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Apple Watch Series 4 review: ‘Guardian on your wrist’ packs a punch

Winston Sih | posted Wednesday, Sep 19th, 2018

At Apple’s annual Sep. event in Cupertino, Calif., the tech giant announced a new Apple Watch that brings hardware and software improvements that doubles down on its commitment to health. With Series 1 only launched three years ago, in just under a week with my review unit of Series 4, you can tell that this is what Series 1 should have been all along.

From a hardware standpoint, Apple Watch Series 4 packs a punch in still a small form factor. It retains its iconic design with some minor updates, featuring 40 and 44mm size options, enabling an over 30 per cent larger display through rounded corners.

watchOS 5 takes advantage of this through enhanced complications on the watch faces, apps have more real estate, and button inputs are easier. This is the first thing you’ll notice when you power it up. While I’m traditionally a silver kind of a guy, I’m a huge fan of the new gold finish, too, aligning with the new iPhone XS offering.

Your bands are still good!

You’ll be relieved to know the bands you’ve spent so much money on are still compatible with Series 4—phew! This was a worry from some tech analysts—that this is a way to force consumers to purchase new bands to be compatible with the new model.

As far as other improvements to the body of Apple Watch itself, a new Digital Crown now has built in haptic feedback. When you scroll through different menu options, subtle vibrations will help guide you through the user interface—a very nice detail.

If you listen to music or interact with Siri on Apple Watch, the speaker is 50 per cent louder—enough to fill a small room with ample feedback. The microphone has been moved to the opposite side of the device to facilitate clearer phone calls.

The ‘guardian on your wrist’

Health is where you see the most improvement, and Apple is very proud of that. Series 3 brought a high heart rhythm alert that became quite popular in notifying users of irregular patterns. Now, Series 4 will do the same with low heart rhythms. 

At launch in the United States, Apple Watch will come with a first-of-its-kind over-the-counter electrocardiogram—or ECG—application, through a new heart sensor built into the back and Digital Crown. This will allow a new way to record information for medical professionals to analyze. However, no word on when this will come to Canada.

Last on the health developments, something that can be great for our aging population (and even clumsy people like me): fall detection. It utilizes the internal gyroscope and accelerometer to detect irregular movements like falls.

In these instances, users will receive a notification to decide whether they want to notify emergency services, and if there’s no response within 60 seconds, Emergency SOS will be activated automatically.  Apple likened these new features as the ‘guardian on your wrist.’

Added cellular support in Canada

New this year is expanded cellular support for Apple Watch in Canada. Rogers has joined the other major wireless carriers to carry the device, meaning active runners can leave their iPhones at home and still be connected to music, podcasts, and loved ones wirelessly.

eSIM technology shares data from your phone plan, while connecting Apple Watch independently to the cellular network. This, combined with the faster dual-core S4 processor and W3 wireless chip brings the future onto your wrist.

How much will this cost, and do I need all this power on my wrist?

Apple Watch Series 4 will start at $519 CAD, with the cellular model starting at $649 CAD. Series 3 will also be available for those who are happy with last year’s model—it is still a great watch. Cellular is good for you if you like to run and be mobile without a phone, however for many (including myself), the standard model suffices. I’m happy to see all three major Canadian carriers—including Rogers—on board with support.

Apple Watch Series 4 is really designed for iPhone users. So if you’re an Android user, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  If you use iPhone and are in the market for a new smart watch, this is a great upgrade. This is the first Apple Watch where I felt it could keep up with my fast fingers.

Rogers Communications is the parent company of Citytv and this website.

Review: iPhone XS features under-the-hood refinements, but it won’t come cheap

Winston Sih | posted Tuesday, Sep 18th, 2018

Like clockwork, Apple unveiled the latest iteration of their flagship smartphone, iPhone, on Sep. 12 in front of a packed audience at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif. Unlike previous years, however, the tech giant came out with not one, not two, but three smartphones—iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Tech enthusiasts applauded as CEO Tim Cook and team revealed the tech; but, is it worth the investment?

This review will focus on iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max—the devices Citytv had a chance to review ahead of the Sep. 21 launch in Canada, alongside Apple Watch Series 4. iPhone XR will go on sale later this year.

Hardware

On the exterior, iPhone X and iPhone XS are almost identical. The immersive screen remains at 5.8-inch, no home button, the same top notch you either love or hate, and IP68 water resistance up to two metres for 30 minutes—which Apple is quite proud of boasting through promotional videos. They also come in a new gold finish (in addition to space grey and silver), which I’m quite a fan of. Storage will be available in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB configurations.

In all three models, you’ll notice Apple has done away with the iconic home button, foreshadowing a slow death of the physical switch. As with iPhone X, there is a slight learning curve, but from personal experience, you get used to the shift in habit.

As for the larger iPhone, it seems the company has nixed the ‘Plus’ naming convention, opting for ‘Max.’ iPhone XS Max comes with a 6.5-inch screen—and it’s gigantic. Both XS and XS Max are great for media consumption, but XS Max is immersive but large for pockets—think watching YouTube videos with the new wide stereo speakers. Or my latest obsession—Ignite TV PVR downloads on the airplane.

