Posts in Technology
Services Strategy at Apple’s iPhone Event

Apple spent an hour and forty minutes presenting a slew of product updates across their lineup of hardware, software, services, and even stores. As the day passed and I let Apple’s keynote hype machine fade into memory, a few strategic moves in Apple’s services announcements stood out to me as particularly interesting.

Apple Arcade

For those of you who may not know, Apple Arcade is a new “Netflix for gaming” service from Apple, launching September 19. It’s priced at $4.99 a month and provides access to 100+ ad-free games that require no additional purchases to play.

  1. This is a direct response to the incredible popularity of iOS games that use casino-informed designs to cause addiction and get users to spend large amounts of money or watch ridiculous numbers of ads.

    As these types of games have taken over the App Store’s top charts, beautiful indie games have become less financially viable and horror stories of people spend huge amounts of money on “coins” have become more common.

    Although the details aren’t fully public, Apple is funding the development of Apple Arcade games up front and continuing to pay creators on an ongoing basis. For studios who want to build great games without having to focus on in-app purchase conversion metrics and who are selected by Apple to build Apple Arcade games, this may provide financial viability.

  2. The $4.99 per month price point is reasonable for an individual, but it gets quite interesting for families with kids. That same price gets up to five family members access to all of those games within their own accounts.

  3. In the end it comes down to the quality of the games within Apple Arcade. If the games are good, I think it will be successful.

Ann Thai reveals Apple Arcade’s launch on September 19

Ann Thai reveals Apple Arcade’s launch on September 19

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is Apple’s new streaming video service coming November 1. Apple isn’t renting a back catalog of content from any of the large content companies. Instead they’re filling the service entirely with original content. They’ve already announced content from big-name stars like Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell to name a few.

This streaming service was originally teased in the spring, and in the time since then, at least in my circles, the excitement for Apple TV+ dropped precipitously, especially after Disney announced their Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ bundle for $12.99 a few weeks back.

Two things in today’s Apple TV+ announcements brought back the excitement for me.

  1. Apple TV+ is priced at $4.99 per month for a whole family. This is a competitive price at the low end of the market.

  2. Apple TV+ will be free for 1 year to anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch starting September 10.

    Apple sold 217 million iPhones in 2018. If we assume Apple will sell a similar amount over the next 12 months and we ignore the tens of millions of people buying iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch over the next year, that still puts Apple TV+ in the hands of hundreds of millions of people for free.

    People like free.

Tim Cook premieres the trailer for “See,” debuting November 1.

Tim Cook premieres the trailer for “See,” debuting November 1.

Over the next week or so I’ll be releasing two new podcast episodes that will dive deeper into what Apple has announced.

  • Accessible: Steven Aquino and I will talk about the accessibility impacts of everything Apple announced as well as what it was like for Steven to be at another Apple event.

  • UNCO: As a follow up to my pre-event interview with Guilherme Rambo and another episode in my The Future of Apple series, I’ll be sitting down with another 9to5Mac writer, Benjamin Mayo, to discuss what this event’s announcements mean for the future of Apple.

TechnologyTimothy Buck
Sip: Smart Color Management for Your Mac

If you work with color on the Mac, you’re probably painfully aware that the macOS Colors palette hasn’t changed in years. It offers several different types of color pickers, an eyedropper tool for sampling a color from the screen, and wells for storing color swatches. It’s functional for occasional use but becomes clumsy quickly—try remembering which red is which when you’ve saved multiple similar versions. Many graphics apps offer their own color tools, but they’re useless as soon as you need to work in another app. Luckily, there’s a solution: Sip.

Sip is a $10 menu bar app that allows you to pick colors anywhere on your Mac, quickly organize them into palettes, and smartly use those colors in other apps. Brothers André Gonçalves and Rui Aureliano designed Sip with advanced features for professional developers and designers, but its core functionality is simple enough that any Mac user might find it useful for color management.

Sip Basics

The first thing you’ll do with Sip is pick some colors. You can open the color picker—which is a circle that magnifies a small portion of the screen underneath it—by clicking the menu bar icon or pressing a keyboard shortcut (Command-Option-Control-P). Sip provides plenty of shortcuts, all of which you can change in its settings.

Sip Color Picker

To pick a color, position the color picker over the desired hue, wherever on the screen it may be, and click. That adds it to Sip and copies the color to your clipboard. Press a modifier key while picking a color to add additional tweaks:

  • Shift: Adds multiple colors in a row.

