Monday, May 7, 2018

All apps must support iPhone X resolution starting in July →

From the Apple Developer site:

Starting July 2018, all iOS app updates submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK and must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X.

Apple is very generous when it comes to enforcing new standards, such as this. I won’t pretend to know the complexities that are managing the design of an app with a significant user base, but using apps that still aren’t updated for iPhone X is a glaringly bad experience. For instance, the Roku, Ring, and Alexa apps were only recently updated to support the Super Retina Display. Up until then, I used to twinge every time I had to launch one of them.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Wired’s ‘4 Best Smartphones’ list omits iPhone X

Wired published a list of ‘The 4 Best Smartphones Money Can Buy In 2018’ earlier today, crowning Google Pixel 2 as ‘the best overall’, while ommitting iPhone X.

Jeffrey Van Camp for Wired:

There are a lot of good reasons people may choose iOS over Android, but right now Google’s Pixel 2 and larger Pixel 2 XL are our picks for best overall smartphone. Google has made it super easy to buy its flagship phones unlocked, and all Pixel phones get security and software updates direct like clockwork.

Well kudos to Google for doing what Apple has always done. I still wouldn’t go near a Pixel phone. Google is way too early of a hardware manufacturer to be trusted (privacy reasons aside).

Jeffrey on the exclusion of iPhone X:

While we love the spiffy iPhone X, let’s get down to brass tacks: the cheaper iPhone 8 (and iPhone 8 Plus) are virtually identical in the ways that count.

Define ‘ways that count’. If he means specific components, then yes, there are core similarities. However, there are also core differences in terms of components (i.e. TrueDepth camera system and edge-to-edge screen). These components result in the individual user experiences of both models being radically different. There are even key UI elements that are different. If Jeffrey is saying these aren’t ‘ways that count’, then he’s missing the big picture. iPhone X isn’t just the future, it feels like the future. iPhone 8 is likely the last iteration of a tried-and-true 11 year old design. Let’s not pretend its going to be sticking around forever like the headphone jack. 1

While I think iPhone X is for everyone, not everyone may be ready for iPhone X. But to omit it completely is folly. In truth, iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X all deserve to be on this list.

  1. Jeffrey also groans at the lack of a headphone jack across both Pixel and iPhone. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

iPhone X Review: Magic Glass

Remember the delight of experiencing iPhone for the first time back in 2007? That vision of the future, free from flip phones, T9 texting, WAP websites, carrier logos plastered all over your device — the list goes on.

Ten years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and there is still no mistaking the clear and apparent magic dwelling in every iPhone. Never has that been more apparent than iPhone X — Apple’s modern masterpiece.

As much as the original was a vision of the future, so is iPhone X, as a wondrous piece of magic glass.

Apple has never been afraid of changing the iPhone experience on us when new technology demands it. Never before, though, have they changed it so radically than is apparent with iPhone X. Never before has Apple released three different flagship phones with differing interface elements. You know what they say — never say never. Apple is keeping us on our toes.

It’s a year of massive change for iPhone, so let’s dive in with my most extensive review yet.

Read on

Friday, November 3, 2017

iPhone X Tidbits

A collection of Interesting stuff about Apple’s new iPhone X. I’ll be updating this as more is discovered.

11/3 at 5:30pm:

Apple’s CYA Article on OLED Color Shifting and Burn-In

Apple has posted an article with more information on the Super Retina Display. Of most interest, they call out the normalcy of OLED that is color shifting and possible burn-in:

If you look at an OLED display off-angle, you might notice slight shifts in color and hue. This is a characteristic of OLED and is normal behavior. With extended long-term use, OLED displays can also show slight visual changes. This is also expected behavior and can include “image persistence” or “burn-in,” where the display shows a faint remnant of an image even after a new image appears on the screen. This can occur in more extreme cases such as when the same high contrast image is continuously displayed for prolonged periods of time. We’ve engineered the Super Retina display to be the best in the industry in reducing the effects of OLED “burn-in.”

To mitigate this, Apple recommends keeping iPhone X updated, using auto-brightness, setting Auto Lock to a short duration, and avoiding the display of static images at maximum brightness for long periods of time.

These are normal concerns with any OLED panel. From my personal experience, the off-angle color shifting is noticeable, but not terrible. Apple says they engineered the OLED panel in iPhone X to be the best ever, so this is more likely some good “CYA” in the event customers experience light burn in after a lot of use. Hey, it could be worse.

