Dead Man's Draw

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    • By Chandrakant
      Is there something odd with the iPad Pro's Mini-LED screen or are you watching it wrong?
      by Chandrakant Isi

      It has been over a decade since the first iPad was introduced. Over the years, Apple consistently bumped up its specs with each iteration. What didn't change much, however, was the underlying display technology. Since 2010, Apple has relied on LCD screens with LED backlight for its iPad lineup. So when rumors of the Cupertino-based company embracing the mini-LED tech surfaced in 2019, fans were psyched. Websites dedicated to Apple news were quick to draw comparisons between mini-LED and OLED. Some even went as far as calling it the dream screen, and a best reason why you should buy the latest iPad Pro.

      However, as the device shipped, users began complaining about a weird blooming effect on the display. Many consumers canceled their orders and even the ardent supporters described it as a "mixed verdict on mini-LED". What exactly went wrong with Apple's mini-LED display that was supposed to compete with the OLED tech?

      Key differences between LCD and OLED
      To understand the issue, we first need a primer on display technologies. In terms of home electronics, we experience two types of display technologies — emissive and transmissive.

      OLED along with the good old CRT and Plasma tech are emissive displays where each pixel is self-illuminated and can generate colors. Since the other two technologies have been phased out, we will focus on OLED to get the point across. These panels can selectively turn off pixels to render inky blacks on the screen. Since they do away with the need for backlighting, OLED screens don't suffer from patchy brightness and light bleeding.

      On the other hand, LCDs rely on backlight filtered through a layer of liquid crystal molecules, color filters, and polarizers to form an image. This particular process of rendering an image is lossy and comes with undesired side-effects such as uneven brightness, narrow viewing angles, and backlight bleeding. The biggest issue, however, is the inability to render proper blacks.

      For instance, if you're watching Gravity (2013), the vastness of dark space will be rendered faithfully on an OLED screen. However, on an LCD screen, the panel's layer of liquid crystals won't be able to block backlight 100 percent. As a result, space will look more like a dark shade of grey instead of jet black.

      Improving LCD's picture quality with better backlighting
      To get around this shortcoming, manufacturers squeeze in more LEDs in their displays to get more granular control over backlighting. On expensive LCD panels, you get Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD) as opposed to the widely used Edge LED arrangement. As shown in the image below, a FALD display can pack in several hundred to thousand LEDs compared to a few dozen in a conventional LCD panel. More importantly, FALD panels can selectively dim or brighten up LED zones as per requirement.

      How blooming comes into the picture
      While this backlight technology improves an LCD's ability to produce blacks, it introduces a new issue known as blooming. This happens when the light meant for bright objects on the screen spills over the dimmed zones. Honestly, you can't expect otherwise when your Full HD FALD screen has a whopping 2,073,600 pixels (1,920 x 1,080), but only a few hundred dimming zones.

      Mini-LED panel type takes it to the next level by packing in smaller LEDs in large numbers. Made possible by some impressive miniaturization engineering, this technology was first popularized by TCL on its TV line-up. For the latest iPad Pro, these mini-LED modules are manufactured by the Taiwanese company Ennostar. According to Apple's Director of HW Technologies, Heidi Delgado, the latest iPad Pro display has over 10,000 LED backlights and around 2,596 dimming zones. These mini LEDs are said to be over a hundred times smaller than the conventional ones. Since Apple hasn't shed much light on the underlying tech, here's a comparison image from TCL to put things in perspective.

      At its core, the mini-LED panel is still an LCD with more refined backlighting. It is like a FALD LCD on steroids, which vastly improves the panel's contrast ratio. As highlighted in most reviews, the latest iPad Pro is undoubtedly very good at rendering deep blacks. However, along with amplifying FALD's best characteristics, mini LED also boosts its problems.

