Ryan Cash

Life passes most people by while they're making grand plans for it

Posts tagged iPhone

My favourite tiny tweak in iOS 6

Here’s a minor iOS 6 tweak that was just pointed out to me:

When you’re choosing a wallpaper, images are automatically resized to fit the full display – since I assume most people don’t like using only part of an image as a wallpaper (I certainly don’t).

Here’s what it would have previously looked like (in iOS 5) if you chose an landscape image to use as a wallpaper on your iPhone:

Instead, iOS automatically fills the screen with your image, like this:

You can of course shrink the image down if you like, but it’s nice not to have to play around pinching in and out if you just want your image to fill the display vertically.

Hat tip to @amelia_rosebell for pointing this out!

Filed under iOS 6 Apple iOS iPhone Wallpaper Photos

The unibody iPhone

Don Lehman:

Overall this design is a major improvement over the 4/4S. Functionally, it’s worlds better, and aesthetically, I think it’s stunning. At first glance it doesn’t appear to be dramatically different from its predecessor, but when you really dig into it, there are a ton of changes that make it appreciably nicer. If you aren’t excited about it now, you will be when you see one in person. Classic Apple design refinement.

And the coke nail callout is amazing.

(Via Marco Arment & Matthew Panzarino)

Filed under iPhone Apple

Speaking of how good the iPhone camera is...

Shawn Blanc:

The iPhone’s abilities as a camera have significantly improved over the years. If your budget or your interest in photography don’t warrant a high-quality camera, fortunately it’s safe to say that Apple will continue to make the iPhone into a great camera.

Last night I tweeted:

I am absolutely shocked how well this rolling shot of a Ferrari Enzo turned out. It was shot with an iPhone 4.

Not even a 4S.

Filed under iPhone Camera Photography

The App Store makes things easy

Ben Brooks, after linking to Andy Ihnatko’s article “The Mac App Store: Falling In Love Again”:

Andy Ihnatko:

But damn, yes, the Store makes life so much easier for every user.

I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent trying to dig through old emails and guess at old passwords to get registration credentials for old software. That used to be the sole reason that I never deleted software from my Mac.

Just before the Mac App Store I started to store this data in Yojimbo so that I could delete apps, but the Mac App Store just makes deleting apps you don’t want anymore a no-brainer. So what if I have to pay for upgrades, at least I have a full, working, archive of every app I bought.

Occasionally I go as far as buying apps and deleting them right away – just to take advantage of the launch price on something that looks interesting or fun that I may want to try/use in the future.

I did this just the other day with Coda 2 and Diet Coda. Bought, installed, deleted.

Sometimes I’ll buy something just to support the community.

Filed under App Store Apple iOS iPhone Mac

A few wishes for iOS 6

There are a few things I hope Apple addresses in iOS 6:

The App Store download experience

A lot of people have already written about search, discovery, and curation (see Federico Viticci’s article on MacStories), so I won’t talk about that.

Back in 2010 I wrote an article about the download experience in the App Store and since then not much has changed (other than an increase from a limit of 20mb to 50mb for downloads outside a Wi-Fi connection).

Most of my time spent browsing the App Store (outside of work-related purposes) has traditionally been while I’m out, away from a Wi-Fi connection; as a passenger in someone’s car on a long drive, while I’m waiting in line at the bank, waiting for a movie to start, or while I’m out with a friend who’s recommended an app to me.

I’ll find an app I want to check out and when I try to install it this happens:

I realize it’s up from 50mb but there are still a lot of apps that are above that limit.

I know Apple isn’t hurting for money but I’m sure this must have a negative effect on App Store revenue, even if it’s small. There’ve been several times that I’ve been unable to purchase an app while I’m out, only to forget about it later.

There should be an “Add to Queue” option, that adds the desired application to a list of apps to be downloaded when a Wi-Fi connection is realized. The apps would automatically download when you get home, back to the office, etc. It could even use iCloud to notify your Mac and/or iPad that have a Wi-Fi connection to download them.

Another thing that bugs me about the App Store is that it pushes you out of the store when you choose to download or install an application.

Why does it need to send the user back to the Home screen?

If a user is interested in placing the new app in a specific position/folder, they can do this when they choose to leave or when they’re done shopping.

I usually like downloading a few apps each time I’m enjoying an “App Store session” and this really gets in the way.

In the iTunes app, there’s a Downloads tab that displays all current downloads (see image below).

If Apple adopted a similar strategy to the App Store, users could quickly tap-to-download several apps, without leaving the App Store. This could also be a place to display applications that will begin downloading when a WiFi connection is realized.

