WWDC 2017 iOS 11 Predictions

Seeing as WWDC 2017 is set to begin in only a couple of days, I might as well join with so many other tech bloggers and add my own predictions! I agree with many of what I’ve seen already, so I’m not going to bother repeating those ideas. However, I have a couple of thoughts which I haven’t seen anywhere else yet. So here we go!

iOS 11 iPad Slide Over / Split Screen App Switcher

It seems that people have been complaining about the iPad Slide Over / Split Screen app switcher ever since it was released a couple of years ago. We hoped that it would get a redesign last year, but like most things on the iPad, there wasn’t much in the way of updates for it. However, if some of the rumours this year are to be believed, iOS 11 on the iPad might have much more of a significant makeover. The app switcher is, in my opinion, one of the parts of the iPad software that need to be updated in a big way! It’s next to impossible to find the app that you want on the list quickly. Apparently, the three apps that you see when you first slide open the switcher are the most recently opened apps, or something like that. But if you want something other than those, there is no easy way or quick way to find them beyond just scrolling through the list. And if you have a lot of apps that support multitasking, this list can be quite a headache to scroll through.

So here’s my idea for the redesigned app switcher and iOS 11 on the iPad. It stems from the idea that when some apps run in Split View on the iPad, they don’t necessarily display a shrunken regular iPad view of the app, but rather they show a view that would appear on an iPhone. Take Messages or Mail for example. When you open Split View or Slide Over, the view of the app that you see looks almost exactly like what you would see on an iPhone. You don’t just see a smaller version of what you would normally see in a full-screen iPad app. With this in mind, my prediction for the Split Screen app switcher redesign is that when you slide open the switcher, you are presented with an iPhone-like display of your home screen rather than a scrolling carousel of app icons, as it is now on iOS 10. This mini home screen would behave similarly to how your regular iPhone homescreen behaves. For example, you could swipe to the side to go to your next page of apps, or pull down to reveal the search bar. If either one of those two gestures is applied, then you would have a much easier finding apps in the app switcher! Both are familiar gestures, and if you don’t know exactly where to look to find your app, a search bar is a swipe away!

Biometric security

Along with the talk of Apple getting into augmented reality, AR, there is also some discussion about using more biometric data to verify you as your device’s owner. Current iPhones and iPads do this with the Touch ID sensor, built into the home button. But there is some talk of a future device using the FaceTime camera either as a retina scanner or, more likely, for facial recognition. It remains to be seen if these would be as successful as Touch ID has been so far, but maybe using them as a secondary verification rather than a primary would be a better idea. It seems to me that it would be quite a bit easier to spoof a face than to spoof a fingerprint!

Regardless of this, a camera that is adept as facial recognition would be very useful! What I would propose is that for every unlock attempt that is made on your device, the camera would instantly capture a photo of the person using it. If it’s you, and the device recognizes you already, then the photo doesn’t need to be saved and the unlock proceeds normally. However, in the case of a theft, if an unknown person tries to unlock the phone and it fails, the camera would capture that image and add it to your photo library, at which point it would be uploaded to iCloud. A warning message could then be triggered that would go to all of your other devices that an attempt has been made to unlock one of them, provide you with location data (like you get now if trying to access your account from an unknown location), and also provide you with a photo of the person. Photo evidence of an attempt at unlocking a stolen device! I really hope this comes true. Heck, you don’t even need a future iPhone with a new camera to do this! Just make this a security feature of iOS 11!

WWDC 2016

What I Expect from WWDC 2016

It’s that time of year again: No, not Christmas, but very close for Apple fans! Apple is holding their Worldwide Developers Conference again next week, and that means that they will be letting us see some of what they’ve been working on. Typically, as they’ve done for the last few years, they show a preview of the upcoming iOS and OS X versions that get released a few months later, as well as demoing some of the new hardware. Since as of yet, there haven’t been any leaks of what to expect at the show, I figured I would post my predictions for what may be presented. So with that, here are some of my expectations for WWDC 2016.

Let’s look at this by category, starting with the iPhone. iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were released this past fall, on the usual iPhone refresh cycle. In addition to those, Apple released the iPhone SE even more recently, just a few months back now. Considering those releases and the usual timing of phone updates, I think it’s virtually guaranteed that we will not see any iPhone hardware update news. If they do bring out a new phone, I think it will catch everyone off guard, and it would likely cause a whole bunch of complaints from the people who bought in to the 6S cycle, only to have the cycle cut short early, very similarly to what happened with the 3rd and 4th generation iPads, where the 4th gen iPad was released less than a year after the 3rd gen one. That made a lot of the early adopters upset! I should know – I was one of them!

Speaking of iPad, should we expect to see any iPad hardware refreshes? I think that’s doubtful. The past fall, the released the 12.9“ iPad Pro (with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessories) and iPad mini 4. They elected to not introduce an iPad Air 3, but rather delayed the update to the 9.7” iPad until just a few weeks ago, when the released the 9.7" iPad Pro to replace the Air. So, much like with iPhone, the iPad hardware lineup doesn’t have anything more than a year old yet and due for a refresh.

Of course, iPhone and iPad will likely still play a central role in the WWDC keynote, as if this show follows the routine from the last several years, we will get a preview of iOS 10. This is an easy prediction to make, and I’m not going to go into details here about what I think or hope iOS 10 will contain. I’ll save that for another post!

