On September 12 Apple will hold a press event to, most likely, introduce the next iteration of the iPhone. Shortly thereafter, people will ponder giving their current phone to a friend or family member, to make room for Cuptertino’s newest and shiniest.
What about Apple Watch?
A quick Google search will bring you to countless articles on prepping an iPhone for transfer to a new owner, but I want to focus on an oft-overlooked step: unpairing an Apple Watch. It’s pretty easy to do. Just get the two devices together and then follow these steps:
Open the Watch app.
Hit the My Watch tab.
Tap the information icon next to your Watch.
A new screen appears. Tap “Unpair Watch”.
That’s it. You might be asked to enter your Apple ID password, so have that on hand.
No iPhone? No problem.
Oops, you’ve already gotten rid of the iPhone and there’s your Watch, very confused about where its companion is. You can eliminate the little guy’s anxiety by wiping its mind. On the Watch, go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings. It’s now fresh as a daisy.
“You’re a traitor.” – My 13-year-old daughter to me, as I purchased my Google Pixel XL.
After nine years of iPhone ownership, I’ve switched to Android by buying a Google Pixel XL. This article is about why.
Let me begin with what did not motivate my decision. First: I love the iPhone. When I picked up the original model on June 29, 2007, I declared it, “The coolest thing I’ve ever owned.” Subsequent models have only reinforced that assertion with huge leaps in features, design, utility and fun.
The iPhone defined a market and created several cottage industries, from case manufacturers to blogs and podcasts that feature reviews, opinions and discussions around the device’s present and future. The App Store is an economy that provides a sustaining income for developers, designers, copy writers and more.
That little slab of metal and glass has been my constant companion for nearly a decade, providing entertainment, timely reminders, easy communication with friends and family, near ubiquitous, on-demand access to work files, gorgeous photos and more reliably and with grace. I love the iPhone and did not by a Pixel as a reaction to some gripe with Apple. So why did I switch? A few reasons.
The time is right
I’ve always been Android-curious. I’ve taken glimpses over Android-wielding friends’ shoulders over the past few years, but rarely liked what I saw. Android seemed like an OS built for developers, not civilians like me. Likewise, I dislike the model that divorces hardware and software development. As a result, my curiosity about Android remained just that: curiosity.
Meanwhile, I slowly and quite unintentionally added Google apps and services to my iPhone. The Google App for iPhone is fantastic for reminders, scheduling, search and timely news. I check it several times per day and love it. Google Calendar has been my choice for years, and Google Photos has managed my digital image library since it was first released. Likewise, I’ve been using Google Docs and Drive to collaborate for as long as I can remember.
At the same time, I abandoned Apple’s Calendar, Photos, News and Pages. Not intentionally or even consciously. It’s just that Google’s solutions worked beautifully on my iPhone, so I used them.
Enter the Pixel
Google’s Pixel announcement happened just as I was thinking about replacing my iPhone 6S. I was intrigued by a piece of hardware designed by Google, running “pure” Android with deep integration with the services I loved. I held off on the iPhone 7 and took some time to read reviews:
I watched several hands-on videos and listened to – a first here – a couple of episodes of the Android Central Podcast. The hosts were nit-picky but overall enthusiastic.
I felt a stirring inside. The time was right. Which leads me to…
I want the fun of an adventure
I have two children. I try to instill in them a sense of adventure and curiosity about our world. Here’s a quick story.
Recently we spent a long weekend out of state. At one point, we needed to get a new charger for his iPad. He was annoyed that his charger and died, and even more bothered when I told him that he’d come with me to find a replacement. “Why can’t you just go?” he asked.
“You don’t want to come? It’ll be an adventure!”
“Going to Best Buy is not an adventure.”
But it is. We’re in a new state. We’re in a town we’ve never seen before. We’ll travel through new (to us) neighborhoods, see new people and yes, visit a new strip mall. There was a little mom-and-pop corner store that we went into and saw a black-and-white photo of a man in a chicken suit. I got a Coke and we talked to the cashier. He told us about local legend Chicken Man and pointed us to Best Buy. As we drove back to the hotel, my son said, “That was fun.” It was.
Using an Android phone for the next two years will be an adventure. It will be fun. Oh, there will be things I’ll miss, like Twitterrific, Spark, iMessages (I’m REALLY going to miss iMessages) and something I’m calling Knowing How To Operate My Damn Phone, but I’m still looking forward to it. The time is right. The device is right. I might hate it; I might love it. I’m eager to find out.
Of course, I’ll be writing exhaustively about the process here. The adventure begins on Tuesday. See you then.
“I can switch phones. It’s totally fine. We’re not fighting a war here, from device to device, from operating system to operating system. Apple isn’t an underdog anymore. Android isn’t an underdog. They’re both levelly placed on this huge playing field…It’s totally fine for people to like two tech companies, three tech companies, four tech companies and enjoy the products that they make.”
Amen, Myke. Now please explain that to my daughter, OK?
