Does Apple Care About Mac?

The first computer I ever used was an IBM 286. It ran the DOS command line, and I was in awe of that thing. A couple years later, I used my first Mac SE, and ever since I was hooked — I loved Apple’s operating systems.

It’s been a wild year for Mac users lately. A new MacBook Pro had been imminent since spring. Meanwhile the Mac Pro and Mac Mini have languished for over 1,000 days and 760 days respectively. Mac users were ravenous for some new hardware — my 5 year old MacBook Air was in desperate need of an upgrade — and the lack of Mac news lately had created a fever-storm of anticipation.

A new MacBook Pro was eventually introduced in October, and was met with harsh criticism over ports and price — while simultaneously getting rave reviews and flying off the shelves. This is a familiar pattern. Remember the original MacBook Air? It started at $1,799!

But at that event came a new blow dealt to Mac users: Apple is no longer making displays. The beautiful 5K Apple displays we had been dreaming of for those surely coming-soon Mac Pros and the brand new MacBook Pros would in fact be an ugly, cheap-looking, plastic PC monitor.

Okay, fine. We’ll buy our displays from LG. What’s the big deal? Well, Apple displays were always beautifully designed and perfectly integrated with other Apple hardware. In a world filled with cheap and ugly plastic, Apple displays were sleek, elegant, minimal, and reliable. They felt premium. Even more importantly, they were covered with AppleCare warranties. They eliminated a third-party vendor when troubleshooting graphics and displays issues. And they perfectly matched the aesthetic of the Apple hardware they were connecting to. A sad option to lose.

A few weeks later, Sal Soghoian announced that he was leaving Apple because his position, Manager of Automation Technologies, was being eliminated. Uh oh. Does that mean development of AppleScript, Automator, and all of the other automation systems in macOS will stop? Craig Federighi says that isn’t the case.

Then, we found out that Apple is no longer going to be making routers. I’ve used an Apple Airport since they looked like flying saucers, and I love them. I remember when I first switched from a Cisco router. Constant reboots and random performance issues were a way of life, until I used my first Airport. I’ve used one ever since, and I’ve had to reboot them maybe once a year on average. Again, it also eliminated a very important third-party vendor when troubleshooting networking issues, they were covered with AppleCare, and matched Apple’s design aesthetic. Another sad day.

 

Tim Cook doesn’t care about the Mac. He doesn’t even use one – the Mac is dead.

 

That’s a loaded statement. It’s heavy. It’s depressing. But is it true? We can’t know what Tim Cook really thinks about the Mac. Every now and then he gets on stage and tells us how important the Mac is to Apple. And Apple has a great track record of telling the truth. I’m inclined to believe what they say (and almost always, they under promise and over deliver).

But words, even from the mouth of someone with a track record of honesty, are still just words. Actions are more important. And the recent events in the Mac world seem to indicate that trouble may be ahead. What does it all mean?

And… why do I care so much? I’ve built a life, career, and hobbies with Macs. I’ve invested thousands of hours learning professional applications to get powerful results from these computers. I’ve built a company selling business software on the Mac platform.

I’ve tried Windows. It’s better than it was. But it still isn’t good. The thought of the Mac slowly dying (and thereby the apps I love, and a market of customers to buy my software), means I will have to change everything. Everything over to Microsoft or Google. Two companies I do not like, for very strong reasons. If the Mac is dying, I’ll have to re-invest everything. Money for hardware, and time to get acclimated with something new and nowhere near as powerful or efficient. Not to mention my entire software development business.

That’s why this stuff keeps me up at night. And I don’t think I’m alone. The Mac has an extremely loyal (and vocal) fan base who have engrained their lives with Apple. Some can switch to something else much easier than others, but for many of us who’ve been on this ride since the ship was all but sunk, it’s going to be painful.

So then, what is going on, anyway? Is it just house-cleaning for the fiscal new year? Are things happening behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Could they be really great things for Mac Pros, Mac Minis, great new features and healthy automation functions in macOS? Of course these are all possible, likely even.

But here’s what worries me most. Tim Cook is an operations guy, and an exceptionally bright individual. Steve Jobs handpicked him for a reason. And right now, Apple’s income from the Mac, compared to iOS devices, looks like a rounding error. Even services revenue eclipsed Mac revenue in 2016. (Is that because the Mac isn’t as popular, or is it because people don’t want to buy out-dated hardware? That’s a very good question.)

