Gboard adds automatic theme switching

Macstories:

This was one of my complaints about the old Gboard: its default light theme looked garish in dark apps; on the other hand, if you persistently enabled Gboard’s dark theme, then it would look out of place in apps like Messages or Mail. With automatic theme switch, changing Gboard’s default appearance is no longer a concern because it adapts to the app you’re using.

Another great update to my favourite iOS keyboard, Gboard.


Apple's had a shockingly bad week of software problems

The Verge:

Let’s recap the week of Apple software problems:

  • macOS High Sierra critical flaw with root admin access
  • macOS High Sierra update released, but breaks file sharing
  • iOS 11 crashing on some iPhones due to a date bug
  • macOS High Sierra fix not installing correctly on some systems
  • iOS 11.2 released early to fix iPhone crash bug

Apple now has more than 1 billion devices running iOS, and any security flaws or problems impact millions of people on a much larger scale than macOS has ever experienced. Thankfully, Apple is able to patch these devices regularly and provides software updates even to older phones and tablets — something we rarely see on Android devices. Apple is now facing the challenging prospect of auditing its development processes to ensure this kind of messy week never happens again.

Bug tracking in software development at any scale is hard, and when you have a huge number of services and products like Apple with an enormous active userbase, it’s almost impossible to remain bug free.

It does seem that there are more and more bug fix updates creeping into macOS and iOS than before, but I can’t help but wonder if it is related to the added complexity of new and more advanced features on these platforms (well, on iOS at least). The ‘root’ bug, is a bit more worrying from a users perspective. To be fair to Apple they were extremely quick in releasing a patch, but I’m not surprised that they are “auditing” their development process to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.


iPhone 8

It’s hard to describe the iPhone 8 as anything other than a minor upgrade. The ‘8’ branding is really just a way for Apple to justify the iPhone X (10) name. I was due an upgrade from my network, so I decided to upgrade from my two year old iPhone 6S to the iPhone 8. After a week of use, below are my thoughts.

The good

The glass back is a welcome return. I never had a problem with the aluminium back of the 6S, but the 8 has a much more premium feel to it. It also has more grip than the aluminium. One thing to note is that it does collect fingerprints very easily, or at least the space gray version does.

The usual bump in processor is also welcome. I was glad to see that the 8 got the same A11 processor as the X. What that means to the average user is that apps will open quicker, battery will last longer and the phone will feel a lot more fluid in general use. It provides a noticeable boost over the A9 on my 6S, but shouldn’t be taken as a single reason on it’s own to upgrade - the 6S is still plenty fast.

The camera is also noticeably better, particularly in dealing with high and low light, but as with the processor, you have to go fairly far back in the timeline of iPhone releases to find a bad camera.

The speakers have surprised me. They are considerably louder and produce a much clearer sound than before. I often end up finishing a podcast using the speakers after arriving home from work, and this is no issue now, even if the phone is in another room.

The not so good

One step forward with the speakers, one step back with the headphone jack, or lack thereof. Now, I know I’m a year too late, but there’s no getting around the fact that the removal of the headphone jack is just one big pain in the a***. I’m using the lightning to headphone dongle for both my earphones and the AUX in my car which is everything that you would expect - annoying. It was the one single reason that I was reluctant to upgrade from my 6S. On the balance, I think the positives of the 8 outweigh this negative, but if you plan on upgrading from an iPhone 6S or older, prepare for this annoyance.

The design of the phone is nice but it is starting to look dated. This is give or take the same design of the three year old iPhone 6, which is an eternity in the tech world. It’s fine for now, but as we make our way through the X and beyond, it’s not going to age very well.

Final thoughts

That leads me to my final point about the 8. It’s going to forever be the phone living in the shadow of the iPhone X, but that’s fine. The iPhone 8 is a great phone with a proven design and some great updates. If you can bear to live without a headphone jack, or the absolute latest hardware from Apple, the iPhone 8 is the perfect choice.


The case for RSS

David Sparks on the value of using RSS over social media for news curation:

The reason I’ve stuck with RSS is the way in which I work. Twitter is the social network that I participate in most and yet sometimes days go by where I don’t load the application. I like to work in focused bursts. If I’m deep into writing a book or a legal client project. I basically ignore everything else. I close my mail application, tell my phone service to take my calls, and I definitely don’t open Twitter. When I finish the job, I can then go back to the Internet. I’ll check in on Twitter, but I won’t be able to get my news from it. That only works if you go into Twitter much more frequently than I do. That’s why RSS is such a great solution for me. If a few days go by, I can open RSS and go through my carefully curated list of websites and get caught back up with the world.

I’m a big fan of RSS, and I agree with Davids point here. Social media sites like Twitter really aren’t designed for following news or blogs aside from just reading headlines. Tweets get buried within seconds, whereas RSS keeps everything waiting for you when you check it.

The simplicity of RSS is what makes it great. It’s perfect for following a small number of websites and keeping away from the clutter of social media.


Public transport directions are now available in Ireland on Apple Maps

Apple has brought its transport directions feature to Apple Maps in Ireland, enabling users to get correct information on metro lines, buses, trains and ferries.

The feature is now available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac devices.

A spokesperson for Apple explained that the transport feature is customised for each city where it’s available.


iOS 11 is the buggiest release in years

Yoni Heisler, at BGR:

What’s unusual about iOS 11, though, is that it seems to be unusually and exceedingly buggy. While new iOS releases often have a few wrinkles to be ironed out, the problems users are seeing with iOS 11 are more pervasive and troubling than any iOS release in recent memory.

I have to agree with what’s being said here. iOS 11 has already gone through three minor releases since the official launch just over a month ago. That in itself is a sign that not all has gone to plan.

Battery issues have been widely reported. My iPhone 6S has never exactly had excellent battery life, but it’s getting slaughtered since updating to iOS 11. I’m seeing all sorts of strange bugs. Unresponsive home screen, apps quitting for no reason, Touch ID needing two takes, Mail stuck refreshing, and today’s bug: the clock has decided to disappear!


3D Touch app switcher will return

Craig Federighi, replying to a mail about the removal of the 3D Touch app switcher gesture:

We regretfully had to temporarily drop support for this gesture due to a technical constraint. We will be bringing it back in an upcoming iOS 11.x update.

Thanks (and sorry for the inconvenience)!

My only real complaint with iOS 11 was this. Looking forward to its return.


September event

Despite the fact that we knew the details of the majority of products that Apple were planning to announce, there is still a lot to talk about from Apple’s September event.

Apple Watch enthusiasts finally got one of their most requested features - cellular data, Apple TV enthusiasts (or whatever subset of them have a TV capable of driving 4K) got a nice - albeit minor - upgrade, and general Apple enthusiasts got to see the shiny new headquarters ‘Apple Park’.

For me, I was most interested in seeing the new iPhones.

iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus, X and 8

iPhone 8/8 Plus

Confusingly named ‘8’ and ‘8 Plus’ don’t let that fool you into thinking these are anything other than an iPhone ‘7s’ and ‘7s Plus’.

For the first time since the iPhone 4S, the glass back returns and I’m glad it has. Aesthetics aside, this apparantly enables the 8’s to support wireless charging, which is something that I think will be great once it becomes widely supported in restaurants, airports and cars etc.

It’s great to see that the 8’s have got the same chip as the flagship iPhone X, the A11 ‘Bionic’, promising speeds up to 70% faster than the previous generation. The camera has also got it’s usual bump, and True Tone has been added to the display.

The 8’s are both solid updates, even if they’re not the most exciting. Both phones are a great update for owners of iPhone 6s or older..and those who like to keep their phone prices below the thousand mark..

iPhone X

The iPhone X, pronounced ‘ten’ 1, is Apple’s first attempt at a bezel-less phone. There’s no denying that it looks great. Immediately all other iPhones look old in comparison.

The notch at the top is what most people seem to be focusing on. For whatever reason, Apple decided to leave the notch at the top to accommodate the camera and sensors. They could have taken the option that Samsung took with the Galaxy S8 by having a thin bezel at the top and bottom of the phone where they can put any hardware they need without impacting on the screen. Until I use the phone in hand I can’t really criticize this design, but for now it does seem like a fairly big compromise for the bezel-less design. Unsurprisingly, the home button is also gone.

Just like the 8’s, the X has gotten the usual hardware updates like CPU bump, camera bump and notably an OLED display which should look great on a phone with a screen this big.

The biggest change from a users perspective is probably the removal of Touch ID for Face ID, which again, will need to be tested in person before being judged. I love Touch ID on my 6s and it works quickly an flawlessly every time, so if Face ID doesn’t deliver the same user experience then it’s hard to see any benefit to it.

I’m a bit torn on my opinion of this phone. I like the look of it, and I know that bezel-less is the way forward, but there’s no denying that this phone is a bit of a risk buy for most people. Ridiculous price aside 2, this is a first attempt from Apple with this design so it’s almost guaranteed to have problems. I wouldn’t recommend getting this phone unless you have a lot of money to spare, and are willing to accept compromises for a peek at the ‘future’.

  1. An awful name in my opinion. What will next year’s iPhones be called?! 

  2. There’s almost no point in discussing high prices when it comes to Apple products at this point. This is a premium phone at an extremely premium price. 


Leaks

There hasn’t been an Apple event with leaks this bad for as long as I can remember.

The latest leaks published on 9to5mac have all but confirmed the look, names and functionality of the new iPhones which are due to be announced this coming Tuesday at Apple Park.

What’s most worrying from Apple’s perspective is that the majority of these leaks have come from Apple themselves, with their software being dug into by some talented people. 1

You have to admire the perseverance and skill of these guys in how they can dig into the software and paint a picture of what Apple are working on. But on the other hand it’s a shame to have all the excitement taken from the event.

Ultimately, it’s up to Apple to ensure that any pre-release software is as bulletproof as possible, which is easier said than done when you have this level of interest.

  1. Steve Troughton-Smith’s Twitter is basically the Bible on leaks. 


iOS 11 release date

Historical iOS GM release dates:

iOS Version Release Date Day of the week
iPhone OS 1 29th June 2007 Friday
iPhone OS 2 11th July 2008 Friday
iPhone OS 3 17th June 2009 Wednesday
iOS 4 21th June 2010 Monday
iOS 5 12th October 2011 Wednesday
iOS 6 19th September 2012 Wednesday
iOS 7 18th September 2013 Wednesday
iOS 8 17th September 2014 Wednesday
iOS 9 16th September 2015 Wednesday
iOS 10 13th September 2016 Tuesday

From iOS 5 onwards there is an obvious trend - midweek release in the third week of September. Based on that, and the move to Tuesday last year, I will go with Tuesday, September 12th as the release date for iOS 11.

Update - I was a week off. iOS 11 releases to the public on the 19th September.