Review: iPhone 11, the iPhone for everyone

Last year, I got on Apple‘s iPhone upgrade program to be able to change my phone every year without having the hassle of selling an old one on eBay. Given that I was spreading the cost out over monthly payments, at 0% interest, I decided to go for the best model: the iPhone XS Max. As I wrote on this blog, it was a wonderful phone, but at a high price. And even though I paid for that iPhone monthly, rather than in one lump sum, the payments were still pretty high. So this year, I opted to go for the iPhone 11, which really is the iPhone for everyone.

The iPhone 11 is sleek and slim, and its glass back means that it is quite grippy most of the time when held with bare hands. But its matte edges are a bit slippery, and, as much as I would love to go caseless with my iPhone, I just can’t take the chance. While I have never broken an iPhone screen, and this iPhone is covered with AppleCare+ as part of the iPhone upgrade program, I just know that once I start using an iPhone without a case, I’ll drop it.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Apple updates iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad; gives info on Apple Arcade and Apple TV+

“Spring ahead, fall new iPhone.” I think that’s what they say. Like clockwork now since 2014 and the release of the iPhone 4S, Apple this week announced the latest model of the iPhone along with other new products and services.

Eschewing the Roman numeral naming for the device, this one goes to 11. (I know, it’s a cliché, and fortunately, Apple didn’t use it.) The iPhone 11 comes in two models: standard and Pro (three models, if you count the Pro Max separately). This is the first time that Apple has used the term Pro for the iPhone—a term that has been used for Macs and iPads for many years—and the Pro models (in regular size and Max) now come with three rear-facing cameras instead of two.

The iPhone 11 (without the “Pro” modifier) is the replacement for last year’s iPhone XR. Coming in at $699 for the base model with 64 GB storage, this iPhone comes in six colors, and features two cameras. Unlike last year’s iPhone XS models, these cameras come with wide and ultra-wide lenses. (The two-camera versions of the iPhone X and later had wide and telephoto lenses.) This is an interesting choice, since the ultra-wide angle lens doesn’t seem like something that many people would be interested in. It’s great for expansive landscape shots, or interior photos if you want to show a whole room, but it’s not very versatile.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Why Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program is Problematic in the UK

The iPhone Upgrade problem is a great way to get a new iPhone every year, without the hassle of re-selling your old phone. I used to do the latter, but it’s really problematic selling an iPhone on eBay, or through other services. You get targeted by scammers as soon as you list a new iPhone on eBay, and I don’t really trust the company to resolve, in my favor, if a buyer pretends that I didn’t send them the phone. You can also trade in your old iPhone to Apple, and I did that last year, but it’s not very advantageous.

So last year I got on the iPhone upgrade program. You pay £69 up front, then the remainder of the cost of the phone over 20 months. After twelve months, you’re eligible for an upgrade. The amount you pay includes AppleCare+, so you are protected in case of damage, or any issues covered by warranty.

The problem in the UK is that you have to go to an Apple Store each year to use the upgrade program. I understand why this is necessary the first year, as they need to identify you, but in subsequent years this shouldn’t be the case. (However, I took out a 12-month, zero-interest loan for my last MacBook Pro online; I didn’t need anyone to physically identify me.) In the US, after the first year, you reserve a phone online, Apple ships it to you, and a few days later they ship you a box to return your old phone.

This difference is problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, there aren’t many Apple Stores in the UK. I have to drive about an hour to get to my nearest Apple Store. Second, when you get there, you enter Apple Store Hell: that noisy, crowded atmosphere which is everything a retail outlet should be. I really hate the Apple Store environment, and only go where when I have no choice.

But there is a more important issue regarding the data on your iPhone. Getting your new phone this way means you cannot transfer your data from the old phone. (I assume this is the case; given how long it takes, I can’t imagine that someone is going to stay with me in the Apple Store as this happens.) So you need to back up your device and you cannot restore it until you have wi-fi, or until you return home. (The former if you back up your device to iCloud; the latter if you do it to your computer.)

In addition, for people who don’t back up their device to a computer via iTunes, they need to have enough storage available on their iCloud account to make a full backup. What happens to some people is that they have to temporarily up their storage to the next tier to be able to make the backup, restore the device, then downgrade the storage plan. This is clunky and Apple should provide a temporary storage bump when someone buys a new iPhone.

Since this process is a lot smoother in the US, I hope that Apple will extend the same process to other countries where the iPhone Upgrade program is available. As things stand, it’s a lot of work to use the program, and it should be smoother, especially when they are dealing with committed, repeat customers who want to get a new iPhone every year.

It’s Amazing That Anyone Upgrades Their iPhone — 500ish Words

I’ve owned every iPhone since the original one back in 2007. Each time that I get the latest version I do something many people consider crazy: I set it up as a new iPhone, rather than restoring a backup of my last device. My rationale is both simple and silly: I like the idea of this being a natural “reset” of my phone–a way to determine which apps I really want, or more to the point, need, on my device. It’s always far fewer than I think. And certainly less than I would have if I restored and deleted just the ones I thought I wouldn’t miss.

