Apple's Project Catalyst Team Shares Thoughts on Limiting Compatibility to iPad Apps, Quality Concerns, and More

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Apr 12, 2001
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Apple in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina introduced Project Catalyst, designed to allow iOS developers to port their iPad apps over to the Mac with little effort, making it simpler for developers to design cross-platform apps.

Ars Technica recently spoke with some of the Apple team members responsible for creating and promoting Project Catalyst, and it's worth a read for those who are interested in the feature.


Apple decided to allow developers to port iPad apps instead of iPhone apps because it's a "more natural transition" bringing an app from an iPad to a Mac due to the closer display sizes. From Todd Benjamin, Apple's senior director of marketing for macOS:
Just design-wise, the difference between an iPad app and an iPhone app is that the iPad app has gone through a design iteration to take advantage of more screen space. And as you bring that app over to the Mac... you have something that's designed around that space that you can work with and that you can start from.
Ali Ozer, Apple's cocoa engineering manager, also said that choosing the iPad pre-empts user concerns about mobile ports spilling over to the desktop. "This is one way of making developers aware that an iPhone app in its current form might not be the right design," said Ozer.

Developers who have already used Project Catalyst have been able to port iPad versions of Twitter, TripIt, and Asphalt 9: Legends to the Mac. The developers that have worked with Project Catalyst told Ars that it was, on the whole, simple to use and "able to just work," as one Twitter developer said.

As for quality concerns, Apple's Catalyst team expects public reviews to be a major factor when it comes to ensuring Mac apps offer a rich, Mac-like experience. From Shaan Pruden, Apple's senior director of partner management and developer relations:
"Then we come down to customers' reaction and ratings and all of that kind of stuff. Which hopefully will drive the right behavior for a developer, which is to do the work and do it right and don't be lazy."
The full deep dive into Project Catalyst can be read over on the Ars Technica website, and it goes into detail on just how Project Catalyst functions, what developers think of the feature thus far, and it shares Apple's thoughts on SwiftUI.

Article Link: Apple's Project Catalyst Team Shares Thoughts on Limiting Compatibility to iPad Apps, Quality Concerns, and More
 

TMRJIJ

macrumors 68040
Dec 12, 2011
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5,413
South Carolina, United States
The picture certainly doesn’t remedy our concerns. The Twitter iPad app looks like a stretched out iPhone app. The Mac version looks like someone just stuck a Webview in a few Windows and just called it a day.
I really hope Apple has guidelines that prevent Developers from being lazy. I know for a fact that some don’t even care about user reviews.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
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15,406
Gotta love how that iPad app in the photo takes advantage of all that screen space...
The white space is a concern, but at least you can clearly see that elements on the Mac are actually Mac centric (menus, pop out windows, etc) rather than just shoehorning the whole iOS single screen onto the Mac.
 

adrianm2000

macrumors member
Apr 23, 2012
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...it's a "more natural transition" bringing an app from an iPad to a Mac due to the closer display sizes.

I call BS. Why can't an iPhone app be ported to macOS - and retain it's original size or form factor??

And not *every* app *needs* additional screen space. I just want to be able to use some of the apps on the desktop, so that I can have them open with my other macOS apps at the same time.

There are already macOS apps that do this: the window is about the size of an iPhone.

Seems more like a resources decision: they didn't have or want to utilize people to make this happen. Or a marketing decision: they wanted to get it out ASAP and iPad was the easier / quicker path.

If it's *truly* a design decision, well, I'd look at the decision makers on the design team. Doesn't seem like a smart decision to me. More users have iPhones and iPads, and are less likely to use or discover an app that's iPad-only+macOS.
 
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KazKam

macrumors 6502
Oct 25, 2011
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Yeah, I'm still extremely skeptical that this will result in any apps that truly transcend OS/device. It takes a lot of consideration to make an iOS app look decent on both a phone and an iPad (trust me, I know), and it takes even more to make it look native/comfortable in a desktop environment.

With so much consideration needed to make an app look/feel at home on that many screen sizes and input methods, you might as well go back to writing native iOS and Mac apps. Otherwise, we're just going to get stuck with a glut of "Mac" apps that look extremely out-of-place. It's going to be the Mac platform that suffers from Catalyst. Separating the wheat from the chaff is about to get a lot more difficult.
 

casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
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Horsens, Denmark
...it's a "more natural transition" bringing an app from an iPad to a Mac due to the closer display sizes.

I call BS. Why can't an iPhone app be ported to macOS - and retain it's original size or form factor??

And not *every* app *needs* additional screen space. I just want to be able to use some of the apps on the desktop, so that I can have them open with my other macOS apps at the same time.

There are already macOS apps that do this: the window is about the size of an iPhone.

Seems more like a resources decision: they didn't have or want to utilize people to make this happen. Or a marketing decision: they wanted to get it out ASAP and iPad was the easier / quicker path.

