Tag Archives: apple

A Glutton for Punishment

I’ve heard mixed reviews on the new iOS 10 beta’s music app. Long-time readers will no doubt remember that I gave up playing music on my iPhone altogether a while back, due to the Music app being completely incongruous with the way I listen to music, not to mention constant issues with songs not downloading, going missing, etc. So I’ve been happily using my old iPod Classic for a while now.

And that’s going great, actually. The old iPod is still working. But I’m a tech geek, and I don’t believe in hanging onto the past forever, so with every new iteration of iOS, I am bound to look at what Apple does with Music to see if there’s a chance they may have actually fixed the issues that drove me away.

Right off the bat, looking at Music.app in the iOS 10 beta, I see two things that have me rather hopeful. First, there’s the Downloaded Music section, which shows you only the songs you actually have living on your iPhone, rather than showing your cloud songs mixed in with your downloaded songs. In previous iterations of Music, there was a switch in Settings to show or hide cloud music, but this dedicated space within the app is actually way better. It gives me the option of looking for a cloud album to download when the mood strikes and I happen to be connected without having to drop out of the app and dig through Settings to flip the cloud music switch.

Second and much more important, when you sort by Artist, you now finally once again have a separate screen between the albums and the individual songs. Which means it’s now possible again to play a single album from an artist when sorting by artist. Hooray. Functionality that existed in iPhone OS 1.0 is now back—many, many years later. This alone was the reason I originally ditched the built-in Music app for Ecoute before giving up on Music on my iPhone altogether.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, I’m doing a little experiment. I’ve moved Music.app back to my main home screen, and I’ve downloaded some music to my phone again, via iTunes. Not my whole library, as I only have a 64GB iPhone at the moment, and my whole library wouldn’t fit on a 128GB, anyway. But come fall, when iOS 10 is released, and with it hopefully a 256GB option for the next iPhone, I may finally be able to replace my old iPod Classic for good, if all the file disappearing and syncing issues have been resolved in iOS. I may finally have all my songs in my pocket again, without carrying around a separate, aging device with a hard drive and battery that are due to fail any minute now.

But that point about the file issues is a huge if. Thus, the experiment. So far, I’ve only added about 15GB of songs onto the iPhone, to see if they actually stick. I’ll keep adding more and more as I go and keep a close eye on whether or not the songs are actually there. Will songs simply disappear again? Will duplicates show up for no reason? Will album tracks show up out of order? Will tracks appear to be there, but when I hit play simply skip to the next track? If history is any indication, all of the above are not only possible, but likely. But I have my fingers crossed. After all, I’m an optimist at heart.

The Music app is far from perfect in iOS 10, but just those two simple changes are enough to get me to at least try it again. I’ll write up some of my gripes about what’s still broken in the near future.

Not a Disaster, but Not Great, Either

I don’t think that Apple’s design for the app is completely wrong, I just think they need to modify it a bit. First, I’d move the Custom timer option to the top. Even if there are common timers you set, I would wager that most people want to set a custom one most of the time. I could be wrong, but if I’m not, this would make most people’s default interaction a little easier.

Next, I’d allow users to customize what their pre-set timers are. The idea of default timers is a good idea, but they should be less generic that what Apple is currently offering. By letting users set their own timers, they could ensure that this feature is as useful as possible for the most people.

(via Matt Birchler)

The title of Matt’s article is “The New Timer App in watchOS 3 is a Disaster.” Clearly, he wrote the title before he wrote the piece, as his conclusion is a bit less severe.

I faced a similar issue when I designed Fin, my own timer app. When I added presets, I tried to guess at what the most “common” needed timers would be. And I quickly figured out that everyone has different needs. So in the next version I added the ability to set your 12 presets to whatever you want.

I imagine Apple will do the same with the Timer app on the Watch. Maybe not in this version, but somewhere down the road. Still, Matt’s main point remains: Apple is trumpeting the “2-second” rule for the Watch, trying to minimize taps and scrolling everywhere throughout the system. But in this Timer app, they aren’t practicing what they are preaching.

They Gave Me a Few Ponies

Minutes before the WWDC keynote last week, I posted this on Twitter, in reaction to the already growing cynicism (the show hadn’t even started yet) in my timeline about what was to be announced.

Listening to the Apple community gripe about what they perceive to be too little excitement in keynote announcements drives me insane. People either perceive some announcements to be more exciting and important than they actually are (a slightly faster MacBook Pro – Whoop-de-doo!) or they dismiss actually groundbreaking breakthroughs (ResearchKit) as boring.

I get that hardware is more exciting for the Apple faithful than software (though I don’t know why), but I can also see that Apple has more important priorities than giving geeks new toys to buy every few months. But people judge everything Apple does based on how it effects their personal needs, rather than looking at what actually might help the company long term.

I figured reminding people that WWDC isn’t custom tailored to their personal whims might help slow down the rate of disappointed tweets I’d see later in the day. (Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to take a jab at them for my own amusement.)

But boy was I surprised when Apple actually did give me a couple of ponies during the show.

