Tag: iphone (page 1 of 7)

Apple Day 2018

Today’s the day that Apple release their biggest products of the year. New iPhones, new Apple Watches. Huzzah! From the keynote last week and also the reviews that have come out I’ve a few thoughts on this year’s products that are longer (almost) than a tweet or two.

  • The iPhone names are just bonkers to me. Everyone calls the iPhone X the iPhone X and not the iPhone 10. I’ve been that guy that corrects people too – what a twat. So this years iPhones being called iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR means even more that they will be called XS, XS Max and XR. No one is going to see XS and think that should be pronounced 10S. The names probably don’t make any dent on sales but just doesn’t make sense to me when everyone (quite rightly in my opinion) praises Apple for their marketing genius.
  • iPhone XS is one of the smaller S upgrades we’ve seen. Same screen, faster chip, slightly improved camera, it records in stereo, slightly tweaked colours and that’s about it? Looks the same too.
  • The XS Max is exactly the same as the XS apart from being a bigger screen and slightly improved battery life. Prefer this than when the Plus phones came out and it wasn’t only the best screen but also the best camera – that stung if you didn’t want. huge phone.
  • The XR surprised me. Expected lesser screen, last years A11 chip, last years camera etc but the only difference is a larger but less pixel dense screen but all this years goodies in the XS are in the XR apart from the dual camera’s. And the XR comes in some great colours.
  • The XS is the smallest phone you can buy from Apple at 5.5 inches. That’s not small and by killing the SE they will lose some customers to Android.
  • The new A12 chip and it’s neural engine is quite the upgrade from last years and is driving a jump in computational photography. Smart HDR looks much better than the HDR modes we’ve seen in Apple products up to now. The amount of computing that is taking place when you press the (virtual) shutter button is boggling. Google’s Pixel 2 was regarded as the best smartphone camera in the last couple of years thanks to how much computation they were doing. Apple have made some big improvements this year and in some tests so far looks better to my eyes than the Pixel 2, but in other tests the Pixel 2 produces the better image. That’s before the Pixel 3 come out next month. To read a lot more about the camera improvements I recommend reading John Grubers iPhones XS review which details a lot of the camera improvements in the XS. Apple really buried the improvements on stage.
  • Not iPhone related, but Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 is worth spending some time on. Apple acquired the Workflow app and team 18 months ago and Shortcuts is the result. Can get some great results from Shortcuts and really make Siri more powerful than it currently is. Many app’s have updated this week with Siri support but their features are pretty buried which is something that Apple need to help surface.
  • Apple Watch series 4 was the standout for me from last week’s keynote. Bigger screen, focus on health, complications, new colours, faster chip. All in all this was more exciting and a bigger leap than the phones that Apple launched this year.
  • Apple gaining FDA approval to market the watch as an ECG device is a big deal. It’s only one rather than 12 points that a standard ECG captures but being able to do this anytime and pass that info to a medical professional has major implications. Alongside the fall detection and some other heart notifications it’s good to see that Apple finally have clear focus on what the Apple Watch is and isn’t.
  • Prices go both phone and watch have creeped up this year. Buying Apple was always expensive but it’s getting ever steeper. Increasing price a way of keeping up overall sales as numbers decline in an ever saturated market? Time will tell.
  • No AirPower. No new AirPods. Shocker. All the rumours say AirPower is dead but it appears in the XS leaflet that people will get with their new phones. So still in development? Apple should stop previewing products that aren’t ready and get back to what they were good at – here’s a new product, buy it in a couple of days for delivery next week. Stop the bullshit.
  • No iPad or Mac news either so expect some press releases or an event in October. If the iPad is slimmer borders, Face ID, USB C as many rumours are stating then I can’t see that being a press release.

So did I buy anything? No new iPhone for me this year. Small update really when you look at the iPhone X that I currently have and with phones now at £1k it’s an every 2-3 year purchase like an iPad for me. I did order a new watch though. The Series 0 has done well but struggled in the last 6 months with speed and also battery life. Really looking forward to getting the Series 4 as I use the Watch for workouts, notifications etc and being able to playback music and podcasts, answer calls etc without a phone during a workout will be a real step forward for me.

