WWDC 2014 – iOS 8, OS X 10.10 – Apple opens up iOS a bit more!

Well…Not a very exciting event from Apple, but, there are some points that could stretch Apple’s lead in the mobile and desktop market to some extent.

  1. Apple has opened out more APIs on the iOS side allowing app functionality, officially, that was previously available only on jailbroken devices. Given the wide developer base, we could see some exciting apps coming up in the near future. iOS 8 Enterprise features have also been enhanced and could spur wider enterprise adoption.
  2. The introduction of a new programming language, Swift, which could accelerate the development on iOS and OS X platforms far more than ever before.
  3. The integration and extension of the functionality of the 10+ year old Nokia PC Suite into Yosemite is a welcome addition. Most people using iOS devices would probably understand that this could be quite useful on occasion. This page has details.

A word of caution for early adopters. Do not attempt to try iOS 8 just as yet on your primary phone. Most of the current applications will not work as expected and a vast majority would simply crash, including the stock apps. Yosemite, although usable, is quite laggy and slow, which is to be expected from a developer preview. The same applies to Xcode 6 beta.

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Setting up a new iPhone/iPad? A brief How-To…

Back in 2010, I had listed out some of the apps I was using and recommended the same. A lot has evolved since. It’s not just the apps, its also the devices that have changed giving rise to better and more powerful apps. I will try to cover the basic setup options for a new iDevice running iOS 7. iOS is currently at version 7.1.1 and, ideally, one should upgrade to this version, if not already on it.

I will focus on the iPhone here since that is the most commonly used iDevice. Most of the following also applies to the iPad. You can find tutorials for the iDevices on Apple’s site as well as YouTube, if needed.

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Apple iOS 7 – Beta 3 – Finally some UI changes

After a day with iOS 7 B3, I do see some changes to the eye jarring UI. Although the changes are minor, it does show. The UI is somewhat less hurting on the eyes, but, it still needs a lot of work. Some of the completely atrocious icons remain as they were as also the colours in various apps. Most of the “translucent” nonsense of the UI are gone including in the notifications and the control centre making them more visible. All “visual” UI elements, like buttons etc, which are actually non-visual in iOS 7, still remain in the form of plain text.

The UI and the UX remain as inconsistent as earlier. If I go into the normal spotlight search, I see a dark background keyboard, but, if I am typing a message etc, it’s still the white background keyboard. The inconsistency shows even within a single app. For instance, if I search for an app in the AppStore, I get a white background keyboard, but, when entering the password for the AppStore in the same app, I get a dark background keyboard. Interestingly, it did not ask me to switch stores this time, only the password for the other store.

I got a couple of calls while the iPhone was locked and this part of the UI seems to have become worse. I simply could not see any visual clues. The text on the “slide to answer” was invisible. The only reason I could pick the call was because I am used the overall iPhone UI.

Still no photos in the contact list, only in the favourites. iMessage, and perhaps other apps, have a changed drill down to reach the actual contact detail. I was not able to send/share a vCard on iMessage even though typed text messages went out fine.

Some more apps now work with B3, although a lot of the beta kind of bugs remain. The notifications can still be a bit off at times. Still no “home” or “lock device” or any custom options for the control centre which would would make it far more useful. No notifications for GMail as yet either.

The overall UI remains the same, talking up far more space than iOS 6 to display the same amount of data. The visual clues still remain absent.

The biggest, acknowledged disaster, of the so called “maps” by Apple remains as it was, nullifying most of the applications dependent on location and actual maps.

Let’s wait and see if B4 has any more improvements in the UI/UX and if Apple will actually try and fix the first biggest disaster to hit iOS…the so called “maps” from Apple.

Apple iOS 7 – Beta 2 – The disaster continues…

Well, as expected, excepting for the regular bug fixes, not much has changed. iOS 7 B2 still has the same eye jarring UI and the overall bad and inconsistent UX. All of the earlier flaws in the UI/UX remain as they were. The Apple “maps” disaster also remains intact.

