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Third-Party Twitter Clients Remove Features as API Changes Loom

The latest chapter in Twitter’s contentious relationship with third-party developers is coming to a close. In April 2017, Twitter announced plans to eventually deprecate certain parts of its API that third-party apps rely on.

Fast forward one year to April 2018, roughly 10 weeks before the scheduled API transition of mid-June. Twitter’s new API still hadn’t been made available to third-party developers. The Iconfactory, Tapbots, and other makers of Twitter clients created a website called Apps of a Feather…Stick Together to explain how the looming changes would affect customers. The ensuing uproar among users caused Twitter to delay the API transition until tomorrow, August 16, 2018. Although Twitter has not flipped the switch on the changes yet, apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot have already taken steps to deal with the changes.

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Game Day: Holedown

It’s not often that a game grabs me and won’t let go the way Holedown has. Once I started playing, I couldn’t stop. I have the iOS 12 Screen Time reports to prove it. Even when I’d burned through all of the game’s levels reaching the final endless one, I kept coming back for more. Holedown has very quickly earned a spot as one of my all-time favorite iOS games.

Like most great mobile games, Holedown is simple. The game is a little like Breakout turned upside-down with a dash of pinball added. Each level begins on the surface of a planet. The object is to bore a hole through to the planet’s core by launching balls that bounce off of obstacles that advance up the screen with each turn you take. If the obstacles reach the surface without being cleared, you have to start over and try again with a new procedurally-generated level.

The obstacles moving up the screen are reminiscent of Tetris blocks, but each has a hit count that shows how many more ball collisions are necessary to take it out. Some blocks fall if the blocks supporting them are eliminated, but others have to be cleared regardless of the surrounding blocks.

As you launch balls, they bounce off the blocks and sides of the screen. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of the precise aiming that is done by dragging your finger across the screen. When you’re ready to shoot, lift your finger and the balls go careening across the screen bouncing helter-skelter off everything in their way.

As you play, you collect crystals. Holedown is a one-time, paid-up-front game, so the only way to collect the crystals is to play the game over and over. There is no In-App Purchase. As you collect crystals, they can be exchanged for enhanced gameplay like the ability to fire more balls at the start of each turn, take more shots per level, and more.

As you play, Holedown tracks the depth of your mine, your progress towards the core of the planet, how many balls you can shoot at one time, and how many shots you have left. It’s information that serves the dual purpose of showing where you are in the level and helping you plan your next move.

When you get to the final level, called the Black Hole, there is no core and you can shoot an unlimited number of balls at the obstacles. The only goal left is to see how deep you can mine before the blocks crash to the surface. I finished the other levels of Holedown over the course of a Saturday afternoon, and though I’ve been playing the Black Hole level for over a week now, the challenge of seeing how deep I can dig and the perfectly balanced gameplay have keep me coming back over and over.

Holedown also benefits from a strong dose of quirky personality. There’s a little mascot that sits in the corner of the screen smiling and watching you play. If you tap it, the little creature responds with things like ‘eat your vegetables,’ ‘seize the means of production,’ and ‘work, work.’

The music plays a big role in Holedown’s feel too. The catchy electronic soundtrack pairs perfectly with the sound effects, both of which react to events in the game, which adds further life to the gameplay.

Holedown is a perfect example of a well-designed mobile game. Even if you’re deep into a long session, you can quit at any time and pick up where you left off later without losing any progress. Combined with the quirky, fun gameplay, it’s one of the hardest games to put down that I’ve ever played on iOS. If you haven’t tried it yet, Holedown should be at the top of your must-play-games list.

Holedown is available on the App Store for $3.99.


Apple Privately Advocates for Developer Adoption of Subscriptions

Kif Leswing reports for Business Insider on a meeting Apple held with select app developers last year where the subscription model was pushed:

An Apple representative said at the meeting that paid apps represent 15% of total app sales and is on the decline, according to a person who was there who did not want to be identified to maintain their relationship with Apple.
[...]
The message was clear: successful apps now focus on getting regular engagement from their users, not one-time sales. For developers, that meant embracing the subscription model.

If you focus on paid apps, instead of subscriptions, Apple warned, your business will eventually hit a cap.

This report comes hot on the heels of Apple's recent quarterly earnings report, during which Tim Cook shared, "Paid subscriptions from Apple and third parties have now surpassed 300 million, an increase of more than 60 percent in the past year alone."

That increase is fairly staggering to consider. Two years ago when Apple opened up subscriptions to all app types, many users and developers feared the potential for subscription fatigue. It looks like that hasn't prevented significant growth from happening – at least for now. I'll be curious to see if growth like this, and a further shift toward subscriptions over paid apps, is sustainable in the long-term.

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‘Unlock 1Password’ Is the Latest Training Course from The Sweet Setup

The Sweet Setup has been on a roll lately with developing video training courses for some of the best iOS and Mac apps the App Store has to offer. Following similar deep dives into Things, Day One, and Ulysses, today they're launching a new course called 'Unlock 1Password.'

1Password has long been considered the premier password management solution on Apple platforms, but many users may only scratch the surface of what it can do, or they're simply hesitant to trust it with their most secure data. 'Unlock 1Password' takes users of varying experience levels into account, covering key features of the app, an overview of the product's security levels, ways it can be used alongside iCloud's own Keychain feature, and more.

