Project Connected Home over IP (CHoIP)

Apple Newsroom:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The planned protocol will complement existing technologies, and working group members encourage device manufacturers to continue innovating using technologies available today.

When companies take a step back from their efforts to cement their different standards and protocols as the best in-class and work together for the greater good to provide a universal standard, then consumers reap the benefits. This project undoubtedly will help the growth and stability of home automation and eradicate the current levels of shoehorning solutions to make platforms compatible, which is a massive deterrent for many potential adopters.

I hope to see more of these kinds of collaborations from tech giants going forward. It’s a win for everyone.

Blockbuster new Product Expectations from Apple

Walt Mossberg, The Verge:

The pressure was on for Cook’s Apple to bring out the next beautiful, premium, innovative product to maintain Apple’s streak, its margins, and its growing ecosystem of devoted users.

Cook’s first big all-new product was the Apple Watch, which was released in 2015. But it took until the third generation of the Watch in 2017 for Apple to find the right hardware, software, and functionality. It was essentially a reboot.

The other major hardware success under the Cook regime has been AirPods, the wireless earbuds released in 2016 that seem to be everywhere, looking like white plastic earrings.

Respect to Mossberg. A calculated fair assessment from a seasoned veteran with a solid understanding of the consumer tech industry.

One can argue the AirPods and Apple Watch could’ve been the blockbuster new products of the past decade considering how they’ve dominated their respective categories. What they lacked, perhaps, is Steve Jobs’ mind-blowing marketing gasconade that would’ve elevated them beyond their current status. Tim, isn’t a product guy, as Uncle Walt describes him. Jobs, as he was known, was an astute salesman. And perhaps that’s one of the missing puzzle pieces why none of the new product categories released in the past decade had the same blockbuster effect as say, the iPhone.

I’m not the least worried about Apples ability to produce another blockbuster product in the coming decade. What I’d rather see first and foremost as we enter that period, is stability across the board; from company culture to products and services.

Bill Atkinson on Joining Apple Computer 40 Years ago

There’s a lot of fine nerdery in this story reflecting on his 12 years spent at Apple Computer ‘making tools to empower creative people’. The story started with the recruitment process:

Toward the end of the day, Steve took me aside and told me that any hot new technology I read about was actually two years old. “There is a lag time between when someting is invented, and when it is available to the public. If you want to make a difference in the world, you have to be ahead of that lag time. Come to Apple where you can invent the future and change millions of people’s lives.”

The part I also find fascinating is Steve Jobs’ ability to cap off a lengthy recruitment day with a visual analogy in helping persuade him. Bill flipped from his initial staunch desire to finish off his PhD in neuroscience, to dropping ten years of college education and joining Apple Computer:

Then he gave me a visual: “Think how fun it is to surf on the front edge of a wave, and how not-fun to dog paddle on the tail edge of the same wave.” That image persuaded me, and within two weeks I had quit my graduate program, moved to Silicon Valley, and was working at Apple Computer.

Very reminiscent to the more commonly known story about recruiting John Sculley. Steve, also painted a visualisation that made Sculley take a more in-depth look into the level of fulfilment his current job offered him: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Steve’s ability to tactfully deliver soul searching closing questions and remarks during the recruitment process was admirable.

I love reading these types of stories.

Source: Michael Tsai.

Switching Default Safari Search Engine on iOS

DuckDuckGo iOS

DuckDuckGo has been one of the default Safari search engines since iOS 8. I tried keeping an eye out on its progress as an alternative search engine to Google Search because of their Policy advocating on protecting user privacy. It wasn’t until late 2018 when a tweet from Walt Mossberg triggered me to revisit and review the progress. I switched my iPhone default search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo and initially thought I wouldn’t stick with it.

I thought Google will always be better at delivering the most relevant and correct results. I was wrong. I found DuckDuckGo equally useful to the point I switched to it on all of my iOS devices as the default search engine in Safari. It’s been a year since I made the switch and DuckDuckGo never faltered, to the point, throughout the year, I never thought about going back to using Google Search. Such is the way the mind works when you see no faults in whatever defaults you use as your go-to tool.

It all started with a realisation: most the things I search for are easy to find. Did I really need the all-seeing, all-knowing algorithms of Google to assist me? Probably not.

I came across this article by James Temperton, writing for WIRED UK on why he ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. It made me realise throughout the whole year using DuckDuckGo, I share many of the same sentiments towards the privacy first search engine and equally, the realisation I don’t need Google.

