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Apple WWDC

WWDC Prediction Results and Thoughts on WWDC 2020

As has become a tradition, I make predictions about what Apple will announced at their World Wide Developer Conference. You can see those predictions on this post. Along with the prediction results, I do have some thoughts about the new format for this all virtual conference. But first, here are the results of those predictions.

Messages on Mac same as iOS — 95%

I was right on this prediction. Messages on macOS is now a Mac Catalyst app. This means that they are the same application with the same features across iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

New health-related task on watchOS — 75%

This is also correct. There is sleep tracking available on watchOS 7. I am sure this has been the most requested feature for watchOS.

App List view on iPadOS — 70%/App List view on iPhone — 60%

This was not announced. There is a new App Library option, but it is not a list view, instead it is a grid of your applications that are grouped together.

macOS being one of the names listed — 65%

The macOS name has indeed named one of my guesses. In fact it is named macOS Big Sur. I guess Apple’s marketing team ‘drug-fueled minibus-driven vision quests’.

Transition to ARM being announced — 50%

Yes, Apple did indeed announce the transition to their own Apple Silicon, which is based on ARM.

Improvement to Controls on Mac Catalyst — 50%

There were improvements with controls on Mac Catalyst, so this on is correct as well.

Third-party Watch Faces — 25%

This was not announced. There is the ability to share watch faces, but you cannot have full third-party watch faces.

ARM Dev Kit available for order — 5%

Despite giving it a low possibility, there is a Developer Transition Kit available for developers. This Developer Transition Kit is not representative of what Apple will release with its Apple Silicon. The specifications for this transition kit are:

  • Apple A12Z Bionic Processor
  • 16GB of Memory
  • 512GB of SSD Storage
  • Two USB-C ports (up to 10Gbps)
  • Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gbps)
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet

You are able to apply for the Developer Transition Kit. However, one thing to remember is that you are renting this transition kit in order to develop your apps on Apple Silicon. You are not allowed to keep the device. There is a fee for the transition kit, $500 USD. You can apply on the Developer website. To quote the Apple developer website:

As part of the program, you’ll have limited access to a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), which will be shipped to you, for developing and testing your Universal apps. The DTK is owned by Apple and must be returned.

Double base iCloud Storage — 5%

I was incorrect about this one. There has been no change to iCloud Storage, although I still think there should be.

Prediction Recap

I only got 60% correct, which is not too bad for only having 10 predictions. I do have some thoughts about the WWDC format, so let us dive into that next.

Thoughts on WWDC 2020 Format

When Apple announced an online-only WWDC for this year, due to Covid 19. No one was 100% sure what to expect, myself included. We were expecting a Keynote, State of the Union session, and session videos. Due to Covid-19, we could not expect an audience and I think Apple did a pretty good job for the videos.

While the Keynote and State of the Union sessions were streamed, the remaining days of videos have been released at 10 am. Pacific Time on each day. While this worked for me, being in the US Central Time, I am sure it did not work for others, who may be on the other side of the world. I understand Apple’s choice here. To maintain some semblance of an in-person conference, they chose a time close to the usual time of starting the conference. It might be good if they either changed the time to earlier, say maybe 8 am Pacific Time, or released a couple of batches of videos throughout the day.

Last year with the conference being in-person, many of the sessions needed to be between 35 minutes and an hour. This is because you had people to move between sessions and they needed enough time to get to the next session. With a completely virtual conference, this is not necessary. Instead, Apple is able to have a video be just as long as it needs to. There are some videos that are still 45 minutes, or longer. A couple of these are Introduction to SwiftUI, Port your Mac app to Apple Silicon, and What’s new with in-app purchase. However, most videos are around 30 minutes, with some being as short as 8 or 9 minutes. Furthermore, the various lengths have also allowed the extraneous things that would have been required in years past to not be included, like coding demos. There are still some coding demos in some of the videos, but it is significantly fewer videos that have full coding sessions.

I think these various length for videos makes it easier for developers to be able to find what they are looking for instead of having to search through an entire session to find one snippet. For myself, I think I have gotten through watching more videos in a shorter amount of time, which means I can get started on my books that much sooner.

