iOS Bulks Up with iOS 8

On June 2, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its iOS mobile operating system among many other announcements. iOS 8 will introduce a bevy of features, many of which have huge platform implications.

Many of the new features, both consumer-facing and developer-oriented, seem to be pointed squarely at the “power users”. Such users are the ones who may have switched to or prefer Android because of a lot of capabilities in that operating system which iOS did not have or allow until now. But let’s just consider it the natural evolution of the iOS platform, now at over 800 million users (a stat Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his keynote at the event).

Let’s take a look at some of the key features that Android and to a lesser extent, Windows Phone offer, which lure customers to those platforms, and how iOS 8 has responded to those.

  • Third party keyboards
  • Actionable notifications
  • Widgets
  • App-to-app communication and sharing
  • Google services, including the contextual Google Now
  • Larger choice of devices of various form factors, mostly larger screens

Keyboard improvements

Windows Phone introduced Word Flow, which is to this day, the best predictive keyboard I have used. It is a way by which the system can provide the next few words that you may be about to type, based on what you start typing. For example, if you type “how are”, there is a good chance you want to type “you” next, and the predictive nature of the keyboard will prompt “you”, and maybe a couple of other options like “things” or “the”. iOS gets such a feature finally. It is very similar in nature to Word Flow but obviously it is something the iOS keyboard has missed all this time. No more.

iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard
iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard

Third-party keyboards

In what I thought was a surprising move, Apple also announced that they are going to let third parties provide their keyboards so customers can replace the system keyboard with a third-party keyboard. That is huge because the likes of Swiftkey and Swype have made a name for themselves in the Android world, and users of those keyboards claimed it is a big enough reason for them not to move back to iOS. Already, several key names have announced their keyboards are coming to iOS 8, which is not surprising at all.

iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards
iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards

Interactive notifications

Apple’s Notification Center, while a decent imitation of Android’s notification center, is a bit clunky. Even the upcoming Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1 does a better job managing notifications. So it is no surprise that Apple decided to make some changes and one of the big changes is the interactive notifications. Android has this feature already, where quick actions can be taken on notifications that land in the notification center, without opening the apps. Interactive notifications aim to do the same, and more importantly, Apple has decided to open it up to third parties from day one. That means, developers can enable quick actions like Facebook’s Like and Comment, Twitter’s Retweet and Replies, etc. directly in the Notification Center. Obviously it is a big deal on Android because of the productivity gains, and it was about time iOS implemented the same. (As a part-time Windows Phone user, I do hope this feature is on its way on that platform as well. It is badly needed.)

iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party

Widgets

The other big improvement in the iOS Notification Center comes in the form of widgets. This has been another ding against iOS until now because Windows Phone first introduced Live Tiles which enable quick information that app developers can provide to customers via the app icon(s) flipping and updating. Android later added widgets which were sub-sections of the apps that could be placed on a home screen and provided snippets to live information to the customers. With Widgets, iOS 8 somewhat addresses this “gap” by enabling developers to provide live updates, although in the Notification Center, not in the app icon or on the home screen like the competition. So the widget will look like a notification but it will have more real estate and will be able to take more forms vs. a text update. For example, score updates during a game could show the two team names and scores by quarter.

iOS 8 Widgets
iOS 8 Widgets

This is hugely welcome news, for customers and developers alike. For customers, it means more than just text updates and for developers, it is somewhat of a parity with other platforms as well as another way to keep their customers engaged with the app.

As for app-to-app communication, Apple has made it possible for apps to communicate and share data with each other. Although the details are more important than the announcement in terms of how useful this feature is, it is remarkable that after so many years of keep each app limited to itself, Apple has decided to enable inter-app communication which has been a stable in Android as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When it comes to Google services, they are already available on iOS in the form of various apps, including Google Now. Although this has prompted many customers to consider Android, where the integration with the phone is even tighter, I suspect it will also make it easier for them to make the return trip going from Android back to iOS.

Finally, although perhaps it may be an even more compelling reason for normal users to try Android, there is this thing about larger screen phones. It is rumored and by now almost a given that Apple will be introducing phones with larger screens this Fall, which is usually when they update their hardware. A larger screen iPhone will almost certainly be a hit, if the popularity of large screen devices running Android are any indication. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the application UI. When they introduced the iPad, they had an elegant (although ugly) option of a “2x” mode. It will be interesting how they handle the larger real estate and yet, make developers’ work to address the larger screen, minimal.

