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An iPhone User Goes Android

Moto g 2732952bI’ve written about the Motorola Moto G here on Kirkville, and I’ve written an article for Macworld, discussing my experiences with an android phone.

“I’ve been using an iPhone for a few years, but I’ve always been curious about Android. Not because I didn’t like my iPhone, but I wanted to know if I was missing anything. I’d seen how Android works when friends showed me their phones. But given the cost of smartphones and tablets, it wasn’t worth getting an Android device just to play around with it.

“But then, a couple of months ago, Motorola released an Android smartphone—the Motorola Moto G—at a low enough price that I was tempted to get one, just to see if it might be better. I decided to take the leap, and here’s how I fared.”

Read Can an iPhone user learn to love Android? on Macworld.

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Apple’s Touch ID: I Want It Everywhere

As I check my iPhone from time to time during the day, I’m occasionally reminded of how efficient Touch ID is. Instead of typing a passcode, my fingerprint unlocks my phone. Granted, the passcode is only four digits, but with Touch ID, I’ve set my phone to lock immediately, instead of having the security risk of leaving a few minutes before it locks. If I lose the phone, there’s no longer a several minute window for someone to access it.

I notice Touch ID more when I use my iPad, because that device does require a passcode. I use the iPad much less, though, and it’s less of a bother. And I can’t forget my Macs; I have them set to lock and request a password when my screen saver goes on, after just a few minutes of idle time. That actually bothers me more than the iPad, since I have to type my password on a keyboard.

So I hope that Apple will expand Touch ID: first to third-party developers of iOS apps, then to the iPad and iPod touch, then, hopefully, to the Mac. It would be great with the iOS apps I use which are password- or passcode-protected: the two I use most are 1Password and Dropbox, though there are others that occasionally ask for a password. I’d like to be able to get access to my passwords on 1Password with a touch, instead of entering my (admittedly strong) password, as it’s just annoying, now that I know there’s a better way.

I also hope Apple brings Touch ID to the Mac. I can imagine a Magic Mouse and/or Magic Trackpad with a section to use with Touch ID. It would need a special sensor, the same kind that’s on the iPhone, so it most likely could not work with the entire touch surface. But looking at my Magic Trackpad, I can see that if it were in a corner, it would be usable, and not get in the way. (The same would be the case on a laptop.)

As Apple often brings out a new technology first on the iPhone, then moves it to other iOS devices, or on the MacBook Air, before bringing it to other Macs, it’s obvious that they’re planning on rolling out this technology at least to the iPad in the future. Hopefully this will coincide with an SDK for third-party apps, and perhaps availability on the Mac as well. Touch ID is one of Apple’s technologies that saves a lot of time, and makes life easier. I want it on all my devices.

Update: Shawn King, of Your Mac Life, suggested on Twitter that one might use an iPhone to unlock a Mac. There could be some sort of “remote” app on the iPhone, which would let you then unlock your Mac. This might take longer, though, because you’d need to unlock the iPhone, launch the app, then unlock the Mac. But it would mean that the Touch ID would be able to interface with other hardware.

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Quickly Make iPhone Ringtones with Fission

There are two ways to choose a ringtone for your phone. You can either choose one of the default ringtones available, or you can get personal, and choose something musical (or not) that expresses your personality. If you go the latter route, you can buy ringtones, and the iTunes Store is happy to sell you one.

But you may want to make your own ringtones using music you have. Using music from CDs that I’ve ripped, I’ve made several ringtones. One is for standard calls, and the other is for calls from friends or family, and I’ve got another for Messages.

There are many ways to do this, but I’m going to show you one using an app that I like called Fission. This $32 app is a great audio editor, which is fast and easy to use, and which doesn’t convert your audio files. If you want to edit an AAC or MP3 file, you’ll work with that file, and not have to convert it to and from a different format. You can also use it to edit FLAC and Apple Lossless files, or even convert among different file formats. This is called non-destructive editing.

Much of what I use Fission for is to split, edit and trim files, but it’s great for creating ringtones, and can even add them directly to your iTunes library. Here’s how it works.

