Improve Speed and Accuracy of Touch ID

I just learned a sweet way to improve Touch ID on an iOS device. This trick appears to actually increase the fingerprint information saved to your device, which results in both faster unlocking and the ability to increase the area of your fingerprint that Touch ID recognises. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode
  2. Ensure you only have one copy of each finger added. (I used to add my right and left thumbs twice to improve recognition. There is no need for this now due to this trick.)
  3. When the fingerprint you want to improve is added, simply rest that finger on the sensor as if you’re unlocking your device. You’ll see its name pulse grey to confirm recognition.
  4. Keep doing this, imagining the sensor taking a picture of your fingerprint each time it pulses grey. 

You can prove this trick works by immediately trying the very bottom of your fingerprint and seeing that Touch ID fails to recognise it. If you then try the centre of your finger and slowly work your way down, it will add the necessary data in steps until it detects your finger.

In typical Apple fashion, this advanced feature is only there if you’re looking for it. I’m glad it’s been discovered and I’m even more happy that I no longer need my thumbs added twice.

Samsung’s Tizen: Is Ditching Android an Option?

From a BGR article about the Samsung Galaxy S4, Zach Epstein writes (emphasis mine):

My sincere hope is that Samsung takes advantage of its success and focuses its resources on refining the hardware, software and service experiences it presents to users. I want a more cohesive experience across Samsung apps. I want better services that lock users into the Samsung ecosystem for years to come. These are the things Samsung might consider working on as it develops the Galaxy S5 and other upcoming phones.

Samsung is a hardware company fighting its most important battle in an industry dominated by multiple software giants.

The kinds of integrated services Zach is hoping to see in a Samsung smartphone take incredible amounts of resources to put together: imagine the negotiations and business deals that happened in order for just the iTunes Store to exist — the same iTunes Store that recently had its tenth birthday. That’s forgetting the Movies, TV and App Stores and iCloud. If Samsung wants to play with the big boys, it needs to make one hell of a commitment.

Samsung is facing a tough decision: should the company continue to use Android in its smartphones, relying on Google to update and maintain the software and add these integrated experiences and services, take a more self-reliant approach, modifying Android so heavily that it becomes essentially a Samsung skin on an Android foundation, or — possibly outrageously (and in the style of Apple) — ditch Android altogether and create an entire phone OS from scratch? As shocking as this last option may sound, The Verge reports that a “High-end Samsung Tizen smartphone is coming in August or September of this year:

[A]ccording to [Samsung executive vice president of mobile] Lee [Young-hee] the upcoming phone will be “the best product equipped with the best specifications.”

This could certainly be pure marketing spiel. But it could also be a mysteriously vague announcement of the smartphone industry move of the year.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. In Q4 2012, Samsung recorded $4 billion in profit from its cellphone and telecom business. In the same quarter, Google recorded “just” $2.9 billion profit from all its businesses combined. Samsung is making significantly more money from Android than Google is. The question arises, does this huge reliance on Android and massive profit disparity cause tension between the two companies? And, if so, who has more to lose?

If Samsung takes the smartphone industry seriously — which I believe they do — making a bold move like ditching Android could potentially reap huge rewards for the company. If done right. But it’s a colossal undertaking and one very big risk: what if customers are more loyal to Android than they are to the Galaxy brand, rejecting any high-end device lacking the Android apps and Google services they’ve grown to love? How will Samsung launch an app store in 2013, when there are already established market leaders and competitors?

Back in January I pondered if Samsung leaving Android might just be the “story of 2013”. I still think it’s a pretty long shot, but I’m watching this space.

Further Evidence Samsung Doesn’t “Get It”

From the YouTube channel where this embarrassing video was posted (officialfilmsofindia):

The event was the launch of Samsung's new mobile device the ‘S4’.

They still haven’t learned.

What are the chances we’ll see a similar occurrence at this year’s WWDC? I’m not betting on it.

Apple Maps and Customer Feedback

Daniel Jalkut writes about one of the less often discussed, but still incredibly frustrating problems with Apple Maps — the “Report a Problem” feature not appearing to... well... do anything:

In order for Apple’s customers to continue “reporting a problem” with Maps, they need to feel that their reports are having some impact. They need to feel respected. Ideally, good reports would lead to timely corrections on a mass level that would benefit all other iOS users. Anecdotally, this is not happening.

I can confirm this to be the case here, too. On day one of iOS 6’s release, I submitted corrections to Maps for a few places in my local area. None of the mistakes I highlighted have been corrected.

