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.

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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.

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Review: Pro HDR X for iOS 8

Dynamic range has always been the Achilles’ heel of smartphone photography. It is the one aspect where dSLRs shine and simply cannot be outdone by our phones. (There also used to be auto-focusing on this list, but with phase detection AF on iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has raised the bar really high.)

Among several additions to iOS 8 comes burst mode capability — click and hold for several shots in quick succession. My iPhone 6 Plus shoots 10 frames per second which is almost twice the speed of my Nikon D600, which shoots 5.5 frames per second. Of course, the fact that the sensor is bigger, more memory needs to be written and other such factors come into play here.

The biggest advantage of this burst mode feature means making HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with iPhones is no longer a software-only affair spewing out fake HDR/grunge images, but actual multiple bracketed exposures combined into one HDR photo.

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Why I moved from the Galaxy Note 3 to iPhone 6 Plus

After I recently bought a silver iPhone 6 Plus, I received several e-mails asking me about my jump to iOS, why I bought a silver/white device as opposed to my customary black and a few other comments. I decided to address them in a brief article here instead of answering several mails. (And before we go ahead, please know that I still own and use my Note 3, and still think of it as an extremely capable, future-proof device — and recommend it.)

After Apple’s iPhone 3GS came out in 2009, Google replied with the first of its now-successful Nexus lineup, the Nexus One. Android was customisable, seemingly the tech of the future, thanks to its fearless attempt at everything from NFC to underwater phones to wireless charging. With the iPhone 6/6 Plus, two things changed for me: Apple seemed to awaken and see the smartphone scene from a different perspective, and my own smartphone usage changed in certain ways.

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Google Keep vs Evernote vs Springpad vs OneNote

WHEN IT COMES TO note-taking apps, speaking of Google Keep vs Evernote vs SpringPad and so on, you quickly realise there are two kinds: apps on a grand prix run with a million features we would all like but never use, and stripped down apps that help us take notes and do little else.

Both are hard to get right: you risk either over-stuffing your turkey or leaving it hollow. But if any four apps get the formula right, these four have to be it.

What we are looking for

Here are some important, must-have features we looked for in note-taking apps:

  • Speed and a light weight application
  • Syncing options
  • Widget for quick access
  • Security/encryption

 

And here are some extras we would enjoy:

  • Cross platform presence and syncing
  • Cross-device presence
  • Good design
  • Array of note types
  • Organising features
  • Sharing features

 

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Disclaimer

Neither this website nor anybody associated with it are being paid in any form to write for or against any app. These reviews are based on experience and are subjective but give a very accurate idea of the product and have been written from a neutral standpoint.

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Google Keep

Google’s silent entry into the note-taking world

 

Google began by turning users away by closing one product after another, often unannounced, and finally gave the public no good incentive to use their latest brainchild, Keep. If they tried, nobody knows about it. So then why is Keep on this list? It is because Keep —

  • is light weight, fast to save and syncs just as seamlessly
  • has a slick widget that offers scrolling previews and ability to start taking notes from your home screen
  • offers text, checklist, voice and photo notes
  • has presence on both desktops (via chrome,) phones (Android, iOS)

 

And what’s special about Keep?

  • Keep automatically transcribes voice notes (US english only, right now)
  • Keep saves using your 25GB space on your Google Drive
  • Keep allows text note to checklist conversion even after creating a text note
  • Keep uses color coding (limited to eight — and five really distinguishable — colours)

 

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The bottomline

If you take extensive vocal reminders and messages, Keep’s automatic transcribing may prove useful even if not 100% accurate. If you used Catch Notes before it was shut down, you will find Keep a pleasing alternative.

In other words, if you like to take quick notes and get done with it, Keep is just the app for you. And Keep works beautifully offline too.

Looking for a little extra muscle, though, or some charm or fun? Throw Keep out the window and head on to our next competitor.

[/sws_yellow_box] [sws_button_icon_ui label=”Download Google Keep from the Play Store” href=”https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.keep” ui_theme=”ui-smoothness” icon=”ui-icon-circle-arrow-s” target=”_blank”] [/sws_button_icon_ui]

Evernote

Does the veteran app still have what it takes?

 

If you came here just looking for an answer to that question just above, then you’ll be happy to know that yes, it does. But other apps are not exactly what you might consider stagnant.

