The tech space is full of creative people, exciting projects and interesting products. With Noted Interviews, we tap into the brilliant minds of the individuals behind such works, letting you know why and how they do what they do as well as giving you a better insight into who they are as people.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Christine Chan and I’m a managing editor over at AppAdvice. In addition to my managerial duties, I am frequently looking for new apps and games to review on the site. I love to write, and I also have my own personal blog at christinechan.org, but I have not updated that in a while since most of my writing time goes to AppAdvice.
How did you get into writing about tech and apps? What came before and what inspired you to put your thoughts down on virtual paper?
I got into writing about tech and apps after I got my very first iPhone back in 2008. This was actually my first Apple product ever as well, so that was exciting. Because I wanted to know more about what I could do with the iPhone, I began to look up websites and discovered the huge plethora of sites and blogs that covered Apple stuff.
I thought this was pretty interesting, and then when the App Store came with iPhone OS 2.0, I wanted to try diving into the world about writing about apps and technology. I loved to write ever since I was a kid, and I developed a passion for technology as I was on the dawn of a new digital age, so I figured why not?
Before I got into reviewing software, I was more of a fictional writer. I always had these story ideas in my head. When I got my first computer (not the family computer), I enjoyed crafting my words onto the screen. I believe I even liked to write some short stories on paper when I was bored and had ideas, but I always ended up losing them or something. So naturally, when I got a computer, I loved being able to get my words out there digitally, where it was easier to retrieve and even continue where I left off.
As time went by and I got to college, I began to get interested in the news. I shifted my education from English and the creative writing emphasis to a focus on journalism. With the rising digital era, I figured that this would be a great time to do what I love doing now—write about apps and games.
What is it about apps specifically that you love? What drives you to write about apps everyday?
"I want to be the reviewer that people trust"
I love apps because they can be a fantastic addition to my life. A lot of the apps on my home screen have changed the way I process and do things, like my email, to-dos and reminders, calendars, keeping in touch with others, managing money, and more. Without apps, I’d be a big mess with everything, honestly. I’m not sure what I’d do without them.
I love writing about apps because I have a passion for finding new and useful apps or some fantastic new games. I want to be the one that people turn to when they look for something, and this is what keeps me going—I want to be the reviewer that people trust, making honest and genuine recommendations (or highlighting things you should avoid).
What do you think about the state of apps in 2015? What do you hope to see in future versions of iOS and OS X?
At the moment, I’m actually a little bored with the state of apps on iOS, since it’s my main platform. It just feels like a lot of new apps do the same thing as other apps that have already been out there for a while, and these new ones just don’t bring anything new or innovative. It’s disappointing to me, really, because it just seems like a lot of developers aren’t being original anymore. I get a lot of pitches in my email everyday that want to tell me about a “hot new app” but when I look at it, I’ve already seen it done by someone else.
"I’m actually a little bored with the state of apps on iOS"
Another thing I don’t like is the fact that everything seems to be going down the freemium route these days, especially games. I prefer paying outright for great software, because I believe good work should be rewarded, but it seems that a lot of people don’t like to pay more than a few dollars for an app or game. I remember years ago in the App Store, the whole place was filled with games that cost a few dollars to download—we need more of that.
As far as the future of iOS and OS X, I would love to see less sandboxing and more choice. On iOS, I would love to have the ability to choose my default apps for actions, like opening email in Mailbox or Dispatch. This is long overdue, and I really hope it’s coming in the near future. I think the lock screen needs a revamp, and I read an article the other day about the Apple Watch and the “complications” for the watch face. This is something that should go on to iOS as well.
How does Apple Watch impact upon how we view and use apps? What are your hopes for the Watch platform?
This is a tough one to answer since I don’t have my Watch yet—I only placed an order a few weeks ago. But It think it’s great that it is motivating many more people get into an active and healthier lifestyle, which is something I’m trying to obtain myself. Fitness trackers have been around for a few years now, but people who never owned one before seem to be more data oriented and want to find out how active they are each day now.
As far as my hopes for the Apple Watch, well, I’ll have to wait for mine to arrive and use it before I can make any statements about that.
Tell me a bit about your current setup. What tools do you use to get the job done?
Since I review iOS apps, I am always taking screenshots and sending them to my computer via AirDrop or even PhotoSync, especially now that it has a cool feature that can delete images after they’re transferred. I also need to record some quick videos to show off app features or gameplay demos for my reviews, so I use the Lightning Mirroring feature that Apple bundled in OS X Yosemite to do that, combined with the conversion presets that Handbrake offers.
When it comes to all of my writing, I use Byword on my Retina MacBook Pro alongside Marked 2 for checking formatting and keyword checking with the Keyboard Highlight Drawer tool. If I need to write on-the-go, I turn to Editorial, as the workflows can make life so much easier.
