Monday, September 14, 2015

On iPad Pro

It's no secret that tablets have taken the world by storm. 

When Steve Jobs famously unveiled the "magical" iPad for the first time in 2010, more than 5 years ago now, critics both marveled at its simplicity and spat at its ability. Nobody could have dreamed that it would make up almost all 10% of all PC sales and over 20% of all tablets sold. 

But it did. And even still the iPad continues to climb in popularity. 

So it's no secret that the best step for Apple was to develop a rival to the now ubiquitous Microsoft Surface. And they did. 

The iPad Pro is nothing short of a marvel. It packs a killer new A9X processing unit, which, graphics included, is worlds faster than the existing fastest iPad Air 2. With 4 GB of RAM for killer productivity, this is unlike anything we have seen in an iOS device before. What's even more impressive and exciting is a 12.9" display that runs iOS as beautifully and powerfully as iPad Pro. 

But what really makes the iPad Pro the ultimate surface killer isn't the specs, it isn't the display, and it isn't the name. Rather, it's the simplicity and continuity of the iPad line. 

The Pro remains a simple continuance of the iPad legacy. It's nothing more or less a giant iPad with the ability to connect to a killer folding keyboard and use a professional stylus. And yet, the iPad Pro is so different and so advanced. It's the most powerful iOS device to ever leave the factory. For many, it will become the only computer one would need. For most, it is the logical next step if you're already locked into a house or business full of Apple devices. 

For the company, this isn't a hard sell. It has the trusted legacy and beauty of previous products with the advancements of a device that it seems Apple was always dreaming of creating. 

Personally, I'm super excited to get my hands on what I believe to be the no-holds-barred future of computing. And unlike in 2010, I'm willing to bet most critics aren't so skeptical at such a statement. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tap Tap! The Apple Watch Review

7 A.M, I wake up to a gentle ringing and pick up my beautiful silver Apple Watch from the pseudo-charging cradle that lays beside my bed on a nightstand: it is time for another day with my latest toy and companion.

As I shower, watch on wrist, I shift through Bob Dylan and Joan Baez tracks while checking the weather and responding to late night texts I had missed. The watch, although quoted to be water resistant, is in actuality waterproof for short periods of time and ignorant to certain low water pressures.

On my drive to the office my watch vibrates with a reminder to call my friend David, who I easily ask Siri to call and I talk to from my watch. Is this real life? Sure is! The sound isn't tinny, it's not booming either, but just loud and clear enough to enjoy the conversation instead of dreading it.

Throughout the work day I receive dozens of light taps that don't annoy me the way my obnoxious Pebble did (vibrating so loud it would shake the table under my wrists). The Apple Watch notifies you with taps that almost feel human; light, gentle, graceful. Text from my parents. Text from my sister. Facebook like. Instagram like. Twitter mention. NYTimes update. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. This is what notifications should feel like. Most of the time I respond with Siri's brilliant built-in dictation, but I often just respond on my iPhone so as to look like less of a crazy person.

Dinner time, while the rest of my friends tap and swipe away at their smartphones, I sit and try to hold a conversation. I never noticed how truly distracted I am with my phone. It's scary, and it wasn't this way until a few years ago.

As I prepare for bed, after a long night of not-to-be-mentioned shenanigans, I plop my Apple Watch back onto the charger. No grace, due to the heavy buzz I'm feeling from the night. I remain connected through my MacBook Air, where, while enjoying Netflix, I continue to respond to friends until I pass out.

******

I have spent about a week with my Apple Watch. And just like life after MacBook, after iPhone, after Apple TV, after iPad, I cannot imagine life beforehand. What did I do without this wonderful assistant to my life? And more importantly, how is it that I only now see how our always-on lifestyle has crippled our social potential as humans?

Hardware

The Apple Watch retains the same form factor in three gorgeous collections: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. The sport, being the cheapest, lightest, and cleanest model (in my opinion) was the unit I chose for review and for keepsake. Specifically, I chose the 42 mm silver case with a white sport band. And, like most buyers, I'm readily awaiting my first extra black sport band.

It is worth noting that the Apple Watch, although coming in two case sizes, is probably best chosen in the 42 mm flavor. At the end of the day, the 38 mm model just isn't for most people. It's too small of a screen (despite being only 4 mm smaller!) and a case. But again, that is only my opinion and that of the bulk of buyers. When all's said and done, many people with smaller wrists (mainly women, according to the available data) will still flock to the smaller model.

