Let’s talk about USB-C, & e-Waste – Jul 22

The EU this year finally ruled on USB-C being the charging standard for all Smartphones going forward from Fall 2024. The rule will also apply to other electronic devices including tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld video game consoles, and e-readers. Laptops will have to comply with the rule at a later date. Source: Verge Article – USB-C will be mandatory for phones sold in the EU ‘by autumn 2024’

This would bring about such an amazing development in the Apple Ecosystem where we do not need a separate cable to charge the iPhones and Airpods we own; if only this applied to smart watches as well and the single cable for all tech dream would be finally true. But why does apple just not want to fully commit to USB-C, even though they have already seriously committed to it on the Laptop’s and iPads, something that perplexes most people; most think it is backward compatibility with existing cables that users already own, however that does not hold as true today as it did 3 to 4 years ago as almost all other devices have already standardized to USB-C or have committed to it.

There is a caveat here tho – in specific the EU’s press release says the new legislation applies to devices “that are rechargeable via a wired cable.” This means the previously mentioned dream of Apple Devices going portless is a possibility as well, which would be extremely unfortunate.

  • Why did the EU do this?
  • Will the world follow suite?
    • The EU is a usual stalwart when it comes to making sensible rules that supports the well being of consumers and the world in general and hence is a good standard to follow. For example their rules on GDPR and on CyberSecurity are rules that have pushed the industry in general to hold better standards toward privacy and security of data and people. It is also worth considering for tech companies in particular that making a region specific product creates production problems and logistics issues for them and their customers as well – hence it follows that if the EU rule is a sensible one with a positive global goal, might as well follow them for the longer positive impact on the companies image as all we the bottom line.
  • Will Apple follow suite as the largest smartphone maker?
    • This however is a trickier question, as the motivations at Apple are obviously very Apple specific and not very widely known to the public. Would apple rather go the wireless way 2 years down the line rather than put in a USB-C. Was MagSafe cases and chargers for the phone and the new MacBook Air with M2 signal the move to the MagSafe strategy rather than a USB-C. Only time will tell and USB-C is not a given by any means. And Apple fans are loyal enough and tied to the ecosystem enough to follow suite.

Apple has taken positive steps such as active recycling and recycled parts and no chargers in the box which have been successful steps to reduce e-waste and also successful due to others following suite. And logic would dictate that USB-C is the best way forward for all, but is it for Apple – that remains to be seen.

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WWDC 2022 & the ‘Meta’verse

This year’s WWDC was not a game changing one, it was a rather iterative update on all things Apple, and probably the way Apple likes it. Post the M1 in-house customer silicon and the upgrades of M1 Pro and M1 Max, they did come up with the M2 which is more powerful and helps a battery last longer – can’t wait for the time my MacBook Pro gets old and I can upgrade to the latest at the time; kinda sad that I got the most powerful 13″ of the intel generation with all the bells and whistles just before they switched to M1 – that is what I would call unfortunate timing. Still love all my Apple gadgets.

Source: Apple.com

All of this only gets me thinking of what’s the next big step, is the update only iterative or is it a piece of a bigger puzzle that we do not yet see. Think about it, all that power in a little chip with the efficiency & battery life in that small form factor – could it be to power some other experience apart from just being an efficient video & photo editor. And that brings us to the next big thing on the horizon, the Metaverse – Virtual and Augmented worlds of the future which will be the next iteration of Social Media and bring it to a whole new digital level.

The way I see it the overall journey is a long way away –

  • first the world builds virtual worlds, as that is a lot easier first step as I understand it
  • then we get better at building those worlds in terms of resolution, quality and our interaction with the virtual world
  • all this buys us some time to develop the augmented tech that would better understand how to place digital objects in real life i.e. are we projecting into the world or into our eyes so we see it in the world or is there a 3rd option we haven’t even thought of? The answer is very unclear as we have a lot more to develop in order to get there
  • next with augmented tech comes new challenges to overcome such as interaction, how to better understand depth perception, interaction of the digital with the real
Source: Facebook.com

Such exciting things to look forward to and some people betting their companies on the promise of such a massive business case that the risk is worth the reward to be the first mover in this technology and industry. And the industry that makes the first foray successfully ends up defining the market. And that really bothers me some days, our entire virtual worlds formed and defined by a company that makes money currently via social media and selling our personal information – shudder at the thought. Talking about Facebook (now Meta) incase you are still left wondering. They are a software company that are making the biggest push in hardware ever in a ‘bet the company’ moment their CEO is having.

