Extratone

ios

by David Blue

Siri Shortcuts

Apple's latest mobile OS update might've seemed mundane, but Siri Shortcuts gives users vastly more power than Apple customers have ever before experienced.

Back in 2016, Pokémon Go, overclocked Apple Watches, pissing wearables, and What You See is What You Get blogging services all claimed unprecedented casualties among consumers according to Futureland's iOS 10 episode, which we did our absolute best to dramatize in order to survive what was expected to be the dullest event on record. We'd only that day been first made aware of Boomerang photos and the mysterious nature of “Live Blogging” as an occupation. AirPods were introduced and subsequently shit on, and the comparatively archaic 3.5mm analog audio jack was confidently parted with, finally. At least I got over “forgetting” about Live Photos because it's rapidly becoming difficult to keep stuff on the phone now. I am coming sincerely close to believing none of this is real, anyway. Today, though, it’s a damned straight ballgame, isn’t it? Months have passed since Apple pushed out its major mobile OS release of the year to more little rectangular computers than any one person could speedcount in a lifetime and YouTube is already recommending me dozens of videos about the next one. At this point, you and I are already aware of the iOS development community, who has already been using Internet Operating System 12 on their personal devices for more than half a year by the time your irises are landing here. Hopefully, all but two or three stranded, dying explorers in the arctic have updated their iPhones and iPads by now, and why wouldn’t they?

Our expectations from this ritual are completely alien compared to those we’d need to anticipate from the event 5 or 6 releases ago, when one’s phone had to be sent away (in a sense) to latch itself tight to the stability of a desktop-class product in order to undergo a lengthy, destined metamorphosis. Sometimes, backups via 30-pin to USB-2.0 cables took hours, after which the custodian may or may not find their companion’s replication had completed successfully. If it had, one had to be sure to close any applications apart from iTunes to provide a working environment of utter silence – restarting after finishing the download was my own preferred method – before entrusting the despicably unreliable software to whittle away in a sometimes frantically rebooting, feverish procedure with near life-threatening stigma: it wasn’t uncommon for an update to inexplicably fail, “bricking” the subject iPhone and requiring that one take two whole steps in the wrong direction and restore it from the entire backup they’d just created (hopefully) in order to… make another, precisely-identical attempt, for lack of variables or alternatives to the process. However, if the user planned sufficiently and made a point to begin the whole charade immediately upon arriving home for the evening, these potential frustrations could be compensated for, and odds would favor counting on their smartphone to emerge safe and sound from the procedure just before bed, when even those holding the second-newest product in the lineage would have just enough screen time to notice that text entry, web page loading, and window management had noticeably slowed before sighing and tossing their device toward the darkness.

THE CHER TWEET EMBED

These days, one would need to try very hard to be inconvenienced by iOS updates. My iPhone 8 Plus is two or three times more powerful than my laptop at the moment, and my new friends’ WiFi connection is better than what the State government uses internally, back home. I haven’t needed to physically back it up more than once or twice since I bought it — iCloud stores the lot for $4.99­ a month anyway. I blinked once watching Riki-Oh with high school friends some time ago and all of the sudden, a 1.6GB download isn’t really a big deal. Siddown and watch your Instagram stories for twenty minutes, and hey! You’re ready to update! Somehow, I have abruptly found myself in a reality in which I am the obvious bottleneck and my 100 words per minute on a smartphone keyboard, even, is no longer fast enough: my fucking phone is now waiting on me when it updates. The keyholder is the whole goddamned holdup.

So, what possible purpose could there be in pounding out this “Review” of a free software update that’s in no way optional (waiting a month is no longer a rational minimization of risk — it’s just dumb,) not any more difficult to attain than the bills currently waiting in your mailbox, nor allowed by the nature of mobile operating systems to compete with any cross-platform alternatives? For myself, it’s proved a gratifying tradition of sorts and a good use of my apparently-abundant time if only for the record's sake (hello, future web archivists, neohuman and otherwise!,) but this release – assuming I haven’t overlooked something – is the most globe-shucking of all because of one single featureset: Siri Shortcuts. However, the v ast majority of the intra-Apple press' coverage of this release has come across nearly as unconcerned with them as I was originally. Take Macworld's iOS 12 Review, for instance: it was the first result in my Google search for “iOS 12 review,” yet Siri Shortcuts are only mentioned in the bottom quarter of its first page. When I recorded the “iOS 12 Review” episode of my “podcast,” I spoke as if I was somehow the only person on the planet who comprehends the profound implications of this software addition – which was, of course, more of an absorbent acquisition – but I have since discovered one gem, at least, which has continued the conversation in a most superb manner. It's a technology podcast called Supercomputer, and it's hosted by Alex Cox and Matthew Cassinelli – the latter of whom developed a significant amount of the iOS app Workflow (and wrote most or all of its documentation, apparently,) which Apple assimilated as Siri Shortcuts. Both are extremely knowledgeable and competent commentators on – as far as I can hear, at least – virtually the entire iOS *lifestyle*. (For those on the outside who've never stepped in: laugh if you must, but yes it is a lifestyle, still, and it's new thought leader isn't exactly coming up short these days.) iOS is technically software, yes, but it leaves an intractable itch for some greater, transcendent term.

WORDPRESS GUTENBERG / SIRI SHORTCUTS IN MY PAJAMAS

In just forty minutes, without any prior knowledge about this feature, I was able to create a Shortcut which sends any given handset's IP address and precise GPS location (among other mundane metrics) in a text message to my phone number. I could share this shortcut among my other submissions to Sharecuts or ShortcutsGallery.com, where any iOS user could download and subsequently send this information back to my phone. (Don't believe me? Have a go at it yourself and I'll send back a screenshot if you'd like.) I accomplished this without any particular skills or education in software development or cybersecurity – without any real malice, even – I was just playing around. As far as my recollection goes, Apple has never included such a powerful, potentially-dangerous piece of software in a standard software update before. It's both absolutely brilliant and sortof a ripoff to be so entrusted for the first time. In many ways – like my Disable Bluetooth & WiFi shortcut – Siri Shortcuts represent an awfully half-assed solution to some of the most basic, longtime incongruencies within iOS. Sure, it's great that I can just make myself a shortcut to completely disable my phone's WiFi and Bluetooth activity with one press or Siri command (combining “type to Siri” with Siri Shortcuts basically enables a form of Command Line functionality in iOS,) but frankly, one should've expected the world's largest company to do it themselves in perhaps the second of third version of this operating system instead of saying okay, here are the tools – you do it! in its twelfth.

