Aneesh Karuppur (V)
Some interesting things transpired in the tech world over the summer, and even more during the start of the school year.
Perhaps the most talked-about issue was the release of Apple’s new products in September, the most buzzy of which is the new set of iPhones. These include the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The feature everyone seems to be talking about are the new cameras; on the iPhone 11, there is now a second camera for enhanced zoom. On the iPhone 11 Pros, there are now three cameras: one for normal shots, one for closer ones, and one for an ultra-wide picture. The cameras also feature a new Night Mode, a concept likely pilfered from the previous “camera phone,” the Google Pixel. Night Mode uses software tools to brighten your image without making it grainy. It draws out details from all the black spots of your picture. Portrait mode has been updated, as has the camera app itself. It is now easier to look at and use. iPhones have long had 4K video (ultra-high-definition) abilities, and Apple is now advertising enhanced editing tools to go along with it. Finally, Apple is also selling “slofies” with the new batch of iPhones, which are essentially slow-mo selfie videos. I would consider the camera upgrades a reasonable selling point, but the “slofie” aspect is frankly not very compelling.
Other upgrades from last year’s phones include the improved glass casing and a faster chip that features more machine-learning capabilities. This means that the phone can better optimize various tasks and generally run faster during demanding tasks such as games and Schoology uploads. The new iPhones also come in some nice new colors, and have improved screens for quality and color accuracy.
All of this is well and good, but for me, it does not really add up to a compelling proposition. In fact, these last two years of iPhones have been fairly underwhelming. My recommendation is that, unless you have an iPhone 7 or older, or you really want the cool new camera features, this absurdly expensive update is not worth your money. Next year’s iPhones are rumored to have new designs and potentially 5G, the faster mobile data standard that some Android phones already have. For now, just upload the new iOS 13 on your existing phone and sit this update out.
Apple also announced some incremental upgrades in the Apple Watch Series 5, but I still recommend a Series 3 or a Series 4 if you can find one, as they have better value. Additionally, iPadOS on iPads can now better mimic a laptop operating system. To get a maximum bang for your buck, I recommend the regular iPad (or iPad Pro for artists) with a Logitech Crayon stylus (or an Apple Pencil for artists). These tablets should serve as good note-taking and art tools. Finally, Apple mildly updated their MacBook Pros by adding the TouchBar mini-touch screen, as well as some processor bumps. This last one gets a lukewarm recommendation from me—I am hoping that Apple will respond to recent leaps made by other manufacturers in the laptop industry and further improve their product.
Now that I have Apple’s news out of the way, let’s talk about Microsoft’s new line of Surface products. The Surface Laptop 3 is more of an incremental upgrade, but there is finally USB-C in the laptop. This port can connect to multiple displays, drives, or any other device through the use of a dongle instead of one individual port.
Microsoft also updated the Surface Pro 7 tablet with similar upgrades as the laptop. The new device here is the Surface Pro X, which is a clear iPad Pro copycat. It is more of a laptop than the Surface Pro 7 is, and comes with a harder keyboard. I still believe that a Dell XPS 2-in-1 would meet the needs of just about every Windows user except the extremely involved artist, so I don’t have a whole lot to recommend from Microsoft; they are charging Apple-level prices while Dell’s XPS’s are offering similar quality for significantly less money.
Finally, Samsung has announced its Galaxy Note 10 phones, which offer the best performance an Android phone can offer while still remaining svelte and making good use of the built in stylus (S-Pen). Personally, I am not a fan of Samsung devices, and the camera hole in the display is, in my opinion, a worse design than Apple’s notch. Regardless, the Note 10 is an impressive phone, and if you are willing to pay over a thousand dollars, it’s a solid buy.
That just about wraps it up for this issue’s tech column. I hope it helped you make more informed tech-buying decisions. Stay tuned for the next issue!