The year 2016 is when the United States sold its soul to Donald Trump and I signed over mine to Apple. How's that for introduction to the five favs series, joining colleagues Alan Buckingham, Brian Fagioli, and Wayne Williams? Yup. I'm an Apple whore as 2017 opens onto its second day. The fruit-logo company won back my business as I gave up the Google lifestyle. Three main reasons: 1) I believed CEO Tim Cook's privacy promises, all while my concerns about Big G information collection increased. 2) I found the visual acuity of Apple fonts and user interfaces to be far superior to Google's, which helped compensate for diminishing reading vision (later recovered through eye surgery). 3) Google's platforms proved inadequate for easily recording, producing, and publishing the Frak That! podcast (a fun side project).
My contribution to the series is a bit disingenuous, though. I wouldn't call these "My favorite tech items of 2016". They are what I bought, or was released, last year that I use most often, regardless of their benefits and flaws. Each will get belated review sometime during the next few months. Consider this story each's preview. Okay, let's get to them.
Today is New Year's Eve, and while all the cool kids are out partying, I am sitting here reflecting on my favorite tech products of the year. Yeah, I'm a nerd.
Believe it or not, 2016 saw me getting deeper into Apple's ecosystem (I still love Linux and Windows 10, though). I continue to love the iPhone 6s Plus, iPad mini 4, and Apple TV I bought in 2015, but this year, I added AirPods and a MacBook Pro. One of those Apple products was quickly returned, while the other is my overall favorite. Can you guess which is which?
2016 was a bad year in lots of ways -- loads of celebrity deaths, plus Brexit and Trump (depending on your point of view of course) -- but a good year for new tech.
Rather than just looking at what exciting new products made it on to the market in 2016, I’ve decided to take a look at the items that have become part of my digital life in the past 12 months.
When it comes to mobile operating systems, apps still reign supreme. To highlight which ones were most popular in 2016, Nielsen conducted a study of Android and iPhone smartphone users.
Not surprisingly, two major players in the mobile space -- Facebook and Google -- lead the pack.
Consumer Reports played nasty, little Santa's helper by plopping a piece of chunky coal into Apple's Christmas stocking, when denying the coveted—and expected—recommendation. Holy Moly. Over the holiday, the InterWebs exploded with stories during an otherwise, slow tech news cycle. CR found widely, or perhaps wildly, inconsistent charge-to-depletion times for MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Uh-oh. At least the lap-hugger isn't explodin', like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. B-b-b-boom!
Perhaps, like me, you bought or received as present, one of these newfangled Macs. I have some questions about your experience starting with: How's your battery life? Do you get enough from the laptop to justify the price increase over last year's model? If you bought, or received, something else, did news about battery life affect the decision? Since we're all sharing our deepest, innermost MacBook Pro secrets, from here I will reveal my own. I bought not one, but two. Problems with the first, but not the second, and possible remedy will be familiar to long-time Windows users.
Despite planning to stick with my iPhone 6s for another year, I ended up upgrading to the iPhone 7, and I’m pleased that I did. If you were lucky enough to get an iPhone 7 for Christmas, or an iPhone 7 Plus for that matter, you’re no doubt going to be as happy with the latest Apple smartphone as I am.
Getting started is straightforward, as once the phone is turned on you’ll be walked through the set up process, how to configure the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and set up a PIN. Once you've set up the basics, it's time to explore what you can do with your new device.
If you were lucky enough to receive an Apple Watch as a present this year, you’ll no doubt be keen to see what it offers, and what you can do with it.
To start you’ll need to pair it with an iPhone 5 or later, running the latest version of iOS. To do this, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your phone and make sure the feature is enabled.
The Congressional Encryption Working Group (EWG) was set up in the wake of the Apple vs FBI case in which the FBI wanted to gain access to the encrypted contents of a shooter's iPhone. The group has just published its end-of-year report summarizing months of meetings, analysis and debate.
The report makes four key observations, starting off with: "Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest". This is certainly not a new argument against encryption backdoors for the likes of the FBI, but it is an important one. EWG goes on to urge congress not to do anything to weaken encryption.
