Category Archives: Apple

iPhone 6 Plus: One Month Later

The iPhone 6 Plus is one of the most curious devices Apple has built in recent years. The largest iPhone ever built, it evokes a sense of awe, confusion, and concern. In some ways, it suffers a bit of an identity crisis in the iOS family, as it behaves like an iPad sometimes, but is also clearly an iPhone.

After carrying it for a month, I’ve returned to my beloved iPhone 5s as my carry device. Since most reviews are written after only a few days of usage, I thought it would be interesting to share some thoughts on the iPhone 6 Plus after using it exclusively for over a month.

I’m in the unique position of possessing an iPhone 6 Plus that I don’t own. I would probably be more biased toward the device if I had paid money for it. It’s liberating to be able to evaluate the phone without worrying about the regret that would come with a purchase I don’t like. I’m also very grateful to be employed by a company that is excited to explore new devices and technology, and that paid for the phone.

To be clear: the views and opinions contained within are mine alone.

The Good: Camera, Screen, Apple Pay, Battery

The camera is absolutely wonderful. Without question, the camera is what kept me from ditching the iPhone 6 Plus sooner. The camera produces the most vivid colors I’ve ever seen from a phone, and rivals a lot of the pictures we’ve taken with our DSLR. With minimal effort, it can capture moments precisely and beautifully, which is incredibly important and valuable to me as a parent. I snapped some wonderful pictures of my children this past month, and they’re some of the best photos I have in our library.

Good morning, Austin

A photo posted by Thaddeus Ternes (@thaddeus) on

The screen is staggeringly large, which makes the experience of some apps simply wonderful. I watched nearly all of the Dollhouse series on Netflix with the iPhone 6 Plus; it’s a fantastic device for watching TV shows, and is much more comfortable to hold than my iPad mini. The detail in HD content is astonishing, and the backlight has no problem producing a blindingly-visible image in almost all lighting conditions.

Over the course of a month, I had a few opportunities to try Apple Pay, and was always pleased with how simple it was to use. I’m excited for the future of payments with NFC, and I have enough confidence in the security of Touch ID to use the feature in places where credit cards have previously given me pause. 1

What I’ll miss most from the iPhone 6 Plus is the battery. I could carelessly leave the device unplugged overnight without a second thought; I routinely went over two days without charging the device, especially when using my desktop to stay on top of my Twitter timeline. The battery life is incredible.

The Bad: Size, Flickers and Glitches

The biggest2 problem with the iPhone 6 Plus is the unwieldy size. One-handed use is almost impossible for me, even with my typically-large adult male hands. I found myself constantly worrying about dropping the phone, which is something I’ve never had much concern over with my smaller phones. Of course, this anxiety probably lead to the increased fumbles I had with the phone.

The weather in Austin has finally cooled down enough that I’ve been wearing jeans for the past month. The iPhone 6 Plus fits uncomfortably in my jeans pocket. I don’t notice it when I’m walking around, but have to take the phone out when I sit at my desk, drive, or play with my kids. It presses into me when I sit, and is impossible to take out of my pocket once sitting. For somebody carrying a phone in a bag or purse, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but using an iPhone 6 Plus from a pocket is awkward at best. I’ve always carried my iPhones without a case, and while a case may have alleviated some of the fumble anxiety, it would undoubtedly make the pocket experience even worse for me.

The phone also doesn’t fit in a lot of places that are convenient to set a phone. Two of my favorites are cup holders in the car and the small tray on HEB shopping carts. Cup holders make a great bullhorn while I use Maps to navigate my new city, and the shopping cart trays safely cradle my phone while shopping3, keep me from fumbling the phone in and out of my pocket. Neither of these stashes worked with the iPhone 6 Plus, simply because of the size.

While the dimensions of the device can’t be changed, there are some other issues that Apple can fix with software updates. The iPhone 6 Plus exhibits more flickering views, rotation glitches, and animation stuttering than I’ve seen with latest-generation hardware, even when running the latest iOS release.4 In fact, I’d dare say my 5s feels consistently smoother.

