September Apple Updates

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September is quickly becoming a contender for my favorite month of the year – not only because it’s my birthday month, but because it seems like Christmas comes early for Apple users. This has been a big release month for Apple, so I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about the good and bad.

iPhone XS

Last year I upgraded to the iPhone X, so I really didn’t NEED to upgrade to the XS. The keynote sold the iPhone XS as a minor “S” release. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great phone, but it is admittedly a hard sell for most early X adopters like. That being said, I’m on the upgrade program, so upgrading was still on the table since I could either keep paying for my X or pay the same price to switch to the XS.

I opted to switch to the Gold XS (which is really more rose gold) and couldn’t be happier. I had considered going with the XR but the larger phone was a no-go for me. Like all the reviews say, the camera on the Xs really is better. Face ID seems snappier as well (maybe even as snappy as Touch ID), and can we just talk about the gold color? I smile every time I pick up the phone (5 times an hour according to Screentime). It is a beautiful phone.

Side Note: I absolutely hate the naming scheme of the new X line. I am forever correcting myself from calling it the “ex S” and not the “ten S”. Apple missed a great opportunity to keep the X but switch to numbers. X2 would have been such a cool name.

Apple Watch Series 4

I was getting increasingly annoyed with my Series 2 watch. There were days when seeing “I’ll tap you when I’m ready” for the 5th time in one day or waiting for the Workout app to catch back made me want to throw it across the room, and I also found myself waking up to a nearly dead watch more and more frequently. As far as I was concerned, Apple could have released a watch with only minor spec bumps and I’d have bought one.

Thankfully the Series 4 Apple watch is no minor spec bump. I got a 40mm Gold Aluminum (sans LTE) model. Again, I don’t know who at Apple is deciding the gold finishes, but like the iPhone XS, the gold on this one is a more rose gold – which I prefer. The extra 2mm are barely noticeable on the wrist (and I have tiny wrists), but boy do you notice them when you’re using the watch. All of the touch targets seem massive (and way easier to hit) compared to the Series 2. I also appreciate the speed jump. No more waiting for the Workout app to catch up before I can begin a workout.

iOS 12

iOS 12 seems like it was a release made just for me. I’m always trying to reduce the time I have to spend using my phone. (Note the use of ‘have’ there. I’m fine with wanting to use it, but I don’t like having to be tied to my phone.) iOS 12 brings revamped notifications meaning my phone bugs me even less often. It brings Screentime and Downtime offering insights into how I use my phone, which apps are pestering me most, and the ability to dim apps I don’t want bothering me (and their badges) during certain hours. And of course who can forget Siri Shortcuts. I’ve already made a handful for seemingly mundane tasks I do on a regular basis (checking the boyfriend’s hockey schedule, starting a Headspace meditation, launching my shopping list, or viewing my the day’s office schedule). One of my favorites is a shortcut for creating appointments in my calendar, which creates two events (one for the actual appointment on my personal calendar and another to block off the time in my work calendar).

MacOS Mojave

Mojave is a smaller update, but there are still worthwhile changes. Let’s just get the elephant out of the room and say Apple’s key feature, Dark Mode, is terrible. Just turn it on, open a website, and you’ll see why. (If anyone tries this, I apologize for burning your retinas.) Quick actions in the Finder are nice, but I’ve admittedly not had much of a chance to use them yet. I do appreciate being able to mark up an image quickly though. The one feature I can’t wait to use is the ability to scan or snap a photo directly to your Mac. Airdrop and the scanning feature in Notes on my iPad were already saving me from having to walk a few steps to the office scanner, but now I can cut out another step and scan from my iPad directly to my computer.

 

Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash

The Current State of Apple

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I’ve been using Apple products since I was two. I choose Apple not because I’m anti-other-brands but because the products work for me. Now I didn’t say they always work. Apple products, like any other, break from time to time, but when they do, I can usually count on Apple to make it right, quickly and easily.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to see that Apple fade, and it has me concerned.

It doesn’t take a lot of internet sleuthing to find people complaining about hardware and software woes of recent Apple products and services. Apple just implemented an extended repair program for keyboards on all of its current Macbooks because they’re failing at such high rates, and they are refocusing the next OS releases on stability because of such a high rate of bugs.

Thankfully, I’ve missed out on most of these bugs and hardware issues even being on the betas and not being afraid to buy the new models, but then there’s my iPhone X.

I love my iPhone X, but it’s certainly had its share of frustrating but tolerable bugs. Occasionally the screen would just stop responding or it wouldn’t wake from sleep by tapping the screen. I adapted and just knew to press the lock button in either situation. Looking back now, I should have seen these as red flags to begin with, but what happened next was certainly a red flag I couldn’t live with.

I arrived in Austin two weeks ago for a week-long vacation. That first night, I noticed my phone was behaving erratically – opening apps, typing, swiping, etc. People around me must have thought I had some next-generation FaceID where I could control my phone with my eyes. The next day, it was worse. In fact, it was actually locking me out of my phone because it was typing in passcodes. Really fun when you’re on a vacation.

I started planning an impromptu trip to an Apple Store, but then it stopped – for a few days at least. Instead of erratic behavior, now the middle of the touchscreen wasn’t responding to me at all. This was at least tolerable until I could get home as long as I used Reachability to move things to a working part of the screen.

Once I got back home, I did a little digging. It turns out this is actually a fairly common issue on the iPhone X. I got in touch with Apple who asked me to do a system restore on my iPhone before determining it was definitely a hardware issue and that I’d need to take my phone into an Apple Store.

Friday evening after work, I waited for 30 minutes beyond my appointment in a crowded store to have them insist on running more diagnostics to ensure there was actually a problem. Nevermind that by this time, the phone was sitting on the table untouched opening the News app and toggling the Zoom feature repeatedly. I was told I needed a screen replacement which would take an hour and a half. I didn’t have an hour and a half to wait, so I had to leave with my broken phone for another day.

Here’s where it gets fun. When trying to reschedule an appointment, I was told that the next appointment available wasn’t until Thursday at a store 3 hours away from me. My other option was to get an express replacement which would have taken a week to get to me. So much for express.

This phone is my main communication device for both family and work, not to mention, I’m part of the Apple Upgrade program so I’m paying $50/month for the phone. Not having it functioning for another week was just not going to work.

Somehow I managed to go to my local store and get a walk in appointment. That hour and a half estimate for the screen replacement actually took around 3 hours because I had to wait around for technicians, but all in all, I now have a working phone again.

Now here’s where my gripe is. This is a $1200 phone, made by the richest company in the world, that failed in under a year under normal, careful use. Even then, I get technology fails and I was understanding.

However, a couple years ago, I could have walked in with a glaring well-known hardware issue and a Genius would have gone in the back and brought out a refurbished device, my device would have been fixed for the next person, and I’d have been on my way that very first night. Apparently, whether to replace or repair a phone is now up to the technician, and I just got the unlucky fate of having one that wanted to replace the screen, so I got stuck waiting.

Apple used to symbolize quality both in terms of hardware and service. Paying the Apple premium was okay because you had the peace of mind that you would be taken care of if something happened to your device. You wouldn’t be given the runaround at one of the other electronics stores. Now they are just another one of the electronics stores.

Here’s to hoping the next year or so is a year of improvement for Apple and not just more of the same.

Photo by Medhat Dawoud on Unsplash