Menu

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Please turn on Do Not Disturb When Driving!

Jason Snell for Six Colors:

iPhone users, well, there’s still great stuff there—Do Not Disturb When Driving is going to make the world safer—but it’s a bit less of a world-shaker.

Not a world shaker? This isn’t a ho-hum, hum-drum update for iPhone. This is going to save a ton of lives, injury, heartache, and money. I wish every single review led with strong advice to turn this feature on immediately.

I cannot stress enough that people turn this feature on today. Please please please.

Tom Dale: “Compilers are the new frameworks”

Tom Dale, Senior Staff Software Engineer at LinkedIn and co-creator of Ember.js, in a post where he argues that compilers are the new web frameworks:

Native code tends to have the luxury of not really caring about file size—a small 40MB iOS app would get you laughed out of the room on the web. And AAA game titles accept minutes-long load times in exchange for consistent 60fps performance, but I shudder to think what a 30 second load time would do to the conversion rate of your e-commerce site, 60fps or not.

While I agree with most of his post, that compilers are becoming increasingly more a part of a web developers workflow and thus becoming very important to learn, this particular bit isn’t a fair one-to-one comparison in my opinion.

Web apps do not need to pre-load every single asset onto the device prior to running. If you were to weigh a fully native app next to its counterpart web app* you’d likely get a very similar result. It is just that a native app is downloaded mostly all at once and a web app can be loaded as needed.

But his point remains, more and more web apps are looking more like native apps. They are compiled, loaded, and completely obfuscated from the source code they originally started out at. I’m not sure if I feel this is good or bad for the web. But I do know that the barrier to entry in web development is higher than ever.

* Most web apps that have a direct counterpart on a mobile platform share lots, if not all, code these days so these comparisons are getting tougher and tougher to do fairly.

E19: Launching Summit’s public beta

Recorded on August 23 2017.

A quickly captured audio bit while walking to get a coffee the day after launching Summit’s public beta.

Download MP3.

Pedometer++ 3.0

_DavidSmith:

I’ve been steadily working on Pedometer++ now for nearly four years. Over that time the core conceit of the app has remained the same, to motivate you to be more active. It has done this with colors, confetti, complications and streaks. Now I’ve added another tool to hopefully motivate, achievements!

Pedometer++ continues to be my favorite step counter*. I’m looking forward to trying out this latest release.

* Yes, I’m building Summit, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still use Pedometer++ and Map My Walk. Each of these apps play a different role. I hope to make Summit good enough to fill a role for others too. But not the same role as Pedometer++. Even though the number one feature request is that I add more stats – that isn’t what Summit is about.

Colin Walker on the Summit beta

Colin Walker:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve spent beta testing Summit and look forward to the new builds.

Colin has provided excellent feedback on Summit. So have so many of the beta testers. I too am looking forward to publishing new builds.

If you’re on the beta list (which you can get on by putting your email address in the form on this page) and you haven’t gotten Build 15 yet – please let me know. Build 16 is due mid-September.

Presenting at the August 2017 Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup

The Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup is an excellent community in the Lehigh Valley that meets monthly at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners incubator within the Lehigh University Mountaintop campus. The community around the meetup is excellent and the building is amazing*.

While the tail-end of my presentation walked through my experience building my first iOS app Summit, the majority of my presentation was focused on helping early stage companies think about their go to market strategies.

I’m currently advising several companies, a few of which are businesses built around mobile apps, and have heard about 11 other start-up pitches this year so far. And during that time I’ve noticed a trend. Entrepreneurs that are attempting to build a business around an app sometimes underestimate the amount of thought that should go into the marketing and sales strategy for the app. It is as if some feel that apps are less thought and work than products that you can touch. So during my presentation at LVTech I hoped to convey that the same “boring” (yet, tried and true) business practices that apply to products also apply to software.

