iOS


ON: BY: Chris Hannah

Brad Moon, writing for Forbes:

With Apple’s September iPhone event --and the official release of its latest operating systems-- just days away, Apple continues pushing out public betas of iOS 11. A lot of people are downloading this software and loading it on their iPhones. But why?

When you install the iOS 11 public beta, you are essentially testing the software for Apple. Using your own hardware, apps and data. For free.

You don’t even get a tee shirt. Apple spikes this point out on the website for its Beta Software Program: “This program is voluntary, and there is no compensation for your participation.”

Because getting early access to upcoming software can only be a bad thing?

Heck, even by the time the company puts out the official annual iOS release in September, there are usually significant bugs still remaining. That’s why I wait for the first revision to be released before installing it on my devices.

It simply sounds like he’s had a bad experience, and that should apparently affect you too.

He goes on to point out a few sections of the beta agreement, which he has to expand on further that they “even use all caps”. The agreement states that the devices may not be able to be restored after using beta software, Apple will not be liable to any problems with using the software, and general stuff that you’d expect.

It’s not a final piece of software, and like all their public betas (which come after the more buggy developer betas), they are to be used at your own risk. And completely optional!

I just don’t see the issue. But I think his trust issues go further than the stability of the actual software:

If you have a spare iPhone or iPad lying around and you're curious about the direction Apple is going, that's also fair game, although not risk-free (and you're still working for free for a company that made a profit in excess of $45 billion in 2016).

Contributing to beta testing, to help make the software and overall experience better can only be a bad thing. Especially when you don’t even get a t-shirt.

ON: BY: Chris Hannah

iA Writer 5 is scheduled to be released at the end of September, and there’s one feature that they’ve already announced, and I love it.

It’s a configurable keyboard!

Above the iOS keyboard on an iPhone, you usually get the little keyboard row where apps can add shortcuts to functionality, and also for basic things like undo and redo. But iA have gone a step further, and not only added some cool features like the ability to search through actions, files, and text in a document, but a customisable keyboard that opens up when you tap the ⌘ key.

You get the standard markdown syntax for things like headers, links, footnotes, lists, etc. But also the ability to swap and rearrange them.

You can see for yourself some of the available keys in their video, but I imagine there will be a load more when it’s released.

ON: BY: Chris Hannah

There's a lot of occasions where I'm checking the specific iOS icon sizes, and I remember I made a document a few years ago with some references. However, there's been a huge amount of changes since then. So I decided to create a new reference document from the Xcode 9.0 beta.

It's hosted as a Gist on Github, or you can view it below:

I'm going to make an effort to keep this updated, and I'll probably create one for the other platforms as well. Anyway, I hope people find this useful!

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Michael Rockwell, over at Initial Charge write a piece about a really interesting way to give web apps a more native feel on iOS.

Firstly, he mentions Fluid, which is an application for macOS which lets you “convert” web apps into containers that run as normal apps:

On macOS, there’s an application available called Fluid, which lets you create site-specific web browsers. Many of us use web apps everyday and Fluid allows you to run them side-by-side with your native applications without being sequestered inside of a web browser. Fluid is a handy little tool that every Mac user should have in their arsenal.

I hadn’t heard of Fluid before, so I’m going to try this myself, but it’s not as good as his next suggestion for iOS:

To build these site-specific browsers, it just takes two simple actions — a URL action with the web app’s address and the Show Web Page action. When run, Workflow will open up the URL in a Safari View Controller, which gives you access to your action extensions alongside forward, back, and refresh buttons. From there you can give the workflow a name, set an icon color, and a glyph to fit the website or web application’s functionality.

So, he uses Workflow! It’s something I haven’t thought at all about before, but it makes sense. You can use the standard Safari View Controller inside Workflow, or you make partner it with apps like Sidefari, or maybe even add another layer to it with Opener.

I’ve actually just set one up myself to handle my the interface for this blog, which runs on Ghost.

Whether you use macOS or iOS, there’s a solution for you in this post!

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

My friend Cesare Forelli has just released his fourth app, and it’s a pedometer to help keep track of how far you’ve walked.

It’s a simple application, in that it’s primarily a way to view your walking data, but that’s not all it does.

It tracks your steps, the distance you actually walked, and if you’re on an iPhone 6 or newer it also shows you how many stairs have climbed.

This data is combined with a set goal, which is an amount of steps you want to hit every day. This is all presented in main ring, but if you swipe to the left you will also get to see the Stats view. Here you can find your past steps and distance walked, but also other data points such as the most steps walked, longest distance, and most floors in a single day.

There’s also a today widget, that let’s you keep on top of your walking at a glance.

I’m a big fan of the interface, and how it shows everything I need to see, and in a beautiful way.

Walk More is free to download on the App Store, but there’s also a few tip options in the settings, just in case you want to help keep the app going!

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Starting in iOS 11, users will no longer be able to associate social media accounts, such as Twitter or Facebook into the Settings app.

Previously, users could add an account to Settings, which would then allow other apps to request these details as authentication. Which was quite useful, as there are a lot of apps/services that authenticate via Twitter, and this meant you didn't have to keep entering your password.

There is an alternative that developers can use, and that is the built in Keychain that can be used to store authentication details, such as username or password. And they can combine this together with the new additions to in app autofill, so that stored details can be loaded into the login form automatically.

This also means that the Social app framework, that developers used to initiate content sharing to built-in social networks has changed. Instead of providing a simple way to post to LinkedIn, Weibo, Facebook, is Twitter, it is now a generalised framework that can be manipulated to be used with any social account.

From the documentation:

On iOS and macOS, this framework provides a template for creating HTTP requests. On iOS only, the Social framework provides a generalized interface for posting requests on behalf of the user.

A common way to use this framework is:

  • Create a network session.
  • Get the activity feed for a user.
  • Make a new post.
  • Set properties on a post, add attachments, etc.
  • Publish a post to an activity feed.

So it's still helpful, in that it can be used in more ways than before, and a general interface is also provided. But from the point of view of something like Twitter that was previously integrated, it will be a bit more work to integrate.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

David Sparks on the missed opportunity of text and screen effects in iOS, and specifically iMessage:

When iOS 10 was first released, I made the argument that to keep these relevant, Apple needed to constantly iterate and update them. If you've ever spent any time with Snapchat, you know what I'm talking about. Snapchat regularly releases new filters and effects that you can apply to your images. They often change seasonally and even for particular holidays. Watching my children and their friends, they all get a kick out of whatever the latest and greatest Snapchat filter is.

I think Apple had a similar opportunity with text and screen effects in iOS messaging. Why not render text with snowflakes during the winter? Why not have a screen effect with flowers blooming in the spring?

I agree with all of the points David makes, and with the recent TV ads and a bigger focus on iMessage stickers, I think they should also work on these effects a bit more. I'm not saying they should go mad, but maybe a seasonal advert, and a few extra effects every now and then would be a massive improvement. Some people don't even know that they exist, so surely just meeting that mark would be beneficial.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

With iOS 11 days from being announced, you wouldn't expect a great deal of big updates to apps. But Readdle have implemented a feature, that most iOS users have been waiting for - Drag and Drop.

So on their iPad apps - Documents, PDF Expert, Scanner Pro and Spark, you will be able to drag items from one app to another when using Split View.

I don't want to write thousands of words explaining this new feature, because it just wouldn't do it justice. Instead, you can watch Readdles's demo video.

It's truly impressive, and it's what I expect a native drag and drop feature on iOS would look like. Their own implementation would of took a huge amount of work, and they've really made it look seamless. One point I have to make though, is that if Drag and Drop is announced for iOS 11, would this custom implementation be the best way to do it?

But leaving the pessimistic thoughts alone, this is an incredible feature, and makes me want to try out even more of Readdle's apps.

You can read Readdle's announcement on their blog, but if you want to know more details on these updates, and see some more examples, then Federico Viticci has written a great piece at MacStories.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Joe Cieplinski, on the way iOS handles review prompts, and the way developers have to implement them:

While working on my latest update of Fin, I spent a bit of time playing with Apple’s new SKStoreReviewController API.

For those unfamiliar, this new API was announced with the early betas of iOS 10.3, and it went live with the 10.3 release last month. Though it isn’t the only approved way to prompt a customer to rate your app on the App Store yet, that is Apple’s ultimate intention. Like it or not, you’ll have to learn to work with this thing eventually, in other words. Unless you never prompt for reviews.

If you're interested in the way apps now ask for reviews on iOS, or maybe just want to find out a developers perspective, Joe explains the pros and cons very nicely.