A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on switching to Google services. I wanted to provide an update on where I was at with that. One thing I wanted to add is that this was as much as moving away from Apple as much as it was switching to Google. This is why I used Spotify over Google Play Music.
- MailPlane 3 is the best way to access G-Suite and Google accounts from a Mac (including Google Calendar).
- Spotify is really an incredible service. I think it does a better job at finding you interesting playlists than Apple Music. Apple does a better job at promoting your existing library (and full albums).
- Google Photos is faster at scrolling than iCloud Photo Library. The apps are both great on iOS, but Photos.app on macOS is much better than the Google Photos website. Since I have my library already updated, I'll probably keeping the app installed and continue to make a backup there.
- The Gmail app for iOS works well, but its lack of universal inbox is maddening.
- The Google Home mini is a good product (especially at its price point).
- The Google Calendar app for iOS works well, but I was surprised how slow data entry is.
- Chrome on macOS seems faster than Safari, but I can't quantify that. I prefer Safari overall, though.
- I returned the Google Home minis, switched back to Apple Music, and purchased a HomePod last night. The HomePod is really nice. I'm not an audiophile, but it fixes what I didn't like about Sonos (I loved the speakers, but hated using their app).
- I enjoyed the experiment. Google's services are great. I think it probably makes sense (for me) to use the natives services of the devices I use at the moment. Knowing that it's pretty trivial to switch gives me reassurance for the future.
When Gmail launched in 2004, I got an early invite. I used it until 2005 when I got my first Mac. I switched my email over to .Mac. I used it and MobileMe for many years. When iCloud launched in 2010, I kept on using the service. I've used Apple services for the better part of 12 years now. I've been an Apple Music subscriber since the early days. I also switched over to iCloud Photo Library last summer. I ditched Dropbox for iCloud Drive with iOS 11 and the files app. I was all in on Apple Services.
Now, I am all out. I really don't know why it happened, but last Friday night, I switched to Google's services. I exported my calendars and contacts from iCloud to Google, and I forwarded my iCloud mail to my Gmail account. I re-uploaded all of my photos to Google Photos (and recreated my albums). I'm using the Gboard keyboard on my iPhone. Google Maps has replaced Apple Maps. The Google Search and Google Assistant apps are also on my home screen.
I also purchased 3 Google Home minis. I have two at home, and one at work. I spent around $100 in total for them. I like them. I enjoy asking about my calendar, adding appointments, and playing Spotify (I'm back!). The sound quality isn't high end, but it works for my needs.
So for now, I'm all in on Google services. I'm still using Apple hardware, but I like the idea that I could switch to Android or ChromeOS with relative ease. Google's services work well. I enjoy using them. Apple's aren't awful, but Google's seem to be smarter in various ways.
For now, I'm all in with Google.
I've had a weird relationship with the Apple Watch. I picked up the original on day one but sold it a few months later. watchOS 1 was slow. The apps were not good. I picked up a Series 2 model a few months after its release. I returned in 2 weeks later. I picked up another Series 2 model in June but sold in by August. I was moderately more happy with the Series 2 than I was Series 0, but something felt missing. It wasn't adding enough to my life to warrant the ownership. It was just another device.
From the beginning of Apple Watch, LTE access always seemed like something that would happen. I didn't expect it this soon, though. Being an avid runner, I have always had my phone with me when I run for longer than ten minutes. I like to have it in the event someone in my family needs me or I get hurt.
I picked up an Apple Watch with LTE recently and having LTE access has been eye-opening for me.
Here's a perfect example: I had to run some errands recently. It included getting gas for my truck and running to the bank. I left my phone at work. While I was gone, I responded to a few emails and to a few iMessages.
On that same day, I ran during my lunch break. I left my phone in my office. I had a playlist synced to my watch, but I could have just as easily streamed via LTE. Since I am in IT, I need to be reachable during the day (even during lunch).
While the battery life certainly takes a hit on LTE, I can see the future. Once this device can last for 12-14 hours on LTE (without a GPS enabled workout), it could be a phone replacement for certain people. Will the Apple Watch Series 6 be the default phones for kids? Will the Apple Watch Series 6 be the new "dumb phone" for people who don't want a smartphone? I think it certainly might.
I'm looking forward to the future where I can leave my iPhone at home for an entire day, but still be reachable. One thing I am missing is the ability to stream music in my car. Thankfully, I have access to this new thing called FM Radio. It's sorta like Beats1, but with local people. I could pair my watch to my car stereo, but I don’t want to drain the battery while driving.
I’ve been running the watchOS 4 beta for a few days now, and it’s given me some ideas on how to improve watchOS.
