The iPad Mini Is the New iPod Touch

“Apple’s annual iPad event is upon us. The company is expected to release updated versions of the iPad Air and iPad mini, both with Touch ID, faster processors and perhaps new colors.

A year ago, it looked like demand for the iPad mini was on the cusp of potentially eclipsing that of the traditional 9.7-inch iPad. The iPad Air made a strong case for large-screen tablets everywhere, but the market definitely seemed to be trending toward the 7- and 8-inch ones that Steve Jobs so abhorred.

A year later, the scenario seems to have reversed itself yet again. At the end of 2014, tablet sales in general have slowed down (though I contend that the tablet is in no way dead). At the same time, large-screened phones (“phablets,” if we must) are taking off.

On the Android side, we’ve seen very clear evidence that the large-screened smartphones have started to eat into the sales for 7-inch devices. Even 8-inch devices (the size closer to the iPad mini), are impacted when phone screens approach the 6-inch mark.

After all, a 5.5-inch phone is in many ways closer to a tablet than it is to a smartphone. In talking with hundreds of iPhone 6 Plus owners for a recent story, a common refrain I heard from many was that “the iPhone 6 is going to make me use my iPad mini less.””

Christina Warren nails it in this Mashable article. Why carry around an iPad and an iPhone? If you use both regularly, it makes sense to swap the iPad mini and iPhone for an iPhone 6 Plus. While it’s not quite as big, it makes a lot more sense. Also, if you have an iPad with a data contract – which you don’t always need, since, depending on your cell provider, you may be able to use the iPhone to create a personal hotspot – you’re saving money on that subscription.

It’s not for me – neither the iPhone 6 or the 6 Plus – but I can see plenty of use cases where the 6 Plus is the perfect device for lots of people.

This said, a recent segment on the BBC News showed a hospital where the nurses were using iPod touches to record patient data, which is then centralized. The hospital has a much lower overall death rate because of the system. I think the iPod touch – or something like it – has a future in the enterprise, in areas where a touch-screen device is useful, but where cell access isn’t needed. It will be interesting to see if Apple addresses this market explicitly in the future.

The iPad Mini Is the New iPod Touch.

Duplicate Tracks in iTunes Cause Problems Syncing iOS Devices

My friend Rob Griffiths pinged me the other day. He had gotten a brand new iPhone 6, (and ribbed me about it), but was having problems syncing it. He could sync some content, but not movies; then some movies, but not all; then he couldn’t sync at all.

Rob took the extreme move of writing to Tim Cook, one of whose staffers read the email and reacted, quickly. It turned out, as Rob explains, that the problem was caused by duplicate tracks in his iTunes library:

“In the current version of iTunes/iOS, there’s a bug that only appears when you have duplicates of purchased songs. When encountered, a duplicate of a purchased song will (almost always) cause iTunes to silently stop syncing.”

This is interesting, in part because I get lots of emails about problems with syncing iOS devices, and I’d never found a cause. I’m not sure this is the only issue, because sync problems are multifarious. For example, in the few days that I had my iPhone 6, I had to restore it twice, because the device lost track of my music and showed it all as “Other” content. I’ve seen this occur in the past when syncs are interrupted, but this was happening to me with a new device, allowing it to sync completely.

Rob eventually scoured his library with Doug Adams’ Dupin, an app that finds duplicates in iTunes. (Read Doug’s write-up of the story.) I ran Dupin, and was surprised to find that I, too, had a number of duplicates, one of which was a full purchased album by Bob Dylan. I know I had never downloaded that album twice, so I suspect something odd going on behind the scenes in iTunes when it organizes libraries. And Rob is sure that he never downloaded his duplicate tracks twice, but what was interesting was some of them were older 128 kbps tracks with DRM, and some were newer versions; perhaps he upgraded them, at some point, and iTunes didn’t delete the older ones?

What is more likely is that these duplicates were added to his library when he chose to transfer purchases from an iOS device:


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I know I’ve done that at times, when I’ve updated apps on my iPhone, for example, and didn’t want to download them again in iTunes (since my bandwidth is limited). But why would it have, in my case, only transferred one album?

I wonder if this is just a bug with iTunes, or with specific iOS devices. Rob never had problems syncing his iPhone 5, and I saw sync problems with my iPhone 6, but my 5s generally syncs without any issues. So there’s some odd combination here causing the issue.

Whatever the case, if you do have sync problems with an iOS device, I’d suggest getting Dupin and scouring your library. It may save you a lot of headache.

Is Apple Trying to Do too Much Too Quickly?

I recently wrote about Apple’s string of bad luck, with bad press, a bad keynote stream, the U2 album spamming fiasco, and, above all, the iOS 8.0.1 update that bricked a lot of users’ iPhones. If I were to go back in the archives of this website, I’d find other, similar articles about blunders when a new OS was released requiring an update quickly for some embarrassing problems, or when hardware issues that shouldn’t have happened plagued many users. (Remember AntennaGate?)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as much of my work depends on Apple’s product cycle. When there is a new version of OS X or iOS, I, along with many of my colleagues, have lots of articles to write. When there’s a new version of iTunes, I update my Take Control of iTunes book. It’s great to have new things to write about, but the annual release cycle is becoming problematic for many reasons.

I’ve increasingly had the feeling that Apple is finding it difficult to keep up with all these releases, and that quality is slipping. This generally isn’t the case with hardware – no, the iPhone 6 doesn’t really bend, unless you apply a lot of pressure to it – but rather with software. Bugs abound; shoddy releases are followed by broken updates. On the latest episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths and I were discussing the fact that Apple just released the OS X Yosemite GM Candidate. Back in the day, the golden master was the final build that was sent to the company that pressed CDs or DVDs. There was never a “GM Candidate,” but just one GM release. I think it was with OS X 10.9 that Apple issued a GM, followed by a GM 2; this is something that should never happen. Final should be final.

