There have been a number of phone homescreen posts recently but, in sharing his, Manton pointed to a cool trick by David Smith to add "blank" icons to so that you can control app placement.

Having flip-flopped between Android and iOS over the years I appreciate the way the former lets you place icons wherever you like.

With ever increasing screen sizes it seems outdated to fill the screen from the top down when the uppermost icons are hard to reach one handed. Okay, we have Reachability but this is just a workaround for an unnecessarily rigid system.

I prefer leaving a gap between my app icons and the dock - I just don't like the screen being completely full, it feels cluttered and overbearing - but I've long wished they didn't have to start right at the top.

On Android phones I've always started arranging my homescreen icons from the bottom. It just made sense!

Setting the iPhone X up as a new device rather than from backup meant examining the apps I had installed to see if I really used them. I got rid of some from the second screen but it still felt that things were much the same as on the 6S Plus.

Let's face it, you put the apps you use most on the homescreen for ease of access so there wasn't really much scope for change.

Being able to create a "blank" row at the top of the screen, however, instantly differentiates this phone and has forced me to move four apps to accommodate.

It may seem like a gimmick (and it probably is) but mixing things up keeps me interested which reflects on my productivity.

So, here’s my new homescreen:

Status

iPhone X first impressionsComments

I’ve had a couple of hours with the new phone (mainly setting it up as I started from scratch rather than a backup) and I think we’re going to be firm friends.

Feel

The phone feels lovely. It is so smooth and the glass back looks gorgeous (I’ve got the silver model) but I’ve stuck a case on (ultra thin so as not to add any extra bulk) straight away to keep it scratch free.

It is significantly smaller in the hand - and in the pocket - than a Plus but I don’t really notice because of the larger screen. The weight balance is also much better.

Notch

Let’s get it out of the way: the notch. I knew it wasn’t going to bother me and it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I just don’t notice it as I’m not normally focusing on the very top of the screen.

Even when I do focus on the notch, because of where it is and how crisp the lines are, it almost looks like it’s a software feature rather than hardware. It’s strange.

Screen

The screen is great and I love True Tone. I used to like it when Nightshift kicked in on the 6S Plus as I much preferred the screen warmth but True Tone takes it to the next level.

The only downside is that the off-angle blue tint to the OLED screen is made more apparent by having True Tone turned on but, even then, it just looks like the normal blue/white of an LCD without any warmth correction.

Navigation

Although I made a point of learning about gestures and navigation on the X in advance I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve gotten used to not having a home button. I’ve not once accidentally gone to tap on the “home indicator” bar.

The only thing I have to think about is the control center now being triggered by a swipe down from the top right.

Cameras

The rear cameras are so much nicer than the one on the 6S Plus, and how I’ve been waiting for a dual camera setup having missed the 7 Plus last year.

Portrait lighting looks like it could be fun but I was first mucking about with it in reasonably poor light so couldn’t get the best results.

Face ID has worked very reliably so far but seems quite over zealous and quick to drop back to passcode when someone else is looking at the phone. I shall have to experiment further.

In summary

The X is a lovely device that, at first glance, hits that sweet spot between size and comfort.

As I spend more time with it I’ll be able to refine my opinion but, for now, colour me impressed.

iPhone X first impressions

The rumour that Apple is working on a 6.5 inch variant of the iPhone X (possibly for next year) makes a lot of sense.

When you consider that this year’s 5.8 inch screen device is similar in size to the iPhone 6/7/8 then it follows that a larger version would be roughly equivalent in overall dimensions to the current Plus models.

Sure enough, the overall unit size of the current Plus phones are roughly 6.5 inches. A larger X should, therefore, be a little larger.

This would also tie in with the suggestion that the X is the future of the iPhone implying that the existing models will be phased out.

This year was an anomaly with Apple releasing three main devices. I would fully expect them to get back to releasing two with an updated X and a new X Plus.

And this is without touching on the obvious angle of competition.

Status

I'm trying not to go all Gollum on the iPhone X but "me wants it" - it's a shame it's not available until 3rd November but I suppose that will give my carrier time to get their act together.

