Apple Adds New Categories to tvOS App Store

Jeff Benjamin, writing for iDownloadBlog:

After being limited to just two app categories for the past few weeks, several new categories have appeared to help flesh out app discovery on Apple’s recently released set top box. Along with the Games and Entertainment categories, users will now find Education, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, News and Sports categories.

Square Announces New Card Reader

The new reader costs $49 and has support for chip cards, Apple Pay, and and other contactless payments.

iOS 10 Feature Wishlist for iPad

Matt Birchler shares his list of most wanted iPad features. There’s plenty of great ideas here, my favorite of which is a better split-view application switcher. The current interface feels outdated — it’s just too similar to iOS 6’s icon-based implementation. Gets a New Face and Joins the JavaScript Age

Klint Finley, writing for Wired: unveiled a new admin interface today for managing blogs, posting content, and reading other people’s sites. If you’re a regular user, you’ll notice a new look and feel. If you’re a code geek, you’ll notice something more remarkable below the surface: JavaScript instead of PHP.

Automattic isn’t leaving self-hosted, users in the cold, though. The new interface is also available for users that have Automattic’s Jetpack plugin installed.

They’re also releasing a WordPress admin app for OS X with plans for Windows and Linux versions in the future.

I’m not a Jetpack user, so I haven’t had the opportunity to try out the new interface. I also haven’t touched my MacBook Air in days, so naturally I haven’t tried the OS X app, either. But I don’t expect I’ll be doing so anytime soon. I’m already pefectly fine with WordPress’ current interface — it’s grown on me over the nine or ten years that I’ve used it. And I just don’t do that much writing on OS X these days. The vast majority of my writing is done in WordPress’ Press This bookmarklet or in Vesper on iPhone or iPad. The workflows I’ve fine-tuned are comfortable and there’s no need to introduce new software that could slow me down or break things.

At least for now, I’ll be sticking with WordPress’ current, PHP interface and the applications that I already use for writing.

Sidefari, a Web Browsing Companion for iPad

A neat little iPad app that uses iOS 9’s Safari View Controller and Slide Over to easily display two webpages at once. This has already made drastic changes to my Linked List-writing workflow — the process feels much more natural now. And I no longer need to keep jumping between tabs for references or to copy and paste author names and quotes.

Apple TV Billboard Campaign Begins

Apple’s really knocked it out of the park with the marketing for Apple TV. I haven’t enjoyed Apple advertisements this much since The Song.

Why the iPad Pro Needs Xcode

Steve Streza, writing on Medium:

You now have a tablet powerful enough to run an IDE, with a very nice keyboard cover, and a screen big enough to encompass all the functionality of Xcode, capable of testing almost every feature of every iOS device ever made. You can code with your keyboard and test with multitouch. You could work on a desk and take your whole development environment with you on the couch, bed, or plane.

This is the next logical step for Apple to take with iOS and when it happens, it’s going to be a huge deal.

It’s Time For The Next Four Quadrants

Mike Bates writes about how the lines are blurring between PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

Ben Brooks’ First Impressions of the iPad Pro

Ben Brooks:

Nothing I have done on the device feels like the software is waiting on the hardware. Everything about the iPad Pro feels like the hardware is just waiting on the software. This is great, as it means each iOS update will only make the performance on the iPad Pro that much better.

I’ve had this exact same feeling ever since purchasing the iPad Air 2 in February. The device is powerful enough to handle anything I can throw at it, but the primary limiting factor is in the software that runs on it.

Why Rdio Died

Casey Newton, reporting for The Verge:

In interviews with current and former employees, a picture emerges of a company that developed an excellent product but faltered when it came to marketing and distributing it. Early as it was to the United States, Rdio was born in the shadow of Spotify, a cunning and well-financed competitor that excelled at generating buzz — and using that buzz to acquire paid subscribers.

What an incredible read.

Meet the New Google+

How many hours have Google developers wasted on Google+?

The Case for Artists Selling, Not Streaming Music

Matt Birchler:

I also think there is a more touchy-feely reason for keeping you album off streaming music. With streaming music, all music is counted equal. It’s just as easy for me to stream Adele or Taylor Swift as it is for me to listen to anything else. There’s nothing special about one album over another when everything feels like it’s free. When you buy an album though, that strengthens your bond with that particular album.

