Apple acquires Intel’s modem business!

Despite fixing recent qualms with Qualcomm, which initially began the switch to Intel modems in iPhones, Apple have now acquired Intel’s modem business for $1BN USD. This won’t just mean Apple could continue work that Intel started in modems, but will also include 2,200 Intel employees, all of which will join Apple. The deal also extends to the bigger picture, being Intel’s intellectual property.

Intel’s Bob Swan had this to say on the deal;

This agreement enables us to focus on developing technology for the 5G network while retaining critical intellectual property and modem technology that our team has created. We’re looking forward to putting our full effort into 5G where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base, including network operators, telecommunications equipment manufacturers and cloud service providers – Bob Swan, CEO Intel

Apple’s SVP, Johny Srouji had this to say on the deal;

We’ve worked with Intel for many years and know this team shares Apple’s passion for designing technologies that deliver the world’s best experiences for our users – Johny Srouji, SVP Apple

It’s worth noting that, after the acquisition completed, Apple will overnight become a pretty major modem company, not just including the fact they will acquire over 17,000 wireless network technology patents, and we all know how much companies love to flaunt their patents … in all seriousness though, this will be a big deal for the future of modem operations, something which Apple themselves will be able to develop for devices beyond just the iPhone.

Whilst Apple are going to be returning to use Qualcomm modems, as agreed with the settlement, Apple’s acquisition of Intel’s modem business is about the bigger picture, the future involving 5G and it should be worth watching this space.

Apple updates MacBook Air line, adds new lower tier Pros and straight up ditches the 12 inch!

Apple have made quite a few behind the scene changes to their Mac notebook line, and whilst none of them will make them any better, in terms of the immensely flawed keyboard design, which still needs a rethink, though if rumours are to be believed that may be coming in the next year or so, they do at least give you a bit more of a clearer direction.

MacBook … what MacBook?

…yeah, this one stings a little. We loved the 12 inch MacBook, but it’s fair to say it lacked a sense of punch. Whether it was an issue with Intels lack of Core M advancements, sales, or whether this is just a ruse whilst Apple plan the first infamous ARM based Mac, guess time will tell, but this is one thing we’re sad to see go.

MacBook Air

We’re gonna be honest with you, we still prefer the older Air, and this update doesn’t change that too much. But, despite this, it’s fairly simple to see why. When Apple updated the MacBook Air, it realistically was just a bigger 12 inch MacBook, though now that is gone, and Apple have taken the price down a bit, it’s now a bit more of a clearer choice.

The only major downside to Apple’s decisions with the 12 inch and the Air, is that Apple now no longer have a compact Notebook, sure the  dimensions have gone down thanks to bezel shrinking from the “butterfly keyboard” updates, though we kind of wish Apple would bring back the old 11 inch MacBook Air.

Apple have added True Tone to the MacBook Air, which, whilst isn’t as useful as on a Smartphone, is there as an option for those who desire.

Now starting at £1099, the new MacBook Air is now packing a 1.6Ghz Dual-Core 8th gen Intel Core i5 Processor, 8GB RAM, Touch ID and a rather tiny 128GB SSD, which can be doubled in capacity in the £1299 model.

MacBook Pro

This is less of an “updated” MacBook Pro, but Apple have definitely made some changes to the options you have, or at least in the 13 inch. Whilst the £1799 and higher configurations are literally unchanged, which makes sense, as they just were changed recently, Apple have added some lower tier options, all of which are now all-in on the Touchbar, so sorry to those who don’t like the Touchbar.

Apple previously had a MacBook Pro without Touchbar, which was less, but also you got less as it hasn’t had much of any update, now, Apple is doing this.

You now still get a Quad Core 8th gen Intel Core i5 MacBook Pro with Touchbar, T2 Chip and all the benefits on the more expensive model for now £1299, though there are some things that limit things slightly, namely the clock speed and a few others. A measly, on paper, 1.4GHz clock speed for the 8th gen i5 is listed, though it does Turbo close to the higher speed model and being Quad Core is a big step up from the prior non-Touchbar model. Other than that, its similar to Apple’s higher end 13 inch Pros, just with a tiny 128GB SSD for the £1299 model and 256GB for a new £1499, however at that point it’s questionable whether you’d be better going for the normal £1799 model, as you only have 2 Thunderbolt ports on the lower price model, rather than 3, a slightly worse integrated graphics and clockspeed on the CPU, so to us, only the £1299 is the one worth considering on the new updates.

Summary of the updates

Most people have had a lot of praise for these updates, whilst we’re not quite in that camp, we’re certainly not going to complain about price reductions.

It is important to note that NONE of these updated Macs have the rumoured update to the keyboard design Apple are expected to do, though they are at least using Apple’s latest “attempt” at the butterfly mechanism, but naturally worth keeping in mind.

