Face Id: better than you expect worse than you want

Six months of using Face ID and not a day goes by that I don’t miss Touch ID. 

I was skeptical before iPhone X came out and I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked in recognising my face. However, turns put I was worried about the wrong thing. I was worried about the technology whereas the problems that have surfaced are almost all about usability. 

Here are some of the things that make Face ID a suboptimal solution to Touch ID...

  • It is just slow enough to be annoying - this won't be a big deal if I didn't have to encounter it every single time I try to use the phone. 
  • Doesn’t work when not straight in front of the face - this doesn't happen enough but every time it does - it sucks a little bit
  • Much slower authenticating other apps from banks and such
  • Failure mode is way slower - since it is slow and since my finger isn't on the phone - when Face ID fails - it takes much longer to get to entering the code
  • Doesn’t work while skiing or wearing heavy face gear - this not too different from Touch ID - but it was much easier to get your glove off and get Touch ID working than to take your glove off - wait for Face ID to fail - and then enter your code. 
  • Apple pay is way worse. Awkward, slow and in your face - me looking at the phone - the cashier looking at me. 

Since Face ID is here to stay, I saw wish Apple would also add Touch ID somewhere on the phones - maybe at the back? Oh well, we can dream.

A solution for the dreaded ‘sync session failed to finish’

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I had been trying to get iTunes to sync photos from my Photos library to the iPhone X for over three months without success. I would always get the same error - “iTunes could not sync because the sync session failed to finish”. After spending countless hours and mostly switching to Google Photos as a way to access all my photos on my iPhone, I finally figured out a fix. 

The solution was relatively simple - I had to sync my iPhone X with my work Mac that didn’t have any photos in Photos (what a ridiculous name, btw).

And how did I get here? Read on.  

I set up the new iPhone X by restoring it from an iTunes backup of iPhone 7 back in November of 2017. Among other things, it restored over 20,000 photos from the backup. However, after that the iPhone X would never sync reliably with Photos via iTunes and after a couple of successes, it just gave up. It would always fail with the same error. I tried everything the internet told me - restore your phone, restart everything and try, change the lightening cable, change USB ports, take all usb devices out, but to no avail. 

I knew the problem was with the photos because that’s the only thing I sync with iTunes. I figured deleting photos on the phone previously synced from iTunes was the key to solving this problem. I tried deleting all the photos on the phone by unchecking sync photos in iTunes. That would not work because of the broken sync. The albums disappeared from iOS Photos App but the photos remained. There is no way, of course,  in iOS Photos app to remove photos that were synced previously from iTunes. So I could not get rid of them that way. iTunes won’t get rid of them - because it couldn’t sync and I couldn’t get rid of of them from the phone myself. I even tried to make a new blank photos library and tried iTunes to sync that - but no luck. It would ask if I wanted to delete all photos from the phone - and I’d say yes go ahead - but eventually - “sync failed to finish” is all I’d get. 

Four key first-party products - the iPhone X, iOS Photos, iTunes and Photos for Mac - won’t work well together.

Finally - it occurred to me that one way to get rid of all synced content on the phone was to sync your phone to another Mac. So that’s what I did - I tried syncing the phone with my work computer that has no personal data - no photos - and it warned me that I’d lose all my photos previously synced from iTunes and I said - hell yeah - go ahead - and it did. So now I only had photos from the camera roll and that was good. 

I got home in the evening - synced photos from iTunes with the phone and it worked just fine! Finally - after three months of struggle - I managed to get my photos from Photos via iTunes to my iPhone X in the iOS Photos app. Phew!

Why don’t I use iCloud Photo Library to sync over the wire instead of using iTunes, a code path that is clearly considered legacy by Apple and is bound to cut off any day? Among other things - its because iCloud Photo Library mandates that all photos (and videos) I take on my phone must end up in my master library. That doesn’t work for me. My phone photos go through Lightroom first, just like my DSLR photos do - and I process them event by event - and after culling, editing and tagging, they make their way to Photos. That’s my workflow. I don’t want my finished product master photo library being cluttered with all and every screenshot, every invoice image and everything else that I take with my phone. 

So here we go - iTunes and iMovie really don't sync well with iPhones any more and the only viable code path for the future is the iCloud Photo Library. But there are so many things to dislike about the iCloud Photo Library - least of which is - there is no actual automatic way for me to share it with my family. I have manually create albums and share them. So instead - when I export my finished photos from Lightroom - I start by dumping them in a folder that is being watched by the Google Photos backup program that shoves them into a google photos library. This library is shared by everyone in the family - and everyone gets access to all curated photos as soon as I finish and export them from Lightroom. That's what I do now - until the time Apple makes family sharing a priority and allows me to simply share my library with my family.

 

 

Quality - Put trust in the new or on the old reliable?

I was hurtling down a highway last evening at 80 miles an hour and while executing a particularly sharp and long curve along the road I could not help but think about the trust we all must put in our vehicles. The number of things that could go wrong at any moment is infinite. And yet, for the most part, things don't go wrong. I mentally patted myself on the back that it is good that I recycle the car every couple years reducing problems induced by wear and tear. However, I also immediately thought that isn't it better that once you have put some miles or a couple years on a car you must trust it *more* not less? It has gone through the only real QA (Quality Assurance) possible. The rubber hasn't just hit the road but survived and thrived. Should I really be returning that car in favor of a brand new with a better smell but less real-world testing potentially putting myself at risk all over again every few years? 

Who knows? We don't. But we do know that this isn't going to be a problem for long. More than likely the next car will offer over-the-air-updates for software that would more or less run the car - essentially continuously making it more and less safe at the same time.