Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Mac App Store, which launched on January 6, 2011. The iOS App Store, which launched in 2008, was already huge success in 2011 – a success that continues today. The Mac App Store, announced at Apple's 'Back to the Mac' event in late 2010, offered the alluring promise of revitalising the Mac app market with easier access to customers, and, it was hoped, greater financial success for developers.
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There's only one thing I like more than switching todo apps: writing about it. On the surface, it surely seems like I've been doing a lot of both in the past year.
In reality, while I have been guilty of periodically changing the way I organize my tasks in the past – going as far as trying a different app each month – I've made an effort to stick with a system, learn it, and use it as much as possible over the past three years. Since 2013, I've only replaced my task management app of choice once – when I moved from Reminders to Todoist upon realizing that my life got too busy for Apple's basic app.
I liked Todoist for reasons that made sense at the time: I was preparing our multi-article coverage of iOS 8; I wanted a task manager that lived in the cloud and could be used to collaborate with other people; and I was intrigued by the idea of filters. Todoist served me well for months, and I was happy to see that others were also rediscovering a service that had been around for quite some time and built a profitable business. If you're looking for a task manager that does more than Wunderlist and is built for teams and external integrations, Todoist still is my top recommendation.
Around early July this year, I realized that my daily work routine wasn't the same as the Fall of 2014 and that it was also about to change again with the launch of Club MacStories and my iOS 9 review. On the verge of major alterations to my workflow and personal schedule, I always want to reassess and optimize how I get work done so that I don't end up fighting a system that's supposed to help me. Life is ever-changing, and there's no point in thinking that our approach to manage it should perpetually stay the same.
Primarily out of curiosity but also with a hint of app boredom, I installed 2Do on my iPhone and iPad while I was in Positano1. I had no idea it would become the task manager I've felt the most comfortable with since getting an iPhone eight years ago.
There are once again rumors that Apple is going to remove the 3.5mm audio jack from the next iPhone, this time courtesy of a report from Japanese website Macotakara. The Macotakara report goes on to suggest that audio output on the iPhone 7 will be handled via the Lightning connector and Bluetooth, and that the EarPod included with every iPhone will be upgraded and use the Lightning connector.
It's too early to tell whether Apple really will get rid of the 3.5mm audio jack on the iPhone 7 next year, but I think the real question is when will they get rid of it, not if they get rid of it. In my eyes, it's either going to happen in 2016 with the iPhone 7 or 2018 with the iPhone 8. I will be amazed, probably dumbfounded, if we get to 2020 and our phones still have the same 3.5mm audio jack. Although Macotakara implied that the reason for removing the audio jack is to make the iPhone thinner, I think the more likely reason is a combination of making it thinner, but also freeing up the volume of space that is occupied by the audio jack internally. Every extra cubic millimeter that they can stuff a battery into is no doubt important (and one of the reasons the Lightning port is so much smaller than the older 30-pin connector).
Given the premise that I think Apple will (at some point) ditch the audio jack, the next question is how they can possibly achieve that with the smallest adverse impact on customers, which should surely be the top priority. The easiest answer, is of course, not to do it. The iPod touch is already just 6.1mm, compared to the iPhone 6 which is 6.9mm, and the iPhone 6s is 7.1mm (thicker because of the addition of 3D Touch). You'll note that despite being an entire millimeter thinner than the iPhone 6s, it still has an audio jack — as does the iPod nano which is just 5.4 mm thick. So there's a question as to whether 2016 is really the year that Apple should remove the audio jack — maybe they can hold out a few more years.
But for the sake of argument, let's say that Apple wants to remove the audio jack from the next iPhone and that they've already decided to do this. Yes, it will be a painful transition, but I also think that there's a lot that Apple can do to ease the transition.
A fundamental part of the iPad Pro experience is the new range of accessories created by Apple and the framework the company has opened up to third-party manufacturers with the Smart Connector.
While Apple has been making iPad accessories since the very first iPad, the new Smart Connector has allowed the company to rethink how an external keyboard should connect to the device and interact with iOS, and they're giving third-parties the ability to do the same with new types of accessories. Meanwhile, the Pencil marks Apple's debut in the field of pens and styli for iPad, with several unique twists.
Alongside an iPad Pro review unit, Apple also provided me with an Apple Pencil, a Smart Keyboard, and, to my surprise, a Logitech CREATE keyboard case that connects to the device with the new Smart Connector. Because I don't plan to use these accessories on a daily basis (I'm not an artist, I rarely have to sketch and annotate documents, and I mostly use the software keyboard when writing articles), I have collected a few thoughts in this standalone article.
You can find my impressions below.
