UPDATE: iOS 14 has Zuckerberg/Facebook running scared

I’ve been working on an article about the iOS 14 privacy feature that has Facebook and other advertisers running scared. Facebook acknowledged that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 could lead to a more than 50% drop in its Audience Network advertising business. (Doesn’t that just break your heart)

Today to my disappointment, Apple is holding off on introducing the default feature until early next year to allow developers more time to make the necessary changes to their apps. I guess this makes everything I’ve written all for naught. Oh, well.

By the way, did you know that you can manually limit targeted advertising and reset your identifier? If you do this an app will still be able to access your IDFA but it makes it much harder to build a profile on you. I reset my identifier once a month.

The advertising identifier on an Apple device does not identify you personally, but it can be used by advertisers to create a profile about you. If it’s never reset, that profile increases in detail, allowing advertisers to target ads to you based on your Internet activity.

Is an iA Writer subscription coming to an App Store near you?

The two most popular markdown writing apps on Mac and iOS are iA Writer and Ulysses. Ulysses is a subscription and iA Writer is a purchase. When Ulysses went subscription many users got pissed, me included, and moved to iA Writer. I got over being pissed at Ulysses and today I use both apps.

Not surprising, iA Writer is now going to be transitioning to a subscription / paid choice (I’m guessing) with their next major update.

Here are the details:

Subscription or no subscription? That’s not the Question. – iA

Talking about subscriptions in public is a delicate matter. Apple is jealously watching what developers say. Competitors are watching and trying to get ahead of the game. Customers are watching and might get worried: What are they planning!? McKinsey suggests that you could offer both subscriptions and paid options in the transition from paid to subscription.

This is not where we are going. We believe in the choice and we want to bring the choice to buy or subscribe to all platforms. Customers like the choice, and we like it. Clearly, after seven years of offering free updates, there will be a new version of our apps at some point. And even though Apple doesn’t offer upgrade discounts, this, next to offering a choice, is exactly what we want to do. We just have to find a way around the hurdles. But we have lots of other things planned, that we can’t talk about yet. It won’t be a simple move from paid to a choice between paid and subscriptions. It will be even better.

Maybe subscriptions are not the best fit for productivity software. But, as laid out above, some do prefer subscriptions, especially if they are reasonably lower than buying the apps. In that sense, subscriptions will allow you to charge a fair price for your app and not compete in the race to the bottom. But if you offer the choice, you offer customers the opportunity to decide for themselves how they support you.

My thoughts on Ulysses 20 Revision Mode

Ulysses 20 – Ulysses Blog

We added an “advanced text check” to revision mode, which offers informed suggestions on capitalization, punctuation, semantics, redundancy, style and typography. We partnered with LanguageTooler for this, a fellow German company which develops the magnificent LanguageTool Plus. As a matter of fact, we fully integrated LT Plus into Ulysses, so you now have access to its comprehensive set of grammar and style rules right from within Ulysses!

I use the free version of Grammarly to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation before publishing my articles. Now that Ulysses has LanguageTool Plus built-in I wanted compare it’s results to Grammarly’s. To compare I first ran my articles through LanguageTool Plus and made the suggested changes. I then ran the same articles through Grammarly and in every case, Grammarly found additional items for correction. Based on that comparison I’ll be sticking with Grammarly.

Copied clipboard manager app is back

After more than 2 years without updates, what was my favorite clipboard manager app Copied is back. I used it on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The great thing about it was that it synced across all my devices using iCloud. Not many clipboard managers do that.

With this update, it will become my main clipboard manager again. The new version 4.0 now has link previews, dark mode, Siri shortcuts, and improved compatibility across devices.

As a side note:

After I updated the app on my iPad and iPhone the Mac app version 2.0.7 stopped syncing. Frustrated, I uninstalled the Mac app and reinstalled it. To my surprise, the reinstalled app is version 4.0.0 which is compatible with the iOS and iPadOS apps. Remember to enable iCloud sync.

