The Best Of: 2023

In 2023, the year was characterized by conflict, upheaval, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, I have compiled a list of my best and favorite things from this year as a way to shift focus. While I typically indulge in watching numerous movies, the circumstances of this year prevented me from viewing several significant films that I had hoped to experience.

Best Movie
Barbie
What I thought was going to be a childish movie for kids, actually appealed to some of my comedic senses. Out of all the movies I watched in 2023, it was the most memorable and one I rated the highest. I hope to see more films this winter and have a better pick for next year. This live-action film managed to blend humor, adventure, and valuable life lessons seamlessly. The cinematography was visually stunning, and the acting was top-notch, making it an enjoyable experience for viewers of all ages. The story was heartwarming and had a strong message about the power of friendship and believing in oneself, which left a lasting impact. Barbie exceeded my expectations and proved to be a delightful surprise.
Runners-up: Asteroid City; Knock at the Cabin

Best TV Show
The Bear
The Bear, available on Hulu, has truly captured the hearts of many viewers, and with the second season released this year, the excitement has only grown. This captivating restaurant drama/comedy effortlessly blends elements of anxiety, emotion, and heartwarming moments, making it a truly binge-worthy experience. Whether you’re a fan of the culinary world or simply enjoy immersive storytelling, The Bear is a must-watch. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to dive into the series and witness the enthralling narrative unfold, leaving you eagerly anticipating each new episode.
Runners-up: Succession (MAX); Beef (Netflix)

Best Music Album
The Elovators – Endless Summer
The Elovators’ album “Endless Summer” has become an integral part of my music collection. Their unique blend of reggae and rock creates a captivating sound that has resonated with me. From the moment I discovered the band, I found myself eagerly anticipating the release of this album, and it did not disappoint. The tracks quickly became the soundtrack of my summer, and even now, I find myself turning to these songs on a daily basis. Their music has a way of transporting me to a laid-back state of mind, filled with sunny vibes and carefree moments. I was fortunate enough to attend their live performance in November, and it was an experience to remember. The energy and passion they bring to the stage is just as powerful and captivating as their studio recordings. It’s evident that The Elovators pour their hearts into their music, and this authenticity shines through in every note. The atmosphere at the concert was electric, with fans swaying to the rhythm and singing along to every word. It was a testament to the band’s ability to connect with their audience and create an unforgettable music experience.
Runners-up: Morgan Wallen – One Thing at a Time; mansionz – mansionz 2

Best Song
Morgan Wallen – Everything I love
When it comes to music, the beauty lies in its ability to transcend boundaries and connect with people from all walks of life. Morgan Wallen’s “Everything I Love” achieves just that with its soulful blend of throwback country and Americana influences. This captivating song is not only a breath of fresh air for the genre but also a testament to Wallen’s versatility as an artist. As the world embraced the allure of Americana music, Wallen’s interpretation of this genre brought a new dimension to his artistry, earning accolades from fans and critics alike. His ability to infuse classic country elements with modern sensibilities resonated deeply, making “Everything I Love” a standout in his discography.
Runners-up: Passafire – Offer; Rome & Duddy – Coast of Mexico

Best Video Game
Hogwarts Legacy
While I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, I do like the Wizarding World crafted around the stories of the character. I was hesitant at first about an open-world game set in this universe, but after seeing some reviews upon the launch, I felt I needed to experience it. A well-crafted RPG game, Hogwarts Legacy excels with the story and chance encounters in the world. I was deeply immersed in this game, having spent well over 40 hours completing the story and side missions. The attention to detail in bringing the magical world to life, the intricate storyline, and the freedom to explore Hogwarts and its surroundings truly captivated me. The game mechanics, spell-casting, and the variety of magical creatures added a layer of complexity that kept me engaged throughout. Not many games can capture my attention and dedication these days like Hogwarts Legacy, and I eagerly look forward to any future expansions or sequels that further delve into the enchanting universe of Harry Potter.
Runners-up: Starfield (Xbox); Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Switch)

Best Mobile Game
NYT Games
For some reason, this year I started getting into crossword puzzles, and I thought, what better way to test my ability than to do the New York Times crosswords. I soon discovered that the NYT had an iOS app that included their crosswords, Wordle, and other word and letter games. I quickly subscribed to their service and have been playing daily for about 6 months. It’s been such a rewarding experience diving into these puzzles and word games. The New York Times crosswords are known for their clever, engaging clues and diverse range of themes, which always keep me on my toes. I’ve found that solving these puzzles not only sharpens my vocabulary and problem-solving skills but also provides a great mental workout. The Wordle game, in particular, has become a favorite quick challenge for me to tackle each day. The feeling of satisfaction when I fill in the final word is truly unparalleled. Overall, my journey with the NYT Games has been an enriching and enjoyable one, and I look forward to many more months of fun and mental stimulation.
Runners-up: Knotwords; finity.

Best iOS App
Callsheet
If you’re a cinephile or simply enjoy keeping track of your favorite movies and TV shows, look no further than Callsheet, the standout iOS app of the year. Created with the intention of replacing the cumbersome IMDB app, Callsheet provides a seamless experience for accessing movie and TV show details without the clutter of ads and promotions. Its sleek design, user-friendly interface, and superior features make it a refreshing addition to the app world. One of the most noteworthy aspects of Callsheet is its innovative feature that allows you to view the age of the actors during the filming of the specific movie or TV show you’re exploring. Gone are the days of wondering, “How old was she in this?” as Callsheet empowers you to effortlessly obtain this information within a matter of seconds, directly from your phone. This thoughtful addition enhances the viewing experience, bringing a new level of insight and appreciation to your favorite entertainment.
Runners-up: Threads; Sports Alerts

Best Podcast
Accidental Tech Podcast
As the year unfolds, the Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) continues to hold the top spot as my favorite podcast. Despite not being a new addition to the podcast world, ATP has managed to maintain its relevance and captivate audiences with its compelling content. The trio of hosts delves into an array of technology topics, spanning from discussions on Apple’s latest innovations to the complexities of AI and the ever-evolving landscape of gaming. Not only does ATP cater to tech enthusiasts, but it also incorporates lively discussions on automotive technology, stemming from the hosts’ roots in a car-oriented podcast known as Neutral. This unique blend injects an appealing dynamic into the podcast, ensuring that every episode is a delightful fusion of tech insights and entertaining car talk. For me, tuning in to ATP each week has become a ritual, a source of not only staying updated with the latest tech developments but also immersing myself in the amiable banter and camaraderie shared among the three seasoned hosts. Their chemistry and camaraderie create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that keeps me eagerly anticipating each new episode.
Runners-up: Reconcilable Differences; The Backmarkers

Best New Tech Product
Sony PS VR2
As my first foray into virtual reality (VR), the PS VR2 certainly wowed me with all of its immersive features and technology. While the games to support the hardware have been a little lackluster, I hope it gets better as time goes one. Ready my full review of this cool new tech product here.
Runners-up: TP-Link Deco; Nest Cam Spotlight

Best New Apple Product
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The latest flagship iPhone is proving to be the best yet with the additions of USB-C and a titanium build. Read my full review of this amazing product here.
Runners-up: Apple Watch Ultra 2; MacBook Pro M3


Links and sources:

