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“Twitter Moments the Concept is Great. Twitter Moments the Product is a Disaster.”

Josh Dickson:

Twitter is obsessed with the celebrities that use its platform, and this is hardly the first time that Twitter takes their content and shoves it down your throat. Twitter’s new user sign up flow is a digital red carpet where only the most famous A-listers are welcome. If you’ve ever made a new Twitter account and left email notifications on by accident, you’ve seen the results.

Twitter’s obsession with celebrity has long felt to me like the same celebrity worship of the Old Media it was meant to subvert. I haven’t spent a lot of time with Moments yet, but if this really a primary focus, it’s disappointing.

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[Updated] An unordered list of arguably key features that iOS and Apple’s apps lack from their Mac counterparts

There are plenty of “I wish Apple would add this” to iOS posts floating around, but I want to focus on something more specific: iOS and Apple’s core apps that are missing important features from their Mac counterparts.

A few of these have bugged me for a while, but I also put this idea to Twitter and got some great recommendations from followers:

  • Contacts can see Groups created on the Mac, but cannot create groups or add contacts to them.
  • Calendar lacks a natural language input system (example: Lunch with Mel Thursday 11:30am) – thanks Rob Wensing
  • Photos can see folders of albums created in Photos for Mac, but cannot create folders or add albums to them.
  • Faces features in Photos are pretty lacking. You can search for Faces you’ve added on Mac, but there is no way to view a full list or add faces on iOS.
  • Smart anything lists from apps like Mail (folders) and iTunes (playlists). Music at least gained the ability to see said lists recently, but it still can’t create them.
  • A ‘Get Info’ panel in Music and Video, like iTunes for Mac, to edit media details – thanks Karan Varindani
  • GarageBand for Mac can import audio from just about anywhere and any supported files. The iOS version is severely limited in this regard – thanks Darren

Honorable mention: there is still no way to just view a Mac App Store link on iOS – thanks Adam Stahr.

I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list. What am I missing?

Update:

  • The ability to set default apps for things like email, browser, contacts, and calendar – thanks Benjamin Roethig.
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[Updated] The trouble with having two Apple IDs

Update

Apple now has a feature called Family Sharing. Among other things, it allows for sharing purchased content and apps between multiple Apple IDs in an account. Read more about how it works on Apple’s site, as it solves mout, possibly all, of the trouble mentioned here.


The public release of Apple’s music subscription service ‘Apple Music’ brought my one major gripe with Apple’s account system into focus again: The fact that Apple doesn’t allow merging of Apple IDs will mess with your ability to make use of iCloud Family Sharing and the Apple Music Family Membership.

How to end up with two Apple IDs

I have two accounts with Apple. One is the iTunes ID that I created when I bought my first Apple device in 2004 — a 4th generation iPod, thankyouverymuch, and yes it still works nicely. The other was created when I bought my first Mac in 2008 and signed up for a MobileMe address.

When Apple introduced iCloud in 2011, all MobileMe accounts were converted into iCloud accounts and became Apple IDs, with all the capabilities of an Apple ID used in the iTunes and App Store. That’s where the problems started because many users were left with two Apple IDs and no way to merge them.

Since Apple made this change, they’ve provided a way for their customers to use a different Apple ID for signing into iTunes and iCloud when setting up a new Mac or iOS device. It’s inelegant, but it has worked well so far because iTunes, App Store, and personal content stored in iCloud didn’t intersect until last year.

Where things get really inconvenient

When iCloud Family Sharing was introduced in June 2014, this configuration became a problem for anyone with two Apple IDs and the desire to share content with their family, because Apple doesn’t provide a way to set up iCloud Family sharing for two different accounts. Depending on the way a person has been using the two Apple IDs, certain content is going to be permanently unavailable for Family Sharing.

Essentially, I can either decide to share my Apple Music subscription, along with my music, movie, TV, books, and app purchases with my family; or I can decide to easily and privately share calendars and photos — the latter is something we love doing in my family. And really, I don’t want to have to decide.

Best case and worst case scenarios

Lucky for me, the case above is a best case scenario. I have diligently separated my iTunes/App Store purchases and data stored in MobileMe/iCloud from the get-go, resulting in all my media purchases being linked to my original iTunes ID from 2004(1) and all my iCloud data being associated with my MobileMe address from 2008(2).

Theoretically, anyone who is in the same situation can manually migrate personal data like calendars, events, reminders, notes, and contacts to the Apple ID/iCloud account that is linked to their iTunes and App Store purchases, and continue to use the other iCloud account for email(3), but the process is far from trivial.

The worst case scenario applies to all cases where a user hasn’t made sure to make all app purchases with just one of the two accounts. Only Apple has the ability to accomplish anything here.

Pitfalls of merging Apple IDs

With my limited knowledge of Apple’s account and data structures, there are two issue I can think of as to why they haven’t come forward with a solution for this problem:

  1. Syncing complex data isn’t easy and the potential for data loss or corruption is very high.
  2. Apple needs to make sure no one gains access to another persons data by merging Apple IDs.

