Accidental Obsolescence

This post originally appeared at NotedTech on 5 September 2016.

Years ago, I remember hearing the term ‘planned obsolescence’ being thrown around. The context was typically surrounding Apple and their upgrade cycle. The idea was that Apple would not support their devices for more than two years, forcing users to upgrade to continue to receive support.

If you look at the first few iOS devices, it could be easy to see that. The original iPhone receive its last software update, iPhone OS 3.1.3, in February 2010, just over two and a half years of availability. It didn’t stand a chance of receiving iOS 4. In fact, if you look at the history of iOS releases in general, each has typically left behind some device or another.

Yet, despite older devices eventually having to fall by the wayside, something interesting began happening with the iPad 2.

In March 2011, Apple unveiled the iPad 2. It was thinner than the original iPad, included both a front and rear facing camera, and packed the Apple designed A5 chip. While not incredibly more powerful than iOS devices sold in the previous year, the iPad 2 currently holds an incredible distinction: it supported six iOS releases! Only now, five years after introduction, is Apple letting the A5-family go. It launched with iOS 4.3.5 and will end with iOS 9.3.5, the most current stable release of iOS.

iOS 9 stands as a unique iOS release: it is the only major iOS version to not drop support for a device. In other words, all iOS 8 capable devices were able to get iOS 9. Given these recent trends, it’s likely that a good number of iOS devices, especially the 64-bit ones running the A7 chip or newer, will be supported by iOS releases for years to come.

That all said, I’m sure any iPad 2 owner can tell you: The device ran smoothest with iOS 4 and slowest with iOS 9. But given that each release adds new features of some kind, it’s only an eventuality that hardware cannot keep up with the software running on it. But to support major OS releases for six years is quite a lot, at least in the mobile space. Apple, thankfully, has the advantage of controlling both the hardware and software that goes into their devices, allowing them to tweak and manage every aspect. Because of the limited hardware options, it’s also easy for them to maintain support for older devices if need be.

ACCIDENTAL (THEY DIDN’T MEAN TO)

By comparison, take a look at the recent news regarding Android devices running certain Qualcomm chipsets:

Not all of the big Android phone makers have announced their plans for the Nougat update [Android’s latest OS release], but if you look at Sony’s and Google’s and HTC’s official lists (as well as the supplemental lists being published by some carriers), you’ll notice they all have one big thing in common. None of the phones are more than a year or two old.

After doing some digging and talking to some people, we can say that it will be either very difficult if not completely impossible for any phone that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 or 801 to get an official, Google-sanctioned Nougat update (including the Z3). And that’s a pretty big deal, since those two chips powered practically every single Android flagship sold from late 2013 until late 2014 and a few more recent devices to boot.

This situation has far-reaching implications for the Android ecosystem. And while it can be tempting to lay the blame at the feet of any one company—Google for creating this update mess in the first place, Qualcomm for failing to support older chipsets, and the phone makers for failing to keep up with new software—it’s really kind of everybody’s fault.

While the Android ecosystem allows for a great amount of variety and customization, it also can lead to situations like this. In this case, it looks likely that Qualcomm themselves have decided to stop supporting that chipset. Given that Android updates require sign-offs from multiple parties, just one can provide a roadblock.

This sets off a vicious cycle—OEMs usually don’t update their phones for more than a year or two, so chipmakers don’t worry about supporting their chipsets for more than a year or two, so OEMs can’t update their phones for more than a year or two even if they want to. It turns the 18-month minimum target that Google has been silently pushing for the last half-decade into less of a “minimum” and more of a “best-case scenario.” And people who don’t buy brand-new phones the day they come out are even worse off, since most of these update timelines are driven by launch date and not by the date the phones were taken off the market.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a premium or flagship handset losing support before the intended date. But for smartphone users, does the idea of an 18-month support window make you feel comfortable? I know I wouldn’t like that.

Google’s (soon to be rebranded) Nexus line might be the best supported for Android updates, but I wonder if Google will do more to tighten down the Android experience on their own devices. Will they move to take more control of the entire experience and limit situations like this? Can that even be done? One thing’s for sure: I doubt Google intended for Nougat to be limited in release. Yet, through no direct fault of their own, this is the current situation.

3D Touch – The Future of Apple’s Interfaces

This post originally appeared in NotedTech on 31 August 2016.

