Email on iOS – revisited

In stark contrast to my conclusion of the state of e-mail on iOS from nearly a year ago, I have switched to Newton as my preferred client app on iOS.

It seems that a lot of under-the-hood work has happened between my dismissal of the app one year ago and today. The look of Newton didn’t change at all, but the app is much snappier and none of the bugs I have experienced last time is visible any longer.

For background, I stopped using the other contestants from my piece of last year — Spark and Airmail — mostly out of frustration about bugs and usability issues.

I also had an easier time to embrace the visual minimalism in Newton. I was using Spark before the switch and was getting tired of the pronounced design language embedded into Spark.

To be sure, Newton is far from being the app that does everything I want from an e-mail app. But the features that are supported are — so far — rock-solid. That alone makes the app a joy to work with.

Updates

I‘m pretty sure this is new in iOS 11.3: if you tap on „more“ in the description of an app‘s release notes in the iOS App Store the updated version of the app as well as the download size is listed at the bottom of the release notes.

This seems like a minor detail but for me this is a nice improvement over the previous status, a flashback of the proverbial „attention to detail“.

Beats X – Four Months after

After using the Beats X for hours every day for the last four months:

  • Sound quality improved dramatically after I started using earpieces made from memory foam. Highly recommended. The only downside of this setup is that phone calls sometimes become uncomfortable because the ears are tightly sealed and (at least for me) pressure inside my ears gets out of balance and blurs the audio. What is clearly a boon for listening to music can be a bane for making phone calls.
  • Bluetooth range is still outstanding. I’ve read reviews of Bluetooth headphones that dropped connection if you put your phone into the jeans pocket. The Beats X easily tolerates several meters1 without dropping the connection.
  • Pairing with iOS devices keeps being unbeatably fast and comfortable, best I’ve ever experienced in any Bluetooth peripheral so far.
  • No visible wear of cables or buttons. I originally didn’t have much confidence in the cables. They seemed very frail and, after all, my last two pairs to headphones had died primarily because of failing cables.
  • Battery life is stable, no perceptible degradation so far. There was this one anecdote where the Beats X died after just five minutes out of the house. But that could easily be explained by the temperatures (less than -10 degrees Celsius) and the fact that the part of the cable that houses the batteries was directly exposed to the cold. After I put the cable into my jacket the headphones came back to life.
  • The cable is a bit too long. It’d be good if Apple had shortened the cable by a couple of cm.
  • While traveling, I’ve been increasingly happy to carry a pair of headphones that can be charged by a Lightning connector. I’d hate to carry an extra micro-USB cable solely for this one purpose.

  1. I never really felt the need to find out at which distance exactly the connection would break. Let’s say: it’s generous. 

App Store Gripes

Alto’s Odyssey is out today.

As a big fan of the predecessor game, I pre-ordered Alto’s Odyssey the moment pre-orders went up.

Today, I got a notification that the game is out and it even appeared magically on my iPhone1.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to play the game on my iPhone. I never play games on my iPhone. If I play a game at all I play it on the iPad.

But the App Store app on my iPad insists that there is no download available and just indicates the “pre-ordered” status.

There are reviews available, and the game seems to have made it to number 5 in the “sports”2 download charts already. So it must be available for download, right?

And yet, it’s not available to me. Because I pre-ordered. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t pre-order I could just go ahead and download the game.

I guess I should take a moment to think twice before I ever pre-order anything again from the App Store.

Update: courtesy of @AppleSupport, it helps to sign out of iCloud, restart the device, and sign back into iCloud. Don’t ask.


  1. It got downloaded over LTE, without asking, although I have deactivated automatic downloads. 
  2. WTF? 

Accidental App Store Ratings

Today marks the third time in less than a week where I have accidentally submitted a rating for an app while idly browsing the iOS App Store on my iPad.

I just takes – while scrolling vertically in an app’s description – an accidental tap on the outlined stars located somewhere mid of page and then a rating is submitted to the App Store without any further confirmation.

Well, you get this semi-translucent pop-up that offers a “thank you” after the fact. Without it, I would probably not even take notice of the inadvertent feedback caused by my own carelessness.

Sure, it is possible to correct this mishap1, but I wonder how many people actually take the trouble to correct their mistakes.

I understand that Apple wants to make it easy for people to submit their feedback. Maybe I’m just clumsy, but should it really be that easy?


  1. Go to the “updates” tab and tap on your account’s avatar in the upper right corner. In the pop-up, tap your avatar again, and in the next pop-up scroll down to “ratings and reviews”. Give it a tap and you’re ready to undo potential accidents in rating. 

Share Sheet is hard

I wonder why share sheets aren’t mentioned in that famous quote about naming and cache invalidation. Share sheets are hard, apparently.

