My first look at the Apple AirPods and Apple Watch Series 2
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/RVToUCWCwe0
My first look at the Apple AirPods and Apple Watch Series 2
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/RVToUCWCwe0
Hot off the Apple Event in San Francisco, my first look at the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/eB2brGdZtyw
And so it came to pass, that a tween son and a tween daughter finally received their (pre-loved) iPhones tied to the All-Father’s Family Sharing account.
At the iPhone Handing Over Ceremony, the All-Father read out the Rules and Regulations governing said iPhones.
Thank goodness for Apple Family Sharing and the ability to calibrate the iPhones correctly for kids. This All-Father thanks Apple.
A shorter version of this article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
It is hard to believe that it is already the 27th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for Apple. Besides me, more than 5,000 attended the conference to find out what Apple will do for watchOS, tvOS, iOS and macOS.
Yes, OS X is finally called macOS. I will miss the old name but hey, at least the naming convention looks consistent now.
Before diving into the program of the day, Tim Cook led the auditorium in a moving moment of silence for the victims of the tragic Orlando Shooting.
The new watchOS 3 looks a lot faster, which is welcome. With each iteration, WatchOS has gotten faster and more usable. You can now share Activity with your friends and family, which is useful for keeping motivated and for trash talking your fitness "opponents". This means I may have to buy my wife an Apple Watch now. I also like the Scribble feature that lets you write on the Apple Watch screen. And SOS will call for help via your iPhone or wifi, without you needing to know what the emergency number is for the country you are in.
And oh, Minnie Mouse is joining Mickey Mouse as a watch face in watchOS 3. And you can even change her outfit colour. Minnie fans, rejoice.
Eddy Cue came on to talk about tvOS, and now you can do Single Sign-on for all your Pay-TV apps on Apple TV 4. Not terribly relevant to us since we don't have that many Pay-TV apps in Singapore. But the new Remote control app that mimics the Apple TV 4 remote is most welcome.
macOS gets a nice big update, besides the name change. macOS Sierra finally brings Siri to the Mac. I use Siri a LOT in my Apple Watch and iPhone so this is a welcome addition for me. You can search for your files on the Mac with Siri, and even get Siri to find photos or work files with criteria you speak.
Universal Clipboard also got me excited. This lets you copy and paste seamlessly between your Mac and your iDevices. Also cool: Craig Federighi showed us how you will be able to use Apple Pay for your online purchases on your Mac. How it works is you click on the Apple Pay option on the website and then you authenticate payment with either Touch ID on your iPhone or by using your Apple Watch.
iOS 10 is a huge huge update. I don't even know where to start. Messages will support full-screen messages, stickers, emojis on steroids and other third-party enhancements. Some of these sticker and emoji action look like the features we already use on Line, Telegram and WeChat but I have to say that the Apple implementation is slick.
Yes, Apple has opened up Messages to developers to add functionality to it. In fact, Apple seems to have opened up a whole lot of the iOS core features to developers, the most significant of which is Siri.
You will be able to tell Siri to send a message via WeChat or Whatsapp, tell Siri to book a restaurant… I cannot wait to see how developers make use of Siri. That sounded kind of wrong.
Photos is another exciting iOS 10 improvement. Memories is a function that will be able to identify faces, and group people, places and things into albums. Then you can use the grouped content to create Memories movies, a slide show made up of photos and video clips from say, your trip to Seattle or Japan in June 2016, and set it to music.
Apple Music gets a long needed overhaul too. The interface is bolder and cleaner. I shall give it a go when it is available, to see if it is improvement enough to lure Spotify stalwarts.
Interestingly, Apple revealed that there are now 15 million paid subscribers to Apple Music. That is a lot of paying customers. Maybe there are many Taylor Swift fans.
Bozoma Saint John, Head of Global Consumer Marketing Apple Music & iTunes, who presented this segment, was a breath of fresh air in the presentation. She played some cool music (Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang) and tried to get the auditorium dancing and rapping along. Sadly, we failed her in the rapping department. What a cool lady!
And finally, Tim Cook revealed a free gift in the form of Swift Playgrounds for iPad. The app allows anyone, especially kids, to learn how to code in Swift. Now that is something I wouldn't mind letting my kids play with on the iPad, instead of just games.
Coding is indeed an important language for kids to pick up, and Swift Playgrounds may be a great gateway to interest them enough to learn more.
Here is a nice summary of the features in one video, used with permission from Apple:
I stayed up till 3am for you. Here, a roundup of the new Apple announcements:
-New 4-inch iPhone SE a.k.a. Baby iPhone 6s (16GB and 64GB). Now those of you with small hands and really like tiny toy-like phones have a powerful new option.
-New 9.7-inch iPad Pro a.k.a. Baby iPad Pro with new Smart Keyboard (effectively bye bye, iPad Air 2). I am most excited about this since it is a lighter version of the huge 12.9-inch iPad Pro. At less than 500 grams, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro should be a great travel iPad Pro. Also, the same four-speaker awesomeness for movies and music on the go.
