Under the Radar

274: Does It Work, and How Does It Feel?


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 usually not longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:09   So it's labs time for VisionOS. The labs were announced. They are starting like this week. Like they started very quickly after announcement.

00:00:18   This is kind of an exciting time. I kind of expected this to be much later in the summer. And nope, it's now.

00:00:26   Yeah, I would say it in a delightful way completely caught me by surprise. Like I knew that Apple had posted on their VisionOS compatibility planning page that in July they were going to be announced.

00:00:42   It was like, you know, that was that they had listed that and I expected what that meant is they weren't ready to announce the logistics at WBC, but they were ready to announce it, you know, sort of sometime towards the end of July. And it would be something describing a process that would be the end of this year, like October, November, they would be the labs potentially with the like there's three levels to this that they had announced then, where there's these compatibility evaluations, which is kind of like Apple test flight.

00:01:11   Apple test flights will test flight test your app, like you send them a build of it, and they someone at Apple would run it and give you kind of a report about it. And I think this is also specifically focused on if you have an existing app that you're curious how it would work without making large modifications.

00:01:27   There's a process to that. And I figured maybe that will come the summer to kind of get people warmed up. And then they have their labs thing, which is these kind of on in person hands on experiences, actually running it on physical hardware. And those I expected to be the end of this year. And then they have a process where they describe that there'll be some kind of developer kit. And, you know, that it's like who it's hard to even have expectations with something like that. I think generally, that's going to be going to very high profile developers, people who whose apps really need physical apps.

00:01:56   Physical hardware in order to be developed at all. There's experiences that I could imagine things that if your app just doesn't work in the simulator, for whatever reason, like you're a much higher candidate for getting a developer kit. But even the developer kits I expected to be same kind of thing, like end of this year. And then last week, Apple announces it's like it's the you know, it's towards the end of July. So they have true to their word, they did the announcements. And it's like, everything's, you know, kicking off right away, you know, a week later, which is exciting, which is cool, which is really cool.

00:02:25   Which is cool, which is also a little overwhelming and is something that I think is, yeah, I think we'll, I think we can have some interesting discussion about the actual kind of logistics of how this is going to go. And then I have, I think, also some tips for people who are fortunate enough to go to one of these labs. I think I've had experiences similar to this in the past throughout my career. And I think there's some things that you can do to really maximize your time there. But like, just to start with, it's like, whoa, the labs are here. They're in Cupertino, London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore, and Taiwan.

00:02:54   So there's in a variety of different places, there are a variety of different times. And it was a process of like, you applied to it, and the process was relatively, you know, sort of straightforward. They just wanted to know about your app and kind of where you are, you know, kind of where you what app you're working on, why you want to come to a lab, and then, like, that was the that was it. And like, if you're selected for one, you'll be going to it this week. So, wow, like, I was not expecting that. And I think I'm very glad that I prioritized some of my VisionOS work.

00:03:24   For this, because originally, my plan command of W2C was, okay, I'll focus on iOS 17, and watchOS 10. And those will be my primary things. And then, you know, presumably, I'll get these, you know, shipped and ready, you know, hopefully, by the beginning of September, September, those will launch. And then if in my mind, all the actual hands on experiences are going to be coming in October, November, that'd be perfect. That's when I could start working on VisionOS. But when Apple added that little like thing that, you know, they were going to make an announcement in July, and they were going to be like, hey, I'm going to be working on VisionOS.

00:03:52   And then, you know, they were going to make an announcement in July, I guess, like my spider senses started tingling. And it was just like, you know, maybe I should prioritize spending a week really focused on VisionOS now, just in case, just in case that there's, you know, this is actually going to be sooner than I think that when they say like it's good products going to launch early next year, maybe they mean, you know, January or February rather than like March, April, May.

00:04:16   And it turns out that was a very, I guess, smart move on my part to just spend some time doing that because I have a pretty good prototype of Widget Smith running in VisionOS in the simulator and kind of have that the enough of a prototype there that it's, you know, would be useful to go to a lab that it would be useful to have some experience actually on a device because there's something there.