In 2014, Apple announced the Apple Watch. While many were expecting a shrunken iPhone on your wrist, Apple instead focused on a new experience. The Digital Crown, for instance, let users scroll their content without blocking most of the screen with their finger. To add further interactivity to apps, they also introduced something new: Force Touch.

In 2015, Apple added Force touch to the Mac lineup with the new MacBook, updated MacBook Pros, and the new Magic Trackpad 2. Later that year, the iPhone 6s was launched with a Force Touch capable display, branded on iOS devices as 3D Touch.

On each platform, the concept of Force Touch or 3D Touch acts a bit differently. For instance, with watchOS, Force Touch is really a required element to provide more interactive options without sacrificing screen space. On the Mac, default implementation seems to duplicate 3-finger taps while providing a few useful improvements, such as making use of the Taptic engine to provide feedback to the user’s finger.

On iOS, at least with iOS 9, the introduction of 3D Touch seemed like a gimmick to some. Live Photos required 3D Touch to move, yet can be activated by a long press on older devices. On the home screen, a hard press shows app shortcuts. And the concept of peeking and popping into content lets user quickly glance at information before committing to loading a certain view.

On Android, some said that the idea of detecting pressure on the screen was an old concept. Yet, looking at what was introduced early in the Android SDK showed those functions to be based more on the size of the tap than the actual pressure. In other words, it wasn’t truly making use of a pressure sensitive display.

That’s not to say that no Android device has a pressure sensitive display. Huawei beat the iPhone 6s to market with the Mate S and its pressure sensitive display. Yet, despite launch in 2015, we have yet to see many major flagship Android devices come with that feature. Even the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7 devices this year fail to include that functionality.

Following the introduction of the iPhone 6s, word began to spread of Android manufacturers coming out with their own displays. The recently released Android N was said to include support for their own implementation of 3D Touch, but the feature has now been reportedly moved to a maintenance update to the OS. Do Google, Samsung, and other Android manufacturers just think this is a useless gimmick?

If we look at Apple, however, we see a different picture. iOS 10 seems made for 3D Touch. The lock screen experience, and notifications in particular, truly benefit from 3D Touch. Having been running the iOS 10 developer beta on my iPhone 6s, I can say that my use of 3D Touch has greatly improved over iOS 9. In fact, when I switch to a non-3D Touch device, such as my iPad Air 2 or an iPhone 6 Plus used for app testing at work, I find myself trying to hard press the screen to perform certain actions.

While the implementation isn’t complete on the Mac, I fully suspect Apple will be making further use of Force/3D Touch on all of its devices. In fact, I would be surprised if this year’s iPad updates didn’t include some level of 3D Touch. And the rumored MacBook Pro update? It’ll definitely have a Force Trackpad. But in the coming months and years, I’d suspect Apple will add more 3D interactions to macOS.

All of this shows something that Apple excels at: taking their control of the hardware and software of the iPhone to make a unique experience. If Android supports pressure touch in the future, not all manufacturers will. It’ll introduce another level of fragmentation to their ecosystem. Yet, for Apple, adding this capability to their line is no trouble at all, and I’m convinced that the use of 3D Touch will only improve with each generation of Apple’s operating systems from now on.

Looking back: Highlights of WWDCs gone by

This post originally appeared on NotedTech on 12 June 2016.

With just one day until WWDC 2016 begins, I wanted to do something different. While everyone is making guesses and wishlists for this year, I wanted to look back at recent WWDC keynotes, their announcements, and what stood out for me.

2010, THE BIRTH OF RETINA

Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone 4

While much has happened since 2010, there is a lot that still stands out to me. While not the last WWDC keynote by Steve Jobs, I think his performance here was better than the following year. Personally, I see this being related to his health, as he seems more frail in 2011. Overall, Steve here was well composed and was able to throw in his fair share of jokes among various announcements. He was a natural on stage. While no replacement, I think Craig Federighi is the best Apple currently has when it comes to bringing back Steve’s flare.

Among other things this keynote is known for, the first is the introduction of the iPhone 4. It was the last time a new iPhone would grace the WWDC keynote. The iPhone 4 was a first in a few areas for Apple: An LED flash, a front facing camera, and the Retina display. We take all of that for granted now, but none of that existed on previous iPhones at the time.

