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iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on and receive the new iPhone 7 Plus on release day. I skipped the iPhone 6s when it came around so when the 7 was announced I jumped at the chance to upgrade and I haven’t regretted it once. Despite the suggestions from my co-workers I’ve yet to drop my phone into a glass of water…perhaps that review will come in a future issue. For now, I’ll still be playing it a bit safe!

Like many of you, I’ve read some of the reviews out there and some reviewers are less than impressed with the camera. Coming from an iPhone 6, and after a few blunders with my first few photos, I can say it’s clear that there are significant improvements in the quality of the photos. I am not a professional photographer by any means but I enjoy taking photos and take a lot of them. For the first few photos that I took with the phone it appeared that the phone was struggling to focus on the object I was trying to take a photo of. For about a minute the camera was blurring and coming into focus, then blurring again. Once the camera focused, there hasn’t been a single hiccup with my photos but briefly I did wondered if I’d gotten a defective phone.

My first round of photos were taken around dusk so the lighting was low and flat. The pictures came out much better than I expected, and the optical zoom worked much better than I would have thought. I was taking pictures of my campfire and was pleasantly surprised with the details the camera picked up from the fire. Later on that night I took pictures well after dark and quickly learned the flash was not the best option to use even though it was completely dark. The photos all came out very washed and the colors were completely off; turning off the flash dramatically changed the quality of the photos. My iPhone 6 never took a good picture at night but the iPhone 7 plus in comparison takes amazing photos! I took a picture of my dog Piper and the only light was from the campfire and a small outdoor light. I was very impressed!

Night time photos are always something that I’ve struggled with, so I also made sure to take my phone along with me on our trip to the local fair and there I was frankly blown away at the quality of the photos. I took photos all day long, in dimly lit buildings, outside in the bright sun and in cattle barns. Each photo taken that day came out amazing and the details that the camera picked up were way better than I ever expected.

Lastly I finally tried out live photos, which I’ll be honest I never really understood the value of that when the 6s came out. Frankly I still don’t, but it sure is cool! I’m thinking that live photos could be a great opportunity for some very creative memes and some good laughs for my kids. Ultimately, despite what some reviews are reporting, my testing and responses from co-workers on the photos I took over the weekend, the camera in the iPhone 7 plus stands up to the expectations.

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iOS 10 is Waiting for You!

iOS 10, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is out! Apple fixed an issue that impacted some of the early adopters downloading the update so it is now safe to upgrade. You will be glad that you did! As you know, I have been running the beta of iOS 10 for some time. I did discover a bug early on in the process that impacted the Apple Hearing Accessibility function but I was amazed at how responsive Apple was and the problem was solved in the next beta.

Most evident among iOS 10’s modifications is the new behavior of the Lock screen. Previously, you could slide the screen to unlock (and enter your passcode) or merely rest a finger on the Touch ID sensor. But as the Touch ID sensor became faster, it became too easy to unlock before you had a chance to read notifications appearing on the Lock screen. In iOS 10, you must press the Home button to unlock, after which the Touch ID sensor activates or iOS asks you for your passcode. To make it faster and easier to get to the information and tools you want, you can now slide right on the Lock screen to display Notification Center widgets or left to access the camera.

But what if you liked the way iOS 9 handled unlocking your iPhone? Well, fortunately, you can change it back in the accessibility settings. Go to Settings —>General—>Accessibility. Scroll down to Home Button and enable “Rest Finger to Open” and you are all set with the old way!

In a long-awaited enhancement, Apple has opened Siri up to developers so you’ll be able to use Siri to control at least some third-party apps. In iOS 10, Siri will initially support six types of activities: audio/video calling, messaging, sending and receiving payments, searching for photos, managing workouts, and booking car-sharing rides.

