Everything new in iOS 10: New ways to communicate in Messages, Lock Screen Widgets, redesigned Music, Siri apps and much more

iOS 10 is now available to the public for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Most iOS 9 devices can update to iOS 9, but what benefits are there to running Software Update? A lot actually. Apple has redesigned many of the core apps like Music and News, added third-party app integration into Siri, automatic people and object tagging in Photos, a whole new Lock Screen and much more. They’ve also updated Messages with new animated bubble effects, stickers, iMessage apps, Digital Touch, handwriting input and new emoji features.

This just scratches the surface. There’s a lot of new stuff to explore — read our walkthrough of the best new features and enhancements in iOS 10 after the break …

If you don’t know how to update, check out this guide. iOS 10 is compatible with most devices that run iOS 9 so the vast majority of people will be able to upgrade right now.

iOS 10 runs on iPhone 5 or later, iPad Mini or later and the sixth-generation iPod touch. Obviously, the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus come preinstalled with iOS 10 when they launch on Friday.

NEW FEATURES AND ENHANCEMENTS IN IOS 10

Revamped Messages App With Larger Emoji, Digital Touch, Bubble Effects, iMessages Apps and More

Messages has received a big upgrade in iOS 10 with many new features. Messages includes new ways to express your meaning with a handwriting scratchpad, bubble and screen effects to visually adorn your messages with animations, Apple Watch-esque Digital Touch sketches and send quick reactions using Tapbacks.

Send quick notes or thoughtful messages with the new handwriting mode. On iPhone, turn your device to landscape to activate the handwriting scratchpad and use your finger like a pen to write out quick messages. The same feature is available with a button press on the onscreen keyboard.

Bubble and screen effects add an extra dimension to your communications beyond lines of text. Bubble effects add different types of emphasis with various hard-hitting and gentle animations. For example, send an emotional message with a “gentle” effect which oozes gradually into frame. For a more hard-hitting message, use the “slam” effect and other bubbles literally bounce out of the way.

To activate bubble effects, long-press on the circular Send button. Tap on each button to get a preview and then tap again to confirm. The last option is called Invisible Ink. Invisible Ink messages are obscured when sent with a pixellated blur effect. The recipient has to drag their finger over the message to blow away the dust and reveal what it says. Preview these effects in the video below:

You can also do five different screen effects which apply to the whole screen, not just the individual bubble. Choose from balloons, confetti, fireworks, a laser light show or a shooting star. Select these set of effects using the buttons at the top of the screen on the bubble effects view. Bubble and screen effects display to recipients using iPhone or iPad on iOS 10 and Apple Watch with watchOS 3.

Another type of new communication in iOS 10 Messages is Digital Touch. Ported from Apple Watch, Digital Touch on iOS lets users send quick sequences of taps, little sketches and even “your” heartbeat. Press the little disclosure triangle next to the Messages textfield and select the middle icon, the Digital Touch Logo. This opens a canvas with different painting colors and a quick cheat sheet of various gestures. Tap quickly on the display to send taps or drag around to sketch. Hold down two fingers to send a pulsing heart. This should all be very familiar to Apple Watch users as the gestures are identical.

Unlike the Watch, however, the iPhone does not have a heart rate sensor. When you send a Digital Touch heartbeat on iPhone, there is nothing really special about it. It’s a fixed animation and not affected by your actual heart rate. You can also send a ‘heartbreak’ by pulling down your two fingers after the heart appears, a kiss (tap with two fingers) and a fireball (press with one finger).

All of these sketches and little ditty can be superimposed on top of a photo or video too, you are not limited to black backgrounds. Use the camera button to snap a quick selfie or shoot a video before or during a Digital Touch drawing.

Tapbacks are quick Facebook-like reactions to messages sent by others. Rather than reply a generic ‘okay’ or ‘agree’, long-press on a bubble to send an instant Tapback like a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. These little stamps annotate the bubble for all conversation participants and are great if you are on the move and don’t wait to tap out a complete reply. Recipients receive notifications about Tapbacks just like any normal message.

Everyone loves emoji and iOS 10 brings several enhancements in the emoji department. As well as 100 new emoji available, if you send up to three emojis as a standalone message, they will now appear 3x larger in the Messages app. A simple emoji smiley reply is more impactful with iOS 10 — it’s bigger.

The QuickType bar above the keyboard will also suggest emoji replacements for a lot of common strings. Moreover, if you write something in the Messages input field and then swap to the Emoji keyboard, the “Emojify” mode is activated. This highlights ‘emojifiable’ words in orange. Tapping instantly replaces the text with a suitable graphical emoji. It’s fun to do but the real-world practicality is probably limited. Still, if you are stuck in a runt and can’t find an emoji for your message … let iOS help you.

With iOS 10, Apple is trying to make the Messages app a platform of its own. It now features its own, dedicated, App Store for iMessage apps. This will include apps that replace the keyboard and offer new functionality as well as interactive apps that can be shared amongst all the people in the conversation. Apple has demoed a restaurant booking app where each individual adds to a shared order that appears as a bubble in the transcript. (Apple is also boosting the integration of the web itself into Messages; links will now display as rich previews with thumbnail art and page titles, rather than just a bare URL.)

View the available iMessages apps by pressing the third button in the input row. This shows a dedicated drawer of apps built for iMessage which can be re-arranged just like the normal iOS Home Screen. Press the ‘+’ button to view the Store to download iMessage apps. One type of iMessage app that will be very popular is stickers.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-10-38-47-pm

Stickers are kind of like third-party emoji, but better. Stickers are usually static images, but they don’t have to be: stickers can be animated or even dynamically generated by an iMessage app. They are more than just a photo: they can be peeled off the sticker set and placed anywhere in an iMessage conversation. This means they can dropped standalone, on top of text, on top of parts of text, on top of photos or even on top of other stickers. The recipient will see the sticker in exactly the same place so nothing is lost in transit.

Tap on a sticker to send it as a standalone image. To peel off a sticker, long-press on it and drag it around. Whilst dragging, use another finger to rotate or zoom the sticker up to a larger size. Recently-used stickers appear in the Recents panel, for quick access. To view details about the stickers placed, long press on a bubble and select Sticker Details. This will show the originating app for a sticker and the person that placed them.

By default, iMessage apps appear in a compact view which is about the size of the system keyboard. In this presentation, swipe left and right to swap between iMessage apps and sticker packs. iMessage app, including stickers, also support full-size presentation which makes it easier to see more content at a time. Swipe to a particular sticker pack and then press the bottom-right up arrow to expand into full-screen view. Peeling a sticker whilst full screen will cause the iMessage app to automatically collapse into the compact presentation style so you can place the sticker on a bubble.

iOS 10 iMessage is packed with new stuff but note that much of the new stuff will require the people you are talking to also have iOS 10. Bubble and screen effects will not show on iOS 9 or older software, instead showing lame text messages like “Sent with ‘Slam’ effect”. Similarly, stickers will show up on older software but only as naive image attachments — the full features of stickers will only be available to iOS 10 users.

