Tag Archive for ‘Touch 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.

Thoughts on MacBook Pro

At last week’s event, Apple introduced some major updates to the MacBook Pro. It took me a bit longer to digest everything than I initially expected. But with all of the controversy surrounding the upgrades, I knew I had to share my thoughts on the new machines and the state of the current Mac lineup.

I’ll tackle the MacBook Pro’s design, internals, and my own debate about what machine I’ll be buying in the near future. The decision isn’t easy at the moment and I’m hoping we’ll see more Mac updates soon that will help to solidify each machine’s role and nudge me in one direction or another.

Design

The new MacBook Pros are truly stunning machines. They no longer feature an illuminating Apple logo on the lid, but I think that’s a fair trade off when you consider everything else these machines offer. The most obvious of which is their physical dimensions and weight.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is smaller than the 13-inch MacBook Air by every measure — unless the thinnest point of the wedge shape matters to you. And the 15-inch MacBook Pro is no slouch, either. It’s about a pound heavier than Apple’s 13-inch offerings, but still manages to be thinner than the MacBook Air.

These dimensions and weight are very impressive to me. There’s a lot of professional users that would rather see Apple build a thicker portable with more ports and a bigger battery, but I’m not in that camp. I want my next notebook to be as small and light as possible while still offering all-day battery life and good performance. Apple’s priorities seem to line up perfectly with mine in that regard.

Where the company and I don’t see eye-to-eye, though, is with the keyboard. The new MacBook Pro features a second-generation version of the butterfly-style keys introduced in the MacBook. I’m extremely hesitant to switch to this type of keyboard. Granted, I haven’t spent too much time with it, but the limited key travel felt terrible to me. And that’s setting aside the decreased distance between keys which makes it more difficult to know where my fingers were without looking.

I had hope that Apple may have fixed these complaints when Phil Schiller called it a “second-generation” version on stage, but alas, Jason Snell says it doesn’t feel much better:

Well, it’s my sad duty to report that the MacBook Pro keyboard has the same key travel as the MacBook. Apple says the stainless steel dome switch beneath each key has been honed to give you a more responsive feel, but to me it feels just like the MacBook’s keyboard.

Perhaps I’ll get used to it with more time — after all, I manage to enjoy typing on my iPad’s screen with zero key travel. But I do not look forward to living through that uncomfortable stage where I frequently mistype things and spend an inordinate amount of time looking down at my hands instead of the screen.

But Apple has me overlooking the mediocre keyboard with the inclusion of a giant trackpad and the Touch Bar — the most noteworthy feature in these new machines.

The Touch Bar is available on the 15-inch MacBook Pro and the higher-end 13-inch model. It replaces the legacy function keys with a multi-touch screen which can display all of the familiar shortcut keys — screen brightness, volume, media playback controls, etc. — as well as application-specific shortcuts.

There’s been a lot of backlash from the Apple community regarding the Touch Bar, but I couldn’t disagree more with the naysayers. The Touch Bar looks like an incredible piece of tech that will undoubtedly change many of the common user interface paradigms that we see from our software. It won’t happen all at once, unfortunately, but as the Touch Bar makes its way to the rest of the Mac lineup we’ll begin to wonder how we got by with these archaic function strips we’ve been using for the past twenty or thirty years.

In addition to the minuscule multi-touch display, Touch Bar-enabled Macs also feature a Touch ID sensor on the power button. This can be used for logging into macOS and performing online purchases with Apple Pay. I wouldn’t consider Touch ID to be a major new feature for the Mac, but I’m glad it’s finally here. The first iPhone with Touch ID shipped in 2013 and there’s been speculation of it coming to the Mac ever since.

Internals

Power hungry users might not be happy with the processors and graphics available in the new MacBook Pro, but they are a sizable step-up from the previous pro portables. Of course, that isn’t saying much considering how long we’ve been waiting for a new MacBook Pro, but I think Apple made the right compromises for most users.

To put it in perspective, the fastest computer I’ve ever owned is my mid-2011 Mac mini — the base model, Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro is about 50-60% faster than my mini. That’s absolutely incredible. Especially since the Mac mini is already powerful enough to serve my needs.

That brings me to one of the best features in modern Apple notebooks — battery life. For the last several years Apple has lauded the “all-day” battery life in their laptops and the MacBook Pro is no different. Apple claims ten hours of battery life for all three machines. That might not seem impressive to anyone who’s recently purchased a new MacBook, but it’s a substantial step up from my 2011 MacBook Air, which routinely lasts about four hours on a single charge.

It is worth noting that Marco Arment has questioned the validity of these battery life claims. In a recent episode of Accidental Tech Podcast he pointed out that both of the 13-inch models have the same battery life rating, despite the higher-end one sporting a more power hungry processor and the Touch Bar — both of which would impact battery life. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the reviewers say after they get their hands on it.

