The short history and long reach of iOS

If I were going to contort this into a piece of advice about being productive, I'd be saying something about how small moves and tiny steps really add up. I think I'd also being saying that sometimes you need to say bollocks to everyone else and keep going. To know that it is better to take some criticism lumps now and really earn the praise later rather than try to please everybody each step of the way.

All that is true. I've just surprised myself. I was honestly thinking it was a contortion saying all that, that it was plainly a justification for just showing you something I enjoyed reading. But having written it down, I realise I mean it.

Still, I did just enjoy reading it. The Verge wrote about the development of iOS, the operating system that has underpinned every iPhone I've ever had:

In what is widely regarded as his greatest presentation ever, Apple's Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world on January 9th, 2007. In the five-plus years since then, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have literally redefined the entire world of mobile computing. That world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today. That certainly doesn't mean it's underpowered or underfeatured — quite the contrary. Through what can only be described as relentless and consistent improvement over the years, Apple has made iOS one of the most feature-rich and well-supported platforms on the market.

iOS 7, the system currently powering Apple's mobile devices, offers an easy-to-understand smartphone operating system to new users, a powerful platform for app developers, and a relatively un-fragmented experience across multiple devices. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about iOS is how similar the OS as it exists today is to the OS as it existed 2007, yet the number and breadth of features that Apple has baked in since then is mind boggling. Far from suffering from the “feature creep” that typically bogs down operating systems over time, iOS has managed to stay relatively snappy and is more internally consistent than anything else available today. And iOS 8 — launching on devices this fall — looks to evolve the story even further.

How did we get from a platform that began without third-party apps, multitasking, or even copy / paste support to where we are today? Read on to see exactly how Apple evolved its mobile platform over the years, in our history of iOS.

A Visual History of iOS – The Verge

Marco Polo found – on iPhone

Maybe you have to be a Doctor Who fan to be alert to any news with the words “Marco Polo” and “found” but that's how I just discovered a new app that I can't make my mind up about.

Get this new app, run it on your iPhone and the next time you lose your phone around the house, just shout the word “Marco”. Your iPhone will reply at top volume: “Polo!”

I have no idea why the maker chose those words. You can change the “Marco” bit but you won't because there's no changing the Polo response.

Take a look at it on the App Store and be ready to spend your 69p UK, 99c US.

Snap everything to your phone

Just launched on Kickstarter: a device called Snap that lets you connect things to your phone – or your phone to things. Keep your credit card wallet snapped to the back of your phone; snap your phone on to the back of a passenger seat headrest to watch films on it.

It's a neat idea but I also just like the wry, make-you-smile approach that the makers have taken to their video about it. Take a look at that and commit some cash to kickstarting the product here.

Readdle Printer Pro for iPhone free today

Actually, it's free for 24 hours – but I can't tell when that period started so just go grab it now.

As ever with these things, don't bother thinking about it. Grab it while it's free, ignore it or even delete it – and when you need what it does, there it is. Or you can re-download it for free. And you get updates for free. But only if you bought it during this free period.

I just went to check the details and discovered that I've done this before. I knew I had with a lot of apps – a year or two ago there was a massive spate of travel apps going briefly free and I nabbed the lot, have since used a couple too – but I found I'd done it with Readdle Printer Pro for iPhone too.

No idea when that was. But I don't believe I've ever used it. So this isn't a review, isn't a recommendation for the app per se, it's a recommendation that you take advantage of this chance to get a popular app and try it out.

Calling it

My name is William and I have a problem with cold calls. Making them. I'm fine with getting them, I can even enjoy a good cold call so long as they don't stick robotically to a script. They always do but I always give them a chance to break free so I feel I've contributed something to the chat before I hang up on them.

But making cold calls, that's tough. And that's tough in another sense as I have to make them. I want to make them. I'm speaking at the Stratford Literary Festival next month because I cold-called. Obviously it took more than that one call, it took chats and emails, but it wouldn't have happened without my dialling that number. Me. Stratford. That's worth the difficulty of making calls.

