iPhone Users Listen Up: Keyboard Shortcuts (Autofill) are a Lifesaver!

If you have yet to discover the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts, you are about to have your mind blown. This function, tucked away in the settings, has two awesome functions: to create shortcuts for strings of text you frequently type, and to serve as a dictionary override. The second use is a best-kept secret, so be sure to read on.

Shortcuts function can be found in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts

Create Shortcuts for Frequently Typed Items

iPhone Shortcuts — Autofill

The primary use of iPhone shortcuts is as their name implies — shortcuts. Simply press the “+” button in the top right and enter the text that you frequently type as the “Phrase” and the shortcut for the autofill as the “Shortcut”. For example, you can enter your address as the phrase and have your email automatically filled in when you type in “myemail” if you set “myemail” as the shortcut (see image). This is particularly useful for those with long emails or for longer phrases like full postal addresses.

Other great uses of shortcuts are:

  • Addresses (“myaddress”)
  • Phone numbers (“mynumber”)
  • Stop texting me, you’re crazy! (“crazyex”)

Create Dictionary Overrides (Particularly Useful for Swear Words)

Do you find it super annoying that Apple tries to strip you of the colourful language you like to use? Worry no more! Simply add a phrase for the word that you don’t want to have autocorrected and leave the shortcut field blank. Voilà! Steve Jobs will no longer try to correct your exclamations to “Duck!”

Of course, this isn’t limited to swearing. If there are any words that you type that are frequently “corrected”, incorrectly, simply add them to your list of shortcuts.

Have you been using the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts? If so, what are some of the shortcuts you have created?

Freemium Apps Suck | Candy Crush and Other Abominations

Candy Crush sucks - Freemium apps suck
Candy Crush Sucks

Sometime within the last year or so, freemium has taken a dramatic turn for the worse; app designers are now beginning to ditch the “free” and focus on the “premium”.

The best example is the abomination that is Candy Crush; a game that has taken freemium to a frustrating extreme. The idea is simple: instead of offering the game for free with a reasonably-priced premium version (read, full version), they make a small portion of the game available for free with many purchases required in-game to proceed. You never buy the full game, you know have to continually pay-to-play.

Freemium apps suck

From a business perspective, it is brilliant, but the users are the ones that lose out — financially. Previously, you could try out a game or app for a while, and if you liked it, you could opt for the premium version — usually priced between $0.99-4.99. Many new apps, however, are now forcing you to cough-up money at regular intervals to progress through the game and charging a dollar or two each time.

The result of this nonsense, is that many users are spending much more than before on their apps, many without realizing it. Other users, like myself, become extremely frustrated with the game, never to play it again. There’s no option to purchase the app in its entirety anymore, so you either have to commit to a continual stream of purchases or stop using the app altogether.

The real problem is this: users are spending much more money with this new freemium model, but unfortunately, there are too many users that do not realize this and add to the problem by lining these businesses’ pockets. The market needs to wake up and start boycotting these apps to prevent a deluge of new freemium apps that will drain user’s pockets.

I am personally boycotting apps like Candy Crush and looking for alternatives so I don’t contribute to this problem. Will you join me in helping to fix this before it gets out of control?

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iOS 7 Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The internet is absolutely loaded with 2 things right now: iOS 7 traffic as people download the latest iOS update and a billion blog posts reviewing iOS 7. I feel it is my job to fuel the fire with my own iOS 7 review.

Firstly, it is worth noting that there are a variety of opinions out there about whether or not iOS 7 is good or bad. Like many, however, I see the OS as taking a number of steps forward and several steps back (as well as some unnecessary side steps). Here’s the breakdown:

iOS 7 InterfaceThe Good

iOS 7 brings about the biggest visual change that Apple has ever put forward. Apple has redesigned just about every single interface and application — I can’t think of anything that hasn’t been redesigned. For those that embrace change (I fall into that camp), the update is very welcome and seems refreshing. For everyone else, many changes will seem arbitrary and frustrating. The good news is that after a week or so, most users will have adapted.

Upgrading was as easy as usual, not including a delay because of overwhelming traffic to Apple’s servers and almost all settings and app data made it across safely to the new OS. Unfortunately, for some reason, my apps did not. A quick visit to the “purchased” section of the App Store app allowed me to re-download the apps painlessly and thankfully all of my app data made the transition.

