00:00:00 ◼ ► Welcome to Under the Radar, a show about independent iOS app development. I'm Marco Arment.
00:00:05 ◼ ► And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is never longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.
00:00:47 ◼ ► I would say this summer we got a pretty substantial turnaround on that. I think that there was
00:00:52 ◼ ► a clear, like my overall theme for like, if I had to give a theme for WatchOS this year,
00:01:12 ◼ ► look a gift horse in the mouth. And just like, we're also on the functional level, though.
00:01:16 ◼ ► We've got so many more capabilities. We can do all of these different things that we've been clamoring for,
00:01:21 ◼ ► we're going to do weird, crazy hacks to work around for. And just in general, it seemed like
00:01:26 ◼ ► the goal for this year was to raise the bar in terms of capability for the Apple Watch,
00:01:31 ◼ ► which is something that I really appreciate. I think it's something that I've been hoping would happen, and I think is
00:01:36 ◼ ► fun now as someone who's been doing this for a long time, to be able to kind of get rid of,
00:01:41 ◼ ► delete out of my app all of these weird hacks and all this hard work that I had to do initially,
00:02:01 ◼ ► Yeah, me too. My thrill is more specific. It's more specific to some of the new APIs they added that
00:02:11 ◼ ► General Watch Kit, I mean, I really have had a rocky relationship with the Watch Kit in the past.
00:03:06 ◼ ► all the code on the phone and just doing this remote interface thing, was incredibly slow and unreliable
00:03:31 ◼ ► It's almost shocking how little you can do. If you look at the documentation for things like WK interface
00:04:01 ◼ ► run, debug, build, or whatever that's called, the cycle of running on device or running on
00:04:06 ◼ ► simulator to make some changes, test some stuff, deploy it, see how it runs, see how it works
00:04:41 ◼ ► change something and hit build and run, it's almost fast enough to see it on there. It's almost reliable
00:05:16 ◼ ► I'm really insulting this, and to some degree I am because Watch OS and Watch Kit still are nowhere near where they need to be,
00:05:21 ◼ ► but I give them a pass for a while because it was an early platform, it was very constrained hardware, etc.
00:05:56 ◼ ► It's those two things, there's a bunch of other stuff too, the MPNowPlayingInfoCenter, MPRemoteCommandCenter,
00:06:06 ◼ ► people not use my app at all or making them actually delete my app so the NowPlayingWidget would show more often,
00:06:11 ◼ ► were the lack of a volume control and the lack of stand-alone playback. So I now have those
00:06:41 ◼ ► Yeah, I think that's so much of it. It's just like these things are now, it's still, it's probably fair to say,
00:06:51 ◼ ► Which in some ways I like, there's a part of me that enjoys that, that it's a difficult challenge,
00:07:36 ◼ ► kind of demonstrated that in a lot of ways, that they're not doing clearly, they're not
00:07:56 ◼ ► that commitment is encouraging, that if you're going to go through how difficult and how challenging watchOS
00:08:01 ◼ ► development can be, both at the technical level as well as just the experiential level,
00:08:11 ◼ ► And they gave me my big wish. So if you remember one of the earlier episodes this year,
00:08:16 ◼ ► one of my big wishes for this 30 years at WWDC was that they were going to drop support for the first generation
00:08:26 ◼ ► dropped support for that first generation Apple Watch, which I think will make so many things
00:08:36 ◼ ► watch type, it seems like a no-brainer that they made this choice. So that first generation watch
00:08:56 ◼ ► obviously there's the added variable now of their old watches are being made obsolete, but
00:09:36 ◼ ► which are the three generations of processor, the Series 3 chip is now the most popular processor,
00:09:56 ◼ ► really embrace the future and be a bit more aggressive, because performance-wise, the watches are just
00:10:01 ◼ ► that much more capable. And that I think also has allowed Apple to do things with the OS, to give
00:10:11 ◼ ► support for the earliest, most rudimentary version of the hardware at the same time they
00:10:16 ◼ ► made watchOS more capable. I mean, part of that is, they just had one more year to make
00:10:26 ◼ ► because it was a new platform. So part of that is software maturity. But also part of that is like, that
00:10:31 ◼ ► Series 1 watch had significant constraints on the hardware. I mean, they all still do, but that one
00:10:36 ◼ ► was like excessive constraints on the hardware. It was very, very slow. It had very little memory.
00:10:46 ◼ ► very long, or to keep the display on for very long, or to keep apps open for very long. So like, it
00:10:56 ◼ ► And now, the market of technology has made these awesome new watches that are still very
00:11:11 ◼ ► And that's, I have a feeling in large part to do with their ability to finally drop that
00:11:18 ◼ ► Yeah, and so it's great. So I mean, we should probably dive into some of the changes that we can do now. And I guess the big
00:11:33 ◼ ► real background audio. It wasn't this weird thing where like I could do background audio in Workouts++ because
00:11:48 ◼ ► This year at W2C, it's like, this was sort of this like slightly slightly like, uh-uh, bad
00:11:53 ◼ ► news, like shaky finger, like don't do that. You don't need to be a workout app in order to do audio now.
