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Ask Rene: Watch locks, smaller iPhones, USB-C replacing Lightning, and more!

Chargers
Chargers (Image credit: iMore)

When you combine Twitter, email, forums, and all the other channels, Rene gets sent dozens and dozens of questions a day. Since it's not even inhumanly possible to answer, let alone research, them all, we're starting a new column where he can post answers for everyone. So, if you want to share your questions and concerns, hopes and gripes, send them to askrene@imore.com or tweet them to @reneritchie with #askrene.

I have the Apple Watch Sport and it's asked for my passcode several times today. Why? — S.B.

The Apple Watch—all collections—stays unlocked for as long as it stays in contact with your skin. If you're getting locked out, make sure nothing is covering the sensors on the back of your Apple Watch, and that your Sport Band isn't so loose that the sensors are intermittently coming off your wrist.

Since picking up the iPhone 6 last October, I've never loved it. Albeit a beautifully designed object, the difficulty of one handed use has just been too much. Yes, I know about Reachability, which to me feels like a solution for a problem that should not exist.I'm not a small guy (6') and while my hands are not large, they're certainly not small but I found my (extremely) preferred method of interaction with the iPhone is one handed use. I work as an international airline pilot and travel a lot, almost always pulling a suitcase but even if I'm at home just carrying a cup of coffee (or nothing) I veer towards one handed use. To use two hands to feel comfortable feels hugely debilitating.I really feel that bigger has not been better and has been a misstep on Apple's part. Or at least give people a real choice. If before the 6, the iPhone was just great and dandy at 3.5" and then 4", why not continue to offer this option on the same chipset parity as the 6 and 6 Plus?Surely I can't be the only one. Do you get other readers voicing these concerns? — DH

How to use the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus one-handed with Reachability

How to use the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus one-handed with Reachability

You're not, and we do indeed. Though, admittedly, fewer and fewer as time goes on. (I'm not sure if people have gotten used to the big and bigger sizes, or just stopped complaining about it.)

Personally, I love the new sizes. I've been using an iPhone 6 Plus almost exclusively since it launched. So much so the iPhone 6 feels small, the iPhone 5 feels claustrophobic, and the iPhone 4 feels like a toy. I don't travel anywhere nearly as much as you do, obviously, but I do use it in airports and while walking down malls, and I've gotten okay at using it one handed.

But I absolutely feel for your frustration.

Apple is filled with smart people and it's their business to know which screen sizes will be the most popular (and hence the most profitable). Right now, that seems to be bigger than 4-inches. If that ever changes, and it seems like smaller phones will be in higher demand, we'll likely see them again. (My guess is we won't actually see smaller screens, but smaller casings around bigger screens.

If it's something that's important to you, by all means, let Apple know how you feel (opens in new tab).

I wanted to share a breakthrough moment I had with the watch, recently. I have advanced ataxia, a degenerative nerve condition. I'm in a power chair and have difficulty walking. As far as IOS it's been great! Even the swiping on remote is doable. But now, Apple is getting reliant on mini swipe, force touch and digital crowns. I love and envy them and have found a much easier way for people with poor fine motor skills to use apple watch.My fingertips suck, they're huge and numb, also I have slow reflexes. Double clicking the crown is undoable, I can't get a firm grasp on the watch either. But, last night, I thought that orientation in the watch app, may be my answer.I'm a rightie, wearing the watch on my left wrist. But, I realized that the digital crown needs to be on the lower left. I can use my finger to stabilize the watch while my thumb can more easily control the crown and power button, even simultaneously. Of course, like all IOS devices, the screen rotates. Try It! - Joe Martignetti

I'd heard of people switching the Digital Crown around because they found it easier, but hadn't considered the accessibility angle. That's for sharing and for increasing awareness!

I wondered if you noticed that Dashboard on OS X appears to be killed off in El Capitan. If this actually true, I think that this is a late move as Dashboard has been depreciating over the last 5 years (or more). What are your thoughts? — SPF

If I'm reading you right, you think Apple should have killed off Dashboard sooner? Personally, I haven't used Dashboard for years. The purpose it originally served—creating a dedicated space for glanceable information—has been subsumed by the iPhone and now the Apple Watch.

I'm sure some people still use and love it, but no one seems to be paying much attention to Dashboard. Whether or not Apple is killing it off soon enough, it's relevance seems to have died a while ago.

You've probably gotten this question before, but thoughts on Apple going with USB C on the iPhones/iPads this year? — James Wimmer

Leo Laporte, Andy Ihnatko, Serenity Caldwell, and I talked about this at length on MacBreak Weekly 459. (We tend to talk about everything at length, though.) Here's a quick recap on my thoughts:

USB C is a not-coincidentally Lightning-like connector that removes some functionality in the name of standardization. Apple likely went with it on the MacBook because the advantages of a standard connector outweighed the advantages of the more adaptable but proprietary Lightning connector. Namely, the availability of tons of third-party peripherals from a market where Windows PCs are still strategically dominant.

