June 2013

For You, the New-to-iOS Developer, Change is Good

ios 7 developmentAs I mentioned in my previous article, iOS 7 represents more than a change in Apple’s approach to their mobile device user interfaces; it also represents an opportunity for developers who’ve been putting off learning how to build native iOS apps to get started. iOS 7 is the latest in a series of changes that makes the present time the best time for a new developer to try their hand at making apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, which include:

Changes at Apple, which in turn will be reflected in their products and technology.

This is only the start of the first wave of products that come after the era of Steve Jobs (the tastemaker) and Scott-Forstall (the technologist), who both brought their own set of design and technology decisions to iOS. Jony Ive, who’s been responsible for Apple’s brilliant chassis designs, is now doing overall design, which includes user interfaces. On the technology side, Craig “Hair Force One” Federighi’s role has expended from just Mac OS to include iOS. While both the old and new guard seem to follow the Apple credo of “a thousand no’s for every yes”, Ive’s and Federighi’s decisions will likely be quite different from those that Jobs and Forstall would’ve made.

Changes in the tools and technology used to build iOS apps.

One of the reasons many people stay away from native iOS app development is that it looks hard. It didn’t help that iOS development required two separate applications, Xcode for code writing and Interface Builder for laying out and setting up user interfaces. Interface Builder is now built into Xcode, and this new, unified application has been refined so that it seems odd to think that they were once separate programs. At the same time, the Objective-C programming language and compiler have undergone a fair amount of modernization. If you have some experience with any currently popular object-oriented programming language, whether it’s C#, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby or Visual Basic, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty making the leap to Objective-C.

Changes in the design philosophy and user interface of iOS.

Before the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, smartphone interaction took place on a physical keyboard, with a trackball, stylus, or wheel acting as a secondary pointing device. iOS veered away from this familiar interface and made the touchscreen the primary input device. This new touch-based interface needed controls that clearly gave away their purpose, and this led to making them look like their physical counterparts: push buttons, toggle switches, dials, and so on. Six years have passed since the introduction of the iPhone, and most mobile devices use the touchscreen as their primary interface. While iOS’s user interface made sense in the world of 2007, in 2013, iOS’ user interface can cast off the “training wheels” it provided to users.

All these changes, taken together, mean that you can approach iOS it as if it were a completely new platform — one that just happens to have a large (and the most active) user base. This “perfect storm” of changes doesn’t happen often — perhaps once a decade — so if you’ve been putting learning iPhone and iPad native app development for “the right moment”, I have news for you: that right moment is now.

You’ll Need to Enroll in the iOS Developer Program

ios developer program enrollment page

You can get the tools for the current version of iOS simply by being enrolled in Apple’s free developer program, but in order to get an early developer look at iOS 7, you need to be registered in the iOS Developer Program. It’s only US$99 a year for individual developers, and it gives you access to all the advance information about iOS 7, as well as the ability to submit your apps for sale in the App Store. The sign-up process is fairly quick, and you can start it at Apple’s iOS Developer Program enrollment page.

Once you’re enrolled, you can start downloading the development tools and iOS 7 for your iDevice, as well as access the resources that they’ve made available to developers.

Getting the Xcode 5 Preview and iOS 7 SDK

xcode preview iconIn order to build iOS 7 apps, you’ll need the Preview version of Xcode 5, the next version of Apple’s IDE. It comes with the iOS 7 beta SDK, which includes the iOS Simulator, which lets you test your apps before deploying them to a real device (or try them out if you don’t have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch handy). It has a different name from the current version of Xcode (the current version is Xcode, the preview is called Xcode5-DP), and both versions can be on the same Mac at the same time.

Normally, you would simply get Xcode by downloading it for free from the Mac App Store. However, Xcode 5 is a preview and has not yet been released; you have to download it from the Apple Developer site.

