Monday, October 29, 2018

The iPhone Xs review from a iPhone 6 Plus user

I use this photo as my Twitter avatar for years! I pulled out my iPhone 3G from the jeans pocket, just as Steve Jobs pulled out the iPod nano from his jeans to demonstrate how small the nano was.
I am an iPhone user since the first iPhone was sold in Malaysia - the iPhone 3G. I was one of those fans who went for the midnight launch in KLCC. That was how much I wanted the iPhone after watching Steve Jobs’ keynote for many times over. Since then, I have upgraded to a iPhone 4, 5s and finally a 6 Plus and I have been using the 6 Plus for the longest time, around 4 years. The 6 Plus was a leap in the iPhone experience - simply because it transitioned into Big Screen. 

When the iPhone X was launched last year, I was really close to buying it. It was a new iPhone experience - full screen edge to edge, OLED screen (as opposed to 10 years of LCD), no Home button (new gesture-base navigation), Face ID vs Touch ID. It wasn’t the camera or improved photography that made me want the X because those functions already existed in iPhone 7 and 8. I didn’t upgrade then, so I don’t think the camera was a good enough reason. But the whole new experience of using a iPhone? Sign me up!
Can you imagine the lust I had for the X back then? I imagined myself buying the white version and finally being able to pull a new white iPhone X from my jeans pocket, just as the photo above. And finally getting to update my Twitter avatar. That would have been be a perfect time to leap into a new iPhone experience and the new photo would be the perfect homecoming. But alas!  I didn’t go with X simply because I read that physically, the width of the iPhone X is the same as the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6s, not the Plus model. That means, the keyboard will be smaller for a 6 Plus user. And some claimed that 6 Plus users made more error typing on the X phones because of the smaller size. This was a major deal breaker for me!
When the iPhone Xs Max was announced this year, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the iPhone that I wanted. Even though Apple announced a new Xs (which is the same size as the X, a no-go for me), and a slightly bigger Xr (it is smaller than a Max and it is a LCD screen), both of these phones felt like a compromise.
And so, I went with the Xs Max, 256GB and Space Grey. I wanted the white and the stainless steel silver band looks absolutely gorgeous. But seeing it in person, the shade of white Apple chose looked like dishwasher water white. Instead of the bright, pearl white that was the 3G, they went with a muted and more "dirtier" white. It really does look like dishwasher water. The gold was a tad too bling for me, although the muted gold colour is quite nice in person. Space Grey is safer.

I chose 256GB due to more high res photos and videos I expected to take with this new phone. I wouldn't mind 128GB, it would have served my need (a strong plus point for the Xr), but alas, 256GB is the only logical version.

So what do I think?

1. the OLED screen was freaking amazing!!! The colour was just so bright, so livid and so beautiful. Twitterrific in all black, true black, was just eye popping! Many a times, iPhone users prior to X envied Samsung OLED phones. Now, we could get the same experience. 

Full screen edge to edge made the iPhone feels totally like a new device. It's like Apple had a new device, totally different from what they have and it's not about being able to see more iMessage or more WhatsApp messages or more of your favourite website but just holding a screen with no bezels feel so different and awesome.

2. the speed - ok, I expected that this iPhone is fast since I am coming from a 6 Plus which lagged and crawled but I never expected it to be so fast and so smooth! When I multi task in the 6 Plus, whenever I switched from one app to the next and then back to the app, the earlier app have to be reloaded from scratch. For instance, I could be in Tapatalk and looking at a forum, I multi task out to answer a WhatsApp and then back to Tapatalk. Tapatalk kicked me out of the forum and I have to start all over from the main interface! The iPhone Xs has 4GB of RAM, a lot of memory for app to swap into and stayed there temporary while you jumped into another app.
I used iOS 12 Screen Recording, then used Siri Shortcuts to convert video to GIF  (sorry for the low res and lower frame rate. I don't think Blogger can take video)
Face ID was super fast. When I tried to login to a website, I can now tap to get my user id and password from Keychain or Lastpass, it doesn't matter which. Face ID immediately recognize me and grabbed the userid/password and filled up for me. Look at this screen recording, which btw, is a new cool feature in iOS 12. With Touch ID, there is a very small delay for the dialogue box to come up to instruct you to put your finger into the Touch ID. Then, there is a delay as you start to put your finger onto the home button. With Face ID, it was instantaneous because you are already looking at the screen!

