Yesterday, there was an address from everyone’s favourite fruit-named company, Apple. I wasn’t watching at the time because while an Apple event is something most would want to see, I honestly could do without all the sales gimmicks and marketing foreplay before finally seeing the announced products (not to say that I’d turn down the opportunity to be at the Apple Campus in person to see a presentation), so I went to the Apple web-site later on to have a look at what was on offer. That way I could look at the specs of the various devices and really delve in to the details of the devices on offer.
So what devices were there? This keynote introduced a modest update to the iPhone SE, a colourful new iPad Air, a new form factor of Mac called the Mac Studio, and a new colour for the iPhone 13 Pro called Alpine Green, which gives the phone a rugged outdoorsy or Army green hue.
So what do I think? First off the bat, I can pretty much say I will most likely never own a Mac Studio from new as they start at an eye-watering £1,999. While some will argue (and rightly so) that the machine has the bleeding edge M1 Max or Ultra chip at it’s heart, complemented with at least 32GB (for the M1 Max Mac Studio) or 64GB (for the M1 Ultra Mac Studio) of RAM, I lament the lack of upgradability. Some people may say that I don’t get Macs, and yes, I understand that the M1 is an SOC (System on a chip) so it’s not meant to be user upgradable, but if I’m paying £2,000 for a computer that only has a 512GB SSD, you can bet your bottom dollar that yes I want to be able to upgrade the hardware. The machine does have a plethora of USB Type A, USB Type C and Thunderbolt 4 ports, which mean you can add upgrades externally, but for my money I want something that will not only last, but can change as my workflows change. This is why my PC is custom built, and even my ASUS TUF Gaming laptop was chosen partly on my ability to upgrade the RAM and add a second NVMe SSD.
Mac fans needn’t scoff at my online scribblings however as I have owned or had use of many Apple Macs over my personal and professional adult life, and I am very excited about Apple’s M1 chipsets. I would not say no to an M1 powered Mac Mini, or even one of the new tastefully hued new iMacs (though I would not go for the base model) if I had the room to set one up, and I feel that I should give considerable amounts of my time and attention to other operating systems so that I can keep abreast of their developments and how to use them. Unfortunately I will not be purchasing any kind of Mac just now as I just don’t have Apple Computer money sitting in my bank account.
Given the chance, I’d not mind owning the new iPad Air 10.9″. Like Last year’s iPad Pro, this new iPad Air features an M1 chip and 5G connectivity on the cellular models. I’ve had an iPad Gen 7 since May 2020, and I feel that it is pretty much the only way to do tablet computing. I’ve had various Samsung Galaxy Tab models, some Amazon Kindle Fire devices, and a couple of Windows 10 powered tablets, and while they have had their strengths, I feel that iPadOS (née iOS) has matured such that anything you want to do on a tablet simply works better on an iPad. Now that iOS FINALLY has a file structure that is available to the user, along with the appropriate file picker dialogue boxes (pop-up windows?), along with an ever expanding selection of apps, and FaceTime and iMessage, I honestly would recommend an iPad to anyone shopping for a tablet. For me though, one of the biggest pull factors back to the iPad for me has to be the creativity apps. I make quite extensive use of Garageband for iPadOS, and have dabbled in ProCreate and Adobe Photoshop with the Apple Pencil with varying degrees of success. What I like about the new iPad Air is that it has support for the second generation Apple Pencil, whose flat edge which is used for magnetically charging from a supported iPad makes it easier for me to hold and use than my cylindrical first gen Apple Pencil. That said if you do have a first gen Pencil, you’re not out of luck as the iPad air supports it as well as the second generation one.
One stand out feature for me is the new Center Stage support on the newer iPad cameras. this helps to center you in the frame during video calls. I guess this will work in a similar way to the Facebook Portal which also can center the video caller in shot. This is a feature that is sorely mssing from Patchouli Rain’s 2019 iPad Pro, exacerbated by the fact that if you have the iPad Pro in landscape mode, the camera will be on the side of the screen, causing Patchouli Rain to be out of frame during FaceTime calls. Sadly, this feature is not being back-ported to older iPad Pro models.
