Limiting Distractions: Notifications

Sometimes, especially if you’re like me, you’ll be on a roll when it comes to work, perhaps¬†figuring out a program you’re working on, when you suddenly get interrupted. And just like that, your mental focus is gone. What were you doing? You’ll figure that out after a few minutes.

Notifications can sometimes be that interruption. Sure, it may be cool to have your iPhone docked next to your computer. But if the constant comments on Facebook are distracting you, is that a good thing to keep in sight?

The better question: are you in control of your device, or is it in control of you?

While I’m not one to disable all of my notifications1, as some have done, earlier this week I started disabling notifications that I had set up for some time. In particular, anything with a social element has been muted. My iPhone and iPad no longer have permission to display¬†notifications, play sounds, or show a badge icon. In short, if I want to know what’s going on there, I’ll find out when I manually check those platforms.

Even if you’re a heavy Twitter user, is there any reason why you need to be disturbed with every mention? Is something so urgent that a social media message should disrupt your life? I’m doing my best to say no to those questions. My iOS devices are useful. To me. They respond to what I want to use them for. And that’s how this relationship will stay.


  1. Yet 

Countr, my first app on the App Store

It’s been many months since I last talked about app development. I’m a bit disappointed with myself, personally, and how much I haven’t shared. It’s been a fun experience as I’ve dived into Objective-C, Xcode, and learning how to develop things on my own. Since then, iOS 8 was previewed (and since launched), Swift was introduced as a new programming language, and more APIs and development tool updates have happened across the Apple ecosystem.

Well, I’ll be writing more thoughts about the development process soon. But first, I wanted to talk about the first app I’ve developed through to launch. That is Countr, a simple app to quickly take a count. I had wanted an app to help me take a count when I’m at certain meetings or assemblies. I feel this app does this excellently.

While the app was released in late August, I only just now announced it. Moving to Arizona took up a lot of time. Go figure.

Countr not only helped me learn the development process, but I got a nice overview of the app release process. I’m very grateful for the update to iTunesConnect, which has made it a much more attractive experience when checking on the status of my app.

In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about developing Countr, developing for iOS in general, and some other things that I thought were pretty cool.

I want to thank the few friends that helped beta test Countr before release. I got a lot of good feedback and, while it is a simple app, the others that I’m working on are not as simple. I made sure to use the same process with Countr that I would expect with a larger, complex application. It’s been insightful, and I’m ready to release more apps later this year.

Countr is available for free on the App Store.

2014’s iOS Line-Up (My Predictions)

With 2013 behind us, I thought it was time to take a look at what Apple released (in terms of iOS) and what I think Apple will do in 2014.

The first half of 2013 was very quiet with regards to Apple events. Our first public event was WWDC in June, where we finally got a glimpse at what Apple was working on in the software category. After six years of the iPhone, iOS was getting a major facelift, giving a fresh look to one of the most popular mobile operating systems. While supporting older devices like the iPhone 4 would support iOS 7, it was definitely meant to bring in a new future for Apple’s iOS devices.

In the fall, we finally started seeing some hardware, with the announcement of two new iPhones: the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. The 5c was essentially last year’s iPhone 5 but with new, colorful shells. For those upgrading from an iPhone 4 or earlier, they made an attractive alternative to the otherwise sleek but relatively-basic colors of the 5 and 5s. The 5s, meanwhile, brought a future-thinking iPhone to the market, introducing a 64-bit A7 processor to the iOS line up. Even now, I think people take 64-bit for granted on their computers. Having that power in a mobile device is incredible.

The iPad upgrades followed suit with the iPhone and received the new A7 chip, as well as other changes. The iPad was redesigned into the iPad Air, a lightweight tablet that, to me, seems like an ideal size and weight for a “full size” iPad (and is much improved over the first generation). The iPad Mini, meanwhile, was upgraded with a Retina display. I’d say the new iPad Mini is probably the best 7.9″ tablet out there. Honestly, every time I see an iPad mini, I feel like I’m living in a Star Trek world.

