Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kuo predicts TrueDepth Camera and Face ID for 2018 iPads →

Ming-Chi Kuo:

We predict iOS devices to be equipped with TrueDepth Camera in 2018F will include iPhone X and 2018 new iPhone and iPad models. Because of this, we believe more developers will pay attention to TrueDepth Camera/ facial recognition related applications. We expect Apple’s (US) major promotion of facial recognition related applications will encourage the Android camp to also dedicate more resources to developing hardware and facial recognition applications.

TrueDepth and Face ID will obviously make it into iPad (and Mac), but it’s a question of when. Unless Apple can overcome the low yields on the 3D sensor they are currently experiencing, I think Kuo’s expectation may be a bit of a stretch for next year. Even more so if the iPhone 9 (?) is also going to be upgraded to TrueDepth.

Next year is going to be even more interesting than this one, if only to see where Apple will take these brand new technologies next.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why Apple’s chips are faster than Qualcomm’s →

Gary Sims from Android Authority does a good job breaking down the reason why Apple’s A11 Bionic chip outperforms Qualcomm’s recent offerings.

Gary on the difference between Apple, Qualcomm, and others:

Apple designs processors that use ARM’s 64-bit instruction architecture. That means that Apple’s chips use the same underlying RISC architecture as Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei and others. The difference is that Apple holds an architectural license with ARM, which allows it to design its own chips from scratch. […]

This is widely-known. Also, Apple’s purchase of PA Semi in 2008 has made significant contribution to their chip gains.

On A11 Bionic:

The six CPU cores are made up of two high-performance cores (codenamed Monsoon), and four energy-efficient cores (codenamed Mistral). Unlike the Apple A10, which also had a cluster of high performance cores and a cluster of energy-efficient cores, the A11 is able to use all six cores simultaneously.

Emphasis his. This is really key when it comes to the jump we’re seeing. By comparison, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 (an octa-core processor), can’t use all cores at the same time.

Geekbench Results

Gary compared the A11 Bionic, A10X Fusion, and Snapdragon 835 via Geekbench. The results aren’t even close.

Benchmark A11 Bionic A10X Fusion Snapdragon 835
Single Core 4260 3399 1998
Multi-Core 10221 5386 6765

These results really speak for themselves. You can say “they’re just benchmarks and not real-world comparisons”, but I’ve lost count of how many times Android-to-iPhone switchers say how fast, smooth, and seamless the experience is on iOS. This is largely thanks to Apple’s silicon. 1

On the difference between Apple’s cores (two points):

First, Apple had a head-start over just about everyone when it comes to 64-bit ARM based CPUs. Although ARM itself announced the Cortex-A57 back in October 2012, the proposed timeline was that ARM’s partners would ship the first processors during 2014. But Apple had a 64-bit ARM CPU in devices during 2013. The company has since managed to capitalize on that early lead and has produced a new CPU core design every year.

Second, Apple’s SoC efforts are tightly coupled to its handset releases. Designing a high performance mobile CPU is hard. It is hard for Apple; for ARM; for Qualcomm; for everyone. Because it is hard, it takes a long time. The Cortex-A57 was announced in October 2012, but it didn’t appear in a smartphone until April 2014. That is a long lead time. That lead time is changing.

For example: the Kirin 960 in the Huawei Mate 9 was released just 8 months after the ARM Mali-G71 GPU was delivered to Huawei. There is an argument that since Apple does everything in-house, then that tight coupling allows it to shave a few precious weeks off the development cycle.

Both of these points are highly important. Apple started pushing early for 64-bit architecture, which was called a marketing gimmick by a Qualcomm exec back in 2013, and even questioned by some Apple diehards. It paid off, as most will agree (including Gary) that Apple is now two years ahead of everyone else in this arena. Looks like Apple knew what they were doing after all. Go figure.

Bottom line: Apple has been making bespoke silicon for their products since 2013 and the tangible results are becoming even more apparent with each new release. Also, I’m willing to be Apple is saving a whole lot more than just “a few precious week” off the development cycle for these chips.

