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iOS 6 “Sherlocking” Roundup

You’ve probably seen the Keynote, by now it is available as video for you to enjoy. One thing that I noticed quite a bit was that Apple apparently has expanded their assimilation process. Resistance is futile!


As I have previously explained we call it “Sherlocking” when Apple takes an app or technology that has proven its worth in the wild and makes it part of the Operating System. iOS has matured enough by now that iOS 6 marks the broadest and most painful sherlocking in the history of the mobile operating system.

The first category of such apps is …

Apps for Later Reading

Apple had added the capability of putting articles on the “Reading List” already back in iOS 5, even with the ability of having the entries synched between your devices. What was lacking though  – and thus leaving l0ts of breathing space for for apps to florish in – was also providing a way for users to read their content offline.

Imagine – if you will – bookmarking several articles while at work and then you can read them while you are commuting home, without any Internet connection. This was the one unique selling proposition that several apps were sharing:

  • Instapaper
  • Readability
  • Read It Later … pardon, Pocket.

With iOS 6 those will become almost totally obsolete…. if you don’t care for Instapaper’s glorious ability to push your content to a Kindle.

Of course this might be painting it with too dark colors, but we saw the Readability guys with very long faces when leaving the auditorium after the keynote. And also Marco Arment didn’t seem too happy, … or was it the coffee that he didn’t like?

Maps, Navigation, Path-Drawing

The second big group of sherlocked candidate is to be found around mapping technologies. iOS 6 is Apple’s bit coming-out party for their own mapping technology, 3 years in the making. You have to imagine all those engineers at Apple being finally able to be publicly proud of their achievement…. as buggy and laggy as it is right now.

The biggest losers are definitely the turn-by-turn navigation apps,

  • Tom Tom
  • Navigon
  • MotionX
  • TeleNav

… to only name a few. Who in his right mind woudl shell out hundreds of dollars for something that will be built into iOS 6, free for everybody? Well Tom Tom does not necessary lose too much, Apple is licensing some map data from them.

But the big feat is definitely the ability to gather crowd-sourced traffic information and make this available world-wide. No other company can match that, for lack of access to this data.

The 3D mode is very impressive … though some people have tweeted that they are missing streetview already. Anybody actually USING that? Apple probably sees that as a hot potatoe that it rather wouldn’t touch, you know, need I say more than: Blur-many?

Having Siri dictate the way looks truly amazing, add to that the automatically adjusting 3D flying view and intelligently placed intersection names and you have a definite winner. I’m glad I never shelled out for one of the navigation apps on the app store.

It remains to be seen when other countries will get 3D mapping data. Other cities we know and looked up are still boringly flat. We appreciate getting more useful business data from Yelp while being glad that we have a way to eschew Googles new sponsored POIs.

One also-run in this category, also sherlocked, but extra points for boldness in light of the rumored maps change: MTDirectionsKit. This queries paths between two points from Google Maps and displays them as map overlay. And it was released only one week before being obsoleted.

Information Dispensers

In the first version of this roundup I had totally forgotten about a whole category of apps that we can categorize as being a portal for some very narrow bits of information

  • Sports Apps
  • Movie Apps
  • Weather Apps

A plethora of apps exists for example to get sports statistics customized for the user’s taste. Now with the greatly-enhanced Siri on iOS 6 you will no longer feel a need for a dedicated sports app for your favorite sports team. You just ask Siri.

The premise of these apps was that there is some form of information that is cumbersome or hard to get in a easily digestable form. These apps have been capitalizing on this fact and provided a portal to this information.

But the future of information is Siri-based. You better start planning a secondary strategy if your app vends some information that can be easily integrated into Siri.

Dictation and Assistant Software

The ability to dictate text is now coming to all iOS devices. iPad is getting the full Siri treatment. Mountain Lion is getting a dictation shortcut. Hit Fn twice (after enabling) and you can dictate everywhere there is a cursor.

Apple has been quite clear when alternative Assistant apps where trying to enter the app store. No go.

Dictation apps never had any kind of actual footing on iOS since there was no way to integrate them globally. On the Mac I thought I had seen a couple of apps, but when I searched for “dictation” just now, I couldn’t find a single dictation app? Has this become a veritable Bermuda Triangle for those kinds of apps? Not sure if they ever where there… did I imagine that?

You could argue that with “Developer ID” those apps are still possible on the Mac, but just like with the new Maps who would want to pay good money for a dedicated app that might not even integrate well with a locked down sandboxed OS X machine.

So we can also count a multitude of voice-enabled/-enabling apps in the Sherlocked category.  “And no I hit the function key twice coma and dictated this whole sentence on the mountain lion.” 

Oh well, but we’re getting there…. MoLo’s dictation feature at least injects a bit of humor.

Open Source Components

OS Components were filling several voids that existed until know, but are no longer possible.

  • One of Jim Dovey‘s components (Prefix AQ), he tweeted that he was happy about that: “Oh I’m quite happy about it I assure you. I feel very validated” 
  • ShareKit is totally obsoleted by the new sharing features that permit adding of custom services with the same UI as the new Facebook Sharing and the previous Twitter sharing.
  • Even myself as far I have seen, though I cannot yet comment as to the extent. But I +1 Jim’s reaction and feel very validated too.

We are bound by the NDA and will probably be until iOS 6 is released in the Fall, so please don’t try to extract this information from us. We will not even divulge it under torture… (and not being able to say anything IS torture, you can trust me on this)


What we see as “typically Apple” is a fact that we just have to live with on an ever more maturing platform. If anything then you should probably never base our entire income on a single app.

Maybe SAAS (Software as a Service) is a bit different, though if the service can be merged into iCloud and the client app into the OS then you’re just as sherlocked as anybody else. Though I have to admit I cannot offer any form of condolences because the more attractive iOS as a platform becomes, the greater our future as iOS developers will be. So it is a good thing that valuable services become standard features.

When it comes to components, I think all FOSS component developers will agree that we are happy that stuff becomes part of the canon that we formerly had to painstakingly fake, build and support. We’ve never been making any relevant income from this and glory alone does not get food on our respective tables.

We built these components because there was a need and if anything we have to congratulate Apple for recognizing and filling the need themselves.

PS: This article was not yet dictated with Siri. I’m just used to typing.

Categories: Apple


  1. “We are bound by the NDA and will probably be until iOS 6 is released in the Fall, so please don’t try to extract this information from us”

    However, you could point to official Apple pages that are NDA-protected, so that those who do have the clearance can understand what new API you are referring to 🙂

  2. I think TomTom is not a big looser, because they provide the map data to Apple. No doubt they receive a fair price for that!


  3. I am missing Passbook here, it “sherlocks” a lot of existing solutions (like the Austrian mobile-pocket http://www.bluesource.at/index.php/projekte/ )


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