Yesterday, the second half of the 2020 iPhone line up opened for pre-orders, with customers now able to place orders for iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini. Last month, Apple began selling the more mainstream iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.
Size Does Matter
For 2020, Apple has introduced four models of iPhone 12 and split the rollout across October and November. Rolling out iPhones across multiple months is similar to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X rollout from a few years ago.
Up first was iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. These really are the iPhones that most people should by. In my opinion, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are so close in specifications, you really should get the iPhone 12 with a starting price of $829. The only option upgrade I would recommend, regardless of which model you ultimately order, is to bump the storage up to 128GB or 256GB. Again, in my opinion, in 2020, buying an iPhone with 64GB of storage is a really bad idea because you will fill it up too quickly with video, photos, and music for example.
Then, in November, Apple will rollout the iPhone mini and the massive iPhone 12 Pro Max. If you have not been following closely, unlike the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, where the only difference between the two was physical body size, in 2020 iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have different camera systems. Spec wise, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a larger ƒ/2.2 aperture telephoto lens over a ƒ/2.0 lens on the iPhone 12 Pro, the new sensor-shift optical image stabilization system, a slightly larger battery, and a 2778-by-1284-pixel resolution at 458 ppi over the 2532-by-1170-pixel resolution at 460 ppi Super Retina XDR display in iPhone 12 Pro. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch diagonal display, the largest ever in an iPhone, Apple was able to keep the iPhone 12 Pro Max about the same body size as previous Plus and Max models.
This year, I decided to pre-order the iPhone 12 Pro Max. There were several items that I needed to consider before purchasing this year’s iPhone upgrade. For me, the improved camera features pushed to order the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Color played a role in this year’s decision too. iPhone 12 Pro comes in refreshed colors: Graphite, Silver, Gold, and the all new Pacific Blue. I am partial to a navy blue, but in my opinion, Pacific Blue is not “Grassia Standard Blue”. I waffled back and forth between Silver and Pacific Blue since Apple’s “Hi, Speed” event last month. On Tuesday, I finally settled on Pacific Blue.
2020 is the first year in which Apple will not be putting a charging brick or EarPods in the iPhone box, meaning, you may need to order additional accessories, thankfully, at a reduced price, if you or your family relay on in box accessories as replacement spares.
This year, I decided to order the iPhone 12 Pro Max Clear Care with MagSafe and a new MagSafe Charger. Like all models of iPhone 12, the MagSafe Charger does not come with a charging brick either. I plan to use a USB-C MacBook Pro charging brick to charge my iPhone 12 Pro Max with the MagSafe Charger. I like the MagSafe Duo Charger, a MagSafe charging mat for charging an iPhone and Apple Watch at the same time, however, that $129 accessory is not yet on sale. Finally, when thinking about accessories, keep in mind that while the iPhone cable is still Lightening on the iPhone end of the cable, the other end of the cable has changed from USB-A to USB-C. If you do not have the correct combination of chargers and cables on hand for your new iPhone 12, you may need to purchase one or both this year.
iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max go on sale this coming Friday, November 13.
I have never trusted myself with expensive watches. I would always scratch up the screens so I would always get inexpensive watches. Prior to Apple Watch, the only expensive watches I purchased were in the $130 range. Fast forward to the Apple Watch, and my original Sport and Series 4, have fared well, but if you look at the screen carefully and under good lighting, you will see several scuffs in the glass. I knew that they were going to get scratched from the get-go, so I am not terribly upset.
The game changed when I got my Series 5 Stainless Steel Apple Watch. The Series 5 is the most expensive watch I have ever owned, and I was not going to take any chances with it. I decided to protect it with a rubbery clear bumper case. It was big and thick but offered a clear view of the screen. I really did not like the added bulk that the case added. I felt that it robbed me of the sleek design of Apple Watch. On top of that, I recently noticed that the edges of the rubbery case had started to brown – a common problem with these kinds of cases. Thankfully, Spigen has a no compromise solution for me.
The Spigen ProFlex EZ Fit tempered glass screen protector for Apple Watch offers customers a tempered glass screen protector to protect the screen without adding bulk to Apple Watch.
I have been using Spigen’s glass screen protectors on my iPhones for multiple years now and I have found them to offer great protection while not getting the way during daily use. I purchased the ProFlex two pack and planned on installing them on my Series 4 and Series 5 Watches.
One of the nice upgrades with Spigen glass screen protectors are the plastic installation trays. Unlike older systems where you are left your own devices to line up and apply screen protectors, Spigen’s trays make installing perfectly aligned screen protectors a breeze. I also appreciate that the Spigen ProFlex screen protectors come with an oleophobic coating, similar to the coating that Apple uses, so that it is super easy to clean fingerprints from the glass.
Installation was super easy. First, you take off the band that is on Apple Watch and clean the screen with the included wipes and cloth. Next, place the Apple Watch in the provided alignment tray. Once in the tray, peel the back off of the screen protector that is attached to the applicator. Using the included squeegee to press down and apply the screen protector to the face of the Watch. A few good firm passes from bottom to top should do it. Finally, carefully, remove the applicator tab from the Watch, remove it from the applicator try, and rub out any tiny air bubbles. And that’s it, you are good to go. Reattach your favorite band and enjoy your Apple Watch knowing that its screen is protected from the day-to-day accidental bumps that could scuff or scratch the screen.
