Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Announcement Is Underwhelming

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft has led the laptop/tablet hybrid game since 2013, but they may be falling behind. As The Verge explains, the company just announced the long-awaited Surface Pro 6

“The latest tablet / laptop hybrid has a familiar design, but updated internals. Microsoft has refreshed the Surface Pro 6 with Intel’s 8th Gen processors, and a new matte black finish.”

The support for quad-core processors is a big deal as we’ve seen the difference when using the new MacBook Pro or even the new Surface Book. But…NO USB-C port? What is Microsoft thinking? We excused the 2017 Surface Pro for not including the port, but that’s because that came out in June of 2017 when the USB-C port wasn’t completely mainstream yet. One year and three months makes a huge difference. Now, every major computer has at least one USB-C port, if not two or three.

Click to play in YouTube.

One of the reasons this is disappointing is because it means we still have to use Microsoft’s outdated Surface Connector. Another reason is because USB-C provides several benefits such as faster data transfer, more efficient charging, and great support for connecting to larger displays, especially if it is a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port.

The good news is that hands-on reviews of the Surface Pro 6 are pretty good so far.

“The Surface Pro 6 brings forward the carefully honed design of earlier models and bumps the speed of the computer significantly. It doesn’t try to revolutionize the Surface Pro’s now well-known look. It doesn’t need to,” claims Jeremy Kaplan of Digital Trends, adding that the battery life has improved.

AnandTech notes that although the physical design of the Surface Pro 6 is virtually unchanged, the internals may make it worth the upgrade. The Surface Pro 6 will be released on October 16, although an LTE model is not available in the very near future. The LTE version of the Surface Pro 2017 wasn’t available until almost a year after the Wi-Fi versions were released in June of 2017.

The fact still remains that compared to other companies,  Microsoft has done the best job of combining a laptop and tablet into one device without sacrificing too many aspects of both. Unlike the iPad, which emphasizes the tablet part, Microsoft has always emphasized the laptop aspect more. Those who purchase the Surface Pro 6 certainly won’t be disappointed, but it’s a shame that Microsoft couldn’t do more for its flagship device.

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Apple Watch Series 4 Is Great, But Is It A Must-Upgrade Device?

Apple Watch Series 4

The T-Mobile LTE version of the Apple Watch Series 4, which costs $529, is being reviewed for this article. 

I was so excited to get the Apple Watch Series 4. I heard how the screen is bigger, and it is. I heard how it was faster, and it certainly is. I also heard that the new Watch is louder, and this is perhaps my favorite new feature. But I also feel like I’m wearing a evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, device.

Design

There isn’t much of a design difference between the Watch 3 and Apple’s latest wrist device — and that’s not a bad thing. It is slightly thinner, but that’s hard to notice unless you have the Watch 3 right by its side. The corners of the watch are also slightly more curved. There is a red circle on the crown that identifies that the Watch has a cellular radio.

Screen

The Apple Watch Series 4 has a beautiful screen.

The screen has a larger display area, and it’s immediately noticeable. The icons are now larger and easier to press. The resolution is also higher and everything, including the text, looks crystal clear. The colors are more crisp as well. The screen on the Watch won’t replace the screen on your phone, but it is damn good.

Speakers

The cellular radio on the Watch 3 was useless when making phone calls because it was so quiet. However, this isn’t the case with the Watch 4, which has a surprisingly loud and clear speaker for such a small device. I made two phone calls in somewhat loud environments, and the positive experience makes me want to use my watch more as my main phone, although I do look weird talking to my wrist.

watchOS 5 and Features

The new operating system helped the Series 3, but the Series 4 has the speed to enhance the improvements. The raise-to-speak feature is very useful just like all the new additions to the health and fitness apps. With the new OS, the Watch 4 can detect an irregular heartbeat and a useful “hard fall” feature (especially for seniors) that not only detects an unusual fall, but contacts emergency services and gives your location to a selected group of people.