Apple says that Messages is iOS’s most used app, so it’s not surprising that Messages gains numerous new features in order to compete with apps from Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and others. For those who enjoy emoji but have trouble entering them, the QuickType bar in the Messages keyboard suggests them as you type, and if you switch to the Emoji keyboard in Messages, it highlights words (like airplane or hamburger) that it can convert to the corresponding emoji 😎 ⛅. You can send handwritten notes scrawled with your finger, a stylus, or an Apple Pencil. Messages also gains the Apple Watch’s unique Digital Touch features, which let you send a sketch, a fireball, a kiss, and more with particular tap combination—you can even overlay these animations on a photo or video. For even more pizzazz, bubble and screen effects jazz up your messages or the entire screen when the recipient views them. Finally, the new tapback feature lets you respond quickly to messages with icons without typing.

We all have trouble revisiting photos we’ve taken in the past, so Photos in iOS 10 (and Sierra) introduces Memories, which automatically builds slideshows of existing photos. It assembles collections of photos from the same day in previous years, trips you’ve taken, and more. You can “favorite” a memory if you want to keep it around, or delete it if it doesn’t contain photos you want to see again. Photos also gains facial recognition capabilities and a People album that you can use to pull out pictures of friends and family members, but even more impressive are its object and scenery recognition capabilities that enable you to search for photos that contain, for instance, cats, oak trees, or desert landscapes. Plus, a new Places album lets you browse your collection by location—alas, you can’t add a location to a photo in iOS.

Although those are the major new features in iOS 10, the update abounds with additional improvements. Take Safari. You can now use Apple Pay within Safari to pay for purchases on Web sites, Safari prevents videos with sound from auto-playing, and Split Screen can show two Safari tabs side-by-side.

Siri takes selfies! Simply ask Siri to take a selfie and she will activate the front-facing camera and you are ready to go.

Ever had a couple dozen Safari windows open and spent the time to close each one? Want to clear everything currently open in your browser in a hurry? Tap and hold on the Pages button in Safari, and you’ll get an option to close all your tabs at once. (Note that this won’t clear your history—you’ll have to go into the Bookmarks section for that.)

You can do this for all those notifications clogging your screen, too! Trash five days worth of MLB notifications by force pressing (or long pressing) on the X on your notifications screen to bring up an alert to clear all notifications.

Change the brightness on your Flashlight app. Force press on the Flashlight icon in Control Center to access three new options: Low Light, Medium Light, or Bright Light.

Need a magnifying glass for that Sherlock Holmes work you are doing? The new Magnifier setting in Accessibility turns your iPhone camera into a giant magnifying glass with a super-zoom, flashlight, brightness and contrast filter, and more.

Want to sing along? Lyrics are new to Music in iOS 10, while Up Next has moved into a more prominent spot, but both can be hard to discover naturally. With the miniplayer fully open, just swipe up to view (or hide) lyrics, along with your upcoming song queue.

Elsewhere, Maps now automatically records where you park your car, helps you avoid tolls and highways, and lets you add stops along a route. Control Center gets a redesign and multiple panes to simplify media control. In Notes, multiple people can work on the same note at once. And finally, a new Home app provides a centralized spot to configure and control all sorts of home automation sensors and switches that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit specification.

As always, iOS 10 will be a free upgrade, but it won’t work on every device. You’ll need an iPhone 5, fourth-generation iPad, second-generation iPad mini, or sixth-generation iPod touch—or anything newer than those models, including any iPad Air or iPad Pro. If your device can run iOS 10, we recommend upgrading when you have a little time to become familiar with the new features, since many of them are welcome improvements.

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What's Hot in macOS Sierra

This coming Tuesday Apple will make the latest macOS available for everyone to download. There’s a lot in Sierra to be excited about and I thought I’d recap a few of the new features as we approach the official release date. As always, make sure you have a current Time Machine backup before hitting that download button next week.