DuckDuckGo works in broadly the same way as any other search engine, Google included. It combines data from hundreds of sources including Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and Bing, with its own web crawler, to surface the most relevant results. Google does exactly the same, albeit on a somewhat larger scale. The key difference: DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or user information.

I seldom carry out deep searches that require a predefined set of parameters, like site-specific searches, for example. My searches are usually all basic; a word, name, simple phrases etc. For that, DuckDuckGo is just as good as Google Search, and the interface returns relevant results unlittered with promotional products and services from Google that relates to your search term when you use Google Search. Whatever Google was flogging at me when I performed searches was the least of my worries. Behind the scenes tracking and collecting of personally identifiable user data was what I wanted to limit.

If you are conscious about privacy and not already using DuckDuckGo, do not chary, make the switch now. You might also find out you do not need to rely only on Google Search.

Switching to DuckDuckGo on your iOS devices is easy: Settings app > Safari > Search Engine.

It works across the board on iOS, from Safari’s search bar to Spotlight search, and when you use the Lookup option from selected text, they all default to using DuckDuckGo to search and deliver results. You can also download the App.

Upgrading to the AirPods Pro

Left: AirPods Pro. Right: AirPods 2.0

I heavily rely on the comforts of music. I am not often without a pair of headphones on my person wherever I am and was happily using the Apple EarPods for quite a long time. Despite their sound quality inferiority, when compared to other garden variety headphones supplied with new phones, the EarPods did an excellent job for what they are. It was time, however, for me to explore the world of wireless headphones, and being in the Apple ecosystem, where better to start than with the AirPods.

I bought my first pair of AirPods in March this year when Apple released the second-gen AirPods, and they’ve delighted me in all the ways I hoped they would; from convenience, to comfort, and improved sound quality over the EarPods. I was instantaneously a convert and a big fan of them, which led me to learn more about the true wireless earbuds evolution and started looking forward to what’s next with AirPods.

Going Pro

Much like my approach to upgrading my six-month-old iPhone XS Max to the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I made considerations on whether I will upgrade my less than eight-month-old AirPods 2 when leaks about the AirPods Pro with rumoured new features began to surface. The only reservation I had was, if the rumoured noise cancellation made the feature set on the new AirPods, I would upgrade. Apple delivered, amongst other stellar refinements, and thus, I upgraded to the AirPods Pro.

It’s been more than a week since I got the AirPods Pro. I’ve used it every day under various circumstances and situations, and I have some observations to share based on my experience as a first-time user of truly wireless in-ear headphones with noise cancellation.


Hardware Fit & Finish

The AirPods fitted my ears well without any significant concerns they’ll fall off. The length of the stems and how they protrude away from your jawline made them look more conspicuous. Because of Apple’s one size fits all approach to the AirPods, the oval shape of the AirPods housing the speaker sits at a 90° angle to the stem. The redesigned speaker housing of the AirPods Pro has a 45° drop to allow the speaker grill and tip to edge towards the ear canal to provide a more customised precise tip fit and better seal. This redesign gives the shorter stem of the AirPods Pro an illusive slight curvature towards the upper cheek contour of the face, making them look more stealthy and less goofy. I prefer this look.

It took me a while to get used to the seal fit of the AirPods Pro. I experienced a slight degree of itchiness every time I activate noise cancellation, to the point I want to yank the AirPods out and reach for some cotton swabs. Thankfully, the seal of the buds creating suction and pressure in your ear canal is ingeniously countered by the vent system designed to equalise internal and external pressure, thereby making them more comfortable to wear for a prolonged period. This level of ingenuity in relentlessly identifying anomalies and providing solutions is what sets Apple apart from its competitors. Without this pressure equalisation, I would’ve found it hard to use the AirPods Pro.

As the days go by, the itching sensation reduced as I grew comfortable with my selection of silicone tips. Even though all three silicone tips passed the Ear Tip Fit Test, the medium silicone tips - comes as the default tips fitted on the AirPods - provided me with the best fit and seal for a truly immersive sound and acoustic performance when noise cancellation is on. I feel more comfortable wearing the medium tips as well. Although, after prolonged use, I’m left with a sensation of the AirPods still being in my ear, long after I took them out. Such is the after-effects of the pressure generated by the tight seal of the silicone tips.


Sound, Noise Cancellation and Transparency

Coming from the second-gen AirPods, the AirPods Pro sounds excellent and superior in every aspect. Apple has done a stellar job enhancing sound quality with the addition of a custom-built speaker driver, a super-efficient high dynamic range amplifier, and Adaptive EQ that automatically tunes and levels frequencies based on the user’s ear. And what good will all these be if the refined sound they help produce from within faces contention from external sounds? This is where the introduction of Active Noise Cancellation comes to play, helping eliminate external sounds for the above features to deliver and perform to their stated optimal levels - thereby giving a more accurate representation of the sounds you’re listening to, especially when it comes to music.