If you are getting a new phone or watch today (or next month!), enjoy it. The last year with the X has been great – easily the best phone Apple has made…until now.

iPhone X

The iPhone X. Is it the future of smartphones, an expensive rehash of the iPhone 8 or is Apple playing catch-up? I’ve spent a few weeks with the new iPhone X and I have a few thoughts.

Unboxing and Setup

The first time you switch on an iPhone X the screen just hits you. Bright colours, deep blacks and a phone that really is all screen…apart from the notch.

Setting up FaceID was painless. Scanned my face a couple of times and I was good to go. As for the rest of the setup, Apple has done a lot to make the process easier than ever. Out of the box the iPhone X came with iOS 11.01 and not the recently released 11.1 which I needed so I could restore from backup. I had toyed with the idea of starting fresh with the new phone but impatience got the better of me. Anyway, instead of having to manually connect to WiFi and iCloud on the new device you can now easily transfer usernames and passwords from another iOS device. In less than a minute I was online and downloading the update.

Restoring from backup, encrypted of course so all passwords are saved, also brought a new surprise. My Apple Watch was unpaired from the old device and setup for the new phone. Another small step to make the swap to the new device a little more painless. And with that it was time to finally use the iPhone X.

So What’s New?

The iPhones move to all screen means saying goodbye to the Home button, a staple of the iPhone and every iOS device for the last 10 years. The first couple of days were pretty rough as muscle memory found me reaching for the old faithful, but the new gestures for the iPhone X more than made up for it. In fact after a few days the gestures now feel more fluid and faster to use than relying on the Home button. Swiping to multi-task or move to another app is so much quicker via a gesture compared to using the button.

Apps embracing the notch

Embracing the notch is the mantra from Apple and in practice I just don’t notice it. The screen is gorgeous and if the price to pay is having a small notch in landscape video’s then it’s a price worth paying. Above are three of the app’s taking advantage of the larger screen. Halide was already a great camera app but the iPhone X update has placed extra information in the two horns (what else do you call them?) at the top leaving more room to focus on controls and the image.

Overcast has included a pure black mode like many other app’s. This looks so good on the OLED screen and also helps with battery life. Finally Netflix which again looks great on the X’s screen especially during playback of HDR content.

FaceID was met with a lot of questions in the run up to the launch. Will it work, is it fast, can it be hacked, will it be awkward and can it really replace TouchID? At first it felt a bit slower as I was waiting for FaceID to work then swiping to unlock the phone but I was “doing it wrong”. Instead of waiting just swipe, and the phone will unlock as if by magic. Most app’s are now updated replacing TouchID with FaceID so unlocking 1Password or Day One are done just by looking. Buying via Apple Pay is also easy, just double tap the side button and look at the phone to pay. Simple. Accessing sites in Safari and using FaceID to fill in a password is awesome. Slightly slower but more secure, and if you aren’t worried about someone logging in using a password in Safari as only you can only unlock the phone you can always disable FaceID for Safari passwords.

I had early issues with unlocking overnight and early morning. I think it was because I wasn’t aligned with the camera properly and also holding the phone to close to my face but since those first couple of days I’ve been trouble free. Face ID also trains when you unlock with a pin code after it’s failed so whether it’s me that’s got more used to it, or the system itself has better aligned to my face I’ll never know. It’s not like TouchID wasn’t without issue. Wet or dirty fingers failed and I certainly had to re-add a finger or thumb over time to make it more reliable.

Tap to Wake is another iPhone X only feature. While it works as advertised, the limited angle offered by the camera means it won’t always unlock unless the iPhone is directly in front of you, or on an angled stand on your desk. Handy when raise to wake doesn’t fire or seems to time out, but not the best when on a flat surface.