All of these updates seemed to make the iOS device line up even better than before. What changes could possibly come in 2014?

For one, I think we’re looking at the end of an old friend. The 30-pin connector has existed for over a decade and been a staple of iPods, iPhones, and iPads for years. Since the introduction of the iPhone 5 and the Lightning connector, however, it has become clear that a new era of connecting cables was at hand. The Lightning connector’s smaller size let Apple make the iPhone even thinner than previous generations. Given Apple’s typical quest to shrink things down, it makes sense that future devices stick to the Lightning cable.

What had not surprised me during the iPhone event was the presence of the iPhone 4S on the lineup. Typically, the phone from two years prior would be made free on contract, and this held true. But as we look ahead to 2014, if this pattern continues, we’ll see the iPhone 4S drop off of the lineup. ¬†This doesn’t just affect the iPhone, however.

The iPad 2 has somehow held on to life, despite the fact that it is three generations older than the newest iPad model available. If the iPhone 4S does indeed get retired, then the iPad 2 would be the only device still using the 30-pin connector. But, that’s not all; The iPad 2 is one of only two iOS devices sold without a Retina display. The other? The original iPad Mini, which shared many specs of the iPad 2. When new iPads are announced, I don’t think Apple wants to present a non-Retina screen as an option anymore. It’s time to look to the future and keep all devices top of the line.

So, that being said, what will we see?

iPhone: Since the original iPhone in 2007, there has always been at least one new phone released each year. There’s no reason for Apple not to continue. Given their introduction of two new handsets in 2013, it’s possible we’ll see two more in 2014: one a high-end upgrade of the iPhone 5s with a brand new design, a new A8 processor, and other improved specs; the other could be an upgrade to the iPhone 5c, bringing the power of the 5s into a design and feel that could appeal to the more colorful (or those that miss the feel of the iPhone 3G/S). Even if the 5c isn’t updated, I foresee it remaining on the lineup.

Lineup Prediction: A new iPhone (6?), reduced price iPhone 5s, and a colorful iPhone 5c (or update to it).

iPad: The iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina will see some minor changes. Both would likely see a new generation with an A8 processor and the inclusion of Touch ID, something that they didn’t receive with the previous updates. With 2 generations of iPad Mini with Retina, it could be possible for Apple to phase out non-Retina screens in their entirety. At last, we would see an end to the iPad 2.

Lineup Prediction: iPad Air (2nd Gen), iPad Mini with Retina (2nd Gen), and reduced price iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina (both 1st Gen).

What about the iPod Touch? It was last updated along with the iPhone 5. Has Apple left it out to dry? We’ll have to wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new iPod Touch modeled alongside a new iPhone design. But the iPod line is no longer Apple’s main money-maker, so who knows what they’ll do?

Rumors continue to circulate about Apple entering the wearable category or taking on the TV market further. Apple TV runs a modified form of iOS, but I won’t talk about it in this post. And with no official word about any iWatch, we don’t know what software it will run. Do I think we’ll see at least one of these in 2014? Definitely.

In short, these updates may not seem too revolutionary. In a way, they’re aren’t. But they also are leading the way towards a new age of iOS devices, moving away from legacy solutions and early-tech. Having every iOS device for sale containing the new Lightning connector and a Retina display will put Apple in a strong position with premium devices. They only sell their best, and in 2014, they’ll show it.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy the iPad 2 (and Why You Should Be Glad Apple Still Sells It)

On October 22nd, Apple announced updates to some of their products. Along with the release of OS X Mavericks, their latest version of their desktop operating system, they also announced new versions of iLife and iWork applications for iOS, OS X, and iCloud. New MacBook Pros were also announced.

The expected items, though, were a pair of new iPads. The iPad mini was given a much needed Retina display, while the full size iPad was upgraded and became the new iPad Air, a thinner and lighter 9.7″ iPad. Both of these updates were expected due to news leaks over the past few weeks and were welcomed with open arms.

