Jackery Titan S with USB C MacBook Review

If there’s one thing USB C has over MagSafe it’s the lack of licensing required for third party charging solutions. Since getting the original USB C MacBook I immediately discovered that it would happily trickle charge or at the very least use less net battery power while plugged into USB 2 chargers with appropriate cabling. Now, finally, I’m testing a third party device specifically for charging the MacBook.

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The Good

  • Passthrough charging. You can use the battery as a charging hub while it is plugged in.
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge standard USB port spits out 18W, which you can use to charge the MacBook with via a USB A to C cable
  • Single USB C port is bidirectional just as you’d expect.

The Bad

  • 15-18W Max means it doesn’t have quite enough power to provide a net charge to the MacBook under heavy load such as rendering with a mostly dead battery.
  • Auto Shutoff, which is an important safety feature in light of what Samsung has been going through lately, may kick in before a completely dead MacBook or iPad Pro 12.9″ is completely recharged.
  • No Flashlight like the Jackery Giant has. Not a deal breaker, but it’s nice to have an extra use case for this giant battery.

Not taken into account

  • Weight: Batteries weigh what they weigh.

On the Road

The math says that this should be able to charge a MacBook almost 4 times or about 2 times for the 12.9″ iPad Pro (did you know the iPad Pro 12.9″ had twice the battery of a MacBook? I didn’t until I looked it up for this review). Or 6 iPhone 7 Plus charges or 12 iPhone SE charges. Depending on what you’re needing it for, it’s extremely plausible that you could use it for an entire week without needing to find an outlet.

I know it seems trivial, but the fact that you can use the battery as a USB charging hub while it is plugged in is extremely convenient. I took an Anker Powercore to WWDC with me and it had this limitation, meaning I could not top everything off at once at the hotel without finding additional outlets. For this singular reason I’m demoting the Anker behind the Titan for situations where I could handle the weight of one of them but not both (such as a conference). As an aside, I would like to point out that unlike academic conferences power was plentiful at WWDC. I never had to fight for a seat with an outlet and believe me WWDC is crowded.

The Qualcomm port is awesome if you have a device that can use it. I don’t, unfortunately as Apple has not yet developed a similar feature. I will note that rapid charge can count as putting an extra charge cycle on the receiving battery so I’m not sure how much I really want this feature until that’s been resolved.

I can’t overstate how delightfully simple the bidirectional nature of USB C is. It frustrates me how much of an Alphabet Soup of cable types have to travel with me considering they’re all USB.

Overall my only complaints are that while 15W is plenty to charge a MacBook while using it, it’s still less than the Maximum theoretical draw of 30W. If you’re going to charge a MacBook and an iOS device I recommend you connect the iOS device to one of the other ports on the device instead of to something like the Digital Multiport Adapter connected to the MacBook. If you try to debug an iPad while using the battery as a power source you may see either the MacBook and/or the iPad in the dreaded “battery is not charging” state where you may not be losing any battery power but you’re not recharging either.

If Jackery is listening (this is not a review unit. I’ll disclose up front if I ever review something I’ve received for such purposes) I’d like to see a flashlight in this model with WARM white LEDs and a new version with only USB C ports on it. Way of the future.

Recommendation: Obvious Buy for owners of USB-C charging MacBooks, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. There isn’t too much competition in the native USB-C space yet and giant batteries are a scary product to buy from a no name company but I’ve come to trust Jackery products not to burst into flames.

Reflecting on WWDC16

  • San Francisco has a homeless problem and the route between Bill Graham and Moscone (which I took daily because of my hotel location) is a route that exemplifies it.
  • The first time I heard Tim Cook speak in person it was to call for a moment of silence. It’s a powerful memory.
  • I couldn’t find a bagel that was boiled, they were essentially round breads with a hole in them.
  • Poke (the Hawaiian preparation of sushi) is amazing.We ate as much as possible as often as possible.
  • Tech celebrities are cool in person. I met Marco Arment, David_Smith, John Siracusa, Federico Viticci, Aleen Simms, James Thomson, and Rene Ritchie.
  • Labs are where it’s at, but some labs obviously have session pre-requisites. Every Engineer I spoke to was wonderful and helpful.
  • The convention center is full of Apple Retail employees from around the country doing various tasks. I asked them on Friday if that’s where they were from and they told me no one had asked them (I asked a very large group).
  • Diversity is shit at Apple but not as bad as it was among attendees. Attendees had more racial diversity, Apple had more gender diversity, but both were bad. When I chose to line up for sessions I would pass the time counting the distance between women in line.
  • My hotel WiFi was not insufficient for loading a Beta between the keynote and the State of the Union, perhaps because no one else thought of this.
  • Moscone WiFi was pretty good but fell down while in lines for sessions, but both AT&T and Verizon held up (there are apparently microcells inside Moscone). Also, as you may know about me, I use an AT&T iPhone and a Verizon iPad when traveling.
  • Moscone lunch boxes were fine. I found a few that were within my dietary restrictions. The meals for dietary restrictions (if you checked off any on the pre conference survey) were great too.
  • I still hate every step involved in flying.

