The Lines are Starting to get Blurred
The second week have passed by and I'm getting more and more comfortable with the iPhone (not that it was ever difficult to begin with).
I have been so full of prejudice towards the operating system and its user interface in the past. So much that I have a hard time deciding whether I just imagined it all or if Android and iOS have grown to be more and more similar.
Some Minor Disturbances
While I am mostly a fan of the back gesture that most apps utilize I have noticed that it is sometimes prone to activate when I am trying to scroll. That might be my bad as I scroll to far to the left. On the other hand I like having my thumb out of the way when reading. It is, however, not as bad as what i encountered on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s when even keyboard-swipes would register as a back motion.
iOS 12 (12.0.1) is mostly stable as can be. I have however had a few instances were the phone switches my keyboard back to the default one, especially when replying to messages from the lockscreen. This wouldn't be a huge issue if it didn't also set the layout to English, forgoing the Scandinavian letters "å, ä, and ä".
I’m surprised that I cannot find any haptic feedback settings for the keyboard. I usually turn these off due to bad cheaper vibrations, but with the iPhones great haptic engine I would actually like to try having the keys vibrate the phone. Alas, I cannot find a setting for this in the default keyboard nor Swiftkey.
Sharing files, photos, and so forth. I know this is a loaded topic coming from an ignorant Android-user. But just like Linus at Linus Tech Tips I have a hard time figuring out how to best share photos and files. Simply put I miss the standard Bluetooth sharing option. So sharing pictures is simplest by sharing an iCloud-link, but then you need to be sure that the images are synced. I have yet to find a manual “sync now” button, like Google have done with Photos.
Apple’s design idea builds around a walled garden of products, for better or worse. The better part is of course that this has allowed Apple to make their own standards for files and Viruses are still pretty much a non-issue on Apple products. I do however find it frustrating that I as a Windows user have to download my pictures from the Cloud since the photos on the phones’ storage don’t make for a good experience on a Windows computer. Portrait pictures lack the Bokeh-blur and Smart HDR seems to be lacking. On top of that a bunch of movie files clog the photo-folder because of Live Photos, a feature I really enjoy.
I also miss the ability to go into my WiFi settings from the control center, you can press the widget to see Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and so forth and enable/disable these settings. But long or hard pressing on this icons don’t do anything which feels like a missed opportunity.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but videos watched in the web-browser don’t allow casting to a Chromecast. I mean, that’s a Google thing so it no chocker but still annoying. Therefor I had to install the app for the Swedish Television service SVT to watch a show. That works though, so no real issue there.
As I wrote last week, the iPhone XS preform as well as I could have wished. There are no slowdowns when scrolling through the user interface. This also applies to things like Face-ID in a pitch black bedroom and opening apps is mostly instantaneous. There are of course the occasional app requiring a quick loading. But I have also noticed that apps like Netflix or Viaplay utilize an animation during loading to distract from the fact that it takes a few seconds to display the content. A mostly clever way to stimulate the smoothness further.
I like 3D Touch more and more. I have mentioned some ways I use it, but previewing link in the browser and accessing app shortcuts are the most obvious. It is also used on the lockscreen however, firstly to make sure you don't accidentally press the camera or the flashlight. It is also used for opening notifications in a smaller window without opening the entire app, in example allowing me to open a conversation in messages and reply on the go. Of course this also goes for the general notifications center, which enables actions like this without leaving the current app. It all feels smooth. I have always, really - always, used Swiftkey on my Android phones. I tried the Apple keyboard for a while but found that my muscle memory longs for the key-layout. Especially when looking at numbers and non-alphabetic signs. 3D touch is effectively used when typing allowing you to use it as a cursor effectively when hard-pressing on the keyboard. Luckily, this also applies to Swiftkey, letting the user have the best of both world.
Live photos is a seemingly simple yet so enjoyable feature. One that I actually didn’t think I would appreciate as much as I do. It is little things like this, animations, and design choices that to me makes iOS a surprisingly pleasant experience. In my previous reviews I have sometimes made lists of features that are available on my current phone, and while I appreciate a long list of functionality I have also been pretty honest about the fact that I don’t use all of them. I probably don’t use most of them.
I like the recent apps menu, finding it more usable and easier to navigate than what Google used to have on Android with the stacked cards. Of course, the iOS apps also stack a bit, but less so than what Android used to have. I guess the new Android version with cards next to each other is even more well-designed.
