Apple iPhone X Design Evo

This year, and after ten years of iterations, Apple exceptionally released at same time two new devices: iPhone 8 and iPhone X (three if we count the 8 Plus variant).

iPhoneX_iPhone8_iPhone8Plus.jpg

We can really identify an evolution and a polish of their industrial design in the current most iconic product line as it is the ‘iPhone’.

Sir Jony Ive made several movements in material selection along the years:

  • iPhone 2G (soft Aluminium) [2007]
  • iPhone 3G (Polycarbonate) [2008]
  • iPhone 4 (Steel frame with back glass)  [2010]
  • iPhone 5 (Alum Series 6000)  [2012]
  • iPhone 6s (Alum Series 7000)  [2015]
  • iPhone 8 (Alum 7000 frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof])
  • iPhone X (Steel frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof]) [2017]

The iPhone 4 made the first milestone, introducing a precious design based solely on noble materials such as Glass and Steel:

iPhone4S

The users have seen the polishing of the original iPhone industrial design, making it Better, more simple, robust and elegant along the last years.

One step further, Apple introduced a fully unibody alum case making the device (iPhone 5) even more robust against falls and over time, and reaching the maximum expression of inner specs and nice design with the still available iPhone SE (2016). And still pretty loved small and handy 4″ screen iPhone for single hand usage.

iPhoneSE_Flying

But I would say this was until 2014 with the iPhone 6 introduction. It became slimmer and rounded but the introduction of the Back Camera Turret destroyed the beautiful job done until the iPhone 5s. I can understand the engineering trade-off’s and Apple’s eagerness to continuously improve its photographic system; but that doesn’t mean that the final solution was pretty inconvenient in terms of simply ID.

iPhone6s_flying

And in 2014 year, also the iPhone 6s Plus (the bigger iPhone made until today) was also presented, which due its size, also explained the fact of making the device thinner and rounded (despite the back turret); to avoid a feeling of having a mastodon in the hands of the end user.

iPhone6s

Personally, I have been a really fan lover of the Plus FHD 5.5″ screen, despite the fact that the overall device size was never as handy as other more compact smartphones with 5,2″ FHD screens. So, I was also always waiting to what happen this year with the iPhone X, a more compact device with a massive screen.

You can see how the 4″ size is not enough anymore nowadays, and how the design of the iPhone X with bigger screen fixed it (compared with also iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models):

iPhoneSE_iPhone7_iPhone8.jpg

But coming back to the desing of the device itself, I would like to remark several things.

I was not a big fan of losing the 3.5″ analog audio jack (although, I think is a good movement to push the market to improve the wireless earbuds developments), but the iPhone 7 (2016) fixed several design holes of the previous generations.

iPhone7

First of all, the black matte color came back and due the new alloy and treatment processes, it was stronger against scratches, just perfect!

Secondly, the back camera turret design was embraced with the whole housing design, making of it something Smoother and Flowing more naturally to the lens, not like a ‘nut’ screwed into the housing. Look at it:

iPhone7Plus.jpg

Third, the plastic lines embedded in the housing for the RF antennas, were delicately re-designed and pushed to the side borders to go undetected. So beautiful and handy engineering trade-off solution, again very well done in both black color variants.

And last, but not less important, the Touch ID mechanical push button was fully removed, but keeping perfectly its functionality! I really love this change. Because it eliminated a mechanical piece, more or less delicate, and with a certain tendency to break with time, even maybe being very careful with it.

This made the most robust, powerful and reliable iPhone device until today.

But unfortunately, the history doesn’t end here, and in 2017 iPhone 8 and X, Apple decided to came back to back glass covers.

iPhone8_iPhoneX_iPhone8Plus.jpg

I understand the reasons behind for this movement: Inductive Charging feature introduction; as the main trend of Apple is to make its iPhone an fully ubiquitous device and fully cable loss dependent.

But this doesn’t mean that this marketing and engineering decision hard a tough impact in the design.

Now, we are again having a ‘nut’ embossed in the glass:

iPhone8.jpg

Which is even worse in the iPhone X, which straight turret is above 1mm height:

iPhoneX_flying.jpg

On top of that, the new “Space Gray” 2017 tone, is not dark/light enough gray, nor black, but some kind of slighly ‘ugly’ and a bit ‘dirty perception‘ gray tone, which makes it lose all the magic to the device. In the photos is not clearly noticeable, but in live it is, and loses many points in its favor; go to a shop and take a look yourself if you have the opportunity.