-256GB configurations for both 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. Now this I like a lot. I already use up my 128GB often.
-New Lightning to USB 3 Camera kit and SD card reader. The former is very cool to me as it opens up the Lightning port to more power-hungry USB devices.
-New nylon and metal straps for Apple Watch. Gotta love that black Milanese strap.
-iOS 9.3 with Touch-ID password protection for Notes app. This is awesome. I can now store sensitive info in Notes. Like the secret drawings of my new Iron Man suit.
I watched the 9.7-inch iPad Pro announcement on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro: iPadProception.
Yes, I know the iPhone SE stands for Special Edition but why couldn’t Apple name it iPhone Boaty McBoatface? I'd buy an iPhone McBoatface.
Also cool, Singapore gets a mention on the use of solar panels for Apple in Singapore.
I finally set up my new 2015 Apple TV with the Siri Remote. Decided to give the Siri feature a try so I asked via the Remote, "Hey Siri, show me the latest movies."
My Apple TV, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6s Plus in the room all heard the question and replied at the same time.
I quickly went down to my nuclear bunker.
You would think that having owned a wireless SONOS sound system in the house for a few years, I would be jaded. But when TC Acoustic, distributor for SONOS, sent me a Playbar, Sub and two of the new Play:5's to play with, it was like having a second honeymoon with a system I thought I already knew.
I set up the Playbar and Sub in my master bedroom, and used my two existing Play:1's to be the rear speakers. Now my bedroom became a home theatre. I used to watch my movies in the living room, where my home theatre is set up. But with the SONOS setup in my bedroom, the wife and I were now watching our Netflix and Apple TV movies in air-conditioned comfort.
The Playbar, Sub and Play:1s were compact and unobtrusive enough to reside in my bedroom, while giving me 5:1 surround sound. Most of our viewing happened on Netflix anyway, which meant tv shows and movies streamed from our TV were in surround. And because the system is wireless, using the SONOS wifi system, I didn't need to run unsightly wires in the bedroom to enjoy surround. I just needed to find power sockets to power the speakers.
With a complete SONOS system in the bedroom, streaming music from our Spotify account or from the music library on my home network drive was even more enjoyable. Playbar + Sub + Play:1s gives me great sound in the bedroom. Bass is solid, the highs and mids clear.
The first thing I do every morning now is turn on the room-filling music. Then when I am done dressing in the bedroom, and I move into the living room to read the papers, I use the SONOS app to shift the music to the SONOS system in the living room, where I set up the new Play:5's.
Ahhhh, the new Play:5. What a huge improvement from the older model! The new Play:5 really surprised me.
Two of these Play:5's set up as a stereo pair are enough to cover my living room with music. You can lie the Play:5 on its longer side for a wider sound stage or stand it vertically for more focused sound.
The older Play:5 had five speakers: two tweeters, two mids and one woofer. In the new Play:5, there are SIX drivers inside the box: three tweeters (one central, two side-firing) and three mid-woofers, each with their own dedicated amplifiers, which explains the clear and vibrant sound.
When you change the orientation of the Play:5, it knows if it is horizontal or vertical and adjusts itself accordingly.
Using new Trueplay feature in the SONOS app, I could tune the speakers to give me equal sound throughout the room or tell the SONOS speakers to focus on my sofa area, where I listen to music most. You use it by turning on Trueplay on your phone, then you turn it upside down so the mic is facing out, and then you walk around your room waving your phone up and down while Trueplay plays a test tone. You will look silly doing this, but the result is impressive, giving you better tuned sound for your room.
My pair of new Play:5's are so good, I don't even need to use the SONOS Sub for added bass (though if you wanted to, it would definitely sound better). I have my Sub with the home theatre setup in the bedroom, and just use the two SONOS Play:5s in the living room. The speakers, including the Sub, are wireless and easy to set up anyway, so I can always move the Sub to the living room to join the Play:5's anytime I want to.
The SONOS app is as usual, a treat to use. All my music services work with it, like Spotify and Apple Music. I would still love to be able to use my Spotify app directly, but the SONOS app is very usable, plus it knows to search for music on both my home music library and Spotify.
Now I am tempted to try adding more speakers into my study room, which currently has a lonely Play:1 in there. It's an audio addiction, I tell you. A SONOS one.
Go join the Tat Chuan Acoustic contest and stand a chance to win your own Play:5!
Caption: Renowned artist Artgerm giving the iPad Pro and Pencil a go. He liked it a lot. Watch his Livestream review.
It has been about two weeks since I got my iPad Pro. I was probably one of the earliest to get it in Singapore before it was officially out.
1. When you first see it, your first thought will be “Wah, so big!”. Your second thought will be, “Wah, that’s really big!”
It is not designed for one-handed operation, though it is only about 712grams, about the weight of the first iPad.
It is happier on the table. Or carried with both hands.
2. The screen is incredible. I feel like my photos look awesome on it, and as a photographer, having something that shows your photos in the best light, in 5.6 million pixel glory, is really important.