Barbiehttps://www.themoviedb.org/movie/346698-barbieNYT Gameshttps://apps.apple.com/app/id307569751
Asteroid Cityhttps://www.themoviedb.org/movie/747188-asteroid-cityKnotwordshttps://apps.apple.com/us/app/knotwords/id1598756238
Knock At The Cabinhttps://www.themoviedb.org/movie/631842-knock-at-the-cabinfinity.https://apps.apple.com/us/app/finity/id1071698434
The Bearhttps://www.themoviedb.org/tv/136315Callsheethttps://apps.apple.com/us/app/callsheet-find-cast-crew/id1672356376
Successionhttps://www.themoviedb.org/tv/76331Threadshttps://threads.net
Beefhttps://www.themoviedb.org/tv/154385Sports Alertshttps://apps.apple.com/us/app/sports-alerts/id432450349
The Elovators – Endless Summerhttps://songwhip.com/the-elovaters/endlesssummerAccidental Tech Podcasthttps://atp.fm
Morgan Wallen – One Thing At A Timehttps://songwhip.com/morgan-wallen/onethingatatimeReconciliable Differenceshttps://relay.fm/rd
mansionz – mansionz 2https://songwhip.com/mansionz-2/mansionz-2The Backmarkershttps://relay.fm/backmarkers
Morgan Wallen – Everything I Lovehttps://songwhip.com/morgan-wallen/everything-i-loveSony PS VR2https://www.playstation.com/en-us/ps-vr2/
Passafire – Offerhttps://songwhip.com/passafire/offerTP-Link Decohttps://www.tp-link.com/us/deco-mesh-wifi/
Rome & Duddy – Coast of Mexicohttps://songwhip.com/romeandduddy/coast-of-mexicoNest Cam Floodlighthttps://store.google.com/us/product/nest_cam_floodlight?hl=en-US
Hogwarts Legacyhttps://www.hogwartslegacy.com/en-usApple iPhone 15 Pro Maxhttps://apple.com/iphone-15-pro
Starfieldhttps://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/store/starfield/9ncjsxwztp88Apple Watch Ultra 2https://apple.com/apple-watch-ultra-2
Super Mario Bros. Wonderhttps://supermariobroswonder.nintendo.comMacBook Pro M3https://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max: The Beard Blog Review

iPhone 15 PM

It’s no surprise that Apple releases new iPhones in the fall every year, and this September is no different. Apple held an event on September 13th 2023 to announce four new iPhones and two new Apple Watches. All models were available to purchase starting on September 22nd. I again upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Read about my thoughts on the 17th flagship iPhone.

Read more

iPhone 14: One Year Later

It’s been about a year since I received my iPhone 14 Pro Max and published my review. Normally I don’t revisit these as I’m looking forward to a new iPhone in the fall. This year I wanted to highlight my experiences with my iPhone 14. It could be too early to tell, but this may be the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. That of course comes with some concessions as it’s not perfect.

iPhone 14 Pro Max

Durability

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the most durable iPhone I’ve ever owned. It may be one of the most durable pieces of technology I’ve ever used. I normally don’t use a case, and this year my iPhone didn’t spend a single minute in any protection. The first few months, I babied the device, but after the first drop, that quickly faded. Now, on average, I drop my phone on a hard surface five times a week. In the past, by the summer, my iPhone is so beat up that I need to get it replaced with AppleCare. This year is an exception. Not only do I not need to get it replaced, but there is barely a mark anywhere on it. The most noticeable blemishes are on the screen and around the stainless steel edge. About six months ago, I noticed a deep scratch about one inch long in the middle of my screen. I have no idea where it came from, but I’ve lived with it since. As I mentioned before, I drop it a lot. I’ve even dropped it on concrete from waist-high and cringed as I bent over to pick it up, expecting to reveal a spiderweb of glass on the front. Time and time again, it comes out unscathed

The Dynamic Island

Not quite a gimmick, but not really a useful feature. The Dynamic Island debuted as the coolest way to date to blend the front camera into the screen. In practice, it kind of just faded and became more of a button to get to music playing or a progress bar for when something is uploading. I still like it, but I’m hopeful it gets better in the next iterations before it’s replaced by under-screen cameras and sensors.

