September 25, 2020

The Dalrymple Report: Apple Watch and iOS 14 features

Dave and I delve into the new Apple Watch, including some of the new features and the watch bands. We also touch on some of our favorite iOS 14 features in this week’s podcast.

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September 24, 2020

John Gruber:

A few people have wondered why Apple doesn’t just map fluoroelastomer Sport Band sizes to Solo Loop sizes. I can see why Apple doesn’t do that — they can’t assume everyone already has access to an Apple Watch with a Sport Band, and even for people who do have access to one, Apple can’t assume it’s the right size watch (38/40mm vs. 42/44mm). And to further complicate matters, each Sport Band comes with two sizes for the side with the holes: “S/M” and “M/L”. So that’s four separate mappings from Sport Band holes to the new Solo Loop sizes. That’s complicated. But it’s no longer a safe assumption that everyone has access to a printer, either, so let’s figure out the mappings here.

Great community contribution from John. And this Daring Fireball post is a bit of a collector’s item, with the ultra-rare embedded graphics, well composed and useful.

To me, this whole Solo band sizing kerfuffle is a bit of a mess. Ideally, Apple would have created a simple tool mapping your choice of bands (assuming you already own an Apple Watch) to a sizing recommendation, based on how you wear your watch now. Harder with some bands, but certainly doable with the Sport Band.

But I do get that rolling out an interface is harder than it might look.

That said, one thing I think Apple should absolutely address is the mixed messaging on Solo band returns. There’s a prominent report claiming that if your Solo band doesn’t fit, you have to return both the band and the watch. Even worse, you have to go to the back of the line to order a new one. Yechh.

Today, rumors have been flying around from folks who called Apple or visited Apple Stores asking about this policy. Some were told they could return their band, sans watch, no problem. Others were told they had to return both the watch and the band.

Unnecessary mess of mixed messages. I hope Apple sends out a clarifying, definitive policy message. And soon.

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors, on macOS Safari 14:

One of the most dramatic changes is the overhauled Start Page, which now includes a browsing privacy report, iCloud tabs, Siri suggestions, and more. It also features several customizable options, such as the ability to choose your own Start Page wallpaper.

If you fire up a new, blank page in Safari 14 (your “Start Page”), you’ll see an icon in the bottom-right corner of the page. Here’s an image so you know what to look for.

Click the icon, a pop-up will appear, filled with checkboxes to enable/disable various Start Page elements. You can also choose a Background Image from those presented, or click the + and select any image you like.

Except “Catalina Nights.heic”. Don’t choose that one. You’ve been warned.

Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac:

Face ID is normally a completely seamless way to unlock an iPhone and iPad: just swipe up and it unlocks automatically. At a time when we’re frequently wearing masks, however, it’s rather less seamless.

So we’d like to see Apple allow an unlocked Apple Watch to automatically unlock an iPhone and iPad

Tricky to implement. If someone grabs your phone, they’d be able to unlock it just by being near you.

That said, the core premise strikes me, I’d add it to the pile of ideas on ways to unlock your iPhone with a mask on your face. I’d love to see Apple add Touch ID back in to a future iPhone, whether under screen or as an iPad Air-like layer on the power button.

Reuters:

The Coalition for App Fairness, structured as a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, said it plans to advocate legal changes that would force Apple to change. Beyond Epic, Match and Spotify, other members include smaller firms such as Basecamp, Blix, Blockchain.com, Deezer, and Tile, along with developers from Europe including the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe and Protonmail.

From the Coalition signup page:

The Coalition for App Fairness was created by industry leading companies who want to see freedom of choice for consumers and a level playing field for businesses. This is an open call to all developers, big and small, to join us – and together we will fight back against the monopolist control of the app ecosystem by Apple.

If you are interested in joining the coalition, please fill out the following form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Is there a path for compromise? Will this continue to escalate until something explodes? Is this the hill Apple will defend to the death?

Lines are being drawn, sides being chosen. I hate this whole thing.

Chris Welch, The Verge:

Similar to voice tweets, voice messages have a bare-bones, simple interface: there’s just a play / pause button, and the sender’s avatar pulsates as the message plays. The product team designed an “in-line recording experience to make it easier to send these messages as part of the natural conversation flow,” so that’s one difference from the current audio tweets interface. There’s a “report message” option in the event that someone misuses voice DMs, which is always a fair concern with private audio.

It’ll start testing in Brazil.

Immediate thought: The terrifying messages that some people get slid into their DMs will be so much more so amplified by voice. I sure hope Twitter tests the hell out of this, and plans to be vigilant in response to complaints.

September 23, 2020

You’ve likely heard of most of the features Jeff Benjamin is showing off, but the devil is in the details here, the subtleties of Jeff’s excellent, calming walkthrough.