11/3 at 2pm:

Face ID in Action

The Verge used a camcorder’s night vision mode to capture video of the iPhone X’s dot projector in action. This is very similar to Microsoft Kinect. Apple of course bought PrimeSense, the company behind the original Kinect back in 2013. Today, we witness the fruits of their labor.

iFixit Teardown

iFixit has performed their annual new-iPhone teardown, and it doesn’t disappoint. From reading through the teardown, it’s clear iPhone X is an engineering marvel. Take a look at the L-shaped battery composed of two cells, the stacked logic board, the TrueDepth camera system, and more. Unreal!

iPhone X — A Guided Tour

I picked up my iPhone X this morning and am absolutely loving it so far. Face ID hasn’t failed once, and the screen is so good it almost doesn’t look real. I’ll be making plenty of notes over the next few days in preparation for my full review in about a week’s time.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

iPhone X Review Strategy and Roundup

We’re only halfway through the week and Apple has been throwing nothing but curveballs — fitting since game seven of the World Series is tonight (go Dodgers!). Before we dive into a few of the reviews, here’s what I think could be happening.

Apple’s iPhone X Review Strategy

Typically, all major tech publications, independent publishers, etc. receive evaluation units for new Apple products about a week before pre-order of the product itself. Then, there’s an publishing embargo put in place until the week of on-sale. Once the embargo lifts, the proverbial floodgates open to a multitude of reviews. 1 This time, Apple has forgone the same old formula and opted to provide varying degrees of hands-on time with iPhone X.

Review Types

Three distinct types of reviews can be derived from Apple’s strategy.

  • First Impressions. Quite a few small-time YouTubers and non-technical publications were invited to an Apple-hosted event where they had hands-on time with iPhone X. This resulted in quite a few repetitive videos showcasing the design, Face ID, Animoji, and the TrueDepth camera’s portrait lighting mode. Less technical in content, these videos are sure to appeal mostly to the followers of said groups (read: millennials and the non-technical masses).
  • 24-Hour Reviews. A second group of technically-minded folks and publications received a mere 24 hours with iPhone X, resulting in madly-dashed quasi-reviews or first impressions.
  • Standard Reviews. The third and most privileged group received a week with iPhone X, the typical pre-embargo timeframe.

Why the change?

There has been much speculation (mostly negative) as to why Apple would change their standard formula for this important part of a new device’s launch. Not helped by questionable articles such as this, most theories center around the concept that the reasoning could be to temper expectations for Face ID not working as well as promised. My gut tells me this isn’t exactly right, but not far from the path. Most that have spent time with iPhone X have indicated Face ID works well, while a few have been more vocal about its misses.

There doesn’t seem to be an exact correlation as to which publishers received more or less time with iPhone X. For instance, John Gruber only received his within the last 48 hours, and he is generally regarded as the go-to for Apple coverage. On the other hand, Steven Levy spent a week with iPhone X — quite fitting, he being one of the three early-access reviewers for the original iPhone. Further adding to the confusion, David Pogue, another one of the early-access reviewers for the original iPhone, only received 24 hours. 2

My theory is this: Face ID meets Apple’s expectations, but after the hoopla that resulted from the Apple Watch Series 3 Wi-Fi bug which was largely a non-issue in practice, Apple may have wanted to better control the experience most reviewers would have with iPhone X by restricting their hands-on time. This is where the strategy starts to take shape.

  • First Impressions. Obvious opportunity for non-technical thoughts and opinions that increase overall hype, but should only be taken at face value. These should be seen as nothing more than a brilliant marketing move, even if technically-minded folks don’t care much for the content (e.g. yours truly).
  • 24-Hour Reviews. Given to publications either more critical of Apple than others or typically-positive Apple publishers as to not appear biased. For example, Nilay Patel from The Verge is a notoriously nit picky reviewer, especially when it comes to Apple. In his review, he was very vocal about issues he had with Face ID, and went on to wildly speculate as to the reason. I’ll quote him below to provide more context. As for not appearing biased, this could explain why Apple reviewer staples like Gruber, Pogue, and Rene Ritchie also fell into this category.
  • Standard Reviews. Steven Levy from Wired and Matthew Panzarino from TechCrunch were among the small number of folks to receive a week with iPhone X. This is Apple’s way of providing what is typically expected while taking into account the oddities described above.

