Siri - the most accessible personal assistant?

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”
— The NewYork Times

Such a nice, heart warming story at the NewYork Times. This company (Apple) must be doing something right, huh! 

iOS App Review - Sleep Cycle

REM sleep typically occupies 20–25% of total sleep, about 90–120 minutes of a night’s sleep. The first REM sleep period occurs 90-120 min after sleep onset with the last REM period usually being the longest and normally occurs close to morning.During a night of sleep, one usually experiences about four or five periods of REM sleep; they are quite short at the beginning of the night and longer toward the end. Many animals and some people tend to wake, or experience a period of very light sleep, for a short time immediately after a bout of REM. The relative amount of REM sleep varies considerably with age.
— Wikipedia

I am a reasonable sleeper, both in terms of the quality and the quality of the sleep I get. They say that you need at least eight hours of sleep a day on average and I tend to believe it. But I am not an early or a late raiser as well (some time around 7 - 8 am). So just as much as the amount of sleep I get, the way I wake up is as important to me as I am not too much of a morning person. Before I had the Sleep Cycle App, I used to wake up around the same time using the standard alarm clock, fixed at a particular time. However there was a 50% probability for me as to how the day went, i.e., I was either energetic or groggy the whole day. In fact I could see a pattern of this occurring almost alternatively. So when I first heard about the Sleep Cycle App, I was curious to see how it would help me. 

I did some basic research on different stages of sleep and found a little bit more than the usual of not to drink coffee after 2 or 3pm, not to sleep at different times every day, not to stare at a bright screen (smartphone) too much in dark in bed just before going to sleep, etc. The Sleep Doctor (via the CNET's 404 show) was really helpful in this learning process. Sleep has another aspect to it and it is its quality. I found out about REM cycles and how you don't want to be woken up when you are in one of your REM cycle or else you would have a bad (groggy) day, etc. So far, all this science and has a good amount of backing to it. So in summary what I found was that you want to wake up when you are at the lightest (in terms of intensity) mode of sleep, for the best experience, for that day. And Sleep Cycle claims to do exactly that. How well it does what it claims, read more to find out. 

Before I begin my review, let me tell you that this is probably the most any reviewer out there would have used an App before reviewing it, I have a total of 561 nights logged in my Sleep Cycle App as of today!

Before I begin my review, let me tell you that this is probably the most any reviewer out there would have used an App before reviewing it, I have a total of 561 nights logged in my Sleep Cycle App as of today! So my experience here is quite exhaustive. You can set a time for the App to wake you up, but unlike other alarms, Sleep Cycle can wake you up any time before the time you set the alarm to, with a 30 minute window (this window can be adjusted in the settings), when it decides that you are at the lightest mode of your sleep. There is a dedicated section explaining how to place your iPhone at the right area around where you sleep. A couple of important points about the placement is to have the iPhone plugged in to the charger and keep it near your pillow, neither too close nor too far. The App should be able to sense your movements (using the iPhone's inbuilt sensors), as in how much you toss and turn in your sleep to determine which stage of the sleep cycle you are in, to work effectively. And from my experience following the placement instructions described in the App works the best. 

Photo Oct 23, 3 56 37 PM.png
Photo Oct 23, 3 56 17 PM.png

Settings options in the App include, things like modifying wake up phase time, sound of the alarm, turn off alarms only during weekends (but still monitor sleep - this one is my favorite option), adjusting snooze periods, etc. Analyzing sleep data is also simple and straightforward. As seen above, I have shown my worst and best night of sleep, to enhance the point. The best night of sleep has multiple peaks and valleys that are pretty stark in their height difference, meaning I went in and out of REM cycles multiple time (around 4) that night, that is good and I woke up (by the alarm) literally when I was already waking up (according to my brain). The worst night of sleep had only only REM cycle and I woke up (by the alarm) when I my brain was going into a deep sleep and that is bad. This panel also shows average stats of the sleep quality, like the average time in bed (mine is just under 8 hours!), shortest, longest, best and worst nights of sleep. 

