I’m really not in a position to be buying new technology now.* I’m in the middle of a job hunt and I ought to be saving every penny while the employment market remains a fickle, teasing wretch. Why, then, did Apple run an event yesterday designed to remind me that my existing array of gadgetry is but a dusty heap of aluminium and silicon, no more than one careless step from the technological grave?
Yes, all of Apple’s announcement events are supposed to do this. But this one was personal. They specifically announced updates to (almost) every Apple product that I own, and if I find out that Tim Cook did this just to annoy me, I’m going to be … well, I’m going to be impressed. Impressed, but also annoyed.
I wish I was exaggerating. My mostly superannuated selection of Apple technology consists of my elderly Mac Mini, my much-used MacBook Air, and my relatively youthful iPad Pro (which, with accompanying Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard case, has taken on many laptop-style duties over the past year). Everything mentioned in the last sentence saw an update at Apple’s October 30th event, and none of those updates were small ones.
The oldest of my Macs is my Mac Mini, which has been sitting beside my TV since 2010. It’s done solid service over the years, and I’ve kept it youthful by feeding it as much RAM as it will take and performing some mild surgery to replace its hard drive guts with a solid-state alternative. Yet it’s been slow and clunky for some time now, its major services taken over by an Apple TV (along with my iPhone, the one Apple item I use so much that I often forget it exists), with only the lack of a viable upgrade from Apple keeping me from considering a replacement.
Well, yesterday Apple answered the prayers of us Mac Mini devotees and delivered unto us a new machine, sleek in its smallness, patterned in gunmetal grey, and pulsing with barely contained potency. In other words, it’s been so long since the Mac Mini had an upgrade that Apple was able to claim that the new one is five times faster than its predecessor. Which was a good bit faster than my much older version, so this one would blow the doors clean off if I were to opt for it.
Which I won’t. Not yet anyway. Not because I don’t want to—it’s a desirable little chunk of metal and silicon—nor because I can’t afford to—I can, I just know I shouldn’t—but because, as mentioned above, most of its main duties have now been shifted onto the much more suitable (and cheaper) shoulders of the Apple TV. While not a perfect machine in and of itself, the Apple TV is designed to work through a television and does so nicely. To the point where I’ve ditched cable TV in favour of broadband services. In the meantime, my Mac Mini remains as it is, quietly acting as a media server. It’s happy, I’m happy, and one day we shall part, but that is not this day.
I’m sure the new Mac Mini will sell well anyhow. Just not to me right now.
My MacBook Air is a little younger than my Mac Mini, being of 2012 vintage. For all that, it’s still running well and speedily, courtesy of having an SSD from the start. I don’t ask too much of it these days, as the battery has long since left behind the days of offering multiple hours’ service, but when I just need to type something, it’s the go-to machine. It’s also survived an unfortunate encounter with a glass of breakfast orange juice, courtesy of a replacement keyboard and some repair guides from iFixit.com—living to suffer another day.
The MacBook Air has seen more regular updates than the Mac Mini, but in comparison to the Retina screen-enabled rest of the Mac laptop lineup, it’s been something of a red-headed stepchild for a while. Minor processor tweaks have bumped up its speed, but the budget Mac laptop was looking a little dated and cheap before yesterday. Now, though, it has been given the Retina screen users have been crying out for, as well as substantial processor and graphics speed bumps and the new butterfly keyboard that Apple is much enamoured of (though its users are more ambivalent). Available in multiple colour options and with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the MacBook Air finally feels like a modern laptop again.
Not that I’ll be upgrading though. For a start, all the upgrades have seen its price jump to €1,379 for the base model. Less than the ultralight MacBook or the MacBook Pro but no small beans. The price may well come down in time, but for the moment it’s not really a budget option. Second, my iPad Pro has usurped most of my MacBook Air’s functions in daily life. And that’s what I’ll get to below.
Having saved up my pennies, I splashed out on an iPad Pro just over a year ago. This was very deliberately meant to be a laptop replacement—I added a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil to the purchase, and I made sure the device itself had plenty of storage onboard. In the year since, I’ve been more than happy with it. It’s light enough to tote anywhere, powerful enough to handle anything I care to throw at it, has a good enough battery to last for days at a time, and is a serviceable enough typing machine for me to write a NaNoWriMo novel on it last year. All in all, I like it a lot.
This love wasn’t ended by Apple’s announcement of a new iPad Pro yesterday, but maybe it was dented a bit. The new machine is both an upgrade and a refinement: faster and better looking, with the physical Home/Touch ID button removed in favour of a Face ID camera system. The gadget ecosystem has been upgraded too, with a new Smart Keyboard case that provides a better typing experience and better protection and a new Apple Pencil that locks magnetically to the iPad for safekeeping and charging. As is not unusual for an Apple upgrade, everything just feels a little better, a little fresher.
And I won’t be buying one. Of course I won’t—my iPad Pro is only a year old. I’m not crazy! Much though I may envy the improved gubbins that my newly aged device will never provide me with, it does everything I need to it to with aplomb, and nothing other than an excess of cash and a sudden break with reality could persuade me to spend that much on such (ultimately) minor improvements.
Technological envy is a real thing, but patience works as an antidote. The tech you’ve got will serve you well, and the longer you wait, the better the reward when you finally do decide to splash out. Whether it’s for one, six, or eight years, the upgrade urge can be resisted, no matter how well Apple targets its events at you.
*This hasn’t stopped me. I broke open my piggy bank** to add an Apple Watch to my Apple menagerie just three days ago. A review will be forthcoming once I’ve been using it for a while.
**Actually a real thing, but also actually a cow bank. It was a present from a friend. Don’t judge me.