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AppStories, Episode 216 – Substack, Email, and Data Portability

This week on AppStories, we explore the popularity of Substack among writers leaving big media companies, rethink our email workflows after leaving Hey, and consider data portability and the tradeoffs of proprietary app systems.

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Epic Versus Apple: The MacStories Overview

Later today, Epic Games and Apple will square off in a high-stakes trial in US federal district court that’s nominally about money. However, if that were all that was at stake, the claims each company has made against the other would likely have been resolved by now. Companies the size of Apple and Epic settle because it’s rarely in their interest to have a judge make decisions for them. However, this trial is different.

There’s more to these disputes than Epic’s allegation that Apple violated antitrust laws and Apple’s claims that Epic violated its developer agreement. Underlying it all is the way the dispute was precipitated by Epic. The Fortnite creator’s actions don’t necessarily absolve Apple of antitrust violations, but Epic’s calculated orchestration of events leading to the dispute have not gone unnoticed by the judge presiding over the case and may influence the trial’s outcome. Coupled with Epic’s efforts to get regulators around the world to take up its cause and its very public crusade against the way Apple operates the App Store, it’s not surprising that the claims haven’t settled. Instead, the parties will begin today with opening arguments in front of US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who the parties have agreed will decide the dispute instead of a jury.

Regardless of your opinion of the way Apple runs the App Store or Epic’s litigation tactics, the thing to keep in mind as the trial starts is that the judge is being asked to settle a legal dispute, not set policy. Both companies have made specific claims against the other, which by definition means the judge’s ruling will likely be narrower in scope than it would be in an antitrust case brought by the US government. Nor is any remedy imposed by the judge likely to be as broad as government regulation of the App Store might be someday.

Still, that doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high; they are. An adverse ruling against Apple could significantly change the way the company operates the App Store and would likely trigger more antitrust lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny in the future. As a result, I thought it would be useful to dig in and take a closer look at some of the parties’ arguments and the context in which this dispute arose to provide a better sense of what to expect from the trial, which is expected to run about three weeks, and what the outcome might be.

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Inoreader: Take Back Control of Your News Feed [Sponsor]

Inoreader is the premier service for RSS power users. Not only does Inoreader let you fine-tune your RSS experience, but its capabilities extend well beyond RSS to monitoring email newsletters, Twitter, Facebook pages, and webpages that don’t even have an RSS feed. Stop visiting a long list of bookmarks every day and let Inoreader deliver the Internet to you through its web app, recently-redesigned mobile apps, and third-party apps that integrate with Inoreader too.

At its core, Inoreader is a highly configurable RSS service that makes it easy to import all the feeds you subscribe to using OPML. The service offers extensive search functionality to help you find new feeds and search your existing collection too. It even recommends new feeds based on your existing ones and helps you trim your list based on inactive or dead feeds.

However, RSS is only part of the Inoreader story. The service offers a unique email address that you can use to subscribe to email newsletters, so you can enjoy them just like RSS feeds and declutter your inbox. Inoreader can also monitor complex Twitter searches, so you never miss the latest about your favorite topics. You can even monitor changes on webpages that don’t have RSS feeds and Facebook pages, pushing the latest updates to Inoreader’s central hub. Most recently, Inoreader added an audio player that allows you to use it for audio content like podcasts too.

Inoreader’s service works on the web, its own iOS and Android apps, and with a long list of third-party RSS clients that have integrated with it. Inoreader is free to try, so you’ve got nothing to lose by going there now and signing up, and until June 3rd, MacStories readers can upgrade to a Pro plan for 20% off for the first year using the code MACSTRY1 at checkout. So go there today, and take back control of your news feed with Inoreader.

Our thanks to Inoreader for sponsoring MacStories this week.


MacStories Unwind: iOS 14.5, 1Blocker, a New Thread HomeKit Accessory, and Earning Results

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Sponsored by: Honeybadger – Your Secret Weapon for Exception, Uptime, and Cron Monitoring

This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • Monthly Log
    • John on two tentpole features the Mac and iPad need
    • Federico updates his desk setup with a new keyboard
  • MacStories Weekly
    • Muse
    • A SoundSource Tip
    • Federico explains how to migrate thousands of email messages
    • A 1Blocker giveaway

AppStories

Unwind



Spotify Rolling Out Redesigned ‘Your Library’ Page for Mobile Apps

As announced by Spotify earlier today, the company is rolling out a redesigned ‘Your Library’ page in its iOS and Android apps that should make it easier to browse your music collection and podcast episodes with a new grid view, better filters and sorting options, and more. From the Spotify Newsroom:

Your collection of music and podcasts is a representation of you—and it’s something deeply personal. But with 5,000+ hours of content released globally every day on Spotify and hundreds of those saved in Your Library, we know it’s crucial to be able to quickly find what you’re looking for, jump back into your latest discovery, or rediscover a beloved track you saved years ago.