The best addition to iOS 7 is the introduction of Control Centre for quickly changing phone settings. Of course, this functionality has existed via jailbreak for several years now, but it is great to finally see it baked into the OS as a standard feature.

Based on this, I can finally say that a jailbroken iPhone is no longer an absolute necessity. I still miss my 5-icon dock though.

The Bad
iOS 7 App SwipeThe bad news is that many changes are not just visual and may have gone a step in the wrong direction. Apple decided to rethink many system-wide gestures — some that have worked out for the better and others that add prolonged confusion. Take the new swipe gestures in the default “Mail” application, for example. Apple has decided to change the “swipe for options” functionality from a left-to-right swipe to a right-to-left swipe. This was done, presumably, because of the new OS-wide left-to-right swipe “back” function. However, it just doesn’t feel natural to swipe right to left and is a harder action to perform.

The notification center, by default, has also been made worse. The new “Today” view has been declared terrible by many. Thankfully, you can return the notification center to the way it was by changing some settings.

The Ugly

Call me shallow, but one of my biggest issues with iOS 7 is the overall colour scheme. I call it rainbow unicorn vomit. The fact that Apple got rid of skeuomorphism is fantastic, and most of the menus are dramatically improved visually. However, most of the new stock icons look like off-colour candy and make the overall OS feel more like a children’s toy than a serious new OS.

Some of the biggest problems that you can immediately fix are outlined in a recent Lifehacker article: fixing iOS 7’s biggest annoyances. Some of these frustrating items are:

  • Parallax — the unnecessary, constantly shifting of home screen apps when you move the phone. Distracting and useless.
  • Disable Control Center when in applications — for some apps that require interaction towards the bottom of the screen causing users to accidentally pull up Control Center.
  • Improving battery life by disabling background app refreshing
  • Returning notification center back to its superior old self

iOS 7 Album Artist AnnoyanceAlso, a small but particularly annoying change has been made to the Music app. Instead of selecting an artist and then being presented with a list of albums to drill-drown on, you are given a list of all songs for all albums instead. This makes it much more difficult to get to a specific album since you may have to scroll through every other album before reaching the one that you want (see the screenshot on the left).

Overall, iOS 7 is refreshing seeing as the OS has retained the same look for so long. However, Apple has overdone some of the visual changes and made a number of changes that are unnecessary. Despite some on-going annoyances, most users will quickly come to terms with the new OS and enjoy some of the best features like the Control Center.

What do you think about iOS 7?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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Using Dictation (Siri) for Blogging and Texting

Using Siri for Dictation - BloggingDo you know what one of the worst things about blogging is? Not being able to do it (easily) from the comfort of your own bed.

For you lucky folks with tablets, this does not apply to you. The rest of us with our laptops and our phones are torn: do we awkwardly lay in bed with out laptop or type ever-so-carefully on our phones to make the blogging magic happen. This just in — there’s a better solution!

Ever since upgrading to the iPhone 5 I have been taking advantage of a number of new features such as Siri. Now, don’t get me wrong, Siri is mostly useless. Seriously. But for composing the odd text and, surprisingly, writing blog posts, Siri is great! Keep in mind that while I am referencing Siri, the same should apply to other dictation applications on other smartphones. Some apps like Dragon Dictation work across platforms and perform well.

It takes some getting used to, but once you learn to speak somewhat slowly and dictate punctuation, the process is very simple. I was very surprised to discover that I could write posts just as quickly by dictating them as I could typing them on a full keyboard. Fairly impressive considering my average WPM is about 86. It makes sense, of course. After all, speaking is surely much faster than typing — even for us fast typers.

The biggest issue is that it is hard to insert images and “pretty-up” a post from a mobile device (at least with WordPress it is). So I find myself having to hop on the computer to finish of the post. I usually finish it the next day or whenever it is convenient. That way all of the content is written when my creativity and motivation have peaked and the images and such can follow later.

If you are an avid blogger that doesn’t like to switch it up and be comfy while writing posts, I recommend giving dictation a go.

Google Maps for the iPhone (iOS 6)

There was a tremendous backlash against Apple when they removed Google Maps from the iPhone when they released iOS 6, and for good reason. Google Maps was an extremely polished app that single-handedly justified owning a smartphone. After weeks of struggling with Apple Maps and plenty of boiling-over hatred, Google Maps was finally re-introduced on for iOS 6 and calmed the masses.

“Yes I have all the Maps in the world at my fingertips and can get directions anywhere virtually instantly. Also, it’s very accurate (unlike Apple Maps).”