I've found it inevitable when speaking on iOS to avoid discussing the other literature available on the subject at any given time. The depth to which technology media has assimilated the habits and mannerisms of a single American company is absolutely mind-boggling, regardless of its history, its market share, or even its recent trillion-dollar valuation. Dozens of media companies – CultofMac, MacRumors, Macworld, 9to5 Mac, AppleInsider, iMore, and... more – exist solely to cover one single independent company: Apple, Incorporated. One wonders how the sum total of the individuals involved with and these organizations compares with the total number of employees working for the company their careers are (for the moment, at least,) entirely centered around. (Further interesting questions: are there any comparable situations anywhere else in Western capitalism, and if not – doesn't this sort of attention constitute some kind of Monopoly, even if it was not necessarily an anti-competitive one?) For “reasonable people,” the image one conjures up of The All-The-Time Apple Beat does not lend to envy, but let's choose to limit ourselves to only the most casual forms of speculation. I do not wish to mock them, for I, too remember the sensation of The Apple Drug from an unfortunate time in my childhood development when I was willing to wear a cheap sweatshirt branded with a stupid Mac vs. Windows Users joke unironically to a real live public Junior High school. There are few more embarrassing admissions, except perhaps admitting that a part of me genuinely yearns to return to this level of enthusiasm, as misplaced and cringey as it was. It's the addiction to the mystic; it's aspirational in its democratization. Billionaires are running the same operating system and much of the same software as I am every day – even the most followed person on any given platform is still accessing it through the same interface I might be. These are incredible truths, but they also reflect a dangerous lack of competition in a product category that has become more essential to day-to-day human life than any other in just three or four blinks of an eye.

INDIE ALTERNATIVES TWEET

Fuck David Blue, though. Who are the real, hard-hitting minds who've kept this industry and this company in check? Well, it's funny you should ask that, because the people's quirky New York Times tech critic of late – the esteemed Farhad Manjoo – has just concluded a five-year-long technology column with some essential (if perhaps a bit unoriginal) advice: “just slow down.” If you're still following along, you shall surely enjoy clicking some of his links, and I would certainly encourage that you do until you're out of free articles, at least. When Manjoo speaks, Apple listens: his January decree for Apple to bend with the industry wind and build “a Less Addictive iPhone” is convincingly prophetic considering Screen Time – probably the most mulled-over iOS 12 addition. As someone who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (however much or little that may mean to you) just one or two years after I began using my/the first iPhone, I've developed a history of what he might call Addiction to iPhones in variable oscillation touching both extremes. I carried my first-generation iPhone for almost 5 years – as you can imagine, it was far from a 100%-functional device toward the end of that bell curve. In contrast, I've also stood in line at dawn for two iPhone launches, jailbroken, listened to podcasts only about apps (far before they were good,) and been compelled to chronicle and reflect upon all of it for as long as I can remember.

There's no denying that the iPhone has had a profound effect on my life mostly thanks to my own choices, which is why it's worth telling the vast majority of you that features like Screen Time will never help you achieve whatever vague conception of reduced usage you may have. If you haven't yet quantified the figures you'll find within it in mental estimates, you aren't really concerned at all and if you have, Screen Time will only confirm them. Using reminder notifications to optimize your appflow makes no attempt at all to actually escape the mentality of the behavior you seek to lessen from yourself. Another app is still another app; a notification reminding you to stop using an app does nothing but add still more stimuli. If you want to stop using the phone so much, *stop* using the fucking phone. If you are truly concerned about how your handset companion has changed your life, turn it off for a week/month/quarter – however long you possibly can. By that, I mean no more or less than what you can manage without getting fired/dumped/expelled/etc. If you have truly reached this point, anything less is probably worth it. There is simply no other way to get a clear picture of how it's changed you.

Google, Facebook, and the rest of the industry are well aware of this, but know they can't actually advocate against the fundamental mechanism that drives their businesses, so they express concern by doing what they know: building more software. Apple is in a slightly different situation: they still need you to buy their phones – and even to look at them – but not past the point of hurting yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically because those injuries tend to hurt one economically. Screen Time's purpose is to keep us thriving and buying, but the only effective solve for this can only be communicated in garbage cinema language: you must find it within yourself. I am actually the worst person from which to model your life, except perhaps for my iPhone use: unless there's little else worthy of my attention, my phone is not out. Even if checking my emails, Mastodon, Twitter, etc are my default tasks, there are infinitely many besides that come first. Every once in a while, it's okay to finish an important message while walking down the street or waiting at a stoplight if things are urgent, but I can guarantee you that my attention is better consolidated on traveling in 95% of cases – moving with purpose and then focusing on my composition after I've arrived is almost always more efficient. I realize that I'm cowboying it here and sound like your Dad, but I'm better with iOS than he is, yet I've never publicly run into anything while looking down at my smartphone in 10 years of hardcore use. Find somebody who's company makes you forget about all of this for hours at a time and treasure them. Also: stop playing games on your phone. What the hell are you doing? Read a blog! Explore the wonders of the open web! Your peers, your battery, and your elderly future self with thank you for it. (One exception is playing word/trivia games with your partner. That's very cute and good for you.)

I was elated to see that even Apple supports my age-old cause for Twitter Lists. Also, the new function in Apple Music allowing the user to search by lyrics appears to work very well...