On the other hand we also have a contender in Apple, that says it is all about privacy which ensures some scrutiny on them ensuring they follow that path. It is a company that builds good technology and believes in privacy, if these two are my only choices then I of course choose the latter. However, it still feels the world is quite helpless that we have only the big juggernauts that can take a crack at this problem and even if smaller disruptors enter the market with an actual feasible challenge, they most probably get bought up and absorbed by the big players. It’ll of course be unbearably expensive, but any product that Apple makes in the Virtual or Augmented reality space will be an amazing contender based on their track record of hardware, software and their integration.

As my first foray into testing this technology out I am looking forward to the Playstation VR2, a new and improved version of the Playstation VR that promises a higher resolution, eye tracking and better interaction capabilities via new design of controllers. Might seem like a small insignificant step in gaming but it is the best use case as of today for Virtual Reality and its success propels the success of the industry.

As glued as we are to our screens, this technology will probably have the biggest impact on our lives as this will be the next screen we use to meet friends, watch movies, play games, work and experience new places and things. Looking forward to what happens next!

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One Phone to rule them all? – Pixel 6 Launch – Oct 21

Google finally did it! They launched an actual smartphone worthy of competing with the big shots in the industry. Though their focus is on their technologies – AI-based – it shows some actual interest in competing, which should excite all of us. Read on for more.

We should not mistake this for a full-blown competition with the smartphone market leader, not yet at least, as the iPhone has an ecosystem backing it which makes it sticky i.e. makes it difficult for someone to leave the iPhone behind. The way it works with the AirPods, the Apple Watch, the Mac. There is evidence for this to actually happen though as there are products in the market and all we need is software to make it all work together – which might very well be the next most logical set for Google to pursue. Which in all honesty is exciting! The Pixel Slate, the Pixel Book, the acquisition of FitBit, Google Buds – it all makes sense now! Let’s get back to the topic du jour for now – the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro – Google’s new flagship phones that have dedicated large scale marketing dollars promoting it, something rather rare for Google to do.

The Pixel 6 & Pixel 6 Pro

Launched mid-month in October, this is what they look like …

Pixel 6

Pixel 6 Pro

The difference between them is quite minimal, to be honest for the price difference – both of these are still are compelling buys:

Pixel 6 from $599

Pixel 6 Pro from $899

  • Screen
  • 6.4″, FHD+ OLED, 90 Hz
  • 6.7″ , QHD+ OLED w LTPO, 120 Hz
  • Battery
  • 4614 mAH with fast charge, fast wireless charge, battery share
  • 5003 mAH with fast charge, fast wireless charge, battery share
  • Camera’s
  • Rear: 50MP Main, 12MP Ultrawide
  • Front: 8MP
  • Night Sight, Portrait, Super Res Zoom, Motion Autofocus, Motion Mode, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and more
  • Rear: 50MP Main, 12MP Ultrawide, 48MP Telephoto
  • Front: 11.1MP Ultrawide
  • Night Sight, Portrait, Super Res Zoom, Motion Autofocus, Motion Mode, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and more

The Good?

The big announcement here isn’t even the phones – it’s a custom SOC (System on Chip) – called Tensor, similar to how Apple has the A-Series chips for its iPhones. And this chip will help make this a pure ‘Google’ phone – faster processing for AI-enabled features such as image and video processing, Live Translate for conversations, Dictation, Google Assistant, faster performance, and better gaming.

