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Commuting without spamming

I started cycling because of my commute to my new office, although it’s not exactly strenuous. If I go the direct route its barely more than a mile, so I usually extend it a bit, going past the picturesque Cogges Farm Museum (above – a recent location for Downton Abbey doncha know!). I also use my bike for lots of small shopping trips, so even if I’m not ‘out on a proper ride’ I’m usually on my bike every day.

I’ve never recorded these little trips on Strava, as it would be like spamming my friends. They don’t want to know about a 1.5 mile trip to the Post Office, especially if there a many of these kind of updates a day. Then I worked out that I was missing around 1000 miles a year, and while I’m not too worried about a ‘score’ I’m interested to know how much I’ve done on each of my bikes.

Only recently did the light dawn – if I marked each of these little rides as ‘private’, they still get recorded, but don’t bore my friends with it either.

App Icon changes in iOS7

The latest version of iOS, the ‘kinda funny lookin’ iOS7  is almost upon us, and if you haven’t already started working on it, here’s an overview of the changes…

Sizes

First of all, the Application Icons are now slightly larger: 

  • iPhone: 120px (retina)
  • iPad: 76px (iPad 2/iPad Mini) and 152px (iPad 3)

As iOS7 only works on retina iPhones, you don’t need to supply a 60px version, just a 57px one for apps that will also run on iOS6 or earlier.

The corner radius has changed too – where previously it was based on the original iPhone non-retina icon (10px on the 57px icon) its now a mystery. Mani have a really in-depth investigation to discover the formula for the new radius, but my personal advice is not to worry about it. Make sure you don’t have any design element around the edge, such as a border, that relies on it. Just place a mask on a layer above to give you the rough idea, and carry on supplying your icons with square corners. 

Style, or the lack of it

There’s been a lot of talk about Grids and Golden Ratios – my advice is to not to worry about these too. By all means use the grid as a starting point, but don’t feel bound by it.

Apple’s new iconset is inconsistent, and ranges from the basic (Calendar) to shockingly immature (Game Center). I didn’t pass any comment when iOS7 was first announced as I believed that the designs would take evolve and mature. They haven’t though. When I compare it to my Windows 8 phone, with its clear, bold and consistent icon style, I just sigh.

Sorry, this isn’t meant to be a rant! Safe to say, I’m “not a fan”.

Goodbye Gloss

Finally, ‘prerendered’ no longer exists as an option – iOS7 has removed the gloss overlay for all icons, so if this was something you wanted in your design, you will need to add it to your artwork. 

Resources

Updated iOS Application Icon Ai Template

Sorry its taken a while to get around to this, but I’ve finally updated the iOS Application Icon Template for Illustrator to include the new Retina sizes for iPad 3:

Part of the delay was me trying to include all the document icon sizes as well, but these were more complicated, and I’ll do a seperate template for these when I can. The update includes the whopping 1024px size required for the App Store on iPad 3.

I’ve not updated the guides and masks layer to use the super-accurate corner radius. As before, treat this layer just for preview, and hide it before exporting to PNGs. Your exported file should have sharp, not rounded, corners. I recommend using Matthew Ericson’s export script to export the artboards to PNGs. The artboards are labelled following the Apple guidelines, so as long as you don’t add a prefix or suffix, the filename should be right!

⬇ Download the Template

There shouldn’t be any catastrophic errors, but if you notice anything odd, please let me know!

Replacing the back of an iPhone 4

A few months ago, I dropped my iPhone 4 on a concrete path and shattered the glass coated back. I’ve dropped it countless times, and don’t use a case or bumper, so it was only a matter of time really.

I only discovered in the last week how simple it was to change the back though. There are 2 tiny phillips screws either side of the dock connecter port, and once those are loosened (you don’t need to unscrew them right out), you can press down on the back and slide it up about 5mm. The back then just lifts off. Probably best to turn your phone off first though.

I ordered a replacement back from ebay, and while I can’t be sure if it’s a genuine part or not, it looks good and works just fine! Doesn’t have the shabby chic aesthetic of broken glass, but a lot more comfortable in my pocket…

Quick photo download with the iPhone Dropbox app

This is a feature of the iPhone Dropbox app that I use all the time, but keep coming across people who haven’t found it yet, so it’s worth a post! The scenario is: you take a photo and want to get it on your desktop quickly. You don’t want to plug in the iPhone, open iPhoto or Image Capture and download them.

In your Dropbox app, click the camera icon bottom centre and choose ‘existing photo or video’ (or ‘New Photo or Video’ if you haven’t taken a photo yet), choose the item, and you’re done. You can bung it in anywhere you like, but as my work folders sit in Dropbox, it means I can drop it in the relevant project folder, or a public album in ‘Photos’.

By the time you open Dropbox on your desktop, it’s already there!

App, app and away!

I’ve finally submitted my first iOS app to the iTunes App Store! A joint project with Simon Whitaker of Goo Software, the title on the top of the window might hint as to what the app is about. If the app gets approved (don’t know of any reason why it won’t but you never know) there’ll be a detailed post to come…

LiveView for iPhone and iPad

main

If you’re designing anything that’ll be viewed on either the iPhone or iPad, you’re going to find LiveView a godsend. It’s been out a couple of years, but I only discovered it this week.