The perceived value of music on streaming services is practically non-existent and I don’t blame any artist for withholding their music in an effort to prevent those services from becoming any more popular than they already are.

Making the Case Against an Apple Television Set

The idea of an Apple television set has never made sense to me for a number of reasons — most of which is discussed in this piece by Neil Cybart. But the one reason that I’ve never seen anyone else mention is the physical limitations of Apple’s retail stores. They have to keep dozens of these televisions somewhere in their stock room and dedicate a portion of their sales floor to display models. From a logistics standpoint, this just might not be possible in their smaller locations.

Now, obviously Apple is going to make decisions about what products they’re able to produce solely on how they would be managed in their retail stores. But I could certainly see it being a topic of discussion when their trying to decide whether it’s a worth-while endeavor.

The iPad Pro’s App Store Problem

Lauren Goode, writing for The Verge:

One of the common complaints made by software developers who spoke to The Verge is that they can’t offer free trials of their apps as part of the App Store download process, or issue paid upgrades to long-term users. Others say that selling apps through the App Store can create a kind of wall between them and their customers if the customers have issues with their software. Broadly speaking, the iPad Pro is forcing them to rethink their monetization strategies.

This is something that Apple really needs to address soon. I love the idea behind the App Store’s simplicity, but the business models it allows for aren’t viable for every developer.


David Sparks, writing about Microsoft and Apple’s differing opinions on the future of computing:

I can’t help but think that some of the reason for these contrary positions is software. The tables have turned and Apple has millions of apps on iOS and Microsoft is struggling far behind. Microsoft finds itself pushing a mobile operating system with little software while at the same time maintaining a desktop operating system with an abundance of software. Through convergence, Microsoft gets to leverage that desktop software on to its struggling mobile platform. It’s a bit of bootstrapping and doesn’t really work unless App developers also address the touch interface but from Microsoft’s position it makes sense. Apple on the other hand has the software advantage and no motivation to Frankenstien Mac OS onto iOS.

David finishes the piece with observations about what these decisions could mean for each company in the future. And I think he’s dead-on.

In the short-term, Apple’s clearly in the better position with enormous developer support and a strong user base. Looking further in the future, though, I think both companies will make it through this transitionary phase just fine.

Starting at Sixty Nine

Joe Rosensteel:

Many have made the case that next year, the fourth generation Apple TV will receive a discount to $99, when a fifth generation premieres. Everyone pulled $99 out of their butts, but it sounds like a good number. We don’t actually know if the device is even on a yearly refresh cycle at this point though since there’s no pattern. It is still conceivable that it may be the case, but that’s still a 40% price increase to the entry point.

I do think the new Apple TV will see a price drop next year, but I’m still not convinced that Apple is going to be on a yearly release schedule for this device. The iPod and iPhone have always made sense to iterate every year because they’re small, portable devices that often break. And the pressure of two-year cellular contract put a limit on how long Apple could realistically go without releasing new iPhones.

Set-top-boxes are a different animal, though. The majority of them are purchased, brought home, set up, and never move until they’re retired years later. Is Apple going to convince the mass market — or even a large enough segment of it — to buy a new one every year?

Game consoles are probably the closest analog to the Apple TV. And in that market companies might release minor hardware revisions, but there’s typically 4-6 years between new, full-scale console releases. My guess is that Apple will stick to the 2-3 year release schedule that they’ve historically had for the Apple TV. But between each major release, they’ll make under the hood improvements to reduce manufacturing costs and perform price drops to keep everyone’s attention.

Clear, by Realmac Software

I started using Clear to keep track of my writing schedule in late September. It immediately earned a spot on my first home screen and I have no idea how I was able to keep track of tasks before using it. Clear is drop-dead simple to use and is beautifully designed, as well. If you’re in the market for a simple to do list app, I suggest giving it a try.

Not on the Mac App Store

Dan Counsell is compiling a list of OS X apps that are only available directly from the developer.

