iPhone Interactive Widgets Hide In Plain Sight

Redesigned Widgets came to iOS 14, but for all their benefits, they still lack perhaps the best part about a widget – interactive functionality. Currently, Widgets provide glanceable information, which is nice, but it would be better if a few basic functions were available directly on a Widget. Such utility is already proven as interactive “widgets” do, in fact, exist currently on iPhone.

The best example for an interactive widget would be the Music app using playback buttons. Coincidentally, the app already has 3 different sizes of interactive ”widgets” in iOS; they’re just not part of the widget library. All three “widgets” have basic playback buttons and are, actually, Controls.

The first example is the Now Playing Control ”widget” in Control Center. While using the Music app, it features an interactive play/pause button and forward and backward buttons, which change to seconds-skip buttons when using the Podcasts app. A fourth button reveals an audio output button.

The small Now Playing Control in Control Center on iOS resembles a 2×2 widget.
The Batteries and Music Widget bear striking resemblance to the Radios and Now Playing Controls.

The small Now Playing Control next to the Radios Control resembles a 2×2 Widget, which is clearly evident when compared with the 2×2 Music Widget next to the Batteries Widget.

The 2×2 Music Widget can obviously incorporate playback controls. Of course with a bigger widget, more controls could be utilized. A simple example of this is, again, the Now Playing Control in Control Center. Tap and Hold the Control to reveal a larger 4×6 Control with interactive sliders and buttons.

The 4×6 Now Playing Control looks very nice – love those interactive buttons.

A good example of an interactive 4×4 Music Widget is the 4×4 Now Playing Control found on the Notification Panel.

The 4×4 Now Playing Control in the Notification Panel has tappable buttons – very useful!

These interactive controls easily demonstrate how Apple could implement useful buttons on the next versions of Widgets, and I hope they do. Not only is adding controls to widgets feasible, their current implementation suggests that Apple may intend to eventually tailor these features for future Widget iterations.

Bringing controls to Widgets, on both iPhone and iPad, will make Apple’s future mobile devices more functional and more friendly. I encourage Apple to make it happen.

Giving Credit To Apple Card

When Apple Card launched a couple years ago, I was interested but somewhat skeptical. Could Apple really apply its simplicity and elegance to a credit card? Doubtful, and uninterested in interest payments on debt, I ignored it. However, it’s funny how things can change over time; I’m now a happy Apple Card carrying customer.

I think most would agree that consumer credit cards don’t have the most favorable track record; they’re kind of icky. Credit cards statements are hard to read (there’s always fine print), interest payments and fees can really put the hurt on your wallet, and managing debt with an omnipresent FICO score is the kind of fun nobody wants.

Solving these problems seemed impossible, but as I looked into Apple Card, I noticed that somehow Apple made it feasible. Give Apple credit; it was the one that solved the problem in 2007 of bad phones and voicemail service from cell carriers.

As I was recently on the fence about getting a credit card, the only one I really considered was Apple’s. Its advertisement of simplicity, zero fees, and integration with iPhone made it more attractive than any other. Then one night, I got an email from Apple with an invitation to see if I was pre-approved: it would be easy, convenient, and not mark my credit report. What’s more, I would get instant credit if approved. With nothing to lose, I tapped the button. In moments, I was offered a line of credit, which I gladly accepted.

Apple recommends and encourages healthy finances.

From initiation, onboarding, to now using, Apple Card has been as simple and elegant as advertised. The most striking and pleasing thing is Apple wants to help the consumer avoid debt or interest. It does this by presenting a diagram that compares making a minimum payment with a large or full payment, so the user sees the costs or money saved between them. It also includes short descriptions that explain and encourage keeping the balance paid down.

“Built on Simplicity, Transparency and Privacy, and Designed to Help Customers Lead a Healthier Financial Life“

Apple

Another rewarding aspect is Apple Card’s instant daily cash back. The percentage varies, but it’s fairly straightforward. I like seeing the amount of daily cash quickly add up and appear on my Apple Cash card; it’s like saving change from the register and filling a jar at home. Before long, I’ll have some extra spending money, which I’ll need for my next Apple purchase of course.

The mantra truly applies to Apple Card, ”It just works.”

There are more details about the card I appreciate, like it being built into the Wallet app and the convenience of Apple Pay in stores via my Apple Watch or online. I also love that purchases are color coded to their types, which makes it easy to see at a glance how I spend my money. As with all Apple products, Apple Card also benefits from the privacy and security that Apple is known for. Suffice to say I’m a delighted Apple Card user.

No, my name is not Marisa. But you get the idea.

Not surprisingly, my latest Apple hardware acquisition does include a chip in it: the titanium physical Apple Card. It may be the most simple and elegant piece of Apple hardware and tech I’ve ever owned.

As one who generally eschews consumer credit cards, I admit to really enjoying Apple Card and look forward to building my credit. It’s simple, elegant, and convenient. I recommend it, and I’m not alone. This recent consumer satisfaction report tells the same story; many people are happy with it.

Do you use Apple Card? Are you thinking about it?

About Apple’s California Streaming

This week was the ”Superbowl for nerds.” Apple held its annual September event where it showcased the newest iPhones to debut in Autumn. This year sees iPhones 13, which are incrementally better than last year’s iPhones 12. With them, Apple is releasing updated iPads and the latest Apple Watch iteration.

I viewed Apple’s live video announcement — California Streaming — a fast-paced deluge of features packed into a superlative-laden presentation. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m more or less an Apple Fanboy, but it felt a bit like drinking kool-aid with too much sugar. With that small gripe out of the way, here are my personal thoughts as a mobile-computer consumer.


iPad mini

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Going from 7.9” to 8.3”, the mini has more screen, yet it remains mini! That’s a solid win in my book. I think most people want as much display as they can comfortably fit in a pocket or hold in one hand. Apple does this via removing bezels and extending the display to the edges of the device. Samsung’s approach is to fold the screen in half! I think I prefer Apple’s method: it’s simpler, more elegant, more affordable, and less likely to break.

The iPad mini basically got all of the iPad Air’s features, but it also got a $100 price hike over the previous mini, which is a bummer. I was thinking about buying my wife her own iPad mini for Christmas, but now it’s more out of reach. Then again, it comes in my wife’s favorite color: purple.

iPad

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I love the iPad! As I type this blog post, I’m enjoying my 8th gen iPad, which I bought in the Summer. I had figured the 9th gen iPad would not get a significant upgrade, and that’s basically what happened. This newest iPad got 3 updates: a wider front camera that follows people to keep them in frame (Center Stage), the A13 chip to replace the great A12, and a True Tone display that, in my experience, is nice but not a big deal.

The one other update that is worth shouting about is that Apple finally bumped the entry priced $329 iPad from a paltry 32GB of storage to 64GB! For that low price, often on sale for $300, I think anyone can now enjoy a viable and enviable Apple tablet. In addition, the $429 iPad now packs a generous 256GB of storage — nice!

iPhone 13/mini/Pro/Pro Max

Apple_iPhone-13-Pro_Colors_09142021
Apple_iphone13_design_09142021

There’s isn’t much for me to say here except that, like most people, the latest iPhones’ camera improvements are more than welcome. I especially am excited about the iPhone 13 Pros getting a Macro photography capability, preferring both the ultra-wide and macro features over the zoom/telephoto features. In addition, the newest iPhones 13 get better performance (not that they were lacking) and longer lasting battery life — what good is all that CPU power if the phone has no battery power at all?

With new phones, I like that the previous few years’ iPhones, which are still excellent devices, now sport a lower price than ever. Those now “older” phones — still for sale as new — make some of the best tech from Apple available to more and more people. Upgrading my iPhone 8 Plus, for example, to last year’s iPhone 12 versus the 13 would save me $100, yet I’d still get a significant update.

Apple Watch 7

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When it comes to the Apple Watch, I see two sides to it: the fitness side and the smart side. This year’s version 7 does not see much new for either side. Yet while some pundits have panned this year’s Watch as a minor update, I was quite excited for it. Sure, it’s not a huge step up, but it’s better nonetheless. What matters to me is that when I eventually upgrade my current 40mm Apple Watch SE, I’ll see an even bigger display boost when I opt for the now larger 45mm size. Otherwise, I think it performs like my current watch, but it’s vast screen will make using it easier and more enjoyable.

