Siri gets smarter

Apple unveiled its upcoming iOS 12, the update for iPads and iPhones coming this fall, and what I found most interesting was some long overdue upgrades in Siri’s capabilities. You’ve probably noticed how when you get in your car, a message is often displayed on the lock screen anticipating where you’re going and telling you how long it’ll take to get there. Apple is now adding the ability for Siri to learn how you’re using apps, and to use that information to make suggestions. As Apple put it:

Siri can now intelligently pair your daily routines with third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when you need them.

You can also set up shortcuts, teaching Siri to perform a number of actions when a simple command is provided. When you’re heading home from work, a single command can adjust your home thermostat, tell you how long it’ll take to drive there, text your significant other that you’re on the way, and start playing your favorite podcast. There are other interesting examples in this article at TechCrunch, check it out if you’re curious.

iOS 12 should be available this fall, and will work on most devices (going all the way back to the iPhone 5S!)

Why Apple Pay will be a hit

Yet another day, yet another company (Dairy Queen, this time) realizes their computer security was breached, exposing customers’ names and credit card information.  The brilliance of Apple Pay?  None of that data would have been transmitted from the phone to the business in the first place.  There would be no data to actually steal.  Say bye-bye to traditional credit card terminals.  Read about Dairy Queen’s data breach here.

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!

Big day for Apple fans

You’ve heard the hype. Apple is likely unveiling a new iPhone today. Bigger screen, NFC communications for paying in stores. Etc. More significantly though, today is the day Apple is expected to revolutionize, reinvent, and dominate the struggling smart watch/activity tracker market. We shall see. My prediction goes back to early geek days. Remember those calculator watches? Big and bulky. Apple needs to hide a bulky battery. I recall some wearers rotating their calculator watches 180 degrees, so the watch was on the inside if their wrist to protect it. I predict Apple will do something similar. The bulk of the watch will be on the inside of your wrist, out of view, out of the way, yet also in a great spot for biometric sensors to do their job. The screen will still be on the outside of your wrist though, and flexible…it’ll look more like a band than watch. So that’s my best guess. We’ll find out at 10:00 CA time if I’m right!

WhistleOut – cool site for comparing cell phone plans

I’m stuck in a contract with Verizon, but if you’re shopping for a new cell phone, I found a cool site called WhistleOut that helps you compare plans for the US, UK, New Zealand, and Australia.  I liked the UI, where you can select the type of phone, how many minutes, data, texts you want, etc.   Even lets you indicate whether throttled data speeds is OK (after a certain baseline amount).

Google’s tracking you

Do you own an Android smarphone?  Chances are, you opted in to passing along location data to Google when you set up the phone…but did you have any idea just how extensive that is?  Google’s doing their part to be a bit more transparent here, giving you the ability to view all the location data they have on you.  Just go to the location history browser.  I wasn’t able to use this as I’ve always been an iPhone user, but this article at TechCrunch sheds some light on the level of detail involved.

There’s no reason to believe that Apple isn’t collecting a similar dataset on its users.  There are plenty of beneficial reasons for doing so, but any user of technology needs to be aware of stuff like this..if it bothers you, you can usually opt out.

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.)

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