The AirPods Decision – To Buy or Not To Buy

When Apple announced their new wireless earphones, the AirPods, I had mixed feelings about them. I initially thought that these things were really cool, but then had second thoughts after really considering if I wanted another costly gadget that functions similarly to things I have already. However, even though they are still not available, I have now decided that I am firmly on the side of wanting these new headphones. Here are my reasons why, and then some points that made it a more difficult decision that I first thought.

With the AirPods, you get the latest in wireless tech, and the latest tech is always cool to play with. With Apple’s custom W1 chip embedded inside each earphone, you’ve never had as much computer inside a set of headphones before! These smarts allow the AirPods to know if you are using only one or both earphones, and to smartly play sound as either mono or stereo appropriately. Optical sensors and motion accelerometers are included so that they can even tell when you take one out of an ear, and they will then switch from stereo down to mono sounds automatically. Put the seconds bud back in your ear, and you get switched back to stereo sounds just as easily. There are also beam-forming microphones and voice accelerometers in each AirPod , so that you can even talk very quietly and they will be able to focus on your voice and not any background sounds. And with just gentle taps, you can trigger Siri or answer a call on your iPhone. On top of all that, the W1 chip is smartly managing battery life, so that you can get the most use out of them on a charge. These tech features alone make AirPods smarter than any headphones I’ve ever owned.

The fact that AirPods are truly wireless, with no wires connecting the two earphones at all, is another of the reasons that make these so attractive to me. With traditional wired headphones, there is always a wire dangling from your head to your pocket or wherever you have your phone/device. This isn’t always a nuisance, but when it is, it really is. For example, how many times has your iPhone been on a desk or table, you’re listening to music through the bundled EarPods, and you suddenly get up without remembering that you have a wire connecting you to your phone. Next thing your know, your phone is tumbling to the floor, and if you’re really unlucky, you then have to make a trip to the Apple Store for some repairs. Or, you have your phone in your jacket pocket and the wires running up to your ears, and the extra length of wire catches on the door knob as you pass through the doorway, causing you to jump backwards to prevent your device from being pulled out of your pocket. AirPods clearly don’t have this wired connection, so they don’t have these problems.

Of course, these examples are specifically for wired headphones, but wireless Bluetooth headphones that have a cable connecting to the two earpieces also have some downfalls. I have some sport headphones in this style, and there are two things in particular that drive me crazy. The first is that if the cord running behind my head is too long, it can catch on a shirt or towel and tug the earphones right out of my ears. Also, while running, the cord bounces on the back of my neck, and this sound gets amplified into the earphones. So I end up hearing my music, but with the beat of my running cadence over top of it. Without a cable connecting the two AirPods, neither of these issues are present either.

Another great feature of the AirPods is their charging solution. A single charge can power an AirPod for up to 5 hours. That’s more that enough time for a typical use for me. In fact, this would probably be good enough for 2 or 3 typical listening sessions. But by putting them back in their charging case, they automatically start to recharge. They’ll have enough power to go for another 3 hours after only a 15 minute quick charge in the charging case. The charging case itself needs to be recharged periodically via a lightning cable, but a fully charged case can provide enough power to the AirPods to keep them going for 24 hours. Considering that when I am finished with listening to my AirPods, I would always put them right back in their case, that means that they would potentially never have a dead battery for me. All I have to do is remember to charge the case periodically. Too many times, I’ve picked up my current Bluetooth headphones, thinking that they were charged (they even report 40% charge sometimes), only to find that 10 minutes into a run, they are screaming “low battery” into my ear until they go silent completely moments later. This AirPod charging solution seems like it is going to be great!

