WWDC 2021 Wishes

Apple’s annual developer conference is around the corner, and there seems to be eager anticipation in the tech community. I’m excited as a consumer (okay, kind of a fanboy). When it comes to #mobilecomputing, the Apple ecosystem is tops, yet this year’s WWDC could raise the bar higher. I’ve got a few things I hope to see.


Widget Wishlist

First up, new and improved widgets. I love the clean and simple design direction Apple took last year with iOS14. Now I’d like to see widgets become actionable. For example, the Reminders widget could allow you to check things off a list in the widget without needing to open the app. Also, I think the Clock widget should have a digital option (2×4 size). Just let me place a large digital clock on my home screen (like Android) – thanks. Next, I noticed that the News app has a widget option for “full screen” 4×6 size, but only on the “Today” screen (left of Home) and only using the “For You” section of News. In iOS15, this 4×6 option should be enabled for all widgets on any home screen, and for the News app it should extend beyond the “For You” section. Finally, iPadOS15 should allow widgets to be placed anywhere like iOS14 while also gaining the above improvements.

iPad Upgrades

I plan to buy an iPad in the near future, eager to use it as my primary computer (because, “What’s a computer?”) I love the last few big updates iPadOS received (desktop-class web browser, Smart Connector, full native mouse/cursor support, app Sidebars) that make iPad more computer-like than ever. But there’s still room for improvement. I’d like to see multi-user support, so I could let my kids use my iPad with their own user account for example. Also, I think it’d be good for iPad to finally support Xcode and other “pro” apps because it would further legitimize iPad as a “real” productivity device. This, in turn, would spur greater focus on iPad development in the long-term. Another big area in need of advancement is multi-tasking. I think Apple should strive to simplify gestures used for app management without sacrificing multi-app capability. At the same time, I think iPad should never enable windowed apps like on macOS or Windows. Apps should remain full-screen or split-screen, but there must be a way to make multi-app control more intuitive.

Outside of software for iPadOS, I have a specific request for Apple on the hardware side. Please give the entry level iPad base model (at $329) 64GB of RAM instead of the paltry 32GB. Seriously. Or at least compromise and add a 64GB option mid-way at $379. Another choice: make the 32GB model cost just $299 and the 128GB model cost only $399.

watchOS

For Apple Watch, there’s at least one app sorely missing: Notes. The next watchOS should add the Notes app simply to view notes on my wrist and enable voice dictation to create new notes. Speaking to my watch to add short text snippets to iMessage or compose quick email works great, so it would be easy to use for capturing a new note on the go. It’d be nice to just raise my wrist and say, “Note to self…” and fill in the blanks, creating a new note in the default section of the app.

iCloud

I understand that Apple is a traditional hardware/software company. Its paradigm is for consumers to use native apps on local devices. I like this a lot. But we do live in a mobile first, cloud first world where web apps are growing better and more prevalent than ever before. With that in mind, Apple should seriously revamp its iCloud website. It works. It’s nice. But it has feature and design disparity with its native app counterparts. And it’s slow. Because iCloud.com could use much improvement, it does disservice to the many web users who happen to not compute on an Apple device. Otherwise, the iCloud sync service works well in the background yet could be more reliable. I’ve seen a few inexplicable sync issues within Notes between iCloud and my iPhone. Thankfully, the issues always get sorted out in time, but they don’t instill confidence in the service.

Apple is likely to surprise developers and consumers with new and improved features across all its devices. I hope they do their usual and add more quality of life/ease of use things, the kind of stuff that “just works” in daily life. I’m sure there will be a lot of upgrades related to the M1 CPU with new software/hardware that relies on it. That stuff is exciting because, if nothing else, it shows that Apple continues to innovate. The Apple ecosystem as a whole will benefit.

Of Macs and iPads

So how’s your month of May going? Mine has been adventurous. The new company I work for turned a corner last week, so things are looking better. We were given new laptops with VPN remote access to the new-to-us servers. My former dual-monitor set up was replaced with a new Ultrawide curved display. Best of all, an office building was bought; we should start moving in sometime next month. I shouldn’t have to work from home much longer and will be able to finally resume some new “normal.” Meanwhile, I’ve been swamped with imminent deadlines for my structural steel design work. I think I’m going to make it.