Point your browser at the iOS Dev Center. If you’re properly registered in the iOS Developer Program, you should have the options of looking at resources for iOS 6.1 and iOS 7. Naturally, you should select iOS 7 SDK beta, after the page should look like the screen capture below:

ios dev center - ios 7 beta

You can click on the Downloads link under the Resources for iOS 7 beta heading, or simply scroll down. Either way, you’ll end up in the same place, where you’ll see this:

xcode 5 developer preview Click the Xcode 5 and iOS 7 SDK beta link to start the download. It’s a .dmg file that’s 1.73 GB in size, and when double-clicked, mounts a disk image and opens the window shown in the screen capture below:

xcode dmg window

It’s a straight-forward drag-the-app-to-the-Applications-folder-alias install, and you’re done!

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iphone running ios 7

The New iOS

iOS 7 was saved for last at Apple’s WWDC 2013 keynote, and rightfully so: it was the announcement that the iFaithful were waiting for. In case you’ve been busy and haven’t yet had a chance to see it in action, here are a couple of videos to get you started. First, the trailer: a 7-minute 29-second promo video with Apple’s “right brain” Sir Jony Ive tackling the visual design aspects and Apple’s new “left brain” Craig Federighi describing the new functionality.

Few companies know how to send subtle messages the way Apple does, whether in their user interfaces or their marketing, so the contrast between Ive (the visual design guy; with no hair, V-neck T-shirt, and an English accent) and Federighi (the software guy; with the coiff that earned him the nickname “Hair Force One”, collared shirt, and an American accent) is an interesting one. I’m certain that “has a personal style that’s quite different from Jony’s” wasn’t the reason they picked Craig to be Senior Vice President of Software Design, but it would be very un-Apple not to play it up. It says “We’ve got looks and brains; a beautiful, usable interface, and some great underlying technology to boot”.

If you’d rather watch the actual WWDC presentation, here are those 33 minutes that were devoted to iOS 7. Jony’s not into doing keynotes, so Craig took the reins. He’s a solid presenter; I’m looking forward to seeing him do more demos in future Apple announcements:

The Changes in iOS 7

ios 7

This is the first post-Seve Jobs/Scott Forstall version of iOS, and it shows. As Jon “Daring Fireball” Gruber wrote in his post-keynote article:

…in some ways Apple’s software design has gotten better, because it was Jobs (and Forstall) who had a penchant for exuberant textures and gimmickry. Jobs’s taste in hardware was nearly perfect, but his taste in software had a weakness for the saccharine. Wood grain, linen, Rich Corinthian leather, etc. It was all just sugar for the eyes. This is a weakness Jony Ive’s software taste clearly does not suffer.

Application designers and developers generally take their cues from the designers of their target operating systems. iOS shared Steve Jobs’ taste for skeuomorphic, and it showed in app such as the built in Compass, with its polished wood and brass UI:

old ios compass

Many iOS developers took that fascination with simulated three-dimenisonality, real-world objects, and realistic textures to strange new heights. If you want to see some of the most over-the-top examples of these designs, point your browser at the Skeu It! site and be prepared to facepalm:

denim weather app

It’s hot and humid today…in my pants!
A lot of apps feature texture for texture’s sake.

The new iOS represents a step away from the simulated 3-D, literalist approach to user interfaces and towards a flatter, simpler, brighter look. Note the differences between the icons for standard apps in iOS 6 and 7:

home screens ios 6 and 7

iOS 6 / 7 screen comparison from Matt Gammel’s writeup.

Here’s one of the most-used built-in apps, Messages, in iOS 6 and 7.:

messages in ios 6 and 7

iOS 6 / 7 screen comparison from Matt Gammel’s writeup.

This is what you see when you get a phone call in iOS 6 and 7:

phone screens ios 6 and 7

…and here’s a side-by-side comparison of the sample “periodic table” app, “TheElements”, in iOS 6 and 7:

elements sample app in ios 6 and 7

As you can see (and as the tech press has been reporting), they’ve gone to a “flatter” interface, with a greater emphasis on text and the removal of a lot of UI “chrome”.

The best writeup covering the user interface changes in iOS 7 that I’m aware of it Matt Gemmell’s. Published a mere two days after the WWDC keynote and the availability the iOS 7 beta to developers, it’s as a complete an overview of the changes as we’ll see for the time being. If you plan on designing applications for iOS 7, it’s a worthwhile read.