The last tidbit I will mention about the WWDC videos is that I do enjoy seeing the different areas of Apple Park. It is entirely possible that everything was done with green screens and that we are not actually seeing places where these videos were recorded. Even if that is the case, it is nice to see different areas of Apple Park, particularly since many of us will never be able to see them for ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

Even though I likely would not have gone to WWDC myself, the change to the videos is quite nice. I hope that Apple is willing to either move the entire conference to be virtual, which does create a consistent experience for all developers. If they were to go back to an in-person conference, it would be good to see some sort of hybrid, maybe fewer sessions, or more pre-recorded videos. I really do enjoy having the various length videos, it has helped me get to exactly what I need to watch instead of watching an entire session’s video.

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Apple WWDC

Apple WWDC Keynote Announcements

2020 has not gone as most might have expected, it has provided twists, turns, and things that were completely unexpected. Even with so many things not following the usual pattern, some things must go on. One of those things is Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, albeit with a slightly different approach.

Today’s keynote has provided a look at what is coming with the latest releases of their platforms. We will look at all of them, but let us start with watchOS.

watchOS

In just over 5 years, the Apple has become a mainstay and a constant throughout their day. It might become a constant companion at night as well. This is due to the new Sleep Tracking feature of watchOS 7. Sleep Tracking will keep track of your motions throughout the evening, including micro movements, to help you determine how well you slept.

watchOS will also be gaining new Watch Face sharing capabilities with “Face Sharing”. If you see a Watch Face that you want, you can easily download it from a webpage, iMessage conversation, or in the App Store.

The Apple Watch is great for quickly glancing at information from complications. Developers will now be able to provide you with more information and multiple complications. This means that you can have multiple complications from the same developer.

Health is the primary focus for Apple Watch and one way to stay healthy is by exercising. There are a variety of different workout types available now, but there are a couple more. These are dance, functional strength training, and cool downs.

One of the biggest focuses this year, health wise, has been Covid-19. One way to help minimize exposure is through hand-washing. The Apple Watch will detect when you are washing your hands, through motion and sound, and will help you make sure that you wash your hands for the recommend length of time.

Next, let us look at iOS.

iOS

iOS powers the iPhone and iPod touch. iOS 14 has seen some major changes this year. The iPhone’s home screen has remained largely unchanged since the original iPhone with its grid of icons. Now, you will be able to hide entire pages of apps and move them to your App Library.

The App Library will allow you to search for apps, and will automatically organize applications so you can find them. The App Library is just a swipe to the right after your last page of shown apps.

Arguably though, the biggest change is with Widgets. Instead of having all of your widgets live in one view, you can now various sizes of widgets, provided a developer creates them. This will allow you to be able to see the information that you want more easily.

Additionally, the widgets you see can be personalized. For instance, you may want to see news in the morning, meetings throughout the day, and fitness information in the evening. This is entirely possible through machine learning. iOS now supports picture in picture including the ability to hide the currently playing video but still have the audio continue so you can do other tasks while still continuing your audio.

There is another new feature to highlight for iOS. That feature is called App Clips. App Clips are small parts of an app that allow you perform particular tasks. App Clips are great for tasks like paying for parking but you do not have the app, an App Clip can allow you to pay for the parking, but not having to get the entire app. However, you are able to get the full app if you need to.

Communication is a major aspect to human culture in general, but is vitally important this year. There are many ways to communicate and one of the primary ways is with Messages. Messages has been updated with a couple of new features. The first of these is improved group messages. You can assign an icon to a group so you can easily identify the group. Similarly, you can pin it to the top so you can quickly access your chats. Some group chats are quite active and you may not always want to be notified for each message. Now with iOS 14 you can change it so you will only be notified when you are mentioned in a chat. This means that you can always react when you need to, but you can also go back to the previous messages later on.

Communication does not always occur via a screen, it can also occur in-person. While it happening left often now with Covid-19, but that will not always be the case. The world does not have a single language and this can make it difficult to communicate. There is a new app called Translate. The Translate app will allow two individuals to communicate by translating the languages used. This means that you can communicate with someone who is using an entirely different language much more easily. The key to this is that all of the translation is being done on device.

iOS 14 contains a significant number of changes and many of them that cannot be covered, but you can see the list on the iOS Preview page. Next, let us look at iPadOS.

iPadOS

Last year Apple separated out the iPad into its own operating system. When this was announced it was expected that the iPad would get some of its own features, and that has come to fruition with iPadOS 14. iPadOS 14 includes changes around the Apple Pencil and handwriting. Handwriting has been significantly enhanced with iPadOS 14. You are now able to write just about anywhere and when you do, it will be automatically converted to typed text, with a feature called Scribble.

iPadOS will now be able to use a new feature called Scribble. Scribble allows you to write something in a text box and it will automatically convert it to text, so you can begin searching. Additionally, you can select any hand-written text and you will be able to copy it as text so you can paste into other applications. Handwriting and Scribble will also be able to detect many different types of data, like addresses and phone numbers, and provide you the ability to easily tap on them.