And that is what is so wonderful about the Apple Watch: never before has Apple put out a device as personal as this. There are three cases, in two sizes per case, with two finishes per case collection. Apple Watch Sport comes in a silver case and a space grey (which is way way way too popular) casing, the Apple Watch comes in stainless steel and space black stainless steel, and the Apple Watch Edition comes in rose and yellow gold. There's really a lot to choose from.

And, it is very much worth noting that Apple Watch Sport is compatible with Apple Watch bands. So, when the summer comes to a close, I'm going to purchase a leather loop.

Apple Watch isn't thin like iPhone or MacBook or iPad- but it isn't supposed to be. It is meant to be large, defined, accessible, and noticeable. Yet, despite all of these wonderful qualities, it remains very light and very small compared to many watches I own. And personally, I think it is perfect.

Software

Apple Watch may be a beautiful device to gawk at and wear, but the true genius and beauty of it exists within the software on the display.

What makes the Apple Watch so cool, so easy to use, and so accessible is how seamlessly it unites with my iPhone to deliver notifications in a way that I can finally decide what is worth giving attention to, and what isn’t. The biggest problem I find myself having with my iPhone is that answering notifications is WAY more involved than just that. I surf the web. I check Facebook, my email, who I haven’t texted in a while. Sometimes I even play a game. All the while, I’m losing time with friends, family, coworkers, and the world around me. I am so connected to my phone, that I’m disconnected from everything around it, and I’m not sure I like that anymore.

The Watch also comes with a killer activity app. It tracks overall movement, how often I stand up (and tells me when it’s time to do so), and working out (excessive movement) throughout my day. Have I burned enough calories? Should I stand up and move around a bit? Did I reach my goal for the day? What is my heartrate? Apple Watch will let me know. For some reason, Apple Watch has been the encouragement I’ve needed to be more active, and for Apple, this is a huge selling point. There is not yet a competing device that does what Apple Watch can.

Communicating with friends is both fun and easier. Instead of being relegated to texting, voice calls, and FaceTime on iPhone, I’m able to now send picture messages, my heartbeat (which is both cool and creepy), and some crazy new emojis. I’ve felt a little strange using dictation, the most incredible feature on Apple Watch, to respond to texts. But overall, it makes my life just that much easier. Text comes in. Tap tap. Respond. Done. There’s little to it, and it keeps me away from my phone.

The last big thing I would like to touch upon on the software side is watchfaces. Apple seems to love marketing its products through the means of an overarching threesome of features. For Apple Watch, it was being a great timepiece, a new and useful communication device, and a killer activity tracker.

Here is what really bothers me; I love watches, I love how they look and how they function, and I think the face of the watch is a really special and distinctive feature of owning one. What I can’t understand, is why Apple has such a limited selection of digital and pseudo-analog faces on the watch, and yet will not allow third-party ones on its App Store.

While highly customizable, Apple Watch faces just don’t pop like I hoped they would. They’re actually too simple. But this is an easy fix, and when all’s said and done, this specific issue can be amended through software.

Conclusion

There's no doubt: Apple Watch keeps me grounded. It keeps me close, yet far from my iPhone. It keeps me dedicated to the world around me and the tasks at hand. It brings me back to reality in a way no other smartwatch ever has. It looks amazing while doing so. I love my Apple Watch, and while it might be too early for many people to buy one, it was the right time for me.

In the future, Apple should consider lowering the cost of the sport and watch models by $49. $349 is much more attractive and reasonable than $399, because ultimately most people won’t want to buy a 38 mm Apple Watch when the 42 mm is just right.

Should you buy an Apple Watch? Probably. Is it worth the investment? Definitely. Is there anything out there even close to it? Nope.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Apple Watch Impressions

For a few months now, tech nerds have been gawking at Apple's newest and most promising edition to its family of products, the Apple Watch. But, until today, most end consumers haven't seen one in person, tried one on, or tested its interface. Starting at 12:01 AM PST (3:01 AM EST for me), Apple allowed consumers to preorder their own Apple Watch for delivery originally slated for April 24, the watches have already sold out, with projected delivery times (CNN Money) for new orders ranging anywhere from June to even August. The world has spoken: we want an Apple Watch.

You might be wondering, however, what it is like to wear an Apple Watch, how easy it is to use, and how useful it really is. So was I, until this morning.

I travelled to the Kenwood Towne Center in upper-Cincinnati Ohio today to experience for myself what it is like to wear and use an Apple Watch.

Last night, at 3:01 AM, I mistakenly only made a try-on appointment through Apple, instead of preordering the watch outright. And why wouldn't I? What if the watch I had done months of research on, wasn't the device I truly wanted?

