Good news about the Apple App Stores

The New App Store: Subscription Pricing, Faster Approvals, and Search Ads [John Gruber – Daring Fireball]

Among the changes: Apple is throwing open the doors to allow developers to charge subscription pricing.

That’s a big step forward for two reasons: It will allow developers to implement a try-before-you-buy model with App Store apps, same as on downloadable Mac or Windows apps.

I’m a guy who likes to try new apps, and that can be an expensive habit when the apps are only available in the App Store. For example, last week I dropped $10 for the Mac version of the Airmail email app, as well as $5 for the iOS version, because you really need to try that app on every device to give it a fair workout. After a few days, I decided Airmail is not for me (performance too slow). $15 down the drain. Ouch. Be nice if I could try it for 30-90 days, then decide whether to pay to keep using it, as is typical for downloadable desktop apps.

Hell, it would be nice if I could try an app for an hour. Or a half-hour. Or 15 minutes. Long enough to give it a workout and decide whether it’s worth staying with.

The other reason to be encouraged by these changes is that it provides developers with a way to get off the creeping-featuritis treadmill. Because the way pricing works now, developers need to come out with a new version every now and then to get users to pay for an upgrade. So the developers start adding useless features to get people to upgrade. Now, developers will have the option to say, “This app is done. Nothing more I need to do with it,” and continue to offer support and minor upgrades for new versions of the OS. I guess developers could have done that before — charge for support and compatibility upgrades separately — but perhaps the market would not have stood for it.

And of course it’s a way for developers to make more money. That’s nice, but honestly I’m not all that concerned with how much money OTHER PEOPLE are making.

iOS makes third-party keyboards into second-class citizens

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iOS is keeping other keyboards from greatness – Katherine Boehret, The Verge

Boehret complains that third-party keyboards are unable to use dictation. But that's only one of the problems with third-party keyboards.

Support for third-party keyboards – and web browsers – is one area where Android is just plain better than iOS. iOS is always pushing you back to using the stock keyboard and browser. Android works more like a PC; if you change the default, you change it everywhere, throughout all applications and the operating system, which is as it should be.

I am kind of digging the new Microsoft “Word Flow” keyboard for iPhone

Link

Word Flow is a “swiping” keyboard, where you don’t pick up your finger between letters, and it has an “arc mode” that curves the keyboard for easy typing on one corner of the screen. Nifty!

I haven’t had much luck with third-party keyboards on iOS. Apple wants you to use them for occasional, added capabilities. It doesn’t want you to set a third-party keyboard as your default. This is one area where Android beats Apple.

The disappointing tablet market

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Tablet and iPad Market Is 100 Million Units Smaller Than Expected [Arik Hesseldahl – Recode]

What happened? Smartphones for one, in particular really big smartphones. Also, people buy new tablets at a slower pace than they do phones.

One category of tablets that’s likely to be successful: tablets with detachable keyboards, like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface.

As for me, I find myself using the iPad mini less and less, and growing more and more frustrated with its limitations as I do. And I’m still getting used to how portable my MacBook Air is. Light as a feather, with hours and hours of battery life. I use it plugged in to a 27″ display, keyboard, and trackball when I’m at my desk. When I want to take it somewhere, there are only three connections, easy to detach and reattach.

I see myself moving to a bigger phone in the next generation of iPhones later this year, and using the iPad mini even less. Unless, that is, Apple comes out with an iPad the size of the Kindle Paperwhite. I think that might be the ideal size for me.

Why TextExpander’s move to subscription pricing was a bad decision

The three-year cost of running TextExpander on the Mac has gone from $20 to $142.56. That puts TextExpander in the price range of Microsoft Office, Adobe Lightroom, and TurboTax.

And more.

As for me: Smile says it will continue to support the current version of TextExpander through the current and next versions of OS X. I’ll stay with it until I get a compelling reason to upgrade or switch.

Ironically timed, just this morning I saw a write-up of an intriguing alternative for large numbers of complex text snippets.

TextExpander 6 and TextExpander.com [Michael Tsai]

Microsoft launches Hub keyboard for iOS

Link

The free keyboard lets you access your clipboard history, contacts, OneDrive and SharePoint documents, and translates what you type into other languages.

The keyboard gets only 2.5 stars on the iTunes store, with 35 reviews in. People are saying it’s slow and buggy.

iOS has weak support for third-party keyboards. iOS is not good at letting you designate a third-party keyboard as your main keyboard; Apple apparently wants you to toggle to the third-party keyboard for some specific reason, then go back to using the main iOS keyboard most of the time.

