Tag Archives: iOS

x2y version 4

It was all the way back at WWDC 2014 that my friend Hans vershooten suggested what eventually became the marquis feature of x2y 4.0: Percentages.

x2y has always been able to calculate x or y dimensions for you automatically. It would be nice, Hans suggested, if it could also tell you the percentage difference between the original image and the new one. So if you want, for instance, a rectangle that’s exactly 245% of the original, x2y should be able to calculate both the x and y dimensions for that.

And now it does. (Sorry it took so long, Hans.)

Other new features in this update include 3DTouch shortcuts on the home screen, for devices such as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. You can jump straight to a particular aspect ratio with one gesture. To customize which aspects end up in the shortcuts, simply put them at the top of your customizable common aspects list.

Also new in this update, two new color themes. I have fun changing up the look of x2y on occasion, so I wanted to add a few more options. Also, all themes are now unlocked by default, so no more hunting around looking for ways to get all the themes to unlock.

I’m a bit surprised that years after this app was first released, I still find myself using x2y several times a week. This was my first app, and I never imagined that I could take it so far. Once again, I can say with confidence that I’ve spent more time thinking about aspect ratio calculators than anyone else on iOS.

x2y an invaluable tool for any designer or developer who needs to resize images often, particularly in code. You can download it on the App Store here.

iPad Pro: Early Thoughts

Just throwing out some early impressions of iPad Pro, after having used it only a day or so.

  • It’s heavy. Not heavier than you expect heavy, but as heavy as you expect, which is different from the most recent iPads. After a year of holding an iPad Air 2, this is surprising. If you’re used to a 3rd-gen iPad or iPad 1, it’ll feel right at home.
  • This is not a hold in one hand, tap with the other device. At least not for long periods. It’s a sit down with the iPad on a desk while tapping with both hands device. Developers should keep that in mind when deciding where buttons should go. The Air is a better form factor for those who need to work while standing.
  • The screen is gorgeous, as expected. Split screen becomes a whole lot more useful with all that extra real estate. This is a productivity machine, to be sure.
  • I tweeted a pic of myself using Keynote and OmniOutliner in split view. This will change how I prep talks in the future. It’s about more than art apps, in other words. Tons of use cases for this device. Apple is right to be marketing it to everyone, not just artists. The ”Pro" name almost seems wrong, given this.
  • Having said all that, the Pro will also be a great consumption device. Videos on this thing are awesome. Now I just need 12South to make a HoverBar attachment that fits the new size, and watching TV in bed will become as good as if I had a 40-inch television across the room.
  • Split View Controllers should really show both Master and Detail in portrait as well as landscape. Developers can override the standard behavior on on their own, but Apple should make it automatic. Give the Pro its own size classes. That would be even better.
  • I understand some people are upset the Pencil and Smart Keyboard weren’t ready at launch. But if you think about it from a Retail perspective, they couldn’t wait until December to ship this thing. And personally, I don’t think either accessory is as critical to the Pro as others think. I have no plans to ever get a keyboard for this thing. I will likely buy the Pencil but not use it for long. In the end, the device makes perfect sense for a lot of people without either.
  • Apps that aren’t yet ready for the new screen size scale, the way they do on the larger iPhones. And somehow, the scaling doesn’t look as bad as it does on the phones. Until you need a keyboard. Then it’s “Oh my god, this expereince is total crap” territory. Seriously, the scaled up keyboard is a horrifying experience. Lesson: get your app ready for multitasking and the new screen size ASAP if you’re a dev. This won’t be a problem for long for most apps.
  • Speaking of keyboards, I’m still getting used to the on-screen one. It’s technically big enough in landscape to use my pinky on both hands, but I’m still typing with six fingers and thumbs like I do on my Air. Having devoted number keys is awesome. Having devoted keys for brackets, apostrophes, etc. is nice, too. But I wonder what the thinking was behind removing gestures like the swipe up on comma to get an apostrophe. That gesture is so engrained in my head from my Air that I can’t stop doing it.
  • Experimenting more, I see that swiping up on certain keys, such as comma, period, semicolon, etc. gives you the same effect as if you had tapped shift first. That’s sort of handy, but it’s inconsistent. Why doesn’t the same gesture give me capital letters?
  • My text replacement shortcuts still haven’ synced from my iCloud accout. Why is that so inconsistent?
  • I’m really missing the ability to do multiple user accounts with this thing. It would be silly to buy two of these, and yet both Jessica and I would gladly share it for our various work tasks.
  • Battery life seems as good as any iPad, if not better. Glad they didn’t make it heavier by adding more battery.

In conclusion: using the Pro for the first hour or so, I didn’t feel drawn or connected to it. I liked it, but I didn’t feel affection for it, if that makes sense. Then again, I really loved my iPad mini, but I found myself using it very little. I wanted to hold it more than I wanted to use it for anything productive. I suspect the Air is the ultimate balance for the three iPad form factors. Having said that, I do think I’ll find plenty of uses for this larger one. And the more I use it, the more I seem to like it. It fits in my Waterfield Muzetto, just barely. So it is still as portable, from a practical standpoint, as my Air 2. But I imagine this device will stay at home more often than not. Unless I start seeing some apps that compel me to want to use it in the field, so to speak. If Apple were to make Mainstage, for instance, for this iPad, I’d take it on stage in a heartbeat. Perhaps as we see new apps arise, there will be more and more use cases where the Pro really shines.