3. the delightful experience - (1) and (2) above worked hand in hand to help with the experience of using the Xs Max. Everything was buttery smooth. You remember a time when using Apple products and things are just very zippy and fast (I remember seeing a Steve Jobs keynote where he was snapping his fingers and saying zippy)? Over the years of using the 6 Plus, I have resigned to a slow experience when using the phone. Tap on the Phone icon and there is a 0.1 second delay before it appear. Tap WhatsApp and there is a delay. Scrolling, multitasking, flipping from app to app, running workflow/shortcuts, pull down on notification, work on the notification on the spot, etc ... just so fast and very productive for a busy person. It's really night and day from the 6 Plus. I felt I have wasted productivity time in the past.
There's a few little touches that made this phone such a delight to use. When turning the volume button on and off, there is a slight haptic feedback. When you pull down to refresh or when you upvote on Reddit, you get a haptic feedback. When some apps support True Black and you turn that on and it feels like a different app, that was nice. When the phone rang and you picked up the phone and the ringtone volume starts to tone down (this feature is called "Attention Aware Features" in Face ID settings). Siri works much, much better because of the speed. Lots of little touches which I discovered made me glee like a child with a new toy. I was also relieved when two of the apps that I used often, CamCard and Scanner Pro, does not crash anymore due to the clunky camera in the 6 Plus.

4. the other good stuff - water resistant - no more fear of dropping into the pool or long-kang. Superb stereo speaker and recording video in stereo sound. The 2x camera but I think it's better you read Daring Fireball review - Portrait mode, computational photography. 

5. the bad - I only have a couple of complaints:
a. it is heavier as compared to the 6 Plus. I think the reason is due to the stainless steel band, which is heavier than aluminum. I also think the battery is thicker, maybe - or it has the wireless charging thingy which added the the weight.

b. the price - yes, it is the most expensive iPhones ever! Even with telco subsidy with 2 year contract, it is just too expensive for a phone. I rationalize by the fact that Apple phone can last for 4 years and so the ROI, if I take care of it well, will be recouped. 
P.S. there have been a few recommendations from the forum I frequented and the podcast I listened to on the Apple leather case. While it is not cheap at RM199, it wasn't terribly expensive either and so, I decided to trust the forum people and podcaster and bought the Saddle Brown leather case. Firstly, the leather feels really nice. The case fits the phone snugly and you feel assured that the phone is protected. The metal buttons on the case are anodized  in brown and they feel nice to press, not plasticky at all. And with leather, it will only aged gracefully and the longer you use, the better the leather will break and age. Let's see how it is one or two years later. The only problem is that, like all Apple cases (including the silicon ones), the bottom are exposed. I guess they have to expose it so that you can plug the lightning connector and that the speaker grille are free to blast out beautiful sounds.

Why not Xr?
Friends asked me this questions. Many reviews are touting Xr as being the best value for money iPhone of this generation. You get full screen experience, you get Face ID. It is fast because all the internals are the same as Xs (the same A12 Bionic chip, neural engine, bla) and it is much, much cheaper!

I knew all these before I bought the Max and here are my rationale: I'm not young and already have "lou fah" where I will need to use reading glasses to see properly. If this phone is going to last me another 4 years, by that time, my eye sight who have deteriorated further and I will not be able to enjoy OLED screen. I might as well enjoy that superb OLED screen now!

Secondly, I love taking photos of the kids. So, having good camera and beautiful pictures are what I want now. The Xs has the best camera in the phone, period. And I wanted that.

Friday, October 19, 2018

iPhone XS Max Pre Order - NOW!

It's available now... and surprise, surprise... it's kinda reasonable as well ...
this is the iPhone XS Max 256GB Plan
It's not the RM6,000 Retail price. The subsidy by the telco is quite good .. they subsidize $1,400.

And maxis also offered installment plan, so with a 24 month contract, I just needed to pay RM220/month with my current plan of RM$128/month call and data.

But... $220x24months is $5,280. Comparing to paying upfront of $4,658, it is more expensive by $622! The dilemma is whether I want to do installment or to do upfront payment.

I am also torn between white or space grey. While I am usually a space grey person, white will be in spirit of my first iPhone 3G which has a white back. I read elsewhere that the white is not pure white but looks like dishwasher white .. and I worry that it will turn yellow as time passed... so it is very likely I am sticking to black.


