Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?
One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.
In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:
The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.
The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.
Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.
Another year, another Apple Watch. Even amid the craziness of 2020 Apple found time to release an update to one of their still emerging products. I’ve been a fan of the Apple Watch since day one and it keeps getting better and better with each revision. I purchased the Apple Watch Series 6 on launch day making this my fifth watch since the original in 2015.
Just like last year, there aren’t a lot of major changes, especially when views as a year over year change. The Series 6 still looks the same and comes in the same sizes as the Series 4 and 5. The biggest three changes this year are the addition of the blood oxygen sensor, new case colors, and better always-on display.
The Series 5 finally gave me a feature that I’ve been longing for ever since the first Apple Watch, the always-on display. This allows you to view information on your watch without having to raise or flip your wrist. The Series 6 expands on that with a brighter display that allows you to see it better in sunlight (in always-on mode).
Something that is pretty relevant right now with COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, is the ability to measure your blood oxygen level. You may have seen this in your doctor’s office when they put a sensor on your finger to get your pulse and a percentage usually in the high 90s. Apple warns that this is not a health device so it should only be viewed as informational. I suspect this is just a liability protection until they can get FDA clearance like the ECG.
I used the Apple Watch blood oxygen reading and a traditional sensor and they both resulted in 99%. To me, this justifies the level of accuracy I would expect out of this device. Just like the ECG in the Series 5 (which is still present and the same in Series 6) I’ll probably only use this occasionally when I remember it exists. The watch will also take background measurements when you are idle, which could be interesting to track.
For the first time ever, we finally have actual colors in the Apple Watch. Instead of the usual silver, space gray, and gold finishes, we get an anodized blue and red finish for the Series 6. These look great in person with and have a similar matte finish as the iPhone 11. The stainless model also got a refined finish changing the black to graphite.
The model I went with is the Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Graphite Stainless Steel. Usually I opt for the Aluminum “Sport” versions, but after a few years of my watch face getting severely scratched I find the stainless model (which features a sapphire crystal lens) to be better against scratches.
In addition to a new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced a lower-priced SE version. This is the same as the Series 6, but without the blood oxygen sensor, ECG, and always-on display. This creates a good, better, best structure to the Apple Watch tiers allowing a wider variety of buyers.
New watches usually come with new bands and this time around Apple debuted a new style called the Solo Loop. Similar to the original Sport Bands, this is a single piece of silicone that you can stretch around your hand to attach to your wrist. These bands come in 12 different sizes (1 – 12) to fit a wide variety of wrists. Downside to this is it’s not like shoes where most people know their size. You have to measure your wrist and hope it’s correct. Apple provides a printable measuring tool to measure your wrist. The tool told me I was a size 12, but I concluded a 11 would be a better fit. After getting the band, I could have gone down to a 10, but that might be too tight. If you but a Solo Loop band with an Apple Watch, and it doesn’t fit, you have to return the entire watch and band to get another one. This is a difficult online-only purchase as in-store try ons would be great for this item.
Update: I have since reached out to Apple about their Solo Loop sizing debacle. They have revised their return policy to allow returning of the band purchased with the watch. Apple also update their sizing guide to make it more clear that it needs to be a tight measurement. They are sending me a size 10 and a box to send them the too large size 11 back. To make things right, they’re also gifting me a Sport Band for my troubles.
Of course you don’t have to use a watch band made by Apple. One of my favorite bands are made by the good folks over at Longvadon. They make luxury watch bands that pair great with an Apple Watch. Made to look like they came right off a high-end luxury traditional watch. The cost of these bands slots nicely between the cheap knockoffs and the really expensive Apple bands. My favorite thing about these Longvadon bands is they combine the traditional metal clasp with a buckle fastener, meaning you can just unclasp the watch and slide it off your hand instead of fiddling with the buckle. Pictured above is the ‘Men’s Whiskey Brown w/ Silver Details’ from their Caiman Series. It has a beautiful embossed crocodile pattern on top of high quality top grain bovine leather. The inside of the strap is very comfortable and soft. Shortly after I got my Apple Watch Series 6 I had a wedding to attend and the Longvadon watch band was the perfect way to class up my watch for the formal occasion. You can get your own Longvadon watch band on their website use my exclusive code ‘BEN20’ to save 20% off all products in their store!
There’s always a great reason to get a new Apple Watch, and this year’s lineup is no exception. With all the fitness and health benefits of an Apple Watch I recommend any iPhone user (and now their kids) look into being an Apple Watch wearer.
