There’s been lots and lots of news recently about how the SSD (the internal super fast storage) within M1 Macs (MacBook Air, Pro and Mac Mini) is being excessively written to, and that an M1 Mac’s SSD lifetime is being reduced substantially through all these excessive writes. Like us humans, SSDs have a finite time here on Earth given the nature of the beast, but ordinarily, they should typically outlast the machine they’re many times over.

I have only 8Gb in my 13″ MacBook Pro M1 machine, and I’m fully aware of swapping. But even so, this shouldn’t affect the overall lifespan of a machine that much – if at all, and especially with modern techniques for managing it within an SSD controller. But even I did notice that kernal_task was writing a substantial amount of data (~250/300Gb) of data daily (after the machine was set-up and all applications installed) – even with the swap file activity was relatively quiet and very few applications were running.

It’s worth mentioning also that the output from ‘top’ and activity monitor must include ANY disk write activity, including external drives (such as what I use for Time Machine) and other mounted volumes (disk images or DMGs) – or at least, that’s what I’m assuming here. I’m hesitant to pull data from S.M.A.R.T. utilities (or any other utility for that matter) since Apple’s controllers may not necessarily conform to their specifications.

What I forgot to check was my go-to-machine monitoring app, iStats Menu, was a Universal binary (or at least Apple Silicon). I was wrong. It is still an Intel native app, and is run through Rosetta 2. It is able to monitor most metrics just fine, so I didn’t think much of it. Of course, it was installed on day one of getting the MacBook Pro…

Thinking about all the apps I use, and the kind of use they get, I thought whether iStats Menus may be aiding and abetting in the excessive SSD writes somehow. I couldn’t see any file-based logs growing in size on the filesystem, nothing that would attract substantial writes at least. My thoughts turned back to iStats Menus and its binary compatibility. How does Rosetta 2 handle monitoring like that?

So I decided to uninstall iStats Menu and replace it with iStatistica Pro – something I bought a little while ago. It’s a Universal binary now, and its sensors work with M1 Macs just fine. Since then, the number of writes to the SSD has reduced considerably. We’re talking about 100Gb for 4 hours of the machine being online with iStats Menus versus 15-16Gb for 4 hours with iStatistica Pro. No other changes were made to my application line-up.

I think if there is any blame to be had, it’s probably Rosetta 2. It’s an incredible piece of technology, but I am not entirely convinced – depending on the application – it is terribly I/O friendly – even if it’s no longer a JIT translator anymore, but rather it “compiles”/translates the ARM64 binary from the original when an Intel application is first opened.

In Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, the Unseen University builds an analytical machine called Hex. Somewhere within Hex is an ant farm with a sticker on the side which says: “Anthill Inside” – an obvious joke to Intel’s old marketing campaign. Maybe Burleigh & Stronginthearm, dwarf crossbow makers to the nobility, might change direction and start making their own analytical machines and cut out all that magic crap that the wizards always muck around with.

In the real world, Apple is transitioning their Mac laptops and desktops away from the Intel/AMD x86_64 architecture to ARM64 after staying with Intel for 15 years. Prior to this, Apple was using IBM’s PowerPC processors – but IBM wasn’t able to take the PowerPC architecture any further on a performance per watt basis which meant that Apple was forced to look elsewhere.

We’ve reached a similar road – Intel hasn’t had it easy of late and with a variety of vulnerabilities and chip manufacturing issues which hasn’t seen much progress with shrinking their processor dies to the kind of level that is now possible with Apple’s chip design. With the huge success of the Apple-designed A-series processors used in the iPhone and iPad lines, it made sense to move the Mac to the same ARM64 architecture – using a System-On-a-Chip process to integrate the many different functions into a single package.

With the release of the M1, Apple is able to provide computers with longer and better battery life, better performance and provide cross-code compatibility with iPad and iOS applications. Intel Macs will eventually become a thing of the past. The future is ARM64.

Given that we’re still in lockdown, I’ve decided to claim back some tax from the HMRC to purchase computer equipment that will aid me in my duties at work. Last year that was a monitor and a new keyboard – this year it’s going to be an M1 MacBook Pro (for when we get back on the road again) and an M1 Mac Mini (for the home desktop). One of the major advantages of the new M1 processor is that the cost of these machines are at their lowest in years.

