Friday, April 30, 2021

Tales of the iPhone Mini - Perfect for Health

 When we think of health these days, we have plenty of options and tools available to us to stay health, lose or maintain weight, or other health related goals we have.  In the Apple world, the most obvious one is the Apple Watch.  Before that, we have the iPhone with its ability to count steps and GPS to let us know how far we have walked, ran, or rode.  Today, with the different sizes of iPhones available to us, only the iPhone mini is the perfect choice for 

There are plenty of apps with the sole goal of achieving better health.  How much water to consume, what to eat, and much more.  Some apps even duplicate what the Apple Watch does very well - measure your heart rate.  The iPhone 12 mini, the regular iPhone 12, and the two iPhone Pro models all do that very well because they can run all these same apps.   However, only the mini does all of these and is easier to carry around on the go.  

This is obvious - the mini is smaller than all of the other iPhone 12 models.  The iPhone 12 mini with its size makes it easy to carry in the pocket, armband, or with one hand.  I’ve ran with the iPhone 11 Pro Max before and half the time, I’m worried about dropping it.  This is not the case with the mini.  I can easily handle it with one hand and not worry about dropping it. 

The iPhone 12 comes in at 5.78 oz.  The iPhone Pro and Pro Max at 6.66 and 8.03 oz., respectively..  The mini comes in at 4.76 oz.  It’s not a big difference unless you’re comparing the mini with the Max Pro wieghts.  It really comes down to the size.  The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 feels big.  And the Max even more so.  So when you’re trying to run with them in your hand, stuffed in a pocket, or anchored to your arm, you really feel them.  This is not the case with the mini.  You almost do not notice it.

Of course, that stills can’t compare to the Apple Watch that simply sits on your wrist. Next post: iPhone Mini versus Apple Watch workouts and health.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Old Is New If You Learn Or Teach Your Devices Skills - Old iPad Mini Now More Valued Than Before

 At the latest Apple event on April 20th, this past Tuesday, I was looking forward to a new iPad mini but Apple totally went in another direction. I was expecting an iPad mini. Instead, Apple went for power and updated the iPad Pro with its most power chip, the M1 that currently powers the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.. Now, I fully expect Apple to upgrade the iPad mini later this year also with the M1 while it migrates everything else to the M2. However, I have picked up learning to code again and I am doing it part time on my MacBook and iPad mini 5. And I’m having a blast. Now, I’m not sure I’ll be upgrading later this year when Apple does release an M1 powered iPad mini. 

Working on Python, I realized for my current level of the language and what I plan on doing with it, I can do what I need with just what’s available to iPad OS.  And at the same time, I discovered that I could do Swift exercises using the playground module on Apple’s Playgrounds app that Apple developed to introduce users to the concepts of coding so they become more comfortable to real coding. 

I’m a novice and I don’t know what limitations I will run into when I get to the point that my coding becomes rather serious. Python masters are doing a lot on the iPad while Swift programmers still have to do all the heavy lifting on a Mac. 

I’m really excited about what is possible and discovering what I can do on this small piece of glass.  Tools are important but it’s what you do with them that is more important

Friday, April 9, 2021

iPad Mini - UMPC Dream Come True, Best True Mobile Computer

 Do you remember what the UMPC is?  It's the ultra-mobile PC from 2000s before the iPad was released by Apple.  The UMPC was a light weight PC that ran mostly Windows and had a battery life of 5 hours.  Real world use was obvious very disappointing as the class of PC did not live up to its aspirations.  

When it was first introduced, along with a few upbeat commercials that claim we have finally be delivered to the mobile promise land, I was very skeptical.  I owned both Windows laptops and Powerbooks from Apple through college and I know what power and battery life was like in real life.  Luckily at the time, the time I needed to tax my computers was when I was playing games.  Excel work and plotting graphs were easy enough for the computers to handle with data from lab work.   When I did have to do photo editing, I did it on the Powerbook if I had to but I had access to the PowerMacs of the time in the late 90s. Through the 2000s, processing power did increase but battery life was still dismal.

