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We frequently travel for various reasons: vacations, family visits, work-related client meetings or conferences, and outdoor camping trips. As someone running a tech consultancy, staying connected is crucial. Recently, camping has become a common activity, sometimes in areas with and without cellular service. The tech gear required for a successful trip largely depends on the location and the availability of cell service.

Long ago, to get ready for a trip, we’d mostly make sure we had our plane tickets, books and magazines to read, and of course a snack. It wasn't even possible to stay connected while traveling the way we do today. Prepping for travel in today’s tech-heavy world comes with a new set of tasks, most of which shouldn’t be left to the last minute. ​


Identify Devices, Chargers, and Cables to Bring

Resist the temptation to bring every piece of tech you have. Do you really need your iPad and MacBook Air if you’re not planning to work on vacation? Is a point-and-shoot camera worthwhile if you take most of your photos with your iPhone?


Once you’ve selected your preferred devices, think about charging. At a minimum, you’ll need chargers for all your devices every night. You may not find many power outlets or be able to access them easily, so a compact power strip is often helpful, especially if it comes with USB Type-A and USB-C ports. Multi-device wireless chargers can also reduce the number of wall chargers and cables. If you are like me and have an Apple iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple AirPods, the trifecta of chargers is absolutely necessary.



If you’re traveling abroad, an international power adapter is essential—you can find units that support multiple devices but you need to make sure you are getting the appropriate plug(s) for your destination. Apple makes a World Travel Adapter Kit that will probably work with the power adapter you already have to charge your Apple device(s).

 

Make sure to pack the right charging cables for your devices. Increasingly, that means USB-C cables, but remember that most public charging ports in airplanes and hotels will still be USB Type A, so bring an appropriate cable or adapter for such situations. Finding a good multi-cable charging cable will save space but make sure you have enough cables to charge everything at once.


Portable battery packs can be a lifesaver, such as for late-night transit navigation after you’ve run down your iPhone’s battery taking photos and videos during the day. Unless the battery pack has integrated cables, ensure that you carry the right cables with you every day.​


And finally, if you are camping somewhere that doesn't have outlets to charge, you will need to strongly consider a power bank and possibly even solar panels to recharge the power bank. Choosing a power bank can be difficult but usually comes down to budget. The better the wattage output, the more you can charge.



Staying Connected

Whether you are traveling internationally or off the grid, you will need to make sure you have options for connecting to the internet. The easiest way to do this is to use your hotspot on your iPhone, which works great when traveling in the United States. You need to be careful when using hotspots on a data plan when traveling internationally. Make sure you understand your cell service data plan before leaving for your trip and test the hotspot connection before you leave to make sure it is setup properly and working. Contact a rep with the company you have your cell service through before your trip to better understand your current coverage and what other options you have.


When camping or traveling off the grid, finding cell service or somewhere to connect can be very tricky. As an avid camper, we have a Starlink Roam (formerly Starlink RV) which we take with us on all of our outdoor trips. The Starlink Roam subscription allows you to turn the service on and off as needed and you only pay the prorated amount for the month you are using it. The cost as of this post is $150/month. It's a great conversation starter too if you are looking to meet new people on your outdoor adventures but be ready to share your wifi!


Prep Updates, Backups, Apps, and Entertainment

We always encourage staying up to date on operating system updates for security reasons. It’s especially important to update before leaving on a trip where you may be in less secure situations. Don’t leave those updates for the night before you leave! The device you’re updating won’t be usable while the update installs, which may be stressful, and in the rare case where something goes wrong, you’ll need extra time to recover. Always update your devices and apps at least a few days before leaving and NEVER run updates when on an airplane or connected to a public wifi connection (maybe don't even connect to a public wifi connection - I'll save that for another post).


It’s also important to make backups before you leave. It’s easy for a device to be damaged, lost, or stolen while you’re traveling, and a backup is essential for recovery.

For Macs, iPhones and iPads, make sure your backups are current. For iPhones and iPads, iCloud backups are best while traveling because you can continue to back up while away, and if you have to replace a lost iPhone on the road, you can restore from your iCloud backup wherever you are.


