iPhone 6 First Impressions

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

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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.

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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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Apple Updates: iPhone 6

There’s a great deal going on in the Apple world. Let’s take a quick look…

Introduction

To say that there’s been a bit of activity in Cupertino as of late would be an understatement. Apple’s been very busy over the past few weeks. They have released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They have (or will shortly, as of this writing) released iOS 8 not only in GM form to their development team, but to the general public; and they have released Yosemite DP8/Public Beta 3.

As you can see from the screen shot below, I’ve got iPhone 6’s on the way to my house. They should arrive on Friday 2014-09-19 by 3pm Central Time. This is the first time since I purchased an iPhone 3G that I have been able to get an iPhone ON an actual iPhone release day. I will have everything officially unboxed, videoed and posted for all to see, followed by a full iPhone 6 review WITH comparative screen shots in the days immediately following the arrival of the device.

In the mean time, let’s take a few moments and look at all of these huge releases one by one.

IPhone 6

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The iPhone 6 is 138.1×6.70×6.90mm (LXWXH) and weighs 129 grams. It comes in 16G, 64G and 128G capacities; and is priced at $199, $299 and $399, respectively (all prices are USD). The differences between the two new models are mostly about the display sizes and the camera. The Plus has optical image stabilization due to the larger size of the device. The iPhone 6 does not. The iPhone Plus will display full HD. The iPhone 6 will display up to 720p.

Both models have an 8MP iSight camera, a 1.2MP FaceTime camera with a five-element, f/2.2 aperture lens with a sapphire crystal cover and True Tone flash. They also have the A8 processor and M8 motion coprocessor. They also both have TouchID fingerprint sensors and both support Apple Pay.

As I mentioned, I’ve got 3 devices with three FedEx tracking numbers on their way to my home even as I write this. I will have more updates on the iPhone 6 after they arrive and I have posted the live unboxing I plan on doing of my brand new, space gray, iPhone 6 Friday afternoon 2014-09-19.

go to Apple Updates : IOS 8 GM

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Preorders of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Set New Record

Its been an interesting morning here at the Spera house…

6plus_buy_largeApple began preorders of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at 12:01am Pacific Time (1:01am Mountain, 2:01am Central, 3:01am Eastern) on 2014-09-12. The preorders have set a new overnight record for new, preordered iPhones.

Apple issues a statement to re/code in which it stated that preorders of the larger iPhone 6 Plus sold out and that response to the [overall iPhone 6 family] has been incredible.”

Carrier partner AT&T also had a banner morning, with CEO Ralph de la Vega releasing a statement to Fierce Wireless. According to de la Vega, AT&T took hundreds of thousands of preorders for the new iPhone. He also indicated that the number of orders topped the launches of the iPhone 5s and 5c.

Customers from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan who placed successful preorders should have units in their hands next week on Friday 2014-09-19. While Apple failed to say exactly how many devices were actually sold/ ordered, they did say that this release set a new record. Last year, they sold over 9 million 5s and 5c devices in the first weekend of availability. So, they’ve at least sold more than that.

For me, it was a difficult night. I had trouble staying awake until 2am Central Time, here in suburban Chicago. After I was able to make it to the noted time, problems began.

I had both Safari and Chrome open on my Mac with Safari pointed to the Apple site, and Chrome pointed to AT&T, as they are my carrier. The Apple Store site, never became available. Placing an order there was never an option for me, or for others I know that tried to order online via the Apple Store.

Placing the order via AT&T wasn’t easy, either. I’ve got an outstanding network pipe coming into the house. Its as least 100Mbps down, 50Mbps up, so its very fast. It took me over 90 minutes to place orders for three 64G, iPhone 6’s. They are supposed to arrive on 2014-09-19; but I was very lucky to be able to get the orders in at all. The site was pretty bogged down and I got many different error pages before I was successful with each order. It took persistence and a bit of tenacity to get past the overloaded site traffic; but then again, I started refreshing the site at about 1:55am Central in order to insure that I had a decent chance of getting my orders in.

Thankfully, I was successful. My iPhone 6’s (2 space gray and one silver) will arrive on 2014-09-19 according to the order confirmations I have from AT&T. Once I have them, I will of course, do an unboxing video for everyone as well as a full blown review with comparison photos of the three smartphones I have (the iPhone 5, HTC One (M8) and Nokia 520).

I will also try to find a vendor who accepts payments via NFC in my area and will film myself making a purchase via Apple Pay.

If there’s something that you’d like me to specifically cover in the review, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d be happy to address your questions and concerns in the coming days and weeks.

