Archive for July 12, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019


Jonathan Grynspan:

As promised, API for macOS browsers to adopt universal links!

Please review the header for details on how to adopt—ADC hasn’t got them yet. 🤐

Universal Links let certain HTTP links (e.g. Dropbox and Twitter, or hypothetically Zoom) open directly in an app instead of in the browser, potentially bypassing a confirmation alert that a custom URL scheme would have caused. This API lets third-party browsers provide an experience that matches Safari.

However, sometimes the user doesn’t want the link to open in the app, and so Safari in Catalina lets you Control-click to choose the browser instead. (On iOS you can long-press.) The isEnabled property lets you see how the user last opened a link for that app, so that you can respect the preference. And it’s shared across the OS, so you can change it in a third-party browser and affect Safari’s behavior.

See also: What’s New in Universal Links.


Mac Marketshare in Q2 2019

Eric Slivka:

If accurate, Gartner’s estimates would put Apple with its lowest share of the U.S. PC market since the first quarter of 2014 and the lowest recorded on a global basis since Gartner started including Apple as a top global vendor in the third quarter of 2014.


IDC’s estimates paint a much different picture, however, projecting worldwide PC shipment growth of 4.7 percent compared to the second quarter of 2018. IDC pegs Apple as having shipped 4.011 million Macs in the quarter for nearly 10 percent year-over-year growth.


Local 1Password iOS Vaults No Longer Free

gross (via Hacker News):

I have a workflow where I use 1Password on my phone - locally, no sync, do not want sync, can not use sync. Obviously this is not my main way of using 1Password, which I have been using now since 2011, mostly on Mac and iOS.

On that phone, I often remove 1Password and reinstall it. The last time I did this was a few weeks ago, likely running 7.3.1 or 7.3.2.

Today, I needed to urgently do this again, and I reinstalled 1Password to realize the new onboarding screen does not seem to let me configure my local vault at all.

I looked at release notes - all I can see is that 7.3.1 had improvements to standalone vault syncing, which seems to mean standalone vaults still work, and 7.3.3 reduced the size of the app by 27%.


I’m sorry for the trouble. 1Password no longer offers a free-to-use option on iOS. It can either be used with a 1Password membership account or it can be synced to a standalone vault created by 1Password for Mac or 1Password for Windows. It wouldn’t be possible to create a new standalone vault from 1Password for iOS. Standalone vaults still work, but must be created by a licensed product (1Password for Mac or 1Password for Windows).

It seems pretty reasonable to disallow free creation of vaults. But it does reduce the utility of the app for those of us who don’t want to use the cloud service, because there’s no longer a way to pay for the iOS app without subscribing to the service.

The other issue this story highlights is that app updates aren’t handled well on iOS. Chances are that you’ll get silently updated to the new version—and in this case the change wasn’t called out in the release notes, anyway—and there’s no way to go back or even to restore from backup. So you can never be sure that a feature you depend on won’t suddenly disappear or break.


Perhaps one could split the arguments in this thread into two categories; 1) forcing payment for some features is frustrating when it was free before, 2) stand-alone vault synchronisation features are disappearing because AgileBits thinks it’s more secure and more convenient to work via 1P-accounts.

As a five year old customer of both personal and company plans, I also see the disappearance of stand-alone synchronisation as a negative. I’ve brought it up with customer support and sales on multiple occasions.

Unfortunately, the outcome of those conversations is always similar to this thread.


One thing I’ve learned about software in general is that I never want to be outside of the primary use case. If you’re not using it the same way that the people building it do, it’s going to be a pain to use, and your requests will be ignored.

“Ignored” is probably too strong here, but the overall point is sound. This is also why people get uneasy about Apple dropping certain types of hardware and adding impediments to automation workflows. Even if it’s technically still possible to do what you could do before, everything becomes more difficult and less supported when you’re on a niche path.


Update (2019-07-19): See also: Reddit.


I am sorry that we removed a feature that some of you rely on for your workflow and I’m sorry we didn’t communicate its removal. In all honesty I assumed it would go mostly unnoticed. I figured that existing customers already have 1Password setups that are working for them, so no one would miss it. And really, why draw attention to the removal of a feature that shouldn’t really affect anyone anyway?

Clearly I missed the mark on this one.


I also want to touch briefly on why this feature was removed. For better or worse, a good chunk of the answer comes down to how we want 1Password viewed as a product among the field of other password managers. Prior to this change 1Password would frequently appear on the list of the “best free password managers” and while that’s flattering, it’s not where we want to be. 1Password is a paid product, and prior to today 1Password for iOS was the only 1Password app on any platform that could be used entirely for free. That is no longer the case. Another large reason why we removed this feature was that an unsynced vault on an iOS device is a dangerous thing. We receive enough customer support from people who set up 1Password in this way and then lose their device and lose everything that we wanted to take a very deliberate step in removing the possibility that people could find themselves in that state.

Tim Hardwick:

The good news is that 1Password has listened to user feedback, and the latest update, v7.3.4, restores the ability to create standalone vaults from setup to customers who had previously purchased 1Password 4 for iOS or the Pro Features in-app purchase.

