Earlier this week Apple announced new iPads and refreshed iMac models. Both product lines needed an update and, for the most part, Apple delivered. Yet there are some odd choices.
2019 iPad update
While there are two iPads in the announcement, they are, in effect, two different sized versions of the same hardware.
The 2019 iPad Mini is functionally the same as the 2019 iPad Air. In place of the Air’s 10.5 inch screen, the Mini has a 7.9 inch screen. Prices for Air models start at NZ$850. You can buy a Mini for NZ$680. Otherwise they are much the same.
That’s not the only confusing Apple product name to emerge from this week’s announcements. Both the new iPads work with the Apple Pencil, not the new flat-sided Pencil that works with iPad Pro models, but the older round pencil. You’ll need to be careful if you order one to go with your new iPad.
Adding a Mini model that can work with a Pencil is a smart move. There’s a clear need for this with some customers.
The new Air model’s screen is larger than the older Air. A move from 9.7 inches to 10.5 inches might not sound like much, but because we measure screens across the diagonal, any increase is a squared. In plain English, the new screen is a lot bigger than you might otherwise expect.
While I’ve chosen to use an iPad Pro as my main on-the-move computer these lower-powered iPads are a more affordable choice. For most everyday work, such as writing, dealing with email and so on, they are more than enough computer.
Apple’s 2019 iMac upgrades are nothing other than speed bumps. You’ll get a faster machine this week than the one you could have bought last week.
The computer’s external design remains much the same as before. This isn’t a problem, the iMac is perfectly formed and there’s nothing obvious that needs fixing on the outside. The gorgeous big displays remain gorgeous.
Inside the case is another matter. The new iMac models still include old school hard drives. The technology is now past its sell-by date. Apple doesn’t offer old style hard drives anywhere else. It pushed hard to show solid-state-only portables were the way to go at a time when other computer makers still relied on hard drives, but hasn’t extended this to its new iMac models.
Sure, there are Fusion drives, which combine some solid state storage with a spinning drive. This will speed up many apps, but even so, they are slower than pure SSDs. No doubt the argument if that iMac buyers are price sensitive.
Next week Apple is holding a media event in Cupertino, California. Company watchers expect Apple to launch one or more new subscription services including TV streaming.
Listen to my RNZ Nine-to-Noon segment online. This week I look at Apple’s recent run of bad news where the world’s first trillion dollar company has seen its profits drop just as a new security bug was discovered by a teenager. Also on the segment I talked about the world’s first commercial quantum computer and discuss if deep fakes are the start of a new arms race.
New Zealanders are happy using digital identities to deal with government agencies.
Yet, according to the 2018 Unisys Security Index survey, we’re less happy using similar digital identities for financial transactions, paying for things and other commercial applications.
Take the idea of having an emergency button a phone so you can send your location to the police if you’re in trouble. Unisys found 84 percent of New Zealanders like the idea. Only eight percent do not.
Medical devices reporting to doctors
How about having medical devices send alerts to doctors if there’s a significant change in readings? This could be a pacemaker noticing something happening with a heart or a blood sugar monitor seeing a spike.
The survey found eight times as many New Zealanders like the idea as those who don’t. It appears that we trust the police and health professionals.
A different picture emerges when there’s money involved. Unisys found that almost two-thirds of New Zealanders do not like the idea of personal health trackers reporting information to insurance companies, even if it might mean lower premiums. A quarter are in favour of the idea while the rest are undecided.
Likewise only half the population likes the idea of being able to make bank or credit card payments from a watch. When Unisys asked the same people why they didn’t support sharing personal data, there was a consistent pattern in their responses.
No compelling reason to share
In most cases the answer is “there is not a compelling enough reason for them to have this data.”
When money is involved respondents expressed misgivings about data security. This seems a reasonable response given the number of high-profile news stories about data security breaches. It means that organisations hoping to do business this way have their work cut out convincing customers their services are safe and that their requests for data are always benign.
Andrew Whelan, Unisys vice-president Commercial industries for Asia-Pacific says the last year has been relatively calm in terms of New Zealand politics and natural disasters. So our security focus has been elsewhere. He says: “…Local and global data breaches dominated media headlines and impacted many of us personally – so data security is top of mind.
Government yes, commerce not so much
“The results indicate that New Zealanders are more likely to embrace digital identities to engage with government organisations, especially where there are clear benefits of increased convenience or security.
“But in the banking sector, concerns about data security are hindering the take up of new services such as digital wallets and the integrated financial products that are evolving in the growing open banking environment.
“To overcome this discomfort, service providers must be able to show New Zealand consumers the measures they’ve taken to protect customer data across the entire supply chain.”
This is the second of a series of sponsored posts about the 2018 Unisys Security Index. Click the link for more information about the survey.