With anatomical differences in mind, the new and improved AirPods Pro sounds will probably be unique to the individual, I feel. Of course, this is dependent on the fit and how well-sealed the ear canal of the individual is with their choice of silicone tip, and how great a job the Adaptive EQ performs.

I use the AirPods primarily to listen to music. With noise cancellation mode activated before I started playing any music, I had feared the sounds might feel too compressed. I was surprised by how well the music I was listening to sounded tailor-made to deliver the precise levels of balanced bass and audio clarity across the board inside my ears. My experiences so far have genuinely been pleasantly and surprisingly delightful regardless of what genre of music I’m listening to. I’m even finding myself carving up more music listening time than I usually do.

Music listening can be an emotive experience, and as such, I do not appreciate my music listening disrupted if I can avoid it. When music flows and the feeling carries you, any disruption spoils the mood. It is why I fully value the addition of Transparency Mode and how well its implemented. A single tap and hold on the AirPod stem switches from Noise cancellation to Transparency, where I can lower the volume, if I need to, and have a quick short dialogue with someone, or listen out for other sounds without the music flow stopping. Transparency mode pulling in outside noise almost feels natural as if you haven’t got the AirPods in your ear. How natural the outside noise sounds I guess will be highly dependent on your environment.


I don’t believe Apple to be targeting the audiophile with any of the AirPods released so far, even with the vastly improved AirPods Pro. For the average consumer looking to upgrade and take that first step into truly wireless in-ear headphones, especially iPhone users coming from EarPods, the original or second-gen AirPods, then look no further than the AirPods Pro with Active Noise Cancellation if you value being immersed in the music you’re listening to, without outside impurities tainting the experience of sound quality.

I’m indeed happy and thrilled I upgraded to the AirPods Pro.

The iPhone 11 Pro Smart Battery Case

The original Mophie Juice Pack and the Juice Pack Air were the last battery cases I owned and used on the iPhone. They did a pretty great job, and I appreciated being able to keep my iPhone juiced up in situations where I am away from a charging outlet on my photo walks.

Talking of photo walks, considering I have plans to restart the hobby, I already planned on getting a battery bank, but it now makes sense to look into Apples Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 Pro instead. The dedicated camera button on the case to quickly launch the camera whether the iPhone screen is locked or unlocked is a bonus and the deciding factor in getting the Smart Battery Case instead of a battery bank. It will no doubt prove to be incredibly useful.

Even though I continue to experience and enjoy the vastly improved battery life on my iPhone 11 Pro Max, having a back-up in case a short photo walk turns into a lengthy all-day affair makes sense. I plan not only resurrecting my photography hobby but also journey into the world of videography as well, given how good the iPhone 11 Pro shoots video now. For that, I will take all the extra juice I can get.

WWDC App Renamed Apple Developer App

Apple Developer Blog:

Starting today, the WWDC app is now the Apple Developer app and delivers in-depth information from Apple experts all year round. Stay up to date with the latest developer news, informative videos, WWDC content, and more.

I subscribed via RSS to the Apple developer news feed where I keep up to date with news and other relevant information about iOS development. I appreciate, however, the promise of more content from the developer news feed with year-round in-depth information sharing from “Apple experts via the newly rebranded Apple Developer app.

What used to be - for me, and I’m sure for many - a yearly install of the WWDC app for the week-long WWDC event looks set to now claim a permanent home on my iOS devices. Being able to receive timely push notification updates whenever new content is published is a big plus. I dig the new icon, too.

Upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro Max

 iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Leading to the September 10 Apple Keynote Event announcing the next generation of iPhones, I had little intention of upgrading for the simple fact that I purchased the 512GB iPhone XS Max six months earlier. I planned on using the XS Max and wait for the 2020 iPhone. However, I had a reservation that, based on enhancements, i.e. the camera, battery life, I will make considerations on whether to upgrade.

In true Apple fashion, as expected, the incremental updates on the iPhone were the main selling point during the keynote presentation. The two improvements that steered me towards upgrading were indeed the battery life and camera. I regard these improvements as the most significant upgrades they’ve received on the iPhone since its inception. Having long wished for an increase in battery capacity and battery life especially, I wasted little time in preparing for an upgrade following the keynote. I pre-ordered for the very first time, downsizing to the 256GB iPhone 11 Pro Max in Space Grey.