Sierra brings new capabilities to Siri. It’s been no secret with me that Siri and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but I admit with each OS release it gets better and better. You’ll now be able to talk to your computer to open apps, display files in a specific folder, check your drive space, search google and more. You’ll now see a Dock icon and you’ll simply need to click on the icon, wait a moment and wait for the familiar sound of Siri.

iCloud Drive becomes significantly more interesting in Sierra, thanks to an option to sync your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folder into iCloud. Once they have uploaded you can access the contents not just on any other Macs but also on your iOS devices and iCloud.com. Getting work done or accessing files from anywhere is now a whole lot easier. I will note that the actual Desktop and Documents folders then move from your home folder to the iCloud Drive volume ( choose Go > iCloud Drive to open it ). Beware that enabling this option might mean you need to increase the storage option you have in iCloud. This is one of the more exciting options for myself when it comes to Sierra since I’m frequently needing to access or provide information while on the go and this is going to be a huge time-saver.

If you’re someone who loves tabs in Safari and Finder, you’ll be pleased to hear that Sierra makes it so almost every app that can open multiple document windows can do so in tabs as well. Apps won’t have to change; just look in the File, View and Window menus for tab-related commands.

The security of Apple Pay on your iPhone or Watch is something many have learned to love and trust, now this same trust comes to web transactions. With Safari in Sierra, on websites that can accept Apple Pay ( which will be a lot ), you’ll be able to enter your payment information with Touch ID on your iPhone or Watch. Because your computer is paired with your iOS device, the transaction remains secure.

The final big-deal feature in Sierra—and my favorite—is Optimized Storage! This feature has a number of options that you can enable in the redesigned System Information app. Look in Window > Storage Management. Designed to free up space on Macs with relatively small drives, Optimized Storage can remove the local versions of files stored in iCloud (Including older files of your Desktop and Documents folders. Make sure you have a good backup to be safe!). You can download one if needed by double-clicking its icon. It removes already watched movies and TV shows from iTunes along with email attachments from mail, all of which you can download again if necessary. It can delete files from your Trash after they’ve composted for 30 days, and it helps you reduce clutter on your Mac by identifying large files so you can consider deleting manually. For once, I might finally get my “other” category on my drive sorted out!

Get ready for macOS 10.12 Sierra and mark your calendar for next Tuesday September 20th!

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Apple Unveils iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and AirPods

As we anticipated, Apple used its September 7th event to announce the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the new Apple Watch Series 2 and a pair of wireless earbuds called AirPods.

Apple also announced that iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are due to ship on September 13th. Although Apple didn’t mention the iPad or Mac during the event, the company later modified its iPad lineup with new configurations and pricing and said that macOS Sierra will ship on September 20th.

Let’s look at the key details of Apple’s announcements and explore what they might mean to you — there’s a lot to get through!

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

It’s what we were all waiting for. Apple announced the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which are the same sizes as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively, so some existing cases may continue to fit, however, with two cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus and a different camera on the iPhone 7 many cases will not have sufficient clearance for the camera. The company stuck with the silver, gold, and rose gold case colors, but dropped space gray in favor of two black finishes: a matte black and a polished jet black. Apple is warning that the highly polished jet black might show some scratches so is recommending a case if you care about some surface imperfections.

As rumored, the new models drop the 3.5mm analog headphone jack entirely, but they come with a pair of Lightning-based EarPods for listening to music and making phone call, plus a free Lightning-to-headphone adapter so you can continue to use older audio equipment. You can also buy additional adapters for $9.

The new iPhones have notably improved cameras. Along with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera that offers body and face detection plus image stabilization, the main rear-facing camera provides a 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture lens that Apple claims is 60 percent faster and 30 percent more energy efficient than the camera in the iPhone 6s. The flash features four LEDs for 50% more light, plus a flicker sensor to help correct for artificial lighting. Even better, optical image stabilization is now standard on both models, and both can capture raw images with wide-gamut color.

For photography buffs, the iPhone 7 Plus is particularly interesting, because it features another rear-facing camera, which provides a telephoto lens with an f/2.8 aperture. Apple’s Camera
app seamlessly combines the two cameras to provide 2x optical zoom (up to 10x digital zoom) and will have a Portrait mode that focuses on people in the foreground while blurring the background. (Portrait mode is due to ship in an update to iOS later this year.) These camera features on the 7 Plus have made it my iPhone of choice which I will be ordering today!

