Sleep++, developed by _David Smith, was one of the first apps to experiment with the idea of using the Apple Watch as a sleep tracker. Using physical movement data collected by the Watch overnight, Sleep++ allowed you to keep track of time spent sleeping without having to buy a separate device (funnily enough, exactly what Apple itself acquired).
WWDC is announced, Apple acquires a digital magazine service, and Myke and Federico discuss some ‘iOS Little Wonders’, because Stephen is away.
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I’ve been keeping an eye on the adoption of the Apple Watch Series 3 since its introduction last fall. From a development perspective the Series 3 is a delight to work with. It is fast, capable and LTE allows a wide variety of new applications (for example, the podcast support I added to Workouts++).
This stands in contrast to the challenges of working with the Series 0 (or Apple Watch (1st generation) as Apple would call it). It is just slow and honestly a bit painful to develop for. Even basic things like deploying your application to the watch can take uncomfortably long amounts of time. In daily use the Series 0 is probably “good enough” for many customers, especially with the speed/stability improvements added in watchOS 4, but as a developer I can’t wait until I no longer have to support it.
Which is why I’ve been watching the Apple Watch adoption curve within my apps (specifically Pedometer++ for this analysis) quite carefully. My personal hope is that this summer when we get watchOS 5 it will drop support for the Series 0 and free Apple to really push forward on what is possible for developers. But in order for that wish to be realistic I imagine Apple will need the daily use of those first watches to have died down significantly.
I've been wondering about when Apple could drop support for the original Apple Watch in new versions of watchOS. For context, the original iPhone, launched in 2007, couldn't be updated to iOS 4 in 2010, three years later. The Apple Watch will have its official third anniversary next month. I suppose that Apple Watch owners hold onto their devices for longer, but if old hardware is stifling innovation for the developer community who wants to push Watch apps forward (as much as that is possible with the current tools), then maybe it is time for Apple to move on.
I was a guest on The Menu Bar podcast last week, and I had fun talking with my friend Zac about my recent experiments with HomeKit, Apple's approach to privacy and ethics, and the modern era of music streaming services. You can listen here.
See also: my original appearance on The Menu Bar almost five years ago, which has been made available again to Menu Bar supporters on Patreon.
I love this concept by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber, who imagined how Apple's Health app could become a friendly, useful motivational tool instead of being just a pretty collection of charts and data points:
The majority of people using iPhones and Apple Watches to track their health have the simple wish to reach their goals and monitor their wellness. While today’s Health app is rich with data points and charts, it takes valuable time to dive in and parse the information. Even more challenging is drawing accurate and informed conclusions from the data without a medical background.
The Health app of the future could be a dashboard for your body, filled with daily insights into your wellness. Helpful tips for living a better life could be drawn from the treasure trove of data synced from your Apple Watch and connected apps, tailored to your specific health history and needs. Rather than just a data aggregator, Health could become a proactive and motivational tool.
Not only is Michael exactly right about the features missing from the Health app – his mockups are beautiful, and I could see the card-style UI fitting nicely within Health.
As I was reading Michael's article, I was reminded of something I wrote three years ago in my iPhone health story, after I spent months tracking everything about myself:
What I'm missing, however, is advanced and intelligent connections between the pieces of data I'm tracking about myself. I've spent months logging all I could about my body and daily activity using my iPhone. I'd love to see a smart AI capable of understanding actual patterns about my lifestyle and that could give me more detailed insights about my habits. What happened in the week I ate more vegetables than meat – did I lose weight and sleep better? What are the locations where I tend to walk more and when during the week? I can see how steps taken correlate with sleep quality, but how about something more practical such as, for instance, caffeine and food plotted against sleep?
This was published in March 2015, before I got an Apple Watch. Three years later, the Health app is still largely the same. I think it's time for Apple to consider how data tracked in the Health app could be used in meaningful, practical ways going forward. I hope something similar to Micheal's ideas is in the works.