Some other important updates from Apple with regard to iOS, not so much related to Android, but definitely showing signs of bulking up:

iCloud Photo Library

Until now, the Photostream feature backed up photos from all our iDevices automatically, but it was limited in storage. Apple also announced at WWDC that they are moving to an “iCloud Photo Library” which would store all photos *and* videos in full resolution, from all our iDevices. The first 5GB is free but instead of the currently expensive storage purchase options, Apple is also introducing inexpensive storage that can be purchased for what they refer to as iCloud Drive. Effectively, much like SkyDrive camera Roll in the Windows world, and Google+ Photos in the Google/Android world, the iCloud Photo Library is the entire photo library, always available in the cloud and all the Apple (Mac and iOS) devices and Windows 8 PCs. All edits made on one device are instantly available on all other devices. For a company that has not been at the forefront of well-implemented cloud services, the proof of the pudding will lie in the tasting, but as of now, it seems like Apple gets it and is on the right track. Also, in another move that shows Apple is opening up in a way they have not done traditionally, they have enabled other apps to integrate their editing tools and filters within the new Photos app.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library

Messaging updates

In what seems like a carpet bomb attack on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Snapchat all at once, Apple’s iMessage will now support audio messages, video messages, group messaging and automatically disappearing messages. Apple also added the ability to share location which is very handy when coordinating meetups with groups. So instead of relying on several different apps (and therefore, different logins, different address books, etc.), you can do the same with the default messaging app, only as long as everyone you communicate with is on iPhone :-) But that has been the modus operandi for Apple from day one, so there is nothing out of the ordinary in that strategy.

iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Messages Record Video
iOS 8 Messages Record Video

iOS 8 is claimed to be a bigger update than when Apple announced the mobile App Store and it certainly seems like there are many huge changes coming in iOS 8 for iOS developers which may end up increasing the app quality gap between iOS and Android even more than it is today. iOS is still usually the first platform for mobile developers to build their innovative solutions and experiences. With these changes, despite the rocketing market share of Android devices, Apple is poised to make it even more worthwhile for developers to build for their platform(s).

 

(All images via Apple’s website)

DashClock Brings All The Important Notifications On Your Android 4.2+ Device Lock Screen

One of Android team’s lead designer, Roman Nirk, has released a new lock screen widget known as DashClock. The widget aims to provide all the relevant notifications like missed calls, emails etc. on the lock screen.

As an Android user, I have always longed for a way to display relevant notifications on my phone’s lock screen, and this widget is like a dream come true for me. DashClock is one of Roman’s side project and is completely open source.

Below are the list of notifications that DashClock is capable of displaying -:

• Your current local weather
• Missed calls and unread text messages
• Your next calendar appointment
• Unread Gmail inbox or priority inbox conversations
• Your next scheduled alarm

DashClock also supports Extensions allowing any Android developer to create a new ‘Extension’ for the widget to show relevant information on the lock screen. One such prime example being the Battery extension that is already available on the Play Store.

DashClock will only work on Android 4.2 running devices, since it makes uses of the new lock screen widget feature. This limits the widget to only the Nexus devices, and other devices running some sort of Android 4.2 based custom ROM.

Outbrain – Excellent Related Posts Alternative For LinkWithin and YARPP

Outbrain LogoI have been a big fan or Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) which also can be used to display images in related posts and also has a in-built template to do it now. However, I had to drop YARPP from the site due to it being database intensive. After YARPP, I started using LinkWithin, which provided a good solution to integrate related posts through a third-party service.

LinkWithin Related Posts Problem

After using LinkWithin for a while I wasn’t that happy with the performance and also got complaints from out team about it using advertising images as post images if none existed in the post itself. (Check screenshot above)

Now, I was trying to find a related posts plugin which did not use internal database resources and was really good. That was when I stumbled across Outbrain. Outbrain is an excellent third-party related posts widget, which works pretty well and also provides users with an option to view post click statistics and also make money by placing links to external sites in the related sites widget.

The click-through rate on Outbrain is pretty impressive too and users usually see a click through rate of anywhere between 3-12%. Another good thing about Outbrain widget is that it blends into your website without having to do any CSS manipulations.

Techie Buzz Verdict

Techie Buzz Recommended Software

Outbrain Related posts widget can be used on WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, TypePad and almost any type of website you have using a JavaScript code. The plus point of this widget is that it does not use your database and is perfect for a high traffic site and that is also provides you with easy stats. Oh and yes it also has a recommendation widget using which people can rate your post.

9 Handy Twitter Plugins for WordPress Blogs

Twitter plugins for wordpressTwitter is buzzing and if your blog is based on WordPress, following is a collection of some of the best Twitter plugins which can be integrated in your WordPress blog.

