AirPods Make Their Video Debut

Update: Apple has posted an additional video featuring the AirPods called 'Stroll,' which is a longer version of the Siri video described below. You can watch the video at the end of this article.


Apple posted three 15-second advertisements featuring AirPods. Each video is black and white, except for the screens of the iPhones that make an appearance in two of the clips. All three also features the single ’Down’ by Marian Hill.

Two of the videos start with a man walking down the street of a city. In the first spot, the lead character taps his AirPods twice to activate Siri and says ‘Play Marian Hill,’ which starts the music. The second spot opens with another person flipping open his AirPods case to pair his AirPods, then immediately cuts to him dancing down the street and horizontally along the side of a car. Both ads close with the taglines ‘AirPods on iPhone 7’ and ‘practically magic.’

The third ad substitutes musical notes on a staff with AirPods scrolling by as ‘Down’ plays. The clip concludes with AirPods emerging from their case and the pairing interface opening on an iPhone 7.

These are the first advertisements to focus on AirPods. The first two ads do a great job of quickly showing off a feature then focusing on the freedom of movement afforded by AirPods. The final spot that substitutes musical notes with AirPods is more focused on showing off the product, delightfully linking the AirPods with the music they play.


Game Day: Open Bar

The App Store is running a feature called ‘The best games you’ve never played,’ which is a nice way to promote games that may have slipped under your radar. One game in particular caught my eye: Open Bar by Gingear Studios, which was originally released in early 2016 and went on to win a PAX East Indie Showcase Award.

Open Bar is a classic iOS puzzle game involving color and shape matching on an irregularly-shaped grid. The goal is to form bars of matching colors that reach across the entire board. Bars cannot be finished with just the pieces on the board, however. You have to place pieces from the bottom of the screen onto the board too. What’s tricky is that when you move a piece that is already on the board to another spot, the next available piece on the bottom of the screen automatically takes the original position of the piece you moved.

That may sound a little complex, but it isn’t. Open Bar does an exceptional job of introducing each of the rules of the game gradually through a series of simple levels. If you get stuck, there’s a hint system built in that requires you to spend in-app currency. It isn’t currency bought with an In-App Purchase, though. Coins are earned by completing puzzles and can be used to buy hints or new color themes. Because the coins you earn are limited, it pays to keep some in reserve for when the levels get harder.

Open Bar’s design is excellent. The color schemes are loosely based on classic cocktails. Bubbles rise in the background of each level behind the board that seems to pop off the screen thanks to drop-shadows that create a layered effect among the game’s elements. The visuals are complemented by entertaining animations and sound effects that remind me a little of similar touches used in Letterpress.

Gingear Studios keeps Open Bar fun and low-stress by not telling you how many levels there are in the game. You can go back and retry levels, which is one way to earn coins for hints if you run out, but you can’t skip forward. Each level can be completed in just a few moves, so it’s also the kind of game that can be played in short sessions when you’re bored, which I also appreciate.

There are a lot of puzzle games on the App Store, but Open Bar strikes a unique balance between smart gameplay and a fresh design that makes it stand out from its peers. Open Bar is available on the App Store for $1.99.


Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App Coming to iOS

Speaking of the Nintendo Switch, the company posted a video earlier today showcasing the functionalities of an upcoming Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app for iPhone, which will allow parents to monitor usage of the Switch console directly from iOS.

Sam Machkovech, writing for Ars Technica, describes how the app will work:

Parents who use the app will be able to remotely monitor the full log-in and gameplay record of any child account, showing game starts, durations of play, and which games kids play. App users can also enforce gameplay time limits, and the video shows a per-day "screen time" allowance. This defaults as a baseline time-per-day rule, though parents can also choose a more granular number of hours on specific days (including a suggestion that perhaps kids get to play the Switch more on weekends).

Should a kid go over his or her allotted time, the app gives parents two options: send a on-screen warning to the child that time is up, or immediately lock the system. Nintendo is giving parents the option to let kids police their own over-time gameplay, perhaps to find a save point or other logical stoppage, but parents can send a remote account shutdown should the child disobey such an alarm's warning. In one sequence, the video shows Bowser Jr. continuing a full hour past his alarm (the little brat). What the video doesn't clarify, however, is whether parents will be able to send remote shutdown notices, or if they only find out about kids' time overages after the fact.