You may find a new set of apps helpful on your trip, and some may be essential for checking in for flights, going through customs, and more. If you’re flying, configure your airline’s app to know about your flight and add your boarding passes to Apple’s Wallet app. Paper copies of travel documents are worthwhile in the event of your iPhone being damaged, lost, or stolen. Travel guides for specific locations and itinerary planners like TripIt may also be helpful, though you can also track your travel and itinerary in Notes, which you can share with fellow travelers. An app like Flighty can help you track your flights and better react to delays. 


A nice trick I learned is if flying, text your flight number to yourself and you can simply click the text to see all of your flight info. It's that easy!



Even if you prefer Apple Maps or Google Maps, having the other available when you travel is worth it. One or the other may work better in certain places or with certain types of navigation, like city transit. Connectivity isn’t always guaranteed while traveling, so download maps ahead of time in both Apple Maps and Google Maps. In Apple Maps, with the new iOS 18 release, you will be able to download thousands of hiking trails and offline maps to ensure you don't get lost when you are out in the wilderness without signal. We just used this successfully on a trip to Yosemite.



If you’re heading to a country where you don’t speak the language, make sure you can quickly access Apple’s Translate app. Also get Google Translate so you can find out which you prefer. Both translate text you enter, text you focus on with the camera, and the contents of conversations.


It’s always best to load enough ebooks, podcasts, and videos on your iPhone or iPad so you don’t run out of something to do during downtime when there’s no connectivity. With ebooks, if you’re not already using Libby to access your public library, give it a try, our kids love it. It’s easy to download episodes in most podcast apps. And nearly all streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix allow downloading. If you have kids, you know how important it is to have entertainment ready. That said, leave plenty of free space for taking photos and videos on your travels.​


Protect Tech You Leave Home

Don’t forget the tech you’re leaving behind. Shut down your Macs and unplug anything not protected by an uninterruptible power supply. That way, a power surge or lightning strike won’t hurt anything. 


If you use HomeKit or Google Home, set up automations to turn lights on and off to make it seem like you’re home. Make sure you can remotely access home monitoring systems like security cameras.


Don't Be Overwhelmed!

We know this all can sound like a lot, but you want to avoid the aggravation of arriving at your destination only to discover that you forgot a necessary cable or can’t get Internet access. There are tools out there to help you remember everything you need when you travel. You can use Google Keep or an app like Packing Pro, which lets you develop (and reuse) lists of items and tasks. Or just stick to a simple spreadsheet.

Most importantly, HAVE A GREAT TRIP!



Sorry, Apple Isn’t Going to Update the 27-inch iMac with Apple Silicon


Are you a 27-inch iMac owner wondering when Apple will release a new model with speedy Apple silicon? We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer seems to be an unequivocal “Never.” Late last year, Apple confirmed to The Verge that it would not be making an Apple silicon version of the 27-inch iMac. Technically, that leaves open the possibility of a 32-inch iMac, for instance, but that feels like wishful thinking given the $5000 cost of Apple’s 32-inch Pro Display XDR. How did we get here, and where should 27-inch iMac owners look next?


Apple introduced the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display in 2014 and updated it several times before discontinuing it in 2022. It was hugely popular due to its large, gorgeous screen and a price that made the guts of the Mac seem cheap when paired with such a nice screen. An 8-year run isn’t bad, but once Apple introduced the powerful Mac Studio and the 27-inch Studio Display (also a 5K Retina display), the company felt there was no room for the 27-inch iMac in the lineup.


Apple isn’t necessarily wrong. One of the reasons 27-inch iMac owners are so attached to their Macs is that they can’t upgrade the computer and keep using that lovely screen, which remains one of the best available. Target Display Mode (which lets you use some much older iMacs as an external display for another Mac) never supported that model of iMac, and although the $80 Luna Display dongle does let you use a 27-inch iMac as a screen for another Mac, its tradeoffs may be hard to accept


In the new world order, an Apple silicon Mac paired with a Studio Display provides a fast, capable Mac you can swap for a newer one when necessary and an extremely nice display you can use across multiple Macs. It’s not uncommon for an external display to last a decade or more, whereas many businesses upgrade their Macs every 3 to 5 years. A Studio Display could easily outlast two or three Macs.