Tablet Inc.

It seems the iPad can’t catch a break. While I buy new ones often, most people I talk to are still on their first iPad, and unless it’s an iPad 1, they’re still entirely supported devices. For all the “planned obsolescence” Apple is accused of doing with their phones they’ve gone way too far in the opposite direction with iPads. They Last. Forever. With up to date OSes and Apps, they continue to be able to browse the modern web (slowly), play games (at 12 fps), and watch Netflix. This is unfortunately also the domain of practically free Android and Amazon tablets. When those iPad 2’s hardware starts falling apart, they might turn to Amazon for a replacement $49 Netflix-while-cooking device.

That doesn’t mean it’s all doom for the iPad. It also doesn’t mean they can’t make some marketing changes either.

A key step in getting people to love their iPads enough to never defect to any Netflix capable tablet of sufficient size is pushing cellular. Imagine sitting in the park, using the pencil the draw the sunset, and your Watch goes off to tell you something – the dreaded “view this message on your phone”. When you’re at home on the couch, you would just slide over Messages and look and reply, but when you try that you get nothing. Your iPad isn’t connected to the internet. Carriers are doing a decent job of pushing tablets (they’re usually $10 a month to add to a contract and $100 off MSRP) but Apple isn’t telling the story WHY you wan’t that cellular iPad. Maybe it’s time to stop charging for it now that there is a single LTE model that handles all bands. Make the iPad brand synonymous with going places. Not just your couch, but other people’s couches, park benches, AirPorts where the WiFi is too congested to work, etc. This also requires a branding push from iCloud.

In addition to knocking off the cellular premium, it’s also time for bundling devices on payment plans. If you get credit approved, you should be able to get a new iPhone, Watch, and iPad for a slight discount (basically just comping Apple Care Plus on the extra devices beyond the phone).

With prices hidden by payment plans, it’s time to get rid of the 3 size tiers. Make the choice simpler by offering just a 64 and a 256GB option. 64GB is plenty for everyone, but if you know you’re going to be big on video and gaming you can opt for the 256GB.

There’s a ton that needs to be done with developer relations. Many of them are very chicken-egg scenarios but someone has to move first, it might as well be Apple. I think something that hasn’t been talked to death (like trials and upgrade pricing) is to announce the deprecation of AppKit and UIKit and announce their consolidated successor (which realistically could just be UIKit). Not some janky preprocessor consolidation like SKColor where you still occasionally run into the huge differences between NSColor and UIColor. An actual from the ground up UI Framework that _is_ the same on iOS and OS X, not just sometimes looks the same (I’m looking at you, NSPopover). Hopefully apps will flow in both directions.

WWDC ’16 Wishlist

UIKit for Mac. UXKit style macros like SKColor would be annoying. I’d rather just have UIKit.

Process per Finder window/tab or any other Finder improvements that would prevent lockup when a [usually network] disk goes awry.

SKTriangleNode. SKShapeNode is heavy and so is drawing geometry with squares. Seriously. Just triangles. That’s all I want. I’d settle for Quads assuming proper quads, but c’mon those are just two triangles glued together just give me triangles already.

Xcode for iOS. Please don’t be 12″ iPad only and please don’t be Swift only. Whatever we get, I’ll probably trash Unity immediately.

Debugging over Bluetooth. We’ve needed this one for a long time.

iAd – either a formal burial or interstitials on par with AdColony and Unity Ads. iAds aren’t crashy. I want iAd to succeed.

Dark Mode for iOS. I’d also like to see them take another stab at UIAppearance.


lol I didn’t get any of this

Fun with Safari Content Blockers

I spent about 15 minutes writing a Safari content blocker with exactly one rule: no external javascript.

Most websites loaded instantly and scrolled much smoother. If Apple could somehow add this feature to iOS 5 it could breathe new life into original iPads or hell it could breathe new life into PowerPC Macs.

There were some casualties, of course. Some sites and services (Facebook, Twitter, Slack, parts of Youtube, some tumblr themes) use externally hosted javascript to render feeds. On iOS this is inconsequential since most of those services are typically accessed via apps, but I did notice direct links to posts often worked just fine and weren’t dependent on javascript spaghetti.

Because I believe that sites that fall apart using this blocker rule are following bad web practices and because there are plenty of ways to waste server resources with ads instead of my clients’, I’m going to continue using the block, and I’m going to release it. Look for LemonBlock this fall. 🚫🍋

A Night with iOS 9 on an iPad Air 2

Last night I joined the ranks of iOS developers who have since WWDC picked up an iPad Air 2 to make sure we’re understanding the 2 app paradigm and testing properly for it. After only one night (after all I can only use my apps and Apple’s apps in split screen) I’ve already formed some opinions.

I am an iPad mini preferrer and was thoroughly annoyed by this last fall’s “update” which in iOS 9 does NOT gain simultaneous split screen apps but only pull-over apps. I tried this on an A7 powered retina mini and performance is a little on the painful side, even for a beta 1. Then I saw user videos of their iPad Air 2s not stuttering even while running two apps AND a PIP video. My just purchased Air 2 behaves similarly smooth. The only thing that isn’t is the new app switcher but using two apps plus a PIP video is incredibly smooth.

