Posts From October 2011
Siri has a metric ton of potential. In just a week and a half it has made a significant impact on the way I interact with my iPhone.
Something that has been in the back of my mind since I first began using Siri is this thought about all the other types of products and devices that Siri could affect. But the device that has most been on my mind is the iPod nano.
Currently the iPod nano plays audio, helps with fitness tracking, and can tell time. When people got the idea of wearing the nano as a watch, then the next leap in functionality seemed obvious: use the nano as a remote to control the Apple TV. And now, with Siri, I think we’re seeing another glimpse into what could be down the road.
Aside about Bluetooth 4.0 and BLE
Apple is using Bluetooth 4.0 technology in the iPhone 4S. A subset of Bluetooth 4.0 is Bluetooth low energy (BLE). What’s great about the BLE is that the chips need very little power. What’s bad about BLE (at least in this context) is that it does not have an audio profile.
The iPod nano would, naturally, want to use the low energy Bluetooth chips. But as they currently stand, BLE would not allow an iPod nano to send or receive audio (i.e. phone calls or Siri commands).
This article’s entire premise of an iPod nano that uses a power-friendly Bluetooth chip to send Siri voice commands isn’t yet possible. It assumes there are some technical hurdles which currently have not been overcome, at least that I know of.
If an iPod nano were to be built using today’s market technology then it would either: (a) not work with Siri and the phone; or, (b) it would need to use a more power-hungry technology of Bluetooth that would allow for audio profiles, but that would require much more frequent charging.
And so, for now, let’s just speculate about what could be.
An iPod nano With Siri
Imagine an iPod nano that could connect to your iPhone. Give that nano a microphone and a speaker, and you’ve got a bluetooth wrist watch that can be used for phone calls, voice commands, and much more.
And so, with an iPod nano that’s connected to our iPhones — and thus has Siri — you could do quite a bit:
- Send text messages and emails
- Check the weather and stocks
- Create, move, view, and edit appointments
- Dictate notes
- Create reminders and to-do items
- Make phone calls
None of those things would be easily done on the nano’s 1.5-inch screen — it is far too small for any sort of substantial text input. About the most you could do is probably tap in the phone number you’d want to dial. Siri, however, could easily enable a nano-sized device to for all those tasks.
I think the idea of a product like this — a touchscreen watch that plays music and also has phone-like capabilities and an ability to connect to and control our other devices — is a no-brainer.
In fact, another company has already announced something along these lines. Recently the i’m Watch website went live. You can now pre-order one of these nano-sized, touch-screen, Android-based, “smart watches”.
The website seems pretty vague when it comes to specifics about what the i’m Watch can do. Also, I have been unable to find any live demoes of the device except for a 2-second clip where the company’s president, Manuel Zanella, is shown swiping left-to-right through a couple photos and then pulling down the notification panel. It’s right around the 03:28 mark of the promo video.
But, from what I can gather, the i’m Watch is meant for two things:
By connecting via Bluetooth, it becomes an extension of your smartphone. Thus you can use the i’m Watch as a way to make and answer phone calls, and read text messages and emails.
The website doesn’t say anything about sending texts or emails, and so, I assume that you cannot. I mean, how in the world could you be expected to type a message on a 1.54-inch screen, without simply scrolling through the alphabet where all the letters and numbers are in a horizontal row? It’d be worse than rotary dialing.
Moreover, the i’m Watch supposedly has only 30 hours of standby time when Bluetooth is on (48 hours with it off). That is not very long at all. It means if you use your watch with your phone, you’ll have to charge it every single night. This is exactly why low energy Bluetooth technology would be so helpful.
The i’m Watch will also be able to run some apps. It will play music, show photos, check the weather, connect to Facebook and Twitter, and other things.
But if you’re going to have a “shortcut” device like this — something that lives on your wrist and makes it easier to quickly answer your phone or view a text message — it needs to truly work like it should. It has to be more than a novelty item. And, I think it should be able to connect to more than just your phone.
Interface design, input, and ease of use are important enough for a device with a 3.5-inch screen. These things become even more important, and more difficult to maintain, as the screen-size shrinks to that of a wrist watch. Put another way: as the size of a smart device shrinks, its interface and input challenges grow.
Siri (or, if you want to be generic about it, voice input) is the way to overcome those input and interface challenges. Siri can (and likely, will) enable the creation of vast usability and functionality on an extremely small device such as the iPod nano.
If the iPod nano does eventually become capable of being an all-connected remote window device that works with our iPhones, Apple TVs, and computers, well, that would be pretty slick.
Yesterday on Twitter, Thomas Wong asked me about the state of the glass on my iPhone 4. After using the phone for so long, how did it hold up?
I thought this was a great question and worth mentioning briefly.
After using my iPhone 4 every single day for nearly a year and a half, the glass on the front and the back was still in near-mint condition. The only physical blemishes to the glass were some minor nicks that were only noticeable when all fingerprints had been wiped off and you were holding the phone at just the proper angle.
For some, accidents do happen, and I was lucky enough to have never accidentally dropped my iPhone off the roof of a tall building and onto a concrete sidewalk. In fact, I have never catastrophically dropped any of my iPhones.
Moreover, I refuse to put any sort of case or even a clear screen protector on my iPhone.
I’ve owned a cell phone of some sort for 13 years. My iPhone 4 probably got used more than any cell phone I’ve owned previously. And, what’s remarkable, is that after the 18 months of daily usage, none of my phones were in as good of a condition as the iPhone 4 was:
- The exterior glass was still in near-mint condition.
- The battery still held a good, full charge and would last me two days of normal usage.
