Tag Archives: macworld

Christopher Breen Reviews the new Podcasts App

Podcasts Version: 1.0 Review | iPhone and iPad Entertainment App | Macworld:

Apple’s new Podcasts app is a welcome step to bringing attention to audio and video podcasts that were previously buried in the Music app. But while it has some good things going for it, it’s a step that’s not yet fully realized.

(Via www.macworld.com)

This is Marco Arment’s Starbuck’s theory playing out. Rather than threatening current podcasts applications on the App Store, Apple’s Podcasts app is more likely to raise awareness of Podcasting in general, and therefore ultimately increase the audience for apps like Instacast, iCatcher, or my personal app of choice – Downcast

For many, many people, Apple’s app will do just fine. But it won’t be long until a good number of new podcast fans gets frustrated with Apple’s limitations and decides to go for a more “pro” solution.

I’d love to see sales numbers for apps like Downcast over the next six to twelve months. 

One of the biggest challenges for marketing an app is raising awareness of the “problem” your app solves. You need to convince people that they have the problem in the first place. In a sense, Apple is doing that marketing for these developers. 

Lex Friedman on Clear 1.0.1

Clear Version: 1.0.1 Review | iPhone and iPad Productivity App | Macworld: “I don’t object to Clear’s efforts at using non-traditional actions; I support a developer’s right to be clever, and I freely admit that it’s both fun and cool to drag down to create a new task, or pinch to go back up a level. But it sometimes feels, perhaps, cuter than necessary. Is it really a benefit to lack buttons like New Task or Back?”

(Via . Macworld)

I’m glad Lex Friedman had the guts to say this. He seems to be the only one. From the press going around Clear over the past few weeks, you’d think Realmac had invented the wheel, or something.

Now, I do like Clear; I find it great for entering quick lists of tasks, now that I’ve gotten the hang of it. But all the praise it’s getting for it’s “brilliant” UI seems to be more of a piling on of designers stroking each other than anything else.

Yes, simplicity is always a goal. Yes, the Steve Jobs philosophy of removing rather than adding is a great driving force. But there is such a thing as taking it too far, and I think Clear is just on the cusp of taking it too far.

There’s a point where you make the thing so simple that it becomes less useful than it could be.

All the raving about the pinching for everything in this app is just weird to me. Pinching on an iPhone is not something I want to be doing all the time. For starters, I have to use two-hands to pinch, and that already is a big fail on a phone. And 9 times out of ten, when I’m trying to pinch something open, Clear mistakes my pinch for something else, or does nothing. So I’ll come out and say it: the pinching in this app sucks, to be frank.

As soon as I realized that I could accomplish all the same things without pinching I was happier. But that in and of itself is practically an admission that pinching constantly is awkward. So why base your whole UI on it?

And while the app is clever in its use of minimalism, you can’t honestly say that it’s intuitive. The tutorial that comes at first launch is nice, but it’s also absolutely necessary; this app is not easy to figure out without it. Hand Clear over to someone without that tutorial, and he or she would be lost. Heck, I know a few people who watched the tutorial and STILL didn’t get it.

Friedman is right on when he says “you can expect to make the wrong thing happen with alarming consistency.” I’m constantly swiping the wrong way and deleting, rather than checking off, a completed task. And pulling down to go back up in the hierarchy (while better than pinching) is somewhat of a “crapshoot” as he puts it. I’m very often creating new tasks whether I intended to or not.

And don’t get me started on the character limit. There’s no reason for it, other than someone on the design team didn’t like the way longer tasks “looked”. Aesthetic over function. Not a good thing.

I get that this is a 1.0. I get that Clear will be adding an iPad and Mac version soon, and I assume, synching all your tasks between them. That’s good. I’m sure even some of these weird quirks will be overcome. This app is coming from a great development team with a good track record, so it’s likely the app will get even better over time. But in it’s current state, it’s more interesting and promising than it is great.

And I would still even recommend Clear to some people, because it is very good for entering tasks very quickly, and it’s only 99 cents, for crying out loud. But hailing it up as the most amazing example of super-duper designed app genius seems a bit over the top to me. It’s a solid app with some decent innovative thinking behind it. Let’s just leave it at that.

Gaming the App Store Rankings

Apple warns developers against gaming App Store rankings | Macworld:

For many developers, Apple’s warning, and the fact that it appears to be cracking down on apps that take advantage of these means, is definitely a positive. For one thing, it helps level the playing field for those trying not just to make a hit, but a living developing software.

