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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

The new AirPods Pro

I bought the new AirPods Pro yesterday and returned them today (I didn’t return them; see the end of the post for an update). That’s not coz I hate them or anything, just that they had one very important niggle for me and so I don’t want to pay the current full price for them. I’d rather wait for a deal or something when the price goes down (as they tend to do with the AirPods and other headphones too at least).

So let’s get the bad out of the way: it’s the ear fit.

I don’t think my ears are identical. Heck, I don’t think even my head is symmetrical (at least in terms of ear position). I know that with on-ear headphones that have notches (very useful to mark the position of the band if it’s adjustable) I typically tend to have one side on say 3 bars while the other on 2 bars so one side is slightly higher than the other. Similarly with in-ear headphones I sometimes have to use different size ear tips – usually a large for one ear and a medium for the other. With the AirPods Pro the left ear fits amazing well and I get a good seal, while the right ear is so-so. I tried all three sizes, and while the large works great with the left ear the right works ok-ish with the large and not at all with the others. In fact with the small and medium the AirPod Pro doesn’t even sit properly in the right ear.

One good thing about the AirPods Pro though is the ear tips testing they do via the Settings app. With any other pair of in ears I’d not get a good fit and think that maybe it’s just me being picky or whatever, but with the AirPods Pro even the ear tips testing app told me that the right ear didn’t have a good seal. Of the more than 15-20 times I tried to take them off and on, I managed to get a good fit twice in the right ear (the trick is to put them in as usual and then use the thumb to sort of push them further into the ear canal) but that fit only stayed for a few mins and it soon loosened. I wasn’t even munching anything for the fit to loosen – one time I was walking, the other time I was sitting, and in both cases after a while I could feel the right side loosen and while the AirPod Pro wasn’t going to fall out I can feel the outside air and slightly more noise.

That’s it really. That’s the only negative thing I found about the AirPods Pro. If that fit was perfect – heck if they had just included an XL size ear tip, I could have used that for the right ear and be very happy with these. In fact, I don’t think the L size ear tip is really large; it’s between what I’d usually consider a Medium and Large, so if the L size was actually XL, and the M size was actually L, I could have just used the L in right ear and M in the left ear (which, come to think about it, is what I usually do anyways).

One nice thing about the ear tips though – they have little markers with S, M, L on them so you know what size it is instead of having to compare with the rest of the lot. It’s a good touch. I am not a huge fan of the click on mechanism to put them on. It does the job, but is a bit scary when you have to rip the ear tip out and hope it doesn’t tear. Similarly when you push them in it doesn’t always click. I’ve had to turn it around a bit for the notches to align and it to click in. But it’s not a big deal. I get the rationale behind the design change, so power to them.

Moving on to the good parts of the AirPods Pro: everything else.

The noise cancelling is great. The first time I put them in it reduced the outside noise and I thought: “great, not bad noise cancelling”. Then I realized that the noise cancelling wasn’t even on, this was just noise isolation from the ear tips. So I turned it on and boom I could just feel it kick in and dim the outside noise. That is great! That’s an experience unlike most other noise cancelling headphones I have used. Sure they noise cancel, but I’ve never had the transition. If I put on a pair of Bose QC 35IIs and on them the outside noise goes off, but that’s more like a flick of a switch as opposed to the transition which happens with the AirPods. It’s not a big deal in the end coz what matters is the eventual noise cancellation, but it’s a nice touch. (The same way when you take a photo on the new iPhone 11s and its dark, the phone doesn’t just tell you to hold the phone still – there’s a timer on top and the photo slowly comes on the screen as it’s being captured).

I used the AirPods Pro out for a walk along with my Sony WF1000XM3s. That’s my other pair of noise cancelling in ear buds that are similarly wireless and all, so I figured I must compare like against like. I wish I could give a proper answer about which one noise cancelled but that’s difficult because I never got a good fit with the AirPods Pro. The one time that I got a great fit (and even the app said I had a great fit) the AirPods Pro were amazing – as good as if not a bit better than the Sony WF1000XM3s – but most other times it was so-so. I could hear a lot of the outside noise and feel the outside air in my right ear.

