As we’ve discussed previously in “Here’s What iOS 6 Is Doing In iPhone 5!”, Passbook is a new service from Apple by which you can carry digital copies of a boarding pass or movie tickets or coupons right in your iPhone. And, because they update themselves automatically, you can get the latest info regarding your flight’s status or new coupons being added automatically to a store account.
One problem has popped up though in Apple’s implementation of this new clever-sounding function: “How the Hell do I use this thing?!” Apple, in its ‘less than infinite but better than most’ wisdom, provides zero instructions in how it works. But iSensei isn’t going to let that take the fun out of it for you as it does seem an ultimately sensible service.
To help out, we’re going to turn again to what is fast becoming one of iSensei’s fave Apple websites, AppleGazette.com. They recently posted instructions on how to make this feature work for you (unless you run into some of the built-in problems cited in this article), plus an up-to-date (we believe) list of what third-party businesses are working with this system.
PS: This Passbook function only works with iPhone and iPod touch. iPad need not apply.
Alrighty, now. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty (and that can hurt!), assessing what made the final cut for iOS 6, which will be available on Wed, Sept 19th for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. As for which iOS devices will run what:
- iPhone 3GS and later
- iPad 2nd Generation (2011) and later
- iPod touch 4th Gen and later
As we’ve discussed previously, it would be grand if all devices, no matter how old, could run every new system update, but it’s just not practical or productive. Older hardware was the best and most powerful possible at the time of its release but as we all know, technology is a hungry beast and soon eats its young… no, wait… that’s not right. Technology constantly works to improve its capabilities and range. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called technology, right? So, moving right along (hurry up!) if you wrote the software limiting it to what the oldest device could do, we’d all be pretty unhappy, bored consumers right now. And who wants that? The Quakers? Maybe, yeah.
Let’s run down the projections from iSensei’s post from Sept 10 and see where the surprises are. I’m leaving up the old posting rather than repeat all the specifics therein, focusing now on the core functionalities and anything new gleaned from the Sept 12 presentation. Which is now available as an HD video stream on the Apple site. Go Phil Schiller!
Passbook - Like I said then, this is a pretty cool thing. It lets your iPhone and iPod touches store and act as ever-current tickets, boarding passes, loyalty programs, coupons and the like. They also provide status updates on how much you have left on your prepaid Starbucks card or if a flight has changed gates. This technology is open to other vendors to take advantage of and you can bet they will, especially given the millions and millions of devices that can run this.
One of the things iSensei alluded to in his earlier post was that Apple chose this path rather than NFC or, as it’s affectionately known, ‘Near Field Communication’. When a NFC chip is placed in a smartphone or similar device, it enables one to check out at the counter in a store, which uses specially equipped cash registers that detect the NFC-embedded thing in your hand and completes the transaction wirelessly. No messy removing the credit card from the wallet. Eww.
Not a bad idea, necessarily, BUT, it requires new equipment on the vendor’s side plus the possibility of someone standing close by (real close) capturing the signal. Not so easy to do but… Passbook, on the other hand, works with existing barcode scanners, which are everywhere. You just pass your Apple device over the scanner. Period (as far as iSensei knows). Advantages: no additional equipment purchase, setup or training required and established as very secure. Needless to say, Google’s pushing NFC with it’s Android partners. Let’s see how all this shakes out over time.
New 3D Mapping System – Now that Apple has dumped Google Maps for its own built in-house mapping and directional system, we’re going to see a much more sophisticated graphics approach. Rather than blownup bitmaps, which may or may not have a good photo to represent the locales (Google maps has a rotten shot of our house, hidden in back of a giant earth digger that was parked in front that day, 5+ years ago.) Apple’s approach is to construst all-new vector-based 3D buildings, streets, landmarks, etc for a faster, cleaner look. You can smoothly move around a scene from any angle, while it always remains fully rendered, because now you’re calling up mathematical constructions rather than large photo images over the cellular network or WiFi, which makes a big diff.
Turn-by-turn directions, a lovely guidance system, live traffic reports with suggested alternate routes and a bunch of other useful features should make this a joy to use. Particularly sweet if you have a passenger with an iPad!
Facebook integration - Yes, it will be integrated with your Contacts, Calendar, Maps location, etc. Pretty much everywhere. If you like to post to FB, you’ll be in obsessive communication heaven.
Do Not Disturb - Well, we guess so. There was no mention of it in the presentation nor on the Apple site, but iSensei is pretty sure we’ll see this little helper that’ll get the damn iPhone to leave us alone for a while.