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Define the center of your connected and navigational world with Garmin Express

ic-garmin-expressGarmin is one of the biggest names in consumer navigational devices. The company provides geo-location data for motor vehicles, sports (like golf, running and biking) as well as hiking, geocaching and hunting. If you have a Garmin device, then you need to check out Garmin Express. It’s a cool way to manage and update your Garmin powered device and its available for Mac and Windows.

Garmin Express is an essential tool for managing all of your Garmin devices. You can update maps, golf courses and most importantly, device software. You can also register your device. Further, the app will back up, restore and transfer favorites to and from your device. You can also use it to install free voices and vehicles as well as download product manuals for those times when you’re stuck.

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Setting up your Garmin device is a one-time setup; and its very simple. Just connect your device to the computer. Express will save its information so you’ll always know when updates are available, even when you don’t have the application open, or when your device isn’t connected to the computer.

Garmin Express is a dedicated utility that works with nearly every Garmin device out there. If you can connect it to your computer, then Express can manage it. The application is simple and easy to use, and really simplifies working with Garmin devices. If you have a Garmin device, Garmin Express is something that you’re really going to love using.

download Garmin Express

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iPhone 6 Day is Upon Us! Thoughts from Yesterday

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 6…

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My diary thoughts from yesterday at :

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“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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Quickly and easily create and modify text and HTML/XML files with TextWrangler

Quickly and easily create and modify text and HTML/XML files with this industry leading text editor for Mac.

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Today, many people write their own apps. Finding the right editor or tool to write the code in, can be a challenge. Some times you just want to code and not bring up the how IDE or you have an idea and just want to quickly jot it down without running a huge program. Its for this reason I really like TextWrangler. It’s a professional, but budget featured, HTML and text editor for Mac.

TextWrangler is a general-purpose text editor for light-duty composition, text file editing and manipulation of other text-oriented data. TextWrangler supports working with both plain-text and Unicode files. However, TextWrangler does not support files written using right-to-left writing systems, such as Hebrew or Arabic.

TextWrangler has some pretty cool features. It can do single and multi-file search and replace functions, with file filtering options. It has flexible grep-style pattern-based searching capabilities, based on PCRE (Perl-Compatible Regular Expression). You can also use the app to do a DIFF between two files and then merge the differences into a single file.

If you’re coding, then you need to take a look at TextWrangler. Aside from being free, the app has a number of programming functions that coders of all experience levels will appreciate. It has support for unlimited undo/redo as well as multiple clipboards so you can copy and paste a number of different code snippets from one or more files into others that you may be working on. The app also supports splittable editing windows so that you can view two different locations in a file at the same time. Again, this is an awesome app and one that I will likely be using as I learn to code.

 

Download

 

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Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with Kindle

Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with some of the best software available on the internet.

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I’ve been an eBook advocate since 2002 when I began reading books with Microsoft Reader. It was one of the best main streamed options at the time, AND it worked well with PocketPC’s, which, in my opinion were the best kind of PDA on the market at the time. (Truth be told, I was never fond of PalmOS or Blackberries, the other two major mobile choices at the time).

Amazon is the king of eBooks, and has been since the modern smartphone came into being after the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. Their Kindle hardware was revolutionary Their Kindle software available for any number of smartphones as well as your Windows PC or Mac allows you to read your eBooks where and when you want; and the software, is a total must have.

Kindle is a free application that lets you read Kindle eBooks on your Windows PC or on you Mac. Kindle offers most of the features you would find on a Kindle, Kindle DX, or other Kindle applications for computers and mobile devices. The best thing about it is that it allows you to automatically save and sync your last read page and all of your annotations across all your Kindle devices and hardware. You can also browse Amazon’s huge eBook library and purchase as well as download and read thousands of books from the Kindle Store.

The software interface is customizable. You can change font sizes and adjust the number of words that appear on each line. You can also change the number of columns that appear on a single page. If you’re reading a book for school or some other academic project, you’ll be pleased to know that you can add and view notes and highlights in your books. You’ll also be able to sync your annotations to all your Kindle apps and devices. You can even view Kindle Print Replica books, which are exact replicas of physical textbooks.

Amazon’s Kindle app is, in my opinion, the best eBook reading app available today. It is powered by the Kindle Store, which has the biggest library of eBooks on the internet. The software is device agnostic, meaning you can put the software on just about any computing device you have – PC, Mac, iDevice, Android, Windows Phone, etc. – and it will sync your progress across all devices. The only issue I have with the app is that its not easy to put non-Kindle eBooks in the app. It will work with ePub, but you might have to convert older eBooks to ePub (or other compatible format), and that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Download 

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