John Voorhees

1580 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, MacStories’ Managing Editor, has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He also co-hosts MacStories’ podcasts, including AppStories, which explores of the world of apps, MacStories Unwind, a weekly recap of everything MacStories and more, and MacStories Unplugged, a behind-the-scenes, anything-goes show exclusively for Club MacStories members.

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Apple Breaks Records with $111.4 Billion in Revenue for Q1 2021

Apple has just published its financial results for Q1 2021, with the company posting revenue of $111.4 billion. Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say about the company’s record-setting quarter:

This quarter for Apple wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless and innovative work of every Apple team member worldwide. We’re gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season. We are also focused on how we can help the communities we’re a part of build back strongly and equitably, through efforts like our Racial Equity and Justice Initiative as well as our multi-year commitment to invest $350 billion throughout the United States.

Estimates and Expectations for Q1 2021

As was the case with Q4 2020, Apple did not provide financial guidance for Q1 2021 during its last earnings call due to the ongoing global pandemic. Nonetheless, reportedly strong iPhone sales and a flurry of new products late last year set high expectations among analysts.

Going into today’s call, Yahoo Finance said that:

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for revenues is currently pegged at $102.61 billion, indicating growth of 11.8% from the year-ago quarter’s reported figure.

Moreover, the consensus mark for earnings is currently pegged at $1.39 per share, unchanged over the past 30 days and indicating 11.2% growth from the figure reported in the year-ago quarter.

Graphical Visualization

After the break, we’ve compiled a graphical visualization of Apple’s Q1 2021 financial results.

Read more



Apple Releases OS Updates with Better Music Hand Off for HomePod mini, Improvements to QR Code Scanning and Bluetooth Settings, the Unity Watch Face, and More

Today, Apple released iOS and iPadOS 14.4, HomePod 14.4, watchOS 7.3, which introduce a limited collection of new features along with the usual bug fixes.

On the iPhone and iPad, the Camera app can now scan smaller QR codes, which is handy for those tiny codes that are often used on product labels. The Bluetooth section of Settings has been updated with an option to identify the type of device connected to your iPhone, so it knows when headphones are connected for the purpose of sending audio notifications.

HomePod 14.4 adds a few new features that work in concert with the iPhone’s U1 chip. There is new visual, audible, and haptic feedback when music is handed off from an iPhone to a HomePod mini. The update also provides personalized listening suggestions when an iPhone is placed near a HomePod mini that isn’t currently playing audio. Media playback controls also appear automatically when an iPhone is nearby without having to unlock it first.

I have done some very preliminary testing of the new HomePod mini features and like them a lot. The haptic feedback is a quick slightly sustained vibration that lets you know that the music is being transferred. The animation that slides into view from the top of the screen includes a terrific little animation too. Bring your iPhone close to your HomePod mini again, and a button appears offering to transfer playback back to the iPhone. It’s a good example of how small changes together can make a big difference in the quality of the user experience.

The Apple Watch Unity watch face is part of watchOS 7.3.

The Apple Watch Unity watch face is part of watchOS 7.3.

As we reported earlier today, watchOS 7.3 includes the new Unity watch face. The colors of the face are inspired by the Pan-African flag and its shapes change throughout the day as you move. The ECG app has been added in Japan, Mayotte, the Philippines, and Thailand for Apple Watch Series 4 and later. Irregular heart rhythm notifications are now available in those same countries, plus Taiwan too. Apple’s release notes also mention the new Time to Walk feature in the Workout app, but that actually shipped yesterday with a server-side update.


Tweetbot 6 Moves to Subscription Pricing

Tapbots, the maker of Tweetbot, has released version 6 of the app, introducing a new subscription pricing model along with a handful of timeline and design updates.

The subscription costs $0.99 per month or $5.99 annually. Many of the features previously available as part of the paid app, including multiple account support, advanced filtering, and push notifications, are now subscription-only features. Tapbots says that subscribers will also benefit from future updates as Twitter expands its third-party APIs and ensure Tweetbot’s continued development. You can still download the app to view your timeline if you’re not willing to subscribe, but the free version is read-only, so it isn’t possible to tweet from it.

Tweetbot 6 includes new icons, themes, and other Settings updates.

