A Weekend with the iPhone X

Post by Mark

Thursday night I picked up my iPhone X from Digits in Marina Mall. They’d given me early access to buy one so that I could review it on the blog, but they made me promise that I wouldn’t turn it on until Friday morning 8AM. Apple is pretty strict with these things so I understood their concern. I know someone who had gotten an iPhone X a few days earlier, and when they turned it on, Apple sent the authorized reseller he had gotten the phone from a warning that they had 2 hours to shut it down or else. I wasn’t in a rush, I didn’t mind waiting till the next morning to play with the iPhone X, I was just glad I had my hands on one and didn’t have to wait in any line to get it.

I’m not the kind of person that upgrades phones every year, I was actually using an iPhone 6S until last week and was perfectly fine with it until my company handed me an iPhone 8. The iPhone X is the first iPhone in years that I’ve really wanted, and after using it over the weekend, here are my first impressions:

No Home Button
The iPhone X no longer has a home button and I was worried it would take time to get used to the new swipe up to go home gesture. But, I got used to it within the first few minutes of using the phone. To me it feels natural and so much slicker and faster than clicking down on the home button. So goodbye home button, you won’t be missed.

Face ID
This is probably my favorite feature in the iPhone X. It just works. The best way to describe it is that it’s as if your phone doesn’t have a passcode. To unlock your phone, you pick it up and then you swipe up to go home. Super simple, super fast. If for some reason your phone doesn’t wake up when you pick it up, you just tap the screen to wake it up and then swipe up. Again super fast. But Face ID has other advantages than just using it to log into your phone. When I get to a website that asks me to log in with my username and password, the phone checks my face and when it recognizes me automatically fills in my username and password. Another cool feature of Face ID is with notifications. When you get say a whatsapp message on your phone, you won’t see a preview. Pick up the phone and Face ID will recognize you and then show you a preview of the whatsapp messages [Example]. That’s a really smart feature because it means you can leave your phone out in the open and not worry about anyone reading your notification previews, but it also means you yourself can still read those previews. If you’re also wondering, Face ID works under different lighting so if you’re in complete darkness or out under bright sunlight, Face ID will still be able to read your face. Face ID was still able to read my face even though I had sun glasses on and even when my face was half stuffed deeply into my pillow.

The Screen
It’s huge and I’m loving it so far mostly because the blacks are so black. One of the biggest advantages of OLED screens (which is what the iPhone X uses) is the blacks are pure black. That’s because unlike LCD’s, to get the color black on an OLED screen it shuts off the pixels that are supposed to be black. So black is parts of the screen not lit up. Am I making sense? Imagine a room with no windows and one light bulb, to turn the room black you just turn off the bulb. No light = complete darkness = black. The “notch” on top of the screen isn’t annoying at all by the way, in fact I barely notice it. I mean its there, but it doesn’t hinder the experience of using the phone in any way. For those of you who are also concerned that not all apps are yet adapted to take full advantage of the iPhone X, from all the apps I use I think only 2 or 3 still display a black border on top and the bottom of the screen. The rest of my apps all display full screen and so it’s not really a big issue, and whatever apps don’t display in full screen I’m expecting them to by their next update.

Wireless Charging
I picked up a Belkin Qi charger from Xcite for around KD6 and have it on my bedside table. I noticed compared to the iPhone 8 the iPhone X has a larger wireless charging sweet spot. With the iPhone 8 it wouldn’t always start charging when I placed it on the charger but I haven’t had that issue with the iPhone X. If like me you use a magnetic mount for the phone it can still work with wireless charging. I have the metal plate sandwiched between my silicone cover and the phone, but I moved the plate all the way to the bottom of the phone and turned it sideways. That way the center of the phone is clear and the metal plate won’t interfere with charging.

Size vs iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 and X are virtually the same size. The iPhone X is slightly taller and thicker but too minor to even notice.