Evernote satisfies the basic needs of any user, at any level, any profession, any use you can think of. Here are some of its most advantageous features:

  • Neat suite of apps including web clippers and readers
  • Excellent integration with third-party apps
  • Searches inside images
  • Perfect solution for long notes or long hours of note taking
  • Good cross-browser, cross-device presence

 

But there are some things that hold us back here too,

  • Way too many features: UI appears cluttered if you do not use them all
  • Free account gets you <50MB a month, but a $45/month paid option exists
  • Poor security (if you are really paranoid)
  • Overall, not a very intuitive or quick solution for note-taking

 

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The bottomline

Evernote is best for taking down college lecture notes, (or speeches and lectures in general,) interviews, creatives jotting down long ideas, shooting textual documents to use as notes and so on. It’s basically a lengthy note-taking process, but a perfect solution if you are looking at tonnes of crisp, formatted, heavily organised notes to maintain for a long time.

If all you want is to use an app as a digital edition of your post-it notes, get back to Google Keep, not Evernote. But if you have a huge notes collection you would rather hold on to for a long time, Evernote is perfect. And again, if you’re photo- (and generally media-) happy, try our next contender, SpringPad.

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SpringPad

The Pintrest of note-taking

[NB: Review carried over from our previous edition.]

I think Springpad was here before Pintrest, but people seem to compare  how similar it looks to the newer product, especially after the recent re-design. This is, in fact, the simplest definition of Springpad. It has a gorgeous interface laid out like pinboards and makes it a very visual task to manage your notes.

Springpad’s biggest plus still remains across-the-web, link, media and group sharing. And little else. But Springpad mostly makes things fun. Here’s what you’ll like:

  • Note-taking by categories such as movies, restaurants etc.
  • Great sharing capabilities for collaboration
  • Springpad boasts its own social network for its users
  • Tailored for media sharing and cataloguing

 

And, as always,

  • Works poorly for quick note-taking
  • Still shows only select tags on note pages
  • Nothing attractive, but a lot of useless features for text-heavy note-takers

 

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The bottomline

Springpad is for people who like to handle media, especially pictures, and bookmark stuff they come across on the web: you get the point, using Springpad is like having your very own Pintrest. With your very own Springpad social network.

If you want quick, or lots of text, Springpad is a poor option; if text is a once-in-a-while thing and pictures are your everyday style of usage, pick Springpad. In short, Springpad is for people with a flare for media, bookmarking, and group sharing, all without heavy emphasis on text.

But for uber serious note-takers who rarely use lot of media and neither prefer Keep’s simplicity or Evernote’s complication, but rather a mixture of the two, look at Microsoft’s very own One Note.

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OneNote

Microsoft got it right this time. Almost.

OneNote

I want you take a good look at the screenshots above. Take your time. What do you see? You see a little Microsoft Word.

Microsoft’s biggest strength is, arguably, its Office suite. And with OneNote, the tech giant has made a fine decision to use formatting and document creation to their advantage. And it’s one huge advantage, believe you me. Here are some things you’ll like:

  • Formatting. Formatting. Formatting.
  • Two-level organisation like Evernote’s notebooks and stacks
  • Autosync for SkyDrive Pro users (Office 365 or SharePoint)
  • Interesting Catch-like colour coding (not editable, though)

 

But OneNote has some drawbacks:

  • Not quick, not intuitive
  • Sync is slow at best, even with a pretty good Wifi connection
  • No handwriting features like the once-famous OneNote for PC

 

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The bottomline

OneNote users love a physical keyboard: Microsoft removed support for it in their latest update. That speaks volumes by itself. Also, that says OneNote is extensive enough in its “toolbar-equivalents” that it warrants the use of a physical keyboard.

But OneNote, surprisingly enough, serves as a fine quick note-taking app as well. Sort of like Keep. And the huge notes, formatted to perfection reflect a little Evernote. OneNote is cross between Keep’s simplicity and Evernote’s organisation with Microsoft’s rich text formatting thrown in for good measure. The best of both worlds? Yes, but at a price.

OneNote is laggy. It is slow. OneNote syncs poorly, sometimes not at all, but notes do not exactly go missing, so you’re safe there; they just hesitate to sync every now and then. What is good, though, is Microsoft’s track record in updating OneNote. It has been consistently pleasing and shows good signs of improvement.