The 'X' will, no doubt, take a bit of getting used to having no home button but it's not so much a learning curve (it all looks pretty logical) as re-training the muscle memory.

Still, now the announcement has happened and the GM build of iOS 11 has been properly released I've decided it's time to put it on my 6S Plus.

Status

iPhone 7 – the morning after the night before

With Apple events usually starting at 6pm in U.K. It means we get a few hours of hype but can then sleep on it relatively soon after and re-examine things in the cold light of day.

Here's a few initial thoughts:

Does having a similar design for the third year in a row bother me? Absolutely not. As long as it is streamlined and feels decent in the hand it doesn't matter - it's what it does that counts.

While a faster processor probably won't make much of a noticeable difference in normal use (when do we really max it out?) the fact that it will have two extra, energy efficient cores will provide a nice bump in battery life - this will be noticeable.

Apple took the sting out of removing the headphone jack by including both lightning ear pods and an adapter in the box. Saying that, the move never really concerned me.

What does concern me is that Apple persists with the terrible design and quality of their Ear Pods. They don't sound particularly great and leak sound. I can only hope that the lightning variant has a better dynamic range, but I doubt it.

As for the new wireless Air Pods, I'm sure they are a great technological achievement but they are still the same core design as the Ear Pods but with a massive price tag attached.

As others have already mentioned, they may usher in a mobile experience akin to the film "Her" but I think we're probably another year or two away from anything like this.

I won't be buying them.

I'm also still not completely sold on all aspects of iOS 10 as I think the handling of font sizes is too inconsistent across different apps. This is a relatively minor complaint but annoying nonetheless.

Leaks

The iPhone 7 leaks over the past few months gave us an incredibly good idea of what to expect, from the body and its revised antenna lines to the new home button and cameras. Even knowing almost exactly what the hardware was going to be like there were still a few surprises.

The A10 Fusion trademark had been uncovered but it was suspected that it might be a combined A10 CPU and M10 motion processor. Having those two low power cores to handle non-intensive tasks and thus extend battery life was a very welcome addition.

Some lament the loss of a physical home button but the way in which the solid state version ties in to the new Taptic engine is a nice touch and the extent was not predicted.

We knew the iPhone 7 Plus was getting a dual camera arrangement, and leaks within the last week even revealed that one would of them would have a telephoto lens, but seeing exactly how they work in tandem is another thing entirely.

Point and shoot

I love taking pictures on my phone and will snap all sorts of weird shots. I had a bridge camera a few years ago (there's no way we could afford a decent DSLR) but, even though it was relatively compact, it was still awkward to carry around.

The saying goes that "the best camera is the one you have with you" so, when the one you always have with you is mostly "good enough" and is far quicker and easier to use, there seems little point carrying an extra bit of kit - at least for the casual photographer.

iPhones already have excellent cameras but trying to do everything with a wide angle lens can be infuriating; smartphones have been crying out for a telephoto lens for years.

Having 2X optical zoom will be a revelation and if the digital zoom is even half as good in real world use as it seemed on stage then the experience will finally match the convenience. Add in the new depth of field functionality and there is almost no reason for most people to ever need another camera.

I can only imagine how pictures like the one below, shot on the iPhone 6S Plus, will come out.

Will I upgrade?

I am on a contract that allows me to trade in my current 6S Plus and upgrade for free so I was always going to move to the 7 Plus. I'm paying a bit extra per month for the privilege so it would be silly not to.

Saying that, the new camera excites me more than any previous hardware feature on any phone, even the move to a large screen with the Nexus 5 a few years ago.

It could be worth an upgrade all on its own.

iPhone 7 – the morning after the night before

Did the iPhone 5 need one more thing?

ThingsThe initial reaction to the iPhone 5 may have been one of disappointment but, now that the cameras have stopped rolling, the crowds have dispersed and people quietly gone their separate ways, a new appreciation for what Apple presented has bubbled to the surface.

I originally wrote that the latest incarnation would need one more thing in order to position itself ahead of the competition, otherwise Apple would only be seen as playing catchup.

Now that we've had 24 hours to digest what has been announced is this really the case?

Well, it depends on who you talk to.

Certainly the Android faithful are very much of the opinion that devices such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII are superior due to their larger screens and quad-core processors.

As we have seen with earlier iPhone models, however, specs do not necessarily account for speed - more, the close harmony between hardware and software can have just as significant an impact. Previous iPhones have shown that they can outperform supposedly "superior" devices due to this tight integration.

Windows Phone 7 & 7.5 has also proven that a well written operating system can be extremely fast on only single core devices which, if you believe what some will tell you, should feel like wading through treacle.

Is bigger better?

Apple has finally made the move to a 4 inch screen as it probably couldn't be held off and still be taken seriously any longer. The taller device allows for a longer battery which in turn can support the power needs of the LTE chip; Apple are well-known for not including connectivity options until it can be done without sacrificing battery life.

It has been suggested, however, that the only reason Apple made the move to a larger screen was so that the device could include a bigger battery and, therefore LTE, giving the illusion of improved up-time due to technological advancement. A pretty cynical view in my opinion.

The screen may be bigger but other measurements have shrunk - the iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter. Apple has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the minor thing such as they new Lightening connector and smaller speaker assembly but each one of these seemingly minor items has allowed the device to be thinner, lighter and sleeker and Apple should get the credit it deserves for each innovation no matter how small.

One small step

I have mentioned before that iOS6 didn't include much to set it apart from the previous version and, post launch, that is still the case. Saying that, however, the improvements it does offer mean that I would not wish to return to iOS5. Perhaps this, in itself, means that iOS6 is a significant enough upgrade after all as you don't want to be without it once it has been experienced.

There is virtually nothing that iOS6 on the iPhone 5 gives us that we can't get on the 4S, unlike Siri in the previous update, so many will be perfectly happy to stick with their existing device. The iPhone 5 hardware is certainly an upgrade but it is doubtful if many 4S owners could actually justify shelling out for the new model - I know I couldn't even if I could afford to do so. Saying that it will still sell in the many millions.

It is widely recognised that the incremental updates suit a two-year upgrade cycle; one iPhone to the next is not a big leap but it is hard to resist the upgrade at the end of your two-year plan. It is with this in mind that I said the iPhone 5 is a stop-gap between the 4S and the next big leap which will probably come in software rather than hardware.

If Apple wanted to convince 4S users to part with their hard-earned cash then, indeed, one more thing was a must but sufficient numbers will upgrade so as not to require this. Any significant software upgrade in iOS7 would, no doubt, be available for the iPhone 5 so owners need not be alienated over the course of their mobile agreement.

Setting the trend

Where devices like the Samsung Galaxy SIII seek to redefine the mobile industry with size and raw power, Apple seeks to define it with style, with engineering and quality; by the reckoning of many, the iPhone 5 is not a class defining device. This would have required further advances but there is more than one way to be a success and Apple has been pretty good at it so far.

Image by Joe Shlabotnik

Did the iPhone 5 need one more thing?

Apple’s real iPhone fight is not with the competition.Comments

iPhone 5Having now had all the details of the iPhone 5 officially revealed, after using the iOS6 beta and seeing the hardware leaks, you can't help but feel a bit disappointed - it is an incredibly unfortunate situation for Apple to be in.

Apple is notoriously secretive so leaking information about upcoming products is akin to illegal base jumping, an adrenaline rush, with protagonists constantly trying to take greater risks and out-do each other.

Is Apple to blame?

We are our own worst enemies but we can't have our cake and eat it.

Was the iPhone 5 disappointing for some because of the software and device itself or because we already knew just about everything that was coming and were constantly waiting on that one more thing which didn't materialise - you can't call shooting panoramas in the camera app a "one more thing" even though it is nice to use.