To get back to specifics, the new Photos application is now basically what it should have been all along, 3D Touch has been virtually eclipsed for those strange bastards among you who never liked it, and the release's most democratically-redeemable feature is optimization, which even on my iPhone 8 Plus was blatantly noticeable and very welcome. However, probably the best insight to come out of my long, rambly End User review was the revelation that basically any other human activity is a better use of time than applauding Apple for learning to hold new features off until they've been thoroughly tested and focusing instead on smoothing existing software. In fact, I'd argue there is absolutely no reason for someone like me to say anything even remotely positive about the world's wealthiest company ever again, though that doesn't apply to The Verge or Chaim Gartenberg, who's review – for the record – was much more useful to 9999 times more people than anything I'll ever write. However, isn't it sortof unreasonable to expect anything but absolute perfection from Apple at this trillion-dollar juncture? A handful of varying interpretations of absolute perfection per product category, even.

With gorgeous, iCloud-enabled premium apps like [Bear] (https://twitter.com/NeoYokel/status/1063486573197561857) in the picture, integrating wholly into the Apple environment has maintained its relative rank above the alternatives to its specific minimal-esque utilitarian niceness which appeals so strongly to those people among both consumer and professional buyers. Readers from within this culture recognized a short time ago that iOS is in the process of replacing MacOS as the star component of this environment across the board, though there's at least a moderate journey ahead before it truly reaches this achievement for the median user. For myself, iOS 12 improved the experience of using my 8 Plus and certainly gave me something intriguing to play with in Siri Shortcuts. For the rest of the world's billions of daily iOS users, I say be as insatiable as possible – always expect more.

#ios #iphone #software #photography #future

by David Blue

Tweetbot 5 for iOS

On Win­dows XP bal­lot day, I spent my beat­nik-ass time mar­veling at the (seem­ing­ly) abrupt avail­abil­i­ty of some gen­uine­ly inno­v­a­tive social apps on the Apple App Store for the first time since iOS 7(?) Of course, I am aware that rea­son­able peo­ple would regard a “sneak peek,” NDA-vio­lat­ing, per­fect­ly Adobe Pre­miered app review to be pret­ty fuck­ing lame, and I won’t dis­pute any accu­sa­tions to the tune of “just an insane white guy with a Word­Press site,” but I still believe it’s impor­tant to talk about soft­ware espe­cial­ly because vir­tu­al­ly every­one uses it (as opposed to qui­et­ing down just when these apps and the peo­ple who make them attain the most advan­ta­geous pos­si­ble posi­tion to fuck the whole world.)

That said, I’m going to keep this as brief and unre­vi­sion­ist as I can: Tweetbot’s lat­est iter­a­tion may actu­al­ly jus­ti­fy the ded­i­cat­ed sub­red­dit I’ve just dis­cov­ered! (Reddit’s the last place any­one wants to talk about apps, I guess.) I’ve com­plained at length about Twitter’s increas­ing­ly hos­tile (but jus­ti­fied, sortof ) treat­ment of its once aston­ish­ing­ly diverse land­scape of third-par­ty clients and tools, yet I’d hon­est­ly grown sig­nif­i­cant­ly in accept­ing that the dynam­ic would nev­er again see the pow­er of the world’s most cash-stuffed com­pa­nies deliv­ered into the sweaty hands of small, kooky one and two-man teams, and it nev­er would’ve occurred to me that Tweet­bot was still around — much less get­ting ready to update its trusty old app with a release that would sud­den­ly make it clear­ly more sta­ble and bet­ter-look­ing than its last com­peti­tor: the Native Fuck, itself, which has also under­gone sig­nif­i­cant cos­met­ic surgery, recent­ly. Name­ly, they moved the one fuck­ing but­ton that’s giv­en the app a usabil­i­ty pre­mi­um over its mobile web-based low-rent clone.

“The com­pose but­ton has been moved to the bot­tom right-hand cor­ner and “floats” as users scroll down their time­line. That means the but­ton is always avail­able to quick­ly send a tweet when the mood strikes.”

Yeah okay, Matt.

We’ve got a shiny, new com­pose but­ton to unveil on Twit­ter for iOS! Eas­i­er than ever to use, the float­ing icon is promi­nent­ly dis­played and per­fect for one-hand­ed scrolling and Tweet com­pos­ing. Pro tip: Press and hold the icon to access your drafts, pho­tos, and the GIF gallery. -@Twit­terSup­port

Twit­ter Sup­port is no @Cher, yeah, but it seems strange that less than a thou­sand of Twitter’s more than 300 mil­lion month­ly users would both­er to engage with the announce­ment of a sig­nif­i­cant fun­da­men­tal change to its infra­struc­ture. Imag­ine if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment announced via White House press con­fer­ence that every stop­light in the Unit­ed States was going to have its yel­low light removed to “stream­line work­flow” with­out any fur­ther expla­na­tion, yet only 1000 total Amer­i­cans even both­ered to tune in to the tele­vi­sion cov­er­age across all the news net­works. It’d be strange, yeah? Well, y’all are using Twit­ter more than you’re dri­ving, I’ll bet. Next time, get out and vote on my Twit­ter poll , you fas­cist!

In my Twit­ter glo­ry days — that is, when I used to spend the entire­ty of every one of my com­mu­ni­ty col­lege class­es Tweet­ing from my phone — there was a healthy offer­ing of third-par­ty clients on both mobile and desk­top that filled the eng­lish of the era’s soft­ware media with an absolute­ly bar­bar­ic brand-beat­en pile of lin­guis­tic Twit­trash. After Twin­kle — one of the ear­li­est and ugli­est ways to use Twit­ter ever — you’d have to choose between Twit­pic, Tweet­deck, Twit­ter­counter, Twit­ter­feed, Twhirl, Twit­turly, Twt­poll, Retweet­ist, Tweepler, Hel­lotxt, Twit­dom, Tweetscan, Tweet­burn­er, Tweet­vi­sor, Twit­ter­vi­sion, Twibs, Twistori, and Twit­bin. These are just a few I picked up from a 10-year-old TechCrunch report list­ing the top 21 Twit­ter appli­ca­tions by traf­fic. Twibs .

