Your Tech Night Owl Newsletter — Issue #991

Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter
Issue #991

May 3, 2020


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Way back when, tech gear wasn’t all-so-easy to use. Even Macs, the “computer for there rest of us.” In those days, they were packed with several thick user guides. And, yes, I did read them, cover to cover, several times in fact.

Maybe I was a glutton for punishment.

Not that it made me an instant Mac guru, but I learned enough to make my way around without having to ask for help, at least most of the time. I suppose that’s why some people thought I was some sort of expert, and it did read to a number of writing assignments. So there is — or was — value in reading those manuals, even though most people didn’t bother.

And, yes, I did read the manuals for all my tech gear, such as it was. I suppose that experience also made it possible for me to write tech books and manuals, since I understand the format. After a few dozens books and magazine articles, writing them became second nature. It wasn’t the result of such a great talent, but in understanding the language and rhythm. No big deal!

In this day and age, manuals are rarely found packed with new gear, and when it’s printed, it’s mostly a tiny quick start guide. There may be something more detailed, but you have to download the electronic copy, but it would be nice if the material was printed in a text size large enough for anyone over 30 to read without specs or a magnifying glass.

Oh well, I suppose that helps save trees, and the writers still get their paychecks.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t online publications that attempt to offer information for tech fans. Sometimes it’s a new product review, or an opinion piece. But sometimes the publication is pretending that times haven’t changed, and that readers really need hand-holding to get from here to there.

Sometimes it just goes too far.

This takes me to one of the more silly headlines I’ve seen in a while, and I’ve seen some that are way beyond belief, though admittedly that happens mostly on sites with severely twisted political agendas that don’t even pay lip service to the facts.

In any case, let’s consider an item I caught in a tech publication the other day. Actually, I wrote for them more than two decades ago, when it still had a print edition and plenty of well-deserved credibility. But I was never terribly happy about the direction it took in the following years. While there was a core staff of highly-qualified editors and writers, some of the information was misleading.

Now about that headline and it’s subhead: “Just picked up an iPhone SE? Do these 5 things first! Don’t even peel the plastic off your new iPhone SE before you read this setup guide.”

What this is saying, in essence, is that people who buy one of these gadgets aren’t capable of using it properly without proper guidance — from them! That more or less goes against the grain with Apple gear, since it’s supposed to just work. And it does for hundreds of millions of people, most of whom don’t read the magazine in question.

So what are the things you need to know about an iPhone SE before you dare take it out of the box?

It’s not that the information isn’t accurate. It is, but it’s written with the assumption that you don’t have common sense, or that you’ve never, ever bought one of those contraptions before. So you need to know how things work without lots of hand-holding.

What the article basically tells you is that, if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone, it’s simple to copy your stuff on the new device. It involves backing up your data, and it’s usually done via iCloud. When you power up your new iPhone SE for the first time, it can be set up from your iCloud backup, but it can also grab your data from a nearby iPhone that’s still running.

Your choice.

For most of you, that should be it, but there are exceptions.

One is that you shouldn’t Reset (erase) your old iPhone unless you have a current iCloud backup, or want to migrate to the new iPhone. But if you have the backup, the Reset is important, especially if you plan to sell the device or hand it off to someone that you do not wish to have access to your data.

But there is a possible hiccup you might encounter, and I’ve seen it on a few occasions. If your old iPhone — or its backup — was done with a later iOS version than the one installed on your new iPhone, it may not work. So you’d have to upgrade your new device first before restoring data. I hope that’s not confusing.

Now this actually leads us to a fault in Apple’s backup/restore scheme. That the backup was done with a later iOS version should only have a minor impact. While I understand Apple’s desire to be cautious and avoid problems in setting up a new device, there ought to be a way to accomplish this in a single-step process. The phone is updated, restored, and you’re back at work.

Now it’s not that the article that upsets me is in any way wrong. It’s more about the implied assumption that people are dummies and will not be able to get their iPhones running unless they read that article, or something similar. I think after 12 generations of iPhones, plus the interim SE models, most of the hundreds of millions of iPhone users have gotten it all figured out. Or they let the dealer guide them through the basics.

It’s hard to imagine someone sitting there with a new iPhone box rummaging through Google to provide the information they need on how to unpack the unit and get up and running. And it’s not that the startup screens that Apple offers when you first turn the thing on aren’t informative.

In fact, the startup screens ought to provide most of what you need to set up your new iPhone. You probably don’t need the above few paragraphs, or that article.

Now if you’re migrating from an Android device, Apple has you covered too, more or less, using an app, Move to iOS, available from the Google Play store.

Apple has posted a Knowledge Base document on how it’s done.

And if you would rather move to Android, that’s not hard easier. Google has posted its own online
Switch” page telling you what you need to know.

Yes, there are limits to migrating to a new platform, especially if you’re using an app for which there is no equivalent on the other operating system. Then you might have to fend for yourself, or locate an app with similar capabilities, but that doesn’t mean you can transfer data easily or at all.

But for the basics, such as email, web sites, contacts, calendars and so on and so forth, you shouldn’t have much trouble. What this process does inform, though, is that it’s best to focus on apps that are available in both iOS and Android versions, especially if you are open to jumping platforms from time to time.

As to those “essential” articles that you must read to keep you out of trouble, well I suppose they serve a need. But I get the feeling some of these publishers imagine its 20 or 30 years ago, and that they post lots of essential reads. And that’s no longer true. It hasn’t been for a while.

In fact, there’s little in this article that you can’t easily find online, or on the startup screens of your new iPhone.


The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible.

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