The good thing about the Sony WF1000XM3s is that they come with many tips, including a few foam ones. So I have the foam ones on and even though I am using the same size in both ears I am able to push the right ear one more deeply inside and it stays put. Because of that I get good noise isolation and cancellation and they feel better. Where the Sony sucks though is in its app, which is terrible. Or rather, where the AirPods Pro excel is in its integration with the Apple ecosystem. There’s no slowness as you can easily toggle noise cancelling or transparency via the Settings menu or Control Centre (or even via the Apple Watch – so cool!). It’s all very natural with the AirPods Pro. Even the gestures between these two devices. For the Sonys I have to tap on the little touch area, and that’s fine, but occasionally it doesn’t register well and so skips ahead when I meant to skip back for instance. The AirPods Pro though have this little squeeze gesture and while I found it awkward initially I quickly got used to it and now I’ll miss it. Apple’s done some fine stuff in there, I really wish they’d just included a larger size ear tip and I could have been so happy. :)

Another area where the AirPods Pro shine over the Sony WF1000XMs is the mic. They work great. The Sonys are fine as long as I am inside and there’s no noise to cancel, but take them out and its like they noise cancel what I am speaking. Everything gets chopped up.

A lot of reviews compared the AirPods Pro to the PowerBeats Pro. I don’t get that comparison though. They are different beasts. The PowerBeats have no noise cancellation, and come with this humongous case … so you can’t even carry it around. At least the Sony WF1000MX3s have similar features and only a slightly larger case (not as pocketable as the AirPods Pro, but still it makes an attempt). I like the PowerBeats Pro though. Interestingly their sound signature is different to the other Beats headphones. The only other Beats I used before the PowerBeats Pro is the Beats X – which I love, and I have some 2-3 pairs of coz they keep breaking – but while the latter is more bassy the PowerBeats Pro is neutral. They fit well in the ear coz of the over-ear hooks, and have a good mic and all that. So if you want an AirPods equivalent that fits well in your ears and you don’t care about portability, then by all means get them. Definitely better than AirPods a long as you don’t want something small to carry about. But if you want noise cancelling, then AirPods Pro it is … provided they fit in your ears. With the PowerBeats my left ear is the odd one. I feel like it could fall out of my ear any time, or that the fit isn’t well – neither of which is really true, just that I feel like the left side can do better some way. A good thing about the PowerBeats Pro is that you can mess with the hook to try and get a better grip or push the headphones deeper so I have been fiddling with that to make the left side feel better.

The mic on the AirPods Pro is better than the QC 35IIs too. So if that matters to you, and not that you should be comparing the AirPods to Boses, that’s a plus for the AirPods Pro (along with the fact that its more portable, integrates better with Apple, less pricey etc). The mic of the AirPods Pro is as good as, if not slightly lower, than the NC 700s. The latter have pretty good mics, and they noise cancel the surrounding noise well too when you are speaking into it. The NC 700s however are way more pricey, and less comfortable, so it’s a different thing altogether. But that said, I’d still choose the AirPods Pro over it if I could have got the fit correct (and thus the noise cancelling too). Until that happens there’s no sense in me paying the full price for something that I’d like to own coz it’s great but which I may not make full use of coz it’s primary use case for me (noise cancelling) doesn’t work well coz the fit is bad. Hopefully in a while the price drops or there’s some 3rd party ear tips that have better fit etc. – who knows!

Ok, that’s a lot of words for a product I will be returning soon. :)

Ps. Forgot to mention this earlier. Kudos to all these wireless earbuds – AirPods, AirPods Pro, Sony WF1000XM3, and PowerBeats Pro – for either offering identical controls on the left and right side or at least the option to customize the controls on either side so you can choose to have them identical or decide which side does what. As a person who tends to use both hands that’s one thing I hate about most on-ear headphones – the important controls are all mostly on thh right side. Of these only the PowerBeats Pro offer volume controls too (on both sides, wow!) as well as nice clicky physical buttons, but the lack of volume buttons for the others isn’t that big a deal for me as I can just press the volume switch on my phone through the pockets or just use the Apple Watch.

Update 1: So I wrote the blog post, packed up the AirPods Pro (as I had already filed a return request), and went about with the rest of day. After a while I had this idea to test the mics of my various headphones. I use them for a lot of calls and while I know the Bose NC 700s are the best I wanted to compare it against the others. After doing that for the various headphones (yes Bose NC 700 rocks in terms of mic and mic noise cancelling) I thought let me try with the AirPods Pro too. After all I have them at home.