Reasons being; six months of using the 512GB, I used only 82GB of that storage space. I have a habit of triaging my photos and videos, uploading the majority of them to iCloud Drive via the Files app in organised folders, and leaving only a handful of my favourites stored on the phone. I had less than 5000 songs downloaded from Apple Music for offline listening and downloaded podcasts set for deletion after I finished listening to them, so phone storage hasn’t been an issue for me and made sense to go for the 256GB model.

I went with the Space Grey because I have always been a fan, despite Apples various visual representations of Space Grey over the years, and my iPad Pro and Apple Watch are both of the same colour. I continued the Max (Previously Plus) tradition because I prefer the larger screen and portability has never been an issue. I’m quite happy wielding this behemoth around.


BATTERY

My procedure with new iPhones straight out of the box is to set up as new and not restore from backups, and while doing this, drain whatever remaining battery level from the factory, then recharge from 0 to 100%. For the first time, the battery-draining process took longer, I had finished setting up the phone, and went about my day with normal usage without pushing too hard for the battery to drain. Usually, at this point on previous iPhones, the battery would’ve been depleted, this was when I started noticing the battery performance in the new iPhone 11 Pro Max.

 Off charge 7:31am with 100% battery. Depleted 9pm with 0%.
Off charge 7:31am with 100% battery. Depleted 9pm with 0%.

A couple of days later with the Pro Max, I decided to test and see how the battery performs on a full working day without charge with a slight change in my usual setup; increasing brightness, leaving a higher number of location and background app refresh features on, turning off screen auto-lock, streaming Apple Music and Podcasts instead of downloading them first. The result was beyond belief. In my hands, an iPhone with a battery life that serves me on a full working day without charge. My charging habits have dramatically changed now. As a result, I do not think or worry about the battery level on my iPhone. I happily leave the house now with less than 30% battery level and not fret.

InsaneIncredibleAstounding, and a plethora of other adjectives have been used to describe the highly improved battery life on the new iPhone 11 Pro by owners. And they’re not wrong. Of course, how well battery performance continues to remain stable in the long run is also down to how the user manages and care for their iPhone battery.

Thanks to the increase in capacity and continuous battery optimisations on the software side, the iPhone 11 Pro Max battery life so far, has been phenomenal, and worthy of upgrading to either iPhone 11 Pro models if you’re heavily dependent on your iPhone and want to eradicate anxieties about battery levels.


CAMERA

Apple is targeting the Pro photography and cinematography market, as demoed with the makers of FiLMiC Pro during the live event, showing off the new iPhone camera capabilities and how the multi-cam setup can be effectively utilised. This part of the keynote presentation impressed me the most and whetted my appetite to venture into videography now that you can quickly edit videos from the Photos app on the iPhone.

It’s been a while since I have been overly excited by the iPhone camera - not that I’ve ever devalued the iPhone camera by any measure, however, the multi-lens setup on the Pro Max coupled with software enhancements has given the iPhone camera a genuine claim to being one of the best, if not the best camera on a smartphone currently. The joy and fun derived from using the various redesigned camera experiences on the Pro max, especially the Ultra Wide and Night Mode (look out for Deep Fusion) have been truly delightful.

With my planned photo walks, I’m creating a section on the site to share my mobile photography and videos shot and edited entirely on the Pro Max and upcoming iPhones.

A few sample shots with left, Night Mode Off, flash on and right, Night Mode On.

Overall, upgrading my six-month-old XS Max to the iPhone 11 Pro Max has been worth it for the improved battery life and camera enhancements alone. If you place value in battery life and the camera, upgrading will be worth it for you too.

The iPhone 11 Pro Camera

Camera improvements on the iPhone have always been a focal point, and this year is no different. To date, the camera enhancements on the iPhone 11 Pro is the best I’ve seen on an iPhone. I’ve always been a fan of the iPhone camera and the plethora of photo taking and editing apps. Photography apps dominate my App Store library by a considerable margin.

When Instagram exclusively launched on iOS in 2010, as a photo-sharing platform, which helped fuel the rise of iPhone photography, commonly known as iPhoneography, I was intensely active with photo walks.

Although my photo walk activities and sharing snaps online waned over the years, I continued to use the iPhone camera to snap unmissable photo opportunities actively. The new camera enhancements on the iPhone 11 Pro have whetted my appetite to start photo walks again. With that in my mind, I went out on a short photo walk to see how well the new ultra-wide camera lens handles and captures vast areas. I was not disappointed. I, later on, went out for another walk to capture the night scene with the new Night Mode, I was in awe.

