Tag Archives: iOS

Let iPad be iPad

Facing slowing growth for the first time since the iPad’s 2010 debut, Apple is working on several significant software and hardware updates to reinvigorate the tablet over the next year. Apple is developing a dual-app viewing mode, 12-inch iPads codenamed “J98″ and “J99,” as well as support for multi-user logins, according to sources briefed on the plans.

(via 9to5Mac)

Last year, with Universal Storyboards, Apple pushed iPad into being more iPhone-like. (Why build a true custom experience for your iPad app when you can just “stretch” your iPhone app to the full screen of the iPad?) The notion was that more iPhone-only developers would build universal apps if Apple made the process a bit easier. The result was a lot more universal apps, most of which are not better in any substantial way on iPad.

This year, it looks like dual-app viewing and multiple-account support will push iPad in a more Mac-like direction. “If we let people multitask, we’ll get fewer complaints that iPad isn’t a power user’s tool.” Well, yeah, but it’s still going to be an inferior experience to multitasking on a Mac, no matter what Apple does on that front.

I wish Apple would just let iPad be iPad.

At Bombing Brain, we’ve made a not-insignificant amount of money over the past five years developing tools for people who realize that iPad is simply better than a laptop or a phone at very specific, targeted tasks. If Apple would help drive the development of iPad to make it better at those things, I think the product could finally reach its full potential.

As long as we keep ping-ponging between iPhone and Mac, iPad will continue to be stuck in between them, never quite better than one or the other.

I’m not saying multiple account support and dual-app viewing would be a bad thing. They sound like good additions, if done right. But I do hope that Apple has a lot more in store for iPad this year than just making it a little more like using a Mac.

Goodbye, Helvetica

9to5Mac claims that Helvetica Neue is on its way out as Apple’s system font for OS X and iOS.

Helvetica Neue looks pretty crappy with its custom kerning in OS X, especially on non-Retina screens. (Which a majority of Mac users use and will use for years to come.) I don’t know how San Francisco will look on a non-Retina screen, but it would very likely be no worse.

Personally, I never thought standardizing on one font for all of Apple’s platforms was necessary. But if they’re going to do it, better San Francisco—which was designed for the screen, at least—than Helvetica Neue.

Different Approaches

Given the attention it started to receive it also became the target of a slew of copycat applications (my thoughts on which I discussed then on Developing Perspective). I wanted to try and make sure that I stayed ahead of these so I began working on another major update to the application that was a bit more thoughtful than the rush-job I’d done for v1.1.

via david-smith.org

This article from Underscore David Smith makes me so happy for so many reasons. Pedometer++ is an awesome app, and it demonstrates the Underscore methodology perfectly.

  • Read about a new feature that comes from Apple.
  • Think of an idea that takes advantage of that new feature.
  • Write a minimum viable app very quickly and get it on the App Store.
  • Wait and see if it gains any traction.
  • If it does, quickly iterate to fill out its feature set and differentiate from the competition. (If it doesn’t, move on.)
  • Once the app is sufficiently differentiated, don’t just keep adding features for no reason. Work on other things until you see a real opportunity to improve the app, perhaps when another new feature from Apple makes something new possible.[1]

This is so different from what has been my standard approach, and yet it works so well for David. It takes extreme discipline, I imagine, to a) keep the feature set in that initial app very tight so you can get the app out quickly, b) stop fiddling with the app once it’s sufficient, so that you can concentrate on other new ideas, and, of course, c) have the discipline to let the app go if it doesn’t do well. That last one has to be the most challenging.

Another thing that intrigues me about Pedometer++ is the business model. Pedometer++ is completely free to use, with no ads. There are three in-app-purchase options, but they do nothing to the app itself. They simply offer “tip jar” donations in three different amounts. But, and here’s the kicker, the in-app-purchases can be bought more than once. So particularly generous users can actually provide recurring revenue.

So while the app relies solely on the kindness of his users, which sounds insane, it’s actually working out. I imagine the vast majority of his over one million users has never paid David a cent, and yet there must be enough people like me giving him regular tips to make up for it.[2] Since the app is helping so many people strive for a regular exercise goal, perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising.

If I had come up with the idea for a pedometer app right after the M7 chip was announced, I would have dismissed the idea as unsustainable. First, there were bound to be hundreds of competitors in a matter of weeks. Second, while useful information, a daily step count isn’t solving a problem that costs people money, nor will it make people money. So few would see the value in paying for it.

