With an update released today, WhatsApp has introduced free audio calling on iOS (previously launched on Android), improvements to how photos can be attached to conversations, and a new iOS 8 share extension to send content from other apps.
VoIP calling is still rolling out to users worldwide and I'm not a heavy user of media sharing through WhatsApp (I prefer iMessage's higher quality settings), but I often share links and images downloaded from the web with WhatsApp, and I was curious to try the new extension.
Apple released iOS 8.3 earlier today, bringing a variety of bug fixes (with some of the most detailed release notes I've ever seen in an iOS update), new diverse emoji with skin tones, and various improvements to Siri and CarPlay. Josh Centers has a good overview of the changes at TidBITS.
I haven't had much time to check out iOS 8.3 (I installed the developer beta on a loaned iPhone 6 Plus earlier this week), but, so far, everything seems a bit faster and generally fine on my iPad Air 2 (which I've been using all day for work).
I like the new emoji keyboard because it makes it easy to find different categories with a new scrollable UI (reminiscent of the excellent Emoji++, which I've uninstalled to take Apple's new keyboard for a spin). The new emoji keyboard is especially nice on the iPad, with big previews and category icons at the bottom. Third-party keyboards seem to be faster when switching between them (but they're still not as responsive or integrated as Apple's native ones) and I've noticed no rotation problems on the 6 Plus so far.
iOS 8.3 appears to be the equivalent of iOS 7.1 last year – dozens of important fixes, nicely wrapping up most of the work on iOS 8 before WWDC.
When Greg Gardner, an independent developer based in San Francisco, released Launcher for iOS last year, he didn’t think his handy utility would make headlines around tech blogs and push other developers to approach widgets for iOS 8 differently. And yet, after months of not being available on the App Store despite being originally approved in September 2014, Launcher is about to be covered (and used as an example) by the press again. Launcher has been re-approved by Apple, and it’s coming back to the App Store today with the same feature set from six months ago.
Apple today released software updates for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, bringing bug fixes and stability improvements alongside some welcome enhancements to the iOS update process and Yosemite's iCloud Drive.
In the iOS 8.1.3 changelog (pictured above), Apple notes that they have reduced the amount of storage required to perform a software update. This is an important change as Apple has been criticized for releasing OTA (over-the-air) software updates for iPhones and iPads that required users to free up too much storage on their devices. Notably, iOS 8.1.3 also includes fixes for Spotlight, which often failed to find results for apps previously downloaded and installed.
In OS X Yosemite, Apple resolved a series of issues with WiFi connections, slow performance in loading webpages, and a security issue with loading remote Mail content in Spotlight. iCloud Drive content can now be browsed in Time Machine, the company's local backup solution for OS X.
Both iOS 8.1.3 and OS X 10.10.2 are now available in Software Update.
I sometimes need to pick specific colors from screenshots I take on my iPhone and iPad, and while I’m aware of the existence of more powerful color pickers for iOS, I’ve been using and liking Pixel Picker.
Developed by Muse Visions, Pixel Picker is a simple and free app for iOS 8 that uses an extension to bring up a color picker in the Photos app. Through an action extension, you can bring up Pixel Picker for any image in your library; the extension will take the selected image, put it in a popup, and display a picker you can move over the pixels you want to know the color of. Because the extension works for any image that can be passed to the iOS 8 share sheet, you can run Pixel Picker in any other app that can share images, such as Messages or Twitterrific.
You can pick pixels more precisely by zooming and panning on the image, and the extension will display the RGB code of the recognized color in the upper left corner of the popup window.
Unfortunately, Pixel Picker doesn’t come with a button to quickly copy the RGB value to the clipboard, nor does it offer additional options besides picking one color at a time. It’d be nice to save colors into personalized palettes, have different output values, or perhaps have a history of colors saves from the extension.
Pixel Picker is decidedly not for designers and developers who need a serious tool for web or app design. In spite of its limitations and barebones UI, Pixel Picker gets the job done for me. The action extension is simple enough and it works, and, while the app is free, you can unlock a $0.99 In-App Purchase to remove ads in the app (you never see them in the extension) and support the developer.
Pixel Picker is available on the App Store.
David Chartier sums up my feelings on custom iOS 8 keyboards so far:
As interesting as iOS keyboards can be, their initial implementation at the OS level is severely flawed. They’re cumbersome to setup, switching between them is needlessly tedious, and limitations make it difficult to teach users about keyboard features. As far as I can tell, all these problems require solutions and improvements from Apple at the OS level.
I only use custom keyboards that solve a specific problem: Clips, for copying multiple bits of text; KuaiBoard, for visual snippets; Emoji++, because it's better than Apple's emoji keyboard. Even with these keyboards (which I only activate when I need them – as utilities) I've been annoyed by the system's tediousness in switching between them and lack of consistency.
I haven't been able to stick with any replacement keyboard as my primary one. In the first version of iOS 8, keyboards were too buggy to be used as daily drivers, but even after fixes I can't use a non-Apple one on a daily basis. I'd miss the system autocorrection, QuickType, dictation, and shortcuts that I've grown to know over the years. Hopefully Apple will soften its stance on what's off-limits to custom keyboards with iOS 9. Personally, I quite like Apple's keyboard – I just wish it supported multiple languages at once.
With iOS 8, Readdle updated their PDF Converter app for iPad with an action extension to quickly convert any webpage to PDF. While the same can be done with Workflow now, I like that PDF Converter saves documents automatically into the app, which can store them in iCloud Drive (and thus on all your devices) without even launching the app after a PDF has been generated.
PDF Converter was updated to version 2.2 yesterday with iPhone support – you can now “print” a webpage to PDF directly from Safari with the tap of a button without having to decide where you want to save the file. In the app, you can tap an iCloud Drive button to open the iOS 8 document picker and switch it to other document storage extensions, and you can also convert the contents of your clipboard or files from Dropbox.
If you don't want to convert webpages or files, PDF Converter's action extension shows up in the Photos app, which will let you convert images to PDF documents (handy if you, say, want to annotate screenshots with full-featured apps like PDF Expert).
PDF Converter 2.2 is available on the App Store at $2.99.
Emoji have really taken off this year, and on the iPhone and iPad it is easier than ever to use them thanks to iOS 8’s custom keyboards. Like many people, I’ve been using and enjoying the fantastic Emoji++ from David Smith (you can read our review here). But as someone who is admittedly a bit of a novice when it comes to emoji, the wall of emoji in Emoji++, whilst a massive improvement over the default emoji keyboard, is still a bit intimidating at times. This is particularly the case when searching for an emoji, with no idea if it exists or where it might be.
Emoji Type, which launched today, is a new predictive emoji keyboard. That means you can start typing koala and Emoji Type will pull up the koala emoji in a bar similar to the QuickType suggestion bar from iOS 8’s default keyboard. There’s a whole dictionary of words associated with the various emoji that has been built into Emoji Type. So, as an example, you can get to the koala emoji by typing koala or Australia and you can get to the heart emojis by typing heart or love. And you don’t have to type the whole word for the emoji to appear, emojis start appearing after typing two letters and each letter you type after that will continue to narrow the selection (which is horizontally scrollable).
Earlier this week, Panic was forced to remove Transmit's ability to send files to iCloud Drive following a request by Apple. Fortunately, Apple has reversed their decision (as it happened for the PCalc widget) and a new version of Transmit has been released on the App Store.
As I argued last night on Connected, there could be an issue within Apple that leads to confusion with apps that can be promoted and rejected at the same time. We don't, however, know the extent of this probable issue, and I don't think speculating about internal conflicts is worth much (as with most things Apple, speculation isn't useful).
We can (and should continue to) point out unfair and unreasonable rejections, especially for apps that aren't made by popular companies such as Panic. Hopefully this latest string of questionable rejections and reversals will allow Apple to improve their internal App Review processes and make sure these cases become less frequent in the future.