Tweetbot 6 includes new icons, themes, and other Settings updates.

Aside from the new pricing model, Tweetbot 6 has only implemented a handful of new features, including a few changes to the timeline view and some design changes. In the main timeline, you’ll notice more image thumbnails than before. Polls and cards are also visible thanks to the implementation of Twitter’s latest third-party APIs, and there are new dedicated ‘@’ and ‘#’ buttons in the app’s tweet composition sheet.

Tweetbot 6 has implemented changes to the app’s settings too:

  • There are three new alternative app icons: Future, Future Noir, and Future Metal, which bear a close resemblance to the Modern versions of the icon
  • There are more and different UI themes, including four light versions and five dark versions where previously there were five total
  • Dark mode has been extended to the app’s Settings screens
  • Chrome and Firefox have been added as browser options for opening links
  • Service options for URL shortening, image uploads, and video uploads have been eliminated

The move to subscriptions isn’t easy. No matter how well it is handled, the change upsets a segment of users who aren’t willing to sign up. However, in the long run, a successful transition to subscriptions makes up for lost users with recurring revenue, which I’m sure an experienced development team like Tapbots has considered.

I have no issue with subscriptions conceptually, but they rightly carry the expectation that in return for regular payments, users will receive meaningful, periodic updates. Recognizing this, many developers time the move to a subscription with a substantial app update to start off on the right foot, which Tapbots hasn’t done. Tweetbot’s subscription is primarily based on the promise of future updates. Even though the Tweetbot subscription isn’t expensive, I think Tapbots owes its users more than it has delivered. It’s a shame because Tweetbot remains one of the premier third-party Twitter clients for iOS. Hopefully, the lack of new features in this update will be addressed in subsequent releases.

Tweetbot is available as a free download on the App Store, but a subscription is necessary to send tweets and access other features.


Apple Celebrates Black History Month with Features Across Its Products

February is Black History Month, and Apple has announced a long list of ways it is celebrating across its products and services. In a press release the company said:

Apple is bringing customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. From curated features across the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Books, and Apple Podcasts, to new Apple Maps Guides, the Apple Watch Black Unity Collection, Today at Apple sessions, and more, here is a look at what is in store across Apple’s products and services this February.

In the App Store, Apple is featuring stories with Black developers and highlighting social justice apps along with entertainment and gaming apps. The month-long feature extends to other services too:

  • Music will feature Black musicians and include related content like playlists, essays, videos, and custom artwork
  • Maps Guides, which has seen many updates recently, will feature Black-owned businesses in collaboration with EatOkra
  • The Apple TV App will include ‘Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families,’ plus two free episodes of The Oprah Conversation featuring ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by author Isabel Wilkerson
  • Apple News will have curated topic groups and Apple Books will showcase a collection of relevant books and audiobooks
  • The Podcasts app will highlight Black voices including Michelle Obama, Joe Budden, Phoebe Robinson, and Baratunde Thurston, plus an extended promotion of shows featuring relevant topics
  • Fitness+ will spotlight songs from Black artists, and the first Time to Walk episode for February will feature author Ibram X. Kendi who will discuss racial justice and resiliency
  • Today at Apple will feature virtual sessions and tutorials moderated by Kimberly Drew with Black artists including typographer Tré Seals, creative director, filmmaker, and photographer Joshua Kissi, and visual artist, photographer, and educator Shan Wallace
  • Shot on iPhone will feature 30 Black photographers
Apple's Black Unity Collection limited-edition Watch, Sports Band, and watch face.

Apple’s Black Unity Collection limited-edition Watch, Sports Band, and watch face.

On the product side, Apple has introduced the Black Unity Collection that includes a limited-edition Apple Watch 6, a Black Unity Sport Band, and a Unity watch face. Apple is also supporting six groups dedicated to promoting and achieving equality and civil rights in the US and around the world. The Watch and Sports Band will be available beginning February 1st and the watch face will debut with watchOS 7.3, which Apple says will be out later today.

The Black Unity Sports Band and Unity watch face, which changes dynamically as the Watch moves, include the green, red, and black colors of the Pan-African flag, and the Sports Band has ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity’ laser etched on the inside of the band’s fastening pin. Similarly, the limited-edition Watch has ‘Black Unity’ etched in the Watch’s crystal back. Apple will also kick off a special month-long Unity Activity Challenge on February 1st that is achieved by closing Move ring at least seven days in a row.