Far from ignoring these facts, David chose to work around them, first by getting the app out extremely quickly, so that he’d be the first one many people tried, and then by coming up with a business model (free with tips) that got it onto as many phones as possible. He actually made what looked like an unsustainable idea work for him.

This is precisely why I always tell people to avoid the trap of thinking there’s only one way to make a living in software. No matter what other people have done to achieve success, chances are your path is going to require something different. That’s why it’s important to read about as many different approaches as possible and constantly keep an open mind.[3]

Update: It seems Pedometer++ does have ads now. At launch, the app didn’t contain any ads, but as of last fall, new users will see ads until they give at least one tip. Thanks to Paul Brown for the heads up, and to David Smith for the clarification.


  1. Like, perhaps, a new gadget for your wrist that makes for a perfect complement to your iPhone app. The Apple Watch extension for Pedometer++, by the way, is one of the few third-party apps I’ve seen that works really well. Loads super fast, and provides exactly the info I expect. And nothing more.  ↩

  2. As I’ve said on the podcast, I’ve tipped Pedometer++ every few months or so since I started using it. Why wouldn’t I? It’s one of my “1st and 20” apps, one of those chosen few that I actually use daily. How is that not worth $5 every couple of months? Since David seems happy with his income from this app, I imagine I’m not the only one tipping him more than once.  ↩

  3. There’s a good reason why we chose David Smith to be one of our speakers for Release Notes this October. I feel like I still have a lot to learn from him, and so do our guests.

The Eleven

Today’s Release Notes 2015 Speaker announcement is the culmination of several months of hard work and cooperation from many people. It’s only March, and already this show is well on its way to being a tremendous success. I can’t thank my co-organizer Charles Perry enough for spearheading this entire show from day one. He’s the man with the plan, if you will. And he’s had a clear vision that has driven every decision we’ve made thus far.

When you want to put on a conference like this, the easiest thing in the world is to come up with a list of potential speaker names. The indie development community is full of great people. Heck, we had forty or fifty names just off the tops of our heads in our initial brainstorming session. And any combination of them would have made for a great show.

But that’s when the hard part kicks in. You have a handful of slots (in our case, eleven). And you need to populate those slots not with the first eleven people who pop into your head, or the eleven most popular people. You need the right combination of people. People who complement each other in the correct way. A balance of people who have experience from various places in business, who can talk about different topics and offer the maximum value to our guests.

In other words, you stop looking at individuals, and you start looking at the whole group. What are the right ingredients? What will adding this person do to the mix? What effect will removing this person have on the group? Are we covering enough of the landscape? And so on.

And once you’ve whittled that initial list down to a very balanced group of eleven, you have to go out and ask them and hope they all say yes.[1]

The fact that we managed to publish a list with these eleven names on it our first time out is, I think, a proud accomplishment. The reaction thus far from our audience has been so enthusiastic that I can’t help but think we chose wisely, and that we’re extremely lucky that all eleven of these folks have agreed to put in the hard work to participate.

I want to thank our speakers, Myke Hurley, Rachel Andrew, David Smith, Rob Rhyne, Georgia Dow, John Saddington, Chris Liscio, Pieter Omvlee, Daniel Pasco, Jean MacDonald, and Jim Dalrymple. You are all taking a chance on a new conference led by two first-time organizers, and we aren’t going to forget it.

We’ve promised our audience we’re going to spend some time helping each other build businesses this October. Our speakers are going to be the driving force behind that. You should have no problem gleaning practical, actionable advice from this group, and our discussions throughout the week will further amplify the benefits of being there.

I’m sure Charles and I will hear a bit of “Why not this person?” or “Why not that person?” over the course of the next several months, and that’s okay. I’d probably do the same thing myself to some other organizer, at least in my head. If only we had forty speaker slots, right? Believe me, there’s an excellent chance whoever you’re thinking of is someone we had on our initial brainstorm list.

And there’s always next year.

Release Notes 2015 will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 21–23. Tickets will be on sale to the general public on April 27th, with early access granted to those on our mailing list. For more info, visit our web site.


  1. Or wait. Before you can ask anyone, you need to know what the dates of your conference are. And in order to have dates, you need a venue. And to get a venue, you need to scout out several venues, have meetings, figure out their availability, hope it coincides with the dates you want, negotiate deals, and sign on the dotted line. It’s a lot of work, in other words. And that’s before you start cold emailing some people you’ve never met in person to ask them to speak at an event of which they’ve never heard.  ↩

On Waiting Until Next Year

The new debate I keep having with friends is whether we should buy the first gen Apple Watch next month or not, because generation two is going to be so much thinner and lighter, and you should never buy first generation Apple products, anyway.

