On sharing media files between Windows Phone and OS X

There used to be a Windows Phone Connector app in the Mac App store.  It was the way to directly copy music and images to and from a Windows Phone and a Mac.  That app apparently stopped working when Yosemite was released and some time ago Microsoft pulled the app from the Mac App store.

The question of how sync music from a Mac to a Windows Phone comes up in the forums every now and then.  Well, not that often.  The Venn diagram of OS X and Windows Phone users has a very tiny overlap area.  I reached out the Windows Phone account on Twitter and had the following exchange:

Windows Phone uses MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) as the way to expose your documents to other devices.  Apple does not do MTP, at least not at a way that exposes it to Finder or iTunes.  It does support it partially within some apps, for the purpose of accessing photos from cameras that connect as MTP devices, but only within that context.

Since OS X does not have any file system support for MTP devices, you have two choices.  You can try locating a 3rd party MTP app or go the cloud.

One OS X app that I came across is named SyncMate.  It says it will allow you to sync up Android and MTP devices, so it should work.  It’s not free, but if you have a bunch of devices that your Mac just doesn’t play well with, it’s worth checking out.

There is a free app call XNJB that provides MTP support, but it looks like it has not been updated in a  few years.  I would be surprised if it still worked.  I would imagine that whatever changes that Apple made to OS X to break Microsoft’s app would have also broken XNJB.

Microsoft’s suggested solution is to use cloud services.  Like OneDrive or Dropbox.  If you have a Windows Phone, you should be using OneDrive to backup your photos.  But for transferring music, that’s awkward and slow.  If you like to change your music frequently from your own collection, using a  cloud service to transfer the music across will work. But your’re not going to like it.

If you use a Mac, the user experience with Windows Phone (and Android to a lesser degree) is going to be less than optimal.  Apple wants a walled garden and they generally achieve it.  I can’t imagine the number of people who only have a Mac and a Windows Phone to be a large number.  I can see why Microsoft hasn’t done anything to update their Connector app.   It’s hard to justify spending the development cycles on a product with a tiny user base.

When a UX hack has unexpected consequences or “Why did my iOS app name get truncated when I used TestFlight?”

While testing a iOS app with TestFlight, we noticed that the app name was being truncated.  The name was just under the length where iOS truncates it and adds the ellipses.  When we compiled the app and deployed it a device, the name displayed normally.  When we put a test build up for QA through TestFlight, the name was truncated.

Without the dot, the full name would have been shown

One of our developers contacted Apple Support and they came through with a quick answer.  When you install an app through TestFlight, Apple pre-pends an orange dot to the app name.  This is to distinguish the app from one that had been downloaded from the iTunes App Store.  This takes up space and reduces the amount of space available for the app name.  It’s artifact of using TestFlight, when the app is installed from the App Store, the text will not be truncated.  This is nothing new, it’s been this way since Apple launched TestFlight with iOS 8.

So this was a UX hack.  Apple wanted to be able designate that the app had been installed from TestFlight (which is good), but did it in a way that would have unexpected consequences (which is bad).  I’m kind of surprised that this was implemented that way.  Apple controls the entire chain, from device, to OS, to the development tools.  They could have found another way to indicate that app came from TestFlight.

Like draw an underline in orange underneath the app name.  Place a new style of badge over the icon, in a different corner.  Draw an orange box around the icon.  Or, hold on to your seats, allow for a longer length for the app name when the orange dot is added.

Monkeying around with the app name seems a like a quick and dirty hack.  Now we have to let our QA people know that the app name isn’t broken, it’s just a side affect of using TestFlight.  Making sure that the app name is displayed correctly is one of the things that our QA people check for.  TestFlight just made that a little harder.

Waiting for Microsoft’s hardware event on the 6th

As a long time Verizon customer and a Windows Phone fan, I’ve been waiting for the new Windows 10 for Mobile flagship phones from Microsoft.  In a couple of days, Microsoft will be holding an event to announce some new hardware.  It’s expected that Microsoft will announce and demo the Surface Pro 4, the Band 2, and a pair of Windows 10 for Mobile phones.  It’s not exactly a state secret that the phones will be known as 950 and 950XL and will be the logical extensions of the higher end Lumia phones.

