Wednesday, November 9, 2022 Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Today Serif, the company behind the Affinity creative suite of apps, is announcing Version 2 of Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher. In addition, Affinity Publisher 2 is now available on iPad after being a desktop exclusive. Serif is also announcing a new Universal License ownership tier, that gives users access to all Affinity apps across all platforms for one low price.
The Affinity Universal License will normally be available for $169.99, but Serif is offering a special 40% launch discount, affording users with access to the entire V2 suite for just $99.99. This announcement also silences fears that Affinity apps would adopt a subscription model.
Ashley Hewson, Managing Director of Serif, notes:
“The ability to buy for a one-off payment is something that makes Affinity the only viable option for many of the brilliant and inspiring creative people around the world, who would otherwise not have access to the highest-quality tools. There has been a lot of speculation about us moving to subscription recently, so I’m pleased to confirm that isn’t the case!
For our existing customers we have also been very conscious that, considering many of our sales are generated via app stores, it’s not possible to provide upgrade pricing. That’s the main reason we have decided to offer such a large launch discount – giving upgraders a chance to do so at an incredible price.”
Speaking on a personal basis, Affinity Photo and Designer have been two absolute staple Mac and iPad applications that I’ve used daily for the last few years. I’ve been a huge fan of Affinity apps, not only because of the lack of an annoying and pricey monthly subscription fee, but primarily because the apps are extremely good at what they do with no compromises for my particular workflow. I think many Photoshop and Illustrator users will be surprised by just how capable the Affinity Suite is, and now with Affinity Publisher 2 coming to the iPad, InDesign users may have more of a reason to look at Serif’s apps as well.
Serif notes that users who don’t require the full package will still be able to buy each app — Affinity Photo 2, Affinity Designer 2 or Affinity Publisher 2 individually for Mac, PC or iPad with the same 40% launch discount. All products, including the V2 Universal License, are also available as a 30-day free trial.
All new Affinity releases are available now. To purchase individual V2 apps or the V2 Universal License, head over to Serif’s website, and take advantage of the introductory pricing.
As someone who dislikes Adobe’s subscription model, Affinity has been a huge win for me personally. Although a lot more people know about Affinity apps than they used to, I still think there remains a sizable swath of creative users who have no idea how awesome these apps are, and how viable they are as outright Adobe replacements in many circumstances.
But even if you’re educated about what Affinity’s creative apps bring to the table, I think it’s a good idea to purchase the V2 versions at this reasonable price, and support the team at Serif. Without our support, it would not be able to provide such reasonable prices devoid of monthly subscription fees. Let’s show everyone from our support that you don’t have to adopt a subscription model to be a successful software company in 2022.
The Level Lock Plus looks very similar to other products in the company’s portfolio, but this particular smart lock works with Apple’s home key feature that it first introduced in iOS 15. Home keys let you unlock your Level Lock via the NFC radio in your iPhone or Apple Watch. This feature, as I’ve stated many times before, is a downright game-changer for smart locks, and instantly makes the Level Lock Plus worthy of your consideration.
Level was founded by two ex-Apple employees — John Martin, a former VP of the company’s apps division, and Ken Goto, a former senior director of engineering. The Apple design DNA is readily apparent in all of Level’s products, including the Level Lock Plus, which is an improved version of the Level Lock – Touch Edition.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not surprising that design is a priority for Level given the company’s DNA.
Not only is the Level Lock Plus physically small, but it’s also low-key and inconspicuous. Most people, even those steeped in tech, would be hard-pressed to recognize they were looking at a smart lock at first glance, and this is clearly by design.
There are no gaudy keypads (although it’s an option if you want one), no wild designs just for the sake of being different, and perhaps most notably, virtually no branding that the user can see. It’s a high quality device that looks like any normal lock, but it’s deceivingly smart at the same time. With the added convenience of Apple home keys support to unlock doors via NFC using iPhone or Apple Watch, it’s an even more compelling option.
Unlike some of the other smart locks that I’ve tried in the past, installing the Level Lock Plus could not be any easier. The packaging is laid out clearly, and the instructions are direct and straightforward.