As usual the right ear didn’t fit, but whatever. The test wasn’t that great either coz I could hear a lot of the background noise due to the poor noise cancelling. However, while I was taking out and putting in the right AirPod this time I didn’t push it in as I was doing before. I simply put it inside my ear, no extra twisting or anything. I don’t know why I was pushing earlier – just habit I guess from the regular AirPods or other in earbuds. When I just put in the AirPods Pro though they stayed in magically, and even better the seal was perfect. Since then I have taken it out and put back simply a dozen times, and each time the seal is great and the test app too confirms it. Nice!

So pro tip: don’t push in the AirPods Pro, or twist or anything. Just put them in. It might feel like they are going to fall down but they won’t. I pretty much jumped around after doing this to see if the AirPods Pro fall, but they didn’t. I was like Joanna Stern in this video, less good looking and less watchable. :)

Update 2: A week after the above update I finally returned the AirPods Pro. And now I miss them, but on the whole it’s probably for the better. (Haha, sounds funny saying that about a pair of headphones). I returned the PowerBeats Pro too as they too were in the return window.

So why did I return the AirPods Pro? Because as much as the seal improved after I started to just put them in, and they stayed alright even after all the moving around I’d do, I couldn’t get this thing out of my head that the right ear bud will fall out. The logical part of my brain knows it won’t fall, but the non-logical part is always tense that it may fall out and so I keep pushing it in at random to appease myself. I didn’t like that.

I returned the PowerBeats Pro too for similar issues. There it was the left ear. The right ear had a perfect fit, the left was not completely sealed and while that didn’t give me any worry about the PowerBeats Pro falling out (coz of the hooks) I was conscious of the lack of seal and hence not great sound quality. Whenever I’d push it in the music sounded better. I played a bit with the hooks to get the ear bud to go in deeper, but that started to hurt my ear coz the hook was pressing in. I guess for the PowerBeats I wanted a larger left ear bud. So complicated, my ears!

I still might get the AirPods Pro again. They are great portable headphones. I just didn’t want to spend that much money now coz it’s more of a luxury item currently than something I absolutely need.

Thoughts on the Magic Mouse 2

Background: I purchased the Magic Mouse 2 today. I had been vary of purchasing it initially because I saw it with a colleagues and also the Apple Store and was concerned the flat nature of the mouse might not be very ergonomic. It probably still isn’t, but the past few months I had been using a Surface Mobile mouse (review from Windows Central here) and if my hand could get used to its flat nature I figured the Magic Mouse 2 might not be too bad. Plus with the Magic Mouse 2 I’ll get all the gestures so it’s way more useful too.

Very brief thoughts, after a few hours of use:

  • I like it so far. A nice minimal design. I thought the lack of buttons might be a problem (especially, I had read somewhere that the right click is a regular click on the right side and some people found that odd) – but not for me.
  • The mouse is heavy. Which is good. This was unexpected.
  • The two finger gestures are a tad difficult because the mouse itself moves when you do these, so you have to kind of hold the mouse and do the two finger gesture. Just a matter of practice I guess. Something like these MagicGrips might help there but I am not keen on sticking stuff to the mouse.
  • Yeah, it is funny that you have to charge the mouse by sticking a cable to the bottom. Very weird that the mouse lies on its side while you charge. Ugly. :)
  • The entirety of the mouse body is a touch surface, which is cool. You can swipe or click anywhere.

[Aside] Mac Mini 2018 Teardown & RAM Upgrade

I could never bring myself to open up any of my Apple devices! :) This video is cool though and gives you an idea of what the Mac Mini internals look like. (via)

Happy Diwali!

Yes, I am still around. :)

Been a hectic few weeks. A lot of work. My eyes hurt, my right hand hurts. Too much screen time and typing.

In non-work news though, I am now a Mac user. Yay yippee yay! It was a sudden and unexpected shift, but one long overdue I guess. I have been a Mac wannabe ever since I saw a Mac at some computer exhibition back when I was a school kid. Could never afford a Mac ever although one time I was quite close to buying a Mac Mini but I backed out in the last minute. Anyways, a few months ago (August I think) I finally bought a MacBook Air (no, not the newly released finally updated one, but its older outdated brother).  It was the cheapest Mac-anything I could find, and my wife saw it on a deal online and that got me thinking and I finally jumped in and bought it. I could have gone for the MacBook Pro but that was too pricey. I could have gone for the MacBook but I was aware of Apple’s 2nd gen butterfly keyboard problems and didn’t want to risk ending up with a faulty keyboard. I wasn’t super pumped about the MacBook Air as I knew there was the possibility of a new one coming out in October (as it finally did!) but eventually I figured there’s no point overthinking something and it’s best to just go ahead and get it.

