A Recap of the Code Media Conference Interview with Eddy Cue

Last night Recode's Peter Kafka hosted an interview with Apple's Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, who was joined by television producer Ben Silverman at Recode's Code Media Conference. The discussion centered around Apple's video ambitions, with new information and trailers being released for two of Apple's upcoming original shows: Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. Additionally, Cue commented on work Apple's doing with Apple Music and in a variety of other areas.

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Picky: Music Rediscovery Through Powerful Filtering

My music collection is too big to browse in Apple’s Music app. With over 15,000 songs, browsing by track is out of the question, and because I have only one or two songs by many artists, scrolling my entire artist list is impractical too. As a result, I typically use search to find songs in the Music app. The trouble is, search only works if you already know what you want to hear, and it hampers rediscovery of music you haven't listened to for a while. Apple Music’s algorithmically-generated ‘My Favorites Mix’ helps with this, but sometimes I would rather discover old favorites on my own. For those times, I turn to Picky by Charles Joseph.

Picky lets you filter and sort music in more ways than you can probably imagine. Add to that the ability quickly queue up songs from anywhere in the app, and the result is a powerful music utility that is perfect for getting reacquainted with your favorite tunes.

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The Iconfactory Launches ‘Project Phoenix’ Kickstarter: A Twitterrific for Mac Reboot

The histories of Twitter and Twitterrific are closely tied. Twitterrific was the first Twitter client on the Mac in 2007 and later on the iPhone, coined the term ‘tweet,’ beat Twitter to a bluebird icon, and more. Until 2013, Twitterrific for the Mac was developed in tandem with the iOS version, but the pace of iOS’ evolution led The Iconfactory to suspend development of the Mac version.

Today, The Iconfactory unveiled a Kickstarter campaign to reboot Twitterrific for the Mac. The campaign, which seeks to raise a minimum of $75,000 or more with stretch goals, aims to rebuild Twitterrific from the ground up for macOS.

According to The Iconfactory, if its minimum goal is met,

The plan is to build a minimal product within 6 or 7 months that includes the following functionality:

  • Unified home timeline
  • Multiple account support
  • Composing, replying, and quoting tweets
  • Muffles and mutes
  • Streaming
  • Themes
  • Delete and edit your own tweets
  • Sync timeline position with iOS
  • VoiceOver Accessibility
  • Keyboard control
  • Attaching images to tweets
  • Timeline search (text filter/find)
  • Open links to other tweets, profiles and media in your browser

The goal is to build a solid, simple foundation on which The Iconfactory can iterate and eventually match the iOS version’s functionality. That means that not every imaginable feature will be included initially, but based on the list above, most of the core Twitterrific experience will be included if the project is funded. Additional features will be added if funding reaches $100,000 and $125,000. My only quibble with the goals as structured is that direct messages feel like something that should be included in the initial goal, not a stretch goal.

I like Twitterrific for iOS a lot, especially Center Stage, its new media browsing feature. However, as someone who uses a Mac and iOS devices daily, the lack of updates to Twitterrific for Mac has played a significant role in preventing me from considering it as my primary Twitter client. Consequently, I was excited to hear the news about Project Phoenix. I would like to have seen mockups of what The Iconfactory has planned, but even without that, I immediately backed Project Phoenix based on the great work The Iconfactory has done on the iOS version and its other apps.

You can watch the video introducing Project Phoenix, read more about The Iconfactory’s plans, and check out the rewards for each backing level on Project Phoenix’s Kickstarter page.


Google Maps Adds List Creation and Sharing

Today Google introduced a new feature for Google Maps that allows curating lists of places you want to remember and sharing those lists with others.

In previous versions, Google Maps allowed saving a location in a way that's similar to marking a place as favorite in Apple Maps. Every saved place went on one list, and there was no way to further categorize items you had saved. Today's update is a helpful expansion of that feature, making it possible to save places to pre-set lists like "Favorites" or "Want to Go," or to your own custom created list.

The ability to create custom lists opens so many possibilities: future vacation planning, restaurants to try, date night ideas, or whatever else you can think of. Any list that you've created can be shared with others via a link. When you share a list with others, they'll have the option to follow that list, meaning any future updates made to it will be visible to them.

Last fall my wife and I took a vacation to New York City for the first time. In researching places we would want to visit in the city, I would look up a location in Apple Maps, then use the share extension to add that location to a note in Apple Notes that was shared with my wife. Throughout our trip, we would use the links in that note to get us where we wanted to go. It wasn't a terrible system, but if Google's list feature had been around at the time, it would have been a perfect solution for us.

The new list feature will be rolling out in the next version of Google Maps for iOS, expected soon.


Working from an iPhone

One of my goals in 2016 was to make working from my iPhone as efficient as possible. The desire to make this happen initially sprung from experiences raising a baby. My wife and I began foster parenting in July of 2015, and one of our foster children was AJ, a four-week-old baby boy. AJ ended up staying with us for about a year before returning to his birth mother, and in that year I learned that when raising a baby, there are frequently occasions when only one hand is available for computing. I would often have a hand tied up feeding AJ or carrying him around, and if I needed to get any work done during that time, my iPad Pro was no help. iPads are built for two-handed computing, while iPhones work great with one.

In addition to the motivation of being able to get work done with one hand, one of the things I've learned during the past couple years is that the best computer for work is the one you have with you. Despite the iPad Pro being more portable than most Macs, it still pales in portability compared to the iPhone. Because my iPad doesn't travel with me everywhere, I need to be able to do anything on my iPhone that I can on my iPad.

