Graham Spencer

722 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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Google Photo Sphere Comes to the iPhone

Google yesterday launched a free iPhone app for their Photo Sphere Camera tool. Photo Sphere originally launched in October 2012 as an Android 4.2 feature, allowing people to create their own panoramic views that can be uploaded to Google Maps. The new iPhone app is simply a port of that original Android functionality and allows you to take your own 'Photo Spheres' with an iPhone (4S and above). Unfortunately you can't view other people's Photo Spheres in the app - just ones that you have made and two samples.

It reminds me a lot of Microsoft's Photosynth which has had an iPhone app for some time. Photosynth also has the advantage of letting you save a static panorama to your camera roll or even share an interactive Photosynth (where you can make it unlisted). By contrast, if you want to share a Google Photo Sphere, your only option is to publish it to Google Maps. On the plus side, Photo Sphere did seem to make slightly better quality panoramas in my testing.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not link you to the Google Photo Sphere community and the Photosynth website, both have some incredible panoramas that are well worth taking a look at.


Apple Debuts New ‘Your Verse’ iPad Adverts

Earlier today Apple posted two more iPad ads as part of their ongoing 'Your Verse' series. These latest two ads feature Detroit community activist Jason Hall and the Beijing-based electropop musicians of Yaoband. The 'Your Verse' series of ads tell stories about how different people use their iPad in their own unique ways, not only through a 30-second ad, but also through dedicated webpages that tell their stories in more detail.

Part of the 'Your Verse' webpages are dedicated to highlighting the apps used frequently by those featured in the ad. For Jason Hall that includes Prezi, Penultimate and Phoster.

It began simply enough. Just 10 friends on a Monday night ride. Soon it was 20. Then 30. In its second year, the ride grew from 130 to 300 cyclists in two weeks. As the numbers increased, Hall turned to his iPad and made it the command center for all things Slow Roll. “We use it for everything we do, from mapping to communicating to ordering new T-shirts,” he says.

For Yaoband they use iMaschine to capture various sounds that they use in their performances, whilst also using iMusic Studio and iMPC.

Inspired by the pulse of life in modern China, they started by capturing audio samples with iPad and turning them into progressive beats. Nothing was sacred as they flowed in and out of musical genres, mixing electronica with rock, rap, and traditional Chinese songs. “We were just like scientists in a lab, trying many formulas,” says Peter. “Every single song was a surprise, because it was always better than I imagined.”

You can view the full ads below, or view them on the 'Your Verse' pages for Yaoband and Jason Hall.

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Inside Apple’s Internal Training Program

In “What Makes Apple, Apple,” another course that Mr. Nelson occasionally teaches, he showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons.

How did Apple’s designers decide on three buttons? They started out with an idea, Mr. Nelson explained, and debated until they had just what was needed — a button to play and pause a video, a button to select something to watch, and another to go to the main menu.

Update: In the original article I said that the Apple employees spoke "off the record" to Chen, this was a mistake and I apologise unreservedly for that.

Brian Chen of The New York Times has perhaps the most detailed look at Apple University to date after speaking to three Apple employees who agreed to speak about it, on the condition of anonymity. The entire article is fascinating and definitely deserves a read, but for those of you who aren't familiar with Apple University, it is Apple's internal training program. The program was started by Steve Jobs in an effort to embed Apple's style of decision making into the company's culture - as was revealed in Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography:

In order to institutionalize the lessons that he and his team were learning, Jobs started an in-house center called Apple University. He hired Joel Podolny, who was dean of the Yale School of Management, to compile a series of case studies analyzing important decisions the company had made, including the switch to the Intel microprocessor and the decision to open the Apple Stores. Top executives spent time teaching the cases to new employees, so that the Apple style of decision making would be embedded in the culture.

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Apple Claims to Support 629,000 European Jobs, European Developers Take 32.5% of App Store Revenues

As first noticed by 9to5 Mac, Apple has published a webpage dedicated to promoting the impact that they have had in creating or supporting 629,000 jobs in Europe (defined as EU member countries plus Norway and Switzerland). They break the numbers down a bit more, attributing 497,000 to the App Store, 132,000 to jobs directly or indirectly supported by Apple, 116,000 jobs created at other companies as a result of Apple's growth, and 16,000 Apple employees.

Throughout our history, we have created entirely new products - and entirely new industries - by focusing on innovation. This has resulted in nearly 630,000 European jobs at Apple and at developers and businesses supported by Apple. In addition, the App Store has created hundreds of thousands of jobs that previously did not exist in the European economy, enabling developers to launch new companies and earn $6.5 billion from App Store sales worldwide.

Interestingly, they reveal that $6.5 billion in App Store revenues has been paid to European developers, given that $20 billion has been paid to developers in total, this means the share of App Store revenue taken by European developers is 32.5%. Apple has previously revealed US developers have received $9 billion, but that figure hasn't been updated since late last year, so can't be used to calculate an accurate share of revenues taken by US developers.

