Tiny GIFs in iMessage

As my wife, friends, and work colleagues can attest to, I often communicate using GIFs (hard G, don't @ me). Most of my usage is within Slack, though I do occasionally use them in iMessage. However, my experience with iMessage and GIFs has been problematic. Whenever I'd send someone a GIF via iMessage, the recipient would often reply saying it was unwatchable because the size of it was so small.

It didn't matter where the GIF came from (either pasted in or sourced from an iMessage app like GIPHY), the resolution of the GIF received was always extremely low. I had no idea what was causing this and just assumed it was an issue with iMessage's handling of GIFs. But after receiving watchable GIFs from friends, I began to investigate the issue.

I took a look at some settings for Messages and noticed that there is a Low Quality Image Mode option that was enabled. I remember enabling this option several iPhones ago to save bandwidth whenever I sent photos via iMessage, back when I was on a terrible data plan in the UK. After turning this option off, GIFs were untouched when sent and were received as intended—in their full, bloated glory.

To everyone in my iMessage conversations, I apologize in advance for the upcoming impact to your data plans.

Device Screenshots Workflow Updated for iPhone X

I've updated my Device Screenshots workflow with support for iPhone X (direct link to workflow). As with other devices, it automatically detects the orientation of the screenshot and generates either a portrait and landscape image.

iPhone X device screenshot

For landscape screenshots, the notch is located on the right.

iPhone X device screenshot in landscape

I've also added a Set Name action to the workflow so a name can be given to the finished device image before saving it.

Phantom Folders in Notes

For months, I had some phantom folders stuck in Notes. Every time I deleted them on my iPhone, iPad, or even iCloud.com, they'd come back a few minutes later. I tried every combination of possibilities to try and remedy this, from turning off syncing completely to deleting folders on every device simultaneously—but they just kept coming back. The only remaining option was to erase all Notes data from iCloud.

I could have left the folders alone since they were empty, but I keep Notes organized and their existence was an annoyance. Before I wiped all my notes from iCloud, I wanted to back them up. I enabled the "On My Mac" account in Notes on my iPad, recreated the folder structure I had in iCloud, and moved all my notes1. I then deleted all Notes data from iCloud from the iCloud Storage options.

Deleting Notes data

After confirming all Notes data was erased, I recreated the folder structure back on iCloud, and moved my notes back. The phantom folders had been successfully exorcised.

I'm still not sure what caused the problem, and likely never will, but it started not long after I began using the public beta of iOS 11. Regardless of what caused it, deleting Notes data resolve the issue for me.

  1. I usually delete notes I no longer need, so I only had about 60 notes across eight or nine folders to move in total.

Qi Wireless Chargers

Now that my wife and I have both upgraded to iPhone X, I've replaced some of our iPhone docks with Qi wireless chargers. I was curious to see how different chargers compare, so I bought three different models:

Qi chargers

Each charger is WPC compliant, does the same basic job of wirelessly charging a device1, and is priced under $25.

A common complaint about wireless chargers is that a power adapter isn't always provided, just a USB cable. Honestly, I'm fine with that. I have a drawer full of unused USB power adapters and I'm sure most people buying these types of chargers do as well. All of these unused adapters will eventually end up as electronic waste on a landfill somewhere, so I'd much rather use one of the many spares I have.

Samsung

The Samsung charger is currently the top pick over at The Wirecutter. It looks good in comparison to most of the chargers available and, unsurprisingly, has the best build quality of the three. It's also the only one that came with a USB power adapter. We're using this in our living room as a communal charger.

There is an LED light at the front that glows blue when a phone is on charge and there's no way to turn it off. The Wirecutter reports that it's probably a dealbreaker for use anywhere other than a desk, something Stephen Hackett agrees with. I don't find the light to be particularly bright but if this is something that would disturb your sleep, you may want to skip it as a nightstand charger.

Yoobao

The Yoobao is noticeably smaller than the other two. It actually seems almost too small when used with something like iPhone X. It's stable enough and the grip keeps the phone in place, but I wouldn't recommend it for iPhone 8 Plus owners. I use this charger on my nightstand.

The finish is inferior to the Samsung charger and the plastic material feels rather cheap. There is an LED light that's permanently illuminated which changes color from red to blue when a phone is on charge. It's very bright but focused, so as long as you point it away from you on a nightstand or cover it with a small piece of electrical tape, it won't be a disturbance.

CHOETECH

The CHOETECH charger is bigger than both the Yoobao and Samsung models. It does feels really cheap because it's quite large and light, but the build quality is pretty good and on par with the Yoobao. Like the Yoobao, it also has a bright but focused LED so you can simply point the charger away from you on a nightstand.

The grip on top (the gray wireless symbol) is pretty disappointing. While it does keep the phone in place, it's raised and has very little surface area in contact with the phone. This causes it to have a slight wobble. I'm not sure why the manufacturer thought this was a good idea because the actual surface is also rubberized, so there's no need for such a raised grip.

The blue version of this charger, however, doesn't have this problem as the wireless symbol appears to be inset, not raised. If you are considering this charger and don't mind the color, you may want to go for that one instead.

Final thoughts

Each of the chargers works exactly as intended and can charge through Apple silicone cases, so I don't feel compelled to return them to Amazon. I plan on ordering a fourth for the car, but will test each of these at the weekend first to see which works best.

If you're an iPhone 8 or iPhone X owner and on the fence about wireless charging, I suggest giving it a try. For $25, it's practically the same price as a Lightning cable from Apple and you'll likely find the convenience worth it.

It's worth mentioning that there really aren't any good looking chargers, just ones that aren't as ugly as others. Even the Samsung charger isn't that pretty, it just looks much better than the competition. As adoption among iPhone users increases, we'll hopefully see an improvement in the design of chargers.

  1. Unlike the other two, the Yoobao charger does support fast charging though it's not currently supported on the iPhone. A future iOS update will supposedly enable support for this.

Using iPhone X on a Flat Surface

Jason Snell, over at Six Colors, has written about his experience with the iPhone X during the past week. One use case where he felt the phone wasn't as usable as previous models was when trying to operate it while it lay flat on a table or desk:

Facing straight up, the Face ID camera can’t see me, so I can’t unlock my phone without leaning way over the table or picking the phone up. And attention detection can’t detect me, so after 30 seconds the screen dims.

I hadn’t realized how much I left an iPhone unlocked on a table for a minute or two. The iPhone X is more aggressive about locking the phone (and dimming the display), and Face ID is no help. I suppose in the end, the phone will train me—but right now it’s one of the areas where my old way of using my iPhone no longer seems to apply.

The iPhone X can be unlocked with a passcode instead of Face ID, but it's not obvious how to do it. To use a passcode, tap the screen to wake up the iPhone, swipe up on the Home bar, and tap Face ID.

Using a passcode instead of Face ID

I do this to unlock my iPhone while it's lay down flat on my desk.

The aggressive screen lock is something I ran into even when I unlock with a passcode. The default setting for Auto-Lock seems to be 30 seconds, so I've changed that to one minute and it's feels much more usable.