Digital Touch is the New Floppy Drive

Should the analog headphone jack remain on our devices forever? If you think so, you can stop reading. If not, when?

– John Gruber, Headphone Jacks Are the New Floppy Drives

Will your car always have wheels? If we agree it won’t, then why don’t we remove them now? This argument makes literally no sense. Neither the lightning port nor bluetooth are superior replacements for the standard headphone connector. Then again this is from the guy who brought us this unforgettable gem. What a revelation that digital touch on the Apple Watch turned out to be, bringing 16 year olds together the world over.

I literally can’t wait for my Twitter stream to be filled with “What’s the big deal, just buy an adapter” tweets come September.

Google Goes One Better

Now Google plans to up the ante at its app store: It will also move from a 70/30 split to 85/15 for subscriptions — but instead of requiring developers to hook a subscriber for 12 months before offering the better split, it will make it available right away.

Not to be outdone, Google has their own 85/15 deal for subscriptions, but doesn’t require you to wait a year. Interesting. Can we please continue this competition until the revenue split for paid apps is also 85/15? No? Come on, a developer can dream…

App Store Changes

Interesting blog post from Apple today: https://developer.apple.com/news/?id=06082016a. Covered on The Verge and Daring Fireball

Search Ads is an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app directly within the U.S. App Store search results, helping customers discover or reengage with your app, while respecting their privacy. Starting this summer, you’ll be able to participate in the Search Ads beta and see the ads in action.

Awwww hell no. App Store search is broken enough, the last thing developers need is paid ads. This is pure and simple, a way for Apple to make more money and that’s ok, they are a business after all. The App Store search page must get a crazy amount of hits per day, why not make some money off that? It’s a perfectly reasonable move on Apple’s part, but Apple Press for the love of Zuul please let’s stop pretending that they are some kind of Shining White Knight of a company that eschews this sort of thing. There’s nothing good here for developers or customers, this is just Apple helping Apple.

We’re opening auto-renewable subscriptions to all app categories including games, increasing developer revenue for eligible subscriptions after one year, providing greater pricing flexibility, and more.

This on the other hand is a big improvement to subscriptions. The 70/30 split is dropping to 85/15 after one year of a subscriber being on your system and they are expanding the list of apps that can use subscriptions. The Internet is all abuzz with what this means for us lowly indie app developers, but honestly this seems more geared at things like Netflix & Sketch than it does to apps like Pocket Weather and Pocket Casts. My one fear is that desperate developers will jump on this and try to turn every app into a paid subscription. If that happens (and it’s a big if) it could easily lead to customer fatigue and all sorts of blowback. This will be something to keep an eye on for sure.

Finally, Schiller says that the App Store has been speeding up app review times — to the point where 50 percent of submitted apps are now reviewed in 24 hours, and 90 percent are reviewed within 48 hours.

Let’s end on a high note. This is a MASSIVE win for developers. I’m willing to ignore the fact that we took 8 years to get to this point just because it makes me so happy to see Apple publicly saying that these review times are here to stay. Just this week I submitted an update to Pocket Weather that was approved in about 16 hours. That’s game changing vs the 7 days+ we used to have to wait. My eternal gratitude to whoever solved this one, hopefully once and for all.

It’s a Design Language World

Fellow Relay FM host Jason Snell wrote an interesting article comparing Google in the naughties to Microsoft in the 90s.

Open Google Docs for iOS and you’re whisked into a Material Design world. To create a new document, you must tap a large red circle at the bottom right corner of the screen. The options icon is three vertical dots, rather than the three horizontal dots favored by Apple. Menus display in Material Design style, white cards on a gray background.

Full Article

He argues that much like Microsoft was in the 90s, Google is now pushing a design language that is common across platforms and that in contrast Apple isn’t (as evidenced by Apple Music on Android). While I agree with some of what Jason is saying, I feel as if he’s so dangerously close to an epiphany. I’d argue that all the big companies now have their own design languages that they push across all their platforms, and that Google is the only one to actually give it a name.

Allow me to elaborate. Every time I head to iTunes Connect or iCloud.com I’m presented with web apps that look like iOS apps. We have iOS launcher style icons on blurred backgrounds, we have iOS style navigation, heck we even have pop-up boxes to notify you of events and errors. Everything about these ‘web apps’ screams iOS. So it would be easy for me to pen an article about how Apple doesn’t respect the web, or Windows. But they respect Android, right? Their music app changed 2 icons on the player screen! It turns out Apple actually have a huge sample size of 2 apps, which we can look at to see if they respect the Android platform. Here is the second one:

Fits right in on Android. Totally.

Fits right in on Android. Totally.

Yes readers there’s nothing the least bit iOS looking about that app. At all.

The truth is that Apple has a design language that they have chosen and they are applying it everywhere too. They haven’t named it ‘Apple Design’ or ‘TiLTOWB’ (Tiny Light Text On White Backgrounds) but it’s there, everywhere you look. Microsoft does the same, they have their ‘authentically digital’ design aesthetic that you see on Windows 10, Xbox, iOS and elsewhere.

So yes, Google is trying to apply Material Design to all platforms, but so is every other big tech company out there. Apple does it. Microsoft does it. Spotify does it. Facebook does it. As to whether they actually should, or each company should develop a unique aesthetic for each platform, well that’s another debate entirely.