Automatic Updates, iCloud Drive and backing up your data

After a major OS release, you can typically count on application updates from developers. With iOS 8, there was also the launching of iCloud Drive which involved major changes to the structure of the data we store and access in iCloud. Most of these updates happened in the background, and don’t require our attention.

But some apps do require our attention. I tend to read the release notes [1] with app updates on my Mac and devices. I find them interesting/useful. I’ve been finding an alarming trend with developers warning users to take actions before updating their apps. They range from problems with an update crashing on launch and recommending to skip the version and wait for the next update to telling users to make a backup of their data before updating.

App developers cautioning users to make a backup of your iCloud data before updating the app doesn’t work.

Typical App Store Updates view.

Typical App Store Updates view.

Like this one:

Important Note for iCloud users: if you sync Contacts Journal with iCloud, please backup your data before updating the app. You can create a backup from More -> Manage Data > Backup iCloud Data.

If I’m reading your warning, it’s probably already too late.

There’s a fundamental problem with these types of warnings. In most cases, 1) assume your users don’t read release notes. Cause they don’t. 2) With Automatic Updates turned on in iOS, chances are good, they’ll be unable to stop the update.

One could argue that developers should issue ample warning in the previous versions, allowing users to plan ahead. However, that doesn’t help with users who don’t read release notes.


But the reality is, the iOS App Store needs a delayed download and update feature like the Mac App Store. In addition, developers could request to Apple that users have to initiate the update manually after highlighting where to read the release notes. Users would launch the App Store and see a separate notice, saying something like, “there were a few updates that require your attention”.


Pending Updates view concept 


Users can choose to take appropriate precautions, or just manually start the download. The action wouldn’t add much time to the whole workflow, and the users would have a chance to backup important data.

The example above includes:

  1. A separate section above 'Pending Updates' for updates that need review.
  2. A header containing the number of updates that need review.
  3. A unique badge that grabs the users eye and attention, in this case I used an orange Info icon (i).

  1. That “What’s New” text below the version number. ↩

SpiderOak for iOS 2.0

Well, I'm excited to announce after working on this project for over a year now, the app is done. The SpiderOak 2.0 mobile app for iOS is now designed, developed and available for download on the iOS App Store.

Some takeaways I've learned from redesigning an app from the ground up over a year-long process.

  • Operating systems update and change
    • Two OS updates - iOS 5-6 (iOS 6 changed many UI elements)
  • Design trends change
    • We called an audible, changing the entire menu structure a couple of times.
  • Screen sizes change
    • Designing for Android made this less of an issue for me.
  • Minimum requirements change
    • SpiderOak's feature set and mobile API has updated many times in a year, and our feature set has grown substantially.
    • Many of them have come in the last month, so be adaptable (not just be willing to adapt - but actually adapt).
    • Make sure your designs and specs are scalable to include last minute changes that make sense to everyone involved in writing and testing.
SpiderOak Mobile

Now to work on some updates...

You can check the app out here - SpiderOak for iOS:

SpiderOak - SpiderOak, Inc.

iOS 4.2

New choices for SMS ring-tones are nice, but a bit overdue. I kinda like ‘Sherwood Forest’. But I gotta say, these are not exactly text-message tones IMHO ;). Way too long and obnoxious. Though I guess in a way it’s fitting considering how we’ve changed from the default of calling people to texting. In addition, tone’s are now assignable on a per-contact basis, also a bit overdue.

But the really cool, awesome, crazy new feature… Voice Memos new icon!

AirPrint, ah yes the AirPrint (phantom) feature. If you’re like “AirPrint yes! Wait - WTF I can’t get it to work?!”, that’s normal. Native AirPrint support was not shipped with 10.6.5. Unless you have an AirPrint enabled printer, head on over to this site to hack your Mac a bit. I did it, it works, nuff said.

AirPlay, I don’t have AirPlay enabled speakers, so I won’t be testing it anytime soon. You’ll let me know how it is.

One thing that deserves mentioning, ‘Find My iPhone’ is now available for free, which is great. This was originally only to MobileMe members. Although, Apple should be giving the whole MobileMe package away for free considering alternatives like Google Sync and the reduced feature set. I’m not exactly sure why it’s considered a 4.2 feature update, it’s more like a policy, mmm?

4.2 is really an update to bring the iPad up to speed. There are a several under the hood updates/changes here and there, mostly subtle from what I’ve seen. I’m sure I’ll notice more in the next week. Correct me if I’m wrong but birthday presents next to your birthday calendar events, new? Ehh.

There goes my Magic Mouse connection again. Firmware update anytime now Apple. Yes this update bored me, yawn.