Here Comes the iPad Pro

A replacement candidate for the Surface Pro 3 has been identified…

iPad-Pro-Smart-Keyboard

Yes, yes, yes… I know.

Many of you expected this and are not surprised at all – the iPad Pro is going to get a chance to be my digital note taker in the office.

When I dumped my Surface Pro 3, I was pretty annoyed. Hell, let’s face it – I was really mad. The Surface Pro 3 has some real issues with Windows 10 and Microsoft OneNote 2013/ 2016.

It’s not pretty…

When I put the Surface Pro 3 head to head with the Surface Pro 4, I came away with some serious concerns and misgivings about where Microsoft was headed with the Surface Pro line (which, by the way, includes the Microsoft’s Surface Book).

Both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have problems with drivers, battery life, and in the case of the Surface Book, detaching from the native keyboard. These issues are so severe, in some cases, that people – including the friend I have in the office who lent me his SP4 to put head to head with my SP3 – returned them for replacement or refund. It’s a shame, too, as all three of these ultrabooks are really very nice… you just apparently have to use them for the right tasks, with power available, and without detaching the keyboard (in the case of the Surface Book), or you run into problems.

To be honest, it was the head to head article that I wrote that really pushed things over the edge for me and really prompted me to sell (read: dump) my Surface Pro 3. Windows 10 is problematic on it and OneNote is almost unusable, if you’re not careful.

So, enter the iPad Pro…

The office procured one for me, and I’ll be putting it through its paces. I’ve got the 128GB version on T-Mobile; and I’m using a instead of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. it’s a matter of preference, really… I’ve played with the Pro’s Smart Keyboard and I didn’t like the way the keys felt; or the way it worked (attached to the iPad and flipped around). I instead asked for the Logitech Create Keyboard, and though it adds a great deal of [overall] thickness to the device, it provides a much better typing and computing experience in my opinion. The keys have nice travel, and I’m able to touch type on it as I would with any other laptop or computer I work with.

The fact that it’s at least $20 USD cheaper than the Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is just a bonus.

Yes… I have an Apple Pencil scheduled to arrive in the next week or two. The fact that these things are hard to come by (I’ve been calling the local Apple Store a few times a week to inquire about buying one in store) isn’t helping matters. The iPad Pro really wants an Apple Pencil, despite the fact that taking notes in OneNote via the Logitech Create Keyboard works very, very well.

I’ll have a full review of the iPad Pro, the Logitech CREATE Keyboard and the Apple Pencil as soon as I’ve had a chance to spend some time with all of them.

At this point, I’m working on an opinion. If you just can’t wait and need something to chew on, you can go back and read this article on what’s going to make or break the iPad Pro. While it may have been a bit early on in the process for me, I really think the article speaks to some of the major hurdles the device is going to have to get passed in order to be the success that it wants and needs to be, especially in the enterprise.

In the meantime, just hang out…

I’ve got a few other interesting things that I’m working on that many of you might find interesting:

The Conclusion to the Smartwatch Roundup that I’ve been writing for (literally) the last year. While all of the principle players have been reviewed, I’ve got some issues that I’m still trying to work through with the Olio Mode One that have been keeping me much more occupied than I would like…
The review of the Hendocks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro 15″ Retina. While there are some issues to work through, I’ve been rather happy with the way things have been going; but I don’t want to ruin the review.
The Release of Windows 10 Mobile. Its rumored to be right around the corner. I’m hoping that the Windows Phone I have gets the upgrade sooner rather than later. If it does, I’ll have a full review, rather than just a news-based article speaking to the release of Microsoft’s mobile OS.

What about you? Did you get any new tech for the Holidays? Am I missing some big piece of gadgetry that I should follow up with an article or two or with a full review? Will wearables continue to be a big player in 2016? Is the iPad Pro JUST a bigger iPad or will it be as ground breaking as Apple hopes it will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your take on all of these and more? I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say!

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Olio – Did the Cat Finally Build a Smarter Mouse Trap?

Contestant number five has entered the ring…

olio

One of the bigger things to hit the market this year is wearables. Things like Microsoft Band (part two of the review can be seen here), the Fitbit Surge, the Apple Watch (review pending arrival of the hardware), Pebble Time and Time Steel are all wearables – specifically smartwatches – that will have been released or will be released later this year. As of the first of this month (yes, April 1st; but no, this isn’t a joke), a new player has thrown their hat into the ring – meet the Olio Model One.