Tilting the screen to a landscape mode, triggers a "graphics" mode with more detailed plots like sleep quality, sleep time, etc. over different periods of time. These plots, for me have been extremely useful in trying to understand my sleep. For example, during the winter time in the Bay area I tend to go to bed later than during Fall, I don't know why... Then things like my sleep quality has been going down lately, I go to bed late on a Friday or Saturday, I sleep the best on a Sunday, etc. These all are extremely useful to me and I can make sense of these trends, correlating them to my lifestyle. 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

Sleep Cycle integrates with Apple's Health App 

With the recent introduction of iOS 8, Sleep Cycle was quick to update its App to integrate with Apple's Health App. Once you go into the sources screen in the Health App, there will be an option for Sleep Cycle, where you can select how Sleep Cycle interacts with the Health App. Selections can be made on both Sleep Cycle writing data in to the Health App and reading form it. The integration in my experience has been seamless so far.

Another recent update to the App has been to include heart rate monitoring using the iPhone's camera. I am not sure about the accuracy of this measurement, particularly when it uses the camera(!) and I haven't had time to explore this feature, as it was introduced fairly recently. It is interesting to note that the App prompts me everyday after I wake up (right after I turn off the alarm) for a heart rate measurement and not any other time. 

Though a lot of what this App does, does not seem straightforward and is easy to dismiss as another gimmick, in my experience this App is no gimmick and that is the reason I have been using this App for almost two years now (remember the 561 nights of sleep data that I have logged in). This App does one thing and one very simple thing, based on how much you toss and turn (to determine the intensity of your sleep) using the iPhone's sensors, wakes you up when you are least asleep. I have found this App to be extremely useful. My sleep schedule has become more consistent and I now understand the way my lifestyle affects my sleep and vice versa. The App costs $0.99 in the App store and has a premium, in-App purchase, where for a dollar or two (per year), you get secure back up of your data (other than the iCloud back up that is inbuilt), web access of your sleep data, etc. If you are in the market for an Alarm App or you want to understand your sleeping pattern better and/or improve your sleep quality, this App is definitely worth a try and I recommend it highly. 

If you are in the market for an Alarm App or you want to understand your sleeping pattern better and/or improve your sleep quality, this App is definitely worth a try and I recommend it highly.

The new iPad reviews are in

AppleInsider and 9to5mac have a good round up of reviews all around from people who matter. And I could not help but notice one common trend in most of the reviews. While all reviewers are in praise of the iPads' hardware improvements like the blazing fast A8X chip and the Touch ID, all reviewers seem to yearning for one thing, a more functional iOS for the iPad and this is something I have been lamenting about for a while now. 

The new iPad Air 2 (Source: Apple.com)

The new iPad Air 2 (Source: Apple.com)

With all the negative commentary about the iPads and its continuing decline in sales, but positive backing from Tim Cook, I am sure that Apple has something planned, up its sleeve for the iPad's future. One thing about future proofing the hardware, say like the 2GB RAM in the new iPads, is that software features that improve "productivity" on the iPad, like better multitasking, for example, can be added, say in an iOS 8.2 release or somthing. Whether or not this will happen in the next weeks or months is anyone's guess. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the iPad needs to differentiate itself much more from the iPhone, particularly with the iPhone 6 Plus's introduction and this is the only way Apple can be bullish on the iPad. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the iPad needs to differentiate itself much more from the iPhone

Slow iOS 8 adoption - A good thing

In last week's Apple event, Tim Cook went about touting some usual slides on how iOS users update to the latest version much more often than Android or in other words, how iOS does not suffer fragmentation, like Android suffers. There was however one difference this year, though. Last year in less than a month of iOS 7's announcement, Apple's slides (from October 22nd 2013 special event) showed that the adoption rate was 64%. This year similarly in less than a month of iOS 8's announcement, Apple's slides showed that iOS 8 was installed only on 48% of the iOS devices out there. So iOS 8's adoption is a good 25% lower than iOS 7, in approximately the same time. This has got to be bad news and has been rightly pointed out by many bloggers. It is particularly bad for Apple, as it loves to parade these numbers in comparison to Android's totally fragmented adoption rates. There is a great deal of truth to this comparison and having majority of the users on the same release of the operating system in such a short time, while has been largely unheard of, thanks to Microsoft's terrible software policies, Apple has been changing that scene, thanks to its over the air updates, yearly upgrade cycle and most important of all, it making its OS upgrades, free! 