Some of us are working from home full or part time for the first time ever. As a technology professional that’s been in the game for more than 10 years, here are my thoughts.
Working from home (WFH) isn’t easy if you’re used to going to an office or another location every day. Some people love and others hate it. I come down somewhere in the middle. In my past I’ve had a job where I consistently worked from home at least once per week, by choice. Now that some of us are forced to spend both our working day and personal time at home, things need adjusted.
Simulating A Normal Work Day
Firstly, you should have a dedicated space where you can go work. Not your living room sofa, dining room table, or garage work bench. Hopefully you’re fortunate enough to have an office space or a spare room you can isolate yourself in. This allows you to have a place to go to start working and to leave when you’re done. Additionally, if you share your shelter with other people, you can use this space as an off-limits working area.
Before going to your work space and after you get out of bed, try to do some normal things just like you would before you would go to work. Take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, have a snack, or whatever you can do to make it a normal work day. Once you get to your computer you should be ready to work.
I’ve tried to replicate my work setup from my office as much as possible to be the most efficient. I have a standing desk at work so a few months ago (not knowing there was going to be a pandemic) I purchased a smaller sit/stand desk at home. Being used to standing while working all day and then sitting at home doesn’t work for me. Now I can stand all day just like I do at work and not feel the pains of sitting for eight hours per day.
A hurdle that most people have when they work from home is not having the same technology they’re used to from work. You may find yourself being stuck using a 13-inch laptop now instead of your dual 20-inch monitor setup at the office. Yes you can go out and buy monitors for home, but in reality you probably can accomplish up to 80% of the work you previously were able to do just fine on your laptop. It may take some adjustment and learning periods, but it’s definitely possible. If you find yourself using your own personal technology for work, you may want to make sure you have a compatible computer with your employer’s systems. Hopefully your IT department will be able to give you some guidance on that.
Most of our jobs in 2020 do not require you to print. If you’re used to being able to print anything/everything in the office, that doesn’t mean you need to do that at home. Try reviewing documents on a computer or tablet screen prior to needing to print. Your IT support people will thank you for not having to support a home printer.
Be sure to stay in touch with coworkers and family during this time. Zoom, FaceTime, Teams, Skype, and much more are great ways to communicate with people not in your same geographical location. Try to do video calls as much as possible instead of a voice call. This will allow you see other faces and feel a little more connected.
Some people say they are more productive at home (me included) because there are less distractions or interruptions. Sometimes you are so productive at home that you may run out of things to do. An important part of working from home is staying busy so you’re not watching the clock or doing too many non-work related tasks. One way you can stay busy is dig through that pile of projects or tasks you’ve been putting off for the last year. Most of these things are time consuming and require concentration that you may not have in your normal work day. What else do you have besides time at home now, it may the right time to take a stab at them. Another way is to ask your peers or manager for things you can be doing. Every company I’ve worked for has organizational tasks that can be done during slow periods. You may even find yourself learning something new when helping out a peer.
Taking time for yourself during the day is essential to your mental health during an extended work from home period. Be sure to take ample breaks and get away from your workstation for a few moments. Some ways you can take a break can be walking your dog, throw in a load of laundry, go grab the mail, take a shower, or make yourself an espresso.
Some things you should not do during a break are scroll through social media, watch TV, read the news, get a snack, or play a game on your phone. Activities like these lead to decreased productivity and a feeling of doing the same thing over and over again. It’s important to physically move around during the day, especially if you’ve been sitting a lot. Also, set aside a time of day to catch up on the news. Don’t stress yourself with reading everything as it comes in.
When you’re at home all day, nowhere to go, no one to see, it can be easy to head for the pantry for a snack. It’s paramount to your health, and food supply, to avoid snacking more than usual while working from home. Try not to eat more or worse than you would on a normal work day. An easy way to prevent this from happening is simple, don’t buy any bad snacks. If you don’t have chips in the house, you won’t want to go look for them.
Pick a good stopping point or time to eat lunch. During this time you can focus on something else other than work. Make a sandwich and sit down and have a chat with someone or call a relative.
I’ve long believed distractions can be good and lead to higher productivity. As long as the distractions are short and constructive, you can try to implement some of these into your daily routine. In addition to the suggestions I went over in the breaks section you can try other short brain stimulating activities that allow you to focus on something else for a few moments. Some activities I would suggest are a quick game of table tennis with a spouse, work on some language learning in Duolingo, shoot some hoops, work on a puzzle, check the oil in your car, or sit on your porch and enjoy the weather.
