Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

iOS 6 rant: YouTube and Maps

September 20, 2012

Previously I wrote a blog post about how Apple improved the browser performance on my iPad 2 with the new iOS 6.

Now that I’ve been using iOS 6 for almost a day I noticed two big drawbacks: YouTube and Maps!

Since the beginning of times Apple bundled with iOS a YouTube app. While it wasn’t the most advanced or feature complete YouTube app around (the Android version is arguably better), the app did the job well enough to be one of the most used apps by those who like to watch videos on the web.

Apparently the license to bundle the YouTube app with iOS ended and Apple didn’t care about renewing it or making sure Google had an iPad optimized YouTube app on the AppStore before getting rid of the current one.

There is an official YouTube app for free on the AppStore but it’s made for the iPhone and not for the iPad.

Meanwhile you’re supposed to use Safari to browse in the YouTube mobile website and it’s also possible to add the website bookmark directly to the home screen but it’s not the same as having a proper app! There’s also some third party YouTube apps available at the AppStore but then again the question remains: why take away a feature from iOS without offering a better replacement?

Unfortunately YouTube is just one of the problems with iOS 6 on the iPad: the new Maps app is also worse than the previous Google powered Maps app!

Above you can see the Google Maps app that was bundled with previous versions of iOS.

The maps data quality was pretty good and there was a feature that was much nicer to use on the iPad touchscreen than with the mouse of a desktop computer: Google’s StreetView!

The new Maps app from Apple is supposed to introduce a lot of new features:

  • Apple designed vector based maps
  • Turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions
  • Real-time traffic information
  • Flyover for photo-realistic, interactive 3D views of major metro areas
  • Local search results with Yelp photos, ratings, reviews, and available deals
  • Siri integration for requesting directions and finding places along a route

The thing is:

  • Features like Siri integration or turn-by-turn navigation aren’t available in my WiFi iPad 2
  • Real-time traffic information doesn’t work in my country
  • The 3D maps feature isn’t available in Europe
  • Local search in my country is really much poorer compared to Google’s database of POI

And of course, with the new app I lost the Google StreetView feature shown in the picture above!

Below you can see Apple Maps at the exact same place of the previous screenshots.

Besides losing some Google-related features there’s one thing that puzzles me: Apple bought last year C3 Technologies from Nokia. This company is the one behind Apple Flyover / 3D Maps and was the one that made possible Nokia Maps 3D feature that’s still available at the Nokia Maps website.

If you try last year’s Nokia flagship, the N9, you can check the exact same place I’ve shown before with the Nokia Maps app and, as you can see below, there’s a 3D model of the stadium.

So my question is: why does Apple only have 3D maps in the USA? C3 Technologies had Europe 3D data when it was part of Nokia so it’s kind of weird not to have this feature enabled at least in the main European capitals.

There’s also one question left in my mind: what about StreetView? If Apple doesn’t want to borrow that feature from Google perhaps they should start recording street level footage of the main cities to compete with Google!

Nokia chose that path and the result is Nokia City Scene. Below there’s the Eiffel Tower:

If you compare with Apple Maps you can clearly see the difference.

I hope Apple sort this out soon rather than late because currently in Europe they are lagging behind the competition in location-related apps and services.

iOS 6 SunSpider benchmark

September 19, 2012

Apple released new hardware such as the new iPhone 5 and the new iPod Touch, but for current customers there’s also some goodies: the new version of iOS is now available for the older generations of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

One thing that always impresses me is the download of the update itself: despite millions of people all around the world receiving their iOS update at the same time, my fiber optics connection bandwidth was maxed out downloading the update in a couple of minutes from the Apple servers.

After installing the iOS 6 update on my iPad 2, I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmark in order to look for performance improvements over the previous version of iOS.

As you can see above, Safari completed the benchmark in just 1417.2 ms which, compared to the iOS 5.1 result at around 1800 ms is a huge improvement over the previous iOS version: now that’s just amazing!

iOS 6 might not bring many new features compared to the previous versions, but Apple seems to be unstoppable perfecting the current ones: the browser javascript performance has improved over and over in each version and that is what keep Apple users happy with their devices.

