My WWDC 2017 Wish List

WWDC Keynote is tomorrow.  Keen to see what gets announced.  I’m always a bit perplexed at announcements of things like Apple Music at these events, since they don’t really put money in developers’ pockets.   Hardware announcements are somewhat more relevant, though not always.  However, the ecosystem is important, and Apple has opened up so much of it lately, which gives developers new venues (tvOS, iMessage), and helps Apple increase their services revenue.  That’s what I want to hear about, along with more information on what is possible with Apple’s tools and SDK.

Stuff I’d like to see:

  1. An expansion of tvOS to include a class of screensaver apps — I have app ideas that would work better as screensavers than apps that the user explicitly launches.  If you want Apple TV to be a hub, then you need to support it as such with features like alarms that wake it up and launch specific apps, the ability to designate apps as a screensaver.  I’d like my Apple TV to launch in the morning, perhaps playing an Apple Music playlist, or an app I’ve purchased that shows weather, traffic, or other stuff.
  2. Apple’s developer support really needs further expansion — I’d like to see more developer outreach via the Apple Store locations around the world. WWDC is inaccessible to most, so using the stores to help developers would be a big win, and help developers network and raise the level of software produced.  
  3. iOS for iPad really needs more features that focus on making tablet apps.  Split screen mode and picture in picture are great starts,  but I’d like to see some more really well thought out interfaces like the original Split Screen View Controller.  In particular, I think there’s a need for more dashboard-type apps on the tablet.   The big killer tablet app is still waiting to be released.
  4. Apple’s position has always been that apps should be so intuitive that the user can easily figure them out without a lot of special prompting or help.  This made sense in the early days, but now so many people use their mobile devices (especially tablets) to run fairly complex applications.  I’d like to see an on-boarding library added to iOS that implements tutorials, tool tips, etc. in a consistent way rather than having each developer cook up their own.
  5. I’d like to see some explicit support in Xcode for setting up and using test environments, staging environments, etc.  Every development house ends up implementing this in weird ways, and many of them end up leaving back doors in their code that could compromise user security.
  6. Xcode has a few application templates for setting up certain application types — I’d like to see more of them.
  7. I’d like to see an API for the services that comprise iTunes, especially the store, and a business model that would incentivize people to build specialty storefronts around the iTunes Store content.  For example, a movie store app for people who love horror films, or a jazz-focused app. This would be a great way to monetize an iBook or Newsstand app, as well as other types of apps.
  8. If you’re going to announce an Alexa type device,  can you make it one with a FaceTime camera that can be swiveled, so I can have a conversation with friends while working in the kitchen?  Or at least support FaceTime audio.   
  9. I want to be able to rent a video from my iPhone or Apple Watch and have it downloaded to my Apple TV while I’m at work or driving home.  I’d also like to be able to access these APIs as a developer, this would be great for workout apps, among other things.
  10. I’d really like some control over video rentals — my local network sometimes is too congested for streaming, so I’d like to be able to download some content.  There’s lots of storage on the AppleTV, but I have no idea how it’s used, or even if it is used.  Apple thinks that you shouldn’t have to care where the movie is, but in reality, not everyone has great consistent broadband, especially if you live in a city with a lot of apartments that can tax WiFi spectrum and Cable or telco bandwidth.
  11. I think it’s time for Apple to open up APIs for how iCloud photo sharing works — I find it hard to understand which photos from which devices I should be able to see where.  They should fix their own apps, but someone would make a lot of money on an app that makes this easy for users.
  12. I’d like to see more discussion of innovative apps and what’s under the hood.  Part of Apple’s role in WWDC is to show people what is possible with their SDK, and they could go farther towards that end.

 

Parsing the latest Apple earnings.

Business Insider is not my favorite source for Apple news, they are one of those sources who have a pretty obvious anti-Apple bias, and still post advice on how Apple would be so much more successful if they did business more like Dell, HP, and Microsoft.  

This piece sticks to the facts, though.    

The hype for iPhone 8 has definitely slowed down current handset purchases, but one thing that seems to be missing from a lot of analyses is the dramatic change in how carriers offer handsets in the US since the iPhone 6 introduction.   Most of the US carriers are no longer fully subsidizing phones, which means that the old cycle of automatically getting a new phone when you are eligible is no longer a factor.  

