Graham Spencer

644 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Visualizing The Addition Of Apple TV Channels Over Time

The Apple TV is a curious product. It has been called a hobby product by Apple; rumors constantly suggest a ‘groundbreaking’ new Apple TV is imminent, and Apple has chosen to add features to it on a more frequent, but irregular, schedule than their other products. What I mean by this last point is that unlike other products and services such as iOS, iCloud and even Apple Maps, Apple has not seen the need to wait for a keynote to update the Apple TV with new services.

In fact, since the Apple TV (second generation) was released in 2010, Apple has added new ‘channels’ to the Apple TV on 18 seperate occasions. Excluding Apple’s own channels, the Apple TV now has 33 third party channels in the US, with a handful of other channels only available in countries outside the US. Even more interesting is the fact that in the last 12 months Apple has rapidly increased their pace of adding new channels, with 26 being added in that time period.

I did this research after noticing a more frequent and steady stream of news about new channels being added to the Apple TV. I don’t have any explanations or theories for this recent acceleration of channel additions, but am curious as to where the next few months will take us. Will the pace continue, will Apple slow down, or will they eventually open the Apple TV up with an App Store? Of course, the even bigger question is whether the Apple TV will ever really become more than an accessory to your TV or iOS device and become a so-called “revolutionary” device that challenges ‘the status quo’. Only time will tell.

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Apple Q2 2014 Results: $45.6 Billion Revenue, 43.7 Million iPhones, 16.4 Million iPads Sold

Apple has published their Q2 2014 financial results for the quarter that ended on March 29, 2014. The company posted revenue of $45.6 billion. The company sold 16.4 million iPads, 43.7 million iPhones, and 4.1 million Macs, earning a quarterly net profit of $10.2 billion.

“We’re very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market.”

We’ve been a bit busy today with the launch of MacStories 4.0 so we weren’t able to do our usual ‘notes from the call’. But we do have our usual graphs below, so that you can quickly digest this quarter’s earnings results.

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Apple Debuts New ‘Powerful’ iPhone 5s Advert

Apple last night debuted a new advert for the iPhone 5s on US television networks and YouTube. Dubbed ‘Powerful’, the advert features the song Gigantic by the Pixies amongst a montage of scenes that shows the iPhone 5s accomplishing a myriad of tasks. There is no narration in this advert, but it does end with the slogan “You’re more powerful than you think”, which aptly sums up many of the more unique uses of the iPhone 5s that are shown. For example, the iPhone is used as a heart rate monitor, a remote to launch miniature rockets, as well as both an instrument and aid to an instrument, amongst other uses in the 90 second advert.

Update: As discovered by MacRumors, Apple has today launched a new section on their website that is dedicated to this advert and it highlights the apps that are featured in the spot.

You can watch the full advert below, or on Apple’s YouTube channel.

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Apple Tries to Clean Up Its Carbon-Spewing Ways With New Data Centers

It’s an unusual trip in that its point is to give a reporter exposure to the way Apple works, a departure from the company’s usual maniacal secrecy. But when it comes to the environment, Apple consciously carves out an exception to its standard opacity. Part of the motive, of course, is generating a halo effect from good works. But Apple also hopes to inspire other companies and organizations to embark on similar ecologically helpful enterprises. Though it may not have always been the case, Apple has a good Earth Day story to tell.

Here’s that story: Apple is close to its goal of powering all its facilities 100 percent by renewable energy. Its corporate campuses and data centers are now at 94 percent renewable and rising. (In 2010 it was 35 percent.) The next step is to extend the efforts to its retail stores.

A fascinating insight into Apple’s environmental efforts from Stephen Levy at Wired, who was given the opportunity to tour an Apple solar plant and data center in Nevada with Apple’s senior vice president of environmental initiatives, Lisa Jackson. It’s no surprise that the tour given to Levy is a good news story for Apple, but equally interesting are the things that Jackson notes Apple has yet to achieve – in particular converting their retail stores to renewable energy (which is this year’s goal).

Also interesting (but not surprising), Levy was allowed to report on anything he saw, except “the manufacturer of the servers” in the Reno data center.

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What Fruit Is Left Hanging For iOS In Education?

There are very legitimate uses of IAP that make sense from both a developer and customer standpoint, but it’s not usable in education deployments. When my art teacher saw Paper by FiftyThree, she immediately wanted it. The problem is that it’s a free app and you can unlock needed extras by using IAP. If you are using either Managed Distribution or redeemable spreadsheets from the VPP store, there is simply no way to deploy these upgrades using MDM or Apple Configurator. I’ve e-mailed a couple of developers asking them to release paid versions of their apps as education editions, but haven’t had much luck.

Bradley Chambers provides seven great suggestions about how Apple could improve the functionality and usability of iOS in the educational field. What makes them particularly interesting is that these suggestions from Chambers have clearly come out of his experience of deploying iOS in an education setting. As a result, I was oblivious to a lot of the issues that he raises, and his suggestions make a lot of sense.

Hopefully Apple has been listening to people like Chambers who are on the front line of deploying iOS devices in educational settings and have some improvements to announce at WWDC in a few weeks time. And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I really hope Chambers’ final suggestion became a reality.