Shared Photo Streams - The following is all true: you’ll be able to select certain pictures in your Photo Stream to share with specific friends, family, acolytes, etc. which will be viewable via iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, iPhoto or Aperture on a Mac, or on the web and of course, Apple TV. People using iOS devices or Macs running Mountain Lion can get them right on those devices. Anyone bereft of those options can simply go to a website and voila! (damn, I can’t use that more that once in a post! How about ‘Viola!’ Hmm?)
3G FaceTime - Yup, you can use either a cellular connection or WiFi to FaceTime it with your, ahem, homeys (or is it homies?). As previously reported, someone calls you from their iPhone, you can answer on your iPad or your Mac. Maybe, someday, we’ll all be comfy making video phone calls. Maybe…
Siri -Oh, yeah, you can post to FB with Siri. Lucky you! Your office mates will LOVE to listen to those one-sided exchanges. Whatever. Siri offers restaurant recommendations, dinner reservations; movie times, reviews and locales; oh and don’t forget the sports scores and game schedules! Plus, if you speak a foreign language, Siri’s likely to understand it. Or at least do a terrible imitation of its accent!
Actually, Siri’s pretty cool once you get used to using it (her?). It can decipher straightforward commands like: “tell my wife I’m running 15 minutes late”. I mean, now you have someone who doesn’t mind lying for you. Sweet!
Seriously though, the one function I believe people foolishly underuse is the ability to dictate speech. iSensei totally groks this. Rather than typing on the little iPhone faux-keyboard, he just taps a button, speaks clearly, taps the button again and voila! It’s all typed out, likely faster and better than his stubby little hands could have done. iSensei demands all his acolytes try this right now and see the joy and happiness awaiting you. Just say: “What can you do for me?” for some examples. You’ll be glad you did.
OK, what didn’t come up last time? Well, mainly tweaks to existing apps, but that’s OK too. Let’s hit them quickly.
Safari - iCloud tabs is new and nice. You open a tab or three on your iPhone, then when you go to Safari on your Mac, there they are! Big help for improved workflow and keeping up with your favorite Cat sites (yuck). If you want to post a photo or video on a particular site (eBay, whatever) you can choose from your existing iPhoto library OR capture the image right there and then, within Safari. Smooth.
Mail - VIP list (choose whose special in your life) and yadda yadda. (You can tell iSensei is running out of steam here, much like you.)
Phone - (Wait, this thing has a phone??) Nice touches introduced. When you get a call and can’t (or don’t WANT to) take it, you have more options now than just sending them straight to voice mail hell. With a single button you can reply with a canned (pre-defined) message, such as “I’ll call you back” or “I’m on my way” or even “Why the hell are you calling ME?!” (but that would be rude). You can also select the option (which is very desirable, we think) to remind one later to call that poor soul back (because we always forget and that’s awkward.)
So, in conclusion, we knew what we knew and we didn’t what we didn’t. And the world is a better place for it. Watch for upcoming reviews of life with an actual iPhone 5 (whatya think, the black? My 4S was white and that was nice but…)
Labelled “the ultimate iPhone, iPad and iPod manager”, iExplorer 3 does seems to be a very comprehensive piece of work. iSensei has long had PhoneView from Ecamm Network in his dock for its ability to look into the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as if they were a mounted hard drive, able to view and manipulate individual files directly, which you can’t do within the devices themselves nor from iTunes. This new iExplorer from Macroplant seems to take that concept even further.
As you can see from this screenshot (don’t ask iSensei who this ‘Ricardo’ is. No idea) you can view your IM messages, contacts, notes, photos & videos, apps, iCloud files, call history, voicemail messages, etc. etc. Pretty much everything that’s stored on your iOS device, including what you’ve worked on in 3rd party apps! You can drag off music to your computer and it’ll even skip any duplicates.
Nice to be able to see the specs of your device and what you’ve consumed in memory. It’s clean, nicely designed and could be an iSensei Essential. The stickler is the price: $35. That’s a bit steep, in our book. (Still, PhoneView is only $5 less and doesn’t seem to do quite as much and certainly not as purty.) And, like PV, it does support ALL iPod touches, iPhones and iPads ever created. It’s Mountain Lion-ready and Retina Display enhanced.
This is a tough one. iSensei may just have to forego his 3-martini lunch tomorrow and buy this sucker. Check it out and let us know what YOU think!