“But, but, but,” we can hear you spluttering, “what about the 24-inch iMac with Apple silicon?” It may seem odd for Apple to drop the 27-inch model but keep a smaller iMac around. The reason is that the 24-inch iMac is meant to be a low-cost Mac that doesn’t skimp on display quality. It has a 4.5K Retina display that’s just a little smaller than the 27-inch iMac’s 5K Retina display while matching its quality. (Those numbers refer to the number of horizontal pixels on the screen—4,480 or 5,120—although the actual resolutions nearly everyone uses are half that to get crisp text at a readable size.) A Mac mini paired with an inexpensive external display would be cheaper than a 24-inch iMac, but you would have trouble getting a comparably good display for so little. The 24-inch iMac is perfect for a receptionist’s desk or a family’s kitchen computer, and its M3 chip will seriously outperform the Intel chips in the now-discontinued 27-inch iMac.


So, let’s assume you’ve been holding onto your 27-inch iMac, but it’s finally time to move on. The calculus of what to buy has changed due to the excellent performance of the Apple silicon Macs, even on the low end, and the existence of the Studio Display. Here’s what we recommend for different needs:


  • You’re on a very limited budget: Buy a 24-inch iMac. The screen isn’t quite as large, but the price/performance ratio is hard to beat for such a nice screen. The lowest-end model has fewer USB ports, which might be annoying.

  • You want a basic desktop Mac with a Retina screen: Choose between a Mac mini paired with a Studio Display or a 24-inch iMac, which is comparable to the low-end Mac mini. For higher performance needs, go for the Mac mini with an M2 Pro.

  • You want portability, too: The Studio Display works well with a MacBook Air (13-inch or 15-inch) for a budget solution or a MacBook Pro (14-inch or 16-inch) for a high-performance option. Using two screens also increases productivity.

  • You’re willing to pay more for performance: Things get interesting here because you can use a Studio Display with a Mac mini with M2 Pro, a Mac Studio with M2 Max, or a MacBook Pro with either M3 Pro or M3 Max. The MacBook Pro options are the most expensive but offer portability and a second screen.

  • You want the ultimate performance: Pair a Studio Display with a Mac Studio or a Mac Pro, both of which come with the M2 Ultra. The choice comes down to expandability: the Mac Pro offers PCIe slots and more ports.


Right now, the M-series chips are a little confusing. The original M1 is available only in an inexpensive 13-inch MacBook Air model sold exclusively through Walmart. The previous MacBook Air (13-inch only), Mac mini, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro all use variants of the M2, whereas the newer MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models sport M3 variants. Until recently, we expected Apple to standardize the rest of the line on the M3, but then the iPad Pro came out with an M4 because of yield issues with the M3 fabrication process. 


It now seems probable that some models will skip the M3 entirely in favor of the M4, but don’t get too caught up in the latest and greatest. There’s more performance to be gained in the Pro, Max, and Ultra versions of the chips than in the next generation, so for now, the M2 Ultra remains the fastest chip for most processor-intensive tasks.

Regardless of what Mac and display combination best meets your needs, you’ll enjoy vastly better performance than was available with the 27-inch iMac, and the Studio Display is every inch as good a monitor. And maybe you can sell your 27-inch iMac on eBay.





Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote was a lightning-fast (even in the full 1:44-long video—or try the 3-minute recap) look at what Apple is bringing to the software side of the Apple experience in the next year. Although some past keynotes have introduced hardware like new Macs and the Vision Pro, this year’s keynote stuck to new operating system features before previewing a suite of AI features collected under the umbrella term “Apple Intelligence.”


