Upgrade paths

I don’t upgrade hardware frequently. Having a constantly tight budget is the main reason, but it’s also a matter of mindset. I don’t like to waste resources. I have been taught to make the most of things and keep using them until they’re not efficient anymore. Thankfully, Macs are still long-lasting machines. And thankfully my job doesn’t involve the use of demanding software that requires constant upgrades to the latest and fastest Mac. The most telling detail in this regard is that the 12-inch PowerBook G4 has been my primary machine from 2004 to 2009. Considering that the transition from PowerPC to Intel architecture happened in 2006, I was able to keep going with a PowerPC Mac for three years and a half. When I finally decided it was time for a faster, Intel-based machine, it was mainly because that poor PowerBook couldn’t handle my primary workload very well (the 1.25 GB of maximum RAM didn’t help), but also because by 2009 I couldn’t reasonably expect support of the PowerPC architecture to last much longer; in August 2009, Apple would introduce Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and the upgrade was available only for Intel Macs. It was time for a change.

Historically, my primary Mac has lasted me at least five years. That has usually been my upgrade cycle. When purchasing a new Mac, the strategy has generally been to invest a bit more money for a better-specc’d machine — at least one tier above whatever my current needs were — so that it could hopefully keep up with the increasing software updates and demands for as long as possible. I’ve also been favouring the laptop over the desktop for its versatility: at home I’d use it in desktop configuration, attached to a big external monitor, to an external keyboard and mouse; and when I needed to work while out and about, I could unplug everything and put the laptop in my backpack.

Now, my current Mac is a true workhorse, and I can’t stress enough how satisfied I am with it. It’s a mid-2009 15-inch MacBook Pro, with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 8 GB of RAM (updated from the original 4 GB), and a 500 GB hard drive (updated from the original 320 GB hard drive). To date, it’s the primary Mac that has lasted so much, further extending my upgrade cycle. It has seen 6 different version of Mac OS X, from 10.5 Leopard to 10.11 El Capitan — which would be seven, but since I’ve skipped 10.10 Yosemite entirely, I’m not counting it — and it’s still going strong, at least for my needs.

I have however been feeling that it’s time for an upgrade for a while now. Not because I’m noticing that this MacBook Pro is on its last legs, like it happened with the PowerBook G4 in 2009 and the clamshell iBook G3/466 in 2004. I simply think the time has come for a more future-proof Mac. A machine with a better display, which would literally be a sight for sore eyes. A machine with more up-to-date technology inside (advanced Bluetooth for OS X’s Continuity features, faster Wi-Fi, faster connections, better graphics card, etc.). And, in case of a laptop, a machine with a much longer lasting battery. I’m still amazed that my 6-years-old MacBook Pro can still last about three hours on a full charge, but it’s nothing compared to the performance of the 12-inch MacBook (9 hours) or the 13-inch MacBook Air (12 hours).

So, which Mac?

That truly is the question. The strategy I was considering is as follows. My current MacBook Pro becomes the secondary machine, and this opens up different options:

  1. I could wait until the smaller iMac with retina display is introduced. I would go back to having the more powerful machine on my desktop, and a still capable MacBook Pro for when I’m on the move. Flip side: limited battery life of the aging MacBook Pro.
  2. I could opt for another, smaller laptop but with a retina display, and keep this more powerful machine in laptop configuration, while keeping the older MacBook Pro connected to the non-retina external monitor as it is now, since it’d make little sense to have a retina laptop connect to a non-retina monitor. Flip side: I work better on a bigger screen, and to keep using the older Mac in desktop configuration, while the newer Mac sits on another desk isn’t a very bright strategy — the newer Mac is supposed to be the primary machine!
  3. I could purchase a Mac mini. I would attach it to the peripherals I already have (Apple Keyboard, Magic Mouse, external monitor) and keep the MacBook Pro as my secondary Mac for when I’m out and about. This looks like the best option for someone on a limited budget. Flip side: Same as option 1, and I wouldn’t even have a retina display on the desktop.