The Camera
Finally the camera, probably the most important aspect of the phone for me. I was always jealous of iPhone Plus owners since they had two lenses on their phones, the regular wide one and a more zoomed in one. Other than the added advantage of being able to zoom in closer to a subject (while maintaining the image quality), having two lenses allowed Apple to create the “portrait mode” feature in which it blurs the background making it look like it was shot with a DSLR. The iPhone Plus is too big a phone for me so I never considered getting it, but the iPhone X has the same camera system as the plus, with more features like a brighter aperture (f/2.4 vs f/2.8) and optical image stabilisation for both lenses not just the wide one. I haven’t really taken that many shots with it, just a few of my brothers cats and some of my friends and so far I really am loving the portrait mode.

So yeah as you can tell, I’m really loving the iPhone X so far. Although it was a big chunk of change to spend on just a phone, I think its worth it. If you’re looking to pick one up, Digits sold out their stock on launch, but are getting another shipment in around a weeks time. They currently have a waiting list so you can go and reserve a phone. The prices of the 64GB version is KD353 and the 256GB version KD405. A friend also just picked up a phone from Zain this morning but I think you have to sign up to a plan or something to get it (i.e. don’t think you can just straight up buy it from them).


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iPhone X out in Kuwait this Friday

Post by Mark

Digits(an Apple Authorized Reseller) will have the the iPhone X available to purchase at all their stores this coming Friday, November 3 at 8AM. They’ll be selling the iPhone X at the following prices:

iPhone X 64GB – 352.9KD
iPhone X 256GB – 404.9KD

The phones will be sold at their following locations:

Marina Mall – Salmiya
The Avenues – Rai
Yaal Mall – Fahaheel

They have a limited number so it’s first come first served.


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The iPhone 8 is Out in Kuwait

Post by Mark

The iPhone 8 just went on sale a few days ago in the States and its already available in Kuwait. Since it hasn’t officially been released in Kuwait yet the prices as expected are pretty ridiculous at the moment. Here are some of the current prices:

Best Electronics
iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: KD400

Blink
iPhone 8 256GB: KD315
iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: KD400

Eureka
iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: KD300

Mobile 2000
iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: KD300

The official Kuwait prices in comparison are as follows:

iPhone 8 64GB: KD245
iPhone 8 256GB: KD297
iPhone 8 Plus 64GB: KD278
iPhone 8 Plus 256GB: KD332

A bunch of places have pre-orders for the official release including Xcite and Jarir. The expected release date is September 30th.

If you’re hoping to get your hands on the iPhone X then you’re going to have to wait a bit longer since the iPhone X is scheduled to be launched in the US on November 3rd.

Thanks Frankom


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Will the Apple Watch with Cellular Work in Kuwait?

Post by Mark

Last week Apple released the series 3 Apple Watch and introduced the option of having cellular connectivity. Unlike with phones, the Apple Watch won’t use a regular sim card but instead uses what Apple calls the eSIM, which is a digital sim card. So will it work in Kuwait? No, it won’t, not for now at least.

According to my contact at one of the local telecoms, the eSIM technology is not yet available in Kuwait. This means if you do order the Apple Watch with LTE, you won’t be able to benefit from the cellular function for the moment, not until the local operators start supporting eSIM technology (I wasn’t given a timeframe to when that might happen).

If you’re also thinking of buying the LTE version now in hopes of being able to use it later once the local operators get eSIM, then you need to make sure you get the correct version. Kuwait uses the LTE frequency bands 4 and 5 and different versions of the Apple Watch support different bands. Check out the chart below which I took from iMore:

So if you want to get the LTE version from now, your best option is to order the watch from the States since it supports both frequency bands 4 and 5. The UK version for example just supports 5 which means you’ll only be able to use it with Ooredoo (if this source is correct). My guess is that local operators are currently scrambling to get eSIM fast so they could say they’re the first, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get eSIM support by early next year. But thats a guess…


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To Touch Bar or Not to Touch Bar

Post by Mark

Yesterday Apple updated their MacBook Pro lineup and so I decided to post a quick update on my experience with the Touch Bar. If you’re trying to decide if you should get the MacBook Pro with or without the Touch Bar, this is my quick feedback after using it for nearly 6 months, it’s worth getting.

Since I got the MacBook Pro I’ve been experimenting with it a lot, customizing it to my liking and trying to understand how to make best use of it. After 6 months, I’ve basically resorted to using it as a secondary display, and I like that. For the past few months I’ve been using my Touch Bar with the setup you can see in the image above. I have half of the Touch Bar working as a stock ticker keeping me posted constantly on how my stocks are doing, while the other half dedicated to my music controls and an emoji shortcut button. The area further to the right of that can’t be customized and includes Apple mandatory shortcuts like volume control, screen brightness, spotlight shortcut etc..

I’ve customized my Touch Bar to permanently display the above information in nearly every application since I realized I wasn’t using the default shortcuts that apps would display. Some programs like FaceTime I leave it at the applications default display since I like the information thats displayed, in FaceTime’s case the amount of time I’ve been on the call for. I actually like how customizable the Touch Bar is although I’m using the third part software BetterTouchTool to be able to do that.

So if you’re trying to decide if you should get the Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro or not, I’d personally recommend you get the Touch Bar version. Other than making your laptop look a lot more futuristic and different from the MacBook you’re replacing (I’m assuming you already own a MacBook), the Touch Bar does have functionality and you’ll love the ability to customize it. Want it to display the name of the song you’re listening to? You can do that. Want it to have custom shortcuts? You can do that. It’s really flexible so if you like to tinker and personalize stuff you’ll love it.


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Should you get a new iPad? Yes!

Post by Mark

Recently I bought a new iPad, the iPad Pro 9.7″ specifically. I wasn’t planning to, but someone had a brand new unopened iPad Pro in my classifieds section listed for KD120, and it was just too good of a deal to pass up. I had a third generation iPad from 2012 which I had been using occasionally and like most people who own iPads, I really didn’t think I needed to get the new one. I just didn’t think there would be that big of a difference but damn I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The difference in experience between my old iPad 3 and the new iPad Pro is ridiculously huge, I’m not sure where to begin even.

Probably the most noticeable difference between my old iPad and the new one is the speed. I used to find my old iPad sluggish especially when browsing and opening new tabs which is what I was using it mostly for, but I didn’t realize how slow and sluggish it was until I started using the new iPad. Launching apps is now instant and the speed which websites load and tabs open up is just as fast. Tabs would actually load in the background now while before they’d only load when in the foreground. It’s a little thing but it makes surfing the web a lot quicker.

Another thing that stuck out for me was the multitasking ability. My iPad 3 didn’t support the new iOS 10 and all the cool features that come with it like AirDrop and multitasking. So once I got the new iPad and started multitasking I realized how much of a big difference it makes especially if you’re like me and like to do a bunch of things at the same time. I can now browse reddit, check twitter and stream Hulu all at the same time with just a few swipes (pictured above). It’s so easy to do as well, if you want to load up another app on the side, you just swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left and that’s it, you’ve now got two apps running side by side. If I wanted to attempt the same on my MacBook Pro it would involve more steps and the end result wouldn’t look as good.

The faster speed and multitasking ability alone would have made getting the new iPad worth it, but there are a few more things I liked as well. Compared to my old iPad the new one is so much thinner and lighter so its so much more enjoyable when using in bed. The ability to use Apple’s smart keyboard is also a huge plus. I picked up a new Apple Smart Keyboard for just $80 on eBay and I love it. Most of the time I use it as a protective cover but whenever I need to type something I just fold out the keyboard and start typing. No need to wait for Bluetooth to connect or to make sure my keyboard is charged, it just works right away all the time. If I could draw for shit, I’d also pick up the Apple Pencil but I can’t so I won’t.

Basically, if you have an old iPad it really is worth upgrading to the newer models especially if you’re still running iOS 9. I’ve started using my iPad a lot more now and I can’t believe it took me this long to get one.


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Local Phone Apps I Use

Post by Mark

iphone6-2

Someone suggested I put together a list of all the local apps I use so I’ve listed them below. Any local app I should be using which isn’t on the list? Let me know!

NBK: They’re my bank and so I don’t have an option except to use their app but it’s actually a pretty good one. Quick to login with just my fingerprint, the app looks good and I can perform all my banking from within it. The only thing I can’t do is add new beneficiaries for money transfers. I still need to login to their website and add it from there the old fashioned way.

Talabat: Not a big fan of talabat, not a big fan of their app either. I literally have it installed and use it just so I could order from CHKN. That’s it.

Carriage: Although they charge a KD1 delivery charge, it’s the only way to order from some of my favorite places like JOA and DOH! Plus you can track the status of your order and watch the delivery guy get lost on your way to your house via GPS tracking.

MyFatoorah: I use this app to invoice clients and sometimes friends. Easier than having people add me as a beneficiary to their bank account, they can just transfer money to me by paying me with Knet.

Xcite: I don’t use the app to shop from, but more as tool whenever I am trying to find out the price of an item locally.

4Sale: Worst app design but also the only way to access the best classifieds website in Kuwait. I tend to just use it to flip through the cars category always looking for something interesting on sale.

Klean: It’s a laundry service app but they also clean sneakers so I only tend to use this app when I need my sneakers cleaned.

Alive Yoga: Since I’m a member at Alive, I use the app to check the schedule of classes and to sign up. It’s pretty good plus once you sign up, the app can add your class to your phone calendar so you don’t forget.

Other Notable Mentions:

SnappCard: Used to be one of my favorite apps but after their last update, they now force you to review your previous order before you can use the app again. Imagine if Talabat did this, forced you to review a restaurant every time after placing an order and not allowing you to use the app until you do. I deleted the app obviously.

Burgan Bank: Also my bank, terrible app, looks like something from the 90s. Very limited with what I can do in the app but thankfully they recently added fingerprint login and so one positive thing about it.

Go Tap: I used to use this app to buy iTunes cards from before I connected my iTunes account directly to my US credit card.

iBadala: A phone directory app, rarely use it anymore since I just google things but it’s still on my phone just in case.


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My Current Favorite iPhone Repair Shop

Post by Mark

Every so often something happens to my iPhone and I end up having to head to Hawalli to get it repaired. For the past two years I’ve been going to a place called U.S. Workshop and I didn’t really think they were that special, until recently. A couple of weeks ago I broke my iPhone screen again but this time I really wasn’t in the mood to drive to Hawalli, so I called up FixAid and had them come over and replace my screen at home. When the repair guy handed me the phone, the color tone of my screen was very blue, but I thought maybe it was just my eyes getting adjusted to a crackless screen. Then for the next couple of days the touch screen was being weird and unresponsive. Since they have a 10 day warranty period, I took the phone back to FixAid and explained to them the problem. We tried another screen on and ended up facing a similar issue with the screen color so I told them I didn’t want it anymore and they were professional enough to refund me the money minus a service charge.

I took the cash and headed to U.S. Workshop in Hawalli. They always ask you what kind of quality screen you want to replace it with, the low quality for KD20 or the high quality KD30 screen? (I have an iPhone 6s). I went with the KD30 screen which is basically identical to the original iPhone screen color tone wise and responsiveness. Once I got my phone back and realized it was perfect again I told them how I used a home service because I didn’t want to drive down to Hawalli all the time. Thats when I found out they also offer home service as well for an extra KD5 charge. So, below are the details in case you ever need an iPhone/iPad repair shop.

Location: Bin Khaldoun Street, around 3 buildings after Blink, inside the building before KFH. There are some steep steps you climb up to get into the building, thats how you’ll recognize it. [Google Maps]

Telephone: 22610042


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MacBook Pro Touch Bar Update

Post by Mark

When I posted my MacBook Pro review a couple of weeks back I mentioned that the Touch Bar was still new and people were still trying to figure out what it could be useful for. Well I think people are starting to figure it out. One thing I found out since I published that post was that the app BetterTouchTool supported the Touch Bar. I already had BetterTouchTool installed and had been using it for years because it allowed me to customize my trackpad gestures. Now it also allows you to customize the Touch Bar which is useful because some apps like Chrome don’t support the Touch Bar yet.

So using BetterTouchTool I started creating useful buttons for the Touch Bar I could use when in Chrome. Then the developer added the ability to display the date and battery life time remaining information in the Touch Bar. When he did that I realized it would be super useful if I could display my Spotify track names in the Touch Bar while I was browsing in Chrome. So I contacted the developer and requested that feature and sure enough, a few days later, BetterTouchTool got the ability to display what track was playing in the Touch Bar. The picture on top is of my current Chrome Touch Bar setup, I have a button to take me in and out of full screen mode, a button to view my download list, a button for incognito mode, a track play/forward button, track/artist name display area plus my battery remaining time which Apple doesn’t allow you to view anymore by default.

People are still creating interesting stuff for the Touch Bar, one guy for example created a translator, whenever you highlight a word or phrase in the browser, it would automatically translate that text and display it to you in your Touch Bar using a predefined language of your choice. There are also a ton of fun/silly/useless things you could do to the Touch Bar like displaying an infinite loop of Nyan Cat or turn your Touch Bar into Kitt from Knight Rider. You could even install an app that would turn the Touch Bar into a piano or play a game of Pong using the Touch Bar to control the rudder. You can check them all out in the video above.

So yeah, looks like the Touch Bar is getting more and more interesting. If you have the new MacBook Pro Touch Bar, make sure you install BetterTouchTool so you could customize things the way you want.


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MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Air – My Review

Post by Mark

I don’t think any notebook has ever gotten as much hate as the new MacBook Pro’s have and I can’t understand why. Last week I replaced my 13″ MacBook Air with the new 13″ MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and I just love it.

Before I go ahead and explain why I love the new MacBook Pro so much and why I think its so much better than my already amazing MacBook Air, I’m going to first quickly explain why the biggest issues people have with the MacBook Pro don’t really affect me. This review is also fairly long compared to my regular posts so I’ve titled all the main paragraphs that way you can skip down to the area you care more about if you don’t feel like reading.

No USB Ports
This is probably the biggest issue people have with the new MacBook Pros, they don’t have the regular USB Type-A ports and instead Apple replaced them with the newer, slimmer, faster, better but also less popular USB-C ports. In my case I rarely used the USB ports on my MacBook Air, the only time I ever used them was when I traveled I’d charge my iPhone from my Air’s USB port and when I wanted to copy stuff onto or off memory sticks. I barely used USB so for me if the ports are USB-C or Type-A… I don’t really care. I bought the USB-C to Type-A Apple adapter so IF I ever need a regular Type-A port, I’ll just use the adapter. I’d rather have a slimmer notebook without any USB ports than a thicker one with. But again thats because I rarely used the ports to begin with and I can always move things around wirelessly.

No SD Card Slot
This I was more upset with than the lack of USB ports. I take a lot of photos with my camera for the blog and when I travel so it was very practical having an SD card slot in my MacBook Air. But it’s not that big a deal really having no SD card slot. My current camera’s SD card has WiFi anyway so I’ll just wirelessly transfer the photos onto my Mac. Actually, most of the time I copy the photos over to my phone first, edit them in VSCO and then AirDrop them onto my Mac. That’s what I did with these pictures in this post for example.

Battery Life
This wasn’t an issue until Consumer Reports tested the new MacBook Pro’s late last month and got battery life that ranged anywhere from 4 to 18 hours. They cited major inconsistencies which I have yet to encounter with my short time with the notebook. So far my MacBook Pro is lasting me as much as my MacBook Air would which is to say all day of on and off use.

Max 16GB of RAM
A lot of people have made a fuss that the maximum amount of RAM the new MacBook Pro’s support is 16GB. I had 8GB of RAM on my MacBook Air and I was doing design work and editing large files on it without any issues. I have 8GB of RAM on my new MacBook Pro and I expect it to perform even better than my MacBook Air so I’m fine with the 16GB limit since I don’t need more than 8.