Third-party developer access to custom Lock Screen Notifications

It’d be great it developers could create their own (within strict guidelines) Lock Screen notification “widgets” to perform simple tasks like “snooze” or “mark as complete”, etc.

Currently I’ve only come across this in Apple’s own Clock app for alarms, like this:

Saved Images Album

Why are images saved from Mail and Safari placed into the Camera Roll on iPhone?

The Camera Roll album in the Photos application should contain images of people, places, and things I’ve photographed – not the images I’ve saved from within the device (and screenshots taken with it).

The Photos application needs a “Saved Images” default album to store these photos.

Adding a “Downloads” album for saved images and screenshots would enhance the experience when browsing the Camera Roll and when searching to recall a saved image or screenshot taken with the device.

Choose your own thumbnail for videos in Camera Roll

I wrote about this last year but figured I’d bring it up again:

Whenever I go to a track day event I shoot a lot of video with my iPhone. 

I then end up with a Camera Roll that’s filled with a bunch of videos – sometimes upwards of 20 or 30 clips.

Afterwards, when I go to show a friend one of the videos I’ve taken, I’m forced to flip though several videos until I find the one I’m looking for.

As you can see from this screenshot below (videos were taken at a drift event last summer), it’s hard to tell one video apart from another. 

Being able to “favourite” videos would be useful, but sometimes it’s not a favourite video that I want to show – it could be a video of a certain car, etc.

Having the ability to choose your own thumbnail for a video would help solve this problem.

Here’s what YouTube does:

In this case, the second of three thumbnail options best represents the video.

If this video was part of a large Camera Roll library (I have over 1,500 items in mine), it would be easy to identify right away.

More often than not, the thumbnail your iPhone uses for a video (the first frame recorded) does not represent the video very well.

This shouldn’t be a forced option when creating a new video, but rather an option in the pop-over menu you can bring up when looking at a video in your Camera Roll. Along with “Email Video”, “Message”, and “Send to YouTube”, there could be “Custom Thumbnail”.

Easy access to Brightness setting

It’d be great it if worked the same as iPad, however I can see how the smaller screen real estate held them back from doing that. Perhaps they’ll work this into Notification Center or do something new.

Filed under App Store iOS iOS 6 Apple iPhone

An interview with Matt Rix

Matt Rix is the man behind Trainyard, the popular puzzle solving game for iOS.

After reading some of his inspirational blog posts about the challenges and success he’s faced as an indie game developer, I decided to get in touch with him.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your interests? What kind of music do you listen to? Where’ve you traveled to? Favourite TV show? 

My name is Matt Rix, I live in Brampton, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto). I’m married and I have a 2 year old son. My main interest is definitely games. I love lots of indie games, but if I had infinite time, I’d spend it playing Starcraft, Counter-Strike, and Battlefield 3.  

I’ve travelled all around Canada and to a few major US cities. I’ve also been to a bunch of different Caribbean countries and Brazil, but I’ve never been outside of the Americas.   

My favourite TV show is probably Arrested Development, but I enjoy watching all kinds of tv shows and movies, I’m not very picky.

What was your first job growing up? Do you ever find yourself relating back to it when making decisions at Magicule?

My first job growing up was a paper route. I don’t think I have to relate back to it very often these days. I think the main lesson it taught me – even though it sounds cheesy – is the importance of hard work. 

How’d you get into design and development work?

I’ve always been into “multimedia” in various forms. I took a college course in “multimedia production” and was offered a job as a Flash developer because of my college portfolio. I worked as a Flash dev for about 5 years, which is where I learned most of what I know now. 

Where’d the idea for Trainyard come from?

I was actually sitting on a train while commuting to work when I came up with the idea for Trainyard. I really wanted to do something involving paint colours mixing together, and I thought the idea of model trains carrying cars of paint had lots of possibilities. The game mechanics eventually evolved out of that. 

How’d you decide on making it a Universal app, rather than separate iPhone and iPad versions?

The iPad version of Trainyard is literally just the iPhone retina version with a border (which by the way, nobody has complained about).  If I had put more effort into it and created some extra iPad-only modes and puzzles, I probably would have created a separate “HD” version. 

Any plans for a Mac version of Trainyard?

Not sure. I think that’ll come when I make Trainyard 2 (eventually). Right now I’m thinking Trainyard 2 will be cross-platform and developed in Unity, but I don’t have any plans to start working on it anytime soon. 

You mentioned that being featured in the App Store is like winning the lottery – can you elaborate on this a bit? Were the effects of the featuring short-lived, or did you see a longterm benefit from it?

The effects of featuring were relatively short lived, but because I was able to use the feature to catapult up to #2 in the App Store, the effects lasted a little bit longer. By far the most sales I’ve ever had were during those couple weeks in October though. 