Furthermore, back in February, Apple Maps directed me over an hour off-course, wasting valuable time when I was traveling to a music store just before closing time. When I arrived (almost too late), I mentioned this Apple Maps mishap to the owner of the company, who had actually been aware of the issue since day one. He told me that corrections had been submitted by him and multiple customers, all to no avail.

I haven’t used Apple Maps since.

What’s clear is that taking the time to “Report a Problem”, correct the incorrect information in the app and then hit submit is a non-trivial amount of work. Apple seems to be completely ignoring this wealth of user-submitted information, which leads to a very dangerous situation — the most valuable users (those who submit feedback) becoming alienated by the very company their (wasted?) efforts were trying to help.

“Did Apple even see my corrections?” “Haven’t I corrected this before?” “Why does nobody at Apple care that my road is incorrectly named?!” “Why do I even bother telling Apple about these problems if they’re not doing anything about it?”

Daniel has some smart thoughts about how to solve this incredibly frustrating problem — but it’s a difficult challenge to tackle. Even though it’s complex, Apple went ahead and shipped Maps knowing full well how many users they have: there is no excuse for not staffing appropriately to deal with customer feedback, especially when it helps improve your own (admittedly half-baked) product.

The best case scenario for Maps is every single piece of Maps feedback getting logged and checked, with the “true” reports being applied in one huge update. Is that likely? I’m not so sure.

A Tale of Two Adverts

I’ve touched on the differences between Apple and Microsoft before, but here’s a more visual example of the two companies; namely, their adverts for smartphones.

Update: I felt I’d been lazy and not fully explained my thoughts about these two ads. I’ve updated this article with some thoughts below the videos.

Microsoft’s “Switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone” Ad

Apple’s “Photos Every Day” iPhone Ad

I think these two adverts speak volumes about the companies behind them.

Microsoft’s ad lets us know they’re not even remotely afraid to acknowledge competition: Windows Phone’s two biggest rivals are mentioned by name: “Galaxy” and “iPhone”.

It feels to me as if this advert is far too focused on bringing up competition. There’s no mention of any Windows Phone features which might be a reason to switch: the only reason given is the dogmatic and weak motto “Don’t fight. Switch” — which doesn’t even make sense.

50 seconds into Microsoft’s advert shows a man with a large Apple logo tattooed on his chest. This logo is (amusingly) pictured larger than any other logo in the ad, including the Windows Phone logo.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think bringing up competition is always a mistake: Apple has done similar things in the past, with the “Get a Mac” campaign back in 2006. However, these adverts were always carefully written to show the advantage of a Mac in different situations. Further, actors were used to represent the two camps, as opposed to Microsoft’s approach: using real iPhone and Android handsets in their own marketing materials. (And big Apple logos.)

If your biggest competitor’s logo appears larger than your own in an advert commissioned by you, that’s a pretty good sign that something is wrong.

Apple, with its advert, is focusing on how the iPhone fits into people’s lives. Their ad is exactly 60 seconds long — not a word from a commentator (about the iPhone) is spoken until 54 seconds in. Even then, it’s one simple and true statement: “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

The iPhone is being shown fitting into lives, being used by real people. Real people who don’t fight about the device they’re using; real people who care more about what they’re doing than the device they’re using to do it.

Signs a New Apple Product Will Be Successful

What initial signs should we look for in a new Apple product to determine its success? Here are my thoughts.

The new product:

  • Is risky
  • Has very strong design decisions
  • Is very opinionated
  • Feels new and uncertain
  • Is “obvious in hindsight”
  • Lacks features traditionally accepted as necessary

Compare these with your initial impressions when first discovering the iPad or iPhone. Let’s not be so closed-minded. Instant dismissal of new technologies, especially those from Apple, tend to… backfire.

Apple Releases “Why iPhone” Webpage Same Day Biggest Competitor Announces New Flagship Phone

I have to say, the timing does smell a little fishy to me; perhaps Apple would have been better to have not even “acknowledged” the release of Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

All the points on the page are truly legitimate reasons to choose an iPhone — and if this page sticks around, I’ll certainly refer friends and family to it to explain why the iPhone is my phone of choice — but perhaps the page could have been released a few days either side of Samsung’s announcement? Being released so close to a competitor’s time in the spotlight makes it feel a little desperate, as Owen Williams points out. Sometimes not even acknowledging a competitor is the best form of competition.