First up: Raise to wake/revised lock screen behavior in iOS 10. Readers will remember that I pontificated a while back for a few thousand words about the lock screen, which had become useless since the iPhone 6s gained faster Touch ID. I went as far as to call the immediate dismissal of the lock screen a bug in iOS 9. Clearly, Apple felt the same way. Not only can you now simply raise your phone up to activate the screen (eliminating the need to make an awkward stretch to the power button or use your thumbnail on the home button like a barbarian) but you must also now physically press home button down to unlock the phone, so you can’t lean your finger on the home button and accidentally dismiss the lock notifications. I can now read my lock screen again, and yet my phone can be unlocked just as fast as before. I couldn’t be more pleased about this.

Second: Apple Watch. I made a list of what I was hoping for in the next version of watchOS. And Apple delivered on a good deal of it. New watch faces, more configurability on the current watch faces, auto-unlocking my MacBook, changing the power button functionality. But the most important thing they gave us all was speed. Keeping your ten favorite apps in memory so they don’t have to launch as often was a brilliant way to eliminate everyone’s biggest pet peeve with the Watch—and without requiring new hardware. It’s safe to say there will be a lot of happy Apple Watch users come fall.

It’s also noteworthy that Apple didn’t eliminate the home screen of app icons from the Watch, as some had suggested. Because that doesn’t make any sense. Some called the new watchOS an “admission that Apple’s first attempt was all wrong.” I say they took a look at what worked and refined it, while eliminating a few things that weren’t working. Or in other words, they iterated, like they always do. I’m very excited about the future of the Watch. If it can be improved this much this quickly, there are bound to be a lot more innovations coming in the next few years.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg on what was announced last week. There are tons of little tweaks throughout all four operating systems and built-in apps that will make people happy come fall. (Check out Mail.app on iOS in particular for a few great examples.)

Now about that macOS vs. MacOS thing? Well, I can live with being wrong about that one. Though it still irks me every time I see it in print.

Touch ID after 8 hours

A previously undocumented requirement asks for a passcode in a very particular set of circumstances: When the iPhone or iPad hasn’t been unlocked with its passcode in the previous six days, and Touch ID hasn’t been used to unlock it within the last eight hours. It’s a rolling timeout, so each time Touch ID unlocks a device, a new eight-hour timer starts to tick down until the passcode is required. If you wondered why you were being seemingly randomly prompted for your passcode (or more complicated password), this is likely the reason.

(via Glen Fleishman for Macworld)

Makes sense that I seldom bump into this on my iPhone, since I only sleep about six hours most nights. But I’ve often wondered why my iPads, which I don’t necessarily pick up first thing in the morning, need a passcode so often. I assumed it was a bug.

Texting Siri

No matter how enabling and useful Siri is, though, there will be times when it’s simply not possible or socially acceptable to talk out loud to our phones or tablets. In those situations, being able to type “Cupertino weather” or even “Text Georgia I’ll be late” would be incredibly useful.

(via Rene Ritchie, for iMore)

It took me a few days to realize just how spot on Rene is with his analysis in this piece. And what it implies for the future of voice-activated UI.

There’s a growing obsession with voice control of our computing devices. I remember the excitement around voice growing on a few occasions in the past. (Does anyone remember “My voice is my password”?) But now that the technology has finally gotten to be almost good enough, we’re hitting a fever pitch. Siri, Alexa, Echo—all of these products light up the pleasure centers of Star Trek geeks worldwide.

But here’s the thing: What makes the Echo or Siri useful is not the voice activation. It’s the (somewhat) intelligent response.

I have nieces and nephews, and I never see them talking to their phones. They text. Even when they are communicating with someone in the same room. They don’t even want to talk to their friends, let alone their phones.

I’ve never been comfortable shouting “Hey Siri” across my office to wake up my phone. I’m equally uncomfortable when she talks back to me. But I love typing “Practice, Tuesday 6pm at Rivington” into Fantastical. My favorite thing about having driving directions on my Apple Watch is that I can turn off the voice prompts on my phone, which disturb my music, anyway, and replace them with taps on the wrist.

What’s worse than telling everyone in the room to shut up for a second so you can tell your TV to find the latest episode of Game of Thrones?

And let’s not forget accessibility. Voice UI is wonderful for the visually impaired. But voice-activated-only devices like the Echo are fairly inaccessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I think Greg is right; my generation, the one that grew up on Star Trek, may still be fascinated with voice UI, but I don’t think it’s going to become a primary input or output method. It will always make sense in certain niches, I’m sure. And I’m glad the technology is getting better for those who need it. But becoming the dominant way we interface with computers? Hardly. Ride the New York City subway sometime, and then imagine all of those phones being controlled by voice. Yikes.

Having an intelligent assistant that can respond to our prompts no matter how we address it is far more important. I’m with Rene. A Spotlight text field should be able to do whatever Siri does. Don’t get caught up in the trend of talking to our devices; concentrate on expanding how Siri, Alexa, etc. interpret our prompts, spoken or otherwise. That’s the future.