So the idea that the App Store is like a lottery has some truth, but there’s a lot more to it. You really must have a fantastic app to even get a chance of succeeding on the store, so making something fantastic is what I consider “buying your lottery ticket”. There are tons of apps on the App Store, but there are relatively few fantastic apps. 

Something else I like to bring up is that it’s not really about luck. There are no random draws or dice being rolled. There are real people at Apple who actively decide which apps to feature every week. There are real App Store users who decide they like a game enough to buy it and make it climb up the charts. 

Can you share any more details about your experiences doing sales? You mentioned that your Christmas sale wasn’t as successful as you had hoped, but that it still worked pretty well. Have you done any other sales since?

Sales are kind of weird. So here’s the thing: the vast majority of users will have never heard of your app before. That means they won’t actually know that your app used to be $2.99 or whatever. The only way sales are even slightly effective is when a site like Touch Arcade posts about your sale. 

Unless you’re really high up the sales charts, pricing on the App Store is quite elastic, meaning that the higher your price is, the less downloads you’re gonna get, and vice versa. For me, I’d rather have more users than less users, so I usually prefer to keep the price at $0.99, even though I think the game is worth more than that. 

Do you have anything exciting coming up that you’d like to talk about?

Nothing to announce quite yet. I think I’ve finally decided my next project, which is kind of like a cross between Canabalt, Trials, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater… or something like that. It doesn’t have a final name or release date though.  

What finally pushed you over the edge to leave your full-time job to focus all your efforts on your game development career?

Really all that happened is that Trainyard made enough money where I realized “whoa, I can finally just make games all the time”, and so that’s what I did. I honestly think that if you’ve got a great game idea, you should *keep your day job* and finish the game in your spare time. There’s no reason to take a huge risk, especially on a platform as volatile as the App Store. 

How has your life changed since leaving Indusblue? What sort of things do you miss, and what are you glad to have left behind?

I definitely miss the social side of things, going out for lunch, discussing ideas and all that. I’m glad to leave behind all the mess of dealing with clients and their ridiculous demands. 

When struggling with a design challenge, what do you do? Is there someone you turn to for advice? Sleep on it? Move on and get back to it later?

Prototype, prototype, prototype. If I’m ever unsure of something, I prototype it, play it, and then if I’m still unsure, I get my wife to play it. By that point, I always have a pretty good idea of whether it’ll work or not. 

What blogs/books/magazines do you read?

I mostly just use Twitter as an aggregator of things that are interesting, I don’t follow any specific blogs or magazines anymore. I also read r/gamedev on Reddit, which also acts as an aggregator. 

What have you failed at in life, and how have you learned from the experience?

I fail all the time at actually staying focused and getting work done. It’s still something I struggle with all the time. I’ve learned that I need to have extremely strict rules, schedules, and deadlines or else I end up getting nothing done. 

If you could offer one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs – what would it be?

Have a goal. Not a fluffy goal like “be successful”, but a real, tangible, practical goal. Write it down somewhere you will see it every day. Do something *every single day* to work towards that goal, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you do that, you’ll eventually reach it. 

What’s your hardware/software setup look like?

It’s kind of weird. I’m actually a big fan of Windows 7, so I do a lot of my main work (design, prototyping, etc.) on my PC. I use Synergy to share my mouse+keyboard with OSX on my Macbook Pro, which is where I do all of my actual iOS coding (but not much else). 

Describe a typical day in the life of Matt Rix.

Wake up. Shower/eat/etc. Take my son to day care. Work for a few hours. Eat lunch. I have a rule that I have to eat lunch outside and without any screens (no iPhone, etc.). Work for a few more hours. Check email and Twitter. Pick up my son, and hang out with my wife and son for the rest of the night. 

Any funny stories encountering a stranger playing your game, or perhaps a situation where someone you’ve known for a long time just realized you’re the man behind their favourite game?

Hmm, not really. I’ve heard of other people seeing strangers playing Trainyard, but I’ve never had it happen to me. Apparently my banker’s cousin is a big Trainyard fan, maybe that counts for something? ;)

What’s your favourite iOS game, (outside of Trainyard of course)? Favourite console game? Mac?

Favourite iOS game is probably Monsters Ate My Condo. Favourite console game, it’s a four way tie between Skate, BioShock, Fallout 3, and Braid. Favourite PC game: another four way tie between Minecraft, Starcraft 2, Battlefield 3, and Team Fortress 2. 

If you could spend a few hours over dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Hmm, I’m not really concerned with celebrities or whatever, so maybe Notch, because I think what he’s doing with Mojang is fantastic, and I think he’d be a big fan of Trainyard if he played it. 

