iPhone 11 Pro Max: Two Months Later

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is the best smartphone of 2019.

In my review of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I noted that it wasn’t just an incremental upgrade as it was initially thought of. The much-improved camera, which can take professional quality pictures, really made a difference. Here are some of the things that stand out and don’t after two months of use.

Night Mode

Taken in almost pitch-black with iPhone Pro Max

This is still the best thing about the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Some of the night shots I’ve taken are unbelievably day-ish. It’s hard to comprehend how the camera technology could take such pictures, but the “coolness” factor of it just doesn’t wear off.

Battery Life

This really is an all-day smartphone, even more so than the Galaxy Note 10+. I don’t keep the phone on full brightness, but  I never need to. I could drive an hour with the GPS, watch a couple of half-hour Netflix shows, make at least five phone calls, and answer emails and text messages all day without the batter completely trickling down. It’s great not having to carry a charger with me everywhere I go.

Screen, Notch and Bezel

The screen is still the best I’ve seen with the possible exception of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. I find myself wanting to watch movies more on my iPhone rather than my laptop or even the budget iPad 7. The only problem is that compared to other smartphones, the bezel, although thin, still takes up a little too much space.

Then, there is the infamous notch, which some people like. I think it takes away too much space from the screen and makes viewing pictures and videos less immersive than newer Samsung Galaxy devices, which have a hole-punch camera instead. However, it’s only a minor disability to the overall excellent device.

No Apple Pencil Compatibility

The iPhone Pro Max isn't compatible with the Apple Pencil.

Although the Apple Pencil is quite large, it would have worked great on the 11 Pro Max. The only reason it doesn’t isn’t for any technical reasons; Apple just wants you to buy an iPad. But if they don’t make the next iPhone compatible with the Pencil, they’ll fall way behind. Of course, that’s what I’ve been saying for the past couple of years.

Stereo Sound

Since purchasing the AirPods Pro on October 30, I really have no desire to listen to sound through the built-in speakers. But when I do, I notice that even though the stereo separation is great, the sound is a little tinny when compared to the Galaxy Note 10+ or even the OnePlus 7 Pro. Still, the sound is definitely good enough for those times when you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker or headphones. 

The Right Choice

I made the right choice by making the iPhone 11 Pro Max my main smartphone. It was a close call between this and the Galaxy Note 10+, which I ultimately found too large for my use. Then, there’s Android, which still needs improvement. That said, I am already looking forward to the 2020 iPhone, which is said to offer revolutionary changes.

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2010s: The Decade Of The iPad And Other Tablets

I was one of the first owners of the very first iPad in 2010.

I still remember the Saturday of April 3, 2010 when I picked up the new iPad at the Apple Store in Brea, CA. There was a line that seemed to go on for blocks. I don’t remember exactly how I was one of the first people in line, especially since I didn’t camp out. In any case, I got the iPad in my hands. April 3, 2010 was a historic day for the tablet.

We had tablet computers in the previous decade, but those all failed. Attempts to put Windows on a small 11-inch or smaller touchscreen led to nothing but failure. People made fun of Apple for putting the mobile iOS system on the iPad, but it ended up becoming a wise choice.

The iPad 2, released one year later, was the most sought-after computing device this decade. Apple Store retail locations had lines every day with people hoping to grab new stock. There were lots of fights, lots of scalpers, etc.

The iPad had a lot of imitators. There was the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from Samsung, a series of Google tablets, and even the hyped but ultimately doomed Blackberry Playbook. However, none were able to break any significant market share.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the iPad was Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which ran a full version of Windows and came out in early February of 2013. Microsoft advertised it as a tablet that can also be your main laptop. The first and second versions of the Surface Pro were riled with issues, especially battery life. But in June of 2014, the Surface Pro 3 redefined the laptop/tablet industry and ushered in several other similar types of PC tablets from Samsung, Dell, HP, and others.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

However, the iPad still succeeded because it was the perfect consumption tablet. While the Surface Pro tried to be the perfect tablet and PC, it was neither. The iPad didn’t need to be a hybrid until the iPad Pro came out in 2015. Then, Apple was claiming that their new device could be both your tablet and computer. Unfortunately, they were wrong; iOS wasn’t and still isn’t robust enough to run a computer. But just don’t tell Apple that.

By the end of the decade, tablet sales were decreasing just as smartphones were increasing in size and could be used in place of a tablet. The iPad is still a hot product, but it doesn’t produce the same fire it did earlier in the decade. Perhaps, when Apple decides to ditch iOS and put macOS on their iPads, the tablet industry will be completely revived. The next few years will be very interesting for the tablet industry.

