Engineer’s Disguised Apple Watch During Testing

A few interesting bits from Brian Chen’s recent piece on the Apple Watch, published by The New York Times:

In an effort to maintain secrecy, engineers testing the watch outside the office even created fake casing that made the Apple device resemble a Samsung watch, one person said.

This reminds me of how Apple concealed the iPhone 4 while engineers were testing them in public. It’s funny that Apple’s devices are typically small enough to fit in a case the size of their competitors’ products.

The company also developed a yet-to-be-announced feature called Power Reserve, a mode that will run the watch on low energy but display only the time, according to one employee.

This is undoubtedly due to Apple’s use of AMOLED displays in their smartwatches, which use considerably less power while displaying primarily black screens. That’s also how Apple has managed to get a full day’s worth of battery inside the Watch — by designing user interfaces with black backgrounds they reap the benefits of an incredibly energy efficient display technology.

Apple will release the watch a bit later than it had hoped because of technology challenges. It probably didn’t help that several important employees jumped ship. Nest Labs, the smart appliance maker that was acquired by Google last year, poached a few engineers who were the very best on the watch team, according to two people.

Talent retention is tough, especially when, often, the perception of Apple is that they’ve run out of ideas or aren’t doing anything interesting anymore. Engineers, designers, and developers want to work on exciting project. And, I can imagine that another company’s job offers start to look really tempting after you’be been working on the same device for 18 months.

Pebble Time

The folks behind the wildly successful Pebble smartwatch have launched a Kickstarter campaign for their second-generation wearable, the Pebble Time. It took only two days for the campaign to break the record for the most funded Kickstarter campaign of all time (previously held by the original Pebble). They currently have over $11.5 million pledged by backers with 27 days remaining.

The Pebble Time features a color e-ink display, a microphone for input, and a more polished user interface. I think it was very wise of them to launch the campaign when they did — coming to market with preorders two days before Apple announced their media event, scheduled for March, 9. This gives them plenty of time to sell preorders before Apple gives more concrete information about pricing and launch dates for the Apple Watch.

Photos for OS X and Hard Linked iPhoto Imports

Jason Snell discusses Photos for OS X’s use of hard links when importing your iPhoto library. I Like that Apple thought ahead when developing Photos, giving users the option to go back to using iPhoto without also doubling the amount of disk space that your photos take up. It was clever on their part considering how many MacBook Airs with reletively small SSDs are still in use (many of which are only 64GB).

Vesper Update Adds Native Support for iPad

I’ve been using Vesper since the day it launched and would easily put it in my top ten apps list if I was to make one. Earlier this week, I noted on Twitter that I wished there was an iPad optimized Vesper client and was pleasantly surprised yesterday when an update was released that added iPad support.

John Gruber, writing on the Vesper weblog:

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.

I commend the folks at Q Branch for moving to sustainable pricing. I would have gladly paid $9.99 for Vesper because it’s a great app that’s incredibly well made. I hope other developers follow Q Branch’s lead and charge sane prices for their applications.

The App Store’s race to the bottom is bad for developers’ bottom line and rewards quantity over quality. I want more well built, thoughtful applications in the App Store and less poorly supported, often abandoned apps. And I for one, am willing to pay for that quality and, whenever the opportunity arises, encourage my friends and family to do so as well.

Tapbots is Currently Developing a Major Update to Tweetbot 3

From the news section of their newly designed website:

We are also working on getting major updates to Tweetbot 3 for iOS out. This will include landscape mode for iOS (finally), and the highly anticipated update to the iPad version. We plan on putting a lot of time and love into making Tweetbot a better product this year.

They’ve removed Convertbot and Pastebot from the App Store, as Convertbot’s functionality has been rolled into Calcbot and they don’t currently have the time it would require to update Pastebot for iOS 8. They’ve also decided to reduce Weightbot’s pricing to free.

On Software That’s Incompatible with New Operating Systems

Jeremy Horowitz, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

But what happens when an app — marketed as compatible with current iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches — is never updated for the latest version of iOS, and either stops working after an iOS upgrade, or never works at all on new devices?

This is one of the few things that worries me about the switch from physical media to digital objects.

I can still plug my SNES into my television and play Mega Man X2. Neither Capcom nor Nintento has to maintain a server for me to play the game, and there’s no need to worry about incompatible software updates. Whether I want to play the game now or five years from now, it’s going to work.

