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Here a tracker there a tracker … Apple Health to the rescue?

Getting all your activity/sleep etc data in one place is challenging. The makers like fitbit etc have no motivation whatsoever to allow you to have devices from different companies. In fact, they use it to trap you into their ecosystem. If you happen to change trackers, do you want to change your scale? Of all the companies I’ve played with Fitbit, Polar, Misfit, and Xiaomi only Fitbit allow you to export your data. And then it dawned on me, in the Apple world there is a bridge to bring this data in one place, Apple Health! So let’s have a look at this …

When you install an app that supports Apple Health, you can control what amount of access it can have to Apple Health, ie what it can read and write. When you uninstall an app you can also choose to remove all data in Apple health from that app. You can easily see what sources currently have read and write access and tailor it as you see fit.
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For this to be a savior you need to keep an eye on how well the individual app works with Apple health. I found Garmin connect had some anomalies that were polluting the sleep data. It seems Garmin did not think of the possibility that you might not always sleep with your Garmin device and it used the definition of normal bed time (which is used to mute the device) on those occasions to populate your sleep? WTF.
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Fortunately it’s pretty easy to simply remove Garmin Connect’s access to just the sleep data.

Fitbit have chosen for now to completely ignore Apple Health, likely to keep your data in their vault. Fortunately there is an app out there that simply takes your fitbit data and pushes it into Apple health called Health Sync. It works well.

Fitbit do an incredible job of taking data from multiple devices and merging them. You can wear your Flex for part of the day and switch up to a different tracker and it merges them nicely. Apple Health however makes not attempt to do this. It does however allow you to prioritize which data is likely to be more accurate.
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Additionally you can manually edit and delete entries easily.

Data can be exported from the Apple health app, but I see no way of importing it. This is potentially a challenge if you don’t use the backup/restore method of migrating to a new phone at some point. The exported data comes out in an XML file that is challenging at best to do anything with. Fortunately there is an app called QS Access that will allow you to export exactly what you want to a CSV that in turn can be imported into Excel for graphing and analysis.

So an in all it can be done, but definitely could use some work by Apple …

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November 15, 2016 Posted by | Activity Trackers, iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Mocreo 2500 mAH external battery

I’ve bought a few external batteries in the past and overall been underwhelmed. I was looking for one that was small, and light to allow me to carry it all the time for emergencies. Funny enough, more often when I am carrying the external battery pack it’s been used by colleagues rather than by me ๐Ÿ™‚ Probably something to do with my paranoia of running out of battery. This one caught my eye on Amazon as inexpensive, light and thing. So I bought it. The model number is a LAVO-2500 from Mocreo.

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iPhones even as far as the 6 only draw a max of 1A out of the charger. Android phones more often require 2A. This battery pack can only put out 1A max. So it’s of little use on Android devices. Check the output current on your charger before you buy a battery pack like this. Most of the smaller ones cap out at 1A. For the iPhone 6 this device is perfect.

Physically the device includes an integrated microUSB cable that is a little on the flimsy side. It also came with a microUSB to lightning converter. The converter has a bay but it is difficult to get it out and if you put it in the wrong way around it’s an even bigger challenge to get it out. If there is a bad part to the design this is definitely it. In fact, I wish the charger was available with a lightning connector on it.

So I put it to the test. The battery on an iPhone 6 is 1860 mAH. I did two runs. First run went from 56 to 92% in 45 mins. Second run went from 1% to 64% in 78 mins. So in all the combined runs were able to provide a 99% charge in 123 mins. The battery pack was able to keep a pretty constant charge current into the iPhone throughout. The charge curve is very close to the stock chargers which is impressive.
external-charger

Looking at efficiency the 2500 mAH was able to push a virtually full charge into the iPhone 6’s 1860mAH battery which comes out as 74% which is very good.

From completely dead it took around 4 hours to charge. It can only draw 1A on charge so plugging it into a 2A charger doesn’t help this. So this battery pack does not have quick charge circuitry built in as a lot of new phones do, but given the price …

The unit supports passthru meaning you can plug the battery into the wall, and the phone into the battery and both will charge. The current it can take is limited so the phone is given all it wants first and then once full the battery charges.

The pack lacks a flash light that some of these have and would be convenient, and there is no way to tell the charge in the battery pack. There’s only one LED, off when plugged in means fully charged, purple when on pass thru means charging the phone and red means charging the battery.

All in all this an excellent battery pack for every day carrying, at a reasonable price for an iPhone!

August 4, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Heart rate variability

I recently tripped across a concept I had never heard of called heart rate variability. It measures the actual distance between heart beats. As much as we think our heart beats at regular intervals it does not. And oddly the more regular the heart beats are, the less healthy we are (according to studies I read). HRV can measure mental/physical stress, and can tell us when we might be over training. Now in all the reading I have done I am not sure I have a firm grasp on what this all means, but I can start with the technology side of things. Once we have the data then we can scratch things (your head … other things :)) to figure out what exactly it means. I won’t address the topic of what is HRV, or how to interpret it, I will address it from a technology point of view. There are lots of articles on HRV written by medical professionals who have a lot more cred than I. So on with the tech …

First off you need an accurate heart rate monitor. Optical ones won’t do. My Scosche for example is not supported. So your looking at a strap. The Wahoo TICKR as well as the Polar H7 both will fit the bill …

I have not found any watches that do HRV (My polar A300, Fibit Blaze don’t). I am sure one somewhere does … So that leaves us with an app. I am on an iPhone for now. I quickly zeroed in on three apps. HRV+ (free), Elite HRV (free), and SweetBeat HRV (paid). Sweatbeat even offer a free onetime HRV evaluation of the data you have uploaded in the price. Both Elite and Sweetbeat upload the data to their server (HRV+ does not).

