iOS App Review times at an all-time low

There's a fascinating side-effect of the Apple Dev Center troubles happening right now: review times are some of the best we've ever seen. I've personally just had 2 app updates accepted in 2 days each, and a brand new app in 3. Take a look at #iosreviewtime, almost everything is coming in between 2 and 4 days, which is virtually unheard of for iOS app reviews.

What's curious about this is the timing: as you're no doubt aware, the Dev Center has not been having a great time of late, but as of this weekend is (mostly) back up.

So how come these review times are so good? All the support staff have nothing else to do while the sysadmins are pulling 18 hour days? Whatever the reason, I'm not complaining.



Good point from the commenters: there will have been fewer new apps appearing since you would have had to have created your profiles before last Thursday, and so more time for app updates and the organised among us.


The word on Twitter is that while the reviews are quick, they might be not actually very good, and plenty of crashy apps are getting through. Got a buggy app? Make hay while the sun shines!


Got Pebble

Last year one project became the poster child for the crowdsourced funding site, and that project was Pebble. They shot to fame when they overshot their funding goal by $10,000,000. The result was they had to rethink their business plan, their whole manufacturing process, and their timescales, in order to try and satisfy the demands of all their backers.

While the delays were hard to swallow as we all waited patiently to live in the future, last Friday mine finally arrived at my doorstep from Singapore. Was I excited? Very. Did I feel bad that it arrived before my manager's, the guy who convinced me to back the project (a few days after him)? Not really. I was too busy unboxing and, given as I am to the zeitgeist, posting the unboxing to Vine.I'd already installed the Pebble app on my phone in anticipation when I got my shipping email. There are already some great reviews of the Pebble, so I'm going to focus on my first full day wearing it and what that was like.

The first thing I liked about the watch was, stop me if this seems a little obvious, being able to tell the time by looking at my wrist. I haven't worn one for three years when the strap on my Diesel knock-off from Malaysia broke. Yes, I'm so lazy that I went three years looking at my wrist and being a little disappointed. Actually, when Siri was first released I had high hopes that that would be my new way of finding out the time: pressing the button on my headphones and saying "what's the time?". Nice idea, but there's something wrong with having to not only vocalise that question (and not to another human being), but then waiting for that audio data to be uploaded to a server, interpreted, sent back to the phone and then read back to me. Just as I was about to mend my watch, Pebble came along and I decided I could probably wait a little longer. So: teling the time, awesome. The "text watch" theme gives the time in a lovely two or three word form such as "two forty". The only downside is it's americanised, and so you occasionally get things like "five after three" instead of "five past three". If and when I get my hands on the SDK I might take that into my own hands.

Ok, so I'm sitting on the train and my wrist vibrates. A text message from a friend about the evening's plans: I glance at my wrist and I can read the whole thing, without getting my phone out. I know this sounds like a small gain, but let's just consider how fiddly it is to get your phone out of your pocket while sitting on a train. Not convinced? Well, I find it quite fiddly! Ok, so it's not really overcoming of phone extraction that I liked so much. It's the fact that this workflow felt much more natural, and I felt like I'd been less disturbed by not having to check my phone but simple being fed the one piece of information I needed right there and then. It's really an issue of human self control, but now that our phones have become our main communication and entertainment devices there is a real draw to continue to interact with it after the original reason for checking it in the first place.

So I spent the rest of the day wandering around Shoreditch, occasionally getting messages from Facebook, texts, and the odd Twitter @-reply and genuinely enjoying not having to get my phone out but being able to screen these notifications from my wrist. Clearly I'm easy to please. I use my phone as my radio while at home, playing through a bluetooth speaker. While I'm out and about I pause and play music with the button on my headphones, so the ability to do it from the watch isn't so useful. At home, however, this is actually really handy if the phone and speaker is in another room.

So that's about it. But is "it" enough? For me, the Pebble does three things that are useful. Just three. But that's three really useful things, and two more than a regular watch. And that makes me a happy pebbler.

Looking for the tl;dr? The picture sums up my view of the pebble.

Compromise, Or Don't

In an excellent and largely misunderstood article, Matt Baxter-Reynolds recently pointed out the real-life, day-to-day issues with using the  Microsoft Surface Pro on the move. By starting with the form-factor of the moment, a tablet, and then adding a kickstand and keyboard, Microsoft inadvertently threw away 30 years of iterative portable computing design.  The result is a device with a 10" screen and a footprint larger than a 13" Macbook Pro (and indeed larger than any other ultrabook or MacBook Air). The same as a 15" MacBook Pro, in fact. Not only is the footprint larger, it's less stable, since you have a hinge with no hold between the keyboard and screen, and then a half-centimetre bit of plastic to hold the screen up instead. Google's recently announced Chromebook Pixel is competing in the same space as the Surface Pro, and by virtue of price bracket, that also means the same space as the MacBook Air. It runs ChromeOS, so everything you do is cloud / browser-based. I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of this model now: suffice to say there are people out there who love this thin-client  setup (it's not new, it's just it's time is finally coming), and are within reach of wifi for enough hours a day for this to work for them.

What the Chromebook brings to the table is a touchscreen (just), it's incredibly portable and has all the advantages of an actual laptop in design. Well, I say all: from a physical point of view it has the same advantages. It's a clamshell, and so you can sit there tapping away on a real keyboard with it perched on your knee.

Where Google have thought differently of course is by making the Pixel a thin client. For me though, that means they have throw away all the reasons I still use a MacBook Air as my portable machine and haven't gone to an iPad. When I'm out and about, I still want to do the kinds of computing tasks just not possible on an iPad yet. I want to code in objective c and Java, compile apps, run them on a simulator or a device. I want to write Python scripts. I want to open Ableton Live and work on a DJ mix or new tune. I want to open Photoshop and edit a PSD, then save a PNG and add it to an app or website or a mix I'm uploading to SoundCloud.

I admit, the kind of things I do with my MacBook Air are niche. Not everyone writes apps or dance music. Why not I have no idea, but that's another story. But these reasons keep me on a traditional laptop, at least for now. Microsoft and Google should be praised for thinking outside of the box. So far though, these alternative offerings both throw away the best bits of what they are trying to replace, yet cost the same. The iPad doesn't try to do what a laptop does. It does a subset of what a laptop can do, some of those things it does better, and of course it costs around a half to a third of the price. The Surface (RT) does something similar. Similarly, the lower end Chromebooks do a subset of what a laptop can do, and cost around a quarter of the price.

There's a weird trend in the media to think that compromise is a bad thing. It isn't: compromise is the key to good design. The iPad, and to some extent the Surface RT and the low-end chromebooks: these are the great examples of compromise in design. Compromise is designed right-in. It's a feature. You get something that is great at a subset of tasks.

The problem that the Surface Pro and Google's Pixel have: they pretend there is no compromise, but in fact they have the the worst kind: unexpected compromises.