The device…? Oh my stars and garters, yes! Have you seen this thing?!

The Model One is beautiful. It’s made of stainless steel and basically comes in two flavors – (brushed?) Stainless Steel and Black. And while it is DEFINITELY drool-worthy, it’s got a few hurdles to get past.

The device itself runs on a proprietary OS

According to Olio, people spend WAY too much time in their computers, in their smartphones and tablets and shortly, in their smartwatches… that are tethered and tied to their smartphones. Olio wants their users to think of the Model One as an extension of themselves and not something that drives them or makes them live in it. As such, there’s no app store to bury you in apps. You get what you’re given (at least initially).

While the device obtains connectivity via both Android and iOS wireless devices, there aren’t any apps for you to run on the watch other than the ones that come with the device. While it does have an “assistant” of sorts, called Olio Assist, providing time saving suggestions, the limited – but value-added – functionality of (just) what comes out of the box, is where Olio sees the Model One hitting the sweet spot. You don’t get lost or waste hours of time playing Flappy Bird (or one of its many device based, or online clones). Instead, you focus on the information you need and only the information you need, so you spend time instead to your family, friends and loved ones.

However, most of the world wants apps. Its why we buy smart devices, and without an app store or a market (more on that, below), you have to wonder what the draw will be? Yeah it looks GREAT; and people at Tech Crunch, The Verge, and Gizmodo, all think saving you from “notification hell” is the bomb; and maybe it is.

Maybe it is….

I know that it drove me a bit nuts with the Microsoft Band, and it didn’t work right on the Surge; but when things are configurable, as they are on Band (and are supposed to be on the Surge), then you have to think a bit more about the purchase. For example, there aren’t any apps or even an app store for Band, either… (and its $400 cheaper).

And by the way, there’s no fitness band functionality here that I can see. This is a smartwatch and not a smartwatch that also measures physical activity. It doesn’t have any activity sensors, a GPS, a accelerometer, or a gyroscope. The functionality appears limited at this time.

It’s Expensive
Yeah… let’s talk about that for a sec.

While Microsoft Band is clearly affordable at $199.99, the Olio Model One is $345 – $395 for the Steel flavor and $495 – $545 for the Black flavor as of this writing with the $250 “friends and family” discount that’s being extended to the public. Normally, we’re talking $595 – $645 for Steel and $745 – $795 for Black (which puts their metal link bracelets at around $50 bucks over their leather bands).

The Olio Model One runs in the same neighborhood as the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport. The pricing models may be very different, but their close enough to be similar. You can clearly get a decent and high end analog watch for about as much AND get the band you want, too.

The device has a stainless steel case and an ion exchange glass touch screen that is supposed to survive impacts and resist scratches. It has wireless charging with a battery that can last a full two days with full functionality and then an additional two days, if you turn off connectivity to its Bluetooth-LE radio. The Model One can communicate with both Siri and Google Now via Olio Assist; and can control third party smart devices like thermostats and lights. It’s also water resistant so you don’t have to worry about ruining it when you take a swim.

The Model One is clearly a premium product; and maybe all of this is worth the premium price to you. I’m skeptical at best, at least until I have it in my hands.

It’s got an Initial Production Run of Just 1000
The Model One is a limited edition device.

Other companies release things in “limited edition,” and then they really aren’t limited at all. Olio’s first run of the Model One is limited to 1000 units – Five hundred of each the Steel and Black flavors. According to Olio,

“We decided to do a very limited production for its first release because the company is committed to the quality and craftsmanship and wanted to make sure that every piece holds up the high standards of the company. Olio compares themselves to a craft brewery, and aren’t trying to be everything to everyone.”

Olio likens itself to a craft beer brewery. Brian Ruben from ReadWrite.com said it best, I think. “if I buy a six-pack of a craft brew and I don’t like what I drink, I’m not out $600. Plus, I don’t have to call tech support.”

