Federico Viticci

7345 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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“Wacky Mobile Cases Have Become a Serious Business”

Adam Welch, writing at The Financial Times (via Ben Evans):

The wacky phone case made its catwalk debut at Jeremy Scott’s inaugural show for Moschino autumn/winter 2014. In keeping with the rest of the collection – kitsch, colourful, cute – it was shaped to resemble a packet of French fries.

I was in Porto Cervo last month, and I saw a Moschino boutique with the French fries case mentioned in the article. Initially, I thought it was silly, but then I looked around and all my friends and people who were checking out the store were pointing out how cool that case was because it was funny and unique.

While I'm not a case person, I've noticed an increase in popularity of these “wacky” phone cases – for iPhones and Android phones – over the past year. The numbers seem to prove that, just like old Nokia phones, the smartphone cover/case as a lifestyle accessory is back.

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iOS 8 and Web Views

WKWebView is the centerpiece of the modern WebKit API introduced in iOS 8 & Mac OS X Yosemite. It replaces UIWebView in UIKit and WebView in AppKit, offering a consistent API across the two platforms.

Boasting responsive 60fps scrolling, built-in gestures, streamlined communication between app and webpage, and the same JavaScript engine as Safari, WKWebView is one of the most significant announcements to come out of WWDC 2014.

Mattt Thompson has a handy technical overview of the changes coming to web views (such as webpages opened from your Twitter timeline or an RSS app) in iOS 8. In testing a bunch of iOS 8 apps, I can tell that the difference in terms of performance from iOS 7 is noticeable (and extremely welcome).

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Dropbox 3.3

The latest update to the official Dropbox app for iOS, version 3.3, adds a series of welcome improvements. For one, Dropbox has added support for better state restoration, which means the app should remember your position across relaunches (seems like a trivial addition, but Dropbox has long ignored my last-open folder. This, in its seemingly unimportant nature, improves the app dramatically).

Second, Dropbox now comes with better caching, which should use less data and disk space. I still believe that apps should always offer a manual “Empty Cache” feature (Spotify's cache, for instance, constantly goes above 1 GB with no manual controls besides deleting and reinstalling the app), but I'm glad that Dropbox is addressing this issue.

Dropbox 3.3 is available on the App Store.

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Ångström Is a Fast and Innovative Currency and Unit Converter

I've tried hundreds of unit and currency converters over the years, and I didn't think I could still be impressed by the input mechanism and design of an iPhone app built to convert numbers. Ångström, developed by Ilya Birman and Alex Babaev, surprised me with a clean design and a unique way of entering numbers and selecting units that I haven't seen in other apps and that I now find superior to most solutions I've had on my iOS devices.

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‘Delight is in the Details’ Update

I first linked to Shawn Blanc's Delight is in the Details eBook and interview series last year; in late July, Shawn updated the bundle with new chapters, interviews, videos, and other resources – all focused on providing “practical advice, insight, and inspiration so you can reach for excellence and resist the tide of “good enough” work”. The first release was great – I loved the audio interviews about design and software – and the new one makes it even better with a lot of extra content.

The video above, called The Creative Life, is included in the Complete Kit, which contains other videos about how to stay creative, time management and focus, and working for and/or leading an in-house design team.

Shawn was kind enough to offer a discount for the Complete Kit to MacStories readers: using this link, you'll get 25% ($12) off the price.

And if you want to support Shawn's excellent writing online, consider becoming a member of his website: perks include access to Shawn Today, a near-daily podcast that offers a great “behind the scenes” look at what Shawn's working on for ShawnBlanc.net and The Sweet Setup.

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Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant on Your Smart Phone [Sponsor]

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days. Automatic retails at $99.95 with no subscription fees.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get 20% off and buy Automatic at just $80. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.


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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