AirPods Pro Review

AirPods Pro Review

A recent treat for myself was the purchase of an Apple Air Pods Pro to upgrade my current Air Pods. The Bluetooth headset came on the market around two months back and has received its fair share of positive and negative reviews. As an Android user, here’s my review on this product!

What I like

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and transparency

Unlike the AirPods, the AirPods Pro provides active noise cancellation which reduces the surrounding’s white noise. Such a feature plus the transparency feature turned off provides users like me with the ability to completely tune-off to the surroundings especially when traveling on public transport and cafes. Will test this feature out further when on the plane!

When the transparency feature is turned on, one can also easily eavesdrop on conversations surrounding you as the microphones on the AirPods Pro pick up surrounding sounds and amplifies it in the AirPods Pro. This feature is good in situations where you need to be constantly aware of what’s going and allows you not to be shut-off from your surroundings completely.

Comfort

The AirPods Pro comes with three pairs of in-ear rubber tips (small, medium and large). The default medium size fits my ears snugly and provides a good level of comfort even when wearing for extended periods of time. I believe that the in-ear rubber became an option not only to replace the hard AirPods but also to aid in the noise cancellation feature. As a patented in-ear rubber tip, I’ve really got to make it a point not to lose these rubber tips as the conventional tips will not easily replace it.

AirPods Pro – In-Ear Rubber Tips

Battery-life

The battery-life is considerably longer than my AirPods with each charge lasting around four hours with the ANC feature turned on. The charging case also holds around four to five charges of the AirPods Pro. A 10-minute charge in the wireless case charged the AirPods by about 40%.

Haptic feedback

While not a main feature, the haptic feedback on the tips of the AirPods Pro gives the button-like feel when clicked. Instead of a pure tap of the earpiece where I sometimes find a bit insensitive on my AirPods, the tip of the AirPods Pro has a button-life feature that is only usable when the AirPods Pro are in your ear. The feel of clicking a button to control is still pretty amazing imo.

What I dislike:

Android users do not get all the perks!


The AirPods Pro is designed to work seamlessly with complementary Apple products (i.e. MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, iWatch) and Siri can easily be called out to assist you. However, for Android users, while Siri is not available, I’d expect the microphone to be able to activate my Google Assistant – but it doesn’t! So that’s something I’m a tad disappointed with, especially if my mobile phone isn’t near enough to pick up my Google commands.

In addition, the ear tip fit test can only be done via Apple products (iPhone specifically) and therefore this feature does not apply to me. Not a big deal in my opinion, but something I’d use if I’d own an iPhone.

Intermittent pairing

I’ve faced two instances of intermittent headset pairing with both my MacBook and my Android phone.

For my MacBook, it somehow only managed to pick up one side of my AirPods Pro and did not pick up the other. This resulted in an imbalance in sounds and was annoying till I placed the pair of AirPods Pro in its casing and removed it again for a refreshed connection.

For my Android phone, the AirPods Pro connection could not be picked up by my mobile phone’s Bluetooth in one instance – an issue I didn’t really have with my previous pair of AirPods. Again, a quick reset solved it.

Like any other Bluetooth headsets, there is bound to be some pairing issues, but I was just shocked to see that it happened (I had higher hopes for these expensive pair of AirPods).

Thoughts

AirPods Pro

I had originally considered buying the Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling True Wireless Headphones but ultimately decided on purchasing the AirPods Pro as my previous pair AirPods was pretty reliable and I wanted the seamless pairing it had with my MacBook Pro.

While there are some issues which I dislike about the AirPods Pro, I would still recommend it to anyone who is looking for a noise-cancellation earpiece with decent audio quality. The comfort level of this earpiece supersedes its predecessors and if you own complementary Apple products, the seamless pairing is definitely a perk!

You can learn more about the product here.  

Juice for your devices!

With some vouchers on-hand earlier this year, I decided to purchase the iWalk Scorpion X Quick Charge 3.0 Power Bank (12000 mAh). Having a similar 8000 mAh one at home, I figured that the 12000 mAh version will come power-packed, and it did not disappoint!

This power bank is fast charging, allowing me to charge my device quickly from 40% to 100% in less than an hour. Considering my heavy utilization of my phone when I’m on the move, having a fast charging power bank is always a plus. In addition, it stores enough juice to recharge a full mobile device four times. When traveling in a group, the juice capacity definitely is a perk as it ensures that you still have enough power to charge your device after allowing others to charge it over a day. 