Lastly, if you won the lottery (say $20 million), what would you do with the money (besides the typical stuff)?

I’d probably want to start a real gaming studio, instead of just being solo. Not a lot of people, probably 10 at most. I’ve got some ideas for slightly more ambitious games that would never come to fruition without having a larger team and studio.

You can follow Matt on Twitter and read his blog to learn more about his story. If you haven’t already tried Trainyard, get it from the App Store.

Filed under Interview Matt Rix iOS Apple Games Trainyard iPhone

An interview with Mark Jardine

Right before Tapbots launched Tweetbot for iPad (and Tweetbot 2), I had the privilage of asking Mark a few questions.

Of course after seeing the release I decided to bother Mark again with some slightly updated questions, touching on their latest product, Tweetbot for iPad.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where have you traveled to? What kind of music do you listen to? What are your hobbies?

I’m a 34 year-old, immature kid who’s married, has an almost 2 year-old son, and a dog. Growing up, I was part of a military family so I got to live in some pretty exciting places and had an amazing childhood. I grew up in Japan, Korea, Hawaii, and California. Since then, I’ve visited Korea twice, been to Vancouver twice (flew once, drove another), and spent a few weeks in Germany and the Netherlands.

As far as musical taste goes, I grew up listening to everything but country. My dad was a huge influence on what I listen to. We’d listen to 70’s and early 80’s rock with our headphones connected to his receiver which was sending out audio from his reel-to-reel tape recorder. I went through genre phases as I grew up, but alternative/rock is in my blood.

I like to play music as a hobby, but I pretty much suck at it. I played classical piano for 6 years as a kid. I learned how to play guitar (mainly by reading tabs) on my own, but never enough to be any good. I played the drums for about 5 years, but I’m also pretty average at that. I think the problem is me not having innate talent with any instrument and also not focusing on one. But I do enjoy playing for fun. Photography is another hobby that I enjoy, but it’s also definitely not a talent. Now that I think bout it, I’m pretty average at a lot of things. In some ways, it’s really helpful to know how to do many things, but on the other hand I’m not great at anything. I tend to pick up things that I’m interested in and drop them when I get bored. My biggest interest right now is driving at the race track. It’s a blast and extremely challenging on so many levels.  

What was your first job growing up?

My first job ever was mowing my parent’s lawn and then babysitting our next door neighbor’s two kids. Surprisingly, I did both of these starting in 2nd grade. I never had a real job until I graduated high school. The summer after I graduated, my best friend filled out an application to a movie theater for both of us (because I had no interest in doing it) and we both ended up getting the job. The work itself sucked, but watching movies for free was a nice perk.

What was your role at Oakley? What was the tipping point that pushed you to leave and focus on Tapbots full-time?

I was hired as a UI designer at Oakley. My tasks consisted of designing brochure pages, updating/improving the general site interface, and building the pages out in HTML/CSS. I got to do other things as well like design interfaces for kiosks and I also designed the Oakley Surf Report iPhone app. That was actually my first iOS app design. Paul and I started Tapbots as a hobby, but once we were making close to as much money with Tapbots as we were at Oakley, we decided it was time to leave our comfort zones and take a risk to make it on our own. While I’ll always love Oakley as a company, I think we made the right decision. Nothing beats working for yourself and building your own brand.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

I wake up anywhere from 8-10 from my dog scratching or barking at the bedroom door. I’ll spend a few minutes reading emails on my iPhone. Then I let the dog out of our room, give her a treat, and then get ready for the day. Once I’m done I take the dog for a walk and then go get myself some breakfast. I usually go to one of 2 bagel shops in the area depending on my mood and then grab coffee or a Red Bull. When I get back to my desk I’ll eat while reading twitter or a car forum. The rest of the day is usually just working unless I have errands to run. Paul and I communicate over iChat and work on tasks we have in Kickoff. My wife comes home from work with our son around 5-6 and I spend time with them until around 8-9. Then I get back to my computer, get some more work done and usually hop on Gran Turismo or Battlefield 3 for an hour or two before bed. 

Any formal design training, or mostly self taught? Where do you look for interface inspiration?

My major in college was Visual Communication. So I studied design, but it was mainly designing logos, brochures, and CD covers which was completely different than designing for the web or software. I dropped out of college halfway through once I got a pretty decent paying job as a web designer. I just felt like I was learning so much more doing real work in a medium I was passionate about. My biggest inspiration comes from Apple and developers like Panic, Delicious Monster, and Mac Rabbit. I was always looking up to those guys and wishing I could design software someday.

When you’re evaluating a new app idea, what’s involved in the research/planning?