The sheer convenience afforded by the smarts behind the W1 chip in the AirPods is a huge selling feature as well. Currently, with multiple devices in the house, I can have my Bluetooth headphones simultaneously connected to 2 or 3 of them. Anything more that those connected devices, and I have to go through the pairing process all over again. That then causes the original pairings to be lost, so the process has to get repeated over and over again. With the AirPods, once you open the charging case next to your iPhone for the first time, you will be asked if you want to pair them. Simply by tapping to agree with this, you pair with not only the iPhone, but with all the iOS devices connected to your iCloud account. You don’t so much as pair to a *device* as much as you pair to an *account*, which connects TO all of your devices. Beyond your iOS devices, the AirPods can connect as a traditional Bluetooth-connected device as well, which means you can pair it to your Apple TV or even your non-Apple devices. This is a much better solution that my current Bluetooth devices, and I will not miss the frustrations that come with pairing and repairing them!

The last point that I appreciate is the design of the AirPods. I know this is a contentious point, but I don’t think they look as bad or weird as some people make them out to be. They look exactly like traditional Apple EarPods headphones if their wires were cut off. They may look a bit odd or out of the ordinary, but I’m convinced that this impression is because there is nothing else like them. I’m sure that in time, as more people use them, they will seem more commonplace. This happened when Bluetooth headsets first came on to the market. If you saw someone walking around with a black thing sticking out of their ear, you thought they looked weird. But nowadays, everyone knows what it is and no ones pays it a second thought. It took a while to find acceptance, but it eventually happened. I think the same thing will happen with AirPods, and I don’t mind being one of the early adopter trendsetters. On top of that, I have never had a problem with the fit of EarPods. If AirPods fit my ears the same way, then that will be great. The only times that EarPods have ever fallen out of my ears has been when the cord tugged on them. But when I’m sitting at rest, they don’t hurt my ears, they sit comfortably, and I actually appreciate that they *aren’t* noise-cancelling or sound-isolating. While those techs are great in their own right, when I’m walking down the street, I would prefer to be able to hear the car horn or the police siren or the person on the trail announcing they’re about to pass me. As far as fit and design go, I am very pleased with EarPods, and if those are carried over to the AirPods, then I’m not going to have any problems at all.

Of course, there are some important points that have made me think a lot harder about my decision that I originally imagined. At $159 USD, or $219 in Canada (where I am), these are not a cheap gadget. This is a sizeable amount of money for something that essentially does the same thing as the free earphones included in the box with an iPhone, albeit with extra functionality. Furthermore, for that price, you get a first generation product. First gen products are always a bit risky. You basically are paying to be a first adopter, and to go along for the ride with the evolution of the product through its generations. The first gen product usually shows a lot of rough edges that get worked out in subsequent versions. In the case of the AirPods, one common complaint I’ve heard from early reviewers is that the lack of volume controls on the device itself is a bit of a nuisance. Sure, you can change the volume with Siri, or manually on your iPhone or iPad, or even more easily with your Apple Watch. But considering that the AirPods have motion accelerators and can respond to touch, it might make sense for future versions to have volume controls available through certain touch gestures right on the device – like a two finger tap and drag up or down. Early adopters fight through the growing pains, but if you wait until the device is “perfect,” you will never get one. Future generation models may also come in different colours, but for now, AirPods are limited to the traditional Apple headphone white. The tech itself may also become more refined, and therefore the design of the stems of the AirPods can become shorter and not look quite as odd as some people suggest. Evolving tech may also mean that wireless audio becomes more comparable to wired audio, as any audiophile will be quick to say you lose a lot of quality when you lose the wires. And finally, it does not sound like AirPods are sweatproof. I’ve killed several EarPods by running with them, especially ruining the button controls. I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable running with these expensive ear buds and risk sweating into them and wrecking them.

Despite these points that have made me seriously reconsider getting these, and for the reasons I’ve outlined earlier, I am very much looking forward to purchasing some AirPods as soon as they’re released. There are so many things about AirPods that are better than my current Bluetooth device, and I can’t wait to get a set and see how much better it makes my listening experiences.

