Oct 05

Using the magnifying glass hidden in your iPhone

I cannot tell if Microsoft are sadists or not but they seem to enjoy making life difficult.  Not only do they insist on adhering to charging for their Windows 10 operating system (or as I like to call it, 335 reasons to switch to a Mac) but they insist on using a serial key that is practically impossible to see without the use of the Hubble telescope. But, as we mere mortals don’t have access to the Hubble telescope, the magnifying function on your iPhone will have to do.

If you are running iOS11… and if not, you should be…

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on Control Centre
  3. Tap Customise Controls
  4. Scroll down until you find Magnifier
  5. Tap on the + button
  6. Tap on the Home button

From now on, you can access it quickly by swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone and thus revealing the Control Centre. Tap on the magnifying icon to fire it up.

So, now that we have access, how does it work?

When the magnifying feature is activated,  the camera is in high focus and it be increased even further with the slider under the main viewing screen.

The lock icon will freeze the auto focus which can be a bit annoying in low light because the camera will be constantly trying to focus on your subject and the net result is always frustration. Speaking of low light, the lightning bolt icon will turn on the torch if what you  are trying to magnify is in bad light.

Finally there is the Filters icon which will give you access to the contrast and colour filters that can give you a better result depending on what you are looking at. There is also an inverting icon that will give you a negative image and this can be very useful if the thing you are trying to see is faded.

It’s typical of Apple to bury little gems like this but I for one, when battling with Microsoft, am glad it is there on hand.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/using-the-magnifying-glass-hidden-in-your-iphone/

Oct 05

Apple watch series 3 – first month


Regular readers of my website or FaceBook page will no doubt recall the unparalleled hell I experienced at the hands of Telstra when attempting to set up my Apple Watch S3 to a mobile network.

I get that this is a new product and I understand that challenges are to be expected but there is very little justification for the misinformation, the disinterest and the general lack of imagination when trying to get help from Australia’s largest telco. The staggering lack of knowledge that was displayed by all facets of Telstra and their support staff often reminded me of the kind of precision displayed when a monkey flings its own dung at a wall.

But there were flowers amongst the weeds in the form of Joseph and his team at Telstra Woden. Not only did he have the knowledge to find an answer to a problem that had left Telstra Tuggeranong performing like the aforementioned monkey, but he followed up and took ownership of some of the issues that followed. He genuinely made me feel he was in my corner and when dealing with a monster like Telstra this is priceless.

However, now that it is all said and done with 15 phone calls, three trips to a Telstra store and countless hours online later, I finally have my Apple Watch S3 on a mobile network and I can, at last, tell you all about it.

Set up

If you buy a series 3 – and if you have an older Apple Watch I would highly recommend you do – the first thing you’ll notice is that it is, in every practical way, identical to all previous models. In fact, if you have already bought a new wristband from Apple or elsewhere, these identical dimensions will allow you to attach it your new watch without any hassle at all. Thats right – as soon as I unpacked my brand new $600 watch I slapped on my $50 band!

Your new watch will connect to your iPhone in much the same way as the old one. One significant difference is the option to connect to a mobile network. If you have already been through the process of binding your Apple Watch to your mobile phone account – and this can be done at anytime before or after the watch has arrived on your doorstep (and I highly recommend you do so) then the final step is revealed to you during the set up process and its very straight forward. If you haven’t spoken with your provider yet – or don’t want to use the mobile function – then this can be skipped.

The rest of the processes of introducing it to your phone, setting up Apple Pay ect couldn’t be easier unless every watch came with a freeze dried Apple Tech that – once correctly hydrated – set it up for you.

Once it is on your wrist, and ready to make and receive phone calls, the first thing you’ll notice is the speed of the watch. When you tap on an app the response is immediate and this instantly makes this device feel like a proper extension of your phone – even before you’ve ventured phoneless into the world. 

If this is your first watch, please head over to my previous article on the original watch. For those that have already owned and used a watch, as well as those that are now re-joining us after reading my previous article, here is what is new.

