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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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From iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 11 Pro Max

So I bit the bullet and upgraded from my trusty iPhone 7 Plus to the just released iPhone 11 Pro Max. I was having second thoughts about going to the Max size but I am glad I did. It suits my hand better. (I had second thoughts about the size because I had used an iPhone 8 as part of work and felt that the smaller size was better).

I had skipped the X series because I wasn’t a fan of the notch and Face ID. I understand why Apple went with a notch (at least it wasn’t just for the heck of it like most Android phones) but I didn’t like it. Felt very ugly. And then with the iPhone 11 Pro the stove/ fidget spinner/ big gun/ <insert favorite meme> camera trilogy… brr, so ugly! Why couldn’t they have just put it on a straight line horizontally or vertically. For these reasons I was against jumping to the iPhone 11 Pro series.

But then I started seeing all the YouTube reviews and hearing the iPhone 11 camera praise in podcasts. That started changing my mind. Surprisingly no one made any fun of the cameras! It wasn’t an issue at all.

I was perfectly happy with the iPhone 7 Plus cameras, but still… the iPhone 11 seemed better in low light, it had a new ultra wide camera, a lot of camera tricks, etc. Reviewers like Nilay Patel of The Verge were gushing over how much better the camera is over last years’ iPhone XS and how they recommend it as an upgrade even for iPhone XS users (if the camera mattered to them).

Then I read somewhere that next years’ iPhone is going to be a major refresh. I knew that already, but what I didn’t know what that there’s a good chance Touch ID was making a comeback – possibly in conjunction with Face ID. That’s great news, but then again do I want to buy a Gen 1 refresh? As a general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to skip the Gen 1 product with Apple – be it the first Apple Watch, or even a product line refresh such as the iPhone X or previously the non-S versions. And as much as I love Face ID, and the idea of using both as two factors of authentication, I’d rather wait one or two Gens after that for things to improve (similar to how Touch ID progressively improved, or Face ID is supposedly better in iPhone 11).

So that settled it. But what really clinched the deal was that one of the UAE online retailers started selling the Hong Kong version of the phone. The advantage of these is that they have two physical SIMs (as opposed to a physical SIM and an eSIM). I don’t know if the model has any issues because of the LTE band variations in the model – I didn’t read up too much on it. This made the iPhone 11 a good purchase coz now I can put in my second SIM too in the same phone.

I only got the device a few hours back so this is more of a first impressions from the point of view of someone who’s jumping iPhones after a long time. First off, setting up the device was a breeze as it easily migrated everything off my old iPhone, including the connection to my Apple Watch. That was so easy! Within an hour I had the new iPhone exactly as my old one – all the apps, wallpapers, settings, etc carried over. Putting in both SIMs was easy – both go into the same tray with one on top and the other below – and iOS gives you options like letting you switch between data providers automatically depending on the connection, or assigning preferred SIM for various contacts.

The phone heavier than the iPhone 7 Plus. Not too much, just a bit. I had heard about that and the battery improvements it brings, so that’s fine. I went with the Gold version (as that was the cheapest) but it’s nice how the front of the phone is identical for all colors – there’s no difference like gold borders or white in the front. Yes there’s Gold on the sides but you never see that, and the front is fully black so it goes well with the dark mode. The notch doesn’t trouble me at all like I expected it to. I have forgotten about it already, it’s just a part of the top of the phone. The phone feels larger due to the lack of bezels etc., but not too fancy as if it’s curving into the edge or anything. Overall it is very familiar to the iPhone 7 Plus but with the sort of improvements you would expect after 4 years. Familiar yet slightly better, and easy to get used to.

Speaking of getting used to, Face ID is convenient. Just look at the phone and apps unlock, nice! That is way easier than using your finger. Yup, I am going to miss the finger at night or when I can’t just unlock the phone without looking at it; but for the times when I can look it is futuristic and easy.

(Update: I wear glasses and I realized that Face ID doesn’t recognize me without them. Turns out I can add an alternate identity, so that helped).

I find it a good touch that when I unlock the phone with Face ID it doesn’t just go into the home screen. It needs a swipe up. Not sure why I like that coz it would seem that going into the home screen when I unlock is the more convenient thing to do. I think with this method I can have my notifications hidden when locked, but when I unlock I can see them; and if I want to go into the home screen I can then swipe up.

The back of the phone feels good. Glass but with a different feel. That’s the new matte finish. It’s not slippery, which is good. And doesn’t seem like a fingerprint magnet. My hands sweat when holding the phone and this back lets them sweat without feeling too icky. It’s comfortable holding the phone. (Holding the 7 Plus too was comfortable, so this is more to the fact that I was concerned maybe the 11 Pro back is more slippery or not similar – which is not the case here).

The bottom of the keyboard is better in that I now have a mic and emoji selector there itself thanks to the extra height. The phone feels snappier than the 7 Plus (which wasn’t snappy to begin with but had started showing signs of slowness or stuttering since iOS 13).

I hate the fact that the control center is now on the top rather than at the bottom. The latter was easier. But it’s no biggie I hope. I enjoy the swipe gestures that have replaced the home button – I was kind of used to them from my iPad so this was an easy thing to get used to.

That’s it for now I think. I haven’t actually taken a photo yet or even launched the camera app for that matter! Waiting for a better opportunity tomorrow outside.

I love the screen compared to the iPhone 7 Plus. This is my first OLED and I had heard how good they are and how they make the blacks stand out, now I see it. Am in love with the dark mode themes of most apps now as they look gorgeous.

This is a good post on the new home screen gestures since iPhone X. Good to know I can turn off the phone and press the side switch and any volume button to temporarily disable Face ID and force use of a passcode. That should be useful in a hostile environment I guess where someone could show the phone to your face and unlock it. (Or maybe not, they’d torture the passcode out of me anyways!)

