Wednesday, August 23 - 10:02 pm
Microsoft has introduced a new font with the latest Windows Insider build:
Bahnschrift is our own rendition of the DIN font standard. Apart from being the standard road sign font in Germany and much of Europe, DIN is frequently used by graphic designers for its high legibility and clean, hard-working design style. Bahnschrift supports a smooth spectrum of weights from Light to Bold, as you can see in the above image. In this image, each letter is a slightly different weight than its neighbors. All these weights are “duplexed” – meaning they do not change in width when you change weight. You can switch from Light to Bold without changing the layout at all.
It looks good. I've been a fan of the Segoe font family but it's been starting to show its age (especially after Apple and Google updated their system font). For the Fluent Design System to be wholly considered the next chapter in Microsoft's design language it needs distinct typography. I was actually surprised nothing was revealed when Fluent was announced, and would have liked more clarity in today's notes on Bahnschrift's role going forward.
Wednesday, August 9 - 12:36 pm
There appears to be no consensus within the Windows community on the criteria an app must satisfy to qualify as a UWP app. That's even though Microsoft's definition should make this a non-debate:
i.e. anything on the Store.
Furthermore, Microsoft clearly state apps don't need to depend entirely on the UWP API set to target the Universal Windows Platform:
Apps that target the UWP can call not only the WinRT APIs that are common to all devices, but also APIs (including Win32 and .NET APIs) that are specific to the class of device that the app is running on.
In other words, the Spotify apps on the Store (PC via Centennial and Xbox via Westminster) are technically UWP apps like Appy Text despite their Win32/web roots. Although this technicality is generally acknowledged, the usual counter-point is that apps like Spotify's are not true UWP apps because they don't leverage the UWP platform's built-in features and universal building blocks to create a UX that works well with a variety of devices, screens, and input methods. In many ways, none of this really matters seeing as the majority of Windows users won't have any idea what UWP even is. But what this difference of opinion indicates is a need for Microsoft to acknowledge that there are different flavours of UWP apps through official naming conventions. This doesn't necessarily need to be communicated to users, but it will help move the UWP conversation forward by adding necessary nuance to positively steer the conversation towards more meaningful discussion related to the UWP mission. For example, shifting the debate from a dismissal vs defence of Spotify's UWP credentials to identifying steps needed so that UWP web apps offer a more native-like experience. Or for UWP Win32 apps' UIs to feel more modern.
Sunday, August 6 - 10:18 am
Marques Brownlee pits Siri vs Google Assistant vs Bixby Voice vs Amazon Alexa. Pretty confident Cortana would have performed better than at least two of the participants, but it's revealing that it wasn't considered for the video - it's not part of the voice assistant conversation happening outside of Microsoft and in more mainstream circles. The product is good and continues to get better, but mindshare remains weak. Sounds familiar.
Monday, July 31 - 10:22 pm
Dan Thorp-Lancaster of Windows Central reporting that the Windows Dev Center app is coming to Android:
Microsoft is currently working on a dedicated Windows Dev Center app for Android. Spotted by Android Police (via MSPU), the app is currently available on the Google Play Store as an early alpha version marked with an (Unreleased) tag.
If you're a Windows developer, much of what you've come to expect from the Dev Center will be available here upon full release.
This is actually something I was thinking about recently: how convenient it'd be to be able to monitor Appy Text's performance on the go without needing to depend on the not-so-great Dev Center website. But I didn't actually expect it to be in development. It's one thing for Microsoft to move their consumer apps to iOS and Android. It's something else entirely when they do the same with an app targetted towards Windows developers. It's an implicit admission by Microsoft that Windows developers are joining its users in abandoning Windows Mobile. Works for me.
Wednesday, July 26 - 7:45 pm
Before releasing Appy Text, beyond knowing that there are ~500 million Windows 10 potential users, I had no idea how it would do as it was my first UWP app. I did however expect it to do better than my previous app, Appy Weather, because 1) Windows has more users than Windows Phone and 2) Appy Text was going to be free with an in-app purchase, whereas Appy Weather had a three day trial before you needed to pay. For a $3.99 weather app on the number three mobile platform, Appy Weather performed admirably. In general though, it did okay. It's now been a few months since Appy Text was released on the Windows Store, enough time to re-calibrate my expectations moving forward for Appy Text as well as the Windows Store. Here are the numbers.
Firstly, to get an objective feeling for the quality of the app that the numbers are linked to, please consider its review rating of 4.7 based on 116 reviews so far.
Also worth considering is that although I'm not a famous developer on the platform, I've a bit more reach than someone who is releasing their first app.
Appy Text has been downloaded 7,861 times in three months.
For comparison, Appy Weather has been downloaded 24,328 times. That is, Appy Text has in three months reached one-third of the downloads Appy Weather managed in three years.
