On Apple Letting Users Switch Default Apps on iOS

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn’t allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry.

I remember following with keen interest the antitrust case against Microsoft for restricting users and manufacturers the ability to choose browsers other than Internet Explorer as default. I’ve been expecting the same antitrust case brought against Apple regarding restricting competing third-party developer apps to be made default by users on the iOS platform.

I cannot see this having any severely debilitating adverse effect in the long run if Apple allows users to switch to third-party apps as their default. If anything, this should spur competition which will see Apple not rest on its laurels and do more to keep their apps on a seriously competitive level as the company continues to push on its Services front.

We have already started to see many of the default Apple apps receive significant enhancements from the barebones state they once were — Apps like Mail, Safari with desktop-class capabilities on iPadOS, Reminders and Maps, to name a few.

I regularly switch to using all default apps during iOS Beta periods. Over the years as I’ve watched some of the default apps evolve with ‘power feature’ capabilities I relied on third-party apps for, it’s prompted me to switch to using some of the native default apps on a more permanent basis.

Some Apps and Services I’ve switched away from in favour of default Apple alternatives:

  • Evernote (Notes)
  • Spotify (Apple Music)
  • 1Password (iCloud Keychain)
  • Todo/Task Management apps (Reminders)
  • Podcatchers (Apple Podcast)
  • Dropbox (iCloud Drive)
  • IFTTT (Shortcuts)
  • Google Maps (Apple Maps)

Continued enhancements with feature parity to the default native apps will continue to elevate their prominence and stake a claim as worthy options without the need for Apple to force them as the default on the OS.

Expressing Gratitude to Developers

Jason Burk, Burk.io:

I can understand that this path you have chosen can feel thankless but please know that there are many of us out here that appreciate your hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, the perceived value of the work you are doing is being warped to an unsustainable level. Perhaps this is because of the faceless nature of your work, or the warped sense of values and entitlement in the world of technology. Regardless, please know that that the vocal minority does not represent all users. There are many of us who care, and care deeply about the relationship we have with each of you. I admit, we do not express our gratitude often enough or loud enough, but it is unwavering.

The launch of the iOS App Store in July of 2008 with an initial 500 apps was received with merriment. After making do with web apps, I cherished the opening of the App Store with third-party apps, some of which offered a more superior functionality compared to the default native apps of the same ilk by Apple. The App Store gold rush of yore was one of the most exciting and enjoyable periods in the App Stores history. The slogan ‘There’s an App for that’ was so befitting as the App Store continued to receive a plethora of new apps that fulfilled an incredibly wide variety of use-cases. Thanks to Developers.

Today, in 2020, third party apps and services on iOS continue to play a pivotal role in the growth and stability of the platform. And long may that continue. I have been a huge proponent, and supporter of third party apps throughout their revenue-generating business model changes on the App Store over the years. Changes that have always been necessary for helping keep app development sustainable as the platform grows. A thriving App Store holds so much benefit and value for the platform, its users, and developers.

Like many, I have bought - and continue to do so - apps I had no immediate need to add to my workflow and put them to use because I may have others in the same category that are far superior and commanded a Homescreen spot. I do it to support and contribute towards maintaining the healthy state of the app store economy because I respect and value the core ideas behind the apps, the quality of care, and the skills that went into building and maintaining the software.

Even more importantly, there are humans behind the apps. Humans that recognised the importance and role the devices we use and rely on daily to run our lives require the right tools to carry out the tasks efficiently. You can argue because of such talented developers creating some of the undeniably great tools we use on these devices, said devices wouldn’t have held the same level of importance in our lives.

Anyone that used iOS before the launch of the App Store feels my pain. We have been spoilt rotten, living in such a healthy, well-maintained app ecosystem, thanks to the many talented developers that despite some of the hardships they face, they maintain their high-level craftsmanship. Developers that continue to walk this path, spending their lives building and maintaining these tools regardless of whatever fulfilment goals they have, be it financial or otherwise, deserve gratitude.

I salute you. Thank you for all you do.

Source: GABZ/ML via Jason Burk.

My iPad Pro Desk Setup - What's a Computer?

iPad Pro desk setup

The last time I owned and used a traditional desktop computer daily in my home setup was sometime after 2010 when the first-gen iPad was released. With the iPad, I had a device in my setup that can handle all the basic tasks I used on a traditional computer.

Over the years, the iPad slowly started to perform more of my daily computing tasks with the growth of workarounds to bypass the limitations of the OS. However, shoehorning my way around the iPad started to become a chore. I didn’t have the nerdy energy in me at the time to keep up with it, which threatened the existence and joy of using the iPad as a primary computer in a desktop environment. Eventually, my dependence on the iPad dropped significantly. I longed for a powerful and capable OS that enabled me to do more. An iPad-specific OS that helps enhance my productivity and be more efficient in handling a multitude of apps at the same time on the same screen.

iPadOS reigniting my love for the iPad and enticing me to buy the 2018 iPad Pro seven months into its life-cycle was just one part of the story. It also made me go out and buy an office desk and chair to return to the desktop environment I previously had at home.

Accessorising - What’s on the desk?