I’ve taken delivery of the 13″ M1 MacBook Pro yesterday – built with 8Gb RAM and 512Gb SSD. I factored that I won’t be using it heavily once I have the Mac Mini and it’ll just be used when I travel/go to work and need to test ARM64 specific stuff, or use it for on-call. The M1 Mac Mini will be specced out with 16Gb RAM and either 1Tb or 2Tb of storage – I’m still trying to decide, given there is a £400 difference.

Fish and Apple M1 Chip

The first thing to mention is that 8Gb RAM will result in a fair amount of page swapping if you’re using apps like Chrome (which is now Apple Silicon native), Evernote (still only Intel native at this time), and a few other things. But thanks to the speedy 512Gb SSD, any slowdown resulting from memory being dumped to and from disk isn’t too noticeable. On the other hand, the SSD will write many pages out to disk.

Coming from my 16″ MacBook Pro with Intel Core i9 processor and 32Gb RAM and 4Tb SSD, seeing page swaps is somewhat of a novelty. That said, even with swapping, the SSD in this unit should still outlast the actual unit itself, so I’m not unduly worried. Nevertheless, my suggestion for anybody considering buying one of these M1 units regardless of whether you choose the MacBook Air, Pro, or Mac Mini – go for 16Gb RAM if you can. I bought my MacBook Pro via Amazon, but alas, they don’t stock the 16Gb models.

You may find 8Gb RAM a bit limiting…

But is the M1 SoC as magical as they say it is? Yes – kind of. Overall performance, even with 8Gb RAM, is snappy. Applications open quickly and Chrome’s Javascript performance feels much, much more snappy than its Intel counterpart.

One of the most “magical” elements is Rosetta 2 – the translation layer that converts Intel x86_64 code to ARM64. It Just Works(tm) – at least 100% of the time for me. There is no truly noticeable performance hit – Spotify, Evernote and countless many other Mac apps that haven’t transitioned to Universal or Apple Silicon binaries run just fine. This is a far cry from the original Rosetta which ran PowerPC code on Intel. Boy, was THAT slow.

One of the biggest hurdles that I encountered wasn’t M1 related, but rather Big Sur – on the Intel MacBook Pro, Big Sur had trouble reading and adjusting the external display settings – often necessitating a plug/unplug job. This is when using USB-C (presumably DisplayPort over USB-C). With the M1 MacBook Pro, the problem was far worse. It recognised the BenQ display as being 5K (it can just about handle 4K) and got the resolution and refresh rate wrong regardless of whatever I did. It was only when I discovered I could press the Option key when clicking Scaled in System Preferences -> Display that I could see away of adjusting the display’s resolution AND refresh – yet using “low resolution” mode?

Big Sur’s USB-C/DisplayPort drivers are dodgy as hell on M1 – and just a PITA on Intel

I got fed up and decided to switch to HDMI instead – and that Just Worked(tm). I now have the right resolution and at the right refresh rate (144Hz) rather than a faux resolution 2560×1440 at 30Hz. Apple needs to do some serious work on its USB-C/DisplayPort display drivers.

FWIW, I just bought this wonderful Anker 8-in-1 dongle for all my dongle needs, given that the MacBook Pro only has two external ports. Comes with a nice carrying pouch too.

What’s really remarkable about the 13″ M1 MacBook Pro is that it is silent. Completely and totally silent. My 16″ MacBook Pro often sounds as if it’s about to take off. And the M1 MacBook Pro is cool to the touch regardless of whatever task I can throw at it. I could fry an egg on the 16″ model.

In terms of work, I’m pleased to say that the free version of the Forticlient VPN software (6.4.3) works with M1 Macs and Big Sur, even if it uses Rosetta 2 because it’s an Intel binary. In terms of anti-virus/anti-malware, I’m sitting tight until Sophos has something – while I suspect Sophos Home Premium should work (more or less) right now, I’d really like to see a native binary release ASAP.

And continuing with the work theme, I’ve got the Parallels Technical Preview running a Debian 10 for ARM VM – everything works just fine. So simple. Fast. No fuss whatsoever. I’m not going to try and run Windows for ARM on this machine – though I might give it a go when I get the Mac Mini.

