Tag Archives: iPhone

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!

New Smartphones: What To Expect This Fall

After a quiet spring and summer, the smartphone market burst into life this week with Samsung’s unveiling of two new handsets, plus a virtual reality headset called Gear VR. This was quickly followed by Microsoft’s announcement that it is releasing three new Lumia phones, including the Lumia 730 – dubbed the “selfie phone” – which is expected to feature a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. All this activity precedes next week’s highly-anticipated Apple event, at which the Cupertino, CA behemoth is expected to showcase the iPhone 6.

So what can we expect from these new devices and are they going to provide a much-needed jolt of energy to a U.S. smartphone market that is regarded by many as nearing saturation point? Here is a quick look at what we know and, in the case of the iPhone 6, what has been carefully leaked:

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

The more interesting of Samsung’s two new smartphones is probably the all-new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, so named because of a curved screen that wraps around the right edge of the device. The curved edge allows for a different set of information displays, including access to your favorite apps, notifications and more.

The Note Edge comes with a phablet-sized 5.7-inch display, improved S Pen functionality, and a 3.7 megapixel front-facing camera. The Note Edge has a significantly improved charging time, going from zero to 50 percent in about 30 minutes, about 40 percent faster than other Samsung Galaxy phones. There is also an Ultra Power Saving mode if you are running low on juice.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which updates the hugely popular Galaxy Note 3, also features a 5.7-inch screen and includes all the camera upgrades, improved battery charging, and many of the other new features from the Galaxy Note Edge.

Improved multi-tasking is another feature of the new Samsung phones, with users being able to manage multiple applications on a single screen using simple swipe gestures.

No pricing or release dates have been given for the new Samsung phones, although they are expected to be available in the U.S. by the end of September.

Lumia 730

Microsoft’s long-awaited “selfie phone” features a wide-angle 5-megapixel  front-facing camera, coupled with a dedicated selfie app that launches the camera as soon as it detects any faces in its field of view. The app includes plenty of editing options, including filters, skin enhancements and even tools to slim your face (!) and blur out the background.

The 730 is clearly aimed at the younger, Instagram generation, and the color options in green, red, white and black further target that demographic. Unfortunately, the 730 is set to be released “globally,” which is a euphemism for “not yet available in the USA.”

iPhone 6

This year’s media frenzy over the release of a new iPhone seems a little subdued, with headlines focusing more on the possible breach of celebrity iCloud accounts that any potential hardware innovations.

Most news sources are suggesting that Apple will increase the screen size of the regular iPhone from 4 inches to 4.7 inches and also introduce a larger 5.5-inch model. These projected screen sizes do nothing to curb the impression that Apple is playing catch up to the large screen devices popularized by Samsung and others.

Super-slim bezels and curved screens have also made the rumor mill, as has a new “indestructible” sapphire glass finish, which might finally put an end to the epidemic of cracked iPhone screens. Most of the other changes are expected to come from the release of iOS 8, which will include additional camera enhancements and tighter integration with smart home and health and fitness devices.

Although no release date has been announced, new iPhones are usually available 10 days to two weeks after they are announced, which would put the iPhone 6 in-store around Friday, September 19.

How To Choose a Smartphone

According to recent data, almost 70 per cent of American adults now own a smartphone. For many of us, the smartphone has become an essential tool of everyday life. We use it to text our kids, check our schedules, take pictures, surf the web – and even make the occasional phone call! Often, our smartphones are the first things we look for in the morning and the last things we put down at night.

But eventually, every smartphone needs to be replaced. Maybe the current plan has expired, or we want a bigger screen, or maybe the phone just gave up and died. Whatever the reason, it’s time look for something new. And if it’s going to be our constant companion for the next two years or more, then we better make the right choice.

Here are some tips on how to go about it.

Choose a carrier first

The first step to being happy with a smartphone is being happy with your carrier. You can have your heart set on an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S5 but if your home or office is in the wrong place on those carrier coverage maps, then your happiness with your new phone will quickly turn into frustration as calls are dropped and data transmission speeds slow to a crawl.

Ask friends and family in your area about their experiences with the major carriers. If you can, check what kind of reception their phones get in various areas of your home. Think about how much you travel and where. If you travel abroad, not all carriers have the same access to international networks.

Finally, make a note of the quality of customer service you receive as you check out phones and visit the stores. Having a store nearby with a friendly representative behind the counter can be a huge help as you try to get used to all the unfamiliar features on a new smartphone.

Choose an operating system

There are four main operating systems for smartphones: iOS (iPhone), Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS. All of them are very different, with clear distinctions in how they handle basic functions such as e-mail and web browsing and how they integrate with other devices.

That last criteria is becoming increasingly important, as more data is stored in the cloud and users constantly switch between smartphones, tablets and PCs. If you are a Mac user for example, it might be far easier to own an iPhone, so your contacts, photos, music and more are automatically synced as you switch between devices. Similarly, a heavy user of Google Docs may find it much easier to work with the Android mobile device.