Also new are the camera’s. I’ve not had an iPhone with a dual lens so was looking forward to trying the new system and I’ve not been disappointed. Both lenses have taken great pictures and Portrait mode does take some great photo’s. Yes it’s false and some pics can look a bit wonky compared to using a grown up camera with some nice glass, but it’s a phone lens producing some fantastic photos in the right conditions so it’s hard to knock it. The video is also super smooth and if you switch to slo-mo you get 240fps which looks great.

The front camera also supports Portrait mode and has an extra trick up it’s sleeve. Rather than using a dual lens, the front camera uses the TrueDepth camera that powers FaceID to deliver a slightly better/different Porttrait mode effect. This can be best seen using an app like Focos which allows you to visualise the depth map that was captured using Portrait mode. Video above shows Focos in action.

Final notable addition is Animoji. This feature relies on the front facing camera and TrueDepth sensor to animate your face in real-time with a variety of different emoji’s. It’s a great demo of what the hardware can do but it’s a shame you can only access it in the Messages app unless you get creative. Surely Apple will open this up over time via a standalone app?

I’ve deliberately left out wireless charging as I don’t have a charger and it’s not something I’m interested in at the moment. I’ve charge cables everywhere I go and don’t want to replace them with a wireless system where charging is slower. No doubt that will change over the coming months but for now this is something I happy to pass on.

Day to Day with the X

One of the biggest surprises has been battery life. I moved from a year old iPhone 7 and the battery life on the X is much better. Even on heavier than normal days I still have around 30% battery life and typically have around 50% which is fantastic. Not sure if it’s the OLED screen or the bigger battery but it’s something I didn’t expect.

The screen is something I’ve really gotten used to along with gestures and no home button. Moving back to my work device (iPhone Plus) and it feels a bit alien now. It’s amazing how quickly the new becomes the norm and what was once normal now feels dated. The X is physically smaller than the Plus but the screen is bigger and the X is easier to handle.

I vowed before getting the phone that I’d go caseless. It feels great in the hand and looks amazing. However the night before it arrived I ordered a case and I’m glad I did.

Ouch. Accidents happen and with a glass back that costs over £500 to replace it’s just not worth the risk even with Applecare. The X felt pretty slippy and my hands are dry which doesn’t help. The case is a pretty cheap clear one but I’ll upgrade in a few weeks once most case manufacturers have their decent cases out. Challenge with the X is getting a case that doesn’t interfere with the gestures.

iOS 11.2 adds a horizontal bar to highlight where control centre is now

As ever with a new device there are a few niggles. On the iPhone X the swipe up gesture unlocks the phone so how do you get to control centre? Swipe down from the top right. It’s awkward and not ideal. iOS 11.2 has seen a slight change in the addition of a bar under the top right horn highlighting you can swipe. Really Apple? That’s it? You also end up fighting the gesture when moving between devices. I’m hoping Apple will change that how to trigger control centre before iOS 12.

I’m also hearing glitches on the AirPods since moving to the X. Every couple of tracks I’d hear a slight playback glitch but thankfully since iOS 11.2 was released earlier this week this seems to have been resolved.

So is it worth it?

The iPhone X is expensive. It cost over £1000 but the iPhone X has left me in no doubt…this is a fantastic device and it really ages the previous generation iPhones. They look dated and feel even more so when using them. This is a real jump in function and feel. FaceID just works and it reduces TouchID to yesterdays news. It’s also as close as we are going to get to an all screen device until the tech in the notch can be tucked behind the screen. No doubt that’s only 2-3 years away, but once you get used to this much screen without the borders it’s hard to use anything else without it feeling old. Gestures also make using the iPhone X a far more fluid experience helped by FaceID.

Apple have been accused of being stagnant regarding the iPhone despite the hardware inside being best of breed however with the iPhone X they have reimagined what a smartphone personal computer looks like in 2017. This feels like the start of a new generation of smartphones from Apple and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Winter Skies

The recent cold snaps and snow have seen some amazing skies around Glasgow. Early morning runs are far more entertaining when the weather is putting on a show. More impressive is that these are all from an iPhone.

