I was in Seattle for the big Apple event. I still haven’t seen it all the way through, and I skipped around in fits and starts. Because this year is a very very iterative year. Four new phones, all same sizes, slight camera tweaks and screen improvements in the Pros. New slightly larger watch, keyboard and slightly faster charging but otherwise an identical chipset to the one on my arm. The only really new thing was the iPad mini being converted to an iPad Air Mini, which isn’t nothing – it might be an attractive alternative to a personal laptop under certain conditions, although you still need a keyboard for any kind of serious text entry. Then again, slap an Apple Pencil on it, and maybe you’re looking at the kind of thing that has me constantly going around with a notebook and pen to work out my thoughts. If I can scribble typed text on the screen and dictate the rest, then…who knows?
But there are not that many new features anywhere. iOS 15 is a grab bag of new improvements, some of which are downright gimmicky and some of which still haven’t shipped. I waited longer than usual to take on the beta, and the big thing I wanted – vaccine record and drivers’ license in the phone, which in the modern era damn near obviates the need for a wallet – is not yet available in California. It did drive home how much the phone really is the key piece of the equation now, though – the personal iMac is a repository for a quarter-century of file backups and iTunes library, plus a big screen for background video and Zoom. Which I can also do on my work laptop now that the big 27” 5K display is on the desk, and if one of them has to go when we move house, it’ll be the iMac, because we can plug either of our laptops up to the 5K. Or, come to think of it, an iPad mini with a bluetooth keyboard.
It’s reaching a point where my personal computing needs beyond the phone only require an AppleTV and a larger screen for video watching, and a keyboard for long-form video input. It would be nice to have the larger iPad mini display for travel, if only because a 5.4” is kind of crap for movies on the plane or maps when you’re plotting the day’s events, and the new mini might even fit in my travel blazer inside pouch. But at the end of the day, one of the things I found out on my week in Seattle was that I only needed the laptop for video conferencing (which was being backboned off the phone’s hotspot for connectivity, and nevertheless took 78% of the laptop’s battery in 80 minutes) – everything else from reading to music to photography to posting pics went to the phone without any trouble.
Seattle was useful in a lot of ways – partly for helping me finally elide the difference between light rail and streetcars (a streetcar runs solely on streets, never on its own right-of-way, and is a single car rather than a train), partly for the experience of the underground (a tremendous prompt to imagination and possibly the greatest real-life Quake map I’ve ever seen), and partly for the Space Needle and what its New Frontier pre-11/23/63 optimism says about our current world and how it all fell apart after September 11 or November 9. But at root, it was a useful test of a week away with only what I could fit in a laptop sleeve and a nifty tweed Rickshaw getaway bag. And I can definitely subsist for a week on the loadout that bag can hold, with the additional bonus that if we were going abroad, an iPad and charger kit could fit on top of my clothes and not require a separate bag at all. Make provisions to do laundry halfway through, and boom, there’s your two weeks in London – a circumstance that seems to have become the light at the end of the tunnel, however long it takes to get there. With the US finally admitting vaccinated visitors from the UK and EU, it seems like only a matter of time.
But first we’ve got to shift ourselves. Of which.