A few questions I urged those thinking about building a business around an app were:

  • Does your idea service a large enough segment of the market? We hear the “scratch your own itch” mantra a lot. However, it won’t always lead to finding hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of customers.
  • How will you reach those customers?
  • Are there ways to expand your idea into other products or services that can be sold to the same segment?
  • How will you sell or package your idea?
  • What will the price be? (free, one-time payment, subscription, service contracts)
  • What channels can you leverage to sell your idea? (App Store, retail, online, conferences, distributorships, via a sales force)

By considering these, and may other questions, you can determine if your idea has enough layers to support an entire business or if you just have an app idea**.

I also briefly discussed three misconceptions I’ve been seeing over the last year dealing with very early stage start-ups. These misconceptions were:

  • Press-based launch strategies: some thing that by being covered by press will be enough to get them to profitability. They have no other strategy. On the contrary, getting press coverage early on will give you very muddy analytics which will make decision marking very difficult. Very seldom are the tech audience your real customers.
  • How long until profitablilty: More and more entrepreneurs begin with the plan of losing money for 3 or more years. I believe this stems from press coverage of other companies getting large rounds of funding. Most businesses should strive for profitability within the first quarter or year of business.
  • ”I’m not technical, I need a technical co-founder”: Don’t be this person. Anyone can learn to code. Geeks are not smarter than you. They’re just interested and relentless. Be the same.

We then did about 10 minutes or so of questions and answers. The questions I got were really great and I appreciate all those in attendance helping me with the answers to the questions I didn’t have much experience in.

Thanks to Tim Lytle for the invitation to speak and to Ben Franklin Technology Partners for the continued support.

* I worked in this same building for years while at Viddler. But when I worked there the back half of the building didn’t exist. In fact, Viddler started in Jordan Hall – the building just beside the new building. And now, they are extending it even further. The building is an amazing place to work and have a meetup of this kind. I’m jealous that our incubator in Scranton feels so dated when compared to this building. Especially comparing the meeting spaces.

** It it totally fine to “just have an app idea”. I do. And I’m loving working on it. But it is also good to have the proper perspective about your app idea.

Summit – The Adventurous Step Counter

This evening, at a presentation at the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, I’m opening up public beta access to my new iOS app, Summit – The Adventurous Step Counter.

I’ve stitched together a temporary web site for the app as well as a mailing list that will allow you to get access to the final few beta builds prior to public release. If you have an iPhone please consider signing up and giving it a spin. I’d be very grateful for your feedback.

Thanks to the 13 private beta testers who have already tested the app and provided feedback. You can expect a brand-new build of the app coming in September.

What is Summit?

Summit is a free, iOS-only app that uses your step count to virtually hike up tall peaks like Mount Everest in Nepal, learn about amazing landmarks like Diamond Head in Oahu, and even take a leisurely stroll down famous streets like Lombard Street in San Francisco. As you make progress on your journey you’re provided new information at each goal.

At the time of public release there will be 5 summits and new summits will be added each month thereafter.

Here are some screenshots of the app as it is currently:

When I started on Summit I did not know how to develop an iOS app. It has been really fun to learn Swift, Xcode, iTunes Connect and Test Flight, and the myriad other things I was able to learn in order to get this app as far as I have.

I still have a bit of work to do, but I’d love your feedback along the way as I finish the app up for release.

Mirage

Mirage:

A world living on top of reality.

I played around with the app this afternoon. It is very rough. Super frustrating to try and use. But I sincerely hope they continue to pull this thread. I hope to see a lot more of this type of thing over the next 36 months.

/via Andy Baio.

I can work on anything I want

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on your own project is that there is so much to do. That may seem strange, why would I want to have so much to do? But if you look at it a different way it becomes a much more enjoyable experience.

Whenever I sit down to work on my pet project, a new iOS app, I can choose what I’m in the mood to work on. Perhaps I’m in the mood to work on the branding, editorial, licensing, or marketing? Or, would I prefer to hunker down into some Swift programming and refine the datastore, algorithms, animations, speed, etc of the app? Or perhaps I’d like to identify key strategic partners for my product launch or look through beta user feedback or do some artwork?

You see the point? Yes, there is a lot to do. And it can seem overwhelming if you allow it to be. But, no matter what type of mood I’m in I can make some progress on the project nearly every single day. And I’m having a ball so far.

