Since the last article was written, Apple has released two new versions of the iPad. In the full-size range, the iPad Air 2 is the new top-of-the-range model, replacing the iPad Air. You can still buy the iPad Air, it’s still a great iPad, and it’s £80 cheaper now than it was when it was released. There’s also a new iPad mini in town, the iPad mini 3.
The iPad Air 2 is slightly lighter and thinner than the iPad Air, and features upgraded hardware. Most noticeably, Apple has added Touch ID, which enables the ability to securely unlock the device (and authorise purchases) using only your fingerprint.
The iPad mini 3 is basically the same as an iPad mini 2, but with the addition of Touch ID.
The “iPad With Retina Display” and the iPad 2 are no longer featured in the range of iPads offered by Apple.
You can still pick up an iPad 2 as a budget option, but bear in mind that this is now a four-year-old device. It’s getting pretty slow by today’s standards, and software updates will probably cease to be available for this model reasonably soon. The same goes for the 1st generation iPad mini.
To read the previous (more detailed) article on the iPad range, click here.
To go to Apple’s iPad comparison page, click here.
Get one from John Lewis and they’ll throw in a 3 year guarantee at no extra cost!
It’s been a period of slow progress here at Robosoul. When I first started producing apps, I was able to release a new one roughly every 3 or 4 months. I was also regularly adding new features with updates to existing apps.
Very little has been released lately, so what’s happened?
Partly this is a sign that things are going well. I’ve already released pretty much all the apps that I wanted to make for myself as a driving instructor. These apps are reasonably stable: they work well and bugs are few and far between. There are a few enhancements I would like to make to some of the apps, but in general I’m pleased with what I’ve made available so far. A major focus now is to maintain these apps in good working order for those who have bought them.
Having said that, there is still much to do, and progress will continue at a very slow rate. I now have 17 iPad apps and 7 iPhone apps to maintain. This is a lot of maintenance for one person, especially when Apple has a habit of releasing major software updates once a year which can have a serious impact on an apps’s ability to work properly.
Some apps need more maintenance than others. A couple are in the process of being completely rewritten as the original code has become outdated and unmanageable, even though only 2 or 3 years old! That’s how quickly things are advancing in the world of mobile software.
With so many apps available and a growing customer base, I also have a fair amount of customer service and technical support to take care of. I recently changed the text on my contact form to suggest that people think carefully before getting in touch. This is not because I don’t want to hear from my customers, but simply because I don’t have time to respond to a lot of emails, not if I’m going to have time to work on the apps as well. Not only does writing emails take up valuable time, it’s very effective at breaking the intense concentration that’s required to work on software programming.
Bugs, bugs, bugs
Prior to the release of iOS 7, I thought bug fixing was a nuisance. I hadn’t seen nothing yet!
iOS 7 brought such major changes that I had to spend the best part of a year tracking down bugs and adjusting the code in my apps so they would continue to work seamlessly.
iOS 8 brought further changes to how things work “under the hood”. More debugging was required, but fortunately not as much as was required for iOS 7. We’ll have to wait and see what iOS 9 is going to bring.
The learning curve
Another thing I’ve been spending a lot of time doing is learning more about programming for iOS. Apple recently introduced a whole new programming language, Swift, which appears to represent the future of iOS programming. This comes alongside a range of other new technologies which affect the way apps are built, and are going to be built in the future.
I feel it’s important for me to stay up with these new developments, even though it is difficult and time-consuming to learn about the changes and how to work with them.
I’m constantly aware of the importance of improving my knowledge of the fundamentals of app design. Most of my early apps were not terribly well designed in terms of how the code was structured. Even though the apps worked well, the process of enhancing these apps and adding new features was hampered by the fact that my original designs - the “foundations” of those apps - were not laid down with future development in mind. This was the result of my inexperience as a programmer, and also the need to just get on and solve an immediate problem without having time to think about what further problems might arise in the future.
This is a major reason why progress in so slow on certain updates to existing apps. I’m held back by design elements which were baked into the original app structure, but which are not well suited to the changes I want to make going forward. It takes time to completely re-write these apps from the ground up, while also maintaining compatibility with the current version so that when the app is updated it does not cause problems for existing users.
This is a common problem in the world of programming, and it is a very difficult thing to get right. I’m taking my time and trying to learn as much as possible before proceeding with major changes to important apps, apps which have become essential teaching tools for many ADIs all over Britain.
