Editorial

Using pre-release software? You beta be sure

So there I was, two days into my carrier’s billing cycle looking at a text message saying I had used 80% of my 2GB data allowance. I’d used 1.6GB of 4G data in a couple of days, and I have Wi-Fi at home and at work. In fact, the only place I don’t have Wi-Fi in my day-to-day life is my car.

I’d used 1.6GB of 4G data in my car. How?

The answer came after much toggling of iOS option switches, browsing of websites and general trial and error. It turned out the ‘Documents and Sync’ portion of the inner workings of iOS was eating data like there was no tomorrow, which, once it reached that 2GB cap, wasn’t far from the truth. I had to buy more data just to give me wiggle room to do some more testing and once I knew where in iOS I could specifically track the usage that was causing me problems, I had somewhere to start.

Now believe it or not this post isn’t about hunting for strange iOS bugs and squashing them with the contempt that they deserve. It’s not even to point out that the culprit, after it was first thought to be iCloud Drive and in particular my favorite text editor, was actually iCloud Photo Library. It’s to remind everyone that betas aren’t as fun as you may think.

Moving into the post-PC era

Ever since the first iPad was introduced by Steve Jobs way back in 2010 there has been the argument about whether it is just there to be a media consumption device, or can actually be used for what PC users seem to be so determined to call ‘real work.’

Steve Jobs knew, or at least he hoped that iPads would eventually replace computers as we know them. When launching the first iPad he spoke of his new tablet as a car, and the computers that came before it as trucks.
I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them.
He knew the transition wouldn’t be easy, and he was right.

A rough week for Apple

Everything started so well for Apple this week. After the launch of the company’s two new devices, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple revealed on Monday that this was the most successful iPhone launch ever, with 10 million units being sold during the opening weekend. The only thing that prevented Apple to sell more iPhones during that time was simply that they couldn’t make them fast enough. That’s a nice problem to have.

But then things started turning sour on Tuesday when the first reports of what is now commonly known and referred to as #bendgate emerged online. If the negative press about bendgate wasn’t enough, Apple shot itself in the foot on Wednesday when it released iOS 8.0.1, an update supposed to fix several bugs, but which turned out to be the biggest software release fiasco in modern Apple history.

With fanboys and Apple haters alike putting their own spin on both sides of the story, I thought I’d put some perspective to all this and share my thoughts on the situation.

iOS 8’s battery shaming is a double-edged sword

As is always the case every time a new iPhone is released, or a major iteration of its software pops up on Apple’s servers, the planet goes into meltdown about battery life. It’s almost as predictable as Apple’s iPhone release schedule, and it’s getting old.

I was already pondering how Apple’s newly released iOS 8 was performing for people when I read iMore’s post covering its new battery shaming feature. Rene does a great job explaining how iOS 8 monitors app usage and then plots out a percentage of the battery drain that app has caused. The reasons for that drain are plenty, and the important thing to remember is that they’re not all bad.

Three days with the iPhone 6

The months leading to the announcement of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus seemed to drag on and on, but the week following flew by. Within seven short days of reserving my iPhone 6 at my local Apple Store, I had it in my hands. It’s here. And it’s lovely.

Backing up for a second, it’s worth noting that I wasn’t one of those people that was hankering for a new iPhone. I certainly wasn’t desperate for one that was a great deal larger than my iPhone 5. That phone had been with me for two years, day in and day out. It felt like part of the family, and I’ll almost miss it now it’s gone.

It’s gone because I took advantage of my two-year contract’s expiration in order to get a new iPhone. More specifically, a 64GB Space Grey iPhone 6.

This isn’t a review, by the way. It’s a largely incoherent collection of thoughts after a weekend with what will probably be Apple’s best selling iPhone ever. There are plenty of awesome reviews out there if that’s your cup of tea.

So let’s get started with my story.

What is your jailbreak story?

Earlier this week, we were treated to the pleasant surprise of an iOS 7.1.1 untethered jailbreak by the Chinese team Pangu. I had the privilege of discussing the jailbreak with our video guru Jeff Benjamin on the most recent Let’s Talk Jailbreak episode, which was a lot of fun. In the podcast, Jeff asked me to introduce myself to the community and to describe my jailbreak roots.

The story begins in December 2007, when I was on a family vacation near the sandy beaches of Cape Coral, Florida. My older brother, now a software engineer at Google, was incredibly interested in this new product called the iPod touch. In particular, he wanted to jailbreak it. As a thirteen-year-old eighth grader at the time, I had never heard of the device. I especially did not know what jailbreaking was… 

With iOS 7, are we seeing a less confident, more malleable Apple?