iOS 7's adoption was at around 64% as of October 22nd, 2013, in less than a month after its announcement (Source: Apple.com)

iOS 7's adoption was at around 64% as of October 22nd, 2013, in less than a month after its announcement (Source: Apple.com)

iOS 8's adoption is at around 48% as of October 26th, 2014, in less than a month after its announcement (Source: Apple.com)

iOS 8's adoption is at around 48% as of October 26th, 2014, in less than a month after its announcement (Source: Apple.com)

As I had posted sometime back on this issue, there might be a couple of reasons for this slower adoption rate of iOS 8. But in my opinion and experience, there are only two most important reasons for this; Apple's recent more than usual buggier software releases, like the iOS 8.0.1 and more importantly, lack of free space on older iPhone models, due to lower than acceptable memory that Apple decided to ship its base models of the iPhones with (and is still shipping the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus's base models with), i.e., 16GB. Since I have already ranted on this topic and its ramifications and probably reasons why Apple is doing this (here and here), I will skip them. But coming to the point of this post, I think the slower than usual adoption rate of iOS 8 is a good thing, a great thing, intact for us, the Apple customers because now Apple has something palpable to analyze on how its obsession with higher profit margins is affecting its primary goal as a company, one Steve Jobs was proud of, that is customer satisfaction. Now Apple knows that  the price it had to pay for increasing its profit margin from 37% to 38% this quarter (via AppleInsider) was a good 25% lower adoption rate of its latest iOS version, iOS 8. 

Now Apple knows that the price it had to pay for increasing its profit margin from 37% to 38% was a good 25% lower adoption rate of its latest iOS version.

Fewer iOS users on its latest iOS is bad for Apple developers as it demotivates and makes it tougher for them, as they have to develop keeping in mind two iOS versions. It is bad for Apple as it has to support more people on two different iOS versions, instead of one. It is bad for customers as they obviously miss all the new features on the latest iOS! So while this affects everyone in the ecosystem, it does improve or help maintain the higher than usual profit margins that Apple as a hardware company enjoys and is as some would say, obsessed with. So Apple is definitely watching this trend and let us hope that for all of us, the customers' sake, there will never be an iOS device that has only 16GB memory in it, at least not the latest generation of any iOS device! 

Let us hope that for all of us, the customers’ sake, there will never be an iOS device that has only 16GB memory in it, at least not the latest generation of any iOS device!

App Review - Pocket

There are Apps that do very few things on a select device, really well and there are Apps like Pocket, which does more than a few things, but again really well across multiple iOS devices. To me, Pocket is a link aggregator that aims to be a one stop, shop for all your links (or articles) for a later read. Before I dive into this App review, just to give some context into Pocket's usage, I am going to explain my use case for it a little bit more in detail, as an introduction. 

I was using Google Reader as my primary RSS reader for a while and then google decided to scrap its Reader, as it was not making them enough money. I ended up using Feedly as my RSS reader from then on, after trying out other competitors, of course. So my workflow with the RSS feeds goes like this. I have close to a 100(!) RSS feeds in my Feedly account and I save any article I find interesting or don't have enough time to read at that time, on Pocket, for later. Why don't I read that article on Feedly itself? Because the reading experience on Feedly is not that great. So till there comes an App that does both these, RSS feed management and a decent reading experience, I am going to stick to this dual App workflow.

Saving an article from the Feedly App on the iPhone can be as easy as a long press

Saving an article from the Feedly App on the iPhone can be as easy as a long press

iOS 8 has options to customize the sharing page on any App to include specific third party Apps. Shown here is the Safari's share option page.

iOS 8 has options to customize the sharing page on any App to include specific third party Apps. Shown here is the Safari's share option page.

Pocket is an App that is universal across all Apple platforms, iPhone, iPad and the Mac. Its integration with multiple third party Apps and services (like Feedly, Evernote, etc.) is also top notch. I generally save links to Pocket in two ways, one from the Feedly App (on an iPhone or iPad and a Mac) and two from Safari on any of the Apple devices. While saving an article on the Feedly App, can be configured to be as simple as a long press, a nifty browser extension for the Mac and the new iOS 8 feature enables a save to Pocket option on the share sheet from Safari on any iOS devices.  

