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Newsletter Issue #826


Sometimes the press of events can change a story considerably. So on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, I discussed iOS 9’s App Thinning feature, which, for one thing, slices apps in a way that only the version you need for your particular device is downloaded. That saves space — when it works.

But Apple has temporarily pulled the feature because of problems with iCloud. So what else is new? They promise it will be fixed in a future update, which I suppose means both iCloud and iOS. At least Apple is willing to admit there’s a problem to be fixed, which isn’t always the case, but whether it’ll take weeks or months to happen is not yet certain.

In any case, this week’s episode featured Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer. His bill of fare included the XcodeGhost malware episode, which infected some copies of Apple’s Xcode developer tools downloaded in China. He also covered the iOS 9.0.1 update, which fixed a critical installation bug and other problems, a comparison between Proactive Siri, from iOS 9, and Google Now, Apple Car skeptics, and watchOS 2. There was also a brief pop culture discussion that focused on some of the new TV shows for the fall season in the U.S.

Since not all the new shows have debuted, I’m not going to consider my favorites yet. So far, only a few that premiered have garnered good ratings, with “Blindspot” among the leaders. It’s also a compelling premise, but it all depends on whether it descends into incoherence, as such long-form shows as “Lost” and “Heroes” did, or will manage to answer at least some of the lingering puzzles quickly enough to sustain a large audience.

You also heard from Stephen Baker, Vice President for Industry Analysis at the NPD Group, who discussed whether smartphone sales have reached a saturation point in the U.S. He also covered the reasons for slipping tablet sales, and whether Apple’s forthcoming iPad Pro will help improve the situation. We both covered the apparent lack of 4K support in the forthcoming Apple TV, the prospects for 4K TV sales this fall, whether the arrival of Windows 10 will help boost PC sales, and the growing prospects for Macs in the enterprise.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: With guest co-host Curtis Collins, one of our favorite and one of the most prolific authors of paranormal books, Nick Redfern, returns to The Paracast. He discusses two of his latest books, “Bloodline of the Gods: Unravel the Mystery of the Human Blood Type to Reveal the Aliens Among Us” and “Men in Black: Personal Stories & Eerie Adventures.” The focus of the first is whether some humans, presumably those with Rh negative blood types, may be descended from an advanced race of extraterrestrials. The second covers more compelling reports of those strangely-garbed individuals sometimes seen in connection with UFO sightings. As usual, we’ll be posing questions asked by our listeners in our forums.


As of September 19, Apple reported that, based on visits to the App Store, some 52% of activated devices were using iOS 9. I presume a hefty portion have already upgraded to iOS 9.0.1. This news was sufficient to earn an Apple press announcement, and it’s no wonder. But it also was greeted by skepticism in some quarters. You see, third-party companies that record online metrics, such as Mixpanel Trends, were reporting a far lower figure.

Usually, it’s the reverse. Apple’s numbers tend to be conservative. Now it may well be that the figures were skewed by the fact that more people accessed the App Store on multiple occasions to download updates to be compatible with iOS 9. The number of changed apps, to some, appeared to be far larger than were available after iOS 8 arrived. The App Store gathers these numbers based on the OS a device is running when it contacts the store.

In my case, I counted 28 app upgrades since installing the release version of iOS 9 on September 16th. Some involve the same app that required additional changes. But I also downloaded a bunch during the time I was running iOS 9 betas, so this issue becomes a little more complicated.

But it’s clear that other numbers are closing in. So as of September 27, Mixpanel Trends delivered numbers that exceeded 50%. While not as quick as Apple, surely that’s an impressive number in such a brief timeframe. No doubt the 9.0.1 update helped a lot, because it eradicated a bug where an upgraded device would freeze at the Setup Assistant and have to be restored. The first weekend’s sale of the new iPhones will also boost the numbers substantially.

In contrast, Mixpanel Trends is reporting a roughly 38% adoption rate for Android Lollipop, which was first released over 10 months ago, so it’s nothing for Google to brag about, though that figure is probably better than they usually receive in this timeframe.

In its favor, it doesn’t appear that iOS 9 has some of this irritating bugs that afflicted the initial releases of older versions. I haven’t seen much chatter about reduced battery life or problems with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. I did read some anecdotal claims that 9.0.1 delivered somewhat snappier performance, and that may be true. I’ve noticed it as well, but this perception is highly subjective. Sometimes newer seems better even though it’s no different.

