Why the Apple iPhone X matters to smart homes

With the recent release of the new Apple iPhone X, almost two months ago, critics once again condemned Apple for being late to the market, re-hashing existing technologies etc. As usual, many Apple critics just don’t get it – being more focused on features and specifications rather than the user experience – Apple is all about the user experience.

For many, the iPhone X, on the surface looks fairly meek and mild, but in reality is quite groundbreaking the future of smart homes. There are a few noticeable features that stand out for me, that will have an impact on future smart homes: TrueDepth camera, Face ID, Augmented Reality and wireless charging.

Apple’s TrueDepth camera is integral to many of the standout features of the iPhone X. The camera system comprises of many components that allows it to process 3D models for Face ID, Animojis, advanced camera modes that use computational processing, and augmented reality (AR). The advanced technology of TrueDepth camera can detect the position, topology, and expression of the user’s face, all with high accuracy and in real time.

Face ID is the iPhone X’s primary security interface that replaces Touch ID. Face ID uses a system of advanced camera, dot projector, processor and Apple’s Secure Enclave. Unlike other systems, all saved facial information is securely protected and processed within the actual iPhone handset, rather than sending the information to the cloud for processing. As the user continuesly uses Face ID, the system is constantly adapting to physical changes in appearance.

Together with iOS 11 and Apple’s new gyroscopes and accelerometers, the TrueDepth camera introduces a new Augmented Reality framework – ARKit, that allows developers to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, the ARKit framework will take apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways. The TrueDepth camera

Apple’s implementation of wireless charging is not necessarily new, or even ground breaking, but does represent the provision of a truely wireless solution. Apple will quickly implement wireless charging into other mobile devices and accessories that will be rapidly accepted Apple users and will become the new normal.

So, how do and how will these iPhone X technologies affect the smart home market?

As we move away from manually interacting with touch screen user interfaces, and with ambient computing becoming more ubiquitous in everyday products and systems, other methods of interacting with technology will become the new normal. We are already seeing voice control being more prominent, but do not have a high level of intelligence to benefit it, just yet.

The implementation of various sensors is a key requirement for any smart home. Unfortunately sensors themselves are not very intelligent – they require appropriate processing and programming to make them functional. In the future sensors will be able to accurately detect homeowners and residents using similar technologies as the TrueDepth camera system.

Access control systems by way of security cameras and door station intercoms may also implement advanced camera systems to accurately allow keyless and device free access into the home, and be able to identify users and intruders.

Until the challenges of limited battery life are solved, manufacturers need to maximise the user experience of powering devices and other products. As wireless charging becomes more popular, charging pads will be provided in everyday applications allowing users to top up their devices without the fear of being security compromised by plugging in a cable that could also access information on their device.


The Apple iPhone X is a groundbreaking device that provides a new user interface and a decisive move towards a new user experience that is easily accepted. Other companies need to have the courage to challenge the status quo, to provide better user experiences. Apple do this continuously – recently with the removal of the traditional headphone socket, that has not been missed, and most recently, the removal of the home button and Touch ID being replaced with Face ID and new swipe gestures that quickly became so natural.

Smart home products and systems will eventually implement technologies similar to the iPhone X, but needs to do so in a way that doesn’t create fragmentation, to provide the best user experience. A smart home needs to not only provide optimal form and function of the technology products and systems, but also needs to consider the architectural form and function of the home, and the lifestyle of the homeowner and residents.


Why I’m a Mac

I see much of my technology as a ubiquitous, symbiotic system, and believe Apple provides the best ecosystem for me.

My mobile devices; iPhones (yes, my family and I have multiple), iPads (yes, multiple of those as well), Apple Watch, and MacBooks (multiple of those too) are all connected by iCloud. Rather than each being a separate device, they are all really just connected user interfaces in a greater system.

I can pick up my work on any device from anywhere at anytime, and it is automatically synced and kept up-to-date. Photos are automatically synced to my main Photo library where they are saved and ‘pushed’ to my other devices. I can easily and quickly move larger files between devices with AirDrop. Messages can be sent and received with attachments to and from any device. These are just some examples of the many benefits that work for me.

My non-Apple electronic products are selected for their ability to seamlessly fit into my expanding symbiotic system to provide an encompassing total solution.

I appreciate and value good design – Apple cares about design. Apple will challenge the status quo to provide a better way, a more efficient way. Design is much more than what a product looks and feels like, it’s how it works, and the experience it provides.

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

Many consumers get tied up with features and specifications, and look to products that have the most features and the highest specifications, rather than understanding and considering the total user experience.

For me, everything just works – like it has for many years, and provides a seamless and satisfying user experience.

