iOS 7.1.2 and Mavericks 10.9.4 Released – A preliminary look!

Apple released iOS 7.1.2 and Mavericks 10.9.4 a few hours ago. Once again, at least the iOS update appears to be untried and untested. There is also an update for Apple TV, 6.2, although I did not see anything new or different in the brief look I had after the update.

Those attempting to update iOS using iTunes might be out of luck as the update might get stuck after a while. The OTA update seems to work fine on a few devices that I tried.

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WWDC 2014 – iOS 8, OS X 10.10 – Apple opens up iOS a bit more!

Well…Not a very exciting event from Apple, but, there are some points that could stretch Apple’s lead in the mobile and desktop market to some extent.

  1. Apple has opened out more APIs on the iOS side allowing app functionality, officially, that was previously available only on jailbroken devices. Given the wide developer base, we could see some exciting apps coming up in the near future. iOS 8 Enterprise features have also been enhanced and could spur wider enterprise adoption.
  2. The introduction of a new programming language, Swift, which could accelerate the development on iOS and OS X platforms far more than ever before.
  3. The integration and extension of the functionality of the 10+ year old Nokia PC Suite into Yosemite is a welcome addition. Most people using iOS devices would probably understand that this could be quite useful on occasion. This page has details.

A word of caution for early adopters. Do not attempt to try iOS 8 just as yet on your primary phone. Most of the current applications will not work as expected and a vast majority would simply crash, including the stock apps. Yosemite, although usable, is quite laggy and slow, which is to be expected from a developer preview. The same applies to Xcode 6 beta.

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Apple iOS 7, iTunes, iPhone 5x and OS X

As already mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that Apple has lost it. The design, the innovation, the ease of use, the relatively stable software…it’s all been thrown out of the door. Jobs put Apple light years ahead of the competition with the iPod and then the iPhone. Apple continues to make money because of this legacy, despite the current state of affairs.

Let’s take iOS 7 to begin with. The radical re-design is more like a kiddy project with garish colours and the overall UI being harsh and the UX almost completely destroyed. The maps disaster remains intact, the UI/UX almost completely destroyed, the ease of use and the visual clues gone. The release contains security bugs as before. The interesting part about the “maps” is that Apple continues to use Google Maps on the web site for “Find my iPhone” rather than it’s own, so called, non-existent, Apple maps. This, itself, shows the complete disconnect in Apple today.

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Apple iOS 7 – Beta 5 – Nothing much…again!

I am not sure why Apple pushed out a “beta 5” so soon after the last one, but, nothing really changes. Excepting for better looking icons in settings and a dialer that looks more and more like the Windows dialer.

Besides some more new beta bugs, nothing has changed. All older issues of the UI/UX remain exactly as they were. Let’s see what beta 6 comes up with before jumping to conclusions as there is still a lot of time till the final release.

Apple iOS 7 – Beta 4 – Minor UI updates, all older issues remain!

After having spent almost a day with the new beta 4 of iOS 7, I am somewhat disappointed. The only changes seem to be UI related like some more work on improving text overlaps, some app icons that were not displayed properly earlier, are now as they should, the notification centre now shows the clear button, a new animated download of attachments in mail, some cleanup in the phone call buttons etc. There is also a new “Bluetooth Sharing” option under Privacy.

There is no change in the UX that I could see excepting the addition of the age old text “>” on the lock screen before the “Slide (nothing) to unlock” message. The calendar remains as useless as before. The disaster of the so called “Apple Maps” remain, no control over the control centre etc etc. Effectively, all the earlier issues remain as they were.

There is a also a beta 1 of iTunes for the Mac, which, like the first beta of iOS 7, seems to be more of a “do nothing” developer preview than a real, feature complete, beta.

Let’s wait and watch if there are any visible or usable changes/improvements in beta 5…

Apple iOS 7 – Beta 2 – The disaster continues…

Well, as expected, excepting for the regular bug fixes, not much has changed. iOS 7 B2 still has the same eye jarring UI and the overall bad and inconsistent UX. All of the earlier flaws in the UI/UX remain as they were. The Apple “maps” disaster also remains intact.