The biggest concern for me was going to be usability. I wanted a glass screen protector to protect the screen, but one that did not have a thick ridge that my finger would rub over when swiping up or down when trying to access notifications and Control Center. I am happy to report that while there is a bit of a ridge that I feel when swiping up to access Control Center, it is very minimal. I prefer the rounded edge for Spigen’s GLAS.tR iPhone screen protectors. It would be nice if Spigen could do something similar with the ProFlex screen protector in a future update.
Overall, I think the Spigen ProFlex EZ Fit tempered glass screen protectors for Apple Watch look and feel great. It allows me to ditch the chunky case and enjoy the look and feel of Apple Watch without worrying about scratching the screen.
The ProFlex EZ Fit screen protector is compatible with Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 6, 5, and 4. Available in both 44mm and 40mm sizes, the ProFlex costs a reasonable $19.99 at Spigen.com.
This past Tuesday, on October 13, during their “Hi-Speed,” virtual keynote event, Apple unveiled not one, not two, but four new iPhones. For the 2020 iPhone line up, we have iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Now, most people do not and should not upgrade their iPhone every year. for people upgrading from older iPhones – 6s, 7, 8, or X-Series, iPhone 12 will have some really nice improvements. There is even something for tech enthusiasts who upgrade every year just so that they have the shiny new thing. So, let’s get into what Apple announced.
iPhones 12 – More Choices Than Ever
iPhone 12 comes in new colors for 2020. Apple has gone all in on their new iPhone 12 Blue and iPhone 12 Pro Pacific Blue colors. iPhone 12 also comes in a new (PRODUCT)RED, and Green, as well as the old standards Black and White. Unlike the White iPhone 4, the While iPhone 12 is on track to launch at the same time as the Black one. What a difference 10 years make. For the iPhone 12 Pro models, the available colors are Silver (White), Graphite (replacing Space Grey), a 14-karet Gold (filling in for a pink Rose Gold), and the previously mentioned new Pacific Blue replacing last year’s Midnight Green. I mostly like this year’s colors. They are in line with the new colors for the 2020 iPad Air and Watch Series 6. I like this year’s Gold color over last year’s iPhone 11’s Yellow. For me, Blue has been the biggest upset. I really like the iPhone 12 Blue – I’ve always been a fan of navy blue – the Pacific Blue of the iPhone 12 Pro is a letdown. When it comes to color verses features, features win, and so I’ll miss out on the fantastic looking Blue and order my iPhone 12 Pro in Silver again this year. Your milage will vary based on personal preferences and the importance of color as a personal expression.
Apple announced four new iPhone 12 models this year in three different size classes. iPhone 12 ($799US starting base price) is the new iPhone that I recommend that most people buy. It offers the best balance of features, price, and performance. From there the choices, let a little more difficult. The iPhone 12 Pro ($999US starting base price) offers an improved camera system with the inclusion of a telephoto camera, 4x optical zoom, the ability to record 60fps rather than 30fps Dolby Vision HDR video, and a LiDAR depth sensing scanner on the back. The LiDAR scanner will help with faster auto-focus in low light conditions and be able to make 3D maps of the environment like the 2020 iPad Pros can. Unlike last year’s iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro is slightly taller with a 6.1″ diagonal screen compared with a 5.8″ screen on the 11 Pro. iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro have the exact same dimensions, with the iPhone 12 being slightly lighter, weighing in at 164g verses 189g.
The new iPhone 12 mini and Pro Max round out the iPhone 12 line with features that are, in my opinion, designed for specific groups of Apple customers. The iPhone 12 mini is the least expensive iPhone this year, which will automatically made it popular, but is focused on customers who preferred the smaller size of the iPhone 5-series on which this year’s iPhone design is inspired by. iPhone mini has a 5.4″ diagonal screen which is larger than the iPhone SE (1st Generation) 4″ screen, the 4.7″ screen on the iPhone SE (2nd Generation), but smaller than the 6.1″ screen on the iPhone 11 and the X-Series iPhones. So, while iPhone 12 mini is the smallest screen size this year, is fits in between the iPhone SE (2nd Generation) and the iPhone 12 in terms of screen size and physical dimensions.
iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, is the largest iPhone in the iPhone 12 family, with a gigantic 6.7″ diagonal Super Retina XDR display. With a larger screen and the highest screen resolution (2778 x 1284 at 458ppi) in the line, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will be able to show you the most content on a single screen or give you the best options for zooming up the user interface and screen text, since we’re all getting older. iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a larger battery and 6GB of RAM as compared to the 4GB of RAM on the non-Pro iPhone 12 models. Unlike recent iPhone X-series iPhones where the Pro and the Pro Max have the same camera system, the iPhone 12 Pro Max returns to the “bigger is better” mindset of the iPhones 6, 6s, and 7-series where the larger Plus models had an improved camera system over their smaller siblings. I’m sure that will be a bummer for some iPhone X-series users who liked the idea that both iPhones had the same camera system and they were only picking the size that they preferred. This year, the size verses camera specs decision will be harder, with some people opting for the tradeoff for a smaller form factor. In my opinion, most customers won’t notice the difference in the cameras systems, so if you perform the iPhone X/iPhone 11 Pro size, you won’t be missing out. For people who take a page from Tina Turner’s playbook and want “Simply the Best”, in 2020, that will be the high-end iPhone 12 Pro Max this year.
