With the release iOS 8.4 today, this is the perfect time to talk about the new Music app, which I’ve been playing with in iOS 9. I can’t talk about the new Apple Music features yet, but I can run through a quick tour of changes for those who manage music libraries on the iPad.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the app has gotten a complete visual overhaul, with many parts having taken inspiration from Apple’s own “Remote” app. There are a lot of frosted panels that take on the main colour of the album artwork, and a side panel navigation bar to help you scrub through whatever section you’re looking at (e.g. Artists, Albums, etc.).
A “Recently Added” section is pinned to the top of most sections, allowing you to see the most recent songs, albums, or artists you’ve added to your library. This should prove much more useful with an Apple Music subscription, as it’s very easy for a music library to snowball out of control when unlimited streaming and listening are introduced.
I’ve been taking a lot more pictures these past few weeks due to my new camera. I’ll come home with a few hundred shots, cull about two thirds of them, and then edit the rest. I do a fair amount of this on the Mac, but also on the iPad. I thought I could take advantage of Photo Extensions like Flare Effects on iOS to help me edit my shots right from the Photos app, but I discovered something yesterday that has killed my interest in photo extensions for now: using a photo extension to edit a photo will limit its resolution due to memory limitations on iOS 8.
The iPhone generates 8 MP shots and my Sony A6000 generates 24 MP JPEGs. Using photo extensions on pictures taken on those devices results in pictures that are 2 or 3 MP in size. That’s a really significant decrease in resolution, and I’m a little irritated that this detail isn’t included in the Flare Effects app description (at least as a disclaimer). In fact, there isn’t any sort of system warning from iOS that using a photo extension is going to reduce the photo’s resolution…you only notice at the end when your picture suddenly looks a little grainier. The developers at the iconfactory have a support article about this, but it doesn’t detail just how much smaller the resulting picture will be.
I’m really hoping this is addressed in iOS 9 or sooner, at least for devices like the Air 2 which have 2 GB of RAM (and should be able to handle editing a single photo via an extension). For now, however, I’ll return to using VSCO Cam in a way that won’t create duplicates in my photo library. More on this point soon.
Apple update iOS software to version 8.3 yesterday in advance of the Apple Watch launch. To update your iPad open the Settings app and go to General–> Software Update. The list of enhancements and updates is quite extensive. Highlighted by improved performance for
- App Launch
- App responsiveness
- Control Center
- Safari Tabs
- 3rd-party keyboards
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Simplified Chinese keyboard
and fixes for the following
- Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- Orientation and rotation
- Family Sharing
Followed up by an extensive number of additional improvements and bug fixes too long to list.
As with most iOS updates, there are always less talked about improvements that are welcomed changes. Sometimes we’re really lucky, and these improvements solve nagging issue that have existed longer than they should have. This is one of them. Now we can sort and report junk Messages thanks to iOS 8.3–here’s how.
iOS 8.3 is now available for download and there are a few reasons this release might be particularly exciting for avid iPad users:
- iCloud Photo Library is now out of beta, and the Photos app for Mac is also available in, so you can give the service a try across all of your Apple devices now
- Performance improvements have been announced across the board for first party apps, third party keyboards, and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Messages now has more powerful anti spam features for those who suffer from unwanted texts
- A new emoji keyboard is now available with easier access and a more inclusive set of icons for people of different races and orientations
- Many more bug fixes and under the hood improvements
I’m glad that this update is out so that my family can also try iCloud Photo Library across all of their devices, but I’m disappointed that I’m still seeing keyboard crashes. You’d think six months would be enough time to iron out the kinks…
I had someone on Twitter ask me about how iCloud Photo Library was working out, so I thought I would provide an update. iCloud Photo Library is officially still in beta, but I’m so tired of managing photos across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad that I’m willing to be Apple’s guinea pig in this regard. I previously uploaded all of my photos to iCloud Photo Library thanks to the power of the Photo Transfer app. After a few weeks of testing, I took the leap and uploaded all of my videos as well. So I’ve gotten to the point where all of my personal videos and photos are loaded into the cloud.
One of the major unmentioned benefits of iOS 8.2 is vastly improved stability for third party keyboards. All previous versions iOS 8 would find a way to crash keyboards within 20–30 minutes of my using them, which would start a frustrating chain of restarting apps in order to get the bloody input method back.
I’m really, really happy to report that this no longer seems to be the case. Third party keyboards are working much more consistently, and I’ve only experienced one or two crashes in the last four days.
The only confusing portion for some people might be the way that keyboards switch up as you move between chats in iMessage. However, that seems to be a feature, not a bug.
If you’ve been intrigued by third party keyboards but couldn’t stand all the instability, now is the time to try them again. I would highly suggest Fleksy and Nintype as particularly good iPad-friendly options.
Apple released iOS 8.2 for the iPhone, iPod and iPad this week. The release notes indicate the bulk of the update is aimed at support for apple Watch and improvements to the Heath App. In addition, the new software provides increased stability and bug fixes for your iOS devices. The software update registers in at 565 MB for the iPhone, but on the iPad it is much smaller–a mere 256 MB.