Tweet This, a WordPress plugin for Twitter: Adds a Tweet This Postlink to every post and page on your blog. This plugin can automatically tweet new blog posts.

TweetSuite: Another useful plugin for WordPress that includes server-side tweetbacks, ReTweet-this buttons, a digg-like Tweet-This button, automatic tweeting of new posts and other useful widgets.

TweetMeme Button: This plugin allows your blog posts to be re-tweeted. The TweetMeme button provides a live count of how many times your post/page has been re-tweeted. It gives you the ability to control the length of the tweets and, supports hashtags.

Twitter Tools: This WordPress plugin integrates your WordPress blog with your Twitter account. It enables you to pull your tweets into your blog and create new tweets on blog posts and from within WordPress.

WP to Twitter: This plugin posts a Twitter status update from your WordPress based blog using a couple of URL shortening services to provide a backlink to your post from Twitter.

Twitter for WordPress: Displays yours latest tweets in your WordPress blog. This plugin detects URLs, e-mail address and @username replies. It’s simple for use and is customizable.

WP FollowMe: Enables you to add a twitter “Follow me” badge on your WordPress based blog.

Tweetbox: The tweetbox plugin allows you to display your latest tweets in the sidebar of your WordPress based blog.

WordTwit:   When you publish a new post on your blog, WordTwit will automatically tweet your post and converts any links to tiny URLs.

Do tell us about your favorite Twitter plugins for WordPress in comments.

The New Digg Buttons are Faster and Good Looking – Get Them Now

Digg is already planning a design makeover, but now they have rolled out major changes in their widgets and official buttons for blogs and websites.

The newer Digg buttons work the same way as the older ones. A reader can click the button to submit a blog post to the Digg site, where other users can vote on the story and spread the word about it. However, the newer buttons comes in different sizes and formats, so bloggers have more choice now.

Implementing the New Digg Buttons in Your Blog

The new Digg buttons requires that you place a single <script> tag before </head> tag of your blog template or theme. Then you can use <a> tags to call the script used in the header. If you want to implement multiple Digg buttons on your website, simply add an additional <a> tag. Do not use multiple <script> tags in your theme.

<script src="http://widgets.digg.com/buttons.js"

type="text/javascript"></script>

medium-digg-buttonThe Medium Digg button : Simply copy and paste the following code in your website’s source to integrate a medium sized Digg button.

<a class="DiggThisButton DiggMedium"></a>

large-digg-buttonThe Large Digg Button: The large button looks good and if you get a lot of Diggs, use the following code to add a large Digg button in your blog or website.

<a class="DiggThisButton DiggLarge"></a>

compact-digg-buttonThe Compact Digg Button: The following code will show a compact “Digg this” button in your website. This button would suit good if you use a lot of other buttons and have really less place in the blog template for social media promotion.

<a class="DiggThisButton DiggCompact"></a>

The Digg Icon: Didn’t liked this one, however some of you may want to use it. You can show a tiny “Digg” icon using the following code:

<a class="DiggThisButton DiggIcon"></a>

Features of the New Digg Buttons

The new Digg buttons have some features worth pointing out:

1. Faster load time: Digg is chasing speed and that reflects in their recent developments. The new buttons load faster which is one of the major reason why you should consider a switch.

2. More Button Sizes: No longer you have to embed a large Digg button if your site do not have that extra space. With the availability of 3 new formats, customizing the “Digg” button is child’s play.

3. Auto Upgrades: The newer buttons will automatically upgrade when there is a new release, so there is no dirty hand coding, deleting old stuff and adding new codes. One code does it all.

4. The User Stays on your site after Digging: This is the much desired feature. After Digging a post, the user will remain in your site. From now on, you can expect a better bounce rate from Digg traffic.

The Digg Widget Generator

The Digg widget generator displays the latest Dugged posts of your site like a widget, which can be embedded anywhere in your site. You can completely customize the look and feel of the widget, adjust colors, width and other parameters.

digg-widget-generator

If your blog receives a lot of Diggs, using this widget is a must because it will encourage your readers to vote the stories that are already popular and may be you can make it to the first page of Digg. More information can be found on the Digg blog.

Twitter Fans Widget WordPress Plugin

Many blogs and websites sport fan widgets, which is officially available for fan pages on Facebook. However, if you also have a account for your blog, you can only display a twittercounter widget or a custom icon which leads to your twitter account.

twitter_fans_widget

Twitter Fans Widget is a new and interesting WordPress plugin, which will allow you to display a Twitter Fans Widget similar to Facebook widget for your site. Once you have installed the plugin on your blog, go to Appearance > Widgetsand drag the Twitter Fans widget to wherever you want to display it.