Another detail is that Apple bring back the frame made in Steell to the iPhone X (to differentiate further from iPhone 8), but I believe that the Alum alloy series 7000 continues being the best approach in terms of Hardness, Durability and Compensated weight for metal usage in smartphones:

iPhone8VSiPhoneX.jpg

And the worse is that the new back cover made in glass, and even reinforced, it is not shatterproof against falls. What, together with the higher back camera turrets, will make the need to use a cover more necessary than ever before, and not due the possible scratches of daily use, but to avoid instability on flat surfaces and possible glass breakages against falls.

Another problem of usability and perception is that the rear glass (despite being less slippery than the metal) is too warm and gives the impression of being cheaper and more bad than it really is; as it gives the feeling of being some kind of plastic material instead of glass, and not a premium material, something that back metal actually transmitted to the end user much perfectly.

iPhone8_Gold.jpg

Nor does it give it a feeling of being a Monolithic device, something that the previous iPhone 7 Jet Black model transmitted much better, despite its inherent problem of being prone to scratches or micro abrasions after some daily usage without any cover.

iPhone7_Jet_Black.jpg

I also personally think that the decission to avoid a black variant in 2017 was to avoid any possible reminiscences with the old iPhone 4 and any kind of annoying comparison with an obsolete device of seven years ago. Although another possibility is that Apple has a silver bullet for next year minor update, and they would introduce the Pure Black in the iPhone 2018 as a variant novelty, we’ll see. As this also happened in the past.

So, as conclusion, even if this year new devices are really great iPhones (I have not any doubt about it) and I know for sure that Apple will make another hit of sales; they didn’t move a step forward with respect pure to Industry Design, but management decided to focus on offering a truly exceptional photographic experience, putting aside the aesthetic details; at least until R&D can find a viable technical solution that puts everything all together: Photography + Wireless + Design

To end, my wish would be that in next years iPhone milestones, Apple solves the engineering issue for the wireless charging (keeping it, of course) but changing the back material to something more robust for daily use and without hiding its great industrial design under a case: Aluminum again, another metal alloy or maybe even any innovative material (a new kind of ceramic?); and also the back camera it becomes again completely flat maintaining all its spectacular functionalities 😉

P.S. By the way ,I did not want to put too much emphasis on the iPhone X’s notch (Face ID), or ‘ears’ as some people call them:

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_a

because the idea (True Depth cameras technology) has been implemented in a so sublime way taking into account all the engineering trade-off’s, look by yourself the inners complexity (8 tiny and extremely complex electronic components putted together in a row and perfectly alligned along the millions of units to be made):

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_b.jpg

This is again a big step ahead in the consumer electronics in terms of strong seamless security system; and anyone can not, and should not, neglect all the merit behind to bring it to market; because it is another milestone in the smartphone industry, as it was the Touch ID at 2012. And I know that Apple UX team will find the best balance (maybe after few iOS iterations) to use those couple of ears to simply show useful information to the user without making ugly the whole interface always, adapting them depending of the app being used, and without bringing back a useless bottom black band just to simply offer a full symmetrical design, which will again wrongly oversize the device, making it less handy.

Apple HomePod – Breaking Barriers

After sometime waiting something new from the big Apple, they surprised us again with a new product line to compete face-to-face with Google and Amazon.

Apple_HomePod_001

But in this case, it is slightly different. From CPU side, it is so powerful as an iPhone 6, as it uses the Apple A8 as main core. And from sound point of view, its woofer and seven-tweeter array disposed in 360º, will be able to cover perfectly a big room.

One of the cool things, besides Siri interaction is that this “smartspeaker” can be palced anywhere in the room, as it automatically analyzes the acoustics, adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, and steers the music in the optimal direction. Whether HomePod is against the wall, on a shelf, or in the middle of the room, everyone gets an immersive listening experience.

And from its inners, we can see again its delicious and exquisite arrangement of components:

Apple_HomePod_003

Something really amazing for what many people will consider only as a speaker:

Apple_HomePod_002

And of course, available in two different colors: Black and White, so finally an awesome and nice smart speaker which  you want to place in any spot of your room so that it looks good, and not to go unnoticed, quite the opposite. 😉

Smartphones, Premium Materials,… and Cases?

