Posts Tagged ‘iPod touch’

Diversification And Legacy Data

May 23, 2014

I’m told that I’m a very loyal customer. That I’m loyal to Apple, Starbucks, Portland Fruit West, etc. — very few companies receive my business, and those who do receive my business receive a lot of it. Instead of making things complicated by buying from a diverse array of companies I keep things very simple by only buying from a handful.

There are many benefits to not diversifying yourself in computing platforms, and probably the most clear example of why it’s good to stick with one company is legacy data. Apple is what I know, so I’m going to try to stick to it for this blog post, though most of what follows can be said about other large companies which provide a wide array of services.

TL;DR: Through backups, my iPhone 5s and iPad Air have a data trail that dates back to 2006 with my MacBook Pro.

In 2007 I synced my brand new iPod touch with my MacBook Pro, and moved over .Mac mail, Calendar Events, Contacts, and Music/Movies. Every iOS device I’ve purchased since my iPod touch has been set up using backup data from the iOS device preceding it. I’ve actually gone through four generations of backups setting up new devices.

  1. 1. My iPhone 3G was just my iPod touch in a new shell.
  2. 2. My iPad and iPhone 4 were copies of my iPhone 3G in different shells.
  3. 3. My iPad 3 was a copy of my iPad.
  4. 4. My iPhone 5s, iPad mini and iPad Air are really just copies of my iPhone 4 and iPad 3, but they can also be considered simply grown up versions of my 2007 iPod touch.

(In addition, my iPhone 5s and iPad Air seamlessly share a remarkable amount of data with each other through iCloud.)

If I mixed things up with an Android device now and then, and if I used a different Mail service, 3rd party Contacts, Calendar, Notes, web browsers, office suites, photo management apps, etc., I could have moved over everything from device to device regardless of platform. The problem is it would require more work than I’d like! There’s beauty in simplicity.

Diversification is an important part of our development as humans. It’s great to travel and be around people who aren’t like you, who take you out of your comfort zone and force you to develop new ideas of culture and humanity. What I’ve learned traveling is that people are at a base level the same everywhere, although there are differences which have been imposed through the arc of time. When you immerse yourself in a culture other than your own, you can learn those impositions and adopt the ideas that you like, making yourself a truly unique individual.

Where diversification falls short of being important for development, is in our product purchases. You see people who have an iPhone, a Samsung Android tablet, and a Dell Windows PC, and use Yahoo! e-mail. This can be in the name of diversification, that different platforms have different benefits, and that it’s generally a bad idea to put all your faith in a single company in case it goes out of business.

As far as Apple goes, however, it’s very far from shutting down with its $151 billion in the bank and all. And the more companies you tie yourself to, the greater the chance you’ll find some services you rely on disappearing. It’s important to measure everything such as functionality, profitability, and how the company has handled product/service transitions in the past. From what I’ve measured Apple is the company I feel safe relying on.

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Passbook and Payments: Today and Tomorrow

October 19, 2012

When Apple announced iOS 6, the single new feature which I thought was a snoozer was Passbook for iPhone and iPod touch — Apple did a horrible job selling it. But after spending roughly a month using Passbook, I’m pleased to say that my skepticism was misguided.

If you aren’t aware of what Passbook is, it’s an app which is effectively a repository for all of your (supported) store cards, coupons, tickets, etc. — let’s just call them “passes”. It potentially clears up your wallet and if you wear skinny jeans as I do, it’s a godsend to not have to squeeze a big fat wallet into a relatively thin pocket.

Picture of Passbook on an iPhone

One of the really cool things about Passbook is that each pass knows your location via GPS on iPhones and WiFi on iPod touches, and when you reach a location where one of your passes is usable, a notification for the specific pass appears on your devices lock screen and allows you to immediately pull up the pass.

Picture of Passbook on an iPhone's lock screen

The way Passbook works is that each pass has a bar or QR code which can be scanned by scanners. For example, Starbucks’s digital cards work with Passbook, and each Starbucks location has a scanner which scans the digital bar code on a customer’s device. The scanner is super fast, too; it takes less than a second to scan the bar code on digital Starbucks cards! When you run out of credit on the Starbucks digicard, you just refill it in a web browser or the app.

Picture of Starbucks card in Passbook

So, that’s Passbook today. Now, what does the future look like?

I haven’t paid for a Starbucks drink with my debit/credit card in about a month, and I know that I’m not alone; I’ve spoken with two Starbucks baristas at two different locations, and both have said that more than half of all customers use digital cards on their device to pay for their drinks. Most of the rest use physical Starbucks cards, and very few use their debit/credit card or cash — that’s insane!

Obviously not all of those device transactions are in Passbook on iPhones and iPod touches — Starbucks has an app for Android devices which isn’t as cool as iOS’s Passbook — but cumulatively it’s indicative of where the future is headed. Our wallets and our physical debit/credit cards are becoming redundant as we can make payments by scanning bar codes on our phones.

My prediction is that within ten years debit/credit cards will be outright useless to anyone with an iPhone. When you look at all the services that currently exist, the writing is on the wall for physical debit/credit cards. Banks will still be around to hold money, but the cards that they issue today will be replaced by PayPal and similar services.