Apple previewed a boatload of new features and listed even more on its website. We’ll focus on those we think will make the biggest splash in your Apple experience, but we recommend that you scroll through Apple’s pages for each operating system to see more of what’s coming. Those are linked below, along with basic hardware requirements so you can see if your devices will be eligible to upgrade (not all features will be available on all devices):


  • macOS 15 Sequoia: iMac Pro from 2017, MacBook Pro and Mac mini from 2018 and later, iMac and Mac Pro from 2019 and later, MacBook Air from 2020 and later, and Mac Studio from 2022 and later

  • iOS 18: Second-generation iPhone SE, iPhone XR, and later (same as iOS 17)

  • iPadOS 18: Seventh-generation iPad and later, fifth-generation iPad mini and later, third-generation iPad Air and later (including M2 models), first-generation 11-inch iPad Pro and later, and third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and later, and all M4 iPad Pro models

  • watchOS 11: Second-generation Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 6 and later, and Apple Watch Ultra and later

  • tvOS 18: Apple TV HD (with fewer features), Apple TV 4K

  • visionOS 2: All Vision Pro headsets


Here are a handful of new features we think Apple users will find most interesting. Then we’ll look at Apple Intelligence.


Personalize Your iPhone and iPad Home Screen

iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 introduce significantly enhanced Home Screen customization options aimed at letting your creativity shine through. You can leave blank spaces between icons and arrange icons and widgets however you like. Additionally, you can change the size of icons and widgets and apply color tints.




Tile Windows Automatically in Sequoia

macOS has long had a subtle window alignment effect that makes it easy to line up windows, but in macOS 15 Sequoia, when you drag a window to the side of the screen, macOS suggests a tiled position on your desktop, intelligently sizing it for the window’s content. Window tiling makes it easy to put windows side-by-side and fill the screen without wasting space. Keyboard jockeys will appreciate new keyboard shortcuts for window tiling as well. (If you don’t want to wait for Sequoia, numerous utilities offer similar features now, including  Amethyst, BetterTouchTool, Magnet, Moom, Rectangle, and Yabai.)



Notes and Phone Gain Audio Recording and Transcription

If you find yourself wanting to revisit what was said in a lecture, appointment, or phone call, a pair of upcoming features can boost your recall. The Notes app on all platforms will record audio and create live transcriptions, allowing you to pay attention during a talk rather than furiously taking notes. Plus, the Phone app in iOS 18 will let you record and transcribe a live call—when you start recording, participants are automatically notified so everyone knows it’s happening.



Mirror Your iPhone on Your Mac

If you frequently pull out your iPhone while working on your Mac, you’ll appreciate Sequoia’s new iPhone mirroring feature. It lets you use your Mac’s pointing device and keyboard to interact with all your iPhone apps in a window on your Mac while the iPhone remains locked or in StandBy. Audio from the iPhone plays through your Mac, and you can share data between devices with drag and drop. A related Continuity feature displays iPhone notifications on your Mac—when mirroring your iPhone, clicking those notifications opens the associated iPhone app.



Passwords Breaks Free of Settings

At long last, Apple has given us a dedicated Passwords app in Sequoia, iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and visionOS 2. The company’s password management features have become quite good over the past few years, but they are awkward to access in Settings on the iPhone and iPad and System Settings on the Mac. We don’t anticipate significant feature changes beyond the addition of categories, but the Passwords app should make managing your logins even easier. Passwords still won’t fully match up to the likes of 1Password, but you won’t go wrong with Apple’s built-in solution. Remember that if you use a Web browser other than Safari, you’ll need the iCloud Passwords extension we’ve mentioned previously. You can also share your passwords with a Windows PC using iCloud for Windows.


Five More Welcome Features

For more reasons to upgrade once these new operating systems are out and stable, consider the following additional features:

  • Customize Control Center: iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 feature a thoroughly revamped Control Center, accessible with a continuous swipe down on the Home Screen. You can create custom groups of controls—some from third-party apps—with resizing and mixing options.

  • iPad Calculator app and Math Notes: Not only does the iPad finally get a Calculator app, but it also introduces Math Notes. You handwrite an equation with an Apple Pencil, and when you write an equals sign, Calculator solves the equation. Math Notes works with keyboards, too, and you can also find it in the Notes app.

  • Lock and hide iPhone apps: New privacy features in iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 let you lock apps with Face ID or Touch ID so the friend who’s scrolling through your vacation photos can’t also read your journal. You can also move apps to a hidden folder in the App Library that can’t be opened without biometric authentication.