While my gear isn’t really challenged for space, I’m disappointed that Apple had to put App Thinning on the back burner. As mentioned above, this is the iOS feature that will allow Apple to only send you the version of an app you need for a particular device. That should save a substantial amount of space — when it works. But it’s also true that it may require a pretty sophisticated amount of backend engineering to make iCloud handle it reliably.

However, for most of you this is a minor inconvenience, particularly since the feature never existed before. So when it arrives, it’ll be great, but it’s not the first time Apple has postponed something because of glitches. Don’t forget the delayed release of watchOS 2. While Apple didn’t reveal why, unofficial reports claim it was a bug in the FairPlay DRM that may have prevented playback of some of your music.

I also continue to wonder about the value of Apple’s public beta testing. From a marketing point of view, it appears to be successful because it expands discussions of the new operating systems. Also the problems, although, in theory, testers should confine their discussions strictly to features that have been publicly disclosed, but it’s not as if Apple is going to run after testers who don’t follow the rules.

So perhaps the relative stability of iOS 9 is the direct result of all that testing. But what about the “Slide to Upgrade” bug, where devices froze at the Setup Assistant? The release version of iOS 9 was a somewhat newer build than the last beta fed to testers, which came out earlier in the month. So perhaps this bug was the result of some of the final changes but only impacted a small number of users that were mostly not part of the testing pool for the final release. I wouldn’t care to guess what really happened, and it’s not as if Apple is going to tell us.

On the positive side of the ledger, iOS 9.0.1 addressed the only problem I had with a crashing app, involving Speedtest X, which performs Internet benchmarks. With iOS 9, it would promptly quit soon as I started a test. After installation, it worked just fine, but this is not a bug Apple officially documented, although I suppose it’s possible this fix was merely a side effect of something that changed in the update.

Indeed, I haven’t found any area where iOS 9 isn’t getting the job done. All my apps work as they did before. The new features, however, are not that noticeable. “Hey Siri” isn’t terribly useful since the device has to be tethered to a charging cable. The upgraded hardware in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus allow it to be used without a charger, no doubt because they handle those requests more efficiently without draining power. As a sidelight: It’s also interesting that Apple has managed to retain battery life with a smaller battery on the new models, and you wonder how it would have ended up had it been possible to squeeze a bigger battery in there.

iOS 9 is also supposed to improve battery life by up to one hour. This isn’t something I’ve actually measured, although I notice my wife is less apt to connect her iPad to the charger, and I rarely need to recharge my iPhone at the end of the day. I can wait until the morning, and it usually has plenty of juice left, even if I’m awake in the middle of the night checking email and consulting news sites.

I’ve only once had the need to go into Low Power Mode. That feature essentially reduces background tasks, such as app and email updates, animations and performs other functions designed to maximize battery life with as little visual effect as possible. I’m actually not at all concerned if there are fewer animations. You get a prompt to turn it on when battery life hits the 20% point, but it has to be disabled manually. I’d prefer that it be turned off when you recharge your device unless it was turned on manually without the low battery warning.

The other indications of iOS 9’s presence are minor. Using San Francisco as a font instead of Helvetica Neue makes for more readable text in smaller sizes. That’s a positive development to be sure, but most of you probably won’t notice unless you compare the two side by side. Proactive Siri is an improvement, but I use the iPhone for a fairly rigid set of tasks, so the changes aren’t really so important. Maybe it’ll get better when Siri has a better grasp of my needs. But not yet.

Some of the people who have tested Proactive Siri against Google Now pronounce it inferior. That may be because Apple isn’t collecting as much data about you as Google. Or it may require ongoing enhancements and a learning curve for Siri to figure out your needs more accurately. We’ll see.

There is a 9.1 update under construction. A key improvement, for those who care, is New Emoji! But it’s nothing on my radar. I realize there will be the usual performance enhancements and bug fixes, and no doubt dedicated support for the forthcoming iPad Pro. I could download the beta to give it a test, and restore my iPhone afterward if it’s not quite ready. Maybe I will once it gets closer to release. But not right now.


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