Our take on the new Mac Pro

Apple are a very unique company, they’re both the most loved and mocked company we’re aware of, in some cases at the same time. They’ve a loyal faithful, and those who pretty seem to live to hate anything they do, and this has not been demonstrated more so with the response to this, the new 2019 Mac Pro.

The new Mac Pro, is a result of Apple’s long struggle to replace the previous “trash-can” Mac Pro, which Apple themselves admitted was a misstep. The new Mac Pro returns the upgradability of the older Mac Pro, though also comes with some rather, let’s say, divisive design choices.

What Apple haven’t disappointed on is the performance potential of the Mac Pro. Whilst Apple still insist on using Intel’s Xeon workstation CPUs for any “pro” desktop Mac, we’d rather they at least offered the option for the more consumer friendly i Series of Intel CPUs, or anything from AMDs lineup for that matter, especially as they’ve built an ARM processor just for video rendering, a task which would be aided by the use of Intels quick sync, which isn’t present in Xeon, but that’s Apple. You can configure the Mac Pro oddly starting at 8-core, which sure is a lot, but it’s also what the lower cost iMac Pro features, but it does climb up to a beefy 24-core processor.

Apple have also redefined what we come to expect in terms of RAM expectancy, as you can literally purchase (or will be able to) a Mac Pro with 1.5TB … yes terabyte, of RAM!

Unfortunately, the Mac Pro starts at £6,000* with a rather disappointing starting spec, just looking at the 256GB SSD is enough to make you question a lot, especially when the base iMac Pro comes with 1TB SSD.

However, that isn’t really what the Mac Pro is about, though it’s a disappointing base.

The hot word for this years Mac Pro, from the start, was “modular”. Whilst we wouldn’t agree on the full level, it certainly is expandable, and a lot of this is due to the return of PCI, all 8 of them, made up of 1 half length slot, 3 single slots, and 4 double wide. All of these feature a more than adequate power supply to boot.

Apple + AMD = The world’s most powerful Graphics card

One of the biggest requests by many with the Mac Pro is ironic when you think about it, as it still uses Intel processors and AMD graphics, when most would like the option of AMD processors and Nvidia graphics, but what can you do. The bigger side of the story is with the Graphics, as whilst AMD is doing incredible work in the CPU space, they’re still always the second best in Graphics, though Apple have teamed up with AMD to try and make the most powerful “graphics card” in the world, branded the AMD Radeon Pro Vega II. The Radeon Pro Vega II has 32GB of AMDs fast graphics memory, but they haven’t stopped there, Apple are giving you the option to include two, or four with enough power to offer the full power of 128GB of graphics memory.

The GPU however needs a hand, so it’s led to Apple building a whole new way of upgrades in the future, called MPX. With the Radeon card, the MPX model allows it to get more power than from a regular PCI-3 slot, which combined with Apple’s ARM processor used for processing video encoding, together in the MPX model, then allows the phrase “world’s most powerful graphics card”.

Naturally, it’s unclear how a regular AMD Radeon Pro Vega II would compare to Nvidia’s RTX 2080i, but for now at least, AMD and Apple have the ingredients for the fastest Graphics card, just hopefully they’ve got all the Drivers figured out, not just for macOS, but Windows on Boot Camp as you already know, folk are going to test these for Gaming.

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Our take on the Mac Pro (rant and analysis)

To properly understand the pressure Apple had with the Mac Pro, you’ve to look back a couple generations to the last Mac Pro, which at the time was comfortably referred to as the cheese-grater … oh the irony. Was it the quietest computer in the world, of course not, but one thing it did right, was accessibility and upgradability. You could get a Mac Pro tower for, with inflation, around £2,600, which honestly is close to where Apple should be pricing the base model Mac Pro here. Like the new Mac Pro, you could configure it for days and spend well in to car money, it’s expected it would be even more so with this Mac Pro, but one thing we’re not too sure about in relation to this Mac Pro, is as time goes by.

You can get a second hand Mac Pro (last generation cheese-grater), and if you max it out, like Luke Miani did on YouTube, you can still 9 years after it’s release build a Mac that’s faster than anything Apple sell today … no really. In fact, you can go further with a simple mod to the Motherboard and Power Supply, which will allow near-to PCI-3 performance, allowing, like Luke did, to run an AMD Radeon VI Graphics Card, so yeah, you can take these still very far. Rewind back to the “trash-can” Mac Pro, and that’s stuck where it is, that’s one of the biggest fears with the just announced Mac Pro, and this is where some concerns are lying.

Obviously upgradability moving forward depends on many factors, some of which of course are unavoidable, such as changes in architecture, but from what we can see from what we know (so far) about the Mac Pro, it doesn’t have as much access to components like the CPU in order to upgrade those in the future, something which has being an important factor to keeping the older Mac Pro’s alive.