These are just three examples, but the possible combinations and related dilemmas are numerous. Up until a few months ago, a machine I was really liking for an upgrade was the 13-inch MacBook Air, but the lack of a retina display in the whole Air family makes it a bit less ‘future-proof’ than I’d like. When the 12-inch retina MacBook was introduced, I really thought it was the best candidate as my next Mac. It’s the youngest of the line, it’s powerful enough for my needs, it’s thin and light, it has a retina display. Unfortunately it also has a terrible keyboard that makes it unsuitable for the amount of typing I do daily. The iMac Retina 5K Display is beautiful, and it would probably last me even more than my current 6-years-old MacBook Pro, but it’s way, way beyond my budget. Another machine I’d like, but is equally unattainable, is the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Lovely Mac, and just the sweet screen size for me, but the entry model is €2249 and the high-end model is €2799. It’s simply too much.

All things taken into account, the rational decision is to consider two Macs as possible candidates:

  • The (hopefully forthcoming) smaller iMac with retina display.
  • The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the mid-tier model with 256 GB flash storage ($1499/€1649).[1]

A 21.5-inch iMac with retina display wouldn’t be a bad desktop choice. I could attach to it the current 23-inch external monitor I use with the MacBook Pro. It wouldn’t have the same resolution and density of the iMac’s screen, of course, but I could use it as a secondary screen for applications and information I only need to glance at every now and then, or for palettes and toolbars when using graphics applications. I expect the price to be slightly higher than the current non-retina 21.5 iMac, so maybe something around $1400/€1600 — which would be in the same league as the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro above.

The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is very interesting. It has been improved, now featuring the same Force Touch trackpad introduced with the 12-inch MacBook, a longer battery life, and faster flash storage. It has retained the ‘good’ keyboard I know and love (okay, maybe not love, but at least it’s way more comfortable for me to type on). 256 GB of main storage isn’t a lot of space, but I can certainly optimise it and keep the majority of media archives on external volumes. I could wait a bit more and go for the 16 GB RAM upgrade straight away, too. Yes, it feels like the most likely candidate.

The crazy alternative

And then Apple introduces the iPad Pro, and it gets me thinking.

With the new productivity-friendly features introduced in iOS 9, I could revise my main workflow to make it more iPad-oriented. I could connect my Apple Wireless Keyboard to it (I’m not a fan of the Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro), and still use my Incase Origami Workstation to prop up the iPad. With the right combination of apps and Split View, and a bit of training, the iPad Pro could become an interesting alternative. Not exactly my main machine, but certainly a workspace I’d spend a lot of time in, reserving the MacBook Pro for those specific tasks that require certain desktop applications and tools, or a bigger screen real estate, or the kind of versatile multitasking the Mac OS X environment can afford. I could even extend the MacBook Pro’s already long lifespan by removing the optical drive and getting an SSD, and eventually getting also a new battery.

I know, it sounds crazy, perhaps even counter-intuitive given all my ramblings about choosing the right Mac for the next upgrade. But the iPad Pro, I admit, has truly fascinated me. So far, I’ve been perfectly happy with my old iPad 3 and have never felt the urge to get a newer and faster iPad. I have older devices, and upgrading more than one at a time is something I cannot afford. So of course the Mac has precedence and is the rational, safe route given my long-time Mac user mindset. But the challenge of getting an iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, and making this my new productivity environment is quite tempting. I can’t wait to see new iOS apps specifically designed to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s form factor and bigger screen. Again, the right software could definitely tip the scales in favour of a ‘disruptive’ iPad-oriented upgrade path for me. Interesting times ahead, indeed.


  • 1. Please note the stupid dollar/euro difference, something I complained about when discussing the retina MacBook pricing.


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iOS 9 on the iPhone 5 and the iPad 3

Two days after iOS 9 was released, I updated both my iPhone 5 and iPad 3. So I’ve spent roughly a week with the new system software, and I feel I’m ready to share a few first impressions of use. Like I did by writing about iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 two years ago, and iOS 8 on the iPad 2 and iPad 3 last year, I think it’s important to continue the tradition of mentioning how it feels to use the latest iOS version on older devices. Not everyone purchases a new iPhone or iPad every year, and people who don’t are often left wondering how the new iOS might work on their iPhones and iPads that now are almost at the bottom of the list of supported devices.