Coming to the actual App itself on the iPhone, the home screen of Pocket presents a list of articles that you have saved in a list view with some graphics. The top portion of the view gets populated with some "featured" article (from your list) swipe view. Clicking on any of the articles presents a beautiful reading view that is so optimized for a pure reading experience, but does not screw up the graphics in the article in any way. Clicking on any links embedded in the article opens that link, again inside Pocket in a reading optimized view (unless the article is too complex for a "reading" view, then you can choose to open it with a web view or the view you would get if you open that link of Safari). The bottom of the reading pane has some options like going back to your list or archiving the article or saving it as a Favorite or bring up the share options or more options. The more options ("...") button brings up another menu with options like switching to the web view for the article, refreshing the link for changes, adding tags (for organizing your Pocket list), etc. 

You can search for keywords or tags inside Pocket, within all the articles in the list or even the archived ones. A sidebar presents a few more options to view images, videos, articles, tags, etc. There is a settings page for more generic or universal options like justify text, letting Pocket decide what view suits an article best for reading, etc. Other features of the iOS Pocket app include viewing curated sections of articles on, for example "Apple" or highlights of recently trending topics, etc. 

A nifty save to Pocket button can be installed on Safari for Mac (immediate left of the address bar)

A nifty save to Pocket button can be installed on Safari for Mac (immediate left of the address bar)

A popup confirms that the article has been saved to Pocket, from Safari

A popup confirms that the article has been saved to Pocket, from Safari

While Pocket's Mac App might not win any design awards, it is built right to the point. You can draw parallels between its Mac App and iOS App, in a broad sense. There is a running list panel on the left hand side with all the articles saved in Pocket that syncs seamlessly and in real time between all your other devices. A top menu bar has options like archiving, saving articles as favorites, deleting articles, increasing font sizes, sharing out from Pocket, adding tags to articles, etc. 

Again similar to the iOS App, the articles can be viewed in a reading optimized view or the original web view and Pocket's Mac App has options to share links via a variety of ways. Also Pocket has a safari version of this App that is very similar to its Mac App, for those who do not wish to install a separate App on their Macs, here.

Finally Pocket's iPad App is very similar to its iPhone App and that is a good thing. There are couple of features like viewing the list of articles in a tile or a list view in the iPad App that are different from its iPhone App. But overall the Pocket App experience is similar and fluid across all three Apple devices. 

Conventional wisdom says that you can only be a "Jack of all trades and master of nothing", but Pocket disproves that statement boldly. It is the only App that has seldom crashed in any of the Apple devices for me. It has almost always performed all the syncs in real time across all devices, reliably. It is another App that screams "no bull" and that is exactly the reason I highly recommend the App for everyone, power users and casual ones, alike. 

Conventional wisdom says that you can only be a ‘Jack of all trades and master of nothing’, but Pocket disproves that statement boldly.

The Pocket App is free to download on all platforms and similar to Overcast, it has a "freemium" model, that is done right. For a small monthly fees, Pocket offers some "pro" features like permanent storage of your links, more powerful search and tagging options. But the key to a successful "freemium" App in my opinion is to make the App completely usable in the free version and enhance it further with a paid model on top, and Pocket manages to pull this balance, off perfectly!

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iOS App Review - Overcast

Downcast was my default podcast player for a few years and though I had a few issues with it, I stuck with it as it seemed to be no worse than other App out there and I moreover had paid for it. So if nothing out there is better than it, I did not want to go through the laborious process of migrating my podcast library to another App. That was until Overcast, another App by one of the few notables in the Apple blogosphere, Marco Arment, was released a few months ago. Unlike Vesper, Arment was its sole developer. Having been a follower of his work and opinions and an avid listener of the famous Accidental Tech Podcast, I had to try this one to improve my otherwise mundane podcast experience. Oh by the way I tried Apple's Podcast App and it was not for me, a moderately advanced podcast listener, for various reasons. 