In a strongly contested world of mobile photography, the iPhone camera has once again positioned itself to be the undisputed champion of mobile photography.

Enjoy.

Night Mode

Telephoto, Wide, Ultra Wide.

Apple Music Beta Comes to the Web

Apple Music is continuing its expansion to reach a broader audience in its pursuit of Spotify with the launch of Apple Music Beta on web browsers.

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge:

The beta site will be missing some features, including the flagship Beats 1 live broadcast, some of Apple’s original music video content, and smart playlists. But Apple says it’ll continue to build out the website over time. Additionally, you’ll eventually be able to sign up for Apple Music directly from the web, although that won’t be available in this version of the beta.

Apple Music subscribers can now access and stream the entire Apple Music catalogue including their personalised libraries from their preferred web browsers on mobile and desktop, including iOS 13 desktop-class Safari on the iPad.

Apple to Expand Authorised Repair Service Network

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

One of the first lessons I learnt about third-party repairs happened a decade ago when I dropped and smashed my iPhone 3GS’ LCD and the touchscreen digitiser to smithereens. The ensuing experience putting my faith in a third-party repair shop instead of the certified Genius Bar technicians at an Apple store is one that shaped my approach to repairs ever since. To cut a long story short, the iPhone came back worse with more damages than it went in with following the ‘repairs’; issues with the front-facing camera and speaker, unresponsive touchscreen and Home button to name but a few. The lack of robust training know-how and the use of low-quality parts were unquestionably apparent in this repair saga.

Following that experience, my default process has been Apple support, book a Genius Bar appointment, take the device to my nearest Apple Store - lucky to have two stores both within a 25-30 minutes drive - even though there a few Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs) within the same footprint. My full trust lies with Apple and the Apple Store experience, despite costs of repairs.

To better meet our customers’ needs, we’re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorised Service Provider network,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.

Despite the usual brouhaha with increasing accusations of making life difficult for anyone but Apple to carry out repairs on some, if not all of the devices in its portfolio, Apple continually upholds its safety-first approach regarding consumers right to repairs using third-party providers.

I have had reservations trusting most vendors beyond Apple for a very long time when it comes to repairs. Over the years, the quality of repairs with some independent repair shops - small and large - slowly began to gain my trust, based on evidence from friends and family members who have had their devices repaired by third-party. However, my faith in such establishments using high-quality Apple certified parts and specifically the safety of battery replacements remained the biggest reasons why I cannot fully entrust them. No responsible human should entrust the repair and installation of a new device battery from an untrained, uncertified independent repair service. It is too high a risk to take.

I have long wished to be able to walk into any shopping centre repair kiosk or shops on the High street, confidently hand over my iOS device for repairs knowing they are fully certified with the same training, using the same tools and genuine Apple parts as existing AASPs and the Apple store itself.

Apple expanding its authorised service network, with the provision of a free independent repair program certification to qualifying repair businesses, goes a long way in confirming their firm believe they have the safety of its users in mind, amongst other reasons.

I will still throw caution to the wind and continue to visit the Apple Store while the program expansion in the UK solidifies its reputation.

Upcoming Changes to Siri Privacy Protection

Apple Newsroom:

We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading. We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.

Following the suspension of using human contractors to listen to Siri audio snippets for its Siri grading program to improve Siri’s effectiveness in providing accurate responses to queries, Apple have now temporarily terminated the program and offered its apologies for failing to live up to their high ideals and upholding the level of privacy its users are accustom to.

However, the practice will resume in-house when upcoming software updates are released, and a few evaluation process changes have been made:

First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.

Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.

Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.

I’m glad to see Apple continue to take ownership of its responsibilities in addressing the situation, offering its apologies, and putting forth changes that align with their strong privacy stance and the respect it has for its users. I will be sure to opt-in to help with improving Siri.

Source: Apple Newsroom.

Dark Noise: A Refined White Noise App with a Liquid Smooth Design

I am new to the world of utilising White noise as a medium to emulate specific types of background noise to help sleep, relax or focus when writing even though I am aware of its existence. Music is the only tried and trusted medium I have used up until now. I had the chance to help Beta test the development of Dark Noise by iOS developer Charlie Chapman, which also prompted me to further look into the whole world of using White noise for relaxation and focus as an alternative to listening to music. I can safely say Dark Noise has introduced an incredibly reliable tool that reenacts the effects of noise to enter a calm, relaxed or focused state.