Apple has also continued down the path of USB-C with these new MacBook Pros. The lower-end model, without the Touch Bar, features two USB-C ports while the two higher-end models have four. This decision seems to have stirred up the most controversy within the community, but I think the complainers are being shortsighted.

Regardless of how reliant you currently are on wired connections, the future is wireless. Apple’s made that very clear with the MacBook’s single USB-C port and the removal of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 — in a handful of years, most users won’t ever plug anything other than a power cable into their computers. I’ve been mostly living that way for many years now and its an absolute joy.

I have a wireless, AirPrint printer from HP for printing and a Time Capsule for backups. I use Bluetooth and AirPlay for audio and video playback while AirDrop and shared folders allow me to seamlessly move files between devices. Everything works without a hitch and I don’t have a bunch of cables to wrestle with.

The one area where I haven’t transitioned yet is with my headphones. I currently use Apple’s EarPods, but plan on upgrading to AirPods as soon as they’re available. No other wireless headphones offer the same, seamless experience as Apple’s do with the W1 chip and I’d rather wait than buy a junky pair from someone else.

And I am fully aware that many users aren’t living the wireless lifestyle yet. These are the people who have been tweeting about all the dongles they’d need to buy in order to use one of these machines. My suggestion is to purchase a breakout box. Find one that has a few USB-A ports, an HDMI output, and a USB-C port for power. They might be a little expensive, but they’ll get the job done until all of your accessories are upgraded to USB-C.

But take stock in the devices that you plug into your computer, I think you’ll find that you don’t own a single accessory that uses a USB-A to USB-A cable. It’s very likely that everything you connect to your computer is going through an adapter. It might be an adapter built inside of the cable, but it’s still an adapter. Rather than buying a bunch of dongles, consider buying replacement cables instead — USB-C to Lightning, USB-C to Micro-USB, and so on. You’ll have a much better experience.

Debate

In my eyes, the new MacBook Pro lineup features the best Macs Apple has ever built. Their performance, design, portability, and battery life are all killer. But this is where Apple loses me — pricing. The MacBook Pro has always been a premium product and their pricing has reflected that, but a $1,499 starting point is just too much for me.

I have to imagine that’s why Apple even bothered building the Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro in the first place. If Apple went on stage and announced a starting price point of $1,799 for the new MacBook Pro, the community would have lost their minds — more than they already did, if you can believe that. The Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro might be too expensive for me, but at least its an attainable product for a fair bit of Apple’s existing MacBook Pro customer base.

This leaves me with a bit of a debate. Sometime next year I plan on purchasing a new Mac. I thought I could go a bit longer with my existing 2011 MacBook Air and Mac mini setup, but I recently signed up for Treehouse and need a rock-solid machine to learn and code on.

I’ve discussed my new Mac criteria in the past, but here’s a little refresher:

  • At least 16GB of RAM.
  • At least 1TB of solid state storage (or a Fusion Drive).
  • A Retina Display.

The first two are soft requirements — I’m sure I could get by with 8GB of RAM just fine and I always have the option of using a smaller internal SSD alongside a large external hard drive for media storage.

My hope was that Apple would have announced more attractive pricing for the MacBook Pro. But with that out of the question, here’s the two options I see for myself in the current lineup:

  • Purchase the base model MacBook to use as a development machine. Setup the Mac mini as a Plex server and import all of my ripped DVDs — instead of using iTunes Home Sharing, as I do currently. Move my Photos library and iTunes music to the MacBook.
  • Purchase an iMac with Retina display that can be used as both my home media server and as a development machine.

There’s benefits and downsides to both options. The MacBook is portable and relatively inexpensive, but features the less-than-stellar keyboard and would require me to continue managing multiple Macs. The iMac would simplify my setup and would allow me to use a third-party keyboard, but would force me to work at my desk exclusively and is relatively expensive — although, it’s easier to justify the cost since it would replace the functionality of my MacBook Air and Mac mini.

The truth is, Apple’s current Mac lineup is far from perfect. There isn’t really a great machine for me right now. If these new MacBook Pros were a little less expensive, this would be an entirely different story.

As it stands right now, I’m going to wait and see what updates Apple has in store for the rest of their lineup. I’m not holding my breath for a new Mac mini or Mac Pro, but luckily I wouldn’t be in the market for either of those anyway. Maybe we’ll see a price drop come to the MacBook or updates to the iMac that bring a standalone Touch Bar keyboard into the mix. Either way, I’m just glad I have another six months or so until I make my final decision.

Unofficial iPhone Home Button Repairs Can Brick Your Device ➝

From a security standpoint, it makes perfect sense for Touch ID to stop functioning if the sensor is replaced. But it certainly shouldn’t render the entire device unusable. Rather than displaying “Error 53,” the iPhone should gI’ve the user an explanation and require a passcode in any instance where Touch ID could be used.