While it’s quite possible to switch between operating systems, developing your own personal tech ecosystem has enormous benefits and it can make a lot of sense to invest in a single unified platform.

Choose a model

Now comes the fun part. For some people, choosing an individual smartphone is all about screen size; for others, it’s all about the camera. Whether you like to watch last night’s TV shows during your lunch hour or you are a compulsive smartphone photographer, make sure the smartphone you choose is going to satisfy your needs. If you want to enhance your photos with 3D effects or use your phone as a remote, keep looking until you find what you want. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a phone that doesn’t do what you want it to do.

As well as getting recommendations from friends, do a little research. The carriers’ web sites will list all available phones, including their various features and any special deals. Don’t be afraid to visit Consumer Reports or some of the consumer tech sites like CNET. They review phones in terms that non-techies can understand and will often include straight-up comparisons between similar phones from different manufacturers or service providers.

Choose a plan

Once you have identified your preferred carrier and the phone you like, it’s time to select a plan. While this is slowly becoming less intimidating, setting up the right plan now requires you to estimate your data consumption, which can vary wildly depending from person to person.

Use the online and in-store support of your chosen carrier to guide you. There are also some useful online Data Calculators that can help you estimate data usage. They will break down your expected usage between e-mail, web-surfing, music or movie downloads, and more.

Whether you have an individual plan or are part of a family plan, make sure your monthly data allowance is sufficient, so you don’t incur those costly overage charges. Set up e-mail or text notifications as you hit data usage milestones, so you know where you are on your monthly plan. If you are likely to go over your plan, most carriers will allow you to adjust retroactively to minimize the cost.

Check for extras

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand the total commitment of the contract and what extra fees could be incurred. If you want to get out of the contract, is there an early termination fee? What if you wanted to upgrade to a different phone or add a line? What are the roaming charges and what happens if you go overseas?

Finally, all providers are required to give you a grace period – usually 14 days – during which you can return the phone for a refund. Don’t be afraid to do just that, if the phone or service doesn’t meet your expectations.

Depending on your comfort with electronics, finding the right smartphone can be fun or it can be a chore. But if you do it the right way, it’s something you will only have to think about once every couple of years.

Music Apps to Help You Workout!

By Robyn Wright

Studies have shown that music can distract us from pain and fatigue; it can increase our endurance and elevate our moods. People who listen to music have been able to run farther, longer, and faster than those without music. Most of us instinctually synchronize our body movements with the tempo of a song, so fast songs and strong beats can really help us get moving.

Most of us have our favorite music to listen to while exercising. Some of us have even created our own playlists just for the gym. But for those that don’t have the time or the know-how to do this, there are several apps available that can help. These apps select music at just the right tempo to keep you motivated during your workout.
While many of the apps focus on running, you can use them for all kinds of workouts. Just give them a try and find the app that fits you and your exercise routine the best.


TempoRun

Children watching TVTempoRun categorizes your music by tempo, so you can have the right tempo to match your running speed. It also includes Streaming Tempo Radio if you do not have your own music already.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $2.99


RockMyRun

Children watching TVRockMyRun is a service that provides mixes of music for running. The mixes are designed by professional DJs and they have a large variety of genres. You can also set the beats per minute for your music to match the tempo that you want to run at – either matching your current pace or pushing yourself to increase your pace.

Platform: Android, iOS
Cost: Free, Premium membership option


David Lloyd Playlist

Children watching TVThe David Lloyd Playlist app provides curated playlists of Universal Music artists’ songs to work out with. The playlists are updated each week. Tracks are selected to work with your type of workout, including jogging, cycling, rowing, or stretching.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free app with 28-day free trial of service


GYM Radio

Children watching TVGYM Radio is a streaming music service that selects only songs that are highly motivating for your workouts. You can also submit your favorite music for to add to the streams as well.

Platform: Windows Phone
Cost: Free


DjRun

Children watching TVJust hit play in the DjRun app and start running or walking. The app will find music already in your collection that matches the tempo with your current pace. This makes it easier to keep going with your workout!

Platform: Android
Cost: Free, offers in-app purchases


Robyn Wright is a social media specialist and blogs on her own blog, RobynsOnlineWorld.com, as well as several other sites. Robyn has a love for family, technology, food and lots of apps!

Getting Along with Siri

How to make Apple’s personal assistant your friend

By Tracey Dowdy

I have a complicated love/hate relationship with Siri. On one hand, she’s a lifesaver as I am blind as a bat without my reading glasses, so texting or emailing without them ends up being an intriguing game of deciphering autocorrect and “I wonder what that’s supposed to mean” for the recipient. On the other hand, sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth when she consistently or repeatedly misunderstands what I’m saying. It can be frustrating and, to be clear, it’s not you Siri, it’s me!

