Marco talks about an experiment he’s been running with the free version of Instapaper. He shares some great data and analysis of a very common App Store strategy. This is a must-read for anyone developing for iOS.
The iPhone location database has gotten mainstream attention, and I’ve had many of my less technical friends asking what it’s all about. Marco Arment wrote a post that is somewhat of a mini state-of-privacy address. For anyone concerned specifically about the iPhone location issue he writes:
Most of what your iPhone knows about you is stored on your iPhone — a device in your physical possession that you can quickly wipe locally or remotely at any time — and, as far as we know, is not transmitted to Apple or anyone else. To access your private data, a snoop or government would need physical access to your phone.
Ottawa Hospital, which already has about 500 Apple tablets being used by health-care providers, has recently ordered another 1,800 iPads to replace paper medical charts.
There seems to have been quite a bit of dissent online the last few days about what differentiates Tweetbot from any other Twitter client, other than beautiful UI chrome. Truly all the little things are what give the app its edge. I’ve had a better overall experience with Tweetbot than any client I’ve used for an extended period of time (Tweetie, Twitteriffic, Echofon, Tweetlogix, …), but I don’t feel like I can pinpoint all the reasons why.
Here are just a few that I can:
no stupid chat bubbles
Why do so many clients think that direct messages look better in chat bubbles? Like, I get it… it’s a private conversation. That doesn’t mean you have to make it ugly, not to mention, harder to read. In Tweetbot, DMs are visually consistent with every other list view in the app. They are also ordered with recent messages on top, so they bear stronger functional consistency as well.
“12 new posts”
Tweetbot is the first client I’ve checked out that puts the count of newly loaded tweets directly into the timeline upon refresh. I know how many tweets I have left to read, and can determine whether I have time to tackle them now or need to come back later. And it’s a good point of reference to see where my last refresh occurred right in the timeline.
retweeted by so-and-so
Many clients make the retweet visualization too easy to miss, and I’m left wondering why this tweet ended up in my timeline. Others try to do something clever, like overlay the retweeters icon, or something else that forces me to shield my eyes. Tweetbot’s solution is excellent. It’s both visually clear and unobtrusive.
customizable tab bar
The tab bar is customizable in a way that humans can manage. This post: The iPhone Tab Bar, has some points about the standard “More” functionality. Namely, it references research that suggests the feature confuses users, and they generally avoid it. There’s nothing confusing about customizing the tab bar in Tweetbot. Although the app does break some other “rules” for tab bar usage from the aforementioned post, the same rules tend to be broken by most good Twitter clients.
Good UI adds great value, and good UI is all about the details. Tweetbot is a great app, and despite much ado about it’s lack of differentiation, it’s worth a good hard look if you spend any significant length of time using Twitter on your iPhone.
There. Now no one can ever again ask me how to fix their computer.
They both make some good points.
Ben seems frustrated at the multiplicity of apps that don’t bring anything truly new to the table. That’s a sentiment I’ve found myself complaining about lately as well. It seems like a significant amount of mindshare keeps solving the same problems over and over again.
Sean defends user experience as a distinctive feature. This idea helped convince us to make Canned. We didn’t bring any features that didn’t exist in the dozen or so apps that beat us to market. In fact, we had less features, but focused on a simple and compelling user experience. That is the edge that makes Canned worthwhile. It’s a tradeoff that diminishes complexity.
You’ll always find the most clutter in the marketplace among apps that people use the most. Note-taking apps, RSS readers, photography apps, and yes, Twitter clients. It stems from the fact that designers love to develop apps that fulfill the user experience they’re looking for, and that’s different for every person.
Tweetbot has optimized the way I use Twitter on my phone. It has brought many features that seemed clumsy or inaccessible to the forefront in a way that makes me do more while spending less time in the app. I couldn’t be happier with it, and I’m excited to see where the roadmap is headed.
John Gruber just posted a great piece, Cutting That Cord, concerning the state of cloud services for iOS. Certainly a topic of relevance in today’s mobile landscape. More and better cloud syncing services could bring our post-PC devices into the stratosphere in both usefulness and simplicity.
One of the four applications of cloud syncing that Gruber mentions, device backup, I see as a heavy handed solution. Any iOS user who has stumbled upon their device backup folder in iTunes knows it claims an unruly amount of space. Clearly, sending and receiving full device backups over the air is a bit beyond the reach of the state of bandwidth today. Gruber knows this: “It just isn’t technically feasible to have people backing up and restoring 32 or 64 GB of data to the cloud.”
But what is in those 64GB? Media, apps, and app data. Let’s break down the state of syncing for each of these.
Photos, movies, and music regularly occupy the largest chunks of data on a mobile device. But these types of media already have some cloud solutions available, albeit imperfect ones. Rdio can help you ditch your music library. Netflix gets loads of video over the air. Photos can be pushed and pulled to services like Flickr. And there are other solutions on horizon. Amazon just recently released Cloud Drive, a service that seems awfully close to the oft rumored iTunes Locker.
You might need backup for Apps if you are trying to archive older versions, or if you want to hold back from updating. In that case, you’d presently be on your own to toy around with iTunes and save all those separate application bundles yourself. But technically, as all (legitimate) iOS apps are hosted on Apple’s servers, they are already backed up.
This is the biggest point of interest to me, and the one I’d like to speculate about. Currently, iOS app data generally lives in a documents folder inside the app bundle. There is no general filesystem access like on a traditional PC. Apple could solve a number of problems by simply allowing developers an API to synchronize this folder to those shiny new servers in North Carolina. Even a modest 20MB of storage would handle backup for a large percentage of apps. Moreover, if the API had notifications on when changes occur to that data in the cloud, they could enable developers to make simple syncing solutions for running their apps across multiple devices. This is a win on so many levels.
I feel like tackling the specific cases of backup individually can handle our leap onto the cloud much more smoothly than a bulky overreaching solution. As Gruber speculated, “…the iPad and iPhone won’t drop their connection to iTunes running on a PC in one fell swoop. It’ll be incremental…” And I think a solution for backing up data on the app level would really fit nicely into an incremental transition to the cloud.
Do you use twitter and an iPhone? If you haven’t read this yet you should. Another fine review from the venerable Mr. Blanc.
Five tabs walk into a bar…
Okay, I apologize for that. But if you are at all interested in UI design, this is a great read about some considerations for the Tab Bar interface element on the iPhone. It’s people that think about stuff like this in such great detail that make great software. (via Ben Brooks)
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to m.facebook.com from your smartphone, you might want to check it out. I saw that it was updated last week sometime via a bunch of twitter chatter, and I’ve been using it since as a replacement for the native iPhone app.
It is a far simpler and cleaner experience for using facebook on the go. And the big plus for facebook, it runs on any mobile device with a half-decent browser. I could see a lot more web services going this way as a mobile solution given how well this has come together.
This is news to me, and also an awesome development. Of course, iBooks could always open books you copied onto your iPad through iTunes, but syncing the files is a huge barrier to entry to some people. Being able to get books directly onto the device through email and Safari is a big win.
Ben Brooks highlights some great guidelines that would serve developers well. This one is my favorite:
Look at what other apps do wrong, more than you look at what they do right — fill the voids, don’t clutter the market.
The Bulls appear to have started using the iPad as a recruitment tool for the team. (via Ben Skoda)