A couple of days ago I posted a blog page that said photography was one of my favorite hobbies. My second favorite (there are many more favorite hobbies) is reading. And for seniors, there is no better way to read than Libby.
Libby is a free software app that works on Apple and Android mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) so that you can “borrow” books to read or to listen to them. Libby is the second generation app from developer OverDrive to support digital reading from public libraries.
Of course, we all know that reading books (or listening to them) is great for seniors. It keeps us sharp, active, knowledgeable, and more. Regardless if you purchase them from your local bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble – books are expensive.
Seniors who love to read (some read two or three books a week) and live on a fixed income have difficulty in justifying purchasing books.
Sure, you can walk, take an Uber, bus, or drive to your local library to borrow a book or sit and read but why? Paper books look and smell great. But if you are a tree hugger books are made of paper and paper is made from trees. Printing inks, binding glue, and delivery of books to stores by trucks all cause a carbon footprint.
The Libby app has similar reading tools like Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon’s Kindle reading apps. Bookmarks, type font changes, themes, lookups, highlighting, search, and page location syncs between devices are all supported.
Check with your local public library and see if they do offer digital reading and audiobooks. If they do download the Libby app from the Apple or Android app store, enter your library card number and get reading!
I’ve primarily used a Sony alpha series DSLR with a 75mm to 300mm telephoto lens. It has been my “go-to” camera for the last seven years. In addition to the Sony, I’ve taken many travel shots with various models of Apple’s iPhone.
Over the same period of time, the Sony has been a fast, reliable, and creative tool. But it is awkward and heavy to transport, and use on vacation field trips like walking, hiking, visit small retail shops, and going through narrow passages.
The iPhone, on the other hand, has become more lightweight, sophisticated, and easier to use – especially indoors. My latest iPhone, Apple’s advanced model “X” with its sharp and bright OLED screen is easy to view – as long as it is indoors. Trying to use the iPhone outside, in bright sunlight is almost impossible. The screen washes out in the sun. This brings a new meaning to the phrase “point and shoot” – but somehow it works.
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC and New York City. As a creative and lifestyle experiment, I primarily used the iPhone to document our travels. Quite frankly I was very impressed with the results – even the outdoor shots (some in cloudy conditions, others in the sun).
A significant benefit of using the iPhone as your primary vacation camera is that your pictures get synced to your other devices and backed up to iCloud every night. The ease of being able to edit and share your photos with family and friends is fast and straightforward. Apple’s built-in “Photos” app is simple and straightforward for everyday photo editing and organizing.
If you are into status symbols and want your travel buddies (and complete strangers) to be impressed, then carry a Sony, Canon, Nikon, or other quality DSLR camera around your neck. If you want great pictures and have fun on your vacation carry a lightweight iPhone camera in your pocket or purse.
As a technology advisor to seniors, the most frequently asked question I get is: “My Grandmother (or Grandfather) needs a new computer which one should I get?”
My response is: “They no longer need a computer they need a tablet computing device. If you surveyed seniors that use computers (desktop or laptop) and ask them what they actually use their computer for, the responses would undoubtedly include:
Getting, reading, replying to eMail.
Reading and responding to Facebook.
Playing a game that might include Solitaire, Scrabble, or Wheel of Fortune.
Reading a good ebook or magazine.
Surfing the web for news, weather, and funny stuff.
Seeing photos of my adult children and younger grandchildren.
Maybe shopping online.
All of the seven above can be done on grandma’s lap while she is sitting on her couch or lying in bed using a lightweight tablet. Not so with desktop computers, and not easy with so-called laptops.
There are hundreds of different tablet computers that range in price from $49.99 (Barnes & Noble Nook 7″ Tablet) to over a $1,000 (Apple 12.5″ iPad Pro Tablet). In my humble (but well experienced) opinion, the BEST choice for doing the seven items above is the new $329 9.7″ Apple iPad Click here for more info
Here are ten reasons why this is the one to buy:
1. This is the most current version of the iPad that Apple has honed to perfection over the past six years.
2. The screen is bright, easy to read, and the exactly the right size to read ebooks and magazines with ease.
3. It comes with the A10 Fusion processor chip that is incredibly fast – great for videos, games, and going from one app to another.