Of course, one thing we’re quite used to now are leaks and rumors. Unfortunately for Apple, a test iPhone 4 was also leaked before the announcement, leading to the press having clear shots of the final device. But Steve handled it well on stage: “Stop me if you’ve already seen this.”

Alongside the iPhone 4 came something else that a lot of Apple users are likely quite familiar with: FaceTime. While not the first video communication system, it became the easiest way to start a video conversation with another Apple user. Since the initial introduction, we’ve seen FaceTime come to all of Apple’s mobile devices, and FaceTime Audio makes for a clear alternative to a standard phone call, especially in a WiFi-only environment.

Overall, this keynote stands out to me as one of Steve’s best. Between dealing with the announcement of a leaked product, jokes about whether or not Apple would approve their own apps, and handling WiFi problems in the middle of a demo, Steve still gave an entertaining, informative, and captivating presentation. (Well, all but the iAd demo. RIP iAds.)

2011, THE YEAR OF ICLOUD

The iPhone was 4 years old; the iPad was just over 1. Despite the relatively short lives of those devices, there were plenty of technologies to bring back to their parent platform. The 2011 keynote saw a 4th preview of OS X Lion, something Apple had been beta testing for months. This brought a few technologies and improvements from iOS, including more iOS-styled interfaces and FaceTime. It also was the first OS X update distributed exclusively through the new Mac App Store.

It also was the year we saw the Mac demoted. Initially, the Mac was the hub of your digital life. Now, with the introduction of iCloud, the Mac was to be a device in the same manner as an iPhone or iPad. While some would say Apple has a ways to go on delivering that vision, it all began with 2011.

The iCloud of five years ago was missing a few of the features we’ve come to love recently. But while not having features like iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library, or iCloud Music Library, it did introduce a few useful features to Apple users. Calendar, Contact, and Note syncing quickly made those apps much more useful. iCloud Backup made iTunes a little less necessary for device owners. And iTunes Match, while not necessarily an iCloud feature, provided an option to access your music on devices without syncing with your Mac or PC.

But as great as that all is, iOS 5’s big feature to me, besides iCloud support and Notification Center, was iMessages. Looking back, it’s hard for me to imagine now having iMessages. Yet, five years ago, it was just being announced. This feature would lead to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch being more useful as social devices. Suddenly, someone could message a friend with just an Apple ID and WiFi. Gone were the requirements of needing a cellular connection or a phone number to message others.

As this was Steve’s last WWDC keynote, it also is the last time we saw Apple’s CEO delivering the majority of the event.

2012, FORSTALL’S LAST

From the beginning, iOS development was lead by Scott Forstall. If WWDC 2011 was Steve Jobs’ last, 2012 was the last for Forstall, though no one could have known that at the time.

Ultimately, Tim Cook’s Apple was to be one based on cooperation and collaboration. While we don’t know all of the inner workings at Apple, some anonymous reports made out Forstall to be a polarizing force. Steve Jobs was able to hold onto his reins, but after Jobs’ death, he just couldn’t fit into the culture Cook was putting together.

One item in particular that Forstall presented on stage was Apple’s new Maps app in iOS 6. From the start, some users had issues with it. Google Maps, which had been on iOS up until that point, had been around longer than Apple’s service, leaving Apple trying to catch up. But even though it was inferior to some, the new service also brought turn-by-turn navigation natively to the iPhone. That, along with Flyover, made Apple Maps a shiny new application. Forstall’s pride is clearly seen as he demos it.

iOS 6 also brought Passbook, one of the initial steps ultimately leading to Apple Pay with iOS 8. Looking back, it’s possible to see Apple working on new ideas one piece at a time. Here, Passbook provided a way to put cards and codes into a single app. Next year, with the iPhone 5s, Apple would introduce a required piece of hardware side in the form of Touch ID.

On the Mac, OS X Mountain Lion brought Notification Center, iMessages, Game Center, and Notes. It was pretty clear that iOS was starting to lead when it came to new features. The Mac would eventually get iOS apps and features once they were created to fit the Mac’s interface mechanism.