First, find a song or other audio file you want to use for your ringtone. Make a copy of it first, so you don’t edit the original. If you want to use a song in your iTunes library, right-click it and choose Show in Finder or Show in Windows Explorer.

Launch Fisson, then drag the file onto its window. You’ll see the file’s waveform.

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Next, find the section of the music you want to use as a ringtone (you may want to use Fission’s zoom slider at the bottom left of the window to find the precise spot where you want this to begin or end). Ringtones can only be up to 40 seconds long, so make sure to choose something no longer than that.

When you’ve found the part you want to use, you can trim the song with Fission. Click at the beginning of the section you want to use then drag to the leftmost end of the window. The selection will take on a white background.

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Press the delete key to delete the highlighted section.

Go to the end of the bit you want as your ringtone, click, then drag to the right end of the window. Press the delete key. You’ll now have a 40-second or shorter bit of music. Play it in Fission to make sure it starts and ends correctly.

Next, choose File > Save as iPhone Ringtone. Fission will process the music, change its file type, and add it to your iTunes library. You’ll find it in the Tones library. (If you don’t see this, choose iTunes > Preferences, then check Tones in the Show section.) You can sync it to your iPhone, or even to other iOS devices to use as tones for alerts.

That’s all you need to do. You can make as many ringtones as you like, from just about any format music file. Feel free to try different ringtones and see which work best for you.

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iPhone 5s Photos, Burst Mode and Tremor

I have an essential tremor. This is a small muscular tremor that has no known cause, but which is fairly common. Because of this, I find that photos I take with a smartphone are generally blurry. I have a good Panasonic Lumix TZ 30 camera (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) which has excellent image stabilization, but I don’t always have it with me.

2013-11-19 17.22.23.pngThe iPhone 5s’s camera offers burst mode, which lets you take multiple photos with a single press of the (shutter) button. With this, I find that, if I take ten or so photos of something, there is always one that is of decent quality. Aim the camera, get as steady as you can, then press and hold the shutter button. You’ll see a number display on the screen as you shoot; I generally try and take ten photos.

Next, go to the Photos app and tap on the photo you just took. There will be ten or so photos, but you’ll only see one. You can tap it, then tap Favorites, to scroll through the different photos and choose the ones you want to delete. I find it hard to tell on the iPhone screen which photos are good enough, but I do often see some that aren’t. I generally wait until I sync the photos to my Mac to check for the sharpest one.

You can use this for any kind of photos: both stills and pans. You’ll generally find that you get a better result even of people if you use burst mode, because you’re not limited to that one fraction of a second when they’re looking at the camera, or not blinking. As long as you have enough empty space on your iPhone, you can take hundreds of photos in burst mode, and be able to choose the ones you want to keep later. Try it, you may find that, even if you don’t have a tremor, you get better photos.

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iWant: Dvorak Keyboard Layout on iOS Devices

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I use a Dvorak keyboard layout on my computers; you know, the one that has a more logical layout than QWERTY. I’ve been using it since I became a freelancer in 1996: at that time, I realized that I needed to learn to touch-type, and did some research about keyboard layouts.

But when I use my iPod touch, I have to use that darned QUERTY layout. Why can’t Apple provide a Dvorak layout for their mobile devices? It’d probably be pretty useful, actually, since, with all the vowels on the left side, you tend to go from hand to hand more often, and you’d go from thumb to thumb.

And with the iPad, it would be a boon to be able to touch type rather than hunt and peck. I know I can use an external Bluetooth keyboard, but that defeats the purpose. Please, Apple, start including a Dvorak keyboard layout on iOS.

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The iPhone 5s and Touch ID

I got a new iPhone 5s yesterday, and, while it’s not that different from the iPhone 5, there are two key differences for me. The first is that I got a 64 GB model (I know, I could have gotten a 64 GB iPhone 5, but I didn’t want to spend that much last year). I no longer use an iPod of any kind, except when I’m at home and want to listen to music on headphones when I’m not in front of a stereo.