The same can’t be said about the games or apps of today. At some point in the future Apple might release a sort-of-Rosetta for iOS that’s capable of running applications that are no longer supported by their developers. The apps would run inside of a container that mimics older versions of iOS. But, that still wouldn’t work for games or apps that require an online connection to the developer’s server (that likely no longer exists).

My primary concern is that children who are growing up now will have no way of playing the games they’re nostalgic for in twenty years. That is unless, the developer decides to rerelease the game for a new platform. But it’s going to cost you, and that’s assuming the company who owns it is still even around in twenty years.

Spring Forward

Apple has sent out invites to a special media event to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on March 9. I expect we’ll get another look at the Apple Watch and they’ll also probably debut the new MacBook Air that has been rumored for several months.

Thoughts on Concierge and Crowded Genius Bars

Joe Caiati, on Concierge — Apple’s new Genius Bar appointment system:

This initiative seems like a bandaid to the issue of overcrowding at the Bar and I can already imagine the influx of people showing up saying that they were in an area with no service or that they never received the message which will cause the Apple employee to try to squeeze that person in sooner and would then put the Genius Bar wait time behind even further.

Genius Bars are already overcrowded, and it’s going to take a lot more than a new appointment system to help improve the situation (especially if Apple’s proposed solution could introduce new headaches). I don’t claim to have the definitive answer, but I’d probably start by giving Apple Store managers more hours to staff the store. Improving the customer to employee ratio could go a long way towards making a trip to the Apple Store more enjoyable, whether your visiting the Genius Bar or simply buying some new headphones.

Apple World Today

Forgive me for neglecting to link to the spiritual successor of TUAW, Apple World Today. The new site, written and produced by Steve Sande, Dave Caolo, and Kelly Hodgkins, launched earlier this month and is being partial supported by readers on Patreon.

I subscribed to the RSS feed as soon as the site launched and encourage you to do so as well.

Using QuickTime to Create iOS Screen Recordings

From Apple’s App Preview page on their developer site:

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you can capture real-time footage of your app directly from your iOS device. Simply connect your device to your Mac using the Lightning connector and it will be automatically available as a video camera. You can capture anything you’re doing on-screen directly to your Mac using QuickTime Player.

This is a handy little tip (albeit dated at this point) that’s worth keeping in mind when I finally upgrade to Yosemite. I still have no concrete plans to upgrade, but I’d be willing to bet I’ll finally make the switch once Apple releases Photos for OS X.

Apple Watch Straps Will Be Available to Purchase Separately at Launch

Jordan Kahn, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

So far Apple has only shown the Watch in pre-assembled collections, which reduces their potential for customization, but our sources say that Apple’s retail outlets will be stocked on day one with individual straps so customers can easily mix and match the looks of their Watches.

I would’ve been surprised if this wasn’t the case. But, I’d also expect that some of the bands will be in limited quantities or will only be available in-box with the more expensive Apple Watch models.

Should Apple Improve iPhone Battery Life, or Just Battery Cases?

Jeremy Horowitz discusses Apple’s options for improving iPhone battery life. Personally, I’m still quite happy with my iPhone 5S’s battery life, and it’s nearly a year-and-a-half old at this point. So, I don’t really feel like Apple needs to improve battery life. However, I’d love to shave a few more millimeters off of the thickness of my iPhone — Ever since I started using the iPad Air 2, my iPhone 5S has felt thick and clunky by comparison. I suppose this puts me in the camp advocating for improved battery cases, even though I’ve never used one.

YouTube Kids

Turns out it is available for iPad at launch, despite prior reports. Not even Google is foolish enough to go Android only out of the gate.

On the Pricing of Apple Watch

John Gruber’s well thought out piece on how Apple will price the Apple Watch and Watch band accessories.

Toyota Has No Plans to Adopt CarPlay or Android Auto in US

Aaron Kessler and Brian Chen, reporting for The New York Times:

John Hanson, the national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology communications, said while the company talked frequently with both Google and Apple, it currently had no plans to adopt Android Auto or CarPlay in the United States.

Something tells me this is a foolish decision. It seems like Android Auto and CarPlay would be worth making available, at least as an add-on option in new vehicles.

‘Of Course Apple is Working on a Car’

MG Siegler makes the case that Apple’s attempt to enter the car market is inevitable. They’ve outgrown their competitors and need to find something major in order to continue growing at their current pace. And, the automobile industry would be the easiest market for them to enter that’s capable of generating revenue at the scale they’re looking for.

YouTube to Release New App for Kids

The Wall Street Journal has learned that Google will be releasing a new application for smartphones and tablets, on Monday, called YouTube Kids. The app will feature episodes from Thomas the Tank Engine, Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Mother Goose Club, and other popular shows.

