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.
These are fascinating numbers about the adoption of different Apple Watch models by David Smith, who makes some of the best apps for the platform.
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.
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.
Marco Arment (who's been struggling with Watch app development for a while now) makes the case for WatchKit to be either discontinued or substantially expanded as, in its current form, it hinders the creation of more powerful apps.
Developing Apple Watch apps is extremely frustrating and limited for one big reason: unlike on iOS, Apple doesn’t give app developers access to the same watchOS frameworks that they use on Apple Watch.
Instead, we’re only allowed to use WatchKit, a baby UI framework that would’ve seemed rudimentary to developers even in the 1990s. But unlike the iPhone’s web apps, WatchKit doesn’t appear to be a stopgap — it seems to be Apple’s long-term solution to third-party app development on the Apple Watch.
When I first read his post, I thought that asking Apple to discontinue and replace WatchKit was perhaps too much. But after spending some time reorganizing my Watch favorites and complications last night and this morning, I agree with Marco. My favorite apps on the Watch are all made by Apple and are not based on WatchKit. The only exception is Workouts++ (which, as a workout app, has specific privileges). The only third-party Watch apps I regularly use besides Smith's app are Things and Shazam (which is somewhat ironic) and they're both accessed via complications; they're okay, but I don't love them because they're often slow to sync data with their iPhone counterparts or take too long to launch and be in a usable state. When I'm out and about, I still don't trust Watch apps to be as reliable as iPhone apps.
Despite three years of watchOS updates and more powerful hardware (I use a Series 3), the Apple Watch still doesn't feel like the rich, diverse, and vibrant app platform that the iPhone is. Some might say that's precisely the point – it doesn't have to be because the Watch works best through notifications and complications. However, I often ask myself if such argument is the wearable equivalent of Aesop's sour grapes – real Watch apps wouldn't make sense anyway. Like Marco, I wonder what would happen if only Apple exposed real watchOS development tools to app makers.
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:
Apple today sent out a notice to developers letting them know that starting in April of 2018, all new apps submitted to the App Store must be built using the iOS 11 SDK, which is included in Xcode 9 or later.
Furthermore, Apple says that all new apps designed for the iPhone, including universal apps, must support the iPhone X's Super Retina display.
"Must be built", unfortunately, doesn't mean apps have to support new features like drag and drop. Speaking of which, I don't think supporting the native resolution of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a requirement yet, and the device launched in November 2015.
Apple's Ricky Mondello has a great thread on some of the improvements for users and web developers coming to the next version of Safari, which is available in today's betas of iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4.
Among the highlights: animated GIFs can be replaced with silent videos; Intelligent Tracking Prevention is getting even smarter; Safari Reader has an improved parser and support for link blogs; Password AutoFill for Apps, which debuted with iOS 11, now works in web views inside apps. If you're on the iOS 11.3 beta, you can try the improved Reader on this very post. As for GIFs, here at MacStories we already replaced them with silent .mp4 files loaded via native auto-play (see one in action here), but we're considering adding support for video content in
<img> tags as well. I'm also glad to see Apple expanding support for modern web app technologies including Service Workers and Web App Manifest.
You can find the full documentation for Safari 11.1 on Apple's website here.
In a press release, Apple today announced iOS 11.3, the third major update to iOS 11 set to be released in beta for developers later today, and launching to the general public this Spring. iOS 11.3 will improve upon iOS 11 and features that debuted alongside the iPhone X with new Animoji, a major upgrade to ARKit, the ability to store health records in the Health app, plus other improvements for built-in system apps.
I noticed an unusual behavior of the iPhone X home indicator while working on my most recent app. The app’s background near the home indicator is purple. When the app launches, the home indicator is very light gray.
But something odd happened when I pressed the app’s “share” button, which opened a default iOS activity view (aka “share sheet”). When I hit the “cancel” button to close the activity view, the home indicator animated to a dark gray color.
Home indicator starts light, then a share sheet passing makes it dark.
Even though the background color was exactly the same, the light-colored activity view passing underneath caused the home indicator to change color. The only way to get the home indicator back to its original color was to leave the app and come back.
I had never seen this before, and it prompted my curiosity.
Fascinating study of the iPhone X's Home indicator behavior. I had no idea that the indicator adapted to background color changes within the bar itself. Don't miss the second (and more technical) half of the story with Gitter's detailed color tests.
During the week beginning on Christmas Eve, the App Store sold $890 million of apps to a record number of customers. In a press release today, Apple revealed that on New Year’s Day alone, customers bought another $300 million of apps.
“We are thrilled with the reaction to the new App Store and to see so many customers discovering and enjoying new apps and games,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We want to thank all of the creative app developers who have made these great apps and helped to change people’s lives. In 2017 alone, iOS developers earned $26.5 billion — more than a 30 percent increase over 2016.”
That’s a big increase over 2016 and with the tenth anniversary of the App Store on the horizon, the App Store is closing in on a big milestone. Since the App Store launched in July 2008, developers have earned over $86 billion. If App Store sales continue to grow at a pace similar to 2017, developer earnings should top $100 billion just in time for the anniversary.
Apple also stated that over 2,000 ARKit-enabled apps are available in the App Store, contrary to estimates by research firm Apptopia that fewer than 1,000 ARKit apps are available.
Just before the annual holiday shutdown of the App Store, Apple has revised its App Store Review Guidelines to address new App Store functionality like Pre-Orders and clarify or expand a handful of existing guidelines, including the creation of apps from templates and how ’loot boxes’ and VPNs should be handled. Below is a summary of the major changes to the Guidelines. To see all the changes, check out Rich Hong’s App Store Review Guidelines gist on GitHub.