How To Get A Cheap Cell Phone Plan For When Visiting the USA

Living in Canada, we are used to paying high prices for our cell phone plans. In fact, many people say that we have among the highest rates for mobile data in the whole world. Recently, I traveled to the USA, but I did not want to pay the exorbitant roaming fees on the US carriers, and I wanted to do better than the roaming travel plan offered by my Canadian cell phone provider. Most of the big Canadian providers offer similar plans, many of which charge a lot of money for not very much in return. I hoped to find something better for my trip to the States, something for less money, with hopefully more data and calling time. Surprisingly, I found something – and you can take advantage of this to save money on your cell phone plan when you travel too!

The thing you have to do if you want a cheap talk and data plan while traveling in the US is to get yourself a Roam Mobility SIM card and plan. By doing this, you don’t have to worry about paying super high roaming fees by tapping into the US networks. With a Roam Mobility plan, you connect directly to their network! (If you don’t believe me about the savings, take a look at this comparison: http://www.roammobility.com/compare) Here’s how you do it. Important note here: you must have an unlocked phone to do this!

Purchase a Roam Mobility SIM card. You can find these in many stores where cell phones are sold. I purchased mine at London Drugs. Alternately, you could order one from www.roammobility.com and have it shipped to you. Either way, the SIM card will cost you $19.95 + tax. This may seem somewhat pricey at first, but the SIM is reusable and will be issued a US phone number when you activate it online. As long as you don’t let it sit inactive for more than a year, your phone number will remain yours, and you won’t have to repurchase a new SIM for your next trip to the States. The only additional cost after the SIM card is your plan.

Before your trip begins, log on to your Roam Mobility account on their website, and select the plan that you’d like to add. Choose from:

Text + Data (for $1.95 per day):

  • Unlimited global texting
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Unlimited global MMS

Talk + Text (for $2.95 per day):

  • Unlimited Nationwide talk
  • Unlimited long-distance calling to Canada
  • Unlimited global texting

Talk + Text + Data (for $3.95 per day):

  • Unlimited Nationwide talk
  • Unlimited long-distance calling to Canada
  • Unlimited global texting
  • Unlimited global MMS
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • 300 MB 4G LTE data per day (Technically, you are buying 300 MB times the number of days. You won’t be limited to 300 MB per day. You can use all 1.2 GB on the first of your four day trip, if that’s what you want to do! Beyond that, you would then tap into your unlimited 2G data!)

When you have decided on which plan you’d like to go ahead with, you can then say how many days you would like to use the plan and then proceed to purchase. The site will do the math for you, so you don’t have to do any heavy lifting here. You will see what your total cost will be, and you can also select precisely when you would like the plan to begin. This is a fantastic feature, especially if you have the foresight to do this ahead of time. You can specify when you will be crossing the border (or when your plane will be landing, if that would be a better use of your plan’s time!), or you can set it to begin immediately. The plan will activate at that time, regardless of whether you are actually ready to take advantage. The good thing, though, is that you also then get a definite end time for when your plan will expire. And if you decide to extend your travel, you can also log on to the Roam website and modify your plan. You can even do this by SMS! Check out their website for more details about this, if you think you might take advantage of this feature.

So, if you’re purchased and activated your Roam Mobility SIM card, and you’ve selected and scheduled your plan according to your needs, you are just about finished! There is no need to insert your new SIM card into your phone until you are in the States and ready to use it. Having said that, make sure that you remember to pack it for your travels (I keep mine in my wallet for safekeeping). And for all you iPhone users, also remember to take your SIM card ejection tool (you know, that Liquidmetal paperclip-looking thing you got with your phone and only used one time? You’ll actually use it again!) As soon as you get into the States, and your SIM has been installed in your phone, you will automatically connect to the Roam Mobility network, and you’re good to go! You can now talk on the phone or use your data-hungry apps while you’re in the States, and not worry about piling up a ridiculous bill because of all the roaming charges. You can use it in comfort, knowing that you were smart enough to activate a cheap cell phone plan ahead of time!

