Apple Releases macOS Sierra

OSX 10.12 hits the streets with a multitude of new features

siri

Apple has released macOS Sierra – OSX 10.12 – making it available for free to those users and Macs able to run the new OS. This release comes after eight betas and a number of revisions to the GM (gold master) release before its official launch on 2016-09-20.

macOS Sierra can be obtained from the Mac App Store. Apple should be making it available to Yosemite and El Capitan users via their Software Update process before too long. Officially, macOS Sierra supports the following Macs

2009 and Later

  • iMac
  • MacBook

2010 and Later

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro

macOS Sierra does a lot to align compatible Macs with updates to iOS, watchOS and tvOS. macOS Sierra focusses on introducing features that specifically work with iPhone and Apple Watch to improve the overall user experience.

Some of the bigger updates to Sierra include the following:

  • Siri for Mac
    Siri allows users to use normal voice commands to conduct searches, find files, look up information and more. You can pin vocal searches to the Notification Center for continual monitoring.
  • Continuity
    New Continuity features allow you to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch or with iPhone.
  • Universal Clipboard
    You can share clipboard contents across iDevices.
  • iCloud Improvements
    You can now sync not only the contents of your Documents folder, but your Desktop as well, to iCloud Drive.
  • Photos
    A new Memories feature in Photos will display collections of pictures and bring back old events on their anniversary. Special learning algorithms also improve facial, object and scene recognition making searching for specific photos a LOT easier.
  • Apple Pay

You can now pay for items you buy on the web with Apple pay. Payments are authenticated through a connected iPhone or Apple watch.

I am currently working on a review of macOS Sierra and hope to have it posted before the end of the month – along with a review of both iOS 10 and the iPhone 7. Hang tight, kids. Its about to get very Apple-ie around here.

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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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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

iphone6concept4

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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