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.

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Thoughts on the Inevitable Demise of the 3.5mm Audio Jack on the iPhone

There are once again rumors that Apple is going to remove the 3.5mm audio jack from the next iPhone, this time courtesy of a report from Japanese website Macotakara. The Macotakara report goes on to suggest that audio output on the iPhone 7 will be handled via the Lightning connector and Bluetooth, and that the EarPod included with every iPhone will be upgraded and use the Lightning connector.

It's too early to tell whether Apple really will get rid of the 3.5mm audio jack on the iPhone 7 next year, but I think the real question is when will they get rid of it, not if they get rid of it. In my eyes, it's either going to happen in 2016 with the iPhone 7 or 2018 with the iPhone 8. I will be amazed, probably dumbfounded, if we get to 2020 and our phones still have the same 3.5mm audio jack. Although Macotakara implied that the reason for removing the audio jack is to make the iPhone thinner, I think the more likely reason is a combination of making it thinner, but also freeing up the volume of space that is occupied by the audio jack internally. Every extra cubic millimeter that they can stuff a battery into is no doubt important (and one of the reasons the Lightning port is so much smaller than the older 30-pin connector).

Given the premise that I think Apple will (at some point) ditch the audio jack, the next question is how they can possibly achieve that with the smallest adverse impact on customers, which should surely be the top priority. The easiest answer, is of course, not to do it. The iPod touch is already just 6.1mm, compared to the iPhone 6 which is 6.9mm, and the iPhone 6s is 7.1mm (thicker because of the addition of 3D Touch). You'll note that despite being an entire millimeter thinner than the iPhone 6s, it still has an audio jack — as does the iPod nano which is just 5.4 mm thick. So there's a question as to whether 2016 is really the year that Apple should remove the audio jack — maybe they can hold out a few more years.

But for the sake of argument, let's say that Apple wants to remove the audio jack from the next iPhone and that they've already decided to do this. Yes, it will be a painful transition, but I also think that there's a lot that Apple can do to ease the transition.

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Reeder 3 for iOS Now Available, Adds Support for iOS 9 Split View, Safari View Controller, 3D Touch

Reeder 3 for iOS has just been released today as a free update for existing customers. The new version brings support for iOS 9 Split View, support for the new iPad Pro and 3D Touch capability on the iPhone 6s, amongst a number of feature improvements. Split View support enables you to use Reeder side-by-side with another app, on compatible iPads. Whilst 3D Touch support is currently limited to previewing articles when in the article list - it isn't yet able to preview links in articles or preview article lists for a particular RSS feed.

Reeder 3 also adds support for the Safari View Controller, an iOS 9 feature which brings the native Safari experience to third party apps. For those familiar with Reeder you'll be well aware that a key aspect of its design is the use of a number of sliding panes for your feed list, article list, the actual article itself and finally the 'view in browser' option. You'll be glad to know that Reeder implements Safari View Controller in a way that fits within Reeder's existing design and user interface. So just as you would before, you can swipe left on an article and Safari View Controller will slide in, not pop-up. Dismissing the Safari View Controller can also be done by swiping right from the left edge of your screen.

Some of the other features in Reeder 3 include the ability to add Instapaper as a sync service, options to adjust the font size for the list of articles, and additional UI tweaks throughout the app.

Reeder 3 for iOS is available as a free update for existing customers, and is $4.99 on the App Store for new customers.


Beamer 3 Launches with New User Interface, Google Chromecast Support

Following a two month public beta period, Beamer 3 was released earlier this month. Beamer, a favorite of the MacStories team, is a Mac app that allows you to easily stream video (in almost any format) to your Apple TV via AirPlay. In Beamer 3, streaming support has expanded beyond AirPlay and it can now stream to Google Chromecast.

The user interface has also been redesigned in Beamer 3, and now fits in better with OS X Yosemite and El Capitan. The new UI isn't just prettier, it's also more useful because it provides easier access to audio track and subtitle controls. Another new feature enables you to skip to the next video in your Beamer queue by double clicking the play button the Apple Remote. All of the new features are listed here.

Beamer 3 is available for $19.99 for new customers, and existing Beamer customers can "pay what you want" to upgrade to Beamer 3. Beamer 3 requires OS X Yosemite or El Capitan.


Square Announces New Square Reader for Apple Pay, Contactless & Chip Cards

Square yesterday announced a new Square Reader, designed to work with contactless payment services such as Apple Pay, as well as "chip and PIN" EMV cards. The new contactless Square Reader can be reserved from today for $49.

The new contactless Square Reader is a pocket sized square puck (naturally), which can be used wirelessly with the Square app on an iOS or Android device. For customers with an EMV card, there's also a slot on one of the sides of the the new Square Reader to insert the card's chip into the device.

For now at least, Square's mobile payment processing for small businesses is limited to the United States, Canada and Japan. The launch of this new contactless Square Reader may help boost Square's international expansion efforts, particularly in countries such as the UK and Australia, where EMV cards are more widely adopted.


Apple Debuts Five Short Apple TV Ads Featuring Apps and Games

Apple on Tuesday uploaded the first collection of adverts for the Apple TV since the device was released late last month. Each of the five adverts are short 15 second videos which give a quick introduction to some of the most high profile apps and games that launched with the Apple TV.