With that out of the way, I’ll get back to computing. In my previous post, I contemplated switching from my Chromebook to a Windows desktop PC. Well, that’s changed a bit. As I was pricing a custom build on NewEgg and then considering an off-the-shelf PC from Best Buy, I noticed that the best price point I could get to for my needs was around $700. It occurred to me that the Mac mini is the same price. Then it clicked in my brain – since I like using mostly Apple stock software for my personal stuff everyday, I should just buy a Mac desktop instead of a Windows desktop.

This was a no-brainer idea. I was a bit surprised that I had not been more adamant about it before. This was also a relief because it helped me resist sliding down the switching path into the Microsoft camp. I need to stop switching ecosystems and just stick with one (assuming that’s possible for me). Living in Apple land can be expensive, but to me it’s worth it.

As I thought more about a Mac mini, I began to remember the fact that almost every single app I would use on a Mac is also pre-installed on the device I’ve been wanting all along – the iPad. Can you guess where this is going next? So then I figured why not just stick with switching from a Chromebook back to an iPad? It has all the apps I really need, and the entry-level iPad costs much less than a Mac mini.

In 2019, when I switched from iPad to Chromebook, I needed a solid solution for simple text input and manipulation. I also needed a desktop — not a mobile — web browser. It’s been almost 2 years since then, and in that time, Apple has made the budget model iPad compatible with the Apple Smart Keyboard and given it full native mouse/trackpad support. The iPad is also now more computer-like than ever with a desktop-class browser that many people say really works, and it remains affordable and accessible. So it looks like I’ll be switching back in 2021. Surprise, surprise.

Also, the Apple Pencil looks compelling. I’ll probably buy one and will need an iPad to go with it.

Apple Sprung New Announcements

Earlier this week, Apple announced a bunch of stuff. The hour long “show” was exciting and well made. But once the pizzazz was over and the glitter settled to the floor, I looked at things more objectively, as matter of fact. Also, the one thing I was hoping to hear…it was not announced.


The new iPhone color, purple, looks delicious. It even caught my wife’s interest. She’s overdue for an upgrade from her original iPhone SE, so I expect that to happen this year. This purple iPhone 12 (or maybe the 11) could do nicely.

As for Podcasts, I like that the app will be updated. I just want to see it remove the card overlay interface and instead adopt the Apple Music UI. Simple. And consistent. Otherwise, it works fine as is. I think I heard there was another user interaction improvement: tapping the podcast will bring up the description instead of playing it immediately. That’s a welcome change. Now, about Podcast Subscriptions? That seems like it could be a big deal, but I don’t know how it will play out. Let’s wait and see.

The new iMacs look fabulous! I’ll take orange, please. Oh wait, those prices are…higher. Overall, I think it’s a good value, even at $1,500 for an Orange iMac. But that is more than twice the cost of a Mac mini at $700. Yes, the mini lacks all the peripherals, but those are easy to come by. I already own them, in fact. If I really want to get back into macOS on the desktop, a mini is far and above a better deal to me. Even if it only comes in bland shiny gray (silver).

Onto the iPad Pros. I think it’s very smart to use the new M1 chips in the iPads because the marketing is consistent to both consumers and developers — all your apps will work on either Mac, iPad, or both. It’s a clear message on a unified platform. The M1 in an iPad also strongly suggests that iPadOS software should become ever more powerful for “pro” apps and the like.

All that said about the iPad Pros, I still prefer the iPad plain because it basically does the same things but for much less cost. Especially if the entry-level iPad is used as a tablet rather than a full-on computer, then it’s a better deal over the pros. But there is just one thing wrong. The base iPad at $329 is still limited to a meager 32GB of storage. I know many people can stream almost everything, but that pittance of storage is still too small to load much more than the stock apps. You might get one big game and one big movie stored on the iPad before it’s running low on space. The one thing Apple should have done for the iPad is give it 64GB of storage to start with. I think that will happen in the Fall. I hope.

