Graham Spencer

847 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.


How Adobe is Reimagining Photoshop for the Mobile Era

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company:

What wasn't instantly obvious, however, was exactly how to translate Photoshop into an experience that made sense on the iPad and other mobile devices. In 2011, Adobe released three "Photoshop Touch" iPad apps—Eazel, Color Lava, and Nav—which were complements to Photoshop in its full-strength form rather than stand-alone tools. Then in 2012, it introduced an app called Photoshop Touch, which took a smallish subset of desktop Photoshop’s features, stripped out most of their advanced features, and rejiggered the interface so it worked with touch input.

This year, the company started all over again. It discontinued development of Photoshop Touch—which was available for iPhones and Android devices as well as iPads—and announced that Photoshop's future on the iPad and other mobile devices would henceforth involve smaller, specialized tools rather than anything that retained Photoshop's traditional everything-and-the-kitchen-sink flavor.

Adobe has done a rather phenomenal job in its transition from boxed software to the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud, as its latest quarter's record revenue figures clearly demonstrate. Over that same period, Adobe has also invested substantially in developing apps for mobile devices, and most significantly, the iPad. In fact earlier this year in May I looked at the number of iOS apps developed by Adobe, and at the time they had 50 apps in the App Store that had been updated within the last year (another 59 had been pulled from sale or not been updated in over a year).

As McCracken's story makes clear, Adobe's strategy for mobile devices isn't about slimming down their flagship desktop products so that they can run on mobile devices. Instead, Adobe has focused on creating apps for specific tasks, whether it be Photoshop Fix for retouching photos or Photoshop Mix for combining and blending images and layers together. In that way, Adobe claims that they can offer a better mobile product, that can in some ways offer a better experience than on the desktop.


Craig Federighi Discusses Swift on The Talk Show

Episode 139 of The Talk Show with John Gruber:

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi joins the show for a wide-ranging half-hour discussion about Swift — Apple’s new programming language that just went open source.

Next, John Siracusa returns to the show to follow up on Federighi’s segment on Swift. Other topics include Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6/6S, and our mutual (and perhaps futile) desire to head into this week’s premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens knowing as few spoilers as possible.

A great episode of The Talk Show, ready for your morning (or evening) commute. It is fantastic (and kind of amazing) to hear an Apple Executive discuss what can be a deeply technical topic, outside of WWDC. There's also a transcript of the Federighi segment for those of you who would prefer reading the discussion.


Apple Music Gets Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Video Exclusive

Re/code's Peter Kafka:

Apple and Swift are syncing up for a multi-pronged deal that will give Apple exclusive rights to a Swift concert video that debuts on Sunday, December 20, as well as her help on a big Apple Music marketing campaign. Swift, apparently, will get a nice check in return.

It’s easy to see what Apple gets out of the deal, because an Apple spokesperson was happy to talk about it: Access to the concert video will be limited to Apple Music subscribers — that includes both the 6.5 million people (or more) who are paying for the music service, as well as anyone in the free, three-month trial.

It's kind of amazing to look back at the history of Apple and Taylor Swift in the last six months. Back in June, Swift published a widely circulated criticism of Apple for not compensating artists during the three-month trial period of Apple Music. Famously, Apple responded swiftly to the criticism and within hours (on a Sunday no less) announced that they would change their plans and pay rights holders on a per-stream basis during the trial period. A few days after Apple's backflip, Swift announced that her album 1989 which was not available on any streaming music services, would be available on Apple Music.

Now Apple is paying Swift to launch 'The 1989 World Tour - Live' video, exclusively on Apple Music. Re/code's Peter Kafka is also reporting that Apple has also obtained the rights to use Swift's name and likeness in Apple Store promotions and Swift-branded iTunes gift cards. Taylor Swift is also today's interview guest on DJ Zane Lowe's show on Beats 1, you can find showtimes here.

Filmed at Sydney's ANZ Stadium in front of 76,000 fans, this exclusive concert film captures the excitement and energy of the hottest pop artist in the world. Interspersed with footage from her sold-out world tour and loaded with superstar guests, The 1989 World Tour - Live will be available exclusively on Apple Music starting 20 December.


