iOS 14 is not neutral.
It will privilege certain kinds of apps, de-prioritize others, and therefore impact what kinds of apps will be successful and which are more likely to fail. At least, according to the former head of Google’s iOS app.
If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, the iOS 14 imperative will ring a bell. Because in its new mobile operating system Apple is building a fundamentally different future for software that will result in attention-focused developers failing, and service-oriented developers winning, Nick Hobbs told me on a recent episode of the TechFirst podcast.
“When you look at iOS 14, you can see that Apple is not neutral on the question of where technology goes in the future,” Hobbs says. “Littered throughout the OS are lots of changes that make it very clear they don’t want their products and platforms to be tools for attention merchants … I think the iOS 14 update is in both ways big and small, a really strong statement that Apple wants to be building a future of services and not one of this monetization of attention.”
Watch the full interview with Nick Hobbs:
To dive into how iOS 14 changes the paradigm of what mobile computing means, we have to look at how apps worked in previous versions.
For more than a decade, mobile app publishers have fought hard to get their apps installed. Getting installed meant they now owned a small amount of real estate on the “three-foot device,” the most personal computer ever invented that is rarely more than three feet from your body. From that privileged position, they could badger you for attention: throwing push notifications to your phone, adding little red numbers to the top corner of their app icons to let you know that you were missing something. The continual goal: get you to open the app, spend some time, engage with some content, and (maybe) watch a few ads.
iOS 14 thinks different.
For starters, home screen real estate is much harder to achieve.
“By default, all the apps get put in what they call the ‘Library,’ which is kind of a side space, and you can search for them,” Hobbs says. “You can still find them, you can go into the library and drag them onto your home screen. But as a developer, you have to earn that spot on the home screen.”
Even more important, however, is that Apple has created and prioritized widgets.
Widgets provide snippets of an app’s functionality and information without the bother of actually launching the app. They have the opportunity to vastly increase how much you use an app, or vastly decrease that time.
Listen to the interview behind this story on the TechFirst podcast:
One example is Photos, an Apple app I rarely used to use. If I needed a picture, it was usually a recent one, and generally available from the Camera app without the bother of going into the full Photos experience. Now, I’m using the Photos widget, which is showing top featured photos from more than a decade’s worth of pictures. That’s immediately useful and interesting right on the home screen, and it sometimes impels me to tap into the full Photos app and see more.
Another example is Activity, another Apple app that displays how much exercise you’ve gotten in a day. The widget shows everything I need on the home screen; I don’t need to tap into the app to see more.
Hobbs says that’s going to be true for many more apps, including ones that are currently big winners.
“People who provide real utility every single day, like those are the winners in iOS 14,” Hobbs says. “And the people who are trying to distract you and then monetize that attention by selling it to somebody else, that’s not a future that Apple wants to build.”
It doesn’t take a genius to understand just who an operating system that de-prioritizes attention merchants might be aimed at. But it’s also not like iOS 14 is just aimed at Apple’s frenemies and coopetitors like Facebook. Google, for instance, is another frenemy and coopetitor, but widgets are likely to be positive for Google. I almost never touch the standalone Google app currently, but with the Google widget on my home screen, traditional Google text search, Google Lens for visual search, and voice search are all just one tap away.
And that will prioritize subscription services, Hobbs thinks. Because subscription services don’t need to clamor for your attention every second. They don’t need to accumulate page views or time in app so they can show you more and more ads. They just need to provide value, no matter how or where they deliver it to you.
In other words, widgets are an attempt to disrupt a certain type of mobile software.
“That maps very well to subscription-oriented businesses,” Hobbs says, talking about widgets. “What it works very poorly for are things like freemium services, where like the idea is we kind of lure you in because it’s very easy to use, it’s easy to get started, and then over time you use it more and more. You like it more and more, and then eventually, because it’s this freemium service, we’ll start charging you by in-app purchases or something like that.”
Apple invented and launched the first modern mobile App Store eight years ago, and when it launched, apps were largely paid. There were some free apps — weather, news — but it was common for apps to be $0.99, or $1.99. Fast-forward a few years into the evolution of apps, and the scales tilted heavily towards free.
Two kinds of free, actually.
One kind of free was the attention merchants of surveillance capitalism, if you will. The Facebooks and Reddits and YouTubes of the world. The other kind of free was freemium, like the vast majority of highly successful games: free to install, free to play, but costly if you want to get good and you want to get good fast. As Hobbs puts it … the kinds of games that you pay for out of frustration.
The reality is that seemingly small changes to the iPhone operating system can have major impacts.
Hobbs was the product manager for Google’s iPhone app during the shift from iOS 6 to iOS 7. And that Apple software change had a major financial impact on Google.