Apple TV 4K got some needed upgrades, but it still costs too much. The old HD version should not cost more than $99. My Roku plays Apple TV+ content and it AirPlays screen-mirroring from my iPhone, and it only cost me around $60. Come on, Apple. I’m pretty sure the company could sell more Apple TV devices at a lower cost and make up for revenue/profit in sales volume. Seriously.

The only real new thing Apple announced was AirTag. This seems cool, like it could be useful. I’m glad it’s affordable by itself, but it’s kind of a bad joke that the AirTag accessories made by Apple cost more than the AirTag itself. Even for Apple, this seems surprising. I’d like to buy an AirTag, but since my iPhone 8 Plus lacks the new U1 chip, it doesn’t support UWB. That means I would miss the cool ultra-fine locating capabilities with AirTag. And that, to me, isn’t worth it. So eventually, after I someday buy a U1 equipped iPhone, then I’ll likely get some AirTags. I can wait like I did for Apple Watch. Let the new technology mature over a few years, then buy into it. Then again, since one AirTag is only $29, I could easily just drop one into my EDC bag if nothing else. I think I will. Start simple. It’s mobile technology for your other stuff.

Overall, it’s nice to see Apple continue to innovate or iterate, always pushing some progress forward. It’s still my favorite platform to compute on, though I use Windows and ChromeOS too. I’m still loving my iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch. Apple sets a high standard, which affects the overall computer industry. The competition ups their game and advancement is made all around. I like it. More please.

New Macs And A New iPhone

This week in Mobile Computing, two things happened. New Macs arrived; so did an iPhone.

First, Apple finally revealed the start of its move to the new brains and brawn of its Mac devices: their in-house custom built chip called “M1.” The hype was high in the announcement, with claims of high power/speed plus crazy long battery life. Initial benchmarks look promising if not surprising. Did Apple under-promise and over-deliver?

Second, after passing on my iPhone 7 to join the Android life with a new Moto G Power phone earlier this year…I switched back! Now I’m enjoying my new-to-me iPhone 8 Plus; I missed iPhone. 


M1 Macs

Not gonna lie: the new M1 MacBook Air and Mac mini are compelling devices. Apple kinda gushed on the big-picture tech specs during their announcement this week. This geek was impressed.

Apple already has big mind-share and market prowess as an aspirational brand of just-works mobile computing, and I see no signs of abatement. It’s hard to resist. Only time will tell, though, if their new custom Mac chips will land well. Will this be just another iterative change or a transformative one?

What’s the big deal, really, about an M1 MacBook Air, for example? Well, on top of what’s already good about the device, now it’s:

  • Quieter or silent (fanless)
  • Faster (speed)
  • Stronger (more powerful)
  • Longer (much better battery life)

So if the MacBook Air was only very good before, now it’s great. Or if you thought it was great before, now it’s superb. To me, it’s all looking to be a bigger change than the mere annual spec bump, by far.

And this is just the start.

iPhone 8 Plus

Over the years, almost all of my Apple purchases have been of used devices. Because Apple stuff is such high quality to begin with, buying a three year old iPhone like I did this week is hardly sacrificing anything. In fact, I got a fantastic smartphone for a fraction of its initial price tag.

The particular one I bought is in serious like-new condition too! It had been encased and screen protected, and it even included the original unused EarPods. It’s truly immaculate.

I’m extra happy for this iPhone since it’s my first dual-camera and phablet version (I previously owned an iPhone 4, 6, and 7).

While I did trade off a few things in leaving behind my Moto G Power Android phone (most notably the nice ultra-wide camera and mega-long 2 to 3-day battery), I gained some great stuff: NFC for contactless payments, great water resistance for spills and pool drops, a 2x telephoto lens, and wireless charging for saving wear and tear on re-plugging in a cable a million times.

Above all, though, I got an iPhone. I missed it. The system and apps and hardware are just so nice and easy to use. And the main draw in switching back, for me, was the fact my wife and son had kept their iPhones.

