Posts Tagged "Apple"

Thoughts on iOS7, iOS6, and Android

iOS7 Debuted yesterday at WWDC
iOS7 Debuted yesterday at WWDC

Apple took the wraps off iOS7 yesterday and its unveiling created a lot of buzz all over the world. Before yesterday, the general feelings by tech experts and enthusiasts alike is that iOS had stagnated in recent years, with very minor updates and not a lot of innovation. This is partly because the smartphone platform has matured, but right or wrong, there wasn’t a lot of excitement around iOS. Just comparing iOS to Android feature for feature it was obvious that Android had not only caught up to iOS, but surpassed it in many areas. iOS badly needed a facelift if only to put some new shine to the platform.

We have recently seen Mac community high profile names like Andy Ihnatko switch to Android, and just anecdotally, I’ve had friends and family — some of whom are pretty well-entrenched iPhone fans — at least sneak a peek at the latest Android phones. And that speaks to how little iOS has changed to keep the attention of it’s users. iOS7 rejuvenates that community — right now the internet buzzing with opinions on Apple’s redesigned OS.

Android for Now, but Still an iOS Fan (yes, it’s possible)

I’m not posting this to bash iOS or sing the praises of Android. I’m no rabid fanboy of either platform but pride myself in always making an educated decision in going with what I think is best for me. I didn’t hesitate making the switch to Mac from PC when OSX looked so much better than Windows XP. I just feel that since I have used both platforms as my daily driver, my opinion carries a little more weight than those who have only ever used one or the other.

It’s disappointing to see so much hate on the internet between iOS and Android fans. Come on people! Just because you’re a fan of one platform doesn’t mean you have to be blind to legitimate upgrades of the other.

Wishing 7 had been 6

This time last year I was lustfully eying Android Jellybean’s features, but being an iPhone user since the beginning, I wanted to see what iOS6 would bring to the table before I made the decision. Unfortunately, iOS6 didn’t bring in some of the features that Android users had been enjoying for a long time.

Ignorance really is bliss! If I didn’t have friends who showed off Android’s notification shade, quick toggles, and multi-tasking, I would have been happy with my iPhone. But seeing those features on Android, there was no denying that it was just better in some areas, and it was enough to get me to switch. Fast-forward to a year later, Apple announces the biggest changes to iOS since the iPhone’s debut. iOS7 looks great and addresses a lot of the features I was missing a year ago. I got the Nexus 4 a few months after last year’s WWDC, and I wonder if had this iOS7 update come a year earlier, would I have switched?

Comparisons

Take those 3 aforementioned features: 1) notifications, 2) quick toggles, and 3) multi-tasking – how Android had been superior in those areas when compared to iOS6, and the promise of iOS7:

1. Notifications

Android had a notification center long before Apple implemented theirs in iOS5. Before iOS5, Apple gave every notification it’s own dialog box, which was clunky (not to mention annoying!) having to close multiple dialog boxes at a time, all the time. And even iOS5’s version of notification center was so bad I ended up hardly ever using it. One of the things that appealed to me about Android was it’s notification shade–it is one of the core features and is used all the time. And in today’s connected world, that’s how it should be, since you are receiving notifications throughout the day.

Notification comparison

Android 4.2

Android’s notification shade is probably the single most-used and most useful thing about the whole OS. You can swipe away single notifications within a group, pull down on one to see more info, or dismiss all of them at once with a tap.

And because Android is an open platform, you can add functionality to it (I have added toggles and shortcuts to apps at the top)

iOS6

I was excited at first, but ended up rarely using the iOS notification center simply because it wasn’t intuitive. You could not dismiss one notification at a time – only a group, and that involved tapping a tiny “x.”

Not that it was all that much simpler to hunt through your homescreens for notification badges and go into each app, but that’s what ended up happening in practice.

iOS7

Sadly, besides looking so much better than previous versions, and what might be a useful “Today” category, iOS7’s notification functions the same way.

2. Quick Settings / Control Center

Android has long had the ability to quickly toggle power-saving portions of the phone on and off through toggles and recently a quick settings pane. Android has had this useful feature for so long I was frustrated that it took Apple so long to implement it themselves. iOS7 finally brings this to the iPhone and it’s a welcome addition.

