Another Fall Apple Event

Apple Event invitation art for October 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. PDT

Only one month after Apple’s iPad Air and Apple Watch Series 6 event on September 15 we’ll be treated to another streaming event next week on Tuesday, October 13. The much rumored iPhone 12 is sure to be the tentpole device. (Isn’t this supposed to be the year for the 11S?) Will it come in four sizes and include 5G as the leak reporters are reporting? We’ll find out next week, but the name of the event on the invitations that went out to the media is “Hi, speed.” so the inclusion of 5G would fit with in with that hint.

What else might we see? Only Apple knows, but there is no shortage of speculation. The iPads Pro are due for an update. So is the Home Pod. Or will there be a Home Pod mini announced? Will the much anticipated AirTags debut? And when will macOS 11 Big Sur ship? Will the first Apple silicon Mac be “one more thing”?

To find out, mark your calendars and on the day point your browser to the Apple events page to steam it to your desktop. It will probably also be on YouTube. If you have an Apple TV, you can use the Keynotes app to watch it on your television.

Fruit Flies Like an Apple

Apple Time Flies logo.

Yesterday Apple presented part of it’s annual fall new product introductions in a pandemic-friendly, highly-produced, pre-recorded video event titled, Time Flies. I say “part of” because there was no mention of new iPhones, which would be expected in a mid-September announcement, if this was a different kind of 2020. More on what was not announced below.

What Apple did announce was right in line with most of the leaks and rumors reported by too many reporters, bloggers, tech pundits, “analysts”, and YouTubers. The hardware announcements included the Apple Watch Series 6, a new mid-range Apple Watch SE (the series 3 is still available at the entry level), an updated iPad (gen. 8), and a new iPad Air (gen. 4) sporting the design language of the iPad Pro line. On the software/services side there were segments about new apps on the new watch—most notably the ability to take a blood oxygen reading, a Family Setup option for Apple Watch that provides the ability for multiple family members to have an Apple Watch that’s managed by a single family member, a new subscription service called Fitness+ that integrates with the watch and provides video training for 10 different kinds of workouts viewable on any Apple device screen ($10/month or $80/year, available late 2020), and a service bundle called Apple One with three price tiers (Individual: $15/month, Family: $20/month, and Premier: $30/month). Check out the links for all the details.

If you’d like to read Apple’s stories on all the announcements, point your browser to Apple’s Newsroom for the official press releases. For the moment Apple’s Fall 2020 Keynote is at the top of the feed. It’s also well worth the little over an hour to view the video of the keynote in order to get the full experience of the new “reality distortion field”.

For some thoughtful first-impression analysis, you can do no better than reading John Gruber’s “Brief Thoughts and Observations on Today’s ‘Time Flies’ Apple Event”. If you prefer videos, tune in to Rene Ritchie’s YouTube channel.

I do have to say I do like the way Apple is making announcements by presenting these pre-recorded keynotes during the COVID-19 pandemic (both for WWDC 2020 and these fall announcements). They are certainly missing a specific energy that only a live audience can provide, but these recorded keynotes provide an opportunity for Apple to tell a very tightly controlled and concise story about their hardware, software, and services. Another aspect I really enjoy are the transitions from segment to segment where the viewer is seemingly flying through the Apple campus, inside and out—with a couple of comedic cameos by Craig Federighi in the Time Flies event video. It’s like getting a privately guided tour of parts of Apple’s headquarters that most of us will never get so see in person, albeit a very speedy one.

Apple Watch Series 6 gold aluminum with product red sport loop band.
The gold aluminum Apple Watch Series 6 with a (PRODUCT)RED sport loop band that I ordered.

This keynote marks an historic occasion for me personally. It’s the first time I’ve ever pre-ordered a new Apple product on the same day as it’s announced. That’s right, I ordered an Apple Watch Series 6 a few hours later. I had several Apple Store gift cards burning a whole in my virtual Wallet app on my iPhone. I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a newer version for a couple of years, but this time I actually followed through. It should be delivered about September 30. It’s not a moment too soon, either. Last evening when I was going to bed after placing the order I noticed that my current Apple Watch Series 1 screen has begun popping off of the case.

Apple Watch Series 1 on a wrist. The display is coming off of the case.
My Apple Watch Series 1 with the display coming off of the case.

Near the end, Tim Cook made a somewhat passing announcement that the new operating systems would be available today (Wednesday, September 16). Specifically, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14. I will be waiting until the weekend before my new watch arrives to upgrade my iPhone 11 Pro, however. The main reason being that this last-minute announcement has caught a lot of developers off guard. They were provided less than 24 hours notice of when the public will have access to the new operating systems. Normally they would have about a week to get the final adjustments to their apps made before the operating systems went live (thanks, 2020!). I’m not in a hurry and want to make sure that the developers of the apps I use have time to get their iOS 14–compatible updates submitted and through the review process before I upgrade my iPhone.

