Beamer 3 Public Beta Available Today: Features Chromecast Support and a New User Interface

Beamer, a favorite Mac app of the MacStories team, is today launching a public beta of their third major release. For those unfamiliar with the app, Beamer is a Mac app that enables you to easily stream video (in almost any format) to your Apple TV via AirPlay.

The tentpole new feature of Beamer 3 is that it can now stream videos to Google Chromecast. Beamer 3 also has a redesigned interface that looks better on OS X Yosemite and has improved functionality, making it easier to access key options such as audio tracks and subtitles. You can also skip to the next video in your Beamer queue by double clicking the play button the Apple Remote. Beamer's developer also plans to implement further improvements during the beta period.

Beamer 3 is a free upgrade for existing Beamer 2 customers. During the beta period, new customers can purchase Beamer 3 for $15, discounted from the standard price of $19.99.


A Beginner’s Guide to App Store Pricing Tiers

It might be common knowledge to developers, but some readers might not be aware that Apple only permits developers to sell apps at certain price points. For example, customers in the US App Store will see apps costing $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99 but they won't find any apps costing $5.20 or $2.75.

For various reasons, which we'll cover, Apple permits developers to choose from 94 price tiers, which range from US$0.99 to US$999.99. Developers pick one price tier, which applies to every country that their app is distributed in.

In this story we'll go into the details of the App Store price tiers, explaining how they work, some of the reasons why they exist, interesting consequences of them, and hear from developers who use them.

This is a bit of an experimental story, exploring an iOS/Mac developer topic for the benefit of anyone interested in the iOS/Mac app ecosystem. If enough people find this useful we'll look at covering other topics.

Read more


Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant on Your Smartphone [Sponsor]

There’s a mountain of data inside your car waiting to be unleashed, and all you have to do is plug in a quick little connector and download a mobile application.

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get $20 off and buy Automatic at just $79.99. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Announces September 9 Media Event

As first reported by Jim Dalrymple at The Loop, Apple has announced a media event for September 9 in San Francisco:

Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a special event to be held on September 9, 2015. The event will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco at 10:00 am.

In the event invitation (pictured above), Apple is using the "Hey Siri, give us a hint" tagline with an Apple logo recreated using the refreshed Siri interface of Apple Watch and iOS 9.

According to recent speculation, Apple is widely expected to introduce updated iPhones and a new Apple TV at its September event. The next generation iPhone, unofficially referred to as the iPhone 6s, is rumored to offer an improved camera, a stronger aluminum body, and faster performance across the board. A new Apple TV is also expected to be unveiled at the event, featuring a major redesign, an updated remote, and a refreshed software interface to go alongside an SDK for developers to build Apple TV apps.

At the event, Apple will also likely announce the official release of iOS 9, currently in testing with developers and the general public through a public beta. A Golden Master seed of iOS 9 is expected to be released soon after the event, with a public launch within 10 days in mid-September.


Workflow 1.3 Brings Powerful Widget, Sync, Health Actions, and More

Since its debut on the App Store last year, Workflow has established a new paradigm for automation on iOS.

By deeply integrating with iOS apps, device hardware and sensors, an array of web services, and advanced actions for scripting and control flows, Workflow has shown how automation – for many an area of computing that evokes thoughts of old desktop apps and arcane scripting languages – can be reimagined for the iPhone and iPad while being fun and powerful. Workflow is one of the reasons behind my decision to go all-in with the iPad as my primary computer, and the Apple Design Award it won in June is testament to the amazing work by the app's young and prolific team.

Workflow 1.3, launching today on the App Store, is another major step forward for the app, bringing a powerful Today widget, sync between devices, new Health actions, and more.

Read more



Dispatch 3.0 Brings iPad App, Improvements to Actions and Snippets

Dispatch has long been one of the most powerful email clients for iPhone. Originally released by Clean Shaven Apps in 2013, Dispatch took a unique approach at managing email by relying on integrations with third-party apps, online services, and text snippets. In a pre-extensibility world, Dispatch was the only email client for iOS that could work alongside your todo or calendar app of choice, turning messages into actionable items that could talk to other apps on your device.

