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Don’t ever forget to take a minute for yourself

I’m not here to debate politics, or what’s happening in streets and cities across the country. To put it plainly: 2020 sucks. Every month, week, day, hour, there is something else happening that makes me sick to my stomach to see. Except for the SpaceX/Nasa launch over the weekend, which gave me chills to watch.

I have taught myself to tune things out with the help of technology and the privilege to write on the interwebs. But something has been happening over the last few weeks. My social media usage has dramatically dropped. Although my Twitter feed largely consists of those in the tech or sports world, everything that has been happening has taken over.

Earlier today, Daniel Bader for Android Central wrote a piece that helped put something in perspective that I have not been able to put into words myself. Take a minute for yourself. He references standing on a balcony overlooking the Las Vegas skyline, but I have found myself doing the same thing more frequently.

In fact, the image attached as the “header” for this is a picture I took just a few hours ago. It was just a moment where I needed a minute for myself while I was able to take it. Realizing the opportunity, I took the picture, put my phone back in my pocket and just looked out onto the water. It was relaxing, there was no screaming news anchors, no looking at outrageous videos that have been captured, and no hustle bustle of life. Just staring at the scene in front of me and appreciating what the moment was.

This may seem like a bunch of rambling, but if you are given the opportunity, take a minute for yourself. Whenever it presents itself, hold onto it. Then, when the world around you feels as though its crushing you, reflect back on that moment you took as your “safe zone” and find peace. Not everyone will agree, but in my opinion (for what it’s worth) you need to keep your sanity however possible.

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Thoughts

Pixel Buds first impressions – Could these be Google’s AirPods?

When it comes to tech, I have my feet in both camps in many regards. While my primary setup includes a MacBook Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro, I also have a custom-built Windows PC along with a Pixel 4. For reasons that I cannot figure out, there’s just something about having access to all kinds of technology that makes me excited.

Along with my love for tech in general, I have a bit of an obsession with headphones. So when I saw that Google announced the Pixel Buds (2), I was instantly sold. And then the wait happened. Months passed and Google continued to hang back on releasing its new headphones.

The time finally came where Google opened up pre-orders, and I jumped at 12:01PM I placed my pre-order. Then, I had to wait for FedEx to get it together and deliver them to my doorstep.

Pairing process

Pixel Buds Setup Screen

As soon as I could, I paired them with the Pixel 4, took a few pictures, and stuck them in my ears. It’s clear that Google took a page out of Apple’s book and made the pairing process easier than ever. You don’t need to go into the Bluetooth menu, wait for the Buds to appear, and then pair them. Nope. Instead, you are greeted with a pop-up after the Pixel recognizes that these headphones are nearby.

After going through the different splash screens to enable things like Google Assistant Voice Match, you’re ready to go. This process also shows you some of the nifty gestures that you can take advantage of.

That’s right, instead of relying on buttons (Jabra Elite) or a touch-sensitive stem (AirPods), the surface of the Pixel Buds are touch sensitive. Swiping forward turns the volume up, swiping back turns it down, a double tap skips the song while a triple tap goes to the last song or starts the current song from the beginning. And a single tap can play or pause.

Decide which apps you want Spoken Notifications for

But there’s even more than that, as you now have Google Assistant in your ear. As notifications come through you are notified, and then can touch and hold on the surface to have the messages read to you. But what’s even more awesome than this is that you can go into the Pixel Buds settings and set up which apps have access to this. No, I don’t want to know when a game is bugging me, let alone to have all my emails in my ear all the time. Google did a great job with this one.

Usage and impressions

By no means is this a “scientific” test, and this was just on the first run, but here’s how the first listening session played out:

  • 3:30PM paired and started listening to music
  • Turned on Spotify and listened to a few bass-heavy playlists (more on this later)
  • Ear Fatigue started around the 3-hour mark
  • Pixel Buds officially turned themselves off at 7:52PM.

So that’s almost 4.5 hours of battery on the first listening session. The ear fatigue came and then went, and it’s important to note that I left the “medium” ear tips in. But Google does include both a large and small option in the box. I might end up trying to pick up some Comply foam tips, but these worked fine.

Pixel Buds in Notification Shade

When each bud reached 15% left, a notification popped up on the Pixel and there was a unique sound in each bud. This just lets you know that you’re getting close to the end. The “sound” also repeats at 10% and 5% remaining.

There’s more to come

I am nowhere near the point of coming to a full “conclusion” about the Pixel Buds just yet. It would be dumb to give some type of decision after just one listening session. But my early impressions are that Google really did a great job with these.

While you can’t customize the EQ, I might try and dive into the Play Store to see what I can find. Plus, I could just use Spotify to customize the EQ, but that would only work in that app. Nonetheless, there are already rumors that Google could be planning a solid update to give you “attention alerts”. We’ll see what happens, but things are looking good so far.