I find it interesting that the app won’t be available for iPad at launch. I suppose if you can’t convince third-party developers to release for Android first you should probably at least do it yourself.

Make a Film with iPad

The new advertisement features several groups of high school students as they shoot film projects with an iPad.

Apple to Release First-Ever iOS Public Betas

Mark Gurman, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

In an effort to eliminate bugs from upcoming iOS versions ahead of their general releases, Apple plans to launch the first-ever public beta program for the iOS operating system, according to multiple people briefed on the plans. […] Apple intends to release the upcoming iOS 8.3 as a public beta via the company’s existing AppleSeed program in mid-March, according to the sources.

This could help alleviate a lot of the random annoying bugs that have plagued recent releases of iOS. I doubt I’ll be interested in running a beta version of iOS on any of my devices, though. The last thing I want is for the devices I count on to become unreliable.

Mark’s also been told that iOS 9 will be announced at WWDC this June with a public beta release throughout the summer. Sources have previously told him that iOS 9 will be a Snow Leopard-like release that focuses on performance and stability instead of user-facing features.

I think Apple would be wise to take a release cycle to shrink their focus on new features and put their efforts behind fixing bugs and increasing performance and stability. iOS 8 is a great operating system, but there’s still small problems that crop up here and there for many users. Taking the time to get rid of the vast majority of those annoyances will be much better for the ecosystem as a whole than adding another 5-10 new features would be.

Levels of Apple Watch Readiness

David Smith on having your applications ready for Apple Watch on day one:

I think the Apple Watch is really compelling as a device, and think that in the long run it will be a significant market for application developers.

There is unfortunately no shortcut to gaining expertise in a subject. You can only truly understand something by working on it, by immersing yourself in it, by building terrible prototypes and throwing them away. You cannot throw away what you haven’t made.

His recommendation is that, at this point, developers should have at least built solid second drafts for their applications and spent a reasonable amount of time reading documention and weblog posts about WatchKit. I’m still not sold on how successful the Apple Watch will actually be, but there’s no harm in learning about the platform and there’s a lot to be gained from being one of the first developers to market with high quality Apple Watch apps.

Cable TV Shows Are Sped Up to Squeeze in More Ads

Just in case you needed another reason to cancel your cable subscription.

Viewing Your Cable Modem’s Diagnostic Page

DSL Reports has compiled a list of cable modems with instructions on how to access their diagnostic pages. From there you can usually view your modem’s signal level, uptime, and error logs. This could come in handy if you’re ever trying to troubleshoot problems with your internet connection.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Podcasts That I’m Listening To

I’ve been listening to podcasts for nearly a decade, but I’ve never felt more out of tune with what shows I should be listening to (“should” because they’re too good not to). I think it has a lot to do with how seldomly the people I follow actually talk about and share what shows they enjoy. I don’t often hear anyone talk about other podcasts on the shows I listen to and there isn’t much discussion of podcasts among the Twitter users I follow. And, I think that’s a shame.

I fell in love with podcasting when Leo Laporte, the host of one of my favorite television shows when I was younger, started producing what was then known as Revenge of the Screensavers (later renamed This Week in Tech). The Screensavers had turned into Attack of the Show! at that point and had lost everything that made me fall in love with it. But, now I could listen to all of my favorite TechTV hosts talk about what I was passionate about — technology — and I could listen to it on my MP3 player on the bus ride to school. It was wonderful.

The subsequent several years was great for podcasting with dozens of incredible shows debuting that I’d hear about in the podcasts that I already listened to. But, now I don’t hear about other shows as often as I used to.

In an effort to understand how someone would solve this problem, I’ve had brief moments over the past several months in which I’d thought about what a podcast sharing service would look like. I thought about what a great developer would be able to do if they started with the idea that podcast enthusiasts could upload an OPML file of their podcast subscriptions. The developer of such a service could lobby podcast client makers to build functionality into their podcast clients that would make uploading an OPML file easy for users on mobile devices.

At that point the service could see what users with similar taste to you listened to and suggest shows based on that data. Users could highlight specific episodes to share that they especially enjoyed and recommend them on Facebook and Twitter.

I still believe that such a service should exist, but unfortunately I don’t have the time or the resources to build it. Maybe that’s something I could get in touch with a developer about at some point in the future. But, for now this idea will be relegated to living inside of a note in Vesper.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Joe Caiati published a link to Joe Darnell’s piece in which he published a sort of First & 20-style screenshot of his podcast subscriptions. And, in the absence of a service like the one described above I thought I’d do the same.

