Tag Archives: Ios

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Just recently, Google and Microsoft both added neural network learning to their translation apps. Google said it’s using machine learning to suggest playlists. Todoist says it’s using AI to suggest when you should finish a task. Any.do claims its AI-powered bot can do some tasks for you. All that’s just from last week. Some of it is marketing fluff to make new features sound impressive, but sometimes the changes are legitimately useful. “Artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” and “neural networks” all describe ways for computers to do more advanced tasks and learn from their environment. While you may hear them used interchangeably by app developers, they can be very different in practice.

Neural Networks Analyze Complex Data By Simulating the Human Brain

Artificial neural networks (ANNs or simply “neural networks” for short) refer to a specific type of learning model that emulates the way synapses work in your brain. Traditional computing uses a series of logic statements to perform a task. Neural networks, on the other hand, use a network of nodes (which act like neurons) and edges (which act like synapses) to process data. Inputs are then run through the system and a series of outputs are generated.

That output is then compared to known data. For example, say you want to train a computer to recognize a picture of a dog. You’d run millions of pictures of a dog through the network to see what images it decided looked like dogs. A human would then confirm which images are actually dogs. The system then favors the pathways through the neural network that led to the correct answer. Over time and millions of iterations, the network will eventually improve the accuracy of its results.

To see how this works in action, you can try out Google’s Quick, Draw! experiment here. In this case, Google is training a network to recognize doodles. It compares the doodle you draw to examples drawn by other people. The network is told what the doodles are and then trained to recognize future doodles based on what the past ones look like. Even if your drawing skills suck (like mine do), the network is pretty good at recognizing basic shapes like submarines, house plants, and ducks.

Neural networks aren’t the right solution for everything, but they excel at dealing with complex data. Google and Microsoft using neural networks to power their translation apps is legitimately exciting because translating languages is hard. We’ve all seen broken translations, but neural network learning could let the system learn from correct translations to get better over time. We’ve seen a similar thing happen with voice transcription. After introducing neural network learning to Google Voice, transcription errors were reduced by 49%. You may not notice it right away and it won’t be perfect, but this type of learning genuinely makes complex data analysis better which can lead to more natural features in your apps.

Machine Learning Teaches Computers to Improve With Practice

Machine learning is a broad term that encompasses anything where you teach a machine to improve at a task on its own. More specifically, it refers to any system where a machine’s performance at completing a task gets better solely through more experience performing that task. Neural networks are an example of machine learning, but they are not the only way a machine can learn.

For example, one alternative method of machine learning is called reinforcement learning. In this method, a computer performs a task and then it’s graded on the result. The video above from Android Authority uses a chess game as an example. A computer plays a complete game of chess and then it either wins or loses. If it wins, then it assigns a winning value to the series of moves it used during that game. After playing millions of games, the system can determine which moves are most likely to win based on the results of those games.

While neural networks are good for things like pattern recognition in images, other types of machine learning may be more useful for different tasks like determining what kind of music you like. To wit, Google says its music app will find you the music you want when you want it. It does this by selecting playlists for you based on your past behavior. If you ignore its suggestions, that would (presumably) be labeled as a failure. However, if you choose one of the suggestions, the process it used to give that suggestion is labeled as a success, so it reinforces the process that led to that suggestion.

In cases like this, you might not get the full benefit of machine learning if you don’t use the feature a lot. The first time you open Google’s music app, your recommendations will probably be pretty scattershot. The more you use it, the better the suggestions get. In theory, anyway. Machine learning isn’t a silver bullet, so you could still get junk recommendations. However, you’ll definitely get junk recommendations if you only open the music app once every six months. Without regular use to help it learn, machine learning suggestions aren’t much better than regular “smart” suggestions. As a buzzword, “machine learning” is vaguer than neural networks, but it still implies that the software you’re using will use your feedback to improve its performance.

Artificial Intelligence Just Means Anything That’s “Smart”

Just like neural networks are a form of machine learning, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. However, the category of what else counts as “artificial intelligence” is so poorly defined that it’s almost meaningless. While it conjures the mental image of futuristic sci-fi, in reality, we’ve already reached milestones that were previously considered the realm of future AI. For example, optical character recognition was once considered too complex for a machine, but now an app on your phone can scan documents and turn them into text. Describing such a now-basic task as AI would make it sound more impressive than it is.