Now, I have to stop myself from dig­ging too deep here and attempt­ing some­thing absurd like The His­to­ry of Twit­ter Clients, but the fuck­ing mate­r­i­al is there! I could spend an entire after­noon going through YouTube search­es and gad­get blogs because it brings me back to that time when I lived every day assum­ing these things were going to con­tin­ue to aston­ish for my entire adult­hood. So many incred­i­ble ideas! How­ev­er, I’m going to save them for lat­er and focus on the cream of the crop, so to speak: Twit­terif­ic and Tweet­bot, which has been a long­time favorite of mine. As I said, it was in com­mu­ni­ty col­lege that I first ponied up mon­ey for Tweet­bot 3 on my iPhone 4S sim­ply because the hype over it among app and gad­get nerds was so bonkers that it man­aged to spill over into my life, despite the fact that iOS7 and I were hav­ing seri­ous issues in our mar­riage.

If you trust Mark Wat­son with your life as I do, you’d bet­ter believe that Tweet­bot has been “ a scream­er ” since its very begin­ning, when it pio­neered the Pre­mi­um Poweruser seg­ment, for which a demo­graph­ic appar­ent­ly still exists. It was fast, yet always notice­ably smoother than the native app, just as the newest release is today. I must point out, though, that the blog­gers and YouTu­bers who’ve insist­ed that Tweet­bot or Twit­ter­rif­ic or any oth­er pre­mi­um app could replace the native Twit­ter app entire­ly on iPhone even before they were stripped of a most live/push func­tion­al­i­ty (which I’ll come back around to in just a moment,) are undoubt­ed­ly lying to them­selves — as good as they got, they nev­er over­took Twitter’s own app in imme­di­a­cy terms, which is almost inevitably going to present fun­da­men­tal deter­rence on the part of the active Twit­ter user who intends to rid them­selves of the default pedes­tri­an avenue of admin­is­tra­tion. Tweet­bot solved a lot of things, it real­ly is daft when it comes to noti­fi­ca­tions. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they came a few hun­dred sec­onds late — it’s that they’re nev­er pre­dictably or con­sis­tent­ly so, which sev­ers entire­ly the human per­cep­tion of engaged plugged-in-ness, if you will. It’s the same phe­nom­e­na Chuck Kloster­man explores best in the con­text of DVRing live sports to watch lat­er.

It’s dif­fi­cult to project fic­tion­al sce­nar­ios that are more oblique and unex­pect­ed than the cra­zi­est moments from real­i­ty. We all under­stand this. And that under­stand­ing is at the core of the human attrac­tion to live­ness. We don’t crave live sport­ing events because we need imme­di­a­cy; we crave them because they rep­re­sent those (increas­ing­ly rare) cir­cum­stances in which the entire spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ty is in play.
-“Space, Time, and DVR Mechan­ics” by Chuck Kloster­man`

Tweet­bot is unques­tion­ably a more thor­ough envi­ron­ment in which to explore Twit­ter than any oth­er third par­ty client, but it can’t do the live thing. Please do com­plain to Twit­ter, Inc. about the API sit­u­a­tion if you’re so inclined, but the sit­u­a­tion we’re going to find our­selves in

All I’m try­ing to say is, there is no fuck­ing rea­son you’d delete the Twit­ter app — hide it away in a fold­er and nev­er ever open it again if it dis­gusts you so, but leave its noti­fi­ca­tions set­tings on so that it can keep itself busy in there. Now that is a smart work­flow! In fact, it was mine! And it did work for such a long time that you’d prob­a­bly for­get about the arrange­ment in no time were there not the occa­sion­al obvi­ous dis­crep­an­cies between Tweetbot’s Mention’s tab and the native app’s instant noti­fi­ca­tions. There has nev­er been — nor will there be, I think — a client for Twit­ter that can replace some use of its own prop­er­ties.

I think Tweet­bot 3 made me into my own ridicu­lous equiv­a­lent of a “Poweruser.” Things are a lit­tle hazy now, but I know that I depart­ed my main Twit­ter account just before the app’s release, and I didn’t come back until 2015. I was going to school in the same old mall build­ing that housed the tool store in which I was also work­ing in full-time, which is sure­ly the only expla­na­tion for the shame­less­ness I demon­strat­ed in bring­ing a wire­less Apple Blue­tooth key­board to my class­es and plac­ing it behind the phone on what­ev­er sur­face was in front of me so that I could lean for­ward and type into iOS with my nose damned near touch­ing the screen. Strange­ly, I was not able to ver­i­fy when Blue­tooth key­board sup­port was added to iOS, but we’re going to con­clude for the sake of con­ve­nience that it was first includ­ed in the imme­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor to the iPhone 4S I was using then.

The cognoscen­ti have been on Twit­ter for years now. Stephen Fry, the web service’s patron saint — in Britain at least, joined in 2008. How­ev­er, it wasn’t until ear­ly 2009, xsome­where around the time that Fry tweet­ed while stuck in a lift, that the ser­vice went tru­ly main­stream. Men­tions of Twit­ter, usu­al­ly involv­ing celebri­ties, could be found in news­pa­pers and on break­fast tele­vi­sion.

Top 10 tech­nol­o­gy high­lights of 2009 ” | The Telegraph

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already seen the demos and skimmed reviews at least. You should know by now whether or not Tweet­bot 5 is worth it to you in pure­ly func­tion­al terms, but I think we should all acknowl­edge that this release of Tweet­bot is like­ly the last com­pet­i­tive third-par­ty Twit­ter app for iOS. The mess that is Twit­ter, Inc. has made clear this year that it intends to pri­or­i­tize its own clients over main­tain­ing the APIs nec­es­sary for oth­ers to receive push noti­fi­ca­tions. And when I say “its own,” I’m also refer­ring to our dear­est Tweet­Deck, which they in fact absorbed. From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, it makes sense: only “six mil­lion App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-par­ty Twit­ter clients between Jan­u­ary 2014 and July 2018,” accord­ing to TechCrunch. I nev­er expect­ed to see Tweet­bot on the App Store charts again, nor would I have con­sid­ered that Echophon, Tweet­Cast­er or Twit­ter­rif­ic would have been left avail­able. They’re on the App Store, at least, and I can con­firm that they all tech­ni­cal­ly still work, but it’s safe to say they’re show­ing their fuck­ing age. Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, though, are not just satel­lite prod­ucts of the plat­form — they lit­er­al­ly built it. These two are the poles that have spent Twitter’s life­time thus far demon­strat­ing for the com­pa­ny and its user­base their own respec­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of a mobile social appli­ca­tion. Today, they are unit­ed — along with Talon and Tweet­ings — in a plea for con­tin­ued access to the plat­form they helped estab­lish on behalf of Twit­ter users and devel­op­ers around the world.