Another welcome change will be the always-on display that’s now much brighter; I presume it doesn’t degrade battery life. Most surprising of all, though, is the new on-screen keyboard! I’m skeptical that it will work well. I suspect the bigger watch size will be easier to tap the tiny letters on. Even without a keyboard, I find voice dictation totally reliable, but it will be nice to try the keyboard once I upgrade in the distant future.


Overall, this year sees Apple making incremental and iterative updates. The biggest changes come to the smallest iPad: the mini. While this might not be an exciting and “revolutionary” upgrade cycle, the progress Apple is making by pushing forward in smallish steps is nevertheless welcome and positive gain. Growth in life only sees spurts during adolescence. Generally, life grows by slow and steady consistency. Apple is a mature company, and all the hardware products announced this week are likewise mature.

The other side of Apple’s coin is more interesting to me this year: software. Next week, Apple will release the public versions of its latest operating systems. I’m eager to install the newest iOS and iPadOS software. Many of the features, like focus modes or multitasking buttons, will make current devices more capable or efficient. Shiny new hardware is fun and functional, but the integrated software is also key to giving nerds, geeks, and ”normal” people the tools they need to apply their talents.

Whether being productive and creative, organizing photo albums, or surfing the web, I’m glad to see Apple steadily improving both its devices and apps that make such tasks simple, elegant, and delightful. Here’s to another year of Apple gear.

Apple And Gaming Stuff

Well, hello there September blogosphere. While I’ve been somewhat scarce from the blog lately, that must mean I’ve been so busy with life experience that I’ve stockpiled stacks and piles of content in draft to write, right? Sounds good to me, but that’s inaccurate. No doubt, I’ve been mobile computing (iPad!) and gaming (RPGs!), but that’s only the half of it. I’ve also spent energy writing elsewhere and took a week off from everything for a big family vacation. Next thing you know, I’m flipping the page on the wall calendar and yearning for cool Fall temps to finally blow away the Texas Summer heat.

This month is bringing more cool stuff than just the Autumnal Equinox. First, next Tuesday is Apple’s first Fall event where they tell everyone what to spend their money on next, like new iPhones, maybe new iPads, or Apple Watches too. Oh, and how about new AirPods? Mobile tech is getting a boost this Fall for sure. My current iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods are working well. In fact, just yesterday I had my iPhone 8’s charge port repaired at a local shop. No longer must I wiggle the charging cord in the port and hope it sits securely enough to juice up; now I just set it and forget it. The port is a physical or mechanical point of failure, subject to wear and tear over time, and is probably why Apple rumors suggest future iPhones may be port-less, relying only upon wireless Qi charging. I have my doubts, and I’m pretty sure this month won’t see such ”courageous” advancement when Apple announces iPhone 13 or 12S or Year Model 2021.

The other new nice thing-a-ma-jig coming this month is an RPG. I’m excited to soon buy the physical edition of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Prince’s Edition for Nintendo Switch! While it’s not a direct sequel to the the first game, it still features sublime Studio Ghibli-esque art design, youthful fantasy, and some other differences to earn a hearty play-through. I think the battle system may even be improved – very nice. Of course, the timeless dilemma is ever present with this upcoming release: when to play it. Can I pause life and disrupt the space-time continuum in order to play and finish all the awesome games available, namely the RPGs on my backlog? I wish.

Gaming has been fun lately. I continue to enjoy Fantasian Part Two; it’s become more addictive lately. But I’ve also gotten sucked back into Pokemon TCG. And then another fun game recently grabbed my attention: Asphalt 8 and 9. Ok, that’s two games, but they’re kind of the same thing. Apple Arcade launched Asphalt 8, which my kids enjoyed on vacation. So then we downloaded Asphalt 9 on the Switch, and instead of catching all the Pokemon, we’re now collecting all the exotic sports cars. Yeah, I know, it’s a racing game, not an RPG, but it does have stat boosts when upgrading car parts, and each race is like an action-battle system where you can crash other cars in order to win first place. That’s a stretch, but the Asphalt games are no less fun to play.

Anyways, this blog post is sort of a catch up for things of late. I hope to write more in the near future; I have some draft ideas slated. Here’s to the Fall being more fun and exciting than the Summer of 2021.

WWDC 2021 Wishes

Apple’s annual developer conference is around the corner, and there seems to be eager anticipation in the tech community. I’m excited as a consumer (okay, kind of a fanboy). When it comes to #mobilecomputing, the Apple ecosystem is tops, yet this year’s WWDC could raise the bar higher. I’ve got a few things I hope to see.


Widget Wishlist

First up, new and improved widgets. I love the clean and simple design direction Apple took last year with iOS14. Now I’d like to see widgets become actionable. For example, the Reminders widget could allow you to check things off a list in the widget without needing to open the app. Also, I think the Clock widget should have a digital option (2×4 size). Just let me place a large digital clock on my home screen (like Android) – thanks. Next, I noticed that the News app has a widget option for “full screen” 4×6 size, but only on the “Today” screen (left of Home) and only using the “For You” section of News. In iOS15, this 4×6 option should be enabled for all widgets on any home screen, and for the News app it should extend beyond the “For You” section. Finally, iPadOS15 should allow widgets to be placed anywhere like iOS14 while also gaining the above improvements.

iPad Upgrades

I plan to buy an iPad in the near future, eager to use it as my primary computer (because, “What’s a computer?”) I love the last few big updates iPadOS received (desktop-class web browser, Smart Connector, full native mouse/cursor support, app Sidebars) that make iPad more computer-like than ever. But there’s still room for improvement. I’d like to see multi-user support, so I could let my kids use my iPad with their own user account for example. Also, I think it’d be good for iPad to finally support Xcode and other “pro” apps because it would further legitimize iPad as a “real” productivity device. This, in turn, would spur greater focus on iPad development in the long-term. Another big area in need of advancement is multi-tasking. I think Apple should strive to simplify gestures used for app management without sacrificing multi-app capability. At the same time, I think iPad should never enable windowed apps like on macOS or Windows. Apps should remain full-screen or split-screen, but there must be a way to make multi-app control more intuitive.

Outside of software for iPadOS, I have a specific request for Apple on the hardware side. Please give the entry level iPad base model (at $329) 64GB of RAM instead of the paltry 32GB. Seriously. Or at least compromise and add a 64GB option mid-way at $379. Another choice: make the 32GB model cost just $299 and the 128GB model cost only $399.

watchOS

For Apple Watch, there’s at least one app sorely missing: Notes. The next watchOS should add the Notes app simply to view notes on my wrist and enable voice dictation to create new notes. Speaking to my watch to add short text snippets to iMessage or compose quick email works great, so it would be easy to use for capturing a new note on the go. It’d be nice to just raise my wrist and say, “Note to self…” and fill in the blanks, creating a new note in the default section of the app.

iCloud

I understand that Apple is a traditional hardware/software company. Its paradigm is for consumers to use native apps on local devices. I like this a lot. But we do live in a mobile first, cloud first world where web apps are growing better and more prevalent than ever before. With that in mind, Apple should seriously revamp its iCloud website. It works. It’s nice. But it has feature and design disparity with its native app counterparts. And it’s slow. Because iCloud.com could use much improvement, it does disservice to the many web users who happen to not compute on an Apple device. Otherwise, the iCloud sync service works well in the background yet could be more reliable. I’ve seen a few inexplicable sync issues within Notes between iCloud and my iPhone. Thankfully, the issues always get sorted out in time, but they don’t instill confidence in the service.

Apple is likely to surprise developers and consumers with new and improved features across all its devices. I hope they do their usual and add more quality of life/ease of use things, the kind of stuff that “just works” in daily life. I’m sure there will be a lot of upgrades related to the M1 CPU with new software/hardware that relies on it. That stuff is exciting because, if nothing else, it shows that Apple continues to innovate. The Apple ecosystem as a whole will benefit.