David Smith’s Initial WatchKit Impressions

David Smith comments on today's launch of WatchKit for developers:

Apple took a clever approach to handling the extremely constrained power environment of the Watch (at least initially). To start with 3rd Party apps will run in a split mode. The Watch itself handling the UI parts of the app with an iPhone based app extension doing all the heavy lifting and computation. This is architected in such a way as to enhance interactivity (it isn’t just a streamed movie) while still keeping the Watch components very lightweight.

As he notes, Apple enabled more than he was expecting for this first release.

What's impressive after reading some documentation and thoughts from developers today is the technology that's powering WatchKit remote apps – Extensions. Initially, many of us assumed that extensibility in iOS 8 would just be about sharing files between apps, but it's turning out to much more.


You Can Now Search for Every Tweet Ever Sent in the Twitter App

In a blog post published today, Twitter announced that every tweet sent since 2006 is indexed and can be searched in the Twitter apps for the web and mobile devices.

Since that first simple Tweet over eight years ago, hundreds of billions of Tweets have captured everyday human experiences and major historical events. Our search engine excelled at surfacing breaking news and events in real time, and our search index infrastructure reflected this strong emphasis on recency. But our long-standing goal has been to let people search through every Tweet ever published.

The blog post shares the technical details behind the technology (an impressive scale and undoubtedly a huge challenge), but I was more curious to try the user-facing aspect of indexed tweets and search in the official app for iOS.

For me, there’s tremendous value in being able to easily retrieve old tweets: I’ve written about the Twitter archive before, but today’s rollout brings retrieval of indexed tweets to the search section of the Twitter app – no need to download an archive. Twitter search used to be limited to tweets from the past couple of weeks; now, you can look for every public tweet sent since 2006.

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Facebook Launches Dedicated Groups App

Dieter Bohn, reporting for The Verge about Facebook's latest standalone app for iOS and Android, Groups:

We've been using the app for a few days now and found it to be fast, fluid, intuitive, and surprisingly fun. That's not a huge surprise – it comes in part from Facebook's Creative Labs, which has been responsible for other polished Facebook apps like Paper and Slingshot. Animation on both Android and iOS is fluid and fast, the overall app layout is simple and direct, and functionality (including privacy settings) is easy to intuit just by poking around a bit. It's a great app.

Groups joins Messenger in the list of dedicated utilities for specific Facebook features, but, unlike Messenger, users won't be forced to use it and Groups will still be available in the main Facebook app (for now?). Like most recent standalone experiments by Facebook, I'm skeptical that this will take off in the real world.

Anecdotally speaking, I have a lot of friends who use groups to coordinate events and chat together – on WhatsApp. I have seen WhatsApp groups that go back years, with my friends using photos uploaded to a group as essentially another camera roll for shared photos.

I wish that I could say the same about iMessage group threads, but that would only be a sad joke.


Apple Launches WatchKit, iOS 8.2 Beta

With a press release, Apple just announced the availability of WatchKit, a set of tools that will allow developers to extend their apps to the Apple Watch before the device's release. WatchKit is available alongside a new iOS 8.2 beta for registered iOS developers.

“Apple Watch is our most personal device ever, and WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “With the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, developers can now start using WatchKit to create breakthrough new apps, Glances and actionable notifications designed for the innovative Apple Watch interface and work with new technologies such as Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine.”

In the press release, Apple included quotes from ESPN, Instagram, and American Airlines, which are already building apps and features for the Apple Watch.

“Apple Watch allows us to make the Instagram experience even more intimate and in the moment,” says Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram. “With actionable notifications you can see and instantly like a photo or react with an emoji. The Instagram news and watch list allows you to see your friends’ latest photos, follow new accounts and get a real-time view of your likes and comments.”

Apple also launched a WatchKit website and confirmed that developers will be able to create “fully native apps for Apple Watch” later next year.

The WatchKit website includes design guidelines, programming guides, templates, and more. As explained by Apple, WatchKit apps consist of an iPhone app extension and other assets loaded directly on the Apple Watch, and developers will be able to start building Glances and actionable notifications with WatchKit and the iOS 8.2 beta today.

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iOS 8.1.1 Brings Fixes for Share Sheet Extension Reordering, iCloud Crashes

Earlier today, Apple released iOS 8.1.1 with bug fixes and performance improvements for the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

What Apple doesn't specifically address in their release notes are two welcome fixes that people who use iOS devices extensively will likely notice: the order of action and share extensions in the system share sheet now sticks across apps and app relaunches; and, the iCloud hanging/crashing bug appears to be gone.

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

There’s a mountain of data inside your car waiting to be unleashed, and all you have to do is plug in a quick little connector and download a mobile application.

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 $79.95. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Sketch to App Store

Created by Cluster Labs, this file for Sketch 3 sounds like a great idea for iOS developers (via Jeremy Olson):

This Sketch file is designed so you make a few changes to the setup page, and over 40 other artboards will be updated with your custom info. Within minutes, you'll be able to export 45 screenshot images.

I constantly hear that generating screenshots for multiple resolutions and languages for iTunes Connect is a time-consuming process. Sketch to App Store seems to automate several tasks involved with generating App Store screenshots such as device templates, text, resolutions, and, of course, exported files.


Sunrise 3.0 Brings Google Tasks and Eventbrite Integration, New iOS 8 Widget

I rediscovered Sunrise earlier this year, when I was looking for a calendar app that integrated with Todoist and offered a web app in addition to solid iOS clients. Sunrise, founded by Pierre Valade and launched last year, has quickly become one of the most popular free alternatives to the stock calendar apps on iOS and Android thanks to a polished design and integration with various web services such as Evernote, LinkedIn, and Songkick.

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