Always On Display

Probably the biggest functional difference in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max is the always-on display. I’ve heard that some people turn it off to save battery life, but in my (and others) testing, it does not have a significant impact on daily battery life. At first, it was somewhat odd to look over at your iPhone on the table and see a full-color display lit up, but I quickly got used to it. Now it serves as a way for me to glance at the time, widgets, and what’s currently playing. I love how Apple engineered the display and software to not just go monochrome like some other phones, but also preserve your wallpaper while giving you the choice to turn it off. Once again, the long wait was worth it.

Not So Great Points

  • The cameras are fine, but I’m ready for a major upgrade.
  • One thing I noted in my review last year was the focus distance of the main camera, especially when scanning barcodes. This was a pain point all year and I believe Apple will fix that on the next iPhone.
  • Battery life has also been just fine. It seems like this phone’s battery is degrading faster than previous ones.
  • The Pro colors are boring, but I don’t see Apple changing this anytime soon.

Pour one out for Lightning

The iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max may likely be the last iPhones with the Lightning connector. While it’s over 10 years old, the Lightning connector is one of the best port innovations we’ve seen in a long time. Some may forget that Apple was part of the consortium that helped develop USB-C, so it was loosely based on Lightning. In a physical connector sense, Lightning is better than USB-C because the complicated and fragile bits are on the inside of the device, whereas USB-C exposes them on the cable side. It was a big deal when Lightning launched on the iPhone 5 in 2012, and it’s still in use on a lot of products today. Let’s pour one out for the previous best charging solution and the originator of the reversible charging cable.

iPhone 14 to 15

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a great device and while it may be the best iPhone I’ve ever used, there is always the newest one to take that title. I probably won’t think about the 14 again after this, but it remains a favorite in my book. The next iPhone is rumored to be named the iPhone 15, in numerical order after the current iPhone 14. If all goes well, you will soon be reading my review of the next iPhone right here on Beard Blog.

My Apple iPhone Lock Screen

I was surprised to learn that many iPhone users are unaware of the numerous Lock Screen features Apple has introduced in the last 12 months. These features encompass a range of customizations to enhance the appearance and functionality of the Lock Screen, including the introduction of widgets for the first time. Additionally, Apple now allows users to change the clock font, a feature previously unavailable. Given that most of these features are hidden and not easily found, I believe it would be helpful to share the Lock Screen setup I personally use on a daily basis.

iPhone Lock Screen

Customizations

The clock font options provided by Apple do not come with specific names or numbers, but I have chosen a unique font that adds some character to the default style. Moreover, I have opted for a non-standard wallpaper sourced from Reddit, further adding a personalized touch to my Lock Screen.

Widgets

Apple offers a selection of first-party widgets for users to choose from, and third-party developers have the ability to create widgets for their apps. In crafting my Lock Screen layout, I have decided to incorporate a combination of both first-party and third-party widgets, allowing for a diverse and personalized arrangement.

Date
Previously the date was below the time, but now we have the option to add it as a tiny widget above, giving room for more robust widgets in the space below. I wear a watch that display the day and month, but having it on the Lock Screen on my phone is sometimes handy.

Carrot Weather
Here on my Lock Screen I’m using two different Carrot Weather widgets for all my weather watching needs. Positioned above the time is a standard “High & Low” widget, provided by the third-party app Carrot. Directly below the time, I have incorporated a customized large widget from Carrot. The ability to personalize these minute details is one of the primary reasons I am a paying subscriber to Carrot Weather. It’s fantastic that Carrot Weather allows for such customization, enhancing my Lock Screen experience.

Watch Battery
Apple includes a widget that enables you to choose a device and view its current battery level. If you prefer, you can even display the battery level of the iPhone you’re currently using. Personally, I have opted to display the battery level of my Apple Watch, as it is the device I am primarily concerned about. Additionally, this widget has the convenient feature of automatically switching to another connected device, like AirPods, when applicable. This functionality ensures that I can effortlessly keep track of various device battery levels on my Lock Screen.