Storage space may be a consideration for you depending on how much you are willing to spend. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini both start at 64GB of storage space while the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max start at 128GB. While I am glad that we have left the dark ages of 16GB and 32GB base iPhone configurations behind, if you like to take a lot of photos and shoot lots of video, 64GB may get cramped if you also like to keep other digital media stored locally on your iPhone. Unless you stream everything, I recommend that almost everyone upgrade to 128GB of storage. Based on my usage, 256GB is the sweet spot. Heavy users who have to have virtually of their stuff with them all of the time will want to dial up the maximum 512GB storage tier on iPhone Pro models.
With the introduction of the 2020 handsets, Apple has completely ditched LCD displays and opted to put Super Retina XDR OLED screens in all four version of iPhone 12. This means that anyone purchasing an iPhone 12 will have a display that is able to better display photos and videos that have darker and lighter areas making for images that look more vivid with P3 wide color on a High Dynamic Range (HDR) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) panel. I particularly enjoy the deep, inky blacks that OLED and HDR provide when watching videos in a darkened room without the white light of an LCD bleeding through the screen.
iPhone 12 Pro models also sport a new, ever so slightly thinner bezel, to which I can discern a difference in from product photography, and, in my opinion, the much better looking polished stainless steel frame rather than the aluminum bands on the non-Pro models. And thankfully, thankfully, the return of the flat side industrial design that was originally introduced on the you’re-holding-it-wrong iPhone 4, and refined on the iPhone 5, and most recently re-refined on the iPad Pros from 2018. I always felt that the flat edge design was much easier to pick an iPhone that is lying flat on a table than the rounded edge iPhones.
The new iPhone 12 models are packed full of new features. iPhone 12 comes with a new, more durable screen glass that was developed in cooperation with Corning, called Ceramic Shield. According to Apple, the infusion of ceramic crystals into the glass, makes the display more resistant to breakage from drops while keeping the glass covering crystal clear. Parents of teenagers and drop prone adults who like to go caseless should feel better about Ceramic Shield. While I applaud anything the makes expensive smartphones made out of glass front and back panels more durable, I plan on slapping a Spigen EZ Fit GLAS.tR Slim screen protector on my new iPhone 12 Pro Max because I can’t stand the idea of scuffs or scratches in my iPhone screen. This is also a really good place to mention that the new Ceramic Shield glass is only on the front of the iPhone 12. The back glass remains unchanged from last year. And, if repair pricing for iPhone 12 models follow those of iPhone 11 and iPhone X-series devices, the back glass will be more expensive than the front glass to replace since the rear of the iPhone also contains the wireless charging coil. If you iPhone travels around au naturel, as in without a case, or you are prone to having butter fingers, I suggest you also add an AppleCare+ plan to your purchase.
iPhone 12 is also powered by the Apple A14 Bionic System on a Chip (SoC) which is packed with new improvements. First off, the A14 is built on Taiwan Semiconductor’s new 5nm fabrication process. Smaller fab sizes generally relate to better power efficiencies. Also on board are six CPU cores, two for high performance operations, and four for energy-efficient cores. Apple doesn’t like to talk about RAM as in Memory, on their iOS/iPadOS devices like iPhone and iPad. But people who are in a position to know report that the A14 Bionic has 4GB of RAM in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini models and bumps up to 6GB of RAM for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple has also improved the year-over-year performance of the GPU engine as well as the Neural Engine, the component that powers all of the on-device machine learning features of iOS and iPadOS 14.
Charging your iPhone is both all-new and the same this year. You can continue to charge your iPhone 12 with your existing Lightening cables and inductive Qi chargers. New in iPhone 12 is a new form of Qi inductive charging called MagSafe, reusing the name of the magnetic charging systems before the switch to USB-C charging. MagSafe addresses one of the consistent complaints that I see with regard to Qi charging which is that if you do not precisely align the iPhone with the charging mat, your iPhone won’t charge. MagSafe works by using magnets to auto-align the iPhone with the charging coil inside the inductive charger. This is very similar to the charging system on Apple Watch, and my old fav, the Palm Pre and Touchstone charger. The new MagSafe system can charge iPhone 12 models faster than previous generation Qi chargers, however, to obtain the new 15w charging speeds, you will need to purchase a new MagSafe charger to do it. The stock 1-meter Apple MagSafe charger will set you back $39. What was left unsaid is that you will also need a USB-C power adapter to plug the MagSafe charger into, since neither a new iPhone 12 nor MagSafe charger come with a power adapter. But more on that later. If you use a previously purchased Qi charger, like the Mophie wireless charging pad that is sold by Apple, you will continue to get the 7.5w charging speed. Charging speeds by Lightening cable are unchanged. Apple also states that iPhone 12 are fast-charge capable, and that with an Apple 20W or higher power adapter, users can expect a 50% charge in about 30 minutes.
