Welcome to the latest edition of Jeremy’s 5, my latest quick roundup of 5 interesting little things that aren’t big enough for full articles, but are still worth sharing with you.
This week, I’m looking at the next wave of emoji, T-Mobile’s 4G LTE CellSpot, Google Photos, iCloud/iTunes Account Merging, and battery drain from the latest iOS beta…
1. Take A Sneak Peek At The Next 70+ Emoji. As I’ve said in prior columns, readers seem to be more excited about new emoji than pretty much any other feature Apple adds to iOS. Apple doesn’t create the emoji characters — it implements the Unicode standard, which has standardized hundreds of icons over a dozen different revisions since 1991. The next revision, Unicode 9.0, is currently being finalized and should be released this year, possibly in time for iOS 10.
Want a preview of over 70 new emoji candidates that may be headed to iOS? Visit Emojipedia, which is showing off all of the possibilities. Potential new emoji include Face Palm, nauseated face, clown face, shark, eagle, and a collection of food items: shrimp, squid, tumbler glass, potato, carrot, cucumber, bacon, peanuts, baguette bread, kiwi fruit, pancakes, a glass of milk, stuffed flatbread, green salad, egg, and clinking champagne glasses. Until iOS 10 comes out, you can find versions of some of the icons in third-party emoji apps such as Kimoji.
2. T-Mobile cell booster. T-Mobile’s prices are great, but its 4G/LTE towers really benefit from neighborhood-level assistance. To that end, my colleague Cam Bunton first reported on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE CellSpot Signal Booster two months ago, but actual CellSpot hardware has been in short supply, and my review unit only showed up last week. I’ve been testing it since then, and my impressions are mostly positive. The unit (shown above, right) is larger than a last-gen Apple AirPort Extreme router, and also larger than T-Mobile’s 4G LTE Signal Booster, which I was previously using. It needs to be connected to your broadband router, and optionally attached to a (fairly long) included GPS cable to help determine your location. (Hopefully your router’s near a window for GPS signal acquisition — mine isn’t.)
After an entirely automated but up-to-2-hour setup process where the CellSpot downloads unspecified content as an ‘update,’ it just starts working, creating a 5-dot LTE signal immediately around itself, in a 1- to 2-room radius. The signal’s certainly strong for phone calling within its immediate radius: borrowing your router’s broadband access, it creates what callers described as “excellent” (if not quite Wi-Fi-calling-clarity) voice quality, but it’s nothing special for data; you’ll see faster speeds over Wi-Fi. Notably, the 5-dot signal falls down to 4 or 3 dots when you move to the second floor or other side of a larger house, assuming CellSpot’s not centrally located.
Given the choice between CellSpot and the prior 4G LTE Signal Booster I was using before, I prefer the CellSpot’s performance, but with reservations. CellSpot requires only one power outlet versus the Signal Booster’s two, is guaranteed to create a strong voice signal even where the Signal Booster may struggle, and sells for the same price — a refundable deposit of $25 with T-Mobile. However, CellSpot’s router dependence, small peak power radius, and limited data benefits mean that it’s not a cure-all — just a better calling experience for signal-starved T-Mobile users. That alone makes it worth considering.
3. Google Photos. Last year, I wrote articles discussing the choice I was trying to make between using the free Google Photos service — syncing hi-res but not archival versions of my photos — or paying for 1TB ($10/month) of Apple’s iCloud Photo Library storage. Since then, some readers have asked which service I decided to go with.
After a lot of consideration and a couple of test runs, I opted for Google Photos, and I’m more satisfied with it for “free” than I would be paying for iCloud Photo Library. The uploading process remains painfully slow with a large photo library, but at least I’m not paying for the uploading time, which was necessary with iCloud. Overall, it works as expected, and for people like me with large photo libraries, it’s a much better option than paying $120 per year to Apple.
4. iTunes & iCloud Account Merging. It’s been almost four and a half years since Apple (Tim Cook’s office, specifically) said it was working on letting people merge two iTunes or iCloud accounts together. The merging tool still hasn’t launched, and for those of us who have separate accounts that we’d really like to merge for one reason or another, the wait has been agonizing. Any chance we could see this at WWDC 2016, Apple? Family Sharing can be a mess of its own and doesn’t count.
