New Macbook Pro just launched! Shocker!

I did not see that coming. If you go to the Apple website, there you see it, the new Macbook Pro lineup, with all new internals and an option for the new, powerful 6-core processor in the 15-inch models. New T2 chip, more RAM, more storage and better display and keyboard. What’s there not to like?

So tempted to get the new Macbook Pros, but unfortuntely (or fortunately, because in this case, I have absolutely no budget in getting a new laptop) mine is still working fine and in pristine conditions. And I just use laptop for typing and surfing. I don’t need the extra processing power for anything.

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I returned my Airpods.

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After 4 days of using it, I decided to return my Airpods. This is the first time that I had to return an Apple item because I was unsatisfied with it, and also because the money could be better spent elsewhere. Knowing that the less satisfaction I get using a product, the less often I will use it. So before it gets to that point, I decided to use the opportunity to return it and get a refund.

The Airpods, back from my initial impressions that I wrote a few days ago, is an amazing product to use. I really love it, from the design to the ease of use and the above average sound quality that is coming out of the earbuds. But after using it for several days, especially during my daily commute to and from work, there is something that Airpods lacked that I didn’t realise it could be that critical for me until I start to miss it. It is none other than noise isolation. In a crowded, noisy train, the Airpods, to me personally, just fails in the audio department when there is so much outside noise polluting the audio that is coming out from the earbuds. It got to the point where I no longer enjoy listening to music anymore. While I admire how easy it is to use the Airpods, the compactness of the entire package and how the earbuds just ‘disappear’ in your ear after a few minutes of wearing it, nothing beats having good audio quality coming out of a pair of earpiece or headphone.

There is just nothing else that is more important than choosing earphones or headphones by how good they sound. You can design the lightest, smallest, easiest to use earphones, but if the sound is terrible, I am not buying it. So after evaluating my needs and priorities, I came to a decision that the Airpods were simply, not for me.

I went down to the Apple store, where I collected my Airpods, told the staff that I was here to return an item. After giving my name and assigning me to a staff member, I waited until it was my turn to be served. One of the staff members approached me and asked me what was the item in question. I told him that I was here to return the Airpods. He was then curious as to why I decided to return it and I told him that it was simply not for me, as I placed audio quality the highest when it comes to earphones or headphones. I told him that without noise isolation, it was a no deal for me and despite trying very hard to get used to the idea of having outside noise polluting whatever music I was hearing, it dawned on me that having a noise isolating earphones was a way for me to find peace and a way to shut out all the noise from outside. It was something very much overlooked, but was essential, when I realised I was starting to miss it.

He checked the item to make sure that everything is intact and there wasn’t any visible damage to the item. I returned within the 14-day window. I was a little concerned as to whether they will take the product in and give me a refund, as the Airpod case was showing some visible scratches. If was made of plastic after all. But he accepted it and within minutes, the refund was confirmed and he informed me that the money should be reflected within 5 business days. No fuss, no trouble. Perfect.

Maybe the day will come when they might release Airpods version 2 or something, something beefier, this time with noise isolation. Till then, I will stay away from any audio related products from Apple.

Airpods first impressions!

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2 days ago I ordered the Airpods online on the Apple Store. The same day, I collected at the Apple Store Orchard. This tiny little thing has been in high demand for almost a year since its original release. I had the opportunity to collect the Airpods on the same day I ordered it due to immediate stock availability.

I was really curious as to the whole experience of using these truly wireless earphones. Were they easy to pair with your phone? How long is the battery life? How small and light are the Airpods including the charging case?

I immediately went upstairs to the second floor of the store so that I could unbox it and set it up right then and there. My first impression upon seeing this thing in person was how small the case was. Almost the same size as a box of Tictacs! Pairing was dead easy (and to some extent, quite magical, I have never experienced quite like it before). All I had to do was to ensure that my phone has wireless and Bluetooth switched on. Then I had to place the Airpods near my phone and flick the case open. Almost immediately, a prompt appeared on my phone asking whether I want to connect the Airpods to my phone. All I had to do was to tap ‘connect’ and you are done. It was that simple. Next I just had to pull out those tiny earpieces, put on my ears, fire up Spotify and voila, I was already using it like a pro. Pairing a Bluetooth device has never been easier.

Next is the sound quality. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an audiophile, but I do appreciate a good pair of either earphones or headphones. My criteria for what considers a good pair is that it must produce a good amount of bass. Tight bass, one that does not bleed to the mids and muddle it up. Mids has to be warm and highs should never be too tinny. Soundstage must sound expansive, but not too airy and good sound separation, with the ability to discern the myriad of musical instruments and effects without sounding too ‘jumbled’ up.