So, I hopped in my car, made it to the mall around 11:15 AM, and waited for only about 15 minutes before an excited and friendly Apple employee shook my hand, and brought me over to one of Apple's traditional wooden tables. But this wasn't the table I expected. Through a few clumsy attempts to make it into the hidden drawer using only a specialized iPhone, out popped a secret Apple-esque compartment with about a dozen Apple Watches inside. There were two sport models, one space grey and one white, and the rest were Apple Watch models with every band known to Applekind. I tried many of them out myself, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted the downright sexy space grey model with the black fluoroelastomer sport band.

And I tried it on. And I fell in love. The Apple Store employee shared my same affection for the watch, noting how he thought it was one of the only designs that would really go well with anything. That's just how I felt! How did he know?

Apple had actually begun a new set of training exercises to familiarize their employees with providing fashion advice to prepare for the unveiling of its newest product.

And rightfully so! I was incredibly impressed with the level of knowledge and confidence this employee had, even though you could tell I was one of the first customers he had assisted today.

Without hesitation, I asked if I could try a demo of the newest device.

It is worth noting that the 38 mm model is really a lot smaller than you would imagine. The 42 mm model, however, felt just right. Not too big, not too small. If Goldilocks designed a watch for herself, and also happened to have the techniques of Jonathan Ive, this is probably what she would have come up with.

Both Joshua Topolsky of Bloomberg Business and Nilay Patel of The Verge similarly noted that there was noticeable lagging in certain places throughout the new Apple Watch OS, but I couldn't find anything on the device that didn't flow smoothly as Apple's own commercials. That being said, they had a week with the product, I only had 30 minutes.

But those 30 minutes were incredible. Every piece of the Apple watch was meticulously designed, and if you held one in your hand, or wore it on your wrist, you would know just how well-built the device truly is.

And soon after, it was time to purchase a new Apple Watch for myself.

Hopefully Apple can produce watches faster, but either way, it looks as though it will be quite some time until I have one I can truly sit down and play with on my own terms.

The Apple Watch began pre-orders early this morning, April 10, and is expected to start shipping on April 24. Most stores do not yet carry Apple Watch Edition models for try-on appointments. Apple Watch starts at $349 for the Sport model and escalates to $17,000 for the edition. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Used Apple Pay Today

Today, for the first time, I used Apple Pay. It was at a McDonalds in the middle of the crossroads of America. The employee who rung me out didn't even know that I was able to use it there. 

It was splendid. 

I tapped the Passbook app, fidgeting while I excitedly tapped my shiny Gold Fifth Third debit card, and a little circle popped up. So, I held down on the TouchID button, and almost instantly, a little noise popped out of my iPhone's modest but powerful speaker, and the process was done. 

So much faster than pulling out a debit card, swiping (possibly unsuccessfully), entering my pin, fumbling the card back into my wallet, and then obtaining the receipt before enjoying my food. 

It wasn't totally perfect, but it was close. But also, it was really, really cool. 

This is the future, folks. This is how it is meant to be. I will never pay with a debit or credit card without wishing for Apple Pay ever again. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Case For the Modern Notebook Computer

It's now 2015: self-driving cars have become a fast-approaching reality, smartphones are in the hand of every man, woman, and child, and now the notebook computer is a sub 2 pound mobile powerhouse with capabilities beyond Stewart Cheifet's wildest dreams.

I remember 2011, when Steve Jobs showed off the then-latest MacBook Air models, which had no moving parts (albeit with small fan), was lighter than any notebook we had ever used, and just as powerful and serious as the other guy's powerful behemoth.

Steve (as we have come to realize always) had it right when he said the future of the notebook was instant-on, ultra-mobile, and ultra-powerful- but more importantly, he was correct when he said the future was a device that was emblematic of an iPad.

Even Microsoft has tried selling the same attributes of the current MacBook Air and the iPad with its now-ubiquitous Surface tablets.

The proof is in the pudding: consumers expect their notebook to be more like their tablet. And why shouldn't it be? Isn't it sensible that we should take what we learned from building a tablet to design the notebook of the future.

And that is just what Apple and Microsoft have done.

Let us take a quick look into what makes up a modern notebook computer before we dive into why such a thing is so needed in 2015.

Younger customers, primarily college students, are actually required to obtain machines with certain minimum specifications. The requirements do change every few years, but usually require the latest Intel chipset (i5, Core M, or higher), 4+ GB of RAM, and even an optical drive for certain programs. Why in the world do we still need an optical drive? Most software is digitally obtained and primarily digitally available. Luckily, there are external drives available for when you REALLY need it. But most students or even regular folks won't (/rant).

