Apple announces “Self Service Repair” program: parts and tools for customers

In a move that caught just about everyone off guard, and that is surely intended to head off any “right to repair” bills, Apple today announced a new repair program for customers. The “Self Service Repair” program makes parts, tools and manuals available to customers. At first the program will support iPhone 12 and 13 models, followed soon after by M1 Macs. It will start in the US early next year and expand to other countries throughout 2022.

From the PR:

Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “In the past three years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own repairs.”

Customers looking to repair their devices will purchase replacement parts, tools and manuals through a new online store. When the repair is completed, the user will send the defective part back to Apple and receive a credit. From the PR:

To ensure a customer can safely perform a repair, it’s important they first review the Repair Manual. Then a customer will place an order for the Apple genuine parts and tools using the Apple Self Service Repair Online Store. Following the repair, customers who return their used part for recycling will receive credit toward their purchase.”

Of course, the devil is always in the details. How much these self service repairs will cost end users remains to be seen.

Still, this is a huge course correction for Apple and a mammoth win for right to repair.

Tesla software update adds Waypoints

Tesla has started rolling out version 2021.40.5, which adds waypoints to navigation. This feature has been one of the most requested features over the last few years. From the release notes:

Add a new stop to your route by tapping the “+” icon on the navigation search button and searching for a destination, or selecting a pin on the map.”

You can monitor the adoption of the new release over at TeslaScope.

Nikon Z9: Flagship camera dispenses with the shutter

Nikon has been hyping the release of their new Z series flagship ‘Z9’ for weeks now. Much was already known about the specs of this camera – 8K 30 (at launch with 8K 60 coming in a firmware update in 2022), 4K 120, 45 megapixel stills, 20 fps shooting at full size, 120 fps shooting at 11 megapixel in JPEG. But the two details that were revealed today were the biggest – first, the Z9 doesn’t have a mechanical shutter. Now, all mirrorless cameras have the ability to shoot via an electronic shutter. But the Z9 is the first serious mirrorless camera to dispense with the mechanical shutter altogether.

One of the main reasons the mechanical shutter continues to live in most mirrorless cameras is something called “rolling shutter”. It’s a phenomena that occurs when shooting with an electronic shutter and the camera is panned while shooting, resulting in the contents being skewed during the pan. This is essentially due to the camera processor not being fast enough to process the data being fed from the shutter properly. Mitigating rolling shutter in stills and especially video is the holy grail on the path to eliminating the mechanical shutter. The benefit of dropping the mechanical shutter are immense. The mechanical shutter is one of the most fragile parts of the camera, and is one that usually has a rated lifespan of actuations before it becomes inoperable and needs to be replaced. So dropping the mechanical shutter should make the camera easier to manufacture and give it a longer lifespan.

The other detail that was a bit of a surprise was the price. $5499. While this is about $1000 more than the Sony Alpha A9 II, of which this camera will be competing with, it is also a more ‘pro’ offering in terms of body ergonomics and features. Most people (myself included), expected this camera to be a good $1000 more, since the D6 – which this camera is intended to replace – costs $6499. And it costs $500 less than the comparable Canon R3. So bravo to Nikon.

Time will tell if the Nikon Z9 will convince pro shooters to stay with Nikon. But if Nikon can manage to produce enough of these, I suspect they will have a hit with pro stills shooters and pro video shooters alike.

M1 MacBook Pro Review Round Up

The new M1 Pro/M1 Max MacBook Pros are starting to reach customers, and the review embargo has been lifted. I ordered a 14″ model on launch day, and should have it sometime next week. Until then, here’s a bunch of reviews from others.

iPhone 13 Review

It’s hard to remember the world before the iPhone. So many things we take for granted now were the stuff of science fiction in 2007. 14 years later, and nearly an entire generation has been born in the wake of the iPhone, and they know nothing different. It’s hard for any product to keep itself relevant for a few years, yet the iPhone has evolved, improved, improvised and re-invented itself several times in that window, and is more popular today than it was in 2007 on it’s release. 

With the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, Apple focused on the main 3 areas that people want to see improvements on – battery, screen and camera. I’m going to break down the improvements in each area, and then focus on the camera, because it is clearly the biggest upgrade in this iteration.

Battery

Out of the 3 main improvement areas, battery is the least sexy. But it is probably the one that is most appreciated on a daily basis. Both Pro and Pro Max models get bigger batteries this year, and along with new efficiencies in the A15 Bionic chip, get improved battery life . 

Apple touts the Pro as receiving an increase of 1.5 hours and the Pro Max as receiving 2.5 hours more of battery life. This doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when you factor in the improvements in the second area – the screen, it’s a miracle that battery life increased and not decreased. Anyone who saw what happened when Android handset manufacturers adopted faster refresh rate panels knows what that does to battery life, and it doesn’t increase them.

Screen

The iPhone finally gets a 120hz screen. I say finally because these have been standard fare on many higher end Android phones for several years now. And yes, as I just mentioned, most of the Android phones who adopted higher refresh rate screens did so at detriment of battery life.

