A tirade on iOS 10 and iPhone 7

Apple missed the mark with iOS 10, focusing heavily on material updates that do little to make the OS radically different. In fact, iOS 10 looks to me like a redressed iOS 9, which in turn is a redressed iOS 8, which is what iOS 7 should have originally been. The biggest features of iOS 10 (improved Messages app, new lock and keyboard sounds, redesigned Music and News apps, card-like interfaces that take up way too much space on screen etc.) should all have been app updates or minor updates in 10.x versions, not part of a core OS overhaul, and certainly not the highlight of iOS 10.

Share sheets and Extensions were probably the last major iOS change worthy of an entirely new edition of the mobile operating system. This time round, opening up Siri to third-party developers is probably the only notable overhaul — and it too came much later than it should have. A lot of other features I was hoping for (including stock apps residing on the App Store and enjoying regular updates like Apple’s Pages, Keynote etc. already do) never made it to iOS 10. Something as fundamental as natural language input — which Calendar.app on Mac already has — is sorely missing from iOS, and, combined with the fact that Apple now allows us to remove stock apps from the home screen (not delete them, but even removing them is better than having a folder full of junk), I am certainly tempted to wipe the slate clean and start over with a generally better experience. Continue reading

Airmail makes e-mail convenient and effective

Following a month of testing and real-world use, I decided earlier this week to rope Airmail into my workflow as my main (and only) e-mail programme across all my devices. Airmail is a sharp and powerful app from Italian design and development studio, Bloop. For anyone who maintains a certain manner of working with tools that they use regularly, it is understandable that adding new tools — or replacing old ones around which your habits have long since formed — can be too huge a step. This new tool, whatever it is, has to offer something compelling to justify its use because, while it may offer a fun new feature, what is important is to recognise that it demands from the user, more than anything, is a certain level of dedication and investment — particularly of our time and our patience as we develop new habits around new tools.

In this light, Airmail (for iOS and Mac) is a tool that has won me over and so well that I have initiated it into my daily workflow. In other words, I will start out by recommending that the app is worth trying out, and my conclusion is that it is wonderful. The rest of this review, therefore, is meant to tell you why.

The troubles of multiple inboxes

As I have stated several times in the past, Apple’s stock Mail.app is good enough for most people — including me until a couple of years. Having moved to a completely different e-mail management now involving four addresses, I found the stock app limiting. Continue reading

The best third-party replacements for stock iOS apps

Having previously written about the positive side of stock iOS apps, I think it is only fair to highlight third-party applications in much the same manner. After all the App Store plays a huge part in the iOS experience and stock, or default, apps — those which are bundled with every Apple device and, much to our chagrin, cannot be uninstalled — may not be powerful enough to meet everyone’s requirements, especially in niche areas.

Not only do third-party apps then become a necessity, they also work towards enriching the user experience of those who do not necessarily need all the features of third-party apps. Stock apps should undoubtedly be bundled with newly bought devices (or set to appear on factory resetting) but should, additionally, come with an option to be uninstalled just like any other app. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, hinted at this in an interview with Buzzfeed and I hope to see it in iOS 10 coming out later this year.

I also hope to see the option to choose third-party apps as defaults, but this is harder said than done since a lot of iOS’s fluid integration comes from the manner in which Apple’s apps talk to one another. However, in several countries outside the US, some services do not work: the biggest culprit is the Maps app which does not seem to know ninety-percent of the places I search whereas Google Maps simply blows it out of the water, but I digress. (All this is part of my iOS 10 wishlist, if you are interested.)

There are some obvious exclusions: Phone, Messages, Settings, Health, Find my iPhone and the like, which are all not exactly replaceable apps. Continue reading

The CloudMagic of e-mail

It is almost ironic that I should write about (and recommend) a third-party e-mail app exactly one month to the date after I write about how stock apps are good enough on iOS. I still think Apple’s apps are enough for most users, but the beauty of an app-driven ecosystem is that for those of us looking for a little more — and more need not necessarily be better — there are alternatives.

I had a valid reason for looking for third-party apps in the first place (which I will explain presently), and having tried Spark and Outlook, among others, I picked CloudMagic. With the CloudMagic app as your e-mail client, there is more and it certainly is better. I am yet to look at the desktop application, mostly because three-quarters of my e-mail is handled on my iPhone, so at all points of this review I will restrict myself to the iOS app, and, by extension, the Android app.

Replacing Apple mail

This section is about why I moved to a third-party e-mail app, as well as what I was looking for and the apps I tried. You may jump to my review of CloudMagic by skipping this section if it does not interest you.

 

My readers and subscribers are aware of my belief in the capability of stock apps — not a belief readily supported by most — which means I have some explaining to do when recommending a replacement for Apple Mail. For years I used Mail (on iOS and Mac) but have, of late, found it bulky, for lack of a better term. Continue reading

iOS apps more than sufficient? — Part II">Are stock iOS apps more than sufficient? — Part II

Exactly one year ago I wrote an article on using stock apps on iOS. Specifically, the case I was making was that for most people, stock apps will do just fine and our seemingly natural gravitation towards third-party apps exists, not always as a consequence of their being better, but as a result of us not giving stock apps enough time to show us their worth. Once again this is mostly because we are used to encountering shoddy bundled apps elsewhere and the trend that stock apps are all bad just sticks.

Now, having spent an entire year with my iPhone, I decided to return to address the same issue (naturally with the same title), and with considerably more experience backing me. One particularly useful trend I noticed through the year as I switched to third-party alternatives was that I found myself returning to stock apps. At the end of the day, this stands as an opinion piece, but one that is worthwhile to everyone contemplating this issue — and especially to those who discard stock Apple apps just by habit. Continue reading

Hard tasks and three months with iPhone 6S

There are several, longer articles I have written that I will publish over the coming weeks, but for now, thanks to certain events, I want to take a moment to write about the marvel that is my new iPhone 6S.

They say technology comes and goes, and it is true for the most part, but what impressions these technologies leave on us is something worth pondering over: take my new iPhone 6S, for example. Since I last wrote about it a couple of months ago, I have put it to the test. I used it to assist on the set of a short film, made several photographs using it as my primary camera on a recent trip, used it to plan and photograph for a brochure, all while (over)using it as my daily driver. How did the iPhone fare?

In one word, marvellous. I currently run iOS 9.3, beta 2 and it feels — to my non-developer eyes anyway — good enough to be a public release version. The new Night Shift feature, Apple’s version of f.lux — an app that tweaks display temperature to avoid excess blue light being emitted from phones — is arguably the biggest, and certainly my favourite1.

However, I digress, because there are plenty of others covering whatever is new in iOS 9.3. While using my iPhone to plan and photograph for a brochure we were working on, I found it held its fort against all eighteen-million pixels of the (raging but capable) Canon 7D. Continue reading

Demystifying Apple iOS location services

iPhones come with a number of location options. On the one hand they make privacy easy: turning on or off a feature is a breeze, and it offers considerably granular control over how it gathers and handles location data.

Moving a step further, however, the problem becomes that almost none of these features is clearly explained, making it hard to decide exactly what we will be giving up in turning off a feature or gaining by keeping it on. Continue reading