- In fact, even the usefulness of the iPhone 4 actually increased thanks to software updates and the App Store.
Would it be stretching it to say that the iPhone 4 (and now, 4S) is like fine wine?
Who are you, what do you do, etc…?
I’m Duncan Davidson and I am a photographer, writer, and recovering software developer. Possibly my most recognizable affiliation is as the main stage photographer for TED. I’ve been exploring video and learning all I can, including bridging between stills and motion with a lot of time-lapse work, such as my recent Tribute in Light project. Finally, I’m a partner in Luma Labs which makes some awesome camera slings.
What is your current setup?
My desktop is an eight-core, early-2008 Mac Pro with 14GB of RAM, an upgraded ATI 4870 video card, an SSD boot drive in the bottom DVD drive bay, and 24TB of online storage across several arrays, both internal and external.
My primary display is a late-2008 24″ LED Cinema display. Tunes are pumped out through a set of old school USB Harman Kardon SoundSticks. Input is handed using an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Trackpad and a Wacom Intous 4 tablet. For voice input, I use an Audio Technica AT2050 microphone hooked up to an Apogee One, and I monitor on a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M40fs headphones.
Document scanning is handed with a Fujitsu SnapScan. Photographs are scanned with an Epson v500 flatbed scanner. Most of my print needs are handled by an Epson 3880 printer, but for bigger jobs I also have a 24″ HP Z3200.
My primary laptop unless I’m in the throes of heavy photo or video work is a mid-2011, 13″ MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. I went with the i5 instead of the i7 in the hope of getting the maximum battery life possible.
My secondary laptop which I pull out when I need to use FireWire drives on the road or when I know that the GPU will come in handy is a late-2008, 15″ MacBook Pro that I’ve upgraded to 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This laptop is almost effectively retired, but not quite.
An iPhone 4 keeps me connected most of the time. A first generation iPad is what you’ll find me using on the couch or in seat 6A when I’m traveling.
Why this rig?
A desktop-plus-portable strategy is the only one that can satisfy my need for power, speed, and storage at home while also keeping things as light as possible for when I’m traveling fast. If I could go with a simpler setup, I would in a heartbeat. So far, however, the trend has been that my storage needs are ramping up quickly over time and dealing with over a TB a year of new data is the big challenge.
On the other hand, nothing beats being able to throw my MacBook Air and a Fuji X100 into a small bag and head out the door for a day or a weekend.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
I manage my photographs using a combination of Aperture, Lightroom and Bridge. Aperture is taking over my primary catalog needs from Lightroom. I use Bridge when I need to scour through the archives of photographs that aren’t in my active catalog.
When I need more in the way of photo editing tools than I get from Aperture, I use Photoshop. When I need less, I use Acorn and sometimes even Preview.
For video, I use Final Cut Pro X and love it. I also use Compressor and After Effects for various tasks, including stitching together still frames into video clips.
When I’m in code mode, I use BBEdit or Xcode depending on the task at hand. For straight ahead writing—including all of my blog entries as well as the writing that currently isn’t seeing the light of day—I’ve become a huge fan of iA Writer.
To get things done, I use OmniFocus. At least I try. Sometimes I do better than others. Keeping all of my non-media data in sync between machines in handled by Dropbox. 1Password is essential for passwords. Mail, iCal, Safari, Numbers, and Pages are all open on my computer right now.
How does this setup help you do your best creative work?
For the most part, it lets me do what I need to do in the kinds of environments I like to be in.
At home, I’ve arranged my desk so that when I’m working on my desktop, I can look up across my living room and out my huge living room windows across downtown Portland. Watching the weather go by is therapeutic to me. The MacBook Air lets me work in cafés near home and as well as anywhere in the world. It’s even useful for the kinds of light photo editing I do on the road.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
I’m pretty close to my ideal right now. If I could change anything, I’d have a view of midtown Manhattan out my window from 25 floors up and I’d have a 15″ MacBook Pro that wasn’t much heavier than my current Air but which did have a GPU. The former is a pipe dream right now. The latter might happen any month now. Hopefully.
I used to use two screens on my desktop, and I might consider do so again. However, I’ve found that using one screen increases my ability to glance up and look outside my window. A second screen cuts that down quite a bit. As well, I’ve discovered that parking my laptop on one side lets me keep various websites or other reference material in easy view while I work on the desktop.
Finally, a closer-to-ideal setup would include a data solution for my media files that was a bit less maintenance intensive. I think the best I’ll be able to do in the near future is consolidate my various hard drive arrays into two Promise Thunderbolt R6 arrays when I upgrade my desktop machine. That jump will probably happen sometime in the next six months.
More Sweet Setups
Duncan’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.
In my review of the iPhone 4S, I talked a bit about location-based reminders. Particularly, I brought up some use cases that I think could come in very handy for a family.
In Anna’s and my near-seven years of marriage, I don’t know how many times one of us has swung by the store without the other knowing it and then, upon returning home with some groceries in hand, the other says: “Oh! I wish I had known you were going to the store. We’re just out of [some item].”
And so, one thing that would be useful for setting a location-based reminder is if it could be shared. I wrote:
An example of that in real life could look like this: I’m at home and realize we need batteries. I create the reminder and it syncs to my iPhone and Anna’s. Then, suppose Anna realizes she needs to swing by the store on her way home from work to get an ingredient for dinner. When she gets there a reminder pops up notifying her that we also need batteries.
Come to find out, as Brad McCarty pointed out at The Next Web, shared lists in Reminders app are doable using iCloud. They can only be shared via the iCloud website.