Same hardware story for Apple TV. It just came out last fall, and considering how the Apple TV 3rd gen went for several years without a refresh, there’s no way they’d refresh the current Apple TV 4th gen this soon. Developers are still getting used to writing apps for tvOS, so I can’t see a good reason why they’d need to upgrade the hardware.

For Apple Watch, I’m a little unsure. They announced the Watch well in advance of it’s release – I believe a Fall announcement for a Spring release? Then at the last WWDC, they announced watchOS 2 already. For sure, we will get a preview of watchOS 3, but I am curious if that will shed any light on what the Apple Watch 2 itself might contain, or if they might do an early reveal of that as well. I’m very hopeful, as I’ve been holding off buying a Watch until version 2 comes out, but I suspect that we’ll be seeing more of what the Watch will be able to do, rather than the Watch itself. I’ll just have to keep waiting! Oh, and probably new watch straps, to keep with fashion trends.

Finally, let’s consider the Mac lineup. The new 12“ MacBook was released a while ago, with the single USB C port that created such a stir. However, the rest of the MacBook Pro line didn’t get much of an update. The CPU’s got a recent speed bump, but nothing major. One rumour is that Apple may bring the 12” MacBook styling to the MacBook Pro lineup. If they did that, I suspect they’d have to increase the number of ports available, as it wouldn’t be much of a Pro device with such limited connectivity. The iMac also got an update last year with the 5K retina display, so that one may also get a speed bump, but probably nothing revolutionary.

The operating system for the Mac will likely get a big part of the show as well, and if rumours prove correct, it’s going to have its name changed from OS X to MacOS. There has also been some debate about the syntax of the name, with all the other Apple OS names starting with lowercase letters, though the argument is that the Mac is a proper and trademarked name, and should rightfully remain capitalized. Anyways, that’s just the name. What it will actually bring to the Mac will likely be working towards more of a constant user experience across Apple’s mobile and desktop devices. Of course, the big rumour that should hopefully prove true is that Siri may be coming to the Mac.

Beyond Apple’s mainstream hardware and OS systems, they have a few other things that could possibly get some of the spotlight at this WWDC. Recently, Airport routers have been disappearing from Apple Store shelves. When things go out of stock at Apple Stores, that a good indication that a refresh is coming soon. However, in this case, it might just be a matter of recently changed FDA rules, and hopefully they will be brought back soon. Every year, people also pine for upgraded Retina Thunderbolt displays. There has been recent talk that standalone 5K displays containing their own GPU’s may be on the verge of showing up, but those rumours have also been shot down by a few people. New Beats devices could get released as well, especially with the back to school season soon upon us, though I don’t think Beats devices have ever been given any presentation time at these keynotes. They’d probably just be a silent refresh on the website or a news release.

One final rumour involves a new piece of hardware, which would be really cool if true, though I have my doubts. The rumour is a device that has a speaker, mic, and camera, and runs an always-on Siri that can act as a sort of hub for the home. I suppose they could integrate the Beats technology into the speaker functionality, though I can’t see this being anymore than a since standalone device, as opposed to a collection of speakers that you can customize for your room, like Sonos. Maybe something closer to a Beats Pill? Then the camera could supposedly perform facial recognition so that Siri knows who is present in the room. Combining this with the tech that allows the iPhone 6S to distinguish between voices could really help with the device’s awareness. This hub device could integrate with all the devices in your home, and issue commands to them individually, such as telling the Apple TV to turn on a movie, or telling your iPhone to dial a contact. Plus, it would tie into iCloud, so that you could dictate notes or make calendar appointments, etc. With the recent surge in popularity of Amazon’s Echo device with Alexa, something like this from Apple may attract a big audience.

So, those are my predictions for WWDC 2016. It sounds like this year is going to be a big year for software, with less attention on new hardware. Either way, our Apple devices are going to learn some new tricks in the coming months, and that is exciting!

Some Cool Things You Didn’t Know About the Apple TV Remote

The Apple TV is a fantastic set-top box. You can effortlessly stream your iTunes library straight to your TV, can view your Photostream, access Netflix, rent or purchase iTunes content, and more right from the comfort of your living room sofa! Even more amazing is that you can control all of these features with the bare bones remote control that comes with the Apple TV. However, for as simple and elegant as the remote is, the number one complaint about it is that it is too small for its own good and it gets lost way too easily! Here are a few things that you can do about it, if you actually do lose your remote.

The first thing that you can do is to substitute your iPhone or iPad in as your remote control, by downloading the free Apple app from the App Store called Remote. This essentially turns your iOS device into a fully functioning Apple TV remote control, with a bit of extra convenience thrown in for good measure that could make it arguably an even better remote control than the stock one. The Remote app is composed mostly of a large gesture-control area that mimics the Apple TV remote’s directional pad: swipe up = click up, swipe down = click down, etc. Where you would normally click the select button on the remote, you do this on the app by simply tapping on the gesture-control area, as it indicates. Furthermore, there are three buttons along the bottom of the app, representing the Menu and Play/Pause buttons from the remote, and a new options button. If you tap on the Done button, you also gain the functionality of directly accessing your playlists, albums, etc, so you don’t need to necessarily navigate through the Apple TV menus onscreen to find what you want. The best part about the app, however, is text input: on any screen of the Apple TV interface where you would have to manually click on each letter to spell out a word, such as entering your password or in a search box, the Remote app presents you with the familiar iOS keyboard, which is infinitely quicker to use to enter text.

