Graham Spencer

800 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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Early Impressions of Apple Music from Re/code and Mashable

Apple Music and the Beats 1 radio station launch today in just a few short hours. But Apple yesterday gave Re/code and Mashable an early look at the new service and they've just published their first impressions.

Walt Mossberg at Re/code writes:

Apple has built a handsome, robust app and service that goes well beyond just offering a huge catalog of music by providing many ways to discover and group music for a very wide range of tastes and moods.

But it’s also uncharacteristically complicated by Apple standards, with everything from a global terrestrial radio station to numerous suggested playlists for different purposes in different places. And the company offers very little guidance on how to navigate its many features. It will take time to learn it. And that’s not something you’re going to want to do if all you’re looking for is to lean back and listen.

Christina Warren of Mashable also got an advance preview:

It's hard for me to over-stress how much I like For You. From the very beginning, the recommendations in playlists and albums that the app showed me were dead-on accurate, reflecting my various musical interests.

Straight out, I was given a recommendation of a Taylor Swift love ballad playlist and albums from The Kinks, Sufjan Stevens, Elliot Smith, The Shins, Miguel and Drake. So basically my musical brain.

Jim Dalrymple also got a chance to interview Apple's Eddy Cue and Jimy Iovine:

Jimmy shocked me a bit when he said, “Radio is massive.” I considered radio to be like magazines—steadily going downhill for the last decade or so. However, Iovine said that 270 million people in America still listen to radio, adding jokingly, “I didn’t think there were that many people that had a radio.”

Cue and Iovine explained that the problem with radio was not the fact that people didn’t like it, but rather that too much advertising and radio station research into what songs were popular was flawed. Songs that weren’t popular right away were pulled, based on research, so you listen to the radio and hear the same songs all the time.

As Cue pointed out, Technology limited the ads, but it also eliminated the DJ, something many people enjoyed.

Update: USA Today also got an early look:

Not all the artists whose music is available for purchase in iTunes are also available for streaming, most notably The Beatles: "There always some folks to come later that we would all like," Cue says. "Over time I certainly would expect the Beatles to be there." Of course if you own the Beatles music it can reside next to the on-demand tracks in the library.

Lisa Jackson Promoted to Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives

Lisa Jackson was yesterday promoted to the role of Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives at Apple. In a memo to Apple employees, obtained by The Washington Post, Tim Cook writes:

There's much more to do, not just on the environment, but on other issues we value such as human rights, education, and accessibility of our products to those with physical or developmental challenges. Apple can and will play an important role in each of these areas. Already, we are actively working with 114 schools in the U.S. through our ConnectED program. We are putting more accessibility tools in the hands of our wonderful app developers. And we have made our voice heard on public policy issues that affect us including clean energy and equality. These issues are critical not only to us, but to our customers, our shareholders, and in the communities where we all live and work.

So I've asked Lisa to lead our work in these areas and to take on a broader role as vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Lisa will apply her passion and her unique skill set to integrate teams across Apple and make our impact even greater. As part of her new role, Lisa will also take over management of our worldwide Government Affairs function. Lisa already interacts regularly with governments around the world so she is a natural for this new role leading our public policy teams.

You can read Tim Cook's full memo at The Washington Post.

Jackson joined Apple two years ago, taking the position of Vice President of Environmental Initiatives after serving as the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for four years. Jackson accompanied Tim Cook and Eddy Cue on a recent trip to China last month.


Apple Unifies iOS and Mac Developer Program

As noticed by Brian Webster, Apple has removed the existing distinction between its iOS Developer Program and Mac Developer Program. Now there is just the one Apple Developer Program which gives you access to the software, tools and beta OS releases for OS X, iOS and watchOS. The Apple Developer Program costs US$99 per year, which means developers who work on both iOS and OS X will save a bit of money, no longer having to pay for two US$99 programs every year.

Jonathan Kingsley also points out that developers do not need to have an Apple developer membership in order to test their app on their devices. This will be most useful to those who are just starting to learn app development and those who have not yet submitted their first app.

Apple News Overview

Apple today announced that coming with iOS 9 this Fall would be a new default app; News. As you would expect, News will collect and recommend news articles for you to read on your iPhone or iPad, based on what you like to read. The features of the News app are reminiscent of Google News (for the recommended articles), Flipboard (the ability to follow publishers and topics) and Facebook's recent launch of Instant Articles (custom, gorgeous articles on mobile).

“News seamlessly delivers the articles you want to read in a beautiful and uncluttered format, while respecting your privacy, because Apple doesn’t share your personal data,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We already have nearly 20 publishers representing more than 50 titles joining us, including Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg.”


News will launch as part of iOS 9, coming later this Fall. At launch, News will only be available to iOS 9 users in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

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Apple Music Overview

At today's WWDC 2015 Keynote Address, Apple announced its new Apple Music service which will launch later this month on June 30. Apple Music was introduced in a similar way to the iPhone and Apple Watch, with Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue talking on stage about how Apple Music is really three core products:

  1. A Revolutionary Music Service
  2. A 24/7 Global Radio Station
  3. Connecting Fans with Artists

Apple Music was first introduced on stage by Jimmy Iovine who described the product as "one complete thought about music" and talking about how Apple Music is "All the ways you love music. All in one place".

“We love music, and the new Apple Music service puts an incredible experience at every fan’s fingertips,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app — a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists.”

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Apple Watch Launching in Seven More Countries on June 26, Retail Store Sales Begin in Two Weeks

Apple announced today that the Apple Watch will go on sale in another seven countries beginning Friday, June 26. Those countries are Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan. They join Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK and the US, where the Apple Watch first began shipping to customers on April 24.

10 Corso Como in Milan, BOONTHESHOP Cheongdam in Seoul and Malmaison by The Hour Glass in Singapore will have a curated selection of Apple Watch available at launch.

To customers in the original launch countries, Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of Operations, says they will begin selling 'some models' of the Apple Watch in their retail stores in two weeks time. Williams also notes that all Apple Watch orders placed in May will be shipped to customers within the next two weeks, "with the sole exception of Apple Watch 42 mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Space Black Link Bracelet".

“The response to Apple Watch has surpassed our expectations in every way, and we are thrilled to bring it to more customers around the world,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. “We’re also making great progress with the backlog of Apple Watch orders, and we thank our customers for their patience. All orders placed through May, with the sole exception of Apple Watch 42 mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Space Black Link Bracelet, will ship to customers within two weeks. At that time, we’ll also begin selling some models in our Apple Retail Stores.”

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The First HomeKit Enabled Devices Begin Shipping

A year after HomeKit was announced at WWDC 2014, the first HomeKit enabled products are today beginning to go on sale from five initial device manufacturers. HomeKit enabled devices, which can range from lights, thermostats and door locks, can be controlled through Siri, and the HomeKit framework enables developers to more easily create apps for home automation.

Insteon and Lutron have devices shipping from today, whilst ecobee, Elgato and iHome will have devices shipping by the end of July. For some details about their initial HomeKit products, jump the break.

Sources: MacRumors, The Verge, Re/code

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Apple Events Channel Now Available on Apple TV to Stream WWDC 2015 Keynote

Apple has today made their 'Apple Events' channel accessible again from any Apple TV (2nd or 3rd generation), ahead of next week's WWDC 2015 keynote. The Apple Events channel confirms that the keynote will be live-streamed on Monday, June 8 at 10am, San Fancisco time.

For developers who want to follow along with the other WWDC sessions, Apple previously announced that 'select' WWDC 2015 sessions will be live streamed on the WWDC website and in the WWDC app. For those technical sessions that are not live streamed, Apple has said that they will be made available to stream and download at the end of each day.

In the meantime, the channel also allows users to stream past Apple events (including WWDC 2014), just in case you've got some free time over the next week. For those without an Apple TV, in the past Apple (for other live streamed events) also hosted a live stream on their website, but that will probably go live closer to next Monday.

You can also follow MacStories' WWDC 2015 Special Event hub for updates, or subscribe through RSS to our dedicated WWDC 2015 Special Event feed.

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Why I Switched My Favorite Twitter, RSS, and Podcast Apps for Three Weeks

For at least five years there have been three slots on my iPhone Home screen dedicated to apps for Twitter, RSS, and podcasts. For as long as I can remember, they have been taken up by Tweetbot, Reeder and Castro. Three weeks ago I got rid of all three, and replaced them with Twitteriffic, Unread, and Pocket Casts. I had come to the awkward realisation that although I frequently tried new apps (and occasionally reviewed them), I didn't do the same thing when it came to Twitter, RSS, and podcast apps – at all. I had become too comfortable with the same apps.

So for three weeks I've been solely using those apps, and this "experiment" has lead to a few interesting revelations to me. Perhaps the most obvious one was that I discovered certain features I really liked, but had no idea I liked, until they were missing in the app I switched to (and vice versa). I won't spoil the results, but suffice to say I have resolved to try new apps (whatever their purpose) more frequently, even if I'm really happy with the app I'm currently using.

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