Identity theft, bank card fraud and hacking top New Zealanders’ security concerns according to the 2018 Unisys Security Index.
On the whole, we’re more relaxed than people in most other countries. Unisys publishes its security index year. The index is a snapshot of how people feel about security issues.
This year Unisys surveyed 13,000 people worldwide, 1000 in each of 13 countries including New Zealand. The result is a comprehensive picture of how ordinary people around the world feel about security.
Concern high, not rising
The top line figure, a single index number, is a score out of 300 which shows the overall level of concern. This year’s worldwide index sits at 173 points. It’s the same as last year’s number, but a long way up from a decade ago when it stood at 130 points.
When it comes to major security worries, New Zealanders are not remarkably different from the rest of the world. But our overall level of concern is far lower than elsewhere.
With a security index of 138, New Zealand is third from the bottom of the 13 nations surveyed. Only Germany and the Netherlands are less concerned than us. People in the UK, Australia and the US are more concerned than those in New Zealand.
Philippines people are the most concerned. The index in that country sits at 232.
This year, last year
New Zealand recorded the largest security index drop. Last year the New Zealand security index stood at 154. During the year it fell To 138, a fall of 16 points. Only the Netherland’s number fell by the same amount. Most other countries, including top-of-the-table The Philipines, saw their index fall.
Columbia saw a huge rise. It was up 47 points year-on-year. Things also took a turn for the worse in Argentina which is up 23 points. The UK was a touch more fearful with its index climbing 5 points, albeit off a low base, to reach 149. Last year it was comfortably below New Zealand.
We’re more comfortable, but our fears are in line with everyone else
While there are nuances, it turns out our main concerns are the same as everyone else’s.
As Unisys puts it:
“The highest personal concerns are where people feel they have least personal control: identity theft and bankcard fraud
Globally, people surveyed were more concerned about losing their identity or financial information than they are about war, terrorism or natural disasters.”
The survey data shows around eight in ten New Zealanders are extremely or very concerned about at least one aspect of online security. The worldwide figure is nine in ten, so we’re a little more relaxed but not out of line with international opinion.
Identity theft tops Unisys Security Index
Identity theft tops the list with 53 percent saying they are extremely or very concerned. This compares with 68 percent of respondents worldwide.
Bank card fraud worries half the New Zealand sample while 47 percent say they are extremely or very concerned about hacking and viruses.
In general women are more concerned about security issues than men and younger people are more concerned than older folk.
While I prefer a Markdown editor for my writing, most of my clients prefer to get Word documents. Converting Markdown to Word is easy enough. But on the iPad Pro it’s easy to work in Word and not stuff around with converting files.
For some reason I’m yet to fathom, Word works far better on iOS than on MacOS anyway. On the iPad Pro it’s a far better experience than on any MacBook. At least for my work.
If you think I’m enthusiastic about the new iPad, you’d be right. It’s rare for any new hardware to capture my imagination as much as the last two 12.9-inch iPad Pro models.
They are amazing. Despite the high cost, we’ll come back to that point, they a good investment. I get a fast productivity pay off. So might you.
For my first two days with the iPad I was out-of-town working from a hotel room and cafès. That gave me an opportunity to road-testing the iPad with the kind real tasks that make up my bread and butter. I had a newsletter and a feature to write.
Before going further, I should point out an older 12.9-inch iPad Pro has been my main mobile computer for a year. There have been times when I needed a Mac, few times, but enough to mention.
I’m familiar with the basics of living an iOS only existence. Much of the rest of this post is about my first impressions moving from one 12.9-inch iPad Pro to another.
Size is the most visible change. As the 12.9-inch name makes clear, the screen is exactly the same size as before.
The edges around the screen; bezels in geek-speak, are smaller. This means the iPad is smaller. When looked at in the portrait orientation, the 2018 model is only about 5mm less across its width. It’s height is around 20mm shorter.
In practice this is a bigger deal than you might expect. At the airport on the way home I had to unpack the iPad to go through security. Taking a dozen or so millimetres off the case means I could slip it in an out of my bag with less fuss than my older iPad.
Space is at such a premium when flying that this helps. The smaller 12.9-inch iPad Pro size works better on Air New Zealand tray tables.
It is a few grams lighter too. If, like me, you watch streaming sports coverage on an iPad, it means you can hold the device for longer in a single hand.
I spent part of Thursday and Friday moving from place to place, often cafès, carrying the iPad. It felt more comfortable.
Apple uses a faster A12X processor in the newer iPad Pro. You may see this referred to elsewhere as a system on a chip. It is getting on for twice as fast as the processor in last year’s iPad Pro.
You wouldn’t buy an iPad Pro based on something as esoteric as processor speedtests. I’m not going to waste your time discussing benchmarks, they are meaningless for most of us.