To share a Reminder list, log in to your account on icloud.com, go to the Calendars app, click the round satellite/wi-fi radio beams-looking button that is next to the name of the Reminders list which you want to share (or create a new one for sharing), and then enter the email address of the person (or persons) you wish to share that list with.
The new list will then show up in your Reminders app, and once the person you’re sharing it with accepts the invitation, it will show up in their Reminders app as well. I created a list called “Shared”, that is synced on my iPhone as well as my wife’s. Any reminder I or she creates or checks off on that list will be synced on both of our iPhones.
Now we can share any type of Reminder that the iPhone supports: regular, time-based, and location based.
For shared location-based reminders, it’s important that both people have the same contact names and addresses for certain locations such as Walmart, work, home, the grocery store, etc. Also worth noting is that if I set a shared reminder to check the mail when one of us gets home, the alert will go off on both of our phones as soon as either one of us triggers the reminder, even if the other is still out and about.
So now I have two reminder lists on my iPhone: Reminders (which is my main list), and Shared (the one that Anna and I have synced). By default, Siri creates new reminders in your iPhone’s default list. You can change what the default list is in Settings → Mail, Contacts, Calendar → Default List.
I am keeping my own Reminders list as my default list because that’s the one I use most often with Siri. However, I still want to use Siri to add shared reminders on the synced list that Anna and I both have.
Unfortunately, getting Siri to add a reminder to a specific list other than the default list can be tricky. I for one have had quite a difficult time with it.
For example, the following Siri commands in which I am trying to create a reminder on my shared list (which is called “Shared”) all create a task on my default “Reminders” list:
- “Create a shared reminder to take out the trash when I get home.”
- “Create a reminder on the shared list to take out the trash.”
- “Remind me to take out the trash when I get home on the shared list.”
If I ask Siri to “Create a shared list reminder to take out the trash”, Siri will tell me that it cannot create lists.
But, I have found one path of syntax that works. And you have to be pretty specific with it too:
Me: Remind me to take out the trash when I get home.
Siri: Here’s your reminder. Shall I create it?
Me: Move it to the Shared list.
Siri: Okay. I can add this to your Shared List in Reminders. Shall I go ahead?
Siri: Okay. I’ll remind you.
Moreover, it seems that only the phrase “Move it to the [name of other list] list.” will work. If I say “Put it on the shared list” or “change it to the shared list” Siri will not move it. In fact, Siri will change the content of the reminder to “On the Shared List”. Oy.
So, in short, adding reminders to shared lists with Siri does work, but it could use a bit of polish.
On Friday morning, October 7, I pre-ordered two new iPhones: a black, 16GB iPhone 4S for me, and a white one for Anna. A week later they were delivered by FedEx.
Anna’s white iPhone is the first white iPhone I have seen up close and used outside of an Apple store. And it looks great. I have always gone with black iPhones because, well, it’s black. But I really do like the look of Anna’s white iPhone — it is much more classy and well built than the white iPad.
The two phones arrived around 10:00 am. The delivery driver mentioned how we were the first to get them and he had hundreds on his truck.
About 7 hours later I was finally able to activate the phones.
Frustrations of AT&T’s overloaded activation servers aside, the activation process was incredibly simple. I activated and set up both iPhones without a single cable. My unofficial goal is to never plug my iPhone into my computer again.
After unboxing the phone, I turned it on, unlocked the screen, and followed the on-screen instructions for setup. The iPhone knew my phone number and prompted me to confirm that this was indeed the phone number I was upgrading. I then was asked to enter in my billing zip code and last 4 digits of my social security number to confirm my identity, and then let the iPhone activate.
At first the activation was unsuccessful. And so I started over. The second attempt was unsuccessful as well. I tried again, and again, and again, for over two hours. Then I just let it be and came back a few hours later. Even then, I still had no luck.
It was dinner time when iPhone was finally able to activate. I, of course, was not the only one with activation woes. I read about all sorts of people having trouble activating their AT&T iPhones. And, from what I understand, those on Verizon and Sprint had little or no trouble activating on day one.
Once I was finally able to activate my iPhone 4S, I simply restored it from the iCloud backup of my iPhone 4. The restore took less than 10 minutes altogether and all the apps from my iPhone 4 were downloaded and in place. The only missing data were all my passwords.
Aside from having to wait for several hours to get my 4S activated, this was, by far, the most seamless and easy iPhone setup I’ve ever had.
Those automatic iCloud backups are great. Every evening I plug my iPhone into the wall charger by my bed and every evening all that’s on my iPhone gets backed up to the cloud.
These backups are especially great for my wife. Of the two of us, she is probably more prone to losing or breaking her iPhone than I am. Moreover, she is certainly less motivated to plug her iPhone in and sync it to her computer. Having her iPhone backed up each night means if her iPhone ever does go missing, the info that’s on it won’t disappear with the device.
The iPhone 4S has three headline features which make it superior to its predecessors: speed, camera, and Siri.
The speed is a combination of the A5 processor and the new antennae design. The former lets the iPhone 4S work and act quicker. The latter helps with better download speeds from the cellular data network.
The camera is better and faster. More on that in a bit.
And Siri is, well, amazing. But more on that in a bit, too.
My thought on if you should upgrade? Well, if you are at all an iPhone junkie (as in, you use your iPhone more than the maximum amount even possible) then I think the upgrade is well worth it. The speed, better camera, and Siri are all something you’ll benefit from every day (even if you’re already on an iPhone 4).
My first impression of Siri is that Siri is to the GUI what the GUI is to the command line. Meaning, using Siri is a far easier and quicker way to navigate certain tasks than using iPhone’s multi-touch user interface. The GUI is still much more powerful, but there are already things which are more efficient to do by using Siri.