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The Decade In Headphones: Bose, Apple, Sony, Etc.

Bose came out with many innovative headphones over the past decade.

The 2010′s are coming to a close, so this blog will look back at the technology innovations that defined this decade. The first in this series is about headphones, and there have been two major developments during the 2010′s.

Bluetooth Wireless

At the beginning of the decade, Bluetooth wireless headphones were a rarity. The sound quality on them was not only awful, but connections often dropped out. Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, and some other companies put out wireless headphones in the early part of the decade, but it wasn’t until the first Beats Studio Wireless headphones (released in 2013) that wireless sound quality could almost match wired sound.

Beats Studio Wireless (2013)

However, many found the $399 Beats too bass heavy. Sennheiser’s first major stab at wireless headphones, the Momentum Wireless, not only came in both over-the-ear and on-ear versions, but offered a really balanced sound. Bowers & Wilkins soon entered the race with the successful P5 Wireless headphones.

Soon, wireless headphones became more popular than wired headphones, especially since Apple removed the headphone jack in 2017. The sound still isn’t as good as wired sound, but it comes close. In the past few years, wireless earbuds have become very popular and many wireless earbuds offer sound as good as much larger wireless headphones.

Noise Cancellation

Sony has become a major player with noise-cancelling headphones.

Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to headphones this past decade has been active noise cancellation, which reduces ambient noise by creating a second sound designed to cancel the first. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t.

Bose was on the cutting edge of noise cancellation technology with many wired noise- cancelling headphones. However, Sennheiser and Beats were ahead when it came to wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Bose eventually released the Quiet Comfort 35 headphones in 2016, and those were considered the standard for wireless noise-cancelling cans.

In fact, when one thought of noise cancelling headphones just a few years back, Bose was the first brand to come to mind. However, Sony has caught up with the WH-1000XM3 headphones, which are considered equal to all of Bose’s new headsets.

The AirPods Pro have great noise cancellation and sound quality.

Noise-cancelling earbuds have become popular in 2019. Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds came out this summer, and Apple’s new AirPods Pro have just hit the market.

The Future

Bluetooth, now matter what codec one uses, can only go so far. The next step forward with headphones will likely be Wi-Fi enabled headphones, which will offer a more robust sound range. If portable Bluetooth speakers can connect with Wi-Fi (see Libratone Zipp), why can’t headphones? Expect this change to happen within the next two years.

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How 5G Is Going To Change Our Lives

5G networks have just started rolling out. Some people aren’t that excited because not only are they happy with current 4G networks, but they don’t realize how 5G networks can change the world. It’s the biggest thing to happen to cellular networks since 3G in the early 2000s. Let’s take a look at how 5G will make a huge difference in real world terminology.

Download Movies In Seconds

At 10GB a second, you can download an HD movie really fast. We’re talking about within seconds. And you can download a two-hour 4K movie in less than two minutes. Then again, most 5G networks won’t actually start off being this fast. Currently, Verizon’s network offers 5G download speeds near 600 Mbps per second. This doesn’t seem like a huge upgrade over LTE, but the speeds are expected to increase very soon.

Improved Latency

Latency is the amount of time it takes data to travel between its source and destination. So, even if you have a fast network, the quality could be greatly reduced if there is low latency. 3G and 4G LTE networks have huge latency issues, but those have somewhat improved. However, 5G aims to fully squash latency. So, there will be absolutely no delays starting a video, no delays when sending emails, and one will experience real-time communication throughout the digital universe.

Driverless Cars

As ZDNet explains, 5G networks will be crucial for self-driving cars that need to communicate with other cars, traffic sensors, payment sensors, and other things that need instant data transfer in order to ensure safety. As cool and futuristic as this all sounds, many people still consider self-driving cars a scare concept. And they have been proven correct.

Virtual Realty

So, even if some don’t have a VR headset like the Oculus Quest yet, the success of this headset means that virtual reality will become mainstream in the future. And 5G speeds are absolutely essential for the VR world.

With 5G, a friend can take an immersive VR video of themselves on a French beach, send it to your VR headset in Chicago within minutes, and allow you to walk around in their virtual space. You can also attend different VR movie theaters all over the world with high quality video.

Medical

The high speeds and low latency can help doctors monitor patients more closely. As AT&T mentions, this is especially important when one needs to see a doctor but can’t drive to the office. Imagine, in the near future, being able to take x-rays from home and have your doctor instantly analyze them!

