Apple is updating its top-tier MacBook Pros today with newer processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and a “quieter” keyboard design. The updates won’t fully address all of the concerns that have surrounded the MacBook Pro lineup in recent months. At least one complaint can be laid to rest for the time being: the processor options are no longer woefully out of date. Apple says that the 15-inch model will have a 70 percent performance increase, and the 13-inch model should double in speed.
For the Pro models, these updates are more than just spec bumps to the latest processor. But they’re not radical redesigns either. The 15-inch MacBook Pro gets the more impressive bump. It will come with a 6-core, eighth-generation i7 or i9 Intel processor and the ability to spec up the RAM to 32GB of DDR4 memory and the storage to 4TB. The top-line processors can run at 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz, and the GPUs are Radeon Pros with 4GB of video memory.
To go alongside the newly updated MacBook Pros, Apple is selling a product for users who need more graphic processing power. Apple worked with cinema company Blackmagic on an external GPU based around a Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB of video memory. Apple says it should give 2.8x faster graphics performance on the 15-inch MacBook Pro and 8x faster on the 13-inch.
It’s all part of a difficult balance for Apple. A majority of users will never edit 4K feature films or develop VR games. For most of us, the truly high-end upgrades will have little impact on our day-to-day use. Though the addition of Siri functionality and that newer, quieter keyboard are certainly welcome.
Catering to pros, meanwhile, is the sort of thing that pays off in spades down the road, much like Apple’s longstanding education play. The company was seen as taking its eye off the ball and allowed the competition to usurp some of that ownership. With the iMac and MacBook Pros, coupled with those upcoming macOS updates, the company is making it clear that the category is still a key to Apple’s future.
The butterfly switches are the same, and they offer the same amount of key travel as their predecessors. The company won’t actually say what it’s done here to lower the clickity-clack (that’s going to be a job for some teardown artists), but it’s certainly an improvement.
Today’s new MacBook Pros mean new MacBook Pro sleeves. They’re essentially the same leather/microfiber combo as the standard MacBooks, albeit altered to fit the larger notebooks’ footprint.
The discontinuation of the 2015 MacBook Pro puts even more pressure on the new models to satiate Apple’s customer base who were unhappy.
Yet for everything the iPhone has meant to smartphones and to the world, there is a segment of users for which the iPhone has been truly revolutionary: disabled people. For many people with disabilities, myself included, the iPhone was the first accessible smartphone. The device’s multitouch user interface and large (for the time) display represented a total break from the smartphone conventions of the day. An unheralded ramification of this was how accessible these features made the iPhone. For example, the soft keyboard allowed users to compose text messages and emails without struggling with the T9 keyboards that were commonplace at the time. Likewise, the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display was considered large for the day, which made seeing content markedly easier than on the postage stamp-sized displays that dominated cell phones then. It’s a testament to the original iPhone’s greatness that its fundamental components were so solid that they redefined accessible computing, all without being "accessible" in the traditional sense. Its impact is put into greater perspective when you consider the first two versions of iOS (née iPhone OS) didn’t contain discrete accessibility features. The first bunch, VoiceOver, Zoom, and Mono Audio debuted in 2009 with the 3GS.
It’s hard to overstate the meteoric growth of the App Store as a marketplace. Over the course of a decade, the App Store’s history has been dominated by rapid growth and constant change that’s been highlighted by spectacular successes, failures, and controversies. Nowhere has that change been more pronounced than the economics of the App Store. It’s a story that has had a profound effect on the way software is sold and how users relate to the apps they use.
These early results should be welcome news to people who are growing increasingly concerned about long-term addiction to smartphones. There have been other ways to limit use, including apps like Moments, which have many of the same features as Screen Time. But none of them have been embedded into a phone like Apple’s new software.
All these patterns and more are plain to see when you have the data on hand, which is precisely what Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s upcoming Dashboard aim to do. While I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to my phone (although maybe I’m just in denial), I certainly pick it up more than I thought I would. Perhaps it’s time to put the phone down and ignore the vibrations, real or not.