Microsoft Launches Hub Keyboard for iOS [John Voorhees – MacStories]

The TSA spent $1.4M on an app to tell it who gets a random search

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“TSA Randomizer” is an Ipad app that tells TSA official swhich search-lane to send fliers down, randomly directing some of them to secondary screening.

Or they could have flipped a coin. Even a dollar coin would have cost only, um, $1 per user.

The Obama administration – “most transparent in history” – tried to block access to this information.

The TSA spent $1.4M on an app to tell it who gets a random search [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

How to use the predictive keyboard on iPhone and iPad

Call me a dope, but I never noticed the keyboard is trying to predict the next word as I type.

Also: How to get special characters, symbols, and diacritical marks when typing on the iOS keyboard. I’ve seen this instruction a few times before, and will probably forget it next time I need it.

How to use the QuickType keyboard on iPhone and iPad [Luke Filipowicz, Rene Ritchie, and Allyson Kazmucha – iMore]

1Password debuts extension to make it easy to log into third-party apps and websites on iOS 8

I’m very much looking forward to this on iOS 8. Logins are an area where mobile falls down in comparison to desktop — it’s much easier for me to log in to things on my Mac than on my iPhone, iPad, or Nexus 7.

The video embedded here is only 34 seconds long and worth watching.

1Password debuts extension for third party apps on iOS.

I’m still liking TaskPaper after a day

That’s already a breakthrough. Sometimes I spent a few hours on the weekend configuring a new productivity app and it fails to survive even an hour on a workday.

Here’s a big thing I like about TaskPaper: Because it’s plain text I can just arrange things however I want. Put tags at the beginning of a task. Arrange tasks into projects or not. Change the order however I want. Go crazy.

Two significant drawbacks: It doesn’t automatically support dated tasks. I mean, you can add a date to a task, but it won’t automatically stay hidden until the appointed day and then magically appear in your task list when it’s time. I knew that when I started trying it. There are workarounds, and I can live with it.

The second drawback is more significant: Because my task list is just a text file that syncs with Dropbox, if I walk away from my desk and make a change on my iPhone or iPad, that change will likely result in desktop conflicts. The only workaround is like the old joke: “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” “So don’t do that.” I need to remember to close Taskpaper when I leave my desk. That’s too easy to forget. I can think of a couple of workarounds: Keep a separate “errands and chores” list for things I need to remember to when I’m away from my desk, and keep a separate inbox exclusively as a place to add tasks as they occur to me when I’m out and about.

Day two with TaskPaper is Tuesday.

My iPad-and-stylus-based note-taking system completely broke down while I was on the road

Notability locked up a document. I shut down the app manually and restarted it only to find the document gone. Fortunately, it was only a short interview and I was able to reconstruct it from memory.

After that I switched back to using a paper notebook and pen. And found I liked it much better than digital note-taking. I still had all the muscle memory of my previous years using notebook and pen, even though I’ve been using the iPad (and briefly a Nexus 7) for all my field notes for several years now. And whipping out a notebook while having drinks with a business contact is much more human than whipping out an iPad and stylus. So I think I’ll be sticking with the notebook and pen, at least for a while.

Customer-thievin’ varmints

Apple Launches Evil Plan to Steal Carriers' Customers

Apple’s upgrades to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, announced Monday, are focused on tightening integration of those three products into a unified universe. That’s both an opportunity and a threat for carriers.

The more useful Apple makes its mobile products, the more customers use them. That makes money for carriers.

The threat is that customers are loyal to Apple, rather than the carriers. Customers think of themselves as Apple customers, and the carrier is just a provider of the dumb pipe that connects their Apple devices to each other and the world.

– Me on Light Reading.

AppStorm gives the Notebooks app a thumbs-up review

Notebooks: A Flexible and Powerful Note App in Beta

This is a review of the January 2013 beta, but it looks pretty similar to the final version. Notebooks seems to be developed by one guy, and it’s a complex app, so it’s reasonable for development to be slow. 

I tried the desktop version this morning. It’s nowhere near as sophisticated and polished as the iPad and iPhone version. It’s pretty basic. But basic is good for me for a writing app. Like John Scalzi said: I just want to type. Nearly all my writing is plain text with very light formatting; I don’t need layout tools or complex formatting. To this day I am uncertain how to use stylesheets. 

I get the idea that the desktop version is still in development and features from iOS will make it in there eventually. But my rule is never to commit to an app based on the developer intentions. I decide whether to commit to the app based on what it does now. And what it does now seems OK to me. I’m not in love yet, but I’ll stay with it.