More stupid Apple bullshit regarding iOS extensions

Here we go again. Now Panic has got hit by Apple’s random hammer of doom, being forced to remove an ‘upload document to iCloud’ feature from Transmit iOS, because, and I quote:

we cannot upload content to iCloud Drive unless the content was created in the app itself

Just to be clear, Apple’s made the decision—undocumented, naturally, according to Panic—that uploading to iCloud Drive is perfectly fine, but only if your app makes the document that it’s uploading, which presumably takes into account the most minor of edits/updates as well. What’s out, however, is a company (once admired so much by Steve Jobs he wanted it to make iTunes) creating a pro-oriented app for pro-oriented people that would enable them to manage files, for example sending Mac documents to Dropbox, or Dropbox content to iCloud Drive. That kind of thing is totally not wanted on iOS, for reasons.

This decision strikes me as so absurdly stupid, it’s hard to know where to begin. iPad sales are reportedly in the toilet, and yet here again we see Apple freaking out about the extensibility afforded to iOS devs in iOS 8 and banning things it’s now decided aren’t allowed, even though nothing’s actually written down, and even though such things are helpful to the kind of professional users who shout loud and also showcase how iOS potentially isn’t just for faffing about with semi-automated creation tools and playing games—it’s possible to use for actual work. *deep breath*

Perhaps this will all settle down soon. Maybe Apple will perform a quick U-turn like it did when PCalc was judged to have broken App Store rules with its Notification Center widget. But given recent events elsewhere, I’m not optimistic. Apple needs to sort its shit out with these new capabilities, before the developers that try to do something new and useful bugger off elsewhere, before those devs who consider innovating think better of it, in case of subsequent random and abrupt app rejection, and before iOS itself gains a reputation for being a hamstrung and hugely limited platform, primarily because of Apple hamstringing and limiting it.

December 8, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Technology

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If you make it more affordable

Wired covers Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s interview with Henry Blodget. On covering a spat with publisher Hachette (now finally resolved) over pricing, Bezos still maintains books are overpriced:

If we want a healthy culture of reading book-length things, we’ve got to make books more accessible and part of that is making them less expensive. If you make it more affordable, it’s not going to make authors less money. It’s going to make authors more money.

The fallacy here is that an author will magically sell enough extra copies of a title at a lower rate to make up for dropping the price, because way more people prefer to pay less for whatever they buy. In reality, though, we’ve now seen a race to the bottom in apps, games and books, and although there are naturally a few winners (as ever), it’s hard to see a climate where the bulk of creative people are better off because of prices continuing to tumble. If anything, we’re furthering the decline of value in media—it’s becoming entirely throwaway, and people are trained to expect low prices (and, increasingly, no prices).

Really, Bezos should have just been more honest and said:

If we want a healthy culture of Amazon making more money, we’ve got to make everything more accessible and part of that is making everything less expensive. If you make everything more affordable, it’s not going to make Amazon less money. It’s going to make Amazon more money.

December 4, 2014. Read more in: Opinions, Technology

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Screen sighs: why 16:9 shouldn’t always be the way

The Guardian criticises the iPad Air 2’s display, due to Apple using what the reviewer refers to in the verdict as a “square screen”. Of course, the screen isn’t actually square, but it’s squarer than the bulk of those used by its rivals. Apple, since the original iPad, has provided a tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio, somewhat aping the printed page. By contrast, most competing tablets have primarily been designed for landscape orientation, in 16:9, common for movies.

If nothing else, this showcases assumptions regarding intentions for the devices themselves. Android tablets have been more geared towards movie and TV consumption, whereas iPads ‘compromised’ that use-case in order to provide a device with wider scope. I explore this further in a piece for Stuff, which examines Google’s new Nexus displays, the tablet now following Apple’s lead.

The short of that is about versatility. 16:9 leaves little room in landscape for content when using the virtual keyboard; in portrait it’s often unsatisfying for reading, because the viewport is so narrow. (Oddly, the Guardian reviewer calls out the iPad for having black bars at the side of comic books, despite those blank spaces being perfectly good for placing your thumbs and flipping pages, without covering content; by contrast, tablets closer to 9:16 aspect ratios in portrait may have black bars at the top and bottom, which the reviewer had a go at the iPad for regarding video.)

Of course, the best aspect ratio for you depends entirely on what you’re doing with a device, and if you only want TV on the go, then having a device with a screen ratio similar to a telly’s makes sense; however, if you want a device suitable for a much wider range of tasks, 16:9 isn’t the smartest move, something Apple knew all along, something Google’s now embracing, and something Microsoft’s also figured out with its new Surface Pro tablets, which use a 3:2 aspect.

October 23, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Technology

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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 companies don’t deserve respect for doing stupid things

The Next Web on Twitter’s major timeline update:

Twitter deserves our begrudging respect for its willingness to rethink the most basic building blocks of its service: tweets and timelines. Over the past year, Twitter has reordered your timeline with a new conversation UI and added images to a text-only medium. In the long-term, expanding the definition of your timeline is what’s best for Twitter as a mainstream platform, but doing so will upset hardcore users along the way.

Twitter doesn’t deserve our respect; respect is earned. When it comes to online services, respect is earned for doing things that improve a service for the users, rather than purely for the company that’s running it. It’s hard to imagine semi-random tweets dumped in timelines being cheered about on the streets. Precisely no-one I know likes the equivalent happening on Facebook, and so why assume Twitter will be any different?

Adverts: fine. Expanding tweets to link to content: fair enough. Adding stuff you never asked for in the first place: no. Respect? No bloody way.

August 20, 2014. Read more in: Opinions, Technology

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