Observations on using the iOS 11 Public Beta

The iOS 11 Public Beta is the first beta OS I’ve installed from Apple. I did so in part because I want to help improve the OS by providing feedback and analytic data, but also because I wanted to test my aforementioned app that I’m building, and lastly I’ve wanted driving mode since very early iOS days.

I waited until the second developer beta (which was the first public beta I believe) was released before I updated my iPad. And I waited until the next developer release (or, second public beta release) before I updated my iPhone. I waited in hopes that there would be a great enough improvement in these builds that I didn’t have to worry too much about my iPad or iPhone not working at all.

I thought I’d jot down some observations during my use:

  • So far the “biggest” problem I had was charging my iPad. During the first public beta the only way I was able to charge my iPad was by first plugging the lightning cable into the iPad first and then plugging that cable into a power outlet. Weird, I know. But the next public beta has seemingly fixed that.
  • While there are minor UI niggles that could be easily pointed out, I’m going to refrain since they seem to be cleaning up the loose ends very quickly. This last public beta build fixed a slew of issues.
  • Driving mode is beginning to work very, very well. I’ve had trouble starting a song via Siri via Apple Music after a podcast episode in Overcast is finished playing – but perhaps that will get fixed in an upcoming release. Overall, this feature is going to be a lifesaver.
  • The style and controls aesthetic are much better in my opinion. Previous releases of iOS attempted to be too “elegant” (unsure if this is the term I’m looking for) by being overly thin and translucent. This latest release of iOS brings some sanity to the UI. Also, as I get older I’m beginning to appreciate the larger text sizes throughout.
  • The new App Store should prove to be a huge improvement over the previous versions. It remains to be seen whether or not Apple’s team will keep up with the editorial (since they’ve yet to update any content in there) but I’m hoping they’ll do this part great when the time comes.
  • Though I use iCloud Drive, Dropbox, and other file sharing platforms I’ve not put the Files app to the test just yet. Perhaps I don’t see the need for it as much as others will. I’ll report back after I’ve used it more.
  • The Notes app is incredibly good at this point. I switched to it from Simplenote and I’m loving it.
  • iOS 11 shines on the iPad.
  • The new keyboard on the iPad is particularly cool. You essentially pull down slightly on a key as you type if you’d like the letter you’d usually get by holding down the shift key modifier. Great idea.
  • Oddly enough, the new multitasking capabilities on iPad don’t work as well yet for me as the old way. I’m sure I’ll figure it out and get used to it but the “dock” and dragging icons out of it, etc. does not work for me very well. It could also be that apps haven’t yet been released with support for that feature.
  • iOS 11 has “broken” a ton of my apps. Not beyond usability but I’m guessing that developers are scrambling to get new iOS 11 builds ready. Some of the oddities could be very difficult to fix.
  • coreML and ARKit are incredibly cool.

While I don’t yet recommend updating to iOS 11 Public Beta for most people – if you’re willing to deal with a few hiccups the driving mode feature may save your life. I can’t imagine going another day with out it. Apple can not get this version of iOS out soon enough in my opinion.

Observations on building my first iOS app in Swift

In early June I decided I wanted to learn iOS app development using Swift.

I’ve made a lot of progress over the last month, building two apps that I can use on my own phone, and one app that I’m now in beta testing via TestFlight with a few friends. Over the last month I’ve made some observations on the process of building an iOS app, the Swift programming language, Xcode, iOS frameworks, and the various other bits needed to make an app. I thought I’d take the time to jot those down.

These are in no particular order:

  • Swift is growing on me rather quickly. The idea behind Swift has always interested me, but I hadn’t really given it a try until now. Like any new language you need to work with it for a time before some of the things that you may not like about it, you end up seeing the wisdom in.
  • I’m very glad I waited until Swift 3 before trying it in earnest. The tutorials I’ve come across for earlier versions make it clear the language has matured in a short period of time.
  • Using Storyboards in Xcode is not intuitive whatsoever. I know many people avoid them altogether (from what I’ve seen on YouTube). Unless you watch someone build a Storyboard you’d likely never, ever just figure it out.
  • iOS frameworks are bulky. It is no wonder so many apps are so big. Just including one or two frameworks for my very simple first app ballooned the app to over 15Mb.
  • That being said, iOS frameworks are very useful. With just a few lines of code you can get something working quickly.
  • Playgrounds are very useful to learn Swift.
  • The Playgrounds compiler can become stuck rather easily. Especially if you paste in a bunch of code from your project to mess around with and get it to work. I’ve had to restart Xcode several times.
  • Xcode has crashed on me a few times over the last month. Crashes on macOS (and also most Apple apps) are very rare. So to be working on something so fragile seems out-of-character. Especially with how simple my apps are currently.
  • Auto Layout baffles me still. I have a working UI for one of my apps that works across multiple device screen sizes. But it is far from what I’d want to ship with. I’ve watched a lot of videos on how to use Auto Layout but I still can’t make heads or tails of it. I’m waiting for the moment it clicks.
  • The connection between labels and buttons and other UI elements in your Storyboard and your Controller class is far too fragile. You should be able to rename things, delete things, move them around without completely blowing everything up and starting over. Example: If I CNTRL+Drag a label onto my Controller and create an Reference Outlet for it… I should be able to rename that Outlet without needing to CNTRL+Drag again. I don’t know how, but somehow.
  • Did I mention that Auto Layout baffles me still?
  • Building and deploying an app to iTunes Connect in order to add to the App Store or Test Flight is an entirely un-Apple-like experience. There is no Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 type of workflow. Similar to Storyboards it is not something you can figure out – you must watch or read to learn. It feels like it was never designed by a Product person.
  • Building an app that resides on a device like the iPhone is an amazing experience. While I’ve always been able to load my web apps on a phone, and I’ve built some apps that use a WebView to deploy across multiple platforms, this is the first time I feel like I’m touching my app when I use it. There is nothing that comes close to native UI.
  • Also, building an app that requires no connection to the web has been really fun. It is so fast! I’d like to move forward by trying my best to keep HTTP request at zero or as low as possible.
  • The amount of information an iOS device knows at any given time is pretty amazing. It can know (with the user’s permission) where it is, what altitude it is at, which way it is pointing, how many times the person’s heartbeat that day, what it is looking at, etc. etc. Amazing to play with these features.
  • The Xcode IDE is really incredible to use. You may not remember a framework’s properties but you can just begin typing a reasonable word and expect that Xcode will figure out what you’re trying to accomplish. Also, if you happen to write older syntax because you’re following an out-of-date tutorial, it will automatically convert it to the most recent syntax.

Overall I’ve had a positive experience learning to build an iOS app on my own. Going from having an app in TestFlight to shipping an app feels like preparing to cross a desert on foot. But, I’m enjoying my experience so I’m going to trudge forward to do so.

I hope to ask for public beta testers of the app in a few weeks or a month.

WWDC 2017 recap

I wanted to take a few moments to jot down a comparison between my wish list for this year’s WWDC and what was announced. Also, towards the end, some quick thoughts on the surprises that were announced.

Here are my wishes, in order from the previous post, and whether or not we got them.

  • Shared iCloud Photo Libraries. Nope. It doesn’t appear so. I think if they had finished this they would have announced it.
  • iCloud data Family sharing. Yes! And, they gave us 2TB for the price of 1TB. So, a very good update here.
  • An all-new Mac App Store. Kinda? While they didn’t show this off, Phil Schiller did hint at it during John Gruber’s live interview with him and Hair Force One.
  • App Store demos. Nope. While the new iOS App Store looks very nice (and it getting great reviews all over the web) it didn’t include this.
  • App slimming. Not sure. I’ll wait for the public betas of iOS and macOS to determine if they’ve done any work in this area.
  • More Camera app filters. Yes! While the camera app may not have more filters built-in, the Photos app has tons of updates in this area. I’ll take it.
  • Apple Prime. Nope.
  • Rename iCloud Photo Library? Nope. But, not a big deal.
  • Apple Watch Series 3. Nope. Not yet. And the watchOS updates that were featured were lackluster. But, I think they were holding back for the event they’ll have in the fall.
  • Apple Photos improvements. Yes. Tons. I’ll wait until I get my hands on it to do a direct comparison with my wishes.
  • More iOS Extensions. Nope. I didn’t see much in this area mentioned, but I think they made up for it with the drag/drop features.
  • Siri. Nope. Read Manton’s post on this. He wrote what I was thinking.
  • Apple Maps accuracy updates. Nope. Not a single mention about Apple Maps that I saw. So, again, I’ll have to wait and see with the betas.