Steve always said Apple wanted to own as much of the technology stack as possible in order to make hardware and software that work in tandem. That is never more true than it is today, further taking into account the W-series chip for Bluetooth audio and the Watch’s S-series SIP. As for new territory, the A11 Bionic has a first-ever Apple-designed GPU. They are even rumored to be working on a chip to specifically tackle AI tasks. See a pattern emerging here?

Maybe before long, we’ll see Apple’s silicon replace Intel’s in the Mac. It’s been a long-standing theory, but one that is starting to sound more plausible with every A-series release. With these kinds of gains between generations, an ARM-powered Mac could be a force to be reckoned with.


  1. Software, too. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

More on Face ID from Craig Federighi →

Matthew Panzarino from TechCrunch interviewed Craig in regards to the many questions surrounding Face ID since its introduction on Tuesday. There’s a lot of great content in the article, but here’s a few excerpts:

On privacy and security:

When it comes to customers — users — Apple gathers absolutely nothing itself. Federighi was very explicit on this point.

“We do not gather customer data when you enroll in Face ID, it stays on your device, we do not send it to the cloud for training data,” he notes.

On accessing face data/providing it to law enforcement:

The simple answer, which is identical to the answer for Touch ID, by the way, is that Apple does not even have a way to give it to law enforcement. Apple never takes possession of the data, anonymized or otherwise. When you train the data it gets immediately stored in the Secure Enclave as a mathematical model that cannot be reverse-engineered back into a “model of a face.” Any re-training also happens there. It’s on your device, in your SE, period.

I’ll say it again: Apple is the privacy and security tech company because we are not the product.

How to temporarily disable Face ID:

On older phones the sequence was to click 5 times [on the power button], but on newer phones like iPhone 8 and iPhone X, if you grip the side buttons on either side and hold them a little while — we’ll take you to the power down [screen]. But that also has the effect of disabling Face ID,” says Federighi.

Matt on the reliance of Face ID:

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has been in a position to be using it for weeks or months says it’s incredibly reliable no matter the light level. The combination of using the RGB camera and the IR emitter plus the dot projector covers a wide array of scenarios that allow it to be very reliable and very fast.

If you lift your phone and swipe up immediately, there’s a good chance that the Face ID system will have performed its authentication fast enough to have unlocked your device by the time you finish your swipe. That’s how fast it is.

This is a bit of an aside, but I’d also like to point out here that Face ID emits no visible light. I’ve seen some misconceptions on social media that it’s going to be shining a light at your face. Nope. It uses only infrared and existing light, which means it will work in darkness without any more light than is coming off of the phone’s screen.

This was surprising to me, that people really thought it was going to shine a visible light.

I feel confident Face ID will work well. Apple wouldn’t ship it if it didn’t. It’s also clear this will eventually replace Touch ID for every applicable Apple product — and this is only generation one of the feature. Can you imagine how much better it’s going to get over the coming years? I could even see a path for it to be in a future Apple TV (for authenticating purchases and whatnot). This is only the beginning of how our computers will start to know us and our intent. Exciting times.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Key Notes: Steve Jobs, iPhone X, 8, Watch Series 3

Welcome to Key Notes, where I highlight all the stuff that catches my attention after an Apple keynote.

Apple announced a good helping of stuff today, most of which was confirmed over the weekend by the unexpected leak of the iOS 11 Golden Master for iPhone X. Apple didn’t let that stop the magic, though, juxtaposing a mood that ranged from somber to excitement.

Key Notes for September 12, 2017

Steve Jobs Dedication

  • Tasteful, somber, and heartwarming all at the same time. This was the best introduction to a keynote Apple has ever had. Tim Cook nailed the speech.

Retail

  • Angela Ahrendts took the stage to talk about Apple Stores being referred to as town squares. It’s a narrative they’ve pushed before, but it’s coming across a little forced. Apple Stores are usually always at capacity. People will stumble across all the Apple Today stuff by happenstance.