Share of App Store Revenues

Europe (32.5%) - Rest of World (67.5%)


The 1986 Apple Collection

Update: Reader Rick Henson got in contact and let me know that he uploaded scanned copies of the entire collection, which you can view here. The other pages feature everything from Apple-branded paperclips, lapel-pins, Swiss knife, and of course, an Apple watch.

Dug up by The Trad, The Apple Collection is an amazing look at what Apple—a company often hailed for its tasteful, minimalist design—thought was awesome back in the ’80s. Namely, gaudy belts, logo-covered baseball caps, and the word “Apple” written in as many different variants of ugly lettering as the company could find. Sadly, no black turtlenecks or jeans are on display; Steve Jobs had been ousted from the company the year previous by former PepsiCo CEO John Sculley, and wouldn’t return for another 11 years. [The A.V. Club]

The Trad originally posted this back in 2011, but I only just saw it today when The A.V. Club linked to it. Suffice to say, the above image is just a taste of what you'll get see if you view the full collection - which you're going to do, right?

[via The A.V. Club]

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Apple, Samsung Agree to End Patent Suits Outside U.S.

The agreement shows Apple and Samsung may be nearing a conclusion to what has been a drawn-out and occasionally nasty worldwide patent fight, which has sprouted alongside the booming market for touch-screen smartphones. Apple has accused Samsung of copying its iPhone designs, while Samsung has countered that Apple is using pieces of its wireless-transmission technology without permission. Neither has won a decisive decision and judges have repeatedly urged the two companies to reach a settlement rather than play out their dispute in court.

Today's announcement, sent to Bloomberg and other media organizations, means that all disputes between Apple and Samsung outside the United States are being abandoned. The international disputes had been fought for years in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands, the U.K., France and Italy.

“Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States,” the companies said in the statement. “This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts.”

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Making the Switch from Aperture to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Adobe yesterday published a six-page document outlining a workflow for those users who want to transition from Aperture to Lightroom. Its an interim measure for those users who want to switch to Lightroom now, but Adobe also affirmed their commitment to develop a proper migration tool for Aperture and Adobe Lightroom.

At Adobe, we’re working on a migration tool to help you bring your photos into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from Aperture, but if you’re eager to switch before the tool is ready, this guide can help ease your transition. We recognize that this migration may be a challenging process and offer the following resources and methodology to help get you up to speed with Lightroom and provide a road map for successfully migrating your photos.

This all comes after Apple announced in late June that it was ending development of Aperture. Apple is instead focusing its development efforts on the new Photos app, launching on Yosemite early next year.

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A Preview of the SpeakerSlide, A Kickstarter Project

Over the past few years Apple has continued to improve the speakers in the iPhone and iPad quite significantly, except for the fact that they continue to be directed out to the side rather than the front. In fairness, this is probably the most practical location for Apple but it has meant that I've purposefully cupped my hand around the iPad's speakers to help redirect the sound on a number of occasions. It is exactly this weakness where a Kickstarter project, the SpeakerSlide, is trying to improve things. It's a simple plastic (polycarbonate) accessory that redirects the sound out to the front of the device. The SpeakerSlide team were able to ship me 3D-printed evaluation models of the SpeakerSlide for both iPhone and iPad, so I gave the product a test run over the last week.

I first tested the SpeakerSlide with the iPad Air and I can honestly say that the effect it had was instantly noticeable and fairly significant. Sound coming from the iPad actually sounded like it was directed to me, which shouldn't be surprising, but what was surprising to me was how much more natural that felt. When I started taking the SpeakerSlide on and off to try and hear the difference, the effect was even more noticeable. It almost felt like the sound (without the SpeakerSlide) was muffled because of the direction of the speakers. Because the sound is being directed at you with the SpeakerSlide, it also means you don't need to have the volume as loud as you would without it, and that shouldn't be underestimated.

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Yep, Apple’s ‘Stickers’ Ad Gave MacBook Sticker Sellers a Huge Boost

When Apple published their new 'Stickers' ad for the MacBook Air last week, I presumed it would be a boon for sellers of MacBook stickers and decals. So earlier this week I decided to reach out to a few sellers of MacBook stickers and decals to see what kind of impact the ad from Apple has had on their store visits and sales.

Now this was not an in-depth investigation and the result is probably what you would have guessed: visits and sales rose dramatically last week when Apple's ad was released. It was the universal reaction I got from the sellers I talked to.

One of the sellers that was willing to give me more detailed information was Benjamin Clark from The Decal Guru. They saw a quadrupling of orders for MacBook decals since the airing of Apple's ad. In terms of unique visitors they saw an increase from a steady 500 per day (prior to the ad) to 4,500 at its highest last week.

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