This time around, I updated the iOS 6 on my iPhone 5 instead of a fresh restore to check out what else I could find. To my surprise, Find my iPhone works from a secondary iCloud account even though there is no such option in that iCloud account under Settings.

Some more apps now work with B2. The text fitting issues seem to be fixed for the most part. I was able to receive a call on Skype right after the update, but, it crashed when the call ended and I have not been able to get Skype to work after that. A re-install fixed Skype. Viber lost it’s authentication for some reason, but, works after a re-authentication.

The panorama mode of the camera still works only in the vertical mode.

I can no longer update apps from multiple ID apps from the AppStore on the iPhone. It forces a switch to the other store before one can update. So, all is not as it seems with the Auto-Update “feature” as it breaks earlier functionality.

Notifications are still dicey. No push for GMail accounts so far forcing the use of another app just to get GMail notifications.

Still no photos in contacts, only in the favourites. The contacts still take up far more space to display the same information as before, not to mention the fact that the layout does look ugly by comparison.

The notes get synced, so, this is one bug fixed. The calendars remain as they were…un-usable. The “Slide to Unlock” with nothing to “Slide” remains as also the extremely bad colour combinations. The folders also remain as they were, showing a lot less and taking far more space than iOS 6. I also tried B2 on an iPhone 4 and it was exceptionally sluggish.

Overall, the major issues of the UI/UX and the so called Apple “maps” remain as they were. The control centre still does not have a “Home” or “Lock Device” button or any options to add your own controls and therefore a button-less experience still does not exist. On the other hand, a lot of attention seems to have gone into the enterprise side for better device management.

When people said that Apple has lost the talent or will to innovate, I often wondered if Apple lost only that. I think Apple lost the vision, direction and the leadership that brought it to the level where it is today. Innovation was just one of the components of the overall picture. A company identified and known for it’s design, comes up with the worst possible, eye jarring, “design” today.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that if Apple keeps coming up with multiple devices, the downtrend, along with all of the above points would be more than confirmed. So far we see only incremental updates and more devices. The iPad mini was the first such example. While this approach would carry the current momentum for some more time, it cannot really last. Apple already has issues with iCloud and iTunes. As the scale increases with the number of devices, one has to wonder if Apple can really keep it all working and retain the seamless experience.

Although we are still a few months and betas away from a formal release of iOS 7, given the state of B2, I still have hope and will reserve my judgement for some more time…perhaps, even till the formal release.

Apple iOS 7 – After more than a day of experimenting!

Well, after checking some more, I am back to iOS 6 as the beta or pre-beta or the developer preview of iOS 7 is not really usable as it stands.

For one, it does not sync notes and calendars. Events are not marked out on the calendars that you can see at a glance. Besides other issues, It also has problems with notifications. The UI changes will make a large number of existing apps practically unusable. The battery life is also down substantially.

So, I would agree with the term used by the Apple iOS developer site and say that this is just a developer preview (DP) and not a beta as mentioned in the WWDC 2013.

iOS 7 DP takes a lot more space to display the same information as iOS 6 and the folders also shows lesser apps than in iOS 6. In short, the iOS 6 UI is far more efficient in normal usage. The lack of visual indicators in iOS 7, specially considering the high resolution retina display, is definitely a step backwards. The text, on the other hand, seems to be far better done in iOS 7.

If you are like me and organise your apps into folders, then, iOS 7 can look really terrible compared to iOS 6. You cannot really make out the icons inside the folders. If that was not enough, the transparency also contributes to making it illegible. There is also the issue of the bright, new icons. Now, you would be hard pressed to figure out between a variety of apps. For example, I could no longer just pick out between “Photos”, “NewsStand” and “Game Center” offhand like in iOS 6. Now I have to squint to figure it out. Of course, since I organise the apps into folders, I would know which is where, but, just looking at these app icons, you really need to squint, more so if you have a white wallpaper/background.

The all new FaceTime application I mentioned earlier, is actually the older Contacts app. It is simply renamed to FaceTime with a new icon and UI.

I came across an interesting comparison related to the “all new” iOS 7 “design” at “iOS 7 looks familiar – can’t quite put my finger on it“. Although Apple is known to “pick up” features from jailbreak tweaks in the past, this one is really interesting!