00:11:58 ◼ ► So yeah, it was basically like now if you want to play audio, you can just be an audio app and not have to
00:12:23 ◼ ► internally for people who would be like, look, this is dumb. Why do we allow this for workout apps,
00:12:33 ◼ ► workout apps are allowed to actually stay running in the background continuously. Their process stays
00:12:38 ◼ ► active so that they can keep running instructions. The way audio has been done on iOS has always been that way too.
00:12:43 ◼ ► As soon as background audio was introduced, and I think it was iOS 3, whenever that was, 3 or 4.
00:12:53 ◼ ► you know, your app just stays running in the background. You know, your process stays awake. You can keep executing
00:13:03 ◼ ► either you could be a workout app and use the AV Foundation stuff, which is what you did, or
00:13:18 ◼ ► obtuse and limited and seemed to be designed by somebody who never actually tried to do anything
00:13:28 ◼ ► where you basically couldn't ship something with that. Like, it was almost unshippable for
00:13:43 ◼ ► honestly, that was clearly not possible for them to do because they would have done it by now.
00:13:58 ◼ ► the ability for our app to keep running in the background and execute code while audio is playing, which allows
00:14:03 ◼ ► lots of critical and helpful functionality, for something like a podcast player where you want to do things like
00:14:23 ◼ ► massive shortcomings and bugs that I ran into when I tried it and made that big blog post.
00:14:53 ◼ ► It was a mess. And there was stuff like that. There was things like, there was no volume control for things
00:14:58 ◼ ► that were connected to the watch. So, like, your AirPods connected to your watch have a volume,
00:15:03 ◼ ► they have a concept of volume, but the app had no control over that and no way to embed a volume widget.
00:15:08 ◼ ► Like the crown one in the now playing view, there was no way to do that in a third party app.
00:15:18 ◼ ► leave the app or try to use Siri on your AirPods to adjust your volume. That's horrible.
00:15:33 ◼ ► buttons or if you're using the AirPods you can do the double tap thing or you can do the Siri commands.
00:15:43 ◼ ► and to play or pause the content or to skip forward or to skip back or anything like that. There was just no capability for that at all.
00:15:53 ◼ ► an AV audio session to prompt the user which audio route they want to send it to, which Bluetooth
00:15:58 ◼ ► headphones if they don't have any it will tell them that and it will actually tell you the app, it will tell you that as well.
00:16:03 ◼ ► So you can like, you know, not update the UI to be in a playing state if it can't actually play.
00:16:23 ◼ ► So I'm really pleasantly surprised that they felt it justified to spend the time on this
00:16:58 ◼ ► where the simulator just decides, you know what, I'm not connected anymore to the phone or the times when the watch
00:17:03 ◼ ► decides, you know what, I'm no longer a run target in Xcode, just I'm not paired anymore.
00:17:18 ◼ ► experience I want. There's stuff that I would like to do differently with, like if I actually had UI kit
00:17:23 ◼ ► but, you know, for the most part I can build the experience and functionality I want and that makes
00:17:43 ◼ ► as best I understand, watchOS is basically just iOS, it was just a stripped down version of it
00:17:48 ◼ ► that runs in a different kind of, with some different rules around it, but like the basic
00:18:28 ◼ ► of the bugs and weird issues and strange edge cases have I'm sure been worked out with that, versus
00:18:38 ◼ ► Audio Player, which was really strange and had some of the most comedic bugs I've ever dealt with
00:18:48 ◼ ► computer out the window every time I write a tool. Well, I think my favorite bug with WK Audio File Player was
00:19:08 ◼ ► resource to play and then your app could be terminated and it would keep playing, so your app was never
00:19:13 ◼ ► actually running in the background, it was just being killed, and then when you'd wake up you could like try to find
00:19:18 ◼ ► that session and it worked sometimes. Yes, but most of the time you couldn't reconnect to it, so if you
00:19:28 ◼ ► again you got triple playback, or quadruple playback, and they would all start and stop
00:19:33 ◼ ► every time you hit play/pause in the Now Playing app, and the only way as far as I could tell to get rid of that was
00:19:48 ◼ ► Watch and Voice, this is how bad it, man, I'm going to be so, I'm going to like celebrate the
00:19:58 ◼ ► victory, like, rest in peace. I don't know why anyone would use it now, but. No, I mean
00:20:03 ◼ ► to be fair, you couldn't use it before because it was so bucky and horrible, but you know, it's
00:20:08 ◼ ► anybody who somehow managed to use it, I imagine they're going to be looking at losing that
00:20:13 ◼ ► shortly. Yeah, no, but the fact that the Apple is instead using, it's just saying old and battle tested
00:20:18 ◼ ► and tried and true, and like, I can use the same code that I use in iOS, like, it's just going to make that
00:20:28 ◼ ► sort of, it seems like it's clearly an emphasis, like even from a marketing perspective, you know, Apple
00:20:43 ◼ ► one of the big customer facing features is audio on the watch, that they are talking about it to
00:20:58 ◼ ► all of that together makes me think that, you know, this is good now and should be getting better and better.
