Posted on June 22nd, 2020
Here we go with yet another post-Apple-World-Wide-Developer-Conference keynote. This year's was really long, so I am only writing about things when I have a comment to make instead of summarizing every little thing that was presented. If you want to watch the keynote yourself, just head over to Apple.com and have a look!
• But First... Kudos to Apple for prefacing their WWDC Keynote with a statement on racism, equality, and injustice... and what they are doing to address racism in their industry and our communities. Not only that, but Tim Cook called out the "senseless killing of George Floyd," which is not as strong as calling it what it is... but at least they didn't diminish it by merely calling is "the death of George Floyd." This is not just lip service. Apple is putting their money where their mouth is too. Apple is investing $100 million to help in demanding equality in our communities. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the massive fortune they're sitting on, but it's a heck of a lot more than what other big companies are doing. Apple is also creating programs for Black developers and finding new ways to encourage involvement by POC in the developer community. As a step forward, all the developer videos from WWDC are completely free for anybody to look at this year. Good on them.
• iOS: Widgets. One of the things that I loved so much from MacOS X was the widget screen. So many incredibly useful tools are just a swipe away. Then Apple eliminated them and I was bigly sad. And yet... here they are in iOS?!? Does this mean we will see a return of widgets in MacOS? I am holding my breath. I have said many, many times how my favorite mobile phone to work on was Windows Phone. Yeah, I never gave up my iPhone for it but, upon release, Windows Phone OS had new ideas with fresh ways of doing things. By contrast, Android was just a poor iPhone copy. One of the best features of Windows Phone was "Live Tiles," and that's almost exactly what iOS widgets are looking to be like.
• iOS Picture in Picture Video. Before iOS 14, you had to stop watching a video if you needed to access your apps for some reason. Now Apple has made it so you can keep watching (and listening) while you use your apps. Given how many times a day I get a distraction, being able to keep watching while I'm glued to my phone while traveling is a serious big deal.
• iOS Translate. Holy shit. Offline machine learning translation with conversation mode? Sign me up! As translation gets better and better, this is going to open up the world in new ways. I cannot tell you how many times this would have come in handy with my work. Very exciting stuff.
• iOS Messages. I hate phone calls. All my friends and co-workers know this. I will put off returning a phone call for as long as possible. But a text message? I will hop on that immediately. And yet... I still kinda detest text messages because it's such a messy way to communicate. Apple has started addressing this by adding new features. The one that's most important to me? Groups. Group texts have been vastly improved, which is a huge step towards organizing the madness that can ensue.
• iOS Maps. I never use Apple Maps for actual navigation because I'm addicted to Waze. I only use it for the cool 3-D views of cities and to have access to their "Walk-Around" feature, which is a greatly upgraded version of Google Maps' "Street View." But that may change. Sounds like they are upgrading their directions (which have been pretty awful). All they need now is automated traffic redirection like Waze has and they could be a contender.
• iOS Digital Car Key. Being able to have my home unlock when I arrive is so cool. Apple is extending the idea further with digital car keys. Now not only can you use your phone to unlock your car, you can also message a digital key to somebody so they can drive or move your car if needed... no matter where you are in the world. Of course I would need to buy a new BMW in order to use it... BWAH HA HA HA... but a boy can dream, can't he?
• iOS Apps. No mention from Craig about the recent controversy of Apple being wishy-washy about which apps owe them a cut of their revenue, but I didn't expect there to be. Craig can likely get away with this because he's got almost offensively good-looking hair.
• iOS App Clips. Having to download a new app for some little task is frustrating. App Clips are tiny pieces of apps that handle simple tasks you need to get through your day. They load immediately and will streamline tasks because they integrate ApplePay and "Log-In With Apple" features. And if you want the full app after using the App Clip, you can easily download it. Simple!
• iPadOS. I only use my iPad for two things... creating art and Zoom calls. That's it. Everything else happens on my iPhone or Mac. Apple is working hard to change my thinking on this by continuously upgrading the iPad experience. They started off with something that goes a long way towards addressing multitasking issues and app navigation... SideBar. This seems a no-brainer given the small screen of the iPad compared to a desktop Mac, but this is the first I've seen it. Smart stuff.
• iPadOS Phone Notification. The way iPad handles calls is kinda stupid. You are dropped out of your app in order to deal with it. Not any more. You can accept or dismiss calls or FaceTime or Skype requests with a popup. Much better.
• iPadOS Pencil. iPad is now attempting to treat your handwriting like actual text. You can select it and move it easily. Or have it converted on-the-fly when you paste. iPad is essentially now full-on an Apple Newton with "Scribble" which instantly converts handwriting to text.
• AirPods. Auto-switching between devices? Magical. But the spatial audio feature being added to AirPods Pro is what has me really excited. If it actually works as advertised, this is Dolby Atmos Audio for one, and well worth investing in a new set of AirPods for me. The way the spatial audio ADJUSTS ON THE FLY when you move your head is incredible.
• WatchOS. I am fairly certain I will be buying into the Apple Watch ecosystem soon. I avoided it for the longest time because I find them so uncomfortable to wear. But after using Waze Band for a while now, I seem to have adjusted. My change of heart has everything to do with the Apple Health benefits which come with WatchOS. As I get older, I am more and more interested in taking advantage of the monitoring and active involvement of staying healthy. I will not, however, use the new "Dance" feature, which would probably result in injuries. Maybe if they add "pole dancing" I will reconsider?
• WatchOS Sleep. The Waze Band ventures a little bit into sleep monitoring, but I don't have a lot of confidence in accuracy and there's no tools to help you get better sleep. Apple Watch seems like there's a lot more going on, making sleep features far more useful.
• WatchOS Wash. Talk about timely features... Apple has added a hand washing monitor which makes sure you are washing long enough to destroy the lipid layer of things like COVID-19 so the virus will die.
Note that Kevin seems to have thinner wrists like me, so he's wearing his watch quite a bit lower than you usually wear a watch because it's uncomfortable on the wrist bone for us. This is encouraging. If this guy is in charge of stuff with WatchOS, and he has to wear a watch like I do, that means all the hardware monitoring features will likely work for me because he's obviously going to be testing them. Sweet!
• Privacy. Apple seems to put a lot more thought into privacy than other companies. They are constantly providing more tools to protect us and keep moving data analysis locally so that it doesn't have to go out onto the internet. I don't have much to say about this except Good job, Apple! Our own government doesn't seem to be interested in guarding our privacy, so it's nice that somebody is stepping up.
Shit Kit. I detest HomeKit. I avoid it whenever possible because it's just an awful, awful system. Expensive, limited, and it barely works for me. Despite having multiple AppleTVs in my home to fully blanket everything with plenty of signal, sometimes I get an error which says that HomeKit can't communicate with my devices. Ugh. Apple has been steadily improving HomeKit with features and such, so maybe I will check it out again one day. But given my horrible past experience, I'm in no hurry. And yet... there's some compelling integration with iOS that has me wondering if I should be investigating it sooner. The one thing I am very interested in is Apple joining a new home automation consortium with Google. Does this mean my Nest cameras will integrate with HomeKit? Interesting to think about.
• AppleTV. My experience with AppleTV has been less than stellar. Sometimes it's downright bad. It apparently has very little RAM for streaming because there are times I get shitty, stuttering video. But the biggest problem is with Apple media itself. Even when other streaming services are working flawlessly on my AppleTV, the stuff I bought from iTunes will fail to load or not display properly. Until they address this, all the other bells and whistles (like new picture-in-picture for apps) don't mean much to me.
• AppleTV+. One of my favorite works of science fiction is the original Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Apple bought up the rights and teased the result...
No idea how this will play out, but I'm certainly excited to see what they've done with it.
• MacOS Big Sur. "Drug-fueled, mini-bus-driving, vision-quest?" — Okay, Craig. Settle down! If you believe the hype, this will be the biggest change to the visual interface of the Mac since the switch to OS X. I don't know if that's the case... these changes seem a more "evolutionary" than "revolutionary"... BUT THAT BEING SAID... I absolutely love what I'm seeing. WIDGETS ARE BACK? FUCK YEAH!!! Discontinuing them was a bigly stupid move, and adding them into Notification Center is okay by me.
• MacOS Icons. MacOS has redesigned icons! Whee! What pisses me off is that Apple STILL hasn't allowed icons to be manually generated and "baked" into data files. Used to be when you saved a photo from Photoshop, the app would generate a tiny icon to attach to the file so you could see what image you've got. MacOS X eliminated this. Now data file icons are generated by the Finder. Which is so fucking stupid. No longer can you just scroll through all your images and see what they look like... you have to scroll and wait... scroll and wait... scroll and wait... it's infuriating.
• MacOS Maps. And... MacOS is no longer the red-headed step-child of Apple's hardware when it comes to maps. Apparently they are adding more iOS Maps features that have been missing since Maps appeared on MacOS.
• MacOS Safari. Even though I remain unconvinced that Safari is the best browser out there, it's my default browser just the same. Apple wants to be sure that this remains the case, because they keep making it more responsive and faster with each new release. On top of that, they are constantly improving security and privacy features. By far the most exciting is that they will now notify you if your passwords have been compromised when a data breach is reported. How amazing is that? THESE are the features that are important to me. And, oh yeah, they made Safari more customizable and pretty as well. Whee. And what about those new tabs? NICE...
Plus... inline translation when the language of the site is different than your selected language. Looks like you have to click a button. I wish I had an option for pages to translate to English automatically for me... and just let me know with an icon indicator or something so I can switch back if needed.
• Mac on ARM. First it was a switch from 8086 to PowerPC. Then it was a switch from PowerPC to Intel. Now Apple is reeeeeally moving forward by developing their own silicon chips for Macs, just like they already do for iPhones and iPads. This is incredibly smart. By having MacOS work hand-in-hand with custom chips that they design and control, Macs will get faster, smarter, and have better battery life. They can tailor every aspect of the "brain" of their computers to do exactly what they want with no wasted processes or energy. Everybody knew this was coming. I honestly thought it was going to be years off yet. I'm happy to see that it's happening sooner rather than later. My only worry? That eventually Macs will just become big iPads. Because right now there are things that Macs can do which are clumsy or impossible on an iPad. But who knows what the future will bring?
It looks like anything written in Apple's Xcode app development system will just have to be recompiled. Perhaps with minor tweaks. Simple. Microsoft and Adobe are already there for all their apps, and these are some really huge and complicated apps! What will be interesting is how these big companies use the custom hardware to add features to their products. This reminds me of the switch from PowerPC to Intel. All the apps would compile to work on both products via Universal Binary packages, and the user experience was seamless. But for those apps which weren't compiled to run on Intel silicon, they had a translation environment called "Rosetta." Now they've brought that idea back with Rosetta 2," so it looks like the transition is going to be just as seamless to Apple silicon, which is exactly what you want. Performance seems to be very good as well, so what's not to love?
• iOS on MacOS. A brilliant side effect of Apple making their own chips is that they can make it so iOS and iPadOS apps run natively on the new Macs. That's pretty great.
And that's a wrap. There's a lot of stuff to really appreciate here, but it's all vaporware until it ships and end-users have access, so I guess we'll see.
Posted on February 7th, 2020
Every year the Six Colors blog on all things Apple issues a report card. For the past week I've taken time when I have a free minute to make up a report card of my own.
I should start out by saying that I remain disappointed that Six Colors doesn't have a "Customer Service" section on their report card. If they did, I would give Apple an F- or whatever the lowest possible score is. The two horrendous incidents I endured in 2019... both of which were 100% Apple's fault... were so trauma-inducing that I STILL haven't been able to sit down and write out a blog entry on what happened. Every time I start, I get so overwhelmed with seething hatred that I have to stop. Maybe one day. But, suffice to say, Apple "customer service" is so downright horrific that the very thought of it has me questioning if I ever want to buy anything from Apple ever again.
But on to the report card...
Over the past five years I would have given Apple a D. Their shitty, shitty "butterfly" keyboards on their MacBook Pro laptops were a fucking disaster, and everybody hated them. But Apple being Apple felt that everybody was wrong and kept using the stupid things. They finally came to their senses and released a MacBook Pro with a "scissor" keyboard in 2019 and it made all the difference. I'm still upset that they removed Firewire, USB-A, and MagSafe from a so-called "pro" laptop, but I guess Apple is going to remain being Apple and ain't going to stop any time soon. The giant trackpad I was anticipating liking actually ended up being a negative, because it takes up a huge amount of space and is easy to touch when you don't mean to. Also? I have a hard time selecting text with it or click-dragging, something I've never had a problem with before.
When it comes to the desktop Macs, I have to drop Apple down a grade. They are so focused on the high-end Mac and iMac that it feels like the "models for the rest of us" are getting shafted. And don't get me started on the Mac mini. The original idea for that was to give people on a budget a way to afford a Mac by bringing their own periphreals. But now? The cheapest model is $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS! If this is meant to be an entry model which is priced to be budget-friendly, it fails spectacularly.
When it comes to MacOS X, which is apparently included in this category, I am indifferent. It feels like MacOS has been stagnating for years. Nothing overly-exciting or truly fresh and new has been released in what feels like forever. To me, MacOS X Catalina was actually a step backwards. My MacBook Pro comes with a fingerprint sensor for TouchID. You would think that this means you are done with entering your passwords. You would be wrong. I am constantly entering my fucking Apple ID password. CONSTANTLY! It is fucking embarrassing just how bad Apple is at security. They put on this huge show of how they are encouraging people to use stronger passwords, then completely sabotage it by making people have to enter these longer, more difficult passwords over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Who the fuck is going to use a complex, hard-to-crack password when you have to keep entering it over and over again? Nobody. Apple's claim to be making strong passwords more common is 100% bullshit. If anything, Apple's piss-poor handling of passwords encourages easier-to-remember, easier-to-crack passwords.
I love, love, love the latest iPhone. The phone part is all the same... just a bit faster is all... but the camera is sublime. The camera is everything. I wrote extensively about the iPhone 11 Pro and its miracle-camera here. If anything, my opinion has only gone up since I wrote it. Between Night Mode, Deep Fusion, three lenses, and the amazing quality of it all, I almost never use my DSLR any more. Why would I drag it around everywhere when I can take shots like these with my frickin' phone?
Amazing. If this keeps up, in another couple years most people won't even think about buying an actual camera.
iPad is an amazing, amazing tool. Drawing and painting on it is a sublime joy that still amazes me. And, as they release newer models of iPads and Pencils, it just keeps getting better and better. Where the problem lays is with iOS for iPad. It's just so darn bad. I have been trying and trying to figure out how the gesture-based multi-tasking works, and just when I think I understand it something happens which makes me realize that I absolutely don't. In all honesty, this aspect of iOS for iPad needs to be completely gutted so they can start over from scratch. Just burn it to the ground and start over. The user interface is a place where Apple usually excels. But this? THIS?!? Complete shit. It doesn't matter how good the hardware is when the OS driving it is this cumbersome. And so I averaged them together to get my grade.
I'm probably not qualified to comment here because I don't own an Apple Watch and have no plans to buy one. They are just so darn thick that I find them uncomfortable. Why they aren't investigating putting the battery in the band somehow or doing something to make them thinner is a mystery. Because if you've got a thin wrist like I do, it's just not a very good option. It's a real shame too, because I really like the health features. That being said... if a chunk of money lands in my lap, I might bite the bullet anyway because there's just so much good stuff to be had so conveniently.
Apple seems content to let AppleTV languish, and it's really too bad. The interface is abhorrent. So horribly difficult to use. Have a ton of movies? I hope not. Because you'll spend a lot of time scrolling and scrolling. But what's worse is that Apple content is just plain shitty to stream. Constant buffering errors, drop-outs, and pauses. And before you blame my fiber internet (which is what Apple does)... I don't have this problem with ANY OTHER SERVICE when streamed on my AppleTV. Not even with Disney+ or Amazon Prime streaming on Ultra HD!
Then there's Apple's idiotic attempt at doing away with logins by tying services you purchase through them to your Apple ID. I say "attempt" because the shit DOES NOT WORK. I can't tell you how many times I've subscribed to a streaming service through the AppleTV in my living room then can't use it on the AppleTV in my bedroom. And since you don't get a login, there's absolutely nothing you can do... EXCEPT NEVER, EVER, EVER SUBSCRIBE TO ANY STREAMING SERVICE THROUGH APPLETV! As if that weren't enough, if you subscribe to a service through AppleTV that doesn't have a desktop app, you can't watch it on your computer. You could probably watch it online through the provider's website if you got a login from AppleTV, but you don't so you can't. It makes no sense... NONE... as to why you'd ever go through Apple.
And don't even get me started on the shitty, SHITTY fucking remote they bundle with the thing. It is the single worst remote control I have used on any product ever. Constantly grabbing it by the wrong end. Constantly having trouble navigating content. Constantly losing the little fucker in my couch. I HATE it. And I mostly hate AppleTV, even though most third-party apps are pretty decent... and those gorgeous screen savers are sublime.
I don't subscribe to Apple News+ or Apple Arcade, and only have Apple TV+ because I get it free for a year. I subscribe to iCloud, but it's so horribly priced that I only buy the bare minimum for iPhone backup. The only plus is that iCloud Drive is content to just be a cloud drive, which is more than you can say for DropBox, who keeps adding the most ridiculously shitty and bloated services to their cloud drive that I just don't want. About the only thing I can truly comment on here is paying for Apple services. For weeks I've been getting a pop-up on my Apple Wallet asking me if I want to link my Apple Cash as a payment method at Apple. I absolutely do. Except it fails when I make the attempt. EVERY FUCKING TIME!
Why in the hell do they bother asking if it doesn't ever work?
I fucking hate HomeKit. It's a flakey, incomplete, crusty asshole of a technology. After waiting forever for compatible devices to come out, I started buying them... then immediately stopped because the experience was so bad. Rarely worked well. Sometimes didn't work at all. I'd recommend that Apple just give it up already, but they just joined a consortium with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance, so maybe they're on the right track now. Hopefully this will at least result in a workable technology, because I am totally ready to have my home automation built into iOS.
My score is comparative. When compared to every other tech company, Apple reliability is pretty darn good. It's not perfect, however. I've had to replace hard drives in two Macs in two years because the internal drives started failing.
Where do I start? I hated iTunes. I railed against what a profoundly shitty app it was and how bad my digital life was with it. Then they released the AppleTV app for MacOS and the Music app for MacOS and they are so fucking horrendous that I find myself longing for iTunes again. The TV app is the worst of the bunch. Try finding anything. You can't. Can't find the content you own easily. Can't find new stuff to buy AT ALL. When I go to the "movies" tab, for example, there are a bunch of things that AREN'T EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from Photos to the App Store to Books to Messages have serious problems and Apple doesn't seem to give a shit just how bad an experience it is.
As I'm not a developer, I can't really comment here. Except to say that I still question Apple's App Store policy of taking 30% of in-app purchases. That seems high considering all they do is process payment. Credit card charges aren't nearly that high, and it seems an absurd percentage in exchange for the convenience. In-app purchases should just be another reason why developers love developing for iOS. As it is, many developers just don't use it because the cut is too high. Want to buy a comic book in Comixology? Sorry. Have to go to the website and buy it that way because Amazon apparently doesn't have margin enough on books to give away 30%.
Apple seems increasingly willing to suck up to the Trump Administration... wanting to play nice to get tariff exemptions, I'm guessing. From not speaking out against outright lies about President Trump convincing Apple "to open a new plant in Texas"... to Tim Cook (WHO IS GAY) sucking up to Cheeto Jesus even though he has been rolling back LGBTQ rights at every opportunity, I am disgusted to my very core on this. The only reason Apple gets a D instead of an F is that they seem to continue to improve working conditions and environmental aspects of the company abroad. Still a lot of room for improvement (and it's happening way too slowly), however.
And that's the end of that. Nobody wishes I could have given Apple better scores than I, but things are sliding so badly in so many areas that I really didn't have much choice. The lone exemption being the iPhone, which is better than it's ever been.
And one of these days... I promise... I will finally unload on the heinous state of Apple Customer Service that I had to endure. It is one of the most mind-boggling, mind-blowing things I have ever experienced in "service" and that is saying a lot considering the crap I've had to put up with over the years.
Posted on September 13th, 2018
As my enthusiasm for Apple has waned, so too has my enthusiasm for their "events" where they unleash their new products and services on the world.
I do watch them of course. I may not be the raving Apple Whore™ I once was but, as there is no better alternative, I am still tied to the Apple ecosystem.
THIS IS BIG
If you want to watch the event before reading what I have to say about it, knock yourself out...
If you'd rather just get an 108-second summary, here you go...
Gotta hand it to Apple... boy do they know how to make "stuff" seem cool.
After moving from Apple Campus to Apple Park (home of the Giant Donut HQ, AKA "The Apple Mothership"... a building larger than The Pentagon), information on the massive complex in Cupertino has been relatively scarce. Yes, there's been a good article, a few videos, and some interviews, but nothing showing a major behind the scenes look at any of it. At this year's event (held in the Steve Jobs Theater), there were new bits and pieces shown in the cute video that started things off. If you didn't watch the entire keynote above, here it is...
Gorgeous. Obviously I'm dying to visit. But since the only thing you can see when you show up is the 100 million-dollar visitor center, I don't know that it's worth the trip.
If there's one area where Apple continues to impress me, it's with their retail operations. The stunning architecture that is the hallmark of these gorgeous new spaces is mind-blowing...
Now that Hard Rock Cafes have gone all hipster-lounge and are not nearly the destination-worthy attractions they used to be, one could make a strong argument for visiting Apple Stores around the globe.
As I have said every time a new Apple Watch is released, the product is not for me. I have tiny wrists and wearing a massive piece of tech on my arm is not something that works. I'd much rather keep my iPhone in my pocket and use that than to be uncomfortable. Not that I don't see the appeal. Having so much so readily available is definitely something that interests me. Especially with the new Series 4 watches, which add all kinds of things that have me reconsidering my stance...
The sizing issue is helped by more of the product being devoted to the watch face... and that it is supposed to be thinner. Probably not so thin that I'd be happy to wear it, but anything to take bulk away is a step in the right direction. Perhaps it's time that I visit an Apple Store and see if the smaller watch is something I could handle? Maybe. Or, if you factor in the new EKG capabilities, probably...
Yes, you read that right, the thing has a frickin' EKG built into it! I've always had issues with rapid heartbeat, so maybe the new pulse sensors and EKG stuff makes Apple Watch Series 4 a smart move? And now they've also added fall detection to the mix. Considering I just had a bad spill earlier this week, maybe this is more of a necessity than a luxury as I get older? It's certainly very cool. If my cats won't help me and I can't ask Alexa to get help because I'm unconscious, perhaps now is the time to invest...
We don't have an Apple Store in my corner of Redneckistan, but I think AT&T stores will be carrying them... so maybe there's that. Or a trip to Seattle to check things out.
It would be easy to dismiss the evolution of the iPhone X to iPhone XS with a big "meh" since things haven't changed a huge amount there. But there are three things that make Apple's latest and greatest worth a look. The first is that they are coming out with a "XS Max" version of iPhone X with a larger screen. I don't care about this, but I know a lot of people do. I was not happy having to go with the larger size of the "X" but ultimately adjusted. There's no way I want to have to get used to something even bigger in my pocket. Assuming it would even fit in my pocket...
The second? Photography. The faster processor of the next-gen A12 Bionic chip sounds pretty sweet. The machine learning enhancements of the "Neural Engine" alone make for some exciting possibilities down the pipe... particularly in the arena of Augmented Reality stuff. I use my phone primarily for calls, texts, home automation control, and Facebook... none of which will benefit from all this additional power. What will benefit? The thing I use my camera for more than any other function (by a long shot!)... photography. And here's why... the new processing power will allow you to adjust aperture after the photo has been taken! So you don't have to tap anywhere to set focus points and depth of field, you just fire away and adjust after the fact. Amazing...
More than anything else Apple has tossed out at this event, this is what makes me covet the new iPhone XS. Well, this and the fact that they've upgraded the camera itself again. Better low-light shots with less noise and more detail. Better HDR. Better Bokeh. Stronger dual-lens capabilities. Apple just keeps getting closer and closer to DSLRs. Heck, I wish I had some of these capabilities with my DSLRs!
And that third thing? The display. Hands-on reports say that the display fidelity of the XS is pretty spectacular and a noticeable upgrade from the X. This intrigues me because I thought the OLED Super Retina X display was pretty great already.
There are a few other notable improvements. Apparently the new XS models are capable of "Gigabyte class" LTE cellular speeds. The lack of which was a big criticism of mine on the old X model. But until I know if "Gigabyte class LTE" equals "Gigabyte LTE" I have no idea what this means. It only matters if you travel in an area where it's available but, if you are in that area, it does matter. Another interesting change? Apple has gone with eSIM rather than traditional SIM cards. This is fantastic if you have two phones and would like to be able to use both in a single handset. I have no idea how this affects being able to use foreign SIM cards for cheap foreign service when I'm out of the country though. Everybody knows to contact me with WhatsApp, so the carrier doesn't matter when I'm abroad... all that matters is the price. If I can't easily change SIMs with eSIM, that kinda sucks.
In general, I've preferred to grab an older model phone over a new cheaper model if I don't have the cash for the latest and greatest. In my head, "former top-of-the-line" beats "cheaper newer alternative" when it comes to tech. Not necessarily every time, but often. Apple once again dips into "cheaper newer" territory with their XR model. And, once again, it's the only way to get cool colors like Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral, and Red...
Boy would I like to have me a red iPhone! Guess I'll have to settle for a red case again. But anyway... the XR features the same amazing Bionic 12 chip, cool wireless charging, and fantastic TrueDepth sensor array (so everybody can use Face ID to unlock their phone, a feature I love). Where Apple cut corners to get a cheaper price is mainly with the display. Being LCD, its contract ratio is 1,400:1 instead of the stunning 1,000,000:1 ration of the OLED on the XS. Also? No 3D Touch on these displays. Another savings is with the single camera vs. the dual-cams in the flagship models. None of these are terrible compromises. Whether it's worth the $250 savings is the question people are going to have to answer. If I weren't already going with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, I would probably pick the XR in red and be done with it. But since I am with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can really afford any new-model iPhone now-a-days), I'll just swap my X for an XS when my renewal comes in December.
Not surprisingly, MacOS X was once again shit upon at the event. Apple has long been used their World Wide Developers Conference for all things Macintosh, so all we got from Tim was a reminder that "OS X Mojave" is coming on the 24th and it has "Dark Mode." Wheee...
Boy I wish Apple would put some serious money into redefining the desktop experience. Despite annual upgrades, MacOS X feels stale (at best) and downright stagnant (at worst). Giving us "dark mode" ain't going to fix that. Given how most of their revenue comes from iOS, neglecting the Mac is hardly surprisingly. But it is disappointing. Almost as disappointing as their "pro" model hardware that's not really "pro" at all.
And that's a wrap. Until next time. Where hopefully we will get an update on Apple's AirPower charging mat... something that was supposed to be released by now?
Posted on November 2nd, 2017
Another year, another macOS X release. And it's called "High Sierra."
This new operating system is one of those infamous "under the hood" releases where there's few actual changes you'll notice (nothing like the "hundreds of new features" Apple unleashed with "Sierra" back in September, 2016). And, while these are always disappointing releases on the surface, there is definite gold to be found in upgrading. Maybe. Rather than review the release (plenty of more capable sites than mine will be doing that), I thought I'd just write down my thoughts and comments.
Away we go...
INSTALL ME, YOU FOOLS... Installation, which used to be a major event back in the day, has been pretty much automated by modern operating systems. Apple, in particular, has made strides to have their OS upgrades be as painless as possible. The worst part about it is the waiting (well, unless your install goes wrong, in which case the worst part is having to recover your computer... please back up first!). Depending on your internet connection speed, the download and install can take around 25 minutes (at my office on fiber with a Fusion Drive) or 45 (at home on cable with an SSD). Both times it was a piece of cake. Bravo, Apple.
EXPRESS YOURSELF... Apple added a bunch of "emoji" to High Sierra. Most of them are charming, but useless to me. Others I'll probably actually use. Like these...
Emoji are actually a big help when trying to convey the sentiment behind your words. Not that they can always avoid a confusing message... absolutely they can just make things harder to understand depending on how you use them... but society is always evolving, and perhaps this will help move non-verbal non-visual communication to a better space. Because something has to.
A BOLD NEW FILE SYSTEM... Arguably the most critical and vital Big New Thing about High Sierra is the switch from HFS+ to APFS. For the non-geek set among you, that's changing the way your Mac handles data on it's storage devices. Apple created their own new thang (Apple File System) instead of hanging on to the antiquated old thang they had been using (Hierarchical File System Plus). It is a much-improved way of handling data, according to Apple. And this time, that is not marketing hype. First of all, cloning files (which used to be slow... and even risky... with large files or a lot of files) is now almost instantaneous. To test, I duplicated a folder filled with 3.6 GB of photos. I barely had time to blink and it was done. Amazing. Really amazing. That alone makes High Sierra worth the price of admission (which is FREE, by the way). But let's not stop there...
Obviously, my experience with APFS is limited right now, but I like what I read about it. Time will tell whether it's a blessing or a curse.
TIME WON'T GIVE ME TIME... I was surprised to find that the date and time were not in my menu bar. Installing High Sierra turned them off, so I had to go into prefs to turn them back on.
SPOTLIGHT NOT SO SHINY... I fucking hate "Spotlight," which is Apple's whole-system search tool. The menu bar "Spotlight Search" is so shitty and incapable that I don't even use it. Instead I use an ACTUAL TOOL TO GET THE JOB DONE, namely "Alfred," an app that makes search act exactly as one would expect search to act. What's weird is that when you use Apple's search box in a Finder window, it's actually not bad. For some reason, they save the shittiness for hot-key menu-bar-enabled Spotlight, where you inevitably always end up scrolling down to "Show All In Finder" because the results are so fucking worthless. Spotlight can also launch apps and do other shit... including the new shit of tracking a flight for you... but ultimately it's a system that's long overdue for a complete overhaul to become a serious tool instead of a toy add-on. Maybe now that there's a Core Framework in place in High Sierra, developers will make Spotlight something worth looking at but, for now, I couldn't care less and don't use it unless Siri uses it to answer one of my questions.
SIRI? WHEREFORE ART THOU, SIRI?... Apple's automated assistant, Siri, sounds like an all new gal (or guy, if that's how you've preferenced it) thanks to an improved speech synthesizer. To me the improvement is noticeable but not revolutionary (Siri takes a back seat to Alexa's speech quality, in my humble opinion). I also think that Siri is grossly minimalistic when it comes to being a smart and friendly part of the macOS. For example? She's not HomeKit integrated. You can't tell Siri on your Mac to unlock the front door when your hooker arrives, you have to grab your iPhone and tell that Siri to do it. Why? This is some amateur hour bullshit (though that's what I've been saying about HomeKit since day one... talk about an AppleFAIL). Still, the number of things you can ask Siri to look up for you and do for you are not insignificant, and she seems to be getting more capable all the time (especially with your music). I just wish Siri felt as much a part of macOS operations as she does to iOS operations (though even that isn't as stupendous as it should be)... and stop being treated as a happy afterthought on the desktop. Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are eating Apple's lunch here. Sink some of those billions of dollars into giving us the next-generation AI we can all love. And fear.
HEAVY METAL DREAMS, PART TWO... Apple's graphics display technology is divvied up into several pieces, all of which handle different parts of drawing out the information you see on your computer display. One of those display technologies is "Metal" which is (simplistically speaking) an application programming interface (API) which you can use to pass off intensive graphics chores to macOS for hardware-accelerated rendering. It's actually a very impressive technology which has been greatly improved in High Sierra with "Metal 2." The tech is pretty great at doing a lot of things well... so much so that Apple has actually taken things like drawing windows in the Finder and started passing them to Metal 2 to take care of. In addition, Apple has developed new stuff for Metal 2, like a virtual reality API, which should(?) make for some interesting new apps (though iOS is waaayyyy ahead of macOS in this area). I'm not sure exactly how compatible Metal 2 is with third-party graphic cards (none of my Apple stuff can even add a graphics card) but, if your card or Mac's internal graphics is compatible, you should see some display improvements... particularly with things like intense games written to take advantage of what Metal 2 has to offer... even over other technologies like OpenGL.
OH HOW I LOVE YOUR HIGH-EFFICIENCY CODEC... Computers today are vastly superior in capabilities to those ten years ago. Hell, even five years ago. I've been around personal computers since the beginning, so I know full well how far we've come... I've seen it happen. The one area that continues to surprise me is video. Back in the day you had to buy a Mac costing thousands, add a graphics card that cost thousands, then add a video board that cost thousands... just to be able to edit video. And even then it wasn't that great in ease of use, quality, or capabilities. Contrast and compare that with being able to capture and edit full-HD video on your frickin' smartphone with absolute ease today and you can see where I'm coming from. The problem is that, as photo and video quality gets better and better, you have to have more and more space to store it. High Sierra makes a quantum leap in addressing that problem. High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) are built into the OS now, and will give you much smaller file sizes at the same quality (or even give you better quality photo and video at the same size). The samples I've seen of still photos with HEIF are jaw-dropping. Fantastic quality at half (yes, HALF) the file size? Yes! Video files that are half-the size but don't look it? Sign me up! Except... not really. My iMac is relatively new, but doesn't have the ability to encode HEVC. You have to have a special hardware processor onboard which my Mac does not. Nor does my MacBook. All I can do is decode the new video formats. And, bummer of bummers, the video is a bit choppy when I look at it. Oh well. While it may not be something I can currently take advantage of, the pieces are in place for a very bright future when it comes to photos and videos on the Mac.
MACHINE LEARNING FOR FUN AND PROFIT... While actually kind of a hard mix of exciting and scary all in one, "machine learning" is a technology that's going to revolutionize our lives. Or doom all humanity to extinction. One of those two things. Apple is buying into the former by introducing the CoreML API, which allows complex data analysis and categorization. From that, it can extrapolate the data to make "intelligent guesses" as to how the data should be interpreted and acted upon. Or something like that. The end-result is smarter software (some of which is going to happen in ways we can't even dream of) and more capable tools. At least that's the goal. The one thing that Apple got right in their version of "machine learning" is that it's not an internet-enabled technology. It all happens on your Mac or iPhone out of privacy concerns. Time will tell how much use Apple or third-party developers get out of CoreML, but it certainly makes for some exciting future prospects.
GOING ON A SAFARI... I have mixed feelings about Apple's web browser, Safari. On one hand, it's blazingly fast... and even faster now in High Sierra (seriously, you'll notice!). On the other hand, it fucks up way too much. Take for instance Facebook. Holy shit... everybody is on facebook, so you'd think that Apple could get it right for that one particularly critical site. Nope. You get everything from input errors to zoom display errors and everything in-between. Now, admittedly, this may be Facebook's fault for the way they code their site... but should that matter? Apple's job is to make their browser display sites the way they need to be displayed and they are not doing that. That's entirely on Apple. New to Safari with High Sierra are features like "enhanced pop-up blocker" which is supposed to do a better job of blocking annoying windows that sites love to generate with ads and shit. Which would be great... if it actually worked. Try to make a reservation at Hilton.com and they still manage to have a fucking "Room Key" pop-up window appear behind your fucking browser window so when you've made your fucking reservation you have to close another fucking window that you didn't fucking want. Yeah, it's fucking Hilton's fucking fault... but fuck Apple anyway for getting my hopes up that they could stop this fucking bullshit. Apparently Apple has also made privacy improvements in the way websites can track you, which is nice I suppose, but I wanted the pop-up window-blocking they fucking promised me. I mean, holy fucking shit... macOS has to be told to generate a window, and you're telling me that there's no way to stop this shit?!? Get the fuck out of here.
TAKING NOTES... Notepad can now make tables. Wheeee. It can also pin notes to the top so that it doesn't get dropped in the newness list when you write/modify a different note. About damn time.
MAIL CALL! ARE YOU THERE MAIL?... If I had to pick one thing that makes me crazy about Apple, it's that they just don't seem to give a fuck about what the end user wants. THEY decide what you want... and how you'll use it. Nowhere is this more apparent than their email app, Apple Mail. It used to be that you were able to select the mail server to use for sending your email within the message itself. Now? You have to go into prefs and turn servers off and on. And even that doesn't always work, despite being a huge time-waster and a fucking horror show of an inconvenience. Sending attachments as "Windows Friendly Attachments" was an option for a while, but never fucking worked, so now it looks like Apple abandoned it (apparently you can command-line a way of not sending embedded attachments, but sometimes I want embedded attachments, so that's useless to me). The list goes on and on. Apple Mail is a steaming pile of shit that's almost impossible to use in a way that makes sense or is in any way capable. And yet... despite a dozen alternatives... it's the one that works best with the Mac, and so I am stuck with it. Needless to say, Apple doesn't give a flying fuck about professionals who need a capable email app, so Mail still gets fuck-all in High Sierra. I mean, yeah, it gets better compression of your email archives... and I think it's supposed to have better search or something... but things that matter? Nope. And don't hold your breath that it will ever fucking happen. That's Apple in a nutshell. For fuck's sake... I know you want to keep things simple, Apple, but at least give power-users a fucking option to have options in the prefs, otherwise you're never going to be taken seriously. Meanwhile over at Microsoft, Outlook is embarrassing the fuck out of pitiful Apple Mail in countless ways.
MESSING WITH MY PHOTOS... Apple used to produce a sweet piece of software called "Aperture." It was a wonderfully intuitive and capable photo editing tool that also maintained a photo library for you. No, it wasn't Photoshop but, for photographers, it was a powerful way to manage and improve your photos. But then Apple dumped it, leaving their thousands of dedicated users to switch to Adobe Lightroom or some other tool that wasn't Aperture. I was incensed at the time. I was so mad that I started seriously thinking about moving to Windows and giving up on Apple the way that Apple had given up on me. Cooler heads prevailed and I stuck around, but I'm still pretty pissed about it. Apple's replacement "Photos" was a meager cataloging tool that didn't impress me in the least. With High Sierra, Apple has finally added basic editing tools like the iOS version has... and even added some tools that iOS doesn't have yet. Like a "healing brush" which allows you to edit out unwanted bits of a photo and have it magically fill in. Like taking a beach shot and erasing those tiny people spoiling your beautiful image. Photos is much slower than Photoshop as you add more and more edits, but at least you can do it... and do it fairly well as long as you're not asking too much. Overall, it's nothing that's going to make me switch from Adobe LightRoom (and a pale, pathetic shadow of Aperture) but for the casual photographer that just wants to make their photos look pretty, these are some welcome additions.
THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER APPS THAN 64 BIT... Any of your apps still 32-bit? Well, unless they get upgraded to 64-bit apps, High Sierra is as far as you go, since 32-bit will be unsupported after this. If you're clutching some old app you love that's been discontinued, you may want to buy an extra Mac now that you can keep in perpetual High Sierra Land to run in.
And so... here we are. The end.
Well, at least we're at the end of all the things I want to comment on when it comes to High Sierra.
Ultimately, I don't know whether to recommend an immediate upgrade. Given that the showpiece of this macOS update is file system changes that are massive and incomplete, it may be worth it to wait a while. At least until Apple gets APFS working on Fusion drives. Your data... especially if you don't have a good backup strategy... is the most endangered thing about your Mac, and dicking around with the system which controls all that is dangerous territory. And it's an update you really don't have to take. At least not yet. Partly because there are no absolute must-have features that make the risk worth the reward... but mostly because the biggest benefits aren't even available to all Macs, only those with hardware new enough to take advantage of it. Heaven only knows I don't want to end my comments on High Sierra with a "meh," but that's pretty much where I am.
What's not so "meh" is what happens in future OS releases that build upon the under-the-hood technologies that Apple is banking on now. APFS? Metal 2? CoreML? HEVC and HEIF? All things that could have big, big payoffs in the years ahead.
Assuming Apple will still give a fuck about the Mac by then. The way things are going, they could just abandon it and go all iPhone/iPad all the time.
What a shame.
Posted on September 9th, 2015
Another September, another Apple Event.
This time there were few surprises, as Apple rumor sites have had the skinny on what's coming for months. Actually, with the exception of the Apple Pencil, I don't think there were any surprises. But we'll get to that in a bit.
Okay. I'm just going to come right out and say it... I want one of these things so very, very bad.
I've been jonesing for a graphics tablet with display for the longest time. Problem is they are incredibly expensive, and the stylus lag coupled with the thick glass above the display on more affordable models is a total boner-killer for me. But here comes Apple with a new "Apple Pencil" that apparently eliminates lag and is coupled with Apple's laminated display which minimizes the amount of glass between you and what you're drawing...
And, oh yeah... it's still an iPad, so it can do everything an iPad can already do on top of being a kick-ass graphics tablet display. Giving you a much bigger bang for your buck than purchasing a graphics tablet display alone.
And about that price...
$799 for a 32GB model (pretty useless if you're doing serious work)
$949 for a 128GB model (more realistic, but I was hoping for at least 256GB)
Add a $99 Apple Pencil and you're over $1000 for the model you want. Which hurts. But that's roughly what a Wacom Cintiq 13" HD Touch runs, and it can only do one thing (though, admittedly, it does it very well). So, assuming iPad Pro and Apple Pencil end up being as good as they look, APPLE! TAKE MY MONEY!
Guess we'll find out come November.
All things considered, a worthy Apple Event.
My favorite part of the show was closing it out with a great live performance by OneRepublic. My second-favorite was the news that Apple now has an Android app for transitioning from an Android phone to an iPhone. Classic!
As a Certified Apple Whore, I never feel more alive than when Apple releases something new that I want.
Posted on June 9th, 2015
And so yesterday was Apple's Word Wide Developers Conference 2015 Keynote.
I was underwhelmed. Mostly because the One Thing I wanted to hear more about was barely touched upon, and what was covered lacked any kind of "wow factor" for me.
I guess what follows here could be consider "spoilers" if you haven't seen it yet, so click here to watch Apple's Keynote if that's important to you.
On with the show...
A video featuring former SNL funnyman Bill Hader playing WWDC's "director" David LeGary opened the event. It was surprisingly funny. Even if you don't care about anything Apple, it's worth watching the start of the keynote just to see the intro.
Tim Cook Welcome.
Mr. Cook was his usual enthusiastic, entertaining self as he welcomed everybody to The Most Important Developer Conference on Earth. His most entertaining bit was when he brought up the Great Baseball Ransom Note. Last week Cleveland Indians' Brandon Moss hit the 100th home run of his career. The ball ended up landing in the Indian's dugout, which meant it was time for Brandon's teammates to write up a ransom note listing their demands in exchange for the ball. Interestingly enough, everybody's demands ended up being Apple products... iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, Apple watches, and the like...
Tim Cook was amused enough by this to have Apple pick up the tab for the demands, meaning Brandon gets his ball at no charge. Pretty sweet!
Mac OS X El Capitan
Craig Federighi, who has the best hair in tech, started things off by introducing us to the next version of Mac OS X, El Capitan...
Definitely evolutionary instead of revolutionary, El Cap's new features are kind of middle of the road. The new "Split View" feature which allows you to automatically size and position windows in the Finder has been something I've been doing with Moom for ages. OS X Search with "Spotlight" is already a loser to me because it's cluttered with too much shit that gets in the way of me actually finding stuff on my Mac. Well, guess what El Cap does for Spotlight? ADD EVEN MORE SHIT TO GET IN THE WAY! Yay! Craig touted more full-screen app features, but didn't mention THE ONE FUCKING THING THAT FULL-SCREEN APPS NEED... a way of permanently turning on the menu bar so you have access to critical information such as BATTERY LIFE REMAINING and THE TIME OF DAY without having to unhide the menu bar first. Lame! There are some nice new features in mail... but all I care about is if Mail has been made more reliable. Because right now Mail is utter shit, and adding more features doesn't fix shit. Note has been improved, but all I care about is whether or not Notes will sync properly now, which it hasn't done in ages. Safari is getting pinned tabs now, which is nice... but I'd sacrifice this nifty feature for better compatibility in a heartbeat. Maps is getting tansit directions at long last. And, lastly, Apple announced that Metal, their iOS graphics technology which is hugely powerful and efficient is coming to OS X. Oh happy day.
Siri is getting more better smarter, which is nice. Apple's getting more serious about publishing with their News app, which has me interested in seeing if it can be applied to THRICE Fiction. The Notes app is getting more powerful, which seems a little pointless considering that third-party apps have this space fairly well filled. Maps is getting improvements (including public transportation planning in some cities), which should be a no-brainer, but Apple has been dragging their heels for some reason. Wallet is replacing Passbook to better reflect where Apple is going with the app... the centerpiece being Apple Pay, which is the greatest thing since sliced bread, so that makes me happy.And, lastly, the iPad is getting multitasking, which is pretty smart considering Windows Surface has been eating Apple's lunch on this since they launched. The best news of all, however, is that iOS9 will run on every iPhone and iPad that iOS8 did, so nobody is getting left behind this time around.
The biggest news of the day did not end up being what I thought it would be... Apple hung that on their new streaming music service... Apple Music. It really isn't much different than Spotify or any other service, except that it looks better and appears to navigate easier. Apple is trying to up the ante by rolling in some features from their now-deceased Ping service in Connect, which allows artists to keep their fans up to date with what's going on. And then there's the new worldwide net-radio "experience" Beats 1, which seems insane to me... too many people have too many different musical tastes, so how can you plan a WORLDWIDE station that appeals to everyone? MTV (back when they actually played music) had to break up into pieces and have localized channels in different parts of the world... even that didn't work. Personally, none of this stuff appeals to me. I like to own the music I love. If I buy a digital track, it's mine to play forever. With streaming services, the music stops when the money runs out. Stop paying, stop playing. But, hey, Apple Music is going to have a free three-month trial, so who knows.
The main thing I was looking forward to at this conference was big news about Apple's HomeKit home automation technology which is (apparently) going to revolve around AppleTV. It was announced a year ago and has basically gone nowhere, so now was the time, right? All the WWDC propaganda had the AppleTV shape and the words "The Epicenter of Change" plastered on it, so what other conclusion could be drawn except finally HomeKit was getting its due?
And yet it didn't happen.
Maybe they were never planning on it. Maybe something changed. Maybe it wasn't ready. Who knows.
All I know is that nobody is better at shitting on Apple technologies than Apple themselves. Yes, new devices are being released for HomeKit. Yes, Apple took a whole minute of the WWDC keynote to tell us that HomeKit will be adding support for more than just lights and locks. But that's it. All that teasing for nothing.
And I just don't get it.
The longer Apple waits to stake their claim in the exploding home automation market, the less impact they're going to have. They need to be out there now!
I never thought I'd be saying this, but Apple needs to break apart as a company. Sure it's great to have everything under one roof, but when you can't focus enough to get shit done, maybe it's not the best fit. The slow death of HomeKit before its even released is a big wakeup call.
But oh well.
Maybe Apple will get their shit together and do a HomeKit "Special Event" by the end of the year and prove me wrong.
Otherwise, why did they even bother coming up with it?
Posted on November 13th, 2014
After a month (plus) with my iPhone 6 (not plus) I don't have much to say.
Do I like it? Oh yes. In fact, there are many things I love about it. Starting with Apple Pay, which is pretty much the bomb (when and where you can use it, that is).
There are, of course, things I'm not thrilled about as well. Mostly minor stuff that's not worth mentioning.
And one big thing that is. Which would be that it's too dang big!
The size of the 5s was perfect. It fit really well in my hand. It was super easy to operate one-handed. Typing on it was a joy.
The size of the 6 is oafish, clutzy, and difficult to mange... even with two hands... even with Apple's "Reachability" feature (double-touching the home button will drop the screen down in reach of your thumb). I can't even fathom how much worse the 6+ would be.
I just hope this means Apple will give us an option to go down a size with the iPhone 7.
Posted on October 21st, 2014
As a Certified Apple Whore I'm probably more critical of Apple than their harshest detractors. I don't know why that is, except I'm so used to things being awesome when it comes to Apple products that I'm pretty upset when things go wrong.
And it seems as though things go wrong more often than not lately.
As an example... I'm positively outraged that I still can't stream my iTunes movie and television purchases to my laptop or iPad/iPhone. Unlike every other media content provider on the planet, Apple doesn't allow streaming (except to their Apple TV device) and forces you to download video content in order to watch it. This is stupid as hell, makes no damn sense, and means iTunes is grossly inferior to alternatives like Amazon, Google, and Ultraviolet by a huge margin... but Apple simply doesn't give a shit. You do it their way or not at all.
You would think that past idiocy like this would prepare me for any new failures that Apple racks up, but I assure you it does not.
This was only confirmed today when I flew into an apoplectic rage when the two new features I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for in the just-released iOS 8.1 update don't actually work as advertised...
The idea is an intriguing one. Instead of using a credit card to pay for purchases, you use the credit card information stored on your iPhone 6. Why bother? Well, there's three very good reasons, actually...
Adding a credit card to Apple Pay is pretty easy. You type in the card info (or take a photo of the card to enter it automatically), then confirm the added card via email, text, or phone call. When it works, it's pretty painless. My Chase Bank Disney Visa even brings up a photo of my physical card design so I recognize which card I'm using...
Once added, credit cards appear on PassBook along with everything else...
Except... it's not a flawless process by any means. For reasons unknown, my Citi card added just fine, but all subsequent attempts to verify it have failed. I've been trying for two days now...
Needless to say, unverified cards are unusable, even though they show up in PassBook just the same. I don't know if this is an Apple problem or a CitiBank problem, but it doesn't matter... in the end it's an Apple problem because they obviously didn't test this crap as thoroughly as they should have.
UPDATE: Eventually I just deleted the card and started over. This time, the only option I had for verification was to call a toll-free number and tell a computer the name of my favorite teacher. Alrighty then...
And then, of course, there's those credit cards that aren't supported, like my US Bank FlexPerks account...
Now, I'm assuming this is not Apple's fault. I'm assuming that they presented Apple Pay to USBank along with all the other major credit card issuing banks, and USBank decided not to make it a priority.
Which is insane.
A major, major player like Apple comes up with a new method of making payment that DOESN'T cut credit card companies out of the picture... and US Bank is not onboard for launch? Like I said, insane. But hardly surprising. Do you know how long it took USBank to add chips to their cards? Years. Years of waiting for them to get off their asses and add a chip so I could use my card in Europe. Here's hoping that Apple completely removes credit card companies from Apple Pay within five years. Like record labels, they will NOT be missed, and technology will proceed much better without them.
According to Apple's FAQ, if a merchant requires you to give them your credit card number, you are to instead give them your "Device Account Number." Problem is, if you have "Display Zoom" turned on, you can't see the number and can't swipe to get at it. Most times when this happens, I am able to copy the information and paste it somewhere to look at it. Not with Apple Pay. I guess the only way to get my "Device Account Number" is to turn off Display Zoom first...
Now, I gotta ask... who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!? Because every damn time Apple releases something, I find a half-dozen bugs within a day or two. Every. Damn. Time. Surely Apple can't be this inept, so the only conclusion I can draw is that they know about most of the bugs they ship, and just figure they'll get to them when they damn well feel like it. In the meanwhile, their customers have to put up with this bullshit. But anyway...
Once set up, how is it to actually use Apple Pay? Easy. Just hold your phone next to the NFC (Near Field Communication) terminal and your iPhone 6 will automatically come alive and ask you to approve the transaction with TouchID (and allow you to change to a different card than your default, if you wish). You then get a confirmation that the payment was made and a confirmation of the transaction on your card's "info" panel...
All of this is, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the merchant in question A) Has Apple Pay. B) Know what it is and how to process it. and C) Has it up and running. I tried four locations that were listed as Apple's "partners" and the result was a mixed bag...
So... 50/50 with only one of the two successful transactions working exactly as intended. Not bad for second day after launch, I guess. The one thing I didn't do was attempt to return something to the store, which is supposed to be a real mess. I can imagine that may take a while for stores to train their employees how to handle.
UPDATE: One interesting thing... as I mentioned above, my Device Account Number doesn't show up because I have Display Zoom enabled. But on both my Walgreen's and McDonald's receipt, it says "VISA ACCT" followed by four digits that are not from my credit card. I'm guessing this must be my DAN, so I've made note of it.
Ultimately, Apple Pay has amazing potential. If every transaction could be as utterly painless, seamless, and blazingly fast as my experience at Walgreen's was, I would never pay with any other method ever again. Which, of course, can't happen until all the bugs are worked out and every merchant gets off their ass and implements a NFC processing system... so we're a ways away on that. But still, the future of payment is here, it's really great, and it's Apple Pay.
AIRDROP & HANDOFF/CONTINUITY
For quite a while now, Apple has had a technology called "AirDrop" on their Mac OS and iOS devices. This wonderful feature allows you to transfer files between machines with very little effort. Except... not really. Despite being named the same, AirDrop on Mac OS was an entirely different system than AirDrop on iOS, and they were completely incompatible. This was stupid with a capital D, and Apple should have waited until they got Mac OS/iOS interoperability before unleashing unfinished shit. Well, that day has finally come with Mac OS Yosemite and iOS 8.1. Except not really.
I'm just going to set aside that since my iMac doesn't have Bluetooth LE, it is incapable of connecting in any way with my iOS devices...
I can, however connect with other, newer Macs, but this involves entering an "Old Mac Compatibility Mode" on a more recent Mac to work. And once you are in that mode, you have to dump out in order to use the current AirDrop with "iOS devices and newer Macs" again...
About as elegant as buttering a slice of toast with a hammer, but I'm assuming there's some kind of technical reason for it. But, hey, at least there's an option here. When it comes to getting files from an iOS device, I'm back to emails and DropBox.
But what about those Macs which have Bluetooth LE and are compatible with AirDrop 2.0? Well... I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that it works. Except... not really.
Connecting my MacBook Pro (mid-2012) with my MacBook Air (Early 2014) and iPhone 6 works nicely. Though there was some confusion at first as to what I was AirDropping with because all it shows is the device's owner. In order to know which device you've got a connection to, you have to connect to two or more devices at the same time, then the information pops up...
No. I have not one damn clue as to why Apple doesn't help you out with that info when there's only one device connected. Maybe it's aesthetically displeasing to the spirit of Steve Jobs or some crazy shit like that. With Apple, you can never tell. But anyway...
Going Mac OS to Mac OS works perfectly. Going Mac OS to iOS works as expected. But going from iOS to Mac OS? No joy...
AirDrop is clearly connected... I can verify that on the Mac side in two places. But iOS simply will not acknowledge that it's part of an AirDrop network no matter what I do. I've rebooted my phone. I've disconnected and reconnected various devices in every order I can think of. I can send files TO my iPhone... but can't send a damn thing FROM my iPhone. At least to a Mac. To another iPhone 6 it works fine. I have verified in Apple's support forums that I am not the only one having problems. A lot of people are having problems. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!?
Oddly enough, "Handoff" or "Continuity" (or whatever the hell Apple is calling their iPhone to Mac to iPhone to Mac app transfer service) only works in the opposite direction... I can hand off composing an email or looking at a web page from my Mac to my iPhone with no problem at all. A little icon of my current Mac activity shows up on the lock screen of my iPhone 6 (opposite the camera icon), I swipe up on it, login with Touch ID, and I'm picking up exactly where my Mac left off, as advertised...
But the opposite direction? No joy. No matter what I do, nothing will ever handoff from my iPhone to my Mac. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is... well, you get the picture.
So Handoff, like Apple Pay, has some problems that need to be ironed out. Why Apple doesn't test thoroughly enough to iron them out before release is a complete mystery to me, but here we are. You'd have thought that Apple would have learned their lesson after the utter disaster that was iSync, but... well... apparently not.
The frustrating thing here is that Apple is developing these awesome technologies that are actually useful. Apple Pay, Air Drop, Handoff... all terrific, terrific stuff. On paper. In order for me to be impressed, Apple needs to make this shit work in reality. Apple Pay is close. AirDrop/Handoff isn't even in the ballpark.
I'm confident that one day things will get hammered into place. Apple has too much to lose if it doesn't. The only question is... how soon?
I want the future now.
Posted on October 20th, 2014
I'M UPGRADING MY iPHONE! NO TIME TO BLOG, MR. JONES!
CHECK BACK TOMORROW, NEVERMIND!
Posted on June 4th, 2014
"Android fragmentation is turning devices into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities."
— Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet
This is the second half of my notes on Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, this time focusing on what's coming down the pipe in iOS 8. And something else entirely, which was an unexpected surprise.
To start things off, Apple CEO Tim Cook was back on stage to drop some rather startling statistics on iOS update adoption vs. Android update adoption...
89% of iPhone users are on the latest version of iOS. A mere 9% of Android users are using the latest version of that mobile OS. For developers, this is a pretty big deal. If you are counting on new OS features for the functionality of your app, you have to be assured that your users have a version of the OS which has those features. From the looks of things, Android developers are going to be very slow to implement new stuff in their apps, because the vast majority of their users are on some older version where they are unsupported. Add to that the heinous fragmentation of the Android OEM variants, and Apple has made a very good case for developers to choose iOS as their platform of choice.
After Tim Cook's intro, Craig Federighi comes back to show everybody what end-user features and improvements we can expect with the next update.
One area where iOS has always been pretty horrible is dealing with interruptions. Get an alert, and you have to dump out of whatever you're doing to deal with it. iOS 8 takes a big leap forward by allowing you to handle common interruptions (like text messages and calendar alerts) without leaving the app you're in...
This is very cool, but it would be pretty useless if it were restricted to Apple-only interrupts. Fortunately, interactive notifications are available to 3rd-party apps, which is fantastic for people like me who communicate primarily through Facebook Messenger or other non-Apple services. What remains to be seen is how far the interactivity goes. Can developers customize the controls available to best fit their apps? Or does Apple limit interactivity to internal iOS buttons and text fields? Time will tell.
Taking a page from Windows Phone 8, iOS 8 now has some people-centric additions... like being able to access frequent and recent contacts on the app-switcher page. A terrific use of some wasted space...
Unfortunately, the usefulness of this feature is hampered by Apple deciding how you can interact with these people. Right now you can text, call, or Facetime with them... but there's no option for Facebook messaging or a slew of other 3rd-party apps that people use to keep in touch with the people in their lives. So, ultimately, a step in the right direction... but not a very big one.
Next up was a beautiful new grouped tabs interface for Safari on the iPad...
I do three things on my iPad... 1) Watch movies when I travel... 2) Read comic books... and 3) Surf the internet. The area in most need of improvement is Safari for web browsing, and it's nice to know that Apple is at least trying to make it a better experience.
One of the most exciting pieces of news at the keynote was Apple's announcement of an improved keyboard... now with predictive text. As you type, words appear above the keyboard where iOS is trying to guess what you're typing. Kind of like what happens now as words appear above your input cursor while you type... except now you get more than just one word, which should be a lot more productive. iOS doesn't stop there though... it also tries to predict words you'll use in response to emails based on the content and whom the email is from! The keyboard learns context, and tries to be smart about how it assists you...
As if all that weren't enough... Apple is now going to allow you to install alternative keyboards! This means terrific technology like Swype, which allows you to slide your finger from letter to letter in a word... and Fleksy which has an amazing word-guessing algorithm and cool gesture controls... can be installed and used system-wide. This is fantastic news, because now users can test keyboards and find the one that will allow them to type the fastest.
And then, AT LONG LAST, Apple has finally given some love to their texting app, "Messages." I don't know what the heck took so long, but now we can finally manage users on group messages... and even dump out of a conversation if you want. If that's too extreme, you can put a thread on "do not disturb" so it won't keep buzzing your phone. Even better, iOS 8 has even more ways to communicate... allowing you to share your location, and even add voice memos and quick videos...
Now if Apple would only get off their ass and give the same attention to VOICE CALLS. I mean, come on... PC call center software has been around for decades which allows you to do simple things like record custom voicemail messages and selectively route callers... why in the hell is iPhone so far behind in this? It IS, after all, primarily a PHONE, isn't it? Oh well, I suppose I should be thrilled that we at least get to block a caller from calling again... how long did we have to wait for that?
And then we have HealthKit... Apple's portal to managing all your health apps...
The ultimate promise of the idea is that one day you will be able to monitor various aspects of your health (like blood pressure and the like) which can automatically be transmitted and monitored by your automated analysis software and you doctor. If there's a problem detected, your doctor's office can then contact you to get it sorted out. It's a fantastic idea. In theory. In reality, I wonder how many doctor's offices are going to implement this stuff any time soon. I also wonder when we're going to get Apple's "iWatch" which will have health monitoring and syncing that makes HealthKit actually useful. Who knows.
From there we moved on to photo storage (in iCloud, of course) and the idea of Apple's "Smart Adjustment" technology which gives you the ability to perform comprehensive edits that are smart enough to do a lot of "behind the scenes" work to give you much better photos with little effort...
It will be bundled with iOS 8 and be added to Yosemite in 2015. Which is great and all... but I have to wonder where this leaves Aperture, Apple's high-end photo editing and storage software. How will it be able to handle edits made in iPhoto on iPhones, iPads, and Macs? Will they integrate, or be a separate set? Will flattened edits in Aperture be saved out so that devices reading from your iCloud Photos can actually view them? All of this is up in the air. And since Apple won't comment on future software (natch) it's tough to tell if Aperture is even going to be around in 2015. This is very, very frustrating... but so typically Apple. I honestly don't expect them to tip their hand and tell people what's happening with Aperture... but it would at least be nice to know that it's still going to be around.
A surprise to no one, Siri is being updated...
I use Siri all the time, so naturally I am thrilled to have improvements to his/her functionality. What bums me out is how far behind the Mac version is to the iOS version, and no mention has been made as to whether or not any love is going to be spent improving the Macintosh side of things. I would hope so, because the crappy dictation functionality on the Mac is pathetic. Why Apple can't keep up with the iOS side of things is a complete mystery. Why can't you ask Siri questions on a Mac like you can on an iPhone? It makes -zero- sense. And yet here we are.
And here's where things start to get interesting.
Very interesting, if you're a developer.
First of all, Apple is going to finally allow permission-based data sharing between apps. Something that is long overdue and will makes for some incredible extended functionality possibilities. Sure, the functionality will be limited so as to keep data safe... but this is such a massive leap in the right direction that I find it hard to not get excited at the prospect.
Game developers will get up to a massive 10x speed bump in their apps thanks to a new technology called "Metal" which allows them to get closer to the raw power of the iPhone/iPad processor than ever before.
And, lastly, something that took everybody by surprise... a new development language called Swift that takes the best parts of past programming languages and marries them to modern programming concepts while leaving all the antiquated baggage behind...
Without being able to see it and play with it, there's no way I can really comment on how useful Swift might end up being. But it certainly sounds promising. And powerful. And easier to use. And smart. I can't wait to take a look.
And that was that.
No new hardware. No new AppleTV. No new iWatch.
Just some interesting new features and a promising new future for Mac developers. Which is what I guess we should expect from a Developer's conference.
So I guess I'll try not to be disappointed with the lack of new toys.