So, I never go the UMPC right out of the gate or did I need up getting one because Apple released the iPad  in the early part of 2010.  That was my UMPC.  It was simple in that it did not do all what I have come to expect a PC to do and what I was doing with a PC both for work and personally.  It had a browser, mail app, and a few apps that were really iPhone apps.  It was not until a few years later that the iPad really become a full blown computer.  

Then the iPad mini was released about  couple of years later.  The latest one, the iPad mini 5th generation was released in 2019.  I realized I have every version of the mini and stopped with the bigger regular iPad at iPad Pro 10.5". I don't know if I'll ever go back to a bigger size iPad.  I know that I have more of a chance of upgrading to a mini.  

The size is perfect at at 5.5" by 8" with about a 7.9" display that has an impressive ten hours real world battery life.  Yea, I'm not kidding here.  There were times when I'm just browsing, watching video, writing, and play games through the day and I had no anxiety issues about finding a plug to charge it.  My 5th generation also supports Apple Pencil - it was the main selling point for me to upgrade from the 4th gen to the current one.  Without it, even with the specs bump, I think I would have passed on it and happily stay with the 4th generation mini.

I don't have the cellular version which I sort of regret.  I've been leaving my iPhone at home more and more - I just leave the house with my cellular Apple Watch.  When I do bring the mini with me, I am without Internet connection.  I can do most things on it but there were times when I do want to answer an email or text (I get notifications through the watch).  I leave the iPhone at home because I do want to be disconnected so I'm a bit iffy on the cellular feature on the mini.  Perhaps, I'll get one with a cellular connection and turn it off unless it's an emergency.

As far as a UMPC goes, I do not think most Apple fans would compare the iPad to the UMPC.  But you have to wonder what Microsoft, Intel and their partners had done in the 5 years or so before the debut of the iPad had no influence on the iPad's own development.  For a device released on 2010, the level of power in the iPad as well as its true real world 10 hour battery life was an incredible feat.  It took Apple years before the MacBooks came close to the 10-hour battery of the iPad.  Today, we know that the M1 MacBooks have surpassed the the battery life of the iPads.

Furthermore, Apple framed the iPad as a media consuming device, not a computer like the Mac or PC in the early years.  Once development has matured over the years, only then did Apple begin to sell the iPad as possible PC replacements for productivity.  Given the smaller screen size of the mini, there were times when I find the 7.9" screen a bit limiting.  Obviously, I can easily do more on the 12.9" on the Pro.  

However, those times are few and far in between.  I've adapted my mini to serve as a companion to my MacBook for work - as a screen, document reader, productivity use with Numbers and Pages, and for the bulk of my personal projects.  

I can't wait to see what Apple has in store for the 6th generation mini.  There are rumors and they are just that.  I would not mind even longer battery life.  After all, the iPad family is about being mobile.  Let me list what I like to see on future iPad mini developments.

  • Again, battery life.  I would like to see Apple give the iPad family similar battery upgrades the MacBook got by using the M1 chip.  Perhaps, given the form factor of the mini, trying to get out 16-18 hours is not possible in the near future but how about 12-15 hours against the 10 hours today?
  • Low Power Mode.  Today's iPhone has excellent battery life.  Even on my iPhone 12 mini, I am getting decent battery life compared to my previous main driver, the iPhone SE and iPhone 11 Pro Max.  Sure, it's not to the level of the Max but the mini has managed to power me through the day of moderate use with the Low Power Mode on.  I like to see the Low Power Mode come to the iPad mini.  If it can squeeze out an extra hour or two, it would further increase it's usage as a true mobile platform.  After all, I don't need the iPhone or iPad running at full power.  Turning off a core or two in the CPU or update the screen less is just fine with me until I need it.  
  • Smart Keyboard support.  I like to see what Apple comes up with for the mini's own Smart keyboard folio.  It'll be cramp.  There are keyboard add-ons and covers for the mini.  I have avoided getting them because I use Apple's bluetooth keyboard with the mini when I have a lot of writing to do.  But it is a separate device and I rather have the keyboard built into the cover than carry a separate keyboard around.
  • Camera.  The iPad mini camera is so 2010. Maybe it is the same camera as the original iPad mini.  I definitely did not see any improved quality of photos taken on the 5th generation iPad mini over the 4th gen iPad mini.  I would be willing to pay a premium price for better camera.  the Pro has it and it's come Apple give the mini the same treatment.  There is rumor that we might get an iPad mini Por.  If that is true, I would expect it to get a better camera than the current mini.
Now, updated specs for a 6th generation iPad mini is a given.  I expect I'll be able to utilize that power with even more powerful apps.  Even now, I can do a lot of graphic work on the mini and not have it miss a beat.  