I believe that the iPhone 5 is a stop-gap, evolutionary not revolutionary (some confuse the two) but with just about enough to have kept us happy had we not already peeked behind the curtain:

  • when you think about it, the 4 inch screen is a remarkable thing to happen on an iPhone (considering the previous reluctance to even consider it) and potentially stops users from defecting to larger Android devices
  • the 16:9 screen ratio will make it an even better device for watching movies
  • LTE connectivity catches up with the competition and follows Apple's pattern of not including something until they are happy it won't adversely affect battery life
  • 3 microphones is a good move and with wide band audio we now see why the Audience noise filtering system was dropped - Apple no longer needs it
  • Facebook integration throughout the OS, iTunes and AppStore places Apple in a strong social position by partnering with the largest social network in addition to the already present Twitter integration
  • the new finely machined housing looks gorgeous and is the refined quality we come to expect from Apple

I have 3 cases for my iPhone 4S but don't use them, they just feel wrong. I like how the device feels in the hand and the iPhone 5 will probably feel just as nice, if not better thanks to the extreme precision with which it has been crafted.

Technology journalism is incredibly US centric and many forget that with iOS6 users outside of the US will now have a lot more functionality available through Siri including local search which was sadly lacking for the rest of the world in iOS5.

But it's more than that

The iPhone and its software is evolving and it's as much about concept and direction as form and function. Apple have big ideas, time and technology were not in their favour but there is an expectation for an annual refresh to satisfy.

Dropping Google Maps and going for an in-house solution is brave and an illustration of things to come but there was too little time to realistically do anything with it.

I have no doubt that iOS7 will be a tipping point where we will see the culmination of what has been started with Maps and Siri, the iPhone will become:

  • location sensitive
  • contextually aware
  • intelligent

With iOS6 Apple has created a base on which to build bigger and better things but ambition is so often greater than time allows.

Context

Since the launch of Jelly Bean with Google Now, Apple have been left behind the competition and Siri needs to improve. We have some contextual data such as being able to ask for a petrol station whilst en route but there is so much more that needs to happen, I think we'll see it in iOS7, if not in some form of incremental software update during the next year.

Apple is currently gathering "data suppliers" rather than data and forming an amalgam with the mapping engine as a base. I would expect more acquisitions and developments so that Apple is not relying heavily on third-parties for its data (just as it now no longer relies on Google) and, once all this is in place, we will see a full context engine for Siri. This is why the new Maps app is not just about getting rid of Google, it's about building a framework.

Is it going to be a year to late? Some may say Apple is now too far behind the curve but I don't think so. To use Robert Scoble's terminology people are still worried about crossing the freaky line where software and social know what we are doing and, let's face it, the uptake on Google Now is currently minor and will take a while to roll out to a wider range of devices.

We have other applications such as Saga trying to so a similar thing but they're just not there yet. With a contextually aware Siri Apple will do its usual trick of taking an idea and popularising it - taking it to the masses in a way that everyone suddenly says "oh yeah, I see what you did there".

Keeping a lid on it

Apple's main fight between now and the next device unveiling is not against the competition, it is against the geek horde looking to reveal every facet and feature in advance, it is also, however, against itself in that we now have such high expectations.

Siri was such an incredibly well-kept secret prior to the launch of the iPhone 4S, despite iOS5 being beta tested by developers and eager enthusiasts. To wow us once again Apple needs that one more thing for iOS7, to really one-up itself, or risk being left behind for good.

Apple’s real iPhone fight is not with the competition.

The iPhone 5 needs “one more thing”.Comments

Google's enhanced voice search, the Knowledge Graph and Aro's Saga are all putting pressure on Siri. Will, and can, Apple respond?

Siri understandsAfter the launch of Android Jellybean I said that Google was leading the pack with search and contextual data thanks to Google Now. Both great features but possibly not enough to tempt dedicated iPhone users away.

I've been saying throughout the iOS6 beta process that Siri has been improving and getting more accurate. It is also being tied into the central mapping engine for enhance functionality, especially during navigation, and partnerships with other providers are supplying a wider scope of data such as sports information. By hooking into the knowledge graph, however, Google is striding ahead so Apple needs to respond.

This just got more important than ever now that Google is bringing enhanced voice search and the knowledge graph to the iPhone so that iOS users will be able to witness its power for themselves.