The range of devices supported by iOS 9 is surprisingly ample, the principle being that if a device was able to run iOS 8, then it’ll run iOS 9. Performance-wise, according to what I’ve been reading on the Web so far, the consensus seems to be: If you were satisfied by iOS 8’s performance on your (older) device, then iOS 9 won’t disappoint. I agree with this assessment, and I’ll go as far as saying that iOS 9 feels even smoother and more stable in places where iOS 8 stuttered every now and then. I noticed this on the iPhone 5 especially.

Of course, not all the new features introduced with iOS 9 are available on older devices: Ars Technica gives a detailed overview of feature fragmentation. It’s a pity I can’t take advantage of features like Split View multitasking or Slide Over on my iPad 3, but it’s not the end of the world either (I’ll eventually upgrade to an iPad Pro when I can). The only feature I’m really missing are Safari content blockers. In case you were wondering, the requirement for this feature is an iOS device with 64-bit processor, which means iPhone 5S or newer, iPad Air or newer, iPad mini 2 or newer, and the 6th-gen iPod touch. As I observed on social networks, slightly older devices would benefit a lot from content blockers, as there are certain sites with so many ads and underlying related code that browsing them is an exercise in frustration and a blow to the device’s general performance. Too bad (and ironic) that they can’t take advantage of this iOS 9 feature.

Animations and transitions feel very smooth on the iPhone 5, even smoother than under iOS 8. Navigating the springboard, entering and exiting apps, flicking through apps in the new multitasking interface, unlocking the phone, accessing Spotlight — so far my iPhone 5 has never stuttered or otherwise hesitated. I’ve noticed a marked improvement when invoking both Notification Centre and Control Centre: their interface appears to be more responsive, and the animation more fluid. This is also true for the iPad 3. Even my wife’s iPad 2 appears to have smoother animations and transitions than under iOS 8, especially the multitasking interface, while pulling down Notification Centre the few times I tried proved to be a more jerky, stuttering affair. A slight delay I’ve seen on the iPad 3 is when opening an application that wasn’t already in memory: the app icon darkens (registering your tap to launch it), stays darkened for half a second, then the app launches. Perhaps some users will find this annoying: for me, it’s not really an issue. The delay is so small as to be largely forgivable. Another slight delay happens in certain apps when you have to enter text: the virtual keyboard may not spring up as readily as, say, Control Centre. But again, I haven’t seen this happen consistently enough to be an issue, and once the keyboard is up, it’s perfectly responsive. Apart from these exceptions, I’d say iOS 9 visual performance on the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 is satisfying.

General performance and feel — iOS 9 feels like the most stable .0 release in a long time. No strange behaviours, no unexpected crashes (old apps that stopped working under iOS 9 and crash on launch do not count — these are expected crashes) or reboots, no inconsistencies in general responsiveness. iOS 9 feels light enough and solid, especially on the iPhone 5, but also on the iPad 3. The feeling is that you’re using a very well optimised system, not something that an iPhone 5 or iPad 3 can barely sustain and may break at any moment. I’m generally impressed by how well iOS 9 is behaving on the iPad 3 in particular. Maybe if you’re a more nervous user, frequently jumping in and out of apps, you may notice more lag here and there. I have not, so far. If you still use an iPhone 5 or iPad 3, are still on iOS 8.4.1, and you’re not sure whether to update to iOS 9, I’d say go for it. What you gain, however small, will be more than what you lose (nothing, basically, although if you’re still using very old apps there’s the remote possibility of running into something that worked on iOS 8 but won’t on iOS 9).

Two very nice improvements in iOS 9 — The first, believe it or not, is the new system font, San Francisco. I’m so glad Apple decided to use it on iOS and OS X too, not just on the Watch. I find it to be much more readable than Neue Helvetica in so many places, and especially in all the instances of smaller text (like in share sheets or when previewing mail messages in Mail’s list view). It’s better spaced than Neue Helvetica and I don’t have to squint to make out certain groups of words. Very nice. The second improvement is in the user interaction with external keyboards when in use with an iPad, by implementing very useful and very familiar keyboard shortcuts. I’ve already talked about this in my previous article Keyboard shortcuts in iOS 9 bring back memories.

