Apple and MVNO Share a Past

Update: According to Reuters, Apple has denied working on an MVNO. "We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO".


As reported by Business Insider:

"Apple is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in the US and Europe […]"

First of all I think that this would be a great move for the future of Apple. Especially as Apple is going even more wireless with its latest MacBook and perhaps a future with a standalone Apple Watch.
This goal of launching a MVNO may be years away which means that Apple could already be working on technology that supports it in a better way.

There's also the "elephant in the room" as Dan Moren pointed out in his Stay Foolish column for Macworld in May:

"Finally, to me, there’s the elephant in the room: Apple’s history with services. The company’s record when it comes to services is unreliable at best, with snafus for MobileMe, iCloud, the new Photos Library, and even the usually stable iTunes Store. I don’t dispute that Apple could improve if it invested in talent there the same way it did in other sectors where it didn’t have expertise, but it’s starting from a position of disadvantage."

This doesn't have to say anything about the quality of upcoming services, but still there's always this little feeling of doubt when going all-in with Apple's services.

Apple and MVNO already have some sort of history. As written in the book "Becoming Steve Jobs", Steve told Brent Schlender in 1997 that he never wanted to do business with "the stupid carriers", but due to the rise of the cellphone sales in 2004, Steve and his team started investigating on what to do for their upcoming new device, the iPhone. Fortunately, for the iPhone's future, Steve decided against a MVNO model because of its complexity.

As much as I would like to see Apple offer something that supports their own ecosystem even better, I think that this future is still far away – especially to EU countries which are already behind on many features Apple is offering.

Give Your (Possible) Best

Talking about being available to readers and building something someone else (besides me writing it) could enjoy as well, I've been thinking about the content I'm publishing.

Of course you always want to reach a good amount of readers and have your thoughts being talked about, but there's something more than being at the right place at the right time – or as you'd say in our online-community, being linked to by the "big-ones".

Seth Godin recently published a perfectly relevant article on his blog called "You have no credibility (yet)" where he touches on this subject. The whole piece is quotable but the paragraphs below make my point:

"Attention is not yours to take whenever you need it. And trust is not something you can insist on.
You can earn trust, just as you can earn attention. Not with everyone, but with the people that you need, the people who need you."

However good (or bad) your article is, people will only read it if they've found value in investing their time into your words. Only practice and dedication will give you a chance to reach more people in the future.

"The good news is that you can earn it. You can invest in the community, you can patiently lead and contribute and demonstrate that the attention you are asking be spent on you is worthwhile."

There are many ways of creating a readership, but one crucial step to this goal is working on it every single day. Shawn Blanc talks about this very point often on his site and on The Focus Course. Besides "showing up every day" there's another huge factor that could keep you from creating something great. Fear. This little voice in your head that keeps on telling you that your work is not good enough, that people won't appreciate it, who would even bother to spend with it?

Shawn Blanc on "Creativity is a Gift":

"If you find yourself facing fear, doubt, shame, difficulty, perplexity, and/or overwhelm when you sit down to do the work then rejoice! All that resistance means you’re trying to do something worthwhile. The resistance is proof that you’re on the right track. Don’t quit."

Many time I have wished for more time to spend on the things I would want to do. Often enough I've decided not to release something because of this fear.
You can never know if the work you do is good. You will never know if someone else will appreciate it. There's one thing though you can be sure about, if you show up every day - which doesn't mean you have to publish something every day, but at least think about it or work on something bigger - you can be proud about improving your skills. Give your best and the effort will be worth it.

Apple Music: The Ultimate Guide

Talking about Apple Music, the team at iMore has been on top of everything you wanted to know about Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, iTunes Match, and how to use it. Serenity Caldwell has been doing an amazing job at covering the details about the complicated parts and how to use the service the way you like.

The 120-page guide will be available on August 20th for $4.99 and you can already pre-order it on the iBookstore. As you can see below, it will cover some ground and help you with questions you shouldn't be asking yourself.

"If you want to love Apple Music, but it's got you scratching your head, we've got the guide for you.

In this book, we cover Apple Music's basics, the difference between Apple Music and iTunes Match, what iCloud Music Library is (and what it does), and how to use iOS 8.4's Music app, Apple Music Siri commands, and iTunes 12.2."

I think Eddy Cue and Apple's Executives could take a look at it, and if they find something confusing, they know where to start making changes.

For the Love of Music

As you may have read already, Jim Dalrymple isn't happy with Apple Music and decided to remove it from his devices. His reaction is totally relatable and I wouldn't react otherwise, but I think his - and of many others - is a little overrated. You can't say that a new music service is bad after only using it for roughly a month. Especially if you're in a position where many people wait for your opinion.

It's not that the service isn't good or has a small catalogue of music, it's about the way it handles your media. Of course this depends on the way you listen to music and what music you own, but if you are a music lover - as we all know, Jim is - you may encounter some bigger problems.

As many of us, Jim jumped on the bandwagon right away as he trusts Apple:

"I love Apple. I love them because they take difficult problems and come up with innovative, simple solutions. The things they make just work and we trust them. Unfortunately, my experience with Apple Music has been exactly the opposite. As of today, I’m missing about 4,700 songs from my library with little hope of getting them back."

Pointing out that it isn't the service itself that causes his issues, but more the way it handles its and especially your personal music library.

"While Apple Music Radio and Playlists worked well, adding music to my library is nothing short of a mind-blowing exercise in frustration."

If you appreciate music, you collect many albums over the years. If you really love a band, you buy everything they release. Over time you have duplicates of songs, different versions, demos, live, acoustic, etc. but as complied on the album, you can listen to it without frustration. It is after all the way the artist intended you to listen to it.

I have a big collection of music that isn't available on music streaming services (at least it wasn't on others prior to Apple Music. It's the first one that has - for my needs - a great catalogue of music) and therefor I could never really use one.
I'm an iTunes Match subscriber since the day it launched and I have never looked back. I always had my library with me and it worked "perfectly" (with some hiccups from time to time) when I needed it to.

My biggest struggle though has always been finding new music. That's where Apple Music excels for me. Never has a service been able to give me something I really liked, and especially not have me add it to my own library.

When I listen to music, I still mainly listen to the albums/artists that I'm in the mood of hearing now. For the moments I'm in no particular mood or not sure what to listen to, I like the playlists and recommendations.
One thing is certain though, never touch my library! Don't ever change what I've been collecting, tending, and arranging for years.

This is the frustrating part behind all of it. I really feel the struggle behind trying to get everything back the way you've always been used to having it. I've had some minor issues with albums not playing some songs, but have been able to get it to work again. I have to add that this happened on albums that were available on Apple Music. I don't know how it would have worked with something not in the catalogue.

This is the desperation of a music lover, someone who has spent years creating his own collection of music.

"As if all of that wasn’t enough, Apple Music gave me one more kick in the head. Over the weekend, I turned off Apple Music and it took large chunks of my purchased music with it. Sadly, many of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to. Looking at my old iTunes Match library, before Apple Music, I’m missing about 4,700 songs. At this point, I just don’t care anymore, I just want Apple Music off my devices."

The worst part about it though is that Apple has not only lost the trust of one person, but a whole group of people who are now afraid to have the same happen to them.

"I trusted my data to Apple and they failed. I also failed by not backing up my library before installing Apple Music. I will not make either of those mistakes again."

Apple Music has only been out for about a month and there is still a lot of work to be done. I suppose (and secretly hope) they chose the three months trial period to make the service as stable as possible. They could lose a lot of potential subscribers when the trial is over and these issues are still present.

I hope Apple once again listens to what their nerdiest community is saying and reacts to keep music lovers happy.

I'm Still Here

I just wanted to give you a heads-up and let you know that I'm still here. This site is still and has always been very important to me, and I'm in the process of thinking about what to do with it.

For a long time now I wanted my site to be different from what you can see everywhere else; not just another "weblog" (sorry, but it sounds more dramatic that way) from a guy who likes beautiful and shiny things and tends to share his opinion about it. I will of course share my opinion here, after all it is my home page; my tiny corner of the internet.

(Note: While writing this post I had to find out that my site seemed to have expired 5 days ago. I was in the belief that it would - as it did last time - renew itself, but due to complications it didn't work this time. Well, some things just happen for a reason.)

Some Changes Here…

When thinking about how and what to share here, I have often come back to the much beloved linked post. Besides writing "opinion pieces" or reviews, it often happened to me that I had something to say about a current event, something that is making the rounds online, or maybe just I wanted to talk about something I've read somewhere. The problem I had with sharing these things were often time related. Due to my time zone (Austria, CEST, UTC/GMT +2 hours) and work, I can only catch up on the events hours after they happened. Sharing my opinion about it can then often either be affected by what I've read or not seem relevant anymore – at least I thought about it that way for a long time.
What I'm sharing though is still my opinion about it; my perspective about said topic. There's no one else who can see it the exact same way I do (it is possible, but not likely).

… And Somewhere Else

For some weeks I've been working on a new site. A new project I want to start in the near future. I still have to figure out a lot of details and especially how to actually make it work. One thing I'm already sure of is that I want it to be a little different than what we already know and have in our community of [insert your field of interest here]-nerds. There's a risk in trying something different than what we know is already working, but I got nothing to lose – at least that's my perspective.

I know I haven't said a lot about what I want to do (yet), but I would love to know if you'd be interested in hearing more about it or even share your opinion. The best way of contacting me is via Twitter at @florianlionel or via the contact form.
It'd also mean a lot if you'd be willing to offer some help with the first stages of creating the new site, setting up some background operations (which seem so simple – if you know what you're doing), suggesting some people to work with, and provide other useful information on writing online.

How The Focus Course Changed Me

I initially wanted to write a review of The Focus Course, but there's no way of explaining what it did to me whilst staying neutral and not sounding like Shawn Blanc endorsed this post. What happens during this course is much deeper than just participating to an online course and checking off the tasks you need to get done to accomplish it. It's much more emotional. If you let it, it will change you. Again, this is not a review. The following words are thoughts I would've never shared publicly before.

When I first heard about Shawn's new project, I was really curious about having a look at what it was. I was really interested in an idea called the "Focus Course". It all sounded really good to me. I mean, who wouldn't want to be even more focused – especially if you think that you're good at focusing.
After seeing that Shawn sent out a questionnaire to subscribing members to participate to a Pilot Course, I instantly filled out the questions the best way possible to be part of it. I remember that I just came home from work around midnight and spent a good amount of time considering my answers on my iPhone while not even having taken my second shoe off. I was really ambitious to be part of it and couldn't risk to wait any longer. I was serious about being part of it, and the effort was worth it.

When getting the email that Shawn wanted to have me on the Pilot Course, I couldn't wait to tell my fiancée (when taking the course, you'll realize why this is so important) that I'd be part of something great.
Days before the course started I was already getting nervous about it. Not knowing what was coming. No idea how it would make me feel. Anxious about the result. What if I failed and realized that I'm not as focused and productive as I always thought I was? Mixed feelings about the unknown. Especially during a part of my life where I was considering a major change – just having come from a time where I wasn't sure of the path I should be taking.

This year many things changed for me. There were many things I thought I would have achieved by now that turned out to be impossible (at least for now) with where I was. I grew tired of the person I was. Feeling like doing a plethora of things at the same time, always coming back to the same state of standing in place with the same amount of things I still want to do. It gets worse when you see where you want to be, but always end up in the path that is already there. Without the right motivation I may have ended up on this old path again – with a half finished course and one more thing that is just there, unfinished, in the back of my mind.

The Focus Course made it clear to me that I needed to get a little deeper than just starting again. The modules are created in such a way that you will see yourself from a different perspective – if you're honest and ready to make changes. Since the beginning of this year I wanted to make things better. Change the way I used to do things. Improve the projects I was working on and finally start making them a reality or at least share them with others. I always believed that there is a right time for everything. Anything happens for a reason. Opportunities are often there, but they're hard to acknowledge if you can't focus on them.

In the beginning stages of the course I often thought about doing things in a different way than I had before. Taking a different step than I was used to. This was the right opportunity to try and be more courageous about my personal efforts. When reading the day's assignment I was often surprised about how similar it was to what I had been doing on that exact same day ("morning" – due to the difference in time, the day's assignment often was published at 2 PM my time and due to the newness of the course I was lucky if some days were ahead of publication). It fascinated me that I had subconsciously started to work on myself the same way as it was described in the preparation phase of the course.

Besides journaling every day, I started a separate journal about the course (something you're recommended to do in any way you want). Reading where I was in the beginning and where I am now gives me an interesting feeling. Seeing the progress throughout the days is fascinating. I had always thought of myself as someone who was "productive" because I always had many things to do, ideas to work on, projects I wanted to put out in the world, several things to talk about that were in the process of being created when someone asked me about them. The reality though was that I tended to have ideas and opinions about things that I ended up working on until I lost focus again.

Helping me focus on where I was, I realized that my biggest challenge was "fear". When you are afraid of something, you lose focus. You can't concentrate on where your thoughts should be and you start drifting off. With the right words Shawn enabled me to see this fear and counter it with focus. Through building a better foundation, standing up again after a fall was much easier and faster. Each Module made me stand stronger. Sure you fall down again, you're human after all and can't make complete change in such a short time, but with every fall I rise taller.

Reading these words it sounds like I built a whole empire of [insert whatever sounds interesting to you]. Truth is I'm not really different than before, I'm just where I want to be now. As I wrote on Shawn's Focus Course site:

"Throughout my life I will change. Several times I’ll be a distant self of the person I used to be, but the core will always be the same, and this is what’s important to me. I’m already the person I want to be in the future; just a better version of myself."

I would've never shared anything like this before. I would never write anything personal about myself. Never share feelings or deep thoughts about myself with others on my site.
Many years have passed by where I wanted to be part of bigger projects and work with people I admired. Fear and a lack of focus have always held me back from pushing through to the end. With the completion of the Focus Course, I'm finally at the point where I'm willing to open up and do my best and most meaningful work.

I always wanted to be someone who changes things, who makes them better. I have always felt an urge to try and make things different. Look at them from a different perspective and change the outcome to something others can also benefit of.
I encourage you to do so as well. Join me in being a better version of yourself. Work better, enjoy your free moments better, focus better.

Where I am right now wouldn't have been possible without Shawn and the Focus Course. He put his heart and soul into this project. I can't recommend The Focus Course enough. If you're struggling with where you are right now or want to change something with the way you're currently working, if you want to be better at focusing or find out what meaningful work means to you, take this course.

Spark Review: Like Your Email Again

Introduction

Spark is a new email client by Readdle, makers of great “work-on-iOS-enabling” apps like PDF Expert 5 (Review), Scanner Pro, Documents, and more.
Their main focus is to make you "like your email again"; the 18 months of work have been worth the effort. With great third-party integration like Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive, and tiny details like enabling you to glance at your Calendar and Quick Replies, you'll be able to act on your emails much faster and easier – all without ever leaving the app.

First steps

After a short introduction you can add you email account from one of the common providers like iCloud, Google, Outlook, Exchange, and others. To make this process easier, Spark supports 1Password integration so your information is just a tap away. Just after checking your account you have your first encounter with a great new feature called "Smart Notification". It works similar to Apple's VIP Settings with the big difference that you don't have to move those contacts around and especially not give them VIP privilege for everything, just email notifications.
You can now start using your new email client as it comes, or edit the user interface and add some settings to make it work better for your needs.

UI

You can personalize the sidebar, change the swipes, and customize the widgets. For now there is a limited amount of "cards" you can use to customize your interface, with more coming in the future. Cards are intelligent filters that - depending on the content - sort your emails for you and lets you process them much faster. You can then either add them to your Sidebar, or have your most used as Widgets.

Widgets can be customized in two different ways: On Top, which gives you on tap access to your cards, or at the bottom, which adds a new icon next to the compose icon and also changes the top bar to a slider which lets you quickly jump between your Smart Inbox and the unified Inbox (normally accessed via Sidebar). Depending on your needs, this can already be on big step up the productivity ladder.

Talking about productivity, you can tweak your Settings in the UI section to let you achieve "Inbox Zero" if your change the Email Flow to "Move to Archive" when you've read them, and change the Badges count to "Whole Inbox".
Your Swipe gestures are also customizable as seen in the images above, and the Move and Snooze gestures can be really handy when pursuing an action based email-strategy. The Snooze function is particularly handy as the only way of triggering it otherwise is to pin the email first and then hit the watch icon in the top right (as pictured below). Every snoozed email will then be moved out of your Inbox and can be found either in the "Snoozed Pins" card or in a folder created by Readdle.

Features

Another useful feature is Smart Search that enables you to search your Inbox using natural language and exact terms like "Attachments from Sabrina" or "Beta last two weeks" which you can also save if you use them regularly.
The aforementioned Smart Notification and Smart Inbox are handled by the app itself and categorize your incoming email depending on the sender and its importance. There is a way to change that behavior for future emails by tapping on the sender where you can edit some of the details. The bell lets you change the smart notification while the message type lets you change the section you'll find the email in the next time you get one.

Handling Email

A lot of effort has been put into handling your email. Email is still one of the most used methods for professional work. Unfortunately many people don't get the importance of it and use it in ways that could be dealt with differently. You're then trapped between reading hundreds of emails to find the ones that are important, declaring email bankruptcy and deleting the all or having your inbox overflow with them, or you spend many useless hours going through them while you could have spent that time in a different way. Either you're receiving or answering email, managing them can be a real hassle. That's where Spark really shines.

Receiving Emails

Besides having the Smart Notifications and Inbox take a lot of pressure from you, there is one very special feature that will save you hours, Quick Reply. We're starting to get accustomed to sending quick replies with the Apple Watch and while you can do so with Spark on the Apple Apple Watch as well, there's a great way to let the recipient know what you think about their email in Spark.
As pictured below, these quick replies are the perfect way of letting someone know what you think about their message without wasting too much time and being too hard on them. A simple thank you, a smile, or a like is just a tap away and you're done. Presented in a nice way, the recipient will appreciate the (non-existent) effort.

As mentioned before, pinning and snoozing emails that are important is just a tap or a swipe away, and there's also the possibility to export it as a PDF to one of many services like Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Evernote, and others. If you're subscribed to interesting newsletters or get links from a friend or colleague, you can even send them to Instapaper, Pocket, Evernote, Readability, or OneNote. Besides these integrated services you can of course trigger the iOS Share Sheet for your personal apps.

+long press.jpg

Your Smart Inbox enables you to see your emails categorized in different sections which you can process even faster. Either by tapping on the checkmark for each category you can mark them all as read, or when tapping on the category itself you can slide the bottom bar to act on these email after having glanced at them first.

Sending Emails

Sending emails presents the same problems as receiving them. We tend to spend too much time with it, fiddling around with little things that could be done in seconds, but usually end up taking minutes including jumping around between apps.
The clean interface lets you add the recipient with the possibility to and a copy or blind copy just by typing Cc: and Bcc:. Really handy integration without additional, often unused bulk.

A really clever integration is the way of handling signatures. After your first draft the app analyzes your previous emails to determine your most used signatures and creates them for you. To change your signature just swipe until you get the one you like or none at all.
As for attachments, you can use the obvious Camera and Albums or use of the previously mentioned services. While it's convenient to be able to get any file from your iCloud Drive of Dropbox, I'm missing the ability to generate and copy a link to a bigger file in your Dropbox.
When you need a file someone sent you, you can minimize the draft to look for the attachment, long press the the file and tap attach to directly add it to your draft. This can also come in handy when you need to check you calendar real quick for availability.