Snapchat
In addition to having the camera icon conveniently located in the bottom-right corner of my Lock Screen, I frequently unlock my phone with the sole intention of capturing a spontaneous photo to share on Snapchat. This particular widget provides a direct shortcut to the camera function within the Snapchat app, enabling the fastest way to take a snapshot right from the locked position. Similar functionalities can be found in other apps as well, making lock screen widgets an excellent tool for efficiently utilizing various applications.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max: The Beard Blog Review

Here we are again, the fall weather is upon us and there are new iPhones out in the wild. Apple recently announced the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Later this year the iPhone 14 will get a big brother named the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s easy to tell that Apple has a long term strategy with the iPhone. They meticulously add new features that seem like a big deal at first, but are actually very small improvements year over year. This allows them to continue to release a new phone every fall and get people (like me) to buy it.

What’s new on iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a lot like the 13 Pro max and even the 12 Pro Max. Same shape, size, and materials. The biggest difference is the screen notch has been replaced by a rotated lowercase “i” shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island. I feel like this has a lot of potential in the future, but without any third-party app integration, it’s just a cool demo. The OLED screen has been updated to be brighter and be “Always-On” when not in use. This is similar to the Apple Watch where the screen dims but still shows some lock screen elements. I frequently have my iPhone sitting on a table in-front of me and now I won’t have to tap it to see what’s going on. Having devices where the screen is always-on is soon to become the norm. In the near future we’ll look at devices that don’t have the screen on as antiquated.

Baseball scores in the Dynamic Island

There’s a new main camera sensor (again) this year, but this time they quadrupled the megapixel count from 12 to 48. This doesn’t mean a whole lot, but allows it to gather more details and present you with a better image. I’ve found that when you want the most detail, use the “RAW” option to get a 48mp image as opposed to the Apple processed 12mp version.

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iPhone Photography By The Numbers

iPhone photography

As a semi-professional photographer I use multiple tools for my hobby. With an iPhone, I always have a great camera in my pocket. Since 2007 I’ve been taking photos with my iPhone and updating that camera as fast as Apple introduced new features. Because of the ever-changing smartphone camera market I started to track what type of photos I was taking with my primary camera. Now that we have at least four cameras on flagship smartphones I wanted to know even more which lenses I was using and which I didn’t really care for.

I started tracking these numbers in 2018 when I moved from the iPhone X to the iPhone XS. The iPhone XS had a much better camera over the X which was more of an industrial design change than a focus on photography. Each year since, I’ve counted up my photos from the past year and noted which lens was used. Now I can look back and see which phone I took the most photos with and which lens was the most popular that year.

Over the years my overall iPhone camera usage has gone way down since the iPhone X. Not sure why other than the pandemic. The majority of my photos come from the Main/Wide/1x camera but that share has gone down as the cameras have multiplied and offered different perspectives.The first zoom or telephoto lens was added to the iPhone back in 2016 when the iPhone 7 Plus was announced, and since then it’s been a unique addition allowing you to zoom into subjects without digitally cropping.

With the addition of the Ultra-wide camera on the iPhone 11 Pro, a third rear lens was available to split my photography between. It was recently updated to include macro photography on the iPhone 13 Pro, which explains the large bump in share of my photos this past year. In contrast, the lack of progress on the front-facing camera reflects in my reduced use. If you are the type of person that takes a lot of selfies though, that camera will get a lot of work.

