Surprise Functionality from a Moribund Product

When I moved to Japan I bought in the US two Sonos Play:1 speakers primarily to play music (Jazz & a martini when I got home) & Audible audiobooks in my living and bed rooms.

And then Sonos lost the ability to play Audible.

Plan B was to get a Play:5 and an Apple AirPort Express, both also from the US, and connect them together via audio cable. This allowed me to fire the speakers via AirPlay from my Apple devices. It worked, but imprecisely and with problems. I unhooked the Play:1 speakers (the problems) and they sat on a shelf for the better part of a year. The Audible audiobooks and podcasts from Overcast mostly worked streamed from my Apple devices. BTW, I had kept up with the developments from Sonos but did not think any of my devices were in scope, so I considered them moribund.

Here’s the thing: I spent a big chunk of my home furnishing budget on those damn “smart” speakers and then doubled down to get them to work. I ended up making many other ill-advised purchasing decisions to cover the sunk costs. Economists will tell you I made at least four incorrect decisions. I will tell you that four seems conservative.

Today I cleaned my apartment. I moved, hid, trashed, and organized many things while waiting for the rain storm that did not come. Part of my big tidying was the relocation of my older technology for repurposing. To do so, unplugging all the things was required including the Sonos Play:5, the one bit of my audio setup (with the AirPort)  still in occasional service.

In fiddling to fix audio problems I checked the Sonos iOS app. An update was pending, which I executed. Surprise, surprise! Suddenly the speaker gained AirPlay 2 functionality! And Audible!

It worked slightly better than the AirPort, so I unhooked its audio cable. Still good. On a whim I pulled the Play:1 speakers out of storage and powered them on. They worked, after upgrades and in the short window in which I tested them, better than they ever had.

I am fortunate to get some new value out of my purchases. These are still early days in the Sonos rehabilitation but I am guardedly optimistic. If they don’t end up panning out I am sure the person who buys them from me will enjoy them to no end with lower expectations.

P.S. – I will think long and hard before I buy another Sonos product. I’ve been advising friends and family to avoid their kit. If this pans out, maybe I will alter my tack.

Also on:

Apple Maps Japan Reboot Start Line

Apple Maps Japan Reboot Start Line:

Here are possible changes I will be on the lookout for:

  • Higher contrast cartography with better Japanese text labeling
  • Less map vomit: default view with far fewer, better designed icons and 3C icons reserved for map search
  • Intelligent indoor mapping for major Japanese stations
  • 3D mapping that doesn’t obscure surrounding map information
  • Traffic, Lane Guidance, Speed Limits and other missing iOS features of Apple Maps Japan
  • More Apple collected Japanese map information with missing pieces proved by top tier JP map supplier Zenrin. The less 3rd rate 3rd party JP map data from Yelp, Foursquare and IPC the better
  • Destination check lists: smart transit information that updates on the fly and lets me set more than one destination

It will be slow but slow, constant intelligent updates will get Apple Maps Japan where it needs to go and finally deliver a good service for Japanese iOS customers.

(Via Ata Distance)

Also on:

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts:

When you work in split view it can be hard to tell which app has the keyboard connected to it, there is no kind of indication outside of a blinking cursor if you are using a text editor that supports that.

One thing I have noticed that helps is if you quickly tap on the app you want to use the keyboard with. This isn’t ideal, but it is the best option I have found that works with iOS 11 as of now (and the iOS 12 beta as well).

(Via Tablet Habit)

When I was two weeks with only the iPad Pro I found this immensely frustrating. The suggested work around here did not work universally, for example with Reeder open on the left and Drafts 5 on the right when I triggered Drafts to receive input I could not switch back to Reeder for keyboard navigation.

Also on:

Dear Apple

Dear Apple:

macOS Mohave Messages app Location Thingy

Dear Apple Engineers,

Please add the Location thingy to macOS Mojave Messages app preferences and everything will be insanely great.

Love and Kisses,

Ata Distance

iMessages-Compared.png

(Via Ata Distance)

👍 Cannot agree more. 

Also on:

Still Wanted: Better iOS Physical Keyboard Support

Things 3.6 Reimagines External Keyboard Control on iPad

I’ve been able to play around with Things 3.6 on my iPad Pro for the past couple of weeks. This isn’t another “keyboard-centric” update that only adds a handful of shortcuts to trigger specific commands. Instead, the developers at Cultured Code have focused on an all-encompassing keyboard control framework for the whole app, from task lists to popovers and multiple selections. With version 3.6, Things has the best implementation of external keyboard support I’ve ever seen in an iPad app.

(Via MacStories)

I don’t use Things but love how their revamp redid their external keyboard support. I would love to see other app developers and Apple especially to embrace and implement something similar.

Sadly the WWDC keynote mentioned nothing about enhanced keyboard support.

Your Subscription Model Does Not Match Your Value

Here’s the problem we all face: you use an app and pay for it and every so often you drop some more cash on a major upgrade. Then the developer decides to go the subscription model and what they want per month exceeds the value and utility you get from the app. Yet there is no good replacement for the utility you glean.

Let’s be clear: unless the developer of the app delivers more value and utility quickly under the subscription model (where subscribers are paying more) and keeps up a reasonable pace, the model only benefits the developer. It might benefit the platform, like Apple and Google (I don’t know much about that bit.)

Now the app developer moved from selling a piece of software to providing a service. The service is fixed and finite in the scope and capability of the software, but that is the very service being sold.