VM running on Parallels for Intel Mac (note the bugs line – goodbye Spectre!):

[email protected] ~ % uname -a
Darwin Martyns-MBP.lan 20.3.0 Darwin Kernel Version 20.3.0: Thu Jan 21 00:07:06 PST 2021; root:xnu-7195.81.3~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64

LINUX VM:
[email protected]:~$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 6
model           : 158
model name      : Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-9880H CPU @ 2.30GHz
stepping        : 13
cpu MHz         : 2304.000
cache size      : 16384 KB
physical id     : 0
siblings        : 2
core id         : 0
cpu cores       : 2
apicid          : 0
initial apicid  : 0
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 22
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht syscall nx rdtscp lm constant_tsc nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc cpuid tsc_known_freq pni pclmulqdq ssse3 fma cx16 pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand hypervisor lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch invpcid_single pti fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 invpcid rdseed adx smap clflushopt xsaveopt xsavec dtherm arat pln pts
bugs            : cpu_meltdown spectre_v1 spectre_v2 spec_store_bypass l1tf mds swapgs itlb_multihit srbds
bogomips        : 4608.00
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:
[email protected] ~ % uname -a
Darwin Martyns-M1-MBP.lan 20.3.0 Darwin Kernel Version 20.3.0: Thu Jan 21 00:06:51 PST 2021; root:xnu-7195.81.3~1/RELEASE_ARM64_T8101 arm64

LINUX VM (2 virtual CPUs):
[email protected]:~/Projects$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
BogoMIPS        : 48.00
Features        : fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32 atomics fphp asimdhp cpuid asimdrdm jscvt fcma lrcpc dcpop sha3 asimddp sha512 asimdfhm dit uscat ilrcpc flagm ssbs
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 8
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0x000
CPU revision    : 0

processor       : 1
BogoMIPS        : 48.00
Features        : fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32 atomics fphp asimdhp cpuid asimdrdm jscvt fcma lrcpc dcpop sha3 asimddp sha512 asimdfhm dit uscat ilrcpc flagm ssbs
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 8
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0x000
CPU revision    : 0

Overall I am very impressed with Apple’s first Apple Silicon Mac. It’s a little rough around the edges here and there, and we need to see more developers roll out Universal or native binaries, but otherwise this a laptop I can wholly recommend if you’re not going to be pushing it too hard. I still say that we need to see a bigger push towards 16Gb RAM models and add 32Gb RAM to the line-up – especially for developers.

.. because the number of reported problems (condensation and excessive battery drain being the main culprits) makes it feel as though the product was rushed to market and stops me from buying a pair.

The fact that a £529 pair of headphones can’t even be switched off properly is ridiculous. When Sennheiser released their Momentum 3 wireless headphones (I have a pair – they’ve extremely comfortable and I’d highly recommend them), they too had a problem that you couldn’t directly power them off without putting them into a certain position, so you couldn’t hang them on a headphone stand, for example. But Sennheiser eventually did the right thing and released a firmware update that allows you to turn the headphones off when holding down the multi-function button.

Now, why can’t Apple do that with the Airpods Max? Why can’t they release a firmware update that allows you to, say, hold down the digital crown for 2 seconds to turn the things off rather than put up with their dodgy power management system?

But I have bought the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones through EE instead. Their noise cancellation is second to none – better than the Sennheiser for sure. The Sony headphones quickly, the gesture controls are decent (and easy to remember) and you can turn the things on and off at will. Plus the battery lasts 30 hours. It’s great for watching TV (when paired with a transceiver such as the Avantree Oasis Plus Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver) or listening to audio from the Mac or iPhone. My only complaint is that the ear cushions feel like the weak point in the entire system – likely needed to be replaced well ahead of time – and I’d really like to see Sony adopt a similar system to Apple with magnets to allow easy replacement. Maybe we might see this with the WH-100XMM5?

Thanks to a very kind poster in this MacRumours forum, you can get the three month’s free Fitness+ trial (rather than the one month offered despite having bought a new Apple Watch after September 15th) simply by unpairing your Apple Watch after upgrading to iOS 14.3 and WatchOS 7.2 and re-pairing them again. Then go to the Fitness app on the iPhone and click the Fitness+ tab – you’ll then get the 3-month offer.

This does mean that you’ll have to do some setting up of the Watch again, but I tried this myself after spending over an hour on the phone to Apple Support trying to fix this thing and getting nowhere with them. Thankfully it worked, and I’m now going to put it through its paces over the next few months because I bloody need to get into shape.

The whole experience of trying to get this trial was incredibly frustrating. Apple demanded I give them proof of purchase despite this being a Series 6 watch which only launched after September 15th. It was activated by me on the 17th September and I bought AppleCare+ for it on the 19th. Besides which, this is a Watch provided by a carrier so I don’t have proof of purchase as such – but EE weren’t helping by not updating the plan page with the correct device – they seem to think I still have an Apple Watch Series 4.

