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.

Considerations for the iPhone 6 Plus

You may have heard that there are new iPhones models. I am for once not eager to upgrade at launch this time, even though I am due for an upgrade. I am actually more excited to upgrade to iOS 8 which will happen in a couple of days.

Apple finally released their bigger iPhone that has been rumored for some time now. I am still of the opinion that these larger phones are completely unnecessary; I will reserve that judgment of course until I get my hands on one. [1] The biggest reason I have always been against the larger phone is the fact that they look ridiculous when you hold them up to your head to talk on them. That reason diminishes over time as more and more people actually don’t use their phones to make phone calls anymore. If a phone call is made there are enough people who use the speakerphone, or talk into their ear buds with the inline microphone.

The two test factors for me to get the Plus will be:
1. How well can I use it with one hand?
2. Will it fit in my pants pocket comfortably as that is where my phone spends a lot of it’s time.

Beyond those two factors and my general dislike of these bigger phones I have tried to build a case for why I would actually find a larger phone useful.

  • Optical Image Stabilization - The image stabilization between the two version of the iPhone 6 are different. The iPhone 6 has digital image stabilization and the iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization; making the iPhone 6 Plus the better camera.
  • Longer Battery Life - A bigger phone means that there is extra room to pack a bigger battery into; and will result in more time in between charges.
  • Navigation in the car - The Plus would be great to mount on the dashboard of your car to use for navigation. When I bought my car I thought I don’t need the one that has the digital display on it because I have an iPhone.[2] Using the iPhone 5 for navigation has been alright, but a bigger screen for that purpose would be nice.
  • Reading - I read a lot of things on my phone. Everything from RSS to Books. More real estate means more words on the screen.
  • Gaming - The iPhone certainly has changed the landscape of handheld gaming. Some of the games that have come out for iOS have console level detail to them, and the bigger the better to see all of that detail.

The above reasons are pretty compelling to get the iPhone 6 Plus, but so far I think I am going to stick to my original decision of the iPhone 6 and live with the 4.7" screen when I do decide to make the leap. I will be going with at least the 64GB[3] storage option and am currently undecided as to whether I am getting the Space Grey or the Silver phone.


  1. A friend of mine decided that he is going to upgrade his 4S and will most likely get the iPhone 6 Plus.  ↩

  2. Now that CarPlay is coming I am kicking myself for that choice.  ↩

  3. I am baffled that Apple decided to keep the 16GB around at least for either version of the 6. I would have thought the capacities would have been 32GB, 64GB, & 128GB.  ↩

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.

A Bigger iPhone

I will never understand why people will want to have a phone that is the size of an iPad Mini. Understandably most people do not use their phones to make many phone calls these days, but when you do need to make a call it looks absolutely ridiculous to have something that big next to your face. With that being said I want a bigger iPhone…

Apple has spent the last half of a decade making it’s devices thinner and lighter. This is for the most part a good thing, and I have enjoyed the benefits of these advances.[1] The weight difference after only a week of using the iPhone 5 and picking up the iPhone 4 was incredible; I couldn’t believe the difference.

So why then would I want a bigger iPhone, and what do I mean by that? I have already stated that I am not one that is on the side of the phablet revolution, but I wouldn’t mind having possibly one more column of icons on the home screen, as far as screen size is concerned. [2] The only other area that can be changed to increase the size of the phone is the thickness. I would be willing to have a thicker iPhone if it would help improve three areas:

Camera

The iPhone camera is amazing, but I still rely on my DSLR to take the important pictures that matter most like the ones that I take of my children. I don’t want to have to do that anymore. I want the camera that is always with me to be really, really good and not just alright. A thicker bodied phone would allow Apple to improve upon the technology that they have been packing into the iPhone year after year. I think that they could close the gap or come very close to closing the gap between the high level consumer cameras and professional cameras.

Storage

16GB, 32GB, & 64GB are the storage capacities available for the iPhone right now. It is time to let the 16GB phone go. Even though I have all of my music in iTunes Match and store non of it on the device; I still have a huge issue with storage. On my phone I am down to 1GB of space on a 32GB phone that I am constantly micro managing the pictures and videos that I take, or any new applications that I want to try. I am assuming that a thicker phone would allow for bigger storage capacities.

Battery Life

I have had the iPhone 3G, 3GS, the 4 and the 5. Out of all of these phones the 5 has held a charge the longest for me. I have read multiple comments from disgruntled users stating the opposite, but I can’t complain. A thicker phone means that there is that much more room to pack a battery into. I would love to get to the point where I don’t have to charge my phone for 24 hours.

I am interested to see what Apple does with their next revision of the iPhone, mostly because I will be due for an upgrade when it comes out. Whatever they decide to do with their bigger phone the one criteria that I would like most of all is that it still fits in my pants pocket, and not look like I am carrying an 11" MacBook Air.


  1. I have even been envious of my wife’s MacBook Air since she got it, every time I lift my bag that has my 13" MacBook Pro I wish I had hers, which is half the weight.  ↩

  2. All of the mockups of the larger screened iPhones that I have seen do not show any more icons, which to me doesn’t make much sense. Going from the iPhone 4 to the 5 there was an additional row added, so if there is another screen size increase I don’t see why there wouldn’t be more icons added.  ↩

Rumor: iPhone 6 Camera

Sources from Taiwan’s industrial chain claim the iPhone 6 will have at least a 10-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/1.8, reports Chinese website IT168 [Google Translate, via GforGames]. This would be an improvement over the current iPhone 5s, which has an 8-megapixel camera with a narrower f/2.2 aperture.

This sounds promising, even though it is speculative.

I would like to get to the point that the camera that I always have with me is as good if not better than the DSLR that I use to take really good pictures of my family with. The camera in the iPhone is always evolving and pushing boundaries, so I am excted for the next evolution.

Even though patenets do not always mean that a product will see the light of day.[1] This rumor combined with the recent discovery of an Apple patent for iPhone camera lens addons is definitely cause for excitment.


  1. The same goes for rumors, as is the link that the post title takes you to.  ↩