Tech Talk: iPadOS / iOS 13.1 First Impressions

This is just from playing with iOS 13.1 for about an hour on my iPad 5th Generation and iPhone X. You can find lots of articles online with in-depth details. So these are just my own first impressions. I hope you find them useful.

The best update for me – video editing!

First what I think is the the best new feature in iPadOS and iOS 13, and what makes it worthwhile updating right away for. Photo and video editing has been incredibly improved! Now you can crop and rotate videos directly! And you can edit video brightness, etc., directly from within the Photos app. Finally! This is a huge convenience. Think about it.

Photos Gallery

The Photos view itself is also greatly improved. If you are scrolling through your photos, you can do it by day, months, years, and all photos. The cool thing is that photos are scaled nicely, and you can see the live photos and videos move as you are scrolling through. It brings your photos more “to life” as you are looking through them. 

Some iPadOS Notes

From 13 onward, iOS is for iPhones and iPadOS is for iPads. I only touch on some of the new features here. There are apparently some cool things you can do between your iPad and Mac as well.

Handoff

I’ve always like the fact that you can copy on one device (iPhone, iPad, Mac) and paste to another. I use that all the time, and it’s one thing that keeps me in the Apple ecosystem.

Handoff is quite cool too. For example, after updating my iPad to iPadOS13, I noticed right away that if I have a Chrome window open on my Mac, there’s a little icon at the bottom right on my iPad which lets me open that same page in Safari. Interesting. Similarly, if you are composing an email, or writing a memo on one device, you can just switch to another device and continue.

Widgets on the Home Screen

The iPad now allows widgets on the home screen, which makes better use of the home screen space. So I can, for example, see the weather and upcoming calendar appointments right there on the home screen to the left of app icons. That’s pretty cool.

Multitasking Enhancements

On the iPad, you can now have multiple versions of the same app open at the same time and other multitasking features. For example, you can have Files open twice in split view and drag files around to different folders that way. It works great, but the UI takes some getting used to. I suspect unless you are using your iPad every day for school or actual work you probably won’t be doing this much. Maybe I’ll feel different about that once I get the hang of the UI better. It does work as advertised though.

Desktop-like Safari on the iPad

In iPadOS the Safari browser is more like the desktop browser now, with tabs and other desktop-like experiences. You can even drag browser tabs to the side and have two pages open at once in split view mode (see multitasking, above). That’s pretty cool. Apple are clearly trying to make iPad more useful as a computer substitute for certain people.

Dark Mode

Another thing I noticed right away is that I don’t really care for dark mode. It clashes in ordinary Mail, because the bodies of a mail are not dark and yet the listings themselves are dark, so it looks weird. Instead of being easy on the eyes, it becomes confusing. I’m sticking with regular window colors.

Slide to Type – and the small keyboard on the iPad

The new slide-to-type, where you run your fingers over the keys instead of typing each letter separately, works flawlessly on my iPhone. In a situation where you can’t dictate I can see this being a big time saver.

Meanwhile on the iPad you can shrink the gigantic on-screen keyboard to iPhone size now. Just pinch in on the keyboard (like you’re shrinking a photo) and you have a much less intrusive keyboard which you can use with one hand. When you do this, slide-to-type also works on the iPad.

Some Mail UI improvements

When you touch the reply icon in Mail, you see lots of options at once: reply all, forward, trash, flag, mark as unread, move to a suggested mailbox, or move to another mailbox – all right there. Also archive, junk, mute, notify me and more are right there. Interesting!

Message Searching 

Searching in Messages is greatly improved, and you can instantly find photos and attachments. Also, some attachments that didn’t open previously now do open, like a sound attachment of birdsongs a friend sent me recently.

Memo Improvements

The Memo app, which I use every day (I no longer use Evernote) gets new features too, like a gallery view (easy to find images and sketches. Another big improvement in Memo is shared folders for collaboration (before you could only share individual notes).