While the limited run and the high price are, I think, partial marketing tools to help create hype (as well as tech coverage by a number of different outlets, including yours truly and Soft32, at the end of the day you have to wonder how viable a company with such a limited production run with such a high end product will be. Olio appears to be artificially creating a limited supply in order to make the device’s value appear higher. Things that are rare ARE considered more valuable.

Diamonds, like the Hope Diamond, with such a highly desired cut, level of clarity and precision cut ARE rare and ARE very valuable. Olio hopes that watch aficionados see the Model One in the same light and don’t ding it for its digital guts as they do with nearly every other smartwatch; and with nothing really to compare it to (the Apple Watch isn’t even available for pre-order as of this writing, and hasn’t hit the market with either a splash or a thud…), it’s hard to see how well or how poorly the Olio Model One will do.

Have you seen the Olio Model One? Does it interest you? Will you buy one? Stay tuned to Soft32 as 2015 truly does appear to be the Year of Wearables. I’ll have more coverage on devices as they are released or as they make news.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and discussion area, below.

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FEATURE REVIEW: Microsoft Band – Part 1

 

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Introduction

When I was a kid, I was always skinny. When I was a young, married adult, I was always skinny. In fact, I was 135 pounds (61.24 kilos) until I was about 35. I was skinny my entire life until we moved from Chicago to Nashville in 2000 where I had a group of kind hearted, good natured rednecks introduce me to the REAL meaning of fried chicken and biscuits and gravy.

Now, I’m a fat slob. I should never have learned the recipe.

My weight jumped from 135 pounds to about 170 pounds (77.11 kilos). After I turned 40, I began fluctuating between 170 and 180 pounds (81.65 kilos). Now that I’m nearly 50 (Lord, that seems so OLD!), I’m weighing in at a hefty 191 pounds (86.64 kilos); and I lost my feet. I think they’re still attached and below me because I haven’t fallen down yet.

My wife has been wanting to lose some medically added weight for a number of years and I’m finally ready to get rid of the inner tube around my waist, so for Christmas in 2014, I purchased both of us a Microsoft Band at a local brick and mortar location near the office.

Microsoft’s first entry into the wearables market is a smartwatch and fitness band unremarkably named, Microsoft Band. Microsoft Band is really the FIRST commercially available, actual and totally genuine, platform independent Smartwatch available on the market today; and it’s all about the quantitative self – the end user’s need/ want/ desire to learn more about how much calories they’re burning, how far they’ve walked or run on a given day, what their active and resting heartbeats are like, etc.

This review is part one of a four part series. I’m reviewing the Microsoft Band, the Fitbit Surge and the Apple Watch (when its released, currently expected in April of 2015). The last part will be a round-up based article where I will try to compare and contrast the good and the bad of all three to help everyone pick the device that’s the best for them.

For now, let’s sit down (or, perhaps a more appropriate colloquialism would be, “let’s get up and jump around”) and really take a look at how the Microsoft Band works (or doesn’t).

Hardware

Microsoft Band is an interesting accessory. The design is a bit on the rigid side, however…and there are some strange and curious design decisions that were made, that are clearly evident, as you become more and more familiar with the device.

For example – the device isn’t water proof or even water resistant. That last one really is confusing. Depending on how hydrated you are, or like to be during a workout, you can sweat. Not to be gross or anything, but I’ve been in karate classes where I’ve soaked a gi. I’ve done walk or elliptical workouts where I’ve been equally as sweaty; and I’m certain I’m not alone.

Microsoft Band may be encased in rubber and plastic; but there are many seams in the device where it’s easy for water to get in. I do not understand why Microsoft would make and market a device that’s meant to get somewhat wet (with sweat at least) and not make it water resistant at least. Microsoft says Band is “splash resistant” meaning that if you accidentally splash water on it, it’s likely to survive, but you’re going to want to wipe it up right away.

However, you should not swim, shower or do any other kind of activity (like run any kind of marathon or other activity where you’re going to potentially pour water on yourself or get wet) while wearing Band. You’ll ruin it.

Totally the most stupid design decision I’ve heard or seen on an exercise and activity band… Why in the WORLD is this thing not water resistant at least?! I can understand the issue of being water proof… they may have issues with the heart rate sensor and such; but if Band has issues with excessive amounts of sweat and other moisture, how useful is the device going to be, REALLY?? This is a huge hole that really needs to get resolved in future hardware updates of Band.

