The Download-Every-App Edition Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What I Learned After Downloading Every iPhone App Of The Day For A Month, by Alex Hern, The Guardian

Despite appearances, then, there’s still life in apps. I haven’t even touched on a few of my other favourites from the first month, from detailed Apple Watch data-miner HeartWatch to auto-journaling app Memento, magic photo editor Retouch to password-manager-so-good-I’ve-already-been-using it-for-five-years 1Password. They’re not all new, obviously, but enough of them are for me to realise I’ve been missing out.

My stagnant habits meant I wasn’t getting the most out of my smartphone. For want of the odd £2 here and there, a device that costs many hundreds of times that was being wasted, left to to be a machine for Twitter, Spotify and emails.

Unlocking Face ID

Watch A 10-Year-Old's Face Unlock His Mom's iPhone X, by Andy Greenberg, Wired

But aside from hackers actively trying to spoof Apple's biometrics, facial recognition presents other, more accidental privacy issues. For one, family members with similar faces can unlock each other's devices. Apple has, in fact, conceded that twins and even non-identical family members may sometimes be able to fool Face ID. But the case of spitting-image children unlocking their parents' phones presents what might be Face ID's most practical concern yet.


The solution for anyone who doesn't want to disable Face ID and rely on a PIN, Malik points out, is simply to try Face ID on your children after setting it up on yourself. "You should probably try it with every member of your family and see who can access it," he says.

Hackers Say They Broke Apple’s Face ID. Here’s Why We’re Not Convinced, by Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

One way of reading the responses suggests that the researchers and artist required the help of the target to create the mask, but in the future the researchers think it will be possible to design similar masks that will instead require only the aid of 3D scans or photographs that could be taken without the target's knowledge or consent. If this interpretation is correct, the bypass is still interesting, because it undermines Apple's contention that only a live face can be used to unlock a Face-ID enabled phone. But a hack that requires the help of the target would nonetheless suggest that for the time being Face ID remains relatively secure.

New Technology

Apple, Google, And The Constant Chase For Tech That Can’t Be Reverse-engineered, by Vlad Savov, The Verge

It may still be early for machine-learning enhancements to truly be the key selling point for mass-market phones. Face ID is of secondary importance to iPhone X purchasers more attracted by the new, bezel-phobic design. While Google’s camera is the best reason to own a Pixel, there still aren’t all that many Pixel owners out there. But the critical thing is that phone companies need to be working on their own ML solutions now in order to remain competitive when those things become essential and core to the user experience, as they threaten to do as early as next year. Chinese companies may work at ludicrous speed when iterating on hardware, however the rules change when the thing you’re trying to replicate is months and years of ML training.


The old days of phone makers being able to secure a major hardware advantage for longer than a few months are now gone. At this late stage of the evolution of smartphones, machine learning is the only path toward securing meaningful differentiation. I still believe Google’s camera is widely underrated, mostly owing to Google’s chronic inability to distribute Pixel devices widely enough. And I also think Face ID will be copied, badly, by a whole slew of aspiring competitors. But the distinguishing line between the true mobile innovators and the fast copycats, which had until recently been blurring and fading, will become apparent again as phones move into the era of ML-assisted everything.

Old Books

Do We All See The Woman Holding An iPhone In This 1860 Painting?, by Brian Anderson, Motherboard

In “The Expected One,” the woman’s body language certainly makes it appear as if she’s looking at a phone, to the degree you can imagine her being labeled just another “distracted walker” exhibiting signs of so-called “text neck” if she were walking down the street in 2017. And as a particularly time travel-obsessed acquaintance of mine recently pointed out to me after I showed them the original (undoctored) version of the painting, the woman’s face seems lit up from below as if washed in screen glow. The shadowing all seems cast forward save her chin, lips, and cheeks, which almost appear brighter than one might think they would considering Waldmüller’s brushstrokes otherwise have her backlit.

“The big change is that in 1850 or 1860, every single viewer would have identified the item that the girl is absorbed in as a hymnal or prayer book,” Russell said. “Today, no one could fail to see the resemblance to the scene of a teenage girl absorbed in social media on their smartphone.”


Limited Edition Midnight Fog Nike Apple Watch Launching Ahead Of Matching Air Vapormax Shoes, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

Nike is releasing a version of Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE that features a new band color that will color match an upcoming version of the company’s Air Vapormax running shoes.

SnapType Makes It Easy For Kids With Learning Disabilities To Do Their Homework, by John Biggs, TechCrunch

Sometimes the simplest ideas make the biggest difference. Take SnapType, for example. Created by a husband and wife team – Ben and Amberlynn Slavin – this app lets kids take pictures of their homework and simply type in answers instead of having to hand-write them.

Amberlynn, a pediatric occupational therapist, works with kids with ADHD, Autism, Down Syndrome, and dyslexia. Many of these students are unable to write in answers on basic school worksheets for various reasons. In order to help them with their homework, then, she and her husband created an app that lets them take a picture of the sheet and simply tap to type in the answers.

Best Milage Tracking Apps For Business, by Jeffery Battersby, iMore

Mileage tracking used to be a hot mess of manual data entry and, and here's the key, memory. You had to remember to begin tracking your mileage any time you started a trip and you needed to remember to stop tracking as soon as your trip was done. Now, thanks to smartphones with built-in GPS, you no longer need to think about when you start and stop a trip, you just need to remember whether or not where you traveled was for business or personal purposes. We took a look at six automatic mileage tracking apps to see how they stack up.

Bottom of the Page

If your app is going to be on my screen for a while -- say, for reading -- your app will need a dark mode. And anything other than pure white text on pure black background is not a dark mode.

Don't be an 'opinionated' app and choose a different 'whiteness' and 'blackness'. (Most of the time, this ends up gray text on gray background.) You will not be able to take care of all the different reading conditions -- the available lights, the oldness of the eyes, and how Truetone and Night Shift decide to behave. Just do pure white on pure black, and let the operating system (and the customer's control center) takes care of the rest.

(I'm looking at you, Instapaper. Your 'opinion' on what is a dark mode sucks.)


Thanks for reading.