Add the twitter username and the number of fans you want to display on the widget, and customize the colors for the widget. Once you are done, save the widget and reload the site to view the Twitter Fans widget in action. By the way, you can follow us @techiebuzzer to get the latest updates delivered directly to your Twitter timeline.

Thanks @loyals

Download Twitter Fans WordPress Plugin

How to Create a Blog Widget For Twitter Lists

Twitter introduced the lists feature some days back. We have seen how to create Twitter lists and how to create an Rss feed from your Twitter list pages. But if you want to show tweets from a public Twitter list in your Blog, this widget will come in handy.

How to create the widget for any public Twitter list

1. Go to Twitter Widgets list and start customizing your list. Give your widget a title and a caption.

2. To search for a public Twitter list, just enter the username of the person who created the list. For example, if you are interested in the Techie-Buzz author list, type keithdsouza(without quotes) in the username field. After that click the button that says Find lists.

twitter-lists-blog-widget

3. Go to the preferences tab to customize the widget settings. You can choose to load all tweets as they come or you can, specify a timed interval. Other settings include adding avatars, timestamps and hashtags in the widget.

customize-widget-twitter-list

4. Next, you would want to customize the widget according to the look and feel of your blog. Switch to the appearance tab, and you can start customizing the widget. You can choose the color of the widget, tweets and links according to your style.

customize-widget-twitter-list

The dimensions tab lets you choose a custom size of the widget, and the widget can be completely customized in appearance. After that hit the Grab codebutton and you can integrate the widget in your blog, website or social networking profiles.

This is how the Techie-Buzz Twitter author list looks:


You can follow the techie-buzz author list here. Don’t forget to check out the ultimate collection of twitter websites and applications.

Create Magazine Style Widgets For Your Blog Using Netvibes

When I redesigned the theme, I added a few magazine style widgets to the blog. Many of you emailed me to ask, how you can add a similar magazine style to your blog. In this post, we will look at how you can create your own magazine style widget using Netvibes.

Magazine Style Widgets

The entire tutorial consists of two processes. The first process involves creating your custom Netvibes widget. The second process involves customizing and adding the widget to your blog.

Creating a Netvibes Widget

Step 1: Sign in to your Netvibes account. You will need to create one if you don’t have an account.

Step 2: Once you have signed in to your account, click on the Create or submit buttonin the navigation bar.

create_netvibes_widget_start

Step 3: Click on the Create widgetbutton in the overlay that pops up.

Step 4: Choose whether you want to create a Blog/News widget or a Multifeed widget. In this tutorial, we will deal with single blog/news feed widget.

submit_new_feed_netvibes

Step 5: Enter the feed URL into the text box and click on the Next step button.

Step 6: On the next page, enter all the details about the feed and choose whether or not you want to publish the widget to the ecosystem, and click on the next step button.

Step 7: If everything goes fine, a link to your new custom widget will be displayed to you. Please make not of the link as we will be using the link in the future.

Adding a Netvibes Widget to Your Blog

Once you have created the widget, you can now add it to your blog. Follow the steps given below to customize and add the widget to your blog. For this example, we will make use of the Techie Buzz Netvibes widget.

Step 1: Copy and paste the link you got from Step 7 in a new browser tab or window.

share_netvibes_custom_widget

Step 2: Click on the Share link in the widget sidebar, this will take you to a new page where you can customize the widget.

customize_netvibes_widget

Step 3: You can customize the widget by adding a title to it, changing the height and modifying its color.

Step 4: Under Widget preferencesselect Magazine from the view dropdown to create a magazine style widget. You can also configure other things such as, number of items to display, whether links should open in new windows.You can also choose to display the post data and excerpt.

copy_netvibes_widget_code

Step 4: Once you have configured the widget, go to the bottom of the page to get the widget code. You will need to paste the code into your website for the widget to be displayed.

Using the above steps you can build as many magazine style widgets you want and customize them using several options. Of course, Netvibes also providers users with many different styles to choose from.

Looking for more for your website? Don’t forget to visit the section to learn more.

Twitter Widget For Opera

Here is something and fans will definitely love, a nice and cool widget for Opera that is simple lightweight and can be used to tweet away when you are browsing or surfing in Opera.

opera_twitter_widget

The widget allows you to perform operations like view recent messages, view replies, view direct messages, browse archives, search, find people near you and so on, in addition to that it also has a inbuilt mechanism to shorten URLs you want to share.

In addition to that you can also reply to message, send a DM message to someone and retweet (RT) your friends tweets. Definitely worth using if you are a Opera user.

Download Twitter Widget for Opera