The App Store currently has a significant amount of White noise apps, but having been on the Dark Noise Beta since version 1.0 - if memory serves me right - and watching the app evolve to what it is now has had an unexpected magnetic effect that draws me towards it every time I think about exploring other apps of that ilk from the App Store. The simple reason being the incredibly beautiful design, simplicity, functionality and realism of the sounds in the app.

Dark Noise Press Kit
Dark Noise for iPad and iPhone

Noises

Dark Noise currently has a sound library of over 30+ noises with categories ranging from Water, Nature, Urban, Appliances, Fire, and for any unique users who like the sound of snoring, the Human category has you covered. Noises, crafted from a mixture of available royalty-free public domain sounds with enhancements for suitability with Dark Noise for better realism and what impresses me the most; the developers own original recordings of sounds.

Touching on the noise authenticity, the combination of the HomePod audio technology with its all-encompassing sense of space and the realism of the sounds from Dark Noise fills the room replicating a true to form sense of being in the environment the noises are emulating, especially when listening to the Office and Coffee Shop noises in my case.

My one feature wish is to have the functionality to create noise playlists, where noises can be queued and automatically play after a set amount of time.

Design

You know you’ve got the app design right when a fellow respected developer of a White noise app tweets you about how impressed he is with your app and would probably recommend it above his.

Designed with simplicity in mind; the simplicity and functionality are what I value the most. Not a single part of the app setup or interaction is trivial and require instructions. It has a clear set of general and advanced options for the user to personalise the experience of how they want the app to function interactively; haptic feedback, auto-play on open option and visually; selection of crafted themes including Dark and Light mode, app icons (If you’re into tech podcasts you’ll love the choices), and glorious noise icon animations with motion graphics that makes me wish for an Apple TV app. Watching the noise icon animations on the TV with background themes automatically switching will be a delight and adds to the relaxation effect.

The Play user interface screen consists of carefully selected and easily reachable set of controls that are tucked low level on the bottom half of the screen on the iPhone, with the play button just above them allowing the noise icon to take center stage with its delightful motion graphics for that particular noise. As the Steve Jobs saying goes: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”, this is undoubtedly true for Dark Noise, no complicated interactions whatsoever. Simple and straight to the point in as few taps as possible, right from the first time launching the app to configuring your preferences in settings.

The ease of which to invoke play of your favourite noises is remarkable, Dark Noise supports the use of customisable widget which can display favourite noises or recently played noise to activate with a single tap, users can also force touch on the app icon to play noise with a selection of other functions or activate the option to ‘Auto-Play on Open’ from settings, which enables the app to automatically start playing from launch. If you are in a position that restricts activation of a noise physically, you can use Siri shortcuts automation to start playing a noise. The noises can be played directly on the device or use AirPlay to play the noise on an Apple TV or HomePod.

I haven’t yet utilised Dark Noise app to help me sleep, planning to do so soon. Its effectiveness in helping me focus has been tremendous, and it has dethroned my use of music for such situations.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7BDtu9CkAI&w=854&h=480]

You can hear more about the development and plans for Dark Noise on The Outpost Show podcast where the developer discussed the process and evolution of the app from a little ‘learning project’ to what could now potentially be the best app of its kind on iOS.

Dark Noise is a universal app available to download from the iOS App Store.

iPadOS Reignites My Love for iPad

 Apple 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 Beta.
Apple 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 Beta.

In January 2010, Steve Jobs revealed to the world the iPad, the device Apple believed to be the answer to fill the gap between the smartphone and a laptop. Having converted to using an iPhone two years earlier in 2008, I was definitely in that camp; the need for real screen estate portable touch device that allows me to perform the majority of basic tasks I used a laptop and desktop computer for at the time, such as; web browsing, email, reading and media consumption etc. Nothing trivial.

Iteration after iteration, I continued to enjoy using the iPad, but my dependence on the iPad to perform the tasks mentioned above started to reduce significantly. This shift can be attributed mainly to the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus with a considerably bigger screen - for the simple reason the iPhone was the device always at hand, and both ran the same OS. I started to develop an undying need for an iPad with a completely independent identity, something that differentiates it from the iPhone in terms of software to help you do more without the need of employing extreme life hack solutions using third-party software.

