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1Blocker X

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Apple Showcases New Emoji Arriving in iOS 12, macOS Mojave, and watchOS 5

In celebration of World Emoji Day, Apple has released a preview of the new emoji arriving later this year in updates to iOS, macOS, and watchOS. There will be 157 new emoji in total, but today's preview only features a select few.

A centerpiece of the emoji additions this year will be improved diversity in hair options, including red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and bald.

Last year the new set of emoji was added with iOS 11.1 in October, while the year before that new emoji didn't arrive until iOS 10.2 in December. One way or another, it's only a matter of months until some version of iOS 12 puts the 157 new emoji in the hands of users.


After Two Years with Pinterest, Instapaper Regains Its Independence

From Instapaper's blog:

Today, we’re announcing that Pinterest has entered into an agreement to transfer ownership of Instapaper to Instant Paper, Inc., a new company owned and operated by the same people who’ve been working on Instapaper since it was sold to betaworks by Marco Arment in 2013. The ownership transfer will occur after a 21 day waiting period designed to give our users fair notice about the change of control with respect to their personal information.

We want to emphasize that not much is changing for the Instapaper product outside the new ownership. The product will continue to be built and maintained by the same people who’ve been working on Instapaper for the past five years. We plan to continue offering a robust service that focuses on readers and the reading experience for the foreseeable future.

Following Pinterest's acquisition of Instapaper almost two years ago, there was a reasonable level of concern about what that change would mean for the popular read-it-later service. From an outside perspective, however, it seems like the transition has gone smoothly – which makes today's announcement all the more surprising.

It will be interesting to see what changes this move brings in the short-term. In the immediate future, the company has already confirmed it's working hard on making Instapaper available in Europe again. Looking further out, the service's business model is a big question mark. Before Pinterest came along, Instapaper offered a premium subscription option that was later discontinued post-acquisition and its features made publicly available to all users. A new subscription plan may be in the works, likely with currently unannounced new features. Only time will tell what the future holds, but in any case, it's always nice to see an app's development team in full control of its product's destiny.

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1Blocker X: The Fast and Secure Safari Content Blocker [Sponsor]

Advertising and trackers are a big problem on many websites. Pages load slowly wasting your time, draining your battery, and using up your mobile data. Even worse, ads sometimes serve malware to unsuspecting users. To take back control, you need 1Blocker X.

1Blocker X is a complete ground-up rewrite of the original 1Blocker that puts even more fine-grained controls in the hands of its users. In fact, the app now has over 120,000 powerful rules that are organized into categories like:

  • Block Ads
  • Block Adult Sites
  • Block Annoyances
  • Block Comments
  • Block Trackers
  • Custom Rules
  • International Rules

In the unlikely event that 1Blocker X doesn’t have a rule you need, you can add your own too.

One aspect of content blocking that often gets forgotten is that they aren’t just about blocking ads. 1Blocker X also eliminates distracting page elements like social network share buttons and comments that get in the way of an enjoyable web experience.

You can even hide individual elements on a webpage with 1Blocker’s powerful action extension. All you have to do is invoke the extension, tap what you want to hide, and then save. It’s incredibly simple and effective for page elements that aren’t already blocked by 1Blocker X’s extensive built-in rules.

So don’t wait, go get 1Blocker X today on the App Store or if you’re feeling lucky, enter to win one of 30 copies of 1Blocker X that we are giving away here. The giveaway will be open until Noon Eastern time on Monday, July 23, 2018 and winners will be contacted within 7 days thereafter.

Our thanks to 1Blocker X for sponsoring MacStories this week.


iOS 12 AR Quick Look Demos

I recently came across a demo of AR Quick Look, an iOS 12 feature that allows apps to present 3D and AR previews for objects built using the new USDZ file format. Shopify, the popular e-commerce platform, is going to take advantage of AR Quick Look to let customers preview items in their surroundings directly from Safari, contextually to the shopping experience.

Here's Daniel Beauchamp, writing on the Shopify AR/VR blog:

For the past three years, Shopify has been exploring how AR / VR will change the way consumers shop. Last year, we showed how Apple’s ARKit could be used to provide compelling AR commerce experiences. The main complexity was that ARKit needed to be run in an app. This meant that Shopify merchants looking to offer these experiences had to have their own unique mobile apps that customers would need to download.

With iOS 12’s AR Quick Look, 3D models of products in the usdz file format can be uploaded directly to online Shopify stores and viewed in AR right within Safari, without needing to download a separate app.

His video gives you an even better idea of the integration possible between Safari, ARKit, and Apple Pay in iOS 12:

Beauchamp argues that "the web is how AR becomes mainstream" – looking at these demos, it's hard to disagree. Not having to install a dedicated ARKit app for every single online store we use and actually having the ability to share and preview models from Safari or Messages is going to remove a ton of friction from the current ARKit experience (as far as shopping is concerned). I can imagine that producing 3D objects at scale will be merchants' biggest hurdle in the short term, though.

I wasn't aware of this until I did some research, but Apple also launched an interactive AR Quick Look Gallery as part of their ARKit 2 mini-site. You can also test Shopify's improved shopping flow featuring ARKit and Apple Pay here.

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Connected, Episode 200: An Occupational Hazard

Stephen is joined by Casey Liss and John Voorhees to discuss the 10th anniversary of the App Store, MobileMe's reputation and rumors of a busy fall for Apple's hardware teams.

I wasn't able to join Stephen on Connected this week, but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion about the App Store, iCloud, and Apple rumors for the second half of 2018 with Casey and John. You can listen here.

