eXtensions - Wednesday 6 December 2017


eXtensions: The Wednesday File (34) - Ups and Downs for Apple and Me; Folio Case for iPhone X in Bangkok

By Graham K. Rogers


Apple could have done better with macOS and iOS this week. What is the point of local retail stores displaying the older models of iPhones if they have none: Apple does. To complement the iPhone X I bought a Folio Case. I am learning to adapt to both the phone and the case.

Apple had a bad week last week. There is no getting round this. Early in the week there were reports that an insecurity with the Root login had been circulated. I always maintain that one of the strengths of macOS is the lack of a Root password but it became possible to login as Root just by pressing the Enter key a couple of times, which is about as weak as you can have.

iOS Wallpapers To do this, it would need physical access to the computer, but no one has access to mine anyway. While the MacBook Pro was updated with a beta release of macOS, when I started the Mac mini at work, I saw a Security Update available and indstalled that.

Several solutions suggested using the features available to create a password for Root, then disable it, but I decided to wait. Having found out, Apple was not likely to waste any time on providing a fix and this was made available soon after. Of course a couple of days later there was a panic over on iOS 11 when some users found that the screens went dead on 2 December at 12:15 am if certain features were used (Chance Miller, 9to5 Mac). Several fixes were being suggested mainly changing the date which would have upset other features.

As it was already the afternoon of 2 December where I was, I guessed I was not affected, but then a surprise release of iOS 11.2 was made available. As that was Saturday afternoon, Apple must have pushed this out early to cover the problem, but the update also had Apple Pay Cash (for those who can use this) which was not actually live until the week started. There was also some nice new wallpaper for the iPhone X so I did have something out of the update after all.

Needless to say, there were lots of articles suggesting that Apple had lost the plot, with some calling for the heads of Tim Cook (ultimately responsible) and Craig Federighi who is in charge of software. Better to let the experts fix things. Apple put out a comment that said the processes of assessment were being audited. As someone who runs beta software quite often, including macOS, I do know that thousands of people inside Apple and outside (developers and testers) are looking at the problems and something slipped through, albeit something not good.

All software has problems from time to time and that is why there are updates and security releases. This applies to Apple, Microsoft and Android (although handset makers may not always pass these on), and also applies to software developers. Anyone remember Adobe Flash?

I often criticise the headline hunters who put Apple, Steve Jobs or iPhone in their headlines to garner hits, when the problem they are highlighting affects all platforms, or sometimes is nothing to do with Apple, but the "maybe" does the job anyway.

I was slightly surprised by a headline from Philip Elmer-DeWitt who seemed to link Tim Cook to the awful GOP tax bill that only seems to have made 400 billionaires happy. Cook has pushed for tax reform and a lowering of the corporate rates for years now, not just last month as text in the article introducing a video link implies. Many other CEOs and executives have also been pushing for reform for years, not only Cook, who is also keen to have rates for cash repatriations reduced: it is much better for Apple to keep that money out of the USA as they would lose billions if they brought it back currently.

Elmer-DeWitt was actually citing an acid NYTimes editorial that also brought in General Electric and Goldman Sachs, but there appears to be no mention of hundreds of other mega-companies, such as Microsoft, Google et al, who all pay Corporation Tax and would benefit from the proposed reduction to 20%. It is of course Apple that makes the headline and in a negative way ("tarred") that misrepresents how Cook has been lobbying for a cut. This is an unusually cheap hit at Apple by the NYTimes.

Mind you Eric Levitz (NYMagazine) writes that in their haste to put the bill out, along with all its hand-written amendments, The Senate GOP Accidentally Killed Some of Its Donors' Favorite Tax Breaks. Apparently, because no one had time to read it, when they put the alternative minimum tax (AMT) back into the bill, someone forgot to lower the AMT after doing so. The AMT is now the same as the proposed corporate tax: 20% or 20%. Can NYTimes blame Tim Cook for that too?