Even so, you might choose the new iPad based on what that faster A12X chip means for your productivity.
Raw speed doesn’t make any difference to my writing. I don’t type a Markdown or Word document any faster with a better chip.
The speed comes into its own if you do photo or video editing. Next year, Adobe plans an iPad version of Photoshop. That will push the A12X harder than anything I’m using at the moment.
For now, one bonus of the faster processor is that it runs the Face ID software at a clip. It works in no time.
This means you don’t need a home button, hence the smaller bezels. It also means security is less of a productivity burden. At times I still instinctively reach for the home button, but I suspect that won’t last.
Smart Folio Keyboard
The Smart Keyboard Folio is better than the Smart Keyboard Cover used with the earlier iPad Pro. It still lacks backlighting, which I find essential on a night-time plane flight even though I’m a touch typist.
Speaking of which, I can touch type all the alphabet characters without a problem. Yet I struggle to find the apostrophe key without peeking. In touch typist circles, that feels like cheating.
Likewise, I need to look at the arrow keys use them. The keyboard is exactly the same width as on my old, 2012 MacBook Pro, but shallower.
Keys have a pleasing amount of travel and a comforting click. The typing experience is good. This is more important when you consider Apple’s new MacBook keyboard comes in for criticism. I prefer using the Folio.
I’m not excited that Apple now offers two screen angle positions. Microsoft Surface users will jeer that Apple hasn’t gone down the kick-stand route. Long-term happy iPad users will wonder what the fuss is about.
The back part of the Keyboard Folio covers the entire back of the iPad. It would be a little harder to remove in a hurry than the earlier KeyBoard Cover. That’s not a bad thing, my old Keyboard Cover often detached when I didn’t want it to.
Also I slipped and bashed my older 12.9-inch iPad Pro. If that had happened with the newer Folio, it would have protected my tablet.
New Apple Pencil
Apple’s new Pencil is marvellous. I like the way it looks and feels in my hand more than the earlier one which was too shiny and slippery for my taste.
The new Pencil has a far less awkward charging mechanism. You sit it on the top of the screen when the iPad has its keyboard attached in the landscape orientation. While it is there, the Pencil will also pair with the iPad. It feels almost like magic.
When the Pencil is in this place, a strong magnet holds it to the side of the iPad. I walked about 5km around Wellington in windy, wet conditions. The Pencil stayed stuck in place.
Apple has done something remarkable to the speakers. When I first heard them cranked up during a demonstration the clarity surprised me. It’s amazing given the small amount of space the engineers have to play with.
Later when I listened alone, the wide stereo separation was more obvious. There’s enough sound here for two or three people to watch a movie or sports game on the device in comfort.
12.9-inch iPad Pro Issues
I’ve run up against a couple of frustrations. Using WordPress is hard work on the iPad Pro. The WordPress iOS app is incomplete and inconsistent. I usually prefer to use the web to edit and manage my site, but this is difficult on a touch screen device.
WordPress has a poor designed for touch screen users. There’s a simple fix for this, find an alternative to WordPress.
Not having a Touch ID home button presents a minor, very minor challenge at first. I use a couple of apps which don’t always switch off when they are in the background.
With the old home button, clicking it twice gets a screen showing all the active apps. Swipe the misbehaving ones up and they would stop. If I didn’t they chewed through processor cycles or battery life.
Now there’s no button, the double swipe-up gesture is a little harder to use. It could be a case of getting use to it.
Value for money
Make no mistake, the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is not cheap. The basic model is NZ$1750. That version only comes with 64GB of storage, which is less than most people will need.
Few users will need to go all the way to the MZ$3049 model with a terabyte of storage. To me even the 512GB for NZ$2350 seems excessive. The sweetest spot is the NZ$2000 model with 256GB.
Adding cellular capability adds NZ$250 to the price. This seems a hefty premium given that you can tether an iPad to a phone in a jiffy. After all, no-one goes out without their phone these days.
Is this a lot to pay? That depends on what you want it for.
If it makes you more productive and lets you work where you otherwise might not. If it makes better use of your travelling time then its a bargain. You’ll recover the price premium in no time.
When you compare the price and performance of an iPad Pro against any laptop, they don’t look like a bad deal. The same goes for comparisons with the Microsoft Surface. For a while I could have gone Surface or iPad Pro. My recent experience puts me in the iPad Pro camp, but, remember, my needs are not your needs.
If you think you can’t justify the price, there’s always the non-Pro iPad. It does most things its big sister can do at a fraction of the price.
Prices start at NZ$540 for a 32GB model. I recommend you either find a little more and get the NZ$700 version with 128GB or accept you’ll move plenty of data on and off your tablet.