Both Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic are in their 5th ver­sions, and nei­ther has actu­al­ly changed much since iOS 7. (Twit­ter­rif­ic appears to still be in the same ver­sion num­ber.) Fac­ing the grow­ing walls around the ser­vice, one strug­gles to imag­ine them sur­viv­ing more than one or two iOS releas­es, but I’ve been wrong before. (In fact, I dis­cov­ered yes­ter­day that Look­book is still around some­how.) By the time iOS 7 came around, the new native Twit­ter app still looked fuck­ing ter­ri­ble. When Tap­bots released Tweet­bot 3, every­thing about its visu­al expe­ri­ence was beyond any­thing we’d seen on the iPhone before and its effec­tive­ness as a Twit­ter tool was imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able in con­trast with even Jack’s brand-new app and mobile web expe­ri­ence. The ani­ma­tions were taste­ful and smooth and the “pro user” label on Tapbot’s demo­graph­ic allowed them to ful­ly explore the func­tion­al­i­ty of iPhone’s ges­tures sep­a­rate any bond with the hypo­thet­i­cal­ly least-capa­ble user.

This is a dynam­ic which I am appar­ent­ly unable to avoid across just about all of my sub­jects — includ­ing dig­i­tal media — so you may take it as gen­er­al­ly unrea­son­able or extreme, but I’m near­ly as tired of being treat­ed as an idiot user as I am an idiot read­er. Read­abil­i­ty is to Usabil­i­ty, etc. It’s espe­cial­ly aggra­vat­ing when I could do so much more if devel­op­ers would just assume I’m capa­ble of any knowl­edge acqui­si­tion or intel­lec­tu­al growth what­so­ev­er. Except for a few left­over key­board short­cuts, the native Twit­ter app’s only func­tion are the most obvi­ous to engage with, as per the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards of use, which would make per­fect sense if it was paired with com­pe­tent invest­ments in Acces­si­bil­i­ty, but Twit­ter always appears to detest the sub­ject, even while qui­et­ly putting in some of the work. Thanks to Mastodon’s explic­it and vis­i­ble acknowl­edge­ment of acces­si­bil­i­ty by way of just one young Ger­man man and a vol­un­teer team, we cer­tain­ly know it’s not because it’s an expen­sive one at all. (The “if Mastodon can do it than Twit­ter can def­i­nite­ly fuck­ing do it” argu­ment can be expand­ed almost with­out lim­it.)

Some­where out there is a social media man­ag­er using a screen read­er whose pro­fes­sion­al­ism has been under­mined by the belief that the update is avail­able to every­one. We deserve equal access to the tools our peers take for grant­ed, and the secu­ri­ty to know that we will be able to do our jobs tomor­row regard­less of updates. -Kit Englard for The Out­line

I would like to com­mend myself now for mak­ing it this far with­out men­tion­ing Lists — a sub­ject which I’ve already Tweet­ed and writ­ten about exten­sive­ly — but this time, I have the won­drous bless­ing of two pre­miere mobile soft­ware com­pa­nies who rec­og­nized the poten­tial pow­er in list func­tion­al­i­ty to dis­pel or avoid most of the inher­ent risks assigned to the usage of a social net­work like Twit­ter and bet heav­i­ly on it. Nei­ther can be uti­lized to the fullest with­out lists and wouldn’t it be such a shame to not get your money’s worth? Tap­bots expand­ed their cura­tive abil­i­ty tremen­dous­ly by adding cus­tomiz­able fil­ters to any time­line in Tweet­bot, allow­ing the user to infi­nite­ly manip­u­late incom­ing posts with any com­bi­na­tion of every vari­able sup­port­ed by the core Twit­ter code itself. With­in a mat­ter of sec­onds, you could cre­ate a fil­ter that will exclude all Tweets except for those from unver­i­fied accounts that men­tion “blimps” and include a media attach­ment and apply this fil­ter to any of the app’s time­line views — includ­ing Home, Men­tions, Pro­file (your own Tweets,) your Favorites, and your Search­es — every­thing but your Direct Mes­sages can be sort­ed this way.

Tweet­bot for iOS Tips,” Tap­bots Tweet­Bot and I accom­plished a lot of sort­ing togeth­er, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me had it not crept to #1 Paid Social App again a few weeks ago that per­haps my bias towards Twit­ter lists could be entire­ly attrib­uted to my ear­ly use of Tweet­Bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, which allowed me to amass a Fol­low­ing count of over 5000 with­out phys­i­cal­ly per­ish­ing or men­tal­ly dis­in­te­grat­ing to the point of unde­ni­able insan­i­ty. How­ev­er, by the time Tweet­Bot 4 was released in 2015, it had long since swapped places with the native app with­in my iPhone’s home­screens and was only used when I felt par­tic­u­lar­ly like Tweet­storm­ing from a sta­tion­ary sit­u­a­tion. From my wire­less Apple Key­board, this meant Cmd (⌘)-N to com­pose a Tweet and ⌘-Enter to send it.

