iOS 9 Out; Go Block Ads

iOS 9 is out today for your iPhones and iPads. It is fine, I’ve been running the public betas for a long time now, you could read Federico Viticci’s 23 page review for a second opinion. My favorite feature is that you can now block advertisements and tracking sites (they know what you do and decide to advertise socks to you if you visit a shopping site that sells socks, or just sell your browsing data) using any of a huge list of content blocker apps. I will be using Marco Arment’s Peace, which seems to have the best options and defaults. Unfortunately this will only work in Safari and the mini-browser you see within apps. It won’t work inside Facebook or other apps that have advertising within them, for example.

“Would you buy the new Apple devices?”

This is the other question I get asked after new products are announced at an Apple event. Here’s the answer.

iPhone 6s/6s Plus tl;dr Yes.
The new upgrades are actually more significant than usual for an “s” release. 3D Touch, twice the RAM, Live Photos, and more.   

3D Touch is extremely compelling to anyone who wants fast access to functions of their iPhone directly from the home screen or in apps. It’s a convenient set of shortcuts not too dissimilar to hotkey shortcuts on desktops.

Right now it is difficult to say without going hands-on if 3D touch is implemented well, it’s possible (but unlikely) that we’ll constantly be accidentally triggering these new gestures if the implementation is poor. However, everything I’ve heard so far indicates that the “peek” and “pop” gestures, light and harder presses that are different from the taps we do today, and their associated haptic feedback that inform your fingers when they have succeeded in their task, are all working great.

I hope we eventually get improvements to the software keyboard that include haptics through this 3D Touch feature, even the low-quality vibration some Android devices do on tapping a keyboard key is a useful form of haptic feedback and has been missing from the iPhone. One keyboard improvement we did get the ability to switch it into a touchpad mode to move the text cursor a bit easier than before.

There are improvements to the GPU and CPU. The graph is very impressive. But these upgrades have been a non-issue since the 5s. Games and apps are of course going to run great and load slightly quicker. It is crazy that we are at the point where performance improvements are mundane in mobile devices, but here we are and performance has been fine for years.

Even though there is a slightly smaller battery in the 6s, and both of the new iPhones are very slightly thicker than their predecessors due to (rumored) enhanced sturdiness in the case design, battery life will be consistent with the previous generation due to improvements in power consumption in iOS and the system on a chip.

RAM gets a big bump from 1GB to 2GB. Apple doesn’t like to talk about RAM, it is another boring spec that is almost irrelevant to most people buying these devices. 2GB is a huge increase.

Currently when you switch between apps on iOS it is fairly likely that you will come back to one to find that your place in a web browser is lost or an app just has to relaunch itself because it was killed by a timer or because of low memory conditions. More RAM means that will happen less often and although 2GB seems paltry compared to what is in our desktops and laptops it is quite a lot for today’s mobile devices.

The M7 and M8 coproessors on previous iPhones gave these devices the ability to track the number of steps taken in a day and other sensor data with minimal impact on the device while it is otherwise occupied or asleep. An upgrade to the M9 coprocessor enables it to have an (optional) always-on “Hey Siri” functionality for accepting voice commands. Previously this was only available while the iPhone was plugged-in to charge. With iOS 9 the new iPhones will also be able to train on your specific voice for the “Hey Siri” command.

Photography is one of the most important functions of a smartphone today with the rise of Instagram and the truism that the best camera is the one you have with you, your phone needs to have a good quality camera sensor behind lenses. It seems like most people don’t consider the quality Smartphone camera quality and functionality is constantly undervalued . People seem to value cheapness over quality or do not even consider the camera as a feature to be evaluated when picking out a phone.

