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How to Design for iPhone X (Without an iPhone X)

Great analysis by Sebastiaan de With on how they redesigned Halide for the iPhone X (the app indeed turned out to be one of the best iPhone X app updates we've seen so far):

Design for ergonomics. On regular iPhones, you have to do much less as a designer to optimize ergonomics. The iPhone X requires you to think about comfortable button placement and usability. Ergonomics is more than just tapping, but also swiping and other gestures. Lay out your UI so all actions are accessible and as comfortably usable as possible.

It’s a whole new device: Design for it. Everyone can stretch an app out to a larger screen, but just like the iPad, a fresh approach is not only welcomed but helps you stand out in the App Store. This is a great time to validate your current design. Are your approaches still valid? Is there a better solution possible? You might come to some valuable insights that you can apply to all your designs, not just the ones for the shiny new device.

If you're a developer working on iPhone X UI updates, don't miss Sebastiaan's map visualization of the device's display.

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Twitter Rolling Out Official Support for Threads

Twitter's latest feature – which is rolling out "in the coming weeks" – is another that's been inspired by something users have been doing for a few years now: threads.

From the Twitter blog:

At Twitter, we have a history of studying how people use our service and then creating features to make what they’re doing easier. The Retweet, '@reply', and hashtag are examples of this. A few years ago we noticed people creatively stitching Tweets together to share more information or tell a longer story – like this. We saw this approach (which we call “threading”) as an innovative way to present a train of thought, made up of connected but individual elements.

Now, hundreds of thousands of threads are Tweeted every day! But this method of Tweeting, while effective and popular, can be tricky for some to create and it’s often tough to read or discover all the Tweets in a thread. That’s why we’re thrilled to share that we’re making it simpler to thread Tweets together, and to find threads, so it’s easier to express yourself on Twitter and stay informed.

We’ve made it easy to create a thread by adding a plus button in the composer, so you can connect your thoughts and publish your threaded Tweets all at the same time. You can continue adding more Tweets to your published thread at any time with the new “Add another Tweet” button. Additionally, it’s now simpler to spot a thread – we’ve added an obvious “Show this thread” label.

As far as I can tell, this is a prettier interface for the original method of creating a thread by replying to yourself. Twitter has integrated a multi-post feature into the app's compose box, and there doesn't seem to be a new API endpoint for threading. It seems like a nice workflow with a 'Tweet All' button at the end. In theory, popular third-party clients could replicate the same behavior (and design) in their own compose UIs – just like various tweetstorm utilities create "threads" by posting multiple replies in a row.

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Automating Your Holiday Lights Inside and Out

It’s easy to get carried away with elaborate and expensive home automation projects when you’re just starting out. A better place to begin though, is with a simple, temporary setup that doesn’t cost a lot but will still give you a glimpse of some of the conveniences of home automation without making a big commitment. When I heard that iHome had introduced a reasonably-priced outdoor smart plug, I knew immediately that it and some holiday lights would make an excellent home automation starter project.

This is by no means a Clark Griswold-level undertaking. My family’s holiday decorations are fairly simple. In the front yard, we put up lights in the bushes and on the columns on either side of our front door. Inside, we have a Christmas tree in our living room with lights. The first step was to put up the outdoor lights the weekend after Thanksgiving on what turned out to be a mercifully warm day.

After the lights were up and working, I plugged them into the iHome’s iSP100 Outdoor SmartPlug, which I connected to an outdoor outlet near my front door. The iSP100 is about as simple as you can imagine. It has a short cord attached to a plastic box that holds its electronics. One end plugs into a standard US outdoor electrical outlet, and the other end takes two or three-pronged electrical devices.

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Punish Website Is a Blacklist-Only iOS Content Blocker

Several weeks ago we got a question from a Club MacStories member wanting to know if any of us had come across a blacklist-only content blocker. We hadn’t. We did some research and still came up empty, which we reported back to MacStories Weekly readers. That prompted developer Salavat Khanov to step in and fill the gap with a new app called Punish Website.

Khanov is the developer behind 1Blocker, a popular iOS content blocker that we’ve covered in the past. However 1Blocker, like its competitors, blocks ads, comments, and other content based on an elaborate system of rules. You can whitelist sites, but the default behavior is to block content unless instructed otherwise. Our reader wanted to come at the problem from the other direction with a content blocker that only blocks elements on blacklisted sites.

That’s exactly what Punish does. It’s primarily an action extension that’s invoked from the system share sheet. When you come across a site that crosses your tolerance line for website clutter, all you need to do is tap the share icon in Safari and pick Punish. The extension UI will appear to confirm you want to add the site to your blacklist. After you tap the Done button, the site reloads free of distractions.

To take a site off your blacklist, simply open the app and swipe left to reveal a delete button or use the Edit button. Managing your list is simple, but I’d also like to see a Cancel button added to the extension for those circumstances where you have second thoughts about invoking the blocker.

I’m glad to see that Khanov developed Punish. It’s easy to paint all websites with the same anti-advertising brush, but the reality is that advertising is still a big part of how sites earn money and there’s a strong case for a more considered and deliberate approach, which Punish enables.

Punish Website is available on the App Store for $2.99.


T3 Interviews Phil Schiller About Face ID, AirPods, HomePod, and More

UK lifestyle site T3 has an in-depth interview with Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. The interview covers a wide range of topics including the iPhone X, Face ID, AirPods, ARKit, HomeKit, the Apple Pencil, the iMac Pro, and the HomePod.