Straying from the path

I already know iPhone users who are buying Samsung Galaxy devices (both the S2 and S3) even without the benefits of JellyBean and Google so imagine how things will be once users have sampled all this and then realise this can be had hooked in to the OS with the added advantage of Google Now. I can envisage many more people moving to Android.

Siri will still have a degree of advantage on the iPhone because it is implemented at the OS level but it needs to go much further or Apple will be left further behind in both search and context.

The recent release of Aro Inc's Saga application for iOS which aims to provide Google Now style information after learning where we go, what we do and who we are with, is applying extra pressure and iPhone users could be left with a definite case of information envy.

Perhaps Apple sees the refreshed hardware, new Maps application and Facebook integration as a sufficient advancement from the iPhone 4S but I doubt many users will feel the same. More than ever the iPhone 5 needs "one more thing".

The iPhone 5 needs “one more thing”.

Thoughts: Don’t forget content, but context is king.Comments

Following on from my earlier post "mobile" is now really about the blend of online and offline; enhancing one with the other - social + sensors.

Context

Google are ahead of Apple at present as they have implemented this at the OS level with Google Now.

Google has the advantage of holding its own data whereas Apple is in partnership with various data providers (and will rely on opening up for other areas such as transit information) but that will change.

The one thing that won't change (at least immediately) is the partnership with Facebook, by necessity that must get stronger, closer and more ingrained - after a disappointing IPO and a share price in free fall Facebook needs all the friend it can get.

And Apple needs the social data.

So how about this scenario:

FB bought Glancee -> Facebook integrated into iOS6 -> contextual awareness via a "Glancee type" route will become native in iOS

iOS needs to have location awareness and Facebook integration with the expertise of the Glancee team is the perfect route to achieve this as easily as possible.

Combined with data from the central mapping engine (and maybe acquire some smaller developers that produce location aware apps) Siri could start providing us the type of information supplied by Google now. Google, however, still has the advantage of the Knowledge Graph.

The advantage of doing all of this at the OS level rather than by relying on apps is that you create a standard install baseline so you instantly know that all those with the latest OS running on (probably) the past couple of phone revisions will all be equally capable - and others will want to upgrade to achieve that capability.

No-one is safe

The question then becomes when does Apple acquire or develop its own data sources before dropping its partners? I've said before that dropping Google Maps shows all partners that no-one is safe from the cull.

Perhaps not even Facebook. Then we might see serious moves on a Facebook Phone.

Image by Context Travel

Thoughts: Don’t forget content, but context is king.

Google acquires Sparrow and a paid Twitter alternative?

Rather than rewrite full posts, here are a few recent items that have been posted on Google+.  Rather than rewrite full posts, here are a few recent items that have been posted on Google+.

The news that Google acquired the Mac and iOS mail application Sparrow caused a mixed reaction with many feeling let down, or even betrayed, by the company for selling up considering the news that the app will not receive any new features and, effectively, be left out to pasture.

Stepping away from any sense of entitlement and consternation I asked:

What are the implications of Google acquiring Sparrow?

In response to the news that Twitter is once again changing the rules around using its API the app.net developer network is being re-purposed as a possible "paid alternative to Twitter" with a real-time API and full support for third-party developers. Would such a network gain traction and would it be able to support itself?

Could a paid twitter work?

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Google acquires Sparrow and a paid Twitter alternative?

The mobile experience – it’s no longer just about the phone.

As mobile devices become more complex the trend is for applications to provide more data automatically. Google is moving in this direction already but will Apple follow suit?

CloudiOS6, the latest version of Apple's mobile software and currently at beta 3, has a number of parallels with the recently launched Android Jelly Bean in that it initially seems like a minor revision but there are a number of tweaks and small features that you would miss if reverting to the previous version of the OS.

With both iOS and Android, however, the latest updates are creating a deeper symbiotic relationship between our devices and the cloud. Jelly Bean's killer feature is Google Now (the system designed to provide data cards automatically based on what we are doing) and iOS6 continues the development of Siri, especially now that local support is available outside the US, and its interaction with the new Maps application.