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Thoughts

Creating the best Apple Setup for any budget

Over the last week or so, I have been seeing more and more posts about creating the “best Apple Setup” based on certain budget levels. This all started thanks to Chris Wilson over at iPadGuild, but has since been done by Andy Nicolaides, Matt Birchler, and Greg Morris. So I figured why not jump in on the train and see what I could put together.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • You cannot use any other items, if you have a Mac Pro lying around your home, I don’t care.
  • the prices are based off Apple’s website.

One thing that I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of variation in what you can do with these different price points.

$500

  • iPhone SE – $399
  • Apple Silicone Case – $35

Total: $434

This one was tough, because I was trying to decide whether to go the iPhone route or swing for an iPad. But the iPhone SE is just too good of a deal right now to pass up on. Plus, you’ll need a case to keep that glass back looking good. 


$1000

  • iPhone SE – $399
  • Apple Watch Series 3 – $199
  • 10.2-inch iPad – $329

Total: $927

With this setup, you’ll get that much closer to the entire Apple ecosystem with the iPhone, Watch, and base-model iPad. The fact that you can get all three of these for less than a thousand bucks, absolutely blows my mind. Especially considering that Apple has had the stigma of being over-priced for years. Apple’s making the right moves to get these great products into the hands of more people.


$2500

  • 11-inch iPad Pro – $800
  • Smart Keyboard Folio – $179
  • Apple Pencil – $130
  • IPhone 11 – $700
  • iPhone 11 Smart Battery Case – $130
  • AirPods Pro – $249
  • Apple Watch Series 3 – $200

Total: $2388

It’s time to sit down and go Pro with the $2500 budget. Kicking off with the 11-inch iPad Pro, this is a great deal as the base model will be more than sufficient for most of your needs. And snagging the Magic Keyboard will give you that “laptop” feeling. Plus, the iPhone 11 is a fantastic device, and it will be paired with the AirPods Pro and the Watch Series 3.


$5000

  • iPhone 11 Pro (256GB) – $1149
  • AirPods Pro – $250
  • Apple Watch Series 5 – $399
  • iPad Pro 11-inch Wi-Fi Cellular – $949
  • Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro – $299
  • Apple Pencil – $129
  • 27-inch iMac (Base model) – $1799

Total: $4974

This is the one. With this set up, you’ll get everything great that Apple has to offer, including the iPad, AirPods Pro, and even an iMac. Although many have moved to the iPad-only lifestyle, having a desktop Mac can come in handy. And in the same vein, we went with the base-config iMac instead of a Mac mini because then you’d have to find the “right” display to pair. With the iMac, you get everything, including a mouse and keyboard.

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Five years of the Apple Watch

We are almost right at the fifth anniversary since the Apple Watch was unveiled. It’s completely turned the smartwatch world on its head, with only Samsung really being able to try and keep up. WearOS is in a weird limbo especially after Google’s acquisition of Fitbit.

For many, the benefits of the Apple Watch have moved people from Android devices to the iPhone.

My Apple Watch journey started with the Series 3, and I went back and forth with wearing it until I finally picked up the Series 5 a few weeks ago. Despite all of the craziness going on in a “Work from Home” world, I still don’t take as much advantage of the Watch that I could.

It’s on my “to-do” list to get better and explore more of what the Watch can do, I just haven’t done it yet.

But there are plenty of stories where the Apple Watch helps to identify a problem before the person even knows, or completely asleep. It’s truly amazing what this little piece of hardware is capable of from just a healthcare standpoint.

Since I can’t speak on this from a user’s standpoint over the last five years, I’ve found a few different pieces that stood out to me today.

HODINKEE: The Apple Watch, Five Years In

Image credits: HODINKEE

HODINKEE provided the most in-depth overview of how the Apple Watch has evolved. It’s really interesting to see how everything started, what Apple’s next steps were, and where we are today.

Rene Ritchie

Rene recently left the iMore team to begin his ventures as an independent creator. In a way that only Rene could provide, he takes us on a trip down memory lane. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to his new channel.

iFixit: Five Years of Apple Watches: A Look Inside

Image Credits: iFixit

While it’s awesome to watch JerryRigEverything tear flagship smartphones and other devices apart, there’s just something about looking over what iFixit does. The company has torn apart just about every major product, including five years worth of Apple Watches. It only makes sense for iFixit to share the history, in a way that only they could.

iMore: A story about me, two Apple Watches, and five lost years

Image Credits: iMore

Oliver over at iMore does a great job at sharing his journey through discovering and using the Apple Watch. It’s evolved to the point that he’s actually using two Watches now, with one for throughout the day and another for sleep tracking. I would be lying if I hadn’t thought about doing the exact same thing until Apple gives us the battery life we need.