To begin with, Overcast has everything that you would expect from a smart modern podcast player. Though it initially looks like one apt for more advanced users, it is intuitively designed and in reality simple enough for anyone to use. Current podcasts (with unplayed episodes) and then all subscribed podcasts are shown in a table view in the first screen of the App in vivid text with a nice clipart for each podcast. But I am not a fan of the typography for some reason (I think though Arment had a designer help him with this App, the final design decisions were made by him, rather than the designer), but this is only a minor quibble. The bottom of this list of podcasts screen also shows a useful quick mini player for the current episode that is playing, where the episode can be played/paused or forwarded/rewinded. The top navigation bar has a few options like subscribing to new podcasts, the download pane, and the playlist creator. 

The subscribe to podcasts view also suggests popular podcasts listings grouped by genre, a search for podcasts, adding a podcast URL and to get recommendations from your Twitter followers. As a tech podcast listener, I have to say that the "Tech" genre podcast list in this App. had pretty much all the podcasts I listen to, so I was happy with that curation, at least. The create playlist pane is all what you would expect from other podcast Apps, with selecting different podcasts to make up a playlist with options like, select episodes to include or exclude, sort options, podcast priorities, etc. Frankly I have never used playlists, so I did not, exhaustively test this feature out. The downloads view shows all the episodes that are being downloaded and the items in this list disappear once their download is complete. There is a toggle to set download over cellular network at the bottom of this page, with a nifty warning! Though not a big deal, Arment shows us why he stands out as a developer, by including a bunch of other possible alternatives to his podcast App that we might be interested in. Somehow this one pane increases my respect for him and his App, I wonder why!  

Arment shows us why he stands out as a developer, by including a bunch of other possible alternatives to his podcast App that we might be interested in. Somehow this one pane increases my respect for him and his App, I wonder why!

But aside from the aforementioned characteristics of Overcast, what truly makes it stand out are its unique, podcast specific audio controls. The first one is called the Smart Speed and it essentially speeds up the podcast, but not by just playing the episodes faster, but by intelligently analyzing and eliminating unncessary voice breaks that occur normally with any podcast. The result is absolutely stunning. There is a good 20 - 30% decrease in podcast times, depending on who the speaker is and once you start using this effect, you don't even realize it exists unless, until you listen to it in parallel with the effect turned off. Different speakers have different pace of talking and that is what makes them unique in their own way. For example Jim (The Beard) Dalrymple on Amplified has a slow but steady pace with pauses in between sentances and Arment's Smart Speed works wonders on this podcast. But ATP's John Siracusa is a very fast speaker and Overcast's smart speed makes it a little hard to listen to that podcast as the steam becomes to fast. So bottom line is that this Smart Speed feature is truly unique to Overcast and it really works and is no gimmick.

Bottom line is that this Smart Speed feature is truly unique to Overcast and it really works and is no gimmick

The same goes to the Voice Boost feature as well. In many tech podcasts that feature more than one speaker not physically located in the same studio, I have found that the some speakers' voice is either not too clear or too low in volume compared to say, the host. Rene Ritchie's iMore Show is a nice example. Ritchie's podcast setup is gold and his voice is generally loud and clear, but his co-hosts sometimes don't enjoy the same setup quality and Voice Boost works really well to overcome such situations, where only that person's voice that is low in volume is boosted to output an uniform listening experience. Other than this there is also a manual speed of podcast playing control that works on top of these special podcast effects, quite well. 

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There are some downsides to this App as well. Some advanced features like swipe left or right to increase speed that Downcast has, are missing. But I did not miss them much at all. Then there is an obvious glaring feature that is missing, i.e. streaming podcasts. As of now you can only download episodes and listen to them. Arment has promised an update to get this working soon, though. In spite of being one of those people who actually missed and complained about the lack of this feature initially, I strangely have gotten over it already. The originally reason I liked streaming podcasts in the first place was the growing pain of my iPhone's paltry 16GB memory (don't even get me started on this topic...). But Overcast does an excellent job of deleting episodes once you are done listening to them and it also has a user setting that limits the number of unplayed episodes that it will retain, in the podcast specific setting panel. These two features together have ensured that the space optimization problem I had on my iPhone previously, was gone, eliminating my need for streaming podcasts, instead of downloading them. In fact I think I now prefer downloading the episodes, as it allows me to listen to podcasts without the trouble of spotty cellular reception that bothered me while I was streaming podcasts with Downcast (my Gym has terrible reception). 