The home button takes a page from the Force Touch trackpad; it’s no longer a physical button but instead uses Apple’s Taptic Engine to make it feel as though you’re pushing a button. Apple says it
should be more responsive and more reliable.

Losing the headphone jack and making the Home button force-sensitive helped Apple in another way: the iPhone 7 models are now dust and water resistant. Don’t toss your iPhone 7 in the pool, since they’re rated for immersion in only up to 1 meter of water, but it should withstand an errant splash or fall into the waves at the beach. I use my iPhone on my motorcycle and whenever it starts to rain I panic and stop to put it away but now unless it is a downpour I can just ride on!

The iPhone 7 models are powered by Apple’s quad-core A10 Fusion processor, which automatically switches between two cores dedicated to high performance and two that are optimized for power efficiency to prolong battery life. Their screens are improved too, with Apple promising 25% more brightness with wider color display.

Pricing of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus remains the same, but the storage amounts double from those available for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. For the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, then, the 32 GB models cost
$649 and $749, 128 GB of storage costs $749 and $869, and 256 GB will run you $849 and $969. Oddly, the jet black color is available only in 128 GB and 256 GB sizes. Or you can choose the iPhone Upgrade Program’s payments of $32 to $46 per month for 2 years, depending on which model you want. Preorders for the new iPhone 7 models start on 9 September 2016, with availability coming a week
later. I cannot really imagine what I would need 256GB for but Will reminds me just how much space those hi-res photos and videos will take up so I will have to follow my own guidance and get the big one.

Apple Watch Series 2

We all knew the Apple Watch 2 – introduced as the “Series 2” would be coming soon and we were delighted to see the new watch at the September 7 event. Apple’s first hardware update to the company’s wrist-based iPhone accessory, adding a much-requested GPS chip and making the watch water resistant at a rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 rating which makes it “swim proof” but I wouldn’t go scuba diving with it.

From the outside, little has changed, although Apple did discontinue the mega-expensive gold Apple Watch Edition (which topped out at $17,000) in favor of the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 2, which starts at $1249. Apple extended its lifestyle partnerships, updating the Apple Watch Hermes
edition and introducing an Apple Watch Nike+, both of which differ from the stock models only in bands and custom watch faces.

The big addition is the GPS chip, which enables runners to track their routes and get performance information without carrying a bulky iPhone. When you complete a workout, the Activity app shows a
map of your route along with speed data. Third-party apps like Strava and Runkeeper should also be able to take advantage of the GPS chip. Apple also doubled the brightness of the screen to make
it easier to see in direct sunlight.

Swimmers, rejoice! Apple made the new watch water resistant to a depth of 50 meters and beefed up the Workout app with Pooland Open Water workout options that count laps and track average lap pace.

Finally, those who found the original Apple Watch sluggish will appreciate Apple’s second-generation S2 System in a Package (SiP) chip, which Apple claims is 50% faster and includes a graphics processing unit that can double performance. Of course, the new models come with watchOS 3, which also provides significant speed boosts.

The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38 mm model. Prices increase with the 42 mm model and with certain bands. You can preorder on September 9th, with availability on September 16th,
although the Nike+ version won’t ship until October and the Hermes version ships on September 23rd.

If the Apple Watch still feels a little pricey, you can buy an Apple Watch Series 1 starting at $269—it’s an upgraded original model with the new S2 processor but not the GPS chip, water resistance, or brighter screen.

AirPods

Although Apple did the right thing and included a Lightning-to-headphone adapter with every iPhone 7, the company also said, “the future is wireless.” To bolster that claim, Apple announced the
AirPods, a pair of wireless headphones that eliminate the iconic white wires while still providing high-quality audio output and input.

The AirPods pair simultaneously to your iPhone and Apple Watch with a simple one-tap setup, and you can switch them to work with your iPad or Mac easily. However, they won’t work with non-Apple
devices, or even with older Apple devices that aren’t running iOS 10, watchOS 3, or macOS Sierra.

Thanks to optical sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when they are in your ears, turning on and off automatically to save power. Apple claims you can get 5 hours of listening time on one charge; you recharge them in a special case that holds multiple additional charges for 24 hours of life before it too, needs recharging via a Lightning cable.

