eXtensions - Monday 27 July 2020


Monday Notes: iMac Rumors; Apple Silicon Transition; Flaky Bluetooth on iOS 13.6

By Graham K. Rogers


There are several rumours concerning new iMac which may arrive as early as next week although August is more likely. With Apple Silicon expected towards the end of the year, there are thoughts on this. Apple just works? Not always.

It is only a couple of days to Apple's Q3 2020 report on 30 July. Tim Cook always speaks at the Conference Call, but this year there is some problem as he has to attend a rescheduled meeting of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington the day before. That was originally scheduled for 27 July: the day of the funeral of the Late John Lewis. The time of the presentation to the committee is 10am according to Tim Hardwick (MacRumors).

Even though a flight to San Francisco is relatively easy - the scheduled flight time is 5h 40 min - he still has to make a presentation to the Committee as well as travel to and from the respective airports. At least the Conference Call is in the late afternoon, although this did take place at least once before in New York which might be easier.

This is a time when Apple is also likely to drop some new hardware. It may be a little early for the promised Apple Silicon Macs (though, who really knows) but there are finally some rumors appearing about the iMac. This has hardly seen any major redesign for about 10 years, although internals have been changed a number of times. I stopped a friend buying one locally at the time of WWDC, when Apple could have released new hardware, but with the announcement about the end of reliance on Intel, it did not seem to be a good time to make any decision about a new Mac, unless there was an urgent need.

Local prices have stayed fixed without even the occasional currency adjustment, while in the greater world, there was not a whisper. Even large sellers of Apple devices had no special offers for the iMac, while other Macs were seeing regular discounts, for example this week B&H has $250 off the 13" MacBook Pro. This changed last week with the first reduced price, suggesting that there is stock to shift: sometimes an early indication that new items are in the pipeline. This weekend, the rumours became more concrete with a Tweet from 9to5Mac, which linked to an article by Chance Miller.

New iMacs are believed to be on the way, but these are unlikely to be Apple Silicon models and will probably be the old design with updated specifications. Part of the support for rumors about the new release, which could be out this week, is Geekbench testing results, showing a 10-core i9 iMac with a Radeon Pro 5300 GPU. My friend has the cash ready for a new 21.5" model. A later rumor (Tim Hardwick, MacRumors) suggests that there is more of a case for an August release, which works with my thoughts that this would be after Q3 2020.

MacBook Pro running Big Sur
MacBook Pro running Big Sur - Image courtesy of Apple

I am waiting for an Apple Silicon-equipped MacBook Pro, or something similar which is more likely to be nearer the end of the year. While my 13" MacBook Pro still performs well, it would be a good time for me to change and I am excited by the performance the new chips might produce. I currently have the A13 in the iPhone 11 and a version of the A12 Bionic in the iPad Pro. A variation of this, the A12Z went into the Developer Mac mini which is producing high performance to the delight of those developers who have their hands on them. It is expected that with the next iPhone due around September, iOS 14 will be out then, with macOS Big Sur following soon after: that would also be the perfect time to announce new Apple Silicon Macs.

The transition has been discussed for years, starting when the power of the A-series chips were compared with some desktop processors. Mike Peterson (AppleInsider) has a fairly deep look at the history of the A-series, and speculates on what might be expected compared with Intel processors when Apple releases its new products.

Apple has a new 2m Thunderbolt cable with a braided finish that it is claimed will not tangle. They are available in Thailand for 4390 baht from the online store. In the USA they are priced at $129 which is 4107 baht (before tax). When VAT is factored in, that is 4395 baht, so we get them cheaper here. The cables can transfer Thunderbolt 3 at 40BG/s and USB 3.1 at 10Gb/s. With up to 100W of power delivery, they can daisy-chain up to 6 Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Apple Thunderbolt Cable
Screenshot of Apple braided Thunderbolt cable

I have an intermittent problem with Photos on the Mac, although edited images are now being sent to the other devices, whereas a few weeks ago this had stopped. Deleting a few images that I had seen appear in the Instagram display did speed things up, but I now notice that on the Mac there are some 4700 images being updated although this has now dropped in one day to 39: fingers crossed. Those images that are current are not affected as far as I can tell so I can edit on any device (last month edits done on the Mac did not transfer to other devices), but I am not happy when such unexplained oddities occur.

I have also noticed some problems with Bluetooth on the iPhone, but think that this is related to the recent 13.6 update to iOS. I check my weight daily when I shower. Normally, the Nokia scales synchronise the new data to the iPhone via Health Mate over WiFi, which in turn synchronizes with the Apple Health app. A minute or so after the weight check, a notification is sent. Or it was. Sometime last week that stopped, although I thought little of it at the time. After the shower, I check the app, the data is downloaded to the phone and then to Health. There appears to be some bottleneck with the way the iPhone is handling the data.

DSLR image from Siam Square
DSLR image from Siam Square, Bangkok

After using the Nikon SnapBridge app last week, I tried to use it again this weekend. It adds GPS coordinates to photographs taken with my D850 so I can confirm the locations, rather than add these using guesswork later: sometimes Photos does not recognize the places I use even though they are in Apple Maps. Coordinates are hard to argue with. Although the Nikon app was running and the Bluetooth indicator was shown on the iPhone, the Location panel in the camera settings menu was active but showed no data. If this is off, the panel is usually blank, but I could see the respective items.

I took a couple of test images on the iPhone, but no location was shown. I presumed this was because I was on the BTS, but to make sure I restarted the phone and took a couple more test shots at Siam: no problem. I again tried the camera but the location panel had no coordinate data as before. I took a longer look at this when I went home. Although the camera appeared to operate correctly, and the iPhone also seemed OK, when I touched the SnapBridge Bluetooth icon on the main panel (which had a line through it) a panel appeared showing it was Out of camera signal range, even though the devices were next to each other.

SnapBridge SnapBridge

Another notice showed that iOS 13 had affected owners of certain Coolpix cameras and asked users to update to the latest version of the firmware. The D850 is not a Coolpix camera of course, and I had updated firmware a few days earlier. I had wondered if that could be part of the problem, but as at least one other device was affected, and only since iOS 13.6, I think not. I sent a query to Nikon Support.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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