Today — in Tweet­bot 5 — this con­tin­ues to be a tried-and-true method of Tweet­ing Tweets on Twit­ter, smooth­ly and effi­cient­ly, as always. Return­ing to Ye Olde Alter­na­tive in 2018 yields both famil­iar and new­ly-imple­ment­ed goods: ani­ma­tion and audio noti­fi­ca­tions are car­ried over and/or updat­ed as need­ed to main­tain a flu­id and fresh expe­ri­ence. The abil­i­ty to switch between its intel­li­gent­ly-cho­sen col­or themes with a two-fin­gered ver­ti­cal swipe, alone will be jus­ti­fi­ca­tion enough for many users like myself to hand over anoth­er $4.99 to the Tap­bots devel­op­ers who’ve man­aged against all odds to one-up Twitter’s own mobile app devel­op­ment one last time. Over any oth­er alter­na­tive app, Tweet­bot 5 retains the robust qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to achieve #1 Paid Social App sta­tus on the App Store despite its new API shack­les.


#software #ios #twitter

by David Blue

UniChar for iOS

I’ve nev­er under­stood why I nev­er see any­one mak­ing use of the vast cat­a­logue of near­ly 140,000 stan­dard Uni­code sym­bols avail­able in their social media posts, meta­da­ta, or word art. Like replac­ing stan­dard bul­lets in our week­ly newslet­ter with ◎ (U+25CE,) — prob­a­bly my all-time favorite, or using strings of four char­ac­ters for intro, ad, and sta­tion iden­ti­fi­ca­tion spots on Extra­tone Radio. (☉☉☉☉, for instance.) I’d like to think these uses make their expe­ri­ences feel just a bit more unique to users — if only uncon­scious­ly — but I’d long won­dered if I was in fact the last Uni­code enthu­si­ast alive.

The devel­op­ment of Jor­dan Hipwell’s UniChar for iOS would sug­gest oth­er­wise. Its app store page describes it as “a pow­er­ful yet beau­ti­ful Uni­code sym­bol selec­tion app and key­board,” and its gener­ic web­page appears to have tes­ti­mo­ni­als includ­ing a real post on the Web Site life­hack­er.

UniChar is a third-par­ty iOS key­board that unlocks the wide wide world of weird Uni­code char­ac­ters. Ser­vice marks, copy­right logos, math­e­mat­i­cal sym­bols, tech­ni­cal signs like Apple’s “splat” icon or radioac­tiv­i­ty indi­ca­tors, and more are avail­able in the stand­alone app as well as the key­board add-on you can use wher­ev­er you need to type some­thing.

Wow! I can’t believe I’d pull-quote life­hack­er any­where, but here is an iOS app that actu­al­ly address­es a reg­u­lar issue of my own in a beau­ti­ful and intu­itive way. I actu­al­ly can­not remem­ber the last time this hap­pened — you’d have to give me a list and a com­pre­hen­sive refresh­er of all the ways I’ve used my iPhones in the past ten years.

iOS App Demo: UniChar

Con­trary to what may seem obvi­ous, UniChar’s char­ac­ter selec­tor is by far the more intu­itive and effi­cient of these two sep­a­rate ways to use it. Even in the free expe­ri­ence, there are sim­ply too many char­ac­ters in the cat­a­log to rea­son­ably browse in iOS’ old extend­ed key­board. (For the record, I’d like to note that UniChar is tech­ni­cal­ly a “Ref­er­ence Appli­ca­tion,” but I under­stand if you can’t bring your­self to use the term.) Across both the seam­less­ly-inter­change­able gallery and list views, the user can very quick­ly copy a char­ac­ter to the clip­board with 3D Touch, which works so well it’s as if it were meant only for this use from its begin­ning.

In the off chance you’re a long­time lover and devout user of the grander Uni­code col­lec­tion and an iOS user, I hope you’re now expe­ri­enc­ing the same sort of pet­ty enthu­si­asm I felt myself when I dis­cov­ered it. If not, I hope you’ll take away a desire to explore it. I mean… aren’t these smi­leys way bet­ter than any emo­ji? ☺☺☺☺

Update

Despite a hand­ful of reports of crash­ing issues in App Store reviews, Unichar has con­tin­ued to per­form admirably for me. I end­ed up spend­ing $2.99 to unlock the full Unichar­ac­ter key­board as the tremen­dous val­ue of that num­ber for the time and effort it would save myself would be more than worth it. (Actu­al­ly, it’s thanks to Red­bub­ble for send­ing me the first tru­ly usable Inter net Mon­ey I’ve had to actu­al­ly spend on any apps and/or ser­vices in fuck­ing for­ev­er, but you know.) After all this time, I’m still gid­dy that some­one else on Earth val­ues these hiero­glyphs as much as I do, and that they knew enough to man­i­fest the per­fect soft­ware to pre­serve them.


#ios #appreview #unicode #software

by David Blue

iPhone 8 Plus and Dave

A decade of iPhone has probably ruined my life, but will the 8 Plus finally end it?

Is my True Tone bullshit on?

“True Tone” is so forgettable, everybody had to mention it first. Quite simply, it uses an ambient light sensor to fiddle with white balance, warming the colors of the display as an immediately-obvious whole, yes, but an interesting contrast to show off is no longer inherently justified in being called a “feature” in Apple products, anymore. Essentially, no matter who you ask (aside from Jon Rettinger,) you should not buy an iPhone 8, though I did last Fall, not only because I had to suddenly decide on a handset in less than 24 hours, but — if anything — to say goodbye to the form, the operating system, and the tech company which I have depended upon and carried with me virtually every day for my entire adult life. I’d originally decided to abandon this review due to a variety of unexpected circumstances, but Apple and its iPhone have maintained their place in the news with their battery scandal, and a third of a year with the 8 Plus has included some experiences which warrant a send-off before iOS 12 is released, making it (and myself) totally irrelevant forever.

As the longstanding benchmark of the smartphone industry’s state at any given time, the iPhone can be easy to reflect upon as a product once occupying a state of universal exemption from criticism, but it has, in fact, never been so. As Nilay Patel noted, one might regard the 8 as the last compromise of “basically four years” of the same design. Since launch, it’s unsurprisingly stayed a wee bit too far behind on the spreadsheets for most Android-type folks — not that I’ve ever believed them truthfully incapable of comprehending what it means to package a product, given where their greasy startups all eventually ended up. (You cannot doubt me — I once took a year-long sabbatical from iOS with a Sony Xperia Play, and my authority is absolute.) The rest are trying to decide whether or not to pay $200 more for “the phone of the future,” which knows when you’re watching it, and is only good for playing half an hour of stupid video games before it needs a charge.