In spite of being one of those people who actually missed and complained about the lack of this feature (streaming podcasts) initially, I strangely have gotten over it already

Overall Overcast another excellent iOS App that I highly recommend and Arment's reputation as an App developer is top notch from his older Apps like Instapaper, so you will have nothing to worry about. But even for the skeptics out there, Overcast is available to not just try, but use, un-crippled for free. Certain features like, download using cellular networks are offered as an in-App purchase for $4.99, that I highly recommend as well.  

iOS App Review - Vesper

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
— Steve Jobs

A search for "notes" on the App store for the iPhone, reveals a list of 7851 results! What makes Vesper stand out of this bunch? Simplicity. Vesper is a note taking App designed by well known Apple enthusiasts, most notable of whom is John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame. Anyone who follows Gruber's blog will have no qualms in terming his style as no-nonsense, honest and straightforward and this is true with Vesper as well. Right from the first App screen, Vesper screams "diving right to the point". 

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It has a bold, clear type face and with settings for different text sizes and two different text weights, it is user customizable. Creating a new note (using the "+" button on the top right of the screen) or tapping on an existing note, brings up the note view with a select few options. A header line for the note that is in bold, a subject section below and a tag section (where multiple tags can be added for the same note) complete the note view. The navigation bar on the top of the App has options to choose pictures to insert into the note from different sources (like the photo library, take a new picture with the iPhone's camera and a quick link to the latest picture that is in the cache). There is no save button or anything, in line with Apple's recent iCloud productivity Apps like Numbers or Pages, where everything is saved automatically, here when you hit ""All Notes". There is a simple share screen for emailing the note, texting it to someone or just copying it to the clipboard. 

Sliding the screen to the right on the main screen or tapping the "<" on the top left of the navigation bar, brings up a sidebar with options to choose from all notes tagged with a particular tag, all notes that have been archived, sync (using iCloud to sync across multiple iOS devices) and typography settings. From the list of "All Notes" or in the Archive or anyplace in the App with a list view, you can slide the notes to the left or right for more options like moving the note from the main screen to the Archive and vice-versa or for deleting a note permanently. 

How does the App (Vesper) perform? In one word, just as promised.

So enough with the App design and architecture already, how does the App perform? In one word, just as promised. Critics of this App claim it is over simplified, offering too small a feature set, but I say, compared to what? Evernote? Frankly, Evernote does too much (and they seem to have realized it themselves too). But more to the point here, Vesper promises little but delivers on every little detail. The App is simple, straightforward and performs reliably (the App has not quit or crashed on me even once in the last month of use). Your use case for a note taking App might be different, but I hate Apps that cram in feature after feature for the sake of checking another point on its imaginary list of customer demands. For me after a month of using this App, I don't have anything that this App is missing, but again I might not be a median iOS notes App user. Design, clarity and fore-thought ensure a strong foundation for anything, features are just like more floors that can be built later on top of that strong foundation. 

That’s a real balancing app, I think the core Evernote app is too complicated right now. I don’t think anyone understood design philosophy, especially mobile app design philosophy in the early days, we certainly didn’t.
— Evernote CEO

What are the downsides to this App? Nothing, well actually it again depends on what you are looking for. For example if you need sharing options with a dozen more services, like Evernote or Notability from Vesper? Then you will be disappointed. I on the other hand just use the copy option in Vesper and paste in another App or service. Bottom line is that if a developer keeps up his/her  promise on what the App can or can't do, he/she will be forgiven for "features" that are missing from the App. Vesper as an App reminds me of Apple and its philosophy in every minute detail from the finesse in design to the well kept promises! You can download Vesper on the App store for $2.99 and no, there is no in-App purchase so far and having been following John Gruber for a while on Daring Fireball, I don't think there will be any in the future as well. 

Vesper as an App reminds me of Apple and its philosophy in every minute detail from the finesse in design to the well kept promises!

A take on Samsung's profit decline

As usual, as expected, a very nice take on Samsung's profit decline in the recent quarter(s) by Ben Bajarin at TechPinions. Samsung struggling to sustain profitability was well expected and predicted by almost everyone following the technology industry (especially Apple and Samsung), who was smart enough, but there will always be someone out there for whom 1 + 1 = 3 and not 2! 