5G Cellular Networks
With the iPhone 12 launch, Apple is making a colossal marketing effort around 5G cellular networking. This isn’t surprising as the three remaining wireless carriers in the United States, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are pushing 5G networking as the next big thing. Apple is leaning on 5G so hard this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook turned over the Steve Jobs Theater stage to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a full four minutes. And then, whenever possible, make sure to state that all four iPhone 12 models are 5G network capable. What was left unsaid, however, is that you may need to change your cellular plan to gain access to your carrier’s 5G network (which I do), there might be a cost increase for 5G networking (I’m reviewing my carrier’s plans and pricing) and that you need to be in range of a 5G cell tower.
5G networking is notoriously spotty when attempting to get the best speeds out of the 5G network. This is due to the radio frequencies and how well they travel and how strong the signal is inside buildings. Under real world conditions, I do not expect many people to get anywhere near the kinds of download speeds that show up in flashy 5G advertising by the carriers and by Apple. 5G is incredibly complex and comes with a lot of asterisks, hanging chads, and dangling participles. Rene Ritchie has a great 5G explainer video on his YouTube channel and Joanna Stern did a fantastic video for the Wall Street Journal on real-world performance back in July 2019 using 5G Android phones which already have 5G radios in them. Needless to say, I am still not sold on 5G cellular networking and would prefer to have reliable 4G LTE speeds, because, damn it, whenever I need to download something larger than a podcast on the go, it always seems to take forever.
And don’t even get me started on AT&T’s “5G E” rebranding of their 4G network stunt.
What’s Not in the Box
Apple for many years has played up how environmentally friendly their devices are. This year’s iPhones continue this tradition. But, before clicking or tapping that Buy with Apple Pay button, remember that Apple will no longer be including a charger or EarPods “free” in the box anymore. Also keep in mind that this year’s Lightening cable will be USB-C to Lightening, and not USB-A to Lightening. USB-A is the standard flat rectangle style plug that has been found on our computers and wall chargers for over a decade now. USB-C is a more recent version of the USB standard. While USB-C has made it to modern Apple and Windows notebooks, and things like the Nintendo Switch, you are likely to have more USB-A power adapters in your house than USB-C adapters. Plan your pre-order purchases this year accordingly. Similarly, if you prefer wired ear buds, and you need a new pair, they won’t be in the box this year. This will no doubt rankle some customers who will be unprepared for this change. I love living the AirPods wireless ear bud lifestyle and have access to USB-C chargers and computers, so it won’t be much of a problem for me and my fellow tech nerds. I would rather that Apple provide USB-A cables in the box and let nerds order USB-C cables and adapters as needed. Such is the price of progress and Apple will be able to weather the storm. After all, it’s not like they are switching the iPhone connector from Lightening to USB-C.
For most users, the iPhone 12 is the model to purchase. iPhone 12 starts at $829 before Verizon and AT&T $30 discounts. The 128GB iPhone 12 is $50 more expensive coming in at $179. If you want a more pocketable phone, the iPhone 12 mini is the iPhone for you. Tech enthusiasts should go with the 256GB iPhone 12 Pro ($1,099). And for those people who just want the one with everything will set a pile of money on fire and go with the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 256GB of storage ($1,199) or the 512GB version ($1,299). When planning your purchase, also consider the accessories you will need, such as first and third-party cases, charge cables, power adapters, all-in-one charging stations, and AppleCare+ coverage, which starts at $8.29/mo. Pre-orders for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are open now and begin shipping on October 23. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max pre-orders open on November 6 and are expected to begin shipping on November 13.
What is Alan Getting?
At this point, I haven’t finalized my iPhone configuration yet. I know that I want to get the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 256GB of storage. I want the Pro Max over the Pro for the high-end camera. Since the iPhone 11 Pro 5.8″ screen size is shifting up to 6.1″ with the iPhone 12 Pro, why not go up to the larger 6.7″ screen size? I was really looking forward to a dark blue iPhone and the Blue iPhone 12 fits the bill. Alas, the iPhone 12 Pro’s Pacific Blue is a little too green for my tastes, so I think I will be getting a Silver iPhone 12 Pro Max. That might change after I am able to see an iPhone 12 Pro Pacific Blue next weekend when they are in my local Apple Store. In terms of accessories, I plan on getting the new Apple MagSafe charger and iPhone 12 Pro Max clear case now. Later on, I will be looking into getting either the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch charging mat, which was mentioned, but is not available yet, and a navy blue-style leather Apple case. I like my iPhone to lay flat on my desk, so I don’t expect to purchase one of the new MagSafe leather wallets. Further down the road, I will get a pair of AirPods Pro, but for now, my AirPods 2 are working well.
From time to time, I like to play “what if” as in “What if my rich Uncle Tim bought me some new Apple gear”. This week, I was thinking about what new hardware I might by between now and the end of the year (or early next year depending on when Apple Silicon Macs start shipping).
This week was the iPad Pro Edition of the What If game. I was playing around with the 2020 11-inch iPad Pro, using the same specs as my 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The bottom line was $899. But the weird thing was that this iPad Pro was unavailable for pick up at any of my local Apple Stores. If Uncle Tim bought it for me online, from Apple.com, the delivery timeframe is October 1 – 8. The larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro with similar specs has the same delivery window. Huh?
