Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


Entries tagged: Applications

What makes or breaks a great operating system is its ecosystem of applications.

Whither App.net

I think Ben Brooks was the last to leave. Hope he got the lights.

Reeder for Mac Is Back

Reeder for Mac, the best RSS reader on OS X, is finally back with version 2. It now supports Feedbin and all the other popular RSS services that have popped up since Google Reader said adios. I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and it’s really great.

Can we now all say that ReadKit was a piece of shit?

Why The Pull-To-Refresh Gesture Must Die

Did you notice Instagram has pull-to-refresh now? Probably not. Here’s Austin Carr on Instagram’s change and the gesture in general, for Fast Company:

In earlier versions of Instagram, the app featured a button that allowed users to refresh the images displayed in their feeds. Now, the button is gone—replaced by an Instagram Direct inbox icon—and the Instagram team moved to the pull-to-refresh paradigm. “We introduced pull-to-refresh, so now when you pull on your feed, it just refreshes,” Systrom says. “[But] I’d like [to get to] a day when you didn’t have a refresh button—where it just updates [automatically].”

I agree, 100%. Getting rid of refresh controls all together is one of those weird, intangibly uncomfortable ideas (at least to me). But it’s also necessary. Our phones are powerful enough and efficient enough now to do this. And if you think that argument’s crazy, here’s Loren Brichter, creator of pull-to-refresh, quoted in the very same article:

Brichter, however, feels that it’s high time his gesture evolves. “The fact that people still call it ‘pull-to-refresh’ bothers me—using it just for refreshing is limiting and makes it obsolete,” he says. “I like the idea of ‘pull-to-do-action.’”

It’s a testament to his genius that he realizes it is time we moved on.

Tweetbot 3.2 Brings Night Theme

It’s the best implementation of “night” mode ever — more like “dark” mode. It adjusts based on your phone’s brightness, so if it’s night time but you’re in a bright room you’ll still get light mode. Vice versa, if it’s morning but you’re hiding under the covers, you’ll get dark mode. There’s a slider in Tweetbot’s setting that let’s you adjust at what brightness level it flips, and it took a little bit of playing with it to get it just right (I’m mystified by their default location of directly in the middle), but once I did it is completely set-and-forget. I wish I could do something similar for Defomicron’s dark mode.

Editorially

Shawn Blanc has a good overview of how he’s using Editorially to manage publishing to his new site, The Sweet Setup:

Leading up to the launch of The Sweet Setup, we were wrangling about 20 active documents. I was working with half-a-dozen different authors on their app reviews along with writing several reviews and blog posts of my own, and Jeff Abbott was editing everything.

To manage all of these documents we use Editorially.

It’s awesome. Here’s why.

We’ve started to integrate Editorially into the Defomicron publishing workflow, and so far we’re very impressed. It does more or less what you’d like and expect it to do. My only wish is that it was somehow built into the WordPress backend.

Leaving Google Chrome

Federico Viticci:

I considered switching to Safari because I was fed up with Google’s creepiness, and I ended up actually liking Safari more than Chrome overall.

Safari 7 on OS X and iOS is the best, most solid build of Apple’s browser ever.

(Also, I like this feature suggestion:

iCloud sync in Safari is nice, but browser history should sync as well. Too many times I find myself typing a website’s address, thinking that Safari will pull its full URL from my history on the Mac, only to remember that history doesn’t sync. It’s no deal-breaker – especially with iCloud Tabs – but it’s an enhancement I’d like to see.

I await Safari 8.)

Apple Brings the Apple Store App to iPad

A few interesting notes about this:

iBooks and iTunes U Updated With iOS 7 Redesigns

Fin- Wait, yeah. Finally. What the hell took so long.

(My favorite part is that the release note for iBooks: “iBooks has been updated with a beautiful new design for iOS 7.” is so different from the note for iTunes U: “This version of iTunes U has been updated for iOS 7 with an all-new look and feel.” You’d be forgiven for thinking these updates came from different companies.)

Desk or Garage Design

Michael Lopp on Keynote 6’s redesign:

I’m wondering about their definition of simple. There’s the simplification where you clean your desk. The clutter on your desk is bugging you, so you decide to clean it up. This small act of simplification gives you the pleasant illusion that the world contains less chaos and you can suddenly magically focus on the task that you were procrastinating on while you were cleaning your desk.