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Pioneer To Add CarPlay To Five Of Their Existing Aftermarket Consoles

Update [April 17]: 9to5Mac has noticed that Apple has updated their CarPlay website with a section highlighting that Pioneer and Alpine will also support CarPlay. This confirms previous reports that Alpine will also begin selling a CarPlay compatible console later this year.

Pioneer has announced that it will bring Apple’s CarPlay to five of its existing aftermarket dash consoles via a firmware update. The update will be available early this summer, making Pioneer the first manufacturer to offer CarPlay on an aftermarket console system.

Pioneer’s years of expertise integrating smartphone connectivity into the automotive environment has provided us the opportunity to be among the first to offer CarPlay to drivers,” said Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “By providing an aftermarket option, Pioneer’s 2014 in-dash multimedia systems give many iPhone owners the ability to add CarPlay to their current vehicles.”

The Pioneer consoles that will support the CarPlay firmware update include the AVIC-8000NEX ($1400 SRP), AVIC-7000NEX ($1200 SRP), AVIC-6000NEX ($900 SRP), AVIC-5000NEX ($750 SRP) and AVH-4000NEX ($700 SRP), all of which are currently available from retailers today. Reports from Nikkei earlier this week suggest that Alpine Electronics will follow suit by launching their own CarPlay-compatible console in the Fall, with an expected price between $500 and $700.

CarPlay, which was formally announced last month after an initial introduction at WWDC last year, is an infotainment system designed so that cars can integrate with iOS devices and allow drivers to reply to messages, answer phone calls, listen to music, and more. Although CarPlay comes with support for touchscreens and control knobs featured in most cars, Apple has also placed focus on CarPlay’s Siri support. Drivers can use Apple’s voice assistant to control music playback and ask for directions with Maps, compose new text messages, make calls – all while staying focused on the road as much as possible.

[Nikkei, via MacRumors]


Use The Power of IFTTT To Customize Your Apple TV Screen Saver

It’s a fairly hidden feature that not many people seem to know about, but the Apple TV has some pretty great options for customizing its screen saver. There are a few default sources of photos you can choose from, including National Geographic (probably what you are using now), Animals, Flowers, Trailers (which shows movie posters of films on the iTunes Trailers website) and iCloud Photos (Photostream and iCloud albums).

But more interesting is the option to use Flickr. That may sound odd, but the reason I say it is because when you combine it with the awesome power of IFTTT, you can create some really unique screen saver options. For example, for the last few months I’ve been using a combination of Flickr, IFTTT and Instagram to create an Apple TV screen saver that cycles through images that I have liked on Instagram and it is far better than seeing the same old National Geographic photos (as great as they are) over and over again.

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Adobe Lightroom Mobile for iPad Now Available

Behind the scenes, Lightroom desktop creates Smart Previews of photos marked for sync and uploads them to the Creative Cloud servers. Smart Previews retain much of the editability and detail of the source images (even raw files) but occupy much less storage space. In Lightroom mobile, the app downloads low-resolution previews for display in its Grid layout, and when an image is opened it pulls down the higher-resolution Smart Preview file (enabling you to zoom in to check details if needed).

Make a change to a photo on the iPad, and that change should appear in Lightroom desktop within seconds, removing the need to export or import images. Edits you make to the photo synchronize back to Creative Cloud and Lightroom desktop when you close the image—in fact, only a small XML file describing the edits is transmitted, which is why updates appear in the desktop and mobile applications quickly.

Adobe’s Lightroom application made its way to iOS overnight with the launch of Lightroom mobile for iPad and Macworld’s Jeff Carlson has a detailed preview of the app. Adobe looks like they have done a really nice job with bringing the app to the iPad thanks to their implementation of a clever sync system (as explained above) and extensive compatibility between this mobile version and the desktop version of Lightroom.

As with most of Adobe’s offerings in recent years, Lightroom mobile is bundled as a part of their Creative Cloud subscription service, so whilst the app is free to download, you will need to sign up for one of their subscription plans to use Lightroom mobile.

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Sparkle Public Beta: Create Websites With No Coding Knowledge

Launched as a public beta just over a week ago, Sparkle is a new Mac app designed to let you build fully functional websites with no coding knowledge necessary. At its core it is a modern WYSIWYG editor that is super simple to use and more than powerful enough for building a static webpage such as a product promotional page or a personal landing page.

Design in full freedom, finely control positioning, use layout grids and smart snapping. Stay neat and tidy or break all the rules. Your web page is your canvas.

No HTML expected!

I’ve been playing around with Sparkle for a little while over the weekend and one of the features that stood out most for me is the easy ability to modify your layout design for different devices. It really is a breeze to dive in and change how the website displays on a smartphone so that it is as easy to read and view as it is on the desktop. Something that makes designing a website so very easy with Sparkle is its Live Preview function. Open a preview in your browser and it will be automatically updated whenever you make any change from Sparkle.

Sparkle includes over 600 fonts, and over 300 background patterns, as well as support for YouTube and Vimeo embeds. It’s a great start but I would like to see Sparkle add support for embedding Tweets; it would also be useful to be able to embed HTML code — a feature that’s not available at the moment. The other aspect to Sparkle that I think is missing at its current stage is HTML5 animations. I think some support for basic animations would be a really solid addition to really set this app apart from its competitors.

You can download and test drive the public beta of Sparkle for Mac here. Remember that if you do try Sparkle, the developers want to make it a better app, so give them some helpful feedback. Read more