This is a huge launch for Apple and a major change to the iPhone line unseen since its genesis. The message here has to be very controlled and this was their way of doing it. Before review units went out, a lot of people thought Apple would only seed a small amount of devices to reviewers. We now see they’ve done quite the opposite by offering varying degress of access while still retaining a semblance of control. I would be very surprised if this format becomes the new normal for typical product launches. HomePod and iMac Pro are expectedly up next, so we’ll see.

Review Roundup

Without further ado, on to the reviews.

Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

At several points, the unlock procedure worked so well in pitch black or at weird angles that I laughed out loud. You get over the amazement pretty quickly, but it feels wild the first few dozen times you do it.

It works so quickly and seamlessly that after a while, you forget it’s unlocking the device — you just raise and swipe. Every once in a while you’ll catch the Face ID animation as it unlocks. Most of the time, though, it just goes. This, coupled with the new “all swipe” interface, makes using the phone and apps feel smooth and interconnected.

This has been my favorite review. Matt took his iPhone X to Disneyland, which is a real workout for any phone. As a result, you’re left with an extremely palatable sense of what it’s capable of.

Steven Levy for Wired:

Filling the phone surface with the screen has another effect: There’s no longer room for the home button, an integral part of the iPhone interface since the start. Its sudden removal is one of those jarring deletions that Apple is famous for, and it requires some relearning. But that’s not necessarily bad: Any upgrade which doesn’t require new behavior is almost by definition not terribly dramatic. Plus, Apple hates buttons. In any case, Apple now requires us to swipe upwards to get to the home screen. That was easy enough. A little trickier is the swipe-and-stop required to get to the carousel of open apps; it took me awhile to get the hang of pressing down on one of the little cards representing an app in order to evoke a minus sign that allowed me to close it.

I knew I’d mastered the gestures when I found myself trying to use them on my iPad. Oops. My finger no longer drifts to the home button, but pathetically swipes upwards, to no avail. And now there’s that awkward moment when I expect the iPad to unlock itself when the camera looks at my face.

Rene Ritchie for iMore:

Apple is also individually calibrating every iPhone X before it leaves the factory. That’s not something most vendors do. (Some barely sample at all, others only a few per batch.) It’s something Apple’s been calibrating that way since it moved to DCI-P3 cinematic color gamut a couple of years ago.

Combined with Apple’s system-level color management, it means the display won’t look oddly blue or green, and some iPhone X won’t look cooler or warmer than others. They won’t look washed out and dull like Pixel 2 XL or oversaturated like Samsung Galaxy S8. They’ll all, every single one of them, look exactly the way nature and Apple intended — like an iPhone.

Just as I would expect from Apple.

Nilay Patel for The Verge:

In my early tests, Face ID worked well indoors: sitting at my desk, standing in our video studio, and waiting in line to get coffee. You have to look at it head-on, though: if it’s sitting on your desk you have to pick up the phone and look at it, which is a little annoying if you’re used to just putting your finger on the Touch ID sensor to check a notification.

I took a walk outside our NYC office in bright sunlight, and Face ID definitely had issues recognizing my face consistently while I was moving until I went into shade or brought the phone much closer to my face than usual. I also went to the deli across the street, which has a wide variety of lights inside, including a bunch of overhead florescent strips, and Face ID also got significantly more inconsistent.

As I said earlier, Nilay has been the most vocal about his Face ID issues. I won’t discount his experience completely, because it seems warranted to a degree. However, he also does hold the phone at some odd angles, as seen in the video portion of his review. I doubt direct sunlight is the issue, as nobody else seemed to draw this conclusion. Neil Cybart from Above Avalon even made this video in light of Nilay’s claims:

To appreciate technology, you need to have an open mind. Nothing is perfect, but remaining optimistic is the key to not letting these things deter you. Nobody said living on the bleeding edge of tech doesn’t come without hiccups.

I can’t wait to get my iPhone X on Friday and look forward to publishing my own review after spending some quality time with it.

Updated on November 2 at 12:30pm with a slight correction regarding those who received iPhone X for more than 24 hours.

  1. See: iPhone 8. The amount of reviews was a little overwhelming. 
  2. Walt Mossberg is the third and final early-access reviewer for the original iPhone, but is now retired. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Best Buy has a ridiculous reason for selling iPhone X $100 above retail →

So, Best Buy is selling all iPhone X models $100 above retail if you buy the phone outright (not on a payment plan). Dumb, right? Wait until you read their “reason” for doing so.