This is also my first encounter with Homekit, having installed it on my Home Assistant server this week. It is so smooth and by using the control center and 3D Touch it is simpler than ever to turn lights on and off. Siri also preforms well when asked to turn on and off the same lights. It is all Wi-Fi bound so it is pretty much instant in response, which cannot be said for the Google Assistant. I find it amusing though that if you want access to Homekit remotely you need an iPad, a Homepod, or an Apple TV device with a constant Wi-Fi connection so that the iPhone can communicate through that device. There is no cloud access to possibly set up. Call it a security feature, it is still limiting and could be fixed with a cheap Homekit-hub for example.
Honestly though, there isn’t really a lot that I find myself missing from my previous Android devices. This is to me a chocking realization.
Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time.
Both Apple and Google announced a move towards creating tools for users to monitor their so called digital wellbeing this year. Both parties had a pretty similar design idea as well. A screen that tells you how much time you spend in each app and lets you restrict individual apps to a certain amount of time based on your choosing. This is a great idea trying to aid those that are addicted to social media, or Youtube for that matter, and need to spend more time in real life.
While I do like the idea I have tried restricting my Youtube usage. You see, I spent a lot of time watching tech-youtubers like MKBHD, TechnoBuffalo and Unbox Therapy. So the app locks with a message telling you that you have reached you limit for today. What do you do? While it is a way to tell me that I have watched Youtube for an hour (at first I set it to 30 minutes, being all optimistic) it mostly becomes a disturbance, and the ignore-key is very accessible at all times. There after you can tell it to remind you again in 15 minutes or ignore for the rest of the day. So while I don’t count myself as being addicted, it never actually compelled me to put down the phone.
The phone gives you the possibility to view your habits either today, or for the last 7 days. Strangely though, at the time of writing my last 7 days tells me that I use the screen for about 1,22 hours a day with over 2 hours for entertainment, over 2 hours of productivity and 2 hour of different. That’s kind of strange no? it also seems to lack days in the statistics tab.
I mentioned Battery Life last week, and if you recall I was very happy with it. Well that haven’t changed. The iPhone XS isn’t a two-days phone in any range, for me at least, but it never fails to last me a full day. I pretty much know that I will have 20% battery left at 10 pm having used the display between 4 and 5 hours. That is with Wi-Fi on, Bluetooth connected to my Fitbit Ionic, and Mobile Data outdoors being used without restriction. Youtube is a regularly used app (obviously) on all my smart phones and I am never scared of what it will do to my battery life On the iPhone xs.
I am still bothered by the way Apple handles screen statistics though. last 24 hours feels less useful than since last full charge. The phone obviously records when the phone was removed from the charger. The screenshots were taken last night, giving me a look at how battery held up from 6:14 am until around 10:30 pm. that’s with 36% battery left and almost 4 hours of screen time. It has long been said that Apple can Squeeze more usage out of smaller batteries and I’m inclined to agree.
I have been philosophically thinking about the price-tag for a while now. I still can’t come to terms with the fact that Apple have launched us in to the era of the $1000 + smartphone already. Well the only conclusion that I can come up with from a business perspective is that Apple is looked at as a manufacturer of premium devices. When Huawei started the Porsche Design collaboration and other manufacturers started making the ultra-premium versions of their flagships Apple actually found themselves in the cheaper high-end premium price-range. We can’t have that now can we.
This is pure speculation based on a personal issue with pricing of course and there is no fact, neither are there any real logic to my reasoning.
Call me cheap. I just didn’t think I would have to be spending this much on a phone already.
Is the iPhone XS worth the highest of prices? Probably not.
Is it a great smartphone? Yes. Yes it is.
The thing is that the phone is mostly so good, I find my self being bothered by the smallest of things. Every motion and navigational feature is so smooth that when I open the control center and hard press Homekit to turn off a light and find that I can't swipe up to close the Homekit shortcut I get bothered. You see in control center you swipe up to go back/close the control center. That is the standard gesture. Yet to close the Homekit shortcuts you need to tap on an empty space. That's not an issue, yet I react to it. I was actually disappointed to see that a simple press also opens the Homekit shortcuts. Feels like Apple could’ve done something else with this.
Bottom line is that the iPhone xs is so good that I need to nit-pick on small usage hiccups.
This will probably be my final journal entry with the iPhone xs. I don’t want to milk a cow concept, and seeing that I have touched the camera (last week) and now performance and every-day usage, I think it is time to get down to the full review.
I am not sure when this will be done, but I want to cover every aspect of the phone that I can in one, probably too long, review.
Until next time, this is Andreas @ The Mobile Swede.
Thanks for reading!