PayPal today is an easy way to pay for stuff online; payments are made with a simple login instead of typing up every little detail about one’s debit/credit card. You don’t have to look further than online payments with PayPal to see that “plastic” is ridiculously antiquated and clumsy. History has shown us that antiquated and clumsy stuff is replaced in time; technology tends to push the human race forward and most people aren’t masochistic enough to stick with the past.

But the problem with PayPal right now is that it’s for online payments; you can’t walk into a Starbucks and pay for a drink with your PayPal account, as an example. I don’t see PayPal restricting itself to eBay forever. Whether it comes in the form of a bar code or something else, PayPal or a similar service will enter the in-store purchases field.

If there are any geeks reading this article, there’s a chance that they’re dismissing what I’m saying because of a little technology called “Near Field Communication” (NFC). For the uninitiated, NFC is tech that allows devices to talk to each other; think of it like Bluetooth that doesn’t require pairing but has slower transfer speeds.

The current popular idea of what NFC should be used for is mobile payments, with debit/credit cards digitized on phones. If you have a select Android phone and you happen to wander into one of the two stores that support NFC payments, you’re golden and you can pay with your debit/credit card on your phone. This is the idea that Google has thrown its weight behind, and I think that it’s very backwards-thinking.

Sure, the idea to kill the physical wallet is the right idea. But debit/credit cards need to disappear, and trying to give them new life through NFC only stalls progress. The best way to A) convince PayPal that it needs to get on in-person payments and B) convince stores to support whatever PayPal does, is to show that we’re done with debit/credit cards. I’m tired of having to tell the Domino’s guy my debit card’s 16 digit code, expiry date, then the 3 digit code, whenever I order a pizza.

It’s just madness.

This is completely hypothetical, I’m not making any predictions here, but consider this: Wouldn’t it be powerful if — at the iOS 7 or iOS 8 announcement — Apple comes out and says that it’s been working with PayPal and merchants to allow in-person PayPal payments with Passbook using Bluetooth or bar code? That would be huge, and that would end the big fat wallet and credit/debit cards as we know them.

Mass Graves

October 17, 2012

One of the biggest problems I’ve had over years of owning iOS devices, is that I install a lot of apps which leads me to use very few apps. You’d think it would be the opposite — the more the merrier, right? Unfortunately that isn’t the case, what happens is the volume of apps to choose from is overwhelming and you can spend more time scanning through them than actually using them. So how can we change that?

The only solution is mass graves of apps.

Right now you might be rolling your eyes, thinking No, Montana, the clear, non-drastic solution is folders. The problem with folders on iOS is that while they’re great for organization and can save a ton of space on your home screens, they can make a massive volume of apps even more overwhelming.

The first five iPhones and the first four iPod touches can fit 20 app or folder icons on an individual home screen (Example). A single folder can hold up to 12 apps (Example), and closed folders display up to 9 miniaturized app icons to show folder contents (Example). 9 x 20 = 180, so each home screen on the first five iPhones and the first four iPod touches can display between 1 and 180 apps with folders closed. That’s potential for disaster on top of disaster.

(Then you have the iPhone 5 and fifth generation iPod touch which enables an entire additional row of icons per home screen, which adds up to 36 to the number above.)

It’s even worse on the iPad where there can be up to 26 icons per home screen, and up to 20 apps per folder, although each closed folder icon displays up to nine apps as with iPhones and iPod touches. Because 9 x 26 = 234, between one and 234 apps can be seen on each iPad homescreen. That’s potential for disaster to the nth degree.

My solution to this problem has been to reserve folders to my third home screen pages on my iPhones and iPads, with the first two home screens being my top 36 and 46 apps respectively. While that worked great for those apps on the first two home screens, the high majority of apps within folders on the third pages went unopened. Just visiting that page was so overwhelming that I outright avoided using probably more than 150 apps, even if I’d like using some of them.

In short, my solution — while great for my most important apps — prevented me from using many apps that I might’ve enjoyed using. It was far from perfect. So we revert to the nuclear option: Mass graves. Outright delete every single app that I’m either not interested in or only vaguely interested in.

Before I went nuclear, I had more than 200 apps on both my iPhone and iPad. After the mass graves, I have 88 apps installed on each device (the 88 number for each is purely coincidental, oddly). So what is the result of eliminating well over half of my installed apps? I’m now opening and using way more apps than I used to. The time spent staring at an array of app icons has massively decreased, and I also freed a ton of storage on each device, leaving room for media.

If you’re an app junkie as I was, I’m guessing that you use only a fraction of your apps as I had. The absolute best thing that I can suggest is to wipe your iOS device of as many apps as you can. Keep only the stuff that you’re absolutely interested in. Any app that you have installed because you “might use it later” can simply be re-installed if the time comes where you need it.

You owe it to the apps that you truly are ignoring by accident to remove the stuff that you purposefully ignore.

Sidenote: If you own an iOS device and don’t know how to rearrange apps, create folders, or delete apps, it’s pretty simple.

To rearrange: Tap and hold an app icon for a couple of seconds, which will cause every app and folder icon to jiggle. Then tap and hold an icon that you wish to move until it scales up, at which point continue holding it and drag it to where you want it to be on the home screen(s). If there’s another app occupying that position, drag the one that you want there slightly to the left of it to kick it out of the way.

(To exit jiggle mode, press your iOS device’s home button.)

To create folders of apps: Follow the rearranging process, only drag the app on top of another that you want it to share a folder with, then drag any other apps which you want in that folder on top of it as well.

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