Alex Guyot

42 posts on MacStories since January 2014

Alex is a regular contributor to MacStories, and a computer science major at the University of Arizona. His interests also include soccer, web development, automation, youth ministry, and drinking great coffee.

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The New MacBook Pro: Our Complete Overview

At yesterday morning's Hello Again keynote event, Apple announced the long-awaited update to their professional laptop line. The new MacBook Pro comes in two sizes and features a thinner body and upgraded internals. It also comes equipped with Apple's brand new Touch Bar, a Retina touchscreen display which replaces the row of function keys atop the keyboard, and a Touch ID sensor.

These new machines mark the first significant spec advancements for the MacBook Pro since they moved to Haswell processors in 2014, and the first notable hardware changes since going Retina in 2012. As such, it's no surprise that the new MacBook Pro is an improvement in nearly every way over previous models. This is truly the next generation of Apple's flagship laptops.

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macOS Sierra: The MacStories Review

The first thing that may catch the eye of many looking to upgrade their Mac this year is the demise of the classic 'OS X' moniker. The end of OS X has been long rumored, and the expectation has often been for the Mac to move to whatever Apple chooses to name their OS 11. This would of course be a change on a massive scale, such as that between OS 9 and OS X was over a decade ago.

This year, with OS X finally seeing the end of its reign, will we be seeing another epochal change in Mac history?

Nope.

After a decade of mispronounced Roman numerals, Apple is ready to let go of the name, but not the number. The full title for the 2016 iteration of the Mac operating system: macOS 10.12 Sierra. OS X may be gone, but OS 10 survives.

Since the mystical OS 11 didn’t come in the aftermath of the last big cat, didn’t come on the heels of version 10.9, and now again hasn’t come to usher out OS X, it’s starting to look like it may never come at all. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that that’s true, because the bottom line is that OS 11 isn’t needed anymore.

These days, Apple is a very different company than it was when OS X made its debut. The Mac is no longer Apple’s darling. It was long ago pushed aside by the iPod, then the iPhone and iPad, and now even a watch and a TV box. Each of these is its own platform, running its own operating system. Each of these has its place in the new age Apple ecosystem.

With iOS, watchOS, and tvOS all around, the freshly renamed macOS no longer serves the role of scrappy upstart. Today, the Mac is the eldest platform, and macOS needs to focus on stability and productivity. Leave the epochal changes to the young guys.

With this year’s update, named after California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, macOS builds once more upon the strong base of its many predecessors. Trenchant in its restraint, 10.12 shirks sweeping changes in favor of iterative improvements. A perfect example of an update to a mature operating system done right.

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    watchOS 3: The MacStories Review

    This month will mark the two-year point since the Apple Watch was first unveiled to the world, and nearly a year and a half since the product first made its way into the hands of consumers. Two years is a long time in technology in general, but particularly so for Apple. In this time the Apple Watch has gone from a product developed in secret, deep within Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, to the most popular smartwatch in the world. Millions of units have been sold, and surveys have pegged customer sat as extremely high.

    Yet despite these positives, the Apple Watch has spent its first two years of existence as a flawed product. This is not due to the Watch’s hardware, which was beautifully designed, decently powered, and boasts enough battery life to easily last a day. Rather, the Achilles' heel of the Apple Watch has been its software.

    watchOS has had problems from the start. Apple shipped its first version in an incomplete state, in which third-party applications were purportedly supported, but unable to run natively on the Watch itself. Instead, the logic of each app was executed on the connected iPhone, and the Watch was used as a dumb display for the results. This method was astoundingly slow in practice, not to mention that it rendered the Watch incapable of nearly anything beyond telling the time when disconnected from its iPhone.

    It’s not surprising then, that only two months after the Watch’s release to consumers in April 2015, Apple introduced the first iteration on its operating system, watchOS 2. As I discussed in my review of watchOS 2 last year, version 2 did not significantly change any visual designs or interfaces. Rather, it was a foundational update meant to create the base of a more mature operating system, establishing important building blocks that could be iterated upon in the future.

    The foundation created by watchOS 2 seems to be paying off, as this year’s major update to the system, watchOS 3, does indeed build up from that base. However, many of the other aspects of watchOS 2 turned out to be failures, and a year in the wild has proved the update unable to fulfill many of the promises Apple made about it.

    There were two standout watchOS 2 features which did not hold true. First, the data surfaced by watchOS 2 apps was supposed to be updated more frequently in the background so as to keep them consistently relevant. Second, the move from running app logic on the iPhone to running it on the Watch itself was supposed to make watchOS apps more responsive and fast.

    Perhaps when compared to the incomplete and unacceptable performance of watchOS 1, it could be argued that these goals succeeded, but I would disagree. After a year of using watchOS 2 with my Apple Watch strapped to my wrist nearly every single day, I can say unequivocally that apps were not fast enough to cross the threshold of “useable”, nor was data ever updated consistently enough for me to trust that it was not stale.

