Hey, Apple – The Activity App Needs Rest Days Like Right Now

My friend Gedeon Maheux wrote yesterday about how he would love for Apple’s Activity app to start offering rest days as part of its goal for helping users becoming more healthy over time.

Contrary to what the folks on Apple’s Activity team may tell you, this isn’t actually healthy. It’s important to give your body (and mind) a break to recover and rebuild every now and then. Which is why iOS desperately needs to build in the concept of rest days into its Activity app.

Let’s just set aside the fact that the Activity app doesn’t even allow you to keep your streaks alive if you become sick or injured. That’s bad enough. But not to be able to give myself a much-needed break after many months of filling my rings is a poor decision on Apple’s part. I had really hoped iOS 13 would introduce Rest Days or Rain Checks or something that would allow us to take a day or two off a month and keep streaks alive, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The concept is simple – For every perfect month of activity award I complete, give me one rest day that I can use at any time to take an activity break and recuperate. Over time they would accrue like vacation days and I could even apply them for actual vacations so I don’t have to worry about filling my rings when I’m laying on the beach or waiting in line at Disney World.

I couldn’t agree more. One of the Activity awards I am most proud of achieving is my Longest Move Streak, which I let lapse at 1,000 consecutive days on December 31, 2018. I ended it for several reasons, and one of the biggest ones was ending the streak on my terms, and not losing it due to a sick day. You’ll enjoy the irony here: on January 2nd, 2019, I got the flu and was so weak I barely moved, aside from the frequent trips to the restroom to throw up.

So yeah, if I hadn’t ended my streak on my terms, just two days later I would have had it ended anyway.

A system for rest days would have saved my bacon if I had continued my streak. In fact, another streak I have maintained was saved by the app’s inclusion of rest days. I currently have 1,397 day streak going in Pedometer++. The system “Underscore” David Smith created for Pedometer++ (and Activity++) for rest days is well-balanced, and useful. From the settings screen of Pedometer++:

When enabled, activity streaks will not be broken by a single day missed after six consecutive days of reaching your goal.

I like this system. You have to earn the rest day, but it isn’t an arduous amount to earn it. You could conceivably take one day off each week and maintain a streak. It’s really similar to the idea of a Sabbath — a day of rest. And, of course, you don’t have to use it. But it doesn’t carry over and stack up, as Ged wants for vacations.

Either way, rest days are important for everyone, and sorely needed in Apple’s approach to healthy living in the Activity app. While I still try to complete my Move ring every day, I don’t sweat it if I just need a rest from it now that I’ve sealed away my Longest Move Streak at 1,000 days. For those still striving to keep that streak going, I hope Apple gives them a break with rest days in a future update.

Apple Launches Independent Repair Provider Program

If you live near an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider — such as every Best Buy in the US — you can typically get an Apple device repaired by trained technicians with genuine parts that won’t void your warranty.

But if you don’t live near either of those, you’ve had to rely on either mailing your device off to Apple or taking it to a local place that may or may not be using sketchy parts or practices.

Well, that all changes today with Apple’s launch of its new Independent Repair Provider Program. Apple Newsroom:

Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

This is great news. Now those cellphone repair outfits or local computer repair shops can have access to the same training, equipment, tools, guides, and more as Apple and its authorized providers use. This means that end users like you and me can have a little more trust if needing to have a device repaired.

Another great tidbit is the barrier to entry for independent providers is pretty low.

There is no cost to join Apple’s independent repair program. To qualify for the new program, businesses need to have an Apple-certified technician who can perform the repairs. The process for certification is simple and free of charge. To learn more and apply, visit support.apple.com/irp-program. Qualifying repair businesses will receive Apple-genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics at the same cost as AASPs.

Now, instead of advising friends and family to only seek repairs from a small list of places, I can check and see if a shop has this certification and access, and feel better about recommending them.

I’ve had friends take their device to independent shops and I have definitely seen some sketchy repairs — such as a Touch ID/Home button that doesn’t feel quite right, making me think it is a knock-off part. And since that is a part that is supposed to be part of the security of the device, it left me with a bad feeling.