There is a new “Walkie Talkie” mode that enables you to chat with other Watch owners just like people did in the 1980s. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it is a cool feature for those into nostalgia.

The bad…

I was hoping that Notifications would get better, but Apple still hasn’t fixed the fact that the Watch doesn’t receive some notifications it’s supposed to. The battery life still isn’t improved. Apple quotes 18 hours, but my tests didn’t match that. The Watch is still a device that you have to charge overnight. Apple would have to make the watch larger in order to improve battery life.

Conclusion

If you own the Apple Watch Series 3, the Watch 4 isn’t a necessary upgrade. Instead, it’s a nice one if you can spare the cash. However, anybody who owns the first Apple Watch or the Series 2, you will be happy enough to upgrade the cost.

The Apple Watch has come such a long way since 2015, and it is now a device that can almost replace your phone in many situations. The price may be high, but this will be Apple’s best-selling Watch yet.

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The iPhone XS Max Is Expensive, But May Be Worth The Price

I was impressed with the iPhone XS Max when writing about my first impressions a couple days back. After a couple days, I am happy with my upgrade from the iPhone X. (Keep in mind that I am on a T-Mobile upgrade program with monthly payments, so it didn’t cost me $1100 up front.)

Let’s take a look….

Build and design

The iPhone XS Max is very much like an elongated iPhone X, even with the annoying notch. It also feels a lot like the iPhone 8 Plus without the huge bezels. The phone is surprisingly thin, but the rounded edges give an illusion of the device being somewhat thick.

Unless you have really large hands, one-handed use may be a little uncomfortable. It’s not the type of phone you want to hold up to your face when making calls — but it doesn’t have to be. Not only does the speaker mode work very well on the XS Max, but it pairs flawlessly with wireless headsets.

Screen

iOS runs smoother than Android.

This may be the best aspect of the iPhone XS Max. The 2,688 x 1,242 pixel resolution 6.5-inch display is easily the best display that has ever been put on a smartphone. The True Tone display adjusts colors and intensity of the XS Max display to match the ambient light of your environment. The max brightness level is intense, and the screen still looks beautiful in direct sunlight.

The screen is best for watching movies. Combined with the speakers (which will be discussed very soon), the XS Max is the ultimate portable multimedia machine. However, if you are addicted to watching Netflix or Hulu, the iPhone XS Max will make your addiction worse.

Speakers and Microphones

The stereo speakers on the iPhone X were already powerful enough, but the improved speakers on the iPhone XS Max are even better in that they offer more bass and spacial separation. When watching some films, you will hear noises that seem to come from above or in back of you rather than from the stereo speakers. In many ways, the speakers on the iPhone XS Max can replace your portable Bluetooth speaker. 

The stereo microphones that record stereo sound with videos (finally!!) aren’t as impressive. They’re okay, but they just don’t offer as much stereo separation as devices from Samsung does. If you are recording professional videos, it’s still a great idea to get something like the AMBEO Smart Headset, which records 3D sound.

Performance

The iPhone XS Max is packed with iOS 12. But what really makes the performance of the device shine is the A12 Bionic chip, which allows for faster performance, faster screen rotation, and helps apps such as Chrome, which was frustrating to use on the iPhone X, run faster. The general navigation, which was already pretty smooth on the iPhone X, feels even smoother. Despite the faster speed, the new processor is also said to be 40 percent more power-efficient.

Camera

It’s too bad that the iPhone XS Max doesn’t have the triple lens that was promised, but the dual-lens camera still works very well. It’s not a complete upgrade from the iPhone X camera, but it takes better pictures in lower-lit situations. The best new feature allows you to edit the amount of background blur on the photos you take in Portrait mode. Here is an example of a picture I recently took, where the background was originally not blurred at all. 

The iPhone XS Max takes fantastic photos.

Battery Life

One of my only issues with the iPhone X was the battery life. It was decent, but not great. However, under my tests, the iPhone XS Max gives you an extra hour of juice when using the GPS app, one of the most heavy battery-life eaters. This might not seem like a lot in print, but it makes a huge difference.

