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Logitech Slim Folio Pro Review – A Comfortable Keyboard at a Comfortable price

I wrote a review earlier in the year for the IVSO Keyboard, a solid and cheaper alternative to the Apple Smart folio and a few of the other more expensive alternatives. 
The case had its drawbacks, but was overall not a bad cheaper entry case to using the iPad Pro as a main machine.

A few months on and I found a need for something more sturdy, a smaller footprint when extended and still allowed for being used to read on, tucked the keyboard away cleanly and allowed the Apple Pencil to be stowed easier without prying the pencil out like digging out coins in the bottom of a wallet.
I do a lot of work on the go and having a MacBook Pro is great for more serious tasks but I am always looking for ways to expand how my iPad can fill in the gaps.

Launched earlier in the the year the Logitech Slim Folio Pro is the third generation of iPad Pro keyboard. The Create Folio (which I had for my 12.9 Inch) was a serious replacement for the Apple Folio keyboard and also covered the entire iPad. Solid protection, and an awesome keyboard with iOS specific macro buttons. The weight however made it more like a MacBookPro 13 inch rather than a thin & light iPad.

The next generation of Slim Folio and Slim Combo cases worked to improve on this design, lower the weight and allow an iteration on the iPad’s resting position, as well as offer a removable keyboard solution in some models.

The Folio Pro works to take what Logitech has created over the last few years, and slim it down into a smaller, lighter weight package

The keyboard at its core on this feels way better than the MacBook Pro, but it is more on the mushier side, which can be better for comfort, but does take some getting used to. However for a mobile keyboard, it is arguably one of the better keyboards available for a tablet that resides inside of a folio.

The case, aside from the weight, as well offers benefit to the iPad Pro user. The case has 4 strong rubber edges on the side where the case mounts to to protect it from drops, but also  allows the Apple Pencil to be magnetically attached to the top, and when the folio is closed, there is a magnetic latch that covers the centre of the case to keep it closed in a bag, but it also keeps the Apple Pencil, nice and snug on the top of the iPad. 

Speaking of magnets, the case props the iPad up with a magnetic row on the bottom of the keyboard and the lower edges where the iPad slides in when you use it. It allows for a smooth movement of the tablet from a laptop mode using the case, to a mode feeling a lot like a Surface Pro tiled to it’s maximum tilt with its own internal kickstand.

One issue I would criticise for the unit, is that the case can be cumbersome in portrait mode, but can comfortable by used as an all in one case + productivity tool like the Apple Smart Folio, but the added weight does add heft so take that as you will.

I generally do a lot of reading in landscape mode now because of the case, and the adjustment to not using portrait mode was an adjustment, but since the way the case slides smoothly, it grows to also benefit the user. As since there is no movement of the case aside from the rising and lowering of the iPad, it means when used on a table, close spaces, or even something like an airplane tray table, your used space is minimal but still allowing maximum amount of access for he user to access the Apple Pencil, the USB-C port and all the speaker arrays.
The case is also charged through USB-C, and as you can see in the photo gallery above, I can comfortably charge the case from my iPad Pro. I have also tried it with a Satechi USB-C dongle as well and it charged the tablet with a USB drive attached as well.

Aside from the weight and the adjustment using portrait mode, the unit comes in at-least 30% cheaper than the Apple counterparts at around $179AUD, which is even cheaper than the Brydge alternatives as well which in their last generation was known for some issues with the Bluetooth quality on some devices.

Overall, the Slim Folio Pro is a definitive competitor to the more expensive offerings, giving the same, if not better, feel on keyboard quality, design and durability, with no major drawbacks or flaws. Bluetooth is solid, communicates well with iOS for the onscreen keyboard response, and you can type very comfortably on it for a prolonged period of time. If you are looking for a solid keyboard folio, and want to avoid the cheaper alternatives that have a fair few sacrifices in order to get close to usable, consider this keyboard to add to 

An Open Letter to Sydney Trains

Firstly. This is not the usual thing I post on this site. However, this warrants writing as a Sydney-sider, a tech head, and someone who had their hopes disappointed on the Sydney Metro line

Public transport in Sydney is not the best. Regular commuters or infrequent users of the system are subjected to delays, congestion, breakdowns, and overcrowding.
This is the well-known fact if you move to Sydney (and that is excluding the road traffic issues).

One of the pinnacle projects of the NSW Government over the last 4 years was the North West Connex, or the Sydney Metro line as it is now called, was touted not to be a full solution, but a step in the right direction for solving the North West Road Congestion and reliance on buses to travel from the likes of Rouse Hill, Kellyville and Castle Hill to the CBD & back.
Completed only a few days ago and with the tape cut so proudly by the Premier, the line was opened to minimal if no major mechanical issues, boasting close to 140,000 Sydney-siders to be the human guinea pigs for the government’s newest mechanical, conductor-less marvel; yet most new outlets rightfully commented on the truest test of the grit and stamina of this new line will be Monday morning peak time.

This was written Wednesday, the 29th of May and 3 days after the line opened, with some small issues along the way the last 2 days, the first major issue occurred upon the line at Cherrybrook, causing delays across the eastern section of the metro network. Doors not closing/opening correctly at stops caused some stations to be missed and commuters to hop off, wait “Only 5 minutes” for a train to take them one station backward and closer to home.
This, however, was not the case and due to the aforementioned congestion, the timetable did not fully return to normal around 6:30 pm (ish).

However, the largest issue with the network’s issues reared its head between Epping and Chatswood. Platforms filled with commuters at Chatswood, Macquarie University and Epping all to board the trains and people literally cramming themselves into the train in order to fit, causing more issues with doors and some folks having to hop off and wait for another train. As uncomfortable as it was for the first half of the journey, folks grinned their teeth and persevered as the crowds eventually thinned out the further west we went and by the time I arrived at my stop it felt more like stepping off a more standard T1 line peak service rather than a high-speed sardine can.

Sydney-siders boxed in like sardines. Surely this overcrowding isn’t safe?

You can search through Twitter to see the annoyed travelers or the folks bashing the new metro network not working out of the box in its infancy & first exposure to the Sydney peak timetable, but being so early in its lifespan is an advantage to the network and not a fault.

Let me tell you why.

What do all the Twitter complaints, breakdowns and delays all point to? Congestion.
From the start of Day 1, Sydney Metro has had staff in Blue T-shirts gathered at every station to discuss the train network and guide new users around the stops (in my case, handy at 6:30 am this morning under caffeinated wading around Epping station like a lost puppy trying to find my connection to Central), however, one would assume these staff would function the same as the platform staff at any other T line across the Sydney trains network.
And this is where the ball really got dropped & can get picked up again.

The single carriage system of these new trains is only able to hold so many bodies onboard before it becomes a WHS issue and frankly those limits were well exceeded today.
The network being in its infancy, the T-shirt clad front line soldiers of the Sydney Metro should be policing these trains and determining a maximum capacity of the carriages, and being the educated individuals I’m sure they are, liaising with the staff on these trains (yes, we see you there, also penned in with the rest of us like sheep in a pen too small for the size of the herd) and stopping passengers from boarding these trains.
With the network working peak efficiency (trains every 4-5 minutes) this shouldn’t be necessary, however policing the platforms correctly will lead to a more comfortable, and frankly higher opinion, of the metro system itself.

We can deal with breakdowns and mechanical issues, but you are turning this wonderful new piece of technology that is no doubt a Keystone for what is to come with the Sydney rail network, and you are turning it into the what could be the worst days of some users, purely from a lack of policing the congestion.

Yours,
A disappointed Sydney-sider who expected more from such a prominent service. 

The 2018 Mac Mini Review in 2019

November 7th, 2014 to November 7th 2018. That is the launch dates for the 2014 and then the 2018 Mac Minis.
4 years between a refresh, while arguably not as long as the current Mac Pro, It is still a long lapse between release dates. While the 2014 model was met with criticism for performance compared to the 2012 model, the newest iteration of the Mac Mini fixes the flaws and improves upon the idea of how small and powerful a Mac Mini can be.

I purchased my first Mac in 2012. An mid tier model with only a 500GB HDD, 8GB of Ram and the base model i5 CPU. For me it was as an excellent machine that served me through university and then home projects until i eventually moved and gave the machine to family, where it humbly served as a solid small mac until it was sold.

That Mac made a solid impression on me, and even as a frequent iPad user, I never ended up going back to smaller desktop macs, just laptops – purely for portability.
Fast-forward to 2019 and I decided to dive back into Desktop Macs and rather than tether a laptop like I had done for 2 years I pulled the trigger on a new Mac Mini.
Its been 2 weeks with the machine and I can say without a doubt the faults of the past have been rectified and thoroughly improved and further iterated on.

Performance

My configuration sits in the high-mid tier bracket. Being the 6 Core i5, 8GB of Ram and a 256GB SSD.
For what I do on my day to day and after hours work the current configuration smashes everything out of the ball park. Xcode for the iOS simulator, running 2 monitors with plenty of tabs open in Chrome and Firefox as well as playing podcasts behind the scenes.
Running all this on 8GB of ram can sometimes seem to stress the machine (I have iStat Menus running monitoring, CPU Load and Ram usage), but MacOS is so well optimised, that 8GB of Ram is still nothing to shake a stick at.

In my tests, the CPU handling most of the load, with the internal Intel Graphics an also help with some more Graphically intensive tasks too. Playing Stellaris at 1080P on Medium settings, the game handles well on the machine with only starting to drop frames when the galaxy starts showing more and more civilisation on the map as exploration continues through the mid to late game.