A third new feature in iOS 9 I also find quite useful is Low Power Mode (only supported on iPhones). As explained in the Settings > Battery screen itself, Low Power Mode temporarily reduces power consumption until you can fully charge your iPhone. When this is on, mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects are reduced or turned off. I particularly like how the feature is implemented: if you turn it on yourself, Low Power Mode will automatically engage when battery level drops to 20% (the battery percentage will appear in the iPhone’s status bar even if you normally keep it hidden). If you leave the setting off, when battery level drops to 20%, you’ll get the usual ‘battery low’ warning, but iOS 9 will also offer to turn Low Power Mode on temporarily, until you can charge your iPhone. If you dismiss the first warning, a second warning at 10% battery level will again offer to turn Low Power Mode on for you. Smart and helpful.

If you have an iOS device of this vintage and have questions for me regarding iOS 9 performance in specific places I have not mentioned, let me know; you can reach me on Twitter or App.Net, I’m @morrick on both networks. I plan to add more iOS 9 commentary if I notice other things worth covering.


Coda — A couple of weird things

Weird thing №1 — virtual keyboard glitches

After updating to iOS 9 on my iPhone 5, I noticed strange glitches in the rendering of some keys in the virtual keyboard:

iOS 9 keyboard glitch

As you can see, the affected keys are the Shift key, rendered as a black square; the Delete key, rendered as a white rectangle; and the International key, the white square between the ‘123’ and Dictation keys (it normally has a globe icon). What I noticed about this UI glitch:

  1. It doesn’t appear in all applications.
  2. It only happens with the keyboard’s dark theme.
  3. It doesn’t happen on the iPad.
  4. The correct key icon appears briefly when tapping the key.
  5. When double-tapping the Shift key, the correct Caps Lock key appears.

At the moment I still haven’t installed iOS 9.0.1, so I don’t know if the problem has been resolved.

Weird thing №2 — A battery mystery

Since updating both the iPhone 5 and the iPad 3 to iOS 9, two weird episodes happened, both related to the battery. I went to bed one night and set up an alarm on my iPhone 5 for the following morning. I placed the iPhone on my night table, activated Do Not Disturb, and went to sleep. The iPhone still had 38% of battery left. A bit low, but nothing the iPhone can’t handle, given that it’s going to stay several hours on standby. The next morning I woke up an hour later and found strange that I didn’t hear the alarm. I woke the iPhone from sleep to check if I really set the alarm the night before… and the iPhone was dead. The first thing I suspected was some odd background process that kicked in and drained the battery overnight, but I hadn’t noticed any unusual battery drain in the previous days, and I hadn’t installed any new app. I got up and connected the iPhone to the mains, making a mental note to check back for any unusual app or service behaviour once the iPhone was fully charged. Charging it to 100% took longer than usual, and what happened next left me equally baffled: battery life seems to have noticeably improved since the incident. The iPhone was at 100% battery level yesterday morning, and at the time of writing — 34 hours later — it’s down to 20% after moderate use.

Something similar happened to my iPad 3. The other morning I noticed the battery was almost depleted (4%), and I connected it to the charger. After the usual amount of hours needed to bring back the iPad to 100% battery, I went to check and, strangely, it was only at 63% of charge. I thought that maybe there was something wrong with the cable, but everything was fine and the lightning near the battery icon indicated that the iPad was indeed recharging (moving the cable didn’t interrupt the flow of current, so there was definitely nothing wrong with the cable or the connector). It took almost twice the amount of time usually needed to fully charge the iPad, but again, like with the iPhone, now the iPad’s battery appears to be discharging more slowly and to last more than before (and I’m not using the iPad more lightly than usual, either). In Mac terms, it’s as if both devices got their power managers (or System Management Controllers) reset. If something similar happened with your iOS devices as well, let me know. It’s certainly an intriguing matter.

Category Software Tags , ,

That Peace ad blocker affair

I’ve been debating whether to write something about this or just let it go (because part of me still thinks the whole situation deserves more indifference than attention). I shared my reactions over Twitter while the general debate was unfolding, and I thought about writing a post in the heat of the moment. Which is usually a bad idea, so I waited a few days, let the whole affair cool off, and if in the meantime it stops bugging me — I thought — maybe I won’t even bother publishing anything.

But here we are.