One of the most frustrating issues I ran into was the inability to swipe open the camera from the home screen; when I would try to open the camera, the home screen would slide up about half an inch, and then drop back down to fully-locked. I missed more than a couple photos because I couldn’t get the phone unlocked soon enough. This may have to do more with iOS 8 than the iPhone 6 Plus, which I’ll understand better as I get back to my 5s as a daily carry.

In a lot of places, the curved edges of the phone enhance the user experience. Swipe gestures to go back in the view hierarchy are wonderful on the phone, when they work. More than a few times, I had trouble getting the gestures to recognize, which is an issue I’ve rarely experienced on my 5s. The fit and finish of the device is really wonderful, and it compliments the software in a way only Apple can.

My Favorite Size

I’ve seen a lot of praise for the iPhone 6 Plus, and most of the favorable reviews echo what I found: the screen if beautiful, the camera captures stunning images, and the promise of simple, secure payments is here with Apple Pay.

I’d love to see Apple roll the great things about the iPhone 6 generation into a hybrid with the last generation: smooth edges, thin profile, expected camera improvements, and stunning battery life. In some ways, that’s pretty similar to the 5th generation iPod: thin, smoother edges, aluminum back, and a manageable size. A reasonable mix of the things universally loved with a compromise on the physical size would be a welcomed upgrade for me. Until then, I’ll stick with my trusty 5s.

Oh, and reasonable storage. 16 GB is nuts.

  1. The gas station where I used Apple Pay most often also required a signature, which showed a fundamental lack of understanding in the technology by some payment systems.
  2. Sorry… I had to
  3. And being rate-nagged at the grocery store
  4. 8.1.1, as of writing

My Macs

Yesterday, the Macintosh celebrated it’s 30th birthday. To honor the beloved machines, aficionados shared stories that lead to their love for the platform, including the history of machines they’ve owned over the years. I included a picture of two Mac minis, declaring them as the first Macs I owned.

@thaddeus
thaddeus First and second. With and without modem. http://pic.favd.net/20730169

Well, this wasn’t entirely true. The Macintosh LC III was technically the first machine I owned. During high school, I helped our school district’s tech director with maintenance and upgrades of our school’s computer labs. At some point, we replaced a lab full of LC IIIs with brand new grape iMacs, and I was given the chance to procure one of the old machines before it found its way to be recycled.

The LC III

Macintosh LC III, courtesy of apple-history.com

The LC III was a handsome little computer, with an easily-accessible 3.5″ floppy drive on the front, a slim case that shouldered a bright monitor, and the familiar Mac keyboard and mouse of the day. The machine was built before Compact Disc became a driving force in software distribution, only to be replaced in our school by a machine with no floppy drive. The drum of Apple driving forward beat strong even in those days.

My classmates and I had slogged over papers in ClarisWorks and enjoyed countless hours of Sim City 2000 1 on the machines, and I was pretty delighted to be able to keep one of these machines for my own. The models we had at school had been updated to included ethernet cards, which meant our labs were connected to the internet much earlier than many other schools in our area. 2

The Desire For Macintosh

While I’d used the Macintosh throughout my years in middle and high school, our family owned a trusty Gateway 2000 with Windows 3.1. I spent my high school years using that machine until I replaced it with my own PC. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I was reunited with the Mac. My friend Carl had upgraded to 10.3 and was showing off Exposé. He would take his G3 iBook out of his backpack and be working much faster than any of the PC users in our classes. 3 At some point, Carl showed up to class with a new PowerBook, and I shamelessly ogled the machine for the rest of our time in college together. OS X was a very different operating system than 7, 8, and 9, which I was familiar with from high school, and the PowerBook was vastly different from the plastic LC IIIs and iMacs I’d helped administer. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I had to get one.

And therein lied the problem – as a college student, I simply couldn’t afford one.

Mac mini

Mac mini – courtesy of apple-history.com

This tiny little machine absolutely changed things for me. I was working on a semester-long co-op in January 2005, when Steve Jobs answered a common question at Macworld:

Why doesn’t Apple offer a stripped-down Mac that is more affordable?

The cheap Macintosh was born. I purchased one before returning to school that fall, and quickly found myself wanting more. I sold the Dell Inspiron I’d bought a few years previous and bought a G4 iBook mid-semester. Before the school year ended, I also owned an Early 2006 iMac (the very first Intel desktop from Apple).

