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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iOS 8, Using Third-Party Keyboards, Swiftkey and Swype

iOS 8 was recently released for the iPad and the iPhone. Among the exciting new features of this operating system update is the ability to use a third-party keyboard in place of Apple’s stock keyboard. This allows users of the iPhone and iPad to now install a keyboard that can use new methods of inputting text to increase productivity. Busy legal professionals can now use keyboards from Swiftkey and Swype to quickly add or edit text by sliding their fingers across the screen.

I created a video that explains how to download, install, and activate both Swiftkey and Swype on your device. There are currently a number of free and paid keyboard apps available in the app store, but Swiftkey and Swype have been around for years on Android, and have had a head start in the field of creating alternative keyboards. Once you figure out how to install the keyboards, they are simple to use, and you always have the option of quickly switching back to Apple’s native keyboard.

My only complaint with the third-party keyboards thus far, is that you lose the ability to dictate when a third-party keyboard is selected. The little microphone that is usually present on the bottom of the screen goes away, and the only way you can get it back is to switch back to the native keyboard.

If you have updated your device to iOS 8, don’t delay, download a new keyboard and see how you like it!

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.

iOS 8 Released for iPhone 4s, 5, 5c, 5s and iPad 2, iPad with Retina and iPad Air

iOS 8 Now Available

If you currently have an iPad 2 or newer, or an iPhone 4s or newer, you can update your device to iOS 8. The update went live at about 1:00 pm EST on Wednesday September 17, 2014. iOS 8 is available through an over-the-air update or by connecting your iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad 2, iPad with Retina (3rd or 4th generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina, or iPad Air to iTunes on your computer. iOS was first previewed for developers at WWDC in June 2014, and has had a number of beta releases before its release on September 17, 2014.

Although this update adds many new features to iOS, it looks very similar to iOS 7 once installed on your iPad or iPhone. The biggest changes occur under the hood. Most notable, for the first time users can now download and install customized keyboards that can be used throughout the device. Additionally, Apple has introduced extensions, widgets, in-line notification responses and a cloud drive service that can be accessed across all applications (iCloud Drive). Extensions and widgets can both be used by developers to extend your app experience.

iOS 8 Widgets

Widgets are added to the notification center to provide you with updated information without having to launch an app (think sports scores, weather, shipping notifications, etc.). Extensions are added to the “Open In” dialog box within apps, and allows you to launch actions associated with another app installed on your device. For example, you could be viewing a preview of a document in Dropbox, and a PDF app could have an extension that lets you add annotations without having to fully open the app. The extension runs on top of the app that you currently have opened, and once you complete an action, it returns you back to the app you were using with any changes you made. (Universal password apps and Social Networking sites are also expected to take advantage of extensions).

With the ability to add customized keyboards, iPhone and iPad users will finally be able to choose apps with advanced features like swiping on your keyboard instead of typing. Swiftkey and Swype should both have keyboards released for the iPhone sometime on September 17, 2014. There are also picture keyboards in the works, and even keyboards that do nothing more than show you whether you are currently using upper or lower case letters when inputting text.

iCloud drive promises to be a central storage solution where all apps can have access to. This will allow you to start working on a document in Pages, save to iCloud Drive, and then access in a different word processor like Microsoft Word. With inline notification responses, you will be able to reply to text messages or tweets without actually opening a separate app. You can simply hit reply, respond inline and go back to what you were doing. (You can even enable the ability to respond from the lock screen).

iPad iOS 8 Update CompleteAlthough I safely updated an iPhone 5s and iPad Mini with Retina, it is always best to be cautious before completing a significant update on your device. I recommend that you have a backup of your device using iTunes before completing the update, and set aside at least 3 hours in case there are problems. Although iCloud backups allow you to do a restore if you run into problems, if you have more than 20 apps, and are using a good portion of your device storage, it is not recommended that you rely on this method. Before updating or backing up your device on iTunes, make sure that you check to that iTunes is updated to version 11.4. (In iTunes go to the Help menu, and select “Check for Updates”).

Depending on your device you need about 1 GB of space available to download the update. I would recommend that you have at least 3 GB of space available before attempting the update over-the-air. Normally small flaws are discovered after a major release of iOS. It is usually safest to wait at least 2 weeks before installing the update if you use your iPhone or iPad for any mission critical purposes.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Case for iPad Gets Thinner and Lighter

Logitech announced an updated version of the Ultrathin Keyboard Case for the iPad Air and iPad mini today. I previously wrote about the Ultrathin which has been a long favorite of reviewers. The new case seems to keep everything that was good with the prior case, while also making it thinner, lighter, and giving you additional viewing angles. Unfortunately the cases also keep the high retail price of $89.99 for the iPad Mini and $99.99 for the iPad Air.

The good news is that the previous models of these cases are now available at reduced rates on Amazon. The Ultrathin for the iPad Air is currently $79.99, the Ultrathin for the iPad mini is on sale for $67.99, and the Ultrathin for the iPad 2 and 3 is available for as inexpensive as $39.99.

Once reviews are available, I’ll update this post. You should start seeing the new Ultrathins on sale in retail locations soon.

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WireCutter selects the best iPad keyboard

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The WireCutter recently reviewed keyboard options for the iPad Air and for the third year in a row, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard case was selected. Considering the release of Office for the iPad, even if you didn’t use a keyboard with the iPad in the past, you might be reconsidering that decision. I have previously used the Logitech Ultrathin with the iPad with Retina, and had no real complaints. If you are considering a keyboard for your iPad, the WireCutter review is a good place to start your search.