WhatsApp iOS7 background

WhatsApp has finally been updated to the iOS7 style. Unfortunately the backgrounds in the app don’t suit that style at all. Here is a much better background for your WhatsApp chats.

In my opinion a light gray works best.

Pretty gray WhatsApp iOS7 background

Just tap and hold and choose the option to save the image to your camera roll.

In Whatsapp go to Settings > Chat settings > Background, and select the background from the camera roll.

Here’s a white one (the border will not show up in the image, it’s just to indicate where you can tap and hold).

Pretty white WhatsApp iOS7 background

Why an iWatch makes sense

Does is make sense for Apple to release an iWatch?

Not many people wear watches anymore and the iWatch would presumably be a low margin business. Apple has been getting a lot of heat on Wall Street for it’s shrinking margins. Stock is currently up again, but these low margins might be a problem.

But there’s another angle. Apple stock was also getting hit because of iPhone sales growth slowing down. That’s an interesting problem too. Because what can Apple do to improve the iPhone? There are the mandatory screen, speed and camera upgrades. The software can be upgraded, but that doesn’t give the new model a big edge over last years model.

It’s more or less set in stone what a smartphone is: a thin device dominated by a big screen and cameras on both sides. Unless this form factor changes I wouldn’t expect big jumps in smartphones like going from any pre-iPhone smartphone to the iPhone or from the 3GS to the iPhone 4.

But looking at the iWatch as an iPhone accessory could bring big new features to the iPhone. This would justify a lower margin iWatch since it has the potential to drive growth for the high margin iPhone.

An iWatch would instantly add features to the iPhone, that couldn’t be, or wouldn’t be practical, in the iPhone itself. Even if you don’t get the iWatch with your phone there’s always the promise of adding extra features to your phone by getting a watch costing way less than the phone itself.

And the reason many people don’t wear watches anymore is that they don’t have a reason to. I think the iWatch will give them plenty of reasons to wear a watch again, even if telling the time is only a small part of what it can do.

What you should know about Chromecast

There’s a lot of misconception of what Chromecast is and how it works. Many people compare it to Airplay, but technically it’s completely different.

Over Airplay you can stream content directly from your device. This content could be an image, a video, music or even a real-time rendered game. It could also be the exact screen contents you’re looking at.

Chromecast doesn’t stream anything directly from the device. It pulls all content straight from the web and your device (phone, tablet) is just a remote to influence what’s being shown. That’s why currently apps Youtube, Netflix and Google Play Video/Music work on the device and not the photos and videos stored on the device. You can’t show content from a device on a Chromecast unless it’s already in the cloud and available through a web-service and a special Chromecast receiving app (based on HTML5 since it runs in a slimmed down Chrome OS).

So, you’re a developer and you want your apps to do something with Chromecast? Get ready to start a web service to distribute the content or else your content won’t be available to Chromecast.

But then there’s the Chrome mirroring right? Well, not really. From what I can gather it just pushes the url to Chromecast and Chromecast (being based on Chrome OS) renders the page itself. Mirroring like Airplay Mirroring is not a feature of Chromecast.

And then there’s the “works on any device”. That’s technically true, but shoud actually read “it works on an app that supports Chromecast which could run any device if it was specifically developed for it”.

Rad more:

Somewhere in the Google keynote they demoed Netflix. First they “flinged” an episode of House of Cards to the Chromecast device. Then they took an Android tablet and started controlling the episode playing, telling the audience that you can control content coming from another device. That’s just false. The content is coming from the cloud and other than being started from another device has nothing to do with the device.

Quick WWDC ‘13 predictions

In a few hours Apple will hold it’s annual WWDC keynote. Just for fun I want to throw out some predictions.

iOS 7
This is a given. It will look different, but it won’t be (here it comes) flat. Making something look flat for the sake of it looking flat is just dumb. The design will be updated so it looks more modern, but is still clear and easy to use.

Siri will parse locally from now on. The multi-task switcher (double-tap home) will be significantly redesigned as will the notifications panel.

