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In this issue: Apple's big announcements; MacAtoZ pricing updates; iPhone battery replacement; All about Apple's new stuff; Software recommendations; Hardware recommendations.
November 2018 Newsletter

Apple's big announcements

At a special event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Apple threw back the curtains on significant updates to the long-ignored MacBook Air and even longer-ignored Mac mini. Then Tim Cook and company followed up with revamped 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, complete with an enhanced Smart Keyboard Folio and redesigned Apple Pencil. You can order all of Apple’s new gear right away, though demand may delay shipping for a week or two on some items.
 
MacBook Air
When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in 2008 by pulling it out of an envelope, it set the standard for the ultralight notebook category. But Apple has focused on the high-end MacBook Pro line of late, making this major revision extremely welcome.

Most notably, the new MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch Retina display that’s far crisper than the previous model’s screen. Although the screen is the same size as before, Apple eliminated the aluminum bezel around it, taking the screen much closer to the edge. That let the company reduce the MacBook Air’s size, making it almost an inch (2.1 cm) less wide and more than half an inch (1.5 cm) less deep. Even more important, Apple dropped the weight by almost a quarter pound (100 g). It’s noticeably smaller and lighter now.

The other major improvement in the MacBook Air is the addition of a Touch ID sensor in the upper-right corner of the keyboard. Rather than typing your password to log in, you can just place your finger on the Touch ID sensor. It also works to unlock some apps like 1Password. To support the Touch ID sensor, the MacBook Air includes Apple’s T2 security chip, which prevents the boot process from being tampered with, encrypts all data on the SSD, and enables “Hey Siri.”
 
Many of the remaining changes just bring the MacBook into the modern age. It sports two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side for charging and connecting peripherals, and a headphone jack on the right side—all the previous ports are gone. The keyboard is the same one used in the most recent update to the MacBook Pro, which isn’t universally loved—if you’re particular about keyboards, give this one a try before buying. Apple also replaced the old Multi-Touch trackpad with a larger Force Touch trackpad that’s more responsive and provides additional capabilities.

By default, the MacBook Air comes with 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. You can jump to 16 GB for $200, and we generally recommend that. Similarly, you can upgrade the storage to 256 GB for $200, 512 GB for $400, or 1.5 TB for $1200.

Apple says only that the MacBook Air’s 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor delivers “the performance you need for everyday activities like organizing your photos, browsing the Web, creating presentations or viewing and editing videos.” While technically true, we'd be cautious about getting a MacBook Air if video production is high on your "to-do" list. 
 
The new MacBook Air comes in silver, gold, and space gray, and pricing starts at $1199 for 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. If performance is important to you, however, you should consider the non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro, which costs only $100 more and is just a bit heavier. And if you’re willing to settle for older technology and a larger form factor, note that the old MacBook Air remains for sale starting at $999. Finally, the 12-inch MacBook also remains in the lineup, but at $1299, it’s overpriced and underpowered, and thus interesting only if you want the smallest possible Mac.
 
Mac mini
Finally an update Mac mini. This update, the first in over 4 years, comes in space gray rather than the previous model's silver, but otherwise it retains the same form factor—7.7 inches (19.7 cm) square and 1.4 inches (3.6 cm) high.

What has changed are the guts of the Mac mini, which offer huge performance gains over the previous version from 2014. Those improvements come from eighth-generation Intel Core processors: a base 3.6 GHz 4-core i3, a mid-level 3.0 GHz 6-core i5, and a top-of-the-line 3.2 GHz 6-core i7. Apple claims up to 5x the performance of the previous Mac mini and up to 60% speedier graphics performance thanks to the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630.

You won’t lack for RAM or storage either. The Mac mini comes with 8 GB of RAM, but you can upgrade to 16 GB ($200), 32 GB ($600), or 64 GB ($1400). Less expensive memory is available from other vendors. While the Mac mini’s base 128 GB of SSD storage might be adequate if all your data is stored on a NAS device, you can upgrade to 256 GB ($200), 512 GB ($400), 1 TB ($800), or 2 TB ($1600). That storage is automatically encrypted thanks to the Mac mini’s T2 security chip, which also speeds HEVC video transcoding.

While Apple’s notebooks have been shedding ports, the Mac mini has bucked the trend. It features four Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, two USB-A ports, an audio jack, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack, with 10 Gigabit Ethernet as an option. Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI ports, you can connect either a 5K display and a 4K display, or three 4K displays.