One of the first thing I noticed is that HRV, like your heart rate can vary quite a bit, so a longer sampling gives you a more accurate reading. How long? Well I worked with all three apps for over a week and found the biggest variation (on average off by 19%) to be on the app that took the HRV for the shortest, which is HRV+ at only a 60 second reading (Vs 2 or 3 minutes). Interpreting the data is key, and HRV+ did nothing but give you the raw data. As such, I would have to say give HRV+ a pass.
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Moving onto Elite HRV I would have to say this app is by far my favorite of the three. It’s free, and who doesn’t like free! It also attempts to help you interpret the data and gives you a simple visual. The raw HRV is there, it quantifies it, compares it and even reminds you if you miss your morning HRV reading. The visual graph should help you determine if your HRV is too low, too high or just right (no references to children s books needed). A track record is really important to the apps ability to help you know where you are at physically/emotionally. You can do HRV readings anytime you want and your history data is kept for you. As a tool goes I think Elite HRV is the best of the three. The one thing that is missing is a web portal to see the results that have been uploaded to the cloud … So if there isn’t a web portal why am I uploading my data? Elite on average was within 10% of Sweetbeat.
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Last but not least is Sweetbeat HRV. I bought this after watching a video from one of the founders that went into the work they had done to correlate Sweetbeat with EKG machines. I was impressed (I drank the Koolaid). Couple this with the fact that Sweetbeat will do a manual analysis of your uploaded HRV and it seemed like a good choice. What is missing is a nice visual showing your HRV like Elite does. Oddly there is a second app from the same company for $6.99 that does give you that called DailyBeat HRV.
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They do show you your HRV throughout the session:
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And a plethora of data on your HRV that if I had no idea what to do with HRV, I REALLY have no idea what to do with this:
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As much difficulty I had getting correlation on HRV (between the apps) the other data that comes out of these apps like RMSSD (Root Mean Square of the Successive Differences) was completely all over the place. Without some believable data what the heck do I do with it?

There is a portal to log onto to see your results but it is basic at best and provides little to no tools to help you do anything with the data over and above what you get on the phone.

So tool wise there you have it. Now all I have to do is figure out what it means? I have noticed it definitely detects when I am run down, not feeling great, slept poorly etc, but do I need an app to tell me that? Maybe I should just go low tech an buy a mood ring ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe as a weekend warrior I just don’t need this level of focus?

Update:
I put together a how to use HRV follow up blog post following this one.

June 29, 2016 Posted by | iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Tempered glass screen protectors (a mini post)

Over the years I’ve bought a few screen protectors. I have hated most of them. Orange peel textures, bubbles/dirt under them, distortion to the screen, reduced sensitivity to touch etc means as a whole I had given up on them.

Recently a bud of mine Lance bought a tempered glass screen protector and I was hugely impressed. Instead of a film like texture these are thicker and more rigid. They are completely clear, the finger glides over them naturally and there is absolutely no difference in touch responsiveness.

I noticed recently I had somehow aquired a few scratches on my iPhone 6. No idea how. So I bought one from JetDirect on Amazon for my iPhone 6. I actually bought two just in case I messed it up installing it. They were cheap like $10 for the two. It came with a sticky lint remover, a screen cleaner and the protector itself. First up you clean the screen as good as you can. Then polish it with the soft dust free cloth they provide. They give you a sticky lint remover but honestly packing tape works even better. Just go over the screen a couple times removing as much dust etc as you can. Cleanliness is paramount. The slightest piece of dust or hair and you have a mess on your hands. The protector comes with two pieces of tape you put on the front of the screen. This allows you to remove it and reposition it. There’s a thin film on the back of the protector that has to be removed, and is clearly identified on the back. You can lift the corner back up, reposition, reclean if needed and next thing you know you see the protector slowly adhere to the screen. It really is amazing to watch.

Once on the protector provides some additional rigidity to the screen against drops, as well as protection from scratches. It can even hide small scratches on the screen (it did mine). In the even the protector gets scratched it can be removed (tossed out) and replaced with a new one.

The one I bought was off by about 2 mm in size and barely covered the screen. Take some time and read reviews people have posted before buying.

I also bought one for my iPad mini and it was also from JetDirect and fit the iPad perfectly. Getting the screen completely clean took a ton of patience and time (Ok I admit Lance did it). Once in place it is invisible. Really quite amazing. I highly recommend them! Thanks Lance!

June 28, 2016 Posted by | iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Apple AirPrint for iPads/iPhones

As with everything Apple they have their own way of doing things. Bringing a new disparate architecture device presents challenges. Everything else in my house is Windows so when I bought a iPhone and iPad I had to look into how to make printing working. One would hope that cloud printing would be possible, if it is I don’t see it, at least not without paying for apps. The google apps (Gmail for example) have some cloud printing within them. HP have an ePrint app but it literally creates it’s own app to get at your photos, to browse the web from, read email from etc. It does allow printing from anywhere but isn’t really what I was hoping for.
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The network standard for an iPad/iPhone is called Airplay. My HP 1102W while not officially on the Apple site does support Airplay and my iPhone found it when I was on the home network allowing me to print easily. But what if you have another printer that isn’t actually supported? Well, while not simple by any means, you can add AirPlay support to any printer on a Windows PC using this guide. I did it and got both my printers working on the network. While this does not solve the issue of cloud printing it does however give you a way to do it. That’s about it.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Whatsapp mini review

Many of us have multiple devices we use on a daily bases. Why companies continue to not understand and exploit this is beyond me. A desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a phone etc and it would be great to be able to have one cross platform app from which to chat with friends over. Google Hangouts is probably one of the best at this. It lets you use however many devices you want. And whatever was the last device to get used is where a notification is sent. BBM is one of the worst in that it can only be installed at one device at a time and you literally have to uninstall and reinstall to move it to a different device. And BBM has been absolutely plagued lately by a constant stream of spam from people asking to connect and businesses too.