4. The main camera on this iPad is 8MP takes stunning photos and can record in HD video. Plus use it for FaceTime calls with family and friends.
5. Use it to connect to almost any Bluetooth keyboard.
6. Get FREE ebooks, music, audiobooks, and movies from your local library using the Libby and Hoopla apps.
7. Weighs just a tad over 1 pound.
8. Thousands of cases, covers, keyboards, stands, screen protectors, styli, and headphones are available for this model iPad. Apple’s sensational electronic Pencil also works with this model.
9. Secure Touch ID, stereo speakers, 32GB of storage (more available), a cellular option is available, your choice of three different finishes.
10. Over 1,000,000 apps in Apple’s App Store.
Want to make your parents and/or grandparents happy? Get them an iPad, not a replacement desktop or laptop.
Many people are scratching their heads about how Apple managed to cram an iPad Pro with a 10.5 inch screen into a case that is only 9.8 inches tall. This new model replaces the “old” (last year’s model) iPad Pro which featured a 9.7 inch screen stuffed into a 9.4 inch tall case.
The answer is simple: Apple pretty much took out the margins (bezels) on both sides of the screen and raised the top by only .4 inches. The margins are the areas that allowed us to rest our fingers or palms on the screen yet would not activate the screen. It seems that Apple has improved the hardware and software to a point where the screen does not register misplaced fingers and palms. Bottom line: the new screen, in pretty much the old case, gives us 20% more screen “real estate” to enjoy sharper (i.e. higher resolution) images, and 50% brighter than last year’s model.
The new iPad Pro 10.5 retains all the quality of the original with an ingenious four speaker stereo system and side edge connectors for accessories like the super slim Apple Smart Keyboard. Upgrades to the device include a more powerful set of cameras (front and rear), the main CPU goes from an Apple 9x chip to an Apple 10x chip which boosts basic processing, resulting in an increase over 250% faster than the previous model, and graphic processing is over 400% quicker than before. Apple claims that all this new hardware will not affect the strong 10-hour battery life.
Other improvements include the availability of a full-size Apple Smart Keyboard and new cases and covers to accommodate the slightly taller body. The new iPad Pro 10.5 also has the fingerprint scanner home button and supports the Apple Pencil. Internal storage RAM begins at 64GB (up from the previous 32GB), and then proceeds to 128GB and a first-ever capacity of 512GB. The iPad Pro 10.5 is reported to have 4GB of RAM.
The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 32GB and WiFi was $599, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 64GB and WiFi is $649. The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi was $899, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi is $749. The new 10.5″ WiFi iPad Pro with a whopping 512GB of storage is $949. The “sweet spot” appears to be the 256GB WiFi model which packs a larger screen, faster processor, and a whole lot more for about $150 less than last year’s model. If you need the WiFi + LTE cellular models, add $130 to the WiFi-only pricing.
The new device initially ships with IOS 10.3.2. The bigger deal is IOS 11, which ships in the Fall with enhancements available only to iPads. These enhancements will primarily be in multitasking, screen splits (allowing two apps to run side by side in adjacent windows), an application launch bar at the bottom of the screen (similar to a Mac), and a “file” app which allows for controlling where files go (local or cloud). Finally, the updated IOS 11 allows for “drag and drop” for web links, photos, text, and more — from one app to another.
The Bottom Line:
Apple is concerned about the decline in tablet device sales. Consumers do not seem to be in a hurry to purchase newer models, unlike smart phones. Apple has given us a new device with a solid update to both the hardware and software of the iPad Pro line (there is also a 12.9 inch screen series). Even the price seems to be sweeter for the 256GB model. Both hardware and software seem to be moving closer and closer to the tablet form,replacing traditional desktops and laptops. Certainly a case can be made that tablets (especially iPads) make more sense for seniors – the focus of this blog. As always, your comments are welcome.
Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.
If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.
Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.
A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:
1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.
2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.
3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).
4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.
5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).
6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.
7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.
8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.
One detailed example:
When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.
Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.
This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.
On a different subject – creativity:
Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.
1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.
2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:
a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).
3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.
My bottom line:
Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!
You don’t need to update, but it’s almost always a good idea. Updates provide us with a measure of comfort by contributing a number of things:
• Generally, a slightly faster, and more reliable device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Mac).
• Usually a number of new and improved features that make day-to-day use more enjoyable.
• Security updates that help protect our devices from nasty hackers.
• Bug fixes that repair problems discovered before the update.
A better question may be: Why wouldn’t you want to update your device? Here are a few reasons to update:
• It’s free (Apple never charges for updates).
• It’s easy to do (Follow the steps below).
• You will receive bug fixes and new features.
• Get a leg up on your kids and grand kids (beat them by updating first).
Here is how to get started…
1. On an IOS device (e.g. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
a. Look at the connector at the bottom of your device – where you plug it in to recharge the battery. If it has the older wider 20 pin connector you cannot upgrade your device to IOS 10. Sorry. If you have the newer, small “Lightning Connector” you can update to IOS 10.
b. Make sure your device is attached to the charging cable and is at least 50% charged.
c. Now go into “Settings” (it looks like a gear). Next press on the word “General”. Finally press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading, verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress bar. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.
2. On an Apple Watch (updating the Apple Watch from watchOS 2 to watchOS 3)
a. Make sure your iPhone has been updated to IOS 10 (this is required).
b. Connect your iPhone to its battery charger.
c. Connect your Apple Watch to its battery charger.
d. In the Watch app on your iPhone scroll down the screen until you see the “General” icon. Press on the word “General”. Next, press on the words “Software Update”. The software should now be downloading (to the Apple Watch), verifying, installing and then restarting the device. Once the restart has begun, you’ll see a black screen, then a white Apple logo, and then a progress circle. This should happen twice and then the update will be complete.
3. On an Apple TV (Hardware Version 4)
a. Start at the main menu of your Apple TV.
b. Go to the settings menu (the Gear icon).
c. Scroll down until you see the word “System” and then click on it.
d. Now look below and find the words “Software Updates” and then click on it.
e. Now click on the words “Update Software”.
f. If the system needs to be updated, the software download will begin. The Apple will automatically restart upon completion.
4. On a Mac computer (all newer models that use Mac OS 10 or newer)
a. Start at the top left of the screen. Click on the “Apple” icon.
b. The menu will drop down, and you need to click on the “App Store” menu item.
c. Make sure you click on the word “Featured”.
d. You should see the icon for “Mac OS 10 Sierra Update”. Click on this icon to begin downloading and installing the update. This is a large update and will take at least an hour to download and install. You can check on the progress by clicking on the words “Purchased” in the App Store.
Apple has made free user guides for all of the updates. If you have iBooks installed on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac you can go to the “Featured” menu and search for the books:
• iPhone Users Guide for IOS 10
• iPad Users Guide for IOS 10
• iPod Touch Users Guide for IOS 10
• Apple Watch Users Guide
• Apple TV Users Guide
• MacBook Essentials
• MacBook Pro Essentials
• MacBook Air Essentials
• iMac Essentials
These free digital books provided by Apple are a great way to learn about the new and improved features. They’re also excellent reference guides for the “How do I…” questions that often come up.
A lot of my friends – and a lot of you readers – have asked me what apps do you recommend? As an Apple “fan-boy” since 1978 I’ve used hundreds of apps on every Apple device imaginable. Over the years my long list of devices have included the Apple ][, Apple ///, Apple Lisa, Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
Quite frankly there is no such thing as the perfect app. Every app developer thinks their app is the best. Few are. Even great ones like Numerous for the iPhone/iPad which had over 150,000 active users recently died an untimely death due to a lack of customer funding. The history of computer apps (from an earlier term: applications) is littered with a few standouts and thousands of little purchased and little used want-to-be’s.
To give you an idea how big the market for apps is, consider that Apple has over 1,500,000 apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch. There are more than 15,000 apps available for the Apple Watch. In less than a year the Apple TV 4 has grown from 40 apps to over 5,000. Apps range in price from free to a thousand dollars or more! The average price for an IOS app for consumer use is $1.99. I’ve never understood how a person who spends hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone or iPad complains about the cost of an app that costs only a couple-of-bucks and has a lifetime of free upgrades.
I’ve compiled a list of my all-time top ten favorite apps for your consideration. Each app I use almost daily and each provides a good mix of features, performance and reliability. Note that some are free, some require a monthly or annual subscription, and a couple are reasonably priced. The list is in no particular order.
All of these apps work on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. Some also work on the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Apple Mac.