4 weeks with the iPhone X

After 4 weeks of using the iPhone X, I can safely say that it is far and away the best phone I have ever used, and I have had most of the iPhones released. It is a pleasure to hold, the screen is fantastic and battery life is much better than previous phones I’ve used. Android users may scoff at this, as they’ve had large OLED screens and wireless charging for a while, but for me the mix of software and hardware is a joy to use. Continue reading “4 weeks with the iPhone X”

A month with the iOS11 Public Beta

I am a self-professed geek (my Twitter name is @gatesheadgeek) and I wear that badge with some pride! For me, then, the recent trend for Apple to release their upcoming major software releases as a Public Beta to help test its bugs and foibles before releasing to the masses is great. I’m not one to wait for things (I was once caught by my father looking for my Christmas presents on the top shelf of his study bookcase for example) and so the Public Beta programme is aimed at people like me. After 4 weeks of use, I feel able to comment on its performance so far. Continue reading “A month with the iOS11 Public Beta”

In Praise of the iPad Mini

I am now on my second iPad Mini & I fear it may be my last. Not because I don’t like it – I love it – but because all the signs are that Apple will discontinue it as a product before long. For me it is an almost perfect size – I’m writing this article on my iPad Mini 4 without difficulty and can use it pretty much anywhere.

So why do I think Apple might not be selling iPad Minis for much longer? Well, it is now nearly 2 years since it was last updated and, in March 2017, the available model options were limited to just one storage size (128GB) & three colours. At the same time, Apple released a cheaper 9.7″ iPad which is actually cheaper than the iPad Mini – the larger model has a lower quality screen than the Mini 4, which was much improved from that in the Mini 2. The screen on the Mini 4, discontinued iPad Air/Air 2, and the iPad Pro models all have laminated screens which look & feel much better. The screen on my iPad Mini 2 was one of the annoying features – poor colour and less pleasant as a touchscreen compared to the fantastic Retina screen on my current device. So, the lowest price iPad is the 9.7″ model released in March at £339 and the iPad Mini 4 sells for £419. It’s possible that Apple were testing to see whether the Mini was just selling because it was the cheapest model, or just trying to maximse their profit but I think other signs point to it being ready for the chop. The tablet market has been in decline and the iPad Mini is probably the worst-selling of the iPad range, so why would they keep it?

At the June 2017 WWDC, Apple unusually launched hardware alongside their usual look at the new software development. This included updates to the iPad Pro models and – more interestingly – some major changes to the iOS software that are focused entirely on making iPads a better productivity tool and a viable replacement for a laptop. These changes include a file manager – something that has been missing since the iPads were first launched – and better multitasking tools. The demonstrations of these new features at WWDC were impressive but highlighted (to me) that Apple had focused on the larger models. I just don’t see that the multitasking features will be easy to use on the smaller iPad Mini screen.

It is of course possible that Apple will relaunch the Mini with thinner side bezels like the new 10.5″ iPad Pro in the same size as the 9.7″ models, but Apple are obsessed about the user experience and I fear that they will decide that this is compromised with iOS 11 on the Mini.  I really do hope I’m wrong. The Mini size is perfect for me – as it’s very easy to travel with, fits in a jacket pocket and can be used one handed without any trouble. The iPhone Plus is 2 inches smaller and is too big (again in my view) to carry around day to day.

So, in the unlikely event that Tim Cook or any of the hierarchy at Apple care, please can we give the iPad Mini a chance?

Anticipating Apple’s WWDC 2017

Every year in June, Apple holds its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) in California. The WWDC starts with a Keynote address on the Monday morning (6pm UK time) which is given by its CEO, Tim Cook. The Keynote usually previews the release of the company’s operating systems for Mobile (iOS) and computers (MacOS) as well as, latterly, WatchOS & TvOS for the Apple Watch & Apple TV respectively. Sometimes new hardware is also announced, although this now usually happens at special events held at other times of the year. The iPhone is generally launched in September, with other hardware often being announced in October or, sometimes, in March. If necessary, hardware teasers might be given as these allow developers to make a start on developing apps before launch to the public. It is possible that tomorrow will see new iPad Pro models released, along with updated Mac laptops. Rumours also abound that Apple will preview a new Siri Speaker to compete with Amazon & Google hardware.

The two main Apple operating systems for mobile devices & computers will be previewed on stage by Craig Federighi who is one of the more charismatic senior Apple executives (though that’s not saying much). Usually there will be demonstrations of features and, sometimes, another company will be allowed on stage to show off a game or app/program they have developed for the new software. There are usually lots of bad, in-jokes and the enthusiastic audience of software developers will generally whoop a lot when new features, big or small, are shown. To mere mortals it can be very cringe-worthy!

As 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone, speculation is high that this year’s iPhone will be a major change when announced in September. In support of this, there’s a chance that tomorrow’s announcements will herald some key changes in iOS that support the new hardware. Often though, changes that are specific to new models are not formally announced until the phone itself is revealed. Sometimes however, clues are found in the beta versions that are released during the summer.