Consumer Reports -- well-respected for its appraisals of products and services -- has decided not to give the new MacBook Pro its coveted 'recommended' status. This is the first time Apple's laptop has failed to gain the accolade.
While tests showed that the laptop's performance was good, it was the MacBook Pro's battery that let it down. Consumer Reports warns that battery life "varied dramatically from one trial to another". The report will make for difficult reading for Apple.
When Apple first announced the AirPods, I was intrigued. The technology looked incredible -- for those that own Apple devices, that is. Unfortunately, I sort of had a feeling that I would not like them as soon as I saw them. Why? They are the same shape as Apple's wired EarPods. This is a problem, as those headphones hurt my ears. I pretty much decided on day one that I would not buy them.
But then I went ahead and bought them anyway. Because they were delayed so often, and because stock was so limited, I bought them as soon as they went on sale as I knew they would sell out. Since Apple makes it easy to return products, I figured I'd buy them, try them, and make a decision. Well folks, I am returning them. Here's why.
Nokia just announced that it is suing Apple in the US and Germany because the iPhone maker is allegedly infringing some of its patents. According to the Finnish company, Apple rejected any licensing offers that would have allowed it to legally take advantage of the infringed patents.
"Through our sustained investment in research and development, Nokia has created or contributed to many of the fundamental technologies used in today's mobile devices, including Apple products. After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights", says Nokia's head of Patent Business, Ilkka Rahnasto.
Apple sure knows how to keep its store stocked for the holidays. Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug. The shelves are bare, and you can get your must-have pretty thing some time next year. If you're lucky. Let's start with the delayed AirPods, which went on sale online last week. They arrived in stores on Monday, and whoosh were gone before the waiting line ended. My local shop had about 30 pairs. If you want them, first available retail pickup date is—cough, cough—February 8th. That is 2017. I had to confirm not 2018, because you never know with these dumbfounding delays. Straight-to-ship orders move your way in six weeks. Donald Trump will be president sooner!
Perhaps you're pining for one of those pricey MacBook Pros—you know, the ones with Touch Bar that no sane person knows what to do with. Apple will miss Christmas, but you can still beat Martin Luther King's birthday, with orders made today delivering sometime between January 4-10 or available for in-store pickup on the tenth. God Bless America and Made in China!
USB-C is proving to be quite the wonderful connector. It is being used on many devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This means you can often charge multiple devices using a single power adapter -- very convenient for those that like to pack light. You can also connect things like flash drives to both PCs and mobile devices -- very cool.
Apple recently released its newest MacBook Pro, and it only has USB-C ports for connectivity; it even charges using these ports. The power brick is surprisingly chunky, however, meaning it can take up a good amount of room in a bag. If you desire a smaller charger for your MacBook or other USB-C devices, I have good news. Today, FINsix announces the DART-C, which it claims is the 'world’s smallest' USB-C laptop charger.
At $159.99, Apple's new AirPods are super expensive. But there is a very good reason why. According to an iFixit teardown, there is a lot of technology crammed into this pair of wireless earphones. As it turns out, the old "you get what you pay for" saying is true.
In the AirPods, which weigh four grams (0.14 ounces) each, Apple has packed its own W1 chip to provide wireless connectivity, IR sensors, microphones, an accelerometer and a battery, on top of the usual speaker. The IR sensors, microphones and accelerometer are there so that the AirPods can detect when they're in your ear -- and work accordingly.
If you want a thin and light laptop, Apple is usually the way to go. Its computers are designed to be both durable and beautiful while also being very svelte. Windows laptops, however, have historically been more heavy and made of cheap plastic with a focus on affordability -- beauty and skinniness be damned.
Lately, computers running Microsoft's operating system have been much nicer -- sometimes giving Apple a run for its money. The Surface Book, for instance, is a work of art. Today, Samsung refreshes its Notebook 9 laptops with a focus on being extremely portable -- very thin and light. In fact, it is lighter than the 2016 MacBook Pro -- holy cow. Unlike Apple's newest laptops -- which run the older 6th generation Skylake processors -- Samsung's machines have the latest-and-greatest 7th gen Kaby Lake Core i5 and i7 processors.