It should be noted though that without a proper cooling mat, it does spike into the higher 70s to 80s, even in the 90 degree Celcius mark during the day to day usage. There is a thread on this here. After consulting some friends who are Apple fans & former Apple Employees, I remedied this with a cooling pad and it now doesn’t spike any further than 65 Degrees on the day to day tasks which is where I was noticing the spike in temps.

I/O and Design

The 2018 Mac Mini comes back into the fold with a big bang. Being a modern Mac, its equipped with 4 Thunderbolt 3 Ports, 2 USB-A Ports, a Full size HDMI Port and either 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet or Nbase-T Ethernet with support for 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb and 10Gb Ethernet through the an RJ‑45 connector, the latter configurable at checkout, as well as Apple’s T2 Security chip.
One main benefit of the configuration is the varied Intel CPU performance options. Starting at a Quad Core Core i3 at 3.6 Ghz, and all the way up to a Core i7 3.2Ghz 6-Core CPU that can Turbo Boost up to 4.6Ghz.
These port arrays come as a comfortable change compared to 1, 2 or 4 USB-C Ports on the various MacBook laptops, and sit more comfortably inline with the iMac with its foray of standard USB-C ports and its Thunderbolt lineup.
One of the fall backs of the newer Mini however side from the heat, is the higher starting price of the unit. Gone are the days of the Less than $1000AUD Mac product, and with the starting 8GB of Ram as well as the price Apple charges for their Ram in their varying Mac devices, as well as SSD prices, the unit cant get quite expensive.

A final comment on the huge improvements to the newer Mac Mini, lies within the addition of the Thunderbolt 3 Ports.
Apple have had External GPU support for a number of years with their Thunderbolt 3 supporting Macs, and the Mac Mini is no exception to that. Taking advantage of these ports, one can include an external GPU enclosure like a Razer Core X and use an AMD GPU for native MacOS support or you can look on the web for NVIDIA card support.

Verdict

The new Mac Mini improves on its weaker sibling, with stronger CPUs, more Ram and storage options and a wide array of compatibility with Thunderbolt 3.
However these benefits do come as a trade off in a starting price, and heating issues with the CPU spiking well around 85 Degrees Celsius.
If you consider the newest Mac Mini for your desk, be sure to pay for as much Ram as you can afford, and consider getting a stronger CPU to future proof yourself.

OneNote is an underrated note taking app, that doubles its usefulness on an iPad Pro

Notability, Good Notes, Apple’s own Notes app. The list goes on for decent note taking apps on iOS that are convenient, user friendly and most of all, store notes simply so users can not be afraid of lost data

Search “Note Taking Apps for iOS” on Google and YouTube, and you see a common trend between those three apps, they come up often and are quite popular. Why? Because they are easy to use, have syncing for multi device use on the Apple Ecosystem and are very powerful for pro users. But the less commonly mentioned underdog is OneNote, it is mentioned not as much as the others on line (most commonly Notability and Good Notes go head to head often) and isn’t really brought up often aside from lists online that go for more than 3 to 5 apps, where writers need some variety for comparison against the likes of Apple’s Notes app, or even Evernote’s Paper app.

The current landscape for apps of choice for note taking is generally fairly competitive in the top 5 for this category, and then a miraid of smaller apps that fill the role of note taker and that’s it – hell even Square Space makes a note taking app.
But really, what makes a good note taking app that folks want to use?

You look at the way the developers of these apps have designed them and iterated them over the years and it comes down to four key elements:
1) Easy to use UI
2) Tabbed notes feature and easy to organize content
3) Handwriting conversion & Apple Pen Support
4) Cloud Syncing


Now I did swap for a short time to Apple Notes a little while ago, and I had over 100 notes to import by hand to the platform. I gave up halfway through, as iCloud let me down severely and had a prolonged delay on the syncing of content, as such my Elder Scrolls Blades launch review was lost and I had to re-write it. I did so on OneNote.

A lot of long term iOS users who generally aim for simplicity stick with the Notes app, it does the job, it takes text input…. That’s it (on the simple side). But for note taking power users who use note apps as their physical notebooks, then these apps should (and Can) do more.
I live in an all digital paperless world. I have every bill, invoice, contract and component that could be sent digitally, sent that way. I sign everything with PDF Pen (Thanks Myke Hurley for the recommendation on Upgrade last year), buy all my books (including technical books) on Amazon just to make full use of the Kindle app, and use Duolingo for my language learning on these devices, no physical books in sight, I even cut the cord and use Amazon Prime/Netflex/YouTube/Twitch for all my entertainment.

But that’s the thing. I haven’t always been a long term iOS user until recently, and was primarily an Android user and on Windows for most of my personal & professional life. When I made the switch last year to being a full iOS user (I have had a few iPads over the years, but not had an iPhone in a long while) as well as owning a MacBook Pro, my note taking app of choice was available on all three devices so I installed it and took full advantage of the syncing feature I loved on the Windows & Android counterparts to bring EVERYTHING over, and formatted correctly.

When you have all your content over, the macOS version does look a fraction different to the newer looking Windows and iPad versions, but otherwise all the features are still here however. The Notebook can be selected at the top, adding sections to the notebook for different categories and such, and then adding pages to those sections for content.
Microsoft also fully supports Apple’s Pencil and gestures on the iPad, so double tap to swap between your pen type and the eraser, tilted gestures for writing and drawing, as well as annotating images that you can scan in with the iPads camera or if you brought them in earlier from your iPhone.
OneNote also supports widgets in iOS for easy access to notes, as well as the scanning feature and photos or a new list, which comes in handy for short notes like a quick to do or for a shopping list.

The app however didn’t always support these features out of the box and as a result copped some criticism for the community however Microsoft and the OneNote team do push frequent updates to the app on all platforms to further advanced its features and keep performance at good level for what it can offer users..

OneNote has been a consistent pleasure to use, and with its full features (and free price) can be used as a full writing suite replacement since it supports multiple export types, including PDF and sharing to other OneNote users. On Android as well, you have a feature called chat heads, where similar to the Facebook feature, allows a floating widget to quickly access existing content and write newer short notes, like the widget on iOS.
I keep my entire life of notes and ideas, even writing, inside of OneNote and it has supported my workflow for years (even as a swapped back from Notability a few years ago and then left that for Google Keep). Its more capable and refined than Apple Notes, as feature rich as Notability and words like Microsoft Word. The only feature I would appreciate is an import feature from other apps or import file formats to help move content over.

PaperLike review for iPad Pro 11 Inch

The iPad Pro’s have revolutionised how mobile computing works over the years. Apple has squashed competitor tablets of the Android variety, and made their hardware so powerful they are now reaching the limit as to what iOS can do for the Tablet, and if Apple don’t start iterating on the software to further develop the future of the iPad, the Pro area of the product line could very well become questioned if it really is “Pro” anymore.

That aside, if you find that you own one of the new iPad Pros or an older one, there are a few little necessities that every user should get:

1) A solid Case
2) A solid keyboard if possible, or Apple’s Smart Keyboard cover
3) A great screen protector

Screen Protectors as a whole can be a mixed bag, too cheap and it’s a lump of plastic or glass on your screen that can impede your usage, too expensive and folks just wont buy them unless they can turn your screen into being as strong as the man of steel.

I think I have found the goldilocks however of all screen protectors – PaperLike’s screen protector.

Paperlike started life funded on KickStarter, and has been seen globally by those who are generally heavy duty users of their iPads and want a paper style feel to writing and drawing on their iPads. 
Well, needless to say its mission accomplished. The PaperLike screen protector, once applied, is incredibly smooth on touch and smooth on use with a Pencil.

I cant draw well on glass, or draw well period, but I have slowly been getting into drawing my own Sprites & concept art of a project I am working on, so have been learning to do and I have to say the feel & accuracy on using the PaperLike over normal glass is phenomenal. 

PaperLike being used on an iPad Pro 11. Sorry for not horizontal video

have a view below on how it sounds, but using the Apple Pencil on the PaperLike makes it sound just like you are using artists paper out of an ArtBook and very fine pencils.
I owned a Derwent set of pencils when I was younger and drawing paper gifted by my parents and the feel and style of drawing with them has always stuck with me. This feels the same, but instead of 100 Pencils, you have 1 pencil being able to be 100, and 1 piece of glass, converted to a piece of paper able to be an entire artbook, whenever, where ever.

PaperLike also make the screen protector easy to apply as well. The videos online, as well as the included guide in the packaging are easy to follow and really ensure that users who aren’t confident at applying screen protectors (like me) can really apply it safely & accurately to get the most out of the protector.
The only negative I would say is the “polarized” sheen that occurs on the screen now when viewing content. The protector doesn’t change the colour the display puts out, so not darker or lighter or off coloured, however; there is an odd sheen that is applied  that on top of the colours from the iPad display, that can be a bit of getting used to when using it. After around a week, I forgot it was even there but figured it was worth mentioning.There isn’t much that can compete with the PaperLike Screen protector, the feel and the abilities that the screen protector touts cant really be matched in the current market, and its use case is fairly straight forward. There are a few cheaper alternatives and plenty of knockoffs that try to do what PaperLike does, but doesn’t hold up to the quality of the PaperLike protector.
I tried 2 other protectors before buying the PaperLike, and it is true what they say, third time is the charm.

I would recommend this to any buddying artist or writing aficionado. The feel and comfort the protector gives you does do what it says on the tin, and I can defiantly feel my writing skill as improved compared to writing on glass. Even my touch typing since it’s a more coarse surface to touch than glass, but still feels accurate and smooth all the while.