My last minute wish that I threw in was for driving mode. And that is a huge yes!

If we’re keeping score that’s like 8 nopes, 1 kinda, and 4 yeses. Which doesn’t seem like a good score but somehow I was very impressed with WWDC overall. I think we’re in for a great year of software updates coming from Apple.

Now, onto some of the surprises.

  • HomePod. While not a total surprise HomePod looks interesting. As a piece of hardware I really like it. As a device that allows you to access Siri I’m less excited because of how poor Siri is still. For example: Ask Siri “how far is New York City” compared to “Driving directions to New York City”. How can’t Siri answer the first question if it can answer the second? I refuse to believe that Apple isn’t staying up late nights to bolster Siri’s offering so hopefully we’ll see a massive improvement in Siri within calendar 2017 or 2018.
  • iMac Pro. What an incredible computer! My first Mac was an iMac and I bought Eliza an iMac somewhat recently. I really love all-in-one computers I just prefer to have a notebook myself due to working remotely, at work, in coffee shops, at a client’s, etc. If I were to buy a desktop computer for myself the iMac Pro would be it.
  • Macbook updates. I got my new Macbook Pro with Touchbar somewhat recently. But, these updates aren’t enough to make me regret my upgrade. They look solid though.
  • ARKit. As I’ve already noted, this will be huge.
  • New iPads Pro. The updates to the iPad (both software and hardware) are very, very good. Makes me wish I needed to upgrade.
  • iPad iOS features. Though it appears some of these could come to iPhone (or, perhaps the 10-year anniversary iPhone) – these features are amazing like drag and drop and the dock, etc. Pretty cool.

There are of course many things I haven’t mentioned but ll-in-all a solid week of Apple updates.

One last thing; recently Tim Cook has been quoted as saying that Apple is focused on autonomous driving (which we knew) but that they are focused on it as a category rather than a feature. Apple finds autonomy as an interesting area moreso than simply self-driving. I’m very interested to see how this idea manifests itself in future products.

Back to Apple, again

Each year WWDC week gives us new and updated Apple software that is easier to use and more tightly integrated. As a result, each year I find myself wishing that I used Apple software exclusively instead of using third-party applications.

Forgive me, but I’m about to quote an entire post that I wrote in June 2014 as to the pros and cons of using as much Apple software and services as possible. Stick around, though, because at the end I’ll fill you in on how I’m feeling today and what I’m doing to use more Apple software and services.

There are hundreds of thousands of third-party apps that you can use on your computer, phone, and tablet. Some of them are amazingly good and far better in a number of ways than what ships with these devices by default.

By using third-party apps, however, you sometimes give up a level of seamless integration between all of your apps in how they share data and function across multiple devices.

Using the default apps — whether they’re built by Microsoft, or Apple, or Google — you can end up losing some of the personality, the extra niche features, and the one-on-one support that you get from third-party app developers.

So, there are pros and cons to making the choice between using an app that was built by the makers of the device and or operating system or by choosing to buy a third-party alternative.

Over the last several years I’ve acquired a stockpile of third-party apps on all three of my devices. I’ve been using third-party apps for everything, even the most basic of tasks like email and calendaring and listening to music. While most of these apps are extremely good, and I had no trouble paying for them, I’ve been missing that seamless integration. I’d get into work and I couldn’t pick up where I’ve left off listening to music or a podcast episode in the car. My mail clients on Mac and iPhone don’t know how to work together (in my case, Airmail and Mailbox respectively). And so on.

So I’ve decided to double down on Apple apps and services. I want that seamless integration back. I want my mail box to look the same across all devices, I want to see my podcast subscriptions on my Mac be exactly the same as on my iPhone, and I want all of my photos in one spot, etc.

OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 seems like a huge step forward to making it even easier for third-party apps to work better together across both operating systems and all devices. So perhaps this issue will get easier and easier to manage in the future. But today, I’d like to manage and learn less apps and get more work done.

I started to make the transition back to Apple late last week and over the last few days I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at the progress Apple has made on their apps. It has been like an entirely new experience.

This week Apple announced macOS High Sierra and iOS 11. And, again, it is a big step forward. So I found myself preparing for these updates in the fall by moving away from third-party services and using more Apple products and services.

This week alone I’ve put more data on iCloud (so it was nice to see the storage bump), I’ve moved from Simplenote to Notes, moved back to Safari from Chrome, subscribed to Apple Music’s family plan and ditched Spotify.

When I made this adjustment in 2014 I didn’t do a good job of following up with how it all worked. So I’m making a mark in my calendar to do so two weeks after macOS and iOS ship this fall.

WWDC 2017 wish list

It has been an exciting year for developers so far. Facebook is making the camera a platform, Microsoft is making cloud computation happen with two clicks of a mouse, and Google is doing everything that everyone else is doing plus a billion more things.

WWDC is next week. So what are my wishes? Since I use Apple products far more than Facebook, Microsoft, or Google products, I tend to want more specific things from WWDC.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

  • Shared iCloud Photo Libraries. There are a few ways that Apple could do this. The simplest, in my opinion, is for me to allow access to my iCloud Photo Library to anyone in my iCloud Family Plan. All photos taken from all family members in the same library. Perhaps somehow filtered by device or person. That’s it.
  • iCloud data Family sharing. I buy 1TB for me and 50GB for Eliza. I’d like to purchase 1 set of storage for both of us and be able to share the space allotment. Not only to save the $1 per month but also to combine the accounts.
  • An all-new Mac App Store. The app store app on macOS feels incredibly dated and fragile. It doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as its iOS counterpart. This part of the OS should be rock solid and perform very well. But there are little idiosyncrasies (like how the progress bars look weird when downloading, or how the fonts look…).
  • App Store demos. If Schiller is serious about bolstering the App Stores I think it is time to bring true demos to both App Stores. I don’t have a silver bullet model (7 days, 14 days, 30 days, etc.) but I do believe this is achievable and would be a boon for app developers.
  • App slimming. Apple announced something about this a few WWDCs ago I think. And I believe it is on the developers of the apps to make their apps as small as possible. However, I think Apple can lend a hand to the most popular apps (Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.) and ask that they somehow combine frameworks or resources in order to shrink their apps considerably. Just think, every megabyte Apple can help slim from those apps would be hundreds of terabytes of data usage saved.
  • More Camera app filters. I use the Camera app a lot. Even with the numerous camera apps available (which I’ve likely bought dozens of and installed even more of over the last decade of having an iPhone) I usually gravitate to the camera that I can swipe to from my Lock Screen. Once and a while I’ll use a filter. Either in editing or even in shooting. Its fun. I’d like to see more added. Like, 50 more with me being able to select my top 12 somehow.
  • Apple Prime. Amazon Prime comes with a slew of things; music, movies, photo storage, free shipping, etc. etc. I’d like a one-payment Apple bundle that would give me iCloud space, iCloud Photo Library, Apple Music, Apple TV (or whatever their TV service will be if it ever happens), etc. Some “prime” membership per year that I can be all-in on Apple stuff.
  • Rename iCloud Photo Library? Perhaps it should just be called Apple Photos. If every app simply had an iCloud switch that allowed you to store / sync its data with iCloud we wouldn’t need separate names for things. The apps simply can have an iCloud feature.
  • Apple Watch Series 3. I’ve said since the beginning that the first Apple Watch I’d buy would likely be the Series 3. (Actually, I begged Apple not to make a watch at all. But, since they did, the first one I’d likely buy might be the next version.) My wish list for series 3 would be slimmer (less tall), no phone needed at all for it to function (network-connected with no additional plan), much, much faster, and easier to update/install apps. Essentially, a stand-alone device rather than an iPhone accessory.
  • Apple Photos improvements. Only a few of my wishes from May 2016 have been addressed. I would like to see Apple Photos get substantially better this year. However, Apple seems to improve things much slower than they used to. (Remember the iPad 1 to iPad 2 jump? I wish we saw more of that speed from Apple)
  • More iOS Extensions. Perhaps Apple’s purchase of Workflow won’t bear fruit so quickly, but I’d like a lot more Extensions in iOS. I often find myself limited in what I can do with a file on iOS. I think it should be much more powerful to send files from app-to-app or to a service or run a routine on it, etc. I think we’ll see that in future iOS releases.
  • Siri. I’ve nearly given up on Siri. My WWDC 2016 wish list still has Siri items on it that haven’t been addressed. Still, if Siri was 5% better I’d take it.
  • Apple Maps accuracy updates. Apple Maps has improved a lot since its debut. Its design is far better than it was and its feature set has grown too. But, for me, its accuracy is still terrible. Google Maps gets me to the correct location every single time. I can’t remember when it hasn’t. Apple Maps routinely gives me the wrong location when I ask Siri for directions somewhere. Somewhere around 75% of the time. Three out of four. This is not an exaggeration. So, I do not use it. With each update to iOS I give it another try. Then I go back to Google Maps. I don’t think Apple Maps needs any new design, or any new features, it just needs to be accurate. Side note: I was in Philadelphia with Eliza recently and we relied on Google Maps for all transportation. It was excellent at getting us around via Uber, walking, and driving. It was perfect the entire time.