Schiller credits Apple’s tight integration of software and hardware and cross-team collaboration with the success of Face ID:

Other companies certainly have had the vision of 'can you unlock something with someone’s face?' but no one [has] actually delivered technology as advanced and capable and ubiquitous and consumer friendly as Face ID. And that is the direct result of this collaboration, and how these teams work for years together on a simple powerful idea with all that technology.

He also uses the AirPods as an example of the extent of the engineering that goes into making a product as seemingly simple as the AirPods:

So frequently, I talk to customers who say, ‘My favourite product Apple has ever made are AirPods.’ And that’s just a really nice thing to hear. I love when customers respond that one of their favourite product is something this simple, and yet so much work went into it.

At the surface level, it’s an incredibly simple product. But the reality is it’s actually an incredibly complex product to make. Each AirPod really is its own computer, running software and hardware. And those two computers need to deliver this very clear experience that you want, and they have to work together, because we’re very attuned to synchronisation in audio as a species. And so it has to work the way you want.

One of our favourite features is just the idea that you take it out and the music stops – you put it back in and it keeps going again. “Again, that’s a simple idea, but took a lot of engineering to make it work quickly, reliably, for all of us in all different ear sizes and different situations. And they have to work with this iPhone that may be in your pocket or your bag, across your body. And as you know, our bodies are big bags of water, which are really bad for radio signals to get through.

Phil Schiller has an impressive knack for explaining Apple’s vision for its products, which makes this interview worth reading in its entirety.

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Apple Announces iMac Pro to Begin Shipping December 14th

Apple updated its website with news that the iMac Pro is shipping beginning on December 14, 2017. The pro-level iMac features a long list of impressive specifications. The desktop computer, which was announced in June at WWDC comes in 8, 10, and 18-core configurations, though the 18-core model will not ship until 2018. The new iMac can be configured with up to 128GB of RAM and can handle SSD storage of up to 4TB. Graphics are driven with the all-new Radeon Pro Vega, which Apple said offers three times the performance over other iMac GPUs.

The desktop, which Apple touts as a solution for video editing, virtual reality development, and other graphics and processor-intensive tasks was taken through its paces by Marques Brownlee on his YouTube channel:

According to Brownlee, the machine runs quiet and cool, but suffers from the inability to upgrade components, which is uncommon for a pro-level computer. Brownlee also notes that the iMac Pro worked well on Final Cut Pro X tasks that would typically choke another iMac.

Jonathan Morrison also got an opportunity to preview the iMac Pro, showing off his setup here:



Apple Opens App Pre-Orders to All Developers

You may recall that when Super Mario Run was announced in 2016, customers could request notification of its release, which was a first at the time on the App Store. Now, all developers can do something similar by offering their apps for pre-order. According to iTunes Connect’s Resources and Help documentation:

Now you can make your new apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. Customers can see your product page and order your app before it's released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device. For paid apps, customers will be charged before download.

The process for submitting an app for pre-order seems relatively straight-forward:

To make your new app available for pre-order:

  1. From the homepage, click My Apps, select the app, and select Pricing and Availability in the left column. You'll see the Pre-Orders section if your app has never been published on the App Store.
  2. Select Make available for pre-order, choose a date to release your app for download, then click Save in the upper-right corner. The release date must be at least two days in the future, but no more than 90 days in the future.

  3. Submit your app for review.

  4. Once your app is approved and you're ready to make it available for pre-order, return to Pricing and Availability, confirm the date your app will be released for download, and click Release as Pre-Order in the upper-right corner.

In addition to offering apps for pre-orders, Apple will report pre-orders as part of the Sales and Trends section of iTunes Connect. Apple has also included an FAQ with further information about the pre-order process.

It’s been about a year since Apple tested the pre-release notification waters with Super Mario Run and it’s nice to see that it’s been opened up to all developers who can use it to get customers excited about their apps ahead of launch.

Update: According to a new webpage published by Apple that summarizes the pre-order program, it also applies to macOS and tvOS apps.

In addition, Apple has added a 'Pre-Orders' section to the Games tab of the App Store, which currently includes five games. No similar section has been added to the Mac App Store or Apple TV App Store.


Pixure 3.0 with PanelKit 2.0

I first linked to Louis D'hauwe's pixel art editor for iOS, Pixure, in March, when he introduced PanelKit in the iPad version of the app. If you've never played around with Pixure and PanelKit, imagine the ability to grab iPad popovers or sidebar panels and detach them so they're floating onscreen like tool palettes would on macOS. I was skeptical of this idea initially – I feared it would overcomplicate the iPad's UI – but it works surprisingly well on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I know that after using PanelKit months ago, I tried a few times to grab popovers in iPad apps like Omni's, realizing that they didn't support PanelKit.

D'hauwe is back today with Pixure 3.0, another excellent update that, among various enhancements, brings a version browser (a feature more apps should offer on iOS), drag and drop, and advanced export options. With today's release, Pixure also includes PanelKit 2.0, a major update of the framework that now supports pinning multiple panels to the side of the screen as well as resizing them. Plus, your custom panel configuration is now saved across multiple app launches, so once you set up your workspace in Pixure, the app always remembers it.

Even if you're not interested in editing pixel art graphics, I recommend checking out Pixure 3.0 just to play around with PanelKit 2.0. Support for multiple panels on the side is particularly impressive – try, for instance, to resize and stack the Color Picker and Layers panels on top of each other. It's fun and intuitive, and I bet you're going to wish more pro iPad apps offered this kind of flexible, customizable UI. You can find Pixure 3.0 on the App Store and read more about PanelKit 2.0 here.

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