So along come Whatapp. It is an interesting concept. You install an app on your phone (iPhone, Blackberry or Windows phone). This device becomes the gateway that all other devices can then send messages through. It’s worth noting that you have to keep your phone, on, and online or Whatsapp breaks.

In addition to your phone you can also use Whatsapp and sign into the web, a PC or Mac (No official iPad support and you can’t use the web app from an iPad either). You log onto the web interface (or start the PC or iPad app) and it brings up a QR code which you then from your phone you authorize. You can authorize as many devices at a time but can only log in to your phone plus one device at a time. Not perfect, but not horrible. You can logout from all computers from the phone but not just one device.

When you install it for the first time it goes through your contacts based on phone numbers and finds the list of people already on whatsapp and adds them to your favorites. Now that sounds like a good idea but it created a plague of people in my favorites. Fortunately there is a delete all favorites button and then add back the folks you really want. I see no way to see which of your friends is actually active on Whatsapp Vs tried it and are no longer using it. Once you start a chat you can see when they were last seen so at least at that point you will know if they are active on Whatsapp.

There is no approval process for adding friends, or allowing someone to send you a message. This would imply spam is quite possible. You can block people from within the phone app.

The default privacy policy is terrible (or should I say no privacy), but fortunately can be easily changed. Your status, profile photo, and Last seen are visible to everyone by default. Yuk. Be sure and change that. (Settings, account, privacy).
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Messages are confirmed when sent (single check mark), confirmed when read (two check marks), and you can see them typing (replying). Whatsapp supports text chats, and voice calls. But there is no voice out calling (as there is in Skype), and no voice in (other than from Whatsapp clients).

You can manually send your location (from the phone app only) to a contact, but I see no way to do live tracking of friends, and no way to request a persons location. A crying shame.

Messages are encrypted if you care.

May 12, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Zagg Folio iPad mini case

I hate on screen keyboards. Inevitably they drive me nutz. So when I saw this I was super curious to see how useful it might be. I snagged one used on ebay for a price I could swallow. Physically speaking the case is well designed. The top portion of the case completely envelopes and protects the iPad mini. The top has a hinge to the bottom that has just the right amount of resistance. It can be sat at almost any angle. From this point alone it is quite useful. At certain angles it is a bit tippy as you might expect. Adding weight to the keyboard would have solved this but it also would have made it heavier, so a trade off. The outside has a nice faux leather pattern on the plastic making it super easy to hold onto. Thickness and weight are about as good as it could get. It’s about the same as the iPad itself. They keyboard connects to the iPad through bluetooth. There is a battery in the base of the keyboard. There’s a switch on the front corner of the keyboard as well as a light. The battery is recharged by a microUSB port. Any charger for a non iPad will do. I do find it odd that they used a microUSB port instead of a lightning port that would have let you use your iPad charger. Reconnect times are a bit on the slow time and take a few key presses before it is reconnected. The keyboard goes sleep on it’s own after a period of inactivity so you can leave it on all the time. The keys are nicely recessed so they do not make contact with the screen. Overall the keys are well placed. Any OS be it Windows, Android and even iOS have specific keys unique to them. There’s something to be said about having a keyboard designed uniquely for iOS. Like the home button that actually works. The CMD key etc. There are a few blemishes on what could have been a perfect layout. The keyboard is small, and unless you have small hands don’t buy it. Oddities are expected on a keyboard of this size. Here are the ones I noticed, the number 1 key is smaller than any other key. And the q seems to be where the tab ought to be. The keyboard is even backlit and you can change the brightness (including off) and color of the backlighting. All in all it’s an excellent design, but as expected not something your going to use to bang out long emails or texts but perfect for short use on the go or on holidays.

I did run into an occasional issue where the keyboard would not connect. I’d go into bluetooth settings and it would show the keyboard was connected but no joy. The solution was to turn bluetooth off and back on. Seemed more reliable of the keyboard is turned off Vs gone to sleep.

I have noticed that swiping from the bottom of the screen up is virtually impossible with the keyboard on. I have to rotate the iPad to do this ..

$_57

May 6, 2016 Posted by | iPhone/iPad, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

iPad 2 mini review

Table of contents
Introduction
iPad Models
Physicals and specs
General stuff
Initial setup
Apps
Accessories
Pens (and OneNote)
Mobile Browsing
In car navigation
Kindle
Tethering
iPad/iPhone/Mac integration
Phone calls

Introduction
My digital tablet landscape is a little busy to say the least. My main device day to day is my a T300 chi, but honestly I use it more as a laptop than a tablet. Windows as a tablet even on Windows 10 is hog tied by a poor onscreen keyboard and an operating system that really is not all that touch friendly. even the new Edge browser was poorly designed in my opinion for touch. Look at the size of the forward and back buttons as one trivial example. Windows does some things really well, One note for example is best and the most feature rich on Windows. I take digital notes regularly and the hands down best experience to date is the Asus vivotab note.

But the only in car gps navigation app (on Windows) is Navmii and it is eccentric at best. Web browsing is hands down best on Windows (compared to iOS or Android). Constantly being forced onto mobile web sites is limiting. But most Windows tablets (T300 not included in the comment) have very low resolution. 8″ tablets are very convenient but are limited by the same size that makes them uber portable.

In the Windows space my devices are the T300 Chi, Asus Vivotab note, Dell venue 8 (largely a backup to the Vivotab that had been hugely unreliable), and a T100 (that is largely disabled due to issues between the tablet and keyboard).

In the Android space I have aSamsung Note 8. It is a very versatile tablet. Still one of my favorite tablets. Great for games, great for in car navigation (using CoPilot, and google maps), the pen is second only to the vivotab note (although the OneNote functionality is severely limited on Android) and has a cell radio in it making it very handy. Battery life is not great and charge times are slow. The biggest limitations are low resolution and the limitations of constantly being held back by the mobile browsing experience.