However, the market Apple are targeting with the Mac Pro this year is very convoluted. Apple are branding it as a high end Pro desktop set for things end users would never need, in terms of the performance, mostly as a defense for the price tag, however that doesn’t change the fact the low end is over-priced, and going forward this most likely won’t have as much flexibility as the older Mac Pro, Apple’s choice to target the higher end Pro market, is clearly an inkling that the level of maintenance from the older “cheese-grater” Mac Pro is probably not necessary as those kind of users would probably just buy another going forward, which is a shame.

Apple need a Mac mini that’s good again … a Mac Pro mini?!

The ironic thing about the Pro market focus on the Mac Pro, is that the loudest voices crying for a Mac Pro update, weren’t even that market. Obviously it was fairly important Apple did address this market as it remains a big profit margin for the company, and those rely on Mac only applications, such as Logic, Final Cut Pro X and more, but, it’s more end users who were looking for Apple to deliver a powerful Tower.

The only real option Apple offer users is the Mac mini, which when it comes with a Core i3 for nearly £800, it’s quite an insult. Whilst the upper level Core i5 model (or configurable i7) are decent performers, and full power Thunderbolt 3 opens the doors for things such as high speed eGPUs, it’s still incredibly over-priced for what it is, despite it’s actually decent design for what it offers.

What Apple need is more of a Mac Pro mini. A large Tower, one which could fit, power and cool a full size and single PCI expansion, AND offer the 4K / 5K iMac level of specifications. This, quite honestly, would be the one gap missing in Apple’s lineup. The Mac Mini is great, but overpriced and doesn’t offer enough, but the Mac Pro is too much and out of consumer price range, so this would fill a very open void in Apple’s market. But, Apple don’t seem to have the same level of care for the Mac they used to, especially with iOS devices leading Apple’s future, and with the iPadOS variant of iOS bridging the iPad/Mac gap more.

Our summary of the Mac Pro

It’s the most powerful Mac in history, it needed to be, it’ll be one of the most powerful (if maxed out) PCs in history, it needed to be, but it’s targeting a very fragmented audience and further exposes Apple’s lack of consumer grade desktop for those who like to use their own equipment.

Apple reportedly in talks to bring OLED displays to iPad and Mac for first time!

Whilst OLED technology is now the norm on Apple’s flagship iPhone models, it’s a notable absence on the companies other devices, but this may be about to change if a report is to be believed.

Just like with the iPhone, Apple is choosing Samsung for the displays, which could be included in a future iPad Pro, or most likely inside the expected future 16 inch MacBook Pro expected.

Apple’s less than expected sales of OLED iPhone’s is having a knock on effect

The story, however, isn’t that simple. Apple is naturally in a contract with Samsung when it comes to delivering the OLED displays that are supplied in the companies flagship, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, as well as the previous iPhone X (which is still available at select retailers). The big issue, however, has been in demand by Samsung to pay a penalty to them due to much lower than expected sales in iPhone models, which has naturally had a knock on effect on Samsung’s business, as well as the fact Apple have sold more iPhone XR models, which don’t use Samsung’s OLED displays but an LCD.

Whilst it’s disappointing that iPhone sales haven’t been as high as normal, the idea of an OLED iPad, or MacBook laptop is definitely something we doubt anyone would really complain about. There’s already a number of OLED laptops out there, and all have beautiful displays, which almost make Apple’s retina displays on Macs look fairly outdated, and it’s not hard to imagine how even more sleek the iPad Pro would look supporting an OLED panel.

For now, though, time will tell what Apple do, though with demand from Samsung to find some use for the OLED investment made, it’s not too far fetched to expect not only an OLED iPhone XR later this year, but the use of OLED in more devices.

OnePlus 7 series bridge gap between affordable flagship and premium flagship!

It’s hard to deny that when it comes to companies that have being impressing us over the last few years in the Android space, that OnePlus wouldn’t be near top of that list. The companies ability to make “affordable flagships” that are also actually decent Smartphones is really incredible.

This year, however, with the OnePlus 7, it looks like this may becoming a slight decline from the affordable side of things, though the result of a premium Smartphone from OnePlus is nothing short of impressive.

Two sides of the OnePlus 7

As OnePlus is a company people have become to expect a certain budget from, the company has taken a rather smart approach when it comes to their line, and that’s by starting a OnePlus 7 series of devices. OnePlus have announced the regular OnePlus 7, as a incremental update to the companies 6T, with the same flagship insides, but then they’ve put out all the stops for the companies new more premium flagship, the OnePlus 7 Pro. The company also has plans for a 5G version coming as well.