From the name of the device, the scorpion, it is not hard to notice why it got its name. With three cables attached to the power bank, it allows one to charge multiple devices (with different ports) – charging cables include the USB-C, Micro-USB and Lightning cables. It has a USB head to allow charging of the power bank with a wall plug or even your laptop. I particularly liked this feature as I am not required to bring additional cables to charge my power bank.

The power bank is approximately the size of an iPhone 11, and has a very sleek design. One side of it has a checkered and seemingly anti-scratch surface. As a 12000 mAh device, it is without doubt heavier than its 8000 mAh counterpart but still falls within an acceptable weight to carry around. 

A small flaw this power bank has, in my opinion, is that it does not contain a USB port. With many devices that do not utilize the usb-c, micro USB and lighting types, the lack of the USB port prevents me from charging other types of devices, much to my dismay.

Despite the small flaw, I would definitely recommend the purchase of this iWalk Scorpion Power Bank if you are looking for a power-packed charger! You can find it here

Magic MOGICS Power Bagel

Magic MOGICS Power Bagel

MOGICS power bagel is an award-winning extension cord that is able to charge six devices at once. With two USB ports and four universal adapters placed in a circular shape, this power bagel is a nifty gadget to have, especially when traveling.

Features

  • 92 cm extension cord
  • 2 USB Ports – 2A if one is used, 1A each when both are used
  • 4 Universal Adapters – Circular shape ensures that even with chargers that have large charging heads, they still can be used simultaneously
  • 1 Universal Plug – Embedded in the middle of the bagel, the universal plug can be used in countries that do not use the US head.

Thoughts

On my recent trip to Taipei, I used the power bagel which allowed me to charge multiple devices at once, and I really enjoyed the use of it. 

Compared to the usual extension cord I usually bring around, this palm-size cord allows me to carry it in my carry-on bag rather than my luggage bag, allowing easy access to it even when in airports and cafes. With the four convenient universal adapters, it’s easy to charge devices that have different heads, without the need for other adapters.

It was especially handy at the end of the day when I had to charge my laptop, phone, fitbit watch, portable charger, and bluetooth earphones. All could be charged with a single power socket and the power bagel. 

However, while I really enjoy the use of the power bagel, there are a few points I’m slightly unhappy about. 

The universal plug provided seems to be a bit flimsy, and with poor instructions on how to use it, chances of breaking it are high, especially when trying to use the UK adapter. In addition, the head of the power bagel also seems a bit loose, and while I am able to secure it by force, I am constantly afraid brute force may ultimately cause me to break it. But as of now, the power bagel is still holding up well!

MOGICS power bagel is definitely a handy must-have travel item that I’d recommend to all travelers. While it does have a high price point, the convenience it brings definitely makes it worth-it. 

When tradition triumphs over technology

A 3G fixed desk phone

The young and tech savvy lap up technology and take to new devices without needing to consult user manuals or be taught how to use them.

Take the smartphone for instance. Everything feels so intuitive that most of us can easily switch devices or even platforms without feeling lost.

But there’s still a group that’s very old school when it comes to learning new things. One of them is my mum. She’s in her 80s and not accustomed to change or new things.

When she moved in her new apartment, we thought the best way to keep in touch with her was to give her a mobile phone. We opted for a feature phone with a keypad so that she doesn’t have to learn too many new things.

Alas, after more than a decade, she’s still wrestling with using the phone, so much so that she doesn’t bring it out with her anymore.

After much consideration, we thought of switching to a normal landline with a desktop phone for her. But, a check with our telco revealed a grossly prohibitive cost because analogue lines have disappeared and we needed to pay a hefty sum to activate a digital line.

If only there was a desk phone that uses a 3G SIM card. This way, we get the best of both worlds — desk phone with numerical keypad minus the need to install a digital line.

An online search revealed many offerings of such phones but most were China-made and run on GSM or 2G.

We dug further and finally found a phone that matches our requirement on Lazada. To be sure, we read and reread the specs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any review so we didn’t have any inkling if it would work for us.

At S$62 without shipping cost, the no brand China-made phone was a low-risk punt that could solve an urgent problem for us. We paid an extra S$3.99 for priority shipping.