The other version of simplification is harder. This is the simplification where you spend the weekend rearranging your garage. This process still involves tidying, but its primarily goal is to answer the question: “How am I going to get work done more efficiently?” You look at all your tools, you remember recent projects and what was hard and what was easy, and using these thoughts you embark on a weekend-long quest of simplification where the goal is improved efficiency.

Knock to Unlock

Unlock your Mac by knocking twice on your iPhone. I bought this immediately after reading about it, and it’s awesome. Works great and fast (for me, though one friend does report it can be slow for him when his MacBook’s been closed for a bit). I wish it supported multiple Macs at once, though Knock says this is coming soon.

1Password and iCloud Keychain

Shawn Blanc with a short (nine-minute) podcast episode on how he’s using 1Password and iCloud Keychain in conjunction:

With Mavericks support for storing passwords and credit card info in Safari, combined with the iCloud keychain syncing of that info to our iOS devices, I wanted to share about how that impacts my favorite password manager, 1Password.

His practices nearly mirror mine. If I hadn’t purchases the 1Password apps before iCloud Keychain, I don’t know that I’d have the incentive to get them. As it is, I use and love both.

Race Relations

An update to Temple Run 2 has enabled the ability to “buy” Usain Bolt for $0.99. As Paul Kafasis quips:

According to Django Unchained, that’s a shockingly low price.

An honest mistake, I’m sure. Hopefully one that’ll be corrected quickly and we can all take in with a nervous chuckle.

Hundreds of Browser Tabs

Ben Brooks:

I’ve never understood the ‘100’s of tabs open’ crowd — what’s the point? If the browser crashes your screwed, and even if it doesn’t crash there is a clear hit on your computing performance. That’s what services like Pinboard.in and Instapaper were made to handle — it’s easy enough to shove those links over to those services, so why not do that?

I get nervous when I have more than four tabs open. (Remember the days before tabs, god that sucked.)

The Old Reader to Go Private

The Old Reader, one of the first Google Reader alternatives to come to market, is going private:

Later this week, The Old Reader users will get a “distinct indication” whether their account will be migrated to the private site or not. Those who are left behind and unhappy about it are being asked to contact the administrators and plead their case. Everyone else has two weeks to export their OPML file (the link is located at the bottom of the Settings page).

That sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to invest time in a free service that has no desire to expand or, yes, even to make money at all. The people behind The Old Reader must be delusional!

While Bulygina and Krasnoukhov insist they’re not interested in charging for the service or raising money from VCs, they are open to a third possibility: “If anyone is interested in acquiring The Old Reader and making it better, we are very open and accepting proposals at [redacted@redacted.redacted].”

Ah. There it is.

Searching the Curatorium

Allen Pike on argues that Apple should curate search results on the App Store:

Manually curating search results fits with Apple’s culture, and their general attitude towards the Store. The App Store team seems to believe that features and curated recommendations are the best strategy for improving discoverability of good apps. In theory, manually curated search results could work well.

In practice, though - at least for the keyword “Twitter” - they have a lot of curating left to do. A lot.

Agreed. I think also that Apple shouldn’t be allowing apps with titles like “Cool Wallpapers HD & Retina Free with Facebook & Twitter for iPhone iPod iPad”. Apple has always been a premium brand, and that should extend (at least somewhat) to the contents of their stores. Having “Cool Wallpapers HD & Retina Free with Facebook & Twitter for iPhone iPod iPad” appear in the top ten results when searching “Twitter” screams crappy, not premium.

Honest In-App Purchase

David Smith on games that make money through In-App Purchase:

Much of the success of consumable In-App Purchase is that each individual purchase is small and feels less significant. The goal is to nickel-and-dime users in such a way that they don’t realize the actual level of their expense until they get their iTunes bill.

I hate these games passionately1. If I was running Apple, I’d ignore Smith’s (good) suggestions for making these games more transparent about their tactics and just forbid them entirely.


  1. Real Racing 3, I’m looking at you. ↩︎

EA’s Biggest Retail Partner Is Apple

Aaron Soupporis:

For the first time ever, Electronic Arts (EA), the world’s third-largest gaming company, gained more revenue through Apple than any other single partner.

The iMessage We Crave

Craig Mod on the failures of iMessage:

The tragedy is that iMessage is clearly one of Apple’s most valuable assets. It’s their social-network-by-accident that actually works. And if you look at what’s happening with LINE and all the other message-apps-cum-social-networks chomp-chomp-chomping away at Facebook’s mobile marketshare, you can’t help but think that — damn — Apple is in a pretty great position.

