Archive for August, 2015

Seven ways iOS 9 will change your iPhone

Monday, August 10th, 2015

iphone images

OS9 features a lot of small changes that add up to one big one.

When you first boot up the iOS 9 beta on an iPhone, things don’t seem that different. Same old apps, same old homescreen, same old camera.

With a few minutes, this familiarity begins to fracture. It’s kind of like visiting your parent’s house after they slightly rearrange their furniture: things are seemingly the same but you still feel slightly nauseous.

In other words, there is plenty of new stuff here, it’s just not jumping out at you like the massive redesign of iOS 7, or the complete reworking of notifications in iOS 8 last year. Here are seven seemingly small things that add up to a pretty hefty change to your iPhone.
1: New font

No, there isn’t a redesign, but there is a new font, everywhere. After wedding itself completely to Helvetica over the years — particularly in iOS 7 — Apple have broken free of the Swiss typeface hegemony, using their own ‘San Francisco font’ for the operating system. San Francisco is inherited from the Apple Watch, where it was built for greater readability on that tiny screen.

Here’s the thing though: Helvetica and San Francisco are both sans serif Akzidenz-Grotesk-inspired typefaces, so they don’t look too different. I follow this stuff closely and I forgot there was a new font at first.


2: Low power mode

Apple are certainly not the first to envision a ‘low power mode’ for users to turn on when they need that extra boost to get them through the day. Many users, myself included, have been hacking their own low power mode for years — you turn the brightness to nothing, you turn on airplane mode whenever you’re not actively using your phone, and you pray.

But Apple’s power mode does much more than just dim the screen, while still letting you use your phone as intended: it handicaps the processor, so you can still do everything, only a teensy bit slower. An iPhone 6 will feel like iPhone 5S, an iPhone 5S will feel like an iPhone 5, and so on. It also disables background app refreshing and mail fetching (mail fetching is often the biggest culprit when it comes to battery life), and disables all the obvious things like animated wallpapers.

Unlike Samsung’s offering, it doesn’t do anything as drastic as grayscale the screen — but with the type of display Apple uses, that wouldn’t save much power anyway.
3: Selfies and screenshots folder

It’s a small change that will save a lot of people a lot of frustration. While iOS 8 enraged many with its new organisation of photos into ‘collections’, the organisational features for your camera roll that iOS 9 introduce are much less intrusive.

Specifically, Apple now build a smart folder of your screenshots and selfies. Your big ‘one bucket of all my photos’ camera roll is still there, but if you quickly want to get to something you screenshot a few weeks ago, you can do it in seconds. It sure makes doing writeups with multiple screenshots easier!
4: Lowercase keyboard

Another small frustration-busting change — the iPhone keyboard now shows lowercase letters when you’re in lowercase mode and capital letters when you’re not. No more tapping the shift button endlessly trying to work out which mode you are in!
5: New app switcher

One of the larger visual changes in iOS 9 hits you right in the face the moment you double press your home button. Gone is the 2D row of app previews; in is a 3D stack of apps which reminds me a whole lot of the old Windows 7 alt-tab screen. This change doesn’t make app switching any more usable — in fact, in the beta it is quite buggy — but it is certainly a new look.

6: Back to app button

You know when you open a link on Facebook in Safari, but then want to go back and comment on it, but can’t find the original post? Or one app opens another app for authentication, but doesn’t send you back in a hurry? It’s easy enough to forget you are in an app at all, but iOS 9 gives you a status bar reminder/button of however you got to wherever you are, allowing you to quickly go back to the app you originally opened.

In the Beta, it displays a ‘back to search’ button if you got to the app through a search — which might be slightly annoying for those of us who open almost all of our apps through the search interface.
7: A general tune-up

iOS 9 feels snappy, and it’s a lot slimmer than its predecessor. It’s a beta, so there’s bugs, but my main iPhone with iOS 8 feels slightly sluggish in comparison. Apple promise serious speed and battery improvements, particularly for those with a 4S. I haven’t had a chance to seriously check out the 4S performance yet, but some of the improvements just seem like common sense. For example, if your phone can’t use a certain feature of an app because it is too old, it won’t download all the code for that feature, saving precious precious space.

While we’re talking space, here’s the big news on the tune up: iOS 9 is just 1.3GB, while iOS 8 was 4.58 GB. For anyone on a 16GB iPhone, this is a pretty big deal.

For everyone else, Apple’s ‘Metal’ programming language should make apps hand off more tasks to the GPU, increasing performance and battery life. Apple promise a whole extra hour of battery life.
And one big thing: Intelligence

Okay, this is cheating a little bit. Apple’s new ‘intelligence’ features — an updated search, an updated Siri, and a general feeling of proactive smarts throughout the system — are easily the largest part of iOS 9, but also the hardest to appreciate in an early glance. These new features worm their way into every part of the system, hopefully making your iPhone feel like a smart personal assistant instead of a slow calendar.

Want to remind yourself of an invitation you just said yes to? Just ask Siri to “remind me about this”. Want to know that random number who is calling you? iOS will look through your email and try to work it out. These features, which mimic and extend the kind of functionality Google pack into Android with Google Now, signal a completely new course of computing that we’re all embarking on.


Henry Sapiecha

iSperm turns your iPad into a home fertility test for men

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

isperm app image

Pig farm owner Sam Wang demonstrates how to use an iSperm kit in Yunlin, central Taiwan.

Call home, check your email, count your sperm: Taiwanese start-up Aidmics is hoping to cash in on the $US40 billion global human fertility market with an iPad-compatible gadget it calls iSperm.

Aidmics initially developed the product to help livestock farmers, but founder Agean Lin now plans to seek US Food and Drug Administration approval next year to expand its use to men.

“In the US, one out of every six couples has trouble conceiving,” Lin, 35, told Reuters.

iSperm was released commercially last August and has sold nearly 200 sets to farms around the world. It isn’t the first at-home sperm tester but the only one that offers instant fertility measurements combined with live visuals of the sperm.

Lin said he aims to price the iSperm device between $US100 and $US200, a fraction of the cost of the commercial version.

The technology is simple: a tiny microscope enlarges the contents of a few drops of semen inside a pipette, lit by a backlight. The light beams the moving image to the iPad camera, and algorithms then analyse the sample for total sperm count and motility, or how fast sperm can swim.

Sam Wang, manager of a livestock farm in central Taiwan, is a convert. “Our pregnancy success rate increased by 20 per cent after we started using this gadget,” said Wang, who uses the device to measure the fertility of his boars.

“In the past, we had to use huge, expensive microscopes and physically count each sperm one-by-one,” he said.

Henry Sapiecha