So how does the Airpods stack up? It’s not bad actually. It was definitely better than I expected. The bass is more prominent than I expected. I think, the sound quality is good enough for the majority of people out there. However, the Airpods has poor noise isolation, as it doesn’t provide a good, airtight feet in your ear to keep external sounds out. While the audio quality is good, the lack of noise isolation actually marred the sound quality quite significantly. And when you consider the price you are paying for a pair of Airpods, at S$248, you would expect to get better quality audio and at least sound isolating feature built it. Sound separation and overall soundstage is above average.  The sound coming out from the Airpods is generally very clear, but you can definitely hear the bass bleeding to the mids, and not as tight as I would like them to be.

The Airpods, fortunately, fits pretty well in my ear. I had no problems with Airpods coming out from my ear during my morning commute, and it stayed put throughout the entire journey from home to the office. But because I take the train to work every morning, it can get a little noisy and without noise isolation, the Airpods, while producing very good sound quality is hampered by outside noise.

So is spending S$248 worth it? I’m not sure. When it comes to choosing headphones or earphones, the number one deciding factor is sound quality, followed by overall comfort, convenience and aesthetics, At that price point, the sound quality is somewhat lacking. What you are paying for instead is ultra-portability; it has a very small footprint, maximum convenience; you only need to pair once. After you just have to wear the thing to get started. For those looking for a good sounding pair of earphones, you might want to look elsewhere. But for those who are looking for portability and ease of use, the Airpods might be a good choice.

The price of this photo

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To photograph the following image as seen above, with all my current Apple products that I own, it costs me S$4624. The 13 inch Macbook Pro (non-Touchbar), the Apple Watch Series 3 Nike Sports Edition (GPS) and my new iPhone X (256GB). I never realise until recently that just these three items would cost me a whopping S$4624. And on top of that, (which hopefully I will update this picture once the package arrives) I have ordered myself the Apple Airpods. That is going to set me back another S$238. The new total cost of all four items would be S$4862. That is nearly S$5000!

And don’t even make me start on the iPads….

 

One week with the Apple Watch series 3!

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The watch is with me when I run, work, walk, eat, sleep. So how do they perform? Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic. I am extremely pleased with how it performs no matter the situation. I am completely blown away by how much biometric data it records on the watch and to my iPhone. It records a multitude of readings from the number of steps I took daily, to my heart rate, be it working, sedentary or resting, calories burn, and the amount of sleep I am getting every night. It does all that by sipping power from the battery. I can go an entire day from 7am to 10pm draining just 15% of battery life from the watch. Battery life is just amazing.

With all these data and appropriate apps to help me visualise those data, be it heart rate, exercise or sleep, I am now greatly more aware of my daily activities and the potential impact it might have on my overall health. For now, after wearing the watch and scrutinising my daily activities of the day for an entire week, the good news is that I am pretty active on a daily basis. I have little to no difficulty meeting the minimum amount of exercise and time standing instead of sitting that is required each day. I fill up the rings pretty much almost to full for the amount of energy spent being active. It seems that commuting to work by walking to the train stations and to my offices constitutes exercise. I have always been tracking the number of steps taken using just the iPhone and it has been pretty easy to hit the 10 000 steps needed daily. With the Apple Watch, it is more accurate than ever before since it is on my wrist and with me all the time. In certain situations, especially at work, I would leave my phone on my office desk and it is those moments where my steps are not recorded.

Heart rate is another exciting feature and the primary motivation for getting the Apple Watch. So long as I wear the watch, it records my heart rate on an almost constant basis. Every few minutes, no matter the situation, it would record my heart rate. The data can then be used to visualize and determine your resting heart rate, sedentary heart rate, workout heart rate and even sleeping heart rate. It is pretty interesting to see the changes in your heart rate depending on what you are doing at what time of the day and to determine if you are over-exerting yourself doing a workout.

I think with all the talk and excitement about getting the Apple Watch, I am just primarily interested in the health and fitness aspects of the watch, rather than from a purely aesthetic or day-to-day functionality the watch might offer. Knowing more about your body, health and fitness through the Apple Watch just give you a whole new perspective on the things you do with your body on a daily basis.

Now that I have my Apple Watch, I’m officially a data junkie, obsessed with recording everything about my body. I can’t imagine that day when I have to part with my Apple Watch for an extended period of time. I think I will feel that a small part of me is missing. Not being able to see my current heart rate would be mildly uncomfortable.

