App Store search is currently broken

Developer Travis Ryan just noted to me on Twitter that App Store search is broken. Presumably, this is a temporary glitch, but it’s frustrating for developers. In Ryan’s case, a search for Dashy Crashy doesn’t bring up his excellent game of the same name. All you get is Dashy Crashy Bird, a one-thumb sort-of Flappy Bird clone.

Once Ryan reminded me, I realised that I’ve seen this problem crop up quite a bit recently, although I’d never really thought much of it. When writing round-ups, I’d not find the odd app by searching the App Store, and would then check online to see if it still existed. I’d end up on iTunes Preview, click View in iTunes, and then go straight to the app’s page to install it.

All this makes me think is that, once again, the App Store needs a serious kicking. But also Apple needs to do a bit more stealing. I might grumble about Android and that Google Play is mostly full of garbage, but at least when I find something I want to install on my Android devices, I can do so from the web. That Apple doesn’t yet allow me to install an app or game from Safari (or, for that matter, an iPad app from an iPhone) is ludicrous. It’s not so much a walled garden at that point as walled stupid.


Developer Gary Riches says this screw-up has led to daily sales falling by 66 per cent, and adds that you “literally cannot find my app, even by keyword“.


Update: it’s fixed now. Apple presumably glared at the server hamster. WORK HARDER, SERVER HAMSTER. OUR BOTTOM LINE HAS FALLEN. NO HAMSTER FOOD FOR YOU TODAY.

May 5, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Apps, Opinions, Technology

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A brief guide to everything that’s annoying about the Guardian’s brief guide to everything that’s annoying about Apple

The gloves are off! Apple is doomed again! And with it, we get tech writers giving the company a right hook with a boxing glove of stupid, but cunningly following up with an occasional uppercut of truth, because balance. The Guardian’s A brief guide to everything that’s annoying about Apple is an excellent case in point, offering 26 examples of how bloody annoying Apple is! And if you’re thinking 26 examples doesn’t make for a brief guide, I’ve news for you: despite the title, this post probably won’t be brief either.

1 The passwords

Yes, the Guardian leads with passwords being the big evil. Clearly, Apple is the only company to have you sign into things. No other companies do this. SO ANNOYING. Well, apart from Apple making things easier with Touch ID, and the security that comes from passwords. BUT WE SHALL IGNORE SUCH TRIFLING THINGS. ONWARDS!

2 The product launches

Half a point here, Guardian, if only because Apple last year slipped into dad joke city and events that lasted approximately eleven days. But the most recent one, where Tim Cook mostly talked about health, privacy and the environment? That’s only annoying if you’re a tech journo on a deadline rather than an actual human.

3 The endless hardware upgrades

If Apple didn’t upgrade its hardware often, number 3 in this list would have been ‘the lack of hardware upgrades’. Plus, again, isn’t it SO ANNOYING that Apple is the only company that endlessly upgrades hardware and obsoletes certain connectors? No other companies in the history of history have ever done that. BAD APPLE.

4 The Green Eggs and Ham approach to software updates
Install now? Turn on automatic software updates? Remind me later? Try in an hour? Try tonight? Would you update them in a box? Would you update them with a fox? You do not like software updates, so you say? Try them, try them and you may!

CHOICES ARE BAD.

5 The U2 album

I’m not going to argue over this one. Mind you, nor did Apple when it specifically created a ‘wipe U2 from the face of your iTunes’ tool.

6 The price

BLAH BLAH APPLE IS EXPENSIVE BLAH. The Guardian writer notes that in the UK you can “buy a basic mobile phone for as little as £10”, because that’s totally like an iPhone. (And if Tim Cook went crazy and decided the iPhone 7 would sell for a tenner, you can bet people would still find something to whine about.)

7 They’re too cool for tills

Agreed. This actually is annoying. Guardian hit rate: now two and a half out of seven. Almost as good as Apple rumour websites.

8 The ubiquitous ringtone

Because you can’t change ringtones. (Also: not as bad as that sodding Nokia one.)

9 iPhone repairs
No matter what’s wrong with your iPhone, or how tiny, it costs at least £200 to fix. Dodgy home button? £200. Won’t restart? £200. Cracked screen? A bargain at £100.

Guardian breaks the laws of maths as ‘a bargain at £100’ equates to ‘at least £200’. Did anyone even read this back before it was published?

10 The rip-off accessories
Need a new power adapter because that magnetic bit on the end broke when it got bent back too much? How much, Apple Store? £65! Plain black phone bumper that you could get down the market for a fiver? £25!

Another Billy Half a Point! Apple does sometimes take the piss here, but the bumper whinge? Just no. If you don’t like the bumper, it’s not like it’s mandatory. Unless Tim Cook passed some kind of new law while I wasn’t watching.

11 The constant iTunes revamping

SO CLOSE! The revamping isn’t the problem. The fact it’s still bloody awful is the problem.

12 The utopian demos

This is true. Apple should in future have demo videos that feature people looking miserable on a grey, rainy pebble beach while a seagull poos on their head and steals their chips. People can aspire to that.