One of the things that you usually cannot do with handwritten text is manipulating the writing. That changes under iPadOS 14. Now you can select text from a single character, to a word, or to an entire paragraph with your Apple Pencil and then copy and paste it into another application.

One of the largest changes for iPadOS is that some elements no longer cover the entire screen. This is true for both Siri, voice calls, and Spotlight. For Siri, the icon is now in the lower right corner. For voice calls, you will now see a small notification alert at the top of the screen. You can swipe it away to dismiss it, or you can answer it right there. For Spotlight, the search window has become very much like macOS. When you swipe from the top, you will see a popover that has a Search, Siri Suggestions, and any Handoff activities.

You can see all of the new feature on the iPadOS preview page.

tvOS

tvOS is designed for the living room. This does not mean that you do not need to be aware of other things going on. Your Apple TV can be used as your HomeKit hub and because of this, tvOS can now notify you of some things that occur, such as your HomeKit doorbell being rung. When this happens you will see a live view of that, so you can identify who is there. Furthermore, it uses facial recognition from your tagged photos so it can identify people you already know.

One of the biggest areas for HomeKit is smart lights. Now with tvOS 14, your smart lights will be able to automatically adjust their color temperature throughout the day. This means that you will not have blue light showing when you are trying to get ready for bed, but you will be able to have the brighter light during the day.

Apple TV is a great gaming platform, in particular the ability to pair Xbox One and Playstation 4 controllers to the Apple TV. Controller support is expanding to include Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite 2 controller, and more importantly, the Xbox Adaptive Controller will be supported. This change is great for accessibility and including all game players.

Let us turn to the biggest change, macOS.

macOS

macOS has been around in its current iteration for almost 20 years. The first version of Mac OS X was released in March of 2001. macOS has seen its share of changes with the Aqua interface, the removal of Carbon-based apps, and ultimately the removal of 32-bit applications, and even the source of names going from big cats to California place names. This year’s release is code-named Big Sur. macOS Big Sur brings a slew of changes including a new sidebar, an all-new Control Center, a revamped Notification Center, and a whole new design language.

The new sidebar that is shown on all apps brings a refined look to macOS that is reminiscent of iOS and iPadOS. In fact many of the designs take the best parts of Apple’s operating systems and combines them into a single design-language. You have more icons shown in the sidebar, along with different colors to help group elements together. Toolbars are redesigned as well. Toolbar icons will generally be along the top of the screen next to the search icon, which is collapsed until you need to use it.

The new Control Center is inspired by iOS and, just as is the case on iOS, you can quickly toggle settings within the system. Some of these include WiFi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, Do Not Disturb, the screen brightness, sound volume, and keyboard brightness. This will make your productivity even faster by eliminating steps that you would normally have to take to change a system setting.

Besides the design, there are some changes to core applications that are used on macOS every day, in particular Messages and Maps. Messages and Maps are now both built on Apple’s technology called MacCatalyst. These new apps will allow you to have complete feature parity between the iOS/iPadOS and macOS versions of the apps. This means that you will be able to see the things like confetti, balloons, and other effects just as on iOS. Furthermore, this also means that any new features that come to Messages will appear on both platforms, which creates a better experience overall.

Maps will also have feature parity with iOS and iPadOS. This includes features like Look Around, the new detailed maps, progress on a friend’s estimated time of arrival, if they have provided one, as well as much more. Some of these include Cycling Directions, electric vehicle charging stations, and curated guides to places.

When you begin to use macOS Big Sur, you will notice that many of the controls are different. The buttons that you have used have all subtly changed and have become more refined. This includes things like icons. App icons are now more rounded, similar to iOS. Even with this, they still remain unique to themselves. There are a large number of changes that are not being covered in this post, because there are too many to cover in a single post.

There is one last big change with macOS Big Sur that needs to be covered. That change is the version number. When Mac OS X was first introduced, it began with Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah. Each new version of macOS changed this. Version 10.1 was Mac OS X 10.1 Puma followed by Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, and so on, until we got to macOS 10.15 Catalina. macOS Big Sur is now version 11.0. Besides the visual changes, macOS Big Sur also brings with it, another underlying change called Apple Silicon.