That was a good decision! Loved the MacBook Air and the Mac way of doing things. I had to go traveling soon after that so couldn’t play much with it, but while traveling I saw one of colleagues had a MacBook Pro (not the latest model). While on travel I had been thinking of changing laptops as my current personal laptop was about 5 or 6 years old. I wanted something with at least 32GB RAM in it and oddly none of the Windows laptops I saw in shops or online had that. (Not saying there aren’t Windows laptops with that config; just that they are custom built and not easily available where I am). Anyways, I came to know that I could connect to work too via Mac (as my colleague was doing) and so all that got me thinking about MacBook Pro’s and on a hugely on-the-spur thinking I went ahead and purchased a MacBook Pro. Yup, that was one crazy leap of faith!

The MacBook Pro arrived by the time I returned from my first set of work related travels so I took it along for the second set. Was a pleasant experience working with the macOS. I love the gestures – swiping between screens, apps, etc. So convenient and I sorely miss them when I am back on Windows. The Mac’s keyboard shortcuts aren’t that great – too many keys, I barely know any of them (just screen lock and screenshots). The keyboard shortcuts are a whole level of crazy! It’s good there are so many modifiers and all that but it’s too much for me to keep track of at least after this brief period of working with them.

Anyways, flash forward a few weeks to last week when the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini were announced on Oct 30th. I pre-ordered the Mac Mini right after the announcement and it arrived today! Yay double yippee yay! :) The MacBook Pro replaced my personal Windows laptop and the Mac Mini will replace my personal Windows desktop (which I don’t use for much except media sharing and stuff). Oh, nearly forgot, during this period I also switched to iCloud Photos (I was already on Apple Music so nothing to do there) and slowly started moving some of my stuff from Dropbox to iCloud. Yup, I am on a one-way train out of Windows world to Mac world finally! I am not a fan of one-way trains so I hope this doesn’t backfire, but let’s see … got to go with the moment for now!

I am an Apple fanboy. Have been from my first iPad Mini and all the way through my increasing Apple gadgets. I don’t think I am blindly in love or anything, but I do think Apple products have some magic about them. They make things “easy” or somehow appeal to some part of your self that makes you innately love them. That’s my stand on them at least. I have tried Android phones and Windows & Linux phones and computers; but none of them evoke a feeling of love like an Apple product does. And I have discovered that feeling again with the macOS. Not saying Apple of macOS are perfect, but I tend to love them in-spite of the imperfections.

So that’s it. Once I move the data out of my personal desktop to the Mac Mini I think it’s safe to say I don’t have any more personal devices with Windows on them. I use Windows for work, and I have Windows VMs which I use to play with; but all my primary devices are now Macs.

Happy Diwali again! :)

New MacBook Air

So I finally dipped my feet into the Mac ecosystem and bought myself a MacBook Air. Yes, I know it’s 3 years old but what the heck – it was the cheapest Mac I could buy! Went for the 8GB/ 256GB i5 version as that’s the one I found on a deal with our local online shopping provider. Might have gone with a different spec if I decided to go with the version available officially with Apple but a) that had a UK English keyboard and b) the same model there was about 33% more expensive so if I were to get a better spec’d one I’d be spending a lot lot more (bringing the costs up to the MacBook range). 

One thing about MacBook purchases though – it isn’t easy. I mean, with an iPhone. you only have to choose along the color & size, and then pick the capacity you want. But with Macs I have to worry about size, CPU (i5 or i7), RAM, and storage; and each choices ups the price by so much! And more than the price the choices just exhaust. It’s the paradox of choice concept (I’ve read the book) and the feeling is similar to Windows laptops where there’s so many choices and you just get bogged down trying to pick what you want and eventually let go of the idea itself. Which is what I had done here (let go of the idea) until my wife suggested this MacBook Air model that was on a deal and I thought what the heck and just purchased it. My focus here is to get something that will get me a toehold in the Mac ecosystem and probably settling on price as a criteria than anything else was what was needed. 