Every single one of his ideas for improvement is great. Apple needs to do them, quickly.

Oh, iMessage

Cody Fink with one of the most frustrating complaints on iMessage, one which I share:

If one person in the group was sending from a different address, it would cause a new conversation to appear in iMessage (thus “splitting the thread”) for the receivers. For the sender, everything would appear to be the same. With a big group of people this became a daily annoyance because it became difficult to follow conversations when different instances or pieces of it showed up in different places. It’s a hard problem to describe, especially when receivers can opt to receive messages at multiple email addresses (and if the same person you’re conversing with decides to send you something to an alternative address, I believe the message should show up in the same conversation). The reality is that the settings are kind of a mess and talking about this stuff caused a lot of frustration and we eventually gave up.

The worst part is I feel like iMessage can do these things properly and I’m just not smart enough to figure out how. The account settings and how they tie into your contacts are seriously convoluted and really, there’s no reason for them to be.

Reading List vs. Instapaper

Ben Brooks:

Since May I have been doing nothing but using Reading List and its given me a new found appreciation for Instapaper. You see, Reading List isn’t horrible, and it’s readily available, but it’s not great. There were numerous times when links would get lost, or inadvertently get marked as having already been read. There were even more times when I thought I saved something, but — well — nope, not saved.

In most cases when Apple enters an app market, their solution is good enough that I can switch to it, and I usually do. As Dan Benjamin has said (though not recently that I can recall), living in the Apple ecosystem is a lot easier when you embrace more of the Apple way. Podcasts sync with my podcasts on iTunes on my Mac, iCloud Keychain will sync my passwords across my browsers this fall, and Safari is a heck of a lot nicer than Chrome or Firefox.

Reading List, though. That little bastard is useless to me as a bookmarking/read-it-later service. Unfortunate, too, as I’m growing increasingly less comfortable with the future of Instapaper.

Apple Buys HopStop, Says Bloomberg

Normally I wouldn’t link to this until it’s confirmed, but this is interesting and exciting. I’ve used HopStop whenever I’ve been in New York and it is great. I really hope it finds it way into the Maps app soon and I really really hope they don’t pull it from the App Store until then.

Alternate Quip: Remember when iOS 6 shipped without native transit directions and people thought it would be a boon for third parties? Those were actually auditions.

Skeuomorphism in Logic Pro X

Stephen Hackett on Logic Pro X’s skeuomorphic UI elements:

In short, I think Apple views skeuomorphism as acceptable, as long as it’s functional. In Logic Pro X, it is. Dials and knobs make sense in the world of professional audio, so Apple has dials and knobs in its professional audio application.

Sorry, Stephen, wood paneling isn’t functional. The explanation for Logic Pro X’s skeuomorphism is much simpler: there are still loose ends for Apple to tidy up, especially in their desktop software. These plugins to Logic Pro X were clearly designed before Apple switched design philosophies, and rather than take longer to put out this release, they shipped this to be corrected later.

Jim Dalrymple Reviews Logic Pro X

Jim Dalrymple got an early look at Logic Pro X, and his review is already up. I don’t know much about music, but it looks like a good overview. Logic Pro X is clearly not a change on the scale of Final Cut Pro X1. It hasn’t been rewritten, and it includes from the get-go all the features of its predecessor. It’s also interesting to see a new app (well, an updated app but the interface has been refreshed) from Apple, post-WWDC ‘13, that features skeuomorphic textures.


  1. Apple could probably remove the “Pro” from both of those names. I don’t think they make non-professional versions any longer. “Logic X” and “Final Cut X” sound a lot nicer. ↩︎

Apple Unveils Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X is out with a companion app for iPad. It’s good to see Apple reaffirming its dedication to professionals. Even if I don’t use any of the pro apps, I like seeing them progress.

(Something tells me we won’t have OS XI or OS 11 or OS Eleven anytime soon.)

Insta-Deletes

Dermot Daly:

Within a week of running full time, those apps which haven’t been modernised to look like an iOS 7 app will look very old. They too will become insta-deletes.

Flickr and Instagram

Shawn Blanc:

My Olympus photography workflow looks something like this: Snap pictures → import from SD card into Lightroom 4 → delete the blurry ones → pick out my favorites from the bunch → make edits and adjustments → upload to Flickr → cricket noises.

A simple desktop photo sharing app would be a hit1, I think. Instagram keeps dropping hints that they want in, but they’re moving awfully slow.