Personally, I’m overdue for an upgrade.   I want a better camera, I want the M2 motion processor so that I can include stair climbing in my Health app, and I want force-touch and Apple Pay.   However, now, it’s much more confusing to buy a new phone, so I’ve held off on replacing my iPhone 5S, which still runs iOS 10 like a champ.   Do I wait for the new announcements or get something now?   Should I wait until WWDC at least?

Let’s face it, most of our devices are good enough these days.   If it isn’t effortless and free to upgrade, we aren’t going to do it without a substantial benefit for our trouble.   The market is different now from the days of explosive iPhone sales growth, and I think analysts are overlooking Apple’s ability to sell some of their devices twice via their own phone plan and high-quality refurbishing program.

So, I’m not panicking about the stock, even if the price goes down, Apple has the lowest P/E ratio in their sector and a pretty solid and profitable business.   But I still can’t make up my mind about when I’ll replace my current phone.

You know you’re a bad blogger when…

… WordPress updates more often than you post.

Seriously, WordPress has been pushing out a lot of maintenance releases, enough that I have been caught with a pending update more often than not when I want to make a posting.

I’m very happy that they went to an automatic update strategy that doesn’t require special server permissions. The update scripts are also really solid — my update from 2.x to 4.x used their auto-update, and it just worked, to my shock. The smaller updates have been painless as well. Given all the security concerns around blogging software in general, I’m happy that I can keep up to date easily.

Apple Watch activity challenge – Earth Day

Just got a notification from Apple that they are offering an Activity achievement on Saturday, which is Earth Day. To get it, you need to get 30 minutes of outdoor exercise with your Apple Watch.  This unlocks a badge in Activity, as well as some special iMessage graphics. 

I think this marks the third such challenge they’ve offered, with the first two being Thanksgiving (5k of walking) and January/NewYear ( a full week meeting your move goal in January).

Macrumors, AppleInsider, and other Apple news sites have more details. 

I wish they would step up these rewards.  Gamification is really helpful, and Apple hasn’t taken advantage of it to the extent that Nike and other vendors have.

Bullet Journalling

Just got exposed to the idea of a “Bullet Journal”, which is a method for organizing your tasks in a running analog notebook. http://bulletjournal.com  has the details of what is a fairly basic but effective system.

There’s a certain appeal to it — a lot of the examples that people have posted on YouTube incorporate the sort of creativity one sees with mind-mapping, and some complain that the journal is more like a scrapbook for some.  It’s analog, so not subject to battery life, hacking, theft, hardware failure, etc.

My immediate thoughts:

  1. You definitely need to always have a pen with you as well as the journal
  2. You don’t need a specific notebook to do it, but people have their favorites, like Moleskine or Leuchtturm 1917.
  3. It seems like you should also have a flat ruler or template rubber banded to the notebook as well, because you need to draw lines.
  4. The core system is pretty simple, but people seem to be extending it a lot, doing things like drawing a calendar grid,  a habit tracking grid,  making special lists.
  5. If you aren’t very organized, I could see this getting out of your control pretty quickly.
  6. It doesn’t have a backup, and it is subject to “hardware failure” of sorts (coffee spill, loss, etc.)
  7. At the end of the month, you have to migrate unfinished tasks, and set up your month plan, etc.  That seems time-consuming, especially if you are drawing stuff.

Of course, I’m immediately thinking that this would be much better automated as an app.  Big surprise there, I guess, but there seems to be a lot of time spent doing it, and it seems best for people who only have a few things to track.

Going to look into this further, because it seems like it would be a nice programming exercise.

Round and Round…

I love American Science and Surplus,  the Chicago retailer of magnets, science gear, and just plain weird stuff.  If you ever get a chance to visit their showroom, do it — it’s a treat, and the brick and mortar location has all the charm of their print catalog, with its witty copy and hand-drawn product photos.

I bring this up because today’s new product announcement is a reissue of one of my favorite toys as a kid,  the Spirograph.  Originally marketed in the 60s and 70s by Kenner, Spirograph was a set of gears with holes in them that let you draw elaborate geometric patterns.

AmSci is offering a die-cast set, with metal gear pieces instead of the original plastic parts.   Now, if they also have good pens to use, that will be even better — the cheap pens that came with the original set dried out quickly, but you needed a pen with a certain length to the ballpoint nib to fit into the gear holes — a Bic wouldn’t work.   I had good luck with the 4-in-1 ballpoint pens, though.

I doubt this offer will last long, so don’t dally.