The five featured apps are Crossy Road, Asphalt 8, Disney Infinity, Netflix and HBO Now. You can view them all below the break or on Apple's YouTube account.

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Instagram Updates Its Platform Policy, Prohibits Third Party Instagram Feed Apps

As reported by TechCrunch, Instagram yesterday announced several changes to its 'Platform Policy', the document that developers must agree to abide by if they want to use Instagram's APIs. The changes will impact a number of developers, but one of the most significant consequences is that third-party apps which would present a user's Instagram feed will not be permitted under the new rules.

That means the many third-party apps which sprung up to offer the Instagram feed on platforms which Instagram has never supported, whether it be Flow for the iPad, Photoflow for the Mac, or Tangram for the Apple TV, will no longer be permitted.

On its Developer Blog, Instagram notes that the changes are aimed at improving "people's control over their content and set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform". Instagram wants developers using its API to work on apps that do things such as:

Help individuals share their own content with 3rd party apps, such as apps that let you print your photos and import an Instagram photo as a profile picture.

Help brands and advertisers understand and manage their audience, develop their content strategy, and get digital rights to media. Established apps in this space may apply for our newly announced Instagram Partner Program.

Help broadcasters and publishers discover content, get digital rights to media, and share media using web embeds.

Instagram is adopting a phased approach to implementing the new policy - new apps will be reviewed under the new policy, and Instagram will begin granting full API access starting December 3, 2015. Existing apps will need to be re-approved under the new policy, but they will have until June 1, 2016, to do so. Instagram is also introducing a new Sandbox Mode which will give developers access to the Instagram API so that they can privately build and test their apps whilst their app is being reviewed by Instagram.


PDF Expert for Mac: A Better Preview for PDFs

PDF Expert has been an indispensable app for my iPad for almost as long as I can remember (I'm fairly certain it was one of the first apps I bought when I got my iPad). It's a fantastic app on iOS because it enables me to not only read, annotate, and add comments to PDFs, but it also gives me a cloud-based 'Finder' of sorts – enabling me to browse my Dropbox and OneDrive files and sync them to my iPad.

Given my longstanding appreciation for Readdle's PDF Expert on iOS, I was pretty keen to try out the Mac version of PDF Expert, which launched late last week. But it must be said, I was sceptical of the value it would bring to the table, because unlike iOS, OS X has the Finder, and cloud services like Dropbox and OneDrive already sync files locally. But most significantly, Preview on the Mac is a fantastic Swiss Army knife for viewing documents and already does a pretty great job at viewing PDF documents, annotating them, adding comments, and even performing some basic page re-organization functions.

But despite my scepticism I was pleased to discover that for those of you who deal with PDFs regularly (myself included), you'll find value in what Readdle has developed in PDF Expert. Rather than a traditional, wide-ranging, review, I've decided to focus on three key features which make PDF Expert worth the money – features that ultimately convinced me to turn my free trial into a purchase.

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Apple Pay Now Available In Canada For American Express Customers, UK Banks Tesco and TSB Also Add Support

As reported by iPhone in Canada and 9to5Mac, Apple Pay is now available in Canada. Unlike the US and UK, Apple Pay support in Canada is limited and only available for American Express customers, as announced by Apple in its Q4 2015 earnings call.

Meanwhile in the UK, Engadget is today reporting that TSB and Tesco Bank now support Apple Pay and customers can add their cards to the Wallet app today. Barclays remains the last of the big four UK banks yet to add support for Apple Pay, but Barclays CEO has said previously it will add support for Apple Pay "very early in the New Year".

Apple Pay is also expected to launch in Australia later this week on Thursday, November 19th. As with Canada, Apple Pay will be limited to certain American Express cardholders only. You can see if your American Express card is eligible with Apple Pay here.


How Apple TV Turned Me Into a Game Developer

Alexander Repty documents his experience in developing his first game, Cosmos — Infinite Space, which launched last week on iOS and the new Apple TV:

For several reasons, I have never created a game before. This changed on October 30th, 2015, when I released my first one, Cosmos — Infinite Space. In just over seven weeks, I went from not knowing the first thing about making games to having published a complete, viable game on the App Store for two platforms.

This is a great little story, and whilst the app isn't selling in great quantities, Repty approached the project as a hobby and in that context the result has been terrific. Something that was particularly interesting to me was that Apple's introduction of Top Charts to the Apple TV's App Store earlier this week appeared to have quite a meaningful impact on sales of Cosmos. Hopefully yesterday's introduction of Categories to the Apple TV App Store will be a further boost to Cosmos and other App Store games.

When Apple slowly introduced top charts and categories, the effect on sales was really noticeable. Before the introduction of charts, my sales in Europe were almost double those of the US market. When charts were introduced in the US, sales there started surpassing sales in Europe by over 50%.

After six days on the store now, Cosmos has brought in $463 for us with no sign of slowing down. Even if it were to keep this up, it would not be remotely enough to live off, but it’s nice to see some reward for all the work in addition to all the lessons learned.

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