I’m writing this assuming you know what I’m talking about, but in short: when iOS 9 was officially available to the general public on September 16, developer Marco Arment announced his new app, Peace, a “privacy-focused iOS 9 ad blocker.” Then, two days later, right when Peace was experiencing an incredible success (number one paid app in the U.S. App Store), he unexpectedly pulled the app from the App Store. The reason: for him, that much success, that much money made selling a tool which, as he wrote, “while [ad blockers] do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit,” ultimately did not feel good. You can imagine the subsequent debate. If you can’t, believe me, it’s been ugly. The core of the ugliness, I think, has been that many people suspected there was more behind Arment’s decision than he was letting on; that perhaps he was driven to withdraw Peace by some of his friends who put ads on their websites, because Peace could hurt their business; or that Arment was even offered money by ad providers to remove his ad blocker.

I don’t know. I admit it’s been tempting to give in to such suspicions. After reading an article like The ethics of modern Web ad-blocking, where Arment writes:

I’ve never been tempted to run ad-blocking software before — I make most of my living from ads, as do many of my friends and colleagues, and I’ve always wanted to support the free media I consume. But in the last few years, possibly due to the dominance of low-quality ad networks and the increased share of mobile browsing (which is far less lucrative for ads, and more sensitive to ad intrusiveness, than PC browsing), web ad quality and tolerability have plummeted, and annoyance, abuse, misdirection, and tracking have skyrocketed.

Publishers don’t have an easy job trying to stay in business today, but that simply doesn’t justify the rampant abuse, privacy invasion, sleaziness, and creepiness that many of them are forcing upon their readers, regardless of whether the publishers feel they had much choice in the matter.

Modern web ads and trackers are far over the line for many people today, and they’ve finally crossed the line for me, too. Just as when pop-ups crossed the line fifteen years ago, technical countermeasures are warranted.

After reading such an article, I wasn’t surprised at all that Arment would develop something like Peace. It felt like a natural step: he saw a problem and he wanted to do something about it, in this case developing a tool which could help people mitigate that “rampant abuse” and “privacy invasion” perpetrated by so many ads and trackers.

With this context, Arment’s change of heart feels like a rushed backtracking, a total volte-face, and while I’m not questioning his sincerity, at the same time I can understand why many considered it suspicious. In his post Just doesn’t feel good, Arment writes:

Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have.


Even though I’m “winning”, I’ve enjoyed none of it. That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market.

It’s simply not worth it. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to turn away an opportunity like this, and I don’t begrudge anyone else who wants to try it. I’m just not built for this business.

I’ll be honest, I find hard to believe that Arment didn’t anticipate Peace’s success and, above all, how Peace would be employed and the impact it would have — it is an ad blocker after all. It doesn’t seem to be a product that was developed in a rush and on a whim, either. It’s evident by what Arment wrote in August that he was fed up with how ads are served on the Web nowadays. During a conversation with some friends on the day Peace was removed from the App Store, I said that it was as if someone had launched a new brand of cigarettes only to withdraw the product shortly afterwards because they didn’t anticipate people would become addicted or that the product would increase the possibility of suffering from lung cancer. It’s a very strong image, I know, but the point is: when you manufacture a product whose usage and purpose are so transparent, it’s hard to believe you didn’t anticipate the consequences or implications.

(Brief aside on the subject: to this date, the best article written about Arment is, in my opinion, Marco Arment and Context, by Jonathan Poritsky.)

Anyway, I have often prided myself on offering fair and balanced commentary here, and everything I’ve written above is pure speculation. I’m not here to question Arment’s sincerity — I don’t know him personally, I’ve never interacted with him in any way, I don’t have the facts and the background; only what he writes publicly. I’m not here to insult him gratuitously, either.

The simple criticism I want to provide is that, in my opinion, Arment acted unprofessionally, and the precedent he’s setting is that of an unreliable, volatile developer. Peace uses Ghostery’s database to work, and there was an arrangement with Ghostery in place (“I’ll make and sell the app and give them a percentage of the revenue.” – Arment wrote in the post announcing Peace). Deciding to pull the app from the store was something that affected Ghostery as well. Sure, it may have been a joint decision, as Arment writes, and there may be no hard feelings on Ghostery’s part, but this only goes to show how those who acted professionally — considering the whole situation — have been the people at Ghostery. They gave Arment full and prompt collaboration so that Peace could be launched on the same day as iOS 9, and they agreed to pull the app two days later. It’s safe to say that, if different parties had been involved, probably some suing would have ensued. But Marco now has given Peace to Ghostery, I hear you object, he’s been a gentleman. No, under the circumstances, giving Peace to Ghostery was the least he could do, professionally speaking.