Overall, the iOS Remote app makes a great substitute for the Apple TV remote, and in many cases is actually better. But you inevitably will want to control your Apple TV while doing something else with your iPhone. Are you out of luck? Of course not.

Apple has built into their Apple TV an amazing yet lesser-known feature that allows you to use any third-party programmable remote control that you may have on hand! This may include your TV remote, or the one with your BluRay player, or maybe your home theatre controller. Any remote capable of controlling multiple devices can be programmed very simply to be able to control your Apple TV as well.

To take advantage of this handy feature, you will first have to use either the stock Apple TV remote or the iOS Remote app to navigate through the Apple TV menus to Settings -> General -> Remotes. Once there, select the option to Learn Remote.

This will take you to a brief explanation screen, where you will be instructed to set your remote to an unused device setting before selecting Start. In other words, if your remote has an Auxiliary setting, but you don’t actually have that setting tied to any other device, you could set it in this mode and thereafter use that mode to control the Apple TV. Similarly, if you have a DVD mode setting on your remote control but you don’t actually have a DVD player, then feel free to set it to this mode instead. Once you have set your remote appropriately, select Start.

The following setup screen will allow you to customize precisely what buttons on your third-party remote control that you want to map to the indicated buttons of an Apple TV remote. Simply follow the instructions shown on screen to set your remote exactly how you want it. For example, it will highlight a button on screen and ask you to press whichever button on your remote that you would like to “be” that button, and to continue pressing this button until the blue indicator progress bar has filled. It will then advance to the next button, where you can choose a different button to map to it, and so on. Continue in this manner until you have programmed all six of the onscreen buttons. You will also be given the option to program buttons on your remote to be responsible for specific playback functions, such as fast-forward, rewind, etc.

After completing these simple steps, you will finally be able to control your Apple TV with the remote control of your choosing! It takes next to no time at all, and you can be sure that it will be programmed exactly how you like it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes; you never know when your Apple TV remote might finally slip down between the couch cushions forever!

Apple Music, Apple Video, and the Future of iTunes

Last week, Apple released their long-awaited streaming music service, Apple Music. I’ve been playing around with it a lot since then, and it’s got me thinking about what Apple may have up their sleeves for some of their future products and services. In particular, I am thinking about their streaming services and iTunes software.

First of all, a comment about just what Apple Music is. When you sign up and pay for the service, you gain access to most of the iTunes music catalog. (Of course, there is a free tier of the Apple Music service, which has more limitations, such as skips per hour, and ads.) You don’t actually own the music, as opposed to if you want to buy a song for 99 cents through iTunes. In that case, you’ve bought it and it’s yours to keep. On the contrary, Apple Music may be thought of as a music rental service. As long as you pay your monthly dues, you can stream any of the songs that are available, or save them to your devices for offline listening. However, if you drop out of the program, because of the way that Apple Music songs have DRM applied to them, all of the music that you have “rented” through Apple Music disappears from your collection, leaving you with only the music that you actually own, either through purchases through iTunes, rips of your own CD collection, etc. This seems like a reasonable system, assuming you are comfortable with the digital rights management applied to the music, though for most people, this probably isn’t going to matter to them at all. I love having instant access to such a vast music library, and the hooks into Siri on iOS adds another awesome element to the whole package. The radio and curated stations are a great way to introduce songs to you, and the For You section delivers customized suggestions to you based on what you like and listen to and have on your device. It sounds similar to what Genius has done up to now, though better.

Despite this new music app only being out for a week right now, and there clearly being bugs in the software, I really like what they’re doing here. Plus, considering that the first three months are a free trial period, I consider this to be like a beta period for the software – they’re just released it and there are bound to be bugs, but we’re not paying anything for it anyways at the moment, so we can’t really complain. Hopefully the Apple engineers hear the feedback that seems to come from all corners, and will implement the necessary changes to really tune to software. I’d love for their to be iterative point updates, though I suspect that it will “come out of beta” when iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan are released in the fall, which roughly coincides with the end of the free trial. So, we start paying and hopefully the software is more or less bug free and working perfectly, as we always expect from Apple.

Now, I’m going to look a bit into the future for where I can see this software and service going. Assuming that Apple Music is a winning player in the streaming business, as everyone expects them to be, I wonder if Apple will branch out and do something similar with videos, essentially to compete with Netflix. Let’s call it, creatively, Apple Video. I’m not going to bore down into the details of licensing agreements and stuff like that. I have no idea how any of that works now, or how it would for something like this. But ideally, let’s assume this service provides Apple Video subscribers with access to the iTunes video library. Whereas Netflix typically doesn’t air first-run new release movies, Apple does make available for download new releases, often 2 or 3 weeks even before their physical blu-rays drop. It would be absolutely amazing if they started up a service like this, and charged a monthly subscription fee. They would probably never be able to do it at the low rates that Netflix charges, but they are arguably not providing the exact same service. This Apple Video service could be the killer TV streaming service that has been rumoured and discussed at length for years. If they could also couple that with cable networks to provide on-demand access to TV shows, that is a video service that is well worth the subscription price. I would pay for something like this in a heartbeat, to break away from the cable company for good.