Quick Settings comparison

Android 4.2

Quick toggles built-into the OS are pretty new to Android, coming in Jelly Bean 4.2 at the end of 2012, though toggles have been available as widgets or add ons to the notification shade (as I have them in my notifications screen above) for far longer.

iOS6

iOS has long been stuck in their 2007 settings menu where you have to drill down through multiple menus to turn different things on and off.

iOS7

iOS7 introduces their version of quick settings, called “Control Center.” Just like all of iOS7, the implementation looks great.

The icons, sliders, and text are still a little bit of a mess. It’s not immediately clear at a glance what is on or off and readability isn’t great. I supposed you would get used to it.

3. Multitasking

Multitasking on iOS is another feature that I rarely used because it is a bother. The reality is, even if I knew another app was open, it was easier for me to hit the home button once and tap the app from my homescreen because I knew where it was rather than double-clicking the home button and hunting through pages — 4 apps at a time — to find the app I wanted to switch to. Also, the number of steps it took to close open apps made it so I never closed apps!

Multitasking comparison

Android 4.2

Android’s multitasking is accessed by a tap of a button. It gives you large previews of your open apps, and closing an app is just as effortless as switching to one: simply swipe the open app either left or right! It’s so easy and fluid that Android owners use this killer feature constantly.

iOS6

In contrast to Android simple tap and swipe method of closing an app, iOS’s involves a double-tap, then long-pressing an app until it “wiggles,” then hitting a tiny “x” to close the app.

iOS7

iOS7 comes to the rescue here again with slick-looking multi-tasking of their own, complete with swiping up to kill an app. Simple, visual, and easy!

iOS7 is a Welcome Upgrade

I’ve been fiddling with the iOS7 beta for an evening now and while it’s a polished beta, it’s still a beta. Laggy performance and random app crashes I’m sure will all be ironed out by the time it’s released to the masses.

Besides the three features I mentioned previously, here are my quick first impressions.

  • The whole iOS7 theme seems to be “light” and “airy.” The absence of borders and bars, transparency, removal of any superfluous adornments, simplifying of icons, and even the choice of the lightest of fonts with thin strokes gives the OS a feeling of space and room.
  • It’s interesting to see that Apple’s apps are now predominately white-themed. Google has been moving in that same direction with their Google Now “cards” look. iOS7 and Android’s newest Music player look strikingly similar:

Music players compared

Google Play Music (left) and the Music App in iOS7 (right)

  • I love the animations when opening and closing an app or opening a folder. Little visual cues about where you are going or where you are coming from are small details that is classic Apple. Love it.
  • I’m happy to see that Apple’s embracing gestures further
  • I wish Apple had introduced something akin to widgets or something totally different for their home screens. Folders are still the only way to manage your “desktop” on iOS, and I much prefer Android’s philosophy. Give people more ways to customize their phones to their liking!
  • Auto-update apps – another headache for me on iOS fixed with iOS7, and another one of those features that Android users have long enjoyed

Android fans can gripe all they want about how iOS stole this and that from Android, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a great upgrade for iOS. If nothing else, it puts a fresh coat of paint on a stagnating OS, and gives people something new to try out. As for me, I think after using iOS since 2007 and then a mature Android for a year, I now prefer Android — at least for now. I have gotten so used to Android’s philosophy of being open, allowing for endless ways of being able to tweak and personalize my phone for my needs.

I’m quite happy with being able to turn the default Android 4.2 home screen (left) into a home screen carefully crafted to the way that works for me (right):

Nexus 4 home screen out of the boxNexus 4 home screen modified

And that’s the beauty of Android–infinite ways to make the phone what you want it to be. Unhappy with the icons (the way a lot of people feel about iOS7’s)? Change the icon set. The stock keyboard not working for you? Download and install one of the really great keyboards available on the Google Play Store.

Very different than Apple philosophy of making the iPhone the way they believe is best for you–and there’s nothing wrong with that, because it’s carefully polished UI works and makes 99% of it’s owners happy. When the dust settles from the initial storm of complaining that accompanies every change, I think users will be pretty happy with what’s new in iOS7. And guess what? This is good for the Android OS also. Competition always brings out the best out, and this is nothing but win for us as consumers.

AT&T Data Plan Pricing Changes

Death Star

When AT&T announced they were taking away the $30 per month unlimited data plan in favor of tiered, capped plans. The internet’s knee-jerk reaction, of course, was that of complete and utter outrage. To me, the world wasn’t coming to an end, but I was annoyed to hear that they were taking away the unlimited data plan completely. That seemed to be backwards thinking, I thought, the way things are going with the world going mobile.

I checked our bills for Chesney’s iPhone from January on, and found out–shockingly–that her usage was under 200 MB, ranging from 64 MB to 143 MB at the most. Chesney, like me, uses her phone all the time and rarely makes calls, so I suppose most of that is while connected to wifi. So I’m happy to say that the change in AT&T’s pricing scheme will allow us to move down to the 200 MB/month plan and save us $15 every month!

We’ll lose the unlimited plan forever, but hey, if we’re well-below the lowest tier cap, we can always go up a tier and still be saving $5/month. Also I do think as time goes on, these caps will be changed to reflect the amounts of data users consume.

Now AT&T needs to follow up with cheaper voice plans. We’re paying the cheapest $40/month plan for minutes that we rarely ever use and never even come close to the cap. I would love to pay less for voice and more for data.

Just as an addendum, I looked at my corp account iPhone usage, and it was a little higher than my wife’s, but not by much, and still under the 200 MB/mo cap. I guess I don’t use that much data either.

Brand-new FileMaker.com

Months of work has led up to a brand-new FileMaker.com. This version of the website sheds the 3 or 4 (more?) previous designs, and brings the entire site into a single, unified design:

New FileMaker.com
The new FileMaker.com
The new FileMaker.com

The previous state of the website had iterations of old designs from years and years past running together simultaneously, with their own sub navigation, their own css, and to a degree, their own structure. As you can imagine, this was a huge headache for updating the site. Just to illustrate what a mess this was for the user, here’s random handful of pages on the old site, each pointing out 6 different sub navigation designs:

Sub-navigations
Yep, this is all the same website
Sub-navigations

We invested the time to bring all these different generations of the website under one, brand-new design and architecture. The sub navigation is now pretty consistent across the entire website. It was a big project up-front, but I know that it will really pay large dividends in the coming years with future product launches and general maintenance.

The global navigation underwent a huge overhaul. The old global navigation:

Old nav
Old
Old nav

…and the new one, using the superb protofish dropdowns:

New nav
New
New nav

As a side note, I made a big push to use some forward-thinking CSS 3 techniques, and drop full support of IE6 (Hallelujah!). Small CSS 3 enhancements like rounded corners, drop-shadows, and pseudo-selectors sped up development time, allowing me to literally re-code the old site in this new design in the insane project schedule we have here.

This was a huge effort, and a big redesign of the site was something that I have been wanting to do since I came onboard. I jumped at the chance to get it done in the small window of opportunity that I had. Congratulations to the web team for a job well-done. Now if only we could get a break–onto the next product launch…

—-

And since this took so long to write and post, FileMaker 11 has launched already. Bring on the purple!

Initial Thoughts on the iPad

The iPad.  And I have a printout of it.

There’s been a lot of chatter on the internets the iPad, the new, long-rumored tablet Apple announced yesterday. The most interesting part about the iPad for me was the user interface. The iPhone was revolutionary, in large part due to the multitouch interface. At the time, there was just nothing else like it. The iPad makes the same move, only in its large form factor.

I really liked the thought that went into the UI of the applications that were demoed. Previous tablet PCs have been clunky ports of a desktop OS. Even the new generation of tablets running Android look this way (more on that later). Apple approached this differently–if you haven’t seen it already, it’s worth watching Apple’s intro movie for the iPad. If you could use your computer on a touch-screen OS like this, you wouldn’t even miss a mouse.

From the movie, you can see the iPad isn’t simply a port of OSX with touch screen capability. Nor is it a port of the iPhone OS in terms of the UI. The apps themselves have been redesigned to be a touch interface for the larger form-factor and what you get is an elegant, well-designed OS. And from all early accounts from people that have actually spent time with the iPad, it works beautifully.

Caleb’s Computer?

I immediately started to think, is this going to be the way we interact with our computers? (By then will they even be called “computers?”) The mouse was a great invention in bridging the gap between the user and the screen, but using your finger makes so much more sense.

