Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Now is the time for free iCloud storage to be increased

Yesterday, Apple made Messages in iCloud — a feature that was delayed for about a year — available to users via iOS 11.4. This solution is on par with Apple’s other cloud-based storage and syncing features such as iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library. 1

With Messages in iCloud enabled, all your messages, including photos and attachments, live in your iCloud storage, which your iOS and (soon) macOS 2 devices read/write from and to. This is different than what we’ve been used to — completely independent copies of messages and attachments replicating to your iOS and macOS devices. If you’re wondering what the benefits are, Chaim Gartenberg from The Verge wrote a nice summary. In a nutshell: 1:1 syncing across all devices (including deletion), less local space use, and smaller local backups. It’s a great feature, and I didn’t have any technical issues with it during the betas.

Here’s the problem, though: as Apple further enables us to centralize our data in iCloud, the more of a joke the free 5 GB storage tier becomes for new customers, or existing ones that want to take advantage of these kinds of features. Take this latest one for example. I believe I text at a below-average rate compared to my friends and family, but with Messages in iCloud on, my Messages storage comes in at 4.4 GB. That’s almost the entirety of the free tier. I wonder how this shakes out for an average or above-average texter? I’m guessing 10GB and 30GB+, respectively?

Messages now takes up 4.4 GB of my iCloud storage.
Messages now takes up 4.4 GB of my iCloud storage.

We have rightfully complained about Apple’s free storage tier for ages, but with Messages in iCloud here and WWDC around the corner, now is the time to bump it up. I propose Apple make the new free tier 25 GB — half of the first paid tier ($.99 for 50 GB) — so the upgrade is still enticing and worthy. They can leave the existing tiers where they are (see below).

When my wife and I maxed out our 200 GB option, as an exponential amount of toddler photos will do, we had to jump all the way up to 2 TB, which is priced well at $9.99 per month. Was I ecstatic about it? No, but I have accepted it.

I bet a bunch of folks on the free tier that turn on Messages in iCloud will need to upgrade their storage. Will they fork out the $.99 per month? If we can barely get them to buy $.99 or $1.99 apps, I’m not so sure they will without a push.


  1. For branding purposes, I’m surprised they didn’t call it ‘iCloud Messages Library’. 
  2. Apple hasn’t released macOS 10.13.5 yet, which includes this feature. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

iOS 11.4 finally coming today with HomePod stereo pairing and AirPlay 2 →

From the Apple Newsroom:

HomePod, the breakthrough wireless speaker from Apple, now delivers an even more immersive listening experience throughout the home with support for HomePod stereo pairs and a new multi-room audio system in iOS 11.4. This free software update introduces the most advanced, easy to use, wireless multi-room audio system using AirPlay 2 to play music in any room from any room, move music from one room to another or play the same song everywhere using an iOS device, HomePod, Apple TV or by asking Siri.

It’s about damn time. Apple missed delivering on these core features when iOS 11 and HomePod first launched. The continued delay has been adding credence to the perception that Apple has been having issues with QA. I hope this is one of the last instances we see of Apple over-promising.

Granted this is a HomePod/AirPlay 2 press release, there’s no mention if the also-delayed ‘Messages in iCloud’ feature will be available in 11.4. I guess we’ll find out very soon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

iOS 11.4 beta enables AirPlay control via Siri

Zac Hall from 9to5Mac discovered an awesome new feature I’ve been clamoring for in the latest iOS 11.4 Beta. You can now ask Siri to AirPlay content to your Apple TV and/or HomePod, including multi-room audio playback!

This is a feature I have always thought Apple should implement to make the initiation of AirPlay even quicker, so I’m very excited. Hope it stays in through the final release.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

‘Shake to Undo’ is the worst gesture

Ah, Undo and Redo — the holy grail for those that make mistakes; saviors of ‘oh shit’ moments; enablers of the daring; unsung heroes of obsessive writers, carefully restructuring their sentences. You’ve been with us since the early days of computing. You deserve better than the terrible gesture given to you on iOS.

Read on

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Apple previews iOS 11.3, including Messages in iCloud and more →

Hot on the heels of iOS 11.2.5’s release yesterday, Apple previewed major features for the next major version of iOS this morning: iOS 11.3.