The phone arrived promptly and was easy to set up. My mum took to it like fish to water as it was similar to the phones she was used to years ago.

Here are five reasons why we think this phone is great for those who cannot keep up with technology:

  1. Quick setup. Getting the phone up and running was a breeze. The seller even provided an adapter to accommodate SIM cards of various sizes.
  2. Easy to use. It’s like any fixed line phone and doesn’t require additional learning. It handles like a desk phone.
  3. Accommodates SIM card. This is the clincher for us. Just slot in a SIM card and the phone is up and running.
  4. Affordable. At S$62, it is cheaper than a low-end mobile phone without compromising many features.
  5. Comes with mobile features. Caller-ID and SMS can be viewed from the LCD screen. What’s best is that this screen is bigger than my mum’s last feature phone.

If there’s an area of improvement, it’s the need to hit the call button after the numbers have been keyed in. But, that’s easily overcome with the quick dial feature where a call can be made by just holding on to a pre-determined digit.

Overall, we highly recommend this desk phone because it’s perfect for the elderly and those who are not as tech savvy. It’s functional, practical and offers great peace of mind. We found the phone on Lazada. If you find another somewhere else, do share the link with us.

Pre-matured end of life (for products)

Apple Watch 4: Written off in just a year

Apple will be rolling out a new generation of its smartwatch tomorrow (September 20). It’s an annual introduction for the Cupertino-based company, along with a slew of other computers and devices. This is what keeps technology companies innovating and in business.

But, what shocked me was that the one-year-old Apple Watch 4 is being discontinued. While Apple must have its reasons for doing so, spare a thought for those fans who spent hard-earned cash on the Apple Watch 4.

Is this the company’s tactic to compel them to upgrade to the latest version? If that’s the case, why is it still selling the older Apple Watch 3?

I’ve had my fair share of buying new products that became obsolete in a year of so. The most painful was my first notebook computer which cost more than S$2,000 in the mid-1990s. That’s a lot of money back then.

Shortly after I bought the new notebook, I discovered that the US manufacturer had discontinued that product. Upset is too mild a word to describe my feelings at that time. What’s worse was that half the screen went blank one day and the customer support told me that it would cost $800 to get the screen replaced.

After much angst and deliberation, I decided to buy a new laptop from another vendor. That US-branded notebook turned out to be my first and last from the company.

A more recent experience was my Pebble Time smartwatch in April 2016. In December that year, Pebble announced that it would be shut down, and no longer make or support for any device or honour any warranties.

Two experiences. Twenty years apart. Both times, the feeling was similar — painful!

Tech companies should care more for their customers. Beyond the bells and whistles associated with big fanfare launches, they must show customers that they are committed to supporting the products — at least for a few years after they stop selling it.

Otherwise, customers are the ones to bear the brunt and pay the cost for believing in the wrong product from the wrong vendor.

If vendors are not careful, they risk losing customer trust. Once lost, that’s hard to regain, especially when there are so many other options available.

When upgrading is unnecessary

Still good after all these years

Apple has launched a new iPhone. Google is expected to announce Pixel 4 on October 15. With every introduction of a new product, the message is crystal clear — buy, buy, buy! The question is — is it really necessary to get the latest toy? Is your current device good enough?

If vendors were to have their way, we would be upgrading every year or two.

It’s the computer industry, and later the smartphone makers, that seems to be driving the need to upgrade regularly — even if your PC/notebook/smartphone is working perfectly fine.

This is so different from the days of old when a television, electric fan or refrigerator can last for a decade or more. If it breaks down, you get it fixed. Buying a new one is only necessary when it can no longer be repaired.

These days, computer and smartphone are constantly bombarding consumers that the latest is the greatest (if it’s not, something must be very wrong, right?) and you need to upgrade. Even consumer electronic product makers are trying to get into the act.

Putting aside fancy new features and the feel great of owning a new device factors, the most important question to ask is “Do I need to upgrade?”

What difference will the newest chip’s speed bump make? How will the fingerprint sensor make my phone more secured? How much storage do I really need?

I have owned a MacBook Air since 2011 and a third generation iPad since 2012 (see photo above) and am proud to declare that I am still using them.

