I was surprised when Apple announced that iOS 7 would run on 2010's iPhone 4, mostly because the OS seemed to make use of graphical effects, transitions, and animations that looked like great candidates for poor performance and hiccups. Indeed, iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 (and to an extend, the iPad 3) was, in my experience, insufferable: animations were slow, scrolling would often drop frames and stutter, and everything felt generally sluggish.
Ars Technica's Andew Cunningham has run tests to measure the speed improvements of iOS 7.1 on the iPhone 4. The changes are noticeable, but, more importantly, the update makes the OS fluid and snappy – usable, at least. iOS 7.1 cuts the execution time of animations on all iOS devices, but the difference for the iPhone 4 is even more apparent.
It is a good thing that Apple is still supporting a four year-old device with the latest version of iOS (albeit with missing features), and I'm glad that iOS 7's possibly one and only major update focused on making performance acceptable on older devices for the future.
As reported by Doug Thompson, a change in iOS 7.1 now allows iBeacon-enabled apps to look for beacons and fire off notifications even when closed and after a device reboot:
After opening an iBeacon app we hard closed it: not just putting it into the background tray but swiping it closed entirely. The phone still detected beacons and sent a message through the lock screen, something which in the past was reserved for apps that were at minimum running in the background tray.
The functionality even works if you reboot your device: after you power down your phone and start it up again, it will continue listening for beacons even if you don’t open up the app again.
As Doug notes, this is an important change for how iBeacon works with iOS apps – it sounds like it's now more stable and it should always work, removing the need to make sure an app is running.
For retailers, museums, and any other place with iBeacon support, this means that launching an app the first time should be enough to have it always ready to listen for beacons in the future (unless the app gets uninstalled of course). And because the technology is based on Bluetooth LE, the impact on battery life should be minimal to non-existent. This seems like a great change for iBeacon.
The iTunes Store used to have a Power Search link in its page footers. You could choose to search specific types of content, and enter search terms in appropriate fields, such as Artist for music; Author for books; Actor for movies; etc. With iTunes 11, this link disappeared, but there’s still a way to get to it.
I had forgotten about this tip shared by Kirk McElhearn. If you want a faster way to access Power Search in iTunes using AppleScript, Doug Adams shows you how.
Yesterday, I wrote about CloudyTabs, a free Mac app that lets you open iCloud tabs from the OS X menu bar instead of Safari. Kevin Marchand pointed me to his iCloudTabs project, which allows you to view iCloud tabs from other devices using Alfred on the Mac. You can view tabs, open all tabs at once, and even write the URLs of all tabs to a Markdown file on the desktop. It's a neat idea and available on GitHub.
I’ve been using a Mac for several years now, and I had no idea that the Color Picker built into OS X could accept image files. A recent Bjango blog post covers some clever uses for sampling images and swatches from Photoshop.
The Echo Nest, a music data company that specializes in recommendations, playlists APIs, and artist/fan understanding, has been acquired by Spotify. From their blog post:
Spotify shares the intense care for the music experience that was the founding principle of our company, and it’s clearly winning the hearts and minds of music fans around the globe. Our dedicated team of engineers, scientists, music curators, business, and product people are utterly electrified with the potential of bringing our world-leading music data, discovery, and audience understanding technology directly to the biggest music streaming audience out there.
The Echo Nest is the artificial intelligence that powers several features of over 400 modern music streaming and online radio services, including Rdio, iHeartRadio, and SiriusXM. The Echo Nest provides features that are often essential to some of these services, such as audio recognition and fingerprinting, music discovery based on listener tastes and patterns, metadata cleanup and artist bio updates, and playlist personalization.
According to The Echo Nest, the API that allows apps to use their features will remain available:
You’re about to see some great stuff from the new Echo Nest-enabled Spotify, and we’re excited to hear what you think. We’re all staying in town, our API stays up, and every single person at our company will continue to focus on building the future of music. Talk to you soon; we’ve got some work to do.
I've recently suggested that it should be possible to trigger bookmarklets on a Mac using a Pebble and Keyboard Maestro. Joseph Schmitt took his Pebble (and some of his free time) and posted a detailed explanation of the workflow with a step-by-step guide on know to set up macros to be triggered from the Pebble.
Carmakers have spent years and millions of dollars creating ever-more-advanced infotainment systems and, tragically, none holds a candle to the appeal of any current mobile operating systems. To most consumers, it seems blatantly obvious that the phone should simply handle all the heavy lifting. In 2014 that finally begins to become a reality across the industry, but the issue isn't as simple as it seems.
This week's announcement of Apple CarPlay is a good opportunity to learn more about the status of infotainment systems and how consumer electronics companies have been working with auto makers to achieve technical and safety-related standards.
Tim Stevens has an excellent overview at CNET covering CarPlay, MirrorLink, Ford's AppLink, and Google's Open Automotive Alliance. When thinking about SDKs for developers to build apps for the car, it's important to remember that there are safety implications, design challenges, and regulations to consider – which may be why Apple's initial announcement only includes a few third-party partners.