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iPhone SE, MacBook Pro, iPad Pro keyboard, and more

Well, we may all be in lockdown, but Apple has been busy, and we're here to tell you about it. Please remember we are working by remote control and are here to help you in these strange times.


Catalina: Here's our current guidance about macOS Catalina: At this point, most people using it aren't having significant issues, so it's probably safe to upgrade if you want to and haven't yet. Just make sure you have a full Time Machine backup first. With that said, we're not crazy about Catalina; it still has its share of bugs, especially around Mail and Contacts. And, if you have older software, Catalina may render it incompatible. Catalina also offers very little that Mojave doesn't, so if you're disposed to hold off, then do so. But if you're still on High Sierra or earlier, then you might want to go ahead and upgrade in order to get current, but only if you have a solid state drive in your computer; otherwise it will slow down dramatically. As always, if you have questions, please ask!


iPhone SE: Apple has just released an all-new iPhone SE, and those hoping for a tiny new iPhone are bound to be disappointed. However, those looking for a modern iPhone at a bargain price should be delighted. At $399, it's an iPhone 11 in the body of an iPhone 8 (which still makes it the smallest iPhone available). Compared with an iPhone 11, it's got a much smaller screen, Touch ID rather than Face ID (which might be a good thing in the mask-wearing era), worse battery life, and no wide-angle lens. But the camera the iPhone SE does have is very good, and the phone is speedy, with the same current-generation computing technology that the 11 and 11 Pro have. It might not be a luxury model, but I think it probably represents one of Apple's best values across all their products.

New Mac laptops with better keyboards: For those of you old enough to remember New Coke, in the 80's, you'll recall that the new formulation was widely disliked, and soon after, the company introduced Coke Classic, which was just the same old Coke, except now it was wildly popular, because people didn't appreciate what they had until it was taken away from them.

So it is with Apple's keyboards. In the interest of shaving a millimeter or so of thickness off their laptops, Apple invented a new style of keyboard with a "butterfly" key switch mechanism to replace their tried and true "scissor" mechanism, which required greater height. This new butterfly keyboard first appeared on the 12-inch MacBook in 2015, then on the MacBook Pro redesign in 2016, and finally the MacBook Air redesign in 2018.

Though I personally never had a problem, a great many hated these keyboards for their hard landing, shallow travel, and their loudness. Worse yet, these keyboards were notoriously unreliable, as a small bit of dust could make a key malfunction. Repairing the keyboard cost $700, and eventually Apple agreed to replace them for free if they became defective.

Last year, Apple returned to the more reliable "scissor" mechanism in the 16-inch MacBook Pro model. Now, newly updated versions of the MacBook Air (which we covered last month) and 13-inch MacBook Pro banish the flaky butterfly keyboard once and for all, and there has been much rejoicing in the land. Sometimes you don't appreciate what you have until you lose it and get it back.


New MacBook Pro: Apple's refresh of their 16-inch MacBook Pro last year was the first to return to the scissor keyboard, and they have now followed suit with the 13-inch model, on the heels of their MacBook Air update last month. If you're leaning towards the Pro rather than the Air -- certainly worth considering since it's not much heavier, larger, or more expensive than a high-end Air -- you should be considering the four-port Pro model, as that has the latest and most capable computing technology. (The two-port Pro, still inexplicably in the lineup, is not a bad machine per se, but it's also a bit pointless, as it seems largely redundant with the Air. If you want everyday computing in a slightly smaller package, get an Air; if you want power, get a four-port Pro.)

The base configuration for the four-port MacBook Pro ($1,799) is a solid choice, and only $150 more than a well-configured Air; for better performance, consider getting the build-to-order Core i7 processor option, and potentially more memory or storage if you have the need for them. If you have questions, ask us!

Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro: Apple has released a new iPad Pro keyboard case called Magic Keyboard, compatible with iPad Pros that have Face ID. It's outrageously priced at $299 for the 11” model and $349 for the 12.9” model. It's clearly intended to give the iPad the feel of a proper laptop, as it provides a trackpad, a rigid base, and solid keys. I had the opportunity to use one, and I can certainly say it's a quality product that does what it's intended to, and it's a significant improvement over previous iPad keyboards. The presence of the trackpad is a little odd, given that the iPad already has a touch screen interface, but, as a Mac laptop user, it made me feel at home.

When a 12.9" iPad Pro is closed inside the Magic Keyboard case, the weight is actually similar to a Mac laptop; it feels heavy. And the price is similar, too. If what you want is a laptop that runs iPadOS rather than macOS, then the Magic Keyboard may make sense for you -- and it gives you the opportunity to quickly detach the magnetically attached iPad to use as a handheld device, which a Mac can't offer. Apart from its price, I have no criticisms of the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, other than that it's useless for apps that don't support the iPad in a horizontal rotation (I'm looking at you, Instagram).


That's it for this newsletter -- please let us know how you're doing, and how you're using your Macs, iPhone, and iPads!

(May 2020)

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