The scope of what Siri can do on its is not all that striking — setting a timer or an alarm is relatively simple task. But it’s not the scope that makes Siri so darn impressive.
The practical implication of Siri is that certain things are significantly easier and faster to do by asking Siri to them. Such as: setting a reminder, creating a calendar event, getting the current temperature, setting a timer, or setting an alarm.
Siri is not the first voice recognition software to come along allowing you to make a phone call or dictate a note. But Siri is conversational and accepts a multitude of various types of requests for the same task. Which means you don’t have to memorize what you’re asking for. And because of that, Siri’s usability and convenience become exponentially more impressive and helpful.
Something else that stands out to me about Siri is how well it can understand what I’m saying. I don’t have to talk slowly and in monotone. Nor do I have to hold the iPhone right up to my face to talk directly into the microphone. In my home office I can leave the iPhone on my desk next to my keyboard while talking at a normal speed and volume, and Siri will catch exactly what I’m saying.
Another thing that stands out to me about Siri’s usefulness is that it knows if you are “hands free” or not. And if so, Siri accommodates accordingly. For example, if I have my iPhone earbuds plugged in and I ask Siri to send a message to my wife saying “Hey babe, just wanted to say I love you.” Siri will reply not only that the message was created but also read it back to me. If I were not “hands free” Siri assumes I can read my message as it’s brought up on the screen, and thus I would have to ask to review my message in order to get it read back to me by Siri.
In short, Siri is smart enough to know if I am not able to look at my iPhone’s screen and if so Siri becomes more chatty in a good way.
Talking to and using Siri could easily be maddening. If it took too long to process a simple request, or if it didn’t understand most what I said, then the friction of using Siri would slowly grind away any desire to use it. But it’s the little areas of polish that make Siri usable and enjoyable.
Using Siri in Public
I have not yet been in a large, open, public place (such as a restaurant or coffee shop) where I wanted to use Siri. If I did, there’s a clever feature Apple built in which, if your iPhone’s screen is unlocked, you can raise the phone to your ear and Siri will activate and you can interact with it as if you were talking to someone on the phone.
There were, however, a few times over this past weekend when I was around family and something came to my mind that I waned to set a reminder for. I felt a bit uncomfortable launching Siri and asking it to set a reminder for me because I knew it would interrupt the conversation happing in the next room over and draw attention to myself.
And then, as I thought about how easy it would be to have Siri set the reminder compared to setting it up manually, I decided simply to not set up the reminder at all. Lazy? Perhaps. But it’s also telling. For how many people will Siri become the only interface into their iPhone’s apps for reminders, alarms, and timers?
I highly recommend populating the Phonetic Name fields for common contacts which Siri mispronounces. This will also increase the accuracy of your requests to call, text, or email someone.
To set a phonetic field just go to a contact’s card from your iPhone, tap “Edit”, then scroll to the bottom and tap “Add Field”. From there you’ll find the fields you’re looking for.
Text Input for Siri
Natural language input is one of the primary benefits to Siri. This is what makes the calendar app Fantastical so fantastic. If Siri understands and parses our requests into text, why not allow us to type our Siri requests in from the start?
If I’m not in a place where I can talk to Siri, typing in my request may still be easier than doing the task manually. For example, typing the text: “Remind me to take out the trash when I get home” would still be easier than launching the Reminder app, creating a new reminder, typing in “take out the trash”, tapping on the reminder itself, choosing “Remind Me”, turning on “At a Location”, selecting “When I Arrive”, choosing “Home”.
There are a slew of easter eggs in Siri. You can ask Siri to tell you a story or a joke. There are certain phrases you can say to Siri to solicit a clever response, such as: “open the pod bay doors”, “beam me up, Siri”, or even, “klaatu barada nikto”.1
Since Siri is server-side software, it will be interesting to see how it evolves (perhaps not the best word-choice?). Will new easter eggs be added? Will new responses to the same questions be added? Beyond simply wishing for an API so 3rd-party apps can get access, how will Siri’s responses and functionality be updated in the future?
Finding friends and family members
Siri integrates with Apple’s Find My Friends app, and I think this could offer some great functionality. Especially for immediate family members. You can ask Siri things like “where is my wife”, and if the Find my Friends app has their location data then you can see where they are.
Surely the location-based reminders are one of the coolest “little features” in iOS 5.
Having a phone that’s smart enough to remind us to take out the trash when we get home or to not forget our jackets when we leave the office is the next step in handy task lists.
I’ve added new contacts in my iPhone for Walmart and Lowe’s, two locations we visit often. This way I can create a reminder such as “Remind me to get batteries next time I am at Walmart.”
What would be great is if a location-based reminder could contain a “group” of locations. We don’t buy batteries only at Walmart. There are a handful of stores we go to which sell batteries, and so if we need batteries I want to be reminded at any of those stores.
If I could create a group of contacts labeled shopping which contained all the various stores we regularly visit, then I could say “remind me to get batteries next time I go shopping” and then a geo-fence could be set up around all of those “shopping” locations, and would go off at whichever one I arrived at next.
And what would take that even to the next level? An ability to have shared reminders. Something like: “Remind me or Anna to get batteries next time we go shopping.”
An example of that in real life could look like this: I’m at home and realize we need batteries. I create the reminder and it syncs to my iPhone and Anna’s. Then, suppose Anna realizes she needs to swing by the store on her way home from work to get an ingredient for dinner. When she gets there a reminder pops up notifying her that we also need batteries.
