Tag Archives: iPhone 6

Phone screens: Why Bigger Is (Almost) Always Better

By Tracey Dowdy

When it comes to your phone screen, size really does matter.

A phone isn’t just a phone anymore, we’re moving into the age of the “phablet” – a phone/tablet hybrid. When cell phones were introduced, most of us still relied on our desktop computers, so the idea that a phone could one day replace that desktop never occurred to most of us.

When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, other manufacturers scrambled to come up with phones that modeled Apple’s design – including the 3.5 inch display. Apple more or less dominated the market until 2010, when the Galaxy S and Droid models finally introduced some real competition. Before 2011, the majority of screens were between 2.5 and 4 inches, but since 2013 screens less than 4 inches have pretty much disappeared.

With that larger display it now makes sense that phones are becoming the primary computer for a significant part of the world’s population. Individuals in third-world countries may be unlikely to own cars and laptops but more and more are buying cellphones. For the rest of the world, our phone is how we do everything from pay bills and make dinner reservations to how we start our car or check on the baby.

So why is bigger almost always better?

The most obvious advantage is that larger display allows more text to be displayed, especially convenient if you’re browsing online. A small screen is fine if you’re texting or making a call, but once you try to read text on a website, that tiny screen is suddenly a big inconvenience. Small screens work for quick tasks, but if you’re using your phone for media, you’re going to want a bigger screen.

  • Camera and photos – A larger display won’t improve the pixel quality of your photos but it will definitely improve the composition.
  • Video-chatting and Face Time are better, since the whole point is to make you feel like you’re actually there.
  • Games – You can follow the action more easily and the larger screen also means your accuracy will improve, since it’s easier to see where you should be tapping. Also, icons are more spread out, so you’re less likely to hit the wrong button.
  • Speaking of spreading out, that larger screen means more accuracy with your touchscreen on and offline. Whether it’s the keyboard or closely packed URL options – think Facebook’s Tag Photo, View Full Size, Make Profile Picture – all crammed together, bigger definitely translates to more accuracy.
  • Movies – If you’ve ever tried to watch a video on your phone, this one is self-explanatory. We don’t go to the movies for the grossly overpriced popcorn; we go for that giant screen.
  • Android users have a distinct advantage over iPhone users in one area – split screen display. Users can download an app enabling split screen functionality, allowing you to view two apps at once.

As a side note, in addition to the advantages of a larger display, a bigger screen also means a bigger battery. As screen size has increased, so has battery life. Compact phones meant compact batteries, which was fine when we used our phones for talk or text. The battery of my old Motorola Razr would be completely inadequate for an iPhone 6 Plus or a Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

One of the problems with a bigger screen is that one-handed use is more challenging. Depending on how big you go, you may not be able to reach the whole screen when typing but that’s where Siri and voice dictation come in handy. Besides, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus include a one-handed mode. When you double tap the TouchID button, everything onscreen scoots closer to the bottom making it easier to reach. Android phones feature a similar “Reachability” mode, so that the top of the screen is accessible with one hand. A keyboard configured for one-handed typing is also available. In addition, there are a multitude of third-party keyboard apps to choose from in Google Play, iTunes, and the Windows Phone store.

Larger displays don’t necessarily mean a bigger phone. The Sharp Aquos Crystal and the Samsung Galaxy A3 are millimeters apart in overall size but the screen of the Aquos Crystal is nearly bezel-less, meaning it features a 5 inch display compared to the 4.5 inches of the Galaxy A3.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to go for the bigger screen, the best answer is to go into a store and see for yourself. There’s no better way to see if it fits in your pocket comfortably, is too heavy, or if a bigger screen is more trouble than it’s worth. My guess is once you see the options available and how much it improves your overall experience, you’ll understand why bigger is almost always better.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Why Your Next Phone Should Be a Phablet

Now that Apple has decided that bigger really is better, there is a renewed focus on phablets, those oft-derided hybrids that attempt to combine the functionality and portability of a smartphone with the size and productivity of a tablet. That focus will only increase with this month’s release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the successor to the most widely-acclaimed phablet prior to the arrival of the iPhone 6 Plus.

Coupled with the increased dimensions of the regular iPhone 6, this move towards super-sized screens has left a lot of existing smartphone owners scratching their heads. After extolling the virtues of simplicity and convenience, are we now expected to return to the days of pocket-busting devices that feel more like oversized calculators than sleek state-of-the-art smartphones?

Surprisingly, the answer might well be ‘yes’ and there are a number of reasons why.

First though, what actually constitutes a phablet? While there is no hard and fast rule, we are probably talking about smartphones with screens bigger than 5.3 inches. So while the iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inches) and the Galaxy Note 4 (5.7 inches) clearly fall into that category, the iPhone 6 (4.7 inches) and the Samsung Galaxy 5 (5.1 inches) do not.