  • Option: Automatically creates a new palette and puts each color you pick in that palette.

  • Control: Creates a new palette with the colors you’re picking.

  • Command: Sends the color directly to the app in which you’re working, if it’s one of the 17 currently supported apps, including Web development apps like Coda and Espresso, and Adobe’s Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop.

For more precise color picking, use Sip’s keyboard shortcuts to increase or decrease the zoom of the color picker, to make the color picker’s grid larger or smaller, and to move the color picker around in 1- or 10-pixel increments. This is great for grabbing a 1-pixel border color or the color of small text.

Continue reading on TidBITS →

Terminology: Where Word Explorations Begin

When I hear a term that’s new to me or I’m struggling to find the perfect word for a sentence, I turn to Terminology. It’s a powerful utility app for iPhone and iPad from Agile Tortoise, the creator of Drafts.

In much the same way that Drafts gives you a place to start writing, Terminology gives you a launchpad for your word explorations, and its extensible actions are powerful enough that you will usually find what you need.

Terminology Basics

Terminology is, first and foremost, an offline dictionary and thesaurus. After tapping through a quick first-launch guide and searching for a word, it will present you with instantaneous results containing definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. 

On top of this, Terminology’s thesaurus results show more and less specific words. For example, with the term “dive”, a less specific word result is “swim” and more specific word results include “belly flop,” “jackknife,” and “swan dive.”

Terminology makes it incredibly simple to tap into any related words to view their results, arrow back and forth through your history, and, most importantly for me, follow the skein of terms wherever it leads. With the speaker, pencil, and heart icons in the upper right, you can have any word pronounced out loud, add notes to it, and favorite terms you want to revisit later. I find myself mostly relying on my search history in lieu of favorites. Your notes, favorites, history, and settings all sync between your devices using iCloud, so there is no need for an account.

Continue reading on TidBITS →

Great Wallpapers for iOS Dark Mode

Now that iOS is getting dark mode, I thought it would be cool to share a bunch of wallpapers I like. Each of these will be stunning on your iPhone and iPad running dark mode.

 

Vertical Backgrounds for iPhone and iPad

 

Horizontal Backgrounds for iPad

These wallpapers all come from Unsplash.

 

More Free Wallpapers

Do You Really Want Privacy-Focused Social Media?

There’s a lot of talk out there about wanting social media companies to stop mining our data, invading our privacy, and doing shady stuff all around. I would like those types of changes too, and I’ve put my money behind that idea by supporting Bokeh on Kickstarter.

Bokeh is a privacy-focused replacement for Instagram that will make money through a modest subscription. The creator, Tim Smith, has clearly put a lot of thought and time into this project. I’m not going to recap each and every feature, but I highly recommend you watch the Kickstarter video and support it today. As I write this, the project is just ever-so-slightly shy of its goal.

Will Twitter Ads Grow My Podcast?

I’ve been hosting and producing two podcasts (UNCO and Accessible) for nearly a year now. Each has built a core audience with consistent listenership. In early April, as season 2 of UNCO began to roll out, I decided to test Twitter ads for the show to see if there would be any noticeable impact.

What metrics was I hoping to impact?

At the core, I wanted to grow the number of people listening to my show. I did see quite a bit of growth in listenership during the month I was running ads, but there were many other things that impacted that growth:

  • I was tweeting about new episodes much more often.

  • I began sharing new episodes on LinkedIn.

  • I scheduled older episodes to be re-shared on a weekly cadence.

  • My guests tweeted about the show.

  • The show was linked on 512pixels on two separate occasions (1) (2).

  • Stephen Hackett was the inspiration for a major new feature added to Overcast—clip sharing. When Marco released the feature, he kindly linked my episode where Stephen shared the idea and chose that portion of audio as the example use case for clip sharing. His audience is so large that I got thousands of new listeners.

So I needed a way to directly connect the ad spend to the growth. To do this I focused on 2 (admittedly imperfect) metrics.

  • Link clicks.

  • New followers.

What was my approach?

I tested two of Twitter’s ad options—Quick Promote and Promote Mode. This was not a scientific study. I spent $150 total in this test, and I chose these two ad options because they cost much less time, effort, and money than Twitter’s more advanced advertising campaign tools.

Keep in mind, my podcasts are not my day job. I don’t have tons of time to put into an advertising campaign, and I don’t have much to spend on advertising.

Twitter Quick Promote for Podcast Advertising

What is Twitter Quick Promote?