Siri’s Interface Design
I think the look of Siri’s interface design is fantastic. I like the way Wolfram|Alpha results are displayed as well as custom UI elements for native things such as a reminder, an event, or a message. The look for an alarm and the timer are my favorite two designs.
Matt Legend Gemmell has a collection of screenshots on Flickr showing off the look of Siri as well as many of its functionalities.
There are patches of time during the day when Siri simply won’t work. In my usage, it doesn’t have to do my iPhone’s connectivity, but simply that the cloud is too busy. Its must be all those millions of iPhone 4S users.
This surely is why Apple limited Siri to be exclusive to the iPhone 4S. They sold 4 million iPhones over the weekend, but there are 20 million people who upgraded to iOS 5. If the Siri network gets bottlenecked with 4 million users, imagine if it were available to 20 million right now.
It’s one thing for Siri to need a network connection to parse and interpret the voice requests. But it would seem that Siri needs the network connection for everything it does — from the very start to the very end of any task.
I found that if Siri lost network connectivity mid-interaction, it could not complete the task. I had all but confirmed a new reminder when Siri lost network connection, and so the reminder could not be created. Even though I was staring at it on the Siri screen. After waiting about 30 seconds, Siri was able to connect and the reminder was set.
Of course, the non-connected moments are fewer and more far between than the connected moments. And when Siri does work, it’s fast. So fast, in fact, that it feels as if Siri is processing the requests right on the phone. (Part of this speed may be because I think Siri begins streaming your audio request to the Apple servers almost as soon as you begin talking.)
The A5 Processor
The iPhone 4S is significantly faster than the 4, and not just on paper.
The speed increase is especially noticeable in all the little animations and movements you see on your phone all the time. Such as the app launching animations and sliding between home screens and scrolling a list view. They are all more smooth.
Something that the iPhone is so well known for is that as you are tapping on and interacting with the interface, the response time is so good that it feels as if you are actually manipulating the interface with your finger. Well, on the 4S, that perceived manipulation feels even more real.
And, aside from the Camera app which surely has the most noticeable speed bump of all, it’s the Spotlight search results that I’ve noticed as having the most obvious speed increase.
It’s fast. Like, crazy fast.
I had switched to Camera+ as my primary camera app simply because you could snap, snap, snap, several photos in a row. But you can now do that with the native camera app.
So, not only does the Camera app launch quicker, but the “shutter speed” is much faster as well. This is a welcome change indeed. But that’s not all. The lens of the camera on the iPhone 4S is also significantly improved. The quality of the photos is higher resolution and better image quality. I am not a photographer, but even I can notice a better depth of field and better color with the camera on my 4S.
The Home Button on my iPhone 4S sits differently than on my iPhone 4. The button on the 4S feels more flush with the top glass and it has a slightly more smooth transition (from the glass to where the button begins).
The vibration alert the 4S is very different than on my iPhone 4. It’s more obvious, yet less noisy and less abrasive. It’s hard to explain what exactly is different about it, but it is most certainly different.
The reason is that the iPhone 4S uses the same vibrator motor as the Verizon iPhone 4 does: it’s a linear oscillating vibrator as opposed to the rotational electric motor that was in the AT&T Version of the iPhone 4.
The screen on the 4S seems “cooler”, more crisp, and more appealing to look at than the screen on my 4.
iMessages go to all devices that are set up with your Apple ID and are running iOS 5. However, only the most-recently-used device gets the iMessage notification. So, if you are having a conversation with someone via iMessage, only the device you’re having the conversation on gets each and every notification of a new incoming message.
And so here’s a thought: if Apple can manage which device gets notified of a new iMessage, then why not use that same logic to simmer down the calendar alerts?
Summary Statement for Skimmers
For a phone that looks so similar, there are so many things which are different. Though the iPhone 4S looks just like my previous iPhone, it sure doesn’t act like it. The 4S is a welcome upgrade for someone who has his iPhone within arms reach just about 24 hours a day.
- Thanks to reader Ken Weingold for the tip off on The Day the Earth Stood Still quote. ↵
The USB cable had a good long run, but its usefulness and convenience is breaking down.
I don’t just have an iPod with songs on it any longer. I have an iPhone, an iPad, and a Mac, and all three of them have all sorts of similar content. If you use more than one computer or device, then over-the-air syncing is extremely convenient.
While browsing Twitter on my iPhone, if I come across a link I want to read later I can just send it to Instapaper. Later that evening I can sit down on the couch, pick up my iPad, and the article is there waiting for me. And this is just one of hundreds of examples of the convenience of using the cloud. Emails, photos, documents, music, notes, to-do items, and ebooks are all prime examples of things we want to share and sync across multiple devices.
The iPhone, announced in 2007, was always meant to be more than a widescreen iPod with touch controls, more than a revolutionary mobile phone, and more than a breakthrough Internet communications device.
Smartphones in 2007 were somewhat smart (they could do email and barbaric Internet), but they were not easy to use. And regular, or dumb, phones were easier to use, but they didn’t do a whole lot.
iPhone was designed to be a device that was very smart and very easy to use. Smarter than the smartest smartphone. Easier to use than the most simple dumb phone. This is a hard position to keep because the smarter (or more capable and feature-rich) a device gets the harder it is to maintain its ease of use.
The launch of the App Store in 2008 made the iPhone significantly “smarter”. That was the intention — Apple wants the iPhone and iPad to run desktop class mobile applications. The more our devices work and function as miniature computers (which is what they are), the more important it is that they work side by side with our actual computers.