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The App Store at 10: The Next Decade

The App Store has changed the world. Over the last decade society as we know it has been irrevocably shaped by the App Store and its products.

Just as no one 10 years ago could have predicted where the App Store would have brought us today, so is it impossible to guess what the next decade might bring. There's no stopping us from trying though.

As we close out our App Store anniversary week coverage, here are our hopes and expectations for the next 10 years.

Federico

Apple predictions often age badly because the company has a tendency to not directly follow the latest market trends; at the very least, they offer their unique twist on ideas others have been experimenting with for some time. However, based on how the App Store has evolved for the past 10 years, I see some interesting signs in its trajectory that are pointing to obvious changes coming down the road. So, even though I may turn out to be dramatically wrong in 10 years, here's my list of App Store changes I believe will occur over the course of the next decade.

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Personal App Store Stories from the MacStories Team

Over the past week we've released articles and podcast episodes documenting the stories of Apple and third-party developers during the App Store's decade of life, but as our celebration week nears its end, we wanted to shift gears and share our own stories.

The story of the App Store doesn't just belong to Apple, nor is it limited to the developers who have made the App Store such a vibrant marketplace. Everyone who has ever downloaded an app on their iPhone, iPad, or even iPod Touch has their own story of the App Store's impact on their life. In that vein, here are the MacStories team's personal stories of what the Store and its products have meant to us.

Federico

I told the story of how MacStories came to be before. After dropping out of university (where I thought I was going to study Philosophy – it's funny to imagine another timeline where I ended up a Philosophy professor), I got a full-time job as a seller at a physical eBay store. Those stores, which were quite common before the smartphone era and the mobile-marketplace app boom, helped folks who didn't know how or didn't have the patience to sell old items on eBay. My job consisted of assisting customers who came into the store with boxes full of stuff, explaining to them how eBay and our fees worked, putting items up for sale, monitoring the auction, and taking care of shipments. It was a fun job, but it was also repetitive and somewhat boring after a while, yet it allowed me to save money toward the first computer I wanted to buy entirely with my own money. I wanted to buy a 15" MacBook Pro.

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App Preservation: Saving the App Store’s History

The App Store had just turned one when, sometime in the summer of 2009, concept artist and game developer Zach Gage published a preview video for an iPhone game he had been working on. The game was based on a simple premise: Gage's girlfriend liked playing Tetris for iPhone, which he thought was a rushed adaptation of the console game that didn't take advantage of the iPhone's unique hardware. "I just looked at it", Gage told me in an interview on our podcast AppStories, "and I thought – I can make a better game than this". So, in his spare time between different projects, he got to work.

The game, which launched in fall 2009, was called Unify. On his website, Gage described it as "Touch-Tetris for both sides of the brain". In Unify you can see traits that would define Gage's later work on the App Store: the game takes a well-known concept and adds a twist to it – blocks come in from both sides of the screen rather than falling from the top as in classic Tetris. Graphics are minimal, but instantly recognizable and somewhat cute in their simplicity. Unify is entirely controlled via touch, eschewing any kind of console-like onscreen controls. "I was trying to imagine what Tetris would look like as a game designed for multitouch", Gage added. "And that kind of got me hooked. After that, I just kept making games".

Unify has all the elements for an ideal App Store origin story: a basic preview video uploaded to Vimeo 9 years ago, before YouTube became the de-facto standard for videogame trailers; an independent artist and game developer who, years later, would win awards for innovation in mobile gaming; a funny backstory that stems from big publishers' inability to adapt console games to touchscreens a decade ago.

You'd think that Unify would make for the perfect case study in app development and mobile creativity, if only for historic purposes. Except that Unify is gone from the App Store, as if it never existed in the first place.

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Game On: A Decade of iOS Gaming

Nowhere has the App Store’s impact been more profound than the game industry. Roughly one-third of the 500 initial apps that debuted on the App Store were games. The percentage of games on the App Store has risen over the past 10 years, but not by much. By some estimates, between 35 and 40 percent of the App Store's apps are games today. What has changed is the size of the Store. With over 2.1 million apps currently available for download, that means around 800,000 are games.

Mobile gaming has become the primary driver of growth in the game industry over the past several years. According to a recent report by Newzoo, the mobile game industry, in which iOS plays a central role, will be a $100 billion market in just three years time.

The success of games on iOS parallels the phenomenal success of the iPhone and App Store. The iPhone’s hardware played a significant role with its novel design that provided game developers with the flexibility to experiment. Just as important, though, was the advent of In-App Purchases. Games, like other apps, were originally free or paid. When In-App Purchases came along, a whole category of games that offered in-app, paid consumables, level packs, and other digital goods was born that has been wildly successful for many game developers.

Now, free-to-play games with In-App Purchases dominate the top grossing charts and a relatively small cadre of games soak up the majority of money spent on the App Store, making it harder than ever to succeed as a game developer on the App Store. It’s a familiar story faced by app and game developer alike. Notwithstanding the stiff competition in the games category though, the mobile game market’s sheer size has allowed creative, independent game developers to find ways to succeed on the App Store.

Perhaps most exciting of all though, the success of mobile games has led to an enormous influx of people into gaming who would never have considered themselves gamers. That creates a tremendous opportunity for Apple and game developers which has become all the more interesting as the constraints of early iOS devices have been replaced by hardware that approaches the capability of game consoles. Mobile games stand at a pivotal moment in time that has the potential to upend preconceptions about the distinction between mobile and other video games, but to understand what the future might hold, it’s instructive to start by looking at the past 10 years.

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