Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


Entries tagged: iOS

iOS is the world’s greatest mobile operating system.

A ‘New’ iPod touch

When I was about to buy my first iOS device, what would end up being a second generation iPod touch, the rumor was the new one would have a camera and 16GB of storage (up from 8) for $199. That didn’t happen, and I wound up with $189 8GB model. Today, 4.5 years later, that rumored model finally exists. And it ships with the bleeding-edge A5.

Continuity Is the Future of Apple

Serenity Caldwell:

We write emails on our iPhone because it’s convenient to not have to pull out a laptop, even when we get to a place where that laptop is easily accessible. We drag computers on airplanes because we need their data, even if we don’t need them. We concede the best experience in lieu of trying to make one device do everything—whether or not they’re the right tool for the job.

I do this constantly. I’ll spend 15 minutes fighting with autocorrect on my iPhone to chat with a friend, all the while sitting in front of my MacBook Air. I’ll drag the computer across the house to read an article rather than pick up an iPad and load the same tab there. Currently, there are a few tools that enable cross-device usage, but at our cores, we’re stubborn creatures: If it’s not easy, we’re not doing it. We’d rather compromise.

Notifications Are About to Rule the Smartphone Interface

Mat Honan for Wired:

Interactive notifications will spur all sorts of new behaviors. (And yes, Android already has interactive notifications, but the ones in iOS 8 look to go beyond what KitKat can do.) Some of these will be simple, like the ability to reply to an email or text message. But they’re powerful in that you can do this without quitting whatever you’re already doing. And this interactivity is not just limited to system apps. Third-party developers can take advantage of this new capability as well, so you could comment on something on Facebook, respond to a tweet, or even check in on Foursquare. But others are going to be radical, stuff we haven’t imagined yet. Once developers begin to really harness what interactive notifications can do in iOS 8—and they will—it’s going to cause one of the most radical changes since third-party apps. With the advent of iOS 8, notifications are the new interface frontier.

WWDC 2014 Liveblog

Tune in for live commentary on the WWDC 2014 keynote. 10 AM pacific, 1 PM eastern. No need to refresh the page!

WWDC 2014

That’s it, folks. Solid WWDC. Can’t wait to try this stuff.

No hardware; no Apple TV update. I guess we’ll keep waiting.

And hell yeah I’m putting it on my only phone.

It’s time for the wrap-up. iOS 8 looks amazing. Beta today, can’t wait to try it.

Swift apps can be submitted on day one of Yosemite and iOS 8.

Now we know what all of those unnamed sessions are and those banners upstairs.

Was that a boom mic in the shot?

I wish I knew more about this.

I don’t know what this stuff means but developers are cheering!

“The language is called Swift. And it totally rules.”

Objective-C without the C.

John Siracusa is wetting himself right now.

New version of Xcode.

Updates to SpriteKit. Again I don’t care, seriously. SceneKit. Ok.

At this point the games developers can make are cool but restricted mostly by the device. Why aren’t these on Apple TV? Because Apple is dragging their heels.

Tim: “What are gaming.”

So tedium. Such boring. Wow.

(We’re not related.)

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Game demos. I hope we aren’t about to see game developers on stage. I hate that so more.

Metal: much improved access for games to the CPU and GPU. A lot of stuff I don’t understand ok.

CloudKit: free cloud assets for server side development. Way beyond iCloud. Going over these fast since press doesn’t really care.

Seems like there’ll need to be a common app for this.

HomeKit: common network protocol for home automation devices. Big “fuck you!” to Nest right now. Siri integration.

Photo library/camera APIs.

Works how you’d imagine.

Touch ID API.

Swype coming to iOS.

Third party keyboards… Was not expecting that.

How are users going to handle extensions?

Widgets look pretty cool, but definitely the possibility of uglifying the UI.

Weather information is now provided by The Weather Channel, according to Notification Center.

VSCO filters can be applied in Photos via their own UI. Really cool.

This is very cool.

Apps can appear on other’s share sheets. Bing can translate Safari pages. Third parties can put their widgets in Notification Center.

Extensibility: apps can offer services to other apps.

Craig’s back up. 4,00 new APIs.

Biggest release of the SDK since the launch of the App Store.

TestFlight built into the store.

Video previews.

Bundle sales.

New features for the store: Nearby changed to explore. Curation for the store. Better search. Faster search with continuing scroll. Editor’s Choice logo on search results.

300,000,000 visitors to the store every week. 75,000,000,000 downloads.

1.2 million apps in the store.

Tim coming back for the developer portion of iOS 8.

Siri: Faster voice recognition, Shazam, and “Hey Siri” when it’s plugged in.

Not free, but much cheaper storage options. I’ll finally upgrade I suppose. Still, not really cool, Apple.

At this point they really have to give us more storage. On the web too. Full res, original format.

But it looks like Apple really is solving the photo problem… next year.

Hopefully a beta soon. I want.

“We’re working on a grounds up photo solution for the Mac, shipping early next year.” :/

He keeps saying “iCloud Photo Library”. Surely this is a Mac thing too and surely we’re getting more storage.

“It’s really awesome.”

Pretty advanced editing features. Whither iPhoto?

Totally called the new wallpaper business aren’t you impressed?

Search in photos for location, time, and albums. More editing options in Photos.

iCloud Photo Library. Is this coming to Mac? Was John Gruber right?

Photos + iCloud. Sounds like unlimited Photo Stream.

So that’s how that works.

Up to six family members who share the same credit card…

With Family Sharing you can get at your family member’s purchases.

Helping parents everywhere stalk their children.

Family units on iOS, so you can easily share things between your family members.

Integration with the Mayo Clinic for blood pressure and other perimeters to catch health issues. Pretty cool but probably going to start small.

HealthKit provides a single place for applications to contribute data about your health. Health is the corresponding application where you can monitor everything about you. Third parties can access (with your permission) data about your health.

Health. Here it comes.

Oooh per-message S/MIME!!! (I don’t know what that is.)

I really don’t care about these features so…

98% of Fortune 500 companies use iOS. “And we’re gonna get the last two.”

Enterprise. Blegh.

Edits are saved to the original files so you don’t end up with duplicates.

iCloud Drive. You can now open files from other apps via the iCloud document picker. Thank god.

Messages looks great. All needed improvements.

If you get an audio message on your lock screen, you can listen to it by just putting your phone to your ear. Reply the same way.

He mentioned a “self-destruct” feature for attachments. Hopefully that alleviates those storage problems.

Videos play back in-line. More hair jokes ha ha.

Ooh sassy response.

Middle aged white dudes, every body.

Joz with a classic duck face, folks.

I was hoping QuickType would be Swype-style input… Damn.

Good-bye Find My Friends? I don’t think we’ll miss it.

Send voice and video messages very quickly.

You can change the name of group threads, turn of notifications for a thread or leave it, and add or remove people from it. You can share location with people in the thread. You can view all of the attachments in a nice view.

Messages is the most frequently used app on iOS.

SMS and phone calls on your iPad.

Continuity between iOS devices.

All that learning is local to the device. Private private private.

QuickType adapts to the message you’re sending, depending on what the rest of the conversation is like.

“QuickType” offers suggestions for what it thinks you’re typing.

Same Spotlight suggestions in Safari on iOS.

The same things you can do in Yosemite. App Store search, points of interest in maps, wikipedia entries, news, songs on the store, movies. Again, basically a textual Siri.

Spotlight. Yes.

But finally the iPad is getting features the iPhone can’t do. Mail looks great.

Contacts in multitasking is weird…

Facebook has actionable notifications, so it’s open to third parties.

“Bad Blood” by Bastille again.

Mail is getting more Mailbox-y.

iPad Safari gets Yosemite’s tab view and sidebar.

Your most frequently interacted-with contacts are in the multitasking area?

Works for calendar events, emails (I’m assuming) and works on the lock screen.

You can now reply to message notifications !!!

No more Missed in Notification Center.

“I missed you guys.”

End user features first. Here comes Craig again.

The excitement is building…

Giant release. Two stories: great end-user features and incredible developer features.

iOS 8. “We are not standing still.”

“toxic hellstew”. Tim doesn’t like Android.

Over a third of Android customers are running a version of Android 4 years old.

Android: 9% on KitKat.

iOS 7 is on 89% of devices.

He said “customer sat” again.

“Customer sat”. There it is. That was on the bingo card, right?

“Nearly half of our customers in China in the past six months switched from Android to iPhone.”

Digs on Android right now. Ok.

130 million iOS buyers were new to Apple this past year.

800 million iOS devices. 100 million iPod touches. 200 million iPads. 500 million iPhones. That’s half a billion.

Next up: iOS. Tim Cook’s back up.

I think the X in the logo is thinner this year.

Public beta program, but not happening today.

Coming in the fall. Free. Duh.

Available to developers today.

I’m hoping iCloud drive means we’re getting more storage for free…

That’s Yosemite. Yosemite is amazing.

This is mad awkward.

“We all want to welcome you to Apple.”

“Hey how you doin’ this is Dre.”

Calling Dr. Dre…

Continuity is amazing. I hope it works.

You can make calls from your Mac too.

Phone calls on your Mac, through your phone. Caller ID on your Mac. Holy shit that’s great.

SMS: texting on your Mac via your phone. “Green bubble friends” with “inferior devices”. They “insist on sending us messages”.

Even if your phone is across the room!

If you’re away from a network and your phone is nearby, your Mac will prompt you to set up a hotspot.

“Handoff”. “If you want to pick up where you left off on your Mac…” an icon appears on your iPad of the app you were working in. Swipe up to immediately get to it. Works for emails you’re writing.

AirDrop between OS X and iOS. Finally.

Continuity. “We believe you should be able to use the right device for the moment.” Yesssssss.

End of Demo. Craig’s back. “How about that parallel programming joke.” No just stop.

“I hope the rope is multithreaded.” ha ha

Markup isn’t very different from Preview annotations, just in the Mail app. meh.

Playing it smooth though…

Safari just crashed.

Spotlight suggestions in Safari look great. Spotlight is the killer feature of Yosemite.

We still have dots under running applications in the dock.

Safari remains way ahead of competition. Demo time.

HTML5 premium video, works with Netflix without need for Silverlight. 2 hours + more battery life than with Silverlight.

Separate private windows like Chrome.

Tab view that gives you grid of tabs, grouped by website.

RSS reading is back in Safari under Shared Links.

Safari: favorite bar under smart search field like iOS 7. Spotlight suggestions in Safari.

Annotations called “Markup” on emails.

Large email attachments via MailDrop. Basically uploads attachments to iCloud and emails a link instead of emailing the attachment.

For iOS.

iCloud document picker…

Technically this already worked but it was a hack. Just making that public.

You can now access your iCloud documents from apps (iOS and Mac) in Finder. And you can store all of your own files there.

!!!

Next: iCloud Drive.

Craig is going really fast. Seems like they have a lot to get through.

Basically a textual Siri. Would be great if this is on iOS too.

Spotlight looks really amazing. Going to change how you use your Mac every day.

Conversions in Spotlight.

“You haven’t had chili by the campfire until you’ve tried it with one of Jony’s custom made aluminium forks. It’s the diamond cut chamfered edges.”

No more black textured shit in Reminders.

Sports scores widget.

Notification Center goes over the desktop now, like iOS.

Nice default widgets. World clocks. Whither Dashboard?

Mentions of seeing wallpaper behind title bars reminiscent of… Vista. Heh.

My laptop looks like shit right now.

Third party apps are going to look like shit until they’re updated.

Demo time.

Internet searches. News feeds, maps, movies. Very Siri-like.

Inline preview for document search.

Spotlight: in the middle, like other launchers…

There’s a calculator widget, for example.

Updates to Notification Center: dark translucent like iOS. Today view from iOS. No Missed (hmm!). You can extend today view with widgets from third party apps.

Messages finally looks good.

Dark mode is sexy!

Dark mode!

Helvetica!!!

All new icons. Very pretty. “Check out that trash can. That is a gorgeous trash can.”

Translucency.

Everything has been refined.

Very iOS 7.

This is pretty.

Helvetica. Not all circles for icons.

Video time.

Showing original Aqua.

New interface. Big enhancement to our most popular apps. And “Continuity”.

Check one off the predictions list, folks.

Using Futura in the presentation. Making jokes about OS X names. Oxnard? Rancho Cucamongga? Weed? No no no no. Yosemite.

Craig Federighi coming up to talk about the next version of OS X.

“Need I say more?”

“You may wonder how that compares to Windows.” Windows 8, a year older than Mavericks, is on 14% of Windows PCs.

Over 50% of installed base on Mavericks. Fastest adoption of any PC operating system ever.

40 million copies of Mavericks installed. Most of a single release ever.

80 million Macs.

“Let’s start with the Mac.”

“It’s so huge we’ve dedicated an entire section of the presentation to this.”

“You’re going to see the mother of all releases for developers.”

9 million registered developers. Up 50% over last year.

I’m 19 and I’ve done nothing!

“A special shout out to the student scholarship winners. They worked really hard to get here. Our youngest developer in the audience here today is 13.”

“This is a milestone year for this conference. It is the 25th year for this conference. It started in 1990 when a bunch of developers gathered together to talk about System 7.”

“From all of Apple: thank you very much.”

And here comes Tim Cook, to much applause.

A little girl to developers: “You inspire me so much.”

“What you really have is an intersection of technology and art.” There it is, folks.

“You open up an app and you open up a possibility.”

Now a kid with an artificial hand. Uses an app to do more and better things with it. That’s pretty cool. “I’m a fan of being different.”

These are choice quotes, folks.

“I gravitate toward very melancholy and painful songs.”

New Yorker: “I play solitaire, and of course I always win.”

“The best app of all time… has to be… Tinder.”

“I think these apps are essential to bring change to what’s going on in the ocean.”

Duckface.

Now average people are talking about the apps they can’t live without.

“That magic is a part of the app world.”

“I really don’t know what a developer looks like, but the apps they make let’s us do amazing things.”

Starting with a video, average people describing developers.

We’ve got a rights notice on screen.

“A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay.

“The Wire” by Haim.

“Pompeii” by Bastille.

“Lazaretto” by Jack White.

The Apple TV channel is live!

Just under an hour away from getting started!

WWDC 2014 Predictions/Wishlist

WWDC starts tomorrow. Like last year, there’s an overall sense of mystery going in. We expect OS X to get redesigned, but we don’t know how far Apple will go. Last year no one guessed iOS 7 would diverge so fully from the past. Likewise, this year the argument goes that because OS X has windowed, overlapping applications, a complete change will be ugly until every app is updated to the new look. Surely, a change as drastic as iOS 7 won’t fly. Thing is, I don’t think Jony cares. And don’t call me Shirley. Are Mr. Ive and Mr. Cook going to let third party developer resentment hold them back from their “ideal” Mac OS? Nope.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

Let’s get down to predictions. Here’s what I expect to be announced tomororow:

Here are three things you might have heard rumored but I don’t expect to hear about tomorrow:

Finally, here are the things I’m crossing my fingers for (but aren’t likely):

That’s all I got. I think there will be more, maybe something new about the Beats acquisition, and hopefully new hardware, but I really don’t know. I don’t think anybody does, and that’s great. Last year’s WWDC was the most exciting Apple keynote since January 2010. I love not knowing.

For fun, I’ll be liveblogging the keynote this year. No, I won’t be in San Francisco but I’ll be on my couch in front of my Apple TV pretending I’m in San Francisco, and really that’s almost as good. That’ll go up tomorrow a few hours before the keynote starts, so if you’re around you can tune in.


  1. I kid, I kid. ↩︎

  2. How much of this is me wanting to avoid upgrade fever all summer? 50% at least. ↩︎

An iPhone Engineer Reminisces on Mobile Safari

Brian X. Chen for The New York Times:

Mr. Jobs was notorious for throwing his weight around however he could. One person on the iPhone design team was also named Steve, which caused some confusion in meetings. Mr. Jobs sought to change this.

“At some point Steve Jobs got really frustrated with this and said ‘Guess what, you’re Margaret from now on,’” Mr. Tolmasky said. From there on, members of the team would always address the designer Steve as Margaret.

Six Years a Mac

My older sister imprinted two important philosophies on me growing up: liberalism and Appleism. I grew up in a fiercely Republican, lower-middle class home and Apple products were few in far between. My wealthy grandfather favored the Windows world and so all of the hand-me-down laptops I received through grade school were shitty Compaq and Toshiba XP machines. Remember when external slide-in wireless cards were a thing? If you’ve been an Apple user all your life, you probably don’t, you lucky sons-of-bitches. Still I loved them and spent every afternoon on them, getting involved pretty seriously with some early 2000’s internet communities I’m too embarrassed now to call out by name.

In 2005 my sister asked for and received a white iPod video for Christmas. A very casual listener of music myself, I asked for some no-name multimedia viewer that vaguely resembled a PSP; it held about fifteen songs and could theoretically play video and games, though I never figured out either. I remember many car rides and plane rides to and from my dad’s over the next year or so listening to my sister’s iPod through rubber-necked Belkin headphone splitter, and when she would demo for me how the software worked I remember being impressed yet having no desire to own one.

Fast forward another Christmas and I was begging for an iPod. It came used off eBay, the exact model my sister got a year early: 30GB white. I loaded it with mostly my sister’s music collection and spent hours listening to it and playing Parachute and watching whatever free videos were available on iTunes. I even got in to podcasts for the first time, the venerable Mugglecast and Pottercast to stay up on all the movie five news.

The May after that Christmas my sister graduated high school and was given as a present a plastic white MacBook. I watched her unbox it and set it up, and listened to her tout the benefits of the Mac over Windows as my grandfather grumbled and suggested she load bootcamp and XP. An impressionable sixth grader, I accepted everything my sister said as absolute fact and if anyone asked which I preferred I would proudly say that Macs were better and I would have one if I could afford it.

The summer after she graduated my family moved to Massachusetts and my last Windows laptop stopped working. Its replacement came in a 6 year old Dual-USB G3 iBook from my grandma, running OS X Jaguar. Out of date in every regard, and yet it was the best computer I had ever owned. At the time, I did not think it very remarkable. I was often frustrated by the lack of software available for it and I could not store much of my music collection on its tiny 10 GB hard drive. Still, it worked just as it had when it was new, cranking away at 450 MHz and rendering the web just as well as any Windows PC I ever owned. Only after I moved on to a newer Windows 7 machine (out of necessity for something newer) did I appreciate just how good that machine was. It was the only computer I’ve ever owned that was not replaced because it broke. It still works fine, actually, now on Tiger and spending most of its days at the bottom of a trunk at my mom’s house, but it does boot and work perfectly. The iBook, more than the iPod I owned before it, truly introduced me to Apple and spurned my love for their products.

Thirty years ago Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh and completely changed the computer industry; six years ago I got my first Macintosh and I was started onto the journey toward total Apple immersion. I’ve now owned four iPods, two iPads, I’m on my second iPhone and my second and third Macs, and I run a blog dedicated heavily to coverage of Apple.

The Birth of the iPhone

An excerpt from Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney:

Jony in particular had always had a deep appreciation for the tactile nature of computing; he had put handles on several of his early machines specifically to encourage touching. But here was an opportunity to make the ultimate tactile device. No more keyboard, mouse, pen, or even a click wheel—the user would touch the actual interface with his or her fingers. What could be more intimate?