Personally, I find the former issue to be much worse than the latter because the latter is a matter of effective authentication(4).

With all that said, merging the purchase history of two Apple IDs and the personal data in both accounts is not impossible, and should be solvable for a company like Apple.

  1. Which amouts to eleven years of occasional music, movie, TV show, book, and application purchases.
  2. These are thousands of emails in my MobileMe/iCloud account, associated with three different aliases that I use constantly. Also my PIM data and iMessage history.
  3. Apple allows users to sign in with more than one iCloud account on a Mac or iOS device. The secondary account can be used for email, notes, calendars, and reminders, but things like Family Sharing, Find my Device, iCloud Keychain, etc. can not be used with it.
  4. An idea for solving the latter problem would be to create a secure environment, like a dedicated iOS app in which a user can log in with both Apple IDs to authenticate themselves, preferably with more than just the login credentials. Only if the authentication is successful will Apple have the permission to actually initiate the account merging process.
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iOS 9: New keyboard tools on iPad are game changers

I am generally not one for hyperbole (unless I’m joking around). But the new keyboard tools Apple added to iPad in iOS 9 really do feel significant.

Predictive bar has more tools

For example, if you have the predictive text bar enabled, there are dedicated tools for copy, copy, paste, and undo on the left (tip: swipe up and down at the top of the keyboard to toggle this bar). Both the left and right side are contextual too, allowing apps like Notes to display custom controls such as font, style, and drawing tools.

Move faster than a Mac

This is my favorite: If you tap anywhere on the keyboard with two fingers, all the keys disappear and you can now move the cursor anywhere you want. Of course you can still tap anywhere you want to place the cursor, but this is really nice for frequent fine-grained placement. The best part is that, once it became habit for me, this felt faster than working with text on a Mac. 

Instead of having to grab a mouse, find the pointer on the screen, then move it to where I want, tapping with two fingers means I’m already in control where the cursor is, and I simply need to drag and drop where it should go. After spending time with this since WWDC, this really does feel faster to me now.

Faster selecting

This is another two-finger tip: if you tap once with two fingers, you’ll select the word closest to the cursor. Now place two fingers again, start dragging around, and you will continue selecting text and lines that you drag over as if you had grabbed the right selection marker.

This is another habitual change, especially coming from a Mac, but it really is starting to feel faster for me than working on a Mac.

Court orders restitution, fines in first-ever victory against a delayed Kickstarter | Polygon

I realize failure happens, and it’s good, and necessary, to learn from it. But I don’t think crowdfunding is the place to do your failing. Get your learn on somewhere else. Here, you need to deliver.

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iOS 9’s incredible, disappearing back button

iOS 9's new contextual back button, giving me an easy way to return to Newsify after tapping a bank notification

iOS 9’s new contextual back button, giving me an easy way to return to Newsify after tapping a bank notification

New in iOS 9 is a universal, contextual back button on the left side of the status bar. When you tap something in App A that takes you to App B, this back button appears as a fast, easy way to get back to what you were doing. Whether you use it or just leave it for a bit, it disappears.

Example: you’re reading email in Spark or Dispatch, and you tap a link to open it in Safari. You’ll switch to Safari, and a “Back to Spark/Dispatch” button appears in the status bar. Handy.

When notifications attack

The interesting thing I’ve found is this behavior also kicks in if you tap a notification to switch between apps. This makes it especially handy to get back because App A didn’t send you to App B, App B’s notification did.

Example: I was writing in Day One when I received a Slack notification. I tapped it, Slack opened, I saw what I needed, then tapped the new back button to continue journaling.

Yeah, but

It’s worth noting this new behavior has some valid criticism. There isn’t much room in the status bar, so the back button covers both your mobile and wifi signal indicators. In some situations, you might switch apps to get something internet related, but nothing happens. Turns out your signal is weak, but you can’t check, and there’s no way to clear the button; you have to fall back to your homescreen or wait until it disappears.

[Update: Thanks to @rolphus, you can check your signal strengths fairly quickly by pulling down Notification Center. I haven’t had much time to test this, but it sounds like a good compromise.]

Maybe iOS 9’s new back button could cover the time instead of signal (hey, we all wear a watch now, right?), maybe it could be a single or multi-row colored band like the in-call and navigation banners. That’s for smart UI people to figure out.

Here’s the thing

As we switch between more and more apps to get things done, it became more obvious that we need a faster way to do the actual switching. The iOS app switcher has been ok and it’s still useful in a number of cases. But this new button answers that call to jump faster specifically between your two recent apps, or back to the actual thing you’re doing.

Of course, we can’t discuss this button without acknowledging Android has done something like this with hardware for a long time. But Android’s button is severely flawed and confusing because its behavior has never offered context or direction. Will I go back a webpage or switch apps? Will I switch apps or wipe out this note I’m writing?

In my time testing iOS 9, I think Apple’s approach is very well done. Excluding any possible UI tweaks, this button does a great job of appearing when you need it, and not wasting space when you don’t. Among the many other workflow improvements coming in iOS 9, it makes working in iOS refreshingly faster.