eXtensions - Thursday 15 September 2022


Thursday Review: More Update Gems; Geo-Location Technology on iPhones; Inventing the Electronic Camera

By Graham K. Rogers


I have spent a couple of days looking at parts of the just-updated iOS 16 that interest me. There is a lot to like. I also took a quick look at specifications for the new iPhones. The changes there, particularly with the use of satellite technology, bode well for the future, even if some features will not initially be widely available. Who invented the digital, or electronic, camera?

I am usually an early downloader of any update from Apple and I was pleased with what I found in iOS 16. Apart from the size of the font for the time display on the Lockscreen, I have enjoyed most of what I have discovered. I wrote some first impressions yesterday. I have looked at some more features and changes. I did find that, as with many updates, 24 hours after the new version, that larger font for the time display hardly bothers me any more.

iPhone keypad - haptics After a comment from Jason Cross (MacWorld), I have been trying another secret feature: keyboard haptics. Following his clear instructions it was easy enough to find the right Settings page down in Sounds and Haptics. I already had Sound turned on.

I turned on Haptics for tactile feedback when pressing the keys and used it for a few hours. It does not feel to me as if this is coming from the keys as I had expected, but as I am holding the phone the sensation seems to be coming more from the back. I tried with the device on a desk, but there I was not able to sense any feedback from the keys. I am not totally convinced for my own purposes that this will serve my needs, but there are many who will benefit from both the sound and haptic feedback.

As I went through daily routines I noticed other changes. Some were minor, others more pronounced. On the Apple Watch that I also updated this week, the simple face I use had seen some subtle color changes and other modifications. The calendar complication now in blue like other highlights showed not only the day, clearly in white, but the date, with numbers for yesterday and tomorrow also displayed: subtle, simple, but useful. The complication for the Hidrate app that shows how much water I drink during the day now shows a circular progress bar, indicating how close I was to reaching my daily target. Most of the time I use the iPhone app, but this is a helpful guide.

Every morning I check my weight and use the Watch for a minute's breathing in Mindfulness because this also checks my heart rate. I then check these readings in the Health app, as well as Body Temperature, Handwashing, Blood Oxygen, Sleep and others. I immediately noticed a change in the Sleep display, from a solid green to a multi-color bar with times for different types of sleep: awake, REM, Core, and Deep. This is really useful for analysis of how one sleeps. As I also use the Sleep Cycle app that gives me a graph readout (easy to see when I am out of bed) this helps considerably.

Sleep - Day Sleep - week Sleep Cycle app

With the Optimization and my increased use of the iPhone, the battery has been running low more quickly than I want. The main culprits are Personal Hotspot and Twitter: top users with 49% and 12% respectively. Downloading 2 dozen photographs from my Nikon onto the iPad Pro and synching them to iCloud did not help of course.

One of the new iOS 16 features that has considerable potential is Visual Look Up. In Photos an image can be copied without the background and pasted into another app. I experimented with Notes and found I was able to copy faces, objects and a group of students, so this has some potential for uses such as brochures or posters. It struck me that with my setup I am able to use Copy across devices: I often copy text or URLs from the iPhone to the Mac or iPad Pro for example.

Screenshot in Pixelmator
Pixelmator screenshot on iPad Pro - Photos Visual Look Up image copied from iPhone

On the iPhone I used the Visual Look Up feature to copy a grebe from a photograph I took some months ago. On the iPad Pro I opened Pixelmator and created a new image with a simple white background. I was able to paste the bird into the Pixelmator file on the iPad Pro. With the blue enlarger box I was able to enlarge it quite significantly. Although this did show some areas which were slightly blurred most of the image was good.

afety Check As a policeman I was sent on occasion to what was called then a "domestic dispute". Even in the 1970s we were aware that this could be one step away from murder as most violent deaths occur in the home, with a family member the most common victim or assailant. In recent years people have become more aware of how victims are often reluctant to speak out and how a controlling husband might be preventing communication.

Our phones play a part in this and Apple has been pushing privacy features for a number of years. In iOS 16, there is a new feature in Privacy and Security: Safety Check. Lily Hay Newman (Wired) explains how this is designed to help those who are "currently experiencing, domestic abuse". Tools available are a Safety Check; Manage Sharing & Access, allowing customization of who and which apps can access information; and Emergency Reset, to reset access for people and apps.

These also allow the user to review account security. A Safety Check is at the top of the screen. This provides a run through of areas which might be beefed up. This is also available as a PDF.

I note that at the top left of the screen is a Quick Exit which shows how well this has been thought out. The last thing someone in an abusive relationship wants is to be found looking for escape routes.

As often happens, days after a major Apple announcement, more information about a new product becomes available. Some of this is easy to find: read the Technical Specifications. There are other sources and I particularly look forward to the iFixit tear downs and the detailed analyses of AnandTech. But other sources will also reveal some tips and I have been having fun over the last day or so checking some of these out. I wrote about this yesterday, but there is so much I had to split the content.

The new iPhone 14 Pro has what is called an Always On display, but Sami Fathi (MacRumors) reveals that this may sometimes be off. If a user wearing an Apple Watch walks out of a room when the iPhone is still in the room, the display will go off. This is good security as well as saving battery life when not needed. The display also turns off when it is face down on a table or in a pocket.

Apple has worked hard on wireless technology with the new iPhones and some of this is likely to find its way into other devices. With the innovations related to satellite communications - albeit limited to USA and Canada when it rolls out in November - there has been some updating of GPS technology in the iPhone 14 Pro and Max. This now receives signals from two sources to provide more location accuracy: Precision dual-frequency GPS (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou). Other location input comes from iBeacon microlocation: those little Bluetooth devices that transmit signals in indoor locations. GPS will not work effectively (if at all) inside, particularly under the layers of concrete used in malls, multistory car parks or underground.

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus with the A15 Bionic chip also have iBeacon microlocation, but location systems do not use the dual frequency system of the Pro and Max. Instead they access GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou systems. GLONASS is the Russian location system and the satellites are accessible from here. I use the Architecture of Radio app that shows me several types of communication systems (local cell towers, wifi routers, satellites). As I am relatively near the Equator many satellites in the Clarke Belt are visible in the app.

Satellite location
Architecture of Radio display showing Glonass satellite

Galileo is the European Global Satellite Navigation System. QZSS or Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, is a Japanese satellite positioning system composed mainly of satellites in quasi-zenith orbits (QZSS, which also has an app (GNSS View that shows satellites in a sky map and with an AR view.


GNSS View: Satellite Position; and AR View

The last of the systems used by iPhones is BeiDou: a Chinese Navigation system. With the Architecture of Radio app, I was able to spot a couple of Chinese communications satellites in the region, but nothing that was specifically connected to the BeiDou location satellites.

There are a number of other differences between the A16-equipped iPhones and those with the A15 Bionic chip. Both have several sensors: Face ID, Barometer, High dynamic range gyro, High-g accelerometer, Proximity sensor and Dual ambient light sensors. The iPhone Pro and Max also have A LiDAR scanner.

Although I use film cameras much more these days, I still regard the move to digital technology as one of the major steps forward in photography. It has brought cameras that are able to create far better images, particularly for the general public, that was usually possible when using film. Let's be fair, some of the masters like Ansell Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson (and many more) had superb abilities, along with some pretty good cameras and lenses.

Film camera

Digital allows zero-cost waste and hence the ability to experiment, which is why I think I have gone back to film, which was all I had when I was a child and teenager taking photographs. I still have digital cameras: Nikon D850 with a range of lenses and the iPhone 13. Smartphones (iPhone and Android) have done much to democratize pohotography.

Cameras in these devices have improved no end since the 2007 iPhone introduction and so has the software. Perhaps this is why I am looking more at film. The tricks, especially with the use of AI have taken away the skills (and luck) necessary to produce a good image. Luck should not be excluded as sometimes there is something in a photograph that was not noticed when setting up a shot; or there may be some chance in arriving at a location at exactly the right moment. The Ansell Adams story of how he took the famous "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" - arriving at the right location just as the sun went down and spotting the potential - is worth examining, especially as he was not able to meter correctly and had to make a guesstimate for settings. But that was skill.

The move to digital was inevitable. With the way technology was advancing in the 1950s and 1960s, it was only a matter of time before someone produced a device capable of electronically recording images. We already had tape on which some TV programs were stored (albeit for a short time in some sad cases), but there was a gap between the analogue camera to tape archiving. With the development of the transistor (patented in 1948) electronics were moving forward much faster. It is something of an irony that the first digital camera was produced by Kodak and that sowed the seeds for the company's collapse. The man who developed the first electronic camera was Steve Sasson. Phil Mistry writes about the camera and the background in an article in PetaPixel which is worth taking time over.

While we now use the term, Digital, that was offensive to Kodak management so when Sasson filed the patent it was called an electronic device. I note that in Being Digital (1995), Nicholas Negroponte when describing the processes of recording music and black and white photographs, writes, "Imagine an electronic camera as laying a fine grid over an image. . ." I have to explain to students that this was an early term for digital cameras. Sasson's story is fascinating and demonstrates the head in sand approach of older management. Maybe they knew that digital would kill film. It hasn't. Not quite.

Nikon D850

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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