Obviously with the announcement of the Apple Watch these week, the main focus of the update is the interaction between the iPhone and Apple Watch. In addition, when you update your iPhone an Apple Watch companion app will also be downloaded with the software update that will make it possible to manipulate settings on the new watch as well as personalize the Home screen from your phone. The Apple Watch is not compatible with the iPad, though, so this is most likely why 8.2 is half the size on your iPad. As long as your aren’t still rocking a first gen iPad, this update is compatible on your device.
Other additional enhancements in the update not related to Apple Watch still make this update important for iPad users who value improved stability and everyone’s favorite–bug fixes. Here are some of the notable highlights that affect iPad owners…
This the keyboard view I had when trying to start up a new game in Football Manager Handheld on my iPad Air 2 the other night.
I had the Swype keyboard selected at the time and apparently iOS 8 wasn’t too thrilled with my choice at that time. I ended up having to quit the app, open the built-in Notes app, and swap to the built-in keyboard to get things back to normal and be able to fill in the fields to start a new game.
Yup, it’s just great to have 3rd party keyboards support on iOS 8.
Because third party keyboards are still so inexplicably unstable on iOS 8.1.2, I’m trying to see if I can just use Apple’s own QuickType keyboard. I liked using Fleksy and Nintype because they saved me keystrokes by predicting my words, or by correcting me in such a way that I don’t need to focus on accuracy while typing.
QuickType seems to do a bit of both, and it can be satisfying to watch the animations play above the keyboard as the system tries to guess what I’m going to say next. However, I find I’m so used to typing on touch devices that I often out-pace QuickType’s attempts to help me out. My fingers just end up flying faster than the animations can play out.
So I’m trying a different approach for a little while in an effort to retrain the way I operate on a software keyboard.
- I now type a little slower so that the software can guess what I’ll say next
- For words shorter than five characters, I’ll just type them out fully.
- For words over five characters, I’ll type the first four or five letters and let QuickType suggest options for me
It’s the early days yet, but this seems like a happy medium while I wait for Apple to make third party keyboards a viable option. That has to happen someday…right?
My colleague Thomas wrote a good post a couple months back, on the sad state of 3rd party keyboards in iOS8.
So I suppose it’s a little sad to report that iOS8 and its handling of keyboards – 3rd party or otherwise – is still buggy as heck, even months after release.
Check out the screenshot above for one basic ‘fail’ issue that I see fairly often on my iPad Air2. It’s the Spotlight Search bar, and I’ve already tapped the search bar to place the cursor there. That should instantly invoke the on-screen keyboard – but it doesn’t. And when this happens, I’ll tend to find that I get the same result in a notes app, or the App Store, or elsewhere.
It sometimes takes just a sleep and wake of the iPad to get past it, other times it needs a restart. But the fact is, I don’t recall ever seeing this prior to iOS 8.
I was looking forward to support for 3rd party keyboards and swipe typing in iOS8 as much as anyone possibly could (as I love using these on Android devices) – but so far the experience on iOS 8 has been nothing been disappointing.
Here’s hoping it will improve very soon.
One of the absolute most exciting things about iOS 8 was its announced support for third-party keyboards in almost all areas of the OS. There are some limitations. Every time you reach a password field, the default Apple keyboard pops up just to make sure users enjoy maximum privacy. Voice dictation through Siri, which got a lot better and more responsive with iOS 8, is only allowed on the default keyboard as well. Then there’s the lack of any ability to split the keyboard up for quick thumb typing, as is possible with Apple’s keyboard.
However, with all that said, I think there’s a lot of room for growth, innovation, and amazing utility in the third-party keyboard space on iOS. Fleksy was one of my favourites in the first few weeks after iOS 8’s launch in September, but for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped bothering with any third party keyboards at all. Unfortunately, every single keyboard I’ve tried is just too buggy. It’s hard to say how much of that is on keyboard app developers and how much is due to bugs in iOS 8 (though I’d bet more on the latter), the fact of the matter is that keyboards tend to crash a lot on a daily basis. I can launch Safari, type in a URL, return to Messages, and have no keyboard. I can swipe down on a notification to respond to something, start to type a word, and have the keyboard literally disappear from underneath my fingertips.
Then there’s the level of inconsistency on an app-to-app basis. I might have Fleksy active in a chat with my girlfriend in Messages, but then have Apple’s keyboard show up when I respond to my sister (without even leaving the app).
All in all, it’s been a very frustrating experience trying to use third-party keyboards. I’ve spent most of my time with Fleksy, Swiftkey, and Swype, and as of a few weeks ago, I gave up trying to use them full time. Even on the latest iOS 8.1.1 beta, keyboards are still buggy and crashy on a daily basis. I’ll inevitably try Fleksy out with each of its updates and with every new iOS update, but I have to say, the reality of third-party keyboards nearly two months after the release of iOS 8 is disappointing.
Oh, and thank God for Bluetooth keyboards!