Tag Archives: iphone

iPhone 8 standards

So many great iPhone 8 and iOS 11 reviews out today. My favorite aside has to be the headphone jack mini-rant in Nilay Patel’s The Verge review:

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there’s no headphone jack, which is still routinely annoying on every phone that omits it. Apple’s own headphone dongle is one of the lowest-rated products on the Apple Store, with just 1.5 stars. It’s been a year, and the Lightning audio ecosystem is still extremely immature.

When I was at STAPLE! last week I bought a t-shirt from an artist who had to enter credit cards into the Square app manually because he had lost his Lightning dongle for the Square reader. Minor inconvenience, and fixed with an extra $9 purchase from the Apple Store, but nevertheless a real compatibility issue that will never go away.

We’ll eventually get used to this. Many people already have, thanks to the AirPods. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the wrong decision, though. (I’m happy to give Apple full credit when they embrace a standard, like Qi charging or USB-C.)

Core Intuition 295

Slightly longer Core Intuition this week as we cover several topics. From the show notes:

Daniel and Manton follow up briefly on Manton’s backup strategy, and catch up with Daniel’s progress with MarsEdit. They talk about the merits of using cryptographic signing for software licenses, and balance the risks and rewards of combatting piracy. Daniel talks about the recurring lure of taking a salaried job, and how the privileges of staying indie continue to win out. Finally, they look forward to next week’s iPhone event and the expected hardware announcements from Apple.

I’m excited about the upcoming iPhone event on Tuesday. Seems like it’s set to be a big one.

iPhone introduction felt impossible

John Gruber remembers what it was like watching the iPhone announcement:

Apple had amazing product introductions before the iPhone, and it’s had a few good ones after. But the iPhone was the only product introduction I’ve ever experienced that felt impossible. Apple couldn’t have shrunk Mac OS X — a Unix-based workstation OS, including the Cocoa frameworks — to a point where it could run on a cell phone. Scrolling couldn’t be that smooth and fluid. A touchscreen — especially one in a phone — couldn’t be so responsive.

I felt the same way. Even the day I brought the iPhone home, I wasn’t sure that it was actually going to work. I was ready to be unsurprised if it turned out to be unstable — crashing often or overheating. It was stunning how good it was. It absolutely felt like a phone from the future.

One thing I had forgotten about from 10 years ago was the activation process, which was definitely not from the future. It was rooted in the past, connecting to iTunes like an iPod. Here are some of my tweets from that day, showing the long delay between picking up the iPhone from the store and actually using it, plus my last-minute decision to even wait in line:

6:34am: Good morning iPhone Day! Weather forecast in Austin for today: 40% chance of showers and storms.

10:15am: It’s only 10am but already realized I need to go to Plan B. Bribe friends already in line to use their 2nd iPhone purchase.

11:09am: Change of plans. Heading to the Apple Store now to join in the line-waiting fun. Will it be too late?

12:26pm: I expected rain, but that seems unlikely. It’s hot like a real Austin summer here in the iPhone line.

2:32pm: Hanging out in The Line with Jeremy of Barton Springs Software and @damon. Apple Store is closed. Had some lunch and a Starbucks soy latte.

4:03pm: 2 hours left. We can redeem our free Starbucks coffee coupons now. Excited! (About the iPhone. Not the coffee.)

6:30pm: Got my iPhone.

7:35pm: Activation will have to wait. Ratatouille.

8:18pm: Movies all sold out. Pre-activation dinner at Kerby Lane instead.

9:53pm: Activation took less than a minute. Also, no plan choice. Just $20 added on to what I already pay, I guess.

11:56pm: @danielpunkass Wait, what? You can make calls on it? (But seriously, you’re right. It’s a computer first and a phone second.)

Apparently I waited in line most of the day. I remember it only being a few hours. I also love how trivial these tweets seem. A big reason to have a microblog is because even the most mundane posts today carry extra significant years later.

Micro.blog photos

This week we added a selection of photos to the Discover page on Micro.blog, and today I uploaded a new TestFlight beta with the same feature inside the app. It’s another way to find users to follow, or just see what the Micro.blog community is up to.

