Archive for the Products Category

Review: Herschel Strand Duffle

Posted in Products with tags on October 6, 2015 by itnerd

My wife inherited my mid-2012 MacBook Pro and because this was her first portable computer, she needed a bag. So I took her to the iStore and after browsing around for a bit, My wife settled on the Herschel Strand Duffle bag. Here’s a look at the bag:


It looks like a traditional duffle bag that’s made of canvas. That’s great because it doesn’t look like a laptop bag.


Inside there’s a fair amount of storage for stuff as well as pockets for cables as displayed here. The lining is very nice as well.


There’s also a slot for a laptop up to 15″ in size. it’s padded on three sides. The back side near the outside of the bag isn’t as padded as the other sides.

So, how did my wife find it? Her comments include:

  • Her work laptop is a Lenovo T440s which fits fine. But her mid-2012 MacBook Pro 15″ inch fits snugly.
  • She can pop her gym clothes, umbrella, lunch and the like with room to spare.
  • She wished the handles were longer because it makes it easier to sling over her shoulder.
  • The inner pockets are really meant for cables and the like and not for “stuff.”
  • She likes the “stealth” factor of the bag as it doesn’t look like a laptop bag and it appeals to her inner “girly girl.”
  • It is well constructed and will stand up to daily usage.
  • Speaking of daily usage, she can use this bag even when she is not carrying a laptop.

She really had nothing negative to say about it. In terms of price, she got it for $79.99 CDN. If you want a laptop bag that doesn’t look like a laptop bag, give the Herschel Strand Duffle bag a look.

Review: Apple OS X El Capitan – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on October 6, 2015 by itnerd

The final part of this review will cover the new user interface and user experience changes in El Capitan and my overall thoughts on Apple’s latest OS. Here’s what is new in El Capitan:

  • Split View: This feature makes full-screen mode twice as useful by letting you split your screen between two apps. This might not be useful if you have a MacBook. but if you have a large screen, this will be very useful.
  • Mission Control is way more useful than before.
  • If you lose the cursor you can shake your mouse or rub your finger quickly on the trackpad and the cursor will get very large so you can see it.
  • Spotlight can do a lot more of the things Siri can do on your iPhone. It can find info on stocks, scores, news and a lot more.
  • Mail on OS X is now just like Mail on your iDevice. It can allow you to add contact details or event times found in the body of messages to the address book or calendar app. You can also swipe to delete or mark messages as read as well. I can also make messages full screen as well as tabbing replies just like it was a web browser.
  • Maps now has transit directions that are sharable with iOS devices and the Apple Watch. But just like iOS 9, what you get or don’t get will depend on where you live as transit directions aren’t yet available everywhere. But like iOS 9, if you get them, you will love it.
  • You can hide the menu bar if it annoys you. It doesn’t annoy me, but I know people who find the menu bar annoying.
  • In Safari, you can pin your favorite tabs so that you can cut clutter, yet have access to them when required. Plus you can mute tabs that are autoplaying sounds or videos that you can’t stop easily.

So, that doesn’t sound like a huge list of features. It isn’t. Remember that this version of OS X is about under the hood improvements rather than new features. So far it all seems to work. Though one other issue that has cropped up is that Office 2016 has major stability issues on El Capitan and complaints are piling up on the Microsoft forums about this. Microsoft and Apple are working on a fix, but that casts a bit of a negative shadow on El Capitan. So do the issues that I raised in part two this review.

So, should you upgrade? The price is right, performance is a tad better, and the update has no show stopper bugs (at least for me), thus I would say yes. Just make sure that you follow my advice on upgrading and you should be fine.

Review: Apple OS X El Capitan – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on October 2, 2015 by itnerd

In part one we looked at the installation process for El Capitan which was pretty straightforward for the most part. Now in this part of my review, I’m going to look at the under the hood changes to this latest iteration of OS X.