For Apple to bring USB C to the iPhone and iPad—replacing the Lightning side, not the current USB A side, which seems inevitable either way—the company would need to see similar benefits. Since iPhone and iPad are strategically dominant in mobile, those benefits would also need to more than exceed the cost of transition.

There are other ramifications as well, including the hardware differences, the Made for iPhone program, and the willingness of customers to transition again, only 2-years post 30-pin transition.

Never say never when it comes to Apple, but again, they'd have to see significant benefit to switch to USB C.

Do you know if Apple Watch have a 'cinema mode'? Or is powering it down the best option? — Marc Wickens

A cinema mode would be great. The last thing I want when there's a bunch of lights flashing in front of me is for a light to flash in front-er of me. It would add yet another button to the increasingly crowded Settings Glance, though. Maybe the Mute button could have 3 stages—audio, audio+visual, and none? For now, I'd mute it at the very least—I keep my muted all the time—and either keep it covered by a shirt sleeve, or, yes, you can power it down during the movie.

That's it for this week! To get your questions in for next week, email them to askrene@imore.com or tweet them to @reneritchie with #askrene.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

30 Comments
  • Regarding cinema mode, couldn't you just use Do Not Disturb?
  • Doesn't stop the screen from lighting up, which I think is the issue beyond mute.
  • I love this column this morning, and look forward to more of the posts in your new column. Always fun to learn. Keep up the good work. :)
  • Thank you!
  • Yes, set Do Not Disturb for cinema mode, but the watch face itself is still bright. I read a tip somewhere to create a new Modular watch face, set the color to red, and remove all the complications. Red is a subdued color in the dark and the only thing that shows on the watch face is the time in a fairly small font. Alternately, you could just turn on Power Reserve Mode, which will stop all notifications and seems to even turn off the Wrist Raise feature. If you press the Friends button, it will show you just the time in green.
  • The blog site is really difficult to read, especially on the mobile version because you can't zoom in the TapaTalk Web view. Only in Safari. But even then it's hard to see the low contrast text.
  • Okay, on the connector issue - STOP IT, JUST STOP IT!!! Okay wait ... my Prozac is kicking in ... okay, there we go. Seriously though, Sony and Apple really need to quit the never ending changing of the already proprietary connector to yet another proprietary connector. If USB can do it why can't they. (And for the record I don't want USB to replace everything - in fact, I wish it would go away, or at least stop trying to catch up to everything else that comes out that's way faster and more flexible from a bussing POV. I think USB's endless one-upmanship stymies good quality buss development.) However, if USB-C can be a landing spot upon which further buss development, far into the future, can use and reuse, then let's just get it over with and go there. I love you both, Apple and Sony, but stop changing the connectors with every new product release - please!
  • Apple changed once in 10 years?
  • I think he is also including all of the MagSafe changes on the MacBooks as well. Since I have been using a Mac there have been 3 MagSafe configs and now a USB c on the new MacBook. Personally I like the lightning connector. USB c is a step forward compared to current USB, but I still prefer the Lightning side to stay the same. I do wish apple would change the formula for their rubber/plastic sheathing though, as that always frays and exposes wires relatively early. Sent from the iMore App
  • The market for a sub 4 inch screen iPhone is niche at best. Don't hold your breath waiting for it.
  • I know a lot of people that prefer the 5/s/c sized iPhone. I think part of it stems from the iPhone 6 and 6+ being uncomfortable to hold without a case. Reachability mode is a joke for me on the 6 plus because activating it with one hand requires me to risk dropping the phone. I wish it would have been screen gesture based like maybe swipe over and down or double swipe down or something. But in all fairness, I didn't expect to be able to fully use the 6 plus one handed when I bought it. I would love to see some changes to the keyboard for the 6 and 6 plus in portrait mode. Some punctuation and a number row would be awesome. Sent from the iMore App
  • Agree. The design of the 6/6+ make it hard to hold and reason many do not like it. It was a step back from the 5s design. Maybe with the 7, apple will fix it and make it less slippery in hand. And quit going so thin. Put a larger battery in, and make it easier to hold.
  • I will never ever get a bigger iphone than the 5s! The 5s is sometimes too big. But it works. The 6 is way too big! I am almost out of gb on my 64gb 5s. So i really hope for a new 4" screen iphone!! Please Apple! Sent from the iMore App
  • "I have the Apple Watch Sport and it's asked for my passcode several times today. Why? — S.B." Since day 1 my Sport has been auto-locking when on my wrist, such that I had to turn off Wrist Detection to stop it happening. Last week Apple finally came back after some back-and-forth with pictures, videos and logfiles of the behaviour and got me to ship it to the engineers and they're going to express me a replacement Watch. So this could certainly be a hardware problem and I'd hit up a Store or Support if you've made sure you're wearing it right.