That side-by-side functionality started with iTunes and the USB cable. You could plug your iPhone into your computer and sync your music, photos, videos, podcasts, contacts, calendars, notes, Safari bookmarks, and email accounts.
In 2008, MobileMe came along, and for $99/year you could ditch the USB cable at least for syncing contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and email.
But the .Mac re-brand and re-launch to MobileMe was disastrous in some ways. In an internal email to Apple employees, Steve Jobs said, “The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious.”
Over the past 3 years in its current state as “Exchange for the rest of us,” MobileMe has been neither exciting nor ambitious.
What about owning an iPhone is less exciting than having to plug it in, launch iTunes, sync the info, and then eject it every single time you want to get info in sync or transfer over new music?
But now, with iOS 5 and iCloud, we no longer need the USB cable.
In fact, if there were another way to charge the iPhone 4S, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the new phones came only with earbuds. But the cable will be there — if only for the purpose of charging the phone.
I cannot help but wonder if iCloud is what MobileMe was meant to be. MobileMe earned a sour reputation right off the bat. As they say, if you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation. And so we now have iCloud as the MobileMe successor. It’s better. It’s free. It’s more exciting. It’s more ambitious. It still uses the @me.com email addresses.
iCloud is ambitious and exciting in a way MobileMe never was. This is the foundation, the cornerstone, the hinge, the linchpin, and the future of where Apple is headed. Lion + iOS + iCloud = Apple’s development plans. Their desktop and mobile hardware and software offerings will be unified via iCloud.
On a less dramatic tone, I am very thankful for iCloud because I am tired of plugging in my iPhone and iPad in order to sync them. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I plugged either of them into my computer. I mean, who goes through those iTunes hoops any more? Average consumers never did in the first place unless they had a specific reason (such as to transfer a new album or movie onto their iPhone), and even us nerds gave up on it a while ago.
I sit at my desk for hours every day and my iPhone rarely gets plugged into my laptop. Persnickety power users are surely the most motivated of all to plug our iDevices in and keep things in sync, and yet even we have given up on the chore of syncing.
Ever since App Store purchase became available as over-the-air downloads (regardless of what device the app or song was purchased on) I stopped having any reason whatsoever to plug my iPhone into my laptop.
If I buy an app on my Mac, my iPhone and/or iPad will download it as well. If I buy a song on my iPhone, my Mac will download it as well. If I buy an app on my iPad, my iPhone will download it.
Moreover, since I use MobileMe, my contacts, calendars, and bookmarks are synced. And several of my most-used apps use a web service to sync their data over the air across multiple devices. Apps such as 1Password, OmniFocus, Reeder, Instapaper, and Simplenote.
iCloud promises all this and more. Photos that you take with your iPhone will show up in your iPad’s photo library. Music that is on your laptop will be available to download on your iPhone or iPad. Documents that you’re working on in Numbers will be accessible on your Mac, iPad or iPhone.
Yesterday I re-watched Steve Jobs’ January 2007 keynote. Something struck me about it when Jobs was demoing the phone app on iPhone he called the number keypad as “last century”. He said:
“If I want to dial the phone, if I’m real last-century, I can push keypad here, and I can dial a call.”
A few minutes later as he was re-capping the phone app and listing the features again, naming them out he again called the keypad as last century:
“Favorites, last century, visual voice mail.”
As if Jobs was annoyed that he couldn’t remove the keypad altogether.
Instead of being “last century” and dialing our calls, Apple wanted us to scroll through our contacts list. They wanted us to tap on names and phone numbers to call people. They wanted us to find restaurants and shops using Google maps and to tap on their contact info to call them. They built the best phone app on any mobile phone — it was one of iPhone’s original killer apps.
Today, iPhone’s “last century” element is the USB cable.
New iPhones will still ship with a USB cable in their box, but Apple doesn’t want you to use it. The only time you should be plugging your iPhone into the cable is to charge the battery. Apple wants you to set up your device wirelessly and let everything sync wirelessly.
What iPhone made the keypad in January 2007 is what iCloud will make the USB cable today: “Last century.”
Even iMessages is building on the idea of synced information. Except it’s not syncing media or documents, it’s syncing conversations. You can have an iMessage conversation with someone while reading your Instapaper queue on your iPad, and then continue that same conversation on your iPhone when you’re out of the house. This is something that up until now only Twitter DMs seemed to handle (a DM thread is accessible from the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac), which means the next step will be, of course, iMessages for the Mac.
What else is so fun about Apple’s new messaging service is the fact that you can have delivery confirmation, read receipts, and see when the other person is typing. Alas, for me this means that if I get a text message that I’m not ready to reply to yet the other person will still know that I’ve read it. No hard feelings, okay guys?
Other than Siri, the new notifications system may be the most exciting and notable front-end feature to iOS. Put another way, notifications in iOS 5 rock.
For the past 4 years iPhone users have had to suffer through a sub-par notifications system on the iPhone. If a text message comes up, you’re in trouble. If you have a handful of calendar reminders, your phone becomes locked down until you clear all of them. It’s been insufferable.
The new notifications not only work much better, but they look much better as well. There are 4 new or different user interface elements:
- The single-notification window that appears on the lock screen is now black instead of blue, and it has a gradient across the very top of the box instead of the curved bezel.
- If additional notifications appear while iPhone is locked, then the notifications get smaller and form an unordered list on the lock screen.
- Notifications that come when you are using your phone “roll in” on the top of the screen for a few moments, and then roll back out. The animation is really quite nice.
- And there is an entirely new notification pane which houses all your notifications, upcoming events, current weather, stocks, and more. This is accessed by sliding down from the top of the screen.