We usually check the app store for anything similar. What’s the best app in that category? Can we do it better? We also make sure we do an app that has a high chance of success based on how much we think people would use it. We try to stay away from niche applications (though Pastebot was an exception).

Often good ideas come when we’re trying to solve problems. Is this how Pastebot came to be?

Sort of. Getting images and text from the Mac to your iPhone and vice versa was always a bit cumbersome (less so now with iCloud). Also Paul developed a Mac clipboard app called PTH Pasteboard a long time ago and I really loved that app. It wasn’t the prettiest app, but I found it invaluable to have on my Mac. It just felt like the perfect app for us to do at the time. 

How do you determine your pricing?

We generally either stay competitive with the competition or go a bit lower. I know some developers hate the idea of “devaluing” software, but the mobile app market is just different. We’ve been very successful by keeping our app prices low. You need to learn to be agile, and be able to go with the flow of the market or you’ll end up being left behind. 

What sparked the interest in going after the 3rd party Twitter client market? Did Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie affect your launch of Tweetbot?

To be honest, we just wanted to take up the challenge. There were already a few great twitter clients out there. We wanted to see if we could make a great client with the Tapbot’s style. We never expected it to be big, but we figured it would sell well enough and the fans of our apps would appreciate it. Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie did stall the development of Tweetbot. Tweetie was a really good client. It was my preferred client on the iPhone. An app that good that people could get for free? It just didn’t seem like a good business decision to compete with that. So we put the app on hold and decided to develop a really small app that we could do in a month or two. That app was Calcbot. With all the success we’ve had with Tweetbot, it’s kind of crazy that we almost canned it a few times. I’m glad we went through with it in the end.

How do you see the market for 3rd party Twitter apps going forward?

Things seem okay for now. But I feel like Twitter is slowly making it harder for us to compete with their app. I’ll run the latest version of Twitter for iPhone and tell Paul I really like this new feature. Then Paul will reply, “Sorry, there’s no public API for that.” That’s kind of scary to me. Maybe that’s their way of slowly killing off 3rd party clients over time. But communication-wise, Twitter has been extremely responsive and helpful overall.

Congrats on the launch of Tweetbot for iPad! Things seem to be going very well so far! Is there anything you can tell us about creating a successful launch?

I wish I had a secret recipe for that. My only guess is because we are so secretive about new apps and we don’t release new apps very often. We have users that enjoy our apps and they love spreading the word about our new releases. We can’t thank them enough. Some people seem to think we have some carefully orchestrated plan when we launch, but it’s quite the opposite. We are always trying different things to see what works better.

Tweetbot should be free for iPad. And for iPhone. All of your apps should be free. Just kidding.

A part of my faith in the next generation dies a little every time I read a complaint about charging for the iPad app. But I think part of this is Apple’s fault. There are people out there who genuinely believe iPhone and iPad apps are the same thing because of Universal apps. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind Universal apps at all. They are great for some business models and apps. But an iPhone app and an iPad app isn’t necessarily the same thing. And in the case of Tweetbot, it’s definitely not the same.

Can you share some details about designing the iPad version? Was this part of the plan all along, or was it something you started after the iPhone version was already in the market?

We had the idea of an iPad version at some point while developing the iPhone version, but only if the iPhone version did well enough. The first comp for the iPad version was in July 2011 which I think was a few months after the iPhone version was released. It was definitely much more challenging than designing the iPhone app.

What’s been your favourite app to work on so far? Do you have any preference between designing for iPhone/iPod touch vs. iPad?

I love the way Calcbot on the iPhone turned out. It’s funny because it was originally an iPad-only app. The iPhone version was kind of rushed together at the last minute, but it turned out to be much better than on the iPad. I’m pretty proud of the whole animation sequence when you pull down to reveal the history tape. It was initially a nightmare for Paul to implement because it was so hard to explain.

I prefer designing for the iPhone because of the constraints it provides. Designing for the iPad is actually pretty hard for me. 

Is there anything you can tell us about the future of Tapbots? Anything in the pipeline for Mac?

The future for Tapbots is bright as long as people are still using iOS devices. I’m not sure if I would have the passion to do work for Android or anything else out there at the moment. We are working on a Mac app and I hope it opens more opportunities to continue doing more of them. 

What’s been the biggest struggle for you as an individual and with Tapbots, as a company?