Apple has apparently gone all in with their Metal application programming interface or API that they first brought to you in iOS 8. What is Metal? It’s a core-level graphics technology that allows developers nearly untethered access to system graphics processing unit or GPU hardware for highly efficient processing of visual images. Now the more technical people will say “Wait, doesn’t Apple have that already in the the form of the OpenGL API that is cross platform?” Well, yes it’s still there. But because it doesn’t have direct access to the hardware like Metal does, it’s not even close in terms of performance. Clearly Apple is angling to do two things. First is you can write your apps for iOS and with minimal work port them over to OS X (or vice versa). But second, though they have not said this, they’re likely pitching this as a replacement for OpenGL. We’ll see what happens with that as I am not convinced that it’s going to happen. Be that as it may, Apple went a step further. Core Animation and Core Graphics which are two other Apple graphic related APIs which have been around forever are now based on Metal.

What does that mean to you? Faster graphics and the like for your apps. I can say that switching between one app or another feels a touch smoother. Messages in the Mail client load up a touch faster. The differences are not dramatic, but they are there. But they do make me question the claims of 50 percent faster graphics rendering and 40 percent efficiency improvements. Though I will say that if the Adobe and like jump onto the Metal bandwagon, you should notice a significant performance increase in your day to day tasks. Even if they don’t, you should see some sort of speed boost, though not as dramatic.

What’s the catch? You need at least a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air from mid-2012, a late-2012 iMac, a late-2012 Mac mini or a late-2013 Mac Pro (or newer) to make all of this work. So if you don’t have anything on this list or newer, sorry, you’re out of luck.

Some other technical notes:

  • Boot Camp now natively supports Windows 10
  • The battery improvements from OS X Yosemite are also here in El Capitan, so you should expect the same battery life as before.
  • One of the new features in El Capitan is System Integrity Protection (SIP) which is also known as rootless mode. The purpose of SIP is that it will prevent the modification or removal of certain system files among other changes (like changing permissions for example) by locking more of the core system down. The catch is that apps may need tweaking to work with SIP. Thus you may find that some of your apps stop working after the upgrade unless you’ve taken the time to verify compatibility beforehand. You can turn this feature off, but take it from me. Don’t do it. Leave it on as a means to protect yourself.

In terms of showstopper bugs, I’m only aware of two common ones. There are some who can’t connect to Synology network storage after the El Capitan upgrade, and lost mail accounts after the upgrade. I’m not hearing about problems using WiFi or problems with Bluetooth or anything that plagued OS X Yosemite when it was released. Neither of which of which I tripped over with either Mac that I updated. So I’m thinking that Apple did a much better job getting El Capitan out the door.

As for other observations, both Macs do seem to be faster than before. It is noticeable, but not dramatic. Seeing as this is a free upgrade, I’ll take that.

I’ll wrap things up in part three of this review with the user interface and user experience changes in El Capitan and my overall thoughts on Apple’s latest OS.

Review: Apple OS X El Capitan – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on October 1, 2015 by itnerd

Yesterday, Apple released the eleventh version of OS X to the world. Dubbed OS X El Capitan, it is focused on under the hood improvements for the most part while only bringing a handful of new features to the table. That’s good, because last year’s effort which was dubbed OS X Yosemite was a bit of a disaster for Apple as many users had issues with core functionality including WiFi and Bluetooth.

Installing Apple’s latest OS is really simple. Assuming that you prepared for the upgrade beforehand, all you need to do is go to the App Store and download a free installer that’s just over 6GB in size. One note, if you’re running an older version of OS X you don’t need to do interim upgrades. You can go straight to El Capitan from Snow Leopard or later. Once you do that you run it and it after a handful of clicks, you should go find something to do for the next 30 to 60 minutes depending on how fast your computer is. It really doesn’t require user intervention for the most part. But that appears to depend on your hardware or how the system that you’re upgrading from is set up. I say that because I installed it on my brand new MacBook Pro With Retina Display and it just sailed through with no user intervention required. I then installed it on my wife’s MacBook Pro which is a mid 2012 model without a retina display and that required my wife to go through the setup wizard for iCloud again. I have no explanation as to why there was a difference. But in either case, the install is painless and you’ll have El Capitan installed before you know it.