However, for new users at least, there’s no longer any way to use the password management service without subscribing to a paid plan.

Predatory iOS App Subscriptions

David Barnard:

I decided to try and tune the my niece’s Disney princess guitar and went to the App Store looking for a tuner. Top result is an ad for an app by MVM, the company I called out last week for shady onboarding and $400+/yr subscriptions.

Second result is a curated story, so I figured that would be better than continuing to look through the search results. So I download one of those apps. Similar shady onboarding, then a $100/yr subscription. (At least this one has a close button hidden in the top left.)


What’s especially insidious is that to make these scams work, developers are spending tons of money on user acquisition. I’ve talked to some knowledgable folks who estimate these apps spend as much as 90% of their gross revenue on app install ads.


Apple is allowing these scams to tarnish their brand and destroy people’s trust in the App Store to make a little extra money and pad the pockets of Google and Facebook. They’ve been playing whack-a-mole for years instead of doing the deeper work of re-aligning incentives.


And that brings us back to my rant last fall. Not only is Apple failing to re-aligning incentives, they are actively incentivizing revenue over user experience by featuring apps based on how well they do financially without regard for how they do it.

Dominik Wagner:

The @AppStore currently promotes a metronome app that has a $7.99 weekly price. That is $415.48 for the default trial subscription it shows at start. That’s promoting fraud. And not the first occasion. @Apple we demand better.

Rene Ritchie:

Gross. Looks like a few metronome apps do this. Among a ton of other gross of apps.

Totally destroys the “you can just trust it” reputation of the @AppStore

Hope Apple cracks down on all the subscription scams and yesterday.

I don’t think Apple should ban these apps or prevent developers from setting the prices. But it should be easier for customers to see what they’re committing to and to cancel before they get rebilled.

Ryan Jones:

The scammers that are ruining the App Store WILL erode consumer trust, Apple’s advantage, viability of good products, and services revenue.

Again, I think and talk about it a lot, because these things change slowly, then all of a sudden.


Update (2019-07-23): Ryan Jones:

Whhhhhhaaaaat. LOL. Found this app because the twin sisters that made it were featured in the App Store.

Now THAT is a paywall. 🤣

Ryan Jones:

Here’s a video.


....$500 per year. Hahahah

Ryan Jones:

OMG, if you try to close the paywall...

At this point - pure scam. Through and through.

Paul Haddad:

I like how the $520 subscription text is unreadable. Also wow this is an app target at kids, how the hell can Apple feature this. Shameful.

John Gruber:

More than just unreadable, I’d argue they go to extraordinary lengths to render it illegible. It’s more like a hidden easter egg.

Marco Arment:

App Store subscription scams are 100% Apple’s fault, with most of the problem being the design of the purchase-confirmation screen.

Look at how little space is used to communicate the price, buried under a wall of boilerplate “policy” text, surrounded by huge calls to action.

If Apple’s going to continue accepting apps despite exorbitant subscription pricing — probably the only enforceable option — iOS needs to MUCH better communicate pricing on the IAP confirmation screen.

I’d like to see short-duration subs show the true price per month or year.

Ryan Jones:

Exactly, plus the incentives they have created. All their policies incentive this, we are the fools fighting what the platform‘s natural gravitational pull is telling us to do.

David Hsu:

Ignorant app review is one thing—we’re used to it—but actively promoting apps like this, with Apple taking 30% cut of whatever amount these scams rake in… It’s hard to not doubt these repeated offenses from Apple are completely accidental.

Kyle Howells:

Apple avoided upgrade pricing… because they disagreed with the user experience or the principle? 🤷🏻‍♂️

Instead they’ve pushed developers towards subscriptions, with this completely predictable result. The AppStore is now full of spam and scam apps trying to trick you.

Update (2019-08-02): Mark Villacampa:

This? Oh, nothing, just a QR code app that charges a 10€/week subscription, hoping people forget to unsubscribe after the 3 days free trial period

Update (2019-08-19): Lukas Stefanko:

Over 2,000 scam apps discovered on App Store #iOS

-scan fingerprint to make in-app purchase
-some of them are still on App Store
-2 apps made around $400k in June alone
-list of 517 apps

Apps ask users to place their finger on the Home button to take a heart-beat reading. App dims the display to minimum to hide the content — which is actually dialogue requesting authorization for in-app purchase.

Craig Grannell:

There is no way to escape the screen and use even a feature-limited version of the app. The FREE FOR NEW USERS button shimmers and animates, and the header states you can “access all features for free”. However, beneath the shimmering button is a comparatively dull one, outlining a staggering £24.49 fee – for a filter app. This is clearly designed to drive people to prod the free button; but take another look and you see some really faint grey text below, which notes that the trial is for just three days. After that point, you’ll be charged a monstrous £8.49 per week – more even than that monthly fee.

Sure enough, tap the button labelled FREE under the heading that says ‘For Free’, and you’re invited to join a piffling three-day free trial that then converts into an £8.49 per week charge. On older iPhones, this is horribly easy to trigger in error – automatic, if your thumb’s already on the Home button.

Update (2019-09-27): See also: Fleeceware (via Hacker News).