About Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

An iOS 8 Review for iPad Users

iOS 8

I’ve been running the beta on and off for a few months now, and I’ve spent the last few weeks on Beta 5 and the GM, so I feel like I’ve got a good enough handle on the OS to write a quick review for launch day. Let’s get one question out of the way right up front: should you upgrade to iOS 8 today?

Hrm, let me think about th — yes, absolutely, yes. The only warning I have is to refrain from upgrading to iCloud Drive when prompted (the dialogue shows up after you upgrade and restart). iCloud Drive will take over iCloud sync for all apps that previously used it, and OS X Mavericks won’t support iCloud Drive, so any iOS app that moves to iCloud Drive will no longer be able to sync with its Mac counterpart. OS X Yosemite will work properly with Drive, but it’s not coming out until later this year.

But let’s get back to the good stuff. I think iOS 8 is the single biggest jump forward for iOS since the introduction of multitasking in iOS 4. The operating system has opened up in so many ways this year, and it’s a godsend for power users who have been eyeing Android’s awesome share menus and custom keyboards with increasing envy.

If iOS 7’s mission statement was “Shut up, use this: it’s colourful and different and you’ll like it”, then iOS 8 says “Actually here’s that app integration and third-party keyboard support you’ve always wanted, Thomas. Would you like a massage?”.

There are going to be a lot of iOS 8 reviews out today, so I’ll cut down on as many of the repeats as possible. This is an iOS 8 review with a focus on the iPad experience. I’ll focus on the stuff I loved, the changes that feel mediocre, and then mention stuff I don’t feel like I can properly discuss yet.

[click to continue reading…]

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The iPhone 6 Plus As An iPad Alternative

iPhone 6 Plus

Right now my iPhone is charging on my dock, and my iPad Air is beside it, charging on the desk. That’s two devices, two chargers, two Lightning cables, and two AC slots taken up. I also tend to upgrade my iPhone and iPad every two years, so I’ll likely be making two large purchases in the Fall of ’15.

It’s this kind of setup that could be simplified by a single mobile device, and that’s why I think the iPhone 6 Plus comes at an interesting time. Despite my initial reaction to the very first Galaxy Note, Phablets are a thing, and there actually might be some great use cases around them.

The 5.5” screen on the 6 Plus isn’t terribly far off from the iPad Mini’s 7.9” screen. For users, like my sister, who really just want to be able to browse enough of the web while away from home, a single device with a very large screen will likely do the trick and keep her happy. I also find it interesting how Apple is blending elements of the iPad and iPhone in the 6 Plus, as shown in the split-screen Mail and iMessage apps. Then there’s the financial fact that one device keeps you on a single easy upgrade cycle: one new phone every two years, and nothing more.

iPhone 6 Plus Mail split screen

As for me, I still like the idea of a larger iPad screen and a more portable and pocketable iPhone. The iPhone is easier and safer to use on public transport, and the iPad is far more fun to write on at cafes. Comics are just legible enough on an iPad mini’s screen, but they’re awesome on an iPad Air. I’m happily going to keep my current combo until next year, but I’m really interested to see how many potential iPad buyers — or even current iPad owners — decide on an iPhone 6 Plus over owning a smartphone and iPad.

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Hiding Purchased Music On Your iPad


John Gruber linked to this awesome MacWorld article that details how to use iTunes to hide the free U2 album on your iOS music app. I actually want to listen to this latest U2 album, but I do want to hide the crappy singles I’ve gotten from Starbucks, so this really came in handy for me. I thought it came to actually deleting the music from my iTunes Match library, but the real trick is heading to the music section of the iTunes Store and then hiding purchased music from there.

I think this also points out how iTunes-reliant music management still is within the Apple ecosystem. If you just want to buy and listen to music or make playlists, it’s definitely easy to use an iPad for all of your music needs. However, there are still quite a number of things that require iTunes on a Mac or PC:

  • setting the volume of an individual song (great for older recordings)
  • adding lyrics to songs
  • telling iOS to skip a song during Shuffle
  • add or change album artwork
  • change any part of the song’s metadata

That said, I don’t really mind having to manage these things from my Mac right now. My laptop still strikes me as the easiest place to manage a large collection of albums, but I wouldn’t mind having the option in future versions of iOS.

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Check Out This Teaser Of The Awesome Browser Extension in Things 2.5

I already talked about the 1Password iOS 8 extension in August, but here’s another great example of the power of extensibility. 9to5Mac showed a great video preview of a proposed Things 2.5 browser extension made possible by iOS 8. Not only can you create a new task from within Safari, but you can automatically add details like the webpage URL, and even add the selected text as a note.

That’s a lot faster than:

  1. Copying the URL manually
  2. exiting Safari
  3. loading Things up
  4. adding a new task
  5. naming the task
  6. adding a note

Extensions are the most exciting feature of iOS 8 by far, but they’re also the hardest to demo without showing actual third-party apps working as a cohesive system. It’s not long now until we get to enjoy this kind of interaction first-hand.


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IKEA vs iPad!


Some fancy new tech company claims to have created a device with infinitely better battery life, and a more intuitive interface than the iPad. They call it the 2015 IKEA Catalogue, and they’re giving it away for free with pre-loaded hi-resolution content. I don’t know if this is some sort of cheap market share play by a newcomer, but I’m tired of hearing about new device manufacturers that think they can just waltz onto the scene and de-throne the iPad.

I’ve thought about this for a few minutes and I can’t figure out Bladis wrong with them. First of all, IKEA clearly copied many of the iPad’s key innovations, like fitting beautifully onto a coffee table, and swiping to turn pages. Then there’s the fact that they ripped off Apple’s style in their ad, which shows a Lack of creativity.

Thankfully, this catalogue seems to be available in just one size and weight, so users looking for flexibility in reading or surfing will still be better served by an iPad mini with Retina Display or an iPad Air. Although I have to admit, IKEA’s HD content does looks surprisingly good and is reminiscent of some of the premium furniture I own in my own home.

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Trying Out Byword For My iPad Blogging

I recently bought the In-app purchase within Byword to try and blog straight from the app. Up until now, my workflow has been to write in Byword or Writer Pro, copy the html into the WordPress app, and then add screenshots processed by the Screenshot app before publishing. Byword’s most recent update claims it can […]

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Evernote As My iPad Task Manager

I use Evernote quite a lot for my own notes, but I also use it at work. I’ve got two notebooks for each of the positions I’ve held at work, and I’ve got a few tags associated with notes depending on which coworkers I need to consult for a given project. However, as of three […]

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Dropbox Simplifies Pro Pricing: $10 Per Month for 1TB

Dropbox announced a few pretty major changes to their Dropbox Pro accounts today, but the change I found most interesting was the simplification of the pricing and storage options. There’s now just one $10/month Dropbox Pro account that offers 1TB of storage, which is 10x more storage than was previously offered at that price point. […]

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