I've developed two coping mechanisms that I want to tell you about. I want to tell you about them because this week I've been trying a modified version of one and am now ever more sure it works. At least, that it works for me. You own personal form of paraylsis may vary.

The first is that I know from years of struggling with this that statistically my most effective phone calls are made between 11am and noon. So in my series of Pattern Weeks here, I've written about blocking out certain times to do certain things and that hour is for phone calls. Monday to Friday, 11am to noon. Bang, bang, bang.

But to do it bang, bang, bang-like, I have to use the other strategy. This is exactly the one I write about in my Blank Screen book about writing To Do tasks as if someone else is going to do them. So in this case, rather than Call Anne, I write Call Anne re invoice number for the Doctor Who feature. Sometimes I'll even put the phone number in there too.

And that means no thinking, no looking anything up, just read task, see number, dial, speak, finish call, breathe out. (I shouldn't have chosen Anne as that example. She's lovely.)

So I game this: I arm myself with all the tools to make the call so that I can't prevaricate and then I set this inviolate time to make the calls – because that makes every other time the opposite. I cannot make phone calls outside that hour. (I do, it's often necessary, but the rule is the rule, I don't make these things up.)

The thing I've changed this week is that I've stopped ringing people on Mondays and Fridays. Again, not true. I had to ring someone yesterday in order to hit my thirty total for the month so nuts to the new plan.

But the new plan is to do 11-12 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

You may think that's an excuse, that I'm creating more specific times to call in order to create more times I don't have you.

You caught me.

But it's again down to what is working and how often I am reaching people. Mondays and Fridays are bad days to try to get to speak to folk. It must be nice to work in an office where you can relax on a Friday just because it's a Friday and it must be hell to work in one where you cannot do anything on a Monday but panic about catching up, but it's what happens.

And it's what works.

Or it's what works for me.

If you have the same problems with cold calling that I do, give this a try. If you don't, please tell me your secret.

Use Microsoft Office for free on iPad – kinda

It's a trick, but it might be useful if you don't want to pay a subscription just to make one twiddle in a one Word document. As of today – 28 March 2014 – Microsoft Office for iPhone is completely free. Not just free as in you can read a document but must pay to edit or create ones, it's completely free.

But you can run iPhone apps on your iPad. They don't look great. This one doesn't look as good as the proper iPad version of Office released yesterday. But it is Office and it will open Word and Excel documents. Possibly also PowerPoint but, seriously.

You do still have to sign up for a Microsoft account and there are myriad better ways to write and edit documents than on the scaled-up iPhone Office but it works.

Get Microsoft Office for iPhone (it's one app with Word, Excel and the other one together) here.

Free online storage, small catch

For the next couple of weeks, you can get 50Gb of online storage space for free by downloading the new iPhone and iPad app Box.

That's the small catch: it's 50Gb alright and you don't have to pay for that, but it's another place to have more storage. I've got 9Gb of space on Dropbox that I pummel, I've got 15Gb of iCloud space that I strain, I've apparently got some more on LogMeIn's Does Evernote space count too? I would like more of it and I would certainly use it to the hilt if I did, but I'm spread everywhere.

I might have a Skydrive too. Never looked.

Box is nearer Dropbox and Skydrive than it is iCloud and if you've just nodded then you may well be in the market for what the company calls “the best content viewing and collaboration experience available today for your iOS device”.

Box is free and you can download the iOS app here.

First world problem solved: copying between Mac and iOS

Short and simple: buy Scribe and thereafter you can type something on your Mac and it'll just be there on your iPhone or iPad when you turn around. Scribe is free in iOS and US$2.99 for Mac.

Slightly longer and less simple: isn't that what iCloud is supposed to do? Yes, kinda, and it is definitely true that you can and that I do use Evernote for exactly this. I also use Pages for it. And Numbers. But Scribe is meant to be like the clipboard: just as quickly and effortlessly that you copy something and paste it somewhere else, that's Scribe. It's just that you're copying it on your Mac and pasting it on your iOS device.

Hat nod to 99U which says more.

