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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The ghost of Gove haunts UK education

As ever, in the wake of UK grade results, the media’s trying to assess precisely what happened this year, and whether it was good or bad. One major element: grades were up but ‘good’ English grades were down.

It’s pretty strange to see press responses to these results, broadly praising removing listening/speaking components and coursework from GCSE English. I would have thought that many modern workplace environments would require precisely those things in order for someone to succeed. Regurgitation of facts within a stressful exam environment never struck me as the best way to assess anyone’s competence in a subject. Making it the sole way in any subject seems absurd.

August 22, 2014. Read more in: Opinions

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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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What the hell is wrong with Twitter?

Twitter is a simple service. The basic idea is you follow accounts you’re interested in, and people who like your posts (tweets) follow you. Due to its origins being based around SMS, each tweet is restricted to 140 characters, forcing brevity.

The problem with Twitter is it’s never made piles of cash, and it’s clear those in command have been enviously glancing at Facebook for a long time now. This has led to changes in the way Twitter operates, some of which have been merely irksome but understandable (inline ads), and a few of which have actually been beneficial (expanded tweets, providing inline previews for linked content).

Today’s change regarding the Twitter timeline goes a step too far, though:

Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.

In other words, your timeline is no longer just manually curated. This breaks a fundamental contract with the user and totally changes the basic premiss of Twitter. In essence, Twitter just became Facebook — just with shorter posts.

I’m sure Twitter will argue this change benefits the user, in delivering them more content they might be interested in, but it’s also poor user experience to dump content into someone’s timeline that they didn’t request. In the short term, you can get around this by using third-party Twitter clients or bookmark/default to a Twitter list, but I imagine the former won’t exist for much longer and the latter will continue to be buried deep within Twitter’s options.

But, hey, at least you’ll see that tweet from someone you’ve never had contact with, about something you probably don’t care about, right?

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

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