On the face of it, iOS6 doesn't look like it has enough new features to be a meaningful upgrade over iOS5 but we have reached the point where mobile operating systems are sufficiently advanced so as to only need minor adjustments - fanboys would probably disagree but the reality is that the OS alone cannot progress much further without the cloud.

Context

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are collaborating on a book about "the coming automatic, freaky, contextual world" where being always on, always connected and monitored by a multitude of sensors means we can now have more data than ever pushed to us based on our location or activities: the context. Context is something I've been talking about quite a bit recently in a purely social sense but the marriage of context and modern hardware is a powerful mix that will take time for many to feel comfortable with for fears of privacy invasion.

Google is ahead of Apple in this regard in that Google Now pushes information to you whereas Siri pulls it based on your requests but I think it is only a matter of time before Apple goes a similar route and starts to use context to supply data automatically.

Ditching Google Maps is about so much more than just relying on a competitor for data, it is about Apple taking back control of part of its ecosystem so that it can be used for myriad purposes. Maps is just the beginning, the partnerships with other companies (to provide subject specific information) enable Apple to provide far greater utility - this will only continue as more data is hooked in to the central engine. The lines between Siri and Maps and data from the like of Yelp etc. will blur with multiple sources being amalgamated to present a more coherent, useful picture.

The future?

Those now in partnership with Apple may need to heed the Google Maps warning: as Apple builds services around the new mapping service there is a risk that they too may reach a point where they have served their purpose and be discarded as Apple moves to provide its own in-house solution. Perhaps we will see Apple acquire some of these partners to lock the data in to the iOS environment so as to reduce Google's advantage.

Apple will no doubt be accused of copying Google Now but I feel that the data engine behind Maps and Siri will need to become more proactive in supplying us information rather than us just requesting it - this is a logical progression considering the way the market is moving. As I have also said previously elsewhere, the data engine should be integrated with Spotlight search so that we are able to perform text searches on the same information when we are unable, or unwilling, to use Siri's voice capabilities.

The only variable is time but, now that Google are well on the road, is it time that Apple can afford?

Why not discuss the original post over at Google+

Image by Extra Medium

The mobile experience – it’s no longer just about the phone.

Apple Maps, Waze, life with iOS 6 and the ‘social gap’.

iOS 6Rather than rewrite full posts, here are a few recent items that have been posted on Google+.

I am giving myself a week with iOS 6 to see how things go. It is not intended as a tear-down of all the new functionality but, instead, an honest account of my reactions while I use the new OS beta. Once the week is up I will downgrade back to 5.1.1 to see what functionality I miss. You can read the first three days here:

iOS 6 - initial impressions (day 1)

iOS 6 beta - day 2

iOS 6 beta - day 3

Waze is one of the data providers for the new Apple Maps app in iOS 6 and it is interesting to see how the changes in the latest version bring the standalone app closer to Apple's new offering.

Apple Maps and Waze - growing closer.

While the features in our favourite social networks seem to be getting ever closer it appears that the usage gap between them is widening users having different types of conversations in the different locations.

Is the social network gap widening?

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Apple Maps, Waze, life with iOS 6 and the ‘social gap’.

iOS 6 – a personal perspectiveComments

While the tech press examines every detail of iOS 6 I wanted to present a personal view of key features from my own perspective.

iOS 6Now that the dust has settled after the WWDC keynote and I have slept on the announcements there are a few observations I wanted to make regarding iOS 6 whilst deliberately avoiding the arguments as to whether it is just playing catch-up with Android.

Safari

Firstly, there are a couple of glaring omissions in Safari that should really be low hanging fruit:

  • pull to refresh, and
  • a universal omnibar

Now that we have pull to refresh in the Mail app it would seem obvious to have a bit of consistency and introduce this for the browser.

It is now the expected norm for a browser to use a single combined location and search bar - iOS 6 would have been an ideal opportunity to streamline Safari and introduce this.