The Developer Opportunity

reboot

If you’re a developer who’s been meaning to get into iOS development but worry that you’re starting from way behind the curve, the redesign in iOS 7 is a disruption that works in your favour. While apps written for previous versions should work, they’ll seem out of place and maybe even archaic in iOS 7’s new UI. Marco Arment, in a post titled Fertile Ground says that this is great news for you:

Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives. If you want to enter a category that’s crowded on iOS 6, and you’re one of the few that exclusively targets iOS 7, your app can look better, work better, and be faster and cheaper to develop than most competing apps.

This big of an opportunity doesn’t come often — we’re lucky to see one every 3–5 years. Anyone can march right into an established category with a huge advantage if they have the audacity to be exclusively modern.

Another thing to keep in mind is that iOS users tend to upgrade quickly. In a world where it’s still not all that unusual to see a machine running Windows XP or where a third of the Android devices out there are running version 2.3, iOS users set themselves apart by keeping up to date. According to Chitika, almost 93% of iPhone users are running the current version of iOS:

iphone ios version distribution

Click the graph to see the source article.

All this means is that it’s not too late to learn how to develop for iOS, especially if you start now.

Regular iOS Developer Articles, Here on Global Nerdy

new ios features at wwdc

If you search around the web for developer courses or “boot camps” for iOS and Android, you’ll find that they’re

  • Quite short, running anywhere from 2 to 5 days, and
  • Quite expensive, running anywhere from $900 to almost $4000

iOS 7 developmentThere are some people who benefit from getting started by taking a course: perhaps they need the structure of a classroom to give them initial momentum, or perhaps it’s the idea of having to pay for a course that motivates them (just a smokers who pay to join a “quit smoking” program have been observed to be more successful in quitting than those who spent no money). If you feel that classes would help you get started and you have the money — or someone, perhaps your employer, does — by all means, take them.

However, if you don’t have the money to attend an iOS development course or boot camp, or if you want to supplement your courses, keep coming back to Global Nerdy. I’ll be posting articles on iOS 7 development on a regular basis, sharing tips and tricks, pointing you to valuable resources, and generally presenting information that you, the developer new to iOS 7, will find useful. Watch this space!

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always connected

The Always Connected: How Smartphones and Social Keep Us Engaged report sponsored by Facebook and written by IDC provides some interesting insights not just into Facebook usage, but smartphone usage in general. Here are some of their observations:

4 out of 5 smartphone owners

  • 79% of the survey respondents check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up.
  • 62% of the respondents reach for their smartphone immediately after waking up.
  • 44% reach for their smartphone immediately and use it as an alarm clock (I myself fall into this category).
  • If you consider only the respondents between the ages of 18 and 24, these numbers get about 10% higher:
    • 89% check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up.
    • 74% reach for their smartphone immediately after waking up.
    • 54% reach for their smartphone immediately and use it as an alarm clock (I myself fall into this category).

us smartphone owners

  • 79% of the survey respondents keep their smartphone handy for all but two hours of their waking day. The report doesn’t say what happens during those two hours.
  • 63% of the respondents keep their smartphone handy for all except one hour of their waking day.
  • 25% couldn’t recall any time when their smartphone was not close by.

top 10 smartphone applications

  • “Weekend” usage — if we count Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the weekend — is nearly double weekday usage:
    • Respondents spent 163 minutes communicating and using social media on their smartphones from Friday through Sunday.
    • They spent 87 minutes communicating and using social media on their smartphones from Monday through Thursday.

smartphone use through the day

Whether you’re interested in how people use Facebook or smartphones, you’ll want to check out this report, which you can download for free here.

this article also appears in mobilize the cts blog

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its called xbox 360

As if Xbox One’s PR troubles weren’t enough, Don Mattrick, President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business division, made matters worse in an interview with Spike TV’s Geoff Keighley:

MATTRICK: “Some of the advantages that you get, of having, a box that is designed to use an online state, so, that, uh, to me is the future-proof choice, and I think people, could’ve arguably gone the other way if we didn’t do it and fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.”

KEIGHLEY: “Right, so stick with 360, that’s your message if you don’t [inaudible] like it?”

MATTRICK: “Well, if you have zero access to the internet, that is an offline device, I mean, seriously, when I read the blogs, and thought about who’s really the most impacted, there was a person who said ‘hey, I’m on a nuclear sub,’ and I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub but I’ve gotta imagine it’s not easy to get an internet connection.”