The new Mac mini starts at $799 for the 3.6 GHz 4-core Intel Core i3, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. However, build-to-order options for a faster processor, more RAM, and more storage could raise the price to a whopping $4199.

Nonetheless, the Mac mini is once again an attractive option for anyone who already has a good display, keyboard, and mouse, none of which are included. It’s also ideal for those who want to stuff a Mac into a tight space, bring it on stage for a live performance, or stack a bunch of them for rendering video.
 
iPad Pro
With its new iPad Pro models Apple may have made some of the most significant changes to the iPad line yet.

Like the iPhone X series, these new iPad Pros drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID authentication. The 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the front of the iPad Pro that makes Face ID possible also enables support for Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, and Animoji and Memoji.

Losing the Home button enabled Apple to bring the display closer to the edge of the iPad. With the 11-inch iPad Pro (the measurement is the diagonal screen size), that means a larger display in roughly the same form factor as the older 10.5-inch model (which remains for sale). And with the 12.9-inch iPad, Apple kept the display size the same as before but shrank the height of the case by almost an inch so it’s now the size of an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper and a little lighter.

Apple also changed the industrial design slightly, reverting to the flat edges last seen in the iPhone 5s. One of those edges sports a magnetic attachment area and wireless charging spot for the redesigned Apple Pencil.

Speaking of charging, Apple broke with tradition and dropped the Lightning connector in favor of the industry-standard USB-C for charging and connecting to peripherals. That will make it easier to connect to an external display. You may also need a $9 USB-C-to-3.5mm headphone jack adapter.
 
Those are the most obvious new features, but some of the more evolutionary changes will be equally as welcome. Most notable is the new A12X Bionic chip with embedded M12 coprocessor and Neural Engine. This Apple-designed chip is reportedly faster than 95% of laptops available today, and it gives the iPad Pro unparalleled performance among iOS devices.

That performance also powers the improved 12-megapixel rear camera, giving it enhanced computational photography capabilities, like Smart HDR, which takes multiple images and combines them intelligently for the best possible exposure. On-screen performance is improved, and everything will look better than ever before thanks to a new Liquid Retina display that features Apple’s True Tone and ProMotion technologies. In a classic Apple touch, the screen now features rounded corners.

How much will all this goodness cost? By the time all is said and done, you’ll be in MacBook Air range. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for a Wi-Fi-only model with 64 GB of storage. 256 GB runs $949, 512 GB is $1149, and 1 TB will set you back $1549. Add $150 if you want cellular connectivity in any of these configurations.

For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, add $200, so $999 for 64 GB, $1149 for $256 GB, $1349 for 512 GB, and $1749 for 1 TB. Cellular puts another $150 on the tab. Both sizes of iPad are available in either silver or space gray.

Remember, you can still get a regular iPad for as little as $329 and the original Apple Pencil is only $99, so if all you want is an iPad, you don’t need to spring for an iPad Pro. In fact we consider the regular iPad to be the best value of any product Apple currently offers. 
 

MacAtoZ pricing updates

MacAtoZ is the only Apple Certified, Apple Consultants Network (ACN) consultancy in Salem. In fact, MacAtoZ is one of the few Apple Certified ACN consultancies serving residential clients within all of Oregon.

The reason no other Apple-certified professionals help home users is that the business market is far more lucrative. From the beginning, I took on the challenge of helping home users because I knew that people needed it. And I still believe that. Time and again we receive thanks and praise from home clients, and that both gratifies us and imbues our work with meaning. Our Mission Statement ("We help people with Apple technology") is not meant idly; it is our purpose, and one we mean to fulfill to the best of our ability.     

I call this to mind because MacAtoZ needs to raise rates. It's not something I enjoy and I try to stave it off as long as I can, but it's been several years since we raised rates and our costs have only increased during that time.
 
On January 1, 2019 MacAtoZ's standard hourly rate will change to $192. For Sentinel and Sentinel+ clients, our discounted hourly rate will move to $144, and both Sentinel and Sentinel+ services will increase by $1 a month, to $14.99 and $24.99 respectively. Web services clients for whom we provide domain registration, email, and web hosting will increase by $3 a month. 