The Siri face is a great idea, but I don’t think I’ll be using it. I primarily use the Modular face, and the Siri interface doesn’t show me enough information at a glance. What I’d like to see is to bring that intelligence to my existing watch faces.
- Only show my calendar in the large spot during work hours.
- Move Runkeeper to a complication around the time I generally work out. Bring the Activity complication from a small slot to the large slot once an hour during a glance.
- Bring Home to a complication around bedtime.
These are just a few simple ideas, but I like the direction the Siri face shows. I’d just like to see it brought to the entire watchOS experience.
I recently switched from a 9.7” iPad Pro to a 12.9” iPad Pro (first generation model). I have often struggled with feeling 100% productive on an iPad. It’s not that I couldn’t get work done, but it often felt like a bigger iPhone to me. Within a few hours, I knew this size was something special. It felt freeing. I spent last night working on it vs my MacBook Pro, and I never felt like I needed my laptop. I was able to get a lot done without being slowed down. The larger screen, plus iOS 11 is a game changer for me.
My new goal: go as long as possible each day without pulling out my laptop. I am going to document what tasks trigger the need.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Google Photos. I sometimes long for the native aspect of iCloud Photo Library, though. The feature that always holds me back is a lack of unified library with my wife. I know not everyone wants that feature, but I do. Here’s some ways I think Apple could make it work:
- Single Library option
- Read Access option
- Smart library option with face scanning
Single Library Option
With this option, users of a family sharing group should have the option to have a single library. Everything taken on both accounts would be accessible to both. This could be cumbersome as camera rolls fill up some random screenshots and saved photos.
Read Access Option
An option might be for users to be able to have read access to their family sharing library. Users could save anything from a family member’s library to their own. This would create a lot of manual work, though.
Smart Library based on face scanning
The option that I think could really make sense is for me to be able to designate that I want photos of certain members of our family added to my library. This would mean extending the face scanning results to iCloud Family Sharing. I could mark that I was any photos of my kids, me, or my wife added to my library. I wouldn’t end up with the extra stuff, though.
One of the new features of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra is shared iCloud Storage among family members. Since I’m on the iOS 11 public beta, I decided to roll it out to my family.
I had previously setup a family account when Apple Music was released, so I had already gone through the hassle of setting it up. The part that was awkward, but Apple has a solution for, is my iCloud account is not the account where the majority of my purchases live. I have the account that I started when I got my first iPod 2004, and I also have my iCloud account. I’ve been around so long that this is also a MobileMe and .Mac account as well. Apple allows you to designate one account as the account your family purchases pull from.
In preparation for all of this, I set up child iCloud accounts for my kids. These are special Apple IDs that can require your consent to make purchases (if enabled).
Devices running the iOS 11 beta can enable it by going to Settings > iCloud > Subscription and Apps > iCloud Storage. I didn’t document the process, but it’s simple.
The neat thing is devices running iOS 10 can join the fun. My kid accounts were automatically enabled to be apart of the shared storage, but my wife had to manually join. You can do that in Settings > iCloud. In the iOS 11 Developer build, there is an option to invite a family member via iMessage.
Couple of things to note:
- There is no way to allocate space. I’m assuming one family member could technically take up 99% of the space.
- Only the $2.99 and up plans are eligible.
- While it seems child accounts auto-join, normal accounts do not.
If you think about the fact that the 2 TB plan was just lowered to $9.99, this makes it an incredible deal when combined with multiple family members.
Between Apple Music ($14.99/month for family) and a 2 TB iCloud storage plan ($9.99 per month), Apple can easily get $25 per month per family. This also creates a stickier ecosystem as well. On the flip side, this is a great deal for users. $25 a month for 2 TB of storage and unlimited Music is a great value.
There’s been a lot of discussion of late about iPad.
- Can it replace a PC?
- Do I need a Mac?
- is iOS the future of computing?
These arguments remind me a lot of the laptop vs desktop debate a decade or so ago. At the time, laptops were expensive and slow. After a period of time, they got a lot better. The benefits of the portability outweighed any negatives for some. For others, desktop computers were (and still are) the best tool for the job.
In 2008, Apple released the MacBook Air. This was an underpowered and overpriced ultra portable laptop. Overtime, the price came down and the specs came up. In fact, it’s the laptop I still recommend to anyone looking for the best bang for their buck. Even when it was overpriced and underpowered, some people still loved it. The benefits outweighed the negatived for them.
Here in 2017, we have two types of people. Those that think iPads can be used for real work and those that don’t. I’m going to set the record straight. Some people can and some people can’t. It just depends on your needs (and preferences).
