Category Archives: IOS

Upgrading & Obsolescence

Upgrading and Obsolescence

The mobile computer (aka smartphone) is a rapidly growing market and is one of the most competitive in the computing domain. More people have smartphones than any other type of computer and for many of them the smartphone is their only computer. Suppliers of smartphones and mobile computer software are driven by the market and profit motives to rapidly introduce new features each year to maintain or hopefully increase their competitive edge. The cycles of product development are also still driven by telecommunication carriers who sell cellphone handsets and service packages which typically now are based on 2 year contracts.

Only relatively recently has a new company with computer design origins revolutionized cellphone product and services which were previously completely monopolized by telecommunications carriers which decided what handsets were available and what upgrade policies if any were supported. Prior to the entry of the Apple iPhone, telecommunications carriers directed handset manufacturers to develop handsets exclusively for them and the policy for upgrades was that subscribers would become eligible for new phones when their contract was close to expiring. If you wanted new software in most cases the answer was buy a new cellphone.

Apple revolutionized the smartphone market when they introduced the iPhone touch screen multi-sensor multifunctional (phone, computer, camera, video-cam, GPS, health sensor, etc) device with new models and new operating systems every year and a rich set of apps at ridiculously low prices. Most consumers have enjoyed these new developments and cannot imagine the bad old days before these choices were available. Apple’s competitors like Samsung/Google, Blackberry, and windows phone have copied Apple’s innovations and struggled to compete. While Google introduces new versions of the Android operating system every year there are long delays before widespread use by consumers because software upgrades are usually associated with the purchase of a new phone. Apple iPhone operating system software (IOS) every year introduces new free features that are backward compatible with several years older iPhones within limitations of the older technology. In effect consumers benefit with software refreshes which allow them to get more value from their old phones. Eventually old phones can no longer be supported by the new software because to do so would hold back software innovation that is dependent on supporting capabilities of the hardware.

With this background what is a consumer to do about hardware/software upgrades and obsolescence? Let’s look at two bookends and a compromise in the middle.

1. I want the Latest and Greatest

The majority of the marketplace wants the newest and best hardware and software and are willing to pay for it. If you are in this category you will upgrade your phone every 2 years (when your contract renews) and upgrade your software every year to take advantage of the new software as soon as it is available. You also typically would be a regular purchaser of new apps.

2. My phone is Good Enough

If you are in this category you purchase a phone and are satisfied with the features so you want to keep it and have it supported for as long as possible. With an Apple iPhone you usually benefit from 2, 3, or even 4 software upgrades before your phone is no longer compatible with new software versions. Eventually your phone is obsolete but it needs to be kept in mind that it is just as functional as it was originally and actually has improved somewhat with new software. For later software upgrades where it might just barely be compatible you need to decide if the new features are worth the potential tradeoffs in performance. For a limited time when the new software is introduced Apple provides the option of going back to the previous version of software if that works better for you. One disadvantage of the phone becoming obsolete is that it won’t be supported forever as any remaining bugs in the old software are no longer actively being worked.

3. I am a late adopter but I don’t want my phone to be obsolete

There is a middle ground between the 2 bookends. If you are not that eager to have the newest features you have the option of being a late adopter. This involves buying a new phone every 3 or 4 years to keep it modern enough for it to be compatible with most of the new software. To keep costs down an option is to buy an older model phone which are usually heavily discounted but the tradeoff is that these models are already closer to obsolescence. The choice becomes whether to buy a new phone every 4 years or a 2 year old phone every 2 years, or a 1 year old phone every 3 years. A possible advantage of buying a new phone every 4 years is you have the latest and greatest every 4 years vs. having a 2 year old phone which is always lagging behind if new features matter to you at all. A 3 year cycle has the disadvantage of not aligning with cellphone carrier contract renewal intervals which could involve contract penalty fees.

Do you have a strategy for dealing with smartphone upgrades and obsolescence? Hopefully this article has clarified the context and options to choose from to get the benefits that are most important to you.

IOS 8 Overview

Frederico Viticci has done a wonderful job summarizing the new IOS 8 capabilities that have been announced yesterday. There is a lot to learn about and the potential with the new tools is exciting to think about. Developers will be busy this summer. This fall is going to be something to look forward to with the matching new devices being launched as well.

This is getting ridiculous. Critics are going to have to up their game with all the fixes and enhancements Apple is introducing with IOS 8. Apple has been busy and who knows what will be announced by other developers with all the new toolkits.

WWDC Dreams Come True

Ted Landau wrote a WWDC summary which almost perfectly expressed my thoughts. I too was impressed how Apple has addressed some longstanding issues of iCloud and app communication. They have also managed to bring together the best evolution of OSX and IOS and still have them retain their strengths.

One very significant item Ted left out was the evolution of photo management which is very hopeful even though iPhoto improvements announced for the Mac are delayed past the next initial release of OSX. Photo management is a difficult problem but Apple has recognized that partial photo streams and storage weren’t sufficient. Upgrading iCloud storage is a breakthrough as making photos accessible beyond the local device storage limitations is hugely important.