Let’s wait and see what the actual iOS 7 beta would look and feel like…

Apple iOS 7 – First impressions on iPhone 5

After using iOS 7 for almost one full day, I would not really call it a beta release. It seems more of an unplanned pre-beta. Unlike some of my friends and colleagues, I always do a fresh install and never restore from a backup. This gives me a far better idea as to what is actually happening.

In short, my summary of the current iOS 7 beta is that it is a step forward in terms of the technology and required feature sets, but, the UI is terrible and the UX inconsistent at best. Let’s hope someone at Apple wakes up before the UI/UX of iOS 7 make it an even bigger disaster than the iOS 6 “maps”.

For those interested in the details of my experience with the iOS 7 beta in a day, here it comes. Keep in mind this is a first beta and bugs are expected. Just ’cause I mention some of those, it does not mean that those will remain in the final release.

Starting up

So, right after a fresh restore of iOS 7 on my iPhone 5, I saw the all too familiar “slide to unlock” text. The problem was, there was nothing to “slide”. There is no slider and the default colour scheme makes it almost impossible to figure out anything around the message.

Okay, so I “slide” nothing anyway and get to the home screen. The first thing I wanted to look at was settings so I could set up my other email accounts and tweak settings to suit me. The moment I started the settings app, the brightness went down and I could not really see anything. No problem, a reset of the phone fixed the brightness issue.

Settings

EMail

Then I went into the mail settings to set up my email accounts so that email would start off while I configured the rest of the settings. To my surprise and dismay, Apple had removed the options that made my family setup  perfect. I use a common cloud account on all devices on which contacts, find my phone and bookmarks are shared, otherwise, all devices have their own Apple IDs as the main iCloud account. In iOS 7, when you add a second iCloud account, you no longer have access to the “Find my iDevice” or the “Safari” bookmarks in the second iCloud account. Effectively, you cannot control shared stuff from a common, shared, iCloud account anymore.

Anyway, I set up all my different email accounts and noticed that GMail accounts had contacts as well. Not that I need or use them, it is an addition. Unfortunately, there are still no notifications for GMail, at least, not in this beta. This is one of the most required updates for a large number of people. The other issue is that if one has to use a different app just for GMail, then, the unified experience of the email on the iDevice does not exist anymore.

UI/UX

Once I was done with the email setup, I started to look at the other options. The first thing that struck me was that there were no “buttons” or “frames” to visually mark out any of the “touch/click” points. It was just an angle bracket and text at the top of every option to go back, for example, “< Settings”. This literally threw me back to the good old console days with no graphics when we would do similar things. Either number options or use brackets, mostly angle brackets, to signify something different. It seems like the design team at Apple is trying hard to make the iOS UI a 17th century one just like OS X which has never been updated.

Although Apple designers seemed to have learned the use of gestures, the overall implementation is quite inconsistent. For example, although the slide-in gesture works in Settings and Mail, it does not in Photos nor in Contacts and maybe more. The overall colours and contrast make it very difficult to read and visualise apps and folders, unlike iOS 6.

So, instead of looking at more settings, I decided to set my passcode and wallpapers first. How I got the wallpapers is a separate issue since there were none on the phone, so, I just downloaded some of my white dog, a Lhasa Apso, and set the lock and home screen to 2 different photos. Then, I locked the device and guess what…I could no longer see or read the “slide to unlock” message since the wallpaper was also white and there is no “slider”, so, you cannot see anything! Very impressive “design”….

Control Center

The all new Control Center has only one option. Display on home screen or not. You cannot customise anything on the Control Center itself. The 2 options that I would really like to see on the Control Center are a “Home” button and a “Lock Device”. This would make the overall UX buttonless and take away the reason for a large number of Jail-breakers. Of course, this is only the functional part. The UI part for the Control Center can only be termed pathetic at best. It’s positively ugly and in-consistent with the rest of the UI. Compare this with the jailbreak tweaks/toggle apps like SB Settings etc.

Privacy

This also adds an option to allow or dis-allow the use of the microphone. Always good to have these kind of options and more so you know which apps needs to access what functionality.

Phone

This has a couple of really required options. One of those is only partially implemented. You can now see photos of contacts in the favourites list, but, not in the contact list. This is really a half hearted option.