What’s new

Now, admittedly while some of these features are courtesy of watchOS 4 and are available to all watches, there is a good chance you won’t have accessed them before so it makes sense to mention them here.

Torch. (Well, its called a flash-light but I refuse to stoop to an Americanism)

Looking at your watch face,  you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and this reveals the Control Centre, similar to the one found on your iPhone.

Tap on the torch icon and the whole screen lights up and will get brighter when you face it away from your body. Slide to the left and you get a flashing light and slide again and you get a red light, presumably for emergencies. 

While in the Control Centre you can tap on the Theatre icon and this will prevent your phone from waking up when you move your wrist as this can be a distraction  (not to mention a battery drain) when in a darkened cinema or theatre. You will also notice what looks like a tear-drop icon and this is used to eject water from the microphone after swimming.

It also comes with new watch faces that include Buzz and Woody (cute but useless really) and some much improved health and workout apps that I’ll get to a little later.

So now lets imagine that you have paired your watch with your mobile phone plan and you’ve taken a stroll out of the house, leaving your watch to charge on the kitchen bench.

Making a phone call can be done in several ways, holding down the crown and asking Siri to call such and such, using the phone app to list your contacts or revealing a small keypad to type out the number manually. The microphone is exceptional allowing you to talk with your hand down by your side but the speaker is still too small or weak to be heard effectively at the same distance.This forces you to walk around Dick Tracy style or use wireless headphones. But hey, it is a watch and you are using it to call someone and I for one think that’s awesome and this is especially true (and I mentioned this here a few weeks ago) that being able to do this when on a walk or run as well as receive texts is of particular importance. 

Sending a text, like the phone call, can be done in a few different ways. Holding down the crown and telling Siri to do it is one way.

(I have found the best way is to say – for example –  “send a text to Stephen, don’t worry the rash won’t last forever.”)

The other way is to use the Messages app and use the microphone to dictate your message or the Scribble function to eek out our tiny missive one letter at a time. (this works surprisingly well actually)

The new mobile function will also allow you to use Siri when its just you, the watch and the great out doors to ask a question or settle an argument. Not only that but she will now talk back to you. 

The new watch, like the series 2 before it, is waterproof allowing you to swim with it as well as walk and run with it. This function also unlocks a few new workout functions for swimming in a pool or in the open water. And speaking of exercise, the new health monitor watches your heart with a little more accuracy than in the past. It will now tell you what your recovery rate is – which is a very useful indicator of health, and will alert you if your heart rate increases while you are not exercising… possibly alerting you to an impending heart attack.

So, in short is it worth it? Well if you have a Series 2 and you don’t care about the mobile phone function I would say no. But if you currently have a series 1 then it is a must, even if you don’t care about making phone calls on the worlds most convenient mobile phone.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/apple-watch-series-3-first-month/

Oct 04

Telstra and the Apple Watch Series 3 is a bad mix

As I sit here and write this I am ready to kill someone, something, anything. Figuratively of course.
I have been dealing with Telstra all day and I have to say this has been one of the few days where my British upbringing of never expressing dissatisfaction has completely abandoned me.

My big mistake, and I agree there is a fair amount of hindsight here, was signing up with a business plan with Telstra. That is not to say that, to date at least, I have had very little to complain about. The reception has been good, the service fast and reliable. The only time I have ever felt blood starting to bubble was whenever I tried to use their support either over the phone or in person. Like today. And in spades. No, not spades, spade loads are too small. Let’s say in dump truck loads of bile and confusion and frustration, the kind of frustration that makes you want to detonate a hand grenade inside your own mouth to make it all go away.

I won’t make this any more tedious than it needs to be, needless to say a Telstra Business plan is not, currently, able to be linked to the new Apple Watch with LTE. Consumer plans, sure, but a business plan… no.

When I asked the dead eyed, sneeringly disinterested meat puppet behind the service desk what they were going to do to fix this issue I was given several different options, all of which contradicted each other as soon as we scratched beneath the surface of the brochure.

