Posts in stories

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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Beyond the Silo: How Apple Plans To Reinvent Document Management with iOS 8

With iOS 8, announced last week at WWDC, Apple is going to bring deep changes to one of the most controversial aspects of its mobile platform: document storage and management. While iCloud will play a big role with a unified iCloud Drive for iOS and OS X, third-party developers will also get a chance to add better file management functionalities to their apps.

The new features and APIs have been detailed by Apple during its opening keynote and in developer sessions throughout the week, and they follow a common thread: apps can now extend beyond their sandbox, accessing documents stored in other apps without creating unnecessary copies. To better understand the importance of these technological changes in iOS 8 and the inherent complexity that they’ll add for developers and users, I want to take a step back and contextualize how iOS currently handles file storage and management.

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iOS 8 Extensions: Apple’s Plan for a Powerful App Ecosystem

Amidst the variety of announcements from WWDC 2014, Extensibility -- a new set of technologies for developers to extend their apps -- has been mainly regarded as Apple's solution to the lack of inter-app communication on iOS.

Traditionally, iOS has been a closed platform in terms of software personalization and extensibility: due to a combination of design choices and strict enforcement of sandboxing rules, iOS users never enjoyed many of the benefits found on Google's mobile operating system. Android users could, for instance, install system-wide replacement keyboards or pick documents from any app advertised as a storage location; iOS users, on the other hand, were forced to deal with unnecessary copies created by an outdated Open In system or stick with Apple's dubious keyboard design in iOS 7.

Simultaneously, with Apple focusing on Maps improvements and a new design foundation for iOS, a few third-party developers took up on the task of creating apps and protocols capable of extending iOS as much as possible leveraging the tiny holes left by Apple in its sandbox.

We've seen a proliferation of apps that use URL schemes to facilitate the process of launching other apps and passing text to them; bookmarklets -- pieces of JavaScript code executed in the browser -- to let Safari communicate with third-party apps; developers creating their own SDKs and app ecosystems to solve document management; Fleksy -- a popular Android keyboard -- making an iOS SDK; a Python interpreter and a text editor with a workflow automation system, developed by a one-man shop in Germany.

The third-party iOS development community has been incredibly creative in spite of Apple's longstanding limitations on iOS, but many of the devised solutions -- especially URL schemes -- were, ultimately, hacks and workarounds based on a protocol that wasn't intended to let multiple apps communicate and exchange data.

With iOS 8, Apple wants to make iOS more flexible and powerful by letting developers extend custom functionality and content beyond their apps, making it available to users in other parts of the OS -- and all while maintaining a secure design model, user privacy, good performance, and battery life.

As someone who's invested in iOS as a productivity platform and uses the iPad as a primary computing device every day, I welcomed Apple's move with excitement and optimism, but I also wanted to investigate the actual scope of the technology the company will ship later this year.

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