So if the Mac is responsible for such little revenue for such a huge company, shouldn’t Tim, a smart operations guy, decide to focus on where income is growing and dominating? Absolutely. However, the Mac is so deeply entrenched in the history of Apple, with such a fiercely loyal fanbase, that doing so seems absurd. And I think Tim knows this. I have to believe that he knows this.

I’m typing this now on a new MacBook Pro 15″ with the new Touch Bar. Using this computer reassures me that Apple remains committed to the Mac, at least for now. This computer is beautiful in every way. The Touch Bar is well done, and supported in dozens of apps already. The integration is perfect, and it’s clear that Apple has been working on this for a long time.

I love the screen. I love the slim and dense design. I love the space grey finish. I love the loud, low distortion speakers. I even love the keyboard. It took about a day to get used to (and yes it’s louder and clickier than I expected, which is fine by me). It’s had a few small niggles, but overall I’m very happy with it.

A company doesn’t release a product like this if they don’t care about the product line. It would have been easy to add a retina display to a MacBook Air, bump the speed in the MacBook Pros a little, and call it a day. That would have made a lot of people happy. But that’s not what they did.

I still remain optimistic that Apple does care very much about the Mac. The lack of updates across the lineup is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for someone who’s been using Macs as a Pro User™ — software development, audio recording and engineering, video editing, graphic design — since Apple was doomed and everyone laughed at me when I told them, “Just wait. You’ll see!”

I’m still heavily invested in the Apple platform and ecosystem, and I have no desire to leave. It’s painful to see parts of the Mac ecosystem that I’ve loved for years get axed. But does Apple know something we don’t? Of course they do! Are wonderful new products coming to replace Apple displays and AirPort routers? I hope so. But even if not, I’d settle for a solid lineup of great Macs, as nice as this new MacBook Pro. That would go a long way towards restoring the faith for millions of other Mac users — ranging from casual consumers all the way up to professionals who require true workstation computers.

Hey Apple, I’ve got some homework for you.

 

These are the things I will be watching for very closely in 2017-2018 (in no particular order). If all or most of these things do not happen, then it may be time to actually worry about the longevity of a healthy Mac lineup.

  • Update the iMac
  • Update or replace the Mac Mini or Mac Pro, preferably both — or — provide a viable replacement
  • Release a desktop Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar
  • Release timely speed bump upgrades to all Mac products across the lineup
  • No more depressing news of a key Mac engineer or product being cut

If Apple can deliver on a few things in that list, I think it will really help reassure that the Mac really is important to Apple. Right now, we’re in a weird place where the future of the Mac feels uncertain. And for me personally, that’s a scary place to be. I am so insanely passionate about the Mac. I LOVE THESE COMPUTERS. Seeing them decline from true neglect would be heartbreaking. However, I don’t think we need to start thinking about abandoning ship.

Only time will tell, and I am patient. I understand it’s not always so black and white. I know Intel’s roadblocks are part of the problem. I know Apple’s product lineup is more complicated and numerous than it’s ever been before. (Is that a good thing? That’s another topic entirely.) But I’m begging you Apple — remember your core users, the ones that love you and your products, and have for a long time. Don’t forget your Mac users!

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Larger iPhones, Larger iPads, and the Future of “Mobile”

I held out for a long time. I was one of the rare few who thought the original iPhone’s screen was a perfect size. When they made it bigger (4″), I thought that was kind of nice, but would make holding it and using it with one hand more difficult. Then, I got one. And within a week the original iPhone felt small.

When the new iPhone 6 came out, my wife immediately went for the Plus. I stuck with the “smaller” 4.7″ screen. I didn’t like it at first. I dropped it on my face when laying down trying to read. I had to stretch uncomfortably to use it with one hand. I routinely used my nose to tap buttons that I couldn’t reach — which made my wife laugh, every time.

Then, I got used to it. It wasn’t too hard to reach the buttons. It wasn’t so bad to use a second hand some of the time. It didn’t create as much friction as I thought. It remained useable.

Last week, I got an iPhone 6s Plus. I loved the 6, but the main thing that created a less-than-perfect experience for me was the battery life. I found myself hurrying to the charger almost every day. Or even worse, getting a popup about 10% battery life, to have the phone completely shutoff and refuse to power on just a minute or two later, still claiming 8% battery life.