All of the macOS features are available on the macOS Big Sur preview page.

Apple Silicon

Outside of the visual transitions, macOS has undergone a transition from PowerPC to Intel and that transition occurred from 2005 to 2006. macOS is about to undergo another transition. This one from Intel to Apple Silicon. The transition from Intel to ARM is now underway, with the release of Xcode 12 and the ability for developers to begin taking their existing apps and converting them to Apple’s Silicon.

There are many reasons for this transition. The biggest amongst them is that Apple will be able to more tightly integrate the hardware and software for macOS. This means that they will be able to fine tune their silicon to work for macOS as well as bringing new features that macOS has not been able to have, like better battery life, Apple’s integrated graphics processors, and the Secure Enclave.

As with any transition there may be changes that developers will need to make to their apps. Some of these will take some time and if you are not able to complete your code changes, you can rely on the emulation layer, Rosetta 2. This will allow your existing apps to continue running on Macs running on Apple Silicon. One of the biggest tasks performed on macOS is development work. Sometimes this requires you to have more than one operating system install, and this is done with the built-in Virtualization software. This software will take

Developers can apply to be in the Universal Quick Start Program to begin getting their applications ready for the Apple Silicon transition. Apple is anticipating selling its first Apple Silicon-based Mac by the end of the 2020. Furthermore, Apple is expecting the transition to take two years to complete.

Closing Thoughts

This is a big year for Apple overall. iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 bring new features to each of their respective platforms. The biggest change comes with the new version of macOS with the transition from Intel to Apple’s own Silicon.

The features I have highlighted only scratch the surface of new features that are available in all of the new operating systems. Some topics have been skipped entirely, like enhancements to Car Play and the ability to use your iPhone as a car key, which will also be coming to iOS 13.

The developer betas of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, watchOS 7, and macOS 11.0 are available today. There will be public betas of each of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and new this year, watchOS, will be available next month.

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Apple WWDC

WWDC 2020 Predictions

2020 has provided a lot of change to what we might have expected. A vast majority of the world has had to quarantine or shelter in place and due to Covid-19. Because of this, many things have been interrupted and/or delayed. Some of these delays has likely included Apple’s development of their operating systems and platforms.

One of the items has been Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference itself. Typically WWDC occurs the first or second week of June at the San Diego Convention Center. That is not occurring. Instead, WWDC is a fully virtual conference.

Even with all of this uncertainty, there are some things that are guaranteed. Some of the guaranteed items include seeing information about the next version of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. So, the fact that these will be shown, none of them are within my guesses.

Initially I was only going to do my “Hopes for Improvement” post, but I have decided to an actual predictions post as well. Normally, I would have a bunch of predictions, but this year I do not have that many, or at least not as many as other years. This year I will be breaking my guesses down by platform. There are only 10 total.

macOS

There is one thing that I actually enjoy predicting each year. That item is the name of the next version of macOS. With Apple using California place names, I think it will be one of the following:

  • Golden Gate
  • Sequoia
  • Tahoe
  • Redwood
  • Mammoth
  • Oxnard (for the Dunes)
  • Channel Islands
  • Napa
  • Big Sur

I am giving the percentage of one of these names being used at 65%. I will not be surprised if I am entirely wrong, because my guesses have not been accurate in the past.

I think we will see some improvements with MacCatalyst. Specifically, improved options for controls. I give this a 50% chance of happening.

Next is Messages. I am guessing that Messages on the Mac will become a Catalyst app and will have feature parity with iOS. I give this a 95% chance of happening.

Transition to ARM

There has been much talk about Apple moving away from Intel and using their own ARM-based chips. I think that this transition will be announced and I give it a 50% chance of being announced.

Furthermore, I am giving a 5% chance of an actual device being available for developers to order. I would love it to be the case. I would even be willing to pay full price, provided I get to keep the device.

iPadOS

The iPad is a device that could use a significant improvement to some of its features. I think we will see some changes to the way the home screen functions. The home screen has been a grid since the original iPhone. The grid on the iPhone makes sense, but on the iPad, much more can be done. I think there will be a new list view option, similar to the Apple Watch. I am giving this a 70% possibility. I am also thinking this will come to the iPhone, and give this a 60% chance of happening.

watchOS

I think we will see additional health-related items on watchOS. This could be something like a new workout type, or more likely sleep tracking. I give this a 75% chance of occurring.