The other, more important, is a “Blocked” list. You can add numbers that will be blocked for all FaceTime and Normal calls as well as Messages.

Although this “blocked” list will probably be a favourite for most, including myself, the design part has not really been thought out. This same option and list exists in 3, yes, 3 different places in settings. Extremely redundant and confusing at best.

Maps

Think most of the world would agree that we simply skip this one. Apple “maps” only exist in their dreams. With no option to change the default maps app, all location apps remain more or less dead since iOS 6.

iTunes & App Stores

One feature that needs to be mentioned is the ability to auto-update apps when on a WiFi network (default). Although I would never use this feature, but, it is a major step forward for the vast majority of iDevice users.

Integration

The two new services that are now integrated in iOS 7 are Flickr and Vimeo. Vimeo??? Where is YouTube? The divide between Apple and Google shows. Apple discards the best service in their interest, not in the interest of the iDevice users.

General

This has a new option to control the true multitasking offered by iOS 7. Most people would probably never need to fiddle with this one, but, it’s there.

Another interesting option that has been added is “Text Size”. As and when apps support dynamic text sizing, this will come into play.

Installing Apps

If you are like me, you would not waste time and bandwidth downloading apps on the device directly and arranging them manually. To my surprise, iTunes 11.0.4 is clueless about iOS 7 and there is no beta update for iTunes that understands iOS 7.

Although a buggy experience, but, you can install apps using the current iTunes. Don’t try creating folders for more apps than what iTunes think it is meant for. It cannot even deal with the normal number of apps in a folder on an iPhone 5 running iOS 6.

This was just one of the reasons why I said that this iOS 7 is more of an unplanned pre-beta. Do not be surprised if your phone boots/re-springs at random, specially when using iTunes. Actually, the re-boot will happen even when doing nothing. Given this is a “beta”, it should be expected.

The simplest way is to install all the apps, music etc you want, create and organise the apps into folders as much as iTunes allows you, then arrange everything else manually and do not sync with iTunes again. If you sync with iTunes after putting in a bunch of apps in a folder, it will pull all those apps out onto pages. So, till we get an iTunes update that works with iOS 7, sync with iTunes only once to install all the stuff you want. Do not sync again after you have arranged your apps in folders.

After installing some apps and arranging them in folders, I discovered the fact that I could see far less in a folder than I could in iOS 6. Once again, the UI/UX leaves a lot to be desired.

Phone

Well, after all, I am looking at iOS 7 on the iPhone, so, the favourites need to be setup first. Once again, I run into the same “slide to unlock” nothing scenario. There is no demarkation for the search entry field unless you really push up the brightness to an un-usable level, or, you are used to the iPhone and therefore get by.

This major UI drawback can actually be seen in quite a few places. You would be very hard pressed to figure out where a text field actually is and which one is the active one. Pathetic!

If that was not enough, try to look at any contact details, absolutely ugly layout. There is absolutely no way any designer could actually do worse. It takes up 2-3 times the space to show the same details as iOS 6 and adds absolutely nothing excepting to make it worse by the choice of colours and icons.

Lastly, the phone keypad. I have serious doubts if people have actually seen a more pathetic choice of colours and design than what exists in the current iOS 7 beta. The same applies to when you actually make or receive a call. I will have a comment on the overall UI/UX a bit later…

Control Centre

The all new Control Centre provides some of the much needed functionality, the UI could not be worse than what it is currently. Talking up almost the full screen on the iPhone 5, it’s quite ugly and inconsistent with the rest of the UI. I still hope that the design team at Apple looks at stuff like “Auxo” and “SB Settings” and try and come up with a better design.

MultiTasking

One of the great new features of iOS 7 is true, supposedly intelligent, multitasking for all apps. Although there is a new UI for the multitasking apps, it falls well short of the current jailbreak tweaks in terms of functionality and design. There is no kill-all apps functionality and since it also shows the home screen, it is also in-consistent in design.

Calendar

This needs to be mentioned since I could not see any visual indication of any even in the current iOS 7 beta. If this is by design, then, it’s absolutely pathetic like the rest of the UI/UX blemishes I have already mentioned. If this is just another bug in the current release, then, let’s see what the next beta comes up with.