At this point it is sticking with our branding. While Tapbots has been extremely successful with each one of our apps, sticking with the same general aesthetics can be hard. On the positive side, I’m iterating on our style with each app so things just get better. On the other hand, it can get boring and in some ways limiting. It also irks me when people associate the Tapbots UI with my personal “style”. My personal work tends to be fairly minimalistic which is sort of the opposite of what we do at Tapbots. But Tapbots started with a clear objective and we’ve been sticking with it ever since. Pushing the concept into a Twitter client brought a lot of criticism by a few well-respected designers and while I totally understand where they are coming from, it’s frustrating that they can’t see what we are doing. Our only options regarding the design of Tweetbot were either design the app like you see it today or never develop the app in the first place. I think we made the right choice. I don’t regret one thing we’ve done with Tapbots. We’ve been able to carve out our tiny slice of the app market, build a fun brand, and love what we do every day. Paul and I have talked about doing an app outside of the Tapbots brand so we could start with a fresh canvas. It could very well happen someday.

What’s been the biggest source of exposure for Tapbots? The App Store? Reviews? Social media? Word of mouth? Any tips for other developers looking to grow their app business?

Twitter has always been really big for us. Much bigger than Facebook at least. Getting well-known blogs to talk about our app is also key. Given our track record, getting the word out has become easy, but it wasn’t always the case. I think with your first app, you really need to have something different and unique to get that initial buzz going. With Weightbot, it was really different from anything else on the store at the time…especially in that genre of apps. 

What have you failed at in life, and how have you learned from the experience?

Everything? I think you have to fail to learn and get better at something. There’s really no way around it. The trick is to accept failure as a part of the process and know that by trying again, you’ll do just a little bit better. I just wish I learned that at a much younger age. I used to be so afraid of failure that I wouldn’t want to try in the first place. That’s just not a healthy way to live. I missed out on many great opportunities because of this.

Any advice for anyone looking to get into the iOS app business?

Be original and take risks. (In the app that is. I can’t be responsible for financial risks!)

If you aren’t a designer, hire one (for the app icon at the very least).

The right sound in the right spot can go a very long way.

What’s your hardware/software setup look like?

I have a 6-core Mac Pro and a 15” Macbook Pro. I used to use an iMac (which was great, btw), but I just needed all the extra internal hard drive space and wanted a more powerful GPU for a bit of gaming on the Windows partition. I run Mac OS on a pair of striped SSD’s, data on a 2TB drive, 2TB drive for Time Machine and a 1TB drive for Windows. The Macbook Pro just has an SSD drive and I only keep a couple apps that I need along with my data from Dropbox.  I also have a Drobo with 6TB of space for all of my archival data. It goes quickly when you have a lot of raw photo and video.

On the software side, I tend to stick with mostly Apple software. I use Photoshop for 99% of my design work. I know Illustrator very well, but don’t use it as much these days since most of my work is around designing software. For web work, I flip between Textmate, Espresso, and Coda. I should also note that I’ve always been a Safari guy ever since Apple first released it. I cringe every time I open Firefox and Chrome just smells funny on the Mac. Haven’t figured out what it is yet.

For task management I use Reminders in iCal for personal things (mainly because it syncs with the iOS app), The Hit List for personal projects, and Kickoff for all of the Tapbots projects. 

Do you have a favourite 3rd party, indie-developed iOS app?

Checking what’s on my iPhone…There’s Delivery Status Touch, Screens, Verbs and…well that’s about it as far as indie goes (not counting our apps of course). I don’t use too many other apps to be honest. But just to make it more interesting (or maybe not), I also use Path, Instagram, and Facebook.

A little off-topic, I know, but when did cars and racing become a part of your life? For me it was before I could walk. Has it always been a huge passion for you?

I don’t know where my passion for cars came from. My dad was into cars, but he never had a nice car himself. He always drove cheap clunkers that never died. His favorite car growing up was a Datsun 280z. It wasn’t until maybe 7-8 years ago that he bought his first sports car, the Nissan 350z. But when I was a kid, he took me to a lot of Monster Truck and Tractor Pull events. We washed his cars together and he taught me all about basic car maintenance. Not very interesting, I know. When I was in 2nd grade, I was in love with the Lamborghini Countach. Had posters on my wall and did a whole paper on the history of the company. That’s about all I can remember about cars and my childhood.

When I was old enough to drive, I was stuck driving hand-me-down cars from my parents. My first car was a 1986 Toyota Corolla. And no, not the fancy RWD one that has a cult following. It was the boring front-wheel-drive sedan. The first car I bought on my own (and brand new) was a 2000 Celica GT-S. That was the first car where I was truly excited about the car I was driving. Wasted lots of money on mods (including upgraded flywheel, clutch, and LSD). My biggest regret however is not having someone around to push me to attend a track day or autocross event. All of that mod money would have been much more valuable learning how to really drive. I can’t wait to teach my son about cars and get him started on the right foot.

If you could spend a few hours over dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

That’s a good question. I honestly have no idea. Maybe Phil Schiller. We could talk all night about Apple, software, and cars. Yea, that would be pretty awesome.