And speaking of the Mac, WWDC 2012 was the birth of Retina on the Mac. The MacBook Pro with Retina started with only a 15-inch configuration and started at a price higher than the existing MacBook Pro models. But it also showed something very clear: Retina was the only way to go with a display. The new model also took some pointers from the MacBook Air in terms of removing older technologies and moving parts. Gone were the SuperDrive and spinning hard drive. Everything was flash, solid state, and ultimately made for a sleeker, more powerful MacBook Pro. In the end, it was the first of many transitions for Apple’s Mac line. And after having moved to solid state and Retina, I’ll never go back.

As iCloud began to mature, it also was starting to become clear that the iOS and OS X platforms could start doing more together. Things weren’t perfect yet (and still aren’t), but it was beginning to seem like there were more and more benefits to working across all of Apple’s devices.

2013, THE FIRST REDESIGN

Many months before WWDC 2013, rumors were flying around the various Apple blogs: iOS 7 was going to be a major redesign. Gone were the shadows, gradients, and textures of iOS 6. Everything was going to be flat.

While somewhat true, there was more to the story. Sure, plenty of textures disappeared with iOS 7, but they also disappeared from many of the apps found in OS X. The first non-cat release, Mavericks, boasted simpler UI, though it still reflected the window chrome found since Snow Leopard. Instead of seeing a calendar that might as well have been ripped up from someone’s desk, it was a clean looking Mac app.

OS X Mavericks also brought efficiency and performance improvements. While a focus of many OS updates, the particular focus showed that Apple wanted users to get the most out of their Mac, even if it was worth upgrading.

Mavericks also brought a price change: free. While Microsoft has offered free Windows 10 updates for now, they will eventually go back to a paid model. But Apple’s approach, likely offset by them making money on hardware and not software, means they can provide these updates to as many users as possible.

The biggest news of the keynote, of course, was iOS 7. While things seemed flatter, a lot of it ultimately seemed to be shaping up future UI for Apple. Of course, this wasn’t clear at the time. But looking back, the changes in iOS 7 ultimately lead to Apple changing OS X’s appearance in 2014, allowed for the dark but familiar UI for the Apple Watch, and brought similar changes to the Apple TV with tvOS.

I believe iOS 7 was more than just a quick redesign of the OS. I think it was purposeful planning for the future. Apple knew they wanted to go into a new direction with the Apple Watch and likely had some plans for the new Apple TV. They also were planning larger iPhones for the following year. All of that would benefit from ‘simplifying’ the operating system’s appearance.

And speaking of bringing things together…

2014, EVERYTHING COMES TOGETHER

The first iPhone was famous for ‘running OS X’. While true in a certain fashion, ultimately iOS (initially “iPhone OS”) was an offshoot of OS X running on a different processor architecture. Thus, while having similar roots, for several years both were developing their own features. In 2014, both were brought up to a level that let them work almost seamlessly with each other.

To me, the 2014 WWDC keynote is the best with regards to useful user and developer features and announcements. There are just so many wonderful things that were announced that year:

  • OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 both included features like Handoff and Continuity, making it easy to pick up a task from one device to another, send SMS from any device, or take a call from any device.
  • iCloud Drive enhanced iCloud into something similar to Dropbox, making it easy to store documents between multiple devices.
  • Extensions to iOS, letting developers create third-party keyboards, share extensions, notification widgets, and more. In a way, this was a precursor to WatchKit with the initial launch of the Apple Watch, as communicating with a Watch app was no different than sharing data with a widget or extension.
  • iCloud Photo Library, and Photo enhancements in iOS 8, made it very easy to store all of your photos in one place while still keeping them accessible to all of your devices.
  • HealthKit, providing a single store for applications to share health data.
  • HomeKit, making it easy to control multiple smart devices in the home through Siri.

Even after announcing all of those great features, Apple still had more to give to developers with the introduction of Swift, their new programming language.

As an Apple user, this was my favorite keynote. OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 truly made it worth living entirely in the Apple ecosystem. It always gives me a good feeling when I can show off features like AirDrop, Handoff, and Continuity to owners of Apple products.

As a developer, both iOS extensions and Swift were exciting. And given that WWDC is a developer conference, it makes sense that Apple would focus on software and things directly pertaining to developers and their apps. Apple would never make us sit through an awkward half hour of a non-developer related service at WWDC…

2015, MULTITASKING (OH, AND APPLE MUSIC)

Okay, maybe Apple would make a rather long intro for something not related to developers and software at WWDC.