The second item for watchOS is the ability for third-party watch faces with a new framework. This will allow third-parties to create and customize various aspects of the watch face. I am giving this a 25% probability of happening.

iCloud

I think we will see an announcement that the base iCloud storage will be doubled to 10GB instead of the measly and paltry 5GB available now. I give this a 5% chance of happening. I would like to give this a higher chance, but I do not think Apple will do increase it, but there is always a chance.

Prediction Recap

I do not have that many predictions for this year’s WWDC announcements. Here is a recap of my predictions:

  • Messages on Mac same as iOS — 95%
  • New health-related task on watchOS — 75%
  • App List view on iPadOS — 70%
  • macOS being one of the names listed — 65%
  • App List view on iPhone — 60%
  • Transition to ARM being announced — 50%
  • Mac Catalyst controls update — 50%
  • Third-party Watch Faces — 25%
  • ARM Dev Kit available for order — 5%
  • Double base iCloud Storage — 5%

The keynote for WWDC 2020 will be airing tomorrow at 10:00am Pacific Time on June 22nd. I will have a recap of the keynote after it has finished.

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Apple

Thoughts on Apple Blocking ‘Hey’ app Update

I have been thinking about the ‘Hey’ app controversy that has been happening this week. I was not sure if I was going to post about it, but I have decided I have thing to say about it. I will not go in-depth into the situation. There are others that have done a much better job than I could.

If you want to read the start of it, you can begin with the original Twitter thread from Basecamp’s co-founder, and Chief Technology Office, David Heinemeier Hansson. The first tweet is below and clicking on it will show the entire thread.

For more comprehensive coverage, check out a TechCrunch piece by Sarah Perez and an interview with Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino. Despite the more expansive coverage by others, a brief summary is needed.

Brief Summary

To summarize the issue, Apple is refusing to allow an update for Basecamp’s ‘Hey’ email app, without Basecamp implementing in-app purchasing for subscriptions. Doing so allows Apple to get their 30% cut of the subscription fee. I have some thoughts on this as an independent developer.

My Thoughts

First, this entire situation should be terrifying for all developers. The amount of power that Apple has over the App Store is absolute. They can make or break an independent developer. If Apple is willing to pick on a large developer, then what chance does a small and independent developer have? Ben Thompson, of Stratechery, has heard from numerous companies, “from the smallest companies in the world to the largest”, about how they have been subjected to the same demands as Basecamp, so this is not a one-off situation.

Second, this is very bad from an optics standpoint. Former technology journalist, and super smart techie, Christina Warren sums it up quite nicely:

This is a complete and utter shit show, plain and simple. There have been many examples of Apple doing things that go against the interest of developers. Sometimes these are in the names of customer privacy, which is to be lauded, yet in other situations, the actions are just plainly against the developer.

Third, the timing of this could not have been worse. If this had been, say November, it might not get as much attention, but this is the week before Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. The week prior to, and of WWDC, the focus is on Apple, its developers, and the new releases. Furthermore, the response from Apple became a focus of the technology community on the same day that the European Union began investigating Apple for its App Store practices.

What did not help was the tone of the response to Basecamp. As Ben Thompson and John Gruber stated on their June 19th episode of their podcast Dithering, typically “Apple is a measure twice and cut once company”, also stated, and I am paraphrasing, “it could be that Apple felt pressure to respond” as to not have the story continue into WWDC week, when they want the focus to be on the new releases.

From Ben Thompson’s June 18th Stratechery newsletter:

Everyone else is absolutely terrified of Apple — again, from the smallest companies in the world to the largest.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that executives in the tech industry are more afraid of Apple in 2020 than they were of Microsoft two decades ago. App Store Review is such an absolute gatekeeper, and the number of ways that Apple can retaliate are so varied and hard to verify, that no one is willing to publicly breathe a word against the company.

This last sentence is the part that I think is the most problematic. Microsoft had quite a strong hold on the internet browser market in the mid-1990s that it was difficult for anyone else to make a dent into the market, because the browser was built into the operating system with no way to uninstall. I would venture to say that their stranglehold is somewhat similar to the way that Google has used its dominate market position to force changes that go against the open web standards, but that is a different topic entirely. The result of these practices was the infamous Microsoft was an anti-trust trial that resulted in Microsoft having to unbundle their internet browser from the operating system and provide users with alternatives. It it unknown what a similar trial for Apple would result in.

The arbitrary nature of the App Store approval process is not new. Many Apple developers have stated that sometimes it comes to the luck of the draw as to whether or not your app will get rejected for any reason. This is due to the “Monday Morning Reviewer” syndrome and the whims of the reviewer. For instance, you could submit your app for approval, have it get rejected for some reason, make a minor change or no change at all except for a build number, then resubmit and it will be approved. This shows the arbitrary nature of the App Store reviewers and the inconsistencies between them.

Lastly, many have stated that Apple’s priorities are as follows:

  1. Apple
  2. Customers
  3. Developer third.

This seems to be borne out in practice. Apple is first and foremost a public company. Their valuation depends on investors paying more for shares of the company and their primary focus is making more money. Customers coming second also makes sense, because Apple cannot make money without customers.

However, having developers being last does not always make sense. I think Apple forgets that a vast majority of its developers, 99.9%, are also their customers, just as much as their non-developer customers are their customers. Developers, who have inarguably helped build the App Store and Apple into the company that they are today, are the same ones who buy Apple’s products. They have to do so, in order to build an app and have it in the App Store. Outside of this, developers are often the ones telling their friends and family to purchase Apple products and bringing people into the Apple ecosystem. The reason that they do this is not just because they are developers, but because they also enjoy using the products.

What I think Apple seems to forget is that yes, they built the platform, however it is is the developers who have created the apps in the App Store. The apps have driven demand for Apple’s products and the App Store in general. I understand that Apple has seen falling demand for the physical products and wants to wants/needs to shift to services as their primary source of revenue. This approach makes sense, but not to the extent where it will begin pushing developers to think about releasing new apps and I honestly could see some developers opting for other platforms and foregoing Apple’s platforms entirely.

Furthermore, I would not be surprised if we starting seeing MORE apps that utilize cross-platform frameworks, like Electron, instead of fewer. The reason I think this is because if a developer uses one of these and Apple decides that they want to pull their app from the store, then their development workflow does not change much and they still can make money from their work. This results in a worse experience, but when you are at the whims of an arbitrary set of rules, you may not have a choice.

If you ask any developer who has been building apps for the App Store for any length of time to describe an instance when their app was rejected, each and every developer would invariably have an example to share. I am no exception to this.

My Experiences

I will state outright that I do not make my primary living from the App Store. The amount I have made from the App Store does not even cover the developer fees that I have paid. Even with that though, I still do have two apps on the App Store, and I also use my developer account to be able to download and install beta releases of Apple’s platforms, for my books, so I do rely on my developer account. I have been paying for my Apple Developer account since 2008 when the iOS SDK was announced, so I am not a newbie to the App Store and the Apple developer community. This entire situation makes me quite hesitant to develop any new applications, because they can be rejected for any reason, and at any point. It is not likely that Apple would remove an already published app from the store, but it has been done.

Since my app has been on the App Store for over 10 years, I have had my fair share of app rejections. Most of these were due to mistakes on my end (like app crashes and buttons not working, or missing metadata, missing entitlements, and other minor blunders), but two that I can think of right now, were not. The first instance was when my App was rejected because Apple wanted to ask about how I used a specific feature. Instead of just putting a hold on the release, they outright rejected the app. No developer likes to have their application rejected and having it rejected for something like this seems counter-intuitive.

The second, and more time consuming issue, was when I was forced to change the name of my ad-supported app, because it contained the word “free” in the name. The app had been in the store for 8 years at that point and there was no issue up until that point. This is a prime example of rule re-interpretation. Neither of these really impacted my revenue since my app has had $635 in total sales since being released in 2010. The time consuming aspect was not the fact that the name had to be changed, but this version is the one where I introduced app icons. This caused me extensive amounts of time. First, I had to come up with a new name. Next I had to make the necessary code changes, re-create the icons, and then re-import all of them. Each icon had to be individually imported and with 14 icons and 18 different sizes for each one, this meant 252 individual icons that needed to be imported. Needless to say it was a lot of work for a change that did not need to be done, except on the whims of an Apple App Store decision.

Possible Solution

I do have an idea, which might be a compromise, but would take significant work on Apple’s part. Right now there is no way to side-load an app onto iOS. I think Apple should create the ability to do so. This could, and should be, in the same manner as macOS apps that cannot, or their developers prefer not, to have them on the Mac App Store. In other words they need to be notarized.