Tom Warren, The Verge:

One of Apple’s surprise hardware announcements last week was the relocation of the iPad Air’s fingerprint sensor to a tiny power button on top of the display. It’s a change from the typical Touch ID Home button location at the bottom of the screen, and it allows Apple to place a larger edge-to-edge display on its iPad Air for the first time. It’s also an ideal location for a fingerprint sensor, and I’d love to see it on the iPhone 12.

YES! I’d love to see this addition, if Apple does not yet have under-screen fingerprint scanning ready for prime time. Perfect for these masked times. (In fact, I said as much while watching the keynote).

Practical on an iPhone? Only Apple knows, and we’ll find out soon enough.

Dan Goodin, ArsTechnica:

Researchers said that a tip from a child led them to discover aggressive adware and exorbitant prices lurking in iOS and Android smartphone apps with a combined 2.4 million downloads from the App Store and Google Play.

And:

To prevent users from uninstalling them, the apps hid their icon, making it hard to identify where the ads were coming from.

Hmm. I wonder how an iOS app gets away with that. This purely the Android versions?

The apps came to light after a girl found a profile on TikTok that was promoting what appeared to be an abusive app and reported it to Be Safe Online, a project in the Czech Republic that educates children about online safety. Acting on the tip, researchers from security firm Avast found 11 apps, for devices running both iOS and Android, that were engaged in similar scams.

And:

A Google spokesman said the company has removed the apps, and Web searches appeared to confirm this. Several of the apps for iOS appeared to still be available in the App Store as this post was being prepared.

Definitely a hole in iOS App Store oversight.

From Avast press release:

The iOS and Android apps appear to be developed by the same person or group. The links promoted on the social media profiles lead to the iOS or Android versions of the apps, depending on the device the link is being accessed from.

Seems like once they got one of these apps, they should ban all the rest from the same developer.

As you can see from the article (there, at the bottom) this came up for me this morning. But it does happen often enough to make me follow Ben’s advice and change my Safari settings.

Interestingly, my settings are slightly different than those in the article. I am running Catalina, but have the new Safari 14 update installed. No matter, the change is purely wording, subbing Blocked for Deny.

Side note, this was an artifact of a rogue Google ad. In the past, when this has happened, I’ve seen some bizarre behavior/popups. This one was caught by Apple’s latest blockers. Excellent work.

Sean Hollister, The Verge:

on Monday, Microsoft announced a new Xbox app that lets you stream games from your own Xbox to your own Android phone over your local network for free. There’s an iOS version coming too — and while my colleague Tom Warren originally suggested the console streaming feature probably wouldn’t come to iOS, I’m now willing to bet it will.

And:

Microsoft now tells me the goal is actually to have full parity between the iOS and Android apps, and that Apple is already reviewing the iOS version now.

And:

Sony’s PS4 Remote Play is already on iOS, and it works almost exactly the same as Microsoft’s Xbox console streaming. It similarly mirrors the entire PS4 interface, including access to the PlayStation Store. And though Microsoft’s Android app does include the ability to play over the internet, and a few more creature comforts like remote management of your console, I would think the “generic mirror” rule would keep it from getting kicked out.

That last is the precedent that makes this case. I’d be shocked if Apple blocked the Xbox streaming app.

September 22, 2020

Ryan Christoffel, MacStories:

One of the most exciting trends I’ve seen is the emergence of a new category of apps entirely centered around widgets. While most widgets will come built in to the apps you already know and love, some developers have built brand new apps for the sole purpose of enabling users to create and customize widgets in a hyper-personalized way.

And:

Leading the pack in this regard is Widgetsmith from David Smith, which not only covers one of the widest array of different widget types, but also features a power user-friendly scheduling option that sets it apart. The App Store hosts a growing number of other widget creation tools too, such as Widgeridoo, Widget Wizard, Glimpse, and Health Auto Export.

I’m planning on spending some quality time this week creating my own Widgets, seeing if I can craft a home screen experience that delivers the info I’m looking for.

If rolling your own is not your cup of tea, spend some time looking through Steve Streza’s curated list of widgets he’s encountered, both built in and custom.

If Widgets are new to you, follow the link in the previous paragraph, scroll down and read the section titled How to use Widgets. Great, short explainer.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Customers who chose a Solo Loop or a Braided Solo Loop along with an Apple Watch Series 6 or SE and have a poor fit can’t just return the band for a new size — the entire Apple Watch has to be returned since it’s considered a set.

Unfortunately, there are limited supplies of the new Apple Watch Series 6 models and the new bands, so customers forced to make a return are now having to wait from late October to late November for a new Apple Watch, depending on the model chosen.

I can’t imagine this is what Apple intended when they envisioned the Loop Apple Watch band. This is a headache, both for Apple and for folks who faithfully use the wrist-measuring tool and get a Loop band that just doesn’t fit.