Honestly, Apple’s quality control is slipping again.

.. because Apple has introduced what appears to be a bug whereby you can’t change refresh rates. My BenQ EX2780Q monitor has been working absolutely fine with my MacBook Pro 16″ Core i9 since I bought both earlier this year. It worked fine with Catalina, and it worked fine with version 11.01 of Big Sur (the first full public release of Big Sur).

ALAS!

After updating to 11.1, I was in full resolution with the external monitor, but I couldn’t set the refresh and it enabled HDR mode. Rebooted. Couldn’t get full resolution no matter what I tried. Rebooted again. Bingo. It worked, but subsequent reboots only ever bring the display down to 60Hz – way down from 144Hz. Unplugging the monitor and plugging it back in again seems to fix the issue, but this isn’t a very elegant solution.

This appears to be a bug brought forward from the 11.1 betas.

One thing I’ve found that helps – start the MacBook Pro without the monitor turned on. When the system boots into Finder, switch the monitor on and close the MacBook Pro lid. As this bug seems to randomly change resolutions, you may be in a much lower resolution than expected – but you should find that you can change the resolution and the refresh rate.

However, if you leave you MacBook Pro on and switch the monitor off to have a bit of a break, you’ll come back to find that the monitor has changed resolution and refresh rate again, possibly requiring a reboot.

You’ll also find that it takes much longer for the MBP or monitor to switch resolution versus Big Sur 11.01 or even Catalina.

This is by far one of the worst bugs I’ve encountered with macOS in over a year – and I sincerely hope that Apple fixes it soon. I’ve already filed a report with them via Apple Support and if you’re experiencing this same issue, I strongly suggest doing the same.

Oh, they look nice.

Poddy? Perhaps. But to the Max? Definitely.

*Clicks on the buy button to see how much they are*

Nope.

I remember when you could buy an entire Hi-Fi unit + more for that price

I take my headphones very seriously, but even for Apple, this is a spicy meatball of price tag. I’m glad it features their Spatial Audio technology which really does work extremely well with the AirPods Pro (we have a naming convention problem here, I feel). But the biggest concern I have with Spatial Audio is that it only currently works with iPhone and iPads. Not Macs, not Apple TVs.

I recently watched a video the other day of a headphone system that provides full Dolby Atmos surround sound:

Looking up the price, it’s around £1,000. And you’re limited to the equipment it’s connected to. Apple has the chance here to give JVC a big massive headache and implement its Spatial Audio (which is Dolby Atmos compatible) on the Apple TV and Mac – so that people can enjoy music and video content in comfort rather than watching something on their iPhones up close, or on their iPads. You’re not getting the best experience there. A big TV is where it should be.

What I also like about Apple’s approach to their own headphones – removable earpads/cushions. Their Beats 3 products were utter crap, with the earpads deteriorating over time. I also had to replace one set of headphones after it stopped charging – all the way in Edinburgh. So much for portability and reliability!

Beats 3 Solo Wireless (white) and Beats 3 Wired (blue) headphones and the lacklustre earpads. Lousy 2-year warranty too.

I’d want to see at least a 3 – 4 year warranty with the AirPods Max, but alas the buggers only provide a 2-year warranty – but it’s likely to be better than their Beats branded crap. The same applies to iPhones – Apple only allows for an extended two-year warranty on a device that should last much longer than that. Even more outrageous when you consider the self-repairability factor with these devices. Well, let’s hope that any replacement cushions are reasonably priced because if not, *slaps Apple firmly around the Cox’s Pippin*.

Just look at it – all smug and trying to be useful. But it has other plans..

Apple are well known for being stingy buggers under the guise for doing their bit for the world, but their new MagSafe Duo is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY taking the Michael. Extraordinary so.

It can also charge a wireless AirPods/AirPods Pro case too.

Not only is this an expensive accessory, but for a charger, you don’t even get the charging brick included. Just a cable. AND THAT FRIGGING CABLE IS TOO SHORT. I can’t run the thing from my desk because the desk height is greater than the pathetic 1-metre cable supplied by Apple. So you had better make sure that your desk comes with built-in power sockets, or use a third-party USB-C to Lightning that’s the right length. Apple does sell a 2 metre Lightning to USB-C cable, but that’ll cost you £35. They can seriously go and do something unmentionable. If Apple weren’t so frigging up its own arse about Lightning, I could have used a spare USB-C to USB-C cable from an old Apple laptop (at least I’m trying to recycle), but I have no Lightning to USB-C cables that are longer than 1 metre.