1,000 Handwritten Contacts

James Legge for The Independent:

According to the AFP news agency, he said he sent a text message to the thief, saying: “I know you are the man who sat beside me. I can assure you that I will find you.

“Look through the contact numbers in my mobile and you will know what trade I am in,” a reference to the Chinese pub trade, which is widely held to have links with gangs.

“Send me back the phone to the address below if you are sensible,” it concluded.

New life goal: become someone who can write that note.

Apple Brings the Apple Store App to iPad

A few interesting notes about this:

Hands-On With The Moga Ace Power

Eli Hodapp reviewed the Moga Ace Power, the first game controller to hit the market for iOS 7 devices, for Touch Arcade:

There’s also an odd divide between games that can use controllers and the platform they were originally designed for. Oceanhorn], for instance, uses the controller but it seems like a vast majority of the game is played just using a single button and analog stick, leaving the rest of the controller feeling weirdly unnecessary, especially when Oceanhorn is a game that worked so well on the touchscreen anyway. Games like Bastion that were originally built for controllers, however, are amazing when played with the MOGA Ace Power. All the clunkiness of the virtual controls fades away and you’re actually having fun instead of being frustrated that your right thumb migrated off a virtual button. Tactile feedback means so much in games like Bastion that it’s hard to go back playing it “normally” once I took my phone out of the MOGA Ace Power.

Eli is clear that this controller can’t compare to PlayStation or Xbox controllers, but it is an important first step. This, also, is important:

…it eats up the Lightning port, and while this might not seem like that big of a deal initially, it kills the potential for using your iOS device as a game controller on a TV. The latency introduced through AirPlay is substantial, and I can’t imagine anyone playing a game on their TV via AirPlay using a controller for anything past the initial “Huh, well that’s neat,” sensation. It’s “playable,” in massive air quotes, but isn’t a great experience by any means.

A game store can’t come to the Apple TV soon enough.

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.)

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.

Bitcoin Mining Bots

Juli Clover reporting for MacRumors on a new developer plugin that promises to turn free iOS apps into bitcoin mining bots for their developers:

According to Hill, Icoplay’s plugin is dynamically designed not to interfere with apps that it is built into, so much so that users will never “even notice the plugin is humming along in the background.”

Regardless of the solution you choose, our bitcoin miner will seamlessly integrate into your game with no interference, earning you cash in perfect harmony with your existing app monetization strategy. There’s no catch — it’s just awesome.

What Hill doesn’t mention, however, is that an app or game continually drawing power for a background process would certainly be a drain on system resources, quickly exhausting battery life.

“It’s just awesome.” And you thought IAP games were scummy.

Something tells me this won’t be allowed by Apple.

The iPad Air

John Gruber reviewed the iPad Air:

But the tremendous weight reduction in the iPad Air complicates this equation. A year ago, a new iPad 4 weighed 1.4 pounds (650 grams); an 11-inch MacBook Air weighs 2.38 pounds (1,080 grams). There’s something about the fact that last year’s iPad 4 was quite a bit more than half the weight of a MacBook Air, and this year’s iPad Air (1.0 pound / 469 grams) is quite a bit less than half the weight of a MacBook Air. For one thing, it makes the iPad Air seem more reasonable as a supplement to a MacBook (filling the role I had previously thought best served by the iPad Mini). And on the flip side, for those who really care about traveling light, it makes the iPad Air far more compelling as a replacement for traveling with a MacBook at all.

The iPad Air sounds like a great upgrade, but I’m just not interested in it (or the new iPad Mini) in the slightest. Later, Gruber says:

So I’m envisioning two types of people:

  1. Those who still need or merely want to carry a MacBook with them when they travel, but who also want to carry an iPad.
  2. Those whose portable computing needs can — all, or even just most, of the time — be met by an iPad.

There’s a third group of people Gruber doesn’t mention, and it’s the one I fall into: those of us whose needs are met entirely by a desktop Mac and/or a MacBook and an iPhone. I’ve owned two iPads over the years, and original and an iPad 3, and I loved both of them (particularly the original). But the MacBook Air and my iPhone fill all of my portable needs, and there’s no room in the middle.

Microsoft: Our Tablet Competitors Are Playing Catch Up

Hugh Langley spoke with representatives from Microsoft about the iPad Air:

When we asked Microsoft what it thought about the iPad Air as a tablet, the response was a bit more measured, but definitely clear.

“I think a lot of tablet manufacturers are starting to catch on that people want to do more with their tablets,” Microsoft Surface UK lead Ally Wickham told TechRadar.

“More and more tablet manufacturers realize that people want to get things done and put more productivity software on them… we recognized that from the beginning,” she added.

As a refresher: iWork for iPad debuted with the original iPad, Microsoft has sold ~2 million Surfaces ever, and Apple sold 14.1 million iPads in the past three months. That’s some weird kind of “catch up”.

John Gruber’s Thoughts on the Apple Event

John Gruber wrote in depth about each part of the event, but this, I think, is the best part:

I’m not going to pretend to know Jobs’s taste — no one could, that’s what made Steve Jobs Steve Jobs — but I can certainly make a guess, and my guess is that he would not have supported this direction. I don’t think I’m saying anything here we haven’t all thought, regardless what we each think of the iOS 7 look and feel individually. This is neither damning nor praising iOS 7. But I do think it’s a tangible sign that Tim Cook means it when he says that Jobs’s advice to him was never to ask “What would Steve have done?” but instead to simply ask “What is best for Apple?” and judge for himself.

Scattered Thoughts on Apple’s October 22 Event

Most of my predictions came true, with a few good exceptions: the Retina iPad mini comes in 128 GB flavors and has the A7, Mavericks is free, and we did get new versions of iLife and iWork for OS X, also free.

There were disappointments as well. The lack of a gold color option will disappoint some, but I’d say Apple knows what they’re doing. While gold is pulled off on the relatively small iPhone 5S, it probably looked bad on the larger metal canvas of an iPad. The Apple TV wasn’t updated with an iOS 7-y interface, which only makes me think Apple has something bigger planned for television still later this fall.

As for my wildcard, the 12-inch iPad, it isn’t surprising that nothing came of that but it is interesting that the new full-size iPad is called “iPad Air”. Some might say that Apple just can’t figure out how to name iPads1 but maybe, just maybe this means an “iPad Pro” is coming before this cycle is done. Might that iPad Pro have a 12-inch screen? Who knows.


The event was relatively boring. Nothing that came out of it was particularly surprising, as has been the case with most Apple events over the past 2-3 years. The lone exception being WWDC earlier this year, which was the most exciting Apple event since the iPad unveiling in 2010. The presentors, as Marco Arment points out, even seemed a little bored with what they were demoing. No individual item announced Tuesday would have warrented an event all its own, but it was just convienent to announce them all at one time in one place. Apple’s been slowly moving to an all-fall announcement schedule, which makes financial sense but is still a bit dissapointing. I miss the iPad-in-the-spring, iPhone-in-the-summer, Macs-and-iPods-in-the-fall years.


Does Apple have anything left for 2013? I certainly hope so. The iWatch doesn’t seem likely, but the Apple TV is still in need of a refresh and an upgrade.


  1. iPad > iPad 2 > The new iPad > iPad (fourth-generation) > iPad Air. Yeah, I’d say those people are right. ↩︎

Tweetbot 3

Tweetbot 3, the first version designed for iOS 7, is out now. It’s delightful and without doubt one of the great iOS 7 apps. The $3 is a no-brainer, and it’s replaced Twitterrific as my Twitter client of choice on my iPhone. If you’re interested, Federico Viticci has a thorough review of it (he’s been beta-testing it for several months).

Pencil

Fantastic new ad for the iPad Air. Narrated by (a guess, but I feel pretty strongly that I’m right) Bryan Cranston.

Apple Releases iOS 7.0.3

Apple quietly released iOS version 7.0.3 today following their keynote, and it includes support for iCloud Keychain amongst several bug fixes. Finally!

More to Cover

We have an event in a few hours, so let’s talk predictions.

iPads: The current iPad mini will drop from $329 to $299. It’ll come in silver, Space Gray, and maybe gold. A new, retina iPad mini with an A6(X?) will come in at $399 in the same colors. The full-size iPad will have a new, mini-style casing and start at $499. 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB for the Minis and 16, 32, 64, 128 for the full-size. The full-size will get a hinge-less Smart Cover like the mini’s.

Macs: The Macs that haven’t been upgraded to Haswell (Mac mini, MacBook Pro) will be. I don’t expect anything other than spec updates for the Retina Pros. Maybe we’ll get a 90-degree MagSafe 2 charger. The Mac Pro will be mentioned, possible with pricing and surely with a ship date. I’m guessing December.

iOS: I would expect the Apple TV to get a 7-style UI, since it has so few graphical resources to begin with. Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen last month. New versions of the remaining non-7-ified Apple apps will ship: iWork, iLife, Find My Friends, Find My iPhone, Remote. 7.1 or 7.0.3 will ship with bug fixes (please fix the Control Center-when-keyboard-showing bug, pretty please) and iCloud Keychain to go along with Mavericks…

OS X: Mavericks will ship, either today or in one week. $10. Since Apple asked developers to start submitting Mavericks-ready apps last week, I’m leaning toward a release this afternoon. (Sorry, John). Here’s hoping for new versions of iWork and iLife, but the odds don’t seem great.

Wildcard: The invitation says “we have a lot more to cover”, and here’s my wild-ass guess as to what that could mean: a 12-inch iPad with a 12-inch Smart Cover.

iOS 7 Recreated in Microsoft Word

One enterprising and avid Microsoft Word user recreated a rendering of an iPhone 5 in Microsoft Word. It’s just useless and time-consuming enough to be awesome.

Behind the iPhone Event

Fred Vogelstein, for the The New York Times, takes us behind the scenes of MacWorld 2007: the iPhone keynote:

Many executives and engineers, riding high from their success with the iPod, assumed a phone would be like building a small Macintosh. Instead, Apple designed and built not one but three different early versions of the iPhone in 2005 and 2006. One person who worked on the project thinks Apple then made six fully working prototypes of the device it ultimately sold — each with its own set of hardware, software and design tweaks. Some on the team ended up so burned out that they left the company shortly after the first phone hit store shelves. “It was like the first moon mission,” says Tony Fadell, a key executive on the project. (He started his own company, Nest, in 2010.) “I’m used to a certain level of unknowns in a project, but there were so many new things here that it was just staggering.”

iOS 7-Inspired OS X

Edgar Rios made some mockups of OS X with an iOS 7-inspired interface. Some of it is rough (that Finder icon is ghastly) but some of it is really great. Control Center on OS X, please!

Two iPhones Diverged

MG Siegler:

While using the 5C and the 5S at the same time, I kept coming back to this thought. To me, the 5S now seems like an aluminum MacBook Pro while the 5C seems like one of the old white plastic MacBooks. (Or, if you want to go back even further, a PowerBook versus an iBook.) The 5C feels more approachable — we’ll see if the sales pan out that way.

Nice comparison (though I still disagree on the 5S case).

Nested Folders in iOS 7

Obviously a glitch, but I don’t see why Apple doesn’t just support it.

39-Word Review of the $39 iPhone 5S Case

Josh Centers:

Its exterior leather feels nice and the microfiber interior protects the iPhone’s finish, but the case fits so tightly that it’s hard to remove. Worse, it makes the buttons hard to press, and it bulks up my sleek iPhone.

The buttons get easier with time, and the fact that it’s hard to remove strikes me as a good thing. I wouldn’t want a case that feels like it’s about to fall off. I bought the blue1 leather case for my iPhone 5, and I love it. It’s the best phone case I’ve ever used. Very thin, light, and attractive. Last year Apple nailed earbuds with EarPods; this year they’ve nailed the case.


  1. My thinking: Which would Jony have me use? ↩︎

First Weekend iPhone Sales Top Nine Million, Sets New Record

Apple:

Apple today announced it has sold a record-breaking nine million new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c models, just three days after the launch of the new iPhones on September 20. In addition, more than 200 million iOS devices are now running the completely redesigned iOS 7, making it the fastest software upgrade in history.

Oh, only 9 million?

10 Reasons Touch ID Is a Bad Idea

The Toronto Star is pretty sure Touch ID is a terrible idea, and I for one can’t agree more. This, their most compelling reason, is number nine:

Expected technical difficulties with a new product.

That’s not even a sentence.

Long Lines at Apple Stores

Some are saying this year’s lines are the longest ever (probably because there weren’t any preorders). I don’t know what they’re complaining about. I went to the 14th Street Apple Store this morning, saw the people in line, walked right past them into the store, picked up the box, paid with the Apple Store app and walked out with a brand new iPhone case.

(BTW, the iPhone 5S case is really nice.)

iOS 7: The Defomicron Review

iOS 7 is here. Tim Cook called it “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone” at WWDC, and he wasn’t exaggerating. This is an enormous release, and we have a lot to cover. The big thing is of course the new design. It’s a dramatic departure from not only iOS of the past but from anything Apple’s done before. The new design is most important, but it is far from the only change. If 7 looked exactly like 6, it would still be a substantial release. In an alternate universe, that’s the case. If Tim Cook had stepped outside and seen his shadow, we might’ve had 12 more months of “rich Corinthian leather”. We might’ve groaned, but in the end, we’d have been content. As it is, Tim didn’t see his shadow; Apple didn’t stand still.

Table of Contents

Installation

Before we go any further, let’s get you up and running on 7. If you’ve got a device with iOS 6, it’s pretty easy: Settings > General > Software Update. If you’re into it (I am), you can download it directly from Apple and do a clean install with an option-click in iTunes. If you’re lazy, at some point you’ll get a notification on your iPhone or iPad and with the tap of one button, iOS 7 will install. That’s how most of the world will be updated to this release, and that’s going to be interesting. While it is a great release, it is different and many average users are sure to be more than a little confused.


Design

In 2007, when the public first got eyes on iOS (back then, “iPhone OS”), its interface looked modern. The gloss- and gradient-heavy toolbars were carried over from the desktop OSes of the day, and from a certain point-of-view they made even more sense on the touchscreen device. If the controls were meant to be manipulated by our fingers, photo-realism made sense.

Fast forward six years and that same gloss and grad galore looks outdated, gratuitous even, to our trained eyes. The idea that elements that we interact with using our fingers need to look real is now obsolete. As John Gruber quipped when predicting iOS 7’s design changes: “the training wheels can come off”.

The Philosophy of iOS 7 Design

Jony Ive, the Brit behind Apple’s hardware for the past decade and a half led the design charge on iOS 7. As far as we know, this past year has been his first designing software. It appears that first year has been dedicated exclusively to redesigning Apple’s most important operating system. When we examine the design decisions made in iOS 7, it is clear that this is not merely a cosmetic rejuvenation. There’s little arbitrary about the decisions that have been made, with almost all of the changes stemming from shifts in the fundamental, core philosophies, that drive the operating system’s development.

Apple got a lot of things right with the original iPhone, and that includes the interface. A lot of this philosophy of depth can be found even then, in 1.0. The original Mobile Safari provided a similar cards interface to switch back and forth between open web pages. It is remarkable even now, after this massive redesign, how much has been maintained from the 1.0. iOS is still familiar, and that’s important.

Depth

The first of which is depth. Increasingly common in our industry is the proliferation and exultation of so-called “flat” design. Windows Phone is the prime example of this philosophy, with it’s total lack of gradients, sparse color, and focus on large and handsome typography. Before we saw iOS 7, we speculated that Apple would remove the gradients and gloss to “flatten” the interface. That prediction came true, but totally misrepresents iOS 7.

Before we can understand the difference between “flat” and iOS 7, we must understand the purpose of the gratuitous textures from versions past. The answer is, somewhat obviously, to show highlights and shadows. To show “depth”. And I mean “depth”, in quotations, because the effect amounts to fake 3D — the illusion of three dimensions on a flat phone.

If iOS 7 had done away with those highlights and shadows, then surely it is “flat”? Logical, but wrong. iOS 7 does depth differently; instead of textures, it uses layers. At the very bottom is the familiar home screen. The app icons exist one plane above, and tapping one zooms in on it, filling the screen with the app. Double tap the home button, and you can see all of the running apps that exist above the home screen. Swipe up from the bottom or down from the top, and Control Center or Notification Center slide over the top.

Lightness

After using iOS 7 full time now all summer, the first thing I notice when looking back at iOS 6 is how dark everything was. This phenomenon is seen even more drastically when running apps designed for iOS 6 on iOS 7. TweetBot, an application I have loved, has been useless to me all summer. It’s so out of place on 7 I can’t bear to look at it.

With the exception of a few utilities, all of Apple’s iOS 7 apps are white with black text and single accent color. That sounds boring when you read it, but so far I it isn’t. I expect most third party developers adopting iOS 7 conventions to move to mostly white themes. In time, I know the standard visual style will start to look boring and designers of third party applications will begin to experiment with variations on the new theme, as happened with the original 2.0 SDK. But the overall lightening effect is, I think, here to stay. Using iOS 7 is immediately refreshing. You didn’t notice the weight of heavy iOS apps creeping onto your shoulders these past years, but you’ll notice when it’s gone.

Clarity

In its implementation, clarity is the most questionable of Apple’s stated goals for iOS 7. In many cases, this has resulted in the use of text labels instead of glyphs for controls. While these are certainly more clear to the first time user, through repeated use ideograms are better representations than labels.

The perfect mix would give text labels to lesser used controls that people won’t be trained to instinctively hit and glyphs to all of the other ones, with a few exceptions. If a control has a particularly obvious or universally accepted glyph that goes along with it, such as a toothed gear for settings, it should be used. Further, if a text label is particularly lengthy in any localization, an icon is probably a good idea. With iOS supporting dozens of languages, this is a big issue for Apple.
The most troubling case of a failure to walk this line correctly is in the Music app. The shuffle and repeat controls have been turned to text. Those glyphs have been with us through generations of iPods even before iOS was a thing. At this point, they’re universally accepted. Really, shouldn’t Apple be more proud of that accomplishment?

Physics

Delight in design is sometimes intangible, but essential. A large improvement to the delight factor in iOS 7 comes in a rethinking of how animated transitions are handled. In the past, these animations have been hard-coded to emulate real world physics as closely as possible. Rather than continue the tedious trend of faking physics through bitmapped animations, Apple has chosen to build in a physics engine. The engine (accessible by all developers through UIKit) allows for the easy creation of animated transitions between states, and affirms that all of these animations will be consistent in their definitions of gravity and other forces.

The physics engine also provides the backend to allow for the manipulation of almost any screen element in ways that are entirely useless, but so so fun. But I’ll get to that into that later.

Content-First

When it comes to third party development, this will be the tenant of iOS 7 design that we’ll see broken the most often. In 7, Apple is calling for developers to deprecate the UI chrome in favor of the content, and some developers are upset. For awhile now the interface has been a canvas for some to show off their Photoshop skills. Throwing out that practice will be tough, but I think eventually users will demand it in such numbers that developers will be forced to comply.

