Under the Radar

194: WWDC 2020


00:00:00   Welcome to Under the Radar, a show about independent iOS app development.

00:00:04   I'm Marco Arment.

00:00:06   And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is never longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:10   It's WWDC!

00:00:12   Hey!

00:00:13   But we're at home!

00:00:14   Hey!

00:00:16   It's a strange feeling.

00:00:20   I mean, I know about you, but I think my first WWDC was 2009.

00:00:24   Same.

00:00:26   Every single year I've been in California since. It's just like this fixture on my calendar that, usually it's the first or second week of June, but now it's a bit later in June.

00:00:37   But it's like, there's this week in June where I go to California and that's just been a fixture of my life.

00:00:43   It's even to the point where I have life concepts around it. So my first WWDC, our eldest son was four months old, so he had just been born.

00:00:56   And it was this whole big thing of, "What do we know?" But I was trying to start my career as an app developer and it seemed really important to go to WWDC, and so we decided to do it.

00:01:05   My wife went and moved in with her mother for the week so we could kind of make it work with the newborn, and his entire life he has never known me not going to California for WWDC.

00:01:17   And so it definitely feels a little weird to be here, to not be in California, in the conference or not, but just to not have this time when I'm there.

00:01:26   But overall, we're recording on the Wednesday of WWDC and so far, so good. It's been a good week so far. I think Apple is doing overall a good job of doing the best under the circumstances.

00:01:40   And beyond even just the announcements and all the cool stuff they announce, it seems to be going reasonably well, which is kind of nice.

00:01:47   Yeah, it is a very different experience, but I don't think it's a worse one. In certain ways, it is not as fun or not as good.

00:01:57   We do miss a lot of that in-person socialization that we would always do every year, and it is fun having podcast live shows to either host or go to or both.

00:02:09   And it is nice being in the room for the keynote if you can and feeling all the energy and having all the cheering whenever good stuff is announced.

00:02:19   All that stuff is really nice, but it's also very exclusive and very expensive and a huge ordeal and in many ways fairly wasteful in a lot of ways.

00:02:32   And so from those angles, I actually think that what we have now is better. And I don't know what Apple's plans are for what they're going to do in the future.

00:02:43   They probably haven't decided yet, to be honest. But if WWDC is just like this every year and there isn't even an in-person component, that will be a pretty significant difference in how things have always been done.

00:02:57   But that actually might fit the company better in terms of how big the developer community is, how tiny of a fraction of it could ever actually go to the conference in person, and how much better this is for everyone else who couldn't go in person or didn't go in person.

00:03:15   We have this amazing online conference now that in many ways is serving just as good of a role and in some ways is doing things so much better that they actually I think should really consider just doing it like this from now on.

00:03:32   Yeah, I mean, I gotta imagine it's like they're certainly looking at it because it's, I think it's given them the opportunity to try something new that I doubt they would have had the sort of, I don't know, like the confidence to just try.

00:03:47   Like, hey, this year we're just going to like do this wacky thing and go a totally different direction for WWDC and see what happens. Like that seems like it's a huge risk and impact and like back, you know, sort of if they change their mind the next year, then it's a big deal in a different way.

00:04:03   And I can kind of see it's in many ways, this is a lovely sort of like benefit to them that they can try this out and see what it's like. And I mean, I gotta say, I think, overall, it's, yeah, it's like it's I miss the other than the like the, the social aspect of it, which is not actually like intrinsic to the content, like the conference itself, and is more just to it that there was this, you know, this this catalyzing event that brought everybody into the same city.

00:04:31   It's like outside of that the actual functional parts of the of the conference have been delightful. Like I really enjoyed even just like the silly things like on keynote morning, rather than spending like five hours sitting on a like uncomfortable carpeted floor eating stale muffins, like I was just at home and I worked out normally had a nice breakfast, had a nice lunch and then just like went and sat down just like I do for, you know, like the the the you know, the fall of the fall events or just serve all the Apple events where

00:05:00   like I would imagine wDC like if they if they decided to keep this model, like you would, in my mind, like next year, the keynote would be a regular press keynote that it would still be just like, just like always where, you know, they would bring people to the Steve Jobs theater and have a have an event, but it would be for the press and a few guests and things like that.

