00:00:56 ◼ ► And it is granted, you know, people who are power users enough to install widgets, but that's still, that's a much larger install base and probably a better cross-section of the population.
00:01:16 ◼ ► I would love, just as a little sidetrack, I've been starting to do a little bit of redesign work and as I'm doing things like rewriting view controllers in Swift, I'm like, man, I would love to use async/await for things like, I have to load something into the view controller from the network and then pop the result in.
00:01:32 ◼ ► Like, man, wouldn't it be nice? So, hmm, that's interesting. Maybe, you know, like, any redesign I do wouldn't be done until probably at least this coming February, March, April kind of time frame, if I even keep on track and do it this time, which I say every year and I never do.
00:03:17 ◼ ► It also introduced System-wide Dark Mode, which was a meaningful feature that I think is sort of, in some ways, like, the hero for system features that just become part of the, like, the fabric of iOS development.
00:03:33 ◼ ► And are adopted universally and are generally well, you know, it's like, any time or effort you put into Dark Mode with iOS 13, you got your investment back because it certainly went well.
00:04:37 ◼ ► And I've never seen one in real life. I'm sure they potentially exist, but it seems like that feature didn't particularly set the world on fire, become something that was sort of bigger important.
00:04:52 ◼ ► And then, let's see, what else did we have? We had ARKit 4, which is one of those funny things where similarly I feel like there's this area that, like, every year there's these little, it's just sort of pushing out in that direction.
00:05:56 ◼ ► Which, I mean, honestly, I had a lot of concerns about when WidgetSmith had its sort of meteoric rise initially, it was, is this going to be one of these things that's cool and people are excited about for a few days, and then it just falls away and the interest wanes and no one cares.
00:06:50 ◼ ► But anyway, because of my slower than ideal pace of adopting new features, I just got around a couple of weeks ago to shipping an update that used a lot of iOS 14 features, among which was a widget.
00:07:37 ◼ ► Maybe when you first set up your home screen for iOS 14 last year, maybe you looked around for what was out there, installed some stuff, and then kind of just never changed it after that.
00:07:46 ◼ ► So when I released the widgets, I didn't make a huge fanfare out of it. I posted on the Twitter account of the app and I put it in the release notes, but there was no big press or big fanfare.
00:08:10 ◼ ► So for some reason, somehow, yet, less than, I think I'm about two weeks out from release now, and it's already way more, there's over 10,000 people who have it installed, who have a widget configured.
00:08:24 ◼ ► It's a massive number of people, considering there was no fanfare whatsoever, and it's already proven way more popular than things like the website. I mean, I know the website sucks, but that's still pretty good, considering.
00:08:42 ◼ ► So I kind of realized, oh, this feature was worth adopting. And iOS 14, but as you mentioned, it also added app clips. And app clips is a feature that I theoretically want to try to play around with at some point, as if somebody shares an overcast link through iMessage or something, which is the most popular shared destination for me.
00:09:08 ◼ ► If somebody shares a link in iMessage, maybe I could pop up a little player and have it just start playing and possibly do that. But first of all, I don't even know how that works necessarily. I don't know how good that experience can be in practice. I'd have to actually try it and see.
00:09:23 ◼ ► But the demand for that seems to have not really materialized. I actually have seen exactly one app clip in the wild. Is that a restaurant that they had this thing where you could scan a QR code on the check and pay it with your phone without having to give the credit card to anybody and go back and forth and everything.
00:09:43 ◼ ► So that was an option. And what it did was it brought up an app clip. And then for the next week or two, I had this weird dotted icon in my app library. Like, wait, what's that? And then, oh, yeah, that's right. And it's called something generic, like pay the bill or something.
00:09:57 ◼ ► So it just kept offering for me to pay the bill at other times in my life. After that, I was like, well, sure. But yeah, so app clips is a feature that's a non-trivial amount of work to support.
00:10:10 ◼ ► And if it's not going anywhere, which, I mean, honestly, we don't really know for sure. Maybe there are certain areas, certain industries or regions in which it is very popular. But it seems like it's mostly not.
00:10:23 ◼ ► And so it's kind of hard to know, though, before the OS ships and before it's out there, like, what's going to be that kind of feature. I think it's easy to decide to support something like dark mode. You mentioned dark mode in iOS 13. Because dark mode is the kind of thing that the entire system is moving in this direction to make this dark theme and auto switching available.
00:10:47 ◼ ► And even though it's, in many cases, it's a good amount of work to support something like that. Like, anytime the system design or theme changes or the system font or the design language is currently in fashion, that's always a huge amount of work to support that kind of stuff.