Anyway, I bring this up because this process, while in a way liberating, is also a pain. It takes a long time to re-download every app that I actually want. And, of course, even longer to log in to each of these apps. One by one.

And yet I was reminded this week that my process actually isn’t that much more laborious than the more traditional restore. A few weeks back I bought my wife the latest iPhone–she had been using an iPhone 8, and I wanted her to have the best camera to take pictures of our little girl–but she kept pushing off setting it up. When I asked her why, she noted that the restore process is incredibly slow and cumbersome.

Actually, that was my prim and proper translation of what she said. She really just said that it sucks. And I know she’s not alone in thinking that.

This sort of surprises me since I had heard the restore process had gotten a lot better in recent years as iCloud itself has gone from a laughing stock to quite good. And again, doing this all over-the-air sure sounds much easier than what I do each time with a full rebuild from scratch.

But as it turns out, restoring an iPhone does indeed still suck. While you can do everything via the cloud, there are still a whole slew of things that are no better than a clean install. And in some cases, actually worse.

This is a difficult situation. There is some data that gets lost if you don’t upgrade: health data, and passwords (if you don’t have iCloud Keychain turned on). So the best way is to do an iTunes backup and restore from that.

But the author points out the problem with the new phone that needed an iOS update in order to load the backup, because the phone he had backed up was on a later version of iOS. This is quite frustrating, and gets me every time I don’t get an iPhone on the very first day it’s released.

The whole process is needlessly complicated, especially since iTunes no longer manages apps, and you have to download them all, which can take more than an hour with my internet bandwidth.

Source: It’s Amazing That Anyone Upgrades Their iPhone — 500ish Words

Why I Won’t Sell an iPhone on eBay Any More

For many years, I have bought new iPhones and sold the previous models. As a tech journalist, it’s useful for me to have the latest technology – even though I don’t do this every year – and I don’t want to accumulate old devices, like many of my friends who have “boxes of phones.”

I used to do this on eBay, but, when I tried to sell my iPhone 8+ recently, the experience was so bad that I will never do it again.

The first problem is that scammers hone in on iPhone sales pretty quickly. Each time I listed it – I’ll explain in a bit why I had to do this several times – I got emails like this:

hi i was wondering if you iphone 8 has been sold or not as I might be interested
my contact number is XXXX XXX XXX
regards
john

Often, the messages would give an email address, in the form username @ outlook dot com, so eBay’s filters wouldn’t catch them. And many of them used the same story, saying they needed to get one for their daughter’s birthday that week.

eBay seems to be very slow catching up to this. Generally it took a day or so before I got an email from eBay saying:

Our records show that you recently contacted or received messages from XXXXXXXX through eBay’s messaging system. We’re writing to let you know that an unauthorized third party may have compromised this member’s account security. It’s important to note that we’re unaware of any problems with your account. We recommend the following precautions to help keep you safe:

  • Don’t respond to offers to buy or sell an item from this user. The offer may be fraudulent, and the transaction won’t be covered by eBay.
  • Don’t respond to any messages you received from this user that appear to be a Second Chance Offer for an item you recently bid on.
  • Never pay for eBay items using instant cash wire-transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. It’s against eBay’s Safe Payments Policy for a seller to request payment with these methods.

Most of these are new accounts – they weren’t “compromised” – which you can see by the low or zero feedback, and the join date on their pages. (Some may have feedback; scammers just buy a few cheap items to get some feedback on their accounts.)

I can understand how some people may fall for this scam, where the buyer pays you via PayPal, then claims that they never received the item, or, if you have sent it with a signature required, that it was broken. (And they’ll have photos of a broken iPhone to show.)

Another issue I had was people paying, then sending a strange looking address. In these cases, I just cancelled the order and refunded the person.

I’ve sold other items of value on eBay; I recently sold a Mac mini, and last year I sold an iMac, and never get this kind of email. I think it’s too much of a hassle for the scammers to try this for things bigger than a smartphone.

So when I bought the new iPhone XS Max last year, I moved over to Apple’s upgrade program. I won’t have to worry about selling old iPhones any more. As for the iPhone 8+, I traded it in to Apple; I got less than I would have from eBay (even after their fees), but there’s no hassle involved.

But that’s it. eBay has made itself far too dangerous to sell items like this. Knowing that in disputes they tend to side with the buyer automatically means I simply cannot trust the company to protect me.

The iPhone Is No Longer “Magical”

The big Apple news this week was the company’s surprising profit warning, the first time Apple has had to do this in 15 years. Apple is expecting revenue of about $88 billion this quarter, rather than its initial guidance of up to $93 billion. In other words, they’ve sold about $5 – $9 billion less in iPhones. (Yes, this is mostly the iPhone, because other products seem to be stable, and services have apparently increased.)