Elder Scrolls Blades starts roll out today

Bethesda’s previously accounced mobile based game based in the Elder Scrolls universe, Elder Scrolls Blades, has started its slow release out in the beta period for those folks who signed up for early access preview.

After a somewhat poor reception of a new Diablo game, Diablo: Immortal, based entirely on mobile from Blizzard at last year’s E3, as well as Fallout: 76’s rough start and poor upgrades post launch, Blades faces a potential lackluster launch to an audience that is growing more and more determined to get their hands on an Elder Scrolls 6 game, rather than a mobile counterpart.

Bethesda also already has their popular card game Elder Scrolls Legends, which is a direct competitor to Hearthstone by Blizzard and a number of iOS/Android Magic: The Gatheringgames.

I got to sample part of the beta before I could access the entire verion available, and the controls seemed fairly straight forward, however I tried it on a 11 Inch iPad Pro, and having only sampled one combat mechanic so far, slashing, it seems the game is better suited for a smaller screen.

As things get further along I will sample who the full beta handles.

You can see my initial preview below.

The IVSO Keyboard Case for iPad Pro

The new iPad Pros are powerhouses, and combined with the right equipment can be a true productivity tool for all kinds of use cases. The only true downside to the iPads are the cost of the first party accessories made by Apple. With the new Apple Pencil costing cost to $200 AUD and the keyboard case costing just over $200 AUD, that is a lot of coin for someone to put down especially after purchasing one these new tablets costing in the low to mid $1000’s and all the way up to over 2K for higher configurations.

So when I ordered mine I made a conscious decision not to purchase the keyboard folio for the time being, and looked at third party solutions to fill a gap for a few months. What did I come up with? It is by no means perfect, but it is definitely a contender.

The IVSO 11 Inch Keyboard Case for the iPad Pro lives by the mantra of Student of all, master of none.

The Keyboard case itself unboxes well and is clean in its design. It is covered in a PVC plastic that feels a lot like it is partially rubberised and close to the old type covers of the Surface Pro 2 and 3 days. However opening up the keyboard case itself shows a smaller key size, smaller palm rest and a full iOS function row. Inside the box is only an instruction manual and a USB A to Micro USB cable, and that is one of the drawbacks – the case charges through micro USB and not USB-C so you will need to carry an extra cable. The case works over Bluetooth, and pairing is actually super easy. You hold the function and C button on the keyboard and pair. That’s it, no fuss, no messing around.

Overall, that’s where the simplicity of the case ends. I’m not sure if it is my unit, but it doesn’t fit snug with my 11 inch iPad Pro 100%. There are instances where the top, left and right side of the case are sitting away from the tablet and not sitting on the tablet itself, after repeated attempts to get it to sit flush with the tablet, I have failed and given up with the not so sleek look. The case also relies a lot on the back portion of the top cover coming away from the centre of the unit to stand, which limits “lapability” and how long the iPad can practically sit on your lap. Also, because the connection from the top of the case to the keyboard is still this silicon/plastic/rubbery material, there is a lot of sideways flex on the keyboard when you move your legs, so your chance of getting 100% flat typing surface will require some fighting on the user’s end. Also due to the case’s design, charging is a pain too as since it isn’t sitting flush with the iPad, the USB C charger doesn’t sit correctly and doesn’t charge, which warrants you either removing the iPad from the case, or moving the charger around the USB-C sized hole, then connecting it to the iPad.

I also felt like my hands did cramp a bit when using the keyboard for longer period of time, which is no fault of the case and is more than likely me being used to a 15 Inch laptop or a larger keyboard with a num-pad.

Criticisms aide, the case itself, albeit thick and slightly heavy, does provide a solid amount of protection for the iPad. IVSO say on the Amazon advertisements as well that it can support solid drops on corners, which is why I assume the corners connect quite well in the case, but the edges don’t sit 100% flush. The keyboard is also quite comfortable to type on, even though the keys are smaller, once you adjust to the size the travel is reasonable and definitely nicer than the Butterfly 2/3 keyboards of the current generation of MacBooks.

Another nice touch, is the palm rest. For me, it is semi flexible, moves when I move my legs if I am sitting on a chair and is easily cleanable of sweat and grime, so for longer period of typing (say writing this review),  it is a welcome addition to the case’s compact stature fitting in as much as it can in a smaller form factor. Another bonus for users is a separate area under the screen to store the Apple Pencil when not in use, so you don’t have a risk of knocking it off in your bag if it is wirelessly attached. I found this case for $45.00 AUD on amazon and is fairly cost effective for the price. You defiantly get what you pay for, but is overall a clean solution to keeping the tablet protected and safe from the ruff and tumble daily use.

I should note, there is also a second version for $4.00 less on Amazon that is a more “Traditional” folio and has a kickstand and sits more like a Surface Clone when the iPad is docked, but I chose this version due to keeping everything fairly streamlined and having a not so shallow tilt on the case itself.
You can pick it up on Amazon, however, I would be mindful as to how much you really want to spend and look at something a bit more sturdy if you don’t want something too flimsy in your lap. The new Brydge Keyboard for the new iPads launches very soon as well which would be a more solid contender to the iPad Pro Folio keyboard and is cheaper as well.
However for $45AUD, this isnt a bad temporary solution in the mean time.

My Best Tech investments of 2018

So when folks say they have writers block, they arent kidding that it is frustrating as hell when you love writing, yet cant find anything truely meaningful to write about that isnt complete garbage. But I got reading a few blogs and YouTube videos of how people’s 2018 have been, what tech they have purchases and all those top X countdown videos that spurred me an idea.2018 has been an interesting an fully knowledable year, but also a tough year mentally, financially and emotionally.
Beginning learning PHP Development, starting my job at Flywheel, learning at the ins and outs of my job, selling my broken car and picking up cycling, trips to melbourne and starting up my blog again! It has been a busy year indeed, but also filled with techie things in the year as well!
So I figured as my last post for 2018 I would
In no particular order, here are my best tech investments of 2018!


1) Nintendo Switch

So for starters I wasnt a massive Nintendo gamer at all growing up. I was a PC kid, however I had family and friends who owned a Nintendo 64 so I knew of the likes of Golden Eye, the earlier FIFA games, Mario Kart & Diddy Kong Racing to name a few. But over the years I have evolved and changed how I play games. When I started with Flywheel most of the folks I knew had one, and when I tried one in store I ended up picking one up a week later.
I am consistently surprised as to how the switch performs with ported games, even with things made for PC first and then brought to the platform (like Dead Cells, Warframe, Stardew Valley and Into The Breach), they handle exceptionally well on the console and allow hours and hours of enjoyment. This has been slowly became my main console for games as more indie games are attracting my attention these days after the repetitiveness of AAA titles and their issues at launch. There are few AAA games that can hold my attention for continuous repetitive play and I have found so many really good games on the switch that can be played for ages and I don’t get bored.

Dead Cells is mostly my main go to game for this platform, but I do have a few others (mentioned above) that play really well on the platform and stop me from putting the console down like Diablo 3, which is the first Diablo game I have ever played and is by far, one of the best games ported to the switch.
One of the best things I have done with the console was on a recent trip to Melbourne, playing Mario Kart in a big TV with my mates (who all had switches) and playing with the Joy Cons and a controller. This was bloody fun and one of the main selling points of the switch to consumers, a large opportunity for interplay with other consoles, both the Switch itself and PCs and Xbox Ones, depending on what game you are playing. Overall, a handy piece of kit that goes well in my travel bag!
 

2) Swapping to iOS from Android

This one is a bit controversial and I did write a whole piece around it, but my reasoning behind this is fairly straightforward. I change phones every year apart of my leasing contract with my phone company. Apart of that leasing program, I have gotten to try Notes, Pixels, Nexus, and an iPhone 6 Plus. That was years and years ago and I haven’t had an iPhone as a daily carry for 5 years. I decided this was time for a change and since I was familiar with multiple iPad pros and iOS as a whole, the change wasnt hard at all.

I had a lot of the apps I use either paid for or ready to go from my old phone (with a few exceptions to things like Apple Wallet, Authy and and Timeshiftr which I had to setup manually), or I had used on the iPad and just needed to be redownloaded.
Also anyone who uses Android phones should know that all your contacts are stored in Google, so the first account I log into is my Personal Gmail account, and everything just carries over. Modern Technology does kind of spoil us now in the simplicity of how easy it is to go and get started with what we need.
Since I have a work MacBook Pro I can make use of iMessage on the desktop, the accuracy of Apples Health Kit on the phone and watch, use detailed and powerful apps on the Apple Watch Series 3 and make use of a really really (but second to the Pixel) good Camera when I travel. The downsides so far have been a need now to carry extra cables instead of my all USB-C bag before (except watch charger), but all in all I am really enjoying the iOS life. (plus using an Apple Watch as a cycling computer really helps with accountability).


3) Using Local by Flywheel for learning PHP Development

(disclaimer here I do work for Flywheel)
So one of the things I have been undertaking since working with Flywheel, is continuing my web development learning experience through PHP/WordPress Development since starting with Flywheel.
One of the go to tools I have been using is Local. I have seen that getting things like WordPress installed locally, PHP, MYSQL and a container to keep everything in is a pain for working with Local development. Local has made learning things WAY easier and more streamlined from what I am used to from Web Development. I thoroughly recommend this software.


4) Airpods!

