I suspect I’m not alone in saying that 2020 has been a big year for personal media consumption. The absence of normal social events has meant more time for reading, watching shows and movies, and other forms of relaxation.
At the end of last year I wrote about how I was using Sofa, a media list app, to track the TV and films I’d watched in 2019. I’ve used the same approach throughout 2020, and it continues to work well for me. The only change is that I’ve been testing a big update to Sofa for the last few weeks that’s available now. Previously exclusive to the iPhone, Sofa now offers a rich iPad experience complete with Split View, Slide Over, and multiwindowing, keyboard shortcuts, and mouse and trackpad support. Additionally, today’s update adds a robust theming system to the app and seamless iCloud syncing. It’s a strong step forward for the app, making it more versatile than ever before.
As December comes to a close, now is the perfect time to reflect on how the year was spent, both with deep existential questions but also lighter, fun matters – such as surveying your TV and movie consumption over the year. Until recently I didn’t have a system I was satisfied with for tracking my viewing history, but now I’ve settled on Sofa.
We live in a time when media options are growing at a fast pace. It’s a golden age for television, with great shows debuting all the time; the film industry is being transformed by the infusion of new competition from streaming giants like Netflix; podcasts are becoming more mainstream by the day; and despite books not being in a similar growth phase, new titles are still being written constantly. In this crowded media landscape, it’s hard to keep track of all the great content waiting to be enjoyed.
In the past I’ve kept notes in Apple Notes containing lists of TV shows, movies, podcasts, and books to check out. Lately, however, I’ve been using an app called Sofa.
Sofa is a new app that launched just last Friday. Sofa does two things: it helps you discover new movies to watch, and it lets you keep a list of movies you want to watch. Despite its rather sparse feature list, Sofa is well worth your time. One of the reasons why is because Sofa’s discover section is populated by hand-curated collections of movies. But Sofa also looks great and, because it isn’t burdened with dozens of features, the app is simple and delightful to use.
Apple TV may have received its most surprising update release this year, and I’d argue that tvOS 17 is also Apple’s most impactful. With the launch of Apple TV+ and the expansion of Apple’s TV app to third-party devices, Apple TV the platform had gone through a bit of a confidence crisis. It was hard enough before to get developers and the wider Apple community to talk about its software, but now it had to compete for attention with the likes of Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Ted Lasso.1
Attention then moved onto Apple’s next big platform reveal, a project so steeped in secrecy and excitement that when a tvOS engineering manager made a brief public change to their social media profile indicating they had moved on to work for the company’s AR/VR division, I began to wonder if Apple TV and tvOS would ever get their special moment to shine. That special moment would come exactly nineteen minutes before the debut of Apple Vision Pro, and while it may have been a fleeting moment quickly forgotten by the majority, it’s a moment in Apple TV’s story I’ve been thinking about ever since.
The introduction of FaceTime on Apple TV was more than just a feature announcement. It also represented a realignment in what mattered most for the platform and Apple’s customers and a shift away from a focus previously reserved for the needs of the wider entertainment industry.
FaceTime and Continuity Camera may be the headline acts in this year’s tvOS update, but they’re also supported by a cast of big changes elsewhere. They include a newly redesigned Control Center – Apple’s latest triumph in intuitive interaction – automatic profile switching, Find Siri Remote, third-party VPN support, Shared Spatial Audio, updates to Fitness and Music, enhancements to both audio and video presentations, and a small but meaningful update to the tvOS Home Screen.
After using tvOS 17 over the summer, I’m happy to impart that the new features are all positive additions, even though there remains work to be done. So, without further ado, in a MacStories return to tvOS reviews, let’s dive into tvOS 17.
Just before I hopped on a plane to head to WWDC, I noticed a new app called Söka, an iOS and iPadOS bucket list tracker by Roddy Munro. I didn’t have time to dig into the details or test it, but there was something about it that caught my eye, so I made a note to revisit it later in the summer. I’m glad I did because it’s one of the best integrations of artificial intelligence that I’ve seen in an app.
Söka takes the friction out of building travel bucket lists with the help of AI. I’ve been using Söka as a way to create travel lists of places I want to visit in North Carolina and Italy, for example. Whether it’s for travel like Söka or media like Sofa, there are a lot of apps built on the idea of creating ‘someday’ lists and tracking your progress. What makes Söka unique is the way it uses AI to remove the friction from the list-building part.
This week on AppStories, we begin a new series on the impact of artificial intelligence on apps and the world around us. This week’s episode sets the stage with a look at chatbots, image-generation tools, and issues and opportunities they raise.
Last week on Thursday, I received review units of the new 10th generation iPad and 6th generation iPad Pro. I’ve spent the past few days testing and getting work done with both of them – including finishing a big story about Stage Manager I’m going to publish in a few hours on MacStories.
These are relatively easy iPads to review with a fairly straightforward narrative around them. The new iPad Pro is an iterative update that shows us Apple has seemingly hit a plateau in terms of innovation with this particular design – save for one feature that truly surprised me. The new base model iPad is a massive update compared to its predecessor, adding an all-new, iPad Pro-inspired design and a brand new accessory – the Magic Keyboard Folio – that has turned out to be one of my favorite accessories Apple has launched in recent years. I’ve had a ton of fun playing around and working with the new iPad over the weekend; if you’re in the market for an 11” tablet, you shouldn’t sleep on this one.
When considered individually, these new iPads are solid options in their respective categories – each delivering on the different goals Apple set out to accomplish for these product lines in 2022.
It’s when you zoom out and take a broader look at the new state of the iPad lineup that things become…a bit more confusing.