Editorial: There are Other Options to the 2016 MacBook Pro’s Dongle Life

Look, I respect the living hell out of The Verge’s Lauren Goode. She is one of the best tech journalists out there today. If you’re not following her and reading her stuff, you’re doing yourself a real discredit. If it sounds like I’m just buttering her up to bring everything crashing down, that’s because I pretty much am. I didn’t want to write a rebuttal of someone I respect or revisit this topic, but I thought this was incredibly one-sided.

Lauren wrote a piece and filed an associated video for the verge called Is it worth living the dongle life for the new MacBook Pro and iPhone 7? for the Verge. The article takes a rather extreme angle, showing the worst case of the new Thunderbolt/ USB-C MacBook Pro without exploring other options. Despite what a lot of people are saying and writing, there are other options. We’ll now go over what other options could have been taken.

In each Exhibit section in the video, there is a Black shirt wearing Lauren with a 2016 MacBook Pro debating a flannel wearing version with a 2011 MacBook Pro. This was the last version with an optical drive, Firewire, and a traditional 2.5” form factor hard drive. The 2016 Lauren is surrounded by an army of various adapters and the new headphone-less iPhone 7.

Exhibit A

2016 Lauren is looking to charge her phone. She picks through a myriad of mini-hubs and Lightning to USB-A adapters. Not present in any form is the simplest solution: Lightning to USB-C. Apple offers them in 1m and 2m lengths for $19 and $29 respectively. You can expect that go down as third-party MFI versions hit store shelves. You can bet they are coming fast now that there’s a market for them.

The fact ignored here is that USB-C IS USB, not some abnormal Apple variant. You don’t need an adapter, you need a cable.

Exhibit B

In Exhibit B, the Laurens are trying to listen to music. 2011 Lauren simply places her 3.5mm headphones into the jack on her older smartphone while 2016 Lauren looks for Lightning splitter adapter and Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. This is a clunky solution, but there are other options.

I’ve never run into it. Why? Because I am extremely happy with a pair of an affordable pair of bluetooth earphones that I bought earlier this year. I press the power button, they automatically pair and I listen to my music. No adapter or even cable required. I have yet to use either the included Lightning EarPods or the adapter. By the announcement of the Ear Pods and three different sets of wireless beats, this is what Apple intended.

Exhibit C

Exhibit C is 2-point. 2016 Lauren is looking for a wait to put her pictures from her camera on her computer. Of course the only way is the SD-reader right? Nope, there are also more options here.

First, you can directly hook up the camera to the MacBook Pro. In many ways, this faster than digging out the SD card. You would need a USB-C to USB A adapter as many cameras use a proprietary form of miniature USB-B, but those are available in leading retail stores for under $10. You could also purchase an external reader, but what if you didn’t even need a cable at all? Most cameras of the last couple years include wireless capability built-in.

The other part of the Exhibit was transferring photos from a Thunderbolt hard drive to your Thunderbolt 3 Mac. If you have a Thunderbolt Drive, you will need the Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 3 adapter. However, let’s be honest here, the Thunderbolt hard drives are very rare. Pretty much everybody, Mac users included, have USB 2.0 or 3.0 for single drive units. These will need either the afore mentioned C to A adaptor or a Mini/Micro-B to C cable. You can get those on Monoprice easily and cheaply.

Exhibit D
Exhibit D is kind of a rehash of part of Exhibit B. 2016 Lauren receives a phone call and fumbles around with adapters while she misses the call. Oh please. I am either wearing the aforementioned bluetooth headphones or simple just pick up the iPhone and answer the call.

The Cost of Adapters

2011 Lauren asks 2016 Lauren how much all of it cost. If you would have all the adapters Lauren has in front of her, its not cheap. However, you don’t need all of those adapters. There are other, more cost effective and many cases better solutions out there.

The Dongle Life Isn’t Unique to the 2016 MacBook Pro

Let’s say that 2011 Lauren wants to to charge her phone, her smart watch, plug in a mouse, plug in a hard drive, she couldn’t do it all. Why? Because that MacBook only has 2 USB ports. You need a USB Hub, a type of adapter to plug all devices in. Ironically with 4 ports that could be used for USB, in a couple ways, the 2016 model is more flexible. The 2016 MacBook wasn’t designed to place undue hardship people. It realizes the change in how people use our computers. I survived the change form ADB, serial, and SCSI to USB and FireWire. I survived FireWire to Lightning. I survived like half a million different ways to connect a computer to a display. You will to.