Wearability and Usability

Microsoft Band is VERY bulky. Aside from the lack of water resistance, this is probably the device’s biggest issue and problem. As you can see from some of the graphics and photographs of the device, its thick, its bulky and very inflexible.

I’ve been wearing the device daily since Christmas Day 2014, as of this writing. There have been times when Band has loosened on my wrist, and has turned at an awkward angle. Due to its rigidity, its pressed against my wrist bones and can be very painful to wear.

I’ve also heard people say that it’s very difficult to sleep with because it’s so bulky. This hasn’t been my experience. The only problem that I’ve had sleeping with the device is when I forget to turn sleep monitoring on. I have the device in Watch Mode (it displays the date and time in a dim, white font when Watch Mode is turned on), and the screen never turns off when it’s in Watch Mode. While the full graphic and color screen isn’t active unless the device is actually “on,” Watch Mode is none-the-less, very bright at 2:37am, and has woken both me and my wife up from a sound sleep because its shining in our eyes. Obviously, during the day, and in bright sunlight, the Band’s Watch Mode isn’t very bright at all, and is in some cases, difficult to read, but in a dark theatre or other dimly lit area, it can be brighter than you think. If you’re using Watch Mode, as I am, and NOT using the sleep functions, you’re likely going to want to remove Band and charge it overnight. As I said, even its dim, Watch Mode, the display is VERY bright in a dark room.

Notifications

Microsoft Band does notifications rather well. The only other smartwatch that I’ve seen so far that does them as well or better is my Pebble Steel; and that’s feeling very, VERY tired and old (and it’s not even a year old yet). That’s both good and bad for Pebble, as they seem to understand what Notifications can and should do on a smartwatch (dismissing also deletes, and you can send a call to VM, directly from the watch). It’s bad because some of this really shouldn’t be old and long in the tooth at just shy of a year old, but that’s technology and Moore’s Law for you…

However, with the Microsoft Health software on your smartphone, you can configure Microsoft Band to send over every single notification that hits your phone (via Band’s Notification Center widget), or you can choose any number of predefined notifications, for example – Facebook, Mail, Calendar, phone calls, etc.

If you enable Band’s Notification Center, then don’t have it send over notifications for any of the other specific tiles like Messaging, Mail, Calendar, etc. You’re just going to get duplicate notifications that you’ll either need to clear or allow to expire when they hit your Band. The only thing about this is that Notification Center then becomes a huge dumping ground for duplicate notifications, and going through more than a handful at a time is messy.

The big problem with notifications on Microsoft Band is that even if you dismiss them when they pop up on Band, they don’t dismiss from your smartphone; and they also never leave your band, either. You can dismiss the notification, but there’s no real way of deleting a notification from Band, that I can find at least.

I’m hoping this is simply a work in progress and that Microsoft will soon have a software update for Band that will resolve some of this. Notifications can be really cool, but the hodge-podge of a mess that you have in Notification Center really needs to be addressed (the simple fix is that if you have both Notification Center and any of the other app/ notification specific tiles turned on, they don’t show up in Notification Center; but that’s just a start…)

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Next Page

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My Bluetooth has Cavities

Sometimes, I really wonder why I use so many Bluetooth devices…

bluetoothApple has just released iOS 8.3 Beta 1 to its developer partners. The big push behind iOS 8.3? – Wireless CarPlay connectivity. This is a change to CarPlay, which previously required a cabled, lightning connection to a head unit to function.

CarPlay and iOS 8.3 are obviously going to rely more heavily on Bluetooth Low Energy connections going forward. For me – and I think, a number of actual and potential CarPlay users – this is likely going to prove to be a huge headache.

I’ve got a Pebble Steel, Microsoft Band and a Fitbit Surge. These three smartwatches and activity bands all use BT-LE to communicate with my smartphone – currently an iPhone 6 running iOS 8.1.3. I’ve been experiencing some very serious challenges with Bluetooth connectivity over the last number of years and I’ve come to a very clear and solid conclusion:

Bluetooth just plain sucks.