What I’m Currently Listening To

The subscription image below is simply a a pile of four screenshots of my Overcast subscriptions stitched together with Tailor. They are listed in alphabetical order as this is how Overcast dis plays them by default.

Overcast Subscriptions

Anxious Machine
by Robert McGinley Myers and guests

Board Games Weekly
by Dave Caolo, Erin Doland, Matt Donle, Aaron Mahnke, and Darren Moser

By The Way, in Conversation with Jeff Garlin
with Jeff Garlin and guests

Candyology 101
by Cybele May and Maria Smith

DH Unplugged
by John C. Dvorak and Andrew Horowitz

Diagnostics & Usage
by Joe Caiati and Cody Coats

Flip the Table
by Chris Michaud, Jered Hunnefeld, Flip Florey, and Chris Barter

Home Work
by Aaron Mahnke and Dave Caolo

Jordan, Jesse GO!
by Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris

Never Not Funny
by Jimmy Pardo and Matt Belknap

No Agenda
by Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak

Roderick on the Line
by Merlin Mann and John Roderick

The Talk Show
by John Gruber and guests

Talkin’ Toons
with Rob Paulsen and guests

This Week in Tech
by Leo Laporte and guests

Upvoted by reddit
by Alexis Ohanian and guests

The Vergecast
with Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, Chris Plante, and other Verge writers

My Use Case

My subscription list doesn’t change too often, when I find a show I like I usually stick with it beyond the point at which I no longer enjoy it. Which is odd, but I don’t listen to every episode of every show I subscribe to. There are shows that I never miss — like Roderick on the Line, No Agenda, and the Talk Show — and then there are other shows that I pick and choose what episodes to listen to or occasionally skip depending on how far behind I am in my listening.

When I stop enjoying a show I usually skip several episodes before I start to think about dropping it from my subscriptions. And, once I realize that I haven’t listened to it in a while I’ll make a point to try listening to one last episode before I decide to unsubscribe. It takes a lot for me to make that decision, I’m just too worried that I might miss a great episode if I unsubscribe.

Because of my opposition to unsubscribing, I often speed up the podcasts I listen to in Overcast. I always have Smart Speed enabled and when I speed up a show it’s usually set to one tick below 1.5x. I don’t think it ruins the experience, as John Lagomarsino argues in his recent piece on the Verge. Instead, I see it as a way to increase the amount of learning I can do in a given day by allowing me to listen to more podcasts.

There are shows that I listen to at normal speed, though. No Agenda and Roderick on the Line are two shows that I often listen to with my fiancée. Since she only listens to podcasts with me, she hasn’t had the opportunity to work her way up to listening to shows at a faster speed. It’s jarring to go from normal speed (which is how every other non-podcast medium is experienced) to nearly 1.5x speed, so I play them back at 1x to accommodate her.

Most of my podcast listening takes place while I’m at my day job during the times when I’m on the clock, but we’re not open. I also listen to them while I drive, while I’m laying in bed before I fall asleep , and while I’m cooking or doing chores around the house.

Podcasts are perfect for ocopying your mind while doing mundane tasks. They’re entertaining and informative, require very little effort to manage, and there’s an endless variety of shows with topics that anyone can enjoy. Podcasting is an incredible medium that I can’t imagine myself ever abandoning.

The Experts Apple Hired to Build an Electric Car

I wasn’t too sure about this whole car rumor at first, but at this point there’s just too much evidence showing that Apple is working on something. And, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck — or car, as the case may be.

Calcbot for iOS Updated

Tapbots has released a long awaited update to Calcbot. There was a time when Calcbot was my snap-favorite calculator app for the iPhone, but I eventually switched to Llumino because Calcbot wasn’t (until yesterday) optimized for 4-inch displays. This update addresses that issue, adds an in-app purchase for unit conversions (for $1.99), and sports a new coat of paint for good measure.

I’ve only spent a few hours with it installed on my iPhone, but I’m very happy with it so far. I do think the new sound effects are a little jarring compared to previous versions of the app — I don’t find the high pitched glassy clicks while entering in calculations to be very appealing. I’ll stick with it as my default iPhone calculator app for a few more days and see if it sticks, but I’d definitely prefer they make the sound effects a little more subtle.

I am disappointed that this update doesn’t include a today view widget. While using my iPad, I often find myself in need of a calculator and having one a single swipe away is immeasurably convenient. I hope Tapbots decides to add it in the future — until then I’ll conline using PCalc on my iPad