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Posts Tagged ‘ios’

Game Changers: What Apple Announced This Week at WWDC

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You can’t go anywhere on the web without reading one of a zillion articles about what Apple announced at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), so instead of going long on this and reiterating what everyone is saying, I’m going to summarize the big things as succinctly as possible.

Why even bother? Because some of the things Apple announced are HUGE.

Open-API Touch ID Functionality

Touch ID – the software behind Apple’s fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S – is excellent, and once you start using it, you get used to it – fast. Passwords feel archaic, and you get annoyed when you have to type one.

This week, Apple opened Touch ID up to third-party developers, which means anyone can create an app that foregoes passwords and instead uses a fingerprint biometric. Think about that: Apple is swinging an axe straight down on the neck of the confusing, easily-compromised password scheme we all love to hate.

This will change the way login security will be handled on a massive scale. Just wait and see how quickly developers snap this up.

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Impressions of Microsoft Office for iPad

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Paul Thurrott:

As for how powerful these apps are, consider this. I loaded up my 575 page Windows 8.1 Field Guide Word document, and while it took a while to download originally (it’s stored in OneDrive for Business as part of my Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription), the performance reading and editing the document was impressive. In fact, it was… amazing. This is the real deal.

As important, the fidelity of the document was perfect: Everything was formatted correctly, including images. I could actually write a book on this thing if I wanted to. (Relax, I don’t.) Microsoft claims that documents look as good on the iPad as they do on the PC. And I gotta say. They really do.

Ed Bott:

What’s fascinating about Office for the iPad is how it leapfrogs Microsoft’s Windows tablets. On Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, Office is still a desktop app with some grudging interface tweaks designed to ease the pain of using an app without a mouse. Anyone who owns a Surface RT is likely to look enviously at these iPad apps, which for now are the gold standard for Office on a modern tablet.

With the release of Office for iPad, the divide between laptop and tablet just got reduced to a negligible crack. These are truly outstanding apps, and you can do real work on them with no caveats. As far as I can tell, Office for iPad is to Office as Photoshop Elements is to Photoshop. Sure, you don’t get 100% feature coverage, but for the 70% of the stuff most people do every day with office documents, it’s there, it’s graphically beautiful, and it works flawlessly.

Truth and Lies About Apple

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Brian S. Hall, writing for Techpinions:

That Google continues to develop and support services optimized for iPhone is all you need to know about those who scream that IPHONE IS DOOMED. They are either ignorant or they are lying to you. Why do you continue to reward them with your attention?

Very smart piece about fact vs. fiction as it relates to the current Apple zeitgeist. Recommended.

Hundreds

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I’m going to send you into the weekend with my new iOS game obsession: Hundreds. It’s a wonderfully simple game in which you grow circles until their collective value reaches 100 — but you cannot let them touch anything else while they grow. Oh, and there are things (like razor circles) that will ‘pop’ your circles and reset their value to zero. Maddening, but the one of the most addictive games I’ve played. Worth three bucks, easy.

Here is a gameplay video, because looking back on my description the game sounds horrifically boring. It’s anything but.

Casual Friday: An App That Tracks and Quantifies Your Sleep. Yes, Really.

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I’ve talked about sleep before, and how it relates to health. I’m a nerd that way. I think sleep is important, and most of us don’t get enough of it and what we do get is often poor quality.

So, that said, can I tell you about something I like?

There’s an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle that purports to do what nigh borders on magic: track your sleep quality and report in the morning on how well you slept. How does it do it? The iPhone’s gyroscope, mostly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it uses unicorn tears either, because what began as skepticism with me changed into full-on belief/amazement five days later. In a word, it works as promised, so much so that I have no choice but to echo the other reviews this app has received: it’s amazing.

The exact voodoo Sleep Cycle uses to determine sleep depth is a mystery, but again, at a basic level, it uses the iPhone’s gyroscope to detect movement. Increased movement = lesser sleep quality, but I’m sure there’s more math to it than that. In my experience, I found that the app perfectly tracks my cycles of being awake and deeply asleep.

Example: I get up at 3 AM to go to the bathroom. It knows and records it.

Another: I typically have my deepest sleep around 3:45 AM. I know this from 43 years of being alive. Sure enough, the app knew it in one day.

The concept is simple: you place your iPhone face down on the corner of the bed nearest you. The instructions say place it under the top sheet, but I don’t. You must leave your phone plugged in, because the iPhone is ‘conscious’ overnight as the gyroscope collects movement data.