00:05:23   But it's the online and then transition to this online experience, which, like, overall seems to work really well. And I gotta say, like, on the pop sort of the plus side as a developer, like, obviously, you know, I'm I'm experiencing the, you know, what it's like for obviously people who haven't don't aren't just sort of don't don't don't aren't able to get to California.

00:05:42   And I'm getting a lot more work done. Like I'm at this, you know, at this point in the middle of, you know, in the middle of the week, I feel like I have a really good understanding of the new API is the new options, the new things that have come out.

00:05:56   I'm able to identify questions that actually have and it would be useful to ask in a lab more, you know, sort of more quickly. I've built and prototyped a whole bunch of more stuff, because there's a lot less kind of overhead to the week that even just beyond the complexities around, like, going to sessions in person or having, you know, live shows and stuff, which are great, but are certainly not, you know, at my desk working or even just like working out of a hotel room is no way to, you know,

00:06:25   is nowhere near as productive as we at home in my at my regular desk with my regular computer with all my tools and, you know, working on an iMac Pro, like all those things add up to it actually being like a really nice thing, you know, sort of from a productivity perspective.

00:06:43   And, you know, structure wise, it's still seems to have a bit of the feel like the one thing that I was kind of a little bit confused by it initially was that they were going to post the videos on a weekly basis, like throughout the week, which is entirely arbitrary, like there's no reason why they have all these like pre really pre recorded highly professionally put together videos, and then they're going to like rather than just like dropping them all on Tuesday morning, you know, we're getting this drip feed throughout the week.

00:07:12   And I think, I imagine the intention behind that is to try and give it a little bit more of a, you know, more of a conference feel that there's new and interesting things to talk about throughout the week that get kind of rolled out, rather than it just being a one day conference that they do like the keynote on Monday, and then on Tuesday, here's all the data, you know, goodbye, have a good summer, which is a little annoying when like some of the videos I'm like, Oh, I really want to see this one, I think it'd be really useful.

00:07:39   You know, like, I need I'd love to know this information now. And it's like, it's entirely arbitrary that I kind of have to wait for it. But I see where they're going with that as kind of like a structure thing. And it sort of kind of works. But like, I don't know, yeah, it's like from a fundamental structure perspective, I think this is this is a winner. And it's like, then, you know, it's like we certainly dive into a little bit more of kind of the actual details of like, what the difference in videos or, you know, labs and forums, but, you know,

00:08:08   forums, but it's like, overall, WDC 2020. It's like, it's like different, but good.

00:08:15   Even the downsides of it, like, you know, we aren't really seeing our friends the way we would normally, we don't have opportunities to interact so easily with other people. Like, you know, we have this channel that Apple has set up these dev forums and labs and everything. But you know, part of the wonderful thing about WDC was always that you could walk around and just run into people like you have a pretty good chance of running into Apple engineers or like the presenters of the sessions.

00:08:44   Walking around, you could like quickly go up and say, hey, I liked your session and ask them a small question maybe, or other people, you know, you know, if you run into John Gruber or something, you know, that that all had a chance of happening. That can't happen in this format. And possibly, you know, one one thing that Apple might want to look at, although I don't know if they are really the role to do it, or this is anywhere near their wheelhouse. But, you know, we have channels now to interact with Apple through like the online labs and stuff, which we'll get to, but we don't have channels to interact with each other.

00:09:13   So much. I guess the dev forums might be that, but that's not a social at all type of context. That's more like, you know, informational and even that, you know, the dev forums usually have a lot to be desired. But even like the online breaking out of the sessions by like releasing the videos all on certain days as opposed to all at once.

00:09:35   I actually think that's probably for the best because not only does it help like spread out the load on labs and and everything, but it also it also helps us digest everything more gradually.