I’ve had more dropped connections, failed connections, and difficulty pairing devices than I think ANYONE should have to put up with. The technology is supposed to be active seeking, meaning than its supposed to actively find paired devices and when it does find them, activate secured communications between devices that are paired and hold and maintain that connection as long as the two devices are in range.

The problem that I run into, with my:

  • iPhone 6
  • Pebble Steel
  • Microsoft Band
  • Fitbit Surge
  • Kenwood BT952HD Car Stereo
  • Beats Wireless Headset
  • MacBook Pro
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • iPad 1

and any other wireless device that I’m forgetting to list is that none of them…

NONE

OF

THEM

can maintain any kind of consistent level of Bluetooth connectivity between any of the devices that they’re paired to on a consistent basis. Devices always fail to sync at some point. Active connections are dropped (like, I’m on a phone call in the car and the call I’m actively on drops off the car stereo, but the call itself is still connected to my iPhone; and this happens WHILE I’m driving) without any kind of warning or indication of communications problem.

Paired devices often refuse to connect, requiring Bluetooth radios in either one, the other, or both devices to be turned off for 15-30 seconds and then cycled back on before formerly paired devices may connect. In some severe cases, partnerships have had to be deleted and devices repaired, because no amount of trying, begging, pleading, bargaining or cajoling has gotten them to connect (and then even repairing the devices can be difficult…)

Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Auto Show 2014

This is why I was so very interested in CarPlay in my vehicle. It REQUIRED a cabled connection, meaning that I wouldn’t have to argue with the head unit and my iPhone and their potentially fickle relationship any more. The devices would connect when the phone was plugged into the cable, and that would be the end of that. As long as CarPlay continues to support hard wired connections, then I think it will be a good solution for hands free operation in a vehicle. The moment that it moves to wireless communications only, is the day that I think the standard will begin to have some serious problems.

What’s even more infuriating is that they stop and start working seemingly at random and completely on their own. I have no idea at times whether or not the devices I assume are connected are in fact… CONNECTED.

But can someone please help me understand what I’m supposed to do here??

Can someone point me to some sort of “wireless crazy glue” that will insure that Bluetooth connections work as their intended all the time? I know I can’t be the only person having this kind of problem. I’ve learned over time that I can’t just assume that paired devices will connect when they’re supposed to and/ or will stay connected as they’re supposed to when the devices come in range. At best, this is a hit and miss sorta deal, and honestly, Bluetooth needs to be better than this.

When I rely on Bluetooth connections to connected and stay connected after pairing (as long as the devices are in range), this sort of hit and miss crap just can’t be tolerated. I can’t get any of the Continuity features between my Macs and my iPhone to work consistently. I can’t get any of my smartwatches or activity/ fitness bands to consistently sync with my smartphone. I can’t get my smartphone and my car radio to connect and work the way it’s supposed to.

How the heck am I supposed to rely on any of this stuff to work and “improve” my life if the connectivity technology – Bluetooth is full of “cavities?”

I have NO idea what to do…

Are you having issues with Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE? Do your devices drop connections like paparazzi drop names (and flash bulbs)? Do your mission critical Bluetooth applications – your car radio, your fitness band or smartwatch, your wireless headset, etc. – crap out on you when you need them most? Am I missing something that I should be doing, but for some reason am not? What words of wisdom can YOU offer ME? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole issue. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole ordeal? Lord knows… I could use the help!

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Manage your Windows PC with GEGeek Tech Toolkit

Manage your Windows PC with this collection of technical apps and utilities.

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Windows is a great operating system that is riddled with opportunities for improvement. Historically, this is a great way of saying that the OS has serious issues. Its also a great way of saying that it needs help. Which is one of the reasons why utility suites like GEGeek Tech Toolkit is something that nearly every somewhat technical Windows user needs. If you have a Windows PC, you really need to do yourself a favor and check it out.

GEGeek Tech Toolkit is a complete collection of over 300 Portable freeware, tech related programs. All of them are all accessible from a single Menu Launcher Utility. The utility suite resides on a USB or flash drive, providing the user the ability to update the programs with little to no intervention. This insures that the apps are completely portable.

The app is a system tray tool that gives you access to its cache of tools and utilities. You run the toolkit main executable, and it puts everything on the flash drive at your disposal within a couple of clicks. It has apps like WinRAR, Chrome and Firefox, as well as malware removal and disk recovery tools. The apps are part of the download and included with the suite. Everything runs off the flash drive.

I’m actually afraid to run any of the utilities in this suite, but I was finally able to get the software to download and correctly decompress. It took me five timeDs to do it, but I finally got it to work.

Getting the software to download, however, was difficult. It would not download to my Mac either via OS X or Windows 7 via Parallels. The download kept getting corrupted just at the end. I was finally able to download the software on my Surface Pro, but after decompressing the downloaded file, Windows Defender identified at least 7 components as hacker software/malware.

Finally, the product website is a huge mess. There’s SO much information screaming at you when you visit the product’s website that its very difficult to process it all and make sense of it. Even I got lost in it; and I know my way around software and websites. Its in need of a serious overhaul as well.

While everything in this utility suite runs, I’m not entirely certain I can recommend the application to general users. Use this one at your own risk.

Download

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iPhone 6 First Impressions

I’ve had the iPhone 6 for a few days and here are my initial thoughts on the device

iphone-6

It happens every year since 2007. The world goes bat-stuff crazy when Apple announces and then releases a new iPhone or iDevice. Everyone that has the old one WANTS to get the new one. Not everyone that wants one can either afford to buy one or those that are, are lucky enough to get one on the actual launch day. This year, I was blessed enough to be both.

I’ve been playing with a space gray, iPhone 6 since the evening of 2014-09-19. I completed an unboxing for Soft32 that you can see on my site, iTechGear.org.

After working with the device for about five or so days, I have the following to share about the device.

Size and Form Factor

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is perhaps one of the thinnest smartphones I have ever put my hands on. While the 4.7″ screen size is perhaps the biggest – and most noticeable – of Apple’s new smartphone’s features, the device’s waist size is relevant news, especially after report after report of the device bending.

With the new design, the iPhone has departed from its four version, design stagnation (iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s). The iPhone 6/6 Plus is new. Its sexy. Its bigger, and its thinner. It provides the user with a whole new smartphone experience; or at least that is what Apple would have you believe; and its probably true.

In hand, either device is huge. While the 6 Plus is like holding an iPad mini to your head, the iPhone 6, while only slightly smaller, is still vastly larger than its predecessors. Over the past few days, I’ve found that holding the device is noticeable, especially after using the iPhone 5 over the past two years. However, its noticeably larger, and you know that you know that you’re using a much larger device.

The device is super sexy; but I wouldn’t use it without a case. I made this decision BEFORE hearing about all of the device bending stories and before seeing all of the pictures. As such, the day that I got my iPhone 6, I went to AT&T and bought an OtterBox Defender Series Case for my iPhone 6. I love the profile of the iPhone 6, but if smartphones get any thinner, they will definitely need to be able to bend or fold on purpose in order to prevent the device from being damaged.

You won’t want it to be in a case, but you’re GOING to need something to help protect the device. Its really a GREAT looking device; but while Apple has done a really great job of designing a technologically advanced, consumer friendly device, it may have gone too far in thinning it out.

The screen seems great, and iOS 8 provides a way to change the display resolution on the device to provide those with failing eyesight – like me – a way of changing the zoom level so that its easier to read. The setting is available on both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

So far, I like the size change. The older form factor seems tiny by comparison. Thankfully, the larger device still fits in my Arkon Car Mount, allowing me to use the device with my hands free kit in my car.

I’ll have more on the device size and my use of it in my full review of the iPhone 6.

Battery

Over the past few days, there have been a number of reports on issues with battery life. I have on occasion experienced some of this. While the battery in the iPhone 6 is definitely bigger – you can tell its got a longer battery life – its clear that in some instances, it should last longer than it does.

Like many others, I connect my iPhone to my Pebble Steel, my car radio, my Nike Fuel Band, my Bluetooth headset, and of course, my MacBook Pro, among other devices. While many of these may be BT-LE compatible, and therefore don’t suck too much power, some of them aren’t. Interestingly enough, I don’t see Bluetooth being among the guilty parties in some of the power drains I’ve seen.

As with the iPhone 5 and earlier, most of the drain I’m seeing is coming from screen and processor/co-processor use. Yes. You can read that as gaming. Its also one of the biggest reasons why I really don’t do a lot of gaming on my iPhones. At the end of the day – literally…the end of the day – it doesn’t pay off.

On my iPhone 5, I could start the day with a full charge and after one session of Angry Birds Friends, where I went through all 6 levels for the week – perhaps, 30 minutes of play – my battery life would be down below 70%. I’m seeing similar performance with my iPhone 6.

Some games just suck battery life. You’re going to need to govern your game play and figure out which games are the biggest culprits. I’ll have more on battery life with my review.

iOS 8

I’ve written a lot on iOS 8 over the past few months. You can see my coverage on Soft32 over the past few months, here, here, here and here. The beta period wasn’t pretty. While the OS itself is showing some stability, the release of iOS 8.0.1, has been just as big a train wreck as the other pre-releases of the new mobile OS. Apple, like so many others, is cutting corners on quality; and when you have something like this, being this big, and this visible, you simply just can’t.

Releases of any mobile operating system need to be clean and as issue free as possible. As a software quality professional with over 25 years in quality, I can tell you that there will always be bugs. Always. You’re not going to get away from them. However, you need to make sure that the bugs that you are releasing with are known, of lower priority and severity, and that fixes are planned and coming. Releasing an update to your mobile operating system that disables all mobile, cellular communications and kills the device’s biometric security measures is certain evidence that your QA director isn’t watching where the ship is going. Defects of that severity and priority were easy to spot and should have prevented the release of the update.

I’ll have more on the device, including comparative photos of the iPhone 6 up against the iPhone 5, the HTC One (M8) and Lumia 520 that I have. If you have any specific questions on the device or on iOS 8, I’d be happy to address them in my review. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section, below.

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Apple Updates : IOS 8 GM

While I have been writing this, Apple released iOS 8 to the general public. iOS 8 is a huge update and contains a number of new and notable features. Please note, that if you want the full benefit of all of these, you’ll need to be using a Mac. For example, you aren’t going to get Continuity and Handoff to work on a Windows machine. Its just not going to happen. However, without much further ado, here’s the skinny on iOS 8.

ios8gm

Photos – New and Improved
One of the biggest things that people do with their smartphones is take photos. Its probably the thing that is universally done the most by every smartphone owner on ever mobile platform. This is one of the biggest reasons why Nokia created the 42MP smartphone – not that it did them or Windows Phone any good – but it’s THE reason why they did it.

With the iPhone and iOS 8, this is no exception. To that end, Apple has made some huge improvements in the camera and photo app department. Its now easier than ever to search your photo library. You can search by date taken, location or album name. Searching is made easier by smart suggestions. All you have to do is tap the search icon. IOS 8 will provide you search choices that are important to you. An additional tap will show you photos taken near your current location (provided you have location data saved as part of your photo’s metadata), taken at the same time next year or your all time favorites.

On board editing tools have also been improved. You don’t have to wait to get back to your Mac or your PC to retouch the photos on your iDevice. You can edit the composition of your photos. You do straighten the horizon, crop, modify the exposure, as well as adjust brightness, contrast, highlights black point /white balance, etc. It’s a dark room in the palm of your hands…or at least that’s what Apple says. Photos in iOS 8 also has a number of different filters that can take any of your shots and give you the opportunity to apply classic filters – black and white, high contrast, tonal, fade, etc. – with just a couple taps. App developers can also make their filters and editing tools available to iOS Photos, so you get access to their tools without having to exit one app and then open another.

The biggest news in Camera and Photos is Camera’s new Time-lapse Video Mode. IOS 8 does all the work, snapping photos dynamically at preset intervals. The result is a video showing an accelerated sequence over time. All you have to do is find a subject, swipe to setup the time-lapse mode, and then tap the record button. Camera does the rest.
Messages – Communicate with EVERYONE
Messages has matured a lot with iOS 8, too. It used to be that iMessage – Apple’s ToIP (text over IP) service only worked with other iDevices. Now, iMessage works with all devices with all mobile platforms. You can send and receive messages from your iDevice to any internet connected device. Those devices that aren’t an iDevice will now send messages via SMS.

Over and above this, Messages will also let you send and receive audio clips as part of your SMS or iMessage. All you need to do is touch and hold your thumb to record an audio message and then simply swipe to send it. Its really, just that easy. Now you can send pictures of your little ones as well as a recorded sound bite of their first words. Its kinda cool.

On the other end of it all, its easy to receive and listen to. All you have to do is lift the device to your ear to listen like it’s a phone call. You can also tap the play button on your screen. You can pass sound bites back and forth that easily.

If video is more to your liking, you can just as easily send a quick video. The bottom line is that multimedia messaging services (MMS) are now not only limited to just still pictures. You can truly send and receive audio, video as well as stills. Your iDevice just found a whole new level of cool, even if that level of cool – at the very, very least – gives you access to every other piece of multimedia that the device processes.

There are a few other new features in Messages that you might find cool. The last one that I want to mention is the ability to manage group messages a bit more. It used to be that once included in a group message you were in the conversation forever. Now, you can bow out when ever you want to . You can also manage location data in the group conversation.
UI Enhancements
iOS 7 introduced a whole new redesign to Apple’s mobile operating system. It wasn’t necessarily received very well; but after about a year or so, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have lessened. The world seems to be getting over it.

With the release of iOS 8, Apple is building on the design elements that it introduced in iOS 7. The experience now is stronger, sturdier, and much more natural than it was in iOS 7.
Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 has interactive notifications that you can interact with from Mail, Calendar, Reminders and Messages; and you can do all of that directly from the banner notification without leaving the app you’re in. You can stay working in your app, and still answer your text or accept an invitation without leaving your game or your photo app.
Mail Enhancements
There are enhancements with Mail as well. You can easily pop between drafts and your inbox, just like a desktop mail client. If you’re looking to quickly add information to your phone, Mail gives you the ability to do so right from a note you’ve received.
Reading List Enhancements
With Safari, you get more of what you have on the desktop. On iPad, you get all of your sties in one spot. Tab View shows you all the open tabs on your iPad as well as tabs you have open on your other iDevices. Your bookmarks and your favorites from your Reading List are always just a tap away.
People Shortcuts
The best are saved for last. The iOS task manager has a new feature. The double tap not only brings up running apps, but will also bring up a row of contact names and faces that give you quick access to communication methods for those people. Its actually pretty cool. iOS gives you access to not only recent contacts, but a couple recent favorites as well.

There are a couple of cool features outside of the UI enhancements that provide a great deal of value; but its really the UI enhancements that drive most of the value here.
Contextual Keyboard
Having a contextual keyboard has been an area missing from iOS for a long time. Having a keyboard that can use predictive text is a huge help on a mobile device whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet. Now you can write sentences with just a few taps.

The keyboard can learn you messaging style and after time, offer suggested words that make contextual sense as you type. This works in Messages and Mail. It can also learn your audience, offering contextually appropriate choices based on the person you’re emailing or chatting with via text. It will also anticipate answers to questions and provide appropriate answers beyond the simple “yes” or “no.”

The coolest thing is that predictive text works with languages besides English. So far, it works with US, UK, Canadian and Australian English as well as French, German, Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. It is also functional in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese as well as Japanese Kanji.

Third party keyboards are now also supported, meaning that you can now Swipe rather than type. iOS and keyboard developers can now start working together, things like Swipe are truly now, just a glide away.

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iPhone 6 Day is Upon Us! Thoughts from Yesterday

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 6…

iphone6-gold-early-release

My diary thoughts from yesterday at :

unnamed

“As I sit here, I’m watching the countdown at Apple’s Live Event page. There’s about an hour and a half left until the start of the event. Today, is supposed to be a very big day.

My wife asked me what all the hub-bub was about and how did I know that “something magical” was going to happen today. I told her because “all of this was fabulous.”

She didn’t buy it.

I then told her that today was the biggest Apple announcement day since 2007 (the announcement of the original iPhone) because the event is purported to launch not only two different iPhone 6 models, but the iWatch as well.

Also on tap are update to iPad, though these aren’t supposed to be as big a deal as the iPhone and iWatch announcements.

Of all the days in history, Apple Day is the biggest day, ever…well at least according to @zackwhittaker

I’ll have more on this in the days that follow the announcement.”

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