While size is the main criteria, it’s not the only determining factor. As mentioned above, these mega devices are trying to mimic the functionality of a tablet and it’s really the additional apps and processing power that makes them so attractive.

In particular, the Galaxy Note 4 comes packed with useful work and productivity features that deliver on the promise of the mobile office. A more organized and color-coded home screen, split-screen multitasking, super-fast charging, and a completely redesigned S-Pen can quickly turn the Note 4 into an essential business tool.

But if you’re not looking for your smartphone to be an extension of your office, then the big screen media potential of a phablet will surely get your attention. The difference between viewing photos or watching a movie or TV show on a regular smartphone and a super-sized phablet is like night and day.

Five inch displays and 500+ ppi densities make for an incredibly sharp HD viewing experience, which is impossible to replicate on a smaller device. Add the improved sound quality and a series of innovative media apps and phablets are rapidly becoming the personal entertainment centers that we always dreamed of.

For some, the standard objections to larger devices are hard to overcome – they require two hands to operate; they are hard to carry – but for others a phablet means the best of both worlds and one less device to worry about. If you need to replace your current device, think about a phablet. When it comes to smartphones, good things don’t always come in small packages!

Who Will Buy the Apple Watch?

[This updated article was originally published in September 2014.]

By Paul O’Reilly

Yesterday’s event in San Francisco cleared up a lot of uncertainties about Apple’s brand new Watch but still left many people wondering whether there is a significant market for wearable technology that basically mimics a few select smartphone features.

The Watch will come in three different finishes – stainless steel, anodized aluminum and 18-karat gold – and a range of different wristbands and clasps will allow users to personalize their Watches to suit their own individual tastes and styles. This emphasis on style is an indication of how Apple intends to market its new product, and could also be the first hint that establishing the Watch as a must-have device might not be the slam dunk that most people think it will be.

When Tim Cook first introduced the Watch back in September of 2014, he took great pains to let everyone know that the device would actually tell the time. In fact, the description of the Watch as “an incredibly precise timepiece” is one of the first things you see when you delve into the functionality of the device on Apple’s web site.

This surely reflects the belief that if Apple is going to have success with the Watch, they are first and foremost going to have to sell it as a timepiece rather that a wearable computer, and that could present some problems.

When the iPod first came out, most people didn’t have an MP3 player. Apple reinvented the portable music player and made a strong case why everyone should own one. Apple pulled off a similar trick with the iPhone and the iPad. Not everyone was sold on cell phones and tablets but Apple showed us why we needed them and we dutifully fell into line.

The problem is everyone already has a watch.

Not only will Apple be asking you to buy a new device, they will be asking you to ditch the device you already own, and if that device is a Rolex, a Patek Philippe or a Cartier, then you might not want to play ball. OK, not everyone owns a luxury watch but plenty of people own a watch they are very comfortable with, and unless you’re going to wear two watches – surely a fashion no-no, even for geeks – then you’re going to stick with what you know and like.

But what about all the software, GPS mapping, and other apps? Well, you already have all those on another device that you take with you everywhere you go: your smartphone. Apple is now asking you to purchase another device that does almost exactly the same things as your smartphone does, only not quite as well.

Instead of swiping and tapping your smartphone with both hands to send an email, find out what’s showing at the local multiplex, or get directions to a restaurant, you now have to use just one hand and play with an awkward side wheel to do the same thing. And didn’t Apple concede that we prefer big screens with the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus?

Of course, the Watch has a strong emphasis on health and fitness, which continues to be the single strongest selling point for wearable technology. Sensors in the back of the Watch will track your every move, suggesting fitness goals and monitoring performance. However, there are already lots of wearable fitness devices on the market and the user experience has been mixed. People tend to wear them a lot during the first few days and weeks, and then use tails off dramatically after that. For runners, cyclists and workout fanatics, the Watch is probably a dream come true but that is clearly not the only audience that Apple is targeting with its new device.

So who will buy the Watch? The answer, of course, is millions of people, but much will depend on the reaction of early adopters. While the Sport edition will cost $349, the regular Watch starts at $549 and goes all the way up to $1,049. That’s a lot of money to give you the same functionality that you already have on your smartphone.

If we learned anything over the years, it’s not to bet against Apple. Despite the most intense competition, their devices remain the gold standard in nearly all categories, continuously winning accolades for both design and functionality. But the Watch faces a different set of obstacles: a watch industry that doesn’t need reinventing and a tech-savvy customer base that may finally decide it has all the gadgets it needs.