New Lock Screen Widgets, Today View And Rich Notifications

At a system level, a lot has changed with iOS 10. Slide to unlock is dead as part of an entirely new Lock Screen design. If you are using an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7, the iPhone will automatically wake the screen when you lift the device up. If not, a tap on the Home Button makes the iPhone come alive. To actually unlock the phone and get to the Home Screen, press the Home Button once. Don’t press the Home Button and explore the new Lock Screen features:

The Lock Screen is now split into three sections, the middle is the default and looks mostly the same displaying the time, date, wallpaper and any new notifications. Notifications have been redesigned as floating distinct bubbles and can feature real-time information, photos, videos and more. A sports app could update a single banner notification with the latest scores as the game is being played, rather than pushing one alert for every action.

All of the system apps make use of the new notification features; in addition to Quick Reply, a 3D Touch gesture on the banner will reveal a transcript of the conversation. You can actually chat from the lock screen now! A 3D Touch action reveals buttons and a detailed expanded content view for any third-party app that updates to add this integration.

From the lock screen, swipe to the right to reveal the quick access Camera. This used to be a vertical swipe, now it’s a horizontal one. Back to centre, swipe to the left to reveal the Today view. iOS 10 enables live updating interactive widgets to be accessible from the lock screen as well as Spotlight Search. Sensitive operations will only be revealed once the device is authenticated, with a Touch ID fingerprint or passcode. Apple has added several new widgets of its own too including Upcoming Destinations, frequently contacted people in Mail, and Activity rings for Apple Watch wearers. Widgets are now standardized with compact and expanded sizes, tap to Show More. Apple has obviously updated all of its stock widgets (like Weather or Stocks) to behave properly in the new paradigm.

Like notifications, widgets are also more bubbly and feature white backgrounds. This will cause some friction as developers have been building against a dark background Today view interface for some time; it will take months before apps update to respect the iOS 10 design guidelines.

Redesigned Control Center

Yet again, Control Center has been reworked. This time, the quick drawer has actually been segmented into separate panes. A “Now Playing” panel deals with everything related to music and media playback, the other holds other generic iPhone controls like brightness, WiFi toggles and such.

The iPhone controls settings, the first page, is much the same as before with toggles along the top row and quick access to flashlight, timer, calculator and camera running along the bottom. Night Shift has its own dedicated row now, whilst AirPlay Mirroring and AirDrop share a row.

Whilst it looks much the same as iOS 9, it has been boosted by 3D Touch shortcuts on the quick launch app. You can use 3D Touch to set the flashlight at low, medium or high intensity. You can 3D Touch the timer to start it instantly for an hour, twenty minutes, five minutes or one minute. Jump into a specific shooting mode by firmly pressing the Camera icon. Even the Calculator icon in Control Center will let you copy the last result with a 3D Touch gesture.

The second page of Control Center is Now Playing. This houses controls for music, like play/pause as well as album art and a separate AirPlay panel. This AirPlay panel is not to be confused with the Mirroring options: this is just for managing audio output across wireless speakers.

Automatic Face Recognition And Object Detection Photos

Apple is adding a lot of intelligence and machine learning algorithms to Photos with iOS 10. This includes automatic face recognition of people in your photo library, just like Photos on macOS. This means that full Faces support is available to iPhone and iPad users for the first time. After the system has indexed all your photos (this requires the iPhone or iPad to be connected to power), detected people will be shown in the special Faces album.

Tap on a person to see all the photos the app has tagged them in. You can name the person and drag them into a bar of Favorites to organize them. Apple uses machine learning algorithms to classify the faces as best it can but sometimes it will may mistakes. Delete a photo from a Faces album to untag it. After the initial photo library is indexed, new photos are indexed as they are taken and added to the appropriate collections. With iOS 10, Face albums are not synced between devices so every device manages its own library. Apple has hinted that Faces may sync in future software versions.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-10-03

As well as Faces, Apple has also added advanced object recognition. This means that all your photos are also tagged based on their content. It is now possible to find pictures of dogs, animals, weddings, beaches, sunsets and many other things without any manual tagging or sorting. Unlike Faces, this metadata is not exposed in the Albums view. Instead, use the Search field and type in something. The object tagging is classified as a “Category”.

For example, search Dogs to find all the images the Photos app can find of dogs. There are over four thousand categories in total, many very obtuse. If you want to get a feeling for the kinds of objects and scenes the Photos app can detect, search the letter “a” in the box. It will show all the categories that begin with that letter. Ignore the other events and results in the search, focus only on the items that are listed as a “Category”. Repeat for the entire alphabet to see everything the Photos app has found in your library.

All of this intelligence happens locally on the device; your photos are never sent to a server in the sky for processing. This means the initial indexing may take some time (and it only happens whilst the iPhone or iPad is charging, to preserve power). Patience is a virtue here: when you first upgrade to iOS 10 it is unlikely to have processed all your pictures for people and objects.

Photos now includes a dedicated Places album which presents your library as a map view. The new Memories tab creates dynamic albums based on computer intelligence and attempts to intelligently group events based on location, time and the people who are in them. Memories are generated continuously as new groupings are found and the photo library grows. Tap into a memory thumbnail to view all the photos in the collection. The Photos app goes one step further and offers automatic slideshow movies of all the images in a collection. These are generated in real time and can be customized with different themes or length. It’s like something you could create in iMovie but integrated into the Photos app. If you want to preserve a movie, save it out as its own item. These can then be shared with others to commemorate the memories.

Brand New Home App For Controlling HomeKit Accessories

The Home app is entirely new and offers complete control over all your HomeKit accessories in the home. Configure Rooms, Zones and more from Apple’s first-party app. It shows little cards for each accessory and you can set favorites to display on the main screen. Tap on lights to quickly flick them on and off. Press firmly with 3D Touch to open the detail screen for an accessory; with lights, this opens a slider to select precisely how bright or how dim. If you have multicolored options, like the Hue White & Color Bulbs, a color wheel will display. For rooms, you can choose your own background wallpaper to quickly identify one from another.

The Home app is also where you set up automation. With a dormant tvOS 3 Apple TV or iOS 10 iPad that stays in the home which acts as a hub, users can set up triggers and rules to control their HomeKit accessories automatically. For instance, when the sun is rising, turn off the lights and switch on the fan. iOS 10 also enables a lot of new accessory types such as cameras and doorbells. The Home app takes advantage of the new rich notifications in iOS 10 too; you’ll be able to view your home security camera from the notification banner on the lock screen.