MOST people however, need a device that will "get them by" and allow them to at the very least perform word processing, develop and edit spreadsheets, browse the web (in all of its glory), play casual games, and enjoy various forms of media (Netflix, music streaming, photos).

Because of these very broad requirements, doesn't it just make sense if we develop one single platform for everyone and cut out the need for extreme variation? Choosing future notebooks becomes much easier when there is less variance.

I believe that is where Apple and Microsoft see the eventual convergence of the market: variance based on storage needs and that is where such variance terminates.

So again, what is the "modern" notebook look like?

It has the following things: a single internal design (CPU, RAM, battery life are all fixed), variant storage sizes, thin and light chassis, appropriate screen size, and affordable price tag. To fit all of these requirements, there can't be too much I/O and there also can't be too many added extras.

The answer? The new 2015 MacBook and the Surface Pro 3.

Both devices cut out unneeded I/O, remain very thin and lightweight, cut out extras such as optical drives and fingerprint scanners, and are very much affordable.

Apple and Microsoft KNOW what they are doing. What about the rest of the market, though? Where is Dell's ultramobile device? Lenovo has a good device, but there are too many ports and the weight is still too much of a compromise.

But consumers still have an issue: Apple and Microsoft are AFFORDABLE but not INEXPENSIVE. There is yet to be a really really good economy model of both the MacBook and Surface.

Thus, it is up to other manufacturers to develop similar devices but in unique designs to rival the price tag of both Apple and Microsoft.

The market is craving more ultraportables. Let's give them what they crave.

Or else the PC market will go from decline to disappearance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Smaller Notebook, Lighter Notebook, Thinner Notebook, Better Notebook?

It's an obvious trend in the current marketplace; if you build less, they will come. Less is more, now a days.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I Want an Apple Watch, And You Should Too



I know I'm not alone when I say I want an Apple Watch.
I really, really, REALLY want an Apple Watch.

Well, I really want the $10,000+ rose gold Apple Watch with the white sport strap, but I'm not sure I have the resources for that right now. So I'll probably just settle for the Apple Watch Sport, the lower end of the Apple luxury watch spectrum, slated to be rolling out on shelves on April 24; which, according to Apple, still counts as "Early 2015".

But, I don't think people really understand how big of a moment this is. Honestly, I don't think anyone understood the significance of Apple's Macintosh introduction in 1984, or the Powerbook in 1991, or the iMac in 1998, or the iPod in 2001, or the iPhone in 2007, or the...

I think you get my point.

The Apple Watch, although facing criticism from many (and much more praise from most), is yet another game changer for Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Just as Macintosh, Powerbook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad changed the way we live our lives every single day, the Apple Watch will also join the ranks.

But the watch isn't just a big move in the consumer electronics industry, it is also Apple's entry into the fashion world and proof that Apple can make luxury products in every sense of the word.

Apple is so sure of its relevance in the fashion industry, that it paid what amounts to almost $2.3MM just to place a 12-page spread on the product in Vogue.

What else do we now know about the Apple Watch?

It's the future.

We now live in a world where, very soon, we will be living the (no longer) fantasies of The Jetsons and Dick Tracy with the ability to easily communicate with our world and the people in it using a magic box strapped to our wrists. And, despite what many will tell you, the thing IS affordable.

I think we as a society are so spoiled by the abilities of our smartphones that we seem to forget that there is a world around us. I'm guilty of it too. So, what is the solution? Look at your incredible space-age futuristic magical screen toy less, of course. But you won't. You're an information junkie.

SOLUTION: make a device that delivers information that YOU want, and nothing else, let it be your companion, and make it easy to glance at and respond to notifications so that we can all get on with our lives.

Because, you know, the clock is ticking after all. The Apple Watch, if anything, is an investment on the time that matters to you. If you give a damn about living the lives your parents and grandparents did, unburdened by smartphones and screens on every wall and toaster, then consider a wearable such as the Apple Watch.

But more so, do it because you can hail an Uber from it, safely and easily handle money with it, share your heartbeat with it, change your music with it, monitor your health and activity with it, and most importantly, live your life with it. 

The Apple Watch is many things, but of these things that it happens to be, the damned thing isn't here yet. Unfortunately, we have another month before we can even preorder the device, let alone purchase it outright.

Which really sucks, because I really want an Apple Watch.

When will I get one, you ask? Only time will tell.