That said, any flaws are also visible. Every bit of motion blur and poor focus is visible when you zoom into that photo on the 12.9-inch screen.
3. The speakers. Oh. My. The speakers. They have bass. They are loud without distortion. The four speakers, one at each corner, switch orientation when you turn the iPad Pro around, always keeping the top two speakers firing the mids and highs.
Movies and TV shows shine on this device. I rarely watch things on a tablet without my headphones. I don’t even do that with my MacBook 12-inch Retina because I don’t like the tinny sound. But not this iPad Pro. I want to hear the sound from the speakers. They are that nice.
I used to travel with an iPad Air 2 (tiny serviceable speakers that only fired sound out of one side when watching a movie in landscape) and a very loved Harmon Kardon portable Bluetooth speaker so I could get nice room-filling music in my hotel room. I may just take the iPad Pro alone for the next trip.
4. The iPad Pro is fast. They say it is up to two times faster than the iPad Air 2, which wasn’t a slouch in the first place.
I can feel it when I work. I open photos. Edit them. Type stuff. Open two apps side by side to work. Run a movie in Picture-in-Picture mode. The iPad Pro doesn’t break a sweat.
5. I wish there was no bezel. This is a peeve. I want to see an edge-to-edge screen. I know I’m asking for a lot. But an all-screen device would be awesome.
6. The Smart Keyboard and Pencil work great with the iPad Pro. The Smart Keyboard adds about 300grams to the iPad Pro, bringing it to about 1.1kg total weight, MacBook weight territory.
Yes, I weighed the Smart Keyboard because A) I am a nerd and B) there were no specs of its weight found anywhere.
iPad Pro or MacBook for Travel?
So do I pack the MacBook 12-inch, which weighs 900grams by itself and 1.2kg by the time you add an protective neoprene sleeve and the charging cable and plug? Or do I take the iPad Pro with Smart Cover and Lightning charger plug and cable?
It’s a close fight, weight-wise. And call me anal but I’m an ultralight traveler, and every gram counts.
I think for most of what I do, writing and photography, the iPad Pro can take care of business when I travel. I still find the Mac OS and the MacBook more useful for things like uploading to my blog and my Exposure photography site. But that’s only because these two online properties don’t have good app-support.
Video editing is doable on both the iPad Pro and the MacBook but the iPad Pro can handle 3 streams on 4K video in its version of iMovie. That’s amazing, considering that video editing is traditionally a desktop computer’s thing.
For heavy video lifting, I think my dual-screen desktop Mac will still be the go-to device but on the road, one can get decent video done on an iPad Pro, methinks.
I think I’ll take the iPad Pro on my next trip, which is the end of the month, and see how it performs. I will post updates on my thoughts.
Meanwhile, I am going to read my new Star Wars comics on this gorgeous screen.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
I've finally clocked enough hours gaming and doing computer things on the Dell SE2716H monitor to tell you that it's a really nice little 27-inch monitor.
I didn't think I'd like the curved part or that it would be beneficial but after staring at the thing for hours on end, I've grown fond of it.
At the right distance, the monitor's curve gives you a nice no-glare view of your world. I tinkered with the distance for a while until I got it right.
The max resolution of the screen is 1920x1080, or 1080p, which is fine for me because that's the max resolution I could get out of my Alienware M17x gaming laptop anyway. But if your graphic card can do more than that resolution, then this isn't the monitor for you.
The monitor is surprisingly light. I lifted it up without a problem from the box.
Some of you asked me some questions about the monitor, which I directed at Dell.
1. Why No 4K?
Reply: Dell does have a 4K monitor with a 27” screen size, but it doesn’t come in a curve format. Due to limitations with the current curve technology for the 27”, Dell has instead employed a full HD resolution for the panel.
2. Why TN panel and not IPS?
Reply: Dell is using the VA panel for SE2716H, which is comparable to the IPS technology.
To be honest, the TN screen looked fine to be, even though it wasn't an IPS panel.
You can push the sound from your computer through the HDMI port and output it from the monitor's 2x9W speakers. I found the sound pretty decent for in-built speakers and left them on for gaming. Except when the wife complains, then it's back to headphones.
I did have some overscan problems with the HDMI port when I first connected the computer to the SE2716H, which resulted in a thick black border around the image. But I fixed that fairly easily in my settings.
There are two HDMI ports, a VGA port and a headphone port behind. Pretty basic stuff though I wish the headphone jack was in a more accessible place instead of behind.
There were no DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort inputs, which I'm more used to using. If you have a Mac that uses Mini DisplayPort, it can be a pain because you need to get a adaptor or a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable.
Other small annoyances are the lack of USB ports or height movement. You can see I've had to place it on my trusty box thing to raise it to the level I'm comfortable with. The stand doesn't allow height adjustments which I feel is important.
Still, the monitor is good value for the price, and has good color and contrast. The bezel at 7.7mm is quite thin too. I'm pretty happy with it.
A reader emailed me to compliment me for my photo essays from my Japan trip with my son. and asked me why I chose to shoot with a Fuji X100T, a fixed lens mirrorless non-full-frame camera.