I want to note also that MacAtoZ is not standing still. Both Dynee and I continue to acquire various certifications (macOS 10.13 High Sierra is our latest Apple one) and we've made numerous improvements to both Sentinel and Sentinel+ services, and those improvements will continue. 

Finally, I want to reiterate my thanks for the opportunity you give us to assist with your Apple-related endeavors. We are honored to serve you. 
 

iPhone battery replacement

Apple's battery replacement deal expires on December 31. In short, if you have an iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X you can get a replacement battery from Apple for $29 installed. 

How do you know if you need a new battery? On the iPhone, go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health. There you'll be given a percentage of how much the battery charge remains from when the iPhone was new and had 100% available. If your iPhone is lower that 60%, I would strongly consider getting the battery replaced. 

You can learn more at Apple's iPhone Battery & Power Repair web page.   


All about Apple's new stuff

MacAtoZ will be giving this month's presentation at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). MacAtoZ President Ty Davison will be talking about all of Apple's recently introduced gear and answering any questions about the same. The meeting will be held at Comfort Suites on Hawthorne Ave in Salem, Oregon on Tuesday, November 13. The Q&A session begins at 6:45 PM. Visitors welcome! 
 

Software Recommendations

macOS 10.13.6 High Sierra. macOS 10.12.6 Sierra is acceptable. Earlier versions should be upgraded ASAP. We do not recommend macOS 10.14 Mojave at this time. 

iOS 12. No other versions are acceptable. Any device that can run iOS 11 should be upgraded to 12. Wait on the iOS 12.1 release as there is a security bug. If you have automatic updates turned on you may already have iOS 12.1 on your iPhone/iPad. We recommend turning this feature off. (Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates) 

watchOS 5.1.1. Older versions acceptable if necessary; upgrade if your devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) support it. Note that watch OS 5.1 was pulled by Apple after bricking (rendering unusable with no fix) some Apple Watches. Never immediately upgrade your watch after the release of a new watchOS update. Either wait a few days, or for our OK. 

tvOS 12.1. Apple TV models that run tvOS should upgrade to this version. Note that earlier models of Apple TV do not run tvOS and are fine for what they do.
 

Hardware Recommendations

Macintosh
  • iMac: iMac10,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • Mac mini: Macmini4,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • Mac Pro: MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
  • MacBook: MacBook6,1 (Late 2009) or newer
  • MacBook Air: MacBookAir3,1 (Late 2010) or newer
  • MacBook Pro: MacBookPro7,1 (Mid 2010) or newer
These are minimum hardware recommendations based on what is necessary to run a secure operating system. 

iPhone and iPad
  • iPhone 5S or newer. Older iPhones cannot run iOS 12 which is the only secure version of iOS. 
  • iPad Air or newer
  • iPad mini 2 or newer
  • iPad Pro or newer
  • iPad 5th generation or newer
The iPad line is made confusing by the multitude of model names and types (Air, mini, Pro, and just plain iPad). Generally speaking, devices introduced in October 2013 and later will run iOS 12. Early devices will not and should be replaced unless they will not be on the internet. 

Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch Series 4 is recommended; all versions are secure and acceptable.
Apple TV
  • Apple TV 4K is recommended. Apple TV (4th generation) is fine as well.
  • Older models of Apple TV do not support tvOS and cannot run Apple TV Store apps, though we are unaware of any major security issues. 

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Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, web design and hosting, and remote support services for Apple products like Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

Ty Davison and Dyneé Medlock, our Apple technicians, are the only Apple-certified, Apple Consultants Network members serving both residential and small business clients in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley.

MacAtoZ has been providing computer services for clients in the Salem area since 2006 (and since 1999 as SiteRev.com). Our technicians are certified by Apple and carry $1 million in business liability insurance. We frequently present and are well-known at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). You can count on us.

Our Sentinel and Sentinel+ services offer home users 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, and security. Join today!

Quick Links

MacAtoZ LLC: The main company web site. You can find information about products and services as well as advice here.

Amazon via MacAtoZ: Shop at Amazon via our referral link. Help us to help you. 

Offsite Backup: You should have one, and we recommend Backblaze. Only $5 a month for unlimited data. Get your 15-day free trial here. 

Salem Mac Users Group: Salem, Oregon-area Macintosh and Apple gear enthusiasts. Meets monthly. Visitors welcome!

Apple Consultants Network: If you need help, entrust your computer and your data to professionals. 
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