      The iPad Pro (2021) has a screen resolution of 2732 x 2048, which translates to 55,95,136 pixels. While delivering 2,596 dimming zones is certainly an improvement, it is still not adequate for 5.6 million pixels. The display's 1,000 nits brightness, which is generally a good thing, also enhances the blooming artifacts. This issue didn't plague the previous-generation iPad Pro, because it had a paltry 72 LEDs. Sure, the low density of LEDs led to poor rendition of blacks but it also defused the backlight intensity over a larger area. Thus, avoiding the blooming artifact.

      Can Apple fix this issue?
      On the new iPad Pro, the blooming issue isn't noticeable while browsing the web, writing an email, or shopping on Amazon. It becomes jarring only when there are white objects or UI elements against a dark background. However, that's still frustrating for anyone who has spend over $1,000 for this product. It is strange that Apple failed to detect this issue during internal testing.

      Even if Apple eats the humble pie, don't hold your breath for the company to patch things up over a software update. The only thing it can do now is to cap the brightness to make the blooming slightly less jarring. If the firm wants to ensure this issue doesn't crop up in future iPads, it will have to make a switch to OLED screens. With the price of current generation iPad Pro 12.9" starting at $1,100, we don't see why Apple shouldn't consider that.

    • By Fiza Ali
      Apple is shutting down Dark Sky's iOS app and website in 2022
      by Fiza Ali

      Apple acquired the hyperlocal weather app, Dark Sky, in 2020 and, at that time, it was highly likely that it would shut down Dark Sky's apps and website in the same year. However, the company also said that there would be "no changes to Dark Sky for iOS" at that time.

      In 2021, we see that there is a small update to the Dark Sky blog that appears to be adding a new shuttering date for the Dark Sky iOS App, API, and website. Adam Grossman, the co-founder of the Dark Sky weather app, wrote:

      We hear this news shortly after Apple announced an overhaul to iOS' inbuilt weather app during WWDC. While the wording on the website doesn't explicitly say that the service will be "shut down" per se, it does seem that it is reaching its end of life.

      Previously, the Dark Sky website was scheduled to shut down in August 2020 while the API was scheduled to for the same at the end of 2021. Apple already killed Dark Sky's Android app back in August 2020.

      Source: Dark Sky via 9to5Mac

    • By zikalify
      Samsung's SmartThings gets a new interface in latest update
      by Paul Hill

      Samsung has announced that its SmartThings software for mobile and desktop has been updated complete with a new interface that’s easier to use and delivers faster load times. Despite the new interface, Samsung says that the update will ensure a seamless transition from the old interface.

      Commenting on the new SmartThings app, Jaeyeon Jung, Corporate Vice President at Samsung Electronics, said:

      The new app is split into five categories, Favourites, Devices, Life, Automations, and Menu. The Favourites hub is the new home screen of the app and gives quicker access to frequently used devices, scenes, and services. Devices lets you control each of your connected devices, Life allows you to keep up with all the latest connected living developments, Automations lets you have devices work in tandem, and the Menu is where all the additional SmartThings features live including SmartThings Labs, Notifications, History, and Settings.

      The new interface is available on Android devices starting today and the update for iOS is due in the near future. The Windows version is available for the Galaxy Book and other Windows PCs.

    • By anmol112
      Here are the devices eligible for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8 update
      by Anmol Mehrotra

      At their annual developer event, Apple announced new updates for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. All the updates come with new features, improvements and thanks to Apple's track record, they will be available for all the recently launched Apple devices.

      Starting off with iPhones, Apple announced the iOS 15 update for iPhone owners. The new update brings Live text to photos, photo memories, new wallet features, notification improvements, and FaceTime support for Windows 10 and Android. Here is the list of devices that will be eligible to get the new iOS 15 update:

      iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max iPhone X, iPhone XR iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus iPhone SE (first and second generation) iPod Touch (seventh generation) Moving on to iPadOS 15, the new update brings improvements to widget, new multi-tasking improvements, Auto translate and more. You can head down to check out the full list of eligible devices:

      iPad Pro 12.9-inch (first, second, third, fourth and fififth generation) iPad Pro 11-inch (first, second and third generation) iPad Pro 10.5-inch iPad Pro 9.7-inch iPad (fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth generation) iPad Mini (fourth and fifth generation) iPad Air (second, third and fourth generation) Next up is the macOS Monterey update. The update brings new features and improvements to the first party apps as well as a new focus mode. It also includes a new Universal Control feature allowing users to move seamlessly between Apple devices. Here is the list of devices that will support the new macOS update:

      iMac (late 2015 and later) iMac Pro (2017 and later) Mac Pro (late 2013 and later) Mac Mini (late 2014 and later) MacBook Pro (early 2015 and later) MacBook Air (early 2015 and later) MacBook (early 2016 and later) Lastly, Apple also announced the WatchOS 8 update for Apple Watch owners. The new update brings health features including a new Mindfulness app, new fitness routines, respiratory rate monitor and more. You can check out the list of eligible devices below:

      Apple Watch Series 3 Apple Watch Series 4 Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch SE Apple will be dropping the Developer beta later today and it will be available for all the eligible devices. However, we do not recommend installing the Developer beta right away as it could have bugs and issues that are yet to be ironed out. The Cupertino giant will be releasing a public beta soon which will be followed by a global update roll out for all the eligible devices later this year.

    • By Abhay V
      Apple announces iOS 15 with notification improvements, new FaceTime features, and more
      by Abhay Venkatesh

      Apple today took to the stage at its WWDC conference and the first of the announcements is iOS 15. The company started off talking about FaceTime, announcing that it is bringing spatial audio to the video conferencing service. The app is also adding what the company calls noise isolation, helping silence background sounds to amplify users’ voices.

      The firm also announced FaceTime links, bringing the ability to send meeting invites to users on not just iOS, but also Windows and Android to join FaceTime calls via the browser. Another new addition is SharePlay, a feature in FaceTime that allows users to share their device screens, watch content on streaming platforms, or listening to music together. The firm is also introducing APIs for streaming platforms to add support for SharePlay

      Next up is Shared with you, a way to share news items and other types of content right with other users easily. These items can also be pinned in iMessages. The firm is adding support for apps like Podcast, Apple Music, Apple TV, and more for Shared with you.

      Notifications are getting a major update with the addition of Notification summary. iOS 15 will summarize notifications from non-important apps to reduce clutter on the lock screen. Users will be provided the choice to select contacts and apps that can break through and display complete notifications. Notification summary uses “on-device intelligence” to tweak these summaries.

      However, users can choose to turn on Do Not Disturb to block all notifications or choose the apps and contacts that can bypass the restrictions to serve notifications, thanks to Focus. Focus will also allow for adding relevant widgets with information on the home screen.

      Next up is Live Text for Photos, a Google Lens-like feature that allows users to detect content from across the OS like text and look them up on the web. Users can also lookup locations from pictures, recognize characters in images, and more. Live Text works not just with images, but also with the web, and across iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

      There are updates to a bunch of apps as well, with the first being Spotlight. Apple is adding support for Photos in Spotlight, allowing users to search for images right from the home screen. The company is also adding rich information in Contacts, bringing information from services like Find My into the contact’s cards. The firm is also adding specialized cards for celebrities.

      In the list of Google-inspired features, there’s the Memories feature in Photos. iOS 15 will create interactive memories based on users’ images using its on-device machine learning. It will also let users interact with the memories by adding or removing images and choose what shows up, add music, and more.

      Other app improvements include added capabilities to the Wallet app that allows for storing government-issued identity cards, allowing users to carry a digital copy of their IDs. The firm is also expanding the use of Wallet as a lock or access system by leveraging the UWB technology in iPhone. These include car keys, hotel access cards, and more.

      The Weather app is being redesigned with a bunch of new information, with a background that adapts to the current weather situation. Lastly, the Maps app is receiving some improvements such as a an improved design and added details for commercial buildings and more. There is also a new Nearby Transit feature and the ability to the app to notify users when it is time to disembark from public transport.