iPhone choices, fitness with Apple Watch, modern power strips
Bob's Tech Talk
December 1, 2018
Q. As a longtime iPhone user, when I needed a new phone I would just get the latest model. Now the lineup has so many choices I’m confused. How do I pick one?
A. The 2018 iPhone models create an array of choices, yet choosing among them can still be simple. There are three new designs: the iPhone Xs, which comes in two different case sizes, and the iPhone Xr, the least expensive model.
Unlike most tech products, iPhone customers are not saddled with older technology when they step down from the most expensive model.
The iPhone Xr is by far the most bang for the buck. It is priced hundreds of dollars less than the Xs models and includes the same technology inside as its more expensive siblings. The iPhone Xr is also a major upgrade from last year’s lineup in both size and performance.
There are two big differences between the Xr and Xs.
The Xs has an OLED screen, the next generation of screen hardware. Side by side you might see the difference, but the Xr screen is excellent. The second difference is the camera. The Xs has two cameras on the back, and the Xr has one, because the Xr does not have a dedicated zoom lens.
Will you miss the zoom lens? Maybe. I have had a two-lens iPhone for a few years now, and I still consider it a luxury, not a must-have feature.
The bottom line: the colorful iPhone Xr is an outstanding phone packed with modern components. It has the very best balance of cost and features in the iPhone lineup and should be almost everyone’s first choice.
Q. How does the Apple Watch measure up as a health and fitness tracker?
A. The Apple Watch 4, released last September, is a compelling product for monitoring and protecting your health. While its ability to perform a limited type of EKG has attracted a lot of attention, I think a collection of its less-flashy features make the watch worth consideration.
I have worn an original Apple Watch for several years. I use it every day to keep an eye on my walking distance, how much water I drink, and how often I get away from my desk chair and move around a little.
I also use it to control the volume on my iPhone and deliver important notifications directly to my wrist. While I find the heart monitoring features promising, I believe the most useful aspect of the new Apple Watch 4 is fall detection. If a person falls while wearing the watch, it can automatically notify a trusted friend or dial 911 with an automated message.
Fall detection is not always turned on automatically. I suppose that is intended to cut down on the number of false alarms. However, from what I have seen, the watch is rather agile at detecting a genuine fall. I think most users would benefit from leaving it turned on all of the time.
In a little over four years, the Apple Watch has evolved from a curiosity into a product I find useful every day. As an accessory to the iPhone, the Apple Watch makes keeping up a healthy lifestyle just a little bit easier.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for a modest tech-related gift this holiday season?
A. There is a one essential item that every tech user needs: a great surge protector. The Anker Powerport Cube ($26, Amazon.com) provides three AC outlets and three USB ports in an elegant compact design. The outlets are arranged so that larger AC adapters or plugs can be accommodated without interfering with one another. The USB ports are smart enough to charge each device as fast as possible. The small size makes it an excellent travel charger.
Even if the lucky recipient already owns an ordinary plug strip, they will find a use for this well-designed gem.
And if you want to give yourself a gift, replace an outdated plug strip with an Anker 12-outlet PowerPort power strip ($35, Amazon.com).
Surge protectors can and do wear out after several years of use. Selecting high-quality designs is an inexpensive gift for your very expensive electronic devices.
Wander the Web
This site is great if you are planning to pick up someone at the airport and you want to monitor the progress of his or her flight. But it’s also just fun to watch how many aircraft are flying above your house.
Listen to Airplane Talk
This site allows you to monitor conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers all over the world.
Airport Web Cameras
Ever visit the airport just to watch the planes? This site is like that, only you stay indoors.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.