The Fuss over Thunderbolt MacBooks Is Much Ado About Nothing

There was a rumor that new MacBook Airs and Pros were slated to be announced on October 27th. That rumor became fact yesterday when Apple announced the first major redesign to the MacBook Pro line since WWDC 2012 and the first laptop to be completely rely on Thunderbolt 3 and USB-Type C. How will be the transition from USB Type-A and Thunderbolt 2 to the single connector of USB Type-C? Its not going to be near as difficult as the media may lead you to believe.

USB Type-C is just another USB

USB Type-C is NOT replacing USB. USB-Type C IS USB. its just USB that is smaller and more flexible. What that means is everything still works. You may just need a different cable for it. The USB standard has multiple different connectors: The two most common varieties are the standard Type-A and Type-B as they exist in USB 1.0 and 2.0. They are the rectangular connector on your computer, the smaller connector on your printer, and the cable that runs between them. Your Garmin has Mini-USB and your cell phone has Micro-USB. There’s also modified versions of these for USB3.0 that have more pins for faster speeds. In addition to connector types, USB is available in speed ranges from 12Mbps in USB 1.0 all the way up to 10Gbps in the newest USB spec USB 3.1 Gen 2.

That’s far too many connector types. the Type-C connector was designed to replace them all with a single connector that could be used anything from cameras to phones to computers to even You don’t need any kind of adapter, you can just buy a cable with USB-C on one end and your printer, hard drive, audio interface, etc will work as it always has. This is more akin to the transition from Firewire 400 to Firewire 800 or DisplayPort to MiniDisplayPort than legacy ports to USB.

Availability of Type-C

The USB Type C is nothing new at this point. Its available on two generations of the Retina MacBook, most middle to high end PCs bought in 2016. A quick check online shows Belkin, Apple, and other branded cables of various types of cables available from your typical who’s who of big box retailers. Online sources like Amazon and Monoprice go even further. Its also fairly easy to find a a USB power supply that will work with your MacBook or PC of choice. Yes, with USB-C being non-proprietary you can grab any power supply you want as long as it produces enough power for you PC.

Here is the one caveat: There are multiple reports of USB Type-C cables that do not meet spec. If ordering from from Amazon, make sure your cable is on Engineer Benson Leung’s List for full compliance. This isn’t an issue you should find in retail stores though.

Availability of and Need for Thunderbolt 3

If I have to be honest, this is where the sticking point will be. Cables are available, but devices are not outside of external graphics enclosures for gaming PCs. Complicating matters is that Thunderbolt 3 is essentially a new ecosystem. The only real devices prior to launch were a couple RAID enclosures, some docks, and a few rather pricy and bulky Thunderbolt 1/2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters. Apple made it a bit easier with their own Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter which is far less bulky and half the price of third-party options at $50. The Apple cable is bidirectional so it can not only adapt your Thunderbolt 2 devices to a new MacBook Pro (and presumably everything else going forward), but also take future Thunderbolt 3 devices with the USB-C Connector and use then on your existing Mac.

Right now Thunderbolt 3 is nowhere near as mature an environment as the USB Type-C. Further more, in its latest form, USB-Type C has gained speed and computer to computer networking that were previously Thunderbolt’s territory. The number devices that need a Thunderbolt connection may not be as many in the future.

Apple is right to be pushing ahead here. The future is one connector to rule them all. All transitions have some degree of difficulty. Thunderbolt 3 has to exist in the wild before devices exist for it. Same with Thunderbolt, FireWire, SCSI, and whatever exited before that. You may not want to get into new I/O at this time and nobody is forcing you to. If you’re not ready to move on, there is no shame in that.

Its The Era of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

New MacBooks with New I/O isn’t something to fear, it’s just time. Apple isn’t putting an undue burden on its users, as I’ve shown here, unless you have a large Thunderbolt accessory collection, its not really much of a burden. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are going to make your lives a lot easier. Let’s embrace that instead of wasting time resisting an inevitable change.

