Archive for March 20, 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

AirPods 2019

Apple (Hacker News, ArsTechnica):

The new Apple-designed H1 chip, developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free “Hey Siri.” AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case for convenient charging at home and on the go.

Hey Siri support is a big deal because, if you don’t have to dedicate one of the two tapping actions to Siri, you can use it for a forward or backward skip. I don’t think this is worth buying new AirPods for, and Qi charging seems much less useful here than for a phone, but I think many original AirPods owners are going to be forced to upgrade within the next few years simply because of the aging batteries. I haven’t yet had problems with listening, but recently I’ve been getting less than an hour of talk time. AirPower is still not available, so Apple hasn’t said whether the new case will work with it, though I would assume so.

Joe Rossignol:

The new AirPods are available to order on Apple.com and in the Apple Store app starting today with a wired charging case for $159, the same price as the original AirPods, and with a wireless charging case for $199. Both options will be available at Apple Stores and select resellers starting next week.

The wireless charging case is also available individually for $79 for use with both the first-generation and second-generation AirPods. An LED light indicator located on the front of the case shows the charge status at a glance.

Ryan Jones:

BTW, very nice launch strategy for AirPods 2:

1) pods + wireless case
2) pods + normal case
3) just wireless case

Super flexible and conscientious of user needs. Could have easily been 1 only.

Tanner Bennett:

It is cheaper to buy brand new AirPods and the new case separately, then sell the old case, than it is to buy the new AirPods outright

Zac Cichy:

I just wanted a charging case that isn’t going to collect metal particles and stain the inside. Maybe next time!

Ish Abazz:

Is there any way to trade in or recycle old AirPods? I’m betting hundreds of thousands of them will be replaced soon.

Mark Gurman:

These AirPods were initially planned to go on sale last year. They’re also working on a future version with noise-cancellation and water resistance. Those were planned for later this year, but would now imagine that’s for 2020.

Update (2019-03-21): Lee Hinde:

FWIW, I’m upgrading solely to get the longer battery life. I’m in a remote-only company (lots of Slack calls) and sometimes meetings go past the current gen’s battery life.

Ryan Jones:

Wait a second, AirPods 1.5 could a path to volume control now.

Siri: Hey Siri
Play/Pause: Remove
Right Pod: Volume Up
Left Pod: Volume Down

Update (2019-03-22): Kirk McElhearn:

This is quite disappointing. I bought mine when they were released, in December 2016. I don’t use them a lot; I use them for phone calls (I work at home, and I prefer making phone calls with headphones), and to listen to music and podcasts when I walk. But that is, on average, less than one hour a day, and sometimes I don’t use them for several days.

Nevertheless, I find that they don’t connect to my iPhone reliably any more, and they don’t last as long as they used to.

Update (2019-03-26): Rene Ritchie:

Jony Ive talks #AirPods with GQ:

“When you are going to have objects that are inherently very mechanical, I think that it’s so important that you pay attention to all aspects of the design.”

Tim Hardwick:

Note that these commands won’t do anything if your iOS device doesn’t have a network connection. It’s an odd requirement, but unlike Voice Control, Siri needs an internet connection even for basic playback commands.

Update (2019-03-29): iFixit (Hacker News):

Our last AirPods teardown got pretty messy, so we’ve partnered with Creative Electron for some X-treme X-ray guidance. Check out the arrangement of magnets for the case’s Zippo-like flip top action, which looks like dark rectangles embedded in the plastic shell.

[…]

Flex cables, antennas, and microphones are all carefully folded together like origami and cemented in place with glue. We cut away as much of the outer casing as we dare, and painstakingly scoop out the rest with a fine dental pick.

[…]

Turning our attention to the brawn, we find the familiar 93 milliwatt hour battery in each bud.

Damien Petrilli:

Got new #AirPods (wo wireless charging).

The top case feels cheap. The opening mechanism is flimsy. Feels like a chinese knockoff.

Genius Bar: it’s normal on the new generation, your old ones have dirt making them less flimsy.

Nope Apple, previous was flawless from day 1.

Some of the staff were also puzzled by the case, until another genius came from the back and told them the “you got dirt making it stable in your old case” story.

Felt like Apple already got that kind of feedback and sent “instructions” to deal with it.

Also, Apple is obviously not tracking satisfaction with their products. When you bring something back, none of the reasons listed are about product issues.

It’s DOA, buyer remorse or product damage.

Good way to manipulate your metrics not to put “dissatisfied with the product”.