* I’m a Mac refers to Apple’s Get a Mac campaign that featured the infamous “Hello, I’m a Mac” television advertisements from 2006-2009.

Why I like Apple HomePod

Apple is back into the home speaker market (some might remember the iPod HiFi from 2006), at a time when when others have become more established.

This week, Apple announced HomePod to reinvent home music. In addition to providing great sound, expanded AirPlay 2 functionality, and secure voice control, there’s one single reason why I like HomePod – usability.

Contemporary music listening enthusiasts will be familiar with the usual products (e.g. Sonos, HEOS etc.) that integrate to your home network, and connect with streaming services (e.g. Apple Music, Spotify etc.).

As familiar as we have become with the app interfaces of these products and services, users have to exit from their phone’s native music app (e.g. Apple Music) and open a third-party home music system app (e.g. Sonos). Although this is relatively easy, it requires an additional third-party step to enjoy music.

With Apple HomePod, the music listening experience is now complete. Users will simply use Apple Music via the native app or by Siri voice control, to enjoy music however and wherever they want.

For the smart home, Apple HomeHub becomes an integral component of Apple Home to integrate an already mature range of compatible smart home products and systems.

Even more, the HomePod will provide a higher level of intelligence for your smart home. Siri will have improved learning capabilities, opening a realm of future benefits to enhance your lifestyle.

Enjoying music and controlling technology in the home is about to become more usable, more intuitive, and more simple.

What’s on my iPhone – Part 2, The Secondary Screen

Following my previous blog article, What’s on my iPhone: Part 1 – The Home Screen, I have a secondary screen where regularly used apps reside. My apps always have a purpose and meet my own particular requirements (check out my How I select mobile apps article).

My secondary screen gets regularly updated depending on what I’m most using at the time, or sometimes even the time of year (e.g. the NBA or NFL app gets promoted out of a folder when in season etc.).

Following my personal organisation rules, apps are somewhat organised depending on their frequency of use, and purpose (e.g. smart home apps are grouped together etc.).


Password have become annoying. Every site uses and needs one, and seem to use different combinations of letters, numbers, characters etc. Even then, some require a particular requirement. I’ve been using 1Password for years across all my devices. It syncs using iCloud, Dropbox etc.

I’ve been using Dropbox for years. It’s just standard vernacular now; “I’ll send you a Dropbox link”. I store documents, photos, videos and other files, knowing they are safely stored and can be access from any of my devices. I regularly send and share Dropbox link to family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Dropbox integrates seamlessly with everything, whether it’s Windows, Mac OS, iOS or Android.

Google Drive
Being a longtime Dropbox user, I don’t use Google Drive too much, but I use it when I have to, such as when I am provided a Google Drive link from someone.

Recordium is the best voice recorder that I have found. It’s simple and easy to use, allowing you to bookmark parts of a recording and many other features.

Apple Home can control all HomeKit compatible products and accessories from different manufacturers from a single app, and with Siri voice control. I don’t have many HomeKit compatible products, but do have Philips Hue products. It’s pretty cool to turn on lights by saying “Hey Siri, turn on the bedroom lamp”. I would buy other HomeKit compatible products, but many are not available on the Australian market, yet. HomeKit is one of a handful of home control ecosystems that are competing for smart home control of your home.

Sonos Controller
I have a number of Sonos speakers around the house that stream Apple Music, internet radio, and other audio (e.g. Podcasts) from my iPhone. I have had Sonos speakers for many years, when they were the first to market with this type of standalone speaker system.

Philips Hue
Philips Hue is the biggest name in smart lighting globes. Colour changing lights are typically controlled the app. The Philips Hue system is Apple HomeKit compatible, allowing control by Siri. I also integrate some cool functionality via IFTTT and Stringify.

Ring Video Doorbell
Ring is a video doorbell that connects to the internet to show live audio and video on your smartphone when the doorbell is pressed or if it detects motion. Video footage is saved to Ring’s online subscription service, and is accessed via your smart mobile device. I have Ring integrated with Stringify to automatically control my Philips Hue lights. I wish ring was HomeKit comptabile.

Apple News
Apple News provides a customisable news feed. News articles can be saved and linked to popular social media services.

I can always spend spare time surfing YouTube. I subscribe to a number of YouTube channels, following a number of vloggers.

Road Trip
I use the Road Trip app to log my vehicle expenses. It syncs and backs up to Dropbox.

It’s a banking app, that works pretty well. I wish Westpac would get onboard with ApplePay. I specifically opened an account with another bank to just to use ApplePay.

I’m regularly buying gadgets and accessories online. eBay is a great place to see the market.

