¶ Last Week’s iPhone and Watch Event

Apple held their annual iPhone — and now Apple Watch — event last week on September 10. This is easily Apple’s biggest event of the year where they roll out the latest and greatest iPhones and other hardware, just in time for people to begin thinking about the Christmas shopping season.

Apple has posted the full event on YouTube, along with a humorous 2 minute summary that is worth watching. I have some quick thoughts on everything that was announced, so let’s get started.

Apple Arcade

On September 19th Apple Arcade will ship within iOS 13. Apple has worked with a lot of game developers to launch 100+ new games exclusive to Apple platforms this fall. And these aren’t just for iPhones and iPads. They’ll be available on Mac and Apple TV, too. And this year’s new operating systems support pairing Playstation and Xbox One controllers, which is great news for gaming.

While gaming on iOS is popular, it’s rife with sleazy grifts of in-app purchases and sketchy ads that are probably harvesting all sorts of data. Apple Arcade solves this with high-quality games without ads or in-app purchases. And the price is extremely compelling: $4.99 per month, and it covers up to six people with Family Sharing.

I don’t play many games on iOS (even less on Apple TV and none on Mac). My son, however, loves gaming on his iPad mini. I’m often reluctant to install new games on his iPad because they are often, for lack of better words, crappy. While my family may not hop on Apple Arcade right away, I can see it being a peace of mind alternative to all these games with questionable motives.

Apple TV+

As if anyone needs yet another TV subscription, Apple is coming out with their own. The big difference between Apple TV+ and contenders like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ is Apple does not have a vast content back catalog to lean on. All they have is all-new original content. But that content looks good. And the price is pretty great, too. $4.99 per month for the whole family. And, starting now, if you buy an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or Mac, a whole year of Apple TV+ is included. Boom.

iPad

The iPad lineup has settled into having something for everyone. The iPad as the entry level, the iPad mini for folks who like petite tablets, the iPad Air for people wanting a bit more productivity, and the iPad Pro for those looking to use an iPad as a laptop replacement.

One of the lines got a little more blurred with last week’s update to the entry-level iPad. Going from a 9.7-inch screen to a 10.2-inch screen and gaining a Smart Connector for use with the Smart Keyboard Cover makes the iPad a close contender with the 10.5-inch iPad Air. And the iPad maintained its $329 starting price. That’s pretty fantastic.

It’s definitely a no-brainer for someone’s first iPad.

Apple Watch Series 5

The Apple Watch remains one of my favorite devices. Like the rest of the internet, I was struggling to think of what exactly could be improved on from last year’s Series 4. I had settled on the idea of improved power management to enable sleep tracking. I wasn’t wrong on improved power management, but I was dead wrong on what it would be used for.

The Apple Watch Series 5 has an always-on display, which is a really nice touch. Anyone who has ever worn an Apple Watch knows that it needs a certain amount of tilt and motion to figure out you want to see the display and light it up. There’s no way to really sneak a casual peek at the time. Now that won’t be a problem.

Apple also added a built-in compass and the cellular communications work better in more places, but other than that there isn’t much new on the technology side.

On the materials side the lineup expands from aluminum and stainless steel to include titanium and the return of ceramic. Titanium and ceramic bear the Edition name, which translates to a giant sack of money for a watch. While I will never own an Edition model, I must admit I yearn for that white ceramic case. I’ll satiate that desire by trying one on at the Apple Store for a few moments.

I’ll be sticking with my Series 4. It does its job amazingly well and will be even better with watchOS 6. But if you have a Series 2 or older, definitely consider the Series 5. Apple is keeping the Series 3 around at $199, which I imagine made some Fitbit execs lose sleep.

iPhone 11

I love my iPhone XS and it was the right choice for me, but it certainly is not the right choice for most people. For the past year the iPhone for most people has been the iPhone XR, but Apple’s initial marketing seemed to position it as the lesser sibling of the XS. And that seemed to stick among people I know. They felt the iPhone XS was the good phone, and the XR was an also-ran, even though I greatly encouraged folks to check out the XR.

Apple’s marketing is on point this year with the iPhone 11, which is the spiritual successor to the iPhone XR, but positioned as the standard iPhone. Naming matters. And it’s truly a great phone with a great camera, a second ultra-wide camera, and a Night Mode that, combined, I think will be very popular. And it has an extra hour of battery life compared to the already impressive XR.

