Alex has been writing for MacStories since 2013. As a MacStories contributor he covers Apple and related technology on the site and for Club MacStories. Alex also keeps the site running smoothly and works on new technology as MacStories’ senior software engineer.
This morning Apple announced their all-new iPad and iPad Pro lineups via pressrelease and a short announcement video. The new iPad (non-Pro) features new colors and an updated square-edge design that brings it in line with the rest of Apple’s modern iPads and iPhones. The iPad Pro has been upgraded to Apple’s M2 chip, and supports a new “hover” mode on the Apple Pencil. Apple also unveiled a new Magic Keyboard Folio accessory, which includes a detachable keyboard with a trackpad and function keys.
There’s a lot to like about each of these new products, but the details reveal some very strange decisions on Apple’s part.
As we enter the ninth iteration of watchOS, I must admit that I sometimes find myself looking back wistfully on the computer watch that the Apple Watch once was. My inner tech nerd misses the wild, blind shots at digital connection and interface design which we were gifted by an Apple that had not yet figured out what the mass market wanted from this device.
In many ways, the early days of the Apple Watch feel like echoes from a bygone era of Apple; an era in which it was more willing to throw things at the wall just to see what stuck. This is, after all, the company which brought us the buttonless iPod shuffle, the hockey puck mouse, brushed metal, the tape-recorder Podcast app, and so much more. We tend to call it Apple’s sense of “whimsy”, and early watchOS had plenty of it.
Time Traveling in watchOS 2.
In watchOS 2, Apple shipped a feature called Time Travel where you could spin the Digital Crown to “travel backwards and forwards in time”. Complications would move alongside the watch hands to reflect their past or predicted future values. Time Travel was demoted to a setting in watchOS 3, and quietly removed entirely some time later.
There was also the concept of Glances beginning all the way back in watchOS 1. Glances were single-page app interfaces accessible by swiping up from the watch face, then swiping side-to-side to switch between them. Third-party apps could create these, and the watch supported up to 20 of them. Glances were also canned in watchOS 3. They were replaced by the Dock, which never quite managed to capture the same energy.
For years, Apple seemed particularly interested in the potential of the Apple Watch to be a core hub for personal communication. Until watchOS 3, the hardware side button on the device was dedicated to opening the Friends interface. When interacting with your friends, you could send giant animated emojis — perhaps a very early precursor to the Memoji that we have today. And of course, no one could forget Digital Touch. Who among us did not feel more connected to our loved ones when tapping out pings and drawing shapes on their wrists1?
The Friends interface in watchOS 2.
What leaves me feeling so conflicted is that, ultimately, all of the above features were pretty bad. No one used the Friends interface, Time Travel wasn’t particularly useful, third-party Glances were kneecapped by their lack of interactivity, and communicating from an Apple Watch has always just been way more work than pulling out your iPhone. Apple was right to kill all of these features in their time, but I still can’t stop missing the days when my Apple Watch was searching for more variety in purpose than it exists with today.
I imagine Digital Touch is unfazed by my mockery; likely too busy feeling satisfied that it is the only one of the features described above which has (somehow) endured into modern iterations of watchOS. ↩︎
At today’s Apple event, Director of Apple Watch product marketing Deidre Caldbeck took the stage to introduce the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra. The Series 8 is another solid year-over-year upgrade to the standard Apple Watch line, but the Ultra is an all-new category of watch aimed at high-end sports and rugged outdoor activities.
After watching this year’s WWDC keynote in June, my initial impression of the watchOS 9 announcement was that Apple had prepared one of the largest Apple Watch updates in years. While writing my watchOS 9 overview later that day though, it felt like the scope of the changes were less than I originally thought. I needed some hands-on time with the update to know for sure.
I’ve had bad luck installing early watchOS betas in the past, so I’ve been waiting for the public beta to arrive before loading it onto my daily-driver Apple Watch. That said, I installed the developer beta right away onto an extra Apple Watch Series 4 that I’ve kept around, and have been using it as much as possible throughout the past month. I’ve ascertained a good feel for this year’s update, and can confirm that we’re looking at another mild-mannered year for the Apple Watch.