I’m very glad Apple has launched this program, and I hope independent repair shops take it seriously and join the program.

How to quickly fix sideways video clips on iPhone or iPad

Serenity Caldwell on iMore has a fantastic tip on how to rotate videos on an iOS device:

This one's easy to miss, but a must-have for filming fiends: iMovie for iOS is a free app for more complex video editing projects, but it also offers a quick-fix extenison in Photos for iOS. This extension lets you trim a clip, silence it, or add filters, text, or music — but it also lets you flip video with a gesture.

The rest of the article has a step-by-step guide worth checking out. This tip was news to me, but it’ll be invaluable for those times when my iPhone doesn’t orient itself before I hit record.

Apple Heart Study launches to identify irregular heart rhythms

The old saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

But how much better would it be if an Apple device alerted you that you need to see a doctor, and it ended up saving your life? That’s now a reality, thanks to Apple Watch and Apple Heart Study, a joint study with Stanford Medicine.

Apple today launched the Apple Heart Study app, a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib, the leading cause of stroke, is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year. Many people don’t experience symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed.

Apple is partnering with Stanford Medicine to perform the research. As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm is identified, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring. The Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are 22 years or older and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.

I think this is a fantastic initiative. My mom has experienced AFib, as well as a dear mentor of mine. The idea that wearing an Apple Watch could detect this condition and alert you of it goes to show how advanced the heart rate sensor is in the device.

Features like this are why I think wearable technology like the Apple Watch can have a positive life altering — and even life saving — effect.

If you have an Apple Watch, meet the eligibility requirements, and are interested in participating, go download the Apple Heart Study app.

Looping a Song Through Facebook Live

I saw this video by The Academic performing their song Bear Claws the other day and have been fascinated by it. I can't imagine coming up with the timing to put together a song through a loop caused by a delay in Facebook's livestream.

I'd never heard of this band before, but the catchiness of this song has my attention.

Twitterrific for macOS: A Phoenix from the Ashes

For me, Twitterrific has always been synonymous with using Twitter. I used it first on the Mac in March 2008. I even downloaded the app first, then signed up for Twitter to use it! And Twitterrific was the first app I installed from the App Store on iOS when it launched in July 2008. I tried a couple other clients when they came around, namely Tweetie and Tweetbot, but Twitterrific’s unified timeline always brought me back to the nest.

For the past several years, the Mac version has fallen by the wayside, and I got used to only using Twitterrific on iOS. Then, earlier this year, the Iconfactory set up a Kickstarter to resurrect Twitterrific for Mac as a fresh, modern client. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. The campaign was successful, and all summer I have been enjoying the weekly beta releases as the new Twitterrific took shape.

Twitterrific_macOS_logo.png

Today, Twitterrific 5.0 for macOS is available for everyone on the Mac App Store. It packs a ton of features into the new app, stays in sync with the iOS versions using iCloud, has fantastic keyboard and accessibility support, delightful sounds, and a few nostalgic Easter eggs from past incarnations.

Beyond any feature, though, is the care that the folks at the Iconfactory put into Twitterrific. It is clearly a labor of love, and the people behind it are genuinely fantastic. I suggest you follow a few of them on Twitter, and say hi. The best part about the Apple community isn’t just the apps we use to change our life and work, it’s the people and friendships made along the way.

In a sea of one-off money-grab apps, there are a precious few with a human story behind them. Twitterrific is one of them. And that’s why it is well worth supporting the team by purchasing Twitterrific for macOS.

How to Shoot on iPhone 7

Apple built a terrific page on its website with a variety of short videos showing how to take better photos with iPhone 7. Each of the 16 videos focuses on one brief lesson, demonstrating a photography tip in 3-5 steps.

The videos are produced well, fun, and above all practical. I think there is at least one technique everyone with an iPhone will benefit from in these videos.

Many of the videos illustrate the use of exposure control, which is a technique I think many people don't know about on iPhone. It is easily one of the best things for anyone to learn to make their photos better, and these videos explain the benefits very well.

My favorites of the videos are How to shoot without flash and How to shoot with street light. They both show how a great photo can be taken in low light without using the obnoxious flash.