Long Screenshots Doesn’t Work

A feature that looks convenient, but doesn’t work for me right now is long screenshots. In Safari, Mail and other Apple Maps you supposedly can now take a long screenshot without doing it in parts and then using an app like Stitch-It to piece it back together again. It’s supposed to save it as a PDF in Files. I tried this, and it saves it as a PDF in Files, but it’s just the selection as before. I’m checking into this.

iOS 13 / iPadOS 13 are also noticeably faster. I recommend updating if your device supports it.

Tech note: Google Drive and Apps vs DropBox vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office

I found this article interesting and useful (https://www.cloudwards.net/dropbox-vs-google-drive-vs-onedrive).

One error was that the author says the free 15 GB of Google Drive space is also used by Mail and Google Photos. If you use the default high-quality optimized photos option then Google Photos is unlimited and doesn’t eat up your Google Drive space.

I did finally buy a yearly 100 GB Google Drive subscription recently, because decades of email had finally reached 15 GB. That’s only $20/year.

Currently I pay for that, $100/year for 1 TB of DropBox space and $70/year for Office365, which includes 1 TB of OneDrive space.

I don’t find the OneDrive space that useful because of file size limits and things break when folder or filenames are in Japanese. That doesn’t happen with DropBox. So I find I’m not really taking advantage of the included OneDrive space.

I find the DropBox syncing speeds generally faster, and find it easy to use and share different DropBox folder with different friends and clients. It has been very reliable. I would hate to give that up. DropBox doesn’t really have “apps” so DropBox is just my go-to solution for file syncing and sharing.

I’ve been playing more with Google apps the last few days and have been impressed with how well they work for a browser-based solution. It’s pretty cool. I can actually watch myself select text on my Mac and see it selected at the same time on my iPad. It’s eerily fast considering that it does this via the cloud. I can move lines around on my Mac and see them move at the exact same time on my iPad. And vice versa. Same with my iPhone. My impression was that this is faster than with Office apps.

Of course with Office365 you get the actual desktop clients to work with. It seems those are generally easier to use on my Mac than doing things in the Chrome browser interface. While I’m impressed with how well the web interface does work, there are also web-based limitations and awkwardness in the UI that you don’t see in the Office apps on your desktop. Still, the web-based apps work surprising well.

So right now I’m paying a total of $190/year for 1 TB of DropBox, 100 GB of Google Drive and 1 TB of OneDrive bundled with Office365.

Note: I have an old “grandfathered-in” Google Suite account for my personal domain and company domain, so those accounts remain free for up to 50 users in each domain.

It’s not bad in total, but I feel I get the least use out of OneDrive.

I have a question I’m pondering right now. I teach a volunteer class in computer skills for seniors and disabled people on Sundays. I’d like a free solution for them. I am debating whether to start the students with Google Drive plus Google Apps, or OneDrive plus Office.com. I’m leaning towards Google because (1) there is more free space; (2) many people already have a Google account for email, YouTube, and Google Photos; and (3) it’s completely free.

I think Office.com is free for most iOS and Android devices, but not for the iPad Pro. I guess that would be the deal breaker for Office.com right there. Plus the limitations on free disk space.

 

iOS catches up with Android on some essential features

When I commented in the past that Android had a handful of features that were superior to iOS, these were them.

https://gigaom.com/2014/09/15/6-great-ios-8-features-iphone-6-plus/

While Apple is clearly borrowing from Android, I’m glad these new features will be part of iOS. It makes it even more attractive to stick with the iPhone.

Still, in this case, it should be remembered who is borrowing from whom.

Short review of iOS 7 – the good (some nice new features), the bad (the new Calendar app) and some hints to get going

Overall

Despite my initial complaints and apprehensions about the appearance, I find I actually sort of like iOS 7 on my iPhone 5 and iPad 2 – except for the new Calendar app, which is really awful (see below for more on that, and a recommended alternative app).

But basically iOS 7 seems nice to me. There are some convenient improvements to the main apps, like Mail (some smart mailboxes),  Safari (a improved tabbed view), Photos (some nice, automatic organization), new Siri voices and features, improved multitasking, and some other new features as well. A more complete list is here.