Conclusion

Are you sick of hearing about 5G yet? Well, get used to it. It’s time to embrace it because this technology will change the way you live over the next 10 years. 

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Bose Just Fixed Major Issue With Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

In my ears-on analysis of the $399 (!) Bose NC 700 headphones last July, I noted that these cans had comfort issues. However, the more I used them, the more I got used to them. I now believe they certainly have less comfort issues than rivalry headphones from Sony or Beats.

The biggest star of the NC 700 has been the mic quality, which far outdoes that from any other brand. With Bose’s latest headphones, I’ve been able to have a phone conversation with people in a loud environment, such as Starbucks, and they can still hear me perfectly. The NC 700 headphones provide you with your own portable quiet phone conversation system.

Oh, but there has been one major issue that Bose has ignored for moths. Bose forum user 4pairsin was the first to post about the headphones automatically shutting off.

The Bose 700 used to automatically shut off whether you wanted them to or not.

“I have a new pair of 700’s that I have correctly paired to my device and set-up. In the settings, I have set the ‘auto-shut-off’ to never as I do want a continuous 8+ hours of play time. However, the headphones still shut off after 20 minutes.”

The poster noted that although he had tried everything (including deleting and resetting the headphones), the problem still existed. And, others soon chimed in as well. In fact, the thread ended up receiving 118 responses, mostly from those furious at Bose.

One may think this is no big deal and one shouldn’t care since it saves battery life. But many people buy noise cancelling headphones to use on airplanes, and their flights last more than 20 minutes. Believe it or not — although it may seem uncomfortable — others use their headphones as a sleep aid. Even though the NC 700 costs around $400, the main feature they purchased their headphones for was disabled. Until now.

A couple weeks back, Bose offered a new update to the NC700 headphones that only automatically turns off the headphones if the user wants. There has been a lot of excitement, and many who returned the NC700 headphones because of the auto-shut-off feature have purchased them again. Consider it a Christmas gift from Bose!

It is safe to say that the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones are now the best over-the-ear headphones on the market. They offer everything: great sound, fantastic noise cancellation, and fantastic phone quality. But being at the top doesn’t last forever, and we’ll wait and see if Sony can jump on top again when the Japanese company releases the follow-up to the highly-acclaimed WH-1000XM3 cans.

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Microsoft’s Surface Pro X Arrives With Nasty Reviews

Critics unanimously pan the Surface Pro X.

Well, perhaps it was too good to be true after all. I recently wrote how the Surface Pro X looked cutting edge and even posted pictures of it. I played with the device for a little bit, and didn’t see any major hiccups. That’s because I didn’t test the programs that mattered. But others have used the Pro X more thoroughly.

Christopher Null of Wired calls the Surface Pro X unreliable.

“After several days of working with the Surface Pro X, I remained confused as to why the product existsOK, so compatibility is poor, performance isn’t great, and battery life doesn’t measure up, either.”

Ouch! The review from The Verge isn’t much better, referring to Microsoft’s new tablet as a “heartbreaker.”

“The ideas are exciting, but not exciting enough for me to recommend anybody pay money for them. The apps simply aren’t ready yet — either because they don’t work with this processor or because they’re too slow on it.”

The Surface Pro X runs on a slow mobile ARM processor.

Columnist Dieter Bohn notes that the product looks beautiful. However, people need to use a computer, not look at it.

Tom’s Hardware praises the Surface Pro X for its gorgeous design, easy replaceable screen, and bright 3:2 display. However, like others, the site criticizes the serious app compatibility issues, the lack of headphone jack, the price, and the mediocre performance.

Some may say that the critics are biased, but Reddit user U/Property, who actually bought the Surface Pro X, isn’t very impressed.

“As hard as I try I just can’t like this thing. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it looks good in pictures and it feels nice in the hand. Basically, it makes a nice decorative object. But as a computer – for me – it is totally useless,” the buyer says, adding that the Pro X may work for a person who does all their work on the internet and only uses Microsoft Office.

Click to play in YouTube.

After all these reviews, is the concept of the Surface Pro X dead? Not really. Perhaps the device is just way ahead of its time, and compatibility with Windows 10 ARM devices will be greatly improved. But for now, anybody who is thinking of purchasing a Surface Pro X may want to look at the Surface Pro 7 instead.