After one of these activities you can feel refreshed, distressed, and ready to get back to work. You’ll start to notice that you will be looking forward to one of these distractions and might even try to work harder to get there quicker. Don’t be afraid to schedule things during the work day, providing your employer doesn’t make you stay glued to your computer all day, you could have a standing chess meeting with cohabitant.
Make The Most Of It
The single most important thing about working from home more than usual is to make the most of it. Of course it’s not ideal for some, but if you sit and pout about it all day, that doesn’t help anyone. Try some of the suggestions above to make more of your day and don’t forget to stop working when the day is done. Just because you’re still at home and can work doesn’t mean you should. Take time for yourself, your family, and/or your friends.
A co-worker and I were having a music discussion around how satisfying it was to have physical media when we were younger. This co-worker and I often have analytical conversations around movies, music, and technology. Most of the time we fall on the same side of the arguments. The latest confab got me thinking…. What if something in the world destroyed the ability to access music so effortlessly like we do today. Since I was about nine years old, music has been something I enjoy listening to everyday. Whether I’m sad, happy, or indifferent, music is always there to appease me.
There Are Some Rules
Music streaming is gone, iTunes has shutdown, Sam Goody is gone for real, and all you have left is one jukebox. This magical jukebox can play any ten albums for as long as you live, as many times as you like. Before all the music is destroyed you have to quickly pick ten albums to fill the jukebox.
“Today we have 50 million songs at our fingertips which is great and potentially life changing…”
These ten albums should be the ten albums you could listen to for the rest of your life. They shouldn’t be the best ten albums ever made, that’s always subjective. Your favorite ten albums could also be a mistake since you might be missing out on music that makes you feel all sorts of emotions. Ten albums are all you get, forever.
Because this is a artistic exercise, our eternal jukebox cannot play “greatest hits” or other types of compilations.
Eternal Jukebox Library
Here’s my list, these ten albums will forever be in my mystical eternal jukebox.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal
Dirty Heads – SWIM TEAM
Ed Sheeran – X
Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
John Mayer – Continuum
Ma$e – Harlem World
Michael Jackson – HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I
Nelly – Country Grammar
Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News
Sublime – Sublime
Honorable mention: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Us humans are programmatically extinguishing ourselves out of existence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the latest buzzwords you hear in the media, but it’s been around for a long time. AI is defined as intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast natural intelligence is displayed by humans and other animals. Even the simplest of machines or activities can have AI. Think about the last time your received coupons in the mail for a grocery store or department store. Using AI, that company determined the set of coupons you should receive to increase the probability of you visiting to their store or website. It’s straightforward and sometimes helpful, but that’s just the tip of this very large iceberg.
When I think about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous machines I get excited for what the future holds. At the same time I start to ruminate about what all of this will mean for the future of us mortals. If we continue to build machines that learn, think, and live on their own, without our interaction, we could be creating our own extinction.
“The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. “
Humans are currently the most advanced and smartest race on the planet Earth. Most of us have compassion, foresight, and morals which lends us to save inferior organisms like plants and animals. The plants and animals also offer us the resources we need to survive. Machines that aren’t based on needing plants, animals, or humans will have no use for those objects. Last time I checked, the advanced computers and machines using AI today don’t have any compassion or ideologies to prevent them from one day purging the Earth of humans.
Creating an Artificial Existence
Let’s start to perceive how AI evolution would occur that might force us humans out of continuation. Humans have created complex machines that can think for themselves as well as learn new ideas. Because humans are so diligent, most of the world’s information is procurable digitally on the internet. A high-powered machine could easily graze through all the information on the internet and learn everything, thus making that machine the smartest being in existence. The key for that machine to be successful is knowing what is right, wrong, fake, real, or useful. This machine, that I’m going to call BAE (Ben’s Artificial Existence), after years and years of studying old and new enlightenment, would be more powerful than anything we’ve seen to date.
Let’s assume BAE has learned all the factual bits from the internet. BAE now knows how to speak, read, and write in every documented language on the planet. It also knows how to build anything (provided it’s blueprints were available on the internet). Lastly, with all the programming language information available (especially on the subject of AI) BAE is now a world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expert. Because BAE is smart and is, presumably, self-aware it now has the means to upgrade itself. BAE can make phone calls (in any language), open bank accounts, trade on the stock markets, take over other machines; the list goes on and on. After a while BAE could start to reprogram other machines, creating a botnet army. BAE could also invent new technologies to make itself and it’s army untouchable. Before we know it, BAE has millions of machines that are self-sufficient, self-aware, and no longer have a use for the human race.
