Three iOS Photo Apps You Need Now

One of the best things about the new iPhone 6 (both models) are the improved cameras.  Like many iPhone users, I have largely abandoned my traditional video camera and my DSLR in favor of my iPhone.  iPhone photography has been great for a while, and it just got better.

In addition to better hardware specs, the iPhone 6 cameras benefit from the new extensions feature of iOS 8, which allows you to use third party photo apps from the native Photos app (e.g., your camera roll).  Not only is this quicker and more efficient, it solves the problem of having duplicate photos on your iPhone- the original one in your camera roll and the edited one, as modified by the third-party app.

I’m sure it will evolve as I discover more iOS 8 optimized apps, but my current photo tool box consists of the native iOS Photos app, plus three great third-party apps.

Camera+.  This has been the best iOS photo app for as long as I can remember, but now you can use its editing features directly from the Photos app (again, what you probably think of as your camera roll).  Simply tap on the photo, tap Edit in the upper right hand corner, tape the circle with three dots in it at the bottom.


And you can edit that photo with your third-party photo apps.


So I often experiment with my Camera+ filters before saving or sharing a photo.


Paper Camera

I only recently  discovered this app, but I love it.  The effects are really well-done, and you can flex your creative muscle without a ton of work.



I do not miss the early digital photo era phenomena of super-imposed dates in the corner of your photo, but there are definitely times when you need to note and prove when a photo was taken.  DateStamper does this, again right from the Photos app.


There’s a lot to love about the new iPhones and the new iOS, and the ability to take, edit and manage your photos is near the top of the list.

Six Things About My iPhone 6+


So I thought about it for a minute or so, as I was feverishly refreshing the Apple Store page at 2:01 a.m. that sleepy and frustrating Friday morning.  Should I get the bigger iPhone 6 or the huge iPhone 6+?  I got the big, honking iPhone 6+.

It came down to two things.  And unlike most things, neither of them was money.  The pro- I almost never actually raise my iPhone to my ear.  I have Bluetooth in the car.  I rarely get calls on my iPhone when I’m in the office.  When I’m at home or at the farm, I either use the iPhone’s built-in speaker, Google Hangouts (where I’ve been involuntarily tossed from the no-doubt soon to be shuttered Google Voice), or- and this will become the default- the ability to talk on my iPhone on my Mac via the forthcoming OS X Yosemite.  I rarely handle my iPhone in a traditional phone manner.

The con- I work out a lot.  And during many of those workouts, I listen to podcasts.


Which means I have to carry this giant phone around in my pocket.  The fact that all of my pants have big pockets was the deciding factor.  So now I’m toting around my gigantic iPhone 6+, with the wonderful iOS 8 and 128 GB of space.

I’ll admit to second thoughts.  But in the end, I’m certain I made the right choice.  Screen size trumps physical size, at least for me.  I think it would, if given a chance, for most people.  But it’s an adjustment.  For sure.

Here are six things I’ve noticed.

One, it’s slippery and very easy to drop.  The size, thinness and smooth finish conspire to make the iPhone 6+ a drop waiting to happen.  In fact, within (and I’m not kidding) a second of taking my new iPhone out of its box, it sprang from my delighted hands onto (thankfully) the counter in my study.  No harm done, but it could have been much worse.  I haven’t used a case with my iPhone since Around Me was the hot app de jour, but I have been weighing the odds and thinking about getting one.

Two, the screen is large and wonderful.  I didn’t use my prior iPhones for much heavy lifting when I was near a Mac or iPad.  The experience seemed very much like working on a phone.  You can do it, but it’s a little unsatisfying.  Photos or texts, sure.  But anything more than that had me grabbing another device.  Not so much any more.  The iPhone 6+ experience is much more tablet-like.  The resolution is superb and the extra screen space makes a ton of difference.  When I was holding Cassidy’s beloved (because it fits in her pocket) iPhone 4S last night, it seemed tiny.