As long as your current deadbolt has a smooth throw without needing to push or pull on the door to lock it, installation should be a breeze. If you find that you need to push or pull on your door to lock your existing lock, that could indicate that the door or the jam may have swelled or warped. An automatic smart lock will lack the needed torque to work past this issue. This applies to any smart lock, not just the Level Lock. Fix your door first!
Step 1: Disassemble your current lock, removing the lock housing, deadbolt, and strike plate.
Step 2: Install the Level Lock bolt into your door with words TOP facing upwards. Use a Philips screwdriver to secure the bolt to your door with the bolt plate screws. Slide on the motor and secure it with the connecting screw, and then fasten the strike plate to your door jam with the strike plate screws.
Step 3: On the entry side of the door, with the bolt retracted, thread the tailpiece of the key housing through the center hole in the motor along with each of the mounting stalks. Secure the opposite side of the housing with the included security bolts, then snap on the interior magnetic paddle.
Step 4: Unscrew the bolt cap and insert the CR2 battery with the flat end towards the cap. You should hear a welcome chime indicating that the connections and battery were installed properly.
Using the Level Lock Plus
Download the Level Home app on your iPhone, create an account, and connect your Level Lock. After doing so, you’ll be prompted to configure your Level Lock Plus using the Home app.
There are a lots of ways to unlock your door using the Level Lock Plus. These methods include the following:
Level Home app via Bluetooth
NFC-enabled key cards
Touch to Unlock / Auto Unlock
Home app tiles, and automation
Apple home key
Keypad (sold separately)
In my video walkthrough above, I demonstrate many of the methods for unlocking and locking your door using Level Lock Plus. Of course the normal Siri/Home app control is present, alongside lock controls baked into the company’s own Level Home app. But I also appreciate having the ability to use regular old hardware keys. This is great for household members that aren’t able (or willing) to adapt to new technology. Watch the video to hear my commentary on each unlocking method.
Level recently noted to the Verge that a firmware update is in the works to add Matter support over Thread, and that’s big news. This will open up the Level Lock Plus to more ecosystems outside of the current HomeKit and Amazon Sidewalk platforms:
Today, the Lock Plus (like all of Level’s locks) only works with Apple Home and Ring, but Level confirmed to The Verge that all its locks will be updated to support Matter-over-Thread, which will throw open the gates to any compatible smart home platform, including Google Home and Samsung SmartThings.
Indeed, there are many ways to unlock the Level Lock Plus, but one of the primary reasons why you’d consider this lock over most other smart locks on the market is because it supports NFC-enabled Apple home key. With home key, all you need to do is tap to unlock your Level Lock Plus with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Apple home key is the same technology that I raved about in my previous review of the Schlage Encode Plus. Schlage’s offering is the only other smart lock that I’ve been able to test with home key support, and I was blown away by how well it worked.
I have the similar feelings about using home keys with the Level Lock Plus. Just tap the lock with your iPhone or Apple Watch, and your door is unlocked in just a few seconds. Home key, by default, requires users to identify using Face ID or passcode, but enabling Express Mode lets home keys work faster without authenticating.
Another feature that Express Mode enables is the ability to use home key even when your iPhone needs to be charged. Thanks to a battery reserve that keeps the NFC radio available, you won’t be locked out of your house just because you forgot to charge you iPhone.
In a recent video, YouTuber LockPickingLawyer showed that the Level Lock Plus is extremely easy to pick using a rake tool or access via a simple bump key and hammer method. While this is somewhat concerning given the $329 price point of this lock, I have a slightly more measured take when it comes to lock security.
In my opinion, locks are primarily there to give homeowners peace of mind, and prevent someone from simply opening your door and walking inside. If someone really wants inside, they could simply break a window. That’s not to ignore the fact that Level did not include a more robust cylinder inside its flagship product, but, as shown by LockPickingLawyer, many consumer grade locks can be picked with the right tools. That being said, as Level notes in its FAQ, a user could have the Level Lock Plus rekeyed by a locksmith with a more robust cylinder if they wanted to, but it would have been nice if it shipped with a more fortified cylinder to begin with.
After using Apple home key, I’d never recommend a smart lock again that didn’t support the feature — it’s just that good. That leaves few options, as of now, for home key-enabled smart locks.
The aforementioned Schlage Encode Plus (if you can find it) is a great option, although its design is the polar opposite of what Level is doing. With Schlage’s offering, it includes a keypad along with a design that makes it clear that it’s a smart lock. There’s not anything wrong with that design route, but it’s anything but inconspicuous.