Apple Releases iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2

Its been a year since the iPhone was last updated and considerably more than that for the Apple Watch. Both have been highly anticipated and speculated about and for the most part the rumor mill was correct. Apple released a pair of new iPhones: the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and a pair of series of new Apple watches: Series one and two. For an even that wasn’t expected to have, much we got a lot. And these “boring” products are nothing of the sort.

iPhone-7-hero

iPhone 7

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus mark one of the largest leaps forward of any iPhone I’ve seen and I’ve seen them all. Anyone who says this was lackluster must have been watching something else. Yes, there is some carryover from the 6 and 6S lines. The new phones are roughly the same size as their predecessors, have the same screen sizes, and the same screen resolutions. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. Every other component has been upgraded and in some cases, drastically so.

What’s Old is New

The “same resolution screen” now has a cinema type P3 Wide color gamut and is 25% brighter. As someone who has owned the iPhone 6 Plus for almost two years, that’s improving on an already fantastic screen. The Touch ID button is no more, its been replaced with a version of the Taptic Engine that was introduced with the Apple Watch and then migrated to the MacBook line. It does a fantastic job of simulating a click depression on a flat surface. Also, did I mention it also meets the same IP67 rating as the Apple Watch for both dust and water protection. If it starts to rain or you hit by a wave on a boat ride, you no longer have to worry about your iPhone. For Japanese customers, there’s also an update to the NFC system for Apple Pay. The newest iPhones are compatible with Japan’s widely used FeliCa standard. It also means that Apple Pay will be coming to Japan.

Faster With Better Battery Life

Every iteration of the iPhone has been faster than the last and the iPhone 7 is no exception. The A10 is so much of an upgrade, it even has a codename: fusion. The A10 Fusion is Apple’s first quad-core CPU, but in a high-low configuration that ARM and Qualcomm have used in their chips. The A10’s primary cores are for anything CPU intensive. For menial tasks, like email, the chip also has a pair of efficient cores. In all, this adds two hours to the iPhone 7 and one hour for the iPhone 6 Plus over the preceding models. The A10 also includes a 6-core CPU. All in all, you have a chip that is impressively both twice as fast as 2014’s A8 equipped iPhone 6, but also less power hungry. The LTE chip has been upgraded to support 18 different FDD LTE bands and another 4 of the TDD variety. If there is another LTE band out there in use that the new iPhones don’t support, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Audio

Audio has been upgraded, but also with a subtraction. The rumors are true, the 3.5mm analog audio jack has been removed. Let’s be honest, Apple is not the first to do this, Lenovo did it with its newest Moto series phones earlier this year. They won’t be the last to do so either. The analog output’s place place is a second speaker that not only allows stereo sound, but also louder sound than any previous iPhone. To replace the 3.5mm jack, apple has three solutions, two of which are in box. First, there is a new generation of EarPods which use the Lightning connector’s digital audio capability. If there is any controversy with this move, it’s that Apple is is still using its own Lightning connector over the similar USB Type-C. The second solution is a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. The third option, and what people are increasingly choosing is Bluetooth. There Apple made a splash.

AirPods

Announced right along side the iPhone 7 was the AirPods In-Ear Headphones. These are the most Apple headphones you will ever find. They are over-engineered in a wonderful way. The AirPods are packed with technology. Rather than being connected by any chords, the right and left AirPods are their own separate, but connected entities that resemble a matching pair of in-ear headsets. Rather then buttons, each AirPod has a pair of IR sensors and accelerometer to detect that you’re wearing them and activating beam forming mics when you’re talking. Setup is a breeze. Rather than the standard Bluetooth pairing, the custom W1 wireless chip will connect with your iCloud account and automatically connect the AirPods too all your devices, not the just once and then switch between them. If that wasn’t enough, the AirPod’s case is also their charger. At $150, they might not be cheap, but they are very, very Apple.

Apple’s subsidiary Beats also got in on that W1 chip announcing the BeatsX earphones, Powerbeats 3 Wireless, and Solo 3 Wireless. All these 3 will take the easy connect of the AirPods and bring it to those who want a more traditional form factor.