Seems to me, Apple should either replace the band, without requiring the watch itself to be returned, or just send out replacement bands at their cost. This is a situation of Apple’s making. I hate the thought that people have to go to the back of the queue when they wait for their Series 6 and find that the Loop band doesn’t fit.

This situation is still evolving, so my hope is that Apple tweaks the process to address this inequity.

In the meantime, my Apple Watch with Loop band order is in, awaiting my entry in the Loop band sweepstakes. Hoping I get lucky.

Back in March, Dan Moren wrote an excellent post on macOS Safari, and switching tab behavior, so new tabs open at the end, instead of immediately after the current tab.

This involves enabling the Debug menu (not to be confused with the Develop menu, which is exposed in Safari Settings > Advanced).

In a nutshell, to enable the Debug menu, hop into Terminal and type:

defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu YES

Relaunch Safari, and take a look at the last two submenus in the newly appearing Debug menu: Tab Ordering and Tab Features. Good to know.

Interested in some under the hood details of the Defaults mechanism, and moving Prefs files? Check out this writeup from Jeff Johnson.

Harry Mccracken, FastCompany:

A tech CEO is onstage helpfully explaining that the Mac’s expiration date is imminent. More important, he’s about to introduce us to a new computer designed for the next decade. I am in a distant seat among his audience of more than 2,000 at Boston’s Symphony Hall, where the anticipation in the air is thick enough to induce a contact high.

After all, we are among the lucky few who will hear about the NeXT computer directly from Steve Jobs himself.

The article is a great read, lots of embedded audio and video nuggets from the past. Terrific collection.

From the walkthrough:

Repair-wise, we’re happy to see the fussy Force Touch gasket gone, and only two fragile cables tethering the display.

So Force Touch is gone, but the physical gasket goes with it, opens up just a bit of space.

Despite the almost imperceptibly thinner design, Apple packed in brand-new sensors in addition to the larger-capacity battery and beefier Taptic Engine.

Every new Apple Watch generation bringing stepwise refinement. This is far from a watch as the iPhone is from a phone. Apple really upping their game.

September 21, 2020

Bare Bones Software, makers of BBEdit, is one of my favorite software companies — in fact, I’ve been using BBEdit for more than 20 years. BBEdit has been updated to version 13, and is available in the Mac App Store as a subscription! Same great features. Same user experience. You can subscribe in the Mac App Store or purchase perpetual licenses directly from Bare Bones Software. Also, you can still get great merch, including Classic and Rebus T-shirts, enamel pins, and more in their merch store!

Click the headline link to see who the most accurate Apple leak reporter is.

To be clear, I have no sense of the accuracy of these numbers, but I do find it fascinating.

Kirk McElhearn:

Since the earliest Apple Watch, you have been able to change your move goal (the red ring), but there was no way to change the exercise goal (the green ring) or the stand goal (the blue ring). Now, in watchOS 7, this is possible.

Follow the headline link for Kirk’s walkthrough. Really good to know this exists.

The one ring I might change is the number of Stand hours. I hate the stress it introduces when I miss an hour, either because I was standing and my Apple Watch missed it, or because I got sucked into writing and an hour flew by.

I do appreciate the value of a Stand reminder (good for my health), but I don’t need the anxiety.

Even if you know most of these, worth making your way through the list for that hidden gem you didn’t know about.

A few comments:

Open Settings > Home Screen and select App Library Only in the top section. You can easily find recently downloaded apps in the App Library’s Recently Added category, which should be the top-right folder when you view it.

I’m wrestling with this one. Do I want new apps on my curated home screen? Or do I want them in my App Library, where I can find the app in Recently Added?

My problem with App Library is that it’s at the back of the book, behind the last page of apps. There’s a quick gesture to jump to my first page, but no gesture to get to my last page, or to the App Library (please ping me if such a gesture exists). So if I leave new apps in the App Library, I’ve got to scroll, scroll, scroll to get to it, then wiggle mode drag, drag, drag to get it to my home page if I do want it there.

UPDATE: Courtesy of @nibsuk, a faster way to get to the App Library from the Home page is to scrub through the page dots at the bottom of the page, left to right. When you get to the last page, drag right to left to bring the App Library page into view.

Faster, but a drag down from Home page brings up the search mechanism. No one is using the drag up gesture. Maybe tie that to App Library functionality, add a button to jump to App Library? Maybe add in App Library search?

I do like the premise of the App Library. I just think we need a bit more infrastructure to make it easier to use.

A new accessibility feature called Back Tap makes it possible to trigger system features, like multitasking or Control Center, or launch a Shortcut just by tapping on the back of your iPhone two or three times.

Find the feature in Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Pick the number of taps you want to use, and then you’ll see a list of actions you can initiate.