The reason that basic phone tasks can be considered AI is because there are actually two very different categories of artificial intelligence. Weak or narrow AI describes any system that’s designed for a narrow task or set of tasks. For example, Google Assistant and Siri—while powerful—are designed to do a very narrow set of tasks. Namely, take specifics series of voice commands and return answers or launch apps. Research into artificial intelligence powers those features, but it’s still considered “weak.”

In contrast, strong AI—otherwise known as artificial general intelligence or “full aI”—is a system that can perform any task that a human can. It also doesn’t exist. If you were hoping that your to-do list app would be powered by a cute robot voiced by Alan Tudyk, that’s a long way off. Since virtually any AI you’d actually use is considered weak AI, the phrase “artificial intelligence” in an app description really just means “it’s a smart app.” You might get some cool suggestions, but don’t expect it to rival the intelligence of a human.

While the semantics may be muddy, the practical research in AI fields is so useful you’ve probably already incorporated it into your daily life. Every time your phone automatically remembers where you parked, recognizes faces in your photos, get search suggestions, or automatically groups all your vacation pictures together, you’re benefitting either directly or indirectly from AI research. To a certain extent, “artificial intelligence” really just means apps getting smarter, which is what you’d expect anyway. However, machine learning and neural networks are uniquely suited to improving certain kinds of tasks. If an app just says it’s using “AI” it’s less meaningful than any type of machine learning.

It’s also worth pointing out that neural networks and machine learning are not all created equal. Saying that an app uses machine learning to do something better is a bit like saying a camera is better because it’s “digital.” Yes, digital cameras can do some things that film cameras can’t, but that doesn’t mean that every digital photograph is better than every film photograph. It’s all in how you use it. Some companies will be able to develop powerful neural networks that do really complicated things that make your life better. Others will slap a machine learning label on a feature that already offered “smart” suggestions and you’ll ignore it just the same.

From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, machine learning and neural networks are very exciting. However, if you’re reading an app description that uses these phrases, you can just read it as “This feature is slightly smarter, probably” and continue doing what you’ve always done: judging apps by how useful they are to you.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Read more…

The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

The WWDC keynote is finally over, and if we learned one thing, it’s that Apple has fundamentally changed. Most of the news from the developer’s conference wasn’t too earth-shattering: there were no new apps being ported to Android, no allusions to any Apple hardware whatsoever, and Tim Cook even seemed a little off during his presentation.

Read more…

Make Your iPhone Read Anything Out Loud With One Quick Swipe

Make Your iPhone Read Anything Out Loud With One Quick Swipe

Whether you’re driving or you just want to be hands-free around the house, you can make your iOS device read anything from emails to websites to articles, and all it takes is turning on an Accessibility function.

As How-to Geek explains, your device’s “Speak Screen” feature lets you command it to read just about anything with a quick swipe. We’ve told you how to enable your phone’s text-to-speech function before, but this option makes it even easier.

They explain how it works:

With the “Speak Screen” feature in iOS, you can have your device read whatever’s on the screen to you just by swiping two fingers down from the top of the page. It can read just about anything, from settings pages to web sites to ebooks. While it’s obviously useful if you have some form of visual impairment, it can also be really handy when you want to catch up on your reading but don’t want your eyes glued to a screen.

To enable it, simply head to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech. Then, enable “Speak Screen.” From there, you should be able to swipe down from any screen and your device will start reading. A small toolbar will pop up, allowing you to adjust the speed and pause directly from the screen. For more detail, head to the post below.