The megapickle improvements to the camera are surprising and good if it was truly done without sacrificing picture quality. I know that seems like an impossibility. How could the specification of the jump from 8-12 megapickles lower image quality? Easy. Look at any cheap point and shoot camera. They’ve been increasing the megapickles without increasing the physical size of the actual tiny little sensor in the camera and the photos that come out of them are awful. The smaller the sensor the less surface area there is to catch light. The less light the lower the image quality. The higher megapickles must be accompanied by a larger sensor. This is why the iPhone camera has been 8 megapickles for so long. It is really very difficult to stuff a good camera sensor into a compact form factor like a smartphone without either compromising on the quality of the sensor or on the design of the device by stuffing a giant bulging lump of lens and sensor on the back of the device and even then it still won’t guarantee pictures of a higher quality. Apple barely gets away with the tiny extra bulge on the back of the 6 and 6s and that did not go away with this revision.

The front-facing camera also gets a huge bump from 1.1 megapickles to 5 megapickles. Selfies are going to look much better with that and the live photo feature that (optionally) records a few seconds of video and audio around every photo looks compelling but is difficult to judge without seeing how people use it in person. With TimeDoctor Junior on the way I’m very interested in this feature as an intermediary step between regular photos and going through the trouble of recording and editing a full video. However, there are also privacy implications that people may not understand at first with Live Photos. What happens when you take out the camera, pan away from something embarrassing or private that you don’t want recorded and take a photo? You might accidentally share more than you thought.

I still want to see test photos from the new iPhones taken by people who don’t have perfect lighting conditions (all Apple photos demonstrated at the event on Wednesday were, of course, hand picked photos taken in optimal conditions.) But it is still true that no other smartphone manufacturer is as focused on camera quality as Apple, and that also shows in the other spec bump to 4K video. Good luck recording any of that on a 16GB device. Even with improvements to the OS which in iOS 9 requires less storage at upgrade time, app thinning to make download sizes smaller, and TK app content segregation that 16GB capacity option still needs to go away. It is insulting to Apple’s customers and an embarrassment to Apple that has stuck around like a nail sticking out of playground equipment waiting for anyone who doesn’t know better to come along and step on it.

There is no new 4 inch device this year, the 5c is gone from the lineup, the 6 and 6s are 4.7 inches, and the 6s Plus is still a whopping 5.5 inches. Optical image stabilization remains an exclusive to the 6s Plus and 6 Plus. People want bigger devices, I wrote the majority of this article on a 6+, and it will be interesting to see how long the 5s sticks around in the smaller and free-on-contract slot but I know that some people will miss small phones.

Touch ID is supposed to be improved and faster on the new iPhones, it’s a great feature for security that I miss when I go back to the iPad Mini 2 and I don’t know how it can get any better than it already is.

The wireless radios are improved in the 6s and 6s Plus, supposedly this means that we’ll get better signal indoors using LTE Advanced, a new upgrade to our regular LTE service. My understanding is that T-Mobile will be the only carrier to support this standard at the launch of the new iPhones.

Overall, these are great upgrades and I would gladly recommend either of them to anyone who is still on a 5s or older device. Although the upgrades are very significant for an s-year upgrade I’ve got the 6 and will be staying put until at least the iPhone 7 unless this site starts getting Daring Fireball levels of traffic and success overnight. Anyone who is still using subsidy phone discounts is getting screwed by their carrier and should very much consider paying for the device outright if possible or going to one of the new installment plans offered via Apple (which include Applecare+) or their carrier (which don’t, but are cheaper.) Just don’t buy the 16GB model, there is no excusing why it stuck around again this year.

The new iPads tl;dr Maybe
The iPad Air 2 did not get a sequel. Apple might phase out the Air’s 10 inch form factor in favor of the iPad Mini for regular users, which did receive an update to get the iPad Air 2 guts. The iPad Pro is extremely compelling for people who want to make things, but might be lacking pro-level apps at launch.

This will eventually leave just the mini’s small form factor for reading, watching TV, games and taking notes. The iPad Pro will be the device for anyone who wants to attach a keyboard for writing, or drawing and other kinds of document markup with the new stylus, or reading large format files like comics newspaper, magazines, and reference books that benefit from the enormous screen. More custom pro-level apps will become available for this iPad, but as a first-generation device there isn’t much available for it yet.