If you ask me what I would take with me when I leave for my hike this weekend or a walk though the Huntington Library, hands down - the iPad mini.  More than the bigger versions in the iPad family, the mini has an UMPC user's dream come true.  For a while there many fans including myself were worried that Apple was going to discontinue the mini and go bigger with the iPad.  The popularity of the 5th generation iPad mini likely surprised many at Apple.  And now, I think the mini is here to stay.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tales Of the iPhone Mini - Picture-In-Picture Feature

There are a couple of reports in the last few months about how the iPhone 12 mini is not selling well and Apple has been cutting back its productions even as the iPhone 12 and the pro versions are flying off the shelves.  It is disheartening to say the least but I think it is too early to write off the mini considering.

I have written about the mini a few times since I got it.  I enjoy reading reviews about it since they're mostly very positive.  For those us who do own it, I am sure I'll have a hard time finding someone who isn't happy with it.  Sure, I would not mind having a longer battery life but since I'm home bound due to COVID, I have not found myself worrying about charging it up.  And if rumors are true, I'll be the first in line for the Apple MagSafe battery.  

One thing you want to keep in mind about the mini despite smaller form factor (of course, smaller but not so small screen) is that on the size, it is every bit an iPhone 12 as its bigger siblings. That means it is fast.  I've done a fair amount of productive activities on it.  

And the best feature is the picture-in-picture feature.  The feature has been available for almost year now.  On my previous mobile driver, the 2016 iPhone SE, it worked smoothly even on the 4" screen.  I can adjust the size of the PIP screen as well which I made as small as possible when I am doing work on the SE.   On the mini, it is even better.  At 5.4", I do not have to adjust the screen as much.  

At times, some of my work is just writing or working on some office files.  I can still work while allowing myself a little distraction when I am out and about and not on my laptop.  And these days, between music, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos, there is a lot to consume.  I'll take any few minutes that I can steal way to catch up on some much needed entertainment.  I'm also one of those folks who enjoy a little background sounds as well.

It took a while for Apple to finally implement PIP on the iPhone.  Like I said, it was only available on iOS 14 whereas it has been a main feature on the iPad for years.  I don't know what took Apple so long to bring this over to the iPhone.  when I heard about it for the iPhone, I could not believe it.  Nor could I believe it would work on my SE.  And now on the mini, it is even better than what I could have hoped for.

Stay tuned for another Tales of the iPhone mini.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Call Recorder - An Useful Feature if Apple Ever Implements It

MacObserver pointed out a security risk on an app called Call Recorder that allow conservations to be stolen.  I'm not user of this app so I cannot say whether this is some sort of a trojan app that is allowing some nefarious groups or governments steal calls.  But I can say for sure that this would be high on the wishlist of an iOS update to record Facetime audio for podcasting purposes.

Why would Apple allows such a feature?  Simple.  Privacy.  If this is implemented only for Facetime, it would do many things for Apple users, least of which, is the assurance that their calls are private.  Before each call can be recorded, everyone connected on the call should give their consent.  Those who do not will simply have their audio muted.

On top of that, this would have a wide range of private and commercial uses - calls for posterity for users. I occasionally record FaceTime calls with my baby niece and nephew.  Adorable, right?  And how about this for podcasters - the ability to record calls and directly import them into whatever audio or podcasting apps they use.  Also, for interviews from journalists to other professionals who needs to record and generate audio files, it would help a lot.

For years, I have not been a fan of giving anyone the ability record calls.  But as time have passed, my stand on this has changed as well - but privacy and the rights of all parties should be preserved.  

More than just privacy, Apple can stand to benefit from this.  Beyond the publicity and good will that might be generated from this, Facetime calls, audio or video, take up space.  That means iCloud storage.  That means people subscribing to increase their storage allotment with Apple.  That means more dollars.