Saturday, October 16, 2021

iPad Mini is the Best iPhone Pro Max (Except For Battery Life and Camera)

I know, the title here makes no sense to some. The iPad mini is tablet. The iPhone Pro Max is more of the Swiss army knife of the mobile world - it can do a lot. You can do a lot with it on the go. The Max can do it all. It is why is has garnered the most attention year after year during Apple events. The Max is the device that is evident from the billions of R&D Apple poured into it. While that is great, I think it is time to evaluate its use from consumption and productivity points of view. And in my mind, even my iPad mini 5 and the just released 2021 iPad mini has a lot to bring to the gaming, reading and viewing videos for content consumption while productivity is where is shines for a vast majority of users. 

I guess I'm suggesting that unless you need the latest and best of the Max features, the iPad mini brings a lot to the game and could be the option to go with if you're looking for a device with a bigger screen than the Max but not quite want to carry around the bigger 10 to 12.5 inches version. 

Before we continue about why the iPad mini might be a better option for consumption and productivity, let's address features that are missing form the mini that the Max boasts. The mini battery lasts up to 10 hours. Maybe 12 hours if you turn on the power saving mode. On my aging mini 5, the feature has been helped me a lot during gaming and switching between apps that run in the background. If there is one thing that would have me ordering the new mini would have been a longer battery life. I do not understand why Apple has not increased the battery life on the iPad line while the battery life of the iPhones and MacBooks has created by leaps and bounds over the years. The 10-hour limit on the iPads is so pre-2010 and it has fallen behind those of Android and Chrome tablets that range from 12-15 hours. It makes sense that Apple can increase the battery life on the iPads and will at some point but no one knows why it has not done so yet. I will not venture a guess as to why that is.

The other issue is the camera. The iPad mini camera is bad and the camera on the iPad mini 2021 is a better improvement but it lacks those of the Max. And it makes no sense that Apple would put the latest and greatest camera on the mini or even the iPad Pro. Probably like the battery issue I mentioned above, cost is an issue and differentiation between devices is essential for Apple. Speaking to the camera on the iPad mini 2021, let's just say that people appreciate Apple even improved it at all. Reading through about eight or so tech reviews on the mini, the camera was given a paragraph's mention while only a couple provide sample photos taken by the mini. That shows just how much expectation people has for the mini with respect to the camera.

With that out of the way, the iPad mini truly is outstanding as a mobile device. People generally think that smaller means less power and features omitted. With the iPad mini Apple just released, it is equipped with the latest A15 chip that also powers the iPhone 13 and benchmarks shows that it is one of the fastest chip out there - not just the fastest Apple chip but in the entire computing world. It will have staying power for years. Even now with my iPad mini 5, released in 2019, with the A12 chip that powered the iPhone XS and the popular XR that was only discontinued this fall, it feels every bit as speedy as it was running whatever iOS it came with. I read books on there, write articles, play games, make calls/FaceTime, and even began coding with it (learning to my way into some programming languages and hope to build my own AI one day).  

The only regret I have is that I did not get mine with cellular modem. At the time when I bought it, I thought I would only use it for reading books and comics and gaming. I had a cellular iPad Pro that I was using for productivity and work. Eventually, I came to like the mini size more. With the new iPad mini screen coming in at 8.3” and nearly the same size, it is only better.

Some might argue that the iPad mini screen is too small for productivity. I disagrees.  Perhaps some compromises might have to be made but I think with a little imagination and motivation, it would work perfectly. The same can be said of a device of any screen size but for me, the mini stands at the crossroad between smartphones and tablets. The mini was a phablet before there were phablets.

I would like Apple to make a few improvements but I will save that for another time - my own version of click-baiting if you will. I will likely hold onto to my green iPhone 12 mini for another year because it just that good. I am going to use my iPad mini a bit longer as well until I become more apt with coding and then I can reward myself with the iPad mini 6 later. But even if I do decide to use my iPad mini 5 until the iPad mini 7 comes out (Apple is not likely to released a new mini on an annual basis), it would still continue to do just about everything I expect it to do running iPadOS 16 and 17.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

iPad For the Week

 I figure I need a MacBook for coding.  As I continue my slow coding trek, I assumed that I need a Mac in order to do that. However, I’m still at the level where I can get away with a Mac while I use online sources and apps to beef up my coding muscles. This week is going to prove it.

I will be having a change of scenery as I am staying closer to work so we do not have to suffer the Los Angeles traffic. LA is flat and you have to drive pretty much everywhere you go. This morning, I packed my wife’s MacBook Air, I was about to put my 12” Macbook into my bag when I realized that I have been doing a lot of work on the iPad mini and the iPad Pro over the weekend. 

Over the weekend, I did the following in terms of productivity:

  • Research products
  • Sketched some artwork
  • Writing
  • Used Numbers (Apple’s spreadsheet) and Google Sheets (Google’s spreadsheet)
  • Worked on online store (Yup, starting a hobby to learn how e-commerce works.  What better way than to create an online store)
  • Coding lessons
  • Reading up on materials relating to AI, coding, and online sales
  • Edited photos and videos
  • Wrote a short story
Aside from those productive tasks, I also read a Batman comic, writing in my journal, and watched movies. All of this was on the iPad. 

