Apple Posts New iPhone Advert: “Apple Pay”

Apple's fourth advert featuring the new "If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone" tagline was last night posted online. The new advert, "Apple Pay", naturally focuses on Apple Pay, demonstrating Apple's contactless payment method available on the iPhone 6 in the US and UK. The advert's narration makes particular mention of how Apple Pay is "faster", "safer" and keeps your information private.

This is an iPhone, and this is Apple Pay, which lets you shop in a faster, simpler way. For groceries, and kicks, toys and your lunchtime fix. It's safer than a credit card and keeps your info, yours. And you can already use it in one million stores. If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone.

You can watch the new advert below the break, or on YouTube.

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1Password 5.5 Brings UI Tweaks and Improvements to Touch ID, Apple Watch App, and Security

Released today on the App Store, the latest update to our favorite password manager brings some nice minor adjustments. Most of the changes improve the flow and ease of use of the app, and while there aren't any game changers here, numerous tiny annoyances that have been frustrating me for a while have been wiped out.

The first feature mentioned in the release notes is the ability to switch between multiple vaults with only two taps using their new vault switcher. I personally only use one vault with 1Password so I don't have much to say here, but I'm always a fan of doing things in fewer taps so this feature gets a thumbs up from me.

My favorite changes have to do with Touch ID and security tweaks. There have been quite a few times when I've accidentally canceled the Touch ID dialogue, and until now that meant that I was then required to type my password back in before the app would unlock. With version 5.5, there is now a very nice looking fingerprint button that will show up beneath the password input box. If you accidentally cancel Touch ID before unlocking the app, you can now tap the fingerprint button to bring the Touch ID prompt back up and unlock without typing. The feature of course still respects your Touch ID timeout settings, so if you're trying to unlock when Touch ID has been disabled until the next time your password is typed, tapping the fingerprint button won't do anything.

Next on security, in regard to the 1Password extension, the extension and the main 1Password app now share unlock settings. This means that if you unlock the app, the extension is unlocked, and vice versa. If you, like me, have experienced typing your password into the extension (which should then enable Touch ID) and then going to the main app and discovering that you now need to type the password again, then you'll be happy about this feature as well. Timeout settings are still respected on the extension as well, also of course.

Another small but appreciated security improvement: if you fill your login credentials on an unsecured website (think http://) when the saved URL for the login is secure (think https://), 1Password will warn you that this is about to happen. This is one of those features that you hope you would never need anyway but if you do it could save you a lot of trouble.

Finally, among some other various and very minor changes, the Apple Watch app has been updated to allow you to see the PIN numbers on your credit card entries. Convenient if you're into that sort of thing.

Overall, 1Password 5.5 is a solid update. Mostly polish, but polishing shiny things just makes them shinier, and who doesn't like that? If you don't have 1Password yet then I'm not sure why you read all of this, but you can find it in the App Store, and you should go buy it right now.


Dropbox Adds Support for Storing URLs Alongside Files

Example from the Linked Dropbox Blog post

Example from the Linked Dropbox Blog post

Dropbox yesterday announced a new feature to allow you to drag URLs from websites into your Dropbox folders to store them alongside your files. The feature is available on both the desktop and web versions of dropbox, and is as easy as dragging from the address bar on a web browser and dropping the URL into a local Dropbox folder or the Dropbox web app in a browser window. The URL is stored right alongside the rest of your files. Clicking on it from a Finder window opens it right away, while clicking on it from the browser version will open a page with a large "Open in new tab" button in the center. You can open the same page on the Dropbox mobile app, and open the URL in Safari from there, but there's no way as of yet to store URLs to your Dropbox from mobile.

The new feature is reminiscent to me of a similar feature in the upcoming iOS 9/OS X El Capitan version of Apple's Notes app. You can save URLs directly into your notes, which allows you to easily keep relevant sources or other web media close at hand while working on or reviewing the note. Dropbox's take on this allows that type of easy organization of sources or relevant web media without forcing you to use a proprietary file format. While Notes may let you view previews of the URLs inline, in exchange the files can only be opened in the Notes app. If you want them elsewhere you'll need to export them to PDF and lose any interactivity with the file or the associated URLs. With Dropbox's new URL storing feature, you can store websites alongside files no matter what the project that you are working on may be, and then access them from any platform.

The lack of support for adding URLs from mobile does seem like a shame to me. I often go through Twitter on my iPad or iPhone, and it would be great to be able to quickly save URLs to my Dropbox via the iOS share sheet when I come across something relevant to a project I'm working on. That said, it seems like such an obvious feature that I would be surprised if it was not implemented eventually. Hopefully we'll see it soon.

While I'm not certain right now if I will go all in with this feature and start saving all of the sources for projects I'm working on into Dropbox alongside the project files, it's definitely nice to have the option. In fact that's my favorite part of the implementation: it will integrate directly into existing workflows without requiring any changes whatsoever. Since the URLs are stored separately from the files, the most you'll need to do is move your project into it's own folder (but let's be real, who doesn't keep projects in their own folders anyway?) and then you can drag links on top of the folder to store them alongside the rest of the project. You can do this right now, the feature already works.