These apps would still get the same protections that apps on MacOS get, in that they will be checked for malicious code, individual app versions can be removed. Additionally, these apps could be distributed outside of the App Store. With this approach, these apps could be allowed to use their own payment processing, but they would still be protected by the App Store. Sandboxing can be enforced and required. Alternatively, maybe it does go through a full App Store review, and a downloadable, distributable version that is counter-signed by Apple is provided.

This could be a special type of app that would not be allowed to be distributed on the App Store and it would still need to be verified before it can run. This would require significant work for Apple, not only on the App Store side, but also on iOS. They would have to build the ability to side-load apps onto iOS, which is not available now.

I do not claim that this is the best approach and I am sure that I am missing somethings that could cause the idea to not be a worthwhile pursuit, but it is something that can be looked into. It would mean additional work for users to obtain these. However, all around it could allow developers to be able to provide their apps in a secure manner and the slight relaxation of the rules for these apps would generate good will amongst developers and users.

Even if Apple were to begin working on this now and make it a priority, it will likely be a year before we will see this come to fruition. However, considering the amount of time that things like this take, it would not be something we would see for years.

Closing Thoughts

I do not think this is a one-off situation, nor the last time that this type of controversy will erupt. There have been rumblings that Apple specifically targets popular developers to make examples of them, specifically because of the popularity of the app. The developers often do not have any choice but to comply. In this particular case, Basecamp is not complying, they are going to fight.

While I understand that the App Store rules are intentionally not black and white, as to allow some interpretation, and that the rules do not explicitly state what is allowed versus not allowed, in this case I do think Apple is making a mistake by not applying the rules consistently. This line from Apple’s response to Basecamp is contrary to what they are doing:

We are happy to continue to support you in your app business and offer you the solutions to provide your services for free — so long as you follow and respect the same App Store Review Guidelines and terms that all developers must follow.

There has not been consistency and enforcement of the rules. There are big companies who can get away with many things without having their apps pulled and their developer accounts cancelled. One big example is Facebook. They used background APIs to listen as well as always track users. At the same time, if a small developer did this, their app was removed and their developer account cancelled.

Sadly, I do not think Apple will be changing its mind on this. I think it will come down to Apple’s hand being forced by laws and rulings that they are compelled to comply with in order for there to be any meaningful change. Unfortunately, this is not a fast process and it will take time for the investigation by the European Union to conclude. Getting a law passed in the United States, in the current political climate, is not likely either. This means that many developers will likely have no choice but comply with Apple’s demands or face losing their livelihoods.

As is the case with many other developers, I am somewhat concerned about talking about the topic for fear that Apple will find it, read it, and not like what I have posted and then remove my developer account, but as you can see, I did post the article.

Categories
Apple

New Developer Resources

Just in time for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference Apple has released a couple of updates for developers. These are the Developer app and the developer forums.

Developer App

The Apple Developer app has been updated to support the Mac. This uses MacCatalyst to be able to provide the functionality on the Mac. If you open the app you are presented with a three-column layout. The sidebar on the left, a list of items in the middle, and the detail information on the right.

The sidebar allows you to select from different groupings, including Library, Browse, Platforms, and Events. These will provide you with various items under each heading. As an example, if you click on an item under the “Platforms” heading, you will get a list of videos related to that platform. If you select one of the videos, you will get the details on the right side. This is very similar to what you would get on the Apple Developer website. This applies to each of the sections under the headings.

Issues

While the app contains a lot, and is a very welcome addition to the Mac, the app is not without issues. The first of these is that there is no way to adjust the font size. This mans that if you have a large screen, or are using a large screen resolution, it may be hard to read the text. Considering how much Apple puts into accessibility, this is definitely not accessible.

The second issue is one that I find strange. If you expand the right most pane out, the content is always centered. It does not flow like it should. instead the content stays centered.

Both of these issues should be fixed, particularly the in-ability to adjust the font-size. The font size issue may be a limitation of Catalyst on macOS Catalina and maybe the functionality will work with the next version of macOS. Next, let us look at a refresh to a resource that developers may overlook, the developer forums.

Developer Forums

Today Apple unveiled a refreshed Apple developer forums. The Apple developer forums are designed to allow developers to connect with each other, as well as Apple developers, to help discover and work out issues with Apple’s platforms. The old developer forums did look as though they were from the mid-2000s, which they were.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the old developer forums.