Ok, I get it. Lots of people in the United States are still buying new hardware for back to school and work from home scenarios because the U.S. is still a complete disaster here on the COVID-19 front as compared to other countries. And that’s probably the real reason for the shipping delays and physical retail shortages. But, could there be another reason? Apple just refreshed the iPad Pro line back in March of this year. Apple can’t possibly be refreshing the iPad Pro line again in 2020, would they? I mean, the 2020 iPad Pros have only been out for less than six months. While this does seem crazy, it is not unfounded. Looking back at the iPad release history, the iPad 3rd Generation was release in March 2012 and replaced with the iPad 4th Generation in October 2012. Just seven months later (sorry, still salty).
So, could new iPad Pro models be on the way before the start of the holiday buying season? I guess only time will tell.
I have been thinking about subscription services a lot lately. Newspapers, cable TV and streaming services, and most recently, podcast subscriptions. The only Apple subscriptions that I currently have are iTunes Match (yes, it’s still a thing) and the iCloud 200GB storage plan so I can share my iCloud storage space with my family using the Family Sharing feature.
One-Time Transactions vs. Recurring Revenue
Back in a time before the App Store, consumer software was a one-time transaction. Think back to how you purchased productivity software at the consumer or “prosumer” level a decade ago. You purchased a new PC and the software came pre-installed and you used it. Prosumers might have purchased big packages like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. You paid hundreds of dollars up front and ran the software until you needed a feature that was in a newer version or would no longer run on your PC’s operating system after an upgrade, at which point, you would purchase the software again. To reward customer loyalty, software developers would often offer customers a discount on the purchase of the current version.
For businesses customers, the software model worked differently. Business customers would purchase a software license and with it, annual support agreements. Annual support agreements gave IT departments access to frequent software updates and technical support. The annual software maintenance agreements would typically run between 20-30% of the original purchase price.
Fast forward to today. Subscription services are a lot like the maintenance agreements, where each subscription provides the software developer with a sustained revenue stream in exchange for regularly updated software packages.
App Store and the Race to the Bottom
With the introduction of the App Store on July 10, 2008, the consumer software model was forever changed. The iOS App Store was the point in time the popularized the idea of paying for software once and then getting free updates for life. The problem with that model is that it is not sustainable long term. Eventually, you will reach a peak customer base. When no new purchases coming in, there is no revenue to sustain development efforts. The lack of an upgrade system in the App Store further complicated matters. In the App Store, there was no way that developers could release, in effect, a 2.0 upgrade of their product and charge existing users a fee to recoup the development costs for the new features. To try and get customers to buy software, developers kept lowering and lowering prices to the point where many people would scoff at the idea of paying, $9.99, $4.99, $1.99 or even 99-cents for a game or app. This model, several years on, has proven to not be sustainable.
Then, in 2016, Apple introduced the idea of app subscriptions. Rather than purchase an app, you subscribed to the app or a family of related apps from a single developer. You got the software for a monthly fee. Some developers offer a slight discount when a subscription is purchased annually. In exchange for the recurring subscription fee, developers would have the capital to fund the further development and support of their software.
The notion of software subscriptions are not new. Looking to corporate IT solutions, annual software maintenance programs have essentially been rebranded as subscription services. Software subscriptions are also known as software-as-a-service, or SAAS – because IT loves acronyms. I first noticed SAAS software with the introduction of the Microsoft Office 365 service, now known as Microsoft 365. About the same time, Adobe started talking up their subscription product suite, Create Cloud. The Microsoft 365 and Creative Cloud SAAS subscriptions offer customers a lower annual software cost in exchange for software suites with guaranteed feature enhancements and bug fixes. I happily moved from a retail one-time purchase of Microsoft Office 2007 to Office 365 and Office 2013. Rather than spending $400 every few years, I would spend $99 annually. In exchange for my Microsoft subscription, I could share Office with my family and get additional OneDrive storage space. A lower price with more features. That sounds like a fair trade to me.
Where’s the Apple Bundle? On the Way, Likely.
Which brings us back to Apple and their subscription services. Apple, back in 2018, publicly started to talk about “services” as being the next revenue generating product. The iPhone has been the largest revenue generator for the company for many years, however, iPhone sales have stabilized. The company needed a plan for sustained revenue. The answer that Apple has turned to is a synergy between hardware and online products. Customers would by the hardware and then buy monthly subscription services. The hardware plus services model gives Apple a sustained revenue stream like the ones that Microsoft and Adobe have for Office 365 and Creative Cloud.
Apple has released a scatter shot of services: iTunes Match, iCloud storage upgrades, iCloud Photo, Apple Music, Apple News+, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade. If you subscribe to a small number of Apple services, say Apple Music and Apple Arcade, the cost is $15/mo or $180/yr. Subscriptions to Apple Music (Family), Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and a bump to iCloud storage can easily coast $336/yr. What is missing is the bundling of services at a lower price. Adobe’s Creative Cloud works that way. So does Amazon Prime. Why hasn’t Apple gotten into the bundle game?