Apple, you’ve mucked this up.

There be magnets, but they’re still weak so it’s a still a pain to find the right position, negating any benefit of MagSafe.

In terms of charging and overall use, I found it rather difficult aligning my iPhone 12 Pro Max with Apple silicone case against the MagSafe charging coils. The magnets aren’t very strong, but even so, I did find it a bit of a challenge removing the phone FROM the base when I needed to pick it up. You do kind of need to touch the charger unit itself to gently pry from the charger.

But I have also discovered that my Deep Navy Apple silicone case is getting a touch of the MagSafe burn-in on the back; a circle matching the charging coils that surround the Apple logo. Apple has gone on record to say that this is normal if you leave the phone in a case. Why wouldn’t I keep it in the case while charging? Who the hell is product managing this crap?

Well, as I’ve just found out, wiping the case with a microfibre cloth reduces the visibility of the circle – but it’s still present, albeit it very faintly.

Ring-a-ring o’ MagSafe, a pocket full of Mysterons..

Will it be useful when travelling? Oh yes, undoubtedly. As a desktop charger, without a longer USB-C to Lightning cable included, it’s a seriously taking liberties. Even more, so is the lack of the charging brick.

My score: 3.5/10

As somebody whose responsibilities including looking after the work laptop fleet, I must occasionally risk boldly going forward to find out how well a brand new operating system fares within our ecosystem. In this case, I’m using my own MacBook Pro 16″ which shipped with macOS Catalina.

Catalina was a buggy mess, but it was well supported. It was the last of the macOS X line of operating systems. We’re now on macOS 11, and Big Sur is the first of its kind to support both Intel and Apple Silicon M1 processors. Which is just as well as I expect to use this Intel MacBook Pro for another three to four years at least. But with a major new operating system release comes a tonne of problems, and macOS Big Sur is no exception.

I had to fire my firewall, Little Snitch. It’s a very useful application for determining what network traffic is coming in and out of my Mac, as well as being able to block any suspicious traffic from potentially rogue applications. I had been using version 4, but because of architectural changes within Big Sur, it wouldn’t work. So it’s a paid upgrade to version 5. But there is no trial. I’d have liked to have had a trial to be able to get used to Big Sur and ensure the effectiveness of Little Snitch, but it’s an all or nothing approach. So I kicked Little Snitch to the curb, for now, and rely on Big Sur’s own internal firewall.

Then there was anti-virus software. As this is my own machine, I’ve been using Sophos Home Premium for a while. It’s very effective, doesn’t use up many system resources – though I thoroughly dislike the need for a web UI – makes it difficult to keep multiple users separate/private and a pain in the arse if you’ve offline. At work, we use the commercial Sophos Intercept-X product. In both cases, at the launch of Big Sur, they were not compatible. But at the time of installing Big Sur (a few weeks after the launch), Home Premium had announced a compatible, but feature-reduced version. Alas, I found problems with it and had to uninstall. Intercept-X has only just opened an Early Access Program, but I’m going to wait until they release a supported build which should be sometime early 2021.

I tried Norton 360 Premium, which seems good value for £50 to support 10 devices and has very good anti-virus test scores. It is Big Sur compatible, but (a) there is no Mac support for the 75Gb cloud storage that comes with the package (that I could see) and (b) the scanning component uses significant resources – it completely froze my machine several times and took up 90% of overall system resources, causing the fans on the MacBook Pro to spin up to full power. It also wanted to install 20 billion Chrome extensions which caused quite a few problems. So that had to go.

I have an active BitDefender Total Security subscription for Mac and PC, but my problem with BitDefender has been that the UI hasn’t been updated in years and still requires Chrome and Safari extensions to be effective when browsing the web – with the changes to Chrome, everything looks horrible when searching with Google. BitDefender is much better under Windows, and I often feel the Mac version is a bit of an afterthought.

I finally settled on a temporary solution until Sophos Home Premium is fully supported – Malwarebytes Premium for the Mac. It provides realtime malware and ransomware protection and doesn’t use any significant resources at all. It’s Big Sur compliant too. There’s a decent Chrome extension which helps stop trackers and adverts along with any other malicious web malarky. It’s definitely a step up from BitDefender’s extension, I must say. Best of all it cost me just £12.49 for a year of protection thanks to a Black Friday promotion.

