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.

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 — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

iOS 7 — The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’ve been using iOS 7 for a few weeks now. Everything is new and different, and that isn’t a bad thing. There is a lot to really like about this new version of iOS.

I’ve been using iOS 7 on an iPhone 4S and an iPad 3. My iPhone 5S is on its way, but won’t be delivered until next week.

For the first week or two, it was a honeymoon. I loved all of the new design interactions, the animations, the new features — especially iTunes Radio, improved Safari, improved Mail, Control Center, and even the new icons (though a few are less than perfect, but they don’t “bug” me like they do some people).

Having used it for awhile now, there are some things that have started to annoy me. We will get to those in a minute. First, let’s talk about what iOS 7 does well.

The Good

Clarity. For the most part, it is easier to get to your information. Case in point, Control Center, showing timers and alarms on the lock screen, smart mailboxes in Mail, beautiful typography that still impresses me every time I use my phone, and the Weather app, which is like looking out a window (it’s accurate and very fun). Time stamps in Messages was always missing, and while not a big deal most of the time, was critical to me at certain points. Not having access to this data in iOS 6 was very annoying at times.

The new years, collections and moments views in Photos are nice. It makes it fun and even a little easier/quicker to find the photo you’re looking for. I also like the new frosted look of folders, though I wish they showed more icons per page like in iOS 6 — especially on the iPad!

Depth. I enjoy how objects move and interact with each other while following the rules of physics and physical space. I like how things stack on top of each other, and zoom in and out as you move. This makes it easy to follow the path of where you’re going. I like the gaussian blur effects when you bring up panels that cover UI elements.

Safari, for the most part, is a vast improvement (with one caveat, which I’ll cover below). The interface is streamlined, and the ability to have more than 8 tabs is hugely liberating. Even the unified URL/search bar is nice. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, and I kept hitting a period when I tried to use the spacebar. I still do this, but it’s not as bad. My muscle memory is still training to help avoid this issue.

There’s a lot more to love about iOS 7, and many reviews have covered this already. Overall, there is a lot of good here, and I am really enjoying iOS 7. However, now we need to discuss some of the ugly issues I’ve ran into.

The Bad

Safari’s new unified URL and search bar no longer shows the full URL of the page you’re on. On top of that, it no longer shows the title of the page you’re viewing! This is a ridiculous misstep in my opinion. Maybe 80% of people won’t notice or care, but one, or preferably both, of these critical pieces of information need to be shown to the user.

There are numerous reasons for why this is, including security, convenience and clarity. I really hope it gets addressed soon. It’s a minor niggle, but one that truly bothers me every single time I’m using Safari.

There are some areas of the system that lack polish. Saving attachments from emails, for example. Some icons have no obvious symbolism, so the only way to figure out what they do is to tap them and see what happens, or consult the manual. This was never the case with iOS 6.

Sometimes, my lock screen controls for music, podcasts etc. just simply stop working. This has only happened once or twice, but when it does it is very annoying (and unsafe). Having to unlock the phone and switch to the app to simply pause or skip around is a major nuisance, especially when driving or walking.

Some animations are too slow. Especially going into and out of folders and the app icons cascading onto the home screen when the phone is unlocked (EVERY TIME!!). There is also a noticeable 1-2 second delay when hitting the Home button, before the phone actually goes home. This happens every single time. These animation durations need to be cut in half, and any delays between the button presses and the actions need to be completely removed. Even though the phone feels fast and smooth most of the time, these (intentionally) slow animations and delays make the phone feel much slower than it is, and definitely add up over time. Apple, please fix this!

The Ugly

Apps crash pretty frequently. No, not all the time. Not even once an hour, but on iOS 6 I guess I was spoiled by the stability. Even 1-2 crashes a day is unacceptable to me in a bulletproof product, as I’ve come to expect from Apple.

Mail has repeatedly crashed when trying to save attachments, but other times it works fine.

Siri is really bad. Sure, the new voices sound great. And that’s about it. On iOS 6 I could use it and it would function about 8/10 times. On iOS 7, Siri is abysmal. I’d say about 2/10 requests work. I either get an “I’m sorry, I can’t do that right now, try again later” error, or it just randomly puts up sports scores and/or lineups?? What the heck is that all about? It’s gotten so bad that I don’t even use Siri much anymore, which was a beloved and fairly reliable feature of iOS 6.

In the Music app, trying to find an album is much much harder now. Used to be you tapped Albums, selected the artist, and just saw a scrolling list of albums. Now, the album view also shows all of the tracks. So when you have 10+ albums by a single artist, you have to scroll and scroll and scroll just to find the album you want. Plus, the albums seem to be sorted by date released, or some other random metric. Not alphabetically. Even worse!

The text selection lasso has become less usable. It is very squirrelly, and positioning the cursor has become much more difficult than it was in iOS 6 (and it already wasn’t a joy to use in iOS 6).

The Calendar is ugly, and harder to use. Yes, scrolling from month to month is very nice. But I miss a dedicated list view. You can tap the magnifying glass to search and see events for the day. However, they are laid out on a vertical grid for time of day. This means as you’re switching between days, you have to scroll up and down A LOT just to see the events you have for that day. This scrolling is needless and annoying. The stark white background and red text is jarring. This whole app needs an overhaul. Visually, it needs to be less grating, and functionally, we need a better dedicated list view for the day’s events. I really hope this gets polished, and SOON.

Battery life has noticeably decreased since updating to iOS 7. This could have something to do with my 4S battery being 2 years old, but still I had noticeably better battery life with iOS 6.

Overall

I know iOS 7 is still essentially a 1.0 (1.0.2 to be exact) release, and these bugs will be ironed out. That is of little comfort for the frustrations I am experience right now. Overall, I am well pleased with the direction of iOS 7, and very excited for the future of iOS. There are some annoyances, and design decisions that don’t make perfect sense, but I am confident that over the next several months, these areas will become more polished.

David Pogue on the MagSafe 2 Adapter

David Pogue writes about the MagSafe 2 adapter:

The MagSafe 2 connector fails that balance test. Badly. The magnet is too weak. It’s so weak, it keeps falling out. It falls out if you brush it. It falls out if you tip the laptop slightly. It falls out if you look at it funny. It’s a huge, huge pain.

That weakness is compounded by a second problem: a return to the “T” design of older MagSafe connectors. In other words, this thing comes straight into the side of the laptop — the cable shoots out at 90 degrees — instead of hugging the side with the cord parallel, like the old “L” connectors. As a result, it protrudes a half inch beyond the left edge. You can’t rest the left side of the laptop on your thigh. It’s constantly getting bumped. And since the magnet has all the grip strength of an elderly gnat, guess what happens?

Gruber weighs in on the issue:

Can’t say I’ve noticed this with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, but I don’t move that around while charging. Maybe it’s more of a problem with Airs?

I can agree with Pogue on this one, the adapter is very annoying to use, especially when the laptop is on your lap. My leg knocks the adapter out about every 30 seconds. Maybe this indeed isn’t such an issue on the MBP-Retina, but I don’t have one to test the MagSafe 2 adapter on.

The MagSafe 2 adapter does work, I use it every day to plug in my Thunderbolt Cinema Display to the MacBook Air. It is only when you try to move the laptop around and use it on surfaces other than a desk that the issue becomes apparent. I wish Apple had thought this adapter idea out just a little more.