Okay, for starters, let’s talk about the old “never buy a first gen anything” adage. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told by certain people that first generation products from Apple are always problematic and therefore should be avoided like the plague.

I’ve been buying first generation Apple products since the late 80s, and I have yet to get burnt by one. Even if my first gen watch turned out to be a total dud, my average on first gen products from Apple has been so good that it would hardly make this old proverb seem like wisdom. Apple’s manufacturing processes have gotten so good recently that this is only going to be even less of a problem as the years go by.

I know a lot of people are risk-averse, or they had a bad experience once, or they just don’t want to shell out new money every year for the shiny objects. I have no problem with that; we all have a right to spend our money any way we want to. But this notion that first generation products are always riddled with issues is over-exaggerated, at best.

Next, on the notion that by next year, Apple Watch will somehow be significantly lighter and thinner: This is simply not likely.

“But look at the iPad, Joe” my friends say. “Look at the MacBooks and iPhones. They keep getting thinner every year.”

Yes and no. Most years they get thinner and lighter by a pretty small margin. Or, in the case of the iPhone, they only get thinner and lighter every two years. Once in a while there will be a major breakthrough, but more often than not it’s the accumulation of trimming that adds up to the PowerBooks of old becoming that new ultra-thin MacBook.

And the biggest reductions happen with the big products, like laptops that already get great battery life. Consider the size difference between a laptop and a watch, and the fact that the watch is barely getting enough battery life to be considered acceptable right now. With a product like a laptop, there’s a lot more physical space to utilize and save. Shrinking the logic board by two-thirds in that new MacBook meant a lot more space for batteries to make up for the cut in overall thickness. If you shrink that tiny little S1 chip in half (forgetting the fact that it’s unlikely Apple will be able to do that in a year) how much space did you gain? Probably not enough to make both the battery larger and the overall watch smaller. I suspect Apple is not happy with 18 hours for the first generation watch, so they won’t want to make it even shorter for the sake of thinness.[1]

Even tricks like software optimization and other reductions in power consumption only get you so far.[2] Without a major change in battery chemistry (which isn’t in the pipeline for next year, as far as anyone can tell) Apple is going to run out of ways to seriously reduce consumption eventually.

My point is, it’s harder to find places to trim when you’re dealing with such a small device that has so little to trim in the first place, and when your years of accumulated knowledge have already gone into the current design.

Will next year’s watch be thinner? Maybe. But by how much? Let’s be extremely aggressive and throw out an unrealistic number like 15%. What’s 15% of 10.5mm? 1.6mm. That would be noticeable, but not exactly earth shattering. And it’s unlikely they can do that much.

I suspect we’ll see small changes every year to Apple watch. And I do eventually expect all those changes to add up to something significant. But it’s going to take longer than people think for this device’s dimensions to change drastically.

But let’s grant that next year’s watch will be so much better that I’ll be dying to upgrade. Maybe I’m wrong about all of the above, and the watch next year will be 50% thinner, through some miracle breakthrough. Or maybe they’ll add some new sensor that brings features I won’t want to live without. (Isn’t that always the danger with any computer?) How much will an upgrade cost me?

If you think about it, you only really need to upgrade the body of the watch. If you get an Apple Watch with the link bracelet this year ($999) and want to upgrade next year, all you need to do is buy an Apple Watch with the rubber band ($599) and attach your link bracelet to it. Sell the old body with the rubber band for $300, and the upgrade ends up costing $300 or so[3]. It’s a cost, to be sure, but it’s cheaper than what I’m used to paying to upgrade laptops regularly. Certainly, $300 is cheap enough that it makes sense to enjoy wearing a watch for an entire year rather than waiting? Is is for me, anyway.

So I say go ahead and get that first gen watch this year if you want it. As with anything, buy the best device you can afford that makes you happy now, and worry about the upgrade options when they happen. Or wait, if you want to wait. But don’t tell other people they’re crazy for simply making different decisions than you. And don’t set yourself up for disappointment when Apple fails to defy the laws of physics by next April.


  1. Remember the third-generation iPad? There’s only one thing that trumps thinness for Apple, and that’s a minimum acceptable battery life.  ↩

  2. Software changes will benefit the first generation watch as well as the second.  ↩

  3. I probably won’t end up selling my first generation Apple Watch, as I’ve regretted selling my first generation iPod and iPhone. But that, again, is my choice. The fact remains, not buying the watch because you’ll just want to get the better one next year isn’t a very strong argument.  ↩