Here’s what the iPhone screen looks like:

iPhone screenshot

I think photoblogging is a really important part of indie microblogging. When I share photos online, I want them to be at my own web site in addition to cross-posted to Twitter and other social networks. Photos always capture something — a moment with family or friends, visiting a new place, or just the everyday routine as it changes — and I want Micro.blog to provide a great user experience for photos, from filters to hosting.

More apps for Micro.blog

I want to point to some developer activity in the Micro.blog community. The first is a macOS Today Widget called TodayPoster by Bryan Luby. It gives you a text box to post directly to Micro.blog-hosted blogs from the macOS Notification Center.

The next is a Mac client built with Electron. Developer Matthew Roach has a blog post about it with a download link.

There’s another iPhone app in development as well. It’s not ready yet, but from a screenshot by Francisco Cantu, looks like it will be a good alternative to the official Micro.blog iPhone app.

Lightning headphones in the box

John Gruber has an article outlining the 5 (or 6) most likely options for what headphones Apple should include with the new Lightning-only iPhone. His hope is on wireless:

My hope is that they ship wireless ear buds. When Apple eliminates ports, they tend to do so in favor of wireless technology. Pushing wireless as the default would solve the problem of listening to audio while charging the device, too.

Maybe. I’m not in any hurry to see a Bluetooth-dominated headphone world, and I’m not sure Apple Support is either. Wired headphones work every single time you plug them in.

As Gruber points out, wireless headphones are also an upsell opportunity. While cheap Bluetooth headphones can be found, Apple’s Beats are $100 more expensive for wireless. Seems like this extra cost would unnecessarily eat into their margins.

Of course, I have no idea what Apple will do. I just know what I think they should do.

Apple should include Lightning ear buds in the box, and an adapter for older headphones. I don’t expect they will do this forever — the first year would be enough. But this small gesture of including an adapter would mostly erase the negative reviews and user frustration for Apple’s biggest repeat customers: not me, because I intend to keep my iPhone SE for a while, but for everyone who buys a new iPhone each year.

Removing the 3.5mm headphone jack will be the first time Apple has removed a major feature on the iPhone. They can spin Lightning as an improvement all they want; customers with existing headphones will be annoyed. Including an adapter would minimize the inconvenience at launch, without locking Apple in to any long-term technical compromise.

Apple Watch is slow… for now

Dan Moren wrote an essay for Six Colors last week about why slowness is such a problem for the Apple Watch:

“The stale data and the lack of speed means that either you have to stare at your Watch for several seconds and hope the data updates; or tap on the complication to load the Watch app, which as we all know takes a good long while as well; or simply give up and pull out your phone. […] It’s not just that the Apple Watch is slow; it’s that it’s slow while promising to be faster.”

Both Dan and Jason Snell followed up on this topic in the latest Six Colors subscriber podcast. The problem, they recognized, is that the first Apple Watch tried to do too much. Apple should instead focus on a few core features and make them fast.

Which features? I still use the Apple Watch every single day, and I use it for just three things: telling the time, tracking fitness (including reminding me to stand up), and glancing at notifications.

Some people have stopped wearing their watch every day. Again, that’s fine. Curtis Herbert was falling into that category, until he went snowboarding with friends and realized how useful the Apple Watch is when you can’t get to your phone or tap buttons. In an article about the snowboarding trip, Curtis says the Apple Watch’s problems are solvable in future versions:

“Siri on the Watch will get faster. The battery situation will improve. The Watch as a whole will get faster. We’re spoiled by iPhone speeds and sometimes forget just how long it took us to get there, and the crap we dealt with until then.”

I’m not worried about the future of the watch either. Our early expectations were much too high — in contrast with the first iPhone, which exceeded all hopes because it was seemingly from the future already — and it will take a couple more years to catch up to where we’d all like the watch to be. In the meantime, the watch is useful today, even slow-ish.

Lightweight universal apps

When the iPad first shipped, many developers embraced completely separate apps for iPhone and iPad. The argument was that they were different platforms and deserved special design attention (and separate revenue). I never bought this argument, and eventually — with the iPhone 6 Plus and multiple screen sizes — everyone agreed that it just made more sense to use universal apps.

At the same time, there’s a parallel argument that an app on the iPad shouldn’t just be a “scaled up” version of the iPhone. That if you can’t invest the time to do a universal app properly, don’t bother.