But Apple, being Apple, did something a bit different.

Instead of adopting a 120hz panel and calling it a day, Apple realized that having a panel refreshing at 120hz when a user is doing something static was a waste of precious power. So Apple implemented a variable refresh rate. Just sitting there looking at text on your phone screen, or a photo? The iPhone will throttle down the refresh rate to 10hz. The magic part is when you flick to scroll, the iPhone will immediately throttle up the refresh rate to the full 120hz. This adaptive refresh rate takes in to account what you are doing, and applies the necessary refresh rate all the way up to 120hz or down to 10hz. In this way, Apple took something that was done first on Android, and did it way better on iOS.

Camera

Now, Apple brought a number of camera improvements to the 13 and the 13 Pro models. The biggest is democratizing the sensor shift stabilizing that was present on the Pro Max last year, and bringing it to the Ultra Wide lens for all models, Pro and non Pro alike this year. 

Then there is the Cinematic Mode. This is feature I would have figured Apple would have saved just for the Pro models, because, well, it seems like something that could be used to justify the increased cost of the Pro or Pro Max. But since this feature really only dependent upon the improvements made in the A15 Bionic, Apple made it available to all iPhone 13 models.

But for the Pro models, Apple improved the hardware and kept the camera system the same on the Pro and Pro Max models.

The standard wide lens has been upgraded to an f/1.5 aperture. The utlra-wide lens has been upgraded to a f1/.8 aperture. And the telephoto lens, which now features a more telephoto focal length of 77m (equivalent), features a f/2.8 aperture. So you get faster glass, and you get bigger pixels. What this means is better low light performance. Of course, Apple touts better low light performance every year, so the real test is actually putting the cameras thru the paces. So let’s take a look at a bunch of photos taken with both the iPhone 12 Pro and 13 Pro. 

Conclusion

Whether you think the iPhone 13 Pro is just another iPhone or a significant entry in the iPhone’s 14 year saga will really come down to how much you value your iPhone as a camera. If you take casual pics and don’t think about things like low light photography, macro photography or portrait shots, you will probably be best served with the iPhone 13. If these details matter to you, the 13 Pro is the way to go. If you are an iPhone 12 Pro user and you are thinking of upgrading, you have to ask yourself – is $700 or so (the cost of a new iPhone after trading in your 12 or 12 Pro model) worth it to take macro pics, slightly better low light pics, or to gain a more “telephoto” telephoto lens? Are the battery improvements worth it to you? 120hz scrolling is nice, but I can tell you it’s not something I miss so much that going back to 60hz makes me feel like a caveman.

So, essentially – iPhone 13 Pro… a great upgrade for anyone not already using a 12 Pro.

M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro models announced

It was no surprise that we were going to see new 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro models sporting M1 variants of the “pro” variety, but Apple still managed to throw a surprises in to the event.

First, there wasn’t much mention of 120hz refresh rates on the new OLED displays, but that’s exactly what we got. And just like the new iPhone 13 Pro, these displays use a variable refresh rate, so your display won’t be burning thru your battery while running at 120hz when it doesn’t have to. Nice.

Second, there was the unfortunate surprise of the display featuring a notch. A bloody notch. And the worst part about the notch is that it doesn’t come with the benefit of FaceID. It is what it is, but it was the one feature that made me wince during the reveal.

Most of the other stuff that was rumored – return of HDMI & SDXC I/O, MagSafe, and the abandonment of the TouchBar was spot on. Lost in those rumors was that in addition to getting the function keys back, Apple included full size function keys – a first for an Apple notebook.

Design

This design iteration is a first for Apple in their mobile space. For the first time (at least that I can remember), Apple listened to the feedback given on the prior model (the 2016 MacBook Pro refresh), and backtracked on just about every design decision made for that iteration. Specifically, Apple has finally realized that chasing the tail of the ‘thin and light’ beast is not something customers want in a laptop with a “Pro” designation. The 16″ model is a small bit larger than the prior version, and a good bit – .4 lbs – heavier. I’m sure most Pros would rather the performance not suffer at the hands of thinness and lightness. The 14″ has no direct analog on the prior iteration, so obviously it’s a bit larger and heavier than the 13″ model it is replacing.

CPUs

The real star of the show was Apple Silicon. The “pro” M1 variant got two flavors – the M1 Pro, and the M1 Max. Both the 14″ and 16″ models are configurable with either the Pro or Max. The big difference between the Pro and the Max comes down to GPU cores and Memory. The Pro features 16 GPU cores and can have up to 32GB of unified RAM. The Max features up to 32 GPU cores (there’s a 24 GPU core variant available as well), and 64GB of RAM. Of note – if you choose an M1 Max CPU, you can not get less than 32GB of RAM.

Apple did their usual proclamation of “fastest chip ever”, but as is customary at this point, didn’t provide any real meaningful specs to their testing.