“Yes, you can move your business account to a private account. Just fill in these forms”
“What about all my services and conditions.”
“All the current plans are the same between business and private.”
“So what is the advantage of being on a business plan?”

A shrug of the shoulder and something glib about business really being for businesses that have lots of phones. So I guess my “small” business isn’t really a business.

So, I filled in the paperwork and and handed it in and I was told to sit down and wait for someone else to service me but before I did I made the point to ask again… “this will happen straight away and all my current services will be ported.”
But one scratch on the surface later and “no” it wasn’t going to happen today and “no” your services will not be ported over and in fact you’ll need to move to a new plan.
“But I don’t want a new phone yet… I will need a new phone in December but not now.”
Another shrug of the shoulder. Then a light bulb. “If we fax the paperwork over they can put you on a week to week account and then you’ll be able to pick a new phone when you are ready.”
“Great” says I.
“Ok, but it will take 16 days to process.” Says disinterested Android #2, forgetting. – which is most unlike an Android – that I have just finished saying I need this done today.

Honestly, this could go on for hours, it certainly did for me, but at the end of the day this is what Telstra was offering a business client in 2017.

So it came down to a) wait until – God knows when – for Telstra business to support the Apple Watch S3 or b) sign up for a new contract with a new phone and be locked into it for two years even though you don’t need or want a new phone until December.

A few phone calls later have seen yet another story and yet another possibility come to light that I will explore when I feel like I can unclench my teeth and speak in a fashion that might be understood.

My local Telstra store didn’t give a rats nostril about my plight and never once tried to find a workable or creative solution to the problem. They had a price list and set of guidelines and, like lemmings, followed it right to the edge. And all of this is in the face of me being able to simply wait until the 11th (when my contract expires) and then go to an Optus Sim only plan which is month to month and then deciding on a phone in December.

My hope was to have, by now, written an article explaining how good the new watch is on LTE. But I can’t because Telstra don’t care.

So I will leave you with this thought… If you are thinking of buying a new Apple Watch and you have a business plan with Telstra… wait or better still, go elsewhere.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/telstra-and-the-apple-watch-series-3-is-a-bad-mix/

Sep 21

There is a difference between a gimmick and a feature

If there is one thing that fries my burger it is twenty somethings using the word ‘like’ as if it were a comma!

Please stop!

But the other thing is when Apple bring out a product or feature and someone pops up and says “Oh well, you know – like – Samsung did that years ago” or “Android has done that for years”. Then they sit back down and continue to try and figure out why the Russian mafia now has their credit card numbers from a copy of Skype they just downloaded from androidapps.com or some other wild west show of an Appstore.

But I digress!

So, in case you feel like you made the wrong decision buying an Apple Watch or an iPhone, allow me to arm you with some facts about Apple and why they are sometimes the slowest at winning the race.

The fact is Apple never rush into anything until they are sure they are doing it right. Or at least as right as it can be with the limitations of the technology or their own market focus.

It is true they weren’t the first to come out with a music player, but they were the first to come out with one that held 1000 songs and didn’t skip tracks while you jogged with it.

It is also true they didn’t invent the smartphone, but they were the first to have a full touch screen with no keyboard, stylus and an internet experience that actually worked. I had an Ericsson phone that had internet capabilities and the one and only time I tried it I was ready to pull my bottom lip over the top of my head and swallow myself. It was excruciating! Apple made it work before releasing it onto the general public.

In more up to date news, face recognition is something that has been around for years but until now it has been a mere gimmick. For Samsung it was something flashy to say when the Galaxy 8 arrived but it was soon exposed as useless. In someways it is a lot like the ‘smart’ features on their ‘smart’ TVs. 3D and hand gestures all sound wiz bang but none of them work in the real world and are quickly turned off or used only once.

Their smart watch was also not the first to enter the market. But it was the first to blend – some – kind of style to the genre rather than looking like a house arrest bracelet. It was also the first to have accurate heart rate monitoring and it is now the first to have real telephony that works independently. Yes, again, Android “touted’ these features but none of them worked well -or at all – because it was enough to ‘say’ they had these features because that was the hook to buy it.