Oh, and the MacBook Air is the only one with a decent set of ports. Yikes! All the other MacBooks have just USB-C ports so there’s the additional cost of dongles and the hassle of having to carry them around. If it wasn’t for the dongles and the fact that the MacBook has a 2nd generation butterfly keyboard which is known for problems (which is fixed in the MacBook Pro’s 3rd generation keyboard) I might have gone for the MacBook. It has more colors too. 

Anyways, back to the MacBook Air. I’ve had it for less than a day now so these are just initial thoughts. 

  • I love the keyboard and size. There’s a lot of room for the hand, and the keys feel good to type on. It’s a very “lapable” laptop. 
  • I thought I’d be put off by the 1440×900 screen as I am so used to full HD nowadays and when I had recently tried using a 1440×900 external monitor I didn’t like it at all, but no I don’t mind this screen. Yes I notice the difference but I don’t mind it. 
  • I like the feel of the OS. I had various people tell me it is complicated and unintuitive etc. but I don’t see that. I love the two finger way of scrolling up and down pages and going back and forward, and the three finger way of moving across apps. That feels very intuitive and much better than having a touch screen. There’s a lot more gestures but I am yet to get the hang of that. I tried to memorize those initially but then figured I’ll pick them up as I go. I think I know the main ones that I am interested in at least. 
  • It’s a jarring experience going to the App Store and seeing all the prices! Boy. It’s like the pre-iPhone days when software used to be expensive. Pretty much everything is US$10 and above, and if something is free it is bound to have a in-add purchase. Even the same app which for iPhone & iPad is (say) US$5 would be US$50 or above here! I imagine it is because the code base is different and so there’s more effort? I don’t know. That’s something I am having trouble getting my head around. The Windows OS store apps are much cheaper (but yeah there aren’t many). Anyways, the App Store is like a trip back in time to expensive software. I don’t think I’ll be buying much apps. Or I hope I won’t be buying much apps – it is not a sustainable option. 
  • The laptop came with MacOS High Sierra 10.13.1 and I couldn’t update to the latest 10.13.6 via the App Store. I downloaded it and tried to upgrade manually, but that failed saying the volume doesn’t meet some pre-requisites. I downloaded 10.13.2 and 10.13.3 and was able to upgrade to them manually, but 10.13.4 fails with the same error. That’s when I came across the macOS Recovery options, especially the Internet Recovery option which you get to by pressing Option-Command (⌘)-R (instead of just Command (⌘)-R for regular recovery). Internet Recovery actually connects to the Internet (it prompts you for Wi-Fi details etc) and can download the latest version and do a fresh install. When I tried this it complained my disk was still being encrypted and so it cannot upgrade. Am guessing that is why the update previously failed so I’ll wait for the encryption to finish and try again. That is so cool though, being able to connect to the Internet and do a recovery! Windows recovery options are nothing compared to this. Even the Recovery screen has a good GUI etc. (of course, that’s easy for Apple to do as it controls the hardware; versus Microsoft which can’t cater for every single display where Windows might be installed on). 
    • Update: After encryption completed I was able to install 10.13.4 successfully. I tried to just to 10.13.6 directly but that failed. I realized that these updates are deltas so I’ll just have to install 10.13.5 and then 10.13.6. Tried that and now my system is finally up to date. Yay! Pity MacOS doesn’t do cumulative updates. 
  • What else? The Finder is good, the uniform way in which each app shows a menubar where you can go and find its options etc. is good. I love the UI as expected for its consistency and sleekness. I also loved how I could just click on the Apple icon and go to “About this Mac” to quickly find its OS version, free storage etc. I don’t know why I liked that, but I found it incredibly thoughtful of Apple to present this information via this option. 
  • There’s still (obviously) a lot to pick up. Keyboard shortcuts and gestures etc. 
  • Oh, forgot. Installing apps from outside the App Store is cute in the way you download the DMG file and then (in most cases) just drag and drop the application to the Applications folder. I remember reading somewhere that in the Mac each application is sandboxed to its own hierarchy or something so it’s not like Windows or Linux where everything just writes to a common place and there’s dependencies and DLL hell etc. 
  • I love how the MacOS restores all my previously open apps after a reboot/ shutdown. It’s just the other day I was wishing Windows could do something similar (my laptop crashed and I had to restore all my Windows) and it was pleasant to see the MacOS do exactly this whenever I’d reboot. Such a user friendly and useful thing to do!