Cameras

There was one aspect of the iPhone 7 series series that you may think I was forgetting. Au Contraire, I was saving the cameras for last. The new front camera is 7mp with an improved color gamut. Out back is where its at though. The iPhone 7 gains optical image stabilization, and a new six-element f/1.8 28mm wide angle lens. The new camera sensor is bigger and there’s an all new dedicated Image Signal Processor in the A10 Fusion. The flash has gone from Dual-LED to a Quad-LED that is 50% brighter. While this is a definite upgrade, the real winner is the camera on the 7 Plus. The larger iPhone gains a second 12mp telephoto camera to go with the wide angle. The two are used in tandem combined with the ISP to create a 2x optical zoom effect. It can also do digital zoom up to 10x. What’s more, Apple is working on a software update to create a Depth of Field Boca effect.

Pricing and Availability

Both models are available for pre-order this Friday September 9th with release in Tier 1 countries on September 15th. Available colors include Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Black Replacing Space Grey, and a Jet Black. Storage is doubled at all price points with storage now available as 32, 128, or 256GB. The iPhone 7 keeps the same $649, $749, ad $849 price points at the iPhone 6 and 6S before it, while the iPhone 7 Plus gets a modest $10 Price increase to $769, $869, and $969.

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Apple Watch

The Apple Watch family got its first major upgrades in both price and features. While keeping the same form factor, the Apple Watch got both cheaper and more advanced models while adding and updating some third party partnerships.

Apple Watch Series 1

If there is one aspect where the original Apple watch and its S1 system on chip failed, it was in power. The chip didn’t have the muscle it needed to run watchOS 1.0 or 2.0 and the platform suffered. While there are tricks to remedy this in watchOS 3.0, its still clear that the watch need more power.

More power is exactly what it gets in the Series 1. They are exactly the same as the original Apple Watch Sport, but with the new dual core S1P giving it a bit 50% more juice. Price points are also more friendly, starting at just $269 for the 38mm version and $299 for the 42mm. Its available in the original Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Grey finishes.

Series 2

Where the Series 2 Apple Watch may look the same, its completely different and better inside. The new screen is twice as bright as the original for better performance in sunlight. The Series 2 also back the faster S2 chip. Where it really differs is in two features. First, its now rated for 50m dive performance instead of being just water resistant. As part of the water proofing, the redesigned speaker spits out water. For those who want to use their watch while leaving their iPhone at home, the Series two also includes a GPS chip.

Pricing for Series 2 is $100 more expensive than the Series 1 starting at $369 for the regular models, and $1249 for the new Apple Watch Edition in a new ultra-hard white ceramic that replaces the gold plated models.

The new Apple Watch Hermes has also been updated for Series 2 with new custom faces, new and updated bands, and in new colors. Hermes Apple Watches start at $1149 for kits and $339 for the new Single Tour Band.

Nike+

While Apple partnered with Hermes for fashion, they are also partnering with Nike for Fitness. The Apple Watch Nike+ is based on the Series 2 aluminum models in Black and Flat Silver. The watches come with perforated watch bands in two-tone colors. The Nike edition also includes the Nike+ Run Club app pre-installed and exclusive fitness-oriented watch faces.

The Apple Watch Nike+ is exactly the same price as the normal Series two at $369 for 38mm and $399 for 42mm.

Operating Systems Release

Apple also announced the release dates for its OS updates. iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are coming September 15th. macOS 10.12 Sierra will launch a week later on September 20th.

Nokia is Dead. Long Live Nokia!

It’s been an interesting 7 days when it comes to Nokia’s phone legacy. Last Wednesday, the 18th, Nokia announced it was going to license its name and IP to a new company called HMD to make Android phones together with Microsoft giving a similar deal for feature phones. Microsoft also announced they were selling the logistics side of the Nokia feature phone business to HMD’s manufacturing partner Foxconn. Then today, came the bad news that everybody saw coming. Microsoft is putting an end to the Lumia Windows Phone division it bought from Nokia just a couple of years back. We’ll talk about that first.