I’ll stay away from any hardware wishes as I don’t have any needs currently. I’m all set on the hardware front. Our iPhones, iPads, MacBook Pro, and iMac are all just fine the way they currently are. And, I don’t need an Apple Home (if they release one) because I have enough terrible Siri devices laying around the house.

Google Assistant for iOS is a clunky mess

Karissa Bell for Mashable:

For starters, Assistant’s iOS app is a confusing, disjointed, mess. You’d think the Assistant would be able to easily link up with all your other Google services, but that wasn’t the case in my initial testing.

It isn’t often that I agree with an article on Mashable. However, in this case I very much agree.

Using Assistant for iOS for a bit yesterday I found myself scratching my head thinking “but, I thought I could do this, or that, or that?”. In reality, the Assistant on iOS as it stands is Google’s search with voice input on top of it. Just like Siri. Which is equally frustrating to use.

One quick note here: Google does not have the access to iOS APIs that Apple does. For this reason Assistant is neutered from the jump. However, Google does a bad job explaining that and so user expectation is pretty high when I first installed the app. Assistant on iOS will likely never be as good as the Android or Home Assistant and that should be clear.

One other quick note: I think the entire tech industry began using the term “AI” a decade too soon. “Bot” is ok. A bot can respond to a set of commands and only those commands. That feels much more accurate when describing Google’s Assistant. But calling features like Cortana, Siri, Assistant, Bixby (or whatever Samsung’s assistant is) is a huge, huge stretch of the term AI in their current states. And likely will be for a number of years to come.

Clips

Apple:

Introducing Clips. A new iOS app for making and sharing fun videos with text, effects, graphics, and more.

I’ve been looking for an app like this for a long time. The Verge describes how I think I’ll use this app.

My best guess is because the default camera app is still something that’s supposed to be super simplistic (and accessible from the lock screen). And I think in some ways, this is a precursor to a consumer AR app, but Apple declined to answer questions around that. Clips seems like it could be the perfect app to use when iMovie is too much and the default camera app is not enough. The question is whether it will be the necessary stop between your phone’s camera and your favorite social network.

I’ve tried to edit a personal “vlog” (that I do not publish publicly) for a long time. And I did it using iMovie. But iMovie is too much for this. What I really want is Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories in their own app. It looks like I’ll kind of sort of get that with Clips.

I don’t know why they didn’t just release it. Apple doesn’t usually announce things before they’re ready (I’m not counting operating system releases which require so much public testing). But I’ll be happy to get my hands on this next month.