Hey, just kidding. I’m fine, just a bit grumpy.

Share sheets were a godsend when introduced in iOS 8, IIRC. I use share sheets constantly, for all possible purposes.

For obvious reasons, there are many cases where I want to use a share sheet to capture something and feed a new task into my to-do manager app.

For example, let’s assume I stumble upon an interesting app in the iOS app store and want to put it on the list of apps I store for future reference. Then, this happens:

Text is captured from the App Store app into the share sheet. There is little doubt that the first line of the body text is an obvious candidate for becoming the title of the task, right?

And yet, this text is appearing in the body, where I have to cut it from and paste it into its rightful place manually. Every. Single. Time.

I have provided feedback to Cultured Code and kindly asked for changing the behavior of the share sheet accordingly. And I’m pretty sure that one day an update will roll in where this issue is fixed.

I know the fix is feasible because I already went through the same procedure before. About a year ago, I think. With OmniFocus. Originally, its share sheet behaved exactly the same way as Things‘ currently does.

I (and doubtlessly many others) used the possibility to contact the Omni Group and, guess what, after some time an update was released where the share sheet changed its behavior and started to fill in meaningful content into the title of the new task. It’s pretty good at that.

I can’t help it, I tend to switch back and forth between using Things and OmniFocus as my task manager of choice. It’s a very close call between the two.

This little detail makes me stick with OmniFocus for the time being. That, and the lack of a dark theme in Things.

Bitcoin

I am literally not invested in Bitcoin, but this episode of the Kevin Rose show was quite enlightening to me in terms of the non-technical implications of digital currency.

It helps if you have a (vague1) understanding of how blockchains operate, but I’m pretty sure you’d still get a lot of valuable2 information even without a deeper technical insight.


  1. That at least describes my personal grasp of the topic probably best. 
  2. I can’t believe that this survived editing. 

Beats 10

Like many others, I could have lived with iPhone still having headphone jacks going forward. I don’t have any problems with using cable-based headphones at all. For one thing, it’s one device less that requires regular charging.

But the occurrence of a certain hand-me-down situation in combination with severely broken cables on my RHA MA750i1 required a recalibration of my preferences for headphones connected to my iPhone.

Enter Bluetooth.

I connect my iPhone to the car stereo and a cheap Bluetooth speaker that I use to listen to podcasts while doing chores. In both cases, a reconnection to the already paired device takes between 30 seconds and one minute. Therefore, fast2 reconnection ended up pretty high on the list of my requirements to a new pair of earbuds.

From what I hear, Apple’s W1 SoC is the answer. The W1 is used in several products meanwhile, the probably most prominent being AirPods.

However, I just can’t stand Apples rigid-shaped3 earphones, they don’t fit my ear anatomy and I hate every single one of them4. Therefore, AirPods were not an option for me.

Next option: Beats X. This product at least uses replaceable silicone earpieces such that I could hope for making myself comfortable with the earbuds.

Short aside: I don’t really get Apple’s silly and inconsistent play with the letter X. Is it 10 or actually “X”? It depends. Beats 10? 10Code, anyone?

Anyway, I really needed a solution and so it was time for Beats.

I’m happy to report Apple delivers on the matter of connection time and connection quality. It usually takes around or less than 1 second after powering up a pair of Beats X until the device indicates readiness. Amazing.

Plus, the headphones are available on every other devices where you logged into iCloud with the same account used on the first device connected to the Beats X.

Sound quality of Beats headphones is often subject to critique, mostly on the subject of being bass-heavy. In my experience, the sound quality is heavily influenced by the used tips plugged into your ear.

The Beats X ships with three different types of silicone earpieces, but I did not get good results out of any of them.

My RHAs, to my delight, shipped with a variety of differently shaped silicone earpieces that give you a better chance to make the earbuds fit to your ears.

Luckily, I still have the palette of earpieces as well as the case5 courtesy of RHA. I started experimenting.

Frankly, the results I get range from positively yogurt cup to okay-ish. The latter end of the range was only reached by leaving the silicone earpieces shipped with the earphones aside and use that one’s from the RHA box.

But it would still be an exaggeration to declare satisfaction. In my personal experience, the Beats X lacks a bit across the spectrum: treble, mids, and (as much as this may come as a surprise) bass. Flat, but not really in a good way.

I’m no audiophile, but maybe this is what they mean when they talk about the stage.

On the other hand, I use to listen to podcasts 80% of the time I use my headphones. Whatever reason you could have to listen to podcasts, it is very likely not for the sound quality. And that’s OK.

To put things further into perspective, every single pair of Bluetooth earbuds I researched during the past weeks apparently lacks in one or the other discipline6.