13 The Apple Watch
It sucks and Apple won’t admit it.

“It’s so annoying when I have an opinion about something and the company that made it doesn’t publicly agree, even though doing so would be unbelievably stupid.”

14 Apple TV
“The future of television?” Also known as “Another expensive box that does nothing all your other expensive boxes can’t do already, but has an Apple logo on it.”

Hmm. I have to agree with this one, on the basis that the ‘future of television’ argument was bone-headed. But the Apple TV itself is really good. So there.

15 Mac lag
Our old MacBook takes longer to wake up every morning than we do.

Either Guardian writers spring out of bed in an instant, someone’s telling porkies, or there’s a MacBook in some serious need of help. Poor MacBook.

16 It is more controlling than Prince was
We know we’ve paid for the entire Prince back catalogue at some stage, but iTunes won’t let us listen to it without negotiating an assault course of synching protocols, passwords, user settings, menus, helpdesk chatbots and, finally, Googled explainers.

Or, if you’re already signed into your Apple account, clicking on some cover art. Exaggeration. So annoying! Perhaps that’s number 17 in the list!

17 Wet fingers

Oh. Wait, what?

17 Wet fingers

Apple has wet fingers? That’s annoying? Also, what?

Having to wait for 20 minutes after coming out of the shower before our iPhone fingerprint scanner recognises us. Like the clean you isn’t the real you.

Which suggests either Guardian writers set up Touch ID when covered in grime (and/or are usually covered in grime), or they spend so long in the shower that they emerge wrinkled to the point even the dogs on this article would recoil in horror, barking “TOO WRINKLY! SEND HELP!”

18 They have turned into The Man

Apparently, Apple is now Big Brother, while trying to fight the US government over privacy. Got it.

19 Their hatred of ports

The Guardian, presumably also still angry Apple dropped the floppy drive from the iMac. Although the reasoning on this one is weirder than you might imagine. If you were expecting a perfectly rational and sensible argument about the new MacBook only having one USB-C port, well…

Apple’s eradication of USB ports from iPads just rendered all your accessories obsolete

That’s right: Apple’s giant iPhone doesn’t have USB ports, and that is the source of annoyance. (The USB dongle is, naturally, waved away as a money waster.)

Just like their sealing up of the DVD/CD slot rendered your collections of both obsolete

What, on the Mac?

It is now easier to hack the US defence system than get a DVD on to an iPad.

Oh, on the iPad. Right. I can count the times I’ve wanted to play a DVD on my iPad on the invisible finger I’m not holding up right now.

20 The ‘Smart Battery Case’

Apple selling people a battery case to make their iPhone battery last longer. SO ANNOYING.

21 Their format dictatorship

This is true. Apple has a dictatorship based on formats! Annoying! Wait, what?

You take a picture with your iPhone. You import it to iPhotos.

‘iPhotos’. Do you mean ‘iPhoto’, now cancelled? OK, that’s being picky. Let’s not quibble about details!

Now you try to attach it to an email. Ha! You can’t!

Actually, no, let’s quibble about details. Ever heard of drag and drop?

The only way to do it easily is through Apple’s own Mail application, otherwise known as BlackMail.

Ah, I see. “I use Gmail in a browser, and can’t drop photos on to it from Photos.” Actually, that is quite annoying. Hard to know who’s to blame for that one. Still, half a point!

22 Their wealth

Apple makes money and is profitable. So, so, so very annoying.

23 Their contempt for humanity
Bill Gates uses his fortune to cure malaria, Apple uses its fortune to … make bigger fortunes.

This is true. Apple does literally nothing to help the world.

24 Error 53
How many corporations possess and wield the power to criminally damage their products – your products – after they’ve sold them to you? Apple’s notorious “Error 53” punished users for the offence of going to “unauthorised” repairers by effectively shutting down their iPhone 6 handsets – a practice known as “bricking”. When a class-action lawsuit threatened, Apple got scared and backed down – a practice known as “bricking it”.

You appear to have mis-spelled ‘messed up’ as ‘got scared’, but, well, we’re 24 items in now and there was probably a word count to hit, a train to catch, and your fingers were getting awfully tired.

25 They’ve taken over the music industry

As evidenced by the lack of competition from the likes of Spotify and Google Play.

iTunes paved the way for the low-priced digital music revolution, where artists get a minuscule share of the profits and Apple gets a much larger cut. It wiped out high-street record shops, crippled the music industry, then extracted a ransom from artists to put their music in its virtual shop window.

Fortunately, before Apple came along, the music industry was doing brilliantly, due to people downloading music for free on Napster.

26 Their business model is The Circle
Dave Eggers’ dystopian novel details a utopian-sounding tech corporation whose ambitions extend to every aspect of people’s lives, anticipating, fulfilling and creating their every desire, to the extent that people never need to step outside the closed loop of control. Then find they can’t even if they want to. Apple has done its best to dispel such comparisons by building a massive new headquarters – in the shape of a circle.

That is perhaps the most annoying thing I’ve read this month, although not because of Apple.

April 28, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Humour, Opinions

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Apple is doomed. Again. Honest. (Not really.)