Here are the reasons why I did not upgrade:

  1. They are still working perfectly. Operating system updates have slowed them down a little but nothing’s changed otherwise.
  2. They do what I need them for. I use my MacBook Air for work and my iPad when giving talks. Both still function as required. They may not be as fast as the latest iterations but they’re good enough.
  3. I save money by not upgrading. There’s no need to spend on newer devices since these are still fine. Money saved can be used for other things in life — like getting other gadgets that I do not already own or travelling.

The point is that if I want to upgrade, the vendors must give me something that I could not do before but need to have. A faster chip, brighter/sharper screen or more connectivity options just doesn’t cut it.

In recent times, the only device that I’ve upgraded constantly was the digital camera. My first was a Sony Mavica given to me in 1999. It introduced me to the world of digital photography, Nokia phones notwithstanding. I was a proud owner bringing a box of 3.5-inch floppy disk drives with me wherever I went. For each 1.44MB drive, I can take about 20 photos. So a box gives me sufficient space for about 200 low quality images.

As digital cameras evolved, so did my expectations. I wanted higher quality images and upgraded whenever I could afford a better camera.

But, my latest digital SLR camera has been untouched for a few years. Why? Because the smartphone has made it redundant. My Google Pixel 3 can take excellent images at high resolutions. In fact, each image size is bigger than a 3.5-inch floppy disk.

Upgrading my digital camera was necessary because the image quality made a difference. But, there are many other products where newer versions do not provide enough justification for parting with the cash.

3 things to consider before buying the Lofree DOT Mechanical Keyboard

For ardent supporters of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, this DOT mechanical keyboard by Lofree should look familiar to you. According to LoFee’s website, the company has won multiple RedDot design and iF awards the past few years, and this keyboard is clearly one of its key products. 

Here is my take on the three things to consider before making the purchase.

1. Charging of keyboard

This device needs to be charged with a micro-USB charger – a single charge can last up to a month. With high utilisation on my device, battery life was about a week.  Considering that newer devices have all moved to USB-C charging, having the additional cable to keep it charged occasionally can be a hassle.

2. Ergonomic design

The mechanical keyboard is supposed to provide that retro feel of typing on a typewriter and as such, it needs the depth to provide the clicking sound as well as the ‘bounce’ for each key. As such, I find myself having to lift my fingers more just to get to the higher keys. This may not seem like much, but if you happen to type a lot and are looking for convenient and further spaced keys, the DOT mechanical keyboard may not suit you. 

In addition, the keyboard is relatively flat although it has two stands supporting at the back. For someone who is so used to having the MOFT stand (see previously written article here), the shift to this keyboard sees me having to type with less of an angle.

3. Mechanical clicking sounds when typing

The mechanical keyboard sound while typing can be pleasing to the ears – if you are not typing on it for long stretches of time. I originally loved the clicking sounds and felt very accomplished with each click. However, the more I heard it (coupled with the fact that my fingers were tired after the constant typing on it), I realised that it wasn’t as pleasing as I thought it would be. 

This keyboard is definitely aesthetically-pleasing, provides the cool retro-feel and connects via Bluetooth easily. However, you may want to consider the above three points before making the purchase. 

You may look at the other products LoFree carries here.

Computex does it right

The card that means a lot to international visitors.

Throughout my career and in my voluntary work, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many events — including many mega ones — in Singapore and around the world.

Organisers often spend much effort in marketing their event so that they can draw more exhibitors and participants. That’s well and good because they are in it for the profit.

What happens after registration and turning up is another thing. Some events have let me down tremendously — from poor logistics planning to lack of interest in visitors. All they wanted was to meet their KPI of visitor numbers.

Of course, they’re not all bad. There have been events where I’ve come out smiling for the experience, whether it’s the welcoming feel, content, exhibits, or takeaways that I’ve gathered.

But there is one event where the organisation stands tall above all. It’s Computex Taipei.

I’ve had the privilege of attending this mega IT show in Taiwan since 2003 and its organisers, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taipei Computer Association (TCA) certainly puts in lots of effort to draw the crowd and keep them happy.

Before the event starts, they send invitations to trade visitors and get this — offer sponsorship of accommodation to those who qualify.

International participants are provided with official letters for speedier clearance at airport immigration. Believe me, this is a major plus when you look at the queue.

Registration is made easy with counters at all the halls. The tags can also be delivered to the participants’ hotels. Wow!

Now, for the clincher. Every international participant is given a Taipei Metro card with unlimited travel on the subway from the start of the exhibition to the day after it ends. That’s a whopping value of NTD900 (about US$28.60) for five days of subway convenience. No other event that I’ve been to, including big ones in the United States, accord such a benefit to visitors.

