Tag Archive for ‘Face ID’

The iPad Pro

iPad Pro

I’ve been waiting for a new iPad release since last fall. The iPad Air 2 that I’ve been using as my primary computer since early 2015 was starting show its age. Bluetooth was becoming less reliable, the system itself felt sluggish, and battery life was getting pretty poor. It had served me well over the past five years, but I was very happy to retire it in favor of the newly released iPad Pro.

The announcement of the iPad Pro wasn’t exactly a surprise, it had been rumored for a few months at least. But with the state of the world at the moment, it wasn’t obvious exactly when or how Apple was going to actually end up announcing it. When I first saw the press release, I glanced through the product pages to get a feel for what it offered and then immediately placed my order.

I ended up with the 11-inch, 128GB, WiFi-only, space gray model. I haven’t spent more than 30 minutes with one of the larger, 12.9-inch Pros, but that was enough for me to know for sure that it wasn’t the right size for me. The vast majority of the time I’m using my iPad, it’s lounging out on the couch and I think the 12.9-inch size is better suited for iPad users that spend most of their time at a desk. Or perhaps artists that want a bit more canvas to work with. Given how I planned to use the iPad, the 11-inch was a natural choice for me.

As for the decision to go with the WiFi-only model. While I travel a few times each year for work, at the moment I don’t even plan to bring my iPad with me on these trips. I’m so busy doing my standard day-to-day tasks, working on in-person projects, and socializing in real life with my distributed teammates that I don’t really have time to use the iPad.

On my last work trip I brought my work laptop, iPad, iPhone, and Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch never got powered on and I only ended up taking my iPad out once or twice. But I could have done everything from my iPhone, so I’ll be leaving my iPad at home from now on.

If that changes, though, tethering with my iPhone works just fine for connectivity when WiFi isn’t available. It’s not as slick as having the cellular networking built-in, but it doesn’t cost me a cent more to use and, in my experience, offers great speeds and reliability.

I was very happy to learn that Apple increased the base storage for the iPad Pro. The iPad Air 2 that I was coming from had 64GB of storage, which has been fine. But for the sake of future-proofing, having a bit of extra breathing room is a nice touch. I mean, I used the Air 2 for five years and I expect I’ll use this new iPad Pro for roughly the same amount of time. 64GB might be fine today, but I can’t say for certain that will be the case in 2025.

When the iPad actually arrived on March 25, the most striking difference between it and my previous iPad Air 2 was the lack of home button. I went through that transition on the iPhone side of things this past fall when I upgraded my iPhone 8 to an iPhone 11 Pro. So far, it has been smooth sailing. It only took me a day or two before using an iPad with a home button felt foreign to me.

I miss Touch ID quite a bit, though. It was relatively slow on my iPad Air 2, but it almost always worked. I keep my iPad in landscape mode and it was very comfortable to rest my right thumb on the home button whenever I unlocked the device. But on the iPad Pro, my left hand tends to obstruct the Face ID system. iPadOS notifies me with a handy little indicator, but it’s such a pain.

Do most iPad users actually use their device in portrait orientation? I suspect not and that means that the majority of iPad Pro users end up running into this “Camera covered” notice several times each day. I hope Apple eventually makes the switch to thinking about the iPad as a landscape-first device — rotating the logo on the back and moving the front-facing camera to one of the longer edges.

I’ve really enjoyed the Pro’s 11-inch display, when compared to the 9.7-inch display of the Air 2. It’s such a cozy size. The entire device is barely larger than the iPad Air 2, but still features this stunning display. Watching YouTube videos, viewing photos, and typing with the on-screen keyboard are a much better experience when you have more surface area to utilize. I haven’t found the increased refresh rate of the ProMotion display to be too impressive, though. I just don’t see the difference in normal use. Perhaps my eyes aren’t capable of perceiving that type of improvement.

Speaking of the on-screen keyboard, though. It was jarring at first to have those additional keys on the virtual keyboard. I found myself miss-typing because I’d sort-of lose myself on screen. It only took a day or two before it felt okay to me, but it was a weird couple of days. But I sure wish they didn’t include a caps lock key. I still haven’t hit that thing on purpose and in the extremely rare circumstances where I want it, isn’t double-tapping the shift key good enough?

The overall hardware aesthetics of the iPad Pro have been a pleasant change when compared to the iPad Air 2. I wasn’t too sure about the flat edges, with my primary concern being that it would be difficult to pick up off of a flat surface. But its no more difficult to pick up than the iPad Air 2 was. The benefit, though, is that its significantly easier to adjust the volume on the Pro because the buttons aren’t hidden from the front by the curvature of the device.