  1. Preferably not limited to 1:1. ↩︎

App Updates in iOS 7

Dayton Lowell:

Updating apps on iOS has always felt like a hassle. Every time I go to visit my folks, there is an absurdly large badge number on the App Store app. I perform ‘Update All’ on all of their iOS devices and make no mention of it. It’s the only time their apps get updated. They don’t care about out of date apps, and they shouldn’t have to.

Pirated Apps in the App Store

Jon Lipsky got a support request for an app he wasn’t selling:

At that point I decided I’d purchase the app (and later request a refund) to figure out why the customer thought this was our app. What I found absolutely shocked me. “Diagram Touch” was nothing more than a cracked (two year old) version of TouchDraw that had been repackaged with a different splash screen and different icons.

Terrible. Apple can have no excuse for this.

The Future of Reeder

Silvio Rizzi:

All three versions of Reeder will get major updates. Unfortunately, these won’t be ready for July 1st. Sorry about that.

Shit.

iPhoto and iMovie in an Instagram World

Nathan Ingraham compared the relative successes of Vine and Instagram over iPhoto and iMovie on iOS:

It’s the “good enough revolution” all over again — while a six-second video clip may lack the depth of a more elaborately produced piece, it’s a quick, highly shareable piece of content. And while smartphone photos don’t yet match up to images from a DSLR, they generally look pretty great on other smartphone’s screens — and for a lot of people, that’s all that matters. To use Steve Jobs’ favorite phrase, apps like Instagram and Vine “just work.”

Casual Gaming Is a Sustainable Business, Not a Platform Differentiator

Ben Thompson on his site, Stratechery:

Net: no one is buying (or not buying) an iPhone or Android device because of Candy Crush Saga, or any other casual game.

Agreed. Casual games are fleeting and now universal across mobile platforms. While Angry Birds started and grew successful on iOS, it’s become an empire by expanding onto every feasible platform. Today it’d be foolish for a casual game not to be on every platform at launch.

However, there are not yet any casual game platforms for the television set. This is a market ripe for the taking, and the first company to provide a viable platform is going to make a lot of money. The Apple TV is in prime position to take it.

Also from this piece:

Unfortunately, building a sustainable business on in-app purchases requires an infinitely available good. For example, in Candy Crush Saga, if you die five times on a level, you can’t try again for 30 minutes. Unless, of course, you’d like to buy 5 more lives for $0.99. Providing those five lives entails nothing more than resetting a counter.

Remember when casual games on iOS cost a little up front and provided endless casual enjoyment. I’m talking Doodle Jump, Flight Control, and the first two versions of Real Racing. I miss those days.

Wedge for App.net Updated with Multiple Account Support

Wedge, my preferred App.net client for the Mac, was updated this morning with support for multiple accounts (the first Mac client to do so). Hallelujah.

The iOS 7 Summer

Federico Viticci:

I have been thinking about the apps I should expect from third-party developers as they go back to work and start writing code for iOS 7. With an OS that makes prominent use of whitespace and text with a focus on legibility, is there still room for beautiful interfaces? Since 2009, many of us have often judged “beautiful” is terms of fidelity of a texture to a real world object, or perhaps for how much a designer could drift away from Apple’s guidelines and build his/her own, completely custom menus, tab bars, or tappable replicae. Essentially, I kept thinking if, four months from now, the iOS 6 apps we’re used to would suddenly look like anachronistic mullets. My first concern was about the appearance of apps.

Posts to ADN

Finally, a WordPress plugin that’ll post to App.net for you. Even better: it works.

Fixing the iTunes Dashboard Widget

The iTunes Dashboard Widget, packaged with OS X from Tiger to Snow Leopard, is a personal favorite of mine. You can imagine, then, that I was pretty upset when it broke in a tiny-but-annoying manner with iTunes 11.0.3, resulting in the time counter blowing way off the edge of the widget.

Naturally, I set about fixing it. It was really easy, and I’d like to share the fix with you. If you’re technically minded, read on to see exactly how I fixed it and how you can, too. If you aren’t (or you’re just lazy), you can download the fixed widget here.

  1. Locate the widget in your Library/Widgets directory.
  2. Secondary click the widget to reveal package contents.
  3. Open iTunes.js and scroll to line 184.
  4. Change
    secs = currentPosition % 60;
    

    to

    secs = Math.round(currentPosition % 60);
    
  5. Save and run killall Dock in the Terminal, and you’re all set!

Free Trials and Tire Kickers

Marco Arment on App Store pricing:

If you sell a low-priced app in the App Store with no free version, you make money from every tire kicker.