All this is said to set the stage for the iPad … This is my first ever iPad. The iPad is for all purposes a large iPhone. The app space is the same. And so on with the review.

I’ve gone through iOS fairly heavily in my recent post on the iPhone 5s. I will focus on what’s different on an iPad

iPad Models
Sorting through which iPad to choose was relatively straight forward for me. This Wikipedia article shows the generations. The iPad mini 2 is a much improved screen, and much faster processor so that was a no brainer. A little catch is that the WIFI only models do not have GPS which would remove the possibility of using it for in car navigation. And I have found having a built in cell very handy. Lastly comes memory size, to make it dead easy to manage I chose the exact same size as my iPhone so 64G. So this one is an iPad mini 2 LTE, 64G. I bought a refurb from Factory direct.

Physicals and specs
200×134.7×7.5 mm 341g
210.8×135.9×8 mm 340g (Samsung note 8 for comparison)
220.9×133.8×10.95 mm 380g (Asus Vivotab 8 for comparison)
Size and weight wise this is the space I like for uber portability. The limiting factor is one of screen size.

The power button is oddly on the top of the tablet (instead of being halfway on the side).

7.9-inch 2048×1536 resolution screen at 326 dpi (same dpi as an iPhone 5s/6)
800×1280 pixels (~189 dpi) (Samsung Note 8 and Asus Vivotab 8 for comparison)
as you can see the iPad is in a totally league.

Battery is 6471 mAH, more than triple that of an iPhone, and battery life is one of the strong suits for this device.
Mini 2’s come with a 10W charger (5V 2A). I found the mini 2 much more picky with higher current chargers than others, more often barely drawing 5W which sustains but really doesn’t charge much.

The processor on this one is an A7, same generation as an iPhone 5s (an iPhone 6 is the newer A8), you’d have to go all the way to an iPad mini 4 to get to an A8. The speed difference coming from my iPhone 6 is noticeably slower, but that said everything is still pretty darn instantaneous.

General stuff
First off, iOS devices including this one only support one userid on the tablet. So if you were thinking you could have one in the house that everyone can share … sorry not here. This is somewhere between clever (from Apple’s point of view) and dumb (from the users point of view). I guess they want you to buy one per person. Apparently this is something Apple are working on, at least for schools, have to see if the general public gets it too.

The launcher on the iPad seems particularly odd. There is a lot of wasted space between the icons. On an iPhone there is a zoomed and unzoomed mode which changes the number of icons on the screen. No such thing on the iPad. So your stuck with 5×4 in landscape and 4×5 in portrait. So this means the location of icons changes when the screen rotates. Screen rotation works well and is implemented everywhere including the home screen. No idea why Apple left that off of an iPhone.
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My music collection of around 25G sync’d in about 30 mins which would be around 14MB/s so like the 5S not earth shatteringly fast. Fortunately the device is usable while syncing and follow on sync only have to replicate what’s new.

For some odd reason Apple removed the tremendous Wallet app from the iPad. No idea what their thought process (if any) was on that.

Initial setup
An iPad can not be setup from a backup of an iPhone so sadly if this is your first iPad you will have to manually set it up from scratch. Future iPads can be setup using backups but for your first your on your own. Now this is at least partly because of the iPhone Vs iPad apps but still I think Apple could have done something to make this easier and encourage iPhone users to buy an iPad.

Apps
When the iPad first appeared in the market Apple needed to jump start it’s app list, so Apple allowed the iPad to run iPhone apps. This situation sadly still exists. I personally would prefer Apple make developers write for both. So in the app store when you are on a iPad you sometimes can not find an app that you can find on an iPhone (the developer decided to not allow iPads), apps custom written to take advantage of the higher res iPad and apps that were written for an iPhone but will run on an iPad. This last category can manifest itself in a number of ways from not rotating the screen to low resolution on the display (including large onscreen keyboard).

Accessories
There are tons of accessories available for the mini, but really they are the same ones available for the iPhone. There are keyboard cases, flash card readers, and the like. There is even an HDMI adapter for it, but Apples stubbornness to not allow Bluetooth mice makes this option a whole lot less useful since you will still need to touch the screen to select stuff. And try and do RDP without a mouse. There is no USB OTG cable or a cable that would allow you to charge your iPhone from your iPad. A shame. Given the size of the battery this would have been a neat feature.

Pens and OneNote
I tried a couple capacitive pens I have one thin, two fat. The thin one was completely ignored. One fat one was detected but was too sticky on the screen to be usable. The other thick one (that came with a cheap case I bought off Amazon) actually works fine for occasional use. One note on iPad has done something brilliant. You put it in draw mode and then the pen starts doing something. Gestures are then used for scrolling and zooming. So there are no issues with palm detection like there are on Windows 10. Microsoft wrote version of OneNote just for the iPad. It actually works reasonably well. Still missing are things like OCR, handwriting to text, ability to use templates and the like. All the usual things missing on mobile platforms. You still need to go to Windows to get the full OneNote experience, but that said, it’s wonderful to have this cross platform tool. I use it all the time.

As with the iPhone there is no Kodi available for the iPad. You can hack your way through installing it but the process is arduous at best. Unless you can get a friend like Johannes to do it for you ๐Ÿ™‚ There are people on Kiji that will do it for you for a fee. The fee seems pretty reasonable given the difficulty and time consuming nature of the task. Particularly so if you don’t already have a Mac.

Mobile Browsing
As with all but Windows tablet, the iPad suffers from constantly being handcuffed by mobile web sites, even when you ask for the desktop websites. This happens on both Safari and Chrome. It really is a plague. Not sure if webmasters know better than their customers or they have no idea how to process the request for the desktop web site but it’s annoying.

In car Navigation
In car navigation is well covered on the iPad (but remember, only the iPad minis with cell have GPS in them). There are three choices that I use, the built in Apple maps, Google maps and Copilot. Copilot license from Android is carried over into iOS and Copilot supports offline maps. The size of the iPad mini is perfect for in car navigation. You will however have to find a car mount for it. I did find the the iPad mini is about the same width as the height of my iPhone 6 so the same holder (if it’s strong enough) can be used for both.

