• Newsletter Issue #724

    October 14th, 2013

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    It’s a curious world. For a long time, it was clear that Apple would not deliver a combo tablet/note-book, the sort of things you see in PC land, because the form factor made little sense. Tim Cook considers it similar to trying to mix a toaster oven with a refrigerator. And the chuckles begin.

    Now there’s a published report suggesting that Apple might be ready to do just that. The discussion is focused on a 13-inch version of the iPad, or 12.9 inches according to one report, which may arrive next year. Such a beast may already be under test, which explains rumors, not confirmed of course, from the supply chain.

    Even if an iPad Pro or whatever it might be called, is in the cards, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a convertible or hybrid note-book of some sort. It may very well be littler more than a larger iPad, with essentially the same form factor. But it’s also true that people already connect keyboards to their iPads, so that might be a distinction without a difference. Apple will clearly not be influenced by the failed Microsoft Surface.

    In any case, on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, we discussed what Apple might introduce when the next generation of iPads is unleashed later this month. Will the 9.7-inch model be slimmer and lighter? What about adding a Retina display to the iPad mini?  You’ll also learned more about iOS 7, the future of Apple TV, Microsoft’s prospects with the Nokia handset acquisition and Windows Phone, the tragic fate of BlackBerry, and a whole lot more.

    Our guest list this week represented The Loop: Jim Dalrymple, the Founder and Editor in Chief, and Peter Cohen, the Executive Editor. Peter also works for iMore.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present another “shop talk” episode, in which we give you our views about the most important topics being discussed in our forums, the state of UFO/paranormal research, and even the state of the world. We answer your questions about a possible “Pro” or “VIP” version of the show with extra content, and the prospects for a Paracast UFO/paranormal conference in the near future.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    SO WHAT’S STRONG WITH iOS 7?

    Some of my colleagues have been using iOS 7 since the first betas arrived from Apple in June, but I actually didn’t start until September 18, the very day it was released as a free download. Since then, the number of users has reached the hundreds of millions, signaling the fastest upgrade of any mobile OS — ever!

    While every iOS release has arrived with an assortment of bugs, they seem more numerous with iOS 7, since it’s, visually at least, a sea change from previous versions. The slim and elegant text puts off some, because it may not be quite as readable. Others are freaked over the parallax effect from the few dynamic backgrounds Apple provides, or the constant zooming effects.

    In fact, some people claim to have gotten dizzy or suffered from motion sickness over the special effects, and thus crave for a way to minimize or eliminate them. Now some of this is already possible. There are Accessibility options to reduce motion and contrast, which help some. You can also switch to bold type, which helps if visibility is an issue.

    Getting rid of zooming, however, is not an option, although I suspect Apple might want to consider that choice if lots of people are confronting vertigo or other nasty symptoms. It’s not that it’s easy or possible to downgrade to iOS 6. If you just bought a new iPhone 5c or 5s, it can’t happen.

    Now obvious bugs will ultimately be fixed. There are reports of an iMessage bug where the messages you send may not reach their intended recipients promptly, or ever. This is something that Apple is reportedly working on. Some have used the General>Reset>Reset Network Settings to fix the problem. Of course, this means having to redo the logins to your chosen Wi-Fi networks, for example, but it’s a fairly trivial process, so it might be worth trying. But that assumes a fix isn’t coming real soon.

    If you have the oldest model on which iOS 7 is supported, the original iPhone 4 from 2010, prepare for somewhat slower performance. This is not unexpected on older hardware with a new OS, but the differences appear to be minor according to some online tests, where it seems that apps may take somewhat longer to launch. You may not even notice the symptoms all that much unless you’re running something that taxes the system. Some even suggest that switching off the Background App Refresh feature might speed things up. I suppose it’s possible Apple will optimize performance on older iPhones in a maintenance update, but don’t bet on it.

    Unless your iPhone 4 is a recent purchase, it may be time to consider buying something newer. If it’s too early to qualify for a low-cost upgrade by your wireless carrier, I suppose you might make up some of the difference by selling it. There’s still high demand for older iPhones.

    As you might expect, there are some complaints of reduced battery life, and that’s not unusual for a new iOS upgrade. Sometimes restoring the phone, or just turning off the Background App Refresh feature, might help some. Or just tolerate the situation for a while, assuming Apple will get to it. And if it’s a widespread problem, they will.