OnePlus 7 Pro

Whilst the regular OnePlus 7, which we’ll touch on later, will be enough for most, it’s clear where all the companies efforts have gone this year, the OnePlus 7 Pro. Even including far more expensive flagships from the likes of Samsung, it’s hard to deny the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t just fit in that crowd now, but even offers things those don’t. However, the comparison against Samsung isn’t a difficult one when you check the front design of the OnePlus 7 Pro. Whilst Samsung didn’t “invent” the idea of curved displays at the front, it’s hard not to think Samsung Galaxy when you look at the sides of the device. That’s definitely not a bad thing, don’t get us wrong, but it’s rather funny how this has become to be.

Specifications range from the expected, to the crazy. The expected Snapdragon 855 is of course included in the device, Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth 5, then we touch on two things, RAM and display. OnePlus always overkill when it comes to RAM, but the idea of up to 12GB of RAM on a Smartphone is definitely just one for the spec-sheet folk, but … guess it’s future proof? Where OnePlus have really pushed it out of the park is the display.

The OnePlus 7 Pro, like it’s predecessors features an OLED display, however where OnePlus have really gone above and beyond is in the refresh rate. Whilst this won’t be beating the 120Hz displays of Apple’s iPad Pro or Razer Phone, this phone does feature the largest currently possible refresh rate from an OLED Display, 90Hz. Whilst it may, initially, seem like you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the refresh rates, just remember that’s a 50% increase in frames rendered on the display, plus when you consider Android’s already fluid animations, thanks in part to OnePlus’s more minimal Oxygen OS skin on Android, the end result is great. The display is also much more higher end than normal on a OnePlus display, with. 3120 x 1440 display, though with a 6.67 inch, this isn’t a small device, no matter how many bezels they want to shrink.

Speaking of which, this is another area the OnePlus 7 Pro display goes above and beyond, as it’s most likely one of the highest screen to body ratios you’re going to find on a Smartphone. This is mostly thanks to the inclusion of a motorised hidden Camera at the top of the device, though, yes, it does still have a chin which hurts our OCD as it was so close, but still impressive none the less.

OnePlus certainly aren’t “the first” to do this, but the effect of a pop-up Camera, you can’t deny, is still pretty incredible. Whilst it is more moving parts, which does create a sense of fragility to the device, it does allow the OnePlus 7 Pro to be one of not many Smartphones today with no notch, with the top of the displays edge being barely enough for the earpiece. As always with this solutions, the question of durability over time is still in doubt, whether things can get caught inside the mechanism, time will tell on that.

The pop up Camera isn’t the only Camera on the OnePlus 7 Pro, the company has also adopted a triple Camera system at the back. Despite this, however, it’s still a OnePlus phone when it comes to the Camera, which is to say it’s decent, but nothing too special, even if it is 48MP. Camera focus naturally on zoom.

Price and Summary of OnePlus 7 Pro

Probably the only things you won’t find when it comes to the OnePlus 7 Pro, is any form of Water resistance, and Wireless Charging. Now, for us, the lack of Wireless Charging is the killer in this one, especially as Water resistance is rarely utilised, but the fact that this, and, maybe, not the best Camera, are the only things we can take away from the OnePlus 7 Pro as cons, it just shows how great this phone is.

Comes at a cost though, though still a lot less than competing flagships, starting at just £649, this will get you 128GB of Storage and 6GB of RAM, though you might as well realistically go for the £699 model, which will double storage to 256GB and give you 8GB of RAM. The top spec £799 model which gives you 12GB of RAM, which even that is cheaper, or just about in line, with most flagships base models.

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But, it doesn’t stop there, OnePlus also have the regular OnePlus 7;

This is the regular OnePlus 7, which will probably go down as one of quietest released flagships of 2019, likely due to the headline attention of the 7 Pro … suppose even we’re placing it low down on the list, yet this is our more favoured version.

The OnePlus 7 features the same Snapdragon 855, though backed up with 6 or  8GB of RAM, the same 48MP main Camera and just the one secondary Camera. The OnePlus 7 also features Stereo Speakers and the almost signature Teardrop notch up top.

The display on the regular OnePlus 7 is more inline with what you’d expect from the 6T, an OLED panel, regular 60Hz here, with a more 1080p line resolution. The display is also flat, not curved.

Other than that, though, the display and Camera, this is pretty much the same flagship in terms of internals and overall experience, which is actually pretty incredible considering this starts at £499. But, do remember, for that, you’re most likely going to have it mistaken for a 6T, though like the 6T, this is a great priced Smartphone.

OnePlus 7 is priced at £499 for 128GB and 6GB of RAM, with the option to upgrade to 256GB of Storage and 8GB of RAM for £549.

Apple updates the iPod touch with a faster processor, more storage and yes, a price hike!

Apple today made some quiet updates to their iPod touch line, the last remaining Apple iPod product. The iPod touch, in terms of design, hasn’t changed since it went 4 inch back with the 5th generation, and things sure haven’t changed in this one either, same design, ramped up internals.

