Should You Upgrade to iCloud Drive?

The short answer is probably not.

When you install iOS 8 tomorrow, part of the setup will ask if you want to upgrade to iCloud Drive. That same screen will also list devices attached to your iCloud account that will not yet work with iCloud Drive. Namely, your Mac running OS X Mavericks will not be able to sync with iCloud Drive. iCloud Drive is simply not backwards compatible with the Documents & Data portion of iCloud sync that we've been using for years.

In about a month's time we should have OS X Yosemite, which will work just dandy. That is the time to embrace iCloud Drive. If you use OS X Mavericks (or an even earlier version) iCloud sync will permanently break on that Mac once iCloud Drive is enabled on an iOS 8 device.

Don't get me wrong here. iOS 8 should be a fantastic upgrade. iCloud Drive will be fantastic, too — when all your devices are ready for it. It's just that tomorrow is probably not that time, unless you only use iOS 8 capable devices.

Last year, with iOS 7, Apple held off with iCloud Keychain until OS X Mavericks' release. I wish they had done the same with iCloud Drive, as the ability to sync between your devices seems like something pretty important.

¶ Bigger than bigger

The anticipation before last week's Apple event was at the highest since the 2010 iPad announcement. The hype in the air was palpable, and everyone knew this was going to be a big event.

The event itself was amazing, but it wasn't without its hiccups for the folks watching from home.

The Livestream

As if there wasn't enough hype surrounding the event from the media alone, Apple fanned the flames a bit higher by tossing up a giant countdown to the beginning of the event showcasing a lifestream of the event. In recent years, Apple has done these lifestreams more and more, so I usually dispense with following a couple liveblogs in favor of just catching it live.

This year was a disaster on this front. The lifestream kept crashing, then showing a test image with the media team's schedule. When it did seem to work, you could hardly hear Phil Schiller because of the translator being piped into the same audio stream. Things didn't start coming together until we were well past the iPhone announcement.

Issues with the livestream aside, the event it self was great. Especially if you went and re-watched it later after the proper fit and finish of production quality we know and love was added.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The first 10-20 minutes of a keynote are usually dedicated to talking about the health of the retail stores and the various other numbers Wall Street is interested in. Not this time. Tim Cook dispensed with the pleasantries and 7 minutes into the show the new iPhones were revealed.

As all the rumors suggested, Apple brought out larger iPhones. 4.7" and 5.5". The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, respectively. The two phones are identical in features in every way except two:

  1. The iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization, instead of just digital stabilization like the iPhone 6.
  2. The iPhone 6 Plus has a nifty landscape mode that is similar to the iPad, where apps like Mail and Messages will have a split column appear.

Pre-orders went live yesterday and I promptly ordered two, one for my wife and one for myself. We both went with the iPhone 6, space gray, 64 GB on Verizon. I was really glad to see the mid-tier price point jump from 32 GB to 64 GB this year. The high end went to 128 GB. I am baffled as to why Apple kept the low end at a paltry 16 GB instead of bumping it to 32 GB.

The one thing I always love the most about a new iPhone is the camera improvements. In that regard, I was bummed that the iPhone 6 did not get the optical image stabilization, but I do not want a 5.5" phone. That is so big you could serve a lunch on it.

Speaking of the iPhone 6 Plus, every non-techy person I have talked to this past week is flat out excited for it, and declared they will be getting the 5.5" phone. I do think the iPhone 6 Plus will prove insanely popular. It turns out people really want a really huge phone. It certainly isn't in my taste, but it is clearly the preferred trend.

And the pre-orders backed that up. The iPhone 6 Plus sold out just about everywhere very quickly. While I do think it likely had more limited quantities than the iPhone 6, I really think it is the preferred device among the masses.

Apple Pay

Another great feature of the new phones is the built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) chip and antenna. NFC is the standard for contactless payments. If you have a credit card with the little pay wave symbol on it and you can just wave it close to the checkout terminal, it is the same technology.

Apple is integrating a new service into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus called Apple Pay. The idea is that you enter your credit or debit card into Passbook (by taking a picture of it). Apple verifies it is indeed your card. You then see one of these pay wave enabled terminals at a store, and you hold the top of your phone up to it and rest your thumb on the Touch ID sensor. The iPhone authenticates it is you authorizing it to pay, and does the payment.

What is neat about Apple Pay is the security behind it. The merchant never sees your card number, your name, nor your address. Instead, the iPhone generates a one-time payment code, and that is used to reference your card with the bank for the payment. Apple also never sees where your purchase was made, what you bought, or how much you spent.