It’s honestly just better. When I’m looking at Twitter, I don’t want to be mesmerized (read: distracted) by the amount of work that went into creating the background for the toolbar. I want to read tweets. I want to share tweets. I want to tweet. I want all of these actions to be intuitive and simple, and I really don’t care that the designer spent three days getting the right texture on the toolbar. This is not to say that meticulousness in design is out the door. Certainly, I still want my iOS apps to be beautiful. One need only look at Apple’s Weather app to see an example of an app that follows this new strategy but is in incredibly beautiful.

This is a new approach to app design, for sure, but Apple has so far done an admirable job of following their own advice. All of the built-in apps have been rewritten to follow this strategy, though even some of Apple’s apps get sidetracked on their way to this goal. It is clear from using them that this is the right way forward.

Skeuomorphism

Before we get any further into this discussion, we must clarify that there are two types of skeuomorphism. The first is almost unanimously considered bad, and it’s the use of textures that resemble real world objects. That’s the felt and wood table of the iOS 6 Game Center and the “rich Corinthian leather” of Find My Friends and Calendar. And there’s the second, which is almost always labeled good, and it’s the use of real-world metaphors to enhance the usability of an interface. This reaches all the way back to the original Macintosh, with its “desktop” and “folders” that represented real world desktops and folders.

While you’ll hear otherwise, iOS 7 is not devoid of any skeuomorphism. In the first sense, tiny elements of the “bad” skeuomorphism have slipped by the watchful gaze of Ive’s eye. In the second, or “good” sense, skeuomorphism has actually been greatly enhanced and its grasp widened.

The Objectification and Gameification of the Interface

Due to the switch from bitmapped to physics-driven animations, more of the operating system can be manipulated like physical objects. This is most evident in the parallax effect between different layers of the OS. Tilting and shifting the phone can move different layers of the interface to different levels of exaggeration. On the home screen, both the wallpaper and the app icons move when the phone is tilted in effect called “parallax”. The icons move more dramatically to give the appearance that they exist on a different plane nearer to your eye. If you look close enough, you can make out that notification badges exist on an even nearer plane. The effect is the same with modal popovers. Tilting the phone will move the dialogs relative to whatever is behind it. And the same for the Control and Notification Centers.

I am still, three months into it, finding myself playing with parts of the interface, finding amusement in just the way it works. It’s a similar behavioral pattern to the unbending of a paper clip or a cat that can’t stop flapping the corner of a piece of paper. We play with it because we can, because we are bored, because our minds are concentrating intently somewhere else. You’ll find in playing with the OS that it behaves the way it should. The physics engine is in effect everywhere and it shows. It’s entirely brilliant.

The Weather App

The new Weather app is one of my favorites, and it’s very skeuomorphic. Gone is the cards metaphor from iOS 6 and the past, in its place is a fluid plane that can be swiped horizontally to view the weather data of different cities. As you do, the background display of the current weather seamlessly morphs into the next city. Pinch in to zoom out to the overview, where you can add and delete locations, reorder them, and switch between fahrenheit and celsius.

The data view for each location is gorgeous. It’s set against a background of high resolution, animated renderings of the current weather. The data is clear and shows everything you need: highs and lows, hourly breakdowns, and the current temperature. Additionally, tapping the current temperature to view humidity, percent chance of rain, wind velocity, and the heat index (interestingly sometimes it is called “Heat index” and sometimes it is labeled “Feels like”).

It’s a really nice app, but you might notice that it is visually similar to another popular weather app: Yahoo Weather. It really is. Enough that I’m sure there was some collaboration between Apple and Yahoo on the design. The glyphs, layout, and features are all so aligned, it couldn’t have been an accident. I haven’t heard any whispers of a lawsuit, so for now I call it a “collaboration”.

Rough Edges

With any sweeping redesign, you can expect rough edges in iOS 7. When it’s considered just how sweeping of a change 7 is, it’s remarkable how few of these rough edges exist. I’ve been using this OS full time since June 11, and I want to call out every single degradation from iOS 6. But the list isn’t very long.

Letterpress: iOS 7’s Brushed Metal

This little bastard. For some reason, Jony Ive decided that those odd skeuomorphic textures we familiarized with in iOS 6 deserved one holdout on 7. And so we have the letterpress visual style. Two of Apple’s apps, Notes and Reminders, utilize this look, and Apple promotes it as a visual style that third party developers should consider for their own applications. While I call it the brushed metal of iOS 7 in the snarky header above, I really hope developers are smarter this go around.

It’s a nice enough looking approximation of that fancy heavyweight paper stock that letterpress is traditionally performed on. Whoever created the texture should be praised for their graphical talent. Text in this visual style has the effect of looking debossed and it’s very pretty. The whole thing clashes terrible with the rest of the visual direction of 7. but it is directly opposed to the goal of “content-first”. This is all bling for the sake of bling.

Icon Design

I happen to like every single one of iOS 7’s default icons better than their iOS 6 counterparts. Few would be so kind as I. The iconset has been called everything from “ugly” to “plain” to “wrong”. (Two of those I can see the argument for. The other is nonsense.) The most important thing to remember about these icons is that they’re moving in the right direction. Apple was not conservative. Overzealous… maybe. They threw out pretense and approached icon design from a new angle. While some of them miss (Newsstand, Safari), they will be iterated on toward something great.

Apple could’ve stuck with the iconset from iOS 6. They could have stuck with the same designs and just removed the gloss. They could have left the same shapes and made them entirely flat. Those would have been easy options, but Apple instead redid the every single icon starting with a blank slate. Some of them developed very similarly to their older counterparts (Clock, Mail). The direction we’re seeing with them is toward a new perfection, while the old set was getting stale. These icons will be adjusted as the new interface matures. But the direction is better. If you don’t believe me, just try look back to the old Safari icon. Yikes.

(This isn’t a complaint, but it doesn’t really fit anywhere else, so here goes. Regarding the new icon shape, which some say is called a “super ellipse”: I think it’s much improved over the bland roundrect, if a bit hard for developers to recreate for the purposes of creating borders on their icons. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though. I don’t think anyone would complain if we lost the convention of giving games gold-bordered app icons.)

Contrast

Let’s bash on the Notes app some more, shall we? It’s never been a precipice of design, with is retina-searing yellow memo pad of old and the oh-so-beautiful Market Felt typeface. Both are gone in iOS 7, but have been replaced with two new devils. The letterpress stylization mentioned earlier, and a severe lack of contrast. In all their infinite wisdom, the iOS design team decided that the accent color for Notes should be… yellow. Yellow on white. The cardinal sin of readability. It’s so bad, it’s hard to believe it isn’t a joke. Maybe it was. Maybe the conversation went something like this:

Jony Ive: “Let’s design the notes app. It’s been pretty horrid in the past, so let’s buck the trend.”
Intern: “Let’s make it look like real paper.”
Designer: “Yeah, OK. And we’ll make all the labels yellow on white.”
Jony: “That’s brilliant, let’s do it.”
Designer: “Wait what?”

It’s really horrible. There’s no excuse for it. The accent is yellow because memo pads are yellow? No. Shut up. This isn’t a memo pad. How many people even remember memo pads? The only memo pads I’ve seen in the past five years have been digitalizations of them on Apple products. Make it blue, make it red, make it brown, I don’t care. Just not yellow.

To a lesser extent, the issue of contrast persists throughout iOS 7. In most cases, it’s due to the use of an overly thin font with a color that’s just a little bit too light. The abundance of white in the system is a good thing, but it does mean the palette of contrasting, readable colors will need to be a tone darker. Ive and his team got a little too caught up in the lightening and brightening of the interface, and the loss of contrast is just one of the temporary entrails. Give it a year, and if it isn’t fixed in 8, then we can really start screaming.

Game Center Like WTF Guys You’re Making This Harder Than It Is

To keep on the trend of calling out specific apps, let’s talk for a minute about Game Center. It’s almost too perfect an illustration of Apple’s lackadaisical approach to gaming that Game Center has always been such a strange child. Before, it was an ugly mix of glossy wood and green felt. Now it’s glossy 3D bubbles. It clashes violently with the aesthetic of iOS 7.

Apple seems to think that they need to do something special for Game Center, perhaps to show that no, really, we are committed to gaming. Well, listen guys. We understand that gaming isn’t your forte. We know that you’re trying, and honestly it would be much better if you stop treating gamers like they need extra special treatment and just gave Game Center the same standard iOS look that you gave to all your other apps.

There. I said it.


End User Improvements

Too often in redesigns, drilling down far enough into the new interface will reveal bits left untouched, forgotten, swept under the carpet. iOS 7 isn’t like that. Every single built-in application and every single interaction the user can have with the OS has been reskinned and often rethought. It’s very impressive, and such a change, such an undertaking, is certainly worth disecting in minute detail.

Springboard

Springboard has existed for all of iOS’s existence as more or less the same thing: a grid of icons. Along the way we got Spotlight search, home screen wallpapers, and folders, but the metaphor hasn’t changed. That’s a good thing though. As the most basic interaction with the OS, it is important that it remain familiar. Beyond that, I don’t think it has yet grown stale which is a pretty good indicator that Apple got it right the first time around.

Like the touch interface itself, the Springboard feels like such an obvious truth of UI design, and thoughtless calls for it to be replaced are ridiculous. iOS 7 brings the most dramatic graphical change to Springboard ever, but it fortunately remains largely the same. Icons are a different shape, spotlight is in a different location, but it’s all still there and familiar.

Folders

I still remember a time before iOS had folders. Back then, I organized my apps into categorized pages. I had a page for Apple apps, a page for news apps, a page for games, a page for utilities, and so on. Folders as they’ve existed since iOS 4 have been somewhat limited, but still proved an invaluable aid in home screen management. My Springboard dropped from five or six pages pre-iOS 4 to consistently two afterward. Folders in iOS 7 are a massive improvement, and having only one page of apps is entirely feasible.

iOS 7 folders are like mini springboards within Springboard. While limited to a three by three grid, folders now have multiple pages (up to 14, or 126 apps per folder) that you can swipe between. Jiggly-mode lets you organize your apps however you like, just as you can with home screens. The best part? No longer do we have to suffer with folder icons that misrepresent the content. Previously, folder icons showed a 3x3 grid while the folder itself contained a 4x3 or 4x4 grid. Not a huge deal, by jarring if you ever noticed it.

Folders are also gorgeous. Continuing the de-linenification of iOS, folder backgrounds are now frosted glass in appearance, similar to the dock. The color of the glass is affected by where the folder resides on your home screen. When you tap a folder and it zooms in to fill the screen (a delightful animation), the background zooms slightly with it, and the frosted glass adjusts to show what’s now behind the folder. Curiously, the label for the folder moves from the bottom to the top when zoomed in. There’s no explanation for this, other than it’s been overlooked.

Spotlight

Spotlight has moved from the left most Springboard screen to above your home screen. To access it, swipe down on any of your home screens. This is essentially no more than a cosmetic change, though it does have the one hindrance of discoverability. When Spotlight existed to the far left, there was an additional dot next your page dots that, if you looked closely, was actually a tiny magnifying glass. This little glyph told the user that, even when you’ve returned to your main home screen, there’s still another page to the left.

There’s no way to discover that Spotlight now resides above your app icons, you just have to figure it out (lucky I’m here, eh?), but I don’t think that’ll be too much of a problem. Spotlight is not one of iOS’s most popular features, and it’s mostly meant for the power user (many who will be reading reviews like mine) with lots of data stored his or her phone. Plus, the new Spotlight locations has the added benefit of being accessible from any home screen.

Multitasking

“Multitasking” really refers to two connected yet distinct aspects of iOS. The first of which is the app switcher, the interface that’s brought up by two quick taps of the home button, which allows the user to quickly switch between running (or state-frozen) applications. The second is the set of API’s that developers can utilize to make their applications run tasks in the background, while the user is doing something else or even nothing at all on the phone. iOS 7 brings massive improvements to both parts, but I’ll get to the second one later on.

The multitasking UI has been completely redone and is now a near carbon copy of the multitasking interface from WebOS. I imagine that (as with Notification Center), Apple spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to do a multitasking interface (notification system) that was different and better than WebOS’s (Android’s). In the end, they had to admit that someone else figured it out before them, suck it up, and copy it. As I was glad that we finally got Notification Center in iOS 5, I’m very glad that Apple decided that statute of limitations on copying an interface was up and gave us a cards multitasking UI.

(Some have pointed out that before WebOS came out with their cards-based multitasking interface, Safari on iPhone had cards to cycle between pages. I’d still dgive credit to Palm for this one.)

In use, the cards interface is just as great as the Palm user told us. Often when I need to switch back to an app for reference, I just open the multitasking UI and look at the screencap of it. For instance, when I am composing a linked list item for this blog, I often get through my commentary only to have forgotten the author’s name (or how to spell it). I can double tap the home button, look at the screenshot of Safari, and tap back into Poster with the name, without ever having to go into Safari to get it. This, which can occur multiple times per day, is an awesome convenience that drastically reduces time spent in your workflows.

Closing apps is also much easier. Just like WebOS before it, swiping up on an app’s “card” quits that app. Since this is iOS, you shouldn’t really ever have to do that, but not all apps are perfect and if one does go rogue, it’s good to know that functionality still exists. (Also nice to know: you can quit multiple apps at once — up to three — by placing a finger on each of them and swiping up in one motion. That’s mostly useless but it should work that way and it does. It’s all in the details.)

Notification Center

Notification Center has been split into three panels: “Today”, “All”, and “Missed”. These panels (though it isn’t hinted at anywhere in the interface) can be swiped between. In the new Today view, you can see an agenda for the day ahead. Reminders, calendar appointments, and birthdays can be displayed alongside a weather forecast. It’s the equivalent of the President’s morning wakeup call. (I can imagine a future version of iOS that, once you’ve silenced your morning alarm, has Siri read you all of the information it has on the day ahead.) By far my favorite addition is the day and date. For too long I’ve been frustrated whenever I cannot remember the date and have to find my first home screen and the calendar icon (or, even more often, lock the phone to see the lock screen). In iOS 7, I can swipe into Notification center and there it is.

Beneath the forecast there is a nod to Yahoo for providing the weather data. This is an odd inclusion for part of an interface that is so prominently and often displayed to the user. Surely Yahoo is not in a position to stronghold Apple into putting it there. It reminds me of iOS 6.1 when the network indicator changed to “4G” for AT&T’s HSPA+ network. It’s never nice to see Apple conceding to powers perceived higher.

The remaining panels, “All” and “Missed”, display your notifications as Notification Center has always done. Many will ask what the different is, and I am here to tell you that I have no idea. From what I can tell, the only different is that notifications in “All” are grouped by app and those in “Missed” are chronological. Why? I have no idea, as this isn’t indicated by their labels. Is it not the nature of notifications that they are things we’ve missed?

Many will also note the lack of sharing buttons in Notification Center. In iOS 5 we got a “Tweet” button that allowed for easily publishing new tweets. iOS 6 expanded this to Facebook status messages, and OS X Mavericks (due this fall) adds the ability to compose a new iMessage. But all of these buttons are absent in iOS 7. I found them useful and miss them, and I think they are a surprising omission.

Control Center

Swipe down from the top of any screen and get Notification Center. Now, swipe up from the bottom anywhere and you’ll get Control Center. Control Center, though a widely requested addition, feels like something we would never get on iOS. At least, never on non-jailbroken iOS. If you’ve ever experimented with jailbreaking, you probably installed something with similar function. Like home screen wallpapers before it, the first time you see it and the first few times you use it, you might feel dirty like you’ve done something to your phone that can’t be forgiven. That feelings wears off, and it quickly becomes another part of your daily iOS workflow. It’s remarkable just how often I find myself using Control Center. Occasionally the iOS 7 beta would bug out and Control Center wouldn’t work and it was infuriating. I cannot imaging going back to any OS that doesn’t provide the same functionality. Like copy and paste, multitasking, and LTE data speeds, regression is liable to drive anyone to insanity.

Safari

The original killer app. The first true mobile browser is further cemented as the best browser available on the phone. While I won’t tease you with any “Safari seems snappier” jokes (whoops), I’ll tell you that you’ll never want to use pre-7 Mobile Safari again. This release isn’t about speed (it’s no slouch, though). The browser interface, or “chrome” as goes the jargon, is the focus of it; it’s been totally redone and is far superior.

Full screen mode, originally an option only in landscape mode, is no longer a choice. Start scrolling, and the toolbars shrink away. Tap anywhere while the page is still, and they’re back. In portrait mode, the top toolbar never fully disappears. When you start scrolling, it shrinks to fill as little vertical space as possible while still displaying your status items and the base URL of the page you’re visiting. Inline with “content-first”, the data you want to see remains in view while the buttons and tools you don’t need fade away.

Speaking of the top toolbar, the URL and search fields have finally been unified, trailing a year behind the unification on OS X, and many years behind Chrome. The “omnibar”, as many call it, is such an obvious interface to the browser that it’s shameful it took so long for Apple to implement it. The excuse I came up with last year was that Apple would have to add an additional row to the keyboard to accommodate punctuation necessary for URL’s and the space bar, necessary for entering search queries. The solution Apple’s come up with, having small punctuation buttons flanking the space bar, is such an obvious move that Apple really has no excuse for taking so long on this. “Finally” is completely apt. Finally. Finally.

The bookmarks pane has been redone how I’d hoped it would be last year. As with the iPad version, we now have three tabs within the bookmarks menu: Bookmarks, Reading List, and Shared Links. Logically, this make a lot more sense than having “folders” within your bookmarks for Reading List and iCloud Tabs — but wait, I didn’t say iCloud Tabs was one of the tabs, did I? It isn’t, because it’s also been moved to a far more logical place in the interface. When you open the new tab view (a somewhat gratuitous 3D effect similar to Windows Vista’s AeroTab) and scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll find a list of all the tabs open on any instance of Safari on any of your machines.

Back to the bookmarks pane. What is Shared Links? Shared Links parses your Twitter and (strangely) LinkedIn accounts for links shared by your comrades, and collects them into a stream to be tapped through. It works as described, though in my experience I haven’t found it very useful. When I want to see what my Twitter friends are up to, I open my Twitter app, not Safari. At least, I suppose, it isn’t intrusive. I wouldn’t be surprised if this disappears in a further release.

One more thing about bookmarks: finally, Safari on iPhone has found a proper positioning for the bookmarks bar. When a new Safari tab is opened, underneath the omnibar are all of your bookmarks bar bookmarks, presented as a grid of their apple-touch-icon (the icon that’s used if you add a web page to your home screen, which apparently you can still do). Ah, you say, but what if one of your bookmarks doesn’t have an apple-touch-icon? The Mobile Safari team foresaw that inevitability, and if that comes up, Safari will parse the site’s favicon for the most common color and create an icon with the Safari logo to represent the web page. It actually looks very nice.

The browser continues to be iOS’s most polished app. Every year I find myself more enamored with Mobile Safari.

Music

Last year the music app got its first interface refresh since 2007. Its toolbars turned white and its gradients were reduced, similar to the refreshes we saw to the interfaces for the stores. You’d be forgiven, a year ago, for thinking that might be the direction iOS design was heading. With new leadership, that brief portal into the future was cut off. iOS 7’s music app contains few changes (and one big one, which I’ll talk about in a moment) outside the redone interface.