Starting today, we are rolling out a new version of Your Library to all Spotify mobile users. Now, you’ll have a more streamlined way to easily explore your collection and find your saved music and podcasts faster. Your Library’s updated design and added features will enable you to spend less time looking for content and organizing your collection, and more time rediscovering the music and podcasts you’ve loved over the years. And as always, keep adding even more content for a library that grows alongside you into the future.

I’m particularly intrigued by grid view and the new filters to switch between music and podcasts. I’m also curious to see if this new design applies to the iPad app (which continues to pale in comparison to Apple Music’s solid iPad client) or not.

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Apple Q2 2021 Results - $89.58 Billion Revenue

Apple has just published its financial results for Q2 2021. The company posted revenue of $89.58 billion. Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“This quarter reflects both the enduring ways our products have helped our users meet this moment in their own lives, as well as the optimism consumers seem to feel about better days ahead for all of us,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Apple is in a period of sweeping innovation across our product lineup, and we’re keeping focus on how we can help our teams and the communities where we work emerge from this pandemic into a better world. That certainly begins with products like the all-new iMac and iPad Pro, but it extends to efforts like the 8 gigawatts of new clean energy we’ll help bring onto the grid and our $430 billion investment in the United States over the next 5 years.”

Apple Beats Expectations

As reported by CNBC, Apple beat Wall Street expectations:

Apple reported a blowout quarter on Wednesday, announcing companywide sales up 54% higher than last year, and significantly stronger profits than Wall Street expected.

Apple stock rose over 4% in extended trading.

Graphical Visualization

After the break, we’ve compiled a graphical visualization of Apple’s Q2 2021 financial results.

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1Blocker 4.0 Adds In-App Tracker Blocking with Its New Firewall Feature

I’ve used 1Blocker to block ads from cluttered websites for years. No ad blocker is perfect. Some ads still get through, and blockers can sometimes interfere with the functionality of a website, but of all the ones I’ve tried, 1Blocker strikes the best balance. The app is also available on all of Apple’s platforms, making it easy to block intrusive ads but allow them on sites where they don’t wreck the reading experience.

1Blocker, which I have covered many times in the past on MacStories, was the first iOS app I know that bundled multiple sets of content blocking rules to offer more filters than the iOS would otherwise allow. The system also allows 1Blocker to filter more than just advertising, such as social media widgets, comments, and adult sites.

Today, 1Blocker has expanded its coverage even further with a feature called Firewall. If you’ve read Federico’s in-depth story about iOS and iPadOS 14.5, you’re familiar with App Tracking Transparency. That’s the OS feature that requires apps to request permission before tracking your activity across multiple apps and websites. Firewall takes that a step further by automatically blocking trackers and doing so even if the trackers are what are known as first-party trackers because they don’t correlate your data with data collected by other companies. It’s an extra layer of protection between you and data brokers.

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Updated Eve Energy Smart Plug and Energy Meter Released with Thread Support

Eve Systems has announced the availability of an update to its Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter, which now supports HomeKit over Thread. Thread is the technology that began appearing in HomeKit devices late last year with the introduction of the HomePod mini. It’s a mesh networking system that allows devices to communicate with each other in your home without first communicating with a central hub or over the Internet. Thread-enabled devices also tend to be more responsive and use less power than devices that only use Bluetooth or rely on WiFi connections.

Because the new Eve Energy is a smart plug, it has a continuous source of power that allows it to act as a Thread router like the HomePod mini. That’s significant because the more edge routers you add to a Thread system, the more robust the mesh network becomes. However, there have been few devices other than the HomePod mini that could act in that capacity.

Eve Energy's Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.

Eve Energy’s Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.

As a HomeKit device, the new Eve Energy plug can be controlled by Apple’s Home app or the Eve for HomeKit app. The device also reports the energy used by whatever it powers, giving users a way to assess the power consumption of their appliances and any power-hungry electronics.

I haven’t had a chance to try the new Eve Energy yet, but I hope to in the coming weeks. I’ve owned a couple of earlier-generation Eve Energy smart plugs, and both have worked better than other smart plugs I’ve tried in the past.

With the announcements over the past several months, it’s clear that Eve Systems is committed to building Thread into their products, which I’m glad to see. Thread support is still relatively rare to find in HomeKit devices, but the pace seems to be picking up. I’m eager to see how a larger, mixed Thread network of devices performs compared to older Bluetooth and WiFi-based ones.

The Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter is available directly from Eve Systems today for $39.99 and will also be available from Apple and Amazon soon.