Preview of Apple Watch? We Should Know Monday

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9to5mac.com has last minute details about the Apple Watch based on information from sources that have handled and used the soon to be released device. We should know how accurate these claims are on Monday.

Sources offer hands-on Apple Watch details: battery life, unannounced features, and more http://9to5mac.com/2015/03/06/sources-offer-hands-on-apple-watch-details-battery-life-unannounced-features-and-more/

Apple, it is Time to Fix iOS 8 – iPhone 6 Plus Still too Buggy

IMG_20150306_125120As we are nearing another Apple product unveiling on Monday, March 9, 2015, it has me thinking a lot about how I feel about the last major product that was unveiled, the iPhone 6 Plus. I have used my iPhone 6 Plus almost exclusively since it was released in September, but in the last two weeks, I have found myself drawn back to an Android Phone. The main reasons have been the instability of my iPhone. Although extensions, widgets, and 3rd party keyboards were made available with the iPhone 6 Plus, none of them work quite the way they should.

What I like about the iPhone 6 Plus.

I will start with the positives of my iPhone 6 Plus. TouchID, the 5.5″ Screen, the battery life, and Apple Pay are wonderful. TouchID works almost every time for me, and sometimes unlocks my phone when I was just checking the time. It is fast, it is reliable, and I wish I had it on every device I use. I have not found any other unlocking feature of a smart device that I like better.

With the 5.5″ screen of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple finally got things right. They added choice for those that want to be able to use their phone to do more. They ignored the resolution game, and didn’t go with quad HD like many Android devices have. Apple realized that almost no one can tell the difference in pixels once you get past retina display, and that by keeping a lower resolution, they could release a phone that feels faster and has an amazing battery life. Based on the 5.5″ screen, I am barely ever taking out my iPad, and when I do, it is simply because some App Developer has decided that I need to have a different experience on a phone than on a tablet. After using this screen size on my last 3 devices, I have to say that I can never see myself using a smaller screened device again.

Apple PayFinally, Apple Pay has lived up to the promise of simple contact-less payments. Whenever I find a retailer that accepts Apple Pay, it is my first choice. I love that I don’t need to take my credit card out of my wallet, and I like even more that I don’t have to trust merchants with my account information. Apple Pay works the way I would expect it to, and has never failed me. It even works when shopping online through my iPhone. I have used it to make purchases several times using the Staples app and the Target app, and it is just wonderful to not have to go upstairs to grab my wallet to complete a purchase on my phone.

What I don’t like about the iPhone 6 Plus.

On the negative side, I am astonished at how buggy the iPhone 6 Plus is. After several iterations of iOS 8, Apple has simply still not gotten the software to be reliable. I understand that iOS 8 represented a huge opening-up of the platform, but I still feel like I am running beta software. For the first time ever, I am finding that Android is more reliable of an operating system than iOS. Between problems with extensions, third-party keyboards, and Bluetooth functionality, I would have given up my iPhone 6 Plus long ago if it weren’t for TouchID and ApplePay. I no longer can recommend the iPhone to friends and family simply because “it works”.

1. Third-party Keyboards should be called a beta feature.

IMG_6375I understand that many issues are those of a power-user, and many of the experiences that I have are unique to the third-party software I use, but this is the same third-party software that I use on my Android devices with no problem. I have switched between using Swype and SwiftKey as my everyday keyboard on my iPhone 6 Plus since each have been released. I would say that on average, the keyboards work only about 50% of the time.

Frustratingly, I often have my keyboard disappear midway through a sentence, and iOS reverts back to the stock keyboard. I am only successful in running a spotlight search about 25% of the time, because the other 75% of the time no keyboard will show. When using text messaging, I find that after sending about two texts, I need to force close the Messages app because I cannot get my keyboard to appear.

I would love to be able to blame Swiftkey or Swype for these problems, but I have used each for about an equal time, and each time I switch between them, I delete the other one from my phone, and they both have the absolute same problems. I have also used both on Android without any problems. Where I would expect these keyboards to improve my efficiency, instead they slow me down by crashing midway through the task that I am doing. They also do not work in any password fields, cannot function properly in number fields, and do not work on the lock screen.

If Apple is going to offer the ability to use a 3rd party keyboard, they have to do it right. The crashing of these keyboards are a reflection on Apple, in addition to ruining the reputation and working relationship of the developer. If this was listed as a beta feature, as Siri was when it was released, I would be much more forgiving of the problems. But at this point, nearly 6 months since it has been on released software, the feature should work. Even more disappointing is that Apple has not made any statement about these problems.