In the coming week, I think I can continue to do all of the above without having to use the Macbook for any of this.  Some tasks couple be easier on the Mac but others like sketching with the Apple Pencil and reading on the go is definitely either the Macbook is not capable of or convenient. Despite the Macbook being light and mobile, I like have to use both hands while propping it up while I can hold the iPad in one hand while reading on the couch or bed.

And this is on a 2019 iPad mini. I imagine I can do pretty much the same thing if I decided to upgrade to the 2021 iPad mini or even the Pro at some point in the future. That’s another line of thought for another time, perhaps later this week. 

And with iPadOS 15, my iPad mini is even more amazing. I’ll be updating how things are with the mini.  By the way, speaking of coding, Apple is supposed to release a version of Playgrounds that lets users submit apps into the App Store.  I cannot wait to try it out. 

The question I’m faced with in the future is whether I need a Mac anymore. I am sure Apple is faced with that dilemma internally.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Safari On Windows and Even Android Will Help Apple Cast A Wider Net To Protect User Privacy and Grow Its Ad and Search Revenue

Microsoft's Edge, Google's Chrome, and Firefox are the go-to browsers for most laptop and desktop users. Perhaps, Apple should really get back into the browser market if we are to really believe that Apple cares about user privacy and not just that of users behind its various highly protected and curated gardens. And with web technology evolving and getting better all the time, web apps could make a comeback and Apple has to make sure it does not get left behind and release Safari again for Windows and even Linux. And releasing browsers for Windows and Linux with greater privacy protection and features could help Apple increase its service revenues as well as help protect users on the increasingly complicated Internet.

Also, consider Apple possibly leaving billions on the table in the search and ads market, could Apple afford to do nothing and let others make all the money in the browser business? Right, the argument would be that Apple is being paid tens of billions by Google to be the default search engine and that it would be risky for Apple to walk away from that money. 

Apple can still earn billions from Google while still getting into back into the browser market on Linux and Windows. It is the best way for Apple to expand privacy protection for users and increase its services revenue. And release browsers on competing platforms would be the best way to go about it. Would it lose money since Apple make most of its money from hardware sales and a growing service portfolio as a result of this move?

It is unlikely. Apple users will buy Macs, iOS devices, and watches (maybe even AR hardware) regardless provided it continues to produce top end devices and provide reasons for new users to hop on to its platform. That will take care of itself. And its executive team and analysts will find a safe path for Apple continues to grow its hardware and higher margin services including ad sales. After all, if Apple do release  Safari on other platforms again, as long it is growing the service revenue pie, Apple is not going to worry about where the growth is coming from. Furthermore, I think Apple has forgotten the halo effect its products have had on non-Apple users. 

If Apple does get into browser business again to grow its services business,  it is likely years away. The main reason is that Apple browser is pretty good but would have to come with its own search service. Right now, Apple search is bad and not getting better.  It is inconsistent and it does not provide adequate results. Apple need to really double and triple down on its search and AI efforts. Supposed it happens, Apple will have an opportunity to get back into the open Internet where is is largely absent.

When the time comes, Do not expect to call it Apple Search. It would be too boring. Call it Siri or Spotlight would make sense.

Whatever Apple call its search service, do not expect a simple search prompt on a mostly empty page like Google or DuckDuckGo. I have no idea how Apple will implement its search engine. It will be a vastly different take. This is why I think Apple will not implement it until it can really get it right. It would have to be an intelligent search service with a vastly improved Siri playing a big role. If done correctly, even if Apple choose not to show ads directly to users, it would be a showcase of its technology and privacy protection. 

Would you be excited about using Apple's Safari on Windows or Linux along with Siri and better privacy?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

New iPhone 13: The Biggest Story Is Its Battery Life

 I cannot say that Apple really surprised us today with the event that introduced new iPads, iPhones, and the Apple Watch. There was something of interest for fitness fans just after Apple introduced the Apple Watch 7 that went longer than expected but the iPhone 13 was still why people showed up. And while cinema videography was pretty awesome, it was the battery life on the iPhone 13 that really should be the headline.

Should we be surprised by Apple giving the newer iPhones better battery life? Not really.  Thinking back now, Apple has been on a tear in the last few years starting with the iPhone XR that really impressed me. And year after year, battery life has improved to the point that I complain about it every other day rather than every day.  Okay, may be not but you know what I mean. I’m no longer anxious about running out of juice the way I did with the original SE, iPhone 8, and the X.  Since the XR and 11, Apple has brining its A game to the battery fight.

Normally, the lower end iPhone do not get a lot of attention in terms of features (missing a telephoto lens for example) or battery life. However, the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 mini will get an extra 2.5 hours and 1.5 hours respectively.  That puts the iPhone 13 at 19 hours of video and the iPhone 13 mini at 17 hours. Real world use varies. Given my experience with my iPhone 12 mini, I can go through the day and have about 40% left by the time I leave world. And this is really world use. It would put me at around 50% if I use the iPhone 13 mini in th same matter.