“Why not a DSLR or some other mirrorless interchangeable lens camera?” she asked, considering that the price of an X100T can get you a pretty good interchangeable lens camera.
The X100T and the X100 series of cameras are an acquired taste, I have to say. I use DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras too but if you ask me why I prefer to carry just the X100T, it is harder to explain. I will try.
1. Quality. The APS-C sensor on the X100T is the same one in the top of the line Fuji XT-1. It gives 16 megapixel images that are sharp and as good as any full frame sensor. I often shoot at 3200 ISO without an issue. The X100T handles low light with very little ugly noise.
Frankly, the quality gap between APS-C and Full-frame isn’t that big a deal, as some pro photographers like Zack Arias have shown. The gap between full-frame and medium format, yes. But not for the former, especially if you don’t plan to print huge prints. And frankly, you can print fairly large and detailed prints from this camera anyways.
I know. It sounds sacrilegious to say it but full-frame matters very little in the current scheme of things (please don’t start an APS-C vs Full-frame flame war in the comments below).
And Fuji is one of the few companies that make lenses and film. So their color and glass expertise is incredible. I love the various film simulations on their cameras.
2. Lens. The lens is a fixed 23mm f2, which is equivalent to a 35mm full frame field of view. And because they fix the lens into the camera, they can make the protrusion very small and optimize the lens to the sensor. You can’t do that with interchangeable lens cameras due to the variance in the lens mounting.
I like shooting in 35mm for travel, it is one of the most versatile focal lengths. Though for my recent Japan trip, I shot slightly wider with a WCL-X100 wide-angle adaptor which gives me about 28mm full frame equivalent.
Fixed lens has its pros and cons. The con is that you can’t shoot everything. The pro is that you can’t shoot everything. Let me explain.
Not being able to shoot everything means that you end up focusing on making good photos with what you have, and focusing on composition. I find that liberating.
So I cannot shoot that bird 2km away with my X100T. I don’t shoot it then. It’s not a big deal.
You take the camera you need for the type of photos you want, of course. If you are on a trip to shoot birds, you are going to need a camera that has 200mm to 600mm options. But for general travel, I don’t think I’ll need my telephoto lens.
And being able to zoom can sometimes make you lazy. You think you can get something by zooming instead of trying to move to a better spot for the shot.
The fixed lens also sometimes means you have to move up close to the subject. It often means more intimate photos.
3. The camera is small and light, and doesn’t call attention to itself. Interchangeable lens cameras, both DSLRs and mirrorless ones, are usually big and loud (unless you are using small m4/3 cameras with tiny m4/3 primes, like the LUMIX GM-5). People can see you a mile away. And sometimes you don’t want that. Also, lugging big lenses and a heavy body is a real pain, especially when you get to my age.
4. It looks CHIO (beautiful). It’s a funny thing but having a camera that looks retro-nice makes you happier. Who knew?
5. The Viewfinder. The X100 series has a hybrid viewfinder. You can choose to shoot in optical or EVF mode. Some people like the feel of optical. Some like the what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of EVFs. I like having both options available to me.
The viewfinder position is also very useful for a rangefinder shooter like me. I can see the viewfinder with my right eye and see the rest of the real world with my left eye, and having that visual worldview is important to me.
6. The Silence. The X100 series uses a leaf shutter. It is literally silent. For a stealth street shooter like me, it is a godsend. I even turn off the fake shutter sound provided. And because it is a leaf shutter, there is next to no vibration. I can shoot handheld below 1/15 and still be fine.
Some current cameras have electronic shutters that do the same silent thing but I’m old school and I guess I’m fond of the good ole leaf shutter.
7. The High Speed sync. The leaf shutter means I can shoot at high speeds with my flash, doing stuff like using flash during a bright sunny day.
8. The Built-in ND filter. I can shoot at f2 in broad daylight by cutting the light up to 3 stops, to shoot portraits of people in the sun, with shallow depth of field. Or shoot long exposure shots.
9. The Controls and Handling. The X100 controls are intuitive and very familiar to someone who used to shoot manual film cameras. The only other camera I like as much for controls is the X100T’s big brother, the XT-1. This is of course a subjective thing. But feel matters a lot to me.
The X100T also comes with USB charging, which is a great boon for an ultralight traveler like me. I don’t need to carry the charger if I don’t want to. Or if I take the charger along, I can charge two batteries at once: one in the charger and one in the camera.
10. The Wifi. This model has wifi on it, compared to the X100S before it. I own both the X100S and X100T and love both versions, but the wifi on the X100T has allowed me to shoot and send my shortlisted photos to my iPhone/iPad to be edited and uploaded immediately, and as a backup. That’s handy for a social media addict like me.
I’ve traveled with both an interchangeable lens camera and the X100T before. Like for my recent SF trip in June, I packed an X-T1 with three lenses (I had an event to shoot) and my X100T. But when I reviewed my photos for my SF photo essay, I found that 80% of that trip was taken with the X100T. It tells me that I enjoy shooting with it a lot and my hit rate of favorites is higher.
