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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Twist Jar Innovation! The Jar-with-a-Twist

Every once and a while a product comes along that seems so obvious, yet has inexplicably not hit the market. On that note, I introduce to you, in all it’s glory: The Twist-Jar, called Jar-with-a-Twist.

This product does not need much of an introduction as everything you need to know about it is in its name. It is a jar with a twist mechanism. That’s it.

As simple as it is, it is not yet on store shelves and I can only hope that it will be soon.

The Jar-with-a-Twist works just like deodorant — as you use up the product you twist the bottom and it pushes more up to the top. Very practical packaging that has, for some reason, been used almost exclusively for deodorant. The twist jar can be used for a variety of foods that are difficult to get out of their containers once they are nearly used-up, like peanut butter and salsa.

It seems like a small thing but as far as mild inconveniences go, trying to dip a chip in salsa left at the bottom of the container is one of the worst! Sure, you could pour the salsa into a bowl, but think about the dishes! The dishes I tell you!

Amazingly, the creators of the twist jar are claiming that they have been able to manufacture it for a mere 3 cents more than the traditional jar, which means that there’s a decent chance we will end up seeing it on store shelves soon. Hopefully the profit-hungry corporations will see it as an opportunity to stand out (in the short term), and they can easily pass on 3 cents cost to the consumer if they want. I would gladly pay an extra 3 cents per jar for this convenience. The creators are bound to get stinking rich if they can license the product too. At 1 cent per jar they will quickly be rolling in cash as these jars come off the line by the millions.

To top it all off, the jar supposedly keeps food fresher too, since the contents are exposed to less air as the product is used up.

What do you think? Brilliant idea, or what?

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Monitor & Track Your Sleep — Sleep Cycle App Review

Lifehacker is my go-to choice for daily life improvements and a little while ago they wrote a great article about the most popular sleep tracking app — Sleep Cycle.

Sleep Cycle is a great, and affordable, app that allows you to monitor and track your sleep over time. Sleep Cycle will track your stages of sleep based on your movement throughout the night in order to wake you up at an optimal point in the morning.

For the uninitiated, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is very important to feeling good throughout the day. Alarm clocks wake you up abruptly and in an unnatural way. This can make you feel tired and generally bad throughout the day. Sleep Cycle attempts to avoid this by waking you up at a natural point in your sleep cycle — when you are already partially awake, instead of when you are in a deep sleep.

To explain exactly how the app is able to accomplish this, I turn to their website directly:

Sleep Cycle alarm clock is able to use the accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movement and determine which sleep phase you are in. Sleep Cycle then uses a 30 minute alarm window that ends at your set alarm time and wakes you in your lightest sleep phase. Click here for the full explanation

My own experience with the app has been great. I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and so far I have found it effective. It seems to track my sleep well and wakes me up at a decent time. The soft sounds it uses to wake you up is much better than my previous jarring alarm which helps a lot. It also seems to help me feel better when I get up.

My only complaint about the app is that the optimal window to ensure you wake up nicely is 30 mins, which is a pretty big window. It’s not directly the app’s fault but my optimal wake time seems to be almost a full 30 minutes earlier than I need to get up. It is difficult to get out of bed when you know you don’t have to be up for another half-hour. My best mornings have been when my alarm wakes me up naturally 10-15 mins in advance. Then it is easy to get out of bed because going back to sleep is not as alluring.

Overall, the app is fantastic and worth a shot whether you feel particularly tired in the morning or not. For only $0.99, it isn’t much of a gamble.

Man of Steel Movie Review: 1 Spoiler — It Sucks

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
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I found it completely shocking that some people actually liked this movie, although I attribute it to the hype and the action that overshadowed the actual meat of the movie (or lack thereof). Of course, many people also share my sentiment that Man of Steel sucks.

Man of Steel falls down on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. The biggest hole in the movie was the cast: failing to create any believable characters. The “Man of Steel” (Henry Cavill) was very dull, delivered lines robotically, and was just absolutely unlovable. He certainly lived up to his name in the movie though, with no more personality than a steel girder. The same went for Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams that failed to create any spark on-screen between herself and Superman. She was hot, yes, but a great movie that does not make.

By far the worst scenes were between Superman and his parents as they try to explain who he is and what is happening to him. It is always interesting to see how a movie will approach these difficult aspects but they did not handle it well. “Son, you are an alien. No big deal” was essentially their approach. It was awkward. It was bad. It felt like the directors just wanted to deal with it quickly like ripping off a band-aid.

What was good about the movie? The action — kinda. There was a lot of it, but it was senseless. The movie was too long and yet it was full of action scenes that stretched on forever. Superman is basically invincible and so are his enemies. So why are they punching each other around for 10 mins? Don’t they realize they are not accomplishing anything? Neither Superman nor his enemies seemed to take any damage throughout their “epic” battles but they kept punching each other anyway. The graphics were really good though, that’s about it.

The way they explained Superman’s powers was also bad. See the spoilers for details.

To spare myself an essay, I’m going to stop here. If you liked the movie, I don’t blame you but you might want to get your eyes and ears checked 🙂 Give the movie another watch and pay attention to the things I have mentioned and I am sure you will understand my pain. Of course you can always just look at the pretty explosions.

Spoilers below

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I actually laughed out loud when Superman let his dad die in the tornado. It was a huge stretch for him to let his dad die just to conceal his identity but on top of that, they felt the need to spell it out for us by him specifically saying that he let his dad die for that purpose. Laugh out loud ridiculous.

His powers were explained by atmospheric differences between Krypton and Earth which was great. Except that no amount of atmospheric differences gives you the ability to fly. Jump high? Sure! Fly? No. Laser vision? Where did that come from? Near invincibility? You’re going to have to try harder than “atmospheric differences”. I actually love it when super hero movies use plausible explanations to bridge reality but when it’s not plausible, it is painful.

Better Than the Books: The Sherlock Holmes (BBC) Series

I, like many others, am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. My experience in getting to know the numerous stories, however, is different than most. Instead of starting with the books, my first experience of Sherlock Holmes was from the movie titled . . . Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey and Jude Law.

The Hollywood movies were good and stimulated my appetite for the stories but were by far the worst depiction of Sherlock Holmes I have yet to experience.

I then moved on to the books — undeniably classic stories. Certainly a must-read series for people of all ages and walks of life. However, the books are not the best! Gasp! Instead, the best version of the Sherlock Holmes stories I have yet to discover is Sherlock, the BBC series.

Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree. You must have actually seen the BBC series to be able to judge it, of course.

The following are the many reasons why Sherlock (the BBC series) is by far the best version of Sherlock Holmes:

  1. The already virtually perfect characters, Sherlock and Watson, are further perfected (if that makes sense). Every piece of dialogue is carefully delivered and well thought-out and helps to develop other dimensions of Sherlock and Watson beyond the books. Although the dialogue in the books is incredible, it does have its flaws. For example, the way in which Sherlock Holmes comes to deliver his genius deductions sometimes seems a bit forced, in the interest of the reader. These explanations are done with somewhat more grace in the TV series.
  2. The series is modernized in a genius way. The way in which the series incorporates modern technology and circumstances into a story as old as Sherlock Holmes is nothing short of brilliant. Letters become texts, journals become blogs, and deductive processes include modern forensics. Much of the original charm is maintained while the show manages to rocket the series forward by more than a century.
  3. The show is funnier! At least somewhat so. The Sherlock Holmes series is not known for being particularly comedic but it is one of the only imperfections of the book series. After reading Catch 22, I have developed a taste for comedy, even in a serious story. Comedy helps round out a masterpiece, in my opinion.
  4. What was perfection before, remains perfection now. Almost everything that made the original Sherlock Holmes stories great has been maintained, with the points mentioned above added to polish what was already a perfect series.

Don’t take my word for it! Take a look at the Sherlock Holmes BBC series. You will be glad you did.

P.s. if you haven’t read the books, there is a great complete Sherlock Holmes Collection available in hardcopy and digital format that I can vouch for.

Kindle Paperwhite Review: Now Available in Canada

The Kindle Paperwhite (now available in Canada) is the first eBook reader I have ever owned and, while I may not be able to directly compare it to previous generations, I can certainly testify to how great this iteration is overall.

If you do not yet have an eBook reader, get one. They are ridiculously convenient and very affordable. When you do decide to get an eBook reader, make it a Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo. After performing extensive research, I came to the conclusion that the Kindle Paperwhite beats out the Glo primarily based on book selection and the Amazon ecosystem, otherwise they are fairly comparable. The Kobo Glo device itself may be more polished overall.

The Kindle Paperwhite is basically flawless; it incorporates all of the things that have made the Kindle the leading eBook reader and made it better. The e-ink technology is incredible, perfectly replicating the printed word. What makes the Paperwhite stand out, however, is the back-lit display (hence the name). Now you can read books more conveniently than ever — no external light sources required, and, unlike devices with glossy screens, the Kindle Paperwhite still reads perfectly in direct sunlight.

So what are its flaws? It is hard to find many but there are a few. Ghosting (remnants of the previously displayed page/image) can be found from time to time unless you set the device to refresh the screen after each page turn and the ghosting makes browsing the web or Amazon store somewhat painful.

Kindle Paperwhite Review vs. Kobo Glo

More importantly though, it seems Amazon cheaped-out on the backlight. Unlike the Kobo Glo, the Paperwhite does not have an evenly lit screen. It is hard to notice in moderate room lighting but when reading in a dark room it is easy to notice the shadows created by the placement of the LEDs towards the bottom of the screen. It seems they could have avoided this distracting effect by adding more LEDs to eliminate the shadows in between, but alas, we are left to deal with it.

Overall though, I could not be happier! I just downloaded the entire Sherlock Holmes collection, that I own in 2 massive tomes in paperback, for a total of $4. The best part is that I can now read across devices including on my iPhone. So I can read on my Kindle and then pick up right from where I left off on the Kindle app on my phone. Very convenient

I waited this long to buy an e-reader and presumably so have many of you. Now is the time to make the jump!