Again, I do not believe I will own this iPad Air, as I could not foil spending money I don’t have when my iPad 7th Generation works absolutely fine, though it is starting to show it’s age a wee bit. One thing that I could maybe see myself owning is the new iPhone SE, but only if I cannot afford Vodafone’s contract prices for the iPhone 12 and 13. This has been an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary upgrade, and honestly for current SE (2020) users it could be a hard sell. The new iPhone which appears to use the same chassis as the 2020 SE, which itself was based on the chassis for the iPhone 8 does feature new internals under increasingly old looks. An A15 Bionic chip sits in the iPhone SE 3rd Gen behind the same 4.7″ IPS display from the 2020 model and it has been enhanced for efficiency meaning better battery life. This new iPhone SE also features 5G. The rear camera is said to be a 12MP “wide camera”, but how wide remains to be seen as recently the 2020 iPhone SE’s camera has been suffering from tunnel vision it would seem. I’ve often found the iPhone’s colour correction to be intolerable, especially when I’ve wanted to capture some of the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets we have enjoyed over the past couple of years. Often I have to spend minutes trying to wrestle the colour balance into something I want while being constrained to Apple’s presets, and this is less than perfect, especially with the beautiful blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sunsets we experience here in the North-East of Scotland. This new iPhone has Smart HDR 4 which, according to Apple, “automatically refines the contrast, lighting and skin tones for up to four people — so everyone looks their best.” (Apple Inc, 2020, https://www.apple.com/uk/iphone-se/, correct as of 9th March 2022). Only time will tell how well this works.
Like the 2020 version, the new iPhone SE comes in Midnight (Black), Starlight (White) and (PRODUCT) RED. I had end enjoyed owning the Product Red 2020 iPhone SE, but anyone who knows me will know that if I was in the market for a new SE would know that I would want it in blue.
Speaking of new colours for iPhones, I do like the new Alpine Green iPhone 13 Pro. Will I be rushing out to buy one? Absolutely not. I would like however to negotiate a contract with Vodafone that includes a blue version of said iPhone 13 with a considerable amount of storage. My iPhone SE suffered an accident, which rendered me having to rent an iPhone 11 from MusicMagpie.com, and while this is a brilliant arrangement to put an iPhone in the hands of someone who needs it very quickly, I would like to own my own device again if I’m paying for it. I prefer the larger screen, the wider angled camera and the U1 chip of iPhone 11, along with it’s front-facing 12MP camera (Let us never speak of the notch!). Something that concerns me is at this juncture, I cannot find out if the 3rd generation iPhone SE has a U1 chip. Were it not to contain one, this would rule out the new SE for me as a purchase as The U1 chip in my iPhone 11 makes it easier to locate my AirTagged belongings as it can literally direct me to them, where as the iPhone SE (2020) had to settle for just playing a sound on the AirTag I am trying to locate. (I cannot tell you how much of an absolute help this device really is for someone with visual impairment and Asperger Syndrome constantly putting things down absent-mindedly and being unable to find them).
I have been back in the iOS ecosystem since 2020 when I obtained my red 2020 iPhone SE and iPad 7 on contract from Vodafone UK. Since then I’ve been gifted a 7th generation iPod Touch (which I use pretty much every day – I’m listening to some music from it even as I type), and bought an Apple HomePod Mini and Apple TV 4K. Patchouli Rain and I have also set up smart RGBCW light bulbs from VOCOlinc and LIFX around rooms in our houses through Apple’s HomeKit (which in my place is connected to the Apple HomePod Mini as a HomeHub), along with a slew of other Smart devices including some plug sockets and an aroma diffuser (again from VOCOlinc). Add to this menagerie the aforementioned Apple AirTags (and the AirPods I just remembered) and you can see I’ve been locked, hook line and sinker, into the Apple Ecosystem and will be here a while yet. That said I am not too sad about this as iOS (and laterally iPadOS) have matured to the point that even I as a seasoned Android user do not feel too locked down. I do not feel the need to jailbreak my iDevices (I’ve tried that and it’s more bother than it’s worth, especially as I had an interesting quirk where the magnifier would shoot off in a completely different direction to where I was swiping). One thing that I think we all need to remember is that Apple seem to take users’ privacy extremely seriously, even down to iOS asking you if you want a given app to track you across other apps and giving you the option to stop that behaviour. Does this mean that Apple is the be-all-end-all in terms of everything? Absolutely not. I run an Amazon Fire HD 10 as my secondary tablet, and it works pretty well, although it is slowing down a lot now as it has aged. I will say though, for my particular use case, Apple iOS and iPadOS is the best way to go for me. I would like an M1 powered Mac, and really want an Apple Watch, but I don’t think I’ll be ditching Windows 11 any time soon as my primary OS, and my current watch appears to tell the time just fine, so I’ll stick with what I have. That said I want my Mum to have an iPhone SE, as she would appreciate the relatively small size of the device, and I think iOS’ ease of use, together with the relative longevity of Apple iDevices would work well for her, and would allow her to FaceTime with me, my sister and niece easily.