Coverflow is gone, as we should have expected. In its place is a grid of album artwork that looks a whole lot more modern and works a hell of a lot better. Instead of three visual albums, we can see fifteen. Tapping on one zooms in a pops up a tracklist, and it is actually a great way to browse your collection. Cover Flow was flashy (though it didn’t age well), but it was not as usable as Steve Jobs would have liked. I believe that was one of those things Steve Jobs pushed for and never wanted to see the demise off.

Music’s accent color is a delightful pinkish red. The icons across the bottom toolbar have all been redone in the iOS 7 style and they are among my favorites. The iTunes Radio icon, in particular, is so intricately detailed (just look at the antenna) but also simple… I’m in love with that one.

(One Apple fan suggested that the Music app would have been better if the accent color changed based on the album artwork of the song playing, akin to the album view in iTunes 11. This has even been achieved in the recently released Pocket Casts 4. I agree completely. From the mockups he created, it looks really great and only further emphasizes the “content-first” strategy. I hope Apple steals that idea wholesale.)

iTunes Radio

For years now, we’ve been speculating on what Apple would do to compete with Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and others. Finally, in 2013, we have the answer and it’s called iTunes Radio. Accessible via iOS, OS X, and Apple TV, iTunes Radio is a Pandora-like service that provides customizable (and curated) stations that play songs that sound nice together. For some, this might come as a disappointment. It’s an entirely different model than Spotify or Rdio, which deprecate ownership of music files, and instead acts purely as a music discovery service. Many were expecting Apple to enter that market.

I don’t find iTunes Radio all that surprising. Apple operates the largest music store in the world, let us remember, and it would indeed be surprising if Apple threw this model out in exchange for a streaming anti-ownership model. Retrospectively it is clear Apple was never going to build a Spotify-like service. It wouldn’t make good business sense, not after a decade of building relationships with record labels based on $.99 song sales. “What’s good for Apple will always supersede what’s good for users,” some will begrudgingly state. That’s true, but iTunes Radio isn’t bad for users. In no way is it a subpar service to Rdio or Spotify, it just fits a different model, and it’s a model I (and hopefully many others) prefer. Ownership. If you stop paying your Spotify membership dues, you lose all of the music you’ve accumulated into your “library”. If I switch away from iTunes, all my music files are still my music files. Many say Rdio is “the future”, but truthfully it isn’t superior in philosophy or application; it’s just different, made possible by the future.

In my experience, iTunes Radio performs really well. Whatever engine Apple’s using to power their “songs that sound nice together” feature works. My use of Pandora trailed off as their own S.T.S.N.T. engine ran into its shortcomings. After a couple hours of listening, its queue would get increasingly off track and increasingly worse. Not to mention their obnoxious advertisements.

(Speaking of advertisements, iTunes Radio is indeed ad-supported though I, as an iTunes Match subscriber, have not been subjected to them. I hope and suspect that Apple can strike the right balance with its radio ads. One thing it’s got going for it: it doesn’t hurt Apple’s bottom line if they don’t make enormous profits off the service.)

Messages

A large portion of my iPhone use is in the Messages app. I am in the fortunate position that most of the people I communicate with on a daily basis have Apple products and use iMessage, so almost all of my communication goes through Messages on my Mac or iPhone. That said, the refreshed UI in Messages on iOS had the potential to totally disrupt my day. Fortunately, all of the UI decisions Jony Ive’s team made were good, and Messages is a more powerful and convenient app than ever.

Let’s start with timestamps. This was a feature I wanted and knew would be trivial for Apple to implement, but I didn’t think it something they would bother to implement. I am glad to be wrong. Swiping a conversation to the left reveals the hidden data, for every message sent or received. Apple took the time to do this properly. Before 7, timestamps would appear every fifteen minutes or at the beginning of intervals longer than fifteen minutes, and they’d flow into the stream with the rest of the messages. Clearly redundant, those are now gone. Now if you take a break from texting your buddy for longer than fifteen minutes, you get a slightly thicker margin between the messages. This is subtle and effective. You’ll notice it if you’re looking for it, but you won’t if you aren’t. Exceptional.

In the message thread, the old practice of scrolling to the top to view the call or FaceTime buttons has been replaced with a “Contact” button on the toolbar. Tapping it reveals buttons for calling or viewing more details about the contact. It’s a subtle change but especially effective coupled with Messages’ new behavior of loading older messages automatically when scrolled to the top.

In group messages, encircled contact photos accompany each message sent to you so they can be more easily differentiated. While not every one of your contacts will have an attached photo, you may feel the urge to add them when you start using iOS 7 (this is made a lot easier with Twitter and Facebook contact integration). Turns out, photos are a lot quicker for discerning who sent a message than having to read a name label (which are still there, by the way, for those of you with contacts who for legal reasons cannot be captured on film).

Mail

Until OS X Lion revitalized the OS X Mail app, I considered iOS Mail the best email client in the world. Even after OS X Mail, it comes in at a close second. The simplicity of the thing is profound, and iOS 7 Mail continues that. Borrowing from Mailbox, the much-lauded Gmail app released earlier this year for iOS, you can now swipe a message from the list view and not only find the option to trash it, but also to move it to a folder, mark it as read/unread, or flag it as important or spam.

Another improvement comes from better support for multiple accounts. Previously, in order to drill down into the folder structure of a specific account, you had to back out of the unified inbox, scroll down, and tap into each account individually. With iOS 7, you can customize the display of the main accounts screen and stick their most-used folders to the top. While it doesn’t entirely solve the back, back, back problem that Mail suffers, it helps.

As an app that is presents a lot of content in the form of text to the user, iOS 7’s renewed focus on excellent typography truly shines. It’s a hard thing to communicate with words, but in looking at the screens it’s so obvious that a lot of time was put into getting the sizes, spacing, and line-heights just right for every single display.

Phone, FaceTime, & Contacts

The Phone app and the FaceTime app are now two separate apps. Because, uh… Well, remember when Apple split the iPhone’s iPod app into two separate Music and Video apps in order to match how it was done on the iPod touch and iPad? It’s like that. Now there’s a FaceTime app like there is on the iPod touch and iPad. Well, I say it’s like that, but truthfully it isn’t like that at all. Truthfully, it’s just really stupid. Here’s why.

When the iPod app was split into Music and Videos, it made sense. Those are two clearly different things, enjoyed separately and no one has ever gone into the Video app looking to listen to music or, vice versa, gone into the Music to watch Harry Potter. Splitting them into separate containers cut off the relations. FaceTime and Phone, though, those are both methods for calling someone. It makes sense for them to be contained within a single app, for, you know, calling. It gets worse.

The Phone app, as its included in iOS 7, provides all of the functionality that it did in iOS 6. What I’m saying is, you can still initiate FaceTime calls from the Phone app. And your FaceTime call record shows up in the “Recents” tab. So what, you ask, is the purpose of the FaceTime app? It has none. None at all. If you open it, you can see all of your contacts and even initiate voice calls. Yes, you heard right. You can initiate voice calls from the FaceTime app. Admittedly, your recent voice calls don’t show up in the FaceTime app but… wait, hold on, no excuses. This is totally dumb. You’ll remember this is the same Apple that’s included the Contacts app as a separate application to the Phone app on their iPhones for years. What functionality does the Contacts app provide over the contacts tab in Phone (and now FaceTime)? That’s right: none.

(OK, I’m being harsh. The FaceTime app has one cool feature that might explain its existence on the phone entirely. When you open it and browse through your list of recent calls, favorite, or contacts, you’ll notice that behind the list view and blurred is your face, because the background is actually the live image taken from the front-facing camera. Cool, but… ultimately still dumb. And some part of me is nervous whenever I open that app because I feel like that’s a complete waste of resources. It’s the same part of me that unplugs my laptop as soon as it’s done charging even though that isn’t really a problem anymore.)

Maps

The Maps app has changed little since last year. When you open it for the first time on iOS 7, it will be plenty familiar to you. The iOS 7 look has been painted on top, the lower right page curl has been replaced by an info button, and (for all of you who were clamoring for it) a full screen mode has been added. That’s fine, though. What’s most important and what’s been most controversial is the data, and from what I can tell, it has improved a lot in the past twelve months. The only way to truly test that is to use it, and use it a lot. Complaints about Apple’s mapping data have become increasingly sparse, so I think it is getting better. That said, I have still note multiple times in the past months when Apple Maps have brought me to the wrong location or, most often, very near the right location but not exactly.

(A few months ago it was reported that Apple had bought the mapping firms Locationary and HopStop. Locationary is a Wikipedia-style location database and HopStop, as many of you know, is a very popular and very good app for transit directions. While neither of these acquisitions made their mark on iOS 7, they show that Apple is dedicated to further improving maps. Having recently moved to New York, I’m looking forward to what the HopStop acquisition can bring to the Apple Maps.)

Navigation

My favorite bit of skeuomorphic texture in all of iOS was in the navigation functionality added last year in iOS 6. In case you’ve forgotten, your directions were presented to you on beautifully rendered road signs. Those road signs were intricately detailed, right down to the dithered green background. It was entirely appropriate, which is why it worked so well. The metaphor was exact, mimicking the common road sign to present its digital road signs.

So take it with heart when I say that iOS 7’s navigation surpasses it. There’s nothing special about the interface, the toolbars are the same standard elements found across the board. One of Apple’s stated goals with iOS 7 was to deemphasize the interface to put the focus on the content. On a navigation screen, which has so much content (moving map, distance to next waypoint, estimated time to and off arrival, number of miles remaining, and current road) this philosophy is really able to shine.

It isn’t all good news. 7 adds nearly zero new features to navigation, and not because it is feature complete. I’m surprised, because Apple’s navigation is only a year old, that there is so little that’s changed. Improvements should have started the day after iOS 6 shipped. I’m still shocked that we don’t have speed limit information on the display. This isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. Once you’ve used a navigation system that incorporates speed limit data into its display, it’s incredibly frustrating to go back.

Photos & Camera

Both the Photos and Camera apps have been totally redone for iOS 7. Both are, in this writer’s opinion, massive upgrades. Let’s start with the Camera app. Apple has shown since the introduction of the iPhone 4 that they are dedicated to making the iPhone the best camera phone on the planet. They’ve continued that tradition through this year with the recently announced 5S and through iOS 7.

Live filters are perhaps the most exciting addition. Similar to those popularized in Instagram, iOS 7’s filters provide several nice ways to embellish a photograph before, or (and this is the cool part) while the photo is being taken. Live filters can be quickly switched in an out by tapping the filter button in the lower right corner of the screen. After photos have been composed, these filters can even be removed or swapped for another you like better.

Also building off of Instagram hype is the ability to shoot square-framed photographs. This is built right into the new mechanism for switching between shooting modes. Simple swipe across the photo preview to access Video capture, Photo capture, Square capture, or Panorama capture. The rest of the controls will be familiar to anyone who has used an iPhone camera before, though the UI has of course been updated to reflect iOS 7 style.

Photos

Photos, which sports one of the more handsome iOS 7 icons, introduces new automatic photo management features. Photos are grouped into “collections” based on time and location, so that all of your photos from your vacation in New Orleans are neatly grouped together. These can be zoomed out to further grouping all the way to year views, and in any of these views tapping and scrubbing over thumbnails presents larger previews of the photos within.

In the “Albums” tab you can find the interface we’re all familiar with: separate albums synced via iPhoto, created on the device itself, and your camera roll. Unfortunately, screenshots are still grouped together with photographs and videos still aren’t synced via Photo Stream. This writer would love to see Apple introduce something a more advanced and cloud-integrated photo management system (he’d even pay for it), but it seems we’ll have to wait at least one more year.

Utilities

The iPhone has always shipped with a few necessary but simple applications, and over the years Apple’s added more. In iOS 7, all of these received interface refreshes inline with the new design philosophies. As a whole, these apps have been darkened with a focus on black background and white type. They stand in contrast to the majority of other apps, which are general white and light in color and tone. This differentiation serves effectively to denote them as simple utilities. These aren’t the apps you’ll use every day, for any extended amount of time, or because you actively seek them out. But you’ll need them, and they’ll be waiting for you.

Calculator

The Calculator app receives a visual refresh inline with the other utilities. Darker, more ahem… utilitarian. It looks great, but it hasn’t been given any new features. This may come as a disappointment to users of Soulver, or Calca, or PCalc, but I think for its purpose it is just fine. It’s the default calculator, included because you can’t have a phone without one, and it is meant (though yes, it does contain scientific functions) for simple math that’s a little too complex to do mentally. It’s feature complete; if anything, too complicated.

But iOS 7 does bring one major improvement to Calculator, and that’s through the shortcut to it in Control Center. I’m not sure where the Calculator app is kept on my phone. In a folder somewhere, I’m sure, but I don’t have to think about that anymore. Swipe into Control Center, tap the calculator icon, and it opens, awaiting my calculatory needs. It’s just the sort of feature that benefits from an easily-accessible shortcut. In fact, if Apple removed the calculator app entirely and turned it into a popover accessible via Control Center, I don’t think anyone would complain.

Compass

Remember the last time you had fun with a compass? The one and only time was probably the first time you ever used a compass. Back then you couldn’t fathom what was going on, and most likely assumed witchcraft kept the red arrow pointed north. I bet you miss that. Well, Apple’s redone Compass utility may just transport you back (and not just because you don’t know how an electronic compass works). For me, it was certainly the first time I’ve felt delight with a compass in a long time.

The first thing you’ll notice is that calibration as you’ve known it on every single smartphone thus far is out the window. That’s right: next time you pull out your phone to locate true north, you won’t have to shamefully stuff it back into your pocket to avoid the embarrassment of flinging the phone around in a wild eight pattern to calibrate the sensor. In iOS 7, you’re presented with a circle, and it’s your job to turn the circle white by tilting the phone this way and that. It’s like game, and the prize for completion is a functioning compass. It’s brilliant design. Then you might look down and see the familiar page dots, and you’ll wonder, “What’s on page two of a compass?”. I’ll tell you: it’s a level, and it works great. The center displays the current angle of your phone as a comparison to perfectly horizontal or perfectly vertical, and when you get very very close to either of those models, the whole display turns green. I have found way too much joy in playing with it at my desk.

Goodbye Angry Birds, Compass is all I need.

Stocks

I think we’re all a little surprised that Stocks has stuck around this long. While useful, Stocks isn’t an app that every soul has a use for. On the original iPhone, it made sense for Apple to include little widgety apps because the phone as a whole didn’t do very much. Now, there are plenty of apps for keeping up with the stock market in the store. There’s little reason for Apple to keep around this inessential app as default and unremovable. The app itself has zero new functionality, and even the layout is more or less identical to what we’ve seen in all prior versions of iOS. It is a beautiful, for sure. Perhaps some will find a use for it while they await their favored stock market tracker to become iOS 7-ready.

Clock

Live icon. That’s all you need to know. It’s great. Almost entirely useless, but great. Other than that, the Clock app hasn’t changed much. Yes, naturally, the interface is entirely new, and it is one of the more handsome iOS 7 apps. Typography is front and center, with lots of data represented by words and numbers. Interestingly, you can see in the clock’s app one of the few alterations Apple has made to Helvetica Neue: round colons. It’s a tiny thing but it does look nicer than square, at least blown up to this size.

Voice Memos

Voice Memos used to be an ugly unintuitive bastard. In iOS 7, it’s now a beautiful unintuitive bastard. It was always difficult to figure out how to switch between your past memos and the recording screen, and the distinction in iOS 7 is even more convoluted.

If I tap an item in my list of memos, the screen slides up to reveal my full list. But how do I get back to the recording screen? Do I swipe down? Tap Edit? Press the record button? It’s apparently the last one, but I really don’t understand why it isn’t a swipe down. When you first launch the app, 3/4 of the screen is dominated by timeline of your next recording (yes, the one you haven’t taken yet), and when you press the record button it begins to fill up. But even after you’ve recorded, there’s no way to swipe through the timeline. To fast forward or rewind or even play your message, you have to tap “Done”, name your new note, and then tap it in the list view and tap play. The entire interface is stupid. It looks great (and it has one of the best looking icons in the entire new set) but at the massive expense of working in any way that you’d expect.


The Apple Social Network

Last year when I reviewed iOS 6, I wrote about Apple’s social network. No, not Ping. Remember Ping, Apple’s failed music-oriented Twitter rip-off that was built into iTunes and used by nobody? Back then, everyone was screaming at Apple to “get social” because they clearly didn’t “get social”. After Ping’s failure, the casual observer would think Apple gave up on “getting social”. Cleverly, Apple has been building a different kind of social network, one that fits entirely into their vertically-oriented business. Instead of a common service, Apple’s network is built on a network of common devices.

Social Integration

In iOS 5 Apple gave us our first dose of social integration when it baked Twitter sharing into any action sheet where it made sense. Facebook and Yelp followed in iOS 6, and this year we’ve got two more: Flickr and Vimeo. The sharesheet gets crowded if you’ve got all of them enabled, but luckily they’ll only appear if you’re logged into them in Settings. These social integrations are the fattest red herring distracting us from Apple’s own social network. Surely a company looking to lock its customers into a network of their own wouldn’t integrate other services. But Apple recognizes that they can’t never disrupt the established players. They’re not so arrogant to think that they can replace Facebook. Ahem.

By integrating these other services deeply into the OS, Apple appeases its customers that use these services, locking those customers into using the Apple device, regardless of which photo sharing service they prefer. I expect these integrations to continue every year. (Maybe with mid-cycle updates as well. With filters and more advanced editing features built in to iOS 7 photos, I’d love to see Instagram sharing built right into the sharesheet.)

But, you say, what about iMessage and FaceTime? Aren’t these cases where Apple entered established markets with their own service? Yes, because Apple identified these markets as ones they could succeed in (and they have).

iMessage & FaceTime

It started with FaceTime in the iPhone 4. At the time, Apple didn’t know what they were on the path to creating. The strategy of a ‘social network of devices’ probably hadn’t been born yet. Famously on stage at WWDC 2010, Steve Jobs announced that FaceTime would be developed into an open standard. That never happened, and I don’t think it ever will. So why not integrate Skype? Apple likes to own their services, of course, but that doesn’t fit entirely with the strategy I discussed above. The success of FaceTime might honestly have been a happy accident.

A year later, iMessage shipped with iOS 5 and we got a truly disruptive evolution of SMS texting. Chat of course has existed since the IRC boards of old. Apple competes here with Google and Facebook and AOL and a host of others, but because they could integrate the service directly into the Messages app on every single iPhone, Apple knew they could best all the others. In a stunning move, they completely bypassed the carrier’s control of texting, enticing customers with a free and superior service to the expensive world of SMS. This time around, Apple made no illusions of openness. By this point, they’d probably figured out what course they were on. Those of us that latched onto iMessage were locked into iOS devices.

Three years after FaceTime shipped, we now have FaceTime audio. True voice-over-IP telephony service baked into every iPhone sold. Again, Apple is bypassing the carrier’s old lock-in on voice calling without so much as a curt nod. All the iPod touch needs to become a full-fledged smartphone is a cellular data connection.