However, there are ways to improve your relationship with Siri that don’t involve couples therapy or walking away altogether. The key is to keep it simple. With a little patience and a little practice, you can get to know one another better and wonder how you ever lived without her!

Personalize your contacts

Siri had a rough time finding my daughter Ceilidh. (Go figure!) It’s pronounced Kaylee, but Siri was saying it as Kaleed. To correct Siri’s pronunciation, simply say, “That’s not how you pronounce Ceilidh.” Siri will ask you to pronounce it again for her. She’ll display 3 possible pronunciations and you can pick the correct one from this list. She’ll then pronounce the name and will pronounce it correctly going forward. Another option is to go into your Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Phonetic First Name. If a family member goes by a nickname, you have the option to add the nickname as well – Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Nickname.

Manage your calendar

Adding an appointment is as easy as saying “Siri, schedule a meeting with Paul tomorrow at 11 am.” If the individual is in your contact list, he will receive an email invitation. If you say “Schedule a meeting” but don’t include details such as a date or time, Siri will ask for clarification. If you make a mistake or need to make a change, it’s as easy as saying “Cancel my appointment with Paul tomorrow.” To review your day, you can ask Siri “What appointments do I have tomorrow?”

Hands-free texting

Use “Text” and “Tell” to have Siri send a message for you via SMS. Give simple commands like “Text Roy to meet me at Thai Orchid for dinner” or “Tell Ceilidh to pick up milk on the way home.” If you get a text while driving, you can have Siri read it aloud and respond without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Location-based instructions

One feature I recently became aware of is Location-Aware Reminders. Working via your phone’s GPS, Siri can send reminders as long as there is an address tied to the message. For example, if you need to pick up bagels on the way home, make sure the address for the deli is in your contacts. Tell Siri “Remind me to pick up bagels at Locke Street” and when you’re out running errands, a reminder will pop up. You will need to ensure Location Services is enabled – Settings > Privacy Location Services.

Check your voice mail

My husband insists on leaving voice mails, a source of never-ending frustration for me and our children. Just send a text! This isn’t 1987! Sorry – hit a nerve there. Discovering that Siri can retrieve and playback my voicemail may or may not have saved my marriage. Say, “Siri, play my voicemail” and she’ll put your phone on speaker and read it aloud to you.

Apple has a convenient user guide that will help you get started and walk you through how to use Siri. It includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions and list of apps that Siri works with worldwide.

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. 

Apple Unveils OS X Yosemite

By Tracey Dowdy

Apple has done it again – showed me something I have to have that I didn’t know existed an hour ago!

At last week’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple didn’t introduce any new devices but they did unveil Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Coming this fall, there’s a host of new features that will make you wish summer was over already. Well, maybe not that excited, but it will help ease the transition!

First up is a group of features they refer to as “Continuity.” Apple devices within Bluetooth range will be able to communicate seamlessly with one another. You can start writing an email on your iPad, switch to your iPhone and follow the prompt to pick up exactly where you left off.

With Yosemite, you’ll have caller ID and the ability to respond to a call on your iPhone by answering on your Mac as long as both devices are using the same Wi-Fi network. Similar to Google Voice, Yosemite will allow you to use your Mac as a speaker phone and dial directly from any web page.

Apple is finally going head to head with Dropbox and Google Drive in the cloud storage game. Instead of simply using the cloud for storage, you’ll be able to organize and tag your files, which for someone like me, who color codes and tags every email and has folders within my folders, is a dream come true. I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about it.

For those looking for 5GB of storage or less, iCloud will be free. If you need more storage, prices are reasonable – 20GB is $0.99 a month and 200GB will be $3.99 a month. There is talk of a 1TB plan, but those prices have not been revealed.

The Hotspot feature on the iPhone is getting a boost as well. Instead of having to go through your settings to enable it, Hotspot will automatically show up in your Mac’s Wi-Fi menu. Click on it for a secure (no password required) connection. If you aren’t using Hotspot, it automatically shuts off to prevent running down the battery.

One of the most anticipated features is Markup which will allow you to draw directly on attached PDF’s that need to be edited or proofed. If you’ve ever received a PDF attachment that needs a signature or an image of a document that needs to be edited, you know what a magical feature this will be.

Seriously, why has this taken so long? The gods of the internet have heard my cries and my muttered curses and have created this just for me. You won’t need to open the image in another app – just make the changes, hit Reply, and the new and improved image is sent back to the sender. It’s a beautiful thing my friends.

Personally, I’m excited about the new features. There are many that appeal to the average Mac user like me, but plenty to dazzle the real Mac nerds as well. Remember, OS X Yosemite is free and will be compatible with Mac products that are currently running OS X Mavericks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some folders to organize.

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.