As more and more "modern" email clients started using proprietary server-side features for smart processing and limited external integrations, Dispatch augmented email on iPhone with the power of third-party apps. Even after iOS 8 and extensions, the team at Clean Shaven Apps didn't lose its focus: in addition to custom integrations, Dispatch was quickly updated to support the native share sheet so you'd have the best of both worlds.

Dispatch for iPhone had app integrations, advanced reply options, and little touches that made it a superior option for power users who wanted more than Apple Mail. With one major caveat: Dispatch didn't have an iPad app.

This is changing today with version 3.0 of Dispatch, released on the App Store as a Universal update that adds a proper iPad counterpart designed to take advantage of the bigger screen for even faster email management and triaging.

Read more


YouTube Gaming Officially Launches

YouTube Gaming, the company's dedicated platform for all things videogames, has officially launched today. From the YouTube blog:

YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.

Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.

We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream — check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.

I took the app for a spin this evening on my iPad, and it's well done. There's a lot going on in the front page – live streams, reviews, channels, game pages, but the YouTube team has done a good job at figuring out ways to automatically categorize content. When watching a game review, for instance, a link to that game's page is available in the video description; tap it, and on the game page you can find more videos of different types such as Let's Plays, reviews, popular videos, past live streams, and more. It's a busy interface, but there's also a lot to watch and go through.

YouTube Gaming is going to be compared to Twitch a lot, and for good reason. The big advantage of YouTube Gaming is its direct integration with a vast archive of YouTube videos and video creators that produce new content just for YouTube every day (this includes trailers, reviews, how-tos, and lots more non-live stream content). The decision to create game pages with automatic categorization of videos seems like a smart one to me, and the entire app feels lively and fun (try to search for games, for example).

I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes effectively the default way of finding gaming content on YouTube in the future, with the main YouTube app as a fallback for everything else. You can download the iOS app (US and UK only for now) here.

Permalink

Adobe’s Project Rigel

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET on Adobe's plans for Project Rigel, a new photo editing app for iOS:

Photoshop is so well known that the product name is synonymous with photo editing. But the software itself is a success only on personal computers, not smartphones or tablets.

Photoshop's maker, Adobe Systems, hopes that will change in October at its Max conference for developers and creative professionals when it introduces a new Photoshop app for editing photos on Apple's iPhones and iPads. The free software, called only Project Rigel for now, is designed to bring a more accessible interface to what can be a dauntingly complex program on PCs.

Probably a smarter move than the old Photoshop Touch app to focus on photo editing for iPhone and iPad with advanced tools. The app will be free and act as a “bait” for the subscription-based desktop Photoshop. It'll be interesting to compare this to existing apps such as Pixelmator and Snapseed.

Permalink

Facebook Starts Testing New ‘M’ Personal Assistant in Messenger

Facebook has begun testing M, a new personal assistant built into the Messenger app that can look up information and perform actions on the user's behalf. Wired writes:

It won’t take long for Messenger’s users to realize M can accomplish much more than your standard digital helper, suspects David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook. “It can perform tasks that none of the others can,” Marcus says. That’s because, in addition to using artificial intelligence to complete its tasks, M is powered by actual people.

The people supervising M in the initial rollout are called 'M trainers' inside Facebook, and the company is hoping to expand the team to thousands of people eventually.

Here's Facebook's David Marcus on what M is:

Today we're beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people.

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it's an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives.

As Wired notes, M won't use data gathered from Facebook accounts, at least not initially:

For now, M doesn’t pull from the social data Facebook collects to complete tasks. So, if you request a gift for your spouse, the service will make suggestions based only on your answers to questions it asks you and previous conversations you and M have had. Marcus says that may change “at some point, with proper user consent.” The service is free, and will be available to all Facebook Messenger users eventually.

Interesting that Facebook is using a conversational UI for an assistant baked into its popular Messenger app. I'll be curious to see how it scales.

See also: this idea by Matt Galligan from earlier this year.

Permalink