Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger. Chills easily.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Feedly,

Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlist

Sophia Ciocca:

This Monday — just like every Monday— over 100 million Spotify users found a fresh new playlist waiting for them. It’s a custom mixtape of 30 songs they’ve never listened to before but will probably love. It’s called Discover Weekly, and it’s pretty much magic.

I’ve mentioned Spotify’s playlists before. They are incredible. They are magic.

Side note: While I was enjoying the synergy of Apple Music we’ve decided to switch back to Spotify today. It is just way, way too good at surfacing music. Also, it is much much faster and syncs better across devices.

Jason Snell on Twitterrific for Mac

Jason Snell:

I started using Twitter because of Twitterrific for Mac. When the Iconfactory first released the app, I signed up for a Twitter account and started chatting with my friends. That was ten years ago.

Ditto. I actually started using Twitter via SMS in 2006 then saw it bloom at SXSW in 2007 but then when I saw Twitterrific in 2007-2008 it became a daily (heck, hour-by-hour) habit.

Twitterrific for Mac


The Twitter app for people who actually use Twitter. Now all-new for macOS.

Imagine if Twitter cared as much about their desktop and mobile apps (and the people who used them) as Iconfactory does.


SnapThread by Becky Hansmeyer:

Portrait video compilations made easy—that’s what SnapThread is all about.

Like SnapChat without the network. I’ve long held that SnapChat and Instagram have the best UIs but it is a shame they aren’t just an app. Apple tried to solve this with Clips but that is only square-crop. This app could be very useful.

The Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone

Jeremy Keith:

I’m always shocked when I’m out and about with someone who has their phone set up to notify them of any activity—a mention on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, or worst of all, an email. The thought of receiving a notification upon receipt of an email gives me the shivers.

Me too.

I thought this might be a good time to bring this topic of notifications back up. Not only because Jeremy wrote about it but also because I now own an Apple Watch – which may seem counter intuitive to this whole distraction free discussion.

However, I’ve found the Apple Watch to be a lovely little device that can easily be set up to unobtrusively notify you of important things. In fact, I believe it is less obtrusive than an mobile phone.

I have a few notifications turned on for my phone:

  • Text messages – I get very few of these
  • Calendar reminders – I live by these
  • Dark Sky rain alerts – I like to keep dry
  • Night Sky condition and object alerts – I heart the universe

I am not notified of any social network activity or emails. Those things I dive into when I feel like it.

With this set up I feel I’m very rarely distracted by a notification. And now with the Watch, I can say I’m less distracted during a conversation with the persons in front of me physically.

Here is a scenario: you’re have a chat with someone and you get a text message alert. Your phone either makes an audible noise or it vibrates and the screen illuminates. The other person saw and/or heard the alert. So now they know your brain is wondering what that alert could be. Even if you don’t break eye contact with that other person, they know and you know you have a message waiting. With the Apple Watch I get a gentle tap on the wrist when I’ve gotten a text message. The screen does not illuminate. The other person doesn’t know I’ve gotten an alert. I’m able to stay present and check the alert when there is a break in the conversation. In this way, I think the Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone.

Microsoft releases Edge on iOS and Android

Joe Belfiore:

Introducing Microsoft Edge for iOS/Android and Microsoft Launcher for Android, two apps designed to make it easy to move what you’re working on between your phone and PC.

Great move. Likely tons of Surface users that also have iPhones and definitely have Android devices.

The Launcher is an interesting move. I’m anxious to see if they continue to improve it. Facebook made one years ago and gave up on it in very short order.

Ryan Lau on iOS 11’s inconsistencies

Ryan Lau:

The unfinished feeling in iOS 11 mostly comes from UI and animation. UI elements in iOS are quite inconsistent, mixing a variety of UI elements, which might look quite similar but introduce a disconnected feeling for UX. The inconsistency of those elements majorly stems from those UI element updated in iOS 11, such as Large Title and new Search Bar. In my opinion, those newly introduced elements, which might be unfamiliar and new even to Apple engineers, have caused many inconsistent UI experience in iOS 11.