Under Nokia, the Lumia line was one of the most regarded lines of cell phones out there. Those who had one loved them and the there was a lot to love about Windows phone 7, 8, and 10. However, they never gained commercial success and Nokia agreed to sell its phone business to Microsoft for just over $7 billion in September of 2013. It only got worse from there with Windows Phone effectively a non-player. In 2015, Microsoft cut 7,800 jobs mostly related to the former Nokia properties and took a $7.6 billion write-off. Now they’re going for the rest. With another 1,800 jobs lost, 1,350 of those in Finland, and another write-off at just shy of $1 billion. It was Steve Ballmer’s last major move as CEO and to say it backfired is putting it mildly.

However, as I said in the opening paragraph, Nokia’s phone legacy doesn’t end with the death of the Lumia line. HMD will be designing phones and tablets under the Nokia name. Like Blackberry’s rebirth, the new Nokia’s will be powered by Android. The phones themselves will built by Foxconn. Nokia will not own a stake in HMD, but will has a presence in the company to ensure the devices coming out of the new venture reflect the Nokia brand.

There is no firm timeline when we will see the first HMD-designed Nokia device or whether they plan to enter the North American market. What is known that that Nokia branded phones will go on. At least for now.

source: Nokia, The Verge

Apple Refreshes Retina MacBook

Last year, Apple announced the 12″ Retina MacBook ultraportable. Today, the machine got its first update. There’s a lot of things you’d expect and others that are a little surprising. Let’s take a look at what the 2016 model brings.

The 12″ is based around a 2304 x 1440 Retina display. This doesn’t change neither does the casing itself the difference is what’s inside. The Broadwell Core-M has been traded out for its updated Skylake Core M3 counterparts. The new CPUs share the same clock speed, but are a bit more powerful. According to Apple, the new Intel Integrated HD 515 graphics are a not insignificant 25% more powerful than the HD 5300 of last year. The chips are also more efficient offering an additional hour of run time now between 10 and 11 hours. The flash storage has been upgraded to a faster PCI-E standard and system memory is now 1866mhz.

For I/O, you still have two options: a 3.5mm headphones jack and a one-size fits all USB 3.1 Type-C jack. Many, including myself expected this port to be upgraded to Thunderbolt 3 with Skylake. That will presumably happen with updated MacBook Pros later this year. However, given the tasks this Core M-powered machine is expected to perform, one could argue that Type-C was good enough.

Pricing and configurations for the 2016 MacBook are the same as the 2015 models starting at $1299 for the base model. You can still order your MacBook in silver, space gray, and gold with fan favorite Rose Gold adding the fray for 2016. The MacBook’s predecessor, the MacBook Air also received a minor refresh with all 13″ models now coming standard with 8GB of memory.

Source: Apple

Amazon Launches Prime Subscriptions

Amazon’s Prime service is one of the e-tailer’s more compelling offerings. It offers not only free two-day shipping or same-day if you have a fulfillment center in your city, but access to their Prime Video service, access to eBooks & Music, and early access to some deals. However, not everyone is completely sold on buying a year at a time for $99. That price is not going away anytime soon, but it’s being joined with some other options. First, Amazon is offering Prime Video on its own for the first time at a competitive rate of $8.99 monthly. That’s a little bit less than rivals Netflix and Hulu. There’s also available options to add Starz, Showtime, and quite a few others for additional fees. For that price, you get Amazon’s full catalog of content including their own shows and exclusives like BBC America’s Orphan Black and Doctor Who. For $2 more a month at $10.99, a full subscription to Prime is also available. While these are available monthly, Amazon does make clear that the original $99 one time early subscription will save you money.

While Amazon has not offically announced the change via a press release, the new monthly plans are live on Amazon’s website

Source: Amazon

HTC 10: It Looks Like the Best Android Smartphone Yet

HTC’s flagship line has been know as the One series. You’ve had the HTC One M7, HTC M8, and HTC One M9. Today, that title is getting shorted and the product title is simply know as the HTC 10. The title change kinda sums up the HTC in general, a flagship phone which dispatches a lot of bloat while adding useful features. Let’s take a look.