And if the merchant is ever compromised (think Target and Home Depot in the past year) all the thief gets is the one-time code, not your card info. So you don't have to get your cards re-issued.

And if your phone gets stolen, you can disable it for payments from Find my iPhone on the web or another device. Even if you can't get to that right away, the phone can't authorize a payment without your fingerprint.

All around this seems like a welcome improvement to making secure payments to a system that is rife with insecurity. I mean, come on, when you hand a check or your credit debit card over to someone else for payment, everything needed to make fraudulent transactions is right there printed on the check or card.

Apple Pay also has a component that can be used in-app to make easy payments using Touch ID.

Apple Watch

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I don't have to be typing iWatch for the years to come. Honestly, Apple Watch isn't much better, and it is more to type, but I just thought the iWatch name sounded weird.

Apple's first intentional take at a wearable device comes in the form of a watch. There are three different models, with two sizes each, and 6 different bands (in two sizes each). That makes for quite a few different combinations.

The Apple Watch has a color touchscreen, a single button reminiscent in appearance of the iPhone's sleep/wake button, and a new Digital Crown, which is used for zooming and scrolling depending on context, and as the home button when pressed.

The Apple Watch doesn't do much different from other smart watches already on the market. It tells the time (obviously), displays notifications from your iPhone, allows brief interactions and responses largely using voice, and has some app integration. But it appears to do all of those much better than other attempts at smart watches. The smoothness of interaction is fluid.

One thing the Apple Watch is adding in that I haven't seen a great deal of in other smart watches is the health & fitness aspect. Essentially, it has all the hallmarks of a Fitbit that is enhanced further when paired with your iPhone. I think the fitness aspect will be huge for the Apple Watch.

From a looks department, it is a handsome timepiece. The digital crown really helps to give it the watch look & feel. And it is certainly the best looking smart watch yet. However, to me it does look extremely 1.0. I can't help but be reminded at the drastic difference in aesthetic, style, thickness, and weight between the original iPad and the iPad 2. It was night and day.

I am planning to hold off on the first crack at the Apple Watch and see what Apple does with a second go at it. I am certainly excited by the concept of the Apple Watch, but at the same time I have questions about how yet another device fits in my life.

U2

As is normal with Apple's big Fall event, they close it out with a musical performance. This year was the band U2, who I actually like. I grew up listening to their albums as my parents had them.

After the performance, Tim Cook and Bono had a very rehearsed , sometimes awkward, exchange about U2's upcoming album, and after beating around the bush, announced that the album would be a free gift to every iTunes account holder for through mid-October.

Tim and Bono did a little countdown from 5 and then Tim said that it just went live. Amazingly, for as many technical issues as the livestream had, the album was in my purchase history within a moment and I had it downloaded a moment later.

As odd as the whole exchange on stage was, I have to hand it to Apple for giving away an entire new album to so many people so quickly. It was a pretty neat experience.

Only Apple

This event was simply jam-packed with great announcements. Not one, but two new iPhones, the new iOS 8, a new, secure payment service that looks like it will be fantastic to use, the Apple Watch becoming a reality, and the largest and fastest rollout of a new album in music history.

Tim Cook has said at the close of the last few events "only Apple" could accomplish all that it does. And I think that is incredibly true. Apple makes the hardware, software, and the services that bind all of its products together into a way that makes experiencing technology almost life-enriching. It is because they sweat the details of all those areas that only Apple could pull all this off.

¶ Anticipation

In a few short hours Apple's giant countdown clock will reach zero and Tim Cook and his pals will show us what they have been working on for a while. The buzz around this particular event is palpable. I mean, not only is there the aforementioned countdown clock, but Apple has built a significantly sized building at their event venue. And that venue is the Flint Center, where the original Macintosh was revealed 30 years ago.

Everything about this event is exciting so far. iOS 8 is bringing app extensions and TouchID everywhere. OS X Yosemite is bringing a new look and Continuity with iOS.

New, larger iPhones (yes, plural) are a shoe in at this point. I have a 3D print that a friend of a friend made for me of the 4.7-inch model. While it is still pocketable for me, it does seem a bit too large. My thumb does not travel across the screen area well. I'm reserving judgment until I can use an actual device, though.

Those are the knowns, and they are exciting enough in their own right.

It's the unknowns that are really driving the hype. What is in that structure they are building? Some have suggested it is a mock home to showcase HomeKit enabled devices. The wearable (I refuse to call it an iWatch right now) has enough smoke that there has to be a fire. What will the wearable do? Is it simply a Fitbit replacement, or is it going to tie our other devices a bit closer to our lives?

