Do we really want longer battery life in our phones?

Christopher Mims over at the Wall Street Journal ($) argues that Apple, Samsung, et al. should stop worrying about making smart phones so thin. Instead, he says, give us longer battery life.

I agree. I’d love to have batteries that last longer in my phone.

Mims points to a survey of consumers which found that improved battery life is the “No. 1 thing on their wish list.”

Maybe, maybe not.

I’m reminded of a study I read about years ago. A manufacturer of washing machines surveyed consumers to ask what was important to them. The company wanted to know whether consumers wanted a more basic, inexpensive machine or a full-featured one with a higher price tag. The survey results overwhelmingly said a more basic, inexpensive machine was more desired among consumers. So the company built lots of those.

The company nearly went broke due to poor sales. It turns out that consumers answering the survey wanted to appear to be responsible, frugal stewards of their household resources. But in reality, they wanted the machine that would do it all, even at a higher price.

It seems to me the analysis offered by Mims is on target. We don’t need thinner phones—we can live with the current thicknesses offered by the manufacturers. (Do we really want a phone so thin it could be dropped down into the window space inside your car door? You just know that would happen to someone.) But we do want improved battery life.

It’s probably too late for Apple to make big changes in the iPhone 7 that I expect this fall. That design work is done. Better battery life in the present form factor of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus would be a big win. But Apple’s engineering and  design teams may have already been told “thin is in,” and have created another sleeker, mind-blowingly thin device.

I would happily trade a few grams (or more than a few) and a bit larger form factor if the battery life is noticeably better. Let’s hope the reviewers out there start clamoring for the same and that the phone designers hear them.

24 Hours with iOS 7

Although I’ve been playing with the beta version of iOS 7 for a while now, it’s always good to get the final product. Beta software can be buggy (sometimes the experience is so buggy you have to wonder if beta is used as in “beta than nothing”), and there are often changes at the last minute. Overall, my experience with the beta of iOS 7 was positive—although I did not install it on my iPad since that device is far more mission-critical on a daily basis.

Having had the golden master release installed on my iPhone 4S and my 3rd generation iPad, I can share a few thoughts.

First, the design overhaul is an improvement. It’s clear, crisp, and beyond the time to say goodbye to the silly “leather pad” look to the Calendar. Oddly enough, though, there are some apps that still don’t use the new user interface, notably in the keyboard. I wouldn’t remark on this if it wasn’t for the fact that these are Apple apps. (Find My iPhone, I’m talking about you.) The Google+ app also is stuck in iOS 6 user interface mode.

Second, I haven’t noticed any significant hits against the performance of my two iDevices. There are times when the keyboard input seems a little slow to catch up, but it’s not enough to make me head back toward iOS 6. Apps launch just fine, and I’m more than satisfied with the performance.

Third, Siri is finally ready for prime time. Siri can do a lot more for users now than she used to (the “she” part will inevitably become the subject of debate as there is now an option for a male voice). The only downside is that I suspect Apple’s servers are getting hammered with Siri requests as people try out the improvements. This should get resolved soon enough.

There are plenty of opinions and reviews of iOS 7 (such as Ars Technica, and David Pogue had a great one, but hell if I can find it on the New York Times web site now) that I refer you to. TechCrunch also has a nice article with iOS 7 tricks. (Did you realize there’s a built-in level in iOS 7?)

With iOS 7 going into general release, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of bug reports (like this one) that Apple will be inclined to fix quickly. Word has it Apple is already testing iOS 7.0.1. Stay tuned!

Apple’s new iPhones: Good for attorneys?

Amid much anticipation and hype, yesterday Apple announced two new iPhones. The first is the iPhone 5c, a low-cost phone that comes in an array of five different colors. The second is the iPhone 5s, which comes in three different metallic colors and boasts the latest and greatest technology features.

Looking at the iPhone 5c, I’m not sure this will be the first choice for most attorneys. The phone itself is mostly a high-strength plastic that is colored. The front of the phone remains the same, with the high quality glass and home button. The colors are pretty bright, and they seem more appropriate for teenagers and young adults who don’t need to put on a conservative appearance. Don’t get me wrong—I think the colors are wonderful, and I think this phone will be very popular (especially with its 16 GB entry price of $99 with a two-year contract). The price puts the iPhone 5c within the reach of many younger people and those with tighter budgets. For attorneys, however, we often need to have that professional, conservative appearance. The iPhone 5c is the “fun” phone, somewhat akin to the Volkswagen Beetle whereas the iPhone 5s is the Audi A6.

With regard to the iPhone 5s, I think many attorneys will give serious consideration to this phone and perhaps upgrading as quickly as possible. The first reason is directly relevant to our duties as lawyers: security. The iPhone 5s features (for lack of a better term) a fingerprint reader that unlocks the phone. If this works as intended, this feature will mean that you—and only you—can unlock your phone. If you use your phone to communicate with clients or review client documents, this added security feature helps protect your client’s confidentiality.

As one who thinks about security a lot (thank you, Bruce Schneier, for forever changing the way I look at the world), I have to wonder about one thing: does my finger need to be attached to my body for the fingerprint reader to work? I don’t think for even a second that someone would be interested enough to chop my hand or finger off in order to get access to my phone, but the question makes for an interesting scene in a future James Bond film.

The second reason I think many attorneys will look favorably on the iPhone 5s is the new camera. The improvements in the lens, software, and flash will make it much easier for attorneys to photograph evidence for use in a case. Following along with the introduction yesterday, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the photo technology updates, which exceeded my expectations.

As I mentioned above, the iPhone 5s comes in three metallic colors: gold, silver, and something they are calling “space gray.” The gold color seems a bit, well, over the top. I don’t think this will look as professional as the silver or space gray. If Paris Hilton doesn’t go for one of the colors of the iPhone 5c, I would expect her to go for the gold iPhone 5s. Once I can see one in person, my view might change. For now, my interest is solidly in the space gray model.

People have already asked if I’ll be waiting in line to get the new iPhone 5s when it is released on Friday, September 20. Probably not, but I would like to get one in my possession before vacation in November, so you might see me one evening at my local Apple Store hoping to pick one up.

There’s one other bonus for some people: with the new iPhones, the iWork suite (Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations) will be free, along with iPhoto and iMovie. For me, this is no big deal because I have them already. But for someone switching to iOS, having these apps will be a nice little extra.

What are your thoughts about the new phones? Were you hoping for more from yesterday’s announcement, like new iPads? Any disappointments? Leave a comment and let us know.

[Updated at 10:35 a.m. EDT] iPhone J.D. has a great article about the new iPhone 5s.

Should you use the iOS 7 beta?

A reader emailed me this past week to ask if she should use one of the various resources in order to start using the iOS 7 beta. I have her my quick advice, but I thought it might be worth sharing here in a little more detail.

There are two legitimate ways to gain access to iOS 7. One—the route I took—is to become a registered developer with Apple and pay the $99 annual fee that gets you access to all developer tools, including betas of new iOS versions. Now, I didn’t pay the $99 fee just to get access to the iOS 7 beta. I’ve been a registered developer for a while now and paid the fee a while back so I could try a few things. I’ve messed around with coding for iOS for a while just as a hobby, and I’ve come to learn that I’m not going to be releasing any apps any time soon. Coding has changed a lot since I learned to program in BASIC back in the 1980s. I’m way behind the learning curve.

The other route is to sign on with a service that charges you a small fee so that your iOS device becomes a registered developer device with Apple. (Google will help you find these. I recommend finding an article at a site like Gizmodo and hope that the folks there have weeded out the scams for you.)

So, if you’ve decided that you’re willing to start off down one of these paths, should you do it? My answer is “probably not.” Here’s why.

  • When you install iOS 7 beta on your device, it’s very much like restoring the device to the original factory settings. Your apps, your music, they all get wiped out. Even when you install a new beta version, apps and music you downloaded are wiped out. Playlists? Those are gone too.
  • You will have to update the iOS 7 beta as new versions are released because Apple puts an expiration date on the beta versions. If you don’t update before the expiration date, your device becomes bricked.
  • It’s beta software. It can crash, make it necessary to reset your iPhone, and apps may not work well with it.

Unlike many people, I use my iPhone mostly as a phone. The only non-Apple app I use regularly is RunKeeper. So, when I update the beta software and RunKeeper gets wiped out, it’s not like I’m having to reinstall 40 apps that I rely on for running my life. Indeed, I have specifically not put the iOS 7 beta on my iPad for this very reason. Ditto with installing OS X Mavericks on any of my Macs. (I don’t know if the wiping takes place on the Mac side, but I am not going to even chance it.)

Now, if you are like me an use your device for a couple of purposes, then you might not be too inconvenienced by dealing with the aftermath of a new iOS 7 beta installation. Because iOS 7 will be released sometime this autumn (my money says late October or November), the wait is not too much longer.