Huh. I thought I couldn’t afford one.

Intel iMac

Anybody that owned a G4 Mac mini and actually tried to use it as a primary computer for very long knew the dirty little secret – it was barely usable. I imported my photos into iPhoto and it fell apart. 4 My iTunes library destroyed the machine. When I tried to do much more than chat with friends on iChat, things got messy.

The Intel iMac changed my Macintosh experience again. As soon as I accepted my full-time job that final semester of college, I ran out (and foolishly) bought an iMac. It was a machine that had so much more power than any of the other machines I’d previously used, and it also ran the OS I enjoyed.

I graduated from college and started working full-time on an embedded Linux system. Here an there, I dabbled with Objective-C, but never had anything in particular I wanted to try and build. I used the machine daily, and absolutely loved it. I had it paired with a 20″ Dell display, and the setup was absolutely wonderful for the day. 5

The iMac with its matching Dell display in college

Luckily, that iMac still had plenty of life when I downloaded the iPhone SDK in 2008. That’s a story for another Apple birthday.

Happy 30th, Macintosh.

  1. Mr. Oliphant had the progressive thought to teaching us about city development by playing a video game. He had an incredible impact on my path toward software development.
  2. My first experience on the internet was on a LC III with an external modem. The computer was designated specifically for teachers and special use by students.
  3. Nevermind those of us still bouncing between labs and personal machines back in our rooms, juggling Zip drives or FTPing homework back and forth.
  4. I had even perform the ceremonial putty-knife surgery to upgrade the RAM
  5. As it turns out, the Dell used the identical panel as the iMac, so it couldn’t have been a better setup.

It Still Works

On Friday, FedEx dropped of my wife’s new iPhone 5s (gold). She graciously offered to wait for me to finish working before we unboxed it.

@thaddeus
thaddeus On the topic of unboxing @jenaeter’s gold iPhone 5s

Image [photos.app.net]

We spent the evening preparing for our son’s birthday party, so the phone sat in the FexEx box on a shelf. Saturday came and it was time to host family for the party, so the phone continued to sit. When things finally calmed down and I asked her if she wanted to open her phone, she stunned me.

“I’m not sure I want it. My [iPhone 4S] still works great.”

Her reason was simple. Most of the time, you upgrade a phone because the current one is bothersome, whether it be slow, incompatible with new software, or damaged. For her, none of these were true. The iPhone 4S is still a really great phone.

In the end, we opened the iPhone 5s for the original reason we bought it – as parents, the camera improvements are worth every subsidized penny we spend on these phones over the course of two years.

Was Touch ID Steve’s Last Project?

There has been lots of speculation that the iPhone 5 was Steve Jobs’ last major project at Apple. That has always felt pretty shallow. The iPhone 5 was a significant redesign, but certainly not the groundbreaking kind of release that would consume a visionary’s thoughts.

This answer on Quora has me wondering if it was actually Touch ID. He certainly had to be aware of the project if it was in-progress while he was at Apple. The vision necessary to see something like that as far back as 2008 is very much in the realm of Steve.

Apple has taken a very slow and methodical approach with the release of Touch ID.  We can see that there was a tremendous amount of amazing work that has gone into this project.  All of this convergence took over seven years of very hard work. It includes many patent applications, the acquisition of AuthenTec, the selection of the A7 processor and the integration of the TrustZone suite all baked together into what we now know as Touch ID.

Sounds about like Steve to me.

Via Daring Fireball

WWDC: The First Time

Since tickets to WWDC sold out in less than two minutes last Thursday, a flurry of angry tweets and blog entries has flooded the Cocoa community. Overwhelmingly, the voices of long-time Mac developers are saying that changes to WWDC are badly needed. Many hold the opinion that Apple is ignoring a problem, and some have even called for Apple to simply end the conference and find a different way to engage developers. While Apple’s platforms have gotten wildly popular, the makeup of their flagship conference has remained largely unchanged.

One voice that has been noticeably absent from these discussions is that of the first-timer. The popular commentaries are from veteran Mac and iOS 1 developers. These developers have lost a perspective that makes building Mac and iOS software wonderful: the magic of getting started.

