blog.matt.rogow.ski

My history of Apple products

Date
Wednesday 16th September 2020
Word count
3141
Read time
16 mins

Over the years, I have owned a number of Apple products. This piece covers everything I've owned, and my experiences and opinions of all the different products.


iPod

My first Apple products were iPods. I had a 2nd gen Nano with 4GB of storage, followed by a 1st gen Touch.


Mac

Like most people, my first computers were Windows, from the old tower PCs my family had growing up, to my old HP laptop running Vista (ugh). After I had had enough of the poor laptop quality, I decided to make the switch to the Mac.

2010-2014 - 21.5" iMac

In 2010, I bought my first Mac, a Late 2009 21.5" iMac, with a 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 4GB of RAM (which I upgraded to 12GB myself). What a beast. This was the machine I used to start getting into web development properly, and it served me well.

After a few years, and fully committed to the Apple ecosystem by this point, I decided to upgrade.

2014-present - 15" Retina MacBook Pro

I wanted to be able to be a bit more mobile when working, so decided to switch from a desktop to a laptop, and went with a 15" MacBook Pro, which I specced as high as I could, with the 2.8 GHz i7, 16GB RAM, and the NVIDIA GeForce graphics card. This was a machine I wanted to have for a long time, so I invested in the best specs I could. And it's paid off, as I still use it as my main development machine today.

This generation of the MBP is widely regarded to be one of the best laptops that Apple's ever made, possibly now succeeded by the 16" MBP. It has actual ports instead of only USB-C, as well as MagSafe, and has the iconic design and high quality keyboard (before the failure-prone butterfly keyboards on later models, adoption of USB-C, and the controversial touch bar).

My only real issue with it is that it can often struggle with overheating. A macOS "feature" will artificially increase CPU usage to manage thermal issues from excessive usage from other applications, however all it seems to do is cause more heat, and use so much CPU that the entire system is unusable. This is normally solved with a cheap laptop cooling mat, but in the middle of summer where it's over 30 degrees inside, it struggles to the point of being unusable.

It can also be a bit bulky when using it on your lap, and the battery life is pretty abysmal, even after having it replaced after the original one expanded.

It's still a very capable machine though, and I currently have it on my desk in clamshell mode hooked up to 3 external monitors (which means the bulkiness and battery life issues are redundant).

The only issue I can foresee is that it is currently listed as "vintage", and will eventually be considered obsolete (which the first generation rMBP already is), at which point, if anything goes wrong, Apple won't fix it; hopefully, it still has a good few years left in it yet.

2020-present - 13" MacBook Air

While I originally got my 15" rMBP to be more portable than the iMac, it didn't really turn out that way. As I use it with 3 external monitors and have 2 time machine backup drives attached to it, it's cumbersome to detach everything - I have to eject the time machine drives, and going from 3 monitors (each with multiple spaces) down to a single 15" screen means it's difficult to manage where everything is, and windows would often be in a different place when I plugged the monitors back in. It ultimately stays on my desk in clamshell mode the whole time.

I had decided to get a secondary machine, primarily to take out to meet clients now that I was working as a freelancer. Originally I had considered a 11" iPad Pro for this, but then I decided a laptop would be better as I'd be able to use it for development too. I wanted a smaller laptop so it'd be more portable, and I also didn't want to take my main machine out anywhere, because if anything happened to it, I'd be screwed.

I originally looked into getting a used 2015 13" Retina MacBook Pro. Being the same era as my 15" rMBP, it'd have the better connectivity with all the ports, and I'd had a 13" rMBP at my last job, and I loved it for its form factor. It would also be cheaper to get one of these as a secondary machine than buying one brand new.

I found a refurbished one in excellent condition on eBay from a repair company, and bought that. It was great, apart from one issue - every so often, the WiFi service would turn itself off. Not just disconnect from WiFi, but actually turn it off, and it couldn't be turned on again without restarting the machine. It even happened after reinstalling macOS, and in recovery mode. I can only imagine there was an issue on the logic board and it couldn't "see" the WiFi chip, but then it would be weird a reboot would fix it. Either way, it happened frequently enough that there was clearly an issue, so it had to go back.

At this point, I figured it'd be too risky to buy a used machine that was this old - there would be no warranty, and it would soon be obsoleted the same as my 15". So I looked at which new model to buy.

My choices were either the base 13" MacBook Pro, or the MacBook Air, which had both just been updated with the new and improved scissor-switch keyboard, replacing the butterfly switches.

