Archive for September 23, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

iPhones 6s Reviews

John Gruber:

For a typical iPhone user on a two-year upgrade cycle, I think the S years are the better phones, historically.


In terms of single-core performance, there isn’t a single Android phone that beats the two-year-old iPhone 5S. Android devices fare better in multi-core benchmarks, because they have more cores (some have eight, many have four — the iPhones 6S still have only two cores), but single-core performance is a better measure for the sort of things you can feel while using a device. Apple is literally years ahead of the industry.


The new iPhone 6S beats the new MacBook in single-core performance on Geekbench, and is within spitting distance in multi-core. That’s astounding.


Press on the keyboard and it turns into a trackpad. iPads running iOS 9 can trigger this trackpad mode, too, with a two-finger swipe on the keyboard. Doing it with a single finger on the iPhone, though, is a tremendous boon to text editing. This might be the single best new feature for text editing on the iPhone since the addition of selection and Copy/Paste in iOS 3 in 2009. In addition to moving the insertion point around, you can press again and switch to selection mode — like double-clicking the mouse button on a Mac. Trackpad mode is a once-you’ve-used-it-you-can’t-go-back addition to iOS.


The new taptic engine in the 6S feels as good or better than the old iPhone 4S vibrator. It’s just stronger and more pleasing.


Technically, the way it seems to work is that the iPhone creates two files: a 12 MP JPEG (exactly the same as when you shoot a still image with Live Photo disabled), and a three-second-long MOV file. When looked at through Image Capture on a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, you see both files in the iPhone camera roll: “IMG_1234.JPG” and “IMG_1234.MOV”. Both files have same numeric index after the “IMG_” prefix, and both files have the same creation date. The MOV file is 1440 × 1080 pixels, at 12.77 frames-per-second.


I understand the physics and optics involved, but it bothers me every single day that I can feel that nubbin. The best argument for forgiving the camera bump is that a vast majority of iPhone owners use a case of some sort, and with a case, the camera bump is a non-issue. But for those of us who don’t use cases, and who appreciate Apple’s general attention to every little detail, it’s a very minor but daily irritation.


The biggest thing keeping me from using this case for real, going forward, is that the raised edge along the side of the display gets in the way of performing edge-based gestures, primarily swiping to go back, and the new press-and-swipe to switch between apps with 3D Touch.

David Pogue:

There’s a new processor in the iPhone 6s family; Apple says it’s “up to 70 percent” faster. If you operate an iPhone 6 side-by-side with an iPhone 6s, the difference hits you between the eyes. Opening apps, switching apps, processing things—it all happens faster on the 6s. (You can see this side-by-side comparison in my video, above.)

The fingerprint reader is twice as fast now, too. If you’ve set up your phone to require unlocking every time you use it, you may come to cherish this feature most of all. When you press the Home button, the screen lights up so fast, you wonder if any authentication process took place at all. (It did.)

Apple also says that it has tuned both its Wi-Fi and its cellular (LTE) antennas to make them faster. This, too, is screamingly obvious when you call up Web sites side-by-side on the old and new phones. Who doesn’t like faster Internet?


At the outset, you’ll probably get tripped up when you try to rearrange icons on your Home screens. To do that, you may recall, you’re supposed to long-press an icon; for most people, that’s too similar to hard-pressing one. At first, you’ll keep getting the shortcut menu when you meant to enter icon-rearranging mode.


Ordinarily, you switch apps by double-pressing your Home button. But 3D Touch also offers a second way: Swipe in from the left edge of the screen while pressing hard.

At that point, you actually have three features at your disposal[…]


I’ve been taking lots of pictures in lots of lighting situations with the iPhone 6 and 6s side-by-side, and I can’t tell any difference. Can you?


This whole 3-second video business isn’t new. HTC’s version, back in 2013, was called Zoe; Nokia’s, last year, was called Living Images. Pocket cameras like the Nikon One have a dedicated button just for capturing them.

Matthew Panzarino:

Pressing lightly to ‘peek’ and pushing hard to ‘pop’ it into existence provides an escape hatch that eases your mind, and a new iOS 9 affordance injects a ‘back’ button at the top-left corner of any screen you jump to. iOS 9’s new task manager, accessed by a firm press on the edge of the screen (or the standard double-tap of the home button) is also arranged in a much more contextually rich card format — a timeline of your jumping around through apps.


As a tip, there is a setting inside Settings>General>Accessibility that will allow you to adjust the sensitivity thresholds of 3D Touch. This was doubtless to help people with motor skills or grip-strength issues use the feature. But I found that because I jump between apps and use my iPhone pretty ferociously, I wanted the actions to happen quicker (with a lighter press), so I turned it all the way up to its ‘most sensitive’ setting. Play with this if you have trouble triggering it or do it too much.


Live Photos are not really a new format. The images, which are accompanied by 3 seconds of video (split before and after your shot) are stored as a .jpg file on your iPhone. The video is a .mov file containing 45 frames that play back at around 15fps when you press and hold on an image. The whole package takes up roughly the space of two regular 12 megapixel images.


I was incredibly impressed by the differences in camera quality between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus. It’s very, very noticeable and very welcome. The images aren’t over-sharpened because they don’t need to be — the detail is already there. The shots I took at night are pleasantly grainy, not so noise-reduced that they’re muddy blobby messes. The stabilization in the iPhone 6s Plus is still a very good reason for iPhone photographers to upgrade over the iPhone 6s — though both have ‘cinematic’ stabilization done in software.


Apple says its new Touch ID sensor is twice the speed of the one in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. I’m sure someone will try to measure it, but I think this one metric is enough: The new fingerprint sensor is so fast that you can no longer tap the home button to wake your screen, because it will unlock instantly.

See also: see the lists from iMore and Jason Snell.


Zoltan Szabadka:

While Zopfli is Deflate-compatible, Brotli is a whole new data format. This new format allows us to get 20–26% higher compression ratios over Zopfli. In our study ‘Comparison of Brotli, Deflate, Zopfli, LZMA, LZHAM and Bzip2 Compression Algorithms’ we show that Brotli is roughly as fast as zlib’s Deflate implementation. At the same time, it compresses slightly more densely than LZMA and bzip2 on the Canterbury corpus. The higher data density is achieved by a 2nd order context modeling, re-use of entropy codes, larger memory window of past data and joint distribution codes. Just like Zopfli, the new algorithm is named after Swiss bakery products. Brötli means ‘small bread’ in Swiss German.

Previously: Zopfli, Apple’s new Compression library and LZFSE.

San Francisco Quotation Marks

Dr. Drang:

Given the overall look of San Francisco—and especially its commas—Gruber thought Verdana-style block quotation marks looked better. By the Apple Event on September 9, it was apparent that Apple agreed with him: San Francisco’s quotes are right again in the build of iOS 9 on the hands-on demo units.

A significant difference, though, is that while the early versions of San Francisco’s opening quotes were slanted down and to the right (like Verdana’s), the final versions are slanted down and to the left, just like its closing quotes. The only difference now between San Francisco’s opening and closing quotation marks is the tapering. The ticks of the opening quotes are fatter on the bottom, while the closing ticks are fatter on the top.

Update (2015-10-04): Khoi Vinh:

Of course, having such similar shapes for these glyphs can be a valid aesthetic choice for certain typefaces intended for certain kinds of usages. It just seems odd to me that San Francisco, which was custom designed for maximum legibility on digital devices, made this particular choice.

Akinori Machino (comments):

You can see the low legibility of Helvetica if you type texts in a small size and make them blur. Some texts become blended and hard to decipher.


This difference gives texts in SF Compact more margins between letters, resulting in high legibility in small devices like Apple Watch.

In addition, SF and SF Compact fonts are divided into two sub font families named “Text” and “Display”. This is what Apple calls “Optical Sizes”. The Text fonts are for smaller texts, and the Display fonts for bigger.

Update (2015-10-13): Nick Keppol:

The first way to compare the x-heights is to scale all of the typefaces to the same cap-height. This will give us the ratio of the x-height to the cap-height. If we use this metric for comparison, SF Compact and Verdana perform best, and DIN the worst.


Verdana and Lucida Grande have very open apertures avoiding becoming blurry at nearly all sizes. The bowl of the e does not curve back into the cross bar. It renders as a sharply defined aperture. These open apertures are one of primary traits of most screen fonts designed to be used at small sized or for low resolution displays.

Update (2015-10-23): Nick Keppol:

Unfortunately San Francisco has some of the same failings as Helvetica and Lucida Grande in mixed case settings. For example, it’s difficult to distinguish between the lowercase L and the capital i. To Apple’s credit though, they did take this into consideration with the vertical metrics. The ascender sits above the cap-height helping with mixed cased forms…just a little.


These optical cuts have unique adjustments made to the outlines of each glyph so they look best at their intended sizes. When the spacing differences between text and display are ignored and characters are overlaid directly on top of each other, you can see the differences in the glyph shapes.


Normally, punctuation sits on the baseline., however this looks off balance in time formats. Before San Francisco, you needed a few lines of code to fix this. More importantly, you had to remember to do it. San Francisco solves for this by having an alternate glyph with the colon aligned to the cap-heights optical center. The system switches to it automatically when it recognizes a time format. You can achieve the same thing in Photoshop by turning on the contextual alternates button in the Character palette, or by selecting the character from the Glyphs palette.

The Big Nerd Ranch Core Data Stack

Robert Edwards notes that the Nested Managed Object Context Pattern has some cons:

  • Slower than Shared Persistent Store Coordinator Pattern when inserting large data sets
  • awakeFromInsert being called on NSManagedObject subclasses for each context in the parent chain
  • Merge policies only apply to a context saving to a store and not to its parent context


Since saving an NSManagedObjectContext will only propagate changes up a single level to the parentContext, the Big Nerd Ranch Core Data Stack listens for save notifications and ensures that the changes get persisted all the way up the chain to your store.

You may sometimes need to perform large import operations where the nested context performance would be the bottleneck. For that, we’ve included a function to vend you a managed object context with its own stack newBatchOperationContext(setupCallback: CoreDataStackBatchMOCCallback). This follows the pattern outlined in Shared Store Stack Pattern.