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

In a statement issued to MacRumors, Best Buy said its prices reflect a customer’s ability to “get a phone the way they want.”

“Our prices reflect the fact that no matter a customer’s desired plan or carrier, or whether a customer is on a business or personal plan, they are able to get a phone the way they want at Best Buy. Our customers have told us they want this flexibility and sometimes that has a cost,” a Best Buy spokesperson told MacRumors.

It’s almost like they tried to write a purposely awful statement.

I mean flexibility? This is the best they could come up with — a half-baked explanation for what is plain and simple price gouging? They are supposedly price matching it down to the MSRP upon request, which makes the optics of this even worse.

Also, they say customers “want this flexibility” meaning what, exactly? Surely not the $100 increase, because they continue with “sometimes that has a cost” as if they are sticking it to them. Look, Best Buy can sell it for whatever they want, but at least don’t bullshit everyone.

Side note: I find it hilarious that a company named Best Buy literally has the worst buy for iPhone X amongst retailers.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Face ID FUD →

I waited to comment on this article by Alex Webb and Sam Kim from Bloomberg wherein they report on Apple’s supposed production issues with iPhone X because I figured John Gruber would say it best (he did).

The main charge in the original article:

As of early fall, it was clearer than ever that production problems meant Apple Inc. wouldn’t have enough iPhone Xs in time for the holidays. The challenge was how to make the sophisticated phone — with advanced features such as facial recognition — in large enough numbers.

As Wall Street analysts and fan blogs watched for signs that the company would stumble, Apple came up with a solution: It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture, according to people familiar with the situation.

Apple refutes it outright, and Gruber’s take on what that means:

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said “Bloomberg’s claim that it reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication. The quality and accuracy of Face ID haven’t changed; it continues to be one in a million probability of a random person unlocking your iPhone with Face ID.”

It is extraordinary for Apple to issue a blanket “this is completely false” statement on any news story. Apple, as policy, no-comments every news story, even when they know it’s bullshit. So either this story is particularly strong bullshit, or Apple is lying, on the record, under one of their own real names (as opposed to the anonymous “an Apple spokesperson” attribution).

Gruber on perceptions of biometric authentication:

People are naturally skeptical about biometric ID systems. They were skeptical about Touch ID when it was still only rumored, just like they’re skeptical now about Face ID. Today, though, Touch ID is both trusted and familiar. So rumors claiming that Apple really wanted to get Touch ID into iPhone X but had to settle for Face ID play into both the skepticism of the new and the comfort of the familiar. FUD is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Check out John’s whole post. He really dives in, speaking to Bloomberg’s track record (and Ming-Chi Kuo’s), plus insights derived from conversations he’s had with actual Apple engineers.

Here’s my take: everyone loves a good controversy, and in the tech world, Apple controversies get the most clicks (whether they are real or manufactured). Some people love to see Apple fail, or even just the perception of Apple failing is enough. Why? I think I have a decent answer.

From where I stand, the public perception of Apple may be that they are some kind of infallible entity. However, until Liam takes over, Apple is still run by humans, and humans are anything but infallible. In other words, writing a FUD article on Apple is especially easy. Should anyone be writing an article like this? I don’t see the constructive point, regardless of the company in which its about. I wouldn’t wish it on Samsung, Google, et al. Rumors are one thing, but this is straight-up FUD.

I have faith in Face ID and think it will be transformational. Apple would have nixed it long ago if they didn’t strongly believe in it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

iPhone X pre-approvals for iPhone Upgrade Program begin on October 23 →

Following similar suit as the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, Apple will let existing iPhone Upgrade Program members obtain pre-approval for their iPhone X purchase early.

From Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program site:

Get a head start on your upgrade to iPhone X on 10.23.
Use the Apple Store app on your iPhone to get ready for pre-order so you can speed through checkout on 10.27.

According to the page, it also appears those upgrading to iPhone X will be able to take advantage of the new Trade-in Kit process:

If you’re upgrading online or with the Apple Store app, you can have your new iPhone delivered right to your door for free. Once it ships, we’ll send you a Trade-in Kit so you can send your current iPhone back to Apple. You’ll also have the option to pick up your new iPhone in a store — often the same day. When you come to the store, remember to bring your current iPhone with you to trade in.

Seems like Apple sure has learned their lesson from last year. Hiccups aside, I really like the program, having been part of it since its genesis. If you must have the latest iPhone every year, this is the way to go. Not to mention it also comes with the convenience and safety of AppleCare+.