iPhone 6S Feature Wishlist: Improved Camera, Unlocked, Force Touch, USB-C?

Apple expected to announce new iPhones on September 9th, 2015.

Some things that I would like to see from this years iPhone release are:

Camera Improvements

Perhaps the biggest reason that I am glad to upgrade my iPhone every two years, and possibly yearly now that I am not buying subsidized phones, is the fact that the quality of the camera improves with almost every release.

The rumor for this years iPhone is that the camera will be a jump up in megapixels from 8MP to 12MP. Apple has never used the marketing of megapixels to sell phones, but instead they focus on improving the technology to increase the quality of the photos with the image processor built into their A series chips and increasing the pixel size on the sensor.

This past year Apple purchased a company from Israel by the name of LinX that specializes in cameras for mobile devices

LinX develops and markets miniature cameras for tablets and smartphones. Using an array of sensors that capture multiple images at the same time and proprietary algorithms, LinX says its cameras can gauge depth and create three-dimensional image maps.

Last year, the company said its tiny camera modules allow for better-quality pictures in low light and faster exposure at standard indoor conditions. It said the technology offers single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera image quality without the need for a bulky device.

The news that Apple purchased LinX came out in April, so it is possible that technology may not have been incorporated into this release. It will be interesting to see how it is used when it finally is.

Unlocked At Launch

As cell phone carriers are moving away from subsidies, I am hoping that Apple will offer a factory unlocked version on day one.

Typically you cannot purchase a SIM free phone from Apple until a certain time after the carrier versions of the phones have gone on sale. I assume that there is a rule somewhere in the contracts that Apple has with the carriers that requires Apple to wait to offer customers an unlocked version. For the iPhone 6, which was released on September 19th 2014, the SIM free version (unlocked) was released on January 06, 2015.

Back in June, Apple stopped selling subsidized phones through their online store and switched to only selling phones available through AT&T's NEXT plans.

The shift away from two-year contracts is not specific to Apple or iPhone, but rather part of a larger move by AT&T. Droid-Life reported last month that AT&T would begin moving away from two-year contracts on June 1, although the report claims that the option will remain available through AT&T's website, company-owned retail stores, local dealers via direct fulfillment and customer service.

Since AT&T, and the other carries, are moving away from contract phones that are cheaper priced it would only make sense for Apple to provide an unlocked phone up front.

When the iPad Air 2 was released, the cellular version shipped with Apple Sim, allowing customers to choose from a couple of different carriers. A universal sim would be a welcomed feature.

Storage

Storage on mobile devices seems to be more of a problem as content increases in size, and the camera quality increases. Apple has taken steps to make it not be so much of a problem by having smaller OS updates, iCloud Photo Library, and iCloud Music Library. When iOS 9 comes out they will further improve on saving storage on the device with the App Thinning.

The App Store and operating system optimize the installation of iOS and watchOS apps by tailoring app delivery to the capabilities of the user’s particular device, with minimal footprint. This optimization, called app thinning, lets you create apps that use the most device features, occupy minimum disk space, and accommodate future updates that can be applied by Apple. Faster downloads and more space for other apps and content provides a better user experience.

When I purchased the iPhone 6 I picked up the 128GB model. I managed to use up over half of the storage on it after a year of taking pictures and video, in addition to all of the other app data that I have. I haven't started using iCloud Photo Library yet as it isn't as customizable as I would like it to be, features that I detailed here. I do use Apple Music, paired with iTunes Match, so very little of my device's space is used by music.

It will be interesting to see if Apple holds on to the the 16GB size as for it's main phones. I could see if they kept the iPhone 5S around as the low end phone keeping it at 16GB, but I would really like to see the options be 32GB, 64GB, & 128GB.

Force Touch

One of the biggest features that is rumored to be a part of the iPhone 6S is that it will include Force Touch . As described on the design page for the new Macbook, which incorporates Force Touch into it's trackpad.

In addition to the intuitive Multi-Touch gestures you may be familiar with — like scrolling, swiping, pinching, and rotating — Force Touch brings a new dimension to the Mac experience. The sensitivity is customizable, allowing you to adjust how much pressure is needed to register a click. And the trackpad can even tell whether you’re clicking with your thumb or another finger and automatically adjusts the sensitivity level.

Force Click

Click and continue to press on the trackpad to enable new capabilities, like looking up the definition of a word, previewing a file in the Finder, or creating a new Calendar event when you Force click a date in the text of an email.

Accelerators

Gradually add pressure to the trackpad to vary the speed with which you fast-forward through a QuickTime movie or zoom in on a location in Maps.

Pressure-Sensitive Drawing

Press lightly for a thin stroke or harder for a thick one when marking up a Mail attachment or creating a signature for forms in Preview.

Description of Force Touch in the Apple Watch.

In addition to recognizing touch, Apple Watch senses force, adding a new dimension to the user interface. Force Touch uses tiny electrodes around the flexible Retina display to distinguish between a light tap and a deep press, and trigger instant access to a range of contextually specific controls. With Force Touch, pressing firmly on the screen brings up additional controls in apps like Messages, Music, and Calendar. It also lets you select different watch faces, pause or end a workout, search an address in Maps, and more. Force Touch is the most significant new sensing capability since Multi‑Touch.

