Category Archives: iOS

A suggestion for improvement

One of my great interests is in the interactions between Seniors and technology. As a rule; seniors are not well served by technology, they are a forgotten group. And yet, I believe that tech has a great potential to help in so many ways. In particular, adaptive technologies can do so much to help people with their daily lives, and those technologies can move out to the wider population.

It’s revealing when you find an app or function that would be perfect, if only the designers had kept seniors in mind. Because it shows how much we all don’t want to face growing old and the inevitable changes that time brings.

The app I’m thinking about today, is Day One. Day One has been a well reviewed diary/journal app on iOS for a few years. Yet it misses a really basic feature because its’ designers can’t envision anyone other than their intended audience using their product.

I found Day One for one of my senior clients. One of the things you might have heard about getting older is that sometimes you are a little forgetful. Oh, and you also might have some medical issues. Which might result in more than a few doctors office visits. Which would mean that a nice journaling app could prove useful. Especially one that could support multiple tags on a single entry. Which would mean that you could filter your entries by the name of your specialists, or medications, or illness or test results. It would be excellent if you could export information from the app (Day One allows for PDF exports of entries) and add photographs. So far, so fantastic; Day One does all these things and has beautiful clean interface.

What it doesn’t do, is take advantage of iOS’s accessibility features.

Day One Screen: Magnifiying Glasses Required
Day One Screen: Magnifying Glasses Required

While you can change the size of the typeface in your entries. Day One ignores any preference you have set for Larger Text, Bold Text or Increased Contrast. Which means that people with vision issues are going to struggle with using Day One, if they don’t give up on it altogether.

What I would love to see in this app is a high contrast setting; that would allow the tag icons to resize, adjust the labels and menu items to a typeface that is bolder/larger and that would allow the user to select a high contrast colour scheme.

I also want to see Apple lay down the law with developers and require them to respect user accessibility settings. Designers should look at designing for accessibility as a challenge that will improve the functionality of their apps for everyone. We don’t always interact with our devices under the best visibility circumstances. We may not be facing (yet) the vision problems caused by illness, but we are all going to get older.

Do you have an app that is useful for seniors? Tell me about it.

iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist

In case you missed the news, there’s a CellurWiFiAssistnew setting in iOS 9, that you might either love or hate. But Wi-Fi Assist could come as a big surprise at the end of the month when your bill comes. When Wi-Fi Assist is turned on (as it is by default) if your wi-fi connection is poor, your cellular data will be called on to fill the gap.  You know, I’ve been some places where the wi-fi connections were so miserable, that I have switched to cellular. But I like knowing that I’ve made the choice, so my cell phone bill isn’t a huge shock.

You’ll find this new setting under Settings>Cellular and scroll down to the very end of the section. Its also a good reminder to go through all your apps and restrict which ones can use your cellular data.

Never be the first

Never be the first to  upgrade  software or buy new hardware. It’s a good rule of thumb that’s helped me avoid problems like this. Personally, I usually wait a week, watch the tech websites and then decide if it’s the right time. I’m sure I will upgrade to iOS 9. It will just be a matter of timing.

Also, back up your device before upgrading, so if the worst happens you don’t lose everything.  If you can, perform your upgrade via iTunes – not wifi.  In my experience, choppy or poor wifi connections can lead to upgrade grief.

Has there been an update that I regret? Well yes, upgrading my mini2 to iOS 8 was really a backwards step in terms of performance.  And subsequent updates to 8.4 etc. didn’t solve the performance problems. But I knew it was risky when I did it. But I wanted to see the accessibility features (which were an improvement) in action.

In fact, my mini might be the first device that I do upgrade to iOS 9. Since I don’t have much to lose at this point, it might be a good way to check out the backwards compatibility of iOS 9. In theory with iOS 9 Apple is doing more to ensure that older devices will continue to perform well. I’ll let you know.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?

 

Smart Playlists

I have an intense dislike of iTunes. I used to think that  it was deliberately lousy on Windows machines. Then we got a Mac and I found it was just as terrible on it as well.

But there is one thing that I like about iTunes,  and that is the ability to create a Smart Playlist.   A smart playlist is one that adapts; automatically adding songs based on the criteria that you set. Right now, smart playlists can only be created through iTunes but I have hope that soon I’ll be able to create them through the music app on my iPhone.

iTunes Smart Playlist
iTunes Smart Playlist

To make a smart playlist  select the  File, New,  Smart Playlist menu choice

from within iTunes.

My favorite smart playlist is one that finds songs that I haven’t listened to in the last  month  and plays them for me.   It’s a great way to keep from listening to the same music over and over again.  As songs are played, they are removed from the playlist and new unplayed songs are added to the playlist.

Smart playlist settings
Smart playlist settings

Here are the settings that I use to make my  Not Recently Played  playlist. The  most important setting is to ensure that song has not been played in the last month. The rest of the filters remove holiday theme music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts  and any music I’ve given a 1 star rating to.  Right now I’m limiting the  length of this playlist to  30  songs.  The random selection option, is acting more like an alphabetical selection right now. Previously it was truly random *shrug* (the oddball behaviors of iTunes are nothing new).   I’m hoping that this will repair itself with the next version of iTunes.

When you sync your iPhone with iTunes be sure to  select  your Not Recently Played playlist,  so the playlist is pulled over to the phone.

List of smart playlists
Smart playlists have a different icon than regular playlists

In the new music app, this is what your playlist will look like.  These playlists have a different icon, and of course you can’t add songs to them manually. You can see from my list  that I also have a smart playlist looking for the word  “happy” in the song title  and playlists looking for recently added music on the basis of  musical genre .

Those playlists are a little less successful because genre tags are not always applied consistently. Or at least music is not always classified the way I would classify it.  Again,  it would be great to be able to add metadata to songs from within the  music app on the phone. But that type of editing has to be done from within  iTunes on the computer. So I usually don’t bother.  Nevertheless, I really like my Not Recently Played  playlist since it does  find gems that I would otherwise forget are in my music library.

 

iOS 8.4 Music App Impressions

iOS Add to a Playlist
iOS 8.4 Music App menu

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled discussing the Music app in iOS 8.4.  Since I don’t live in the U.S. or have unlimited streaming data, most of this has left me cold. However, one little feature does make me very happy, and that is the ability to add songs to a Playlist on the fly.

Now when you are listening to music and pull up a menu you’ll find the “Add to a Playlist” option. Select this and you get a list of all your playlists. You can add the current song to one or many playlists.

At last! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a long time. Now I can hope that the native podcast app will get some improvements in iOS 9.

On the downside, I hate the tiny tiny buttons in this app. They seem to get smaller in each version.