I’ve already heard from friends and family that they think it’s time for them to upgrade and they have their eyes on the colorful lineup of the iPhone 11. Especially since the price is $50 less than the iPhone XR’s previous price point.

iPhone 11 Pro

Whereas the iPhone 11 is a great phone and camera for everyone, naturally there are some people who want a little more. iPhone 11 Pro is for these people. The wide camera lens is joined by not only the new ultra-wide lens from the iPhone 11, but also a telephoto lens á la the iPhone XS. And like the iPhone XS it has an OLED display. It has better water resistance than the 11. For most other specs, though, it has the same guts as the iPhone 11.

It does not, however, have the rainbow of colors of its sibling. The iPhone 11 Pro sticks with the very “pro” colors of silver (white), space grey, and gold — along with a new midnight green. The best description of the new color I’ve seen comes from John Gruber: “Boba Fett-y”.

One spec that is remarkably impressive is battery life. The iPhone 11 Pro boasts 4 more hours than the iPhone XS, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max 5 more hours than the iPhone XS Max. That’s insane for a year-over-year jump.

Now, let’s talk about the naming here. iPhone 11 Pro is the perfect modifier for the luxury model of iPhone this year. The name positions itself as a step up from the iPhone for most everyone, rather than last year’s naming positioning the more affordable option as a step down. There’s a difference.

But iPhone 11 Pro Max? That’s a mouthful. I get that Apple wants to differentiate the smaller and larger screens of iPhone 11 Pro, but do they need to? I would have rather seen both be named simply iPhone 11 Pro, and then talk about the different screen sizes separately, as they do with iMacs, iPad Pros, and MacBook Pros.

The naming of the iPhone 11 Pro Max aside, I think the 2019 lineup of iPhones is stellar. I know a lot of iPhone 7 owners that have held on to them, skipping the iPhone 8/X, and XR/XS. Now in their third year of ownership, they are noticing the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and considering upgrading.


While I am keen toward the iPhone 11 Pro, I’ll be recommending the iPhone 11 to most people. It has an impressive feature set, a variety of colors, and a more affordable price that is in line with the iPhone 7 of a few years ago. iPhone 11 is the default iPhone, and it deserves to be.

¶ Ulysses 16 Brings a Second Helping of Editor Goodness

Back in March my favorite writing app, Ulysses, launched Split View editing on Mac. The idea is simple: Have the ability to open two texts, what Ulysses calls files, side-by-side within the same view. Of course, while the idea sounds simple, the execution was not, even on Mac. From the Ulysses 15 announcement:

See, split view editing sounds simple enough: Just split the editor in half and load a second sheet, right? Well… let’s be 100% us and ask questions first.

And from there they asked approximately eleventy billion questions about how to implement it. And it shows, because they really sweat the details on it and pulled it off smoothly.

It didn’t take me long to ask the Ulysses team how soon that could come to the iPad version.

A few weeks ago I received an invite to the Ulysses 16 beta to test Editor Split View on the iPad. And today the feature is available for everyone with Ulysses 16. Unsurprisingly, they put the same level of thought and detail into the iPad version of Split View Editing.

A couple of weeks ago, we introduced the option to show a second editor to our Mac app, and now we’re following suit on iPad. As a matter of fact, “Second Editor” is a bit of an understatement here, since we actually open a fully-fledged second instance of Ulysses. Yes, we show the whole app twice.

“Woah”, you say, “wait, what?”, and we feel you, but here’s what it does. Per default, the second editor will always open in editor mode, so you can use a second sheet as reference or actually edit two sheets side-by-side. Since both views are “the full app”, you can then navigate the second view to your heart’s content — even display the (live) export preview.

With iPad they went far beyond the Split View idea and duplicated the entire app into the split view instance. This makes the Second Editor navigable. You can use one text as reference while working on another, or even have the same text open, and put it into Export mode, and watch your preview update live as you work on the main text.

Split view of Ulysses 16 on iPad, with a live preview of the active text.

Split view of Ulysses 16 on iPad, with a live preview of the active text.

Insert some banana emojis here, because this is bananas: 🍌🍌🍌

There are four different ways to open the Second Editor, covered in the gallery below.

And finally, the split view instance is adjustable. It defaults to a 50/50 split, but can be adjusted to a 70/30 split. You can tap and hold the drag handle to bring up more options, including a sneaky way to swap the views around or to dismiss one side. You can also dismiss a view by just dragging the drag handle to the edge.