Twitter Quick Promote is an advertising option you can use in the Twitter app to promote a specific Tweet. It’s pretty simple. On any tweet

  1. Tap to “View Your Activity”.

  2. Tap “Promote Your Tweet”.

  3. Select a location to target.

  4. Select a budget.

  5. Confirm to buy the ad.

QuickPromote.jpg

What did I test?

The first thing I did, was promote the following tweet for $50 in San Francisco. Twitter estimated I would receive 32,000 impressions and 108 engagements.

About halfway through the ad run, I messed up this experiment by playing with the targeting in Twitter Ads Manager. I made the targeting specific to people who tweet about Apple, podcasting, and on and on.

After a few minutes I began to notice that the ad rates on some of those terms were much much higher than a generic San Francisco ad. In retrospect, this makes complete sense. I just wasn’t thinking. I quickly removed all the high-cost terms ($10+ per 1,000 impressions), but I left many of the cheaper specific terms.

What were the results of this admittedly somewhat flawed test?

This tweet received an additional:

  • 9,241 Impressions.

  • 1,761 Media views.

  • 53 Detail expands.

  • 47 Media engagements.

  • 9 Profile clicks.

  • 5 Link clicks.

  • 0 Likes.

  • 0 Retweets.

  • 0 Replies.

  • 0 Follows.

While my messing with targeting did hurt the integrity of this experiment and the brand awareness of many more impressions and media views is nice, my primary 2 metrics (link clicks and follows) did not budge enough to be worth the $50 spend. I actually got more of both organically.

  • 10 Organic link clicks.

  • 1 Organic follow.

Quick Promote.jpg

Should you try Twitter Quick Promote for your podcast?

As a good product manager, I have to say, “It depends.”

You may write better tweets or have more engaging content than I do! You may find that the location-only targeting of Quick Promote works for you, or you may find that hyper-targeting with Twitter’s more advanced ad campaign features is worth the extra cost per impression.

I just tried one tweet, so I can’t say for sure. But honestly, if you’re like me, creating your own podcast, without thousands of dollars to spend on advertising, and without professional marketing help, I don’t think Twitter Quick Promote ads are going to move the needle for growing your listenership.

Twitter Promote Mode for Podcast Advertising

What is Twitter Promote Mode?

Promote Mode is targeted directly at people in my situation. It costs a flat rate—$100 a month, and it runs promotions of your account and your tweets (not including retweets, quote tweets, or replies) automatically, once you sign up, with no time or additional effort required. Twitter describes it as “an affordable, always-on promotion engine”, and they claim you will “reach up to 30,000 additional people and add an average of 30 new followers each month.”

Promote Mode is also easy to set up:

  1. Visit Twitter’s promote mode signup flow. (It’s still in beta, so it’s not available in the app for everyone yet.)

  2. Tap get started.

  3. Select your country and timezone. (Currently only available in United States, United Kingdom, and Japan.)

  4. Chose targeting, interests or location.

    • Interests allows you to select up to 5 from a list of approximately 30 interests.

    • Locations allows you to select up to 5, but they must in the country you selected originally.

  5. Pay

Twitter-Promote-Mode-Targeting.jpg

What did I test?

After my Quick Promote ad campaign completed, I enabled Twitter Promote Mode. It ran from March 31st through April 29th.

What were the results?

Promote mode automatically promoted 20 of @_uncofm’s tweets and ran an account promotion campaign throughout the month. This resulted in:

  • 17,988 Additional people reached.

  • 3 Followers gained.

  • 470 Profile visits.

  • 20 Link clicks (They did not show link clicks on the promote mode dashboard (pictured below), so I went tweet by tweet to add this up. There’s probably a better way to get that information.)

Again. I got significantly more link clicks and followers organically.

Promote Mode-2.jpg

Should you try Twitter Promote Mode for your podcast?

Again. It depends. Promote Mode definitely fit my circumstances much better that Quick Promote.

I didn’t have to worry about $50 being spent on 1 tweet that had to be perfectly crafted, and Promote Mode provided real bumps in reach and profile visits.

But I didn’t gain 30 followers or reach 30,000 additional people, as their ad copy suggested I would, and even if I had, I don’t think it would be worth spending $100 a month on an ongoing basis because of how little direct impact it had on my primary goal—increased listenership.

Keep the Conversation Going

I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @timothybucksf.

  • Have Twitter ads worked for your podcast?

  • Have you used Quick Promote, Promote Mode, or more targeted ads?