Follow Paul on Twitter @TheTechDad

Apple Introduces the iPhone 6 and More

Apple today unveiled two new iPhones, mostly confirming the rumors about bigger displays, a faster processor and a redesigned keyboard. But the new iPhones were just the beginning of a series of major announcements, which included the roll out of iOS 8, a brand new mobile payments system, and Apple Watch, the company’s highly-anticipated wearable device which will go on sale early next year.

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what we learned during today’s presentation:

New iPhones

As expected, Apple is introducing two new iPhones – the iPhone 6, which will have a 4.7-inch screen, and a larger 5.5-inch model which will be known as the iPhone 6 Plus. Both phones will showcase a new Retina HD display, featuring over 1 million pixels on the iPhone 6 and over 2 million pixels on the iPhone 6 Plus.

It was clear from today’s presentation that Apple spent many hours agonizing over the functionality of the bigger iPhones and was keen to adhere to a principle of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who believed that mobile phones should be capable of being operated with just one hand. Consequently, there are some new swipe and touch gestures included with the new iPhones, including a “Reachability” feature that allows users to quickly slide content to the bottom of the bigger screen.

Apple also gave assurances that the majority of the 1.3 million apps that are now in the App Store would look good on the bigger screens thanks to a “desktop-class” scaler that’s incorporated into the new devices.

Other enhancements include a brand new A8 second-generation 64 bit chip, which will improve processing speeds by up to 50 percent, an M8 motion coprocessor, which gathers data from advanced sensors, and a barometer, which can help health and fitness apps measure elevation and performance.

Camera enhancements include optimal image stabilization and a number of improvements to the iPhone’s video capability, including video stabilization and the ability to shoot slo-mo video at up to 240 frames per second. There will also be “burst mode” for the front-facing FaceTime camera, which will no doubt please the selfie generation!

The new iPhones come in gold, silver or space gray and start at $199 for the 16GB iPhone 6 and $299 for the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus. Responding to calls for more storage, Apple is skipping the 32GB version of both devices, instead jumping straight to a 64GB option followed by a brand new 128GB category.

Customers will be able to pre-order the new phones from September 12, with the ship and in-store date set for September 19. In keeping with previous discounting policies, the existing iPhone 5S will now be available from $99 and the iPhone 5C for free, both with two-year contracts.

iOS 8

Apple’s new mobile operating system features an all-new Photos app, which makes it simpler to search and organize your photos, plus an updated Messages app, which allows users to add voice to a message or quickly send a video.

There are also enhancements to the keyboard, improvements to the Health app, and more synchronization through iCloud, including the ability to start an e-mail on one device and finish it on another.

iOS 8 will be available for download on September 17 and is compatible with the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod touch 5th generation, and later devices.

Apple Pay

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the presentation (apart from U2 giving away their new album on iTunes for free; more on that later) was the announcement of Apple’s new mobile payments system called Apple Pay. The surprise was not the fact that Apple was getting involved in payments – that information had been widely leaked before today’s event – but just how far along Apple is in terms of development and deployment.

Making a payment using Apple Pay will be as simple as placing your iPhone next a checkout reader and holding your finger on the Touch ID button. There are currently an estimated 220,000 US merchants featuring tap-to-pay devices at checkout with more coming on stream all the time. To facilitate utilization of its payments system, Apple has already made arrangements with dozens of well-known retailers, including McDonald’s, Macy’s, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Staples, Disney and Whole Foods. The payment system will even work online, with apps like OpenTable and Groupon displaying a Touch ID button within their apps.

If you have an iTunes account, Apple will automatically add your iTunes credit or debit card to Apple Pay on sign up, and entering additional payment options is as simple as taking a photo of the relevant card. Apple took great pains to stress that they will not be tracking users purchase or spending habits. Even the cashier won’t be able to see any information, including the customer’s name and address.

Apple Pay will only work with the new iPhones but it should be operational as soon as they are available.

Apple Watch

Last but not least was the much-anticipated announcement of Apple’s first foray into wearable technology through Apple Watch (not called iWatch as most people had speculated).

Although the square face of the Watch looks a lot like some of the other wearable tech devices that have appeared over the last few years, the Apple device can be customized to the nth degree. It comes in three different versions – Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition – and each version can be fitted with a multitude of different straps to “fit your tastes and personality.”

The Watch will feature an array of custom apps that will allow you to do everything from control your music to send an “I’m thinking of you” message to a loved one through a simple wrist tap. In fact much of the functionality of the Watch relies on Haptic technology – vibrations or taps that have a specific meaning. For example, the Watch’s GPS function can send a different turn right or turn left haptic, so you know where to go without even looking at the device itself.

Along with the usual tap-to-zoom and swipe gestures, the Watch features a control wheel or “Digital Crown” that resembles a large winding wheel on the side of the device. Pressing or turning the Digital Crown allows additional scrolling, as well as a quick way to get back to the Home screen.