Bitwarden for Mac browser extension exposing passwords in clipboard managers

While using Alfred’s clipboard manager the other day I noticed passwords in the clipboard history. My first thought was how is this happening. I immediately went into Alfred’s Advanced Clipboard History Settings to make sure that I had added Bitwarden to the Ignore list and yes I had. So I figured this has to be some sort of an issue with Bitwarden.

After doing some testing I discovered that the issue is with the Bitwarden browser extension. When I copied a password in the extension the password was collected by Alfred’s clipboard manager even though I had it set to be ignored. This happened with both the Safari and Firefox extension. I then copied a password in the Bitwarden App and to my surprise, it was ignored. So this only happens with the browser extension.

I contacted both Alfred and Bitwarden regarding the issue. Here’s what they had to say:

Alfred Support:

Could you also take a look at Features > Clipboard History and ensure that the boxes for “Ignore Clipboard data marked as Concealed” and …”as Auto Generated” are checked, which they should be by default?

This ensures that if a password app (or any other app) correctly marks the copied data as concealed, which indicates its potentially sensitive information like a password, this is ignored by Alfred. However, if Bitwarden doesn’t mark the passwords as such, it’s impossible for an app like Alfred to guess what you’ve copied.

First, check whether Bitwarden offers you a setting to identify the data as Concealed, and if not, you may want to contact them to request this.

Cheers,

Vero

Bitwarden Support:

Thank you for supporting Bitwarden! I’d be happy to help.

This has been requested. Unfortunately, due to upstream limitations by our desktop application framework, the ability to mark data as “concealed” is not available at this time.

We have an open issue regarding this here: https://github.com/bitwarden/desktop/issues/90

Please let us know if there is anything else we can help with!

Regards,

Luc

While doing my research on this issue I noticed that others using different clipboard manager apps were having the same issue. So if you’re using a clipboard manager and Bitwarden you might want to check your clipboard manager history for passwords.

My workaround in Alfred is to remember to clear the clipboard history after I copy a password from the extension. Better yet if I need to copy a password I’ll do it from the app instead of the extension.

GoodLinks for read-it-later

I have been trying a new read-it-later and bookmark manager app GoodLinks by Ngoc Luu the developer of 1Writer.

In my opinion, GoodLinks is one of the best read-it-later apps out there. The reading experience is excellent. Articles and reading position sync between devices via iCloud. And best of all it’s a one time purchase for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Since it’s a relatively new app it’s missing a few features. One big one for me is that there is no way to import saved bookmarks from other apps. I would like to use GoodLinks as my bookmark manager as well as read-it-later but until import is available that will have to wait. I have too many bookmarks in Raindrop.io to move individually. I’m sure this feature will be added soon.

As a side note, GoodLinks for the Mac requires Catalina.

If you would like to learn more about GoodLinks check out this MacStories review by John Voorhees: GoodLinks Review: A Flexible Read-it-Later Link Manager Packed with Automation Options – MacStories

FoodNoms food tracking app

As you will recall I had gained a couple of pounds over the winter and wanted to lose them. Once I had done that I wanted to maintain a specific weight. For me, the easiest way to do this has always been tracking calories. Calories in and calories out.

What I’ve found after doing this for a couple of months is that counting calories makes me make better food choices so that I stay within my Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). Based on my age, weight, height, and activity level my RDI is approximately 2000 calories per day to maintain my current weight. Prior to counting, I was eating between 1000 and 1500 calories more than my recommended daily requirement.

With all that said, I’m trying a new food tracking app FoodNoms that Casey Liss mentioned in Episode 385 of Accidental Tech Podcast. It’s taking a few days to get used to it because it works differently than the app that I’m used to using. But, the more I use it the more I’m liking it and I think I’ll be sticking with it. By the way, the app walks you through the calculation to determine your RDI.

If you’re interested in getting a handle on your weight you should give the app a try. There’s a free version of the app which is what I using. There’s also FoodNoms Plus which is a subscription. I think most people could probably get along with just the free version.

John Voorhees did a nice review of the app over on MacStories. Go check it out FoodNoms: A Privacy-Focused Food Tracker with Innovative New Ways to Log Meals – MacStories.