Side note — I remember being in awe at how long my iPhone 5 could remain on and functional at 1% battery life. I was on a phone call with my cousin, and we were discussing the new phone, and battery life, and we were joking about how my phone was going to die and hang up on us at any second. And we continued talking. And that phone call was almost an hour long. On 1% battery life. What happened? Now if my battery dips below 20% I begin panicking, watching the percentage tick down by the minute. This is not a good experience. (I’m curious to see if this remains a problem with the 6S Plus, but I haven’t been able to get down to 1% yet. First world problems…)

Every night my wife would go to bed and her 6 Plus would have anywhere from 10%-30% battery life remaining (and she is a pretty heavy user). I was jealous. So I decided that my next phone would be the 6s Plus, solely because of the battery life. I would learn to live with the almost comically large screen. And there’s been some growing pains (no pun intended) getting used to it. But now, already, my iPhone 6 feels small. I’ve gotten pretty used to the larger screen. And honestly, many tasks are much more enjoyable with the larger screen: reading, watching video, taking notes, typing on the on-screen keyboard, all feel noticeably better. And my battery life? It’s been pretty unbelievable. I not only don’t need to run for the charger every day, I routinely don’t plugin the phone at night. This morning I woke up and my phone still had 49%. That is incredibly freeing. A much better experience overall.

I’ve been clinging to the old model of Mac OS X being the “get-work-done” platform, and iOS being the “relax, read, watch, and otherwise consume” platform. But I find myself doing a lot more from my iPhone lately. Taking video courses, writing code, blog posts, email, and tweaking my websites. It eventually dawned on me that now, with an impressive 2-day battery life and larger screen, my iPhone 6s Plus can get some serious work done.

I’ve been using Apple products since the Mac SE. I’ve seen many iterations of hardware and software. I’m an uber geek. Old school. Power user. So I always figured OS X would remain the most important platform for getting real work done. But this is quickly changing. Every year, I see more and more interest from my customers about mobile. I see myself getting more and more serious work done from my iPhone or iPad. And after playing with the new Apple TV for a couple of weeks, I’m starting to see that Apple’s little A-series chips and iOS APIs can do amazing things. Powerful things.

The iPad Pro just went on sale. I immediately wanted to get one, but I have to justify the cost. I will be saving for awhile and hopefully getting one next month. My wife is an artist, so the pencil is immediately desirable, and it makes perfect sense why she would love having such a product. A digital canvas with a true sketching and drawing implement made by Apple themselves is a killer product for artists. But will I find myself using it more than I expect, as well?

I do a lot of things that are, as I write this, much easier to do (or only possible to do) with a Mac OS X computer. Things like:

  • Audio Recording and Mixing
  • Video Editing
  • Xcode (as long as iOS development requires a Mac, OS X can never completely go away)
  • Graphic Design

How long until the hardware in your iPhone or iPad can do all of those things? To be honest, I think we’re there already. If not now, soon. Very soon. How long before Apple makes Logic and Final Cut Pro for iPad? And on that note, where are Apple’s pro apps? There’s not one single app, one shining example of how to do a pro app on iPad right, from Apple themselves. That seems odd to me.

But it’s not all on Apple. When will Avid make Pro Tools for iPad? When will Photoshop in all its glory come to iPad (or, just as importantly, will Pixelmator, or another competitor’s iPad app be released that can do everything I need Photoshop for)? Those days are coming.

Here’s a great line from Stephen Hacket, writing on his blog about this:

I look at this iPad Pro, being updated via my Mac, imagining the horses that were used to deliver materials to Henry Ford’s factory.

The days of “mobile vs. desktop” are shifting, faster than I ever would have imagined. Mobile will soon no longer need a qualifier — an iPhone or iPad will be just as much a “computer” as my iMac 5K. Soon you’ll be able to do all of your work from whatever device you have in front of you. And when the iPhone and iPad can do all of the things I need it to do, with more battery life, and for cheaper than a new MacBook Pro or iMac, will I need one?

