How An iPhone Can Create A Beautiful Moment

Right before the holidays, Apple aired a commercial focused on the iPhone 5s and the capability to use it with AirPlay. Besides showing the camera's Slo-Mo integration and the easy way of showcasing your recordings on an Apple TV via AirPlay, the commercial, called "Misunderstood", has a much deeper message for you.

It is a perfect timing to show this commercial before the holiday season. Not only because it's an Apple ad that shows you gift ideas, but especially because it shows a real life situation. Families visiting their relatives and spending time together for the Christmas holiday.

What you can see from the beginning, is a teenager using his iPhone every single moment he shares with his family. During their travel in the car, while greeting the relatives, while everyone is having fun and enjoying the time together, whether it's in the kitchen while cooking, playing outside in the snow or building a snowman, ice skating, or decorating the Christmas tree.

This teenager seems to behave like most of "them" would do in this situation, having an iPhone in his hand and sinking his face deep into the screen while everyone else is having a great time together.

What you don't see from the beginning, is that this teenager is actually creating a beautiful memory from his time with the family. When you think he's deep inside some game or spending time with other people on social networks, he's actually creating a heart touching video of his family vacation to preserve this important memory.

When looking at the relatives faces while they admire their boys' creation, you understand of which importance it is to create these kind of memories. It's the things you don't see yourself. It's what happens in the moment when you're doing it, but don't realize you acted this way. You capture the moment of people kissing, laughing, looking at each other in a way you can't describe. You capture the moments you're missing when they're gone.

Of course the ad is as usual wonderfully produced. It shows the device you use every single day. It has a perfectly fitting music. It shows things "just working". It ends with the message of having "Happy Holidays". That's Apple.

What it also is though, is a great message of looking at things differently. It tells you how easy it can be to be "Misunderstood". It's not only about the boy hiding behind his phone, it's also about what you can do with the device you're having with you every day. Why only spend your time on social networks, playing games, sharing things with people to show them what you're doing right now. Why not use this device to create something great. Why not create a great moment (first, if you want to) and then enjoy the moment itself while it lasts.

At the end of this post you can see the commercial, but beware, it may touch your heart.

This is a post I wrote in pair with another post (you can read here), about "How A Smartphone Can Ruin A Moment".

As I wrote in that post:

"There is a clear difference between taking some photos or recording videos for archiving a moment in your digital memory and constantly burying your face into a device to document every single step you take and not appreciating the moment you can spend with your family and friends."

This is where I think that you can instantly be misunderstood. You can never say what someone is doing with their device, but what you can do as the person itself, you can focus on enjoying the moment itself as soon as you have enough "footage" to bring back the memory to something beautiful.

And finally, here's the commercial.

How A Smartphone Can Ruin A Moment

This is a post I actually wanted to write one day after the event (a concert), but I didn't really see the importance of sharing it publicly. More about it at the end of the post.

A Concert With A Deeper Meaning

On November 21, 2013, I saw Placebo in Vienna during their Loud Like Love[1] tour. As I often tend to do, I took two pictures after being some minutes into the concert. I realized quite early (after the first songs) that the concert had a dark theme, and didn’t start off “Loud Like Love” – which I was happy about as I feared that it would be too slow otherwise.

After being about 20 – 30 minutes into the shows and having just played “Too Many Friends”, Brian said something like (I’m paraphrasing):

“How many of you spend their days looking into a screen? Now we’re gonna look into a screen, if you know what I mean.”

and a see-through curtain was lowered that stayed down for some songs[2].
Below you can see a picture where the curtains are still up, and a video where they’re down while the band performs behind them.

The Message Behind The Curtain

In the making of for "Too Many Friends", Brian explains (at the 17:30 mark) that:

"This song is about how technology has bred alienation, how people converse person in person less, and have a virtual social life as opposed to a real one."

This is just what happened during the concert as well. People stared into their phones and looked at the band perform through their screens instead of enjoying them perform right in front of them, in real life, not squeezed into a little box, not altered by any technology.

Before this curtain dropped down, you were able to see a sea of lights, or call it a distraction from the actual scene. When the curtain was down and the band started performing again, nearly all of the lights were gone. For a while the crowd was focused on the band again, looking at what was happening.

After playing some songs behind the curtains, it rose again during the last part of the song "Speak In Tongues", where the lyrics end in repeating the phrase "we can build a new tomorrow, today". In my opinion, a great way to show people to change things now.
Once again the curtain closed before the song "Blind" started, again with lyrics like "please don't drive me blind". This is all far fetched and lyrics are always interpreted differently, but this is the way I felt this message coming along, and - again from my point of view - you could see that Brian was clearly angered by the fact that people "stare into their phones" instead of enjoying the live performance happening in front of their eyes.