The first thing I noticed was the difference in speed. It was hard to judge how much of the speed improvement was as a result of the newly streamlined app, as opposed to the difference in phone speed in general since I had just upgraded from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5. Likely a little bit of both. The speed improvements are a result of Google’s newly incorporated WebGL technologies that dynamically draw the map instead of downloading new image squares every time you zoom in.

Click here to learn more about Google Maps with WebGL and discover how to enable it for desktop Google Maps as well.

A number of new features also came with the app — features that were once available only on the Android version. The biggest feature addition was turn by turn navigation. The TomTom’s of the world are in serious trouble now, as anyone with either an Android or iOS device can now use their phone as a full GPS. I have only used the feature a handful of times but it seems to be deadly accurate, unlike the ridiculous hilarity of Apple Maps.

I am still most impressed by the overall speed of the app. Zooming in and out happens almost instantly — an enormous improvement from the old days of watching giant gray boxes float on screen while the rest of the image squares were being downloaded. Searching for directions also happens instantly which has always blown my mind. To think that Google’s servers can receive the address information, match it up with their index and automatically suggest a route which is then draw in half a second on the app is beyond me. Switching transportation methods provides new directions just as quickly (mind explosion!)

Google Maps also provides several available routes each time you request a route. This is great because you can make on-the-fly decisions about different routes if there is a reason you want to avoid a particular street or area. I never find myself choosing an alternative route though, since the route it recommends is always the best — perfectly accounting for traffic, road speeds etc.

Having recently jailbroken my iPhone 5 and downloaded the new Google Maps, I am very content 🙂

Google Maps App iOS 6 Screenshots

Curiosity – The Cube Destroying Game!

If you are a fan of unique games, or just unique concepts in general, you will love Curiosity. It is not very often that you can say you have experienced something truly unique in the world of gaming – and that is even more true in Hollywood.

Curiosity is a simple game on the surface; you are presented with an enormous cube that is comprised of many millions of smaller cubes. The objective of the “game” is to destroy the cube one layer at a time by clicking on and destroying the smaller cubes. The game doesn’t sound very exciting does it? What if I said that you were not the only one destroying the cube? Instead, you are one of many thousands of people around the world simultaneously destroying the cube at the same time?

You see, Curiosity is really more of a social experiment than a game. The concept is that people around the world will join forces around the world to collectively destroy the cube.

So why would you spend time destroying a giant cube? I have to say that while the game seems rather pointless the experience is not. It is very cool to see the work of thousands of people simultaneously chipping away leaving their own pieces of art behind. Of course, many of these “works of art” are just penises, but already people have taken to chipping away at the cube to create complex images that can be seen by everyone else before being gobbled up by the cube’s destruction.

Curiosity Cubes

Of course, as with any game, there is a winner. Destroying the cube is a collective effort that will require the work of many thousands of people but only one person will click on the final cube at the very centre. The game’s creator has promised that the person that destroys the last cube will be presented with something amazing but gives no clue as to what the “prize” might be. Of course this curiosity is what the game’s creator hopes will keep people clicking away, slowly chipping away at the massive cube for what will be at least several weeks even if many thousands of people work at it.

My geeky side (my dominant side) is particularly impressed by the technology involved. How the game is able to keep track of thousands of people interacting with the same object is beyond me. The game isn’t perfect with frequent crashes. Also, you will find yourself destroying a section only to find the cube refresh and reveal that large sections of what you have been working on have already been destroyed by others. However, overall the game is very impressive at rendering the cube with its thousands of unique sections of art.

Download the game and give it a go. It is something you have to see to believe.

Have I peaked your curiosity?

Did Apple Just Make its First Software Mistake? (iOS 5 Battery Drain)

Thankfully, as a jailbreaker, I tend to wait before updating to Apple’s latest iOS releases until the new OS is jailbroken. Normally this can be a pain as it can sometimes take over a month for a proper jailbreak. However, this time it seems to have been a blessing in disguise as I was saved from all of the problems that have come with iOS 5.

Apple is well-known for the polish it puts into its products. It is the main reason why they implement features that have already been available on other systems long before. Unfortunately, it seems that they rushed iOS 5 to market because it has been causing nothing but problems for consumers.

The problems with iOS 5 are many but one of the major complaints has been battery life. The battery drain issue is a huge concern, rendering any phone running the OS dead in as little as 4 hours. Apple released an update, iOS 5.0.1, to address these issues but it seems they just made the problems worse.