The redesigned Twitter iOS app was a great example of this. It was widely mocked for it’s poor use of space on the iPad.

With the iPad Pro and widespread iPad multitasking, I think this changes again. An iPad app that is designed exactly the same as its iPhone version is still very useful in slide-over and split screen. In fact, for many “iPad” apps I use every day on the iPad Pro, I use them in their compact layout more often than full screen.

My next app was designed for the iPhone. I spent some time trying to rework it with split views for the iPad Pro, but I just can’t justify the work right now to finish that effort. I’m going to ship it as a “lightweight” universal app anyway, though, so that it’s available in slide-over. To me, that’s a worthwhile compromise, significantly better than no offering on the iPad at all.

A8 or A9 for the iPhone 6C

I’ve talked about my hope for a new 4-inch iPhone several times on Core Intuition, and a few times on this weblog, like here and here. The rumors keep growing, and Stephen Hackett has written out his thoughts on a potential iPhone 6C:

“The easy assumption is that the 6C would replace the aging 5S as the free-or-very-cheap option, but the recurring rumor of the 6C being powered by the A9 makes me think this may slide in roughly where the iPhone 6/6 Plus currently sits in the lineup.”

I’d love to see an A9, but I’m not counting on it. I think an A8 is fine too, mostly matching the internals of the latest iPod Touch. This wouldn’t be competitive with the iPhone 6S but it would still be a great upgrade from the iPhone 5S, which is the primary phone for anyone (like me) who still clings to the 4-inch design.

The larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch designs will remain the top of the line iPhones for years to come. The 6C doesn’t need to change that; it’s not a peer to the larger phones. It just needs to clean up all the money Apple’s left on the table from customers who want a smaller phone. I’ll buy one right away.

Wrap-up thoughts on the TV web

I’m going to mostly let John Gruber have the last word on the Apple TV vs. the web debate, because I could write about this every day and my readers would run away before I run out of material. I’m glad John addressed the Mac vs. the command-line argument, though, because it didn’t seem quite right to me either. He says:

“The difference is that the command-line-less Mac was intended to replace command-line-based computers. The GUI relegated the command-line interface to a permanent tiny niche. Apple TV and Apple Watch aren’t like that at all — they’re not meant to replace any device you already use to access the open web.”

This is the most hopeful part of the Apple ecosystem as it relates to the web. Apple’s other platforms really do have a great web experience. Remember when web sites were faster and worked better on a PC than a Mac? If anything, the opposite is true now.

One of the themes I keep hearing is that a “web browser” on a TV will make for a poor user experience, so don’t bother. I tried to correct that misunderstanding in this post; it’s not about standalone Safari, it’s about web technologies that could be used in native apps. But ignoring that, I think everyone too easily forgets what the mobile web was like before the iPhone.

Steve Jobs, from the original iPhone introduction:

“We wanted the best web browser in the world on our phone. Not a baby web browser or a WAP browser — a real browser. […] It is the first fully usable HTML browser on a phone.”

That was a breakthrough. I believe the same evolution is possible on tvOS — to include parts of the open web and do it with a great user experience. You can start by weaving it together inside native apps. (I filed a bug with Apple yesterday with a suggestion. It was marked as a duplicate.)

The web is at a fascinating, pivotal time right now. It has been shaken up by centralized publishing, closed platforms, and now content blockers. Users no longer value the concepts that made Web 2.0 special. The web can still have a strong future, but we have to try something, and we have to try it on every platform we can.

Matt Bonner and the iPhone 6

I’ve always said the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are ginormous. In an interview with the Concord Monitor, San Antonio Spurs player Matt Bonner speculates that reaching his fingers across that screen contributed to an elbow injury:

“‘Everybody is going to find this hilarious, but here’s my theory on how I got it,’ he said. ‘When the new iPhone came out it was way bigger than the last one, and I think because I got that new phone it was a strain to use it, you have to stretch further to hit the buttons, and I honestly think that’s how I ended up developing it.’”

Bring on the iPhone 6C in a 4-inch plastic design. The current phones are dangerously too big.

Why Ello isn’t enough

Last week, to not much fanfare at all because nearly everyone had already lost interest, Ello shipped their iPhone app. Credit to them for attempting to build a new social network, because this is extremely difficult. But it seems to me that Ello is a bust. They needed a more compelling pitch than simply “no ads”.

