5 iPhone Apps We Could Do Without

Me, TidBITS:

Bundled apps. There’s no question that some are essential, whether we’re talking Mac OS X or iOS. Safari? Sure. Mail? No problem. But while most of the less useful apps that Apple bundles into Mac OS X are out of sight, out of mind in the Utilities folder (when was the last time you used, or even noticed, Grapher or Audio MIDI Setup?), it’s harder to avoid the iPhone’s crufty default apps. They might have been worthwhile — or at least novel — when the original iPhone shipped, but now they sit firmly unused on many iPhones, taking up valuable space. I can’t help you delete these apps (it’s impossible, so just toss them in a folder labeled “Barnacles” and squirrel it away on your last home screen page), but I can make some recommendations for how to put them to use or replace them with something that’s more useful.

This was a controversial article, but I stand by it. Also, if you ever wondered what I sound like in person, now's your chance to find out.

Thanks again to Adam Engst at TidBITS.

Steve Wozniak: 8-Bit Badass?

Vengence: Woz With a Cause is new in the App Store this week, and is one of the strangest ideas for a game I've ever seen.

You play as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who lends his own voice to the game. Woz's wife is kidnapped because Woz doesn't speak fluent Spanish (this is the actual reason the kidnappers give). So you, as Woz, team up with action star Danny Trejo for a run and gun rampage through Fusion City to rescue her.

Even more bizarre, this is a tie-in game for a movie that won't be released for another year, starring Danny Trejo but not Steve Wozniak. It's an interesting marketing strategy.

Delightfully weird as it is, it's a terrific showcase of Woz's legendary sense of humor, and it's a fun game with classic NES style. And like any NES-era game, it's frustratingly difficult. I really wish there were more checkpoints.

If you are a fan of Woz, Danny Trejo, or NES-era gaming, it's absolutely worth a buck for your iPhone or iPad.

Oh Samsung

AppleInsider:

As the iPhone 5 has adopted a bigger 4-inch screen, Samsung is expected to go in the other direction and develop a smaller smartphone based on its popular Galaxy S series.

Oh hey, Samsung's doing something original and not just blatangly copying Apple. That's cool, I'd love to see a...

That device is expected to match screen size of the iPhone 5 with a 4-inch display.

...oh

Apple Tightens Lightning Adapter Rules

iLounge:

According to the sources, only Apple-approved manufacturing facilities will be allowed to produce Lightning connector accessories, even including third-party accessories. Moreover, Apple hasn’t approved any factories yet, which the sources say will limit the number of Lightning accessories available in the near future.

Seeing that Apple can't make Lightning cables fast enough, you'd think they'd want all the help they could get.

Another Cause of iPhone 5 Excessive Data Usage

While Verizon and Apple might have fixed the problem causing the iPhone 5 to use cellular data over Wi-Fi, today I discovered another bug that's even worse.

After noticing my data usage steadily ticking up all morning by about 2 KB a second, even after my Friday reset, I began turning off settings and deleting apps to get to the root of it.

Even though I had turned off all iCloud features, such as iMessage, iTunes Match, and Contact sync, along with any other setting that could be using data, it wasn't until I deleted my iCloud account from my iPhone that the usage stopped.

If you're still noticing excessive data usage on your iPhone, try disabling iCloud entirely. Open the Settings app, open iCloud settings, then scroll down and press the big red "Delete Account" button. This should only delete iCloud data from your phone and not the servers, but your mileage may vary.

This is a major bug, and Apple needs to fix it post haste. iPhone 5 users shouldn't be held liable for overages that were caused by a software glitch.

I have taken a video to demonstrate the issue. I will post it as soon as possible.

The Apple Maps Debacle is Overblown

Marco Tabini, iOS developer and contributor to TidBITS:

Google data isn’t much better than Apple data, at least as far as this test is concerned

The more time I spend with Apple's maps, the more I think this thing has been blown way out of proportion, at least in the United States.

I spent my entire work day on Friday tracking down various locations in Google Earth. What should have only taken a few hours took all day beacuse Google's data is so bad. Search results are often in the wrong location. Sometimes they're just a few yards off and sometimes they're miles off.

I'm thankful for Bing Maps. While it's not my go-to mapping solution, as it's lacking in features, it's sometimes more accurate than Google. If not for Bing, I often wouldn't be able to find what I need.