More later!

New AirPods

So I finally purchased a pair of Apple AirPods. There was a deal going on and I got a good additional 20% as there was an offer on my credit card.

  • I can’t control the volume with it (except using Siri).
  • I have to choose between whether I want to be able to pause the music via double tap or go to previous or next tracks. I can customize the double tap on either side AirPod so I only have two choices really.
  • Good thing though is that I can pause by removing either of the AirPods.
  • The fit is good too. I expected it to fall out as Apple EarPods have never fit me; but no, this one stays. Good job!
  • Audio quality is ok as expected. No large sound stage. No bass (I don’t mind that). Good for podcasts and audiobooks which is my use case.
  • The lack of much controls customization irks me though. No other vendor would have been able to get away with that in my opinion.
  • Update after using it for a day: I love the fact that I can use it just one AirPod at a time. That’s super handy. That alone plus the small size and that it’s light and that it fits in my ear and I barely notice it makes it a very useful gadget.

[Aside] A great discussion on copyright and patents

Check out this episode of the Exponent podcast by Ben Thompson and James Allworth.

Ben Thompson is the author of the stratechery blog which is an amazing read for Ben’s insights into technology. James Allworth, I am not much aware of but he was terrific in the above episode. I began following this podcast recently and have only heard one episode prior to this (on Xaomi, again a great episode; in fact the one on copyrights and patents continues on a point mentioned in the Xaomi episode).

This episode was great for a couple of reasons. I felt Ben was caught out of element in the episode, which is unlike how I have read/ heard him previously where he is confident and authoritative. In this episode he was against abolishing copyrights – which is what James was advocating for – but he didn’t have convincing arguments. So he resorted to the usual arguing tricks like prop up examples and try to get the argument to be about the example (and when it still failed he would withdraw the example claiming it wasn’t appropriate here). Or he’d just take a firm stand and refuse to budge. Or incite James by insults and such. Or try and win by conflating the argument with something else which had no relation to it. Basically, usual debating tricks I believe, but it was fun to hear and I was surprised to hear him resorting to these.

Eventually when Ben clarified his point it made sense to me. His argument is that patents are harmful when they apply to “ingredients” (parts of an invention, e.g. pull to refresh) but he has no issues when it applies to a whole thing (e.g. medicine). Moreover, the question is whether the presence of the patent is required to spur invention (not required in the case of technology, required/ preferred in case of medicines) and whether society would be better off without the monopoly afforded by patents (again, no in the case of tech as it leads to barriers of enter and unnecessary patent wars and trolling for new inventions). Copyright, for Ben, is neither harmful to society nor will its absence spur more innovation, so he doesn’t see why it must be abolished. He seems to agree that copyright has its negatives and is harmful in some cases, but he still feels it is useful to make supply scarce (by preventing others from copying the work).

James agrees with most of these but his point is that the same effect can be arrived at without copyrights. Maybe by innovation in other areas, or by agreements between the creator and audience. His argument is more about considering a world without as an option, and to look at how things can be done differently. Moreover, such a world will lead to more creativity and he feels that’s better in the long run.

I can’t write more as I have a flight to catch, so I’ll end this post now. And it’s better to hear the arguments than my summary. Go check out the podcast. It’s a great one! Skip the first few minutes as it is some user feedback etc.

New gadgets

The Internet is full of people praising the new iPhone 6 Plus and how it’s larger size is great and how they are much more productive with it. I am tempted to buy it, and my wife has very sweetly offered to gift me one as she knows I love iPhones (thank you Sari!) – but I am holding off so far.

Couple of reasons really:

1) I am happy with the iPhone 5S. It’s barely 8 months old with me and I feel bad giving it up just because a new device is around the corner. A silly notion probably – these are just devices after all – but I love them and I feel heartless leaving behind the 5S so soon.

2) The iPhone 5S is still performing well. I haven’t moved to iOS 8 yet (due to lack of space for an OTA update) and maybe the upgrade will slow things, but as of now I am happy with it. Mind you, I was in a similar state with the 4S too when I switched to the 5S last year, but then I had used the 4S for two years and the 5S had many newer features. After switching the 5S I realised what I had been with the 4S and how slow the latter is, so keeping that in mind I wouldn’t give too much importance to the current point.