If the iPad can accomplish 100% of your computing needs, that is awesome. If it can’t, then enjoy macOS. If you prefer macOS for some tasks and iOS for others, then do that.
I don’t know if macOS is ever discontinued in favor of something like iOS. I don’t know 100% of what the future of computing holds. The thing I do know is: you do you.
Pick the devices that allow you to do the best work, and use those. The discussion about iPad vs Mac is like discussing a match vs a lighter. Each serves their purpose for different tasks.
Everyone’s work (and preference) is different. Trying to argue your needs against someone else's needs is pointless.
Being the host of an educational podcast, you would think I'd be iOS only at this point. I'm not, and I'm much more closely tied to requiring a Mac vs requiring an iPad to effectively do my job.
Website Content Management
During my day job, I manage the backend of websites. This isn't writing code, but updating content. This does require a lot of text selection, though. I still find text selection to be quite cumbersome on iOS. In Wordpress especially, some custom pages have "content blocks". These blocks are near impossible to work with on iOS. Is this the fault of iOS? No, but I'd like to see Safari bridge the gap with this regard. We've given it enough time that I feel confident that the creators of these content management systems and plugins are not going to be build for iOS management, so I believe Apple should build some sort of "Desktop" mode for mobile Safari to make it look and behave more like a traditional desktop browser.
Most of the website management apps are built around publishing blogs, but not actual site management.
Ideally, all of these web companies would build native iOS apps that could take advantage of all that the devices have it offer. Since they haven't, it's time for Apple to take control of the issue.
I stand in front of a 13" MacBook Pro with a 24" external monitor all day. I have both displays at eye level, and I have my trackpad and keyboard (external) at the proper height. I'd like to be able to plug an iPad Pro into an external display and be able to interact with it from an external keyboard + input type device. I finding using iOS for extended periods of time puts strain on my shoulders and neck. What would this look like? I have no idea, but I'd love to see something.
I'd love to go iOS only, but these are the two big things holding me back.
Almost 12 years later, iTunes 4.9 remains an important update for 2 reasons.
I've had my own podcast since 2012, and it's also a huge part of my entertainment consumption. Podcast support in iTunes made it easy to find and download almost 8,000 shows. Prior to that, you had to use a third party program. iTunes brought it mainstream. They made it easy to subscribe and easy to find new shows.
I'm sure that number has grown to many hundreds of thousands in the years following. I have friends who make their living off podcasts. While I don't use iTunes or Apple's podcast app (see what I use), we all owe a lot to Apple taking this category of media to the mainstream. It's an open standard, and a way that anyone can create content.
Odeo Releases Twttr
Had Apple not released iTunes 4.9 with podcasting support, it's possible that Twitter would have never been created. Had Twitter not ever been created, there would be a lot of friends I would have never made. I've also discovered a lot of podcasts via Twitter as well. This all worked out well for everyone involved. While Twitter has its problems, I still think it is a net positive for society.
Here's to 12 years of podcasts and many more. Thank you iTunes 4.9.
I picked up a Fire TV stick a few days ago, so I wanted to share a few thoughts.
It's very similar to what I have on Apple TV. The main one it's missing is Nick Jr, but it has Amazon Video and Spotify. Overall, most of the apps are very similar to the corresponding Apple TV one.
I like the remote a lot better than the Apple TV one. The main downside is that the Fire TV remote doesn't have volume buttons. We use this a lot on our Apple TV remotes. I enjoyed going back to a traditional D-pad for navigation.
In some ways it's better, but in some ways it's worse. While the Apple TV one is very static, the Fire TV one seems to constantly be moving around. I do like that you can get straight to recently watched shows straight from the home screen, though.
Do I think the Fire TV stick is better than the Apple TV? I don't. If I didn't have an Apple TV, I don't think I could justify buying one over the Fire TV stick, though.
For $40, it's a really fantastic device. I have ordered a 2nd one to keep on our upstairs TV. Amazon doesn't need Apple here. The Fire TV is cheap enough that people can buy along with something else if they really want Amazon content.
Amazon Video is in a situation where people likely sign up for Prime for the shipping benefits, and the video subscription is secondary. They won't cancel Prime because there isn't an Apple TV app. Apple needs Amazon more than Amazon needs Apple in this situation. The following tweet says it best:
If anything, this just shows where Apple has zero competitive advantage with video content.