HTC 10 Specs

The HTC 10 is exactly what you’d expect from a flagship Android phone is 2016. The Display is 5.2 inches, a little bit bigger than the M8 and M9, and finally makes the jump from 1920 x 1080 Full HD to 2560 x 1440 Quad HD. Like Apple, HTC is still using a LCD variant, called Super LCD5, in lieu of AMOLED technology. At this point, LCD screens still have a few advantages over AMOLED, but that gap is narrowing every year. The larger display makes for a phone that nominally taller and wider, but its also thinner than the M9 and has a comfortable curved design.

The system on chip is the Snapdragon 820. Unlike the 810 used in last year’s flagships, the 820 is not a repackaged ARM reference design. The core is based around a quad-core Kryo CPU. Like the Krait in the Snapdragon 800 series, the Kyro is completely a Qualcomm design. It finally gives Android the power to hang with Apple’s latest A-series CPUs. The GPU, the Adreno 530, is also much improved.

The camera is 12mp with laser autofocus and OIS. That’s on par with its main competition, the Galaxy S7. The front is 5MP and also has OIS. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this may be the first time a front camera has been stabilized. The aperture both front and back is f/1.8. For video, the front camera is 1080 while the rear is 4k. If you’re looking to shoot video or photos, this looks like one really interesting device.

Rounding out the hardware specs, there’s about a dozen LTE bands, so it should be at home on any carrier. The LTE is also class 9 capable for speeds up to 450Mbps. I/O is what you’d expect with dual band AC wireless, bluetooth 4.2, NFC and a bunch of sensors. Physical connections are through USB Type-C at full USB 3.1 speeds. The SD Card slot stays and and take cards up to 2TB. Wirelessly, it supports not only the expected HTC connect, Google Cast, and Miracast, but very surprisingly Apple Airplay as well. That should be a great feature in if you’re an Android user in an Apple Household. Rounding out the spec sheet is a further Improvement on the front-facing Boomsound speakers called Boomsound Hi-Fi. Its also got a 24-bit headphone amp, so high end audio aficionados should be pleased.

Software Less is More

Android’s biggest weaknesses have been fragmentation and bloatware. Honestly, it’s just confused and angered customers who, for the most part, have just used Google’s apps. HTC and its Sense launcher have been among the worse. For the 10, HTC has gotten rid of many of its own apps except when it adds to the feature set, like the camera. It makes for a much cleaner Android experience. However, it does offer an interesting new launcher layout called Freestyle. This phone puts the user first, make no mistake.

There’s also some software level improvements that give the phone up to 30% more battery life. With hardware and software improvements, HTC is advertising up to two full days of charge.

Pricing and Availability

The HTC 10 is available starting at $699 with pre-orders starting today. The phone itself will be released in May. There will be be versions for most carriers as well as an unlocked version.

Final Word

The HTC One-series was never lacking on design, but never managed to full catch on. That is also the question here. HTC has designed one hell of a phone, they did their job. Their marketing department has their work cut out of them and if they fail there may not be a HTC 11. If any device can unseat Samsung, its this one.

Source: HTC

iPhone SE: It’s Not About Us, Its About Everyone Not Us

If you’re reading this, chances are that the iPhone SE is not for you. We’re the geeks, the power users that always want the latest and greatest. What we aren’t is the majority, no matter what we think we are, we’re a very vocal minority in Apple’s sales. You’ll hear about how boring the SE is and how Apple should have done more. On the contrary, Apple made the device they needed to. I’ll tell you why.

When moving to larger screens, Apple moved with all deliberate speed. The 5 & 5S were more about moving the iPhone to the industry standard 16:9 than actually making the iPhone screen larger. It was just longer, but that set the table for what was to come. The iPhone 5 also introduced a new metal unibody construction that was thinner and higher quality than previous iPhones. It also introduced the lightning port. The next year the 5S added 64-bit ARM A8 processing and Touch ID, another important stepping stone, and honestly the feature I appreciate most. Being able to use my thumb print instead of my passwords has made the mobile experience much more enjoyable and convenient.

The next generation iPhone 6 and 6 Plus finally ushered in the medium and large screens I had been waiting for since I laid my eyes and hands on the Samsung Note II. Having larger screens was a godsend for me. I could use it. We also saw NFC and mobile payments make their debut on iOS leading to Apple Pay. The 6S generation brought a 4k rear camera and ability to use the screen as a selfie flash.