The big item in 2015, and the one that I use often, is iPad multitasking in iOS 9. Split View, Slide Over, and Picture-in-Picture made the iPad a more useful device. So long as an iPad has a 64-bit processor (A7 chip or newer), some form of multitasking is available.

While not as notable of a feature for some, OS X El Capitan also included split screen support for full screen apps. As someone that uses full screen apps constantly across multiple displays, this was a great feature.

Thankfully, the 2015 keynote ended after all of the software talk.

Okay, it didn’t.

Seriously, though, Apple Music seemed out of place for a developer conference. Still, Apple will make the most of their public events. And for a lot of people that I talk to, Apple Music is a great service. Me? I like my local music library, consisting of songs and albums I’ve accumulated since I was a teen. I’m not ready to trust my music needs to the cloud just yet.

2016, THE YEAR OF…

So how will I remember 2016? As this isn’t a post about my wishlist or thoughts on rumors, I’ll leave this blank. Once WWDC 2016 is behind us, then I’ll go back and say exactly what my highlights are.

If there is anything on my “wishlist”, though, it is that this year’s event is as good as 2014. That’s my current favorite. Between new user features and developer enhancements, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I only hope I’ll feel the same after Monday morning.

David Smith after a year of wearing Apple Watch

This post originally appeared on NotedTech on 26 April 2016.

David Smith:

I remember being rather skeptical of Apple’s original marketing of the Apple Watch as “our most personal device ever”, but a year later I must say that it would be a hard case to make that something that has been physically attached to me for 83% of my life is anything other than personal.

Thankfully, David is someone that will dig into numbers. In this case, it’s seeing how many hours a day he’s worn his Apple Watch since first putting it on a year ago. I know I’d love to see what my numbers reveal. Since using Sleep++, I’m sure I’m in the 20+ hours a day category.

Microsoft changing OneDrive storage plans

This post originally appeared on NotedTech on 12 November 2015.

Earlier this month on the OneDrive blog:

Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average. Instead of focusing on extreme backup scenarios, we want to remain focused on delivering high-value productivity and collaboration experiences that benefit the majority of OneDrive users.

Here are the changes:

  • We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • 100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.
  • Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

Looks like a few bad apples ruined it for the rest of the OneDrive user base. The new plans seem very similar to Apple’s iCloud pricing, which currently is: 5 GB free, 50 GB for $.99/month, 200 GB for $2.99/month, and 1TB for $9.99/month. If you’re new to cloud storage, it looks like the determining factor is which platform are you working with most: Apple’s or Microsoft’s?

Interestingly, Microsoft will seemingly just offer 2 options: 5 GB free, or the addition of 50 GB of storage for $1.99/month. If you want 1 TB, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription. That is, if you want an Office 365 subscription. I don’t know of many people that have one outside of a work created account.

A week with iPhone 6s

This post originally appeared on NotedTech on 2 October 2015.

After a week with the iPhone 6s, I’ve been able to finally put together my early thoughts on it. There are plenty of good reviews out there, so I won’t go into every tech detail. 

First, my typical buying habits: I’ll get a new iPhone every two years. My first iPhone was the 3GS, and I’ve been on the ’S-cycle’ ever since. The new design has been perfected, and the internal upgrades are typically more significant than with the new designs. Thus, my previous iPhone was the 5s. 

Compared to what I had before, this new iPhone definitely is a wonderful device. There are a few areas that I especially appreciate.

First, the FaceTime camera. Living two time zones away from family, FaceTime has become a regular thing for us. The front facing FaceTime camera on the iPhone 6s is now a 5MP sensor. Both photos and videos are much higher quality than in previous iOS devices. Yes, it makes for great selfies. But it also makes for better video chats, too.

The iSight camera on the back is very important to many people. For me, with a ten-month old son, photos are something that happen all day, every day. Again, these are photos that get sent back to family. The jump to a 12MP camera, along with the usual ‘Apple refinements’, means we always have cute pictures for the grandparents. 