I’m also trying to allow time for technology to mature. Apple has introduced a lot of new ideas into iOS recently. While it’s tempting to rush to incorporate some of these new features into my apps as soon as possible, the sensible thing to do is wait until the kinks have been ironed out (and we know there can be a lot of kinks when Apple brings out something new!)
iCloud is a good example. While it’s tempting to start integrating iCloud syncing into some of my apps, the truth is that iCloud is just not good enough at the moment. First and foremost, I am conscious that my apps are used by professional driving instructors who expect to be in control of their saved data. You did not take the plunge and make the move from paper records to digital ones, only to see your valuable data evaporate in an (i)cloud of smoke. When iCloud is good enough, and when I feel I have learned enough about how it works to be able to make it work well for driving instructors, I hope to start integrating it into some apps, where appropriate. Until that time, the waiting and learning goes on.
As usual, I’m afraid I can’t say. I’m working on various things at the moment, none of which are definitely going to see the light of day. I’m exploring some ideas which I think are interesting and which I believe can help drive forward the use of cutting edge technology to improve the way people learn to drive, and to make safer roads for all.
As usual, as soon as I have something concrete to share, you’ll know about it. In the meantime, I will continue to update my existing apps as and when I can to fix bugs, add new functionality, and generally enhance the user experience.
Today's update also brings with it a number of other tweaks and enhancements, including:
• Thumbnail images for saved files
• The ability to save your drawings along with added road users on top of the satellite images
• Three finger swipe gesture to quickly switch between your saved files
• The ability to export your saved files via iTunes
• Some minor interface changes
• A spiffing new icon
If you haven't already got the app, you can use this button to snatch a copy from the App Store:
I've had quite a few requests for the ability to buy my animated "Learn To Drive" series of apps all together, so I'm very pleased to be able to say that these nine apps are now available as a bundle for £25.99, a saving £4.42 (or 17%) off the cost of buying them all individually.
These nine apps provide animated visuals for your lesson briefings on the following topics:
• Emergency Stop
• Pedestrian Crossings
• Give Way junctions
• Traffic Lights
• Dual Carriageways.
You can find the Learn To Drive Bundle here, or by opening the App Store on your iPad and searching for "Learn To Drive Bundle".
If you already own one or more of the apps in the series, you can still take advantage of the bundle offer by using Apple's "Complete My Bundle" feature. This means you will be refunded whatever you have already paid for apps in the bundle, and will instead be charged the bundle price to own all the apps in the bundle.
You can find out more about the apps in the Learn To Drive series by going to the apps page.
With very little warning, Apple has raised prices for apps in the App Store. This is to offset rises in VAT rates due to new EU legislation.
If bought individually, the total cost of all apps in the bundle is now £35.71.
The bundle price has now risen to £27.99.
The total saving from buying the bundle now sits at around 22%.
In the Pedals section, switching to automatic simply hides the clutch pedal.
In the Gears section, as you'd expect, the interactive manual gearbox is replaced with an automatic version.
The app will remember your last selection, so if you always teach automatic it will still be selected next time you launch the app.
Not got the app yet? Get it here:
Generally speaking, a software developer needs to be able to reproduce a bug before it can be fixed. This means a list of specific steps is required, and following those steps should reliably cause the bug to appear. The developer can then iterate through those steps while testing possible solutions, and can check whether the fix is successful.
Even if the developer cannot reproduce the bug, perhaps because it is the result of a different hardware and/or software configuration on the part of the customer, having a list of specific steps that will reproduce the bug is essential because it can guide the developer towards identifying the cause.
This is what a useless bug report looks like:
Hi. I have bought your app it doesn't work. The car doesn't move. Please fix asap.
It's pretty much impossible to fix anything based on this bug report.
First, which app? If I don't know which app we are talking about, how can I fix it?
Second, which car? My apps tend to feature more than one car, so I need to know which one we are looking at. Is it blue? Red? Yellow? Help me out here!
Third, what do we mean by "it doesn't work"? This needs to be fleshed out into a description of what you are expecting to happen, what is actually happening, and what you have tried before getting in touch.