To call this a minor update, would be an understatement, you can separate the changes in to two things … three, I guess, if you want to count the slight increase in price thanks to the changes. Probably the biggest indication that Apple really haven’t changed the design, you will still find a 3.5mm headphone jack on this, though we suppose it is an iPod.

A10 Fusion

The previous iPod touch was stuck on the Apple A8 processor, however, Apple have now updated the device with the A10 Fusion processor, which debuted first in the iPhone 7. What’s interesting about this, is it means the iPod touch is now the most powerful 4 inch iOS device, a position previously held by the iPhone SE. The continued question surrounding whether Apple support devices like the SE is almost back in to focus with the update to the iPod touch, though we still doubt Apple would drop support that close.

Apple promises 2X CPU, 3X Graphics and support for AR for the first time on the iPod touch, making it the lowest priced ARKit device as well.

Storage up to 256GB

Whilst you can buy the new iPod touch in a base 32GB configuration, and the same 128GB configuration is available as before, the iPod touch has FINALLY reached a storage option higher than the, almost ancient history, iPod classic which offered 160GB, you can now go all the way to 256GB on the new iPod touch.

It’ll cost you, in fact you’ll be approaching iPhone pricing, but, it’s important to remember what market the iPod touch is perfect for. The iPod touch is perfect for kids, those that just want a gaming iOS device, a useful beta dev kit and more, where an iPhone isn’t the best choice.

Price and Summary

£199 for 32GB

£299 for 128GB

£399 for 256GB

Whilst the iPod touch update definitely looks disappointing at best next to the myriad of fan mock-ups, despite how unreasonable they were. Though, even so, we were expecting a bit more of an upgrade. The update just seems to be one to keep it around, rather than one that shows much care, though it most likely will satisfy enough it’s market.

The iPod touch launches Friday and is available to order today, though some retailers may have it earlier.

EE will be the UK’s first 5G network, launching May 30th!

At a press conference in London, EE finally announced when it would be launching it’s all new 5G Network to the public, and you haven’t got long to wait at all. EE will beat Vodafone to the punch with its 5G launch, launching on Thursday 30th May!

EE claims the 5G service will run alongside the companies existing 4G network, and, unlike a certain US Carrier, it will not be throttling it’s 4G service to make its 5G suddenly look fast with a specialised branding **cough AT&T cough**.

Vodafone has previously made a commitment to launch its 5G network this coming July, so EE won’t be alone in the 5G race for long.

EE’s Marc Allera, announced that it will be working with its partners Qualcomm, Samsung, Google, LG, OnePlus, Oppo, HTC and Huawei, on the launch of its network.

6 cities next week, 16 by end of 2019

EE’s 5G network will naturally be limited at launch, just the 6 cities at launch, and it doesn’t go up by much as we end 2019, to just 16, but it’s still pretty impressive we’ve got it in the UK this quick.

EE has already previously confirmed to be carrying the 5G variant of the Galaxy S10, with more devices still to be announced for its network.

Unlike its 4G launch in 2012, EE will be sticking to just Android devices, especially as Apple has no plans to launch a 5G iPhone not only this year, but even 2020, due to the Qualcomm debacle.

So, EE next Thursday, Vodafone July 3rd, all eyes are on O2 and Three for their 5G launch. Time will tell.

Apple makes minor spec bump updates to MacBook Pro line!

Apple this week have launched a spec bump update to their MacBook Pro line with Touch Bar. Whilst the update won’t entirely fix user problems with the devices, such as the keyboard (more on that later) and the port array, it does show Apple’s slightly higher dedication at providing more timely updates to a Mac line, which has sure being lacking recently.

8th and 9th gen Intel CPUs and more!

Visibly, Apple have literally just spec bumped the MacBook Pro line with this update, but Apple can now promise a MacBook Pro with a Turbo Boost of up to 5GHz … providing it doesn’t thermal throttle with those heat producing Core i9s.

As far as the update that’s gone out, whilst Apple are now actively updating the Touch Bar MacBook Pro’s, it’s pretty crazy to state that Apple still haven’t updated the non-Touch Bar models, of which are £1249 and £1449, which to us is pretty ridiculous as they’re still on dual-core 7th gen, but nothing surprises us with Apple recently.

13 INCH UPDATES

For the lowest price 13 inch MacBook Pro, you’re looking at a very asking £1,749, which gets you a 2.4Ghz Quad-Core 8th Gen i5, 8GB 2133Mhz RAM, 256GB SSD and the Intel Iris 655. For the price, I find it quite irritating Apple couldn’t try to add some dedicated graphics, or just price them more in line.

Apple also offer an additional £1,949 configuration which ups the Storage to 512GB.

As far as how far you can push these things, you can spec out a 13 inch MacBook Pro to a pretty penny of just £3,399, by adding a 2.8GHz i7 option, 16GB max RAM, though the most cost will come from the SSD, an extra £1,000 for a 2TB SSD. It is worth noting, Apple do use NVME drives, so in some cases, it maybe possible to get an upgrade even to Storage post purchase.