Tapping and holding on the grab handle brings up some neat options, such as a way to swap the editors.

Tapping and holding on the grab handle brings up some neat options, such as a way to swap the editors.

I hope what Ulysses has made possible with their take on in-app split view is a foreshadowing of what Apple may someday do to enhance Split View. Safari has been able to open an pseudo-instance in Split View for a while now, but it cannot be resized or swapped. Ulysses has created a better, more powerful Split View within an app than Apple has done with Safari, and it is now the gold standard to reach for.

Safari’s rudimentary in-app Split View.

Safari’s rudimentary in-app Split View.

If you write regularly for any reason, I highly recommend Ulysses. It is worth every penny of its subscription that enables the Mac, iPhone, and iPad apps. They even offer a discount to students. If anything, check out the 14-day free trial.

I am overjoyed to have this feature on iPad. Even though I love my Mac, my iPad is where my writing juices really flow.

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.

¶ iPad Second

In the early days of iOS app development, there was one screen size to worry about. A simple 3.5-inch screen at 320x240 pixels. The retina display in the iPhone 4 was the first added complexity to designing iOS apps, as the resolution doubled to 640x480 pixels, but stayed at that 3.5-inch screen.

The original iPad is what really shook things up. A much larger screen at 9.7-inches, and a different aspect ratio with 1024x768 pixels. While an existing iPhone app could be run on it, it wasn't pretty. Apple's solution was to have either apps that ran only on the iPad, or to have what they called universal apps, where the iPhone and iPad interfaces were bundled into a single app.

This was a great opportunity for app makers to reimagine their apps for a new class of device, however, those who wanted to be first to the iPad only had weeks to completely redesign their apps for a device they had not yet held.

Everything was experimental.

Naturally, this was a little risky for app makers. I recall many of my favorite apps coming to iPad as separate apps from their iPhone counterparts. It made sense, as no one knew whether the iPad would be a runaway success1, or if would be derided as "just a giant iPhone."2

As time has gone on and the iPad has found its place in the world, many apps that had separate releases for iPhone and iPad released major updates as universal apps.

There were inevitably some apps which targeted the iPad first. There is even a site dedicated to celebrating apps that ship for iPad first, though it doesn't appear to have been updated recently. One app that comes to the forefront of my mind is iA Writer. The iPad app shipped first, and an iPhone interface was added later.

These days I can't say I see too many apps debuting as iPad first. Most are universal at launch, or start out on the iPhone first.

What is more interesting to me is not the initial launch, but rather the order in which features are added. For the rest of this article, I want to focus on universal apps.

I prefer universal apps. I switch between my iPhone and iPad constantly, however the mood or situation strikes me. One thing I enjoy is that when an app is universal, it is simply there for me no matter which of the two devices I pick up. This leaves me with a certain expectation that the feature set between the iPad version and iPhone version of a universal app should be pretty on par.

Unfortunately that rarely seems to be the case. Too often these days I see universal apps gain new features and designs and layouts on the iPhone first, and the iPad side of it just lags behind.

Let's call out some apps that do this. Twitter is one of the biggest offenders. They consistently roll out new features to the iPhone first, and maybe someday bring them to the iPad side. I've seen Twitter drastically overhaul the interface of the iPhone before, and leave the iPad interface to languish for months.

Facebook is another one. They usually roll out design and feature updates to iPhone first, and iPad sometime later.

Even some apps I love dearly do this. Day One, as much as it pains me to say, has done this. They will roll out a feature on iPhone, then bring it to iPad. Thankfully, they are usually quick to bring things back into feature parity, but sometimes I'd rather just wait a couple extra weeks for a truly complete update to a universal app, rather than a staggered rollout.

I don't think this practice would bother me so much if the app in question were not universal. To me, universal does not just convey that I pay once to install on both device types. It conveys that the two interfaces should be maintained in parity.

Apps that have done this right the past couple years have been Twitterrific, Paprika, Byword, 1Password 3, and others. These apps continually release feature parity as universal apps across the two interfaces, without feeling like the iPad version is "just a bigger version of the iPhone".

I am delighted that many smaller development companies sweat the details to make sure their universal apps always feel universal in every way. My fear, though, is that some of the bigger companies like Twitter and Facebook are setting a trend where the iPad is an afterthought for universal apps, and that the iPad will become a second class citizen in app development, instead of a joint-heir with the iPhone.


