As in the past, the centerpiece of our coverage is Federico’s iOS and iPadOS 13 review. We’re also excited to share Alex Guyot’s comprehensive watchOS 6 review with you tomorrow, as well as a long list of app updates and debuts that spotlight the new features of iOS 13 that we will be publishing in the coming days.
Among the Club-only extras this year are two eBooks, a set of stunning desktop and mobile wallpapers, advanced shortcuts, and bonus podcast episodes. Check out all of the details after the break. If you’d like to learn more about the Club or sign up to take advantage of all these extras, plus perks from previous years, please visit club.macstories.net.
Following years of a judicious union between platforms, it’s time for iPad to embark on its own journey.
In looking back at major iOS releases from the recent past, it’s easy to see how building and positioning these annual updates has become a careful balancing act for Apple.
In last year’s iOS 12, we saw the company focus on improving performance, providing users with tools to understand their device usage habits, and adapting Workflow to the modern era of Siri and proactive suggestions. The strategy was largely successful: iOS 12 was regarded as Apple’s most reliable iOS release of late – a reputation that has resulted in a 90% adoption rate a year later; and the Shortcuts app – the highlight of last year from a user feature perspective – is becoming a built-in (and thus more powerful) app in iOS 13.
For all that Apple accomplished in iOS 12, however, some areas of the experience inevitably had to be put on the back-burner. Besides improvements to Reminders and Files, iOS 12 lacked a long-awaited dark mode (which was rolled out on macOS instead) as well as more substantial tweaks to the ever-evolving iOS 7 design language; chief among iOS 12’s absentee list, of course, was iPad. Even though Apple had trained users to expect major additions to the tablet platform on a biennial schedule (see iOS 9 and iOS 11), the lack of meaningful iPad features in iOS 12 spurred a contentious discussion when it became apparent that new iPad Pro hardware was so far ahead of its software, it legitimized asking whether investing in that hardware was even worth it.
The annual debate that surrounds which features make it into each major iOS release is symptomatic of a complicated truth: iOS isn’t just the operating system that runs on iPhones anymore, and these annual releases are more than a mere collection of updated apps. iOS is the platform for an ecosystem of devices – from our wrists and speakers to cars and TV sets – and its changes have repercussions that ripple far beyond an updated Reminders app or a new icon set.
This, of course, has been the case for a few years at this point, but the nature of iOS as an all-encompassing platform has never been as evident as it is today in iOS 13. For the first time since I started reviewing Apple’s annual iOS updates, it feels like the company is now keenly aware that a new iOS version has to cover an array of themes that can’t be pushed back for scheduling reasons. A single area of attention isn’t enough anymore – not for the Apple of 2019 as an economic, political, and social force, and not for iOS, the engine powering devices that aren’t just screens for apps, but bona fide lifestyle computers.
As a result, there’s something for everyone in iOS 13 and all the recurring themes of Tim Cook’s Apple are touched upon this time around. iOS 13 improves Face ID recognition and promises improvements to app download sizes and performance. Apple is sending strong signals on its commitment to privacy as a feature with a new sign-in framework for apps and enhancements to location tracking controls and HomeKit cameras. iOS’ design language is getting its biggest update in years with dark mode, new tools for developers to express colors and embed glyphs in their user interfaces, updated context menus, and redesigns aimed at facilitating one-handed interactions. We have notable improvements to built-in apps, including the rebuilt Reminders and Health, an overhauled Files app, and hundreds of quality-of-life tweaks that, in big and small ways, make iOS more capable and efficient.
No stone is left unturned in iOS 13 – and that includes iPad too.
The iPad experience has always been largely consistent with the iPhone – particularly since Apple unified core iOS interactions around a screen without a Home button – but also distinct from it. iOS 13 makes this distinction official by splitting itself in a second branch called iPadOS, which uses iOS as the foundation but is specifically optimized and designed for iPad.
It was clear when the new iPad Pro launched in late 2018 that it told only one part of a bigger story about the role of the tablet in Apple’s modern ecosystem. With iPadOS, Apple is ready to tell that full story: while the iPad has always been an extension of iOS, sharing key similarities with the iPhone hardware and software, it’s been evolving – arguably, a bit too slowly – into a different breed of computer that is fundamentally distinct from a phone.
We’ve been able to observe this divergence starting in iOS 9 with Split View multitasking and Apple Pencil, and the transition continued with iOS 11 and its drag and drop-infused environment. It was only natural (and well-deserved) for the iPad to begin advancing in a parallel direction to iOS – informed and inspired by it, but also capable of growing on its own and tackling problems that an iPhone doesn’t have to solve.
From this standpoint, there are two sides to iOS 13: on one hand, an underlying tide that raises all platforms, featuring a distillation of themes Apple comes back to on an annual basis; on the other, a fork in the road, opening a new path for the iPad’s next decade. And against this backdrop, a single question looms large:
Every year I look forward to Austin Mann taking the latest iPhones through their paces somewhere in the world. This year, Mann is on tour with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China where he went out into the countryside to capture some stunning portraits and landscapes.
Mann’s review covers the new Ultra Wide lens, Night Mode, Smart HDR improvements, and ability to capture outside the frame, along with wishes for additional improvements. Mann’s take on Night Mode:
As long as I can remember, the top question I’ve received from iPhone photographers, beginners and pros alike, is How can I shoot better pictures in low light? This year’s addition of Night mode is the answer to the question. It’s easy to use, crazy powerful, and because it’s automatic it will completely change how everyone shoots on their iPhone.
