HomePod on the Home App

Automating Siri Loudness on the HomePod

Following Apple’s suspension of Siri data analysis by contractors and introducing changes to Siri Data Protection, I opted in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio sample requests.

I would’ve turned off the Listen for “Hey Siri” setting on the HomePod otherwise due to the crazy amount of accidental wake up triggers whenever Siri thinks it heard anything relatively close to the “Hey Siri” command. The response loudness can be quite startling and disturbs the peace, especially at night if the HomePod was left on a loud volume before entering a Paused state.

The only accessory I currently have in the Home app is the HomePod. Once set up, I created an Automation for ‘When Anyone Leaves Home’ which uses the iPhones geolocation capabilities to detect when away from home and puts the HomePod into a Paused Audio state. I never gave the Home app much attention after that initial setup apart from launching it to update the HomePods software. Thus, I never thoroughly familiarised myself with all the Automation options it offered; one of which is a way to set a Time of Day volume control that automatically reduces the HomePods volume, which also reduces how loud Siri responds.

HomePod on the Home App
Automation on the Home App

Matthew Cassinelli put together a guide on how to create a custom Automation from the Home app that adjusts the HomePods volume based on Time of Day. This guide came in very handy, and I have now spent some time familiarising myself even more with the Home app and setting up a few Automations and Scenes.

‘Do Not Disturb’ is a default setting on iOS which silences calls and notifications when a user triggers the option or activated based on a schedule. The HomePod needs a similar feature in the HomePods settings rather than buried behind the Automation options. In the meantime, the above Automation guide is an adequate solution.

iPod Classic Kept Alive by Modders

Melanie Ehrenkranz, OneZero:

Apple may have discontinued the last of the click-wheel iPods years ago, but Pichi is part of a growing community of tinkerers giving the devices new life. It’s not just for nostalgia (though that’s part of it): iPod modders say they earnestly view the devices, with a few modern tweaks, as a superior way to listen to music. That this elite audio quality is packaged in a device that is also dear to their heart makes it even better.

It’s not just the sanctity of the sound or the lag-free listening experience that draws people to early iPods. It’s also that making modifications is, especially compared with working on modern Apple devices, fairly easy.

Fascinating to learn there’s a thriving community out there keeping the iPod Classic alive years after Apple discontinued them. Reading that piece evoked nostalgic feelings about my time with the iPod Classic and that click-wheel goodness. I truly loved that thing!

Source: 512Pixels via OneZero.

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.

iPad Pro desk setup

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.

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.

Launched Podcast icon & logo

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.

Project Connected Home over IP (CHoIP)

Apple Newsroom:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The planned protocol will complement existing technologies, and working group members encourage device manufacturers to continue innovating using technologies available today.

When companies take a step back from their efforts to cement their different standards and protocols as the best in-class and work together for the greater good to provide a universal standard, then consumers reap the benefits. This project undoubtedly will help the growth and stability of home automation and eradicate the current levels of shoehorning solutions to make platforms compatible, which is a massive deterrent for many potential adopters.

I hope to see more of these kinds of collaborations from tech giants going forward. It’s a win for everyone.