Even if we end up using a different app instead of yours, we still bought yours to try it out. We had to, because we couldn’t get a free trial — we paid to satisfy our curiosity of why Viticci raved about your app so much, or how a Twitter friend used your app to post that cool link, or how well you’re going to solve our most important problem right now. If the app is only a dollar or two, enough of us are OK with paying just to try it,1 even if we’re not going to end up using it every day for the next five years.

If the App Store mostly moved to higher purchase prices with trials, rather than today’s low purchase prices and no trials, this pattern would almost completely disappear. Instead, we’d get the free trials for almost everything, and then we’d only end up paying for the one that we liked best, or the cheapest one that solved the need, or maybe none of them if we didn’t need them for very long or decided that none were worth their prices.

Either the best app wins and gets all of the sales at a higher price, or every app takes home a smaller prize. Ceteris paribus, the user would spend about the same on every app category whether he/she buy seven $2 apps or one $15 app.

I’d much rather see that profit spread out between the developers in a category. The best apps will still take home more profit, but the newcomer has a chance to make money in the store and keep innovating on his/her creation. By dividing our App Store spending, we enable competition.

Before I read Marco’s article, I was a blind advocate of App Store trials. Now I’m thinking the exact opposite. But please oh please, bring on the upgrade pricing.

Tumblr for iOS Adds Instapaper Support

Odd that this took so long. I’ve been wishing for Instapaper support since I started using Tumblr for discovery a few weeks ago.

Volkswagen Car Net the Beetle

Volkswagen is introducing the “iBeetle” later this year. Essentially a regular new-new-Beetle with deep iPhone integration, it could be appealing if it was:

You Don’t Need Every Customer

Marco Arment:

If you sell a 99-cent app to just 1% of the people who bought new iOS devices in the 2012 holiday quarter alone, you’ll clear about $519,750. Not a bad quarter.

Apple Kicks AppGratis from App Store

AppGratis, and app that sold ranking positions to app developers, has been removed from the App Store, reports John Paczkowski for All Things D:

Apple declined further comment on AppGratis’s ouster, framing the move as a standard response to guideline violations. But sources close to the company say it was more than a little troubled that AppGratis was pushing a business model that appeared to favor developers with the financial means to pay for exposure. “The App Store is intended as a meritocracy,” a source familiar with Apple’s thinking told AllThingsD.

In other words, app-discovery platforms are fine as long as they’re not built on paid recommendations.

I don’t see anything wrong with this. Apple’s created their own app economy, and they are its FTC. Apple knows that the best apps come from boutique development shops, and if the small shops aren’t given equal footing with the big guys, Apple’s customers lose.

A Five-Dollar App Isn’t Expensive

Lex Friedman:

But where the $2.50 soda might have brought me mere minutes of enjoyment, a $5 game could bring me hours of fun and a $10 app could boost my productivity in all sorts of ways. I’ll also spend $9 per month on Netflix for the promise of a few hours of entertainment each month, and many will spend $40 to $60 for a console video game. It’s worth spending money on things that can improve your life—even if they don’t come shipped to your home in a cardboard box.

I used to be among those who shuddered away from pretty much any app that cost money. I always knew it was dumb, but it took some serious mental training to get over it. Now, I buy apps that I like without hesitance. That’s the only way that our app stores can continue to thrive, and the only way we can keep getting great apps.

‘Podcasts’ Removes Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck

Apple today updated its Podcasts app to version 1.2. I think this is our first taste of Jony Ive software design.

Sun Is a Simple HTML5 Weather App

This isn’t so much a “you’ll use this weather app every day” as it is a “this is really cool thing we can do with HTML5 right now”, and the future looks great.

App Store Trials

Amy Worrall, on her blog:

Developers can choose whether to allow a trial of 1, 7 or 30 days, or to disallow trials all together, on a per-app basis. For those apps that allow trials, the App Store would show a “Try for 7 days” button alongside “Buy app”.

I won’t spoil it for you, but the rest of her idea is very solid. It feels exactly how Apple would do trials. On that point, Apple will at some point have to add trials and upgrade-pricing to the App Store. Since Amy contributed a perfect implementation of trials, let me give Apple an idea for upgrades:

The developer attaches a piece of metadata to a new app, telling Apple that it is an upgrade of an older app. When you visit the App Store page for the new app, Apple compares the new piece of metadata with your purchase history and determines your eligibility.