Mann confirms what seemed to be the case from the photos that Apple showed off last week at its event in Cupertino – Apple has implemented Night Mode in a way that doesn’t try to turn night into day:
One thing I love about Apple’s approach to Night mode is the strategic balance of solving a technical problem while also caring deeply about artistic expression. When you look at the image above, it’s clear their team didn’t take the let’s-make-night-look-like-day approach, as some of their competitors have. Instead, it feels more like an embrace of what it actually is (night) while asking, “How do we capture the feel of this scene in a beautiful way?”
From what I understand, the way Night mode actually works is the camera captures a bunch of short exposures and slightly longer exposures, checks them for sharpness, throws out the bad ones and blends the good ones. On a traditional dSLR/mirrorless camera, a 5 second exposure is one single, continuous recording of the light throughout the duration of the shutter so any movement (of subject or camera) is recorded.
But with iPhone 11 Pro the rules are different… it’s not capturing one single continuous frame but blending a whole bunch of shots with variable lengths (some shorter exposures to freeze motion and longer shots to expose the shadows.) This means the subject can actually move during your exposure but still remain sharp.
If you’ve been wondering about the new Ultra Wide camera on the new iPhones or the other new features of the camera app, be sure to check out Austin Mann’s full review for great technical and artistic insights about what Apple has accomplished with its new cameras as well as some absolutely fantastic examples of what they can do.
The Apple Watch Series 5 will go on sale this Friday, and the first reviews for the product are now being published. This year’s Watch update comes with a far shorter feature list than usual: it includes an always-on display, built-in compass, and expanded LTE bands that enable Emergency SOS even when traveling internationally. The prime focus of early reviews is, as expected, the Watch’s always-on display.
Last year when Siri shortcuts debuted on iOS 12, developer James Thomson added one of the first and best implementations for creating custom shortcuts with his calculator app PCalc. However, iOS 12 required PCalc to rely on the system clipboard as a means of passing inputs to calculations and then outputting the results, which added complexity to shortcuts that used PCalc actions. iOS and iPadOS 13 free PCalc of that constraint, and with the addition of parameter support and the conversational Siri shortcuts coming in iOS and iPadOS 13.1, PCalc’s automation features are vastly more powerful.
Federico’s review of PCalc 3.8 featured a shortcut called PCalc Currencies, which is a terrific example of what a PCalc-based shortcut looked like in iOS 12. The shortcut coverts Euros to US Dollars and British Pounds. The first step is to pass the number of Euros to the shortcut from the system clipboard and then create a variable to store that value. Next, the shortcut uses PCalc’s conversion action to calculate the US Dollar equivalent, store it in a separate variable, and then do the same for pounds. The final step displays the results using each of the three currency variables. In total, the shortcut uses twelve actions, many of which involve moving data on and off the clipboard.
PCalc Currencies for iOS 12 (left) and iOS 13 (right).
With PCalc’s new Shortcuts actions, we can reduce the number of actions from twelve to just four. It’s a fantastic demonstration of the power that iOS and iPadOS 13 add to third-party shortcut actions and the reduction in complexity that can be achieved with even a relatively simple shortcut. Okay, let’s update Federico’s shortcut.
Today the first reviews for the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro dropped, and they should inspire excitement in anyone planning to pick up a new iPhone later this week. Apple’s claims for massive battery life increases on the Pro models seem to have proven true, Face ID is better than before, and each device is more durable than before too, but the cameras are where this year’s iPhones truly shine. In years past the iPhone was the undisputed camera king, and with the 11 and 11 Pro Apple is building a compelling case why that’s true once more.
Earlier today, a series of reviews of Apple Arcade were published across the web and on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Apple took the wraps off the service itself for at least a subset of people running the iOS 13 or 13.1 betas. Arcade doesn’t officially launch until September 19th, but it appears that Apple is using a slow roll-out to some beta testers to test the service and create buzz around the launch.
The design of the Arcade tab is reminiscent of the App Store’s other tabs, although more space is reserved for spotlighting individual titles, and so far, there is little editorial content. It will be interesting to see how this mix evolves as more games become available and more editorial content is created. In addition to themed collections like ‘Start Your Adventure’ and ‘No Time to Blink,’ Arcade has a section dedicated to ‘New Arrivals,’ includes hint guides for three of the games and a button at the bottom of the view for accessing every game in the service.
I’m looking forward to trying all of these as well as discovering new titles.
As I said on AppStories this week, I’ve been cautiously optimistic and excited about Arcade. What I’ve seen of the new service in my brief time with it so far today is perfectly in line with what I hoped for. Apple seems to have struck a nice balance among many different categories of games, and with only about half of the 100+ titles that should be coming soon, that is an excellent start.
Of course, Textastic is also compatible with Markdown. Not only can you write in Markdown, but you can preview Markdown with the app’s built in web server or Safari. Textastic is compatible with Sublime Text and Textmate syntax definitions too. You can even create your very own.
Textastic goes well beyond the features of a classic editor though. You can manage remote file transfers with FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Dropbox, and Google Drive and there’s a terrific, full-featured SSH terminal built right into the app. Because Textastic supports tabs, you can even have multiple files and SSH terminals open simultaneously.
With robust search and replace that supports regular expressions, keyboard shortcuts that are customizable, and support for Git repositories using Working Copy, it’s one of the most powerful code editors you’ll find anywhere. Textastic is a great iOS citizen too, supporting the Files app, drag and drop, printing, iCloud Drive, Split View, and a whole lot more. Add to that a long history of development and support, and Textastic is an app you can use with confidence.