Another thing I find unacceptable with hindsight is that while Peace and other prominent ad blockers were ready to launch on day one of iOS 9’s release, other indie developers like the people behind Silentium were hurt because their app was still in ‘Waiting for Review’ status. The removal of Peace might turn out to be beneficial for other competing ad blockers, but for people like Silentium’s developers it must have been especially bitter to see that Peace got precedence and launched on day one, got a lot of attention and business, only to disappear shortly afterwards. It feels a bit unfair.

Now Apple is proactively refunding all purchases of Peace, which is something that, as Arment himself admits, “effectively never happens.” Apple has the power to do what it wants, of course, but this preferential treatment annoys me — not because it’s Marco Arment, as I have nothing against him personally — but because it simply should not happen. All developers should be treated equally, for better or worse. The App Store should be a place where the big fish and the small fish have the same chances at succeeding (or failing). No fast tracks or preferential treatment because you’re a big company or a prominent indie developer.

[Final disclaimer: I did not purchase Peace, not because I didn’t want to, but because my iPhone 5 and iPad 3 do not support Safari content blockers. So I haven’t written this article from the possibly biased perspective of a customer who purchased Peace and ‘got burnt’, so to speak.]

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Keyboard shortcuts in iOS 9 bring back memories

Although my aging third-generation iPad cannot support most of the cool features introduced in iOS 9, I’m very satisfied with one big improvement — the handling of external keyboards. When I talked about my experience using the iPad as a laptop with my Apple Wireless Keyboard, I expressed my main frustration: “generally poor key mapping and user-interaction obscurity.” Here are a couple of bits from that article, written in December 2013, where I offer a few suggestions to improve user interaction:

But the best keyboard shortcut Apple could implement when using an Apple keyboard with iOS devices is, in my opinion, Command-Tab to activate the multitasking interface.


As for the user-interaction obscurity I was mentioning before, I had to discover certain key mappings by blindly trying out different keys. This way I found that the Eject key shows/hides the virtual keyboard, and — more importantly for those like me who use different international keyboards — that Command-Space switches from one keyboard layout to the other (and here I thought it could be used to quickly invoke Spotlight, like it does on Macs…).

Imagine my joy when I heard that Apple has in fact implemented the Command-Tab keyboard shortcut to invoke the application switcher exactly like on the Mac, that now Command-Space does in fact trigger Spotlight, and that most of the user-interaction obscurity vanishes by pressing and holding the Command key. By doing so, in fact, a panel will appear in the middle of the screen with a summary of the recognised shortcuts.

Safari keyboard shortcuts in iOS 9

This is Safari, but different apps may have different recognised shortcuts. Just open an app, press and hold the Command key, and see if such a panel shows up and what it provides.

Now, as a long-time Mac user, there’s another reason this user interface detail makes me happy: it’s the exact implementation we had on the Newton back in the 1990s. When you attached the dedicated Newton keyboard to a MessagePad 2000/2100 or when using the integrated keyboard on the eMate 300, by pressing and holding the Command key, guess what happened:

Newton keyboard shortcuts

These are the general, system-wide shortcuts. By pressing and holding the Command key from inside an application, there are more options (this is the word processor module in Newton Works, a sort of Office-like suite for NewtonOS):

Newton Works shortcuts


It’s great that the same concept has been reused 18 years later. Good ideas survive and can resurface in unexpected ways.

Category Software Tags , ,

Impressions on the Apple 9/9 event — a numbered list

Apple Blue  White

Yesterday Apple delivered a great, well scripted, well presented event and introduced a lot of new things. I’ll certainly expand on some of the following notes in the next days, but I wanted to share a general, quick overview in form of a list of ‘thinking aloud’ bits. The numbering only serves as a reference in case you want to give me feedback on specific observations.

