iOS 11 first impressions

The other day I plugging in my i-devices and let them update to the latest and greatest iOS 11. Sometimes these releases wreak havoc on launch day, but I was pleased to say that my devices updated without issue. I’ve had a couple days to spend with the new OS now, and I had a couple of initial thoughts.

First, on my iPhone I really don’t see much in the way of a difference. The visual aesthetic is only mildly changed, perhaps most notably in the animations when changing applications. Some of the apps have switched to a new design that focuses on a big block letter heading before letting you at the content. Otherwise, it looks like the same old iPhone I’m used to.

The main place where you notice a change is in the revised Control Center. The new layout of icons feels cluttered, but since it’s almost all text, it still feels sleek. I do have to say that I was a little confused by the new sliders for volume and brightness. It’s more akin to something you find in Star Trek styled technology. I have managed to navigate around it just fine though, so I can’t complain too much.

On my iPad there are more striking differences, most notably in the Dock. You can now add many more icons to it, and it keeps track of your previously used apps for quick re-launch. This is a nice and welcome feature, as the dock space always felt under-used in previous iOS iterations.

There are other neat tweaks that are more behind the scenes, like turning off notifications when driving, and drag and drop functionality. However, since I’m not a power iPad user, these don’t get much of my day-to-day attention. I would highly recommend anyone who has considered using an iPad as a regular laptop check out my friend Wes, as he is almost completely converted to an iPad life. He writes often about his experiences and has recently shared his thoughts on iOS 11.

For me, I’m just glad to get a nice new refresh, as that often makes it feel like you got a new phone. It gives it that “new device smell” again for a short bit. Overall, my first impressions of iOS 11 are fine. Nothing that blows me away or strikes me as revolutionary, but it’s a solid update.

Wither the iPod Nano

Word came down on Thursday this week that the iPod Nano is no more. The Verge did a great retrospective of the history of the Nano, and reading it brought me down memory lane. I remember even blogging about wanting a Nano, and then getting a Nano back in 2007. I vividly remember getting a Product RED version to help support the global fight against AIDS.

As time wore on I eventually moved on to different devices, like the iPod Touch, but others in my immediate family still used the Nano for many, many years. I remember my kids had a silver nano that they used to listen to their music long before they got cell phones with that capability in them. I think I might even still have one of them sitting around in a box somewhere.

Needless to say, it was a great and simple device for listening to any type of audio. The screen was big enough to deal with menus and lists, and the click-wheel is still one of the most incredible UI innovations. We’ve obviously grown beyond the simple click wheel, but I firmly believe it was the harbinger of our eventual full touch interfaces. I used to be very adept of spinning the wheel just far enough to get where I needed, without going past my choice.

Things move on and technology changes. I’ll always remember how cool the iPod Nano was though, and how it was one of the most revolutionary devices of it’s time. A simple music player, for a much simpler media era.

Starting to like Apple Pay

Apple Pay has been around for a while, but in general, the places I shopped were slow to adopt it. It take a while for a credit card processor to get on board with NFC payments, and then get compatible devices rolled out to all of their endpoints. I did load it up my iPhone wallet with a couple of credit cards to have on standby for when I found a store that accepted it, but it rarely got used.

However, over the past 9 months, more and more places are displaying the Apple and Android Pay logos. I’ve started to find places to use it more and more, including the new vending machines that they installed at work. I simply tap my phone to the reader, after selecting the proper card from my virtual wallet, and boom, my transaction is complete.

One of the things that I’ve discovered that I really like, is the fact that my wallet now keeps a record of my transactions, and it makes it really easy to see if someone has stolen my credit card. I’m notified of transactions almost instantly, and although some people might find it annoying to get a notification right after paying, I actually like the validation that my payment went through for the amount I intended.

I’m curious to see how many other places will start accepting NFC payments in the future. I think it’s a really cool feature, and a great way to keep track of our new digital currency.

iPad workaround

A few months ago, while camping, my iPad apparently took a spill, and the power button broke. It’s flush with the casing, and it refuses to pop back out, telling me that the internal mechanism is probably not working either. Today I decided to take it to the Apple Store to get an estimate on how much it would be to fix it.

Apparently, that isn’t a part that they will fix, and my only option was to get a new, re-manufactured, iPad to replace it for a couple hundred dollars. However, before the Genius even told me about the replacement option, he pointed out some little known features of iOS that might help me get by and make my iPad last longer in it’s current condition. iOS comes with all types of adaptive features to help with accessibility. One of these features is  AssistiveTouch. This feature allows you to operate some of the physical buttons on the iPad through on-screen controls. With this, I can turn off the iPad, as well as take screenshots.

The only thing that it won’t let me do, is a hard reset if I end up with crashed software. I decided that these features were more than enough to keep me using my current device, and I think my next investment will be in a bit more solid case for the iPad. I was happy that Apple was able to come up with a feature that can get me by with a device that is in perfect condition apart from the single button.

Lightning ports

As much as I love Apple, there are a few things that bug me sometimes. One of them in particular, lately, is the lightning port. We’ve had our iPhones for almost 3 years, and one part that is starting to cause an issue on all of our devices is charging off the lightning port. It seems like the lightning port just doesn’t have the same durability of other USB style ports.

Often times it’s just the cable that’s gone bad, and you can visibly see where the copper connector has worn down. However, lately, it’s been harder and harder to get even brand new cables to work properly. I’ll be trying the toothpick/pin method soon to see if that can prolong things, but I’m betting that in the near future, new charging port replacements might be needed.

When the lightning port came out, I loved it, since you could insert the cord in any direction, and it was small and compact. Kudos for Apple for making something that really changed the industry, but perhaps it’s time for the next evolution of the port, maybe along the lines of USB-C.