When I started to compare models though, I was quite surprised to realise that the base 13" MBP is a waste of money. These are some specs for the various models and configurations (for simplicity, I'm ignoring the base Air with the i3, and comparing everything with an i5):

MacBook Air - 10th gen 1.1 GHz i5, 8GB RAM - £1,099
MacBook Air - 10th gen 1.1 GHz i5, 16GB RAM - £1,299
MacBook Pro 13" - 8th gen 1.4 GHz i5, 8GB RAM - £1,299
MacBook Pro 13" - 8th gen 1.4 GHz i5, 16GB RAM - £1,499

What struck me here, is that the Air came with CPUs that, while running at a slightly lower clock speed, were two generations newer than what the Pro came with (and I don't know much about CPUs, but I know that the generation is more important than clock speed). But also, the base Pro, with an older CPU and only 8GB of RAM, was the same price as an upgraded Air, with a newer CPU and double the RAM at 16GB. So, why would anyone buy that £1,299 Pro, or for that matter, the £1,499 one? The most expensive Air had better specs than the cheapest Pro. The Pro doesn't even support Apple's new 6K XDR monitor, but the Air does. It seems the only reason Apple offer this model is to claim they have a "Pro" machine at this price point, but the Air is better in every measurable way here.

In the end, I went for the £1,099 option, with the i5 but only 8GB of RAM. In hindsight I probably should have got the 16GB model, but I wasn't planning on doing anything too heavy with it, and considering my 15" rMBP had been getting on fine with 16GB as my main development machine, I figured 8GB would suffice.

Having used the Air for a few months now, I can safely say that I love it. The keyboard is great, and it's a nice compact form factor for working on the sofa. The battery life can vary, but hasn't caused any issues so far. It works well as a light development machine, and I haven't noticed any issues due to lack of RAM. Overall, a very good purchase, and if you're looking for a competent MacBook, get an Air.

Future - ARM Mac Mini

When the time comes to retire my 15" rMBP, I will be replacing it with a Mac Mini, with Apple's newly announced Apple Silicon ARM chips.

The new 16" MBP has a beautiful screen, but as I explained above, my currently MBP is kept in clamshell mode on my desk, and I use the more lightweight Air for mobile work, so there's not a lot of point in buying a laptop just to leave it closed on my desk and never use it as a laptop.

It should also be significantly cheaper - I can configure a current Mac Mini with an 8th gen i7 and 64GB of RAM for £2,299, compared to a 16" MBP with a 9th gen i7 and only 16GB of RAM for £2,399 - making a saving of £100 for a similar CPU but four times the RAM when getting the Mini. To have 64Gb of RAM in the MBP would make it £3,199, a whole £900 more expensive. The MBP does go to an i9 while the Mini maxes out an an i7, but my 15 rMBP has an i7 and is perfectly fine, so an i7 several generations newer should be plenty good enough. However, this could get even better with the ARM chips, if the recent iPad Air and Pro chips are anything to go by. I'm looking forward to seeing what Apple releases in the coming years, and I will almost certainly be getting an ARM Mac Mini not long after it's released.


iPhone

The iPhone was my first smartphone, the next in line after my Siemens C65, Nokia 3220, Samsung D500, and Samsung D900i I'd had when I was younger.

2010-2012 - iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 was a big deal when it was released, with the retina display, new design, and the infamous Gizmodo leak. I jailbroke mine (this was back when jailbreaking was cool) and overall it was a good phone.

2012-2014 - iPhone 5

I much preferred the iPhone 5 to the 4. The larger screen and thinner body was great, and I loved the slate-coloured back. It's one of my favourite iPhone designs out of all of them.

I didn't like the design of the 5S as much, the back was changed to silver and it didn't look as cool. I did, however, like the cheaper 5C they launched, and I bought a used one in white just to have a spare device because I liked it.

2014-2017 - iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 was probably as much of a landmark device as the 4 was, in terms of design, with its much larger screen and new curved-edge design. It was also extremely popular, selling as many as 222 million units, making it the third best selling mobile phone ever. But as popular and groundbreaking as it was, I never really loved it. It always felt very capable, but a bit plain and boring.

2017-2020 - iPhone X

The iPhone X, however, was a return to form. I loved the X. I loved the whole design, from the edge-to-edge screen and removal of the home button, to the glass back, which I always felt really nice in my hand. The design drew criticism for the notch, but it was honestly just people finding something to complain about, as it didn't get in the way, and the very top of the phone was always only ever going to be used to status icons, which it still had either side of the notch.

Like the 5, the X has one of my favourite designs ever. I also liked the 7, but I skipped that as I decided to wait for the X, which was a good decision.

2020-present - iPhone 11 Pro

I'm going to be honest - part of me regrets upgrading to the 11 Pro. The only reason I did so was because I needed dual-SIM which the X didn't support, but I don't like the design as much. It's thicker and heavier than the X, and I don't like the colour or the feel of the frosted glass back. in hindsight, I should have got a refurbished XS, which did have dual-SIM, to tide me over until the device I really wanted to upgrade to, which is the rumoured iPhone 12 with a design inspired by the iPad Pro (although saying that, my 512GB 11 Pro was £1,399, and Apple sell a refurbished 512GB XS for £999, so the 11 Pro was only £400 more but will have better resale value).


iPad

I was a fan of the iPad as soon as it was announced (I even published this badly written post about it) - it drew a lot of negativity, but I think all the doubters have been proved about as wrong as possible, because like the iPhone and the iPod before it, the iPad has been an overwhelming success and I don't think many competitors even come close - it's become so ubiquitous that a lot of people use the word 'iPad' simply to describe any tablet, which says it all.