The 2005 debut novel from Elizabeth Kostova is a vampire novel, yes, but it’s not what you’re thinking of. In Kostova’s story, a woman recounts the adventure that her family endured when she was 16, traveling abroad with her academic father. Their journey leads to dusty crypts, ancient cities, family secrets and the fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler. Also, books. Lots and lots of books.
Part detective novel, part travelogue, part adventure story and part gothic horror, The Historian is a book I enjoy very much. It’s creepy without fetishizing blood, like so many vampire stories do.
I re-read The Historian every October to get me in that Halloween mood. It’s ultimately a book about the love of books, and the power of knowledge. Plus there’s cool vampire stuff.
This one requires a smartphone so grab yours and point it to https://paperplanes.world. This utterly charming little web app has you “fold” a paper airplane and mark it with a “stamp” representing your geographical area. Once that’s done, you tilt your phone to the side and give it a shake to “launch” your paper plane.
The thing is, hundreds of thousands of people are doing this at any given time. So, after you launch your plane you’re given something resembling a butterfly net. Again, wave your phone about to catch one, unfold it, and see where it’s been. Every time someone catches a plane, they add their stamp.
I’ve gotten planes with stamps from Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, Johannesburg, South Africa…all over. It’s surprisingly fun.
Brian Eno’s 1978 album of gorgeous, instrumental ambient music sounds like a contemporary indie release. The album was meant to replace what Eno called the “tense” music that’s heard in airport terminals. It was installed at the Marine Air Terminal of New York’s LaGuardia Airport during the 1980s.
The four compositions on this album make perfect backgroud music for quiet, focused work. Seriously, if “instrumental indie” is your thing, this 38-year-old album is for you.
My 13-year-old’s dramatic eye-rolling made me a better iPhone user.
I recently discovered that I can use YouTube for listening to music on my phone without it taking over what’s happening on my screen. Here’s what I mean.
My daughter was describing a song to me, but couldn’t quite recall the title or artist. As a TECH GOD I grabbed my iPhone and launched Apple Music. “Just use YouTube,” she said with the disdain typically reserved for someone who had just kicked your dog.
I would, but YouTube commandeers the iPhone. If you’re using the official app, any video that’s playing stops as soon as you navigate away. The same goes for YouTube.com in mobile Safari. Unless you do the following:
Go to YouTube.com in mobile Safari.
Find the video you want to listen to and get it playing.
Hit your iPhone’s Home button to navigate away from Safari.
The music stops. Don’t panic! Just swipe up to reveal the Control Center (below)
Hit the play button.
That’s it! Hit the Home button one more time to dismiss the Control Center and use your iPhone however you like while the YouTube video plays in the background. I had no idea this was possible.
Earlier this week, Google released Motion Stills, a free iPhone app that exports the video from Apple’s Live Photos — with or without sound — as a GIF or brief MOV file. The result can be added to your iPhone’s Camera Roll or shared via certain social media channels. The app is dead-simple to use, with image stabilization tech that can tame even the most erratic clip.
I’ve had a great time exporting and sharing MOV files, but lots of trouble with GIFs. I think the latter is an issue with the platforms I’m trying to share to, however. More on that later. First, a few words on Live Photos.
The problems with Live Photos
When Apple demonstrated in 2015 I went nuts. Just press and hold to have images of my perfect little snowflake children come alive whenever I want? Oh, the proud poppa moments just entered ANOTHER LEVEL, BABY. I couldn’t wait to foist these on people.
The trouble has been in sharing them with your friends and family members who don’t have an iPhone running the latest iOS 9, as well as on social media.
You could take the DIY approach, which involves connecting your iPhone to your computer, launching Image Capture, sorting by kind and then importing all of the MOV files to your computer.
If you want to do this on a Windows computer, navigate to your iOS device in File Explorer and give your machine permission to browse the internal storage. From there, you should be able to see everything in the DCIM folder on your iOS device.
Not the slickest process.
Eventually, iOS apps began to offer support, including Lively (free with in-app purchase), Live Studio ($0.99) and PicPlayPost (free, with a $2.99 in-app-purchase to remove a watermark).
Services got on board as well, and now Tumblr and Google Photos officially support the technology. Facebook does too, but only for those using the official iOS app on a phone running the latest version of iOS 9 (sorry, Paper users).
While you can get Live Photos off of your device and out to the world, the best experience is still on a compatible Apple gadget.
A blurry mess
Whenever Apple shows off a new photo technology or app, I have two simultaneous thoughts:
Wow, I can’t wait to try that.
My photography skills are garbage.
Consider this demo of Live Photos that Phil Schiller gave in 2015. Water ripples before a completely static background. A hiker raises his arms triumphantly before a waterfall. These are terrific Live Photos. Meanwhile, I get this type of thing at the end of my clips, as I tend to lower the phone at the end of a clip.
Google’s image stabilization lets me get results that are very close to Apple’s demo images. How does it work? From Google:
“Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness.”
It works very well and has allowed me to get demo-ready results.