Movie Trailers Icon

How to Use Siri to Watch Movie Trailers

Siri has been a very important part of iOS since its introduction with the iPhone 4S. This personal digital assistant is able to do all sorts of things for you at your command, such as place phone calls, send text messages, set up reminders, or make dining reservations… among many other, lesser-known things. One of these less commonly used features is to find and play movie trailers! Movie trailers have had a special place in Apple’s heart for many years, going back to their Apple movie trailers website, and extending into modern times with dedicated apps on our iOS devices and Apple TV to play these video clips. They have a great resource to find the latest clips or some classic favourites. Considering this historical relationship, it should come as no surprise that finding and playing a movie trailer can be as simple as asking Siri to do it for you!

Here’s how to use Siri to watch movie trailers:

  1. Launch Siri by pressing and holding the Home button on your iOS device. (Before iOS 7, you could let go of the button and Siri would begin listening. However, from iOS 7 and onwards, you can continue to hold the button for as long as you have something to say to Siri, so that she won’t cut you off before you are done!)
  2. Ask Siri to play a movie trailer for whatever movie you are interested in. Try something like “Play the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.” Interestingly, Siri replied that she can’t help me with videos if I worded my request as “Play the movie trailer…” It has to be “Play the trailer…” Correct me if I’m wrong!
  3. If Siri understood exactly what movie you were referencing, she will start playing the trailer right away, completely automatically!
  4. If Siri requires more information, you will be presented with a list of movies from which to make your choice. Try “Play the trailer for Transformers” or “Play the trailer for Superman”. You can tap to make your selection, or you can tap the Siri button again and just speak your selection!
  5. If there is no such movie trailer available, Siri will simply tell you “There’s no trailer available for…. ”, and instead just serve up a movie poster and some information about the movie.

This is another great example of how Siri can take a multi-step process, such as searching for, finding, and selecting a movie trailer, and reduce it down to often a single voice command. It certainly is a great example of how using an app can simplify your life!

Touch ID logo

Touch ID on a Mac

The 2014 Apple WWDC keynote has come and gone, and it has left most people feeling very good about where Apple is taking both OS X and iOS. The next version of OS X will be called “Yosemite,” and it represents a monumental upgrade to the Mac’s operating system. Similarly, iOS 8 will be getting a lot of brand new features, for which many of them have been wished for several generations already, such as third-party keyboards and third-party developer access to Touch ID. However, since Apple decided to focus on the developers exclusively this time, as they should for a “developer” conference, everything that was revealed was software. There was no new hardware. Of course, we all expect an iPhone 6 and updated iPad Air and Mini to be released in the fall, closer to the holiday (buying!) season. Perhaps also an iWatch or upgraded Apple TV may also be in the mix. But for now, we are left with only software to see where Apple is going.

One set of the fantastic new API’s that were announced will now allow app developers to make use of the Touch ID, currently only found in the iPhone 5S. In all likelihood, it will be included in the iPhone 6, as well as new versions of the iPad. It has been very well received so far, and is a great incentive to have people actually make use of a PIN to secure their iOS devices. Some argue that Touch ID should also make its way to the Mac, especially MacBooks, which are a lot more portable and likely to be targeted for theft than the much larger iMac or Mac Pro. Having the added security would be great, as well as having a simple way of authenticating purchases, or access to personal bank accounts, etc. However, my feeling is that we won’t see Touch ID on a Mac any time soon, if ever. Here’s why.