When most competing products usually have a decrease in performance after major software updates (e.g.: Sony Ericsson Android ICS update), Apple just keeps improving the older products performance in each software update until every last bit of performance is extracted from the hardware!

My thoughts about the new iPhone 5

September 12, 2012

Apple just announced the new iPhone!

While it is, as expected, a great device, I believe it lacks some new killer feature:

  • When the original iPhone was launched, everybody was amazed with the touchscreen-only design, with a capacitive multitouch display and a smooth OS
  • The iPhone 3G came with the AppStore, and everybody was impressed with how much useful and cool apps one can run on a phone
  • Then the iPhone 3GS brought an entire new CPU with much faster speed and important missing features like copy and paste or MMS support
  • The iPhone 4 was all about the display: the high resolution Retina was awesome!
  • The iPhone 4S, much like the 3GS, just improved over the previous version but nevertheless brought Siri, the first really useful voice assistant

Now we have the iPhone 5: it’s better than the previous iPhone but appears to not have one single new feature that I haven’t seen before on competitor’s phones!

I was hoping for a “one more thing” moment where they would present something like:

  • NFC
  • Wireless charging
  • A new touchscreen that can be operated with mittens or gloves

But all of this was presented last week by Nokia, not Apple! And it used to be Apple to come up with some truly amazing new tricks!

Panorama photos or being able to take a snap while recording a movie is not innovation: it’s just something that the competition has been doing for quite a while (e.g.: Galaxy S3)…

In the end, and despite all the above, the iPhone 5 will be a huge success! People will line up at the stores and buy the iPhone, no matter the price, no matter the innovative features it doesn’t have. And buyers will be happy with it because it happens to be a great phone, it’s just not a revolutionary one!

Google Chrome now available for Apple’s iPad

June 29, 2012

Google just launched the Chrome browser for the iPad on Apple’s AppStore.

While it’s good to have another option in iOS to browse the web, does Chrome beat Safari performance-wise?

Unfortunately, Chrome is not able to take advantage of the fast javascript engine Apple built into iOS, so the SunSpider javascript benchmark result is, at least, disappointing: 7240.4 ms is just a bad result compared to Safari’s 1800 ms result.

I guess Safari will keep being my browser of choice on iOS.

1st gen iPod nano replacement program

March 10, 2012

A long time ago I bought a brand new first generation iPod nano.

At the time it was a great choice because, despite the price, it was a small device with a reasonable amount of memory (2 GB) that served only one purpose: to play my music while jogging outside.

I was a bit surprised when Apple recently announced the worldwide replacement program for the 1st generation iPod nano: my device worked perfectly during all those years and I never had any problem with it and even the battery was still going strong enough to keep using it on my weekly runs.

Nevertheless I contacted the nearest Apple authorized service center in order to check if I was supposed to exchange my device. The serial number was apparently one of the affected ones and they accepted the device and sent it to Apple.

Some weeks later Apple sent me a brand new iPod nano but here is the kicker: it’s not a first generation like my previous one but the latest touchscreen version with 8 GB!

Of course there is a small problem: my 1st gen iPod nano armband and rubber case does not fit my brand new (ultra)portable music player.

This is not a big problem since the new nano comes with an integrated clip that allows it to hold on to my shirt by itself.

It also has two new features that I didn’t have in the previous one:

– FM Radio, which sometimes might be useful

– An integrated accelerometer with a (Nike) fitness app that allows me to track my runs: awesome!

Well done Apple 🙂

iOS 5.1 SunSpider benchmark

March 8, 2012

It’s been 24 hours since Apple released the iOS 5.1 update to several iDevices and I’ve ran on my iPad 2 the SunSpider javascript benchmark to check if there were any performance improvements.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there is absolutely no improvement… at all! The benchmark is completed in the same amount of time iOS 5.0 took.

The main noticeable improvement, at least for me in this first day of usage, is in the stability department: in iOS 5 and 5.0.1 it was common to watch Safari close by itself, especially when dealing with a large amount of tabs but with iOS 5.1 things appear to be much more robust.

Android lag

December 30, 2011

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of buzz on the web around the Android lag issue: some Google engineer started the controversy with a post on Google+ and then other devs wrote their own opinion on that.