Despite the inclusion of email, contacts and other everyday functions, it was clear from the presentation that Apple was placing great emphasis on the health and fitness possibilities of the Watch. As well as a heart rate monitor, the Watch features several other sensors that allow the device to interact with an array of health and fitness apps, helping users both monitor current activity and set future goals.

It remains to be seen whether wearable technology is a fad or whether it has some usefulness to individuals beyond the geeky and the curious. It certainly got the Apple faithful excited, with a launch date of “early next year” eliciting the only groan of the entire presentation. Prices for the Apple Watch will start at $349.

Something for nothing

As they have often done in the past, Apple executives added a musical component to today’s presentation, inviting U2 to come on stage and play a track from the band’s new album, Songs of Innocence. Afterwards, Apple CEO Tim Cook and U2’s Bono got together to announce that the album would be available as a free download on iTunes through October 13. That represents a potential fan base of over 500 million and presumably a sizeable investment for Apple – a fitting way to end a presentation that was never short of surprise or big ideas!

How To Shoot Better Smartphone Videos

More video footage is shot today than ever before. The reason? Smartphones. They are always with us, they are easy to use, and an increased confidence in our ability to take halfway-decent still shots has led us to believe that we can also be the next Steven Spielberg when it comes to video!

But sadly, most of our smartphone videos are destined to disappoint. The shaky and grainy images are usually played back straight away and forgotten, gathering digital dust until it’s time for a smartphone upgrade. And if we do have the nerve to post the video to Facebook or YouTube, it’s usually with the hope that the cuteness of a baby or a cat will be enough to distract viewers from our technical shortcomings.

To be fair, a lot of the problems with smartphone videos are caused by the equipment. Smartphone cameras have much smaller sensors than regular cameras or camcorders, meaning that they will have difficulty picking up images and colors in poor light and be overwhelmed by too much light. The devices themselves are also small and therefore very sensitive to any kind of movement.

But all is not lost. Smartphone manufacturers are starting to include helpful features and editing tools that minimize some of these weaknesses. And there are some steps that we can take behind the camera to make sure those videos are ready for primetime Here are a few suggestions:

Keep your smartphone steady

While zero shutter lag is helping to eliminate camera shake on still shots, this isn’t going to help us with video. Make sure you grip the smartphone firmly with two hands. Turning the camera sideways to shoot in landscape mode will help with this task. Avoid sudden movements. Take a firm stance and anchor your arms to your chest for additional stability. If you are moving the smartphone to capture off-screen activity or panoramic views, turn your whole body and not just your arms.

For a much steadier video clip, use a tripod. Although few phones currently come with a tripod socket, it’s relatively easy to manufacture one by inserting a small screw through the edge of a smartphone case. After that, you can attach the screw to a regular tripod or any other device that will give you the desired stability.

Try to regulate the amount of light

Too much or too little light can dramatically impact the quality of a smartphone video. If possible, shoot outside on a cloudy day, so you have natural light but not too much glare. Indoor conditions can be far trickier, with artificial light impacting both the color and sharpness of the video images.

Newer smartphones like the iPhone 7 have a larger aperture to let in more light and tools like auto white balance to make colors more accurate, but they can still be overwhelmed by too much light or a dramatic change in light from one frame to the next. Consistency is the key. If you are shooting something more formal like a wedding video, then try out a few locations and angles to make sure you optimize whatever light is available.

Follow the basic rules of photo composition

Although video gives you much more license, you should still follow the basic rules of good photography to make your video more interesting. Divide the picture frame into a 3×3 grid and position the main subject somewhere other than the center. If a person is facing left, then position him on the right of the frame. Anticipate your subjects’ actions and give them room to move.

Also, be careful with the audio. Countless kids’ sports videos have been spoiled by the videographer chiming in with his or her comments or encouragement, totaling overwhelming the background audio. Let the scene speak for itself.

Use editing tools

Even if your smartphone video isn’t quite what you had in mind at first glance, it’s amazing what can be done with a little bit of editing. Again, some of the newer smartphones come with a suite of built-in editing tools, which will allow you to cut out certain scenes or add some limited special effects. But for a proper makeover, you will need to upload the video to a PC or Mac and use an editing tool like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

With these professional-style tools, you can enhance the color, eliminate unnecessary footage, blend the video with stills or slideshows, add full-blown special effects, and even add dramatic or background music.

Publish your video

OK – your video is now ready for an audience. Get it out of your smartphone (or off your PC if you have been using editing tools) and post it somewhere it can be seen. Most smartphones now allow you to post your video directly to Facebook, YouTube or other sharing sites. If you find yourself taking more and more video and are pleased with the results, then it might be worth starting your own YouTube channel so friends and family can subscribe.

Whatever you intend to do with your video, make sure it’s your best possible work. Hopefully the above tips will help!