eXtensions - Friday 19 January 2024

Friday Notes: Vision Pro, iPhones and Updates; iPhone Protection from 16,000 ft

By Graham K. Rogers


Several reports appeared this week following the hands-on experience of some journalists. Excitement in some cases, with some tempered enthusiasm, particularly with the virtual keyboard and weight. Updates coming next week have some useful features. The recent Air Alaska 737 incident had one good point: an iPhone survived the fall and the company that made the case is reaping the benefits.

With the imminent arrival of the Vision Pro headset there are several reports online about what it can or cannot do, with some conflicting comments. We mentioned a few days ago that there was a rumor that the device will (maybe) be a sellout, with only 60 - 80,00 devices available, but others are now suggesting that there will be a far higher number of devices on sale in coming months. 80,000 would bring in net income of just under $280m. Others are also suggesting that the product will be a flop, but that is par for the course with Apple. Oliver Haslam (iMore) links to two reports (Engadget and The Verge) who have had hands-on experience with the device.

One feature that had received some online criticism was the virtual keyboard: "The Verge says that it works, "albeit clunkily."" Engadget were also critical of this. I am sure Apple engineers are working feverishly to tackle these negative points. There will be more - as with any new product - as users experience the headset for the first time Whatever the success, Apple has a wealth of new technologies that could be deployed in other devices: current and future.

It is much worse for Apple to release an app or feature that is not ready. Apple Maps stands as a fair example. Heads rolled at Apple for that, although now it is a respectable example of software, even if for some places, it takes a long time for the maps to be updated. I cite my local example of a new dual carriageway road in Nakhon Pathom province that appears on the satellite view, but not on any of the other maps. I reported this in June of last year and it is still not shown, but makes a significant difference to some journeys (visa and work permit).

There were other articles about what may be expected from the Vision Pro release, with long sales sessions and specifications, that include the M2 SoC with 16GB memory (Tammy Rogers, iMore). Oliver Haslam, Redmond Pie, also has information on the specifications. He also discusses potential memory options.

Apple Vision Pro
Apple Vision Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

I also mentioned last time the glee that was expressed by some sources when Microsoft took the "most valuable company" title as Apple slipped following recent Wall Street hand-wringing. It is now reported, as was to be expected, that the Apple stock price is climbing and it may soon have the most valuable company status again. MacDaily News comments, "Take note of how many articles were published about Microsoft overtaking Apple in market cap versus how many articles will be published to report that Apple has overtaken Microsoft when it happens." The stock is currently at $188.63 and rising. That may make some analysts a bit jittery right now.

A week ago we were told that Apple was clearly doomed as the latest phones just weren't selling. A number of reports now tell us that this is not actually true. Far from slipping down the greasy pole, sales are respectable. Jonny Evans (AppleMust) reports that the Canalys analysis of the global smartphone business shows Apple at the top with 25% of sales worldwide in Q4 outselling even Samsung.

Watch oxymeter It has also been widely reported that, in the USA, Apple has removed the blood-oxygen feature from the Apple Watch so that, with this disabled, it will be allowed to import the device to the USA. This is probably a software change, removing the feature so that it appears it is no longer installed. That of course could be reversed, depending on any decisions in the ongoing litigation. Or by other means that may allow Apple to circumvent the restrictions.

There are widespread reports at the end of this week that there will be updates to most (if not all) Apple operating systems in the next few days: Tuesday is possible. There are some new features in iOS, as outlined by Joe Rossignol (MacRumors). As well as new wallpaper we can expect Stolen Device Protection and collaborative Apple Music playlists. Christian Zibreg (iDownloadBlog) also writes about the new features and includes information about other OS updates to be released next week.

Stolen Device Protection is a major step in security to protect users from others stealing their passwords. Rossignol has details on some of the specifics. The new wallpaper is fairly bright and Apple released a matching watch band this week that is available on the Thai Apple Store. There will also be a matching Watch face. The colors "represent Pan-Africanism and symbolize generations working together to address injustice and dismantle systemic barriers".

Apple Black Unity Collection
Apple Black Unity Collection - Image courtesy of Apple

I wrote recently about a rumor that the next iPad Pro, apparently with OLED screen, will see a hefty price increase, with one source suggesting the device would have a starting price of $1500 compared to the current $799. Needless to say, having budgeted for a new iPad Pro, I found this a little disturbing. Jason Snell on MacWorld also looks at the idea of a higher priced iPad Pro. To some extent, he justifies the potential increase, although I am not convinced about the killer feature he suggests would really make such an increase more palatable.

I am still waiting for pro features that would allow the iPad Pro to handle a flatbed scanner, and the ability to tether a DSLR camera. I remember that the major selling point for me was the ability to download images directly from my Nikon camera to the iPad (I use a cable rather than a card adapter). With USB-C I can now do this almost as easily directly to the iPhone.

Last week there was a scary moment for passengers on an Air Alaska flight out of Portland to Ontario, not least for a teenager sitting close to a panel that was sucked out of the plane who had his shirt and jacket ripped off too. The seatbelt certainly did its job that day, but as well as the clothes a number of devices went too, including a mobile phone. It was widely reported that an iPhone was found by people who had been asked to look for debris: the NTSB particularly wanted the door panel back.

That iPhone 14 Pro Max was still working after its 16,000 ft (4876.8 m) drop. It was subsequently returned to the owner, but several sites were keen to find out which phone case had been in use at the time. A couple of days later, the owner provided details and as a result Spigen were happy to Tweet - mystery solved: it was us - that the phone had been in a Spigen Cryo Armor case at the time (Palash Volvoikar, iMore). That sounds like a fairly good advertisement for the product.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro
Apple iPhone 14 Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

Not benefitting from the publicity of course is Boeing who do not have a good record with the 737 Max. Two examples of the previous version fell out of the sky (Indonesia and Ethiopia) and while the pilots were erroneously blamed initially, it transpired that not only was the software faulty but that several knew and did not update some airlines, while it also appeared that Boeing engineers were allowed to mark their own homework with the FAA signing off. Just before the door plug fell out - several more have been found to be faulty - Boeing sent out a warning to airlines to check bolts on the the rudder-control systems. Whatever next? . . .

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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