This time around, I updated the iOS 6 on my iPhone 5 instead of a fresh restore to check out what else I could find. To my surprise, Find my iPhone works from a secondary iCloud account even though there is no such option in that iCloud account under Settings.

Some more apps now work with B2. The text fitting issues seem to be fixed for the most part. I was able to receive a call on Skype right after the update, but, it crashed when the call ended and I have not been able to get Skype to work after that. A re-install fixed Skype. Viber lost it’s authentication for some reason, but, works after a re-authentication.

The panorama mode of the camera still works only in the vertical mode.

I can no longer update apps from multiple ID apps from the AppStore on the iPhone. It forces a switch to the other store before one can update. So, all is not as it seems with the Auto-Update “feature” as it breaks earlier functionality.

Notifications are still dicey. No push for GMail accounts so far forcing the use of another app just to get GMail notifications.

Still no photos in contacts, only in the favourites. The contacts still take up far more space to display the same information as before, not to mention the fact that the layout does look ugly by comparison.

The notes get synced, so, this is one bug fixed. The calendars remain as they were…un-usable. The “Slide to Unlock” with nothing to “Slide” remains as also the extremely bad colour combinations. The folders also remain as they were, showing a lot less and taking far more space than iOS 6. I also tried B2 on an iPhone 4 and it was exceptionally sluggish.

Overall, the major issues of the UI/UX and the so called Apple “maps” remain as they were. The control centre still does not have a “Home” or “Lock Device” button or any options to add your own controls and therefore a button-less experience still does not exist. On the other hand, a lot of attention seems to have gone into the enterprise side for better device management.

When people said that Apple has lost the talent or will to innovate, I often wondered if Apple lost only that. I think Apple lost the vision, direction and the leadership that brought it to the level where it is today. Innovation was just one of the components of the overall picture. A company identified and known for it’s design, comes up with the worst possible, eye jarring, “design” today.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that if Apple keeps coming up with multiple devices, the downtrend, along with all of the above points would be more than confirmed. So far we see only incremental updates and more devices. The iPad mini was the first such example. While this approach would carry the current momentum for some more time, it cannot really last. Apple already has issues with iCloud and iTunes. As the scale increases with the number of devices, one has to wonder if Apple can really keep it all working and retain the seamless experience.

Although we are still a few months and betas away from a formal release of iOS 7, given the state of B2, I still have hope and will reserve my judgement for some more time…perhaps, even till the formal release.

iTunes 11.0.3, Mac AppStore and the iMac – All seem to spell trouble!

It seems that Apple is really undertaking a huge change on the desktop apps and the iCloud backend, or, is headed further down ever since Steve Jobs left the scene and iOS 6 came along.

The new iTunes release is probably the buggiest and slaggiest of all that I have used so far. There seems to be a complete dis-joint between all the product teams at Apple currently and I will give examples of the same.

Firstly, iTunes 11.0.3. Since this release, I have had a hard time getting to the AppStore screen or checking for App updates. It seems to get stuck, comes back with the “memory” error (as mentioned in a previous post). This happens regardless of the AppStore I access, US or otherwise.

Just when I though the state and status errors seem to be fixed, not to be. Although the update apps seems to be fixed in the sense that if you click on “update all” apps, it will happen only once, the older issues still remain. Some apps will keep showing “update” on a perpetual basis even when there is no update as such, even after downloading an app, it would still show “free”/”buy (price)” on iTunes. The worst part is that you can actually re-download the app even when you already have it.

A very interesting fact is that the size of the app shown in iTunes description, when you actually download it (iTunes download window), and the OS X finder size of the app are all different. Seems someone forgot the basic computation of a size translated from bytes to kilo/mega/giga across teams at Apple! It’s not just the size, it’s also how long file names are displayed. While in the iTunes download window, you would see the first part of the file name following by “…”, in the OS X finder, you would see the first and last part with the “…” in between. Also, the order of the updates displayed in iTunes is completely different from the order of the actual downloads. Although this last one might seem to be insignificant, but, to an experience eye, the dis-joint across teams shows. In reality, there are simply too many such small issues that show a dis-joint and a complete lack of experience or a complete un-willingness towards improvement and excellence.