One thing that helps is that the 3,174mAh battery is the largest capacity battery that Apple has ever included in an iPhone. Another thing that helps, as mentioned earlier, is the efficiency of the A12 chip.

Phone Calls

Using T-Mobile’s LTE network, I found the iPhone XS Max to have a better connection than the iPhone X. In one Burbank, CA garage, I would always lose my phone connection with the X, but this didn’t happen with the XS Max. Because of the improved speakers on the XS Max, using the speakerphone feature is noticeably better.

Conclusion

Yes, the iPhone XS Max, with a starting price at $1099, is expensive — more expensive than a smartphone should ever be. However, the price is nearly justified. The iPhone XS Max might not be the revolutionary upgrade people were hoping for, but it is still the best smartphone on the market without a challenger in site.

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Android Vs. iOS: 2008-2018

The HTC G1, released in 2008, was the first Android smartphone.

You may be feeling old today. After all, it is the 10th anniversary of the very first Android smartphone — the HTC G1. It arrived on T-Mobile, which was still considered an inferior network to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon at the time.

It had a thumb keyboard. (Yes, those were still sort of popular in the late 2000′s.) However, it didn’t have a headphone jack, and Bluetooth headsets weren’t popular yet. There was no video recording. (Remember, video recording didn’t arrive to the iPhone until 2009.) But it was the start of what would be many Android smartphones.

Android finally got their act together by the time the Motorola Droid was released in late 2009. By the time Samsung released the Galaxy S2 during the summer of 2012, Android phones were actually outselling iPhones. Throughout the decade, it’s been iOS vs. Android. Let’s take a look at the present-day Android vs. Apple’s iOS to see which operating system comes out on top in 2018.

The Motorola Droid, released in November of 2009, was a breakthrough for Android smartphones.

Hardware

High-end Android smartphones, especially ones designed by Samsung, are slick, beautiful, and have become easy for regular consumers to use. There are some cheaper Android handsets that lack decent screens, decent speeds, and an overall disappointing user experience.

The only iOS phones are made by Apple, so there isn’t a wide variety of choices when choosing an iPhone. But no matter what iPhone you end up with, expect it to be a premium device that is easy to hold, easy to operate, and screams quality in every aspect.
Winner: Tie

Simplicity

Android has come a long way in the past 10 years, but it can still be somewhat clunky for beginners. Apple doesn’t release an operating system until it is thoroughly tested and runs as smoothly as butter. Android may give the user more custom choices, but iOS simply works better.
Winner: iOS

Apps

While it’s true that Android offers the most apps with Google Play, it’s iOS that offers the best apps. Since Apple is strict about the types of apps it allows, you can be certain the App you (sometimes) pay for is high quality. Android apps have a history of compatibility issues since there is so much fragmentation with developers.
Winner: iOS

iOS runs smoother than Android.

Upgradability 

When an update is available for the latest iOS operating system, you can bet that users with compatible phones get the upgrade the day it’s released. The same can’t be said about Android users, who sometimes have to wait several months for the latest Android operating system upgrade. Sometimes, smartphones that are compatible never get the latest Android update at all.
Winner: iOS

Conclusion

Android has come such a long way from its introduction ten years ago. At the time, it seemed like the operating system would fail. It hasn’t, but it still has a way to go to match iOS.

 

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First Impressions: iPhone XS Max Has Some Great Subtle Improvements

iPhone XS Max

I got my hands on the iPhone XS Max. And even though I’m not blown away by it, there are some things that have me quite impressed. I will have a full review soon, but these are my initial impressions.

  • This thing is big. It’s not too big to carry as my main phone, but it’s big.
  • The screen is, perhaps, the most gorgeous one I have seen on a smartphone. It looks slightly better than the screen on the iPhone X in terms of color accuracy and saturation.
  • I don’t notice much of a difference between the camera on this and the X. I do like the fact you can adjust the depth-of-field after you take the picture (though I find this only works in Portrait mode). The photos look slightly better in darker-lit situations.
  • The new stereo microphones are a welcome addition and they do make the videos come to life. However, I don’t find as much separation as I did using the mics on Sennheiser’s AMBEO Smart Headset.
  • I love the gold finishing on the back.