Meanwhile, I used Apple's maps all day yesterday to get around my small town, navigate to Nashville, navigate around Nashville, then get home. Other than a Bluetooth bug that caused the spoken directions to stutter, the navigation was flawless. If you've ever been to Nashville, you know it's full of twisty, poorly designed roads that often confound visitors.

Apple's maps are much better than they've been given credit for, while Google's are overrated. I'm sure the Chinese would agree.

If people want to find things to complain about with Apple, I could offer some better suggestions:

Via Daring Fireball

The iPhone 5 is a Data Pig

Update 9/28/2012: There is an important followup to this post, with new information about Apple's Podcasts app, Downcast's data and power consumption, and a bug in Safari's bookmark syncing.

I received my iPhone 5 late Tuesday night. It is without question the best phone I've ever used. Everything on it is fast, especially the 4G LTE, where I'm averaging about 30-40 Mbps down, which is faster than my home internet.

But that speed comes with a price: The iPhone 5 gobbles data. My iPhone 4 used, at most, 60 MB a day. I had few issues staying inside a 2GB data cap. But after one 10 hour day, my iPhone 5 had used 350 MB. At that rate, my current 4GB data cap will be burnt up in less than 12 days.

To find out what was using all the data, I used the $0.99 app DataMan to identify 3 main culprits:

iTunes Match

Apple's $25 a year music syncing service is advertised as a way to have your music anywhere, anytime. But its data usage is astronomical.

Just playing one song, Temple of the Dog's Hunger Strike, used a whopping 8 MB of data. That song is about 4 minutes long. To put things in perspective, it took about 20 minutes of listening to Pandora to use that much -- 5 times as long.

It doesn't help that in iOS 6, Apple took away the ability to see what's on your device and what's in the cloud. I guess the idea is to just play anything and not worry about it, which is fine as long as you're not dealing with a data cap.

If you do have a cap, make it a top priority to turn off iTunes Match's cellular data use. Open the Settings app, then go to Music, then scroll down until you see "Use Cellular Data" and turn it off.

Unfortunately, if you're not on Wi-Fi, any music not on your phone will be grayed out, so you'll probably also want to turn off "Show All Music."

I don't understand why they set iTunes Match up this way. Right now, it's an offer to spend $25 a year to hand over the rest of your bank account to wireless carriers. Why can't I make it hide my non-local music while on cellular internet? Why doesn't it compress my music before I stream it over 3/4G? Why doesn't it have separate tabs for local and cloud music, like Amazon's Cloud Player does?

Who knows? Maybe Apple employees get free unlimited data for life, because iTunes Match is definitely not designed for average cellular customers with data caps.

Flyover View in Maps

You know those fancy 3D city layouts? I loaded up Manhattan and the Apple campus in Cupertino. 16 MB gone in 1 minute flat. Avoid it unless you're on Wi-Fi.

Apple needs to add a Wi-Fi only switch for this feature. It's a glutton.

Apple's Podcasts App

Apple recently released their own Podcasts app, having taken that functionality out of the built-in Music app in iOS 6. I hadn't tried it until recently, because until last week, there was no option to only download new episodes over Wi-Fi.

I've been trying it out since then. It's not the best, but I had no major beefs with it until Macworld's Glenn Fleishman pointed out that regardless of settings, it was still downloading over cellular.

I had been using the app all day, with no apparent data usage. However, my usage had been creeping up all day for no apparent reason. Then, on my drive home, only using the Podcasts app and a couple of Siri requests, my usage shot up by 50 MB.

Siri does not use that much data. I deleted the app and the usage creep stopped.

If you enjoy podcasts, do yourself a favor and splurge on Downcast or Instacast. It'll save you money in the long run.

Conclusion

After taking these steps, I managed to keep my data usage at a "svelte" 150 MB. Now that I've deleted Apple's Podcasts app, I hope it'll be lower tomorrow.

For those of us with data caps, this is a nightmare, and one that I think will blow up in Apple's face when customers receive their bill.

I'm fairly light data user. I don't watch videos over the cell network. Most of my usage is browsing, social networking, messaging, and streaming audio. I can only imagine what that usage is going to be for heavier users who decide to try Netflix or FaceTime on 4G.

The iPhone, contrary to popular myth, used to be the most data efficient phone in its class. What happened?