    In lieu of these and other letdowns in watchOS 2, and after over a year of Apple Watches being in consumers’ hands, the next update to Apple’s smartwatch operating system had a lot riding on its shoulders. Would it double down on the sins of its predecessors, adding more interfaces like the spinning circles of friends and the whimsical yet impractical honeycomb Home screen? Would Apple try even harder to achieve the impossible goal (for current hardware, at least) of all apps running as smoothly as iOS apps and updating consistently?

    Thankfully, while the rest of us spent the last year debating Apple’s intentions, Apple spent it hard at work.

    For this year’s update, Apple took a hard look at the state of its smartwatch operating system, and it found many features wanting. Showing an uplifting ability to admit when they were wrong, Apple did not shy away from tearing out anything that wasn’t working, including features that were emphasized and promoted in announcements and marketing just last year.

    watchOS 3 is still the same watchOS that you know, but its changes have cut deeply and ruthlessly at its origins. Apple is stripping away the cruft and honing watchOS down to a purer form. The strong system foundation of watchOS 2 and general design language of watchOS 1 are still present, but this year’s improvements have made both far more effective.

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      Apple Watch Series 2: Our Complete Overview

      Yesterday morning during their keynote event, Apple introduced the first ever hardware update to the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 2 retains the same basic body design as predecessor. While it is thicker by 0.9mm, the internal components have received a significant refresh in power as well as capabilities. With the Series 2, Apple seems to be repositioning the Watch to be more directed toward health and fitness rather than an all purpose device, and the choices of hardware upgrades reflect this idea as much as the keynote highlighted it.

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      iPhone 7: Our Complete Overview

      Today during Apple's keynote event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, the Cupertino company announced the latest iteration on their most successful product. Despite rumors of a mostly laid back upgrade year, the iPhone 7 did not disappoint. While only minor changes have been made to the enclosure, there are significant upgrades to almost every other aspect of Apple's flagship iPhone.

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      App Launching on Apple Watch

      Conrad Stoll:

      The significance of complications being the best way to launch apps is why swiping between watch faces is so valuable. It allows users to literally switch their context on the Apple Watch. One day this could presumably happen automatically, but at least it only takes one swipe to switch from your primary daily watch face to one with the type of information you want to have at a glance in another context.

      [...]

      I love using the Stopwatch and Timer apps while I'm cooking or brewing coffee, but I don't want their complications visible during the rest of the day. The ability to swipe left and bring up an entire watch face devoted to them and any other complications relevant to cooking is a game changer for me.

      Prescient realization by Stoll about the implications of the new Apple Watch swipe-to-change-face feature. While Apple emphasized the Dock during the keynote as the new best way to switch between apps, maybe that crown will really go to Complications on various watch faces.

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      iOS 10: Our Complete Overview

      At yesterday morning's keynote event in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Apple took the wraps off of the latest revision of their mobile operating system. The tenth version of iOS opens up the system to a bold new world of integrations, APIs, and surprising customizability. It modernizes core apps that were growing long in the tooth, takes ambitious leaps forward with computer vision and contextual predictions, and enriches the user experience of such system tentpoles as notifications and the lock screen.

      iOS 10 marks the beginning of a new era of iOS in many different ways. With a solid, mature core to build on, Apple is now feeling free to reach out into new areas that it has never before explored with its most popular operating system. We'll have to wait for real world testing and future betas to see if they've truly delivered, but the promises of iOS 10 are some of the most ambitious Apple has ever pursued with "the world's most advanced mobile operating system."

      So let's take a look at the features Apple has planned for hundreds of millions of users next Fall.

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      Netflix for iOS Updated with Picture in Picture Support

      I'll give this one a "finally". It's been months since Netflix competitors like Hulu and HBO Now have been updated to support iOS 9's excellent picture in picture feature, and now the most popular streaming service has followed suit on the day after iOS 10 was announced.

      Better late than never though, so I'm pleased that I'll be able to take advantage of PiP in another place after updating to the latest version of Netflix for iOS.

      Now I can keep binging American Horror Story while collecting screenshots for my iOS 10 overview.


      App Review Guidelines: The Comic Book

      Well this is an odd one. Yesterday after the 2016 Apple Design Awards, Apple handed out to attendees a physical comic book titled "App Review Guidelines: The Comic Book". The comic is 36 pages long, and presumably is being used to try to drum up interest in reading through Apple's freshly rewritten App Store Review guidelines.

      The comic book is available in PDF form here, and reportedly will be followed up by a motion comic book coming later. The motion comic will be available through the Madefire Comics & Motion Books app.

      Apple is certainly starting to get creative in its efforts to get developers to read through the review guidelines before submitting apps. When you're reviewing over 100,000 apps per week, I guess you do what you can to try to stop time-consuming, guideline-breaking apps before they even get started.


      You can follow @MacStoriesNet on Twitter or our WWDC 2016 news hub for updates.

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