How to Make Your iOS Device Read Articles, Books, and More Out Loud to You | How-to Geek

Paper, the iOS Drawing and Notes App, Simplifies Navigation and Adds Search

Paper, the iOS Drawing and Notes App, Simplifies Navigation and Adds Search

iOS: Paper is easily one of the best drawing apps on iOS, and recent updates have added in the ability to write to-do lists and other notes. Those new features were welcome, but made it a little tough to navigate the app. Thankfully, a new and improved sidebar fixes that.

http://lifehacker.com/paper-the-fant…

Paper has gone through a lot of iterations since it first launched, and eventually ditched the notebooks in favor of “spaces.” Now, those spaces are called grids, and you have access to all of them from the sidebar. The sidebar is a nice improvement over the the previous interface. You can also now search from the sidebar, which is pretty useful if you have a lot of different notes. If you haven’t used Paper in a while, it’s worth another look, and this update makes it a bit easier to use in general.

Paper (Free) | iTunes App Store

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter

There are dozens of Twitter clients for the iPhone, but the official Twitter app and the third-party Tweetbot are two of the most popular. One’s free, the other’s pretty expensive at $9.99. Let’s dig into the main differences between the two, and see if the difference in experience is worth the difference in cost.

The Contenders

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Tweetbot (left) orders your timeline, y’know, by time whereas Twitter (right) does whatever it wants

Because of the way Twitter works, developing a Twitter app is a pain. It’s expensive for developers because Twitter charges them for keys to access the site, which means developers tend to pass that charge over to you, and then revoke access when you get too popular. Subsequently, most good Twitter apps tend to be on the pricey side, Tweetbot included. Let’s start with a quick look at both apps:

  • Twitter (Free): When it first launched, the official Twitter app was a bit of a joke, but over the years it’s improved quite a bit. That said, it’s basically just a mobile version of the web site, which means it’s built more for the everyday user than for power users who use all of Twitter’s features, or manage multiple accounts. It’s straight-forward to use and doesn’t feature any bells and whistles.
  • Tweetbot ($9.99): Tweetbot has been our favorite Twitter client for iPhone for a very long time, but $10 is a steep price to pay for most users. Tweetbot isn’t really made for most users though. It’s made for the type of person who spends the bulk of their day on Twitter, whether it for work or out of a deep-seated obsession with the social network. Tweetbot has a good amount of customization options for the interface, alongside a handful of ways to get a better Twitter experience by tweaking the content of your feed.

Assuming that the $10 price tag on Tweetbot isn’t enough to turn you away outright, picking between the two really depends on how you use Twitter.

http://lifehacker.com/5809798/the-be…

Tweetbot Has Better Customization

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Don’t like the tabs on the bottom? Tweetbot (left) lets you change them up

The official Twitter app is about as vanilla as an experience as you can get. Open it up and you’ll find an interface similar to the web site, with tabs on the bottom for your notifications, moments, DMs, and your profile tab. Functionality in the app is the same as the site as well. You can’t alter any of this. You can’t change the tabs, the colors, or even adjust the font size. With the Twitter app, what you see is what you get.

Conversely, Tweetbot has a variety of customization options. For example, the bottom tab bar has two buttons on the right that you can swap out for whatever function you want: activity (which includes mentions, replies, favorites, and new follower information), search, profile, likes, mute filters, or lists. If you use lists to tame your Twitter feed, having access to them in the tab bar makes your life easier. The official Twitter app tucks those lists behind several taps. If you’re using Tweetbot on an iPad or a iPhone 6 Plus, you also get support for columns in landscape mode, which lets you see two tabs side-by-side. Tweetbot also allows you to chose between a couple fonts, swap between username or full name for your timeline, alter the image size in your feed, and even customize the avatars. There’s a dark mode included if you prefer to do your tweeting late at night in a dark room.

Tweetbot also has extremely customizable notifications, so you can tweak them so you only get the notifications you want. Tweetbot has options for links too, allowing you to open links in Tweetbot, Chrome, or Safari, and even includes a reader view that strips away the visual styling of an article.

In the end, if you want an app you can customize, Tweetbot’s the one you’re looking for. The official Twitter app doesn’t allow you to change anything.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-clean-u…

Tweetbot’s Mute Filters and Lack of Ads Make Power User’s Days Better

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Tweetbot’s mute filters let you get rid of any part of Twitter you don’t want to see

Twitter is a noisy place. People tweet dozens of times a day, publications don’t seem to ever stop, and there’s always a chance for spoilers if you’re anticipating any type of media at all. Tweetbot has ways around this.