I’m using the public beta of iOS 11.1 on my iPhone and iPad and, as of this writing on Tuesday, October 3, many of these examples are still plaguing iOS 11. Many people won’t notice these types of things but as software designers once we see them it is impossible to ignore them.

I’ll bet that most of these inconsistencies will take several iterations of iOS 11 to clean up. Meaning, it won’t be in this calendar year.

Dave Mark on Apple Music

Dave Mark, writing for The Loop:

To me, the biggest issue with Apple Music is the depth of the user experience. For example, with For You, the on-boarding is primitive, at best. I never felt steered towards my deepest musical tastes. And as I listened to music, even as I diligently favorited my best loved tunes, I never felt that For You really got me.

As someone who came from Spotify to Apple Music I can say that Dave is right on. Apple Music is terrible at recommendations and even worse at surfacing music through Playlists. When you use Spotify for even a short period of time you realize the competition isn’t even close.

Apple has one advantage currently; integrated lock-in. You’re part of Apple’s ecosystem. But they really need to step up their game.

Browser struggle

In the opening scene of It Might Get Loud, Jack White fashions himself an instrument from a single guitar string, a glass Coke bottle, a piece of wood, and a few nails. He goes on to describe how he appreciates an instrument that he has to physically struggle with in order to force it to perform. He also appreciates constraints while on stage. One of his bands, The White Stripes, limited their color palette for their brand and their music was all composed using a single guitar and a set of drums (though they did meander a bit from time-to-time for special occasions).

The constraints breed creativity. Much like an artist living within the bounds of their medium by forcing themselves to use their tools in ways not thought of before. Stretching, pulling, twisting.

For some odd reason I’m reminded of these constraints, this struggle, this art whenever I switch internet browsers.

To most people an internet browser isn’t something they choose to use. In fact, they use whatever comes on the device they own. If they switch to a new one it is because they were forced to or that they switched on accident.

To a web developer an internet browser is more than just the way we can view the web. It is one of the primary tools that helps us to build the web. So while just about any web browser should be fine to use for most people – a web developer like myself comes with a set of requirements above and beyond that of the common surfer.

While feature parity has settled into the browser market for the most part, there are extremely subtle yet key differences between them all. If I were forced to list all of the nuances between the browsers such as how they handle tabs, bookmarks, page rendering, etc. I’d be here for days.

Here are some very broad descriptions of the primary browsers:

Safari comes on pre-installed the Mac and seemingly puts the user’s privacy and attention at the forefront. It is seamlessly integrated on both desktop and mobile. It is also the most popular browser on mobile*.

Edge comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and isn’t available to me on desktop or mobile. While Microsoft has made enormous strides since ditching Internet Explorer I have no idea what edge Edge has. I haven’t seen huge claims made by them and I don’t know what the browser itself stands for. But, I’d wager that a large portion of Windows 10 users use that browser without even knowing it. So long as Edge works well and has enough features for Windows 10 users – most users won’t need to shop around for a new browser. Unfortunately, I cannot use it.

Chrome is the most popular browser in the world on the desktop. Mostly due to the popularity of Google Search, Google Docs, and Gmail. These three services have billions of monthly active users – each – and if you’re using any other browser except Chrome you’ll be “reminded” to download it. Also, Google has a few Chrome-only features that inevitably get people to make the switch. It is also pre-installed on many Android devices. It is very good and while I’d have a small list of asks on desktop my biggest request on mobile would be to be able to set it as my primary browser – unfortunately Apple doesn’t allow that**.

Firefox is open source and presumably cares the most about the open web. Its development is by far the most transparent of the browsers (though Apple, Google, and Microsoft do an excellent job of making their development fairly transparent) and just about anyone can contribute to the project. Firefox’s footprint in the market, however, is tiny in comparison to its competition. The latest releases seem to be leaps forward for Firefox.

There are more browsers; Opera, Brave, Tor, Konqueror, etc. but these are relatively small userbases*** and I’ve never used any of them for any length of time other than to see if they were usable.

Lately Apple is claiming that Safari is the fastest browser available. A claim each web browser maker claims with nearly each release of their software. It is sort of like having a few friends with similar dates of birth. Someone is always a few days older than the other for a few short days until everyone is the same age again. This is what it is like with speed and web browsers. One may be “the fastest” today but the other will catch up next week.