Ok, I compiled the prices:

XS - 64GB

XS - 256GB

XS - 512GB


XS Max - 64GB


XS Max - 256GB

XS Max - 512GB

XR  - 64GB

XR  - 128GB

XR  - 256GB

Pre Order iPhone XS and XS Max today @ 3.01pm!

If you are a maxis user, here is the pre-order page. There are some steps to get yourself ready, so check out the page early.

maxis' advertisement is already up....

This photo is taken by user will_chs from Lowyat forum. I believe it was taken in Jalan Ampang

I am excited... but I am not sure I can afford it at this moment. The price is really ridiculous.. I am eyeing the XS Max 256GB and I believe the price is almost RM$6,000K if buy direct from Apple. With telco subsidy, it could be RM$5K. At that price, you can buy a laptop or a MacBook or a super, duper powerful PC desktop that can play state of the art game... or a 38" LG monitor.

Perhaps a trade-in program?

UMobile already have a promotional page up:
Customers looking to get the iPhone XS will be able to purchase the 64GB model for RM3,799 (save RM1,200), 256GB for RM4,299 (save RM1,300) and RM512GB for RM5,299 (RM1,350) under the Unlimited Hero P99 postpaid plan.

For RM99 a month, customers will get unlimited data and calls to all networks. On top of that, they will also get 3GB roaming data and 30GB hotspot data.

I think that is a pretty reasonable price...

Come on, maxis... don't be greedy. Make me bite. I want to bite... please give me a damn good reason to do so!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Luckily, the LG UltraWide did not have Backlight Bleeding

A biggest fear of buying a new, expensive monitor is backlight bleeding. The way LCD monitors work is that the monitor screen is lighted from the back. There is a panel in front of the backlight that blocks the emitted light, thus creating different colour per pixel. A complete blockage produces the black colour. Normally, around the bezel, the panel have issue blocking the light. This is due to the pressure from the bezel itself or pressure created when you are pressing the screen too hard when moving the monitor. This causes the panel to fail to block the light completely and thus, it bleeds around the panel.

Fortunately, this LG 38” have good manufacturing process or a very good QC. 4 days after using it, I decided to test it for backlight bleed.

1/ Testing is a simple procedure of loading up a full screen black wallpaper.. or you can just go to this website and click a link to load up a black screen. 

2/ switch off your room light so tbe room is in darkness. This is so its easier for you to spot any inconsistency in the screen. 

3/ The result? Judge for yourself (the middle white dot are actually the mouse cursor):

I set the monitor brightness to 40, which is what I am using most of the time (for reading)

Surprisingly, though, the MacBook Pro 2017 from work, with a Retina display, demonstrate some degree of backlight bleed. See top left, bottom left and top right? There are traces of light that seems to bleed out of the corner, an indication that the front panel failed to block the white light completely. Hmmmm....

Setting Brightness to maximum.. and still looks ok! Phew!

I am pretty relieved that my monitor is free from backlight bleed... so far. I need to handle the screen tenderly. No pressure especially when moving the screen!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

LG UltraWide Monitor 38WK95C Review

I bought this today. It was not an impulse buy. I spent months researching and then two months of waiting for stock from LG Malaysia.

So beautiful and wide .. although I have to say it is not as sharp as a MacBook Retina display
Trust me, it is not easy to buy a modern monitor these days.

I have a few criteria:
  1. ultra wide screen regardless of size - can be 32" or 34" or even 34"
  2. it must be IPS screen, not TN or whatever the other one is called
  3. it must have USB-C to charge the MacBook Pro and also to extend the display of the MacBook
  4. it must have good speakers. Not the puny ones that some Dell monitor shipped with. Really good ones. I hate having to plug in the speaker jack from PC to monitor
  5. it should have G-Sync support
  6. bonus - it has nice legs that doesn't take up space
I have searched high and low. I looked for Asus, I looked at Dell and Alienware.. none of them ticked these checkboxes, particularly that USB-C one..

I realize that I really wanted the USB-C and good speakers. I don't really care about G-Sync because even though I still play games, I spent more time surfing, reading, watching video and listening to music on the PC.

The LG UltraWide 38WK95C Monitor met all of the criteria except the G-Sync.