Nick Heer:

Nitpicky AirPods case complaint: now that the charging indicator light is on the outside, I wish Apple had used that microperforation technique to better blend the light with the case.

Update (2019-04-01): Brian Roemmele (via Bob Burrough):

In 2007, Steve Jobs worked very closely with Apple’s Industrial Design Team to produce the Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset. It cost $129 and featured automatic paring with the iPhone. It originally shipped with a travel cable and dual dock, both of which allowed it to be simultaneously charged along with your iPhone. By July, 2008 Apple stopped bundling the dual dock with the headset and dropped the price to $99 as manufacturing cost subsided.

[…]

Steve liked the product so much he used it past the point when Apple cancelled the product. However, it was clear the world was not ready for wireless headset in 2008 as the sound quality and range was less than acceptable.

Dan Seifert:

But even with the new chip and hands-free ability, there’s still a significant delay from when I say “Hey Siri” to receiving a response in my ear. Unlike the iPhone, there’s no bell or ding to indicate that the AirPods actually heard my command, and there’s obviously no visual indicator unless my phone is out and I’m looking at the screen. As a result, I often end up repeating myself because I don’t know if Siri heard my command and is just being slow to respond, or if my command wasn’t heard at all. It’s a frustrating experience

Update (2019-04-09): Rene Ritchie:

Where, previously, I could probably count to 4 or 5 when connecting or switching, now I can pretty much count to two. Where, previously, I’d sometimes have to tap or click two or three times to switch between my iPhone and Mac, now it almost always happens on the first tap or click.

John Siracusa says that the hinge on the charging case feels different.

iMac 2019

Apple:

Apple today updated its iMac line with up to 8-core Intel 9th-generation processors for the first time and powerful Vega graphics options, delivering dramatic increases in both compute and graphics performance.

[…]

The 21.5-inch iMac now features 8th-generation quad-core, and for the first time 6-core processors, delivering up to 60 percent faster performance.

The 27-inch iMac now for the first time features up to 9th-generation 6-core and 8-core processors, delivering up to 2.4 times faster performance.

It’s great to see an update, and without a price increase, but I’m not sure this is what people were hoping for. The case seems to be unchanged, and so likely doesn’t address the dust or thermal issues.

There’s no T2 support and, if Apple keeps the same schedule, that means two more years to wait. I understand that the T2 might be too expensive for a lower end model, and not applicable to the hard drive configurations. But for a 27-inch iMac that’s $1,899–$5,249 with an SSD? Even the $799 Mac mini has one.

Then there’s the mystery of no SSDs in any of the base configurations. Sure, have an optional Fusion Drive for those who don’t want to pay for a 2 TB SSD. But the default configuration should be an SSD. They really are not that expensive to buy third-party, and Apple must get better deals than we do. Is this the case of perfect being the enemy of good—insisting that all Mac SSDs must be high-end ones, even though cheaper SSDs are still way better than hard drives? Or is it just all about margins?

Lastly, I wonder whether Apple planned to hold out on SSDs for so long. If the standard configuration is going to have a hard drive, then the case should be designed for it. But since 2012 the 21-inch iMac has only supported slow laptop hard drives. The case, the OS, and the file system were not optimized for hard drives, and yet that’s what the default configurations include.

Upgrade:

After nearly two years, Apple has released new iMacs, and Jason has an exclusive interview with Apple’s iMac product manager, Colleen Novielli.

Jason Snell:

The $1099 base model non-Retina iMac remains unchanged, the desktop equivalent of the $999 MacBook Air—an old model anchored to a low price.

[…]

What this means is that these new iMacs have closed a bit of the gap between the highest-end iMac and the lowest-end iMac Pro. You’ll need to pay extra in configurable options, but the highest-end eight-core iMac should creep close to iMac Pro territory in terms of processor and graphics performance.

Of course, all that performance comes in a familar shell—it’s the same iMac cooling system as before, which means if you stress out the iMac you will hear the fans. My friend Stephen Hackett ended up switching from a high-end 5K iMac to an iMac Pro in order to get a computer that was silent under heavy load, thanks to the iMac Pro’s superior (and quiet) cooling system.

Marco Arment:

Nice to see an iMac spec-bump, finally.

Shame they haven’t included the T2 and its huge security benefits. I was hoping to see all Macs with T2 chips by the end of the year.

Maynard Handley:

So option 2 is use cheap low-end slow flash and driver. Personally that’s the path I would take. Sure, there’d be mocking about the slow flash, but IMHO it’s a better tradeoff than HD!