The biggest issue of iTunes (and iDevices) still remain. The pathetic, single threaded download of apps. music etc. I have never had this issue with any Android handset so far. Even though Google does not have an equivalent of iTunes, I have faced no such issues related to downloads on the Android devices. The main reason I still use iTunes is so I can start/stop downloads to get the maximum speed in the process. More often than not, a small, few MB download on iTunes (or iDevice) can take hours.

Another major issue with iTunes, which, actually, stems from the download issues stated above, I use different user accounts (for my family) on my iMac for all (almost) the iDevices to sync them from iTunes. iTunes wants re-authorisation of every account every time I sync a device. Pathetic!

Is that was not enough, the moment I have 6 or more user accounts on my iMac, the logins go off the screen and the only way to get to them is by using the keyboard since a mouse or a trackpad cannot scroll the login screen. Once again, Pathetic!

Even though you can set a magic mouse or the trackpad to respond to a tap for a click, it does not work on the login screen. Just to repeat, Pathetic!

The MacAppStore as it stands in the current release is no exception. It suffers the same numbers and single threaded download issues. It is clueless as to which screen to start with. More often than not you will notice the progress circle with nothing happening. If you click on “updates” and then click on “featured”, nothing will change until the search for updates has been completed, or, times out. Okay, so now I am tired of the repeat, so one last time…Pathetic!

Another interesting fact that I noted was that if you switch your internet connection in between a download, the download cannot resume and it is re-started!

About the iMac, after the earlier screen quality and warranty issues, I got another scare today from both, my iMac as well as my older MacBook Pro. Both of them just “hung” and then refused to boot at all!

Turned out to be a temperature related issue. It was a hot day today (like it is at this time of the year) and since it had gotten quite cold from the air-conditioning, I switched it off for a while. While the iPhone and iPad had no issues, the iMac and the MacBook Pro just stopped working. I had to shut them off, forcibly, turn on the air-conditioning, wait for about an hour, and then they started working again. This happened without any warning from the system.

Considering the fact that OS X still has an 18th century UI/UX and that the iOS UI/UX has been stagnating since arrival, I can only wish and hope that either Google or Microsoft come up with viable and reasonable alternates to the iPhone and iPads.

Personally, unless Apple really comes up with some drastic changes and quality control, I would probably never purchase an iMac or a MacBook ever again. For me, it was an investment based on the iPhone and iPad experience and I can only say that I regret buying the iMac for the bad screen quality and flawed warranty. The two MacBook Pros I regret since OS X is worse than Ubuntu Linux as it stands currently and the UI/UX is light years behind Windows (barring Windows 8 which I deem unusable by the majority).

Small wonder that the OS X updates, initially, seemed so attractive based on their price compared to Windows. While one can actually see and feel the changes and work put in by Microsoft (good or bad is a separate issue), there is no change on OS X that warrants even the marginal update cost. For example, consider one of the latest and greatest and touted features of the latest OS X Mountain Lion…it finally show you file copy progress!!! Hello…we had all this and more even in the good old console and DOS days!

This fact is even mentioned on the Apple web site…they are proud their lame designers and programmers finally managed to show file copy progress on OS X, which, incidentally, is meaningless since the progress has no details and can only be seen in the folder the files are being copied to.

In case someone thinks this is Apple bashing, yes, it is! Excepting for my iPhones and iPads, the rest of Apple stuff seems to be a big no no in every way. This exception, I hope, Google or Microsoft (or some other major) takes away, some day. The Apple hardware, the screen, volume, warranty etc issues are all too prevalent on the net, including the Apple forums, with apparently no answers from Apple about these.

For me, like for most people, the expensive Apple hardware and ecosystem is an investment. This investment, seems to be going down the drain as of now. I still have hopes that there will be changes within the Apple top management that would allow the iPhone legacy to continue and carry forward all with it, let’s see.