There have been a number of possible explanations for this this. The first being one that I mentioned earlier, that Apple is just bad at services. Another is that Apple is having trouble with the licensing terms of bundling Apple Music with other services, as suggested by Chance Miller writing for 9to5Mac. In the early days of online music sales, record companies saw Apple become a powerful middleman between they and the music download buying customers, dictating terms of how music could be purchased through the iTunes Music Store. It was a cautionary lesson for the music industry, for sure, and I feel a contributing factor in the rise of direct to customer streaming services like Disney+. Why share revenue with Apple when studios can have a direct relationship with their customers. Along those same lines, it is possible that Apple News+ could be suffering from a similar content licensing and customer relationship headaches.
Despite the challenges of navigating the legal implications of bundling Apple’s own in-house services (i.e.: Apple Arcade, iCloud Storage, Apple TV+) with services that are built on top of content licensing deals (i.e.: Apple Music, Apple News+), there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Leaker Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg, suggest that Apple could finally be readying a services bundle as early as this fall alongside the launch of new iPhone hardware.
Apple Inc. is readying a series of bundles that will let customers subscribe to several of the company’s digital services at a lower monthly price, according to people with knowledge of the effort.
As someone who has been eyeing Apple Arcade as a way to get away from freemium games which require In App Purchases (IAPs) to advance, the idea of being able to get a bundle with more iCloud storage and a games subscription is appealing. I suspect that Apple will focus on the high visibility services of Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple News+ to drive adoption and that the smaller servers, like extra iCloud storage and Apple Arcade will be relegated to “sign up and get them for free” status in the bundle.
Could we get an Apple One service this fall that includes Apple Music Family, Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of “free” iCloud storage? How much would this service offering cost? Assuming that someone subscribes to those services, one would spend about $38/mo. What would a price that a customer would shrug and automatically subscribe to a service for? My guess is that for a made-up bundle like the one I mentioned, a customer might expect a 20% discount, bringing the cost down to $25/mo. That seems reasonable. You end up paying for the “big” services and get the “smaller” services included in the monthly price.
The idea of an Apple bundle, like the recently rumored Apple One, is one that customers have been asking about since Apple first started playing with services. I think that Apple customers will go for a single monthly plan that will enhance the experience and joy of using their Apple devices, particularly the iPhone in the vein of an Amazon Prime service.
For me, a $3/mo 200GB iCloud plan is sufficient to prevent my family from seeing the dreaded “Your iCloud storage is almost full” pop-up on a regular basis. Being able to play games on all of my Apple devices for $5/mo without questionable game mechanics is nice. While I do not use a streaming music service, my wife and kids do. Being able to add an Apple Music Family subscription would be a nice perk for them to listen to their music ad-free. For me, would an additional $15-20/mo make sense? To give my family an ad-free music listening experience and some extra TV content, I can see myself signing up Apple One this fall.
If you have owned an iOS device for longer than six months, you probably have found a need to purchase additional Lightning cables and chargers. While you can purchase first-party cables from a local Apple Store or apple.com. Many of us, however, will buy those cables from Amazon or eBay.
As Kingsley-Hughes points out, Apple has published a support document to help customers spot knock-off products. When purchasing cables and chargers for your iOS device, you should look for the Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) logos on the packaging.
I encourage you to read Apple’s support document and share if with family and friends. Using fake cables and chargers can damage your Apple products and can pose a fire risk.
So, what accessories are safe to buy? Obviously, purchasing directly from Apple is one way to be sure your product is genuine and safe. There are other third-party vendors that sell high-quality accessories including Amazon Basics, Anker, Belkin, Monoprice, and Nomad.
During Apple’s financial results conference call for Q3 2020, which took place on July 30, Luca Maestri, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, pre-announced that new iPhones will be shipping a little bit later than usual this year as a result of global COVID-19 pandemic. At about the 24:27 mark into the call, Maestri states:
“In addition, as you know, last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project supply to be available a few weeks later.”
In my mind, “a few weeks” means just that – about 3-6 weeks. Had there not been a global health crisis, we would have expected that Apple would have expected Apple to hold their fall iPhone event on or around Tuesday, September 8. Following that would be the launching of pre-orders on Friday, September 18 and new iPhones going on sale by Friday, September 25.
With this new guidance on when to expect new iPhones, Apple is telling investors, and Apple watchers like us, that there will be new iPhones this year and that they will be arriving in October (my guess) rather than November or December.
In my opinion, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max hardware is so good, I wouldn’t mind hanging on to my 11 Pro until the spring. But I get distracted by shiny things and will order a new and completely unnecessary iPhone this fall.
During this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, WWDC, Apple announced the long-rumored start of the transition from Macs that run on Intel CPUs to their own in-house designed CPUs, currently referred to as “Apple Silicon”.
