Tag Archive for ‘Review’

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro 11-inch

I ordered the Magic Keyboard for 11-inch iPad Pro just a few hours after pre-orders became available. I had a feeling that this was going to be a transformative accessory and based on the reactions I’ve seen online so far, that hunch was correct. Now that I’ve spent a few days with it, I can confirm it’s an incredible piece of tech, but I’m not quite sure its going to change the way I personally use my iPad.

When the package arrived, it was much heavier than I was expecting. Even after seeing reviews that noted its weight, I wasn’t really prepared for it. After just a few minutes with it unboxed, though, the term “heavy” was rapidly replaced with “dense”.

The Magic Keyboard is heavier than most of us expected, sure. But it’s not really the weight itself that’s so surprising, its the accessory’s weight compared to its physical size. It feels solid, like it’s absolutely packed with technology. Albeit to a lesser degree, this is a similar feeling to what I had when I purchased the first iPhone in 2007 — I just couldn’t believe how small it was with the features it offered.

The Magic Keyboard is filled to the brim with magnets, features a comfy little trackpad, a backlit keyboard, a nifty hinge that’s reminiscent of the iMac G4, and an extra USB-C port to boot. It doesn’t seem like Apple should have been able to get this much into such a small package. But they have and it’s delightful.

The magnets in the lid are very strong. To the point where I’m not worried at all about the iPad falling off when I don’t want it to. That does make it a bit tricky to remove the iPad, though. I tend to brace the keyboard with one hand and lift up on one of the bottom corners of the iPad itself with the other. It’s a bit too easy to have the iPad slip during this process, though. Often this causes the opposite corner of the iPad to bump against the keyboard, which isn’t ideal.

It’s definitely a trade-off, but I’d rather it be a little finicky to remove than have to worry about the iPad falling out unexpectedly. And I’d place this in the nit-pick category, for sure, it’s not like it’s that difficult to gracefully remove the iPad.

The backlit keyboard feels comfortable to type on, despite some of the keys being smaller than usual. I might have made slightly different decisions when designing the layout than Apple did, specifically the narrow hyphen key, but that’s mostly because of my own typing style — I almost certainly over use em-dashes.

It also would have been nice to see a function row with an escape key, but I don’t know how often I’d really use those. It’s omission is likely because of physical design limitations, though. If a function row was added, it would often be located uncomfortably far behind the bottom edge of the iPad. Since that’s the case, it’s probably better that Apple left it out.

You can get the functionality of the escape key mapped to one of the modifier keys, though. If you navigate to Settings > General > Keyboard > Hardware Keyboard > Modifier Keys, you can select one of the modifier keys and set it to act as an escape key. I’ve done so for the globe key, since I don’t use anything other than the standard virtual keyboard on my iPad.

The trackpad below the keyboard, is what many consider to be the star of the show. It’s the hardware feature that really sets the Magic Keyboard apart from what we’ve seen with the iPad previously. It functions exactly how you’d hope it to, giving you the ability to two-finger scroll, three-finger-swipe, tap to click, and all of the other nifty trackpad features that Apple added with iPadOS 13.4.

The physical size of the trackpad isn’t as generous as we’ve seen in Apple’s MacBook-line, but that’s because of the size limitation of the iPad itself. In the first few days with the accessory, I would mouse around with my middle or index finger and then attempt to click with my thumb. That’s my normal behavior on the MacBook Air and naturally have been trying to do so on the iPad too. But too frequently I would find myself missing the bottom edge of the trackpad entirely. I’ve since adjusting my hand positioning a bit, keeping my thumb a smidge closer to my mousing finger. I’ve also been more heavily relying on tap-to-click, which has worked just fine for me.

Coming from such a large trackpad on the MacBook Air, getting used to the trackpad in the Magic Keyboard has been an adjustment, but nothing that was insurmountable. And already I’m finding myself rarely running into these issues anymore.

The trackpad might be what sets the Magic Keyboard apart from the crowd, but the hinge system is makes the accessory’s design so striking. It’s clearly designed with weight distribution in mind. Allowing the iPad to float over the keyboard means that the entire package’s center of gravity is never too far back, which would cause it to tip over too easily.

With the two hinge system, I’ve never been concerned about the device tipping over. Even when tapping at the top corners of the display with the hinge pushed as far back as it can be — this thing isn’t going to tip over unless you really want it to. And that’s while allowing for a pretty comfortable range of motion. I’m sure there will be some users that are left wanting more — especially if they are a bit taller or frequently use their iPad at a standing desk. But for me, it’s just right.