“The most drastic impact that we ever saw was actually just a change in the user experience where they redesigned Safari,” he says. “At Google, we just basically took it on faith that more searches is better, right? Like, people searching more, that is a happy user is the person … and when they redesigned iOS 7 and introduced a new look for Safari, traffic fell off a cliff … it looked like a Great Depression graph.”
So it’s going to be interesting to see what iOS 14 does to the future of apps: which apps win, and which apps fail.
All apps still have the opportunity to compete and to convince people that they are worth their time, but Apple’s changes will benefit different types of apps unequally.
For Hobbs, moving apps off the home screen and adding widgets — plus the myriad new privacy-focused changes to iOS 14 — means fewer ad-monetized services.
“I think by putting in this layer … that says we’re not going to let you directly plug into a user’s brain … we’re not going to let you put the app icon on the home screen and badge it red and get them to come in.”
That’s good for Hobb’s new startup, which is subscription based, and he says he thinks it’s also good for him personally, as an iPhone owner. As a CEO, he’s trying hard to ensure his company succeeds. As a human being, he’s trying hard to live his life without being unduly influenced by what’s blowing up on social media, by the political outrage machines surrounding us in digital environments, and by the general negativity and stress that can come from consuming too much digital content.
“It’s hard for me on my own to fight every engineer at Facebook, right? There are lots of them, they’re very smart people, they’re very good at what they do, and a lot of them, their job is to get me to spend more time on Facebook,” Hobbs told me.
“And the only way that … you have a fighting chance in winning that battle is if more software companies try to help you live the life that you want to live. And I think Apple is one of those companies that’s trying to say: ‘we know that there is more to life than scrolling through Facebook.’”
New Apple mobile operating systems tend to get adopted very quickly. It will be interesting to see if Hobbs’ predictions are true and if, indeed, Apple’s new operating system will save us from ourselves.
Or save us from Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and TikTok.
It is worth mentioning, of course, that Apple doesn’t make money on services that monetize via advertising, like Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. Apple does make money on subscription services. At least, when they obey the App Store guidelines and use Apple’s payment services.
Astro’s Playroom is the perfect showcase for the PS5’s wild DualSense controller – The Verge
As far as pack-in games go, Astro’s Playroom may not seem all that exciting at first. It’s not an instant classic like a bundled Super Mario., nor something with the obvious appeal of Wii Sports. But Sony made a smart decision in giving Astro away to every PS5 owner: it might just be the ideal showcase for the console’s new DualSense controller.
The game itself is a fairly simple 3D platformer, but one that exudes charm. Everything is bright and colorful, and there are lots of fun little animations. If you leave Astro alone for too long, he’ll pull out a PSVR and start playing games on his own. (If the adorable robotic character looks familiar, it’s because it also starred in the PSVR title Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, another game designed to showcase new hardware.)
Everything takes place in a retrofuturistic world divided into several levels, though for this preview I’ll only be discussing the first, called “Cooling Springs.”
Cute as everything is, initially it seems generic. You start out at a beach collecting coins, jumping around, and smacking enemies with your little robot fists. It’s all very peaceful and charming; mechanical dolphins swim through the water, and you can knock around beach balls. Later, you’ll move on to other themed areas like a robot hotel and a frozen arctic region. It’s not particularly hard, but there’s a really playful tone. You’ll spend time sliding down icy ramps, jumping off of diving boards, and figure skating around enemies. Littered around the level are all kinds of classic PlayStation Easter eggs (which I won’t spoil for you right now).
But the most interesting thing about Astro’s Playroom isn’t how it plays — it’s how it feels. Sony’s new DualSense controller is its biggest gamepad redesign since it introduced twin sticks midway through the original PlayStation’s life. And two of the showcase features are all about feel: there are triggers on the back with haptic feedback and variable tension, and the controller has much more subtle vibrations. Both are on display in Astro’s first stage.
The vibrations are noticeable almost immediately, and the variety is pretty incredible. You can feel bits of sand crunching when Astro is walking on a beach, there’s a heavy plop when you jump into the water, and a satisfying tension when you pull on an elastic band. I especially loved the colder region where you can actually feel Astro shiver. What’s remarkable is how distinct they all feel. Each sensation is accompanied by a sound effect from the DualSense’s built-in speaker, and when you combine the physical and audio sensations, the experience becomes that much more immersive.
The same goes for the new haptic triggers. Normally, the R2 and L2 buttons perform like regular buttons, but during certain sequences, they offer feedback in the form of tension. Essentially, there are two states to the button press; you can easily press down halfway, but a full press requires a bit more force. As an example, in the opening level of Astro, there are side-scrolling sequences where the bot jumps around in a spring-powered mech suit. (Don’t ask.) In order to do a short jump, you pull the trigger halfway, but to launch across the screen, you need to pull it all the way down. It makes big leaps that much more satisfying since you have to add the extra force.