The new notification system and its accompanying UI elements are great. I think that the look of the lock screen with a few notifications is very cool. And I love the design of the notification slide-down pane.
But a word of caution: don’t overdo it. The temptation is going to be to sneak into the Notification Settings and turn on every app. But my suggestion is to keep it clean. Keep it down to only what’s helpful to you and keep it so that the notification panel doesn’t turn into the new time sink for the Just Checks. Don’t play the notification panel.
When I first installed the beta of iOS 5 a few months ago I turned on just about every notification I could. New emails, @replies and DMs on Twitter, SMS messages, iCal alerts, missed calls, OmniFocus items, and more — all of them were showing up as notifications. I wanted my Lock screen and notification panel to be well stocked.
After enjoying it for a day or two I had to turn nearly all of them off so I could have my life back. It was fun while it was new, but now the only things which alert me are Twitter DMs, SMS and iMessages, phone calls, upcoming meetings, and location-based reminders.
This is where things get fun.
You can set a notification to remind you of something when you arrive at or leave a place. Set a reminder that tells you to buy some AA batteries when you arrive at Walmart. Or, set a reminder that tells you to swing by the post office when you’re leaving your house.
The update to OmniFocus taps into the location-based API in iOS 5 and you can set the same. Assign a location to a context in OmniFocus and all items assigned to that context will become due upon arrival to or leaving from that location.
Text Expansion Shortcuts
Under Settings → General → Keyboard → Shortcuts you can set up custom shortcuts.
So, for example, typing the letters “omw” will expand to “On my way”. It does not instantly expand like a TextExpander snippet would, but rather iOS treats your shortcut like a misspelling and offers to auto-correct it to the expanded text. Hitting the Space bar launches the expansion, hitting the “x” in the popover box dismisses it.
Faster Camera Access
Double click the Home button from the Lock screen and — in addition to the iPod controls being where they always have been — a camera icon now shows up to the right of the “slide to unlock” slider. Tap that icon and you are in the Camera app. Boom. It is a significantly faster way to get to the camera.
The New Round Toggles and Other Graphical Interface Changes
There are more new design elements in iOS 5 than any previous version of iOS.
- New look of notifications on the lock screen and the new Notification Center
- New rounded toggle buttons
- Camera icon when you double click the Lock screen
- Blue talk bubbles used for iMessage messages
- Siri microphone icon on the keyboard
- Tabs in Mobile Safari
To me, all of these new or modified elements are a welcome change.
What struck me when thinking about the new look of the toggle switches and other new elements in iOS 5 is that this version of the OS has the most new UI elements of any of its previous siblings. Though the iPhone 4S does not have any physical design changes to it, the operating system installed certainly does.
iOS 5 and iCloud mark the next chapter in Apple’s mobile operating system. The groundbreaking and revolutionary new features shipping from Cupertino this week are signposts of Apple’s course for the next several years.
When introducing iPhone in 2007 Steve Jobs listed three revolutionary user interfaces that Apple has brought to the market: the mouse, the click wheel, and multi-touch.
Now they’ve brought a fourth interface: voice recognition and artificial intelligence. Siri is Apple’s fourth interface.
Steve said that each of the three user interfaces made possible a revolutionary new type of product. The mouse enabled the Macintosh. The click wheel enabled the iPod. Multi-touch enabled the iPhone. What will Siri enable?
Reed Hastings, 3 weeks ago:
For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something — like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores — do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly. [...]
Some members will likely feel that we shouldn’t split the businesses, and that we shouldn’t rename our DVD by mail service. Our view is with this split of the businesses, we will be better at streaming, and we will be better at DVD by mail. It is possible we are moving too fast — it is hard to say.
Reed Hastings, today:
It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.
And then, in the very next sentence:
While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.
Besides pointing out the complete change in tone and conviction between Reed’s announcement from 3 weeks ago and his announcement today, I have two questions:
After all the conviction he had 3 weeks ago about the fast yet necessary move to create Qwikster, if Reed is now admitting that it was the wrong decision, why should I believe that their current price structure is as sustainable as they say? What if the people who researched and suggested the new pricing model the same people who suggested spinning off the DVD-by-mail service?
Has a company ever gone from being so beloved by its customers to being so disliked in such a short amount of time? Sure, nobody likes price hikes, but the back-and-forth wishy washiness of Reed Hastings’ announcements have made things so much worse.
Since the July 12 announcement about the new pricing structure, Netflix stock has dropped from $297.98 to around $120. I’m almost expecting yet another blog post in a week or two with another apology of how they messed up again. Oy.
Yesterday, as the news of Steve Jobs’ death began to break, my RSS feeds and Twitter stream grew full with links to stories, photos, and videos.
All these Steve Jobs articles, stories, photos, and tributes which are surfacing right now are not in the slightest way redundant. I am reading and enjoying so many of them. They are our way of saying thank you to Steve Jobs. We, the Mac nerds, are thankful for the careers and hobbies he gave us.
It’s amazing to me how so many in this community — the indie devs, designers, writers, et al. — have a story about our first Mac or about a nervous encounter we had with Steve Jobs. We love what we do, we’re proud to use Apple products, and we’re thankful for the careers and hobbies that we have been able to build up thanks to Steve’s Apple.
This past June I went to WWDC for the first time. I didn’t attend the conference, I simply went to San Francisco to meet all the other Mac nerds who would be there. And while there, I was blown away by this universal understanding of we’re all family.