Then we have VMWare Fusion Pro 12. I use this to run both Windows and Linux. Linux especially because we have a number of scripts which FreeBSD’s built-in shell commands decide to interpret a little differently. Things were running initially fine until I installed VMWare Fusion Pro 12.1, then I suffered a number of network-related issues with the NAT configuration. I could use the Linux VM just fine if I didn’t connect to the company VPN, but if I was connected, I was unable to do several things which are vital for my role. I had to switch to Parallels Desktop 16 which works flawlessly with or without the company VPN being connected. Networking architecture has changed with Big Sur, and it looks like Parallels managed to figure it out before VMware.

In more general areas, I’ve found macOS Big Sur to have problems with image thumbnails. Thumbnails from other images cropped up from time to time, confusing the heck out of me. It’s as if Big Sur is being too aggressive caching system files. I thought that one possible solution to this is would be to delete the .DS_Store file in the directory and let the OS regenerate the thumbnails again. But this doesn’t seem to last long before the problem comes back. This tends to occur when using encrypted APFS-formatted DMG files.

Bluetooth seems to be another problem. I tend to leave my Mac running throughout the day, and on the occasion when I leave it to nap, returning to the machine is fine – but randomly the £150 Apple wireless “Magic” keyboard will stop responding (and occasionally the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse too). The mouse tends to recover fairly quickly, but the keyboard doesn’t. It means that I have to restart the Mac to get the keyboard working again – turning the keyboard on and off doesn’t work, neither does the Bluetooth Control Centre controls.

I’ve also experienced major internet connectivity slowdowns. My MacBook Pro is wired up to the router directly and yesterday I found I was getting only 150Mbs max via the Mac, and 500Mbs with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. I restarted the Mac and everything was fine again.

I’m also not keen on the new menu bar fonts – and spacing between the menu bar icons either. It feels too much like a Linux distribution (I’ve always disliked Linux on the desktop, and fonts have always been a problem for me as part of that) rather than a high-scale Mac desktop.

Do I recommend people start using macOS Big Sur now? Absolutely not. Hold off for a month or two, because this is a very unpolished OS and is absolutely not ready for the prime time if you’re a sysadmin or developer.

Yesterday a friendly DPD driver dropped off this year’s new Apple flagship iPhone, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. As mentioned previously, I had intended on only going for the smaller iPhone 12 Pro, but while I was waiting I was thinking about if I really wanted a smaller phone given that for the past goodness knows how many years I’ve always gone big. That, and there was stock available during launch day, whereas the iPhone 12 Pro stock was still very much depleted. Still, I was prepared to wait even if there was a delay.

But now I have the phone in my hands (waiting on the MagSafe case to arrive today – despite how lovely this thing feels without a case, I want some kind of protection against potential knocks and drops), it is, of course, Apple’s best iPhone ever. And it will be until the iPhone 13 next year.

The new (yet old), iPhone 5-like design of the unit makes for a better grip, with the display sitting flush with the unit. This makes the display look even better than the previous generation, with an increased resolution and brightness (when viewing HDR content) over the iPhone 11 Pro Max giving it a much nicer display to work with than the previous model. The resolution to scale ratio is just right – with text clean and crisp and everything easy to read. The side buttons are clickier, providing better feedback than before.

The camera unit on the back of the phone is a little bigger than the 12 Pro. This is likely to accommodate the sensor-shift stabilisation unit along with the bigger image sensor. As many reviewers have noted, even with the bigger sensor and sensor-shift, there is a negligible improvement over the 12 Pro, but the differences are there. The biggest improvement over the 11 Pro Max is that, according to Apple’s claim, is that low-light photography is improved 87% over the previous generation iPhone. That certainly seems to be the case on photos that I’ve seen, but I need to do my own testing to really be sure. As for Dolby Vision video recording – that stays off since apart from the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the 2020 iPad Pro, I have no other compatible displays (my monitor can only handle HDR10 content).

Starting the iPhone 12 Pro Max, with its new A14 Bionic processor/SoC is considerably faster than than the previous generation. I was surprised how fast it was, actually, having switched the thing on and put the phone down to give it enough time to boot – I hadn’t bothered – it booted so fast that it had finished by the time I’d put the phone down. This generation of iPhone 12 Pro (and Max) come with 2Gb of extra RAM, bringing it up to 6Gb in total. This should help with app switching – which for me, whenever I start commuting again, is going to be a big help.

The Qualcomm X55 modem in this unit which replaces the Intel modems that Apple have been using up until this point is a nippy little bugger. I’ve definitely noticed improvements on home Wi-Fi (802.11ac) and some improvements to 4G. Alas, I’m not in an area where we have 5G coverage, but hopefully I should be able to test over the Christmas period. All I can say right now, is that even without 5G, thank goodness Apple and Qualcomm kissed and made up. Never fight again!

The only issues I’ve encountered with the phone at this time have been trying to sync up with Google Workspace account to use its contacts list. For some stupid reason – either Google or Apple let me authenticate and then it just throws me back to picking a service provider again. I suspect this may be an iOS 14.2 bug – but in the mean time, I’ve exported all my contacts from Google to iCloud and that works well enough – though if you have custom fields you may need to recreate the contact.

EE’s Full Works plan is rather nice – unlimited, full speed data each month including personal hotspot allowance which is unlimited, but fair use rules apply – for example, EE consider 1Tb to be beyond fair use, naturally, which is never going to be a problem for me – I only use hotspot when I can’t get a decent Wi-Fi signal and it’s only going to be into the two-digit figures at most. Additionally, I get Apple Music, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade for free for 24 months. I’m still waiting to see if Apple gives me a free year Apple TV+ for “purchasing” the iPhone 12 Pro Max. They certainly extended the Apple Arcade subscription by an extra three months on top of the 24 month, so I’ve got a fair old amount of time with it.

So far so good with the new phone. Transferring authentication apps across has been better than it used to be, but was still a massive pain in the rear end. A more detailed report may follow, especially regarding the camera system.

If there is one thing that can be said about the modern internet is that it’s really reduced people’s tolerance levels. Once, long ago, these people had the patience of saints. Now? “Offence, offence, offence! Cancel this, cancel that! I am truly offended by what you say!” Or, “I want this thing yesterday, and I want you to tell me exactly where it is at all times, down to the microsecond, or I’ll cancel the order and will go elsewhere! You’re a bunch of useless bastards, I hate all of you, you incompetent Schweinehunds!” (Said person subsequently orders elsewhere and the same problem occurs – repeats outrage until they get a heart attack or achieve spontaneous human combustion).

WHERE’S MY GADGET? WHERE IS IT? GIVE IT TO ME, YOU BUGGERS!
GLOBAL PANDEMIC? LOCKDOWNS? JOB LOSSES? WHAT ARE THEY THEN?

To put it simply – people have about as much tolerance as a poodle has for a cement mixer.

The latest outrage is people buying iPhone 12 (Pro)s. Given that we’re still in a global pandemic and that manufacturing has been affected as a result – it’s not any great surprise to anyone that there are maybe fewer units available at launch day/week/month than usual. A supply constraint. Add to that fewer stores open, add to that fewer employees working (both online and in-store), and add to that we’re about to enter a second national lockdown.

And yet people are raging about delivery times, orders going wrong and being sent back to the DPD/EE warehouse and having to wait again as their phone is allocated to somebody else.

There’s me, trying to arrange a delivery slot with a major supermarket for basics such as food and toiletries, and finding practically all the slots full for the coming week.

I too have ordered an iPhone 12 Pro from EE, but unlike most people, I am waiting patiently – occasionally checking the order, but otherwise willing to wait however long it takes to receive the phone ( a week, two weeks, a month – whatever). I already have a terrifically decent phone to be getting on with until it does. If I find it gets sent back – no problem, mistakes are made – just you try working out logistics at this scale in this challenging environment – and we can resolve it and carry on. Patiently.

If we’re going to have any more World Wars (or more even deadlier global pandemics), it’ll be thanks to the internet, social media companies and the press that gets people killed. Maybe it’s about time that we disconnect a little more and spend more time looking at what’s more important than TikToks, YouTubes and what Kayne West is saying now on Twitter.

Introducing the iPhone 12.5 – a brick. It’s quite literally a brick (but in multiple colours). Can be used with other iPhone 12.5’s to make a house, or any other kind of building. Can’t be used to make calls, take photographs or video, connect to the internet or even play music or video. It’s a brick. Environmentally friendly because it doesn’t need charging. (Cue 20,000 YouTube videos covering the iPhone 12.5, determining how strong a brick actually is – and building houses with it.)