If it's *truly* a design decision, well, I'd look at the decision makers on the design team. Doesn't seem like a smart decision to me. More users have iPhones and iPads, and are less likely to use or discover an app that's iPad-only+macOS.
From a technology perspective it'd require very very very little to add iPhone apps to the mix if you limit them to iPhone size on the Mac with no resizing. Definitely not a matter of resources.
But if that's the app you want, a developer could make an iPadOS variant of the app that does nothing but take the iPhone version of the app to the iPad, compile it for the Mac, disable resizing and set the window to be like an iPhone and release it as a Mac app without an iPad variant. It's a few hoops, but it's still an easy process.

This was definitely made as a conscious decision, and a good one at that. Furthermore, this will bring more iPhone-only apps to the iPad too likely.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,323
15,406
...it's a "more natural transition" bringing an app from an iPad to a Mac due to the closer display sizes.

I call BS. Why can't an iPhone app be ported to macOS - and retain it's original size or form factor??

And not *every* app *needs* additional screen space. I just want to be able to use some of the apps on the desktop, so that I can have them open with my other macOS apps at the same time.

There are already macOS apps that do this: the window is about the size of an iPhone.

Seems more like a resources decision: they didn't have or want to utilize people to make this happen. Or a marketing decision: they wanted to get it out ASAP and iPad was the easier / quicker path.

If it's *truly* a design decision, well, I'd look at the decision makers on the design team. Doesn't seem like a smart decision to me. More users have iPhones and iPads, and are less likely to use or discover an app that's iPad-only+macOS.
Screen space is a minor concern. Do you think touch oriented buttons make sense on a mouse oriented OS?


There’s more to this than just running an iOS app in a little window. They want these apps to have menus and UI elements that make these LOOK like they belong on macOS.
 

nexusrule

macrumors 6502a
Aug 11, 2012
500
476
It’s funny, because the iPad app shown looks like a stretched iPhone app.
The three columns Twitter app looks like am iPhone? How many 3 columns iPhone apps you know and can list?
[doublepost=1562013917][/doublepost]
It’s funny, because the iPad app shown looks like a stretched iPhone app.
The picture certainly doesn’t remedy our concerns. The Twitter iPad app looks like a stretched out iPhone app. The Mac version looks like someone just stuck a Webview in a few Windows and just called it a day.
I really hope Apple has guidelines that prevent Developers from being lazy. I know for a fact that some don’t even care about user reviews.
Gotta love how that iPad app in the photo takes advantage of all that screen space...
Can’t you see that on the iPad there is a Safari window and not an app?
 

JetTester

macrumors 6502
Feb 12, 2014
461
884
Gimmicks like Catalyst can make an app work, but I’m very skeptical about the ability to totally adapt to the MacOS look and feel. For now, I plan to continue working on separate apps for iOS and MacOS.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,323
15,406
Gimmicks like Catalyst can make an app work, but I’m very skeptical about the ability to totally adapt to the MacOS look and feel. For now, I plan to continue working on separate apps for iOS and MacOS.
That’s why SwiftUI exists. Catalyst is for the short term, SwiftUI is the future of development on all Apple platforms.
 

macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
10,969
14,675
Central U.S.
Catalyst is a bridge technology. SwiftUI is the future. One codebase to rule them all!

I know enough Objective-C to patch up an iOS app and submit it. I don’t have to deal with that anymore, but I’d like to learn how to do top to bottom app development. Swift and SwiftUI sounds like a great place to get started, especially for someone like me who is more design oriented.
 

Janichsan

macrumors 68020
Oct 23, 2006
2,014
4,237
As for quality concerns, Apple's Catalyst team expects public reviews to be a major factor when it comes to ensuring Mac apps offer a rich, Mac-like experience. From Shaan Pruden, Apple's senior director of partner management and developer relations:
"Then we come down to customers' reaction and ratings and all of that kind of stuff. Which hopefully will drive the right behavior for a developer, which is to do the work and do it right and don't be lazy."
Negative customer reviews didn't stop the iOS App Store from being flooded with sh---y shovelware apps. So why should we believe this would prevent the same happening on the Mac?

The Ars Technica article also contains in one of the slide shows a prime example of the unnecessary, single-purpose apps which we can expect from Catalyst:



Why on earth would we need a dedicated application on the Mac just for checking in flights of a single airline?

Catalyst is a bridge technology. SwiftUI is the future. One codebase to rule them all!
If you really want a crossplatform app, that is. The Ars Technica article makes clear that the authors, Apple, and the developers think that the traditional AppKit still has it's place for "traditional, heavy duty, Mac-specific apps" "tapping into the full power of the platform".
 
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jicon

macrumors 6502
Nov 29, 2004
445
209
Toronto, ON
Moving iPad apps to Mac... Part of me keeps wondering if the Mac platform will switch chips to ones designed only by Apple... then I remember they just announced the Mac Pro, with a workstation CPU that I'd assume may be a bit tougher to match performance wise? Likely at least a few years off, but frankly, not one I'm inclined to embrace.
 

Tech198

macrumors G5
Mar 21, 2011
14,934
1,930
Australia, Perth
'more natural transition' as in display size? Its close enough. The rest would be the same as iPhone. But lets see how it goes..

Project Catalyst will open up. (That should be a cool tagline)
 
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