Paul Haddad:

The 6 core CPU is non hyperthreaded, which is crazy on a $2300+ machine.

Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

iMac early 2019. 1TB SSD = $700. Samsung 2TB NVMe M.2 = $500.
Samsung 1TB 970 Pro = $350. 970 Evo = $250.

Colin Cornaby:

The weird thing is the Vega GPUs Apple is using... don’t exist? If they’re custom slower versions of real Vega, that’s a big bummer. Still not shipping a high end consumer GPU on the iMacs?

I’d guess it’s a power and heat thing. Vega requires a good amount of power and runs hot. Unless they really wanted to up the power supply in the iMac full Vega might not be an option.

Ian Spencer:

It took two years for this? It’s a $450 upgrade to not have a three year old GPU that was slow even when it was new. And that upgrade isn’t even to the mid-range Vega 56. Yikes.

John Gruber:

This is an industrial design that deserves to last years. It still doesn’t seem possible to get displays of this caliber at these prices in the PC world — or at any price for 5K in an all-in-one.

Llyod Chambers:

Why would you go with 32GB memory from Apple, when it costs less to install 64GB?

Howard Oakley:

The one feature about them which concerns me is their continuing use of rotating hard disks, alone in the cheaper configurations, or as part of a Fusion Drive if you need more and faster storage. There are two issues which you need to consider: using the APFS file system on a hard disk, and the Fusion Drive itself.

[…]

APFS works on hard disks, and has done so in release form for around a year now, but it hasn’t been designed to get the best out of them, in contrast with HFS+. Although I haven’t been able to find good performance comparisons, all those who I know who use APFS on hard disks consider its performance to be relatively poor.

[…]

If almost all data read from and written to the hard disk in the Fusion Drive passes through the SSD as a temporary buffer, the SSD will see a great deal more write activity than would be expected for its size. […] Evidence from some with older Fusion Drives is that this can lead to worryingly early failure in SSDs, which appear to have aged much more quickly than would be expected.

Nick Heer:

Snell asked Novielli about the base-model iMacs that retain a spinning hard drive. She acknowledged that it’s a cost-based decision; I still think it’s indefensible. The drives Apple uses in the base-model iMacs, and even the Fusion Drives in the step-up models, don’t perform acceptably running Mojave. The base model iMac is simply not a good product and should be purchased by nobody, so it’s hard to see why it’s still available.

Tom Bridge:

And they also ship by default with old, slow 5400rpm hard disks that came to the marketplace in 2007 in 1TB capacities. When Hitachi released the first Deskstar with 1TB that year, at a whopping price of $399, they boasted a cost-per-GB of $0.40. Now you can have a SATA SSD for less than $0.25 per GB, and an M.2 SSD for $0.35 per GB.

Chance Miller:

Apple has also quietly lowered select upgrade costs. For the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro, SSD upgrades are now slightly cheaper, while RAM upgrades for Mac Pro have also seen a price drop.

Previously:

Update (2019-03-21): tipoo:

And even with all those constraints imposed, a hybrid hard drive would have gone a long way too. Feel a bit bad that some unknowing people will get a worse macOS experience than 5 year old systems with an SSD.

Colin Cornaby:

Fusion Drives being standard on iMacs would be less of an issue if you could upgrade to a full SSD post purchase.

Update (2019-03-26): Stephen Hackett:

However, the outside of the iMac could use a refresh as well. The design is fine, but I think it could be modernized in a couple of areas. The bezels were fine in 2012, but seven years later, they look ridiculous. The integrated foot is sturdy, but I miss the days of more adjustable desktops. The built-in iSight camera is...not great, and the fan noise generated by high-end models is a non-starter for many of us.

Update (2019-03-29): Juli Clover:

Geekbench’s John Poole this afternoon shared a series of 2019 iMac benchmarks, giving us a look at the performance boosts offered by Intel’s 8th and 9th-generation Coffee Lake chips.

All of the new 27-inch 5K models offer superior performance compared to their 2017 counterparts, with single-core performance up an average of 6 to 11 percent and multi-core performance up 43 to 49 percent for six-core models. The higher-end models with 3.6GHz 8-core Core i9 chip offer the biggest boost in multi-core performance, with speeds up 66 percent.

