iOS 10 – Notifications & Widgets

This month I took the plunge and jumped on board the public beta program for both my iPhone and iPad. Having seen nothing but strong reviews and nil major issues it was time to give iOS a test drive. Needless to say I have been seriously impressed and have really enjoyed the changes.

One of my favourite features of iOS 9 was the redesigned notifications/widgets screen. It had become a part of my iPad daily workflow for the last year and I would suggest it was a massive improvement that wasn’t given a lot of airtime during the iOS 9 review season.

iOS 10 brings a redesigned notifications/widgets screen one which I’m undecided on. The interface now looks very different and Im not entirely sure i like it.

My first gripe came after installing the beta on my iPad; rather than restore the widget settings the process set up a default setup. This set up looked simply awful and did not endear itself to me. The date had been moved from the right to the left and all the widgets were in one long continuous column

Each widget is now encased in its own grey box looking almost skeumorphic. For accessibility purposes this appears to be a great choice and gives the user a clear defined space for their widgets. The date oddly takes up a great deal of real estate. This is evident when you look at the notifications/widgets screen in landscape which highlights how much space is unused. Like a number of other iOS 10 features big and bold appears to be the new ‘thing’.

The notifications screen is one long column of notifications taking up only one third of the screen through the middle. unlike the previous version notifications has its own screen rather than a tab selection. Again this choice of limiting the amount of space appears a waste of good real estate; this is probably worse on my iPad Pro. Like widgets this looks less problematic in portrait mode however there is still some real estate wasted.

One oddity I noted; most screenshots you will see that the left hand side of the date is blank. This morning however the weather appeared in this space something I hadn’t seen in all the weeks of testing the beta.

Overall I’m personally not a fan of this new look it feels a little rough and clumsy and for me not as user friendly. Naturally being a beta its is a little rough around the edges however we probably only a weeks from launch I can’t see too many changes being made that will tip my view in the opposite direction.

Updated Ulysses 2.6

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Overnight The Soulmen released a massive update to Ulysses.

Ulysses 2.6 brings a raft of features to make the app even more user friendly and a tool for writers of all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest changes and the best in my opinion is the ability to publish direct to WordPress. The Ulysses blog outlines in detail all the changes in 2.6. The following blogging features are what you can expect;

  • Post to self-hosted blogs or blogs via WordPress.com
  • Add as many blogs to Ulysses as you have
  • Publish as draft or published, immediately or scheduled
  • Set (or auto-set) categories and tags, excerpts and featured images
  • Set post format Set slug and title link Publish as HTML or Markdown
  • Preview in Ulysses
  • Set post-publishing actions, i.e. open the WordPress editor or WordPress preview, after the post has made its way from your device to your blog

These for me are the biggest features of the update that should bring more users to Ulysses 2.6 and further cement those already taking advantage of the well conceived writing tool. If that didn’t convince you however these additional features should push you over the line.

  • Dropbox on iOS
  • Quick Open (Global Search on iOS)
  • Typewriter Mode
  • VoiceOver

Still not convinced? These great reviews of the app in its entirety should bring you around.

Full City Press – Ulysses 2.5 review

Macstories – Ulysses 2.5 for iPad and now iPhone

Now you are convinced !! Go now and buy Ulysses 2.6 it’s a premium quality app with a price to suit. Don’t be put off its worth every $$.

Subscription Pricing: The new bane of the App Store?

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In App purchases have changed the App Store pricing in a big way. Effectively reducing apps to mobile slot machines that customers pour money into on a daily basis.

Addictive games like Candy Crush Saga started the trend of monetising components of the game to help advance progress. Following suit came Clash of Clans, FIFA 16 Ultimate Team™ and even SimCity. This trend was a boon for mostly gaming developers and saw some games become multi million dollar cash cows.

Prior to WWDC in June Phil Schiller 1 the Apple would be bringing subscription pricing to the App Store for select product categories. Developers largely supported this however there is an undercurrent of concern in the community what this may lead to.

In recent times two big name mobile developers announced changes to their business models. Firstly Smile Software 2 that its much loved TextExpander software would be updated and moving to a subscription model. This decision was met with howls of discontent about its pricing structure and value that it offered with many looking to jump ship and move away from the product entirely. Then in the last few days Evernote which has had subscription pricing for some time 3 an increase its costs and limitations to the free version. This too was not entirely a popular decision.

Subscription pricing whilst offering a cash stream for developers brings concerns for customers; namely value for money. Will a customer see a constant stream of updates and benefits for the dollars they pay? How many apps will go this way and what will people end up paying per year for the privilege?

Let’s look at one company who is doing this and doing it well. As an Apple geek it pains me to say that Microsoft offer a great package for a good price. Office 365 is not a stand alone app but a series of excellent productivity apps that will help any user remain productive at their Mac, iPad or their work PC. The pricing is quite high but what you get is excellent value with the mobile products alone worth every dollar. Microsoft are also keeping the apps up to date and Apple even rolled them out with the launch of the iPad Pro to demonstrate the mark up features with the Apple pen. This is subscription pricing at its best and shows the possibilities to come.