I find my fingers bumping up against the bottom edge of the iPad while typing on occasion. Typically when I’m reaching for the hyphen or delete keys. I think I type with my hands a bit higher than most, though, so some owners might never run into that issue at all. It’s not exactly bad and it’s happening far less frequently than it did when the keyboard first arrived, so perhaps it’ll simply take a bit more time to adjust for. But if you keep your hands a bit high over your keyboard while typing, it might be something to keep in mind.

Built-in to the left side of the hinge is an additional USB-C port that can be used for charging. My buddy Matt Birchler did some testing and found that the port charges the iPad Pro at nearly the same speed as the iPad’s built-in port when using the stock charger. That was surprising to me — I presumed it would charge at a much slower rate, like half of the normal speed. But this is great news for iPad users that plan to use the Magic Keyboard full time.

Many iPad owners will find it useful to have an additional port available, so they can charge their device through the Magic Keyboard while another accessory is connected through the iPad Pro’s built-in port. But I’ve never actually connected anything other than a charging cable to my iPad. And I’m in the habit of charging my iPad each night, so charging the device while I use it is a rare sight. Maybe when the battery has aged a few years I’ll make use of it, but until then, it’s superfluous for me.

The Magic Keyboard’s base is quite rigid and feels like it was built to last. That combined with the excellent weight-distribution of the double hinge, means that the Magic Keyboard gives you a great typing experience on your lap too. I wrote the entirety of this review on the Magic Keyboard and much of that time was spent with it right on my lap.

It’s not exactly as comfortable to use on your lap as a MacBook is, but that’s sort-of to be expected. Given how much of the weight is located above the keyboard, though, I think Apple did an outstanding job engineering this thing to be useable on your lap. And that’s a huge leap forward compared to what we had available to us previously.

But the biggest surprise to me about the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro and what has really shaped my thoughts about it overall is the fact that it made my iPad less inviting to use. For the first couple of days, I kept my iPad in it full time and found myself reaching for my iPhone when I typically would have been using the iPad. Perhaps because of the greater barrier to entry in opening the device with the keyboard attached — the magnets are strong and unlike MacBook’s there isn’t a cutout where you can easily open the hinge.

Or it could also be the indirect nature of interacting with the iPad through the keyboard and trackpad. It doesn’t lend itself well to touching the screen because of its mostly vertical position. And I really enjoy directly interacting with my apps through touch.

It also could have been the added weight, but whatever the specifics are, the Magic Keyboard has taught me that holding the iPad Pro in my hands is my favorite way to use the device by far. And anything that gets in the way of that tends to discourage me from actually using it.

Now that isn’t to say I don’t like the Magic Keyboard. Quite the opposite, actually — I love the Magic Keyboard. It’s my favorite accessory for the device. But for me, it isn’t something I plan to keep my iPad in permanently. The vast majority of the time, I’m going to continue using my iPad Pro exactly how I was before — setting it in Twelve South’s Compass Pro to watch videos, holding it in my hands on the couch to browse the web, tapping away on the screen to compose tweets and shorter links here on Initial Charge, and so on.

The Magic Keyboard plays an important role for me — it will become my default keyboard for the iPad Pro. Instead of getting out my Canopy by Studio Neat when I want to type for long stretches, I’ll grab Apple’s Magic Keyboard instead. This will let me enjoy the benefits of the integrated trackpad, physical keyboard, and its comfortable lap-top usage when I need it. And when I’m done writing, I can detach the iPad and use it as I always have — re-establishing the inviting nature of the platform that I’ve grown so fond of.

Is that worth the $299 price tag? It is for me. But I spent about half that on Apple’s standard Magic Keyboard alongside a Canopy. And I bought those specifically for the iPad — it’s not like I had the keyboard laying around and bought the Canopy to use with it. So I’m not above spending a bit too much money on accessories for my devices.

Considering what the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro brings to the table, I think it’s worth it. Especially if you care a lot about the typing experience and want something that offers unmatched integration with the iPad Pro and iPadOS. It’s a slick piece of tech that every iPad Pro owner should, at the very least, consider adding to their kit.

One Week With the New iPad ➝

Josh Ginter, writing for The Sweet Setup:

Apple’s 11-inch iPad Pro is, quite simply, a joy to pick up and hold. It’s wonderfully light and the edges are rounded off and soft, making for a great couch and lounge chair device. This, and the narrower aspect ratio, combine to make the 11-inch iPad Pro the ultimate device for watching movies, reading books, and browsing the web — all the tasks Mr. Jobs proudly pounded into our shimmering eyeballs back in 2010.