Funny, though; this is a record quarter for Apple, yet they had to issue a profit warning, and the stock fell nearly 10% the following day. But the stock market fall was not about this single quarter; it was about Apple’s future. The company’s revenue is mostly – and dangerously – focused on this single product. It represents about 59% of Apple’s income, so any drop in sales could have very serious effects.

It was interesting that Tim Cook spent 1,500 words blaming all sorts of reasons for this drop, whereas he can’t come out and say the real reasons. First, the iPhone has gotten too expensive. As Apple has seen demand flatten, they have raised the price of the iPhone (as well as other products, such as the high-end iPad, and the Apple Watch):

Price

The second reason is that the iPhone simply isn’t magical any more. And hearing Tim Cook use that term in the presentation of the latest iPhones sounded falser than it had in the past. Steve Jobs could say that in the early years of the device, because, for a while, it was magical, at least to many users. But now, the iPhone is an appliance, it’s one of many smartphones that all look more or less alike, and that all do more or less the same things. I stick with the iPhone because of the ecosystem – in part, because I write about Apple products, but also because I’m somewhat locked in through the apps I use – and because it is more reliable and more secure. But it’s not magical.

It’s time for Apple to grow up and stop selling their devices using this sort of language. Sure, the company is transitioning to services, and, as this article suggests, we might see iPaaS, or iPhone as a service, in the near future. Apple has already started that transition, with their upgrade program, but given the high price of new iPhones, the monthly payment for that is still somewhat steep. With the company’s dependency on the iPhone as its main revenue source, this transition will need to happen very quickly to maintain the level of income the company has seen, and that keeps its share price high.

But Apple’s biggest problem is that their services have never been stellar. Sure, the iTunes Store was and still is profitable, but their other services are not leaders in their sectors. We’ll see how Apple negotiates this turnaround as their star product becomes mature and no longer seems magical.

The Camera Features on the iPhone XS and XR Bring New Possibilities

People buy new smartphones for many reasons: some for the apps they can run, others for the ability to watch videos and play games, but one feature that drives many to upgrade is the camera. All smartphone makers work hard to improve their cameras to entire users to opt for newer devices, and Apple has done this for years. With this year’s iPhone models – the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR – Apple has brought new possibilities to the camera. (Read our review of the iPhone XS Max here.) But it’s not just the sensors or lenses that change; the real innovation these days is in the software that creates photos called computational photography.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

Review: The iPhone XS Max is a Max iPhone at a Max Price

With the second iteration of Apple’s iPhone X line, the company moved from a single device to three versions: the XS, the XS Max, and the lower-priced XR. The two new flagship phones, the iPhone XS and XS Max, are almost exactly the same other than for the size. The larger display doesn’t let you see a broader scene, it’s just bigger.

The iPhone XS is about the same size as last year’s iPhone X, and the XS Max is a hair smaller than the 8 Plus and 7 Plus models. Respectively, the iPhone XS, XS Mac, and 8 Plus have displays that are 5.8″, 6.5″, and 5.5″, so even the smaller model has a larger display than the biggest pervious iPhone. However, the display area is taller, so it’s not an easy comparison. You could go for the iPhone XS if you want the same size display as the larger standard iPhone model, or the XS Max to have the same size phone as the Plus models with a much larger display.

Read the rest of the review on the Mac Security Blog.

iPhone XS: Why It’s A Whole New Camera — Halide

iPhone XS has a completely new camera. It’s not just a different sensor, but an entirely new approach to photography that is new to iOS. Since it leans so heavily on merging exposures and computational photography, images may look quite different from those you’ve taken in similar conditions on older iPhones.

The developers of the Halide app for iOS – a photo app that notably shoots in raw – explain how the iPhones XS camera is so different from its predecessors. He goes into great detail, and it’s worth reading this if you’re a bit of a photography geek and want to know how to manage this new device.

Source: iPhone XS: Why It’s A Whole New Camera — Halide

Apple’s Most Lucrative iPhone Feature Is Storage – Bloomberg

Apple is tackling a global smartphone industry slowdown by raising iPhone prices, offering new digital services, and wringing more profit from parts that are becoming more commoditized. Selling more storage with iPhones is a powerful example of the latter strategy.

[…]

Ponying up for extra storage could lead iPhone users to spend more in other ways, too. People who’ve become accustomed to having what seems like a bottomless pit in their phones are likelier to cram the devices with more music, apps, movies, and subscriptions, boosting Apple’s services revenue. And Apple is charging anyone who wants an iCloud plan to back up their entire 512GB phone an extra $9.99 a month for 2 terabytes (2,000GB) of remote storage.

It’s really ridiculous that Apple doesn’t increase the basic amount of iCloud storage you get, especially for those who have multiple devices.

Source: Apple’s Most Lucrative iPhone Feature Is Storage – Bloomberg