Now one thing that I should note is that some users will run Apple’s Disk Utility after the install to make sure that everything is fine. I have to admit that I have done that for years. Those who do this will notice that they no longer have the ability to do a permissions repair. That may freak you out, but it shouldn’t. One of the new features in El Capitan is System Integrity Protection (SIP) which is also known as rootless mode. The purpose of SIP is that it will prevent the modification or removal of certain system files among other changes (like changing permissions for example) by locking more of the core system down. This is good because it adds another hurdle to any malware that wants to do bad things to your Mac. It also makes permission repairs irrelevant.

So, with the install out of the way, The next thing to do is to focus on the technical changes in OS X. That will be in part two of this review which will be posted tomorrow.

A Follow Up On My Review Of The 2016 Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Limited AWD [UPDATED]

Posted in Products with tags on September 30, 2015 by itnerd

After my review of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD, my wife and I were so impressed by it that we bought one. When someone who reviews products buys something that they review, that’s a pretty powerful statement about how the reviewer feels about the product.

Here’e a look at our new Tucon:


We got ours in black and it really looks good. It kind of looks intimidating from the front.


Here’s the side view which looks really striking. I’d like to focus on the wheels for a second.


The design of the 19″ alloy wheels is pretty striking. They also fill out the wheel wells really well.


In my original review, I didn’t highlight the fact that you get turn signals in the body colored mirrors. That gives the Tucson an upscale look.


The rear of the Tucson really looks bold if I may say so.

Now there were some things that I became aware of after purchasing the vehicle. For starters, the Tucson supports Siri Eyes Free which allows you to make phone calls, send texts, check weather, make appointments in your calendar, post updates to Twitter and more via your voice without ever taking your eyes off the road. All you need to do is press and hold the voice command button on the steering wheel. This wasn’t mentioned on Hyundai Canada’s website which I find strange as I think you’d want to promote this feature as it would be a feature that would get some attention from potential buyers.

One thing that I wish was present was the ability to import saved addresses into the navigation system. I couldn’t find a way to do it, so I was forced to retype the addresses from my Garmin 2595LMT into the Tucson’s navigation system. It wasn’t the biggest deal in the world and it took an hour. But in import feature, and an export feature for that matter to allow you to back up your data, would be preferable. Now to be fair, Hyundai isn’t the only car company in this boat. But car companies may want to take this under consideration so that users of their cars can treat them like the rolling computers that they are.

Finally, the glove compartment is a bit small. I can have the owners manuals (which are really thick by the way) along with a couple of pairs of gloves in it and not much else. Fortunately, the center console is deep and it allows me to keep stuff in there.

Here are some other things that caught my attention:


For the front passenger, there’s this area to store something like a map or a magazine. Very clever.


The interior is very upscale and easily rivals the interiors of luxury nameplates. For example there’s this stitching on the dash that is very well done. Most of the materials are soft to the touch as well which adds to the upscale feel.


In the cargo area is a 12V outlet which can come in handy for camping or tailgating.


There are cargo hooks all over the cargo area to allow you to strap down your cargo.


Speaking of hooks, there’s this handy flip down hook in the cargo area that allows you to hang a shopping bag from it so that it doesn’t slide around the cargo area.

IMG_1666I highlighted this feature before, but I want to show it to you. You can drop the floor down to give you additional depth in the cargo area. The only downside is that you no longer have a completely flat load area for long cargo.


Behind the driver and near the grab handle is this hook to hang your jacket on. Or, the other use case that I can think of is that this is where you would hang your clothes when you pick them up from the cleaners.


Behind the driver and passenger seats on the “B” pillar are hooks like the one in this picture. I was able to hang a jacket here and I can see how this might come in handy.