Lastly, if you could do anything with your time (if money was no object), what would it be? 

To drive on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. If that’s not grand enough, I want to drive on it many many times. If that’s still not enough, I want to drive on it many, many times in an M3, 458 Italia, Exige, Cayman R, GT3 RS, and a Lamborghini Superleggera Balboni. 

You can follow Mark on Twitter, and if you haven’t already purchased every app that Tapbot’s makes you can check them out hereHis Flickr is also worth checking out if you’re into cars or photography.

Filed under Interview Mark Jardine Tapbots iPhone iOS Apple Developer Software Designer

Cancel Video Recording on iOS

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could?

It get’s really annoying when you’re filming things – for example something that you’re trying to get just right (e.g. that perfect skateboard trick) and you end up with fifteen “junk” videos in your iPhone Camera Roll.

Oftentimes you’re only a second or two into a video recording when you realize you want to trash it. It’d be awesome if there was a button to allow you to do so right from the recording view. 

There could be a “cancel” button next to the “record” button. Tapping the “cancel” button would display an alert asking “Do you really want to cancel recording this video?”, meanwhile the video would continue recording (incase it was an accidental tap).

In just 2 taps, you’d be able to stop recording and remove the unwanted file from your Camera Roll – before it even has a chance to get there. As it stands now, 4 taps (at minimum) are required to delete an unwanted video.

It’s also a heck of a lot easier to delete an unwanted video while you’re recording it – when it’s a few hours later and you’re looking at fifteen video clips with identical thumbnails, you’re forced to skim through each one to ensure you don’t delete the “right” one.

Filed under iOS Apple iPhone Video Recording

The iPhone “flashlight”

Ever since Apple introduced the iPhone 4 with an LED flash, people have been legitimately using their iPhones as flashlights.

I say legitimately because there were apps shticks from day one in the App Store that produced a solid white screen, aka “flashlight”.

There’s an endless supply of Flashlight apps in the App Store (some paid) that will turn on the iPhone LED light when launched. Some offer strobe lights, an S.O.S. light pattern, and other “neat” effects to help distinguish them from the competition.

Anyways, the purpose of this post wasn’t to discuss the 3rd party apps, but rather discuss whether or not Apple will ever officially recognize the LED light as a flashlight.

I purchased a flashlight app just because it promised to turn on the LED light immediately upon launch (and it does). I don’t use the flashlight all that often, but when I need to use it I want to access it quickly (which is why it’s in a folder on my home screen).

When I went into the wild in October, I didn’t even bring a real flashlight with me – I just relied on my iPhone. While the iPhone won’t ever replace a flashlight entirely (battery life, range, etc.), it’s perfectly good enough for fumbling under a dark desk looking for a plug, inspecting a used car’s engine bay, or finding your way around a dark room when you’re not near the light switch.

It’d be handy (but maybe overkill) to be able to access the “flashlight” right from the iPhone lock screen. It could also be available in the multitasking tray, or perhaps from Notification Center. This would mean that Apple themselves would have to build a flashlight app/widget, something I’m not sure they’d ever do.

Nevertheless, I think a lot of people use their phone as a flashlight, and having quicker access to it (without launching the iPhone Camera app and switching to Video > Flash On, or requiring a third party app), would be useful. 

Filed under iPhone Flashlight iOS

Another answer to the “iPhone Mute Switch” problem

There’s been lots of discussion about how the iPhone’s mute switch should behave. It all spurred from a NY Times piece about someone’s iPhone marimba ring interrupting a symphony performance.

John Gruber examines this and concludes that Apple’s current behaviour is correct:

I think the current behavior of the iPhone mute switch is correct. You can’t design around every single edge case, and a new iPhone user who makes the reasonable but mistaken assumption that the mute switch silences everything, with an alarm set that he wasn’t aware of, and who is sitting in the front row of the New York Philharmonic when the accidental alarm goes off, is a pretty good example of an edge case.

Whereas if the mute switch silenced everything, there’d be thousands of people oversleeping every single day because they went to bed the night before unaware that the phone was still in silent mode.

Andy Ihnatko then weighed in on the discussion with the philosophy that the mute switch should mute everything, no matter what app, what context, etc. He suggests that it’s essentially up to the user to be aware of this and if their alarm doesn’t go off because they forgot to un-mute their phone, that’s their mistake.

If screwups are inevitable, then the iPhone should choose to screw up in a way where the user feels like he understands what went wrong, takes responsibility for that mistake, and knows how to avoid repeating it. I shouldn’t be forced to consult a little laminated wallet card every time I slide a two-state “Mute” switch, to remind myself of all of the iPhone’s independent exceptions to the concept of “silence.” I can’t review all pending alerts and notifications to anticipate future problems.