OSX 10.9
It will be called Lynx. Maps will be brought over. The interface will be updated as well. Biggest updates will be on the development side.

iRadio
Will be both ad supported and paid without ads.

Updated retina Macbook Pro
It will recieve the new Haswell CPU’s. The 15 inch models will get the high-clock / low integrated GPU chips with a dedicated GPU by nVidia or AMD. The 13 inch models might get the quad-core version with the good integrated GPU. Prices for the 15 inch might drop a little or the base SSD capacity will be bigger. I fear the maximum RAM will still be 16GB.

No retina Macbook Airs
The CPU’s just aren’t there yet. Funny that most rumors suggest new Airs will be announced.

Mac Pro or successor to the Mac Pro
If we see it at an event it will be this event. They probably won’t be released within a month from now, but they will be announced.

My guess is the case will be a lot smaller. It will still have a maximum of 2 CPU sockets, 2 harddrive bays, 2 PCI slots, USB3, Thunderbolt and upgradable RAM. Enough for most Mac Pro customers.

More expandability will be provided by an external box (similar design to the new Mac Pro case) on which the Mac Pro can be stacked, but it can also be connected to any other Thunderbolt device. The box will house at least 2 drive bays, 4 PCI slots and several USB ports. It will have a seperate internal power supply.

No new iOS devices
No new iPhone. No new iPod. No new iPad

Dealmakers will solve the TV problem

The current television problem won’t be solved by a hardware maker. It will be solved by a dealmaker.

In the future all the TV content will come over the internet, on-demand. Probably hosted by a service provider. You’ll only need one small box, connect that to the internet and connect it to your TV. Done.

You’ll pay one subscription and you can watch any content at any time from all the content providers in the network. These content providers can be the big existing networks, but also new and lightweight indy networks.

To make a service like that work there are many deals to be made. Deals that will get an entire network worth of content on the service. Those deals will make or break this much needed revolution. The interface will get solved, the apps will probably come too, but making the deals is really hard.

PS4: A device they didn’t show

Sony announced the Playstation 4 last wednesday. And as far as game console announcements go, this was one of the best presentations I’ve ever watched. We’ve now got info on the hardware, the controller, the games and the developers working on software.

These “hardcore” game consoles are presumably getting a lot of competition in the near future. And as much as I’ve always liked Nintendo, I believe Sony’s direction is the way to go.

That’s why it’s strange to read a comment like this on Daring Fireball by John Gruber:

“What was the bigger shitshow: Sony holding a long press event for a device they didn’t show and wouldn’t give a shipping date or price for? Or the gadget blogs that devoted hours of coverage to this?”

I guess the bigger shitshow is the gadget blogs devoting all the hours, because Sony gave out more information on the hardware than even Apple usually does with their iPhones, iPods and iPads. The first time Nintendo showed anything about the Wii, it was just the box. Not the controller, specs or any screenshots.

In gaming, the design of the console is getting less and less important. I recently purchased Ni No Kuni. It was the first game in half a year that I needed to touch my console for, since it came on a disc. All the other games where downloaded from the Playstation network.

The console box itself is just a shell for the hardware. The only thing that’s important is the size. You rarely touch the box, you rarely look at it.

They did show all the components of the system that you actually do interact with. Such as the controller and camera. They also showed what services we can expect on the console. And most importantly: they showed games.

A game console is as much about the hardware enclosure as your iPhone is about the servers powering iCloud.

Relocate originals in Aperture

I have a free disk space problem. The main cause are photos. My shared iPhoto / Aperture library is about 60GB, which is a lot of space on a Macbook Air.

This week a found a great (temporary) solution. I mainly use Aperture as my photo management program and it stores several versions of every photo.

  • Thumbnail: These are created on import and are used for the big overviews
  • Preview: Compressed but bigger thumbnails of imported and edited files. These are the versions used by OSX and other applications such as Mail, Keynote, slideshows, etc.
  • Original: The orignal as it was imported from the camera

The thumbnails and previews don’t take a lot of space, 1MB a picture at most, but the originals do. A RAW file is usually (way) over 30MB and JPEG’s straight from the SLR are still over 7MB. Luckily Aperture has a feature to offload the originals to another location such as an external drive.