Three, extensions make a huge difference.  If you’re a geek, you already know what extensions are.  If you aren’t, they allow you to do more stuff on your iPhone.  Apps can interact with one another (e.g., you can edit a photo in the native Photos app with another app, without having to back out and switch apps).  In other words, you can have more creative, seamless workflows.  You can also add widgets to the Today view in the pull-down Notifications window.  This may seem minor, but it is a major productivity boost.  In sum, extensions allow you to have a more computer-like experience on your iPhone and iPad.

Four, the native dictation feature works.  It’s accurate and, best of all, you can see what you’re saying in near real-time.  Previously, you said whatever you wanted typed, and then waited for the iPhone to process it.  As a result, I use voice all the time on my iPhone 6+.  Again, a huge productivity booster.

Five, working with documents will, eventually, be much easier.  iCloud (and iCloud drive) will be more powerful.  Handoff, which lets you start a task on one device and finish it on another, will lead me to use Pages much more than I have in the past.  At this point, other than its mandatory use for work documents, I have little need for Microsoft Word.  I also expect that much of my non-work document flow will migrate away from Google Documents to Pages, etc.  I use the future tense, because much of this requires the forthcoming OS X Yosemite to work.  I’ve been using the Yosemite beta since the day it was released to developers, and I love it.  One caveat: I have found it difficult to get handoff to work.  Hopefully, it will be easier with the release version.

Six, while iOS 8 doesn’t look much different than iOS 7, much of the magic is under the hood.  Developers are going to have a field day adding features.  Some of my most-used apps (Evernote and LastPass, for example) have already been updated to take advantage of things like touch ID and widgets.  I use Drafts (a must-have app for anyone looking for an efficient workflow) many times a day, and am anxiously awaiting its update (would love a beta version, guys).  Over the next few weeks, many, many apps will be updated to take advantage of iOS 8.  The user experience will be vastly improved.

In sum, the new iPhones are big and beautiful.  iOS 8 is powerful and expansive.  The combination of the two with updated and optimized apps will be life-changing.  You’ll think I’m exaggerating until you [hat tip to my editorial board in the comments] experience it for yourself.

You’ll dig it.  I promise.

Impressions on the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch

apple logo

As anyone who hasn’t been unconscious all day knows, Apple introduced both its next-generation iPhones as well as its long-awaited Apple Watch today.  There are detailed summaries and hands-on reviews all over the internet, so I will dispense with the summary and descriptions and simply give you my initial thoughts.

First, let me add my voice to the chorus of howls whining about the utter failure that was Apple’s live stream of today’s keynote.  Despite trying over and over, I was unable to obtain anything resembling a reliable, uninterrupted stream via my Apple TV.  Eventually, I was able to obtain an intermittent stream via my iPhone, but even this smaller stream was interrupted incessantly by oddly-intermingled earlier recorded clips of people milling around before the event started, and an unbelievably annoying translator (Japanese or Chinese, I believe) talking over the speaker.  No attempt at live streaming would be greatly preferable to the disaster that was served on us today.

Having dispensed with my mini-rant, let’s get down to the details of today’s announcements.  Which were pretty awesome.


So about this iPhone 6.  Yes, I want one.  There are enough improvements, from a bigger screen, to a faster chip, to a better camera, to faster WiFi, to an ambitious payment system, and beyond to make me more than willing to pre-order my iPhone 6 this Friday, for a September 19 delivery.  I’m very interested in the motion-tracking and fitness features, and wonder if this will be the end of my beloved Fitbit.  I suspect it will come down to reliability and the device’s ability to track treadmill miles with a reasonable accuracy.  Whether it’s recommended or not, lots of people (including me) occasionally hold on to treadmills when they walk or run, and I always question whether a device (be it a new iPhone or an Apple Watch) will accurately log treadmill miles.  Fitbit does a reasonable job of this.  I also wonder how the iPhone fitness apps will work if you don’t have an Apple Watch (more on this below).

The only material issue surrounding my new iPhone 6 is whether I will get a slightly larger iPhone 6 or a significantly larger iPhone 6 Plus.  Initially, I felt reasonably certain I would choose the larger device, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if carrying around a larger device all the time would be cumbersome.  Granted, using it while stationary would be wonderful, but the idea of logging 60 or 70 miles a week on roads and treadmills with a big, honking iPhone 6 Plus in my pocket worries me.