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It’s finally here – Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro First Impressions

I have been watching through the window like a crazed lunatic waiting for the UPS truck to arrive. When it did, I happened to be on a call, but my excitement level instantly went through the roof. This is the same feeling that I get whenever Apple announces something new that I’ll end up buying for myself.

All of this is to say that the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard has finally arrived.

Unboxing it is just simple much like everything else that Apple has to offer. Before I knew it, the iPad was floating above the new keyboard and it’s absolutely amazing. The level for using this at my desk is absolutely perfect. The responsiveness of the keys make me want to throw my Keyboard Folio in the trash (or just return it). No more mushiness.

Get the weight out of the weigh

As someone who has tried out the Brydge Pro in the past, I was hoping that Apple’s keyboard would be a bit lighter. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, as the combo of the iPad Pro and keyboard weigh in at 1350g. Surprisingly, the Brydge Pro & iPad Pro combo comes in at around 1323g. This difference may matter to some, but in the grand scheme, likely won’t.

This is a feeling that I’ll have to flush out over the coming days, but a big problem I had with Brydge’s keyboard is that I was always afraid that closing the iPad’s glass screen up to the Brydge’s aluminum body would end up in disaster. It never actually happened, but I didn’t feel like I could just close up the iPad and go, as I would have to carefully close things up.

In my (extremely) limited time with the Magic Keyboard, this is not much of a concern yet. Perhaps it’s because Apple opted to use the same plastic-feeling material from the Keyboard Folio, instead of just a slab of metal. But closing up the iPad is pretty quick, easy, and doesn’t scare me quite as much.

That trackpad doe

iPad Pro with Keyboard Folio and Trackpad 2

I’ve been toying around and using the Magic Trackpad 2 with the iPad Pro since the release of iPadOS 13.4. I already feel pretty comfortable with using the trackpad for gestures, but there is one thing to make note of with the Magic Keyboard. The Trackpad is tiny.

I have thicc hands so I definitely have to change how I interact with this smaller trackpad. Although the surface area is much smaller than the Trackpad 2, this one doesn’t actually feel so different that it’s unusable. I can still move my fingers down and interact with the new cursor with ease. And that’s really just something that I continue to be enamored by.

Magic Keyboard Trackpad

Activating gestures is just as easy, even if I have to pinch my fingers closer together than with the Trackpad 2. And this may just be placebo, but using the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad actually feels snappier. Maybe it’s because of the Smart Connector, as the trackpad is directly connected, and not just relying on Bluetooth. Yeah, that’s probably it.

The keys themselves

Right after Apple launched the 16-inch MacBook Pro, I replaced my 2015 version, but opted to go with the last 15-inch model. This was because Best Buy was having some great sales and I just couldn’t pass up on it at the time.

I bring this up because those sport Apple’s dreaded butterfly keys that have plagued users for years and years. After the 16-inch made its way to stores, I would type with the new keyboard to see what it felt like, and felt like it was a great move, as there was some actual movement again.

Magic Keyboard Keys

From what I’ve seen so far, the Magic Keyboard takes advantage of these same keys that are also expected to come in the new 13 or 14-inch MacBook Pro coming soon. Typing is a breeze, there’s good bounce back, and bottoming out doesn’t feel like such a bad thing.

While writing this, one potential frustration I’ve found is that my fingers end up under the front lip of the iPad. It’s not like they get stuck or anything, but I am hitting the tops of my finger nails on the bottom of the iPad. It’s probably nothing, and I’ll get used to it, but it’s still something to be aware of. And the arrow keys are laughably small, but will do the job if I need to use them.

Laptop lap time

Floating iPad Pro
It floats!

A huge complaint that I had with the Smart Keyboard Folio is that I never really felt comfortable using it on the couch. There just wasn’t enough rigidity for me to get through long-standing typing sessions, so more often than not, I would just get up and go to the desk.

When using the Magic Keyboard in my lap, it feels exactly the same as it did when using the Brydge Pro. But now, I have the ability to use the trackpad, and can keep my hands on the keyboard without needing to reach up and tap the screen all the time.

There have been some who have wanted Apple to release a touch-screen Mac for awhile, and this is it. And while iPadOS still doesn’t match up to the hardware, it’s making me even more excited to see what’s to come with iPadOS 14 this Fall. And I’m even more excited for the possible new iPad Pro with all-new silicon in the same slab form factor.

There’s plenty of time to keep typing away

I’m going to keep putting the Magic Keyboard through its paces, and will likely move away from using my laptop for anything but my day job. That will give me plenty of time to see what, if any, limitations I end up coming across throughout my usage.

Stay tuned for more, but early signs point to “love at first type”.