Of course, the iPhone 6s also includes support for taking Live Photos. Shortly after coming home with our new iPhones, I tested this out with our son. The first Live Photo that I took is now my favorite Live Photo (thus far) and has been my wallpaper several times this past week. Being able to touch my screen and see him move and smile is one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had with my new iPhone. This feature also is a big hit with our family (at least the family members who have updated to iOS 9). Instead of just seeing a still photo of their grandson, they can almost see the memory as we did. This alone is probably the best feature to come to the iPhone 6s.

One other new feature to the 6s is 3D Touch. Some have, incorrectly in my opinion, compared it to right click on the desktop. Others, typically Android users, like to say it’s analogous to a long press. Both actions give the impression of a junk folder of actions. When you right click on something on a computer, you don’t expect to do things quicker than a click or two, you expect to find additional options. And in iOS, that’s still true of things like a long press. 3D Touch, however, makes things simpler. For me, previewing links while in Mail, News, or Messages is wonderful for productivity. You can get a quick idea of what is there without needing to load the entire link, email, or article. If I want to head into something, I can press harder and pop into it. Otherwise, I can just peek my way through things. And unlike a long press, I don’t need to wait for this to kick in. I can just do a hard press and instantly get a peek into something. I think this interaction has a lot to offer iOS, especially as more apps take advantage of it. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see this hit iPad models next year.

All in all, I’m very happy with the iPhone 6s. Coming from the 5s, I’m still adjusting to the size difference. Most people probably got that out of their system last year with the release of the iPhone 6. Besides that, though, there’s everything to love and little to hate in Apple’s latest iPhone.

Initial thoughts from this week’s Apple event

This post originally appeared in NotedTech on 12 September 2015.

Once again, in what doesn’t seem like a full year, we’re looking back at another iPhone event. This time, though, Apple packed in quite a lot of information about products across its device lines. 

It wasn’t until I rewatched the event yesterday that I was able to get all of the details and finally start thinking about everything that was announced. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

APPLE WATCH

While there is little new that Apple announced regarding Apple Watch, what they didmention was pretty nice. New bands and models, especially the gold Sport models, have the potential to bring more people to the Apple Watch. If you’ve seen the rose gold aluminum case with the lavender sport band, you understand what I mean.

It’s nice to see Apple adding more options to the ‘entry level’ Watch. This keeps the Edition model for those that actually care if their Watch is made of gold or just looks like gold.

IPAD PRO

Since it debuted, the iPad has been perplexing for many and has seemed like a product with no clear vision for some. Is it a productivity machine? Is it just for consumption? While Apple has tried to show that it can do both, the iPad has yet to make in-roads into the enterprise market and creative industries.

The iPad Pro has the potential to change that. With a larger screen, a highly accurate Apple Pencil stylus, and enough processing power to run two full iPad apps side-by-side (thanks to iOS 9’s new multitasking capabilities). The possibilities of being more productive with this new device, while very familiar to existing iPads, have me wondering if the recent partnerships with IBM and Cisco were pre-requisites to the iPad Pro’s launch. These partnerships give Apple a foot in the door of corporate IT departments, and this new iPad could be the iOS device to open that door wider.

It also made perfect sense (for Apple at least) to have Microsoft and Adobe showing off their software on the larger 12.9-inch display. 

I personally find myself using my iPad every day. It’s a great device for when I want to do things while I relax. Reading when I’m off work? Playing a game? Creating a new backing track in GarageBand? It’s perfect.

The problem lately has been with iPad sales. It doesn’t have the same upgrade cycle that smartphones do. I know many people that are still using an iPad 2 (from 2011) or iPad 3 (from 2012). And they’re perfectly happy with their devices. I don’t see the iPad Pro pushing a lot of people to upgrade. What I do see is the iPad Pro reaching people that normally wouldn’t want an iPad, much like the iPad mini caught a new segment of tablet users. We’ll have to see how people react once the iPad Pro launches in November.

APPLE TV

Apple says the future of the TV is apps. While that includes bringing downloadable games and other similar apps to the big screen, I think there’s more potential than that. Apple TV already has support for networks like HBO and Showtime. Having support for third party apps now makes it even easier for other networks and stations to start bringing their content to Apple TV users. And this is without a new streaming TV service like what Apple supposedly is working on. 

This in itself, added with the existing capabilities of the new Apple TV, make me feel like it is a vital addition to someone’s living room. Already, my family uses it for 90% of our TV watching, either through content in iTunes, using Home Sharing from a nearby Mac, or AirPlaying content from an iOS device. Add apps with support for more cable networks and shows and you can definitely say goodbye to cable.

