¶ The Aluminum Anniversary

July 11, 2008. 4:45 AM. My alarm goes off. In four days at almost this exact minute my son would draw in his first breath. But in this moment, now, I am groggy and slightly hesitant to leave home knowing he could arrive at any time. In retrospect, it was more than a little foolish to be doing what I was doing.

I quickly dressed, gave my wife a kiss on the forehead while she slept, grabbed my Motorola RAZR, and then got in the car and drove an hour to Omaha.

Why?

You know why. That’s where the Apple Store is.

I arrived at [Apple Store Village Pointe] around 6:00 AM. There was a line. I expected a line. Thankfully it wasn’t too long. I was 22nd in line.

After a little while some Apple employees began walking up and down the line, chatting up folks, offering donuts, coffee, and bottled water. I recognized one of them. A few days prior, Apple had posted some tutorial videos about the iPhone 3G, the App Store, and MobileMe ([remember that?]). The guy I recognized was the guy from the MobileMe videos. When he got to me, I pointed this out, and he confirmed it and told me his name was John. He still works in the Omaha store, and whenever I’m there we catch up. I still call him MobileMe John.

After standing in line for a few hours, the store finally opened. It didn’t take long before I was paired up with an employee. I bought a 16GB iPhone 3G, in black, naturally. Of course, AT&T’s activation servers had already turned into molten slag, so setup didn’t get very far. The employee offered that I could stay and finish setup there whenever the servers connected again, or if I was comfortable with it I could finish the process of activating and porting my number at home via iTunes.

I thanked him, he gave me a high five, and I left the store, got more coffee, and drove home. Once I got back to my apartment I plugged my new iPhone into my MacBook, and started the setup process on iTunes. Activation was still unsuccessful, but trying. I decided to sleep while it did its thing. A couple hours later I was awoken by the shimmering sound of an iPhone connecting. Bleary-eyed, I looked at the screen. Activation successful.

I set up my iPhone from my iPod touch’s backup, and it worked flawlessly. I started installing apps: Twitterrific, Facebook, AIM, and a lightsaber app.

Fast-forward to the early hours of July 15. My wife tells me it is time to go to the hospital. I begin using the Clock app’s stopwatch to time contractions, using the lap function. When our doctor arrived at the hospital, he remembered my iPhone from our last visit with him the day before, and he cracked a joke asking if I would use the lightsaber app to cut the cord in a little while. No one thought it was funny.

A few hours after Jonathan was born, I took a photo of him with my iPhone, shared it to Mail, filled out a little message with the time, his length, weight — all that stuff people ask about when a baby is born — and then sent it to a bunch of people.

And ever since then some iteration of the iPhone has always been in my pocket. As strange as it sounds, the iPhone has been a part of my family. As the hardware became better, it has become my primary camera. I’ve taken more photos with the iPhone over the past ten years than I had taken at any other time in my life. I’ve made friends through this screen, both near and far. I’ve chronicled joyful and painful times of my life into it. My son and I have pointed it at the sky and seen constellations light up.

This object of glass is the technology I dreamed of as a kid watching Star Trek. It is my tricorder, my communicator, and my captain’s log. In many ways, it’s more than that — because it can become anything I need it to be.

How to quickly fix sideways video clips on iPhone or iPad

Serenity Caldwell on iMore has a fantastic tip on how to rotate videos on an iOS device:

This one's easy to miss, but a must-have for filming fiends: iMovie for iOS is a free app for more complex video editing projects, but it also offers a quick-fix extenison in Photos for iOS. This extension lets you trim a clip, silence it, or add filters, text, or music — but it also lets you flip video with a gesture.

The rest of the article has a step-by-step guide worth checking out. This tip was news to me, but it’ll be invaluable for those times when my iPhone doesn’t orient itself before I hit record.

¶ iPhone Batteries and Performance

A little over a week ago Apple addressed the perception some users had about their iPhones running slower. Apple’s statement then:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

Put simply, Apple stated (admitted?) that they began limiting the power draw on the battery during peak performance in January 2017 on iPhones with aged batteries that couldn’t handle the load.

I believe Apple in that the goal of this software feature was to prevent unexpected shutdowns, thus extending the useful life of an older iPhone, even if that meant it wasn’t as performant as it was when brand new.

The rest of the Internet seemed to disagree, and took this as proof of the age-old conspiracy theory that Apple intentionally plans the obsolescence of iPhones to drive sales of newer models.

That idea is folly, and ridiculous. Full stop.