Google already had one of the best camera’s since the Pixel launched with a frankly bad image sensor which hadn’t changed for the past 4+ generations of the phone, this time around they have updated this sensor so expect much better photos and videos – though this is a work in progress as the software still needs to be tweaked further a little bit to take better advantage of the new sensor. It still has tough competition from the iPhone as it hasn’t necessarily competed in the market for a while and had been absent from the premium phones lineup completely for a while.

There is a new motion mode to have objects in the background with long exposures and a magic eraser in the edit mode to remove subjects from the photo that you do not want there. Both of these features alone are going to make the Pixel 6 series the standout phone for photos.

The more google features, however, work better than ever – you can now have flawless and fast transcription with good grammar too without effort; you can also speak much more fluently with someone whose language you do not speak. Live translate via the camera works blisteringly fast too.

The screen has a 90 Hz display for the Pixel 6 and 120 Hz for the 6 Pro now too for that smooth scrolling action and gaming. This coupled with a fast charge (50% in 30 min), Adaptive Battery, Underscreen Fingerprint Unlock, Extreme Battery Saver Mode, IP68 Water & Dust Resistance, Titan M2 Chip for security, battery sharing, and higher peak brightness only make the case to buy this more compelling at the price.

The Bad?

This would be an empty section if not for Google’s claim that this is the new smartphone king contender – well, not in those exact words, but almost that.

The expectation from Google’s photography capabilities are some of the highest there are – due to the benchmark that the Pixel 2 set. However, now with the new image sensor, they are still auto compensating for the images as they would with the old sensor; this needs to be improved upon and something that can be done with just software and hopefully soon.

The Material UI feels unpolished and needs to be improved upon to feel cohesive with the overall capabilities of the phone to make the OS simpler to use. The default assistant features when you slide to the side need to show more useful information.

The Ecosystem is lacking overall – however, with the Pixel Buds, Slate, PixelBook, FitBit – there is an obvious and real opportunity to make a real contender against the Apple Juggernaut.

The Verdict?

If you are looking to switch from an Apple Ecosystem and have the money to do it – the case hasn’t been made as of yet. But if you are in the market for an Android Phone – this is the best there is, hand’s down. It’s the most Googley Google phone out there and you simply could not do better. We just need to see some long-term commitment and investment from Google to make it all work cohesively and also that this isn’t one of those side projects that Google is just trying out as it has with Pixel in the past.

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Return Of the Mac! – Apple Event – Oct 21

Techtober is in full swing as of mid October as we had long awaited product reveals from Apple and Google, all of this in one week too. First up, we look at the long awaited MacBook Pro event where Apple announced their new lineup of M1 MacBook Pro’s and the new generation of AirPods (3rd Gen).

What did they announce?

  • MacBook Pro 14″ & 16″ with the M1 Pro & Max Chips
  • AirPods 3rd Generation

Though the event was for the MacBook Pro’s the real stars were the new M1 Chips designed for the Pro’s – the M1 Pro and the M1 Max – WHY? Because these chips beat the already industry leading M1 MacBook Air’s which in turn leave almost all laptops in the same price range in the dust. And not to mention Mac’s last you twice or thrice as long as Windows Laptop’s on average.

Oh and yes, they brought the ports back .. the new Pro’s come with HDMI and SD Card Ports – apart from Thunderbolt and MagSafe Ports. Yup, MagSafe charging for Laptop’s is back too now.

Overall, these laptop’s are amazing value for money if you are someone who already have an older MacBook Pro and do a lot of video editing or programming that needs performance. The only thing missing now is gaming and games compatibility for AAA Titles for these laptops.

They also announced new AirPods – and try not to confuse this one. If you remember the original AirPods then these are the next (3rd Gen) of those. Yes, they look like the AirPods Pro and you could also call them cheaper Pro versions too, sure.

The main thing about these is the improvement in battery life as well as the introduction of Spatial Audio – which is awesome I tell ya. The only thing missing is the Transparency and Noise Cancelling modes which are still a Pro feature.

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How do we perfect perfection? The Apple Sep 21 Event

So we just went through a whole week where we had anticipation before the event and then disappointment after, and this brought me to think over the weekend about why Apple took this route – and most of this might be glaringly obvious and some of it might not at all. But here’s my thoughts on why Apple had the product launch it did. Read on.

