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 

My thoughts on multitasking on future iPads

Now that we have seen the new iPhones, my thoughts have started to move ahead to the next likely update: iPads. Typically updated on a yearly cycle, the iPad has continued to receive refinements that continue to perfect the device.

Right now, the iPad lineup is strong with the thin and powerful iPad Air and its smaller sibling, the iPad Mini with Retina. If we’re to make any predictions about what is to come, I think we can safely say the next generation of each of those devices with be iterations on the existing models.1

There’s also something new that is rumored to come with the next iPads (or a future iPad Pro): the option to run two apps side by side. Some have wondered how such a feature could operate. Now, I think I have it figured out.2

On the new iPhone 6, due to the larger screen size, Apple introduced something called “Reachability“. By double-pressing (not clicking) the home button, the top half of the screen moves down to within range of the user’s thumb. This is only possible due to the Touch ID sensor, which can respond simply by a finger being on the home button yet not clicking it.

On an iPhone, this makes sense, as the iPhone originally began as a one-handed device. But what about iPads? They have never been designed for one hand.  The next generation of iPads are rumored to include Touch ID.  Obviously, this could allow for increased security on an Apple, as well as the inclusion of Apple Pay. Could Apple also include a new feature for the double-press interface on the iPad? What could it be? Hmm…


  1. Very rarely does Apple introduce a device and not create an upgraded iteration in the same design.  

  2. Because, obviously, I know these things. Okay, no, I don’t. I’m just guessing. But am I close? I’d love to know!  

“The Apple World, the Android/Samsung World, and the Windows World”

Re/code posted an interview with Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly in which he talked about tablets, computers, and the current tech market. The interview itself is an interesting read, especially to see inside the mind of a CEO whose company has been affected by the global technological shift that we have seen across phones, tablets, and computers over the past few years.

One item that caught my eye was his response to a question about ‘stores within a store’. For a while now, Best Buy has had dedicated areas in their stores for Apple, Samsung, and Windows devices. When asked about those areas, he responded:

What we’ve done is, we’ve made Best Buy the place where customers can discover, understand, these different ecosystems. There’s these giant ecosystems: The Apple world, the Android/Samsung world, the Windows world. And so, for the customers, it’s a very unique opportunity to see it in one place, and in the space of half an hour, to be able to talk to our various specialists, and touch, feel, experience these products.

When it comes to Apple and Microsoft, each has created a very unique and identifiable ecosystem. Interestingly, in his comment, he included Samsung right along with his mention of Android. If you walk into a Best Buy store today, what Android device manufacturer is clearly visible? I’ve only ever seen Samsung with some attention.

I also thought it was an interesting response given how Samsung has come ahead, at least in mindshare, of other Android manufacturers with their devices, including their line of Galaxy devices. For some, when they hear Android, that’s the first thing to come to their minds.

When it comes to operating systems, it very clearly is Apple’s iOS versus Google’s Android. But with the iPhone competing against Samsung’s various Galaxy S phones, it’s easy to see why even Best Buy’s CEO would remark Android’s world as belonging to Samsung.

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.

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!

Review: GeoRing for iPhone

Sometimes, the built in functions and options in a device are not enough. Choosing a ringtone on your iPhone is one thing. But what about having a random ringtone?

Well, there is an app for that. (Go figure!) It’s called GeoRing by XVision.

GeoRing allows you to use your entire music library as potential ringtones. Want to hear your favorite tunes when someone calls? You can! And best of all, you can add as many songs as you want to your ringtone playlist!

You can also customize at what part of the song the ringtone will begin at. Don’t like the opening to a song? Have it start ringing at a particular section. It can make it easy to find those catchy riffs in a song that you think would make for a great ringtone!

While the ringtone option is seemingly the main feature, GeoRing also allows you to map where you receive your phone calls. Ever been on a call with someone and you wish you could remember where you were at the time, perhaps because of that awesome coffee shop you were walking by at the time? Well, you won’t need to worry about that anymore! GeoRing gives you the ability to see where you were.

The app is very easy to navigate. In fact, you’ll quickly explore every page of options in the app within the first minute of playing with it! There are just two things to keep in mind when using this app:

  1. You need to have a silent ringtone (which you can download from their site) for your iPhone, or else your default iPhone ringtone will also go off along with your GeoRing set songs.
  2. The GeoRing app needs to be running in the background for it to operate. Do not remove it from your background processes.

I think many people that are interested in custom ringtones might find this app to suit their needs, especially those with a large music library on their iPhones.

Sometimes you’ll find apps that will not do all that they say they do. This one is definitely not one of those. Everything this app says it does, it does! I definitely recommend this app.

For more information about GeoRing, you can find it on iTunes or check out the XVision website. Or follow @XVisionNow and @GeoRingApp on Twitter.

Making an iPhone Ringtone in iTunes

So, you’re the owner of an iPhone and you want a nice ringtone. All you see, though, are ones you have to pay for. What about making your own? After all, you have all of your music to choose from!

Well, it’s actually a fairly simple process. All you need is iTunes.  Here’s how to do it:

  1. First, we need our audio clip. Presumably, you have an audio track in iTunes already that you would like to use. I’ll be using a song by Chameleon Circuit for my example.
  2. Now, you can use a whole song as a ringtone. Likely, though, you will only hear a few seconds of it. For this song, I only want to hear the first few seconds before it repeats. So, I go into the song’s info window and choose the “Options” tab. There, I’m able to set when the song stops playing.
  3. Once you’ve made those changes, right click on the song and choose “Create AAC Version”. This will create a duplicate listing in your iTunes library. However, you’ll notice that the new item will only be as long as the selection you had made.
  4. Take this new item and export it from iTunes. The easiest way to do this is to simply drag the song from iTunes onto your desktop.
  5. Now navigate to the file on your desktop. You’ll notice that it has a file extension of .m4a. Rename your file so that it now uses a .m4r extension.
  6. Once you have changed the extension, simply drag the newly renamed file from its current location into iTunes. iTunes will import the ringtone into your library, where you can now sync it with your iPhone.

Simple enough? I think so! Feel free to try it yourself and leave some comments and feedback about this post.

Thanks @IntoMobile (and dad)!

This summer has been interesting, to say the least.  I’ve already talked about the free MacBook Pro I won, courtesy of SourceForge.  My dad has been enjoying that quite a bit. He’s put his customization into it already, which I expected right away. Due to him winning a free one, we also made a little deal: We’d split the cost of another MacBook Pro. It seemed like a win-win deal, especially considering that he had one for free.

Well, before I won that, I had won a $200 gift card to the Apple Store.  That was thanks to a little giveaway that IntoMobile was running. Because of that gift card, I began seriously considering buying something at Apple. At first, it was just a passing thought. Then, I began to ponder the idea of getting a MacBook Pro and an iPhone (especially as the IntoMobile giveaway was due to the release of the iPhone 3GS).

Well, those thoughts have all come to pass.  I now have my nice new MacBook Pro and, with it, an iPhone. Hopefully, the two will go hand-in-hand for me as I work on making both of them worth the purchase.

So, thanks to IntoMobile for the $200 gift card! And thanks to my dad for going along with the idea. I think he’s enjoying his iPhone, too.

Now to get used to running iTunes… and owning an iPod (of sorts)…