So that is why for my trip to Japan, I decided just to take that (also, with my son along, I didn’t feel I’d have the time to fiddle with lenses or a more elaborate camera).
Now if Fuji will make an X100 with a flip screen next. That will be neat. Then I won’t need to lie down to do low shots, and look like a bozo on the streets of Japan. Oh and make it weather sealed too, while you’re at it.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.
This is the pocket wifi I used on my Japan trip. It is from Changi Recommends and it was an essential part of my trip. It cost me $8 a day (discounted) and it was usable the moment I landed in Tokyo. I got 4G speeds most of the time (except in the mountains) and a generous fair use limit of 1GB a day. Some days, I would even use this rather that a hotel's slower wifi.
The pocket router battery lasts pretty much the whole day. In my nine days away, I only had to charge it once but that was a day we were out from 5.30a.m. till midnight.
I used to have my own pocket router but the hassle with that is that I had to hunt for a local SIM card when I landed and that isn't always practical depending on the time you landed and the city. Not every country has easy access to prepaid local SIM cards with decently-priced data.
Using my own iPhone to hotspot drains my phone's battery, so I don't use that method.
Another method I used to get internet for Japanese Internet was to book a pocket wifi from an Japanese online service. But that method meant having to pick up the device at the post office at the Japanese airport, which was a problem if you do not reach Japan during their post office opening hours.
The Changi Recommends booths are open at the Singapore side 24 hours a day, so you can pick up and drop off your device regardless of your flight time.
With the Changi Recommends pocket wifi, I can share the data over wifi with more than one device so my iPhone, MacBook and my son's iPod Touch could all access the Internet. Heck, I'd get it even if I was traveling alone, I think.
Booking one is simple. I called the hotline a few days before my departure and gave them all my details. Then on the day of my flight, I went to their counter at the T3 arrival hall (they have a counter at every Changi terminal) and picked up the device. It comes in a black pouch with the charging cable and universal travel plug.
I added the wifi SSID and password printed on the back of the device to my iPhone and I was ready to use it when I landed.
Charges begin one day after you depart, which I think is very fair since you may be flying to a faraway land that takes 18-24 hours and won't be using it in the air.
When you return, just drop it off at the Changi Recommends counter and they bill you right there. It cannot be simpler.
The data service is reliable and stable and they cover quite a lot of countries, like the States, Japan, South-East Asia, and Europe. This is me using the service in my recent September San Francisco-Portland-Seattle-Yosemite trip.
The Europe one is interesting. Their pocket wifi works across many European countries so if you are doing an EU trip that crosses different European cities, you don't need to buy and change SIM cards like we did on our last European trip.
I tell you, this thing is a lifesaver. When you land, and you need to get online to use Google Maps to find your hotel or Airbnb, the pocket wifi is ready to go. I'm a fan already.
Lately, we have been shooting with the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus quite a bit for our videos. For example, the election period Minister Midas series was shot entirely on the iPhone 6 Plus.
For a rig, we used the Koziro Cinema Mount that gives you a wider angle lens, which is great since we find that in video mode, the field of view of the iPhone 6 series can sometimes be too narrow.
The iPhone is thin and light, but for video shoots, it can be TOO thin and light, so the rig gives you more stability when shooting handheld, and a better handle made of hand polished rose wood (I know right, rose wood sia).
Also included in the package are filters for landscape photography. The rig also has mounting points for you to attach a tripod below, and a microphone or portable light on top. In our case, we mounted our Rotolight LED light on top of the Koziro.
The Koziro mount should fit most smartphones, and we were very pleased to have this around to shoot our quick and dirty videos, which were shot, edited and uploaded from the phone itself.
Thanks to TK Foto for providing us with the review unit. You can purchase it at their store in Funan.
Briefly mentioned during the September Apple Event and probably buried in the hype around the iPad Pro and iPhone 6s, the iPad Mini 4 is something I've enjoyed using a lot. It is what Mini users have been waiting for.
Small, light and powerful, with pretty much the internals of an iPad Air 2 (using the A8 chip), the Mini 4 now comes with a great screen.
Colors are more saturated and the tablet is fast. The Touch ID sensor is also as fast as the iPhone 6s series. The main camera has been upgraded from the 5mp one on the iPad Mini 3 to an 8mp one.
What was surprising was how light it was compared to its Mini predecessors. It is now around 300grams, and you can really feel the weight loss.
The iPad Air 2, while thin and light for its class (about 450g), now feels heavy to me as I read with the iPad Mini 4. Even the iPad Mini 3 feels thick and heavy now.
The Mini 4 inherited the iPad Air 2's thinness (6.1mm vs iPad Mini 3's 7.4mm!). Holding it is so much of a pleasure that I'm tempted to use it without a cover or jacket.
I know right? A naked iPad Mini 4: living life on the edge.
What's missing? Well, you don't get 3D Touch, for example. Nor do you get the latest A9x or A9 chip used by iPad Pro and iPhone 6s.