I want to highlight the lessons learned and the key takeaways all hardware providers, but specifically those who ship someone else’s software like Windows, Windows Phone, Android, etc., must learn from Samsung’s cautionary tale... Ultimately, Samsung’s challenges occurred due to a lack of sustainable differentiation...
Those who did not see Samsung’s problems coming had a weak understanding of the dynamics of integrated and modular systems within the technology industry... Apple is an integrated player... Apple’s iPhone stands out not just at a hardware level but at a software level.
— Ben Bajarin


Why is my 2012 iPad mini so slow running iOS 8?

UPDATE: Could this be another reason for slower than expected iOS 8 adaptation? (via MacRumors

The wonderful anti-aging MacBook

I bought my 15" MacBook Pro in 2007, when I was a student and loved it from day one till the last day I sold it for $600, after five years! I sold it because I bought another MacBook Pro, not because anything was wrong with my older MacBook Pro. I upgraded the RAM on my older MacBook Pro to 8GB from the 4GB. I had AppleCare for it and hence had the LCD screen and the hard drive replaced, when something went wrong and I updated to the latest Mac OS as when Apple released them (the latest Mac OS X that this 2007 MacBook Pro saw was Mac OS X Lion). All this while my MacBook Pro kept churning out impressive performance, day after day. Only when I finally got my new MacBook Pro in 2012 and when I used both of them side by side, did I notice how much faster the new one was. But if I hadn't done this side by side comparison, I am sure I could have hung on to my old MacBook Pro for a few more years, before I felt the need to upgrade to a newer MacBook. 

My 2007 MacBook Pro had no issues running Mac OS X Lion after five years of purchase (Source: Apple.com)

My 2007 MacBook Pro had no issues running Mac OS X Lion after five years of purchase (Source: Apple.com)

The iPad mini not aging too well

Fast forward to 2014 and when Apple released iOS 8 for its iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, I updated my 2012 iPad mini (with no Retina display) to iOS 8, at the same time I updated my iPhone 5S to iOS 8. The scenario turned out to be much different this time around. My iPad mini became almost unusable after iOS 8 installation, as it became so sluggish. The graphics on it, started stuttering, even simple scrolling on webpages happened in discrete steps, rather than than the smooth scrolling we have loved and gotten used to on all Apple devices. It was so bad that I was getting a headache (literally) using my iPad mini with iOS 8. I tried turning off animations on iOS 8 to see if that improved performance, but had no luck. I compared the performance on my less than a year old iPhone 5S and was actually surprised to find that even my iPhone 5S on iOS 8 felt slower than my wife's iPhone 5S on iOS 7, though much less so than my iPad mini. I had to look for the sluggishness on my iPhone 5S running iOS 8 to notice it, but on the iPad mini, I had to stop using it because it was so slow! Again to reemphasize, I was not expecting my two year old iPad mini to have comparable perforamcne to my less than a year old iPhone 5S or the latest iPhone 6, running iOS 8, but it should not be too sluggish for me to even barely use it! 

My 2012 iPad mini with no Retina Display became almost unusable after iOS 8 install (Source: Apple.com)

My 2012 iPad mini with no Retina Display became almost unusable after iOS 8 install (Source: Apple.com)

Only solution

So since I am going to upgrade to an iPhone 6 soon and I don't use my iPad mini for anything intensive, I was not going to upgrade my iPad mini to a newer model anytime soon (the October iPad refresh might change my mind, though). So I had to get my iPad mini back in usable condition somehow or the other. So I tried a clean install of iOS 8  deleting all my data on it (after backing up to iCloud of course). Without installing anything from my iCloud backup I tried using the iPad mini, that was now setup as a clean new device and I did notice a significant improvement in its performance with iOS 8. It is still not as fast as my iPhone 5S running iOS 8, but that is ok as the iPad mini is a weaker (technical capability wise) device than the iPhone 5S. The difference between it running iOS 7 and iOS 8 is very little now. But the price I paid for it? All my data! I did not want to restore my older iCloud backup on it again for the fear of making it sluggish. But since I did not have anything significant on my iPad mini that I needed, I am ok with installing a bunch of Apps again on it and using it as a fresh device. 