Somehow, I think this 11-inch iPad Pro is the exact device he envisioned all along.

A great review with some excellent observations, written from the perspective of someone moving from the larger, 12.9-inch 2018 iPad Pro. I especially enjoyed the side-by-side comparisons showing the two display sizes with different app configurations on screen. And it goes without saying, the device photos are superb.

➝ Source: thesweetsetup.com

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.

John Gruber Reviews the New MacBook Air ➝

John Gruber:

The things that haven’t changed with the MacBook Air — size, weight, display — didn’t need to change. They were already great. The things that have changed — price, performance, and for me personally, especially the keyboard — have all changed significantly for the better. These new MacBook Airs are a lot cheaper, performance is appreciably improved for both CPU and graphics, and the keyboard has gone from “well, it’s OK” to “damn, this keyboard feels so good it makes me want to write something”.

I’ve used a 2018 MacBook Air as my work machine for almost a year and a half. There were only two things I wanted in my next machine — a reliable keyboard and increased performance. Apple delivered on both.

I’m due for a new work-issued computer sometime in the next few months. And because I work for the best company ever, I’ll be able to pick out the model and choose the build-to-order options that I want to use. I’ll likely wait until I see what an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro has to offer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with one of these new MacBook Airs.

➝ Source: daringfireball.net

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.

MacBook Air

As some of you may know, I recently started a new job. I’m now a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, helping WordPress.com users build their online business, share their ideas with the world, or do just about anything you could think of with a website. This new change in my life is at least partly to blame for the lack of publishing here on Initial Charge, but now that the holidays are behind us, I should have a bit more time for writing.

I’ve added quite a bit of new tech to my setup over the past few months and have plenty of thoughts and ideas to share about what’s happened in the world of Apple recently. But today, I thought I’d spend a bit of time discussing the new MacBook Air.

I’ve had the new MacBook Air for about two months now and it’s served as my primary work machine. I occasionally do some communication-related tasks on my iPhone and iPad, but the vast majority of my work is done on the Air.

I ordered the Space Gray model with a 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

There’s a small part of me that wishes Apple allowed for a bit more customization with this machine. But in practice, the Air’s internals have been more than sufficient for my needs. I routinely have several tabs open in Chrome alongside Slack, Things, Simplenote, and nearly a dozen menu bar applications.

I know that this isn’t the heaviest workload — I’m sure video editors and developers would push this machine to its limits. But I haven’t had a single hiccup with it from a performance perspective. For my needs, the MacBook Air has been absolutely perfect in this regard.

I’ve been quite happy with the machine’s battery life as well. I haven’t come close to the “up to 12 hours” that Apple lists on its technical specifications page. But I use Chrome, so that’s to be expected. In real world use, I’m getting closer to 6-7 hours on a single charge without making any alterations to my work. That’s significantly more than any other Mac I’ve ever owned and is enough to get me through the bulk of my work day. I bet if I closed some background apps and disabled Turbo Boost, I could squeeze out a full day of work on a single charge.

From a hardware design perspective, I’ve been mostly happy with the new Air. While it is larger and heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air that it replaced, the machine itself feels rock-solid. And when you consider the additional screen real estate that it offers, I think this is the perfect laptop size for me.

One notable aspect of the MacBook Air specifically is the size of the power brick. This isn’t something that gets brought up too often when I see others weighing the pros and cons of each model in Apple’s lineup. But the new Air’s 30W power brick is the same one that ships with the MacBook. And it’s downright minuscule compared to the 61W and 87W chargers that ship with the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros. I’m really going to appreciate that when traveling.

To circle back to the display for a moment — it’s superb. It doesn’t get as bright as the MacBook Pro, but I haven’t felt the need for it in my use. I have the automatic brightness setting turned on and it usually floats between forty and sixty percent. I’m running the display with the default scaling settings and everything looks crisp and clear. Absolutely no complaints on this front.

I’m perfectly fine with the ports situation as well. Two USB-C ports has been one more than I’ve needed in my day-to-day use so far. I haven’t plugged anything other than my power adapter and an external display into the machine. Although never at the same time since I’m using the LG UltraFine 5K Display, which delivers power and data on a single cable. When I’m traveling, I’ll surely appreciate the ability to plug in an external drive while I’m charging, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d want an additional port — I guess I just don’t use peripherals like everyone else does.