Tomorrow will be Apple’s opportunity to set the scene for the year ahead & it will be interesting to see the direction they take. Notwithstanding the significance of 2017 in iPhone history, the expectation is that changes will be focused on the iPad, partly to address the challenge from Microsoft’s Surface devices and more generally to halt the decline in iPad sales and those of tablets in general.

Apple Conversion: A Journey Nearly Complete

Until the advent of the iPhone, I always considered Apple to be style over substance and indeed actively avoided getting an iPod (preferring instead to use a basic MP3 player from Creative or a Sony Ericsson phone for music on the go). In late 2007, I tried a friend’s iPhone and was most impressed.. 6 months later I had succumbed to buying the iPhone 3G. While I’m not going to say the iPhone has transformed my life, it certainly has enriched it in many ways. Using the Internet on the move has become far easier, listening to music on the go more enjoyable … oh yes and I make a phone call every now and again.

It wasn’t just the good design of the iPhone that attracted me, though compared to previous mobiles I have owned it is far an away the best designed, but the ease of use and seamless and intuitive user interface (I can’t believe I just typed user interface with a straight face).

Of course, in 2010, the iPhone 4 came out and I have to confess that I had become a little too interested in the various rumours about the device .. which had started months before it was announced. I don’t think I ever seriously considered buying the 3Gs as it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the 3G.

The iPhone 4 was, to my mind, a far better device than the 3G (despite the well-publicised problems with reception and grip etc). I had also made the mistake of upgrading my 3G to the iOS 4 operating system that slowed my old phone down to a crawl… I wonder how many other upgraded on this basis..

In early 2011 it became obvious that my 2.5 year old Sony Vaio laptop would not last much longer (its battery had been replaced but still only lasted 5 minutes) and it was far too heavy for taking with me unless I had a real need. I started looking at alternatives and, after encouragement from the already-converted, decided to take the plunge and buy an Apple computer… the rather svelte and attractive Apple MacBook Air 11.6″.

iPad 2

The iPad 2 was released in the US on 11th March 2011 with the UK release on 25th March. While many remain unconvinced about the need for a so-called “tablet” device, it is clear that Apple have found a market (some might say created one) and that while they are unlikely to have it to themselves for much longer, they currently completely dominate the tablet market.

A lot of comment has been made that the iPad2 does not have the technical specification of a laptop (or even a notebook) but I think this misses the point that, for many users, a tablet is all they need for many of their tasks. The technology pages of newspapers and blogs are filled with IT-savvy people sneering at the iPad (partly as a continuation of the Apple vs PC/Android debate) but they fail to see that while for them an iPad (or other tablet) has no useful function, that is not the case for a large proportion of people – as evidenced by the millions that have been sold. These haven’t all been sold to Apple fans either – the iPad (as with the iPhone previously) have clearly captured the imagination of users.

Many might continue to aver that Apple are all style over substance, but this fails to explain why people have returned time and time again to Apple devices once they have bought one. That suggests that Apple must be doing something right and that it’s not just down to clever marketing. If it was marketing, repeat sales would surely be far lower.

For myself, I am sorely tempted by an iPad but am considering other options as well. I would be unlikely to buy an Android tablet of any sort (simply because of my investment in iOS Apps) but am considering whether to replace my aging laptop with another (Apple or otherwise), an iPad or a netbook. All have their advantages and disadvantages, however I am certain that I need something light.

iPhone 4 and O2

After the new iPhone 4 was finally announced last week, Apple stated that the new model would be available for pre-order on 15th June in the UK. Well the 15th came and went with only Apple allowing pre-orders and running out of their stock within hours. Mobile operators have been slow in releasing information and are still not allowing pre-orders. Whether this is their choice or Apple trying to manage limited stocks is unclear, however O2 seem to have been toying with their customers more than most by releasing tariffs without handset prices – which isn’t much use. Maybe that’s the point, though it does seem to have backfired. Despite having a chance to reduce my costs from a corporate discount offer, I am seriously conisdering leaving O2 and am analysing and comparing the multitude of tariffs that are available to get the deal which is best value overall.

Despite Apple’s reputation as a company with great PR savvy, I do think they have misjudged this again – there are after all plenty of alternative handsets vying for attention now…

iPhone Apps

For many, the iPhone really took off in 2008 with the setting up of the Apps Store. I have bought/downloaded some apps which should be entered in the frivolous section, but some really do make a difference. The costs are usually small and so the risk is low.

Tube Deluxe is great when I am in London and gives me the low-down on which tube lines are running, a map of the system and a journey planner. As it works offline, it is useful when actually in the tunnels as well as on the ground.

National Rail is probably one of my most used apps. As I am already a railway geek, it panders to that side of me anyway but it really is a great tool to tell me the best train to get to my destination, whether there is any service disruption at a station I am travelling to/from and what trains I can get home. All that is missing is information about disruptions so that I can take a view on what travel decision to make.

Shazam is useful when out and about and I hear music I don’t recognise. A few seconds of listening and it tells me what the song is. I have used it a few times and it rarely fails me.

Beejive links to my MSN messenger and so allows me to chat to friends when not at my computer. Good for when I can’t get to sleep or when on the train etc

Wunder Radio fills a gap in the iPhone’s functionality by allowing you to listen to radio, albeit internet radio rather than via FM.