There are a number of items which I hope Apple will address this year- some outstanding issues and some new expectations.
The first is a personal want- the cellular version of the Apple Watch in Ireland. Apple launched the cellular Watch in the Autumn, but it needs deals with the mobile phone carriers to spread this into other countries. On launch, there was a limited set of carriers involved in a handful of countries, but I hope to see this spread to new regions this Spring. It would also be good to see all carriers involved so customers have choices.
The second issue for 2018 is the Mac Pro and what Apple does in the professional space. In a sense I have divided views on this. I like the idea of Apple reclaiming their professional desktop space but will I ever buy one- probably not. So it feels like a heavy dose of hypocrisy to want Apple to build pro Macs, without seeing any reason to use one. But the idea of a Mac Pro and how it would help to boost and inform work on future iMacs is enough to allow me to hope for this.
HomePod is my third hope for 2018. Right now it feels underwhelming, a Siri based speaker. The audio working to adapt with the space in a room is clever, but to date this does not feel like a must-have product. It reminds me of the iPod HiFi speaker, but I hope it will offer more than Apple attempting to copy Amazon and Alexa. I also hope the shipping date delay is a good sign of improvements, because right now no one has asked me about this product and the sense of buzz is not there. An interesting space to watch and see where Apple are going here.
No doubt we will have the usual yearly updates to iOS and macOS too- lots to look forward to in 2018.
Apple held an event this evening to launch a number of new products. Here is a quick update on what was announced:
I have been through a few Apple laptops families over the years. I started with a black PowerBook G3 in the mid-90s and then moved to a titanium PowerBook G4. I didn't move to an iBook, even when they became sleeker with the white plastic design, but instead stuck with PowerBook and MacBook Pro until the MacBook Air emerged. This finally encouraged me away from the top-of-the-line models, as the slim and yet powerful MacBook Air offered me the flexibility of a thin laptop, but with enough power to drive an external display and complete all the tasks I needed. I generally boosted the processor, such as the i7 in my last model, so the size, weight and engine matched my needs.
However this October, Apple launched the new range of MacBook Pro and I was left with a choice. The MacBook Air family looks dated with no Retina display, so my choice this year was a new sleek and thin MacBook or to jump back up to the top of the line MacBook Pro. I decided on a 13" MacBook Pro for two reasons- the screen size (13" vs the MacBook's 12") and the new TouchBar technology.
After one week of use, I have no regrets. The display is crystal-clear and it is only after you have worked for a while with these displays that you realise you can't go back. Like the iPhone and iPad Pro, the text is smooth, images are clean and elegant on this screen. I also enjoy the extra space compared to my old MacBook Air's 11" screen.
But the real headline here is the TouchBar. Part of this is its existence, and part is its use. The existence of the TouchBar just makes the laptop feel new and feel more sophisticated compared to the MacBook Air and the previous MacBook Pro. It is a whole new way to interact with the laptop and that makes it look and feel like a new generation and not just a minor upgrade. Along with the black trim and thin bezel around the display, the TouchBar makes the MacBook Pro look new and fresh, and the MacBook Air by comparison looks "old" and quite outdated.
In use, it is smart and intuitive, even if it is a work-in-progress. For example in Mail, the Touch Bar offers suggestions on where you would like to file emails. If you select an email in your inbox, it knows which mailbox you normally place emails from that person, and files the message in one tap. The change, after years of dragging and dropping emails, is astonishing. I still only use about 30% of the buttons in the TouchBar and it may be that over time I customise them more, but what I do use I love and it makes a difference to my speed. This is especially true with the Touch ID sensor at the end of the TouchBar: unlocking the Mac and using my 1Password app is so much quicker.
I am also positive on the ports and possibly even hostile to all of the noise over Apple's move. The ports make complete sense. Four USB-C ports, no longer requiring me to look at the end of the cable to ensure I am about to plug it in the right way, just shows how bad the old USB standard was. USB-C is the way forward and we jut need to get on board. Yes I have bought a few adaptors, but so far I have used a USB-C to USB adapter twice for about ten minutes, used to plug in a USB stick and back up my iPhone.
About the only thing I don't like is the USB power adapter. It seems to have had less thought put into it. It is a shame it is so big and the USB-C cable which runs from the adapter to the laptop is thick and slightly clumsy. But overall, this is a minor concern.
If you are ready to move into the future of Mac laptops, dive in. If you love your current (and old) peripherals, the move will be more painful and expensive. But in the end I recommend this laptop as it is a clear break from the past and a beautifully designed Mac.
The Apple press event last week brought in new products, a new version of iOS and watchOS, plus some interesting headphone news...
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