Technology


Apple Watch Series 4 review: ‘Guardian on your wrist’ packs a punch

At Apple’s annual Sep. event in Cupertino, Calif., the tech giant announced a new Apple Watch that brings hardware and software improvements that doubles down on its commitment to health. With Series 1 only launched three years ago, in just under a week with my review unit of Series 4, you can tell that this is what Series 1 should have been all along.

From a hardware standpoint, Apple Watch Series 4 packs a punch in still a small form factor. It retains its iconic design with some minor updates, featuring 40 and 44mm size options, enabling an over 30 per cent larger display through rounded corners.

watchOS 5 takes advantage of this through enhanced complications on the watch faces, apps have more real estate, and button inputs are easier. This is the first thing you’ll notice when you power it up. While I’m traditionally a silver kind of a guy, I’m a huge fan of the new gold finish, too, aligning with the new iPhone XS offering.

Your bands are still good!

You’ll be relieved to know the bands you’ve spent so much money on are still compatible with Series 4—phew! This was a worry from some tech analysts—that this is a way to force consumers to purchase new bands to be compatible with the new model.

As far as other improvements to the body of Apple Watch itself, a new Digital Crown now has built in haptic feedback. When you scroll through different menu options, subtle vibrations will help guide you through the user interface—a very nice detail.

If you listen to music or interact with Siri on Apple Watch, the speaker is 50 per cent louder—enough to fill a small room with ample feedback. The microphone has been moved to the opposite side of the device to facilitate clearer phone calls.

The ‘guardian on your wrist’

Health is where you see the most improvement, and Apple is very proud of that. Series 3 brought a high heart rhythm alert that became quite popular in notifying users of irregular patterns. Now, Series 4 will do the same with low heart rhythms. 

At launch in the United States, Apple Watch will come with a first-of-its-kind over-the-counter electrocardiogram—or ECG—application, through a new heart sensor built into the back and Digital Crown. This will allow a new way to record information for medical professionals to analyze. However, no word on when this will come to Canada.

Last on the health developments, something that can be great for our aging population (and even clumsy people like me): fall detection. It utilizes the internal gyroscope and accelerometer to detect irregular movements like falls.

In these instances, users will receive a notification to decide whether they want to notify emergency services, and if there’s no response within 60 seconds, Emergency SOS will be activated automatically.  Apple likened these new features as the ‘guardian on your wrist.’

Added cellular support in Canada

New this year is expanded cellular support for Apple Watch in Canada. Rogers has joined the other major wireless carriers to carry the device, meaning active runners can leave their iPhones at home and still be connected to music, podcasts, and loved ones wirelessly.

eSIM technology shares data from your phone plan, while connecting Apple Watch independently to the cellular network. This, combined with the faster dual-core S4 processor and W3 wireless chip brings the future onto your wrist.

How much will this cost, and do I need all this power on my wrist?

Apple Watch Series 4 will start at $519 CAD, with the cellular model starting at $649 CAD. Series 3 will also be available for those who are happy with last year’s model—it is still a great watch. Cellular is good for you if you like to run and be mobile without a phone, however for many (including myself), the standard model suffices. I’m happy to see all three major Canadian carriers—including Rogers—on board with support.

Apple Watch Series 4 is really designed for iPhone users. So if you’re an Android user, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  If you use iPhone and are in the market for a new smart watch, this is a great upgrade. This is the first Apple Watch where I felt it could keep up with my fast fingers.

Rogers Communications is the parent company of Citytv and this website.


Review: iPhone XS features under-the-hood refinements, but it won’t come cheap

Like clockwork, Apple unveiled the latest iteration of their flagship smartphone, iPhone, on Sep. 12 in front of a packed audience at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif. Unlike previous years, however, the tech giant came out with not one, not two, but three smartphones—iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Tech enthusiasts applauded as CEO Tim Cook and team revealed the tech; but, is it worth the investment?

This review will focus on iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max—the devices Citytv had a chance to review ahead of the Sep. 21 launch in Canada, alongside Apple Watch Series 4. iPhone XR will go on sale later this year.

Hardware

On the exterior, iPhone X and iPhone XS are almost identical. The immersive screen remains at 5.8-inch, no home button, the same top notch you either love or hate, and IP68 water resistance up to two metres for 30 minutes—which Apple is quite proud of boasting through promotional videos. They also come in a new gold finish (in addition to space grey and silver), which I’m quite a fan of. Storage will be available in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations.

In all three models, you’ll notice Apple has done away with the iconic home button, foreshadowing a slow death of the physical switch. As with iPhone X, there is a slight learning curve, but from personal experience, you get used to the shift in habit.

As for the larger iPhone, it seems the company has nixed the ‘Plus’ naming convention, opting for ‘Max.’ iPhone XS Max comes with a 6.5-inch screen—and it’s gigantic. Both XS and XS Max are great for media consumption, but XS Max is immersive but large for pockets—think watching YouTube videos with the new wide stereo speakers. Or my latest obsession—Ignite TV PVR downloads on the airplane.

Do you need the larger screen? No.  Is it nice to have? Yes.  Can it be a pain to carry in your pocket? Certainly, but having the option is great.

Bionic chip for bionic speeds

When migrating my data from my iPhone X, I could notice speed and power from the get-go. This iPhone houses an A12 Bionic and Neural Engine—what Apple calls ’the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone.’ The power is best noticed in resource-intensive applications like video editing, augmented reality, and gaming.

Coupled with iOS 12, it’ll unlock new consumer-friendly functionality, like Memoji and every selfie-taker’s new favourite feature: Smart HDR. Using the two 12-megapixel wide and telephoto lenses, Smart HDR means you can, using a slider, control F-stop or depth-of-field appearance in Portrait mode photos. This puts the power of pro photography in a consumer-grade smartphone—perfect for the ‘gram.