Apple Watch Series 3

  • Cellular is an obvious progression. Obviously Apple would ensure battery life wouldn’t be an issue.
  • Streaming music directly from the Watch is going to be badass. Makes the Watch essentially an LTE iPod.
  • Phone calls are in and your number is shared with your phone. Glad Ming-Chi Kuo got this one wrong.
  • I love the red dot on the crown, and red/grey are my favorite color (bet you couldn’t tell). However, it makes me wonder if all future LTE models will have have a red-dot crown? I think eventually it’s possible all Apple Watch models will just come with LTE. Definitely a curious design choice, nonetheless. It’s almost as if Apple decided they needed a way to differentiate the product since the casing is the same.
  • Apple says it has an ‘upgraded’ dual-core processor, which is short of saying it’s a whole new SOC. Sounds like a small speed bump, which could be OK.
  • I want the Ceramic Grey Edition model so bad.
  • I wonder how fast apps that use LTE will respond.

Apple TV 4K HDR

  • Logical upgrades. UI will definitely benefit in terms of responsiveness from the A10X chip.
  • Finally, the Apple TV will have a Gigabit Ethernet connection, although the fourth generation still ships with an inexcusable 10/100 jack.
  • Can’t believe they didn’t redesign the Siri remote’s button layout.

All three new iPhones

  • We’re back to the glass sandwich design, just like the iPhone 4. This is a natural evolution of the iPhone 6 design to accommodate “wireless” charging (read: Qi charging). Hopefully the stronger glass holds up better to falls unlike the iPhone 4. The stronger glass is most likely the reason Qi charging took them so long.
  • True Tone display makes it to the iPhone. Very nice. After using it on my iPad Pro 10.5-inch for a few months, I can say I much prefer it to my iPhone 7’s screen.
  • Black, Jet Black, and Rose Gold finishes are no more. Kind of perplexing, especially for the iPhone 8. Rose Gold has been a huge hit.
  • Portrait Mode selfies and Portrait Lighting are great. No longer need another person to take a great Portrait Mode picture of yourself.
  • 4K 60fps video recording is insane for a phone.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

  • It seems pretty clear this form factor will remain until such a time when iPhone X’s design is more affordable/possible to produce in mass quantities.
  • 25% louder stereo speakers is a nice little addition.
  • Poor iPhone 8 was immediately overshadowed by…

iPhone X

  • Why, oh, why are they pronouncing it “ten”??? I was wrong about this one. So many people will still call it iPhone “ex”, anyway. What happens in two years when we have ‘iPhone 10’?
  • Dat screen. Can’t wait to see this thing in person. They did, indeed embrace the notch. The clip of Spider-Man they played looked odd with the video playing above/below the notch. No Pro Motion (120Hz) refresh rate, though. Wondering if it will cheapen the experience any.
  • Face ID is futuristic and way more than just a backup plan for Touch ID. I also accurately predicted much of how it will work. It’s hilarious how many folks apparently thought Apple would just do basic image comparison to identify your face.
  • The iPhone line now has glaring UX differences for everyday actions (unlocking, going home, switching apps, etc.). I think Apple framed it well in the sense that this is what all iPhones will be like in the years to come. Maybe implementing these changes on the entire line in one fell swoop would be too drastic.
  • On a similar note, Apple didn’t completely do away with a home indicator, but I really like the move to gestural navigation. Getting into the App Switcher looks like a replacement for the 3D Touch left-edge gesture that was removed in iOS 11. Only sad thing is the iPhone 8 and below won’t have it, but Apple must have felt it crucial to not further complicate the UX across the entire line.
  • I’m surprised there weren’t any features on the lock screen that only turn on part of the display to take advantage of OLED.
  • Animoji look like hilarious fun. I’m stunned how well the mouth tracking worked in Craig’s demo.
  • The A11 Bionic chip is fucking insane (both the specs and branding). That is to say, branding it as ‘Bionic’ is just strange.
  • Apple is now making its own GPUs. Game changer.
  • Not much focus on real AR, which I thought was a glaring omission.
  • AppleCare+ will be a whopping $200 by itself.

Other

  • AirPower mat to charge iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods is something I need in my life. Too bad it’s not coming until next year.
  • I wonder how much the new AirPods inductive charging case is going to cost.
  • No mention of HomePod was a surprise. Possible October event to announce availability along with iMac Pro?

Podcast

  • Stay tuned for a new episode of Gaddgict’s podcast, Fatherboard coming later tonight! My Dad and I are going to discuss all this and more.