00:03:24 ◼ ► I mean, the thing that strikes me about this article, just reading it quickly, though, is the sense of you so often in public, Apple executives are very buttoned down, straightforward, very professional.
00:03:41 ◼ ► It's like if this is Apple saying, if you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists and journalists, Apple will give you no quarter.
00:03:53 ◼ ► That is like in a public, you know, on the record to the New York Times statement, if they're making that sort of speaking that that strongly, clearly this is, you know, they mean business.
00:04:54 ◼ ► And it's like, and the reason I think if I remember that talk show episode correctly, it's like the thing that I think where it struck a chord is that it isn't that leaks hurt Apple from a business perspective.
00:05:04 ◼ ► I don't think that was the impression I got is that they get really frustrated because leaks hurt the efforts of the people working inside of Apple to make something that can have a special moment in the sun.
00:07:05 ◼ ► This was a story by I hope I'm pronouncing his surname correctly, John Coatsire at Forbes with the headline Apple quietly buying ads via Google for high value subscription apps to capture app publisher revenue.
00:08:00 ◼ ► Yeah, it's like maybe they put someone's software in an end cap at the grocery store and like people are saying, oh, wow, wow, what is like you can't put their you can't put their cereal on that end cap.
00:09:48 ◼ ► Like so much of the discussion around the App Store and around why Apple feels justified in their 30% cut or whatever cut they get in the App Store is that they do marketing on developers behalf.
00:13:07 ◼ ► And they would publish these press releases every year about like the outrageous cost of piracy and that it's costing the industry some absurdly high number of billions of dollars a year.
00:14:18 ◼ ► The article would make more sense with its slant if Apple had somehow set up a bunch of shady websites that look like the HBO Max or Hulu or Disney Plus or whatever other keywords or services they're buying for.
00:15:43 ◼ ► Right? Like nobody is signing up for Netflix through these web ads for the word Netflix because Netflix stopped taking signups in app years ago because they didn't want to give Apple the money.
00:17:01 ◼ ► And if Apple wants to spend money finding customers for my apps, like, I understand that in this context, it's like if they search for Widgetsmith, getting them in the App Store and having them convert, like that's the end result.
00:19:32 ◼ ► Both of them, when we come back from any trip staying in a hotel, the first thing they love and mention it every time is they cannot wait to get back to their bed, sleep on their Hullo pillow.
00:20:02 ◼ ► And that's why we have them in our guest room because when people stay over, we know people now that we've sold on Hullo pillows and now we have them in our guest room so they can enjoy them there too.
00:23:00 ◼ ► It does all the things that I want to do, but it was always a bit complicated because the Apple Watch just wouldn't give me enough battery life to sort of justify its space in that, you know, in the battery capacity that I bring.
00:24:04 ◼ ► And, you know, ostensibly you can wear them for trips that would last, you know, probably weeks and be able to do the whole thing on one charge rather than, you know, in my mind previously with an Apple Watch.
00:24:25 ◼ ► Something more akin to what we've pre-smartwatch thought of as the battery life of a digital watch, even if it is doing some fitness and activity and GPS tracking, but something where you don't, you know, it's almost literally a no-brainer that you just leave without worrying that your watch is going to run out of battery on the trip.
00:24:47 ◼ ► It becomes, in some way, it's almost in my use with these kind of adventure watches, it's the weird difference where sometimes you have to be careful that you don't forget that it needs to be charged.
00:24:57 ◼ ► And it can go just like with a Kindle or something where sometimes you can just keep using it and you get to a place that you're like, you just forget that it needs to be charged because you're going weeks in between to sort of charging intervals, which is definitely not an Apple Watch experience.
00:25:20 ◼ ► And certainly in older Apple Watches, when I've gone on hiking trips with them, you know, once you're doing a hiking workout, tracking GPS, so it's doing heart rate sampling, you know, continuously tracking your GPS position the whole time, like it would very quickly burn through your Apple Watch.
00:26:00 ◼ ► You know, half the time I can't even tell if it's down or up, which made me think, well, if it's that bright all the time, if I can turn that off, so in my case I just put it on theater mode, which does a pretty good job.
00:26:12 ◼ ► It essentially means that the screen doesn't light up at all unless you tap on it. I'm not just turning off the always-on where it would do it with wrist raises, it's just like, it's completely off.
00:26:21 ◼ ► Otherwise, if I do that and I put on airplane mode, what kind of battery life could I get? And I was shocked that I went on this trip, hiked for three days, and the first day I was out I hiked for 16 miles of hiking over about a six hour period, and it had only used 27% of my battery.
00:26:42 ◼ ► Which was great, so essentially it changes it from an all-day battery life to essentially probably a three-day battery life in this mode with a big, obviously the 45 millimeter is the biggest Apple watch, but still, it changed the dynamic for me where it made it clear that this device has huge amounts of potential battery life.
00:27:13 ◼ ► And if I change my watch and essentially configure it in a few ways to say, "Hey, what really matters to me right now is battery life," not having a bright screen all the time, or having notifications, or all the things that would normally be jumping up all the time, I care about battery life, it can last a very long time.
00:27:30 ◼ ► And it means that I don't need to use an adventure watch, I can just use my Apple watch that I love and I know and I can write apps for, and if there's a need I have I can totally solve it.
00:27:44 ◼ ► Yeah, yeah, it's like in the UK there's a certain type of map called an Ordnance Survey Map, which is like the gold standard of mapping in the UK, and as far as I know there is no wrist-mounted version of that map. You can get it on an iPhone or paper maps, but you can't get it on a wrist.