I really like the summary view on the Home tab; a few lines of text that show the most important information about the house upfront. On a per accessory basis, you can filter what messages display here so it only shows what is most relevant to you.

The Home app is a great addition to iOS, an Apple-sanctioned controller for your HomeKit life that doesn’t require voice activation via Siri. One thing that the Apple Home app can do that third-party apps can’t is integration with Control Center. With HomeKit accessories registered, Control Center will add a third pane after Now Playing. This gives quick access to favorite accessories and scenes, so you don’t have to dig into the iOS Home Screen just to flick a lamp off. The Control Center pane appears once you have configured at least one HomeKit accessory.

Simplified Music App, Apple Music Gains Lyrics, Discovery Mixes

The iOS 8.4 / iOS 9 Music app received a lot of criticism for being complicated and fiddly. Apple has taken that feedback to heart and is back with a whole new design for the application. The app now features clearer navigation. The first tab is your Library. This lists all the music that is “yours”, whether downloaded or just added from Apple Music. Tap the big Playlists item to view Playlists. Tap Artists to see your music filtered by singer, and so on. Albums display with bigger artwork and bigger touch targets, two per row. The default list of buttons can be customized using the Edit button.

Note that Apple has removed the dynamic tinting and translucency effects that flooded the iOS 9 interface. Everything is coated in either white, black and pink. Tap on a song to start playback and notice the new Now Playing view. Transport controls are visible alongside volume, AirPlay, song progress and artist/name labels. (Quick tip: tap the Album name to jump to that album in the app) The view is a transient popover and can be pulled downwards and out of sight at any time.

Pull the other way and reveal Shuffle, Repeat and Up Next options. It’s slightly hidden but it’s a lot cleaner than the iOS 9 Up Next experience which was hidden behind modal views. You can rearrange items in this list Lyrics will also appear in this space, just below the viewport unless scrolled, if they are available. Lyrics are a new feature with Apple Music in iOS 10 and will automatically show if they are found. Lyrics require an Apple Music subscription.

The other tabs of the Music app have also been redesigned with simpler navigation and a cleaner appearance. For You now includes Discovery Mixes which update weekly with music based on your library; these appear as scrolling cards at the top of the screen. The iOS 9 New tab has been renamed to “Browse” to better describe its contents. The Radio view has been given an overhaul too with a priority on Beats 1 and curated playlists. Swipe between the panes to view the different stations and tap to start listening. Beats 1 content is more easily accessible, displaying the current show on air and the upcoming schedule (localized to your timezone) in one tap.

There is still no landscape mode view but, overall, the app is way better than what came before. The huge heavy title typography may be off-putting at first but you get used to them. The iPad app has been similarly reworked with obvious navigation. Apple has an affordance for people who complained about not knowing what music was on device and what music was only in the cloud too. One of the Library navigation options (hideable if desired) is called Downloaded Music: this is a special filter that restricts what music is visible to just what is saved on local storage.

Third-Party App Integration With Siri

siri-ios

Siri is finally adding third-party app integration in iOS 10, so that some third-party apps can participate in responding to voice queries send to the personal assistant. With iOS 10, a Siri API enables six categories of applications to be a part of the Siri experience. This requires developer support so apps will have to be updated to support the new Siri SDK.

Once they do, you will be able to send and search chat messages with apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, start phone calls from Siri using Skype, search for images in an app like Flickr or use your voice to book a ride with Uber. Apple is also supporting fitness app and payment app integration so you can use apps like Square Cash with Siri to send your friends money … just with your voice.

In the example screenshots above, WhatsApp can handle the message request and display its own user interface inline to the Siri experience. Users can talk to Siri apps with a variety of phrasing, it is not limited to a robotic set of placeholder statements. Apple has designed the API so that the input users can provide is flexible, equally good for all apps in a particular category and will get better over time.

Right now, though, the categories of integration Apple offers is quite limited. Media playback apps are notable exceptions so you won’t be able to ask Spotify to start playing your favorite playlist or have Overcast start the queue of new podcasts in iOS 10.0. Apple executives have indicated that they plan to expand the capabilities of the Siri SDK in future iOS versions but a timeline was not given.

Apps with Siri support are beginning to roll out now alongside iOS 10. Find Siri apps by pressing the “Search the App Store” button at the bottom of the Siri help interface.

Apple News Redesign, Breaking News Notifications

Like Music, Apple News has received a significant redesign (and a new Home Screen icon) with bold fonts and sectioned content. Although Apple News features very little human curation on the main screen, Apple has reworked the algorithm in iOS 10 to delineate stories into titled pages per topic. Top Stories, which is selected by human editors, are shown at the top of the screen its own section with today’s date. Trending features the most popular articles from other readers and Featured is another human curated section of the best content, updated weekly. Videos embedded in stories will also play from the overview screen sometimes, instead of a static image.

New in iOS 10, Apple News supports subscriptions and breaking news. Subscriptions allow users to pay for recurring content, although it isn’t clear how this works just yet and is seemingly limited to select Apple partners. Opt into push notifications to get breaking news alerts from the News app even when you are not using it. The notifications utilise the rich notification API in iOS 10 so you can actually read a lot of the story straight from the banner. Apple News also introduces a Today view widget, so you can view headlines from the lock screen.

Major Maps App Redesign, Better Navigation And Third-Party App Integrations

Maps has received a redesign in iOS 10 with a new interface paradigm. The top and bottom fixed toolbars have been removed. Maps now shows a full screen map with a small popover window at the bottom of screen which handles most of the navigation.

The app is focused on navigation and nearby points of interest, Apple wants to get you where you are going faster. The popover features a search field at all times prompting you to search for a destination. Apple is also smarter about providing likely places to go with Proactive intelligence; these suggestions will be displayed below the search field. For example, if you are looking up a location in another app, Maps will be able to show that same address to you. Maps will also surface home, work or places associated with upcoming Calendar events on the map itself as their own pins. It can even detect where you have parked your car, if you pair with CarPlay or Bluetooth whilst driving.

Like Messages, Apple is also extending the Maps experience with more third-party app integration. Select ride booking and restaurant partners will be able to be shown in the Maps app, enabling contextual restaurant reservations or car services to appear relevant to your current location. Whilst navigating with turn-by-turn, Apple has also improved the camera system so you are more likely to see the road ahead. You can also pan around the map using your finger simultaneous with the turn-by-turn navigation. Maps will also let you search along the route for points of interest like petrol points or coffee shops.