  • The stereo speakers have a wider soundstage and can substitute for Bluetooth speakers in many cases. I used the speakers on the iPhone XS Max to play music in my car, and I didn’t miss turning on my car’s stereo system.
  • The speakers can get very loud without distortion.
  • Face ID works a little faster than it did on the X. Perhaps, it works more accurately too.
  • My eyes thank the larger text on this new iPhone.
  • This just feels so solid in your hands.
  • The bigger screen makes the XS Max even better to use as your car GPS.
  • The battery seems to last about an hour more than it does on the iPhone X. Even this slight bump is much needed and appreciated.
  • This has become my favorite new device to watch Netflix or Hulu on.

Of course, the question everybody wants to know if they should upgrade to the iPhone X Max. If you don’t have an iPhone X, I would say that even though the XS Max is expensive, you’ll find the upgrade absolutely worth it. However, it gets more iffy if you have the iPhone X. If you can sell your iPhone X so you will only have to end up with around $600 coming out of your pocket, the upgrade will be worth it. My full review will be coming within the next couple of days. 
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For Once, A New iPhone Doesn’t Receive Fantastic Reviews

It used to be a guarantee that no matter what phone Apple released, it would receive glowing reviews that suggest people camp out at their local Apple Store. However, with the iPhone XS and — especially — the iPhone XS Max, things are different. Part of the reason is the price tag ($999 or more for the XS and $1099 or more for the XS Max). Another reason is that many outlets feel that Apple didn’t add enough new features to justify an upgrade.

Let’s take a look at some reviews.

Wall Street Journal

“Still, unless you are in an iPhone upgrade program or absolutely dying for that Max screen, don’t jump from the X to the XS.”

Tech Radar

“However, the question is whether Apple has done enough to make this the most attractive to buy, and whether it’s enough to stop anyone moving to a competitor. The iPhone XS is good enough in many ways, but it’s not much of an upgrade over 2017′s X, and doesn’t redefine anything the way last year’s phone did.”

Tom’s Guide

“Does the iPhone XS beat the Pixel 2 XL at portraits with its two rear cameras? Not quite. In this shot of my colleague Caitlin, the iPhone XS’ picture looks a bit too warm, while the exposure on the Pixel 2 XL looks more natural given the lighting conditions.”

Don’t get me wrong here — most of the reviews range from four to five stars. But the main point that many of the reviewers are making is that you don’t need to upgrade if you have the iPhone X. If you don’t have the iPhone X and want a new iPhone, they believe that waiting for the iPhone XR is the best deal.

Last week, this blog incorrectly assumed that the iPhone XR isn’t worth talking about because nobody will care about it. But it appears that it may be a bigger seller than both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. It’s not a better phone, but it’s a better phone for the price, which starts at $799.

The iPhone XR might be the cheapest iPhone, but it’s not a cheap device. It not only has a 6.1-inch LED screen that displays 326 pixels per inch, but it still has the new A12 Bionic processor, Face ID, dual-SIM capabilities, and other features available on the more expensive iPhones. It doesn’t have the OLED screen or a dual-camera sensor like the XS and XS Max, but you have to ask yourself how important these features are.

Perhaps the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are not being given the praise they deserve. Tune in tomorrow to read my first impressions of the iPhone XS Max and see some hands-on pictures.

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The Apple Watch Series 4 Excites More Than New iPhones

Apple Watch Series 4

Recently, this blog discussed how the new iPhones disappointed because there was no Apple Pencil support. Yours truly gave in and ordered the iPhone XS Max anyway. Instead, since I’m on a tight budget, I kind of wish I would have pre-ordered the Apple Watch Series 4, which looks like a pretty significant upgrade.