So far, I have maintained that my first generation iPhone was the best handset of all time — one hell of an Email Machine that lasted me close to five years — throughout the last two with actual motherboard exposed to the elements in the corner of its cracked screen. That said, who knows how it’d feel to be coerced into using “iPhone OS 2” as it was called, then, for an entire workday in 2018? Two years prior to bringing home an 8 Plus, I vowed that my 6S Plus would be my last ever Apple device, but this one actually feels like a last hurrah. Though the ability to Tweet directly from the swipe-down notification menu is still nowhere to be found (it’s been gone for 5 releases, now, and would seem to have been forgotten by literally everyone but myself,) one gets the sense that Apple’s efforts to add to the iPhone 8 and iOS 11 were to make amends with us by settling a few debts.

In part, they did. Native apps got a major overhaul — including Mail, which was startling, considering that I’d been looking at what was near as makes no difference the same UI my eldest phone shipped with. As a result, it alone constitutes my benchmark for an email service, and I have been left without a clue as to what a good one looks like.(Apparently it was really bad?) Since time began, there has always been at least one alternative email app of the moment that tech journos refer to as the must-have, end-all replacement. Edison Mail is currently the smoother, faster, most modular option — at least for another few minutes– but I’ll never know it as I know Mail, and I’ll never want to. Playing around with experimental email apps is too scary. What if I decide once again to kill that massive number in the red badge and need to immediately mark 40,000 emails as read? It took all of my iPhone 4’s 1.0Ghz CPU and proprietary software over 18 hours — how am I supposed to trust a shabby little 6-month-old startup with such an important task? Anybody with a hundred bucks can make an app, you know.

Why is the App Store now the best-looking publishing software on iOS?

One might interpret the App Store’s redesign as an attempt by Apple to control this conversation — of both the trending new thing and the old“essentials” that you’ve probably had tucked away in an untouched folder for years. Technically, whoever the hell is writing those gorgeously-presented daily bits has made them a publishing company, though I’m not so sure I’m not the last remaining user who’s continued semi-regularly visiting their “Today” section. If I did want to actually read about apps (I don’t — who does?) it wouldn’t make much sense to seek critical reviews from the faceless boffins behind the platform itself, regardless of how much better it may look than all of the tech news sites, paywall or no.

Native screen recording could conceivably come in handy once or twice, but I see no reason why the red bar must remain at the top of the render, but it has, which could explain the total lack of any such video in the wild. Front-facing 4K, 60fps capture is impressive, but useless — vloggers all have GoPros or DSLRs, these days, and sharing through Snapchat and Instagram will always be ultra-compressed. (Here are two sloppy test clips — at the zoo, and fishing.)

Perhaps some have figured out the new Files “app,” but it’s sat on my homescreen for months, untapped, and it will likely remain there for all time as a sort of soothing trophy — a thanks for my legacy iPhone loyalty. My reward for half a lifetime of syncing, scrolling, and tolling? I can nowview some of the files on my Mobile Computing Device, and even scan documents in, which is mostly novel (though it is fun to digitize excerpts from physical text.) At some point, I must’ve mischecked a permanent option because all file types now open only in an app that does not recognize them. God bless.

Roof Photo

Somehow, I’ve managed to fill my social circle with precisely zero iOS-using folks. All of my friends and colleagues use Android devices(including Tim’s supercool Nextbit Robin,) which provide a few handy datapoints (like the camera in my fiance’s Galaxy S8,) but deprive me of any significant experience with the ostensibly intoxicating cult of iMessage. I’m constantly listening to and reading tech writers claim that it’s one of the only reasons they’re still using iPhones, but my own food-OS loving biome has forced me to find others, and frankly, I can’t imagine looking at the gluttonous palate of available mobile, cross-platform messaging services (Telegram, now Telegram X, WhatsApp, Signal, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Discord, Slack, Tinder?, Google Hangouts, Google Allo, Google Chat, Viber, Skype, Line, Wire, etc.) and thinking… well, none of this will do!

Honestly — even if I’d actually been at all informed in my haste, the photographic capabilities of the 8 Plus, alone would’ve sold it. It’s not the new filters, gif functionality, or even “3D Photos” — it’s those mythical dual 12MP sensors (which it shares with something called the iPhone X.) They’re no less than infallible. After four months of astonishing capturesin all manner of conditions, I don’t even care how exactly they do it anymore — it’s better to be left marveling. This first example was taken at Keystone, Colorado in the middle of a dark, cloudy Fall night — the amount of light they were able to find — “up to 80% more,” according to Apple — is just impossible.

The vast majority of the samples in my iPhone 8 Flickr Album were taken within the native Camera app as it ships and left unedited. (Especially before just a few weeks ago, when I discovered Halide.

favorites from the past few days.

Here is an unquestionably sensible progression from which iPhone has never wavered far since its fourth generation set the standard, but it’s one of an unfortunate few. Siri is still useless and silly apart from its“disable all alarms” feature and its ability to sound itself off in response when you’re hysterically screaming and digging for it through the vast plush of a forty-year-old Lincoln. The customizable Control Center makes toggling low power mode, orientation lock, wifi, and bluetooth less frustrating (note the last two aren’t quite hard switches,) though it should’ve come years ago. Notifications are slightly more sensible -certainly better than they were on Android Gingerbread, but I’ve heard things’ve changed quite a bit since then.

I have been tripped up by the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack a few times, but it just wouldn’t make sense from a hardware perspective, and the new external stereo capability should refute those who can’t or won’t understand. Yes, it would be nice if Apple hadn’t led the industry to quite such a compromising obsession with thinness — we’d all trade a lotof substance for exponentially greater battery life, storage capacity, water resistance, etc. — but I don’t see much sense in expending your energy holding up signs in Silicon Valley.

I’ll be here long after you’ve died, and you know why? Because I took the time to sync my apps.