This means streaming podcasts, some video, a couple of photos, texting and reading Twitter/news, emails, and some writing.

For the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, there is an even bigger improvement. The iPhone 13 Pro gets 22 hours of video, 5 hours more than the iPhone 12 Pro while the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets 28 hours, a whole 8 hours more than its predecessor.  

If you do not have an iPhone 12, I would seriously suggest you give the iPhone 13 models a look. Better camera, longer battery life for real world use, and just the cinematic mode for taking video is worth the upgrades.

Personally, I’m pretty happy with with my green iPhone mini. And with the green discontinued as a color for the iPhone 13 this year, I think I’ll be sitting this year out. Maybe next year, eh, Apple?

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Saving iPhone Mini: It Would Be A Mistake For Apple To Get Rid Of It So It Probably Will Not

I love my iPhone 12 mini even though I have always had a top line iPhone (except for when I use my 2016 iPhone SE as a main driver and the Pro on certain occasions). So when I went with the mini this year, I knew I could not go back. It was a bit bigger than I hope for with a 5.4" screen but I'll take it. Given the news that the mini had not being selling as well as Apple had hoped, the rumors out there suggest iPhone 13 mini would be the last mini barring a miraculous jump in sale. I think it would be a mistake for Apple to get rid of the mini.

The rumors likely have it all wrong. Apple will not be getting rid of the mini but likely will change its strategy in marketing and selling the mini. There are options Apple have to make the mini more popular with the mainstream mobile users. It all depends on how Apple's mobile business model evolves or stays the same in the years to come. Will Apple be looking to sell high end models to keep its average selling prices up or will it be find with iPhone users upgrading to the lower end or middle of the road iPhones who also spend money on apps and Apple's growing portfolio of high margin services and digital offerings.

Here are some thoughts on making the mini better and stick around longer for those like smaller form factors and how I think Apple will like keep the mini around.

  • Smaller mini - I like the mini but I can go for a 5" mini. A small mini could bring back the segment of the market that wants a small iPhone. The iPhone 5 form factor is gone. The iPhone SE last year is a compromise but I don't know if it is selling all that well. But if Apple came back with an iPhone mini that is smaller than last year's SE and bigger than the iPhone 5 form factor, it would be a hit. 
I think it would be a huge hit. I'll probably be a life-long adopter of an iPhone with a 5" screen provide it has decent battery life. It would be perfect for those on the go who do not want a brick in their pocket, the world out crowd, and folks who likes to use their iPhones with just one hand.

This is not what Apple will likely do but this is a wishful thinking on my part and I want to get it out of the way first. If there is ever a 5" iPhone mini or SE, you only have to look to the current iPhone SE to see how it will perform in the real world.  

  • This is what Apple will most likely do with the iPhone mini. Renaming the mini and branding it as the iPhone SE. And when it does, what happens?  Touch ID either goes to the power button like the iPad Air and eventually migrate into the screen itself a few years down the line. There will be a price cut as well. The mini and SE starts at $699 and $399 respectively. that is a big price difference but Apple will find a way to get the cost down for the mini into the SE price range. After all the SE used to be an iPhone 7 or 8 and both the 7 and 8 started at $699.
  • Lowering the price of the mini but still calling it the mini. It would be a hit but I don't like this idea. Apple already has a lot of SKU and it's confusing to consumers. I would rather see the mini become the SE. However, Apple might keep the mini around for couple of years starting $599 to recoup some of the R&D costs and then drop it down to $499 as an SE. By that time, most of the margin will be most profit as costs of the iPhone mini is much cheaper in 3-4 years than what it is today.
With the screen size as low as 5.4" (I'm hoping for 5") all the way up to 6.7", Apple would continue to have every segment of the mobile market covered and prices starting at $399 and up. With the mini around, it gives Apple much more appeal to cost conscious buyers and fans of smaller form factor.

Expect some sacrifices though. The iPhone SE has only a low end camera that has been around for years. iPhone mini as an SE would be no different. We might still see the same camera design as the current iPhone 12 but I think Apple is going to do SE fans any favors with telephoto lens or much more upgraded camera feature. I can see Apple still to a single camera design that has a wide-angle feature to keep costs down.

Another sacrifice to expect with a mini as an SE is the battery life. I do not expect it to be worse than the current mini but I do not see Apple increasing the battery life in any measurable sense.  The current SE and mini comes in at 13 hours and 15 hours of streaming respectively. It is not that big of a difference in terms of real world use between the two models. So expect about the same battery life for future iPhone SE/mini. What I care about is real world use and I can tell you the mini is fine as a mobile device of a vast majority of users for day-to-day uses.

So, we will know in a day or two what Apple has planned for the iPhone 13 mini. And next year, we will know what Apple has planned for the SE. No matter what the rumors are saying about mini's demise or disappointing sales, Apple is not going to simply make it go away. The mini has a future in the iPhone lineup regardless of what you call it, mini or SE.