Since the first smartphones with premium materials were released in the market with Glass, Metal, Leather, Wood, … I realized that something was changing, making these devices more personal, more human, and less commodity parts.

But since then, many smartphones models and manufacturers have joined the party, but most of them still have the same problem.

We still need to use (or are adviced to do it) a case or protector in case we can keep our daily devices as new as first day:

Samsung_S6_case

This is something that I really don’t understand and don’t like at all; which is the purpose of adding strengthen Glass front or back panels, Metal frames of even full metal unibody housings if at the end the feeling that I will have in my hands will be the touch of a soft, and common plastic?

Well, the good thing, is that I am not the only one realizing this situation, and some market players, as Apple and Jony Ive team, already began to solve it. But how, simply using more robust materials in their creations, as the latest iPhone 6s, which uses the strongest 7000 Series aluminum alloy for metal body and the strongest cover glass used on any smartphone in the world; using a special dual ion‑exchange process, which makes it stronger at a molecular level and the most durable in the smartphone industry.

iPhone6s

Of course, the research is still not over. I believe that current metal alloy is strong enough to avoid scratches and floor impacts, and even the screen is already strengthen to don’t worry anymore about having your keyrings and iPhone’s in the same pocket. Anyhow, even if I am not fully convinced about the total reliability of the front cover glass against floor fallings, I believe that Cupertino guys are going in the right direction and next iPhone generations (as the next iPhone 7 – 2016) and next ones, will be even more roboust enough to avoid using no more cases neither screen protectors at all in normal user cases.

But, of course, not only Apple is working in that direction, also Moto by Lenovo did it with their first Moto X Force with Shattershield display:

moto_x_force_0

And Motorola is so proud and convinced about it that the company will offer 4 years warranty on the screen of the device, and claimed they have spent 3 years developing this shatterproof screen; which has five layers to ensure its durability and are designed to absorb shock and protect the display from breaking:

moto_x_force_1

Basically, the first layer is an exterior protective glass which Moto says comes with a proprietary hard coat designed to guard against dents and abrasion, followed by an interior glass in the second layer to provide a clear protective shield. Then, there is a dual touch layer, which ensures that in case of an impact where the primary touch sensitive layer is damaged, the second one takes over to maintain touchscreen performance. The fourth layer is the AMOLED display, which Moto says can absorb shocks. And finally the fifth layer is the aluminum chassis, which provides structural integrity and durability.

iPhone6s – One Step Ahead

After my old post (iPhone6s – ‘Dreams & Facts’ – 3 months ahead) where I was trying to predict which would be the new features of this year iPhone release, I think is time to talk about some of the changes and ‘surprises’ that we got.

One of the good changes was the change of aluminum alloy used in the housing, moving from previous 6000 series to stronger 7000 series. This was a very smart movement from Apple, because after introducing it on their Apple Watches, and with a year of experience manufacturing it, the iPhone user got a stronger housing which dissipates any trace of last year ‘Bendgate’ (which I personally think from my own experience was vastly exaggerated); and not only that, harder against tiny scratches.

This will be very interesting for all those users who like to enjoy the feeling of the raw metal in their hands without any case in between; but also who don’t want to care if they leave their expensive devices on any surface. Anyhow, due the inconvenient protrude camera, I’ll continue using a case, to have a fully flat back side.

A part of slighly heavier feeling (few grams due newer 3D Touch screen and Taptip Engine added), and few tens of millimeters increase in size, the users will not see any difference between the iPhone6 and newer iPhone6s housing.

For the most curious of the inners parts, we can see here a full exploid view of iPhone6s Plus:

iPhone_6s_Plus_Exploid_View

On top of that, Apple also renewed their SoC with a newer A9, faster and even more powerful that last year 64-bit A8.

It is never mentioned, but Apple also increased the inner RAM embedded inside the SoC up to 2GB (LPDDR4 type), something that most users were long time waiting for.

This upgrade finally aligns the whole mobile devices product line since last year first iPad Air 2 with 2GB:

  • iPhone6s / 6sPlus (2015): 2GB RAM
  • iPad mini 4 (2015): 2GB RAM
  • iPad Air 2 (2014): 2GB RAM
  • iPad Pro 1 (2015): 4GB RAM

The drawback of this change is that Apple made a turning point; and as they normally optimize the iOS and apps for current devices specs, all old models before 2014 could become obsolete (‘slow and sluggish as a brick’) in only one year cycle (next iOS10). Of course, only Apple has the last word about it; but the reality is that today the iOS9.0.2 becomes slower in (not so old) iPhone6/6Plus devices as many users are reporting.

And again, this is not all, it looks like we will have another ‘gate’ this year, and it will be the “ChipGate“:

iPhone6_A9_chips_Samsung_TSMC

I may understand that for a company as Apple, who sells tens of millions of new iPhone’s every year, to get the right supply chain alliances must be quite difficult; so this year Apple splitted the production of the newer A9 between TSMC and Samsung. This should not be an issue if they would use the same lithographic processes, but that was not the case (TSMC 16nm FinFET Plus, Samsung 14nm LPP (low-power plus) 2nd gen FinFET); which is one of the reasons of difference in silicon size of the above picture.

So, today we may find 4 types of “non-declared/selectable” iPhones on the shops:

  • N66mAP: iPhone 6s Plus with A9 chip manufactured by TSMC.
  • N66AP: iPhone 6s Plus with A9 chip manufactured by Samsung.
  • N71mAP: iPhone 6s with A9 chip manufactured by TSMC.
  • N71AP: iPhone 6s with A9 chip manufactured by Samsung.

Of course, the user cannot choose, neither select them, and after some intensive tests made, looks like the TSMC variant can provide around 25% more battery lifetime compared with Samsung variant; and even lower internal temperature rise.

After the whole debate created, Apple had to officially acknowledged it; but they argued that those huge differences are only in extreme test cases, not typical daily user cases:

“Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.”

I am not fully agree with that as Different lithographic process are directed related to power consumption.

Today the iPhone6s/6sPlus is a extremely powerful machine (even already compared with Macbook Air’s performance), and Apple also promotes it as a portable video editing computer (to make and edit even 4K videos); then, I don’t find fair that for a so expensive product (up to $1000 for the full highest iPhone6sPlus 128GB model) some buyers will have to “play to lotto” to see if they get a Samsung or TSMC A9 inside.

Besides of that, I would share with your a couple of cool X-Ray pictures of the two models 😉 , there you’ll see below the battery big ‘block’ the new Taptic engines introduced this year; which reduced battery size with respect last year; but not battery expected lifetime due other systems improvements.

This is the iPhone 6s:

iPhone6s_xRay

And the iPhone 6s Plus:

iPhone6sPlus_xRay

As final though, regarding the iPhone 6s ChipGate of 2015, I only hope that Apple rectifies and for next year iPhone 7 (2016), they use a single SoC foundry or exactly the same lithographic process for all products made with coming A10 (and some sources already pointed to TSMC as main and only A10 source due their capability to offer a better power consumption and yield lithographic process).

iPhone – From 2G (2007) up to 6s (2015)

It is very interesting to see how the iPhone product line has been evolving during the last eight years, since the first generation (iPhone2G) was released on June 29th, 2007; up to the latest iPhone6s/6sPlus from last September 25th, 2015:

iPhone_History_000

In this time, Apple has been evolving their flagship product from screen size and also housing colors; but only that, as since 2014 they splitted the product line in two variants: Normal (4.7″) and Plus (5.5″) versions, giving to the users even more ‘flavors’ to choose, on top of Color (Gray Space, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold) and internal FLASH memory size (16/64/128GB).

It is very interesting because even Steve Jobs said that the original 3.5″ was the perfect size to reach the whole screen with your thumb, holding it with a single hand; the iPhone was been continuously growing following market demands.

iPhone_History_001

I must admit that I felt very confortable with the 3.5″ and even 4″; but even if the latest 4.7″ can be managed by single hand; the 5.5″ mostly must be used with two-hands. Of course, 5.5″ size is a trade-off, which allowed many users to merge their old two devices (iPhone and iPad) in a single one, carrying less devices on their bags.

I really doubt that the iPhone screen will grow further in the coming years, as it seems that even in the Android/Windows smartphones field the battle for bigger and bigger screen sizes is over, and the limit was has been set at 5.7″ for phablets and 5″ or 5.2″ for smartphones, as maximum size. And if it does, probably will be up to 5.7″, going edge-to-edge with new housing, but keeping the overall size.

Enlight – One to Rule them all

As all of you know, nowadays we have tens or even hundreds of photo editing apps in the AppStore, with plenty of features and flavours: Free, Freemium (with In-App purchases) and pure single Paid. But the problem of most of them is that you must rely on several apps to perform different re-touching to your single photo. Or you must to pay $1 or $2 every time that you want to use that nice feature tool which is blocked inside that ‘free‘ or even already paid app.

Well, I think those days are finally over, luckily for all of us with a small (or big) creative talent feeling inside.

You will not have to pay again and again for each blocked tool or filter, or even switch continuously from app to app to apply different kind of filters, texts or frames. And this is thanks the guys of Lightricks Ltd. studio and their fabulous photo-editing app Enlight.

Enlight_Logo

One year later of their first release (Facetune), they put all their imaging processing expertise to offer as the standalone photo app which rule them all. At it is true, it costs $4.99, but wait a minute, give me few more lines to tell you why deserves to pay for it.

First of all, you will pay only one time, period! No more single payments to activate any single extra tool. And secondly, its User interface is extremely easy to use and very quick to get use to it even being minimalistic; something that is sometimes very welcome, and many mobile developers forget, making our lifes even more difficult. 😛

Enlight_000

On top of that, the app is Universal and fully adapted from the small iPhone 3.5″ screen up to the latest iPhone Plus 5.5″ sice, and of course all the iPad’s resolutions. You only need to straight forward make a shot from you camera or choose one of your photo’s from your camera roll to begin to apply some Presets:

Enlight_001

Or smoothly play with every single settings:

Enlight_002

And again, on top of all the features and filters to choose:

  • Crop, Re-adjust objects position and Perspective.
  • Adjust the typical photo parameters (the same as Photos from iOS but already inside the app)
  • Old times filters: Artistic Analog effects, Black & White and Dual effect at same time in real-time.
  • Photo Mixer: Overlay two photos to produce a double exposure effect
  • Several Blending modes: This is impressive and cool!
  • Intelligent Photo Correction: As the Heal tool for seamless removal of defects
  • Artistic Effects and Filters: Painting effects, Urban Street Art and also Realistic looking sketches
  • Drawing capability: You can draw whatever you want directly with your fingers, and also add pattern effects on your photos simply sliding your fingers over them!
  • Texting: Add you own text (choose color and font), and make your Meme’s
  • And finally: Add Frames, Borders, Prepare your photo for Instagram, or make a Collage if you wish!

Enlight_003

But, this is not all. There are more:

  • It automatically saves your work (also called Sessions) so you can Undo-Redo as much as you want afterwards.
  • You can select the quality of the file: JPEG/PNG/TIFF (It is up to you to decide the file Size vs Quality)
  • It supports up to 16MP files; more than enough as currently iDevices has up to 8MP cameras and the coming ones probably will jump up to 12MP; so the app is already prepared for the coming future. 😉
  • And if you want to make your own photo editing tutorials of your photo editing sessions, you can export all the steps in a video animation (where you can also select the time between step and step frame) to your camera roll or social network.

What else? I have all in one single app, it works smoothly, it is powerful, and since it was released the last March’15, the developers have being polishing it in only a couple of updates and adding extra features fully FREE.

You can still do the same with several single app and paying single $0.99 micro-payments inside of them from time to time; but if you want to really Focus in your Creativity talent, enjoy photo editing, and don’t miss any spontaneous idea switching from app to app in our rushed life; don’t doubt about it and give it a try, it is worth and even one of the Apple Editors’ choice. 🙂

iPhone6s – ‘Dreams & Facts’ – 3 months ahead

Well, it is nearly weekend, so time to relax and chat a bit about the coming future of the next iPhone 🙂 ; but not only that, we are just 3 months in advance of the presentation of the next iPhone6s series; which I would say will be next coming 18th September 2015.

Currently I have read many rumors and predictions about the possible new coming features of this new iPhone; but based in my own experience I want make also my own bet; explaining my reasoning behind also.

These are the most possible (and not possible) upgrades that we will see in the Apple Autumn event:

  1. A9 CPU based on FinFET 14nm: (95%) I am mostly sure of this upgrade taking into account the close collaboration between Apple and Samsung Semi foundry.
  2. 2GB of RAM: (75%) This prediction could be quite disapointing for some fan’s, but although when Apple presented the iPad Air 2 this year with that upgrade I was pretty convinced (99%) that it should be the path for all the iDevices from 2015; today I am not fully sure. As it is possible that Apple wants to keep the bump to 2GB only for the tablets and PRO devices; as the iPad Air 2 and a rumored iPad 13″ Pro. Let’s see if I am wrong (and happy about my mistake 😉 ) and we get powerful iPhones with 2GB of RAM; or, if we even need to wait for iPhone 7 for it.
  3. LPDDR4 RAM: (90%) This is also a pretty sure movement, doesn’t matter if with 1GB, 1.5GB or 2GB increase, as this newer RAM technology is also faster and more power efficient, and already well tested in the field with al the Samsung S6 smartphones deployed wordwide.
  4. Battery Longer Life: (95%) If the above features happen, this will happen also, but not because the battery will be bigger in capacity, but due lower power consumption of the chipsets used.
  5. 12-megapixel iSight Camera: (95%) After three years with the same camera resolution (8MP since iPhone 4s) I think that Apple has squeezed up to the maximum this sensor; and while Apple internally develops the just acquired LinX Imaging technology for their future products (something which I believe it will not happen at least to iPhone7s (2017) or very luckily on iPhone7) this increase of resolution would give another step ahead while Apple prepares its way for their own embedded cameras with SLR quality images.
  6. 2-megapixel FaceTime Camera: (99%) After two years living with a limited 1.2Mpix camera, and the high demand from the users, this will be also the year where we could finally could make Full-HD selfies; and possible even front panorama captures.
  7. Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): (85%) This would be also a possible added feature on the iPhone6s, but only if it still fits inside the slimmer housing of it, compared with the 0.2mm thicker iPhone6Plus which already has it.
  8. Touch ID 3rd Gen: (100%) This will be for sure, nothing noticeable externally speaking, but yes in its daily use, as already happen with the second generation of last year.
  9. Housing with Alu-7000: (85%) I think that Apple will not change their last years strategy and the housing will remain in the same shape form (which means keeping the disapointing protruding back camera at least up to next year); but if the yield rate is good and their partners can offer the requested quantities, it is possible that Apple will move to the newer Aluminum 7000 series alloy which is used in their Apple Watch 2015 and giving so good reviews. Besides, it is also quite feasible that the same color tones (darker Space Grey) introduced in the Macbook 2015 would be added to it.
  10. FLASH size storage: Well, this is also a tricky feature. I am sure that the maximum capacity will remain in 128GB; but still big ‘Q’ is if Apple will decide to change to 32/64/128GB offer, or if they will stick on the 16/64/128GB. If I would have to bet, I would say 75% possibilities for the change: 32/64/128GB; but this is more marketing strategy and profits than something else.
  11. Sapphire front glass: (0-5%) I keep these last two features because I really doubt about them at this point in time. For this one, I don’t even think that Apple’s is still considering for this year this change, as this would be a Major change, adding also a big cost impact, and I also doubt that they have put in place enough production capabilities on top of the glass for the luxurious Apple Watch models.
  12. Force Touch: (5%) For this item I also really doubt about it. Simply because it would have a big impact in the housing design (in terms of bigger? size/shape changes); and this is totally outside of the 2-years housing design process of Apple. Alright, it could be cool to have it right now, but I don’t think so. In fact, I believe this will be the major feature for next year iPhone7; once Apple has completely internalized all the lessons learned (from Watch and Macbooks usage); and also they have time to prepare a upgraded iOS10 user interface taking it into account to really bring added value to the whole system. It is possible that we will see it sooner (maybe in the next iPad 13″ Pro rumored for 2nd Nov 2015?); but not in an iPhone but at least 23rd Sept. 2016.

And these are all my predictions/wishes three months ahead of the real release of next iPhone6s 😉

French – Spanish Berlitz Basic Talking Dictionary

In my way of improving my languages knowledge I have been always looking for good offline translation electronic dictionaries, which I can bring always with me even when I have not Internet connection (so, no access to the usual and free Google Translator). Nowadays there are plenty of offers in the App Store, free and paid based; so to find a good option is not always easy.

In this review I will talk to you about the French – Spanish Berlitz Basic Talking Dictionary from Langenscheidt GmbH & Co. KG; a German company with a long tradition on paper dictionaries, with good reputation on the market and on which I had many good experiences when I used years ago their paper dictionary products.

FR_SP_basic_dic_icon

As I was saying, I was looking for a good and reliable FRench<->SPanish dictionary app; and after trying several free versions (mostly ad-based and/or also with bad wording databases); and some paid apps too, I found that this app would be the best one for any average (and even high level) French/Spanish languages user/student.