00:09:47   Like, you know, at the end of every conference, there's always I always go download all the videos I'm interested in, and I hardly ever actually watch them all. I watch a few and then I procrastinate or forget to watch the rest.

00:09:59   Because it's just, you know, when you have a giant list of two or three hundred session videos or however many there are, like it's really hard to actually pick out what you want.

00:10:09   Whereas if they're being like trickled out over the week, you have like a new batch to look at every day. And then you can pick on that day. I want to see this, this and this, you know, and and I think that actually might help a lot in the consumption pattern as well to make us actually be able to digest it more easily and more completely, as opposed to if they just had dropped everything on Tuesday.

00:10:28   Yeah, I think that's fair. And it's like, overall, I'm like I said, I'm very happy with this. And I think it's there. They've made some intelligent choices. And I think they're like, there's niggles and things we could kind of argue could go that could go either way. But like, fundamentally, it works.

00:10:45   And I mean, I got to say, like the content of the video, like sort of moving forward into that, like, I really like this new format compared to the on stage presentation style. Like, it is really tight in terms of like, it's, you know, it's clear, like the presenters are well prepared.

00:11:03   And they've almost certainly had the opportunity to do multiple takes to make sure that like, all of them are fluid and clear. And if they, you know, if I'm sure if they went through and something and it didn't edit a demo, and it didn't quite work, like they did it again.

00:11:17   And so every everything kind of feels like this flawless the, like everything's coming off flawlessly, and it's clear. And the duration of the videos is different, which is nice. So like, if some of them are long, and some of them are short, and it just they're fitting the length of the video to the amount of content that they have to share, which is was always a bit awkward sometimes previously where you know, most of the sessions would be around that kind of like,

00:11:46   40 to 50 minutes. And that was just sort of part of the structure. And now they can have videos that are like 10 minutes or 15 minutes or whatever is the appropriate amount of time for it. And I can watch the video at whatever speed I want, I can pause it, I can resume it.

00:12:03   They all because they're all pre recorded, we also have transcripts and like code snippets and everything on day one, which is, I think, I mean, just a from an accessibility perspective is a great improvement. And also just from a, like, my ability to do a search in like, there's a video that is going to be talking about, there's one little section in the description that I want to check out, I can just search the transcript, find the timestamp and start playing it there.

00:12:29   And previously, they've always done transcripts, but it's, you know, if you're doing it of a live event, they're not going to be available, you know, as soon as as soon as the video is, it's going to be a delay. And so like, from a structural perspective, I think the videos are an amazing step forward.

00:12:45   I think the only downside that I can think of is that the people who presented, you have been working on that on the technology, don't get the experience of like the cheering in the audience when they announced the thing that everyone's been hoping for and waiting for and like they get that, that sort of confirmation.

00:13:04   But it's like, that's a really tricky balance for that particular thing versus the, in a improved experience for the 99.9% of the developer community who isn't there in person who isn't in that room, and who isn't, you know, sort of like cheering for the new feature, like otherwise these seem great and seem honestly kind of like the way forward.

00:13:28   And I would love to honestly see to now they've kind of established a bit of a precedent for this, that videos are something that just comes out throughout the year that they don't necessarily all have to drop it WDC that this is something that they could create and develop and put out new videos with new content on a regular basis.

00:13:47   You know, when there's even when there's point really, it's like when there's a point release with new updates, they've done some of those before but like this new format seems really sort of to lend itself to that and came off really well.

00:13:57   Yeah, like in many ways, if you think about like, in case anybody out there is kind of torn on whether you're going to, you know, miss the old way of doing things or whether you wanted to come back next year or not.

00:14:06   I think a useful way to think about it is okay, after you've seen all these video sessions, which really, I think I agree are significantly better than the old way of doing things because you are freed from the realities of running a big conference.

00:14:19   Like the reason why all the sessions had to be approximately the same length and that was pretty long was because you had to manage like thousands of people walking between rooms in a convention center and you had to have time for them to like go between sessions, get seated, have meals between and like there's all these like real world constraints around the format.