Tweetbot has a powerful set of mute filters. You can mute keywords, phrases, users, or hashtags. When you do so, any tweet that contains those things will not show up in your feed. This is great during sports playoffs when you’re not a fan, election seasons, or if you’re avoiding spoilers for something. If you do mute something, Tweetbot’s also smart enough to still show you replies that might mention those things, so you’re not totally cut off from the world. The downside is that these mute filters don’t carry over to the web version of Twitter, so it really only works inside the Tweetbot ecosystem (which includes the $10 Mac app). If you only use the Tweetbot iPhone app, it’s great, but if you’re also using the web version on your desktop computer, it’s a bit annoying.

Plus, like pretty much all third-party Twitter clients, you won’t see ads in Tweetbot. Considering how often those annoying sponsored posts seem to pop up, it’s a nice little addition if you’re not a fan of advertisements.

http://lifehacker.com/5887230/how-to…

Twitter Keeps You on the Cutting Edge

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
While Tweetbot lets you take a close look at what’s happening in your feed, Twitter likes to show you a more global view

The one area where the official Twitter dominates Tweetbot is in support for new features. The folks behind Twitter love to introduce new little features all the time, whether that’s fun stuff like polls or weird features like Moments. If you’re using the official Twitter app, you will almost always see an update in the app to support these new features immediately.

Tweetbot doesn’t do this at all. Heck, Tweetbot still doesn’t support polls. For whatever reason, many of the cutting edge features that Twitter decides to roll out don’t end up working on third-party clients. Of course, that’s also a feature of Tweetbot if you like a simpler Twitter experience as a whole.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-take-yo…

The Verdict: Tweetbot’s the Better App, but Twitter Is Free, Still Does Enough for Most People

Let’s be honest here: the general population who just glances at Twitter a couple times a day doesn’t need a $10 Twitter app. If you only manage one account, don’t mind seeing a bunch of extra garbage like ads and obnoxious hashtags, and it doesn’t bother you when Twitter adds some half-baked new idea to the app every week, then the official Twitter app is all you need.

If you spend a lot of time on Twitter during the day, then Tweetbot’s the best app for making that experience better. The mute function alone is worth the price of admission for some people, but the customizable toolbar and activity menu make it much easier to manage large scale accounts.

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter

There are dozens of Twitter clients for the iPhone, but the official Twitter app and the third-party Tweetbot are two of the most popular. One’s free, the other’s pretty expensive at $9.99. Let’s dig into the main differences between the two, and see if the difference in experience is worth the difference in cost.

The Contenders

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Tweetbot (left) orders your timeline, y’know, by time whereas Twitter (right) does whatever it wants

Because of the way Twitter works, developing a Twitter app is a pain. It’s expensive for developers because Twitter charges them for keys to access the site, which means developers tend to pass that charge over to you, and then revoke access when you get too popular. Subsequently, most good Twitter apps tend to be on the pricey side, Tweetbot included. Let’s start with a quick look at both apps:

  • Twitter (Free): When it first launched, the official Twitter app was a bit of a joke, but over the years it’s improved quite a bit. That said, it’s basically just a mobile version of the web site, which means it’s built more for the everyday user than for power users who use all of Twitter’s features, or manage multiple accounts. It’s straight-forward to use and doesn’t feature any bells and whistles.
  • Tweetbot ($9.99): Tweetbot has been our favorite Twitter client for iPhone for a very long time, but $10 is a steep price to pay for most users. Tweetbot isn’t really made for most users though. It’s made for the type of person who spends the bulk of their day on Twitter, whether it for work or out of a deep-seated obsession with the social network. Tweetbot has a good amount of customization options for the interface, alongside a handful of ways to get a better Twitter experience by tweaking the content of your feed.

Assuming that the $10 price tag on Tweetbot isn’t enough to turn you away outright, picking between the two really depends on how you use Twitter.

http://lifehacker.com/5809798/the-be…

Tweetbot Has Better Customization

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Don’t like the tabs on the bottom? Tweetbot (left) lets you change them up

The official Twitter app is about as vanilla as an experience as you can get. Open it up and you’ll find an interface similar to the web site, with tabs on the bottom for your notifications, moments, DMs, and your profile tab. Functionality in the app is the same as the site as well. You can’t alter any of this. You can’t change the tabs, the colors, or even adjust the font size. With the Twitter app, what you see is what you get.

Conversely, Tweetbot has a variety of customization options. For example, the bottom tab bar has two buttons on the right that you can swap out for whatever function you want: activity (which includes mentions, replies, favorites, and new follower information), search, profile, likes, mute filters, or lists. If you use lists to tame your Twitter feed, having access to them in the tab bar makes your life easier. The official Twitter app tucks those lists behind several taps. If you’re using Tweetbot on an iPad or a iPhone 6 Plus, you also get support for columns in landscape mode, which lets you see two tabs side-by-side. Tweetbot also allows you to chose between a couple fonts, swap between username or full name for your timeline, alter the image size in your feed, and even customize the avatars. There’s a dark mode included if you prefer to do your tweeting late at night in a dark room.

Tweetbot also has extremely customizable notifications, so you can tweak them so you only get the notifications you want. Tweetbot has options for links too, allowing you to open links in Tweetbot, Chrome, or Safari, and even includes a reader view that strips away the visual styling of an article.

In the end, if you want an app you can customize, Tweetbot’s the one you’re looking for. The official Twitter app doesn’t allow you to change anything.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-clean-u…

Tweetbot’s Mute Filters and Lack of Ads Make Power User’s Days Better

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
Tweetbot’s mute filters let you get rid of any part of Twitter you don’t want to see

Twitter is a noisy place. People tweet dozens of times a day, publications don’t seem to ever stop, and there’s always a chance for spoilers if you’re anticipating any type of media at all. Tweetbot has ways around this.

Tweetbot has a powerful set of mute filters. You can mute keywords, phrases, users, or hashtags. When you do so, any tweet that contains those things will not show up in your feed. This is great during sports playoffs when you’re not a fan, election seasons, or if you’re avoiding spoilers for something. If you do mute something, Tweetbot’s also smart enough to still show you replies that might mention those things, so you’re not totally cut off from the world. The downside is that these mute filters don’t carry over to the web version of Twitter, so it really only works inside the Tweetbot ecosystem (which includes the $10 Mac app). If you only use the Tweetbot iPhone app, it’s great, but if you’re also using the web version on your desktop computer, it’s a bit annoying.

Plus, like pretty much all third-party Twitter clients, you won’t see ads in Tweetbot. Considering how often those annoying sponsored posts seem to pop up, it’s a nice little addition if you’re not a fan of advertisements.

http://lifehacker.com/5887230/how-to…

Twitter Keeps You on the Cutting Edge

iPhone Twitter App Showdown: Tweetbot vs. Twitter
While Tweetbot lets you take a close look at what’s happening in your feed, Twitter likes to show you a more global view

The one area where the official Twitter dominates Tweetbot is in support for new features. The folks behind Twitter love to introduce new little features all the time, whether that’s fun stuff like polls or weird features like Moments. If you’re using the official Twitter app, you will almost always see an update in the app to support these new features immediately.

Tweetbot doesn’t do this at all. Heck, Tweetbot still doesn’t support polls. For whatever reason, many of the cutting edge features that Twitter decides to roll out don’t end up working on third-party clients. Of course, that’s also a feature of Tweetbot if you like a simpler Twitter experience as a whole.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-take-yo…

The Verdict: Tweetbot’s the Better App, but Twitter Is Free, Still Does Enough for Most People

Let’s be honest here: the general population who just glances at Twitter a couple times a day doesn’t need a $10 Twitter app. If you only manage one account, don’t mind seeing a bunch of extra garbage like ads and obnoxious hashtags, and it doesn’t bother you when Twitter adds some half-baked new idea to the app every week, then the official Twitter app is all you need.

If you spend a lot of time on Twitter during the day, then Tweetbot’s the best app for making that experience better. The mute function alone is worth the price of admission for some people, but the customizable toolbar and activity menu make it much easier to manage large scale accounts.

Sherbit Visualizes and Interprets All the Data Your Online Services Collect

Sherbit Visualizes and Interprets All the Data Your Online Services Collect

iOS: You use a lot of online services that track a lot of data, but how much do you really know about it all? Sherbit puts all that data into one place so you can quickly understand how it all relates through attractive visualizations.

Do I spend more money on gas or on Lyft rides? How much time do I spend working compared to fooling around on social media? Are my Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter posts getting more likes on average? These are the sorts of questions Sherbit can answer by taking data from various services you use and visualizing that data to create a comparison.

Creating a visualization requires only a few simple steps. First you choose a service you want to use, then a trackable metric, and then you repeat that process with another service and metric. For example, if you wanted to find out if you were less active on days you worked more you could figure that out by adding steps counted by your FitBit and productivity hours tracked by RescueTime. You’ll need to log in to each service the first time you request data, but after that Sherbit will remember and pull the data in automatically.

After you create a visualization you save it by tapping a heart icon in the upper right corner and then it’ll appear on your dashboard. If you don’t like the visualization you created, just go back and change it up. Once you’ve saved a few, you can just check your dashboard now and again to find out the data you’re looking for.

Sherbit’s new so it still has more services yet to come (and HealthKit is only sort of supported through an optional toggle in the settings), but it still offers quite a few options already. If you’re looking for a way to make sense out of the data you’re already tracking, you can grab the app for free on iTunes and see what you come up with.

Sherbit (Free) | iTunes App Store

An iPhone User’s Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

When you buy an Apple product you buy into the ecosystem more than with any other company, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with only what they offer. If you’re a lover of wearables you’d be remiss to overlook Android Wear, even if you’ve chosen iOS as your primary mobile platform.

Is Android Wear for You and Your iPhone?

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

I wanted to love the Apple Watch. While wearables never seemed incredibly useful to me, the idea of a smart device on my wrist seemed incredibly cool. But the Apple Watch felt like a major disappointment. I never liked the look of it. Square watches never jived with my personal aesthetics. Beyond that, the Apple Watch just felt like a dumbed-down phone with a tiny screen. I’m not sure what sort of product Apple thought they were making.

While Google’s Android Wear is no perfect alternative, the platform understands its limitations and focuses on what it can achieve despite them. Even on an iPhone, Android Wear offers a lot of great functionality. I even found it kept a more reliable connection with my phone than my Apple Watch. That said, the two platforms are very different. Android Wear focuses on cards and actions, while the Apple Watch focuses on apps. I think the app paradigm makes great sense on a phone but works poorly on a watch. Google’s actionable cards make a lot more sense, and Google Now provides tons of information at a moment’s notice through simple voice commands. That said, if you want to use your watch as a secondary screen for your phone you shouldn’t choose Android Wear. If you want a quick information screen with simple actions and access to quick answers on your wrist in a fashionable package, it is.

Pick a Watch and Set It Up

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

You don’t really need a step-by-step explanation of how to set up an Android Wear watch with an iPhone because the watch will take you through the process. Instead, I’ll give you the basic overview and how to get around some of the quirks.

First things first, you need to buy an Android Wear smartwatch that actually works with an iPhone. I went with the LG Watch Urbane because I got it on sale. If money hadn’t entered the equation, I might’ve chosen the Moto 360 v2 for its smaller profile. Those are my two favorites that work with iOS, but you have others to choose from as well:

As time goes on we’ll surely see more iOS-compatible options, but as of the time of this writing these are the ones to choose from. For reference, here are some popular models that DO NOT work (so DO NOT buy them:)

  • LG G Watch
  • Samsung Gear Live
  • Moto 360 (v1)
  • LG G Watch R
  • Sony Smartwatch 3
  • Asus ZenWatch (1)

Once you pick out your watch, setup goes by pretty quickly. Here’s the gist:

  1. Charge your new watch, or at least stick it in the charger during setup.
  2. Download the Android Wear app for your iPhone and open it.
  3. Tap the three vertical dots in the upper righthand corner and then tap “Pair with a new wearable.”
  4. Check your watch for a pairing code, then tap “Pair” in the Android Wear app. Wait a minute or two for the confirmation message.

After you do that, you’ll get to set a few things up. The phone and watch will walk you through this process and you should pay close attention. If you don’t go through the setup process successfully it won’t go away, so just deal with some of the annoying teaching moments Google imposes on you. It may help in the long run anyway.

When choosing your notification settings, you’ll want to consider a few things:

  • Google apps work best and offer more features, so you should use them as much as you can. For example, all apps can display notifications but almost every non-Google app cannot provide actionable notifications. For example, if you use the Gmail app on your iPhone you can archive a message straight from your watch. If you use another email app, you can’t. There’s a workaround, but we’ll talk about that later. For now, just know that if you opt to use Google Apps—particularly Gmail and Google Calendar—your watch can do more.
  • Card previews are helpful but intrusive, so you might want to turn them off. By default, previews are on and you can disable them in the settings either on your watch or through the Android Wear app. Basically, card previews sit at the bottom of your watch waiting for you to interact with them and cover up part of your watch face. Since the watch at least vibrates to notify you when something comes in and you can quickly swipe up to access your notification feed, I see no reason to clutter things up with previews. You may disagree. Either way, you should know that you can choose to turn previews off if you find them more annoying than helpful.
  • Definitely enable Google Now or you’ll miss out on the majority of benefits with Android Wear on iOS. Google Now provides a ton of information based on what Google knows about you. It also helps provide answers in better context when you say “Hey Google” and ask your watch a question. If you miss enabling this during the setup process, you can always jump into the watch settings or the Android Wear app to turn it on.

With all of that out of the way, you’re pretty much set up and ready to go. You don’t have to organize anything, but rather just wait until you get some notifications and do what you wish with them. If you have a request, say “Hey Google” and give it to your wrist. (Note: some watches require you to tap the screen to wake them up before they’ll listen.) While you can scroll around to check weather and other information as well, these are the two ways you’ll interact with your Android Wear device the most. Keep that in mind as we move along and learn about how to get the most out of your watch.

Get to Know the Menus

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

Your Android Wear device hides its features and settings behind three different corners of the screen. Let’s take a look at how to access each of them and what you can do once you get there.

Quick Settings

If you swipe downward from the top of the watch, you can access a few settings quickly. These will vary depending on the watch, and you can pick and choose some of what shows up, but you’ll most likely be greeted with volume settings. I keep my watch on mute all the time so it only vibrates, but you can set whatever you want there. Swiping from right to left will reveal more options. The only other one worth highlighting, in my opinion, is Theater Mode. When you go to a movie, play, presentation, or anything else that your watch could disturb, just turn Theater Mode on and the watch will turn its screen, sounds, and vibration functions off until you reactivate them. Finally, swiping all the way to the end of the Quick Settings allows you to open up the full settings in case you didn’t find what you were looking for.

App Menu

Swipe the watch face from right to left to bring up an app menu. While I don’t really think of Android Wear as an app-based platform—especially since you can’t officially install apps when paired with an iPhone (without sideloading, discussed later)—you do have a few things available, like Weather, Calendar, Fitness, Alarm, Timer, and Translate. If you swipe from right to left from this menu, you’ll bring up Google Now and can use voice commands to get what you want. Of course, you can just say “Hey Google” for the same functionality and avoid all that swiping. Again, some watches require you to wake them up with a tap before you start barking commands so keep that in mind.

Notifications

When you swipe up from the bottom of your watch face, you’ll bring up your latest notification. If you keep swiping up, you’ll move on to the next one. Swiping from left to right will dismiss that notification. Swiping from right to left, however, will bring up any available actions. Because of Apple’s limitations, actionable notifications on your watch aren’t really possible with most apps. However, with Google apps you’ll have more options. Check out the next section if you want more information on how to have actionable notifications even if you don’t want to use Google’s apps on your iPhone.

Make Your Notifications More Useful

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

Actionable notifications make your watch much more useful, but you pretty much only get that functionality with Gmail, Google Calendar, and phone calls. You can answer and dismiss calls from your Android Wear device regardless, but for mail and calendar stuff you need Google apps installed on your phone. With this you can respond to calendar invites and archive email with a swipe and a tap on your wrist.