Touch ID logo

With the release of both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, both systems work together a lot better. For example, Yosemite can automatically detect when your iOS 8 iPhone is on a network, and automatically a network hot spot can be created to share the connection. The Photostream will sync between all of your devices so that all of your photos are viewable everywhere, almost immediately. You can even answer a phone call, coming in to your iPhone, right from your Mac’s speakerphone. There is also the fantastic new feature called Handoff, where you can begin your task (e.g. composing a new email message) on one device and then complete it on another that is nearby. This feature works because both Macs and iOS devices will gain proximity awareness, in that they know when they are near to each other. This is what will have your Mac prompt you to finish your email on the bigger screen when you sit down to it, allowing you to pick up right from where you were on your iPhone. And it is this quality that I think will be the reason Touch ID will not appear on the Mac.

Touch ID does not need to be on the Mac, because it will be on your iOS device that is right nearby. I can see in the future that when the Mac will need to do something that requires user authentication (standard username/password combination), if there is an iOS device nearby, the proximity sensors will facilitate a prompt on the device to scan your finger, which in turn will communicate back with the Mac to verify the user and allow the action to proceed. The user authentication was performed by the Touch ID built into the iPhone or iPad, and the securely communicated back to the Mac with the confirmed identity. The Touch ID sensor does not need to be built into the Mac at all; it just needs to be present on a nearby iOS device that is registered with the Mac. Furthermore, the Touch ID sensor is built into the home button of the iOS device. There is no home button on a Mac, nor would it be an ergonomically useful addition to make to one. Touch ID works so well on the iPhone 5S because it is natural; it is a simple action to push the home button with your thumb or finger. Imagine having to scan your thumb on a Mac. How would you have to contort your wrist to make it register. That doesn’t seem like a very Apple thing to do.

So, Touch ID likely won’t come to the Mac, but its feature will be usable by the Mac via a local proximity connection to a future iPhone or iPad. A final thought about this is how well the Apple ecosystem works, with the fantastic interplay between software and hardware. Apple products work great on their own, but their power is truly unlocked when you combine them. Future Touch ID will only work for your Mac if you have the accompanying iOS device . And Apple would love to sell you one.

FaceTime icon

How to use FaceTime Audio in iOS 7

Now that iOS 7 is upon us and has been now for a few weeks, people are finally getting used to the new Apple operating system. In fact, I was reading this morning that something like 71% of iPhone users have already upgraded to this newest version. That is a phenomenal upgrade rate, especially when you compare to something like the Android ecosystem. However, with such a huge number of people finally making the change, and by now a good portion of those people aren’t the early adopter tech geeks, then there are likely many features of iOS 7 that need to be explained. The focus on this post is going to describe one of these new features, and how to get at it: FaceTime Audio.

FaceTime Audio is, quite simply, a way to make calls to other iOS 7 users without actually using your cellphone’s voice plan minutes. It does it all over data, and if you actually use it while on a wifi network, then you can make the call completely independent of your cell provider. This has the potential to be a great way of reducing your monthly cell bill, since if your call network includes many people running iOS 7, then you can very likely downgrade to a cheaper voice plan, while still being able to use FaceTime Audio to place your calls. It’s a new feature, and one that surprisingly hasn’t really been focused on (yet?), but if it catches on, it will really make waves in the mobile phone industry.

So, sounds pretty useful, right? Making phone calls without having to actually pay for the minutes? Yes please! Thankfully, it is simple to do, albeit not very obvious. Unfortunately, it is not actually accessed through the green FaceTime app. Follow along with the steps below to access it!

The first thing that you need to do is have the contact information of the person that you would like to conduct a FaceTime Audio chat with. You can add a contact in the built-in Contacts app. To start, you simply tap the + in the top right corner, and then tap in all the relevant fields to fill in the phone numbers and email addresses, etc. From here, Apple does their thing and can “automagically” figure out which of your contact’s details is the one tied to their Apple account.

Now, having completed the contact card, take a look at the contact info that you have just provided. You should see a section labeled as “FaceTime” beneath the phone numbers. And next to that, you should see two little blue icons: one representing a camera, and one representing a phone. The camera icon is actually a button to initiate a traditional FaceTime videoconference call, whereas the phone icon is the one we are interested in right now. When you tap on that, it will initiate the FaceTime Audio call! The person on the other end will be notified that there is an incoming FaceTime Audio call, and they can choose to accept or ignore, just like any other call.

I haven’t tried yet, but I wonder if you can switch between an audio call and a video call while actually on the call and not dropping the connection. Hmmm, something to try this weekend!

Now you know how to place FaceTime Audio calls with Apple’s newest operation system for iPhone, iOS 7. Have you had a chance to try it out yet? What do you think of the call quality?

iPhone Calculator app portrait

iPhone Calculator Secrets

The iPhone’s calculator app is a very basic and simple to use calculator.  It’s incredibly handy for those times that you just need to do a bit of quick arithmetic, such as calculating a tip at a restaurant.  There is very little that needs explaining when you first use it, and it always just works.  However, Apple’s simple iOS calculator holds a couple of secrets that turn it into a much more powerful adding machine!

The first “trick” is often discovered by accident by many people, so this may not be as much of a secret as it is a really handy function.  With it, it transforms the basic calculator into a full fledged scientific calculator.  It would be nice if you could turn it into a graphing calculator, but that may be asking too much!  So, how does one enable this fancy scientific calculator mode?  Easily – by turning the iPhone into landscape mode.  That’s it!  As you do, the calculator will swing around and reveal all the extra buttons that are normally hidden when holding it in portrait position.  The only downside that I have found is that this mode, by necessity, shrinks down all of the buttons.  They are much smaller!  It just means that you have to be more precise and diligent as you enter your data.  But it works remarkably well!

The other secret that I want to reveal I only recently discovered.  As the calculator app has been around since the very first iPhone, I was amazed that I did not know this trick yet.  If you take a look at the buttons that are available in landscape mode, you can see many of the advanced exponent or trigonometry buttons, data entry, brackets, etc.  However, there is one button that is missing that is normally found on physical scientific calculators – the backspace button.  If you make a mistake, you can always just hit the C (clear) button.  Hit it once, you clear your entry.  After that, it turns into an AC button, which clears all of the arithmetic you have done.  But what about if you have a long number, and you don’t want to have to worry about punching in the correct digits again?  The solution is so simple, it will feel like you got smacked in the face!  When you have a bunch of digits displayed, and you want to backspace one (or more), all that you have to do is swipe with your finger left or right along the number display.  You will see your entry immediately shrink by one digit.  It is so simple, and so amazing intuitive, that I could not believe that I had never known about this trick.

Now that you know these tips for the iOS calculator, it is an even more impressive app!

Tweetbot icon

How To Get Tweetbot to Sync to iCloud on iPhone (Fix)

If you are having problem enabling iCloud syncing of Tweetbot on the iPhone, you are not alone.  A quick search will reveal a lot of people complaining about the same issue.  If you take a look at the Tapbots website, they have released a brief troubleshooting guide for Tweetbot, but they also say that because iCloud is not their service, there is very little they can do to fix syncing issues beyond their few recommendations.  However, I finally got it to work properly – and it’s very nice.

Tweetbot icon

I have also been struggling with syncing Tweetbot for iOS (both iPhone and iPad) and for Mac.  It has been very strange, because I can easily see syncing between the iPad version and the Mac version – they sync with each other within 10 seconds of each other.  However, my iPhone has always done it’s own thing.  I have always had the sync setting on iCloud turned on, but it has never paid any attention to that, it seems.  Or, alternately, it WAS syncing to the cloud, but only with itself.  The iPad and Mac may have been syncing to a different file or location?  I don’t pretend to know how iCloud actually works, but whatever the case, the app on my phone wasn’t meshing with the other two copies of the supposedly compatible versions.