(I’ve heard some people joke about Ello’s monospaced font, but I kind of love that about Ello. If you want to differentiate yourself, design isn’t a bad place to start.)

App.net was — and likely will be for many more years — the most successful attempt to compete with Twitter and Facebook. If they fell short, despite how many things they got right, how can another clone of existing social networks hope to do any better?

I wish I could cheer Ello on. Spend enough time clicking around on Ello and you discover a niche but fascinating community, full of beautiful art and photos. It’s just that after so many months, there’s still not even a mention of an official API on the planned features page.

The next great social platform can’t be yet another centralized system. It has to be more distributed and more open even than App.net. It has to focus on writing and bloggers and embrace what is good about the web. Ello doesn’t do any of these things.

No perfect iPhone size

Some people bought the iPhone 6 and then went back to the 5S. Some people bought the iPhone 6 Plus and then tried the 6. Some worked their way up to the 6 Plus after adapting to the 6. Some never upgraded to the 6 or 6 Plus because both are too big.

Marco’s post is a good formal summary of a few write-ups I’ve read this week:

“Having used an iPhone 6 full-time from its launch until these 6 Plus experiments over the last few weeks, I can confidently say that neither phone is extremely well-designed. Both have nontrivial and completely avoidable flaws. But the 6 Plus has bigger advantages over the other phones, while the 6 seems to sit in a mediocre middle ground.”

The lesson from all these switches couldn’t be more clear: there’s no longer one perfect iPhone for everyone. What works great for one person might be terrible for someone else. I personally love the 5C design — the size of the screen, the way the plastic feels in my hand, flipping or spinning it on my fingers without worry that it’ll slip, using it without a case, adding a little color to my life — but many people never even tried it because it contains underpowered hardware compared to the latest models.

Apple would be crazy to discontinue any size. I’m more convinced than ever that we’ll see a 4-inch 6C alongside a new 6S and 6S Plus later this year. They won’t have identical specs, and that’s okay. I’ll happily pick the 4-inch model even if its camera is a year behind the cutting edge. The iPhone market is so ginormous now that I know there are millions of people who feel the same way.

iPhone 6 Plus is still huge

Seth Clifford goes back to the iPhone 6 after a long time with the Plus:

“I was convinced that the unique size and abilities of the Plus would change the way I use my phone. In my mind, it was large enough to be a small tablet, and I would do so many more things on it, potentially obviating the need for an iPad. That didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.”

As for me, I’m still using the iPhone 5C and think the design is nearly perfect. I wish I had the iPhone 6’s camera, but I’m not upgrading phones until Apple ships a “6C” next year with a 4-inch screen.

The third era of WWDC

“This is it,” a friend said to me as we were walking up Market Street with other developers, late at night as WWDC was winding down several years ago. The iPhone had hit. The conference was getting bigger. Apple was on the verge of becoming a giant in the industry and you could feel it in the air — a coming change that was obvious only from a distance because it disappeared as you reached for it, like San Francisco fog rolling over the bay. “This is the height of the conference and it’s never going to be like this again.”

Looking back it perfectly captured what I think of as the second “era” of WWDC. It was a kind of golden age for Mac and iOS developers, with a new generation of successful Mac indies and before the iOS race to the bottom was much past the starting line.

From my perspective, learning Mac development in the mid 90s, there are three distinct eras of Apple’s WWDC. My first WWDCs were at the San Jose Convention Center. The developer base was small enough that you consistently ran into everyone, companies like Metrowerks and even Adobe seemed to have an influence on the conference, and Apple frequently showed off new APIs that might not actually ship soon or ever. It was an exciting time to be a Mac developer but the rest of the world didn’t care. This was the backdrop for the failed Copland project, for Steve Jobs coming back, for the clash between Carbon and Cocoa, and the acceptance of Mac OS X.

The next era was at the move to San Francisco. The conference was getting bigger but Apple attempted to keep the events and themes that made WWDC the same, even for a while busing attendees to the beer bash in Cupertino. This is the time when the iPhone SDK arrived and the conference exploded. I think most developers will always look back at this time as something amazing. It’s the backdrop for that walk up Market Street and a dozen similar conversations.