  • Do you run ads elsewhere?

  • Have you found any advertising that works for you?

Overcast's New Clip-Sharing Feature is Exactly What Open Podcasting Needs

Marco Arment just released a banger of an update to Overcast. The headlining feature is called clip sharing, and it was inspired by this idea of Stephen Hackett’s on my show UNCO. I think clip sharing will quickly turn into an indispensable tool for both podcasters and listeners, but even more than that, I believe that updates like this are exactly what open podcasting needs to compete against the heavily-funded startups fighting to become the Facebook of podcasting.

Overcast Clips

What is clip sharing?

In his update today, Marco made it possible to quickly create and share either audio or video clips (although pretty much everyone is doing video) from any public podcast. I emphasize public because, reasonably, this won’t work on episodes from private podcast feeds. I verified this with the Do By Friday after show.

The UX for creating these clips is incredibly well done, as we’ve come to expect from Overcast.

The clip starts wherever you are in the episode, but you’re given the ability to go backward or forward to find the portion you really want. Each clip can be up to 1 minute in length.

Once you’ve selected the portion you’d like, there are simple options between audio only, portrait, landscape, or square video. The theming of the video clip copies the theme you have Overcast set to currently. (I wish you could change theming on the edit screen. I like using black mode in Overcast, but for UNCO clip sharing in particular, the white and orange theme is sharp.) You can also select between no app branding, the Overcast badge, or both an Overcast and an Apple Podcasts badge.

After you’ve made the selections you’d like, you can share your clip anywhere that’s available in the Apple share sheet.

What’s new with episode & show pages?

Marco also updated Overcast.com’s episode and show pages. Now when you click an Overcast link on any device and you’re not logged into Overcast, you’ll receive a page with links to the Overcast app, Apple Podcasts, Castro, Pocket Casts, and a generic RSS Feed link.

As a podcast creator with 80% of my traffic coming from Overcast and Apple Podcasts, this is a hugely welcome change. This doesn’t solve the link sharing problem entirely, especially for shows who have large Android listenerships, but it will reduce the need for me to tweet 3 different links of the same episode.

Why are these changes good for open podcasting?

Everything in today’s update made it easier for us to share our favorite podcasts with friends, family, and the world. Simple sharing is one of the toughest problems to solve in open podcasting, and this is a big step forward. I truly hope to see other great open podcast apps implementing these types of features in coming months. Marco said it well:

For podcasting to remain open and free, we must not leave major shortcomings for proprietary, locked-down services to exploit. Conversely, the more we strengthen the open podcast ecosystem with content, functionality, and ease of use, the larger the barrier becomes that any walled garden must overcome to be compelling.
— Marco

Some of my favorite examples of clip sharing

How to Make Gmail Beautiful

If you’re a Gmail user who is frustrated by the visual clutter, I’ve got the perfect little free tool for you. It’s a Chrome extension called Simplify. It was made by Michael Leggett, the lead designer of Gmail from 2008-2012 and co-founder of Google Inbox. Needless to say, he knows what he’s doing.

Simplify throws all that visual clutter in the trash and leaves you with the clean, beautiful UX that we all wish Gmail had in the first place. And before you ask, yes, it’s safe, and you can get it on the Chrome Store for free.

You should always be super careful what extensions or apps you use with your email. Simplify is mostly some CSS plus a little Javascript to apply the CSS. There are no trackers. No data is sent or shared. No ads ever. Promise. And all the code can be inspected on Github.
— simpl.fyi
With AirPower Canceled, Wireless Charging's Biggest Problem Still Exists

When we first saw AirPower in 2017, Apple announced a fix to the biggest drawback of wireless charging. Two years have passed. AirPower has been canceled. And we’re still waiting for a remedy.

There are tons of solid Qi wireless charging pads and stands and doodads for sale. I personally use this super thin wireless charger from Peel, because it’s inconspicuous and doesn’t have an annoying light. Overall, it works well.

But there is one problem (the biggest problem) that every single Qi wireless charger still has. They require us to place our phones precisely. If we don’t place them just right, or if we nudge them in the night, or they vibrate just a little too much, our phones will stop charging, and we’ll wake up with 7% battery.

Apple tried to solve this by shoving 32 charging coils into a tiny space (most wireless charging pads have ~3 coils). This clearly didn’t work out.

I, for one, am waiting expectantly for somebody (honestly anybody) to design a solution. I’ll happily give them my money.

TechnologyTimothy Buck