A Slower Apple Photos Sync

A Slower Apple Photos Sync

I don’t know if this is happening to everyone, but I’ve noticed a pretty big regression (in my eyes, at least) in Apple Photos since around the time iOS 13.1 shipped. Basically, no matter what is going on with my iPhone and no matter if the battery is at 5% or 100%, photos seem to upload to the cloud on some sort of schedule I can’t figure out.

Basically, I’m seeing the above image a ton, and it’s annoying me.

Previously, you would take a photo and it would start uploading to iCloud the moment it was done processing. This was really useful for two reasons:

  1. I knew that if I took a photo and my phone was destroyed a minute later, my photos would be backed up and I would have zero data loss.
  2. I could take a picture/screenshot on my iPhone and then use it on my iPad seconds later.

Now neither of those is valid since my phone will wait a while (sometimes an hour or more passes) to so the upload. I’m sure this is a decision that was made to improve battery life (and the message says as much), but it’s not something I’ve seen the Mac or iPadOS do, so it’s a bit of a pain to have it happening on one device only.

How I Use Things 3 to Keep Track of Christmas Shopping

How I Use Things 3 to Keep Track of Christmas Shopping

One of the things I struggle with year after year is keeping track of Christmas gift lists. I never know what to ask other people to get me, and I have never been good about keeping track of what I think other people would like. The latter part is especially frustrating because I have plenty of moments of “they would love this!” throughout the months leading up to Christmas, but when it comes time to actually buy gifts, I can never remember.

Sometimes these ideas go into Apple Notes, or Drafts, or worst of all, my memory. If GTD has taught me anything, it’s that my head is not a good place to keep track of lists of things I need to remember: I need a system to offload my brain.

My revitalized integration of GTD throughout my life this year has given me a new idea this year and it’s working out incredibly well for me. This might sound less magical to some people, but buying Christmas gifts is really just a project and the gift ideas are tasks in that project, so putting them into a GTD system makes a ton of sense.

Introducing Things 3

You could do this with any app or paper-based task management system, but I think Things 3 has tools that make this a really nice experience. Step 1 is creating a project called Christmas Gifts. If you want to have some fun, throw a 🎄 or 🎁 in the project name too.

Headers Make Sense of Large Lists

From there, you want to use Things’ headings feature which you can access by tapping on the three dots icon at the top right of the project view. I used these to create sections inside the project for different people. I have ones for:

  • Me
  • My wife
  • My immediate family
  • My wife’s immediate family
  • General gift ideas

As I come across things that I think certain people would like, I add them as tasks in this project and drag them to whatever section they belong in.

And because Things lets you add notes and tags to tasks, I make sure to add a link to the item and tag it with the specific person I had in mind for it. Things will not automatically sort this project page based on your tags, so you still need to manually sort stuff, but unless you’re buying for a ton of people, I don’t think it’s too much of a hassle.

Sharing Things I Want

Things very kindly lets you copy a task from the app and paste it into anything else as plain text. It brings over the task name (product name), the notes (link to the product), and tags (who it’s for). So when my dad, for example, asked me for a list of gift ideas, I just selected the half dozen tasks in my “Me” section, hit CMD+C on the iPad keyboard, and pasted them into an email.

I removed the tags because that wasn’t really important for him, but the information was all there and it was very little work to format it nicely in my email app.

Marking Stuff Complete

Collecting the information is easy enough, and organizing it is pretty simple, but here’s where it gets really nice for me. Since these are tasks, you can treat them like action items in your existing task management system. I tend to buy gifts over the course of a few months and the monthly budget only allows for some things to be purchased at once.

So to stagger my purchases throughout the season, I start assigning due dates to items on the list. This lets me stick to a budget and get everything on my lists for other people without breaking the budget.

Also, because these are tasks and Things does a good job of showing you what you have previously completed, I can easily look at my previously completed tasks to see what I’ve bought already.

Other Apps

There is no reason you could not do this in Todoist, OmniFocus, or any other task manager out there, but Things is what I use right now and I think it has the best UI for sorting out tasks for something like this. I’d love to hear if you are doing anything like this, and if you are using another app like Todoist, I’d be really interested to see your setup.

Why I Liked the Android 10 Update

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXxMKqhQJ4

This can only go well, right?

This was actually a video I made in September but didn’t feel like posting right away. As the description and title cards try to make exceptionally clear, this is not a video bashing Android, it’s just fun to see Android folks praise the virtues of things iOS either has or has had for literally a decade. The Android 10 update was really the “let’s add a bunch of things iOS does to make things safer for our users” update, and I think that’s why I liked it.