All of This Has Happened Before
If you are a user who came to the Macintosh platform during or after 2006, don’t worry. This is actually the third time Apple has made a big architecture shift like this. Apple’s first Macintosh architecture transition was in 1994 from the Motorola 68000-series processors, the ones that were used in the original Macintosh line up, to the PowerPC 601 CPU first introduced in the Macintosh PowerPC 6100. Then, in 2005, Apple again transitioned the Mac. This time from the PowerPC architecture to the Intel Core Duo architecture. The move to Intel processors also had a side benefit in that Mac could directly boot into Windows; something that had previously required special hardware cards or slow virtualization software. Clearly, moving from one processor architecture to another is something that Apple has some experience with. The move from one CPU architecture to another is an extremely complicated effort. Apple spends years planning for and laying the groundwork components for such a transition years in advance. For example, discarding 32-bit app support from 2019’s macOS Mojave was, in retrospect, a major leading indicator for the start of the Apple Silicon transition in 2020. Tim Cook’s words at WWDC 2020 carry the same message as Steve Jobs’ during WWDC 2005 right down to the dad joke about secret labs and double lives.
Moving to Apple Silicon
Starting with the A4 processor, Apple has been designing and using their own special blend of CPUs. Apple’s custom purpose-built processes have been used in 2010’s iPhone 4 and the original iPad. Apple has continued to press their custom processor advantage by building an in-house team of chip designers that has powered iOS and iPadOS devices to greater levels of performance year-over-year. Johny Srouji’s silicon team has been very, very busy.
One of the big advantages to Apple’s CPUs is that they aren’t just CPUs. Apple refers to their processors as “systems on a chip”. In traditional Intel Macs, there are discrete CPUs, graphics processing chips, known as GPUs, and RAM. For example, a current iMac will have an Intel Core i7 Coffee Lake CPU and will have to send messages between the AMD Radeon Pro GPU and memory. Communicating between these components takes time. Apple’s A-Series SoCs, including the first Macs running Apple Silicon due out late this year, give these machines a performance boost over those that use off the shelf commodity parts.
Using their own SoCs gives Apple another strategic advantage – they are able to develop key customer facing features such as Touch ID and Face ID which required the use of the technology that is found in the iPhone’s T2 secure enclave. While Apple didn’t specifically talk about future Macintosh products during the online only developer conference back in June, I expect the first Apple Silicon iMac to have Face ID. While today’s Intel-powered MacBooks have Touch ID, the current design requires a heavy amount of engineering to fully integrate the T2 co-processor with the Intel CPU. I expect that the first Apple laptop with Apple Silicon will have a much cleaner, streamlined implementation.
Besides performance, I am particularly interested in seeing where Apple Silicon Macs go in terms of customer security and privacy, machine learning (i.e.: high quality ML search results in large Photo libraries), and quality of life features (i.e.: Apple Pay and Apple Watch unlock).
What About Virtualization and Thunderbolt Support?
The switch over to Apple Silicon won’t be without tradeoffs and compromises during the two-year transition period. Since the announcement at WWDC, two big questions have come up about key features of Intel Macs.
The first is what about virtualization? Virtualization allows customers to run Microsoft Windows and other operating systems. Apple has said that their first party solution, Boot Camp, will only work on Intel-based Macs. For Apple Silicon Macs, Apple will be introducing a new virtualization layer and re-introducing key technologies from the PowerPC to Intel transition: Universal 2 and Rosetta 2. With Universal 2, app developers will be able to compile and deploy apps for both Apple Silicon and Intel Macs. Rosetta 2 will help protect customer’s investment in software by enabling software written only for Intel Macs to run smoothly on Apple Silicon Macs running macOS 11 Big Sur. During the keynote, Docker and Parallels were both specifically mentioned as a way to run containers and Linux virtual machines on Apple Silicon Macs running Big Sur. Since Apple Silicon Macs are based on the same processor architecture as iPhone and iPad, iOS and iPadOS apps will now be able to be natively run on new Macs without modification. This will be a boon for customers and developers alike as the number of apps and customers will increase.
But what about Mac users who rely on the ability to run Microsoft Windows for things like Active Directory management tools and Windows-only business applications, including Microsoft Project and Microsoft Visio? Presumably, virtualization vendors VMware and Parallels will be working on solutions for Apple Silicon Mac. This, however, is not a forgone conclusion. Shortly after Apple’s announcement, Fusion developer VMware posted a question to Twitter asking how customers would use their software on Apple Silicon.
One possible solution would be Apple and Microsoft working together to bring Windows on ARM support to Apple Silicon and macOS Big Sur. Microsoft’s Surface X PC already runs a version of Windows 10 that has been optimized to run on a custom Qualcomm ARM chip known as the Microsoft SQ1 SoC. Such a deal could go a long way to virtualizing Windows on Macs similar to how Windows runs on Intel Macs today. At the very least, such a deal could be a leg up for VMware and Parallels products. Microsoft is working collaboratively to make sure that Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) are ready for Apple Silicon-powered Macs. Anything is possible from the sometimes partners and sometimes rivals. I like to think that there will be a solution for running Windows and Windows-only application on Apple Silicon Macs, but I won’t be counting on the ability to virtualize Windows on an Apple Silicon Mac into my buying decision at the end of the year.
