Sep 27, 2014

Random Thoughts on the iPhone 6

I've had my iPhone 6 for a little over a week now, which is just long enough to have some random thoughts on it. OK, they technically aren't "random" as I put some thought into them. If you're thinking about upgrading, mayb these will help you.

  1. Although I wouldn't want it to be any bigger, the iPhone 6's "bigness" has not been the problem I thought it would be. It fits my front pocket, even on a pair of jeans. Of course, I don't wear skinny jeans. If you wear skinny jeans,…well, just don't wear skinny jeans.
  2. The screen is actually more pleasurable to use at 4.7 inches.
  3. Touch ID is awesome. It seems small, being able to unlock your phone with your fingerprint, but until you do it, you won't truly appreciate it. It makes it a no-brainer to have the iPhone lock immediately when it goes to sleep or push the power button, making it much secure. Buying apps with Touch ID is also a joy over typing in your iTunes password. Touch ID will become even more of a benefit as apps use it in iOS 8.
  4. The step counter is a great replacement for a Fitbit or other fancy wearable pedometer. Also, the barometer in the iPhone 6 will measure your elevation, measured as flights of stairs climbed. It's surprising how motivating this is to keeping you moving more. I thought tracking your steps all day would quickly run the battery down, but that just hasn't been my experience. The M8 motion processor, the chip that handles measuring all this, seems to be very efficient with battery use.
  5. I've just taken a few pictures so far, but the photos are better than on my iPhone 5. Coupled with the iOS feature of allowing apps to give the user manual control over things like focus, exposure, and white balance, make it more powerful than many point-and-shoot cameras. By the way, if you want manual control over these things, I recommend using Camera+.
  6. Ok, this is not about the phone itself, but I like the leather case made by Apple. It gives you grip without making it hard to pull out of your pocket, doesn't add a lot of bulk, has a classy look to it, and seems to provide good protection. It's open on the bottom to allow you to dock the phone, something that will avoid a lot of frustration for you should you decide you want a clock radio or speaker you want to dock it in. And, it's leather, which means that as it scuff and scratches, it will still look good.
  7. This isn't out yet but I'm looking forward to Apple Pay. Fumbling through my wallet for my card to pay at Walgreens is going to be a thing of the past. I wasn't enthused about this feature initially because of security concerns. However, after hearing how Apple has implemented this, I realized it's actually more secure than carrying a credit card.

Apr 29, 2014

Take Pictures of Lightning with Your iPhone


Yes, it is possible to take a picture of lightning with your iPhone, without having to be the world's best guesser. In fact, there's an app that is designed for this very specific purpose. It's called iLightningCam and it makes taking pictures of lightning as simple as pointing your iPhone at the sky, assuming, of course, you're expecting lighning in the direction you're pointing it.

When you launch the app, it will walk you through a few steps to calibrate it for the time of day and the intensity of lightning that you're seeing. This helps it take a better picture. The app will also ask if you're planning on holding the iPhone in your hand or mounting it on a tripod. I usually choose to hold it in my hand and point it in the direction I've seen lightning. The picture above is one I took with iLightningCam on a recent stormy night. Not every photo came out this good but if you see a lot of lightning and can get several shots, you're likely to get a few nice ones.

The iLightningCam app is normally $1.99 but, as of this writing, is on sale for free. Grab it before the price goes up. Of course, don't go outside when the lightning is too close. No photo is worth getting electrocuted over.


Feb 13, 2014

Watch Whatever Olympic Event You Want on Your iPad or iPhone

With the time zone difference between the US and Soche, Russia, many people are sleeping or at work when most of the 2014 Olympic events are on. In prime time, NBC broadcasts replays of what they want you to see. But what if you want to watch snowboard cross live on your lunch hour or want to watch replays of curling instead of ice dancing? There's an app for that.

The NBC Sports Live Extra app is a universal app that allows you to watch both live events and replays of events, even curling. The video quality was good for me when I had a good internet connection. With the Retina iPads, you can get up to HD quality, depending on, of course, how much bandwidth is available to you. To watch most of the video, including the live action, you need to have an account with one of the listed TV providers and log in to that account in the app. The list of TV providers is huge, including much more than just the big boys, so there's a pretty good chance your TV provider is on the list.

If you are outside the United States, you are out of luck with this app. It only works in the US. If you are inside the US, you can watch pretty much anywhere you have your iOS device and a decent internet connection.


Nov 19, 2013

Be More Productive in Handling Email in iOS 7

Email is a very useful tool but when you have a lot of emails to deal with, dealing with it can be daunting. With iOS 7, however, some of the new features of the Mail app can help you be more productive in dealing with your inbox.

I recently found myself scrolling through my inbox hunting for that one unread email that the Mail app said that I had, scanning the list for that little blue dot. It was then that I sought a way to quickly find unread emails and found this article from Macworld. I had never noticed the edit Edit link above my list of Mailboxes but that link opens a world of email productivity.

