Saturday, October 3, 2020

iphone widgets and widgetsmith's "fuzzy time"

So far, the biggest hit of iOS 14 has been the ability to use new icons for specific apps (via "shortcuts") and to add widgets to the homescreen. Daring Fireballs "The Talk Show" podcast had a rather long chat with David Smith who created "widgetsmith", the breakout hit of this release. 

Smith has a notably generous approach with pricing for widgetsmith - the basic version is free, the upgrade is a subscription (taking pains to be clear about what's on offer) where the new features are things that cost HIM money - e.g. tide and weather data.

But what I'm in love with is "Fuzzy Time", a block that puts the current time in words, and rounds off - much like a human does. Here's my current home screen:

You'll note the time was actually "3:16". And that's fine! That's such a more human way of thinking about time, sometimes I really resent how "digital" time has become, how nerdily exact in a way computers naturally are but humans generally aren't. Reading the time as words and having to think about it just a smidge activates a different part of my brain and makes it more likely that I get feel for a time as the time, not just as a bunch of abstract numbers - and that I'll remember/internalize it.

I implemented a javascript prototype of something similar a decade ago (I was a little wordier, saying "a bit after half past three" rather than "Twenty-Five to Four") and was tempted to buy a Pebble watch and code it as a custom watch face. Infamously, Apple's doesn't allow custom watch faces, though Roughly, the time in words adds a large "complication" to other faces that has a similar result.

I'm still wavering on if I'll ever get an Apple Watch - the health stuff is temping, but I already feel like I'm a slave to time without having the shackle on my wrist to remind me!

Also you'll note Apple's default calendar widget, which until "Fuzzy Time" was the only thing I found worth the real estate. Here I appreciate the visualization of the entire month... I think it might help me get a feel for the progression of a month, I hate that "wait, the month's date is in the 20s ALREADY???"

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