Photo Streams

Last year, Apple introduced shared Photo Streams. While there are many different ways to share photos, they are all specialized in one way or another. 500px is for showcasing your very best shots with a community of professional photographers. Flickr is for discussing your best shots with your friends. Instagram is Twitter for photo sharing. Shared Photo streams fills another niche, by allowing you to share collections of photos with friends and families. You can give the grandparents all the latest pictures of the new baby, or collect all the photos your friends took on the recent trip to New Orleans into one place. It’s similar to Facebook’s photo galleries, but a more dedicated, integrated, and ultimately more social service.

AirDrop

In iOS 7, we see Apple’s biggest social push yet. Featured prominently on every sharesheet is the button for AirDrop. Introduced way back in 2010 in OS X Lion, AirDrop was originally for sharing files quickly between Macs on the same wireless network. Finally in iOS 7 it has come to iPhones and iPads, with basically the same function but between iOS devices. Tap on the button to share a photo or document or webpage (or whatever else), tap a contact, and (once the other user confirms the transaction) the file is on its way.

Bump and the bump rip-off baked into Samsung’s Galaxy phones have provided similar file sharing for awhile, of course, but AirDrop is a much more elegant solution. I really don’t want to have to touch my phone with whoever I’m sharing with. A button works just fine.

Infuriatingly and nonsensically, AirDrop doesn’t work between iOS devices and Macs. When I heard that AirDrop was coming to iOS, I thought it would finally solve the problem of “how do I get this thing to where I want to work on it”. There are many theories for why, including the way in which AirDrop on iOS uses WiFi and Bluetooth for peer-to-peer connections, but I call bullshit. It’s 2013, and I still email myself regularly to get files where I want them. Like an animal. Come on, Apple.

iWork for iCloud

While this isn’t a feature of iOS 7 (at least not yet), Apple did release a beta of iWork for iCloud earlier this summer. Some of you will remember Apple’s previous take on cloud productivity apps with iWork.com, but iWork for iCloud is a new approach. Like Google Docs on steroids, Keynote, Pages, and Numbers documents can now be edited using full-featured and gorgeous web apps. This isn’t the place to elaborate, but they are seriously impressive.

What’s more interesting is the social (or at least sharing) propositions of iWork for iCloud. Apple has promised new versions of iWork for iOS and OS X (both of which are currently long-in-the-tooth) for later this year, and I’d be surprised if they don’t integrate tightly with iWork for iCloud. I envision being able to share and collaborate on iWork documents with anyone else on the web, with changes pushed immediately not only to the web version of a document, but the local versions on all my devices. Collaboration, in real time across the internet, within native applications.

If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like Google Docs, you’d be right. But more or less that’s what I want. Google Docs, but made by Apple so that it is integrated with my native (and superior) apps.

When It All Comes Together

So far Apple’s social network is a rather loose conglomeration of services. At least it seems that way. We must remember though that Apple’s end goal isn’t to lock us into any particular service, as long as the services we are locked into are on Apple devices. As the network continues to be enhanced and come together, we probably won’t notice. It’ll be gradual. As long as Apple continues to build the best devices and the best OS on the market, it won’t matter. The lock-in shouldn’t hurt us, and the integration will be a boon. If we are ever to leave Apple behind, most of our data should be in other services. We’ll just have to find another phone maker that’s built those services in as well as Apple has.


Developer Improvements

It’s time now, if you’ve made it through all of that, to look behind the curtain at some improvements Apple has made for developers. I haven’t covered everything, but I’ve tried to touch on some of the things I found most important. If you’re a developer, you will know about most of these already. What follows are brief descriptions of API improvements that I believe will really impact what users get out of their phones.

Backgrounding

By the time multitasking arrived in iOS 4, users were sorely missing it. Android had been bragging about its ability to stream Pandora in the background for months, and we were jealous. The limited multitasking iOS 4 gave us was a great compromise that kept iPhone battery life the best in the industry and introduced greater usability for third party audio, navigation, and calling.

Three years was a long wait, but Apple’s finally got around to expanding on those multitasking API’s. In a surprising turn, they’ve actually opened them up quite a bit. All of the improvements are good and needed, but somehow they don’t feel like enhancements I ever thought Apple would allow. I can’t really say “good on them” for that, but thank goodness.

Background Fetch

First, the big one: background updates. Previously available in limited capacity and only for Newsstand apps, now all applications have the ability to download data when they aren’t running. Developers configure their applications for background updates and set an interval for how quickly after their app leaves the foreground it asks to be updated. This interval can be as long or as short as the developer wishes, however iOS makes no promises to follow it exactly.

iOS 7 smartly coalesces background fetches and aligns them to times when the device is already up and doing something. If the user pulls out his/her phone to check the time, iOS will need to start up and in that time it will wake up third party apps that have requested background time. This method minimizes battery drain in a system that, left unchecked (in say… Android) would mutilate battery hours. When a device’s battery is low, updates are further apart, as the OS works to keep the device going for as long as possible.

In an attempt to be even smarter about it, iOS 7 will attempt to learn the habits of the user. If you wake up every morning and open the Weather app, iOS will soon start to allow Weather to update in the background right before it expects you to open it. In practice, this might not be effective but for a couple uses. I open Reeder, Twitterific, and Felix at about 7:00 every morning, so I expect iOS to start updating those a few minutes before 7. Beyond mornings, my use is sporadic and I expect that’s true for most users. Still, it’s valiant of Apple to put such effort behind backgrounding to get it to eek the least juice possible while still giving developers powerful API’s.

If an app does manage to go rogue, force-quitting from the App Switcher will remove an app’s ability to get refreshed in the background, at least until is relaunched. Additionally, there’s a new page in Settings that allows the user to toggle background app refreshes on and off individually for each app that’s requested it.

Background refreshes will be notes in the App Switcher. This is handy for Twitter and email applications and the like, presumably because users will see the new content loaded into them when flicking through the App Switcher. This feature is accomplished by having the app create a new snapshot whenever it finished a background refresh. For saved-state apps, this snapshot becomes the new screenshots seen in App Switcher. (This is the same snapshot that saved-state apps will briefly flash when they are reopened, before they can show the live screen.)

With background fetch, Apple has given a lot more freedom than developers have come to expect from multitasking API’s. That’s good and bad. Good, because good developers will be able to utilize it and our feed readers, ADN clients, and Instapapers will be much better apps. Bad, because it’ll be easy for bad developer to abuse it. That’s mostly good, I think, and Apple’s done a lot to keep it from getting out of hand.

Remote Notifications

The second new multitasking API in iOS 7 is an enhancement of the veritable push notification: Remote Notifications. In fact, they aren’t entirely new. Newsstand apps have had access to a very similar API for almost two years, but in iOS 7 access has been granted to all.

Previously, push notifications were siloed and solitary. Developers could send them to devices but that was about it. When a user swiped a new notification from their lock screen, the developer’s app would open and only then would the new content load. iOS 7 reorders the process.

Now, a developer can optionally have their app hold the new push notification until the new content is loaded. If a Twitter app, for example, receives a push notification that its user has been @mentioned, the app can load that new tweet before sending the notification on to the user. This way, when the user taps or swipes the notification and the app opens, the tweet they were mentioned in is waiting for them.

A second form of these notifications is the “silent” notification. These skip the step of notifying the user. iOS received a push notification from the developer’s server and wakes up the app to deliver the message. The app is given a few seconds to run in the background, on the pretense that the push notification most likely contains instructions to start a download of some content.

Silent notifications are rate limited. Whereas visible notifications are expected to be controlled by the user (if a user finds an app is over-notifying, he/she can easily turn off or limit them), silent notifications will be invisible to the user and so the OS takes it upon itself to set the number that come through.

Developers aren’t limited by the number of silent notifications they can send to a user, however Apple’s push servers will stop apps attempting to send what it sees as too many (Apple says 1 or 2 per hour is OK), hold on to the notifications, and then send them in batches at a rate it sees fit. If the content being called via silent notifications is critical, it’s advisable that developers limit themselves so as to not run into these inhibitions.

You’ll have noticed that silent notifications and background fetch serve the same purpose: updating an app’s content without the user’s knowledge or intent. They both have their advantages, though. Silent notifications work best for content that is critical or sporadic. If your app doesn’t know exactly when its content will be updates (with say, email), a silent notification works best because it will notify the app as close as possible to when new content is made availalble, and it will only wake up the app to download content when new content is available. Contrasted, Background Fetch works best for content that is updated at regulary intervals or very frequently. Twitter streams, for example, will be best updated with Background Fetch since new content will be arriving constantly and the app can retrieve it in batches. (Twitter mentions and DM would fit into the silent category, though, as mentioned earlier.)

Background Transfer Service

The third and final new multitasking API in iOS 7 is meant for large file transfers, and that’s Background Transfer. Background Transfer is one universal download/upload queue for all third party apps.

In the past, apps were afforded about 10 minutes after they left the foreground to complete and upload or download operations, and these were managed by the app itself. iOS 7 removes this time limit and shifts management to the OS. If an app needs content uploaded or downloaded, it enqueues it using the Background Transfer API and iOS handles the rest, delivering the content (or receipt of upload) when it’s done.

Transfers can be unqueued from the foreground or the background, and therein lies Background Transfer’s biggest limitation: a subset of transfers are labeled “discretionary”, which means they will only be downloaded over WiFI. While transfers initiated by a foreground app can optionall be tagged discretionary, all background enqueues are labeled discretionary. It would make more sense for the deference to WiFi being owed to the size of a download/upload, or perhaps to restrict each app to 50 MB per day or week of cellular data use.

Since iOS is managing the entire queue, updates can be coalesced for performance. iOS will minimize the energy hit by performing updates simultaneously and when the device is already awake and performing some other task. This does introduce a further limitation of these API’s, though it’s one that I think developers will have to live with: there’s no guarantee that new content will be available in any expected timeframe. This is simply a side effect of Apple’s efforts to reduce battery drain, and I don’t expect it to change in the foreseeable future.

The old background task API is still around, and can still be useful for applications that need to complete one last save or modification on a task when they unexpectedly leave the foreground. However, the time limit on task completion has been reduced drastically to only a few seconds. It it therefore necessary for developers to switch all of their big transfers over to the new system and limit the use of task completion to only the very quickest of “finishing up” tasks.

Guidelines

It’ll benefit all apps on a given system if developers do their best to optimize their background tasks. The fewer resources used, the more resources available for all to use. Apple thinks they’ve done their part in this bargain, but it’ll still be on developers to ensure these new API’s are implemented correctly and used responsibly. Note that that doesn’t necessitate very limited use; just be smart about.

Since more apps than ever will be allowed to run full-fledge in the background, it’s wise to revisit some general advise. The responsible developer will ensure that unnecessary parts of their app (say, the rendering engine in a game) are turned off in the background. They’ll minimize the amount of IO and the number of transfers needed by coalescing beyond what Apple can control. Apple seems to finally be ceding to the demands of developers here, and it’d be wise not to abuse what they’ve given us.

There’s also a toggle in Settings (and eventually an API to check the status of this setting) to allow the user to turn off background refresh for any app they wish. Use these API’s irresponsibly and expect to see your background privileges stripped.

The Snapshot

One more thing on backgrounding, and it’s a small one. The snapshot, the screenshot that is stored when an app enters the background, is now being used a lot more frequently. When a saved-state app is reopened, instead of the default.png iOS will load the snapshot. This provides a much less jarring and more seamless flow into using an app that is no longer running in the background but has saved its position for you for next time.

Text Kit

Text Kit is a new API layer built on top of Core Text. Core Text, as some of know, is a powerful but complicated API layer. Excepting only the most enterprising developers, access to the Core Text API’s used to be filtered through WebKit. In previous versions of iOS, UIWebView was a developer’s best option for building an interface with beautiful typography. 7 deprecates those techniques, with all rendered text converted to Text Kit.

If we go back to iOS 7’s core philosophies, you’ll remember that one of them is typography. Since the original Macintosh, typography has been essentially important to Apple. Text Kit advances that by providing tools that allow developers to easily create layouts with beautiful typography. The important decisions that go into typesetting have been made for developers, and knowledge of typography is no longer an essential skill.

Text can now easily be placed in columns and paginated. Rich text support is now integrated at the API level, available for all applications to read and write. The developer now has finite control over the break points when text is truncated. These are complicated issues, but so ubiquitous that it makes sense for implementation to be handled at the OS level. Less ubiquitous but cool: wrapping text around arbitrary shapes (think about the demo Apple loves to show with every new release of Pages) is now accomplished with only a few lines of text. The ease of use with which advanced techniques can now be implemented will surely push the standard for third party app typography.

My favorite addition: kerning and ligatures is now system wide and on by default. These tiny details are clearly the “right” thing to do but aren’t for all intents and purposes “necessary”. It’s not something the user will see. It’s the piece of wood on the back of the dresser. Few will notice, but if you have any passion for your work, you can’t be satisfied with it any other way.

Dynamic Type

By far the most exciting aspect of Text Kit is Dynamic Type. Remember how I said typographic decisions are now handled by Apple? This is how developers utilize Apple’s expertise.

Dynamic Type provides a series of professionally-designed, hand-tuned, and optimized type styles. These styles have been tweaked to look great for every font and font size built into the OS. Each includes styles for body text, headings, subheadings, footers, and captions. These styles are easily applied to any string of text via a drop down menu in Interface Builder.

Choosing different typefaces is trivial, requiring only a single call compared to the several needed to build new typefaces in iOS 6. With Symbolic Traits, developers can select bold or italic variations of a font or adjust line- and letter- spacing. Even though Apple has made a lot of decisions in Text Kit, control is ultimately up to the developer, if he/she wants to assume the role.

The “dynamic” part of Dynamic Type comes into play with a font size slider in Settings. Adjusting it adjusts the font size of all apps utilizing Dynamic Type. This includes all of Apple’s built-in applications, which have all been rewritten to utilize Type Kit and Dynamic Type. Developers will have to explicitly support this this aspect of Dynamic Type (called “preferredContentSizeChanged”). It’s easy, though, and because users will quickly begin to expect support in all of the apps they use, I predict most app developers will quickly get on board.

Dynamic Type in many situations will eliminate the need for app developers to support changing the default font size in their apps. While apps meant for reading (Kindle, Instapaper) might want to keep these around, RSS and email applications will be able to remove these settings that can clutter their UI. Apple has recognized a control that most apps need and implemented it through a systemwide setting, which I think is much better. It’s consistent.

In all likelihood, that hook won’t be necessary. Dynamic Type is such an enormous advancement in application typography that I expect every application that uses type (basically every app that isn’t a game) to implement it.

iCloud

iCloud took a lot of shit last year, most of it warranted. Apple would have had you believe that iCloud was the future of file systems. Unlike Maps, their PR campaign for iCloud never shifted from “it’s amazing” and “it just works”, even though it wasn’t and didn’t. Which is remarkable, because iCloud has been a much bigger failure than Maps. The key difference being the domain of the failure. Maps failed for end users, iCloud failed for developers. The end user aspects (email, mostly) have worked pretty well, but the developer API’s have been neglected. Apple treats their developers well, but ultimately end users are more important for their business.

So while I hesitate to label anything “what is should have been a year ago”, with iCloud, I’m just hoping that it is what it should have been a year ago (or even two). The message to developers has been that it is, and that developers who’ve been burned in the past should try again. But who knows. Who knows if developers will want to, and only if they do will we find out if Apple’s improvements to iCloud live up to their claims.

Core Data

Apple’s big push with Core Data this years is that they’ve drastically reduced the work developers must do to integrate its API’s into their apps. Previously, Core Data provided little more than a synced datastore, tied to each iCloud account and walled off for each app to use in its sandbox. Going forward, new API’s will enable Core Data to take on a lot more.

The iCloud API’s will now handle the fallback datastore, or the local copy of a user’s app data that is used before a connection to iCloud is established, or when it is entirely unavailable. It was previously up to the developer to create and store this local copy, and then to handle the tradeoff and application of changes when the iCloud connection is established. In iOS 7, the fallback store and iCloud store look almost identical to the app, and both the store of the local copy and tradeoff will be handled by iCloud.

iCloud will now handle multiple accounts and account switching. Apple used to provide little guidance on what app developers should do if the device’s iCloud account is deleted or changed. Going forward, this swap will be handled by iCloud. When iCloud sees that the account has changed, it will publish any local changes from the old account to iCloud, delete the old account’s persistent store from the device, and swap in the store for the new account.


For a bit of perspective, it was only 11 months ago that Tim Cook fired Scott Forstall. In less than a year, Jony Ive and Craig Federighi’s design and development teams have totally reshaped iOS, in appearance and vision. It would have been a heck of a lot easier for them to slap the new features and API’s onto iOS 6 and call it a day, to shelve the interface replacement for just one more year.

In many ways iOS 7 is the first thing post-Steve Jobs Apple has done that Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done. Now, I have a lot of personal regard for Steve, so make of this what you will. But I honestly believe that, had Steve Jobs been able to see iOS 7, he would have recognized how much better it is. Or, more likely, he’d have cursed the designers out the room and come back the next day claiming it was his idea all along.

So I Hear There’s an Event Tomorrow

A realistic predictions list:

Unfortunately, and as has been the case for the past few years, we know pretty much everything about tomorrow’s event today. WWDC 2013 really was the best, don’t you think?

Yahoo Unveils Mobile Redesign of Mail, Search, and More

How long before Yahoo is the default search provider on iOS and OS X? Six months?

(Related: how long before Yahoo drops the ‘!’?)

One Device to Rule Them All

John Moltz for MacWorld:

Microsoft believes that people don’t really want separate devices, they want just one. And it likes to present iPad users as “frustrated” with that device’s inability to be the one true product for consumers. In talking about the Surface, Bill Gates said of iPad users:

“They can’t type. They can’t create documents,” said Gates.

Now, in his defense, it’s possible he’s never used an iPad before. Or seen one. And he may also be unaware there are kinds of documents other than Word documents. The point is, Microsoft is selling the idea that the iPad is half a solution and the Surface is the whole solution.

Of course, it’s not selling that idea very well, given the Surface’s sales figures, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Goldfinger

MG Siegler:

Yes, there will be a gold iPhone.

Inter-app-erability

Bryan Irace:

Every iOS application should be able to define types of input and output data. For Tumblr, an input type could be a photo or a video to post, while an output type could be a credential that another application could use to communicate with the Tumblr API. For 1Password, an input could be a URL, and the output a corresponding username and password. Allowing applications to be stitched together dynamically based on the data types that they know how to act upon would allow iOS users to be productive in ways that are not possible today.

Apple’s strategy of implementing just one or two third party services into the OS every year isn’t scalable. It works great and provides exactly what the user expects, but there are far too many services that deserve integration. The challenge Apple faces (with iOS 8, I think) is to find a way to offer this same level of integration, but allow easy implementation with any service the user chooses.

Will a Fingerprint Sensor Be Apple’s Next Hit?

Geppy Parziale, an expert on fingerprints:

If you search for the specifications of a CMOS fingerprint device, you will find a number representing the lifetime of a device. That number is expressed in number of touches (before it completely dies). That number is provided in ideal conditions of usage and in a normal operating environment of temperature and humidity. But remember where you normally use your iPhone. You keep it in your “dirty” pockets, you leave it on different surfaces, and in humid and hot or cold and dry environments. Sometimes water drops on it or you forget it in your car under the sun. All these factors stress the working conditions of the sensor surface and contribute to speeding up its decay process.