  • Point taken. My comments were not just aimed at iOS, but all Apple hardware, including display port connectors, which as I recall, changed a lot more than once in ten years, going from proprietary Apple display port (think 1980's) all of the way to the mini display connector we have now. Of course, happily, that final iteration of mini connector (remember there was a very small display port connector that came out prior to what we have now), the form factor, became Thunderbolt. So maybe I doth whine too loudly, but I do hope that Apple is looking for one or two, maybe three, port form factors, that they can stick with for a long time. Looking at all connections across all Apple hardware it does change quite often compared to Windows-lovin hardware. I invest heavily in Apple products for home and for work (and that's a big deal at work because broadcast houses are not filled with Mac-lovin engineers), and when I finally get engineering staff at work to begin investing in Thunderbolt technology I'm starting to read that USB-C is now coming along, and that it will eventually go as fast as TB, which means continuing to grow our hard-earned, super fast TB-based storage and retrieval systems are already going to have to start changing, again - from a connector stand point. Cable and connector infrastructure constitute a significant installation and maintenance cost at the corporate level, sometimes rivaling the cost of the end-user workstations as a part of total cost.
  • Love the column idea. Hope to see it continue. I would also love to see an iPhone with all the latest hardware features, but in the 4" form factor. The 6 is great but just a bit too big. This coming from someone roughly the same size as the original commenter. Sent from the iMore App
  • Rene, I admit I have been critical of the direction some of your columns have taken, but I love this one. I hope to see more of them on imore in the future. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks, will do!
  • This column is an excellent idea. Very informative and interesting read. Looking forward to the next one. Good job :) Posted via the iMore App
  • I love dashboard widgets (contacts lookup, conversion and calculator)... are they really going away in El Capitan? :¬(
  • Those are all things you can do with Spotlight now, no? If not, I would imagine that stuff is easily do-able with the notification center widgets. I say strip out the cruft. If enough people still want a dashboard full of widgets, they'll be replaced with a likely better 3rd party solution once again.
  • Yeah you're probably right... so what's left to me is to learn/implement a new workflow (but I as they say, change is friction;)
  • "My guess is we won't actually see smaller screens, but smaller casings around bigger screens." Sorry, but, this will not solve the problem, your thumb still has to be able to reach all the way to the top corners of the screen. A 4.3" screen would have been the best size to make it bigger but still one-hand able . I was kind of in shock when Apple actually used 4.7" and 5.5" screens. Early rumors were of 4.3" & 4.9 or 5.1". If Apple had gone with 4.3" on the smaller side, I think they would have been able to win the one-handers, and still satisfy those wanting a bit more screen real estate. I don't see Apple changing form factors this year, from a production perspective. 6s/6s+ will be same form factor. We can hope for something new next year. I have the 6, and it's just a bit big, would have gone for a 4.3" without hesitation. One problem with 6 tho, the back is really pretty, but so smooth it"s slippery, and the size makes me not be able to hold it firmly to one-hand it, so it feels like I'm going to lose it when I position it for one-hand. Not well thought out, if you ask me. Need to add a texture option for those of us that don't like cases. Sent from the iMore App
  • Agree with 4.3", my old Evo 4G was 4.3 and I thought it was the perfect size. Though if I'd had the option a 5s case with 6 internals would have been a nice option.
  • Oh no, I use the Dashboard all the time! Particularly the unit converter and the calculator. I see that I can put a calculator in the newer Today panel (right side of screen). But is there any substitute utility for doing quick unit conversions?
  • I agree - I use Dashboard each day. Some Widgets have equivalents in "Notifications" but not all of them - at least as far as I can tell.
  • The bottom line is Apple will NEVER give up control of the connector on their phones, tablets, etc. They make too much money off of MFI and they will not cede control to any other device. Even when the EU required ALL phone OEM's to provide MicroUSB as the standard, Apple simply put a microUSB to Lightning adapter in the box rather than follow what is an industry standard. You can say Apple is ahead of everyone else but in reality they are holding users back and not allowing cross compatibility. After all if Lightning is such a great standard (like FireWire which they killed off) then why not make it an industry standard by offering it up. Yeah they won't.
  • To say "The purpose it originally served—creating a dedicated space for glanceable information—has been subsumed by the iPhone and now the Apple Watch" is to ignore the most fundamental function of the dashboard. First let me just say that I don't use it as a space, I instead have my dashboard come up as an overlay (like it used to, before changing it to a space by default). Using 3rd-party dashboard apps, I can quickly see how many cycles the battery has been through, as well as how much battery life I have and how much hard drive space I'm using. You can't do any of them from an iPhone or Apple Watch. The Dashboard is way more useful than you're giving it credit for.
  • "Apple is filled with smart people and it's their business to know which screen sizes will be the most popular" They might have known, but it took them forever to execute.
  • i think that has something to do with the european union that they want that all devices using the same connector. because its so much waste with all these cables...