00:04:37   It's not just like, you know, my first add the thing they always talk about in the future where it's like, oh, just add the target, you know, VisionOS and then boom, the app will run there. And it's like, just check a checkbox. It works. And it does work. The app will run. But it's awful.

00:04:52   Yes. So I've had enough time to be able to make it not awful. It's not perfect, but it's not awful. But yeah, I was not expecting this. I'm glad I was sort of ready to be able to apply, though. And it's kind of exciting that it's soon in some ways. Like I'm, I mean, mostly just coming from a place of I was, you know, I was one of the people who was fortunate enough to try it at WDC.

00:05:13   And that experience was just amazing and like kind of overwhelming. And if anything, it was so surreal that I now almost it feels like a dream. Like it feels like this abstract thing. Like I'm not actually do that. Was I actually did that happen? Or was I just like that I had to go to WDC, they announced the vision pro. And then I like had a dream one night you were there, but it wasn't really you.

00:05:37   I heard someone else having this experience. Like it feels very abstract because it was kind of an overwhelming sensory experience. And so I'm came back from that really excited about it really, really, really, you know, jazzed about developing for VisionOS. But it's like now I'm excited that it's like, huh, maybe I'll be able to actually try it again and in a way that won't hopefully be so surreal, because it isn't this like 30 minute, you know, high speed tour through all the things rapidly on a, you know,

00:06:06   an experience on rails that presumably if you go to one of these labs, you'd be working on my app in VisionOS, and actually trying it and experiencing it and not being on rails for that experience. And so that's very exciting to actually like see what it would be like. And that's like, you know, amazing and exciting, but oh, boy, I am. It's like I'm both incredibly excited and also incredibly nervous for what this will do for my summer plans, because like I was 17 is still coming. It's still like, it's not like they've announced, you know, the vision pro.

00:06:35   I was 17 pushed off for two months. It's like I still somehow got to balance these two things. But that's a problem. I welcome navigating for sure.

00:06:44   And iOS 17 has a whole bunch of new things for widgets, which is kind of your deal. So it's not like my deal. It's not like this is a quiet summer for you. No, I kind of don't know. But every few days, I forget that Vision Pro and VisionOS exist. And then like, you know, a few days later, I remember I was like, I'm going to go to the next one.

00:07:04   But like, you know, a few days later, I remember like, oh, wait a minute, there's a whole new platform that I have to be prepared for. And I'll, you know, I'll do some experiments and I'll, you know, run my stuff in the simulator and kind of see, okay, well, this is interesting. This kind of works. This kind of doesn't.

00:07:17   And then, you know, I'll get distracted by iOS 17 work for a while after that. Again, you know, forgetting about the VisionOS. And then they go and announce labs. It's like, oh, oh, no.

00:07:28   If I'm going to be there, you know, on day one of VisionOS, which and we don't know even when that will be, all we know is quote early next year. And that could be, you know, January 2, or it could be, you know, May 31.

00:07:42   It could be a huge range. So I've had a hard time figuring out when and how much to invest in VisionOS right now. I think from a pure numbers perspective, investing in VisionOS, it's kind of like a high risk investment.

00:08:02   You know, it's like some new, you know, crypto coins coming around and it's booming and it's like, okay, well, you can invest some in that and depending on how much risk you're willing to take, you know, and it could have big upside.

00:08:15   Probably not. At least not yet. Not for a while. And that's how VisionOS, I think, is. If you are investing all of your time in VisionOS, I think that will set you up for potentially very high reward.

00:08:30   But that's a risky game. It's probably not going to be a big boom time quite yet. Now it could have other value. Like, you know, this platform is going to be, as we mentioned before, it's probably going to have a pretty slow start in terms of just sales volume and, you know, influence and demand for various apps.

00:08:49   But that doesn't mean there's none. And there's other things. So even if your app doesn't sell a whole lot of unit copies on VisionOS for a long time, it might be good for things like if you want to have like a blog or YouTube series where you're teaching people about VisionOS, it can help boost that.

00:09:08   If you want to have, you know, more promotional opportunities from Apple, maybe. You know, being on VisionOS and being a good citizen there will probably improve your likelihood of that.