Previously, I used iTunes’ downsampling feature to cram more music onto my device. Now, copying files in their original bit rates, I’ve been able to add a whole lot more music than I had before. My iPhone 32 GB had about 4 GB of free space before I upgraded; the iPhone 64 GB, without downsampling, showed 19 GB free space after restoring from my old iPhone’s backup. So I added, among other things, all of the Grateful Dead’s Complete Europe ’72 box set.

photo.PNGThe other big difference is Touch ID. This lets you save a fingerprint and unlock the iPhone without having to enter your PIN, and also lets you use your fingerprint as your password when purchasing from the iTunes Store. This is a nifty feature, though it took me a few minutes to grok exactly how to use it. I was pressing and holding the home button too long, and Siri was popping up. What you need to do is press the button, release it, but keep your finger on the button for a half-second so the iPhone can read the fingerprint. This works so well that I never want a mobile device without it.

Here’s a tip for managing Touch ID. You may want to try different fingers, and eventually delete some of them. If you go to Settings > General > Passcode & Fingerprint > Fingerprints, you’ll see a list, saying Finger 1, Finger 2, and so on. Just place a finger on the home button, and that finger will become highlighted (slightly darker) in the list, as you can see in the screenshot to the left.

You can also name fingerprints. From the Fingerprints pane, tap on Edit, then tap on one of the fingerprint names. A keyboard will pop up allowing you to name your fingerprint.

Touch ID has something of the future in it. I suspect we’ll be seeing this technology in other devices in the future. I certainly hope the next iPad has it (and I also hope that the next iPad mini will have a retina display).

I haven’t mentioned the improved camera, because I don’t take a lot of pictures. But I’ll be playing with it in the near future, to see what it can do.

h/t Dan Frakes, who pointed out that you can name fingerprints.

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Beleaguered? Apple Sells Billions of Dollars in iPhones in First Weekend

If there’s one thing the tech press contingent I am part of finds humorous, it’s the constant claims that APPLE IS DOOMED!!!! The company releases a new phone, but it’s a color some journalist or analyst doesn’t like; “beleaguered Apple can’t innovate any more.” They start shipping a new product, and can’t keep up with the massive demand; “Apple is failing to meet its targets.” And so on.

So, “beleaguered” Apple somehow managed to sell 9 million iPhones over the past weekend. In three days. If you take an average retail price of $250 1, that comes to $2.25 billion. That’s a lot of money for three days. Especially for a company that’s doomed.

This led Tim Cook to make his second ever tweet:

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Update: If, as commenter Stephane says, Apple does not give any discount, then we can assume an average price of at least $600. That comes to $4.5 billion. And 9 million iPhones is about one for every 800 people on the planet…


  1. The lowest price for an iPhone 5c is $99 under contract; the lowest price for the 5s is $199 under contract. Given that lots of people bought models with more than 16 GB storage, and many bought unlocked phones, it’s save to say that the average price was well above the lowest end of the scale. This is just a guesstimate though.   ↩

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iOS 7 is Coming: Back Up Your iOS Device

With iOS 7 due for release today, it’s time to do something that you should do often: back up your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Whenever you install a new operating system, whether on a computer or a mobile device, there is a risk of problems which could cause data loss.

It’s easy to back up an iOS device, and it’s just as easy to restore that backup if something goes wrong. Connect your iOS device to your computer, and launch iTunes, if it doesn’t launch automatically. Click on the device, or click on the Devices button in iTunes, then choose that device. On the Summary screen, you’ll see the following:

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Click on This Computer, then click on Back Up Now. If you generally back up your iOS device to iCloud, switch it to This Computer for now. An iCloud backup is great to have if you’re on the road and need to restore an iOS device, but a local backup is much quicker. The backup won’t take long, and you’ll be safe in case of any problems when you update to iOS 7.

If you don’t sync and back up your iOS device regularly, try and remember to do so in the future; it protects you against losing data, but also your settings and home screens. It’s a quick, painless process, so don’t forget to do it often.

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