Kindle
Amazon have created an iPad Kindle app. It works fine, and supports downloaded books (the Windows version does not) but oddly does not allow you to buy books on the app. It doesn’t even link to a web page to allow you to buy the book. All in all it is less than a seemless experience. I can imagine there are conflicts with Apple books but still …

Tethering
The iPad can be used to tether (yay they didn’t remove tethering) to another device in one of three ways, WIFI access point, blueooth and USB. It’s wonderful to have bluetooth back because it’s something you can enable on your phone, leave enabled and it uses little power. Then from the remote client you can connect to it when you need it without having to take the phone out. Of course bluetooth tethering is limit to about 1MB/s so everything has it’s price.
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iPad/iPhone/Mac integration
This is one of the main reasons I wanted to play with an iPad, to see how Apple has integrated the devices. Apple call this Continuity. This breaks down into a number of areas. First and foremost is text messaging. Apple use the iMessaging app to in the back end blend your devices. No matter where you are, no matter what device your on you get to see all your iMessage and text messages. This really is a thing of beauty. Now to use it you have to not have disabled iMessaging, but be warned, if you move your phone off iOS to another platform disable iMessage and wait “a while” before you move your SIM to a new phone or your messages from other iOS users will continue to go to iMessage and be lost in the ether. Until some magical timeout, measured in days, occurs. Why sit typing on a small screen text messages or iMessages when you could be at your Mac or iPad! Of course what is missing (intentionally) is a Windows or web client. This is to provide value to the Mac ecosystem. iMessage by the way includes the ability to see the progress of your message, delivered, and read (and when it was read).

The second level of integration is what Apple call hand offs. A number of default apps Safari, iMessage, mail etc all can be handed off between devices. So you can start surfing (for example) on one device and go to another device and pickup where you left off. The implementation of this is a tad clumsy but it does work. On your iPhone or iPad when you double click to see the list of running apps there will an icon for anything that is available to resume on this device.

The third and final level of integration is for phone calls. When a phone call comes in, if your Mac/iPad and iPhone are all on the same wifi network (it only works over WIFI) your call comes in and is magically sent over to your iPad or Mac through FaceTime audio. It really works smoothly. From your iPad you can also make phone calls again through FaceTime. Sadly all this ends if your not on the same WIFI network. When a call comes in on your iPhone there is not even a notification on your iPad.

There’s a number of things missing IMHO. For example it would be great to be able to see the battery level of your iPhone on your iPad. And if you left your iPhone at home it would be nice to remotely forward your phone. Neither of these can even be done on iCloud. And if you have the same app on both wouldn’t it be nice to have back end data syncd? Say progress on a game, or if your tracking a package from UPS for example why do you have to put the tracking number into both devices? These are a couple examples. Moving seamlessly between the two devices would create some real platform synergy.

I really see great value in this kind of work (integration between devices). Apple have gone way farther than Microsoft in this space. Which isn’t hard given Microsoft so far have done next to nothing ๐Ÿ™‚

Phone calls
Like on most of these tablets the ability to make and receive phone calls has been removed. Oddly on the phablets like the Samsung Notes they leave it. So that leaves a number of choices, but all of them are handcuffed by the way iOS handles background apps (which is not well). Skype out works but there are no Skype In phone numbers in Canada. BBM has audio but can only be used between two BBM clients. Call quality is very good on BBM audio and free. Why BBM has not monetized this and brought about a BBM out service is beyond me. For a company struggling as Blackberry are this could be a very welcome revenue source. Generic VOIP can be used if you have a VOIP provider. I found Media5-fone and setup it up with my VOIP provider (Anveo). This app is written for iPhones not iPads so it is small and low res. But it’s a dialer to kinda who cares. Apps in the background on an iOS device are always less responsive so incoming calls will take a bit to register on the phone.

Bluetooth keyboards work just fine, and brilliantly Apple turns off the onscreen keyboard once the Bluetooth keyboard is connected. Why can’t Microsoft learn that trick? Bluetooth mice as always with iPhone/iPads are ignored. If Apple would reverse this stubbornness it would open up new use cases for iPads. Sadly it’s been this way for years and doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Standby power management is really very good on this device. Probably one of the best I’ve seen to date. I left the iPad on WIFI and the cell network for 49 hours and it went down from 100 to 92. That would come out at .16%/hr or a projected standby life of 26 days. Unbelievable. The numbers were similar on LTE. Indistinguishable really.

Another missing utility (on top of wallet) is Apple Health. Wouldn’t it be nice to look at your health data on a bigger screen instead of your phone? This seems like a perfect opportunity for cross device integration …

So all in all I am thoroughly impressed with the iPad mini. Great size, performance, battery life and integration. I always use to say people that jump into Apples ecosystem have drunk the KoolAid but I think now I know they (and I) have really drank the Apple juice … ๐Ÿ™‚

March 2, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Black listed phones (quick post)

A while back the government forced, at the carrier level, enforcement that if a phone that was listed as stolen tried to be used that it be denied service. This is called a black list. The problem is that onus is on the buyer to insure that when purchasing a used/refurbished phone that is not on the black list. I recently bought a refurbished phone from BestBuy auctions, now called 2nd turn. When I tried to get it on the network it simply reported no service. Upon contacting Fido I found to my horror I had been sold a black listed phone, by a reputable organization. Now clearly Fido/Rogers has this new process in place. I can only assume others like Bell/Telus etc do as well. So if you are buying used/refurb’d phones beware. If you were to buy one on Craigslist for example you would have absolutely no recourse. Be sure and check that the phone is on a network before you leave the sale. You can also check the IMEI (the phones serial number) in the database on a site like IMEIData.