15 INCH UPDATES

As always, the 15 inch MacBook Pro is the one that gets all the gubbins, including now 9th Generation Intel CPUs across the board, aside from the 8th gen on the 13 inch model, as well as the 15 inch MacBook Pro featuring dedicated AMD mobile Graphics. The base 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back £2,349 and will give you a 2.6Ghz 6-Core Intel Core i7 (4.5Ghz turbo), 16GB faster 2400Mhz DDR4 RAM, a fairly small for the price 256GB SSD and AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB GDDR5.

Apple also offer an additional £2,699 configuration which adds an 2.3Ghz 8-Core Intel Core i9 (4.8Ghz Turbo), 512GB SSD and a slightly faster AMD Radeon Pro 560X.

As far as how far you can push Apple’s most powerful MacBook Pro, you can take this thing all the way up to the region of £6,074 … no really. Again, the SSD is the biggest chunk of that as its £2,250 more just for a 4TB SSD, but you can also get either a Vega 16 with 4GB or a slightly faster Vega 20 both which have 4GB of HMB2 memory. As far as the Vega GPUs are concerned, for the MacBook Pro, it probably is worth going for just due to the more efficient HMB2 memory, SSDs though, as we mentioned with the 13-inch, can be post-purchased.

“New” Butterfly Keyboard

Easily one of the biggest criticisms of Apple’s latest MacBook Pro design, not to mention MacBook and MacBook Air, is most definitely the Keyboard design. Ever since the introduction of the infamous “butterfly keyboard”, it’s fair to say stating they’ve had a divided reception would be a compliment. However, Apple are sticking to their guns and continuing to distribute them, and, now we’re at the 4th generation of the Butterfly keys. Whilst Apple haven’t specified entirely what they’ve changed, they have mentioned that they’ve added a “new material”.

But, of course, this is the Internet, we don’t take their word for it, we wait for iFixit to tear it apart and then have a look. Whilst it’s true, Apple have used a new material for the keys, the change was described by iFixit as “subtle”, and doesn’t seem to be that much of a change in terms of keeping things out of the keys, and, naturally preventing issues with keys going forward.

One thing that is interesting, however, is that the new material Apple are using for the keys, are now available for all Mac laptops featuring a Butterfly keyboard variant, so it’s clear Apple’s confident, though that confidence slips when you realise, Apple’s new replacement program, which we’ll get to, also features these same models that have just been announced.

Updated Keyboard Service Program

It’s probably not too far from the truth to state that only Apple love the Butterfly keyboards. Ever since they launched on the 2012 MacBook, Apple have expanded where they are, and, as a result, we all have to suffer … or should we say “hve th suffr”, or some bugger up to that effect.

Despite their verbal confidence, despite an apology about this, Apple are now expanding their Keyboard Repair Program, now including ALL Macs featuring any form of Butterfly keyboard, this can be any generation of MacBook or MacBook Pro (including this latest) and the current generation MacBook Air. Apple also say this will be a free and speedy repair.

What’s intriguing about the Repair Program, is that Apple will apparently install the newer material upon repair, even if it’s from an older generation Butterfly keyboard. Time will tell, if the new Keyboard fits bill, and, if not, just how many times and how long Apple will offer these repairs, especially out of warranty, as these constant repair programs don’t leave confidence to purchasing one of these MacBooks.

What irritates us about this, is that the last generation MacBook Air, the last design for the MacBook Pro, and a collection of Macs prior, were regarded as having the best keyboards in the industry with no problems, so it’s rather insane that Apple are still struggling along with such a proven flawed design, but they’re committed to their madness and it’s clearly continuing.

Summary

Whilst it’s nice to see Apple actively updating their MacBook Pro line, what isn’t nice to see is that not only are they no longer price competitive after an update, which they used to be, but they’re also featuring arguably one of the worst keyboards to enter a Laptop, so for those reasons we’re seriously struggling to recommend these systems.

One positive to note, is that reviewers who are testing these have found minimum thermal throttling, so that’s something, even with the Core i9, but we stand by our convictions that these are not the great Computers they used to be.

Apple is rumoured to be launching a more Pro 16 inch variant of a MacBook Pro, completely redesigned, we just hope its price competitive, a beast in performance and has a decent keyboard … or even just the old one pleeeasse Apple!

Google BANS Huawei from Android … No really, they did!

Huawei are soon to release their newest flagship, the P30 Pro

To say this wasn’t a good day for Huawei would be a BIG understatement. Whilst Huawei has been widely criticised for many for, essentially spying on us all, caught on many occasions, this will be the first blow the company will actually feel as it seems Google themselves has had enough! Trouble is, Google kinda own the OS Huawei phones need right now … so, what’s next?