In terms of driving the Tucson, the impressions that I had in the original review are still the same which is that I never was left wanting for power and even though this is a turbocharged engine, there’s no turbo lag that I could find. Speaking of power, something else I really like is the fact that you only need 87 octane gas to power the Tucson. That combined with single digit fuel economy (8.7 l/100KM as I type this) means that it will be good on my wallet. In general, the driving experience feels solid…. Almost Germanic. Visibility is good all around. Though the mirrors are slightly smaller than I am used to. As a result, it took me a while to find a position to set the mirrors so that I could see what’s around me comfortably. Fortunately the blind spot monitoring system helps with this by warning you of what’s in your blind spot. Speaking of blind spots, my wife said that she had a bit of a bind spot over her shoulder. But I didn’t find that myself. Thus I think that this might be one of those “your mileage may vary” things. Getting in and out is easy as we didn’t have to step up into the Tucson. Handling is very good and it has a tight turning radius and it is much more nimble than the size of the vehicle would suggest. Finding the ideal driving position does take some work, but you’ll be very comfortable once you’ve found a position that works for you. Passengers will be really comfortable as well as there’s a lot of head and leg room available in the front and the back of the Tucson. The fact that the rear seats recline is a bonus for passengers in the rear. Another item in the plus column is the audio system. With 8 speakers scattered throughout the Tucson, you get impressive sound that will make you want to play all your music inside the Tucson instead of your home. Finally, road and wind noise is minimal…. If you hear it at all. That’s a trait that you normally associate with BMW and Mercedes rather than Hyundai which illustrates how far they’ve come as a car company.

Gripes? Memory settings for the drivers seat would have been welcome. And I did mention the size of the glove box earlier. But the big item on the list are non-working “welcome lights” which is Hyundai speak for lights in the door handles that activate when you walk up to the Tucson with the key fob in your hand. Apparently Hyundai made a “boo boo” and didn’t turn this feature on for people who were supposed to get it. Such as yours truly for example. There’s a very lengthy discussion about this topic on a third party forum called the Hyundai Forms and apparently Hyundai is working on a fix. If Hyundai were smart, they should get this fix out to owners quickly…. As in right now.

The Hyundai Tucson is getting attention wherever it goes. I’ve personally been stopped a few times to answer questions about it since we’ve got it. So it will clearly attract enough attention for Hyundai to get people into showrooms. What may turn them off is the price. When we got it, the price for the 1.6 Limited AWD trim level was $36,649 CDN. But I hear rumors that prices might be going up as of October 1st. You can likely blame the weak Canadian dollar for that. Still, you get a lot for your money. Thus I believe buyers will be able to get past the sticker shock and Hyundai still has a winner in the form of the Tucson and other car companies in the “cute-ute” space will have to up their game as a result.

Just fix my welcome lights sooner rather than later Hyundai.

UPDATE: I spoke to Hyundai Canada Customer Relations. They have confirmed that the non-functional “welcome lights” is a known issue and they are working on a fix. I got a case number regarding this (Hint: Always get a case number when you deal with any customer service department) and they promised to reach out to me when a fix was available.

Review: 2016 Hyundai Tucson 1.6L Limited AWD [UPDATED x2]

Posted in Products with tags on September 19, 2015 by itnerd

The compact SUV market is competitive one. If you want to be a player, you have to bring a competitive product to market or dealers will have inventory on their lots that they can’t sell. In the case of Hyundai, they’ve got something that I guarantee won’t stay on dealer lots for long in the form of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. I got the 1.6L Limited AWD trim level to drive around for a day thanks to Hyundai Of Oakville, and I have to say that I walked away impressed.

Let me start with the outside. One thing that I should note is that my review unit was just pulled off the truck, so it still had a lot of the stickers and the like from being transported to the dealership:


From the front, it looks really sharp and modern. I have to admit that that this look really works for this vehicle. Consider me a fan of what Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture 2.0. You get HID Headlights with Dynamic Bending Light which is Hyundai speak for the headlights ability to bend around corners. The foglights have LEDs in them that act as the daytime running lights.


From the side it looks muscular. It sort of reminds me of the Hyundai Genesis that I drove last year.


The rear continues the muscular look and the chrome tailpipe is really cool looking.


Plus the tail lights look really cool.

Exterior wise, everything was put together well and the build quality is excellent. There’s nothing to complain about here. It’s easy to see why they placed fourth in the JD Power 2015 US Initial Quality Study.


This particular Tucson is powered by a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that puts out 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission that pushes the power to all four wheels via an AWD system. If you prefer, you can lock the torque-split yourself for a continuous 50/50 power split between the front and rear axles as long as you stay below 30 km/h. If this is too much power for you, there’s a 2.0L engine that is good for 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 6-speed automatic. But take it from me, you want the 1.6L as I never found myself wanting for power when merging onto highways or trying to pass a car on the highway. The dual clutch transmission shifted without drama and it always felt like it was in the right gear. You can shift it yourself if you want to, but you shouldn’t bother as it does well all by itself. One thing that I’d like to point out is the lack of paddle shifters. Without them you have to shift with the gear shift. You also get the ability to switch between three driving modes. Normal mode isn’t exciting, but it’s a good balance between fuel economy and power. Then there’s Eco which absolutely dulls the driving experience to save you gas. The real fun can be found in Sport mode which sharpens the throttle response along with the steering and makes the dual clutch transmission shift more aggressively. To add to the fun while you’re in any driving mode is the fact that the AWD system uses torque vectoring to allow torque to be redistributed along the rear axle to the wheel that has best traction, and will brake the inside rear wheel to mitigate understeer. Potholes and road imperfections were soaked up with a minimum of fuss or suspension noise. You’d have to go over something really severe to really send shockwaves up your backside. It feels solid, and it it is largely quiet. Only a minimal amount of road noise makes its way into the cabin and wind noise really only appears at highway speeds. Even then, it’s minimal. Handling is good as I found it to be easy to maneuver and there’s more than enough road feel for me to know what the Tucson was doing underneath me. Though I will note that if you take an on-ramp too fast, you’ll be reminded that this is a compact SUV in a hurry.

Let’s move to the interior:


The window and side mirror controls are on the armrest. By the way the metallic door handle and lock is a really classy touch.


The driver and passenger seats are made of leather and are heated. The driver’s seat is 8-way power driver seat with 2-way power lumbar adjustment. The drivers seat was very comfortable. Though if I could make a minor observation, it could use a bit more bolstering on the sides.


There are controls to the left of the steering wheel for lighting and the electronic overseers. It also has the button that allows you to open the rear hatch.


The steering wheel is a very good size and is heated and leather wrapped. It also has controls for your phone, audio, and cruise control.


I’m zooming in on this part of the steering wheel to highlight a small but significant detail. The volume control can be pushed to mute audio. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you get into a car and you can’t figure out how to mute the radio in any other way than to crank the volume down.

IMG_1616 (1)

The gauges are clear and easy to read. They are also highly customizable as you can set up the center portion of the gauge cluster to display the info that you want.

IMG_1619There’s a 8″ touchscreen with a suite of buttons that allow you quick access to the infotainment systems functions. That’s something that I really appreciate. You also get the HVAC controls below the touchscreen which gives you dual zone climate control.


Here’s the shift lever which is leather wrapped. To the right you get two cupholders. There’s also a coin holder below the shift lever and above the cup holder. You’ll also note that above the shift lever is a cubby that has a USB port and an AUX in port.


Here’s a look at the cubby that is big enough to hold an iPhone 6 Plus. You also get a pair of 12V jacks along with the AUX in and USB ports.


As you can see, the cupholders will hold a Starbucks Venti sized drink.


Behind the shifter are the controls for Drive Mode, locking the AWD system, turning off the Rear Park Assist System, and setting the Downhill Brake Control.


There’s a deep storage area in the center console.


A lit glove box is really handy to have.


There’s bottle holders in the doors. My wife really like that as she considers that to be a key requirement for any car that she owns.


There’s a massive sunroof that reminds me of the one found in the Genesis.


The rear seats are made of leather. They recline and are heated. Plus you can flip down the center section to reveal an armrest with cupholders. The seats also fold down in a 60/40 manner. I should note that there is plenty of headroom and legroom back here and nobody will complain about being in the back.


There’s a HVAC vent for rear seat passengers.


Rear cargo area is plentiful. You will have no issue getting your cargo into the Tucson. The hatch is powered and it has a handy feature. Simply stand behind it with the key fob on your person and it will open. That’s a feature that’s straight off the Genesis that you’ll really like. Theres a false-floor that opens up an additional 5.1 cm of depth if you need it. Under that false floor resides a spare tire.

All the materials inside the Tucson are top notch and are put together well. There’s soft touch material all over and I found nothing to complain about interior wise.

When it comes to the safety tech, you get the following:

  • Front Airbags, Front Seat-Mounted Side Airbags and Roof Mounted Side Curtain with Rollover Sensor
  • Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist
  • Downhill Brake Control and Hill Start Control
  • Vehicle Stability Management with and Traction Control
  • Blind Spot Detection system with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist
  • Rear Park Assist System with backup camera (which is exposed to the elements)

This a very extensive suite of safety tech that will make sure that your new Tucson stays shiny side up as well as keep you safe. If that’s not enough, there’s three additional options that are part of the Ultimate trim level that are worth mentioning:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (the Tucson will stop itself if you don’t react quickly enough to a dangerous situation)
  • Forward Collision Warning (It will warn you if you don’t react quickly enough to a dangerous situation)
  • Lane Departure Warning System

Now over to the infotainment system. Hyundai has a winner here with an 8″ touch screen with redundant controls and a logical layout that makes the operation of this system via tap and swipe gestures a breeze. I should also mention that pairing my phone took a minute and plugging my iPhone 6 which is running iOS 9 into the system via USB allowed me to browse playlists and see album art. Let me highlight the fact that the system worked with an mobile OS from Apple that was out for precisely one day when I tested the Tucson. Impressive! Navigation is excellent. Verbal directions are clear and it has lane guidance (it tells you what lane or lanes that you need to be in) and even replicates road signs including speed limits and highway signs. It’s also easy to enter addresses into the system. You can get traffic alerts as well via a subscription package with Sirius XM if you want to make the system even smarter. So, what’s the only negative….. If you want to call it that? While you’re driving, the system limits what you can do to keep you focused on the road. If you want to do anything interesting, you’ll be forced to use the voice guidance (which works well, but can be slow when recognizing words) or pull over. I completely understand why Hyundai did that, and given the fact that distracted driving laws are becoming more strict in most places it’s likely a good thing. But I am certain that it will annoy someone out there.

The sound system inside the Tucson is top notch. Besides having the usual AM/FM radio, Sirrus XM and access to the music on your phone and the like, it comes with 8 speakers which make all that music sound amazing. Music was crisp and well defined and bass was notably impressive. I should also note that regardless of where you were sitting, this was the case.

Fuel economy is the last point on my list to look at. The specs say that I should get 9.9L/100km in the city, 8.4L/100 km on the highway, and 9.2L/100 km combined. I got 8.8L/100 km in mixed city and highway driving. That’s pretty good!

So, what does the 2016 Hyundai Tucson 1.6L Limited go for? List price is $36,649 CDN. But the Tucson starts at $24,399 CDN with the 2.0L engine and front wheel drive. There’s also a trim level above the Limited which is called the Ultimate which goes for $39,599 CDN. Whatever configuration you choose, Hyundai has a compact SUV which will scare the completion to death. In every way that I could look at this vehicle from, it is a quality vehicle that’s also a good value. The competition will take one look a the Tucson and realize that they need to up their game if they want to avoid having their products sit on their dealer’s lots.

UPDATE: For some reason, an earlier revision of this story was posted which had some content missing. The proper version is now online.

UPDATE #2: I’ve posted a follow up to this review with additional pictures and details.