    The really curious complaint I read in one blog was all about security and the iPhone 5s. Because Apple addressed a lock screen issue with the iOS 7.0.2 fix, the theory goes that there’s still reason to be concerned. Touch ID? Well, it’s possible to make a 3D print or cast to trick the fingerprint sensor into letting you in, but faking the passcode would seem to be a simpler solution. But that’s no different from the present state of affairs. It’s not that other smartphones are more secure, right?

    Some of the criticisms are mostly about taste. If you’re used to previous versions of iOS, the visual changes are drastic. Sure, it’s not hard to get used to the modest functional changes. Maybe Apple went a little overboard on the visual impact, though, although some of that could be dealt with by adding a setting or two to turn a few things off.

    On the whole, however, it appears that the largest number of iOS 7 users become accustomed to the changes fairly quickly. The few ragged edges are fixable, and I expect Apple will deal with some of the issues in ongoing maintenance fixes.

    Besides, if you choose, instead, to go Android out of dissatisfaction with the new iOS, consider the tradeoffs. To folks who simply want things to work reliably, Google’s OS is not necessarily a better way.

    YET ANOTHER MAKE MAVERICKS FREE RANT

    I suppose you could call this a return to the past argument. In the very early days, getting a Mac OS upgrade cost you exactly nothing. You were free to download a copy from one of those pay-per-hour online services, such as CompuServe, make a copy from a friend, get a copy from a Mac user group, or convince your nearest Mac dealer to make a set of floppies for you.

    In the early 1990s, Apple opted to ape Microsoft and made it impossible to get anything other than maintenance releases free of charge. At $99 per license, the Mac OS was still cheaper than Windows, but some felt Apple had betrayed their trust. With OS X, the price went up to $129, except for the $29 Public Beta.

    But things changed with OS X Snow Leopard in 2009. Apple presented it as essentially a plumbing-related upgrade, with few visual changes. Yes, there were enhancements, more or less, but unknown to most Mac users at the time, the $29 purchase price was just the start of a trend.

    With OS X Lion, meant as a “full” OS X upgrade, the download price was $29.99. There was also a physical USB stick alternative, at $69.99, for those who couldn’t manage the simple steps required to make your own with a $7 flash drive. So you assumed that OS X upgrades would, henceforth, stay at that level.

    Until OS 10.8 Mountain Lion arrived a year later at $19.99 with no USB stick option. Evidently people weren’t lining up to buy the physical rather than digital version. But at what point does it make sense not to charge anything for an OS X upgrade? After all, getting a new iOS is free. Certainly the number of changes in iOS 7 is probably in the same range as the changes in OS X Mavericks. So…

    According to published reports from reliable sources, Mavericks went GM or Golden Master, on October 4. That’s the version that, barring any show-stopping bugs, will be available for download. So you can expect to see the official release announcement in the next week or two. Some suggest it’ll happen during the expected October 22 iPad media event, but there is no reason to think it wouldn’t occur earlier, perhaps in tune with a press release announcing some more Mac hardware refreshes.

    Indeed, talking about Macs at an iPad event would likely dilute the message. Besides, other than the initial launch of a new version of OS X, and news of the forthcoming Mac Pro upgrade, most Mac upgrades are being announced via a press release. There’s little reason to think that playbook won’t be followed. It’s not as if customers are lining up around the block to buy a new Mac these days. In large part, Mac revisions tend to be fairly modest, though the much longer battery life on the Haswell-based MacBook Air did provide in a major advantage over previous models.

    But if you look at the benchmarks for the Air and the recently refreshed iMac, the actual performance boost wasn’t so huge. Haswell does have far better integrated graphics than previous Intel chips, but otherwise is designed to favor longer battery life over superior number crunching.

    As to OS X, yes a modest charge will provide a few hundred million dollars in revenue, assuming at least half of the current Mac user base (estimated at 72 million) buys user licenses. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and certainly it would more than cover Apple’s presumed investment on building a new version of OS X.

    Bear in mind, though, that Mavericks reportedly runs on pretty much the same hardware as Mountain Lion. The best way to encourage developers to make their apps Mavericks savvy is to guarantee a large and growing user base. There are, indeed, some Mac users with eligible hardware that have yet to leave the confines of Snow Leopard and Lion.