Right now, with iOS 8, the Health app was delayed on release because of some unspecified bugs. iCloud Drive doesn’t seem to work very well on iOS, and it’s caused problems because it’s not available on Mavericks; anyone turning it on on their iPhone or iPad will find that they cannot access their documents on their Mac. (Though, by some oddity, there is a Windows version of iCloud Drive, which apparently works.) iOS 8 is buggy, crashes a lot, has Wi-Fi issues and more. And Family Sharing, according to some of my colleagues, is problematic as well. (I’ve not tested it yet.)

Back in 2007, Apple had to delay the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard because it needed more developers to work on iOS. You get the feeling today that something similar is happening: that the company simply can’t scale to handle two operating systems released around the same time.

On Daring Fireball yesterday, John Gruber said:

“From the outside, it seems like Apple’s software teams can’t keep up with the pace of the hardware teams. Major new versions of iOS aren’t released “when they’re ready”, they’re released when the new iPhone hardware ships. On Twitter the other day, I suggested that perhaps Apple should decouple major iOS feature releases from the iPhone hardware schedule. That’s probably untenable from a marketing perspective, and it might just make things more complex from a QA perspective. But something has to give.”

The problem is that, now, iOS and OS X are inextricably linked. A number of iOS features aren’t available, at least not fully, because OS X 10.10 Yosemite isn’t out yet. Being married to a release cycle based on hardware, not software, makes sense for iOS – certain features of the mobile operating system depend on new hardware features in iPhone and iPads – but it makes less sense with OS X, which does not have an annual hardware update cycle.

Yes, something has to give. Apple is great at showing us how wonderful our world will be with new products, but they’ve been less successful lately at delivering on their promises. It’s time for Apple to take a step back, slow down, and get things right, instead of just getting things shipped.

Why I Returned My iPhone 6

As I recently wrote in a Macworld article, Why I’m returning my iPhone 6 (well, maybe), Apple’s latest phone just doesn’t work for me. When I wrote the article, I was still on the fence, but this morning, I’ve returned the iPhone 6.

I found it interesting that a large number of commenters to the Macworld article agreed with me. I thought I would seem like a curmudgeon, but I’ve been hearing from many people by email, and on social media, that they, too, just don’t find the iPhone 6 to be to their liking.

The only reason is its size. My iPhone is a very personal device, one that I carry with me most of the time, and one that is a link to the world, whether by phone or text (which I actually use very little), or by email, Twitter and other services. For me, the iPhone allows me, in part, to not be at my desk all the time. As a freelancer working at home, I like the freedom I have to not work set hours, and having the iPhone in my pocket means that if something urgent comes up, I can be notified, and get back home.

I used the iPhone 6 for a week; I went back to the iPhone 5s on Friday, to see if I really liked it better. And I did. This may be because of its familiarity; it’s a comfortable size. I can hold it comfortably in one hand, and do most of what I need with just one hand. The iPhone 6, however, felt alien, as though it was just not the right size for my hand. Granted, iPhones have always been smaller (I don’t consider the taller display of the iPhone 5 and 5s to be that different from previous models), so the iPhone 6 was very new. But it just wasn’t right for me.

I’ve always bought unlocked iPhones, and I’ve bought them from Apple, so I have the option of returning them within 14 days. I appreciate Apple’s return policy that allows me to try out a new device. I’ve never returned any Apple products for this reason before; I’ve exchanged defective Macs, but never sent back something I simply didn’t like.

In the latest episode of my podcast, The Committed, our guest, Christina Warren, asked if I wouldn’t feel tech lust not having the latest iPhone for a year. I don’t think I will; it’s a wonderful device, but there’s nothing really compelling in the iPhone 6 that I’ll miss, other than the ability to have 128 GB, so I can store more music on my device. Sure, the display is a bit nicer, the camera a bit better, but if the device isn’t comfortable to use, then what’s the point?

This will be the first time I’ve kept an iPhone for two years. I’ll certainly upgrade next year, to the iPhone 6s or 7, whichever model they release. I may not have a choice next year, and may have to choose a larger iPhone. But I think with the number of people who still want a smaller model, Apple is likely to offer three sizes with the next iPhone. We’ll know in a year.

How To: Prepare an iOS Device for Return, Exchange or Sale

If you ever need to erase an iOS device completely, to return it (as I’m doing today with my iPhone 6), to exchange it, or to sell it, it’s a simple process, but you need to make sure you do it correctly. You can’t just wipe the device in iTunes, using the Restore function; that will still keep it linked to your Apple ID.

2014-09-29 11.14.12.pngGo to Settings > General > Reset, then tap Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll see a dialog asking if you’re sure you want to do this; if you are, go ahead. The device will erase everything but the OS, and you’ll see the welcome screen that you saw when you first set it up, or first installed the latest version of iOS.

But there’s another thing you need to do. In iTunes, go to the iTunes Store, then to your account. In the iTunes in the Cloud section, you’ll see a Manage Devices entry. Click Manage Devices, then check to see if your iOS device is listed there. Reseting it should delete it from the list, but it may not. Since you can only have ten iOS devices linked to your account, you may be near that limit, if you have a couple of Macs, an iPhone, an iPad, and a couple of devices for your spouse, partner or children. If you find your device there, click Remove.

That’s it. You can now return, exchange, sell or give away your device.

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.

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.