If you take a look at the Tapbots help guide, found at http://tapbots.com/blog/tweetbot/icloud-sync, they suggest to try the following to get Tweetbot syncing to work on your iPhone:

  1. Go into the iOS settings app, tap on iCloud, and ensure that you are logged into iCloud.  Also ensure that this is the same account on all of your devices that you expect to be syncing.
  2. In the iCloud settings page still, ensure that “Documents & Data” is turned on.  Also there, make sure that “use cellular data” is turned on if you want to sync while off of a wifi network.
  3. In the Tweetbot settings on all of the copies you want to sync, make sure that the same account is logged into on each device.
  4. As a last resort, reboot the offending device.

Now, whenever a computer or device isn’t acting normally for me, the quickest and most painless thing to do first of all is to simply reboot the device.  So obviously I have tried this – several times.  And it has never solved the problem.

As far as logging into the same iCloud account or same Tweetbot account, I can see how some users may make the mistake of switching off and then being confused.  However, my impression is that if someone is familiar enough with Twitter or Apple to utilize multiple accounts, then having the correct account selected is a no-brainer.

There have been conflicting user comments indicating that Tweetbot uses the “Documents & Data” iCloud setting.  I think the confusion is that Tweetbot itself doesn’t create a storage container entry in iCloud like many other apps.  If you tap on the Settings page, then go to iCloud, then Storage & Backup, then Manage Storage, you can see a list of apps that are actually utilizing iCloud for their online storage.  Tweetbot is never listed.  My thinking, and someone who knows is welcome to correct me, is that Tweetbot stores sync information in the CommonDocuments section, which to me sounds like a general location for storage.  I don’t know if this makes sense, the pros and cons of it, or whatever.  I’m simply saying that you need to have “Documents & Data” turned on, and don’t expect to see an entry for Tweetbot in your list.

However, that isn’t enough.  I’ve tried these steps several times, even deleting and reinstalling the app altogether, and syncing has never worked for me.

What solved the problem for me seems unintuitive.

It was the “Use Cellular Data” option in the “Documents & Data” page of my iCloud settings.

For me, I am almost always on a wifi network.  I’ll only require my cellular data connection when I am out and about, but in those cases, I honestly don’t require Twitter to be syncing.  A bigger concern for me is that I don’t want iCloud syncing to be using up my data allowance from my cell provider.  So, I have always had the “Use Cellular Data” option turned off, thinking that the syncing would be allowed to happen as soon as I got on to a wifi network.

Well, it seems that was my mistake – even though Tapbots suggested to have the option enabled.  To get Tweetbot on my iPhone syncing properly to iCloud, I had to enable the “Use Cellular Data” option.  I still think this is a bug in the code though, because while I don’t foresee Tweetbot eating up my monthly data, this option opens the door for other apps to use Cellular Data.  For example, while I have customized just what apps I want syncing to iCloud at all, my iPhoto app itself is a 40 MB file stored on iCloud.  Camera+ also is a large file, and so I disabled it completely from using iCloud.  I think that the code for syncing on an iPhone requires a rewrite for the part that specifies using wifi or cell.  I am even more confident that this is the case when I consider that neither my Mac or iPad have cellular connections, and they can sync fine with each other.

Hopefully this remedy will help others solve their syncing problems.  It also seems that others have tried different things, and these different things worked for different people.  So maybe I’m not exception, and I just figured out what will solve MY problem.  But I’m sure that if one person is having this specific problem, so are many others.  And so I hope that those people will be able to find this post helpful to them.

Basically then, just to summarize what I’ve said, if you want to fix your problem where Tweetbot doesn’t sync to iCloud from your iPhone, the solution is to enable “Use Cellular Data”.

Now, hopefully someone at Tapbots can confirm this and issue a fix!

Emoji keyboard

How to Enable Emoji Emoticons on your iPhone

For several years, up until recently, some of the most popular apps that you could download in the Apple App Store were Emoji symbol apps.  Emoji symbols are the little yellow smileys that you have undoubtedly seen in text messages and various other documents online.  These apps were basically repositories of various faces and symbols, and you could copy them out of the app and then paste them directly into your text, much like you would copy and paste words or phrases.  However, these apps aren’t necessary anymore, because they are built right into the iOS operating system.  All you need to do is enable them, because they are turned off by default.