Model

Main

Telephoto

Ultra-wide

Front

iPhone X

2702 / 80%

467 / 14%

-

198 / 6%

iPhone XS

2183 / 74%

646 / 22%

-

128 / 4%

iPhone 11 Pro Max

1458 / 64%

369 / 16%

318 / 14%

141 / 6%

iPhone 12 Pro Max

1094 / 67%

218 / 13%

220 / 14%

104 / 6%

iPhone 13 Pro Max

900 / 52%

291 / 17%

444 / 26%

88 / 6%

Totals

8337 / 70%

1991 / 17%

982 / 8%

659 / 5%

Ever year Apple has a story to tell about how the camera is better/different on the new phones. With every upgrade I say I’m going to make a better effort to take more photos but the numbers don’t lie. Over the last 12 months, I only snapped 1,723 photos which was the lowest amount of iPhone photos per year I have record of. To compare, I have saved about 300 photos from my professional camera, Sony a7III, so overall it was a down photos year. I plan to improve on that over the next 12 months.

Check out my iPhone 14 Pro Max review!

Macro Shootout

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Sony a7III

Macro photography is capturing larger than life images to show detail on smaller objects that you normally don’t get to appreciate with the naked eye.

Apple’s most recent flagship phones, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, have a new macro capability that allows the ultra wide lens to focus on objects that are as close as two centimeters. Macro photography is always fun to do especially with insects, flowers, and everyday objects. Never has it been so accessible to a consumer with the object they carry around in their pockets.

I’ve decided to see how well the iPhone 13 Pro Max does against a “big” camera with a cheap macro lens. 

I’m using a 7artisans 60mm f/2.8 lens that I purchased on Amazon, mounted on a Sony a7III, and honestly this lens is hard to use and not intended for a full-frame sensor, but let’s see how it looks.

I found a decorative wool pumpkin decorating our house for fall and through the woven nature would be a great test

Both images were artificially lit with an external LED light source to maximize detail.
You can see how much more detail and clarity comes out of the iPhone lens.

Here’s another comparison of a closer shot.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max macro capability is fantastic. Granted, I could probably match quality with an expensive macro lens on my Sony Mirrorless camera, but now I see no need with the iPhone camera.

Lastly, here’s a small collection of great macro images I captured on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

 

In the two weeks since the iPhone 13 Pro was released I’ve been taking macro shots of everything I can find and like most new iPhone features I think this will stick around. We’ll see in a year how many macro shots from the iPhone I’ve accumulated.

Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)

Apple iPhone X Beard Blog Review

The iPhone of the future, today!

iPhone x

Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.

Screen

The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.

iPhone X 7 plus
iPhone 7 Plus (left) iPhone X (right)

When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.

Face ID

Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.

My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.

iphone x trudepth
TruDepth Camera system

Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.

Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.

Cameras

As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”[/perfectpullquote]

The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.

Animojis

The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.

iphone-x-animoji
Panda Animoji

Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.

Pros / Cons

The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.

Pros

  • Great rear dual camera system
  • OLED screen is stunning in person
  • Face ID is more secure and easier to use

Cons

  • No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
  • Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
  • Front camera resolution could be better


Who should buy the iPhone X?
Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.

Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X?
Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.

The price of greatness

Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.

Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:

  • iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
  • iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
  • iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month

You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.iphone-x-2

Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.

In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.

How Do You Send Money?

Besides writing a check, how else can you send money to someone?

It’s 2017 and most people I know still write checks to give money to someone else. You would think by now technology has solved this problem of carrying a checkbook, writing out specific information, and bringing that to the bank. This ancient technique has finally been updates, for the most part.

There are numerous ways to send money to another individual or business, whether is to pay a bill or a gift, a lot of services exist for this sole purpose. Venmo, PayPal, Square, and PopMoney are three popular services, but it seems most banks offer their own version. These money sharing services often charge a fee when using a credit card, but most of the time there is no charge to use debit from your checking account. The issue with using an app to send money is that the funds live in the app and the recipient has to withdraw or transfer the money to use it. In rare instances, someone may keep the funds in the app and use it elsewhere, this is common when using PayPal. Think of someone you know that you’ve written a check to in the past. Odds are that they wouldn’t know what to do if you send them money via Venmo.