This gives me an excuse for keeping the Beats, mostly out of being happy with the handling of reconnection and the convenience of using a lightning cable for charging7. At least, that’s something.


  1. I would have loved to use these earbuds for their sound quality. But I am really disappointed by the build quality of the two models of RHA (the other one was an MA600i) that I have used over the last two years. Granted, both were from the low end of RHA’s product spectrum. But still. 
  2. Ideally: under 5 seconds 
  3. I.e. ear buds, airbuds 
  4. Once, I needed to travel light and couldn’t take “real” headphones. I took the earbuds shipped with my iPhone, only to break down at the Apple Store in Berlin and insta-buy my first pair of RHA earbuds without bothering with researching the best product even for a second. 
  5. I use the RHA case to store the Beats X when not in use. The case in the Beats X Box is way smaller and I fear that I sooner or later break a cable if I stuff the Beats X into the Beats case. 
  6. Bluetooth range, connection quality, sound, battery life, durability, you name it. 
  7. After all, a not-so-great sounding pair of earbuds with a lightning connector is still better than a not-so-great sounding pair of earbuds that requires Micro-USB and therefore the hassle to carry another cable with me just for charging my Bluetooth earbuds. 

Hello Weather Radar

There’s a new major version of Hello Weather1 available in the App Store. The main functionality of the app remains unchanged, but the presentation of the data has undergone a major redesign.

The presentation overall became much bolder and heavier, both in terms of typesetting as well as in the general design language. The page layout on the iPad now actually uses way more of the available screen real estate.

Prominent among the new features, Radar is supposed to provide users with historic cloud movements of the last couple of hours, overlaying a map of the respective region.

The important caveat: Radar is only available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia2.

The problem is that there is no visual indication in the UI that Radar doesn’t work for regions outside the supported list of countries.

In other words, if you’re located outside the supported countries you would still be provided with fully functional button in the toolbar at the bottom that takes you to a screen showing a fully functional map of your region.

A further (seemingly) fully-functional play button triggers the brief appearance of a progress bar, followed by a (seemingly) fully functional marker advancing a straight line from left to right. Here is a screenshot of the lower parts of the Radar screen:

Of course, this is a totally known pattern for playing a stream of video material. The problem is that nothing happens. Whatever the outside conditions, no moving cloud pattern would ever appear overlaying the map.

Why is the Radar button even active for users outside the U.S., Canada, and Australia? Why does the app give me the fake illusion that it is downloading actual data when this is not happening at all3?

Why does the app seemingly replay data on the map screen that simply do not contain any information?

As mentioned before, the whole feature is fan club only. So it seems safe to assume that there is a toolbar layout included that does not show the Radar button to non-members.

I, for sure, would be grateful for a setting to completely hide the Radar button from my copy of the app if it does not provide me with any benefit at all.

By the way, another slightly weird aspect of the Radar feature is that it is, at least at the moment, only limited to historic data of the last hours before now. Even for folks located in the U.S, Canada, and Australia there is no forecast of precipitation for your location available.

This represents a conceptual break from the behavior of the rest of Hello Weather that is entirely about forecast and does not show any historic information of the last day, or even the last hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like the app and will continue to use it happily. But the described behavior just seems silly and should be mitigated in one of the coming service updates, if you want my opinion.


  1. See my take on it. 
  2. This information can be obtained from the “what’s new” screen but not everyone reviews that one in detail. 
  3. Former versions of the app contained a setting that activated an experimental mode that was supposed to provide users activating this mode with a preview of stuff that may or may not come in future versions. This setting, however, is gone and could not be used as an excuse for the current implementation. 

iPad Dock

The other day I was listening to the latest episode of “Connected” on Relay.fm, when Stephen and Federico debated the position of the dock on an iPad.

Among listeners of the show it is common knowledge that Stephen is heavily into placing the dock to the right edge of the screen on macOS.

Federico, on the other hand, presented a screenshot of his MacBook Pro that he only uses for recording, and that screenshot showed the dock on the bottom of the screen.

Federico said that he was more comfortable with this layout since it is also the only setting for the iPad that he uses as this main computer.

A day later, this happened to me on my iPad:

After flipping the layout from portrait to landscape the dock simply stuck.
After flipping the layout from portrait to landscape the dock simply stuck.

Of course, this reminded me of said discussion I listened to a couple of days before.

This looks really strange because the orientation of the icons is still in portrait. The springboard was fully responsive during this short period in time.

I actually had a hard time readjusting the position of the dock to normal.

I went through a series of orientation changes and switching the device on and off until I finally managed to get the stuck dock to the bottom of the screen in landscape orientation.