For the last few weeks I’ve been using Firefox and there are several small niggles that I have that prompted me to write, and rewrite and rewrite, this post. It is what reminded me of this struggle. This bending and twisting of metal and wood in order to get the browser to do what I need it to. I started out creating a list of things Firefox would need to do in order to have me as a user fulltime – some examples include allowing me to use my mouse’s features, enabling macOS dictionary lookup, being the default browser on iOS, etc. But then I backed off of that and realized it will always be a bit of a struggle. I’ll always switch back and forth between browsers. I’ll have a favorite. And that will change.

I’d bet Jack White has never found the perfect guitar. He has a favorite today and it may change tomorrow. Today I’m using Firefox. Tomorrow who knows? And that’s fine.


* Chrome has more installs on mobile, iOS has far more usage.

** Can someone please sue Apple over this already?

*** Opera seems to have a huge marketshare in mobile in places like India and Africa.

First day with Apple Watch Series 3 (audio)

Recorded on September 22, 2017.

I’ve been writing a lot about the Apple Watch Series 3. So, of course, you want to hear me yack about it. Enjoy.


Apple Watch sales so far

Horace Dediu, doing what he does best:

Overall, about 33 million Apple Watch units have been sold since launch and they generated about $12 billion in sales. Coupled with a 95% customer satisfaction score, altogether, this has been a great success story. But only 2.5 years in, it’s still act one.

An incredible beginning for this product.

Side note: I don’t blame people for comparing the Apple Watch to, say, Rolex because Apple themselves are the ones that brought it up. But I don’t feel it is an oranges to oranges comparison. I do not view the Apple Watch as the same product as a Rolex. I have a lot more to say about this but I’ll save it for an upcoming post.

Marco Arment on needed watchOS updates

Marco Arment:

But limitations in watchOS 4 make it impossible to deliver standalone podcast playback with the basic functionality and quality that people expect.

His post focused on updates that are needed for podcast apps to make sense on watchOS.

After using the Apple Watch Series 3 while traveling for the weekend I expect to see a massive OS update from Apple in watchOS 4.1 and 4.2 to enable much more capabilities for developers through APIs. The Series 3 is not being fully tasked by the third-party apps currently. Not by a long shot.

How to save battery life on the Apple Watch Series 3

Follow me on Twitter. And be sure to read my blog.

The following tips are very likely no-brainer battery saving tips for most of you and I’ve only used my Apple Watch Series 3 for a single day so feel free to completely ignore me. However! Here is my current strategy for saving battery power:

  • Only turn on Cellular when needed – If I have my phone with me or I’m home, I’m turning off cellular. If I go for a hike or a walk or a paddle, and I do not bring my phone along, I’ll flip up from the bottom of the watchface and turn on cellular in Control Center. Simple. I gain tons of battery power and I lose nothing.
  • Turn off Raise to Wake – This will be a controversial choice. I know we all want Apple to figure out how to leave the watchface on in some way, but for me the sheer number of “wakes” that the watch does compared to the actual number of times I look at it is staggering. A very, very gentle tap turns the watchface on.

By doing these two things I seem to be getting far, far better battery life than all of the reviewers thus far. And, I haven’t really lost anything in the meantime.

I’m seeing some reviews for the Apple Watch Series 3 that complain about the watch apps, such as Uber or Lyft, still relying on the iPhone app. Remember, no developers have had this watch yet. Give them 90 days and they’ll all use cellular.

Austin Mann’s iPhone 8 Plus camera review

Austin Mann:

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

As per usual for Austin, he does an excellent job highlighting the capabilities of the latest iPhone’s camera system. The results are gorgeous.

One thing I take away after pouring over his entire review; we’re at a point now where every single adjustment and improvement that Apple makes to this camera system is seemingly subtle but has dramatic results. 

For example, the new file formats are invisible to the user yet save 50% space on both device and in the cloud. As someone who paid Apple for 1TB of iCloud storage (which they recently upped to 2TB for free) and who stores nearly 100,000 photos and videos … this means I will be able to store four times the amount I was able to before this update. This is a marvel at nearly every level of technology – hardware, software, and file system.

