Federico Viticci

7320 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found in the iBooks Store and on his two podcasts, Connected and Virtual.

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1Password App Extension for iOS 8

AgileBits explains what the 1Password extension for iOS 8 will be capable of:

  1. Access their 1Password Logins to automatically fill your login page.
  2. Use the Strong Password Generator to create unique passwords during registration, and save the new Login within 1Password.
  3. Quickly fill 1Password Logins directly into web views.

If you're a developer working on an iOS 8 app that includes user registrations and logins, I strongly recommend considering the upcoming 1Password extension. The integration with the OS and the main 1Password app is incredible, especially if you're used to the limitations of iOS and the things you're not supposed to have on an iPhone or iPad.

The fact that the extension will also offer a password generator is a solid incentive to implement it – you'll give 1Password users a way to easily retrieve and create secure passwords within the context of your app. This is one of the most exciting changes coming with iOS 8 (and there will be many).

For a technical read, check out this post from AgileBits' blog.

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Estimote Announces Stickers

After introducing considerable improvements to their SDK last month, Estimote has announced Stickers – extensions for regular beacons to add context to everyday objects.

Estimote Stickers are complementary to Estimote Beacons. Whereas beacons add a layer of contextual intelligence to static locations such as stores, museums and airports, stickers extend that context to the objects within those venues. Stickers contain accelerometer and temperature sensors and an optimized ARM processor with flash memory and Bluetooth Smart controller, all inside a significantly smaller and thinner form factor. Stickers are truly designed to be placed on everyday objects. Simply attach a sticker to an item to turn it into a nearable - a smart, connected object that broadcasts data about its location, motion and temperature.

The video created by Estimote shows the potential of Stickers when applied, literally, to objects we interact with on a daily basis.

It's hard not to be impressed by the pace of rollouts by Estimote and, generally speaking, the entirely new dimension that beacons are opening up for third-party developers and apps.

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PlayStation Network and the App Store

Matt Birchler compares Sony's PlayStation Network storefront to Apple's App Store:

Everything you see when you load up the store has been hand-picked by someone. Of course, the PS4 store only has 147 items on the platform, so manually curating that content is easier than it would be for Apple with its 1+ million apps, but we’ll set that aside for today. Here’s what I have found when thinking about how I shop on the Playstation Network without any top lists to guid me.

As he argues towards the end, Apple does a lot of editorial curation on the App Store – and they are going to do more of it with iOS 8 – but the Top Charts don't reflect those efforts and they remain a difficult place for developers to break into.

Sony has it easier than Apple: the App Store's editorial team has to deal with thousands of apps released each day, frequent updates to existing apps, and a diversity of games and apps. The App Store is a much different market than the PSN or Nintendo's eShop, and, as I've written before, it remains to be seen whether customers will care about more visibility to curated sections in iOS 8.

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Mailbox Launches Public Beta for Mac

Announced back in April, Mailbox for Mac is out today as a public beta for those who signed up to receive access. Ellis Hamburger has a preview for The Verge:

Mailbox still has plenty of work to do, even on the homefront. There are lots of bugs in the Mailbox for Mac beta, and there are still more email services to add like Exchange and Yahoo, which Underwood says his team is thinking about. But, much as Sparrow did before it, Mailbox is paving the way towards a future where email works faster, syncs instantly between all your devices, and just acts more like the other modern communication apps we use today.

From the preview, Mailbox for Mac already looks pretty great. The “snooze to device” feature sounds genius, and I like the fact that everything (including drafts) sync fast across devices.

Unfortunately, Mailbox is another app I can't use on a daily basis. The app is still limited to iCloud and Gmail, whereas our email runs on IMAP and Exchange. It's not clear whether Mailbox will support IMAP in the future, and I don't think I'll ever go back to Gmail.

Mailbox is also using a “betacoin” system to handle access to the beta: users who got an invitation today received three images of golden coins, which they can share with other users to let them use the beta.

