January 5, 2021

on current events

Happy new year! May 2021 be brighter for all. Meanwhile, we will continue our Zoom-based iPUG meetings until it is safe to gather in person and indoors. Based on current events, it will likely require several months.

Meanwhile, our tried-and-true gathering spot Fronimos has just announced they are closing their Speedway location, due to `astronomical rent increase' by the landlord. Hopefully they will be able to reopen in another location soon.

This scientist’s decades of mRNA research led to both COVID-19 vaccines, the NY Post reports: the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. `Kariko’s obsessive 40 years of research into synthetic messenger RNA was long thought to be a boring dead-end. She said she was chronically overlooked, scorned, fired, demoted, repeatedly refused government and corporate grants, and threatened with deportation — among other indignities, ' they report. But now, `Scientists say they couldn’t have won the global vaccine race without her.'

iOS & Apple news

December 2020 was the third month in a row, a 30%+ growth for Apple App Store.

iMore has listed their Best of 2020 awards.

Microsoft is planning to Replace Outlook for Mac With New Universal Client.

[ RUMOR ] Two foldable iPhone prototypes have passed internal tests for durability, according to Taiwanese website Economic Daily News.

iOS 14

An overview of iOS 14.3 that was released just before the holidays, including: support for AirPods Max, Apple Fitness+, new playlist full bleed animated headers, updated Apple News Audio, new Set Wallpaper action in Shortcuts, People Detection, and much more. Watch this video for more details:

With iOS 14.3, you can ask Siri bout sounds. For example, you can ask: “Hey Siri, what does a humpback whale sound like?”; “Hey Siri, what does a toy poodle sound like?; “Hey Siri, what does a harp sound like?”; “Hey Siri, what do firetrucks sound like?”

AirPods Max

Last month, Apple released the new AirPods Max headphone. Here is an excellent video review by Marques Brownlee (12 mins):

He gives them a very high rating, he calls them `luxury listening'. The noise cancellation is excellent (cancelled the noise fro a vacuum cleaner 3 feet away) and concludes that they `should be great on a plane.’ Note that to cancel noise, these headphones have 8 microphones. He also says they have the best Transparency mode he’s ever heard: you can hear where an ambient noise is coming from, unlike with other headphones. The sound is excellent, with good musical instrument separation. However, he dislikes the case: the design of it, the fact that it does not cover the top, the way it opens/closes. Note that this case is what is required to turn the headphones on/off. The headphones have smart features (similar to Airpods Pro): they automatically pause audio when you take them off, Siri will read your text messages for you as they come in, if you want, they pair with every Apple device you have instantly, and more.

This is a very clever demo of the AirPod Max headphones. This setup is designed to accommodate headphones so you get to hear what you would hear if you were actually wearing the headphones:

And this is an excellent review / overview of the airPods max by an audiophile. He gives them very high marks. He also notes that they are better than the competition but 90% more expensive. This review is full of interesting tidbits. Watch:

And finally, here is a fun video that starts with unboxing and then gives a review. It is very informative but also quite entertaining (caveat: some expletives!). He concludes that these are his new favorite headphones and worth the price.

There have been some early misstatements by tech reviewers regarding the AirPod Max reliance on the case to go into power saving mode. Apple clarified the various power saving modes: If you take the headphones off and set them down, they will go into low power mode after 5 minutes, or if you put them in their Smart case, they will go into lower power mode immediately. The smart case is not required to trigger power-saving modes, it only accelerates their start. The headphones have a 20-hour battery life.

So the smart case the headphones come with is not really required for the power saving mode.

Waterfield now offers a case for AirPods Max that triggers the power saving mode immediately:

AirPods Max teardown by iFixit. There are 8 microphones to assist with noise cancellation. And 2 Apple H1 chips.


Comparing Apple Fitness+ Cycling Review vs Peloton vs Zwift for cycling specifically. This Canadian reviewer concludes that Fitness+ is her favorite cycling workout. It's also priced lowest.

Fitness+ covers much more than cycling. For a broader overview, take a look at this demo and review. It shows Fitness+ in action. She walks us through the Fitness+ setup and interface, then walks through a few sessions and gives a sense of what Fitness+ is like. She also points out features such as the accommodation for hearing disabilities, the burn bar, and that every video features 3 different instructors, each working out at a different difficulty level. Watch:

iOS 14.4 beta suggests guided audio walking workouts coming to Apple Watch, reports 9to5mac. A beta user noticed that `Time to Walk' is setting with which walking workouts are downloaded to the watch when connected to power and the iPhone is nearby.''

iOS apps

AppAdvice offers The Best Workout Apps.

Drizly is an app for local delivery of beer, wine, and liquor. Shop multiple local stores all at once, compare prices, choose what you want, and get it delivered. Here is more info on how it works.

Recall that some iPad models offer support for a mouse. Pascal's Wager is a game that offers support for a mouse and a keyboard when playing on an iPad. A user on Reddit has posted a video showcasing how it works.


In their last episode of 2020, `In the Bubble' podcast is titled What Will 2021 Look Like?. Host Andy Slavitt closes the year with a recap of 2020 and predictions for 2021 with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Andy brings you into the bubble with Dr. Fauci by asking some of the questions he received from listeners.

tips & tricks

With iOS 14, widgets have become nice options for customization. The smart widget rotates through choices such as calendar, weather, news, and photos. But what if you do not want to see one of the hosen photos? Here is how to disable the photo from being selected by the widget.

A minority of AirPod Pro headphones find the fit in their ears to be imperfect. Federico Vittici describes: How I Modded the Silicone Tips of AirPods Pro with a Memory Foam Layer in great detail. It has resulted in better fit and more comfortable prolonged wear.

gadgets & accessories

Roger H. told us about DualCam Video Doorbell. It offers dual cameras.

A demo and overview of the new HomePod Mini, by Marques Brownlee:


Apple Pay will be in available in Mexico sometime in 2021.

New York Subway Completes Rollout of Apple Pay Support. `New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has completed its rollout of Apple Pay support to all buses and subway stations in the city via its OMNY contactless fare payment system.'`


It's new year, and many resolutions are made to exercise more. Apple Watch helps you track your workouts and coaches you It also gives you achievement awards. Now, you can get Activity Awards delivered to your door: they are enameled coated metal pins to recognize your achievements.

A nice overview & demo of watchOS 7, including primarily: new and improved watchfaces (including multiple complications of the same app on a watchface, sharing watchfaces); Fitness+, a service that is competitive to Peloton and similar professional fitness apps but much less expensive; and finally, Sleep.

privacy & security

Google says it will update its iOS apps with privacy details beginning this week, reports 9to5mac. `Earlier today, it was reported that Google hasn’t updated any of its iOS apps since December 7, a day before Apple required developers to provide a privacy report for every app available on the App Store. However, Google has now said it will update its iOS apps with privacy details beginning this week'.