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10, iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

iPhone 5S review

Table of contents
Introduction
Physicals and specs
Unlocking
iCloud
Apple Wallet
Airplay
General iPhone stuff
Tethering
iMessage (and a warning)
iTunes
Android Wear
Apps
Google Apps
Battery Life
Charge Speed
Power management tips
Summary

Introduction
Yup you read that right, an iPhone. It has been MANY years since I last owned an iPhone. Think iPhone 3G days. I figured it was time to try out an iPhone again and see what I can and can not do with it. I am coming from a Samsung S5, which at this point is driving me kinda nutz. This post is likely going to be a bit of an epically large post, lots to cover off. This is an experiment to see if I could live on an iPhone as my primary and ONLY device. My phone is at the center with lots of moving pieces around it. An Android wear watch, a Fitbit Charge, the Bluetooth stereo in my car, bluetooth headset, bluetooth heart rate monitor etc, so a bit of complicated mish hash.

Physicals
Physically the iPhone is
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm and weighs 112 grams
138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm and 129 grams (iPhone 6 for comparison)
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm and weighs 138 grams (Samsung S6 for comparison)

This quickly shows up one of the limitation of iPhones (well prior to the 6), size. Apple were the slowest to entertain the idea that people wanted larger screens. That said the unit is solid in the hand, and well built.

It comes with either 16 or 32G, mine is 16G. I quickly discovered 16G is REALLY limiting. I should have checked my music size. On Android I have a 64G uSD card so tons of space. Ooops.

Unlocking
So out of the box the iPhone that I bought is locked to a carrier. In this case not the carrier I am currently on ๐Ÿ˜ฆ iPhone unlocking works very differently than other phones. An iPhone can not be setup without a valid SIM. A valid SIM is one from the carrier that the phone is locked to. Unlike almost any other phone you can not power it up and set it up on WIFI. No siree. Android phones and the like you power them up and when a SIM from another carrier is inserted it asks for an unlock code. You can dismiss it and use it off the cell network. The unlocking is done on the phone itself. On an iPhone the unlocking is done on a back end Apple managed database. There are services that will add your IMEI to the database so your phone is considered unlocked, or you can buy an unlocking from the carrier that the phone is locked to. Unlocking however can only be done once the phone is activated. So your in a bit of a loop. The solution is to get a SIM (and it does not have to be an active SIM) from the carrier the phone is locked to. Then you can totally setup the phone on WIFI and activate it. And then you can get it unlocked. At least this is how the 5S worked. I am on iOS 9.2 (13C75). It took a couple days but eventually I got back an email saying the unlock had been done. I changed the SIM to a different carrier and low and behold the phone came back and said it had to be reactivated. I logged back into my iTunes account, put the phone on wifi and it reactivated. The phone and all it’s setup was as it was before. I bought my unlocking service from Drivel.ca for $50 CDN.

iCloud
Apple include a iCloud service that allows you to find your phone (if you enable it). Sadly it does not include the ability to send texts ๐Ÿ˜ฆ or make calls (like to forward your phone if you left it at home). Be sure and test the find my phone and insure it’s working before you need it!

Apple wallet
Apple has a wallet service that encompasses loyalty cards (for me Canadian tire, Longos, Airmiles and Shoppers Drug Mart) were all covered off. It then allows you to digitally have your loyalty card scanned at the store from your iPhone (optically scanned, not RFID). The wallet can also covers off tickets (for me this included Eventbrite as well as Ticketmaster) allowing you to avoid printing tickets to events. I tried to use TIcketmaster to go to a Hamilton BullDogs game, no joy for whatever reason they couldn’t scan it. Fortunately I brought along a paper ticket.

It appears in Canada that digital payment using the wallet is not possible in the 5S, and starts with the iPhone 6 and requires American Express (from what I read).

General iPhone Sutff
My 16G unit ended up with 11.9G free once all was said and done. This is for content (music, movies, pictures etc) as well as apps.

The 5S uses the lightning cable which is a change from older iPhones (but is the direction going forward). On a USB 3 enabled CoreM tablet I transferred a little over 10G of music in about 14mins. That would translate out to about 12MB/s. Not earth shattering my any definition.

Apple have included the ability to broadly change the font size within the operating system. Most apps seem to pay attention to this setting but not all. Something that is important given the small size of the screen. Even with this there are things on the phone (such as the task bar) that are super small and difficult to read. Crisp but small …

LTE speeds on the 5S were comparable to the Samsung S5. Reception seems better than on the S5.

The music app seems to have lost the ability to do the cover flow I use to love. No idea where that went. Oddly other people I have spoken to with the 5S have it. You can now delete music on the device itself and can buy and download music over the air through iTunes without a trip back to your PC. This is very useful if for example your phone is running out of space. You can just delete music on the device itself.

iPhones really are the king of instant gratification. Everything on the device is just smooth and instantaneous. It really is addictive. And it’s one of the things that’s hard to retrain yourself if you ever go off the iPhone. Android nor Blackberry can not come even remotely close. Especially with the device manufacturers customizations such as Samsungs Touchwiz. All of the Samsungs have these pregnant pauses. Where your scratching things wondering WTF is this thing doing. Not that it lasts all that long, but it’s maddening none the less.

Another area iPhones shine is in the apps. The phrase there is an app for that really applies in spades in the iOS world. Well within the limitations of the rules/restrictions that Apple dictates on the users and developers.

iPhones have never had status LEDS. No idea why. This one continues that trend. So if you missed a message, call etc there is no blinking light to tell you. I have no idea why they insist on leaving this off.

As far as onscreen keyboards go, Apples has always been one of the best. Auto correct is a blessing and a curse all in one. The iPhones keyboard gives up trying to correct you better than most and does a pretty good job of auto correct.