Between my two current jobs, much of my work can be done while on the go – whether I'm waiting for an oil change to be completed, standing in a seemingly endless DMV line, or any similar scenario. In these short intervals of life, there are moments work can be done – which is where my iPhone comes in, because it's with me wherever I go.

If and when a pressing work issue comes up, in many cases it can't just be ignored until I get back to my desk; my iPhone needs to be capable of handling the task. Even if the issue isn't time-sensitive, getting things done while I'm out makes the load lighter when I do get back to my desk.

I've grown extremely proficient in using my iPhone to get things done, and there are six key things I've identified that make that possible.

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Apple Previews Carpool Karaoke Series During Grammys

During the Grammys, Apple debuted a one minute preview of its upcoming show Carpool Karaoke: The Series, which will be available exclusively to Apple Music subscribers. The preview video features a montage of clips from the upcoming show including many of its celebrity guests. The notes accompanying the clip uploaded to Apple’s YouTube channel provide additional details:

Based on the segment that has become a global, viral video sensation on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the new CARPOOL KARAOKE series features 16 celebrity pairings riding along in a car together as they sing tunes from their personal playlists and surprise fans who don’t expect to see big stars belting out tunes one lane over.

Featuring James Corden, Will Smith, Billy Eichner, Metallica, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Ariana Grande, Seth MacFarlane, Chelsea Handler, Blake Shelton, Michael Strahan, John Cena, Shaquille O’Neal, and many more.

The question left unanswered by the clip is when the show will be available. For now, it is still ‘Coming Soon.’


Game Day: Glitchskier

I love puzzle games and have seen some great ones debut on the App Store recently, but now and then, I want to play something different. This week, different meant Glitchskier, an endless runner-style arcade shooter by Shelly Alon. It has an off-kilter video game glitch aesthetic and challenging gameplay that together, hooked me immediately.

From the get-go, Glitchskier takes you back to early PC hardware. The screen is distorted to look like you’re playing on a curved, low-resolution CRT monitor. If the CRT look is too much for you, it can be turned off in settings. In the background, a dull hum and whir of electronics and fan blades add to the atmosphere. It’s an opinionated design that goes all-in with the retro PC look, which may turn off some people initially, but drew me in as soon as I started playing.

To start Glitchskier, you double tap a Windows-style folder and then glitchskier.exe. The gameplay is reminiscent of spaceship shooter games like Galaga. You maneuver your spaceship by dragging your finger around the screen. At the same time, the environment advances down the screen, endless runner-style. That, and the enemies that descend from the top of the screen, make avoiding your ship’s destruction difficult.

Your guns shoot automatically as long as your finger is on the screen. The more things you destroy, the higher your score climbs. As you move through the landscape, there are also weapons to collect that help you defeat enemies and bosses. Make it far enough, and you begin to unlock different colored themes too.

Part of the novelty of Glitchskier is the environment through which you fly your spaceship. The screen is littered with computer glitch obstacles like random characters that form barriers. The chaotic universe and enemies relentlessly descending on you is disorienting at first, but quickly becomes familiar and comfortable when you figure out what can be blasted to bits and what you need to avoid.

The unforgiving onslaught of enemies keeps you on your toes and requires split-second decisions. The sense of urgency is heightened by a synth soundtrack that fits perfectly with the game’s aesthetic and reminds me a little of the excellent Stranger Things soundtrack. But Glitchskier is more than just an homage to 80s arcade games. Beneath its carefully-crafted design is a fun game that’s easy to learn and extremely hard to master. The combination of the two sucks you into Glitchskier’s crazy world in a thoroughly entertaining way.

Glitchskier is available on the App Store for $1.99.


Remaster, Episode 28: The Current State of Games on the iPad

The gaming scene on iOS is a vibrant place, but what about the iPad specifically? Is the App Store the right market for games on larger screens? Where are all of the tailor made gaming experiences?

On this week's Remaster, we take a serious look at the state of gaming on the iPad, including the future of console-quality games for iOS and developers' relationship with Apple. You can listen here.

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Making More Outside the Mac App Store

After seeing the results of Kapeli's exit from the Mac App Store, Rogue Amoeba's Paul Kafasis compared sales of Piezo from the Mac App Store and their direct web store as well:

After seeing Kapeli’s chart, I was curious about the App Store’s impact on Piezo’s sales. The restrictions and limitations of the Mac App Store ultimately led us to remove Piezo on February 12th, 2016. We’ve now been selling it exclusively via our site for a year. This has provided about as perfect a real-world test case as one could hope for. Piezo’s removal came with minimal publicity, the price has remained constant at $19, and we’ve had no big updates or other major publicity for it in either 2015 or 2016.

His conclusion is perfectly reasonable:

In our case, however, it’s clear that we were serving Apple, rather than Apple serving us. By removing Piezo from the Mac App Store, we stopped paying a commission to Apple for the many customers who had found Rogue Amoeba on their own. Better still, we were able to improve the quality of the product while simplifying our work considerably. Ultimately, that alone was enough to convince us that leaving the Mac App Store was the right move. The subsequent revenue increase we’ve seen is merely a nice bonus.

At this point, I don't understand why any independent developer would want to sell apps exclusively through the Mac App Store. The lack of meaningful improvements since 2011 don't justify Apple's high commission anymore. The Mac App Store has always been a second-class citizen; today, Mac developers like Rogue Amoeba are better served by controlling their own destiny.

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