This is a little surprising, but not that surprising.
What’s New Is Not That New
I’ve spent a week with the iPhone 5s now, and of all the iPhone’s I’ve owned, and I’ve owned every one except the first, this feels like the least significant upgrade yet. That’s not really something bad though. The iPhone 5 was (and is) pretty great. Externally, the only differences between my iPhone 5 and my iPhone 5s are the Space Gray casing and the new home button. I’m sure there’s a slight speed boost as well, but after iOS 7 slightly slowed down my iPhone 5, iOS 7 on the faster iPhone 5s just feels normal.
Space Gray is the New Black
There’s not a black iPhone anymore. That’s weird, right? Instead, we’ve got Space Gray, which is fine. Truth is, most people, (I know, not John Gruber) use a case. I bought one of the new Apple cases as well. The color doesn’t matter all that much when you have 60% of the phone covered up with a case. The front of the phone is black and my leather case is black, so, it’s essentially a black iPhone. I’d love to go caseless, and actually did for the first couple weeks with the iPhone 5, but I buy a new one every year and I sell the old one off. I need to keep it as pristine as possible so I can get as much of my money back as I can for these damn things. It’s a fine color though, and probably less prone to the chipping that people experienced with the black iPhone 5. I approve of Space Gray.
Security Meets Ease of Use
Much has been said about TouchID being fooled into acknowleding fake fingerprints. I’m not surprised at this development, but it’s highly unlikely that someone will have a good fingerprint, your iPhone, the equipment required to do this and the skill that doing this requires. For a more secure solution, Apple would be better off to require a password and a fingerprint every time you want to unlock your phone. As with all things, there are trade-offs with security and convenience. As far as security goes, I’m satisfied with TouchID. I haven’t lost a phone yet, and I’m not worried about a perfect print being pulled off my phone.
In the convenience department, I’m thoroughly satisfied with TouchID. You tap the home button to wake the device, let your thumb linger and BAM! you’re in the OS. It’s smooth and easy to use. Just remember to wipe the fried chicken grease off your grubby paws.
Happy As a Pig In…
I’m pleased with my iPhone 5s. It’s the hardware that iOS 7 was designed for. It’s the best iOS 7 experience I’ve had so far. I’ve yet to see any noticeable performance boosts in any specific apps, but everything feels as smooth as iOS 6 did on my iPhone 5. Nothing feels slow, and that’s the most you can hope for. Maybe, as apps get iPhone 5s-optimized code up on the App Store, we’ll see the performance of the iPhone 5s jump up.
All observations are of a 64GB Space Gray iPhone 5s running on Softbank’s LTE network.
There’s an interesting new combo of apps out called Otto’s Antenna and Otto’s Remote (Official Site). Otto’s Antenna sits in the menu bar of your Mac and you give it AppleScripts, shell scripts and Automator workflows to manage. That’s all. Otto’s Remote, on your iPhone, can remotely trigger any scripts in Otto’s Antenna’s scripts folder. Anywhere. You don’t have to be in range of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It works over iCloud (and surprisingly well). That’s nifty, but even niftier is that Otto’s Remote using geofencing to trigger scripts automatically. You can set these up with multiple Macs, with any script that Otto’s Antenna knows about, and can be set up to fire when you enter or leave a location.
Ashes for Fever° started off a couple years ago as an iPad-only Fever° client. It was buggy to say the least. It was slow and it crashed constantly. After looking forward to a better way to look at Fever° on my iPad (compared to the non-iPad specific website) only to be let down by a poor iPad app, I was heartbroken. The app looked beautiful, but its performance was awful.
Having said that, you can imagine my surprise to see that there is a new Ashes now available for iOS, and it’s for both the iPhone and iPad. The two version are largely identical, but that’s fine. The app retains its orangey and reddish hues, and where other apps would use white, Ashes uses a manilla folder yellow. Some may not like it, I didn’t at first, but after a few days of use, the color scheme has grown on me.
So what’s special about Ashes? For one, the performance issues of the past are gone (for the most part). The 1.1 release that’s currently available (as of 2013-05-09) is rather snappy. There are times when swipes aren’t recognized on the first try, but it’s not bad. The sync speed seems slow at times, but that’s largely dependent on how many sparks you have on your Fever° install. I have 300 or so, and because Ashes caches every article of every spark, if you have a lot of sparks, it can take a while. Also, because you host Fever° on your own, those with slow hosts will have slower speeds. When my host is running fast, Ashes syncs rather quickly. At busier times, my host just can’t spit Ashes the data very fast. YMMV.