I silently wonder if the reason Apple hasn’t released new versions of iLife and iWork is because they haven’t rolled out upgrade-pricing yet. Lazy bastards.

Real Racing 3 Will Be Free to Play

Firemonkeys Sam (which I think is his legal name):

Today we announced Real Racing 3 will be free. And yes, Real Racing 3 was designed from the ground up to be a free to play experience. We are so excited about this game and wanted it to be accessible to everyone so we didn’t want there to be any barriers to entry.

A.K.A. Real Racing 3 is going to cost hundreds of dollars if you want to be competitive and/or beat the game. This is a real shame.

Three Wishes for a Better App Store

Marco Tabini, for Macworld, suggests changes for the App Store going forward:

On my third-generation iPad, for example, the App Store app is painfully slow; it takes several seconds from the moment I tap its icon to the moment I can start doing anything, and the app sometimes freezes while I wait for a particular screen to render. Admittedly, things are a bit faster on my iPhone 5, but this is hardly the kind of experience that I have come to expect from an operating system that places so much emphasis on responsiveness and focus.

While he has three (all good) suggestions, I’ve chosen to highlight the above because I think it is the most troubling. The App Stores are not native apps. They are rendered in web views. Even Facebook, the company famous for denouncing native applications in favor of HTML5, went native last year. While the iOS 6 App Stores look nice, going forward they need to be rebuilt as native applications.

‘When I First Heard the Name Safari’

Dom Melton, who worked on the original Safari team:

During the Summer of ‘02, Steve Jobs and the Apple management team realized that we were going to pull this off — we could actually ship a Web browser by the end of the year. And at one particularly good Human Interface design session, discussion turned to what we were going to call this — thing.

Safari could have been called Freedom. I think we are all glad it wasn’t.

YouTube Updated With iPhone 5, iPad Support

Federico Viticci, for MacStories:

Google has today also released a new version of its YouTube app, which includes AirPlay and iPhone 5 support, as well as an iPad version that makes the app Universal.

It took Google three months to figure out Default-568h@2x.png.

Atebits Unveils ‘Letterpress’

Atebits:

Find words, steal tiles, color the board! Letterpress is a fresh new word game for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Play with your friends using Game Center! The perfect blend of fun and strategy. Download it for free on the App Store.

I’m a little concerned that the app is free, but it is a brilliant and addicting word game. Well done, Mr. Brichter.

Cream for Mac

“Cream” is billed as a lightweight RSS reader for your Mac, to use in conjunction with Reeder or NetNewsWire. Unfortunately, no matter how good its algorithms may be for determining what I’ll want to read most, they made a few terrible, terrible user interface decisions.

Marco Arment Launches ‘The Magazine’

Marco Arment:

There’s room for another category between individuals and major publishers, and that’s where The Magazine sits. It’s a multi-author, truly modern digital magazine that can appeal to an audience bigger than a niche but smaller than the readership of The New York Times. This is what a modern magazine can be, not a 300 MB stack of static page images laid out manually by 100 people.

Great name. Subscribed.

Tent

Decentralized services put users in control. Companies and products do not last forever. If a company changes its terms, shuts down, is acquired, discontinues a product, no problem – users can take their data and services with them and set up somewhere else – on their own server or at another service provider. Decentralized, protocol-based systems offer users a choice of providers and developers the opportunity to innovate, since developers deal directly with users, not a platform or company.

If we are going to have a Twitter-like service that lasts, Tent is the way to do it. Tent is decentralized, like email or SMS. App.net is just another Twitter.

iOS Users Use More Third-Party Browsers than Android Users

Emil Protalinski for The Next Web:

My colleague Matthew Panzarino thinks the question can be answered much more simply. He argues that Android apps are frankly worse than their iOS counterparts, including third-party browsers. Therefore, there is more choice on iOS, and the choice that is there is superior.

3.07% of iOS users are using Google Chrome, compared to 2.34% of Android users.

Stop Using the Cup of Coffee vs. $0.99 App Analogy

Josh Lehman:

How often have you heard people say “I could have made that app, if only I’d thought of it first”. Or “that’s so simple, I can’t believe its been so successful”. These are telling statements. The general public doesn’t understand the complexity and time it takes to build something great.

I myself feel ridiculous when I resist “wasting” one dollar on an app. I feel even more ridiculous when I then drop $4 on a white chocolate mocha at Starbucks. And yet, those feelings come back. The mindset of the consumer (even very knowledgeable consumers) is difficult to modify. I can hope, though, that even my own unconscious resistance will slip away as the proliferation of “apps” continues to take over the marketplace.