  1. I wasn’t very interested in the Apple Watch-related news, because at the moment the Apple Watch is the Apple product I’m least interested in, but the Hermès combination of straps and watch faces looked gorgeous and luxurious. And the AirStrip app for doctors truly showcases the potential of the Watch and the platform. Really cool stuff.
  2. The iPad Pro has truly got me excited. While I dislike phones with too huge a screen, once we move to tablets and computers, I really like big screens because I just work better with more screen real estate. I’m still very satisfied with my iPad 3 and so far I’ve never felt the urge to update to a newer iPad. But now I know that, when the time comes to update, my next iPad is definitely going to be the iPad Pro.
  3. The Apple Pencil is an amazing accessory. All the talk and sarcasm about Apple making ‘a stylus’ is missing the point. The Pencil is so much more than a simple stylus, and it’s also a very specific accessory for sketching and drawing. I don’t think it can be used in substitution of a finger to generally interact with the user interface like other styluses that have big, soft tips. As for the Pencil’s specific tasks — sketching, drawing, writing — from what I’ve seen in the videos and read in the various ‘hands-on’ articles on different tech sites, the Pencil has a ‘real pencil’ feel when in use. I truly can’t wait to test it.
  4. Seeing people from Microsoft demoing software on stage at an Apple event made me smile, for historical reasons. When the guy said “A beautiful Microsoft Word document” I had to laugh, though.
  5. I enjoyed the Adobe demo. The Adobe Comp CC and Photoshop Fix apps look like great additions for a device like the iPad Pro and I really liked the workflow as demoed by Eric Snowden.
  6. Speaking of the Adobe demo, I couldn’t believe the fuss that was being raised on Twitter and elsewhere for the bit about making the image of the female model ‘smile more’. Every photo of every male or female model that goes on a magazine cover gets retouched, so all the talk about sexism felt a bit exaggerated to me. I once witnessed how heavily a model’s photo was retouched for the cover of a fitness-oriented magazine — the graphic department changed the skin tones, altered the curve of the breasts to make them appear slightly smaller, changed the model’s eyes colour and whitened her teeth… In a nutshell, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos were so strikingly different it didn’t even look like the same person. I was told more than once that this practice is rather common, and it’s not limited to photos of female models either. Slightly altering the model’s lips in the Adobe demo was, in my opinion, just a quick way to showcase how powerful Photoshop Fix can be.
  7. Seeing the Apple Pencil in action, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Newton’s handwriting recognition. With this tool and this iPad, it would really be at home. (Sigh)
  8. The Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro, however, didn’t impress me much. Frankly, the one aspect that did impress me is the price. Now, I know that Apple has never really made cheap accessories, but while I feel that $99 for the Apple Pencil is somewhat justified given the technology packed inside that small device, $169 for the Smart Keyboard feels too expensive. I believe one could spend less by purchasing a decent cover and an Apple Wireless Keyboard, and end up maybe with a slightly less integrated setup, but a better keyboard. When the time comes for me to update to an iPad Pro, I’ll certainly get the Pencil, but for writing I know I’ll keep using my Apple Wireless Keyboard and the Incase Origami Workstation, whose design is efficiently device-agnostic. (If it can sustain a 652-gram iPad 3 in portrait orientation, I’m sure it can work with a 713-gram iPad Pro in landscape orientation.)
  9. Everything about this new Apple TV feels right. And for the first time, Apple TV feels like a compelling device to have. More useful, more versatile, more interactive. John Gruber, unsurprisingly, nails it: On first impression, it is everything I wanted to see. It sounds like a small talented team got to build the Apple TV they wanted to see and use themselves. There is a clarity and vision to the entirety of its design. I think it exemplifies the best of Apple. And: I think Apple TV might be the most disruptive product from Apple since the iPhone. Not the most lucrative, necessarily, but the most disruptive — in the sense of defining how all TVs will work in a few years.
  10. One thing to note about how the TV experience will be transformed, about the future of TV, etc. — That we’re entering a new era of people potentially spending hours and hours sitting in front of their TVs. And it’s going to be, you know, a bit like the old days…