More Space, More Buttons

Seeing this tweet a lot today in my timeline.

The comparison is wrongheaded, because the people sharing it are confusing points with pixels.

The original iPhone screen did indeed have 320 horizontal pixels. It was also a 1x screen, which means it had 320 points, as well.

The iPad Pro’s screen, on the other hand, is a 2X Retina screen. Thus, the 324 pixels between the app columns on the home screen represent 162pts, or roughly half the width of the original iPhone’s screen. Even that isn’t quite accurate, because the two screens also have different pixel densities. But the point is, the comparison makes no sense.

I am typing this on an iPad Pro, and I assure you, an original iPhone’s screen wouldn’t come close to fitting in between the home screen columns of the Pro.

More importantly, the point those who are sharing this are trying to make is also flawed. More space on the home screen does not mean we should jam pack it with more icons. Just because you have the space, that doesn’t mean you should fill it with more options. This is UX design 101.

I don’t know what the maximum number of icons on a screen is before the number of options becomes too confusing to the average user, but I’m willing to bet Apple does. I’m also willing to bet there’s value to having a little bit more consistency between the layouts of the various home screens of our iOS devices. Imagine setting up your new iPad Pro from a backup of your old iPad Air. Having all your apps not only restore, but restore to their familiar layout goes a long way to making that first run experience more familiar and pleasant.

“But the home screen just looks ridiculous with all that space between the icons.” This is an unbelievebly dumb reason to add another column or row of icons as well.

There’s no doubt in my mind Apple tested the Pro home screen with more densely packed icons and decided it was a bad idea. They obviously have the technical expertise to have the Springboard space icons in various ways, because they’ve done it with the various screen sizes of the iPhone. Perhaps in this case, the extra icons didn’t add value. Perhaps they have research from their customers that users find it annoying having inconsistent layouts. Who knows? The assumption that Apple is simply being lazy, or that average Twitter guy knows better is astounding, though.

Setlists 2.0

Setlists 2.0 finally hits the App Store today. It’s a huge update that involved not only tons of under-the-hood improvements to take advantage of Apple’s latest iOS technologies, but also the addition of a large number of our most requested new features. To say it was a massive undertaking is an understatement. The team really outdid themselves on this one.

Setlists 2

I can’t wait to use it on stage during the next few Airplane Mode gigs.

The most interesting aspect of this update for most of my readers, I’m guessing, is the change we’re making to our pricing strategy. For years, Setlists has always been a paid-up-front, “premium” app at $9.99 USD. This time around, though, we’ve decided to experiment with making the app free to download, with a single in-app purchase to unlock the app’s full potential.[1]

Will this make Setlists a better business for us? We’ve looked at a lot of other apps that have similar strategies, and we’ve tried to avoid the pitfalls others have warned us about—but time will tell what the results of our experiment will be.

One interesting way to look at this switch is that our marketing no longer has the burden of making the sale. Our web site, our screenshots, whatever press we get, whatever ads we buy—all of that now only needs to convince people to download and try the app. Still not an easy task, but it’s easier than asking them to fork over money for an app they’ve never used.

The app itself now has to make the sale. And that sits better with me. I’d rather be judged by the app than the ads we place for the app or how pretty our screenshots are. Whatever the downsides of freemium (and there are many) that one change is certainly a good thing.

We’re confident once musicians try Setlists, a large number of them will find it suits their needs. So much so that we made the price to unlock $14.99 rather than $9.99. This might not be a “free trial” officially, but as with a free trial, our buyers aren’t being forced to take as great a risk, and thus we can charge accordingly.

In any event, everyone at Bombing Brain is looking forward to much smaller, incremental updates for a long while after this.

  1. I know, we’re late to the freemium party, but we’re still not at all convinced that freemium is right for every app out there.  ↩

More on McDonald’s Promo Shots

As a follow up to my post yesterday, check out this video from McDonald’s Canada on the actual process they use for taking product shots.

(Thanks to @greghao on Twitter for the link.)

A couple of things I want to point out from this video:

  • Part of the reason for manipulating the burger is to be sure that all ingredients are visible in the shot. This is actually critical. If they just shot the burger as-is, and I didn’t see that it contained onions, for instance, I’d be pretty pissed when it arrived with onions. So the ingredients all need to be arranged to be hanging out of the bun. Something that would be of no concern for a production burger.
  • They spend a ton of time getting the photo correct, so that they need to do little in post-processing after the fact. This is good advice for us on our screenshots as well. If you have a content-rich app, especially, take the time to craft really good stand-in content, so you don’t have to massage it in Photoshop after the fact.
  • They spend several hours crafting this burger and setting it up to be shot. If you wanted your burger to look like the photos, in other words, you’d have to wait quite a while in that drive-thru line.
  • Note, the marketing director doesn’t seem at all concerned that making these changes, even the ones that are purely cosmetic, such as “repairing” dimples on the bun and moving the cheese around, is in any way unethical. She simply believes in showing the product in the best light possible. Her goal is to make the shot “appetizing.” (How eating the burger will make you feel.)
  • While Charles had quipped that the Special Sauce is applied with tweezers in our podcast discussion, they actually use a syringe.

Meanwhile, what, exactly, is the right side of a burger? The photographer mentions showing the right side of both burgers. Do round objects have sides?