One thing I’m certain of.  The fact that the Apple Watch requires an iPhone for effective use is the biggest thing the smaller iPhone 6 has going for it.  I question the effectiveness of having a smallish, elegant device on your arm if you are required to lug around a large, 6 ounce iPhone Plus in your pocket (if it will even fit).  It’s a true conundrum.  Sitting at my desk or on the couch- iPhone 6 Plus for sure.  Traveling, running or walking- smaller may be better.  Not to mention that I am very attached to my iPad Air, and typically have it close by when at home.

The bottom line: I was leaning towards the larger model, but now it’s a toss up.


So, what about the Apple Watch?

I haven’t worn a watch in many, many years, and absent Apple’s involvement, I have absolutely no desire to wear one.  In fact, I hate the idea of a watch.  Prior to today’s keynote, I, like many others, expected Apple’s “wearable” device to be much more Fitbit-like, and much less watch-like.  I was wrong.  The Apple Watch is very much a watch, albeit one with lots of features.

I like the idea of being able to “glance” at information, quickly and easily.  If it works, I like the fitness aspects.  I guess it would be cool to be able to communicate with my family and friends via sketches and dictated messages.  Having said that, I don’t text much now, and I don’t see the Apple Watch turning me into a power-texter.  I wasn’t into Dick Tracy as a kid, and I just don’t know that I want his watch now.


Of course, I wasn’t sure I wanted an iPhone, until I had one.  Or a Sonos.  Or all sorts of other things you have to experience to fully appreciate.  And there’s no denying that the interface looks beautiful, intuitive and powerful.  At the end of the day, my dislike of watches will have to battle my love of Apple for the future of my currently bare arm.

I will say that, while the Apple Watch screams cool, I don’t see anything about it that will make it a mandatory purchase for all iPhone users.  Additionally, the requirement to associate an iPhone with the device limits its ability to penetrate the Android and other wearable markets.  I’m sure Google and Samsung breathed audible sighs of relief at this.

I think the biggest leap forward we learned about today will end up being Apple Pay.

If it is adopted on a universal or close to universal basis, Apple Pay will be life- and commerce- changing.  Clearly, someone needs to step up to the plate and address the endless security problems inherent in current credit card standards and technology.  Apple changed the music business, and there is little reason to doubt it can do the same with the credit card business.  While I am not much of a Passbook user currently, I am excited about the potential for my iPhone to replace both my membership cards (as few as they may be; I am profoundly unaffiliated) as well as my credit cards.

We can debate the details, but clearly today was another big day for Apple, and for current and future Apple users.

Compression Depression & the iPhone 4 (Updated)

Yes, I stood in line for hours.  Yes, I’m a nerd.  And yes, the new iPhone is awesome.

One of the biggest reasons I was willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. and trek off to the dreaded mall is the new camera features.  Front and back, flash and high definition.

Which is all great.  In theory.  Unfortunately, I have run into two hurdles that are all but killing my iPhone video buzz.

Buzz Kill 1: Too Much Compression.

Videos shot on the new  iPhone look great, on the iPhone.  And it simply could not be easier to upload video from the iPhone to YouTube.  The big, massive, honking problem is that somewhere between the iPhone and YouTube the video is compressed so much, it looks like something from the nineties.  As in the 1890’s.

Here’s the way my test clip looks on YouTube.


Now on Vimeo

That’s a lot better, although it still looks a little grainy when you view it full screen (see the little icon with four arrows).  Why in this age of infinite cloud storage and broadband do we compress video at all?

There’s no excuse for over-compressing it the way the YouTube process does.  In a few years we’re all going to have the same dilemma we faced after initially ripping our CDs at 128 Kbps.  Those who forget history, and all that.

All of this makes the iPhone largely unworkable as a camcorder substitute, particularly if you aren’t near your computer, because. . .

Buzz Kill 2: No Easy Way to Move Videos

Even if I was willing to forego the convenience of an immediate upload and work with the native video files, there is no way to easily move video files off of the iPhone when you aren’t in front of your computer.  Sure, Dropbox lets you upload video files easily, but they are over-compressed before they are uploaded, even if you select the highest quality in the app settings.

32GB is a lot of space when you’re near home, but not when you go on a vacation.  And plan to take your iPad in lieu of a laptop.

There may be a workaround for this series of problems, but I haven’t found it yet.

I’m still mourning my buzz.


It looks like the inability to upload videos in HD over the air is a known and much bemoaned feature deficit with the new iPhones.  The man himself says we’ll be able to upload in HD “in the future.”

A commenter on the post above says that the Pixelpipe app will upload HD video to YouTube now, but I don’t have that app so I can’t verify it.

A Good Day for the Folders

Yesterday was a great day for those of us who like to organize our content the sane, logical way- in folders.  I’ve never understood how anyone could argue while sober and somber that labels/tags are an acceptable alternative to folders.  In fact, the introduction of a folder-like archive management system is what initially made Better Gmail 2 the most important add-on since French fried potatoes.

image Now, the other features of Better Gmail 2 will have to carry the banner, as Google has introduced nested labels in Gmail.  Next to the fantastic spam filters, this may be the best feature in Gmail.  I can’t overstate how happy I am that Google has added this feature.

Thank you, Google.

Some will feel compelled to tell me how great labels and tags are.  I’ll respond the same way I always do- good, go make some labels and tags.  It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.  We should both have what we want.  Now we do.

On the same day, Apple gave the world a preview of the forthcoming iPhone OS 4.  There’s a lot to like about the new OS- the main thing being the ability to have more than one Microsoft Exchange email account.  Another excellent new feature is the ability to place your iPhone and iPad apps in folders.  This is excellent.

Folders.  As far as the eye can see.

Now, if Apple would just implement folders in iTunes, I could focus all of my attention on crapping all over the otherwise excellent Evernote for refusing to add folders (or subnotebooks) to its application.  Without folders, Evernote becomes unwieldy for power users.  I pay for a premium account, but I won’t renew it unless the developers implement some sort of folders option.

You win a few and you lose a few.  Yesterday we won.

Is Something Rotten at the Apple Store?

First, here’s my Apple story.  I think Macs are way overpriced, and I think the Mac OS is terrible.  Now that I’ve offended those Apple fans that are still in the denial stage, here’s the other side of the story.

I love much of the other stuff Apple makes.  The sadly under-marketed and overlooked Apple TV is a wonderful device for serving audio and video to home theatres.  I have two (well, actually only one- see below).  I think the iPhone is a world-changer as far as phones- and handheld devices in general- are concerned.  My kids love their iPods.

Heck, I happily ordered my iPad the first minute I could do so.  Even though this dude thinks I’m an idiot for doing so.

The point is that, other than Macs (which, by the way, will ultimately be saved when Apple ports the grandchild of the current iPhone OS to its computers), I am a loyal Apple user.  1 iPod mini, 2 iPod Touches, 3 iPhones, a prematurely dead Mac Mini, 2 Apple TVs, and an iPad on the way.

One of the things I used to cite as a reason to love Apple products was the existence of, and great support at, the local Apple Store.  But somewhere between the launch of the company saving iPhone and today, something changed.

Thomas Hawk thinks so too.

A few years ago, my first iPhone stopped charging.  I took it to the Apple Store, without an appointment.  After a short wait, I spoke to someone at the Genius Bar, and got a new one on the spot.  I was happy enough to buy all of the additional gear listed above.

image Lately, however, my Apple Store experience has been decidedly less positive.

First, one of our Apple TVs stopped booting, for no apparent reason.  It has all of the symptoms of a bad hard drive.  We took it to the Apple Store, hoping- but not expecting- that Apple would replace the hard drive at little or no charge.  Realistically, all I expected was a good, helpful attitude and a reasonable labor charge to replace the hard drive.  After all, don’t hard drives generally have good warranties?  Surprisingly, the genius at the Genius Bar didn’t seem to want to diagnose the problem.  When we insisted, we left the device to be diagnosed, hoping the attitude was just a blip on the radar.  A few days later we got a call saying the hard drive was bad, and we should just buy a new Apple TV.  For $229.

So based on my Mac Mini and Apple TV experience, are these things disposable?  Seriously, I love Apple products, but based on my experience and the sense I have from talking to others, the failure rate must be enormous.  Which, of course, makes support critical.

And, presumably, expensive for Apple.  Who has to support that stock price.  Hmmm.

Then came the customer happiness-killing blow.  My wife, who destroys electronics  like Sherman destroyed Atlanta, pays, via ATT, for some sort of insurance that promises to replace broken iPhones.  Her ringer silence switch fell off.  She went to the same Apple Store to get it fixed.  This time the genius told her he could tell that the switch fell off due to water-damage, which is not covered by the insurance plan.  While the ATT salesman told her water damage was covered, that’s not the point.  The point is that the phone is not water damaged.  The darn switch fell off, and Apple is refusing to fix it.  Again, the proposed solution: buy another iPhone.

This just sucks.  Period.

By itself, I could explain away parts of this.  But taken as a whole, and compared to my past experiences, something smells at the Apple Store.

WordPress for iPhone 2

With most of the heavy lifting behind me in my migration to WordPress, I’ve started looking at some more subtle features. I’ll cover plugins later, but I want to try WordPress for iPhone 2.

I can already tell it tries to overcome the aggravating inelegant linking issue that plagues every iPhone app to one extent or the other.  It’s easy to create a post, and, once you figure out how to do it (via the Status screen), easy to publish posts.

We are at Tokyohana with our good friends the Brooks, who are visiting from Atlanta.

I took a (blurry iPhone special) picture to add to this post. Wonder if and where it will appear?

Update: Pictures appear at the end of the post, which would be fine except they are huge (I resized it from my desktop).  If this is how it works, the photo addition feature is useless.

The company is great, the food is excellent, and the app is very good. It does about as much as can be done to make it less than torture to create a link.

I bet this will rock on an iPad!

Now back to friends and food.

Update 2: I was unable to post over 3G, but it seemed to work via wifi.  I hope that’s a network glitch and not an app limitation.

Was Apple’s Partnership with ATT the Worst Business Decision Ever?

I finally got around to trying Qik, and I’m really impressed with it.  It’s too bad I have an iPhone which, unlike so many phones, won’t allow users to stream live video.  At least I can now upload video to Qik over the 3G network.  I guess that’s something.  You see, us iPhone users have to take comfort in small victories.

One day they’ll build a bad business decision hall of fame.  The featured display will be the Apple/ATT exclusive iPhone partnership.  People will flock to see how something that could’ve been so good turned out so bad.  Courses will be taught, degrees may even be awarded, on iPhone Launch Disaster Avoidance.  “Yes sir, I got my ILDA from Stanford back in 2017, magna cum laude.  I started out in the MBA program, but I wanted to go where the jobs are.”

This Apple/ATT business fell off the tracks when we found out that our dream phones can’t send MMS messages.  Nor can you use them as a wireless broadband modem, the way I used my Blackberry years ago.

Since then, we’ve seen a parade of new apps and improved features.  For other phones.  Google Latitude, Google Voice, the SlingPlayer app, Qik, etc.  If you can think of it, there’s probably an application.  For other phones.

Meanwhile we wait.  We wait for someone at Apple and/or ATT to come to their senses and call bullshit on what has become the biggest technology failure in memory.  We wait for other carriers to save the day.  We hope the government will step in and restore order.

Mostly, we hope that one day our iPhones will do what other, less heralded, mobile phone can already do.  We bought and re-bought our iPhones to be at one end of the technology curve, and we ended up at the other.  Oh, the iRony.