KEIGHLEY: “[inaudible] playing call of duty multiplayer”

MATTRICK: “Hey, I can empathize, if I was on a nuclear sub, I’d be disappointed.”

Way to support the troops, Mattrick.

Here’s the video of the interview, which is already well on its way to living on in PR infamy:

People who grew up with an Apple ][ in the 1980s might recognize a game that Mattrick co-wrote (and sold a lot of) at the tender age of 17: Evolution. I loved that game:

If Mattrick’s jab at people who are complaining about the “always connected” requirement gives you deja vu, it’s because it happened on Twitter, with Adam Orth, whose tweets led him to being shamed into leaving Microsoft:

adam orth xbox tweets

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In yesterday’s Apple keynote, one of the demos was for Anki Drive, an AI-driven toy car game:

While impressive, Google’s been hard at work on something even bigger for a while now. Here’s how they should respond:

wow apple self-driving toy cars

I found the image here.

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CCS Insight Predicts More Mobile Devices Than People By 2017

global mobile device market

CCS Insight’s infographic on the growth of mobile devices.
Click the infographic to see it at full size.

The market analyst firm CCS Insight says:

  • More smartphones than non-smartphones were shipped for the first time in the first quarter of 2013.
  • 1.86 billion phones will be shipped in 2013, and 53% of them will be smartphones.
  • More than 50% of the mobile phones in North America and Western Europe are smartphones; by the end of 2015, this figure should be more than 80%.
  • Global shipments of smartphones and tablets will increase 2.5 times between 2012 and 2017, reaching 2.1 billion units.
  • By 2017, the number of smartphones and tablets combined will surpass the global population.

Tablet Ownership in America

1 in 3 american adults owns a tablet

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 34% of Americans age 18 and over own a tablet computer, such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus Tablet or Kindle Fire. They report that this is almost double last year’s tablet ownership rate of 18%.

They report that the people most likely to be tablet owners fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Households earning $75,000 or more a year — they made up 56% of the tablet owners.
  • Adults in the age range of 35 to 44 years old; they accounted for 49% of the tablet owners.
  • College graduates, who made up 49% of the tablet owners.

They noted that there were no statistically significant difference in tablet ownership between men and women, or among different racial and ethnic groups.

The groups that saw the biggest increases in tablet ownership over the past year were:

  • Parents with minor children living at home: tablet ownership rose from 26% in April 2012 to 50% in May 2013.
  • Adults in households making $75,000 a year or more: tablet ownership rose from 34% in April 2012 to 56% in May 2013.
  • College graduates: tablet ownership rose from 28% in April 2012 to 49% in May 2013.

Digitas Says That the LGBT Market Really, Really Love Their Mobile Devices

The brand agency Digitas says that if you’re looking for a demographic that have really embraced their mobile devices, you want to reach the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) demographics. They’ve been using mobile devices twice as long as the general population, and spend twice as long on their mobile devices. Their numbers, based on a study of 1,595 LGBT adults in the U.S., is detailed in the infographic below:

this article also appears in mobilize the cts blog

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just like this

Sony just expertly fired a shot across Microsoft’s bow with this video that explains how you share games or play used ones with the upcoming PlayStation 4. It’s incredibly simple.

The process won’t be as simple with the upcoming Xbox One, which seems to be a big maze of “it depends…”. Microsoft are doing to the Xbox One what Sony did to the PS3 in the beginning: badly hurt a platform with a great reputation through inept moves. Consider these factors:

PlayStation 4 Xbox One
Price: $399 Price: $499
No online check-in required Console must perform an online check-in every 24 hours in order to play games
No restrictions on sharing disc-based games or using used ones Restrictions on sharing disc-based games; it’s up to the publisher on whether used games are allowed
I’m thinking about getting one, and I’m a guy who went from the PS2 to the Xbox 360 I’m thinking about not getting one, and I’m a guy who went from the PS2 to the Xbox 360

Watch the video below for their clever demo:

At this moment, the PS4 vs. Xbox One situation is best summarized with this animated GIF:

ps4 beating xbox one

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