These are the daily download numbers:
Those spikes occurred whenever the app was mentioned on a reputable website. Michael Allison's MSPoweruser review helped the app hit a peak 833 downloads for a day on April 23, less than a week after the app was released. The least number of downloads it's managed in a day is 23; however, outside of the aforementioned spikes, the app was on average downloaded around 50 times a day in the first three months.1 Obviously this isn't anywhere near Windows 10's estimated user base, but it's nonetheless a solid number to work with. But, remember, the app is free with a Premium in-app purchase that was on sale at $0.99 for the first couple of weeks before changing to $3.99. There are 472 Premium users.
That's around 6% of downloads becoming paid users. That may seem little but it's actually normal. I'm okay with this free-to-paid user conversion ratio2 but I'm not with the percentage of users activating the free 30-day Premium trial. This warrants a separate post where I'll elaborate on
what who is responsible for this (me) and steps I'm taking to address this (first changes have already resulted in a meaningful bump). For comparison, Appy Weather has a respectable more-than-nine but less-than-ten percent conversion ratio with 2,312 paid users.
The app's been downloaded the most in the United States. This is the top 10:
- United States - 2,477
- Germany - 787
- Russia - 644
- India - 464
- United Kingdom - 422
- Poland - 319
- China - 308
- France - 237
- Canada - 174
- Italy - 152
Worth mentioning are a couple of countries in Appy Weather's top 10 downloads that are nowhere near Appy Text's top 10: Vietnam (third, yes third, behind the U.S. and U.K.), and Mexico (10th).
As for the spread of Premium users, it's mostly similar with China and Italy making way for Australia and the Netherlands:
- United States - 173
- Germany - 60
- United Kingdom - 44
- Russia - 21
- Poland - 19
- India - 12
- Australia - 11
- France - 10
- Netherlands - 9
- Canada - 9
Finally, and this is possibly the thing that took me most by surprise, although the app has been downloaded mostly on the PC, as was expected, phone downloads are not insignificant. Tablet downloads however are - they're less than a hundred. Special mention to the one user who downloaded the app from a Windows Server device.
These are my key takeaways:
The Windows Store is bigger than the Windows Phone Store.
But Windows Mobile 10 users shouldn't be ignored. Not yet anyway.
Being a free app makes a big difference in terms of downloads.
However, it's easier converting trial users to paid users when the app stops functioning at the trial's expiry.
And so I've ended up with (many?) free users who I'm not making any money from.3 Unless ads.
- But if I continue to reject monetising through ads then Appy Text is highly unlikely to ever make generate revenue per month to enable its development to become a full-time gig.4
Wednesday, July 19 - 11:04 pm
OneDrive announcing version history support for all file types:
With these improvements to version history, you can see and restore older versions of all your files in your OneDrive. Previously, version history only supported Office files. Now, version history is compatible with all file types, so you no longer need to worry about your PDFs, CAD files or even your photos and videos getting accidentally edited—you’ll always be able to restore or download a previous version. OneDrive will keep an older version of your files for 30 days. Expanded version history support has started rolling out and will be available to everyone this summer.
I'm subscribed to Office 365 because of OneDrive. Although there are things they're doing that I may not agree with, the OneDrive team in general are consistently adding value to their £7.99 per monthly fee.
Saturday, July 15 - 12:45 pm
Two words are all that's needed to most accurately describe the OnePlus 5: iPhone fast. If you've ever wondered what it'd be like to have an iPhone running Android, look no further. I've been so, so impressed with this phone. Although performance is the reason to buy an OP5, there's a lot more to it, mostly great.
It doesn't feel like an iPhone. And I don't actually think it looks like one either. It feels premium and Midnight Black sexy. The fit-and-finish is something I admire every time I take out the phone. Heck, I actually sometimes take it out just to admire it. It's pretty manageable in one-handed use most of the time, especially if you've got bigger hands than me (most likely) and/or use the on-screen navbar.1 The one misstep is that it's incredibly slippery in the hand. So much so, I actually purchased phone insurance for the first time (as well as a couple of dBrand skins). Another niggle is with the hardware buttons on the sides of the phone. The phone is beautifully thin but I think there's room for them to have been slightly bigger for a more assured press.
In a contest between less pixels and more battery, in an unusual (but welcome) move for a flagship device, the latter was prioritised. Although the screen packs less pixels than other flagships, it doesn't matter because it's still a beautiful display. Battery life has been better for it, consistently and comfortably lasting an entire day. Win-win. Dash charging is legit too. Especially appreciate how the phone remains cool when I'm using it while it's being charged.
Making it 3/3 is a camera that by default takes beautiful pictures. I don't know whether it's better/worse than the competition, but I do know you won't be disappointed by it. It's really fast too. For the second lens, I'd have a preferred a wide-angle because of my shooting preference. Maybe in the future phones will ship with more than two lenses to cater for every situation. Or maybe interchangeable lenses become a thing. Finally, Portrait mode is cool but a little finicky; I expect it to continue being optimised with software updates.
My biggest gripe with the hardware is the mono speaker and, more specifically, its placement on the bottom of the phone; watching a video in landscape requires you to carefully grip the phone to avoid blocking the speaker grills. Not a showstopper but highly inconvenient. Especially crappy because the display's size and quality make me want to watch video on this.