But if that doesn't bother you, then the Mini 4 may be the iPad you didn't know you wanted, but is the iPad you deserve.
I was at the Apple Event in San Francisco where Tim Cook and Co. launched a slew of new stuff to an generally responsive crowd (not unlike a Worker's Party rally). I have never seen so much enthusiasm for an Apple-invented Pencil that doesn't even have an eraser on top. I cannot wait for a new Apple Ruler.
We saw the big-assed iPad Pro, the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and a new Siri-controlled Apple TV.
You can watch my little videos below for a quick summary of what the iPhone 6S and iPad Pro are about.
Side note: I shot, edited and posted the videos with my iPhone 6 Plus. It always amazes me how much we can do with mobile devices these days.
I find it odd that the Pencil is charged by plugging into the iPad Pro itself. So do I have to charge my iPad Pro first, then charge my Pencil after that? Would I be able to charge the Pencil separately with another charger if I didn't want to drain my iPad Pro's battery?
Also not clear is whether the iPad Pro supports the ability to ignore your palm on the iPad Pro when you use the Pencil (a feature called Palm Rejection).
Still, the iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard is a compelling alternative to a 12-inch MacBook or MacBook Pro for on-the-move computing. It depends on what you do on your device, I think. The use cases will determine whether it's a iPad Pro or a MacBook you need.
I also learned that Singaporeans are not the only kiasu people. Tech journalists, from all over the world, bring new meaning to the words "Kiasu" and "Cheong ah!".
Back to the topic of new gadgets, the new 4K video and 12MP camera features on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are intriguing to the photographer and videographer in me.
I like that Apple didn't just up the megapixel count on their camera without doing something to improve the sensor's ability to capture more detail.
Now all we need a new battery tech to let us use all this mobile tech without needing an extra 10,000 mAh powerbank.
I liked the new Apple TV a lot. We have an Apple TV in every room at the moment, and the new one has a way better remote — Bluetooth and Siri-enabled instead of that older remote that was a pain to use.
Universal search on the new Apple TV is also welcome, since I already have Netflix and iTunes-bought content. I'm not too sure about gaming on the Apple TV though. Some of the games looked a little primitive. Except the Warhammer game. That looked intense.
OneRepublic performed as the closing act for the event. I didn't hear all the songs from their set because I was already in the queue for the hands-on area, with the rest of the kiasu gang by the second song.
I only liked their one song anyways.
I've been trying out the new Dell XPS 13 and liking it so far. It is probably the best Windows Ultrabook around. I love the 3200x1800 InfinityEdge screen and the slim 11-icn form factor.
The other item is my hand is a 12,000mAh Dell Power Companion battery that can charge your USB devices or the XPS 13 itself.
My model is the Quad HD+ display with touchscreen. The specs are great (mine is a 5th generation i7-5500u processor with an Intel HD Graphics 5500 GPU) and all the ports you need are there.
Build quality is excellent and touchscreen lets you make the best of the Windows 8 experience (though I have to tell you I am still fonder of Windows 7).
The battery life is very good but bear in mind that if you use the XPS 13 display at its high brightness setting, you will get about 6-7 hours instead of the 10 hours in the low brightness setting. It's a trade-off you have to decide for yourself. Use the XPS 13 with its glorious display at full tilt or try to save some juice for a long flight.
Some small gripes: I only wish it were a tad lighter. It is 1.26kg for mine, and 1.18kg for the non-touchscreen version. I know, I'm being demanding but at my age, every gram can be felt.
I also took a while to get used to the trackpad. I find the webcam position at the bottom left a bit awkward but if you want an edge-to-edge screen, something has to give, I suppose.
Also, bear in mind that 8GB RAM is the max you can get in this laptop.
If you are looking for a Windows laptop with a 13-inch display in an 11-inch body, this is it. This is a very well-rounded workhorse PC laptop.
I got my Apple Watch a day before the official release in Singapore on the 26th of June (ya, I know, big fat hairy deal, haha!). One of the first things I noticed was the DBS Paylah! app installed on it. This was one of the first few Singapore apps I saw on my Apple Watch.
A few months ago, my friend, whom I owed money to because she helped me buy some stuff overseas, said I could pay her with Paylah!.
At first, I thought she was saying, "The money you owe me? Pay lah!".
But then I realized she meant the DBS Paylah! mobile wallet app. I was going to visit the ATM to do a fund transfer to her, but this seemed like an easier option. So I installed the app on my iPhone and linked it to my bank account, and in seconds, I was done transferring the funds.
Also neat was the ability to log into my PayLah! app with my finger via Touch ID. No need to type my password every time. DBS tells me that as of today, more than 40% of logins are being made through the Touch ID fingerprint sensor feature.
The app is available on both Apple iOS and Android platforms, and you link your bank account to your mobile number. All anyone needs to send you money, or for you to send money, is a mobile number. The app even works with non-DBS/POSB accounts now.
