Tech round-up for January 5: iPhone X test drive, Facebook eyeing kids as new customers, battery discounts for your older iPhone

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This week, Apple has been limiting processor functionality on older model iPhones, but they’ve got a good reason to do so. Plus, Facebook has a new product for kids. But first, my experience using an iPhone X while on vacation in Hawaii. In a word: awesome.

I used an iPhone X while on vacation in Hawaii; I loved them both

My family was lucky to be able to vacation in Hawaii over the winter break, and I was doubly lucky to get a chance to test drive an Apple iPhone X while we were there.

Much of the functionality of the iPhone X is shared with the iPhone 8 Plus, which I’ve been using – and loving – since it was released last fall.

But there are a few things that are unique to the iPhone X and they are why Apple has been calling it the “future of iPhone”.

The big difference is the facial recognition functionality, and on the iPhone X it features most prominently with FaceID, which is how you unlock the handset. All I had to do was raise the phone in front of me and it would activate. For me, it was foolproof. It worked in the bright sun on the beach and in the darkened cabin of an airplane. It even worked when I was hands free in the car driving down the Kona coast, when I was sitting back a few feet from the screen.

I tried sending a few animoji messages, which are animated emojis in fun cartoon characters you can send through Apple Messenger. You can use your facial features to make the emoji character more animated, and it records your voice to send an audio message. The effect for the recipient is of a cartoon character delivering them a message.

It’s cute and somewhat kitschy, but it’s easy. And fun.

The other thing that the existence of facial recognition supports is the removal of the Home button that has been ubiquitous on the bottom of the iPhones before now. I adjusted quickly to its absence; swiping up on the screen takes you back to the home screen now. I have not yet adjusted, however, to being able to call up the quick menu by double clicking on the Home button. With the iPhone X I had to swipe up from the bottom of the screen and pause, which brought up the app-switcher.

The other iPhone X feature that I was able to use while in Hawaii was the new portrait lighting. I took some amazing photos of family with the iPhone X against the backdrops of dramatic lava flows, ocean surf, and palm trees. From my experience, the iPhone X took better photos and video than any iPhone I’ve used before.

The other thing with the iPhone X that I liked was the size of the device. I’ve become accustomed to the larger screen on the “plus” versions of the iPhone since the iPhone 6 Plus. I’m less happy with the size of those devices, which require me to use two hands.

The bezel-less design of the iPhone X, though, means that I get almost as much screen real estate as the iPhone 8 Plus, but in a device that is closer to the size of the iPhone 8. The X fits in my hand – and feels like it belongs there – the same way that earlier iPhone models did.

The new screen for the new iPhone is OLED, which provides clarity of resolution as well as rich colour.

The thing you’ll have to get used to is the “notch”, which is small area at the top of the handset where the camera and facial recognition sensors are placed. The existence of the notch is a trade-off for not having a bezel. It will annoy some and be irrelevant to others. I found that it was helpful for me to orient the handset, something that the Home button has always done for me in the past.

I think it’s fair for Apple to call the iPhone X the future of the device. I expect there are some tweaks and iterations that will be made to make future iPhones even better. I can’t imagine Apple is happy with the notch, for example, and are trying to figure out how they can get rid of it.

I’ll say this: I was asked to return the iPhone X after using it for two weeks. My experience using it was pleasing enough that I did so reluctantly. And I’ve had to relearn a couple of things since going back to the iPhone 8 Plus; I didn’t even realize how quickly I’d adapted to the iPhone X.

More future, please. I like it.

As for Hawaii? I’ll go back.

Apple admits to “slowing” old iPhones, cuts price of battery replacements

Recently, it was revealed that Apple has been reducing the processing power of older iPhone models.

Customers have interpretted this as being evidence that the company is intentionally impacting the performance of older phones in order to encourage them to upgrade to new devices.

The reality, I believe, is not quite as nefarious. In a post to its website, Apple explained why it might slow down an iPhone.

Despite the improved battery performance that we’ve witnessed in the past 20 years, the functionality of batteries does change as they age. And one thing that can happen with older batteries in older phones is that under heavy processing demand, they can shut down. Apple doesn’t want iPhones to just shut down on you, so they created software that would reduce the processing happening in an iPhone if there was a danger of it shutting down.

Better to be slower than off, is the reasoning.

And this can all be avoided by replacing an older battery with a new one. By way of apology, Apple is making it cheaper to get a new battery on an iPhone that is out of warranty. Through the entirety of 2018 it will cost $35, not $99, to get a new battery into an iPhone model 6 or older. Details will be posted to Apple Canada’s website “soon”.

Apple knows that it made a mistake by creating this functionality but not being transparent about it, so an iOS update is pending that will give users visibility into the health of their iPhone battery.

Facebook rolls out messenger service intended for kids in U.S.

Are you ready for your kids to join you on Facebook? In December, the social media service released a preview of Messenger Kids, an app designed to “give kids and parents a fun, safer” messaging solution.

Facebook developed Messenger Kids with “parents, kids, and experts”, but despite the consultation, the app collects information about users and archives the messages they send. It also tracks usage patterns. Consumer advocates are asking Facebook to keep Messenger Kids free of advertising.

Parents need to approve a child’s account, and kids have limited functions, but can send messages and add filters and scribbles on photos they send. Users do not have Facebook accounts – Facebook’s terms of service require users to be 13 or older – and Facebook claims that the child accounts will not automatically be converted to full accounts when kids turn 13.

But it’s no surprise that Facebook is looking to ways to grow its user base.


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