Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Some thoughts on ios9 and OS X El Capitan from a non-user

I have not used iOS9 or OS X El Capitan, so these thoughts are based on Apple's announcements and observations from the Apple reporting community.  These releases are in public beta, and are available for normal release this fall.

What is new in El Capitan?  Here is a quick summary based mostly on Apple's announcement page: http://www.apple.com/osx/elcapitan-preview/

  • Split Screen to look at two apps in full screen view.
  • advanced Mission Control to organize your windows.
  • cursor finding capabilities - it can get big with a shake
  • updated spotlight - you can move and size the spotlight window,  search many other kinds of content (from the internet) including transit information, and use natural language for queries.
  • mail has many updated features:
    • full screen features enabling cut and paste across multiple threads
    • just like in iOS, we can now swipe to delete messages
    • more context sensitivity for adding contacts and events based on email messages
  • Notes is a much more fully featured app that some say will be able to compete with Evernote.  Images fit right in to notes, and there is an attachments browser.
  • Photos
    • 3rd party filters
    • 3rd party plugins for photo editing
    • location editing for a photo or an event is now possible (again)
  • Safari
    • Pinned sites for favorite websites
    • Air Play for web video (without sharing your whole screen)
    • The ability to mute all or other tabs
  • Maps
    • Public Transit information
    • time-based planning for a future trip
  • Better language support (for non-English languages)
  • Performance
    • Metal graphics performance comes to OS X
What is new in iOS 9?  https://www.apple.com/ios/ios9-preview/
  • A news app
  • An update to the Notes app (which matches new features in OS X Notes) including an attachments browser, checklists, and sketches
  • Maps
    • Transit, matching OS X features
    • A new nearby feature to find shopping and restaurants
  • Passbook becomes Wallet
    • your rewards/loyalty cards can in many cases will be part of Wallet.
    • A double-click to  the home button activates Apple Pay.
  • Carplay - major updates enabling using car knobs and applications from automakers.
  • Features for new iPads
    • Slide-over to have a 2nd app on the right 3rd of the screen.
    • Split view to have two apps shown 50/50
    • Picture in Picture - watch a video while using another application!
    • Quicktype:
      • Shortcut bar - Icons for cut, copy, paste, and fonts
      • Easy text selection - using multi-touch gestures on the on-screen keyboard to do text selection
      • Keyboard shortcuts - for external hardware keyboards
  • Siri - is supposed to be much more intelligent
    • context aware regarding photo and video information
    • can create context-aware reminders, based on what application you are currently using.
    • Deep search within apps
    • guesses for caller ID for unidentified callers?!?
  • Performance
    • power-savings across built-in iOS9 apps will enable longer battery life - 1 hour is claimed
    • built-in iOS9 apps use metal for faster performance
    • iOS updates stream and require much less free space to enable updates
  • 2-factor authentication for your AppleID means your old 
  • Android migration
    • Migrates much of your content automatically
    • Helps you re-download (or buy) applications on your Android device.

Frustrated with Music and iBooks on iOS

I am frustrated with Music and iBooks on iOS 8.  There have quietly been some fixes in iOS 8.4.1. Note:  I am not using Apple's new Apple Music service.  I do, however, happen to have and use iTunes Match.

I'll start with iBooks:

  • Peeve 1:  Until the recent fix, my iTunes server on OS X 10.7.5 was recently changed by Apple to no-longer know about Audiobooks.  It would import them, and then hide them.  No syncing of new audiobooks for users to iOS devices.  Thankfully, that has been fixed!
  • Peeve 2: iBooks does not remember my place in audiobooks reliably at all.  I am not the only one experiencing this problem.  Often iBooks puts me back at the start of a book.  
  • Peeve 3: iBooks often does not allow me to scan through to a point in a chapter - instead always showing that I am at 0.00 until the next chapter starts.  This is very frustrating.
Now on to Music:
  • The horizontal view in music went from cover flow (a while ago) to some other cover view, which was not at all useful, to no longer having a horizontal view.  Where did the horizontal view go?  Why can I not have a useful horizontal view?
  •  I never know what I'm going to get when I open the music app.  For example, I'm listening to a music playlist, and my iPhone was locked.  I unlocked and opened the music app, and the Radio choice is showing.  Why is Radio showing?  I'm not using radio at this time.
  • How do I see what I am listening to - i.e. a playlist I previously selected?  There is a tiny three-dots "button" to the right of the tiny line near the bottom that... doesn't get me back to the playlist.  It lets me "Start Station" - a radio station based on the current song.  Miracle of miracles, this time, when I clicked on My Music, I am back in my playlist.  I wonder if there was a fix in 8.4.1?  Usually I'm back in my music somewhere and have to re-select playlists and then reselect the playlist as the only way to get back to it.
  • How do I play the playlist over and over?  I see no controls for this in music any longer!  The controls are available when selecting the current playing song only, as a tiny icon in 2nd from the right.  It has the same 3 options as it always had - it just isn't available on the playlist screen any longer
  • Is it on my iPhone or not?  I'm getting on a plane... Ah a fix with 8.4.1 - I can see with a tiny icon on the right next to the song now. 

Bonus peeve: outages in the Apple Store - I tried to redeem a free song on a Starbucks card from Apple - but I cannot as the store is unavailable.  Adding insult to injury, I had to retype my AppleID password to check every time.  Not fun Apple.

I have been known by some for watching news about Apple and information from Apple with a large amount of attention.  Apple feels much less transparent about these kinds of problems and changes now.  That greatly disappoints me.  It feels more like what I hear from Android users, frankly.

I reveled in being able to get an elderly relative to use an iPhone when not familiar with using the internet.  Now these items are getting less self-explanatory, quietly having new major feature problems, and videos and manuals are needed to know how to use them.  It is not what I expect.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

So I tried an Apple watch

I was able to borrow an Apple Watch sport for a week.  I had the black strap.  My experiences had good and bad in them:

The good:

  • Setup was a breeze.
  • Setup of Apple Pay was easy as well.
  • Notifications on the watch were convenient compared to pulling out my iPhone
  • Siri voice recognition seemed superior to the iPhone experience.  Not having it talk back worked.
  • I had fun turing the playing app (I used Apple Music and iBooks for audiobooks) off and on with the watch.  It made it much easier to use non-Apple earbuds without controls.
  • Resetting the Apple Watch to factory resets (erasing it) was a breeze and I was helpfully notified that Apple Pay was then un-configured.
The bad:
  • I wear long sleeved dress shirts often.  It is one thing to pull up a cuff to see a watch face.  It is another thing to to do so to interact.  It is not a good experience.  Roll up that cuff or the Apple Watch is much less useful.
  • You do have to read the instructions and study.
    • I had luck and my first Apple Pay use worked flawlessly.  My 2nd and 3rd failed miserably and I gave up.  I then watched the video that said you had to press the 2nd button twice.  That is not an intuitive behavior.  It is learnable - but it is indicative of the approach.
    • I had some random few photos on my watch.  I'm not sure which ones, and I did not watch any videos to find out what was going on - it was a strange not useful experience.

  • Connectivity between my Apple Watch and my iPhone was spotty.  This caused bad behavior:
    • I did not get some imessage alerts.  My phone did not vibrate, I assume, because I had the watch on.  But the watch did not sometimes get the alerts so, no alerts.  Thus message alerts became less reliable.  For a while, I wondered if I just did not feel the wrist vibrate.  It took testing to verify that this was the problem.
    • I use Duo Mobile for 2-factor authentication.  When it worked, it was brilliant.  Sometimes the 2--factor message did not get back and authentication did not happen.
  • iOS 8.4 iBooks audiobooks has bugs.  Sometimes I was unable to properly navigate within sections/chapters.  Usually I can move to the middle of the chapter on my iPhone screen.  This works most of the time with Apple Watch unpaired, but does fail sometimes.  It worked none of the time with Apple Watch paired for me.  
  • The sport band was very uncomfortable for me.  It was hard to make it tight enough so that heart rate information could be gathered.  Making it tight and then also slipping the end of the band inside (making it tighter) made it more uncomfortable.  For me, it felt cheap.  
  • The back of the Apple Watch was uncomfortable to me as well.
Other... annoyances to me;
  • My watch is fully waterproof to 100 meters, and warrantied to that effect.  That happens to be a feature I want.  Apple seems to be playing games with the water proofing rating.  It is listed as water resistant but I should hold it under water to make the bezel spin freely?  Why not go farther and make it clear that using it in a pool does not break the warranty?
  • For just using a watch, I prefer my watch.  It is easier to read.
  • I had hoped the Apple Watch could help wake me up without even a phone vibrate (I can recharge it during the day to keep it on at night).  The wrist tap was less reliable than a phone vibrate.
This version is clearly not my cup of tea.

Monday, April 27, 2015

More articles about Apple's Q2 2015 than you can shake a stick at

Perhaps you are better at shaking a stick than I.  This is more articles abut Apple's Q2 2015 than I am able to shake a stick at:

I have just a few of comments:
  • China is bigger than the US for iPhone!  Wow. Huge growth!  BRIC up 64% YoY.
  • iPad sales - I think they are mostly not growing due to iPhone 6 plus sales.
  • iPhone 6 sales may be driving mac sales and vice versa.  Next quarter Apple Watch will do the same.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

State of Apple April 2015

The pundits and counter-pundits are working on Apple big time.  I believe in Apple's bright financial future at this moment.  Why?  Below I summarize, prognosticate, I express my opinion.

  1. Computers:
    • The Apple Macbook Air 13" and Apple Macbook Pro 13" are both high performance powerhouses that have had important internals updated.
      • The newer faster storage is, for some, an easing of a pain point.
      • The force-touch trackpad is a welcome technology update.  Those who like Apple's work with additional gestures welcome another gesture - force touch.
    • The Apple Macbook 12" is new, interesting, something folks are talking about and trying out, and reminds many of the first Macbook Air.  It is very much different than other products on the market.  While I do not want one now, I foresee that there could be one in my future at some point:
      • A new standard in portability
      • Thinner and lighter
      • Somehow fitting in a retina display
      • Minuscule power use
      • Also with the force-touch trackpad
      • Colors to go with other devices such as iPhone and iPad
      • With a new thinner keyboard that some love, some do not like
      • With no more magsafe power, but with only one physical port (aside from a jack for headphones) - the USB-C port.  No one seems to know how to usefully use this port, yet, for anything other than power.
      • Battery life is not the best.  Some call it a netbook.  The port situation is not what many want - they want magsafe, and ports they can readily use, or more ports than just the one.  There will, however, be a group of users who buy and love the features.  If you don't want it, don't buy it.  I will not be among buyers this round, but this kind of feature diversity is great.  I do not at all equate this system with a netbook, or even the underpowered original macbook air.
  2. Apple Watch:
    • I am not getting one, at least not at this time.  However, I think Apple is operating in a very smart way to push farther into fashion than they already were with their well designed sleek devices.  I want sleep tracking, and I can get that with other devices if I so choose.  
    • There are already watch bands in the wild from Apple that are not for sale.  There will be more watch bands from Apple, and more from competitors.  This accessory market will be large and could more than double Apple's sales value from the product.
    • I still strongly believe Apple will "frequently" update Apple watch with new designs.  There will be Apple Watch 2015, and Apple Watch 2016 (or 2017).  Some will buy for design updates, and some will collect.  All of this will make people happy and make Apple money.  There will also be new bands at all price ranges.
  3. Other product updates coming:
    • Apple TV - I am waiting to see an app store and a newer better experience with all the crazy channels avaialble.
    • iPod - a touch based on updated internals would be welcome, including force touch
    • iMac - 8K
    • Mac Pro - for real pro users, this is getting long in the tooth.  The CPU line at least is aging.  Update the CPUs, put in newer faster memory, and put in the newer faster flash storage too.
    • iPhone/iPad - Force touch should be coming...
  4. iCloud, iTunes, and Apple Pay
    • People have barely started to use the Photos app for mac, and thus have barely started to use iCloud storage.  This could be an area of reasonable growth for Apple.
    • iTunes - if we could store more media that we own in the cloud, it could be another revolution - I'm talking about audiobooks and movies not purchased from Apple.  If iTunes content could all just be in the cloud, the world would be a different place.
    • Apple Pay - it does keep on rolling out and getting expanded use.   Plans are starting to come together for some international use as well.
  5. Other stuff - "kits" and OS X
    • HealthKit and ResearchKit - we have barely started to scratch the surface with what these can do for us.
    • HomeKit - I still cannot control the temperature of my house with my Apple TV - this has barely started to be used as well.
    • CarPlay - pretty much all car manufacturers have announced that support will be coming.
    • OS X advantages
      • It remains, contrary to some comments, more secure than most OSs.
      • Vastly easier for backup and recovery, as well as for migration to a new machine.
      • Integration with hardware, enabling software like Safari to be extremely power efficient.
      • Continuity - I like texting from my computer.
  6. The doing good thing:
    • Apple keeps up doing more for preventing environmental damage.  Apple just bought a forest.  This is to offset paper usage, and the plan is for sustainable management.
    • Apple continues to eliminate chemicals someone deems harmful from its products - in the last year, this included beryllium.  This would likely be to make workplaces that previously used beryllium safer.
    • Apple bought solar energy for domestic energy offsets and use for the next 25 years for nearly $1B.  Apple says they are using 100% renewable energy for all domestic uses, including their data centers.
    • Apple works hard to be non-discriminatory.  Apple admits to needing to do more for women and minorities and pledged $50 million to the effort.
Apple has expanded its product lines.  It has given people new ways and reasons to use its products and use multiple products together (for example, Apple Pay and Continuity).  It now has a fashion-forward accessory line (Apple Watch) for those who want it.  And Apple is doing a better job than any other large company to be a good corporate citizen - one that is an example for the rest.  Apple has its problems, but making money is not going to be one of them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Summary and Thoughts on the Apple Spring Forward Announcement 3/9/15

Other announcements:
  • Moving to 40 stores in China
  • Apple Pay
    • Triple the participants since the last announcement
    • Vending machines are starting to take Apple Pay
  • CarPlay - more...
  • HomeKit - more...
  • ResearchKit: NEW
    • For Medical Research
    • Lets researchers work with many people in many places, who have information and apps to work with (iPhones and perhaps Apple Watch)
    • Open Source - to encourage involvement and adoption (and possible future cross platform involvement?)
    • Enabling two-way communication, integration with Health Kit
    • Apps:
      • mPower - Parkinson's research with the University of Rochester
      • GlucoSuccess - Massachusetts General
      • MyHeart Counts - Stanford Medicine and the University of Oxford
      • Asthma Health - Mount Sinai Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Share The Journey - Breast Cancer research with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, UCLA School of Public Health, Penn Medicine, and Sage Bionetworks

Product announcements:
  • Apple TV - price down to $69 (from $99) but otherwise unchanged
  • HBO Now - HBO streaming, without cable - $14.99/mo available starting in April, exclusive to Apple.
  • Macbook 12"
    • 2 lbs!
    • 13.1mm thick at the thickest point (down from 17.1mm for macbook air)
    • New keyboard
      • Edge to edge of the laptop
      • with all new stable butterfly mechanism with shorter travel
      • led per key
      • thinner
    • 12" retina display - 2304x1440 - thinnest ever
    • trackpad - force touch trackpad
      • force sensors
      • taptic engine (instead of clicks, feedback)
      • new force click gesture
    • TIny new logic board - no fan!
      • 5 watts!  max 1.3Ghz new-generation Intel
    • USB-C (USB 3 speed)
    • Starts at $1299
    • Silver, Space Grey, Gold
  • Updated Macbook Air
    • Updated CPUs
    • Thunderbolt 2
    • 13" has double-speed flash storage
  • Updated 13" Macbook Pro
    • force-touch trackpad
    • double-speed flash storage
    • updated CPUs
    • more battery life
  • Apple Watch - what is new news?
    • We now know prices - smaller is cheaper, larger is more expensive
      • Apple Watch Sport - $349 for 38mm and $50 more for 42mm
      • Apple Watch - $549- $1049 for 38mm, and $50 more for 42mm
      • Apple Watch Edition - $10,000-$17,000 (prices different not necessarily by size)
      • So the total range is $349-$17,000
    • Pre-order on 4/10/15
    • Arriving 4/24/15
    • Apple communicated anew and in a more focused way about the 3 areas of value and focus for use:
      • Time keeping
        • Select different faces
        • Not sure I saw something new
      • Communication
        • Can do the Dick Tracy thing and answer calls on your wrist
        • Listen to music with bluetooth headphones, without your iPhone
        • Any notification on your iPhone can make it to your watch
        • Nice Uber integration app
      • Fitness
        • Great but I'm not sure I saw something new
    • Rumors and/or facts after the fact:
      • 9to5Mac says that, "
        Apple Watch includes 8 GB of storage, allows 2 GB of music and 75 MB of photo"
      • Apple Insider says that the Apple Watch is rated to the IPX7 standard, which means, "the Apple Watch will be able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes" - good for a shower, but not a swim, they say.
      • TechCrunch says the Apple Watch battery is replaceable, and may have a roughly 3 year lifespan.