It used to be that the first-party iOS apps were only used by people who didn’t care enough to download something better. Mail, Notes, Contacts, the Calendar — all of these were immediately dumped into a junk folder by experienced users, to be replaced with a proper app. But something happened along the way to 2018. Now, Apple’s apps are every bit as good as third-party apps. (Well, mostly. The Contacts app is still awful.)
Today we’ll take a look at a few of Apple’s surprise hits.
Later this year, Apple will stop offering the service altogether. A new message in macOS 10.13.6 Photos app says that final orders for Apple’s built-in service must be placed by September 30, 2018.
Perhaps most impressively, all AirPlay 2 speakers can play music in perfect synchronization. If you’ve got a HomePod or two and a compatible Sonos device, you can now select all those devices and play music through them, entirely in sync. Even better, if you’ve got incompatible Sonos devices and place them in the same group as an AirPlay 2-compatible Sonos device via the Sonos app, those speakers will also play synchronously. I was able to get music to play in sync throughout my house this morning, via a paired set of HomePods, a Play:5, and the (incompatible) Play:1 in my bathroom.
A new Metal 2-powered Liquify feature lets artists push, pull, expand, pinch, and twirl their art using either touch-based gestures or Apple Pencil pressure for more control.
I guess at some point I must have hastily denied permission for Xcode (Apple’s software development app) to control the Finder. This resulted in a seemingly permanent impairment to Xcode’s “Show in Finder” feature. I’m often using this feature to quickly navigate from Xcode’s interface to the Finder’s view on the same files. After denying access once, the feature has the unfortunate behavior of succeeding in activating the Finder (I guess that one is whitelisted), but failing silently when it comes to revealing the file.
OK, that’s fine. I messed up. But how do I undo it? Unfortunately, the list of applications in the Security and Privacy preference pane is only of those that I have clicked “OK” for. There’s no list of the ones that I’ve denied, and no apparent option to drag in or add applications explicitly.
I’ve learned many things throughout this journey. One of them is that modern user interfaces are absolutely gigantic compared to the user interfaces of the earlier days.
The reality is that modern restaurants in expensive cities are being forced to compromise, either on aspects of customer service like wait staff to achieve high-quality food, or on the quality of the food to achieve the speed and efficiency some customers demand. But another option is automation. Robotics and software advances have made it possible to produce more food at a higher quality and at a price competitive with fast food restaurants.
If you scroll back through the timeline of Facebook’s acquisitions—or if you search for all the startups that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has bought and absorbed—you can see that Silicon Valley tech giants want to do much more than simply stay ahead of the “competition.” They work differently that that; they are their own competition. Google wants to be more than a mere search engine, and Facebook wants to be more than a mere social network. These companies want to become the crucial, indispensable core of their users’ lives. They want anything that can be done online to be done on their platform.
What they want is what some see China as already having: the integration of a multitude of social services into a single authoritative interface. You can do much more than chat with friends on the main messenger app in China, for example; the ubiquitous mobile app WeChat, owned by Tencent, allows you to make in-store purchases, transfer money, buy groceries, rent a car, and even file lawsuits, all through its online payment platform, WeChat Pay.
We exist in a feedback loop with our devices. The upbringing of conversational agents invariably turns into the upbringing of users. It’s impossible to predict what AI might do to our feelings. However, if we regard emotional intelligence as a set of specific skills – recognising emotions, discerning between different feelings and labelling them, using emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour – then it’s worth reflecting on what could happen once we offload these skills on to our gadgets.
I wish Apple can come up with a plastic Apple Watch, so that people whose skin is sensitive to metal can also wear one.
I think I am mostly using my iPhone to catch up on my RSS feeds, and to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I'm afraid that, when iOS 12 rolls around, I'll find out that I am not.
Thanks for reading.