00:09:19   So there's these kind of other side benefits there that like even if your app is not going to sell a ton of units for it, it might make sense for you to invest some time there.

00:09:28   But then the question, of course, is how much? Like if you look at other devices, for instance, like imagine if like would you make an app, would you spend half your summer making an app that would only work on, say, the Mac Pro, you know, or an app that would only work on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro?

00:09:48   You know, it's like these devices that are like, you know, higher end, probably much lower volume than their peers. And imagine targeting only the 12.9 inch iPad Pro with the most recent M2 chip and the one terabyte configuration.

00:10:03   That's probably more like the volume we're going to see on VisionOS.

00:10:08   In some ways that also shows kind of what the market is. Like this is going to be a product that has a very small market by numbers, but it is a high end and specialized market to start.

00:10:20   Over time it will broaden, of course, but right now it's going to be a high end and specialized market.

00:10:26   And so it does probably make sense for a lot of people to be there, but it's going to also be hard to justify investing tons of time there now, especially before we have the hardware.

00:10:38   Because anything, and this kind of gets to the value of the labs and if possible the dev kits, anything that you design or build or imagine for VisionOS now before we have the hardware, before we have access to the hardware and experience with it,

00:10:53   we're probably going to be throwing away three quarters of anything we make right now for it.

00:10:57   Because once we get the hardware, we're going to realize, oh this thing I spent two months on in the summer, I need to throw that all away because it doesn't work right and I need to design it this way instead.

00:11:07   Or this interface idea I had doesn't work or it's impractical or it doesn't fit the model of everything else that you're doing on VisionOS.

00:11:16   I have so many of these questions. This is why I actually applied for a dev kit, not because I think I'll get one, because I think the chances of that are pretty low, just because my app is not visually immersive or flashy.

00:11:28   You mentioned people who get dev kits are probably only going to be people who really need them for their app, and there's pretty much nothing about my app that requires a dev kit.

00:11:36   I would expect that to be things like people doing custom hand gestures, super immersive experiences, that kind of stuff, and I'm doing none of that stuff. So I wouldn't expect to get a dev kit.

00:11:46   But the reason I want one is thinking back to when the iPad launched and we had time to develop apps beforehand, and then I got the iPad and I instantly threw away the entire interface that I had made for it in the SDK time before it, because the interface I had made for it was terrible.

00:12:04   And even now, so often I will design something in the simulator for even just the iPhone, and then I'll run it on device, and I'll be like, "Oh, this doesn't work at all. This thing is too small. This doesn't look right. This doesn't feel right."

00:12:16   And with VisionOS, I don't want to invest tons and tons of time into my app before I have a Vision Pro to use it on, because I know that I'm going to end up throwing away so much of that stuff or needing to redesign so much of that stuff.

00:12:32   And so it is kind of an odd time to think about how to allocate time to this platform when iOS 17 is coming not only much sooner, but also to way more people and way more devices.

00:12:48   So I think it makes sense to button up my iOS 17 stuff first before diving into Vision, but at the same time now Vision developer labs and stuff are like, "This is all starting up now." And now I kind of regret not doing more Vision stuff so far this summer. So I don't know. How are you thinking about this?

00:13:06   So I think the broad philosophy that I think I would advocate to people who are interested in making apps for VisionOS is that I think you're 100% right that until you actually have experienced a VisionOS headset on your face, using it, experiencing it,

00:13:27   it is going to be very difficult to write quality apps that will really thrive and be successful on that platform. If you're just using the simulator, the simulator is great for the iteration part of this in terms of the...

00:13:45   Actually, when you're tweaking a view, you're changing the hierarchy, you're doing things like that iteration that's fantastic in the simulator, it gives you a good enough experience there. But the more fundamental question of like, "Is this a good idea? Is this a concept that has legs and is valuable and would be cool?"

00:14:05   That you really need to be on device to understand. And so the philosophy that at least is what I'm doing for myself and I think I would generally recommend is, I think it is wise if you eventually want to be on VisionOS to spend some amount of time before iOS 17 or soon to work on your idea, to get it to a place that it would be worth trying out at the lab.

