eXtensions - Wednesday 9 November 2016

Comments on MacBook Pro and the Apple Watch Series 2 (Bangkok Post, Life) - Updated: the MacBook Pro is now available in Thailand

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Apple has released several new products in the last weeks, with more to come. The iPhone 7 was joined by the Apple Watch Series 2, both with some useful additions. This was followed more recently by the MacBook Pro, with a number of changes that some commentators are not happy with; but then if Apple stands still, they claim to be more upset.

MacBook Pro
The New MacBook Pro - Image Courtesy of Apple

In the days following the announcement of the latest MacBook Pro computers, reports followed the usual pattern: the MacBook Pro misses the boat; Apple is doomed; Tim Cook should be replaced; and there were the usual questions about What would Steve Jobs have done/said/thought? An Apple product is like an iceberg: only a part is ever visible above the surface at any one time; most is hidden.

Some questioned the 16 GB maximum memory in these Macs. When asked why 32GB was not an option, Phil Schiller said that this was because it "wouldn't be power-efficient enough for a notebook". Many thought this was another example of Schiller-speak, until IT journalists did some research. When Intel releases suitable Kaby Lake processors, things will be different.

Although processor speeds are not much changed, components work faster: bus speeds are improved and sequential read speeds for the solid state drives read/write speeds are 3.1 and 2.1GB per second.

Many commented on the provision of USB-C ports only (plus the headphone connector) which means those with older devices will need new adapters or cables. Apple eased the pain a little at the end of last week by reducing prices in the USA of several adapters (Roman Loyola, MacWorld). There is no information about whether these lower prices will hold here. There are also reports that some older Thunderbolt 3 adapters with Texas Instruments controller chips do not work. Commentators expect this will be fixed with a firmware update

Apart from the higher prices (I will be mortgaged into the next century with the 13" model I want), a surprise for me was the lack of a startup chime. As these new Macs have instant-on capabilities, this was silenced in case anyone starts the Mac up in a meeting, although I have heard plenty of Macs and PCs being booted up here and no one seems to care. Fortunately, the reliable Christian Zibreg (iDownload Blog) outlined the process, to bring the chime back, using Terminal. This will be one of my first acts after configuration, when I am able to buy one.

If anyone in Thailand wants one of these new computers now, the Buy buttons on the Apple site are still greyed out. Orders in the USA are showing wait times of 4-5 weeks. I am sort of hoping for a late November release here, but I am not a betting man.

Update: Later on Wednesday (perversely) the greyed out Buy buttons on the Thai Apple pages for the MacBook Pro became live and these computers are now officially on sale in Thailand. The delivery time is shown as 2-3 weeks, although this is still 4-5 weeks for orders in the USA.

MacBook Pro
Apple Watch Series 2 - Image Courtesy of Apple

I am learning more about the Apple Watch Series 2 that I am running: not the least is how to take screen shots. With the Watch, I now hold the side button and immediately press the crown. The iPhone 7 also needs some dexterity with a press to the side (screen off) button, followed by a touch on the Home button. If you press the Home button first, Siri offers to help.

Apple Watch- black I am pleased with the improved battery life of the Watch. With the first version I would expect to see around 50-55% of life at the end of the day; but with the Series 2 this is rarely below 75%.

I am the wrong person to ask about battery life on the iPhone as this is in constant use all day, especially with messaging: as before the Apple Watch takes some of the slack there when I am travelling (bus, taxi, BTS) allowing me to filter out less important messages, or reply sometimes with an emoji.

There are now more apps that run on the Watch, like my Withings Health Mate app that is on the iPhone too that displays several items of health monitoring data. It takes this from Apple's Health app and from input such as from the blood pressure measurement device I have.

I have also added a new maths app, 6284 Calc, by Amit Kalra (@AMITNKALRA), a 16-year old student from San Francisco who fell behind in Math. He built the app to help him, which I think is a greater achievement than unsuitable classroom learning. This is still being developed and it is expected more features will be added. Indeed, on Tuesday this app was updated again.

6284 Calc 6284 Calc 6284 Calc

Apple Watch screenshots - 6284 Calc

Another neat app is Night Sky 4 which shows the stars in the sky whichever direction the watch is pointed. Remember there are some below the horizon: these are shown too. The display on the iPhone is much clearer of course, but on the Watch I can see quickly which stars (and constellations) I am looking at.

Watch Apps Watch Apps Watch Apps Watch Apps Watch Apps

Apple Watch screenshots - Control Panel, Withings, Directions and Maps, Night Sky 4

Heart-rate, music, phone, calendar are among the apps that I have added to the Dock, giving me quick access to these services. I also have Maps directions on the Dock and the same map is automatically opened on the iPhone for a better view when I want it. A quick glance at the Watch is often enough and I can walk down the street - not constantly looking at the iPhone - so I can actually see where I am going.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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