Alex Guyot

94 posts on MacStories since January 2014

Alex has been writing for MacStories since 2013. As a MacStories editor 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.

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Jason Snell on the iPhone 12 Mini and Pro Max

After a few months of use, Jason Snell has written a great article on the iPhone 12 line’s two outliers. Despite waiting for the shortfalls of a small phone to become apparent, the other shoe never dropped for him on the iPhone 12 Mini. Small phone aficionados won’t be disappointed by Apple’s long awaited return to devices in that size class. Similarly, for those willing to accept the enormous size, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is unafraid to deliver on the best an iPhone can be. As Snell describes, these products have rounded out the iPhone product line:

Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach to the iPhone worked for a very long time. But eventually the company realized that the iPhone needed to be more than a product—it needed to be a product line. And over the past few years, it’s been building out that product line—leading to late 2020 and its release of four distinctly different models in three distinct size classes.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share a size, if not features. But bracketing them are the two outliers, each sharing a set of features with one of the 6.1-inch phones back at home base.

Don’t miss the full post over at Six Colors.

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Headland Review: Fight Your Way Through a World of Imagination

Headland is a new game for iOS and Android by the award winning game studio Northplay. The game revolves around a young boy exploring a world of his own imagination; fighting enemies and hunting down the missing shards of his robot friend’s “imagination core.” I played through Headland over the last few days and found it to be a well-made and overall quite enjoyable experience.

I really like that Headland plays in portrait orientation. Most games like it run in landscape, which is fine, but it’s nice to have a change. On my iPhone Mini I can actually play Headland entirely one-handed, which makes the game feel more light and casual even though its gameplay is engaging. Playing two-handed on my iPad Pro was still fun though since I could support the device with a single hand and play with the other.

The key to this is the game’s excellent controls, which are intuitive and only require a single finger at any given time. To move your character, you place your finger anywhere on the screen and then rotate it. This is essentially a joystick movement control, but it works so much better because the joystick will appear underneath your finger wherever you place it. My struggle with most touch-joystick games is that I end up placing my finger off-center from the stationary joystick and then I move in an unwanted direction. This never happens in Headland.

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Apple Releases Cardio Fitness Notifications for Apple Watch

Our level of cardio fitness is a strong predictor of our overall health. With yesterday’s release of watchOS 7.2 and iOS 14.3, the Apple Watch now supports monitoring and alerting you when your cardio fitness level is too low over time. Per Apple’s press release on the feature:

With iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, Apple Watch users can view their cardio fitness level in the Health app on iPhone, and receive a notification on Apple Watch if it falls within the low range. Breakthrough technology released in watchOS 7 allows Apple Watch to easily measure low cardio fitness, and today cardio fitness notifications empower users to be more active for dramatic long-term health benefits.

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Microsoft Office 365 Updated to Support Apple Silicon and Big Sur

Microsoft today announced updates to their suite of Microsoft 365 apps to support Apple Silicon, including design tweaks to match the look of macOS Big Sur:

We are excited to announce that starting today we are releasing new versions of many of our Microsoft 365 for Mac apps that run natively on Macs with M1. This means that now our core flagship Office apps—Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote—will run faster and take full advantage of the performance improvements on new Macs, making you even more productive on the latest MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. The new Office apps are Universal, so they will continue to run great on Macs with Intel processors. The apps are not only speedy, but they also look fantastic as they have been redesigned to match the new look of macOS Big Sur.

Among the other changes, Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac can now be used with iCloud email addresses for the first time. The Apple Silicon update for Microsoft Teams isn’t ready yet, but they’re working on it:

Microsoft Teams is currently available in Rosetta emulation mode on Macs with M1 and the browser. We are working on universal app support for M1 Macs and will share more news as our work progresses.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.3 with Apple ProRAW, App Clip Codes, Fitness+ Support, and Direct App Launches from Shortcuts

Today Apple released iOS 14.3, a mid-cycle update which includes quite a few very nice features. App Clip Codes were announced alongside iOS and iPadOS 14 at WWDC, so it’s good to see them finally making it out to the public. Similarly, Apple ProRAW was touted as a feature of the new iPhone 12 Pro cameras, but hasn’t been available to iPhone 12 Pro users until today (unless you were running the iOS 14.3 beta, of course). iOS 14.3 does include support for Apple’s impending Fitness+ subscription service, but as of this writing that feature is still disabled prior to the service’s launch.

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Apple to Discontinue Music Memos App in March

As noted by MacRumors, Apple has a new support document on the upcoming discontinuation of its Music Memos app. Originally released in 2016, Music Memos was a specifically song-focused spin on Apple’s Voice Memos app. The app never received many updates, and it seems Apple has decided that Voice Memos serves the purpose well enough. The final update to Music Memos adds support for exporting its content out to Voice Memos:

The Music Memos app won’t be updated after Music Memos version 1.0.7, and you won’t be able to download it after March 1, 2021. If you have an iPhone with iOS 14 or an iPad with iPadOS 14, you can continue to use Music Memos. And if you’ve previously downloaded the app, you can still access it from your App Store purchase history. But you should export your Music Memos recordings to your Voice Memos library to make sure you keep all of your recordings.

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The Wall Street Journal Interviews Apple’s Jay Blahnik on Fitness+

The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Vanderbilt nabbed an interview this week with Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of fitness technologies. The two discussed the strategy for Fitness+, Apple’s new subscription workout service which is launching next week. From the article:

“Metrics is motivation,” says Blahnik, who in the early 2000s helped launch Nike’s connected running program. “The metrics react to the things the trainer says and the things that you do. We believe that makes it much more immersive than simply following content that’s available anywhere else.” Portability, he says, is also key. A Fitness+ workout is meant to be done anywhere, on any screen, on any machine, from a gym to a hotel room to—more than ever—at home.

This is an insightful look into the kind of content which Fitness+ will hold. Workouts (at least at launch) will likely be highly accessible due to not requiring advanced gym equipment. There will also be a personalized suggestion engine designed to encourage cross-training for a well-rounded fitness routine:

Another innovation, says Blahnik, is the system’s personalization engines, which will suggest workouts from a growing library based on your history—both inside and outside of Fitness+. “We always say: It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to find a 20-minute workout.” That doesn’t mean simply guiding cyclists to ever more cycling workouts; rather, as Apple says, “it looks for a way to gently encourage you to cross-train.” As Blahnik notes, “We have a carousel called ‘Try Something New.’ So if you tend to do more linear workouts, like running or cycling, you would be suggested things like HIIT [high-intensity interval training] or yoga, that would move your body in different directions.”

The whole article is worth a read, although most of it is behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall if you aren’t a subscriber.

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Apple Recognizes Best Books, Audiobooks, and Podcasts of 2020

Today Apple updated its Books and Podcasts apps with recognition of the most popular, and Apple’s selection of the best books, audiobooks, and podcasts of the year. There are ten different groups of selections, some just being the most popular items based on Apple’s metrics, and others being Apple’s own subjective favorites. Here’s a subset of Apple’s choices, but be sure to check out the full lists of picks in the Books or Podcasts apps on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad:

Books

Best Books of the Year:

Most Popular Fiction Books:

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Hazel 5 Makes the Leap from System Preferences

Hazel is a classic Mac automation tool which we last covered several years ago for version 4. This week Hazel is back with version 5, a major update which brings the tool out of System Preferences for the first time.

Previous iterations of Hazel existed as a preference pane within the macOS System Preferences app. While the interface remains pretty familiar in Hazel 5, it has finally been pulled out into its own full application.

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