00:14:32   And especially I would advocate for focusing down, like whatever the key experience, the key moment, the key path that you expect users to use your app for, like try that.

00:14:45   Like that was the approach that I took in Widgetsmith is like there's a bunch of things that I have ideas for on the sides, but like I wanted to make it that you could configure a widget, show it in the headset and have it expand and contract into a tool.

00:14:58   Like that experience that was kind of my core belief for how this would be useful on the platform, I wanted to build and then there's a ton of other stuff that I completely ignored and just don't care about yet.

00:15:10   That will come much, much later. That will be winter and fall work that I can feel good about putting off.

00:15:17   But it's like spend a little bit of time now getting your app into that place that it would be useful to try a lab, apply for a lab, hopefully you can get one and go to that lab so that you're...

00:15:30   Because like once you've gone to a lab, my expectation is that all of the VisionOS work you do after that will be dramatically and meaningfully better.

00:15:39   That you will be writing better code with better UIs and better user experiences because you've been there, you've tried it on device, you have a sense of it in a way that isn't this abstract concept but is a real tangible thing.

00:15:52   Or you'll have ideas for features or whole new apps that come from your experience at the lab that you just wouldn't have until you tried it.

00:16:00   So it's like do enough that a lab is useful, that you have something to show, you have something to apply with now, don't go wild on it probably, but just enough to get to a place that it would be useful.

00:16:11   Apply for a lab, hopefully you get a lab and then expect that the majority of your actual development time will come later.

00:16:18   That you... it isn't that once you've gone to a lab you then have to immediately dive into VisionOS 100% of your time because you've had that experience.

00:16:28   Probably not. If anything, what I'm expecting is it would be much more of a, you know, I've built my prototype, hopefully I get a lab, go to the lab and then go back to iOS 17 and let it kind of noodle in the back of my mind for the next few weeks and months to improve on the ideas and the concepts and potentially be coming back and doing the iteration in the simulator based on that.

00:16:52   But I think you can't expect to write good VisionOS apps if you've never worn a VisionOS.

00:16:58   And so I would encourage, that's why I would sort of say like, you need to do just enough or have enough of a concept that it's worth going to a lab in terms of like the way that the labs are sort of structured it seems.

00:17:08   It's not intended to be like a speculative like, I just want to kick the tires.

00:17:12   It's you need to have something to show you need to have something that clearly demonstrates that you are actually, you know, meaningfully invested in working on this platform, but you don't need to have the app finished to be at that point and so like get enough that you are,

00:17:27   you have a reasonable case to go to one and go to one and expect that hopefully that opens up a lot of doors for you both in terms of ideas and things in terms of understanding user interaction.

00:17:37   And then, you know, like, at the very least, they've said, you know, it's not coming until early next year. So you have at least until like, you know, December 31st, that you that's really the earliest realistic deadline and most likely I don't think it's going to be launching in January 2nd.

00:17:54   I think it's much more likely to be a bit later than that. So we have some time to actually do the grunt work to do that, you know, the part of the development process that will take time, rather than the part that is just like that superficial important, like nailing that core concept, and then you can worry about the rest of it later.

00:18:12   So like, that's the approach I'm taking. And I think it seems reasonable. And I think it means it makes the lab useful. And getting a lab sooner rather than later is probably also very useful just in terms of being able to, you know, have that have had that experience and be able to be thinking about it to be able to imagining what this is like in a much more tangible and practical way.

00:18:31   We are sponsored this episode by electric. When leading your small business, it's not all glamour. In fact, sometimes it's a matter of spending hours onboarding an employee, which you're well equipped to deal with. But maybe you don't have the time. The team over at electric knows that small businesses maybe like yours face these challenges. That's why they're on hand to help with time consuming parts of your business, such as standardized device security with best in class device management software, so you can implement best practices across the board and be ready to send them to your team.

00:18:59   And employee onboarding and offboarding can be done for you, saving you an average of eight hours per request. Plus, electric will help keep a single point of visibility into your IT environment to control your devices, networks and applications, while simplified reporting allows you to achieve and maintain compliance.