At the tail end of 2019, Apple began shipping their new Mac Pro tower and Pro Display XDR. The Pro Display XDR, a several thousand-dollar professional workflow monitor, uses Thunderbolt 3 technology to connect it to compatible 2019 and 2020 Macs. The Thunderbolt 3 standard requires and Intel CPU and is one of the reasons why the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro tablets have USB-C only ports. The good news is that Apple plans on protecting their customer’s investment in the 32-inch 6k display technology. Intel recently announced the USB-C 4 and Thunderbolt 4 standard, which is based on the same USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connector port. Apple, in a statement to news outlets, said that, “We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon.” While Apple did not get into specifics of how they will bring USB-C 4 and Thunderbolt 4 to future Macs, we now know that existing and new peripherals based on the Intel standards will continue to be supported into the future.
Buying Advice and the Future
The announcement of Apple Silicon Macs and macOS 11 Big Sur make for an exciting time for Macintosh fans. Just as the transition to Intel CPUs unlocked better performance, Apple Silicon Macs will usher in the next decade of new features for customers.
With that said, the next two years are going to be in flux. If you are a tech enthusiast, then you are probably going to be like me and will want to get your hands on a new Apple Silicon Mac as soon as you can. As an early adopter you will not doubt run into some compatibility issues with existing software and peripherals. 2020 Apple Silicon Macs, after all, will be “1.0” devices. Apple Silicon hardware released in late 2021 and beyond will have the benefit of feedback from late 2020 and early 2021 Apple Silicon Macs. You should avoid buying a new Apple Silicon Mac with the hope that one day a feature you need or want will be supported.
If you are someone who just prefers the Mac, then buy the best Mac you can when the need comes up. Don’t worry about which chip is in your new Mac. You will receive years of support and trouble-free use for years to come.
If you are a professional who relies on the Mac to get your work done, you will have some decisions to make. If you find yourself working primarily in Adobe Creative Cloud products, Microsoft Office, and Autodesk Maya and Cinema 4D, you may be ready for the new platform. However, if you look down the list of software and features that just have to work flawlessly, then, your best bet is to stick with the Intel Mac you have today or purchase a new Intel Mac when you need one during the next 18 months.
The future of the Macintosh platform is brighter as it has ever been, and I am looking forward to the new features!
Whoever expected that in 2020 webcams, like the ones made by Logitech, would be in tight supply? Thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic forcing many people to work and learn from home; good webcams are hard to find. It doesn’t help that the webcams in our laptops have varying degrees of quality.
That’s where DroidCam by Dev47Apps comes in. It’s simple, really. Your iPhone has a way better camera system than any webcam that has been shoved into the lid of a MacBook or Windows PC laptop. With so much of our work, learning, and socializing happening via web conference, there are many reasons why you will want to look your best on camera.
DroidCam has two pieces: the main app that runs on your iOS or Android smartphone and a client app that presents the camera feed to your Windows PC. Unfortunately, there is no Mac client app. The app is free to use, with ads and watermarks. In my testing of the free app running on my iPhone XR with the latest version of iOS 13, I did not see any ads or watermarks in the video. For $4.99, you can remove the ads, watermark, and unlock “Pro” features like HD Video and video controls, using your smartphone as a mic, image flipping and rotation, brightness settings, screen captures, and a few other tools.
There are three ways to connect DroidCam to the client app on your Windows PC. The first is to connect both the smartphone and the PC to the same Wi-Fi network. Since I was using my solution for work, I didn’t want to use a public Wi-Fi connection for my video calls. The next option is to create a private Wi-Fi network between the smartphone and the PC. While better than a public Wi-Fi connection, this option seems like too much of a hassle. The third option, I feel, is the best option: using your smartphone’s sync cable to connect the phone to the PC. In my case, that was an Apple Lightning to USB-A cable. Wires, in 2020? I know, it seems crazy, but there are good reasons. First, running your smartphone as a webcam is going to place a heavy load on the phone’s battery. Keeping your smartphone plugged into your PC is going to help keep the battery up. Secondly, there are less changes of weird problems cropping up when Wi-Fi is out of the mix.
There are few things that I didn’t like. There doesn’t seem to be a way to engage the front facing TrueDepth camera on my iPhone XR. DroidCam only seemed to be able to control the rear facing 12MP camera. This situation is understandable given that Dev47Apps originally developed the app for the Android platform. This does mean, however, that the iPhone screen is always pointing away from me. This makes interacting with the iPhone during setup difficult when it’s mounted in a c-clamp on a tripod. To be fair, my tripod rig is not the developer’s fault.
After attending a few work conference calls using DroidCam, I happily paid the full price to unlock the pro features. Paying $4.99 rather than spending hours trying to find a good webcam that is actually in stock on Amazon, eBay, Best Buy or others is a much better use of your time and attention. With its low cost, DroidCam is a very economical solution for getting better video performance out of the equipment you already have.
I had to laugh when I watched Apple’s new promotional video ‘Working-From-Home Thing’ featuring the likable Underdogs office team.
You see, I needed a distraction from the shenanigans on social media, on cable news, and in newspapers. Apple’s satirical commercial highlights both the challenges we are all facing while trying to work at home while showcasing their products that help make collaborative work easier. With a run time of over six minutes, the video does feel a little long when compared to 2019’s Underdogs commercial. The scene where one of the Underdogs needs to talk to an IT person hits a little too close to home.
If you want to see what Apple products can do in action, enjoy Apple’s video production values, or simply just relate to trying to work from home when you are used to working in an office, you should watch this short.