Two years ago, a new generation of social apps and the preposterous notion of a quad-core CPU in my iPhone 6S Plus seemed like the harbinger of a world I no longer understood. Now, most of those services have expanded to the far boundaries of my reach, and I’ve stopped counting chips. Refinement of the hardware design is reverent to the extreme. It’s pretentious, but Apple’s decision to pause on the 8 to consider details like stuffing the legal text in the software and adding a little bit of weight back in for ergonomics’ sake leads one to regard it as a monument to all the devices along the development timeline that have led to this… last triumph. Or, it would have perhaps, had they not sold so many.

One could argue that good execution of consumer electronic design means minimizing as much as possible the obstructions in the way of the user completing any given task, and the iPhone 8 Plus has surpassed the vast majority of these for myself — and I am, surely, a “power user.” iOS has changed a lot in the decade I’ve employed it — in far too many ways for the worse — but this pair of handset and software have reached myimagination’s limit for what I could possibly want to do. Augmented reality and wireless charging won’t ever have a place in my future, for better or worse. Face ID is much too peculiar. Surely, this iPhone is the ultimate expression of the first and fourth generation’s foundation.

If the 6S Plus was indeed the key to my immortality, I’m afraid the 8 Plus heralds my imminent demise. Whether or not it’s an early one is for you to decide. This really is my last iPhone.

#ios #software #hardware #handsets #photography

by David Blue

How Mono Playback Looks

As dual speakers become the norm in smartphone design, let us briefly examine and explain why one should always expect to hear their music in stereo.

Though I have many audiophilical sentiments and preferences, I cannot — by conscience — fully claim the title because I’ve never been able to justify the allotment of funds necessary for the obligatory equipment. (And my digital compressor usage in the production of Drycast and Futureland has been manifestly vulgar.) That said, audio engineering is one of the few topics which I can actually speak on with almost-academic authority, and my pretentiousness-capacitated preoccupation with quality-of-life compels me to bring up a ludicrously-rational standard that most of us have continued to undershoot for far too long.

Two weeks ago, the abundantly-rumored omission of the 3.5mm audio port in the iPhone 7 was finally settled. We played our own part in feeding the “controversy,” yeah, but I believe Apple was actually quite tardy in labeling smartphone-bound analog audio as archaic, though I’m not going to waste words in that discussion — it is definitely oversaturated, at this point — because I think mono audio is an even more prevalent topic.

Honestly, out of all the missing features we’ve lamented over in the past decade, stereo speakers should’ve been the most aggravating. The gigantic difference, of course, is that the industry (and — by muddled extension — the consumers) has been all but silent in that regard. I write you, now, because we should all be colossally disappointed with ourselves.

Two channels. Left and right. Read: Mono vs. Stereo But why should you care? What if Google — somehow — failed to provide you with a significant difference?

One channel of sound is — in terms of locale — rigidly static in your perception. Doubling the data creates a spectrum, adding dimensionality, which is infinite, ya know. Playing back audio in stereo, through two or more diaphragms (the fundamental hardware unit of sound reproduction,) now enables the exhibition of audio pictures.

If this is entirely new to you, I want you to do something. Find yourself a pair of headphones or a set of two or more computer speakers. (If these aren’t available, consider your car’s sound system. If it’s at all current and healthy, it’s gonna do the trick.) Bother to discover “L” and “R.” That is, left and right. Orient accordingly. Download this 37-second clip I recorded at BikeFest with my Zoom H2n. (Be advised: the preview is formatted in 5.1 surround, so it’s a very large file for its playback length.) Listen, obviously, and then listen again on your singular smartphone “loudspeaker.”

That’s what I’m talking about.

Why am I being so abashedly patronizing? Why am I transgressing against our particular assumptions about you — the informed, savvy millennial audience? Because the vast majority of playback I hear in day-to-day life is still from a singular diaphragm; a singular source.

A topical example: I am shown a YouTube video on an iPhone. (A pre-iPhone 7 device, that is.)

Walking downtown, I pass a small band of adolescent skateboarders listening to Cannibal Ox on a Samsung Galaxy Note.

Worst of all: I find myself watching a Netflix film on my iPhone, in bed, not having bothered to wear the $200 pair of QC15s sitting within arm’s length.

Informed or not, consumers are neglecting audio, and dimensionality, alone is worth a change. Recent years have allowed the unlimited bandwidth assumption to become habit, so even the vast majority of today’s spoken word programs (like podcasts) — which, in general, stay in the “center” of their mix, making little to no use of the left-right spectrum — are produced in stereo, now. In many cases (including a few of ours,) this doublesizing is often for the sake of introductory themes, alone. If you care to imagine a more data-frugal society, the “waste” is ridiculous. It is not unrealistic to expect such a reality in the near future, but the same holds true for the reverse.

In the present’s abundance, though, the result is simply a decrease — as a whole — in playback’s “full experience,” if the hardware is not changed. Imagine how great it’d be if a digital audio formatting standard could be developed that’d enable a singular file to be mono or stereo, if needed/utilized, to trim off redundancy, sorta like variable bit rate. Get on that, would ya?

So, why haven’t we become more diligent about our sound experiences? 1 billion iPhones in circulation, all with mono playback by default, are suspect culprits, I think. Of course, there are other devices, but none as influential — even the iPod, funny enough — on fundamental digital functions like music playback. And honestly, when is it appropriate or suave to take the extra steps?

I want to show you this song. Let me untangle my headphones… Yes, okay. Put them in. I’m going to sit here in silence for four minutes, looking into your eyes as you listen to the entirety of this track.

It’s never going to be socially acceptable. But what about wireless alternatives? Apple’s new Air Pods look absurd, but their by-computing optimization of the Bluetooth audio standard is revolutionary, in a small way, in propelling the “hearables” paradigm into the mainstream, if only for a moment. If — in a strangely-audiocentric future — we are always wearing multipurpose sound reproduction devices in our ears, perhaps the waste of the Mono Monstrosity will be finally resolved. Until then, I suppose all we can do is give it an extra thought, for our own quality-of-life’s sake.

#software #ios #audio #future