This is what a helpful bug report looks like:
Hi. I've installed your Road Board app, but it doesn't seem to be working. After launching the app, I tapped where it says "Car" and selected the Blue Car. It appeared on the screen but I can't get it to move independently. I can drag it around with my finger but that's it. A colleague showed me the app with the blue car driving around and demonstrating how to do junctions. I've tried adding other cars as well but the result is the same. I can't find a way to make them drive around. I'm using iOS 7.1.1 on a WiFi-only iPad Air.
This description only takes a minute or so to write, but it is infinitely more helpful and in this case leads to an instant diagnosis of the problem. Rather than a bug in the app, the user is confused about what the app actually does. He has seen a demonstration of a different app, and has installed this one expecting it to behave the same as the one that was demonstrated.
Because the bug report mentions that the app in question is Road Board, and because the user has described what he was expecting to see, what he actually saw, and how he got to that point, it very easy to establish that the problem is a simple misunderstanding. The problem can then be addressed quickly and easily with a simple explanation of the differences between the animated "Learn To Drive" apps, which is what the user had seen in his colleague's demonstration, and the Road Board app, which is what he has ended up installing on his iPad.
The information about the iOS and iPad version were not needed in this case, but it's good that the user provided the information because it is often relevant when troubleshooting bugs.
Here is another helpful bug report, this time describing an actual fault within the app:
Hi, I've been using your Manoeuvres app for some time with my learners. It was working fine until I installed the latest update around a week ago. Since then, I've found that the blue car sometimes flips upside down when about to do the parallel park. I've attached a screenshot so you can see what I mean. I can reproduce this issue by following these steps:
• Launch app
• Select Parallel Park section
• Tap "Advance" to show the POM routine
• Tap "Advance" again to get the blue car into position to start the manoeuvre
• Tap the "ORU" button to bring the purple car onto the screen
• When the switches appear for the controls, turn on the brake lights or the reverse lights
• The blue car suddenly flips, so it is facing the wrong way for the manoeuvre
I'm using iOS 7.1.1 on a WiFi-only iPad Air.
This report gives plenty of detail, including an exact description of how to trigger the bug and a screenshot so there is no misunderstanding about what is visible on the screen. Using this bug report, the developer should be able to troubleshoot the issue without having to request any further information.
The information about the iOS and iPad version helps the developer to pin down whether or not this is an issue that only affects certain users. It can also help the developer to reproduce the bug and test the effectiveness of the solution.
The current iOS version information can be found on your device by going to:
Settings > General > About > Version
You can submit bugs by filling out my online Bug Reporter form.
The idea is simple: the student is the best person to asses how well they are doing, to identify what needs to be worked on and what is the best way to go about it. This is based on the key concepts of client centred learning, namely that everyone has their own way of learning, their own strengths and weaknesses, and that tapping into your pupil's own sense of what is happening and what needs to happen is the best way to chart a course that is suitable for them.
Getting your pupil so deeply involved in the learning process is also a great way to build their confidence and encourage them to make important decisions with regard to their driving and their future safety on the roads. This nurtures a greater sense of the pupil's "ownership" of the learning process, which in turn leads to a more complete engagement with the topic of study, and therefore a better understanding of the concepts involved.
The DVSA is keen to promote a client centred approach to driving instruction in the UK, so the app has been specifically designed by Neil Snow of the ADI CPD Club to be compatible with the DVSA's new driver and rider training standards.
Hit the button below to check it out on the App Store:
As with the iPhone, Apple was not happy to release one iPad and leave it at that. They have already released several more iterations of the iconic device, each an improvement on the last. This is mainly down to Apple’s obsessive desire to advance and refine their products, incorporating the latest developments while constantly chasing an optimised user experience at all costs. It is also a response to the fact that Apple’s competitors have spent the last four years trying desperately to come up with their own answer to the iPad, copying Apple’s successful formula while hoping to leverage slight improvements in technical specifications to gain an advantage.
Over the past four years, Apple has also expanded the range of iPads, so that rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach, users can pick and choose the size and specification (and price) that suits them. This article provides an overview of the various iPad models currently available, and offers some tips on how to choose the one that’s best for you.
You can see Apple's overview of the various iPad models with prices and technical specifications here.