Hey controversy from a user perspective

As you have probably seen this past week, there has been a lot of controversy over the Hey.com email app being rejected from the Apple App Store.

Here’s some background on what the brew haha is about.

The Verge

Apple is threatening to remove Hey.com from the App Store if the ambitious new email service doesn’t begin offering an in-app subscription and sharing a cut of its revenue, according to an executive at Basecamp, which makes Hey.

David Heinemeier Hansson, the CTO of Basecamp, said that Apple is acting like “gangsters,” rejecting a bug fix update and asking the company in a phone call to commit to adding an in-app subscription to prevent it from being removed. “I was taken aback by how brazen that threat was,” Heinemeier Hansson told The Verge. “I thought you were supposed to wrap the threats in euphemisms or something. But it was pretty clear.”

In an email to The Verge, Apple said that it requires all developers to follow strict guidelines around business models. The company declined to comment specifically on Hey, but said that App Store review guidelines require an in-app purchase option if an app wants to offer access to content purchased on another platform. Apple suggested the call to Hey’s team was not out of the ordinary, saying it always works with developers to bring them into compliance. Apple also told Protocol that the app shouldn’t have been approved in the first place.

The developer community has been very vocal in siding with the app’s developer. But there’s another side to this story. I view this situation from a user perspective rather than a developer. So the question is how does Apple’s operation of the App Store affect me?

Ben Brooks wrote a piece about the controversy which I was intrigued by. It sums up how I as a user feel about the situation.

Hey, Controversy – The Brooks Review

FOCUS ON USERS

Apple employs an extremely simple, but effective business strategy: focus on making the best experience for users, and you will make loads of money. Amazon, Google, Uber, and many others copy this. But Apple is king of this strategy.

If Hey.com, or any other developer, wants an exception to the rule, then you need to prove that the best thing for the user is to grant that exception. Allow me to explain in two cases.

NETFLIX

You cannot sign up for Netflix in the Netflix app, and Apple allows this and they say the do because it is a content consumption app. Which is likely a good cover-your-ass statement. The real reason: not having Netflix on the App Store would be objectively worse for users than Apple bending the IAP subscription rule.

Or put another way: if Android has a Netflix app, and iOS does not, then iOS is likely to lose more iOS users and thus profit than they would if they just waived rule and allowed the app. So even though the Netflix app is not an ideal user experience, it is the best Apple can do and Apple clearly feels not having Netflix on the iPhone is worse for the user than bending the IAP rules.

HEY.COM

Now what Hey.com is saying: users have to subscribe on our website. What Apple is saying: that’s a worse user experience.

Stop there, because I know a ton of you agree with Hey.com, but I need you to be realistic as an iOS user. Is your argument that, as a user, the best experience is to use Safari to sign up and pay for Hey.com, and then further to always have to go to their website to manage that auto-recurring subscription? Is that really the argument? I think not.

Because that’s the worst user experience. The best is to have the App Store manage it, it makes signing up easier, safer, and faster. It makes management way easier.

So Apple, in looking at this says: it is objectively worse for users to bend the IAP rule, and by blocking Hey.com we are not likely to lose any meaningful amount of users. There are plenty of other options, so no, we will not make the experience worse for users.

Hey did not prove their case, and Apple sided with the users. You are also a user. Do you really want all these subscription based apps to start punting you to a website to sign up? Or do you actually find IAPs the best way to pay for subscriptions?

Yeah… Apple clearly agrees with you, that IAP subscriptions are way better than web subscriptions. And that’s why Hey.com got rejected, and frankly was always rolling the dice.

Ben’s article is well written and worth reading in full. You can find it here.

Ulysses continues to have iCloud sync issues

I was looking at Ulysses reviews in the App Store today and noticed several recent reviews with complaints about iCloud sync issues. This is not a new issue. It has been an ongoing issue for several years. It’s the main reason that I no longer use Ulysses.

I would think that Ulysses would do something to fix this problem. Of course, they always say the problem is with iCloud Drive and not Ulysses. I don’t buy that because lots of other apps use iCloud with no problems. I recently wrote about that here.

Maybe they should spend some of their subscription money on developing a sync backend.