00:19:19   And proactive it recommendations and automated workflows make it easy to manage for even non technical users. And look, if you're hearing this and you think your company could use some of these services, but you're not sure where to start.

00:19:31   electrics experts will guide you through the process of establishing standardized it processes for your organization. So for under the radar listeners, electric is offering a free pair of beats solo three headphones for taking a qualified meeting. Just go to electric.ai slash radar. That's electric.ai slash radar. Go there now to your free pair of beats solo three headphones today for scheduling a qualified meeting. Our thanks to electric for the support of this show.

00:20:01   And so I guess it's like that's my kind of overall framework for what a lab like how to how to structure your time. And then I think additionally, something that I wanted to kind of close on is, I have a sort of corresponding blog post to this that I'm not like reading the blog post necessarily. But I think there's a lot of things in this where if you are fortunate enough to go to one of these labs, that it's the kind of thing and I'm speculating wildly on this because like, as far as at this point, no one has been to one of these labs, we don't really know what they're doing.

00:20:29   And so I think that's kind of the thing that I think you can go into it with a fair bit of just like speculating based on past general experiences, that there are things that you could do ahead of time to be more successful if you get one of these that going to an event like this, like your enemy is wasting your time, because it's very time limited.

00:20:54   It's going to be the kind of thing where it starts at this time, it ends at this time. And that's it. Like they, you know, time's up, they take, they take your hardware and say goodbye. And you're not like, Oh, well, I wasn't quite finished. Oh, it's like, well, the labs over. Like that's just the way it is. It's not like, Oh, you can come back tomorrow and keep working on it. It's like, nope, this is your slot. Use it wisely. And be thoughtful about that as a result.

00:21:18   And this can take a variety of different forms. Like, on the one hand, it's like, be thoughtful about just setting up your work environment. Like if you have your if you usually work on a desktop, but you have like a laptop for travel, well, make sure your laptop is like set up and ready and has the latest version of Xcode on it and has plenty of disk space and has like all of your files that you need in order to run your project.

00:21:40   These are things where you don't want to be spending the first 30 minutes of your lab downloading Xcode and waiting for it to unzip itself. Like that would just like, don't don't do that, do this ahead of time. Make sure that everything you have is in place, everything is good to go. You know, your laptop is steady and like, make sure that it works to the degree of like, hopefully, you were able to run your project that you're going to work on in the X, you know, in the vision OS simulator on that computer, and it should work great.

00:22:08   You know, there's no build issues, there's no prod problems with that, like you've verified your tool set, such that you're not going to waste any time that you as soon as they say go as soon as they've, you know, I've no idea how this would work. But I imagine at some point, they'll like distribute you a device and then you'll be somehow connecting it to your Mac. Like, once that happens, you want to be able to just like, I guess I was gonna say put your like, put your head down, but it's like, put your head up. I don't even know you're wearing a vision Pro. It's like put it on you strap in, I don't know and like get started. Don't don't feel like you're going to be able to do that.

00:22:37   Don't feel like you have to wait and waste your time because you know, your tools aren't ready to go or something like that.

00:22:44   Do you think they're going to have these in like a room with a couch and like, like a big empty table? Like, like what's the what do you think the situation is like with the physical environment around you?

00:22:53   Well, if we if we've learned anything from the vision OS simulator, it'll be three rooms. There'll be a kitchen, a museum, and a living room.

00:23:02   Wouldn't it be amazing if they actually had those at the labs?

00:23:05   And they're actually the exact like with the same architecture, the same, you know, the same table, the same art on the wall, the same everything.

00:23:12   Yeah, they just made like 30 of them.

00:23:14   Exactly. Like, I mean, how? That would be amazing. But I don't know. I think the physical layout of something like this is so impossible to imagine because like some of the device requires physical space, like in a way that like developing for an iPhone.

00:23:30   And I mean, I run into this a little bit with an iPhone app where like it requires walking. So you know, sometimes when I'm working on pedometer plus plus I need a device that I can walk with.

00:23:39   But if you were making a vision OS app that required you to move around the space, like in the demos where they had the thing with the dinosaur where you like walked around and interacted with the dinosaur.

