Invisible iOS Home Screen Icons

Since getting my iPhone 6 a few weeks ago I’ve been continuously trying to optimize the configuration of my home screen. The larger screen means that I now have an extra row of icons to fit onto the screen, but the physical size of device means that I can’t actually comfortably reach them.

Since you can’t arbitrarily place icons on your home screen this means the situation is actually worse. I now have to fill in the top row of icons with ‘stuff’ just so that I can easily reach my main icons without stretching.

I poked around at finding a better way and this was my solution. No weird hacks or jailbreak required.

Update: Yes, I know all about Reachability—but I don’t want to have to use an accessibility feature each and every time I launch an app on my home screen.

It requires that you use a black wallpaper (which I’ve always done anyway). If you don’t, here are two that I’ve prepared for you. Tap the appropriate size for your device and then long press on the image to Save Image.

The reason it requires that you use a black wallpaper is that iOS doesn’t allow you to have any transparency on home screen icons. Any thing with transparency is simply rendered as black.

You could theoretically create cut-outs of your wallpaper and then match them up perfectly on the grid but in reality this wouldn’t look good since the parallax effect on the screen would skew the alignment every time you moved your iPhone.

Once you’ve set your home screen wallpaper to black simply follow these steps to generate invisible icon blanks.

1) Visit this webpage (http://david-smith.org/blank.html) in Mobile Safari. Nothing super special about that page, it simply has a few header parameters set to specify how we want the icon to be rendered.

2) Tap the Action button on the toolbar.

3) Tap the Add to Home Screen button from the Share Sheet.

4) Tap the Add button from the Share Sheet. Do not touch the title field, it will be pre-filled with an invisible character so that nothing shows below the icon.

5) Repeat for however many blanks you want.

6) Now whenever you put your icons into Wiggle Mode you’ll be able to positing these invisible blanks wherever you want them. (Shown below against a contrasting background since, well, they are invisible otherwise).

Enjoy.

David Smith




Glance the Weather

Check the Weather(App Store link) just got its iOS 8 update. This includes a couple of fixes and improvements but most significantly, it now includes a Today View widget. This widget allows you to interact with the app and get basic forecast information without ever needing to launch the app.

This widget shows you all the basic information you may want to glance at in a simple, consolidated interface. You see:

  • The current temperature and conditions
  • The short term Dark Sky rain forecast (if available)
  • The forecast for the new few hours
  • The forecast for the next few days

Once configured into your Today drawer you can simply swipe down from your status bar in any app to check the weather. The great part of this is that you can now quickly access forecast information without ever having to leave what you are doing.

Say you are making plans for the weekend, and need to quickly see if it will be nice outside:

Now you can do that with just a swipe. On sale for $0.99 for the launch of this update.

On sale for $0.99
David Smith




Introducing Emoji++

Being friends with Casey Liss I have a lot of experience with Emoji, but the way it is implemented in the default iOS keyboard has always driven me a little bit crazy. Why oh why are there six pages, some of which is split into ten sub pages. None of which scroll!

And then don’t even get me started on actually trying to find anything.

  • Why are shoes(👞) under the face(😃)?
  • Why are volcanos(🌋) under the flower(🌸)?
  • Why is the coffee(☕) under the bell(🔔)?
  • Why is the Union Jack(🇬🇧) under the car(🚘)?!

I feel like I’m always playing a game of memory each time I’m try to craft my perfectly composed Emoji response.

So when iOS 8 introduced the concept of custom keyboard I knew I wanted to replace the built in one with something better. Something faster.

The result is Emoji++. A custom keyboard for iOS 8 that actually makes sense.

Rather than the incredibly awkward paging interface the Emoji are listed out in a single, smoothly scrolling window. So you can easily browse through from top to bottom in only a few swipes. Along the right side is a jump bar letting you quickly skim to a particular category (organized in a way that actually puts similar things together). Long press on any Emoji to add it to your favorites list or view all your recently used Emoji in the Recents list. Simple. Fast.

$0.99
David Smith




Typical iPhone Adoption Rates

While watching yesterday’s announcements I got curious about how quickly a new iPhone gets adopted in the marketplace. This was particularly important for apps of mine like Pedometer++ which rely on specific hardware features. This year it is more about understanding how quickly these new screensizes will become common in use.

So I took a look through my iOS Version data and graphed the adoption of the iPhone 5s/5c. The usual caveats about this being usage based and representative of the audience of my Audiobooks apply but it is likely still pretty useful to see.

Looks like we can expect around 10% adoption of a new iPhone by December and then 20% by late summer next year. The iPhone 6 may go quicker than the 5s since it is such a dramatically different device form-factor (but then of course it could also go slower?). Either way looks like making sure apps run well on these big screens needs to be a pretty quick turnaround for developers.

  

David Smith




App Store Longevity and Freshness

For a very long time I’ve talked about my concerns about the size and health of the iOS App Store catalog. The App Store currently sits around 1,200,000 apps. For years the depth and diversity of the App Store has been one of the platforms strongest differentiators. However, as it grows the challenge becomes ensuring that it doesn’t begin to strain under its own size.

What has always annoyed me in my discussions about how to improve the App Store was that I didn’t have actual data on the composition of the App Store. Since it wasn’t (to my knowledge) available I started working out ways to get at it myself.

David Smith