A Celebration of iOS’s Unbelievable Software Library

From iOS To Android And Back Again - Greg Morris

Apps from the same developer often work different, look different or are missing functions (even Googles) on Android. Which is a huge shame given the open nature of the platform. Sure you can ‘do anything’ with your device, but the quality of software to go with it is still lacking in broad terms – and this becomes apparent very quickly when switching.

Greg totally nails it here. Android 100% allows the potential to do more than they can on iOS, but I can also say that “potential” does not come even close to manifesting in actually better or more powerful software. You can link to all the themes, icon packs, and system tweaks you want, but software that actually helps people get work done either does not exist or is worse on Android.

This is a drum I bang time and time again, I know, but I think that in 2019 it's as true as it's ever been. It's also not something I mean to bash Android with, it's more to say that iOS's ecosystem is so incredibly good, and all platforms, even macOS and Windows wish the amount of quality software for them could match what iOS has at its fingertips.

Round 3: Night Sight vs iPhone XS

I did one more shoot with Night Sight on a Pixel 3 and an iPhone Xs which lead to this message from my wife:

She knows me well…

As with the other comparisons, the first photo will always be the iPhone and the second will be the Pixel.

https://youtu.be/ronqsBnJ-OM

This first one is a wild difference, and really shows off what Night Shift can do for you. The iPhone was hopeless at getting something here, but the Pixel got something totally unnatural, but shows off the thing I was shooting.

This one is up to personal preference, as the iPhone is sharper, but the Pixel gets more of the surrounding area. I like the iPhone shot personally.

This is another massive difference, with the Pixel getting so much more of the scene than the iPhone.

Again, I like the iPhone shot better, as the Pixel made everything lighter, but doesn’t actually show any new details the iPhone missed. The Pixel has a blurry shot and the iPhone is surprisingly sharp.

The Pixel is back on top here, but neither camera did a particularly great job.

This was a zoom shot at 2x, and I was surprised how much better the Pixel shot was here. Not only is it much brighter but the details are sharper as well.

Takeaway

Again, Night Sight shows why it’s useful as another tool in a photographer’s bag of tricks. It gets shots that are simply unusable and turns them into pretty decent photos. What it does not do is make every low light shot perfect, which I think has become the narrative out there for some people. It absolutely creates messy images and some that are just plain ugly. But much like Portrait Mode on the iPhone, it’s an opt-in tool that adds to your options without limiting you from doing anything else.

While I maintain the iPhone Xs camera is better than the Pixel 3 for me, if you’re looking for a camera that gives you the most options in low light, it’s hard to recommend the iPhone over the Pixel at this point.

On Camera Comparisons

I’ve done quite a few camera comparisons over the past couple years, and they continue to be one of the more popular things on the site. I find them really interesting because they can lead to really surprising results…in certain situations. Let me explain.

So whenever I share a photo comparison and don’t tell people which is from which camera, the results tend to be very split. People vote for the iPhone shot in one comparison and then choose the Pixel one in the next. Or they are are die-hard iPhone fans, but choose the Pixel photo in every single case (and vice versa). The results are unexpected at times, and always fascinating.

But when I do a comparison and I do tell people which is which, then people who I know to be big Apple/Google fans will always vote for their preferred brand, even if they had chosen the other company’s photos in a blind comparison.

Now not everyone does this, but there are certainly people who I notice do this. Also, as an aggregate, I see different results in comparisons when I tell people what camera took each, rather than let people pick the photo they like better. Really what this gets down to is the fact the photography is very subjective and when we’re looking at the best cameras on the market, it’s just as much about feelings as it is about quality.

How to Record and Edit a Podcast with Ferrite for iOS

https://youtu.be/sbDbs-3Af74

I’ve been recording, editing, and posting my podcast straight from iOS for about a year now. The magical elements that let me do this are:

The video should give you a general idea for how the app works, but it does not dive into every single element of the app because frankly, I don’t use a ton of the features available. Hopefully it gets you what you need to get started with the app!

One Slick Android Feature

Much like iOS, Android has an app store that lets people easily download apps for their devices. The differences between the Play Store and App Store are more in execution than concept, and will be how the vast majority of people get apps.

But Android also has the ability to simple install apps like you can on a Mac or PC. If I manually turn on the feature, I can install .APK files from anywhere I’d like. This has been a feature of Android since the beginning, and many people likely did this for the first time recently with Fortnite, which is not being distributed via the Play Store at all.

Why this is risky

On the one hand, this means that it allows people to install software that does not meet the standards set by Google for what should be allowed on Android. This can be good, but it can also lead to malicious software getting onto your device and doing things that are not acceptable to Google’s guidelines. This is inherent risk with any software, and things like the curated app stores of the modern era are guards against this danger.

This also means that piracy is more of an issue on Android, as people can more easily get free versions of paid apps if they would like. Developers can mitigate this, but it’s additional work and clearly does not stop this from being a thing1.

Why this is excellent

But then there’s the best part of this functionality: installing apps meant for one device (usually Pixels) and using it on whatever phone you happen to own. The most recent example of this is the new Google Camera app which introduced Night Sight. I have a OnePlus 6, which has a pretty good camera, but Google does not intend to give this camera app to me since I didn’t buy their phone. Fair enough, but the Android community got their hands on the APK for the Google Camera app with Night Sight and modified it to let it run on my phone.

And just like that, I’m using Google’s camera app with Night Sight and it works great on my OnePlus 6. And the best part: it works great! Google is using pretty standard hardware in their camera, so the magic of Night Sight is all done in software. So when I try to use Night Sight, I get results like this:

👇 Regular Mode

👇 Night Sight

The Night Sight feature works great and is proving to be a nice feature to have in a pinch. And it’s all possible because Android lets me go around the official app store if I’d like.

I don’t know if Apple will ever allow this on iOS, but it is certainly one of the things that I enjoy about Android whenever I am experimenting with the platform.

  1. No links from me, since I do not want to encourage this behavior.

Comparing HDR RAW capture on Lightroom, Halide, and Obscura

I love to shoot photos in RAW on my iPhone. The stock camera app does some excellent magic to get incredible photos, but in some cases I really just want to be old school and get a ton of image data and process things how I want.

One of the situations where I appreciate RAW the most is when taking photos with a large range of brightness in the shot. When shooting in the stock camera app, iOS will take a number of photos at different exposures and stitch them together to get an image it thinks looks good, and normally it does. But when you shoot RAW, you get a lot more data in the bright and dark sections of an image so you can boost of lower them without introducing grain or distortion to the image. Basically, you have control, not the computer. Maybe I’m old school, but I like that sometimes.

Below are 4 camera apps (stock Camera, Adoble Lightroom, Halide, and Obscurs 2) taking the same photo. It’s early morning, my living room has no lights on, and it’s bright outside. Let’s see how they all do.

Apple Camera.app

This was a big disappointment, as the iPhone 8 Plus really took a bad picture here. Even with HDR, everything outside the window is blown out. Meanwhile, the interior is quite grainy.

Again, the disadvantage of shooting in this format is that I’m basically stuck with what the camera spits out. It throws away a lot of image data to keep the file size smaller, so only minor edits can be made if I don’t like the decisions Apple’s app made.

So let’s shoot this in RAW and see what happens.

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is my go-to RAW camera app for iOS, in part because I pay for Creative Cloud and want to get my money’s worth, bot more so because I think it gets the best photos of any app I’ve tried before.

The difference between this image and what the stock camera app produced is night and day. This is a much more satisfying shot with little noise, good color, properly exposed highlights, and zero artifacts.

Also, and this will be true for the other 2 camera apps too, because this is RAW I can further modify this shot to be brighter, darker, have more/less contrast, and a whole host of other changes without degrading image quality. This simply isn’t as possible with a JPEG/HEIC image.

Halide

Similar to Lightroom, this image looks better than what the stock camera app produced, but not by as much. I got a lot of grain in the dark areas and wasn’t able to reduce the noise enough without also blurring out the whole photo. So better, but not quite as nice as Lightroom.

Obscura 2

This one was shockingly similar to the Halide image, and has basically the same result: better than Apple’s app, but not as clear as Lightroom.

Surprise! Pixel 2

What camera comparison on BirchTree would be complete without including the Pixel 2? I’m actually quite happy with this shot and think it’s a marked improvement over the iPhone’s stock camera. This is also using the Pixel’s stock camera app and this really shows off Google’s excellent HDR processing.

The outside is a little more blown out than I’d like, but it’s way better than the iPhone. Meanwhile, the interior is dark, but has less noise than you’d expect. This also shows off the notably colder color temperature the Pixel defaults to than the iPhone. iPhone shots tend to be warmer overall, while Pixel shots look cooler1.

Takeaway

The big takeaway for me is that I plan on happily taking RAW photos for the foreseeable future. The flexibility I get in editing images, especially tough HDR shots, is invaluable and is something I don’t want to lose.

For an even more explicit demo of how much data is lost when shooting in a non-RAW format, check out the video in this tweet.

https://twitter.com/mattbirchler/status/1024638600133206017


  1. Temperature-wise, at least.