Technology is a constant seachange. Keeping up is hard. But it’s clear now that mobile is here to stay, and one day soon, iOS devices will be the most used computers in the world. Best to stay on the right side of that change. I am very much looking forward to witnessing the landscape of professional apps on iOS, and I fully intend to be a big part of that movement.

Ever onward.

Original iMac vs. iPhone 6S

Recently, Apple made a cool page comparing the original iMac to the new 5K iMac. The difference is, of course, stunning. We’ve come a long way since ’98.

I have fond memories of that iMac. Up until then I had been using a Performa 6320CD (120MHz! SNAPPY), preceded by the wonderful LC II. That iMac was so fast! The colors were so vibrant! Getting online was so easy!

I spent countless hours on that thing, messing with AppleScript, REALbasic and CodeWarrior (remember when you had to use third party development environments to make Mac software?), and playing Nanosaur. Even the graphing calculator was awesome. That computer was a joy to use, and it deserved every bit of success it garnered.

Fast-forward seventeen years, and I’m typing this on an iMac 5K (which I absolutely love). But the computer I use most frequently throughout the day, as so many others are finding, is the iPhone in my pocket. I thought it would be interesting to compare the original G3 iMac, the pinnacle of state-of-the-art in 1998, with the pocket computer so many of us cary around, frequently use, and take for granted every single day.

Weight

Weighing in at over 38 pounds, the iMac G3 was not portable in any way. However, at the time, I remember being impressed with how little it weighed, and how easy it was to move around, thanks to that handle.

vs.

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus weigh 4.55 ounces and 6.07 ounces respectively. To put that into perspective:

You could put around 100 iPhones 6S Plus into a box and it would just barely weight the same as one iMac. Or 130 iPhones 6S!

Display

The G3 iMac had a 15″ screen with a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768. That’s a little more than 85 pixels per inch.

vs.

The iPhone 6S has a 4.7″ screen with a resolution of 1334 x 750, and the iPhone 6S Plus has a 5.5″ screen with 1920 x 1080. They sport 326 and 401 pixels per inch respectively.

The iPhone packs way more pixel density (3.8 times and 4.75 times more), a much wider color gamut, and is far brighter.

CPU, Memory, Storage

The G3 iMac had a 233MHz G3 processor, 32MB of RAM standard (128MB officially supported), and 4GB storage standard (up to 128GB supported).

vs.

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus use Apple’s A9 SOC, which clocks in right around 1.85GHz. They come with 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage standard (up to 128GB).

The chart below shows the iMac’s maximum specs vs. the iPhone 6S maximum specs. It’s interesting to note that the max CPU and max RAM of the iMac vs. the iPhone show huge gains, while the maximum storage is actually identical: 128GB. This goes to show how important utilizing the cloud has become to offset some of the requirements of local storage.

Spec ChartApps & Utility

I have no way of knowing exactly how many applications existed for Mac OS System 8 and System 9, but suffice to say there are a ton more apps available on iOS now than System 8 and System 9 ever had. I mean a staggering amount more. The de-facto argument against Apple in the 90’s was “there’s no software available for Macintosh”. I remember, I was there. Developing software for Macintosh. And it was a small brotherhood.

So much more than just the number of apps, is the growing functionality of apps. Thanks to the evolution of the internet, I now use my computer (i.e. iPhone) to keep in touch with news, my friends and family, countless blogs, podcasts, other various online groups and social media, in a constantly-updating swirling mishmash of information, available at my fingertips, 24/7.

I used to sit down at the G3 iMac and think, “what can I play with today?” I would seek out interesting software, read Mac magazines for the latest tips and tricks, and do a lot utilitarian tasks. But if there was no new interesting app, nothing new to customize or tweak today, then the computer was shut down. Until next time. Now, reaching into my pocket is a habit. If I need to look something up, want to jot down a note, connect with someone, or just let myself be consumed by limitless streams of information, I have instant access to all of it and more. That is remarkable.

Putting It Together

Let’s take a minute to absorb this. Seventeen years ago, the iMac came out, starting at $1,299. It was gorgeous. Fast. Modern. Ready for the new internet age. And by all accounts, it was a phenomenal marriage of hardware and software. Today, the iPhone in your pocket is much cheaper and vastly superior in every way. What will we be comparing the iPhone to seventeen years from now? These are exciting times to be alive!

El Capitan Breaking Your Audio Unit Plugins? Try This Fix.