Other examples are HDR in Portrait mode, the new Lighting effects (which is one of the most practical uses of ARKit that I’ve seen yet), the Lock Camera setting, the new “smarter sensor”, etc. When you see Austin’s photos the improvements are absolutely stunning. You can tell he is even surprised by the results.

I’ve long been impressed at the camera system in the iPhone. It is my primary reason to upgrade from one iPhone to another each time I do. But we’re now in a territory where Apple will soon be selling not just the most popular camera in the world, but the best camera in the world.

/via Matthew Panzarino on Twitter.

Pre-Apple Watch chat (audio)

Listen to me ramble on about the Apple Watch for a few minutes.


iPhone X’s new margins

Brian Voong on his excellent YouTube channel Let’s Build That App:

With the introduction of iPhone 10, we as developers are now faced with another option for our apps to be displayed in. Fortunately, Apple has provided us with the necessary APIs to get around the unsafe regions of this phone. We do this by using the new safeAreaLayoutGuide anchors in our code. Enjoy.

Great overview of the very easy to implement adjustments.

Side note: If you’re jumping into iOS development I highly recommend subscribing to this channel and going back through his videos. It is a trove.



Personalize the look of your Apple Watch™ Sport with WatchDots™. Available in a variety of colors, WatchDots™ are precision cut, durable and thin. This is how the Apple Watch™ Sport should look.

Personally, I have no issue with the red dot on the Series 3. We’ll see what I think once I have one in my hands.

Serenity Caldwell on Apple Watch Series 3 “LTE issues”

Serenity Caldwell:

In any case, no, this isn’t a problem with the watch’s Cellular service. It’s an existing issue that’s just suddenly become extremely relevant.

Glad to see that it is very likely going to be solved in short order. My bet is that there are a few people at Apple that are going to pull a few all-nighters to get an update to us by next week. We’ll see if I’m right.

That being said, my iPhones have all had a similar problem. If Wifi signal is weak, or is fully connected but there is no connection to the Internet through that network, then it does a terrible job switching to LTE. Perhaps this is more a bug in how Apple handles this on all of their devices. Maybe now it will get some attention.

John Gruber on Apple Watch Series 3

John Gruber:

Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular networking completely alleviates this anxiety. It is not a replacement for a phone, and is not supposed to be. But it lets you leave your phone at home when you go for a run, or in your locker while you’re at the gym, or in your hotel while you go to the beach, and not worry in the least that you’re out of touch.

I can’t remember a time I’ve been so excited to not have my phone.

Reviews are beginning to trickle in – both in text and on YouTube – and I’ve been paying close attention. The Apple Watch clearly isn’t for everyone. And cellular is for even less people. But overall, people love the watch.

Eliza has had a Series 0* since they day they came out. She wears it nearly every day, it is her only watch at this point, and she’s using it more and more as the software gets better. So Apple is definitely iterating in the proper direction. It reminds me so much of the original iPhone (even the way it is aging) I can’t even describe it.

I’ve never used an Apple Watch** but I’m excited to try one. I’ll be sure to let you know how necessary the device is once I’ve had it for a month or two.

John also mentions that he’d like to see a camera and an always-on display in an upcoming version of the Apple Watch. If there was one more feature that I could request of the Apple Watch it would be the always-on display. Perhaps a forward-facing camera for Facetime makes a lot of sense but I do not think I’d ever expect the Apple Watch to have a camera you’d take vacation photos with. Unless, of course, you’re a spy – then obviously you need the camera in the watch to take photos of Top Secret documents.

* Believe it or not, the Series 3 is actually Apple’s fourth iteration of the Apple Watch hardware. It is likely very confusing to people that don’t pay close attention to these things. The current offerings are Apple Watch Series 1, Series 3, and Series 3 with cellular. It sounds as if Series 1 is very old compared to the 3 but in reality it is only about a year old. Apple hasn’t been doing very well with names lately.

** Obviously I’ve toyed with Eliza’s. In fact, recently I’ve been putting it through its paces in the evenings learning the menus and options in preparation for when I get my Series 3. They’ve made the watch very customizable.