I still don’t see the reason to redo all the colors and icons and aesthetics, but it’s not bad getting used to. It seems the whole web is moving more towards these lighter, simpler, flatter icons and user interfaces. Perhaps as time has passed, people more “just know” what to do, and so overly-heavy visual cues are becoming less important. After playing with it, it does feel lighter and more modern.

Two hints

  1. The contrast of the icons labels is reduced in iOS 7. If that bothers you (depending on your background image), you can go into  Settings > Accessibility and turn on bold text. That does help.
  2. A security hint! There are important improvements to Find My iPad and Find My iPhone which make it even more worthwhile to use, to protect your important data in case your device gets lost or stolen. To get maximum protection, you need to turn password lock on. Many people (perhaps most people, including me) never did this before because it seemed like a nuisance to have to enter the 4-digit PIN every time I unlocked my screen. But there is a setting in the password lock so you don’t have to do it every time. You can specify how much time has to pass before you have to re-enter the PIN. I set mine for an hour to see how that goes. You can set it for up to 4 hours. For the extra security it seems worthwhile.

Easy upgrading

Many sites have recommendations on tedious and elaborate precautions to take before upgrading. I really think the following is safe and sufficient enough for a quick upgrade:

  1. Connect your device to your computer and do a complete encrypted manual backup via iTunes. This allows a simple restore of everything, including passwords, automatically after the upgrade. If you don’t have a computer, and you are running iOS 6, just make sure you have a backup in iCloud first and then do the upgrade.
  2. If you haven’t been prompted already, check for the software upgrade inside iTunes and just do it.

Your device will be upgraded, everything will be restored to where it was, and you just need to go through a few simple settings pages on your iPhone or iPad. It’s simple.

The awful new iOS 7 Calendar

On the downside, I do want to mention the problems with the new default iOS 7 Calendar app, particularly on the iPhone.

  1. The worst problem is that the month view now takes up the entire screen. In iOS 6 on the iPhone, the bottom half of the screen conveniently shows the selected date’s events. In iOS 7, if you are in month view, you can no longer see at-a-glance what today’s events are without touching the date. It’s a waste of space and forces the user to “do more stuff” to get the same work done.
  2. This one just plain buggy. If you click on a date with an event, apparently it’s supposed to auto-scroll to the event time so you can actually see it. But many times that doesn’t happen, so you don’t see the events even if you touch the event date! You have to scroll up and down to find it. Very sloppy.
  3. In the single date view, there is a horizontal, scrolling list of dates at the top of the screen to slide through. But there are no indicators of which dates have events! There’s plenty of room there to include the event indicator dots, but Apple left them out. So in order to see where your other events are you have to (a) go back up to the month view; (b) click on a date with an event indicator; (c) then get back to the single date view; (d) then scroll the time until the event comes into view. In iOS 6 you could do all this at-a-glance, or just by touching each date in month view.

The iOS 7 Calendar app on the iPhone is a huge usability step backwards I think.

Fortunately there is an alternative! A really nice one too – the free Sunrise” Calendar app for the iPhone. The developer is responsive, and says they are planning an iPad version too. If you are using Google Calendars (and why not – Google Calendars are more compatible across more devices than the iCloud Calendar) then Sunrise is really nice, and syncs quicker than the iOS Calendar app.

If you want to switch to using Google Calendars it’s extremely easy to move your iCloud Calendar events over and then just turn them off to avoid seeing duplicates. You can continue to use Google Calendars in your iOS Calendar app if you prefer.

Sunrise is 500 times better than the standard iOS 6 Calendar app (it syncs instantly for one thing, while there is a noticeable lag with the standard app) and 1,000 times better than the awful new iOS 7 Calendar. It’s a great example of what the iOS 7 Calendar could have been. It has a clean, modern design, and a very thoughtful use of space that actually provides more info (even the weather) at your fingertips, rather than less, which is what the iOS 7 Calendar does.

It accomplishes the same “scrolling through months” that the iOS 7 Calendar app does, without having to do multiple touches to see the events. You have to try it. It’s very clever.  It’s also free.

Conclusion

If you have a compatible device, go for it.