I don’t mean this as an insult at all. Rather, it’s another year of the relentless incremental refinement that Apple has long been known for, but which the company has practically turned into a science for watchOS. The formula looks something like this:
A handful of improvements to the Workout app
One or two new features targeted at health
A handful of new watch faces
One or two brand-new first-party apps
One or two redesigned first-party apps
A system-level feature or improvement
This year’s changes to the Workout app may be more significant than usual, but otherwise watchOS 9 fits this formula quite snugly. While it may not make for the most glamorous year-over-year updates, the strategy has cemented the Apple Watch as the most popular smartwatch in the world — by far. It’s no surprise that Apple sees no need to alter it.
While the formula may have stayed the same, there are still plenty of specifics to dig into. Let’s start with Workout, the app whose changes single-handedly led me to believe that we were getting a bigger-than-usual watchOS update this year.
Yesterday during their WWDC keynote event, Apple unveiled the updated M2 Apple Silicon chip. While the M2 might not be quite as revolutionary of an upgrade as the M1 was over previous Intel chips, it’s still a very solid year-over-year improvement which continues to boost Apple ahead of the competition.
Debuting with the M2 inside are the all-new MacBook Air and the upgraded 13” MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro has very few changes other than the new processor, the MacBook Air sports a completely new industrial design. Let’s take a look at Apple’s latest entires into the Mac lineup.
During yesterday’s WWDC keynote event, Apple announced watchOS 9. As usual, health and fitness are the core areas of focus in the update, with the Workout app in particular getting packed with new features and metric views. The Sleep app will now track in-depth sleep stage data, and an all-new Medications app is making its debut as well. Throw in some minor quality-of-life system changes, a handful of new watch faces, and some nice accessibility improvements, and we’re looking at a fairly standard watchOS update this year.
At this morning’s WWDC keynote presentation, SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi took the stage to announce the latest update to Apple’s desktop operating system: macOS Ventura. Ventura introduces a host of improvements, with many going hand-in-hand with their iOS and iPadOS 16 counterparts. A new windowing mode is perhaps the most intriguing addition, but the clearest wins come in the form of smaller app-specific features such as scheduling outgoing emails in Mail or marking conversations as unread in Messages. Altogether, Ventura looks like a very solid year-over-year upgrade for macOS.
Early today The Iconfactoryreleased their latest app, a simple web server utility called WorldWideWeb. Solidly developer-focused in scope, the app serves files from a local directory to an automatically generated URL, making these files available to any device on your local network. While there are sure to be more inventive use cases for such a utility, its general purpose is for testing simple websites built on the Web’s greatest primitive: HTML.
WorldWideWeb’s killer feature is simplicity. The app’s entire main interface consists of two tiny sections: in the first you select a folder, and in the second you start or stop the web server. When the server is activated, a URL is generated. The app uses Bonjour to make the address available to any device on the same Wi-Fi network as the host. Just copy and paste the URL or press the ‘Open in Browser’ button to view the website natively in a web browser.
Runestone is the latest app from Simon Støvring, the developer behind Scriptable, Jayson, and Data Jar. Støvring’s apps tend to be focused on developer or automation use cases, filling holes in the iOS and iPadOS ecosystem to aid power users. Runestone mostly falls into the same category, although it also has some wider potential appeal for general purpose writing.
The new app functions as an excellent plain text editor for anyone who needs to write on their iPhone or iPad. It’s simple and thoughtfully designed, and includes a variety of excellent themes to improve your writing experience. Runestone’s marquee feature, however, is its syntax highlighting. For Markdown writers, the app will use simple color schemes (which can be altered to your liking using the theme settings) and subtle style changes to highlight your links, bold and italic words, footnotes, and more. The result is a very simple, essentially plain-text approach which still makes it easy to see your markup at a glance.