3) I like the small size of the 5S. Sure a bigger device has it’s conveniences and maybe I will love the 6 Plus once I begin using it, but why change if I am already happy? I was one of those people who preferred the smaller size of the iPhones. And I appreciated the fact that iPhone 5 only added an addition row of icons while keeping the width same.

4) I like to skip Apple’s first iteration devices. Like the first iPhone, first iPod Touch, first iPad, and am pretty sure the first Apple Watch. I feel (and this was mentioned by John Gruber I think) that the first iterations are where Apple releases it with some features missing or not optimised and by the second iteration they fix all that. Anyone who’s used the first iPhones and iPads will attest to it too – how they had many limitations and how the second versions were way better.

As a corollary to this I skip the odd iPhone releases too as that’s why Apple makes new changes. Examples: iPhone 4 (Retina and other changes such as the body and internals), iPhone 5 (size and other changes), iPhone 6 (size and a whole lot of software changes). The S versions of all these improved upon the previous version. So I always associate the S with “subtle”. To me they are subtle improvements of their predecessors. That’s one more reason why I would prefer waiting for the iPhone 6S Plus (what a mouthful! I think Apple might just make the Plus the main device by then depending on sales).

5) For the money spent on the new iPhone – which I have no real craving for – I can buy a Nexus 6 when it’s released. Or the new Sony Xperia Z3 or the soon-to-be-released HTC M8 variant with the better camera. This way I get to use an Android phone too for a while. Hopefully the Nexus 6 is also cheaper than the other two. I have an eye on Nokia Windows phones too but the good ones are very pricey – same level as the iPhones and high end Android, and while that’s justified I find it unreasonable considering those phones don’t have much market share or apps. Microsoft should reduce the price so more people adopt it for that reason at least.

Speaking of Windows though I placed an order for a new device today. A tablet laptop called Cain by an Indian manufacturer called Notion Ink. This is one of those convertible devices and the price seems reasonable (a bit on the higher side though). I love Windows 8 but haven’t used it as a tablet yet so this would be a good opportunity to do so. Moreover being a convertible I can use this as a laptop too when I am travelling. No need to carry my usual laptop along. (Me thinks in the future laptops will be what people use instead of Desktops nowadays. The device they use at home and maybe longer travel. Tablets and convertibles will be used for travelling and on the go. And Desktops would be for advanced people who want to upgrade the hardware or custom specs etc. Plus a second hand market where the Desktops can be upgraded or faulty parts replaced and resold. Of course this is probably the near future. Much later Desktops will be obsolete as Laptops too become upgradeable and/ or cheap so that no one cares about upgrading or repairing).

The Cain uses Intel Bay Trail SoCs which supposedly combine the performance of Haswell and such with mobile device features. The Cain also comes with one USB 3.0 slot and a microSD slot. Since it only has 32GB free space I ordered a small 64GB USB 3.0 flash drive as well as a 64GB microSD card to beef up the storage. Useful for storing movies when travelling.

I ordered all these today so am excitedly looking forward to them now! This is the period when you order a new toy and keep refreshing your tracking page to see if they have shipped it and where the heck it has reached. This is followed by a few weeks/ months when you are always playing with this new toy and constantly gushing over it. And that is followed by a phase when you finally get used to it and it becomes a part of your life like everything else. :)

Update: There are some reasons why I might buy the iPhone 6 Plus. Maybe in Jan.

1) I use the iPhone 4S as my travel phone and with the latest iOS 8 update the phone sucks. Sometimes the keyboard is slow, sometimes Safari slows and hangs, the phone in general feels so lethargic. I’ve got angry at it numerous times this past month as I am traveling and use it exclusively, and I hate having to do that. Apple should have just left this device at iOS 6. Heck, I should have just left this device at iOS 6 jail broken, which is what I was at before upgrading to iOS 7 last year. Upgrading was a bad idea! iOS 6 plus custom themes were giving me a near identical look anyways; the only reason I upgraded was because many apps started asking for iOS 7 as a minimum requirement (as they are now with iOS 8).

2) If I buy a 6 Plus I will be going for the 64GB version and that’s useful. When I bought the 5S I was cheap and went with the 16GB version (in fairness the larger versions weren’t available in Oman either). A 16GB version has limitations in that I can’t keep too many songs on the phone, I have to constantly keep copying away photos and videos, I can’t keep too many apps around, and so on.

