iOS8 – first impressions

ios8Yep, I couldn’t wait.  I upgraded by iPhone to iOS8 earlier today.  I thought I’d share some initial impressions.  First off, this is a really big update…if your iPhone is pushing its limits like mine is, remember that instead of clearing all the space it’s asking for, you can plug it in to your computer and update through iTunes instead, requiring vastly less free space on your device.  When installing, it’s best to NOT enable iCloud Drive just yet…you’ll need to do so for all of your Apple devices simultaneously, and that just won’t be possible on your Mac until Yosemite is released in late October.  Resist the urge and move on!

I’m not going to get into all the details of what changed…I expect you’ve probably already read about that in the past week.  I’ll just focus on what stood out to me.  You’ll find the UI familiar; most of the changes are under the skin.  The mail app has nice swipe features for marking a message as read/unread (swipe right) or flagging (swipe left a little bit) or deleting (swipe left more).   I like the ‘hey Siri’ feature…yeah it’s creepy that she’s always listening but is handy, especially in the car…though this only works if it’s plugged in to power.  I wonder how the AppleWatch will implement this…always on, or twist wrist to activate, something like that?  Anyway.  Cool feature.  Family sharing in App Store is something I’m really looking forward to once I upgrade my wife and daughter’s devices to iOS8.  The Health app looks cool….but so far, Withings has not updated their app to share health data with that, so it’s kinda useless for me.  No word from Withings if/when they’ll be doing this, but I expect so…or else they’ll be losing users!

One aspect of the photos app scares me a bit…I have a ton of pictures on my iPhone, but there’s no longer a ‘camera roll’ to view them all.  Now there’s a ‘recently added’ album, but to see the older ones, I need to go to ‘photos’ and scan through them by year.  Which I guess is OK…just different.  Considering how infrequently I’d access those older pictures…no big deal.  It’ll be nice once that’s better integrated with the photo collections on my Mac…which I don’t think will truly be awesome until the new Photos app for OS-X is released sometime early in 2015.

Lifehacker has a cool list of lesser-known iOS8 features here.  Such as, battery usage statistics, and a grayscale mode.

So that’s it for now…but I expect I’ll have more to say once I get my new iPhone6 on Friday!

10 health tests guys should be getting

I came across a neat article at Care2 called “10 Health Tests Every Father Should Get.” (most of those tests would apply to women, too!).  It’s a nice little reminder that I need to start going to a doctor more regularly for checkups!  I’ve become more focused on monitoring my health with an activity tracker and wifi scale…these will be further data points to keep track of.

The 10 tests they recommend are (read the link above for details):

  1. Blood Pressure
  2. Diabetes
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Colorectal Cancer
  5. Prostate Cancer
  6. Vaccines
  7. Audiogram
  8. Eye Exam
  9. Lipid Profile
  10. Electrocardiogram

Which has me wondering about Apple’s forthcoming Health App.  In iOS8 (due this fall), they’ll be offering a way to track all sorts of health metrics, and share that information with your doctor.  It has the potential to be a great place to keep track of results from the tests mentioned above…I can’t wait to try it!

Here come the iBeacons

I think you’ll be hearing a lot about ‘iBeacons‘ in 2014.  It’s a technology Apple introduced back in June, and is now rolling out in Apple stores across the country.  Far from being an Apple-store-only feature though, there’s the potential for just about anyone to implement iBeacons in their own facility.

iBeacons are really just a way for devices to communicate using low power bluetooth signals.  When you’re within range of an iBeacon, software on your iPhone will automatically recognize that and can perform an action.   For example, let’s say you’re at a museum and approach a painting.  Your phone can recognize that you’re now close to that painting and automatically display more information about it.  A car dealer could place iBeacons in each car in the showroom, to display more information, videos even, on the shoppers’ phones.  A restaurant could use an iBeacon at the entrances to inform you of the day’s specials.  There are so many potential applications that the real challenge will be managing what could become information overload in urban settings!

So that’s how static or fixed iBeacons could work.  What’s interesting is that Apple has put in place the hardware and software to enable most of their iPhones and iPads for the past couple years to act as iBeacons themselves.  I’m not quite sure where that’ll lead, but adding this sort of intelligence to iPhones, iPads, AppleTVs, and an iWatch starts to get really exciting.

Wired magazine has more on this subject and it’s worth reading if this interests you.

Apple’s ’12 days of gifts’

Apple is launching its ‘12 days of gifts‘ app, with giveaways starting 12/26.  Each day will feature some new app, book, music, movie, or who knows what, downloadable for free for 24 hours only.   This is the first time they’ve done this in the US, so I have no idea what level of quality we’ll see, but I’ve been impressed by the free Christmas music they’ve given away in the past, and considering there are going to be approximately one gazillion new iPad activations on 12/25, my hunch is Apple is going to through some quality stuff out there for free to get people hooked on the App store.  It’s definitely worth checking out, you can’t beat the price!

(I wish they’d just call it what it is, ’12 days of Christmas’, but oh well.)

I love iOS7!

ios7I’ve spent a day with iOS7, and I gotta say, I love it.  Fantastic upgrade and you’d be a fool to note jump on this.  I know there are plenty of functional improvements, but what strikes me most is the huge improvement in the user interface.  Partly the look, partly the swipes and button locations, but overall it’s a really solid upgrade and I’m thoroughly impressed.  Very beautiful, very usable, and makes anything else look antiquated, like Pole Position compared to Gran Turismo 5.

That said…my attempt to upgrade one of our iPads (iPad2 FWIW) failed miserably.  The upgrade process froze, so I forced a power-off.  At that point, I had to do a system restore to factory settings, then restore from my most recent backup.  Normally that’s a pain, but what made it worse is that Apple’s activation servers were not responding for a while so I was stuck waiting for those before I could restore.  So when you plan to upgrade to iOS7 (when, not IF, right?), be sure you’ve recently backed up your iPhone/iPad, and don’t embark on this journey if you’re in a rush.  At best, you’ll be fighting slow download times (it’s ~700MB)!  At worst, your device will be plugged in to your computer for a while restoring itself.  But it’s worth it, trust me!

I’m still on an iPhone5…but am equally impressed by the iPhone5C.  I design lots of plastic parts, and to see Apple accomplish what they did with the 5C is really cool.  I’ve rarely even added CNC second ops to a part, and usually got scolded by the purchasing folks for the added cost.  Apple went overboard with their second ops, but the result is really beautiful.  Check out this video to get an idea: