Computers Are Supposed to Help Us Solve Our Problems

August 7, 2018 · 10:08

Sameer Samat details the new Android Pie on Google’s blog:

The latest release of Android is here! And it comes with a heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler and more tailored to you. Today we’re officially introducing Android 9 Pie […]

I wanted to comment on two of the new features…

That’s why Android 9 comes with features like […] Adaptive Brightness, which learns how you like to set the brightness in different settings, and does it for you.

I have been using iPhones and iPads since 2008, and always relied on Automatic Brightness. I don’t know what Apple did, but I never had an Android phone which handled this function, as well as iOS does — I’ve always had stuttering or sudden brightness shifts, including flickering while it’s been adjusted. All this on many flagship phones, including older Nexus devices and more recent ones like the Galaxy S8.

At-a-Glance on Always-on-Display: See things like calendar events and weather on your Lock Screen and Always-on Display.

I have always found it curious that Apple chose not to use the Lock Screen in a more productive fashion (widgets do not count). Just weather information could be easily included and it’s something I miss every day. And since we have a OLED screen on the iPhone X, that could be taken advantage of even further. Burn-in could present a problem and perhaps that is why Apple isn’t in on this, but I can imagine a scenario where one tap on a screen shows upcoming calendar events and the weather, while two taps wake the screen.


Computers are (partly) supposed to help us solve our problems. This isn’t being pursued as I had hoped it would be. We’re 11 years in and iOS still can’t do things that my simple Nokia could, such as setting it to Do Not Disturb mode for a precisely set amount of time. iOS 12 will introduce a few new features that help in this regard but there’s so much more that could be done. My iPhone know’s my daily schedule and how I use it — it should adapt automatically. When I walk into the gym, it should suggest launching Overcast and Workouts (on my Apple Watch). When I leave, it should suggest that I text my wife, informing her that I am on my way and share my ETA. When I get into my car in the parking lot beneath the gym, it should launch Waze and guide me to where she is. I do this every single day and I should not have to manually repeat these steps every time — the OS should have learned by now. It has my location, it knows my routine; it should help automate repetitive tasks automatically.


3D Touch Is the Single Best Way to Manipulate the Cursor and Text on the iPhone →

April 28, 2018 · 08:27

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

3D Touch is the sort of feature that either needs to be on all iPhones or else should be dropped. If it’s not pervasive across the entire platform, developers can’t count on it. I think that’s why it’s underutilized today. But it’s one thing to wait for older iPhones from the pre-3D Touch era to drop out of usage. It’s another for Apple to sell a brand new phone in 2018 without it.

I would happily replace my iPhone X with this new rumoured cheaper 6.1” device, but it will supposedly lack two things: the aforementioned 3D Touch layer and a dual camera system.

Apple will be able to use the camera as a differentiator in the close future, but as more and more Android phones adopt this technology, it will become a standard and expected feature quickly. But I cannot imagine them shipping a new iPhone without 3D Touch. We’ve been using it for three generations now, so it’s high time for it to be more pervasive across all devices, including iPads. Even if developers don’t actively support it, this is the single best way to manipulate the cursor and text on the iPhone. The iPad gets away with two fingers for now, but it really could use this tech.


Apple Working on Touchless Control and Curved iPhone Screen →

April 5, 2018 · 16:29

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

The control feature would let iPhone users perform some tasks by moving their finger close to the screen without actually tapping it. The technology likely won’t be ready for consumers for at least two years, if Apple chooses to go forward with it, a person familiar with the work said […]

We know various Samsung phones from the past had this feature, but apart from a few people who liked it in specific scenarios, it wasn’t generally well-received.

Apple is also developing iPhone displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

I recall having reviewed the Google/Samsung Nexus S back in 2011 and I was completely indifferent as to whether the screen was curved or not. I do however greatly enjoy the delicate edge-curves on the iPhone 6 and newer series iPhones, including the iPhone X — this is preferable — while, at the same time, the Galaxy S8 and S9 screens are curved way too much, making accidental touches a daily ritual.


Huawei P20 Pro Hands-on: 3X Zoom Lens Leaves the Competition Behind →

April 5, 2018 · 12:57

Lars Rehm, for DPReview:

We’ve only had a few days with the Huawei P20 Pro but that has been long enough to say it is the most advanced smartphone camera to date. General image quality is very good, with good detail, very low noise levels across all light levels and excellent dynamic range. In terms of those parameters the differences to other flagship smartphones, for example the Google Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus aren’t massive, however.

Where the P20 Pro really leaves the competition behind is zoom. The dedicated 3x tele-lens provides a real advantage in the zoom department and makes this device the best current smartphone for zooming. The triple camera is also capable of creating a natural looking bokeh simulation, and in video mode the image stabilization is up with the very best, creating an almost steady-cam like effect.

While I consider Apple’s software manipulation of the iPhone camera’s shits to still be superior to its competition, I wish they’d try to use physically larger sensors. Portrait Mode should improve at a faster rate, too. I wouldn’t mind a third lens either — an 85 mm equivalent to join the current 28 mm and 56 mm lenses.


February 25, 2018 · 14:57

This is the first time in many years that I still consider my iPhone X — I’m now into over three months using it daily — still a novelty. It still excites me whenever I take it out of my pocket. I continuously stare at the gorgeous screen, not quite believing that this tech is possible today. And no, the notch doesn’t bother me. At all.

This happened twice so far (I owned every single iPhone model, apart from the 3G, 5C and SE) — with the first iPhone and then with the iPhone 4, when it went Retina.

The iPhone X is a milestone and I can’t help but wonder, when the next one comes along, will it be an iPhone? Or a smartphone at all?


iPhone iBoot Source Code Gets Posted On Github →

February 8, 2018 · 15:22

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Motherboard:

Someone just posted what experts say is the source code for a core component of the iPhone’s operating system on GitHub, which could pave the way for hackers and security researchers to find vulnerabilities in iOS and make iPhone jailbreaks easier to achieve.

The GitHub code is labeled “iBoot,” which is the part of iOS that is responsible for ensuring a trusted boot of the operating system. In other words, it’s the program that loads iOS, the very first process that runs when you turn on your iPhone. It loads and verifies the kernel is properly signed by Apple and then executes it—it’s like the iPhone’s BIOS.

The code says it’s for iOS 9, an older version of the operating system, but portions of it are likely to still be used in iOS 11.

Apple has already filed a copyright takedown request with GitHub, which resulted in the code being removed, but that won’t help much — the code is out in the wild.


Tim Cook: ‘I Don’t Think a Lot of Users Were Paying Attention’ →

January 19, 2018 · 10:15

Zunaira Zaki:

When asked about the [battery] incident, Cook apologized to Apple users who believe that the company deliberately slowed the processors down in older models.

He hypothesized that when Apple released software updates to slow down older devices in older models to keep up with the new features, people may not have been “paying attention” when they explained what it was.

“Maybe we weren’t clear,” he said. “We deeply apologize for anyone who thinks we have some other kind of motivation.”

We were paying attention. His statement isn’t just bad PR, it’s unacceptable. Watch the video on ABC to hear his full statement.


FBI Hacker Says Apple Are ‘Jerks’ and ‘Evil Geniuses’ for Encrypting iPhones →

January 12, 2018 · 10:29

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Motherboard:

On Wednesday, at the the International Conference on Cyber Security in Manhattan, FBI forensic expert Stephen Flatley lashed out at Apple, calling the company “jerks,” and “evil geniuses” for making his and his colleagues’ investigative work harder. For example, Flatley complained that Apple recently made password guesses slower, changing the hash iterations from 10,000 to 10,000,000.

I’m glad his work is made harder and I can’t help but wonder what smartphone he uses privately and if he would want it to be unencrypted.


Apple’s Message to Their Customers About iPhone Batteries and Performance →

December 29, 2017 · 11:15

We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

Now the important part…

About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.

Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.

Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.

