The free TidBITS News app for iOS, written by our own Matt Neuburg, presents the current titles, blurbs, and stories from our Web site in a standard master-detail view, and also saves all that information on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch for convenient offline reading. It also lets you listen to any of those stories for which a podcast recording has been created, though that feature does require a live Internet connection.
The current version of TidBITS News (1.4) was created for iOS 4.2 way back in January 2011, and works fine under iOS 5 as well. However, iOS 6 radically changes the way iOS lays out text, and therefore introduces a bug in the display of titles and blurbs. To squash this bug, Matt had to rewrite the text display code in iOS 6 terms. But as long as he was doing that, he took advantage of the moment to rewrite the entire codebase from the ground up, eliminating all sorts of accumulated cruft, and taking advantage of features in iOS 5 and iOS 6 that weren’t available when he created version 1.4.
All of that is great, and we’ll say more about what’s new when the new version 1.5 becomes available. Right now, though, we wanted to give a heads-up encouragement to anyone and everyone who doesn’t have the TidBITS News app already, and who thinks they might want to run it on an older iPhone or original iPad (really, any device that’s limited to iOS 4.2 or iOS 5) to download version 1.4 from the App Store now if they haven’t done so already, because:
Version 1.5 will require iOS 6, and thus won’t install on a device that isn’t running iOS 6 or later.
Once version 1.5 is released, version 1.4 will no longer be available at the App Store.
Here’s a quick word about each of those points.
Why remove backward-compatibility with iOS 4.2 and iOS 5 in the new version of our app? Hey, don’t look at us! It’s Apple’s fault. Apple makes writing backward-compatible code just too difficult. The current version of Xcode, needed in order to link your app against iOS 6, drops support for ARMv6, meaning any device that can’t be upgraded from iOS 4.2 to iOS 5. And given the plethora of changes from iOS 5 to iOS 6, writing code that would run equally well under both systems, taking advantage of iOS 6 features where they exist, laying out the text in two completely different ways depending which on system you’re on, and so forth, is just too time-consuming and picky. It would be full of complicated conditional code (whereas the whole point of this rewrite was to simplify the code), and it would be difficult to test. Since version 1.4 runs fine under iOS 5, it makes more sense for version 1.5 to move on and require iOS 6.
Why remove version 1.4 from the App Store when version 1.5 comes out? Hey, don’t look at us! It’s Apple’s fault. (Isn’t it great, being able to say that twice in one article?) This is an App Store policy, and represents a problem faced by all iOS developers. It’s entirely common for Mac developers to drop backward compatibility with an older version of Mac OS X in a new version of an application while keeping older application versions available for download by users with older systems or hardware, but that’s not possible with the App Store (or the Mac App Store). As usual, Apple demonstrates here how it increasingly cares only about current products, regardless of how users and developers might be happy to continue using and supporting older devices.
So, users whose devices have come to the end of the line with iOS 4.2 and iOS 5, download the TidBITS News app now if you haven’t done so already, because once Apple approves the new version, you won’t be able to get the old version.