Force Touch Could bring finer control to the iPhone for scrubbing through a song, or down through a list. Force clicking to define a word, or add events to the calendar.

The drawing enhancements that the technology brings to a device open up so much opportunity for artists, those using their devices for mobile payments and need customers give their signature, photo editing, and the list goes on.

Connector

When Apple introduced the iPhone 5 they also introduced a new connector for their mobile devices; Lightning Connector. The change while I think was a great improvement over the old design, was not welcomed by everyone. There was a pretty large backlash from people, who I imagine had a huge cache of 30-pin connectors that they had amassed over the years. I never completely understood the backlash over the change. It wasn't like Apple went through a design change every couple of years just to make you buy new accessories for your devices. The connector had been around since the original iPod, which debuted in 2001.

For the next iPhone I would like to see Apple rip that wound open again, and give it a USB-C connector. Sure people will be upset, but the connector is so much more versatile.

From the webpage for the new Macbook

To create a notebook as thin and light as the new MacBook, we had to strive for efficiency in every detail, right down to how it connects to peripherals and power. So we contributed to a new universal connectivity standard that combines the essential functions you need every day in one dynamic port. The amazing USB-C port offers charging, quick USB 3 data transfer for connecting to external devices and peripherals, and video output that supports HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort connections. All in a small, reversible design that’s one-third the size of the current USB port.

Since Apple was one of the main contributors to the USB-C standard I don't think it will be long before all of their devices have the port incorporated into them.

No matter what features are or aren't announced next week, I think that this will be a significant update. I will likely be upgrading my phone for the first time to an S update. I am hopeful that the camera will be such an improvement that it will be worth it.

OS X Photos & iCloud Photo Library: Good, But Could Be Better

Apple has released Mac OS 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3 and with those releases comes the all new Photos for Mac OS X and iCloud Photo Library to sync your pictures to iCloud.

When Apple announced these two new items at WWDC in June of 2014, I became excited. I was a subscriber of the now shut down service Everpix, and I thought that iCloud Photo Library could be the replacement of that service but work natively with all of my Apple devices.

Photos

Photos is a good first effort to replace iPhoto after it’s thirteen year run. The program is minimalistic and is good in some areas but lacking other areas.

The areas that it is good in are performance, and in quick picture edits. The migrating of my iPhoto library that was 126GB in size at the time of conversion took only 15 minutes. If the library was on my internal SSD it probably would have taken less time, but since it is so large I have my library on an external drive. When the conversion was complete; I did a quick scroll through the pictures and was impressed with how fast it moved through just over 10,000 pictures. The editing controls are more advanced compared to iPhoto. I haven’t had a ton of time to play with them but there are more controls and the ability to finely tune them gives it an advantage over iPhoto.

The areas in which I feel that Photos lacks in are really more feature requests and I am hoping will get added into future releases. Much like the revamped iWork programs were stripped of features and then had them added back in is how I like to think of these “missing” items. The limited access to metadata was somewhat of a disappointment. Most people likely won’t ever use or most likely don’t even know much about metadata, but it would be useful to access and edit metadata as you could in Aperture. The preference pane is pretty lacking, and I am just not sure if that is by design or there are more preferences to come in the future.

 Photos Info Window

Photos Info Window

 iPhoto's Info Window

iPhoto's Info Window

 Aperture's Metadata Window. Hopefully Apple allows Photos to have full metadata editing.

Aperture's Metadata Window. Hopefully Apple allows Photos to have full metadata editing.

 Photos Editing Options

Photos Editing Options

 iPhoto's Editing Options

iPhoto's Editing Options

 Photos Preference Pane

Photos Preference Pane

 iPhoto's Preference Pane

iPhoto's Preference Pane

So far my experience with Photos is promising and leaves me to believe that Apple has plans to introduce features that will just improve on a great lightweight application for managing photos.

iCloud Photo Library

With iCloud Photo Library you can choose to upload full resolution files to iCloud and keep a smaller resolution version on your computer and devices to save space. If you have the space to keep a copy of your photos on your computer I would recommend doing so. I currently have an iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone, and an iPad. My plan was; when I did switch my library over to iCloud Photo Library that I would keep a master library on my iMac that would back up to both Time Machine and Backblaze. For my other devices I would turn on iCloud Photo Library and select the option to Optimize Device Storage to free up space on my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad.

 iCloud Photo Library Options

iCloud Photo Library Options

If you notice; I chose to use the word was at the beginning of that last paragraph. I am sure that I will use iCloud Library at some point, but right now I have reservations due for a couple of reasons.

iCloud Photo Library Imports Everything

The main reason for my hesitation is that I have multiple photo libraries; the one library that I would want to use to upload to iCloud Photo Library is the library that I store pictures relating to my immediate family. The pictures that are of the most value to me are those containing my wife, children, and any picture that is relevant to that subject. My concern is the fact that if I turn on iCloud Photo Library; my iPhone will upload every picture in my camera roll to that library. I take a lot of screenshots, download pictures from Safari, Twitter and other places that I don’t want to be included in the library that I reserve for pictures of my family. I also use this library as the screensaver for my AppleTV and iMac. I don’t want to have random screenshots from my devices, or random pictures come across the screen while my children are staring at the television watching pictures, of mostly themselves, float by.

It would be a nice inclusion if the system could sort out screenshots automatically and filter them into their own album separate from the Camera Roll. I am not sure how pictures that are saved from apps like Safari could be sorted out into their own album. There may be a way for iOS to insert metadata into the picture at the time of the selecting the Save Image button and label it Saved From Safari, or whatever application you used, and then using that Saved From text as a trigger the photo could be moved into a Saved Images album that is also separate from the Camera Roll, excluded from iCloud Photo Library, but included in iCloud Backups.

 Buttons that appear in iOS when you tap and hold a picture in safari to allow you to save it.

Buttons that appear in iOS when you tap and hold a picture in safari to allow you to save it.

I mentioned that I had Everpix earlier and the reason that it ties into this article is that I could tell it to target a specific iPhoto library and it would upload that library to their servers. I could if I so chose to, turn on automatic uploading of pictures from any device that I installed their applications on but the fact that I didn’t have to is why I liked it. I could be in control of what went into that library stored in the cloud. Then I could then let my wife or anyone else in my family have access to view the picture on their devices; which brings me to my next point.

Family Sharing - (Sort of)

My other hesitation is that Family Sharing isn’t a built in option. There are work arounds to be able to share photos with family members but it would seem like there would be an easier way. I would like to set my iCloud Photo Library as described above up on iCloud and have my wife, and when they are old enough, our children access the pictures from all of their devices. However I would be the one who manages the main family photo library and they would be able to view it without me having to manually drag the pictures to the family album.

I understand that this is a difficult problem to solve, and not everyone needs this kind of fine tuned precision over their photos. I am guessing though that there are many families out there that would like to control their pictures this way.

Preservation

It is great that we can take as many pictures as we want and or have the space to store them. On top of that we have the ability to carry those pictures around with us wherever we go. The problem that I see is the preservation of those pictures in the future. I am the one who currently takes the SD card out of the camera (or offloads them from my iPhone), in between importing the pictures I go through a renaming process that tags the pictures with a date and timestamp for the filename, and then I import them into iPhoto. Every couple of months I grab my wife’s phone and drag out all of her pictures with Image Capture, and go through the same process. All of that, as convoluted as it is, works fine for me. I am the digital file collector who curates our photos. My biggest concern is that if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow; How will my family’s photos be managed and preserved?

Years ago you would have taken less pictures, they would all be developed and sorted into photo albums that could be pulled off of a shelf at any time. There was no technical knowledge required in passing those photos on to your spouse, and eventually your children. I know that I have to teach my wife about how I manage our photos, and where there are stored. That would give me some comfort that she knows if something were to happen to me that she knows where they are stored and will hopefully be able to manage them as I do. The comfort that I would have being able to use my iCloud account to store all of the family photos is that the pictures would be there and preserved for the future if and when my main computer died, if there was a house fire, or any number of unfortunate events that are likely to happen in life.

Apple has created these amazing devices that allow us to take pictures when we maybe wouldn’t have had a camera on us, or at least a device with a camera this good. Photos [1] are a very important and valuable piece of data that are irreplaceable. Memories are great but a picture can send you right back into that moment and help you remember something that you had maybe forgotten about that point in time. With iCloud; Apple also has an opportunity to help people preserve this precious data for generations to come.


  1. Videos are something that I left out of the article all together, but can be included in this statement as well. Photos manages the videos that you take with your devices, even giving them a dedicated album which is another area that makes it an improvement over iPhoto.  ↩

Siri - Who's Phone is This?

Dave Mark from The Loop Insight posted a link to a tip that was posted on OSXDaily Found iPhone See Owner Contact Info

And then followed up with a post pointing out that this "feature" is actually a security risk.

Siri responds to your query by displaying the owner’s contact info, even on a locked home screen...

When scrolling through Twitter today I came across this tweet from Mark Gurman of 9to5:

That moment when an iPhone security flaw is spun into being a tool for good samaritans. Absolutely insane. Tweet Link

This is a security concern no doubt, as Siri offers up your whole contact card on a silver platter to anyone who asks for it. If done correctly this could be used, as the original tip posted by OSXDaily suggested, in returning a lost phone to it's rightful owner.

While the phone is locked it could just display the name that is on the "me card" and display a message stating to contact the phone's owner using an alternative number than that of the cell phone if one has been entered in the contact. If the owner has any 'Related Names' entered into the phone these could also be listed in a generic format such as Spouse, Mother and so on.

iOS 8 Feature Highlight: Medical ID

With iOS 8 and the Health app, Apple has allowed you to create a Medical ID card that you can enter vital information into, and if you so chose you can allow this information to be displayed on the lock-screen of your device. (Click here see how to set up a Medical ID.)

The purpose of this information being accessible from the lock screen is that if something were to happen to you, a medical responder could know who you are and any pertinent information that they would need to know if you were in a state that would prevent you from being able to communicate it to them.

Medical ID Information Displayed

  • Birthdate
  • Medical Conditions
  • Medical Notes
  • Allergies & Reactions
  • Medications
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Blood type
  • Organ Donor
  • Weight
  • Height

Barrier to Entry

Medical ID is a great addition to iOS, however I have some issues with its execution.

Information is Hidden

The main problem that I have with it is that in order to access the information you have to know it is there. Your phone has to be locked with a passcode so when the person slides to unlock the screen the passcode screen must appear. They then have to know to click on the Emergency button at the bottom left corner, and then click on Medical ID. There is no need to have that information buried and require that someone have the "training" to know how to get to it. Granted if a stranger finds you and decides to use your phone to call 911 they may stumble across it, but there is a greater chance they may be using their own phone.

There are just too many variables and assumptions that make me wonder why it is even there. As more and more medical professionals become aware of it they may know to look there, or the 911 operator may say can you go to the Health app and get me the following information? Until then I guess the best way to get it out there is to tell people to set it up and make them aware that it is a feature.

Not All Devices Created Equal

The second issue I have with it is in regard to Apple's continuing desire to keep all of their iOS devices segmented by choosing to not include an application on one device or to run a different version of the application on another device.

Health is yet another application that the iPad mysteriously does not get, it was the first thing I noticed when my iPad rebooted after upgrading because the Tips application was the only additional app that my home screen had. When I upgraded my iPhone it had Health and Tips. I am aware that you won't be taking your iPad out for a jog to collect health data, but Health on the iPad just makes sense from a standpoint of syncing your dashboard stats, and using Medical ID.

Over the weekend I help some family members upgrade their devices and I noticed on the iPod Touch that I upgraded that the Health app was included. This furthered my confusion, because if not the iPad why they iPod?

When I went to show the person how to set up a Medical ID for her son I was dumbfounded to discover that Medical ID was absent from the application. It is unfortunate because it would be the perfect scenario for Medical ID. My thought was this a great way for kids to carry around an identity; if they got lost an adult could get the required information to get ahold of parents. In this case he is an 8 year old child who has allergies which could be listed out in detail in this Medical ID and could very well be used to save his life. I did some research and saw that there were a lot of people who were disappointed that this was not included on the iPad as they carry their iPad with them everywhere as their only device.


I am hoping that in the future they will realize that all devices should get the same functionality and to make Medical ID more accessible to someone who isn't tech savvy. It could help save someones life by allowing for a more intuitive discover of the feature.

iBooks Fix: Syncing ePub data between Mac and iOS devices

My excitement for iBooks being released on the Mac died when I finally got my hands on it when Mavericks first came out. The fact that it ripped my books out of iTunes and didn’t carryover the metadata that I had added to them, and giving all of the books non descriptive titles within the Finder was my first issue. The second being the fact that I was not able to sync any data (position, bookmarks, notes etc) between the ePubs I currently had on my iOS devices with the Mac version of iBooks.[1] I was confused because this task worked great between my iPhone and my iPad. I spent countless amounts of time opening the book on one device, waiting a minute or two for it to sync, then opening it on my Mac and the book would open to the cover, instead of to the page that it was supposed to be on.

Eventually I gave up trying to get it to work until I was recently using PhoneView to download various items from my iPad one day when it dawned on me that there is a section in PhoneView to access the books that are on the device that you have connected to it.

So I copied an ePub from my iPad I purchased form O’rielly Media about web design to my desktop, that I had been highlighting and taking notes in. My thought process was that this book has some type of data associated with it, and the syncing works between my iPhone and iPad so if I were to use the same file on my Mac then the sync should be fixed. I then wondered what would happen if I put the book in a place that I could get at it from all of my devices. I moved it to my local Dropbox folder waited for it to upload and then I opened the file in iBooks on my Macbook, and sure enough the highlights and my current position synced perfectly. I open the book on my iMac and verified that all of the same data was accessible on that machine.

The next step was to make sure that this worked with other books so I uploaded a couple of ePubs that I didn’t have loaded on any of my devices to Dropbox and loaded them into iBooks on each of my devices, highlighted some sections, took some notes and once again it worked perfectly.

Syncing ePubs with iBooks on all devices:

  • Put the ePub in a central location that you can load it into iBooks from such as Dropbox
  • Do not change the name of the book if you have already loaded the book on one of your devices. The book needs to have the same attributes on all of your devices in order for it to recognize that there is data available for it to be syncing.
  • Load the book into iBooks on all of your devices. For iOS if you are using DropBox you will need to have the Dropbox app installed you can select the book and then hit the share icon, and tap on the Open In… button.
  • Happy Syncing

  1. Even the iCloud reset article that I wrote didn’t fix the sync issues  ↩

Forcing iCloud To Reset Syncing On All Devices

Update:

If you have upgraded to iCloud Drive you will not be able to force iCloud to sync using the method described below. From research I am seeing that the best way to force a sync is to reboot and it should refresh iCloud, and or to create a new document. I am still trying to figure out if there are other ways to force iCloud Drive to sync.

Note: Solution is below if you would like to skip the backstory.

I have heard the frustrations over how iCloud syncs and how much of a nightmare it is for developers to implement it into their apps. There are many developers who have created their own sync solution as a result of not being able to get their apps to work with iCloud syncing. There are also stories of people loosing their data while using iCloud.

I personally have never had a problem with syncing data from the apps that use iCloud to sync until my wife started having problems with 1Password a couple of weeks ago, which I detailed here.[1] Even though that was my wife’s data I am I.T. person for our house and I had to deal with the frustration of syncing not working.

Fast forward a couple of weeks later and I decided that I wanted to upgrade my laptop to a MacBook Air and prepare my MacBook Pro to sell it to fund the purchase of my new computer. I ordered the Air before selling the Pro because I wanted to make sure that I transferred all of the data over to the new computer before I wiped my Pro. I turned on my Air and went through the set up process signing into my iCloud account and turning on all of the features of the service.

The first app that I installed was 1Password[2] as a lot of my password are long passwords using the built in generator I would have preferred to have that installed on my machine before I proceeded to install anything else. I opened up 1Password, clicked that I am an existing user and it asked me where my data was. I selected iCloud and the window stated that it could not find any existing data in iCloud. I have an iPhone, iPad, iMac, and a MacBook Pro that I have never had a problem with my 1Password syncing between, so I was confused as to why it wasn’t finding the data now. Since having dealt with my wife’s 1Password issues a couple of weeks ago I thought I would have this fixed in no time. That would prove to be an incorrect statement.

My first move was to check my Mobile Documents folder, and I examined the folder that contains the 1Password data called 2BUA8C4S2C.com.agilebits.onepassword, and there were 24 files in it and the size was 867kb. I checked my iMac and noticed that it had 32 files in it and was 6.6mb in size. Another thing that I noticed was that my Mobile Documents overall folder size on my Air was 401mb, but on my iMac it was 557MB. I went into System Preferences -> iCloud and unchecked Documents & Data and selected Delete From Mac. Restarted the computer went to ~/Library and dragged the Mobile Documents.xxxxxx[3] to the trash. Restarted and re-enabled Documents & Data and waited quite awhile to make sure that all of the data had time to download. Upon opening 1Password I was greeted with the same window stating that my data could not be found. I uninstalled 1password, removing it’s associated preference files, and reinstalled only to receive the same error. Fed up with trying to make it work I ran the 1Password DiagnosticTool and sent their support an email.

The next night I hadn’t heard back from AgileBits so I decided to call up Apple. In my mind I concluded that the problem was with iCloud and not 1Password. The gentleman who answered the phone asked me why I had called and I let him know that I was having an issue with data not syncing with iCloud on my new computer. I said that I have it working with all of my current devices but it seems like not all of my documents are downloading to the Air. When he found out that the issue was with 1Password he said that there was nothing that he could because Apple does not support the syncing of third party apps with iCloud. He said that the developer must not have coded their application correctly and that it is an issue I need to take up with them.[4] I was instantly livid but kept my cool saying sternly You mean to tell me that this application works flawlessly on four other devices yet it won’t sync to this brand new computer, because it is an app problem? Everything points to this being an issue with iCloud not syncing properly. His reply was that he can understand my frustration and see how I would think that it would be iCloud. I was told that if I was having an issue with my Apple apps syncing with iCloud then he would be able to help me.

After not getting an answer from Apple I decided to open up Byword[2] since it uses iCloud to sync as well, and over half of my documents were missing. I opened up Safari, went to their website and sent an email to their support team. Within an hour I received an email from their support team that said:

Try logging in at http://icloud.com, go to Account Settings , Advanced and perform Reset Documents & Data. Does that fix the syncing issue?
Reset Documents & Data will not delete any of documents or data. It will simply reset the syncing information on all your devices that the sync process starts with a clean slate on all them.

I had not tried that because I didn’t know that the setting even existed. However it worked perfectly as described. It worked so well in fact that it fixed sync issues with apps that I didn’t even know I had a problem with, because my Mobile Documents was now 805MB now instead of the original 557MB that I thought it was. The conclusion that I have made is that it was a problem with iCloud syncing all along so below I have provided a couple of screen shots detailing how to force iCloud to re-sync to all of your devices.

Force iCloud Sync

Go to icloud.com and log in with your Apple ID.

From the iCloud home screen click on your name in the upper right hand corner.

Within the drop down menu click on Account Settings.

Click the Advanced row

Select the option to Reset Documents & Data. You will be taken to one more screen that tells you:

Reset and merge all documents and data on iCloud with what is currently on your devices. No documents or data will be deleted. More Details.

Click Reset Documents & Data again.

After that you will want to restart every device that is associated with your Apple ID and that has iCloud sync enabled. Any problems that you have had with applications syncing should now be fixed.

This option should be built into the iCloud Preference Pane, and the iCloud Settings for iOS instead of being an obscure setting on the web version of iCloud. When I called AppleCare the Advisor should have at least told me about this option[5] rather than trying to say that the developers at AgileBits must not know how to program.


  1. I actually take that back. I have had problems with Apple’s notes not syncing correctly, and disappearing. So much so that I use Simplenote now.  ↩

  2. Disclosure: Link is an affiliate link to the iTunes store.  ↩

  3. The xxxxx will be a series of numbers and be shown like Mobile Documents.92991882  ↩

  4. My first thought was you are really going to throw a developer under the bus like that? Developers are dropping the Appstore left and right, so it really isn’t in their best interest to be making comments like that.  ↩

  5. He may not have even known about it, but he should.  ↩

iOS 8 Music Recognition: Shazam or Apple's Own

There have been rumors that Apple will partner with Shazam to bring music recognition to iOS by using Siri. The user would ask Siri something along the lines of "What song is playing?" and Siri will pull in the results using Shazam's technology for recognizing music.

I have used Shazam since it came out and would love to be able to have the ability to find out what song is playing quicker. There are times that I am at the tail end of a song and by the time I get to Shazam the song is over.

The rumor that Apple and Shazam are partnering I think is plausible, but then I got an email from a service that I am a member of. There is an app by the name of Soundtracking. Their tagline is Share the Share the soundtrack to your life™. In a nutshell you have an app on your phone that will identify music either buy automatically identifying what song is currently playing from your music app, or if there is a song that is in your heard and you want to share your interest in you can search for the song, and finally if there is a song on the radio you can use their song recognition ability within the app to identify what song is playing.

Once you have used one of these three methods the app will bring up a picture of the album cover and if it is available a preview of the song. You can then write anything about the song, how it makes you feel or if you chose you can just post the song. While posting to Soundtracking you can also connect your account to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram.

Your posts show up in a twitter like feed, and you can follow other peoples feeds much like twitter as well.

This past week I recieved an email from them stating that thier Terms of Service had been updated. I usually don't read TOS changes, even though I should, but for once decided to read it. A paragraph in particular caught my eye.

THIRD PARTY SERVICES AND BUSINESS TRANSFER SoundTracking uses a variety of third party contractors, vendors, social networking services, and music content delivery providers to perform services such as application and website management and hosting, user account creation, out-sourced music audio features, and email marketing. In such instances, your personal information may be shared with these third-party services, providers, vendors, and contractors for the purpose of performing services and enhancing the user experience on behalf of SoundTracking, and in accordance with our privacy policy and the privacy policy with those third parties. These third parties may have a privacy policy that applies to you if it is a social networking service such as, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare or music content delivery service, such as, but not limited to, iTunes, Spotify, or RDIO, with which you also have a user account and have authorized to be connected to your SoundTracking user account. In addition, if SoundTracking or any of its services get acquired by another company, your personal information may be shared and transferred to that company.

The last line is what jumped out at me, and I immediatley thought of the rumors of iOS 8 having music recognition. Not only would they be getting the song recognition, but they would also be getting a social network. Apple tried to start their own social service withing iTunes, called Ping which was a huge failure. However it would make complete sense for Apple to take over an existing social network with an established user base.

Another feature of Soundtracking is the ability to listen to a song preview which is powered by iTunes with the ability to purchase the song from iTunes.

In their FAQ it is stated:

> What are the sources of music audio found on the SoundTracking service?

The music on SoundTracking is powered by iTunes, the digital music service owned and operated by Apple, Inc. SoundTracking is an official iTunes Affiliate service and allows users to stream 30-second previews directly from iTunes servers and purchase digital downloads of those songs. In addition to iTunes, users can also connect their Spotify and RDIO paid subscriber accounts using the SoundTracking iOS app, which is enabled by a direct integration with Spotify and RDIO under their Terms of Service.

I'm not sure that Apple is going to have the music recognition feature built into iOS at all, but think that it is something that is useful and could be included. I am interested to see what they do impliment and if they are going to give social networking a stab again. After all, Phil Schiller and Eddie Cue are already members. They both were earlier adapters, although Schiller's last post was 37 months ago, and Cue has never posted.

1Password iCloud Syncing Problem Fix

2014-10-21 Update: This guide is for those who have NOT moved to iCloud Drive. I still have not fully investigated where the data has moved once iCloud Drive has been activated.

Recently I discovered that my wife's 1Password information was not syncing correctly with iCloud. I had just updated the password to our Airport and wanted to make sure that her info in 1Password had the new password. I shared the new login with her via iMessage and clicked the link on her Macbook which brought the data into 1Password. I opened up 1Password on her iPhone to copy the new password and set up her wifi for her, and the old router information was in still in her database on her phone. I closed the app, reopened it and checked again; still the same old info. I tried her iPad and got the same results.

What followed next was hours of frustration trying to get all her devices to sync seamlessly. I exported the data from 1Password on her Macbook to her desktop so I had a copy of the data and then removed every trace of 1Password from her computer, stopped syncing the data to iCloud from her devices and deleted the iOS apps from her iPhone and iPad. On her computer I went into the local iCloud folder (~/Library/Mobile Documents) and deleted the two folders that had looked like this

1Password data files located in the ~/Library/Mobile Documents/ Folder

I restarted her computer reinstalled 1Password and imported the data that I had on her desktop. Went into the Preferences, Sync, and chose iCloud Sync. Made sure that the folders in the screenshot above were in the Mobile Documents folder indicating to me that the documents were in the process of being pushed up to iCloud.

I reinstalled the 1Password iOS apps and had to go through the initial setup again. I selected that I am an existing user, chose that I would like to sync with iCloud, and the next screen said that it was looking for existing data, and returned a screen that stated that Data Was Not Found.

At this point I was at a loss for words. I turned to trying to find the answer on the web, and followed the advice, multiple times, that was given on AgileBits Forums:

  • Please ensure that you are logged in with the same iCloud account on all computers and devices.
  • Please ensure that Documents and Data is enabled on all computers and devices.
  • On your iOS devices, open 1Password 4 for iOS, tap Settings > Sync > Sync Service and tap 'Disable Sync’.
  • On the Mac, open 1Password 4 for Mac, and click the 1Password menu, then Preferences. Click Sync, and click Change syncing.
  • Check the box to remove the data from iCloud and confirm that you want to disable sync.
  • Restart the Mac and iOS devices.
  • On the Mac, go back to the Sync preferences, and enable iCloud.
  • Wait about 20 minutes to give iCloud time to run the initial sync to all devices.
  • Go back into the iOS app and re-enable iCloud sync. It should work this time.

The above solution did not work. I had wasted most of my Saturday trying to figure this out, and finally threw in the towel. The next day I tried the above solution again and it did not work. Fed up I contacted AgileBits support team and after multiple back and forth emails I believe that I had stumped them. I appreciated all of their support, but I finally figured out how to get it working again.

At some point in between emails I had decided to go into the iCloud System Preferences and turn off only Documents & Data and I happened to have the Mobile Documents folder open, and noticed that there was a change to the folder name. It went from being named Mobile Documents to Mobile Documents.92991882.

This is what your local iCloud folder looks like when you turn of Documents & Data in the iCloud Preferences

I turned Documents & Data back on and I noticed that the folder changed back to just Mobile Documents. I decided to take all of my previous attempts into account and pieced together the following solution:

Fixing 1Password iCloud Sync Issues:

Macbook Air:

Open 1Password Preference -> Sync -> Change Syncing and check the box that says Delete data from iCloud, and click Disable Sync button. Accept the warning that states that it will delete your data. Quit 1 Password.

Open System Preferences iCloud -> Uncheck Documents & Data -> Click Delete from Mac button

(You may have to restart in between these steps. I did, but am not sure if that is what helped it)

On your iOS devices, now is a good time to go to the iCloud settings -> Documents & Data -> Click the Toggle Switch at the top of the screen, and confirm by clicking Turn Off Documents. Restart Your Devices

In the Finder Menu Bar click Go. Select Go to Folder -> Enter ~/Library/ and click Go Look for the Mobile Documents folder that now has what looks like a file extension at the end of it. Should look like Mobile Documents.92994182 Drag this folder to the trash.

Open System Preferences iCloud -> Re check Documents & Data

This will cause iCloud to re-sync your iCloud folder locally to your Mac.

iOS Devices:

Your devices should have restarted by now.

Go into Settings, Documents & Data and Toggle the Switch back to On.

Open 1Password and follow the setup screen as an existing user, and 1Password will find existing data in iCloud.

I have verified that everything syncs between devices by creating a login on one device and watching it appear on the other two. Hope this helps anyone who is having an issue with their 1Password data not syncing.

Quick access to turn off iPhone Flashlight

Nice tip.

After I upgraded to iOS 7 and used the flashlight from Control Center, and my screen went to sleep I realized that the only way to turn the flashlight off was to wake your phone up; reopen Control Center and hit the flashlight icon again. Even with this way you still have to wake the phone but you could easily train yourself to hit the area where the camera icon is without looking.

iPhone Photography Workflow Process

We’re not scientists, and we’re not gurus, we’re just trying to get some work done. The solutions presented here are highly personal, and highly personalized. Not the only way, but our way.

The quote above is from the opening paragraph of the article. I like it, but as the author points out:

I’m a firm believer in the idea that “the best camera is the one you have with you,” and it’s never been more true than on today’s smartphone-saturated streets.

The iPhone will continue to push the boundaries of what kind of pictures you will be able to take with your phone. Most people take pictures and don’t worry about editing them other than adding a crappy Instagram filter on and pushing it off into a social network black hole. If we all took the advice of this article and took a little bit of time to delete the actual bad pictures and edit the good ones then I am sure our camera rolls would be a lot happier.[1]


  1. Not to mention our our storage capacities would thank us for not keeping every picture of lunch we have taken.  ↩

Instapaper - Free

Instapaper the read it later app created by Marco Arment is free (Normally $3.99) on the AppStore this week until December 19th. You can find it on the frontpage under the Free App of the Week section.

With Instapaper you can save articles that you would like to read at some point, but do not have the time to read right now. It strips out the text of an article and provides you with a clean plain text article with no distractions.

The service is free to use with limits on how many articles you can save, and disabled search functionality. These limits are lifted with the a subscription service. Fortunatley through the end of the year new users get two free months of the subscription based services according to Instapaper's blog; check out their post by clicking through the title post.

Ryan Seacrest Invests in Typo

I don't understand why anyone would want this.

I had the (un)opportunity to type on a Blackberry for the first time back in September while on a buisness trip; as the owner was driving at the time. I wanted to throw the thing the window.

I will keep my opinions about the interface to myself, but trying to type with those tiny keys is infuriating to say the least.

iOS Screenshots Settings

The iPhone needs to have a dedicated camera roll for screenshots. I am always taking screenshots with my iPhone when I see an album in iTunes that I want to remember to download later, capture a section of an iMessage conversation, need a receipt of a purchase that I made, and countless other situations. These screenshots I want to have available for quick access later but they get buried amongst the million pictures that I take of my daughter[1], and are soon forgotten. Then when I want to import my camera roll into iPhoto I have to sort out these screenshots by not selecting them in the import window, and then processing them from the phone by deleting the ones I have already taken action on or saving them somewhere else to process later.

Admittedly this problem is probably not one that the average user has to deal with. Honestly I would bet that there are more people who don’t know that you can take a screenshot with your iPhone than people who know that you can. So all that I am asking is if in the Photos & Camera section in Settings that there be a toggle switch to send screenshots to a separate camera roll.[2]


  1. That seems almost like a literal figure at times.  ↩

  2. These need to be in their own camera roll, not their own album. Albums only reference pictures that live in the Camera Roll.  ↩

iCons!!!!

I wrote in a post on the eve of WWDC, that linked to a supposed mock up of the actual icons used in iOS 7, that hopefully the new icons do not look like the "mockups" that 9to5mac leaked. Prior to that post i had written a piece expressing my concerns about the rumors that I had heard about Apple's move towards a flat windows 8 like design.

Unfortunatley the 9to5mac leak turned out to be true, and I think that it was an actual leak. The author tried to pass it of that they had their graphics department mock the icons up in photoshop. I was hopeful that they had a new graphic designer who hadn't had much experience creating icons, coupled with the fact that this person was creating them based on how they were described to him, or her. However these horrible icons are a reality of the next operating system. I just don't understand how anyone could think that these icons are passable for Apple's standards, but there they are.

The rest of the operating system, for the most part looks amazing; save for the akward translucency in certain places. The OS certainly is not flat. It has a depth to it, and I can't wait to have a copy of it to see how it works in person.

For a comparison of what the icons use to look like and what they will look like in iOS7 I have linked to a picture from an article on mashable.com

iOS icons

I would have prefered that the icons looked like these that appleinsider.com had posted before WWDC.

iOS flat icons

Is iOS 7 Laying the Path Towards a Larger iPhone?

During the WWDC Keynote Monday, Apple pulled the curtain off of their redesign of iOS. I have my thoughts on certain aspects of the design, such as iconography, but will use this post to speculate on some observations I made while watching the iOS 7 demos.

The operating system has seen a radical change, and one of the most prominent aspects of the design is the use of layered sheets for things like Notification Center, Spotlight, Control Center, and the updated Share Sheets. Apple states that "Technology should never get in the way of humanity.", however while watching the videos I noticed that with these new overlays it almost seems that the current iPhone seems a little small for this new design.

My wife who loves to watch the keynotes with me actually said out loud, about the same time I had the thought, "It almost seems that the phone needs to be bigger now." I couldn't agree more; I think that Apple may be setting itself up to introduce another device size into the iOS world. Certainly this isn't the first post to proclaim that, but watching the Keynote and seeing iOS 7 in action I thought it looked like it was designed to be on a device that has more screen real estate to afford to it.

I love the size and weight of the iPhone 5, and have often wondered how cumbersome a wider phone might be. Even though I laugh at the oversized Samsung phones out there; I think I wouldn't mind seeing a bigger iPhone introduced this fall. I don't mind that is, as long as I don't see people walking around with iPad Mini sized devices strapped to the side of their faces talking on them.

What iOS Looks Like (Hopefully Not)

After I posted my thoughts on flat design I checked a couple of my regular sites and saw that 9to5mac.com has a new post up called What iOS 7 looks like. They had someone in their graphics department mock up what the new icons look like. Say it isn't so...Here is an except from the post regarding the icons.

Yes, they are flat. Our in-house Photoshop guru Michael Steeber has mocked up (Above) the icons based on descriptions which closely match what I believe we’ll see tomorrow.

Thoughts on Flat Design

I have been using Apple products for the last 15 years, and I personally have a preference in how well the operating system of Apple products stands out against all of it's competitors. When I first started using the Mac it was running the classic mac operating system, or Platinum rather. When I got my hands on a copy of the first version of OS X I was informed that I shouldn't install it on my main machine because it is a little buggy, but I went ahead and did it anyhow even though I had one computer; that being my main machine.

Ever since laying my eyes on the Aqua interface I haven't seen a better looking user interface come along. Granted Apple has changed the look of it through the years, certainly for the better, but it always gives me a feeling that I am using a superior interface. One look at any version of iOS and you can quickly associate it's features with Aqua.

There have been a lot of rumors since the departure of Scott Forstall, and the control of software design being handed over to Jony Ive that iOS is going to see a radical overhaul. I would assume that OS X would follow suit, if not in 10.9 but in version 11. I for one do not like what I am hearing about the design direction, and I have seen mockups, and supposed leaks of the actual icons. These "leaks" look as if Apple is stealing their designs from Microsoft Windows 8. Personally I hated the look of Windows 8 when I first saw the screens of the OS. Everything in these flat designs seem so uninspired and generic.

WWDC is less than 12 hours away so we all will know soon enough the direction that Ive has decided to take iOS. I can only hope that he has not tried to do so much of a dramatic change in the little time he has had being in charge of the interface design. I would rather that iOS 7 and iOS 6 look exactly the same if I can have an iCloud that works better than what we currently have.