My Apple purchases over the years

I have bought many Apple products over the years. It is not entirely inaccurate to say that I am a loyal fan of all most things Apple. It started with the iPod touch, then the iPhone 3GS onwards right to the recent iPhone X. All my mobile phone had been Apple iPhone starting with the iPhone 3GS. That is just on the mobile front.

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On the PC front, it started with the second generation Mac Mini. It got me through college. A hardy little beast back in those days. On the portable laptop front, the MacBook Air was my first ever purchase. It was about sometime during my senior year, as I had the need to write more and more assignments on the go, leading up to my graduation. For a short while (5 months) I bought a Windows laptop, the Lenovo 13 inch laptop. It was a good laptop. Great battery life, a huge factor when making my laptop purchasing decisions.

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But soon after, a new generation of Macbook Pro was announced, sporting the latest Intel Kaby Lake chips. I was smitten. I was sorely tempted. I had never owned their premium laptop before. The Lenovo worked perfectly. It suited my needs. I just needed a laptop for my part-time postgraduate studies. I don’t really need a fancy laptop. But within a couple of days, after the product launch announcement, I ordered the 13-inch with no Touchbar version. Within 2 days after clicking the ‘Order’ button, it arrived at my doorstep. I sold my Lenovo laptop on Carousell (at a pretty good price, considering it’s just a 6-month old product and still in pristine condition, including battery life). The selling price was enough to offset the hefty expenses made trying to buy the MacBook Pro. (at the same time trying to self-justify that it was a perfectly rational decision to get the MacBook Pro from a financial point of view when clearly it wasn’t) The MacBook Pro was also my first ever purchase to be made through an interest-free monthly instalment plan, which I am 6 out of 12 payment through as of this writing.

However, it was only the iPhone X (in-store pickup) and the Apple Watch Series 3 that were truly considered to be actual purchases made through an Apple Store. The iPhone X  was an in-store pickup that was originally an order made online. I placed the order, collected the phone and I was off. The Apple Watch, however, was different. I was on the fence about whether to get one or not. I had to try it physically before I made my decision. Thus, it was important that I made the trip down to actually try it out before deciding on my purchase.

The experience was fantastic. It was the first time that I actually had the opportunity to interact with the Apple Geniuses in the store. I asked questions regarding the Watch, took my time swapping out straps, all with the kind assistance by Asyiqin, the Apple Genius personnel who was with me throughout my time there. She was very professional, very patient and I had no pressure to make my decisions quickly. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to try out a large variety of straps laid out on the table, taking my time familiarising myself on how to swap straps on the Apple Watch and even trying out different watch sizes and strap sizes.

Soon after that, I walked out of the store with a bag, containing the Apple Watch. It was one of the most amazing retail experience I ever had.

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I wonder what is my next Apple purchase? The next generation iPad perhaps? Time will tell.

 

The Apple Store @ Orchard

When Apple announced that they were going to open an official Apple store in Singapore, I was stoked. For years I had been hoping for an official store to make their landing on this tiny island nation. Previously, I visited other Apple store around the world, like those in Hong Kong, and The Netherlands. Those stores were beautiful, airy and just fantastic, with great professional Apple Geniuses all around rendering their assistance to any customers who might need help in their purchase.

The design ethos of what makes an Apple Store anywhere in the world a fantastic place to not just make your purchase but to learn more about its products and services is one of the great hallmarks of retail. The Apple Store @ Orchard is no different. In fact, it has one of the more unique storefront designs as compared to other Apple stores around the world.

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I remember the day (May 26 2017) when Apple opens its doors for the first time in Singapore to customers. I wasn’t there at the opening hour. I was there sometime around 12 noon. The store was crowded, but not overly packed. They did a pretty good job with the crowd control, letting small batches of people in to maintain the crowd in the store at manageable levels. But boy, it was beautiful. I have never seen a more beautiful retail store ever. Imagine long massive panels of glass, three panels layered side by side spanning the entire 2 floors of the store’s facade from top to bottom. The second floor looked almost like it was magically hovering. On the second floor houses this huge LCD panel display, super high resolution and gorgeous to gawk at. Dotted throughout the store are real trees that give the store a very natural and equatorial ambience that much resembles tropical Singapore.

On launch day, I remembered receiving a free T-shirt with three red symbols; an Apple logo, a heart logo and a red dot. Put it together, it says, ‘Apple Loves Singapore’, the red dot referring to our tiny island nation, a small red dot on the world map.

And just like that on day one, I see so many people already making Apple purchases, from iMac, to Macbook Pro, to iPhones. Sales were no doubt brisk just like any other Apple store around the world.