2014-2017 - iPad mini 3

I was always interested in getting an iPad, but didn't really want a full-sized one. Just before I went to America in 2014 (which was the same time I got the iPhone 6 and a few months before I got my 15" rMBP), I got an iPad mini 3 (expensive year). It was released about a week before I went on holiday, and I waited for it because it was going to have Touch ID, which the 2nd generation model didn't have (it was the only notable upgrade really). And I loved it. The form factor was perfect, and it was fantastic for content consumption which is what I primarily used it for. It was a brilliant device.

2017-present - iPad mini 4

The 4th gen mini was released in 2015, but there was no real reason to upgrade - it was pretty much just an incremental spec bump, with a slightly thinner body.

However, the mini wasn't updated in 2016, or even 2017. The mini 4 sat there, the runt of the litter, abandoned by its owners. At this point, the rumour blogs were suggesting the model would be dropped from the lineup altogether, after the second year without another update, I sold the mini 3 and got a 4. As well as getting the 128GB model so I could store a lot of films on it, I got the cellular model so I could use it in a wider range of circumstances, for example as a satnav in my car for long journeys (I got a windscreen mount for it and it's great having such a large screen for navigation). I saw this as a long-term device, which is why I went for the best configuration possible. It's just as good as the mini 3, just even thinner and lighter, and has the laminated display.

The mini was skipped for updates in 2018 too, leading many to believe it was heading for the chopping block. However, somewhat out of the blue, they updated it in March 2019 (3 and a half years after the last update), bumping the specs up massively, to keep it in line with the newly updated Air (it was pretty much exactly the same, just in a smaller body). This was what I'd really want for a long-term device - the upgrade from the mini 3 to 4 was quite small, with the CPU going from a 1.3 GHz dual-core to 1.5 GHz and RAM going from 1GB to 2 GB, whereas the 5th gen went to a 2.49 GHz hex-core with 3GB RAM, and also supported the Apple Pencil. However, what I'm really waiting for now, is for them to redesign it to look like the iPad Pro...

Future - iPad mini and iPad Air

The 3rd gen iPad Pro featured a beautiful new design, and soon as I saw it I knew I wanted an iPad mini with the same design, just the size and form factor of the mini. That would pretty much be the perfect device - I've always loved the mini (I've also found it interesting that it has the highest pixel density screen at 326 ppi, whereas the Pro and Air only have 264 ppi), and if it had the same design as the Pro, it would be my ultimate device.

I wasn't sure they'd ever do it, but in 2020 (yesterday actually at the time of writing) they updated the Air to match the design of the Pro... but have neglected the mini again. Maybe it'll have another out-of-sync update, or maybe they'll let it fester for a bit, or maybe they will just kill it off. Either way, it feels a bit left out again, considering the base iPad got a spec refresh too.

I had also been considering an iPad for work, which is probably less useful now I won't be going to visit clients as much due to covid-19, but is still on the cards for the future. Depending on what updates the Air received, I was either going to get an Air, or a refurbished 3rd gen iPad Pro (1st gen 11"). Now that the Air has been updated to match the design of the Pro though, it makes more sense to get the Air - it has Touch ID instead of Face ID, 2 speakers instead of 4, is 0.2mm thicker and ha a 0.1" smaller screen, but has a much better CPU, and for a base 64GB WiFi model, which is all I'd need for a work device, it's £579 vs £519 for a refurbished 11" Pro, so may as well get a brand new Air. Then, depending on what Apple do with the mini, I'll either replace the 4 with a refurbished 256GB cellular 5th gen mini, or buy a new one if they update the design to match the Pro and Air.


Watch

2017-2019 - Series 1

I was never really sure if I'd get mjuch use from an Apple Watch, as I wouldn't use any of the fitness or workout features, but was still interested in the technology in general. I managed to find a second hand one in great condition for sale on Facebook for £100 from someone who just never used it, so I figured that was worth a punt. And for what it was, I liked it - it was pretty slow, but I got so used to having it I knew I'd want one long term.

2019-present - Series 5

After the Series 5 was announced (which only really had an always-on display as a new feature over the Series 4), I replaced my Series 1 with a nice new Series 5. The increased speed and bigger screen were very welcome upgrades. For the most part though, it's more or less the same. The watch isn't something I'd upgrade regularly considering what I use it for, it's very much a nice-to-have - the only reason I upgraded when I did is because I did a small website for someone so had a bit of money I wouldn't normally have had, so treated my self and splashed out on an upgrade. It'll probably be several years and a significant redesign before I'll consider upgrading again.