  • More tapbacks: In Messages, when you want to use a tapback to acknowledge a message without typing out a reply, you’ll be able to use any emoji or sticker, or a new AI-powered Genmoji.

  • Vitals app collects overnight data: When you wear your Apple Watch to sleep, a new Vitals app in watchOS 11 collects and displays your overnight health metrics on your wrist, including heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood oxygen, and sleep duration. It might help you rest up to fight off that cold that’s going around.


Apple usually releases its new operating systems in September or October; we’ll write more about them as we get closer. Generally speaking, it’s OK to upgrade to everything but macOS shortly after release; with macOS, we recommend caution to ensure your existing apps and workflows won’t be impacted.


Apple Intelligence

Apple devoted a large chunk of the keynote to introducing Apple Intelligence, a collection of AI-powered features coming to the Apple ecosystem over the next year. These features will enable your iPhone, iPad, and Mac to understand language and create both text and images, plus take actions aimed at simplifying your interactions with apps. What sets Apple Intelligence apart from AI efforts from other companies is its focus on—and understanding of—your personal context. Apple Intelligence will know about your contacts, schedule, email, messages, photos, and much more.



The most significant use of Apple Intelligence will come with Siri, which will let us speak more naturally and understand what we mean if we make mistakes. We’ve trained ourselves to say only things Siri is likely to be able to handle, but that won’t be necessary when Siri gains Apple Intelligence capabilities. You’ll be able to search for photos of your child holding a fishing rod, for instance, or ask Siri to find something when you can’t remember if it was in Mail or Messages. Siri will also gain context awareness, so you can ask what the weather will be like at the beach tomorrow, and if the response is good enough, have it schedule a trip there. Siri will even know a lot more about your Apple devices and can help you use them. For the most part, though, Siri won’t have global knowledge. If Siri can’t answer your query directly, it will offer to send it to ChatGPT for free.



Apple Intelligence also includes writing tools, but unlike ChatGPT, it’s not aimed at creating text from scratch. Instead, it can rewrite text you’ve written to help you fine-tune the wording or adjust the tone to be more appropriate. It can also proofread text, helping you with grammar, word choice, and sentence structure (if you need this now, check out Grammarly). Even when Apple Intelligence does create text, such as the Smart Reply feature coming to Mail, it asks you questions to guide its response.

Text summarization powered by Apple Intelligence shows up repeatedly. In Notes, you’ll be able to summarize a transcription. If you save a long article to Safari’s Reader, it can provide a table of contents and summary. In Mail, instead of the first few sentences appearing in the message list, you’ll get a short summary. Apple Intelligence can even prioritize and summarize notifications.


Unsurprisingly, Apple Intelligence lets you create and edit images, but it’s a far cry from the AI artbots that let you create photo-realistic images. Instead, Apple Intelligence lets you create custom emoji, called Genmoji, which let you express yourself graphically in ways that standard emoji can’t support. Image Playground lets you create images for inclusion in conversations and documents, but it limits you to three styles: Sketch, Illustration, and Paint. Apple doesn’t want anyone making deepfakes with Apple Intelligence. A new Image Wand feature in Notes even turns your rough sketches into polished images.



Apple took great pains to emphasize the privacy aspects of Apple Intelligence. Most Apple Intelligence tasks will take place entirely on your device, hence the need for powerful Apple silicon chips with their Neural Engines and Secure Enclaves. Some tasks require more processing power; to handle those, Apple has developed a highly secure system called Private Cloud Compute. It relies on Apple silicon servers, transfers only the data necessary to the task, and stores nothing.


Apple Intelligence features will start arriving in the fall and continue to roll out in feature-release updates over the next 6–8 months. They will run only on the iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, and iPads and Macs with M1 or later chips. Intel-based Macs and less-powerful iPads and iPhones need not apply. Apple Intelligence will also require Siri and the device language to be set to US English in the early releases, with other languages to follow.


Overall, Apple appears to have put a great deal of thought and effort into integrating AI into the Apple experience in focused, helpful ways that offer new capabilities while preserving user privacy. We won’t know how well these features will work until they ship, but we look forward to seeing how they can improve interactions with our Apple devices.


(Featured image by Apple)

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