FYI: This also includes Honor branded Smartphones, in which Huawei own!

But I have a Huawei, what’s next?

If you have a Huawei Smartphone, don’t worry, it’s not going to suddenly just not work, blow up and go Note 7 on you. Your Huawei Smartphone will continue to function as intended, in fact it’s less about the here and now, and more about going forward where things get more worrying for Huawei.

Whilst Google’s threat involves everything Google surrounding Android, this won’t impact existing users, so you will still be able to use Google Play Services, though the future of how long that is, as well as updates, remain both unknown and completely ceased.

What have Google banned?

In a nutshell, Huawei. OK, there’s more to Android than Google’s end, and Huawei could always go the AOSP route to keep using Android, but of course it’s not as simple as that in their now more populated English regions. Google has not only banned Google Play Services from future Huawei devices, but the apps and updates of existing devices!

Google services and apps like Gmail, YouTube, Chrome will disappear from future Huawei phones, as for those with Huawei phones now, you will still be able to use the Play Store and get apps and services, so the impact of this won’t be as immediate for you, BUT this could change at any moment, and updates to the Android OS will NOT happen anymore to Huawei devices either.

Huawei had a lot to say about the ban, as well as the US ban which triggered the move, stating;

Huawei “is heavily dependent on U.S. semiconductor products and would be seriously crippled without supply of key U.S. components,” said Ryan Koontz, an analyst with Rosenblatt Securities Inc. The U.S. ban “may cause China to delay its 5G network build until the ban is lifted, having an impact on many global component suppliers”

Not just Google

Chipmakers have also joined the fray, and not the small ones, we’re talking Qualcomm, Broadcomm and Intel! Just think about that for a second, the worlds most growing Smartphone manufacturer unable to use Qualcomm, Broadcomm or Intel hardware, or run Android with Play Services, this is a seriously big deal.

Huawei is said to already have been stockpiling chips to keep itself going for at least three months, but time will tell how this goes. The company is naturally hoping that, in the mean time, they can strike a cord with the US and sort the mess out, though, let’s be fair, as politically motivated as this maybe, they’ve kinda brought this on themselves.

Summary

It’s unclear how this will pan out for Huawei going forward, especially considering the fact that an attack like this so large in impact, is naturally going to get quite the, let’s call it, “reaction” from the Chinese government.

All we do know, is this is going to seriously hurt Huawei, but also, it’s going to hurt the market, as Huawei definitely has woke up a fairly stale market!

However, let’s not forget, now you’ve got over the headline, Google is just complying with the US law, and Google’s comment certainly doesn’t make it sound like they’re too pleased either;

”We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications”

That certainly doesn’t sound like a positive win from Google. So, whilst it’s Google doing the banning, it’s the US Government who are really behind it.

UPDATE: It’s been confirmed that to get around this ban, Huawei are planning their own Mobile OS that would have the ability to run Android apps. This doesn’t fix everything, however, as the company will not be able to use US companies equipment, plus with the addition of ARM to that list. But, a compromise could be found, though it will be difficult going forward.

Google announce more budget-focused Pixel 3a

To say we saw these coming, is almost like saying ‘we think the sky is blue’, as let’s not forget, Google ain’t exactly been that great at keeping secrets. Just like the flagship, the new more budge focused Pixel 3a, leaked everywhere, but, now it’s here, we can finally evaluate just what you get for quite a decent price!

£399 for a Pixel camera alone is pretty nice.

One of the biggest problems with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL … other than a myriad of hardware problems, was of course the price, and remains so. Asking iPhone and Galaxy flagship prices for a Pixel Smartphone just isn’t plausible, but Google keep doing it anyway. It’s not even that Google’s phones are necessarily that bad, but not only are the iPhones and Galaxys of the world far more refined, they’re way more refined and definitely feel like the price.

If you were hoping for some drastic redesign for the Pixel 3a, versus the traditional Pixel 3, loosen those expectations right now … they look the same. In fact, the 3 and 3a, from a distance, are, almost, indistinguishable. The same 5.8 inch sized display, though be it slightly lower end OLED panel, but still nice to see OLED for this price point, and plastics instead of glass, but based on how awful the Pixel 3 devices are after maybe one touch, that’s a bigger plus than minus to us.

The Pixel 3a, also has a larger variant, the Pixel 3a XL, however no notch in sight, simply a 6.2 inch variant of the same Pixel 3a, which we’re actually a big fan of, for that reason.

Pixel 3a comes in Black, White and an awful pinky purple colour, whilst the larger Pixel 3a XL comes in just Black and White, and are available in 64GB for £399, or £469 respectively. Some retailers are even offering a free Chromebook with an order of a Pixel 3a, which is pretty incredible considering the already low price for these things.