Now we’re in the third modern era of WWDC, with one undeniable characteristic: a small percentage of developers can get a ticket to the conference. The community, however, is as strong as ever, and there’s still a desire to have WWDC be that “one place” that developers can meet each year. It’s a need that smaller, regional conferences, no matter how important they are, just can’t fill.

I like this post from James Dempsey because it starts with the assumption that not getting a WWDC ticket is the new normal:

“Once something changes from being dependably available to rarely available, you begin to form alternate plans and take alternate paths.”

He’s right. Since it’s likely that Apple will continue to iterate slowly instead of making major changes to grow the conference, we’re better off adapting. By adapting we can focus on preserving the community aspects of WWDC that are arguably just as important as the technical tracks.

And change comes slowly to WWDC. I realized while watching (https://developer.apple.com/tech-talks/videos/) recently that Apple just doesn’t see a big problem. John Geleynse described a situation where only one person from a team is at WWDC; the rest of the company is back at the office watching videos and sending questions to their coworker at the conference to ask in the labs. Getting videos out the same day makes the conference more useful for both those without a ticket and actual attendees (and their team) too.

(I still have complaints about how WWDC tickets are distributed and why Apple doesn’t attempt to grow the conference a little more, but the lottery is an improvement over last year. See Core Intuition episodes 132 and 133 for a full discussion.)

I’ll be in San Francisco for a few days next week — at AltConf, at the Cartoon Art Museum fundraiser, catching up on session videos, waiting in line for coffee, hiding in my hotel room writing code, and getting some good food and drink with fellow developers. WWDC means something different now, but it matters just as much as it always has. Hope to see you there.

Launch Center Pro and Sunlit

I’ve long been a fan of Launch Center Pro, an iPhone app from my local Texas friends David Barnard and Justin Youens. It’s handy even for fairly simple tasks — firing off web searches or other shortcuts into apps — but it’s especially powerful when wiring up multiple apps together. For Sunlit it was nice to provide some full actions that Launch Center Pro users could use to automate bringing content into Sunlit.

Jonathan has the full rundown on the URL schemes that Sunlit supports and why we think they’re important. You can also use the Action Composer inside Launch Center Pro to access these actions without having to type them in.

And just today, Launch Center Pro for iPad shipped. Check it out and explore some of the many apps like Sunlit that are supported.

Apple’s misunderstood ad

Apple has produced some amazing ads over the years. 1984, introducing the original Mac; the Think Different campaign; and one of my favorite this year, about photos.

Their new ad “Misunderstood” is also great. Federico Viticci has a rundown of the details and how brilliantly it unfolds. I first noticed the video via Neven Mrgan, who had this to say on App.net:

“Apple’s new ad (‘Misunderstood’) is technically perfect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImlmVqH_5HM …but I have to say it doesn’t quite ring true to me. Kids use iPhones to shut out the family and hang out within their own social circle (and that’s ok).”

He’s right. My daughters will likely escape to Instagram and various chat apps to connect with their friends through the holidays. But also I think ads like this work so well not because they represent reality, not because they’re true, but because we want them to be.

Searching abandoned apps

Ben Lachman has some good suggestions after my post and David Smith’s on what to do with abandoned apps, saying that apps should be more clearly labelled as “abandoned”. Which device you’re using could also have an impact on search results:

“Search results could be weighted by the device you are using quite heavily. Just like how on iPhone you don’t see iPad-only apps when searching the app store; on iPhone 5 you should be very unlikely to see apps that only support 3.5-inch screens.”

Makes sense to me. Also check out his comment at the end, that kids these days may have a very difficult time revisiting the classic apps from today, 20 years from now.

Three ADN clients for iPhone

Lots of new people are joining App.net. If you’re one of them, welcome! In this post I’m going to briefly review 3 of the most popular iPhone clients: Netbot, Felix, and Riposte. You can’t really go wrong with any of these three apps. And if you’re looking for a Mac client, my current favorite is Kiwi.

Netbot

Netbot is nearly identical to Tweetbot. It shares most of the same source and all of the same UI design. That common heritage is great because it’s familiar to fans of Tweetbot, and it allowed Tapbots to launch onto App.net in a big way, leapfrogging all other clients that were under development at that time.