Aside from the tiny iPhone used by Bowser in the video, the app looks fairly impressive – it can send notifications to a Switch, set daily limitations, and even display gameplay stats collected by the console. Between parental controls and the upcoming online services, it seems like Nintendo will be delegating key features of the Switch to dedicated iOS apps. Interesting strategy.

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Remaster, Episode 26: The Nintendo Switch Presentation

Myke, Federico, and Shahid break down Nintendo's Switch presentation.

On today's Remaster, we went over all the announcements from Nintendo's Switch presentation – including games, pricing, the new online service, what Nintendo didn't announce on stage, and more. You don't want to miss this one. You can listen here.

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Apple Increases tvOS App Size Limit to 4 GB

Nice change for tvOS app developers announced today by Apple:

The size limit of a tvOS app bundle has increased from 200 MB to 4 GB, so you can include more media in your submission and provide a complete, rich user experience upon installation. Also, tvOS apps can use On-Demand Resources to host up to 20 GB of additional content on the App Store.

On one hand, this prepares the platform for 4K support and larger file sizes in the future, and it makes another step towards legitimizing the Apple TV as a micro-console (in addition to bigger app downloads, developers can also require controllers in their games for tvOS 10).

However, the 64 GB version of the 4th generation Apple TV has been around for over a year now with little explanation from Apple as to why customers would want to spend more for increased storage, and this feels like lifting a limitation because why not.

I'm curious to see what happens now, particularly in terms of game releases on tvOS. This is a welcome change for game developers, but we haven't seen any major tvOS exclusives so far.

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After Retesting, Consumer Reports Recommends the MacBook Pro

Two days ago, Apple issued a statement disputing battery life tests run on the new MacBook Pro by Consumer Reports. Based on those tests, Consumer Reports concluded it couldn’t recommend the laptop. After retesting, Consumer Reports now recommends the MacBook Pro. In a new article explaining the retesting, the publication says:

Consumer Reports has now finished retesting the battery life on Apple's new MacBook Pro laptops, and our results show that a software update released by Apple on January 9 fixed problems we’d encountered in earlier testing.

With the updated software, the three MacBook Pros in our labs all performed well, with one model running 18.75 hours on a charge. We tested each model multiple times using the new software, following the same protocol we apply to hundreds of laptops every year.

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Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card

Jason Snell:

As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.

This is the second year that I’ve presented a survey to a group of writers, editors, podcasters and developers. The survey was the same as last year’s. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote. I received 37 replies, with the average results as shown below.

I participated in this year's edition of the Six Colors Apple report card, which features average scores and answers on a variety of Apple topics. It's a good overview of where Apple stands today and where it could be going next.

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Switch Your AirPods Connection Easily with Tooth Fairy

It’s become no secret that I, along with countless others, am absolutely in love with my AirPods. I’ve only had them for a couple of weeks, but I’ve already built a habit of keeping them in my ears for hours on end, switching between my iPhone and Mac to catch up on podcasts, listen to music, and watch YouTube videos.

And while one of the best parts of AirPods is that they are already set up on all your iCloud devices after the first pairing, the need to dive into the Bluetooth menus to connect them on the Mac can waste a frustrating few seconds. For a much quicker and more convenient switching process, I’ve been using Tooth Fairy on the Mac.

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Tony Fadell Says Teams Did Not Compete to Design the iPhone

The conventional wisdom is that two teams competed inside Apple to build the original iPhone. One team's design was based on the iPod, and the other's was based on the Mac OS X. Those stories resurfaced with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s unveiling and a video showing what appears to be a prototype click wheel-based iPhone interface.

Tony Fadell, who was a key player in the development of the iPod and iPhone, spoke to Nilay Patel of The Verge to dispell the accepted belief that separate teams competed to design the iPhone:

So there were two different types of prototypes. There's one, a prototype for the UI team, and typically, because UI teams are using Director — back in the day — and quickly mocking things up on a screen. One team is doing it like it's an iPod, and another team is doing it like it was a touchscreen. The teams were working together. So it wasn't like there were two different people trying different things. And then there was the development board prototypes where we’d rewrite the UI on the hardware to try things like touchscreen and hardware buttons. So there were two tracks in hardware and software UI development running at all times. And so the thing that you're seeing [in that video] was just what the UI guys were doing, devoid of any hardware, doing it on a Mac.

According to Fadell, what is seen in the video is a Mac app that was later ported to an iPhone.

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