The implementation of an Apple Video service, I imagine, would have to be done similarly to the music service. That is, a rewrite of the iOS Video app (even change the icon away from the silly skeuomorphic one that’s there now!) would be necessary. They could possibly even have the same kind of tabs in the Video app, such as For You, New, and My Videos, so the framework seems to be in place already to start something like this. (I would also love the videos taken with the iPhone camera would end up in the Video app, and not the Photos app. This has been a peeve of mine for years! Videos are not photos, even if they were captured with the same camera!) However, iOS devices would probably not be the primary viewing devices, so a new Apple TV hardware box would likely be useful to handle this. New chips and hardware would allow for the nice translucency and gradient effects prevalent in the music app on iOS. Also, they’d want a Video app available on OS X. And here is where things get really crazy.

Consider what iTunes was, and what it has turned into. It started off as a way of managing your music. That’s it. But it has now expanded to include video, music, apps, etc. It is the syncing software that bridges your computer with your devices. But, needless to say, it is completely bogged down in trying to do too much now. It is glitchy and slow. But there are clues as to where it could go. Consider the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library. iTunes doesn’t worry about photos anymore. When you looks at your device in iTunes, under Photos, it just says that iCloud Photo is on and managing the photo syncing. Now with the release of Apple Music and the iCloud Music Library, you see the same type of thing when you look at the Music section of your device on iTunes. iTunes is still a hub for apps, movies, TV shows, etc, but I think this is only for now.

Ultimately, iTunes will be unnecessary as a sync solution, as everything will be managed and synced through relevant iCloud services. We have iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library. The video proposal I set out above would come with iCloud Video Library. And apps are already synced from the cloud, and their data stored on iCloud. All the other sections will ultimately get cloud libraries and syncing, which negates the need for iTunes. Instead, it will be reduced back down to what it originally was: Music.

So, for all the people complaining about iTunes being the beast that it is right now, just relax. We may be heading down the path that simplifies everything, breaks the different components of iTunes into their own apps, and makes them all so much more easy to manage. If I am right, Apple Music is a glimpse of what could eventually turn into Apple Video, and a much brighter future for iTunes.

Tips and Tricks for the Calculator on Your Mac

A calculator is one of the most basic apps that you can use on your computer. In a lot of cases, all you need is something to quickly add up some numbers, and the basic calculator settings are perfectly appropriate. However, if you explore the options available to you in the Apple Calculator app on your Mac, you will find that this simple program is actually very advanced! Here are some tips and tricks for the calculator on your Mac to help you get the most out of this app. Make sure you keep reading to find the greatest calculator secret of them all at the end!

There are three modes available to choose from, easily accessible from the View menu:

  • When you have the calculator set to Basic mode, you can perform typical, everyday functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and percentage. It wouldn’t be a very good calculator if it couldn’t do these! This mode is probably sufficient for many people for a lot of the time, and if you didn’t change this setting, the calculator will probably serve your needs perfectly in many situations.
  • When you change to Scientific mode, the calculator extends additional function buttons out to the left. These include many easily recognizable functions, such as square root, trigonometric functions, and the calculator memory keys, among many others. Most of the keys that a typical scientific calculator has can be found in this mode, including the 2nd function button for additional functionality for each key.
  • When you change to Programmer mode, you access more advanced features, not likely to be used by the majority of people. This mode features a binary readout (with display settings for ASCII or Unicode), as well as the hexadecimal digit set (0–9, A-F). It also provides a simple converter to show what your value is in octal, decimal, or hexadecimal notation. A cool feature is that, depending on which of these three modes you are in, the unnecessary digits will be grayed out and unaccessible. If you are a programmer and know how to use this feature set, you likely have a more dedicated programming calculator, though it should be useful to you to know that the simple Apple Calculator app also has some of these functions available to you.

Under the View menu, you can also find a few additional options to customize to your liking. You can show/hide the comma that acts as the thousands separator (ie. 1000 vs 1,000). You can specify how many decimal places to show in calculated results, with the calculator rounding the final digit as necessary. You can also enable RPN mode (Reverse Polish Notation). In RPN mode, the operators come after the operands. As explained on the Wikipedia page for Reverse Polish Notation, to perform the addition of 3 and 4, you would enter into your calculator “3” and then “4+” as opposed to the more tradition “3 + 4”. I’m not going to go into further details about this mode, as the point is simply that RPN mode is available to you in this app.

Under the Convert menu, the Calculator app allows you to perform a wide variety of instant conversions. Say you want to know how many grams are in 7 pounds, you simply enter 7, then go to the Convert menu and choose “Weights and Masses,” and select “From Pounds (US)” and “To Grams” and press Convert. The display will instantly display 3,175.14659 as the number of grams in 7 lbs. Furthermore, if you find that you do the same conversions over and over again, there is also a “Recent Conversions” option at the top of the Convert menu, from which you can choose from one of your recent calculations. Very handy!