Also I need to point out that the show was great and it didn't make you feel uncomfortable or anything in this way, I just think that the message was clear that when being at a concert, enjoy the concert as best as you can. Don't stare into a phone or spend time updating your profiles with the songs you're currently hearing. There's still enough time to talk about later, in person, face to face.

Enjoy The "Now"

This is exactly the way I feel for those kind of things. Enjoy the moment while you're there. You can never make someone feel the same way you did with a picture or video of a moment. It sure can make it easier to understand, but one or two pictures are enough, there's no need to record the whole thing. I'm really into video and photography, and love to preserve memories and think that there's a huge value in conserving some special moments, but there's a huge difference between having your face glued to a screen and spending some quality time with the people that are with you. It happens far too often that you see friends hanging out together somewhere and only communicating via their networks so others can join in on what they're doing.

You rarely see me sharing things when I'm out with friends, or constantly tweeting about what I'm currently doing with my friends. It may happen before, I may talk about it afterwards, I may check-in somewhere when no one is currently with me, but I nearly never have my iPhone in my hand when I'm deliberately spending some time with someone else (anymore! I used to do it before as well).

I also want to point out that there's nothing wrong with taking pictures, recording videos, taking notes or checking something else on your phone while you're with someone else, but there's a clear distinction between spending time with someone and enjoying the now, and meeting with friends and doing the same thing you would do when you're alone.

Viticci On Smartphones Ruining Concerts

On the latest episode of The Prompt (Episode #26 "What the Bleep is a Pepper Jack?"), Federico Viticci and Stephen Hackett discuss the exact same "problem" with smartphones at concerts. Starting at 43:24, Federico correctly says that:

"Smartphones are ruining concerts. People are constantly taking photos and recording videos instead of watching a band play in live. […] Instead of watching the band with their eyes, they're watching through a screen and through a camera, which defeats the main point of going to a concert."

They also go on about recording some short snippets for your "digital memory", but also recording two hours of footage with the built-in microphone and re-listening to the recording with nearly unbearable audio quality.

The Importance Of Taking A Look Behind The Screen

The importance I was referring to in the beginning is that Apple released a great commercial for Christmas, that showcases something similar to what you see every day, but might not always be the way it looks. There is - as mentioned above - a clear difference between taking some photos or recording videos for archiving a moment in your digital memory and constantly burying your face into a device to document every single step you take and not appreciating the moment you can spend with your family and friends.

I decided to write these two posts (the one you're currently reading, and this one about Apple's new commercial) at the same time but post them as separate articles. First because in my opinion they both deserve a dedicated spot on my site, but also because I think that both reads give you a completely different feeling – and these are not to be mixed up and misinterpreted.

  1. As you can see when visiting the link, the band even has a dedicated page for each show with a hashtag to “share your impressions or pictures of the gig!” where you can see what people say/do before, during, and after the show.  ↩

  2. The curtains stayed down during two songs, which are from the new album – the reason I’m pointing this out is because people go to see those new songs during a concert and then see them performed behind a curtain.  ↩

Launch Center Pro 2.1

Contrast has a great new update for their incredibly powerful Launch Center Pro app today.
Besides being great for shortcuts, chaining actions together, or simply allowing you to declutter your home screen, the app gets more powerful with every single update.

This update comes with new features for list creating, sharing sheets, a huge update for Photo attachments, support for the latest version of TextExpander, a way to disable autocorrection in prompts, and - maybe the biggest feature - support for an alternative keyboard called "Fleksy".

Fleksy Keyboard

First the new keyboard. Fleksy is a new keyboard experience that supports a new patent pending text prediction engine which allows you to look away from the keyboard while typing. More info can be found here; and below you can see Fleksy in action.

In Launch Center Pro, when creating a new action and you have a prompt for text input, you can now choose the "Fleksy Keyboard" to type your notes. The first thing you are prompted to do is download the language for the keyboard by long pressing the space bar. For now the keyboard supports English and Spanish. In the beginning it's a strange experience to have a completely different keyboard, especially as you'll be missing some keys like punctuation (123) and two of the keys I use a lot are now in a different spot (Shift and Delete). A nice thing to help you getting used to it (while not looking at the keyboard) is the possibility to add "voice feedback". When typing you get the words read out to you as well as what letters you delete and punctuation.
After getting used to it, it can sure be a nice feature to let you type faster.

Creating Lists

Another great and new feature is the possibility to create lists with multiple options as popups. This allows you for example to combine multiple prompt choices into one like composing a text message and having a list with family members or friends – all this in a single action (for each) instead of having to "sacrifice" a whole screen for that. Of course this is only one pretty simple thing to do with lists, but as always there's a lot more to try out.

Photo Attachments

As it's easy enough to take and share photos, it is also quite easy to fill up your Camera Roll with them. Even if it's just a selfie or picture of something you only need once, or to remember something you've seen somewhere but don't want those pictures to appear in your Camera Roll, Launch Center Pro has a fix for this as well.
You can now create an action to directly open the camera for you (also trigger the front-facing camera), take a picture to share or put in your Dropbox, and all that without saving it to your Camera Roll.
If you'd like, you could also create a scheduled action to take a selfie and put it in a dedicated Dropbox folder, or simply send it to your mom (or best friend to troll him).

For every new feature mentioned about, you have a huge amount of things to do and I'm not even scratching the surface of it.
For a list of supported app and actions, you can start here.
For even more goodies and an amazing amount of actions, workflows, tips and tricks, you can read about it on MacStories.

Launch Center Pro 2.1 is a free update and available in the App Store for $4.99.

The iPhone Was Used For Professional Video Shooting Again

As posted on The Loop some days ago, LeAnn Rimes shot the video to her latest single "Gasoline and Matches", entirely on an iPhone.

As I talked about earlier this year, the iPhone is being used more and more to produce video related content on a professional basis.

The video for the song consists mainly of a stop motion story with the artists appearing in picture frames while also interacting with their surroundings.
To not describe the whole video to you, just watch it below, and if you want to read more about the process of producing the video, you can do it on The Loop's site.

Oh and by the way, I'm not sure where Jim Dalrymple got the video from, but there's one difference between the version from The Loop's site and the YouTube video.

This is at the end of the credits on The Loop's source.

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Siri's Accuracy Continues To Improve

I only started using Siri when I got the iPhone 5s which means that I talk to her since she understands better what I mean – according to Gene Munster (via Mac Rumors):

"Based on our testing, iOS 7 Siri's net ability to answer questions (factors in questions not correctly understood) improved to 79% from 77% in August with iOS 6."

I tried using Siri some times with someone else's iPhone 5 while still on iOS 6 and had similar issues as Marco Arment. I always feared that I wouldn't want to use Siri as well because of this frustration of not getting it to work – and I always said that I'd use Siri several times if it was available for me at this time.

But since I activated my “female assistant/secretary”[1], I rarely had any issues like failed requests. Siri understands what I’m saying, is quite fast with my search queries, and is accurate and reliable for me.
I want to point out that I’m a non-native English speaker and may therefor pronounce some things simpler, easier, or more correct, and I also lean to think about how to say something when dictating or asking for something.

As for my usage in loud places, or relying on reviews and searching for directions, I can't say that I have the possibility to use it enough (in this particular area) to have a real opinion about it.
Siri doesn't have that much support in Austria yet, let alone finding places, restaurants, movies, etc. in my area is nearly impossible (even with a simple Google search).

I think it's nice to see that Siri is improving and especially that people stopped complaining about it being in beta for such a long time.

  1. Since yesterday I tend to call her Susanne though. For more information, listen to Bionic.  ↩

Get Ready For This Year's Free Christmas Apps With Apple's "12 Days of Gifts"

12 Days of Gifts.png

Apple released its free app "12 Days of Gifts" (previously called "iTunes - 12 Days of Christmas) today. As in previous years the app offers a gift each day from December 26 to January 6. It is also available in the U.S. Store for the first time, but the content may be different depending on the country, and it requires iOS 7. Here's the official app description:

"From December 26 to January 6, you can download a gift each day—songs, apps, books, movies, and more—with the 12 Days of Gifts app. Each day's gift will only be available for 24 hours, so download the free app to make sure you don’t miss out. Note: Not all content is available in all countries."

When opening the app for the first time it asks you for your permission to send push notifications and the country where your iTunes Store Apple ID is registered. For now the app only shows you a countdown of days until the 26th on an animated dynamic wallpaper, an info button with FAQ, and a share sheet that also includes "Add to Calendar" which prepares an All-day Event from December 26 to January 6.

Here's the link to the app.

Strange Advertising for Detailed Products, Precise Coffee Making and Christmas Shopping

Earlier today I stumbled over a tweet by Chris Gonzales[1]:

Besides it being a strange way to link to your article which also happens to be a guest post by Leander Kahney, the writer of Jony Ive’s biography Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, the article itself can be interesting for people interested in coffee (and brewing it at home).

In short this post is about how the creative minds behind Apple’s products sit together twice a week to brainstorm – and how they brew their coffee during this ~3 hour meeting. According to what you can read, it seems to be as detailed and with such a precision as are the projects they’re discussing.