00:11:03 ◼ ► But dark mode is the kind of thing that if you don't support it, you're going to instantly look old. It's almost like not supporting a new screen size for a new phone or iPad. Like, if your app is launching every time and it's being letterboxed in by black bars because you don't support the new screen size, your app is going to instantly look old.
00:11:22 ◼ ► And that's, you know, something like dark mode is the kind of thing that can cause that. And so, for that kind of context, I think it's an easy decision for developers to make. No matter how much work it is, you pretty much have to do it.
00:11:33 ◼ ► Whereas, something like, you know, the app clip feature, like that's, or, you know, going back a little bit further, something like Siri Intents, it's a little harder to know, like, well, how much is this going to actually be used?
00:12:35 ◼ ► And, you know, we just didn't, you know, we had, there was that one fall where they unveiled the Apple TV and its SDK and they had those little tech talks where they went around and, didn't you come to New York for ours?
00:12:55 ◼ ► Yeah. But, you know, like we were all excited. Oh, great, a new platform. You know, maybe people will use the Apple TV to play games and browse real estate and then it just didn't really happen that way.
00:13:19 ◼ ► Well, and I think what's interesting there, and I think the reason I thought this, I think in many ways this is an interesting discussion for us to have, is the sense of, obviously now we're looking forward to iOS 15.
00:13:29 ◼ ► And moreover, thinking of, you know, the future, iOS 16, iOS 15.1, whatever comes down the road, is it sort of looking back to try and learn how to better make choices and decisions into the future.
00:13:47 ◼ ► And I think, in retrospect, the things that I see are that sense of, one, is it a feature that, like, my instinct initially is that that looks cool or interesting, and not just like a tech demo.
00:14:10 ◼ ► Like, they needed five features to put on this year and they just, like, picked that one. And anytime it doesn't sort of have that initial, like, wow factor or something that I think is very cool or interesting and engaging right away,
00:14:32 ◼ ► And I think sort of the slight counter to that is the sense of, what was interesting with widgets is I feel like the way they were pitched initially and the way they were actually, what got them sort of broad adoption and utility were, I think, were different things.
00:14:50 ◼ ► That what made people, like, the way that they were described at WWDC and I think the way that most developers, as far as I was aware, were talking about them and thinking about them is almost thinking about them like they're sort of complications on watchOS.
00:15:07 ◼ ► That they're these sort of ways of showing little bits of status information or utility inside, you know, sort of pushing it slightly outside of your application and sort of showing that on the home screen itself.
00:15:23 ◼ ► It's almost like we were thinking of them as they were better icons for our applications. And it turned out, when people, I mean, and obviously not all of the usefulness of widgets was Widgetsmith, but I think the thing that actually was exciting for people was giving people control over their home screen and the way it looked and what they could put there.
00:15:45 ◼ ► And that's where the real, like, that was the catalyzing feature. And I don't think anyone, me included, the person who wrote the app that ended up kind of expanding that out into the public at large.
00:16:05 ◼ ► That it turns out, like adding specific photos to your home screen is like the killer feature for iOS 14 widgets. That is what the vast majority of widgets that have been added in Widgetsmith are.
00:16:26 ◼ ► I think some of that exists, but it turns out, what actually people really actually love is just probably, you know, putting pictures of things that they care about or love on their home screen.
00:16:35 ◼ ► And like, that's the exciting and interesting part. None of us could have predicted that. And so on the one hand, I think of, in retrospect, looking at these features that Apple announces, I think they think are cool.
00:16:46 ◼ ► I look at it and if I'm a bit circumspect, like I don't see me using that very much, maybe I shouldn't do it. But it's like, there's the risk, I suppose, of that of potentially missing out on, you're not the, you know, it's like you're not the primary audience for this feature anyway.
00:17:01 ◼ ► Potentially. And that, you know, and potentially missing out. But also, at the same time, like if you're building a feature that you don't, you're not excited about, that you don't care about, that you're not going to use yourself, then you're also probably setting yourself up for trouble as well.
00:17:42 ◼ ► Design, every successful app eventually wins with design, but it looks different for each one. Here you'll figure out how to find your apps voice and then use that to make it look and feel right at home in the iOS platform.
00:21:29 ◼ ► But also in part because it was basically their only user-facing feature for iOS 15 that developers would have any real chance of adopting and having it have some kind of third-party app story.
00:22:43 ◼ ► And honestly, it hasn't happened yet and I don't think it will. But that's a hard call to make in advance, as we've been saying. Sometimes things seem like they're going to be big hits and they're not. Or vice versa.