I had a pleasant surprise after updating to El Capitan [dripping sarcasm]. First, let’s get this out of the way:

If you are involved in audio engineering, recording, mixing/mastering, and rely on ANYTHING third party (i.e. not built-in to your DAW software), do not update your operating system or DAW software without first ensuring that your mission-critical plugins will still work!

That having been said, I’m a software developer. Not updating to the latest systems (even beta versions) really isn’t an option for me. So I took the plunge. Unfortunately, El Capitan’s Audio Unit validator tool is failing to validate a lot of different plugins. Here is an extensive list of compatibility issues with audio software and El Capitan. Take a close look to see if you rely on any of these.

One fix I’ve found that solves the problem for the plugins I use (Native Instruments plugins including Massive and Maschine, iZotope plugins, and Nektar) involves replacing the El Capitan “auvaltool” with one from Yosemite. Unfortunately, to do this, you need to disable the new System Integrity Protection feature of El Capitan (more info about SIP here).

Here are the full steps:

  1. Boot into recovery mode (hold Command+R immediately after the boot-up chime)
  2. Select Utilities > Terminal to open a Terminal window
  3. Type in csrutil disable and press return.
  4. Type reboot and press return.
  5. When your Mac reboots, select Go > Go To Folder in the Finder. Type in /usr/bin and click Go.
  6. Scroll down until you find the auvaltool file. Drag this to the trash, and then replace it with the Yosemite version (download link)

Now you can open your DAW and your plugins should verify and be available. Happy happy joy joy!

After you’ve resurrected your plugins from the dead, it is probably a good idea to re-enable System Integrity Protection. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Boot into recovery mode (hold Command+R immediately after the boot-up chime)
  2. Select Utilities > Terminal to open a Terminal window
  3. Type in csrutil enable and press return.
  4. Type reboot and press return.

TimeNet — timekeeping, invoicing and business management for Mac!

My day job is to create business apps for Mac OS X. This is a seriously overlooked market. Many creative professionals use Macs to get work done. Graphic designers, web developers, musicians and audio engineers, video editors, photographers, and many more all use Macs to create amazing things.

Small business owners using Macs to get work done need good tools to keep their business healthy. You need to track your time, expenses, mileage, taxes, and much more. You need to be able to quickly invoice your clients so that you can get paid for your work. You need to have reports available to analyze all of the aspects of your business, and see the big picture. Find patterns, predict shortfalls in cash flow, and see which areas of your business are the most profitable, and the most time consuming. All of these things are critical to maintaining a strong, healthy business. Unfortunately, there aren’t many tools available for Mac that let you do all of this. There are a few, but most of them are clunky, counter-intuitive, and counter-productive. Some have stopped developing their apps and stopped supporting their users. Some of have started charging monthly fees that really start to add up after awhile.

This is why I created TimeNet.

TimeNet 4

TimeNet is easy to use, flexible and powerful, and will dramatically increase your productivity and billable hours, while reducing the time you spend billing your clients and managing your business.You can learn more about TimeNet and download a free demo at the TimeNet website: http://www.applesource.biz/software/timenet

iOS 7 Weather App is Always Wrong

Has anyone else noticed that the iOS 7 weather app is always inaccurate regarding the temperature? Mine is off by over 20 degrees routinely.

I did some poking around online, and couldn’t find very much information on this. Maybe I’m the only one seeing this problem.

For example, right now it is 51 degrees and sunny outside (as reported by Dark Sky and my Nest thermostat), yet the stock Weather app says it’s foggy and 28. It seems like the weather is always a couple of hours behind.

I know Yahoo is being sourced for this weather, but couldn’t find any info on Yahoo’s website about weather. They just link to The Weather Channel and other weather websites.

I’ve found no way to manually refresh the weather in the stock Weather app. I really hope this gets fixed soon, either by Apple going with someone else to provide weather, or Yahoo getting this issue fixed. It is very annoying.

If anyone has any insight into this, let me know!

2 Weeks with iPhone 5s

Watching the iPhone evolve from the first version, released six years ago, I’ve seen the device mature and grow year after year. It was incredibly liberating to possess a device in your pocket that could connect you to your email, all of your friends, family and business contacts, allow you to browse the full web (except for Flash, of course), and interact with apps and content via a smooth, reliable touch screen. The 3.5″ screen felt massive compared to my Razr phone, and most other cell phones of that time.