Emoji keyboard
Image courtesy of Apple.com

Emoji emoticons are essentially stored on a virtual “keyboard” in iOS.  Tap on the grey gears Settings app, and then tap on the General button partway down the page.  On the following page, scroll down the page until you see Keyboard, and then tap on that. This will take you to the keyboard setup options, where you can enable and disable things such as auto-capitalization or the “.” (period) shortcut – by the way, if you don’t know already, whenever you tap the spacebar twice, this shortcut will type a period followed by a space.  Below all of these options, you will see Keyboards again, which you need to tap to enter.  Then, you simply tap on Add New Keyboard… and then scroll around until you can select Emoji from the list.  Once you have selected it (or any other keyboard layout, for that matter), iOS will load all the keyboards whenever you have something to type.

To actually make use of the Emoji keyboard, it is simple.  Open up an app where you can type… e.g. start a new note, a new email message, or new text message.  You will see the keyboard that you are familiar with already, though you will notice a new button is present in the bottom left corner that looks like a globe (next to the “123” button).  When you tap the globe button, it will switch the keyboard to the next layout that you have enabled.  On my iPhone, I have the English keyboard and Emoji keyboard, so tapping the globe simply switches between the two.  On the Emoji keyboard, you will see several different colourful emoticons useful for all sorts of different occasions.  However, there are way more than just what you see!  Swipe on the emoticons to the left or right to switch between entire pages of these smileys.  Just above them, but below your text line, you can see a series of gray dots, which represent all of the pages of emoji’s available, with the darkest gray dot representing the page that you are currently viewing.  Try swiping to the left and right to see that the dark dot will move as you change the page.  In addition to these pages, you can also see along the very bottom of the screen several gray buttons in between the globe on the left and backspace button on the right.  The leftmost light gray button is like a history of recently used emoticons, handy if you find that you use a few more often than others.  Then you have buttons for standard smiley faces, then the flower represents nature (animals, plants, etc), the bell represents a bunch of different items or holidays, the car represents vehicles and travel (cars, planes, buildings, etc), and the final button with punctuation marks has several pages filled with numbers, arrows, and various other symbols.

With all of these Emoji symbols built right into your iPhone, there is no reason why you can’t find the perfect way to express yourself!  Even better, you don’t have to go to the App Store and try to select, or buy, one of several apps that all seem to do the same thing!  These emoticons are incredibly handy, and bundling them into the operating system was a smart move by Apple.  Ever since the original emoticons :-) became popular, I’ve always used them.  Now, they are full colour and much more expressive, and they are as much a part of 21st century communication as email and text messages.

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!

How to Enable Emoji Icons on iOS

4 Quick Steps to Enable Emoji Icons on iOS

Not too long ago, Apple changed their App Store policy to stop selling emoji apps.  These were some of the most downloaded apps in the store, as they enabled users to easily copy and paste little smiley faces and pictures into text messages and emails.  However, just because they aren’t available in the App Store anymore doesn’t mean you have to go without.  Actually, Apple has built in an emoji keyboard into iOS.  You don’t have to download anything to make it work!  Here’s all you need to do to turn it on:

How to Enable Emoji Icons on iOS

  1. Tap on the Settings app to open it, and then tap on General.
  2. In the General options, tap on Keyboard.
  3. In the Keyboard options, tap on Keyboard, and then tap on “Add New Keyboard”.
  4. You can add any of the available keyboards, but for our purposes, tap on Emoji.

That’s all there is to it!  No complicated setup or downloading at all.  Simply go into your typing app, and when you want to insert an Emoji character, just tap on the globe icon that is in the bottom row to the left of the space bar.  Then you can tap to select an Emoji, or swipe left and right to view different screens of available character choices.  Have fun!