Five Features Apple Should Add To Reminders

Apple’s Reminders app is one of their apps that has the most potential in my opinion. While it didn’t receive much of an update with the announcements of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, I believe that with some additional features, it could become the go-to GTD/task/productivity system for most people.

Over at 9to5Mac, I looked at five features Apple needs to add to the Reminders app to allow it to be a true task manager. Read it here.

Do iPad Deployments Need Physical Keyboard?

A question I often get about iPad deployments is whether or not to purchase keyboards. It’s a difficult thing to pick because it’s really going to depend on how you plan on using the iPads in the classroom. Are you doing tasks where the keyboard would make it easier? Then use a keyboard. If not, don’t use a keyboard. With iPad, the default should be touchscreen keyboard unless a student is doing work where the physical keyboard would make it easier.

Over at 9to5Mac, I take a look at pros and cons of physical keyboards. I also give my reccomendation on which ones you should buy. Check it out here.

Four Features iCloud Drive Desperately Needs

I’ve used all of the major “folders that sync” services over the years. Dropbox was the original solution, but I’ve also used OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, and iCloud. They all have good points and weak points.

I’ve personally settled on iCloud Drive because it’s built into macOS and iOS, but it’s not without room for improvement. Here are four things that Apple needs to add to iCloud Drive in the very near future.

Over at 9to5Mac, I look at four features that I'd like to see iCloud Drive implement.

Making the Grade: Does Repairability of Mac Laptops Matter?

Repairability of Apple laptops is something that has evolved in recent years. Whenever a new product is released, there are a few websites that will do a teardown and discuss how it’s made. iFixit, a popular website for repair guides and parts, even publishes a repairability guide for laptops and smartphones. Is this something business/education customers still care about? How repairable are Apple’s laptops? That is what I want to look at this week.

My latest column for 9to5Mac looks at the repairability of Apple laptops. You can read it here.

Where the iPad still excels over Chromebooks regardless of price

While the lower price (compared to a MacBook) indeed is part of it, I would also add that the App Store is a huge part of the reason iPads have sold so well in K–12. The iPad relies on apps, and Chromebooks rely on the open web when it comes to education curriculum.

My latest column for 9to5Mac discusses why App Store is still Apple's ace in the hole for K-12. Read it here.

Why Apple’s Education Strategy Is Not Based On Reality

On Tuesday, Apple laid out its clearest vision of their education strategy to date. That strategy revolves completely around the iPad in classrooms. Apple is keeping the iPad at the center of everything it does in education. Read 9to5Mac‘s recap for a rundown on everything Apple announced yesterday, and read on for my take from a classroom IT management perspective.

Read my entire article over to 9to5Mac.

An Update On Using Google Services

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.

  1. MailPlane 3 is the best way to access G-Suite and Google accounts from a Mac (including Google Calendar).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. The Gmail app for iOS works well, but its lack of universal inbox is maddening.
  5. The Google Home mini is a good product (especially at its price point).
  6. The Google Calendar app for iOS works well, but I was surprised how slow data entry is.
  7. Chrome on macOS seems faster than Safari, but I can't quantify that. I prefer Safari overall, though.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.

All In On Google

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.

Thoughts On The LTE Apple Watch

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.

watchOS 4 and the Siri Watch Face

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.

Initial 12.9” iPad Thoughts

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.

Ideas on How iCloud Photos Could Work For Families

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:

  1. Single Library option
  2. Read Access option
  3. 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.

Some Details About Shared iCloud Storage

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.

You Do You

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.