The WWDC should come up with some pointers. Meantime, we would have some time to see what Google comes up with after the announcements at the recent I/O. If all that Apple can come up with is a lame iOS 7 update and cheaper and a larger number of iDevices along with the same old incremental updates, one can be certain that the Apple and iPhone era is indeed going to end very very soon.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 6

We now look at some free 3rd party apps for both, iOS and Android. Some of these applications might come pre-installed on some Android devices. This application list is primarily picked from iOS since there is a far larger variety. Some of these apps might not exist on the Android platform.

Another point to note here is the fact that the iOS app ecosystem is a lot older than Android’s and is fairly mature. We have “aggregator” like apps for apps on iOS, which, currently do not have any equivalent on the Android platform. I will mention some of these apps as they would allow you get some usable apps on iOS for free.

Since we will start with the most commonly used and knowns apps, it would be prudent to mention that the well known Skype is an exception to how most of the other communication apps work today. While Skype still retains the legacy of using a login and adding friends, the modern communication applications will use either your phone number or your email ID for authentication and will automatically add “friends” from your address book. The current approach is obviously superior to what Skype does as you discover “friends” automatically instead of the dated, manual process. Fring, a Skype competitor, changed to the modern way a while back and is in line with the other such apps.


All these free apps need no introduction. Facebook comes pre-installed on a wide variety of devices. WhatsApp is also pre-installed on a variety of Android based devices. The others may or may not be pre-installed, but, all of these are free downloads for Android. WhatsApp, the only exception in this list, is a paid app on iOS. Personally, I would recommend Viber over WhatsApp anytime.


This is a free app and is available for almost all mobile platforms now even through it started as an iOS only app. Viber does voice, messaging, and video on the recently released desktop edition for OS X and Windows. Viber offers a seamless experience between the desktop and mobile versions. For example, you can pick a call on the desktop and transfer the call to your mobile and vice-versa. Besides the rich feature set, Viber also sports a decent UI and the UX is also good. The voice quality and the bandwidth it consumes is probably the best in it’s class. Viber remains a personal favourite for me and a lot of my colleagues and friends regardless of the platform, iOS or Android (and some others as well).


As already mentioned, Fring started off as a competitor to Skype. Today, it offers a far better alternate to Skype and most other apps. The voice quality of Fring is at par or generally better than Skype and the video quality is far superior. Fring also offers group calls on devices which Skype does not. The main drawback of Fring is that it does not support non-GSM/phone devices directly as yet whereas Skype does.


Tango is yet another VoIP app. It offers voice, video and messaging. It works on all devices and the setup is fast and easy. Is fairly well featured and is very usable.

Vonage Mobile

This app, like some others, allows you free calls/messages to any +1 number, i.e., US and Canada. A recent update to this app adds video as well. There are additional charges for calling out to other countries. The voice quality is amongst the best around.


This is possibly the best such application in it’s class. This app is categorised into the “social news” class. It aggregates news from a variety of sources including other social sites like Facebook. It has a really neat UI and the UX is also very pleasing.

Documents by Readdle

This is an iOS only app. The iPhone edition was a paid one. Now, this is a universal app (works on all iOS devices) and is free. This is possibly the best file/document manager that you can get for free. Although I already purchased a couple of iOS apps quite some time back to store and organise my documents, I highly recommend this free app to all now.


There are a large number of app aggregators and the like for iOS. Although AppZapp does exist as a beta on the Android platform, it is no where close to the iOS version in any terms. These apps allow you to see top apps, new apps, apps on sale, hot deals etc etc. My own usage is to keep a watch for apps that I want to purchase as and when they are on sale; and generally look at apps on sale that are free 🙂

In the next part, I will run through some of the paid iOS applications that I use. No, I never purchased any Android apps so far since I did not find the equivalents when I wanted them (a few years ago). Even though I have a couple of current Android devices, my primary device remains iOS for a variety of personal reasons. I will talk about the reasons for the iOS device being my primary device and why it might not be suitable for all.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 5

Let’s now look at some of the free applications for iOS and Android from Apple and Google.

Apple has some free applications on iOS which have no real equivalent on the Android platform currently. We will briefly look at them one by one.

