Swipe gestures; iPhone software update; holiday gifts

Bob's Tech Talk

Q. When someone tells me to "swipe right" on my phone, do they mean swipe to the right or swipe from the right?

A. Technology changes so fast that the language is always trying to catch up.

Early designs made gestures obvious with on-screen controls like switches. The original iPhone's "Swipe to Unlock" control became iconic.

As complexity grew, and as people have become more familiar with smartphones, designers have pushed toward less explicit controls.

In 2016 TikTok upended everything. Its interface took a different approach: the swipe interaction model is invisible, and the app requires experimentation and discovery.

That brings us to today, where the definition of "swipe" has multiple meanings, and the user has to determine which meaning applies.

If at all possible, rather than words, use a demonstration. That is the best way to avoid confusion. If that is not an option, be explicit. For example, "Did you mean to drag my finger from left to right across the screen?"

The bottom line is that "swipe" remains confusing, and it will continue to be confusing. So much so that "swipe right" has even become slang for desirability, an outgrowth of how dating apps have adopted the convention of a swipe toward the right gesture to mean yes, and swipe left to mean no.

Q. My iPhone keeps offering me an update to iOS 17. Should I accept it?

A. Yes! The phone will only offer the update if the phone is compatible. And iOS has some nice improvements. Here are a few favorites:

When an incoming call goes to voicemail, it's possible to screen the call. The words recorded in voicemail are displayed on the screen, allowing you to pick up before the caller finishes speaking.

The phone has a new standby mode that appears if the phone is plugged in and sitting sideways. The screen can display a clock and calendar by default, or it can be customized with other choices, such as local weather.

The notification system has a new feature, Critical Alerts. If you use the phone to track your medication, it can trigger an audible warning that you missed a dose. Take note that enabling a Critical Alert will override the phone's silent switch. This feature is bound to create some embarrassing moments.

These notifications, along with improvements in widget performance, make using the phone as a medical tracker more reliable than ever.

If you have AirPods Pro 2, iOS 17 enables additional capabilities for noise cancellation and spoken conversation, which give the phone enhanced capabilities as a hearing aid.

These are a few of my favorites that I use every day. There are many more, all available free if you upgrade to iOS 17 in Settings -> General -> Software Update.

One final tip: After updating, speak into the phone "Siri, open tips." (Note "Hey Siri" has been shortened to "Siri"). This phrase opens the built-in app intended to help you get the most from your phone.

Q. Now that Costco has artificial Christmas trees for sale in August, I guess it is not too early to ask for gift advice. Any suggestions?

A. I have two, one simple and budget-friendly, the other more elaborate that works for anything available from Amazon.

My go-to tech gift idea might seem boring: chargers and cables. But extra chargers and cables are super handy. Pretty much anything made by Anker fits this bill. And if you're not sure which product suits your recipient's needs, they offer gift cards.

The second suggestion works best when you start early. The website http://www.camelcamelcamel.com enables you to create price alerts for anything on Amazon. It is a free service that creates email alerts to watch for quiet, often short-term price drops. The price history charts can also help gauge recent price changes up or down.

Starting early and letting the deals come to you is the most stress-free shopping experience I know. Good luck.

Wander the Web

Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:

Swipe Gesture History

A brief history of the swipe gesture from an Android perspective. http://www.androidpolice.com/brief-history-android-gesture-navigation/

Quality iOS 17 Apps

Please pardon another long URL. If you are using iOS 17, look at this page for apps to show off its new capabilities. https://9to5mac.com/2023/09/18/the-best-ios-17-apps-with-interactive-widgets-and-standby/

13 Centuries of Spoken English

This three minute YouTube video captures how language changes over time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtQYF2cJ5og

Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at techtalk@bobdel.com.

 
 
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