Lastly; what wasn’t announced. There was no word on the release date of macOS 11 Big Sur. There was no mention of Macs. We recently got updates to the Intel iMacs, but we were told at WWDC that the first Macs with Apple’s ARM-based SoCs would be out before the end of the year (there have been rumors and/or leaks regarding an Apple silicon MacBook coming soon). And as mentioned up top, nothing about this year’s new iPhones. We know there will be some if for no other reason than on Apple’s Q3 financial results call the CFO specifically set expectations that this year’s iPhones would be “a few weeks later” than usual. My suspicion is that there will be another announcement event sometime in October to tell the story of the iPhones 12 (I thought this was supposed to be an 11S year), more features of iOS 14 that depend on the new hardware, the first Apple silicon Mac, and when macOS 11 Big Sur will be available. And maybe, just maybe, “one more thing”, although the talk of the tech pundits would lead me to believe there might be two or three “one more things”.

One thing for sure is there is no shortage of rumors and speculation about what Apple’s going to do in the future. When/if they actually do, we’ll find out when Apple tells us.

Apple Silicon

Apple Silicon illustration slide from keynote.

A slide from the WWDC 2020 Keynote showing components of future Mac SoCs.

On June 25, 2020, a good friend of mine, Kathryn Knoll, posed a question on my Facebook wall. I worked for/with her in the mid-’90s at Sophia Center, a spirituality-support center now located in Portland, Oregon.

Kathryn said, “Hey Barry, would you be willing to help those of us who don’t know what an Arm CPU core is. Why should we be excited about it? You always explain it so well and I’m humble enough to say I don’t know anything about it even though all of my devices are Apple products.”

I thought it was a great quesiton. Since I figure a lot of my friends, family, clients, and readers may be asking the same thing, I decided to answer the question in a blog post.

So, Sister Kathryn, let me see if I can do this without getting too geeky. To paraphrase Wikipedia, ARM is a family of architectures for computer processors. ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machine. RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing. So, there’s an acronym inside an acronym going on here. (Still pretty geeky, eh? Bear with me; just trying to establish a bit of a foundation.)

Again, from Wikipedia: “Arm Holdings is a semiconductor and software design company wholly owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group and its Vision Fund”. Oddly enough, even though ARM is an acronym, the logo for the company is all lowercase “arm”. They license their CPU core designs to many mobile device manufacturers around the globe, Apple, Inc. being one.

At their 31st annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC 2020; link to the keynote) this past week Apple announced the start of transitioning the Mac from Intel-based CPUs to custom-designed “Apple silicon”. They never actually used the term “ARM” in the announcement, however.

Apple has been designing their own “CPUs” for iOS devices for a decade now. The iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices have been running on custom-designed Apple silicon since the iPad was introduced in the spring of 2010. But this silicon is actually much more than a simple CPU. They are SoCs, which stands for “systems on a chip”. They license ARM technologies, then design and build custom architectures around them that include GPUs, image signal processors, machine learning and neural engines, to only name a few parts of the overall system (see the slide at the top of this post). Apple contracts with third-party fabricating companies to actually manufacture the SoCs, but they are unique to Apple devices.

That’s where the Mac line of personal computers are going over the next two years. After that, Apple will no longer be tied to Intel’s x86 chip roadmap, but will be able to make Macs on their own schedule. Apple silicon–based Macs will be able to do things no other PC can. Some things we can expect are better performance, lower power requirements (longer battery life on MacBooks), and less heat. The iPad Pro that came out earlier this year outperforms the new MacBook Air (also early 2020) in benchmark tests. In the future, Macs will probably outperform most off-the-shelf PCs from any manufacturer.

Should we be excited? I’m a bit. For most folks, they probably won’t notice when it happens. If you want/need a Mac, buy one. Whether it’s a current Intel-powered Mac or a future Apple silicon–powered Mac (the first one is supposed to ship before the end of this year), it will provide many years of service and performance. Apple is still making Macs with Intel CPUs and will be for at least two years. In the keynote they stated support for Intel Macs will continue for years to come. I imagine that if asked, regular users won’t know or care what kind of processor is in their Mac. Apple has set out a transition path for their hardware and software—and especially their tools for app developers—that will in most cases make the change virtually imperceptible to users.

If you haven’t watched the keynote yet, it is well worth it to get an overview of where the Apple ecosphere is headed.

Tim Cook is Full of Secrets

On the eve of Apple’s 2020 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) Tim Cook was enterviewed by CBS’s “60 Minutes” correspondent John Dickerson about the role of the CEO in this turbulent time (YouTube link).

“There was a time back many years ago where CEOs were just supposed to focus on profits only, and not so much the constituencies. That’s never been my view—I’ve never subscribed to that.” ~Tim Cook

It would be nice to see the unedited interview. This just over eight-minute edit trys to cover quite a bit including the nature of this year’s virtual WWDC, the iPhone’s role in documenting police brutality and protests calling for social justice, Cook’s relationship with Donald Trump, corporate taxes, and giving back to the community during the pandemic. It’s worth watching, though.