You can start saving on a good espresso machine for home use (which will set you back between $800 and $1,300 – the one Apple used was $3,000+), or you could put one of the more affordable but also considered to be one of the best coffee makers on your “last-minute” Christmas wish list, like the AeroPress.

If you’re interested in coffee - in a more affordable way - and like to enjoy a nicely brewed cup of coffee, here’s the perfect list for Christmas.
Not only does “The Awesome Coffee Gear Guide” on Tools and Toys provide a great set of products for coffee lovers, you can also check out the Christmas Catalog if you’re not sure what you want (or give to a loved one).

  1. Who writes on and who you should check out.  ↩

Mr. Reader Updated to 3.0 with iOS 7 Design and Background Sync

After having iOS 7 for nearly 3 months now (iOS 7 released on September 18), Mr. Reader has been updated to version 3.0 yesterday with a redesign for iOS 7, a new app icon, support for devices with 64-bit processor, automatic background synchronization, and more.

What I like is that Oliver Fürniß, the developer behind Mr. Reader, didn’t choose to fully adopt an iOS 7 redesign[1] and still kept Mr. Reader 2’s layout. The sidebar, icons, design elements and features are still all available and have been slimmed down redesigned as well. The UI doesn’t look all in your face anymore, and feels much more readable now due to the lighter design – and isn’t that the point of a news aggregator after all?


As a reference, that's what version 2 looked like.


It’ll take me some time to get used to the new icon, but it was the same with the previous version. The clearer icon sure does look better on iOS 7 and well,… the hat (which makes it a real Mr. in my opinion) is also still here.

Left: v3, Right: v2

Left: v3, Right: v2

Besides minor changes and additions, one of the bigger features is the automatic backgrounds synchronization which uses iOS 7’s Background App Refresh to download your articles in the background.
As previously mentioned, Mr. Reader 3 still supports all its features (which you can find on Mr. Reader’s site) and is highly customizable.

Mr. Reader 3 is a free update on the App Store, requires iOS 7, can sync in the background, and can be enjoyed again on iOS 7.

Picture source:

  1. If you want to have Mr. Reader look like this though, you can still install the “Cupertino Blue” theme.  ↩

Pod Wrangler is going "online"

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With a huge amount of great podcast apps for iOS out there, people tend to primarily listen to their favorite shows on their iOS devices. If you want to listen to your shows on your Computer, you can listen to them on the publisher’s site which doesn’t offer any sync features or saving of play position if you happen to close the site or have to leave. You can also use iTunes which can also be a problem if you don’t have it installed on the machine you’re currently using and just want to listen to (or finish) the exciting conversation they were just having.
Of course you can also install some of the apps who have Mac versions – but we’ve all heard of the issues some people[1] were having with either syncing play position, updating the played episodes, or even messing with your subscriptions. And that’s not only the case for third party apps, it also happens with iTunes.

(Underscore) David Smith is now attempting to create a solution for these situations with a web companion for his lightweight podcast app Pod Wrangler.

"Today I’m rolling out a beta version of website integration for Pod Wrangler right on You can now listen to your podcasts from within any modern browser. Playback position is synced up with Pod Wrangler so you shouldn’t need to fuss with finding your place. This works great for finishing off that episode you were listening to on your drive into work or in a context when you just can’t use your iPhone."

As he points out the website version is in beta because it doesn’t have the functions the final version will have. He also mentions that the beta is currently only available to full Feed Wrangler members and that he’s thinking about how to deal with Pod Wrangler’s “in-app upgraders”.[2]

The NOT-A-REVIEW part – just a notice for users!

I tested the sync and play postitions with different shows and episodes (to test the different feed services) and have to say that it’s pretty reliable when syncing from iOS to the web, but it didn’t work the other way around[3]. As it’s not syncing on its own for now it means that you have to pull to refresh on the iOS version before going to the episode on the website.

2013-12-04 - Pod Wrangler Web.png
2013-12-04 - Pod Wrangler iOS.PNG

David Smith just keeps on giving if you’re a Feed Wrangler subscriber.

  1. Strangely enough for some people the syncing mechanism sometimes just works, while others don’t get it work at all.  ↩

  2. Pod Wrangler comes as a free app on the App Store and lets you subscribe to up to 5 shows, with in-app purchase unlocking unlimited subscriptions.  ↩

  3. If you take it precisely, “Mr. Underscore” never mentions anything about the web syncing back to iOS. He just talks about finishing the current show after your commute, your run or doing your chores. That’s reading between the lines, folks – and of course I’m kiding.  ↩