I found nothing ambiguous about the implementation of split screen apps. The left app is the primary and controlled by the home button switcher. The left is handled with gestures. I really liked it. It seemed far less ridiculous than how Windows 8 works, although I’ll admit I haven’t checked out any of the more recent Windows 10 Betas.

Like the split screen feature on the Mac, Safari is a little weird about this. If the webpage you’re on has a proper meta viewport=device-width header, the feature works as expected. If it doesn’t, however, it scales down a 1024pt wide viewport which can be uncomfortably small. Since the iPad and Mac continue to send their normal User Agent Strings while this feature is being used (I think) it looks like we have to hope and pray that our favorite websites finally get onboard with using CSS3 to do responsive design and stop relying on user agent sniffing.

Even as thin as light as it is, the iPad Air is still really big with really big text even on the smallest setting (I use the smallest setting on my mini so that’s what I’m used to) and I find I get slight motion sickness if I use it closer than arms length, so I’m going to be really bummed if there’s no updated mini this fall.

Returning to the Square


Late this weekend before the event, the mythical 1-USB-C port retina 12″ MacBook was downgraded to “unlikely”. I’m glad that was dead wrong (although to be fair they won’t be shipping for a month). The most surprising thing (after all the leaks of course) is the name. MacBook. No Suffix. In hindsight it’s of course obvious, but doing forward, what does this mean for the larger Air (and the non-retina Pro for that matter)? If they’re both retired the laptops move back to Steve’s Apple product matrix: iBook, PowerBook, iMac, PowerMac; consumer / pro on one axis, desktop/laptop on the other. It was perfect.

Really, I only have one little disappointment with the MacBook as it was introduced, and luckily this problem can probably be fixed. I would have liked to see Apple through a few USB ports on the power brick. This has less to do with plugging too many things into my MacBook and more about not wanting to have to find three power outlets in a hotel to charge it, my iPhone, and my Watch.

Some day in the future, maybe iPhones will change to type C, or at the very least, Apple will offer iPhone and Watch cables with Type C at the other end, and then I can just buy a third party accessory with enough power to charge all 3. Until then it’s going to be a little tangly in my bag while traveling overnight.

Apple Mini Stores

I was present for the opening of the Bridgewater Apple Mini Store (and in addition to a t-shirt it’s when I bought my 4th Gen iPod to replace my defunct original, after not winning one as a door prize). While in reality the mini stores were mostly just a way of Apple saying “this was the biggest space in this mall we really want to be in” I like to imagine what a Genius Bar only sized store would be like. Could the Apple Store experienced be offered in a format that only has the walkup bar and backroom stock only of troubleshooting items (mostly cables, power adapters, and they would try to push an Apple case or smart cover on you). Would it be better to call it an Apple Service Center? Would it actually be a service center or just a place that has enough iPhones to swap your broken one with while they deal with mailing yours? However limited the experience, it would probably be better than visiting a carrier store.

Why isn’t there a real Kindle Phone?

Shortcomings aside, there are two things I absolutely love about my Kindle PaperWhites and Voyage: They work outside and they last forever.

They even fit in my man pockets.

I’ve always wondered why a slightly different aspect ratio Kindle with 3G isn’t Amazon’s phone. It would have excellent battery life. It would work outside. Presumably Amazon could figure out how to make data and voice included with Prime (since using a ton of data would be difficult if restricted to GSM 3G and what you could do with e ink).

While the fire phone barely even had a chance against Android, an all day phone that’s also a damn good reader (and frustrating browser but I know I could write good weather app) would seriously make me reconsider my iPhone. If the contract was baked into prime, I bet a lot of people in the Apple camp who love their Kindles would pony-up for it and use both simultaneously until it was time to renew their AT&T – and then they would have to make a choice.

There’s no question this would also be a better throwaway phone for people who just don’t want a smartphone.

I can’t believe I’m excited about the “no ports” 12″ Retina Air thing

after reading Jason Snell’s article I’m actually extremely excited about the idea of a 12″ Retina Air thingie with “no” ports on it, because of one hypothetical quip he makes “Yeah, your power plug is also your USB plug, get used to it.”

These days I never have anything plugged into my MacBook Pro except power, maybe headphones, and the Lightning cable to the iOS device I’m debugging on. I actually wouldn’t mind swapping power for debugging nearly as much I would hate to loose simultaneous charging off of one outlet.

A standard USB female plug and the wall plug would solve the charging issue at expense of putting the device in a good location for actual use, but if Apple continues to make the adapter break out into the grounded portion of the plug mid way then this is less bad.

Of course it is worth pointing out that I have no complaints with the current 11″ other than the huge unused bezel and that lack of retina… but mine is the original model and it’s way too slow.

This will likely be Apple’s least upgradable machine ever – like iPad territory, so I hope the RAM has a 16GB option.

I maintain my prediction that this is a step into actually reducing the product line to only 3 machines; 12″ 13″ 15″, Air, regular, and Pro, all retina. Air is lighter and missing ports, Pro has the dGPU.