The iPad needed an injection of life beyond hardware changes; it needed an OS that makes it stand on its own with iPad exclusive features that bring it closer to a more powerful utility and productive tool. The lack of such accommodating built-in features saw me continue to rely on the iPad for one purpose; taking advantage of the bigger screen, which gave me little reason to purchase the 2018 iPad Pro despite its radical design doing away with the home button and incorporating Face ID, which did little to entice me. These are features I already use on the iPhone X. My focus was not on hardware - because I never have any qualms about Apple knocking it out of the park with hardware design - but rather an iPad with close to a desktop-class software that nullifies my desire for a MacBook or any other desktop computer for that matter.


iPadOS

Although the iPad was built on the technical foundations of iOS from its inception, iPadOS signals the beginning of the iPad with its own identity even though at its core its still iOS - iPad exclusive features currently the differentiating factor.

When Apple announced iPadOS during the 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference, what I saw revealed on stage by Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, woke the slumbering love I’ve had for the iPad software. It reignited the desire to use an iPad as a primary desktop computing device independently. I wasted little time in seeking out the 2018 iPad Pro following the WWDC iPadOS announcements and got my hands on a 12.9” model with the Apple Pencil, and of course, what’s a desktop computer without a keyboard, I went for the Smart Keyboard Folio. The accessorising continued with a new desk and chair and mouse to complete the setup.

I installed iPadOS 13 Beta and started sifting through iPadOS getting to grips with the plethora of new iPad exclusive features, a great sense of joy encompasses me. I now have an iPad with more tools at my disposal on the home screen; from pinned widgets to an increased number of icons on the screen that maintain their layout regardless of orientation. Improved multitasking with slide overs, multi-window capabilities, split view and app exposé, the ability to import and export files with connected thumb drives, SD cards, external disk drives and last but not the least, a desktop-class browser in Safari with its own set of improvements including a file download manager.

There’s a lot more additional new improvements in iPadOS which I will be writing about as the Beta matures and features get set in stone, including enhancements to apps such as Reminders, Notes, Photos, Maps etc.

Apple’s adoption of powerful features to make the iPad more of a computing powerhouse might be slow, but running iPadOS Beta, I am confident and reassured with the direction the iPad software is heading which makes me happy to be utilising the iPad far more than I’ve probably done in the past. Ecstatic to be back on the iPad lifestyle as a primary computer and eager to witness the iPad’s journey into a computing powerhouse.

Apple Suspends Siri Data Analysis by Contractors

In a statement to TechCrunch:

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

Despite the delayed response to the criticisms of potential privacy concerns surrounding the use of contractors to analyse and grade Siri search query data - a concern made more prominent by The Guardian’s reporting of the situation - am glad to see Apple take action nonetheless.

Albeit, only a suspension of the program worldwide and not a total cancellation, probably due to needing time to assess better operable options in how to continually process such data without the need of contracted human helpers.

It is great to see Apple take ownership of its responsibilities and holding themselves accountable.

Siri Data Analsysis by Humans

“Often masqueraded under the thin veil of ‘anonymous data collection to improve your experience’, every tech company is susceptible to using data in ways users might not be fully aware of, we are, after all, in a digital age of ubiquitous data harvesting. Whether users tolerate the unethical amassing of data to be sold off without consent is a decision a user should regularly review.”

- Excerpt from a post on Privacy published on Chambyte on 22 July 2019.

A week or so after publishing a post about Apples Privacy Stance in which I stated the reason why I trust the tech giant in defending our right to privacy, UK publication The Guardian published an article about how Apple contractors ‘regularly hear confidential details’ on Siri recordings.

The Guardian:

Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. They are tasked with grading the responses on a variety of factors, including whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could be expected to help with and whether Siri’s response was appropriate.

Apple says the data “is used to help Siri and dictation … understand you better and recognise what you say”.

But the company does not explicitly state that that work is undertaken by humans who listen to the pseudonymised recordings.c

Not the first time such a revelation came to light, as Apple Analyst Rene Ritchie points out on Twitter; Bloomberg published an article back in April of 2019 which cited Apple’s use of human helpers to listen to and assess Siri data.

A citation on a publication is not enough, however. Apple can and should do better in explicitly disclosing the use of sub-contracted human helpers in this process.

Relating to Siri - On Apples Privacy Policy page under the Collection and Use of Non-Personal Information:

We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries. This information may be used to improve the relevancy of results provided by our services. Except in limited instances to ensure quality of our services over the Internet, such information will not be associated with your IP address.

The glaring omission here; no explicit mention of who analyses this data in its pursuit of improving the relevancy of results, and in continuing its tradition of accountability, Apple should rectify and update this omission on its Privacy documentation.

With their journalistic responsibilities, The Guardian et al., are right in publicising this distinct lack of disclosure along with any potential possibility of misuse of such data by people trusted to examine it, regardless of how anonymous the data is. The Guardian’s sex and drug lede designed to entice readers and raise undue concern rather than taking the educative approach is of no surprise, however.