Once the draft for my review is done, I go over it once more to make sure that things make sense and there are no typos (but sometimes they slip by— I’m human, after all). Then I’ll get the post into our WordPress in Safari, my main browser, before it gets published for everyone to read. I’m a frequent user of Slack on both OS X and iOS to stay in touch with my coworkers and make sure we get things done. If something is important, I use iMessage.
Throughout the week, I can end up with a fairly heavy workload, so I keep all of my to-dos organized with Todoist on Mac and iOS. The Mac app isn’t that great, really, but I’m sticking with it (they seem to be working on improving the Mac app in the future, so I’m hopeful). The iOS app is used more than the Mac version, and it’s the fastest way for me to get tasks in and mark them off as complete. I also use Due for smaller reminders, not necessarily things that you’d consider a to-do item, because of the annoying but useful “nagging” feature where it keeps alerting you until you mark it as done. Sometimes I just need that extra push.
For email, I use both Airmail 2 on Mac and Readdle’s new Spark email client on iOS. However, ever since I got Spark, it’s been my go-to way for taking action on email. I love the design, and it has saved me a lot of time when it comes to replying, archiving, and deleting unwanted junk.
Keeping up with the news is a big part of my job, so I stay on top of the tech (and other interests of mine) headlines with RSS through Feedly. On Mac, I use Reeder 2 for catching up on the feeds, and Unread on iPhone. Instapaper is my read-later service of choice, and I always send longer pieces there to digest later. Pinboard is also a service I use to keep bookmarks, and I constantly switch between Pinner and PushPin on iOS, while sticking with Delibar on my Mac. There is also Tweetbot for both Mac and iOS, which I use to keep up with my other fellow tech friends and get up to speed on what’s happening in tech and real life.
By now, my work schedule has become fairly routine, but I still like to keep it marked in a calendar, and my app of choice for that task is Fantastical 2 on both Mac and iOS. Whenever I need to schedule a meeting or have an important appointment, I love opening Fantastical and just typing it in. Recently, I’ve started to use Evernote more for keeping various notes (sometimes sent with Drafts on iOS), emails, files, documents and scans, business receipts and expenses, and whatever else I may need to reference later.
Last, but not least, is 1Password. Throughout my personal and work life, I’ve accrued many different accounts, logins, WiFi networks, emails, and other stuff that I just can’t keep track of anymore. With 1Password, I have all of this information locked away until I need it, and generating secure passwords with a few clicks and saving them is invaluable.
Which apps have truly been the most beneficial to your life and not just cool to have?
Well, 1Password is definitely one of the top choices here. I have several hundred different items and passwords in there, and I’d be stuck without this app. Fantastical has also made scheduling these much easier for me, and now I can’t ever go back to an app without support for natural language input when it comes to creating events and reminders. Day One is a must-have in my life because it helps me remember significant events that happen to me, or even the little things that I like to look back on and just smile at.
AppAdvice is doing some really interesting things with the new site design, WatchAware and GamingSoon. Tell me a bit about these projects.
WatchAware is a brand new site that we have launched recently because it’s a completely new product category that Apple has never done before. While we still cover Watch stuff on the main AppAdvice site, WatchAware was made to be the go-to source for anyone who wants to know more about the Watch and upcoming or cool apps for it, and how it is affecting our daily lives. We want it to be the central hub for all things related to Apple Watch, since that’s really how AppAdvice first started as well (the go-to place for anything relating back to Apple and iOS).
As far as GamingSoon goes, we wanted a page that caters to iOS gamers who want to be informed of cool, upcoming games on the platform, but in a way that stands out from a normal news post. The GamingSoon pages are highly visual to draw people in with movie-style posters and banners. If we can get video clips from developers, that’s even better, since it gives people a first-hand look at how the game will play before anywhere else (at least that’s the plan), plus it’s always better to show instead of tell. Developers who have worked with us so far like the section as well, since it shines a bit of light on their titles that people may not have known about otherwise.
There is plenty more in store for AppAdvice, so stay tuned.
As a tech fan, what are your hopes for the next 12 months?
I’m hoping that Apple will make iOS more stable with the next release — I have a lot of problems with iOS 8, even after doing a fresh restore! I’m also curious to see how smart watch (and wearable tech in general) sales do in a year, seeing as how Apple seems to have picked it up for a bit. While I don’t have an Oculus Rift or any VR gear at the moment, I’m excited to see this kind of stuff finally become reality, and I’m eager to see where it will go from here.
What does the rest of 2015 hold for Christine Chan?
I’m striving for a healthier lifestyle and actually sticking to it. My Fitbit wearables have been doing great for me the past few years, but I’m hoping that once I receive the Apple Watch, it will motivate me even further. Plus, I really need to stand more — working the freelance life and being on a computer most of the day isn’t the healthiest thing for me.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?