I haven't seen this linked before – and I certainly didn't see it when I first wrote about iOS 9 search – but Apple has a new validation tool to test websites for App Search, coming with iOS 9 in Spotlight.
Test your webpage for iOS 9 Search APIs. Enter a URL and Applebot will crawl your webpage and show how you can optimize for best results.
As I wrote, iOS 9 won't be limited to searching for local app content:
To enhance web crawling with structured data and, again, give developers control of indexed content, Apple has announced support for various types of web markup. Developers who own websites with content related to an app will be able to use Smart App Banners to describe deep links to an app (more on this in a bit) as well as open standards such as schema.org and Open Graph.
Apple calls these “rich results”: by reading metadata based on existing standards, Apple's web crawler can have a better understanding of key information called out on a webpage and do more than simply parsing a title and a link. With support for schema.org, for instance, Applebot will be able to recognize tagged prices, ratings, and currencies for individual listings on Airbnb, while the Open Graph image tag could be used as the image thumbnail in iOS search results. An app like Songkick could implement structured data to tag concert dates and prices in their related website, and popular concerts could show up for users with rich descriptions in the iOS 9 search page.
The validation tool does indeed analyze information that will be used to power iOS 9 search results – such as thumbnails, descriptions, and deep links to apps. You can try it out here.
Twitter has added support for full-archive search to their API, allowing – in theory – third-party clients to retrieve every tweet ever posted on the service. From their blog:
The Full-Archive Search API combines the best aspects of two of Gnip’s most popular offerings to solve enterprise business needs with user experiences not previously possible. By pairing instant accessibility with the full archive of historical Tweets, we’ve created a new premium solution for our ecosystem of partners to deliver historical social data to their own clients.
Since Twitter added full-archive search to their app last year, I've been using the feature every day to find old stuff I or others tweeted in the past. There's no word on pricing for Gnip customers, but hopefully apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific will be able to take advantage of it. Developer documentation is available here.
Apple has updated its official TestFlight app for iOS today, bringing support for iOS 9 and watchOS 2 betas, plus a new App Thinning feature that will allow developers to deliver slimmer apps in iOS 9.
Version 1.2 of TestFlight supports, according to Apple, "upcoming iOS 9 features". The first beta of iOS 9 was first released in June, and, following the launch of the fourth developer beta, several members of the developer community were wondering when Apple would start allowing developers to distribute iOS 9 app betas to external testers. The release notes of the update don't mention external testers, so it's still fair to wonder when Apple will actually let developers expand their beta pools beyond internal testers.
Update: As confirmed in an email by Apple, TestFlight's iOS 9 features are currently limited to watchOS 2 apps and App Thinning for internal testers only.
In addition to iOS 9 and watchOS 2 support, the TestFlight app has been updated with new notification settings. You can now turn off email and notification updates on a per-app basis – a welcome addition for those testing dozens of different apps.
TestFlight 1.2 is available on the App Store.
Allen Pike, one of the developers behind WeddingDJ and the excellent Party Monster, has written on the new issues introduced with Apple Music for third-party media apps:
According to our latest stats, 17% of Party Monster users have been unable to play a song in their iTunes library, and 22% of WeddingDJ users have tried to cue a playlist that has so many unplayable tracks that we need to display a warning. While it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to maintain a 4 star rating through all of this, it’s not going to last if we stay the course.
Given all of this, we have a couple options. We could double down and go pro, catering to serious DJs who can load DRM-free music into our sandbox. Pro DJs who use our apps often have a large licensed library of songs, and won’t rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music.
Alternatively, we could steer towards the mass market, drop crossfading support, and regain full iTunes compatibility. We could also put in the work to add support for Spotify or other competing streaming services, and focus our apps less on playback features and more on having a great UI for queueing.
The standard iOS media player has never given a lot of freedom to third-party developers. I wonder if Apple Music with its “love” system could be even more of an excuse for Apple not to make the media player APIs more flexible. Not to mention, of course, DRM.
I believe the best software is an extension of the human brain. It lets us think naturally, and conforms to us, not the other way around. Translation of information should be the computer’s job, not ours. It’s what we built these digital slaves for. A great Spatial Interface meets our expectations of a physical model. Designed for human beings, it supports a mind, living in the dimensions of space and time. They are Interfaces that are sensible about where things lay. Like a well designed building, they’re easy to traverse through. One space flows into the other, without surprise.
Great article by Pasquale D'Silva on the role of space in software interfaces, with a special focus on some popular iPhone apps. Make sure to check out the GIFs and videos.
Craig Hockenberry on the many limitations of the Mac App Store when compared to its iOS counterpart:
I think the thing that bothers me most about this situation is the inequality. Mac developers aren’t getting the same value from the App Store as their counterparts on iOS. We all pay Apple 30% of our earnings to reach our customers, we should all get the same functionality for that fee.
It's not fair to developers to keep the Mac App Store like this. Developers should be able to test and track performance of Mac apps just like they can on iOS. Instead of improving the Mac App Store for developers, things are only getting worse the more it's neglected – this isn't right, and it should be fixed.
Former Apple designer Linda Dong has a fascinating post on how iAd Producer can also be used to prototype iOS apps:
Interesting use case for an app that's advertised as an iAd content creation tool.
Within the last 12 hours Apple has modified the App Store to prevent users running "prerelease" software from leaving app reviews on the App Store. Now when a user running a beta version of iOS 9 tries to leave an app review, they will get the following error message:
This feature isn't available.
You can't write reviews while using a pre-release version of iOS.
However it appears that the change only applies to iOS 9, because users running OS X El Capitan can still post reviews on the Mac App Store.
The change should help end the annual frustration experienced by app developers when users running beta versions of iOS discovered a third party app wasn't compatible with the beta software and then left a 1-star rating on the App Store. Poor reviews on the App Store can hurt sales, and developers often can't do anything to fix the problem because they can't submit software built for the new versions of iOS whilst it remains in beta, and the bug could be one for Apple to fix, not the developer.
As Federico wrote earlier this month:
In this day and age of high competition and over 1.5 million apps available, having negative reviews displayed on the app's product page is a problem for developers. But it gets worse when those negative reviews cite problems that developers can't fix yet. At that point, developers feel that it's not fair to receive a negative review for something that's completely out of their control. And when the livelihood of independent app markers is at stake, it's hard to argue aganst their sentiment of frustration and disappointment. There's nothing they can do to fix their app issues on betas of iOS and OS X and they can't respond directly to reviews on the App Store – and yet they're taking all the blame. This, every year, repeatedly for every beta of iOS and OS X, and it's possibly becoming more of a problem now that Apple has two public betas.
The problem of permitting app reviews from users on beta software was always a problem, but it risked being a much bigger issue this year because it is the first year that Apple has begun offering public betas of a major iOS release.
As a Mac and iOS developer, web designer, Unix lover and all around coder, Kapeli's Dash has become an indispensable part of my workflow. Version 3 of the reference tool was released recently, and it continues to be a tool I'd be lost without.