Unfortunately there is no existing solution to this. Manufacturers can only try to make the fingerprint sensor last longer, but sooner or later that device will stop working properly. This is also why Apple cannot provide a fingerprint sensor for payments. And if they do, they are making a huge mistake, because the surface destruction process explained above introduces the most dangerous problem in fingerprint recognition: false acceptance, when after a while somebody else can be granted access to your device.

While the rumors are growing in volume, I just can’t see Apple putting a fingerprint scanner in the next iPhone. What would be the point? A little more secure, sure, but what can you do with it? It sound expensive and fragile and worthwhile for only a fraction of Apple’s customers.

‘Why I Use an iPhone’

Ian Dunn, columnist for Droid Life, uses an iPhone as his main phone:

It was Android and Windows enthusiasts’ vehement, unmitigated hatred towards all things Apple that pushed me to play devil’s advocate for some time. Eventually I found myself convinced that iOS was a much better fit for what I wanted in a phone. I didn’t stop being a “power user” or enjoying customizing my phone. Instead, I found that while using iOS I became more productive and enjoyed using my phone a lot more. It isn’t the only way, but Apple’s design and execution philosophies make much more sense to me personally than do Google’s.

It’s the Production Line, Stupid

Craig Hockenberry on screen sizes and production schedules:

These capital expenditures show that Apple is planning ahead. At least 2-3 years, maybe more. You don’t just walk into Foxconn and ask for 50B iPhones. You need to predict the future.

Sure, it would be great to have a larger screen iPhone from what is known about current market conditions. But was a larger screen a sure thing 2-3 years ago? While you were falling in love with the new Retina display on your iPhone 4, I bet you weren’t thinking “Man, this display has got to be bigger!”

It’s also a mistake to assume that the iPhone 6 is going to be big screen only. The 4” form factor will still be a viable next to a 5” iPhone next year. The lower cost iPhone that’s being introduced next month is only the beginning of the diversification of the iPhone line.

More Than A Numbers Game

Rene Ritchie, on Benedict Evans’s posit that developers will switch to Android if the market shifts far enough that way:

Which rings numerically true. However, people - developers - aren’t just numbers. They have tastes. They have biases. If they didn’t, then all the great iPhone apps of 2008 would have already been written for Symbian, PalmOS, BlackBerry (J2ME), and Windows Mobile years earlier. If they didn’t, then all the great Mac apps would have been migrated to Windows a decade ago.

More or less exactly the point I tried to make with my own response to Evans.

The Case for a New Lower-Cost iPhone

John Gruber:

If Apple does unveil an iPhone 5C, I expect them to concurrently abandon the iPhones 4 and 4S. Their three pricing tiers for the next year would be a new iPhone 5S at the high end, today’s iPhone 5 in the mid-range, and the new 5C at the low end. This way, all new iPhones would sport 16:9 aspect ratio displays, and all would have Lightning adapter ports. Adios both to 3:2 displays and the grody old 30-pin port.

Pretty much exactly what I’ve been thinking.

Defending iOS With a Cheaper iPhone

Benedict Evans:

If total Android engagement moves decisively above iOS, the fact that iOS will remain big will be beside the point – it will move from first to first-equal and then perhaps second place on the roadmap. And given the sales trajectories, that could start to happen in 2014. If you have 5-6x the users and a quarter of the engagement, you’re still a more attractive market.

This is a major strategic threat for Apple. A key selling point for the iPhone (though not the only one) is that the best apps are on iPhone and are on iPhone first. If that does change then the virtuous circle of ‘best apps therefore best users therefore best apps’ will start to unwind and the wide array of Android devices at every price point will be much more likely to erode the iPhone base. Part of the reason for spending $600 on an iPhone instead of $300 on an Android is the apps – that cannot be allowed to change.

The key word is “if”. If the total value of Android customers can supercede iOS, then most developers will move to Android-first (and then Android-only) development. That’s a big “if”. There are other factors Evans doesn’t mentions.

Fragmentation. Not only do apps have to support a wide range of devices, to be successful they have to support a wide range of OSes on a wide range of devices. And multiple app stores.

Piracy. The piracy situation on iOS is bad, but Android is much, much worse. In many cases, all it takes is a Google search to find some one peddling your app for free on a forum. With Google staying firm on the side of not policing the Google Play Store, there’s a good chance copycats will clutter search results for people trying to buy your app.

Expectations. Android phones are cheap, with few exceptions. People who buy them are getting them because they are cheap. That sets the expectation for the user that apps are going to be cheap. Do you think 1Password could ever be successful with an $18 app on Android? I don’t.

Consider desktops. OS X apps are far better than what’s available for Windows. There are more Windows apps, and there are more Windows users (at least 10x more), but all of the truly great apps are on OS X, and most of them are OS X-only. I should know, I spent many years frustratedly stuck on Windows.

Developers (with the exception of enterprise developers) make more money on OS X. Users who are willing to pay for the best computers in the world are also willing to pay for really high quality apps. Therefore, the great apps are built for OS X. If it continues to be that way on the desktop, why should it be any different on mobile?

Folks, Mark Your Calendars

According to AllThingsD and Jim Dalrymple, Apple will unveil the next iPhone on September 10. Tim Cook said it’s going to be a big fall; this is where it starts.

Regular People Have No Idea How To Manage Photos On Their iPhone

Bradley Chambers:

I’m serious, they don’t. They don’t know that they don’t, but they don’t. If you grab a co-workers iPhone and they have 2500 photos on the camera roll, then you know they don’t. They’ll just keep taking photos and assume “the cloud” or whatever is backing it up. For a time, it is. That is until their backup hits the mythical 5GB mark and iCloud starts pestering them to remove data or buy more space.

Apple Does Worse With First-Time Smartphone Buyers

Ina Fried for AllThingsD:

“Previous smartphone owners buy Apple iPhones much more than first-time owners,” according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. “Almost 50 percent of previous owners buy an iPhone, while under one-third of first-time owners buy an iPhone.”

So first time smartphone buyers tend to buy cheap Android phones, and when they realize they’re crappy they go and buy iPhones. Sounds about right.

FaceTime Every Day

Another perfect ad in Apple’s “every day” series. My favorite part is the dog, of course.

Apple Announces USB Power Adapter Takeback Program

Jim Dalrymple:

“If you need a replacement adapter to charge your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, we recommend getting an Apple USB power adapter,” according to Apple. “For a limited time, you can purchase one Apple USB power adapter at a special price — $10 USD or approximate equivalent in local currency.

Apple’s got zero responsibility to do this, and yet they do. This is why we love Apple.

App Updates for iOS 7

Craig Hockenberry:

If you’re a consumer of apps, this is great news: it’s likely that your favorite apps will be ready for action come this fall. If you’re someone who has a device that’s a couple of years old, now’s the time to start thinking about upgrading. Many apps will require a device capable of running iOS 7.

The iPad Is Like the iPod, Not the iPhone

Ben Thompson:

Most folks seems to instinctively compare the iPad and the tablet market to the iPhone and smartphone market, and it’s easy to see why. They share the same OS, the same competitor, many of the same apps, and, of course, the same time period – the present.

But in reality – and this touches on many of the themes of this blog – an overt focus on product similarities misses many crucial factors that, in my opinion, make iPhones and iPads very different. In fact, I believe the business we should be looking at to understand where Apple might take the iPad is the iPod, not the iPhone.

The Apple Alarm Clock

In June, I speculated on the future of Apple TV, and that was fun. I thought to myself gee, this speculating thing is fun, I should do it again sometime. So let’s talk about clocks.

More specifically, the bedside clocks meant for rousing non-morning people in the morning. The most disruptive thing that’s happened to the alarm clock industry was probably the smartphone. I and (I presume) many others have switched full-time to using our smartphones as our only alarms. It’s terribly convenient to open the Clock app on my iPhone to quickly toggle an alarm on or off or readjust the going off of one.

(The best part is the ability to adjust my alarms when I’m out and about. There’s a German word for the anxiety felt when One’s out of the house and unforeseen events force the adjustment of the time One must wake the next morning, and One must force Oneself to remember to adjust One’s alarm accordingly when One gets home, because One remembers the last time this happened, when One forgot to adjust One’s alarm, and One remembers the hatred One felt toward Oneself that following morning when One woke up two hours too late.

I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it exists. One, you poor bastard.)

Thing is though, a smartphone is a terrible alarm clock. Smartphones are designed to be carried with you wherever you go, to sit in your pocket until called upon. They’re meant to be held, so they are thin and light. They’re meant to do everything, so they have minimal physical buttons.

They’re not meant to sit on your nightstand for all the hours of their existence, dutifully displaying the time, all the while bottling up their desire for attention, only to let loose in the one daily moment they’re called upon. They’re not meant to be chucked across the room in anger at the realization that One stayed up way too late last night. They’re not meant to have the snooze button punched as One decides to risk it and doze for another 10-er.

Such is the purpose of the alarm clock.

The Dream Machine Next to a Dream Machine
The nightstand is no place for a smartphone.

With that in mind, I made the decision to switch back to using a dedicated alarm clock and — to my chagrin — I discovered that alarm clocks haven’t progressed at all past iPhone docks. The best you can do (and what I’ve settled on) is a $15 Sony Dream Machine1. It’s pathetic, really.

What if Apple isn’t going to disrupt the watch industry after all? What if, instead, they’re going to change the way the entire world wakes up in the morning? (OK, they’re not, but keep reading.)

If we could combine the benefits of the the smartphone alarm and the dedicated alarm clock, well wouldn’t that be dandy. We could. Next year, what if iOS’s Clock app has an API that broadcasts its alarm settings over WiFi. Alongside this new API, Apple releases a well-designed alarm clock accessory, the “iWake”. iWake plugs into a wall outlet and connects to your home WiFi network through AirPort Utility on your Mac or iPhone. Jony Ive heads its design, and we get a revival of the classic Dieter Rams/Dietrich Lubs DN 40. iWake has a single button on top (and it is one seriously great feeling button); press it once for snooze or long press it to silence the alarm for good. iWake is made of polycarbonate, and comes in a multitude of bright spring colors.

With the Clock app on your phone (or iPad, or the dashboard widget on your Mac, which now sync via iCloud), you can adjust your alarms and tell your iWake which ones to go off for. If you’re out and about and you find out you’ll need to wake up early tomorrow, open the Clock app on your phone, set the alarm and that information is automatically pushed to iCloud and then to iWake. Tomorrow morning, your alarm goes off without you giving it a second thought. Goodbye, mystery German word.

I want iWake three years ago. The technology is there but no one is doing it. While I’d love for it to come out of Apple, I realize they probably have bigger things going on. So why not someone else? This shouldn’t be too hard to do and do right. You don’t even need that Clock API I talked about to make it work, just write your own app.

Well, what are you waiting for? I have somewhere to be tomorrow, get to it!


  1. Which has actually been discontinued, but you can still pick them up at Walgreen’s, so there you go. ↩︎

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.

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.

Compare iOS’s New Icons to Old

I know many don’t like the new icons, but is anyone really arguing they’re worse than their iOS 6 and earlier1 counterparts?


  1. And to be fair, some of these are iOS 5 and earlier icons. ↩︎

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.

Circus

Stephen Hackett was working in an Apple Store six years ago:

The iPhone went on sale at 6 p.m. local time. Our store — like all others — closed four hours before the event. In those four hours, everyone in the store was assigned a job, after heavy black-out curtains were hung over the floor-to-ceiling glass at the front of the store.

iOS 7 As Defense

Marco Arment:

The entire tech industry has been homogenizing and commoditizing iOS’ appearance so much that after six years, iOS no longer felt exclusive, unique, or premium to most people: it felt like the norm. Apple needed to shake things up to keep their premium edge, and they went all-out.

Considered Opinions on iOS 7’s New Direction

I’ve been running iOS 7 on my only iPhone for about two weeks. It’s very different I’ve avoided writing about it because it is a big change, and in order for me to write reasonably about it, the initial shock needed to wear away.

What’s most important to realize about iOS 7 is what hasn’t changed. We still slide left-to-right to unlock. We still have a grid of icons. Applications still consume the entire screen. All the controls we’re used to are still in the same place. Despite the totally new look, iOS 7 is still familiar. While it looks totally different, we still know how to use it. So will your grandmother. Brace for the inevitable initial outcry from those who hate any change, but understand that it’ll fade away as it does whenever Facebook redesigns the timeline.

Gradient-heavy toolbars have given way to “flat” translucent bars that give a sense of depth by letting content flow beneath them (albeit heavily blurred). The new toolbars aren’t as beautiful in screenshots or ad material, but in practice they fade into the background and allow the content to shine through. Which is how it should be. While there’s always been a delight in opening a new app and finding a hand-crafted, beautifully-textured interface, the appeal wears thin after use. I don’t find myself remarking on the artitistic value of TweetBot after a couple days of use. iOS 7 apps will be forced to compete on how they display content, not on beautiful pixel art.

Buttons in iOS 7 have lost their borders. Whether you like the borderless aesthetic or not, it’s important to note the utility of these buttons has not changed. Borderless buttons aren’t new. We’ve been using them on the web for decades, and in Mobile Safari for six years. The appearance of a button has two goals: to differentiate itself as a tappable object and to convey what will happen when it is activated. The new buttons approach these goals differently. Glossy 3D pixel drawing of buttons with at times confusing glyphs have been replaced with text labels differentiated by color. Approached differently, but met just as well.

Apple has been big on animations since the first version of OS X. This fixation carried over into the first versions of iOS, and version 7 extends animations across the board by integrating physics and particle engines and transforming screen elements into objects that interact with each other. All of that sounds overwhelming, but trust me when I say that the animations in iOS 7 are delightful. The only complaint I have with them is speed. They aren’t laggy, but I get the impressions that the engineers and designers behind them were a bit too proud, and wanted to everyone to see every single frame. This is one area that I think will change before iOS 7 ships this fall.

The use of Helvetica Neue Ultralight, while handsome, is overdone in iOS 7. It looks great in advertisements, but in daily use as a body font, it can be difficult to read. Light variants, like bolds, should be uses sparingly for emphasis. I think this will be fixed, though probably before this fall. The light typeface speaks to one of iOS 7’s unspoken goals: to be lighter, freer. The light typeface furthers this message, and Apple’s designers got carried away (as they’ve done with pinstripes and brushed metal prior).

Apple went too far elsewhere. In particular, icons. Overall I like them. Yes, yes I know, there went all of my credibility as a designer1. I like each individual icon better than its iOS 6-and-before counterpart. Even Safari. The icon set is simplified and vibrant. Apple erred on the side of too much simplification and too much vibrance, and I love that. These are not conservative or restrained changes. Apple went all out. My least favorite icons are the ones with pure white backgrounds. Safari, Newsstand, and Game Center feel unfinished. It’s important to remember that all of these icons will be iterated upon going forward. Design is a process.


The entire OS will be iterated upon. If you imagine the design of iOS on a pendulum, iOS 6 and before were firmly to one side of center. With 7, the pendulum has swung all the way across equilibrium and up the other side. Overall, it is closer to the center, the ideal. It’ll take more iterations to get there, but Apple will.

It would have been easier if iOS 7 looked more or less like iOS 6. If iOS 7 looked just like iOS 6 Apple would still sell hundreds of millions of devices this year. There was no need or obligation for iOS 7 to look totally different. They did it anyway. Not because they had to, but because they knew it was the way forward.

Saying I’m “proud” of Apple is lazy but I struggle find a more appropriate word. Others have said that WWDC 2013 felt like the first post-Steve Jobs keynote. iOS 7 is the first departure from Jobs-era Apple, and it’s the first big leap for Tim Cook’s Apple2. iOS 7 is a statement by Tim Cook. Steve is gone, and it’s time to move on. This is moving on.

iOS 7 is unlike anything Apple has done before, yet entirely Apple-like.


  1. Or a guy with opinions of designers. ↩︎

  2. One could argue that Scott Forstall’s ouster and Jony Ive’s promotion was the first leap, but really these are two effects of the same decision. ↩︎

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.

When Wrong Does Not Apply

R. E. Wagner:

I have great respect for Neven Mrgan as a designer. He’s an accomplished artisan and not to be trifled with. However, his post on how the design of iOS 7 icons is “wrong” is misguided and I feel the need to address why I think that is, because I often see designers get caught by this particular hobgoblin of consistency — that a design just ‘feels’ right to them without offering any rational justification.

Agreed. Mrgan, who is generally a smart guy when it comes to these things, is totally off base here. The idea that the icons are “wrong”, regardless of whether or not you like them, is absurd.

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.

Been There, Done That

Craig Hockenberry:

Some designers are saying that the new look is “over the top.” The same thing was said about Aqua over a decade ago. And in succeeding years, that original UI has continuously been refined to what we see today.

We’ve become accustomed to Apple’s incremental approach which continuously refines their products. This is typically an additive process where new features are included or existing ones are improved.

But with major user interface changes such as Aqua or iOS 7, Apple has another tendency: they overshoot the mark. Their incremental approach then becomes one where unnecessary items are removed (such as Aqua’s stripes) or improved (excessive shadows and transparency are toned down.)

Matt Gemmell on iOS 7

Matt Gemell on iOS 7:

I think it’s an enormous improvement, and a typically opinionated move.

Form and Function

Dr. Drang, with exactly what I was thinking all day long:

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a new note-taking app written by an unknown developer. It’s has a nice, clean look and is easy to use, but it has no syncing, no TextExpander support, and no URL scheme. Assuming the app got any attention at all, how much effort would Apple bloggers put into defending that design choice? How often would the phrase “data silo” be used?

Personally, I’ll take Notes.app’s ugly UI over Vesper’s flat (and in this writer’s opinion, bland) UI every day because it is on all my devices and it syncs like magic.

Choose Wisely

Neven Mrgan:

You’re building an iPhone app. There’s a button that lets the user upload a photo. When they tap it, a sheet comes up, offering two* choices: take the picture now, or picking an existing photo. How should those two buttons be labeled?

Consistency is different from uniformity. One of them is good.

Flickr and Vimeo Integration Likely in iOS 7

I don’t often link to rumors, but this one feels1 realistic. Vimeo and Flickr are already integrated into OS X and Apple TV. It actually seems odd they aren’t already sharing options on iOS.


  1. Feels, because I have zero inside knowledge. ↩︎

Original iPhone Will Soon Be ‘Obselete’ in Apple’s Eyes

Jordan Golson:

According to internal Apple documentation, the original iPhone, which first debuted in 2007, will soon enter “obsolete” status, with a few exceptions. The official switch will happen on June 11, 2013, when the iPhone, along with several other Macs and Xserve models will officially be classified as vintage and obsolete products by Apple.

Reminds me of when Sony announced they were halting manufacture of floppy disks.

The Origami Workstation for iPad

Shawn Blanc, in a review laden with excellent photography:

My Origami Workstation has seen nearly 18 months of use on the road, in coffee shops, and at the kitchen table. It continues to be the ideal typing companion to my iPad.