Siegler on iOS 6’s Lack of Transit Directions

MG Siegler, on iOS 6’s lack of transit directions in Maps:

I suspect Apple will address this with their own solution sooner rather than later.

Apple saying third party transit apps are better than a native solution is like Apple saying that web apps are better than a native solution. We all know how that turned out.

WordPress for iOS Updated to 3.1

From the iOS WordPress blog:

The app has an all-new look, including graphics, colors, and a new sliding panels interface!

Let’s just say the new UI is “inspired” by Twitter for iPad, but it does look nice. Sadly, it still does not support Custom Fields, and neither does any other iOS blogging app. Which makes all of them pretty much useless to me. Sigh.

The Amazing Tiny Wings 2 Trailer

Just go buy it. Seriously.

Facebook Buys Instagram

God dammit.

Instagram’s Business Model

Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram:

27 million people is not too shabby, but it’s nowhere near the scale you need to make a massively large business.

Uh…

Shit.

Instagram’s New Experiment: Open Up the API for Third-Party Uploads

Federico Viticci, on Hipstamatic and Instagram’s new collaboration:

What I really think could be huge, both for the companies involved and the users, is the API that Hipstamatic is leveraging here. Hipstamatic is doing the right thing: sharing has become a fundamental part of the mobile photo taking process, and it would be foolish to ignore Instagram’s popularity and come up with a whole new network.

This is good, though I don’t think this collaboration with Hopstamatic necessarily infers the a future opening of the Instagram API. Honestly, I’d like to see Instagram keep this sort of thing selective.

But I still don’t see how Instagram intends to make money.

Instapaper vs. Readability vs. Read It Later

Ben Brooks, on Christine Chan’s article comparing the three:

There’s actually a lot of “polish” in Instapaper. Instapaper just doesn’t have custom fonts, but that doesn’t mean the fonts that it has are bad — they just aren’t new and shiny. Personally I think Readability did a really nice job designing their app, but it’s got a long way to go to match the usability of Instapaper.

I’ll be sticking with Instapaper.

MacStories’ iPhoto for iOS Review

Federico Viticci, reviewing iPhoto for iOS:

I also believe, however, that iPhoto for iOS suffers from a serious file management problem, in that it’s the best example of iOS’ lack of a centralized file system where apps are able to easily “talk” to each other and share files or modifications to them.

In short, iPhoto is a great app with lots of features, but it is hindered by the sandboxed nature of iOS. Plus, the album view is hideously ugly.

iPhoto for iPad

Neven Mrgan:

Photography seems like the obvious target. All of Apple’s creative apps have been ported to iOS with the exception of iPhoto. The built-in Photos app overlaps iPhoto slightly. What aspects of iPhoto aren’t there on iOS today?

It’s either that or iWeb. Two guesses which.

Frequent, Intense Mature and Suggestive Themes

Marco Arment:

The rationale behind the inconsistently-enforced “Applications must be rated accordingly for the highest level of content that the user is able to access” policy is to avoid undermining these controls. Parents who disable Safari don’t want their kids just downloading Atomic Web Browser instead.

But the current solution is inconsistent, arbitrary, unfair, and ineffective: entire categories of web-browsing and web-content apps are still permitted to bear 4+ ratings. Teenagers who can’t look at porn in Safari or Atomic Web Browser can just get there from Google Search or Twitter instead.

That while dictionary apps are being forced to carry these ratings. This is one of those things in iOS that seems like an afterthought. It’s become almost comical how apps are being labeled1. Apple needs to gut their system and rethink it logically. As any good journalist would, Marco follows proposes a solution:

Add another rating category. Call it something like “Can access unfiltered web content.” Require all apps with such abilities to select that classification in iTunes Connect.

Agreed.


  1. Though decidedly less comical for developers. ↩︎

All-Time Top Apps

Yes, Facebook is still #1. Surprisingly, iBooks (which every user is prompted to install) doesn’t crack the top 25.

Instapaper Updates “Read It Later” Bookmarklet

Marco Arment:

…the bookmarklet now sports a completely new design that’s highly visible at every screen size, and works in more browsers, too.

The new bookmarklet now also supports automatic saving of every page in multi-page articles.

Marco’s long held out on page-stitching, probably because sites like Ars Technica only offer single-page articles to subscribers. Whether that was right or wrong, competitors seem to have finally forced his hand, which is a win for users. The new “Saving” overlay is gorgeous. Plus, there’s this little gem:

You don’t need to reinstall your Read Later bookmarklet to get this update. It applies automatically to the one you already have.