Ten months 0% finance offer at Apple

Apparently only available in some parts of Europe – I just checked, the UK is one of the parts – this is a nice deal from Apple. I bought my office iMac through a similar deal last year and it was handy to keep my capital and only pay out a portion each month.

Mind you, it was also nice when the months ended and I could call the iMac my own. Just about the day my ten-months interest-free payment ended, though, Apple brought out a new iMac. It's as if they knew. The cunning rascals.

There are terms and conditions on this deal and you should eye them up carefully. See for details.

But the key points begin with the fact that you can only get the deal on hardware (seemingly you might include some software through the store's attempts to upsell you). Next, it's 0% financing for ten months and this is separate from Apple's longer-term financing deals. I don't know anything about those. But they don't get any of this 0% lark.

Last and maybe a killer point: you have to spend over aproximately £450. But then this is the Apple Store, you can do it. The iPad Air that I raved about here the other day starts from £399 but I would (and did) spend more by getting one with greater capacity. The new iPad mini with Retina display starts at £319 but bung in more capacity or a Smart Cover and you're away


New project coming: “Learn Omnifocus” with Tim Stringer

This is so new it isn’t here yet. But Tim Stringer of is launching a Learn OmniFocus project which will be a mix of videos and tutorials about this software. I’m actually in two minds about this because I’m the type that prefers to learn on the job, to find out how to do things because I need to do them. And it works: I now feel I know OmniFocus very well. But partly because the promise of video tutorials is a good one and partly because I want you to know I’m not the only nut for OmniFocus software, I wanted to show you this link:

That’s an announcement about the new programme and it includes a sign-up form. I’ve signed up.

But it’s an interesting time to be doing this. I’ve mentioned OmniFocus before and doubtlessly will again but there are three versions of it and at this specific moment they are in a bit of flux. The iPhone one was only recently updated so that’s done, if you like, but the iPad and the Mac have a ways to go.

Less so the iPad one. That is by far the best version of OmniFocus and if you can buy only one, that’s the one to only buy. Except the iPhone version was dramatically improved by its being updated for iOS 7 and you have to expect that the iPad one will get the same or a better update too.

The Mac one is harder to explain. OmniFocus has been on the Mac for years and it shows. It just feels old. Looks old. And it is comparatively hard to use: it’s very powerful and I’m glad I got into it right alongside the iPhone and iPad ones, but it’s unquestionably harder to learn. So early this year I was very glad to sign up for the beta test of OmniFocus 2 for Mac and eventually along came a beta version. I liked it very much. Found lots of problems, as you’d expect and presume from a beta, reported them all back, saw at least most of them fixed. And then it stopped. I assumed the firm was done with the beta testing and the final product would be out presently.


What really happened is that Apple had unveiled its drastically reworked iOS 7and The Omni Group paused the Mac development and instead focused on getting a new iPhone app out in time for, and to exploit the features of, iOS 7. They did it, they did it well, and the very first thing I did after updating my iPhone to iOS 7 was to buy the new OmniFocus.

But it was a purchase. It wasn’t a free update. And I am fine with that, I am more than fine with that because OmniFocus has saved, my bacon, kept my sanity and even – yes – lifted my heart. Of course I’ll buy the new one.

Except, the way the Apple App Store works, there can’t be any free or reduced upgrades for even new users. If you bought OmniFocus for iPad today and a new one came out tomorrow, you wouldn’t be happy. I think you’d be happier than you expected because the iPad one is so good. But you wouldn’t be happiest.

So reluctantly, I’m saying hold off buying the iPad one for just a while yet if you can.

The Mac version is different: so long as you buy it directly from the company, The Omni Group, instead of via Apple’s Mac App Store, you’ll be fine: buy version 1 now, get version 2 free (I believe) when it comes out – whenever it comes out. The Omni Group store is here:

But there wouldn’t be a need for OmniFocus 2 for Mac if the first one weren’t hard to use so it’s tricky to recommend you buy something that’s difficult, that you may get very frustrated by and which will be replaced at some unknown but soon time. 

You might be best off buying the iPhone version and just enjoying that for now. But oh, the iPad one is a treat to use.