The second time I encountered PayLah! significantly was at this year's DBS Marina Regatta. The food stalls there accepted Paylah! as payment and there was even a 10% discount for Paylah! payment, so it was just a matter of sending payment via the app and then collecting our order at the counter.
I roped in my wife and youngest brother to install the app too. The latter was because we were splitting the bill for meal that he paid for (my family's share was $30). As for my wife, my little demonstration cost me $10. She happily pocketed my $10 into her mobile wallet.
Some of the other things you can do with Paylah!: You can use it to pay your bills, donate money to 15 charitable organisations, shop online, send or request money from anyone instantly (even non-DBS/POSB customers), and even send an eAng-Bao (great for overseas relatives).
I know of many small businesses, blogshops and sole proprietors accepting payments via Paylah! because it is easier and faster than asking customers to pay by bank transfer. You can even try paying your kid's tutor this way.
Why am I spreading the word? Because I like the service, and the more people use it, the better the service becomes.
This is what Paylah! shows on my Apple Watch, which is mainly notification data (the app will only display notifications on the Apple Watch if your iPhone screen is off).
This is Paylah! on the phone itself.
Go check it out and let me know what you think!
My friend just gifted me this pair of Mrice E300 earphones from China. They cost between $10 to $25 a pair, depending on where you buy them, and GOOD GRIEF THEY SOUND AWESOME!
I mean, I have heard my share of headphones and earphones, some costing four figures, but these earphones are up there in sound quality.
If you can get your hands on one of these puppies, buy a whole lot of them and give them away as gifts. Your friends will love you.
I can hear you saying, this is some no-name China brand leh, how long do they last?
My answer is: WHO CARES?!
At this price point, you can just buy a boatload of them and change them every month, like underwear.
Ok, you would change underwear more often than every month, but you get my point.
A week ago, I spent time in San Francisco using an AT&T SIM card on my iPhone 6 Plus. That meant that my Singapore SIM card had nowhere to go, because I didn't bring a spare phone. I usually don't require a spare phone because the overseas prepaid SIM card normally goes into my Huawei mifi router, but this AT&T card didn't want to work with my Huawei. Damn American telcos.
This made me think, "I need a second phone as a backup when I travel." And just prior to my trip, my boy lost his Nokia phone while cycling. It dropped out of his pocket, it seems. He was duly chastised for it.
So I had more than ample reason to look for a non-Smartphone. I walked into many telco shops but the lowest end model they carried was a Xiaomi. The 7-Eleven stores had some feature phones but they were some unknown brands.
At the Funan Microsoft Store, which used to be a Nokia shop, I found what I was looking for.
I ended up with the Nokia Asha 305 semi-Smartphone, the one on the far right in the photo above. It was $49 bucks, on offer for purchase-with-purchase because I bought the Nokia 225 Dual Sim for the son as a replacement, which cost me $89. I know, I know, the 225 cost more than the more advanced 305, which is odd. I guess they were clearing stock.
In the end, I got a replacement SIM card for the son ($37.50, ouch) and made him use his older camera-less, music-less Nokia (the one on the far left) because I thought it didn't seem right to reward carelessness with a newer phone model.
So that's how I ended up with two brand new dual sim Nokia feature phones running the Symbian OS. Me, the man who owns a drawer full of smartphones from Apple, Samsung and even Nokia Lumia. Then again, I still have another drawer full of old Nokias, like the N95, N96 and the venerable 8210.
I charged the Nokia Asha 305 and powered it up. The Asha 305 charges via the traditional Nokia charger, or via micro-USB, which is nice if you just want to travel with one less charger.
It supports 2.5G and wifi, has a 2 megapixel camera, plays mp4 videos and has a capacitive touch screen. Pretty flash for a feature phone. There are apps for Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter.
I looked at the specs online: "Maximum standby time with dual SIM: 22 days."
22 whole days. You can't even get smartphones to last 22 hours these days, let alone 22 days.
I connected the Nokia to my home wifi (2.4Ghz band only, no support for the 5Ghz band), and fired up the Twitter for Nokia app, then typed "I am tweeting this from a Nokia Asha 309 not-Smartphone, via the Symbian Twitter app, and typing with predictive text. Talk about retro. B-)".
You can tell I wasn't lying because Twitter reported that the tweet was made with "Twitter for Nokia S40".
I had to type that out using predictive text, you know that old input method that clustered ABC and DEF together. It took me a long time to type the 140 characters. Maybe I am rusty. I used to be able to touch type an SMS on a Nokia numeric pad with one hand, and without looking at it.
Then I tried the Nokia Explorer browser, which told me the application had been replaced by Opera Mini, and do I want to download the update? Sure! I always want the latest tech, who doesn't, right?
And after Opera Mini was downloaded and installed, I tried my blog. It worked!
It was quite quaint looking at my site on a 3-inch WQVGA screen that is all of 400 x 240 pixels.
All this high tech low tech is moot since I only plan to plonk my SIM card in it and use it for receiving and making phone calls when I am traveling. But it was quite fun to see the state of affairs in the Nokia sphere.