This feature is an excellent example of Dropbox innovating on its platform while still staying true to itself. Rather than getting sucked into the modern trend of proprietary file formats with fancy inline previews and interactivity, Dropbox kept things simple, and kept their hands out of our file extensions; yet they still made a way for us to achieve the same overall goal that apps like Notes and Evernote have shown to be useful. I love seeing implementations like this from Dropbox, and I hope they continue finding new ways to make their system more powerful without adding layers of complexity for their users to deal with.


Google Photos Will Now Show You Photos and Videos From the Past

Sean O'Kane at The Verge:

The Google Photos app will now serve up cards in the “assistant view” that urge you to “rediscover this day,” and they can include photos, photo collages, or videos. The cards will tell you where you were and who you were with on that day, and the app also sticks a little graphic over everything that tells you which year it was from — another little bit that is extremely similar to Timehop.

The first rule of modern photo management services is that, sooner or later, they're going to bring back a feature from Everpix. I used to love this in the defunct service; it makes sense for the Assistant view of Google Photos. It's surprising to me that Apple still hasn't added something like this to Photos (you can search for “one year ago”, but it's not as precise or visible).

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Recovering Deleted Files and Data from iCloud

Dan Moren, writing for Six Colors on Apple's new iCloud feature to restore deleted files and data:

A few weeks back, I noted that recovering lost files from iCloud required a trip to the web interface. At the time, the only data available for recovery were files stored in iCloud, but in the intervening weeks, Apple’s added new capabilities and reorganized the layout in the process.

Rather than Apple squirreling away data recovery options under “Advanced > Data & Security”, you now scroll down to an Advanced section, which contains direct links to file recovery and adds the option to restore both contacts and calendar/reminder data. Clicking any of those links will open the restore data dialog box with the correct tab pre-selected.

On both MacStories and Connected, I've often noted how the lack of visible file versions and ability to restore deleted files has pushed me away from iCloud to embrace the safety of Dropbox. I'm still going to need Dropbox for the foreseeable future (and there's still no comparison with what iCloud is offering when it comes to recovering deleted files and viewing versions), but this is a start by Apple and I like how it applies to iCloud data as well – not just files. More of this, please.

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Photoflow: An Instagram Client for the Mac

I've been using Instagram (shameless plug) almost since day one, and although I don't post to it that frequently, I do look at my feed on a daily basis. For the most part I've always used the official Instagram client, except for a brief period when I also used Flow, an iPad Instagram app. Until this week, I'd never tried an Instagram client for the Mac, which is what Photoflow is.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Photoflow includes virtually every single feature that the official Instagram app has. Of course there is one giant exception; you cannot post images to Instagram from Photoflow. But that's a restriction that Instagram has imposed on all third party apps, it's not a failure of Photoflow. But almost everything else, whether it be liking images (but not commenting), interactive hashtags, featured images, viewing profiles or searching nearby locations is available in Photoflow. It also supports easy account switching and can send you notifications for new images, comments, likes and followers.

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The Colors Of An App Icon

Stuart Hall from AppBot has previously written articles about common trends amongst popular apps when it comes to app names, descriptions, screenshots and countries, and he is back today with one about the colors of app icons.

Hall was able to extract the dominant colors from app icons and then plot them on a color wheel. The article features several different 'color wheels' showing the top 200 free iOS apps, paid iOS apps, iOS social apps, iOS games and free Mac apps.

You really need to view the article for yourself, but I have embedded one color wheel below. Hall shared a draft of the article with me and I suggested he generate one more color wheel which plotted the app icons based on their major color and sized to reflect their position on the charts (#1 is largest). Hall kindly obliged and you can see the chart below, representing the top 100 free iOS apps.

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Apple Music Festival Arriving in September for Ten Nights at London’s Roundhouse

Apple today announced that it will host an Apple Music Festival at London's Roundhouse for ten nights running from September 19 through to September 28. Headlining the festival will be performances from Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Florence + The Machine and Disclosure.

“We wanted to do something really special for music fans this year,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The Apple Music Festival is a greatest hits set of ten unbelievable nights featuring some of the best performers on the planet appearing live and interacting directly with their fans on Connect and Beats 1.”

The performances will be broadcast live and on-demand on Apple Music, iTunes and through the Apple Music Festival channel on the Apple TV. Apple is also promising coverage on Beats 1, and "backstage news and footage" on Apple Music Connect.

You can learn more about the Apple Music Festival in Apple Music on your iOS device or in iTunes. Additionally, for those who live in the UK, you can apply to win tickets to the Apple Music Festival.

The event was previously called the iTunes Music Festival which Apple has hosted at the Roundhouse since 2007. Unlike in previous years where the event usually ran for an entire month (September in recent years), this year's festival run has been shortened to ten nights.


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.