After subscribing to Apple Music since its release in summer of 2015, I've officially moved my library to Spotify for good. I tinkered with this last summer, but thankfully Apple fixed the issues I was having (see this blog post). Over the past few months, I've gradually become frustrated by Apple Music. While my previous frustration was about a technical issue, this issue is much deeper. Apple Music, for me, does a terrible job at discovery. Here's why:
I was really excited about Beats1 in the beginning, but the novelty quickly wore off. It seemed like every time I turned it on, it was playing genres I didn't like. There were times that Zane Lowe would interview artists I like, but I had no way of knowing. Why isn't their a push notification when an artist I have saved is the focal point of a show?
New Music Mix
I probably should have said this at the beginning, but this article is really just describing my experiences. You might certainly have a different one. I was really excited about the New Music Mix that launched with iOS 10. Spotify's Discover Weekly mix is great. I have found at least ten artists who I now follow from it. I usually listen to it multiple times each week. While similar in idea, Apple's version of this is boring to me. I hardly ever listened to it more than once. The suggestions were just okay. To make matters worse, I still had Christmas music in it in late January. I don't know if Apple doesn't have the amount of data Spotify has, or if it's another issue, but something is off.
I am a big fan of the "Singer/songwriter" and Folk/Americana genres. Spotify has tons of options that are frequently updated. Apple simply does not. In fact, one of the options for Singer/songwriter for Apple Music is "Best of 2015". They didn't even make one for 2016. Apple's playlist might be human curated, but the ones I followed were rarely updated.
I've never loved this feature. I particularly don't love the iOS 10 version of it. It has a lot to scroll through. It tends to offer the same suggestions over and over for playlists that are rarely updated. The new release section is buried at the bottom. (Spotify emails me when artists I follow release new music.).
To sum it up, Apple Music was starting to feel like the iTunes Store where I didn't have to pay per track. Spotify has introduced me to tons of new artists, and Apple Music hasn't. Why is this? I'm not sure, but Apple certainly knows just as much about my listening habits. They just weren't doing as much with the data. I'll miss the native Apple TV app, but AirPlay will do just fine.
Last week, I cracked my iPhone screen for the very first time (not really sure how). Since we are 2 hours from the nearest Apple Store, Apple sent me a replacement via Fedex. When I got the new iPhone, I quickly went to work restoring it from iCloud. Like many of you, I have a secondary account I use for purchases. This is my original iTunes ID. As I was typing in that passcode, I entered it wrong a few times. I have it memorized (it's still difficult to guess), but my brain was just off sync at that moment. I typed it in wrong enough times that I locked the account.
I went online to unlock it, but since I have 2 step authentication (the old kind), it wanted the recovery key. The problem is I had no idea where I put it. I tried all the ones I could find, but no luck. I then realized I was typing in the wrong password (I looked it up in 1Password). Doh!
I gave Apple a call, and I assumed this would be a quick fix. They'd unlock it, and I could then sign in. They quickly realized I was in a weird state of lockout. According to this support article, I should be able to get in. I remembered the password, and I had the device. The problem was I was still locked out. Apple can't unlock it without the recovery key. I was basically stuck. Both people I talked with at Apple said this was an extremely weird situation they had never been in. Had I not remembered the password, I could see where I'd be out of luck. It was a bit frustrating that I remembered the password, but still couldn't get in.
Thankfully, this isn't my iCloud account (it's on two-factor, and only my purchase history. Due to the recent trend of free apps with subscription, I only had to pay for about $25 worth of apps that I was currently using daily. I had been using quite a few of them for years without having to pay for a new version, so a part of me was happy being able to support them again. The bigger bummer is I had $65 worth of iTunes credit that I did lose. A number of the free ones registered subscriptions with iCloud, so I didn't lose access to them either (Overcast as an example).
I lost a few movies and TV shows, but they weren't ones I planned on watching again. I had local copies of all my purchased music as well. I have recently switched back to Spotify, so I didn't mind losing my Apple Music library.
This was all really annoying, but I don't have anyone to blame but myself. While I wish Apple could have unlocked it, I am also thankful they take security seriously.
One thing this has reaffirmed is that I will never (ever) trust the only copies of my photos to anyone. Imagine if this happened to my iCloud account, and I had all my photos in iCloud photo library without local backups. I could have potentially lost them all. A good rule of thumb is keep copies of the things you can't easily replace.
I decided to try to log back into my Apple ID on the web, and it let me in! I guess waiting 8 hours or so unlocked it enough where I could get the 2FA text message.
I've owned my AirPods for a week, so here is a super simple Buyer's Guide:
You will love them if:
- EarPods fit your ears.
- You want really portable headphones.
- You are a grown up and won't lose them on day 1.