I don't expect my two year old iPad mini to have comparable perforamcne to my less than a year old iPhone 5S or the latest iPhone 6, running iOS 8, but it should not be too sluggish for me to even barely use it! (Source: Apple.com)

I don't expect my two year old iPad mini to have comparable perforamcne to my less than a year old iPhone 5S or the latest iPhone 6, running iOS 8, but it should not be too sluggish for me to even barely use it! (Source: Apple.com)

 

So what's wrong or is there even something wrong?

But if you read the first paragraph of this post, you can clearly make out the difference between Apple's MacBook Pro scenario and its iPad (or its "i" device) scenario. Apple's yearly refresh of iOS is hugely welcomed and coupled with its yearly hardware refresh of the "i" devices, Apple is leaping forward in terms of its performance in huge strides. But all these benefits seem to be only for the latest and the greatest "i" devices. Older "i" device models are being left out and sometimes in bad, unusable conditions. This issue has been brewing for sometime now and no Apple is not deliberately sabotaging your "i" device performance to force you to upgrade to its newer devices (I am not linking to that stupid article in my blog, nope). But there is an issue here that at least needs to put out there. While traditionally Microsoft with its "we welcome all computers of all ages to our new operating system" fared well for a while, with its extensive backward compatibility, it was at the cost of  a lot of things for its customers. Windows now is pretty much the same thing as Windows was more than ten years ago and while that is good for people with more than ten year old computers, it is horrible for people buying the latest hardware. So while Microsoft's lenient legacy policy stands at one end of this issue, does Apple's aggressive latest and the greatest policy deserve the other extreme end of this spectrum? 

If a five year old MacBook can run the latest and the greatest Mac OS, just fine, why can’t a two or a three year old “i” device run the latest and the greatest iOS, even barely?

A whole lot of questions

What else can Apple do? And why is the situation so different with its "i" devices than its computers? If a five year old MacBook can run the latest and the greatest Mac OS, just fine, why can't a two or a three year old "i" device run the latest and the greatest iOS, even barely? Is it because of the fact that the computer operating systems have evolved over many years to an extent that there are no major overhauls and that the smart devices are just a few years old and are still evolving significantly every year, hence older computers have much less trouble running recent OS upgrades? Is Apple's hardware "specs" not able to keep up with its software improvements? Is Apple's tight control on say profit margins limiting forward looking "stronger" specced "i" devices (for example is the so called paltry amount RAM on the iPhones making it unsuitable for more than a couple of years)? Should Apple dial down on "significant" leaps with every year iOS refresh and/or improve the hardware specs of its "i" devices to a higher degree to make them a little more future proof? 

Will Apple put in some effort to make its “i” devices as future proof as its MacBooks or is it just going to wait out for iOS to reach Mac OS’s maturity levels, that will take are of this problem by itself?

In conclusion, the scenario with the "i" devices in terms of them being future proof is definitely different than the scenario with traditional computers. While there is no conspiracy behind this, there is a perceivable issue here and I am certainly not alone in this (though my experience is what, that got me to write this column). Will Apple put in some effort to make its "i" devices as future proof as its MacBooks or is it just going to wait out for iOS to reach Mac OS's maturity levels, that will take are of this problem by itself? Only time will tell... 

Apple and Samsung - The difference

I have written multiple times about this issue of a not so thin line that differentiates Apple and Samsung or rather the difference between being inspired by someone's idea and just blatantly ripping it off. Apple is known for its inspiration, like for example Johny Ive and Steve Jobs loved Sony's design but none of the Apple products looked like photo copies of Sony's, like how Samsung phones and tablets of today look like Apple's iPhone and iPad. There will be many more articles written about this issue and this will argument will rage on forever. There is a saying in my home country, "You can wake up people who are sleeping, but you can never wake up people who are pretending to be asleep". The morale is that, what you believe in depends on your scruples and of course that Samsung as a company lacks any. Anyway like I said before I can go on writing about this but might not convince anybody. But this guy (Dave Wiskus) knows what he is talking about and anyone who is even remotely interested in technology should see this short video. Heck his logic on "Copy Forward" makes and has made sense in every field of life. And this video is neither for people who are already awake nor for people who are pretending to be asleep, it is for people who are genuinely still asleep!

Apple Court filings during the Samsung v/s Apple trial (Source: via MacRumors)

Apple Court filings during the Samsung v/s Apple trial (Source: via MacRumors)