Bigger Screen

The most noticeable upgrade is the screen — which is 30 percent bigger due to less bezel space. And the increased screen resolution means that you’ll be able to read more information on your wrist without having to scroll. This doesn’t make the watch any heavier or larger either. Apple claims the larger screen and increased pixel density don’t decrease the battery life, but we’ll have to see when full tests come though.

EKG Capabilities

Some of my colleagues didn’t care much for the added EKG capabilitie on the new Watch, but they may when they get a little older. That’s right — the new Apple Watch can prevent heart attacks. The way this works is that the user puts their finger on the digital crown, which causes the Watch to pass a current across the chest to directly track electrical signals in the heart. After about 30 seconds, the user will receive a heart rhythm classification. All the information will be stored in the Apple Health app.

Louder Speaker

This is very important since the Apple Watch is now good enough to be used as a wrist phone. I’ve only used the Watch to answer phone calls when I didn’t have my iPhone close to me, and it was barely usable unless I was in a quiet environment. The integrated speaker is supposed to be 50 percent louder. At the rate Apple is going, there could be stereo speakers coming next year.

Better Performance

The Series 3 already significantly improved performance, but the Series 4, which is powered by Apple’s new S4 chip, is said to provide twice the speed. Of course, if you are using the LTE version, there could be some speed issues based on the performance of your network. However, it looks like the Apple Watch Series 4 is made for speed.

Apple Takes Control of Smartwatch Market

Apple was leading the smartwatch market just one year ago, but with the release of the Series 3 Watch with LTE, Apple got further ahead from such smartwatch manufacturers as Fitbit and Samsung. With the Series 4, expect even larger sales for Apple while other smartwatch makers disappear.

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iPhone XS And XS Max Disappoint With No Apple Pencil Support

What is being called the biggest iPhone announcement in years happened today. The Verge has the news.

“Apple has announced its next generation of iPhones, and one of them is by far the biggest iPhone yet. The two new models are called the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. They look almost identical to their predecessor…”

The article adds that there are some differences: Both phones are available in gold (unlike 2017), and that the XS Max is gigantic with a 6.5-inch screen. (The regular iPhone XS has a 5.8-inch screen like 2017′s iPhone X). Then, there’s the lower-cost iPhone XR, but it’s really not a major device and will certainly be ignored when compared to the two other models.

The OLED displays on both XS phones are said to have a better dynamic range. Apple also added in wider stereo sound from the speakers, even though the stereo speaker sound on the iPhone X is already great. As expected, Apple upgraded the processors in both phones. And both the front and rear cameras are said to be improved, even though the rear cameras don’t have three lenses like original “experts” predicted.

Click to play in YouTube.

We should all be happy about this, right? Well, there is one glowing thing that is missing, and it’s surprising the media hasn’t made a bigger deal out of it — Apple Pencil support. How can Apple release a 6.5-inch device and not try to compete with the 6.4-inch Galaxy Note 9 that is known for its stylus support? Apple customers have asked for Apple Pencil support on the iPhone since 2015, when Apple released the iPad Pro with the new Pencil.

Well, perhaps there shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. A couple weeks back, Mac Rumors said there may not be support for the Pencil.

“‘Apple’s upcoming 2018 iPhone models will not support the Apple Pencil because it does not offer a “good user experience,’ according to respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo who shared the information in a note sent out to investors.”

Well, the one thing that may make up for all this is the fact that both phones will support a 120Hz refresh rate — the same one that has been available on the iPad Pro since June of 2017. This refresh rate is so good that it gives the illusion that your finger is stuck to the screen as you scroll. Everything is so fluid.

I’ll end up upgrading to the iPhone XS Max this month. But instead of being thrilled about it, I’m only passively excited. Unlike last year, I can’t say, “I just can’t wait till my new iPhone arrives!” Perhaps I’ll get more excited as the release date approaches.

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Where Are The Delivery Drones?

A couple years back, the possibility of drone delivery services were the talk of the internet. The Verge talked about how Amazon’s dream of free delivery could become profitable.

