Posts in Linked

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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Connected: Mindset of 2001

Federico, Myke and Stephen discuss the origin and evolution of the iPod.

In the first episode of Connected, we take a look at the history of the iPod and consider the impact of Apple's music player on entertainment, consumer technology, fashion, our lifestyles, and more. It's a special episode not only because it's the first one – it includes several audio clips from Apple's iPod keynotes, plus a variety of relevant show notes. I remember how the original iPod got me interested in Apple and technology, so we had fun doing research for this one.

Get the episode here.

Sponsored by Igloo, TextExpander from Smile, Squarespace (use code WORLD for 10% off), and Omnifocus 2 from The Omni Group.

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The Mac Gamer

A great retrospective on Mac gaming by Jeremy Parish:

Mac games were actually pretty weird and unique in the olden days, and I actually could see someone being a Macintosh-exclusive gamer in the ’80s. The platform offered (1) mouse-based controls and (2) no color, or at least no guarantee of color support until they stopped selling the Mac SE and pre-PPC PowerBook lines in the mid-’90s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mac games felt a little different from console and DOS counterparts. Another factor there came from the fact that Macintosh had system-level support for graphics, it using a visual interface and all, whereas other computers kind of needed to be tricked in various degrees before they’d display images.

I'd argue that the Mac App Store has helped in facilitating distribution of modern Mac games, although, from a gamer's perspective, it's still inferior to other services – especially for clarifying hardware requirements.

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Shazam Rolls Out Beats Music Integration

As noted by several users yesterday, Shazam has begun rolling out Beats Music integration in their app, allowing users to stream tagged songs off Apple's service. Similarly, both 9to5Mac and Engadget report that Spotify integration is back in Shazam, as also confirmed by a support document. The feature mirrors Rdio integration for songs recognized in Shazam, launched last month.

With Shazam becoming Apple's official partner for Siri in iOS 8, it makes sense for the dedicated Shazam app to offer more options to its users – hopefully, this time Shazam won't decide to pull these integrations.

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The Next Assistant from the Creators of Siri

Steven Levy has a story on Viv, the next assistant from the creators of Siri:

Viv strives to be the first consumer-friendly assistant that truly achieves that promise. It wants to be not only blindingly smart and infinitely flexible but omnipresent. Viv’s creators hope that some day soon it will be embedded in a plethora of Internet-connected everyday objects. Viv founders say you’ll access its artificial intelligence as a utility, the way you draw on electricity. Simply by speaking, you will connect to what they are calling “a global brain.” And that brain can help power a million different apps and devices.

I've often argued that the ability to understand context between sentences and learn the true meaning of voice commands is one of Siri's biggest limitations. Viv wants to go beyond that, offering intelligence as a “utility” much like WiFi or Bluetooth. That's a bold statement.

If Viv lives up to its promise – check out the examples in the story to see what it should be capable of – other companies will have a lot to catch up to. The last image in Levy's article is particularly impressive.

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