For the past two years, I've been reconsidering my preconceptions on large screens.
Back in 2013, I thought the iPad mini would always be the perfect iPad for me. After the technologically outdated debut of the first iPad mini, the second-generation model iterated on almost every aspect of the device, offering a masterful blend of portability and strengths of the iOS platform. I couldn't see myself switching to a full-size iPad again.
And then iOS 9 happened. Or rather, it started becoming clear – from multiple angles and sources – what would eventually happen to iOS for iPad, which had long stagnated in a state of close resemblance to the iPhone's interface. In hindsight, looking back at my iPad's history through a mere technological lens, upgrading to the iPad Air 2 in 2014 was a safe bet: a year later, the device that seemed even too powerful for iOS 8 would be the only one to fully support iOS 9's new multitasking features on day one.
I was uncertain about switching from the iPad mini to the Air 2 as a future-proofing tactic for my iOS experience, but the decision paid off. I didn't know I'd be able to get work done faster and more comfortably on the bigger iPad Air 2 until I got one. The iPad Air 2 became my primary computer.
On both the iPhone and iPad, I've discovered that I like big screens and I'm not affected by portability concerns. Moving to the iPad Air 2 and upgrading to the iPhone 6 Plus has been instrumental to assemble a setup that makes me more efficient on a daily basis.
It's with this mindset that I approached the iPad Pro, which I've been using for the last eight days since getting a review unit from Apple last week. Announced in September alongside the iPhone 6s, the iPad Pro has been presented by the company as the future of computing, promising to deliver desktop-class performance in a tablet form factor and expanding the range of input sources beyond multitouch with new accessories.
More practical questions have been making me ponder my taste in iPads again for the past two months. Is the iPad Pro too big for me? Can it really take another leap and outclass the iPad Air 2 in my daily usage of iOS 9? And with an iPad this big, are the portability perks of the 9.7-inch tablet inevitably lost?
I've spent the past week trying to find out. I set up a clean installation of iOS 9.1 on the iPad Pro with the apps I use every day (Editorial, Tweetbot, 2Do, Slack, Newsify, Outlook, and Notes – just to name a few), tested several third-party apps with iPad Pro-specific optimizations, and used accessories Apple gave me alongside the review unit – a Pencil, a Smart Keyboard, and the new Logitech CREATE keyboard case. I've used the iPad Pro as my only computer in lieu of the iPad Air 2, and I've observed how its hardware and software changes altered my workflow and physical interactions.
There's a lot to discuss about the iPad Pro, and I'll have to continue unwrapping the nature of this device for weeks to come. But I want to make one thing clear from the outset:
This is less of a "just for media consumption" device than any iPad before it. The iPad Pro is, primarily, about getting work done on iOS. And with such a focus on productivity, the iPad Pro has made me rethink what I expect from an iPad.
In April, I settled an argument with myself. After years of assuming that a small and compact phone was what I wanted, I realized that the iPhone 6 Plus was the pocket computer for me. The size, harder one-handed operations, software slowdowns caused by memory constraints and resolution downsampling – ultimately, none of those potential 6 Plus issues pushed me to reconsider my decision. I had adjusted to the hybrid nature of the iPhone 6 Plus, and I couldn't go back.
My physical traits and lifestyle habits meet the prerequisites necessary to use a 6 Plus on a daily basis. My hands are big enough for size not to be a deal breaker; I'm no longer constrained by obligatory one-handed operations; and generally, when I need to use my iPhone, I can use two hands for a better grip or faster interactions, and I don't mind it.
I say "hybrid" as a callback to how many refer to the 6 Plus, but I don't mean it in a pejorative light for the iPad. Since I switched to the 6 Plus in February, my use cases for the iPhone and iPad Air 2 have continued to be distinct and well-suited for the nature of each platform.
The iPad Air 2 is my primary computer, which I use to write and publish articles, manage MacStories, play games, read, and every other activity I used to perform on a Mac. The Air 2 has the unique advantage of being a truly portable computer, and it's my most used iOS device to date.
The iPhone is the pocket computer for everyday life. It's my camera. It's my home remote. It's Twitter and Slack. It's my health companion. I value my iPad immensely (I wouldn't be able to write this article without it), but the iPhone holds the key to my mobile lifestyle.
The iPhone is the hub around which everything revolves. Even the iPad – my computer – orbits the iPhone.
Based on lessons from the past few months, I knew getting an iPhone 6s Plus would be the best option for me. As I've witnessed, the Plus-sized iPhone and the iPad Air 2 don't compete with each other in my life: they complement each other's strengths. While I have sometimes traded one device for the capabilities of the other (such as reading on my iPhone instead of the iPad), I use each device for what it's best at, and I've never once doubted the role of the iPad in my daily workflow. I'm fine with a big iPhone, and I'm doing well with a big iPad. I like big screens. They're comfy.
As I outlined in my review, the most evident drawback of the iPhone 6 Plus was the inability to keep up with iOS 8. Whatever the reason – and no matter the performance improvements that Apple promised throughout the OS' update cycle – the iPhone 6 Plus always felt behind iOS 8, exhibiting stuttering animations, constantly purging recent apps from memory, and, generally, being sluggish.
It was reasonable, then, to wait for an S-class upgrade that would iron out the kinks and offer a more complete vision of the 5.5-inch iPhone. More RAM, an updated processor, an improved camera; faster multitasking, faster apps, faster everything. That's what I wanted. And knowing Apple – or, at least, knowing their penchant for a regular dose of small surprises – I assumed they'd throw in some seemingly minor but welcome new features for good measure as well.
The iPhone 6s Plus delivers on all these fronts, going beyond the "S stands for Speed" philosophy that is inexorably repeated every two years with changes I didn't expect.
Now that we're approaching the one year anniversary of Apple Pay on October 20 and with Apple's Vice President of Apple Pay speaking at the Code/Mobile conference later today, I thought it might be interesting to take stock of what has happened with Apple Pay so far, and what's next for it.
In 2013 Apple left behind the decade old big cat naming scheme for major releases of its flagship desktop operating system. It set its sights instead on inspirational places in California. Beginning with Mavericks, a California surfing spot, OS X then moved on to Yosemite, the beloved national park. In this year's new release, Apple eschewed another big move in exchange for seeking greater heights within the bounds of last year's stomping ground.
Since the introduction of Yosemite last fall, Apple has faced some rough times in the press. While the company is well adjusted to the doomsday chicanery constantly tossed about by the mainstream tech media, this year the calls were coming from inside the house. Well known developers and tech bloggers who have historically been accused 1 of ingratiation with the Cupertino company, were stepping out to bring attention to a growing feeling of dissatisfaction in its software.
Software is a field which has classically been one of Apple's strong suits. Shave off ten seconds on startup and save a dozen lives. Yet recent years have brought debacles such as Apple Maps in iOS 6 and discoveryd, as well as many smaller issues such as random crashing in iOS, lost music files, and stingy iCloud storage.
The consensus that seemed to be reached when these issue came to a head this January was a plea to Apple to just slow down. While Apple's hardware division has proven themselves capable of firing on all cylinders year after year, their software division has not quite been keeping up. They could use a year to regroup, focus on existing features, and hold off on any major leaps forward. In essence, a Snow Leopard kind of year.
discoveryd was reverted in the final update to Yosemite, Apple Music has some homework to do, and Apple Maps has picked up the last of its major missing features. Siri is getting faster, iCloud storage prices have gone down, and Notification Center widgets which launch other apps are being allowed into the App Store.
With the difficult, but necessary changes seen in iOS 7 and 8 and OS X 10.9 and 10.10 out of the way, Apple may finally have a chance to take advantage of some breathing room and address the features they've been neglecting.
With all this in mind, it's no surprise that OS X 10.11 is named after a mountain which can be found inside Yosemite National Park.
El Capitan marks an end to Apple's relentless march forward, opting instead for a calm retrospective on the applications and underlying frameworks which have been the keystones of the operating system for years. Portentous in its own restraint, 10.11 canonizes those small but significant features that enrich the OS X experience in daily use. Shaving off seconds and bandaging cuts, El Capitan is the operating system we've been looking for.
- Without merit, but accused nonetheless. ↩︎
On September 9th, 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino. This was the very same stage on which, 30 years earlier, a young Steve Jobs had introduced the original Macintosh to the world. The Apple of 2014 was a very different company. Loved and hated, famous and infamous, indomitable and doomed. The only statement about the tech giant that might avoid contestation was that it could not be ignored.
The 9th would be a rubicon for Tim Cook. The late Steve Jobs had helmed the company through every one of its unparalleled series of epochal products. This was the day on which Cook would announce the first new product to come out of Apple since Jobs' passing. A product that media pundits everywhere were sure to use as a scapegoat to prove or disprove the quality of his leadership.
The words "One More Thing..." overtook the screen, met by raucous applause from the expectant audience. Uncontrolled excitement burst through Cook's normally calm demeanor as he presented the introduction to his hard work. "It is the next chapter in Apple's story," Cook boldly stated before leaving the stage. The ensuing video gave the world its first look at the Apple Watch.