00:28:02 ◼ ► And so I was like, "Well, it's an Apple watch, it's a fully capable programmable computer, I could just write an app that took Ordnance Survey Maps and integrated it with GPS and I can have live on my wrist an Ordnance Survey Map with GPS and a compass and make my navigation super simple.
00:28:18 ◼ ► Because if I want to know where I am, am I on track, am I coming up to a junction, which way should I go, I just raise my wrist, tap on the screen, and there's a map right there exactly centered to precisely where I am. And I just can't do that on a Coros or a Garmin or anything.
00:28:33 ◼ ► And they have some maps, but they don't have these kind of maps, and they're not going to have them on a gorgeous edge-to-edge full color 60Hz display that I can pinch to zoom and swipe around with my finger in quite the same way.
00:28:44 ◼ ► You've got a screenshot of the app, and I swear, I know it's a long-running joke that I say something will be in the show notes, but I swear it's already in the show notes. It already is, but your blog post is there, people can look at it and see it.
00:28:57 ◼ ► I did not know, I don't know why, I guess I should have known, I'm like GPS ignorant, I did not know that when you put something in airplane mode that GPS still can work, or does work. I don't know why, I just thought that would go off.
00:29:25 ◼ ► Yeah, I think it works in airplane mode because it's entirely passive, it's just listening, it's not sending data up to the satellites that are doing the geolocation, and so it's able to be on in airplane mode.
00:29:41 ◼ ► And airplane mode is primarily just about what your phone is sending, and so it turns off WiFi, it turns off cellular, you can optionally have it turn off Bluetooth, in this case I just left it on because Bluetooth is so low energy these days.
00:29:53 ◼ ► But yeah, it is kind of a funny thing, and I wasn't sure at first, but I turned it on in airplane mode on my phone and on my watch, and then went for a hike and tracked it, and I was like, okay, well, I guess GPS works, because it's just listening rather than having to do any transmission.
00:30:09 ◼ ► The other thing I wouldn't have thought of is using theater mode to do this battery saving, I would have just thought go to settings, display and brightness, and on the watch you can turn off always on mode, and then the difference is if you go to settings and turn off always on, the watch face will still light up on wrist rays.
00:30:31 ◼ ► And with theater mode you actually have to tap the screen or move the crown or something to see the display, and I could see why in your scenario, wild camping and hiking, you might want to do that, because I would imagine while you're hiking the watch might light up with a fake wrist raise just because you're maneuvering around a tricky part in the path or something like that.
00:30:55 ◼ ► And clearly Apple's algorithms and heuristics are tuned to make it so that every time I raise my wrist it lights up. They want to make absolutely sure that every single time you do that, that happens.
00:31:09 ◼ ► And so they've tuned it so that that's 100% and then there's going to be a few false negatives or false positives where it's lighting up when my wrist isn't actually being intended to be looked at, and in my case, I will take that trade off and turn it around where I'm happy to be very intentional that I want to check my distance, I want to check where I am on the map, I want to do those things consciously because having the battery life on my watch last that much longer is way more important to me than the
00:31:37 ◼ ► ergonomic benefit of only having to slightly raise my wrist, especially honestly because I'm hiking with hiking poles and stuff, like I have things in my hand so it's kind of, I don't actually necessarily turn my wrist in quite the same exaggerated fashion because I'll hit something with my hiking poles, so it makes a lot more sense for me to just tap the screen whenever I want to check things.
00:32:10 ◼ ► I mean the Series Zero original Apple Watch is probably about as close as we could get to the Apple version of a minimal viable product, right? It's hard to imagine that if it were slower or had even slightly worse battery life that they could have brought it to market when they did, right?
00:32:33 ◼ ► It was very slow, everything you did on it was very slow, especially communication from the phone to the watch. Even so, with all of the concessions they made to battery life, like having the display go off when you're not looking at it and using OLED screens with black background watch faces that are as low power as possible on OLED,
00:32:54 ◼ ► all of those tricks, it still barely made it through a day, especially if you did like even a single workout, and doing a workout would noticeably drain the battery because it would be monitoring your heartbeat more frequently and whatever other type of detection it's doing, like trying to detect distance while you walk or jog or something like that.
00:33:16 ◼ ► Slowly and steadily, every single year, it's gotten faster and faster, and to the point now where I don't really feel like anything feels slow on Apple Watch. Sometimes I still, and I'm sure you see this as a developer, I still sometimes run into a thing where it's like I just restarted it or something and, you know, like one of my complications just is not getting information.
00:33:40 ◼ ► And it's like, I don't know what to do here. I've opened the app on my phone, I've opened it on a watch, and then all of a sudden it'll start working, and it's like I don't know what that is.
00:33:47 ◼ ► But for the most part, though, things that should be faster fast and battery life has gotten better, but they've, you can just tell that internally Apple, for all of their devices, and of course every company would do this, but you figure here's how much battery we have, and then you effectively make a budget.
00:34:17 ◼ ► Okay, we'll leave the screen on all the time even when you're not looking at it, but it'll be really dim with the Series 5, and then in Series 6 we'll make that always-on mode a little brighter, and now with Series 7 it's really quite bright.
00:34:30 ◼ ► Yeah, I mean, for many watch faces I can't tell the difference between the wrist-down and the wrist-up version other than the second-hand. If you don't look at it closely you just wouldn't know.
00:34:42 ◼ ► And clearly that's using a lot of energy, but the nature of, there are some things that you can do to optimize, like to your point, they can make it faster, but the energy it takes to shoot light out of the screen is kind of a fixed thing.
00:34:56 ◼ ► And so if they've gotten to a point that they can send those photons out of the screen on a continuous basis throughout the entire time that the watch is on, it's like clearly they have a good amount of budget available.
00:35:15 ◼ ► In day-to-day use I think Apple made the absolute right choice that Series 7 watch, in my use, feels really different, even to a 6, where it's bright to a point that it feels like the screen is always on.
00:35:38 ◼ ► It feels much more like those two distinctions are kind of separate now and it's much more, it's just always on and it's great, but in a context where you don't want it, that budget is available and you can spend it doing all kinds of other things.
00:35:50 ◼ ► I wasn't going to buy a new watch this year. My previous purchase was a Series 5 from two years ago, which I bought specifically for always on mode because it had been something I had complained about in my reviews of the Series 0, the Series 2, Series 3, Series 4, and so I felt like once they shipped one with it, well I better buy one because I've been complaining about it for four years and did not regret it, but still thought it was fine.
00:36:22 ◼ ► But here's like where the danger of being, it's such a privilege and I love doing it, but getting to review these products all the time, it's like having worn a Series 7 that I had no intention of buying for a couple of weeks, I was like I need this.
00:36:38 ◼ ► Because the battery life was so much better and the always on glanceable, don't even have to raise my wrist, I can easily see what time it is, was so much better, including outdoors, that when I went back to my personal Series 5, it felt like somebody came in and depleted my battery.
00:37:05 ◼ ► The one thing that's weird to me, and I don't know why they do it, I don't think it's every watch face, but my favorite watch face is Utility and Utility does it, is when it goes to always on mode, it shrinks just a little, like maybe 5%.
00:37:22 ◼ ► And then when you raise your wrist, it doesn't just get brighter, it grows, and the complications bounce a little, so like on Utility, you can have a text complication at the bottom that wraps around the watch face part.
00:37:44 ◼ ► But it's the thing that makes the always on transition more noticeable than if they just made it brighter. It's so bright, it's almost like it made more sense for Series 5 when there was a much more distinct difference in brightness, and now it feels almost like they're drawing attention to a thing that shouldn't have attention drawn to it.
00:38:04 ◼ ► Yeah, it drives me crazy, and it's something that I really wish they would just stop doing that on the Series 7. It was one of the first things I noticed when I got the watch that it made sense on the Series 5 where they really were distinct states, and on many of the faces, Apple was making meaningful changes to it.
00:38:24 ◼ ► Like they would hollow out parts of the UI, or they would do things to save power, but if you're in a place where the two are essentially identical, and it's not really anything changing except having the second hand sort of fade in and out, it feels kind of pointless to do.
00:38:40 ◼ ► I hope at some point that goes away, or it's an option that happens, or something, but it definitely bothers me too that on a lot of these faces, it doesn't have to work that way. Especially I see this in WatchOS 8, Apple added the ability for third party apps to integrate with the always on display.
00:38:56 ◼ ► And in my own apps, I can experiment with what it's like between making the UI change dramatically between the two, and I found on a Series 7, the best thing to do is to make as few changes as possible, and it makes it feel like the watch is just always ready for you, and it feels way more responsive and capable as a result.
00:39:14 ◼ ► One of the changes, and it makes sense, but let's say you have a solid color background, there's a watch face called color, and your entire watch face from round corner to round corner is blue, when it goes to always on, that goes to black for power saving reasons because black is low power.
00:39:35 ◼ ► That makes sense, but if you already have one of the more typical, or probably more common watch faces with a black background, it doesn't really make sense to worry about that at this point in my opinion.
00:39:48 ◼ ► The other thing, and while we're talking about the corners, and it occurred to me to want to talk about Apple Watch this week on the show is, my mother-in-law was asking me for tips, she's buying somebody else a gift, an Apple Watch gift, and wanted my advice on which one to get.
00:40:08 ◼ ► And she was leaning towards the Series 3 because there was some kind of promotion she saw somewhere where it was only $150, but that's like too good to be true, and when she actually clicked through it was actually $195, which is only $5 less than Apple's retail price for the Series 3.
00:40:46 ◼ ► Two months later, it's even more annoying to me because I see the problems that like a typical non-expert, somebody who doesn't have John Gruber as their son-in-law to ask for advice, that they might buy one.
00:41:09 ◼ ► So I get it, right? And it's easy for me to spend other people's money and tell my mother-in-law to spend it, but once I explained to her some of the differences and that it just was going to have way more of a future ahead of it and significantly better battery life, she was like, "Okay, that's worth it."
00:41:34 ◼ ► Tell me the frustrations you have as a developer still supporting Series 3 and knowing that they're, you know, the kick in the pants in September, two months ago, if they said Series 3 is still the base model, then it's not just that they're going to sell it for the next year, but they're going to support it for a couple of years after that.
00:41:53 ◼ ► Yes. I mean, I think that's the part of it that it doesn't change necessarily, like, right now what I would do. I mean, it's frustrating, and I really don't like supporting a Series 3 Apple Watch because the screen is totally different, it's tiny, the device is slower.
00:42:09 ◼ ► But really, yeah, even if they stop selling it, say, next fall, it goes away, it probably is going to be something that watchOS supports for at least another year after that, and that's optimistic. Realistically, I think it's going to be another two years after that.
00:42:25 ◼ ► And it's continuing to sell well. Users of Pedometer++, which is probably the best case for judging this kind of thing, is about 20% of Apple Watch users are on a Series 3. That's a meaningful percentage, and it's not getting very much smaller over time.
00:42:41 ◼ ► I think what really frustrates me about the Apple Watch, Series 3 sticking around, is that there's parts of it that I don't like, that obviously it's annoying, it's a different thing, I can make better apps on the modern, rounded corner, sort of edge-to-edge screens that are more capable.