In my opinion Evernote is not an example of a good subscription. Poor quality bloated apps that have failed to innovate and improve on what was once a great idea. Evernote is considered a big developer and it is concerning when they cannot manage to provide a decent offering to subscribers.

Smaller less known developers could potentially struggle to meet expectations and I wonder who is going to monitor this? Would refunds be available? What are Apples expectations of developers offering subscriptions? Lots of questions and few answers yet but time will tell whether this will improve things in the App Store system for developers. The hope is developers and consumers both benefit from this and quality apps become the well supported norm.

  1. Daring Fireball 8th June 2016 ↩︎
  2. Smile Software Annoucement ↩︎
  3. Evernote Annoucement ↩︎

 

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Why iOS is Compelling

Ben Brooks really sums up how I feel about iOS at the moment. Simplicity is key…yes it doesn’t do everything but damn it good. More on this later from me. For now read Ben’s article.

My First…

For some time I have been wanting to write for my own blog (and for others). The problem was finding the right time, the right subject and clearing the decks to do some writing all of which were getting in the way. After many starts and failed attempts today is the day.

This first post explores my start up process, what I will be writing on and the tools to get it up and out there.

What’s it all about

Technology plays an important part in my life both at home and in the office this intersection is where I will spend my time writing. Looking at both hardware and software that makes a difference to the time I spend working and playing.

I’ll admit upfront I’m an Apple fanboy but that won’t stop me discussing interesting tech that crosses my path. Camera’s and watches are also passions of mine (and no I don’t own an watch).[1]

Tools

Getting this post up required decisions to be made about the hardware and software I’d be using. Fortunately most of the software tools I had already purchased, although barely used. The hardware was a given…

The iPad Pro is one mean device and perfect for writing it is just the right size, the software keyboard is servicable and the pencil is just magic! What brings all this together is iOS9 and split view which in conjuction with the iPad Pro brings a new level of multitasking to my workflow.

I’ll not write too much on these topics as better people than I have already. Federico Vittici of Macstories wrote the following articles which more than adequately cover iOS9 and the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro Review: A New Canvas

iOS 9: Our Complete Overview and First Impressions

As for the software I was lucky enough to have all the suggested apps already installed (yes I impulse buy) on my iPad. Taking some time to play with what I had I determined what was best for me by selecting the more basic apps rather than the more powerful alternatives.[2]

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Omnioutliner by The Omni Group

At some point my thoughts need to be organised into a cohesive post and this is where OmniOutliner comes in. I can create a list of headings for my chosen subject and then add bullets point under each of those heading. The Omni products are fantastic and for work I have the whole suite.

Drafts by Agile Tortoise

Drafts is my go to for all little snippets of written ‘stuff’. I can write a quick paragraph on the bus and send it to my writing app of choice for formatting and publishing. Drafts is like a Swiss Army knife for moving little pieces of writing to all manner of services and apps in simple stripped down interface. The automation is where the power lies and this can be as simple or complex as you can create

Byword by Metaclassy

Byword is a Markdown writing app that allows you to simply write distraction free in Markdown. From Byword you can then publish to a number of mediums you use for blogging. The interface for Byword like Drafts is simple and stripped down with a easy on the eye UI for continuous use in all lighting situations.

From thought to publish the process for me was as follows;

  • OmniOutliner for idea creation
  • Drafts for rough drafts/passages
  • Byword for formatting and final publication

Getting it out there

Choosing a medium to publish to is no easy task there are many options;in the end it came down to convenience, ease of use and what I knew of.

WordPress is the main place for blogs and for no setup costs other than time you can have your own site. As a starting point you can’t go past this service especially if you want to eventually pay for a site. My goal will be to do this but first I’ll need a following.

As an alternative driver of traffic each post will be published on Medium. It’s an interesting service that I know little of. The payoff here is that it’s easy to use, there is no site to maintain and the content uploads nicely from Byword.[3]

Rounding this out I have Twitter account @YouSaidWhatBlog for the site where I’ll post regular updates to those (if any) who follow.

Coming next

I will look to post every two weeks. I beleive setting schedule that is achievable will ensure I can maintain a steady stream of updates.From time to time I’ll link to other news that I find interesting and want to comment on. In the mean time here is my list of articles waiting to be written

  • How I use social meadia
  • Thoughts on moving to an iPad Pro
  • App reviews
  • Workflows for the office

  1. I love watches and I like the freedom to choose a watch based on the day and my wardrobe. I feel the watch needs to be worn all the time for maximum benefit I would do that therefore I’m not buying one.  ↩
  2. There is great power in simplicity!  ↩
  3. As an IAP you can purchase the premium publishing package for Byword, this allows publishing to other services including WordPress and Byword  ↩