Archive for October 22, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018

Document Versions and iCloud

Howard Oakley:

As we work more collaboratively, not just with others, but across our own range of different devices, iCloud’s lack of support for document versions has become more than just a nuisance. I might work on a report on my iMac, then want to make some corrections when I am out and only have my iPad with me. It is galling that I can run the same app, such as Pages, on the same document, but can’t rely on document versions.


When that iMac is working on documents in iCloud which it owns, it continues to store generated versions in its local store. But when I work on the same document on my iPad, it doesn’t have access to those versions, so just sees the current document. Then when I return to access it using my iMac, the previous version stored there is from my last editing session on the iMac, not from my iPad.

It makes it impossible to switch seamlessly between platforms, and working on documents in the cloud becomes half-baked and clumsy.


When you edit a document using an app which has been built against the macOS 10.14 SDK, even though you may not be running it on Mojave, if that app uses Apple’s built-in support for document versions accessed using the Browse All Versions command, and you save your edits to a document stored in iCloud Drive, macOS will make its versions available to other macOS and iOS systems able to access that document in iCloud Drive.

Howard Oakley:

There appear to be two distinct issues causing these problems: the need to sync new versions, and duplication occurring between local and iCloud versions.

Ordinarily, with asynchronous tasks such as saving a new version of a document to cloud storage, each task would be added to a queue, and the syncs in that queue performed in sequence until the queue becomes empty. This doesn’t appear to happen when saving versions to iCloud Drive: if the next version is ready to sync, then prior version syncs for that document are cancelled or lost. If you overload the sync process, then only the last sync is performed, and versions which should have been ahead of it in the queue are never synchronised, and appear lost to other systems sharing that account. They are, though, still stored in the local versions database.


Users cannot (ordinarily) turn versions off in Apple’s iWork apps, nor can they stop the versioning system locally, or that in iCloud. Perhaps the best strategy is to see this as an added bonus, on which you cannot rely, nor can you disable or remove. Apple needs to address these issues if it intends users to edit iWork documents shared in iCloud Drive.

Howard Oakley:

Versioning is the cloud equivalent of Undo, at its best when you’re working in short bouts but require access to that document’s editing history.


When you view or retrieve those versions using the Browse All Versions… command, you are offered all locally-stored versions, and all those found in iCloud, delivering two copies of most.

Update (2018-11-09): Howard Oakley:

What I hadn’t tested until recently was version management when using Handoff. This doesn’t work through iCloud, but can be used to edit documents stored in iCloud, and appears to save versions reliably. Indeed, it poses a different problem for version management: what happens when the same document is open on two systems, and different changes are made in each?

The Handoff solution is to prompt the user to choose between the two versions, forcing them to delete one of them. There doesn’t appear to be any way, automatically or manually, of merging the changes. With autosave in operation, a user who is editing the same document on two systems will rapidly realise that is a bad idea. With existing non-matching versions on the two systems, it can only add to user confusion, particularly if the user closes the document on one system, then later opens it using the versions stored in iCloud.

At the moment, versions in iCloud and Handoff can lead to great confusion and missing versions. The bugs in the current implementation of versions in iCloud need to be fixed, and until they are, versions in iCloud simply can’t be trusted.

Android Phone Manufacturers to Pay for Google Play Store

Benjamin Mayo:

The EU has ruled that Google can no longer require manufacturers to pre-install Google Chrome and Google search in order to feature the official Android app store, the Google Play Store. It views the entanglement as anticompetitive.

Naturally, Google is appealing the decision but it must comply in the meantime. The new European license will require manufacturers to pay a per-device free for the rights to pre-install the Play Store and other apps. If the hardware companies choose to install Google search and Chrome, a revenue sharing deal will let them recoup some of the costs of the Google Mobile Services license.


Under the leaked terms, Samsung would save $30 in licensing costs on every device, if they made the hardware resolution match the default software configuration.

But it sounds like the they’ll still have to pay a significant amount even if they do install Chrome. This seems like a really big deal.

Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store

John Koetsier (via Hacker News):

“It seems they are automatically pulling any and every non-big-name app that has a high IAS [in-app subscription revenue],” Albert Renshaw posted on Facebook.

The trial button is the key.

“They’ve been pulling apps and rejecting apps that have a massive button that says ‘X days free” without the price inside that button,” another developer said. “People don’t read the fine print and that’s who they’re after. Before they were lenient but with the negative publicity they’re strict as hell now.”


Today, most of the apps mentioned in my original story are now no-longer available.

Why didn’t Apple enforce its guidelines from the beginning? Or, afterwards, notice apps with suspicious revenue?

Previously: Weather Alarms Scam.

Update (2018-10-25): John Gruber:

I can see how a new app with a malicious IAP scam might slip through review, but once an app is generating tens of thousands of dollars a month, it ought to get a thorough review from the App Store.

Update (2018-10-29): Apps Exposed:

I have been investigating these apps for a year and reported them to @Apple but they haven’t taken any actions so far, letting this scammers making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please take a careful look at the list below[…]

It’s a long list.

Update (2018-11-19): David Barnard:

The App of the Day on iPad today is one of Apalon’s apps (thread). Their paywall has the price and trial duration far removed from the trial button and a quarterly subscription (preying on people who don’t know what that means? And/or can’t do math?).

App Review told us that in Weather Up we had to put the price on the button. So, next time Apalon submits an update to that app they’ll presumably be forced to do the same. But you’d think Apple wouldn’t feature apps that aren’t current in compliance with App Review guidelines

It’s also App of the Day on iPhone. And I almost forgot… it’s one of the apps recently caught selling user location data. For all Apple’s talk of protecting users, I still can’t believe they allow apps to sell location data much less feature those apps

I hadn’t used that app in a while, so I decided to check it out & figure out what Apple saw worth the honor of App of the Day. Alerts promoting other apps. Full screen adds every couple minutes. Subscription page pops up randomly. Sells user location data. “Creedon Republic”?!

I can’t think of a bigger than seeing that specific app featured a few days after @Weather_Up_ was released. I’ve tried so hard to create a great experience around weather maps, respect user privacy, add unique features like Event Forecasts, and not trick/annoy users.

Ryan Jones:

Good summary of what we mean when we say “scam apps”.

It’s not one thing; it’s a combination of willfully barely nefarious tactics that Apple’s walled garden should catch or fold up shop. Any one complaint looks petty by design, but the whole picture is a clear scam.

Update (2019-02-04): Lukas Stefanko:

What is this app rating?

Developer created tricky app icon to make potential users believe it has over 4 stars.

Purpose of the app is to trick user into activating 3 day trial for basic photo editing app. If user forgets to cancel, it costs him €49.99/week.

Update (2019-02-26): Ryan Jones:

I’ve heard and seen tiny evidence that Apple formed a new team to proactively hunt the App Store for bad behavior and demand fixes, with actual consequences.

Finally, years of work by @drbarnard, @cribasoft, me, others, plus @gruber’s help.

Update (2019-05-16): David Barnard:

$260/yr for a coloring app that has a $25/yr option?! If Apple truly cares about App Store customers, they‘d auto-cancel tricky subscriptions like this when they find them. If people really want to use the app, they’ll subscribe again when given the option.

Tweetbot 5 for iOS

Tapbots (tweet):

  • GIF support in compose view (Powered by Giphy).
  • Redesigned profiles.
  • Redesigned tweet status details.
  • New iconography and app icon.
  • Optimized dark theme for OLED displays.
  • Support for haptic feedback.
  • Auto video playback in the timeline (which can be disabled in the settings).

Surprisingly, this is a free update, though they’ve added a tip jar. I like the new design except that the timeline scroll thumb seems to be invisible in the dark theme.

Christopher Lawley:

With some major design changes it feels like a whole new app. There’s some hidden easter eggs as well that I’ve noticed people may have missed. If you go into setting, tap Support Tweetbot, and give them a tip you can unlock different themes. After that go into display and you can now change your themes. My personal favorite is Pumpkin.