Updated Health App With Simpler Views Into Your Activity

The Health app has not received as drastic redesigns as News or Music, but it has gotten an overhaul nonetheless. It now shows contextual health statistics for the current day, week and year as appropriate. Health data is split into four main classes, Activity, Mindfulness, Nutrition and Sleep. Each section is color coded and features an integrated explanatory video describing what falls under that category.

For example, the Activity section will display Apple Watch Activity rings as well as data points pertinent to activity tracking. This includes things like exercise minutes, flights climbed, resting energy, steps taken and distance travelled. All of the esoteric measurements, like the different vitamin intakes, are still trackable within Health but they are hidden by default. If you want to surface these on the main screens, select Add to Favorites. Hiding so much of the app’s depth by default is a good thing as it makes the app more approachable to use (the new design is far less underwhelming than a long list of random health statistics) for most people.

The Calendar view largely mirrors the main tab, but breaks down the information based on the selected date. If you just want to see how active you were yesterday, the Calendar view supplies that information very easily. I still wish it was easier to see a weekly or monthly summary.

Phone Improvements, Better VoIP App Integration

Apple has enhanced the Phone app with support for third-party VoIP apps. These can show up on the lock screen like normal phone calls with full size profile pictures, although again this will require apps to update to support the new API. Messaging and VoIP apps can also integrate into the contact cards so if you talk to a friend over WhatsApp a lot, it will appear as a quick chat option automatically. The Siri SDK will also enable phone calls to VoIP apps using just your voice.

Apple is also adding a spam call alert API, so developers can let the system know if a number is known as fraudulent or as a spam caller, it will display instead of an anonymous Caller ID. Apple is also launching a beta of voicemail transcription using iCloud dictation, but this is limited to select carriers. It seems to require visual voicemail too, so if you don’t have that you are out of luck. Voicemail transcription shows transcribed text content inline to the voicemail notification.

Miscellaneous

img_0160

We’ve tried to cover the main highlights above, but we’ll have continuing walkthroughs over the next few weeks of everything iOS 10 has to offer. iOS 10 is a big update and there’s some other notable additions that deserve a mention:

  • Use Apple Pay on the web, on supporting websites in Safari.
  • On iPad, open Split View in Safari to view two pages side-by-side.
  • iPad Pro 12.9 inch gets a three-pane view in Mail and Notes.
  • Organ donor integration with the Health app. This is US only.
  • Four new languages for Siri: Spanish (Chile), Chinese (Cantonese), English (Ireland) and English (South Africa).
  • Live Photos image stabilization as well as photo filters for Live Photos.
  • When highlighting text, Siri will now spell out individual letters with a “Speak” option as well as Speak Selection.

Conclusion

Apple has really shaken up a lot of the core apps with iOS 10 as well as drastic changes to the Lock Screen. All of the redesigns are changes for the better; the new Music app is very good and far simpler to understand with flattened navigation. Once apps update to support all the new stuff, iOS 10 will make a big difference to how people use the iPhone whether that’s through rich notifications or via Siri voice queries.

I think the removal of Slide to Unlock will be jarring to a lot of people, especially those without the latest hardware and cannot benefit from Raise to Wake. The need to press the Home Button again can be a bit jarring and breaks a habit iPhone users have built up since 2007.

In general, though, iOS 10 is as familiar and easy to use as ever. iOS 10 is available now for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Download it and enjoy all of these new features today. Also check out the other software updates Apple has released today like watchOS 3, which is another great update for Apple Watch users.

iPhone 7 Reviews: ‘Terrific Phones’ That Offer a ‘Foundation’ for the Future, But Not an Essential Upgrade

The official launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is still three days away on September 16, but the first reviews of the new smartphones have started showing up online this morning. Some of the sites have been quietly testing out the new handsets for around a week, and general impressions have been positive, despite the lack of a radical design overhaul compared to last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

The Verge offered perhaps the most balanced perspective on the iPhone 7 series, which it called “terrific phones” but also “incomplete”, given that the wider color gamut, and the real potential of the Taptic Engine and the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual-lens camera – which rely on software updates – won’t be realized at launch.

The Verge said non-adopters “won’t actually be missing out on much” if they don’t get an iPhone 7, which it described as a “transitional step to a vision of the future” and a “foundation” for how the next generation of iPhones will integrate into our lives.

The entire time I was using the iPhone 7, I felt like I had a prototype of next year’s rumored drastic iPhone redesign disguised as an iPhone 6. All those bold bets on the future are legitimately exciting, but here in the present using the iPhone 7 in a case feels a lot like using a iPhone 6S with a weirder home button and more adapters.

Meanwhile, Mashable offered a more enthusiastic line of thinking for early adopters, calling both devices “worthwhile upgrades” that “inch us ever-closer to the completely sealed, moving-parts-free ideal of a smartphone slab”. The review notes that both phones are “fast” and the stereo speakers “really shine” when it comes to gaming, while battery life was impressive, with the larger handset closing in on two days with moderate use.

It also put the phones through some underwater ordeals, the result of which was “pretty awesome” and offered peace of mind for those prone to dropping their phones in the toilet, but it didn’t recommend going for a swim with the devices.

I had a good time placing the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus under running water and dropping them into water-filled containers and sinks. Not only did they hold up, but both phones continued to function in the drink.

Each time I tried this, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were unharmed. I fished them out of the water and dried them with a cloth and then continue using them. One thing you cannot do right after submerging your phone, though, is charge it. Apple recommends letting the Lightning port dry out for five hours before attempting to charge either device again.

apple-iphone7
TechCrunch
 got hold of a glossy black iPhone 7 and remarked that it definitely showed scratches and abrasions after a weeks’ use. It also mentioned that the home button’s Taptic Engine feedback makes it feel as if the whole bottom half of the phone is clicking, yet it called the implementation a “flawless transition” from the physical home button that prepares users for when the button disappears entirely. It said Apple’s new flagship devices are “fast, capable, and functional” and “probably the best portable cameras ever made”.

This is quite simply the most sophisticated camera and image processor pairing ever seen in a smartphone or any camera period. There have been a couple of other applications of dual camera setups in phones, but the execution is crude by comparison.

The optical zoom works great, and the 56mm lens naturally adds that nice compression of facial features and slight blurring of background that a standard lens gives, especially up close.

It won’t be long before Apple customers begin to receive the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus handsets themselves, as the September 16 launch date approaches. Images have emerged online of iPhone 7 shipment batches ready to leave factories in Zhengzhou, China, while some customers have already received shipping confirmation

Ten new iPad Pro details you’ll want to know before buying one

The iPad Pro became available to purchase today, making a rare simultaneous appearance in Apple’s online and physical stores without any preorder period. Consequently, it’s actually possible to walk into an Apple Store today to buy one — and if my experience today is any indication, there probably won’t even be much of a line.