Updates:

(4 days later)

  • No comment on the camera. I haven’t gone out much to take pics on it. The few pics I took in a park seems good (but then they always do with an iPhone). I tried some photos at home in the low lighting. Difficult to judge how good it is. First impressions are that I wasn’t too blown away, but that maybe coz I had some high expectations. Compared to the same scene in my iPhone 7 Plus I didn’t notice any huge improvement. And compared to the same scene from a Pixel 3a (which I have from work) I actually felt the Pixel 3a picture to be better. Anyways, more later. I haven’t take much low lights photos at home before anyways so that’s the best thing for me to judge currently.
  • What irritates me a lot though is the fact that I have to swipe from top for the control center. Boy, I hate that! Aargh. That’s probably my most common gesture on the iPhone, as I like to swipe up the play/ pause/ rewind. Now I have to swipe down from the top right corner so that makes it a balancing act or a two hand act wherein I hold the phone with one hand so it doesn’t fall. I tried swiping down on the home bar so it brings the screen down (the Reachability feature and I then swipe down the now reachable) top right corner, but that’s two gestures and I don’t always manage to swipe down the home bar correctly and instead end up triggering whatever app action is beneath it currently. What I am now experimenting with is the AssistiveTouch option of having the very dim circle at the bottom left of my screen which I can tap to open the control center.
  • Moving around text. Previously I could long press text and that gave a helpful magnifying circle and a pointer I can move around to select the precise word. Now it’s a mess. Got to tap a lot of times and try moving the cursor around to get the right place. Yes I know the long press on spacebar trick, so that’s what I do currently. Doesn’t feel the same though as just tapping around on the screen where the text is.

Lovin’ iPhone portrait mode

I started using a work provided iPhone 8 recently, side by side to my personal iPhone 7 Plus. I opted for a golden iPhone 8 and I love that look on the glass back. In terms of prettiness I so much prefer the iPhone 8 to the 7 Plus. It’s a much less finger print magnet too. I think it’s my fingers – they sweat – so the back of the iPhone 7 Plus gets all sweaty after a while of use. But no such issues with the iPhone 8.

I don’t think I’ll ever buy a personal non Plus size phone though. I don’t use the portrait mode much but I miss the dual lens on the Plus when I take pics with the iPhone 8. And the size of the Plus is convenient for typing and watching movies. I notice that I tend to use the iPhone 8 more as a phone or checking work emails or browsing something which quickly, but long term I prefer the iPhone 7 Plus for the size.

Here’s a nice (personal opinion!) pic I took with the iPhone 7 Plus in portrait mode now. That’s what prompted this post.

In other news I have purchased a TORRO case for the iPhone 7 Plus. They look so good! It was an impulse purchase and I hope to get it tomorrow.

Anthromorphizing

So. Previously I had my OnePlus 3T and iPhone 6 paired with the Sennheiser PXC 550. Whenever I’d connect the headphones would announce the OnePlus 3T as “phone 1” and iPhone as “phone 2” as that’s the order I had initially paired them in. 

Ever since I paired the iPhone 7 Plus though the headphones announce both phones as “phone 1”. I find that funny coz I imagine it must be confusing to the headphones to have two phones that are both “phone 1” and in my mind it’s as though the iPhone 7 Plus is trying to be a dominant partner and say “no, I too must be phone 1! period!” :)

Just an example of how we try and assign human attributes to gadgets and other things. I find it funny that I am attributing some “nature” to the phone. This is not the only one though. I find that the iPhone 7 Plus gets along better with the OnePlus 3T and Sennheisers. If I have music playing from the OnePlus 3T and I turn on the iPhone 6 it would “claim” the channel so to say by blocking out the OnePlus 3T. The latter would continue playing but nothing comes out of the Sennheisers any more. The iPhone 7 Plus on the other hand is better. It too takes over but 1) pauses the OnePlus 3T and 2) if I am not playing any audio it gives control back to OnePlus 3T and resumes playing music. Again there’s some techie reason for this I am sure, but in my mind I attribute qualities like the iPhone 7 Plus gets along better or whatever. 

Anyhoo. That’s all! :)

Connect a Pebble to two devices

I wish I had known this earlier. Would have saved me some money and hassle. 

I have a Pebble Time (I love it! Sucks that they went out of business). I used to have it connected to my iPhone but found that it drains more battery. So I started using it with my Android and found that to be a better match. Especially since I use my Android for listening to music and there are Pebble apps like MusicBoss that make it so much easier to control music on the Android via Pebble. I still wanted something just to get notifications from iPhone and had played around with devices like the Microsoft Band and later even having a second Pebble just for the iPhone (so I had a Pebble on each hand :p). 

I got rid of all that (the Band broke, the Pebble’s outdated) so now I am back to one Pebble and two phones. Randomly Googling on whether I can hook up both to the same Pebble brought me to some Reddit posts that explained it’s possible. 

In my excitement I didn’t save the links but the idea is simple. First you pair the Pebble with your iPhone (if its already paired with Android, no problemo just turn off Bluetooth on the Android for a while). Go through the motions and you’ll see Pebble and iPhone are connected via Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE (Low Energy). Now pair the Pebble with Android (or turn on Android Bluetooth if previously turned off as above). Android will pair via Bluetooth. At the same time the iPhone will stay connected via Bluetooth LE. 

Turns out Pebble uses Bluetooth for data transfer and control (and optionally notifications) – which is what I want with Android anyways! – and Bluetooth LE if available for notifications – which is what I want from iPhone. So it’s a win-win situation. 

I tested by calling both devices and in either case the Pebble too buzzed. Nice!

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.