This has been a recent addition as a christmas gift from my partner this christmas. But in the few days I have used them after Christmas, my God, I didnt understand the benefits of having really decent Bluetooth earbuds before, but this is a must of iOS users. I came from a pair of Blueant Air wireless buds, but over time one of the ears lost audio and their volume dropped expenentially so thats not really what I want in a pair of buds (they were also really hard to pair to other devices and consistently lost charge after a quoted 4-5 hour battery life and rarely lasted longer than 3 to 4).
So far, I have used them in the car as to replace the lack of a decent sound system, at the gym, cycling and while at work.  There are a few concerns to them fitting my ears properly, but I must be in the percentile of folks that they fit well in comfort wise, as they havent fallen out just yet!


5) Duolingo

I made a proactive effort the last couple months to start learning a language and I have chosen German for that. Duolingo has been incredible as a platform to learn how to speak the language and makes it fun and a bit competitive with myself trying to beat scores and keep streaks (I’m really bad at that…. Fyi).
The app works well and saves progress well, however one thing I stumbled on is a superb web app as well. Being able to learn on now every device has definitely been a good way to help me keep myself accountable for learning the language and being consistent.
My favourite feature is being able to set times for reminders when to study, and for me, 7pm works great, rather than some random time during the day and the push notification, doesnt work and I lose progress since I was preoccupied doing something else. Using this feature has been definitely a huge component as well of consistent study.
 

Well that is all of the decent things I can think of this year that are definately changing the way I work and have been decent investments this year! Thank you for reading to the blog, coming to the site and sticking with my short podcast this year.
2019 will be a productive and learning year for me, so Im excited of whats to come! Happy New Year everyone!

The iPhone XS in the hands of a former Android aficionado

A formerly critical, no longer sceptical convert

So the last time I used an iPhone as main phone was for an iPhone 6 Plus. I was a staunch advocate of not going to an iPhone or trying iOS as a phone experience unless the phones were bigger.
As the years moved on, I went back to Android happily, had a few iPads and then didn’t give it a second thought.
Until the new XS caught my eye.

The 2017 iPhone X was a move in an interesting direction. A smaller sized handset with the screen of a “plus” model of phone. It seemed compact and right up my alley, and with the chip upgrade & new phones of 2018, I figured why not upgrade! I had a Note 8 previously, and after a few years of android, I honestly didn’t mind going to iOS.

The Phone itself
The phone itself is super nice and clean. I don’t miss a larger screen at all. There has been a slight adjustment to the gestures on iOS (it took me nearly a month to realise that I can swipe on the bottom of the screen to swap between apps. But otherwise the two sides of the notch (left for notifications, right for control centre) I got right away with no issues.
I have super enjoyed using the simplicity of iOS. Things like the interface, performance and even things like the wifi call quality has been great coming to the phone. The older iPhone 6 Plus did suffer from bending and the unit I had also got hot with frequent consistent use as well. Since the XS has a glass back the phone stays cool under use (and also allows for wireless charging!)

Speaking of wireless charging, my old Note 8 did support this but I never took full advantage of it. I did buy a wireless charger with the phone when I re-contracted through my Telco and the only time I have charged my phone with a physical cable is when I am at my desk and use one of the USB ports and a traditional Lightning cable, but this is rare since I get 2 days battery life with fairly moderate screen on time usage.

One of the main gripes I had from moving to iOS from Android is mobile payments. This isn’t an iOS issue specifically, but my bank openly supports Android Pay/Contactless payments, but does not support Apple Pay. In order to make use of mobile payments I have been using my credit card; and Face ID to verify payments is super quick and easy. I have been using it for public transport, general payments and my gym membership through Apple Wallet for the gym card and it all works like a charm. I should mention that I was a huge proponent of using Google Pay (and tried Samsung Pay as well) wherever possible, so it is nice to know most days I can leave my wallet at home or buried in my backpack, and not need it.

Another main gripe I had (which IS the iPhones fault) is a lack of a headphone jack, which has been missing from most flagships the last 2 years now. With my Note 8, I did slowly start adopting Bluetooth accessories & headphones, which has served me well here with this phone. However, when I cycle I prefer physical buds and have needed to buy the $15 AUD Lightning to 3.5mm adapter to make use of physical cables, or using a wire on my headphones when they are flat. I can see myself losing this VERY small little adapter, so I will end up buying another less I land myself on a long flight or train ride, have a flat battery on my headphones and no other way to listen to music or podcasts on my phone.

The Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone XS

I am a huge fan of smart watches as well. I have owned a TicWatch E, as well as a gear S3 and both were excellent on android. Unfortunately my gear S3 just didn’t work well enough on iOS, so I sold it and brought a used Apple Watch Series 3. That has restored my previous convenience of using a smartwatch on my wrist. Having a media controller, music selection tool, tracking workouts and health data is immensely useful. Since I also do a bit of cycling, the watch can be an adequate substitute for a cycling computer as well since the watch is tuned well for fitness, but isnt a full substitute for a traditional cycling computer, nor is the phone itself; but combined they are satisfactory.
As I said my series 3 is used, but combined with the latest phone there aren’t many features on the 3 that I would miss on the newer series 4. The screen size is fairly close to my older Gear S3, and performance is better as well – so I’m a happy camper in this regard!

The pairing and setup experience on iOS is stupidly simple so I wont rave on about it, but what I can comment on is being able to mute the phone from the watch (handier than you may think) and large number of apple watch apps that are available on WatchOS that are true companions to their iOS counterparts.

Locked into iMessage

A common theme you hear from people wanting to move away from iOS to Android is “I am locked into iOS, I can’t really move away. Everyone I message is on iMessage”. This for me wasn’t the case, but being most of my friends were on iMessage when I popped in to the iMessage club, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to message even my international friends from one app and it not cost an international fee. I just wanted to side note this in here, as now I do work for an international company iMessage I have straight away found useful if I don’t want to use our Slack channel for conversation.

Camera and wrap-up

Most iPhone users know this now and the camera is phenomenal.
In the 5 or so weeks I’ve owned this I have taken some clean and super nice photos. Portrait mode is incredibly well done (albeit a bit wonky with some aggressive smoothing and choppy edges with the depth of field effect if you don’t align your photo correctly). The Final gripe I have is with the photos not being JPG or Raw, but HEIC which requires LightRoom to convert back to JPG properly (say if you want to upload them to WordPress as an Example?)

I have a sample gallery above, but I just have to compliment Apple on how easy the make their software work with the hardware on the phone, and make shooting great photos easy. Samsung and Google do this well with their flagships, and the Pixel 2 and 3 STILL have excellent photo quality, and arguably better than the XS, but putting an excellent camera into the majority of smartphone buyers hands only encourages better photos in general from users. I should also mention I did use the Note 8’s camera A LOT and took a lot of good photos on that phone, however I believe it was second best to the Pixel 2 and iPhone X last year, and there is a noticeable difference from some of my older photos to newer ones on the iPhone XS.

Overall I am happy with the change, it does compliment my remote lifestyle well and continues & improves upon a lot of the fitness aspects I liked in Google Fit, and are thoroughly advanced upon those to give me a lot of useful data when cycling and then when I do go to the gym. (I personally think the Watch & Phone combo has helped me beat some PBs when it comes to distance on my cycling rides too – which is a bonus).

“Designed for Mobile”: Old School RPGs remade and modified for Mobile Gaming is a good sign for great things to come.

Apple boasts the new iPad Pro has the same amount of power as an Xbox One S, the Pixel Slate runs solid Intel CPUs, Samsung’s Tab S4 runs with 6GB of Ram with strong Snapdragon 845 CPUs, and ARM chips have some such a long way they now compete with standard Intel SoCs.

What does all of this have in common? Well earlier at BlizCon, Diablo Immortal was announced as a serious addition in the franchise sitting between Diablo 2 and 3, but built entirely for mobile. The game so far has been praised online and I have also personally signed up for a demo on both Android and iOS. In recent weeks, Stardew Valley has also been added to a growing catalog of decent games, alongside the original Tomb Raider, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a few years ago, Half Life & Portal on Android, Minecraft and the older Grand Theft Auto titles. 

As the years have gone on, the quality of what defines a decent game on mobile OSes has improved an advanced as the technology powering tablets and phones has caught up. Android users can emulate most DOS and older classic titles on tablets with at least a Snapdragon 821 on them. Still, however, there has been a slow move to bring decent games over to tablet hardware. Nintendo has even held off on a mobile strategy that expands is larger catalog due to focusing on their flagship product, the Switch.

Blizzard’s Diablo Immortal looks to be a strong push for more decent games on mobile

As an Avid gamer, I see that tablets can very well become another platform of developers to invest serious time on, rather than making the more “mobile” centric games we see at the minute like Fallout Shelter, the onslaught of Marvel games, knock off Assassins Creeds, Clash of Clans clones or mechanics that are explicitly made for touch controls and focus on microtransactions over decent gameplay.
There are many examples of titles that would work well on a touch-based slate, considering most popular tablets have controller support, developers only need to support MFI (made for iPhone/iPad) controllers on iOS or support external devices on Android. Even click adventure games like Runescape has found its way onto Mobile and is a complete hit in the adventure game lists.

However as the landscape still stands, if someone wants to play a video game and relax, their first instinct isn’t to pull out a tablet or smartphone; its to fire up your gaming pc or turn on a console.
Manufacturers have tried to expand the ability for people to game competitively on mobile or show developers there is reward in bringing larger budget games to touch devices (Motorola has made gaming pads for its Z series phone, there are ample “shells” and cases that add D-Pads and sticks to phones or smaller tablets, and even look at Vainglory, which is a MOBA made entirely for Mobile and is a smash hit as a competitor to Dota 2 & League of Legends), however between complicated control schemes, lack of budget as mentioned to invest more time into longer developed games and see more polished results; or simply just the lack of internal storage required to hold a full catalog of quality games, the progression has been slow for more AAA titles to land on mobile.
Fortnight is a prime example of what happens when a game studio wants to push their game further than the platform it originally launched on, and see how the game can handle on other platforms and push the boundary of what happens when a PC game lands on mobile CPUs.  