00:42:57 ◼ ► I can do a lot more with that, and that's exciting to me, and it's annoying that when I do a design, I essentially have to come up with two designs, one for the Series 3 and one for everything else. It annoys me what the impression the Series 3 gives people of what an Apple Watch can be.
00:43:11 ◼ ► Because an Apple Watch, I think, is a great device that can do so many things. It can be so many... you take lots of different roles. It can be something that is just a notification hub if you're super connected. It can be a health management thing. It can be something that's trying to...
00:43:27 ◼ ► I love that both of my parents wear an Apple Watch that has fall detection on it. That makes me feel good, and that's kind of important. But Series 3 doesn't have a lot of that stuff. It doesn't have the ECG. It doesn't have a blood oxygen sensor. I'm not sure it can do fall detection, actually.
00:43:45 ◼ ► So often, I feel like Apple does this great trick in the App Store. You go into the Apple Store, and there's a good, better, best. And that works really well because you're always coming out with something good, at least.
00:44:00 ◼ ► I feel like the current structure in the Apple Store is it's bad, alright, and excellent. And that doesn't feel as good. I think if your first Apple Watch was a Series 3, it's souring you a little bit to it.
00:44:15 ◼ ► It's great at its time. I'm judging it because I know what's possible, not necessarily on its own. If the Series 7 or the SE or the 4 or 5 didn't exist, then the Series 3 was a good product. And I would have had different expectations for what your Apple Watch life could be.
00:44:34 ◼ ► And so it's kind of just a frustrating thing that it's going to be there, and it's going to be used by a lot of people for a long time. And obviously, it's easy for me to say, "Oh, they should have just gotten rid of it and dropped it down."
00:44:48 ◼ ► But I think in my ideal world, it would be in a place where all of the Apple Watches would have always on now. The three for sale would be the Series 7, 6, and 5. You can't make a wrong choice there.
00:44:59 ◼ ► You would just sort of be trading off on what sensors you have or if you want an edge-to-edge screen. And that would be great. And that's sort of what we have on the iPhone side, but it really frustrates me that that's not what we have for the Apple Watch.
00:45:12 ◼ ► It feels like there's a little bit of product marketing spite in the limitations of the SE, because the SE is sort of based on the Series 5, but it's like a Series 5 spec-wise minus certain features, right?
00:45:31 ◼ ► Minus the always-on screen, minus the EKG, ECG, whatever the initials are for that. Whereas with the iPhone, when they've come out with SE models both times, it was a better version of the thing that it was based on.
00:46:05 ◼ ► Yes, I think so. It's like an iPhone 8 with last year's A-series system on a chip, so it's like an iPhone 8 but faster. Whereas it's not that the SE watch is slower, it's the same speed, but it is missing some pretty cool features.
00:46:20 ◼ ► And so it's bad enough that it's that far behind the state-of-the-art with no always-on and no ECG if that were the base model at $199, let alone that there's the Series 3. In general, I mean, people get frustrated with -- Android phone makers have been notorious.
00:46:39 ◼ ► I think they've gotten better about it, but everybody who's followed tech for the last decade of the smartphone era knows that Android phones tend not to get OS updates as many years into the future as some people would like.
00:47:00 ◼ ► There used to be a reputation that if you had a four or five-year-old iPhone and updated the OS, sure, they'll give it to you, but everything runs real slow because they didn't really test it well or something. There was something to that.
00:47:12 ◼ ► Whereas for some benchmarks for a post I actually still haven't gotten around to publishing last week, I actually charged up a bunch of my older iPhones, and I upgraded my iPhone 10 to iOS 15. It runs great.
00:47:38 ◼ ► And it was his years-old iPhone 10 running the latest OS was running great. We praise Apple for that, and I think they deserve it. I think they do a better job than any of their competition.
00:47:49 ◼ ► But on the other hand, the flip side is that sinking feeling of, well, that means if they're selling the iPhone, the Series 3 right now, it's going to be around for two or three years to come at least.
00:48:03 ◼ ► And the other thing that Apple doesn't do is, like you said, at their best—and Steve Jobs would say it, it was explicit on the slides in many of the older keynotes, "Good, better, best," and that the worst thing you'll come out with is good.
00:48:35 ◼ ► And the other thing, too, is Apple doesn't give you—I mean, there's so many Apple stores now and so many people work there that maybe somebody's got a horror story of getting a bad Apple employee who upsold them on something.
00:48:49 ◼ ► But in my experience, Apple never badmouths any of their products, you know? So they're not going to—if you come in there and really seem hell-bent on spending only $199 on a Series 3, they'll be happy to tell you what you would get and tell you what the features are in the Apple Watch SE that are better and might be—you might think are worth 80 bucks.
00:49:14 ◼ ► Which in general is good, you know, that if you really want, like, a $999 MacBook Air, which is a great computer, and you really don't need more RAM or more than the default storage, they'll just happily sell it to you and you might be very happy—you should probably be very happy with it.
00:49:38 ◼ ► Who knows if COVID made it worse, you know, and maybe there was a plan for the SE to move further down the pipeline to $199, but it's like the one sour note in the whole current Apple Watch lineup.
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00:52:14 ◼ ► So before we leave your wild camping trip and post, I want to say the thing that caught my eye first when I read the blog post were there's two photographs that illustrate it of the Scottish Highlands, and they are absolutely gorgeous.
00:52:34 ◼ ► The first one, both of them reminded me of like, there's like an iconic scene in the James Bond movie Skyfall where Bond and M are driving through Scotland to his ancestral home, and he stops the car so he can pose.