Still a Pixel

There’s two things any Pixel owner will brag about when it comes to a Pixel vs any other Android phone, software and Camera, and what’s pretty incredible about the Pixel 3a, is it keeps both them things, and more;

  • 12 megapixel rear (same sensor) Camera with Google’s amazing HDR+
  • Night Sight, which for this price is incredible
  • 3 years of guaranteed software and security updates direct from Google
  • Clean, pure Android

The sacrifices

Of course it’s not all blue skies and rainbows, Google are selling a Pixel device at £399, it’s only natural to think, what gives. Well, quite a few things.

We’ve already mentioned the fully plastic design, but there’s more, that display is not Gorilla Glass protected, uses a lower grade OLED production model, and is still 1080 wide even on the XL model. The gap between the display and bezel are also considerably larger and more uneven, and whilst their is a front facing wide angle 8 megapixel front Camera, which is actually really good, there’s no secondary super wide like the Pixel 3 flagships.

Then there’s the real test, the processor. The fact that we had performance issues with a Snapdragon 845 equipped Pixel 3, worries us greatly when it comes to a Snapdragon 670 in a Pixel 3a, which itself is backed up by the same 4GB of RAM as it’s flagship cousin. We’re not gonna say this won’t go about the daily lives of any average consumer all fine, but, just expect the unexpected on Pixel devices (though we got this on the 3 as well), a bit of lag and stutter, and possible wait times, in many areas.

Summary

Despite it’s ups and downs, we are being obviously critical, though overall, we’re actually pretty impressed with the Pixel 3a. The bigger picture of where this device lives in the Smartphone market is pretty incredible, I mean, remember, this is cheaper than a OnePlus, offers clean Android experience with guaranteed off the shelf updates for 3 years, and one of the industries most loved Cameras for a really good price, so, as an overall package, we can’t complain too much about the Pixel 3a.

Microsoft previews upcoming Microsoft Edge for Mac release!

Alongside other announcements at Build 2019, Microsoft have announced finally Microsoft Edge’s new Chromium based upgrade, which with it brings a slew of new features, one of the big ones being availability for the first time on macOS.

This isn’t the first time you’ve been able to use a Microsoft browser on the Mac, in fact, those old schoolers out there will remember, back in the days of OS 9, all the way till Mac OS X Panther, Internet Explorer was the default browser on the Mac, until Apple produced Safari.

The newer Microsoft Edge has an improved engine, running off Chromium, meaning it can run Extensions (some of which not built initially for Edge), has a ton of privacy features as well as, when needed, Internet Explorer mode for those compatibility sites that still live in the past.

The newer Edge on Windows, is still in Canary and Beta stages, whereas on the Mac we’re still awaiting a build to try out, but sources are saying we should expect to see that fairly soon.

You can find out more about the newer version of Microsoft Edge right here!

Amazon could be in talks to launch High-Fidelity Music Streaming service by end of the year!

When it comes to High-Fidelity Music Streaming online, you’re pretty much stuck with using Tidal, at the moment, but that may be soon to change, as plans for Amazon to launch such a service could be entering fruition by the end of 2019.

What’s the difference?

The difference is the quality. For those out there, most consider audiophiles, who really appreciate their music by every note, traditional music streaming just isn’t enough. You’re probably used to, by now, hearing the many complaints by people who proclaim ‘it doesn’t sound as good as the CD / record’, which are rather typical complaints it comes to online streaming, which is compressed down to a size workable for slower speeds, or limited bandwidth, internet / storage devices.

A source close to Amazon’s project claims;

It’s a better bit rate, better than CD quality. Amazon is working on it as we speak – they’re currently scoping out how much catalog they can get from everyone and how they’ll ingest it

Normal vs HQ standards like MQA

Most streaming services, like Spotify or Apple Music, stream typically (for subscribers) around the 256kbps level, and may peak around 320 level. The reason why these standards are used, which has been the case since the dawn of the .mp3 file, is size. The size of the files of a 5 minute track, are small enough to deliver the same quality to users on limited data plans, and to be stored in much higher numbers of devices such as Music Players or Smartphones with only a set number of storage.

The problem with this, is quality. Whilst the general consumer, and even audiophiles with most music, won’t be able to discern much difference between these and the CD versions, it is true is when you get to music with a more of a pure intention that you start to notice sizeable differences in the quality being delivered to your ear.

A new standard that is moving music streaming forward is MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), which is currently being used with Tidal after a partnership was arranged for a streaming variant. The MQA standard can achieve a full 96Khz / 24 bit audio quality meaning you’ll get exactly the same audio quality from what is available from a physical audio format like a CD.

Amazon, however, is said to be working on their own HQ audio standard, which makes things very interesting to see what they can deliver and what the quality will be.

It is expected, Amazon will offer this as a more premium Tier on their Amazon Music service, which is now available for free (with ads) on any Alexa supporting device.