Highlights

  • New AR Experiences. In addition to horizontal surfaces like tables and chairs, ARKit can now recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls and doors, and can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables.
  • New Animoji. 1 iOS 11.3 introduces four new Animoji, giving iPhone X users the ability to express themselves as a lion, bear, dragon or skull.
  • Business Chat. Business Chat is a new way for users to communicate directly with businesses right within Messages. This feature will launch in Beta with the public availability of iOS 11.3 this spring, with the support of select businesses including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo.
  • Batteries and Performance. iOS 11.3 adds new features to show battery health and recommend if a battery needs to be serviced. These can be found in Settings -> Battery and are available for iPhone 6 and later.
  • Health Records in Health App. Patients from participating medical institutions will have information from various institutions organized into one view and receive regular notifications for their lab results, medications, conditions and more.
  • HomeKit software authentication. HomeKit software authentication provides a great new way for developers to add HomeKit support to existing accessories while protecting privacy and security.

Pretty cool stuff. There are a couple more features, so check out the preview page.

I’m most excited about the ARKit upgrades. Being able to use AR on vertical surfaces is a no-brainer for further implementations. Glad to see Apple added it.

Also, being in Healthcare IT, implementing Health Records in the Health app must be no easy feat. I can’t wait for the day when this is the norm for all healthcare systems.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) missing from this list is a feature originally intended to launch with iOS 11.0 — Messages in iCloud. Similar to iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library, Messages in iCloud stores your messages in iCloud, which are then retrieved by your Apple devices (instead of the awful syncing mechanism in place now). Apple said they needed more time to perfect the feature, so it was removed from early iOS 11 betas.

As it turns out, the first iOS 11.3 developer beta went live just a few minutes ago, and Federico Viticci discovered Messages in iCloud is indeed included. Upon discovery, I was a little surprised Apple didn’t include this on their preview page. Either they still aren’t confident in their ability to perfect the feature for iOS 11.3, or realized it’s not a super-sexy feature to market to the masses like … Animoji. I’m hoping its the latter.



  1. Remember Animoji? 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Panic to cease development, sales of iOS file transfer app Transmit →

Cabel Sasser on the Panic Blog:

Transmit for iOS always felt like an obvious addition to our lineup, but we never thought it made a ton of sense in the tightly-restricted world of iOS until Apple announced the “Share Sheet” for iOS 8. Finally, we thought, in addition to using Transmit iOS to upload/download whatever you need, you could easily (?) get data out of apps and send it to your favorite servers. So, in 2014, we built it!

On lack of sustainability:

Transmit iOS made about $35k in revenue in the last year, representing a minuscule fraction of our overall 2017 app revenue. That’s not enough to cover even a half-time developer working on the app. And the app needs full-time work […]

On the future of iPad productivity apps:

My optimistic take: we hope that as iOS matures, and more and more pro users begin to seriously consider the iPad as a legitimate part of their daily work routines, Transmit iOS can one day return and triumph like it does on the Mac.

The idea of this needing to happen really sucks, but it’s not Panic’s fault. Apple has only recently begun to capitalize on the form factor and power of iPad. The latest iPad Pro models in conjunction with iOS 11 are huge stepping stones for real productivity when it comes to the tablet as a form factor. As I’ve said before, I use mine to wholly write and publish this blog.

I have been a long-time user of Transmit on iOS, and while it won’t disappear if you already bought it, it’s sad to see development and sales end. I really wish they could have stuck it out longer, as I think iPad is going to have its watershed moment for productivity in the next two years (perhaps with the adoption of an iPhone X-esque edge-to-edge screen, TrueDepth Camera, and Face ID).

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Apple releases iOS 11.2 with Apple Pay Cash to address date and time bug, other fixes

Apple has released iOS 11.2 to address the nasty date and time bug discovered late last night. This is definitely an unprecedented action for them, but I suppose a good decision as long as iOS 11.2 doesn’t break anything else.

The full release notes are below, and include many other improvements/fixes. Despite the nature of the release, there is some pretty nice stuff listed here. NOTE: Apple Pay Cash is included, but it won’t be active until next week.