  1. Spoiler alert: It was.

  2. That happened, too.

  3. Disclosure: I work for AgileBits.

Pencil

When I was younger, it was very hard to pull me away from my colored pencil set and a good sketch pad. Then college came around and my time was consumed with writing papers all the time, and sketching fell a bit by the wayside.

Now, my five-year-old son loves to draw and sketch and I am reminded of my youth. While pencil and paper is still the best way to sketch, in my opinion, the day & age of being able to do so digitally on an iPad is also so much fun.

While I still do not sketch often (I can keep blaming time constraints, right?), I do enjoy seeing what is possible on my iPad. Naturally, I reach for Paper, by FiftyThree.

I also use a Cosmonaut stylus on occasion, and I love it, it does have some inflexibilities. I love the weight, the feel, and just generally how it handles. The tip is a bit broad, though.

Today, FiftyThree announced the Pencil, a perfect complement to Paper. It looks superb, and looks to be very versatil, as it has a bluetooth connection instead of being a passive hunk of rubber-coated aluminum. The only thing that is a bit of a downer for me is it looks like it only works great with Paper, and not other apps. I may be wrong there.

However, I adore their video to introduce it. Some friends of mine did not enjoy the motion in it, but I think it is a clever, fun, and delightful amount of whimsy.

The iPad Without Compromise

Shawn Blanc on the iPad Air:

…I think the iPad Air is “finally” a full-sized iPad without compromises. It has a gorgeous display, excellent battery life, it’s powerful, and, of course, it’s very lightweight and easy to hold.

The iPad Air (and Retina iPad mini) mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next for the iPad line. And so, now that we’re here, where does the iPad lineup go next?

I think Shawn is dead on when he draws the comparison to the comprises the iPhone made until the iPhone 4. I remember the startling difference between my iPhone 3G and my iPhone 4. The 3G felt like it was chock full of tradeoffs. The 4 felt like a truly luxurious piece of art.

And the iPhone has continued to just get even better with fewer compromises. I kind of thought that the iPhone 5c would be similar to the iPhone 3G, compromising luxury for a plastic back. But when I held one at the Apple Store, it was clear to me the quality of the plastic didn't even make it feel plastic. It felt as rock solid as my iPhone 5.

So the question really is where the iPad goes next? My guess is that it is going to aggressively eat the lunch of traditional "truck" computers.

John Carey's iOS 7 Parallax Wallpaper Pack

John Carey is one of my favorite photographers. It is not unusual for you to see my Mac, iPhone, or iPad graced with one of his wallpaper photos.

He just released his long-awaited (by me, at the very least) iOS 7 Parallax Pack. I know from conversing with him on twitter that he meticulously sought out the optimal resolution to give enough margin to keep the images crisp and clear while playing to the fun of the parallax effect.

In the past John has given these away for free. You can get 30 of the images for free for either iPhone or iPad. But he also has 70 more available for a humble price. You can get either an iPhone only or iPad only pack for $7 each, or a combined iPhone/iPad pack for $10.

Well, I have to say this is $10 well spent for such great art that will delight me daily.

¶ iOS 7

To say that I had felt a little underwhelmed at iOS 6's unveiling a little over a year ago would be an understatement. There had been rumors of a visual refresh, of changing the standard interface chrome from a steel blue to a grayish silver, and I was looking forward for some fresh paint on the pixels. But that didn't happen. The biggest interface change was tinting the status bar to somewhat match the chrome of the app running. And it looked pretty awful.

For the first time, iOS had felt stale to me.

This year, the rumors weren't of subtle changes. They were of big changes. Pave the land and start anew kind of changes.

With iOS 7, Apple did just that.

When you install iOS 7 on your device you'll quickly realize that there was not a single pixel of iOS itself that was left untouched. Everything and the kitchen sink went out the door, and every design started on a blank canvas. iOS 7 is unabashedly different.
 More on the design in a moment. There is a lot that did not change. iOS 7 still operates much in the same way as before. If you knew your way around iOS 6, you'll find your way in iOS 7 as very little interaction changed. And what did change is, in my opinion, for the better.