There are some "nice to haves" and other features which I personally will probably never use but here's what has me excited:

Maps

The new maps app looks great and you just know that the partnership with Tom Tom (and others) will bring a quality experience. While the 3D views look very impressive I can't envisage it being used that often so see it more as a curio than a really functional tool.

Native turn-by-turn is the big news here.

When I had made the decision to move to the iPhone from Android Navigation was the only feature I was concerned about losing. Consequently, I stopped using the native navigation in Google Maps and switched to the excellent Waze so that the transition from one platform to the other would be as seamless as possible. This has paid dividends and I have been happily using Waze on the iPhone ever since.

The introduction of native turn-by-turn navigation and the integration with Siri is going to completely turn that on its head. You can't beat going native for functionality if it is done well and you just know that this has been done well.

Tom Tom will have been getting worried about their prospects in a world where smartphones were rapidly making the company irrelevant; the deal with Apple to supply mapping data is no doubt massive so will ease the pressure significantly.

Siri - a beta no more

It's great that Siri is coming to the new iPad, it's also great that it will now be able to open apps and search for more things thanks to additional partnerships but that's not what's really important.

As a non-US iPhone user Siri was little more than a curiosity, something you'd use once in a while but never able to escape the feeling that the experience was being hamstrung.

So often those of us outside the US are made to feel like second class citizens by the likes of Apple or Google as functionality and services are introduced that we cannot use; expanding local search to more countries is the key feature to come out of this and will really propel Siri to the forefront in my opinion.

Facebook

I am starting to use Facebook a little more than I have ever done thanks largely to a new group of friends built up over the last 6 months thanks to our shop but I have no doubt that OS level linking of Facebook into iOS 6 will have exactly the desired effect and make me use it more.

The integration is going to be huge for both companies. It is obviously a huge boost for Facebook after the disappointing IPO and a ideal opportunity to really start making a mark on mobile. Apple gets the advantage of being able to leverage the social power of Facebook including Likes within the app store so that Ping can finally be swept under the carpet. While Twitter will probably have been expecting that the special relationship would come to an end at some point, there's no denying that the service is now playing second fiddle thanks to that little blue thumbs up button - such power in a single click.

As I have said before, I seriously doubt that Facebook is looking to build its own phone but I believe it is no coincidence that the App Center appeared just days before the start of WWDC. Even though Likes are going to be included throughout the app store itself and will help to serve the same purpose as the App Center I feel Facebook is making a stand here with regards to its independence from Apple.

What about you?

What excites or disappoints you with iOS 6. We're you expecting more? Discuss this over at Google+.

iOS 6 – a personal perspective

Gmail on iOS.Comments

Since making the move from Android to iPhone and subsequently giving my impressions of living with iOS for a week I wanted to spend some time, and get some further opinions on, the Gmail experience.

Android users are spoilt in this regard, and it is only to be expected, but it amazes me how two tech giants like Apple and Google can't provide an equally stellar experience on the iPhone.

Gmail on iPhone

Politics

How much of it is politics I don't know but it does appear that either Apple is placing roadblocks in the way or that Google is dragging its heels and intentionally not wanting to match the experience on Android.

You could understand the latter's position and Google would live to encourage more users to defect from iOS to Android. Apple on the other hand would be better served by making the experience as good as possible so that users are not even tempted to leave.

Options

Knowing that things are not ideal what are the options open to us for using Gmail on the iPhone?

Apple's Mail app

We can configure the default Mail app to connect to Gmail in one of three ways:

  • the built-in Gmail settings (which is actually IMAP)
  • as an Exchange account
  • manually as IMAP

I'm not an email power user but there are two features that I need: push notifications and Gmail's ability to send email as additional addresses as I use it to send from my colinwalker.me.uk address. Unfortunately, none of the above native options provides us with both of these features.

The only choice here that supports Push is configuring Gmail using Exchange Activesync but this does not provide support for sending as additional addresses.

Although the built in Gmail settings are using IMAP they to do not support additional addresses unlike configuring Gmail as IMAP manually where you can add multiple addresses in the settings (separated by commas) to enable this functionality. Despite this being a handy workaround IMAP does not support Push so it is not an ideal solution.