On the topic of internal storage, expandable storage options in phones are progressively getting more rarer as the year goes on. With Android lacking a clear ability to choose where certain apps are installed and install other apps to external storage, and iOS’ filesystem is not as useful as most Apple fans would like, there isn’t a clear current option for using things like USB Drives or external drives to install games to (like on Modern PCs and even consoles).
For the future of mobile gaming to really take off in a faster upwards tick, it will need one of the giants (*cough* looking at you Apple *couch*) to include options to install to other forms of direct storage, and not cloud storage, for any real progression to happen. 
Right now, we are stuck in a world of OK mobile games, and so many good other console & PC titles I would kill to have on mobile, many of which I would pay for again just to see on Mobile.

Final Fantasy on mobile is another great example of quality games adapted for mobile. Photo from here

Diablo Immortal stands to capture the Blizzard Audience and bring those who want more than Hearthstone card games onto mobile for a traditional RPG Experience. But we have yet to see how the game plays or handles on a variety of hardware, but being a Blizzard game, my hopes are high for a highly polished 1.0 at launch

What the iPad can do for the future of tablet computing

I shamelessly rave on Chrome OS a lot. As an Android user, and also an iPad fan, I use the best tablet that I believe can give me the most productive experience. 
Chrome OS I still believe can pave the way for a solid tablet/laptop experience to replace Android, but there are a fair few kinks to work out on the way to ensure a smooth experience for mass users and to replace Android on tablets but there is plenty of promise for tablet/laptop productivity machines running chrome OS.

Enter the other side of my brain, the iPad lover and advocate of using the iPad for essentially as much as humanly possible.
The last few years I have owned most of the major models of iPad Pro. The original 12.9 and then the 10.5 the following year. 
This year I’m interested in going back to the 12.9, purely for the extra screen real estate and having a slate that can now truly compete with other tablets and laptops.

Apple have been trying to pitch the iPad as true laptop replacement for years, but a limitation on the lightning port and the lack of a file system (to name a few things), has been severely limiting on the ability to be used on things like external displays, docking stations, read USB drives – so true desktop/laptop needs.
The current generation of iPad announced yesterday (combined with iOS 12.1) sets to improve on the existing shortfalls of the Pro iPad lineup and to prove that you CAN do everything on an iPad.

The New 2018 iPad Pro looks amazing

I originally fell in love with the idea of using a tablet as one computer for everything back in 2014. The iPad Gen 4 was the weapon of choice and combined with a wireless Apple keyboard, I did the majority of my uni work on that thing (aside from a 2012 Mac Mini).
To me this was the beginning of “how much can I really get done on this thing?” lines of thought and, fast forward to 2018 I’m still experimenting trying to really break the convention of what a tablet can do and how one slate can fill many roles.  

For example, Retro gaming on Android tablets is easy with DOS emulators, and deprived of decent games on the Play Store, I have 1996’s Blood from Monolith Studios, and MicroFortè’s 2001 Tactical hit Fallout:Tactics on my tablet. For me tablets come everywhere with me since having a slate I can write on, draw on, record audio, video, share notes, keep me entertained and do hard core writing on has been apart of my workflow for years. Hell right now I’m writing this on my Galaxy Tab S3 and waiting for the online pre-order option for the iPad Pro 12.9 through Optus (any day now…..). 

I gave my 10.5 iPad Pro to my sister since she was starting uni and needed something substantial for her coursework, and I am proud to still say that is her daily driver and every day machine. Her iPad is her computer, and thats exactly what Apple wants you to consider it as. She is one of their target audiences (amongst plenty others), the iPad is portable, practical and powerful. The newer generation now seeks to advance on that and make it even more capable as machine, regardless of what hands it is in.

I have seen iPads at the forefront of my last work industry. Emails, task management, inspection notes, Real Estate related data input; you name it. In my last line of work it was my daily driver, an external display and I had it everywhere with me. Meetings, photo editing work, organising my day, reading books when the day was slow (shoot me, we all do it). It brings the power of the iPad relying on the apps that it is centered around, and one of the biggest showcases was the up and coming Photoshop CC on iOS coming in Early 2019. This is not very far away, and for professionals who already use Lightroom, Procreate and Concepts for illustration and editing work, this will come as a welcome arrow in the productivity quiver. 

It should also be noted that tablet computing, and tablets as a whole, have taken large strides forward in the decent amount of games available on Android & iOS in the last few years. Alot of developers are porting or even launching AA and AA titles in Indie and strategy style categories on the App Store and Play Store.
A few that spring to mind are FTL, Baldurs Gate 2, and more recently Stardew Valley on iOS. 
Apple’s AR experience last year and refined this year in iOS 12 is only improved on the new iPads. Their 8 Core A12X Chips and 7 Core GPUs, Apple compared the new iPads to having the same raw graphical power as an Xbox OneS. 

This is huge, and even with that comparison, I severely doubt that developers will folk to have the latest shooters and games available on iPad Pros, along side PlayStation and Xbox consoles (sadly…. One can drea though).

However the Tablet market, iPads and ChromeOS/Android slates, isn’t perfect. There is still a lack of decent app performance on Chrome OS, Apps on Android Tables are blown out phone apps most of the time still, the hardware is more and more expensive, and the amount of tablet sales has dropped in recent years. But, if the likes of Google & Apple keep creating more refined ideas on their existing hardware, like we have seen this month with the Pixel Slate and iPad Pro 2018, in a few years time we could be saying so long to laptops, and hello tablets that plug into everything and do anything we throw at them

Competing with the Surface Go: Windows 10 ARM tablets are getting much better – but still have a long way to go

What do you get when you combine a Samsung Tablet, an ARM chip, and Windows 10? A super solid Microsoft Surface Go competitor that ticks a fair few boxes when going head to head with other smaller units.

Daniel Rubino of Windows Central recently reviewed the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Book 2, which on first glance looks absolutely stunning.
It has a solid aluminium build, well built keyboard and LTE onboard. But that has me thinking. The current Snapdragon 850 is designed as a transitionary chip, being that users coming from low power Intel Chips are expected to see substantial performance changes in single app performance, and still be able to perform their standard workflows from their older machines, but then see an improvement in their portability & battery life.
The 850 chip has been improved from the original Snapdragon 835, which is a smartphone chip input into some smaller form convertables early last year to attempt to create the next generation of ARM laptops. However, as benchmarks were less than desired, Qualcomm created the 850 earlier this year to compensate for the drawbacks of the quadcore phone chipset.

The previous Samsung Windows tablets have been a bit of a hit and a miss. Having done several hands on time with the Tab S Pro and the Original Galaxy Book in Teltra stores and Samsung Popups, this unit, atleast on a visual inspection, seems to fix a few of the issues I had with the older Windows Slates.
Samsung originally launched their Tab S Pro slates in 2017, and the original version of the Galaxy Book to follow. These tablets ran earlier generation Core M CPUs or in earlier cases, U series Core i5 CPUs. The refreshed units late last year and earlier 2018 have all got the more modern Y series Core M CPU that is similar to what is in Apple’s smaller MacBook.
The main gripe with these units wasn’t the tablet’s build design, but more or less the keyboard and how the processor didnt feel optimised for daily use.
Light use is ok (and the keyboards definately warranted this), but for similar pricing to a Surface Pro, you were far better off sacrificing no LTE  and having a more capable daily driver.

In late 2018, things seem to have changed for the better. The Surface line still has decent keyboard in the Surface Go’s size, Lenovo are experimenting with E-Ink displays for a smarter keyboard design, and Samsung have learn’t from their previous errors and and produced a fairly decent looking tablet that beats even the Surface Go.
The specs for the unit dont blow a fully fledged surface unit out of the water, however for a portable sort of PC this should definately be on the check list to check out.

The main benefit for things like a Snapdragon 850 in a unit like this, comes down to things like battery life, excellent 4G LTE radios that Qualcomm input into their own chips which Vendors can utilise; as well as slim builds for maximum portability. These units have all got a bare minimum of a USB-C port, a headphone jack, as well as quality displays.
Most of the accounced units in the last 6 months all meet this criteria; however if you read other tech blogs, you can end up coming to the same conclusion that I have. Performance doesnt scale with the current generation of ARM.
Yes, portability is great. But there is still the nerdy pipe dream of one slate that can plug into your home desktop, be as powerful and as portable on the road as your smartphone but do everything in between. It seems that the current gen of ARM units just cant handle fairly heavy duty workloads.
This opinion may change when folks end up buying and using them (much like we saw with the Surface Go and it’s widespread appreciation for what it can do, for what specs it was packing); however at this point in time the Snapdragon 850 Chip is still lackluster on multi-core performance compared to some Y series chips. Single Core performance is definately exceeding that as to what is in the Surface Go and other less powerful chips, and thats what alot of manufacturers want you to focus on – excellent single app performance or running a few apps at the same time, however when you get into X86 applications it does show noticable performance issues (see some of the referenced articles below for some examples of this).

I would love to personally own an ARM laptop for testing. Running my dev workflow on something like this is highly intriguing to me and I would definately love to benchmark some renders of my own against the other tech reviewers to see where these machines sit in my workflow.
The dream of an ultrapowerful, ultraportable is NEARLY being recognised. I hope by 2020, the laptop market finally reaches this reality and the power available in thinner machines can just get more and more powerful for a wider market audience.