Examples? It used to be that you had to get to your first home screen and then swipe from left to right to do a Spotlight search. Now, from any home screen, just scroll down on the icon area a little and the search field appears. In Safari (and many others apps) you can swipe from the left or right edge of your device to go back or forward a page in the browser, or a level of hierarchy in an app. iOS 7 just feels a bit more elegant in function.

Where iOS 7 really shines in the simplification of its design. Apple has spent a great deal of effort on pushing two things in iOS 7's design: typography and color. Most things that were handled by and icon before are now a simple and straightforward text label. The icons that remain have been redesigned, thinned out, and simplified, yet overall familiar. Color is used everywhere. Icons and labels in Safari are blue, Calendar is red, Notes is yellow, Music is pink, and it goes on.

Design is not the only change in iOS 7, but it certainly is the most apparent. Other features and refinements have been made as well. The lock screen lends itself to being far less cluttered and showing more of the wallpaper image. Also, from the lock screen, you can now pull down the Notification Center, which has been given a new view called Today. The new Today view is really handy. It tells you plainly what is coming up next on your schedule and the weather. It shows a small portion of your calendar for the next few hours, and even tells you want is on your plate for the next day. In the case of an iPhone, it will tell you how long it would take you to drive to your next appointment, if you entered the address in Calendar. And when you are out and about, it will tell you how long it would take to drive home.

While Notification Center is at the top of the screen, the new Control Center is at the bottom. Slide up from the bottom of the screen to show quick toggles for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and Orientation Lock. You can adjust the brightness, audio that is playing, AirDrop and AirPlay, and then buttons to turn the LED flash on as a flashlight, and quid access to the Timer, Calculator, and Camera.

Control Center has become one of my favorite things about iOS 7. And like Notification Center, Control Center can be accessed from the home screen or from within any app.

One of my other favorite things of iOS 7 is the new parallax effect on the lock and home screens. Tilt your device around, and you will notice the icons and wallpaper subtly shift in opposition to each other, giving an effect that is not quite 3D, but decidedly not 2D. It's one of those little attentions to detail that makes iOS 7 feel so great.

Siri debuted with iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S as a beta feature, and remained that way ever since. With iOS 7 Siri loses the beta label, gets a much better voice (and a male voice), and seems overall more responsive and functional. Siri can even now turn certain components like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off. I'm really enjoying the new Siri, and though I still feel it is a little behind Google Now, I think Siri is far less frustrating than in the past.

The last thing I really want to touch on is iTunes Radio. If you've ever used Pandora, you'll quickly understand iTunes Radio. I've been using the heck out of this, and it's really well done. It's impeccably good at finding music that fits with your tastes, and just keeps getting better the more you use it. This is one of those features that is easy to get lost in the shuffle of the new design, but it is truly one of the best features of iOS 7 if you love music.

iOS 7 takes a lot of risks with visual design, and in some areas it is spot on terrific, and other areas it has gone a little too far. I love the overall change, but I also realize that it is far from perfect. iOS 7 is an enormous undertaking, but what it is doing best is laying a brand new foundation to build upon for the future of iOS. As much as I adore iOS 7, I can't wait to see what happens in iOS 8, because it's a whole new ballgame. And even more than looking forward to iOS 8, I can't wait to see what developers do with their apps now that there is a blank canvas to work from.

Apple has made guides for iOS 7 available on iBooks, one for iPad, one for iPod touch, and (presumably) one for iPhone (I'll add the link when it is available).

¶ Three Years

It is a little hard to imagine that in a short three years how much the iPad has changed the world. It almost feels like it has been around much longer than three years.

I remember not knowing exactly why I needed wanted an iPad, but venturing out to look at one anyway. Of course, I ended up buying one. And I remember finding that oversized iPhone to be magical.

In these past three years I have owned four — count ‘em, four — iPads. The original, the iPad 2, The New iPad (or iPad 3 in regular person speak), and the best of them all so far — the iPad mini.

I still think that not even Apple knew exactly what the iPad would become when they launched it. And the truth is, it becomes whatever app you are currently running. It can be a book, an instrument, a race car, a movie studio (or movie theater), or be the future of communication drawn into the present.

The truly great thing is the amount of creativity the iPad can unleash in a person as the barrier to interact with a computer is broken down to simply directly touching the thing you are creating.

With each iteration of the iPad, my favorite has been the concentration of it to the lighter, more portable iPad mini. And I can’t help but feel that if we have come this far in three short years, how much further will we be in three more?