A tablet and a notebook in one

John Gruber:

To me, an iPad in notebook mode — connected to a keyboard cover — is so much less nice than a real notebook. And the difference is more stark when compared to a great notebook, like these MacBook Pros. There are advantages to the tablet form factor, but no tablet will ever be as nice as a notebook as these MacBook Pros. I also prefer MacOS over iOS for, well, “doing work”. I think I’m more productive on a Mac than I am on an iPad. I can’t prove it, but even if I’m wrong, the fact that I feel like it’s true matters. I always feel slightly hamstrung working on an iPad. I never do on a Mac (at least once I’ve got it configured with all the apps and little shortcuts, scripts, and utilities I use).

I totally agree with John. An iPad does not feel as nice as a MacBook. I’ve owned both devices and used them both daily for years. And I, like him, feel much less productive on an iPad than on a notebook computer like the MacBook. I used my iPad for reading, watching videos, and doing light work-related tasks like note taking at a client meeting. But for real work I grabbed my MacBook and, preferably, connected it to a display.

But what if you could have both? What if you could have both a tablet and a notebook in one? And what if all of the work that you do on the notebook could be possible on the tablet? I’ll be writing much more about my experiences with the new Surface Book with Performance Base in the coming weeks (I have only had mine three days and I want to get a little more comfortable with it prior to a proper review) but I can say this – without hesitation – the Surface Book is the marriage of the iPad and the MacBook and I’m loving it.

I read John’s post with the Clipboard portion (read: the display) of the Surface Book and was compelled to write this post. So I docked the display on the keyboard and began typing. Not because I couldn’t have used the on-screen keyboard, but more because I’m much quicker with a full computer. I have all of my shortcuts and customizations. The small little things that make more far more productive.

And, let’s not forget the actual reason John gave for feeling “hamstrung” while using the iPad – it is the software. The operating system. With my new Surface Book I’m running Windows 10 in desktop mode when docked to the Performance Base and in tablet mode when detached from it. But, in both situations I have my data, my customization, my small tweaks, my multitasking capabilities, etc. It truly is the best of both worlds.

I’ve long written on this blog that I believe Microsoft’s vision of one operating system for both contexts is better than Apple’s two-OS approach. John disagrees with me on this. And I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer but there certainly is a preference. My preference is to keep my “power user” stuff at my fingertips for when I need them but to hide them when I don’t. The Surface Book does this.

I’m truly enjoying this device and I’m very much looking forward to sharing more about my switch back from the Mac to Windows 10. But for now I’m going to detach my display and get back to watching YouTube videos on my couch.

Loren Brichter on web apps

K. Q. Dreger interviewed Loren Brichter about his recent sale of Letterpress (my favorite iOS game). The interview is full of little behind-the-scenes tidbits on Letterpress and how it was made and where it is going.

However, when Dreger asks Brichter what he’s been up to and what he will be doing next, I thought his thoughts on web apps was worth noting:

My work for the last few years has been on the web, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. Instant refreshing, surprisingly good debugging / perf tools, intrinsically multi-platform, and most importantly, open.

I find the entire concept of App Review morally questionable despite Apple’s good intentions. So I sleep better at night not being part of that anymore. Sure, the web is messy, and it’s delicate, but it’s important and good and getting better fast.

Wouldn’t be surprised if I never went back.

Strong words from someone who has made a big, big name for himself in iOS development. Welcome to the web Loren, you’ll love it here. I’ll be watching Atebits.

GoPro open sources Camera Toolkit

GoPro just updated their iOS app. In the release notes I noticed a link to their developer page wherein they’ve open sourced their Camera Toolkit for iOS and Android. Let’s hope a ton of bug fixes result so I can stop hacking mine.

Got Loop’d

It is always a pleasure to be linked to from The Loop. Yesterday, one of my posts about Photos for OS X and what I think can be done to improve it, was linked to (at my behest) by Dave Mark.

My link is in good company there. Be sure to check out the other links too.

This, in turn, spurred a few other links flowing into that post. This morning I saw this link from Benny Ling on AppleTalk from Australia. I love the internet.