That’s it. You go to sleep, and it goes to work.

When you wake up, you flip off the alarm (if you have it set; more on that later) and you get your sleep report card:

This is your sleep results dashboard: you can see your sleep quality hour by hour (ranging from awake to deep sleep), and after five days, the app will start giving you a percentage ‘sleep quality’ score based on what it knows about your sleeping (and movement) patterns. When you wake up, you can have the app ask you how you feel: good (happy face), average (normal face) or lousy (sad face). You an also set up sleep notes like ‘stressful day’ or ‘worked out’ or ‘had drinks’ and the app will start to correlate these notes with sleep quality scores.

Like most quantified-self apps, this gets better the more you use it. It’s database grows pretty robust, so your results get increasingly accurate over time. If you’re into poring over the raw data, the app even provides an option to show it to you in the Settings menu.

If you flip your iPhone to landscape orientation, you get a bevy of additional reports. Here are a few:

Sleep Cycle also has an innovative alarm function: it will wake you in a time range (say, 6:30 AM – 7:00 AM) when it detects you’re sleeping the lightest. That way, the logic goes, you’re not jarred out of a deep sleep, which tends to make humans wake up with bared fangs. It has a regular alarm too (which wakes you up at a static time), but from what I found, the smart alarm works as advertised.

What can I say? This app is modern-day magic, and you’re probably not getting enough sleep as it is. If you’re at all a performance nerd like me, you should stop reading and just go get it. You probably spent two grand on a fancy mattress, so spend a buck on this and see where it gets you. Available on the App Store.

(Full disclosure: I have zero financial interest or stake in Sleep Cycle. I just think it’s modern technology put to a good use, and a smartphone app innovation showcase. Plain and simple.)

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Casual Friday: On the iPhone 5 (Or Whatever It Will Be Called)

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Here’s Henry Blodget, writing for Business Insider:

Over the past few days, the latest round of purported pictures of Apple’s forthcoming iPhone 5 have hit the web.

And I can’t be the only potential customer who is deflated by what they see.

In fact, I’ll go far enough to say that, if the iPhone 5 looks like the pictures that have recently appeared, Apple may be screwed.

Normally, I can’t stand link-bait articles like this, and ‘screwed’ is nothing but hyperbole for the sake of cheap web traffic. But I think there’s a bit of truth in what Blodget writes.

The ‘leaked’ pictures of the forthcoming iPhone 5 (I don’t think it will be called this; remember the de-numeralizing of the latest iPad) look startlingly like an iPhone 4S, which was released last year. The iPhone 4S is an exact replica of the iPhone 4, released in Fall of 2010. So, Apple is working with a design that’s a solid two years old.

It’s a great design, mind you. It’s the only device on the market that summons a Zen-like minimalism coupled with a Leica or Deiter Rams-esque sense of timeless industrial design. Banished antenna issues aside, the current design we have is a triumph.

A two year old triumph, but a triumph nonetheless. The iPhone 4/4S doesn’t look old compared to modern smartphones. It only looks old because we know it hasn’t been updated in two years. If Appler were to release it anew today, everyone would be impressed. That’s a testament to its still-fledgling timelessness.

Leaked photo of the purported 'next generation' iPhone.

However, things being what they are, if Apple releases a phone with a slightly taller screen (to achieve a 4″ diagonal measurement), LTE and maybe a slightly improved camera and a different back plate, I think most folks will be nonplussed. Yes, it’s an improvement, but people expect more from Apple, especially in this post-Jobs era, when the company’s product direction is under the microscope.

Blodget says:

Because it will make it clear that one observation that many Apple skeptics make is dead-on correct–namely that each new generation of the iPhone offers less and less improvement over the prior generation, and, thus, gives customers less reason to upgrade.

That’s true. The differences between the iPhone 4 and 4S were more RAM, a different CPU/GPU (both of which the average consumer doesn’t care about), a better camera, improved battery life and Siri (all of which are marketable features).

In practice, for your average smartphone user, the only real difference is Siri. And if you read this blog last week, you know my thoughts on Siri: it’s an unfinished, unreliable beta experiment.