Sure, the external keyboard and mouse won’t be replaced anytime soon, especially for people like me who work on a computer all day, but I believe there will come a day when touch-screen interfaces will have matured to the point where it is comparable and eventually replaces these old input devices.

Hit or Miss?

As to whether or not people will actually buy the iPad, who knows? This is new territory not only for Apple, but for the industry. If haven’t noticed, it seems like every major manufacturer has announced their own tablet recently, most running Andriod. The HP Slate, Viewsonic VTablet 101, Lenovo IdeaPad, and Dell’s unnamed tablet to cite a few.

The most successful device that I can think of that is in the same form factor is Amazon’s Kindle. I like Kevin Rose’s post which compares the iPad to the Kindle DX:

Kindle DX 9.7” – $489.00

1024×768 color display upgrade – $1.00
Internet browsing upgrade – $1.00
iPod w/16GB upgrade – $1.00
Run iPhone apps upgrade – $1.00
1Gz A4 processor upgrade – $1.00
H.264 720P HD video upgrade – $1.00
Bluetooth upgrade – $1.00
10hr battery upgrade – $1.00
Multi-touch display upgrade – $1.00
Digital compass/accelerometer – $1.00 

Your cost: iPad $499.00

So true…Amazon is going to have to do something about that Kindle DX price point. When you put the Kindle side-by-side with the iPad, it looks like technology from 10 years ago:

Kindle DX and the iPad

The Kindle DX and iPad, both at the $500 price point

There were plenty of mp3 players on the market before the iPod debuted and shook up–and popularized–the industry. The cell phone market was mature and flooded with handsets before the iPhone came in and shook up the (smartphone) industry. It will be interesting to see in the coming years if the iPad can do the same.

Google Chrome OS and Life on the Web

Google Chrome OS on a Macbook ProI have had a couple days to let the news of Google’s Chrome OS announcement sink in and the more I think about it, the more end up thinking about the future of our computing.

A Google OS? I was excited about the mere rumor of this waaaaay back in 2005 (my short blog post). But undoubtedly this begs the obvious question: how will stack up against Windows? Or any “traditional” browser like OSX or Linux, for that matter. From reading the announcement, it doesn’t sound like Chrome OS will really be a direct competitor. The initial focus will be on “cloud computing,” which means doing all of the work that you need to do online. Rather than being a massive OS that will will have everything that you need locally on your hard drive, Chrome OS will be a lightweight gateway into accessing everything over the web.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds.

The Google Universe

This strategy is perfect for Google since they happen to be the leader in computing on the web. They offer Google Docs, Google Apps, Gmail, Google Calendar – most everything the average user will need. The only thing holding users back from going completely online is their comfort zone with native applications. It’s a big change to think about using an online text-editor, rather than loading up Microsoft Word.

See Ya Online

Web 2.0 Logos, by Stabilo Boss on Flickr
Web 2.0 Logos,
by Stabilo Boss on Flickr

But the future of computer use, in my opinion is just that. Everything is moving in the direction of everything being online, available to you anywhere you are. Bandwidth is getting faster and becoming more widespread. Online access everywhere is coming. Companies see this trend and are adapting – the most attractive software almost always has an online component to it, and many new companies are developing web applications for use exclusively online. The rise of the new class of laptops, netbooks is evidence of this trend of cheap, fast, and light, made for the user who spends most of their time on the computer doing things online–there’s no need for lots of storage and a huge processor when you are doing most of your tasks online, in a web browser.

Not convinced? Chances are, you are already halfway there yourself. Think about how much of what you do online right now. Have a Facebook account? Do you use Gmail? Plan your week in Google Calendar? Photo-ordering? Banking or bill pay? For the average user, there really isn’t much that can’t be done online. Besides the every day tasks that were just mentioned, there are even web applications for project-planning, photo-editing, and even intensive graphics work.

It’s coming, and while local computing will never completely go away, especially with professionals in many fields, I believe the masses will be doing most of their computer-time online. And with that in mind, Google Chrome OS has the potential to be the leader/trailblazer in this kind of computing.

To top it all off, Google Chrome OS is free and open-source. “Don’t be evil” indeed.