2. Extensions and actions are not yet offering the promised functionality.

I am also frustrated with extensions. There was promise of the great things that you would be able to do without having to leave the app that you were working in. If you needed to edit a photo, you would be able to tap the share button and have an extension appear that would allow you to edit the photo and return directly to your app. You would be able to easily find a website and share it with other applications on your device, and you would never have to actually launch those applications directly.

IMG_6376Unfortunately, in reality the extensions have not worked quite as well. First after 6 months, many developers have still not made actions and extensions available. Some work, and work well, but others crash in the background, and give you no reason why. I am not a developer, but it appears to me that there are issues with memory depending on the amount of data that is being worked with (since actions crash more often when I am using them with large amounts of data). It is also not always easy to know which apps will launch actions, and which links on the share sheet will simply launch you into another app.

This one I will blame some on developers, but overall Apple still takes some of the blame as they are responsible for the user experience (I covet the ability I have on my Android devices of sharing links directly with WordPress, Facebook Pages, or my Twitter App to quickly accomplish tasks like creating a new blog post or updating marketing materials).

3. Inline responses to notifications do not work!

Apple also promised a great ability to respond to notifications inline without having to leave the app that you are in. I looked forward to this as I believed it would be a great way to quickly respond to text messages, email and Facebook alerts. Unfortunately this does not function at all. If you are in the middle of replying to a pop-up notification, and another notification comes in, you lose any text that you already entered and the prior notification disappears. There is no way this should have been released when it is broken in the way it is intended to be used.

IMG_6378Apple should have a way to buffer notifications, and even switch between them in the pop-up alert. These notifications should be handled in the same manner as folders and pages, and there should be dots on the bottom of the notification to show if multiple notifications/alerts are waiting for your attention. Jailbroken SMS apps have been doing this for years, why can’t Apple figure out how to make it work? Notifications are so broken, that I have switched all of mine to Banners instead of alerts.

4. Many apps still haven’t been updated for iPhone 6 Plus resolution.

Even though iPhone 6 Plus has been out since September, several apps still have not been updated for the screen resolution of the iPhone 6 Plus. Again this is easy to blame on the developers instead of Apple, but when even top tier developers like Facebook and Google are just rolling out full-support for iPhone 6’s screen resolution in past couple weeks, Apple deserves the blame too.

Even though this issue normally just results in my keyboard looking like it is blown-up to the point a toddler could use it, it also has caused problems with usability of existing apps for me. I have had several problems where the predictive keyboard suggestions have blocked me from seeing an input field in an app. This inexcusable, and Apple should make sure that new features don’t break functionality of existing apps.

5. Bluetooth functionality is unreliable.

I routinely use a Fitbit One and a Pebble Smartwatch with my iPhone. I also sometimes stream podcast from my phone to my car using Bluetooth, and use Airplay and Bluetooth speakers around my home. I also use AirDrop to share photos, contacts and webpages with friends and family. Ever since iOS 8 was released, none of these features are reliable.

Again, it is hard for me to determine if these issues are with the other devices that I am using, with the iPhone 6 Plus, or with iOS 8, but I know that I do not experience these same problems with my Android devices or iOS 7. My Pebble seems to lose connectivity with my phone on an hourly basis, and sometimes my Fitbit has such a hard time connecting, I have to completely reboot my iPhone. Routinely my AirPlay speakers do not show up when I try to stream music, and AirDrop is just as unreliable as third-party keyboards.

IMG_6379I don’t understand what Apple is doing to cause features that worked fine in the past, to be worthless in the present, but I don’t hear them addressing the issues publicly, and although I install every update available (from both Apple and 3rd parties), the problems fail to go away. AirPlay and AirDrop are Apple features, so there is no excuse to advertise these, but not have them work properly. These are problems that I don’t have with Android devices (even when I am using work-arounds to stream to AirPlay speakers).

6. ApplePay is rolling out too slow!

Apple has indicated that 750 banks have signed up to support Apple Pay with even more requesting to partner with Apple. However, new banks are only added on a monthly basis with about 20 new banks supporting Apple Pay per month, and just over a 100 already supporting it. Why is Apple not rolling out Apple Pay quicker? If you have 750 banks that want it offered, please explain to the consumer why their bank is not yet included. I am sure there is an excuse for the slow roll-out, but for the most valuable company in the world, there is no reason that every bank that wants to offer Apple Pay functionality cannot do it immediately.