The real-world differences between the 4 and 4S are quite small. Apple nonetheless sold a jillion 4S’s, but I wonder how much of that had to do with Steve Jobs’s death and the initial Siri buzz. And if you recall, there was much chagrin over the ‘sameness’ of the iPhone 4S. In the end, it didn’t appear to hurt sales any: the iPhone 4S became Apple’s most popular phone ever.

With the iPhone 5, we think Apple needs to show the world that it’s truly raising the bar again. Rumor says the iPhone 5 was one of the last projects in which Steve Jobs was intimately involved, so I have a hard time believing we’re going to see a 10mm taller iPhone 4S called the iPhone 5 (or whatever). Please pardon my willingness to refuse that the leaks we’re seeing now are actually representative of the final product.

Maybe what we’re looking at is the law of diminishing returns when it comes to consumers becoming tech thrill junkies instead of value seekers: the original iPhone rocked the mobile communications world like nothing else. Everyone had a rush of technocultural dopamine as the iPhone went stratospheric in popularity.

But now we’ve crashed and have the shakes, and we want something revolutionary again. Maybe the reality is that we’re continuing to get innovation, but it will be the little things – camera quality, innovative power charging/connectivity systems, software nuances, ecosystem quality and inter-device integration aspects – that we’re going to enjoy.

Maybe the dopamine will be there after all, just in time-released drips instead of one big rush.

Apple’s culture and management team is too imbued with Steve Jobs and the principles he instilled and fostered. Apple’s not going to rest on its success, but its modern innovation may not be what the mass market thinks – or wants.

After all, that’s the Apple way.

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Casual Friday: Google Nexus 7 Review

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Buckle up, you guys. This is a long one.

Right up front, let me be clear about bias, because that’s a word that can get tossed around after posts like this: I am an unabashed iOS/OSX user. My technology sprawl includes two 27 inch iMacs, a Thunderbolt Cinema Display, a MacBook Air, an iPad ‘3’ and my constantly-conjoined second brain, an iPhone 4S. My experience with Android before the Nexus 7 was precisely this: bad. As in: really bad. Android was clunky, ugly, lag-soaked and had such substandard third-party apps so as to make apps in general a complete afterthought outside of Google’s own. I tried to give Android a fair shake twice, only to run back to iOS’s polished embrace each time.

So. That said, what compelled me to even think about a Nexus 7? In a word, the buzz. A ton of Android tablets have been released, and none so much as stirred the slightest wave of interest outside of hardcore Android devotees. The Nexus 7, however, was immediately different. As evidenced by stellar sales and strong reviews, its shine is unmistakeable, even for diehard iOS fans like me. It became clear to me that it was time to take the plunge – again – this time without committing my phone to the platform. And for $199, you’re on the cusp of technology impulse purchase territory – especially seeing how you could turn around and sell it in a red second if you didn’t like it. And something must be clicking, somewhere: as I write this, the 16GB Nexus 7 is sold out on the Google Play store. Even Google wasn’t expecting this much fanfare surrounding its new tablet.

I’m not going to go all The Verge on you and give you the uber-detailed breakdown. If you want that, it’s out there. What I am going to give you is my impression of the Nexus 7 from the standpoint of an entrenched Apple user. Off we go.

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Casual Friday: iPhone Apps I Probably Couldn’t Live Without, Vol. 2

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Last week, I listed my favorite must-have, daily-use iOS (iPhone/iPad) apps. Because I might be the biggest Apple slappy you semi-sorta know on the web due to a blog you read, I have more to share. Way more. But I’ll spare you the way and just give you more, because these might be useful to you. If not, that’s fine, because writing about them is fun to me. Fun?, you ask. Yes, fun. I’m already at 85 words, for crying out loud.

Are you still here? Amazing.

So here we go. These aren’t going to be in any particular order, because they’re stragglers from last week. Nicely-dressed, very polite stragglers, but stragglers nonetheless. Treat them well. They won’t steal anything.

  • Captio. I mentioned this last week, but I want to expound on it. Captio defines a basic app: it simply gives you a blank screen on which you compose a note, reminder, whatever. When done, you hit send and your note is emailed to yourself, because when you set up Captio you link it to an email account of your choosing. Sound stupid? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Now I use it every day, because it’s so quick and allows you to organize your emails to yourself later in whatever system/app you choose. Its genius is its simplicity.
  • OpenTable. For an annoying foodie like me, this app is everything. I can’t tell you when I last called a restaurant to make reservations. OpenTable’s iOS app is just like the web app: restaurant searches are quick and easy (the iOS app uses geolocation to save a step), open timeslots are quickly displayed, and reviews are embedded along with reservation slots and contact information. It’s brilliant, and I’ve never had a glitch using this. If you use OpenTable and use iOS, get this app.
  • Nike Golf 360. Golf nerd? This app is for you. It has scorecards for just about every course I’ve tried, and it knows what course you’re on via geolocation. The best part is that over time, it analyzes your game based on the information you provide. It tells me my driving accuracy is 60%, GIR 40%, and that I putt like a blind dog. You can upload and share your scores if you’re so inclined, and it has videos of the pros’ swings to study. It even lets someone take a video of your sorry swing and superimpose it on top of a pro’s to really make you feel like you have no gross motor skills. An incredibly polished app, and right now, it’s free.
  • DailyBurn Tracker. I could go on for 200,000 words about why the calorie in/calorie out model is massively incomplete for weight loss, but if you’re trying to get healthy or even a full-on health nut, tracking something is better than nothing. If you want to truly understand how many calories you’re eating, this is the app for you. A huge database, intuitive data entry, workout and weight tracking, and progress analytics put this in my must-have folder for anyone who wants to get a baseline of how much they’re eating. It’s also updated regularly, and I’ve never had a single technical issue with it. Good stuff.
  • Instapaper. This should have been in my post last week, because I use it constantly. If you’re not familiar, Instapaper (with an accompanying iOS app) is a service that lets you save any web page for later reading. This is great for longform articles, or even shorter posts you don’t have time to get to when you stumble across them. Absolutely invaluable, and Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, puts massive time and attention into his app. It’s pixel-perfect, and worth every penny.
  • Paper (iPad only). There have been several apps that purport to be able to replace a notebook with some pens and brushes, but none really can. Except Paper. It’s the app I doodle in the most when I’m bored or on vacation, and I find myself jotting things down and being creative in ways I never would with a real notebook. Get yourself a stylus (I use the Wacom Bamboo), and you can get lost in this for hours. If I can, you can, because I have the artistic ability of a badger (evidence here).

That’s it. Wrapping up at 730 words. You’re welcome.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About this blog.

Casual Friday: iPhone Apps I Probably Couldn’t Live Without

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Last Friday, I detailed my general computing setup so that those of you who like to see what other geeks use to get things done could enjoy some serious nerdery. This week it’s the same gig, only the iPhone edition.

I could go on forever with this stuff, but I’m only going to talk about the apps I use a lot, where a lot means several times daily. Believe it or not, I get asked this question a ton (“What app do you suggest for #TOPIC?”), and if I’m honest I always pore over other nerds’ app selections. It’s sad, too, because if I read posts like the one you’re about to, I’ll be out five or six bucks by the end — guaranteed.

So, you’ve been warned. Here’s the first of two parts. Part two will be published next Friday, so if you’re into this sort of thing (high five if you are!), check back then.

WEATHER

My go-to weather app is Dark Sky, followed by My-Cast. I use Dark Sky primarily, but I also find MyCast very good if I get the feeling Dark Sky is lying to me. I love the sparkline graphs in My-Cast, but the hour-by-hour predictions in Dark Sky are uncannily accurate.

NOTE TAKING

There is passionate debate about this app segment — just take a look at Brett Terpstra’s massively, world-bendingly detailed comparo. While I really want to geek out and try at least half of these, I just stick with what I’ve been using happily for years: Simplenote. It syncs perfectly, has Dropbox integration, and offers a web client for note taking and random jotting while you’re at your computer and you think of your next hilarious cat picture caption. It supports tags, note sharing, and versioning. It has a cool icon. Really, just go get it. It may not do everything some of the other iOS editors do, but what it does it does perfectly. I pay for the pro version.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Man, if you could see the nightmarish folder I have stuffed full of iOS photography apps. In the end, though, all I really use for taking pictures are Instagram, Camera Awesome and Camera+. If I had to pick one, I have no idea what I’d do: I like Camera Awesome despite it’s frat-boy name, and Camera+ is a legit ‘photographer’s photograpy app’. Instagram is a daily thing for me because I like to think I’m a decent photographer (I’m not) and people like to see what I shoot (they don’t).

For editing apps in post on my iPad or iPhone, I use Snapseed or Apple’s own iPhoto, which is more advanced than meets the eye. I try not to do too much photo editing on iOS, though, as I prefer using a desktop. Call me old school. Kids today, editing real photos on touchscreens. Bah! Get off my lawn!

PODCASTS/PODCATCHING

I’m a huge podcast nerd, and I use Downcast pretty much every time I get in a car. In fact, Downcast alone has pretty much eliminated the need for my car to have a functioning radio or CD player, because it’s that good over Bluetooth. Other people swear by Instacast, but I’ve not tried it. I mention it here because it gets too much buzz by people I respect not to. Check them both out and pick the one with the prettiest screenshots. That’s what I always do.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Seeing how I’m a web nerd and spend my days staring at glowing screens reading about the salmon other people are having for lunch, this is a pretty big category for me.

For Twitter, I use Tweetbot, easily the best Twitter client I’ve ever used anywhere. I use Facebook for, well, Facebook, although I’m finding it increasily slow and buggy and frustrating to use. I use Foursquare a lot too, although I have a sinking feeling every time I voluntarily tell an anonymous server in the sky where I am. I use WordPress and Squarespace for blogging and shortform web writing. Anytime I find a cool link, I save it with the mobile version of Pinboard because there’s a .0003% chance I’ll remember it otherwise.

TASK MANAGEMENT

When I’m on the road and need to record something to remember, I use Captio to send an email to my Gmail, where I have a filter that breaks all Captio messages into their own inbox for easy parsing. From there, I transcribe them into my second brains: Due and Apple’s Reminders app. A giant part of productivity — at least for me, because I have a zillion things to track and unless I get it out of my brain and on to a list somewhere, the idea is as good as doomed — is organization and remembering the ideas that come to me out of nowhere. I tried the pen and notebook thing, and found it too manual.

So. Here I am at 923 words, and I could keep going for another 2,000 if you let me. Which you won’t, and I don’t blame you. Check back next week for part two if you want, but if you don’t it’s OK with me. So totally OK.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 4/6/12

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If you observe Easter, we’re heading into a holiday weekend. As such, you need things to talk about. I would give you all you need about playoff hockey, but since about 9% of the population seems to care, I’ll instead arm you with all sorts of web esoterica. Hang on.

Google announces Project Glass, their augmented-reality glasses. The general vibe of this news is thus: futuristic, potentially cool concept, dorky look. What people aren’t talking a great deal about: can you imagine the user data Google collects on someone using this? That boggles my mind — and not in a good way.

Why $7.99 beats $0.99: an articulation of the end of the race to the bottom in iOS app pricing. I think the iPad paved the way for higher app pricing (and far better apps) on iOS in general. Note: this is not a missive to justify taking a junky app and overpricing it; it’s an argument for pricing value at the appropriate level and not feeling downward price pressure because everyone else’s garbage app is a buck.

Still rough on touch typing skills? If so, your life is hard, and getting harder by the day. Try TypingClub, a free online touch typing trainer. Even though I’m a serious keyboard monkey, I found this actually improved my typing rate. No joke. Try it yourself and tell me I’m wrong. In an email you write insanely fast, please.

I hereby resign: a fictional letter on the liability of Facebook background checks.

Like tower defense games? If so, try MapsTD, a tower defense game based on Google Maps. The best part is that you can play anywhere in the world: Rome, Moab, or your own neighborhood. Dorky? Yes. Surprisingly fun even once the novelty wears off? Yes.

To Do: a Venn diagram eerily based upon what seems to be my brain. Accurate and, in a way, bothersome. Now let me go do some — HEY LOOK A SPOON!

Paper: if you have an iPad and have any inclination to sketch, jot down ideas, paint, or otherwise be creative, this is an app you simply cannot miss. I’ve been playing with it for hours, and it even caused me to buy a Wacom Bamboo stylus. Worth every penny.

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray says Apple shares are projected to reach $1000/share in 2014, which would make Apple the world’s first trillion-dollar company. Trillion with a T, folks.

If you’re camera goomba like me and don’t feel like blowing good opportunities messing with aperture and shutter settings at your kid’s birthday party, experiment with The SLR Camera Simulator for a bit. It lets you modify lighting conditions, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture, shutter speed and camera shooting modes. Pretty fun to see what sort of good — and awful — combinations you can come up with. Very useful if you’re new to photography.

As if declining market share, failed products and slipping relevance weren’t enough problems for RIM, now people are getting stabbed at the events it hosts. Talk about not catching a break.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About this blog.

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