00:23:10 ◼ ► And there are features that become, or are the opposite and just are broad and apply universally. And I think what increasingly I have a sense of is that the more broad a feature will have impact on the user and their experience on their iPhone, the more likely it is to be something that is going to take off, be useful, be worth our time.
00:23:33 ◼ ► Because when I think about SharePlay, it's sort of, even watching the original introduction to W2DC, it has the sense of like, I don't really want to be always on a FaceTime call when I want to have this type of real-time collaboration.
00:23:56 ◼ ► The fact that it was tied to FaceTime specifically rather than if Apple had provided a sort of a real-time, like, which is always weird that they did it this way where I sometimes I think that the group activities API that is like the baseline of SharePlay feels like should be its own standalone thing and is potentially interesting and compelling as a service there.
00:24:22 ◼ ► Apple essentially providing a way to do real-time collaboration at a system level in a really low friction way. Like the group activities API looks amazing. Like I watched all the W2DC videos, thought it was really cool.
00:24:33 ◼ ► But the fact that the use case for this gets so specific that you need to be on a FaceTime call. So you need to, you know, it's like have a video stream running while you're doing whatever the real-time collaborative activity is, gets very narrow.
00:24:59 ◼ ► Like it becomes so specific and so like, like you do mean just practically speaking that it's the kind of thing where you're having to like make an appointment with someone else at a particular time to do a particular thing.
00:25:12 ◼ ► And then it sort of can come into its own and potentially be useful. Like it just becomes so narrow that it seems it's much more unlikely that it's actually going to go anywhere and that it's actually going to be this big sort of impacting event that you might imagine.
00:25:30 ◼ ► And so I think your approach of being wait and see makes a lot of sense that it might make sense for a large media company to pursue this. In many ways they sort of have that I think like Disney Plus and Netflix have like the group watch functionality built into their apps where you can have synchronized sort of playback of something.
00:26:14 ◼ ► So just wait and see and it turned out obviously in this case waiting and seeing for SharePlay made a lot of sense because even Apple seems to be having trouble with getting it implemented and getting it working in the first place.
00:26:27 ◼ ► Because it's hard. It's a hard problem to solve. I think ultimately one of the factors that comes into play here with trying to figure out whether to adopt something like this is to know your app and to know your users. In my case I knew that my users would adopt dark mode instantly.
00:26:44 ◼ ► So I knew when iOS 13 came out, oh yeah I better support that on day one. I also know that my users are skewed towards power users. So stuff like widgets, even though I didn't adopt them immediately, I knew I should have.
00:27:01 ◼ ► It took me a long time but I knew I should have adopted them. And stuff like Siri Intents. Even though I knew that was not going to be a large number of people, I knew that I would start hearing from people about that instantly on day one.
00:27:15 ◼ ► And I did. And so I've always adopted them even when they were a huge pain in the butt to adopt in the past. It got a lot better when I was 14. But anyway, and part of this is knowing my audience and thinking okay well SharePlay is a feature.
00:27:30 ◼ ► Fine. How would people actually use that with listening to podcasts? Well, I guess the idea is to be on a FaceTime call together with somebody who you're listening to a podcast with together. Most common case of that is probably your partner.
00:27:46 ◼ ► If you and your partner, often times people will save certain podcasts to listen to with their partners. But you also usually live with your partner unless you're traveling or something. So that cuts it down to okay well this is already going to be a subset of a subset of a subset of the time because it's only going to really be when you're away, from home.
00:28:02 ◼ ► And that's, first of all, not a lot of that happening these days. But even when it is, that's only a subset of certain times. And it's like actually, podcast listening, from what I've learned running a podcast app for seven years, whatever it's been, but what I've learned is that it's mostly a solitary activity.
00:28:20 ◼ ► Like it's mostly something that you do in headphones or through your phone speaker, like as you're like walking around or doing errands or doing housework or commuting. Like that's mostly where people listen to podcasts. It's usually not a group activity.
00:28:34 ◼ ► I've had social features in the past and they've gone almost nowhere really because it's not even that social of a thing. You don't usually listen to the same things as your friends. So I decided like knowing my app and thinking about how it would actually be used, I think it's not going to be a thing that my users demand and so I decided not to do it.
00:28:52 ◼ ► And I think the last thing you said there is the most important thing. It's like knowing your app and knowing your users and not trying to make a feature happen and chase being like in the list in the app store of like new apps for iOS 15 and being in that list that lasts a couple weeks.
00:29:11 ◼ ► And like in theory it is really cool to be in there and I'm not saying it's not, but it can often feel like you're chasing Apple's adoration rather than the adoration of your users. And that's like that's interesting and nice, but probably not a long lived sort of path to success.