Some References, and Further Reading & Watching:
Windows 10 on Arm: Build Recap (Tech Republic)
The Verge – Surface Go Review
Matthew Moniz – Microsoft Surface Go Review // Students Will Love This!
Computex Snapdragon 850 Chip exclusively for Windows



Concepts Android Beta First Look

So it took only 2 days, a fair few less than I had originally anticipated, for TopHatch to send the beta review invites out to those who initially signed up for the beta test.

I have used the feature laden version of iOS, the 1.0 and current patched version on Windows, and now this beta test.Safe to say, TopHatch know what their core app experience is, and they are keen on delivering that in as smooth and seamless way possible to Android users.

I should note that I am testing this on an older Galaxy Tab S3, and not on a more modern device. This personally gives me an interesting insight into how a device with an older Snapdragon 820 Quacore CPU at 1.6gh, a 2048×1536 Display (which stil holds up great against modern tablets and iPads I should comment), 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage with a 64GB Micro SD card – the app is installed to internal storage).

When you load the app, you are greeted with their default loading screen, in this case in the beta, it shows you your Drawings for that board. You can create a new board by pressing the plus button in the top right (at the time of this initial hands-on for the 0.4.9 version, there is no way to remove these board – so I have 3 boards Im currently not using taking up space), and you have pinch to zoom in or out to get a larger or smaller view of the board and what is on it. Once you are loaded within the drawing of your choice or you have made the new page you want to illustrate on, the familiar circular pen selector tool and a minimal UI is presented.

The Pen tool is as you would expect and loads a preset number of brushes and colours in the free version, and argulable the most pleasing function in the entire app, the colour swatch picker.This is the best looking animation and modal I have seen on an app, and is well translated across the app ecosystem on to android. Loading the swatch is smooth and selecting colours or just spinning the wheel to change colours is also aesthetically enjoyable.

Layers are also controlled here as well with the standard option to select individually what layers to edit on or edit the entire layer set directly.  You can also adjust the zoom and filters here too.

The app similarly has paid packages modes for more options for its Windows and iOS Counterparts. This adds more layer options, export options, feature enhancements and more brushes.
The packages from previous purchases aren’t transferable so if you are coming from another platform and using ChromeOS/Android to substitute an iPad, unfortunately you will need to pay again.

Overall, the app’s performance is consistent and decent on older hardware. So you don’t need to fork out huge dollars for the latest and greatest. I am no means an artist, but for what I do use apps like Concepts for, it suits my needs and does so very well.
This app is slowly giving me massive hope to a continuing future of better apps on Android and ensuring a smooth tablet experience on ChromeOS as it also grows into a more commercially available platform on better hardware, available in more countries and carries over these decent Android apps over onto the platform as well.

Once 1.0 comes out, there will be a full review posted.

TopHatch, Concepts App Developer, is Finally bringing their app to Android

I have used Concepts on iOS for years, and I covered the 1.0 release on this blog for the Windows version, and finally, I’m happy to see that there is an Android version coming very soon.

Pseudo announced on stage at the MadeByGoogle event, and a tweet accompanying the news on the 9th as well with a sign up form. TopHatch officially sent confirmation emails out to their email followers this afternoon US time. 

Concepts on Android would be a wonderful addition to a somewhat lacking amount of high-quality drawing apps. 
There are a few decent apps, like Autodesk Sketchbook, Adobe Illustrator draw, and Sketch to name a few, however, there are few that have the audience and the feature set the Concepts has. You can see on the Windows version alone, what TopHatch can bring to porting their apps to other platforms, which gives me hope as to the quality and features that should be available in a 1.0 Release.
Further to a previous post, I made on the quality of Chrome OS and the Pixel Slate, I believe Chrome OS is the definite future of Google’s Mobile productivity machine. 
Having a compelling drawing app on the platform I would hope to entice other users from iOS and Windows slates to consider using Chrome OS and  all the abilities it possesses, from Linux console use, right through to more advanced Android apps.

As the ecosystem grows, companies like TopHat are showing that the platform is still a product and capable platform to develop on and bring higher quality apps too. Serif bringing their apps (Affinity Photo & Designer) to iOS is a key example of that companies recognition of the power of portable computing. If they added their apps to Android for use on Tablets and Chrome OS, then this would definitely help open up more desktop based developers to bring high-quality ports to mobile OS’s (hopefully ChromeOS/Android, but more than likely iOS first, then Android).

I have signed up for a beta test, so as soon as I can get my hands on this I will give it a full breakdown and test of what the features are like in a pre 1.0 version.

(photo courtesy of XDA Developers https://www.xda-developers.com/files/2018/10/Google-Pixel-Slate-Feature-Image.jpg)

The New Pixel Slate gives me hope for the Future of a more Productive Chrome OS

I have written a few blogs (not too recently sorry!) on PC Productivity. Chrome OS has been a definite interest of mine and I have been keeping one eye on the platform for about nearly 12 months now (since the Pixelbook’s launch in October last year, and the subsequent reviews in November).
Chrome OS has had a few rough starts with coming to more expensive and high build quality machines, but with the likes of the Chromebook Pixel, the Pixelbook and Asus’s C series ChromeOS machines, a lot can be said for trying to leverage ChromeOS against the likes of iOS and Windows.

I’m a huge Proponent for doing work on Tablets. Ever since I owned the original iPad Air, I have tried to marry a keyboard to it and get real provides done. As the years have gone by this has become exponentially easier, with various 2 in 1s, iPads Pros and a Galaxy Tab S3, I have become fairly confident in mobile productivity and how to “Get Shit Done”.

ChromeOS for me, as I’ve mentioned before, is more and more becoming a true competitor to MacOS & iOS, and Windows 10. The Android App ecosystem addition, as well as a virtual Linux Kernel, gives ChromeOS an audience just outside of users wanting a machine for Office work, Netflix or occasional gaming (note that you do need a fairly well optimized and at least a high performing single core or a decent Dual Core Intel CPU in your Chromebook to do this. 
The usage of Chromebooks in Schools in the major countries worldwide has helped ChromeOS gain a solid foundation as a student productivity tool, and with this new Pixel Slate (as well as other higher end ChromeOS laptops & tablets), Google stands to ensure ChromeOS is their mobile productivity platform of choice, and here is why.

ChromeOS is Lightweight, and modular

Google deciding to push forward with ChromeOS, rather than improve the Android Tablet experience, must have been a huge decision at Google. With Samsung having recently launched their TabS4, and Huawei pushing varying Android Tablets, this is a bit of a slap in the face for vendors still wanting to use Android as their Tablet OS backbone.
We can kind of see this happening with Linux support announced and pushed earlier this year with more refined Android App support as well.
Android phones make up a large percentage of the phone market globally with iOS not too far behind. 
Android doesn’t allow these sort of features or functionality, without third party alterations to the software like Samsung’s own Dex software or mirroring an Android tablet to a display with a Chromecast; and even that is janky at the best of times.
Android, after years of trying to be, is sadly not a tablet operating system. But for so many developers who build and maintain Android apps, ChromeOS stands to be a new home for developing and launching their apps.
ChromeOS also requires a very little amount of onboard RAM to run effectively (the average user shouldn’t need less than 4GB of Ram, but in this modern day and age, you do need 8GB of RAM in your device, especially if you want to take advantage of the OS’s more advanced features). Since most users live in a Web browser while using the OS (Which is a fully fledged desktop version of chrome, not like on iOS or Android), these can be processor intensive (thanks Chrome!),  but nothing the unit/OS cant handle or isn’t optimized for. 
Microsoft and Google stand in a similar market, selling licenses to OEMs and allowing third-party vendors to manufacture their own competitive devices, whilst building their own. This benefits the space by allowing the user choice, however, this can also come as a disappointment to certain international buyers who may want Google’s own hardware over other providers may have to purchase the units from overseas suppliers

The New Pixel Slate has a 12.3 Inch 3000×2000 Display that supports full Stylus input
(Image Courtesy of the Google Blog)

The Hardware is Flexible and can fit into Various Budgets

The newly announced Pixel Slate comes in a variety of spec flavors (these are US/Canada/UK only at this stage with US Pricing, and not confirmed for Australia):

  • Intel® Celeron processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD – $599
  • Intel® Celeron processor, 8GB RAM, 64GB SSD – $699
  • Intel® Core m3 processor, 8GB RAM, 64GB SSD – $799
  • Intel® Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD – $999
  • Intel® Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD – $1599

32GB of internal storage seems paltry, so it would stand to reason that the more attractive models will sit between the $699 and the $999 USD specifications.
Even still, Chrome OS originally began life running on lower speed CPUs and Google seems confident that the tablet will perform the tasks appropriately for that spec.
Aside from pricing, CPU & RAM,  the hardware remains unchanged whatever model you choose. a 12.3 3000×2000 display with a high DPI and stylus support, 2 USB-C Ports, fast charging and a keyboard connector for the $199 dollar keyboard that Google provides (granted Brydge now also make their own version for $49 USD less). 
Google’s new Slate joins their lineup as a solid competitor on paper to the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro (both of which can be priced fairly similarly if you spec them up), and with a team fully dedicated to advancing and improving ChromeOS, the hardware we can potentially see in the next year or two could be more slates with adaptable Desktop interfaces, and can be as portable as an iPad & as powerful/versatile as a workstation. 