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In conclusion

So which is the right note-taking app? Consider this to help you decide: which words best describe your usage and style of note-taking?

  1. Elaborate, extensive, well organised, multiple devices and OSes, liesurely
  2. Media, group sharing, social networking, browsing, bookmarking, heavy tablet usage
  3. Elaborate, organised, formatting, tables, charts etc., multiple devices and OSes
  4. Quick, simple, voice reminders, checklists, write and delete, multiple devices

 

If you picked 1, pick Evernote; 2, try Springpad; 3, OneNote; and 4 Keep.

That should help you choose. If you came here because Catch Notes was discontinued, you’ll enjoy Keep just as much, or you might also like the added advantages OneNote gives you.

So which app did you decide to use?

Share it with us in the comments below.

 Cover image: Taiwan Evernote users meet-up — Flickr/othree 

Everyme on Android: who needs it anyway?

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. This writing is not targeted against Everyme or the team behind the app. Should any part of the article appear unnecessarily negative, it must be understood that that was entirely unintentional and it should be considered in an optimistic light instead.
This year, a popular social network that invaded the Play Store after Instagram was an app little heard of in the Android world, Everyme. I went in with an open mind when I decided to try it out because the last time I had done it (with Instagram and before that with Google+) I had enjoyed them to the core; and I still use them to this day. So here are my views on Everyme, what it is and why I think it serves little purpose.

The Private social network

The first feeling you get when you walk into Everyme is like walking straight into the lovely Path but how it would look if the guys at Google were running it. I suspect many others may have felt the same because this was definitely the strongest feeling I had at that time, and I still have it, believe me. At the end of the day, Everyme looks like an unnecessary conglomeration of Path and Google+ that really does nothing special except, perhaps, look good. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and Everyme deserves it in terms of design (although that too looks like it has been spun off Path.)

Now, Everyme calls itself the private social network. A year ago that would have been a terribly important tagline to boast of what with Facebook being the lord of social networking and there being concerns galore about user privacy. But with the coming of Google+, all that ended.

Google answered all privacy questions, shaped it the way its users wanted to and gained a deserving one up over Facebook that it still holds to this day.

Now keep that on one side and let us talk about Path. It is radically different: for starters, it is mobile-only. It segregates updates into music, image etc. and lets you tag who you are/did it with. That is all considerably original. But what was, in my opinion, the boldest move Path made, was limiting your connections (or friends, if you will) to 150. That struck at the very heart of Facebook, as though Path and Google+ were teaming up (and probably led Zuckerberg to believe Facebook will dies as just another app on a mobile phone…) because in Facebook, 300 friends is worse than 500, which is worse than 700 and so on, regardless of whether they were really friends or acquaintances.

My point is,what Everyme does is create a privacy protected social network where, in their own words, you share stuff with your closest friends, not 516 random acquaintances.

Circles are no longer an original concept

So that was two major players of Everyme we just tumbled — privacy and limited friends to share with. Another aspect of the social network its creators often highlight is the concept of circles. Needless to say, circles — right from the name — has been etched off Google+’s hometown. That is not good in any way, is it? Besides, try sharing something with more than one circle (a common practice on Google+) and you will find it is impossible to do.

So, with all their major stakes toppled off their feet, what bothers me is simple this: what does Everyme do that Path and Google+ do not already?

It turns out there is yet another aspect Everyme highlights to their circles. Given a group of people/friends, it is sufficient if just one of them has an Android smartphone (or iOS) and they can interact and share things with everybody else through Everyme, with the others doing their bit through their emails instead of downloading the app themselves.

More Google+ territory here. If you use Google+ often, you will know there is an option to notify a fellow who is not on Google+, via his email address. And, yes, you can also add them to your circles just like on Everyme — or should I say it the other way round?

So what is the magic?

Having said all this, there still is one new concept a little new to Everyme: and they consider it to be a bit of magic!

Everyme has a powerful server that can bring together your personal data and activities from other social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Google+to create circles you prefer automatically. While it looks like mind reading, what it really does is find out people you have connected with and at what relationship status and then group them together; then it finds out who you are in a relationship with (from Facebook) and automatically tags them on Everyme too (instead of having you do it manually.)