Although developer tools don’t provide the flashiest short term publicity they strengthen the platform in the long term by enabling third party developers to add value. In these latest OS releases Apple has provided many ground breaking capabilities for developers to do amazing things with extensibility, continuity, iCloud, and even a new language. I can’t wait to see what my favourite developers will do with these new capabilities.

IOS 8 Inter-Application Communication

With WWDC just around the corner in the first week of June it is exciting to anticipate the possibilities for IOS improvements not the least of which is improved inter application communication. This would go a long way in supporting capabilities which could really advance the possibilities for workflow improvements. 9to5Mac has an article that discusses the possibility for running two applications in landscape mode that could exchange information through drag and drop.

The following video is a suggested design for how this feature could work.

How Split screen multitasking might work in IOS 8

IOS 6 Transition to New Maps

By now some of you have already upgraded to IOS 6 which became available as a free upgrade on Wednesday September 19, 2012. One of the changes that is a bit controversial is that Google Maps has been replaced in the system with Apple’s own implementation which has some new features but isn’t as mature (e.g. map data not as accurate or complete). To retain the maps you are familiar with there is a way to bring Google maps as a (pseudo) app back on your IOS device. Don McAllister of screencastsonline fame has produced a YouTube video on how the Google web app can be added to the home screen to look like a regular IOS app. This tip is actually something you can do with any web app you want to access more easily.

MacStories has written articles, benefits, hands on with IOS6 maps, and it will get better, on Apple’s new mapping app that discuss both the new features and issues with replacing Google’s map information. At this time it is not public what specifically forced the replacement of Google Maps but it is likely part of the falling out of the two companies with IOS and Android competition and disagreements on the terms for renewing their collaboration on maps. It is clear that this change does cause some uncertainty and disruption regarding map functionality on IOS. It will take some time for Apple to build up trust in the new maps and make improvements as issues are uncovered. At least it is a mixed bag of new capabilities and items that have regressed (e.g. accuracy in some areas and transit information which Apple is deferring to third party suppliers).

It could be worse, for an example of a truly disastrous upgrade take a look at the feedback Evernote received when they upgraded the Skitch screen capture tool from version 1 to 2. In that case Evernote purchased Skitch and initiated changes to integrate it with the Evernote app that clearly did not consider existing user requirements.

IOS Text Editors

There is an incredibly rich selection of text editors for IOS. Federico Viticci does a review on his 4 IOS text editor favourites and also has done a review on Byword which only recently been introduced on IOS (IA Writer also deserves an honourable mention). I agree for the most part with Federico’s selections and this comes from experience of trying all of them (except WriteUp) plus many more.

My go to favourites include Writing Kit when doing long form research papers, Byword for general purpose writing with markdown formatting that eventually gets exported as HTML documents, and Simplenote for short notes in my personal text database. One of the great things are that these apps work on both iPad and iPhone (universal), sync with documents on my Macs and are less than $5 each to own. You can’t beat that as a deal if you are at all interested in beautiful mobile writing tools.

Why I Love Simplenote — Still

As surprising as it might sound when the richness and diversity of IOS apps are considered, one of the killer apps for me on my iPad and iPhone is Simplenote (and nvAlt on the Mac). Text notes that are always in sync between your iPad and computer (even Windows with the free Resophnotes application) are really powerful and should be enough to banish little scraps of paper that are prone to getting lost.

Simplenote Web Page

MacDrifter explains why the simplicity, power, and environment of compatible apps makes Simplenote worthy of Love.

Don’t get me wrong, Dropbox is fantastic for syncing all types of files between your computers and mobile devices and there are many apps that can use its capabilities (including Simplenote) but for simple to setup and use unlimited text syncing Simplenote is hard to beat. You can use both, if you want to get geeky, since one of the beauties of text editors is that they all can process with their own interface and features the common compatible format of text. More on that soon.

MakeTechEasier puts creating the ultimate multi-platform writing environment into historical context and provides step by step instructions for Simplenote. For Linux and web browser aficionados of Firefox (you know who you are), MakeTechEasier’s step 4 provides some tips for your environments.

Scrivener on IOS in 2012

Scrivener is an excellent application on Mac (and recently on Windows) for all sorts of long form writing.

Limited syncing with Simplenote and Index Card on iPad are supported but what many users have been craving is full synchronization with an IOS version of Scrivener. Dreams do come true as an IOS version of Scrivener is being targeted for delivery in 2012. It will be a universal app for iPad and iPhone and it will be very interesting what features are provided on the different sized screens with touch interface.

iPhone 4S with IOS5 and Siri Predicted 24 years ago

While we are waiting for IOS5 to be delivered today, it is amazing to think that todays latest and greatest device was predicted 24 years ago by Apple in their Knowledge Navigator concept video. In fact it even is another example of that old Apple joke about a miraculous new product which the customer disses because it is one month late. Does Siri work on the iPad2 as well?

Read more on Andy Baio’s blog.