00:14:39   And it was a big deal to prepare those presentations because it had to be presented live and you had to have live demos and like all that stuff and with this new way of doing it where they're having preproduced videos, so many of those barriers are knocked down, so many of those limitations are removed and so many of those like real world constraints are lifted.

00:14:57   And so you're able to have significantly better content, you're able to have transcripts and sample code copying and stuff like that right at day one, you're able to have such better value. Now imagine next year if they have the conference as normal and they go back to the old way, then the session videos are going to be worse than this year in many ways, right?

00:15:17   And so like, I think it will actually feel like a step backwards now that we've seen what an alternative looks like, then that in many ways is better. I think it would be actually kind of a bad thing to go back to the old way of doing things. I think it will feel like a regression.

00:15:34   Yeah, and I think it's, yeah, so I think on that front, it's definitely it's like, it's better. And I feel weird saying it, but it's like increasingly, like as the week is going on, I'm like, this might be the way forward. And like, even so, like, I went, I've had two labs that I went to, which is the thing that I thought was going to be the hardest experience at WDC to recreate in virtual format.

00:15:56   How do those work? And so like, you sign up the day before, so like, you just there's a whole bunch of labs and you say, like, I would like to attend this lab, and you kind of have to submit a specific question. You know, so it's not just like saying, like, Hey, I'm interested. I mean, you might be able to do that, but you might not get assigned a slot. But it's, I think the encouragement is that have something specific and tangible that you want to talk to them about. Like, ideally, if you file the feedback about this, they want you to, you know, it's like, here's my feedback number.

00:16:23   Go in and like you do it the day before. And then it sounds like, you know, some people at Apple review those and kind of assign them as space allows. And then you get going like a WebEx call. And you know, I had like you have like 15 minute, just like sort of conference call with like one or two engineers.

00:16:44   I think on my first lab I went to there was one engineer and then there was like an issue that I was having that he wasn't sure about. So he like pulled in someone else and they just like appeared into the Web chat. And it was like we had a sort of a conference call that way. And after my 15 minutes, the call was over. And like that was that. And if I wanted to, I think I was it was like appropriate for me to like, I could have shared my screen if there was like something I needed to show, like for the nature of my questions. I didn't need to. So that was fine. And it's like, if I'm honest, it was.

00:17:13   Probably like 80 percent of the value of the labs themselves. So like it actually I think it works like the part that I missed is the kind of over the years I've had, you know, it's like you develop a little bit of a rapport with some of the people on the Apple teams. And it's kind of nice to where like, you know, I go to the health and the watch labs every year. And so I know I know them and I've met them before and I can kind of like it's nice to be able to say thank you for the work they've been doing and have that kind of personal connection.

00:17:42   But from a informational perspective and getting my questions answered perspective, it was identical to the previous version and a lot more straightforward. Whereas, you know, like it took me 15 minutes to get on a call and sort of ask my questions. Whereas typically, if I was going to a lab, it's like I'd go upstairs at a particular time that is awkward because it's like if this is the only, you know, hour and a half window of the week where I can talk to the person on the team that I need to talk to.

00:18:11   It's like I have to, like my whole world is on hold until I talk to them. I have to go up there and then you typically are like you're waiting in line. And if it's the wrong person, like you need to get your person and might actually be actually you're you should talk to someone else.

00:18:25   And they'll, you know, then you go and serve essentially waiting in line for another person. Whereas, I imagine like the reason they're asking you for you for the questions ahead of time is because that way if you, you know, like they know who the person is, you can best answer this question.

00:18:39   So if you have something very specific and like that feature was built by a particular person, they can just have that person be the person who is, you know, who you start with.

00:18:47   So like overall it was a win. And like I think that was the hardest thing to recreate. And I think this approach, like it seems to work reasonably well. And as far as I can tell, like getting a slot at the labs isn't like this impossible thing that just doesn't scale.

00:19:02   So like it seems to be working. So that was the hardest part. And I think they nailed that too.