3) It’s unlikely I will be buying an Android device. They are great, but I use many iPhone specific apps such as Fantastical (and the iPhone reminders), Prismatic, Byword, Litely, etc so I don’t want to go through that hassle.

One advantage the iPhone 4S has is it’s micro SIM. Much easier to get a micro SIM (or chop a regular SIM to micro) when travelling. Nano SIMs are harder to come by.

[Aside] Nokia saw the future…

… but couldn’t build it

Came across the above Verge article a few days back. Remembered it yesterday. It’s a good article on how Nokia didn’t make because it had good hardware but crappy software.

Being a Nokia user of long myself, I would also add that even though their hardware was good they didn’t put their best into it. I remember the Nokia phones of my youth – even the priciest one would have some feature or the other missing or compromised. It was as though Nokia had so many phone models that they didn’t want to put everything into one device. They spread their bets among many devices and so there was no one device a user could pick up as the best Nokia phone. Sometimes the camera was lacking, sometimes small features like FM radio or transmitters were lacking, sometimes the CPU was slower… and so on.

When the iPhone came out on the other hand, there was just one device and it was the best Apple had to offer. Sure the initial iPhone had many missing features but there was no other iPhone which had those features. Only one device, and Apple had put everything into it. When they improved the device next year there was again just one device and Apple put everything into it.

By the time Nokia changed this strategy it was too late. The world had moved on.

Even now, for instance, they have so many models it’s confusing. Sure if you go through the spec sheets and compare you can find one you want – but at first glance it’s confusing and is a chore.

Running out of time so I’ll cut short here.

iPhone 4S under iOS 7 is slow…?

A few days ago I had remarked that I don’t find the iPhone 4S under iOS 7 slower than before. Now I am wondering whether that comment was in haste.

The past 5 days, while I am on vacation in India, I have been using the iPhone 4S exclusively. And it does feel slow. Not extreme slow like my Galaxy Nexus, but definitely slower compared to the 5S and also possibly compared to how the 4S was before.

I have to qualify my statement with a “possibly” because I am not really sure. I feel the 4S is slower under iOS 7 than iOS 6.x but I am aware that could partly be perception too. After using the iPhone 5S for a month I am used to its faster speeds and so the bar is set higher in my mind. Now I expect apps to open with the speed of iPhone 5S and animations to be as smooth as the 5S, but the 4S being a slower phone can definitely not live up to that expectations.

A few days ago for instance I took out my old iPod Touch 2nd generation and installed whited00r, a custom firmware for such old iDevices that include enhancements from newer Apple firmware. I expected this firmware to be fast on the iPod Touch, but it was not. I disabled all the extra animations and tools, and while I can see the device is not sluggish it just does not match up to my expectations. Which is where the idea first cropped in my head that maybe the problem is in my head. I know the iPod Touch was a great device up to the time I used it last, so if it feels slow now with the same version of firmware it was on (whited00r is based on the 3.x series) it can’t be an issue of using a more demanding firmware on an older device – it has to be my expectation. This is why I qualify my statement about the iPhone 4S and iOS 7 with a “possibly” above.

Apart from that, the iPhone 4S is actually probably slower on the iOS 7 than iOS 6 due to the extra features and gloss and animation. Even the iPhone 5S has a bit of slowness opening folders and some apps, so one can expect it to be worse on iPhone 4S. I feel this slowness is slower than bearable, and I don’t like it much, but I also feel if it’s fixed on the iPhone 5S (I hear iOS 7.1 fixes all these) then it will probably improve on the iPhone 4S. These are quirks with iOS 7 itself – manifesting in both devices – and fixing these quirks will make the iPhone 4S behave as it should. Slow, yes, partly due to perception and partly due to slower hardware, but not as noticeably slow as I have been finding it the past few days.

Hope iOS 7.1 indeed makes the 4S faster. I hate being unable to use the 4S as happily as I used to before.

I believe Apple does not sell you a phone. It sells you an experience, which is why Apple tightly controls the hardware, software, selling channels etc, and so a sub par performance on the 4S is something Apple can’t ignore as other manufactures might, because experience is central to Apple. Even on an older hardware users expect bearable performance from newer firmware as long as Apple officially supports it. Some performance loss would be there due to perception, but apart from that it should work smooth. If Apple feels certain features might not work well on the older devices they are welcome to disable it on such hardware, but everything else should work as expected.