This evidence is in the history. Apple offers software and hardware support for older models of phones far longer than anyone else in the industry. They also sell older models brand new at more affordable prices to make sure there is an iPhone model for almost anyone.

It simply does not make any sense that Apple would plan to slow down a brand new older model to push someone to buy a newer, more expensive model. That works directly against Apple’s best interests for itself and its customers.

That said, the perception that Apple intentionally hobbles devices out of greed is one that is rampant, and has been for years. I have family who outright believe it. And Apple’s lack of communication and clarity at the outset of rolling out this feature only helped to sow more distrust.

This afternoon, Apple blinked. They issued an open letter apologizing for their lack of clarity.

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.

I very much believe Apple in that second paragraph. It fits in line with the history of their actions. To drive the point home further, Apple concludes with action.

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

  • 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, available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.

Apple is making the right moves here. They are carving themselves off a giant piece of humble pie. The forthcoming update to iOS with greater transparency for battery health is how this feature should have been introduced. The $29 battery replacement fee should probably be permanent instead of just for 2018. We’ll see what happens there.

I can’t sum up my thoughts about Apple’s misstep with communication better than John Gruber did earlier today:

The funny thing about Apple is that their communication problems tend to happen only when they don’t communicate at all. This whole iPhone battery controversy erupted only because Apple had never explained what was going on, which opened them up to accusations of nefarious intent. When they do communicate, they do so with clarity, plain language, and honesty. And, when called for — as in this case — humility.

How to Shoot on iPhone 7

Apple built a terrific page on its website with a variety of short videos showing how to take better photos with iPhone 7. Each of the 16 videos focuses on one brief lesson, demonstrating a photography tip in 3-5 steps.

The videos are produced well, fun, and above all practical. I think there is at least one technique everyone with an iPhone will benefit from in these videos.

Many of the videos illustrate the use of exposure control, which is a technique I think many people don't know about on iPhone. It is easily one of the best things for anyone to learn to make their photos better, and these videos explain the benefits very well.

My favorites of the videos are How to shoot without flash and How to shoot with street light. They both show how a great photo can be taken in low light without using the obnoxious flash.

Check out the videos and then put them into practice. If you shoot something you are especially proud of, let me know on Twitter.

Apple's Classic Hotrod

I have yet to use the new iPhone SE, which was released today, but everything about it sounds like a winner in my book for many folks. I always loved the design of the iPhone 5 and 5s, and the SE uses that with most of the guts of the latest and greatest iPhone 6s. So far I've recommended it to a few friends who are either considering their first smartphone or finally upgrading from an iPhone 5.

I read a couple reviews and so far my favorite has been Jim Dalrymple's.

Look at the iPhone SE like this.

Pick your favorite classic car. An old Corvette or Mustang—whatever your favorite car is. That design will always be classic, no matter what has happened in the automobile industry in the last 40 years, those 1960s designs will always be classic.

Now, take that classic car design and replace the engine, drive train, and everything else you can think of. What do you have? A hotrod. An incredible classic design with the most advanced technology that you could put in it.

That is the iPhone SE. A classic design with a lot of the newest and greatest technology.

The iPhone SE is Apple’s classic hotrod.

I've always been a latest & greatest kind of person myself, but I certainly can appreciate a timeless classic.

¶ The Hunchback of Cupertino

This morning Apple released the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case. While it says 6s in the name it works fine with iPhone 6 as well. Sorry Plus-sized iPhones, your extra-hugeness has enough battery inside it to not need one of these cases.

I get it. There’s plenty of folks out there who burn through their iPhone’s battery by mid-day and need an extra charge or two to make it to bedtime. Thankfully, I’m not one of those people. It’s a rare day when I dock my iPhone at night with less than 30% on the battery meter.

But we need to talk about this case for a moment. It is well-intentioned to solve a real problem that many people experience. Well-intentioned, but hideous. Just look at that hunch on its back.

That just doesn’t look good to me. It’s like George Costanza’s wallet has been shoved into one of Apple’s lovely Silicon cases. Ged Maheux makes a great observation that this case could have used the new terraced battery tech in the MacBook to smooth out that bump a bit. Missed opportunity.

If the iPhone 6 and 6s have such small batteries that they warrant a first-party battery case, maybe it is time to say the iPhone is thin enough for a while. Not to mention the additional annoyance of having the camera stick out a bit from the back.

Instead of chasing thinness, I think it is time to shift gears and focus on extending battery life and making the camera flush with the back again.