Check out the videos and then put them into practice. If you shoot something you are especially proud of, let me know on Twitter.

Twitterrific for macOS re-hatches with Project Phoenix

I’ve been using Twitter for nearly a decade now and Twitterrific for Mac was what first got me hooked on the service. Over 72,000 tweets later and I still use Twitterrific (on iOS) every day. It’s safe to say that this app is my most used app.

I loved Twitterrific on the Mac, and while I understand why it was put in the parking lot of development to focus on iOS, I have always missed it. And I know its creators at The Iconfactory have missed it as well.

That’s why I’m excited to see that they want to bring it back with Project Phoenix on Kickstarter.

If funded, The Iconfactory plans to have a minimal app ready around August 2017 with t he following features:

  • Unified home timeline
  • Multiple account support
  • Composing, replying, and quoting tweets
  • Muffles and mutes
  • Streaming
  • Themes
  • Delete and edit your own tweets
  • Sync timeline position with iOS
  • VoiceOver Accessibility
  • Keyboard control
  • Attaching images to tweets
  • Timeline search (text filter/find)
  • Open links to other tweets, profiles and media in your browser

If they reach the stretch goal, they’ll add these in a major version release:

  • Direct messaging
  • Read, create, delete saved searches
  • Read lists
  • Built-in Twitter search
  • Built-in quick media viewer (images, GIFs, videos)
  • Built-in conversation and threaded tweet viewer
  • Built-in viewer for user profiles
  • Alt-text attachment when tweeting images
  • Searching for and getting suggested users while composing

And finally, if they reach a victory lap goal, they’ll add:

  • Simple list management (create, edit, delete)
  • Manage drafts and sync them with iOS
  • Dock-less mode
  • Built-in profile editor so you can change your bio, avatar and more
  • Trends
  • Video upload
  • Geolocation

That would pretty much bring it to feature parity with the amazing iOS version of the app. I chipped in, and if you love using Twitter and want to support a team that truly cares for the platform, you should too.

On Apple’s Nostalgia

This morning Apple announced a new photo book chronicling roughly the past 20 years of Apple's designs. It is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. I've seen some folks on Twitter taking umbrage with that dedication, noting that Steve Jobs was adament to not dwell on the past.

I enjoyed Stephen Hackett's thoughts on Apple being nostalgic:

The point is that while nostalgia was not part of Jobs’ DNA, it has resurfaced in Apple’s. The company is changing, and part of that includes things like this new book.

Some find it troubling or uncomfortable, but I don’t think it is. A photo book of Macs and iPhones isn’t what is keeping Apple from releasing a Mac Pro. A promo video including the iBook G3 didn’t force the company to remove MagSafe from its new notebooks.

Apple can continue to push ahead, even as it allows itself the occasional glance in the rearview mirror. The company has an amazing history, and it’s okay to be proud of it.

It is absolutely okay for Apple to be proud of its history. I'll go a step further and say that in the post-Jobs Apple, it is necessary for Apple to remember the roots established by Steve Jobs.

This wasnt necessary when Steve was with us. He was present to continue driving the vision — his vision — of Apple. Steve is gone. If Apple doesn't take moments to look back and remember that vision, then Apple may lose its way.

As long as the of today and the Apple of tomorrow continues to glance back at its roots, I think it will stay true to course.

Further Spitballing on Pairing Over Lightning

John Gruber, spitballing on what wireless headphones from Apple may look like in the charging and pairing department:

Spitball: What if Apple is planning on Bluetooth earbuds that include a Lightning jack, like the Pencil? Plug them in to the device you want to pair them with, click “Pair”, and you’re done. Easy to charge, too.

It's worth noting Apple has done this with more than the Pencil. The new Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad 2, and Magic Mouse 2 all pair to a Mac, and charge, via a USB to Lightning cable.

Further, I wonder if such headphones would have a female Lightning port on them, rather than male, so they could pair to a Mac via Lightning like the keyboard, trackpad, and mouse do. The solution for pairing on iPhone and iPad may be a cable with male Lightning ports on both ends.

Either way, I think pairing to a device over a cabled connection is far more elegant than doing it via Bluetooth settings.