro despite its radical design doing away with the home button and incorporating Face ID, which did little to entice me. These are features I already use on the iPhone X. My focus was not on hardware - because I never have any qualms about Apple knocking it out of the park with hardware design - but rather an iPad with close to a desktop-class software that nullifies my desire for a MacBook or any other desktop computer for that matter.

iPadOS

Although the iPad was built on the technical foundations of iOS from its inception, iPadOS signals the beginning of the iPad with its own identity even though at its core its still iOS - iPad exclusive features currently the differentiating factor. 

When Apple announced iPadOS during the 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference, what I saw revealed on stage by Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, woke the slumbering love I’ve had for the iPad software. It reignited the desire to use an iPad as a primary desktop computing device independently. I wasted little time in seeking out the 2018 iPad Pro following the WWDC iPadOS announcements and got my hands on a 12.9” model with the Apple Pencil, and of course, what’s a desktop computer without a keyboard, I went for the Smart Keyboard Folio. The accessorising continued with a new desk and chair and mouse to complete the setup.

My current 2018 iPad Pro 12.9” desktop setup.

I installed iPadOS 13 Beta and started sifting through iPadOS getting to grips with the plethora of new iPad exclusive features, a great sense of joy encompasses me. I now have an iPad with more tools at my disposal on the home screen; from pinned widgets to an increased number of icons on the screen that maintain their layout regardless of orientation. Improved multitasking with slide overs, multi-window capabilities, split view and app exposé, the ability to import and export files with connected thumb drives, SD cards, external disk drives and last but not the least, a desktop-class browser in Safari with its own set of improvements including a file download manager.

There’s a lot more additional new improvements in iPadOS which I will be writing about as the Beta matures and features get set in stone, including enhancements to apps such as Reminders, Notes, Photos, Maps etc.

Apple's adoption of powerful features to make the iPad more of a computing powerhouse might be slow, but running iPadOS Beta, I am confident and reassured with the direction the iPad software is heading which makes me happy to be utilising the iPad far more than I've probably done in the past. Ecstatic to be back on the iPad lifestyle as a primary computer and eager to witness the iPad’s journey into a computing powerhouse.

Apple Suspends Siri Data Analysis by Contractors

1B4E19F0-670A-4E59-913D-3D988731EA3E.jpeg

In a statement to TechCrunch:

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

Despite the delayed response to the criticisms of potential privacy concerns surrounding the use of contractors to analyse and grade Siri search query data - a concern made more prominent by The Guardian's reporting of the situation - am glad to see Apple take action nonetheless.

Albeit, only a suspension of the program worldwide and not a total cancellation, probably due to needing time to assess better operable options in how to continually process such data without the need of contracted human helpers.

It is great to see Apple take ownership of its responsibilities and holding themselves accountable.

Apple Posted Quarterly Revenue of $53.8 Billion

Financial results for its fiscal 2019 third quarter.

  • revenue between $61 billion and $64 billion

  • gross margin between 37.5 percent and 38.5 percent

  • operating expenses between $8.7 billion and $8.8 billion

  • other income/(expense) of $200 million

  • tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent

Services revenue reaches new All-Time High:

This was our biggest June quarter ever — driven by all-time record revenue from Services, accelerating growth from Wearables, strong performance from iPad and Mac and significant improvement in iPhone trends,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

PERMALINK

Siri Data Analsysis by Humans

Excerpt from a post on Privacy published on Chambyte on 22 July 2019.

Excerpt from a post on Privacy published on Chambyte on 22 July 2019.

A week or so after publishing a post about Apples Privacy Stance in which I stated the reason why I trust the tech giant in defending our right to privacy, UK publication The Guardian published an article about how Apple contractors ‘regularly hear confidential details' on Siri recordings.

The Guardian:

Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. They are tasked with grading the responses on a variety of factors, including whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could be expected to help with and whether Siri’s response was appropriate.

Apple says the data “is used to help Siri and dictation … understand you better and recognise what you say”.

But the company does not explicitly state that that work is undertaken by humans who listen to the pseudonymised recordings.c

Not the first time such a revelation came to light, as Apple Analyst Rene Ritchie points out on Twitter; Bloomberg published an article back in April of 2019 which cited Apple's use of human helpers to listen to and assess Siri data.

A citation on a publication is not enough, however. Apple can and should do better in explicitly disclosing the use of sub-contracted human helpers in this process.

Relating to Siri - On Apples Privacy Policy page under the Collection and Use of Non-Personal Information:

We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries. This information may be used to improve the relevancy of results provided by our services. Except in limited instances to ensure quality of our services over the Internet, such information will not be associated with your IP address.

The glaring omission here; no explicit mention of who analyses this data in its pursuit of improving the relevancy of results, and in continuing its tradition of accountability, Apple should rectify and update this omission on its Privacy documentation.

With their journalistic responsibilities, The Guardian et al., are right in publicising this distinct lack of disclosure along with any potential possibility of misuse of such data by people trusted to examine it, regardless of how anonymous the data is. The Guardian’s sex and drug lede designed to entice readers and raise undue concern rather than taking the educative approach is of no surprise, however.

Sex and Drugs sell in the world of tabloid headline-grabbing 'news' for clicks.

Apple Acquiring Intels Smartphone Modem Business

Image Credit: iPhonehacks.com

Image Credit: iPhonehacks.com

Acquiring majority of Intels Smartphone modem business is a massive step towards the goal of owning and controlling the primary technologies that are core to the operation of its product lineup that utilises modems, even more so for future products.

During the 2009 Earnings call to investors, Tim Cook reiterates Apples long term goal of being the sole proprietor of primary technologies that are the heart and soul of its products:

We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make.
— Tim Cook

Tim Cook is a logistics guy, and it should come with no surprise that he is leading the charge in Apple being completely independent in owning and controlling the primary technologies in its products. In the grand scheme of things, financially, it is not a huge burden for Apple to enter licensing agreements with independent companies, like the recent six-year license and multi-year chipset supply agreement with Qualcomm.

The considerable benefit with Apple seeking ownership of intellectual property, however, is Apple, going into the future, will not have to rely on independent companies that may not be able to deliver on its promises. By safeguarding against such failures, Apple can control development pace to ensure its future product roadmap is in line with technological advancements, in this case, advancements in cellular technologies - 5G, which is essential. 

No technology company should be too far behind such advancements; it is detrimental to business, and any company with the business acumen and vast workforce such as Apples should endeavour to be the sole proprietor of components that are core to its products. 

Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srouji:

“Apple is excited to have so many excellent engineers join our growing cellular technologies group, and know they’ll thrive in Apple’s creative and dynamic environment. They, together with our significant acquisition of innovative IP, will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward.”

Apple, by now, has the expertise to build its modems in-house based on the experience of working with Qualcomm. With the newly acquired Intel staff now set to work on Apple standards, and the continuity of receiving modem supplies from Qualcomm for the foreseeable future, it gives Apple time to independently custom make its modems ready for its future devices by the time 5G reaches maturity.

As a mobile tech consumer who mainly uses Apple products, I am glad to see Apple continue its stride towards controlling its destiny, which benefits both Apple and consumers.