The Calculator also has a speech function which will speak out your button presses and results. Under the Speech menu, you can enable/disable in whichever combination you prefer to “Speak Button Pressed” and “Speak Result”. This is a great feature to have enabled when you want a verification of your button presses while working with a lot of data, such as hitting the minus when you meant to hit the plus, or confirming the right digits are used, and then also to have the result read out to you. It might drive those around you crazy though! One small bug that I just realized while preparing this post: as I have the thousands separator turned on, the speech doesn’t actually read past the comma. If I have the number 19,123, the speech reads out “nineteen” as opposed to “nineteen thousand one hundred twenty three.” Not sure if it’s a bug in Calculator, Yosemite, or just my machine. In any case, it’s maybe something to be wary of if you use this options!

Speaking of Yosemite (or possibly Mavericks… can’t quite remember), you can also choose to have the “basic mode” calculator live in your Notification Center on the right side of your screen. This is an amazingly handy way to have quick access to perform some spontaneous, simple calculations. It’s always nearby and ready to go for you! Just slide open the Notification Center panel, make sure you’re on the Today tab, then click the Edit button at the bottom of the screen and then add the calculator. Another Yosemite trick, though not strictly the calculator app but bears mentioning – if you hit Command-space bar to open the Spotlight search, you can enter in you calculation right there to have Spotlight produce your result for you. For simple calculations, this is arguably the fastest way to do it!

Finally, here is the greatest Calculator secret tip of them all, as promised! If you open the Window menu, you will find the option to “Show Paper Tape.” By turning this on, you will open a small text window next to the main calculator app, and it keeps track of all the numbers, calculations, and results that the app shows on its display. As I’m sure you could understand, this is immeasurably useful when you have a long series of calculations to perform, and it makes it super easy to go back and check your work for errors. Some scientific and advanced calculators have a history function, but since they are limited to a single (usually) display line, they are not the most intuitive to decipher. This paper tape clearly lists your calculations and makes it easy to find where you went wrong, or prove that you are right! There’s also a simple Clear button at the bottom for when you want to start a new set of calculations. This trick is probably one of the most useful advanced features that the Apple Calculator can do, and once you start using it, you will quickly wonder why you ever used anything else.

So there you have it – my extensive collection of all kinds of tips and tricks for the calculator on your Mac, to help you get the most out of this simple, yet incredibly powerful little app! Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything, or you have anything else you’d like me to add!

iOS Messages app icon

How to Configure iOS 8 Messages

Messages is the app on your iPhone that is the home for all of your iMessage and SMS/MMS messages. It’s easy to use right out of the box, but there are some configuration options available to you, if you so desire. Here is a breakdown of the Messages settings, and what you can do with them to customize your messaging experience.

How to Enable iMessage

Of course, the first thing to do with Messages is to make sure that it’s configured correctly. For that, you need to head into the Settings app, and scroll down to where Messages is listed, and tap to see its settings page. At the top of that page is the toggle for iMessage – clearly, if you want to use iMessage, you’d better make sure that this is toggled to on (switch will be green). Without this turned on, the Message app will not iOS Messages app iconuse the iMessage system, and will only display text messages.How to Enable/Disable Read Receipt

The next setting you will see on the Messages settings page is labeled as “Send Read Receipts” and briefly explains that this setting will “Allow other to be notified when you have read their messages.” When enabled, whoever sent you a message will get a little mark below the message on their screen to indicate that the message was “Read.” Otherwise, if this setting is disabled, they will only see an indication for “Delivered” and be none the wiser as to whether you have read their note or not. If you tend to read messages but not reply right away, maybe you’d want to consider disabling this function. There’s nothing worse than sending a message to a friend, being notified that they’ve read it, and then you sit there and wait for a response that doesn’t come until much later. It might make your friend an ex-friend if they realize that you routinely ignore them!

How to Send Messages as SMS

Sometimes, iMessage goes down. It happens to everything. However, that doesn’t mean that your message is at the mercy of Apple engineers working to fix the problem. With this setting, when iMessage fails, it will send your message as an SMS. Your recipient will be able the get the message in a timely manner, though it will arrive in a green bubble rather than the iMessage blue bubble. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that depending on your cell phone plan, sending by SMS may incur charges to your account. Many cell plans come with an unlimited texting option, which makes this issue irrelevant. However, some plans have a limited number of messages or a charge per message. It’s just something to keep in mind if you decide to leave this setting enabled.

How to Set Up Send & Receive Info for iMessage

If you tap on the Send & Receive option in the Messages settings page, you will be taken to the iMessage setup screen. Here, you can specify the account information to link to iMessage. You will see a place to enter your Apple ID (which ties it all together), and then a place to specify how people can contact you (typically, your cell phone number and possibly an email address(es)), and from which of these contacts you will initiate conversations.

How to Configure SMS/MMS Options

When using iMessage, there is little to worry about, as it is free and there are no limits on message length. However, depending on the cellular plan, SMS or MMS messages may come with a fee. To help deal with this, there are a few settings that you can manage. If you have a reason to restrict or prevent MMS usage, there is a simple toggle to turn it on or off. As these kinds of messages can be delivered with a Subject line, there is an option to Show Subject Field, which gives you the option to specify the subject of your message (much like you would in an email). There is also a valuable option to display the Character Count, which will show you the number of characters that you have typed so far in your message. This is a great little tool to enable if you have a preset maximum text message length, especially if texts cost you anything! The last option in the SMS/MMS options page simply says “Blocked.” Tapping here will take you to a list where you can add contacts that you don’t want to hear from. By blocking a contact here, you will not receive any phone calls, messages, or FaceTime calls from them. This can be a very handy tool, especially if you run into a persistent telemarketer!

How to Delete Message History

A new feature to Messages in iOS 8 is the option to set deletion preferences for your message history. The default setting will just save all of your messages forever, as the app has always done before. However, over time the size of the app will increase as it accumulates all of your saved messages, especially if there are lots images and videos! To help manage this, and to release you from the burden of selectively going through and deleting memory hogging messages, you can change the message history setting. Apple has now provided two additional options: 30 Days and 1 Year. While it would be nice to have a more fine-tuned control over this, where you could specify just how long you’d like to save messages, these options are what we have for right now. If you select one of these options, your Messages history will delete messages that are older than you have specified, and it will maintain a rolling message window, so that you will only ever have access to the most recent 30 Days or 1 Year of messages. This would be great with a custom time option, but otherwise, it’s a fantastic way to curb a growing message history and to shrink the amount of storage the app needs to use!

New Apple Set-Top Box with Communication Function?

I just came across this article over on AppleInsider. Apparently, there has been discovered three shipments of “set top boxes” from Apple. Specifically, some of these shipments have been identified as “Set Top Box with Communication Function.” All of the focus on Apple lately has been surrounding their upcoming reveal of the next iPhone(s) – presumably, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.

However, is Apple using this excitement as a distraction?

Could they actually be shipping a new version of an Apple TV set top box that finally has Siri functionality built in to it?

This could be very exciting! I’ve said for a long time that I think Apple just needs to get deals sorted out with the content providers, and then put some upgraded hardware in their current Apple TV box, rather than divert money and energy in actually creating a television set. That would be a killer product, if we didn’t need to drop $2000 or whatever for a mythical Apple TV set, and we could just buy a souped up box that can deliver all content. Maybe throw in Siri and a FaceTime camera.

This will be a very interesting story to follow…

Interpreting the Apple Invitation for Sept 10

As has been predicted for weeks now, this morning, Apple finally sent out their exclusive invitations to the press and tech journalists for their big event next week. Rumours have swirled for a long time now that Tuesday, September 10, 2013 is a day to circle on calendars, as that will be the day that Apple unveils their next-gen iPhone – in all likelihood with the name “iPhone 5S”. Moreover, today (Tuesday, September 3, 2013) has been predicted to be the day when all the lucky people receive their invites in their mailboxes. Well, the invites arrived today (I did not get one), and they announce Sept. 10 as the day of the big show.

Of course, as is seemingly tradition, Apple invitations always seem somewhat cryptic. They don’t explicitly announce or show anything that would confirm any rumours. But they always show “something” that gets people talking and keeps them guessing. The invitations from today were no different.

Here is an image of what the invitations included:

Looks nice! But what does it mean? Interpreting Apple invitations is always fun and full of speculation. And as is usually the case, we won’t know for sure for another week (!), when they presumably reveal the new iPhone 5S… and likely the new iPhone 5C.

So, let’s have a go at interpreting the Apple invitation for the Sept. 10 show!

To me, I don’t see a whole lot of details included. Not much is being given away. BUT, I think there are two GIGANTIC hints – the first of which is being repeated everywhere, but the second one I have only seen a few times, and I think is VERY exciting!

The first clue about the Apple keynote reveal is in the colours themselves. There are lots of very clean coloured bubbles up there. No textures. Just lines and colours. On the surface, this is likely a reference to the upcoming release of iOS 7, as it was introduced a few months back and now everyone is eagerly awaiting it’s release. Incidentally, new versions of iOS always coincide with new models of iPhone. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to lock in the guess that this is a show about iPhone. But the colour clue is more than that! I think that the use of so many colours may be a tell that Apple is indeed going ahead and releasing the lower-cost (to produce!) iPhone, rumoured to be called iPhone 5C, which will likely come in an assortment of colours. I think there are more colours shown in the invitation that what Apple will likely include as available iPhone colours, but I think the point is made. Colour is coming to the iPhone! This also agrees with the actual text beneath the picture, indicating that “This should brighten everyone’s day.” Colour will do that!

As I said, I think there are two hints in that invite, and the second one, which I don’t see many people noticing, lies with the “ringed,” colourless bubbles. Many people have hypothesized that these are in fact representative of the white iPhone. Could be, I suppose. Though, as I noted, there’s more colours shown than will likely make their way to the production line, so I don’t think it’s a colour by colour clue. What I think these ringed circles represent are actually (to me) far more exciting that just coloured shells. My first impression was that they are artistic representations of the current (iPhone 5 and earlier) home button. The rings could be a way of showing how the button is concave, by the use of shading. This would merely suggest that something special is about to happen to the home button. However, my thinking is that they are an actual, physical metal ring now built into the home button, to be a part of the fingerprint reader that has been rumoured to be included in a future iPhone for months now, since their purchase of the biometric company AuthenTec. This has been one of the best-kept secrets about this new phone, in terms of parts leaks. All the tech sites have been publishing all kinds of pics of circuit boards and cameras and shells, all supposedly covert shots taken by employees involved in the assembly process. However, while there is a recent picture of the home button cable, I have seen no leaks yet of the actual button. So, to me, this seems like a very well-kept secret this time.