The Shocker

However, there was a bit of a surprise when it came to what the new iPad line-up now consisted of. Both of those new iPads would be the premium product, while older versions remained on sale. That has been Apple’s MO with iPhones and iPads for years. Yet, while last year’s breakthrough iPad mini made sense to keep in the line-up, the iPad 2 seemed out of place. Why would Apple keep selling this 2.5 year old iPad, one that doesn’t even use the latest Lightning connector?

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Apple’s current iPad line-up

For one, it apparently still sells very well. For many people, the iPad 2 provides everything that a person might need or even want from a tablet. Technophiles may not show any interest in it, but anyone that isn’t tech-savvy who is looking for their first tablet would be more than happy with a new iPad 2.1

Second, by leaving the iPad 2 in the line-up, it gives consumers an option for an iPad that still supports the 30-pin connector and the massive amount of accessories that were created for that connector. But is this a big enough reason for people to buy an iPad 2 when, for $100 more, they can get the new iPad Air?

The iPad 2 was great when it was released. But lacking a Retina display and still using the old 30-pin connector (plus the A5 chip that doesn’t keep quite up to speed with its modern breathren) makes it a poor choice from the current iPad line-up. For identical specs, you can pay $100 less and get the iPad mini. The screen may be smaller, but you’re getting a thinner form factor AND a device with more functionality2 than the older iPad 2.

Add to this the fact that, on Apple’s own website, you can find refurbished 4th generation iPads available for $379. Yes, you can get a newer iPad from Apple’s own website for less than the iPad 2. But if newer models can be purchased for less than $400, why would you want to buy an iPad 2?

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 2.22.40 PM
You can get a newer iPad straight from Apple for less than a new iPad 2!

This is why I say you shouldn’t buy an iPad 2. If you have the $399 to spend on it, why not get a newer model? Even the next newest model, the 3rd generation iPad, had a Retina display. While you would still be sporting the larger connector and an older body style compared to the iPad Air, you’d also have a capable tablet with a higher resolution screen.

Even if you don’t buy an iPad 2, however, there’s reason to be happy Apple still sells it. Why is that?

Product Longevity

Don’t you hate buying a product when, months later, it seems like your relatively new purchase is obsolete? Thankfully, while Apple continues to iterate and innovate with hardware, much of the capabilities of their devices come from within the silicon.

iPhone 3G customers may recall a time when their iPhones could not do the now common task of copy-and-paste. Yet, a software update (iOS 3) brought that feature, and others, to their iPhones. They may not have had the latest processor or camera specs, but those iPhone owners were able to get improved use from their devices.

Similarly, Apple has a fairly good track record of supporting older iOS devices. And each time Apple continues to sell an older generation model,3 they also permit the latest iOS software to run on it, albeit with some features likely not supported.4 When the iPhone 4S launched, iOS 5 was also released. The iPhone 3GS, still being sold at the time, was able to get that software update. Neither it nor the iPhone 4 had the ability to use Siri. Yet, each phone still found extended use by its owners.5 Likewise, when iOS 7 was announced this past June, Apple was still selling the iPhone 4. iOS 7 was installable on those older devices, even though Apple removed them from their line up at their iPhone event in September.

The iPad 2 may not be the wisest choice for buying a new iPad. Yet, the fact that Apple is still selling it means that, quite likely, unless new iPads are announced in the spring, the iPad 2 could possibly support iOS 8. Even if it doesn’t, there’s a good chance the third generation iPads and newer will support it. And as iPad and iPhone hardware matures, it’s likely we’ll see more and more generations of iOS devices supporting newer versions of IOS. They may not have the hardware to support all of the latest features6, but they’ll remain up to date nonetheless.

But for any iOS device owners who have purchased an iPhone or iPad in the past 2 years, you’ll be okay using your device for at least another year with updates galore. If Apple will support a device from March 2011, yours should be supported, too.


  1. iPad 2 owners may feel differently when comparing their tablet performance on iOS 7 versus what they used to have on iOS 6, but new customers undoubtedly wouldn’t notice.  

  2. iOS 7 on the iPad mini supports Airdrop, for example, though on the iPad 2 it does not. 

