Apple software updates this year are far too cosmetic and far less meaningful

After patiently waiting for a year, I am now frustrated with Apple’s stock e-mail solution on macOS, and e-mail and calendar applications on iOS. To add fuel to the fire, the iOS apps are defaults that cannot be replaced: you can “delete the app” which really just removes the icon from the home screen, but you cannot pick a default. Thankfully macOS is more mature, which means I can actually pick an alternative as my default.

I have been using Airmail on all my devices and it leaves me little to complain about. My calendar of choice on iPad and Mac is the stock app and only because, one, I rarely use my calendar on my iPad; and two, the stock macOS calendar app has natural language input and laptop screens are bigger so the app is inherently more usable. On my iPhone I use Timepage.

Unfortunately, this is not where my frustrations with either OS ends. The new RAW support effectively renders the stock camera app useless for me, and with it the incredibly convenient quick access from the lock screen which had become second nature to me. First, the gesture was changed for no apparent reason (and this is not what bothers me — a few weeks and the new gesture becomes muscle memory) but second, and worse, the fact that there exists no DNG support means I simply have to use a third-party app now and that means unlocking my phone. Widgets are a sound option, but when you consider the unlocking requirement, it is effectively moot: raise/power — swipe to widgets — select camera option — unlock. Continue reading

Read my interview with The Sweet Setup

Some of the best tech reviews and recommendations come from The Sweet Setup, a magazine/website that reviews the most popular software solutions across various genres and recommends one, definitively. Today they published an interview I had given some weeks back and you can find it on their website. The interview revolved mainly around how I use my devices in my daily life, and is meant to either give an insight to those who are in a similar situation or are simply looking to make better, more economical use of their devices and incorporate them into their lives, or be a source of infotainment for the technologically savvy crowd.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading The Sweet Setup is because they actually arrive at a conclusion once they review and compare a set of apps. Oftentimes reviewers compare poorly, leaving it entirely to the reader to decide while they claim to have put things into perspective; but really nobody has gone a single step ahead all the while. With The Sweet Setup, various reviewers (meaning there is almost no bias or leaning for the magazine as a whole) talk about popular applications for various needs and arrive at the best one as a recommendation while also briefly talking about other options, which makes the review feel wholesome. Anyway, I think if you ever need clarifications this should certainly be a site to drop by and look around.

Besides announcing that my interview has been published, I also wanted to take a moment in this article to address something that I personally find remarkable. Continue reading

State of the smartphone market

Apple’s iPhone 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 were this year’s unsurprising landmark releases in the smartphone market. However, over the years there has been a trend where the appearance of new technology in smartphones slows down. This should not really be surprising considering the extent we have come already since Steve Jobs talked of a phone, an iPod, and a camera in one device. “We call it iPhone”, he proclaimed on stage nine years ago. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of iPhone and a lot of people had decided for themselves that that would be the phone to wait for, not this year’s iPhone 7.

In fact, Apple’s alternate year of release for newly numbered models shows the company itself probably believes that one brand new smartphone a year is an unrealistic expectation. Instead a new one every other year accompanied by a stepwise change in the form of an “S” model in-between was their solution and rightly too. Until we somehow put a printer and flatbed scanner into our phones, there will likely not be a technological revolution in the true sense of the word.

Apple’s stocks were already dipping as iPhone sales dipped in the last two financial quarters. But with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones bursting like crackers and forcing the company to recall all phones, their share in the market will likely also dip just as dramatically if not more. Rumours suggest a $10 billion loss after passengers were banned from carrying the phone on aircrafts. Continue reading

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

An iOS 10 wishlist

June this year will see the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 10, during their annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) at the Moscone West convention centre in California. Abiding by the usual secrecy company which the company always keeps, no feature of the upcoming operating system has been talked about anywhere in official capacity.

On the one hand, this means considerable suspense builds up prior to launch — which is what Apple’s publicity team likely wants — and on the other, it means we are free to build castles in the air. Apple has probably surged far enough in its development cycle that it will not be in a position to listen to any user requests right now and accommodate features into the system, but there have been some things in the air already which may have made it into the upcoming OS. In any case, these are a few things I hope to see in iOS 10.