While benchmarks like Geekbench and Cinebench will undoubtedly show these SoCs to be the best that Apple has produced, the real benchmarks that will really get people’s eyes to open are when encoding/decoding or rendering video with H.264/265 and ProRes/ProRes RAW formats. Apple has included an on chip Media Engine that will massively improve these tasks. And in the M1 Max, you get double the chipset for these features. If Apple hadn’t already cemented it’s position for the best laptops for video editors, these machines will certainly seal the deal.

The machines can be configured in a myriad of ways – two screen sizes, two colors (silver and space gray, as per usual), three memory configs, 5 SoC options, and SSD options from 512GB all the way up to 8TB. Also, with the base config 14″ model, you can opt for the larger 96W charger for $20. That’s a nice move.

I’m guessing the new models are popular and have a good bit of pent up demand, as Apple’s website was seriously overwhelmed for a few hours after the models went live, and nearly immediately showed most custom configs at least a month delay in delivery.

As for myself – I opted for a 14″ model, with the M1 Max using the 24-Core GPU, 64GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage. I’ll have a full review when it arrives sometime in early November.

Serious Tesla Model 3 Battery Degradation

Before I purchased my Tesla Model 3, I did a good amount of research on what the expected battery degradation would look like. While how quickly a battery degrades comes down to a number of factors, a number of sources (Car & Driver, Find My Electric) pegs this loss (on average) in the neighborhood of 5% every 100,000 miles. Tesla itself claims that after 200,000 miles driven, their battery packs loose less than 10% of their capacity.

I’ve owned my Tesla Model 3 Long Range for nearly 10 months as I write this. I have put on about 13,700 miles on the car in that time. I’ve follow Teslas advice and charge it nightly to between 80-90% (depending on what is happening the next day). I only charge it to 100% before a trip that would require at least one supercharge. All of my charging at home since February is performed using a

. It charges at a rate of about 50 miles/hour. Most of my charging is done overnight starting around 2AM. Upon installation of the Wall Charger, Georgia Power gave me a low super off-peak hour rate of 1 cent/kwh.

I use the stock 18″ wheels with the Aerodyne covers. I generally drive on either Chill or Standard Mode, and try to keep each drive at or under 250kw/h expenditure.

I don’t leave Sentry Mode running on the car since reading this article. For the first few months of ownership, I did leave Sentry Mode on when I left the house, but haven’t since about May.

As for long trips, I’ve taken 3 trips in my Model 3 that have required supercharging stops. Those trip lengths have been (in no particular order):

  • Two trips to Orlando (453 miles each way)
  • One trip to New Hampshire (1067 miles each way)

As for number of supercharging stops I’ve made – 22 to date. The trip to Orlando was responsible for 8 of them, the trip to New Hampshire was responsible for 14 of them. So you can see that Supercharging is not part of my normal charging behavior, unless I’m road tripping and can’t avoid it.

Starting back in May, I noticed my capacity dropping. I didn’t think much of it, because, after all, some battery degradation is inevitable. When leaving for my trip to New Hampshire though, and charging to 100%, I noticed my top range had dropped significantly. 100% of charge was now rated at 321 miles. This is 35 miles less than the range when I took ownership of the car – a full 10%. In 8 months of ownership. So I started to become concerned.

During my service appointment where Tesla cleaned my air coils to remove the odor in the air conditioning, I spoke with the technician about this. He stated the range was most likely fine, and that it was a battery calibration issue. His advice was to stop plugging in nightly and charging to 80/90%, and instead let the battery discharge to between 30-40% before recharging. He stated I should do this for a month, and during that time, the computer would recalibrate where the bottom and top of range was, and I should get my missing range back.

It’s been a month since I started doing this, and after checking my range using the Stats app, this it what it looks like now:

Odometer (Miles)Range at 100% SoC
8693.0329.0
8703.0328.0
8726.0328.0
8810.0323.0
10079.0318.0
11273.0317.0
11528.0318.0
12717.0315.0
12746.0318.0
12859.0315.0
12879.0316.0
12982.0317.0
13041.0319.0
13087.0321.0
13121.0317.0
13188.0320.0
13436.0317.0
13488.0316.0
13522.0315.0
13590.0315.0
13606.0312.0
13648.0319.0
13677.0316.0
Data captured using the Stats app for iPhone

So after trying to ‘recalibrate’ the computer to properly show my range for a month, I’ve got… less range than when I started. In 10 months of ownership I’ve lost 10% of range. Ugh.

Now, Tesla warranties their battery for the Model 3 Long Range here in the USA for 8 years/120,000 miles and guarantees it will still retain 70% of its charge. If my issue is truly battery degradation and not a mis-calibration, I’m already 1/3 of the way to that goal in only 10 months.

I’ve got a service appointment this week for tire rotation. I’m going to follow up with that service technician and see what the next steps are.

The Model 3 LR has been hands down my favorite vehicle I’ve owned in the last 30 years. That said, range loss on this scale is deeply concerning. I’ll post an update after I hear from Tesla on what the next steps are.