If you’re still unsure as to whether you want an iPad Pro, I’ve put together this quick guide to some of the real-world things people will want to know about the new 12.9″ iPad before making a purchase — including some comparison photos and other hands-on details. Enjoy the details and galleries below…

ipadpro-2

1. How Big Is Big? How much space are you really going to save carrying an iPad Pro instead of a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro? Not a lot, particularly if you’re also toting a keyboard around. Inside a keyboard case, the iPad Pro has a nearly identical footprint to the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro (above), and is noticeably bigger than the 11.6″ MacBook Air. (Check out the gallery below to see a shot of the iPad Pro in a keyboard case dwarfing the smaller Air.)

ipadpro-3

2. This Is How Big It Looks Next To the iPad Air 2 and the iPhone 6s Plus. iPhone 6/6s Plus users typically stop using their iPad minis once their iPhones become nearly as big — some even stopped using full-sized iPads/iPad Airs. The iPad Pro creates another meaningful differentiation between devices; compared with the iPhone 6/6s Plus, it feels a lot bigger than an iPad Air. And even if you know what a 13″ laptop screen is like, the iPad Pro feels a lot different — more intimate, as Steve Jobs would have said — when it’s resting in your lap, or held in your hand. My strong advice: under no circumstances should you try placing it on an iPad dock.

ipadpro-5

3. The Extra Speakers Actually Do Make A Difference. The iPad Pro has four speakers — two on “top,” two on “bottom” — and they’re much better than on any prior iPad. Believe it or not, the iPad Pro makes the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro’s speakers sound weak; they’re remarkably a step louder, noticeably clearer, and decidedly wider in frequency, better in both treble and bass. Apple’s promised stereo separation feature works seamlessly, too, properly switching the “left” and “right” channels over to the correct speakers as you rotate the iPad Pro around.

4. Multitasking With The Virtual Keyboard Is Less Weird But Still Weird. Typing has become wonky on all iPads since the introduction of split-screen multitasking, and rather than going away, the weirdness just changes with the iPad Pro. On a positive note, you get a little more screen space for your apps above the virtual keyboard, which managed to grow in height and width by replicating more keys from a regular keyboard. Now you get half-height number keys alongside a weird half-height delete key, while losing the ability to split the keyboard in half for edge-of-screen typing. But you still have the ability to undock the keyboard from the bottom of the screen, sliding it up and down to your preferred position. I’ve never seen a use for this, but maybe you have one.

5. Most Of The Time, It Doesn’t Feel Materially Faster Than An iPad Air 2. Most apps, including Apple’s, feel like they’re running at the same speeds once you get them open, though the iPad Pro can and will load apps a little faster. As between the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro, you’re more likely to notice Internet/wireless retrieval delays than CPU or GPU performance issues at this point. Oddly, Geekbench’s benchmarking tool shows a lot of variation between results. It consistently reported a gigantic jump in single-core scores from the iPad Air 2 (as wide as 1836 to 3146), but versus the iPad Air 2’s 4605 multi-core score, the Pro’s scores ranged from a barely better 4859 to a higher score of 5324. I’m guessing Geekbench needs an update, but there might be under-the-hood power management reasons for the benchmark differences.

ipadpro-8

6. Display Zoom + AirPlay Mirroring. Hey, did you know the iPad Pro has a Display Zoom feature, like the iPhone 6/6s Plus? When activated, it effectively transforms the Pro’s 12.9″ screen into the UI equivalent of the iPad Air, with much larger icons and text at a 2048 x 1536 resolution. The zoomed display could be a boon for users with limited vision seeking a larger canvas for the existing iPad experience. Additionally, though the iPad Pro’s screen is normally 2732 x 2048, it continues to look way lower-res — basically 1024×768-equivalent, the same as other iPads — when AirPlay Mirrored to an HDTV.

7. Expect A Lot Of Upscaling and Weird Proportions. Most of the iPad Pro experience right now is… a work in progress. Click on most apps and they’ll look like iPad Air apps upscaled to a larger screen, and in some apps, you may (gasp) notice visible pixels for the first time since Apple switched to Retina displays. Also, apps that have been upscaled (including Apple’s integrated iOS apps) don’t necessarily look optimally balanced for the new screen size. It’s really time for Apple to re-evaluate whether iPad apps like Clock really need to occupy the entire screen with white space for most of their tabs — now that multitasking is here, some apps might be best off running in less-than-full-screen windows.

8. Also, You Probably Should Stop Running Those Last Few Upscaled iPhone Apps Now. Sorry, Instagram users. iPhone app upscaling to the iPad was always a little iffy, but on the iPad Pro, it’s downright silly. 1X mode is tiny, and 2X mode no longer fills the screen, remaining closer to the size of an iPad Air screen with tons of black space on the Pro’s display.

ipadpro-10

9. Old Power Is All Good. The iPad Pro comes with and prefers Apple’s previously-released 12w iPad Power Adapter, but it doesn’t complain if it’s connected to older 10W iPad adapters or even 5W iPhone adapters. Those fearing a “Not Charging” notice will find the Pro works like other iPads when it comes to compatibility with Made For iPad power accessories.

ipadpro-11

10. Apple’s Smart Connector May Become A Game-Changer. For the first time in iPad history, the iPad Pro can actually connect to two wired accessories at once — one with Lightning, one with the Smart Connector. If this wasn’t obvious before due to the volume buttons’ placement, the Smart Connector now defines the “correct” way to use the iPad Pro in landscape mode: with the Home Button on the right side of the screen. It’s going to be really interesting to see how and whether most cases handle the new Connector, as no one knows yet whether it will be useful for things beyond (certain) keyboard docks. Since it was the first thing to show dirt on my Pro after it was unpacked, protection of some sort doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but accessing the port may wind up being challenging if it’s covered…

iPhone 6s diary: Day one first impressions – forget the similarities, this is a whole new phone.

Put the iPhone 6s next to its predecessor, and I’d challenge anyone to tell them apart. You start to notice the difference as soon as you put your thumb on the Touch ID sensor. Apple says that the new sensor is faster, and I was surprised to find that the difference – while small – is definitely noticeable. I had to use both a number of times to persuade myself that it wasn’t just a placebo effect, but I did end up convinced.

I’m going to play with the camera this evening when I have something a bit more interesting to photograph than my office and a view through the window of a very ordinary street, so mostly what I’ve been playing with today is the new Peek and Pop features using 3D Touch.

I was impressed by the idea – it was really this that persuaded me to upgrade despite my earlier doubts – and now that I’ve used it, I would now say there is no doubt at all: 3D Touch fully justifies the upgrade from the iPhone 6 …

As you’d expect, almost all Apple apps use the feature – though I was surprised to find a few exceptions, like Activity, Pages and Numbers. I’d have thought peeking at your current activity rings would have been an obvious application there. There are also a number of third-party apps already taking advantage of it.