Mac at 30

I first used a Mac at university in the early 90’s. It was in the university library and I’m pretty sure it was a Macintosh Plus. While it worked fine, it was a bit slow and nothing grabbed me about it so my first home computer was an Escom 486 and for years I was a Windows and PC user. It was my main games machine as the FPS market took off and the PC platform served me well for years.

The seed that started my move to Mac was in 2001 when the first iPod was announced. I’m pretty sure it was late 2002 or early 2003 before I finally picked up an iPod and suffered using Real software to sync my music on Windows. I loved the iPod. From the packaging to the ease of use, everything about it felt special compared to the competition. I still remember the button lights slowly fading – never got old.

Roll forward to 2006 and it was time to upgrade my PC, not to a newer model but making the switch to Apple. I bought a 21″ iMac and it was such a step change to what I had before. Quiet, fast and an amazing set of applications. A few months later and I bought a Macbook Pro. I was hooked.

Home Office

Home Office

Now I have a 27″ iMac, a Macbook Air, iPhone 5S, iPad Air and an Apple TV. Overkill but I still love Apple’s product design and software despite my recent moans. I didn’t expect much from Apple to celebrate that today was the 30th anniversary since the Macintosh was introduced but I was wrong. I guess time’s have changed since Steve Jobs passed away.

A beautiful website with a great interactive timeline showing the history of the Macintosh. It also wouldn’t right to not have a video from Apple celebrating the event.

There’s also an easter egg on the Apple site.

A custom font that shows each of the Macs from the last 30 years. Nice.

Despite the iPhone and iPad eating into it’s usage, I still wouldn’t be without one. Happy 30th Macintosh.

iOS 7

While it’s been outed for quite a while I’ve kept quiet on iOS 7 but with a release next week here are a few thoughts on what is the biggest change since iOS was first launched.

New Look
Much has been made of the flat design in iOS 7 which I happen to like. Gone are the textures that had become the butt of many a joke to be replaced by a flat colourful operating system. In general use it’s quick although there are a few animations that on first use are lovely touches but soon start to irritate as they get in the way when you just want to do something.

Over the course of the beta’s many of the jarring aspects have been toned down or improved like the ambiguous swipe to unlock that irritated so many pundits. While the design of buttons are flat there is a depth to the overall system in that panels like notifications appear on top of the current display blurring out the background. It’s an effect I really like. Wallpapers are also clearly behind icons and as you move the phone there is a slight animation highlighting the depth with icons and alerts moving slightly. Nice at first but feels a gimmick over time. Speaking of gimmicks, iOS 7 now supports dynamic wallpapers which react to the movement of your phone. Nice on the lock screen but thats about it.

A quick point on the new icons seen throughout iOS 7. Some I really like. Most are ok. A couple I think are so jarring, so much so I was convinced they were placeholders for WWDC and that they would be ‘fixed’ over the coming months. Alas, I was wrong.

iOS 7 icons

iOS 7 icons

The examples above really jar with me in day to day use. They feel amateurish especially Newsstand. I mean, what where they thinking? Game Center – what do the blobs mean? At the end of the day they are only icons but you can’t change them and you see them all the time, constantly niggling away that they look like crap. It’s funny, I never really gave any thought to the previous icons but thats whats a radical change does to you – makes everyone a design critic. Another change is with folders – the old restriction of 16 apps per folder have been removed but less are now displayed on each folder page which I don’t like.

Another tweak is the removal of buttons and also the reduction of touch area’s. It takes a while to get used to and I really think it’s going to hit the casual user. The mums and dads, the grandparents that we’ve all convinced to use iOS devices as they are easy to use. This update is going to take them a fair bit of time to get used to and is probably the biggest risk for Apple but it’s a risk they had to take as iOS was in need of a restart.

New Features
There’s a lot of new in iOS 7 compared to previous releases. Control Center allows you to quickly toggle wi-fi, bluetooth, do not disturb and also launch the camera, a flashlight and control your music. Nice implementation of something that Android users have enjoyed for a few years and great to have in iOS. Notification Center has also been tweaked to surface more relevant content and also make it easier to segregate the many notifications you receive. It will show you upcoming appointments more clearly and also tell you when to set off to meet your appointment on time.