I constantly misplace my wallet and keys. I have multiple Tile Mates and Tile Slims on various things to keep track of them. I’ve tried many Bluetooth tracking devices – Tile is the best all around product I have found. I wish that the batteries were replaceable, and the reTile program applied to Australia (maybe it does?).

Facebook Groups
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I ‘subscribe’ or join multiple Facebook groups. Facebook Group allows me to follow the group, receive notifications of posting etc. without having to sort through the algorithm curated feed that Facebook forces upon us.

Facebook Pages Manager
I manage my Facebook page (not my personal Facebook page) from the Facebook Pages app. Like with the Facebook Groups app, I can manage my page without the distractions of the curated feed of the Facebook app. I do hate the little flag symbol used in the app name.

Keynote is Apple’s PowerPoint, but easier and more intuitive. I do a lot of presentations, and only use Apple Keynote. My Keynote presentations are sync’d to all my devices by iCloud. I also use Keynote as a design layout tool, and have various custom templates for various applications. If Apple Keynote was good enough for Steve Jobs, it’s good enough for me.

I’ve been reviewing numerous todo and task apps. Right now, Todoist is my app of choice. Todoist integrates with Slack, although only one way. I have only recently changed from Any.do app, if only for the Slack integration.

Slack is a fantastic communication and collaboration app that keeps project messaging all in one place. I use Slack to keep my project teams updated with news, information, tasks and todo lists. Using Slack takes a bit of getting used to and some persistence, only because we have been so used to email and various messaging and task apps. In time, I hope other apps and even Apple operating systems will integrate with Slack.

I’m really just working out Snapchat – how it works, how it can fit into my social media strategy. I find the Snapchat user interface to be unintuitive to navigate, but I persist in the hope of finding a benefit and purpose.

What’s on my iPhone series:

  1. The Home screen
  2. The Secondary screen
  3. The Folder screen
  4. The Sandbox screen
  5. How I select mobile apps

What’s on my iPhone – Part 1, The Home Screen

I’m very particular with my apps and how I manage them on my devices.

I have a method to how I manage and organise apps:

  • The home screen contains my most used apps.
  • Apps are somewhat organised by application type (e.g. social media apps are grouped together), ergonomics, and colour.
  • The most used apps are located around the edge of the screen.
  • I never fill up my entire screens (any screen) with apps, eliminating false opening of apps when I swipe through screens.

Being a long time Apple user, I am fully entrenched in the Apple/iCloud eco-system. Most of my apps sync wonderfully with iCloud across all of my devices. Other apps sync using Dropbox, Google Drive or similar, to my work computer that runs Microsoft Windows.

Being an app junkie, a collect and manage a lot of apps (more than 200 different apps at the time of writing this article), and I’m always looking for new apps and alternate apps that might do a better job that a default, or one that I’m currently using. I have personal rules for how I select apps, based on my philosophy of simplicity, functionality, and usability.

As a preview and in summary, I have four screens:

  1. Home screen
  2. Secondary screen
  3. Folder screen
  4. Sandbox screen

Here’s my iPhone 7 Plus home screen:


Safari works so well in my Apple ecosystem across all my iOS and Mac OS devices. All my bookmarks are perfectly and quickly sync’d across all devices. Reading List allows me to quickly list a page that I want to view later on another device. Passwords are stored and accessed from Apple keychain across all devices.

I only use the default Apple Calendar app for its dynamic icon that shows today’s date. For my everyday calendar, I mostly use Fantastical.

Fantastical 2
Fantastical is the best calendar app on the App Store. The user interface and design is easy and syncs to iCloud seamlessly. New events can be entered using real English and automatically translated into calendar format.

I haven’t yet found a better contact manager for my use than the default contacts app that syncs across all my devices.

The default Apple Clock app does the job well. Functions include; world clock, alarm, stopwatch and timer. The app integrates well with Siri, and is very easy to use. I have recently been using other timer apps that can show multiple timers, the the Apple Clocks app is always a goto. it would be great if the world clock was able to time shift, but there are other apps for that.

I just trust Apple, and the integration with iOS, Mac OS and Siri. Yes, Google Maps is probably a better map app, but it doesn’t provide full integration with the Apple ecosystem.

The stock Apple Calculator app does the job, it’s just a calculator. Rotate the phone to the side and it becomes a scientific calculator.

Apple Photos is the best photo manager. It syncs perfectly with iCloud and make all of my photos available on all of my IOS and Mac OS devices. All of my photos are automatically backed up, I don’t have to worry about my photos.

The default Notes app does the job. I have tried other apps, but keep coming back to to Apple Notes for its iCloud integration.

I’m sure I could find a better reminders app that perhaps can integrate other apps, but for now the default Apple app does the job. I have been testing various todo apps that may replace the Reminders app in the near future.