In the past I have toyed with the iPad as a device for editing and managing photos but it hasn’t handled RAW files well and the limited capacity for photo storage has also been an issue. iCloud photo sharing is fine for JPEGs but I’m doing all of my real work in Lightroom still. Professional photographers won’t be doing much with this besides maybe showing off their portfolio of finished JPEGs.

There was an accidental leak from Adobe on their website that indicated this new iPad Pro is getting an upgrade to 4 GB of RAM, this is a huge increase. That RAM is essential in order for the iPad Pro to be the multitasking powerhouse with big creative apps.

It’s interesting that 3D Touch did not come to the iPad Pro. I don’t know why this pro device was held back from the 3D Touch features when they would be so useful for iPad Pro. Similarly, the stylus could be just as useful on the Mini or Air. I would expect that functionality to eventually trickle-down to those devices like when Touch ID came up to the iPad from the iPhone.

The new Apple Pencil stylus and Smart Keyboard keyboard cover look great for writers and artists but I don’t think that it makes sense to buy the first generation of this iPad Pro if you’re not a writer who hates laptops or an artist who is using the iPad and Apple Pencil as a secondary device with something like Astropad to turn the iPad into a Mac version of the Cintiq. There just aren’t that many compelling use-cases for regular people with this device yet. I’m glad Apple is making it, I believe that iOS will be the future of computing as it continues to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop with devices like this, but this device really isn’t for many people yet. I would personally get the iPad Pro if I had the opportunity, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else today. Even developers are left out as you can’t code on the iPad Pro in Xcode. However, The iPad Mini 4 is a great choice for anyone who wants to upgrade from a previous generation or get their first iPad.

The New Apple TV tl;dr Yes
Apps are the future of streaming television, and although I’ve been happy with the current line-up of Apple TV channels they aren’t really apps and there is no app store for them to be distributed. It’s been years since we saw a real update to the Apple TV and tvOS with an app store, universal search, and a new remote is just is just what the doctor called for.

Even if Apple didn’t work with anyone else to add support for it, the new search that lets you check if a program is available through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, and other services with one search instead of several is already great today.

About the only thing that doesn’t make sense with the new Apple TVs are why we need different capacities for a device that streams video from the internet instead of downloading and supposedly won’t let apps store more than 200MB of data at a time.

Although it will require developers to work on a new control scheme to support the Siri Remote’s swipe-able case, many already do that for other platforms and third-party controllers. Being able to talk to your TV is going to be cool if it works well, and even if it doesn’t we’ll still have a better device with more control over it through this remote compared to the traditional four-way directional pad and select button device that spends most of its time lost between my couch cushions.

Games will be fun on the New Apple TV, developers will work around the storage limitations, and I believe this will be a fantastic device after all is said and done. I wouldn’t hesitate it to recommend to anyone who is thinking about getting rid of cable television or is already getting their television a-la-carte through services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. I just wish I could run older emulators on it without having to jailbreak it.

Apple Watch tl;dr No

The only change to the Apple Watch at this event were new colors and bands. Wait for next year.

“What Happened in the Apple Event Today?”

Get Psyched

That’s a question I get asked, here’s the answer:

  • Apple Watch OS 2 got a release date, September 16th. That’s the one with the native apps instead of the apps running on the iPhone and displaying on the Apple Watch.
  • There are two new colors of Apple Watch, gold and rose gold.
  • The big iPad is real, it’s called iPad Pro, 12.9 inch screen, 2732×2048 resolution. 5.6 million pickles. New system-on-a-chip, A9X. 10 hours of battery life and Apple usually underestimates that figure. I can’t wait to draw and read comics on this thing. Better sound quality with four speakers, more volume. Weighs a little more than the original iPad despite being several inches larger across the screen. Silver, Gold, Space Grey. Price starts at $800. 32GB base model, thank goodness. Ships in November. $950 for the 128GB model. $1080 for 128GB with a cellular data radio built-in.
  • Keyboard cover for iPad Pro, looks a lot like the Surface’s. New connector for it, three pins on the side of the iPad Pro. $170. Ships in November. No mouse/trackpad input.
  • Apple Pencil, it’s the stylus. I really can’t wait to draw with this. Funny, I already have a stylus called the Pencil. Using the new stylus causes the iPad to go into some kind of faster-update mode. It has a lightning connector so that you can charge it in the iPad Pro. You can annotate documents directly in Mail with this. They even have a Microsoft employee on stage telling us how well it works in their Office programs. An Adobe employee came up to tell us how well it’ll work in their Photoshop programs. People are going to quote Jobs on the stylus, this won’t be the first time Apple has walked back a prior statement because they’ve finally figured out how to do a feature justice. $100. Ships in November.
  • iPad Mini 4, $399. iPad Air 2 guts. No new hardware to replace the iPad Air 2.
  • New Apple TV. Uses Siri for interaction as well as a new swipeable Siri remote. System-wide search across iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime and more apps supporting it later on. Mark Gurman is right again. New screensavers with high-definition video of famous places, they actually look pretty great. Another detail that most of the bargain-basement TV sticks and boxes would ignore. Really smart search keywording with Siri, “What did she say?” skips back 15 seconds.
    “Show me that episode of Modern Family with Edward Norton.” does what you would expect.
    “Who stars in this?” displays the actors with icons.
    Other queries you’d expect like ones about weather with custom views that you can swipe up on the new remote and will pause whatever video is playing behind them.
  • New OS for the Apple TV, tvOS. Looks like this was really meant to be announced at WWDC earlier this year.
  • Games are coming to the Apple TV. Console games like Disney Infinity in addition to your mobile games like Crossy Road. Which now has multiplayer, other players use the iPhone or iPad. Harmonix folks come up to tell us about Beat Sports, a game for the Apple TV which has motion (wiimote-style) controls. Four players in this as well with other iOS devices. Third-party controllers will work, too.
  • Capitalism in its most traditional form of exchanging money for physical goods, Gilt is on the Apple TV so that you can shop at home. Where’s the knife show app?
  • MLB At Bat app has 60hz/FPS video, which they couldn’t do before, and the Mets are still the most terrible team in America next to the dispicable Yankees.
  • Apps are universal, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV. A8 system-on-a-chip. Siri remote is bluetooth. Controls your TV’s volume. Switches inputs via HDMI CEC. Lighting port on the remote for charging. 32GB Apple TV for $150. 64GB for $200. Death to 16GB! tvOS is available to developers today.
  • The old 1080p 3rd gen Apple TV is sticking around at $70.
  • New iPhone. 6s and 6s+. Rose gold option added to silver and space gray. A9 system-on-a-chip. New cases and docks available from Apple.
  • 3D Touch on the new iPhones is similar to Force Touch on the watch. Works on the home screen to show you shortcuts. Does all kinds of other cool things like letting you peek into an app to see some information with a gentle touch, or onto a link in a chat to look at a map without going to the maps app. Where’s my wireless 3D Touchpad for the Mac?
  • OS X El Capitan ships September 20th. This was hidden in a super-secret e-mail displayed on the big screen during the event.
  • You can go into the multi-tasking switcher from the side of the iPhone screen with 3D Touch instead of hitting the home button twice in quick succession.
  • Warhammer 40k: Warblade demo shows the improvements with the new A9 and 3D Touch. Framerate looks good.
  • Camera improvements in the 6s and 6s+. 12 megapickles on the back camera. 4k video recording. Panoramas are 63 megapickles. The front-facing Facetime camera is 5 megapickles and now uses the front-facing screen as a flash. That’s a pretty cool re-use of the stuff that was already there.
  • Live Photos. A 3D touch long-press changes your photos into short 1 or 2 second vine-style videos that capture just before and after your press. It’s the default now, but still toggle-able.
  • Up to 866 Mbps Wi-Fi in addition to LTE Advanced and other networking improvements.
  • New Android app helps you switch to the iPhone.
  • iPhone prices are the same. 5s is the new free phone on contract. 6 is $100 on contract. 16GB is sticking around on the iPhone 6s and 6s+ for a bit longer, boo.
  • New iPhone Upgrade program at Apple stores, unlocked phone, starts at $32/month for people who want to get away from subsidies.
  • iCloud storage prices are way, way, down and actually competitive with other storage services. 50GB for $1/month, 200GB for $3/month, 1TB for $10/month.
  • iOS 9 comes out on the 16th of September. New iPhones come out on September 25th. Pre-order goes up this saturday on the 12th.