As a quick aside, how incredible is it that a notebook this small is capable of powering a 5K display. It’s the “best of both worlds” machine that I’ve always dreamed of. I get the thin and light ultra-portable when I’m traveling and a spacious 27-inch display when I’m at home at my desk. It really is amazing.

But back to the port discussion. This transition to USB-C has been kind to me. I’ve purchased a new SSD that came with a USB-C cable and a USB-C to Lightning cable so I can charge my external trackpad, keyboard, and mouse when the need arises. Funnily enough, I own more dongle-related t-shirts than I do actual dongles for my MacBook Air.

The Air’s built-in trackpad feels spacious and comfortable — Apple continues to build the absolute best notebook trackpads on the market. There was a bit of an adjustment at first, since I was moving from the older-style physical trackpads to the haptic-powered ones. But it didn’t take more than a week or two before the trackpad felt normal to me.

My biggest complaint is that the trackpad occasionally misses my “tap to clicks”. However, this has been the case with every Mac trackpad I’ve ever used — the Air is no better or worse. I’m almost certain that these missed inputs have something to do with the algorithm Apple uses to prevent accidental clicks while typing. And although it doesn’t happen more than a couple of times each day, I wish there was a way to fine-tune this setting so that it missed these “tap to clicks” less frequently.

Touch ID has been such a nice feature for me and I’m so glad Apple decided to include it without the Touch Bar, which still feels a bit too gimmicky to me. I do have my Mac setup to unlock automatically with my Apple Watch, but this actually lends itself well to how I plan on using my Mac.

When I travel, I often leave my Watch at home — it’s one less thing to charge, manage, and keep track. So I can utilize the convenience of Touch ID in those instances. But while I’m at home, the Air is frequently connected to the 5K display in clamshell mode, which means Touch ID isn’t available. This is where unlocking with my Watch swoops in to smooth out the rough edges. This is the sort of seamless integration and niceties that I’ve grown to love about using Apple products.

And that brings me to the keyboard. Apple’s new notebook keyboard might be the most controversial change to their lineup — even more so than the move to USB-C. I typically stand on the side of it’s mostly fine, but I have experienced some problems that had me reconsider this stance.

The full-size left and right arrow keys still trip me up from time to time. Although I have started getting used to it. I do believe that the inverted “T” design of the previous style keyboard is still vastly superior, but this change isn’t a deal breaker for me.

Before owning the keyboard, my biggest worry was in regards to the distance between keys. This aspect of the keyboard was a significant hurdle for me in the brief moments that I spent test driving the keyboard at Best Buy and the Apple Store. I always felt lost while typing because there just wasn’t enough definition between the keys. Luckily, that feeling subsided quickly and the keyboard actually feels good to type on now.

That is, until I started getting duplicate inputs when I pressed certain keys. Whenever I would type something with the letter “a” or “p” in it, the Air would register multiple key presses when I was only intending to type a single letter. For example, typing the word “apple” would give me something like “aappple”. Referring to this as “irritating” would be a gross understatement.

Since I spend most of my day typing, this is basically a nightmare. I’ve tried to mitigate the issue by attempting to smoosh whatever dust or debris is causing the problem by firmly pressing on the top of the key and giving it a little wiggle with my finger. That will usually give me another day or so until the problem arises again. But this is by no means a solution.

Upon the recommendation of Apple, I went out and bought a can of compressed air that I’ve used to hopefully blow the dust and debris out of my keyboard. The jury’s still out as to whether this is going to fix the problem for longer than my smoosh method, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

It is a pretty major failure on Apple’s part that this is even a problem to begin with, though. I’ve owned a handful of other Apple keyboards throughout the years and I’ve never had to use compressed air to clean debris out of them. In fact, this is the first can of compressed air I’ve purchased since I switched to the Mac over twelve years ago.

I just can’t see how this design flaw wasn’t discovered during testing. It had to have been. I only had the MacBook Air for about 3-4 weeks before I started having problems with it. If it means I have to blow some compressed air into the keyboard every month or two, I guess it’s something I can deal with. But Apple needs to take the time to think about whether the trade-offs are worth it for this keyboard design.

Spoiler alert: they’re not.

Yes, I’m sure Apple’s design team appreciates the thinness of this keyboard, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of usability. Especially when they have another keyboard in their lineup that’s absolutely incredible to type on. I’ve used the Magic Keyboard for almost two years now — it’s an absolute joy to use and since it’s still using scissor-style key switches (as opposed to the butterfly mechanism in MacBooks), it doesn’t exhibit any of the problems that users have experienced with the MacBook keyboards.