In total, the course includes a whopping 14 videos, all of which can be downloaded for offline viewing if you'd like.

  1. Overview of 1Password for Mac
  2. Overview of 1Password for iOS
  3. Why You Can Trust 1Password
  4. Which Version is Right for You?
  5. Installation and Setup
  6. All the Things You Can Store in 1Password
  7. Working with Vaults
  8. Using the Browser Extension
  9. How to Perform a Security Audit
  10. Using 2-Factor Authentication
  11. 1Password for Families and/or Teams
  12. Using 1Password Alongside iCloud Keychain
  13. How to Sync 1Password Across All Your Devices
  14. Understanding Backups

I've relied on 1Password for years, but there were still things I learned from the course, such as how family and team plans work, and the process for setting up 1Password as a two-factor authentication tool. This is one of the things I especially appreciate about The Sweet Setup's courses: even when they cover apps that already have an important place in my life, I benefit from finding even more ways to put those apps to use.

As with the recent video courses from The Sweet Setup, 'Unlock 1Password' is launching at a special introductory price of $23, which will increase to $29 after a week. You can purchase the course here.



RapidWeaver 8 Debuts Redesign, New Responsive Themes, Unsplash Support, and Improved Plug-In Management

RapidWeaver by Realmac Software got a significant update today. Starting from scratch or with one of over 50 Themes, RapidWeaver allows users to create highly-customized websites by offering a wide array of tools and properties that can be tweaked. The app also supports third-party plug-ins and Themes that can be used to extend the app even further.

RapidWeaver may remind you a little of iWeb, but the similarities end with the drag and drop, template-driven approach. The depth of RapidWeaver goes well beyond what iWeb could do before Apple discontinued it.

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Apple Removes iOS 12 Beta 7 Over-the-Air Update

Close on the heels of reports that Apple had pulled Group FaceTime from iOS 12 beta 7, complaints about the beta’s sluggish performance began to surface. One of the first was from Guilherme Rambo who posted a short video on Twitter demonstrating how slowly the App Store app launched under the beta:

Rambo also predicted Apple might remove the beta, which it did a short time later:

The latest iOS 12 beta is no longer available as an over-the-air update via the Software Update section of the iOS Settings app. However, IPSW files for the beta, which can be installed via iTunes on a Mac, are still available from Apple’s developer portal. In light of the issues reported with the beta 7, if you haven't already installed beta 7, it’s probably best to not download and install the IPSW files, until a more reliable version is released.


Group FaceTime Pulled from Initial iOS 12 Release

Apple has removed Group FaceTime chat from the latest iOS 12 developer beta. The feature, which was debuted at WWDC and described as being able to handle up to 32 simultaneous users will come later this fall according to Apple’s beta release notes:

Group FaceTime has been removed from the initial release of iOS 12 and will ship in a future software update later this fall.

This delay isn’t the first time that a feature announced at WWDC has been moved to a later point release of a major iOS update. Last year, AirPlay 2, Messages in iCloud, and Apple Pay Cash all missed the initial release of iOS 11.

I’m not surprised Group FaceTime needs more time. I haven’t used it extensively, but in a late July test with four participants, it was clear that it had a long way to go before it was ready for release.


Serial Reader Adapts Books for the Smartphone Age

Our Internet-driven society has seen a decline in book reading, though not necessarily a decline in reading altogether. Despite book readers being less common than in past decades, we all do a fair amount of reading each day on our smartphones – reading messages from friends, or tweets, emails, Facebook posts, notifications, articles, and so on.

Personally, I've always enjoyed reading books, and I continue to read them regularly – though not as much as I'd like. However, I also read an abundance of emails, tweets, messages, and articles every day. A day may pass with me not reading a book, but that never happens with the likes of email and messages. Part of the reason my Internet-driven reading habits are more consistent than my book reading habits is that I have to read those things to do my job. But there's another reason too: email and Slack demand my attention each day via push notifications, while books do not. Add to that, emails and messages come in bite-sized quantities, whereas books are much longer, and thus more intimidating.

Serial Reader aims to fix that.

No stranger to the App Store, Serial Reader has been around for several years, but I recently gave it a try for the first time. The premise of the app is simple: it contains a collection of over 550 classic books that can be delivered to you in bite-size chunks. At a time of your choosing, Serial Reader will send a daily notification informing you that your latest issue of, say, War and Peace, is available to read. Each issue is compiled with an estimated reading time under 20 minutes, though most I've seen are around 10 minutes – very easy to digest. We all receive regular interruptions from Internet services that take 10 minutes out of our day at a time, and with Serial Reader you can plan those interruptions in a way that helps you read more books.

By offering up small helpings of a book each day, and delivering that book's latest "issue" through a notification, Serial Reader fixes key barriers to book reading. While I wish I could use it with my own collection of books, the public domain classics included in the app offer a wealth of quality options.

If you want to read more books, Serial Reader offers a clever, convenient way to do that. And there's no better time than the present to give the app a try – it just received a big update to version 3.5, with a new multi-column reading mode for iPad, curated book collections, alternate app icons, and a design refresh.

Serial Reader is available on the App Store.