Here we are six years later, and that device has become more powerful, thinner, lighter, and capable of accessing hundreds of thousands of available apps and games. The cell phone forever changed, and now the trend seems to be pointing towards larger and larger screens. 3.5″ feels archaic and cramped now.

My girlfriend and I have been using the iPhone 4S since October of 2011, when it was brand new. We have been on a steady 2 year upgrade schedule (mostly due to our carrier contracts). From iPhone, to iPhone 3GS, to iPhone 4S, and now the 5s. This has been nice, because even though we miss out on the brand new form factor and “newness” of the redesigns (iPhone 4, iPhone 5), we get the “S” models, which include not only that new design, but usually that x-factor bonus feature or features — “blazing speed” on the 3GS, Siri on the 4S, Touch ID, 64 bit A7, M7 on the 5S. Typically, camera improvements are more profound on “S” models, and taking quality pictures is a huge priority for both of us as well.

After 2 years with the iPhone 4S, I was definitely ready for an upgrade. Let’s see what the 5s has to offer…

The 4 Inch Screen

I’ll be the first to admit, while the 3.5″ screen didn’t necessarily bother me, I did encounter times where a larger screen would have been nice. I’m a die hard believer in owning a phone that can be comfortably operated with one hand. This is my opinion based on my usage needs and of course others are entitled to their own.

I’m often multitasking, trying to do something on my phone while walking, holding coffee/the dog’s leash/any number of other random things, and not being able to use it with one hand would be a deal breaker.

Having used the 5s now for a couple of weeks, I am very much enjoying the 4″ screen. I think it’s a great compromise of having a larger screen while still being able to comfortably use the device. I think I could even go to 4.5″, but anything larger than that would be too much for me.

Weight and Performance

The first thing I noticed about the 5s, other than that extra half inch screen feels more significant than I thought it would, is how light it felt in my hand. It felt like a hollow store display that didn’t have any innards. But I can testify that this phone has plenty of guts! After having several mini heart attacks thinking I’d left my brand new phone at the store because it didn’t feel like it was in my pocket, I became used to the weight (or lack thereof) and began to focus on how fast this phone is.

Tasks that used to take ages (converting an iMovie project, mixing down a GarageBand project, downloading thousands of files through Dropbox, etc) all absolutely scream on this phone. I’m blown away by the performance. Loading web pages is practically instant. Loading apps is instant. Waiting for content to refresh (an eternally annoying plague on our iPhone 4Ss) seems to have all but been eliminated (no doubt thanks partly from the background app refresh features of iOS 7).

I remember on the iPad 1, when GarageBand first came out, I would routinely be interrupted by a dialog box that locked me out of the program and displayed an agonizingly slow “Optimizing” progress bar. See “Rocket in My Pocket” on this article for a reminder: http://arstechnica.com/apple/2011/11/garageband-for-iphone-8-track-studio-in-your-pocket/

To go from that experience to what the A7 processor delivers currently is bananas. This phone truly feels like a top of the line laptop from just a few short years ago. Think about that. It fits in your pocket. It goes all day on one charge. And it even makes phone calls! What sorcery is this?

On the Road (Maps, Siri, Performance, Battery Life)

My iPhone 5s was delivered a couple of days before a road trip I had scheduled, which was perfect timing as I was looking forward to taking it on the road with me to give it a full test. On the road it performed very well, allowing me to listen to my music and podcasts, as well as directing me with turn by turn directions via Siri (which worked extremely well aside from 1 or 2 minor hiccups). I was able to take lots of very high quality pictures, test the slow motion video recording (which is a lot of fun), and of course keep in touch with everything via phone calls, email and texting.

I love that the turn by turn now automatically goes into a night mode after sunset, making the screen far less jarring on your eyes when navigating at night. I also love how the notification sounds that come through while listening to music or on the phone are much shorter, and don’t turn the music down quite so low. This is a good balance between allowing you to continue listening to your music/podcasts, and knowing when a notification comes in.

While out of town I used turn by turn daily (always via Siri which was strikingly fast, within half a second of asking my request it was providing me with recognition of my request and getting the correct details). This is a tremendous improvement, as Siri on my 4S directly after updating to iOS 7.0 seemed like a huge step backwards, both in reliability and functionality.