The new 5.0.1 release has been reported to cause the same or worse battery problems, removed the ability to download apps OTA as well as various sync issues. Gizmodo wrote an article that outlines the issues consumers have been complaining about.apple-software-mistake-battery-drain-ios-5

The question is, what will Apple do? They have to act fast to fix the issue before their blemish-free image is, well, blemished. Obviously it is extremely important for Apple to test its software even more thoroughly before releasing it.

The lesson here is to try and hold off on updating – whether it be to wait for the jailbreak or just to be sure all the bugs are taken care of. Apple must be held to a higher-standard – a standard they set for themselves.

iOS Advancements Have Jailbreaking to Thank

Like a recent article in Wired points out, you should thank the jailbreaking community if you like the new features in iOS 5. Jailbreakers have been advancing iOS at a far faster rate than Apple. Of course, it is win-win for Apple as they are then able to turn around and implement identical features that have long been available through 3rd party developers – it just doesn’t seem fair to users.

Many iPhone users are in the dark when it comes to jailbreaking. Apple has made it consistently more difficult to keep your phone jailbroken – locking users out of significant customization and advanced features. For those who are unaware: jailbreaking is awesome! Many of the new iOS features, including the newly implemented notifications, camera controls and even applications similar to iMessage, have long been available to those who have jailbroken their phones. I, for one, have been enjoying many of these features for over a year.jailbreak-iphone-ios-advancements copy This video outlines some of the features that jailbreakers have enjoyed long before iOS 5.

Of course, when Apple implements these features themselves they are usually more polished and more tightly integrated, but it doesn’t make up for the delay in availability. I’ll take a less polished implementation of a particular function if I am able to use it more than a year in advance.

Many people will argue that it is best for Apple to keep a tight lid on their system to keep things simple. I certainly understand this point of view but there are ways around it. Consider implementing an extension of the App Store that contains iOS customizations. That way, individual hacks can be evaluated by Apple and they can retain control of the system that they so desperately want. Currently, they have no control over those who jailbreak and they are essentially forcing users to do so by offering them no alternative.

I have two things to say in summary:

  1. Apple should be more open so that users do not have to go through the trouble of jailbreaking just to enjoy advanced functionality developed from 3rd parties.
  2. Jailbreak your phone! Give me a shout if you need help. It can be a bit of a process but it is easy to find someone (like myself) who knows how to do it but it is totally worth it! It is definitely one of those “you don’t know what you’ are missing until you have it” things.

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No iPhone 5, but the iPhone 4S is Still Awesome!

iphone-4s-siriA lot of people are upset that after months of build-up, Apple failed to release an iPhone 5. I understand why some people would be disappointed but – the iPhone 4S is awesome!

Although I find certain things about the iPhone 4 annoying (like the lack of openness, in an open source world), it still remains the best phone on the market to this day. Well, until October 14th that is.

Yes, we all expected to have our imaginations shattered with Apple’s announcement the other day. The iPhone 4S is certainly an incremental improvement but a large incremental improvement at that. This is one powerful phone! The real question though, is if all those improvements did not warranty a “5”, then what will? I am truly excited for the next innovation that Apple will see worthy of the name “iPhone 5”. Who knows, by then it might be known as something else entirely.

What was particularly interesting in the pre-conference build-up was how sure many were of the iPhone 5 rumours. Some case manufacturers even went as far as to make cases for the non-existent iPhone 5, and some people are still buying them!

It is always a big gamble to try and predict what Apple will do next. Despite the “evidence” that travels around, the truth is that no one ever truly knows what they will do next . . .

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Organize Your Social Media: HootSuite App

hootsuite-app-social-media

Update: Don’t use HootSuite – it’s bad for engagement!

If you are not already using HootSuite, you should be. This nifty little app allows you to simultaneously update multiple social networks at once. There are a number of programs and apps that allow you to do this, but what makes HootSuite special is that you are also able to schedule updates into the future.

Find a great article at 2am and want to share it with your friends? Schedule to post it the next day when they are actually awake! Manage social media as part of your job? Find some interesting articles and schedule them to post throughout the week auto-magically. Perfect!

The user interface is intuitive and easy to use and the iPhone app is absolutely gorgeous (pictured on the left). It is also completely free so you really have nothing to lose. HootSuite is a necessary addition to anyone’s social media arsenal – social media marketers, that means you.

[ HootSuite ]