The most impressive aspect of Ashes is its “Share Anywhere” feature. Share Anywhere allows you to craft your own sharing URL schemes. If you’ve used Drafts or Launch Center Pro, you get the idea. I was able to create sharing actions for Ashes that tied to my existing Drafts actions for adding to my daily journal, creating link lists from Fever° articles, and I whipped up a little action to send articles from Ashes to OmniFocus. You can read the tutorial about “Share Anywhere” on the the Ashes site.
So, should you buy Ashes? Well, even if you bought the old iPad app, you’re gonna have to buy Ashes again. I know, it might sting to buy it again. It was a $7 or $8 app back then, and it’s currently $6 and will go up to $8 after the introductory price period ends. It is a brand new app though. It’s completely new. It’s being actively developed, and there was a major update shortly after 1.0 shipped, and small bugs from 1.1 have been fixed and an update is coming again soon. If you’re happy with Reeder or Sunstroke, you might not need Ashes. If like me, you weren’t super happy with either of those options or if you’re really into the idea of creating your own sharing actions, Ashes could be a good investment. The power of Share Anywhere should not be underestimated. While Drafts empowered a lot of us with iOS automation, this is the first time I’ve seen a news reader give you the ability to create your own automated share actions. The possibilities are endless. You can buy Ashes for Fever° in the App Store.
There’s a problem with this picture. It’s with UI control. It’s annoying that you can order folders, but you can’t order them above the useless (to me) stuff like editor selected articles, the web browser, friends, and search. I never look at these things, and useful search is limited behind a pay wall. Fine. I paid for the app, let me hide the stuff I don’t wanna see because I’ll never look at it anyway.
The new version of Episodes is pretty spectacular. It’s now a universal app and can ding you with updates the day after a show airs, which is handy for those living in future time zones.
I swear this wasn’t available last week. Siri can apparently search for places in Japan now, in English!
Tally from Agile Tortoise was released slightly ahead of its scheduled 11/07 release date and I’m glad to get my hands on it. It’s a rather simple app but its uses are endless. It has a very clean, minimalist UI. Menu navigation is handled throughout swipes only (think Check the Weather). If you want to create or access tallies, swipe right. If you want to modify the selected tally, swipe left. You can set the name of the tally, its starting count and its step value. Swiping up on the main window lets you either reset the tally to 0 or send the current tally to Agile Tortoise’s app Drafts. I’ve already found a use in Tally for counting how many cups of coffee or water I drink. I’m imagining that the app will be useful for tracking how many good or bad things you do on a daily basis. For that reason, I’d love to have a way to reset all tallies, and not just one tally at a time.
My iPhone’s home screen has changed a lot of the past few months. I still have Omnifocus and Tweetbot there, but now I’ve also got Netbot for ADN, I switched back to Instapaper, I put a non-Apple app, Launch Center Pro in my dock and I’ve got quick capture apps like Drafts and now Tally right there front and center. And thanks to the Macheist bundle, I’m giving Evernote another shot, and finding it surprisingly useful.
The Important Stuff
Check the Weather displays all the important stuff right up front. Not too much that it crowds the UI and enough that it doesn’t seem sparse. You get the current temperature, an attractive graphic of the current weather conditions and a three day outlook. A lot of apps go overboard with the minimalism and forget to include a quick glance of the upcoming days or apps go overboard with information and pump the entire 7 day forecast into the front display with sunrise and sunset information!
Ease of Use
Check the Weather has two gestures. Swipe to the right to reveal a detailed run down of today’s hourly forecast with temperatures, chance of rain or snow and sunset times. Swipe to the left to reveal a 16 day forecast. (Thanks 4-inch iPhone 5 screen!) All the detailed stuff is there, if you swipe it over.
Plays Well With Others
A lot of weather apps (I’m looking at you, Dark Sky) don’t work outside the US or Canada. I live in Japan and am keenly aware of this fact. I wind up buying a lot of software only to find out it’s kind of broken (or completely broken) in Japan. (Quick Route…) I’m glad to say that most of Check the Weather’s functionality works here. The Dark Sky API integration that Check the Weather is capable of for live-updating Doppler stuff can’t work here, but oh well. For $1.99, I’m pretty pleased with Check the Weather.
Two things I wish I could change about Check the Weather:
1. The Font
Check the Weather’s font is a little too modern-looking. I wish it was a slightly more standard looking font. It’s a little distracting. I focus more on the look of the information and less on the information itself.
2. URL Scheme
I really want a URL scheme that I can use with Launch Center Pro so I can replace my current morning reminder to check the weather with one using Check the Weather.
Apparently Check the Weather can be called on by using “checktheweather://”.
Tried it in Launch Center Pro and it worked great!