The Review
Now with the controversial items out of the way let me start my review. I’ve never owned a MacBook Pro (or PowerBook). My first notebook ever was a white 12″ iBook G3 Dual USB back in 2001 (considered the most unreliable Apple notebook ever). Since then I’ve had a bunch of other low end Apple notebooks until I moved up to the MacBook Air. I got my first one in 2011 and then replaced it in 2015 with the updated model. Anyone who owns a MacBook Air will tell you they’re incredible notebooks and I really didn’t need to replace mine, it was more than enough for my needs, but something about the new MacBook Pro’s attracted me, I think it was the Touch Bar but once I saw them I knew I needed one. In the week I’ve owned the MacBook Pro, a few things have really impressed me compared to the MacBook Air:

The Size
Somehow Apple has managed to make the MacBook Pro smaller than the MacBook Air and also weigh the same. Side by side when compared to the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro is clearly smaller and more compact.

The Screen
My biggest issue with the MacBook Air was the screen, not because it didn’t have a retina display which I could care less about, but because the viewing angle was terrible. I used to constantly adjust the screen tilt to make sure I was getting the best viewing angle. With the new MacBook Pro I don’t have that issue, no matter how much I move the screen looks great. The color difference and brightness is another thing I instantly noticed, side by side the MacBook Air looks dimmer and the colors duller when compared to the Pro. I’d find it really difficult to move back to the MacBook Air now.

The Sound
The speakers on the new MacBook Pro are much better than the MacBook Air. Like the difference in sound quality is pretty dramatic, other than the fact the sound is much more louder on the MacBook Pro, it also has more bass and much more clarity to it. And because the speakers are pointing towards you (with the Air the sound is indirect), the left and right channels are also a lot more clearly defined. I’ve started listening to music on my notebook which I never used to do before.

The Keyboard
Based on the reviews I read online about the keyboard, I was worried I was going to hate it. I don’t, it’s now one of my favorite things in the new MacBook Pro. I type better with it, I type faster and it just feels so much more solid when compared to the MacBook Air keyboard which now feels too squishy to me.

What About the Touch Bar?
This is one area I have yet to make up my mind on. There are two parts to the Touch Bar, the main touch display area and the TouchID (fingerprint sensor) which is located on the far right. I love the TouchID since it allows me to sign into my MacBook instantly. I’m also hoping that soon I could use TouchID to unlock 1Password like I do on my iPhone, that option alone would make this MacBook Pro worth it over the Air.

Now the touch display area of the Touch Bar is what I’m still trying to get a hang of. Right now it really isn’t that useful. It looks cool for sure but it’s currently not that much more practical than keyboard short cuts. Also not all apps support it yet and the ones that do don’t allow that much customization to it. Because of the way I rest my hands on the keyboard while using the trackpad I also keep accidentally touching the Esc button which is annoying (I’ve done it 3 times while writing this article) but I’m getting used to it. While I’m typing this post up I have Spotify showing on my Touch Bar but for I wish instead of the audio scrubber showing (pictured above), I could choose to show the name of the song and artist in that space instead. The Touch Bar is still new though so I’m hoping we’ll get more customization options over the next year as companies start understanding what people want from the Touch Bar.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro
This is a really easy recommendation to make, the MacBook Pro is a much better machine over the Air in every way. The MacBook Pro weighs the same as the Air but is also smaller in size so the biggest advantage the Air had over the Pro series doesn’t exist anymore. The MacBook Pro screen is better, the keyboard is better and if you’re used to listening to music on the Air’s speakers, then you’re gonna love the MacBook Pro. The only thing I have difficulty recommending is the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar over the version without the Touch Bar. Is the Touch Bar worth an extra $300? I think I’m leaning towards a yes, but only if you’ve got the money to spend. If you don’t thats fine, you aren’t really missing much.

I ordered my MacBook Pro from eBay and it cost me KD548 ($1,789) and another KD10.5 to ship to Kuwait using PostPlus. It was considerably cheaper to buy it on eBay since Apple charges tax and I would have ended up paying KD600 ($1,963) if I had purchased it from the Apple Store. It was also quicker since when I was ordering the MacBook Pro, the wait time on the Apple Store was 3-4 weeks before shipping. But, the advantage of ordering directly from the Apple Store is you could customize your Mac with more RAM or a faster CPU. I also purchased the “Space Gray” color which is what you see in the pictures in this post. Let me know if you have any questions.

Update: Turns out 1Password already works with TouchID, I just needed to enable it in the settings!


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