Apple News Can Now Feature Top Stories, Curated by Apple News Editors

(L-R) The Apple News launch screen after you update to iOS 9.2, the Top Stories channel in my Favorites section, the For You section which features Top Stories (note the red tag on the right).

(L-R) The Apple News launch screen after you update to iOS 9.2, the Top Stories channel in my Favorites section, the For You section which features Top Stories (note the red tag on the right).

Peter Kafka, writing for Re/code, reports that yesterday's iOS 9.2 software update also included a big new feature for Apple News:

Apple’s update for its iOS app, which begins rolling out today, has two components. Only one of them will be visible to regular users: Apple’s editors will curate a list of “top stories” they’ll display for all of the apps’ users, at least a couple of times a day.

That’s a change in philosophy from this fall’s launch, when the app was supposed to highlight stories based on each of its users’ tastes and reading behaviors.

That’s still going to happen throughout the day, but in the morning and in the afternoon, Apple will assemble a handful of stories it thinks all of its users would want to see. You know — like a newspaper.

After you install iOS 9.2 and open Apple News for the first time you'll be given the open of adding 'Top Stories' to your Favorites. If you do add it to your favorites, the 'For You' section of Apple News will prominently feature articles that Apple editors have deemed to be a top news story for the day. You can also go directly to the Top Stories channel in your Favorites to view all of the top stories in one place.

In my launch review of Apple News I was critical of the overall Apple News experience, which I found to be disappointing. One of my chief complaints was that you couldn't rely on Apple News to give you all of the day's big news stories – the lack of human picks and poor automated curation was readily apparent:

Arguably the most frustrating part of For You is the fact you never get a good sense of what the big stories of the day are. To me, this is vital to any news app, website, or service – I don't just want to read interesting articles that I might like, but I want to know the most important of those stories.

I've only spent 20 minutes with iOS 9.2 and the updated Apple News, but early signs are positive. The For You section began with stories which were prominently marked as a "Top Story" and indeed they were (mostly) appropriate. I was pleasantly surprised to see they even have Australian editors, curating the top Australian news stories. So I'm going to give Apple News a second chance and see if it fares any better with the addition of human curated top news stories, and I'll report back to you all next week.

Apple Introduces iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case

Apple today introduced the new iPhone Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6. Available in White or Charcoal Gray, the Smart Battery Case includes a built-in battery which will boost your iPhone's battery life for talk time up to 25 hours and internet use up to 18 hours on LTE.

You charge the Smart Battery Case and your iPhone simultaneously and the amount of charge left in the case is displayed on your iPhone's normal battery indicator.

The Smart Battery Case is available to purchase from today for $99. The case's exterior is silicone whilst the interior is a soft microfiber lining. It also features a "soft elastomer hinge design", which Apple claims will make it easy to put the case on an iPhone and take it off.

For the time being, the Smart Battery Case is only available on the 4.7" iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, it is not available for the iPhone 6s Plus or iPhone 6 Plus.

[via AppleInsider]

Apple Maps Used “Three Times As Often As Its Next Leading Competitor”

In an article from Associated Press, Anick Jesdanun gets a comment from Apple regarding the popularity of Apple Maps:

Apple says its mapping service is now used more than three times as often as its next leading competitor on iPhones and iPads, with more than 5 billion map-related requests each week. Research firm comScore says Apple has a modest lead over Google on iPhones in the U.S., though comScore measures how many people use a service in a given month rather than how often.


"We are fast learners and we are fast at fixing things," said Greg "Joz" Joswiak, an Apple vice president who oversees product marketing for iPhones and related services. "We learned the maps business incredibly fast."

It's abundantly clear that Apple Maps has improved significantly in just three years, but at least in my experience, it still has a way to go before it is up to the standard of Google Maps, globally.

Which is why I thought it was odd that Apple would publicly reveal, in an almost boastful manner, that Apple Maps is used "more than three times as often as its next leading competitor" (read: Google Maps). At first glance that sounds impressive, but Apple Maps has been automatically installed on every single iOS device since 2012. If someone wants to use Google Maps they need to actively take steps to find it, install it, and avoid using Apple Maps when tapping address links or using Siri.