Doing this is easy. You just select the images of which you want to relocate the originals and select “File” -> “Relocate Originals” (depending on your version it might be called “Relocate Masters”). Select the new source and optionally define a sub directory structure and you’re done.

The best thing is that, when you unplug the drive, you can still browse, share, rate and tag you’re entire library. When the originals can’t be found Aperture simply uses the Preview versions of the photos. The only thing you can’t do is edit photos.

It’s also great that you can relocate originals at any time. So after you’ve imported new photos you can relocate these to the external drive too. A good strategy would be to keep the most recent imports locally and export them a few weeks after sorting and editing them.

Since iPhoto and Aperture now can share libraries I assume this works in iPhoto too.

The only downside is that you now need to manually backup your masters.

The dream still is a photo library in the cloud of which all or parts can be easily shared across multiple devices. For now I have at least offloaded one of the biggest collection of files of my local disk.

Apple likes LESS

I came across this Apple job posting at Authentic Jobs for a UI/Visual designer earlier this week. If you apply you get bonus points when you have experience with LESS. No mention of SASS, which to me seems more popular.

We (at Interactive Studios) use LESS. I checked out both LESS and SASS but liked LESS more, so that’s what we went with.

The differences are small, but the main reason I liked LESS more is the simpler syntax for mixins. In SASS you have to define mixins with special syntax, while in LESS you just define a CSS class which you can reuse. Somewhere Apple seems to agree.

A better iOS app switcher

You know the app switcher in iOS? Double tap the home button and up pops a tray with the last used apps. Swipe once to the right and you’ll get some hidden music controls. Swipe to the left enough and you’ll find apps you didn’t even know you ever used.

There are a few problems with the current app switching.

  • The very useful music controls are hidden. To reach them you need to double tap and swipe left. Most people don’t even know that it exist.
  • Closing apps isn’t really necessary, but when you do want to close something quickly it’s a hassle.
  • Icons aren’t the most useful way to identify an app and you can’t see the state in which you left the app.

I had some ideas about how to improve the current implementation. So here’s a quick mock-up.

  • You still launch the app switcher by double tapping the home button. The app zooms out and this screen appears.
  • You exit it by pressing the home button once (or twice).
  • Music controls are permanently displayed at the bottom. Himitsu no more!
  • Apps are represented by both a thumbnail of the last state and the app icon. This way it’s easy to recognize an app.
  • You can scroll to all “open” apps by using the cover flow mechanics (which finally *really* is useful for something).
  • The app icons scroll along with cover flow.
  • Closing an app can be done by swiping an app to the top of the screen (yes, a WebOS homage).
  • Tap a thumbnail or icon to zoom right into the app.
  • Knowing a bit about how iOS works you will sometimes probably get a slightly greyed out screen with a spinner while the OS loads all the data for the state in which you left the app.
  • The linen is not great, but it’s what Apple seems to love, so I used it.

iPhone 5: what I got right

At the end of May I did some iPhone predictions, just in case a new phone was announced at WWDC. Now that the phone has been announced, it’s time to see how I fared.

  1. The 3.95” (or whatever) screen is real

    This turned out to be correct. A added detail that turned out to be correct is that “old” apps will be letter-boxed.

  2. A6 dual core processor

    Seems to be correct as well. We don’t know all the details yet, but the processor is called A6 and it looks to be dual-core. I’ve heard however that it does include a quad-core GPU just like the A5X.

  3. There won’t be a three part back

    I got this one epically wrong. The leaked parts turned out to be legit (although details differed). I’ll hold of the verdict of how I like the design when I hold one in my hand.

  4. The Facetime camera will be centered

    Exactly right.

  5. The camera will see an upgrade, but won’t exceed 11MP

    Turned out be right as well. The theory that it would get a slightly higher than 8MP sensor wasn’t right however, since it has exactly the same pixel dimensions as the iPhone 4S.

So 4 out of 5. That’s good in my books.