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Beats Solo Pro Is A Pure Apple Product

On the heals of the fantastic AirPods Pro, Apple has just released the Beats Solo Pro, a set of $299 on-ear headphones that competes with similar headphones by Bose and Sony. Even though Apple acquired Beats a few years back, both brands have always been seen as separate. But the Beats Solo Pro should be called the Apple Solo Pro because it is certainly operates like an Apple Product inside and out.

Stylish

The Solo Pro headphones come in several matte colors. These are no longer the flimsy built Beats headphones of the past; they are still built with plastic and aluminum, but feel very sturdy. In fact, even though I slept with them, which caused parts to move in all directions, there is not one sign of the headphone creaking Beats (and even Bose) is known for.

They are small compared to other headphones and fit on your ears rather than over your ears. But if you get get a great fit, you won’t miss your over-the-ear headphones one single bit.

Noise Cancellation

The Solo Pro offers great noise cancellation.

Beats headphones have never been known for their fantastic noise cancellation. The Beats Studio 3, released two years ago, made some steps in offering legit noise cancellation, but produced too much of a hiss and didn’t block out enough noise. There is still a hiss in the Solo Pro cans, but it’s less quiet. What’s important is that the noise cancellation is excellent — it’s right on par with the AirPods Pro. It lags a little behind the Bose NC 7oo headphones, but those also cost $100 more.

The noise cancellation on these Beats headphones has made the Solo Pro cans my go-to sleeping headphones. At first try, they felt annoying. But I barely noticed they were on through the night.

Transparency Mode

This is more proof that Apple engineers are fully involved in Beats products now. Transparency Mode allows outside noises to come through as if you don’t have the headphones on. On most products, Transparency Mode sounds tinny and unnatural. However, this isn’t the case with the Solo Pro cans, which sound exactly the same in Transparency Mode as the AirPod Pros sound.

Sound

The Beats Solo Pro headphones have a balanced soundstage.

Beats has always had a controversial soundstage with a huge emphasis on bass. This has changed over the years, and now, the Beats have more of a “V” shaped sound spectrum. The bass is prevalent, but so is the treble. The Pros are good for listening to a variety of music styles.

I’ve tested the headphones with Dr. Dre, Madonna, Phil Collins, The Beatles, and even Donna Summer, and the music listening experience passes with flying colors. My only issue is that the mids are recessed a little too much, but it’s not a deal killer.

Microphone

If call quality is the most important thing about your headphones, you are better off with the Bose NC 700. However, the Beats Solo Pro call quality is certainly above average when you position the headset in the right place. When the pads settled slightly above my ear to the rear, the phone quality was dismal. However, just an inch of movement to the lower center made things sound a lot better.

The positioning of the headphones is especially important in noisy environments, where even a half an inch can make a big difference. The Solo Pros will pick up ambient noise, but not enough to make you sound inaudible to your caller. It will help if you speak slightly louder than usual no matter where you are.

Conclusion

Those who have ignored Beats in the past because of their style-over-substance reputation may want to get past their prejudice, which certainly had validity just three years ago. In 2019, the Beats Solo Pro is an Apple product that has quality written inside and out.

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I Wish Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Had Surface Pro X Design

The Surface Pro X is Microsoft's latest laptop-tablet hybrid.

I was able to play with the Surface Pro X for a little bit. I didn’t use it enough to even write a first impressions review, but the first thing I noticed was its cutting edge design when compared to the Surface Pro 7′s outdated one. I noticed the Surface Pro X looked very thin — almost like a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This looks like the most impressive device that Microsoft has come up with in several years.

I was very impressed with the thin bezels — something that’s been lacking on the last few Surface Pro models. The thin bezels make viewing video clips and movies more special, as if the video is somewhat floating in the air. It’s 2019, not 2015. Microsoft realized this when designing the new Surface Pro X, but not the Surface Pro 7.

The Surface Pro X is impressively thin.

The optional keyboard on the Surface Pro X is slightly thinner and the keys don’t seem to have as much travel. But it still feels solid. And it has a slot for the new Surface Slim Pen (also optional), which is noticeably better than the regular Surface Pen. It’s smaller, has a flat side, and a built in battery. Using it on the Surface Pro X feels more fluid than using the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro. It felt like I was really writing on paper.

The Surface Slim Pen may be even better than the Apple Pencil.

But here’s the main issue with the Pro X: It runs Microsoft’s SQ1 processor, a custom made version of a mobile ARM processor. Keep in mind that there has never been an ARM-based Windows device that performs very well. ARM Windows devices are good for email on the go, web surfing, and word processing tasks. Will this new processor allow users to edit photos or even videos with satisfactory results? We’ll find out soon enough.