Stephen's family staged a HomePod intervention, Myke names his favorite Apple Watch apps, Apple kills off iTunes LP and Federico has some news.
We discussed a variety of fun and interesting topics on Connected this week, but MacStories readers shouldn't miss the final part of the show. You can listen here.
If you've been playing around with home automation on iOS, you know that managing accessory pairing codes isn't exactly fun or convenient. While iOS 11 added support for QR codes and special NFC pairing tags, most accessory makers still stick basic alphanumeric codes on the back or at the bottom of accessories and essentially require you not to lose them. That's not ideal. HomePass aims to be a single repository where you can easily keep track of all your setup codes, sync them across devices with iCloud, and even protect them with Face ID. Instead of taking pictures of your codes and storing them in Apple Notes (which is what I've been doing), you can collect every HomeKit code in HomePass, where they'll be presented alongside device names, HomeKit rooms they belong to, and custom icons.
I've been testing HomePass for the past couple of weeks, and there are some nice touches I want to point out. First, if you grant the app access to your HomeKit data, it'll be able to see existing accessories and allow you to simply enter the code without choosing a device name or icon (you can also create new accessories from scratch). In addition, the code displayed in the Code field of a device's detail view is formatted with the same shape and font used on physical setup codes; this means you can open HomePass on your iPad and scan a code directly with the Home app on your iPhone. Lastly, you can add notes to your accessories and export everything as CSV if you prefer to have an additional backup of your accessory database.
One of the many shortcomings of Apple's native Home app is the lack of deeper organizational tools for users who own dozens of HomeKit accessories and need a better way to store their codes. Ideally, such a feature shouldn't be needed, but in my experience things sometimes go wrong and you may need to reset an accessory and add it to HomeKit again. When that happens, you don't want to go hunting for the setup code on the back of a thermostat. I highly recommend using HomePass instead, which is available at $2.99 on the App Store.
In the first update since November 2017, Apple today released version 1.7.8 of Workflow, the powerful iOS automation app they acquired last year. The latest version, which is now available on the App Store, introduces a brand new Mask Image action, adds support for Things' automation features, and improves the ability to extract text from PDFs using the company's PDFKit framework, launched in iOS 11. While the unassuming version number may suggest a relatively minor update, Workflow 1.7.8 actually comes with a variety of noteworthy changes for heavy users of the app.
Whether you’re a developer who’s working on mobile apps, or just someone enjoying the millions of apps available for your phone, today is a very special day. It’s the ten year anniversary of the original iPhone SDK.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this release changed a lot of people’s lives. I know it changed mine and had a fundamental impact on this company’s business. So let’s take a moment and look back on what happened a decade ago.
Craig Hockenberry published a fantastic retrospective on a decade of the iPhone SDK, which, after months of jailbreaking, allowed developers to start making real iPhone apps in 2008. It's an excellent, well-researched story (with a lot of links, which you should open in new tabs; take your time to explore) that brings back a lot of memories. You should also check out the replies (standard and quoted) to Craig's tweet for a lot more interesting stories.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn't be here, typing this post today, hadn't Apple decided to open iPhone app development to third-party developers 10 years ago. I think many of us in this community of people who still care about this stuff at least partially owe our careers to the iPhone SDK. I've shared this story before, but in 2008 I dropped out of university, got a job at a physical "eBay store", and later started blogging with a free WordPress website because I wanted to write about apps. But really, I wanted to write about iPhone apps and try as many as possible to share my thoughts with other people. That website eventually became MacStories and these words I've been putting out for almost 9 years now.
In hindsight, it feels strange that thousands of jobs around the world were created or inspired by a huge and sprawling corporation, but it didn't feel that way back then. Even as a nobody watching and blogging (in poor English) from the sidelines of a burgeoning industry, that period between the spring of 2008 and early 2009 carried a palpable sense of discovery, surprise, and wild experimentation that I remember fondly. I saw app developers as pioneers charting a future we couldn't even imagine. It was, in many ways, a different, ingenuous, more enthusiastic era – one that I hope to live through again someday.