Apple found something out along the way. While many people were happy about the color choices and features of the new phones, sone size never fit all. Despite the new phones, 30 million people continued to buy the smaller 4” iPhones. Why? Because it fit them and their uses as much as my 5.5” 6 Plus fits me. The iPhone 5S was definitely a great phone, but it was behind of the features. Apple decided it was time for an upgrade. With the iPhone SE, Apple combined the best of the iPhone 5S with the best of the 6S.

While the iPhone SE may be Apple’s least expensive phone at $399, it is not in any way, shape, or form a low end phone. In fact, its one of the most advanced devices on the market. The A9 CPU is lifted straight from the 6S as is the 12mp rear camera and secure element for Apple Pay. The front camera, screen, and Touch ID sensor are the same as on the 5S. That said, decidedly unlike the 5S it has the Retina flash feature. If you’re looking for 3D touch, its not here. But considering the price and reusing the 5/5C/5S screen, I wouldn’t have expected it.

The most surprisingly controversial design element is reusing the 5S casing for the S$, though now with the same 4 colors as the 6S. The opposition to this perplexes me. Its a smart move for the consumer. The 5/5S have a mature and complete accessories market. Other than the design crowd, who would changing an already excellent design benefit?

The big question is who is this for? Let me tell you. First, its for the person who just wants to have an iPhone. This is your mom, dad, aunt, grandparent, etc and just want an easy to use smartphone experience. The other man crowd is people who even the 4.7” iPhone 6/6S to comfortably use. Lastly, its for the Apple Pay user. Apple wants mobile payments in everyone’s hands. Whoever you are, the iPhone SE gives you the high end features of the latest iPhones in a 4” form factor. You get the full iPhone experience at any size without compromise.

With the iPhone SE, the iPhone lineup is complete. If the SE doesn’t float your boat, you have two other options. Small, medium, and large everyone now has an option.

#CES2016: Harman’s JBL Launches, Most Afford CarPlay and Android Auto Car Receiver Yet

Harman, one of the leading audio companies in the world, has released a new and very interesting car receiver: The JBL Legend CP100. The CP100 is built around a 6.75″ Capacitive Touch screen and is compatible with both Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Its powered by a iMX6 ARM CPU. It doesn’t have a CD or DVD player, but it has everything you’d expect in an entry level smartphone connected car stereo including USB inputs, bluetooth, a Mic, a rear camera jack, and steering wheel control input. Its not anything that you wouldn’t find on the Pioneer App Radio 4 or Alpine ILX-007, well, with the exception of Android Auto.

Where the CP100 excels is at price. It’s able to offer a competitive feature set at $399. A full $200 less than the competition. It makes having a connected stereo much more affordable. We’ll find out if this is as an amazing buy as it seems when it hits stores in a couple months.

Source: Harman

#CES2016: The Year of USB Type-C

USB Type-C debuted in the year world with the iPad-eque Nokia N1 in November of 2014 in its USB 2.0 variety, but the one port to rule them all really came onto the scene with on March 9, 2015 with the unveiling of the ultra-slim MacBook. It was the only port the little notebook needed with USB 3.1, Displayport & HDMI, and up to 100 watts of power mixed into one port barely larger than Lightning or Micro USB. It didn’t take long to understand that this lone port was the future. That was further solidified with Intel with them making Thunderbolt 3 essentially a supercharged version of Type-C with direct access to the PCI-E bus and 40Gbps speeds instead of 480Mbps of the USB 2.0 variant or 5-10mbps of the USB 3.1. It would take a while to get going for sure, but if CES has shown anything it’s that while legacy ports aren’t gone, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are here to stay with a barrage of products.

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Computers

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Apple should be very flattered. Just as the MacBook Air became the inspiration of a generation of Ultrabooks, there’s a lot of insanely thin fanless 12″ laptops this year wearing little more than a Core-M and a USB-C port. There’s plenty of options from HP, Dell, Samsung, and LG. Yeah, apparently LG makes laptops now. The creme of this crop seems to be the HP Elitebook Folio with high-end construction and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. There might actually be more devices announced with USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 than not.