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00:20:37   So what are you working on first?

00:20:39   So I think it was like now that we talked about the structure of what it's like for the conference, now comes the actual what was announced. And I mean, it's a lot, certainly for me and someone who's been focused a lot on the watch and complications.

00:20:55   That was my, like, you know, I think at some point my wife watched the keynote with me. I think she was a little concerned about me at some points of the watch section because I just like kept getting more and more agitated and like very loud and unusual noises may have been coming from me because it just kept getting better and better.

00:21:11   And like there's like they announced so many really cool interesting things there and like I'm, I think, you know, I have a very busy summer ahead of me and in the best possible way too because it's there's sometimes when we get features that are like it's just new opportunities,

00:21:29   and I have a summer to work on new opportunities and this feels to me like one of those summers whereas I kind of feel like like Mac developers, where they have a summer where they're kind of having to adopt a new look and feel and things like that which is not really a new opportunity in the same way.

00:21:44   And it's like this kind of more busy work and like it's it's nice and interesting and sort of important for being good citizen of the platform but I'll take a summer like this when it's just like a whole new like they opened a door and inside it's just all these new things that I can do and try.

00:21:59   And so I look forward to working on those a lot and then it's like, and then you have like widgets which is this totally new and like different sort of interface paradigm for iOS which, you know, I think like the I have, you know, the iPhone home screen has been essentially

00:22:15   untouched for, you know, the better part of a decade and now suddenly it's like wildly different. So like as someone who, you know, it's like, like for the platform that feels like a huge change and is kind of huge so like, I think this is definitely a big year.

00:22:31   And I think there's definitely some speculation of like, oh, you know, with all the working from home and things that they've had to do this year, would they be able to deliver on kind of a big exciting year and I think they clearly did like that didn't slow them down.

00:22:46   Or if it did, like I can't even imagine what it would have been like if this if this is the like partial list, what the full list would have been.

00:22:52   Yeah, it seems like they basically made in especially in the area of the watch. They basically made like a summer just for you. This is like the it's like everything you care about. Yeah, we're going to slightly Sherlock your sleep thing, but you know, the complication angle is way, way better than it was before.

00:23:07   And so, yeah, that's I have a feeling you have a lot of work to do now to me, like when whenever you have a year like this where there is significant UI change opportunity or UI framework change opportunity in the case of like, you know, now we have revised Swift UI revised Matt Catalyst.

00:23:23   I'm always tempted during those years way more than any others to throw away backwards compatibility and and we have so much to talk about in future episodes and we're probably going to cover this again along with a lot of other stuff. But in our remaining time, I wanted to kind of address like my very first challenge and decision that I bet a lot of our listeners are facing of like, all right, here's a whole bunch of new exciting stuff.

00:23:46   When can you actually require it? When can you actually use it? And if for certain apis that like, oh, you want to make a new widget, you know, okay, you can conditionally include that for 14. But then, like, you know, have some kind of graceful fallback or just not include certain features for for older versions.

00:24:02   But like, if you want to write your UI and in the new stuff and Swift UI, for instance, or use the new collection view stuff like the stuff like that, that you just kind of have to require the new version really unless you're going to write two different copies of your entire UI, which you shouldn't. And so what are you going to do with on that front? And what do you think I should do? Because I am very, very torn on this issue.

00:24:20   And I think this goes back to the same service this challenge that we've been facing this whole year is that I was 12 is seems to still be going strong, like and by that I by strong I mean, like 10 to 14% of my user base, or, you know, it's like along those lines.

00:24:37   That's pretty good. I'm at 5%. I thought that was high. Yeah, I mean, I'm and I think it's the challenge of like, you know, there's just certain phones that cancer can't go forward. So they're, you know, it's like the the success and success plus primarily. And like, they're just still on 12. And until those phones physically break, or the person who uses them, upgrades from them, like those users aren't going anywhere.