Using Motion Stills
To share you first GIF or video, follow these steps:
Launch the app and scroll to the image you want to share. Next, tap the image to bring up the editor:
There are four simple buttons (from left to right):
Turn the stabilization effect on or off
Turn sound on or off
Export your clip
Close the editor and return to the image library
Pay attention the sound option. In my experience, it’s best to turn off, or else you get three seconds of a sentence or other repeating background noise that becomes annoying very quickly. Also, hit the stabilization button a couple of times to see the difference.
When you’re ready to share, hit the share button to reveal two options: Send GIF and Share Clip:
Tap GIF and the image is created and the Share Sheet appears, ready to go. Hit Share Clip and the same thing happens. In testing this out, I noticed a few little quirks.
This may be the fault of the platforms I’m trying to share GIFs to, but they do not animate. I tried Twitter across various platforms and apps, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Bummer. I did find one little workaround, though.
If you opt to export a MOV and post it to Instagram, you can then share that link to Twitter and view the file that way. Cheap, but there it is.
Unlike my GIF woes, the MOV file worked perfectly. It’s great fun to share a great-looking little clip to Instagram and Facebook with almost zero effort.
This is a fun app that largely does what it’s supposed to do. Give it a try and liberate your Live Photos. As long as they’re not GIFs.
Today must be bizarro day as Google has mastered Apple’s live photos. Motion Stills (free) is a new iOS app that extracts the little videos that are created when you take a live photo, applies some very effective image stabilization and lets you export the result — with or without sound — as a GIF or a brief .MOV clip. Like this (click to watch):
The iPhone’s big, non-transparent volume icon has got to go.
Instead of writing a wish list of iOS changes, I’ve got a single request: eliminate the huge volume icon that commandeers the center of the screen. It’s distracting and outdated. My hope for iOS 9.4 is a new volume icon.
Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6 in September, 2014. The feature offers two new gestures, “Peek” and “Pop,” which are triggered by the amount of pressure applied to an iPhone’s screen. You can see 3D Touch in action here. It’s pretty neat and can save time, if used properly.
The usefulness of new features like 3D Touch is variable. There are plenty of “Me, too” implementations in the App Store that don’t make your iPhone easier to use, which is the ultimate goal. In the following examples, 3D Touch makes an app significantly better.
Best implementation: Workflow
Hands down, Workflow for iPhone and iPad ($2.99) features the best implementation of Apple’s 3D Touch that I’ve seen. It lets you choose what appears in the resulting pop-up menu (up to four items), ensuring that it’s as useful for you as possible. Here’s how to set it up.
Tap My Workflows on the app’s main screen.
Scroll to the bottom and tap Settings.
Tap 3D Touch Shortcuts
From there you’ll see a list of your workflows. Now, just tap the four you’d like to appear in the 3D Touch menu.
Workflow lets you create, download and share automated, multi-step tasks for your iPhone to perform. Have your phone do anything from order a pizza to move files to services like Dropbox. The 3D Touch implementation here is so helpful that it puts an already useful app way over the top. Save serious amounts of time each day with Workflow and 3D Touch.
While Workflow is my top pick for useful 3D Touch, it’s not the only app that’s making good use of Apple’s fun tech. Readdle’s Spark (https://sparkmailapp.com), a recent “Best of the App Store” selection, does a stellar job by featuring the app’s most common functions: calendar, attachments, search and compose a new message. Simply select any one to jump right to it.
The iconography here is nice and clear as well, and each task is blazing fast. Browsing attachment is especially useful, as they’re presented as a nice list, which is significantly faster than scrolling through a bursting inbox. Spark is a great app and is use of 3D Touch makes it even better.
As we saw with Spark, Instagram for iPhone (free) put the most useful tasks front-and-center. I use Search and Post several times per day. But there’s much more here.
Nearly every link in the app offers Peek and Pop. Press-and-hold on a hashtag to see relevant photos. Do the same to a username for a preview of their latest posts. While holding that preview, swipe up for options like unfollow, enable notifications or share as a message. As with the other apps in this list, Instagram is made easier to use via 3D Touch. Very well done.
One last selection: Camera+ ($2.99). The long-standing camera app by Tap Tap Tap lets you jump right to taking a photo, as well as the proper setting for getting a selfie or a macro shot. This saves so much time previously spend fiddling around with exposure and focus, especially when taking a macro shot.
All of these apps use Apple’s 3D Touch to make using your iPhone faster and easier. That’s just what technology like this should do. Try them out and see for yourself.
I started using Due when it was released about four years ago, and I’d wager that I’ve used it every day since. Today Due reminds me to take meds, to pick up and drop off the kids, to get the mail and so on. I depend on it, and it has never failed me.
Version 2.0 was recently released for iOS and it’s more beautiful and functional that before. I can’t think of another third-party app that’s been on my home screen for four years. It’s a steal at $4.99 for new users. Existing users can upgrade for free and unlock all of the new features for $2.99.