Quick Deets on the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Sport starts at $349 (38 mm), $399 (42 mm)
Apple Watch starts at $549 (38 mm) and goes up to $1049*
Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000 and goes up to $17,000*

*Price depends on configuration of strap with casing

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

UPDATED: Why I'm Studying Judaic Studies, and Why You Need to Let Me Live My Life

Let me preface this: there is nothing in life that stays stagnant. Everything changes. People change, perspectives change, situations change- we change every day. But you knew that... I don't think I did. Or at least, I didn't want to believe it. This article is for all those who keep asking me, taunting me, or annoying me for changing my major. I did not let anyone down. I shouldn't be thought of doing so. I'm living my life, doing what makes me happy, and taking a risk. I'm taking a risk not to be different, but to be happy and to be me. I don't want to live a mundane life, I want to be remembered and I want to have made an impact when I am gone. This is me. My name is Max Bleich.

I have always been interested in technology. This is a tech blog. At least, it was. I used to post here a lot. Now it's basically an archive I keep around for shits and giggles, and for telling my friends and family that I have a website because people think that is cool for some reason. But needless to say, I'm a tech geek. I geek out when I see new stuff from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Apple, Nintendo, Sony... did I mention Apple?

Anyways, I like to write, and I like to talk tech. But it has always been a hobby for me. Despite that, everyone in my life has always pushed me to try and pursue this odd fascination with consumer technology as a career. Again, this is my hobby. "Well, if you like it so much, make a living off it! You could make a fortune!" "But, that's not what I-" "You can be so wealthy!" "Sigh." Yeah, I know you know where this is going, and I do too. I lived this. For a long time, I was convinced that I should be a Computer Engineer, no a Computer Programmer! "How about an Electrical Engineer?" "You're good at math and science, why not pursue it?"

A valid point! Why, if you're good at something, don't you pursue it? Here's what I ask: where is the satisfaction, in doing something, just because you're good at it? This is where my own deep opinions of life and happiness come in. I don't get a high from math and science. I don't. I don't even get a high from talking about technology. I enjoy it, but it doesn't give me the satisfaction I need.

While I was in high school, I was heavily involved in BBYO, a teen-led Jewish youth movement. BBYO used to stand for B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. For some reason, in 2002, BBYO split from B'nai B'rith International, and became its own organization. For four years, this was my life. I owe so much to BBYO. This organization made me the man I am today, prepared me for college more than high school ever could, and most importantly, inspired me to be a leader.

But more importantly, BBYO took me on a trip that changed my life, The March of the Living. This trip changed everything for me. Basically, I went to Poland during Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and walked through Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek- three of the most disgusting places I have ever seen in my life. Majdanek sticks with me the most. That's probably because Majdanek has a bowl which contains the ashes of 60,000+ Jews who were gassed and burned  by the Nazis, covered by a dome, which is of a size I could not possibly describe. This Mausoleum looked into my soul, and during the moment I stared into the ashes, I knew from that moment I couldn't be the engineer I had thought I was supposed to be going into college at the University of Cincinnati in the fall. Something in me changed. A switch clicked. I couldn't do what I was supposed to do; what everyone expected me to do. The next week we spent in Israel, the homeland. The most beautiful place I have ever seen. The land of creation. I was home. I was in love.

But, because I didn't want to disappoint my family and friends, I stuck with the engineering. For a month. I was massively unhappy. So I changed directions. I completely changed directions. My heart is not with creation of machines, it is with people: the Jewish people. With life. With the love of my life, Israel. My belonging, my role on this planet earth, is to be an advocate, a worker, and employee, of the Jewish people. And, no shit, engineering was not going to bring me there.

So I changed. Double major Judaic Studies and Organizational Leadership. This is my path. This is where I want to be, and this is where I wish to go.

And that's okay. There are two places in life you can go really (if you're privileged enough): you can either choose a degree and a job that is likely secure, or you can go after your dreams. You can find something you love, and do it too.

I still don't know where I'll be heading with Judaic Studies and Organizational Leadership. Who knows? I could go to grad school for something totally different. I could go to law school. But at least I know I'll always have the Jewish people and my Jewish identity in my heart and mind.

Ralph Ellison's nameless character in his classic novel Invisible Man is perhaps the only thing that correctly describes how I feel and why I did this:
“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” 
But another quote comes to mind as well:
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
I'm still trying to find who I am. But I'm a college student, so that's okay. Maybe I'll never know. But one thing I do know, is that I know more about myself now then I ever did.

One more thing...

I'm working on a project that will re-launch my consumer technology radio show with a co-host that is yet to be named. Stay tuned for more!

UPDATE: I am now a Judaic Studies, English Literature (Rhetoric & Professional Writing) double major with a minor in Business Analytics. Hope this one sticks!