Airplay
iPhones use Airplay as their wireless media sharing platform. (Android use DLNA and Windows uses Miracast). It works reasonably well, is easy to use/setup/start and can stream your music to your network connected stereo or TV. Depending on your receiver you can control the iPhone remotely using the stereo, can see what song is playing and the cover art for the song.
ios9-ipad-iphone-airplay-callout

Tethering
The iPhone can be used to tether to another device in one of three ways, WIFI access point, blueooth and USB. It’s wonderful to have bluetooth back because it’s something you can enable on your phone, leave enabled and it uses little power. Then from the remote client you can connect to it when you need it without having to take the phone out. Of course bluetooth tethering is limit to about 1MB/s so everything has it’s price.
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Here’s how to set it up and use it on Android and Windows.
Screenshot_2016-01-19-15-05-37windows

iTunes
iTunes is the is the way you backup, restore, update and add content to your iPhone. Unfortunately you can’t avoid it. iTunes adds tags, and cover art to your music so it looks nice and functionality such as Genre etc all work well. iTunes is poorly written on Windows. Try using it on a tablet or touchscreen and your patience will be quickly tested. It has, however, come a long way. Believe it or not it use to suck even worse! Apple have added functionality like over WIFI syncing and the like. There isn’t a lot to say, it sucks but it is something you have to tolerate.

Apps (and music) are purchased through iTunes. If your not satisfied with your purchase you can request a refund. It is processed super fast. I just followed this guide.

If iTunes is not running (or not loaded) the iPhone appears to a Windows PC as a camera to allow you to easily copy off (or delete) photos off the iPhone. You can not use the iPhone as a generic flash drive and dump stuff to it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

There are converters on Amazon to change lightning into micro USB to allow you to use your existing car and home chargers. I found these really handy and charged at full speed too. There are also adapters that will allow you to read Sd cards from the iPhone (for example for cameras on the Go). There are also HDMI output adapters for the Iphone should you so desire.

There are also secondary battery packs available to give you more juice through the day. Mophie for example.

iPhones all the way up to the current 6S still do not support wireless charging. I love this convenience on the S5 and miss it on the iPhone. There are cases you can buy that add thsi functionality …

iMessage (a warning)
Apple invented something called iMessage. It allows sending of messages between iPads and iPhones for free (except it uses your data). These messages can contain pretty much anything, audio, video, text etc. The built in messaging app (the green one) handles iMessaging all on it’s own in that it knows who is on an iPhone. You likely didn’t even notice that it was using iMessage instead of normal texting. I know I didn’t. Well isn’t this swell … Well kinda, but there is a nice little gotcha. Let’s say the unheard of happens and you stop using your iPhone and go onto some other device? I know that never happens right? Well if it does your messages between ANY contacts that you previously iMessaged with will continue to go to the iMessage server until some magic timeout period happens. Trapped in the ether. Unbelievable … wow. So, to prevent this, whatever you do disable iMessage NOW. You can tell iMessages because they show up blue instead of green (in the default colors). One nice thing about iMessaging is that it provides read receipts. iMessage is somewhere between a brilliant idea (if you are Apple and want to retain customers at any cost) and nefarious (if you are an end user who wants to move to a different platform).

Android Wear
Android wear required me to factory reset the watch to move over to the iPhone (or any new phone for that matter) and it was simply and easily paired. Android wear functionality is more limited on iPhones because there are lots of apps and customizations on Android that are not yet available on iPhones. (watchmaker, facer etc). Google fit is not available on iPhone so there is no way to get your health data (steps, heart rate) off of the watch. I found the connection to the watch less reliable with occasional drop out. This is particularly annoying if you are trying to sleep and the watch buzzes as it looses connection only to buzz again when it reconnects. Sometimes I wonder if I need a cone of silence to put my gadgets in while I’m sleeping ๐Ÿ™‚ Google maps integration with Android wear (showing your directions on your watch) actually works. Wow. I eventually figured out that you need to manually start the Android wear app, and don’t close it to keep the connection between the iPhone and the watch live. And to use voice commands the link has to be kept alive. My experience is on the first Gen Moto 360 by the way.

Apps
I loaded up the Fitbit app (logged in), disconnected my Android device and Fitbit on the iPhone picked up the device immediately and seamlessly without me doing anything. When I went into settings and enabled notifications it paired it and started syncing. Pretty painless.

Endomondo and RunGPS for iOS works and pair with my Bluetooth low energy Scosche rhythm+ heart rate monitor. There is no support for Android wear (within Endomondo or RunGPS) as there is on Android. And since there is no ANT+ radio connectivity to ANt+ cadence/wheel sensors and the like isn’t happening. There are dongles you can add to enable this functionality if that is important to you. My older Bluetooth classic Zephyr heart rate monitor was ignored. RunGPS does however support bluetooth low energy wheel/cadence sensors. I did notice on Endomondo (I didn’t thoroughly test out RunGPS) that when Endomondo is in the background you get occasionaly heart rate drop outs and the sample rate seems much lower resulting in a much more jagged heart rate curve. The solution seems to be keeping Endomondo in the foreground.
Endomondo in the background
hr-drophr-blocky
Endomondo foreground
hr-smooth

The 5S paired with my Ford Sync in my 2010 Fusion but the connection is far less reliable than on Android. If I don’t wait long enough from the initial connection to use streaming music the connection gets dropped, and one time got so bad it crashed Sync. Oops. When it works Bluetooth controls of the music work just fine. Sync does not recognize the iPhone as a device it supports for reading text messages. A function I only recently got working on my Samsung S5 so not a huge surprise.

OneNote is available for iOS with similar functionality to the Android version. This is another major plus for me!