While this is all very time saving, it really is not too magical, if you ask me.

Next come the magic stories card that Everyme loves to play at the end with a flourish. If you have a much liked or commented on update on Facebook or a heavily re-tweeted tweet on Twitter, Everyme saves your time by posting that as an update on Everyme, on your behalf. And that includes your boss’ mishap in the rest room or your topple down the stairs which all become automatic Everyme updates. Think about it. Carefully.

I think Everyme’s only safe bet is with the concept that not everybody need have an app, but that begs the question as to why that one participant needs Everyme. Can he not use his email too and create an all-email conversation instead? In the pith, with Everyme, you have Google+, Facebook, Path and to some extent, Twitter, all rolled into one in a formula that just does not seem to work; at least not yet.

If the Everyme team does come up with something truly unique, something that had not even remotely been attempted by anybody else, I will definitely hop onboard. The team definitely has great potential, so does the app; and I will be the first to write a new article commending them when they show it. Until then, however, I am going to have to uninstall Everyme; but you can download it from the Play Store or App Store below, if you have not already done so.

And do share with us what you though about this app when you downloaded it!

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Play Store

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App Store

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3 Things nobody will tell you about iPad 3

 

With Apple’s iPad 3 released recently, here are 3 things they safely left out of their device specifications, videos and release conference. We examine what is new in the device, how great it is and where all it can improve. Perhaps there is also a little disappointment for us photographers?

 

[W]ith Apple’s latest addition to its tablet lineup released a few days back, it is worth taking a closer look at some of the things that Apple have not been making too much noise about. Make no mistake, the new iPad is a great device, incorporating the iPhone Retina display (which is a great news since this website optimised Retina on the iPhone all this while and is now supported by the iPad!) and the striking Gorilla glass accompanied by an impractical, but pleasurably huge, 2,048 by 1,536 pixel display.

But, in spite of Apple resorting to its usual bar tricks and releasing what seemed to be a complete specifications video on their device, there appear to be some subtle points the company thought wise to leave out. In today’s post I examine some of those.

Bigger apps, smaller memory

Oh, yes, HTC’s signature problem, the lack of internal memory — and, at times, expandable memory — does not seem to have left Apple alone. With Retina being introduced in the new iPad, it was quite obvious that the initial memory to be provided must be increased; but Cook and his men have stayed on with the iPad 2 16GB and 32GB variant habit.

In other words, with Retina compatible apps now being made available for the new iPad, users will have to continually make space (read ‘delete stuff’) because these things are known to take tonnes of bytes of space. In fact, they were solely and directly responsible for the surge in the company’s 3G download upper limit.

Photographers cannot rejoice after all

On the one hand, the huge resolution of display is sending waves of cheers in the photography community, but, on the other, as some of us pointed out, this really is incompatible with most full-resolution photographs. That is to say, photographers cannot carry around the best looking versions of their work as they had hoped to with the release of iPad 3. So, any photographer with a 19 mega-pixel (or more) camera cannot see his full images.

Moreover, 1080p videos happen to be the upper end of the new device, so an unimpressive expansion to its 2,000 by 1,500-odd screen size is practically useless; but some might be satisfied with the Retina making it up for this, so it is not too much of a problem, but one that certainly can do with more improvements.

Dimensional problems

Apple perhaps wants the new iPad to be a photographer’s companion, as Discovery News puts it. The way I see it, this highlights its near-impractical dimensions, that handling-unfriendliness that I have so often pointed out (and which has also convinced me not to give away my awesome 7″ tablet for a bigger one.)

In order to make for a bulkier battery, the iPad has got physically bulkier — heavier. With its thickness increased by about 0.05″ and its mass by 0.11lbs, the iPad probably wants to redefine some sort of chic style in lugging around bulk. But fitting in Retina and so little space that you can hardly do anything seamlessly with it without getting bugged by space scarcity is not the most welcome screen for an iPad 3 buyer.

Besides, think of the stares you will attract when you hold up your 10-inch, slate-like, device in front of your face, armed with a paltry 5 mega-pixel camera trying in almost certain vanity to shoot a quality photograph.

  • What do you think of the new iPad?

  • What other areas could Apple improve its product in?

  • Or are you convinced with iPad 3?

  • Will you buy it?

Do share your thoughts with us below!

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