The camera bump is less than ideal. When laid flat, the device sits off-kilter and it has a bit of a wobble when tapping near the adjacent corners. But I’m very glad to have an improved camera available to me in this device. It isn’t quite as good as my iPhone 11 Pro — no telephoto lens — but it is close enough in most circumstances.

With a little one in the house, I take a lot of pictures now. And prior to the iPad Pro, I would have to reach for my iPhone whenever I wanted to take a photo. With the improved camera system, though, I can quickly take a snapshot regardless of what device I’m using and know that I’m going to get good results. This hasn’t occurred too frequently, but the peace of mind is worth it. Josh is only going to be a baby once and I don’t want to miss capturing any of these precious moments because my iPhone wasn’t within reach.

I’m ecstatic to have another device in my life that features USB-C. It lets me use the same power adapter with my iPad Pro as I do with my MacBook Air and means that most accessories I purchase for either can be utilized on both. This brings a couple of thoughts to the forefront, though:

  • When is the iPhone going USB-C? I love Lightning, but I’m ready to move on and hope my iPhone 11 Pro is the last iOS device I own that uses an Apple-specific connector.
  • Why aren’t there any power adapters that have more than two USB-C ports? I want the cables that I use to charge my devices to also be able to connect those devices to my iPad or MacBook Air. I’m not interested in power adapters that offer a mixture of USB-C and USB-A — I want to go all-in on USB-C.

And on the topic of connecting devices, Sidecar has become one of my favorite iPadOS features. It wasn’t available on my iPad Air 2, so I’ve only had the opportunity to use it with my iPad Pro. Over the past week, there have been numerous occasions where I’ve connected my iPad via Sidecar and threw Slack or a second browser window on my iPad. It’s just so darn handy to get a little bit of extra screen real estate when you need it.

But getting back to using the iPad directly, this thing is a screamer. It was a little disappointing to learn that the A12Z offered next to no improvements when compared to the previous iPad Pro’s chip, but most people that buy the new iPad Pro are going to be coming from a much older model. For me, the iPad Pro is about three times faster than the iPad Air 2 in single core tasks and over four times faster in multi-core tasks, based on Geekbench 5.

Here are the benchmark results for all my devices, averaged over two runs:

Single CoreMulti-core
iPad Pro11204602
iPhone 11 Pro13283179
MacBook Air8191600
Mac Mini5471234
iPad Air 23731045

With the exception of my iPhone 11 Pro in single core performance, the iPad Pro is the fastest computer I own. By a lot. And it feels that way too. Everything on this device is so snappy that it has me wishing I could run Handbrake on it. Converting ripped Blu-ray discs would be a much nicer experience if I could run the app on my iPad Pro instead of one of my macOS devices.

I think the iPad Pro will serve me well as my primary computer for several years. It has more than enough horse power available, an excellent camera system, and a modern charging and accessory port. But Apple also announced a new keyboard for the iPad Pro, which features an integrated trackpad.

The upcoming Magic Keyboard with integrated trackpad will capitalize on the revamped pointer support added in iPadOS 13.4 and give users the opportunity to interact with their iPad like a traditional PC. I plan to purchase the accessory when it’s released, but I don’t think it will become my default interaction method.

Currently, I spend most of my time with my iPad on the couch, browsing the web, managing email, reading news, and occasionally publishing links here on Initial Charge — no physical keyboard, mouse, trackpad, cover, or case. None of that will change with the introduction of the Magic Keyboard. What will change is my setup during longer writing sessions.

When I sit down to write a longer piece for Initial Charge, I set my iPad in a Studio Neat Canopy and type on Apple’s wireless Magic Keyboard. This gives me a more comfortable typing experience for the longer stretches. But up until iPadOS 13.4, I would disconnect the hardware keyboard and edit the text using the virtual keyboard. This let me meander throughout the house while reading and gave me a more ergonomic way to move the insertion point for edits.

With iPadOS 13.4, I’ve started using the Magic Trackpad 2 while editing, which let me type the corrections on the physical keyboard without uncomfortably reaching for the screen to move the insertion point. It’s been nice. So when I purchase the Magic Keyboard with integrated trackpad, I’ll retire the Studio Neat Canopy, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad setup in favor of Apple’s new iPad Pro accessory.

But I’m a little unsure about the dual hinge nature of the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Will it feel unstable? Was it given the second hinge for the sake of balance? Would the iPad be too top-heavy without it hovering over the keyboard? Will I be able to push the iPad back so that the silhouette is more akin to a traditional laptop?