Enter Apple’s solution to this problem: Apple Pay. Ever since Apple debuted Apple Pay in 2014, I’ve been wondering how I can use this to pay another individual. While not as simple as holding your iPhone up to an NFC reader, Apple proves they have taken the time to think this through. Basically, you can send someone money through your iPhone to another person who has also has an Phone through the iMessages app. The way they do this is by giving you an Apple Pay gift card that you can load money on to send to other people. The great thing about this gift card is you can use the loaded/transferred funds anywhere that accepts Apple Pay, right from your iPhone. You can also transfer this money to your bank account, which should be free to do. If you send money to another person through Apple Pay by using a credit card, you’ll be charged a fee of about 3% of your transfer amount. This is to pay the credit card fees, so Apple isn’t making any money of this transaction. This transfer fee is standard throughout all the popular money sending services, but differs in actual percentage.

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A lot of retailers are moving to this “gift card” scenario where you load money on to a card and use that to pay, usually through a smartphone app. Starbucks is the biggest one I’ve used and they entice you to use it with rewards resulting in free items. The kicker with Starbucks is you can reload your card using Apple Pay, which makes this new system work.

Apple Pay person-to-person will be launching later this fall. This new money transfer system will take a very long time to catch on, if ever. The older generations, who actually use smartphones, will probably never get on this program. Don’t expect that $10 birthday check from your grandparents to go away any time soon.

Will you turn on this new iPhone feature?

This fall Apple will be releasing a new feature for your iPhone that could save your life!

Do Not Disturb… While Driving!

A new feature included with the upcoming release of iOS 11 will put your iPhone into Do Not Disturb mode while you are driving in your car. If you are not familiar with Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode, it suppresses all notifications and sounds while enabled. This is especially useful while you sleep if you keep your iPhone near you all night long. The kicker for the driving mode is when you get an iMessage it will reply to that person with a customizable message describing how you are driving and not getting notifications. If for some reason this person needs to reach you, they can reply URGENT to the automated message and their original message will be sent through. You can even set a contact list of people who get right through to you, bypassing Do Not Disturb. Of course this is all fine until you want to use your iPhone while you’re in the car. When you go to unlock your iPhone while Do Not Disturb is on you’ll see a pop-up on your screen letting you know this mode is turned on. You’ll need to tap I’m Not Driving to let your iPhone know that it’s safe to turn off Do Not Disturb mode. This is just another step Apple is taking to ensure your are driving safely.

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You should turn this on.

The number of cell phone related car accidents is on the rise and while we wait for autonomous cars, this is a great step to lower the number of incidents. This can also be a way for some people to break the awful habit of having to look at their phones every second of the day. Your eyes and mind should be focused on the road and other drivers, not your SnapChat or Instagram feed. I’m hoping Apple puts out a huge ad campaign around this feature so that more people will use it. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Apple should turn this on by default, but it definitely deserves some attention.

Ive been testing this mode for about a month now and it has been great. I’ve been guilty of checking my notifications, sending messages, and browsing social media in traffic or at a stoplight. I’m ready to kick that habit and Apple’s new Do Not Disturb while Driving is a great feature

What’s next for Apple’s flagship iPhone?

iPhone 7s, iPhone 8, or iPhone Pro?

For the past seven years, Apple has released a new flagship iPhone in the fall, usually at the tail-end of September. This year will be no different as we prepare for what might be the biggest iPhone change since the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. With so many rumors swirling around the ether, it’s hard to sort through trash to find treasure. Let’s only talk about the facts that can be verified or have a higher degree of likeliness.

iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus

Just like the last 3 years, we’re going to see another pair of similarly featured phones in two sizes. The smaller of the two will retain the 4.7” diagonal screen size with a single rear camera. The Plus variant will continue to have a 5.5” diagonal screen with dual rear cameras. This is not any big change over last year’s duo. The only two big changes I can see happening on this front are the addition of wireless charging and increased water/dust resistance.