The iPad Air is the Rolls Royce of the current iPad lineup, though happily it doesn’t come with a Rolls Royce price tag! With its long battery life, light weight, and ultra-thin profile, the iPad Air has been well reviewed by pretty much anybody who’s anybody in the world of tech. Starting at just £399 for a brand new 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air, you can have the best for not a lot. This iPad has an absolutely gorgeous Retina display and is lightening fast in everything it does. The screen size is 9.7 inches, which is full size for a tablet and perfect for use in the car or on the couch. Don’t expect to fit it in your handbag (or manbag), though, and it might not fit in your glove compartment either.
iPad with Retina display
This iPad has a bit of misleading name, since the iPad Air also has a Retina display. This one is perhaps more accurately known as the “4th generation” iPad (the iPad Air represents the 5th generation). The “iPad with Retina display” starts at £329 for a new Wi-Fi only model (16GB) and is being sold by Apple as a cheaper alternative to the iPad Air. The differences between the two devices are fairly subtle. The screen size is the same, but the iPad Air is just a little thinner, lighter and snappier than the 4th generation iPad.
Although it first became available in March 2011, the iPad 2 was still being sold by Apple until recently. Despite it’s age, the iPad 2 is still a handy device. It’s basically the non-Retina version of the full-size iPad: the screen is the same 9.7 inches as the iPad Air, but with half the pixel density, meaning text and graphics are not as sharp. The overall performance of the device is good, although everything is just a little less refined than it is on the Air. Battery life is very good. The iPad 2 provides a good user experience, with a large screen in a thin, light package. Beware, though, at three years of age the iPad 2 is likely getting close to obsolescence, as software is constantly moving on and older devices usually struggle to keep up.
First launched in late 2012, the iPad mini was Apple’s response to those who wanted a smaller, more affordable iPad. Although cheaper in price, Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure that the iPad mini has the same high standard of fit and finish as the larger models, and that the user experience is equally good. Some driving instructors feel the 7.9 inch screen is a little small for use as a teaching aid, while others swear by it. The iPad mini is certainly a very lightweight and compact package, great for slipping into a handbag or glovebox, and starting at only £249 for a brand new 16GB Wi-Fi only one, it’s the cheapest iPad on the market.
iPad mini with Retina display
The name tells you most of what you need to know about this particular model of iPad. If you want the compact convenience of the iPad mini combined with the gorgeous clarity of the Retina display, this is the iPad for you. It starts at £319 for a new 16GB Wi-Fi only model.
If you’re in market for an iPad and determined to get a bargain, Apple’s Refurbished store is an excellent place to look. Here you can pick up all sorts of great deals on as-new or nearly-new iPads, all of which come with the same one-year warranty as the brand new versions. Supply is limited, though, so grab ‘em while you can!
If you’re confident buying second-hand, there are good deals to be had on reseller sites such as eBay. It’s important to note that buying this way offers much less protection than buying direct from Apple, or from another well known retailer. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and always carefully check the seller’s feedback before deciding whether to buy from them.
Obsolescence and the upgrade cycle
It is recommended that you avoid buying the original (1st generation) iPad if you want to use the latest and greatest software on your device. Even though it was brand new and revolutionary only four years ago, the original iPad is already considered obsolete in the sense that it is not capable of running the latest Apple software. This results in a less optimised (and possible less secure) user experience. It also means the device cannot run the latest apps, which is a major downside since new and exciting developments are coming along all the time in this dynamic new field.
Buying a tablet is similar to buying a smartphone in the sense that it’s not something you buy once and forget about. The “upgrade cycle” for a smartphone or tablet device is around one to four years, so it’s worth bearing in mind that whatever model you buy there will come a time when it starts to feel slow and out-of-date, and you will want to trade it in for something newer and snappier. Knowing this, you can plan ahead by making sure you take good care of your iPad, so you can get a good resale price for it when it comes time to upgrade.
GB: Gigabytes. This figure (either 16, 32, 64 or 128 for an iPad) represents the amount of storage space the device has. Many iPad users find that 16GB is perfectly adequate for their needs. More storage is needed if you want to keep a lot of videos on your iPad, or if you need it to hold literally thousands of photos or songs, for example.
Retina display: According to Apple’s terminology, a Retina display is one with such high resolution that the human eye is unable to discern individual pixels at a typical viewing distance. This means that what you see on the screen appears less like something you see on a computer monitor and more like something printed in the pages of a magazine.