  3. For example, Apple continued to sell the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 when the iPhone 4S was launched. 

  4. This isn’t just a matter of Apple wanting people to upgrade. Sometimes, the features introduced simply can’t be supported on older hardware without degraded performance. Apple’s goal is not to just pack in features but to give a great user experience. At times, this means some devices can’t get every new feature. 

  5. The iPhone 3GS went on to support even the latest version of iOS 6. Thus far, iOS 7 is supported on devices as far back as the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 

  6. Touch ID, 120 fps HD video recording, etc 

iOS 5: What’s New

Apple held it’s keynote this morning at the 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference. The three big announcements were regarding OS X Lion, iOS 5, and the launch of iCloud.

Personally, the iOS 5 discussion was the best part for me. I’m always curious about the latest changes to the iPhone (and iPod Touch/iPad) software, and I feel Apple delivered with iOS 5. Here are some of the highlights:

  • New Notification Center: Did you hate getting notifications, whether from the Messages app or something else, that kept interrupting what you were doing? Well, you don’t have to worry any longer! All notifications now go in the new Notification Center. How do you get to it? Simply swipe down from the top of your screen from anywhere! All notifications will go there, too, from missed phone calls to text messages.
  • iMessages: Text messaging is great on the iPhone. However, services like Blackberry Messenging allowed for Blackberry users to message each other with an internal app. Well, Apple has come up with their own. Messages has been expanded with iMessages, allowing iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad owners to message each other in the same way that one would send a text to someone else. Finally, a great way to easily keep in touch with your iOS friends!
  • Newsstand: If iBooks was a way to manage your digital books, Newsstand is your way of handling magazine subscriptions. It looks like iBooks, probably acts like iBooks, and if you’re big into digital magazines, may be just as exciting to you as iBooks. One neat thing with this, though, is that it will automatically download the latest magazines in your subscription for you to view.
  • Reminders: How many times have you put in something important into the Calendar app just to remind yourself of something small, such as picking up something before you leave home? Well, there’s now an (Apple made) app for that! Reminders lets you create lists of things you need to do. However, it goes beyond simply reminding you on a certain day or time. It also can be triggered to remind you based on your location. Need to run to the bank before you head home? Reminders can send an alert as you leave work to remind you of that. Now that is useful!
  • Twitter Integration: Ever wish you could tweet a photo from the Photos app? Or share a cool link from Safari? Now you can! Twitter is built right in so you can tweet with most apps. Simply enter your Twitter info from Settings.
  • Camera Updates: The iPhone 4 camera is already impressive. But what happens when you need to grab a quick photo and you only have a few precious seconds to do so? By the time you unlock the phone, navigate to the page with the Camera app, and take the photo, you might have missed what you had wanted to capture. Not anymore! Apple has included an icon on the lock screen that takes you right to the Camera, so that you can quickly take the picture you wanted. The Camera also includes the ability to pinch-to-zoom feature, the ability to lock the autofocus and autoexposure, and optional grid lines on your photos to help with photo composition. Oh, and have you ever wished for a button on the iPhone to take a picture? The Volume Up button now works as that.
  • Photo Editing: You can now edit photos in the Photos app. This includes cropping, redeye removal, and photo enhancements. This makes for a quick way to touch up a photo before you Tweet it to your friends from your phone.
  • Tabbed Browsing and Reading Lists in Safari: Now, tabs are visible on the iPad in the same way they are in Sarafi for the desktop. Easily switch to the tab you want. You can also view articles with Safari Reader, which will remove ads and other “clutter” from an article you may be trying to read. Lastly, you can save items you wish to read later to a Reading List. (Sounds a bit like Instapaper, though).
  • Goodbye USB Cable: No, I’m not saying you won’t need to charge your iOS device ever again. But, you won’t need to be plugged into a PC or Mac to activate or update your device. And you can now sync your iTunes library over WiFi. It’s about time!

This was just an overview of the features announced by Apple during today’s keynote at WWDC.

Posts regarding iCloud and OSX Lion will come soon, as well.

What do you think about these updates? Comment below!