I like the idea of a staged subscription model. It might be cumbersome for the developer, but I think it works out best for the user.

  • Version n-1 is free, full featured for that version and unlimited until version n+1 is released. Users can only expect security related patches as best effort.
  • Version n is paid one time, let’s say for $10. When version n+1 is released this becomes the free version. This gets bug and security fixes.
  • Version n subscription is $1.99 per month or $20 annual. This gets everything in the one time paid version plus new features that will be part of version n+1.

The idea is that n-1’s development is already paid for, so use it as a way to introduce people to your product. Version n should be paying for its upkeep and maybe some small piece of future development where the subscription option is very much about the next version.

Release timing is important. In this model I would expect a new release every 12 to 18 months. The subscription model always moves to the next release, the flat fee pays to move to the new release (maybe at a discount for a limited time) or else goes to the free release. Free folks always upgrade to the free release.

All of this is predicated on the developer having a solid business plan and that the Apple App Store can accommodate all of this in a useful way. Please feel free to adjust and fine tune or point out where I am wrong.

Escape!

Among my other optimistic outcomes of Apple’s upcoming event, I want Apple to acknowledge and embrace Escape.

I, of course, mean the ‘esc’ key on everyones’ keyboard – except for some recent Apple keyboards. But ‘esc’ is part of the TouchBar for some. But it’s not really a key and the Smart Keyboard for iPad doesn’t include it and … ugh.

Apple needs to get a clear vision about keyboards & pointers, what we used to call Human Interface Devices (HID).

If Apple doesn’t deal with this … well … someone at Apple can expect a stern note.

iOS 12: Geeky features iOS needs (Macworld)

iOS 12: Geeky features iOS needs (Macworld):

Get smarter with files

Commit to automation

App and interface updates

But wait, there’s more

This is not the end! The geeky-feature road goes ever on. So before I go, ponder:

  • Support for real developer tools, including Xcode and shell scripting (perhaps in a special “developer mode”).
  • Robust support for audio devices and routing and so that apps can record audio simultaneously, ideally so that a tool like Audio Hijack might actually be feasible on iOS.
  • Complete support for webRTC within Safari to enable video- and audioconferencing web apps.
  • Handoff for Music, so that I can switch from my iPhone to iPad to Mac and my playlists just keep picking up where they left off.
  • Support for multiple user accounts on iPad.
  • Sharing of full-resolution photos with family members in the Photos app, including shared libraries.
  • Multi-person FaceTime.

Do I expect Apple to fulfill all my dreams? No—I don’t really expect them to fulfill any of them.

(Via Six Colors)

Obviously I truncated the list. Read the article to see it in its full glory.

My big ask is still for better bluetooth and USB keyboard support. I would not mind some trackpad capabilities, too, but that seems a long shot.

In Japan we have need for better maps. I wish Apple would license Yahoo! Japan’s data here. We also need an update to the rendering engine.

Some other thoughts I can get behind:

iOS 12 Wishlist:

 

Keyboard Shortcuts for Share and Action Extensions: Application extensions are such a vital part of the platform. They give users the ability to process and move data between applications mitigating the downsides of a sandboxed operating system. But activating these extensions through the touch interface can be tedious at times — especially if you’re used to having some applications’ keyboard shortcuts available system-wide, as they are on macOS. Giving users the ability to setup custom keyboard shortcuts for their most-used extensions would greatly improve the speed and fluidity with which power users navigate their devices.

[…]

Clipboard History API: Clipboard managers are severely hindered on iOS by their inability to monitor clipboard changes in the background. This leads to clunky solutions that rely on the app’s Today View widget, action extension, or drag and drop. iOS should keep a clipboard history of a dozen items or so and let applications access it through a new API. Users would have to explicitly allow access to this data through a modal dialog in the same way they give access to their location. This would prevent nefarious developers from accessing your data without your knowledge while empowering an application category that has been limping along for the past decade.

 

 

(Via Feature – Initial Charge)

What else would you like to see?

Also on:

watchOS 5 wishlist: enable a Watch-first mentality

watchOS 5 wishlist: enable a Watch-first mentality:

Podcasts

With the introduction of Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular, Apple enabled its Music and new Radio app to function purely off the device’s LTE radio. Many of us thought they would follow suit with their Podcasts app, but that sadly hasn’t been the case. I think the stars may finally be aligning for this to happen in watchOS 5. This has been a long-time coming. Delaying this any further will be incredibly confusing as more people are consuming podcasts than ever before.

Related to my point above about enabling developers to build better apps: Apple should also explicitly give developers the tools to build their own podcast and music apps on Apple Watch.

UI Improvements

Apple has consistently improved the UI on Apple Watch ever since its introduction. I expect this trend to continue as time passes and Apple further understands how people use the device. Here are a few areas I’d like to see improvement in.

(Via One-Tech Mind)

The article lists other things, but nothing I care about. My big uses are Apple Pay Suica, Fantasical, Overcast, and the health aspects. My biggest pain point is performance, but I have a Series 1 device. Maybe I will drop some ¥ on a newer model without LTE.

What are you looking for?

Also on:

HomePod and the Apple Music Japanese Metadata Mess

HomePod and the Apple Music Japanese Metadata Mess:

Japan is one of most profitable music markets after the US market. If Apple wants to sell HomePod in Japan at some point, they’ll have to get their Apple Music Japanese metadata problem sorted out first.

(Via Ata Distance)

Read the whole article for examples of how Apple Music/iCloud Music/iTunes Match is a “hot mess”.