Archive for the ‘iphone’ Category

One Week with the iPhone 6


It’s been a week since I replaced my iPhone 5 with the new iPhone 6, and I’ve slowly been adjusting to the new experience. Of course with iOS there is not that much of a real experience change, but the slight jump in screen size feels much more significant. Aside from the sheer size, the design is also a big change, and I’m a bit disappointed. I loved the all-black anodizing of the 5 (which disappeared with the 5S), the squared edges, and the fine detail all the way down to the button machining. The new phone seems to throw out the signature Apple attention to detail with boring rounded edges and buttons, mismatched silver case, and blatant out of place plastic seams. I really don’t think Jobs would have let this slide.
Of course most people will just hide it all under a case. I prefer more minimal protection, and I’m anxiously awaiting iPhone 6 updates for corner Bumperz and the awesome Wally wallet that I loved on my 5. Maybe I’ll get some colored bumper around the edges just to add a bit of style to the sea of black. As for the size…after a week, it still feels huge. However looking back at others’ iPhones, they now immediately seem tiny! I’m sure I’ll continue to get used to it.
I’ve been trying to learn the new Swype and Swiftkey keyboards that Android has had for years. It’s mostly frustrating as my finger is faster than my brain so every other word is a mistake, and overall it’s much slower than my very fast touch typing on the standard keyboard. We’ll see if I improve with time or give up. Another disappointing Android addition is widgets. They aren’t on the lock screen. You have to intentionally remember to swipe to see them. So they’re useless.


An unexpected feature I never though I would care about is the built-in pedometer functionality. I’ve actually been checking several times a day, often shocked at how many steps my poor feet actually take, walking far further each day than I ever imagined. No wonder my shoes never last that long! I’m also enjoying TouchID; I never locked my phone as I can’t stand having to enter a password just to glance at my most-used gadget. Press & hold for a second is just as simple and non-intrusive as press and swipe.
The camera is very important to me as it is the camera that is always on me and therefore used in a lot of situations. Apple’s upgraded camera app is much more useful than before with some added exposure control. But after a few days my favorite replacement app ProCamera was updated and added the full manual control capabilities added by iOS8 to its already advanced control features that I love. Having 240fps slow motion HD video in my pocket is also awesome, not just for filming crazy dogs, but also quickly viewing LED light flicker. It’s beyond the capability of all my real cameras!
Last but perhaps most significantly, the battery life is a shocking improvement. While my 5 was down to about 60% in the afternoon of a usual work day, the 6 is around 90%. The battery doesn’t have much more capacity, so it’s really a statement to the significant bump in power and technology of the new processor.
There’s more to come soon, and I can’t wait to start using Apple Pay in a month or so, but the one thing that I’m really excited for to complete my new iPhone experience is the Apple Watch. I’ve been a fan of geeky and stylish watches all my life, and my experiment with the MetaWatch over the past year proves just how much I love having notifications and other info at a quick glance. I miss it repeatedly on the days I wear a normal watch. The Apple Watch should add a ton more functionality and innovation, and I’ll be first in line to get one!

A Few Weeks With A Smartwatch


For the past year, I’ve noticed more and more moments that I wish I had a smart watch. I have followed MetaWatch and Pebble from their inceptions but always held off to see how well they really worked. Initial reviews showed they had limited features and poor integration, and rumors have been flying for months that Apple has it’s own iWatch on the way that would certainly do a better job.

After this fall’s set of Apple announcements failed to produce a watch (and I think I know why), I finally decided to give in. I decided to go with a used watch off eBay to save some money, especially in case Apple surprised us sooner than later. While Pebble is the more popular pick with its endlessly interchangeable watch faces, I went with a MetaWatch Frame, and so far I have been mostly happy with it.

I want a watch to simply be a notification extension for my phone. With a quick glance while walking, driving, or during a meeting, I can easily see if I just received an important email or just some status update. Important news alert or spam. Event reminder or text message. I don’t need or want it to do much else, and certainly don’t want battery life wasted to do the extra bells and whistles. While the Pebble only supported email (with its own mail client), Metawatch sent me an email months ago saying it supported ALL notification center alerts immediately with iOS 7, and it does so perfectly. Furthermore, the Frame is a much nicer metal with glass, not plastic case and screen like the others. It is also the thinnest, and lasts more the five days on a charge.

In fact I find I no longer miss calls and messages because while I sometimes don’t feel the phone vibrating, there is no missing the watch buzzing on my wrist. It’s not rude to quickly glance at your watch during a conversation or meeting. And frankly I love the classic low-res screen with perfect pixel fonts and Susan Kare icons. While there are many choices for layout positions, unfortunately they only offer the one watch face.


But I think I know why Apple hasn’t announced a watch yet. Everyone thinks it’s the watch’s limited battery life. That’s not a problem at all, and apple conquered that long ago with he iPod shuffle. No, the problem is the iPhone’s battery life! Despite using Bluetooth Low Energy, the phone is down 50% by mid-afternoon on a work day, where it might normally be at 85%. Not a problem during normal days when I can top it off, but no good for those longer days or traveling.

So I love the watch for workdays and my usual schedules, but there are plenty of improvements needed. I still think Apple will appease us geeks with a more perfect watch sooner or later, and I’ll be first in line for it.

Navigation for Everyday Driving

You may remember years ago I used a revolutionary navigation system called the Dash Express that was ideal for daily commuting: with a live Internet connection, it monitored detailed traffic data. While you were driving, Dash let you see conditions in front of you and would change your route if needed. Since the company’s demise I have been instead using my iPhone on my dash with a variety of navigation apps, and as apps have matured, years later I can finally say my iPhone equals the old Dash in usefulness for daily driving. The best part is thanks to apps like Waze and INRIX it is all free!


Before I drive, I run INRIX Traffic for a quick overview of my commute. I have tried many other apps with traffic, including the big name navigation apps, and INRIX repeatedly has the most accurate traffic data. Unfortunately, incidents are rarely displayed (this screenshot a rare exception) but it is perfect for looking far ahead on your drive.


For the duration of my drive, however, I run Waze. Still completely free, what started out as a kludgy navigation app now equals my old Dash Navigation in features, unmatched by others. Hundreds of other drivers are running it nearby (and can be seen on the map), and in addition to using their data to show truly live traffic speed data, anyone can place alerts on the map for warning others.


Stopped traffic, accidents, hazards, and speed traps all show up on your map and give you an alert if on your route. Waze adds some fun to your drive by dealing out points for reports or munching power pellets on undriven roads, as well as social groups and mood reporting. And just like Dash, your arrival time is continuously adjusted by changing conditions. These all combine to not only save wasted time by avoiding traffic, but adding some fun to a boring commute as well.


Boombox Costume

There is a lot of creative competition among our friends for Halloween costumes. Typically I wear some form of cardboard box. I have a tough time coming up with something good each year, but just a week ago I thought of making a boom box–but only if I went the extra mile to make it functional!

The key element is my Sonic Impact battery-powered T-Amp that can power full size home speakers off of AA batteries. One of those gadgets that I grabbed years ago and until now never had a great use for. (You can get a rebranded one here at Parts Express) I also ordered some cheap 2-way 6.5-inch car speakers. The amp did drive the 4 ohm speakers but the sound wasn’t very full, no bass but good enough. I grabbed the SRS WOW MyTunes app which added some live sound processing to my iPhone and really punch up the bass and sound quality, as well as do a bit of DJ-like transitions between songs.

Concerned about power, I duct taped together 8 D batteries to assist with the AA’s. As I started building I changed the design from a huge box around me to just a normal-sized boom box, which I got away with because I managed to come up with a suitable outfit to go with it. I spent a few days making an 80’s rap music playlist including DJ Jazzy Jeff, Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, and of course the Beastie Boys!

Everything worked flawlessly. Thanks to my good friend Physics, the cardboard box resonated perfectly with the speakers and ended up producing excellent sound with plenty of bass. In fact I had no problem overpowering the stereo and large crowd at the party, which it felt like followed me to every room with my own soundtrack following me around! The boom box ran at full volume (except when I was told to turn it down a few times) for many hours and still shows no sign that it’s out of juice. I’ll have to keep it around as an iPhone dock…”portable” at around 20 pounds and powerfully annoying sound, I don’t know why these things went out of style!

A Smarter Lock Screen


Over time, Apple has addressed most of the missing features of the iPhone. A major oversite, though, is the lockscreen and its complete lack of information. Related is the fact that notifications must be in a pop-up bubble and only one can be seen. Apple is long overdue for revamping these into something much more useful and intelligent. The whole point of an iPhone, afterall, is to get information to you quickly and easily.

This is a screenshot of my phone this morning, and what I see whenever I wake my iPhone. Beyond the date and time, I see weather, upcoming calendar events, new email, a list of new text messages if any, as well as all notifications that have come in from various sources. Everything here is interactive as well. Tapping the email will preview it, touching the date gives me a full month calendar, and the weather pulls down to a 7-day forecast. You can clear each notification as you’ve read them.

Right now this is only available thanks to a brilliant jailbreak app called Lockinfo. Every part is configurable, from how each component interacts, to plugins that work with additional apps, and even picking other actions besides the swipe to unlock. It’s well worth its price, but my real point here is that Apple needs to start paying attention to this long-ignored blank space that we all see dozens of times per day. Maybe they should just outright buy this and integrate it in the next update!

My iPhone’s been tracking me!

There’s been a lot of news lately about the discovery that the iPhone has kept a location history of its travels. I of course jumped on the opportunity to see where I’ve been.

And what do you know, I spend most of my time around Boston! Nothing unexpected, driving to VT, NH, CT and PA. I spent a few days in New Orleans last summer. It even managed to pick up my flight connections there, in Philly and Charlotte! My trip to France and Germany is well documented as well. And then there are a few random dots around the country (not visible here) when cell towers as misidentified. download the tool and try yourself!