First of all, I believe that if this subject was discussed widely on the web, it probably means that the problem exists! I want to emphasize this because first I was led to believe by some online forums that it was an issue exclusive to the Galaxy S I had. Apparently this might affect the whole platform and, as a consequence, more or less, every single Android device.

Second, the conclusion I get from all the posts I’ve read is that Android, unlike iOS or Windows Phone, does a lot of different stuff all at the same time instead of focusing on the screen response to the user when the screen is touched. It seems pretty obvious to me that the screen responsiveness is a major thing on a touchscreen device user experience. Google apparently doesn’t share entirely this view with their competitors and believe that, at some point in the future, the hardware will be so powerful that this problem will sort itself out.

In the meantime, I felt curious about everything I’ve read and made a short video where I try to see what’s the approach Google and Apple took on this by playing some CSS animation on both OS stock browsers.

By the way, on a side note, after watching this video I noticed something I didn’t before: recording the video at the same time, on the same place, connected to the exact same wireless network, the iPhone 4S shows a much higher level of signal reception compared to a very poor signal showed by the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman.

Is the iPhone WiFi signal level too optimistic or is the Sony Ericsson antenna really bad?

How does my Apple products withstand falls?

December 20, 2011

In the title you can read one of those questions I make an effort to never find the answer!

Unfortunately, in less than 24 hours, despite all my precautions, I’ve managed to drop both my iPad and my Macbook. Luckily enough, both devices survived and still work properly!

My main worry was about the device’s screens, but they were strong enough to take the hit, the aluminum unibody however has some scars to remember me to be even more cautious from now on.

The iPad was damaged in one of the corners, where it first hit the ground, but otherwise it is pretty much ok!

The Macbook bent one of the screen’s corners. This meant the laptop initially didn’t close perfectly.

I left it closed with some heavy books on top of that corner and I believe after some nights and several hours, it is a little less curved than before because now I can close the Macbook well enough to make it go to sleep mode.

UMTS / 3G standard video calling (or the lack of it!)

December 8, 2011

One of the new features 3G phones introduced was the front facing camera and the ability to make video calls between them.

As far as I know, this feature was initially a flop: video calling was much more expensive than traditional phone calls which led most consumers away.

In the last couple of years, at least in my country, carriers like Vodafone introduced new prepaid plans that not only allowed free voice calls between phones (using the same plan) but also free video calling (again, between phones with the same prepaid tariff).

I noticed that, thanks to these new prepaid plans a lot of consumers rediscovered video calling and, especially if living away from their loved ones, started to use this feature a lot more often.

At the same time, a lot of people started to dump their old 3G dumb and feature phones and joined the smartphone revolution. Unfortunately most have discovered an inconvenient truth: Most smartphones can’t make the standard good old video calls!

– iOS devices are able to make video calls through data networks (FaceTime) but are not able to make standard 3G video calls.

– Android also do not support natively standard video calling, although is able to do so via Google Talk or Skype.

– Windows Phone just recently started having phones with a front facing camera in the market, but, like Android or iOS, do not support UMTS video calling.

I have to recognize that, apparently, the only manufacturer concerned about this and that’s making an effort to make both Android and Windows Phone smartphones compatible with the old video calling standard is Samsung, as you can see in the video below (made by HDblog)

All other phone manufacturers I had the opportunity to try, such as standard Google Nexus phones (including the Samsung ones), HTC, Sony Ericsson and Apple are not able to do it, which is really a shame, since this was a feature available in older mobile OS such as Symbian or Windows Mobile.

iOS 5.0.1 SunSpider benchmark and stability

November 17, 2011

Apple released iOS 5.0.1 some time ago and the main thing about it was that it tried to solve the battery problem some users reported with iOS 5.0 in the iPhone 4S.

I’ve installed iOS 5.0.1 in the iPad 2 and tried again the SunSpider benchmark in order to see if there was further improvements over iOS 5.0.

iOS 5.0 never ran this benchmark in less than 1800 ms, and although iOS 5.0.1 did not improve significantly this result I was able to run it in 1744 ms as you can see in the picture below.

Although it’s really great to watch iOS improve the javascript performance, I believe Apple should focus on Safari stability!

I don’t recall seeing Safari exit itself (aka crash) in iOS 4.3.5, but in iOS 5 and 5.0.1 it happens almost everyday…