You will hate them if:
- EarPods don't fit your ear at all (you actually still might love them, but they won't stay in).
- You need the absolute best sound quality available ($159 wireless earbuds aren't the product category you should be looking at).
- You lose your chapstick.
I love AirPods. They are my favorite tech purchase from the past few years. I love the charging case. I love how the music auto-pauses when I remove one of them. I really just love everything about them.
Let me preface this article with that fact that I own 4 of the current generation Apple TVs. Prior to that, I owned 4 Roku 3s. Prior to that, I owned 4 Apple TV (3rd generation). This is an industry I care deeply about.
After reading @joesteel's article on Apple TV, I started thinking about its value proposition to potential consumers. I then started asking myself what is wrong with Apple TV in its current form? Here's what I came up with:
Does tvOS matter?
I love my Apple TVs, but they are used differently than an iOS device. With iOS, you spend time in apps that are for reading, games, news, etc. With Apple TV, you find a show and watch it. The majority of the time it's being used is simply to display content (and likely something you aren't paying Apple for). Think about tablets for a second. If you simply needed a tablet for Netflix and Hulu, would iOS or Android really matter to you? Once you hit play, does the OS really matter at that point? Do the tvOS apps look nicer than Roku apps? Sure, Roku is a lot cheaper, and it has access to just about everything Apple TV does.
Rentals make me sad
Apple's model of renting me $5 movies or selling $2 TV shows seems archaic compared to Netflix, Hulu, or Sling TV. Outside of Apple Music and movies you already purchased, most content available on Apple TV is available elsewhere. Amazon is quitely becoming a major player in the entertainment industry, and Apple TV users must AirPlay content to view it.
Game or no game
Apple should have either not allowed games on tvOS or go all in. They should have released their own controller and made sure some top tier games were on the platform (buy a studio, pay a studio, etc). While Apple initially touted the gaming capaibilities, not much as been said since. There aren't many games worth playing,but and the decent ones are simply iOS ports.
This half-hearted approach is symbolic of how Apple TV has been treated over the years by Apple.
The Tim Cook doctrine in a nutshell:
We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
In the TV/movie business, content is the technology. There aren't many ways to watch a TV show or a movie. You hit play and sit back.
Apple hasn't invested in content, and that has made tvOS a "me too" product at best. I love my Apple TV, but if someone tells me to convince them why it's better than a Roku or Fire TV at half or a third of the cost (depending on the model), I have a tough time. Siri remote and AirPlay are neat, but they aren't a reason to pay 2x the price.
With the release of Apple Watch series 2 (I haven't bought one), I've started to ponder the watch of the future. After thinking through the watch's role in our lives, I've finally settled on the fact that the Apple Watch needs cellular. iPhones are fantastic. They are great cameras, and they allow us to carry extremely powerful computer in your pocket. I do see a day coming when I would leave my iPhone at home for periods of time.
I take my iPhone whenever I leave the house. This includes the grocery store, the gym, the gas station, or the coffee shop. A lot of the time, I only take it for phone calls and text messages. When the Apple Watch includes a cellular connection, I could leave in the morning to run a few errands with only an Apple Watch. My shopping list would be on there. Thanks to Continuity, so would my Phone calls and text messages. My iMessages would come straight from the cellular network as well.
This reality sounds amazing to me. It's one less thing to carry, but I can still be reached and access basic functions of my apps. Think about how much more useful your iPhone or LTE iPad is because of its always on connection. When a version of the Apple Watch can do this without being near your iPhone, it'll drive up its usefulness.
We will be living in the time of Dick Tracy.
Update (2016-10-10): Apple fixed this earlier in the summer, and I've returned to Apple Music.
After nearly a year of using the service, I turned off Apple Music, iCloud Library, and the automatic renewal of my family membership (my wife is going to sign back up as a single user). I thought I'd take a minute to explain why.
My frustration with Apple Music actually has very little do with the streaming service. It lies solely on iCloud Music Library. Like I've said before, I still have a 30 GB music library that I want to keep. Most of it is studio albums, but 5% of it is live albums. I really like live albums. iCloud Music library would consistently either not match properly, or it would somehow revert weeks after the original upload. I simply got tired of babysitting the matching process. I'd have to remove and re-upload a lot of them every few weeks. I finally had enough. I rebuilt my library in Spotify and turned off Apple Music. I then synced my local library over a cable.
Spotify is a fine streaming service. There are aspects of it that I like better than Apple Music, and there other aspects that I don't. Overall, it works. Sadly, the best aspect of turning off Apple Music is that everything in my library now plays exactly what it's suppose to. It just works..