Posts in stories

Jumping in with Both Feet

The tagline for my MacStories Weekly column, Ongoing Development, is:

Trying new things, seeing what works, and discarding what doesn't.

The description captures Ongoing Development well and I like that it’s short, but if I were to add anything to it, I'd expand the middle bit to ‘seeing what works and where it leads’ because when you find something that works, it often leads in new and unexpected directions. When I started recording short audio clips for The MacStories Lounge Telegram channel, I never expected it would lead to a WWDC interview series with developers, but it did.

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Exploring the App Store’s Top Grossing Chart

A word cloud of the names of the apps in the Top 200 Grossing charts

A word cloud of the names of the apps in the Top 200 Grossing charts

You have probably noticed that there are a lot of free apps, apps with In-App Purchases, and games in the Top Grossing charts. I did too, so today I decided to survey the US App Store's Top 200 Grossing iPhone apps and create some charts to visualize various data points and trends. Included in this article is an analysis which examines the upfront price, In-App Purchases, category, and other details of the apps in the Top 200 Grossing charts.

The rankings will change from day to day, and country by country, but I think the results in this article provide interesting observations from a general perspective, even if some of the exact details may differ depending on the day.

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WWDC 2016 Developer Reactions: The MacStories Interviews

Over the course of WWDC I recorded interviews with fifteen developers and other people from the Apple community (sixteen including one pre-WWDC interview) about their reactions to the announcements made at WWDC and their work. The interviews, which are embedded below, grew out of The MacStories Lounge Telegram channel, where Federico and I have posted short audio updates for the past few months. I didn’t get a ticket in the WWDC lottery this year, but there was never a question in my mind that I would fly out to San Francisco for the week because I go for the people and geeky conversations as much as to learn what’s new. Thinking about those conversations it occurred to me, ‘why not record some of them to share with MacStories readers?’

Interviewing the Workflow team.

Interviewing the Workflow team.

What I recorded over the course of the week are the same sorts of conversations that happen all over San Francisco during WWDC, whether it’s in line for a session at Moscone, over a meal with friends, or yelled at the top of your voice in a noisy bar at night. It was fun to see the many common threads that emerged from the interviews over the course of the week. Everyone had their own unique take on the events and interests in things that are relevant to their own projects, but there were also many reactions to WWDC that were common to most of the people to whom I spoke.

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On iPad Features (Or Lack Thereof) at WWDC 2016

In my iOS 10 Wishes story from April1, I wrote:

I heard from multiple sources a few weeks ago that some iPad-only features will be shipped in 10.x updates following the release of iOS 10 in the Fall. I wouldn't be surprised if some iPad changes and feature additions won't make the cut for WWDC.

I didn't have high hopes for major iPad-specific features to be announced at WWDC. Still, I was disappointed to see the iPad return to the backseat2 after last year's revitalization. Every time Craig Federighi ended a segment with "it works on the iPad, too", it felt like the iPad had become an afterthought again.

After WWDC, I strongly believe that Apple has notable iPad-only features in the pipeline, but they won't be available until later in the iOS 10 cycle, possibly in early 2017.

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“Where’s the App for That?” – Fixing App Store Discovery

When the iPhone debuted in 2007, it was by no means a forgone conclusion that there would ever be an App Store. Steve Jobs reportedly resisted the idea over concerns that it would ‘mess up’ the iPhone,1 yet about one year later, the App Store debuted with around 500 third-party apps.

The App Store grew like wildfire. By January 2009, there were about 15,000 apps. Though modest by today's standards, 15,000 was already enough apps that it felt like there was one to fulfill every possible need you might have. Apple celebrated the success of the App Store the next month by launching a TV ad campaign featuring the catchphrase ‘There’s an app for that.’

Fast-forward to today and the scope of the App Store of 2009 feels quaint by comparison. There are now approximately 1.5 million apps in the App Store – a 100-fold increase in just seven years. But while the App Store has been an undeniable success for Apple by almost any measure, that success has come at a cost. With so many apps in the App Store, discovery has become such a serious problem that today’s version of Apple’s 2009 catchphrase may as well be ‘Where’s the app for that?’

The good news is that change is afoot in the App Store. Last December, Phil Schiller took over responsibility for the App Store. In April, Apple launched a site dedicated to helping developers build their businesses, which includes a way for developers to contact the App Store team directly about promoting their apps. In mid-May, app review times dropped dramatically, from around a week to under two days, instantly changing the launch cycle for developers. Then, just in the last week or two, Apple quietly started hiding Apple TV apps from its Featured pages and top charts that customers have already downloaded, making room to display more new apps.

According to rumors Apple has about 100 people working on changes to the App Store. With WWDC just around the corner, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how Apple could improve App Store discovery and gathering ideas from other developers. I’m optimistic that meaningful progress can be made to make developers’ apps more discoverable, but these are hard problems. There is no silver bullet that will improve discovery overnight – it’s a problem that needs to be attacked on multiple fronts simultaneously.

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I Made You a Mixtape

I've always loved the idea of someone else making a mixtape for me.

When I was in middle school and until the first year of high school, we didn't have the Internet at home. My parents were against buying me a PC; they thought it was a waste of time. Unlike many of my friends, I depended on books and magazines for my school research and hobbies. I was a voracious reader.

That was 2002. I wasn't exactly a music fan back then: I heard music on the radio in my mom's car on the way to school in the morning, and I occasionally slid my dad's cassette tapes in our Siemens Club 793 stereo, but he only listened to Italian music. I wanted the English stuff.

Until one day my friend Luca told me about MP3s and compact discs with hundreds of songs on them. By leaving his computer plugged in all night, he explained elatedly, he could download any music he wanted from the Internet using programs with exotic names I had never heard – WinMX, eMule, iMesh. Then, all those songs could be "burned" onto a CD as MP3s, and I could play them back for as long as I wanted with a CD player.

I was 14, we were chatting after school, and I didn't know what piracy was. And then, the surprise: because he knew I didn't have the Internet (or a computer), he had made a sample CD for me with about 30 songs on it. He gave me the CD, told me to buy a CD player for myself, and he concluded with "Get back to me soon about the songs you like. I put in a bit of everything except Italian music".

Fourteen years ago, I was handed the first mixtape someone ever made for me.

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Tim Cook’s Big Week in India and China: Context and Timeline

It may not have made the front page headlines, but Apple just concluded a significant week-long tour of India and China. Tim Cook has made numerous trips to China in recent years, but this was the first time that Cook visited India on an official trip as CEO of Apple. The trip also comes at a crucial time for the company as it begins to make big strategic moves to attract more Indian consumers, and at a time when Apple’s growth in China last quarter screeched to a halt after a period of huge growth.

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iOS 10: Wishes and Concept Video

iOS 10 concept.

iOS 10 concept.


(Full-res)

I almost can't believe there was a time when the iPad didn't have Split View. Or that, for years, I thought Apple would never bring split-screen multitasking to iOS.

More than any other iOS update before, iOS 9 has fundamentally reinvented the role of the iPad in my computing life. As I've written in my iOS 9 review and look at the iPad one year after my decision to stop using my Mac, iOS 9 and its multitasking improvements have catapulted the iPad away from the old limitations of iOS into a different league.

With iOS 9 and the iPad Pro, the list of tasks I can't perform on my iPad is down to a single item.

I've never been happier with an iOS device and operating system than I am with the iPad Pro and iOS 9. Getting my work done is faster; using apps in Split View is a treat compared to iOS 8; and the software keyboard (despite some problems) continues to impress me with the addition of trackpad mode and the Shortcut Bar. The iPhone 6s, too, has been a pleasant surprise thanks to its superior performance and 3D Touch.1

There's never been a better time to be an iOS user. But that doesn't mean that everything's perfect. When it comes to iOS, happiness is often a fleeting moment – a temporary satisfaction with the current state of things before the inevitable longing for something deeper. Such is the constant pursuit of the future.

Every year, I put together a list of the changes I'd like to see in the next version of iOS. I've been doing this for several years now. This year, I wanted to prepare something bigger. The tenth version of iOS due to be released later this year will be a major milestone for Apple and iOS users. It only felt appropriate to celebrate the occasion with a different take on my annual iOS wish list.

For the past few months, I've been collaborating with Sam Beckett (author of a fantastic Control Center concept we linked to a while back) to visualize my iOS 10 wishes with a professional concept video and static mockups. Sam and I discussed my ideas for a couple of months, and he was able to visualize2 what I would like to have in iOS 10 – both for the iPhone and iPad – with a style and attention to detail I'm extremely happy with.

Below, you'll find a collection of my iOS 10 wishes, organized in tentpole features (the ones also shown in the video) plus additional sub-sections. Some of these wishes have been on my list for years; others are a consequence of the features Apple shipped with iOS 9.

Let's get started.

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  1. I use 3D Touch heavily every day. Peek previews for tweets and links in Tweetbot, Home screen actions, keyboard cursor control, and channel shortcuts in Slack are gestures I intuitively perform daily. ↩︎
  2. He was also very patient. As you can imagine, I sent him a lot of ideas and comments before signing off on the final version. I can't recommend working with Sam enough. ↩︎