The level also makes use of other controller features. You can blow into the mic to spin a fan, use the touchpad to move a zipper, and there are the prerequisite motion controls. None of these are new like the vibration and haptic triggers, but it’s actually pretty impressive how many things Sony crammed into this gamepad.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how things will play out for the DualSense. Astro’s Playroom is an adorable little game made all the more charming thanks to these new features. But it was also designed explicitly to take advantage of them. Wii Sports was amazing, but only a few Wii games made motion controls anywhere near as compelling.
Right now, it’s not clear whether other games and developers will take advantage of the DualSense in the same way. Like HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch, they could end up being a forgotten gimmick. But in the case of Astro’s Playroom, it’s at least an incredibly fun gimmick — and one that should make new PS5 owners plenty happy when the console launches on November 12th.
iPhone 12 Pro has killer hidden performance — what you need to know – Tom's Guide
Thanks to its new A14 Bionic chip, the iPhone 12 is much faster than any Android phone based on the iPhone 12 benchmarks we’ve run, but in real-world use it’s a multitasking powerhouse and wipes the floor with older iPhones.
In a video by EverythingApplePro, the Apple-centric YouTuber compared the iPhone 12 Pro against the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone Xs, carrying out a variety of tasks. The 12 Pro blew the older models away — and it’s not just because of the A14.
EverythingApplePro showed how the iPhone 12 Pro could bounce between a whole load of apps open at the same time. And even after carrying out a video rendering tasks, the YouTuber was able to open up a load of apps in mere seconds.
That’s thanks to the extra 2GB of RAM the iPhone 12 Pro has over its predecessor, allowing for a lot of apps to be stored ‘in-memory.” That means the apps are loaded from the iPhone 12’s RAM rather than its pool of storage.
This allows for much faster multitasking, something iPhones have struggled with in the past, unlike some Android phones with large amounts of RAM.
Apple never revealed how much RAM its iPhones have, but it’s believed the iPhone 12 Pro has 6GB. Comparatively, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has 12GB. But EverythingApplePro noted that the IPhone 12 Pro shows how a well-optimized chip means there’s no need to have vast amounts of RAM in a smartphone. Given Apple designs its chips in-house, it has greater control over how the silicon plays with iOS and the rest of the IPhone.
In short, the iPhone 12 Pro is not only a powerhouse on the benchmark sheets, but also a multitasking machine in the streets. That alone arguably makes it a compelling upgrade over the iPhone 11 Pro, before you even consider the new design and upgraded cameras.
Cyberpunk 2077 Launch Delayed: Game Will Now Release on December 10 to Allow for Optimisations for Across… – Gadgets 360
Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed once again, this time for 21 days with the new release date being December 10. This time, the developers have cited optimising the game for nine platforms as the reason behind the delay. The CD Projekt Red team took to Twitter to share the news, apologising to the fans that have been eagerly waiting for the game. Cyberpunk 2077 was originally scheduled for an April 2020 release, which was then postponed to September 17, and then to November 19.
CD Projekt Red shared a post on Twitter, just like the last time the game got delayed, explaining why the team decided to push the release by 21 days. Cyberpunk 2077 was scheduled to release on November 19 after several delays and the developers had assured that the game was ready for that release date. They earlier announced that the game went “gold” meaning all the content and gameplay was ready for the final retail version. However, it seems like there is still some work to be done, particularly preparing nine versions of the game for the different platforms it will release on.
“The biggest challenge for us right now is shipping the game on current-gen, next-gen, and PC at the same time, which requires us to prepare and test 9 versions of it (Xbox One/X, compatibility on Xbox Series S/X, PS4/Pro, compatibility on PS5, PC, Stadia)… while working from home,” the post on Twitter by head of studio Adam Badowski and joint CEO Marcin Iwinski stated.
The post also explains why this delay came to be after announcing the game has “gone gold.” The post states that while ‘going gold’ means the “game is ready, can be completed, and has all content in it,” it doesn’t mean that the developers will stop raising the quality bar. Several improvements are being made to Cyberpunk 2077 that will be pushed via a Day 0 patch and the time period for these improvements was what the team “undercalculated.”
Cyberpunk 2077 was first scheduled for an April 2020 release, which was then delayed by five months to September 17 to “finish playtesting, fixing, and polishing.” Then, it was pushed to November 19 so that the team could “balance game mechanics and fix a lot of bugs.”
Are iPhone 12 mini, HomePod mini the Perfect Apple Devices for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
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