It comes in two parts – a Screencaster app for your Mac, and a companion app for the iPhone/iPad. As you work on the graphics, you can view it live on the device. An essential, and free tool. I shot a quick video on my iPhone to show how it works:

So far, it only seems to be lacking an option top use it in landscape mode.

Installing Summerboard Themes

Screenshot of shelves theme

I recently had a go at installing the excellent Wood Shelves Summerboard* theme on my iPhone, but found the process of adding a theme manually a blind stumble. It involves using SFTP to connect to the phone, but various tutorials had outdated information, and I had to cobble together the various snippets until I got it to work.

So, just in case this is useful for someone else, here’s how I got it to work. This assumes you’ve already jailbroken your iPhone, and have installer.app and Summerboard installed, ready and waiting for you.

How to connect to your iPhone (1.1.4) and add a Summerboard theme:

  1. Via Installer.app, install BSD Subsystem and OpenSSH (found in the ‘System’ Category)
  2. Go to Settings> Wi-Fi > (Network Name) and click on the blue arrow to get your IP address.
  3. In Transmit (or other SFTP capable app), enter the following information to connect:
    • IP Address
    • Username: root
    • Password: alpine (not ‘dottie’!)
    • Mode: SFTP
  4. Once connected, navigate to /private/var/mobile/Library/Summerboard/Themes. There are, it seems, 2 locations for Summerboard themes, but for the 1.1.4 iPhone, this is the one SMB prefs reads from – iPod Touch may be different.
  5. Upload the theme folder and change permissions on the folder (and its contents) to 755

The theme will now show up in the SMB prefs menu! Hurrah!

Vishal Parpia reminded me that you should disable SFTP by removing OpenSSH afterwards, otherwise your iPhone becomes eminently hackable. If you can work out how to change the root user password, so much the better!

*(a theming app for the iPhone and iPod Touch’s ‘Springboard)

The wee flies in the iPhone soup

I’ve had my iPhone for 2 months now, and I have to say, it really is the convergent device of my dreams. I wanted to combine my phone and ipod for a long time, and this really does exceed my expectations.

One of the biggest attractions for me is the “at last, a decent UI”. I recently tried out Ms Jen’s Nokia 95 and liked the form factor and features (especially the camera), but the interface hurt my eyes. Its the first time someone has really thought through an interface and made it pleasant to use, rather than just feature-crammed. Also, by throwing away a fixed keyboard the interface can adapt for each purpose and provide tailored options – like a .com button when entering a URL.

It’s also a good family entertainment device. While waiting at Birmingham airport a few weeks ago, I was able to calm a hyperactive son with a plethora of YouTube videos (The mysterious ticking noise is a favourite). As I had EDGE access there, I didn’t have to pay for any wifi fees, and videos streamed really well.

But what’s a blog for if not to rant a wee bit?

First of all, it has to be said, the camera isn’t much cop. I’ve come from a Sony k800i, which has a fantastic camera, but the iPhone camera can be described as ‘not too bad’ at best. Apart from the image quality, it’s quite hard to get a crisp image. There are no settings for things like white balance – there’s a button to take a picture and that’s your lot. I guess the the thinking is that you’d do image adjustment after downloading. Fortunately, I bought the iPhone as a way of combining an iPod and phone, rather than for the camera feature, so no great loss. I still get the odd twinge of “I wish it was a bit better” though.

Another problem is the crippled bluetooth. You can pair with a BT headset, but no more. I’m used to things like Salling Clicker detecting an incoming call and pausing iTunes for me, annoucing the caller or dialling numbers and sending SMS via AddressBook. Small issues though.

There’s also the lack of ‘mark as spam’ on the Mail client, but…

My main beef is the iPod controls. and the lack of a scrollwheel interface. The iPhone controls are OK, but have a very small hit area. The environment I use my iPod the most is in the car. With the ‘classic’ iPod, I could feel the controls without having to look away from the road, and easily pause or skip a track. With the iPhone the process to skip a track is:

  1. Double click the home button to bring up the iPod controls
  2. Glance down and look for the skip button near the top right
  3. Glance up again, pressing what I hope is the button – it isn’t
  4. Look down at the iPhone while I’m pressing the button – not doing it yet
  5. Stab a few times – ah got it that time!
  6. Look up and swerve back onto my lane.

I wondered whether instead of a blank screen, it could display a ‘low-power’ scrollwheel interface like so:

iPhone low power interface

In the car this would be fine, but if you’re walking you might need a click delay to eliminate accidental pressing – click and hold for 1.5 seconds, that sort of thing.

In fact, I would settle for the whole screen to become one large ‘skip’ button…

Custom webclip icon on the iPhone/iPod Touch

hicksdesign icon on the iphone

The new 1.1.3 firmware for the iPhone and iPodTouch brings with it the ability to add a ‘webclip’ from Safari to your home screen.

Thanks to this tip you can easily create a custom icon for people visiting your site, that works just like your favicon. Its just a shame you can’t add your own for other sites – I would love a custom Google Reader icon.

EXTRA : Having tried Nathans suggestion of 158×158px I can confirm that this size does indeed produce a crisper icon. Also, Drew has come come up with a way of using custom icons. I’ve put one up for Google Reader here