On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to secure my first WWDC ticket. It’s been a dream of mine to attend for the past few years. I’ve previously watched the excitement and energy as other developers bought tickets, booked travel, and then actually attended in San Francisco, but always from the window of Twitter. This is the first year I’m in a position to attend the conference, even though I’ve been building apps since the SDK was released.

How I Got Started

I bought my iPhone 3G the day they came out. I was unsuccessful waiting in line early that morning, so I had to patiently wait for my phone to be shipped to my local AT&T store. Hours after receiving it, I knew I wanted to start building software for what was obviously a huge leap forward in mobile technology. I was working for a rugged handheld computer manufacturer whose devices ran Windows Mobile and CE,2 and even at that point it was obvious Microsoft was in serious trouble. The iPhone was unlike anything else.

At that point, I’d been a Mac user for just over three years, and had dabbled in Objective-C and AppKit. Becoming familiar with the iOS APIs and a screen full of brackets were my biggest hurdles; I was already comfortable with C and C++, so the basics were already in place. By day, I was building embedded RFID reader software on Linux, and by night I was building my first iPhone app.

I did a lot of things right. I found an idea, executed on it quickly, and was first to market. I created a Twitter account for my products, started marketing the app just as it was about to launch. I created some good buzz and had a group of people excited to see my app on the store. I launched with a $4.99 productivity app, and made a few hundred dollars the first day. My 1.0 was awful. I never shipped a 1.1; I jumped immediately to a rewrite and versioned it 2.0. I required iOS 3.0, and took advantage of Core Data. The app grew to a few thousand users, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

Growing Excitement

Since that first app, I’ve build three other apps, given talks at my local meetup, worked as a moonlighting contractor, and am now building iOS and Mac software full time. I shared a screenshot last Thursday that contained two goals I’ve been tracking since I first started my iOS hobbies.

Making the jump from hobby to real job has been an absolute delight. In addition to being a dream job, it’s also finally afforded me the chance to attend WWDC. I’ve feverishly watched Twitter and ADN for news, written scripts to monitor the Developer Portal for news, and sat perched at my computer Thursday morning in hopes of snagging a ticket.

Beyond attending the conference, talking to Apple engineers, listening to the keynote and hearing about what’s coming in iOS and OS X, I’m eager for the chance to meet some of the people I’ve gotten to know over the years through Twitter. I’m excited to hang out with people I’ve admired and let them know what their work has meant to me. I’m psyched to be spending a week in San Francisco, one of the technological hubs of our country. I’m proud to be representing a great company with an amazing product.

I’m disheartened that some of the people I admire have forgotten how exciting this conference is, especially when looking from the outside. I’m frustrated some people think it should end, before so many have had a chance to enjoy it. I’m disenchanted by the arrogance that because it’s different now, it’s not as good. 3

Losing Sight

My guess is that these dissatisfied developers have simply grown bored with WWDC. They attend annually because it’s what they’ve done since Apple was recruiting people and paying their way. I would wager they don’t gain much from the talks and attend labs to chat with people they’ve met over the years who are now insiders. It’s not as magical as it used to be to them. They still enjoy attending, but it’s different now. Annoyed that it’s so difficult to get a ticket, it seems like a good time to voice a demand for the conference to change.

It’s incredibly frustrating to want a ticket to WWDC and not be able to get one. I’ve been in that seat for the past three years. If WWDC isn’t what it used to be for you, simply opt out and let another hopeful developer have a turn. Try and be sensitive to the fact that WWDC is bigger than a small group of rebels building software for the Macintosh now. It’s capturing the imaginations of people slogging away at a 9-to-5 and encouraging them to keep hustling on their ideas. In June, they’ll be reading tweets tagged at Moscone West, nearby coffee shops or bars, and thinking about how great it would be to be there too.

  1. Veteran in iOS is four or five years, which hardly constitutes a veteran. I technically fall in that group
  2. The company was primarily building handhelds, but I was in a small group building rugged RFID readers on Linux
  3. As if the introduction of thousands of new faces in the community has diluted it
Link

How does Apple keep secrets so well?

The best part? After Steve goes to Japan, Bertrand sits JK down and has a talk with him about how no one can know about this. No one. Suddenly, the home office has to be reconfigured to meet Apple security standards.

Great behind-the-scenes story on the Intel project.