If you’re not familiar with mobile device wireless charging that’s been around for quite some time in Android phones, it’s close proximity power transfer. Your device sits on a conductive pad that transfers power to your device through the back of the case. It’s not truly wireless because this conductive pad needs to be plugged in with a wire, and your device still needs to contact the pad to receive power.

Other features in these models that could make an appearance are new color finishes, better image signal processing, and higher storage tiers.

iPhone Pro

The rumor of an Apple iPhone Pro surfaced last summer when there was traces of a better, more expensive iPhone 7 Plus. This has since transformed into an all new form factor that will debut this year. The new form factor will sport a 5.8” diagonal screen, but the case of the iPhone will be much smaller aligning the physical size of the device directly between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The new screen will be powered by OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) which will give us deeper blacks and use less energy. The reduced footprint of the phone presents some challenges for making an edge-to-edge screen. The front facing camera and sensors will not be set in the screen, so there will be a small notch on the upper part of the screen. This notch will house the all-new front facing cameras, infrared sensors, and speaker.

This new form factor will also be the first iPhone ever without a home button. It is said the the home button function will be built into the screen, which will allow Apple to use the area where the home button previously sat. After the debut of 3D Touch and last year’s virtual home button, this seems like the culmination of research and evolution finally coming to fruition. Not much else is known at this point on the new yet-to-be named iPhone Pro. Speculation prices this iPhone above the current offering somewhere between $999 and $1499. Pricing that depends on what storage is offered and who they market this device to.

iPhone 8

Naming an iPhone is always kept under wraps until presentation day, so we never know for sure what these things are going to be called. Ever since the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone releases have followed a X/Xs naming scheme. Canonically, the non-s years brought redesigns whereas the s years brought speed and internal improvements. This pattern was pretty much broken the last two years when we got almost all new iPhones with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and not-quite-redesigned iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. My gut feeling tells me that Apple won’t break their trend of naming devices in order, regardless of what the new features are. I anticipate us seeing the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus. The outlier is the Pro model… They should just call it iPhone Pro or attach it to this generation by going with iPhone 7s Pro. I’ve seen some grumblings of Apple following the iPad trend and using generic names like iPhone, iPhone Plus, and iPhone Pro.

What Apple debuts is sure to be a hit and will sell millions of units. It’s going to be great to be able to have a premium model in addition to two already great form factors.

How to properly use your iPhone

One of this biggest annoyances I have are when people spread false “tech tips” and unsuspecting users actually follow them, religiously. Somewhere, someone thought it would be a good idea to tell everyone to quit all the running apps on their iPhone and/or iPad. This comes in many varieties like quitting all apps once in a while and the most ridiculous, quitting an app immediately after using it. I’m going to tell you why it’s not only a bad idea to quit your running apps, but you could actually be damaging your device.

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The Beard Blog iPhone 6s Review!

Such a Success

This year the new iPhone has been dubbed the iPhone 6s, much to my dismay (6s sounds like success and it’s annoying, not clever), and packs more than the usual punches. This review won’t be like some reviews where all new features are explained, I would like to share my candid opinion. If you wish to read A LOT of words about the new phones, check out Rene Ritchie’s review over at iMore.com.

I’ve had my iPhone 6s Plus since launch day and this year I’ve switched up the color. For the last two years I have opted with the stunning gold finish, but this year I’m going back to black! Even with my short time thus far, I have already come to like this year’s iPhone more than any in the past. It may look the same from a far, but if you get too close, this phone will change the way you think of smartphones.

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Shooting Photos on the new Apple iPhone 6s

Brad Magin swapped out his usual DSLR camera for the new Apple iPhone 6s plus on 9/19/2015 and shot some really amazing photographs in various lighting.

The upcoming iPhone 6s is the biggest camera bump Apple has included in a new iPhone. These photos give you a glimpse of what is possible in this next generation device.

Check out this link for the gallery:

http://www.si.com/mlb/photos/2015/09/21/iphone-6s-plus-sneak-preview-photos-si/1