Being a Verizon customer, I got a sinking feeling that I’ll be sitting on the sidelines for those phones.  Mind you, this is just conjecture,  but past experience with Verizon Wireless has dimmed my expectations with Windows Phone on that carrier.  While nothing has been said, I would be very surprised if 950 (I’m too lazy to type “the 950 and/or 950XL”, so I mean both) shows up on Verizon.  And there have been rumors about exclusivity.

Verizon has been more or less indifferent to Windows Phone over the years.  When Windows Phone 8 came out, we did not get the cool Lumia phones.  It took a year for Verizon to get a great Windows Phone.  And then they changed their mind and pulled it after a few months.  I was lucky enough to get a Lumia Icon before they pulled the plug on it.  And that phone has been my favorite phone on Verizon.

If you walk into a Verizon store right now, you have to hunt to find where they keep the Windows Phones.  Verizon is basically an Android carrier that carries iPhones only because people would drop them for AT&T if they didn’t carry them.  I don’t think that the Windows Phone platform or Microsoft are important to Verizon.

If we go on the assumption that Verizon doesn’t pick up the 950, what happens next?  Verizon is the largest carrier and has about 1/3 of the US market.

If Verizon doesn’t carry the 950, that’s a big piece of the US market gone.  That’s large deficit to overcome.  I’m not switching carriers to get a phone.  I have a family plan that would be difficult to untangle and it has the best reception where I live.  When it comes time to replace my Icon,  I’ll have a difficult choice to make.

In the US, I think that Windows Phone has become dead man walking.  Outside North America, Windows Phone is comparable to the iOS market share in a few markets.  It’s not going to beat the Android juggernaut, but it’s still in the game.

As an American. my views are biased to what is going on in the US market.  It bugs me as a Windows Phone user, but that’s the reality in this market.  When Microsoft released Office on iOS and Android, before their own phone, that’s when the handwriting on the wall went from spray paint to neon lighting.  So what’s next?

If Microsoft tries the Motorola model and sell an unlocked 950 directly to the consumers, I have a shot at getting the 950 on Verizon.  That will be dependent on Microsoft selling an unlocked 950 that supports the radio bands that Verizon uses.  It’s also dependent on Verizon allowing the phone on their network. In the past,  Verizon has been somewhat difficult about allowing devices that Verizon had not certified on to their network.  People buying the Moto X Pure directly from Motorola have been able to use Verizon, so the precedent exists.

If Microsoft doesn’t sell an unlocked 950 that would work on Verizon, I’ll be facing the decision of Android vs iPhone.  And that bugs me.  I like the Windows Phone UI.  Their home page makes sense to me.  The iOS design of multiple pages of icons worked great when you only had 16 apps.  But now, finding an infrequently used app is an exercise in scrolling and squinting.

Android is a little better with managing app icons, and it allows you to replace the default launcher with one of your choice.  But Android is teeming cesspool of security vulnerabilities and their update story is a sad one.   Between the vendors being less than quick with updating older models and the carriers taking ages to sign off on updates, with Android the updates are much less frequent than with iOS.

Apple does have two advantages: a much smaller pool of different devices to update and the iron clad control of issuing updates on Apple’s schedule.  I just don’t want to have to use iTunes to manage the content on my phone.  And what’s the deal with their mobile hotspot?  It can take some serious voodoo to get it working sometimes.

If I go Android, I’ll want devices that get updated as needed.  Motorola has the advantage of selling the devices, they can update the Moto X Pure when they want to (but will they?).  The Google Nexus phones are supposed to work that way too, but I have a Nexus 7 tablet on Verizon and the Android Lollipop update came at least 6 months later for that tablet than the one for the Wi-Fi version.  Since Google is selling the 5X and 6P directly, hopefully the updates will be timely.

That being said, the new Nexus 5X and 6P phones look like very nice devices.  It’s odd that they left out wireless charging, but the rest of the hardware seems to be very good.  If I can’t get a 950, they may be the closest devices to what I want.  Take this all with a grain of salt, I’m just making a guess based on past experience with Verizon.