I wonder what the statistics are for some of Apple's other default, automatically installed, apps? How many people use Safari, or Apple Mail or Apple Calendars rather than the "next leading competitor"? I would put money on those other default apps being way more than just three times as popular as the third party alternatives.


Google Calendar and Inbox Add Reminders

Vijay Umapathy, writing for the Official Gmail Blog:

Our calendars should help us make the most of our time — scheduling meetings at work, remembering brunch with friends, and keeping track of all our other commitments. But often our to-do list is elsewhere, separate from the Calendar that organizes our day, and we end up overcommitted or miss something important because we forgot to check our list.
Now there's a single way to manage your day: starting this week, you can create Reminders in Google Calendar to keep track of your to-dos alongside your scheduled events.

Reminders aren't just kept in Google Calendar either, they will also be accessible from the Google Inbox, Google Keep and Google Now apps - and they'll be coming to the web in the future. For those of you invested in the Google ecosystem, and just need a simple way to remember about tasks you need to do, this new Reminders feature from Google may be a perfect fit.


Apple Raises iTunes Match and Apple Music Library Matching Limits to 100,000 Tracks

MacRumors reported over the weekend that Apple Music and iTunes Match libraries can now manage libraries with up to 100,000 tracks:

Over the past couple of days, MacRumors has received several reports from users who have been able to upload music libraries of greater than 25,000 tracks to iTunes Match or Apple Music's similar scan-and-match feature, and Macworld's iTunes expert Kirk McElhearn has also noted a number of reports on his personal blog.
Update 12:08 PM, December 6: Eddy Cue has confirmed to MacRumors that Apple has indeed "started rolling out support for 100k libraries."

It has taken some time, and longer than expected, but those of you with iTunes Match or Apple Music and large music libraries can now upload up to 100,000 tracks to the services, up from the previous limit of 25,000. Eddy Cue, Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, first mentioned on Twitter in late June that Apple was working to "get to 100k [tracks] for iOS 9". Apple missed that deadline, but Cue subsequently told MacRumors that Apple was working on it and that he expected it would be released "before the end of the year" - and indeed it now has.


SiriMote: Use Your Siri Remote with Your Mac

Back when I owned a 2008 MacBook and the second-generation Apple TV, I remember occasionally using the Apple TV remote with my Mac. Back then most of Apple's laptop's (including mine) came with a built-in infrared (IR) receiver and the functions of the Apple TV remote automatically worked with iTunes and some other Mac apps. But since then, IR receivers have gone the way of the DVD drive and, chances are, your Mac doesn't have one. The Siri Remote for the Apple TV does still use IR for certain functions, but most of its communications are now done via Bluetooth 4.0.

But if you'd like to use your Siri Remote with your Mac, you can with SiriMote. It's a free app from Eternal Storms Software, which also makes Yoink and Transloader, amongst other apps.

SiriMote works by pairing the Siri Remote to any Mac that supports Bluetooth 4.0 and is running OS X El Capitan. To pair the Siri Remote you'll need to turn off your Apple TV, press the Menu and Volume Up buttons on the Siri Remote for a few seconds and pair it from OS X's Bluetooth settings, located in System Preferences. There's no doubt it is a bit fiddly to set up, but once it's set up, it works great. SiriMote works by translating buttons on the Siri Remote into buttons from a keyboard (specifically, the media keys). Because it is simply emulating the standard media keys, SiriMote works with iTunes, Keynote, QuickTime, VLC and other apps that work with the Mac media keys.

Unfortunately, for now at least, the touch surface of the Siri Remote can't be used by SiriMote. The only exception is that clicking the touch surface will emulate the Next Track media key, or Fast Forward if you hold it down. That means swiping and tapping won't do anything when connected to your Mac.

I doubt I'll use SiriMote regularly, but if I ever need to run a Keynote presentation from my MacBook Air, I know that I can turn my Siri Remote into one of those fancy "clickers" in less than a minute. As a free app, I can easily recommend SiriMote to any Siri Remote owner, you may not have a use for it today, but you never know what tomorrow might require.

Learn more and download SiriMote.