Everything you love will die, especially in tech
A little over a year ago, Microsoft bought beloved calendar app Sunrise. For the past 14 months or so, things have been more or less business as usual… at least for customers. But this week, the other shoe finally dropped: August 31st will be the last day that Sunrise exists as a standalone app. Sure, you could use Outlook, which by now shares some of the same DNA, but it’ll never be the same. Indeed, some of us here at Engadget are pretty heartbroken about it. Which got us thinking about all of the other apps and services that we loved and relied on that ended up being unceremoniously shuttered.
My life runs on Google Calendar. I use it everyday, not just for work meetings, but also to manage my personal life — everything from my gym schedule, hair appointments and dinners out with friends. But for years now, I’ve been unable to make Google Calendar play nice on my iPhone. The default iOS calendar just doesn’t seem to work with all of Google’s multiple shared calendars. This is especially true of the calendars we have on our corporate Google Apps account, which wouldn’t show up at all. A few years ago, someone suggested Sunrise to me as an alternative. And my life was saved.
Sunrise was beautiful. The UI made so much more sense. I loved the ability to just look at the week’s calendar at a glance, and I loved that I could integrate my personal and work calendars in a single interface. Sunrise really was the perfect Google Calendar app for me. What’s more, because Sunrise also worked on Android and the desktop, I could switch up my devices and still keep all my settings. Oh, and the integration with Google Maps was a godsend; it saved me from getting lost several times.
So when I heard Sunrise would be going away, my heart shattered. I know, it’s now been phased into the new Outlook app, but it just doesn’t look the same. I could also just use the recently launched Google Calendar app, but I find it sluggish (it takes forever for my calendars to sync) and the design is garish. It feels weird to say this about a calendar app, but Sunrise will be hard to replace. It was one of the few reliable constants in my life. I guess I’ll just have to make do with the default apps for now.
-Nicole Lee, Senior Editor
Why did Apple have to buy Hopstop? Don’t answer that. I know why they did: to help make their crappy maps app better. But man, what a shame. I first heard about Hopstop, the website offering subway directions, back in 2006 — a time when the web itself was still quaintly referred to as “new media.” Even as a lifelong New Yorker, I found the site useful: Though I have a good idea of which lines cover which areas, I haven’t committed the exact schedules to memory, nor am I always aware of service disruptions. Even now, I need something like this to figure out exactly how late I can sleep in on a Monday morning and still make the subway for my 6:30am workout class. (Hashtag humblebrag.) Obviously too, I need subway directions when I’m traveling strange cities, though back in 2006, Hopstop’s selection was admittedly more limited.
After Apple bought the service in 2013, I could no longer use the app on my Moto X. The standalone website has been shut down too, which is a bummer when I’m using a desktop machine. (Using Maps for OS X is annoying, since it’s slow to recalculate my route when I plug in custom arrival or departure times.) I’ve since switched to the iPhone 6, but even now, there’s no standalone app; just Apple Maps, with transit directions built in. That’s a shame, because even after all the improvements Apple has made to its once-terrible maps program, it’s still not my go-to. Worse still, the transit directions in Apple Maps seem to offer less detailed information than I was accustomed to in Hopstop proper, especially where train timetables are concerned.
Fortunately, as a famous man once said, good artists copy, and great artists steal. Today, in the year 2016, Google Maps has detailed transit directions of its own — and I don’t need an Android phone to access them.
-Dana Wollman, Managing Editor
Most of the staff here at Engadget was pretty pleased when we switched to Slack for our work chats. It has so many features baked in that I’m not sure that any of us could ever go back. And yet, there are moments where I’m nostalgic for a world without Slack, because it would mean we’d still have Glitch. Glitch was a browser-based MMORPG that eschewed combat in favor of exploration, crafting and just generally being a nice person. It made mundane tasks like mining and farming irresistibly adorable.
It was also super weird: You were living inside a giant’s brain. But there was a subway. And you could milk butterflies. You got butter by shaking the milk. Eventually you’d get cheese? Don’t ask me to make sense of the game’s world or mechanics; I just enjoyed wandering around planting and harvesting crops, shaking chickens for grain and just amassing massive piles of odd virtual crap. Alas, it wasn’t exactly the sort of runaway success developer Tiny Speck needed to stay afloat. So, it shut the game down and shifted its focus to a chat program the team created while developing Glitch. And, given how well Slack has worked out I don’t blame the company at all. But man, there are times when I really, really miss milking butterflies.
-Kris Naudus, Senior Database Editor
Nary a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my beloved Google Reader. Sure, there are countless alternatives with annoyingly similar names — Digg Reader, AOL Reader, Inoreader, Old Reader, (just) Reeder — but none of them have really captured my heart the way Google’s RSS app did. There was something elegant about its simplicity. It was reliable, fast and made it easy to keep up on the hundreds of sites in my feeds (at its peak, somewhere around 480). I knew all the keyboard shortcuts by heart and could plow through thousands of articles, opening the interesting ones to read later in a background tab, in mere minutes. It was all just muscle memory.
But, Google didn’t love Reader the way I (or the rest of its fans) did. In July 2013 it died for good. In the aftermath those previously mentioned alternatives scrambled to pick up the pieces. I took my business to Feedly, but honestly it’s never felt like more than a rebound. I could never love it the way I loved Google Reader. It left me out in the cold and I’ve never really gotten over it.
-Terrence O’Brien, Managing Editor
I loved Dropbox’s Carousel. Its auto-upload function spirited my photos from my phone once I connected to WiFi, and the app interface had a tantalizing dial that you used to literally roll back in time through your photos. It was far more visually appealing than the original Dropbox photo upload option — and so very scrollable. I already paid for plenty of storage and often used the app for work-based photo sharing. This just brought my world of ramen photography and karaoke videos into the same cloud space.
Long before Facebook made flashback pics a plague on all of our newsfeeds, Carousel would corral weekly selections of your snapshots from yesteryear. It launched on Android and iOS in September 2014 but, by mid 2015, Dropbox was already planning a funeral. The company said it was putting its energy into sharing and collaboration features in the primary app, as well as newer work collaboration-based apps like Paper. Dropbox could have left Carousel to stand on its own. It was less serious, less business-y than the company’s main app.
Whatever Dropbox’s reasons for ending the photosharing fun-fair, there’s was one rival that probably made the decision to pull the plug easier: Google Photos.
It offered free unlimited (with strings attached) photo storage, automagically backed up photos to your Google account, and crammed in a ton of sharing features that were easy to access — even on an iPhone.
Basically, it became a better Carousel. It pulled in geotag data, face recognition and other machine learning tricks to group your photos together. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty on-point. I didn’t have to scroll through my iPhone camera roll to find pics of my reclusive brother, Google Photo automatically pulled them all together. It would also auto-create gifs of burst photo sets.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Well, Carousel was flattered to death.
-Mat Smith, Senior Editor