At Subtraction, Khoi Vinh writes about the impressive original art work Apple has been commissioning for App Store editorials since the redesign the App Store received in iOS 11:
If you check the App Store front page a few times a week, you’ll see a quietly remarkable display of unique art alongside unique stories about apps, games and “content” (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.). To be clear: this isn’t work lifted from the marketing materials created by app publishers. It’s drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and/or animations that have been created expressly for the App Store.
We don’t see this particular flavor of artistic ambition from many companies today, especially tech companies. The predominant mode of product design almost exclusively favors templates and automation, what can be done without human intervention.
Khoi really emphasizes how uncommon something like this is in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general:
I can’t emphasize enough how truly unusual it is for a tech company to invest in editorial design at this scale.
I’ve noticed this artwork and have been continually impressed by it. I haven’t given it much thought beyond that, but I have, on multiple occasions, taken notice of — and been impressed by — these illustrations. The redesigned App Store was a welcome and necessary change. I long wanted Games and Apps to be separate categories, and the editorial pieces and accompanying art work bring a special feel to browsing the App Store: something that experience previously lacked.
Marco Arment released an update to popular podcast player Overcast on iOS, with a focus on privacy:
Your personal data isn’t my business — it’s a liability. I want as little as possible. I don’t even log IP addresses anymore…
…If I don’t need your email address, I really don’t want it….
Overcast 4.2 provides a new way to sync podcasts without using an account, and Marco has made the option to not use an email address the new default. Users who already have an email address associated with Overcast will be promoted to choose whether or not they want to keep it, and this decision can be made or reversed at any time.
Version 4.2 also now blocks tracking pixels, which some publishers use via remote images to gather more data:
Big data ruined the web, and I’m not going to help bring it to podcasts. Publishers already get enough from Apple to inform ad rates and make content decisions — they don’t need more data from my customers. Podcasting has thrived, grown, and made tons of money for tons of people under the current model for over a decade. We already have all the data we need.
It’s great to see this focus on privacy and security, even in something like a podcast app where some users may not even think about these issues. Overcast has long been one of my favorite podcast players, and indeed one of my favorite apps in general, with a consistent focus on user experience and a well-thought out design. It will be interesting to see if any other players in this sector will take a cue from Marco in future updates.
Overcast 4.2 is available for free on the iOS App Store with an in-app subscription of $9.99, and is available for both iPad and iPhone. There is a web player as well.
Okay, so it’s not exactly breaking news, but it’s been awhile since Workflow has been in a headline, and I felt it was due. It’s good to see that Apple is doing something with Workflow, at least.
The article, part of Apple’s push to provide daily editorial content in the App Store, shows users how they can use Workflow to stream any of their playlists quickly. It’s actually a good use for Workflow if you’re also an Apple Music subscriber, and something I’ve used it for in the past myself. I joke, but I am happy to see them acknowledge it and promote use of the app. There’s been a lot of doubt in the community since Workflow was acquired by Apple nearly a year ago, but I have continued to be optimistic about its future: be it as its own thing, or a more integrated part of the operating system.
I’m curious as to why they’ve chosen to feature it now. Perhaps this will lead to more stories in the future, until we see a definitive direction for Workflow. Or, perhaps one of the App Store editors is just a fan of the app and wanted to share how she uses it in a way that isn’t too niche.
Whatever the case, I’ll continue using Workflow until it’s absolutely impossible. If we’re lucky, 2018 will see some improvements or system integration. In the meantime, it’s free and also a good way to launch those playlists, so you may as well check it out. Also, it’s good for productivity stuff.
Sad news in the iOS Utilities category: Craig Pearlman has announced he will be ending development of his excellent iOS text utility, TextTool 2.
I’ve been a fan of TextTool since version one launched, and was excited to upgrade to version 2 fairly recently. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring in enough money to support development. This is a real shame. I’ve conversed with Craig a few times on Twitter and Slack and I can only imagine how much care he put into revamping TextTool for version 2 (though one doesn’t have to imagine if they’ve ever used the app; it shows).
TextTool was built out of love for iOS and the need to perform certain types of tasks. It started as a simple idea and grew. TextTool 2 was written to take this to the next level, to try to provide a desktop-class experience to a platform that needed it.
As he says in his post, he will be back; I don’t doubt that and I look forward to seeing what comes next from Blackfog Interactive. I’m the meantime, I hope somebody who can keep it true acquires TextTool 2.
It’s back to school time and Agile Tortoise is having a sale on two of their wonderful apps. For a limited time, you can grab Drafts (iOS) for $2.99, down from $4.99, and Interact (iOS | macOS) for $1.99 down from $3.99.
Interact is a great way to deal with contacts on iOS, but it’s biggest strength for me is the Scratchpad feature, which allows you to quickly and easily add new contacts, or update info for existing contacts, using plain text. The macOS version of Interact brings the scratchpad to your Mac as well. I definitely recommend it, even if you don’t deal with contacts on a daily basis (I don’t).
Drafts is where text starts on iOS. That tag line couldn’t be more true for me. I’ve been using Drafts since version 3 in 2013 and version 4, release back in 2014 and continually support since, has been and remains one of my go to, docked apps on all of my iOS devices. Drafts, and the pieces about it on MacStories are what got me into iOS automation – and eventually Workflow – in the first place. Luckily there are many actions available in the Drafts Action Directory so you can probably get started without any extensive knowledge of URL schemes. I highly recommend this app, and at $2.99 it’s a steal.
Johnny Lin tells of a scam in the form of a #10 Top Grossing productivity app on the Apple App Store with horrific grammar and spelling. Their app claims it can scan your entire device for viruses and malware — something that sandboxing on iOS does not allow — for an easy-to-miss $99.99 in-app purchase (and that’s just for a 7-day subscription). Lin explains better:
Touch ID? Okay! Wait… let’s read the fine print:
“Full Virus, Malware scanner”: What? I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for any app to scan my iPhone for viruses or malware, since third party apps are sandboxed to their own data, but let’s keep reading…
“You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription”
Uhh… come again?
It’s crazy that an app can get through the review like this, and crazier to me that enough people could fall for it, but alas it/they did. Working in customer support for an iOS app, it became clear that a lot of iOS users aren’t aware of sandboxing, or don’t understand how it works. Being educated on this fact would likely curb the number of victims in such a scam. Obviously there are bigger issues here, but it might help to educate less tech literate friends or family.