If you’re not already up to speed with 3D Touch, force-touch any compatible app from the homescreen and it opens up a contextual menu. It’s the direct equivalent of right-clicking on a Mac. For example, in the Messages app it offers you the opportunity to create a new message, including a shortcut to recently-messaged contacts.

3d-touch-02

Similarly with the Phone app, it offers you the choice of adding a contact or calling one of your Favorites – super convenient.

3d-touch-09

3D Touching Apple Pay offers you a choice of cards. I only have one registered, but if you registered several, this would be a really convenient way to make your selection.

3d-touch-05

The new iOS 9 capabilities of the Notes app get their own shortcuts.

3d-touch-08

3D Touch has also solved one of my irritations about the Camera app – I always seem to be on Video when I want to take a photo or vice-versa, and sliding between them is fiddly. On the iPhone 6s, you can get directly to either from the Home screen. You also get direct access to slow-mo videos and selfies.

3d-touch-12

I could go on, but a set of photos will tell the story just as well .

You can also Peek at content. For example, a text message confirming mobile payment for a parking space included a link to the website, and 3D Touching on this shows a preview of the website. Pressing harder opens the site. A great way to get a quick preview of a link to see if you actually want to open it.

3d-touch-13

Likewise, you can press on an email in your list and preview the contents. Here Apple was offering me Personal Setup on my new phone (nice of you to offer, Tim, but I’m good).

3d-touch-15

One thing I haven’t yet had time to play with properly, but am intrigued by, is the new trackpad feature. Press hard on the keyboard to turn it into a trackpad.

3d-touch-14

Selecting text on an iPhone can definitely be fiddly, so I’m looking forward to seeing whether that makes life easier.

I think Apple generally does well on its S releases. Siri was enough to persuade me to upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. Touch ID didn’t personally persuade me to upgrade to the 5S, but it was a decent headline feature. But 3D Touch … I’m already sold. I’m already viewing iOS 9 on the iPhone 6 as only half an upgrade. If you want the whole thing – and I think you should – you’re going to need the iPhone 6s.

Stress-busting app will engross your inner child

recolor - 1

One way I can often determine if an app is worth my time is by putting it through a specific test. If I get so sucked into an app that I forget I’m actually supposed to be gathering thoughts to write up a review, it’s because that app is generally pretty awesome. I had this somewhat rare experience with Recolor, a new coloring book app for adults on iOS.Now hold on, because I was admittedly a bit judgmental, too. I didn’t think I would ever care to use a coloring book. I was never good in art class as a kid and I’m slightly color blind between blue and purple, so pretty much all the signs in my life discourage coloring as a hobby.

But Recolor is different. You don’t have to scribble and try to get colors to fit within the borders. The designs are already drawn. You just need to pick a color and fill in a small block portion of the illustration. Don’t worry, the complex designs have hundreds so it’s not a quick process. Use two fingers to zoom in and out of the canvas to fill in smaller parts.

The beauty of Recolor is how easily it enables creativity. It’s stripped of most artistic functions and just leaves you with the duty of filling in the illustration with whatever colors you want.

Those colors, by the way, are beautiful. They’re arranged in multiple palettes with five colors in each palette. You have the bright and vibrant Salamander, the dull and wintry Into Dreams, the astronomical Star Seeker, the desaturated Cynicide, the diverse Birds of Paradise and the autumnal Broken Glass. There are six other wonderful color palettes as well and you can conveniently unlock those just by sharing a link to Recolor on Facebook.

recolor - 4

Recolor includes over 200 unique illustrations that are allegedly “proven to help you rest your mind,” which I totally believe from experience. The app separates the illustrations into 10 packs: animals, bouquets, fishes, floral, insects, isometric, lowpolys, mandalas, mortes and ornates. Each pack comes with three free illustrations. You can unlock the rest individually for $0.99 per pack or $4.99 to unlock everything.

The pricing method is perfectly fair. Recolor doesn’t have any ads, so you can essentially use most of the app for free and then optionally add in the extras for five bucks — a purchase I’m seriously considering for my newfound artistry.

When you’re done coloring in your masterpiece, tap the check mark at the top to choose an effect for your design. Some examples include marker, crayon, watercolor and shiny. They all look exceptional and instantly add a layer of style. At last, save the final product or share your work of art on your social networks.

Now for a couple of gripes. While I admire the beauty of what’s purposely not included in Recolor, I do wish it had a color picker. When coloring I’d like to be able to select a color I already applied to one part of the image and use it again. Instead, I currently have to go back and browse through pages of palettes to find the one I’m looking for. On that note, it’d be seriously useful if I could also tap the palette title to expand the view and see more than five colors at a time.

Still, I’m pretty happy with the app as it is. I never would have pegged myself as a coloring book advocate. Recolor is beautifully designed, relieves anxiety and gives me a false sense of artistic ability. And I’m hooked on it. You can get it for iPhone or iPad for free with in-app purchases.

Apple Music First Impressions: Convenient All-in-One Experience With Overwhelming Design.

As Apple Music gears up to launch in the next few hours this morning — 9 AM Pacific to be exact, following iOS 8.4 at around 8 AM Pacific — a few publications have posted some detailed first impressions of the the music streaming service. Getting to mess around with the app for the first time, MashableRe/codeThe Loop and Rolling Stone came away with largely positive reactions to Apple’s first foray into the music streaming game, although the large consensus hanging over it all was a tentative negativity regarding the app’s overwhelming amount of content and the somewhat confusing UI that is used to navigate it all.

First off, Mashable noted the big positive of the Apple Music service: for those baked into the Apple ecosystem it offers one library, combining purchases from iTunes with the songs users will listen to in Apple Music for one uniform experience. The site was also one of the few to enjoy Apple Music’s UI, calling it, “more polished and finished than the old music app.” Its biggest takeaway, however, was the “For You” section.

apple music for you

It’s hard for me to over-stress how much I like For You. From the very beginning, the recommendations in playlists and albums that the app showed me were dead-on accurate, reflecting my various musical interests.

The idea behind “For You” is to help make it easy to find good music to listen to. Tapping on an album or playlist will play it instantly. You can then either add it to your library, keep it playing in the background, add a track to another playlist or just cycle through. The DNA of this experience really is what we saw with Beats Music last year, but now it’s more refined and feels more fully realized.