00:25:04   And so it's really hard to want to for an existing app, like, like, at best, I think you could probably go from, it's like, you know, it's like, if you decide you're, you're willing to get to drop 12, like, in some ways, then you in some ways, you might just want to just jump to 14.

00:25:22   Because there's not going to be as much of a, this sort of like structural impediment to it. But it's definitely tricky. And then I mean, on the watch side, it's even more complicated. I think like my watch adoption has been great. Like it's really like I'm at like, better than 95 96% of people on watchOS 6, which is awesome.

00:25:43   And so, like, I don't need to really support I think previously I supported watchOS 5.2, or something like that. But like I both the watch story gets really weird. Because if you require like watchOS 7, then if someone is running iOS 12, they can't miss, like they can't have a watch that's running that version.

00:26:04   I don't think or like I haven't, it gets really complicated and awkward for like, if you're running iOS 12, and you buy in like a brand new watch that's running watchOS 7, like, will they pair? And like, I don't even know the answer to that. And so it's really complicated for like, what to do. But I think I'm still expecting to support iOS 12 for most of my apps this year. And then I am probably going to work around it a little bit by require, like I can require 14 if I make anything new, or like Watch Smith,

00:26:33   requires 13 because it was a new app this year. And so I might be more aggressive on pushing that to 14 just because the nature of the app too is a bit more like, you know, it's not as general purpose. But it's like for overcast, like I don't, I don't know what I'd say with like, I feel like you kind of probably need to stick with 12 at least to start with.

00:26:56   And then it's like, see how it goes and see like, if the new phone, you know, if the is the new iPhone compelling enough that it, you know, it drives more people to drop their successes. But like, I don't know if it feels like a year where there's going to be a lot of people wanting to spend, you know, like $1,100 on a phone.

00:27:13   Right. Yeah, this is probably gonna be a slow phone upgrade year for various quarantine and economic reasons. Yeah, I mean, I'm awful about this a lot more in future episodes, but but I probably I'll probably make the wrong decision at some point and talk about that too, like last year, but I right now, like, if I look at it, honestly, like I really want to use all this new stuff. I want to have a new unified interface between phone, iPad and Mac. But it's really aggressive me to require this right now.

00:27:38   And so I think what and my customers ultimately aren't asking for most of us that my customers aren't asking for a redesign. Most of my customers aren't asking for a Mac app. But most of my customers want is like a feature release, you know, like, you know, everyone has their own pet feature of what they think that should be.

00:27:55   But what they want really is features, not redesigns. And so what I will probably what I should do when I probably will do is I am going to start working on a major redesign that uses all the new stuff and Swift UI and everything. But that's probably not going to be on track for release until probably at least the spring.

00:28:12   And then I might require 14. But I think until then, I think I'm going to spend most of the summer not doing that, letting all this stuff stabilize, which is always a very nice thing to do, actually. It's like, let everyone else work through all the beta bugs. And then I'll take over the I'll start working on the framework in the fall when it's all released and fairly stable.

00:28:32   And in the meantime, I think I had to work on features to make my existing customers happy because that's what they actually are looking for, even though it's less fun for me right now.

00:28:39   And I think that's probably the most reasonable approach. And I think it certainly is clearly the long term future of Apple's platforms are multi platform written in Swift UI.

00:28:52   I think this like that, you know, it's like some every year I feel like a WDC there's like a theme. And that seems to be the theme of this year is that Apple is consolidating their platforms around Swift UI. And you can use it for almost everything now that you know the widgets Swift UI complications Swift UI watch apps, Mac apps, iPhone apps, iPad apps, Swift UI tv os Swift UI.

00:29:18   So that's the future. But I don't think we need to adopt it right now for everything. But all of the kind of like forward looking read is like I wouldn't redesign overcast using UI kit that would seem like a waste of time or a waste of effort.

00:29:32   But like waiting till the spring to actually release or to consider launching that redesign seems very reasonable and appropriate. Thanks.

00:29:40   That's what I'll try to do. Thanks for listening, everybody. And we'll talk to you in two weeks. Bye.