Do you need the larger screen? No.  Is it nice to have? Yes.  Can it be a pain to carry in your pocket? Certainly, but having the option is great.

Bionic chip for bionic speeds

When migrating my data from my iPhone X, I could notice speed and power from the get-go. This iPhone houses an A12 Bionic and Neural Engine—what Apple calls ’the smartest and most powerful chip in a smartphone.’ The power is best noticed in resource-intensive applications like video editing, augmented reality, and gaming.

Coupled with iOS 12, it’ll unlock new consumer-friendly functionality, like Memoji and every selfie-taker’s new favourite feature: Smart HDR. Using the two 12-megapixel wide and telephoto lenses, Smart HDR means you can, using a slider, control F-stop or depth-of-field appearance in Portrait mode photos. This puts the power of pro photography in a consumer-grade smartphone—perfect for the ‘gram.

Battery life

In comparison to iPhone X, Apple claims iPhone XS will get you 30 minutes longer than iPhone X. iPhone XS Max will beat iPhone X by 90 minutes, according to Phil Schiller.

In real-life, I got a 12-hour day of consistent use out of iPhone XS Max.

Dual SIM support

New to any iPhone is support for two SIM cards through eSIM technology. It’s reliant on carrier adoption—however, it’s the same technology used for cellular connectivity in Apple Watch Series 4—now on all major carriers in Canada.  Traditional SIM cards will still work, but there is only one slot. The variant to be sold in China which will have two SIM trays.

This means that eventually consumers can still have two phone numbers (say, one for personal use and one for work) and receive calls and texts on one iPhone.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, iPhone XS won’t come cheap. At $1,379 CAD for iPhone XS and $1,519 CAD for the iPhone XS Max variant, these phones aren’t cheap. Carriers will subsidize—for example, Rogers is launching an Ultra tier, where for $10 a month, customers can get up to $250 off the upfront cost of ‘iconic’ devices on a term.

Additionally, later this year, Apple is launching iPhone XR, the third device announced at the Cupertino event. It features a ‘Liquid Retina’ LCD display, 12-megapixel camera, and a wide-array of colours, reminiscent of the iPhone 5C. iPhone XR rings in at just over $1,000.

Bottom line

So why would you want this device? You’re likely using an older iPhone—perhaps a 7—and it’s time for an upgrade. As a former iPhone 7 Plus user, iPhone XS Max is a nice option—albeit the hefty price tag.

If you’re an iPhone X user, there’s plenty to love about it still. iPhone XS brings a lot of new under the hood, but might not be worth $1,379.

Lastly, there’s a lot to be intrigued about iPhone XR, from the colour options to battery life. For the average consumer, it may be worth considering it when it comes out later this year. Let the games begin.

Rogers Communications is the parent company of Citytv and this website.

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Avengers: Infinity War

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Aug 14th, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

SYNOPSIS: In “Avengers: Infinity War,” members from every MCU franchise must sacrifice like never before in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Blu-ray & Digital:
•Strange Alchemy (5:08)– Share the thrill of characters from across the MCU meeting for the first time—and discover why some were teamed up together.
•The Mad Titan (6:34) – Explore the MCU’s biggest, baddest villain, his trail of influence through the stories, and the existential threat he represents.
•Beyond the Battle: Titan (9:36) – Dive into the climactic struggle on Thanos’ ruined world, including the epic stunts and VFX, to uncover the source of its power.
•Beyond the Battle: Wakanda (10:58) – Go behind the scenes to find out how the filmmakers pulled off the most massive and challenging battle Marvel had ever attempted.
•Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:07)
•Happy Knows Best (1:23) – Tony and Pepper spar over the details of their upcoming wedding—until a hassled Happy Hogan pulls up with an urgent request.
•Hunt for the Mind Stone (1:24) – On a darkened street, Wanda Maximoff and the wounded Vision attempt to hide from Thanos’ brutal allies.
•The Guardians Get Their Groove Back (3:20) – As Peter Quill and Drax quarrel over their failed mission to Knowhere, Mantis interrupts with news.
•A Father’s Choice (4:00) – Thanos confronts Gamora with a vision from her past—and with lying to him about the Soul Stone.
•Gag Reel (2:05)– Watch your favorite Super Heroes make super gaffes in this lighthearted collection of on-set antics.
•Audio Commentary (approx. 149 min.) by Anthony and Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Digital Exclusive:
•A Directors’ Roundtable (approx. 32 min.) – Eight amazing directors reflect on how their movies contribute to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s larger storytelling adventure.

Strap yourself in for another bar-raising cinematic superhero adventure from the true masters of the genre! The Russo brothers once again weave their masterful direction through this nerve-jangling, eye-popping spectacle that sees our beloved heroes taking on their most formidable foes yet. Jam-packed with solid action, great character moments, stirring drama, and plenty of humour, Avengers: Infinity War demonstrates the kinds of filmmaking feats this studio can accomplish. Once the cliff-hanger finale leaves you wanting more, you can just delve into the vast array of fascinating behind-the-scenes bonus content. “BRING ME THANOS!”

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