5. iOS 9.3 + watchOS 2.2 Beta Battery Drain. A quick word of advice if you’re thinking of testing the latest iOS 9.3 or watchOS 2.2 betas but unsure of the impact on battery life or stability: the iOS beta seems both stable and pretty battery safe on iPhones and iPads, but the Apple Watch is another story. My colleague Zac Hall has already warned that the watchOS beta is a battery killer, which kept me from installing watchOS 2.2. Even so, the day after installing iOS 9.3 on the connected iPhone, my Apple Watch died mid-day — something that hasn’t happened since I used the watchOS 2.0 betas last year, and thankfully hasn’t happened since. So if you’re an Apple Watch user, you may want to steer clear of Apple’s betas.
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Re: #2 What’s the benefit of the T-Mobile Cell Booster over using Wi-Fi calling on your phone? iPhones (and most newer smartphones) on T-Mobile now support texts/calls over Wi-Fi and your data usage is automatically over your home internet when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. I live in a rural area with limited T-Mobile coverage so I’ve been using Wi-Fi calling with my iPhone for months and it works great.
WiFi calling doesn’t work on phones not purchased from t-mobile, such as a OnePlus One or a device brought over from another carrier. For people who own those phones and don’t have good signal, this device is quite helpful.
@Ayan_Kar I have a Verizon iPhone 6+ that I took to T-mobile, and I’ve been using WiFi calling without issue.
There are still some major bugs with wi-fi calling, including calls that never go through, calls that can’t be heard on one or both ends of the conversation, and calls that have major audio issues — all of which disappear when wi-fi calling is disabled. I would love to use it all the time if it worked all the time.
Not a single problem with watch battery problems, here, with iOS 9.3 B1 and watch OS 2.1
Exact same situation as you – Both my iPhone 6s Plus and Watch batteries have maintained their battery life as pre-Beta release!
As to running/not running Apple Betas…there are many of us in the community who feel that Apple is SHIPPING software that isn’t tested thoroughly enough. So, we are all beta testers now.
As to the #4 iTunes & iCloud Account Merging, the recent article and viral tale of the widow trying to get access to her dead husband’s iCloud account for app purchases hopefully speeds this along. ALL of it is basically the same problem. I have a sneaking suspicion that Apple did a pretty bad job of engineering on the iTunes/iCloud account plumbing and now they’re facing a very daunting legacy momentum snafu. Because nothing short of that explains how dreadfully slow they’ve been on this, or how bad Family Sharing has turned out otherwise. I fully expect it likely that it is going to take European Union commission force to get Apple to open up digital-property transfer (which is sad to say, me being an American). (“Digital property/asset transfer” being the underpinning need to “merge” accounts; you’ll effectively “sell” your assets from your old account to you new account. The EU has already been asked to look at Apple/et al wrt to digital purchasing and DRM lock-in, it is only a matter of time before it is held that digital purchases confer “property rights”–even if that “property” is merely owning a license–and therefore the lack of mechanism for transferring said property violates fair trade rules.)
Re #4: I want to see this too. Specifically I want to see Apple ID merging for those of us who use our iCloud email address for iTunes, but had iTunes purchases before iCloud (or MobileMe before that) ever came into the picture. That’s been #1 on my Apple Pet Peeves list for years, let’s hope Apple fixes that soon.
Agreed. The lack of support for merging accounts, as well as the inability to change the Apple ID for a mac.com, me.com or icloud.com account, is baffling. It’s my understanding that if years ago I had set up my Apple ID using a Gmail address I would be able to change the Apple ID. Because I decided to invest in the Apple ecosystem, however, I’m stuck with my old MobileMe address into perpetuity. This sorely needs to be fixed.
Sorry, have to disagree with you and Zac on the Apple Watch beta, I’ve had no problems with battery life on my AW running 2.2 and 9.3 betas. It sounds more like a specific app or apps that are causing the battery drain which is usually, but not always the case.(Which I’m sure you two already know.) After 14 hours, I’m down to 40% on the watch with normal use. It’s a beta, and results are never guaranteed.
iOS 9.3 is a major battery killer for me. I have never ever experienced a phone becoming as hot as my 6Plus with the 9.3 beta. Even with the screen off, it can completely drain the battery in a handful of hours if I don’t close all open apps after each use. iOS9.3 is absolutely horrible for me and seems more like a pre-Alpha than a beta. It also freezes for a minute or two very often and sometimes it doesn’t even “wake up” again by itself, forcing me to reset the phone.