I met developers such as Marco Arment, Brent Simmons, Craig Hockenberry, and Daniel Jalkut. Former Apple employees like Matt Drance, and current ones like Scott Simpson. CEOs like AJ, David Barnard, and Cabel Sasser. Designers such as Chris Clark, Neven Mrgan, and Tim Van Damme. Consultants like Michael Lopp and Ken Yarmosh. And writers like John Gruber, Rene Ritchie, and Jim Dalrymple.
Such a colorful array of the 3rd-party Apple family; so many Mac nerds. So many pals.
There is one Mac nerd I did not get to meet or even see. And that was Steve Jobs. Without a conference badge my only hope to get in for the WWDC Keynote was with a press pass. Alas, all the emails I sent to Apple PR went unanswered. And so, with an americano and borrowed wi-fi, I watched Steve’s final keynote from a coffee shop in Roseville.
During the next few days, as I walked the streets of downtown San Francisco, everyone I met — from designers, to developers, CEOs, marketers, writers, and other nerds — was pleased to meet me, and I them. Everyone was kind and friendly. It didn’t matter that I had no conference badge, and that I had flown to San Francisco on my own dime simply to hang out with a bunch of other Mac nerds and not attend any of the WWDC sessions. I was there to meet some my peers, my pals, and there was respect in that.
You and I are on the same team. We all are. We may link to the same articles, review the same products, develop apps for the same market, and design with the same intense perfectionism, but we are a community. Let’s continue to fight for each other, encourage each other, and work together to make amazing things.
We are the 3rd-party family of Apple nerds. Let’s make a dent.
What can you say about a man whom you never knew but who’s life and work had such a significant impact on your own?
Steve Jobs changed the way we see the world. He changed the way we communicate with one another. He changed the way we work and learn. He changed the way we share information and the way we view design and creativity. He created jobs and industries and markets for millions of people.
Steve inspired us to go for it.
So many of us have careers, businesses, and hobbies that we love thanks to the company Steve Jobs co-founded in his parent’s garage. I think this quote from President Barack Obama is so fitting:
There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.
I am thankful for Steve’s life and what he accomplished. But I also remember that he was still just a man, like all of us. We continue by seeking to live with intention, by loving those around us, pursuing our dreams, trusting our gut, and remembering that life is fragile.
Today will likely be my most memorable iPhone announcement. Because, more important than what was revealed in Cupertino, Anna and I found out we are having a boy: Shawn Junior (actually, no, that will not be his name). This afternoon, instead of refreshing liveblogs, Anna and I celebrated our soon-coming little dude by having a calm, classy lunch and talking about what potential names we wouldn’t mind shouting out the back door.
As I type this Anna and I are home, the iPhone announcement is concluded, and I’ve read through the live blog update of the announcement by This is My Next. Apple’s video of the event is also available, but I have not yet watched it in its entirety (though I did watch the first portion with Tim Cook).
No doubt you too have already heard about the iPhone 4S with its faster dual-core A5 chip, smarter antennae that gets speedier download speeds, a significantly improved camera, and Siri.
As I read through and watched portions of the announcement, these are the things that stood out to me:
Tim Cook stated that iPhone has 5% of the worldwide mobile phone market. He said:
I could have shown you a much larger number if I had just shown you smartphones. But that’s not how we look at it. We look at the entire market for handsets because we believe that over time that all handsets become smartphones. This market is 1.5 billion units annually. It’s an enormous opportunity for Apple.
It is not uncommon to list total iOS numbers when calculating Apple’s marketshare of the mobile platform. But Tim intentionally left out the total iOS marketshare numbers and simply gave Apple’s share of worldwide mobile phones.
I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but this statement and its slide stood out to me as one of the most strategic and purposeful slides of the event. Perhaps it’s a way of stating the fact that even though the iPhone is selling at an astronomical rate, it still has an enormous market to penetrate. Perhaps this slide was a banner to Wall Street and everyone else saying, we’re doing great and we are nowhere close to slowing down, nor are we running out of track“.
Sales of the iPhone 4 account for half of all iPhone sales since 2007.
Remember how iPhone sales would wean before a new iPhone announcement, but not this year? The iPhone has become a mass market consumer’s device, not just a nerd’s, and the 4 was the phone that was present when that happened.
The iPod classic was not even mentioned in the announcement, though it’s still for sale on Apple’s website.
The iPhone 4 at $99 is a total steal, and the free iPhone 3GS is a shocker.
The free iPhone 3GS is the next step in Apple’s fight for even more of the marketshare. It will be very interesting to see how these three iPhones perform against one another between now and the next year’s iPhone.
In light of above, does this mean that in 2012 the iPhone 4 will be the free iPhone and the iPhone 5 be the new one? And thus, in 2013 will we see an iPhone 5S?
Siri. It’s only available on the iPhone 4S, and only available in certain countries. In my link to the Siri website earlier, I wondered out loud if Siri’s exclusiveness to iPhone 4S is a sales ploy to entice more folks to get the 4S, or if Siri needs that A5 chip? Or if it’s something else?
Reader, Kyle Deas, wrote me with an interesting theory of why Siri is only available on iPhone 4S: Since Siri also needs an internet connection, it’s possible and likely that a good amount of Siri’s processing is being performed in the cloud on Apple servers. Therefore, limiting Siri to just the iPhone 4S could be a way of throttling initial usage while it is still in its beta stages.
If Kyle’s theory is correct then it means that Siri could potentially come to the iPhone 4, iPod touch, and iPad 2 via software updates. (Heck, maybe even the original iPad since it also sports the same A4 chip as the iPhone 4.)
And so, what if early next year when the iPad 3 ships, iOS 5.x also ships and brings with it Siri for all supported devices? And if so, that brings up another question: how will Siri and iCloud work together?