00:53:00 ◼ ► Yeah. Well, amusingly, the first picture in the post is actually the backside of exactly the same valley that James Bond is in, in that scene in Skyfall that I was doing my research for this particular trip.
00:54:44 ◼ ► And that scene where Bond—again, pensive is the exact right adjective—stops the car, gets out, and it just looks pensive and moody, while Scotland looks pensive and moody and foreboding and gloomy.
00:55:21 ◼ ► Instead of being all moody and foreboding and setting this tone, it would just be goofy. And the other idea that I had that made me laugh to myself as I watched the movie by myself was how funny it would be if the scene started with Bond pulling up a zipper because he had to get out to take a leak.
00:56:05 ◼ ► Sure, yeah, I know. It's a place worth surviving the bad weather to get the gorgeous moments, for sure. There are worse things to do, sensibly. I mean, I didn't do this for my work, but vaguely for my work, going and hiking around in the Scottish mountains to test out Apple Watch battery life performance. There are worse things to spend a week doing.
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00:59:10 ◼ ► You were on the show last September, and at the time iOS 14 had just shipped, and WidgetSmith blew up, because this is what we now call widgets, and there have been all sorts of things over the years.
00:59:28 ◼ ► Today's Apple world definition of a widget debuted last year with iOS 14. You came on the show. It was a dizzying time. I almost feel bad in hindsight. I feel like maybe you still had emergency bug fixes to squeeze out. Maybe you shouldn't have come on the show, and you certainly didn't need the publicity at the moment.
00:59:58 ◼ ► It's interesting. Thinking back to a year ago when widgets were at its highest, I was 14, and I think in a way that surprised everybody, probably, it really took off and really was a marquee feature that got the attention not just of the techy people or the Apple fanboys or whatever.
01:00:24 ◼ ► Across the board, everybody was excited about widgets, and they took off in ways that I don't think, and I certainly didn't expect. The way WidgetSmith has developed and what it has been coming to use for is just wildly different than what I ever would have thought.
01:00:42 ◼ ► I was making something that I thought was this very power usury, very finicky tool that lets you display all kinds of fancy weather graphs and astronomical projections and things. In fact, what most people really cared about is putting photos of people who are meaningful to them or things that are meaningful to them on their home screens.
01:01:04 ◼ ► By a huge margin, the number one widget type in WidgetSmith is just the single one-photo widget that people just want to choose a picture, it's a favorite photo for whatever reason, and they want to put it on their home screen and they want to look at it regularly.
01:01:21 ◼ ► I don't think I ever would have predicted that I would have ended up being a digital picture frame maker. That's my career and that's what the vast majority of my revenue and my business is coming from, is from helping people show digital pictures on their home screen.
01:01:39 ◼ ► I'm still in awe that it's still going, that year on year on, it's still doing really well, lots of people are still finding it. And I think the feature, and I think what it has taught me about it is widgets, and specifically photo widgets and that kind of thing, is fascinating for how it lends itself to word-of-mouth marketing and experiencing growth in that way.
01:02:06 ◼ ► Because it's a very straightforward, easy-to-communicate thing, that if someone sees on my phone that I have a picture of my daughter, and they're like, "Huh, I want to do that, I didn't know you could do that."
01:02:21 ◼ ► You would think in some ways, "Oh wow, everyone knows." But it's like, no, there's billions of, there's a billion active iPhones in the world, and there are not a billion people who probably know about widgets.
01:03:16 ◼ ► I know people who work on WatchOS at Apple, and sometimes when friends leave and go to other parts of Apple, they're a little bit more willing a few years down the road to tell war stories.
01:03:28 ◼ ► But like, famously, Apple's WatchOS does not support custom watch faces. So like, a third-party developer doesn't get to design the whole face, you can design complications that go in Apple's faces.
01:03:53 ◼ ► And part of that is about battery life, of course, from the early years, but I think a bigger part is battery life aside, that they don't want to trust third-party developers to have this always-running thing on the watch, is the branding.
01:04:05 ◼ ► That it's just, it really, it's a way that Apple, as different as an Apple Watch is from a traditional watch, even pre-Apple Watch digital watches, but certainly from, you know, like mechanical watches or just regular analog quartz watches.
01:04:38 ◼ ► All of their watches, they have very, you know, some of them have lots of diamonds and mother-of-pearl surface on the dial, some of them are just plain black and silver, but they all look Rolex-y.
01:05:24 ◼ ► And it also defeated the idea that, like we mentioned, I think earlier in the show, where the, with Series 3 and Series 2 in the original, with those sharp corners on the rectangular screen, by using black backgrounds on all the other watch faces, and the way that OLED blacks are true inky blacks, you couldn't see the corners of the display where it turned into the bezel, and it created this very nice illusion.
01:05:59 ◼ ► But then you'd use the photo watch face and put a photo of your kid or your dog on, and all of a sudden it was just a perfect rectangle, and you could see just how chunky the bezels were surrounding it, and it didn't have any Apple branding, and maybe it's not even a very flattering picture of your dog.
01:06:16 ◼ ► But why did they ship it? Because they knew how many people would set their desktop picture on their Mac or their wallpaper on their phone to pictures of their pets or their kids or their parents or their loved ones or a family vacation or something like that.
01:06:32 ◼ ► And that's what so many people love to do, and they just knew that Johnny Ives perceived, you know, I don't know for a fact that it was Johnny Ives, but let's just say Johnny Ives really wasn't all that happy about the photos face because he kind of wanted every Apple Watch face to be Apple design team approved.
01:06:56 ◼ ► But the funny thing about doing like on the iPhone with a wallpaper, everybody, I mean, number one, I'm sure thousands of people listening to this show actually have pictures of their kids or their wives or their husbands on their wallpaper on their phone.
