Review


iPhone X kicks off a new generation at a hefty cost

Pros

  • All-new design is slick and seamless
  • Face ID doesn’t just work—it works well
  • TrueDepth camera makes way for interactive augmented reality

Cons

  • It’s expensive
  • No Home button means you have to learn a whole new set of gestures
  • You better put a case on it—or else

When Apple first announced the 10th-anniversary iPhone at their September event in Cupertino, Calif., analysts questioned the decision to stagger the launch of two premium smartphones—and whether a stray from their traditional annual launch strategy would do them more harm than good.

Many enthusiasts decided to wait and see how iPhone X stacked up to its recently-launched sibling. While lineups for iPhone 8 were shorter than previous releases, carriers are reporting record-breaking preorder demand for iPhone X. But is a smartphone really worth a whopping $1,300? We were among the first to put iPhone X through its paces.

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Redesigned from the inside out

The first thing you notice when picking up iPhone X is the gorgeous design. Everything has been reimagined. From the edge-to-edge 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED display, to the glass front and back that Apple touts as the ‘most durable ever in a smartphone,’ the stunning curvature of the edges makes this design an engineering feat and resembles a piece of artwork.

image2iPhone X remains water- and dust-resistant, featuring speakers 35 per cent louder, and is compatible with Qi-enabled wireless chargers. The device will turn heads and start conversations—though you’re best to throw a case on it, especially if you’re prone to dropping things. You know who you are.

No more Home button

First the headphone jack, now the home button. They finally did it. iPhone X is the first iPhone to do away with the one button that does virtually everything. Instead, users will need to learn a new series of gestures in iOS 11—like swipe up to go to your home screen; double press on the side button to activate Apple Pay; and hold the side and volume button to power off.

There was a learning curve for the first while. You’ll be reaching for the Home button annoyed it’s no longer there, and then cycle through the gestures. You get used to it—and is the price you pay for an all-screen display.

If you’re the type who likes using your smartphone with one hand, the new gestures may complicate things.  There are more swipes from the top, bottom, and sides. Unless you have long thumbs, you may need two hands to perform certain actions.

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Facial recognition is the new fingerprint scan

For those who have become accustomed to the fingerprint authentication (known as Touch ID), iPhone X introduces a new facial recognition technology. I was blown away by how quick it learns your face and how effortless it is to use.

Face ID uses a new, front-facing TrueDepth camera that maps over 30,000 invisible dots to your face. It is stored securely on your device and is accurate to 1 in 1,000,000 that a random person can unlock your device. It also adapts to changes in appearance like facial hair growth, and cosmetic makeup.

It is used to do everything from unlock your device, authenticate into apps, and pay for purchases through Apple Pay. And none of the information is uploaded to the cloud, similar to Touch ID.

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Cameras and AR

Camera enthusiasts will see a step-up in quality through not one, but two 12-megapixel rear cameras with dual optical image stabilization. This includes an updated Quad-LED True Tone flash that lights images more evenly and gives you more vibrant and accurate colours.

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The popular portrait mode that was once for the rear cameras on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus is now coming to iPhone X’s front-facing camera—something that will delight selfie takers and up their social media game.

The same TrueDepth camera that maps your face for security also unlocks a whole new world through augmented reality technology. Apple continues to double down on AR as a future way of interacting with the real world, and apps including Snapchat and IKEA are making use of ARKit. New Animojis in iMessage enable users to have 10-second clips of emojis mimicking your expressions and facial movements captured. A lot of fun to use and without a doubt going to be popular with the tweens—that is, if they can afford one.

Is it worth it?

And for the age-old question… The phone is expensive. Over $1,000 expensive. iPhone X will run you $1,319 and $1,529 for the 64GB and 256GB variants, respectively. So is it worth throwing down a month’s mortgage payment on a smartphone that is made of all-glass? It depends on which features are important to you.

iPhone X is without a doubt one of the slickest devices I’ve seen in a long time. The build quality is unlike many other smartphones on the market today. The iPhone changed the smartphone industry and paved way for a lucrative app market. It is the combination of well-built hardware, easy-to-use software, and the potential of apps to personalize the mobile computing experience that put iPhone on the map a decade ago. And the tech giant is hoping to do that all over again.

As preorder sales have proven already, enthusiasts who want to be part of that experience will line up overnight or wait upwards of six weeks to get hold of a device. But for many others, iPhone 8—even iPhone 7—will suffice, especially if the Home button is still of great value. Though, iPhone 8 will still make a dent in your wallet at just under $1,000, off contract.

Apple hopes that choice and category redefinition will help boost sales, after the wait-and-see approach of iPhone 8 resulted in shorter lineups at retail stores.


Apple updates iMac, MacBook lines; doubles down on performance

Apple refreshed its line of Mac computers at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, including the iMac desktop – a device the tech giant hasn’t updated in almost two years. Manufacturers typically renew computers at least yearly to stay relevant.

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iMac reimagined on the inside, not out

Not much has changed on the exterior, but the first thing you do notice when powering on is the vibrancy of the display – boasting a beautiful 4K display and 5K display in the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs, respectively. These displays are 43 per cent brighter than its predecessor at 500 nits with support for one billion colours. Essentially, you’re guaranteeing yourself a vivid picture with whatever you’re doing.

The thin bezel of the new Apple iMac. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The thin bezel of the new Apple iMac. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

From a performance perspective, Apple has heavily invested in the Intel Kaby Lake seventh-generation Core i5 processor as standard, with an option to upgrade to Core i7. Measured against the previous-generation model, the new iMac will allow for three-times-faster gaming on the 21.5-inch model.

iMac pushes the envelope in storage with the evolution of the Fusion Drive across the 27-inch line and on the high-end 21.5-inch 4K computer, adding higher-capacity memory. Fusion Drives allow users to access frequently used documents, photos, videos, on a flash drive, eliminating spinning disks of the traditional hard drive. It means fewer parts to break down. I’d like to see a move to this being standard on all desktops.

Available ports on the 27-inch iMac. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

Available ports on the 27-inch iMac. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

Users will find plenty of connectivity on the 27-inch iMac, and unlike iPhone 7, there’s still a headphone jack, alongside four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (a.k.a. USB-C for everyone else), a Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card port. This allows for added displays, high-speed hard drive connectivity, and other third-party accessories.

Among the updates from the conference include a peek at the next iteration of the Mac platform – macOS High Sierra – chock-a-block full of new toys for developers to create immersive experiences for users, like virtual reality. However, the upgrade won’t be available until the fall.

MacBook Pro: Building on its success

The previous generation of MacBook Pro made the laptop much thinner and lighter. Plus, the integration of a fluid and interactive Touch Bar and Touch ID fingerprint reader has been surprisingly useful — not just a gimmick — and the 2017 version builds on that.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The upgrades bring a routine processor and hard drive boost. Machines will see the same Intel Kaby Lake processor as its desktop counterparts, as well as faster solid-state drives, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro will have snappier graphics out of the gate.

The notebook could benefit from an added USB 3.0 port for so many existing devices while still offering flexibility in the increasingly popular USB-C port. I also miss the SD card reader. Can there be a balance struck with ports, or lack thereof?

 

The OLED-lit Touch Bar on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The OLED-lit Touch Bar on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

As for the OLED-lit Touch Bar that offers virtual buttons that react to the specific program you’re in, the technology continues to be unique in its class. I’d like to see exponential growth of adoption by third-party developers for it to be a real hit. But for the apps that currently utilize this, it’s fantastic.

 

The Force Touch trackpad on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The Force Touch trackpad on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

 

With the last MacBook Pro, I had some issues with the shallow-but-tactile butterfly keyboard sticking. Apple has made some improvements to address reported problems with switch keys.

Other standard updates include increased speed and longer battery life. A larger Force Touch trackpad that reacts to the amount of pressure given to surface different actions remains.

MacBook receives a minor—but needed—spec bump

The new entry-level MacBook. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The new entry-level MacBook. CITYNEWS/Winston Sih

The entry-level MacBook remains one of Apple most popular laptops. It’s small in form and packs a punch as an ultraportable device, though it’s not as powerful as its sibling MacBook Pro. It gets the job done if you’re a parent just looking to surf the web and answer emails.

The entry-level laptop will get a boost in processor gigahertz, albeit minor at 1.2GHz dual-core, but when you’re working with less than 1.5 GHz to start with, every bit counts — even when you simply have a handful of web browser windows open.

In addition, the new solid-state drives are 50 per cent faster than its predecessor — rounding out a machine many students will no doubt adopt come September.

Availability

The new MacBook and MacBook Pro machines are available now.

A pro version of the iMac—aptly named iMac Pro—was announced Monday, but will not be available for sale until December. The updated classic line is available today.


New 10.5-inch iPad Pro brings a lot of familiar with a bigger display, more power

As computers become thinner and lighter, and tablets grow larger and more powerful, the line of whether you need one or the other is continuing to blur. Apple’s new productivity-focused tablet, iPad Pro is no exception.

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If I had to choose between my MacBook Pro or iPad Pro, nine times out of 10, I’m still going to choose the laptop. I find I’m generally more comfortable and don’t get anxious about the limitations of using a tablet. The tech giant continues to market these devices to two very different crowds—but is it working?

Let’s get to the basics

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iPad Pro now comes in 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models, the former replacing the previous 9.7-inch tablet. The 10.5-inch version rings in at 6.1 millimetres in thickness, while still giving you nearly 20 per cent larger screen surface.

Apple’s claiming iPad Pro to have the most advanced display, featuring their ProMotion technology—essentially a doubled refresh rate at 120Hz to give you enhanced responsiveness. And I would consider it a success. The screen looks more vivid, snappier, and interacts well with the Apple Pencil—an accessory sold at an additional $129 CAD.

You can tell this device is built for productivity. I launched almost every one of my over 50 apps, and iPad Pro barely slowed down. Apple has integrated their new 64-bit A10X Fusion chip that handles the most demanding of heavy apps, giving this up to 30 per cent faster CPU and 40 per cent graphics than the previous A9X chip. I successfully streamed multiple 4K videos with no lag whatsoever.

Software brings new features, but you’ll have to wait

iOS 11, the next iteration of the mobile operating system coming to iPad Pro, will bring a lot of familiar from its Mac counterpart. But you won’t get it until later this fall. Some of these features include an application dock that is reminiscent of macOS, but drastically increases multitasking, as well as improved file management and inter-app content flows like drag-and-drop photos.

It’s just too bad the hardware and software changes weren’t timed together, however very clear that Apple is saving the release to work with the launch of their flagship phone—iPhone—typically in the fall, too.

For those who like to hold their iPads up in big crowds and take photos

Yes, you know who you are—you’ll find a 12-megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K HD video, a front-facing 7-megapixel camera for video calls, as well as a four-speaker audio setup.

This device is great for content consumption. There is no doubt about that. I’d much rather have my iPad Pro out at the airport or on a flight than my MacBook. Be it magazines or movies, everything from visual to audio will be pristine.

Gorgeous accessories, but it’ll cost you

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This is where I think Apple’s signature design aesthetic wins. Yes, you can buy third-party accessories, but nothing compares to the Smart Keyboard. The larger size now enables a full-sized keyboard, both software and hardware, and the Smart Connector allows for connectivity without charging or Bluetooth.
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Coupled with the interactive Apple Pencil for annotations and note taking, the keyboard and pencil combo will set you back just under $350 CAD, before you even buy the device!

Other accessories include a leather sleeve, Apple Pencil case, and a Smart Cover that doubles as a stand.

The verdict

When I go back to the MacBook Pro vs. iPad Pro debate, if I had to pick one product, I’d still go back to the MacBook Pro. That is, if I’m strictly thinking productivity. You get the benefits of a full macOS with the thin and portable design of iPad with the keyboard and travelling case. Plus, the 12-inch iPad Pro is still really weighty. If you’re making your tablet look and perform like a laptop—just go get one.

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iPad Pro is beautiful, but for it to be a true workhorse, you need the accessories. Add it to the starting-at pricing of $869 and $1,049 for the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models, respectively, you’re pricing out to be near a MacBook or MacBook Pro, not to mention competitors out there like Microsoft’s Surface.

For big content consumers who value the Apple ecosystem and the extensive App Store, alongside the improved, vibrant display, and expanded keyboard size, iPad Pro could bring over more folks who want to shed the full computer experience for a simplified and user-friendly mobile design—made even better with iOS 11.


Live Blog: On the road with the all-electric BMW i3

Combining the latest innovations in battery technology with a unique shape and style, there’s no doubt that this car is a top contender in its class.

The BMW i3, one of the latest offerings from the German automotive manufacturer, is among one of the highly buzzed-about, all-electric cars available on the market today.

While available at an approachable price point in a market where traditional gasoline fuel is constantly on the rise, the real question comes down to whether a battery charge every 160 kilometres is practical in a busy, day-to-day lifestyle.

Follow along with the live blog below as I review the all-electric BMW i3 and the #BMWiConcierge experience, courtesy of BMW Canada.

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Live Blog On the road with the all-electric BMW i3