Time was once when Apple was infamous for not giving its users choice. Steve Jobs himself famously said that consumers didn’t know what they wanted, and that it was Apple’s job to tell them, and he was often right. It was this confidence, some may say arrogance, that made Apple so sure of its designs. So absolutely convinced that it was on the right path. And arguably, it’s why it has been so successful over the last ten or so years.

But things are changing inside Apple. Since Steve Jobs’ death and the handing over of the reigns to the unflappable Tim Cook, Apple has been going through something of a metamorphosis, and everyone has seen how the company has changed. Countless people have written about how Apple isn’t the same company since its co-founder and visionary left it to somewhat more pragmatic minds, and the evidence that they’re right simply keeps on mounting.

That syncing feeling: why don’t iPad and iPhone versions of the same game share game progress often enough?

Games are fun. Judging by both the paid-for and free app charts in the App Store, they’re also extremely popular. A look at the top-grossing apps on the iPad shows that 9 of the top 10 (in the UK store) are games. The odd one out is a newspaper, oddly enough. If you look outside the top 10 list, the trend continues throughout the chart.

With gaming clearly so popular on the iPad, and indeed the iPhone, developers are rightly beginning to throw considerable resources at creating some truly impressive iOS games. The likes of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Oceanhorn are effectively console or handheld games that run on a smartphone or tablet. Both are a far cry from the games we used to play on our mobile devices. Does anyone remember Snake on the Nokia phones of old? Ahh, fond memories indeed.

For all the increased attention that game development on iOS has received over the last couple of years, and with both big names and smaller independent developers bringing some excellent titles to the platform, there is still something lacking. We’re being treated to games that look absolutely stunning on the latest hardware and voice acting as well as story building have both improved dramatically of late, but there’s one issue remaining. One that’s become all too apparent to me as I’ve started playing games on an iPad mini (with Retina display, of course) as well as my iPhone. That issue is syncing.

The syncing of game progress, to be precise…

In Motorola’s Moto G phone, Apple’s iPhone 4S has more than met its match

Apple has a problem. It’s not a problem that pertains to its high-end iPhone 5s, and it’s not even a problem with the mid-range, somewhat superfluous iPhone 5c. It’s actually the iPhone 4S that is an issue for Apple. Sitting at the bottom of the company’s smartphone range and being offered for peanuts if not free, the iPhone 4S was previously thought of as a rather capable budget handset. And it still is.

The problem that Apple now faces is that all those cheap Android phones that we’ve all laughed at over the years are starting to get a bit big for their shoes. In fact, some are downright great handsets, with one in particular doing its best to shake up the way we think about smartphones and what we should be paying for them.

I am, of course, talking about the Motorola Moto G…

Will the iPhone get its own Mac Pro moment?

There’s no argument that the Mac Pro was in need of some love and in fact, we’d argue that it’s been overdue some attention for quite some time now. We’d hoped that Apple would offer some signs that the Mac Pro was still in their hearts at this year’s WWDC, but we never invisaged something like what Phil Schiller finally announced on-stage. It was a wow moment the likes of which we don’t recall since the original iPhone introduction.

Which got us thinking.

With iPhones being released each year, and with leaks almost commonplace when it comes to Apple’s suppliers, are we in danger of growing bored with Apple’s iPhone? Perhaps more accurately, are we no longer capable of being surprised by a newly announced smartphone from Apple?

How much is too much for mobile games?

I was going to write this post when everything was raw, soon after the news had developed and the internet was awash with people seemingly frothing at the mouth. Frothing, apparently, for one of two reasons.

Firstly, we had the people frothing because “ZOMG, 20 dollars for an iPad game!!!!.” Apparently anything the wrong side of free is just about the developers trying to squeeze money out of their hard work. Because, well, it’s their living.

Then secondly, there were the polar opposites. People screaming back, apparently oblivious to the fact they were wasting their time, claiming that developers deserve to be paid and that free to play games have ruined the App Store, caused world hunger and possibly even kicked a kitten once.

The truth though, as is so often the case, is somewhere in-between…

Calm down, it’s only a beta

Now that Apple’s iOS 7 is out of the bag, everyone seems to have an opinion on whether it hits the mark. If there was one word we would use to describe Apple’s latest version of its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch software it would probably be ‘polarizing’ and with good reason. After all, iOS 7 is undoubtedly the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone was introduced all those years ago.

But one thing does appear to be getting lost in all the hysteria surrounding iOS 7. One thing that people do seem to be forgetting not just when forging their opinions on Apple’s new direction, but when condemning existing App Store apps with poor reviews due to compatibility.

Calm down dear, it’s only a beta…