Likewise, the full power of Thunderbolt is fully realized this year. Acer has introduced its 12.5″ Aspire Blade Switch 12 S 2-in-1. This tablet/ laptop hybrid features Full HD and 4K Ultra HD displays and an Intel Core M CPU with HD515 graphics. This can be enhanced by an external Thunderbolt 3 graphics card in the Acer Graphics dock. Gaming accessory maker Razer takes this concept further with the Razer Blade Stealth. This ultrabook also features a 12.5″ FHD or UHD screen but includes a Intel Core i7 6500 with Intel 520HD graphics. Its external graphics solution is much more extreme. The Razer Core features a 500 watt power supply with 375 watts reserved for graphics, 4 USB 3.0 ports, gigabit ethernet, and a full-length double-slot PCI express slot for a graphics card of your choice. That includes even the most high-end extreme graphics cards on the market. Of course it can also take professional Quadro or FirePro graphics turning it from a Mini gaming monster to a tiny workstation.

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Displays

I fell in love with my AOC 15″ portable display despite some issues with DisplayLink and relatively low quality displays. With USB-C, DisplayLink is no longer needed as USB monitors can natively use DisplayPort and have access to more power. The first USB-C display in the form of ASUS’s MB169C+, a further evolution of the company MB168B+ USB 3.0 DisplayLink monitor. The new version also replaces the 1080 TN panel of the previous version with a much higher quality IPS display. I don’t think this will be the last either.

A lone portable display is far from USB Type-C’s only appearance at CES. It turns out a single connector for video, power, and USB was a bit popular in the medium-to high end range. Acer’s 2016 version of the H7-series comes in 25 and 27-inch Quad HD (2560×1440)flavors and features USB-C, HDMI 2.0, a pair of full size USB 3.0 ports, and a MacBook-friendly gold finish. Lenovo is offering pair of displays in the 24″ Full-HD Thinkvision x24 Pro and the 27″ 4K Ultra HD Thinkvision X1. LG also added a 27″ 4k entry in the 27UD88-W.

Dell However, took first in class when it came to USB-C compatible Displays with the New UltraSharp 30 OLED. As the name gives away, this display eschews traditional In-Plane Switching LCD technology for Organic Light Emitting Diode displays. While OLED technology has become affordable in mobile screens, it is still expensive with larger panels and this Dell is no exception at just a hair under $5 grand. However, it might also be the best 30-inch display on the market. If there is one thing Dell knows, it is professional displays. Dell is also offering a dock in regular USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 variants for use with legacy displays.

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Storage

Seagate’s stylish and Mac-Friendly subsidiary LaCie hit USB-C hard this year offering products from the affordable and portable LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive and its desktop brother to the high end Chrome. Samsung is also in the game with the portable SSD T3 with solid state capacities up to 2TB.

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Accessories

I Could list every USB Type-C accessory that was announced, but honestly, that might take the rest of my life so I’ll talk about the one that stands out: Griffin’s BreakSafe Charing Cable for the MacBook, Google Chromebook Pixel, and other lightweight USB-C powered laptops. This power only cable has a magnetic break near the connector much like Apple’s MagSafe connectors. In other words, the cord reversibly splits in two instead of sending your computer flying. Why couldn’t have Apple and Google have done this in box?

Other than that, you have a bevy of docks, hubs, and cables from the usual high-class suspects like Griffin, Belkin, Satechi, and Incipio.

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The Elephant in The Room

The one company that didn’t announce anything at CES might be the company most looked at for USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3: Apple. They effectively ushered in the USB-C era just under a year ago and have spearheaded convergence of ports through Thunderbolt 1 & 2. In other words, the industry might be getting on it big time, but its effectively Apple’s train.

We won’t be waiting long to find out. The MacBook is nearly a year old and is due for its Silverlake update. Given the amount of similar machines with Thunderbolt 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original MacBook is the first and last Mac with just plain USB Type-C. The top of Apple’s line, the Retina MacBook Pro is also due for an update. It was well ahead of its time in 2012, but the Industry has changed a lot. It also uses traditional USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 2. Both are due for replacement by Thunderbolt 3. I’d expect more a complete design than a mere update this go around with the Retina form factor being around for 4 iterations.

While it could drag on into March, I suspect we’ll see the first Thunderbolt 3 Macs by the end of spring.