Another updated feature is Multitasking. A new card view allows you to easily swap to applications and dismiss others but iOS 7 promises to analyse your usage and ensure that app’s you use at certain times of the day will already have their feeds updated. Intelligent updates sound great and I’m looking forward to some of my fav app’s being updated to support this. The camera app has been updated and so like every other photo app it now has filters. Who would have thought filters would have become the must have feature. The Photo app also has does a great job of helping to sort your images by grouping photo’s into Years, Collections and Moments. A visual way of browsing through photo’s and it’s one of my favourite new features. They’ve also finally added shared photo streams via iCloud. A no brainer and shouldn’t have needed a new version of iOS to introduce this.

Airdrop finally allows you to share data with those on the same wi-fi network easily. Was a feature of Mountain Lion (maybe even Lion) so good to see it finally coming to iOS. Worth mentioning is iCloud Keychain which is a secure way of sharing passwords, credit cards, logins between your Mac and iOS devices but it’s now marked as coming soon – probably waiting for Mavericks to be released. Facetime now supports audio only calls too – free audio calling!

Finally app’s can now update automatically. Hurrah, although you miss understanding new features if you switch this on.

Updated Applications
All the existing app’s have seen their design changed to support the new look iOS. Some are quite subtle where as others feel very different. Almost all of the app’s have lost the skeuomorphic textures and design that had been favoured by Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall. Calendar, Maps and Weather fit in very well and even the refresh on Safari and Mail has seen some new gestures added to help with the usability of the app’s although Safari has a habit of hiding a lot of the UI which will cause confusion. Thankfully it’s finally got a unified search field. Thanks Chrome ;).

Updated applications in iOS 7

Updated applications in iOS 7

Reminders and Notes have been refreshed but unlike almost everything else have seen a paper texture applied. It looks weird in context with the changes. The Clock app has also seen one radical new feature – the icon is live and shows the current time with a swooping second hand. Mmm…great.

Verdict
So should you update? Well it’s a moot point as most will update over the next few weeks due to iTunes prompts or the pressure of app’s coming out that require iOS 7. On the iPhone 5 iOS 7 is a really nice upgrade. My 3rd gen iPad hasn’t faired so well. There were lots of rumours that iOS 7 on the iPad was ‘behind’. Apple have never demonstrated iOS 7 running on the iPad and there may well be a good reason with everyone pointing to new iPads in October. iOS 7 updated fine on my iPad but any text input, from unlocking the iPad to searching in Safari, adding text in Drafts or creating an e-mail would cause a 15-20 second pause where any typing was detected but the screen would be frozen. I eventually had to wipe and re-install which cured the issue but I’ve had a couple of reboot’s since. I’m convinced that iOS 7 on the iPad is a bit flaky so if you don’t need to I’d wait until the first patch release or the Apple event in October.

In general I like iOS 7 and despite the odd animation it feels fast on the iPhone 5. What I’m most looking forward to are the applications that will take advantage of the new features and also redesign to fit in better with the new look and feel. It will be an expensive few months as the reset will also be followed by many refreshed app’s that won’t be free. Time to get saving or find some iTunes card deals.

New iPhones
A quick word on the new iPhones. The iPhone 5c looks a solid phone but doesn’t interest me as it’s the same as an iPhone 5 with a colourful shell. What is nice is that iOS 7 knows the colour of the phone and selects a suitable background on first launch – makes the hardware look transparent.

The iPhone 5s, while sharing the design of the 5 features a few new features. Fingerprint unlocking is very nice as I unlock my phone so often with a passcode. The camera updates look great especially the slow motion video and the ability to take 10 photo’s per second. 64 bit should herald faster app’s over time and all this without a drop in battery life thanks to a small increase in battery size without any increase in the overall weight of the phone. I’m far more interested in a 64 bit iPad though.

Instead of black and white the 5s comes in white, gold or space grey which reminds me of the original iPhone. There are enough new features that I’m tempted to pick up a white 5s…but there’s still time to change my mind as there are no pre-order options this year. A solid update of a classic phone.

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