00:23:50   Like, if you were developing one of those, you're going to be able, you're going to need to be able to get up and walk around. And so it's not just like, here's your little cubicle, like have at it, that doesn't make any sense.

00:24:00   So like, I don't know, like, I don't necessarily envy the amount of square footage that I suspect these labs will require.

00:24:07   Just logistically to do but I don't know, like, I think there's going to be some space because it's a device that benefits from that. But yeah, I do not envy whoever had to come up with like, where how the physical logistics of this work.

00:24:20   I mean, at WDC they had to build a whole new structure.

00:24:24   Just to have like, about eight demo rooms.

00:24:38   Wear comfortable shoes if you're walking around inside of it.

00:24:58   I think it is a very open question, like even like the will the Mac screen sharing feature?

00:25:14   Yeah, I think that's a lot of problems.

00:25:38   I think that's a lot of problems.

00:25:48   I think that's a lot of problems.

00:26:12   And like, it's fine, I think for one of those things to be, you know, spend 60 minutes exploring the device, like just doing like, go open Safari and go to, you know, go to the verge and read some articles like that's fine.

00:26:28   Just like if that's your goal is to familiarize yourself with the device with the concept, like those kinds of experiences, but like set a timer on your watch to say like, I'm doing this for 30 minutes, I'm doing this for 60 minutes, whatever kind of plan you want to have.

00:26:44   But mostly I hopefully be have like, here's some app experiences that I prototyped that I want to try. I want to see what it's like to do this, I want to see what it's like to do that and work your way through them and kind of have a guideline that if at some point you feel stuck you hit a like you hit a dead end.

00:27:00   You want to be sure that you're like, okay, I'm just going to bounce off of that, like this idea didn't go anywhere. This idea isn't working. Like for some reason I can't get it to work. It's not compiling right to this feature that I think should work isn't work.

00:27:11   There might be some staff there who can help you if it's that kind of like a technical issue. They're like, Oh, why won't my VisionOS app, you know, compile or it's not loading right. There might be someone from the like developer resources group who you know if you filed one of your like dev tickets with I think they those people will often potentially be someone who could come to something like this and be helpful to you.

00:27:30   But if there is someone help ask but if the answer is like, Huh, I don't know that seems like it's just broken, like have something net go to plan B, like go to your next thing on your list don't get stuck. Because, you know, this is a very time limited experience and who knows if you're going to get another one like it seems like that, you know, there's there's several of these that they're that they're setting up but if they're at all constrained in terms of capacity, I wouldn't expect to be able to like, keep going back to lab after lab after lab, because that seems pretty unlikely if they're at all over the place.

00:27:59   Yeah, I think your goal here should be, you know, we were mentioning earlier how, you know, when you actually have real hardware after developing and simulator for a while, you realize what works and what doesn't your goal should be like, as quickly as possible figure out does your design work does your interaction work?

00:28:17   You know, what, how does it feel? And does it function? And try to try to answer those questions? How does it feel? Does it function for as many separate parts of your apps or concepts or designs as you can during time because the other stuff the bits and pieces of like how you know how this view is quite laid out like, you know, the details of how it's laid out or the details of some animation or the details of some under you know, underpinnings that can be all worked out in your own time later in the simulator.

00:28:45   But what can be worked out best on device is, does it work? And how does it feel? Yeah, and I think those if you can answer those questions, you'll be set up for an exciting, like cool, I guess, fall, you know, sort of end of summer beginning of fall about this new platform.

00:29:01   Like, I'm still super excited about it, have experienced it for 30 minutes, and I'm still like, whatever a month and a half later, I'm still jazzed about it. I'm still super excited. I have to manage that in terms of the way it interacts with my iOS 17 time. But I'm super excited. And I'm so excited that this is going to happen soon. So everyone else can have that experience that I had. And be excited about this platform because I think it's super cool. Yeah.

00:29:22   Thanks for listening, everybody. And we'll talk to you in two weeks. Bye.

00:29:26   Bye.

00:29:27   [BLANK_AUDIO]