Cmd-Number Shortcuts For Safari 9

Daniel Jalkut:

If you’re a Safari user and you’ve updated to the Safari 9 or OS X 10.11 beta, you may have noticed a minor change in the default keyboard shortcuts for the app.

In Safari 8 and earlier, keyboard shortcuts combining the Command key and a number, e.g. Cmd-1, Cmd-2, Cmd-3, would open the corresponding bookmark bar item. So if you arranged your most-frequently-visited sites in the first few bookmark bar slots, you could easily jump to those pages by muscle memory thanks to these shortcuts.

In Safari 9, these shortcuts now switch to any open tabs you have in a Safari window. This will come as a surprise to folks who have gotten used to e.g. using Cmd-1 to quickly jump to e.g. Google News, or Yahoo Stocks.

I was happy to read that Safari is finally going to let you swap tabs with the same hotkey shorts as every other browser. It’s been a frustration for years to swap tabs in a different way from every other browser.

Now Firefox just needs top to drop the cmd/control+shift+P shortcut for private browsing, because you might not want to accidentally print out whatever you’re attempting to privately browse.

Goodbye, Android

Rightfully scathing article from Vice’s Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

I’ve been antagonistic with Apple products ever since I was a teenager, when Apple used to try to shove its apps down my throat (cough iTunes cough) whenever I just wanted to watch a movie trailer on Quicktime. I never liked Apple’s walled garden and “we-control-everything” approach, and I particularly disliked Apple fanboys’ dumb “oh my god there’s a new iThing coming out” reverence and hysteria.

So when the original iPhone came out a few years ago, I swore in multiple heated discussions with friends and strangers that I’d never buy an iPhone. Since then, I’ve only owned Android phones. First a few HTC ones, now a Sony phone.

Well, I’m sick of it. And I’m ready to go to the dark side.

I love the Android users in the comments chiming in that rooting a device and installing a custom ROM is a reasonable thing to do for Android devices that receive no updates from their carriers and manufacturers.

The ability for devices to receive updates in a timely fashion is critical to having even the vaguest hint of security in our post-Snowden revelations world. Windows 10‘s silent update mechanism is a great step in that direction for end-user security. Google even does it for their Chrome browser. Everybody else needs to get on board with it.

Apple Music and Beats: 1

Apple’s streaming music subscription service, Apple Musicwas released last week in addition to the new streaming radio station Beats: 1 and other features in the new versions of Music on iOS and iTunes on Windows and Mac OS X.

I’ll admit that although I had tried Pandora and Spotify they’d never really stuck. Why not own my music and listen to the full albums I love instead of playlists? Why listen to ads alongside my favorite music?

The three month trial of Apple Music has made me a quick convert for now, at least. As well as the low price, $15 for six of my family members isn’t that much more than what I was paying for one Spotify subscription. The killer feature is that the music matching (previously available in iTunes Match) will let you bring in any music that isn’t available for streaming. No Beatles to stream? If it was in your iTunes music library before, it’s available through Apple Music. iTunes Match was the thing that finally let me stop syncing my iPhone to my laptop.

There’s something really strange about the new streaming  Beats: 1 radio station that launched alongside Apple Music. It’s good. 