01:07:10 ◼ ► But everybody else knows somebody who does, right? You cannot go to Thanksgiving this year and look at everybody's phones and not find that probably at least half of them have like family members of their wallpaper.
01:07:30 ◼ ► And then what do you do? You cover it up with with icons. It's sort of in a way it's like sort of insulting. So the picture frame as a widget is like the opposite. It's the inverse. It's a way of making that picture prominent and it's above the wallpaper.
01:07:44 ◼ ► Yeah. And it's clearly, it resonates. It is scratching an itch that people clearly had that they want to put, yeah, elevate it from the back of their icons to be a peer of their icons and they can show it and they can see it.
01:07:59 ◼ ► And I think what's interesting is Apple always does a great job in their own photos widget. They're doing these crazy machine learning models to identify the photos that they think would look good and would make you happy and are doing some really clever things there.
01:08:13 ◼ ► And I thought, when I was 14 launched, they only had one photo widget and it was their sort of essentially their memories widget that's doing this kind of clever surfacing of photos from your entire photo library.
01:08:26 ◼ ► And I expected what they would do is at some point, like when I was 15, there was going to be more photo widgets that they would have say the ability to, in the photos app, where right now if you hit share, one of the options is set as wallpaper.
01:08:49 ◼ ► And do you, maybe I was 16 that'll come and it'll Sherlock me a bit. But the reality is, it's like, the more I thought about it, the more I can slightly see where apps like Widgetsmith let Apple do things in their appley way without the need to add that feature.
01:09:08 ◼ ► Because their widgets are always going to show beautiful pictures. It's a bit of a joke that during the keynotes and things, the pictures and all their screenshots are just these amazing families having these gorgeous trips to amazing places.
01:09:28 ◼ ► Perfectly lit. Everything's exactly how you would expect. And the reality is, in my experience of a year of using, I use my own widgets, but I also use Apple's Photos Widget because it is exceptionally good at picking out really beautiful pictures from my library and surfacing things in a way that I don't think I would feel, like I'm not sure I'd want to go digging around in people's photos enough to do that kind of analysis even if I thought I could do it.
01:09:52 ◼ ► But I'd never be able to do it as well as Apple can. But it means that they're leaving up the opportunity for me, for if someone wants a picture that isn't that perfect, perfectly lit, gorgeous, amazing photo that's the exact one where everyone is smiling and everything.
01:10:09 ◼ ► There could be other reasons why a photo is important. That maybe it's slightly out of focus and slightly off lighting and it's not the best, but it's a moment that really means something to you. And there's no way for the ML model to say, "Oh, this is a meaningful moment."
01:10:25 ◼ ► They can just say, "Oh, it's slightly out of focus and kind of dark." But in Widgetsmith, they can grab that picture and they can elevate it, but in Apple's one, they can continue to show that all of their widgets are going to show beautiful pictures. And it's amazing, and I love it.
01:10:39 ◼ ► And I think it's reminded me of moments and pulled things out of my library that I had not necessarily forgotten, but I was delighted to be reminded of. They're two different things, and I kind of like that both of them are possible. And they let you sort of customize your phone in a different way.
01:10:56 ◼ ► That one of them, you're choosing something that's meaningful to you for reasons that are personal, and Apple's widget is choosing photos that are probably meaningful to you in a different way for a different set of metrics.
01:11:07 ◼ ► I am constantly amazed by the Memories widget and how good its picks are. Like, the batting average for ones that I consider good photos is astonishing. And it also surprises me as a long-time user of Apple's photos.
01:11:23 ◼ ► So, you know, my son is 17, he's a senior in high school, and so I've got photos of him for 17 years, and I've been favoriting ones all of his life. But they're not just picking ones that I have tapped the heart button for over the years.
01:11:38 ◼ ► And it constantly surprises me where I'll see one and think, "Oh my God, this is so cute, I've got to send it to my wife." And I send them to him too, I send them to our group chat, and he's a good sport about it. And every once in a while, he actually seems to enjoy it. He'll see one of his favorite toys from Toddlerhood and remember it and talk about it.
01:11:57 ◼ ► But I'll go back, I'll tap through the widget and go and expect that it already has the heart. I'm like, "Well, of course I favorited that one." And it surprises me how often I didn't, because at the time, I just thought, "Well, I won't delete that one, that's a keeper."
01:12:17 ◼ ► Yeah. And it's amazing that that's something that their model can do because it's not relying on you to favorite something is going to be dependent on your mood and what you're thinking about, your time and things. Whereas their model can just, for whatever dark witchcraft they've come up with to do this, they've worked out how to define what a good picture is.
01:12:42 ◼ ► And they can find them and then they can show them to you. I very rarely have seen or had a picture get surfaced there that I'm like, "Why is that one there? That's weird." And it's great. And I think it's this fascinating tension that lets them...
01:12:57 ◼ ► It's something that is special to their widgets that I don't think, having spent a year working on photo widgets and that being a meaningful amount of my life, I don't think anybody could make a photo widget as good as Apple's photo widget. And that's fine.
01:13:10 ◼ ► The funny thing is, though, if you just take them as a spec, like let's make a product spec for the Apple Memories photo widget and let's make a spec for Widgetsmith's just pick a picture and pick a frame photo widget.
01:13:27 ◼ ► The description, and again, I'm not saying... Part of what makes Widgetsmith so popular is that you take a simple idea and make an exquisitely good customizable UI around it. So I'm not saying that what you did was easy, but it's very easy to describe.
01:14:06 ◼ ► Because if it weren't private, it would be a disaster and a publicity disaster and just a bad idea overall. Do it privately. Do it in a way that doesn't burn the phone's battery down, analyzing all these photos.