Sex and Drugs sell in the world of tabloid headline-grabbing ‘news’ for clicks.

Apple Acquiring Intels Smartphone Modem Business

Acquiring majority of Intels Smartphone modem business is a massive step towards the goal of owning and controlling the primary technologies that are core to the operation of its product lineup that utilises modems, even more so for future products.

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make.”

Tim Cook

During the 2009 Earnings call to investors, Tim Cook reiterates Apples long term goal of being the sole proprietor of primary technologies that are the heart and soul of its products:

Tim Cook is a logistics guy, and it should come with no surprise that he is leading the charge in Apple being completely independent in owning and controlling the primary technologies in its products. In the grand scheme of things, financially, it is not a huge burden for Apple to enter licensing agreements with independent companies, like the recent six-year license and multi-year chipset supply agreement with Qualcomm.

The considerable benefit with Apple seeking ownership of intellectual property, however, is Apple, going into the future, will not have to rely on independent companies that may not be able to deliver on its promises. By safeguarding against such failures, Apple can control development pace to ensure its future product roadmap is in line with technological advancements, in this case, advancements in cellular technologies - 5G, which is essential.

No technology company should be too far behind such advancements; it is detrimental to business, and any company with the business acumen and vast workforce such as Apples should endeavour to be the sole proprietor of components that are core to its products.

Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srouji:

Apple is excited to have so many excellent engineers join our growing cellular technologies group, and know they’ll thrive in Apple’s creative and dynamic environment. They, together with our significant acquisition of innovative IP, will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward.

Apple, by now, has the expertise to build its modems in-house based on the experience of working with Qualcomm. With the newly acquired Intel staff now set to work on Apple standards, and the continuity of receiving modem supplies from Qualcomm for the foreseeable future, it gives Apple time to independently custom make its modems ready for its future devices by the time 5G reaches maturity.

As a mobile tech consumer who mainly uses Apple products, I am glad to see Apple continue its stride towards controlling its destiny, which benefits both Apple and consumers.

Apples Privacy Stance

“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.”

Tim Cook

The above quote is an excerpt from a letter by Tim Cook published on Apple’s website back in 2014, detailing Apples commitment to user privacy.

It is with this stance that the initial attraction I have for Apple products based solely on my love of their hardware elevated by the respect shown in protecting my privacy with the use of the accompanying software.

The Apple ecosystem can be a beautiful convenience, and many users love the seamless integration of software and hardware across the platform. What has become even greater importance in many peoples use of Apple products and services is the undying protection of our privacy as a Fundamental Human Right that Apple vehemently defends.

Ask a lot of Apple services and product users why they have invested their time and energy in Apple beyond the beautiful hardware and stellar OS’s and top responses will more than likely be one of two reasons or both - ecosystem and privacy. The latter has garnered quite a lot of attention in recent years with privacy advocates relentlessly calling out companies that potentially misuse customer data with a fraction or non-existent transparency.

Often masqueraded under the thin veil of ‘anonymous data collection to improve your experience’, every tech company is susceptible to using data in ways users might not be fully aware of, we are, after all, in a digital age of ubiquitous data harvesting. Whether users tolerate the unethical amassing of data to be sold off without consent is a decision a user should regularly review.

Welcome, to Chambyte.

I started Chambyte back in 2012/13 intending to document my experiences using Apple tech since I spend a great deal of time geeking out on Twitter about Apple in general. Due to time constraints and other commitments blogging fizzled out of my daily routine and in late 2014 updates ceased and eventually I closed the site. The desire to blog never left and I can’t let lack of time be a reason not to, any more.

I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t have to commit to a stern posting strategy, but rather take time to collect my thoughts and deliver an articulate write-up expressing my experiences and understanding - this may also be in the form of commentary posts - which I’m hoping will generate a healthy educative discussion around subjects regarding Apple and its technologies. I’m open to learning and gaining different perspectives on any particular topic regarding Apple, so please do get in touch with your commentary. The better the understanding, the better the respect we place on the technology in our hands.

I recently rebuilt my ecosystem of Apple devices. I switched over from a few third-party services permanently to Apple services, and that ignited the desire to start Chambyte again to document my experiences but with a different approach; to post as and when I can rather than adhering to an expected unrealistic schedule. Granted, I have no academic, technological background, so what you’ll read here will be based on pure, raw experiences from an average end-user consumer, and I hope you follow along.

Welcome, to Chambyte 2.0.