Battery life

In comparison to iPhone X, Apple claims iPhone XS will get you 30 minutes longer than iPhone X. iPhone XS Max will beat iPhone X by 90 minutes, according to Phil Schiller.

In real-life, I got a 12-hour day of consistent use out of iPhone XS Max.

Dual SIM support

New to any iPhone is support for two SIM cards through eSIM technology. It’s reliant on carrier adoption—however, it’s the same technology used for cellular connectivity in Apple Watch Series 4—now on all major carriers in Canada.  Traditional SIM cards will still work, but there is only one slot. The variant to be sold in China which will have two SIM trays.

This means that eventually consumers can still have two phone numbers (say, one for personal use and one for work) and receive calls and texts on one iPhone.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, iPhone XS won’t come cheap. At $1,379 CAD for iPhone XS and $1,519 CAD for the iPhone XS Max variant, these phones aren’t cheap. Carriers will subsidize—for example, Rogers is launching an Ultra tier, where for $10 a month, customers can get up to $250 off the upfront cost of ‘iconic’ devices on a term.

Additionally, later this year, Apple is launching iPhone XR, the third device announced at the Cupertino event. It features a ‘Liquid Retina’ LCD display, 12-megapixel camera, and a wide-array of colours, reminiscent of the iPhone 5C. iPhone XR rings in at just over $1,000.

Bottom line

So why would you want this device? You’re likely using an older iPhone—perhaps a 7—and it’s time for an upgrade. As a former iPhone 7 Plus user, iPhone XS Max is a nice option—albeit the hefty price tag.

If you’re an iPhone X user, there’s plenty to love about it still. iPhone XS brings a lot of new under the hood, but might not be worth $1,379.

Lastly, there’s a lot to be intrigued about iPhone XR, from the colour options to battery life. For the average consumer, it may be worth considering it when it comes out later this year. Let the games begin.

Rogers Communications is the parent company of Citytv and this website.


12 things you need to know from Apple’s WWDC keynote announcement

Apple held their annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference in San Jose, Calif. Monday, where a slew of software updates were announced. While there was no new hardware announced at their annual keynote address by CEO Tim Cook and team, developers were left with new features to sink their teeth into.  Here’s a brief recap:

iOS 12

Augmented Reality
The tech giant is doubling down on performance with the latest iteration of its mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad. On iOS 12, the next generation of its augmented reality tool set, ARKit 2, was introduced, alongside a new ‘Measure’ app that enables users to get measurements of real-world items—all without a ruler or tape measure.

APPLE

Screen Time/Down Time
Screen Time will offer users a way to see how actively they use their device. Through a central dashboard, insights like device use time, time spent in specific apps, and regular reports sent out means users can see how much time they really spend on Instagram. This will be something that appeals to parents. Down Time will introduce the ability for device managers (like mom and dad) to limit access to specific apps, category of apps, or the entire device from certain periods of the day, or once a set threshold is reached. Sorry, kids!

APPLE

Animojis become more personal
Remember those animoji characters announced back in September? They are emojis brought to life using AR technology on iPhone X. The next step brings—ready for it?—Memoji to your repertoire. Users will design their own animated version of themselves—almost like a Bitmoji—and using iPhone’s front-facing camera, you’ll see the character come to life, mimicking your facial expressions, including tongue movements.
Group FaceTime
The video chatting service brings multiple parties together in a group video chat—up to 32 people to be specific. Active speakers’ tiles are made larger and smaller, while quiet participants are shelved. Chats can then utilize the Memoji effects, as well as a whole host of stickers and filters.

APPLE

watchOS 5

Automatic workout detection
In the new operating system for Apple Watch, for those who use it to work out, technology including the built-in heart rate sensor will automatically detect when you start a work out. It will alert you, and once accepted will retroactively record the fitness data.  This is powerful for people like me who forget to activate a new workout more often than not.
Walkie-Talkie
Yes, it’s back—and it’s cool again. But it’s the 21st-century watch version. Once you accept the connection with your desired family and friends, you can tap to record a short audio message, and it is transmitted to their device. A fun way to tell your kids, “Dinner’s ready!”

APPLE

No more “Hey Siri”
With the improved Siri Apple Watch face, users can now raise to activate Siri, without saying the words “Hey Siri.”
tvOS 12
Dolby Atmos surround sound support
Apple announced they are rolling out improvements to sound quality on Apple TV 4K, with integration of Dolby Atmos surround sound. Users with an enabled sound bar or speaker system will see an improvement, with upgraded media like movies to be pushed through iTunes automatically.

macOS 10.14 Mojave

Your privacy, first
The tech giant announced their new operating system, macOS 10.14 Mojave. The California road trip continues. Apple was quick to highlight privacy is at the forefront of user data, from mail to messages. Surprisingly, on Safari, updates will shut down Facebook tracking and ad targeting, forcing users to opt-in before they can use share/like buttons—the traditional source of ad tracking.
Dark Mode
The audience ooh’d and ahh’d for this one. Dark Mode is coming to macOS 10.14 Mojave. It is an adaptive mode that can dim your user experience to make being productive easier on the eyes at night. This is similar to the ’Night mode’ experience on the Twitter app.
Clean up your desktop with organization tools
New organization tools will help keep the clutter off your desktop. You can finally reclaim your wallpaper! Using ’stacks,’ macOS will sort and group materials by type. Photos, documents, videos, etc. For those who have a method to their madness, there will be a way to customize this function accordingly.
Rebuild of Mac App Store
In an attempt to better integrate Mac applications with its successful App Store ecosystem, Apple has rebuilt their App Store from the ground up, breaking app discovery down by ‘Create,’ ‘Work,’ ‘Play,’ and ‘Develop.’