    Making Mavericks a free download will really speed the adoption rate. Within days, most Mac users with compatible hardware will likely upgrade. The exceptions would include people who are stuck with Snow Leopard because they need to run apps that aren’t compatible with Intel hardware. Apple ditched the Rosetta compatibility app when Lion arrived, to the consternation of a number of Mac users.

    As to developers: Well, they got copies of the developer betas of Mavericks in early June. They’ve had more than four months to get with the program. Unless building those upgrades represents a serious problem of one sort or another, you expect they will be finishing their work about now. There have already been upgrades that are said to support Mavericks.

    So at the end of the day, there is actually a reasonable possibility that Mavericks will be a free upgrade, and not just to people who buy new Macs after it goes on sale. Apple has already shown they can give software away. Consider copies of the iWork apps for iOS that are free downloads for anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next round of new Macs, which will probably accompany the release of Mavericks, will also come with free copies of iWork. And what does it cost to upgrade a PC to Windows 8? Take that Microsoft!

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    17 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #724”

    1. Tayster says:

      I am running iOS 7.02 on my iPhone 5. Without reading ahead, try doing a slideshow from Photos. The slideshow is broken at worst and very unfriendly at best. Go to (for example) your Camera Roll. Tap Select. You would think that you would then select the various photos you want to be included in the slideshow. The selected photos have a blue checkmark in the lower right corner. At that point, there is no way to do a slideshow. So instead of selecting multiple photos, you wouldn’t know it, but the only way to do a slideshow is to start at the album, do not tap the select button but rather tap a particular photo, then tap the Share button. Next tap slideshow, setup your options (transitions and music), then press Start Slideshow. I have no idea what selecting multiple photos in the goofy side scrolling panel does because the slideshow will begin with the current photo and move to the next photo in sequence whether you select multiple photos or not.

      • @Tayster, Sounds like it needs a good treatment of interface revision, unless someone out there has a better way.

        Peace,
        Gene

        • Richard says:

          @Gene Steinberg,
          Gene,

          It seems plainly evident, to me at least, that far too much of the interface changes in iOS 7 are ill considered. Others are change for its own sake to no good end.

          As to the “under the hood” changes prove to be of significant benefit remains to be seen. All things considered, I have concluded that iOS 7 is a substantial waste of precious resources which could have been better utilized elsewhere.

          Inasmuch as this is a 7th generation release one must view it in that context. As such, it is, in my opinion, a poor effort which, in most businesses, would result in the reassignment, if not outright release, of some very senior personnel.

          The overall evaluation is “not ready for prime time.”

          Cheers,

          Richard

          • @Richard, We are all entitled to our opinions, Richard. What examples would you provide of “ill-considered” interface changes?

            Peace,
            Gene

            • Richard says:

              @Gene Steinberg,

              @Gene,

              I have not bothered making a list as apple.com/feedback is a waste of electrons in my experience over the years.

              iCal has change to where it takes more effort to navigate and has an inconsistent UI…you do one thing to go forward and another to go backwards on the calendar which is a big no no.

              Safari’s new way of displaying the pages does a poor job of showing the content of the page and is awkwardly placed in terms of being able to select the page. I do not like, not even a little bit, the way folders for apps pick up color from the background. Besides, it is pointless. It accomplishes nothing.

              iOS 6 App folders could hold a dozen Apps. 7 can hold at least two pages of nine each. I have not yet tested to see if you can have more than three pages of Apps in a folder, but why reduce the number of Apps on a page of the folder?

              In Safari the Bookmark/Reading List & etc. Is oddly displayed, requiring a second movement to access them which was not the case in iOS 6. I have not yet tried to change the organization of these items, but I would be “shocked, simply shocked” if they were user configurable.

              Even if you happen to like the fonts chosen (I am, at best, ambivalent about them), they are a matter of no great import. I consider those sorts of changes which do not improve usability to be superficial.

              Perhaps your experience and response to the changes has been different than mine, but that is a sampling of why I believe much of the effort which went into iOS 7 was a misguided waste of resources. At best, the release shows a continuing lack of adequate pre-release testing and evaluation.

              Regards,

              Richard

            • @Richard, There’s an option under Accessibility to increase contrast, which has the effect of reducing the transparency concerns.

              In large part, I have minor quibbles, but appreciate the new functionality.

