The app-makers on the iPhone 6, iOS 8 and Apple Watch

Hardware is nothing without software. The original iPhone was a perfectly nice device, but it wasn’t until the App Store that its true potential was unleashed. Similarly, Android might have the weight of numbers on its side, but it doesn’t have many of the best apps and games—they tend to come to iOS first.

It was with this in mind that I set about wondering what Apple’s latest releases would mean for the app ecosystem. In a feature for Stuff TV, I interview a number of developers (including Neven Mrgan, James Thomson, Brianna Wu and Gedeon Maheux), in order to explore how the iPhone 6, iOS 8 and Apple Watch might mean for the future of the apps and games you know and love.

September 26, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Technology

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Tech pundits and analysts: iPhone 6 Plus selling out in stores means NOTHING

Here we go again. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are now on sale, causing pundits and analysts alike to froth all over the internet, without first taking even a second to think about what they’re saying. Right now, I’m seeing an awful lot of people springing to conclusions that the 6 Plus is ‘outselling’ the iPhone 6, on the basis that it’s selling out in a lot of stores.

The tiny snag is that we don’t know how many units of each type were manufactured, we don’t know how many were shipped to stores, and we don’t know how many were sold in the stores that are selling out. Remember that a store could ‘sell out’ of the iPhone 6 Plus by ordering one of each model, but still have hundreds of iPhone 6 units in the stockroom. Right now, iPhone 6 Plus sales information we’re seeing is no more indicative than Amazon bar charts that have a small bar for last year, a large bar for this year, and an inexplicably blank y axis.

September 22, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Opinions

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Apple, motion sickness triggers and OS X Yosemite — Why Apple should bring Reduce Motion ‘back to the Mac’

I’m not a developer, but I know enough about development to realise what a big deal WWDC 2014 was. Apple outlined the future of its two operating systems, with some major upgrades that will ensure iOS and OS X both mature and seamlessly integrate. There were also some ‘Back to the Mac’ moments, notably in terms of interface: although OS X isn’t yet as flat as iOS, Yosemite is simpler and cleaner than Mavericks.

Although all the new technology and interfaces are exciting, I’m hoping that it will be fourth time lucky regarding motion sickness and balance accessibility. I’ve been writing for over two years now about such issues as relating to Apple’s operating systems, including an open letter to Apple on this site, and then articles for Stuff magazine and The Guardian, specifically about iOS 7, which had become unusable to me and many others.

Apple listened. Within a month, major animations could be switched for a subtle cross-fade; as of iOS 7.1, the vast majority of other issues were dealt with too, as I reported on in a follow-up piece for The Guardian. Individual third-party apps are now the most common triggers (through developers getting a bit animation-happy), and those can be avoided.

I was truly thrilled at Apple’s response to the iOS 7 problems, and it meant I could use my iPad again, without fear of accidentally triggering the app-switcher and having to take a 15-minute break while trying not to throw up. (And I’m fortunate: many people with similar issues can be knocked out for days after being triggered.) But I’m also disappointed that Apple has fundamentally ignored this issue in three major versions of its desktop-based operating system.

With OS X Lion, perhaps, this is forgivable. Motion/balance accessibility is not well known, and Apple to its credit offers a huge range of accessibility controls and add-ons for people that require assistance for vision, hearing or motor. But then Mountain Lion arrived, followed a year later by Mavericks. Still the full-screen animation remained; still you transitioned between apps with a full-screen slide; still certain apps persisted in utilising similar animations.

As per iOS 7, I’m not hoping for any change in default behaviour. Apple’s existing animations provide a sense of space and location for people using them, and that’s great. What I am hoping for is that Apple brings one more thing ‘Back to the Mac’ for OS X Yosemite: Reduce Motion. Put a checkbox in accessibility that switches out these animations for something less jarring. Better: add more granular controls, and place them in context, rather than hiding them away. Given that TotalSpaces2 can override the app transition animation in full screen, offering six alternatives and an off switch, there’s no reason Apple can’t do the same. More to the point, Apple should do the same, unless it’s a company that believes, for some reason, there’s a cut-off point when it comes to accessibility and user inclusivity on the desktop.

June 9, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Design

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Number crunching iPhone 6 screen resolution rumours

So 9to5 Mac’s going with the argument Apple’s next iPhone will have a 1704-by-960 display. The report might well turn out to be right, but there are some curious arguments within the text.

Apple claims that a display density over 300 PPI is considered “Retina” quality

Apple’s played fast and loose with what it deems a Retina display, and as Richard Gaywood pointed out long ago, high-res displays are reliant on context. Larger screens tend to be used further away, meaning they need a lower ppi to be considered Retina. The iPad Air, for example, clocks in at 264 ppi, but Apple’s hardly shied away from saying that device has a Retina display, despite the screen’s pixel density being lower than an iPhone’s. On that basis, there’s no reason Apple couldn’t keep much the same resolution as on the current iPhone, but just make the screen bigger.

9to5Mac, however, argues that we’re going to see 1704-by-960, and it rationalises this on the basis that it’s akin to a 3x mode; the logic is iOS has a base resolution (568-by-320), and existing Retina devices are 2x (1136-by-640). The suggestion is that in merely adding another ‘x’, things will be relatively easy for developers:

According to sources familiar with the new iPhone displays in testing, if an unoptimized iPhone 5 app is run on the iPhone 6, the app will fill the entire screen but the non-3X images within the app will be blurrier. Troughton-Smith’s applications scale well because they were built with vector graphics. This transition from 2X to 3X will be reminiscent to the transition from 1X to 2X when the first iPhones with Retina displays launched in 2010.

This seems hugely optimistic. The shift from 1x to 2x was relatively simple, in that apps could simply be doubled and still look reasonably OK. Today, however, all apps must be Retina, or they’re likely to be rejected from the App Store. Support for 1x is therefore now pretty ropey.

When it comes to 3x, then, we’d not see sharp but jagged upscaling from 1x, but a blurred mess as apps designed for existing Retina screens are upscaled to 150 per cent. Perhaps this is what Apple has in mind, but if so, countless games and apps are going to look like absolute crap on such a display. And even with iOS 7’s design dialling down reliance on texture-heavy raster-graphics, adding yet another resolution and, potentially, another scaling factor is something likely to have developers headdesking until their foreheads bleed.

May 14, 2014. Read more in: Apple

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Amazon’s Fire TV shows it’s time for the Apple TV to embrace gaming

My latest piece for Stuff explores why it’s now time for Apple to get serious about gaming on the Apple TV. Amazon’s Fire TV is a bold play for the living room, and although everyone won’t be lobbing their consoles out of the window to embrace a cheap-looking controller and ported 99-cent mobile titles, the market is wide. Amazon with its latest black box could grab that sector of the market looking to extend their telly, access digital content, and play the odd game here and there.

Apple had mobile gaming sewn up a couple of years ago. At the time, it seemed like it would never be caught. Now, the store is mired in clones, Apple’s gaming direction is messy and unclear, and the Apple TV barely plays a part, with even AirPlay to the device having perceptible lag. Perhaps the company genuinely doesn’t care, but it probably should. Gaming drives a lot of purchasing decisions, and Apple could soon find itself losing ground to rivals in spaces it should be dominating.

April 24, 2014. Read more in: Apple

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