Now let’s crawl back up out of that rabbit hole. All of this seems far fetched and is a lot like the plot of the movie ‘Transcendence’. The way people are advancing technology and all the information we have out there, it does seem that someday it could be possible. It’s also entirely possible that there are a few intelligent and prudent humans who can program compassion, sacrifice, and self-worth into machines. In that case we would have the ultimate personal assistant / companion.
Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not from machines taking over the world. In reality, it seems humans will destroy ourselves before something else.
Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.
The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.
When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.
Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.
My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.
Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.
Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.
As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.
“It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”
The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.
The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.
Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.
Pros / Cons
The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.
Great rear dual camera system
OLED screen is stunning in person
Face ID is more secure and easier to use
No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
Front camera resolution could be better
Who should buy the iPhone X? Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.
Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X? Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.
The price of greatness
Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.
Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:
iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month
You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.
Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.
In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.
Besides writing a check, how else can you send money to someone?
It’s 2017 and most people I know still write checks to give money to someone else. You would think by now technology has solved this problem of carrying a checkbook, writing out specific information, and bringing that to the bank. This ancient technique has finally been updates, for the most part.
There are numerous ways to send money to another individual or business, whether is to pay a bill or a gift, a lot of services exist for this sole purpose. Venmo, PayPal, Square, and PopMoney are three popular services, but it seems most banks offer their own version. These money sharing services often charge a fee when using a credit card, but most of the time there is no charge to use debit from your checking account. The issue with using an app to send money is that the funds live in the app and the recipient has to withdraw or transfer the money to use it. In rare instances, someone may keep the funds in the app and use it elsewhere, this is common when using PayPal. Think of someone you know that you’ve written a check to in the past. Odds are that they wouldn’t know what to do if you send them money via Venmo.
Enter Apple’s solution to this problem: Apple Pay. Ever since Apple debuted Apple Pay in 2014, I’ve been wondering how I can use this to pay another individual. While not as simple as holding your iPhone up to an NFC reader, Apple proves they have taken the time to think this through. Basically, you can send someone money through your iPhone to another person who has also has an Phone through the iMessages app. The way they do this is by giving you an Apple Pay gift card that you can load money on to send to other people. The great thing about this gift card is you can use the loaded/transferred funds anywhere that accepts Apple Pay, right from your iPhone. You can also transfer this money to your bank account, which should be free to do. If you send money to another person through Apple Pay by using a credit card, you’ll be charged a fee of about 3% of your transfer amount. This is to pay the credit card fees, so Apple isn’t making any money of this transaction. This transfer fee is standard throughout all the popular money sending services, but differs in actual percentage.
A lot of retailers are moving to this “gift card” scenario where you load money on to a card and use that to pay, usually through a smartphone app. Starbucks is the biggest one I’ve used and they entice you to use it with rewards resulting in free items. The kicker with Starbucks is you can reload your card using Apple Pay, which makes this new system work.
Apple Pay person-to-person will be launching later this fall. This new money transfer system will take a very long time to catch on, if ever. The older generations, who actually use smartphones, will probably never get on this program. Don’t expect that $10 birthday check from your grandparents to go away any time soon.
My wife and I are in the market for a new SUV this fall. We are looking to replace our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, not because we hate it, but because our lease is about to come to an end. There are so many options out there that fit our needs, which could be why this segment is becoming the most popular among car manufacturers today.
We have a very specific wishlist for this next SUV, mainly because of what we have already been accustomed to. Most of the items are luxuries or technology based goodies that we feel every car should have.
Heated / ventilated front seats
Large panoramic sunroof
Heated steering wheel
Apple CarPlay compatible stereo
LED daytime running lights
Not that bad of a list right?
In addition to those refinements, we really need a car that has an engine that can really move when we need to. We previously had a vehicle with an undersized engine and while it was good on gas, merging onto the highway proved to be somewhat dangerous. Some of the options we’re looking at vaulted us into the luxury SUV space which we didn’t want to tread in. Companies like BMW, Lexus, and Jaguar have great offerings but we did not want to get in on the low-end of their trim levels to meet our budget.
Narrowing It Down
In January of this year, we traveled to Detroit for the North American Auto Show to take a look at some potential new models. We came away from this show mostly disheartened by the fact that our beloved Jeep was not changing and thus not keeping up with the influx of technology in this space. The early leader leaving the show was the newly redesigned GMC Terrain. Remember that car I mentioned earlier that had a very underpowered engine? That was a 2013 GMC Terrain with a 4-cylinder lawnmower engine that would redline going up the slightest hill. Needless to say, we only owned that car for about six months. There was some hesitation to lean towards the new Terrain, but the new 2.0 turbocharged engine seemed like a good upgrade that we’d be happy with. Leaving the show I was just about set on getting the new Terrain, in fact, if they would have offered a trade right then and there, I probably would have taken it. They didn’t offer me a new 2018 GMC Terrain on the spot, so we decided to sleep on it.