No. I should slide the switch to “Mute,” and then the phone goes SILENT. If I miss an appointment because I did that, it’s completely on me. If my phone disrupts a performance despite the fact that I took clear and deliberate action to prevent that from happening…that’s the result of sloppy design. Or arrogant design, which is harder to forgive.

I tend to agree with Gruber, for the same reasons Dr. Richard Gaywood mentions:

Consider this scenario: the iPhone mute switch does, as Ihnatko wants, silence everything. I want to use it as an alarm clock with the phone on charge on my bedside table (a not-uncommon desire, I believe). I’ve done this with every cell phone I’ve had, back to 2000 or so.

So: if Ihnatko has his way, I cannot mute the phone or my alarm will not sound. I am forced to leave the phone’s sound on and be woken up multiple times a night by beeps and gurgles as I receive Twitter messages or spam emails and what have you. That’s clearly not what I want, and as it’s not how any cell phone I’ve ever used has behaved, it’s also not what I expect.

I’d say Apple has it just right in the current implementation.

BUT, there is one other idea; Profiles for iPhone.

Remember those old Nokia phones that had “ringtone profiles”?

For those of you that don’t remember, it was that phone you played Snake on (which is still better than any iPhone game I’ve ever played).

Profiles were great. They were a simple way to setup “blueprints” for various settings on your cellphone, so that the phone would behave a certain way when (and where) you wanted it to.

In order for some to realize the benefits of this, I’ve noted a few scenarios where Profiles would come in handy.

You could set one up called “Work” that would also have silent keytones, but wouldn’t even vibrate (which can be very disruptive in an enclosed meeting room).

You could setup a Profile for your phone called “Movie”. Your phone would only vibrate when it rings, and the keys would be silent.

You’d set one up called “Party” that would blow all the sounds and whistles. You’d be able to hear your phone ringing over the crowd on full volume (or feel the vibration if that fails), and you’d get the audible feedback when pressing buttons – assurance you may need after a few drinks.

You’d have another Profile called “Bedtime” that would have silent keynotes, and the ringtone volume turned way down. Perhaps you’d also choose a more soothing ringtone in place of your classic Old Phone or Marimba ringtone. That way you can hear your phone ringing in case an important call comes through, but you won’t be shell-shocked during your precious sleep. And of course you wouldn’t have to hear your Twitter push-notifications go off. Vibrate would also be off, because really, what’s more annoying than your phone sliding off your night table as you desperately try to grab it while your eyes are covered in morning goop.

These are the settings Nokia offered on the 3310 back in the day:

*Taken from Nokia’s manual for the 3310 handset

  • Ringing tone: Sets the ringing tone for voice calls.
  • Ringing volume: Sets the volume level for the ringing and message alert tones.
  • Incoming call alert: Defines how the phone notifies you of incoming voice calls.
  • Message alert tone: Sets the call alert for text messages.
  • Keypad tones: Sets the volume level for keypad tones.
  • Warning tones: Sets the phone to sound a warning tone, for example when the battery is running out of power.
  • Vibrating alert: Sets the phone to vibrate when you receive a voice call or a text message.
  • Screen saver: Sets the picture that is displayed in standby mode after a selected period of time (called ’timeout’).

So why doesn’t iPhone have Profiles? Probably because it over complicates the user experience.  

I can definitely see the complexity a profile feature would bring, but I can also see the benefits. In either case, constantly having to adjust my ringer volume and toggle the mute switch on/off can prove to be a bit annoying.

Imagine Profiles with location-based settings.

Your iPhone would know when you’re home, when you’re in the office, or when you’re at work. You’d be able to specify Profiles by location, time, or manually.

It could even do things beyond volume settings – it could turn your passcode lock on when you leave your home, or turn your screen brightness down in the morning so your eyes don’t bleed when you look at the screen when you first wakeup.

In writing this post it’s evident why it’s not there – it’s just too complicated. It wouldn’t have to be something enabled (and pushed to the user to setup) by default, or something heavily marketed by Apple. 

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this, so feel free to get in touch with your thoughts

Filed under Apple User Experience iOS iPhone

Elevation Dock: The Best Dock For iPhone

I’ve never used the Apple dock but his thing looks great.

It’d be great for my desk at home and in the office, but even better as a bedside stand (no more fumbling to grab and unplug my iPhone in the morning when I’m grumpy and my hands haven’t started working yet).

Update #2: Zero to $25k in the first two hours. Speechless.

It’s so awesome that someone can have an idea and get funding so easily nowadays. Imagine doing this 20 years ago.

Via Daring Fireball

Filed under iPhone Kickstarter