My goto Media player is Kodi. Sadly Kodi has not made it onto the app store. This leaves two options, neither good. Jailbreak it, or side load it with one of the more convoluted, time consuming processes I’ve seen in a while. On a small screen like this and with the HDMI option too expensive this isn’t much of a loss, but if it was an iPad then it just might be worth your while to mess with getting it going. A friend Johannes did me a solid and loaded it for me. He had done it two times before. Even with that it took him many tries to get it right. Once loaded it is almost impossible to use on the small screen. The interface was not designed for it. There is an iPhone specific skin that tries to help out. Out of the box the iPhones content (music/movies/pictures) is not available to Kodi. This is pretty normal for the way iPhones cordon off there space.

Google Apps
Google maps is available for iPhones and it includes turn by turn navigation. Integration with all Google sign ins means you can keep your favs and the like. Yay, this is a HUGE plus for me. Same for Google Chrome, it also works just fine. Google hangouts is there too. Coming from Android these apps are pretty key to me.

Gmail can be done from within the default mail client of iOS but push didn’t work. There is a gmail app to use but you can tell Google keep their best features for Android. There is no priority inbox. There is a primary inbox but it definitely filters differently. Your mail categories do work though. One big boo boo is that Google chose to ignore the system font and use their own, and there is now way to change it. So if it’s too big or too small for you … tough. Not nice Mr Google. Play nice with Mr Apple please ๐Ÿ™‚ So I leave both the gmail app and the default apple app running that way I can read the message in either.

Battery life
On day one of pretty heavy use (setting it up) after 12.5 hours it was down to 14% battery (it showed 5:48 of activity).

These next numbers attempt to measure standby power consumption. The phone is left doing as little as possible with as little in background apps as possible:
With WIFI off, and data off the phone consumed 0.6%/hr or a projected life of 158 hours. On 3G I measured very similar numbers (so close as to be with the error of the measurement).
Turn Wifi on (but cell data off) and this bumps up to 0.9%/hr or a project life of 109 hours.
Turn WIFI off and LTE on and this bumps up to 2.4%/hr or a projected 41 hours.
You can clearly see the effects LTE has on battery life. This is one area that Samsung worked heavily on with their S5 and standby power consumption on LTE and WIFI were virtually identical. So connect to Wifi anytime you can to save your battery, and if you can endure it, live on 3G instead of LTE.

As an interesting side note, the battery on an iPhone 5S is only 1560mAH, Vs that of a Samsung S5 which is 2800mAH.

Charge speed
As important as battery life is, how quickly it recharges is also pretty important. Using the factory charger and cable the phone charged from 57 to 90% in 38 mins or .9%/hr (comparable to the S5 btw in terms of charge speed). This would project to a full charge in just under 2 hours. The graph shows a fall off (as it does on the S5) once it reaches 90%. I tried using my Samsung charger and the charge rate dropped off to .5%/hr which would project charging out to just over 3 hours. Of note the iPhone charger is only 5W (5V 1A) Vs the Samsung which is 10W (5V 2A) charger.

One of the benefits of this being a 1A charger is that there are tons of third party external portable battery packs, but most of them are limited at 1A. Which is a problem for Android devices looking for 2A. Not a problem for iPhones. I tried my Anker lipstick case sized external battery pack and it worked and was pretty close to a full speed charge.

I had read here and there that if you use an iPad 10W charger on an iPhone you can get a faster charge … This is not true. A phone will only pull as much current as it is designed to pull. The 5S is designed for a 5W charger and using a 10W charger does nothing. I did test this by the way and the charging speed with the iPad charger was the exact same as the charging speed with the iPhone charger. So don’t waste your money. Myth debunked … Now that said, I ran the same test on an iPhone 6S Plus and it DID pull more current from the 10W charger, so it would charge faster.

Overall I found the iPhone pretty tolerant of other car and home chargers. Charge speed did vary with some chargers so you will need to watch that.

Power management tips
There are a number of things you can do to take control of your iPhones power consumption. Here are some of my tips:

Control background apps
When you click the home button within an app the app does not close. It actually goes into the background. Background apps in general are suspended a short time after they go into the background. The idea is it’s much faster to go back to a suspended background app than to restart them. There are however a whole category of apps that keep running in the background. Downloading stuff from the mothership and doing whatever they want to do. All this can drain your battery. You can take back control of this and remove an apps ability to run in the background.
IMG_0040

Close unused apps
Suspended apps are all well and good but if your done using an app you can manually close unused apps. To do this double push the home button and slide up any app that is open, this will close it.

Control use of location
You can control if and when an app can use your location. The GPS signal in the tray never seems to shut up, which indicates someone is looking up my location. GPS can be a battery hog. So there is an easy way to control this. If an app is running in the background, do you really want it to have access to your location? Maybe, but take a moment and review these settings from time to time. Limit those with always access to your location.
IMG_0038
And don’t forget to curtail the use of location by the system itself.
IMG_0039

Control notifications
Notifications are both a blessing and a curse. Especially when you have a smartwatch. Do I really need to get a notification that Metro is having a big sale in the vagina aisle today? I don’t think so … So go in and trim notifications. This has two benefits. First you get bothered less, second processing notifications means the apps are talking over the net to the mothership processing data etc. All this takes power.
IMG_0037

Summary
So what wasn’t I able to get working?
– Android Wear is basic at best, and not all that solid just yet
– I really miss the functionality to get any notifications on my Fitbit Charge from BitTicker
– llama was a tool I use to use to automate configuration changes based on location, time etc. I really miss it. Having to manually change profiles is irritating.
– I’ve been unable to find a way to text from my Windows PC. I used MightyText on Android all the time. This is easily possible if I were on a Mac.

So in the end I found no show stoppers to staying on an iPhone. Compared to my S5 battery life is comparable an impressive feat given the battery is almost half the size), the iPhone is way smoother, and is also more reliable. The specific phone I bought, the 5S was more of a proof of concept, in the end the 16G of memory is VERY limiting. And while the diminutive size is handy, it’s also very challenging in a lot of cases (too small to browse, text to small when default text size is ignored etc). Apple imposed limitations stunt developers but arguably result in a more stable platform.

January 30, 2016 Posted by | iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment