Speaking about third party developers. In the week leading up to WWDC. It seems Apple hasn’t had a good week around the App Store Guidelines. First the EU opens antitrust investigations in regards to the Apple App Store rules. Secondly it got in to quite a public fight regarding the approval and following update rejection of the new email app ‘Hey’.
My first reaction was that Hey must be doing something wrong, they were probably advertising how to get a subscription outside of the App Store. Turns out that isn’t the case. The help screen explains you need an account. It doesn’t even open a Webview with the website in it.
Trying to join HEY?
You can’t sign up for HEY in the app. We know that’s a pain. After you’ve created an account, you’ll be able to use the app.
Need help from a person?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get right back to you.
So over the past few days this blew up to the point that Phil Schiller also commented on this in the news.
Apple also released the full rejection they sent Basecamp (the makers of Hey) which goes in to some options in how they could get it approved. The last paragraph of that email is a punch in the gut for most Apple developers in the community.
“Thank you for being an iOS app developer. We understand that Basecamp has developed a number of apps and many subsequent versions for the App Store for many years, and that the App Store has distributed millions of these apps to iOS users. These apps do not offer in-app purchase – and, consequently, have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years. We are happy to continue to support you in your app business and offer you the solutions to provide your services for free – so long as you follow and respect the same App Store Review Guidelines and terms that all developers must follow.”
So let’s go back to my previous post where I talked about Broadcasts. Apple needs third party developers, it challenges them, and keeps pushing them forward. I hope this public spat will lead to some changes that are in the best interset of consumers, developers and in the long term also Apple.
Another finally! Although looking at it; they did the bare minimum. I guess it’s better than nothing, but it would have been nice to see the ultimate Mac Catalyst app. The demo to show ‘yes, you can build real Mac Apps’ using catalyst. As it stands now Broadcasts: Streaming Radio is the best example of what’s possible. I guess we should be thankful for third party developers.
Finally! I just hope they stick around with some activity from Apple after WWDC. I would welcome any public forum where Apple Engineers can share solutions and answer questions from the community.
The Keynote and the State of the Union will go ahead as usual. I wonder if they’ll just pretend it’s still on a stage or go full informercial style, like with the introduction of the new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard.
My HomeKit Adventures
Home automation is all the rage these days. But it’s also something I have found interesting since back when I was a tiny little boy. Anything with lights or electronics really.
I remember watching TV and seeing someone had a clap sensor for the lights in his house. We all know that a clap sensor isn’t the best of ideas, especially when you are in to sitcoms with a laugh track. But the magic of ‘I don’t need to get up, just do a motion with my hands and the light goes on' is still very magical to me.
Even after all these years it’s still something that intrigues me. Having conditional power supplies that when the TV goes to standby it will kill the power to the secondary devices. Or having an RF remote that will interfere with the lights that the neighbours have. Absolutely crazy!
So when I got my own apartment with more than one room it was time to start investigating what would be possible here. The apartment is a rental so I couldn’t do anything too crazy. No sliding smokey doors or replacement locks. But some lights seemed like a good starting point.
Philips Hue entered the scene around 2012. Smart light bulbs in pretty colours with a Bridge. These can be seen as a follow up to the ‘Living Colours’ series Philips introduced back in 2006. Beautiful ‘futuristic' designed led lights with an RF remote that had a colour ring much like the track wheel worked on an iPod.
The first Philips hue was a great starting point, the bridge was a bit underpowered and the eco system consisted mostly out of ‘Philips Hue’ light bulbs and their service. They had a documented API so you could write your own apps. But things like ‘Siri’, ‘Google Assistant' and ‘HomeKit’ were things that were not even in anyones imagination yet.
In 2014 HomeKit was introduced as part of iOS 8. A Framework for home automation devices to work on iOS. Making it possible to turn on and off lights using Siri. Although it was there. Not a lot was possible. Getting a device part of HomeKit was hard due to all the security requirements Apple had in place.
That changes a bit with iOS 10. Apple introduced the Home app that was pre- installed for every iOS user. They also added support for simple automations, so you could trigger certain scenes automatically.
In 2015 Philips introduced a new Bridge. This new square bridge introduced HomeKit support. Which meant you could see your lights in the Home app. Change the colours using Siri, trigger some automations from within the Apple eco system.
All in all, not much changed for the Philips hue owner, most of these things (if not all) were also possible in the Philips Hue app. This created an opportunity though. Because if you have all your home automation devices in the Home App, you could also control and trigger cross-brand devices and device types.
This is also where my adventure in HomeKit starts. I bought my first Philips Hue starter set in a ‘Going out of Business’ sale on the Dutch eBay. The Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter set. Two E27 White Ambiance bulbs (no colours, just different tints of white), A Dimmer Switch, and a bridge.
Over multiple posts I’ll share how I went from two accessories in the Home app to having over 50, and the lessons I’ll take to what ever my next house, or apartment will be.
So one Saturday I picked up the iPad Pro, downloaded Photoshop, grabbed my Pencil and decided to see what it could do. A few minutes later and I created this
Check out Chris his page to see what he made and the journey he went on.
A few hours later, I was at the Grand Central Apple Store buying the 12.9” as an investment in my art practive.
I think it’s awesome how many of these experiences start with ‘I tried it, now I want it’. A lot people started of hesitant with the iPod, the iPhone (it’s just an expensive iPod with a phone that doesn’t have a keyboard), iPad (it’s a big iPhone), Airpods (haha, toothbrushes in your ears).
I just wish I had a use for an iPad in my life! Maybe when Xcode is available on iOS 14?
Humans love to read about working efficiently and ‘Getting Things Done’. Especially if that means they can listen to it while postponing another task. This is a really great episode of Cortex with lot’s of 101’s how to use tools in your life to make your way more efficient and get a better understanding on what you are actually spending all that time ‘working’ on.
I genuinely love that they hijacked episode ‘101’ for this!
Without a single engineering manager responsible for the engineers on a team, the product manager lacked an equivalent peer—the mini-CTO to their mini-CEO role. There was no single person accountable for the engineering team’s delivery or who could negotiate prioritization of work at an equivalent level of responsibility.
The amount of job vacancies I’ve seen which tout that they work according to the Spotify model is just too high. The Spotify model turned in to a buzz word like ‘working agile’, ‘doing scrum’. With most companies that means ‘we do a daily standup'.
I’m lucky to be at a company that committed and followed through. We followed the agile manifesto, the department believed in it, we started a change in the company. All was great, until we started growing more and then you reach the point that the Spotify Model doesn’t scale. Something we specifically hit is mentioned in the quote above in combination with team Autonomy. Teams have complete freedom and no one is able to call them out on it because ‘Autonomy’.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s a good point to start; especially at that point in time. But the Spotify model never really evolved to what to do ‘after’. What when we get bigger?
You might have discovered the Spotify model because you were trying to figure out how to structure your teams. Don’t stop here. Keep researching. Leaders of companies that have withstood longer tests of time have written far more than Spotify blogged. Humans have been trying to figure out how to work together for as long as there have been humans. The industrial age and the information age changed some of the constraints, but academics studying organization theories have found timeless truths about what humans need to be successful in a collective.
Turns out, Spotify in 2012 had not figured out how to maintain the speed and nimbleness of a small team in a large organization. The company evolved beyond its eponymous model and looked outside of itself to find better answers. You should too.
So by all means take a look at the Spotify model as inspiration for your organisation, just look at the lessons learned and don’t waste time experiencing them yourself.
Speaking of Contact Tracing Apps
Although both companies announced that only registered health organisation would be allowed to use the API’s in their respective app stores I hope this will give some positive influence on the apps being developed at the moment by other parties.
Apps playing a vital role in ‘exit’ strategy
The Dutch government -together with many mover governments- thinks that apps will be playing a vital role in getting the economy and country opened up again. The intent seems to be good and they are being open about the proces and what we’re seeing. The project is going a head at an amazing pace, and it seems the government is trying to learn from past IT mistakes by making sure they ask for the advice of many experts. There is no way this could go wrong right?
Nine IT specialists who were involved in the initial assessment of proposals for the government’s anti-coronavirus app have published an open letter criticising the selection procedure and have dropped out of the process.
Oh wait.. it could.
The new iPhone SE
When the iPhone SE initially was introduced it felt like the base line model just wasn’t good enough with a 16GB introduction model. Like a lot of the products around that time from Apple you really couldn’t say ‘Any iPhone you’ll get will be good’.
But just like the new Macbook Air makes it very easy to say ‘Just get a Macbook Air’. It’s really easy to say ‘Just get an iPhone’. Because every single model on the market today is great. The iPhone SE comes with the same chip as the top of the line models from 6 months ago. This will make many people very happy!
If Omni can’t make it?
When I was young (last week! Hah), there were a few companies that I really looked up to. Companies that make beautiful software, really care to be a good citizen on the platform and just be a delight to use.
Most of that list was acquired, closed down, had to change their portfolio or had to expand (Agilebits). They all cared though, great customer support, great quality software that was a joy to use.
Yesterday it was announced that Omni had to lay off a portion of their workforce. Super talented people that had been with the company anywhere from 5 to 25 years. That makes me sad. Because if they can’t make it, what are the chances of a smaller more unknown company that cares about quality making it?
Let’s hope it’s a blip due the state the world currently is in.
On the bright side: a lot of amazing talent available now!
On the brighter side
I could talk about how COVID-19 is being a PITA all over the world and forcing people to lose their loved ones, people losing their jobs or having to adjust to a life where the whole family is at home at once. But I think the internet has covered that more than enough including the 500 ‘working from home tips’-blogs that all come down to ‘getting dressed’ and ‘keeping a routine’.
Instead I think you should give a listen to the latest Accidental Tech Podcast with guest Chris Lattner. The guy behind LLVM, Clang and Swift. It was a nice distraction over all the other things going on in the world at the moment.
Note: If you didn’t already, his previous appearance from 2017 is also a lot of fun to listen to.
NetNewsWire for iOS will ship tomorrow. If you’ve been using the TestFlight Beta you’ll know the application has been great and very stable since the start of the beta process. It will be great to see more people getting into RSS (again!).
For me the best part isn’t the availability of the iOS app; but that the project is open source. Much of the internet is filled with ‘sample’ projects and ‘stack overflow copy paste’ projects. It’s not often you get to get a glimpse in a big application that’s also currently shipping in the app store. If you’re an iOS or macOS developer, definitely check out the NetNewsWire repository
Working from Home?
With the recent covid-19 outbreak companies are urging people to work from home. If this lasts only a few weeks I can see many positive changes coming to working from home policies. Maybe some companies will even start pushing for it (because they can save money by having less office space).
If it takes longer though I think we’ll see productivity fall apart because most companies have no processes for remote work and most people will need some time to adjust to the new world.
App-like apps in the App Store
Next week marks the start of March. The 3rd of March also marks the date the new App Store Guidelines regarding HTML5 will go in to effect.
The update is clear. If you are building an app that offers real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations then you cannot use content that is not inside the binary. Specifically section 4, 5 and 6 of the App Store guidelines make this clear.
It’s good that Apple makes it explicit at least for these category of apps. They still have the big 4.2 catch all guideline in place though.
Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store.
I mean, this could probably apply to nearly every app in the App Store. In Dutch traffic law we have something called a ‘Kapstokartikel. This loosely translates to ‘Coat rack law’. It basically means that even if you aren’t breaking any of the predefined laws, but you are doing something reckless in traffic you can still be fined.
Apple’s 4.2 guideline feels a bit like this. Which is great for Apple, less great for developers trying to figure out if they can develop certain features for their app.
One more thing about the initial news article that notifies developers of this change.
The App Store Review Guidelines are designed to help developers create apps that are secure, high-quality, reliable, and that respect user privacy. In order to ensure this, we’ve always specified that all apps be self-contained bundles. This means that the core features and functionality of the app must be contained within the software’s binary, rather than made possible by referring users outside of the approved app — including through the use of HTML5. Apps that dynamically provide core features and functionality with web technology like HTML5 are best delivered through Safari, rather than through the curated App Store.
Although the current change only applies to certain set of App categories. The introduction makes it clear that this is something more generic that Apple has on it’s mind. It feels very much as the time that Apple pointed at Auto layout and said ‘Hey, you should use this, this is very cool’ only to introduce multiple iPhone sizes six months down the road, and requiring apps to support those sizes nine months later.
Push notifications on the iOS Simulator (Finally!)
If you’ve ever had to develop an application supporting Push notifications on iOS you might know that the development process is a bit janky. There is no good way to actually test your push notifications in the simulator so you have to resort to testing on an actual device and then sending your push notifications.
With Xcode 11.4 (beta) Apple finally made a big change, making it possible to just drag and drop a payload on the simulator and test your functionality in this way. Swift Lee did a great post on all the possibilities on using this new functionality that is worth checking out.
Untitled Goose Game
I was looking forward to this game for a while, but then never got around to actually playing it. Until last night that is, I bought the game on the Switch and went honking crazy. If you didn’t already, definitely check it out!
It might be time to replace my Firewatch phone background with a Goose..
Subscription Apps and Apple Arcade
Last week Flexbits released a new version of their calendar app Fantastical. There is some great stuff in there and seeing constant innovation on great Apple platform apps is great. But that’s not the most important part.
Flexbits changed their revenue model with this upgrade, instead of a one time purchase, or an upgrade pricing for previous major version users they are migrating over to a subscription model. They’re not the first (Adobe, Microsoft, Sketch to name a few) and definilty won’t be the last. Nor will the outcry of online publications regarding this subject.
And here’s the thing; as a developer I understand why developers are making this move, they need consistency, it’s hard to make a living, espeically when you are writing mobile software. Apple used to ask money for things like iWork (80$ for every major version), Aperture (doesn’t exist) and OS X upgrades (129$ for a single user comes to mind).
The first month of the App Store being around for the iPhone I spent 8$ on Super Monkey Ball. But quickly after it’s introduction an App Store app was either Free or 99¢. You can’t build a living on that, unless you are in the top 0.001% that reaches fame.
I looked it up, I bought Fantastical for iOS in 2015 for 4$. I got 4 years of use out of that app for the price of an overused coffee metaphor. I once got 1Password 3 for ‘free’ with a MacHeist bundle. I didn’t upgrade until 2 years ago, I probably got years of use out of that for nothing, and I skipped a version. Something a lot of people do, like using Photoshop CS2 in 2019 because you only use it once or twice a year.
In the world of subscription pricing this doesn’t happen, when you use the app you pay for it and you get the latest and greatest. As a consumer that makes me sad; because it means I probably won’t be using a lot of these apps anymore. I can only buy so many coffees a year, and I can only spend my money once. Just like the new Mac Pro isn’t for me, a lot of subscription apps aren’t for me.
I don’t think for one minute a developer cares I bought their app for 4$ 5 years ago. I mean they probably were happy at the time, but they spent that money a long time ago on food, or a beer. They’re looking forward to their next meal and me buying something once very 5 years isn’t going to cut it.
I hope, that just like skeuomorphism we are currently overcompensating and that someday in the future we will reach a point that we can address these issues. Apple Arcade for Apps maybe?
A collection of open and indie Mac, iOS, and web apps that help promote the open web.
I think I’ve heard of nearly every single one of them. But seeing them all together does make me happy about the options we have.
Losing the creative flame
One thing that has kept me busy the last few months is when do you stop with something? Every project has good days and bad days, when the bad days start overtaking the good days and you have a hard time finding the energy to start your work I think it might be time to rethink if you actually want to continue.
I’m not saying you should give up, but you do need to find a balance that keeps you happy. Last week Chris Hynes posted a series of blogposts about his time at Apple. His time there sounds amazing, he’s been part of some amazing projects and has some great stories to tell. It’s also something that resonated with my thoughts over the past few months.
The Aperture story is an amazing rollercoaster that sadly won’t suprise many people that have worked at a big corporte before. Fixed deadlines, throwing limitless amounts of engineers at the problem, scrapping features and dropping the ball on UX are just some of the quick fixes that will pass by you.
One bit specifically stood out to me:
Many people, including myself, developed long-term health problems. One person, as I mentioned, had a nervous breakdown, others just took forever to get any spark back in their careers. I would look these people in the eyes, and they had this look like someone close to them died.
When you’re in it I think it’s really hard to see if you’ve reached a tipping point or not. You either need very good self reflection skills or have a support system around you to notify you of changes in your behaviour.
I just hope I made the right choice.
I’ve heard of quite a few people that are very interested in buying a Switch but feel that they are better of waiting with the Switch heading in to it’s 4th year of sales.
Last year they introduced a smaller Switch Lite (which can’t be connected to the TV) and updated the internals of the existing Switch
Hands down one of the most fun consoles I’ve ever owned. Four years in it has a great catalogue, with lots of games in it’s future horizon. If you find a good offer, this is probably the best time to buy one.
NetNewsWire for iOS
RSS feeds are one of the best things about the open web. Although I never was a real fan of the Google Reader interface, it was a great backend for many RSS reader apps. With more people thinking about where their content lives and if they own it; it becomes more important again to be able to keep track of your favourite publications and friends latest posts and many years on RSS is still a great way to do it.
When Blackpixel announced that Brent Simmons would have the ownership of NetNewsWire I was very excited. I’m even more excited now that I’ve got a beta version of the iOS app in my hands. Any feeds I should be following?
[Low Power Mode for Mac laptops: making the case again] (https://marco.org/2020/01/13/macos-low-power-mode-redux)
In light of today’s rumor that a Pro Mode may be coming that seems to offer benefits in the opposite direction,1 I wanted to re-make the case for a Low Power Mode on macOS — and explain why now is the time.
Modern hardware constantly pushes thermal and power limits, trying to strike a balance that minimizes noise and heat while maximizing performance and battery life.
Software also plays a role, trying to keep everything background-updated, content-indexed, and photo-analyzed so it’s ready for us when we want it, but not so aggressively that we notice any cost to performance or battery life.
Apple’s customers don’t usually have control over these balances, and they’re usually fixed at design time with little opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances or customer priorities.
The sole exception, Low Power Mode on iOS, seems to be a huge hit: by offering a single toggle that chooses a different balance, people are able to greatly extend their battery life when they know they’ll need it.
Computers today are fast. Heck, even the speaker on my cabinet is super fast. But battery life has always the biggest worry when working ‘on the go’. I remember when I went from my first Windows XP laptop to an intel Macbook and I was amazed by the battery life. I think I got a whopping 3 or 4 hours of watching video and listening to music between charges. That pretty much stayed the same until Intel did some amazing things with power management in 2013 and I think we got Macbook Airs that lasted well over 10 hours.
For the first time I could last a day in the library without having to charge my laptop. Well that is if I was actually doing what I was supposed to be doing and not playing OpenTTD or Minecraft on a group server. After that there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of progress in Battery life. The laptops got faster, but not much faster. I went from a 13" 2015 Macbook pro to a 15" 2017 Macbook pro, and except for Xcode build times there wasn’t much difference in day to day usage.
What I have noticed is that my battery life in practice did get worse though, mostly due to my Mac switching to discrete graphics because I have some utility running in the background, Spotlight indexing or Photos thinking ‘Now’ is a great time to re-analyse every single photo in my 1tb photo library.
Marco mentions some great tips in his post, and disabling Turbo Boost is one that I’ve done in the past when he talked about it on his podcast, and saw really positive results. Introducing a low power mode in macOS would be great, but I think I would be running it in 95% of the time when I’m disconnected from power, and only go full Turbo Boost when I’m connected to power.
Who knows maybe Apple will make Siri so smart that it will sense when you actually need the power or when it’s okay to take 10 seconds longer so you can enjoy a sip of your fine brewed
So even though we’re in 2020 now I would still like to tell a bit about one of my highlights from 2019.
As an Apple Developer this is probably one of the most significant events of the year. This one week paves the year for most of the work that you’ll be doing during the summer and autumn season. Getting up to par with the new OSes, the new API’s, learning which API’s won’t be supported anymore and the realisation that you’ll have to start touching code you didn’t touch in 4 years.
I managed to arrive early in San José so I’d have some time to get used to the timezone and do some sight seeing. Basically the whole city is covered with WWDC signs, and everyone you see around is either going to the event or going to one of the smaller side events that have popped up in the recent years since Apple started selling out of tickets.
Wake up early (is reverse jet-lag a thing?) and get in line for the Keynote. Meet the guy behind Apollo (the best third party Reddit app around), get a free pin and realise you have something in common with everyone there and have some great conversations.
This wasn’t just at the keynote, but every line or event around WWDC. One of the best things was just being able to have conversations with everyone there.
One of the fun things about publishing this post so late is that I get the opportunity to get rid of some parts that don’t make any sense anymore, like me saying that every iOS app will have a Catalyst counterpart. Luckily I won’t make that mistake and we can just focus on the documentation being a bit lacklustre at the moment.
So what am I most excited about? SwiftUI, even though I realise that the tools currently are buggy, my machine is too slow for the previews and that there are very strange inconsistent behaviours between xcode versions and SDKs, I’m still excited. I’m not using it in production yet, and I probably won’t for a while. But knowing that Apple has focus on rolling out something new and not being scared to try something new is something I see as a good sign for the platform. I just hope that next year Apple focusses a bit more on the documentation so I don’t have to dive in to all the videos on SwiftUI (Session 204).
I would love to. It was great seeing the people I’ve known online for years in person, being able to see the people I listen in for multiple hours per week. Being able to walk to an Apple Engineer and get a 1-on-1 explanation of my issue instead of hoping for a response on Apple’s bug reporter. But on saying that, I don’t know if I will go next year. WWDC is expensive, especially if you’re not from the US and have to fly out, get expensive accommodation. There is a lot of preparation, especially for something you don’t know that you’ll even get a ticket for since it’s a lottery. That won’t stop me from trying though.