Unlike most other internet radio stations, there are hosts. A revolutionary concept, I know, but it’s how they host that is so different. They don’t sound like pre-programmed chatter bots with dumbass names like Free Beer and Hotwings from radio planet twelve in the marketing galaxy.

The only part of Beats-1 that sounds pre-programmed are the rare advertising reads that are given by what sounds like a BBC presenter who usually says about five words before a track starts. Not between every track, so far it sounds like it’s once or twice an hour you might hear a few words. Way better than any of the terrestrial radio stations you might hear.

One particular program I heard on the launch night was enough to make Beats: 1 post-worthy. St. Vincent had put together a mixtape for an 11-year old named Piper (who won a contest) and what do you know, this is really good. Even St. Vincent’s banter with Piper is good. 

Earlier in the day there was still plenty of fine music to listen to. Some of which was new to me. The day-time (Pacific time) DJ’s has a more traditional radio jockey style, but almost no ads and it didn’t sound like it was ruined by the influence of the record industry. Awesome.

The ads that were there were voiced by a tonally inappropriate genericly British accented person which was a bit hilarious to hear him talking about some hotel chain for a half second with rap going on underneath.

The only downside to Beats: 1 is that the music was edited for radio with no explicit option when the old iTunes radio stations had an explicit language option. Beats: 1 is available to everyone who has iTunes on a Mac, on Windows, or on the iOS Music app, there’s no fee to listen to it.

Apple’s App Store Delisting Civil War Games

Tasos Lazarides:

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ll know of the huge debate in the U.S over the role of the Confederate flag in contemporary America. Many see it as a reminder of the many pre-Civil War injustices while others see it simply as a way to honor the soldiers who died for the Confederacy. Many large US companies, like Walmart and Amazon, have already banned the sale of any Confederate flag merchandise as a reaction to the recent events. Now, it appears that Apple has decided to join them by pulling many Civil War wargames from the App Store

All of the Wolfenstein games and their sequels had to be altered in order to be released in Germany due to laws in that country. It takes some of the fun out of virtually kicking Nazi ass in those games, but to be fair it does give game developers a chance to be more creative in the depiction of them.

It’s not difficult to see how an overreaction like this takes place after recent events and that overreaction could be corrected by removing any games that are truly hateful and offensive but Tasos’ article pulls an official quote from Apple that these American Civil War games won’t be allowed back in the App Store without removing or replacing the flags entirely. It just doesn’t make sense to pull games that contain those flags unless the games are white supremacist bullshit, which these American Civil War games aren’t.

Stores choosing to not sell literal confederate flags is reasonable. They can choose to sell or not sell anything they want. I’ll still be disappointed the next time I want to kick some confederate ass on my iPad during a long plane ride and these games either aren’t there or have been altered.

gfxCardStatus

gfxCardStatus is n open-source menu bar application that keeps track of which graphics card your dual-GPU (late 2008/2009 w/ 9400M/9600M GT, or 2010 i5/i7 w/ Intel HD/330M) MacBook Pro is using at any given time, and allows you to switch between them on demand.

via gfxCardStatus: menu bar gpu status monitor for os x / cody krieger – mobile, desktop & web developer.

Hook Champ Preview

Rocketcat Games has been running a pre-release adhoc beta of Hook Champ. It is an 8-bit style side-scroller with very simple touch controls.

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You’re an infamous adventurer that starts each mission by swapping out a fancy idol for a fake one, of course it never works and you’re left to run away with your treasure.

hcprev1

Not from a boulder, but from something that seems like a more extreme version of chain chomp from Mario’s games.

The gameplay is more like Sonic. You’ve gotta hook onto the ceiling and various other objects that stick out from the background without stopping or that fellow will eat you.

Make it through a level picking up lesser trophies along the way and you can buy some awesome new hats before heading out on your next adventure.

I’ve enjoyed it so far, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the video:

When it is released Hook Champ will have a 99¢ sale, down from the normal $3 price.