I took delivery of my iPhone X last Tuesday and am beginning to get the feel of this: good and less so. As this model arrived here some weeks after the first reviews began to appear, it is pointless adding to that noise, unless you are like Dennis Green on Financial Review who has decided he hates it, mainly because, Trump-like, he cannot hold it in one hand. There is always one article about this time that takes this direction: those who are less generous may wonder if this is not just a way to have bigger hits.

He is not alone here as Avery Hartmans on Business Insider (about as reliable a source for Apple comments as Fortune), tried out the iPhone 8 Plus and it made her love the iPhone 6S even more. Well, goody, goody, I like the iPhone 6s too (I am trying to buy one for a friend - see below), but there is no way I would try to compare it to an iPhone 8 Plus, for several reasons, beginning with the respective sizes. This might have had more legitimacy if she had used the smaller iPhone 8. But Apple.

The main problem, however, was with her old style headphones (with the jack). Modern iPhones like the 7, 8 and X use the Lightning connector and have suitable earbuds in the box. There was no way round this, she claimed, perhaps conveniently forgetting the adapter that comes in the box too. Nor is there any evidence she used the earbuds that came with the iPhone 8 Plus.

iPhone Adapter

My experience with this change to the Lightning port has been that not only do old-style headphones work perfectly with this digital to analog conversion, but so do medical devices which may be a little slower in catching up (FDA) than the now many headphones with the Lightning connector. There is always Bluetooth, but "they sound terrible when using them to make phone calls" she claims. Determined not to work with this device, weren't we? But Apple. . . .

I mentioned above trying to locate an iPhone 6s. It is coming up to Xmas and a friend has an ancient iPhone 5. The camera no longer focuses after a drop and there are other things that the older 5 series cannot do. I initially thought about an iPhone SE as these are similar to the 5 but with a better processor. Both models are shown on the Apple site at reduced prices now (iPhone SE starts at 14,500 baht; the iPhone 6s at 18,500 baht). The Apple site here shows both models as being "In stock".

At the weekend I saw these on display in several of the iStudio (franchise) shops in Bangkok. For months I have been frustrated by the lack of HomeKit- and HealthKit-capable devices available in these stores, which carry lots of iPhone cases, bit no modern hard disks (not one SSD), and not enough cables for the USB-C equipped Macs they are selling. I asked about the iPhone SE first: No have. This was repeated in every store I tried, for both the iPhone 6s and the iPhone SE, leaving me wondering why they had them on display.

When I worked in retail many years ago, the ideal stock situation was 1 item remaining. If you have zero you never know how many more you might have sold, but 1 shows the limit has been reached. Here, the idea of having 1 unsold item is anathema: hand-wringing and the fear that too many were ordered. With zero all you have to do is say to the customer, No have.

I have lost total faith with the retail operations here and almost all my purchases are from the Apple online store, including computers. If a customer wants changed specifications (like upping RAM from 8GB ot 16GB) that takes an extra couple of weeks from a store here: a few days from Apple. I have also ordered my iPhones from the online store (gifts and my own) including the iPhone X which arrived in double-quick time. I will order the iPhone 6s later this week (credit card bill to be settled first) and say a quick prayer to ask for the hastening of a real Apple store in Bangkok - this time it is apparently going to happen. The sooner the better.


I am keeping my iPhone X. There is nothing in the last week that makes me want to be an internet star, like those I mentioned earlier, but I will look at some of the ways I am having to adapt, and some of the mistakes I made. It took a couple of days but I soon became used to the new gestures and wondered what all the fuss had been about apart from getting hits.

I wrote about my "out of the box" impressions last Wednesday, but a day after the iPhone X arrived, I took delivery of an Apple Folio Case. The slight delay was down to my ordering at the weekend (I ordered the iPhone on Friday). For both deliveries to appear on the outskirts of Bangkok within a couple of days was impressive.