App Stores

I mention the App Store for two reasons, a) It is quite buggy at the moment and b) it retains the button like appearance instead of using “angle brackets” for installing apps.

Battery & Charging

Although bugs are expected, I was surprised to see that it took my iPhone 5 almost seven hours to complete a 100% charge. Not sure if the indicator is the issue or something else. I also noticed that the battery drain in this beta is quite high. I should know more in a couple of days as to what the real issue might be.

FaceTime

This is a new app added to the iOS 7 iPhone beta. Although this makes it consistent with the iPad app and more accessible to users who had difficulty in figuring out how to FaceTime on the iPhone, it retains the lame issues of the iPad. Even though all registered FaceTime users are known along with their registered IDs, the app shows all contacts with all IDs. So, no real help excepting yet another redundant app since the Phone contacts would also show exactly the same information. Once again, we have a basic design issue.

Overall Technology and Features

Excepting for what Apple calls “maps”, the overall improvements on the technology side in terms of features and implementation seems to make iOS 7 a worthy successor of iOS 5. Personally, I am happy that I got the “Blocked” list and even the “Flashlight”.

Overall UI/UX/Design

This part requires some understanding. There is drawing and there is design. Both of these, combined with experience and technology go into the making of the terms UI and UX. In my opinion, the current iOS 7 needs UI/UX, what we have is just plain and simple drawings, flat, black and white, with no visual/graphical cues. The overall effect of this iOS 7 beta is absolutely pathetic.

Although existing iOS users would be able to figure out the UI, this would not be simple to figure out for new iDevice users.

Keep in mind that demos are demos are demos. They are carefully chalked out to present the best as they did at the WWDC keynote. The numbers in millions, billions and trillions mentioned at the keynote were not because of iOS 6, they were despite iOS 6 and the “maps” disaster. If the current iOS 7 beta is a real indication of where Apple is headed, then, it is a recipe for disaster. The momentum from the original iDevices and their UI/UX, the in-ability of Google or Microsoft/Nokia to consolidate, would probably continue this momentum for iDevices for the next few years, but, the trend would be downward.

As an individual, having invested a lot in Apple hardware and technology over the last few years, I would hate to see it all go waste. I can only hope that someone at Apple wakes up fast and takes concrete steps to arrest this downtrend.

Apple iOS 7 – The “maps” disaster continues…

After a year of the iOS 6 maps disaster, Apple worked really hard and managed to map out Paris as well! Now, you have another city where everyone should be living in since Apple managed to map it out…or…so they claim.

When you also consider the fact that the current iOS 7 beta is available for the iPhone only, one has to wonder what Apple has been up-to with iOS 7 after the iOS 6 disaster. BTW, for those who are trying the Apple dev centre site, nope, it does not work and is down.

Although, iOS 7 does seem to have some of my wish list, it does not seem to have the buttonless experience that people would still want to jailbreak for. Consider the fact that any half decent Android phone has touch buttons compared to the most expensive iPhone which still requires the use of a regular (read lame) tactile button.

The Apple “maps” disaster continues! Effectively, all location based apps will still remain useless excepting the two cities mapped out by Apple in 2 years, one in the US and now one in France. Notice the fact that even in the iOS 7 Paris demo, at no point did the “maps” move beyond the known Apple mapped points.

Excepting for the maps disaster that continues, and extends to the new OS X, the rest of iOS seems to be on track…just a year or more late. Wonder who gets fired this time around for continuing the “maps” disaster!

The new OS X, like earlier versions, retains the old 17th century UI although some UX improvements seem to be there. While the announcement of iBooks on OS X etc might seem exciting, it should have been there at least a year or more ago.

The new MacBook Air with all day battery life seemed a good step forward for the line, but, it was somewhat overshadowed by the new MacPro preview. The new MacPro seemed to be impressive in the preview. Let’s see how it performs when it is actually released.

Overall, it was a mixed bag of announcements. While the “maps” disaster continues and extends itself to the desktop, the rest of iOS 7 seems to be on track. The new OS X is just an incremental change in UI although the UX seems to have improved, but, it’s not what one would call a major update. There are simply too many issues with OS X that need to be fixed before it can be called a major update from a user viewpoint. The hardware that was announced, as usual, was way beyond the current software capabilities of Apple.