  11. The new iPhone 6S (which sounds like “iPhone success” when you say it out loud) and 6S Plus have the same exterior design of the 6 and 6 Plus. And when I see those lines in the back of the phones, visually separating the top edge, the centre, and the bottom edge of the chassis, I’m reminded of how awful they look. I know the change of material in those parts of the phone was necessary for the antennae, etc., but I still believe Apple could have made them more visually subtle, blending more with the aluminium finish. Also: that camera bump.
  12. 3D Touch: it’s of course a great feature, and the tasks it carries out, the way it integrates with iOS 9, is all really smart. On Twitter I said that 3D Touch is a sort of right-click for Multitouch, as it usually invokes contextual features and menus. I admit I wasn’t convinced at first, thinking that, interaction-wise, what you can do with 3D Touch could be equally achieved by long-presses. But it’s a short-sighted observation, first because in iOS there are already long-press gestures in place, and adding more on top of them would be confusing and generally a terrible idea. Secondly, as it has been pointed out to me on App.Net, 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine are a great opportunity to refine and extend accessibility features on iOS.
  13. On the other hand, 3D Touch is a hardware feature that makes possible a lot of new gestures, interactions and functionality in the system software, and it’s currently only available on the new iPhones. In this regard, all previous iPhones and other iOS devices are made obsolete. I understand not offering certain software features on previous-generation devices that nonetheless support iOS 9; older hardware has its limits, and it may not perform optimally, or may even lack the necessary components to provide the functionality required by the newer software. But what’s made possible by 3D Touch is really a lot, and it’s really a big step forward in the user interface. An iPhone 6S and an iPhone 5S can both run iOS 9, but the experience on the 6S will feel quite different thanks to the hardware advantage of having (among other things) 3D Touch. Apple has truly found a way to urge people with older iPhones to upgrade. Even owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: a couple of friends of mine have already told me after yesterday’s event that they’re thinking about getting a 6S and 6S Plus, respectively.
  14. Speaking of upgrading, it’s indeed a pity that the iPhone 5S will be the last of the iPhones with a 4-inch display. Some were hoping that Apple could offer a new iPhone for those people — and there are a lot — who still prefer smaller phones. Having tried iPhones of all sizes, I must say that the iPhone 5/5S/5C is the line that feels the best in my hand, and it’s still my favourite iPhone design together with the iPhone 4/4S. The 4.7 inches of the iPhone 6/6S are manageable, but not without a period of adjustment and training (for me, at least). The 5.5 inches of the 6 Plus/6S Plus are utterly awkward for my hands. I couldn’t own such a phone, I’d be constantly afraid of dropping it.
  15. The new camera technology in the iPhone 6S/6S Plus blew me away. The photos Schiller showed the audience yesterday were gorgeous, especially the one of the girl on the ferry, where you could clearly see the iPhone’s camera performance in a situation where natural and artificial light mix in a difficult way. Very impressed. If I could afford it, I’d get an iPhone 6S for the camera alone.
  16. On the other hand, Live Photos looks like a bit of a gimmicky feature to me. It’s cool, mind you, but I have the feeling it’s going to get old very soon, despite Schiller’s excitement about it.
  17. In recent times, Apple has ‘doubled down’ on Siri, making the virtual assistant more responsive and capable. The interactions when using the Apple Watch and now the new Apple TV are fun and well thought out, but I don’t know how much or how often I’d personally use Siri. It’s certainly a matter of habits and lifestyle, but for the majority of the tasks I could carry out by invoking Siri, I’m usually faster at carrying them out by myself, manually. I speak three languages, so I’ve been trying to interact with Siri in English, Italian, and Spanish; and despite the progress, interactions with Siri still feel too much of a hit-or-miss affair for me. Most of the time I’m too impatient to give Siri a second chance — I just do the task myself.
  18. The updated iCloud storage options and pricing are sweet. With the previous offering, you got 20GB for $0.99/month, 200GB for $3.99/month, 500GB for $9.99/month, and 1TB for $19.99/month. Now you get 50GB for $0.99/month, 200GB for $2.99/month, and 1TB for $9.99/month. I think $0.99/month for 50GB is just perfect for my needs, but the new prices are overall much more compelling than before.
  19. My first reaction at the end of the keynote: Apple doomed? LOL.
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