 ”If the company can manage to make its Prime Air drone delivery program a reality, delivering lightweight goods could actually become a weirdly profitable part of the business.”

The article added that there were still many technological and regulatory hurdles Amazon would need to get over before Prime Air takes off. And it appears that those hurdles have not been jumped over as I still don’t see small drones delivering my smartphone screen covers. But it’s possible we’re finally getting closer.

“The delivery drones market is expected to grow at a significant pace during the forecast period, due to the surging application of drones in the commercial sector,” Marketwatch tells us, adding that the experimentation phase for Amazon, UPS, and Google is currently in process. As the article notes, there are tough regulations (and for good reason) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and logistical issues that are restricting the use of these drones.

Click to play in YouTube.

Dropping off Package

Will the drones drop off packages at the exact spot they are requested? What happens if it a product is dropped off in the back yard, where the dog eats it? A worse situation would be if the dog or someone else is injured because of the drop-off. Wind can also be an issue when it comes to the product being delivered accurately.

Cost Effectiveness

Companies are hoping to save money with drone deliveries, but will they — at least in the beginning? There will probably be a lot of mistakes, which can end up costing the delivery companies a lot of money. Government regulations can also add to the cost. It will take a long time for delivery costs to start coming down in price.

Legal Issues

Drone accidents can lead to major lawsuits.

We live in a very litigious society today, and you can bet lawyers are looking forward to expanding their businesses with lawsuits. There will be privacy lawsuits from people who don’t like drones flying above their private property, lawsuits from drones crashing into windows, and even privacy lawsuits as drones are certain to collect data while flying. It could be one huge mess.

10 Years from Now

With all the downsides, it’s quite possible that in 10 years, all the quirks (including major accidents, major injuries, inaccurate drop-offs, etc) will be fixed and drone delivery will be the mainstream way we receive a lot of our merchandise. It sounds scary, but get used to it.

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Has Sony Officially Crumbled Bose With The WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones?

Sony’s new WH-1000XM3 headphones may be the best on the market.

Sony has emerged as  the best maker of headphones over the past couple of years. Last year’s WH-1000XM2 Bluetooth wireless headphones were a technological marvel — the Porsche of Bluetooth headphones. They offered the best noise cancellation a pair of headphones ever had, were very comfortable, and produced excellent battery life. And the sound quality was very impressive as well. Many people thought they were certainly better than the top Bluetooth headphones on the market, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones.

It looks like Sony has outdone itself in 2019. Last week, they offered a peak at the WH-1000MX3 headphones, which should start trickling into stores this week. According to CNET, they live up to the hype.

Sony's new Bluetooth wireless headphones are said to be very comfortable to wear.

“Sony WH-1000MX3 finally surpasses Bose as best noise-cancelling headphones,” a new article shouts, adding that there is not only a design change that makes these headphones more comfortable, but noise cancellation is top-notch, phone quality is great, and audio quality is fantastic.

Tech Radar is just as enthusiastic.

“A new addition to the Sony 1000X headphone family, the M3 wireless headphones are a substantial upgrade from the previous X2 model. Audio is crystal clear, noise-canceling technology is improved and they boast a new ergonomic design that promises a more comfortable fit.”

Unlike CNET, Tech Radar doesn’t notice a difference in the sound — and that’s okay since the M2 sound was nearly perfect for a wireless Bluetooth device. Tech Radar also claims that Sony’s new headphones are at least four times better than the M2 when it comes to noise-canceling performance. That’s hard to imagine since the noise cancellation on the M2 is already near perfect, despite some high pitch noises getting through.

Click to play in YouTube.

However, some early reviews on Reddit aren’t as thrilling. Some people claim that the new “dedicated” mic still picks up a lot of ambient noise. One user even claims that the noise cancellation is not better than it is on the M2. However, there are others who are happy with their new $349 headphones. This blog will let you know very soon if the WH-1000XM3 headphones do, indeed, live up to the hype — and if they’re worth an upgrade for those who own the WH-1000XM2 headphones.

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