I mentioned that last bit a few days ago:

Fitting a new battery into an iPhone will allow the SoC to be used at full power once more, hence the issue will go away. You can either try to do this under warranty or pay less than 100 EUR / 100 USD to get it done in authorised service centres. You can find multiple examples of a new battery fixing the problem, here and here for example.

Apple is now lowering the prices of battery replacement however.

Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.

I hope this also means that they will refund those customers, who already replaced their batteries for this very reason.


Computer Latency: 1977-2017 →

December 26, 2017 · 15:35

Dan Luu:

I have this nagging feeling that the computers I use today feel slower than the computers I used as a kid. I don’t trust this kind of feeling because human perception has been shown to be unreliable in empirical studies, so I carried around a high-speed camera and measured the response latency of devices I’ve run into in the past few months. Here are the results […]

It’s a bit absurd that a modern gaming machine running at 4,000x the speed of an apple 2, with a CPU that has 500,000x as many transistors (with a GPU that has 2,000,000x as many transistors) can maybe manage the same latency as an apple 2 in very carefully coded applications if we have a monitor with nearly 3x the refresh rate […]

On the bright side, we’re arguably emerging from the latency dark ages and it’s now possible to assemble a computer or buy a tablet with latency that’s in the same range as you could get off-the-shelf in the 70s and 80s […]

The smartphone results that Dan posted put things in perspective.


A Thousand Yes’ For Every No →

October 7, 2017 · 16:14

Joshua Topolsky:

Plenty has been written about the mind-numbing, face-palming, irritating stupidity of the notch. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. I would love to say that this awful design compromise is an anomaly for Apple. But it would be more accurate to describe it as the norm.

iPhone always were (and still are) distinguished by the rather obvious round home button — with it gone, they would just look like any other. I’m guessing this is one of the reasons that they chose to go with the ears and notch, which allow the screen to be almost bezel-less, creating a unique front design.

This doesn’t mean that we should adore it — I’m still on the fence, but leaning towards not liking it — or even accept it. Apple’s not forcing us to buy this model, but I wish they hid the notch, or even added a small chin and forehead to the design, a bit akin to the Galaxy S8. I’m pretty sure some are going to love the new design and gestures, while others will hate readjusting to the new paradigm. Personally, I’m worried about the pause needed, when swiping up, to get to the app switcher — pauses disrupt gestures.

I can’t help but think that the old “a thousand no’s for every yes” is near gone from Apple’s culture. I hope not, but looking at the big picture, it sure seems like it.


Is It True That iPhones Get Slower Over Time? →

October 7, 2017 · 16:01

Futuremark:

Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.

That said, there are some factors that might affect people’s perception of performance after updating an older device with a newer version of iOS. An update might add new features that use more resources or require more processing power. New apps developed for the latest models might not run as smoothly on older devices. Conversely, apps designed for an earlier version of iOS might not take full advantage of optimizations in the latest version. And then there is always the  psychological effect of knowing that there is a new and improved model available, which can make your own device seem outdated.

Myth busted.


Report Repeats Rumors of Larger 6.5-Inch iPhone for Next Year →

September 17, 2017 · 14:12

Ben Lovejoy:

Hinting at a source within Samsung Display, the report suggests that next year’s iPhone will be offered in two sizes: a 5.85-inch one with the same screen size as the iPhone 8, and a larger 6.46-inch ‘Plus’ model …

I strongly believe that Apple will at one point finally retire the current iPhone 6/6S/7/8 design and focus on the “edge-to-edge” design of the iPhone X. While they could simplify their lineup drastically, offering only an iPhone X in two sizes, they currently sell eight (8!) different iPhones — the 6S and 6S Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus, SE, and X1. Ideally, they would reduce that to three — an iPhone X with ~5”, 5.8″, and ~6.5“ displays — like they did with the iPads.

It will be interesting to watch how they handle the whole transition over the next few years.

  1. Elon Musk must be furious.

How Apple Could Change the Way You Use the Next iPhone →

August 30, 2017 · 14:08

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

[…] Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button—even a digital one—in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking, according to the people and the images.