So .. What happened?

Apple launched iterative updates for all its products in a sense implying their products are quite perfect already and they could just get away with improving on the things that matter such as the display, camera and the battery – some would say this is the right way to go but as always there are also quite a few that disagree and call this a slowdown in the pace of innovation as compared to their Android competitors. Below summary details on the products launched and the updates made on these products:

  • iPhone 13 / 13 Mini / 13 Pro / 13 Pro Max – With improvements in the processor, camera and the battery life for the 13 & Mini + the additional telephoto camera and the 120 Hz Display for the Pro versions

  • iPad / iPad Mini – An updated standard iPad for a relatively cheap option with an Apple Pencil, an updated Mini that is just an iPad Air in a smaller form factor for those who prefer it

  • Apple Watch – A slightly bigger + brighter screen, more durable and faster charging (with a USB-C connector now)

  • Apple TV+ & Apple Fitness+ – New shows and seasons for the TV and new + better workouts for the Fitness App

Why would Apple do this?

So why does Apple think they can get away with only iteration and a lack of innovation. So many theories, such short attention span’s to contend with.

  • 5G – Let’s start with the biggest incentive of all to have an event in the first place, sell product+service. With carrier partnerships all across who want to promote their 5G networks and are ready to subsidize your old iPhones to give you new ones – there’s no better time than the present to launch a shiny new phone, iPad and Watch even if the updates are only iterative.

  • Why mess with perfection? – The phones and the ecosystem as they are, are pretty amazing and at the #1 charts across the world in Phone sales. So why take risks by putting in an innovation that might not be well received. Which is why it makes sense to just make the safest of updates to improve products that are already good.

  • The Supply Chain? – There is a robust supply chain that has parts sourced for the massive demand for Apple products worldwide. So it makes sense to stretch out the parts for more years which results in price optimization and more importantly profit optimization.

  • Legacy – There is a whole world of legacy, Apple approved accessories that have to pay Apple for the usage rights to be apple certified; all of which goes away then they switch away to more open technologies such as USB-C. There are also other devices in the eco system that still have to switch over such as the iPad and the AirPods. This creates a kind of lock in as well for the accessories ecosystem of Apple’s most popular product, the iPhone. Revenues for which it needs to find ways to compensate for.

Would you recommend buying one?

This is subjective and relatively straight forward – if you own one of these products from 2 to 3 + generations ago, this is an amazing upgrade to get and well worth the money. If however you have all the latest from last year – definitely do not spend and either spend it on something else you might need or save for next year.

What next?

There is of course innovation in Apple’s future, purely because the market forces would enforce innovation lest they perish similar to the likes of Nokia and Blackberry. What can and will they do next? Thoughts below:

  • Competition – Apple is currently a market leader despite the lack of innovation it seems to display. If you hear the experts discussing this you would mostly hear that Apple usually implements innovations after they have been tested and proven in the market, and they they innovate on top. There are innovations and technologies that are still in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd generations that still need to prove themselves, a few to name as below:
    • Foldable Screens
    • Underscreen Fingerprint Scanner
    • Underscreen Selfie Camera’s
    • USB-C for the iPhone’s
    • Stylus for the iPhone

  • Augmented Reality – One of the big focuses for Apple post the Services push (Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+) has been augmented reality. Current speculation is that this would result in a Mixed Reality Headset that incorporates both Virtual and Augmented Reality; however very little is known on the final product they plan to release as well as when they plan to release it. However, they have started working on this with the Lidar sensors added to the phone and AR apple such as Pokemon Go etc.

  • Apple Car – the edge of the rumor mill is always the Apple Car, speculation stating that Apple will eventually get into Tesla’s business using its design philosophy and computing chops. However, we are still to see proof on how this shakes out eventually since this isn’t something the company will take lightly and would want to refine and get approvals for before they roll a product out.

Looking forward to the next Apple Event for the MacBooks and who know’s what else which might happen in the October/November timeframe of the year.

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Pictures courtesy Apple from the Apple Event on 15 Sep 21