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4 things to improve Apple's App Store and the Health and Home apps

Week 45.0 — 3rd September '18

iOS has evolved a lot since it's release in 2007. Back then, there was no App Store and limited APIs and yet the developer community flourished.

We're now 11 years into the crazy world of iPhone launches and every year brings with it both updated hardware and software. As a consumer I find the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad three of the easiest devices to use. There are no software or hardware features I'm really crying out for as the iPhone just does what it needs to and if doesn't, well there's an app for that.

I clearly remember the 2014 September keynote because of a giant iPhone appearing on our TV appeared and watching my daughter get up and try to swipe and tap on the TV itself. Cute, but it also just shows how quickly you can grip with these devices. She wasn't even one at the time. And the beauty of a typical Apple products is that it's ready out of the box.

Ever since the iPhone 5s at that 2014 keynote, Apple's M7 coprocessor has offered the ability to track movement and now the chip also enables the always on 'Hey, Siri' command. With the release of HealthKit in 2014, Apple created a centralised area in which to collate your health information. That same keynote saw the announcement of HomeKit, a place to bring all your compatible smart home accessories together.

Making iOS smarter

Siri is fairly smart and the AI available to the Photos app from Apple's A11 Bionic chip is very impressive. But looking at these features from a the perspective of a developer, having this information collated is very useful, but not being able to interrogate or process it is frustrating. I can kick of a download from the Health app but you get sent a zip file with your data in it which isn't much use and inconvenient. HealthKit is not the only feature that falls foul of this either so keeping my developer hat on, here's a short list of features and/or data that I would love to see Apple release.

1. HealthKit REST API Being able to access my HealthKit data in a way I could process or present it in a meaningful way for my own needs would be fantastic. Looking back at my old Nike+PHP project, I'd most like to use a set of APIs to publicly publish goals, progress of totals.
2. HomeKit REST API With a home that continues to get smarter, having bought a few HomeKit compatible devices, it would be really useful to be able to send/receive/trigger remote events on a different server.

There are ways to configure a Raspberry Pi to do this, but I'm be worried about potential vulnerabilities. I also don't have a concrete use case for wanting this type of access, I just feel it would be very useful. At worst, it would give me the ability to use IFTTT to take care of #3.
3. History of HomeKit events Having a smart home is all good and well and one of the great features is that a device can notify you when it's triggered. But there's no history and not having a history is a annoying but also feels like an oversight. What if one of the actions is for security, you're only history is the history of notifications on your lock screen. Dismiss that and the evidence of a trigger has been blown away.

HomeKit notifications
The notifications above could be alerting me to an intruder but if I was to delete them I'd have no proof. This might be easier to manage once we all get iOS 12's grouped notifications, but not having a log is a real oversight in my opinion. The Health app excels at this, showing you sources for your data, break downs and a daily view of your progress.
4. Web based App Store & remote installation for apps Apple's Web Store presence in Google searches is much better now than it was even a couple of years ago but one thing it lacks and the Google Play Store has offered for some time is the ability to remotely install apps. A convenience feature that would make discovery easier.

It's a short list as iOS mostly does what I need it to and does it well. I'd just like these four QoL improvements to make their way into HomeKit, HealthKit and the App Store sometime soon.


5. Send to / resume on Apple TV AirPlay is a wonderful thing for casting videos or screen sharing however for someone fully in the Apple ecosystem there are much better ways for it to be handled. Now that the Apple TV supports apps it would be great to either send the video source to the TV allowing you to use your iOS device free to perform other actions. Alternatively, an option to 'Resume on Apple TV' would work too. If the video is from a source that also serves as an Apple TV app then it would make the transition seamless.
6. Activity app triggers I talked about an API for HealthKit, but another solution would be for the Workflow app to support both triggers for when an action itself occurs (meet your daily goal) and for the Activity app to offer them. Maybe I'll get lucky with Siri Shortcuts on Wednesday.

Home.app on macOS Mojave

The Home app on macOS is a nice to have but really no different from the iOS version. It might actually be easier to create automations in it, but there's nothing new as far as I can see. I was hoping that the latest update would give more access to other features from the Philips sensors (not sure if that's down to Philips or Apple) but this is still all you're greeted with:

Home.app on macOS Mojave
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Quick links and commentary on interesting articles, videos and more throughout the week.

  1. 45.2 – Tuesday
    1. The Diet Train theoatmeal.com
    2. First Man trailer Universal Pictures on youtube.com
    3. Intricate swirls of Jupiter's North Pole NASA on instagram.com
  2. 45.3 – Wednesday
    1. 14 years of Disruptive Pattern Material maharishi on instagram.com
    2. Aurora round Saturn's North Pole ESA/Hubble, NASA & 4 more on apod.nasa.gov
    3. Michael Jackson x Mark Ronson: Diamonds are Invincible Michael Jackson on youtube.com
    4. House of Cards final season teaser trailer Netflix on youtube.com
    5. Mercedes-Benz EQC mercedes-benz.co.uk
  3. 45.4 – Thursday
    1. Kilimanjaro from the ISS nasa on instagram.com
  4. 45.5 – Friday
    1. How much hotter is your hometown since you were born? nytimes.com
  5. 45.6 – Saturday
    1. Extreme restoration of Hot Wheels baremetalHW on youtube.com
  6. 45.7 – Sunday
    1. How Toyota changed the way we make things Bloomberg on youtube.com

Jump to notable items for Week #44, Week #46 , view the notable archive or my favourites.

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