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Evernote 8.0 Released

Evernote unveiled a major update to its namesake app today. The company says it redesigned the app from the ground up with a focus on three functionalities:

  • Faster ways to find notes
  • New notes, now just one tap away
  • Add color and style to your notes

In general, Evernote has taken a cleaner, simpler approach to the app's design. The tab bar along the bottom of the app features a prominent plus button for adding a new note. Pressing and holding that button gives users the option to record audio, capture images, and create reminders. Evernote has also added new ways to format the text of notes with colors and other choices.

Navigation has been improved too. What was the home screen, has been eliminated. Instead, Evernote launches to wherever you left off the last time you used it. Features like notebooks, tags, and reminders are still available but have been tucked away in the UI so they are less prominent, creating a less distracting experience overall.

Although I have not had an opportunity to thoroughly test the update, I am encouraged by Evernote’s renewed focus on note taking. The redesign is a good start, but the company has a long way to go to win back the trust of many users based on feedback we’ve gotten from MacStories readers. For those interested, David Pierce has a great piece on Wired covering Evernote’s recent missteps, where it hopes to take its product, and the ongoing challenges it faces. How Evernote addresses its past missteps and communicates the changes it’s made to users will be just as critical to its future as the redesign released today.

An Interview with Apple Music’s Lowe, Saint John, and Jackson

Complex published an interview with what it dubs Apple’s ‘Stream Team:’ Zane Lowe, Bozoma Saint John, and Larry Jackson. The three sat down with Complex to discuss Apple Music, its evolution since it launched in June 2015, where the music industry is heading, and life at Apple.

Regarding their vision for Apple Music as a product, the trio told Complex:

It’s been almost 18 months since Apple Music’s launch, and it isn’t a simple streaming platform anymore. How would each of you describe Apple Music today?

Larry Jackson: It’s really interesting that you would even ask a question like that, because it means that we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve initially: Make something that’s the intersection of all things pop-culture. To make it more than just a utility. I like to think of it as a place where the best creative thinkers in music can congregate and come up with different ideas.

Zane Lowe: Larry was the first person who ever called me and asked if I wanted to be involved in Apple Music. For the most part, it remains how he and I talked about it in that first conversation, which was a place for music to live, and for artists to call home, and for an audience to feel like this is where the conversation is happening. I want it to go deeper than just availability.

Bozoma Saint John: Apple Music is a living, breathing brand. Obviously, as a marketer, I love to work with brands that aren’t static, that have life and personality. Apple Music has that. It’s very affirming to be able to take the personalities that already exist and then make that one statement that can move culture. 

Saint John and Lowe also addressed how, at Apple, the artistry of music exists alongside the technology used to deliver it to music fans, echoing Steve Jobs’ explanation of the intersection of technology and the liberal arts:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working on this project at a company like Apple?

Saint John: Apple is a unique company, in that the art and the science sit together very nicely. There’s an appreciation for both sides of the brain. For me, it’s a much easier conversation in this particular environment, because you have to appreciate what is a very artistic, emotional, ever-changing platform, and also have the rigor of a technology that cannot fail, that has to be consistent. It doesn’t have any flexibility.

Lowe: With tech, it’s mathematics. There are hard margins. What happens when you take something that you love, that makes you feel a certain way, that’s made of those hard margins? What does the future feel and sound like? How do you keep the humanity and the feelings and the stories and the conversations in it? 

Apple Music has evolved quite a bit since it launched and based on recent reports, that appears likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Complex’s interview with Lowe, Saint John, and Jackson, which includes a video segment worth watching, is a fascinating snapshot of the thoughts of three of the people leading Apple Music at a time of ever-increasing competition among streaming services.


Daylite – Business Productivity App for Mac & iOS [Sponsor]

This week is sponsored by Marketcircle, makers of Daylite – the business productivity app made for busy entrepreneurs and teams on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you’re struggling to juggle business coming in, and managing current projects, then Daylite is a tool you definitely want to check out.

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The best part about Daylite is it’s not a web app, so you can keep working even when you don’t have an Internet connection. And, new in Daylite 6.1 is support for multitasking on the iPad.

Try Daylite for free for 30 days starting today.

Our thanks to Marketcircle for sponsoring MacStories this week with Daylite.

The Mac mini Family Tree

Four members of the Mac mini family.

Four members of the Mac mini family.

"The Mac mini is BYODKM," Steve Jobs said, in front of a crowded and slightly confused audience at Macworld 2005.

"Bring your own display, keyboard and mouse," he continued. "We supply the computer, you supply the rest."

The Mac mini was designed to lure switchers to the platform. A new customer could simply unplug their desktop PC and hook a new Mac mini up to their existing peripherals.1

The original machine started at just $499, making the Mac mini the lowest-cost Mac Apple has ever sold.

Read more

Apple Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, a holiday dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of the civil rights leader. Last night, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a tweet honoring King:

This morning, Apple has dedicated its homepage to a full-page image of Dr. King that includes the quote:

“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Iovine Comments Suggest Apple Music’s Video Strategy Has Broadened

Evidence continues to mount that Apple’s video streaming ambitions for Apple Music extend beyond the occasional music-related project. Last week, The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources that claim Apple is looking to acquire original television series and movies for the service. That story was given weight by comments made by Jimmy Iovine on Saturday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that was covered by The Hollywood Reporter:

At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video.

Iovine explained that:

We're fighting 'free.' So a simple utility where, 'here's all the songs, here's all the music, give me $10 and we're cool,' is not going to scale.

That certainly sounds like someone intent on broadening the scope of Apple Music’s video offerings. To date, Apple has produced primarily music-related video content, including a Taylor Swift concert and music documentaries. However, upcoming projects, like Planet of the Apps, Carpool Karaoke, and Dr. Dre’s drama Vital Signs, have already begun to veer away from a strict music oriented focus. If the speculation is accurate, Apple Music’s moves could open a whole new dimension of competition among streaming music services.

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.