Whatever is going to happen tomorrow is going to be big. Between the rumors, the venue, and that mysterious building, I'd say whatever happens tomorrow is going to set the stage for Apple for at least the next half decade — or maybe even the next 30 years.

Twitter is turning into a bully.

TwitPic is shutting down. For the uninitiated, TwitPic was the de facto place to post a picture on Twitter back in the good old days of 2008. This was years before Twitter had its own photo service.

From The Verge's piece on the news:

In a blog post announcing the service closure, Twitpic’s Noah Everett notes "Twitter contacted our legal demanding that we abandon our trademark application or risk losing access to their API." The move shocked Everett "since Twitpic has been around since early 2008, and our trademark application has been in the USPTO since 2009." Twitpic doesn’t have the resources to battle Twitter legally and Everett has decided to shut down Twitpic instead.

Twitter as a company is turning into a bully. Plain and simple.

Quotebook 3

This week Lickability released Quotebook 3, a long-awaited update to one of their fantastic apps. It's a ground up rewrite and modernizes the look & feel of the app, improves syncing, and expands authors and sources with automatic lookup and Wikipedia integration.

One of my favorite small touches is that it pulls in an author's photo from Wikipedia, Twitter, your Contacts, or you can add your own. It's just a nice piece of detail that helps.

Quotebook is simply a delightful app that I have used for years to collect bits of wisdom from notable people, friends, and even my son. It's not only perfect for quickly recording a great quote, but it makes returning to those quotes and reflecting on them frictionless.

Quotebook 3 is a universal app for iOS and is $5 on the App Store.

iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program

From Apple:

Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently. The affected iPhone 5 devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013 and fall within a limited serial number range.

If your iPhone 5 is experiencing these symptoms and meets the eligibility requirements noted below, Apple will replace your iPhone 5 battery, free of charge.

If you have an iPhone 5 that falls within that date range, it's not a bad idea to follow the title link above to check your serial number. Both mine and my wife's iPhones were fine and within the range. Your mileage may vary.

Introducing the 1Password App Extension for iOS 8 apps

Anyone who has ever used 1Password on an iPhone or iPad has wished that it could integrate with Safari the way it does on the Mac. The great news is that the upcoming iOS 8 has extensions, and 1Password is going to be there on the forefront.

And if that isn't awesome enough for you, it's even going to work in apps that integrate 1Password's extension! If you are an iOS developer, please take a look at the GitHub page and add some 1Password love to your app.

This fall is going to be awesome for 1Password and for you. Check out the video below from Dave Teare showing off the extension inside an app.

On Hacking

Ben Brooks:

Hacking away at stuff I don’t understand is how I got the skills and knowledge I have today. […]

The point of all this is that you should never be afraid to hack away at things. I still hack away at the CSS on this site, and while the site is live I save the change and see what happens. Maybe the entire site dies because of that, or maybe it doesn’t — I don’t care. I don’t care because I am working at learning and those few minutes of a broken site won’t really matter to anyone in the long run, but it will help me immensely.

When I first started this site, it was on Squarespace 5. I remember having to do a lot of hacking to get the site to look the way I wanted it to. I gained my first foothold in how to manipulate CSS during that time.

I didn't need to hack nearly as much on this site under Squarespace 6, and to be honest, I feel rough around the edges with what I'd be able to do in CSS these days.

But hacking doesn't have to be just on a website's code. I became a homeowner a little over a year ago, and that has been the ultimate hack. With each small or large issue that comes up with my home, I find myself doing a little research, and then trial and error.

We learn by hacking. Let's make mistakes.

¶ Hopes & Dreams for WWDC 2014

I've been meaning to write up my usual WWDC predictions but have thus far been uninspired to do so. I mean, any self-respecting Apple nerd with a website is supposed to write up their prediction list, right? It's written right there on the membership card.

I've just been distracted lately. My free time has been taken up by kiddo activities, church stuff, homeownership stuff, husband stuff, daddy stuff, stuff stuff, and more stuff.

And let's not forget that I have had a terrible track record for previous prediction lists. So call me a little jaded.

So here I am on eve before the keynote not wanting to write about predictions that will likely be regurgitation of all the rumor blogs, or dead wrong. Or both.

Instead, I am just going to share the hopes of what I'd like to see announced. After all, S stands for hope. So let's go pick some low-hanging fruit from the Apple tree.

iOS 8

Everyone's favorite mobile operating system is due for its annual upgrade. Last year was a big change, at least visually, for iOS. This year I hope to see a lot of refinement to the design and existing feature set.

  • Bake the code before shipping. Let's not repeat the fiasco of constant crashing between 7.0 and 7.1.
  • While I love the overall design direction in iOS 7, there are some areas it could stand to be dialed back a bit.
    • Making navigation buttons just text was a mistake. In iOS 7.1, the Accessibility part of settings added Button Shapes. Unfortunately they are hideous. Apple should take a cue from the the blue outline of the price/open/update button in the App Store. Use that thin blue outline for the button shapes.
    • Flatten that silly, glossy Game Center icon. Or better yet, get rid of the standalone Game Center app. Who actually opens that thing?
    • The "missed" tab in Notification Center makes zero sense. Get rid of that.
  • I really want Apple to bring its A-Game for modernizing its already-existing features.

    • Maps needs an adrenaline shot to the heart. The data is just terrible. A few things (very few) that I have reported issues on have been fixed in my city, but there are entire city blocks and neighborhoods that are mislabeled or even missing. And for some reason, if Apple isn't sure what a street name is, they just label it as O Ave. Now, there is a main road named O St, but there sure seem to be a lot of residential streets in Apple Maps named O Ave.
    • I'd also love to see Siri gets a lot smarter and useful. Google is downright shaming Apple with Google Now inside their iOS apps (and even more on Android phones). I shouldn't need to hold down a button to activate Siri in 2014. I should be able to use a phrase like "Hey Siri" to her it to listen up. Much like "Okay Google" for Google Now or "Xbox" for the Xbox One.

      A friend was telling me today how his Moto X knows he is driving and puts everything into a handsfree mode automatically. When he received a text message, it automatically piped up and told him a new text had come in, and asked if he wanted to listen to it. He didn't have to prompt his phone first.

      Siri has constantly felt like the failed promise of the almost conversational Star Trek computer. Google is getting this right on making the assistant part actually, you know, assist you.

    • Hail Mary Hope: A Siri voice store. I'd gladly pay to have Siri sound like Jarvis from the Iron Man movies.

    • An end to the multitude of modal dialogs asking for permission for everything on the first launch of a new app. I like what iMore came up with in their Privacy Sheet mockup.
    • I'd like Calendar on iOS to get the Travel Time integration that the Mac has. It is incredibly useful information, but not so much on my Mac. This is needed on my iPhone more than anything.

OS X

If the rumor mill is to be believed, OS X is now up for the major interface overhaul like iOS received last year. While I really like OS X as is right now, I am entirely open to change. No matter what happens visually, there are a couple things I want OS X to get this year.

  • I adore AirDrop on iOS. It is simple and fantastic and just plain works. OS X's AirDrop has always been…complicated. And the fact that it is not compatible with iOS' AirDrop in any sense is maddening. I'd like to see OS X's AirDrop mimic the simplicity of iOS, and become compatibly with its mobile sibling.
  • Since I went on about Siri ad nauseum earlier, I won't do so again, other than to say why do we not have Siri on OS X yet?
  • Kill Dashboard. It's a relic and hasn't changed much since OS X 10.4 Tiger.
  • But keep things like weather integration, but just toss it in Notification Center for easy access.
  • Break iTunes into smaller apps. Have a Music app that does handles music playback and purchasing. Merge the iOS App Store into the Mac App Store (especially since the MAS is already named App Store). Bring back the iSync name for an app for iOS device management. Make a Videos app to purchase and play your iTunes videos.

iCloud

Ah, iCloud. So much promise, so many headaches. This list could easily get carried away, but I'm going to keep it to just a few points.

  • More free storage. In 2014, 5GB is paltry. The competition gives a lot more away for free. At the very least give us 5GB per device on our account, instead of 5GB for all of them to share. And give us more bang for the buck on the extra storage options.
  • Fix Photo Stream. I don't know how to do it, but do it. It is one of the most confusing aspects of iCloud as a service today.
  • Help me to trust iCloud sync by making it easier for developers to support it. Right now it is a black box to developers that they are supposed to trust. That's fine and dandy until it breaks and my data ends up hosed, and developers don't know what happened. Transparency is key here.

Whew, that really did feel like an airing of grievances, but it isn't without merit. Apple's hardware has remained top notch, but there are many aspects of their software and services where things have languished. I think a lot of this is the rigidity of the once-a-year updates. That is an incredibly long time for software, but even longer for services like iCloud.

In a dozen hours we'll see what Apple's engineers have been laboring over. I'm super excited, and can't wait to see if some of the above items come true.