If this second hint is true, it is a huge leap forward for smartphone technology! There are few (if any) smartphones that make use of fingerprint scanning technology, so if this is true and it actually works well, it is a great achievement in smartphone biometric security. Hopefully this will deter thieves from stealing and reselling iPhones, and also potentially provide a secure method of making a payment.

Only time will tell if these guesses are right. I’m confident that this invitation points to a coloured iPhone 5C, and a premium iPhone 5S with fingerprint reading technology. One thing is definitely for sure though: we will have the answers in less than a week!

My wallet is at the ready!

iwatch concept

My Comments on the Apple iWatch Rumour

Over the last few weeks, the rumour mill has been heating up about Apple products again.  At this time last year, the Next Big Thing was the mythical Apple television set – or at least a revamped Apple TV set-top box that had the blessings of cable companies and had access to their content – which to this day is still nothing but a rumour.  People are still predicting this to be revealed to the public in the next year or so, but until something happens, that’s old news.  Essentially the same predicted hardware and functionality, that while great, is just the same repeated rumour over and over again.  Since the public’s appetite for all things Apple must be fed, the latest rumour to pick up steam is based on a wearable computing device, in the form of a so-called iWatch.

iwatch conceptWearable tech has been called the next leap forward in technology, but it has been around for years in various devices.  However, many feel that it is on the cusp of going mainstream.  Fitness technophiles will be the first to point out the usefulness of their Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit One.  These devices simply clip on to your clothing or wrap around your wrist, and then go about their business tracking your movement and reporting the analytics back to you in meaningful ways.  Not to sit idly by, Google, the masters of categorizing and presenting relevant data to you, have an ongoing limited public trial of their version of wearable tech, in the form of Google Glass.  This pair of glasses has a small built in camera and computer that interprets what you’re looking at and serves up data to you as you need it (such as reminders, or map directions, or contact info), displayed directly on to the lens of the glasses.  This has the potential to be a game-changer.  However, in my opinion, there are a few problems with this: it’s not discrete enough (nor stylish enough to go mainstream), and having a camera always on has inherent security risks.  This is why I think an Apple watch has the potential to be a hit.  It could be as subtle as a wristwatch, fashionable, and be much safer.

In terms of hardware, we can expect it to have the usual Apple elegance and lust factor.  One can imagine that it would naturally have a Retina-grade touchscreen to make everything it displays gorgeous.  Function-wise, you can’t have a Retina display turned on all of the time without it being a massive battery drain.  Maybe they would opt for the lower resolution display with a pixel density comparable to the iPad mini or pre-Retina devices, but that would still need a lot of juice.  Forgive my admitted ignorance of feasible screen tech, but I think it would be cool if the watch displayed an e-ink or LCD-like clock when at rest, and when activated, the Retina screen would overlay on top of this.  That kind of technology would be perfect for a watch, as it would conserve power when not in use, and only when required would the brilliant display kick in and start to drain the battery.  Of course, this watch isn’t going to have the incredible number of pixels found in an iPad, so there is no reason to think that it would require the horsepower of an A5 or A6 chip to run it, nor would it need large amounts of RAM.  Also, today’s battery tech would need to be improved in order to get a mandatory multi-day charge for the device, as consumers aren’t going to want yet another device they have to remember to charge every night when they go to sleep.  (For comparison, my Fitbit One gets nearly 7 days on a charge – though this has a minimal display, it is tracking movement 24 hours a day.)  I can see some modest amount of memory, alongside a new or potentially die-shrunk chip and relatively minuscule battery, all of which would have to be precision-fitted into a space that would fit on your wrist.  If they were to continue their reliance on Corning’s glass tech, it could utilize the new version of Gorilla Glass (I know I’ve nicked and scraped my old watches countless times!).  Alternately, one of the hotter developments at Corning is Willow Glass, a new kind of bendable glass that can be wrapped.  A wrappable glass could be used very well to form to the contour of a wrist much more nicely than a flat piece, which would be especially useful for smaller wrists.  A minimal bezel could surround this glass, with a Home/Wake button located on the edge to maximize the screen size – a departure from the usual iPhone/iPad/iPod touch design, though more akin to the previous generation square iPod nano (which itself was widely used as a watch with aftermarket watch bands).  One could imagine the body to made of brushed aluminum with the highly polished chamfered edges found on iPhone 5, though with reports of iPhones being easily gouged on edges, this may not be a good place for this design.  An intriguing idea would be to make the body or backing out of Liquid Metal, which has yet to make a meaningful appearance in any Apple product since it was purchased a few years ago.  A biometric sensor would likely be included for security and applications, potentially built into the underside like an optical heart rate monitor, along with low-power Bluetooth to facilitate connections with other Apple devices, rather than a Lightning connector.  Unless the watch had onboard storage for photos and music, which I highly doubt, I don’t see a need for a Lightning connection – all communications could happen over Bluetooth.  An accelerometer and gyroscope would likely be included, as well as a microphone, though I don’t think that a speaker would be necessary.