In any case, the processor is the only thing questionable about this device, which starts at $999 for a version with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Everything about the Surface Pro X is eloquent, even its high contrast 2880 x 1920 pixel resolution screen. It will be available on November 5, and one can predict that the device will sell very well for the holiday season — even better than the new boring Surface Pro 7

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Early Impressions: Apple’s AirPods Pro Are Fantastic

The AirPods Pro are now available.

Well, my ears are now wearing Apple’s new AirPods Pro . I just took some pictures for this article, and I had a group of people surrounding me. Once again, the public is always aware when Apple puts out a new product. And I am predicting that the AirPods Pro will generate the biggest sales for Apple since the first AirPods came out three years ago.

The biggest star of the new AirPods Pro is noise cancellation. It’s shockingly good given that these earbuds are so small. The noise cancellation is on par with that on Sony’s WH-1000XM3 buds, but feels a little smoother with your eardrums feeling less pressure.

Apple's new earbuds come in a "Landscape Mode" case that is still very portable.

Apple really excels with the “Transparent Mode,” which sounds tinny and digital on every device I’ve used that has this. However, Apple’s new buds make this mode sound more natural, just like the real world sounds. And given that the new buds have silicon tips that block off your ears, you will need to use Transparent Mode when driving, walking outside, and doing other things where using noise cancellation is more of a liability than an advantage.

The AirPods Pro have excellent sound quality.

Then, there is the sound. I’m glad to report that the AirPods Pro sound noticeably better than previous versions. Not only is there more of a kick in bass, but the separation between the mids and highs has increased. My early tests indicate that they don’t sound as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3 buds, but come close enough.

I’ve made two phone calls with the new Pro buds, and both listeners said they don’t notice a huge difference between these and other AirPod models. Of course, I can hear people a lot better given that their voices don’t have to compete too much with outside noise. The AirPods Pro easily beat Sennheiser and Sony when it comes to this.

My only major gripe with the AirPods Pro is that the battery life is still rather short (4.5 hours with NC on and 5 without). That may have been great three years ago, but Sony and Jabra have made earbuds that can last more than six hours on a single charge.

I may have some other gripes too, and I promise to do a more in-depth review once the honeymoon period is over. But so far, I believe that the $249 price tag is very reasonable for Apple’s new buds. You can bet they’ll be out of stock soon.

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Hands On With Google Pixel 4 And Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 4 XL

I’m a little late with an article about the new Pixel 4 series. But seriously, you are not missing much. Don’t get me wrong; both devices are solid smartphones. However, they are outdone by either Samsung or Apple in almost every single aspect. Here are some of my impressions:

  • Both phones have a somewhat boring design.
  • The Pixel still feels like the “iPhone” of the Android world.
  • Double lens camera takes great pictures from what I can see. However, Google no longer stands out from the competition since the Galaxy Note 10+ camera is almost as good and the iPhone 11 Pro Max camera easily outdoes it.

The Pixel 4 screen has a 90Hz refresh rate.

  • The 90Hz refresh rate on the screen is noticeable (things move more smoothly), but it isn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought it would be.
  • The Pixel 4 and 4XL are water-resistant, not waterproof — very disappointing.
  • The stereo speakers sound great — just as good as they do on the iPhone 11 Pro Max and Galaxy Note 10.
  • The face recognition software is accurate, but not as fast (other critics disagree) as the software on new iPhones.
  • Soli motion sensing works better than motion sensing ever did on Samsung’s devices. Still, is feels more like a gimmick than something useful.
  • The screen looks good, but something is missing? Perhaps it’s the fact that the screen brightness only maxes out at 450 nits (compared to the 600-700 nits on the iPhone Pro and Galaxy Note 10+). The colors seem slightly off as well.
  • Google Assistant works perfectly on this — better than Siri works on Apple.
  • Android 10 finally has a built-in voice recorder, and you can search recordings.
  • As usual, Google made an excellent camera. Some of the darker shots in “Night Mode” look a little more fuzzy than they do on the iPhone 11 Pro.
  • 8x digital zoom works surprisingly well. Google’s image processing is fantastic.
  • I’m worried about the battery life. I used the 4XL for fifteen minutes, and it has already gone down to 88 percent. In 2017, that would have been great. Now, not so much.
I’m not sure if I’ll be receiving an actual review unit of the Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL. And you know what — I don’t care. It’s not that Google messed up with their new smartphone series. It’s just that they didn’t make anything that remotely stands out. Unfortunately, it’s a hard pass for me on this one. 
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