I was lucky to acquire an iPad that came with the second-gen Apple Pencil. I also got the Smart Keyboard Folio along with a simple magnetic case cover for times I feel like using the software keyboard. The all-in-one case and keyboard combo provided great ergonomic comfort in terms of portability. The ease of connecting the case to the iPad with the smart connector design, eradicating the need for Bluetooth connection made the Smart Keyboard a very compelling accessory to have, especially when on the go. I was instantly a fan. It took a little a bit of adjustment typing on the Smart Keyboard because I primarily used the software keyboard on iPads. I eventually got acquainted, and it was a breeze.

iPad Pro

Using the iPad with the Smart Keyboard attached in a desktop environment peering down on the screen for prolonged periods started to cause a little bit of pain at the back of my neck and shoulders (I’m 6’4”). I decided to nip things in the bud and reconfigure my setup into a more ergonomic structure to avoid pain in the long run. 

I’ve always admired a lot of the iPad desktop setups I see shared online regularly. None more so than Andy Nicolaides’ configurations, which have always been simple and gives off an effectiveness vibe that caters to his use case. I decided to follow the same approach. I started looking into the many options to improve my setup. I considered going down the route of connecting the iPad to a 4K monitor with keyboard and mouse but decided to keep things even simpler with just the iPad as the monitor. I got a universal tablet stand to help raise the iPad to eye-line sight (My neck thanks me for this), a Magic Keyboard and the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse to complete the input peripherals. 

Without further ado, here’s a photo of my iPad Pro Desktop setup: 

iPad Pro desk setup
Current iPad Pro Desk Setup

The setup is not yet complete as I’m currently looking into a base to elevate the iPad stand to an even better eye-line level according to best practices. Until the next iPad Pro gets announced and released, I intend to stick with this setup whenever I am at the desk. Might you wonder the fate of the Smart Keyboard Folio? I like it a lot, so I’m keeping it for when I need to use the iPad away from the desk; indoors or outdoors.

More angled shots in delightful black and white mono as I was reconfiguring the desk setup. 

Sharing an iMac-like iPad set up with the use of peripherals, i.e. keyboard and mouse, I can almost feel the glowering faces from the ‘why not just get a mac?’ brigade.

My answer to the question: I prefer iPadOS.

Keyboards and mouse are not exclusive to Macs only. Regardless of the fact the iPad was birthed as a touch-input device, it is no less deserving of utilising existing compatible peripherals as an input tool than any traditional computer before it. 

I’m happy in the iPad camp right now and hope to continue to be going into the future. I’m hoping in another ten, twenty years from now I can look back in fond memory the iPads journey as a primary computing device, just like those that witnessed the birth and growth of the Mac to what it is today.

Distributing Mac and iOS Apps as a Universal Purchase

Apple Developer:

Starting in March 2020, you’ll be able to distribute iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS versions of your app as a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across platforms by purchasing only once.

Although I’m currently iPad only as my main computing device, I’ve never ruled out getting a traditional Mac computer if the need ever arise. Today’s announcement from Apple that Developers can transition any Mac app to a shared purchase with iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS is a very deliberate user-friendly move by Apple I must say.

I hope developers can find a way to benefit from this — as much as users will — when it comes to finding the right pricing balance going universal, especially developers that currently have a separate pricing structure for iOS and Mac, and rely heavily on the Mac counterparts of their apps as the main source of higher revenue.

Source: Apple Developer News

Update: MAR 23, 2020 — Universal Purchase for Mac Apps Now Available:

The macOS version of your app can now be included in a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS by purchasing only once.

The BirchTree watchOS 7 Concept

Matt Birchler, as he usually does, has put together a very achievable list of where and how certain aspects of the watchOS experience can be improved upon for the upcoming watchOS 7, with many of his suggestions geared towards giving more power and granular control to the user.

On improving interactions on the Apple Watch:

This one is pretty vague, but Apple should make a run through of the things you do on the watch and try to remove one tap from the process. This “one tap less” initiative would look at analytics for what people do on their watches most and would simply try to remove one tap from the process. We’re not rewriting the whole OS yet, but optimizing flows so people are more likely to do them on the watch than pull out their phone would help a lot.

Being an advocate of less is more, I occasionally review how I do, and how certain things are done to see if there’s any room to improve efficiency by removing at least one step out of the process, and I agree with Matt that there are numerous areas, if not all areas of the watchOS that would significantly benefit from less interactive friction.

Give it a read: watchOS 7: A BirchTree Concept.

The iPads Ten Year Evolution

iPad Pro Desk Setup
My Current iPad Pro Desk Setup

The iPads evolution in terms of hardware has delighted the masses with Apple’s obsession of thinner and lighter spearheading that development. Throughout its different size classes over the years, the iPad never failed to provide portability comforts, giving merit towards its hardware design.

When it comes to software, many consumers hoping to journey into the Post-PC generation expecting to see the same level of PC desktop software capabilities on the iPad down the road started to echo strong, unified sentiments regarding the stagnant nature of the iPad software. The call for a dedicated OS for the iPad grew stronger, and Apple finally made it happened.