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On Twitter’s Future and Apps

Dan Frommer on Twitter's recent experiments with its timeline and mobile apps:

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo promised many product “experiments” on the company’s most recent earnings call, and the company has started to deliver: Many users are starting to notice tweets that don’t normally belong in their feeds. This is a significant shift in how Twitter works—and how it might work in the future.

I use Tweetbot on my iPhone and iPad, but, every couple of weeks, I try the official Twitter app for a day or two to see how things are going there.

I think Twitter for iOS is pretty good. I despise its notification settings and full-screen web view, but I actually like many of their experiments – including these recent ones – and I appreciate the inclusion of a Discover section, DM read status synced across devices, and Twitter Cards.

But I can't use Twitter for iOS as my primary client.

Over the years, I've grown so used to timeline streaming and sync that I can no longer use a Twitter app that doesn't stream and automatically sync my timeline position. I understand that this is not how the majority of people on Twitter actually use the service, or how Twitter wants to appeal to new audiences. My problem is that I enjoy and depend upon finesse and little touches created by third-party developers – the same ones who can't access many of the company's latest experiments with timelines and interactivity.

I'm torn between two interests: I want to try Twitter's new features for the masses because I think they're interesting and smart, but I can't change the fact that I want my timeline to stream and my position to sync. Even if Tweetbot for iPad hasn't been updated for iOS 7 yet, the way it works and syncs is enough for me. I don't even cringe at its outdated UI anymore. Not to mention many of the other excellent details of Tweetbot 3.

Would I switch to a version of Twitter's iOS apps with streaming and sync? I don't know. The third-party Twitter client is starting to feel like a relic of an old era, and while there's a part of me that wants to hold on to it, the future of the service appeals to my curiosity.


The Slow Death of Buttons in iOS

Simone Rizzo has a good post on iOS and the progressive demotion of buttons, arguing that there's a reason Apple has started adding gestures to perform actions that used to be exclusively associated with buttons.

Assuming I’m right in spotting this trend of a) removing the need for buttons to interact with iOS or b) removing the need for the buttons to be on a specific point on the screen, the next obvious question is why. Why would Apple move away from an admittedly easy way of interacting with iOS, one that arguably sustained the initial success of the iPhone and iPad?

The addition of new gestures for key tasks (particularly navigation in iOS 7 and one-handed picture sharing in iOS 8's Messages) mixes well with iOS' new design structure, but I, too, believe that it signals upcoming bigger devices. (We'll see in September, I guess.)

The trade-off with relying on gestures too much is that, without clear borders, shadows, or realistic elements that indicate interactivity and state for buttons, the overall experience can be confusing and the interface difficult to use. A year later, I find myself occasionally struggling to make out buttons from labels, stopping my finger for a fraction of a second as I wonder “Is this a button?”. In other cases, I slow down my swipe because I can't remember if the app I'm in supports that Back gesture. I don't think I'm alone in this, but it's undeniable that gestures – whether suggested (like the Camera shortcut in the Lock screen) or implied – are becoming more prominent in iOS.

An OS that doesn't rely on buttons in fixed positions should make for a better experience when using a larger device. The issue with “button” design in iOS is still a hot topic in design circles, and I imagine that gesture discoverability will be as important if Apple is really working on a bigger iPhone. Perhaps some sort of guide to discover features could help.

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Flappy Bird Creator Coming Back with New Game Launching This Week

Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Bird, is coming out with a new game for iOS, which, like Flappy Bird, will be free to download from the App Store. TouchArcade has published an exclusive preview of the game, which is called Swing Copters and that will be released this week on Thursday (August 21).

Swing Copters will have a similar mechanic to Flappy Bird, but unlike its predecessor it will launch with a $0.99 In-App Purchase to remove ads.

Swing Copters captures all the “just one more try” of Flappy Bird, and seems even more brutally difficult. In the game, you play as a little dude who has a propeller on his head. Swing Copters coaxes you to tap the screen, at which point you're airborne, wildly flying to one side. Tapping changes your flight direction, and the goal is similar: Fly through as many gates and get as high as you can. Sort of similar to Flappy Bird, but going up instead of to the side.

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