I have rarely used a case for any iPhone I have used, but this time, with the return to the glass back (and the cost of replacement) I thought it prudent to take this step and the Folio Case looks business-like. I had used half cases that covered the back of the iPhones once or twice before, but the Folio Case has a front cover and it does look good.

There are four colours and I ordered the Cosmos Blue (4300 baht or $99). In retrospect, I might have done better ordering the Leather Case (2200 baht) which comes in 9 colours and does not cover the front screen. Part of my decision was that I do not like those clear plastic covers that fit over the screen, so the leather cover seemed like a good idea and is probably aimed at those in business rather than the avid app user and photographer that I am.

Like other Apple cases, the iPhone slides in from the top up (it comes out the opposite way) and it is a tight fit. I soon discovered that when I open the front cover, the screen comes on. It also makes a click. If I look carefully, I can see when the screen goes off. Trying to see this is almost like trying to confirm that the fridge light really does go out when the door is closed. I realised that this must use the same technology as on iPad covers, although I had not noticed this feature when placing the order: who reads the specs, eh?

Folio Case - magnetic
Coin adhering to magnetic section of Folio Case cover

To do this, there is a magnetic section at the top of the flap which I was able to find using a coin (Thai coins have iron content). Inside the cover are compartments for credit cards. I tried the Rabbit card I use for the BTS barriers and that works.

I am so used to pulling the phone out of my pocket and starting to shoot photographs that the cover added a slight delay, although after a few days this is becoming less noticeable. I am left-handed and that is the side that the cover opens: a minor inconvenience, but one that had me readjusting the way I take photographs after being comfortable with this for a long time now. It is a little easier with the square format that I prefer, but landscape needs some care. With the shutter button on the right, the cover is above and I need to ensure that it does not intrude into a shot, although this might be of some use in strong sunlight as a shade.

Folio Case Folio Case

I did notice that the first couple of days of use that the overnight charge only showed 83% rather than the solid 100% of the iPhone 7. Comments online showed that others were having similar problems. I ran a second charge after breakfast and that still only pushed it just over 90%.

There were two new factors: the phone itself and the case. I had to synchronise with the Mac (what a tedious process that is now) to make sure all my music was on the iPhone. Anything I had bought from iTunes was available, but my older music - including legitimate downloads from services like Pristine Classical - do not appear. I connected using the USB cable and left the iPhone connected after the synchronisation. When I did, the charge was now up to 100%.

That night I removed the Folio Case and just ran the Sleep Cycle app as usual: 100%. The next night, I used the case with the cover closed, but did not use Sleep Cycle: 100% again. It is all back to normal with a 100% charge when I wake, so I guess connecting to the Mac and other charging allowed the battery indicator (viewed by swiping down to show the Control panel) to calibrate properly.

Battery use is not something I worry about overly, especially with a new device as I am still in the try-out stages for the first week or so. It also depends on what I am doing: at work, I may use the phone less; but while at home I will look at Twitter more (a battery hog) and videos. My main guide is time. Despite using the iPhone all day Monday - and that was full use - it did not need a charge until bed-time. The battery was showing red by then, sure; but with the iPhone 7 that had sometimes appeared early evening. Early days nonetheless.

Glif Tripod Adapter

One thing I did not think about at all when ordering the Folio Case was my use of the Glif tripod Mount that slides over the iPhone and is then locked in place. Despite the leather sides and the cover, it is still possible to use this. While trying this out at home in the late evening, I also looked at some camera input. With the Philips Hue system, I turn the lights down low in the evenings, but I was quite impressed with the low-light abilities of the iPhone X camera.

I had also tried this with some shots of the view from the condo late night and early morning just before sun-up. Portrait mode also works well with several options for (virtual) lighting for the rear camera and front-facing camera. If portrait mode is used these effects can be re-applied in editing, both on the iPhone and in Photos on the Mac. There is also a way to edit and adjust depth with these images, using the Focos app which is one of my favourite apps of the year.

Early morning light

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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