New Forums

Given the age of the Apple developer forums a refresh has been needed. Today Apple released the new developer forums. The new forums bring a new overall look. When you open up the developer forums you are presented with two column view. The columns are Top Posts on the left, and Top Tags and Top Users on the right. Similar to the image below.

Asking and Replying to Questions

Besides searching, one of the most common tasks for the developer forums is to ask a question. When you do this, you will see a page with two areas, the question and a Live Preview. The question box uses Markdown to be able to format the questions. You are able to use quite a bit of formatting. Here is a full example below.

Once you are done writing your question, you can add tags. This is done with a search to allow you to add a tag to your post. When you begin typing, a list of matching tags. If you do not have any text in the tags, a list of all of the available tags will be shown. Below is what the tags look like

If you do not have any questions but want to help others, you can reply to a question. When you do this, you can use the same Markdown formats for replying to a question.

Viewing a Question

One thing you may do when you are using the developer forums is to view a question. When you view a question you will see the question text, a thumbs up/down button on the left, the tags, how old the question is, and when it was asked.

Below the asked question, you will see any replies. The replies should be in oldest to newest. If there are more than 15 replies, the additional replies will be on subsequent pages.

Next to the name of the person who asked the question, you will see a “Share Button”. The share button will display a standard Share Sheet, for the platform.

Overall, the new look works well and is an improvement over the previous developer forums. Despite all of the good, there are some issues with the new developer forums.

Problems with the new Developer Forums

The new developer forums leave a bit to be desired. In terms of layout, typography, and overall aesthetic for the developer forums, they are absolutely fantastic. Viewing an actual issue now offers a larger view and a larger amount of white space. The buttons are big, and in some respects too big. The overview is nice, as are the top tags. However, everything now comes down to search, or clicking on an existing tag within a question.

The number of results is still limited to 600 with no way to add more filters or even sort. Furthermore, the search results are usually not relevant. For instance, I did a search for “beta iOS”, thinking it would show some recent beta posts, but here are the first five results with when they were asked:

  • Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • How do I install the beta iOS 9? – Asked 5 years ago
  • How How install/download beta iOS 13/watchOS 6 profile? – Asked 11 months ago
  • Proactive search not displaying on Public Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • beta iOS 10.3 battery drain – Asked 3 years ago.

Other than the third result, the rest are not very useful. Maybe it was the search, so let us look at another example. This time I just searched “iOS”. Here are the results:

  • iOS 10beta to final ios 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 11 recovery to iOS 10 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 11 GM to iOS 11 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 10 restore to iOS 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 10.0.2 (iOS 10.1) Betas – Asked 3 years ago

Again, these results are not very helpful. I figured I would try something a bit newer, like ARKit. Here are those results:

  • ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • SwiftUI and ARKit – Asked 11 months ago
  • ARKit on iPad? – Asked 3 years ago
  • Geolocation and ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • ARKit question – Asked 2 years ago

Even the results for ARKit are not super relevant, excluding the second result. Therefore, I am not sure if they will be useful.

Ways to Improve

I do not want to just highlight the about the new developer forums. Instead I have some ideas for improvement.

List All Tags

Provide a page that shows all of the tags, and the number of posts with that tag. I can understand not showing all tags and even limiting it to the top 50 or 100 tags with the option of displaying all tags would help developers find what they are looking for.

Filters

Add the ability to filter results. This could be with an additional keyword search that would match the current results. This even could be with some Boolean logic, for instance the phrase “swiftui and Xcode NOT beta” would show items that have both SwiftUI and Xcode, but not beta. After all these are developers and they are able to use logic.

An additional filter that Apple could add would be for time frame. Even if these are a static list, it could go a long way to being more useful.

Closing Thoughts

I will be the first to admit that I often forget about the forums except right after WWDC when I go and look to see if others are having similar issues. Even though the developer forums have been updated, I am not sure how useful they will be given their current state. I do want to reiterate that the new look is much better and much cleaner and is definitely welcome. It is the overall functionality that needs some improvement.

I am guessing that Apple wanted to get something out in time for WWDC, and they did just that. As is the case with many of the products that get re-written, it appears as though the developer forums have been done with a minimum viable product. With a minimum viable product, not every feature with the previous version is re-implemented at first, just due to time and cost. Hopefully, many of the missing features will come to the developer forums in the coming months.