Posts in stories

Learning and Relearning iOS

In the school where I teach, we are now into our fifth school year using iPad in the classroom. We have students from 5-18 using the device and using it very differently according to their age and educational needs. We have found it to be a substantial addition to the life and work of our school and a major enhancement to the educational process.

Unlike many schools, we don’t focus on “delivering content” with the iPad. We don’t use electronic textbooks and we don’t buy a lot of curriculum materials in the form of apps. Instead, we view the iPad as a tool for creativity in the classroom. We think of apps not as replacements for books but as a new kind of pen, pencil, ruler, paintbrush, camera, music studio, art material, scientific log book, homework diary, writing pad and movie editing suite.

We have used every version of iOS since iOS 3.2 on the original iPad. Many releases have brought substantial improvements in our daily use of the iPad – for example multitasking in iOS 4 or AirPlay Mirroring in iOS 5 on the iPad 2. I think we are on course for the most substantial change to iOS since it shipped on the iPad this year.

iOS 8 brings many deep changes and improvements to the platform that we know and love to use in our school. I want to highlight a few of them, but it’s important to remember that sometimes the biggest wins are in the fixes to the small daily annoyances.

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Looking at Accessibility in iOS 8

Soon after WWDC ended in June, I wrote a piece for MacStories in which I briefly summarized all the new features Apple added to Accessibility in iOS 8. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time with the iOS 8 beta builds over the summer, and have found several features and little touches – even some things that aren’t specific to Accessibility – that merit a more detailed look. What follows are my personal impressions of such.

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iOS 8 Changed How I Work on My iPhone and iPad

When I reviewed iOS 7 last year, I took a different approach and tried to consider Apple's redesigned OS from the perspective of someone who uses iPhones and iPads for work and personal tasks on a daily basis. I noted that a new structure enabled developers to make more powerful apps, and I concluded hoping that Apple would “consider revamping interoperability and communication between apps in the future”.

With today's release of iOS 8, Apple isn't merely improving upon iOS 7 with minor app updates and feature additions. They're also not backtracking on the design language launched last year, which has been refined and optimized with subtle tweaks, but not fundamentally changed since its debut in June 2013.

Apple is reinventing iOS. The way apps communicate with each other and exchange functionality through extensions. How status awareness is being brought to iPhones, iPads, and Macs with Handoff and Continuity. Swift and TestFlight, giving developers new tools to build and test their apps. Custom keyboards and interactive notifications.

There are hundreds of new features in iOS 8 and the ecosystem surrounding it that signal a far-reaching reimagination of what iOS apps should be capable of, the extent of user customization on an iPhone and iPad, or the amount of usage data that app developers can collect to craft better software.

Seven years into iOS, a new beginning is afoot for Apple's mobile OS, and, months from now, there will still be plenty to discuss. But, today, I want to elaborate on my experience with iOS 8 in a story that can be summed up with:

iOS 8 has completely changed how I work on my iPhone and iPad.

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Desire and Purpose

I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s announcement of the Apple Watch. Like WWDC ’14, it’s a lot to process in a single day – you’re looking at years worth of design and product vision condensed in two hours of video and a massive website update. I’m not sure I’ll fully grasp the potential of Apple’s wearable even after its release.

But I noticed this: I didn’t feel the same impact of the original iPhone and iPad keynotes. I’m not referring to the product, the pace of Apple executives on stage, or Steve Jobs. I’m talking about the message that I was left with and the explanations that Apple gave to demonstrate their new watch and how it can fit in people’s everyday life. It felt different.

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Apple Watch: Our Complete Overview

At a media event held earlier today at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch, the company’s highly anticipated wearable device.

Starting at $349 and launching in early 2015, Apple Watch was introduced as Apple’s “most personal device ever created”, aiming to blend style and function, complex tech and self-expression by offering a mix of traditional timekeeping with a variety of health and fitness-related features, apps, integration with iPhone, and a brand new input method called Digital Crown.

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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.


An Overview of iOS 8′s New Accessibility Features

Since this year’s WWDC keynote ended, the focus of any analysis on iOS 8 has been its features — things like Continuity, Extensions, and iCloud Drive. This is, of course, expected: iOS is the operating system that drives Apple’s most important (and most profitable) products, so it’s natural that the limelight be shone on the new features for the mass market.

As I’ve written, however, the Accessibility features that Apple includes in iOS are nonetheless just as important and innovative as the A-list features that Craig Federighi demoed on stage at Moscone. Indeed, Apple is to be lauded for their year-over-year commitment to improving iOS’s Accessibility feature set, and they continue that trend with iOS 8.

Here, I run down what’s new in Accessibility in iOS 8, and explain briefly how each feature works.

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Essential

The iPhone is good at many trivial tasks such as playing games and watching videos, but this week I experienced firsthand how much its portability and apps matter when dealing with an emergency situation.

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