There is also problems with not all retailers accepting Apple Pay. I understand that some retailers do not have NFC terminals yet, but I am more concerned about those that have the functionality, but have disabled it so that Apple Pay cannot be used. I cannot tell you have many times I see the NFC symbol on a terminal to only find that I can’t use my iPhone for payment. This includes several Apple Partners like Target and Best Buy. Why doesn’t Apple use its retailing power to tell both of these retailers that if they continue to disable Apple Pay, they will not have the privilege of selling Apple Products? I have been embarrassed by my inability to use Apple Pay enough times now, that I do not even try unless it I know for a fact that a retailer offers it.

Why this scares me.

I am concerned about the problems that I have highlighted because I am afraid that Apple has lost its way. It used to be slow to offer new technologies until they worked. There are stories all over the internet of Steve Jobs scrapping features just days before a release of a product because they didn’t work properly. There have been plenty of hidden features in iOS Betas that were never activated for the public, or that were delayed until better hardware was introduced. I am concerned now that Apple management cares more about deadlines, than they do about quality.

Apple WatchWith the impeding release of Apple Watch, it makes me wonder what types of problems this device will have from the first day of release. The fact that initial reports are that the Apple Watch will only get one day of battery life per charge, causes questioning of how useful it will be as a fitness device. Maybe rather than trying to make this device the next iPhone or iPad, it should have been initially released with as limited features as the first iPhone and iPod, with more features being added in future iterations when hardware and battery technology catches up.

The Blog world has been reporting leaks that indicate iOS 9 will mainly be a bug fix release, but meanwhile iOS 8.2 is rumored to be released next week, and iOS 8.3 is rumored to be released in April with the Apple Watch (with iOS 8.4 already in testing too). My question is how Apple can wait until iOS 9 to fix problems with current functionality? To me this sends a message to consumers that the usability of our current devices does not matter, as Apple is more focused on adding to the already buggy software to release new products rather than fixing old ones. If you cannot do both things well, focus on current products first.

In the meantime, Android is finally catching up on finger-print authentication functionality, with the Samsung Galaxy S6 finger-print reader receiving rave reviews, and promises from Qualcomm of their new Ultrasound Finger-Print reader to be available on devices before the end of the year (which doesn’t even require a button to work). If Apple doesn’t fix the flaws with their current software, users like me that switched back to the iPhone when the larger screen was introduced, may head back to devices that work better when they catch up with Apple exclusive technologies like TouchID and Apple Pay.

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Now Anyone Can Use iWork on the Web

Apple has taken the iWork suite of applications out of Beta status on iCloud, and now anyone can create an account and use Pages, Numbers, or Keynote for free. This is significant because now you can create, share and collaborate on documents, presentations, or spreadsheets even if the other person doesn’t have a Mac, iPhone or iPad. I have personally been very happy with the web versions of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and have used each repeatedly in my web browser on my Windows machine.

iCloud.com login Accounts are created by using a valid email address that is not already associated with an Apple device (if you already have created an iCloud account on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, you already have free access to these applications with your existing account). Just visit iCloud.com to create your account or login to an existing account. Once you login you will see icons for Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and you can instantly start creating and sharing. 

Along with the free access to the fully featured web versions of the iWork suite of applications, users are also given a free 1gb of disc space to use on iCloud. If you have friends that don’t currently use Apple products and you want to show the quality of the applications, share a link. Even though I’m a big fan of Office 365, I personally find the iCloud apps much easier to use than Google apps. Since it is free to create an account, go for it if you currently do not own an Apple device and have been curious of the allure of iWork. 

Apple Watch Details Coming During Spring Forward Event?

Apple sent out invitations to the technology press today announcing a “Spring Forward” event on March 9, 2015. The event will be held at 10 am Pacific Time (1 pm on the East Coast) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Tim Cook has already alluded to an April launch of the Apple Watch, but so far it is just known that there will be three models of Apple Watches with each being available in 2 different sizes with various color options, and that the least expensive model will start at $349.

Apple Spring Forward EventThe expectation is that Apple will have working models of the Apple Watch on stage, with details of exactly how the watch works, when it will go on sale, and demo’s of Applications expected to be available when the Apple Watch launches. Since the event is being held so early in March, the hope is that pre-sales will begin before the end of the month, and that the actual Apple Watch will ship very early in April (like the original iPad). It is likely that select members of the press will also be provided demo units.