I was hoping and kinda planning on leading my family to switch over to Android with me, but that didn’t happen! So with my kids using my old iPhone 7 under the Family Sharing I had set up, and with my wife sticking to Apple Music and iMessage etc, I kinda had to go back. Practically, it just made more sense and works out better overall.

It’s the Apple ecosystem that pulls you in and keeps you. And frankly, I really like it. I had even quit using Spotify, embracing Apple Music beforehand. The switcheroo was a no-brainer.

For a moment, when I was prepping to leave my Android phone, I had some anxiety. I wasn’t sure I could de-couple from it, being so entrenched in the Google-verse. Long story short, I just went for it. And right away, I was so glad to be using an iPhone again.

Apple Centric

So yeah, I guess I give up. Take my money, Apple. I’m interested in more, because the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software gets better the more invested you are. AirPods, HomePod mini, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook Air, MagSafe, rumored Tile-finding devices… What do I want for Christmas this year? Hmmm…

Yet I’m not too enamored. I’m still loving my simple and affordable Chromebook and, so far, am still relying on many Google apps and services or other 3rd-party ones.

Mobile Computing is my thing. It’s also Apple’s, and I think they do it best. Yet Google is strongest at cloud services. As always, I hope to pick what works best, not break the bank, and resist some marketing hype. But in the end, I’m still only human.

Hey, Siri! It’s me, Jason; I’m back.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Taking The iPad Further

In a few days, Apple will have an event where maybe they’ll reveal new iPads. And since my iPad is my computer, I’m very interested to see what direction Apple takes iPad next. Will it become even more capable than it already is? And a bigger question, will the iPad become more of Apple’s main focus for the future of computing?

When the iPad Pro, for example, was first announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook prefaced it by declaring,

“iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.”

He went on to ask how Apple could take the iPad further. Their answer was basically 3 things: make the screen bigger, add a pencil/stylus, and add a better keyboard.

So if Apple reveals new iPads this week, how will they take it further? Add more hardware or software, or maybe both, to make it even more capable?

Most understand that putting Apple’s latest and greatest processor inside the newest iPad would for sure make it much more powerful. But there’s more to making hardware work than adding raw power.

Many people still think that a mouse and a keyboard is the best way to use a computer, and the iPad’s touch interaction, while simple and convenient, is just not as capable. Yet keyboards have been available for the iPad since it first came out. Could Apple now do even more than their Smart Keyboard?

What if they made a clamshell-like keyboard case for iPad so that it looked and acted more like a laptop? It could be similar to the Brydge Keyboard. I think that would actually propel iPad further because it would allow multiple angles of viewing/typing whereas the Smart Keyboard only has one fixed angle on a flimsy multi-hinged folding case. I think a laptop like keyboard case would also sit more sturdily on your lap.

What about a mouse? I don’t think Apple would enable a mouse and cursor for iPad because it would diminish the simplicity of the tablet. It could also cause too much divergence or feature disparity between iPad and iPhone. In short, it would cross the line by adding too much complexity.

Besides hardware, what about software and apps? Well, it’s already been recently announced that Adobe is bringing full Photoshop to iPad. This popular app has traditionally been only for the desktop computer. So Photoshop coming to iPad seems to be a strong signal that the iPad is being considered more like a “real computer.”

Other software moves that could signal Apple taking iPad further might be announcing some of its Mac only apps now being made for iPad. Or they could add new capabilities to the Files app, making it more like the Finder app on the Mac. Or they could do what Apple is known for and introduce a whole new “magical” way to select and edit text with fancy but simple multi-touch gestures that make using a mouse with a cursor seem cumbersome.

The most radical idea might be a combo of hardware and software advances: a laptop like keyboard case that has a recessed spot in which you place an iPhone so that it auto-magically enables something called touchpad mode. The glass screen of the iPhone would mimic the glass trackpad of MacBooks, including a little vibrating feedback when you touch it. This would of course mean a cursor of some kind would need to appear on the iPad screen.

Whatever Apple does, it will be interesting to see. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying my 4 year old non-pro iPad, which still makes me feel like the future is now.

What would you like to see in a new iPad? Would you use an iPad more if you could use a mouse with it? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.