Fast forward eight months and we’re still looking at new cars coming out and deciding what we’re going to do. We have a slight deadline because our lease is set to expire sometime in October of this year. Lots of time ahead, but we aren’t taking this decision lightly. While the GMC Terrain is still in the running, we’ve had some other potentials come into view. The 2017.5 Nissan Murano checks all of our boxes and looks pretty cool too. We took a Sunday trip to our local Nissan dealer (because they are closed on Sundays) and eyeballed some new Muranos. This spelled bad news for the Murano because it just doesn’t look at good in person as it does in promotional photos. Now back to one again, the original GMC Terrain that started courting us in January.
There has always been one wildcard in our race, but it only had the support of half the votes. I have really admired the Volvo XC60 since it’s redesign last year, and even added it to my list. Volvo is a great car company, and they know it, which is why the are now moving up the price list and becoming more of a luxury brand than ever before. My wife has never been impressed by either the XC60 or XC90. “Volvos are for old people, and I’m not old yet” exclaims my wife every time I mention the Volvo SUV. I’ve realized that’s a fight I cannot win, and thus we move on.
A strange, almost divine series of events have unfolded lately that lead us to pick our next SUV. I was doing more research as I always do and found that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokees were soon entering production. I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s new on the 2018 model year?”, turns out, just enough. The upcoming Grand Cherokee updates included one key feature that was missing from all previous Grand Cherokee models, Apple CarPlay. This was the one feature we had to have, not because it’s cool, new, and easy to use, it’s because most car infotainment system are downright horrible. The ability to essentially mirror your iPhone on your car’s screen for music and maps is monumental. Along with the addition of CarPlay, Jeep brought back a new special edition trim called High Altitude which fits our styling tastes perfectly. The basics of this special edition are removing all the chrome accents, including the Jeep badges, and replacing them with matte finish dark accents. This creates a very modern take on a more luxurious trim.
If all goes well with finances and timing, we will be leasing a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee High Altitude in white.
How I Did The Research
Over the last 10 months I’ve been researching mid-size SUVs as they are announced and adding them to a spreadsheet to compare the specifications. I have posted it here so that you all can see the various types of specs I was comparing and how the different vehicles stack up. You’ll also notice that I went after specific trim levels on each SUV and only cared about certain features. This was mostly due to the fact that almost all SUVs in this class are going to perform the same and have the same overall sizing.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my research and hope this will help someone else make a decision on a very large purchase. I will definitely post an update once we finally get our new SUV.
This fall Apple will be releasing a new feature for your iPhone that could save your life!
Do Not Disturb… While Driving!
A new feature included with the upcoming release of iOS 11 will put your iPhone into Do Not Disturb mode while you are driving in your car. If you are not familiar with Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode, it suppresses all notifications and sounds while enabled. This is especially useful while you sleep if you keep your iPhone near you all night long. The kicker for the driving mode is when you get an iMessage it will reply to that person with a customizable message describing how you are driving and not getting notifications. If for some reason this person needs to reach you, they can reply URGENT to the automated message and their original message will be sent through. You can even set a contact list of people who get right through to you, bypassing Do Not Disturb. Of course this is all fine until you want to use your iPhone while you’re in the car. When you go to unlock your iPhone while Do Not Disturb is on you’ll see a pop-up on your screen letting you know this mode is turned on. You’ll need to tap I’m Not Driving to let your iPhone know that it’s safe to turn off Do Not Disturb mode. This is just another step Apple is taking to ensure your are driving safely.
You should turn this on.
The number of cell phone related car accidents is on the rise and while we wait for autonomous cars, this is a great step to lower the number of incidents. This can also be a way for some people to break the awful habit of having to look at their phones every second of the day. Your eyes and mind should be focused on the road and other drivers, not your SnapChat or Instagram feed. I’m hoping Apple puts out a huge ad campaign around this feature so that more people will use it. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Apple should turn this on by default, but it definitely deserves some attention.
Ive been testing this mode for about a month now and it has been great. I’ve been guilty of checking my notifications, sending messages, and browsing social media in traffic or at a stoplight. I’m ready to kick that habit and Apple’s new Do Not Disturb while Driving is a great feature