All in all the iPhone 5s performed perfectly for me while out of town, and I was well pleased with it. The only thing I found that was a tad annoying was that the battery life wasn’t as good as I would have liked to see. Not every day, but several days, I had to plug it in during the day just to make it until bed time. Now, there are two caveats to that. First, the iPhone was brand new, and as such I was playing with it a lot, experiencing and enjoying all of the new features, and not wanting to put it down. This drained my battery much faster than “normal use”. Second, I was staying up very late, so “bed time” was typically 3am-4am, while still waking up around 8am-9am. So realistically, I was getting pretty good usage out of a single charge. The battery did drain just a little faster than I was comfortable with, and I hope that future iOS updates will work to improve the battery life more.

Touch ID (Fingerprint Scanner)

I was one of those people who never locked my phone with a passcode. My girlfriend didn’t, either. I work from home, and do minimal traveling, but even so the risk of losing our phones or having them stolen was a real one, and not having any sort of security on those devices always made me nervous. I just never liked having to type in a passcode every time I unlocked my phone, and even more so, I figure a 4 digit numeric passcode is so easy to bypass, that I wouldn’t really feel secure without the advanced passphrase option.

Now, with the 5s and Touch ID, I have enabled a strong passphrase to unlock my phone. This fourteen character passphrase would be a nightmare to type in every time I unlock my phone, but it does make the thing extremely secure. The idea of having this strong security combined with the convenience of not having to enter it in every time I unlock my phone sounded perfect, and in practice it has been very nice.

So far the scanner has worked very well for me, with a few exceptions. The first several days I had it, I would routinely be prompted to “Enter Passcode to Enable Touch ID”, which was very annoying (mostly because of my super strong 14 character passphrase). I had not restarted the phone, it just seemed to prompt for this randomly. A few other times, I would get the “Try Again” error several times in a row and this would kick me to a prompt to enter my passcode as well. However, the last week and a half or so, this has not happened. Maybe once or twice I’ve been promoted to enter my passcode, but all in all the Touch ID is working great for me. I will occasionally get the “Try Again” message but then removing my thumb and placing it back down quickly unlocks the phone properly.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend has been having more issues. It seems that several times a day, without fail, it is prompting her to enter her passcode. This has been very annoying for her, understandably so. We are going to try re-learning her fingerprints, as well as adding a couple other fingers (she only has her thumbs currently), so if the “Try Again” message happens, she has a backup option (such as her index finger). I am hoping this will improve the consistent issues she has been having with Touch ID. It could also be that her fingerprints aren’t as distinct as mine, or easily readable by the sensor. She is often painting or using glue for artistic and crafty activities, and it’s possible that glue or paint on her thumbs is throwing off the sensor, though it has struggled to unlock for her even at times when she did not have anything on her thumbs. We will be monitoring the issue and speaking with Apple if it continues.

Overall, I think the Touch ID is a fantastic feature, and works very well for me. If we can get it working as reliably on her phone, then it will clearly be a winner. Not having to type in a passcode (or longer passphrase) to unlock the phone or make a purchase from iTunes/App Store is a huge convenience factor. So much so that I already try to unlock our older phones and iPads by pressing my finger on the home button and waiting… and waiting… and oh yeah! No Touch ID! Whoops. I’m hoping Touch ID makes it to the iPads next year, once the supply constrain isn’t so severe.

iOS 7 and iCloud

When I first got the phone, restoring it from my previous backup was a breeze. It only took a few minutes, and -POOF- like magic, all of my old apps, content and settings appeared on the new device. What a wonderful experience. I still remember the old days when getting a new iPhone meant re-configuring everything from scratch. At the time it was fun and novel, and I enjoyed it, but now I truly appreciate the convenience of just hitting restore and having everything automatigically taken care of for me.

iOS 7 is a really huge update, and there have been countless debates about whether or not it is a good update. I am in the camp of thinking it is a great update, with a few niggles and of course the standard “1.0” issues. As a software developer, I can appreciate that, and will wait patiently for updates to fix things. I’ve posted my thoughts on this blog about iOS 7, so I won’t get into that. Suffice it to say that iOS 7 was clearly meant to run on the iPhone 5s, and it has been running very nicely on our new phones. With the two latest updates (we’re up to 7.0.3 now), I have seen marked improvements across the board in battery life, reliability & stability, and bringing back features and simplifying tasks.