But what if you don’t want to use Gmail and Google Calendar? What if you like, say, Airmail and Fantastical? Well, you can still use those apps on your phone, but also install Gmail and Google Calendar as well. With a tiny bit of setup you can block notifications in the right places so you’re not seeing double:

  1. Install Gmail and Google Calendar on your iPhone. Set them up.
  2. Open Settings on your iPhone and disable notifications for Gmail and Google Calendar in the Notifications section. (If you run into any trouble going forward, you may need to disable notifications but still allow them to show on your lockscreen. This shouldn’t be necessary, but some people have issues and you should try this first if you wind up troubleshooting a lack of notifications on your watch.)
  3. Open Settings in your Android Wear app and go to the “Blocked app notifications” section. Tap the “+ Add apps to block list” down at the bottom and choose your email and calendar apps. Alternatively, just wait until an app you want to block displays a notification on your watch, swipe that notification from right to left, and then tap “Block App.” That’ll do the same thing.

After you’ve got that all configured, you’ll get actionable notifications on your watch from Google’s apps and the notifications from your preferred third party apps on your iPhone. You can also use blocking the way it was designed so you don’t have to see notifications from apps you don’t care about. When you set your watch up, you may want to consider blocking some other apps for peace of mind as well.

Customize Your Watchface

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

One of the coolest parts of Android Wear is the ability to customize your watch face. While you can do this with a most smartwatches, you have a lot more control on Android Wear. Google limits your choices on iOS to a variety of options you can choose in the app, but there are ways around it and we’ll get to that in a minute.

In the meantime, you can press and hold on your smartwatch’s screen itself to flip through all the different watch faces available to you. If that’s not enough, open up the Android Wear app on your iPhone and browse the watch face gallery for additional options. You’ll have some limitations and the installation process is super slow, but some are pretty cool and there should be something suitable for most people.

But I’m not most people. I like certain styles and information on my device screens, so I decided to go full-on custom. We won’t get into those details here, but I wrote up some specific instructions on the process should you want to go beyond the options Google permits for you in the Android Wear iOS app.

Explore and Get To Know Your Watch Features

An iPhone User's Guide to Falling In Love With Android Wear

Android Wear does, indeed, have limited functionality on iOS. You can do quite a bit more with an Android phone, but that shouldn’t preclude you from enjoying this focused product. If you like to mess around and explore, you have options. If you want to do more you should check these resources out as well:

  • If you want to sideload Android Wear apps, you can follow pretty much the same instructions for watch faces I wrote here. If you want specific instructions (which really are almost exactly the same as the ones I gave you), check out this video. Be aware that not all apps will work when sideloaded for a variety of reasons, including that many require an internet connection that your phone provides (unless that watch has its own Wi-Fi or cellular data connection, but that’s a big if). An old XDA developers thread used to keep track of what worked, but nobody maintains it anymore. You can use it as reference, but prepare yourself for a lot of trial and error here.
  • If you want a kind of convoluted route to more features and happen to have an Android device handy, you can use Aerlink. WonderHowTo offers some solid instructions on how to set things up.
  • Naturally, you can unlock your bootloader and root your device to enable more possibilities. The usual risks of potentially bricking your watch, losing data, or generally messing things up apply. Keep that in mind before diving in.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this simple platform—even with Apple’s restrictions—and you can expand your options as you see fit. While Android Wear with iOS will likely never match the functionality it has on its native platform, you can still get a lot of value out of your smartwatch with these tips and hacks.


Adobe Spark Lets You Create Beautiful Images, Web Pages, and Videos Easily

iOS/Web: Most apps that automatically generate things like images or web pages end up looking like crap. Adobe’s new free app Spark can do a bit better job than most.

The app lets you quickly design nice-looking images for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your own blog with a handy selection of presets. Pick a size, color palette, and title themes. You can also choose from ready-made templates to design videos and web pages. Spark will guide you through each step, doing all the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Most of the themes are stylish and modern, which gives it a leg up over most of the competition. It also allows a lot of flexibility, if you want to avoid making a cookie-cutter image just like everyone else using the same app. On iOS the app is split into three parts for posts, videos, and web pages, which you can find here.

Adobe Spark via Adobe