01:14:20 ◼ ► Create custom silicon to run machine learning very efficiently and in parallel. It's like this massive billion dollar... It's literally banked on billions of dollars in research and development into machine learning.
01:14:58 ◼ ► Apple's thing, like you said, it's billions of dollars in terms of the infrastructure behind it, and mine is not. But they're both impactful and they're both things that make people's phones mean more to them.
01:15:17 ◼ ► In a way that is something that most of the software that I've written, people like using it. It's nice, it can be enjoyable, easy to use, well designed, pretty, etc. But it doesn't have that same sense of emotional connection.
01:15:39 ◼ ► And it's amazing how from something so simple as just pick a picture and put it in a widget to this deep, complicated model, they can both exist and they can both be beautiful in their own way.
01:15:52 ◼ ► I joke, but I'm a dedicated user of your sleep++ sleep tracker for Apple Watch, which I know you know, Merlin Mann turned me on to, I think two years ago, I think I've been doing this for two years. And it's like, I don't have sleep problems. I sleep like a rock 99 days out of 100.
01:16:11 ◼ ► And I've purposely created a life where I just, I don't have to wake up at a certain time. I just sleep till I wake up and then I'm ready to go. But I can't stop looking at it. I just love the reports and I love to see like, huh, if you sleep 10 hours, two nights in a row, you really do. You just wake up after eight hours the third day because you're like fully rested, like full time.
01:16:31 ◼ ► I will tell you this though, I love the app sleep++. It's a great sleep tracker, very simple, really like it. Does not give me any emotional, the feels, right? Like it does not warm my heart, doesn't bring tears to my eyes. I don't think, oh, I should take a screenshot of this one and send that one to the family. No.
01:16:50 ◼ ► Yeah. No, it's a different kind of thing. And like they both have their place in our life, but I think a year on, I feel very fortunate to have sort of stumbled my way into something that hits that resonance with people and is really cool and is be able to enhance people.
01:17:09 ◼ ► It's a different kind of like, I guess Apple always likes to talk about the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, right? It's that kind of where these things stop being just about algorithms or about visual design or graphics and it can become something that's more human and more humane.
01:17:25 ◼ ► Like it's kind of cool. And I don't think that's when widgets were announced at, you know, at ever WBC 2020. That was, I don't think what anyone had in mind. That's the kind of connection that people will be having with their computers and they'd be reminded of these wonderful things in their life.
01:17:40 ◼ ► Apple knows, I mean, and they'll tell you, I mean, it's, you know, there's however many hundreds of thousands of apps in the app store. Maybe there's a million apps, I don't know what it is, but you know, hundreds of thousands of apps all over, you know, all sorts of ideas, almost all of them things Apple never would have built itself or wouldn't want to build itself.
01:18:21 ◼ ► Yeah, you could show like, you know, your three most recent notes and then tap one to jump right into it. There's a photos. Oh, of course there should be a photos, but then they're like, we could do, we could do like a clever machine learning thing.
01:18:33 ◼ ► But then that's it. That's the photos widget. And so like that sort of simplified mindset is like, if it makes sense for an app to have a widget in Apple's mind, it's like, think of one good widget.
01:18:55 ◼ ► But it also, it's like I often say, like the path to success as an indie app in the Apple, anybody could get Sherlock on a feature or something. Like you even said, like, if it's possible, I was 16 could add a, the same way that you can set a picture as your wallpaper.
01:19:12 ◼ ► You could set it as a widget. You can get Sherlocked, but like the, on a feature, but like the best way to approach it is to think like, what can I do that would be appealing to enough people that they would pay for it, but also isn't something Apple would do.
01:19:29 ◼ ► Right? Fantastical is a great example where Fantastical is a great calendar app and it does some things and has some levels of customization that just would not make sense for Apple to add to the built-in calendar app.
01:19:42 ◼ ► Right? It's tough, you know, and there's a bunch of popular, very popular third-party email clients. The operating system ships with a very good email client, but it's, you know, email is a funny thing and people like to do it funny ways.
01:20:11 ◼ ► That it's easy sometimes for me as a developer to think about the size of my user base. And I mean, before WidgetSmith, especially, and it's like my user bases were mentioned, you know, measured in, you know, it's like tens of thousands of people is a successful app.
01:20:35 ◼ ► And it's just a different mentality where I'm like, well, why don't they just add an option? Why don't they just do a thing? It's like, well, that has to make sense for everybody who has an iPhone.
01:21:10 ◼ ► And it's like, there is a tremendous opportunity in filling in those gaps. It isn't that Apple couldn't, it's that Apple is actively and consciously and intelligently choosing not to fill that gap.
01:21:28 ◼ ► There's probably thousands of people listening to this show who are like, what? That scales? And now they're like listening to the show and they're looking at their Apple watch or setting, like I don't even use utility.
01:21:37 ◼ ► And they've quick set up a utility and now they're like, huh, how about that? It does do that. Right? But if they made it an option and people didn't even know what it did, they'd be like, I don't understand.
01:21:46 ◼ ► I'll keep flipping the switch. I don't see any difference. Apple with its institutional resistance to making options, right? Like it's, they're just generally resistant to making things an option.
01:21:56 ◼ ► We'll design it. Designing is making decisions. We'll do it for you. Even with that mindset, look at how big the settings app is, right? That's what you get that the settings app in iOS 15 or system preferences on the Mac.
01:22:09 ◼ ► That's what you get when you have a company culture that's resistant to making settings. Like imagine if they were listening to idiot podcasters like me and make a setting for every one of my pet peeves, it would be a nightmare.