IPHONE 6S

The iPhone 6s rumors seemed to all come true. New 12 megapixel camera, A9 chip, potentially 2 GB of RAM, newer and faster wireless technologies, and Force 3D Touch. But seeing all of it, including how 3D Touch is being used, as well as Live Photos, makes the iPhone 6s a definite buy for me. Then again, I’m still using an iPhone 5s. Anyone running an older iPhone than the iPhone 6 should definitely consider this upgrade.

I didn’t think 3D Touch would be that big of a deal. But with how Apple has implemented it for additional functionality without compromising the current Multi-Touch system is impressive. It’ll be something that I probably could describe better once I’ve used it. I’ll tell you all about it after September 25, when iPhone 6s starts shipping.

Overall, I think the Apple event went pretty well. It flowed better and was more interesting than their WWDC Keynote in June. I’ll just call that a temporary hiccup in their otherwise well organized events. And if Apple decides to surprise us with another event next month, perhaps with Mac news, let’s hope it goes off as well as this event did.

Understanding podcasts

This post originally appeared on NotedTech on 28 January 2015.

If pop culture is anything to go by, 2015 is the year of the future. It’s also the year of the present. And I’d like to kick the year off by learning about something from the past: Podcasting.

Podcasting is a foreign term to a lot of people, but the medium has certainly seen a resurgence in mainstream media in recent months. As a result, many are unsure about whether podcasts are something they would be interested in or not. When I first heard of podcasts ten years ago, I didn’t fully understand what they were. When I was asked to help put together sound effects and mixed in content for a podcast, I thought it was a one-off, one-time thing. In reality, though, podcasts are much more interesting.

Photo: Patrick Breitenbach/Flickr
Photo: Patrick Breitenbach/Flickr

In computer terms, podcasts are surprisingly old. The term itself emerged in 2004, referring to a music or talk program made available digitally. Most podcasts are episodic, with new episodes being released on a regular basis. Typically, podcasts are in audio format but instead of listening to shows live like you would on the radio, you would download or stream episodes to your device.

Since Apple added podcast support to iTunes in 2005 shows have become convenient to download and listen to. You also can find numerous podcast apps for your tablet or smartphone to listen to podcasts. With the ease of current technology, it’s no wonder that there are now likely as many Americans listening to podcasts as there are Twitter users in America.

If you’ve never heard of podcasts before, or if you’ve never listened to one, you may think that podcasts are for geeks. But in fact, there are podcasts for any and every topic. And you don’t have to be a nerd to listen to them. For instance, my mother-in-law just recently started listening to podcasts on her iPhone. She found some travel related podcasts, a food podcast, and audio podcasts for her favorite magazines.

Working with software, certain podcasts that I listen to, such as Developing Perspective, help give me new ideas about technology and development that I may not have thought about before. Having these insights helps give me new ways of approaching what I do.

When I’m not listening to technical podcasts, I have several more entertaining ones that I’ll turn on. For instance, as a fan of Star Trek, I’ve come to enjoy Random Trek, a podcast where the host and his guest discuss random episodes of Star Trek. I also have a few episodes of Writing Excuses that I have enjoyed.

Because of the wide variety of available podcasts, there’s no doubt that you could find one that interests you. And, unlike a radio show that you may miss and never catch again, podcasts live online. Even if a podcast you’re interested in no longer produces new episodes, you can still catch the show from the very beginning. So whether it’s a podcast about travel, food, tech, comedy, or anything else, you can find something to fit your tastes. You can even listen to drama in podcast form, with the likes of Serial proving to be uber-popular.

So, where do you start? First, identify how you will listen. If from your computer, iTunes is the easiest way to get started. If you’re using a mobile device, you can find numerous podcast apps on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

No matter which app you end up using, most typically have a directory that you can search through. Start by searching for a particular topic. You can then look at the shows covering those topics and see the various episodes they’ve released. You typically will have the option to either download a single episode of a podcast or to subscribe to all new episodes. Whatever you choose, podcasts are free to download, free to subscribe to, and free to listen to.

At the very least, check some podcasts out. If there is even one podcast that you are interested in, it may introduce you to a new, informative, and entertaining medium to enjoy.