Those questions are still left unanswered for the time being. But I can say with certainty that the iPad Pro is an excellent computer. It’s the most powerful I’ve ever owned and runs the most exciting operating system on the planet alongside my favorite applications. If you’re looking to jump into Apple’s tablet offerings or have an iPad that’s starting to feel a bit dated, you won’t regret buying the iPad Pro.

iPhone Eleven Pro

iPhone 11 Pro

I was hesitant to move into this new era of iOS hardware design. When Apple announced the iPhone X in 2017, I opted to purchase the more traditional iPhone 8. I just wasn’t convinced that the removal of the home button was a step in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Apple to go back to making home button iPhones, but at the very least, I wanted to give them a couple more years to refine the experience.

After Apple’s most recent event, where they introduced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, I knew which model I was going to order. The iPhone 11 Pro was the right choice for me. The iPhone 11 Pro is the only new phone in Apple’s lineup that’s even close to the same physical size as the iPhone 8 I was upgrading from. And I’m not quite ready to move to the larger screen. I want a device that fits comfortably in my pocket and can be used with one hand.

I hemmed and hawed a bit on what color to choose, though. I’ve historically went with the black or space gray models because I liked the look of those devices from the front. Having a black front panel meant that it was difficult to distinguish where the display ended and the bezel began. I liked that effect quite a bit so I always stuck with black or space gray. But with these newer style devices, the front panel is black regardless of what color you choose. I took this as an opportunity to pick something different — silver this time around.

Design

It’s striking just how handsome the iPhone 11 Pro is in person. The shiny metal band around the edges and matte finish on the glass back looks quite sharp. And I’ve grown to accept the necessity of the camera bump — I find this year’s camera array to be much more pleasing to the eye when compared to the look of the two camera setups in previous year’s iPhones. The lenses have a certain utilitarian sense to it, which gives you the feeling that you’re carrying an advanced piece of tech with you.

The new finish on the glass back has a unique feel. It feels like it might be more slippery than my iPhone 8, but in practice, I haven’t found it sliding around on surfaces quite as easily. The sheer size of the camera bump might have something to do with that, honestly, but it’s hard to say for sure. What I can say for certain, though, is that it feels premium.

iPhone 11 Pro Next to iPhone 8

The placement of the Apple logo was a bit odd at first glance, but I think moving it to the center helps keep the phone’s design more balanced. Especially since they removed the text from the back entirely. Keeping it at a third of the way from the top would have made the phone look visually top-heavy. It also helps that the Apple logo is so much more subtle with this revision. At many angles, the logo is impossible to see — almost as if Apple is relying on the design of their camera lens array to pick up the slack, from a branding perspective.

Around the front of the device, the display doesn’t seem noticeably better than my iPhone 8’s most of the time. I know it is, but during normal use, I don’t see a difference. The only instance where I was surprised at the display quality was when viewing a mostly black screen in a dark room — the black portions give off zero light. I’m not much of a dark mode person and don’t watch a lot of videos on my iPhone, so I’m not going to see that too often. But I’m glad to see Apple moving to OLED and pushing their hardware further.

Coming from the iPhone 8, this is the first device I’ve owned with a notch. And I can say definitively, it’s fine. Of course it would be better if it didn’t exist, but you don’t really notice it during use — it’s small enough that it’s out of the way. It’s more noticeable when playing games and watching video, but not enough to be annoying. If you’re still hesitant to move to the newer device designs because of the notch, you can put that out of your mind, you’ll be fine with it.

Face ID

Despite the twelve years that I’ve spent using iPhones with home buttons, I was surprised at how quickly I’ve transitioned to the new interface. There’ve been a few times where I’ve reached for the home button, only to realize there wasn’t one. Those have been few and far between, though.

And I’ve been pretty impressed with the reliability of Face ID. Touch ID has improved so much over the years and felt instantaneous on my iPhone 8. Face ID isn’t quite that fast, but it’s really close. And the nature of Face ID feels so effortless, you aren’t actually performing an input of any kind, you’re just using your phone the way you normally would and the system takes care of the authentication for you.

I don’t have any experience using Face ID on previous iPhones, but I’m aware that it was limited in the angles in which it functioned. This is supposedly improved in the iPhone 11 models it has been impressive in my use. It’s failed for me when I was extremely far off axis — while laying on the couch with my iPhone sitting flat — but it’s been excellent for me in all other scenarios.