Apple needs to stop trying to fix a flawed design and refresh their entire notebook lineup with a new keyboard that utilizes the same key switches that they’re using in the Magic Keyboard. That would be the ideal way forward for Apple and their customers.

Here’s the thing, though. I grouse about the keyboard, but honestly, I love this machine. Nearly every other decision that went into building the new MacBook Air was spot-on. The weight and form-factor are perfect for my needs, Touch ID fits well into my workflow, and the performance is fantastic. The keyboard alone might be a deal breaker for some, but I think this is the best Mac I’ve ever owned.

Video Games by iCollect

List View and Grid View

Last month, I booted up my PlayStation 2 and started playing. The console had been sitting under our television since my wife and I moved to our new house last fall, but it hadn’t seen much activity until recently. It started when I found a ton of old games while unpacking boxes in the office — a task that I took far too long to finally get around to.

Tony Hawk’s Underground, Downhill Domination, and Theme Park Roller Coaster quickly became common sights on our living room television. But after a few weeks playing games from my high school days, I found myself browsing local thrift shops for inexpensive games to add to my collection.

My library of games has nearly tripled in about a month — I suppose you could consider me a retro game collector at this point. But I ran into a bit of a problem when I was browsing one of the local thrift stores last week. I couldn’t remember whether I owned a game they had in stock. I had no system for keeping track of the titles I owned and a wishlist of games I’d like to buy.

Later that night, I did some searching in the App Store to see what software was available for such a task. There was no shortage of options available and most of them didn’t look very good. After a few days of trying most of them, my favorite by far is Video Games by iCollect.

Barcode Scan Mode

The app features bulk barcode scanning for quickly adding games to your collection, powerful filtering and sorting options, themes, customizable item views, and more. What I like most about it is the simple interface. It has a tab bar along the bottom for switching between your games view, your wishlist, the app’s eBay marketplace, and settings, which is vastly superior to the clunky hamburger menus found in other apps. Although, you’ll want to hide the ”Collectors tab” in settings, which just lists other apps by the developer.

Adding games to your collection is a snap with the bulk barcode scanner. I was able to add most of the games in my collection in just a few minutes. It can be a little tricky to find the right game with the text-based database search option. Often you’ll find multiple instances of the same game and you’ll have to tap into each one to find the right match. Luckily, you can edit any of the fields associated with a game to better fit your copy before or after adding it to your collection.

Once you have your games tab populated with your collection, you can filter and sort the items through the menu in the top left. I often use this to show games from a specific console and sort those based on release date or IGN rating. This is something that’s often difficult or impossible to do in other apps within this category.

In the app’s settings you can customize what gets displayed alongside the game cover and title when in list view. I have mine set to display the game’s IGN score, genre, and release date, but you could set it to display the publisher, platform, number of players, storage location, or any of a number of other options.

The app has the option to display your collection in a grid view, but it uses a Delicious Library-style wooden shelf background and there’s no option to change it. Viewing my games in a grid was my preferred view in competing apps, but I just can’t get past the wooden shelves — it feels so unbearably dated when compared to other apps on my iPhone.

Video Game Cover Wall

You can also view your games in a coverflow-style grid. But it’s only available in landscape and because of that, might as well not even exist. The only time I ever hold my phone in landscape is when I’m watching video and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon.

That covers the basic features of the app and what I expect most users will actually use. But it is worth noting that Video Games has the ability to import your collection from Collectorz or Delicious Library and it offers export options in a few different formats. This makes it fairly easy to jump to another app if this one doesn’t fit your needs.

The app also features a marketplace tab, which appears to be a simple front end for searching eBay through the developer’s affiliate link. I haven’t used it for purchasing games and don’t expect I ever will. I prefer to purchase games from local thrift stores or online storefronts that specialize in retro games, like Lukie Games. But if you’re looking for a way to help support the developer and pickup some new games in the process, the marketplace could be useful for you.

Video Games by iCollect has its quirks, but its the best app I’ve found for keeping track of my video game collection. I can add new games to my wishlist with ease and reference the app while browsing local stores for new titles. The barcode scanner makes adding new games to my collection a breeze and I love the ability to filter and sort my library based on release date, IGN score, and platform. If you collect retro (or modern) video games, I recommend giving this app a try.