Update (2019-04-01): Adam Chandler:

The 2019 iMac arriving tomorrow scored 6157 Single and 32293 Multi-Core blowing away all of my previous Macs in a massive way! Now that it is 100% SSD, the difference in performance with the new iMac and the top of the line MacBook Pro is enough that I’ll continue running a two machine setup for the foreseeable future. No reason to work on only one machine and while I require the portability of a MacBook, I love and would hate to give up the flexibility of also having a desktop that is many double-digit more powerful.

[…]

When ordering the iMac, I did consider an iMac Pro. I was within $750 of a base iMac Pro but I’m glad I didn’t. Looking at this Geek Bench blog post, it’s clear I made the right decision.

Rob Griffiths (tweet):

As with the prior comparison, this is not a review of the 2019 iMac—I’ll leave that detailed work to others who do it much better than I. I’m mainly interested in comparing this machine’s performance to my current iMac—and for the Geekbench 4 tests, with the 10-core iMac Pro.

[…]

Two lines stand out here—those for the RSA verifications per second, where the new CPU is roughly 33% slower than the old CPU. I tried to discover why, but had no luck with a number of web searches. My only theory is that the RSA verification is so relatively simple (compare the results with DSA verification; RSA is about three times faster) that CPU clock speed is the gating item—and the new CPU runs at 3.6GHz versus 4.0GHz for the old.

Update (2019-04-08): Josh Centers:

Louis Rossman takes the piss out of Apple for its new iMac, and they honestly deserve it.

Update (2019-04-09): Rob Griffiths:

Wrapping it all up, I’ve found the new iMac with the ADM Pro Vega 48 to be a more than decent games machine. Its one downside is fan noise—they will spool up and be noticeable in anything that pushes the video card hard. How can this be avoided? Well, you could stick to old games that don’t stress the GPU as much.

Alternatively, you could give Apple $5,799 (instead of the $3,449 I spent on my iMac plus third-party RAM) to buy the 10-core iMac Pro, which has a totally different thermal management system.

[…]

Other than the fan noise under load (which my old iMac shares), I’m very happy with the new machine. It’s wicked fast in every day use, I like the wider color gamut display, the added RAM will be very nice to have, and I finally have a capable gaming machine that’s the same as my primary work machine.

Update (2019-04-30): Rob Griffiths:

The real time saver is in the video transcoding: The new iMac was over twice as fast as the old one. This is where the extra cores in the Core i9 processor really pay off—even more so than I was expecting.

Overall, the new iMac saved nearly 30 minutes compared to the old iMac. In percentage terms, that’s 35% faster.

What you don’t see in the table, though, are the test conditions. I gave the old iMac every advantage possible. I had already removed all my background apps and cloud services, Time Machine is disabled, there’s nothing running in the menu bar, and the only tasks the iMac had running were related to the test.

On the new iMac, on the other hand, it was business as usual: I had all my background tasks running, all my cloud services were connected, I had 18 apps running with about 40 open windows, and I was actively working, switching between browsers and email and chat and Excel.

iPad Air and iPad mini 2019

Apple:

Apple today introduced the all-new iPad Air in an ultra-thin 10.5-inch design, offering the latest innovations including Apple Pencil support and high-end performance at a breakthrough price. With the A12 Bionic chip with Apple’s Neural Engine, the new iPad Air delivers a 70 percent boost in performance and twice the graphics capability, and the advanced Retina display with True Tone technology is nearly 20 percent larger with over half a million more pixels.

Apple today also introduced the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, a major upgrade for iPad mini fans who love a compact, ultra-portable design packed with the latest technology.

It’s good to see the iPad mini updated after all these years. The new models look good, although I was hoping to see a lower end model with a reduced price. The $310 A10-based iPad, though a better tablet, is still more than double the price of comparably sized Android tablets. And, I’m sure it would confuse things, but I personally would want one without pencil support because I know I won’t use it, and so I would prefer the more oleophobic screen.

Joe Rossignol:

The new iPad Air is a lower-cost replacement for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which was priced from $649 prior to being discontinued today.

Tim Hardwick:

Apple says that with the new A12 Bionic chip, the iPad mini now delivers three times the performance and nine times faster graphics. Meanwhile the advanced Retina display with True Tone technology and wide color support is 25 percent brighter and has the highest pixel density (3 million) of any iPad.

Elsewhere, an 8-megapixel rear camera brings improved low-light performance and HD video recording, while the front facing camera has been bumped up to 7 megapixels for better-quality selfies and FaceTime HD.

The new iPad also benefits from the same Wi-Fi performance and Gigabit‑class LTE that’s built into the latest iPad Pro models, and retains the headphone jack found in previous iPad mini models.