Digital Housekeeping

I dedicated a chunk of time over the past week to tackle several items that have been stuck on my to do list. Of which, the one that will have the greatest impact on my productivity is a reorganization of my home screens — iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad. But I’ve also made some improvements to Initial Charge with the addition of a Derek Sivers-style Now page alongside a couple of other small refinements.

I hate to admit it, but the decision to reorganize my home screens came about as a way of avoiding more important, difficult tasks. I have plenty of items on my to do list, but deciding which apps to tuck away in folders was nowhere near the top of it. I suppose I struggle with maintaining focus on my most important projects. I’m not happy about it, but at least I was doing something productive rather than watching yet another episode of Top Chef — the best show.

The actual process I went through for organizing my home screens probably isn’t what you’d expect. The vast majority of the work was done with pen and paper. It’s old-hat to complain about iOS’ way of reordering icons, but it’s amazing that it hasn’t really changed since it was first introduced seven or eight years ago. Throughout that time I’ve learned that the best way to do it is to actually make a list of every installed app. From there, slowly cross off apps and add them to a hand-drawn grid to visualize the final layout. At that point it’s just a matter of putting everything into place on the device itself. The process is a bit tedious, but it’s still much easier than doing it all on the device itself.

On the iPhone, I was only making changes to my second home screen. I’ve previously discussed my first home screen’s reletively stagnant layout and nothing has changed in that department. Aside from minor changes every 2-3 years, my first home screen is still strikingly similar to Apple’s original in iPhone OS 1.

I already went through this process when I was settling into the 4.7-inch display of my iPhone 6s, but much of the decisions I made on my second home screen were done hastily and without the knowledge of how the new device might change my workflows. This was an opportunity to further refine my icon organization to allow for quicker access to the apps I use most.

I knew I wanted exactly four rows of icons, exactly two folders, and no more than six apps on each of those folders’ pages — for aesthetic reasons. I also wanted to keep the passive applications — ones that function through extensions, today view widgets, background tasks, notifications, etc. — within the folders to minimize clutter and save as much space as possible for apps I actually launch.

I’ve only lived with it a few days, but I’m very happy with the results so far. I’m sure I’ll continue to refine it as my habits change, but I expect I’ll be much more efficient in my iPhone use for the foreseeable future.

I don’t have too much to say about my iPad and Apple TV home screen reorganization. My iPad is currently in, what I’d consider to be, a “rough draft” state. This is the first time I’ve organized my iPad’s home screens since I first setup the device back in February. This was simply a first-pass meant to get the ball rolling by removing unnecessary apps and putting my assumptions about how I use the device into practice. My iPad’s home screen is by no means completed — I expect there to be several more iterations over the coming months as I begin to feel confident in the layout and start making more informed decisions about where apps are best placed.

As for the Apple TV, I’ve gone through this many times in the past, this is simply another iteration of my existing home screen system. The two key differentiating factors about this reorganization is that I’m centering the focus around Hulu rather than Netflix and my primary applications now reside underneath Movies and TV Shows instead of Computers. Shifting my most used apps to below Movies and TV Shows was inevitable, I had already deleted all of the purchased content from my Mac mini’s iTunes library, instead deciding to stream it from iCloud. Eventually, I was going to become less reliant on the media I stored locally and spend more time streaming content that I’ve purchased from iTunes. That time has finally come.

The focus on Hulu took me by surprise, though. I originally signed up for the service a few months ago because my fiancée was interested in watching Once Upon a Time and Dancing with the Stars as they aired. But I was amazed at how quickly it took over the majority of our media viewing time. We’ve been churning through old seasons of Top Chef, watching the aforementioned shows from ABC, and finding new favorites like Rick and Morty. We might still be in the honeymoon phase — with access to an entire streaming service-worth of new content rather than the trickle of new TV shows and movies from Netflix. But I’m confident that Hulu will continue as our primary media source for at least a few more months as we watch our way through the best it has to offer.

In addition to my iOS housekeeping, I also took the time to tidy up a few areas of the site. I’ve added a Now page which contains a frequently updated list of the tasks and projects that I’m most focused on. My hope is that the page will help me stay on top of the things that matter most and its public nature will encourage me to actually complete the projects that I take on — I want to avoid the sinking feeling that accompanies abandoned projects or neglected tasks.

