Seeing is Believing – iPhone 7 Plus “Depth Effect”

Last weekend I headed out to one of my favorite places to take pictures, the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. Only this time, I armed myself only with my new iPhone 7 Plus and the iOS 10.1 Beta, looking to test out the new camera and the new “depth effect” available with the beta. 

Color me impressed. My experience was very good, and the camera was exceptional. I hope to post a deeper article soon about the experience, but here is a comparison shot of the “depth effect” with and without. Take a look for yourself – the difference is amazing. More to come.


Why, yes, that is a giant phone in my pocket.

Yes, I did just get a new Galaxy Note. Yes, it is a giant of a phone. No, I am not an Apple hater; in fact I still think the iPhone is far and away the best phone out there for 90% of people. This new phone has only solidified that belief. But for me, this is a great phone. It does so many things that I wish the iPhone did, but I have waited and waited, and I don’t see any chance of getting something like this from Apple anytime soon; if at all. I hope to put together a longer post soon detailing some of the differences for others who might be interested, but for now… wow.

Why I Un-Jailbroke My iPhone, and What Apple Should Learn About Shrinking.

A few weeks ago, much to the shock of my lovely wife, I “jailbroke” my iPhone 4S. This was the first time this was even possible, thanks to the good folks over at Absinthe, and I thought I would give it a try. Took me a few attempts, but I got it to work. 

Although free to do, I discovered that to really get the most out of a jailbreak, you need to spend a few bucks. And I mean just a few. The whole jailbreak seemed pretty useless to me until I spent about $10 on some good jailbreak apps, then I really saw the potential! Shrink, Iconoclasm and some premium themes and I was really loving it.

Sadly, I found that iTunes Match, the music matching service from Apple that I subscribe to, was pretty much nonfunctional on my phone after jailbreaking. I looked for answers, but found none, and this was really a deal breaker. My iPhone is primarily a music device for me, and messing up my music is a big problem. 

So, I un-jailbroke. Sure enough, iTunes Match was back in action. But I sure miss one thing. Not a big deal, really, but big enough that I think Apple ought to take a look for future releases.

Look, Ma, 5x5 icons!

We need the ability to re-size screen icons. Shrink is the add-on I used when jailbroken to do this, and it was wonderful. The Retina display on the 4S is begging for just slightly smaller icons, to give you a little more view and room for them to breathe. I liked to scale down to about 75%, and they looked great. Easy to read, sharp, and you could put more icons into less space.  I look at my standard sized icons now and think they look like big, dumb Duplo blocks. Ugly. Inefficient. Gigantic. Five icons in the dock, too. Wow. What a massive time and energy saver. That one extra down there that you use all the time, it’s like having an extra bullet in your gun. Sweet. 

So there you have it. Just let me scale down my icons, Apple, and I’ll be happy. Meanwhile, writing this has made me re-consider. Now, where’s that link to  Absinthe

Spotify v. Rdio: The Final Solution?

(Note: this article has been edited to reflect changes with OS X 10.7, Lion.)

I have gotten a lot of questions about these two services, and seen some serious debate about the two, so I thought I would try them both out for a while and share my thoughts here. Mind you I am a typical user, so forgive me if I missed some super technical specs somewhere along the line that most people would never care about. Sorry. I have been an Rdio user for a while now, with a Premium subscription; check them out here. I tried out a similar subscription on Spotify for a couple of weeks, more info here.

Rdio or Spotify?

Both of these services offer streaming music over the internet, with more features for a monthly fee, $9.99 for either one. I really had little problem finding music I wanted to listen to with either service, but I also found a few artists or tracks missing with both. The stuff that’s not included is different for each service, so you might want to check on the availability of your favorite artist or album. Both services included an iPhone app, which I also found to be useable either way.  Both feature a sort of sync/upload of your iTunes library, which was a nice touch.

Whats Good About Spotify.

Spotify is new to the U.S., but they really are the “800-lb. Gorilla” of streaming music services; this means they are not going anywhere anytime soon. In theory, they have more music available, although again that varies depending on what you are looking for. I found the music quality on Spotify to be a teeny-weeny bit better, but I had to concentrate on headphones to notice it, and even then it seemed to only be on a few tracks. Making playlists with Spotify is a breeze, with drag and drop functionality. I made several really good playlists in a matter of minutes, and I thought this was one of their best features. Spotify’s sync features to the iPhone app worked flawlessly, wirelessly and fast, and really could take over for iTunes.

Whats Bad About Spotify.

The entire user interface on the desktop app is really poor, and frankly, just ugly. Also, there is no way to minimize the player to a “mini-player”, so you are stuck looking at the ugly interface anytime you want to listen. There is no web-version of Spotify, so you have to have the desktop player open all the time. I also found searching for music in Spotify to be strange. I am a U.S. customer, but my search results constantly turned up music that was only available in Europe, and thus not playable by me. So why am I seeing it?

Whats Good About Rdio.

The user interface on Rdio looks much better, and you can minimize the player to a mini-player so it is out of the way but still functional. It just seems like the buttons and options on the Rdio player are where you would think they should be, and that is good UI design. I like that. I found the Rdio iPhone app to also be more user-friendly, and it was much easier to search for new music to add to my collection on there. Search results with Rdio were almost always spot on, giving me exactly what I was looking for. Rdio also has a browser-based version, so you don’t have to have the desktop app installed to listen. Not a big deal, but it comes in handy when I am troubleshooting computers over at my mom’s!

Whats Bad About Rdio.

Rdio is a fairly young company, so I have some fears that the work I put into it may disappear someday.  Making playlists in Rdio is kind of a pain, as you have to add each track one at a time, and there seems to be no way to add an entire album to a playlist all at once. Drag and drop playlists? No way. Adding one song at a time takes for-ev-er. The iPhone sync from Rdio also seems slow, and not really automated; you have to tell it what to sync and when. Their desktop app is actually in Adobe Flash, which I have found to be a real pain, especially after an upgrade to OSX Lion.

The Final Solution.

Despite all of the ups and downs I listed here, I really saw most of this stuff as little quirks or annoyances. The bottom line for me is that both of these services are very good, and I could happily use either. I prefer the interface of Rdio, and they happen to have a couple of artists I like that Spotify doesn’t, although their reliance on Adobe Flash disappoints me. Spotify has pretty much everything I need, easier playlist creation, and no Flash, but their interface is so clunky I can’t see myself using it. I am with Rdio for now. I would encourage anyone interested to try them both out for a month, see which one is right for you and go with it. Meanwhile, follow me on Rdio, at macbuddha1.