Global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4

Global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4:

Apple updated Apple Pay eligible device information and Suica information with the release of iPhone XS today. It’s really boring to know that iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4 are Global FeliCa just like previous generation devices, boring in a nice predictable way. They have to be in order to work with those FeliCa powered Student ID Cards for iOS 12 and watchOS 5. It’s really just Apple Pay, that’s all customers need to know.

I suspect A12 Bionic powered Express Cards with power reserve will work better on FeliCa Suica than the forever beta China Transit cards. We’ll find out soon enough.

(Via Ata Distance)

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My Lopsided Listening

Listening to podcasts and audio books takes a toll on my AirPod batteries. They take a toll in stereo, that is, and most of the content benefits little by the extra channel.

This mono approach is nothing new. I would like Apple to take note, never the less.

AirPods have several deficiencies:

  • Microphone is poor to useless on calls in any space other than a perfectly silent room
  • No volume control on its/their own
  • Battery life is ok (they’re tiny, I know)
  • The case is a grime magnet, and the pods themselves are not much better (but surprisingly good depending on the user)
  • The charging case is too easy to lose

AirPods paired with an iPhone paired to an Apple Watch, and maybe when solely paired with the Apple Watch, the Watch can fix the volume control issue. If I could use the Watch on a “raise to speak” mode where otherwise the microphone is muted while the audio is piped through the AirPods, I would be happy. Maybe it’s possible and I haven’t discovered it, but I expect more news would have been made of the functionality.

For the battery life issue, juggling between ears one at a time is the best approach. I can easily get through a day with the pods and their charger case.

Apple clearly didn’t consider this use case. When I get the chime indicating that the battery will soon run out on the AirPod I’m using, then I put the other one in my other ear. I expect iOS will recognize this change and switch me to stereo. If it did, I would pull out the battery depleted unit and double tap the fresh one for my content to continue while I slip the dead one in for a charge.

It does not work that way, or at least for me. Maybe it’s a deficiency with the iPod Touch I use as my content hub. As mentioned, my work issued iPhone lacks the storage needed for my work content. Adding in podcasts and ebooks and audiobooks and music are far too much for it. The two in semi-concert make a workable and portable (both are small form factor) compromise. The iPod Touch also charges quickly and requires little of its power source.

Back to my initial story, swapping AirPods mostly works so long as I don’t want to listen to music. As soon as stereo is needed this model fails.

If some third party created a neck wearable battery pack that the AirPods could plug into for extended use, I would buy one.

As it is, my inexpensive fix for the stereo issue is to carry a set of lighting EarPods. They have the added benefit of not requiring any wireless tech, so my iPod Touch battery lasts that much longer and can move to my iPhone if a conference call is needed. Of course I hate this backup plan. I prefer the analog headphone jack. I still have it on my iPod Touch and my iPads, so maybe I permanently affix a lighting-headphone adaptor to my iPhone.

This can’t be the ideal Apple wants. I’m heartened by the lack of releases of new Beats hardware, which I always saw as a brand and content acquisition. Beats headphones always sounded muddy and heavy to me, like I was scuba diving with a drum section.

It would be good if Apple added location tracking to the charging case or alarm when the AirPods are in use and the case is about to leave the Bluetooth radius.

This is a long, rambling post. Enjoy.

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Overcast 5.0 Review

Normally I wait at least a week before upgrading any OS, but stories like this make patience seem a burden:

Overcast 5.0 Review:

Standalone Watch Playback

I never thought I would use my watch to play music or podcasts without my iPhone, but I’ve recently discovered that our apartment is just long enough that my headphones or watch are out of range of my iPhone when I’m at one end at it’s at the other. I put some music on my watch and paired my Bose QC35s, and then immediately wished I had podcasts on there. The standalone watch playback in Overcast is great. Sync can be a little fiddly due to watchOS limitations, and I had the best success by putting Overcast in my dock on my watch, opening it, putting it and my iPhone on charge and leaving them to it – and now I’m by the pool listening to podcasts on my watch with my iPhone back in my hotel room!

(Via Rosemary Orchard)

Glob dang it! I’m working from home tomorrow, so maybe …

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On The iPhone Event

On The iPhone Event:

First off, and just to get that out of the way quickly, the Series 4 watch turned out to be the most significant device for me. Even though I have a perfectly good Series 3, I will probably buy one as soon as I figure out whether the ECG functionality will be enabled outside the US (medical regulations being what they are, and conveniently glossed over until now–there are a lot of subtleties involved).

This could be my Apple upgrade on my next trip to the US, just to make sure I get the full functionality. The problem is that my work phone program doesn’t yet have a mechanism for attaching a cellular watch to the plan.

 I still wish they’d made a round, more watch-like device, but Apple doesn’t seem to be going that path anyway soon, and there is a degree of continuity implied by having bands be compatible across generations (which may well be completely irrelevant in the long run, but still makes sense).

I was thinking about this on the train. When I hold the strap while standing on the Tokyo Metro, with a round typeface I could read on my watch with the screen text reorienting as my arm does. Imagine a compass in the blue liquid always pointing north.

And form factors are as good a topic as any to begin addressing the new iPhones. The apparent death of the SE form factor is particularly annoying to me given that I prefer small devices with just enough screen real estate for messaging, but the overarching trend to do everything on a phone has clearly driven Apple towards bigger form factors, something that I’m not keen on at all.

When my late, lamented iPhone 6S Plus still worked I had it with my work iPhone 7. Since I have to carry two phones anyway, one for work and one for personal, I like one being in the smaller form factor. And don’t get me started on analog headphone jacks.

I also deeply regret the death of Touch ID, which was in my opinion far more practical (and, from a perspective of intent, maybe even more secure) than Face ID. I don’t want to have to pick up my phone from a desk or charging cradle to unlock it or to authenticate in apps—that is highly inconvenient in many situations, and enough people have written at length about the differences (and frustrations) entailed in both approaches.

Yes. If Apple took a page from Google’s playbook and put a fingerprint sensor on the back with FaceID in the front, I would be on board with that.

Having said that, I’m relatively satisfied that the new “low-end” model shares the same CPU and overall internals as the other ones—that alone is enough for me to discard the iPhone 8 as an option, even though, to be honest, it still is the device I like the most.

Ultimately the new iPhones fail in my primary metrics: solving a problem (not a mere convenience) and/or changing the way I work & live. My S2 Apple Watch changed the way I work with the calendar, the ability to quickly capture voice notes, and how I live with the health stuff. iPhone 7 solved the problem of Suica mobile transit and Apple Pay use in Japan, partially thanks to TouchID, as an American without a grasp of Japanese.

I could not care less about OLED or case framing (although I still dislike the idea of a glass back),

Me, too!

and with the XS camera being the only significant difference for me, I will have to figure out whether it’s worth the premium.

Long ago I stopped caring even a little bit about the camera in phones. They’re all fine. Unless someone points out a deficiency I can perceive it’s all marketing hooey.

Hardware lifecycle and value are fundamentally different for Apple devices (witness my continued use of an iPhone 6 until today), and it is worth considering upgrades as continued investment spaced out over the years rather than yearly gadget binges.

I’m currently rocking a 2-year-old work iPhone 7 (Japan) and a 3-year-old personal iPod Touch 6th generation. Both are working fine and compliment each other – the 128GB iPod making up for the paltry 32GB of storage in my iPhone. The afore mentioned personal US iPhone 6S Plus succumbed to “bend gate”.

Oh, and I find the naming to be less than inspiring, but at least we’re finally out of the numbers game.

The logic behind the naming is convoluted Roman numeral-ing at best. That they replaced “Plus” with “Max” was very Motorola of them, though with 50% fewer X-es.

(Via The Tao of Mac)

The event disappointed me. I wanted to see more about the MacMini refresh, the MacBook Air refresh, and new AirPods. As it is, maybe I will buy a new watch in the next six months. Even if something breaks I think the refurbished market will be my shopping ground as opposed to what is now on the menu.

HOWEVER, dual SIM support in the Xs and Xs Max does interest me. If I can have a Japanese eSIM and slap in a Google Fi SIM … that would be pretty cool.

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Find wireless carriers that support eSIM – Apple サポート

Find wireless carriers that support eSIM – Apple サポート:

I’m surprised that there are no Japanese carriers supporting Apple’s eSIM. I’ve never heard of the two global providers, GigSky and Truphone.

GigSky seems to be data only. Truphone might have calling with data. Neither site is very good at providing information.

However, if you want to view useless graphics or pictures in white space in the hope of distracting you from their lack of details, both are excellent destinations.

If I dive into the iPhone Xs for some unexpected reason, I will do so in the T-Mobile USA pond for the eSIM. Some fine Japanese provider or MMVO will happily fill my SIM slot.

Stay tuned for my take on the Apple event.

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The final word on global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4

The final word on global FeliCa iPhone XS, iPhone XR, Apple Watch Series 4:

Apple is slowly updating Apple Pay eligible device information and Suica information and finally got around to updating the Apple Pay Japan page eligible device specs. It’s the final word that iPhone XS, iPhone XR and Apple Watch Series 4 are really truly global FeliCa just like previous generation devices, but more important, from here on out, simply Apple Pay.

The last piece will fall into place when the Apple Watch platform adds Express Cards with power reserve that are specific to A12 Bionic iPhone XS and iPhone XR. Apple Pay will be feature complete on all devices, across the board.

(Via Ata Distance)

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NHK World TV app for J-Alert notifications

Tourists and residents in Japan who don’t speak Japanese no longer need to be concerned about missing out on earthquake and tsunami alerts.

Thanks to a new feature added on Feb. 1 to an app offered by NHK World, an English news channel provided by the public broadcaster, travelers or residents who don’t speak Japanese will be able to receive emergency warnings on their smartphones in English.