Details

One thing that was a joy to see from the beginning was the integration of 1Password. If you offer the choice of different third-party services, there's no easier way of doing it. Something I found interesting though was the way Spark handled the logins. Dropbox for example didn't open the app for authorization, instead it opened a browser window inside the app and let me type in my credentials which was no hassle with 1Password. Instapaper and Evernote did the same, while Pocket directed me to the app to ask for permission.
You can edit what the categories show in your Smart Inbox through long pressing on them. How many visible items you have, if they're unified, or if you want to have an overview per account.

In Calendars view you can add an event through long pressing on the desired time. When creating a new event you get the generic Apple Calendar event creation sheet. No natural language available here. On one side it's funny as it's used for search and also in their Calendars 5 app, but understandable though. If you need more functionality go to your app of choice, this here is just for quick reference.

There could also be more integration with Readdle's own apps, but that would as well defy the purpose of the email app itself. There's always the possibility to work in another app and invoke Spark via Share Sheet.

While I don't battle with several hundreds of emails on a daily basis, I'm really happy with the way Spark is handling my Inbox. For me it's the perfect balance between being an easy and fast way to reply and go through my important emails, while also being powerful enough to let me act on and share the details that need more attention.

Spark is the first email client to replace Apple's Mail app on my home screen. Not because others weren't good enough, but primarily because I never cared enough to process emails on my iPhone.

The video below will show you how easy and fast you'll get through your Inbox in the future, and with the Apple Watch you'll be notified about the emails that are important besides your VIPs.

Spark will help you "like your email again", and is available on the App Store for Free with more cards coming in future.

New Bentley Documentary Filmed With iPhone 6

One year after releasing the first short documentary for Bentley, director Austin Reza produced another short for the "Intelligent Details" series called "The Bespoke Driving Jacket".
This film features four tailoring houses which were commissioned by Bentley Motors to each create a Bespoke Driving Jacket for the Savile Row Bespoke exhibition in Washington, D.C..

As with the previous film, only Apple devices were used for the production. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have obviously been equipped with professional gear to up the standards of filmmaking. On the software side, FiLMiC Pro and Filmmaker have been used to have more control over the details, and to add a more film-like feel.

The behind the scenes shows a little more about the gear used, but as with every piece of art, it's not only about the gear, but how you present it. In Austin Reza's words:

"While technology and cameras are important in producing images, moving pictures are about capturing moments."

Buy a Book, Plant a Tree →

Talking about doing something for the environment, here's a great way to build a sustainable future if you love using notebooks. The Baron Fig Team has a great program called "Buy a Book, Plant a Tree", where they donate money for every Confidant Notebook purchased, to a partner who then plants seeds for a sustainable environment.

There is again a beautiful message to remember for future "creators":

"We're dedicated to empowering and inspiring makers.
This includes a responsibility to leave the earth better than we found it."

Earth Day 2015

For Earth Day 2015, Apple has published a new video on their site about Environmental Responsibility. Besides designing the site in a beautiful way with rich images and interesting stats, they already tell the real story in the film.
Quotes like "Our ecosystem is part of a larger one" or "[…] renewable energy, hydro power, and forest preservation. New ways in which we can leave the world better than we found it" instantly leave a trace in your mind when watching it, ending with a typical Apple-like quote "Better starts here".

To accompany their movement, they also added an Earth Day 2015 section to the App Store pointing to this site, with a text saying:

"Our commitment to the environment starts from the ground up. We strive to change things for the better and create not only the best products in the world, but the best products for the world."

Some of the apps featured are WWF Together, Al Gore's Our Choice, Brian Cox's Wonders of Life, and Virtual Water in "Apps for Environmental Awareness". "Go Paperless" of course has Scanner Pro by Readdle or Scanbot in it, but also includes apps for creating and working on documents like Paper by FiftyThree, Notability, and PDF Expert 5.

To raise awareness about our world, documentaries like Earth and An Inconvenient Truth, as well as "TV Shows" like Planet Earth and Wonders of Life should open up your eyes to what some people just can't see. There's also something for the younger generation like WALL•E or The Lorax.

Apple's message is clear:

"We believe true innovation must consider everything."

If you really want to create something innovative for a future generation, you need to think about a way to make a future happen. This is the right way.