With the Level Lock Plus, you get the most important home key feature, but you also get a design that’s decidedly minimalistic and normal looking. It gives you the latest and greatest smart lock technology in Apple home key support, while looking like a regular lock that you might scoop up from a spur-of-the-moment weekend visit to Home Depot.
If Schlage’s Lock were readily available and I could pick between the two, I’d probably learn more towards Schlage’s offering due to its built-in keypad and stronger reputation as far as security is concerned. The Level Lock Plus is, in my opinion, the better looking lock, but after using both I’d say that the Schlage Encode Plus just edges out the Level Lock Plus.
At any rate, if you prefer the look and design of the Level Lock Plus, I don’t think you can go wrong with it. It’s a solid lock option right now for those in the Apple ecosystem, and it will get better as future firmware updates are released.
Design – Extremely low key and unassuming design, looks like a normal lock.
Battery level – More granular battery level readings would be helpful.
Installation – Full install can be finished in just minutes.
Sound – Could benefit from even quieter lock/unlock confirmation sound options.
Hardware key – Non-techies will appreciate having a simple hardware key.
Security– Easily picked, according to some sources, but lock can be rekeyed for enhanced security.
Home Key – A game-changing technology that is a must-have for modern smart locks.
Thread/Matter support – Level will update the Lock Plus to support Matter over Thread.
After launching iOS 16.1 to the public, Apple quickly followed up with the initial iOS 16.2 last week. iOS 16.2 brings lots of new changes and features to the table. In this hands-on video walkthrough, I discuss new changes to the Home architecture, the new Freeform app, Siri upgrades, Weather app enhancements, and much more. Watch the video, and be sure to subscribe to Cellular for more hands-on coverage of iOS 16.2.
One of my favorite new features relates to Safari. When using iCloud+ Private Relay feature, you can now disable it directly within Safari on a one-off basis. This makes it so that when visiting websites where the experience is degraded due to iCloud Private Relay, users can quickly disable it to solve issues.
To disable iCloud Private Relay directly from Safari in iOS 16.2, simply tap the ‘Aa’ website settings button, and tap the Turn Off Hide IP Address option. You’ll then get a prompt alerting you that the website and your network provider will be able to see your IP address until you reload the tab or go to another website.
Keep in mind that this option will only appear in website settings if you have Private Relay enabled via Settings → iCloud → Private Relay.
There are, of course, many additional new changes and features in iOS 16.2, but this is one that stood out to me. Watch the full video walkthrough embedded above as I step though each new feature in-depth.
Tuesday, November 1, 2022 Friday, November 18, 2022
Nomad just launched its newest case for the iPhone 14, the low profile and ultra-thin Super Slim Case. Available in two colors — Carbide Gray and Frost — this case provides iPhone 14 users with a way to protect their phones while maintaining the phone’s form factor.
50% recycled materials
Premium & grippy matte finish
360º coverage with chamfered cutouts for buttons and ports
I recently got my hands on both the Carbide Gray and Frost Super Slim cases and I shot a video which I will post later this week on Cellular’s YouTube channel. In the meantime, I took a few vanity photos to show off the case when mated with my Space Black iPhone 14 Pro.
Both cases look good, and to be honest, I’m not sure which color I prefer most. I like the Frost Gray colorway primarily because it’s translucent. This design allows you to see the Apple logo, with the Space Black iPhone combining to provide an almost metallic look. The Carbide Gray colorway also looks good and pairs nicely with the Space Black camera housing and black bezels.
I found the Super Slim case to be fairly grippy, as Nomad states, although it’s not as grippy as the stainless steel band on the iPhone 14 Pro models. I was impressed by the accuracy of the button and port cutouts, as they feature a chamfered design for an even more precise fit.
There’s only so much you can say about a case, but for those of you that desire a measure of protection without the bulk, then the Super Slim Case is a good minimalistic option. It’ll protect your iPhone’s camera housing, protect the rear of the device from scratches, and provide a measure of protection from drops and dings on the corners. Obviously you won’t get the same amount of protection that you’ll get from more fortified options, but you’ll need to make that tradeoff if you want one of the most low profile case options for the iPhone 14.