Apple Announces That Dan Riccio Is Moving to a New Role at the Company, and John Ternus Is Stepping in as Senior VP of Hardware Engineering

Apple has announced its senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, Dan Riccio, is leaving that role to work on unspecified projects. Stepping into the gap left by Riccio is John Ternus, who has appeared as a presenter at recent Apple events covering the M1 Macs, for example.

Dan Riccio is leaving his role as senior vice president of Hardware Engineering to work on a new project.

Dan Riccio is leaving his role as senior vice president of Hardware Engineering to work on a new project.

Riccio, who has worked at Apple for 23 years and worked on everything from the first iMac to iPhones, AirPods Max, and M1 Macs, will report directly to Tim Cook, who said:

Every innovation Dan has helped Apple bring to life has made us a better and more innovative company, and we’re thrilled that he’ll continue to be part of the team. John’s deep expertise and wide breadth of experience make him a bold and visionary leader of our Hardware Engineering teams. I want to congratulate them both on these exciting new steps, and I’m looking forward to many more innovations they’ll help bring to the world.

John Ternus is taking over from Dan Ricco as senior vice president of Hardware Engineering.

John Ternus is taking over from Dan Ricco as senior vice president of Hardware Engineering.

Ternus, who succeeds Riccio as senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, joined Apple’s Product Design team in 2001 and has been a vice president of Hardware Engineering since 2013. Past projects Ternus has overseen or led include every iPad, the original AirPods, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, and the M1 Macs.

It will be interesting to eventually see what Riccio’s new project is. One possibility is the long-simmering Apple car project, but it could just as easily be an AR/VR product or something else entirely.


Apple Unveils ‘Time to Walk’ for Fitness+

As rumors suggested earlier this month, Apple has launched a new Fitness+ feature called ‘Time to Walk,’ which the company’s press release describes as “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers.”

Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies, explains that:

“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies. A walk can often be more than just exercise: It can help clear the mind, solve a problem, or welcome a new perspective. Even throughout this challenging period of time, one activity that has remained available to many is walking. With Time to Walk, we’re bringing weekly original content to Apple Watch in Fitness+ that includes some of the most diverse, fascinating, and celebrated guests offering inspiration and entertainment to help our users keep moving through the power of walking.”

The workouts will be downloaded automatically to your Apple Watch and can be accessed there and from the Fitness+ tab of the iPhone’s Fitness app. Each workout is around 25-40 minutes long and includes stories told by well-known guests who tell inspirational and entertaining stories about their lives. The stories, which were recorded while the guests walked, are coupled with images that automatically play on the Apple Watch and a short playlist of songs at the end of each story that is meaningful to the guest. Also, as soon as you start playing a Time to Walk story, your Watch will begin a walking workout. If you use a wheelchair, Time to Walk changes to Time to Push and starts a Wheelchair Walk Pace workout.

Time to Walk episodes start a walking workout automatically and include photos too.

Time to Walk episodes start a walking workout automatically and include photos too.

Apple says new guest stories will be introduced each Monday through April. The first four episodes include singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes, country music star Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, and actor Uzo Aduba who starred in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

Walking is a great time to listen to audio. I look forward to trying Time to Walk, which have not yet appeared on my Apple Watch or iPhone. The integration with Fitness+ and the Workout app is nice, reducing the number of apps you need to visit before starting a walk while listening to something. I don’t expect Time to Walk will replace my music and podcast listening when I go for a walk, but the chance to hear interesting stories from well-known guests is a welcome alternative to those other mainstays of my workout routine.

Time to Walk should be available soon and is part of a Fitness+ subscription.


MacStories Unwind: MindNode Gets an Editable Outlining Mode, the Return of a Classic iOS Game, and New Maps and Podcasts Features

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • A collection of clipboard manager apps
    • A shortcut for exporting links from Craft
    • A mini-review of the OWC Thunderbolt Hub
    • Federico Finds a way to add tasks to Apple’s Reminders app from his Amazon Echo

AppStories

Unwind