Edit for iOS

Edit is a brilliant new writing app from K.Q. Dreger that’s the very definition of doing one thing well. It’s a place to write short-term notes, draft email replies, compose articles, or jot down bits of text. I’ve been using it for just over a week and it’s already earned a permanent spot on my first home screen.

There really isn’t much to Edit, though. It’s a single-view application with a text field, a word counter, and a few buttons in the bottom left. I think the always visible word counter is a great touch. And I appreciate the ability to quickly switch it to a character counter with a single tap. The word counter is great for most of my writing, but if I’m drafting a tweet, the character counter is a necessity.

Edit Features Light and Dark Modes

In the bottom left, there’s a dark mode toggle, a select-all shortcut, and a share button. I’m not someone that gets too excited about having a dark mode — I’m the oddball that usually prefers most applications’ light mode. But the dark mode hides my first complaint about the application — text sits too close to the top of the screen.

It’s an incredibly minor complaint, of course, but I wish there was a little bit more padding between the edge of the display and the text itself. Turning on dark mode helps this tremendously, though. On space gray iPhones and iPads, it makes it difficult to determine where the display ends and the bezels begin.

I think it would help if there was an option to display the menu bar within the application, which could be a way to give users a bit of margin at the top of their screen. I understand why the menu bar is hidden — to help users maintain their focus on writing. And although I appreciate Dreger’s decision to release the app without a settings screen, I find myself wishing I could glance at the top of my screen to see what time it is.

As for the select-all shortcut, it’s absolutely genius. Edit doesn’t have the ability to save multiple documents — you get a single text field and that’s it. So if you want to start from scratch, the select-all button gives you a quick and easy way to delete everything.

I have found myself wishing that double tapping the select-all button would delete everything automatically, though. Currently, you’ll have to tap the select-all button and then use the delete key on your keyboard. I could see downsides of a shortcut like this, but perhaps displaying a modal dialog to confirm the action — with the ability to skip it in the future — would be sufficient. But this would inevitably lead to an additional option, if you’d like to turn those confirmations back on in the future.

Speaking of selected text, as an aside, it would be really neat if the text counter switched to displaying the number of selected words or characters when there was a text selection on screen. This could be useful if you were drafting a tweet or message with a number of different wordings, separated by a line break, but wanted an easy way to check the character count of each. In fact, this is the kind of feature I’d like to see in every writing app.

Taking a step back for a moment, Edit doesn’t have the ability to save multiple documents within the app. Which begs the question, how do I save text once I’m done with it? That’s where the share button comes in. Edit utilizes the system’s share sheet to let you send your text to just about any application on your device. This is the key takeaway for this app and what sets it apart from other writing apps. Edit isn’t a place for long-term text storage, it’s a place for writing.

Exporting From Edit

If you want to write an article, take a note, draft an email, compose a tweet, or do almost anything with text, start in Edit. Once you have something presentable, use the share sheet to send it to Bear, Newton, Ulysses, Day One, Linky, or whatever the most appropriate application might be. Edit isn’t a one-stop shop for all of your text needs, its part of a bigger workflow that utilizes a number of other applications. It lets you quickly get text down in a focused environment and you can figure out where its going to live once your done.

Aside from the handful of minor complaints mentioned above, I would also like to see iCloud syncing added to the app. I have it installed on both my iPhone and iPad and it would be nice if I could start writing on one device and then pick it up on the other. And I would love if there were some typographic options as well. The app let’s you change the font size using pinch-to-zoom — which is brilliant, by the way — but there’s no way to change the app’s typeface.

Currently Edit uses San Francisco with some often unused OpenType alternative characters to create a familiar feel while maintaining its own uniqueness. And while I think this is a great decision out of the gate, I’d still like to see a few more options in the future.

I spoke with Dreger about many of these feature ideas and he seemed very receptive to them, specifically mentioning that syncing was high on his list of priorities. But of course, syncing isn’t a simple feature and it would take a lot of experimentation and research to figure out exactly the best way to implement it. I have confidence that we’ll see it in the future, but don’t expect it anytime soon.

Overall, I think K.Q. Dreger made all the right decisions with Edit’s initial offering. Utilizing the share sheet and the select-all shortcut to eliminate the need for storing multiple documents is such a brilliant idea. I still think its a few small features away from becoming an absolute must-have. But despite that, Edit has become an important part of my writing workflow because it’s core set of features are rock-solid and the application is such a delight to use. This is the kind of app that just about anyone could benefit from using.