Wi-Fi only: Unsurprisingly, a Wi-Fi only iPad connects to the internet via Wi-Fi only. This may be via your home network, or a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Each iPad comes with a Wi-Fi only option, or for around £100 more you can have Wi-Fi and a cellular connection similar to your mobile phone. You also need to pay to maintain the cellular connection, just as you do with your phone. It’s a more expensive option, but many people find that it’s worth it for the “always on” internet connection wherever they roam. Even if you go for the cheaper option and plump for a Wi-Fi only iPad, you may be able to “tether” your iPad to your smartphone. Tethering allows your iPad to piggyback on your phone’s cellular connection, giving you mobile internet on your iPad without the additional costs.
I'll be there running a workshop on how to get the best out of my apps (breakout session 3), and the whole day is packed with essential talks and workshops for any Driving Instructor looking to improve their skills and get ahead.
If you want to attend this event and haven't got your ticket yet, you'd better be quick!
The update also adds brake lights and tweaks the position of the blindspots. I've added an ORU to the Reverse Left section, and also tweaked the way the ORUs work so they're more flexible and interactive.
The update is available now via the iTunes App Store.
This guide to shows you how to reveal all the reviews for an app in the App Store.
First, look up an app on the App Store and select the "Reviews" tab.
If the app has been recently updated and nobody has added a review since the update, you will see something like this:
This is because the App Store is only showing you the reviews for the current version of the app (i.e. the recent update). To see all the reviews, you have to select the "All Versions" tab.
Hey presto! All the reviews for that app now appear.
I'm not sure why Apple is intent on hiding all these previous reviews, but I certainly like to reveal them whenever I'm considering buying an app.
1. Enter the app switching screen by double tapping the home button. On an iPad, you can also swipe up on the screen with four fingers (Multitasking Gestures must be enabled in Settings for this).
2. Flick up on the image of the app you want to quit. Make sure you're flicking up on the screenshot of the app itself, not the icon at the bottom of the screen.
You can force quit two or even three apps at a time using this method, though I can't actually think of a situation in which you would need to do that.
• Smoother animations
• Collision detection - cars will now simulate an actual collision instead of driving over each other
• Exit signals for mini-roundabouts
• Medium and Large sections can now show two cars approaching side by side
• Turning right into the 4th exit is now shown in the Large section
• Brand new Spiral section
• Interface tweaked for improved usability and updated for iOS 7
The update also includes the full range of new features that I've been adding to all the apps in the Learn To Drive series, including the ability to save your own images and to email revision links to your pupils.
If you don't have the app already, get it here:
• Colour picker now closes on touch
• Road menus nicely aligned across devices
• Draw button switched to be more intuitive
• Multiple selection - long press items to add without closing menu
This is the EIGHTH app in my Learn To Drive series of training aids for Driving Instructors. Using these apps, almost all of your standard briefings can be brought to life with the interactive animations and other features made available by these apps. The Learn To Drive series now looks like this:
That’s seven, and any day now we will have number eight: Position.
Position is going to cover many of the topics that aren’t already covered by other apps in the series. I’ve been working on this app for quite some time, and there's a lot of essential stuff for Driving Instructors in it, the kind of stuff that will make you wonder how you ever managed without it.
Here's the lowdown on what's covered:
Moving Off & Stopping
• Animated moving off and stopping
• P.O.M. & M.S.M. routines
• Steering wheel demonstrator
• Option to add other road users and move them around on screen
Obstacles / Meeting Traffic
• Dealing with obstacles on the left, right, or both sides of the road
• Meeting other road users who may or may not be following the rules!
• Meeting other road users in busy situations
Space & Speed
• Slowing down for situations with limited space
• Slowing down even more for oncoming traffic when space is limited
• Changing lanes with or with our other road users present
• Signalling is optional
• Side roads can be added to show how signals can be misleading
• Correct position for left & right bends
• Limit points
Finally, this app already includes the exciting new features which have just become available in the Controls & Traffic Lights apps. The new features are:
• Option to email a link to online briefing
• Option to save your own images into the app
• Easy-eye colour mode (ideal for Irlen sufferers)
These new features will be added to all the apps in the Learn To Drive series over the coming weeks. You can read more about them here.
The new Position app will cost £3.99 and will be available soon!
If you haven't already got this app, you can check it out on the App Store with the button below. With this update it's even more feature-packed than ever, including the interactive clutch demonstrator and push-pull steering extravaganza!