“There are plenty of developers who work very hard to produce quality apps,” The Iconfactory’s Craig Hockenberry wrote in an email to Macworld, “and we’re all happy to see Apple kick these scammers to the curb.”


(Via www.macworld.com)

Dan Moren over at Macworld did a great job with this article. I’m glad someone is bringing the issue some attention, lest App Store customers get the impression that the majority of developers are more like snake oil salesmen than legitimate small business owners.

I suppose to some extent we should expect the hucksters to come in and try to make a quick grab for a million dollars off the latest trend. But I hope that it’s clear to at least a good number of App Store customers that we’re not all in it for fame and fortune. Some of us, as the article points out, really do just want to make a decent living and escape life in a cubicle. We’re in it for the long haul.

I talk about this constantly with my partners at Bombing Brain Interactive. The long term goal: be able to continuously make a living designing and building great products. No Lamborghinis or cruises around the world required. Just make enough to keep going and not have to work a “day job.” Support our families doing something we love, and make customers happy in the process.

There’s no short cut to achieving that goal. You work your butt off and keep trying to improve your apps, and hope that you get enough buzz and word of mouth going to keep feeding you.

The sooner the get-rich-quick scammers move on to the next big thing, the better off we’ll all be. I’m just surprised it’s taking this long for them to realize that most are falling flat on their faces. As long as they’re still around, the rest of us have to keep fighting the negative public perception.

Leaving the legacy code behind

Yes, it means acquiring a copy of Windows and yet another copy of Quicken, but it does provide you with a version of Quicken that’s more feature-packed than the one Intuit’s shipping for the Mac, you’re likely to get new features sooner with a Windows version, and, unlike with your current situation, your copy of the application won’t go the way of the dodo because of an operating system upgrade.

I find it odd that of the many solutions offered here in Breen’s piece, none of them is “dump Quicken.” He spells out the options of sticking with Snow Leopard rather than upgrading, dual booting from two OS X versions, complaining about Apple dumping Rosetta in vain, and installing Windows via Boot Camp or virtualization software and then running Quicken through Windows. But nowhere does he mention what is to me the best alternative. Keep moving forward, and dump any software that doesn’t keep up with the times.

If Intuit is too stupid, too arrogant, too in control of this market to see an obvious trend towards Apple’s products, then they deserve to go the way of the dodo. Instead we’re rewarding them for their lack of vision.

Now, I understand Breen’s position, because a lot of his readers no doubt really do feel with products like Quicken that there aren’t any viable alternatives. It’s fair to explore a Windows partition as one alternative to this situation.

But before screwing up every other aspect of my computer workflow, installing alternate operating systems, sacrificing file space, peace of mind, the latest and greatest features etc.—before embarking on anything that inconvenient, I’d make DAMN sure there truly weren’t any viable alternatives.

Heck, I’ll do my finances with an abacus and pencil before I let Quicken take my iMac hostage in this way. Maybe I’m in the minority of Macworld readers who would agree, but why not at least mention the possibility?

Intuit clearly doesn’t care about Mac users. That message is clear. So how many years does this inconvenient kludge of a solution buy you? How long do you put up with Quicken through VMWare and Windows before finally realizing that you have to move on? If Quicken isn’t bothering to keep its Mac version up to date in the face of the Mac’s consistent outpacing the industry in growth, what are the chances Quicken will ever make it to the iPad, which will likely be our main computers a few years from now? Are we going to keep an old PC in the garage running just to keep Quicken alive?

My point is, sooner or later you’ll give up Quicken. Why not do it now?

Extinction is part of the natural evolution of the software industry. Don’t help products marked for extinction limp along; kill them faster, and better alternatives will appear sooner.

Me, I’m already looking for replacements for Photoshop and Illustrator, two programs that I rely on every day, which aren’t nearly as behind the Mac curve as Quicken, but that I’d love to see dead sooner rather than later. Why? Not because I hate Adobe, but because these products have thrived too long because they are a necessity, rather than a benefit to the ecosystem. They are holding back innovation, plain and simple. And the more we finance them, the longer they live to abuse us. Who knows how many years it will take before Photoshop takes advantage of any of these cool new Lion technologies: Versions, Auto-Save, iCloud, etc.?

I don’t plan on sitting around to find out. I may not have found my “Photoshop killer” yet, but I’m investing in all the alternatives, encouraging them to keep working on it.