About the style of the watch, it would need to have an easily adjustable band of some sort.  I have a hard time seeing Apple incorporate a leather strap with holes in it, though that would be more acceptable than a traditional metal clasp band which requires you to go to the watch shop (Apple Store?) to have links removed.  The adjustability of this watch has to be simple and elegant, with some kind of proprietary locking mechanism, likely.  Having not tried a Jawbone Up, I would think that a wrappable lock-less design such as that would be less than ideal from a security standpoint – it could potentially be easily grabbed and pulled off.  Perhaps something like the Nike Fuelband might be more appropriate, where the band itself is a preset size, and for wider wrists, extension “links” can be inserted to fit better – another place for a proprietary Apple connection!  In terms of colour, you can easily predict that the watch face would have a black or white bezel, potentially extending to the band itself as well.

Now that we have an idea of what this Apple watch might look like, the next obvious question is “what will it do?”  Of course, a watch has to tell the time, so it needs a clock app.  As I referred to earlier, an always-on clock would be nice, and if my dual-tech screen were to become a reality, this would look like a traditional (albeit with Apple style!) digital watch display most of the time.  Alternately, with a more typical Apple touchscreen display, one could image the face to look like a sleeping iPhone display when inactive, requiring a touch or a button press to wake it up and show the time.  In fact, this wake-up action could display the watch’s lock screen, showing the time, date, and some version of slide-to-unlock to do anything more.  With an integrated biometric sensor, there would be no need to password-protect the watch either, though I think that would always have to be an available option.  Through its Bluetooth connection to your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, these devices would likely be able to push any updates that would appear in Notification Center straight to your watch, including new emails, missed calls, calendar appointment reminders, etc.  Apple may open up development to third parties in the App Store, though any apps would obviously be very limited in what they could do.  Fitness apps would be an obvious suggestion, especially if they could tap into the biometric and motion sensors.  Other than that though, I don’t know how many apps would find a home on the small screen of a watch.

Incorporating Siri into the watch would be an intriguing inclusion, though I don’t necessarily agree with general opinion that this would be needed, for these reasons.  For starters, Siri only runs on post iPhone 4S devices, with reasons provided that it requires the power of their CPUs to process the natural language recognition.  I doubt a watch CPU is going to be powerful enough to do this, especially if it hopes to get good battery life.  Secondly, as it stands right now, Siri requires an Internet connection for the Apple servers to process your queries.  While that would work fine on home wifi networks, what about being out and about during the day, where you require 3G or LTE connections to cell phone carriers?  Are they going to start offering subsidized Apple watches now as part of their cellular plans?  I highly doubt it, and having a device that only works at home doesn’t seem very Apple-like.  Any type of network access would likely be provided via Bluetooth tethering to your other iDevices.  This leads to my final point, that if we consider the watch to be a peripheral accessory, it doesn’t need to RUN Siri.  Rather, it needs to make use of its connection to your devices, invoke Siri there, rely on its data connection, and then provide you with the results.  That way, your iPhone does the heavy lifting, and your watch essentially becomes equivalent to your Bluetooth car mic – a very fancy I/O device specifically for your Apple product.  I think this makes way more sense for a watch than including Siri as a native application, especially if you consider the alternative is a hit to the battery life between charges.

To conclude, I would like to comment on it’s potential name.  While everyone seems to assume that this device will actually be called iWatch if/when it is announced, I don’t know if I complete agree with this.  So far, Apple’s iDevices include iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iMac.  An iWatch would have to be a pretty big thing to rank up there with the big boys, rather than be considered as simply an accessory to them.  If we assume that it would have a much more limited functionality than any of these devices, I don’t think that it would be a stretch to think of it as an accessory.  If so, I could see it getting a more playful name (like EarPods) or functional name (like Retina Display).  My idea would be something like CuffLink – it explains where it’s worn, and says that it’s a link to your other devices.  Both playful and functional.  You heard it here first!

iPhone apps

Welcome to AppTactics.net

Welcome to my new website:  AppTactics.net.

Here you will find an ever-expanding collection of tips and tricks that will give you an edge to help you get all sorts of things done.

In this day and age, smartphones and computers are everywhere.  Apps, short for applications, are the key to their functionality.  They are used to wake us up, plan our days, make our shopping lists, remind us to do things… among many, many other things.  They have become our personal assistants.  They are always with us, and they can be indispensable to our routines, if they are used to their fullest.  However, despite their prevalence, there still seems to be an overwhelming ignorance of just what these devices are capable of doing.  Everyone has heard the phrase “there’s an app for that,” though what many people don’t realize is “that” refers to such a wide variety of things.  Whether you are talking about iPhones, iPads, Androids, Macs, or Windows machines, these devices are all capable of running thousands of apps that will do specific things for you.  In many cases, using the apps will simplify how you would otherwise do certain tasks, if not completely and automatically do them for you.  You just need to realize that these options are available to you.

On this site, you will discover the many ways that you can use apps to make your life easier, including many how-to articles that explain what you can do yourself to get the most out of these incredibly valuable devices.  I will also provide several recommendations and reviews of various apps.  There is bound to be something for everyone on my site, and hopefully you will gain a greater appreciation of the modern technology that is available to use in your daily life.

Amazing technology is at our fingers, and we just need to know how to use it properly.  When you want to get things done, you need a plan: You need AppTactics.