Re/code mentioned three big positives for the new streaming service: the slick combination of old iTunes songs with new Apple Music songs, surprisingly accurate and enjoyable song curation, and the $15 per month family plan. The biggest issue however tied into one of the app’s positives, with the wealth of content and exploration somewhat kneecapped by an overly “confusing” user interface experience, especially within the “New” tab, which “could be a streaming app all by itself.”

I set out to gather some initial impressions of how it feels to use the product. And to answer the question: Would I pay $10 a month — $120 a year — to use it? My answer is a tentative yes, with some caveats. Apple has built a handsome, robust app and service that goes well beyond just offering a huge catalog of music by providing many ways to discover and group music for a very wide range of tastes and moods.

But it’s also uncharacteristically complicated by Apple standards, with everything from a global terrestrial radio station to numerous suggested playlists for different purposes in different places. And the company offers very little guidance on how to navigate its many features. It will take time to learn it. And that’s not something you’re going to want to do if all you’re looking for is to lean back and listen.

Similar to Re/code and MashableRolling Stone was impressed by the “Netflix-style hyper customization” of the “For You” tab that will greet every user when entering Apple Music for the first time. Although Beats 1 Radio had not yet launched when the site had hands-on with the service, they got to preview a few artist-focused shows, including St. Vincent’s “Mixtape Delivery Service,” which saw the alternative musician reading notes from fans and spending the hour dedicating personalized songs to each one.

Rolling Stone also detailed Apple Music’s “Connect” platform a bit more than the others, noting that even though a few artists had Connect available to them in the pre-launch demo phase, the Twitter-like service “looked pretty quiet.” The biggest issue, however, was the possibility of fan interaction amongst one another within Connect, and the fact that the only designated place for it to occur was within the comments of each individual post.

Moreover, the only place where fans can interact is the comments section of each post, cutting out a major part of what Apple hopes will be a new music ecosystem: fandom. While it’s possible fans would share music individually – with Apple Music’s many options to post to text, email, Twitter and Facebook – the absence of fans’ voices on “Connect” makes it more like a supplement to a social network than an exciting music-discovery platform. But only time will tell if it catches on. This is one place where Spotify, with its ability to follow and make playlists your friends, has a leg up.

With its vast selection of music and smartly curated playlists and radio, Apple Music is robust enough to compete with, and possibly supplant, Spotify and Pandora as the go-to service for music fans. At the same time, users will need to play around with it a bit and dig to move past some of the less immediately intuitive facets (i.e., just how deep the “New” tab goes) for it to hook them.

The Loop went into detail regarding the “My Music” section of Apple Music, noting that between the tab’s two sections — Library and Playlists — all of a user’s old iTunes music downloaded or in the cloud can be found there. Users will be able to add certain playlists to My Music so it can appear front-and-center in the tab without having to go through multiple pages, and entire playlists will be able to be made to listen to offline. Besides a finicky rating system for Beats 1, The Loop largely enjoyed Apple Music in the end.

I’m damned impressed. Apple Music is a quality service, with the right mix of human curation and algorithms to help users figure out exactly what they want to hear. I can only imagine that the service will only get better from here. The more I use it, like/dislike songs, the better it will know me.

I was interacting with Apple Music the entire time I was writing this and the radio station I started listening to improved quite a bit in those hours. I’m not skipping songs, instead I have a steady diet of Slash, Godsmack, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica. It’s hard to beat that.

Everyone will be able to test out Apple Music for themselves soon enough, with the official launch of the updated music app in just a few hours at 9 AM Pacific. Those interested should remember to first download the new iOS 8.4 update an hour before in preparation for the streaming music service’s debut.

Can you actually use the new 12-inch MacBook for work?

MacBook 2015

Early reviews of Apple’s MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015) have framed it as an expensive prototype from the future — a notebook that will someday be the standard, but one most people aren’t ready for yet. Despite that classification, the new MacBook is extremely tempting if you’re in the market for a new computer: it’s more portable than even the MacBook Air, it’s the first Mac available in gold and space gray finishes, and it has a trackpad with a new feature called Force Touch.

But can you actually do work on the 12-inch MacBook? That’s the $1300 question everyone is asking. I’ll unpack my experience below …

MacBook 2015

Performance & Battery Life

The new 12-inch MacBook won’t beat the rest of the MacBook lineup in any benchmark tests, but it’s still a fast performer. The answer to whether or not the new MacBook can be used for work depends on two things: what tasks the MacBook is capable of performing, and how long the MacBook can perform those tasks on a single charge.

The short answer to whether or not the new MacBook can actually be used for work is that it depends on what you plan to do, but for a lot of people the answer is probably yes. It’s not a machine optimized for performing power intensive tasks, but it can do a lot of low- to mid-level jobs well.

My Mac is typically running a couple dozen apps at a time during the typical workday including multiple constant Twitter streams, 20+ Safari tabs, quick photo editing, frequent downloading and uploading, lots of messaging and email, and music or video playback … all at the same time.

During my evaluation in an actual workday under typical conditions, I only noticed a performance issue when a particular Twitter app would demand more memory than usual — an issue experienced on every other Mac I’ve owned and tested.

The new MacBook is powered by a low power Intel Core M chip — a first for Macs — which helps it achieve a fanless design. That means the Mac isn’t as powerful, but it is completely silent and has a much smaller footprint. It also means the new MacBook shouldn’t get warm enough that it needs a fan to cool off.

As Dom mentioned when using the new MacBook to edit and export short video files, it did stand up to piecing together a 1080p clip, but working with a 4K footage resulted in dropped frames. But does the MacBook get too hot? Chrome (which includes Flash) was the culprit of an unexpected heat warning during Dom’s use. I’ve tried to achieve the same warning myself, and while I’ve managed to get the bottom of the MacBook uncomfortably warm especially during a Time Machine backup, I’m still waiting for my first heat warning.

Ripping and encoding a DVD in HandBrake using Apple’s SuperDrive ($79) and USB-C to USB Adapter (more on that later) resulted in the biggest performance hit compared to other Macs I’ve owned and tested. The job took several minutes longer on the new MacBook than it did on my mid-tier 2012 Mac mini; it also noticeably slowed down system performance until the job was done. Not an impossible task on the new MacBook, but not ideal if you have better tools.

In terms of battery life, Apple promises up to 9 hours of wireless web usage and up to 10 hours of iTunes playback. In my actual (multitasking-heavy) usage, I measured 4 hours 35 minutes between 100% to 2% during continuous usage. Under the same use, the system said to expect 3 hours 57 minutes until a full charge was reached from 2%, although in practice only required 2 hours 22 minutes to reach 100%.