But the familiar design is a double-edged sword. Not just because the App.net API will evolve and diverge from the Twitter API, but because if you switch between both Tweetbot and Netbot often, you may need to be careful that you remember which app you’re posting from. This was a problem for me since I no longer post to Twitter, and the last thing I wanted to do was accidentally leave a new post there after a 5-month absence.

All the usual features you’d expect are present in Netbot: timeline, mentions, private messages, multiple accounts, and sync with Stream Marker. It even has an iPad version, which you may want to pick up even if you chose a different primary app on the iPhone.

Netbot also has one big feature that most App.net clients don’t have: post search. This is not part of the core App.net API. Tapbots rolled their own search server so that they could offer this feature inside the app.

Sidenote plug: if you want search for all the posts from anyone you’re following, and your own posts, consider my web app Watermark. You can subscribe on the web or in the iPhone version.

Felix

Felix is possibly the most mature and actively maintained of the App.net-exclusive apps. You can tell from his App.net posts that the developer is passionate about App.net and determined to keep making his app better.

The current version supports all the basic features as well as push notifications, narrow inline image previews that take the full width of the screen, iCloud sync for drafts, starred conversations, and a brand new feature in version 1.5: collapsing posts you don’t want to see, similar to Twitterrific 5’s muffling. The only omission is that it does not yet support multiple accounts.

Felix is also unique in that it is the only one of these 3 apps that is not free. The other apps are counting on the Developer Incentive Program to send them a check each month instead of relying on traditional sales. Felix is a good value at $5, though, and the price shouldn’t stop you from trying it out, especially as it is a very small amount compared to the paid App.net subscription itself.

There are a number of gestures in Felix. One interesting shortcut — which may also be familiar to users of Twitterrific 5 — is swipe right to quickly start a reply. I personally found that this breaks the illusion of gestures as direct manipulation, though. Since swiping to the left pulls forward the conversation, doing the reverse swipe should go back to the timeline. (Update: There’s actually a setting in Felix to switch this behavior.)

Felix also added a clever trick in its post composition window. You can swipe the text view to move the selection cursor one character over, or use two fingers to swipe across an entire word at a time. This saves a lot of time tapping-and-holding and fiddling with the magnifying glass. Felix is packed with little details and shortcuts like this.

Riposte

Riposte is beautifully done, with a clear design and a simple left/right gesture system to navigate through anything in the app. By default, there is no toolbar or tabs; everything is full-screen. Following Netbot’s lead, the developers of Riposte have decided to make their app free, and they have written up some thoughts on why.

Multiple accounts are handled well and it’s easy to switch between them. Like Felix and Netbot, push notifications are supported. Riposte uses large square inline images. It’s got a great interactions view that shows users who have recently followed you or starred your posts.

Riposte mirrors Felix’s compose text view gestures, and Riposte was the first to introduce 2-finger swipes in that text view. I love that both apps now support these gestures about equally, and hope to see many more apps steal this feature soon.

Since it doesn’t have tabs, switching between timeline, mentions, global stream, and other views is done through a slide-out panel, popularized in early apps like Facebook, Path, and Sparrow, and now very common everywhere, including my own Twitter app Tweet Library. It’s a swipe and a tap instead of the single tap of Netbot or Felix, but it is space-efficient and fits the flow of gestures in Riposte.

While Riposte holds its own against the competition, I think it will be chosen most not for its features but for its design. The striking full-screen look and consistent, discoverable gestures make this app feel great. It also has probably the most readable conversation view of any app I’ve used, where the focused post appears immediately and then is surrounded with the full conversation using smaller text. That design is even maintained in HTML email when sending a conversation from the app.

Smartphone religion

Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels, commenting on a Wired essay by Mat Honan:

“Maybe it’s just the headache I’ve had since the Samsung Galaxy 4 event or the fact that Apple’s turning up the heat, but I find the increasingly defensive views held in the technology community increasingly offensive.”

I got into the Mac in the 1990s during the lead-up to Apple’s certain doom, so I spent quite a lot of time arguing with Windows users. The problem with the new version of that debate, Apple vs. Samsung and the smartphone wars, is that I’m not sure it’s ever going to end. There are good phones on either side, the pundits can’t wait for Apple to fail but Apple is strong, and there’s no hope to escape the noise for those of us who just want to build some apps.