In the meantime, if you need a battery case and like to keep things in the Apple family, $99 will cure what ails you.

Pedometer++ 2.3

Today Underscore David Smith released an update to Pedometer++ that I've been waiting a while for. Thankfully, I've been beta testing it for a while.

Version 2.3 is entirely focused around building a rich and robust integration between the Apple Watch and iPhone. Letting you track your steps and reach your step goal in a much more complete way. The update focuses around 3 main features: data sync, complications and a workout mode.

David has created a clever system that intelligently merges step count data between the Apple Watch and iPhone based on which device is giving the best data in a given moment. This is in contrast to how Apple does it, where the Health app goes by device priority, falling back to the second device in a list only if the first is unavailable.

In my testing, David's approach seems to paint a terrifically accurate picture of overall step data in a day.

The watch face complications can be nice, but I find I prefer other complications and still don't mind swiping up the app's Glance to get a peek at my progress.

Finally, Pedometer++ adds a workout mode as an alternative to the Watch's included Workout app. It works well, and the only thing I'd like to see added is a mileage goal, as I use that in the Workout app to receive a tap at the halfway point, so I know when I should turn around and head home.

Pedometer++ is free on the App Store and is ad-supported, but David includes a tip jar with varying price points in the settings to remove the ads. Any tip amount will remove the ads. I suggest going for the Amazing tip, because the app is just that good.

¶ Bigger than bigger

The anticipation before last week's Apple event was at the highest since the 2010 iPad announcement. The hype in the air was palpable, and everyone knew this was going to be a big event.

The event itself was amazing, but it wasn't without its hiccups for the folks watching from home.

The Livestream

As if there wasn't enough hype surrounding the event from the media alone, Apple fanned the flames a bit higher by tossing up a giant countdown to the beginning of the event showcasing a lifestream of the event. In recent years, Apple has done these lifestreams more and more, so I usually dispense with following a couple liveblogs in favor of just catching it live.

This year was a disaster on this front. The lifestream kept crashing, then showing a test image with the media team's schedule. When it did seem to work, you could hardly hear Phil Schiller because of the translator being piped into the same audio stream. Things didn't start coming together until we were well past the iPhone announcement.

Issues with the livestream aside, the event it self was great. Especially if you went and re-watched it later after the proper fit and finish of production quality we know and love was added.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The first 10-20 minutes of a keynote are usually dedicated to talking about the health of the retail stores and the various other numbers Wall Street is interested in. Not this time. Tim Cook dispensed with the pleasantries and 7 minutes into the show the new iPhones were revealed.

As all the rumors suggested, Apple brought out larger iPhones. 4.7" and 5.5". The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, respectively. The two phones are identical in features in every way except two:

  1. The iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization, instead of just digital stabilization like the iPhone 6.
  2. The iPhone 6 Plus has a nifty landscape mode that is similar to the iPad, where apps like Mail and Messages will have a split column appear.

Pre-orders went live yesterday and I promptly ordered two, one for my wife and one for myself. We both went with the iPhone 6, space gray, 64 GB on Verizon. I was really glad to see the mid-tier price point jump from 32 GB to 64 GB this year. The high end went to 128 GB. I am baffled as to why Apple kept the low end at a paltry 16 GB instead of bumping it to 32 GB.

The one thing I always love the most about a new iPhone is the camera improvements. In that regard, I was bummed that the iPhone 6 did not get the optical image stabilization, but I do not want a 5.5" phone. That is so big you could serve a lunch on it.

Speaking of the iPhone 6 Plus, every non-techy person I have talked to this past week is flat out excited for it, and declared they will be getting the 5.5" phone. I do think the iPhone 6 Plus will prove insanely popular. It turns out people really want a really huge phone. It certainly isn't in my taste, but it is clearly the preferred trend.

And the pre-orders backed that up. The iPhone 6 Plus sold out just about everywhere very quickly. While I do think it likely had more limited quantities than the iPhone 6, I really think it is the preferred device among the masses.

Apple Pay

Another great feature of the new phones is the built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) chip and antenna. NFC is the standard for contactless payments. If you have a credit card with the little pay wave symbol on it and you can just wave it close to the checkout terminal, it is the same technology.

Apple is integrating a new service into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus called Apple Pay. The idea is that you enter your credit or debit card into Passbook (by taking a picture of it). Apple verifies it is indeed your card. You then see one of these pay wave enabled terminals at a store, and you hold the top of your phone up to it and rest your thumb on the Touch ID sensor. The iPhone authenticates it is you authorizing it to pay, and does the payment.

What is neat about Apple Pay is the security behind it. The merchant never sees your card number, your name, nor your address. Instead, the iPhone generates a one-time payment code, and that is used to reference your card with the bank for the payment. Apple also never sees where your purchase was made, what you bought, or how much you spent.

And if the merchant is ever compromised (think Target and Home Depot in the past year) all the thief gets is the one-time code, not your card info. So you don't have to get your cards re-issued.

And if your phone gets stolen, you can disable it for payments from Find my iPhone on the web or another device. Even if you can't get to that right away, the phone can't authorize a payment without your fingerprint.

All around this seems like a welcome improvement to making secure payments to a system that is rife with insecurity. I mean, come on, when you hand a check or your credit debit card over to someone else for payment, everything needed to make fraudulent transactions is right there printed on the check or card.

Apple Pay also has a component that can be used in-app to make easy payments using Touch ID.

Apple Watch

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I don't have to be typing iWatch for the years to come. Honestly, Apple Watch isn't much better, and it is more to type, but I just thought the iWatch name sounded weird.

Apple's first intentional take at a wearable device comes in the form of a watch. There are three different models, with two sizes each, and 6 different bands (in two sizes each). That makes for quite a few different combinations.

The Apple Watch has a color touchscreen, a single button reminiscent in appearance of the iPhone's sleep/wake button, and a new Digital Crown, which is used for zooming and scrolling depending on context, and as the home button when pressed.

The Apple Watch doesn't do much different from other smart watches already on the market. It tells the time (obviously), displays notifications from your iPhone, allows brief interactions and responses largely using voice, and has some app integration. But it appears to do all of those much better than other attempts at smart watches. The smoothness of interaction is fluid.

One thing the Apple Watch is adding in that I haven't seen a great deal of in other smart watches is the health & fitness aspect. Essentially, it has all the hallmarks of a Fitbit that is enhanced further when paired with your iPhone. I think the fitness aspect will be huge for the Apple Watch.

From a looks department, it is a handsome timepiece. The digital crown really helps to give it the watch look & feel. And it is certainly the best looking smart watch yet. However, to me it does look extremely 1.0. I can't help but be reminded at the drastic difference in aesthetic, style, thickness, and weight between the original iPad and the iPad 2. It was night and day.

I am planning to hold off on the first crack at the Apple Watch and see what Apple does with a second go at it. I am certainly excited by the concept of the Apple Watch, but at the same time I have questions about how yet another device fits in my life.

U2

As is normal with Apple's big Fall event, they close it out with a musical performance. This year was the band U2, who I actually like. I grew up listening to their albums as my parents had them.

After the performance, Tim Cook and Bono had a very rehearsed , sometimes awkward, exchange about U2's upcoming album, and after beating around the bush, announced that the album would be a free gift to every iTunes account holder for through mid-October.

Tim and Bono did a little countdown from 5 and then Tim said that it just went live. Amazingly, for as many technical issues as the livestream had, the album was in my purchase history within a moment and I had it downloaded a moment later.

As odd as the whole exchange on stage was, I have to hand it to Apple for giving away an entire new album to so many people so quickly. It was a pretty neat experience.

Only Apple

This event was simply jam-packed with great announcements. Not one, but two new iPhones, the new iOS 8, a new, secure payment service that looks like it will be fantastic to use, the Apple Watch becoming a reality, and the largest and fastest rollout of a new album in music history.

Tim Cook has said at the close of the last few events "only Apple" could accomplish all that it does. And I think that is incredibly true. Apple makes the hardware, software, and the services that bind all of its products together into a way that makes experiencing technology almost life-enriching. It is because they sweat the details of all those areas that only Apple could pull all this off.

iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program

From Apple:

Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently. The affected iPhone 5 devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013 and fall within a limited serial number range.

If your iPhone 5 is experiencing these symptoms and meets the eligibility requirements noted below, Apple will replace your iPhone 5 battery, free of charge.

If you have an iPhone 5 that falls within that date range, it's not a bad idea to follow the title link above to check your serial number. Both mine and my wife's iPhones were fine and within the range. Your mileage may vary.

Go, you chicken fat, go!

Apple released a new iPhone ad tonight focused on fitness apps & accessories, titled "Strength".

What just kills me about this ad is that it is set to the tune of "Chicken Fat".

The song has an interesting history. It is also one of my dad's favorite workout songs.

I about fell over when the music started playing.