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00:22:37 ◼ ► So it isn't just audio people who are happy though. Workout people like myself are also super happy with WatchOS 5
00:22:43 ◼ ► because Apple is now exposing, I'm not entirely sure if they are exposing what they've been using previously
00:22:50 ◼ ► or if they have now added a new API that they are also using, but the workout system of recording workouts and running workouts on the watch
00:22:58 ◼ ► is completely overhauled from top to bottom and is exactly the same API that is used by the system workout app now.
00:23:06 ◼ ► Anytime I hear from Apple that the first-party app is using under the hood the same APIs that I'm using,
00:23:15 ◼ ► it makes me way more confident about them, both in terms of their maintenance, their in-general...
00:23:26 ◼ ► I'm not going to complain about what we don't have. I'm going to just accept what we do have and delight in it.
00:23:36 ◼ ► Before there was just probably a couple thousand lines of code without exaggeration of Workouts++ that I can just throw away now.
00:23:50 ◼ ► It was this crazy game you were playing where you have this huge fire hose of data coming in from HealthKit.
00:23:57 ◼ ► You're taking all these sample data, you have to process it, manage it, and then you just turn around and hand it back to HealthKit
00:24:18 ◼ ► It keeps track of how far have I gone in this workout, things that you would normally want to know.
00:24:36 ◼ ► People take very seriously, and I take very seriously, the fact that you don't want to lose data when you're doing a workout.
00:24:53 ◼ ► In my experience, my app is killed by the system for reasons unrelated to my application more often than anything else.
00:25:04 ◼ ► That's not exactly it. I love when I get the system report that's a crash log, and it says,
00:25:09 ◼ ► "Your app was killed because the CPU was overused for longer than seven seconds," or whatever it was.
00:25:15 ◼ ► And it includes my app's usage. It's like, "Here, your app used 4% of the CPU during this period."
00:25:27 ◼ ► But nevertheless, if your app crashes or is killed, it will relaunch it and give you the opportunity to reconnect to the workout session.
00:25:38 ◼ ► Because unless they're actively looking at the watch for that brief moment when the app is killed and then relaunched,
00:25:49 ◼ ► All the data from between when you crash and when you reconnect is still being collected.
00:25:54 ◼ ► And if your app can't be relaunched for some reason, or it relaunches and crashes again,
00:26:04 ◼ ► One of these things is, yes, this is clearly now an API that is designed to give people reliable, quality third-party workout experiences
00:26:17 ◼ ► But if I'm honest, there were even situations where if I was doing a workout that I for some reason really wanted to make sure was captured,
00:26:27 ◼ ► Even as the amount of work I put into making my app reliable, I couldn't guarantee that it was reliable,
00:26:36 ◼ ► And it's fantastic that now that goes away, and I can be just as reliable as the first-party app,
00:26:48 ◼ ► Well, between workout restoration and background audio, I believe we can really truly say, "Finally."
00:26:56 ◼ ► Finally. All right, so I think that wraps up our talk about watchOS, and in general, what our summer plans are.
00:27:05 ◼ ► And I think it's also the opportune time for us to discuss something briefly, that we are going to be going on a break for the show.
00:27:38 ◼ ► it is something that I also wanted to mention, that I have found in general that inertia is a dangerous thing,
00:27:44 ◼ ► and can be something that is hard to start something, and then sometimes it's easy to just keep going.
00:27:52 ◼ ► And at a certain point, you may not be being thoughtful about what it is that you're doing.
00:27:56 ◼ ► I'm sure at this point, I probably put less thought into each episode of Under the Radar now than I did at the beginning.
00:28:07 ◼ ► And I think taking a break is a tremendous tool in general, like applying to work or any kind of project or creative thing that you're working on,
00:28:17 ◼ ► And I think when you come back to something after a time away, you have a better perspective about what makes it good,
00:28:23 ◼ ► what are changes you could make, and what are things that you can do to make it better.
00:28:35 ◼ ► So we will look forward to seeing you after that break, but in the meantime, you're going to have to find something else to fill 30 minutes with a week.
00:28:48 ◼ ► But a combination of a lot of traveling and it being a pretty slow summer for iOS news in all likelihood,