The new iPads

A lot of people are drawing attention to the fact Apple released the new iPad and iPad Pro with a video and a press release rather than an event. I wouldn’t read too much into that. These are incremental updates, particularly to the iPad Pro.

There’s a new Folio Keyboard for the iPad, which looks good but which costs a really rather remarkable $249. On a device which costs $449 that really is quite a lot of money. And it weirdly supports the first generation Pencil rather than the newer (and much nicer) one. Although the iPad has a USB-C port, it doesn’t have the magnetic charging capability of the iPad Air and Pro – hence the old Pencil support. Of course that USB-C port means you need a dongle to charge your Pencil. Elegant design? Not really.

The iPad Pros (iPads Pro?) gain the M2 processor and WiFi 6E, which delivers some speed gains (15% faster processing, 35% faster graphics, 40% faster neural engine, 50% more memory bandwidth). It supports capturing and editing ProRes, which is a big plus for the people out there using iPad Pros as cameras (yes, they do exist). There’s also a new Pencil “hover” feature, which feels like a really odd feature to add dedicated screen hardware for. Nice, but I think it’s going to be a hard sell to get developers adding support for it.

The iPad also sees its camera shifted to the right position: at the top in landscape, not portrait. However, I can’t see anything which makes it clear if this is also the case for the iPad Pro. You would hope so, but I have the nagging feeling that the position of the charging circuitry for the magnetically-attached Pencil might rule it out. If so you can expect another update to the iPad Pro next year which shifts the charging position – again. It wouldn’t be brilliant if the cheaper iPad gets the better camera position while the professional one makes do with the weird “from the side” view you get with the current one.

Apple made quite a big point in its video about Stage Manager, “released with iPad OS 16”. Of course at the moment, the best part about Stage Manager – massively improved external monitor support – isn’t there. It was, of course, demoed in the video. Hopefully it will be released soon.

There’s nothing there which makes it a must-have upgrade over either an M1 or previous generation iPad Pro, in my view. Yes, the performance increase is great, but until the applications are there and external display support is improved I just don’t think there’s a need for all that power.

Pricing hasn’t really changed. The lowest-cost iPad Pro 11in will cost you £899. A fully laden 12.9in with 5G and 2TB of storage? £2,679. I would love to know how many of those 2TB iPad Pros Apple actually sells.

Apple also sneaked in a new Apple TV4K, with an A15 Bionic chip and support for HDR10+. Oh, and best of all: a new Siri Remote which supports USB-C for charging. At last. It’s still too expensive at £149, especially compared to the $129 it costs in the US. Thank you Tories for trashing the currency. And that £149 version doesn’t come with Ethernet as standard: you have to move up to the £169 version for that, which also bumps up the storage to 128Gb.

What I’ve been reading today: Firefox, Spotify sucks, spoken word recording and combat drones

The latest version of Firefox includes better support for ProMotion displays, for those lucky lucky people who have a new 14- or 16-in MacBook Pro.

You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s Ring handing over video doorbell footage to police without a warrant. Turns out that the terms of service for Google Nest allows them to do the same thing. Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video on the other hand is end-to-end encrypted so Apple can’t do this, even if it wanted to.

Spotify Car Thing, a product which should never have crawled out of a company brainstorming session, has been unceremoniously dumped after just five months on sale. I avoid Spotify like the plague because I don’t want a penny of my money to the odious Joe Rogan.

I asked the wonderful Mr Christopher Phin for some advice on an audio setup for recording books (not for me, I should add). Needless to say, he massively overdelivered and wrote the definitive post on what you need to record spoken word.

Remember the Bayraktar TB2 combat drone which Ukraine used to such good effect in the early stages of their war against Russia? Russia wants to buy them. It will be interesting to see if Turkey – a NATO country – sell them (or more likely, find a third party country to ship them to or manufacture them under license, which then sells them to Russia).

Boris Johnson is an evasive weasel. Nothing more needs to be said on that score.

Weeknotes: Sunday 16th August 2020

I missed last week’s note thanks to a huge bout of tiredness which left me pretty exhausted and sleepy all Sunday. Sorry about that. Still a bit knackered now, so this will be a pretty short one.

Antitrust is here again

Back in the mid-noughties I spent a while covering the Microsoft/European Commission antitrust investigate, the one which ultimately led to the “browser” choice” version of Windows (where everyone naturally chose Chrome, because at the time Chrome didn’t suck).

That meant I had to learn an awful lot of antitrust law, and – as I was writing for an American site – how European rules differ from US ones. The news that Apple is being sued by Epic Games means a whole new generation of technology journalists are about the learn a lot of the same stuff. It’s fun.

One thing to understand off the bat: in Europe, there’s an assumption that competition is good for consumers, and so things which restrict competition must have a VERY clear consumer benefit. No such assumption exists in the US, where immediate consumer harm is all that really matters.

This is going to make things pretty tough for Epic, because Apple can ask “where’s the harm?” and Epic needs to do the work to show it. Just a restraint on Epic’s freedom to do what they hell they want won’t be enough. And Apple has a strong case that a single app store with a fixed fee has benefited consumers by providing developers with a clear route to market, as well as something that’s much more secure than mobile app distribution used to be. Anyone who remembers the pre-App Store era will know what a shambles it was trying to get mobile software if you weren’t a nerd.


Stuff I’ve been reading

Ars Technica has a great interview with two of Apple’s leading AI experts. It’s worth remember that Apple believes machine learning is so core to what it does that it’s built in specialised ML hardware into its processors for years.


Meanwhile, Microsoft is all in on cutting its carbon emissions and making itself carbon negative. That’s both aggressive and admirable. Satya Nadella is some leader.


I’m incredibly proud of my former colleague Thomas McMullan, who has a book coming out. Tom is proper clever and you should read his stuff.