That’s the bottom line. The Origami is the best keyboard-attachment-thingy for the iPad, bar none. I have one, use it regularly, and it’s awesome.

BlackBerry Chief Calls iOS Outdated

Let me repeat that with emphasis:

BlackBerry chief calls iOS outdated.

Bringing iPhone Safari Up to Speed

Brent Caswell has some pretty smart ideas for sprucing up the neglected Mobile Safari experience on the iPhone. I particularly like shared bookmark streams.

The iPhone 5

Word on the street is I’m a little late with this review. Sorry about that. To answer the most pressing question: yes, the iPhone 5 is not only the best iPhone ever made, it is the best phone ever made. Period.

Last year I got my first iPhone, a 4S, and this week I upgraded that device to a 5. While I loved my 4S (still do), I am amazed by how much better the 5 is. Apple took the previous best phone ever and made every part better.

The aluminum body is stronger, lighter, and feels better in the hand. The Apple logo and legal copy on the rear of the phone are now much more subtle and beautiful. The buttons and ringer/silent switch all feel excellent. The earpiece (now with noise cancellation) sounds fantastic. The phone is exceptionally thin.

The iPhone 5 Leans on a Coke

The new display is beautiful and obviously better once used. I had doubts, before I used one, about the height being awkward, but it isn’t. There’s no going back1. Speaking of no going back, LTE is wonderful. With few bars on AT&T, I consistently get 5 Mbps down and with full bars, I’ve seen as high as 63 Mbps.

And battery life is actually improved over the 4S. When I go to bed at night, the 5 has about 30% of its juice left. That’s with 6 hours of usage, which a week ago would have killed my 4S. I don’t know how Apple added so much, made the phone smaller, and got battery life. But I’m glad they did.

OK, praise over: I have two caveats. First, while the taller is screen is awesome, I wish the physical height of the device had remained the same. Conceptually, you could fit a 4-inch screen on a phone the size of a 4/4S. Now, I am sure Apple wouldn’t have been able to make all of that fit, but I’d love to see the next form factor return to the physical height of the 4/4S.

Number two: the headphone port. It’s been relocated to the bottom in a seemingly arbitrary move. I assume this had to do with fitting everything in the device, and it isn’t a major annoyance but: prior to the 5, I never once even thought about the location of the headphone port. Now, though, I think about it every time a 3.5mm jack gets in the way of my typing.

The iPhone 5 is a huge upgrade over the 4S. I recommend to any one that can justify it to upgrade (if you haven’t already).


  1. Apple added exactly the number of pixels necessary to add exactly one row of app icons to the home screen, turning the aspect ratio to exactly 16:9. That worked out so perfectly that I’m inclined to believe this was planned from the beginning. ↩︎

Four Years With an iPhone 3G

Robert Falck has been using an iPhone 3G for four years:

The world has since long moved on to newer devices with far more capacity and capabilities than my lowly little black iPhone can muster. Yet, I still use mine and haven’t really found many reasons to upgrade.

That sounds incredible, really.

I don’t want to be pulled down into a cesspool of unnecessary consumerism and get a new device every year, just because I can.

I see. I hope you don’t eat sweets, either.

Robert then lists all of the reasons he doesn’t need to upgrade:

I really don’t understand the complaints about the plastic body back of the iPhone 3G … I think it’s one of the by far best designs I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing so far. The aesthetics of the newer iPhone models might be nicer in comparison, but … it’s hard to beat the older, smoothly rounded design of the iPhone 3G and 3GS.

…I love to write on the iPhone 3G because it forces me to write slower … This forced limitation greatly annoys me when I really need to get an idea, a paragraph, or other fragment of text out of my head fast.

…Apps have with time become a bit of a problem, simply because almost nobody makes them for the old iPhone 3G anymore.

…Video viewing is amazingly pleasant with both YouTube and streaming my movie collection via AirVideo, although I’m sure some people would be “disgusted” by the low resolution screen. For me, it’s perfectly fine and the experience lets me focus on what I’m watching, not arbitrary specifications.

…Still, I firmly believe the best camera is the one that is with you, and this camera has indeed been with me. I know the weaknesses and strengths of the camera and I just do my best to work with them.

…On its back are uncountable scratches and scuff marks, the home button is slowly starting to get less responsive, and the front glass is a fingerprint magnet.

Usually these “the new iPhone isn’t that great” posts come from Android users.

A Crazier Prediction

Marco Arment:

The theory is easy to understand: perform John Gruber’s Mini-predicting math backwards. The iPad Mini uses iPhone 3GS-density screens at iPad resolution. What if an iPhone Plus used Retina iPad screens with iPhone 5 resolution, keeping the rest of the design sized like an iPhone 5?

The reasoning is sensical, but I still don’t like the idea of an enormous iPhone. Apple following the status quo instead of doing what’s best seems off to me.

Apple Increases iPad with Retina Display to 128 GB

The new 128GB versions of the fourth generation iPad will be available starting Tuesday, February 5, in black or white, for a suggested retail price of $799 (US) for the iPad with Wi-Fi model and $929 (US) for the iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Apple Updates iOS to 6.1

6.1 is now available for download.

5 Clues iTunes 11 Leaves for iOS 7

iTunes 11 hit yesterday, after two months of waiting and one month of delays. While the underlying code may not have changed very much, visually, iTunes has received a complete makeover. I think it’s a winner, and the new interface elements give us a small picture of some of the things we can expect from iOS 7 next fall:

  1. In the default view for music, the user is presented with grid of album covers, and when clicked each album will expand in the style of springboard folders. The new Remote app for iPad mimics this behavior and I would be shocked if iOS 7 doesn’t bring this behavior to the iPad’s music app. It is so much cleaner than the present method, which pops up a modal window just like iOS 3.2 on the original iPad. Additionally, this interface would be welcomed in the iPad’s Video app, which itself feels dated and is, dare I say, ugly.
  2. Playlist creation is simplified, if a little hard to discover. Click and drag a song to the right side of the window and iTunes will give you the option to add it to a current playlist or start a new one. This would be perfect on the iPad.
  3. Cover Flow, which originated in iTunes, is gone. Did anyone ever like Cover Flow1? If I had to guess, I’d say Steve did. I would like and expect to see Cover Flow slowly vanish from the rest of Apple’s systems.
  4. And there’s Up Next, by far my favorite addition to iTunes 11. Up Next lets you put a song in a queue (or even push it to the front of the queue) of songs that will play next. When that queue runs out, iTunes will go back to playing whatever it was before, whether that be an album or a playlist or a shuffle. Of this I am most sure, that Up Next will make it into iOS 7 for both the iPhone and iPad next year2. Up Next marks the first dramatic change and improvement iTunes’s made to my music listening.
  5. Finally, MiniPlayer. Call it a wildcard, but I’d love to see something more aligned to the new MiniPlayer come to iOS. Currently, iOS places basic music controls in the multitasking bar. This widget mirrors the functionality of the old iTunes MiniPlayer with play, pause, and skip controls. iTunes 11 adds the ability to search your library and add songs to Up Next right from the MiniPlayer. These features greatly improve the music listening experience while multitasking on your Mac, and they’d be a gem on your iDevices.

  1. Seriously, when was the last time you used it, even on an iPhone? ↩︎

  2. If I’m wrong, it’ll be because Up Next is slipped into version 6.x. ↩︎

The Loop Reviews the iPad mini

Jim Dalrymple:

Now, when you’re reading a book and you touch the side of the screen, the book will think you want to change pages. And it would do that, if the iPad weren’t smart. But it is smart, so it recognizes that you are resting your thumb on the device and don’t actually want that touch to do anything. So it doesn’t. Smart.

The iPad mini sounds like a winner.

Fifth-Generation iPod touch Lacks Ambient Light Sensor

Phil Schiller, in a purported email:

The fifth generation iPod touch does not have a built-in automatic light sensor (it’s just too thin!)

This is a usability fail for Apple. The ambient sensor, especially coupled with iOS 6’s greatly improved auto-brightness feature, is a detail that makes an iOS device nice. Not necessary, but nice. You’d be smart to note that the camera stick out the back of the fifth-generation iPod touch, so perhaps Schiller’s explanation holds water. Then again, maybe the new touch really is too thin.

Lightning

Randall Munroe, for What If?:

A submarine is about as safe as a submarine safe (a submarine safe is not to be confused with a safe in a submarine—a safe in a submarine is substantially safer than a submarine safe).

You have to applaud good word play.

iOS 6

iOS 6 is here. You’ve been waiting a long while for it. I, on the other hand, was impatient and have been running the developer betas for months now. The answer to the question “should I upgrade” is a pretty simple one: yes. iOS 61 is the best version to date of your favorite mobile operating system. It can be described by a host of superlatives. But let’s skip the generalities, shall we?

The Great Google Purge

When the iPhone shipped in 2007, Apple and Google were on vastly different terms. Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, was on Apple’s board of directors and was even invited up on stage at MacWorld to talk about the two companies’ partnership. When the iPhone shipped, it included three of Google’s most important services: Maps, YouTube, and of course search.

But time change; it’s now 2012, and the Apple/Google friendship is long since over. While Google remains the default search engine in Mobile Safari, YouTube and Maps got the axe. The YouTube app, the one that’s been there since the beginning, the one that pushed for HTML5 video on the web, is gone. The Maps app is still there, but the backend has been replaced with Apple’s own. No matter what either company has to say about the situation, the message is clear: neither wants to rely on the other.

Regarding YouTube, Apple has officially stated that their licensing deal with Google ran out, and the app had to go. Whether the failure to continue that licensing deal was on Apple or Google is unknown. While some will steadfastly choose to blame whichever they hate more, the fact is we don’t know, probably won’t ever know, and there were clear motivations for both sides not to extend the contract.

Google has released their own take on the YouTube application to the App Store. While it is a significant improvement in terms of usability2 over Apple’s app, well… I hope you like ads.

With Maps, Apple had clear competitive reasons for switching their Maps database; number one being feature parity with Android’s Google Maps app. Apple has been waiting to cut Google Maps support for some time now. On July 7, 2009, Apple acquired Placebase, who specialized in mapping software. In 2010, Apple added Poly9, a company that created web-based map software. And in 2011, Apple bought C3 Technologies, a 3D mapping firm. Now, three years into the effort, we finally see the fruits of those acquisitions. iOS 6 brings an entirely new Maps application with an Apple-developed backend.

Vector-Based Mapping

Google’s maps in iOS versions 1-5 was rendered with bitmapped images at various zoom levels. On slower connections, this often resulted in pixelated images and blurry text while waiting for the next zoom level to load. With Apple’s new maps, text and map data are rendered individually and as vectors. Zooming in and out is now results in clear images whatever your data speed, and huge, fully-zoomable areas (in some cases up to 50 square miles) can be cached for offline use.

As with text, points-of-interest are now rendered in a separate layer, and for the first time in iOS, they are tappable. With the old Maps, you could zoom in on a shopping center and see a few stores, but you couldn’t tap on any of them to bring up additional information3. With the new Maps, tap on any point-of-interest and up pops the same data sheet you use to only get from searching.

Navigation

Ever since the introduction of the App Store, third party navigation apps have represented a considerable faction of the market. All of those apps just got Sherlocked. Apple has built their own navigation solution4, and it is a beauty. More importantly, it is integrated right into Maps and works as well as any of the other solutions on the market. It’s a one-hit K.O. to third parties.

Improvements to Safari

My favorite improvement Apple’s made to Safari is the removal of the alert that used to pop up whenever your iOS device had trouble connecting to a server. In iOS 6, Mobile Safari presents the user with an white page with a Safari graphic and a message explaining the problem. Much more user-friendly, much less in your face. Thank you, Apple.

Bookmarks Menu

The bookmarks popover on iPad is much improved. Previously, Reading List and History apeared as folders within your bookmarks hierarchy. Now, you get three tabs on the bottom of the popover, one each for Bookmarks, History, and Reading List. This makes much more sense, as History and Reading List are specially apart from the bookmarks system. Frustratingly and confusingly, the iPhone keeps the old way of doing things5.

iCloud Tabs

The best addition to Safari is iCloud Tabs. Like extensions and the omnibox, Safari has lagged behind others on syncing. iOS 6 paired with OS X Mountain Lion rectifies that with what Apple is calling iCloud Tabs. In this humble writer’s opinion, it is the best implementation of syncing to date.

Visible as a toolbar button the Mac and iPad, and as a folder in the iPhone’s bookmarks menu, iCloud Tabs presents itself as a list of web pages open on any Apple device logged in with your iCloud account. Tapping any of them works just as a bookmark and loads the page. Simple and intuitive, but most importantly with anything that syncs: it works. No setup required.

So the next time you find yourself looking up dinner recipes on your Mac and you leave for the grocery store without writing down a list of ingrediants, pull out your iPhone and load up the same page you have open at home on your Mac. Boom.

User Interface

Dating way back to the original iPhone and iOS (back then it was called iPhone OS) 1, you’ve had glossy blue toolbars and poignant vertical pinstrip backgrounds. Early on, all of Apple’s apps and most early third party apps used this theme. In the past couple years, however, developers and Apple-alike have been experimenting with different colors and textures for the toolbars. With iOS 6, Apple has acknowledged that gloss and pinstripes have lost favor among designers, and they’ve update all the stock UIKit widgets.

Changes to UIKit

Gloss is officially deprecated. Stock toolbars are now an appeasing gradient of blue that makes the old toolbars look dated and ugly. Seriously, use iOS 6 for a week and then try going back. Additionally, pintripes are beginning to fade away. Literally, pinstriped are now muted and dispersed in such a way that they don’t actually annoy me just for being there anymore.

While a unified interface was a big theme for Apple in 2007, five years later the trends have changed and diversification is in. The new stores introduce a black theme, the refreshed Music app brings a white variation, and the new Maps app for iPhone brings an iPad-style silver theme.

All the new themes are nice on the eyes, but leave me wondering whether Apple will pick one for the future of iOS’s interface or if the move is for an indefinite diversified GUI.

That Status Bar

The job of the status bar has always been to deliver a few essential bits of information at all time to the user. On a phone, that means signal strength indication, the time, and battery level. Although the status bar needs to be omnipresent, it should also disappear into the background when you don’t need it.

In previous versionsof iOS, there have been two status bar types: a light gray bar with colorful ideograms and black bar with monochrome ideograms. In iOS 6, the gray bar has been replaced by a chameleon bar that changes color based on and individual app’s navigation bar. This is done by sampling the bottom row of pixels from the navigation bar and averaging them, as demonstrated by developer Simon Blommegård.

It’s your host’s opinion, the status bar should be as non-intrusive as possible: when you need it, it should be obvious and clear, but when you don’t it should disappear. In the past, developers have had three options, the best of which was the black bar with gray glyphs. On black iPhones, this bar did a fine job of staying out of the way because it blended in with the device’s bezel. On iPhones with white bezels, however, it didn’t do so well. The chameleon bar takes a different approach by blending into the app itself instead of the bezel of the phone, eliminating the importance of bezel color. It is now safe to dye your iPhone pink.

That Gorgeous Settings Icon that I Never Realized Looked So Terrible Until I Saw How Good It Should Have Been From the Start

If you are reading this on an iPad or iPhone running iOS 6, then you’ve already noticed the new Settings icon. And you probably don’t need me to tell you that it is gorgeous. If you want my advice, avoid looking at the old icon for you rest of your life.

The Dock…

In 2007, OS X Leopard gave us a new, 3D-ified dock to the Mac. Some loved it and some hated it. Regardless, just this year Mountain Lion shipped with a gorgeous brushed aluminum dock that makes the Leopard dock look silly and downright stupid by comparison6. iOS, which got the Leopard dock when version 4 shipped in 2010, didn’t get updated to the new dock. If iOS 6.0.1 doesn’t rectify this situation, I’ll be pissed. If 6.1 doesn’t, I’ll probably switch to Android.

Everything Else

Here are some shorts that don’t fit in the other sections.

The New Stores

The App Store, the iTunes Store, the iBookstore, the Podcasts catalog, and the iTunes U catalog have all gained a refreshed, unified interface. While the functionality of these stores remains the same, the darker and richer color scheme definitely presents a more pleasing experience. The window chrome is now black and the bottom toolbar sports a new look with each item divided by a vertical line.

On the iPhone, each store presents a series of banners at the top, advertising for new and noteworthy apps, albums, books, or podcasts. On the iPad, these banners present in a cover-flow. On both devices, the banners can be flicked through and tapped on to reveal additional and purchasing information. On the iPad, tapping on album artwork, an app icon, or a book cover no longer jumps you to a separate page within the app with additional information. Instead, an overlay pops up with all that good stuff and purchasing options. This is similar to the way tapping on albums has always been in the iPad Music app, though notably without the flipping animation.

In my experience, the new stores seem more stable than their predecessors. Signing into accounts is much more likely to work on the first time, and buttons seem much more responsive (something the iTunes and App Stores have fought with for a long time). Best of all, tabbing back to a search now brings you back to where you had scrolled, instead of jumping you back to the top.

Unfortunately, “more stable” does not translate to “stable”. All of the stores are still rendered in HTML instead of native Cocoa, a practice even Facebook finally gave up. That means that the weird one-off glitches that we’ve been accustomed to over the years are still there, lurking behind every curve. On top of that, Apple has revamped search to take advantage of their Chomp acquisition from February, and while I personally don’t hate the new user interface, search results appear to be even less relevant than before. A search for “Twitter” brings up Instagram, and SpaceEffect FX, and Sky Burger within the top ten hits. Hopefully Apple can work that out soon, and hey, since it’s all a glorified web interface it will be really easy for them to push out those updates. So there’s that.

Passbook

There has been an increasing desire among gadget people and minimalists to have smartphones replace wallets for credit cards and other necessary cards you carry with you. While the other side is investing in near-field communications technology, Apple has been a bit more conservative with Passbook. The Passbook app shows up on the first home screen for new iPhone owners, but there’s a fear in me that it will be the Newstand of iOS 6. That is, a headline feature pushed by Apple that quickly gets relegated to the last folder on your eleventh home screen. I’m going to try to remain optimistic.

When you open Passbook, you are presented with a list of your “cards” which can be anything from gift cards to event passes to plane tickets. Anything that can be accomplished with a barcode can be accomplished with Passbook. While I haven’t been able to use it for anything real, I’ve played with the app quite a bit and I have to say it feels like the future. Everything Apple could have done with the app is there: it is attractive, it is incredibly easy for companies to make cards and deploy them, and cards can be updates on-the-fly with push.

Passbook’s success, then, will come down to who Apple can strike up partnerships with at the beginning. If they could get a few big names like Virgin America, Starbucks, and Ticketmaster on board, then maybe the idea of using an iPhone for such things will stick and then everyone else will be forced to support it. If, however, Apple can’t lock in anyone at the beginning, I foresee Passbook relegated to a slow and drawn-out death on my last home screen until something better comes along.

Shared Photo Streams

Photo Stream was announced last year as one of the means for cutting the tie between the iPhone and the PC. It allowed for instantaneous transferring of photos between your iPhone, your iPad, and your Mac. When you take a photo with either iDevice, it is instantly pushed to the other two devices. iOS 6 allows for the creation of curated Photo Streams that can then be shared to all of your friends.

This can be done in one or both of two ways: if you share a photo stream with someone running iOS 6, it’ll appear in a list of Photo Streams on that person’s iPhone, iPod touch and/or iPad. Alternatively, you can share public iCloud.com URL that will show every photo in the Stream in a nicely-laid out fashion.

Combined with Find My Friends and Facebook/Twitter integration, I think we are beginning to see the coming-together of Apple’s social network. There’s is not one that relies on a common location that everyone must go to catch up, but instead a social web of several different applications and networks with a different commonality: iPhone/iPad/iPod touch ownership7.

Panorama

The LG dumbphone I from four years ago had a panorama mode. I could take three widescreen photos and lace them together, but I had to line up each image by myself, putting such a difficult task in the hands of a human really isn’t a good idea. For that reason, I’m not surprised that a native panorama mode in iOS took so long. It is an easy thing to do, but it is a difficult thing to do right. That said, there is a healthy market of panorama apps on the Store, including great one like (my personal favorite) 360 Panorama. I confess, however, that after installing iOS 6, I have deleted all panorama apps from my phone. Panorama mode in iOS 6 is that good.

It’s been an open secret for awhile now that Apple has been working on a panorama mode for the iPhone. Hackers found it and were able to enable it in iOS 5.1, but back then it didn’t work all that well and no one questioned why it wasn’t available in the final release. Now though it works beautifully and as it should. Drag your phone across a landscape and iOS 6 takes care of it all: taking the photos, lining them up, and stitching them together into 28 megapixel stills. For the most part, the pictures turn out great.

The Phone App

The Phone app has received it’s most notable improvements since its introduction with the original iPhone. Borrowing from the lock screen Camera slider, when a new call comes in a phone slider now resides next to the answer and decline button/slide to answer slider. Swiping up on it reveals a list of options for declining the call, including sending a text to the caller or reminding you to call them back later.

The second improvement, or change really, is for the ‘real last century’ folks. The dialer has got a fresh new coat of white paint. I can’t really imagine any reason for the change other than some designer thought it looked nicer this way. I agree.

Facebook Integration

Last year, Apple added native Twitter integration to the entire OS. iOS 6 adds to this with Facebook sharing in all the same places. Additionally, Notification Center has gained a new widget with buttons to quickly tweet or post to Facebook. While it takes a week or so to get used to updating your social status from Notification Center, it really is very handy.

iPhone 5 Features

iOS 6 includes support for the brand new iPhone 5 and its taller screen. Apps that have been created with standard UIKit widgets will automatically stretch to fit the new dimensions, just like how stock widgets automatically scaled up to fit Retina resolutions back in 2010.

Games and other apps with completely custom interface will require more developer attention to get to look right on the new phone. Until then, apps for old iPhones will be letterboxed like a widescreen movie on a fullscreen TV, with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. I expect most developers to support for the new screen within a couple months.

Interestingly, Apple hasn’t announced any big iPhone 5-only software features. In the past, new iPhones have received not just new hardware but also new software features that would never see the light of day on older phones. This year, the iOS 6 is bringing the 4S very nearly up-to-par with the 5, and perhaps reducing incentives for you to upgrade. But then again, those of us who will upgrade each and every year probably aren’t thinking about one new software feature. I doubt Apple will lose sales over this.

Conclusion and a Big Fat Asterisk

While I won’t try to claim I touched on every detail of iOS 6, I think I hit many of its highlights. So my review of iOS 6 ends here, a few features short. But what fun would it be if you could stop here?


  1. Internally codenamed “Sundance” after the Sundance ski resort in Sundance, Utah. ↩︎

  2. The icon lacks, shall we say, vision. ↩︎

  3. Nothing is more frustrating then when your search didn’t present the result you had already found. ↩︎

  4. With a surprisingly long list of friends↩︎

  5. My best guess is that Apple didn’t know how to reconcile having a tabbed toolbar on a slide up pane that originated from a button on another toolbar. Look, I said it was my best guess, I didn’t say it was a good excuse. ↩︎

  6. I said aluminum, not brushed metal, and trust me when I say there is a huge difference. ↩︎

  7. That being said, I’d love to see Apple buy Twitter, hire Loren Brichter to build the native application for it, and then leave it alone. ↩︎

Video Demo of What a 4” iPhone Screen Looks Like in Action

MacRumors has a very well-made video showing the hypothetical 4”, 1136x640 screen coming up on the new iPhone, complete with catchy, Apple-y music. The only item I disagree with is that I imagine apps that make use of UIScrollView, such as Twitter for iPhone, will automatically render properly on the new iPhone.

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.

Thinking This iPad Mini Thing Even Througher

John Gruber:

Throw in cellular networking (which the Nexus doesn’t have), a rear-facing camera (which the Nexus doesn’t have), a competitive starting price on the entry-level Wi-Fi-only model, the App Store’s superior software selection, and worldwide availability (the Nexus 7 is available only in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom so far), and yeah, I’d say the prospects look OK for Apple in the small tablet market.

John follows up to his earlier piece with more speculation about the iPad mini.

John’s big week has been productive. Defomicron is young and heavily inspired by Daring Fireball. John Gruber’s put on a magnificent show for the past ten years, and I can’t wait for the next ten. Thank you, John, and congratulations.

The iPad Mini

Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg:

The new model will have a screen that’s 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally, less than the current 9.7-inch version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public. The product, which Apple may announce by October, won’t have the high-definition screen featured on the iPad that was released in March, one of the people said.

There is a lot of smoke billowing around this idea, so much that I know an Apple 7” tablet must be coming. The consensus thus far is that it will have a 7.85”, 1024x768 screen, and it will run iPad apps.

As John Gruber points out, that screen makes sense because it will use nearly identical tooling to the iPhone 3GS, which by now Apple can do very affordably.

My question, though, is this: why would Apple release a brand new product without a Retina display, particularly when they could do it so easily? Why wouldn’t they use iPhone 4 panels cut to size and have a 7”, 2048x1536 display running Retina iPad apps? Apple has been manufacturing (or at least buying) that display for three years now. I would think they’re pretty affordable by now.

On iOS 6’s Omnibox Omission

A few people have been talking lately about Mobile Safari lacking an omnibox in iOS 6, despite the equivalent desktop Safari (coming in Mountain Lion) finally getting the feature pioneered by Google’s Chrome. At first I also thought it mysterious, but in processing it, I think that Apple has good reason for this “omission”.

One of the things Steve Jobs emphasized in his 2007 MacWorld keynote was the iPhone’s dynamic soft keyboard. When the user needs to enter a phone number, the keyboard is a number pad. When the user needs to enter an email address, the keyboard sprouts ‘@’ and ‘.com’ keys. And when the user doesn’t need the keyboard at all, it disappears.

So in Mobile Safari, when a user taps on the domain field, up pops a keyboard with specialized keys (period, forward slash, TLD) in lieu of the spacebar. This makes sense, as URLs don’t contain spaces but often have periods and forward slashes, and always have a TLD. But when the user taps on the search field, the standard iOS keyboard appears to fulfill all space-ful and .com-less Boolean desires.

If these two fields were unified, which keyboard would be presented to the user? The omnibox works on the desktop where there’s a physical, fixed keyboard. On a touchscreen, with the standard iOS keyboard behaviors, the omnibox doesn’t work. Chrome for iOS solved this by adding a row to the top of the standard keyboard with URL-specific keys. That may sound ideal, but in practice that extra row is kludgy and inelegant. Adding an extra row is common practice among text editors, but even there I’m not fond of it.

Further, whereas on the desktop switching between the two fields involves hitting the tab key or moving the mouse, on a touchscreen the user has to tap a field either way. Having a singular field really doesn’t speed anything up for the user.

The omission of the omnibox in Mobile Safari isn’t so much of an omission as it is a feature. Based on the standard behavior of iOS and the good design sense of Apple’s designers, I think it was a conscious decision on their part. I think—and I think Apple would agree—using two fields results in a better user experience than an omnibox could offer.

Signs Suggest Simpler Sharing in iOS 6

Lex Friedman, for MacWorld:

As we’ve reported, iOS 6 employs a new screen when you tap to share content. Where iOS 5 presents a long list of tappable buttons for sharing, say, a photo (Tweet, iMessage, Email, and so on), iOS 6 instead presents a grid of icons. And for some services—like Twitter, Mail, iMessage, and Facebook—iOS 6 uses the icon from the directly related app in question.

That sheet of sharing actions—which some just might call an Action Sheet—looks awfully simple to expand. But why would you want to?

While this would be awesome, the fact is that if it were going to be a feature, developers would already know about it and would already have told is. This isn’t the kind of thing that Apple would reveal right before launch.

But the new Action Sheet UI (which, by the way, is expandable definitely looks like its mean to support third parties, in the same way that it is now clear that all along the iPhone was meant for third party apps. Don’t rule it out for iOS 7.

Breaking: iTunes 11 Will Indeed Support iOS 6

Mark Gurman, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Apple is working on iTunes 11 as a version of iTunes that supports their upcoming iOS 6 release and future devices. Apple typically releases new versions of iTunes alongside major new OS’s and mobile devices. While iTunes 11 is built as an iOS 6 compatible-release, according to sources, iTunes 11 could very well be a release coming farther down the road, and Apple could very well release another iTunes 10.x point update as a simple iOS-6-compatiblity release. One source calls that the more likely situation.

OK, so Apple intends to build an updated version of iTunes to support the next version of iOS, and it may or may not be called iTunes 11? Great detective work, Mr. Holmes.

Let Siri Find Airplanes Over Your Head

Dave Caolo:

It will use your phone’s GPS location and Wolfram’s flight path trajectory data to identify planes in your area. You’ll receive each flight’s speed, heading, and altitude (with a five-minute delay) from the Federal Aviation Commission‘s real-time trajectory data, as well as airplane type and slant distance, which is the exact angle between your iPhone and the plane. Finally, a sky map provides a visual overview.

Very cool, though I’m not sure I agree with his use-case. Are there other secret Siri features leveraging Wolfram’s databases?

163

A. T. Faust III at App Advice explains why the oft-reported 7.85-inch iPad screen makes so much sense. He makes an excellent point, though I’m not sure I completely agree with his conclusion.

New iPad Tops Three Million

Damn.

John Gruber Reviews the iPad (3)

John Gruber:

Pixels pixels pixels. Battery battery battery. Speed speed speed.

John reviews the new iPad not by specs but by experience. Which is just how Apple rolls.

Apple and Their Maps

More information on Apple’s use of OpenStreetMap in the new iOS version of iPhoto. One thing of note: Apple’s map tiles are really, really, ugly.

iPad Preorders Sell Out

Apple, in a statement released to USA Today:

Customer response to the new iPad has been off the charts and the quantity available for pre-order has been purchased. Customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date.

Disappointing, as usual.

The New iPad’s Most Revolutionary Feature Is Its Battery

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:

Between the release of the iPad 2 last year and the announcement of the new iPad yesterday, Apple has nearly doubled the capacity of the battery, taking it from 25Wh to a massive 42Wh. Measured in milliamps this boosts the battery from 6944 mAh to a monstrous 11,666 mAh.

The next iPhone is going to be really great.

iPad vs. MacBook Air and iMac

Horace Dediu:

The new iPad now exceeds the total display resolution, has similar speed and storage capacity while having twice the battery life of the thinnest laptop of four years ago.

The next iPhone is going to be great.

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.

Only Apple

John Gruber:

No other company could today produce something like this new iPad. Not at these prices, at these quantities, at a worldwide scope, with a content ecosystem and user experience of the iPad’s quality. Apple is in a league of its own, and the iPad exemplifies it.

They Got It Right the First Time

Linus Edwards:

The only thing Apple has done since the original iPhone is refined it, cut off excess fat, streamlined the design, added storage, added processor speed, added cell speed, and increased the screen resolution. None of these were completely mind blowing and revolutionary changes, they were incremental improvements. Yet, that is only because Apple got the design of the original iPhone right, they nailed the fact smart phones in the next decade will be large touch screens with minimal buttons.

Remember that as you type away furiously about your disappointment. Seriously, what did you expect?

The Little Things

Some small things I’ve noticed about all the new software released today:

Want a tip? Open your RSS reader of choice, right-click on your technology folder, and hit “mark all as read”. The pundits (read: nimrods) will be screaming about what a let down the new iPad is for at least a week, but trust me: they’re going to sell a lot.

iOS Ebb and Flow

Chris Suave:

iOS 5 captured approximately 75% of all iOS users in the same amount of time it took Gingerbread to get 4% of all Android users. Even more astounding is that 15 weeks after launch iOS 4 was at 70% and iOS 5 was at 60% while Ice Cream Sandwich got to just 1% share at the same age. If there were any question as to whether iOS had a less fragmented ecosystem than Android, the past two charts provide a fairly definitive answer.

This article could more accurately be titled “The Ebb of Android and the Flow of iOS”. New Android phones are still coming out running year-old operating systems. That’s like Apple selling an iPhone 3GS running iOS 4 that cannot be upgraded. It’s also insane.

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.

March 7, Yerba Buena

Apple:

We have something you really have to see. And touch.

That looks like a Retina display.

Why a New iOS Home Screen Is a Big Deal

Shawn Blanc:

I don’t see Apple just stealing ideas from Android and Windows Phone and implementing “live widgets” onto the iOS Home screen. When they update the Home screen they’ll have skated to where the puck is going to be.

That’s nice. So’s this. But no one seems to have any idea just how it could be made any better.

Launchpad came out last year for Lion, and it’s the same in Mountain Lion. And it’s just like SpringBoard. I can’t imagine it changing anytime soon (for the record, I have zero problems with it).

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. ↩︎

Potato, Potato

Chuck Skoda:

Unification is a great word, and I think it is pretty representative of how Apple is trying to forge ahead. However, the fact remains that today, the way that iOS and OS X are converging is by OS X taking lots of cues from iOS, and not so much the other way around. Call it iOS-ification, unification, or whatever else you want.

He hits the nail; it’s a semantic issue, really. Calling iPads “PC”s should probably relegated by the same fallacy.

iOS Permissions Dialogs

Marco Arment:

If an app wants access to all of these, it usually barrages users with a stack of dialogs on its first launch. The barrage-of-dialogs approach, like Windows Vista’s security warnings, isn’t great: users get overwhelmed or annoyed and just start carelessly dismissing all of them without reading them.

Yes, and…

Conscientious developers can usually avoid showing multiple dialogs in a row by only showing them when the data is needed — for instance, I don’t ask for location access unless (and until) a customer selects the automatic-dark-mode setting.

That’s the key to making the permissions works: only ask when necessary, and only ask once.

iOS ‘86

What would iOS look like in 1986?

Apple Will Correct Contact API Usage

Tom Neumayr, Apple spokesman:

Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines. We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.

Good.

Wall Street Journal Says LTE iPad 3

Spencer E. Ante and Jessica E.Vascellaro:

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. will sell a version of the coming iPad that runs on their newest fourth-generation wireless networks, according to people familiar with the matter, as the battle to cash in on big investments in mobile broadband heats up.

The Wall Street Journal has been hit and miss, in my experience. Sometimes they hit it right on the head, sometimes they miss wildly.

This time, I have a hunch they’re right.

iPad 3, March 7

Rene Ritchie narrows down the date.

‘PC’

Hello, I’m a Mac.

And I’m a PC.

Those familiar words headlined the “Get A Mac” ad campaign, one of Apple’s most memorable and most-parodied. Those ads popularized the misnomer of referring to Wintels as “PCs” and Macintoshes as “Macs”. People developed the idea that Macs weren’t PCs, even though by definition they are and were. For that, I hate the term “PC”. It’s had so many meanings over the years that it’s evolved into a convoluted and ambiguous mess.

The latest debate over PCs has been whether or not the iPad should be classified as one. Wait a second — so we’ve gone from Macs being totally different than PCs to Apple’s crowning achievement, the iPad, being steadfastly defended as one by its biggest fans. Well I’ll tell you right now: the iPad is not a PC.

Yes, the iPad is personal. Yes, the iPad is a computer. It is a personal computer, but it is not a PC. Put another way, all PCs are personal computers, but not all personal computers are PCs. A PC has a keyboard, a monitor, and a mouse or trackpad (or nub). An iPad is meant to be used with exactly one of those things. A PC has a big hard drive and lots of RAM and is open to all kinds of software and hardware. An iPad has a small flash drive, minimal RAM, and is famously closed.

Here’s the biggest hole in the “iPad as a PC” argument: if you’re going to say that the iPad should be classified a PC, then how can you say that the iPhone shouldn’t? You can’t. The iPad and the iPhone have much more in common than the iPad and PCs. They run the same operating system, are controlled via the same means, and do pretty much all the same things. But it sounds absurd to label a cell phone as a PC. That’s because it is.

The iPhone is not a PC, it’s a smartphone. Similarly, the iPad is not a PC, it’s a tablet — not a “Tablet PC”, mind you, but a completely separate, two-year-old category of device. It’s hard for us to think of the iPad being in a distinct category because the category is so tiny. As Marco Arment said fourteen months ago: “There really isn’t much of a tablet market. There’s an iPad market.”

Does that mean that the iPad can’t replace a PC? Absolutely not. Does that mean that the PC industry has nothing to worry about? Hell no. The iPad will and has in fact already begun to replace PCs, but that’s the key: it’s replacing PCs, it isn’t becoming one. Jobs himself said at the D8 conference almost two years ago, “I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them, and this is going to make some people uneasy.” Clearly he did not mean that iPads are going to be like trucks and less people are going to need them. He sets a clear distinction between PCs and iPads. PCs are on their way out, and iPads are on their way in.

PCs are the devices of yesteryear; tablets are the devices of tomorrow. The iPad is the future, and it isn’t going to up and become the past. I think Steve Jobs would be ashamed of all those calling the iPad a PC. With the iPhone and later the iPad, he wasn’t aiming to reinvent the “PC”, he was aiming to revolutionize “personal computing”. He did.

iPad 3 in Early March

John Paczkowski:

Sources say the company has chosen the first week in March to debut the successor to the iPad 2, and will do so at one of its trademark special events.

Retina Display, A6 chip, early March. Count on it.

Calendar Data is Freely Shared As Well

@Hunter:

Also calendar data. That’s also freely available without a user consent.

This isn’t a “feature request”, Apple. It’s a bug report. And since complaining means a lot more when accompanied with a helpful suggestion, here you go: Location Services, Push Notifications, and a new Contacts & Calendars Access panel get grouped under a single “Permissions” list item in Settings.

iOS Address Book Should Prompt the User for Permission

Marco Arment, on the very thing I discussed yesterday:

Apple needs to change the Address Book API to require user permission first, like Core Location and Push Notifications do. I don’t care how many applications break as a result. Not requiring user permission to date should be treated as a security hole and patched promptly.

And he’s a developer using the contact API.

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.

Siri Accounts for 1/4 of Wolfram Alpha Queries

The additional use of Wolfram Alpha’s technology because of Siri has caused the company’s staff to grow to 200 people.

While I don’t know how much of an increase it is “to 200”, I’d still say that’s impressive on Apple’s part. Good for both of them.