Extra steps

It had been suggested that I use the Boxcar service to emulate Push on circumstances where it is not supported, for those that do not know you configure your email account to forward to a Boxcar address which forwards the details to the Boxcar app on the phone. This then shows a notification and can be configured to open the email application of your choice.

This seemed like an ideal solution but after testing for a while I found it to be particularly clunky with disappearing notifications and, overall, a far from seamless extra step. A real shame as it is a great idea.

Sparrow

The hot topic as far as Gmail is currently concerned is the email application Sparrow which does indeed look like a fantastic email client. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Push (the developers say yet) and doesn't appear to allow the sending from additional addresses.

Boxcar could be used to get round the first issue - albeit in its own clunky way - but the second issue is a deal breaker.

Google's native Gmail app

Much has been written about Google's Gmail app being poor - it's not stellar but supports Push and, as per an update yesterday, now supports sending from additional addresses. Combined with Labels and some Priority Inbox support (show important mails) this actually gives quite a compelling reason to use it.

The app is not without its flaws, however, as in true Google fashion there are some UI inconsistencies and notifications do not appear to show on the lockscreen or in the notification centre. The app badges do work so at least you have some visual indication of incoming mails.

As is expected with Google the native app looks and acts very much like the mobile web page. It also includes a slide out folder list on the left so users of the Facebook application will feel at home.

The lack of sharing functionality within iOS does mean that the Gmail app is not available when you choose to send something by email such as the link to a web page so I have, therefore, had to leave Gmail configured as IMAP in the default Mail application but have this set to not poll for mails.

Conclusions

As mentioned, the Gmail on the iPhone is less than ideal and we are driven to specific solutions based on the functionality we require. While many will say I'm missing out on the experience provided by apps like Sparrow but I will be using the native Gmail applications for the time being. It is a satisfactory app for a non power user (despite its own quirks) and I shall give it a fair run.

Gmail on iOS.

A rose by any other name.

What's in a name? In these materialistic times are we more driven by the one-upmanship of increasing version numbers or do we see through the names to what lies beneath?

iPhone4SIt's fair to say that a lot of people (the stock markets included) were disappointed by Apple not releasing the iPhone 5 but are they right to be?

Apple products seem to elicit a more emotional response than just about any other whether it be by the fan boys or the anti-Apple brigade so it was always on the cards that any failure to deliver would become a big issue.

A let down?

The main "failures" from yesterday's presentation, as perceived by those with expectations based on unfounded rumour, were that Apple's new offering did not have a larger screen or redesigned body and, perhaps most importantly, the numeric reference was not incremented.

The iPhone 4S has plenty to get excited about: the dual core A5 processor giving faster speeds and more responsive graphics, the 1GB of onboard RAM, antenna upgrades, and a greatly improved camera. All of this combined would be enough for any other manufacturer to announce that the phone as a major revamp but our expectations are set so high with Apple that even a slight let down strikes us like a knock-out blow. HTC, for example, has been rolling out a number of devices with merely incremental upgrades (the differences between the original Desire and Desire S are hardly worth the effort) with virtually no comment.

It's not just about hardware

Whilst Android community web sites have been lording it over the apparent lack of progress - the biggest argument is that the Samsung Galaxy SII already meets the hardware specifications - we must remember that the allure of the iPhone is not down to hardware alone; the mixture of hard and software combines to provide the Apple "magic".

Android suffers not only from OS fragmentation but also fragmentation of application functionality where there is no consistent behaviour from one app to the next. Seemingly small things such as this all contribute to appreciating the level of control that Apple exerts over the iPhone ecosystem.

The new features in iOS5 such as the Notification Center and Siri may be viewed as Apple playing catch up but when combined with the hook into iCloud and iTunes Match provide a compelling reason to stay with, or even switch to, the iPhone.

Frustration

I have mentioned in the past my growing frustration with Android and the possibility that I will be moving to Apple with my next device but will I let the device nomenclature convince me that this is not a new phone? Does it matter that we have the iPhone 4S and not the iPhone 5?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

A rose by any other name.