When you click the Edit button, several new views appear that you can add below your Mailboxes, one of which shows all unread emails (Unread). Others that are useful are:

  • Flagged - This will show flagged emails. You flag an email with the flag icon on that email if you want to follow up on it later. For example, if you receive bill reminders vial email, this will help remind you to pay them and help you find the emails later.
  • Attachments - This is useful if you don't have a lot of space available with your email provider and need to delete some emails. Deleting emails with attachments will get you free space fastest.
  • All Sent - If you have multiple email addresses in your Mail app, this makes it faster and easier to see emails you sent no matter what address you sent them from. All Trash and All Drafts provide similar advantage.


Oct 15, 2013

Thoughts on iOS 7

It's been almost a month, at this writing, since iOS 7 became available. You may have upgraded but are still yet discovering all the new features. Some of you are late adopters and haven't upgraded yet. (You know who you are.)

I upgraded on the day iOS 7 was released to the general public. I debated waiting and letting the first round of bugs get fixed but the curiousity won out. I knew of the big features but wanted to try them out. I also wanted to discover all the little improvements that I knew would be there though I didn't know what they would be.

If you haven't upgraded or have upgraded and still haven't discovered everything new, here is my list of the most beneficial features:

  • Control Center - Pictured here, this is by far the best feature. The convenient access to wifi and bluetooth settings, the do-not-disturb feature, the brightness setting, the LED flashlight, the calculator app, and the camera are more beneficial than you can imagine. You'll find yourself opening the Control Center a lot.
  • "Unlimited" Folders - Folders can now hold a seemingly unlimited number of applications, whereas before iOS 7, you were limited to what could fit on a single screen (16 on an iPhone 5). The downside of this feature is that you can only see 9 apps on a screen, even on the iPad.
  • Training for Siri - Siri can now be trained to pronounce the names of your contact. I discovered this by accident when I asked Siri to text someone whose name wasn't pronounced phonetically like it was spelled. Siri asked me how she should pronounce it and gave me several options.
  • Siri-read Emails - Yes, Siri can read your emails now.
  • Automatic App Updates - In the iTunes & App Store settings, you can turn on automatic updating of apps, meaning that your apps stay up-to-date without you having to do anything. You can still go into the App Store to see what was updated and read the release notes.
  • One Address & Search Bar in Safari - The same field is used for typing the web address (URL) in Safari that is used to do a search via Google (or Yahoo or Bing).

There are many more features than what I mentioned: iTunes Radio, dynamic wallpaper, AirDrop, camera filters, etc. These are just some that I've found the most helpful. What are your favorite features in iOS 7?

Sep 12, 2013

Watch More College Football on iOS

If your your favorite college team is playing and isn't shown on TV in your area, or if your team is on TV but you are away from home, you might think your only option is checking the score on your iPhone. However, if your carrier is one of the TV providers that supports WatchESPN, chances are good that you may be able to watch your game in the WatchESPN app for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. WatchESPN streams a multitude of full games you can't see on regular TV. (It also streams soccer matches, NASCAR races, baseball, basketball, etc., even sports like field hockey and cricket.)

If you're at home and want to watch your team on the big screen, the Apple TV now has the WatchESPN app. For a $100 one-time cost, if you went to a small school like I did, and want a chance to watch your team play more often, this is the way to go.



Sep 10, 2013

iPhone 5C or iPhone 5S?

A Choice to Make

Today Apple announced the new iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S at their special event. Whether you are looking to buy your first iPhone or are considering upgrading from an older iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, you now have to make a choice. Do you go with the less expensive (by $100) iPhone 5C or the more powerful iPhone 5S. I'm going to try to give you some guidance based on my understanding of the benefits of each.

iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C is pretty much the iPhone 5 in a plastic case. As an owner of an iPhone 5, that's a pretty good phone. It has some key advantages over the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S:

  • Larger screen - This is more advantageous than you think. The extra real estate gives you more apps on your primary home screen and, in general, makes a big difference in apps.
  • LTE - This is one of the biggest advantages. Web browsing, downloads, etc. are much faster.
  • Speed - The 5C has a faster processor than the 4S. If your have an iPhone 4, you will probably notice a significant difference in speed.

If you are planning on using your phone primarily for talking, texting, browsing the web, checking Facebook or Twitter, managing your calendar and to-do list, and playing occasional casual games, this is probably the right choice.

iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S has some advantages over the iPhone 5C if you need them.

  • Speed - This is not the speed I talked about above. This is serious speed, the kind that you would use for processing video or playing graphically-intense games.
  • Camera - Even with just 8 megapixels like the iPhone 5, the camera has some major improvements over the iPhone 5 that the iPhone 5C doesn't have, mostly to give you better quality photos in low light. The f/2.2 aperture, the larger pixels, and the True Tone flash. These amount to less noise and better color in low light.
  • Fingerprint sensor - The fingerprint sensor should make securing your iPhone much simpler and unlocking it much quicker (and possibly safer if you have to make an emergency call when driving). Also, when you decide to purchase a song, app, etc. on iTunes, you won't have to enter your iTunes password.

The iPhone 5S is the phone to get if you are a power user, a serious mobile game player, or want the advantages of the improved camera.

Are you looking to buy one of the new iPhones? If so, which one?