iOS 11: Should you install it? (No, not yet)

Updated April 29th, 2019.

UPDATE September 17th, 2018: iOS 12 is out, and it’s great. Forget about 11. If you are on 11, go to 12 right now. If you’re on 10, go to 12. Simple as that.

UPDATE December 2nd 2017: Apple released iOS version 11.2 today. It fixes yet another auto-correct issue (this one turns “it” into “I.T.”), and it also fixes a problem that caused iOS devices to reboot continually if the date was December 2nd, 2017 or later. Yes, it would have been nice to get this update out before December 2nd 2017 arrived. If you have ANY version of iOS 11 on your iPhone, hurry up and update to iOS 11.2.

UPDATE November 9th, 2017: Apple released version 11.1.1 to address the weird “type the letter I and get an A and a box” bug. This update does not fix the calculator bug and it does not add Person to Person Apple Pay. However, the bug that it fixes is a real annoyance, so If your iPhone or iPad is on 11.0, 11.0.1, 11.0.2, 11.0.3, or 11.1, go get the 11.1.1 update. Settings/General/Software Update. Otherwise, wait for 11.2.

Executive Summary: Some day, iOS 11 is going to be really cool but today, even after three updates, is not that day! Avoid installing iOS 11 for the time being. Critical bugs, and missing features, make iOS 11 something to stay away from for now. You’re doing fine with iOS 10– stay there until Apple releases iOS 11.1. (If you already installed iOS 11, keep applying updates as they’re released, and hope that things improve.)

The iPhone 8 runs on iOS 11, so Apple had to finish iOS 11 a little before the iPhone 8 went on sale (because they had to install it on all those iPhones before putting them into their boxes). Actually, “finish” is the wrong word– Apple didn’t “finish” iOS 11 before putting it onto the new iPhones– some features (like Person to Person Apple Pay) weren’t ready to go in time, so they were simply “walled off” and iOS 11 was shipped without them. Apple will eventually provide the missing features in incremental updates. My advice: wait to install iOS 11 until all of the features are present.

Person to Person Apple Pay: "coming this fall."
Sounds like a great feature… but it’s not in iOS 11 yet.

In addition to missing features (which Apple obviously knew about), iOS 11 shipped with bugs (some of which Apple obviously didn’t know about). For example:

Text message covered up by keyboard in iOS 11
Text message covered up by keyboard in iOS 11
  • The keyboard covers the names of apps in Spotlight searches. Still broken as of 11.0.3.
  • Spotlight results covered by keyboard in iOS 11
    Spotlight results covered by keyboard in iOS 11
  • The interface is sluggish and sometimes doesn’t work right. For example, the revamped Control Center (swipe up from the bottom) responds to taps on the “Play/Pause” button only about one in four times. (It’s ugly too.) Still broken as of 11.0.3.
  • Control Center doesn’t always work
    Control Center doesn’t always work
  • The battery drains super-fast. Still broken as of 11.0.3 (ask my sister).
  • List of apps on my iPhone that won't work in iOS 11

    Additionally, many apps will not even launch once iOS 11 is installed. Some of them might get updated but some of them won’t. You should be sure that any app you rely upon will work with iOS 11. Look at this partial list of apps on my iPhone 7 that won’t work in iOS 11:

    (You can check for incompatibilities in your iPhone’s apps while still on iOS 10 by going to Settings, then General, then About, then Applications.)

    Bugs! Missing features! Incompatibilities! That’s a lot of issues. More than I remember with other iOS versions (and I’ve used them all). To me, iOS 11 feels rushed, a little bit rough, and even though it has a whole lot of new features I don’t think those features are worth the trouble just yet. If I were you I’d wait for iOS 11.1.

    How to avoid installing iOS 11
    Lots of people find they’ve installed iOS 11 quite by accident (hi, Mom!). This happens because of a sneaky thing that Apple does when they pop up a message about the update. Here’s what the pop-up looks like:

    Don't tap "Later"!
    Don’t tap “Later”!

    Obviously, tapping “Install Now” installs it now. You probably think tapping “Later” will get you off the hook for a while… but that’s not how it works. Tapping “Later” leads to a dialog box that says “Install Tonight” and if you accidentally touch that, Apple will install iOS 11 automatically between 2 and 4 am that night, assuming your iPhone is plugged in and connected to the internet at that time. The better move is to tap “Details.” That’s safe. Avoid tapping “Later” so you don’t accidentally agree to install it by mistake.

    Free 4th of July Fireworks Apps for your iPhone and Mac

    Updated July 4th, 2019.

    It’s the 4th of July, and that means fireworks. Here are some fireworks apps for your iPhone (or iPad) and Mac. Note: in the spirit of Freedom I am only recommending apps that are free.

    A fireworks app on your iPhone will help you pass the time as you wait for the sky to get dark enough for the real show to begin. Fireworks Arcade is the iOS fireworks app that I like the best. And it’s free.

    Fireworks Arcade for iPhone icon
    Fireworks Arcade for iPhone and iPad

    Fireworks Arcade is free. You can let the app launch fireworks by itself, or you can tap the screen to set one off. Tap with two fingers to set off two. Drag a finger around and make a lot of sparks. Extra fun: just shake it (but hold on tight)! Includes “Fireworks Games” including a variation of Whack-a-Mole. Fun stuff. Get it at the App Store via this link.

    Here it is in action.

    Bonus: if your iPhone or iPad is on iOS 10 or later you can send text messages with a fireworks effect! The recipient’s device has to be an iPhone or iPad, and it has to be on iOS 10 or later too. Just write your message, then HOLD the button you normally tap to send (or press it hard– it depends on which iPhone you have). You’ll get options. Tap Screen Effects at the top, and swipe right to left until you see the Fireworks. Then tap the Send button again. Whee!

    See my article about how to send screen effects in Messages for more details.

    For the Mac I like Musical Fireworks 2, available for free at the Mac App Store.

    Musical Fireworks 2 icon
    Musical Fireworks 2

    Musical Fireworks 2 is better without the music, so set the music level to zero and enjoy the sound of the popping fireworks.

    Christian signature
    Christian Boyce

    Happy 4th of July. Let Freedom ring!

    Essential Mac Add-on Apps

    Updated July 22nd, 2019.

    Whenever I set up a Mac I always advise adding three great apps that make using a Mac easier, faster, and just plain nicer. Those apps are Moom, Paste, and Alfred, and to me, they’re essential. Try them out and I think you’ll agree.

    Moom

    Moom icon
    This is the Moom icon

    The name “Moom” comes from “Move and Zoom,” which is what this app does. This is way, way faster than dragging the edges of windows to resize them and then, in a separate step, dragging them to position. If you routinely have to shuffle windows around, Moom will save you a ton of time and trouble.

    Install Moom, launch it, and from then on those red, yellow and green dots at the top left of you Mac’s windows gain new functionality. With Moom, just hover over the green “zoom” button to reveal a menu, like this:

    Moom menu
    Moom menu, after hovering over a window’s green Zoom button

    Across the top of the Moom menu you see buttons for full screen, left half, right half, top half, and bottom half– and if you click on any of those, the window snaps to that position– moving, and zooming, nice as you please. If you want to set a custom size just click and drag on the grid to show how large you’d like the window to be, and where you’d like the top left corner. Note that Moom‘s “full screen” is different than the Mac’s built-in full screen, because Moom‘s full screen doesn’t hide the menu bar.

    So, to use Moom, you point to any window’s green button, you wait just an instant for the Moom menu to appear, and then you either click a full screen/half screen shortcut button, or you click and drag to position a window anywhere you like, at the size you specify. You can also use keyboard shortcuts if that’s your preference.

    If you’re lucky enough to have two screens, Moom can help you move windows from one screen to the other by dragging or by keyboard shortcuts. I like using the mouse with Moom most of the time, but when it comes to moving windows from one screen to another I prefer using keyboard shortcuts (like Command-Control-left arrow to send a window to the screen on the left, and to zoom it to full size). Dave, I’m talking to you!

    Get Moom on the Mac App Store.


    Paste

    Paste app's icon
    This is Paste’s icon

    Paste is one of those things you don’t know you need, but once installed you don’t know how you lived without it. In a nutshell, Paste remembers everything you copy (or cut), creating a kind of scrapbook of clippings that can be pasted later (anywhere, at any time, in any order). I use Paste all the time when scooping up URLs that I want to send in an email, and when writing blog posts, and when adding pictures to Messages, and a whole lot of other times too. Paste is lovely to look at, lovely to use, and it will speed up your work big-time.

    To use Paste, you simply copy and cut as you always have (Command-C and Command-X, or Edit/Copy and Edit/Cut). That part stays the same. Then, when you want to have a look at what you’ve copied, you press your keyboard shortcut (mine’s Control-P, for “Paste”) and up pops a window showing all the stuff you’ve copied (or cut). Newer stuff is at the left.

    If all Paste did was show you the Clipboard’s current contents it would still be worth installing. How many times have you wondered “Did I copy xyz, or not?” With Paste, you could see whether you had.

    Paste's screen, showing four copied items
    Paste’s screen, showing four items

    I “discovered” Paste only this year, but it quickly found a place on all of my Macs. I think you’ll love it. Get Paste on the Mac App Store.

    (You can read more about Paste in my longer article devoted to it.)



    Alfred

    Alfred app's icon
    This is Alfred’s icon.

    Alfred is a keyboard-loving efficiency afficianado’s best friend. With a couple of keystrokes you can:

    1. Open an application
    2. Look up a contact
    3. Find a file
    4. Search the web
    5. Do a little math

    And much, much more. It saves gobs of mousing-around time and it’s another one of those “how did I live without this?” items.

    Alfred‘s preferences let you assign a keyboard shortcut for popping up the Alfred window. I use Control-Spacebar because it’s similar to Spotlight’s Command-Spacebar. When you press the shortcut, up pops the Alfred window:

    Alfred's search window
    Alfred’s search window

    Type a little and a list of items matching what you’ve typed shows up. Not seeing what you want? Type a little more. Launch the item by clicking on it, or (faster) press the keys shown to the right of the item. For example:

    Alfred, after I've typed a single letter ("r")
    Alfred, after I’ve typed a single letter (“r”)

    I’m looking to launch Reminders, not Remote Desktop, and I could open Reminders by pressing Command-3. But, if I just type a little more, I can hit Return to open Reminders, and that’s a little easier (for me).

    Alfred, after typing in "remi"
    Alfred, after typing in “remi”

    Here’s another example. Let’s say I want to see the contact card for my friend Tom Sumner. I bring up
    Alfred‘s window and I type in “tom.” Here’s what I get:

    Alfred, after typing in "tom"
    Alfred, after typing in “tom”

    You don’t even see Tom Sumner (because he’s not in the top ten, according to Alfred). But, if I type a little more (“tom s”) I see it, and if I then hit Return, up pops Tom Sumner’s contact card.

    Alfred, after I typed "tom s"
    Alfred, after I typed “tom s”

    Here’s the really cool thing: Alfred learns! From now on, when I type “tom” in Alfred’s box, Alfred shows Tom Sumner at the top of the list (until I choose some other Tom in the list).

    Alfred remembers your preferences
    Alfred remembers your preferences

    This “learning” is what makes Alfred so powerful. The more you use it, the more it knows about you and your preferences. (After typing in “remi” and hitting Return, Alfred learned that I sometimes use Reminders, so the next time I even type in an “r” it shows me Reminders at the top of the list.)

    You can get Alfred for free from the developer. (The version on the Mac App Store is no longer current, so don’t get that one.) You can also buy the “Power Pack” and gain super-powers– that’s what I did, so now I can pop up Alfred‘s window and then type “blog” and have it open a new Safari window and go straight to the administration page for my website, and a lot of other cool stuff too.

    Know when it will rain, down to the minute

    Updated April 13th, 2020.

    UPDATE March 2020: Apple likes Dark Sky so much, they bought them.

    Weather reports are so vague: “50% chance of rain.” “Scattered showers.” I don’t know about you, but for me, that kind of “information” isn’t very informative. I care about the weather because I want to know whether it’s going to rain after I wash my car, or whether I have time to mow the lawn before it rains, or whether that football game I’m thinking of attending is going to be played in the rain or not. It’s a lot to ask, but someone’s delivered, and no it is NOT “Doppler Radar 3000” or whatever they’re pushing on TV these days. Instead, it’s an iPhone and iPad app called Dark Sky Weather.

    Dark Sky Weather is a beautiful app, and I’ve had it on my iPhone for years. You should get it too– there’s nothing else as good when it comes to predicting rain. (Temperature predictions are good too, but it’s precipitation predictions where Dark Sky Weather really stands out.)

    “Beautiful” is nice, but a beautiful weather app isn’t worth much if its data isn’t spot-on. The Dark Sky Weather app uses its own data sources, and I don’t really know how they do it, but it is really great. (There’s a darksky.net website, powered by the same data, and it’s very handy for when you want a bigger picture and you have a computer nearby.) With this data, the Dark Sky Weather app and website provide hyper-local forecasts for you, letting you know precisely whether it’s going to rain or not in any particular location (and even more precisely for the next hour).


    Santa Monica weather (via DarkSky.net)


    I use Dark Sky Weather all the time, most recently today when the morning started out rainy. I wondered how long the rain would continue. The Dark Sky Weather app told me what I needed to know: the rain would stop in 45 minutes.

    Dark Sky Weather app launch screen
    Rain stopping in 45 minutes

    The Dark Sky Weather app is fun to explore. Drag up and see the day’s weather at a glance– hour by hour. Swipe from right to left and see the week’s weather at a glance. Tap a day and see that’s day’s weather. (Based on these pictures, I can see that it’s going to be a cloudy weekend, with just a little drizzle Sunday morning.)

    Dark Sky Weather forecast for the week
    Dark Sky Weather forecast for the week
    Dark Sky Weather forecast: Drizzle from 9 AM to noon
    Drizzle from 9 AM to noon

    More fun stuff: swipe from left to right to see a globe showing current precipitation. Rotate the globe with your finger, zoom with the two-finger stretch, tap the Play button to see the weather changing over time. In a way, I wish I lived where it rained more so I could play around with Dark Sky Weather more.

    Dark Sky Weather globe, showing rain off the California coast
    Dark Sky Weather globe, showing rain off the California coast
    Heavy rain along the northern California coast
    Heavy rain along the northern California coast

    Dark Sky Weather licenses its data and other apps do use it, so in that sense other apps are able to predict the weather just as well as Dark Sky Weather. But Dark Sky Weather does it the best– the app is clean, pretty, and fun, while providing excellent information. I’ve tried a lot of weather apps, and Dark Sky Weather’s the best. As of this writing, Dark Sky Weather is $3.99. Get it at the App Store.

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