Let’s wait and see what happens when iOS 7 and the new OS X are formally released. Will the Apple “maps” disaster remain? Will the new OS X actually fix at least some of the long standing OS issues? Will iOS 7 actually includes a buttonless experience? Will the iPad 3G version of iOS 7 have SMS capabilities? Will Apple continue to artificially limit features on older devices?

We are still around 3 months away from the final answers…

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 6

We now look at some free 3rd party apps for both, iOS and Android. Some of these applications might come pre-installed on some Android devices. This application list is primarily picked from iOS since there is a far larger variety. Some of these apps might not exist on the Android platform.

Another point to note here is the fact that the iOS app ecosystem is a lot older than Android’s and is fairly mature. We have “aggregator” like apps for apps on iOS, which, currently do not have any equivalent on the Android platform. I will mention some of these apps as they would allow you get some usable apps on iOS for free.

Since we will start with the most commonly used and knowns apps, it would be prudent to mention that the well known Skype is an exception to how most of the other communication apps work today. While Skype still retains the legacy of using a login and adding friends, the modern communication applications will use either your phone number or your email ID for authentication and will automatically add “friends” from your address book. The current approach is obviously superior to what Skype does as you discover “friends” automatically instead of the dated, manual process. Fring, a Skype competitor, changed to the modern way a while back and is in line with the other such apps.

FaceBook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Skype/WhatsApp

All these free apps need no introduction. Facebook comes pre-installed on a wide variety of devices. WhatsApp is also pre-installed on a variety of Android based devices. The others may or may not be pre-installed, but, all of these are free downloads for Android. WhatsApp, the only exception in this list, is a paid app on iOS. Personally, I would recommend Viber over WhatsApp anytime.

Viber

This is a free app and is available for almost all mobile platforms now even through it started as an iOS only app. Viber does voice, messaging, and video on the recently released desktop edition for OS X and Windows. Viber offers a seamless experience between the desktop and mobile versions. For example, you can pick a call on the desktop and transfer the call to your mobile and vice-versa. Besides the rich feature set, Viber also sports a decent UI and the UX is also good. The voice quality and the bandwidth it consumes is probably the best in it’s class. Viber remains a personal favourite for me and a lot of my colleagues and friends regardless of the platform, iOS or Android (and some others as well).

Fring

As already mentioned, Fring started off as a competitor to Skype. Today, it offers a far better alternate to Skype and most other apps. The voice quality of Fring is at par or generally better than Skype and the video quality is far superior. Fring also offers group calls on devices which Skype does not. The main drawback of Fring is that it does not support non-GSM/phone devices directly as yet whereas Skype does.

Tango

Tango is yet another VoIP app. It offers voice, video and messaging. It works on all devices and the setup is fast and easy. Is fairly well featured and is very usable.

Vonage Mobile

This app, like some others, allows you free calls/messages to any +1 number, i.e., US and Canada. A recent update to this app adds video as well. There are additional charges for calling out to other countries. The voice quality is amongst the best around.

Flipboard

This is possibly the best such application in it’s class. This app is categorised into the “social news” class. It aggregates news from a variety of sources including other social sites like Facebook. It has a really neat UI and the UX is also very pleasing.

Documents by Readdle

This is an iOS only app. The iPhone edition was a paid one. Now, this is a universal app (works on all iOS devices) and is free. This is possibly the best file/document manager that you can get for free. Although I already purchased a couple of iOS apps quite some time back to store and organise my documents, I highly recommend this free app to all now.

AppTicker/AppZapp/AppMiner

There are a large number of app aggregators and the like for iOS. Although AppZapp does exist as a beta on the Android platform, it is no where close to the iOS version in any terms. These apps allow you to see top apps, new apps, apps on sale, hot deals etc etc. My own usage is to keep a watch for apps that I want to purchase as and when they are on sale; and generally look at apps on sale that are free 🙂

In the next part, I will run through some of the paid iOS applications that I use. No, I never purchased any Android apps so far since I did not find the equivalents when I wanted them (a few years ago). Even though I have a couple of current Android devices, my primary device remains iOS for a variety of personal reasons. I will talk about the reasons for the iOS device being my primary device and why it might not be suitable for all.