The introduction of iPadOS, with its iPad specific features, signals the beginnings of the iPad software providing broader capabilities that will help continue to steer it away from the portrayal of a consumption-only device during the launch keynote presentation. Although during the subsequent keynote introducing iPad 2 and the launch of GarageBand on iOS, the demos revealed what the iPad is capable of when it comes to content creation, positioning the iPad as a multi-functional device going forward. To this day, the iPad does a brilliant job on both fronts, with some notable restrictions, especially when it comes to specific developmental tools.

The age-old uncertainty of whether the iPad can completely replace your PC and whether you can do work on the iPad remains. There is a simple answer to both questions: it depends on your computing requirements. To still utterly condemn the iPad as incapable of doing work is ludicrous and often a statement made by disputatious observers. It has come to a stage where the question isn’t any longer ‘how does the iPad stack up to the competition?’. But instead now, an internal battle amongst long-term Apple die-hards camping on either side of the fence of whether the iPad is good enough to replace their Macs - with a few dismissing the iPad because it doesn’t do things the Mac way.

I recently wrote and expressed some sentiments I had towards the iPad and the role it plays in my computing life. Being an early adopter - from the first iPad released in 2010 - I have witnessed the iPads slow evolution towards its expected potential, be it what Apple intended it to be or what consumers hoped for it to be. I’ve had my moments of hot and cold towards the iPad simply because I was bored with the iPad running the same software as the iPhone, making the iPad feel like an overblown iPhone. iPadOS changed all that. I have now used the iPad more consistently on an everyday basis than I have ever done.

I never needed powerful software applications for consumption or creative purposes when I used a traditional PC, making my switch to the iPad as my primary computing device a non-problematic transition. The iPad continues to do everything I need it to do, making me a very pleased user who continues to be confident and reassured with the direction the iPad software is heading.

Much has been written about the iPad turning 10. Below, in no particular order, are some of my favourite reads:

Inputmag: The iPad’s original software designer and program lead look back on the device’s first 10 years.

Imran: When we resurrected the iPad, we knew that it was always designed as a computer and it was literally the perfect playground for multitouch. The phone was the first delivery mechanism but we always knew that we wanted a desktop class face to run applications for multitouch.

BirchTree: My 10 Year Review of the iPad

The thing that still bothers people is the idea of the iPad replacing the Mac for all people and I just don’t know if that’s going to happen. The Mac debuted in 1984 and evolved into what we have in front of us today. The iPad is 26 years younger, and it was conceived and grew up in a completely different era, and as such, has much different priorities and design philosophies. Of course it doesn’t work just like the Mac!

Lee Peterson: Looking back at the original iPad

It’s been interesting to see how far we’ve come in 10 years with the iPad hardware, it still feels like the future and has become my platform of choice. I get so much flexibility from using one day to day, be it using the keyboard or pencil or just using it sat on the sofa. It’s given me so much opportunity to be more creative and I couldn’t imagine what I’d be using now if it never came along.

The Dent: Ten Years of iPad: Simply Complex

More often than not, when I’ve seen people complaining about things the iPad can’t do it’s untrue. They often can do these things, you just have to do it in a different way than you may have in the past. This doesn’t make the device bad, or unintuitive, necessarily, it just means that some effort needs to be put in to understand how these things are achieved.

MacStories: The iPad at 10: A New Product Category Defined by Apps

The message was that the iPad could become whatever users wanted it to be through its apps. Jony Ive reinforced that in the event’s closing video, declaring that the iPad was defined by its single slab of multitouch glass and lack of an input device or prescribed orientation. Nobody rotates their iPad as much as was demonstrated onstage, but Apple was sending an unmistakable message that the iPad was designed to disappear beneath users’ fingertips the same way an iPhone does, but deliver the computing power to drive a big display.

Steven Sinofsky: The 10th Anniversary of the iPad: A Perspective from the Windows Team.

Launched Podcast by Charlie Chapman

Back in the summer of 2019, I helped Beta test Dark Noise - a White noise app by first-time iOS indie developer Charlie Chapman. I witnessed the incredible development of Dark Noise during the beta stages through to launch, and the deserving attention it garnered as the best of its kind on the iOS App Store.

Charlie unselfishly and openly shared his journey on his blog about the launch and promotion of Dark Noise, including stats after a month in the App Store. Not only content with sharing his journey following his experiences of creating and launching an app, but Charlie has also now started a podcast called Launched:

Launched is a fortnightly show where I interview app developers and other creators about their experiences releasing their creation out into the world.

Being a huge fan of iOS, I have always had a high level of intrigue into what it takes to develop, launch and market an iOS app. Launched, is here to guide you into that world, thanks to the willing participation of developers and creators sharing their stories. Learning about these stories behind the creations as a user gives me a much better perspective and bolster the respect I have for app developers. As for Charlie’s fellow developers and creators, I have no doubt they’ll pick up some tips that could help them in current and future projects.

Launched has kicked off with great on-point conversations that keep you paying attention to the discussion and if like me, you’re always interested in learning the journeys of iOS app development, launch, promotion and any other associated tidbits, then go forth and subscribe.