Left column: USB-C (upstream), DisplayPort, HDMI x2. Right column: USB 3.0 x2 (downstream), headphone and power

About the USB-C

I will repeat this because not many YouTube videos or written reviews were very specific about the USB-C. This monitor DOES charge the 2017 MacBook Pro 13" via the USB-C cable that was provided by LG. It also extend the display of the MacBook, meaning it will be a secondary display to the Mac. In fact, it gives out 60W of power via the USB-C PD (Power Delivery). There you go. You can rest assure it works. Even the box has the words "Laptop charging" printed on it.

Photo of the back - USB C at the top for the Mac; below is DisplayPort to connect to the GTX1060 on the PC
Use the USB-C cable provided by LG. I don't think you can use the one provided by Apple
When I connect the USB-C to the Mac, even with Windows running, a dialog box pops up
The PC can be connected to the LG via DisplayPort. The moment I plug in the USB-C, a dialog box appear asking me that it detected a USB-C connection and whether I wanted to display it. If I pressed on the joystick at the bottom of the monitor, the screen will swap to macOS. If I leave it, it will time out and switch back to the PC. Even if it switched into the PC, the Mac continues to charge. I can switch to the Mac anytime by changing the Input selection in the monitor menu.

There is another interesting thing about the USB-C. If the monitor goes to sleep, for instance, you sleep the PC and so they monitor blanks out, the USB-C continues to charge the Mac. However, the USB 3.0 which has a 5V, 0.9A charge capability, will stop charging. Btw, you can connect and charge an  iPad or iPhone with the USB 3.0, strange that it couldn't charge an iPad Air.

I don't have a MacBook Pro 15", so I can't test but one video I saw in YouTube claimed that the 60W is able to charge the 15".

USB hub

There is a USB hub built into the back of the monitor - the USB-C cable served as an upstream port and the two blue-USB 3.0 port is the downstream port. What this means is that I can plug my mouse and keyboard into the USB 3.0 provided that:
1/ I plugged the USB-C into the MacBook. Then the keyboard+mouse can drive the MacBook.

2/ I attached the USB-C cable into a usb-C to usb-A adapter (that is included in the accessory box) and then plug this adapter into the PC's USB 3.0 port. Then the USB behind the monitor become a USB 3.0 hub and the keyboard+mouse can drive the PC.

This also means I must physically plug the USB-C cable into the Mac or a PC in order for the keyboard+mouse to drive the Mac or PC. My other option is to use software to simulate a KVM switch and LG does provide a software - they called it the Dual Controller. It simulates key and mouse press via tcpip. I am not a fan of this simulation as I believe there will be lag.

10Wx2 Bluetooth speakers

Shot taken from the bottom of the monitor. Notice those vents? This is just one side of the speaker. There are two of them.
There are two speakers at the bottom of the monitor, located at the air vent on the base of the screen. This is a 10W speaker and there are 2 of them! 10W speaker is loud - as loud as modern TV speakers.. if not better. LG said these speakers came with Rich Bass - the bass is really deep and strong. I am loving them very much! I also do not need additional cable to plug from the PC/Mac into the monitor. The USB-C itself does power graphics+sound from the Mac to the monitor. The DisplayPort (or HDMI) also power graphics+sound from the PC to the monitor.

Also, the speakers itself has Bluetooth capability, so I can cast sound from my iPhone or iPad into the speakers wireless across the room.

Mission Impossible from iTunes - full screen and no black bars!

This monitor is a 21:9 - meaning it is able to play wide screen video from edge to edge, without having the black bars. I played Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation from iTunes and it went edge to edge. Really, really nice.

The curve doesn't bother me much but you must sit a bit further from the monitor because it is just so huge. I do find myself having to move my head to one side if the window is there. I have to say though - if you are used to the super retina resolution from the MacBook Pro, you will find that this LG screen is not as sharp. It doesn't cramp a lot of pixels into a smaller inch. Really, it's just like any other monitor. I am just being spoiled by the MacBook Pro.

The box is nice

Another view of the box. Very nice design.
If you are looking for a UltraWide screen to improve your productivity (work with the Mac) and then yet have an option for fun (chill out with music or watch a 4k video or, even gaming with the PC), I think this is the right monitor for you. It's what I do. I connect the PC to the DisplayPort to relax. And when I need to work, I just plug the USB-C to the Mac and with a flick of the joystick, I could flip the screen to the Mac for work... well, except that I don't have a keyboard and mouse switch to connect to the Mac at this moment (I will have to look into this).. anyway, great monitor and I'd highly recommend it!