The paragraph above doesn’t seem to indicate that this is how Apple solved (or will solve) the problem. Mark just says that this is something that has been tested.

Across the bottom of the screen there’s a thin, software bar in lieu of the home button. A user can drag it up to the middle of the screen to open the phone. When inside an app, a similar gesture starts multitasking. From here, users can continue to flick upwards to close the app and go back to the home screen. An animation in testing sucks the app back into its icon. The multitasking interface has been redesigned to appear like a series of standalone cards that can be swiped through, versus the stack of cards on current iPhones, the images show.

This solution, heavily relying on gestures, could potentially be much more time-consuming than just hitting the home button. Again, this could or could not make it to iOS 11 on the ‘iPhone 8’.


There seems to be no other new information from Mark in his latest piece and the original headline is a bit misleading, so I rewrote it.


$999 iPhone? →

August 28, 2017 · 10:23

Brian X. Chen, writing for The New York Times:

Chief among the changes for the new iPhones: refreshed versions, including a premium model priced at around $999, according to people briefed on the product, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

This wouldn’t at all surprise me. Unfortunately, this is not a phone that I would consider buying and it has nothing to do with whether I can afford it or not — I just refuse to pay that much for a smartphone, which is close to or more than my MacBook Pro1. What’s even more frustrating is that if the pricing speculations are accurate, the new ‘iPhone Pro’ will be at least 50% dearer than a Galaxy S8 in Poland.

  1. EU prices additionally are much higher than those in the US.

iPhone Secure Enclave Firmware Key Found →

August 21, 2017 · 08:49

David Schuetz:

Earlier today, it was reported that a hacker/researcher called “xerub” had released the encryption key, and tools to use it, for the firmware that runs the Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) on iPhone 5S. Reporting was…breathless. Stories suggested that this move was “destroying key piece of iOS mobile security,” and that we should “be on the lookout for Touch ID hacks” and “password harvesting scams.”

Is it really that bad? No, not really (…)

What was released today was the key to decrypt that firmware, but not a key to decrypt the region of disk used by the SE to store data. So now we can actually reverse-engineer the SE system, and hopefully gain a much better understanding of how it works. But we can’t decrypt the data it processes.


August 10, 2017 · 09:34

The 2017 Amazon Echo Show looks like what people thought the future would look like in 1980. In 2007, the iPhone was the future.


Embrace the Notch! →

August 3, 2017 · 10:00

Max Rudberg:

Beforehand I was fond of the idea of blending the statusbar with the hardware, but seeing the mockups like this, I’m not so sure. Blending the statusbar with the hardware makes the screen seem smaller than it is and the result is less striking. I’m now leaning towards that Apple will embrace the notch.

I’m voting for embracing the notch, because it could play well into Apple showcasing how large the screen’s area really is. Then again, they could be conservative, so as not to alienate those who hate that look.

 

Photo credit: Max Rudberg


How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads →

August 3, 2017 · 08:57

Steven Levy:

My conversation with Mathias Bahnmueller started as pretty much all my phone interviews do. “Can you hear me?” he asked, and I replied affirmatively. Then I asked him the same question. His answer was yes—he could hear me very clearly. And this was a tiny miracle.

That’s because Bahnmueller suffers from hearing loss so severe that a year ago he underwent surgery to install a cochlear implant—an electronic device in the inner ear that replaces the usual hearing mechanism. Around a million patients have undergone this increasingly mainstream form of treatment, and that’s just a fraction of those who could benefit from it. (Of the 360 million people worldwide with hearing loss, about 10 percent would qualify for the surgery.) “For those who reach a point where hearing aids no longer help, this is the only solution,” says Allison Biever, an audiologist in Englewood, CO who works with implant patients. “It’s like restoring a signal in a radio station.”