Marco Arment:

The iPad lineup makes far more sense now than when there was a $500 price gap in the middle of it, most but not all could use Pencils, the Mini was ancient, etc.

Now, they’re all Pencil-able, they’re all A12 except the cheapest model, and all prices and sizes are well-covered.

Michael Love:

Interesting strategy here - I think many/most of us were assuming they’d try to reach out to the low end, but instead they’re basically putting a 2018 CPU in a 2017 Pro, taking away 120 Hz, and charging the standard-for-many-years $499 for it.

Francisco Tolmasky:

It is so weird that the iPad Air and iPad mini only support the old Apple Pencil. The iPad mini was my favorite incarnation of the iPad line when it came out, and I was considering getting one again, but I have no interest in needing two different kinds of iPad pencil.

Apple keeps creating and extending these arbitrary transition periods. The old Apple Pencil should be in the past. Instead we have an entire other generation with it now. This sucks for developers too who have to continue designing for old technology. Same with lightning ports.

John Gruber:

The new iPad Air isn’t based on the old iPad Air — it’s an update to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. (It even works with the same cover and keyboard peripherals.) And the new Mini is really just a smaller version of the new iPad Air — they could have just called them both “iPad Air” and had one be mini-sized and one regular-sized, similar to how the two sizes of iPad Pro have the same product name. As far as I can see, there is no difference between the new iPad Air and iPad Mini other than size.

[…]

I am reliably informed, the inductive charging data port for connecting Pencil 2 on the latest iPad Pros is expensive enough to be prohibitive for the new Air and Mini.

Update (2019-03-21): Uluroo:

The five available iPads might seem confusing at first glance. The naming scheme doesn’t help keep things simple. Here’s how you should view iPad:

• iPad Pro, one product in two sizes
• iPad Air/mini, one product in two sizes
• iPad, there solely for its low price tag

John Gruber (Hacker News):

But it costs so much less than an iPad Pro. I think of the iPad Pros as the iPad Nexts, and these new iPad Air and iPad Mini models as the iPad Nows. A 64 GB 11-inch iPad Pro costs $800, the 64 GB new 10.5-inch Air costs $500, and the Mini is just $400. You even save on cellular models compared to the Pro — it costs $150 to add cellular to an iPad Pro, but only $130 to an iPad Air or Mini.

[…]

Really, in a lot of ways, the iPad Mini feels like the one true iPad, and the others are all just blown-up siblings that don’t quite know how to take advantage of their larger displays.

[…]

But here’s a really big pro in the iPad Mini’s column that I didn’t fully anticipate until diving in with it this week: it’s so much better for thumb-typing.

Colin Cornaby:

Has anyone commented yet on the lack of USB-C on the new iPads? Certainly is a bummer for those of us that like the idea of USB-C as a single connector, and it also blows a hole in the idea of a strong USB-C ecosystem for iPad.

Update (2019-03-26): Horace Dediu:

And now we see the iPad mini being re-launched with a huge spec bump. We should take the hint. The iPad mini is just charming. I have been trying it out for a few days and it has worked its way into my routine. I have an iPad Pro that I use on a desk to design presentations (and to deliver them). I use it with a keyboard for dealing with email on my lap or on a plane and take it instead of a laptop when going to meetings.

But the iPad mini worked its way to my nightstand. It the one I reach for when on a couch. It is like an iPhone but when you’re at home it’s better than the iPhone because you can linger on that new true tone screen. It works well one handed.

[…]

Fundamentally explaining mini is pointless. mini is something that is felt more than it is perceived.

Jason Snell:

The new iPad mini doesn’t need to be all things to all people. It doesn’t even need to be the cheapest iPad in the product line. It just needs to be small and light while still providing the power of a modern iPad, and it does that quite well.

Benjamin Mayo:

So the universal iPad stylus, the one that works across all iPad models, is the one not made by Apple

The Dwindling Number of iOS Text Editors

Brett Terpstra:

Over the weekend I weeded out the dead apps on my iTextEditors comparison chart and was surprised to find that over 30 of the 90 editors on the list were no longer available. I figured a few would be gone, but a third of them had gone the way of the dinosaur.

Perhaps the cream has risen to the top and most people are settling on the leaders of the pack. Maybe there just isn’t that much money to go around in the iOS text editor market.

I’m still using Editorial, but it hasn’t seen many updates lately and still doesn’t work with iCloud.

Previously: