iPhone, Pixel night mode, and low light pictures

Jeremy Burge did some side-by-side low light shots, showing the iPhone camera vs Android’s Night Sight. Scroll through the tweets below:


To me, this is my iPhone camera’s biggest weakness, the one feature that tempts me to carry a Pixel 3, just for the ability to capture better low light images.

Google has a fantastic writeup on Night Sight in this blog post. Jump to the section titled “Capturing the Data” for the details.

As you make your way through the Twitter thread, don’t miss the interaction between Jeremy and Rene Ritchie. It’s not clear that my iPhone is not capable of producing similar, or even superior low light images. It may be simply that Apple chose not to ship a low-light mode that did not deliver pictures that met their standards. But as is, I’d rather have the oversaturated Night Sight images than ones that were simply dark.

How charging is handled by the new iPhone Smart Battery Cases

Christine Chan, iMore:

When you charge your iPhone in the Smart Battery Case, the iPhone will usually have priority when normal or fast charging. Once the iPhone reaches about 80 percent charged, the charging is split and allocated to the Smart Battery Case instead. However, if you use a power adapter that can provide more power, such as a MacBook Pro USB-C power adapter, then it can fast charge both the iPhone and Smart Battery Case at the same time. What has priority depends on how much power is being taken in.

Good to know.

Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom

Kevin Roose, New York Times:

She’s a relatively tech-savvy retiree and a longtime Apple fan who has used many of the company’s products over the years. I learned to type on an Apple IIGS at her office, and she was an early adopter of the original turquoise iMac. These days, she uses her iPhone to check Facebook and Instagram, talk with her friends and relatives, and play solitaire and Words With Friends.

Her phone isn’t the latest model — it’s a three-year-old iPhone 6S — and it’s missing some of the latest features. She can’t take portrait mode photos using a dual-lens camera, a feature introduced in the iPhone 7 Plus, and she can’t unlock her phone using Face ID, which was introduced in the iPhone X in 2017. Her phone’s battery life could be better, and the device sometimes runs out of storage space.

But she’s happy with it, and doesn’t feel the need to upgrade.

The case I’m getting here is that this “hold the phone a long time” is something new, something unplanned, something that is happening to Apple.

I see it as strategic planning, long term thinking on Apple’s part. Part of Apple’s iOS evolution was to create an operating system that would support a deeper run of older devices, even improve the experience from previous iOS versions.

To me, what this article shows is that Apple has been successful in this goal. And that means, as the smartphone market has matured and grown more saturated, Apple could ease from a dependence on iPhone sales to pay the bills, to a future where other devices, as well as a growing services ecosystem, could shoulder more and more of that load.

How to create blank icons on your iPhone

Sébastien Page, iDownloadBlog:

Whether you want to show off your beautiful wallpaper, or simply want your set up to look different from the millions of other iPhones out there, one of the best way to do that is to add blank icons to your Home screen.

These invisible icons will allow you to create empty spaces on your Home screen to either let the wallpaper shine, or to arrange your app icons in a very specific way.

This tutorial will show you how to create create blank iPhone icons, no jailbreak or hack required.

This is my new favorite way to add blank icons to customize your home screen. Note that you have to re-jump through the hoops if you want to change the blank icons.

In a nutshell, you use iPhone Safari to browse to iempty.tooliphone.net. That site lets you customize your page, as you like.

Some pretty cool panorama selfies

Not sure selfies is the right term here, but these panorama shots are both cool and, if you are into this sort of trick photography, inspiring.


Load the tweet above, click play.

How to wake up to a weather forecast on your iPhone’s lock screen

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

The feature is part of Apple’s Do Not Disturb at Bedtime mode, which prevents notifications from being displayed on your iPhone’s Lock Screen when you’re supposed to be sleeping.

Many users don’t realize you can get the weather forecast to show on the Lock Screen because of the odd way that Apple has implemented the feature. Regardless, here’s how to get it working.

Coincidentally, I posted this on Twitter this morning:


As is, getting the current temp on your lock screen is a bit of a one-off. I’d love something like an Apple Watch complication on my lock screen, something I can feed from one of my apps, something I can customize.

Some might argue that with the advent of Face ID, the lock screen is dead. Perhaps, but I would argue for the usefulness of the lock screen as a status page before you move on to the busy, populated Springboard interface. And the lock screen requires no gestures, it is effortless. Just raise to wake.

Apple finally selling that iPhone XR clear case, available this Monday

From Apple’s official product page:

Thin, light, and easy to grip — this case lets you enjoy the look of iPhone XR while providing extra protection. It’s also crafted with a blend of optically clear polycarbonate and flexible TPU materials, so the case fits right over the buttons for easy use. On the surface, a scratch-resistant coating has been applied not only to the exterior, but also to the interior. Need to wirelessly charge? Just leave the case on your iPhone and set it on your Qi-certified charger.

Puzzling why it took this long. Available for delivery Monday December 11, for pickup Tuesday December 12.

Apple commissioned this Shot On iPhone Japanese decorated trucks video

[VIDEO] Apple:

Step into the world of decotora, Japan’s lavishly decorated trucks, where drivers’ livelihood and passion meet in one extravagant machine. Shot on iPhone XS.

Interesting that Apple commissioned this work. I love the video. Embedded in main Loop post.

Google’s cheap and super-simple cellphone service will now work with iPhones


Google Fi (formerly known as Project Fi) is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means that instead of just using one of the “big four” carriers, it automatically jumps between several cellular networks depending on which has better service. Fi hops between Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, and also favors Wi-Fi whenever possible, including for calls and texts.


It costs $20 for unlimited calling and texting, and $10 per gigabyte of data. Users get money back for whatever data they don’t use, and data usage over 6 GB is free (though Google will throttle speeds after users hit 15 GB). It also has no roaming fees in more than 170 locations.

This something Apple could do? Is there some contractual agreement that prevents this? Interesting development.

Apple promo offers up to $100 in extra trade-in credit toward new iPhone XR or XS

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

When you go through the normal trade-in process on the trade-in site, Apple offers $150, but if you use the trade-in option during the checkout process of purchasing a new iPhone XR or XS, the bonus trade-in credit is displayed.

See the chart in the article for specifics. Nothing you need to do to get this bonus trade-in money, but if you are considering whether to sell your old phone or trade it in, this will help with the math.

iOS and the hassle of dropping your WiFi as you move away from your house

This tweet from Mike Rundle struck a nerve:


This happens to me all the time. I’m in an app that’s attached to my home WiFi and I walk (or drive, as a passenger) away from my house. As I move further from my house, the signal gets progressively weaker and whatever app I’m in just hangs, stuck waiting for a reply from my home WiFi that’s never coming.

If you follow down the Twitter thread, you’ll see this response:

I’ve been using Shortcuts for that. Shortcut that drops wifi, calculates time to destination (Home), texts wife the ETA and then re-enables wifi (after x amount of seconds).

While I do applaud this effort, this feels like a kluge to me, a hack that should just not be necessary.

My preference? Set a threshold that automatically drops WiFi when my signal drops and I am getting further away from my WiFi router. The key is the word “automatically”.

This could be a setting, since this might not be an issue for everyone. But given the enthusiastic response to the Shortcut, it’s certainly an issue worth addressing.

UPDATE: Some time ago, Apple added the setting Cellular > Wi-Fi Assist (scroll down below that long list under CELLULAR DATA) that someone suggested might help with this, though I believe the intent was to help with poor WiFi, not specific to this problem. As it turns out, this is on for me. Does not make a difference.

Apple, App Store antitrust lawsuit going to the Supreme Court today


When iPhone users want to edit blemishes out of their selfies, identify stars and constellations or simply join the latest video game craze, they turn to Apple Inc’s App Store, where any software application they buy also includes a 30 percent cut for Apple.

That commission is a key issue in a closely watched antitrust case that will reach the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The nine justices will hear arguments in Apple’s bid to escape damages in a lawsuit accusing it of breaking federal antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for iPhone apps and causing consumers to pay more than they should.

Major implications here for Apple and the App Store.

From the Supreme Court document summarizing the case:

Electronic marketplaces such as Apple’s App Store present a new wrinkle on this doctrine, because the marketplace sponsor (e.g., Apple) interacts with and delivers goods “directly” to consumers, but as an agent on behalf of third party sellers.


Whether consumers may sue for antitrust damages anyone who delivers goods to them, even where they seek damages based on prices set by third parties who would be the immediate victims of the alleged offense.

Gonna keep my eye on this one.

More on third-party USB-C to Lightning cables

John Gruber unpacks a lot of detail on USB-C to Lightning cables, the MFi program, and his take on the likelihood of USB-C making the move to iPhone.

This is a terrific, put your feet up, grab a hot beverage, chock-full-of details read.

Woman remotely wipes iPhone being held as evidence

Daily Gazette:

A cellphone seized by police as part of an investigation into a drive-by shooting last month was remotely wiped by its owner, authorities said this week.

Police believe Juelle L. Grant, 24, of Willow Avenue, may have been the driver of a vehicle involved in an Oct. 23 drive-by shooting on Van Vranken Avenue, near Lang Street, so they obtained her phone, according to police allegations filed in court. No one was injured in the shooting.

After police took her iPhone X, telling her it was considered evidence, “she did remotely wipe” the device, according to police.