It’s really convenient to get around in Taipei with their extensive subway network. And the key event venues at Taipei World Trade Center in the city and Nangang Exhibition Hall on the outskirts sit near a station.

On top of that, the thoughtful organisers also provided bus shuttles among the venues, as well as to many hotels.

Kudos, TAITRA and TCA! You’ve made going to Computex a joy and something that I look forward to every year.

More than a carabiner

IMG_20190523_112832.jpgHaving grown up on spy novels and adventure books, I’ve been a sucker for gadgets of all kinds. One of these is the ubiquitous carabiner, which can be used for a multitude of purposes — hanging stuff onto back packs, hooking things onto poles and lots more.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the Heroclip while searching for a gift for an event. First crowdfunded on Indiegogo two years ago, it’s a clip that comes with a 360-swivel and hook with a rubber tip.

Heroclip animated
Courtesy of https://myheroclip.com/

At first glance, it doesn’t look extraordinary but upon reading further and watching the demo videos, I was hooked and ordered two online (see top).

I decided to test them out during my trip to Sydney. Usually, I put my sling bag under the seat in front of me — all my important stuff and snacks are in there so I prefer to keep the bag close to me.

IMG_20190514_135708.jpg

During the flight, I used the Heroclip to hook my sling bag onto the back pocket of the seat it front of me. It kept my bag from touching the floor and more within reach. I don’t need to bend to pick my bag from the floor.

The next use was the clincher. While most toilets in Sydney have hooks behind the cubicle door for hanging stuff, I went to one that did not have one and there was nowhere else to put my bag and jacket except on the floor.

MVIMG_20190516_175923.jpg

Tada…enter the Heroclip! I whipped it out, hooked if over the toilet door and hung my bag and jacket on it. Don’t know if you’ll feel the same way but not having to put my bag and jacket on the floor  matters lots!

Back in Singapore, I always found it a challenge bringing groceries home while cycling. The Heroclip came to good use again as I hooked it on my handlebar and attached my grocery bag on it.

Five things I really like about the Heroclip:

  1. Design — The inventor has put much thought into coming up with something that is practical, easy to use and nice to look at.
  2. Versatility — It can be used for many purposes. Just be imaginative.
  3. Sturdiness — Made of aluminum, it’s lightweight but feels solid and strong. The Medium-sized clip can hold up to 27kg.
  4. Compact — It’s easy to bring around.
  5. Variety of sizes — I bought two sizes  (medium and small) and there’s a third, mini.

Heroclip range
Courtesy of https://myheroclip.com/

If there’s one thing to improve on, it’s the price. With a price tag from S$21.40 for the mini version to S$26.30 for the small version, it can feel a little pricey. Surprisingly, the medium Heroclip, which is the biggest available, is priced lower than the small model at S$24.90.

These prices from Qoo10.sg are better than many others online and come with free shipping for orders above S$40.

Overall, I highly recommend the Heroclip, which is more than a carabiner and has become another of my travelling companion.

Otter-ly amazing note taking

Otter.JPGTranscribing recordings is one of the most tedious and dreaded tasks. One minute of voice recording can take three or more minutes to transcribe and that’s not talking about recordings that are hard to make out or filled with background noise.

I’ve done this during my air traffic control days when I had to listen to taped transmissions and write down word for word what was communicated between the controller and pilot.

Later on, I had to do this when taking minutes during meetings and as a journalist when playing back interviews.

It is no wonder then that I was intrigued when I read about Otter, a smart note taking software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to transcribe conversations.

Ten months on and I feel that this app is worthy of a review.

Developed by US-based AISense, the graphics processing unit (GPU)-powered app  records speech and transcribes on the fly when connected to a wireless network. Just looking at the voice-to-text makes me leap with joy.

It’s not 100 percent correct, probably around 70 percent (though the company claims that it’s 90 percent), but that itself saves lots of time. Reasons why it cannot get it fully correct may be because of sound volume or quality, slurring, mispronunciation, or accent.

Otter is free on iOS, Android and the web and comes with 600 minutes of free recording each month. If you need more, you will have to subscribe to a premium plan.

As one who does a fair bit of voice recording, Otter is utterly amazing. It’s a time saver and a dream come true.