A few minor points:
The fingerprint sensor is lightning quick but I'm not particularly fond of its pill-shaped design. I think it looks ugly (and is actually one of the reasons I was always put off by the Galaxy design pre-S8); as far as geometric shapes go, I much prefer a circle. But I realise that would exacerbate claims that the phone is an iPhone copy.
Most days I switch between "Silent", "Do not disturb" and "Ring" modes. The Alert Slider thoughtfully ensures I don't need to turn on the phone's display to do so - one of those little things that make a big difference to each day. An issue I have though is in "Do not disturb" mode I can't set it to stay silent when a phone call comes through. The workaround is to either only allow (favourite) contacts to get through or repeat callers (i.e. presumably urgent calls). Neither option is great.
- Changing phone profiles during the average day is common. The Alert Slider acknowledges this. But taking pictures is even more common. And so I wish there was a dedicated camera button to help speed things up and make taking pictures more satisfying by enabling a more tactile experience. This is probably the feature I miss the most about Windows Phones.
I know stock Android is all the rage within tech circles. That and being on a budget is why I went with the Nexus 5X when I decided to switch to Android in early 2016. Coming from Windows Phone where the experience was delightful even on the low-end, I went into this with high expectations. This was a Google phone. Yes, it didn't pack as much power as its 6P sibling, but Android was several iterations old. And so I still expected it to fly. And, to be fair, it did some of the time. But not all the time. Less so at the end of every day. Less less so with time. The other disappointment was while the most visible/important layer of Android is unquestionably good, the admittedly less important but not unimportant middle layer of polish was absent when you dig deep. Although I consider the gap to have reduced, significantly in many areas and bettered in some even, Android as experienced on the 5X for me still trailed iOS in the overall design and performance stakes. What I really didn't expect was OnePlus' OxygenOS to address this. But it has. No doubt helped by 8GB of RAM. OxygenOS is understated in the best possible way. It's uninterested in adding more bloat to Android, instead focused on carefully applying a considerate layer of polish to the experience.2 The OnePlus 5 has actually changed my opinion of Android. Buttery smooth. Finally. My next phone will need to run OxygenOS.
Maybe more than performance, an even better reason to buy the OnePlus 5 is its price. I know a £500 phone is not cheap, but for almost £200 less than a Galaxy S8, after ~1 week of use, for me it's a no-brainer. If you do, you won't regret it. But don't be mislead, even if the OnePlus 5 cost the same as a Galaxy S8, I'd still go with it because of its superior performance and OxygenOS.3 I've been seriously productive because of these two factors; multitasking is a breeze with no sign of stutter regardless of what I throw its way. But your priorities may be different.4 If they're not, then the OnePlus 5 is highly recommended. Especially if you're on a Windows Phone and don't want an iPhone.
Wednesday, July 12 - 9:03 pm
Tobias Klika, developer of one of my favourite ever Windows Phone apps, Poki, asks poignantly:
Now this is a really good question. I think there are a number of factors at play here. The main being when you're in a store where almost everything is being given away for free, then as a customer why pay for anything? Furthermore, a lot of the time Store users aren't looking for anything specific but window shopping - the last thing on their mind is to get the wallet out. On the other hand, when someone visits your app's website, you've got home-court advantage. You're the one app in your store. These customers are usually looking for something specific. To them, the difficulty is finding what they're after. But once they have, payment is not an obstacle. This is why if you're an indie and making a decent living away from the Store, there's little incentive to make the move: not only are potential new customers' expectations to pay (much) less than what you're charging (if pay at all) but there's a Microsoft 30% tax too.
Tuesday, July 11 - 11:22 pm
The death of Windows Phone is not news. But it's official now. Sad because were it not for apps, I'd have no complaints using a Windows Phone 8.1 phone as my daily driver. These many years later.
Monday, July 10 - 11:44 pm
Adobe's Christian Cantrell observing Windows 10 through the eyes of a Mac user:
If you hadn’t been keeping up with Windows, and you were to walk into a Microsoft store to play around with the latest and greatest in Windows hardware and software, you would almost certainly be blown away by how modern and polished the experience has become. In some respects, it might even make macOS look a tiny bit dated. But buy a Windows computer, take it home, and start using it as your daily driver, and very soon you’ll begin to encounter vestiges of versions past. You will encounter multiple ways of accomplishing the same things, seemingly different configuration options which actually compete with one another, other similar configuration options which aren’t associated with one another at all, and sometimes even more than one version of the same application. You’ll see fonts rendered differently, menus stashed in different places, and wildly different UI conventions. With the new and emergent Fluent Design System, we might even be about to get yet another design language woven into the Windows 10 experience before discrepancies in the old ones have been fully reconciled or eliminated.
Mac users are Mac users because of the software - the craftsmanship of not only MacOS but its third-party apps. Especially so these days when you consider the recent Windows hardware renaissance.