There is a part of me that wishes I could have the home button back. I picked up the home gesture quickly, but app switching still feels clunky. It’s not nearly as natural as double pressing the home button and it doesn’t feel as quick to invoke. But even if I had the option to bring back the home button on this device, I’d still prefer to keep Face ID. That is absolutely a huge leap forward compared to Touch ID, so much so that I don’t ever want to go back.

Internals

The iPhone 11 Pro is the fastest computer I’ve ever owned. And that includes Macs, which is still astonishing to me. Compared to the iPhone 8, the 11 Pro is about 45% faster in single and multi-core tasks.

There isn’t too much that I do on my iPhone that can really put that power to good use, though. I do some light photo editing from time to time and use and build Shortcuts a lot. But that’s about the extent of my power user tasks. The majority of the time I’m writing, checking Twitter, reading news, or listening to podcasts.

I wish that I had more heavy duty tasks to do on my iPhone, like converting video for Plex. That’s a task that’s still done on my Mac Mini because of the lack of software, but would certainly be quicker to perform on my iPhone. Maybe one day, when Apple loosens the reins a bit and lets us install software from outside of the App Store. That’s the sort of thing that isn’t going to happen for a good number of years, though.

Setting aside the performance of the chips for a moment, the battery life on this thing has been incredible. I haven’t done any formal testing, but my iPhone 8 would regularly end the day with around 10-20% left. The 11 Pro hasn’t dipped below 50% after an average day of use. To some extent the age of the iPhone 8’s battery is a factor, but even when the 8 was brand new, it would typically hit 30% before I plugged it in at the end of the day.

That’s a substantial improvement over my previous iPhone. And I expect most people upgrading will see similar gains over their previous devices. Battery life was one aspect of iPhones that users would always complain about. Any improvements that Apple made over the years seems to have been matched by an increase in usage. But this is such a leap forward that I think they actually hit it out of the park this time. The battery life on iPhones is actually great now.

Camera

I’m no photography expert, but I dabble in the hobby from time to time. One of the biggest draws for me toward the iPhone 11 Pro, as opposed to the iPhone 11 is the third camera lens. With Joshua in our lives, I wanted as much camera in my iPhone as I could possibly get.

I won’t spend too much time discussing the new camera system, though. If you’re interested in a more technical overview, I would suggest reading one of the more in-depth reviews. But I’m more than happy to share my brief thoughts after a week of usage.

Comparing the three iPhone 11 Pro Camera Lenses

(Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide lenses.)

The additional two camera lenses over my iPhone 8 has been a game changer. I’m finding myself switching between all three lenses regularly, often shooting with multiple lenses in a single session. I’ll take a photos of Josh laying on the couch with the Wide lens and then switch to the Ultra Wide to get a shot or two that captures a bit more context and scale.

It was immediately obvious that the Ultra Wide lens would be useful in situations when I wanted to photograph something large — like a mountain range, a city scape, or a group of people where stepping further backward isn’t practical. But I didn’t expect it to be useful when I wanted to help convey how small something is. Joshua is such a tiny little dude and it’s hard to convey that with the standard Wide lens, but the Ultra Wide is great in those situations. By showing a bit more of the room around him, it helps to show just how small he really is.

I haven’t had as much use out of the Telephoto lens, but I’m certain it will see more use when I’m out of the house more often. With Josh so young, my wife and I have mostly been homebodies. When we start going on walks and getting out of the house to go to parks and whatnot, the Telephoto lens will undoubtedly have more applications for me.

Comparing Night Mode on iPhone 11 Pro to iPhone 8

(Night mode on 11 Pro compared to the same lighting with iPhone 8.)

The picture quality has been excellent as well. Especially in low light situations. Joshua is waking up a handful of times throughout the night and we’ve been keeping a bedside lamp with a Hue bulb at 10%, This gives us just enough light to maneuver around the room and see him when he wakes up.

That’s the sort of lighting situation that previously would have been impossible to take photos in. With the Night Mode on the 11 Pro, though, I can capture all those late night smiles and funny faces. The resulting pictures are surprisingly good too. They’re not quite as bright and vibrant as photos taken in the daylight, but they’re more than passable. It helps if the subject remains still while taking the photo — movement can cause a bit of blurriness. I’m so happy to have this as an option, though. There are so many moments that just would have been lost and forgotten if I only had my iPhone 8 camera to work with.

Portrait mode is another new feature that I didn’t have access to with my iPhone 8. And it’s not something I’ve spent much time with — I’ve only taken a handful of shots with it so far. The feature seems neat, but it’s less useful when your subject is very close to the background beyond them. Since I’m mostly taking photos of Josh and he’s not even able to crawl yet, portrait mode just isn’t something I’m too excited about right now.

