Notes on updating an iPhone in 2016

If you’ve read my blog (and I imagine the three of you currently doing so have done so before), you know I’m an Apple guy of long standing. Of course I was watching the keynote where they announced the iPhone Upgrade program, in which you can update to a new phone every year for a moderate monthly payment with no carrier contract*. But I didn’t fully undersand how the program worked.

Historically, I’ve been on the cycle for iPhone upgrades, starting with the 3GS, and with a January upgrade date. So I went to the Apple Store to get the scoop on the Upgrade program. Here’s what I learned (or re-learned):

  1. Subsidized iPhones are a thing of the past, at least for the high end models. You used to pick a price point ($199, $299, $399, whatever) and accept a two year contract with the carrier. But that’s a thing of the past. You can basically choose either to pay full price for the phone (starting at $649), or you can pay a monthly fee either to your carrier of choice or to Apple. Net result: you pay more, because your data plan isn’t correspondingly cheaper.
  2. I am paying for too much data. I have a legacy AT&T Unlimited data plan, but I only ever use about 2.7GB of data a month, based on a year’s worth of usage data. I could save a chunk of change by rebalancing my data plan, almost enough to pay the monthly charge for the phone.
  3. There are good reasons to rent your phone from Apple rather than the carrier. For one, the phone you get from Apple is carrier unlocked, meaning you can switch to a different carrier. For another, the monthly price to Apple includes AppleCare.
  4. It’s harder to avoid getting the high end model. My iPhone 5s was 64GB. I could mostly live with that, even with using it as an iPod for a lot of losslessly-ripped music. But I got the 128GB iPhone 6s, because the price difference was basically a latte a month (around $4).

The model has some interesting implications, not least of which the shifting of the accounting for Apple to a recurring revenue model (more predictable), the likely change in Apple’s device mix to higher end devices, an improved customer service model (imagine how much happier Apple’s customers would be if all of them had AppleCare!), and more.

But for now, I’m just excited for a new device. W00t!

Upgrade day: iOS 4.0 (with iTunes 9.2), WordPress 3.0

For reasons best known to my shrink (maybe I wasn’t exposed to enough risk as a child?), I decided to tackle two major upgrades yesterday. Of course iOS 4.0 was released yesterday, so I had to get multi-tasking working; but WordPress 3.0 was also released last Thursday and I figured it was time to check that out. In the process of doing the iOS upgrade, there was also an incidental iTunes upgrade. Of the three, guess which one was the most problematic?

WordPress 3.0 went absolutely smoothly in manual install mode. I haven’t been able to use auto updates because my FTP user does not have the WordPress directory as its home directory, but manual installs have generally worked well for me. I reviewed the sample wp_config.php file, updated a few parameters that had been added in the recent past, then copied all the other files over. A db upgrade later and everything was up and running. The downer of WP 3.0 is that most of the features are available through new theme capabilities, and the author of my theme appears to have left WP theme development in favor of the preacher’s life. Best of luck, Armen, and if you ever revive the Excel theme let me know. In the meantime, it looks like I have to learn how to hack themes to take advantage of flexible menus and some of the other new features.

Now iOS and iTunes 9.2 is another story. I hadn’t remembered to do the 9.2 update over the weekend, so I was prompted partway into the iOS 4.0 installation. I had to step back and do that install first, then restart iTunes. And of course, somehow, iTunes lost my music directory location again (I keep all my iTunes files on a NAS since I have much more music than will fit on my MacBook Pro’s HD). I don’t know why it decided that I had my library back in the default location, but it did, and it spent a half hour rebuilding my library file only to lose all the file locations. I had to change the location and rebuild again, and only then was I able to do the sync. In spite of the multiple rebuilds, iTunes was still confused about the location of some files, and it took another restart of iTunes to fix the problem.

By comparison the iOS 4.0 upgrade was a piece of cake. Everything about the phone seems snappier now. Multitasking and folders work as advertised; I like the new iBooks reader (though it’s much slower on initial start than the Kindle App or Classics); and it was a kick to see a photo of my daughter (my normal wallpaper) behind all the home screen icons.

But there was one big glitch. For some reason, name server resolution stopped working through my VPN. The VPN was working, and I was able to find my Exchange server and other resources by IP address, but there were definitely some frustrating moments this morning as I tried to get everything working. I really hope that that was a transient glitch, or this new OS is not going to work out too well for me.

Reunion on the iPhone: Genealogy on the go

reunionI got an email from someone the other day asking about one of my ancestors (Andrew Hershey, 1702-1792). I get this sort of email all the time, since my family tree is online, and normally I’d have looked up the answer to the questions and emailed back. The problem was, I was on my iPhone and didn’t have access to my detailed genealogy research. I found myself thinking, I wonder if there’s a good genealogy app for the iPhone. Maybe something that will read my GEDCOM export and display it nicely. It would be really great if Reunion were on my phone, though.

So I hit the app store, and the first app in the search results for genealogy was … Reunion! Leister Pro has done an iPhone client that allows you to bring your genealogy data with you, and sync it back to your Mac when you’re done… sort of.

I have about 4000 records in my family data, and opening and browsing it is quick and painless. The UI is splendid, taking all the best parts of the Reunion “family card” display and porting them painlessly to the iPhone. Images are supported, and the experience is almost like sitting in front of my Mac.

There was one glitch I encountered–somehow my sources data didn’t seem to move from my Mac, something I’ll need to investigate further–and two missing features. On the iPhone it would seem natural to provide the ability to add a photo from the phone’s photo list or from the built-in camera to an entry; neither is currently supported. And the app relies on a Bonjour based syncing strategy — turn on your phone, click a button on your Mac, and the syncing happens over your WiFi network — that happens separately from the phone’s main sync loop. Based on your opinion of iPhone syncing, this may be a good or bad thing, but surely there are other sync methods available that wouldn’t require a separate action.

Right now these are quibbles–I’m generally very pleased with the app, and thrilled Ididn’t have to find a new genealogy app just for the iPhone.

Failed iPhone restart? Restart it again

My iPhone hung this morning while I was trying to delete a message in my Gmail account. I sighed and did a restart (hold the top sleep switch and the home button down at the same time). And it came up… with a screen that told me (in graphics) to plug the iPhone into iTunes.

I was concerned I had bricked the phone, but it seemed to still be functioning: I could make emergency calls, and I even got a notice that I had received a text message.

I normally sync the iPhone at home, so I figured I’d be without it all day long. Then I checked my Twitter replies, and my old friend Andrew Bartelt suggested that I simply try rebooting/resetting the phone again. Forehead now sore from whacking myself upside the head, I now again have a working iPhone.