Graham Spencer

819 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur 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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A Beginner’s Guide to App Store Pricing Tiers

It might be common knowledge to developers, but some readers might not be aware that Apple only permits developers to sell apps at certain price points. For example, customers in the US App Store will see apps costing $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99 but they won't find any apps costing $5.20 or $2.75.

For various reasons, which we'll cover, Apple permits developers to choose from 94 price tiers, which range from US$0.99 to US$999.99. Developers pick one price tier, which applies to every country that their app is distributed in.

In this story we'll go into the details of the App Store price tiers, explaining how they work, some of the reasons why they exist, interesting consequences of them, and hear from developers who use them.

This is a bit of an experimental story, exploring an iOS/Mac developer topic for the benefit of anyone interested in the iOS/Mac app ecosystem. If enough people find this useful we'll look at covering other topics.

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Apple Posts New iPhone Advert: “Apple Pay”

Apple's fourth advert featuring the new "If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone" tagline was last night posted online. The new advert, "Apple Pay", naturally focuses on Apple Pay, demonstrating Apple's contactless payment method available on the iPhone 6 in the US and UK. The advert's narration makes particular mention of how Apple Pay is "faster", "safer" and keeps your information private.

This is an iPhone, and this is Apple Pay, which lets you shop in a faster, simpler way. For groceries, and kicks, toys and your lunchtime fix. It's safer than a credit card and keeps your info, yours. And you can already use it in one million stores. If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone.

You can watch the new advert below the break, or on YouTube.

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Photoflow: An Instagram Client for the Mac

I've been using Instagram (shameless plug) almost since day one, and although I don't post to it that frequently, I do look at my feed on a daily basis. For the most part I've always used the official Instagram client, except for a brief period when I also used Flow, an iPad Instagram app. Until this week, I'd never tried an Instagram client for the Mac, which is what Photoflow is.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Photoflow includes virtually every single feature that the official Instagram app has. Of course there is one giant exception; you cannot post images to Instagram from Photoflow. But that's a restriction that Instagram has imposed on all third party apps, it's not a failure of Photoflow. But almost everything else, whether it be liking images (but not commenting), interactive hashtags, featured images, viewing profiles or searching nearby locations is available in Photoflow. It also supports easy account switching and can send you notifications for new images, comments, likes and followers.

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The Colors Of An App Icon

Stuart Hall from AppBot has previously written articles about common trends amongst popular apps when it comes to app names, descriptions, screenshots and countries, and he is back today with one about the colors of app icons.

Hall was able to extract the dominant colors from app icons and then plot them on a color wheel. The article features several different 'color wheels' showing the top 200 free iOS apps, paid iOS apps, iOS social apps, iOS games and free Mac apps.

You really need to view the article for yourself, but I have embedded one color wheel below. Hall shared a draft of the article with me and I suggested he generate one more color wheel which plotted the app icons based on their major color and sized to reflect their position on the charts (#1 is largest). Hall kindly obliged and you can see the chart below, representing the top 100 free iOS apps.


Apple Music Festival Arriving in September for Ten Nights at London’s Roundhouse

Apple today announced that it will host an Apple Music Festival at London's Roundhouse for ten nights running from September 19 through to September 28. Headlining the festival will be performances from Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Florence + The Machine and Disclosure.

“We wanted to do something really special for music fans this year,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The Apple Music Festival is a greatest hits set of ten unbelievable nights featuring some of the best performers on the planet appearing live and interacting directly with their fans on Connect and Beats 1.”

The performances will be broadcast live and on-demand on Apple Music, iTunes and through the Apple Music Festival channel on the Apple TV. Apple is also promising coverage on Beats 1, and "backstage news and footage" on Apple Music Connect.

You can learn more about the Apple Music Festival in Apple Music on your iOS device or in iTunes. Additionally, for those who live in the UK, you can apply to win tickets to the Apple Music Festival.

The event was previously called the iTunes Music Festival which Apple has hosted at the Roundhouse since 2007. Unlike in previous years where the event usually ran for an entire month (September in recent years), this year's festival run has been shortened to ten nights.

Apple Publishes Updated Employee Diversity Data

Apple yesterday published updated data on the diversity of their employees, for the second year in a row. Some of the news is good (Apple hired 65% more women in the last 12 months than they did in the previous year) but the picture is still bleak in other respects (only 22% of "tech" employees are female). Apple's updated Diversity webpage includes a letter from Tim Cook, in which he says:

Last year we reported the demographics of our employees for the first time externally, although we have long prioritized diversity. We promised to improve those numbers and we’re happy to report that we have made progress. In the past year we hired over 11,000 women globally, which is 65 percent more than in the previous year. In the United States, we hired more than 2,200 Black employees — a 50 percent increase over last year — and 2,700 Hispanic employees, a 66 percent increase. In total, this represents the largest group of employees we’ve ever hired from underrepresented groups in a single year. Additionally, in the first 6 months of this year, nearly 50 percent of the people we’ve hired in the United States are women, Black, Hispanic, or Native American.

You can view all the numbers on Apple's Diversity page, including some interactive statistics, the full letter from Tim Cook and information on what Apple is doing today to improve diversity at Apple, and steps they are taking to improve the numbers in the future.

Some people will read this page and see our progress. Others will recognize how much farther we have to go. We see both. And more important than these statistics, we see tens of thousands of Apple employees all over the world, speaking dozens of languages, working together. We celebrate their differences and the many benefits we and our customers enjoy as a result.


Visualizing Apple’s Historical iPhone Lineups, Guessing the Next One

We're rapidly approaching that time of the year when Apple introduces new iPhones, and BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski reported last week that the event will be take place on September 9. There will almost certainly be a lot to talk about after the event (Paczkowski says that the event will include a new Apple TV and iPads), but one thing that I've been thinking about is what the new iPhone lineup will look like. This was all precipitated by the discussion on last week's Talk Show with John Gruber and John Moltz.

Because my mind was a bit fuzzy on the historical iPhone lineups (particularly the early years), I decided to go back and make a graph to simply and clearly show what Apple has done in the past. The dates I used were based on when each iPhone was available in the US (not the announcement date). Tier 1 represents the newest and most advanced iPhone available at the time. Although there are slight differences between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, they are largely identical (both have an A8 processor with 1 GB RAM, etc) and as a result I've characterised them both as Tier 1. Tier 2 represents the next best iPhone available (often the previous year's Tier 1 model) and Tier 3 is the next best again.

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Microsoft Outlook App Now Available on the Apple Watch

As noted by The Verge, Microsoft Outlook is now available for the Apple Watch after Microsoft updated the Outlook iPhone app today. The Outlook Watch app enables users to reply to emails directly on the Watch through various quick reply options or via dictation.

Besides replying to emails on the Watch, there's an Outlook glance which enables users to review their inbox or see what's next on their calendar. Finally, Outlook's custom notifications on the Apple Watch add support for archiving and scheduling emails as they arrive.

Tom Warren from The Verge tried the new Outlook Apple Watch app wrote:

By default, Outlook notifications on the Apple Watch now show a lot more of the email body instead of cutting it short after a couple of sentences. While you still can't reply instantly from a notification, you can now tap on the Outlook icon in the notification to launch a dedicated Outlook Apple Watch app that lets you see an overview of email and reply to any messages using quick replies or dictation.


11 Million Customers Sign up for Apple Music Trial, App Store Has a Record July

Apple's Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine spoke to USA Today reporter Marco della Cava about Apple Music's early numbers:

One month after unveiling its new streaming music service, Apple has locked in 11 million trial members, company executives tell USA TODAY.

"We're thrilled with the numbers so far," says Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, adding that of that sum 2 million have opted for the more lucrative family plan at $14.99 a month for up to six people.

Whilst there are still 2 months of the Apple Music free trial period before user's credit cards start being charged, there's little doubt that those numbers represent a solid launch. For those curious about how those numbers compare to other services, Spotify announced in early June this year that they had "more than 20 million subscribers and more than 75 million active users".

Cue also revealed to USA Today that July was a record breaking month for the App Store:

July also brought a fiscal high-water mark for the company's App Store, which did a record $1.7 billion in transactions, "with particular momentum in China," says Cue. That brings the total amount paid to app developers to $33 billion, up from $25 billion at the end of 2014.