Apple Music is the best overall music streaming app, and has effectively replaced iTunes. I subscribe to Apple Music and consume and download as much as I want. I just haven’t had a need for other popular streaming apps like Spotify.

I have used most podcast apps, and keep coming back to Overcast. Overcast does most things very well. The excellent layout makes it very easy to navigate, especially in the car. I often listen to news and sports radio shows that are broadcast as podcasts. I wish there was a way to tidy up and purge podcasts after a week (as the Apple Podcasts app does), rather than a quantity.

I have the settings app on my front page, because I don’t want to hunt around for it. It’s easily accessible for when I need to get into various settings.

App Store
I’m an app junkie, I love finding new apps. My iTunes account is always topped up when iTunes gift cards are on sale.

Pocket Weather Australia
This is the weather app that I am using at the moment. I used this app a while ago, until they lost their way with a poor user interface design. Recent updates have gone back to basics, and now shows the right information in the right way. I have Weather AU customised to show (in order); current temperature, week forecast, daily forecast, observations, and rain radar.

LinkedIn is the best business networking app. I use LinkedIn daily, and have my own process for how I use it.

Since Instagram closed down their API, this is really the only way to use Instagram on the iPhone. I only wish Instagram would provide a grid viewer to allow multi images to be shown, and lists to make it easier to filter follows.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It’s just the default way to stay in touch with family and friends. I just wish I could view my timeline in chronological order, rather than the promotion algorithm that Facebook imposes.

Facebook Messenger
I juggle multiple messenger platforms. I use Facebook Messenger because others use it. Facebook Messenger is my default method of messaging people who don’t use Apple Messenger.

As an early adopter of Twitter (I’ve been using it April 2007), I’ve used most apps. Tweetbot just gets the edge over Twitterrific for me. Tweetbot, like most Twitter apps easily manages multiple Twitter accounts.

Camera +
I find that Camera + is the best app for when you need more camera control, particularly manual control, that the default Apple app doesn’t provide. Camera + seamlessly saves to the Apple Photos app.

Bottom Bar

The default way to make telephone calls. I don’t even know if there’s another app to make calls.

Apple Messages is the best messenger app but doesn’t work for non-Apple people, so I need to juggle multiple messenger apps. I can easily send text, photos, and videos. I don’t do emojis or stickers.

I have recently sort an alternate to the default Apple Mail app, and like Spark for now. I manage multiple email account and types from my email apps: Gmail, Outlook, and POP/IMAP. Spark implements a ‘smart inbox’ very well by pigeon holing; newsletters, notifications and new mail. Unread emails can be cleared very quickly by swiping right to the next one.

The default Apple Camera app does the job of taking photos reasonably well, and is fully integrated with the iPhone and iOS. The iPhone 7 Plus camera is the best camera that Apple has. Even as a photographer, the iPhone camera has pretty much replaced my standalone point and shoot camera. I use a collection of other camera apps such as Camera + when I require more manual control.

My Wallpaper

My wallpaper is always simple and doesn’t distract from the apps. I never use personal photos (e.g. partner, family, cat etc.) as a wallpaper. My wallpaper is always clean and professional, as I regularly AirPlay Apple Keynote presentations from my iPhone to an Apple TV.

What’s on my iPhone series:

  1. The Home screen
  2. The Secondary screen
  3. The Folder screen
  4. The Sandbox screen
  5. How I select mobile apps

How I select mobile apps


I’m always looking out for new apps, and in order to filter out bad ones, I have some personal rules that I follow when selecting, downloading and buying them. My rules are based on my philosophy of simplicity, functionality, and usability.

My app rules

  1. Apps need to be simple, uncluttered and have a clean design. I value and respect good design.
  2. I don’t use apps that have advertising. I will pay for a premium ad-free version of an app, or pay to disable ads.
  3. I don’t use apps that have unnecessary skeuomorphic design. Apple used to do this, but we have moved on for the better.
  4. I will buy apps that provide the best functionality and design for my purpose.
  5. I prefer apps that are regularly and most recently updated. Why bother with apps and software that the developer themselves don’t care about enough to improve and update?
  6. An app should have an attractive screen icon. You judge a book by it’s cover. An app’s icon is a good start for initially determining quality.
  7. I prefer apps that can be viewed natively on all my iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPad Pro).
  8. I prefer apps that sync and save to cloud services (e.g. iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.) where necessary.
  9. I prefer apps that integrate with core Apple functions and services (e.g. iCloud, HomeKit, HealthKit etc.) where possible.
  10. Look out for an app’s search presence, review and rating.


What’s on my iPhone series:

  1. The Home screen
  2. The Secondary screen
  3. The Folder screen
  4. The Sandbox screen
  5. How I select mobile apps