Apple have, in the past, integrated a feature into their OS that was a feature on Android or Windows previously. But again, rather than just ripping it off, they generally make it work better or at all. It is a real feature not just a tag line that sometimes doesn’t crash or phone. When something truly innovative comes out I wait for two things. First, wide public reaction will always give me the real story – yes, HoloLens works, Galaxy 8 Face recognition doesn’t, and a Tesla will drive to Sydney on a single charge.

The second is to wait for Apple to do it.


Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/there-is-a-difference-between-a-gimmick-and-a-feature/

Sep 13

Phones, watches and TV. Oh my!

I have said it before, Apple products remain the best and the finest examples of what is possible in the consumer space but it is sad that all the excitement has gone from the Apple seminal presentation.

Don’t get me wrong… this isn’t their fault. They continue to be funny, slick and awe inspiring and their message is as clear as ever before. But gone are the days when all we knew was that “something new” was coming. We didn’t know what is was or what it looked like and we’d have to wait until the following day, with images chunking into view over a dial up connection, just to see what it was.  For an Apple nerd, Christmas came four times a year and nothing typified this more than the launch of the original iPhone 10 years ago. No one outside of Apple knew what was coming and when it was announced to a great deal of excitement and anticipation we were all blown away. No one, aside from perhaps Jobs, knew how significant this day was to be and we were all left shell shocked at what this might mean for the future. We were all better for not just the product, but the wonder it left us with when the curtain fell. These days every YouTube blogger, internet sage and newspaper has leaked the look, the feel and the specs of every product and so all we are left with is the slightly anti-climatic announcements on the day. All I can say is thank God the presenters and the staging remains top hat… at least thats something to look forward too.

Anyway, with that slightly self indulgent “back in my day” rant out of the way… what about the new products announced on the  13th Sept 2017.

As this was the 10th anniversary of the iPhone we always knew that this was going to be something special and, certainly in the mobile phone arena, they did not disappoint.

As Apple started with the new Apple Watch, this is where I will start this article –  for the purposes of recollection if nothing else.

Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple watch Series 3 is everything the first edition should have been from Day 1 but couldn’t have been because the technology wasn’t there yet. Yes, I am sure your neighbour will tell you that his Android watch has been doing this for years but I can assure you this was a gimmick to stick on the box that never really worked so it doesn’t count. So now that we all know how good your current Apple Watch is, we can look forward to the awesome thing that it became today.

As I alluded to above, the Apple Watch is now independent from your iPhone. This means that you can now use Siri, send texts, take and make phone calls when you are out of the house and your iphone is at home. The demonstration of this was done between a man on stage talking to a woman standing on a paddle board in the middle of a lake. The call was as natural as you’d imagine it would have been had she been using a handsfree phone, so I can only assume that they have vastly improved the speaker in the watch… something that prevented me from taking calls on the old one. For myself, the real world implications to this new feature, are vast. I often exercise with my watch (duh) and since pairing wireless headphones to the watch I can listen to music as well. Added to this I have ApplePay on my watch so a walk to the shops can be me, my backpack, my headphones and my watch… no wallet, no phone, no worries. Of course in the past this caused issues if I needed to be reached or make a phone call of my own. Personally this means my wife can call me and give me last minute orders on what to purchase and, because she formulates her wishes in stages (sometimes lasting minutes) this can be an issue when she cannot update my list en route. But in a more serious vein, being free of your phone when walking or swimming or shopping and being able to call in times of distress is a real bonus.

Of course this isn’t the only knew feature… it also comes with better heart rate monitoring and workout settings and a much faster processor.

WatchOS 4 was given a brief overview, having already been showcased at the WWDC, but it is enough to say here that the new software with its new goal settings, encouragement reminders and new watch faces, makes using the Watch even better and with the new hardware it’s an all round winner. As you might recall, I bought the very first watch but skipped Series 2 because, while I can continue to use the the new WatchOS and all its features, the water proofing and speed enhancements didn’t grab me enough to spend the money. This time however, I will be pre-ordering as soon as possible.

Apple TV 4K

Next up was the new Apple TV. Now I am a huge Apple TV user and it must represent at least 98% of the content I watch on TV. The new Apple TV looks the same as last revision but comes with the ability to watch content in 4K. If this kind of thing is of interest then this is a worthwhile upgrade because content really does look fantastic in 4K on a large telly. However if you are like me and find HD just fine then your current series 4 box is just fine as it is. As a side note… if you’ve purchased any movies in HD they will be automatically converted to 4K at no extra charge… so that’s nice.

iPhone 8

Then the presentation turned to the red headed stepchild of this event  (I’ll explain later)… the iPhone 8.

As expected the iPhone 7 was replaced with the iPhone 8, skipping the “s” series for the first time since the iPhone 3G. The iPhone 8 has the same form factor as the 7 but comes in fewer colours. However the body is all glass  – toughest glass available – allowing for wireless charging. As predicted the camera is better – isn’t it always – and the internal CPU faster and the memory greater. Had it not been for what came next there surely would have been cries of “Apple’s lack of innovation” or “tired format”. But what came next simultaneously changed the iPhone and doomed the 8 to the iPhone time will forget.

iPhone X

The iPhone X, from the back, looks a lot  like an iPhone 8 and as it turns out has pretty much the same cpu and memory capabilities… but that is where the similarities end. The screen takes up the phone front of the iphone, dispensing with the bar at the top – mostly, it now has a notch – and bar at the bottom taking with it, the Home button. Now this immediately strikes you as awesome and worrisome in equal measure. Firstly the screen is gorgeous and the real estate that comes with losing the black bars is fantastic. But what about the Home button, that place that you could always turn too when you wanted to get out of an app and return to the home screen? What about TouchID and ApplePay?

The lack of home button is going to bewilder low vision or blind customers in the beginning because this little physical depression was always a cue for them to orientate the phone correctly. I am guessing now it is the earpiece at the top or the speaker grill at the bottom that will give them a sense of the phones position in their hands.

Touch ID, at least on this phone, is a thing of the past. Access, other than a pin number and as a quick to access ApplePay is now done via the new FaceID. Now face recognition has been tried before on other platforms and has been a disaster. The Galaxy 8 touted this as a key feature but it was defeated easily and was so useless that even Samsung themselves told buyers that their face recognition system should not or could not be used for security related services. So it was through suspicious slits that I watched Apple sell us on the concept that their face recognition system was actually more secure than TouchID. As the iPhone X will not be in serious use until October or even November we won’t be able to fully test the claims that this face recognition system – unlike all the others – is as safe as a finger print. If the lengths Apple have reportedly gone too make sure it cannot be faked out with a photo, a Hollywood special effect quality face mask or video… I’d like to think we are in pretty good hands. It will also work, we are told, if you are wearing sunglasses, grow a beard (that’s my mum covered) and change your hair style or colour.

But even as early testing suggests it might work as advertised more people are worried about how easily a thief or law enforcement might be able to open a phone by simply showing the stunned user their phone and then run away with an unlocked phone.  Well it turns out that you have to actually be looking at the phone and stare at it, so even looking away for a microsecond will make your face unworthy. Mind you, some might even say my face is already unworthy and I am not sure i can disagree with that sentiment.

My advise, at least the advise I am following, is to wait until the iPhone X is out before making a decision about it or the iPhone 8 as your next phone. It has been a week since the iPhone 8 and X were announced and while I initially thought that the iPhone 8 would be relegated to the back shelf of history’s bar fridge, some reports are suggesting this might not be the case. After all it has TouchID, it looks familiar and feels good and it has the same internals as an iPhone X. It has also been reported to be actually a tad faster in benchmark testing? But on the other hand the full screen is glorious and FaceID is intriguing so I will want to feel it in my hands and unlock it with my face  – as well as having it fully tested by real people – before I give up my beloved iPhone 6S.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/phones-watches-and-tv-oh-my/