Many of us, iOS developers (full time or indie ones like me) are first and foremost Apple product lovers and Apple followers. If you are like me, when Steve Jobs passed away, you we're in a state of shock. But now, as time goes by, we start to look forward again. And we continue to love Apple's products and Apple in general. A few weeks ago, I started a new blog. A place where I can express myself on Apple After Steve Jobs. Today, I'm happy to report that this place is now open to you all, dear followers.
Entries in Apple (24)
Last weekend, the Çingleton 2011 Symposium was held in Montréal for the first time. This two day event was very enlightening and refreshing. It was about mobile application development and general trend in that field.
I attended this symposium and here is a brief summary of things that I've heard at the event.
Second, Apple legacy will be felt for a long time even after Steve Jobs passing away. What Apple does is provide users with great products and great user experience with them. And to achieve this, they are not afraid to take risks and try new things. We should too, as iOS developers do the same thing. Think design, think about the users, think about the experience should all be driving our development efforts.
Third, we should feel grateful just to be in the middle on all these technical advances and be able to make a difference. Even small ones.
Here is a few things that I've have heard on the floor at the event:
- Applications discovery is still a major problem for indie iOS developers. How do we get noticed in a 500 000 applications store?
- Android presence in the market is very real. Developers starts to think about the business value of porting iOS apps to the Android Market. Fragmentation is a real issue. More than 650 devices to test against.
- The iPad potential in story telling application is way under utilized. A few good apps exists in that area but their cost of development make them rare beasts.
- The analog world is more and more numerical. The use of natural user interaction models will help make the numeric nature of this world more approachable.
Finally, here is a few photo sets from this event.
My predictions aligns pretty much to those of www.9to5mac.com:
- iPhone 4S - A5 chip, 1gig of system ram, 8MP cam. Same physical design of iPhone 4. World phone. Same screen.
- iPhone 4 - 8gigs config, same components for the rest, new entry level phone.
- iOS 5 with iCloud launch. This is the real deal this year guys. Not the hardware.
- iOS 5 assistant (this is one of the cue from this year fall event title).
- iTune 10.5
- Updated iWork mobile and desktop
- Facebook integration like Twitter
- Facebook iPad app
- Slightly updated iPod touch.
- Slightly updated iPod nano.
- No more shuffle.
- No more classic.
- No "one more thing".
- iPhone 5 with 4" screen
- iPad 3 with retina display
As you know, notifications handling and management is a very popular topic among iOS enthusiasts. I can't remember all proposals that I stumbled upon in the last few weeks before WWDC 2011 keynote. Now that iOS 5 Notification Center is officially announced, I would like to compare Apple's implementation to my own proposal published a while back.
- Providing visual cue for the newly received notification
- Invocation method to access the notification stack
- Management of the notification stack
Invocation method to get to the notification stack
As many notifications can arrive in a very short period of time or simply during the day, a stack of notification is building. Apple proposes the two methods to open the process notifications: swipe from top to bottom starting at the status bar or swipe a notification from left to right while looking the lock screen. The first method will get the user to the notification center. The second method will let the user access the application responsible of the notification. By skipping the use of a stand alone application, Apple simplify the process of accessing the notification stack and provide a system wide invocation method without going back to the home screen.
[Scroll to bottom for the updated info following the WWDC 2011 keynote.]
In a previous blog post (iOS notifications: what are the problems?), I exposed the real issues that lies under the current implementation of iOS notifications. Those who think Apple is interested to buy the maker of Boxcar are misunderstanding the issues. The iOS notification backend is not the root of the problem. Nor is the way push notifications works. The problem is the user experience of handling push notifications. Boxcar is an application that helps you define triggers on Twitter or an RSS feed to get notified under certain conditions. This is not where Apple needs to invest its resources. What needs to be fixed is very simple:
- how do we present notifications to the user in a way that is less obstructive
- how the user can peek and manage the notification stack
In order to implement less obstructive notifications to the users, one must understand the stages of notifications:
- visual cue for new notifications
- invocation method to get access to the notification stack
- management of the notification stack
The first part of my proposal is to focus on the visual enhancement targeted at the status bar. The status bar could see the addition of a small icon just on the right. This icon would be present when the device just got a notification in the last hour (could be user-defined setting). For lightly used device, the icon shouldn't be there too often. For heavily connected users, it could be always there because of frequent notifications. In that case, the notification icon could disappear once the users visit the notification stack (more on that later). In general, the proposed behaviour is pretty much the same as the one we experience with the location services pointing arrow.
- Low battery warning
- Location services usage permission request
- All other notification requiring immediate user acknowledgement
- swipe gesture on the status bar
- introduction of a notification space in the task switcher
- notifications app with a red badge
A swipe gesture could be a vertical gesture: from the status bar to the bottom. Then, a special view would take over the home screen (a little bit like the search view) to display the notification stack. There is a small problem with this scenario: the status bar is already responsive to a single tap in order to scroll the current view to the top of the displayed data. So this could be problematic.
|Notifications sorted by time|
|Notifications sorted by applications|
|Standard visual organization for notification's detailed view|
|Notification's detailed view example|
To get a more complete proposal, we have to define what kind of notifications do we expect to put there:
- calendar notifications
- missed calls
- sms message
- location-based notifications (introduced in iOS 4)
- app store updates available (why not!)
- long lasting task completion from backgrounded apps
- clock notifications
- Game Center notifications
- event-based notifications (checkins)
Apple should provide the following settings in Notification section of the Settings.app:
- to let the user see immediately a notification (this is the current obstructive way)
- quiet periods: start, end, weekdays, holidays, all day, repeat
- how long to display notification visual cue
- how long to keep notifications in the stack: days, weeks, months
- sort notifications by date or by application
- notification flag in the status bar: always, for notifications in the last N hours, M days
PS: MacStories.net has another interesting point of view on iOS notifications. Good read.
[Update 1] Something very nice is MobileNotifyer: This is iOS notifications done right (video). Very cool.
[Update 2] Another take on this famous problem: http://talkingpengwin.com/re-design-of-the-ios-notification-system. I think my proposal is better though.
[Update 3 - After the WWDC 2011 Keynote] I just finished looking at the Apple video presenting the Notification Center. I'm happy to see that they essentially did what I wanted. In fact, instead of a dedicated application for managing notifications, they managed to put all this into a scrolled-down view. Access is also more direct as you can swipe on the lock screen a notification to directly get to the right app that handle the notification. The user of the rotating block at the top is also in line with the status bar while a call is in progress while switching to another app. This make the visual user experience more coherent. Stay tuned for a more complete analysis.
Next are web sites with representatives attending the keynote.
This year, AppleInsider is using CoverItLive. In the past, they always had a useful coverage of Apple events.
MacRumors is using a automatically refreshed page with new comments at the top. Again, simple web page, light with pictures. Kind of prefer it to CoverItLive format.
Engadget is using a chat room coupled with a web page. I like to have a more critical point of view at Apple event other than MacRumors or AppleInsider.
Stay tuned for more.
As you can see, iOS 5 could bring very cloud centric new APIs that ties together a revamped MobileMe with iOS and Mac OS X. I can wait for iPhone 5. Another great take on the subject: WWDC 2011 may be all software, signaling change in iPhone strategy.