FR_SP_basic_dict_000

Even if it says that is the BASIC variant, it has 140.000 (headwords, expressions and translations) entries on it, where 39661 French and 36185 Spanish of them have native speakers pronounced audio included.

So, as you see, it is pretty complete, and honestly, after more than a year of intensive use I never had a single case where my searching was not found inside its database, it is bullet proof.

It also allows you to write some words together and let the app to search for all the entries at same time, what can be pretty useful when you would like to translate a phrase:

FR_SP_basic_dict_001

As an extra feature, and even so many other dictionaries also offer it, I find very useful the Flash Cards feature, which allows you as user and student to add the words that you look for on it for later review/study. I have use the Flash cards study methodology also in the past, and today I still find it as a useful vocabulary memorization system.

FR_SP_basic_dict_002

And also, in case you hear a word but you didn’t understand it completely how to write it, or simply you don’t remember exactly how to spell it, the app has also a missing/swapped letter search system where some letters are forgotten:

FR_SP_basic_dict_003

And I must admit that for some difficult to pronounce languages as it is French, it will be very practical in many cases; mostly in conversation or listening situations where you would like to find a word which is not very clear how to write/spell it.

On top of these features, the app engine was improved since last release (v3.58.507) so it has a pretty fast cold launching app time compared with last year version, and all the latest iPhone 6/6 Plus and their HD resolution screens are also supported, making its daily use a gorgeous user experience 🙂

I will mention that it includes a French Verb Conjugation on it. To use it, you only need to search for a French verb and click on the top dedicated conjugation icon. Then, you will not need to buy an extra app for this purpose.

Besides, for iOS8 users, it has also implemented the ‘extension‘ feature, so you can now look up words while reading in Safari, which is wonderful when you are reading foreign webs without being forced to switch between apps via multi-tasking.

And as daily heavy user, I only can say that I am very glad of it, it works smoothly, the wording database is very complete (even for a “Basic” version as it is sold); and as an important small user remark for a romance language, I found that the genders of the substantives are always correct (Male/Female), where in other also paid dictionaries (in the same price range) had some mistakes in their databases, leading to misunderstood to the user/student.

It is true that its $19,99 price could seem quite high for some users, but if you are looking for a high quality and very reliable FR/SP electronic dictionary to accompany you in all kind of situations; I would recommend any non-professional/translator user this one without doubts, even as a long investment. 😉

HOW TO define your own iOS custom ringtone

Nowadays most people mostly uses the default ringtones coming in the iOS, being most of them pretty good. But for all those who would like to have a more customized ringtone, and don’t want to pay twice in iTunes for the song and the ringtone, it is possible to make your own in few and easy steps.

You only need to follow these steps in your iTunes program (PC or Mac version):

1) Open your iTunes (PC/Mac) and choose the song from which you would like to make your own ringtone. As it must be 30 seconds maximum length; we will have to crop it, so listening several times to choose the section of it which you like more.

2) Now, right-click on the song, select ‘Get Info’, and then select the ‘Options’ tab. There, you will see Start and Stop timing settings, and it is there where you will select/define the begin and end time position (in seconds) for your custom ringtone. Once selected, click ‘OK’ to close the window.

iOS_ringtone_1

3) Next step will be to create an AAC version of the song, which is pretty easy as you only need to right-click on it and select ‘Create AAC Version’. Then, you will have two songs with the same name, but one of only 30 seconds length; which I recommend you to change its name as I did in this example to don’t confuse it with the full length song:

iOS_ringtone_2

And before continuing, you can de-selecting the ‘Start’ and ‘Stop’ settings in the original song to listen it fully next time.

By the way, if you get an error due your song still has DRM protection on it (as it was purchased before 2009 in old iTunes), you can follow this Apple tutorial to get the free-DRM version.

4) To be able to use it as ringtone, we need to find the file and rename it. On Mac you can select ‘Show in Finder’, and in PC you can right-click on the song and click on ‘Show in Windows Explorer’:

iOS_ringtone_3

Then, with a simply right-click on the file, and selecting ‘rename’, you can change its file extension from .m4a to .m4r.

iOS_ringtone_4

5) And as final step, you do a double left-click on the ringtone file, and your custom ringtone (with .m4r extension) will be automatically added to your iTunes Tones library:

iOS_ringtone_5

Then, it is ready to be added to your iPhone/iPad next time that you synchronize them. Pretty easy! 😉