The hardware doesn’t also have to be in the premium price bracket as well. Acer has already displayed it’s 10 Inch Chrome OS tablet that techies aren’t too entirely impressed with. However, vendors like Acer are in a way, pioneering the space for the cheaper hardware with a similar experience for the user.
Take Android tablets 4 years ago. So many Vendors were throwing out Android slates running varying versions of the OS and different sizes and specs it was hard to keep up. All this in an attempt to compel users away from the likes of the iPad and the new Surface Tablets running Windows 8 (we SHALL NOT discuss Windows RT). 
I would hope that Google would start to leverage ChromeOS onto new tablets as they did with Android a few years ago, regardless of the hesitance to push tablets into newer users hands with the current state of technology & the longer usage cycle of tablets over phones.

Overall, I can see how ChromeOS and the new Google Hardware can definitely help entice users away from iOS and provide a scalable experience from cheap to premium and keep users engaged on their platform and when its time to upgrade, stay within the OS family; and even consider additional devices that compliment that experience like phones, streaming sticks or smart home hubs that communicate natively with the core main device. 


Episode 11 – The Front-End Session

This week Chris and I sit down to chat about our experiences with Javascript, learning new Languages and Front-End Design tools! Sit back and relax and enjoy a near hour of Front end conversational goodness!

Markup2018 Use this code (and the link!) for 1 month free podcast hosting!!

Things Discussed in this Episode:

Serif making their apps available on the Windows/Mac Stores is Awesome. But will more will follow suit?

As someone who is a major proponent for self learning, the first thing I taught myself to use was InDesign/Illustrator for making a Real Estate Magazine back in 2014.
Since then I have experimented with the Creative Cloud suite, mostly with Photoshop and Lightroom.
Eventually the Affinity Suite caught my eye and I dove into Affinity Designer, and now I am learning Affinity Photo & apart of the Publisher Beta program.

Why all of this software? At this stage, Serif stands to be one of the major competitors towards Adobe and their suite of apps, they are relatively easy to learn and some of the core functionality is the same across the board.
I have written before about the attraction of solid Windows/Mac Store apps before; and with the rise of smaller & more powerful Windows tablets and very versatile MacBooks, having an .exe or .dmg AND a Windows/Mac Store varient of your apps is a massive competitive advantage.
Why? And arent these stores baron of decent apps and developers are fleeing away from these stores?


Well… yes that was true, however not in the late 2017 and 2018 environment.
Read articles from The Verge, videos from Windows Central on Youtube and varying tech Podcasts from Relay FM (Upgrade and Connected in Particular); and over the last 12 months you can read/listen/watch into a slow and steady rise in the return of these respective app stores and having decent content on them.
Microsoft is primarily benefitting from this after the garbage fire of the app store on Windows 8 and transitioning the store to Windows 10; and still after a couple years failing to fully entice developers to the Store. 
The Mac Store has seen a rise and fall and rise in interest with smaller productivity apps, to games and to handy software (like Affinity Designer) all be available on the store.

If you use the Serif apps as an example, their spec requirements aren’t took aggressive on hardware and can be used on even the lightest of the Windows 2 in 1s like the Surface Go which runs a current Generation Intel Pentium CPU to the 12 Inch MacBooks running Intel Core M CPUs.

Those two Spec sheets above are from the Windows Store and yes you can use a high performing Laptop or custom PC to run these apps for even better performance, but being able to run these apps on weaker CPUs means your app can run on a large variety of hardware and appeal to buyers from smaller machines and then as they upgrade, they continue using your Products.
Adobe have capitalised on the market early with high quality products for varying needs of creatives over the years. Now apps like Sketch for UI design and then the Serif’s apps are like I said, standing to be major competitors and a solid alternative to the traditional software available in 2018. (I should also comment, Serif’s apps are one off purchases and all their software come with a full indepth guide to learn from start to finish how to use each piece of software – they vary from $75AUD to $99AUD for the books). But it all comes down to personal opinion and whether you can shake of the shackles of AAA software vendors, and look towards some offerings from smaller vendors!

What do you think? Do you think that giving smaller companies like Serif’s products a good go is a compelling option in 2018? Or should you stay with the bigger companies “if it aint broke, dont fix it” policy – albeit an expensive policy?
Send me any feedback to @samthenerdguy on Twitter and Instagram!


Episode 10 – Trying to learn new things

New Week, new Episode! 
Other than the fact we are moving to Fortnightly, I have a new co-host! My buddy Chris Leah from the UK.

A WordPress Plugin/Theme Developer and all round cool guy, Chris joins Markup’s lineup as the our new co-host every fortnight 🙂 

Be sure to like, share and subscribe for more goodness!!

Things Discussed in the Episode:

Episode 9 – Resources for Learning the Development Ropes

Web Development Favourite resources for learning!
I have had an interesting and somewhat frustrating journey with web development the last year and a bit. I started learning in January of 2017 with a few Udemy courses and I have been able to over time become more confident in what I can produce!

So I wanted to document some resources for those wanting to start learning or may need some handy resources for some web technologies or need a kick in the learning pants to revigorate your desire for the web! (I KNOW I DID!)

Mentioned in the Episode:
MySQL: MySQL Tutorials for Beginners Basic to Advanced MySQL Languages

Web Design with HTML, Css, JavaScript and Jquery Set

MDN!

C# Courses on Udemy from Mosh Hamedi
https://www.udemy.com/csharp-intermediate-classes-interfaces-and-oop/
https://www.udemy.com/csharp-advanced/
https://www.udemy.com/csharp-tutorial-for-beginners/ 


Audio Technica ATH SR6BTBK Review – Quality Bluetooth Headphones Entirely worth the price.

Bluetooth Headphones are honestly a godsend, and gone are the days where people can say “I have the luxury of owning a pair”, as nowadays the finding a set that suits your budget is made so much easier by the likes of Amazon, Ebay, or Retailers showcasing less common brands in conjunction with more common and expensive ones.

Whilst I was in the US, I had the luxury of exposing myself to the dense and expansive catalog of the behemoth American Amazon.com and picked up a pair of headphones that are in Australia ranging around the $450 mark (links below if you want to pick them up), and in amongst the Clif bars and MacBook Pro stickers, I think I have found a seriously compelling buy.
Considering that these are a high-quality pair of cans, the review will be reviewed at a tone that analyses them as such, a $400 plus pair of headphones tiered to be an alternative to the Beats and Sol Republic competitors.

Overview

The unboxing experience is simple and includes a lot for the money. Inside the box are the headphones, a black pouch to keep the headphones in, a MicroUSB cable and a 3.5mmm Headphone cable with an inline audio controller. The Headphones on the left side have the MicroUSB port, the audio controller for Stop, Start & skipping tracks, and the input for the 3.5mm jack; as well as the subtle LED for charging, Bluetooth Connectivity status and low battery.
On the right side is the on/off switch for the Bluetooth functionality.

In the past, I have used a pair of Monster Inspirations, massive & expensive cans that are super high quality and feature noise cancellation; however over long periods they make my Ears ache and after they started tearing in the right ear cup after 5 years of ownership, I didnt seek to repair them; but replace them.
A necessity for headphones for me is use for long periods of time. Whether its in a train commute, walking around the city or at my desk, If I cant wear them for more than 4 to 8 hours at a time and my ears are still A-OK at the end, then its a pass.
The Good news to this is I got to test them on a 2 hour flight from Omaha to LAX, then in LAX for 4 hours while I waited for my flight and then the majority of a 14 Hour flight from LAX to Brisbane (I didn’t get to use them on my final leg from Brisbane to Sydney due to space in the seat); and they 100% hold up. For most of the time I was on Bluetooth and I had charged them the day before. Near the end of the LAX to Brisbane leg the battery died and I swapped over to the 3.5mm audio jack and just kept on going. The Longevity of these headphones is amazing. 

The Headphones are sleek and minimalist, definitely not over the top

Sound Quality and Performance

Aside from longevity, the sound quality of these headphones is quite decent too. A Pair of 40mm drivers runs these cans and produces some good sounding highs and mids, but very minimal bass. 
As a Podcast enthusiast, these are great for spoken word; but if you are wanting these for deeper sounding tones and solid bass then its probably best to look elsewhere.

That is my only gripe with the headphones, the lack of bass (and charging through MicroUSB!). Otherwise the headphones supply quality sound for an excellent price.
I have even tried them with some Mobile games, YouTube, NetFlex and some PlanetSide 2 for a full audio test with Bluetooth and 3.5mm line in, and these definitely tick boxes for a solid all rounder pair of headphones that have very minimal drawbacks.

Bluetooth connection wise, these headphones hold a solid and reliable connection to most devices. I have seen a bit of interference on my Mac machine, but I havent seen it on my Windows PC or Phone so it may purely be an issue with my Mac and not the headphones themselves.
Pairing to multiple devices though is an absolute pain. Many times I have tried to pair them to my Phone, but only to find them still connected right off the bat from just being on for a few seconds to my Macbook Pro. Likewise with connecting to my MBP, they’re on my phone or tablet still.  

The AT logo on the side of the aluminium finish is subtle and very professional looking

Verdict

As a whole, these are a great set of headphones that have decent sound quality and are very durable and reliable for the time I have had them. The carry bag and their flexibility makes them a viable solution for throwing a good pair of cans in a handbag or a Backpack, and the carry bag makes carrying the accessories (and even a small portable battery to charge them) even more of a compelling reason to buy them.
If you don’t mind average bass, then these are definitely worth considering for your next set of headphones.

PROS:

  • Great build, super comfortable to wear for long periods 
  • Excellent sound for Podcasts, Audio Books, Games and music with minimal bass
  • Bluetooth connection is reliable

CONS:

  • MicroUSB charging is annoying, why cant things just all be USB-C
  • Minimal Bass on the headphones can have a disappointing bass experience.
  • Pairing to multiple devices is a pain

I purchased these from Amazon US here
If you’re based outside of the US you can get them herewith my affiliate link!