Review: Apple iOS 9

Posted in Products with tags on September 17, 2015 by itnerd

If you have an iDevice, you’re likely wondering if you should upgrade to iOS 9 which was released yesterday. You may also be wanting to hold off because iOS 8 was so buggy. Well, based on my early look at at iOS 9, it is worth upgrading to because of the following reasons:

  • Battery Life: Apple claims that you can get more battery life out of iOS 9. So far that seems to be the case. My iPhone 6 seems to be sucking less power than it did under iOS 8. And if I get the battery down to 20 percent or less, Low Power Mode offers to start up. It will stretch your battery life while you still get to use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location services, and all the other stuff found in iOS.
  • In almost every aspect, your iDevice will feel more responsive when you use Apple’s built in apps. Almost like it had a new processor popped in. You can thank a number of under the hood changes for that which when developers start using those changes, you’ll feel those benefits in their apps as well.
  • It will work on pretty much any iDevice going back to the iPhone 4S. Though I’d love to know from anyone with a 4S how well it runs.
  • Sirl has improved dramatically. For starters, the “Hey Siri” function can now be tied to your voice via a wizard that has you say a few phrases so that it (she?) knows what your voice sounds like. Once you do that, you can use Siri in ways that you weren’t able to previously. Example, Siri now understands context. As in you can have a reminder open and you can ask Siri to remind you about “this” with “this” being the reminder and it (she?) will understand the context. You can also ask Siri to do things like “show you photos taken yesterday” or “call mom when I get in the car” as it (she?) understands location and time better than before. Finally, Siri looks at what you do and tries to be more predictive. For example, if you have a appointment in your appointment book that has an address on it, Siri will assess the traffic conditions and give you suggestions proactively on when you should leave to arrive on time as well as a route to take.
  • Another Siri tweak can be found if you swipe left. That gesture brings up a new Spotlight search interface that includes “Siri Suggestions.” Siri Suggestions includes a list of people you speak with often, apps you might want to use depending on the time of day, nearby venues like restaurants and gas stations, and relevant news.
  • Just moving around the user interface is way better, and I’d like to highlight one particular tweak that Apple made. When you are taken out of one app to another, for example clicking on a Web link from a text message, a small strip of “Back to…” text appears in top left corner. Tap it and you’re in the previous app. That is a huge timesaver.
  • Apple Maps has taken another step forward in being useful by including transit directions that are accurate. I can leverage that because I live in Toronto where this feature is supported, but you may have to wait for a bit until Apple gets around to your corner of the universe. The rest of the mapping experience has improved as well, and I can say that this is the first release of iOS that has prompted me to dump Google Maps as Apple Maps no longer sucks is finally usable.
  • Apple also overhauled the Notes app making it a lot more robust. You can insert photos, draw with your finger, add maps, create lists and it supports rich-text features.

Now is this perfect? Not quite:

  • One thing that Apple made a big deal of when iOS 9 was announced is that it would take less space when installing or updating and you would have more space on your iDevice afterwards thanks to “app thinning” which only downloads the bits of the app that your iDevice needs. That’s of interest to me as I have a 16GB iPhone 6 because I am cheap. Now the over the air update that I did was just over a 1.3GB in size so it was smaller than previous iOS updates. But I did not have any more space free than I did under iOS 8 when I was done installing iOS 9. Strange.
  • Apple did revamp the multitasking menu in iOS 9 to look like a stack of fanned cards. It’s prettier, but since it now fans to the left of the homescreen rather than to the right, my wife found the change of direction frustratingly hard to get used to. This is something that I am hearing about from others who have made the jump to iOS 9 as well.
  • Apple has taken a page from Yelp with a new feature called Nearby, which shows you shops, restaurants, places to drink, and other types of businesses around you or near the destination you enter in the Maps search bar. But it doesn’t highlight local spots and is more likely to highlight chain stores such as Starbucks. Perhaps that will improve over time?
  • Bluetooth in my car still seems to be flaky. But it’s early days on that front.

Having said all of that, if you feel the least bit nervous about making the jump to iOS 9, you shouldn’t. This release seems to make major improvements and hasn’t seemed (at least so far) to have made any major mistakes. That’s a win for Apple given how bad iOS 8 was last year. I say dive in and pop it onto your iDevice as I think you’ll like what you get at the end of the update.


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