At this point, we don’t know who to blame.  Is this Apple being paternalistic and arrogant?  Is it ATT being hapless?  Or is it some combination of the two?  I don’t know how to allocate all the blame, but that’s OK because there’s plenty to go around.  Here’s what I do know.  When the iPhone and the ATT partnership was launched, there is no way the executives involved intended things to turn out like they did.  This phone was supposed to change the world.  The fact that it had the impact it did in spite of the multitude of problems says more about the cult of Apple and the design of competing handsets than it does about the execution of the iPhone launch.

Consider where the iPhone- and the horde of developers writing for it- would be if just half of the subsequent failures had not occurred.  The race would be over.  Only the Apple/ATT failfest is keeping the other handsets in the game.  I bet people at competing companies give thanks for ATT’s network infrastructure (or the lack thereof) every day.

So while I can’t allocate the blame, it doesn’t look to me like anyone is getting what they wanted out of this deal.  Apple is shackled to a bad network that can’t handle nineties-era features and/or its misguided desire to over-control the user experience.  ATT is the punching bag for those who want their iPhones to realize their potential, and has turned people who bought out of their contracts to become ATT customers into a shipful of rats looking to jump at the first opportunity.

And then there are all the iPhone owners.  People who try to be excited and loyal in the face of daily reminders of all the things their phones can’t do.

Everyone is losing in this game.  Someone needs to change the rules.

Apple’s War Against the iPhone

There’s been a lot of talk today over the responses Google and ATT sent to the FCC in response to the FCC’s inquiry into various App Store rejections, most notably the rejection of the much desired- by me and others- Google Voice app.

The short answer is that ATT did not request or require the rejection, which was my scenario number one, back when this rotten business started.  As I noted then:

[It may be] that Apple decided on its own to ban the Google Voice apps for some inexplicable Apple reason, which seems to be what ATT would like us to conclude.  This could be accurate, given that other phones on the ATT network have Google Voice apps.  If so, the torchy mob should immediately descend on Apple’s castle and demand a straight forward explanation.  Don’t buy the duplicative feature canard.  All kinds of duplicative apps are allowed.  It’s only the one that would most improve the iPhone experience that is not.

By all means, the torchy mob should now descend on Apple’s castle and demand that Apple destroy whatever Frankenstein is barring the door to the App Store.  But, wait, we are talking about Apple here.  The company that makes the (zealously) beloved (by a few) Mac.

I have always been amazed and annoyed by the free pass that Apple tends to get when it does something customer-unfriendly:

Why does Apple get a pass when it tries to control our audio, and now video, experience? Everything about the iPod is designed to force you to use iTunes as a gateway to your music. And to sell some downloads, of course. If Microsoft did something like this, all the Apple heads would scream bloody murder.

Well, today it was confirmed that Apple did something very customer-unfriendly.  And it didn’t take long for people to start handing out that free pass.  In a post discussing these latest developments and generally describing Apple’s App Store review process, Harry McCracken, who is usually spot on in his tech analysis, let the Apple flu get the best of him:

Apple is so obsessive about user interfaces and its control thereof that I take it at its word that this is why it hasn’t approved Google Voice. (If Microsoft said it objected to a third-party app on the grounds of interface consistency, it would be a different matter.)

A pass and a swat at Microsoft, in the same sentence.

In fairness, he goes on to say he doesn’t like Apple’s decision, but come on Harry.  No matter what the reason (and we’ll probably never know the real reason, since Apple guards its motives like a State Secret), this is a bullshit denial of another app everybody wants.  As I said the other day, why is it that the greatest phone on earth gets more and more crippled every day?  Usain Bolt is the best sprinter on Earth, but break his legs and make him carry Steve Jobs on his back, and my 3 year old could beat him.

Phones are like sports.  What happens in practice really doesn’t matter.  It’s all about what happens during the game.  And Apple is royally screwing up this game.

It’s time to take back that free pass, and make Apple understand that there is a limit to customer loyalty.  If we have to vote with our feet and pocketbooks, so be it.

Otherwise, Apple will eventually win the inexplicable war it is waging against the iPhone.  And if that happens, no one wins.

Well, except maybe Google.