Cochlear implants bypass the usual hearing process by embedding a device in the inner ear and connecting it via electrodes to the nerve that sends audio signals to the brain. The implant gets sound from an external microphone and sound processor that usually sits behind the ear. Until now, users have had to deal with balky remote controls to adjust the settings. And dealing with smartphones has required a separate piece of equipment that vexes communication thanks to its low quality and annoying lags. But Bahnmueller, a 49-year-old executive in automotive safety, has recently been testing a new solution. The reason I was coming through so clearly is that his over-the-ear device linked to the implant was streaming directly from his iPhone—essentially putting the conversation in his head.

Technology can do so much for those less fortunate, but so rarely seems to. This is amazing.


iPhone 8 Code Name and Image Found in Homepod Firmware

July 31, 2017 · 08:39

Steven did a little sleuthing over the weekend, poking around the HomePod firmware…

Pearl ID and BiometricKit found, but still no word whether the iPhone 8/Pro (or whatever else Apple will call it) will have Touch ID along facial recognition.

Guilherme Rambo‏ also found an image representing the new iPhone, which Steven confirmed, along with its D22 code name.


Someone at Apple is going to have an angry phone call today…


My Mac, Hackintosh, and iOS Setup →

April 24, 2017 · 21:11

Jeffrey Abbott, on The Sweet Setup:

Every week we post a new interview with someone about what software they use on their Mac, iPhone, or iPad. We do these interviews because not only are they fun, but a glimpse into what tools someone uses and how they use those tools can spark our imagination and give us an idea or insight into how we can do things better.

My Mac and iOS setup is up today, with detailed specs of my Hackintosh! Yay!


Three New iPhones in 2017, According to Bloomberg →

April 19, 2017 · 09:06

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple is preparing three iPhones for launch as soon as this fall, including upgraded versions of the current two iPhone models and a new top-of-the-line handset with an overhauled look, according to people familiar with the matter. For the redesigned phone, Apple is testing a new type of screen, curved glass and stainless steel materials, and more advanced cameras, the people said. Those anxiously awaiting the redesigned iPhone, however, may have to wait because supply constraints could mean the device isn’t readily available until one or two months after the typical fall introduction.

A fourth year, using the same design would be as surprising to me as Intel’s quick jump from their ‘tick-tock’ to a three-tier strategy and then almost immediately ending that for a four-tier one.

Mark’s words also suggest that the new ‘iPhone Edition’ will be available in only one size, which would be a poor show, especially since Samsung is already offering the S8 in two different sizes.

For the premium model, Apple is testing a screen that covers almost the entire front of the device, according to people familiar with the matter. That results in a display slightly larger than that of the iPhone 7 Plus but an overall size closer to the iPhone 7, the people said. Apple is also aiming to reduce the overall size of the handset by integrating the home button into the screen itself via software in a similar manner to Samsung’s S8, the people said.

This sounds like it will be similar to the Galaxy S8 then. At the same time, the S8+ is still smaller than a 7+, but with a larger screen. It’s smaller width also makes it easier to hold and use.

I just hope Apple decides to forgo the curved display in the style of the new Galaxy S8 — something akin to the current curve of the iPhone 7 would be a better design, hopefully not distorting the edges of the screen like the Galaxy does.


Counter-Forensics: Pair-Lock Your Device with Apple’s Configurator →

February 10, 2017 · 11:39

Jonathan Zdziarski:

(…) This article is a brief how-to on using Apple’s Configurator utility to lock your device down so that no other devices can pair with it, even if you leave your device unlocked, or are compelled into unlocking it yourself with a passcode or a fingerprint. By pair-locking your device, you’re effectively disabling every logical forensics tool on the market by preventing it from talking to your iOS device, at least without first being able to undo this lock with pairing records from your desktop machine. This is a great technique for protecting your device from nosy coworkers, or cops in some states that have started grabbing your call history at traffic stops.


iPhone 6S Shutdown Problem Detailed by Apple →

December 3, 2016 · 14:02

Apple Support:

We found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur. It’s important to note, this is not a safety issue.

The automatic shutdowns are a result of the iPhone protecting itself from low voltage.