What’s the law here? It’s her phone. Does she have the right to wipe it after it is taken from her? Do the police have the legal right to prevent this?

Fascinating story.

Using a Mac Photos smart album to tell how often you use your iPhone’s telephoto lens

The iPhone XR, famously, does not have a telephoto lens. David Smith worked out a way to see how often he’s used the telephoto in the past, with his iPhone X:


In a nutshell, he jumped into Mac Photos and created a smart album based purely on focal length, which eliminated all but images taken with the telephoto lens. Very smart.

iPhone XR: A deep dive into depth

This is a fantastic look at how smartphone cameras capture and handle depth in photos. This is a fascinating read all the way around.

It’s from the Halide blog, and does get into how the Halide camera app expands on the iPhone XR’s “humans only” portrait mode. But there’s lots of interesting tidbits here.

One in particular stood out for me:

It seems the iPhone XR has two advantages over the iPhone XS: it can capture wider angle depth photos, and because the wide-angle lens collects more light, the photos will come out better in low light and have less noise.

Remember how we said the XR’s Portrait mode is only available on human portraits? When it comes to faces, you never want to photograph a person up close with a wide angle lens, as it distorts the face in an unflattering way.

That means you really have to take portraits on the iPhone XR from medium shot (waist-up). If you want a close-up headshot, kind of like the iPhone XS, you’ll have to crop, which means you’ll lose a lot of resolution. A wide angle lens isn’t always a plus.

Jump to the blog post, check out the images, especially those that compare the iPhone XR and XS side by side. Be sure to read the captions.

Sometimes, the iPhone XR will take nicer-looking Portrait photos than any other iPhone, including the XS and XS Max.

But most of the time, the XS will probably produce a better result.

Short term, the XR is going to give you better results in low light, because of the wider aperture, which lets in more light. But over time, I believe machine learning is going to conquer that physical limitation, and we’ll see new generations of iPhone cameras that produce unbelievable low light images.

Lots of interesting nuggets in Daring Fireball’s iPhone XR review roundup

Lots of discussion of the camera in this Daring Fireball review rollup. Specifically, the absence of the telephoto lens on the iPhone XR.

As you read this (and, if you are considering the XR, you should), think about how you use your current iPhone camera. If you have an iPhone with a telephoto lens, do you ever use it? When you bring up your camera, do you ever tap the 1x (the 1x turns into a 2x) to switch cameras? Note that in low light, you’ll likely get digital zoom, not the telephoto, but wanted to set the stage for reading the Daring Fireball piece.

Seems to me, this is an overlooked part of the camera interface. If you live your life in the wide angle lens, you won’t miss the telephoto if you move to the iPhone XR.

Another interesting bit from the rollup was something I alluded to in this post from earlier this morning. From this Rene Ritchie iPhone XR review for iMore:

Less fine is the sudden loss of Z-axis asymmetry thanks to the shoved down Lightning port on iPhone XR.

Rene is referring to the image embedded in the post showing the Lightning port not being aligned with the screws. It’s “shoved down” to make room for the LCD display. And as John Gruber points out, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. No big deal, but interesting, at least to the design nerd in me.

iPhone XR teardown

Beyond all the usual teardown detail, there are two things of note worth a look in the iFixit article:

  • In Step 6, you’ll see a modular SIM card reader, much easier to replace and not requiring a logic board swap. Small thing, but interesting.

  • Much more interesting to me, take a look at the image in Step 3. There are two major differences between the iPhone XS, on the top, and the iPhone XR, on the bottom. One difference is obvious: The XR has no antenna band. But can you spot the other difference? It’s quite subtle.

Rather than spoil it here, I’ll post about it in a few minutes, when I get to the Daring Fireball iPhone XR review roundup.

Koss headphones commercial filmed entirely on an iPhone XS Max

[VIDEO] Amazing to me. If I hadn’t read about this experiment, I would never have known this (embedded in the main Loop post) was filmed on an iPhone.

From the director, via this Reddit thread:

I wanted to share this for anyone interested in the full potential of the iPhone XS Max camera system or interested in hearing the thoughts on the Xs Max potential from someone who shoots video and photos professionally.

I just got my Xs Max a week ago and I was totally blown away by the new camera system. The dynamic range, color saturation, af acquisition and af tracking and over all image quality had me thinking, ‘I wonder if I could actually shoot a commercial with this, and if so could anyone even tell?’

Steven Soderberg who is a filmmaker I idolize shot an entire full length film on an iPhone and I’ve seen a ton of other examples from other filmmakers trying the same thing, so I figured why not! Ha.

Expect more and more of this sort of thing.

Apple is working on an iPhone that works better in the rain

Malcolm Owen, AppleInsider:

Most smartphone users will have experienced issues when using their devices with wet hands or in the rain, with residual water on fingers sometimes causing the display to incorrectly detect or fail to sense touches or swipes.


According to two patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, both titled “Finger tracking in wet environment,” Apple suggests the use of filtering to determine whether a detected touch is intended by the user or not. This occurs before the device performs “computationally-intensive touch processing,” with the aim of reducing processing time and power usage, as well as the byproduct of improved usage in wet weather.

As Apple increases the power of their processors, devices gain more of an ability to analyze all parts of the user experience. Computational photography and machine learning are starting points, but real time “touch processing” is another. Can’t wait to see what other features lurk in the iPhone’s future.

Shot on iPhone XS: Users share their Portrait mode photos with Depth Control


Photographers from around the world are capturing stunning photographs on iPhone XS using Portrait mode, taking advantage of its new Depth Control feature that makes it possible to adjust the depth of field to create photos with a sophisticated bokeh effect. An update coming soon brings Depth Control to real-time preview, allowing photographers to change the amount of background blur before the shot is taken.

These images pulled from the #ShotoniPhone tag across social media highlight the enhanced Portrait mode on iPhone XS, showing advanced photography techniques that everyone can use.

Take a look at the photos. Gorgeous. To me, these are as good as any shots I could have shot with a film camera (I am an amateur, but still, great stuff).

I wish Apple would put together a page with lots of sample photos you could play with, sliding a depth slider, trying all the different lighting modes, just to get a sense of all the different possibilities.

iPhone gaffe that could cost Vladimir Putin’s ‘god-daughter’ £1.25m

First things first, there were a number of articles about this, but most sourced this Mirror article, and the headline made me laugh.

On to the story, from the Mirror:

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ‘goddaughter’ may have lost an incredible £1.25million after she was caught on camera using her iPhone.

Ksenia Sobchak, a journalist, politician and reality TV show host, is the face of rival smartphone manufacturer Samsung.

But the 36-year-old was caught on camera using her iPhone X – despite trying to hide it under a sheet of paper – during a television interview.

Apparently, Sobchak’s Samsung contract requires her to only use a Samsung device when in public. Ouch.

Apple just killed the ‘GrayKey’ iPhone passcode hack

Thomas Brewster, Forbes:

Multiple sources familiar with the GrayKey tech tell Forbes the device can no longer break the passcodes of any iPhone running iOS 12 or above. On those devices, GrayKey can only do what’s called a “partial extraction,” sources from the forensic community said. That means police using the tool can only draw out unencrypted files and some metadata, such as file sizes and folder structures.

Previously, GrayKey used “brute forcing” techniques to guess passcodes and had found a way to get around Apple’s protections preventing such repeat guesses. But no more. And if it’s impossible for GrayKey, which counts an ex-Apple security engineer among its founders, it’s a safe assumption few can break iPhone passcodes.

This does sound promising, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt. Like jailbreaking a phone, this sort of thing is hard to quash completely. And certainly incredibly difficult to prove, one way or the other.

iPhone XR: The reviews are in

Scroll through Apple’s iPhone XR quote gallery. Can’t remember the last time an Apple product has been so positively received and recommended.

Phil Schiller on the iPhone XR

Interesting Engadget piece on the iPhone XR: Half review, half interview with Phil Schiller, all of it a good read.

A few tidbits:

The iPhone XR might be the most interesting phone Apple has made in years.

Think about it: Apple just released its flagship XS and XS Max to a chorus of positive reviews, and now here it is, a month later, preparing to launch another smartphone that packs many of the same features found in those really expensive ones. For Apple, this is all a little unheard of.

Seems to me, this is the new normal, Apple easing into a new model for releasing and marketing iPhones. Having the same processor across the new product line has got to make life easier, production more cost effective.

“We had this technology we were working on for many years to be the future of the iPhone,” Schiller said of the X. “It was a huge ask of the engineering team to get it to market last year, and they did. … We knew that if we could bring that to market and it was successful very quickly after that, we needed to grow the line and make it available to more people.”


“I think the only way to judge a display is to look at it,” he told me, adding that Apple calls these screens “retina displays” because your eye can’t discern individual pixels unless you press your face up right against the glass. “If you can’t see the pixels, at some point the numbers don’t mean anything. They’re fairly arbitrary.” And when asked if the screen was to blame for the XR’s staggered release, he simply said, “This is when it’s ready.”

It is interesting to see this lowest tier of the new product line be so highly recommended. Part of this is Apple’s proven genius with materials. Consider this quote from Ben Bajarin:

The Xr feels more premium than all its high-end Android competitors which bodes well for Apple.

No company has experimented more with material science/metals than Apple to get to where they are today.

Absolutely true.