Follow up article - backlight bleeding? Thankfully, no.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Philips Hue in Malaysia

Have you ever thought of having smart lights in your home? You know, ability to adjust different intensity and colour? Or, if you are like me, you have Amazon Alexa, then ability to tell Alexa to set different mood for you room.

I have been doing some research on Philips Hue and this is what I found:
1/ If you have Echo Plus which has a built in home automation hub, Philips Hue lights work with Echo Plus, without needing to buy the Philips Hue hub. That means, you can just buy the lights and Alexa will be able to discover the bulbs.

2/ The Philips Hue bulb come with E27 screws. That's the Thomas Edison standard screw size E27. If you owned a Ikea standing lights pictured here, you are in luck because will have the E27 plug base. You can buy the Philips Hue directly from their official store in Lazada. I envy you!

This Ikea floor lamp has E27 Edison Srew light plug

E27 Edison Screw

3/ However, if you are like me, and have the smaller sized plug, you will have the E14 size. Normally, for E14, you will need a bulb that looks like a candle. And if you only have E14 size, you are shit out of luck. The only way to buy Philips Hue E14 is from UK and they only launched this size in 2017. Here is the link to buy from UK or this link.

I took down the light bulb from my wall lamp and saw that I have a E14 Edison Screw. Sad panda.
4/ Some people tell me that Philips is too expensive and I should consider Xiaomi Yeelight. But these are also only available for E27 size and not E14. Grrr....

I am not sure what other option I have. Maybe I should wait for a few years until E14 come to LazMall in Malaysia. We'll see.

Update: can you setup Philips Hue standalone with Amazon Echo Plus with Built in Hub without needing Philips Hue hub?

Feedback on DSA - DSwim Academy

It's raining, it's pouring.. and if there's thunder, usually the horn will blast and everyone gets out of the pool

My recent feedback which I have written to DSA - D Swim Academy, Malaysia. They prided themselves to be the best swimming academy in Malaysia because of their affiliation with AustSwim. AUSTSWIM is Australia’s national organisation for the Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety.
This is what I wrote:

I have two girls who are enrolled to DSA in One Club, Bandar Utama. I have two feedback which I'd like to write in formally.

1) Our girls classes are on (time and date redacted). At (time date), there are thunderstorm happening. We called DSA and was told that the previous class was already cancelled. When we asked about my kids class, the girl on the phone was not able to tell us for sure if it was cancelled or not. Instead, she insisted for us to come to One Club first to see if it rained. I feel that this creates inconvenience for parents as we have to drive all the way there and to try our luck to see whether the class is on or not. Why not let us have an exception and postpone since there is already thunder and impending rain?

2) Unlike the previous management, Advance Aquatic, DSA is not as flexible in terms of replacement classes. Sometimes, children get mild fever or flu and are not able to go for swimming lessons. However, DSA requires a doctor Medical Certificate in order for the postponement of classes. Often, when it comes to mild fever or flu, we don't go and see a doctor but will instead give them a dose of panadol or flu medicine which we have in stock. Unfortunately, we are not able to get any replacement if we don't let the girls go for a swim.

Advanced Aquatic allows parents to complete 8 times within 10 weeks which means that we get 2 times of flexibility. That allow parents to cater for unforeseen circumstances such as mild sickness or traveling. Unfortunately, DSA has no such flexibility and penalize their customers unnecessarily.

I trust the management of DSA will take into consideration the two feedback above and provide their customers with convenience and peace of mind.

Sometimes, a little bit of customer care goes a long way. Unfortunately, for some organization who thought they are too good in the market, they have forgotten how to put customers as priority and instead, they looked inward on their costing as the main guidance. Sad.

Thunderstorm, with sun...

Monday, October 01, 2018

Great ATP podcast on Apple Watch Series 4

I am a Apple Watch Series 3 owner, and I owned the Nike+ 42mm Apple Watch with the black sports band. I am very happy about the Watch and while I do like to think about the new Series 4, I think I will pass this round. Every ringgit saved will be used to contribute to the XS Max that I REALLY, REALLY wanted.

Anyway, I want to point out this excellent podcast by Marco Arment, John Siracusa and Casey Liss, Accidental Tech Podcast, where they talked about the Series 4 Watch, specifically describing which size you should choose. Marco, who is also a resident, fancy mechanical watch enthusiasts, talked about two things you should look out for when choosing the right size for your wrist. As Asians, we have smaller wrist and we are also pretty fashion conscious, so I thought his piece was excellent.

Go ahead and listen to this podcast…