The AirPods include beam-forming microphones that can focus on where your voice is coming from and filter out background noise, which should improve phone calls and recognition with Siri. Speaking of
which, just double-tap one of the AirPods to invoke Siri to issue commands to whatever device the AirPods are paired with.

Apple says the AirPods will be available in late October for $159.

iPad Lineup Changes

Apple currently sells three standard iPads, the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4, and the iPad mini 2, and they just became better deals. Prices remain the same, but for each price point, Apple
doubled the base storage, so you can now buy the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4 with either 32 GB ($399 for Wi-Fi or $529 for Wi-Fi plus cellular) or 128 GB ($499/$629), and the iPad mini 2 in just 32 GB ($269/$399).

If you’re instead considering a 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the storage options are unchanged, but the 128 MB model dropped in price by $50 and the 256 GB model is now $100 cheaper.

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New Product Announcements - Going Way Back

Here’s a repeat of an article from Kibbles & Bytes #59! Hard to believe we are on issue #998. We will have to do something special for issue #1000 in a couple weeks. Anyone have any ideas?

Way back in 1998 Apple made some product intros….cue wavy screen, eerie music and the whirling time disk….

Apple’s new product announcements were exciting this week. I was able to get away to go down to Boston for the dealer briefing the day before the announcements and got some details on the new G3 PowerBook but even at that briefing they did not mention the new iMac. Steve Job’s announcement of the iMac reminded me a lot of the introduction of the Mac Plus. In fact if you take away all the power of the G3 and the cutting edge technology what you have is a Mac Plus on steroids. And one powerhouse of a Mac it is with 233MHz G3 processor and a built-in 15” display. This is the first Mac to come standard without a floppy drive and to utilize the new USB (universal serial bus) ports in place of ADB and serial ports. It is bundled with the new Apple USB keyboard and mouse. USB will be the standard for both Mac and PCs within a very short time. With Apple’s version of USB you get hot swappable serial ports that are automatically configured each time a device is connected (bet it’s Windows 2010 before wintel gets that one right!). At $1299 retail it will be a trend setting machine when it is released this fall. The all-in-one design has translucent plastics reminiscent of the eMate.

The iMac is squarely aimed at the consumer market and was key in no small part to bringing Intuit back into the Apple camp in terms of development of future versions of Quicken. When Apple discontinued the Performa line sales of the bundled Quicken program dropped dramatically and Intuit decided to stop development until they were shown the iMac. They then became one of the software packages to be bundled with the new machine. Apple’s consumer strategy assumes that end-users will not want to upgrade the processor on their internet machine as the processor is not upgradeable and there are no PCI slots. On the other hand just the same as with that old Mac Plus I am sure people will figure out a way to do things with this machine that Apple never envisioned.

The news of this machine saw Apple’s stock shoot up over 30 for the first time in a while and is already having an impact on the prices of other Macs. Along this line we have made some deep cuts in the pricing of the entire UMAX product line and you will see some price reductions in Apple’s refurbs as well.

The other announcement that almost got lost in the excitement over the iMac was the new G3 PowerBooks. These are some very interesting products. Without a doubt they are the fastest laptops available. PERIOD. There is no other portable computer that is as fast as these PowerBooks. That’s a pretty impressive statement. The new Apple advertising campaign “This new PowerBook eats the Pentium II for lunch” is hot! With the top of the line machine sporting a 14.1 inch active matrix display the line between a desktop and portable is also blurring a bit. The fastest of these PowerBook benchmarks out at around 1100 making it as fast as the fastest desktop G3s. Again hidden in the details are some interesting technological advances. These PowerBooks have S-Video input and support DVD drives (not the ones that will show movies!). They also have improved the case design and the keyboard. The lowest-end model features a SVGA (dual scan) color display and a G3 processor without backside cache. That model sells for around $2299 but still benches out near 500.

It is that time of year again for new Apple gear and you can stay informed right here in Kibbles & Bytes!

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