Apple’s getting a kicking everywhere, as tech journos relish the company finally announcing a year-on-year drop in iPhone sales. This plays directly into a favourite narrative, which is that Apple is doomed. The only tiny snag is that people have been saying this for at least a decade; but finally there is vindication!

Only it’s not quite that simple. Yes, Apple had a rocky quarter by its own insanely high standards. And, yes, there’s perhaps cause for concern in the company’s major revenue earner taking a knock and the other major products (the Mac and iPad) being flat or in decline. But Apple reported quarterly sales of over $50 billion (its second-best Q2 ever), and profits were over $10 billion (which actually squeaks it into Apple’s 10 best quarters to date). Given how the rest of the technology sector is faring, this isn’t the worst news ever.

Perhaps predictably, though, this doesn’t fit well with what people want to write. Even the BBC gets in on the act with a piece of analysis that could have been copied and pasted from almost anywhere over the past few years:

Apple, perhaps more than any other company, needs the next blockbuster category to come along. The Apple Watch is bringing in an estimated $1bn each quarter, but that’s not enough. It needs another smash like the iPhone. But there’s no sign of one coming any time soon.

People seem to have this idea that Apple churns out a new idea every day before breakfast, but in reality breakthroughs are rare. And with the iPhone, perhaps that’s a once-only product in terms of influence and sheer sales clout.

Does Apple need to keep innovating and trying new things? Sure, over the long term. But I can’t imagine Apple “more than any other company needs the next blockbuster category to come along”, when it’s still able to stuff $10 billion of profit into the bank during its first sales dip in a decade. And given Apple’s tendency towards secrecy rather than announcing things years in advance (smart for Apple, but annoying for tech journalists and analysts), we have no idea what’s waiting in the wings anyway — hence the default assumption that there’s “no sign of [another smash] coming any time soon”. The way many people are writing about Apple today, you’d think it’s as beleaguered as BlackBerry.

April 27, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Opinions

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Steve the jumping dinosaur clone

Steve the jumping dinosaur bounded past me a while ago, but there’s been a deluge of press about this mini-game over the past week, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Moreover, it’s odd how much of this coverage is ignoring key facts about the game.

If you’ve not chanced across Steve’s retro charms, it’s a game for iOS that works within Notification Center. You tap and the little dinosaur hops over obstacles until you mess up and it doesn’t, at which point your game is over. Much of the press seems to be full of wonder about the ultra-casual nature of the game, and the excitement of playing a game within Notification Center.

But although Steve isn’t a terrible game by any means, it’s nothing remotely special, given that there are countless similar (and better) games available for iOS (and Android, for that matter). It’s also far from the first Notification Center game — they go back at least a couple of years, after Apple cooled on only allowing the feature to be used for information presentation. Most of all, Steve is a truly blatant clone of a game that’s long appeared in Google Chrome’s offline mode. (If you have that browser installed, try it now — turn off your Wi-Fi, try to access a site, and you’ll see a little dinosaur lurking. Tap space and away you go.) So it’s not very good, it’s not unique, and it even omits the pterodactyls from the browser version, presumably angering pterodactyl fans everywhere.

However, Steve does give you a bunch of new themes to, naturally, buy via IAP. Given that Steve’s creator wasn’t responsible for the Chrome original, this all feels a bit iffy, profiting off of someone else’s work, but if this is the brave new world of gaming, it’s clearly time to throw integrity down a mineshaft and get involved. Any devs out there went to partner up? I’m sure we can get a ton of column inches with Steve Invaders, Steve ‘Flappy’ Bird, Stevey Road, and Angry Steve. And that’s just for starters.

April 25, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, iOS gaming, Opinions

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Low-hanging fruit for Apple and gaming, part two: genres and search

Following on from my gripes about MFi controllers, I want to touch on another aspect of Apple and gaming: genres and search.

Gaming is a rare example in the App Store where Apple included genre links, enabling people to filter their browsing. But I always found the categories Apple chose a bit strange. That ‘dice’ games get their own category but platform games don’t makes me question whether this list of genres was put together by anyone who knows the first thing about gaming.

Now there are many thousands of games on the store, these categories are entirely inadequate for finding the types of games you might enjoy. Apple’s search isn’t especially helpful (type ‘platform game’ and you get a list mostly comprising not exactly great titles, and a ton of stuff is lumped in with ‘arcade’), and so Apple’s own ‘curated’ groups are probably someone’s best bet for unearthing new games within a genre — assuming Apple’s made a list and you can find it.

Ideally, Apple would rip up the genre list and start again. But perhaps there’s another way around this, giving developers some kind of tagging system based around recognised genres and sub-genres, and allowing them to select from a small range when submitting their games (each of which would have to be justified to the App Store reviewer). That way, you could feasibly with a couple of clicks or taps (or a keyword search) get an always current list of kart racers or twin-stick shooters, rather than continuing to rummage through the semi-random marketstall that is the current App Store. (And I imagine this kind of thing could work for apps, too, also plagued by very general categories.)

So my second piece of low-hanging fruit for Apple and gaming is:


2. Improve discoverability for games by creating a more robust tagging/categorisation/search system that would enable dynamic grouping of broadly similar games.

April 21, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, iOS gaming, Opinions

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