One thing I immediately did after the 7.0.3 update came out, was go to Settings – General – Accessibility and turn on the Reduce Motion setting. All of the animations and physics effects were very cool for a short time, and then quickly became annoying simply because they were too slow. Turning these off has greatly improved the speed, and made my iPhone 5S feel much faster than it initially did. I am grateful for that option, thank you Apple.

Other issues with the iTunes Store, Siri, apps crashing etc seem to have been polished up nicely. More and more this is feeling like a robust, stable update and I am enjoying all of the thoughtful new features.

iCloud seems to be working okay, though Photo Stream seems unreliable. Many times I will snap a few pictures, go to my Mac to grab them from iPhoto, and they are simply not there. Pictures in my Photo Stream are several weeks old, even though I’ve taken plenty of pictures since then.

Another frustration that both my girlfriend and I have had, is the constant “Not Enough Storage to Complete iCloud Backup”. I’ve looked at both our phones and cannot figure out for the life of me why even though we both have 5GB of iCloud storage each, and only have about 1-2GB in the camera roll, that our “Next Backup” will take 5.5GB, 6GB, or even more. Besides pictures, the only thing being backed up is application data, system settings, and our text messages. Why the heck would that data be 3+GB?? This issue never happened to either of us on iOS 6. I will be doing some more research into this problem and I hope I can solve it soon. Not having nightly backups of our devices is troublesome, and this needs to be fixed!

The M7 Motion Coprocessor

While not an active feature that you can interact with regularly, I am really enjoying the functionality that the M7 provides. I’ve been using the Pedometer app, which has provided me with useful insight into my workouts and daily activity.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Pedometer, and the newly released Nike Move app, were able to pull motion data from before the apps were even installed. So I have movement data all the way back to the first day I got the phone. Very cool!

It seems pretty darn accurate, and has showed no negative impact on my battery life, even with using several apps that utilize the coprocessor. I think this is a great win for Apple, and I look forward to playing with more apps that take advantage of this feature as they become available.

Picking a Case

Even though covering the sleek, thin, lightweight iPhone with a case seems like heresy, I’ve always cased mine. I’ve seen (and experienced) too many iPhones with smashed screens after being dropped.

I also find the body of iPhones to be too slippery for my liking. They feel great initially, but the minute it slips out of your hand or slowly slides off your jeans when you set it on your leg, you may wish for a slightly grippier surface.

Finding a case that provides adequate protection (especially of the screen) while not defeating the slim and light design of the iPhone is hard. I’ve had good luck with the OtterBox Impact case (though all of their others are far too heavy, bulky and annoying to deal with). Unfortunately there isn’t an Impact case out for the iPhone 5s yet.

After searching for awhile, I was able to find a case that I thought was comparable. We ordered two Spigen cases hoping they would work well. I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived, and I find it much better than the Impact case. It is slim, light, has a lip on the front to protect the screen when dropped, provides just enough grip, and looks very handsome on the iPhone (both space grey and silver).

My only gripe with the case is that, like most iPhone cases, it provides limited access to the headphone port. It works fine for the included EarPods and other slim headphone cables, but bulkier cables (like those found on high end headphones and some car aux input cables) don’t fit. I’m going to see if I can file down the connector on my car aux cable, but if that doesn’t work I will replace the cable with a slim fit one. I’m tired of always having to deal with this issue.

Bottom Line

The build quality, weight, size and performance of this phone are all top of the line. Battery life has been improving as iOS 7 learns my usage patterns and I slowly get to a point where I don’t have to constantly unlock the phone and admire it. The 4″ screen seems like a great compromise of size and usability. Any larger and I would begin to wrestle with the size when using one-handed, which is a requirement for me.

I am constantly impressed by the design of iOS 7 and the speed of the A7 chip. The M7 provides great functionality that previously was unavailable or caused significant battery drain.

All in all, the iPhone 5s is a great upgrade, and if you’re coming from an iPhone 4 or 4S, it’s a no brainer. Aside from a few hiccups (mostly attributed to the 1.0 nature of the brand new iOS 7), this phone has performed admirably and I look forward to spending the next 2 years with it.