I’ve also added a hardware section to the site’s about page and refreshed the software listing as well. A lot has changed since the last time I updated the page, but now it lists all the devices and applications I currently use to produce Initial Charge and my plan is to keep it up to date as things change in the future.

One last quick change was to the contact page which now notes that direct messages are open to all Twitter users, regardless of follow status. And this is true of both Initial Charge’s Twitter account and my personal account. If you’d rather contact me privately through Twitter rather than email, the option is now much more accessible.

I feel heaps better now that I have a bunch of tasks crossed off my to do list, but I’m far from finished. The site’s been on quite the ride as of late, ever since I recommitted myself to writing more regularly. And I have plenty of ideas in store for the next 6-12 months.

I plan on adding a proper contact form to the site’s contact page, I have some ideas for a long-overdue mobile-friendly site redesign, and I have a super secret project in the works that I hope to have ready in early December. But I’m trying to give myself ample runway to complete most of these tasks.

In addition to running this site and working a full time job, I’m also in the process of planning a wedding with my fiancée and attempting to backlog Linked List items to publish several days before and after our wedding day. I have a lot on my plate, but week’s like this give me confidence that I’ll be able to get it all done within the timeframe I’ve allotted myself. And I truly look forward to sharing it all with my wonderful readers.

5 Years of BirchTree

Matt Birchler:

5 Years of BirchTree is a compilation of 52 pieces I have written between 2012 and today (2010-2011 are still lost to the ages), and I think it represents my best work. The collection includes both technical and non-techy pieces on a whole host of subjects. The marketer in me would say “it has something for everybody!” and he would be right, but the more nerdy you are the more you’ll get out of it (especially the second half which goes full-nerd).

I’ve only been reading Matt’s site for a few months now, but he’s quickly become one of my favorite indie writers. And just based on the titles in 5 Years of BirchTree’s table of contents, there’s plenty of articles that I can’t wait to read.

The eBook is available now in ePub for $4.99 with an iBooks release coming soon. I encourage everyone to purchase 5 Years of BirchTree to help support Matt’s incredible work.

Crossy Road on Apple TV Commercial

Apple released five new ads, each featuring a different media app or games. The aforelinked one is my favorite of the bunch, but the others are great, too — Asphalt 8, Disney Infinity, HBO NOW, and Netflix.

Tim Cook Interviewed by The Independent

Adrian Weckler, writing for The Independent:

Speaking to , Cook denied that the death of computers such as the Mac was imminent and said that there would be a market for such traditional personal computers for the foreseeable future.

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” said Cook. “Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

Rather than converge both platforms into one, my bet is that Apple will continue supporting both operating systems until iOS eventually supplants OS X. We’re talking 5, 10, maybe even 15 years down the line, but it’ll happen eventually. Most likely once iOS has been built upon such that it’s capable of more than OS X ever will be.

NBC’s SeeSo Starts Free Beta Preview on December 3

I’m not sure if I need another streaming service in my life, but I’ll at least give SeeSo a shot during the free beta period.

Apple Maps Now Using Foursquare Data

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

As of October, Foursquare has become one of the companies that contribute data to Apple’s Maps app, providing information on “Business listings data.” This likely includes details on restaurants, retail stores, and other venues, given Foursquare’s focus on unearthing the “best places to eat, drink, shop, or visit in any city in the world.”

This will undoubtedly improve Apple’s business listing data, which by all accounts, is still lagging behind Google’s offering.

Rdio Acquired by Pandora

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety:

Pandora is acquiring San Francisco-based music subscription service Rdio, the Oakland, Calif.-based company announced Monday after the close of markets. The announcement came minutes after Variety exclusively reported about the deal being imminent.

The $75 million acquisition includes “technology and intellectual property” from Rdio, which will file for bankruptcy–presumably to rid itself of accumulated debt–and shut down its existing service in all markets.

I’ve never been an Rdio user, but I know that it was beloved by many. It’s always sad to see company’s like this shut down.