This is my favorite hidden gem. I currently have back tap set to bring up Control Center, purely as an experiment. But there are a lot of options here, and this feels like a “tip of the iceberg” feature, that has massive potential.

One thing I’d love to see is a back tap option to move the text cursor. Imagine if you could double-tap to move the cursor back one space. I find myself off having to micro-adjust the text cursor all the time. Fat finger dragging the cursor can be very frustrating. A double tap to go back or forward a single space would be wonderful.

Shortcuts folks, is there a way to add a backspace character (^h) to a text shortcut so I can shortcut this problem? Just a thought.

Great walkthrough by Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog.

By far, my favorite tweak is moving the audio controls:

Before iOS 14, you had to press the Home button on the remote to get to the tvOS Home screen, then you would press and hold the Play/Pause button to bring up the audio interface. In tvOS 14, you can get to these controls through the Control Center, which can be swooshed into view by holding the Menu button (you don’t need to exit to the Home screen).

I do this all the time, when I pop my AirPods in and want to connect to my Apple TV from listening on my iPhone. Having to jump to the home screen, then press and hold the pause button to bring up the sources list, then navigate back to what I was watching is a bit of a pain point.

This new approach is so much better.

Also, props Christian for “swooshed into view”. Gonna steal that.

UPDATE: Played around with tvOS 13 and 14, seems like the Control Center shortcut was there in tvOS 13. They just got rid of the pause button shortcut in tvOS 14. Interesting.

Follow the headline link, scroll through the list.

Also worth knowing about is the Unicode Emoji list, which has been updated with the latest and greatest.

September 18, 2020

The Dalrymple Report: Apple Watch, iPads, and services

It was a big week for Apple. The release of two new Apple Watches and two iPads were the highlights of the event on Tuesday, but there was more. Apple also announced Apple One, Apple Fitness+, and Family setup services for its users.

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September 17, 2020

If you have AirPods Pro, enable spatial audio (here’s a tweet to show you how) and follow the headline link to watch the trailer.

I’ve also heard Ted Lasso mentioned as a great spatial audio tester, but this Dolby Atmos trailer is denser, really shows off the experience.

Preshit Deorukhkar pulled together this detailed iOS 14 Widget explainer. It’s full of pictures, too, so you really get a sense of how all this works.

Great read.

Rene Ritchie and John Gruber dish on iOS 14

This was informative and a lot of fun. Two of my favorite Apple personalities together on screen.

Enjoy!

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

When enabled, Optimized Battery Charging learns from your personal device habits and waits to finish charging all the way up until you need your ‌Apple Watch.

For example, if you regularly charge up your watch at night while you’re asleep, the device may opt to limit its charging to the 80 percent mark, and then wait for an hour or so before you wake up to charge the remaining 20 percent.

Read the post to find this setting. Worth knowing about.

I’m actually pretty happy with Safari and privacy, but I’m going to give DuckDuckGo a try as my default browser.

To do this yourself:

  • Download the DuckDuckGo app (it’s free) from the App Store
  • Go to Settings > DuckDuckGo (you’ll likely need to scroll a bit)
  • Tap Default Browser App and tap DuckDuckGo

Here’s a link to DuckDuckGo’s iOS 14 blog post.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that the linked site is infested with malware, so I’ve taken down the link. I replaced it with a link to Apple’s “compare all models” page. Follow the headline link, click “Compare all models” link. Not quite as easy to glean, but better than just deleting the post, which was my first instinct. [H/T @longleaps]

OK, technically, the Series 0 is not on here, but that’s a quibble.

This is a great chart, showing what watch models support what features.

For example, Family Setup only works on Series 4 or later, and only on cellular models.

Find your model, make your way down the chart to see what you’re missing. Time for an upgrade?

September 16, 2020

Butch Walker’s production and songwriting resumé is not only impressive, it’s extensive. A quick snapshot of the Georgia native’s work over the last 15 years include producing and co-writing with Taylor Swift (on perhaps her most rocking record, 2012’s Red), in addition to Pink, Gavin DeGraw, Harry Connick, Jr., Fall Out Boy, Weezer, The Struts, and Train.

But Walker is an equally prolific artist in his own right, with nearly a dozen albums since 2002’s deft Left of Self-Centered, all of which display Walker’s fierce guitar playing, power-pop writing gifts, and broad production palette. More recently, he has been busy on new albums by Jewel, The Wallflowers, and Green Day’s latest LP, Father of All…, which sees Walker escorting Billie Joe and the boys through some of the garage-y, glam-approved territory. Here Walker details how Apollo, UAD, and OX Amp Top Box helped deliver one of Green Day’s most ambitious records yet.

I use Universal Audio gear every time I plug in a mic to do a podcast or plug in a guitar to record a song. It’s fascinating to see how the pros are using the same gear I am to record their music.