As always, iPlugDelaware will report all information on the new product launch, and be first in line to purchase it when available. There is no information about whether the event will be live-streamed, but we will continue to update as more information is available. For now, see our prior coverage of the Apple Watch announcement.

Update: Apple has announced that a live-stream will be available for those watching from home. Add to your calendar, and remember to visit http://apple.com/live on March 9, 2015 at 10am Pacific Time.

Apps that I am Currently Using

Apple released a new feature with iOS 8 that lets you see the battery usage of apps installed on your device. The great thing about this feature is that it lets the user determine what apps are actually being used on a frequent basis. It is a great trouble-shooting tool when you notice your battery charge is not lasting as long as it used to, or a productivity tool to help you understand where you are wasting too much time.

Here is a screen shot of my current iPhone 6 Plus App battery usage for the last 7 days:

iPhone 6 Battery Usage 2-26-15

You can see that currently Newsify is using almost a quarter of my battery life over the last 7 days. This seems accurate to me as I frequently use my phone to check the latest technology, Social Security, local, and national news. Outlook and Chrome follow with about 10% battery usage each, and my lock screen also takes about the same amount of my battery (mainly because of notifications throughout the day). Although PocketCasts is probably my most used app, since I use it mainly in my car and at home to listen to podcasts, I usually have my phone plugged in while this app is being used. (Battery usage does not provide any stats on energy being used by apps while your device is plugged in).

For me the main surprise when I review my battery usage is how few apps I am actually using on my phone over the course of a week. It does not appear that any of my apps are using a disproportional amount of my battery, and it appears that I use my iPhone mainly to stay up-to-date on current news, read email, surf the web, and listen to podcasts.

Once you get past my top 8 apps, it looks like the remainder of the apps barely have any impact on my battery usage. Here is the second screen showing my remaining battery usage (notice that basically every app on this screen only uses 1% of my battery life):

iPhone 6 Battery Usage 2-26-15 Page 2The surprising part for me is how efficiently most apps installed on my device use my battery. I use Fitbit everyday and have it set to sync with my Fitbit One throughout the day. Despite always running, this app uses only 1% of my battery over the course of a week. Wink and Kevo are mainly used for home automation, and although I open up Wink 5-10 times per day, it has no noticeable impact on my battery life (OnSwitch, Acme, and Kohl’s, all of which I rarely open, seem to use the same amount of battery or more). Even Facebook and Twitter, that send me background notifications throughout the day, have little to no impact on my iPhone battery life.

Beyond troubleshooting bad battery life on your device, the battery usage screen is a great tool to understanding what is happening on your device on a daily basis. Just reviewing these stats again today has made me question why OnSwitch, Acme and Kohl’s are using any of my battery life at all (I don’t think I have opened Kohl’s since I installed it). It also helps you determine which apps can be deleted from your phone if you notice you are low on space. Despite having 384 applications installed on my iPhone, I only have used 25 user-installed apps in the past week.

To determine which of your apps are using your battery life, open up the “Settings” app, select “General”, then “Usage”, and finally “Battery Usage”. Battery Usage stats were introduced in iOS 8, so if you are using an earlier version of iOS, you will not have the option of reviewing your battery usage.

Steven Butler EsquireThis post was written by Steven Butler. Steven is a full-time Delaware attorney that limits his practice to Social Security Disability. Along with being a contributor for iPlugDelaware, he is a partner at Linarducci & Butler, PA.

Apple Releases iOS 8.1.3

iOS 8.1.3 ReleasedApple released an update for iOS 8 today. iOS 8.1.3 was released that promises “bug fixes, increased stability and performance improvements”. This latest release reduces the amount of storage required to perform a software update (for those that still haven’t made the jump to iOS 8), fixes a Spotlight search issue that prevented app results in search, and fixes an issue that prevented use of multitasking gestures when using an iPad.

So far no widespread issues have been reported with installing this update, but still use caution and make sure your iPhone or iPad is backed-up prior to installing any iOS update. I have installed on my iPhone 6 Plus without issues. I am still crossing my fingers that this update will address issues with 3rd Party Keyboards repeatedly crashing.

To install the update, simply visit your “Settings” app on your iPhone or iPad, and go into the “General” section and select “Software Update”. If you have an internet connection, you should see the option to install update. You can also manually install the update by plugging your device into a computer and using iTunes to update. Let us know if you have any issues!

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