Tomorrow (June 22, 2020) you can watch the 31st annual WWDC Keynote live streamed on Apple’s website, in the Apple Developer app, in the Events app on Apple TV, probably on YouTube, and maybe on Facebook. I will be watching while working from home.

I’ve Been Vectorized

Periodically I will share some of my favorite websites, podcasts, videos, and/or blogs I follow to learn about the Apple-centric tech-o-sphere. This is one of those posts. The last time I posted about a podcast was back in October of 2016 after I discovered The Checklist. Today, I’d like to tell you about Vector.

T-Shirt, pin, and stickers with Vector logo

My new Vector T-shirt, pin, and stickers on the dining room table.

Vector is what I call a three-in-one resource by Rene Ritchie from iMore. It’s videos, a podcast, and a blog (or series of articles, if you wish) where Mr. Ritchie provides insight into the world of Apple technology with short, palatable, and entertaining morsels of online media. I say “three-in-one” because his content is provided in any of the three ways in which you want to consume it — as a blog (or article) you read, as a podcast you listen to, or as a video that you watch. I personally subscribe to the Vector channel on YouTube, but you can read, listen, or watch right on iMore.

His latest posts (as of this writing) are reviews of the Watch Series 4 and the iPhone XS and XS Max. They are a little longer than his usual five to 15 minutes, but well worth a look/listen if you are at all interested in the new hardware that Apple introduced on September 12, 2018.

So, check out Vector and let me know what you think in the comments below. As Rene would say, “Thank you so much for reading.”

Apple, you’ve got some ’splainin’ to do!

20180912-apple-event-invite

I did not get an invitation, but Apple live streamed the event, so I watched. And I’ve got some questions. Whether Apple answers them or not is up to them.

Gather round?

What’s with this title? If it is a title, why is it not set in title case, as in “Gather Round”? And, does this really mean “gather around”? If so, where’s the apostrophe for the missing “a” (i.e. Gather ’Round)? The grammar police surely started surveillance back in 1997 with your Think Different campaign. Why they let you continue to get away with abuse of the English language, I’ll never understand.

What’s in a name?

I’ll tell you what. The shaking of heads (and probably some fists), that’s what. Last year was confusing enough with iPhone X. But it looks cool and goes along with the history of Apple using a roman numeral for 10 (except for when they don’t, like for Xcode). So I got used to the name and mostly remembered to pronounce the X as “ten”. I also love using it and am looking forward to the new iPhone experience that iOS 12 will bring.

But, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR? Seriously? Let me see if I got this right.

iPhone Xs Emoji

(In case it’s not obvious, that’s a man singer emoji — the closest thing to a tenor in the emoji character set. Don’t you just hate it when someone explains their jokes? 🙄)

My cell phone has a first name,
It’s I-P-H-O-N-E.
My cell phone has a second name,
It’s X-S-M-A-X.
Oh, I love to use it everyday,
And if you ask me why I say,
’Cause Apple people have a way with M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G!

What’s on your wrist?

It’s not a Capital One credit card, that’s for sure. Well, I take that back. I have an Watch Series 1 and I do have a CapOne credit card in the Apple Wallet app and can use it via ApplePay from the watch. After my iPhone X, the Watch is my favorite Apple device. The Watch Series 4 is the announcement from this week’s event that is most drool worthy for me. Will I buy one? I’m thinking it’s time to upgrade, yes.

Apple gives developers a hug.

Apple gives developers a hug.

Dave Wiskus writing for Macworld:

Those of us who make software tend to see our industry through the lens of what came before us: a scrappy group of nerds banded together to start software companies and change the world. It’s easy to continue to cast ourselves as the underdogs, but the truth is that we won. Technology is cool now. People are buying computing devices and software at a rate unmatched in history. All kinds of people like this stuff, and now Apple is empowering and encouraging us to make software for all kinds of people.

As a user (not a developer), I agree with Mr. Wiskus’ take on Apple’s WWDC keynote. Last year I thought we were seeing the emerging of Tim Cook’s Apple. This year it’s beginning to blossom.

Be sure to watch the short WWDC Developer Reactions video.

The Dark Side

If you are looking at buying Google because of the Android OS, don’t waste your time. Google is a great company, and the plethora of Android devices only serves to extend their lead when it comes to services like Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps. However, the company can’t police the use of Android in the way that Apple can control the iOS system. If you are looking at buying Amazon, do it because of their huge competitive advantage of low prices, fast shipping, Amazon Prime, and more. However, if you are looking for a great device company, look at Apple. The company has tight control over its hardware and software offerings, and the difference in quality apps on iOS versus Android is stark.

Chad Henage, writing for The Motley Fool shares his thoughts about switching from an iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 — and back — in a piece entitled, My Journey to the “Dark Side”.