Concepts, the popular Sketching and Drafting App on iOS, comes to Windows

Windows users Rejoice! One of the best vector graphics and illustration tools on iOS is now available on the Windows Store!
This app has been a mainstay on my iPad since it came out, and I have been a pro customer for over a year or so.
Concepts can be flexible in what your use-case if you want to make mindmaps or project maps, flowcharts or business diagrams? Concepts can do it.
if you want to draw art or illustrations? Concepts can do it (like the main image above – that’s from the default opening screen on Windows). Concepts is so Flexible for a graphic artist or a business use that the app has seen so many consistent updates and improvements over the years that it’s still retaining a high score on the App Store. The developers have added excellent Apple Pencil support and the iOS app can output to a variety of formats for maximum compatibility with Desktop apps. 

In a move that I personally wouldn’t have expected, Concepts is now available on Windows 10 through the Microsoft Store. Over some of the years, we have seen developers either choose to stay with the Apple Ecosystem and make their App available on the Mac App Store or choose to keep it mobile and port it to Android. 

There are plenty of scenarios where the porting this to Windows 10, shouldn’t happen. There is already a myriad of bad apps on the Windows Store and developers aren’t exactly jumping to develop on Microsoft’s App Store.
But, I believe there is always a means for change, and I like to think that with Concepts Developer TopHatch could pave the way for other high-quality developers to bring their apps to the windows store.

The App Features similar functions to the iPad app, with a gorgeous swatch UI for colour changing and brush alternations, and then the other primary and secondary settings like adding text, the settings and export menus are buried in a hamburger menu at the top left of the screen.
The iOS app does have a small sidebar that can be displayed to quickly adjust settings and brush types, add different input styles and add the blocks or stickers from their own in-app purchase store.

The App has full support for the Surface Pen and Surface Dial, as well as offering Palm Rejection and smooth tracking for the stylus. 
It seems that this app was built for Surface Devices first, and then other Windows Slates second.
The main competitive advantage that this app has over other Windows Store illustration apps like Sketchable and Autodesk Sketchbook is the pace and quality of the app updates. I subscribe to the Concept App email updates and this is where I first found out about the update, and every time they do an update (monumental or iterative) the quality to the updates are consistent. I have used desktop competitors like Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator on the Desktop and they’re both well-established however with no App Store variants that are decent, they stand to remove themselves from something like the education market that may not want to use full-blown Windows 10.

The Concepts App has full Surface Pen support

On the topic of Windows 10S, this app (and others) also stands to improve the paultry landscape of the Apps for Windows 10S users. The newly announced Surface Go and Surface Laptop still come out of the box with Windows 10S installed (you can update to Windows 10S for free),  but for the Education market who is actively purchasing iPad Pros and Chromebooks and want flexibility to run traditional Windows programs or may want to in the future, or students who may not be able to afford $1500 AUD for a MacBook or pricer Surface product, leave little decent options for a 2 in 1 to draw and work on for a Portable Laptop solution.
The Surface Go combined with something like Concepts can be a tempting solution, especially if you later look to a professional upgrade and then grab something like a Surface Pro or a Surface Book. 

Apps like iTunes on the Microsoft Store, Linux distros, Trello, Slack and 1Password are a few examples of decent Windows Store apps that are solid ports of their desktop counterparts, and hopefully, more developers can follow suit of TopHat and port their apps to the Windows Store. I would love to see something like Affinity Designer or even Sketch on the Windows Store. 

You can download Concepts 1.0 for Windows here from their website or from the Microsoft Store

Episode 7 – E-Commerce and Remote Working in the WordPress Community

I’m back after a month off from being in Omaha!
This week I got the chance to go to WordCamp Sydney can caught up with a few of the sponsors and attendees. Topher from BigCommerce and Toby from WooCommerce. Its a shorter 15 minute episode I’m getting a bit sick and my voice sounds like I’m speaking through a tablecloth… but thank you all for supporting the podcast and I’ll speak to you next week!
Check below for the links to some of the things mentioned in this episode.

Things Mentioned in this Episode:
WooCommerce
BigCommerce
Automattic
WordCamp (.org)

Migration to New Podcast Host (with plenty of learning curves)

So at this point, my newest Episode of Markup is done!
The sad point, is that I have to restart the feed and re-upload the old episodes.

Why? I previously hosted on Squarespace, so was the blog and my portfolio. One of the things I have been working on the last few weeks is migrating everything to WordPress! 
A upside of this is a new podcast host, which is Blubrry (and the plugin by PowerPress) it provides me options for more professional analytics, hosting options for the episodes and a host of other options.

Downside? Well because I jumped the and migrated everything, the old Squarespace site’s RSS feed doesn’t exist anymore. The options?? RESET THE FEED!!
I have worked the last few weeks working on seeing if I can think of other options to avoid this and the blame lies with Squarespace. But it gives me an opportunity to work on resetting the feed, cleanly re-upload everything and have a far more productive and customisable experience with Podcasting!
The new episode should still be up on time (9am AEST, 6PM CDT), but potentially may be a day late, as I essentially have to go through the entire setup process again, which includes headbutting iTunes Connect into submission to get the new RSS feed over the line.

I’d like to thank everyone who has subscribed to the old feed, and I would like to hope you all subscribe to the new one (I’ll be spamming it everywhere) and follow me on the next step of my Podcasting Journey! 

Serif Launches Affinity Designer for the iPad

Affinity Designer is one of my favourite programs on Windows.
You don’t get Sketch, and if you dont want to pay for Adobe XD (there is a free tier now), there are few decent alternatives that offer as well featured and well supported programs like Serif has with Designer.

The Affinity suite stands to compete with the likes of Illustrator, Photoshop and Pixelmator. High quality photo editing for those who dont want to fleshout monthly fees for being able to design, draw, or edit photos.
The iPad has always been a creative tool and with the iPad Pro this has gone to a new level. Serif has their Affinity Photo app on the iPad already and the app is beautiful, functional and well made. Throwing their hat into the design ring, they now offer a very slick Graphic Design app that is a very smooth alternative to many other apps Graphic Design apps that exist on the platform already. Being accounced as well a day ago Adobe is apparently bringing Photoshop to the iPad. So the space is heating up for decent competition for apps like this, and Serif has gotten in first to stake their claim. Rather than bring a less than functional version of their app over and splitting it up into 3 or 4 different apps, they have done their best to port a near desktop version over to a mobile OS.

From watching videos and hands on reviews, the app has alot of the existing features that desktop app has. Such as fully customisable shapes, different shades of pens, layering. text input, colour gradients, as well as keeping the Pixel, Draw and Export personas which function as sub-menus to keep the interface minimal and functional, as well as keep appropriate tasks in the right areas.
The app also has intiuitive touch gestures, so for those who are coming from a desktop machine, the controls are looking like somewhat less of a learning curve than one would imagine moving to an iPad for your Graphic Design workflow.

A cherry on the cake? Serif is offering a 30% discount on their software suite as a bonus for the software being released! Who wouldnt want 30% off some slick software!??

Google’s New Podcasting App – What you need to know

Seemingly under the cover of darkness, Google has released (FINALLY) a podcast app. So your friendly neighborhood tech guy has downloaded it to see what all the fuss is (or could be) about!

Firstly, the design is in line with their Google App for search and what is directly integrated into most Android Phones, or if you use the Google Now Launcher instead of the default launchers provided by other OEMs like Samsung or LG.
Its clean, minimalist, and very reminiscent of an iTunes Store layout combined with Material Design elements.

Once you subscribe to your shows, the app has 2 lines of 5, with the standard Google dots at the bottom of the app to flick through the next slide of shows if you subscribe to any more than 10 (like most podcast Junkies like me).

Inside the show menu, the shows can be downloaded directly, or you can stream them by pressing the play button. This seems like a default option as there isnt any other option I can see to opt for a warning when streaming over 4G Celluar, like PocketCasts does. 

The app also does have an smart search option, and being tied into Google, it also allows you to Google Search the podcast if it can’t find the podcast in the app. This is especially handy now for people Googling podcast names as you hear them on other podcasts or on TV/Radio, as I imagine Google will have their smart search show your Podcast, but through their apps.  

Speaking of PocketCasts, the app’s simplicity is one of it’s main drawbacks. Being in the early stages, one is to expect not a huge selection of features, but in the side by side comparison video below, you can see there isn’t really much at all against other competitors. I am a PocketCasts user, and I primarily download then playback my podcasts from local storage rather than stream. This option is available to you in Google Podcasts but you have to go through a few extra selection options when tapping on the episode. 

Google’s app is overall smooth in use, and has only crashed once on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and nothing (yet…) on my Galaxy Tab S3. Currently it is Android only, with no future plans for an iOS version (which is pretty good, considering the huge lead PocketCasts, Apple Podcasts and Overcast have on the user base already). 

PocketCasts (and other apps like Overcast or the Apple Podcast App on iOS) have been around for years and as such have refined their audiences and all have their pros and cons. PocketCasts does have a whole suite of options for those who want to use them, however Google Podcasts does have an excellent syncing engine and a predictive algorithm that does change and alter the “For You” Tab as you listen to podcasts overtime. This is a pretty cool feature, with Google commenting they will add more features soon based around artificial intelligence, as well as plans for closed captions – this would be interesting to see how it is integrated into the app also. 

Google overall has creates an interesting competitor in the space, with plenty of room for growth and improvement, but a compelling option for someone wanting a toned down podcast player.