A typical workday usually spans 8 hours at least so 4.5 hours of battery life during typical usage won’t get the job done, but I’ve always had to connect to power with previous MacBooks so this is no different. The new MacBook can handle heavy multitasking and quick data input as it runs OS X and is very much a notebook with a keyboard and trackpad (both of which are different than previous MacBooks). An iPad with greater benchmark results may be more powerful with greater battery life, but it can’t yet run apps side-by-side or multitask between dozens of apps like a Mac. I can’t yet do my actual work on an iPad even if I wanted to, but the new MacBook got the job done right out of the box.

USB-C

I mentioned in the previous section having the expectation of always relying on connecting a power supply to get through a typical workday with any MacBook. All other MacBooks have a dedicated MagSafe port for charging, and separate USB/Thunderbolt ports for transferring data and using external monitors. The new MacBook combines data transfer and charging in a single USB Type C port. You’ll have to pick up an adapter for now if you want to use your existing USB accessories, connect an HDMI or VGA display, or ever charge the MacBook while simultaneously using any USB accessory.

I typically use AirDrop or Dropbox to move files between various devices during the typical workday, but moving data from my old Mac to the new MacBook on day one meant using an adapter. Wireless solutions were available including restoring from a Time Machine backup, but I wanted a fast and reliable way to move data. Ultimately, I used a USB 3.0 external hard drive to carry data between Macs, which meant I needed Apple’s USB-C to USB Adapter ($19) for connecting the drive to the new MacBook.

Aside from the DVD rip test (which I never actually do; I had to blow the dust off the SuperDrive) and setting up the new MacBook, I haven’t needed to use any adapter again. The overly expensive $79 USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($79) from Apple is the most practical if you foresee needing one, though, as it offers both a power option and a traditional USB port. Google has some nice options available now and Belkin has some coming soon. If you foresee frequently relying on any adapter, though, the new MacBook probably isn’t the best machine for you as the hassle trumps the convenience of portability.

Overall, though, the new USB-C port is a very interesting addition to the Mac. While it’s more difficult to connect and disconnect than the MagSafe charging connection found on the rest of the MacBook lineup, it’s also more resistant to accidentally unplugging during use. USB-C also allows you to charge the new MacBook in new ways not previously easily possible.

For instance, you can use a portable charger to re-juice your MacBook without needing a wall adapter. As the new MacBook packs in a 5263 mAh battery, I can achieve more than two additional charges with my Anker A7 13,000 mAh external battery pack ($29) and a USB-C to USB cable ($12.99). You can also charge the 12-inch MacBook… from another 12-inch MacBook. Connect the included USB-C Charge Cable ($29) from one 12-inch MacBook to another, and whichever Mac was connected first will charge the Mac you connect next.

Trackpad & Keyboard

The new MacBook features a Force Touch trackpad first made available on the MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015). The new trackpad includes a second depth of clicking called a Force Click which can perform tasks that previously required three-finger taps or weren’t available at all.

Both a regular click and a deeper Force Click give the illusion of an actual button click, but the new trackpad is indeed buttonless. The illusion is created using haptic feedback which can be applied in other applications like iMovie and QuickTime as well.

In terms of how this impacts using the new MacBook for work, you likely won’t notice any loss of features (aside from three-finger dragging which has moved to the Accessibilities panel), only new ones like pressure sensitive drawing and new menus. Many of the features you can access with Force Touch were previously available through other gestures; its biggest impact, for me, is allowing the the notebook to be as thin as it is.

The new MacBook’s keyboard is immediately obvious, and whether or not you can do actual work on the 12-inch MacBook likely depends on how you adapt to typing on it. The new keyboard is much tighter as it has almost no travel, or depth, found on other MacBook keyboards. Personally, I find the tightness feels more efficient and less sloshy, but it still takes a period of adjustment even if you’re optimistic. I can understand why other testers have written off the new keyboard as a compromise to achieving a thinner MacBook, but I’m personally finding that my Apple Wireless Keyboard is the one I don’t want to use now… except for the arrow keys.

I saw the arrow keys mentioned in multiple MacBook reviews and couldn’t understand how the design change could be that big of a deal. Then I started using it. The change is that the left and right arrow keys are now full sized while the up and down arrows are half of a full key. While the up and down keys are unchanged, I’ve found myself needing to look to use any arrow key now as the left and right keys feel like the nearby Option key.

The backlighting has also changed on the new keyboard. Apple says each key now has its own individual LED for backlighting. Between this and the general shallow design, you no longer see as much stray lighting when viewing the keyboard at an angle. The backlighting isn’t as perfect as Apple’s marketing material, however, as certain keys consistently have uneven lighting, an issue new to this MacBook. This means the escape key may read like ‘sc’ rather than ‘esc’ at night, and each Command key is noticeably dimmer than the letter keys.

On a trivial level, I find that the new keyboard font (San Francisco as found on the Apple Watch) is nicer to look at than the previous keyboard font (VAG Rounded). While it won’t impact your typing for work, it is refreshing to see all day long as a personal preference.

You can see how similar the Lightning port on the iPhone and iPad is compared to the new USB-C port. While the iPad has a smaller footprint and is still thinner than the thickest part of the new MacBook, its portability feels very similar. Pair that with OS X, a trackpad, and a good, full-sized keyboard and the new MacBook gives the iPad a real run for its money. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus haven’t quite felt like iPad Air replacements for me as they have for other people, but the new MacBook is in close proximity. Carrying it closed feels very similar to toting an iPad Air around; aside from using the iPad Air as a second display, I can’t foresee toting both on a quick trip.

If you foresee having to rely on the available adapters or find the keyboard unfavorable, you won’t want the new MacBook as your work machine. It’s also not the powerhouse that creative professionals and developers need to get the job done, but it can certainly juggle a dozen or two important tasks without hiccups if they’re not too taxing. You can pick up a MacBook Air for less or a MacBook Pro for the same price or more, but it will be the ultra thin design (and new color options) that make the trade-offs worth it for early adopters.

It can do actual work in cases where an iPad wouldn’t be feasible. My only real concern about the new MacBook is its display size: 12-inches is not a generous amount of screen space. I preferred to run the 13.3-inch Retina MacBook Pro at its ‘more space’ option, but the text is uncomfortably small for me in the new MacBook’s ‘more space’ option.

MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)

I’d be envious of a similarly powered 14- or 15-inch MacBook with the same design: you could easily include another USB-C port with the longer body, and the larger but still thin footprint could pack in a few extra hours of battery life as well.

As someone with a desktop Mac setup to fall back on, though, the new MacBook is a phenomenal portable solution. I can rely on it for work, and it’s as comfortable as an iPad to use on the weekends and evenings. It’s a more difficult decision to make if you don’t have a more powerful Mac to do the heavy lifting from time to time, but it’s not out of the question in the least to rely on the new MacBook for doing actual work.

The MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015) is available from $1299 in space gray, gold, and silver.