Since Microsoft swallowed up Nokia, you cannot even find a Nokia smartphone anymore. It is called Microsoft Lumia now.
Even my mother has a smartphone now, a Samsung A5 that recently replaced her string of Nokia feature phones she used for years. She is now a Facebook fan and is starting to get the hang of Whatsapp. She is even commenting on my Facebook posts. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And as if to rub my nose in it, the day I bought these two Nokia phones that only support 2G, I read that the local telcos will discontinue 2G voice and messaging services from April 2017. It is happening in the States too.
Thanks ah. I now have only two more years to use these phones. Looks like my days of holding off smartphone use from my kids are numbered.
I am finally finished with the keynote at this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2015, at Moscone Center, San Francisco.
If the photos look close up to you, it's because I managed to score a fourth row seat in the hall, which is pretty close. I could almost see Tim Cook's nostril hair.
Updates on iOS 9, OS X El Capitan and watchOS 2 were announced.
Apple Pay is rolling out to the UK. I am happy for them, really. But still nada for Singapore. I would love to tap my iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for my Bak Chor Mee or my bus fare. Apple, make it happen please.
The new Notes app can now do drawing in-app and you can drag and drop photos, videos, web and map clippings. It will work across iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. I use Notes a LOT and this is a nice enhancement.
Split View in OS X will put two apps side by side on your Mac automatically and there will be a Spaces Bar in Mission Control that will let you park your windows. I am not a big user of the multiple desktops feature but this may appeal to users who do.
I got most excited when they showed some of the iOS 9 iPad features. Multitasking is more enhanced, and you can use the new Slide Over feature to simultaneously work in a second app without leaving the first, in a Split View mode,
And with Picture-in-Picture, you can continue a FaceTime call or the video you were watching, while using some other app, like Mail. You can see this in action in the photo below.
I am also quite excited to see the new Apple News app, a Flipboard competitor that will customize your news for you, and also feature magazine-like articles natively, like Facebook's Instant Articles. That may actually make me use the iPad Air 2 more.
Public transport info now comes to Apple Maps. Which is about bloody time. I don't see Singapore on the list of roll-out cities though, so it will still be Google Maps for us public transport users.
Apple also added more little touches to iOS 9 to give more input options to iPads. Two fingers on the iPad keyboard and you get a virtual track pad to select things. That will certainly please those of us who travel and type a lot on our iPads.
Even before we get the Apple Watch in Singapore, Apple is already talking about version 2 of watchOS. There will be more third-party support and you can now reply to emails from the Apple Watch.
With Photo Face and Photo Album Face, you can now make any photo, or set of photos, into a watch face. Now you can look at your children or pet chinchilla as a watch face.
As usual, there is always One More Thing at Apple events. And this one was already leaked by Sony Music's big mouth CEO.
Apple Music is Apple's new music streaming service to compete with Spotify, Deezer, Pandora and Tidal. For US$9.99 a month (first three months will be a free trial), or US$14.99 for the whole family (up to six people), you get to listen to the entire iTunes catalog.
Will it topple the streaming darling Spotify? It remains to be seen. I do like the human curation and the new 24/7 Global Live radio station called Beats 1, fronted by BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe, that will stream from New York, L.A. and London, supposedly the music capitols of the world.
Why not also stream from the music capitol of Lorong Ah Soo? My housing estate is also quite hip what (we have artisan coffee there now).
Another feature, Apple Music Connect, will be the in-platform social media service for musicians to reach their fans. Who knows, maybe you can see the new lyrics of a song by Taylor Swift before it is recorded, or a Behind the Scenes video of a Behind the Scenes video of a Maroon 5 music video, or a photo of Snoop Dogg smoking weed.
I think it is nice to have all those fan-connecting functionality under one roof, but most music makers already know how to use Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Will there be exclusives on Apple Music Connect? That may be key.
Remember the sad fate of iTunes Ping? Wait a minute! Connect is the new Ping!
If I become an artiste on Apple Music, I will certainly try to share the exclusive and intimate details of my two-hour coffee breaks at the kopitiam downstairs. Anything for the fans.
Rapper and artist Drake came out to say some stuff about Apple Music, but Kanye didn't show, much to our disappointment. Rumour was that Kanye would be dropping by the WWDC to launch his seventh album SWISH, and it was even Kanye's birthday. But nope, The Unsmiling One did not show.
Instead, The Weeknd performed at the end of the keynote. I cannot say I am familiar with his work, but I asked my friend Henry of Stuff NZ and he told me how to spell this singer's name correctly. So that is not a typo, it really is The Weeknd.
Personally, I say forget Kanye. I was hoping Taylor Swift would be the surprise One Last Thing. She is my musical muse and she can Apple Music Connect with me anytime.
Good morning from San Francisco! I'm going to Apple's WWDC 2015 and it's a sunny day here.
It's my first time seeing this live and it is quite odd not waking up at 1am in the morning to watch this streaming online.
So far I can report that the croissants for the media are quite tasty. And I love the Mango Tango juice.
I will share more once I'm in there. Watch my Twitter feed for live updates.