01:22:24 ◼ ► The settings app would be as thick as a phone book. Yeah, and it wouldn't be better and it wouldn't, it would lose what makes Apple products great. It's like they're amazing for the general case and that's what makes them great.
01:22:37 ◼ ► I know we talked about this last year when you're on too, but I just love the way that it's still a thing where people are using custom widgets like from Widgetsmith and the trick with shortcuts where you can make a simple shortcut that just opens an app and then you can assign that app a custom icon.
01:22:56 ◼ ► And so you could like rebrand like all your 10 favorite apps with like MPP, you know, there's these icon packs you can download and put them in your photo library and then pick them to be the icons and then you can get like a themed black and white icon set, you know?
01:23:12 ◼ ► My son has done this without me prompting him. It's not like, oh, go do this. I'm a, you know, I would like to talk about it or write about it. It's like he did it on his own where he like figured out, you know, his phone was a mess. Like most people's where all the apps he had downloaded over the years were just spewed across home screens in no particular order.
01:23:31 ◼ ► Figured out the app library, loved it, put all of his apps in the app library and then has like one home screen with his favorite apps, but they all have custom icons now. And I love that he did that because that's the sort of crap I used to do with my Mac when I was his age.
01:23:55 ◼ ► Yeah. And I think it's lovely too in so far as it makes anyone a designer and it makes anybody like, you don't need to be a designer with Photoshop and Illustrator and do all this kind of stuff.
01:24:06 ◼ ► That you can be designing something and coming up with an aesthetic or a look or be making choices in a way that is very much your own and is very much creative and artistic, but isn't something that needs to be super heavy handed.
01:24:22 ◼ ► That it could just be choosing an icon pack and then, unfortunately, it's like sitting down for a couple of hours and messing around with shortcuts because they don't make it easy, but they make it possible.
01:24:33 ◼ ► And it's like, it's a choice you made and it makes your phone your phone. Like in WidgetSmith, I always think it's amazing when you think about, you know, I let you choose between, I think it's about 12 fonts and even without getting into like the crazy custom colors,
01:24:47 ◼ ► you could, like there's like 36 built-in colors and it's like you can choose the foreground color, the background color, and the border color. And you multiply all those numbers together and the reality is there is probably someone who has chosen almost every combination of those things.
01:24:59 ◼ ► And it makes, they've made a choice that's artistic and creative and in some ways kind of unique to them. And that's like, there's a certain, just kind of fun about that and a whimsy to be able to design something on a device that you use all the time.
01:25:13 ◼ ► Ah, that's well said. And it just, I really do think it fosters that mentality. And for some people that's the most they're going to do, it's the closest they're going to get to being a UI designer, but for others, it's like their gateway to becoming a UI designer or a developer.
01:25:29 ◼ ► It's like, just look at the outside of people's phones. Like you could walk through the airport and try to observe every single phone you see people pecking away on, which is probably most people. And you may not see the same case twice, right? Like people pick, you know, there's no accounting for taste.
01:25:44 ◼ ► There's everything from bedazzled, bejeweled things to, you know, leather things made out that look like an old baseball mitt or something like that. People love expressing themselves like that on the outside of the phone. Of course a lot of people are going to enjoy customizing the actual inside of their phone, meaning the software.
01:26:03 ◼ ► Yeah, and whatever, they can take so many different views, but even if it is just putting a photos widget on their home screen and seeing a picture of someone they care about, like, that's a customization that can mean a lot to them, just as much as the choice of what case they put on the outside.
01:26:16 ◼ ► Right, and you compared it, you know, you're a digital picture frame maker. If Apple sold an actual picture frame, they would have one. Or maybe they'd have two sizes, right? But it would be one look and it would have one frame. Probably if it were Apple, it would probably be like a fracture where it doesn't even have a frame, but there'd be one. They'd pick it.
01:26:36 ◼ ► And now go to Target and go to the picture frame aisle. There's like a whole aisle of picture frames that people like to choose from, and they don't stock ones that don't sell, so everybody's buying all of these picture frames that are from goofy to serious to old-fashioned to modern to, you know, you name it.
01:26:56 ◼ ► I guess that's a good place to wrap up. What can we promote? So we've talked about WidgetSmith. There's also WatchSmith, which is like WidgetSmith. Is this a good, I mean, there's a fair way to put it. It's like WatchSmith, but for creating your own custom complications for Apple Watch.
01:27:11 ◼ ► It's a very fun app with a very, very clever UI. Even if you're not interested in making custom complications, you should go to the WatchSmith page and watch David's walkthrough video. It's sort of like, here's how it works.
01:27:26 ◼ ► Because you can do things that sound very complicated. Like, let's say, like your example is, what if you want to have a complication that shows you the weather, but only in the morning? So like from like 6 to 9 a.m., it shows you the weather, and then after that, shows you the date. You think, "Oh, that seems like something," you know, like setting up a mail roll. You have to, no, it's great. You have like a little, it's like a little 24-hour dial. You just drag around the outside the hours that you want it.
01:27:51 ◼ ► It's super, super fun, very clever user interface. This is why, you know, your apps are popular. Take a simple idea, take it to the extreme. What else did we mention? Sleep++, my sleep tracker of choice, and pedometer++, which is a, take a guess what it does. I won't spoil it.
01:28:38 ◼ ► Memberful, where you can monetize your audience with memberships. Hover, where you can register the best, honestly, just the best domain name registrar on the planet. And last but not least, HelloPillow.
01:28:51 ◼ ► Just a radically different pillow than you might be used to. But my God, the people who love them, love them to death. So my thanks to HelloPillow. Anything else before we say goodbye? Other than once again?