              But it’s a sure thing iOS 7 was tested. Developers had over three months to test it before release, and there were plenty of comments about the betas as testing proceeded. Upcoming maintenance updates could fix some ragged edges, I suppose.

              Peace,
              Gene

            • Richard says:

              @Gene Steinberg,
              @Gene,

              I do hope that the under the hood changes prove more worthwhile the things I am not impressed with.

              I am certain that there was testing, but Apple’s historic pattern in such things is that input by real world users is seldom, if ever, early enough in a project to prevent a waste of resources on things that do not matter or are actually bad. Simply put, I would be just as happy without the changes. They have no positive value. They represent an inappropriate of resources. There is not only the cost of the salaries of the individuals involved in this waste of time and effort, but the opportunity cost of the lost opportunity to do something useful with those resources. Do not forget that part of the Mavericks team was pulled off the job to work on the iOS project which has delayed its release and will, no doubt, cause complications involving the release of new hardware.

              It just shows bad judgment all around.

              Richard

    2. Nick says:

      So one of the reasons to update to iOS 7 is that Android is worse? Personally I despise the changes that Apple have made with iOS 7. They have made it colder and more clinical in appearance, and in my view there is no way in which the new UI enhances the functionality. I have resisted upgrading so far because I hate it so much – where is the warmth and sense of fun that the old UI possessed?

      However I know I will inevitably have to upgrade at some point, but I also know that I will not have the same affection for the iOS 7-based phone as I had for it when running iOS 6, and for the first time in my 25-year computing life since the Mac Plus lured me away from PCs I am seriously looking at Android phones as an alternative. I know that I am only one person, and maybe everyone else loves iOS 7 because it is new and they were getting bored with the old UI, but I really worry that this is the beginning of a new, less likeable, era for Apple.

      • @Nick, Whether one OS is better than another is a valid consideration.

        I recall when OS X first came out. You could feel the screams from loyal Mac users who felt betrayed. Over time, the excesses of OS X became less excessive.

        iOS 7 is in a sense a 1.0 OS, and things will change. Some will get used to the design, others won’t.

        Peace,
        Gene

        • Nick says:

          @Gene Steinberg, I’m sure you’re right, but I rather fear the future. My problem is with the character of the new UI, which wasn’t so much of an issue with the OS9->OSX transition. If you like tasteful character and warmth (always previously an aspect of Apple products), the new UI takes being ascetic to a new low. Not everyone is a severe minimalist, although maybe the taste-setters are, and that’s my problem?

          • @Nick, One design point: Thin type is in. But it would be nice for Apple to provide a slider that lets you thicken the typefaces in gradual leaps. Not just going from light to bold, which is offered under Accessibility.

            Peace,
            Gene

        • Richard says:

          @Gene Steinberg,

          I do not want to make too fine a point of this because I believe that you were meaning to say that iOS 7 was a fresh start, at least with respect to the UI, but that amounts to an admission that Apple have not learned much in the preceding six generations of iOS. Frankly, the appearance of iOS itself suggests this. It is just a poor effort in my view.

    3. Max March says:

      Yeah, best of luck with that android phone. my father in law has had 5 Android phones since I got (Free) my first iPhone. he always says he likes it, but always trades it for a new one when 1 year has passed. Then he learns a new emial system, new keyboard system, new browser, etc. And by the time he learns them all, he is tired of the phone and tries a new one. His wife bought a kindle after considering the ipad, now cant believe she lost all the other apps she could have had. Neither are happy, but both refuse to get an apple product. And i havent had to learn anything new in 5 years, just do my stuff.
      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHa- suckas

    4. Your name says:

      What is most annoying about the piece of garbage software, is that no one at Apple will apologize for it, like Tim Cook did when everyone figure out that Maps was a piece of junk. My iPhone and IPad now crash, are slower, have worse battery life and for what? Cute icons? And I can’t even get back to IOS 6. Apple has now become Microsoft of old. We don’t give a crap. We’re Apple

      • @Your name, Which iPad and iPhone do you have? I know I tried it on my wife’s 3rd generation iPad, and it worked fine. I ran into an issue with the 7.0.3 update and iCloud Keychain. But turning it off eliminated a serious performance issue.

        Under what circumstances do your devices crash?

        Peace,
        Gene

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