Find my Friends & Find my iPhone

Find my Friends, like Find my iPhone, was an absolute killer app. Somewhat like the obsolete Google Latitude, Find my Friends allow you to see where your family and friends are currently. This works on demand and does not drain out the device battery like Google Latitude and you can keep both the “Find my…” apps installed and running with almost no impact on the battery life. Find my Friend also allows you to add temporary friends. This can be used to guide people to where you are without adding them to your permanent friend list. It also allows you to set notifications as and when a friend arrives or leaves a location. You can also add labels to your current location so people on your friends list can figure out where you are (Home/Office/Gym etc etc).

Unfortunately, this killer app was also killed when Apple released their own “maps”. Now, you would have to make guesses as to where your friends really are since the Apple maps would not tell you anything! I have a lame work-around for this issue, which, I will mention in another post later.


iBooks, the Apple eBook reader is indeed one of the best such applications around. Although Google has come up with their own Google Play app, the Apple iBooks is streets ahead in almost every respect. You can also find iOS user manuals in the iBooks store for free.

iTunes U

This freebie from Apple gives you access to consolidated education content from universities and professional institutions. A must have for almost everyone!


As the application name suggests, this app gives you a consolidated view for all your audio and video podcasts. Again, one of the must have apps for almost all!

Apple Safari/Google Chrome

Although Safari is iOS only, Google’s Chrome browser is available for for both. Despite Apple’s restrictive (read anti-competitive) practices, Chrome is far superior to Apple’s Safari. Since Apple does not allow changing the default browser on iOS, you are stuck with Safari as the default. One has to wonder as to why Microsoft was forced to allow the IE and Media Player change some years ago and Apple happily continues to follow the same practice on iOS.

Apple Remote/Google TV Remote

The Apple remote app allows you to remote control iTunes and/or your Apple TV. The Google equivalent allows you to remote control the Google TV.

Apple iWorks

Although these applications are not free, Apple has it’s own “Office” suite of applications for the iDevices. I choose to mention it here since there might be people interested in this category of applications. Another reason for mentioning this here is that Google acquired the creators of the QuickOffice suite and there have been no updates for the suite since. I happen to be one of the extremely unhappy customers of QuickOffice…still waiting for the iPhone 5 update!

Google YouTube

When Apple removed the YouTube app from the standard iOS distribution, Google created a separate app for the iOS platform. Android has the same kind of app from Google. Just like the Apple iTunes U and Podcast apps, this is one of the must have apps for both platforms.

Google Maps

Although the Android platforms have Google maps as a standard, Google created an iOS app (iPhone/iPod only, not meant for the iPad) when Apple chose to go with what they call their own maps. The Google Maps app can be a life-saver and is a must have for all. Although I am happy with the current iOS version, it does need some work like making bookmarking easier and more apparent.

Google Drive

This application from Google includes what used to be Google Docs. Not only does it allow you to use the storage you have on Google, it also allows editing/creating documents and spreadsheets. A good, free, alternate to paid “Office” apps. Google Drive, like most of Google apps, excepting Mail, allow only one account and therefore you cannot use this for a personal and an official Gmail account.

Google Search

This has become a multi-facted app and one should have this installed. The voice recognition is far better than Siri. The functionality of this application is limited on the iOS, but, works with far better integration on most Android devices.

Google Mail

Although an integral part of Android, on iOS this app was just a formality. It’s UI/UX and functionality on iOS still leave a lot to be desired. The iOS mail app is far superior is almost every respect. Although Google bought out an iOS/OS X based company that created a really good email client called Sparrow, the results of the acquisition are yet to be seen.


This was Google’s attempt at trying to compete with FaceBook and they also tried to set their “rules” on it, somewhat like Apple. This failed miserably, but, the usage has picked up since Android came up. On iOS, if you are not careful, it will default to uploading your entire photo library, with no way of removing the photos from the app itself. Overall, like most of the Google apps, a lot remains desired in terms of UI/UX.


In the standard free apps department, iOS remains a clear winner…for now. In the next part, we will look at some 3rd party applications. Some would be available on both the platforms and some on just one.