Overall

I’ve been very happy with the iPhone 11 Pro. It’s an excellent device that feels like a substantial upgrade from my previous iPhone. Face ID, battery life, and the camera system have been the standout features for me so far. The device isn’t without faults, though.

The 11 Pro is actually quite heavy. A full 30% heavier than the iPhone 8. That doesn’t seem like too much, but the device is longer and the position of the camera system makes it feel a bit top-heavy. It’s not much of an issue when using the iPhone with two hands, but when one-handed, it’s a tad much. I’ve been doing that thing where you cradle the device in your hand and rest the bottom of it on the inside of your pinky. Even with lighter phones that can be tiring, but with the extra weight of the 11 Pro, it can get painful.

I’ve been more conscious of this over the last few days and have been trying to adjust my grip as a result. I could probably get something like a Pop Socket to alleviate the issue, but that’s not exactly my style. My plan is to just soldier on with an adjusted grip and hope for the best.

I’m also disappointed with the removal of 3D Touch. I didn’t realize how important it was to my daily usage until it was taken away. All of the features I used 3D Touch for can be accessed in other ways. Like using long presses on icons to show an app’s contextual menu. The big downside with this is that using a long press instead of 3D Touch inherently introduces some hesitation when performing the action — 3D Touch is quick where long presses force you to wait.

And I’m still trying to get used to the new way of moving the text insertion point. Being able to 3D Touch anywhere on the keyboard has become an important tool whenediting text on my iPhone. And just like with the app icon menus mentioned above, long pressing on the space bar to invoke the cursor trackpad just feels slow and clunky in comparison.

I’m sure Apple removed 3D Touch because it led to some confusing situations for users — when they intended to tap and accidentally activated 3D Touch instead, which is even more annoying if the user doesn’t know the feature exists and has no idea what caused it. But it’s the sort of power user feature that I wish would return in the future. Even if that means that it’s disabled by default. I mean, macOS still ships with right mouse clicks disabled, why can’t they release iOS hardware with 3D Touch built in that has to be enabled by the user before it can be used?

Those really are relatively minor complaints, though, and things that I’ll get used to with time. It’s a bit of a cliché, but this truly is the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. There are attributes of devices from the past that I have a fondness for, but to be honest, I wouldn’t trade the 11 Pro’s camera system for any of them. It’s such a massive step forward for me and at the exact perfect time in my life.

In twenty or thirty years, when I look back at photos of Josh from this time period, I’m going to be so glad that the camera I had with me, was the best camera I could have in a smartphone.

Details on the Next iPad Pro ➝

Chance Miller, writing for 9 to 5 Mac on Macotakara’s recent iPad Pro report:

The report goes on to explain that Apple is likely to ditch the headphone jack with this year’s iPad Pro models, a move the company first made with the iPhone 7. While Apple includes a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter to ease the blow for iPhone users, it will not do the same for iPad Pro users, according to today’s report.

Today’s report corroborates that this year’s iPad Pro models will feature Face ID, but it notes that there is no support for landscape Face ID as earlier reports had indicated. This presents an interesting problem for the iPad Pro, which is used commonly in landscape mode with accessories such as the Smart Keyboard. Macotakara notes, however, that Apple is moving the Smart Connector on this year’s models to “the lower rear side – close to the Lightning connector.”

I can’t remember the last time I used the headphone jack on my iPad, but it was most likely before I purchased AirPods. I’m probably going to be buying one of these iPad Pros and I’m fine with the headphone jack disappearing. Just don’t let Nilay know about this rumor because we’ll never hear the end of it.

The Face ID rumor is odd to me, though. I never use my iPad in portrait mode. With the only exception being the times when I launch Noisli, a simple white noise app that doesn’t support landscape orientation for some reason. Maybe the Face ID camera will be located in the same place as the current iPad Pro’s FaceTime camera, but will work in either orientation for the purposes of Face ID. Otherwise, I have no idea what Apple is thinking.

iOS 11 GM Leaks, Reveals Details of Upcoming Product Announcements ➝

Jeff Benjamin, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

We’re only a few days from Apple’s big fall iPhone event, but the big news tonight is the leaked iOS 11 GM firmware that we received this evening. The iOS 11 GM firmware, which should be pushed next week to developers, includes several brand new wallpapers, three exclusive to the upcoming iPhone, including seven sure-to-be-popular retro-styled versions and an all-black wallpaper fit for OLED displays.

The folks at 9 to 5 Mac, Steve Troughton-Smith, and Guilherme Rambo have dug through the leaked GM to uncover a treasure trove of unannounced product details: