Apple Upgrade Regret

As someone who owns an iPhone, Mac, iPad and an Apple TV, I can safely say I’m deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem. I got my first Mac, a white iMac n 2001 at the dawn of the OS X revolution and loved it. I had switch back to a Windows PC for university as back then a lot of the software development tools I needed were PC-only or required I keep upgrading my OS on the iMac to install them (the poor G3 processor struggled from the offset with OS X).

I came back into the Apple ecosystem with an iPhone in 2009, and later an iPod Touch (now retired), iPad and more recently and Apple TV. They all work well together, and the hardware design and quality is second to none.

So I was excited when Apple announced as WWDC that iOS 8 and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite would further deepen that integration. About a month ago I finally upgraded my phone (a trusty 2-year old iPhone 5) and iPad to iOS 8., and two weeks later my MacBook Air to Yosemite. My Apple TV also got upgraded (after weeks of nagging me) to iOS version 7.0.2 (oddly it seems to be on a different versioning system).

In short, I have regrets.

Yosemite on the desktop is the polar opposite of 10.9 Mavericks. While Mavericks was all about optimisation, whether it was battery life or memory consumption, Yosemite is a lavish excursion into a world of translucency and bright colours and unfortunately, some bugs.

Take for example listening to music over headphones. No longer possible if you have an Apple TV on the same network. You either need to unplug the Apple TV, or turn off Wi-Fi. Animations are choppy, and the new looks resembles the much derided Windows Vista. There are a few useful new features; Safari now feels much more streamlined and being able to send and receive SMS messages from the Mac is brilliant. I’d rather have a fast, bug free system running Mavericks and sacrifice these small but useful features, however.

On the Apple TV side things are even worse. It used to be that from a Mac or iOS device you could start beaming audio or visual content while the Apple TV was in deep sleep mode (“off”). This no longer works. Now I need to hunt around for the infrared remote and switch on the Apple TV first. This also rules out using the iPhone Remote app, as it uses the same mechanism and cannot wake the Apple TV. Often I try and beam a video to the Apple TV an get sound coming out of the TV but no audio. Frustrated, I reboot my iPhone or Mac and it still happens. In the end I learnt that I actually need to reboot the Apple TV to get my videos to play.

Nothing major on its own, and yes the very definition of a 1st world problem – my frustration is that this stuff used to work so brilliantly, and now it doesn’t.

On the iOS 8 side things have been surprisingly non-eventful. After the upgrade that was iOS 7 it might just be it seems that way in comparison,  but it seems to work pretty well. I love being able to use LastPass in Safari. Occasionally I find Safari will show me a white page, only to show the content when I try and scroll. No big issues though.

Writing bug free software isn’t easy, I know that all too well, so I don’t feel like its fair to call out Apple as being any different to say, Microsoft (one word: Excel). However Apple could make the lives of its users easier by letting them downgrade! There’s nothing wrong with trying something, deciding it’s not for you right now, and going back. Software should be running on a device because the user wants it, not because they have no way of removing it.

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iOS Disappearing Calendar Notifications – Mystery Solved

Ever turned in your iPhone to see a calendar notices suddenly disappear from the lock screen? I've been seeing this a lot lately, and it's really bugged me – especially when my phone is on silent (as it is most of the day), so I can check it at chosen intervals rather than be disturbed (developer thing, no doubt) .

Well it turns out iOS will remove a notification after the event has finished. Kind of makes sense, although it does mean if you totally miss an appointment, you'd be none the wiser unless you pay very careful attention and see it before the notification quickly disappears.

Odd quirk, but probably not a bug – just a design choice (I would say it makes sense to remove them from the notification centre, perhaps not the lock screen) and Apple should probably hide it before the screen turns in to avoid the confusion of seeing something for a split second.

o2 Aims to Make Your SMS Allowance Relevant Again With New App

Tu Go is a a great idea. It can turn your iPod, iPad, laptop, or Android Tablet into a phone. Call people as if you’re calling from your mobile, and have up to 5 devices ring when you receive a call, send and receive SMS messages and see a list of voicemails. 

Unlike Skype, there’s no ‘free’ calls if you call someone else using the app, all calls are charged as if you made them on your phone, as are messages.

To me this is less of a challenge to Skype, but might have more of an impact on people using iMessage, BBM or Google Talk for messaging across their devices. Now instead of being locked into your device operating system vendor’s ecosystem (iOS, Android, Blackberry), you can be locked into your network operators (albeit far more interoperable) system instead. This is a nice idea, since SMS messages sent from this app can still be receive by someone with an old phone. I do like iMessage, the typing indicator is particularly useful for knowing whether to keep you phone out because you can see the other person is about to respond but I am seriously considering switching to this since my contract gives me unlimited SMS anyway.

It remains to be seen how this app will affect battery life. On iOS at least, VOIP apps get launched on system boot and can poll their sever a minimum of every10 minutes. On Android anything goes with regards to background activity. Of course users without a cellular network connection (most iPads sold) will only be able to receive calls when they’re in a WiFi area. If it had a big impact, I probably wouldn’t use it.

What this does blur the line between what a phone is, and what a tablet is. How long before we just buy a device with a 3G/4G connection, and download our favourite VOIP app for making calls with? With a Bluetooth headset, could the iPad mini be your next phone?

10 years of the iPod

A few weeks ago, the iPod turned 10. Hard to believe I know, at the time I’d just recently been bought an iMac (of the original curvy variety) and so I was keeping a close eye on all things Mac (only my AOL dialup connection). I remember reading about the announcement of the iPod and thinking “Wow!” – and feeling pretty smug because as a Mac user I would be able to get one (they were Mac-only to begin with). Of course at the age of 16 £300 for a gadget is hard to come by and so I wait until that Christmas and to my surprise I had an iPod in my stocking.

IMAG0657What struck me was the simplicity and purpose the device was beaming with, it integrated with iTunes so well and songs transferred across at lightening speed. Before the iPod I had been using an MP3 CD player which was a nightmare to navigate, and exceptionally bulky. I was getting the bus to college daily, and I remember I would have to pack it up the stop before because listening on the move wasn’t really an option due to it’s general bulkiness.

Any music player is pretty useless without good music to put on it, at the time I remember listening to Turin Brakes’ debut album The Optimist LP. Even today when I listen to this album, I am reminded of the novelty of the first iPod (as well as standing in freezing January weather waiting for a bus).

Apple released various updates, to support AAC and improve battery life – but the iPod remained the same essentially, a beautiful music player.

 

IMAG0654By about 2004 my iPod was well and truly battered, this was before it was common knowledge that that “durable” metal back was also very stretchable. I decided to move to a HP PocketPC running Windows Mobile 4, with a 500MB Compact Flash Card. It was nowhere near the 5GB of the iPod, but the geek in me wanted something that could play video and surf the web (using IrDA and GPRS). It was a functional little device, but shoddily built. In 2006 I decided to get an iPod Video 5.5. By now Apple had moved well and truly away from the physical scroll-wheel to a touch-sensitive one – I still use this iPod today and I have never managed to get on with it as well as the first iPod. The video was great though, and the battery was even better. I remember it got me through the hours I had to sit in LAX when my flight was cancelled. That trip was to New York in 2007, a few months after the release of the iPod Touch. After visiting the Apple Store on 5th Avenue, I couldn’t resist the spending IMAG0658my entire holiday money on one of the things and promptly purchased an iPod Touch. The first generation iPod touch was all about music, and being able to buy it online wherever you were – there were no games, no apps, you couldn’t even edit calendar appointments – this was all about the music (and video). It was therefore a nice addition when Apple released an update (I think it cost about £5) that gave users the ability to install apps.The iPod Touch was also the first time I had ever used a mobile browser and actually enjoyed the experience. My phone at the time (a Nokia N95) was a great phone, but browsing the web it it was awful.

The iPod Touch, like the iPod Video I own remains in use today (I have passed it down the family). Shocking when you think since 2008 I have had 2 laptops fail on me yet these devices still work perfectly. The original iPod powers up, but the battery only lasts a few minutes, and I don’t have a PC with FireWire to get songs onto it anymore

So just some of my iPod memories! I wonder what I’ll be using in 10 years time?