They will have the choice of turning on notifications for earthquake and tsunami warnings as well as breaking news alerts. The breaking news alerts will include J-Alert warnings and updates on weather-related incidents, such as volcanic eruptions and typhoons.

English-only at the moment, Chinese is in the works.

I’ve had this installed on my iPad for a while and it works well. I installed the app on my iPhone for Apple Watch notifications. Let’s see how it works.

[TokyoGringo] Fun Japan Fact – all cell phones’ cameras have a shutter sound

I tried to get service for my US iPhone 6S+ here in Tokyo. The delightful woman helping me warned me, “You know, if you swap this out you will get a Japan phone with the shutter sound. Are you sure?”

Oh. No. Not sure, and not by a long shot.

I recalled my first US trip with my JP colleagues where their shutter sound constantly disrupted slide presentation after slide presentation. I volunteered my phone for hundreds of silent slide pictures of decks later offered for download.

When I returned to Japan I found the sound ever present. I assumed the shutter sound a cultural choice, what with the Japanese camera stereotype and all. I filled it away as an annoyance like on-line banking and moved on.

I embrace my education. As I stated regularly on the PVC Security podcast, there is a certain freedom in knowing you will screw up at least ten times per day.

It also means I will try to get all my future mobile phones in the US (assuming the shutter sound is my major concern).

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What Users Should Require in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

We, the users, should stop thinking about software as a thing to own. The direction is toward a service model for better and worse.

What should a keen-eyed shopper value?

  • No data lock-in – the user should own their data and be able to export it at any time through the native user interface without having to jump through hoops (except for encrypted data – see below). The export should be in a common format like plain text, XML, CSV, etc. and not a proprietary format.
  • Direct support – a web interface, email address, and chat at a minimum is required. Any service only offering support through an app store is a major red flag.
  • Multi-platform – unless you only live in Apple’s or Google’s ecosystem any SaaS must at least support your top two platforms. If you are GNU/Linux or Windows on your desktop, this is a must-have for your mobile devices.
  • Multi-cloud – unless you only live in Apple’s ecosystem any SaaS must support Dropbox as a second option at a minimum. iCloud is limited to macOS, iOS, and Windows but the Windows support is abysmal IMHO.
  • Mobile support – must handle landscape and portrait layouts and support tablet sizes. I am surprised at the software that still does not do this basic task.
  • Encryption – must support industry standard best encryption options. If a SaaS offers its own custom encryption RUN AWAY! Exporting encrypted data should offer unencrypted and GPG-passphrase-encrypted options though few do today.
  • Active development – this is easiest to verify if they have a public GitHub or similar repository. App stores will also show when the last update hit. Careful reviews of app store ratings can help figure out the historical time line. Check in Reddit and StackExchange and other public forums.
  • Native (non app store) desktop releases – on the desktop the ability to get the software outside of the Apple or Microsoft or Google app stores is a plus. Even if you prefer the app store version – and most users should for the added security – the developer’s willingness to offer a direct-to-the-customer version of their software with a license is a good sign. Also, any revenue the developer gets from these direct sales is 100%. Apple app store versions costs the developer 30% or so.
  • In App Purchases – not bad in and of themselves, a developer should not “nickel and dime” customers with small features. There should be an option for some kind of a premium bundle which offers all add-ons for a reasonable 1 time fee.
  • Data sync – this is a tough one. Most SaaS developers will come up with their own sync solution after changes to DropBox made it more difficult for developers. iCloud on iOS & macOS works in the Apple ecosystem. OneDrive might eventually for Microsoft and some Android stuff, and Google Drive for the Google stuff. I think so long as the sync adheres to the above you are good.
  • Local storage – some apps like 1Password and TextExpander offered local repository options but deprecated them for IMHO less than compelling reasons related to sync and cloud. Users should have the option to store sensitive data locally and forgo sync & cloud for that data.
  • Feature & scope creep – watch out for Saas that suddenly introduce changes for enterprises and large groups while removing or reducing functionality for individual users in order to accommodate the expansion.

What else should users look for in a SaaS product?

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En Route to Tokyo Observations, Part I

Random musings and reflections and notes from my current trip to Tokyo:

  • The Hilton Tokyo Shinjuku doesn’t answer their phone. I tried calling three times to inform them of my delayed arrival. I called the Hilton Diamond Help Desk and even they couldn’t confirm the information was understood once they managed to communicate with the hotel. Apparently this location has a reputation.
  • Delta still doesn’t know how to board planes. Our flight took 40% longer to board than it should have (by my estimation). Boarding was like elderly man’s urination stream, dribbles and drabs.
  • Airbus might want to have airlines mount signs at the entry informing passengers where the row numbers are.
  • I do love the overhead bins on the Airbus A320(OW), the “turn your bag on its side” kind.
  • It’s funny that the cabin crew had to explain how the “space ship” style overhead controls work, and funny how they did it.
  • The woman sitting next to me is 5’0″ or so, yet she has an iPhone 6s Plus. She uses it like a tablet and it works well for her. I’m oddly impressed.
  • The Hootoo travel router ROCKS.
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