Apple Acquires Chomp

Lauren Goode:

Apple on Thursday confirmed it has acquired San Francisco-based start-up Chomp, which operates a search engine for apps, for an undisclosed amount.

In my experience (having tried Chomp once several years ago) app discovery1 engines have never been good, no matter what algorithm they try. Maybe Apple can get it right? Maybe.


  1. As opposed to keyword search. ↩︎

Microsoft Office For / Not For the iPad

MG Siegler:

Depending on the hour, Microsoft is either:

  • Readying a version of Office for the iPad in the coming weeks.
  • Not readying a version of Office for the iPad in the coming weeks.
  • Denying the screenshots are real.
  • Not denying the software is real.
  • Showing off the software to journalists.
  • Denying the software shown to journalists is real. But not denying that software was shown to journalists.

Yep, sounds like Microsoft.

Google+ Adds Instant Uploads to iOS App

Whitson Gordon:

The Google+ app for iOS has added a new Instant Upload feature, which automatically uploads any new photos you take on your phone to Google+.

What a terrible, terrible idea.

Instagram Updated to 2.1

Instagram was updated yesterday, bringing a refinished UI, a new filter, and a new feature called “Lux”. Lux makes photos look like they were taken using HDR, even a little more extremely than the functionality built-in to the camera app, and can be used with or without filters.

Also changed was the notification behavior; now, when you tap or slide on a notification, it takes you right to that photo. Now if those notifications would disappear once you’ve acted on them…

The Controversy Surrounding Path; iOS’s Address Book API

Earlier this week, Path got caught up in controversy when it was discovered that its iPhone app was uploading each user’s entire address book to Path’s servers. Today, they set things right with a public apology and an announcement that they’d deleted all of the data and released an updated version of the app that explicitly asks the user if Path can use the contact database. This was without a doubt the right move for them, but it is a result of a larger issue.

I’m shocked that Apple allowed this in the first place. Applications are given, if they so choose, full access to any iPhone’s contacts database without any user interaction whatsoever. The behavior never has to be authorized, and cannot be turned off. This isn’t the first time it’s come up, either. I, for one, won’t be contented until Apple fixes their policy and requires user authorization for address book access.

Location Services is exactly how I imagine this would work. Each app that wants access to a user’s contacts would prompt once in-app, and then control would be diverted to a switch inside Settings. A “Contact Services” menu would let the user see which apps have accessed (or are accessing) his/her contacts and turn off that access either on an app-to-app basis or all together.

It’s surprises me that this behavior has gone unchanged by Apple for almost four years now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was actually an oversight. Hopefully the blog coverage Path has brought to the issue will get the ball rolling inside Apple, whose fix is well past due. Unfortunately, the tech press seems more interested in the bad decision making done at Path than in the shortcomings at Apple. That’s a first.

The Perils of Proprietary Formats, or: Why IM Sucks

Apple recently released iBooks Author, a Mac application used to create rich and interactive .ibooks files for consumption in iBooks on the iPad. The .ibooks file format is based on the open ePub format, but is very different and very incompatible. Files created with iBooks Author will not render in anything but iBooks for iPad.

Which got me thinking. I thought about some widely-used messaging protocols: email, SMS, and instant message. Email and SMS are open standards. Devices made by Apple, Dell, and Samsung can run email software by Mozilla, Windows, and Google, and email messages sent with any of combination thereof can be received and viewed on the others, and vice versa. SMS is pretty much the same: different phone makers build different phones for different networks, but all of them exchange SMS messages between all the rest with ease. That’s what makes SMS the most widely-used messaging standard in America and email the de facto standard for all web registration services.

But IM is different. If Person A has an AIM account and wants to talk to Person B on Yahoo Messenger, he/she can’t. Person A has to create a Yahoo account or Person B has to create an AIM account. Sure, there are great multi-protocol applications out there, but this is a workaround. Instant Messaging is fundamentally broken by the fact that there is no universal standard1. While it enjoys success amongst mostly-heavy Internet users, it has never and will never become universal.

While I don’t disagree with Apple’s decision to build their own CSS commands into .ibooks, seeing as there’s no way to build such interactive eBooks with ePub 3, I still believe there’s something to be learned from the world of messaging.


  1. Apple’s iMessage, while being proprietary and not universal, cleverly breaks this pattern by working without any prior user action. ↩︎