Full release notes for iOS 11.2:

  • iOS 11.2 introduces Apple Pay Cash to send, request and receive money from friends and family with Apple Pay. This update also includes bug fixes and improvements. For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website.
  • Other improvements and fixes:
  • Adds support for faster wireless charging on iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X with compatible third-party accessories.
  • Introduces three new Live wallpapers for iPhone X.
  • Improves video camera stabilization.
  • Adds support in Podcasts to automatically advance to the next episode from the same show.
  • Adds support in HealthKit for downhill snow sports distance as a data type.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Mail to appear to be checking for new messages even when a download is complete.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause cleared Mail notifications from Exchange accounts to reappear.
  • Improves stability in Calendar.
  • Resolves an issue where Settings could open to a blank screen.
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent swiping to Today View or Camera from the Lock Screen.
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent Music controls from displaying on the Lock Screen.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause app icons to be arranged incorrectly on the Home Screen.
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent users from deleting recent photos when iCloud storage is exceeded.
  • Addresses an issue where Find My iPhone sometimes wouldn’t display a map.
  • Fixes an issue in Messages where the keyboard could overlap the most recent message.
  • Fixes an issue in Calculator where typing numbers rapidly could lead to incorrect results.
  • Addressed an issue where the keyboard could respond slowly.
  • Adds support for real-time text (RTT) phone calls for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Improves VoiceOver stability in Messages, Settings, App Store and Music.
  • Resolves an issue that prevented VoiceOver from announcing incoming Notifications.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Apple does not intentionally slow down old iPhones →

Futuremark:

Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.

Check out the nicely-compiled data and graphs. Now can we please finally put the nail in the coffin on this one? I get that it stems from a misunderstanding of technology, but it’s beyond beating a dead horse.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Death to Push Notification Spam

Post updated on October 7 at 2:20 PM Pacific to include a new notification from Offer Up.

You get them, I get them, we all get them — and no it’s not ice cream, but something far worse — Push Notification spam. Whether they direct us to new features or advertise sales and specials, they have become a plague. We get so many notifications as is. Coupled with the lacking notification management in iOS, the last thing we need is literal spam adding to the mess.

For too long we have let apps control our endless stream of notifications in the hopes they’ll make our lives easier. While most do, there are countless others, big and small, that have abused our trust. I say no more. Here are my top offenders, in order of most annoying to least.

My Top Offenders

Postmates

They are by far the worst in terms of content and frequency. Here’s one in particular I saved from June.

No.
How about you just put it in your update notes instead?

Offer Up

Offer Up isn’t far behind Postmates. Yeah, I know it’s [insert national holiday here]. It doesn’t mean I’m going to look for [insert holiday-associated item here] in your app. I didn’t save an example, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I get another one.

Added on October 7 at 2:20PM:

Right on queue! I just received this about an hour ago.
What did I tell you? Right on queue! I just received this about an hour ago.

Starbucks

Really? Why? Did everyone suddenly forget about the largest coffee chain on Earth?

No shit? Get out of town!
No shit? Get outta town!

Others

There are countless others, as I’ve seen plenty examples over the years. I asked family and friends to send me any notifications they received in the same vein, so here are a few more. If you have particularly terrible ones, feel free to send them to me.

5miles
A repeat offender.
Awful, and a repeat offender for my niece.
Even TILE?
Even TILE? Again from my niece.
QVC
Egregious. Sent in by my Dad.
Come now, Domino’s.
Come now, Domino’s.

Solution

The solution I feel is three-fold.

Marketers: Don’t Be Shitty

Marketers need to stop trying to appeal to us this way. To think at any time I could be bombarded with an asinine notification about your product is ridiculous. If anything, it makes me dislike your brand/app and inches me ever closer to never using your service again. Only engage me when it’s actually warranted. Otherwise, get out of my way.

We The People

Report apps that do this to Apple. It’s explicitly against the App Store Review Guidelines, and if we make enough noise, hopefully Apple will listen. Which brings me to the third part of the solution.

You can report an app via the ‘Report A Problem’ site. One you login, apps purchased within the last 90 days will appear. Click the offending app’s ‘Report A Problem’ button and enter something of the following nature. If you need to report an app not on the list, contact support directly.

Apple’s Report A Problem site.
How to report an app. Just using Giphy as an example. They are not an offender.

Apple: Enforce App Store Guidelines

Half of the onus for this mess is on Apple. They have rules explicitly outlawing these kinds of practices, yet have continued to let marketers get away with it. As a result, they have set a terrible precedent.

They also haven’t provided a way for us as users to opt-out or otherwise better manage these kinds of notifications. To draw a parallel, Apple introduced an official API for developers to engage users on rating and reviewing apps in iOS 11. As a result, the experience has been far better than what developers have resorted to over the years. Maybe they could apply this same kind of thinking to ad-based notifications.

Otherwise, Apple needs to get with the program and actually enforce the policies below. Here are a few App Store Review Guidelines that speak best to this situation.

3.2.2 Unacceptable [Business Models]

(ii) Monetizing built-in capabilities provided by the hardware or operating system, such as Push Notifications, the camera, or the gyroscope; or Apple services, such as Apple Music access or iCloud storage.

4.5 Apple Sites and Services

4.5.3 Do not use Apple Services to spam, phish, or send unsolicited messages to customers, including Game Center, Push Notifications, etc.

4.5.4 Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used for advertising, promotions, or direct marketing purposes or to send sensitive personal or confidential information.

Emphasis mine. I don’t know how it can be more clear.

The Starbucks notification above is obviously in violation of all these rules. They outright say they want me to place an order from my phone under the guise of ‘cool feature’.

In the case of Postmates asking me to check out their latest update, I’ll play devil’s advocate. One could argue it’s not for ‘direct marketing purposes’, and only a plea to check out ‘cool feature’. Still, what feature could they possibly add that wouldn’t be for the benefit of their core business? Considering this, how could the notification not be in violation of the App Store guidelines? It might as well say ‘Please open our app and order something.’ — at least then I’d have a little more respect for their honesty.

Not A Solution

You might be saying, ‘well then don’t patronize these businesses and stop using their apps’ or ‘turn off notifications for the offenders’, but that’s beside the point. Some do offer great services or experiences that require or provide great benefit via Push Notification (e.g. letting you know when your order is ready). We simply must be vocal about discouraging this kind of behavior or it will continue to run rampant.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Apple’s Music app still doesn’t have a real equalizer

Ah, the Music app. Probably Apple’s most polarizing iOS app when it comes to design. When it was redesigned for Apple Music’s launch in 2015, there were tons of bugs and missing functionality that has since been restored. Kudos to Apple for addressing those many concerns. I still have one gripe, though.

I know a lot of people probably don’t care about having a real 5-band equalizer, but it’s 2017 and still not an option in Apple’s Music app on iOS.

Does anyone actually like the built-in presets for the EQ provided, heralding all the way back to the iPod days? Almost all of them reduce overall volume in a negative way, not to mention they just make your music sound like crap. A few of them have more utilitarian purposes, and that’s understandable (spoken word, bass/treble reducer, etc.), but at least give us the option to set the EQ exactly how we want it.

Ugh, the EQ presets.

Ugh, the EQ presets.

I can’t think of a single reason Apple shouldn’t include a 5-band EQ—hell, at least give us 3-band and I’ll be happy (Bass, Mids, Treble). Most people who don’t want to touch it won’t. They’ll just leave their preset EQ where it is (or off compeletely). Spotify has had a band EQ for quite a while, and I’m seriously jealous.

Spotify’s band portion of their EQ.

Spotify’s band portion of their EQ settings.

Sure, there are a bunch of 3rd-party music apps that have band EQs and will play songs from your iCloud Music Library, but I don’t want a 3rd-party app. Mainly because I’ll lose the ability to ask Siri to play a song in said app, since that is a function reserved only for the Music app. I’ll also lose the custom EQ when playing a song in my car via CarPlay. There’s too many downsides to having to use another app just to tweak the EQ.

With all the little changes we’re getting in iOS 11, I had hoped this would be one. Maybe next year.