 

1. Customisable control centre

The control centre is possibly the most useful feature added since iOS 7 and it needs an important change: customisability. Something as simple as there being five toggles and shortcuts could be replaced with six, customisable toggles which can be 3D touched for more options (there are Cydia tweaks that help users achieve similar things). This would make the control centre vastly more useful. Music scrubbing is a good feature tying with Apple Music, but having buttons to favourite a song and add a song to an existing playlist would be welcome additions. 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

iPhone 6S — two weeks later

A little over two weeks ago I bought an iPhone 6S. Coming from a 6 Plus (for reasons outlined below) I found the device to be wonderful, but not without a couple of complaints.

This time I bought a space grey 6S (not the Plus edition). Having used it as my main mobile device in my regular environment, with my usual above–average to heave use, there are a lot of things I find similar to the 6 with one key difference — this device will probably last longer as an old model than an iPhone 6 would, I would bet at least till iOS 12, and this longer shelf life in the future means better performance now, and that really is what it all comes down to. In any case, let us try to keep this review as brief as possible. Continue reading

25 Cydia tweaks to install first on iOS 8.3

The iOS jailbreak scene is pretty active and speedy; this is perhaps because everyone is focusing on one piece of hardware unlike on Android where a thousand developers are focussing on a thousand models. Four days ago, TaiG found an exploit and came out with a jailbreak for the latest iOS version, 8.3, and soon Surik had updated Cydia, TaiG had patched as necessary and several tweaks were brought up to speed.

After iOS7, I had not jailbroken 8.1, being satisfied with the stock OS — in retrospect, I probably should have jailbroken it. In any case, I did so on 8.3 and had a chance to rethink my usual tweaks. I ended up installing around 50 tweaks, out of which I would recommend these 25 to everyone for better usage, look and feel. And maybe a little bit of fun. Continue reading

Picturelife

Recently I decided it was time (after three years) to backup my mobile phone photographs. I only started taking mobile photography seriously after getting my Note 3 and that enthusiasm swelled with my iPhone 6 Plus. In all I had about 1,300 photographs made since I got my iPhone — just the photographs I wanted to save, the total number of photographs is greater. And I looked around for an ideal backup and storage solution with which I could maintain my photographs.

The first option a lot of people suggested to me was Loom, but that is not available where I live. (Loom happens to be US-only.) And then there was Everpix — was — which was free and shut down as fast as it became popular. In all honesty, Everpix was an excellent solution, but faced the biggest problem with cloud storage solutions: they shut down, mostly because they run out of money trying to give storage free. Lesson: never opt for free cloud storage.

Then I tried Picturelife about three months ago and still love it for a lot of reasons. Some readers asked me to talk about my experience with the product and how I went about moving my photographs to the cloud, so this is it.

Update: After this article was published and discussed around the web, Picturelife got in touch with me and offered a generous 20GB of additional free storage for life. Thank you. And here’s to Picturelife for being one of the top cloud storage solutions for all of us.

Continue reading

Switching to iPhone and iOS

When iPhone 6 Plus came out last year, I bought it without a second thought. I had an iPad, so I had experienced the new iOS 8, and when the phablet-sized device came out, my last complaint against  Apple went out the window (tiny screen sizes). iPhones are extremely capable, user-friendly devices and this means a lot coming from someone who once swore by Android until Google’s ugly material UI took over.

However, there were some things I wish I had known when I first switched to iPhone that I thought would be helpful to other new users. Not all of these may take you by surprise — some might — but all of them are definitely helpful and will improve your already stellar user experience with your shiny new phone. Continue reading

The (not so) minimal iPhone setup, or simply “what’s on my iPhone 6 Plus?”

A lot of people have been going on about a minimal iPhone lately. Most of that has something to do with stripping down the apps you use, having just one home screen and then sitting around and justifying it because you paid a small fortune for the phone and now you talk of using it as minimally as possible.

None of that makes sense. The iPhone has probably already replaced a lot of other things you use and thereby made your lifestyle a lot more minimal, if that is what you were going for. It likely replaced everything from desk calendars to USBs in cars to cinema and plane tickets and — for some people — laptops.

I am not one among them, so my iPhone setup is not what I would call minimal. I do however follow a certain practice where I try to reduce the apps I use in some ways I have not seen a lot of others adopt. That is one reason I wrote this article — the other was because people wanted to know what was on my iPhone. Continue reading

Making “The Game” — an iPhone 6 Plus short film

It started as an offhand idea, so we began with literally zero preparation. Half a basketball court, a ball and an iPhone in hand, I do not recall just when the idea struck me, but the four of us who were together had soon decided to make a short film.

The story, as I often like it in all of my films, was simple and open to interpretation. Two guys, a basketball: it does not matter whether they had the court or — quite literally — what was blocking their way, they would still play their game. Continue reading